MY FAVORITE THINGS

Day 6 - Celebrate Life in Your Corner of the World!

Let me challenge you to live well every single day of 2013.  Live wholeheartedly on ordinary days.  Live passionately on mediocre days.

Don’t be filled with worry and fear.  Reject worry and fear!  Ignore worry and fear!  Ban worry and fear!  Be filled with joy and grand expectation of all that God has for you this year.  Live in constant and breathless anticipation that the God of all hope has something good up His miraculous sleeve with your name on it.

You choose your heart attitudes although you don’t always get to choose your circumstances.  What you do choose are your responses to your circumstances and don’t waste one day of 2013 with a critical spirit, regret or blame.

Don’t waste one minute of 2013 in boredom or shame.  One of the greatest miracles of a life well-lived is that you can make a conscious effort to celebrate every day of your life as a rare and priceless gift.

Declare with me today, “I will not waste one day of 2013!  Not one hour!  Not one minute!”

I will not take for granted the miracle of an ordinary day.

I will use my fine china and buy flowers for no reason at all.

I will smile at strangers and hug children.

I will not correct, critique or criticize my friends and family but will look for opportunities to encourage them daily.

I will listen to Christmas music on October 1 ... or whenever else I feel like it!

I will go for walks while there are still dishes in my sink.

I will tell my husband ... or wife ... “I love you dearly” every day!

If I don’t have a husband or a wife ... I will tell SOMEONE that I love them every day.

I will cheer for my favorite teams whether they win or lose.

I will celebrate life!

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The Miracle of The Season

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“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” 

Now ... if that ain’t the truth, I don’t know what is!!

What?!!(She said incredulously and with disbelief in her voice!) You don’t agree?!!  You don’t think that it’s the most wonderful time of the year?!!

If you find yourself raging in religious disagreement with my heartfelt love of and for all things Christmas, then this blog is for you today.  I want to help you with your aversion to mistletoe, holiday cheer and with the decking of the holiday halls before you deck somebody!

It’s true ... I am a Christmas-aholic.  The resounding reason that I love Christmas so utterly and completely has nothing to do with overfed octogenarians in red suits trimmed with white fur, snowmen that dance at street corners or cups of holiday cheer.

The reason that my heart stops at the thought of Christmas is because I am in love with the Savior of the world.

The reason that my eyes fill with tears every year the day after Thanksgiving is because I love babies.  Especially a certain baby Boy born in a manger.

The reason that my heart sings with heaven and nature is because my world was dark and hopeless and it has now been filled to overflowing with the Light of the world and the God of all hope.

The reason that I believe this season to be so earth-stoppingly spectacular is because I really do hear the song of the angels in my Christmas-infested heart.

“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, Who is Christ the Lord.” - Luke 2:10 & 11.

The mistake that many Christian Scrooges make is that they confuse the magic of the season with the miracle of the season.  The magic of Christmas holds no eternal beauty or significance for me, either.  It is the miracle of the season that causes my flesh to stand in amazement at the Gift that I have been given.

The magic of the season centers upon toy-making elves, flying reindeer with red noses and presents wrapped in silver and gold. 

This is what I believe ... either the manger should be placed in the same category as elves, jolly old Saint Nicholas and flying reindeer ... or it is absolute, divine and eternal Truth.

Christmas is not about the holiday spirit that rushes toward us the day after Thanksgiving and compels us to shop, spend, and eat. 

Christmas is about the Holy Spirit bringing peace and joy through a Baby Boy to the mess that we have made of planet earth. 

It is about the power of heaven’s reality invading one life. 

It never ceases to amaze me that most of humanity pauses to celebrate the month of December.  That’s nothing short of miraculous!  School children have concerts ... offices close their doors ... neighbors decorate with lights ... high school friends put long newsy letters in the mail ... and grocery stores offer treats offered at no other time of the year.

Why?  It’s because built into each one of us is the desire to celebrate!  God made us to celebrate the miracle of Christmas!  And, as believers, it is up to us to demonstrate to this lost, dark world exactly what they are celebrating!  It is up to me and to you to reveal the joy of this season in extraordinary and miraculous ways!

It is up to you and I not to BECOME Scrooge but to OVERCOME Scrooge with the peace that was announced that night that stars exploded over the shepherds and their flocks.

It is up to us, with a smile on our faces, to shake our heads in agreement with the perky lyrics to songs that are sung only once a year, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”

And then ... it is up to you and I to live out the truth of this divine season ... He came so that my life could be wonderful.

God sent His Son so that I would have something to celebrate.

My entire life has been changed because of the most miraculous event in all of recorded history.  God became man so that I could sing with the angels a song so victorious and hopeful that the world must listen.

It really is the most wonderful time of the year, isn’t it?

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MY FAVORITE THINGS

Day 5 - Worship in spite of! Now ... this is where that stinkin’ rubber meets the infamous road of life.  This challenge to “worship in spite of” determines exactly of what stuff you are made!  This “very favorite thing” demonstrates the difference between a common man or woman and an uncommon Christian.

