An Unquenchable Song

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Oh!  How I try not to be deemed as old-fashioned! 

Oh!  How I ache to be at least in touch with the needs, the thoughts and the trends of the younger generation! 

Oh! How I desire not to come across as out of date … out of touch … or over that infamous hill. 

But let’s face it – at this age – I do indeed have a lot of years of living under my belt. 

At this point in my life’s journey - I know a thing or two about life … about marriage … about parenting … about choosing well … about waiting … about wisdom … and about prayer. 

At least I hope I do. 

I try to dress fashionably youthful yet not come across as that older woman in teen-age clothes.  

I like to think that my style is “timeless” rather than “yesterday”.

I sincerely attempt to sprinkle my speech with well-chosen colloquialisms of the day without seeming inconsequential or sarcastic.

I am certainly not “hip” … but neither am I antiquated.

I often read what my 20-something daughters and their friends are reading so that I will keep my fingers on the pulse beat of those incredible people known as “millennials”.

I follow young moms … young authors … young pastors … and young thinkers on all types of social media.

I even know what Reddit and Tumblr are … do you?!

However – I do believe that the place where the numerous years of my life is perhaps the most obvious is in my choice of music.  

Sigh … 

I am a musician and I have raised all of my children to love music.  Three of my five children majored in music in college. 

We McLeods know our music … 

I will be the first to admit, however, that I am hopelessly outdated, old-fashioned and vintage when it comes to the music that I enjoy. 

First of all – I’ll take a waltz over hip-hop, a sonata rather than rap and a concerto over electronica any day of my life!

Chopin, Gershwin and Debussey are on my playlist rather than Beyonce, Maroon 5 and Drake. 

(As a matter of fact – I don’t even know who Drake is. I had to look up who had the #1 song on Billboard.) 

And, when it comes to Christian music, it’s true …  from time to time I do enjoy Bethel, Hillsong, and gifted contemporary musicians such as Lauren Daigle.

However, the Christian music that truly inspires me is at least decades old! 

Music has always had the rare and rich ability to touch my soul in the very deepest place of me.   

My heart aches with unmatched joy when I hear these lyrics:  

“I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold … I’d rather be His than have riches untold.

I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands:  I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hands.”

I am forced to the altar of my heart as I evaluate those challenging lyrics.  Would I?!  Would I really rather than Jesus than silver or gold?!  Would I truly rather be His than have riches untold? 

And the whisper of my heart cries … I would!  I would rather have Jesus than anything!

And then, there are times that I sit and reminisce over the legacy I have been given due to a family that valued the church and loved the Lord. In those sweet moments, I can still hear my father’s voice singing:

“Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, sweetest Name that I know!

Fills my every longing – keeps me singing as I go!” 

Oh, Dad!  You were right!  Jesus is the sweetest Name that I know! He fills my deepest desires and He has never failed to give me an unquenchable song! 

And I must admit that one of the unarguable perquisites in judging a song to be a truly great composition is that it must hold solid theology and undeniable truth in every line –

“Great is Thy Faithfulness – Oh God, my Father.

There is no shadow of turning with Thee!

Thou changest not – Thy compassions they fail not!

As Thou has been thou forever wilt be!” 

I want to know Jesus better because of the songs that I sing.  I want to declare Who He is over my circumstances as I sing my songs of faith that the saints in every generation have sung before me. 

And, finally, who can resist the triumph that springs forth in an ordinary person’s soul when these words are proclaimed with the power of the accompanying melody: 

Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee! God of glory, God of love!

Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee, opening to the Son above!

Melt the clouds of sin and sadness – drive the dark of doubt away.

Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day!” 

You might judge me as “old” due to the music that sings perpetually in my soul … but I believe that it is music that has kept me young!

The unmatched song that continues to dominate the soundtrack of my life has given me a spring in my step and a sparkle in my eyes.

How about you? What is your favorite song?  I’d love to hear from you … and sing a stanza or two together!

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is! 

The Grace Muscle

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How many of you have a difficult person in your life?  Perhaps some of you have more than one difficult person that you encounter daily.

Maybe some of you ARE the difficult person in a relationship … have you ever thought about that?!

Difficult people are just so … so … so … well they are just so difficult!

