Sunday, March 31, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: The Masks We Wear

March 31, 2019

They say that once you top the hill of mid-life and start heading down the other side, the importance of the journey changes from one of Adventure to one of Meaning.  Ok, nobody said that....I said that....but most of us reading this right now are in the season of "Meaning".  We have shed the designer backpack (perfection) and are now toting a Walmart bag instead (reality).  The "things" that once were the most important, have been moved to the least important.  Funny how that happens as you slide down this side of life....

For my 50th birthday, my friends and family thought it would be a great Birthday gift to laminate Jerry Jones' (Dallas Cowboys) face and glue him on popsicle sticks in honor of....wait for  I've never been a fan of JJ and most everyone that's spent 5 minutes with me knows why.  But suddenly, everyone was waving at me from the side of our road and looked just like him.  It was like my worst nightmare.

I tell you this, because we all, at one time or another, have worn the mask we long to be seen in.  Fortunately, they don't all look like Mr. Jones, but we often feel the need to hide our brokenness, our sin, our pain and yes, our suffering behind a mask of happiness, perfection, and stylish backpacks.  It was easier when we were living in the season of Adventure, but now that many of us are living in the Season of Meaning, we find it harder to keep that false mask on our face during times of struggle.  

Interestingly, I get the most comments when I write about the hard times...the vulnerable times when I blink through the tears as I type that life is hard...when the string holding my mask on keeps breaking and you see the real me.  I'm guessing that you, too, are struggling to hold that smiling perfect mask on your face. 

But, if I've learned anything in my 50+ years, it's that we get stronger through the parts of our stories we'd rather not share.  It's in those parts of the story that we become unstoppable. Rebuilt, actually.  

But here's the cool part.  It's in the vulnerability of our story that allows others permission to take off their mask.

"But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, 
for my power is made perfect in weakness."  
For when I am weak, then I am strong."  

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Sunday, March 24, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: I Don't Have To Know the Plan to Know There Is A Plan

March 24, 2019

"I don't have to know the Plan to know there IS a Plan."

Have you ever been angry at God?  My sister tells me it's okay to be angry with Him...that He can handle it...that He understands how we can get angry with Him when He takes us down roads that appear to be dead-ends and doesn't appear to be for our own good.  And I'll admit, I'm going down such a road right now.  

How about that....I'm human after all.

This week, I have vented rather harshly to God.  The question "Why" has occurred no less than 2,679 times in the form of "Why would You lead me down this road...answering prayer after prayer after prayer....only to get me within a few feet of the Finish Line and pull the rug out from under me?"  Yes....this has been a common prayer-rant of mine for the past two days.  It feels almost like a form of betrayal and actually cruel of Him to do or allow such a thing to happen.  

But then the picture of Mary and Martha pops suddenly into my mind.  I think of these two cool sisters standing by the bedside of their dying brother Lazarus, urgently sending a New Testament-text to Jesus who is only a short distance from their home.  They know...and BELIEVE...that if Jesus will just stop what He's doing and come quickly, He can save their brother Lazarus from certain death; after all, he is one of Jesus' best friends they reason!  But then they receive word that Jesus isn't coming right away...He's staying put for a few more days...and they are desperate to understand "why".  By the time Jesus arrived where Lazarus was, he had been dead and in the tomb for 4 days.

And that's where I am now.  "Lord, why did You lead me down this road only to desert me now?"

And He says to me like He said to Mary and Martha, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”  In other words, did I not tell you I had a plan?  You don't need to know the only need to believe there IS a plan.  Trust's for My glory and your own good.  

I promise.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: Welcome Home, Prodigal

March 17, 2019

"While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; 
he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him."  
Luke 15:20

I just love the story of the Prodigal Son.  For the longest, my heart went out to the older brother who stayed home, worked hard and didn't cause his father any trouble......cause at one time, that was me.

When I was a teenager, my older brother who was 17, was enrolled in a church boarding school 10 hours away when he found himself in a heap of trouble.  I won't go into what he did, but suffice it to say, he got kicked out of school.  While he was driving himself the 500 miles home, my mother and father were busy making a gigantic sign to place in the yard that said "Welcome Home, Son".  When I drove up in my Chevy Vega from school that day and saw that sign, I was furious.  I couldn't understand why my parents were welcoming this good-for-nothing, troublemaker prodigal son of theirs, home with open arms.  They barely acknowledged me; they just continued looking out the front window for him to drive up.  I just didn't get it.