“Why are you in despair, O my soul?  And why have you become disturbed within me?  Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.” - Psalm 42:11

When life doesn’t turn out the way you wanted it to ... will you worship still?

When you are waiting ... and waiting ... and waiting ... for God to answer a prayer ... will you worship still?

When your circumstances are rotten and people are cantankerous ... will you worship still?

When you are in pain and your heart is broken in a million little pieces ... will you worship still?

When you are all alone and no one seems to care ... will you worship still?

“In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love HIm and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.” - I Peter 1:6-8

If you long to guarantee the hope that 2013 will be a year like no other then you will resolve in your heart not only to “worship because of” but also “in spite of”!

Worship in spite of!

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MY FAVORITE THINGS

Day 4 - Worship because of! Worship because Jesus is Lord!

Worship because you are loved with an everlasting love!

Worship because you have been forgiven!

Worship because He is worthy!!

“I will give thanks to the Lord according to His righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High.” - Psalm 7:17

Worship, like forgiveness, has the power to change your life dramatically!  Worship is what will take your focus of you and place it on the God of eternity and creation.

“I will be glad and exult in You;  I will sing praise to Your Name, O Most High.” - Psalm 9:2

Worship because He is the God of miracles!

Worship because He hears us when we pray!

Worship because His mercies are new every morning!

Worship because He gives strength to weary pilgrims!

“And my tongue shall declare Your righteousness and Your praise all day long.” - Psalm 35:28

Awake every morning of 2013 with a song in your heart and then let it come out of your mouth!  Sing out loud!  Sing in the shower and while the coffee is brewing!  Worship in the car and while you are putting your make-up on!  Praise the Lord while you are wiping the kitchen counter and folding laundry!

If you want to ensure that every day of 2013 will be a glorious and great day ... you will open your mouth in worship!

“My mouth is filled with Your praise and with Your glory all day long.” - Psalm 71:8

Worship because of!

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MY FAVORITE THINGS

Day 3 - Forgive Daily!

This is a different “favorite thing” than yesterday’s call to forgive someone from your past who has dreadfully wronged you.

This, my friends, is a daily choice of power and purpose!  Forgive daily!!

“For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” - Matthew 6: 14 & 15.

Never allow an offense to grow, then to fester and finally to become infected.

When someone pulls in front of you in traffic ... bless them in Jesus’ Name!

When your husband forgets your birthday ... or to take out the trash ...forgive him and fix his favorite meal!

When your mother-in-law steps on your feelings ... forgive her and be sweet!

When your best friend talks too much the very day that you are in pain and need her listening ear ... forgive her and listen with interest while she jabbers away!

When your pastor’s wife walks by you in church without smiling ... forgive her and take her a meal this week!

When your boss overlooks you for the raise or for the bonus ... forgive him and work even harder!

Make it one of your most important and significant New Year’s resolutions to forgive daily and forgive quickly.  You will feel lighter and healthier than if you had lost 50 pounds!

Forgive daily!

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MY FAVORITE THINGS

Day 2 - Forgive Someone! If you desire to live the life of your dreams in 2013, you will absolutely and totally forgive someone from your past who has wronged you.  You will forgive someone who painfully mistreated you and wrongly abused you.  You will completely forgive someone who has ruined your reputation or used you and then threw you away with the day’s odious trash.

Forgiveness truly is the key to victory in every area of your life and it just may be the way out of your depression.  It will certainly be the escape route from your bitterness and your anger.

Forgive someone who doesn’t deserve it!!  No one actually “deserves” forgiveness, do they?!  Forgiveness always happens when the innocent one lets the guilty one go free.

This will be the most potent and long-lasting New Year’s gift that you can give yourself: the gift of forgiving someone in your past.  Forgiveness has the intrinsic power of impacting your life in a multitude of other areas.

I used to teach that “forgiveness doesn’t change your past ... it changes your future!”  But now I realize that forgiveness, does indeed, change your past.  It releases you from the pain of your past and the vice-grip of your past.  Forgiveness changes your perception of the past!

Forgiveness changes how you treat people today and how you process today’s pain.  Forgiveness sets you into your destiny with a power and a joy that only heaven could deliver!

I said it before ... and I will say it again ... 

forgive someone!

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MY VERY FAVORITE THINGS

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DAY 1 Change your focus from temporary to eternal!

We get so caught up in the temporary, don’t we? From TV shows ... to elections ... to the weather ... to sporting events ... to diets ... to offenses ... to disappointments ... to careers.

When Jesus walked on planet earth, He realized that human beings had a disconnect between that which was temporary and that which was eternal. He saw that we, the object of His creation and His great love, were not only focusing on the wrong things but we worried about them!

“... Do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? ... But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” - Matthew 6:25-27, 33In 2013, absolutely refuse to allow your flesh to take you down the dead-end street of focusing on the wrong things or worrying about temporary things.