Wouldn’t it be nice if every friend or family member in your life could be compared to Mary Poppins?  Or Pollyanna?  Or Mother Theresa?

Instead … I often feel like I am stuck in a relationship with Cruella deVille … Scrooge … or the Grinch!

I have often asked the Father, “God, is it Your will for me to stay in a relationship with a difficult person?!”

And then He reminds me that He is in a relationship with me … and I know that I tend to be rather difficult at times.

Actually – the Holy Spirit has just recently reminded me that Jesus chose Judas to be one of His disciples even though He knew that Judas would betray Him.

Judas was definitely difficult.

The Holy Spirit has also tenderly pointed out to me that Jesus chose Peter to be one of His disciples even though He knew that Peter would rebuke Him, cut off a soldier’s ear and deny Christ three times.

Peter was undeniably difficult.

God never shies away from using a difficult person for His purposes and for His plans.  Should I give you a list of difficult people that He has used over the course of history?

Abraham … Isaac … Jacob … Jonah … Samson … David … Moses … Paul … you … me …

If God doesn’t shun difficult people then neither should we.  However, we must employ the strategy, the wisdom and the heart of God when navigating the stormy relationship waters that difficult people tend to stir up.

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God always confronts difficult people, including me, with love, with righteousness and with truth. When I confront difficult people in my life, I often give opinion rather than truth, frustration rather than righteousness and judgment rather than love.

I need to be more like the Father.

“As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;

But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.” – Ephesians 4:14 & 15

When God allows my life to collide with that of a difficult person it is not so that we will beat each other up until someone bleeds but it is so that one of us – perhaps both of us - will begin to act more like Jesus.

Every difficult person that you encounter is an opportunity for you to reveal the character of Christ in your less than perfect body.

Difficult people are not meant to bring out the worst in us but they are meant to bring out the Jesus in us.

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” – Ephesians 4:31 & 32

What if God has allowed a difficult person or two into your life to develop your grace muscle?

What?!  You didn’t know that you had a “grace muscle”?!  That’s too bad … because your lack of awareness of it simply means that you haven’t used it nearly often enough!

And … it also means that the next time you employ your grace muscle … you might just be sore for days.

It often hurts to give grace to difficult people but it is part of the calling of a believer in Jesus Christ.

Ouch!

Grace often hurts the giver but it heals the one who receives it.  And, in the long run of life, it strengthens the one who has given the grace.

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“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” – Ephesians 4:29

Another strategy that Christ often utilized when dealing with a difficult person is that He put that fractious person to work in His Kingdom!

He gave Moses a million or more people to lead out of slavery … He gave Paul some books to write … and He gave Peter a church to build.

Service can miraculously mutate a cynic into a believer!

Ministry often morphs a skeptic into a partner and transforms a whiner into a witness.

So, now, when you think about your difficult person doesn’t this change your perspective? Rather than getting all bent out of shape at the prospect of spending another day with Cruella, determine that you are going to be like your Father!

You will speak the truth in love rather than vomiting your opinion in frustration.

You will reveal the character of Jesus every time you hang out with Mr. Grinch.

You will give grace upon grace whenever Scrooge knocks upon your door.

And … you will challenge that difficult person to invest their life in something bigger than himself or herself. 

And perhaps … just perhaps … you will roll up your sleeves and join in the work with your new friend!

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is! 

Overwhelmed

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“Overwhelmed” is such an overwhelming word, isn’t it? 

I often feel the tentacles of that which is urgent threaten to strangle the very life out of me.  Do you?

There are so many things in life that have the capacity to overwhelm us …to conquer us …to  bury us … at any given moment in life. 

For me, it seems that I am traveling along just fine through the life I have been given.  I enjoy the view even though it seems that it is all flying by way too quickly. I have the pedal to the medal with my hands firmly placed on the steering wheel … when suddenly … out of nowhere … an unexpected circumstance abruptly appears in front of me and I lose all control!

Can you relate?

I might be spinning plates but I love every one of those plates!  I am focused on keeping every plate at optimum speed and I am actually doing a pretty good job at the perpetual spinning … when suddenly – something unpredictable is thrown at me and everything else comes crashing down!

Does anyone else know what I am talking about?!

For everyone … there are financial challenges … political issues that we don’t begin to understand and refuse to have an opinion on … stresses at work and stresses in the home.