Many years later while talking to my Dad about this incident, I asked him why he welcomed my brother home without even a hint of anger and disgust.  I'll never forget how he looked up, as if his mind was rewinding back to that time, and told me that he and Mom were so afraid that James would not return home that night...they feared they might never see or hear from him again.  They wanted to make sure he knew how loved he was even with the mistakes he had made.....and he was forgiven.

It was a modern-day Prodigal Son story.  I admire my folks 1000x more now than I did then cause, you see, my brother turned out to be one of the most spiritual people I've ever doubt because of the love and forgiveness of that day many years ago.

Thank God we have a Father who will go to the ends of the earth to forgive us, love us and welcome us home.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: Why I Stopped Keeping A Prayer List

March 10, 2019

I have a True Confession.

I threw out my Prayer List.  Well, not exactly "threw it out"...I organized it.  Ya...that's what I did.  I organized it.

See, for the past few years, I've been flooded (interesting choice of words) with Prayer Requests.  Friends struggling through illness, divorce, death, hardships, drugs, angry husbands, even angrier children....on and on and on.  The trials and struggles of living on this earth and me trying to "keep up" with my prayers for each of these has been interestingly comparable to trying to complete a weekly homework assignment for a Beth Moore Bible Study.  Virtually impossible.

So, I sat down and categorized my prayer list into 7 groups:  

SUNDAYS...I pray for my Church.  Not necessarily my "specifically-attended-church", but rather, my Christian Church.  This includes Baptists, Church of Christ, Seventh-day Adventists, Methodists, Lutheran, etc. 

MONDAYS....I pray for my Granddaughters, Bella and Brie.  They are 14 and 16 and if there were ever an age group to pray for, it is 14 and 16.  My Monday morning prayer is focused exclusively on these two miracles in my life.  

TUESDAYS...I pray for my Family.  This includes my Dad, Sisters, Brothers, Nieces, Nephews, Cousins, name.  It gives me an opportunity to think of each of them and pray for their specific need.

WEDNESDAYS...I pray for our Son and Daughter-in-law, Troy and Jen.  They hold a special place in my heart and in my life and they deserve their own day for special prayer.  

THURSDAYS...I pray for my Friends.  Yes..that includes You.  I list you by name and I pray healing, peace, hope and rescue for you during this often difficult journey through life as you travel the path to Home.  Just know, I pray for you on Thursdays.

FRIDAYS...I pray for my Enemies.  Yes...I have enemies.  I pray my heart to be softened towards them...that I learn to love them as God loves them...and that they see Him in me as my heart changes towards them.

SATURDAYS...I pray for Me.  That as the enemy pulls the rope I'm holding onto in this tug-a-war life I live between Good and Evil, that God will give me the strength to pull harder towards good and win the battle against evil.

I encourage you if you're feeling this same pressure to pray for every-one, every-day....try this.  It changes every-thing. 

Sunday, March 3, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: Does God Know You?

An ABC News poll says that 83% of Americans see themselves as Christians.  That's baffling to me since our country is in the desperate mess it's in.  With state(s) legalizing the death of children as easily as they pass a subway tax (late-term abortion), and 37 states legalizing same-sex marriages, not to mention the second state has just made it a requirement to teach our young children the history of LGBT, it all leaves me scratching my head.

But then I realize, belief in Christ....without following simply belief.  Anyone can believe in God; even those who despise God can believe He exists.  But there's a big difference in saying we believe in God and living out that belief.  The Bible is abundantly clear we must believe AND follow; but before we can follow, we first must be saved.

About a year ago, I was watching a movie on Pureflix; a Christian version of Netflix.  Although I don't recall the name of the movie, I do remember it saying this:

"Wouldn't it mean everyone would go to Heaven and no one would go to hell if Christ died for a world of sinners?  Well, not exactly.  If I was handed a bottled water, I'm still thirsty unless I open it and drink it.  It's not enough to just have the water in my hand and made available to me, but I have to do my part and drink it in order to quench my thirst.  The sacrifice of the cross was like God handing me the water.  Unless I do my part by opening and drinking it, I'll still be thirsty.  I have to ACCEPT and DRINK the water."

"In the same way, faith (belief) by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead."
James 2:17

In other words, we're not saved by our good works; but if we are saved, we will do good works.  It's virtually impossible for us not to. Make sense? 

My fear is that many of the 83% of Americans in the ABC poll has made being a Christian less about loving God and more about knowing OF Him.  Which leads us to the scariest verse in the Bible:

"On that last day, many will call me Lord.  They will say, "Lord, Lord, by the power of Your name, we spoke for God.....
Then I will tell those people clearly, 
'Get away from Me, you people who do wrong.  I never knew you."
Matthew 7:22-23