The word “seek” is the Greek word “zeteo” and it describes a person who is so intent on obtaining the object of his or her affection that absolutely nothing will distract him or her from this sole pursuit. Does that describe your attitude toward your pursuit of the Kingdom of God?

Starting on January 1, 2013, every morning ... before your feet hit the floor ... pause for a minute and pray this prayer:

“Lord, I will seek You first and foremost today! I will never give up my pursuit of all that You are and all that You have for me.”

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Joy That Only Thanksgiving Can Bring

Peanut butter and jelly ... little girls and ruffles ... springtime and the smell of hyacinths ... the Fourth of July and fireworks.

Just like all of those things ... and so many others ... thanksgiving and joy are intrinsically and eternally woven together in my soul.

What do “Thanksgiving” and “joy” have to do with another you may ask?  Allow me to explain:

I have always loved Thanksgiving day! From the parades to pumpkin pie ... from corn pudding to a Christmas movie in the evening ... from left-over turkey to a deep and heart-felt awareness that I have been blessed so much more than I deserve. 

I have relished sitting around a family table with people who are so dear to my heart that it makes me cry even now to remember each one.  I have treasured the atmosphere that only a multi-generational scene can evoke. 

Grandparents with pride on their faces and contentment in their hearts as they gaze at this crew of humanity who came from their own genetic pool.

Middle-aged mamas and daddy’s who are thankful for a moment when everyone’s knees are under the same table again if only for one meal.

The younger generation up to their eye-balls in daring dreams, new marriages and the delight of babies in the womb and in their arms.

College students home for a long week-end who are completely thankful for this conglomeration of eccentric people that they lovingly call “family”.

And ... the little ones ... rife with mashed-potato faces and bringing laughter to the entire day.

“You have crowned the year with Your bounty, And Your paths drip with fatness. The pastures of the wilderness drip, And the hills gird themselves with rejoicing.  The meadows are clothed with flocks, And the valleys are covered with grain; They shout for JOY, yes, they sing.” - Psalm 65: 11-13

And yet still ... what does the fourth Thursday in November have to do with joy?

“Joy” is my passion.  It is my message and addiction.  It is the call to joy that gives me a reason to live beyond my own preferences and selfish agenda.  God has called me to a joy so rich and deep that it is my one assignment in life to convince all others that joy is a sure and certain possibility in the midst of disappointing elections, failing economic systems and hopeless health challenges.

“You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” - Psalm 16:11

I dream day and night about how to communicate the strength of joy.  I study Scriptures, classic writings and new-found truths concerning joy.  I ask questions of those wiser than I.  I glean from other hearts, testimonies and stories what it means to be a person of joy.  And this is what I now know.

If you don’t love thanksgiving ... you will never experience joy.  If you are unable to conjure up a moment of gratitude ... joy will ever be the illusive butterfly of your soul.  If you have never discovered the high and holy purpose of worship in spite of your pain ... then you will never know the strength of this three-letter word.

Joy.  Thanksgiving.  Two words that are forever bound together because of the presence and purpose of One Man.  Two words that are the theme and message of One Book.

“Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth.  Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before Him with joyful singing.  Know that the Lord Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.  Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise.  Give thanks to Him, bless His name.  For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting And His faithfulness to all generations.” - Psalm 100

My prayer this year is that you will know the joy that only a life of thanksgiving can bring.  Thanksgiving is not a season or a day ... it is lifestyle that ushers in the joy of His presence!  What a gift!

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A Grateful Heart

What does it really mean to have a grateful heart...not just at the Thanksgiving holiday, but all year long? Carol McLeod is an author, popular speaker at women's conferences, and hosts her own radio program called Defiant Joy! She is the founder and CEO of Just Joy! Ministries. Visit us online at www.justjoyministries.com

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Little Girl Dreams

When I was a little girl I wanted to marry a pastor .... CHECK! When I was a little girl I wanted to have a lot of babies ... CHECK!

When I was a little girl I wanted to be a teacher ... CHECK!

When I was a little girl I wanted to write books ... CHECK!

Actually ... when I was a little girl I wanted to write books that would make a difference.  I wanted to write books that would be in every library in America.  I wanted to write books that would change people’s lives and take them places that they had never before been.  Even when I was a little girl, I wanted to write books that would heal people’s hearts.  I guess it is not time to “CHECK!” that one off my list just yet.

When I was a little girl I wanted to make a difference in the Kingdom of God .... but I didn’t know how that was going to happen.  H-m-m-m ... will this one ever deserve an emphatic “CHECK!”?

When I was a little girl, because my father loved the Lord so completely, I wanted to love Him, too.

When I was a little girl, because my father loved the Bible so passionately, I wanted to love the Bible, too.

It was really my father who put the dream in my heart to be a part of God’s strategy at this time in history.  However, being a child of the 1950’s and 1960’s and then a teen of the early 1970’s ... there weren’t many women in ministry.