For some of you … there are the challenges of being married … or of being single.

For moms there are the children … the pets … grocery shopping … cleaning … soccer practice … piano lessons … homework that lasts late into the night … and the never ending “To-Do” list.

For dads there are the challenges of career … of paying the bills … of never having enough time to go around … of exercise … of yard work … of the home repairs … of politics in the workplace.

Do you see yourself in any of the lists above?

My friend, if you and I are not careful, we will rush through life looking at all of the temporary pleasures rather than enjoying the rich, eternal view that has been given to us by God the Father. We will speed down roadways and highways that were never meant to lead us to His intended purposes for our lives. We will crash and burn rather than live and flourish!

My friend, if you and I are not careful, we will be spinning all of the wrong plates rather than dining on that which is eternal and that which He has provided. We will be obsessed with busyness rather than with fruitfulness. We will frantically spin rather than joyfully rest.

So … what do we do when life overwhelms us? 

“From the end of the earth I will cry to You! When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.” – Psalm 61:2

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The Psalmist knew that there would inevitably be times in life when the word “overwhelmed” would describe our very existence; his advice is as rich and as wise today as it was thousands of years ago.

When you are overwhelmed … don’t be overwhelmed!

When you are overwhelmed … change your focus!

When you are overwhelmed … change your direction!

When you are overwhelmed … let someone else do the leading!

When you are overwhelmed … go to Jesus!

If you are overwhelmed today, something has to change in your life! Something has to go in your life!  Only you can make the change … I can’t make it for you.

Your kids can’t make the change for you … your spouse can’t change your choices … your boss won’t ease up … the bills will always be the bills … politics will always be messy.

When you are at the end of yourself … or at the end of the earth … cry out to the Lord for wisdom and for direction!

Cry out to Jesus for help!

And then listen to Him … He wants to speak to you about your daily life more than you want to take the time to listen. Often, when we are overwhelmed, we mistakenly believe that we are simply too busy to listen to the voice of the Father.

If you are overwhelmed … you must listen for the Father’s voice!  You simply must!

Put away your phone and listen.

Turn off the TV and listen.

Take a morning off work and listen.

Get up 30 minutes early … open your Bible … and listen!

Put on worship music and listen.

In these chosen and quiet moments, ask Jesus to lead you.  Ask Him to reveal His plan for your life.  Ask Him to help you with your schedule.  Ask Him to call the shots of your life.

Ask Him.

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:9

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Don’t expect Him to agree with all of your previous choices in life but allow Him to lead you to the higher way … to the higher thoughts … to the higher place.

The best part of every day of your life is the time that is spent resting in His presence. 

In the midst of your busyness and craziness … in the midst of that which threatens to overwhelm you … carve out a beautiful place of joy and just rest in Him and all that He is.

Stop spinning plates and rest!

Stop careening through life and listen!

When your heart is overwhelmed … join the Psalmist … and join me … in following Jesus toward that which is the best part of life.

And would you like to know what the best part of life is? 

Would you like to know what most meaningful moments of life actually are?

It’s Him!  The things of earth really do go strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace!

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus!

Look full in His wonderful face.

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim –

In the light of His glory and grace!”

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is! 

Sound Mind

Are you dealing with a mess this week?

When all 5 of my children lived at home, I had a serious struggle with the tidiness and cleanliness of my home.  I wasn’t exactly a slob … but my! How I wrestled with stacks of laundry, mountains of unwashed dishes, unmade beds and people clutter that filled every corner of the home.

There were always just so many other things that I desired to do rather than to make a bed or to wipe off a counter top ….

I wanted to read books with my children in the early morning hours right after wiping sleep out of their eyes -

I ached to go for long walks and to discover through their eyes the beauty of God’s creation with these little people that my husband and I had created -

How I loved snuggling with them before they took their afternoon naps -

I longed to look into their little faces and just to simply listen to the wonder of their voices …

I loved playing childhood games with them … drawing sidewalk chalk masterpieces with them … throwing the baseball to them!  None of that was a chore but it was all pure joy!

I was so focused on the delight that I lost sight of some necessary discipline during those years of hands-on mothering.

Now let me assure you that there is absolutely nothing wrong with reading to, playing with and spending time with our children.  Most of us should do much, much more of it.