Certainly, there was Kathryn Kuhlman who had a dynamic healing ministry and my parents took me to her meetings.  I experienced the power and the presence of God in life-changing ways in those meetings.  However, I wasn’t sure that I was called to do what Kathryn Kuhlman was called to do.  Although I certainly respected her anointing, I knew that Kathryn’s anointing was unique to her.

My dad would read me biographies and tell me the stories of great women missionaries.  He told me of the martyrdom of Betty Stam, of the calling of Darlene Rose and of the commitment of Elizabeth Elliot. (By the way, I highly recommend that you “Google” these women and read their life stories.)

It was exhilarating to realize that God used women!  God used little girls who grew up to change the world for Christ and His Kingdom.  However, I wasn’t sure that I was called to serve God on foreign soil.  I was certainly willing to do so ... but felt that perhaps my calling would be different than the call across the ocean.

And so, as my little girl years melted into the teen years and then as I faced college, I had no idea what to major in at my Christian university!

If I majored in piano ... I could be a great pastor’s wife, right?!  Don’t all pastor’s wife’s play piano and teach Sunday School?  Maybe I should minor in Christian Education?!

Were women even allowed to major in Theology?  In Hebrew or in Greek?  Or would that be perceived as too aggressive?  Too feminist?

And then, one day during my freshman year in college, Kathryn Kuhlman came and spoke in chapel.  This Kathryn Kuhlman of my youth prayed for a new generation of men and women to rise up and change the world for Christ.  She prayed, as only Kathryn Kuhlman could pray, with a waving of her white chiffon-draped arm over the entire 3,000 member student body.  I believed that her prayer was for me, and me alone.

A year or two later, Corrie ten Boom spoke at the college chapel service.  She told of her years of imprisonment in a World War II concentration camp and then she taught the Word of God.  She dealt with the sin of unforgiveness. Her teaching was rich with Scriptural references as well as personal illustrations.  She called herself “a tramp for the Lord” and at that moment, I wanted to tramp right along with Corrie!

And so here I stand today.  I have been married to a pastor for over 35 years and have raised 5 marvelous children to young adulthood.  I have taught high school Latin and English to hundreds of students over the years.  And, I have written 3 books that are my attempt at making a difference in women’s lives.

Life is a journey, isn’t it?  From the days of little girl dreams ... to big girl realities ... to adult check lists;  God is using each conversation, each prayer and each person to craft us into the women (and men!) that we are today.

The important reminder in all of my ponderings today is to keep on dreaming!  Don’t ever stifle the little girl dream that was early birthed in your young heart.

Keep on praying!  Keep believing God for great things in your life!

Keep learning and exposing yourself to people who are changing the world!

And now ... if you will excuse me ... I have to get back to studying the Word of God and to writing a new book proposal!  I have magnificent things to accomplish for the Lord before this day is over!  How about you?!  What will you spend your day doing?!

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How Are You Waiting?

I was waiting in a doctor’s office last week for a routine appointment and was prepared, as always, with my Bible, a notebook, a good read and my smart phone.  I always know that the wait will be long and so I come ready to use my time wisely.  It also helps with the frustration factor, if you know what I mean! Alas, another middle-aged woman was waiting with me ... and she had not come prepared for the delay of the all-wise doctor.  For the first 5-10 minutes, she chatted pleasantly and then read some recipes in a magazine that was on the seat beside hers.  After about 10 more minutes, she set the magazine down and went up to the sweet receptionist asking, “How much longer will it be?”

“The doctor has had several emergencies today and so it will probably be about another 20 minutes, “ was the reply of the voice behind the desk.

The woman sat down beside me and began to complain.  I tried to kindly remind her that the doctor was a busy man and no one can effectively plan for emergencies.  She turned her back on me.

I think that I should give her a name by now instead of only referring to her as the impersonal “she” and “her”.  “Maude” will do nicely, don’t you think?  There aren’t many “Maude’s” out there and I wouldn’t want to run the risk of offending a Maude.

After another 10 minutes, Maude opened her purse and began going through wrinkled receipts, old gum wrappers, out-dated coupons and wadded up tissues.  Rather than walk them to the waste basket that was a mere 6 feet from our chairs, she deposited her stash of personal garbage on the table beside her chair which held a plethora of magazines for waiting patients.

A few more minutes passed slowly by before Maude went back up to the desk and began to yell ... perhaps scream is a better word ... at the young girl who was answering phones, pulling up insurance files and dealing with the angry mob.  Maude was rude, aggressive and embarrassing.  The receptionist was in tears.  I was praying and asking God what I could do to relieve some stress in this room.

Finally, a nurse opened the inner door and said, “Carol ... it’s your turn.”  I got out of my chair, went to the waiting nurse, and said quietly, “Could Maude go before me?  She is not handling the wait very well.”

“Are you sure, Carol?  It might be a while yet.  I will do my best to get you back quickly but I can’t guarantee anything.”

“Let her go in next.  I don’t want her to have a heart attack in the waiting room,” I whispered with a wink and a smile.