The conundrum was birthed in my stubborn unwillingness to make sure that my home was free of germs, of disorganization and of yesterday’s mess.

I remember clearly the day when one of my dearest friends said to me, “Carol, one of the ways that you show your family that you love them is by keeping your house clean!”

I heard her! I heard her loud and clear!

Let me ask you again … are you dealing with a mess this week?

I don’t know about you but at this season of life – the biggest mess that I often deal with is the mess that has accumulated in my mind.

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Some of you may have absolutely perfect minds that are free from clutter or from yesteryear’s trash.  You may never think a wrong thought or spend one second on worry or anxiety.

However, for most of us, as we travel through life, our brains get clogged much like the kitchen sink does after a messy cooking spree.  Our minds are filled to overflowing with hurt, resentment, disappointment, failure and rejection.

Our minds were never meant to be sewers of mental excrement but if you and I are not careful … that is exactly what will happen!

If we spend too much splashing in the unpleasant details of the past … or in snuggling up to worry … or in refusing to tackle that mountain of blame … our minds will become cluttered, dusty and messy.

“God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and love and a sound mind.” – II Timothy 1:7

God wants you to live a powerful and a loving life and the way that He has enabled you to live in that sparkling clean mental residence is through the miraculous cleaning energy of a sound mind. 

The word for “sound mind” in the Greek can also be translated as “discipline”.

You need to exhibit discipline between your two ears!

Now … there may be other activities that try to distract you from this important task  - but stay focused and do the hard work that it entails to drain your brain of stinkin’ thinkin’!

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses, we are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” – II Corinthians 10:3-5

If your mind has become a messy, messy place, let me assure you that YOU are actually not your problem! You are in a spiritual battle with the enemy who would love to clog up your brain with his perspective on a situation. 

We walk in the flesh but we fight in the spirit!  We are unable to clean up our thought life with drugs, with neurological reconnections or with a lobotomy!  According to Paul and the Holy Spirit – we must attack the mental bacteria in our brains with something that is “divinely powerful”!

The best translation of this phrase “divinely powerful” that I have ever encountered is found in these two words:  ABSOLUTELY GOD!

We need a fighting technique that has not one bit of our flesh in it but that is all God from start to finish! 

There is only one way that you will ever be able to take back the real estate in your brain that the enemy has endeavored to control and that is through the miraculous cleaning and fighting power of the Word of God!

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You are unable to take the lies of the enemy captive with human thinking no matter how positive or noble it may be. What you need is something DIVINELY POWERFUL that will clean the unchecked mess that you have allowed to accumulate in your gray matter.

Let me give you some examples that might help you out here …

When the enemy comes against you in the area of finances and with thoughts of lack, you need to wipe those thoughts out with the bleaching power of the Word –

“But my God shall supply all of my needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:19

When the deceiver of the brethren tells you that you are worthless and that no one will ever love you or appreciate you – you need to clean out that decaying mental cavity with God’s opinion on the matter –

“The Word of God says that I am royalty and that He chose me for His own possession!” – I Peter 2:9

When Satan torments you with thoughts of cancer, diabetes and other diseases, respond with this mental prescription:

“The Word of God says that He is the Great Physician and that by His stripes I am healed! He heals all of my diseases!” – I Peter 2:24 and Psalm 103:3

It’s time for us to clean up the mess that we have allowed to inhabit every corner of our thought life! 

The way you can clean up your brain is by thinking the very thoughts of God Himself!

Wow!  What a wonderful possibility!

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is! 

Mirror Image

Have you ever wondered what God’s will for your life is?

Should you go to college?  Get married?  Have children?  Go on the mission field?

Should you spend money or save money? 

Should you wear the blue dress or the red one?

Should you call your mom or read a book?

Should you exercise or pray?

Should you change jobs or stay where you are?!

Discovering the will of God for one’s life can be daunting … unless, of course you decide to read your Bible!

I believe that the Bible offers a strategic blueprint for living an abundant life!

I believe that the Bible holds wisdom that is still applicable for our very lives today!

I believe that when the Bible is read daily that it has the potential of giving you the life of your deepest dreams.

I believe that God’s specific will for your singular life is found in the Bible.

I believe in the power of … the wonder of … and the miraculous results of the Bible!

I believe the Bible!

So … now that we have settled that … let me share with you the ‘”guts” of this week’s blog …

One day, several years ago, when I was having my daily quiet time, I read this significant and powerful verse from Ephesians, “Therefore, be imitators of God as beloved children.” – Ephesians 5:1

In an instant I realized that this verse was telling me exactly what God’s will was for my personal life!  I was called, by the voice of the Holy Spirit, to imitate the very actions, the thoughts, the words and the emotions of God.

And then, I hunkered down and went digging for the priceless treasure that I was certain to find in this verse.

The word “imitators” is the Greek word “mimetes” from which we derive our English word “mime”.

What God doeswe should imitate.

What God speakswe should echo.

What God thinksshould be our very first thought.

What God feelsshould be our immediate response.

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As believers in Jesus Christ, it is indeed God’s perfect will for each one of our lives, to mimic those things that we see in the character of God. 

We are called to carefully and intentionally model our lives after the life of God.

As I pondered and prayed over this verse the following week, I realized that this verse is, in effect, calling me to be an actor and that I am taking on the role of God the Father.  What?!!  How can that be?

When I look into the mirror of God, I should mimic every single thing that He does!

Every single day of our earthly lives, we should be more like God than we were yesterday!  Think about it!

Every event that I encounter … every person that I meet … and every circumstance that I endure … should craft me more and more into being exactly like Him!

I should decrease in me and He should increase in me! (John 3:30)

Difficult people … and adverse conditions … and disappointing events … should only have one influence in my life … they should make me more like Jesus!

It is our goal this side of heaven to imitate God.

It is our reward this side of heaven to become more like Him.

It is our focused life calling to act like Him.

It is our daily assignment to mimic Him.

If you have ever wondered what God’s will for your life is … this is it:  To become like Him!

In order to imitate a person, you must study that person and watch how he or she acts and how he or she reacts.  You must know what this person likes and what this person doesn’t like; you must observe how the person treats people and what this person spends his or her time doing.

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Let me get specific …

When I was in college, a woman by the name of Ellen Stamps became my role model.  She had traveled with Corrie ten Boom for 10 years and had then married the beloved chaplain at the Christian university that I attended.

I loved absolutely everything about this blonde-haired, thirty-something Dutch woman!

I spent time studying her and asking her pertinent questions about the Lord, about life, about love and about marriage.

I observed the way that she treated people and how she responded to her husband.

I noticed that she always had fresh flowers in her home and made it a habit to play classical music while she was entertaining guests.

I was amazed that she never seemed flustered by difficult people but handled them with wit and with grace. I drank up her uncommon wisdom and I flourished as her joy splashed on my life.

Even today … over 40 years later … not a day passes by that I don’t ask myself,  “I wonder what Ellen would do in this situation?”

If you long to live in God’s perfect will for your life – you must imitate Him … you must know Him …  you must observe Him … you must listen to His uncommon wisdom and you must splash in the joy of His presence!

As well-loved children, every day we spend on earth, our goal must be to become more like our Dad!

We are constantly in the process of becoming more like God!” – Ephesians 5:1

41 Lessons in 41 Years

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It was a hot, humid, sticky day during the summer of 1977. 

I was 22-years-old and had met the man of my dreams! We were going to be married on this glorious Sunday afternoon in the country church in which I had grown up.

The church, that held about 180 people, was filled to overflowing with 250 of our closest friends and family members.

I waited in the tiny women’s bathroom with 8 bridesmaids dressed in all the colors of the rainbow. I was about to become a wife …

I didn’t know that day that we would, over the course of our marriage, experience infertility, cancer, repeated miscarriages, financial challenges and depression. 

All I knew that miraculous day was joy… the joy of loving and being loved.  The joy of choosing and being chosen.

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Where has 41 years gone?  It has disappeared like a vapor in the reality of all that life has brought to us.  I blinked and 4 decades has passed by …

In honor of our 41st. wedding anniversary, I thought that I would share with you 41 tips… 41 words of wisdom!

So here goes… 

“41 Ways to Love the Marriage You Have Been Given!”

1 – Forgive frequently and easily.  Craig and I have often said that the first one to forgive is the one that wins!