“Maude,” the veteran nurse called.  “Mrs. McLeod has said that you can take her place and go next.”

Maude looked at me with red streaks on her cheeks and said brusquely, “Thank you,” and walked by me without making eye contact.

I am not telling you this story to make me look good or to make Maude look bad.  I am telling you this story to make us all think about the way that we wait.

We all have to wait for something or someone.  Not one of us escapes the growth experience of unending, eternal, nail-biting, heart-racing, boring, exasperating times in which we must wait.  Knowing that we all must wait more than once in a lifetime, here are a few tips that just might help you next time you find yourself stuck in a traffic jam, held hostage in a doctor’s office or waiting for God to answer a repetitive prayer.

1 - Waiting can be frustrating (think about Maude) or it can be purposeful.  Which will you make it? You choose whether your times of delay will fortify you or frustrate you.  You choose.

2 - Find something interesting, missional and eternal to do while you wait.  It might be read a good book ... engage someone in conversation ... or pray for others.  Do not go inward while you are waiting but go outward.  It makes the time pass more quickly ... I know.  I have done it both ways.

3 - Don’t play the blame game while you wait.  Don’t blame the doctor, the car in front of you or God.  Rather than blame ... I like to bless!  I bless the doctor and his staff ... I pray for safety for those around me in traffic ... and rather than offer up prayers of outrage ... I offer up prayers of thanksgiving.  Blessing rather than blaming develops a nicer, gentler version of self.  I know.  I have done it both ways.

4 - Trust God with the postponements in life that you find yourself encountering.  Perhaps He is protecting you in traffic.  Perhaps there is someone with whom you are waiting that needs your smile and encouragement.  Perhaps God has just decided to strengthen your resolve.  Let your mantra in the wait be, “It’s all good because He is all good!”

5 - While you are waiting, find a Scripture that you can quote.  This works whether you are waiting for God to send you a spouse, bring a rebellious child home, heal a physical disease or send financial resources.  Because the Word of God is a gift from the eternal God Who doesn’t view time the way that we do, the Word always gives us God’s perspective on the wait.  And that, Maude, is exactly what you and I need.  We need God’s perspective on the wait!

“Wait for the Lord, be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord!”  Psalm 27:14

“My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him.” - Psalm 62:5

“Those who wait on the Lord will gain new strength, they will mount up with wings like eagles; they will run and not be weary, they will walk and not faint.” - Isaiah 40:31

Do you have a favorite scripture that you quote when you find yourself in the wait room?  How about sharing it with us?!

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Joy for TODAY

Autumn must be the most glorious of months.  I look out my window and see the green grass of summer now scattered with the brilliance of red, yellow and orange leaves. The placid geese of the summer that I encounter on my daily walk are now showing off.  They are skidding across the pond with a magnificent demonstration of splash and strength as they prepare for the long journey ahead.

A drive through the country-side holds more inspiration and beauty than the finest art gallery in the world.  The hills are ablaze with a riot of color that no human paintbrush could reveal.

If autumn is so miraculous ... then why do I dread it so much?  Why does my heart constrict in pain every time I see another leave fall to the ground and hear another goose honk its travel plans over my home?!

It’s because I cringe at the very thought that snowflakes are not too far away.  Winter is NOT my best friend ... and the thought of mountains of snow, frigid temperatures and the absence of Mr. Sunshine chills me to the bone.

I have a problem.  I have allowed my distress at the onslaught of winter to rob me of the joy of today.  And tomorrow.  And an entire season of the year!  It’s time for me to grab control of my out-of-control emotions and embrace the joy of today.

For you ... it might not be the dread of the coldest of seasons that denies you the joy of the moment but it might be something else.

Perhaps you cringe at the thought of a child preparing for college and so you cry your way through their senior year.  You sob at the last football game and forget the victories won.  You blubber through choir concerts, teachers’ conferences and packing the final sack lunches.

You might be dreading the last few days of the pre-school years and so rather than celebrate all that is ahead, you pour through baby books and wipe your tears with receiving blankets.

Perhaps you shudder when contemplating your looming retirement from a career that was fulfilling and challenging.  Rather than crafting a plan to continue valuable friendships you find yourself withdrawing from the camaraderie of the workplace into a sullen shell.

What is it with us?!  We can just be so horribly human at times!

This is what I have come to realize ... God has been to my future and it is good!  He is working every event and circumstance of my life for my highest good and His greatest glory just because I love Him.

There is not a day in life that is worth dreading or withdrawing from.  Every day is a gift ... an extraordinary gift.  There is no such thing as an “ordinary” day or even a “bad” day when you are living for a purpose greater than your own.

Whether you are shoveling snow or planting flowers ... whether you are changing diapers or waving good-bye ... whether you are up and at ‘em at the crack of dawn or can spend a leisurely morning over a cup of coffee and good book ... remind yourself that life is a gift.

Every day is a rare and priceless treasure that is meant to be valued not dreaded.  I will not waste one day.  Not one hour.  Not one minute.  I will never again take for granted the joy of a glorious day.

I am determined to live well today.  Passionately and wholeheartedly.  How about you?  Will you put away your dread ... your fear ... your anxieties ... and your regrets? Will you dive into a life that was meant to be experienced with laughter and delight?!

It is the deepest hope and prayer of my heart that you will decide that today is worth celebrating no matter what is behind you or in front of you.  And ... while you are deciding ... will you excuse me?  I need to go ...

There are some geese outside putting on a show that deserves my full attention!

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Two 4-Letter Words for Elections...

My Love/Hate Relationship with Presidential Elections It’s an election year.  I have a love-hate relationship with presidential elections.

I love it that I live in a country where we get to vote for our next leader.  I absolutely love it!

I hate it that politics has become so ugly and divisive.  I thoroughly hate it.

I love it that I live in a country that has built an entire way of life upon the tenet of freedom of speech.  Freedom of speech is precious to me.  I am a communicator; freedom of speech affords me the privilege of writing about my convictions, talking about my belief system and holding high the Word of God.

I hate it when freedom of speech becomes nothing more than the excess of pontificating opinions birthed in half-truths and absent values.  It makes me gag.

I love it that all of America pays attention to presidential elections through the communication magic of television, the internet and radio.

I hate it that all of America is subject to the opinions spouted by the often-biased media through the relentless voices of television, the internet and radio.

I am not going to tell you how to vote. It is up to God and your conscience to advise you on which candidate deserves your vote in 2012.

However ... I am going to throw two 4-letter words at you that will tell you how I really feel about this election of 2012.

PRAY!!  We must pray for our nation.  I believe that praying is more important than voting.  If Christians vote and forget to pray ... we are putting all of our hope and trust in a broken system.  We must pray for America and for our leaders.  We must pray for righteous men and women to arise and to lead us.  We must pray for the media.  The media needs revival.  We must pray for young Christian men and women to infiltrate the world of media as never before.  We must pray that God would raise up a Moses ... a Joshua ... a Daniel at this time in America’s history.

VOTE!!  You must vote!!  Voting for our next president is a God-given privilege and honor.  If you don’t vote, you are placing the future of America in the hands of those who are not being led by a righteous and holy God.  If you don’t vote, you are throwing away the future of this nation.  If you have not registered to vote yet ... do it today!  Get up off the couch and register to vote!  The deadlines are looming (generally mid-October) for voter registration for this election.  Call 1-800-FOR-VOTE.

And now ... let’s pray for America.

“Lord Jesus, we love America.  We are so grateful that you have allowed us to live in this free nation at this time in history.

We pray for Mitt and Ann Romney and for Barack and Michelle Obama.  We pray that the man of your choosing would live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for the next 4 years.  We pray that You would speak to Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama.  Wake them up in the night hours Lord and speak to their hearts!!

Lord, send a revival to this land.  Send your Spirit upon this nation as never before ..." from the mountains ... to the valleys ... to the oceans white with foam!  Bless this nation, Lord because it is our home, sweet home.”

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Doors that Only God Can Open....Or Close

I often pray a prayer that starts like this, “God, open a door that only YOU can open!” How I love the God Who opens doors ... doors of opportunity ... doors of relationship ... doors of ministry ... doors of destiny. But, I must tell you, I have been pondering lately my extreme gratitude that God has loved me enough to close doors as well. As I look back at my life from a vantage point of over 5 decades ... I am just as grateful for the doors that God has strategically kept closed as for the ones that He has deliberately opened.

I am grateful for the many times (shamefully too many!) that God closed a door on a relationship during my dating years. How grateful I am that God chose Craig for me and didn’t allow me to choose based on teen-age hormones or young adult selfishness.

I am grateful that God gently held doors of destiny closed tightly for me until the right season in life. I am grateful that during my years of mothering that the doors to publishing contracts remained closed so that I could focus on the 5 most important things in my life. Little hearts ... fingerprints on every window ... bedtime stories ... PBJ sandwiches and little arms around my neck.

I am grateful that I don’t always get to live where I want to live but where God needs me to live.

I am grateful that God’s ways truly are higher than my ways ... and He knows what doors to miraculously open ... and what doors to patiently keep closed.

I do believe that there are times that I must persevere in prayer for the best doors to be opened for me and for those that I love. Some doors remained unopened simply because I don’t stay on my knees long enough ... or often enough. There are some doors that have remained regretfully closed just because of my lack of persistence in prayer.

And for those closed doors, I repent and pray again. I ask God to give me the resolve of Daniel ... of Joseph ... and of Hannah.

I have learned that it is only in the prayer closet of my heart that I discover which doors were never meant to be opened ... and which doors I must prayer harder and longer about.

It is in the prayer closet of my heart that I experience the power of God Who always opens the best doors for me.

It is in the prayer closet of my heart that I relinquish the door knob of all of my future doors ... and safely place my hand in His.

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A Tale of Three Friends

Yesterday was a good day ... no ... it was a great day! I started the day by taking Craig for his annual colonoscopy so maybe I should clarify and say the day was great for me and challenging for him! When I had Craig all settled at home after the invasive procedure and gave him plenty of liquids as per the doctor’s orders, I went for my daily jog/walk. I intended to go about 2.5 miles and then come home and fix dinner. I love to walk in a neighborhood across the street from ours that has a half-mile track around its nature preserve. The day was perfect ... the sun was brilliant ... and I was ready to sweat.

I often see familiar faces as I walk my daily route and smile and say, “Hi! Great day for a walk!” But truly, when I am out exercising, I just want to pray alone and enjoy God’s creation by myself. I really don’t want to talk to strangers.

Yesterday, I spotted a woman whom I usually observe walking on my nature trail with her i-pod on and her eyes riveted on the ground. She was walking the opposite direction of me and so as I crossed her path, I merely tried to make eye contact. Just trying to be friendly, you know? I might enjoy solitary exercise but I am not stuck up! I was jogging and she was power-walking. After crossing her path, twice, she looked at me and said, “We really should walk together so you can help me run further.”

Now ... I know that I am a pastor’s wife and I sincerely love women’s ministry, but truly, my first thought was, “Crumb! Now I have to walk AND talk!” (By the way, “crumb” is the only bad word that I ever use.)

But, I got over myself and welcomed Sue to join me. I started to explain to her my strategy of running 1,000 steps, walking 200, running 800 steps, walking 200, running 600 steps, walking 200. Well ... you get the picture.

It turns out that God’s design was for Sue and I to walk together not so that I could give her a strategy for running but rather share my strategy for life. Sue shared her heart and I shared mine. Although she doesn’t know the Lord yet ... she is interested in my faith. That 2.5 miles turned into 5 miles and I arrived home not just with calories burned but also with a new friend by the name of Sue.

“I am so sorry, Lord. How small of me to think that my daily discipline of walking and jogging is all about me. Everything I do really is all about You.”

When I arrived home, sweaty, stinky and aching, a bouquet of beautiful spring flowers sat on my kitchen counter. I read the card and discovered they were from a dear friend, Pamela, who is a precious gift from God. Pamela and I had suffered a schism in our relationship several years ago that was painful and unnecessary. I take full blame. However, over the course of the past year, we have both worked diligently at mending our friendship and have truly fallen in love all over again! Immediately I called Pamela to thank her for her thoughtfulness, and we giggled, cried and visited for the next 10 or 15 minutes. What a gift! What a delight! To have an old friend become a new friend! What joy to realize that the minor things really are minor and that the blessing of genuine friendship is not to be taken lightly.

After my restored friend, Pamela, and I finished our phone call, I noticed that another friend had been trying to reach me.

I wish that you knew Sarah. Everyone needs a Sarah. Sarah has stuck with me through thick and thin. Although I am old enough to be her mom, sometimes she is the one who speaks into my life. We have a hard time defining our relationship ... are we mother/daughter? Perhaps big sister/little sister? Mentor/mentee? Or maybe ... we are genuinely sisters of the heart which is the dearest kind of friend.

I can tell Sarah ANYTHING without fear of being judged or criticized. She always believes the best and looks for gold in me. She is my kindred spirit and I love watching her juggle mothering a strong-willed 2 year old, loving a premature baby to health and spending time with her husband. She tells me who to vote for, disciples my daughters and believes in my dreams. Sarah is my friend for life.

Sue ... Pamela ... Sarah. What did I do to deserve such blessing? My tale of three friends today is to encourage you to nurture the relationships that God has given to you. Be ready for divine appointments and welcome strangers into your heart. Allow God to restore broken relationships and be willing to forgive and to be forgiven. Treasure the miraculous gift of life-long friends. Isn’t our goal that every friendship would develop into a Sarah?

“Make new friends but keep the old. One is silver and the other’s gold.”

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Love 365 Days a Year

Valentine’s Day ... some folks love it ... some folks tolerate it ... while others dread it! Remember those Valentine Boxes we used to make in Elementary School? We would carefully decorate them with shades of pink and red in the days leading up to February 14. We would painstakingly print our names in bold letters across the top ... hoping for a Valentine from at least a few friends in our classrooms.

As the years went by, and we realized that Valentine’s Day was not really about how many cheap cards were placed in a shoebox but in our ability to love and be loved.  When that realization took hold, the holiday either took on greater significance or was kicked to the corner of our heart.

Whether you are 16 or 86 ... here is my advice for you today:

If you are happily married ... wholeheartedly love your husband today. Live with no regrets. Treat him extra special. This doesn’t take a lot of money but it does take a lot of attention. Fix his favorite meal ... watch his favorite movie with him ... find a copy of “your song” and play it for him first thing in the morning. Get up early and make coffee for him ... leave him a note on the dashboard of the car ... choose not to nag, criticize or complain for 24 entire hours!

If you are still waiting for your prince charming ... allow yourself to find fulfillment in the heart of the One Who knows you best and loves you the most. Even after you are married, Jesus should still be your First Love! Wait well ... while you are in the days or years of waiting ... purpose in your heart to serve others and to become the best “you” that you can be. Go on missions’ trips! Teach Sunday School! Invite others over for dinner! Baby-sit for free! Prepare to run a marathon! Take an extra class at college or at church! Tell the pastor that you are available to serve your local church! Women who wait well seldom wait long for fulfillment because they find satisfaction not in being loved but in loving well!

If you have found yourself “suddenly single” due to rejection or divorce ... know that you serve a God Who will never leave you or forsake you. Do not build a wall around your broken heart but allow God to heal those broken places inside of you. Pray with other single women and spend time with a mentor. Join a Bible Study and allow your soul to flourish in the fertilization of the power of the Word of God. Reject bitterness and embrace His power and His joy.

If you are a widow ... it’s o.k. to enjoy a sweet memory or two ... but then choose to give to someone else today. Perhaps you could babysit for a young couple so they could go out to dinner. If you are not able to do that ... slip a young couple a $10 or $20 bill so they can go out and enjoy the days they have been given.

I don’t believe that celebrating love should merely be confined to Valentine’s Day ... but we should love others well all of the other 364 days of the year! God has placed us here at this time in history to reveal His fruits to the world in which we live.

“But now, faith, hope and love abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.” - ICorinthians 13:13.

I love each one of you! -Carol

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The 7 Facebook Commandments

I will be the first to admit it ... I probably spend way too much time on Facebook.  I somehow justify it by saying that it connects me to people or that it is part of my ministry.  But the truth of the matter is this:  most of the time, Facebook is a waste of my time! In the midst of wasting time on Facebook, I have noticed an alarming trend of less than honorable behavior.  And so, in order to justify in some small way my Facebook compulsion, I have decided to write the 7 Commandments for Facebook Behavior!

Don’t run and hide ... read on ....

Commandment #1 - Facebook is not a place to correct people.  If correction is necessary, it should always happen face to face and heart to heart.  Perhaps this should be the scripture that guides our responses on Facebook: “Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God ...” - I Peter 4:11.  Wow!  That scripture will take some hot air out of our sails.  Don’t talk unless God told you to say it.  You can only say it if you are 400% sure that God would say it.  Even then, God probably wouldn’t say it on Facebook.  Just sayin’.

Commandment #2 - Just because someone doesn’t write on your wall for 2 weeks or daily respond to every little comment that you make, it doesn’t mean that they don’t like you.  Don’t take it personal.  It’s not.  Facebook is not personal ... it is public.

Commandment #3 - We all have opinions but is Facebook really the place that you want to share those opinions?  Some opinions are for the privacy of your own home not for the very public walls of some mindless social media space like Facebook.  Quit pontificating, reverberating, prognosticating and bellyaching and just be a blessing.  I find that if I am too quick to share an opinion on Facebook what happens is that I alienate people whom I really do love.

Commandment # 4 - Don’t be gross.  Use a little bit of reserve.  Do you really want people to know that your baby pooped ... your dog vomited on your new rug ... your underwear is too tight and your husband drools and snores while he sleeps?  Listen ... you wouldn’t burp in public without being embarrassed.  Facebook is not your opportunity to burp without saying, “Excuse me!”

Commandment # 5 - Don’t respond to someone else’s posts by being argumentative or by being offended.  If you want to enter into a productive conversation concerning an issue, call the person on the phone and sincerely share your heart with them in a kind and reasonable fashion.  Or perhaps, having coffee together and meeting face-to-face might help you realize that this person is not your Facebook enemy but just another pilgrim on a journey. Or perhaps, you should keep your mouth (or in this case, your computer keyboard closed) and just pray.  You will not solve all of the world’s problems by barking back on Facebook.

Commandment # 6 - Never send a private message that is filled with anger, criticism and judgement.  I know women who have been the victim of cruel and vicious private messages through Facebook. Shame on all of us who falsely believe that just because it is private we can be savage and unprincipled.  Grow up and be sweet.  Just be sweet.

Commandment # 7 - Do not allow Facebook to replace the joy of relationships!  Put your computer away and call a friend for a long overdue conversation.  Send a tangible and lovely letter in the mail on beautiful stationery.  Better yet ... have a lunch date and share some laughter.  Gather some grown-up girls together in your own home and spend time in prayer and in encouraging one another.  Suddenly ... you will all be saying, “Facebook Who?!!”

God wants you to be a blessing ... and that includes blessing all of your Facebook friends! If your heart’s desire is to change the world through a ministry on Facebook you might start by just being kind.

I have an idea ... if you have read this blog and in some small way agree with me ... let’s all post this scripture as our Facebook status for a day or two, “But encourage one another day after day, while it is still called today.” - Hebrews 3:13  It is a good reminder for all of us!

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