2 – Find joy in the little things in life.  A shared cup of coffee in the morning … watching a sunset together in the evening … a phone call from a child who lives far away.  This is the stuff of which life is made! The little things in life are actually the big things.

3 – Pray together. Mountains move when a married couple takes the time to pray together for their children, their finances and their concerns.

4 – Serve together. Serving side by side is one of the building blocks of a great marriage.

5 – Listen more than you talk.

6 – Never even allow yourself to think about the “D” word.  If you don’t think it… you will never say it. If you never say it… you will never pursue it. (If you are wondering what word I am talking it… it starts with a “D” and ends with “ivorce”.)

7 – Remind yourself that it is not your job to “change” or “fix” your spouse. Love your spouse exactly the way they are today.

8 – Invest yourself in your spouse’s interests.  When we were first married, I realized that my husband loved watching football on Sunday afternoons.  Rather than feeling second place to a “pigskin,” I began to read the sports section so that I could be prepared for the Sunday afternoon ritual.  He was amazed! I love amazing this man of mine…

9 – Look at each other when you talk.  Make eye contact.

10 – Never raise your voices.

11 – Never call names.

12 – Don’t compare your spouse to anyone else’s spouse.

13 – Believe with all of your heart that this one person is your priority above everything and anyone else.  Then act like it.

14 – Don’t go to bed angry.

15 – Realize that your spouse is not God.  Your husband or your wife can never be to you what only the Lord can be.

16 – Don’t ever talk about your spouse behind his or her back. Only give good reports about your spouse to your parents, his parents, your children and your friends. Be respectful of your spouse – in private and in person.

17 – Say “I love you” often.

18 – Hold hands when you go for a walk.

19 – Say an encouraging word to your spouse when the tension is high.

20 – Choose to be a happy person.  It takes two happy people to build a happy marriage.

21 – Leave the past in the past.  Don’t bring up past failures, mistakes or wounds. It’s like bringing last week’s garbage back into the house.

22 – Read “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman and then apply it to your marriage.

23 – Make worshiping the Lord together a priority.

24 – When you are most frustrated with your spouse – that is the moment when you should choose to be the kindest to them.

25 – Be kind to your spouse’s parents and siblings. Include them in holidays and in family gatherings.

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26 – Have devotions together at least once a week.  This doesn’t mean you need to sit down together and read 10 chapters in the Bible together… just talk about the Lord and what He has done for you. Share a thought with your spouse that you had during your personal quiet time. Talk about the things for which you are thankful.

27 – Have your own personal quiet time every day.  This one simple discipline will deliver a strength to your marriage that can never be measured.

28 – Smile at each other across the room.

29 – Share the responsibilities of the home.  Talk about expectations and figure out who gets to do what!

30 – Learn the power of compromise!

31 – Never lie to your spouse. Be a person of honor and tell the truth.

32 – Never correct your spouse in front of other people – especially in front of your children.

33 – Don’t expect your spouse to be perfect because you are not perfect either.  Together you might make a perfect couple… but alone, you are simply not perfect.

34 – Give your spouse the grace that you wish he or she would give to you.

35 – Remember why you fell in love… recall favorite memories… laugh about yesterday’s challenges.

36 – Remember that the covenant you made is not only with each other but it is with God!

37 – Laugh at his jokes even when you have heard them 1,000 times or more!

38 – Remember that your spouse is your partner and not your enemy. You win together and you lose together. When only one spouse wins … marriages loses.

39 – Keep the minor things minor.

40 – Act like adults and not like children.  Tantrums are not allowed!

41 – Choose each other anew every day.

Happy Anniversary, Craig! I love being your wife!

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is! 

What it Takes to Make a Difference

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If you have read my blog more than a time or two, you know by now that I am a list-maker … a list-lover … a list-idolizer.

Lists simply help me to organize the thoughts that tumble haphazardly through my brain; they enable me to give boundaries to the roller-coaster emotions that fly helter-skelter through the caverns of my heart.

Lists … I love them.

And may I just say … there are lists in the Bible!  If it’s good enough for the Holy Spirit … it’s good enough for me!

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” – Galatians 5:22

This week … I am making yet a new list for you and for me. 

And … have I got a list for you!

This is a life-changing, wonder-working, destiny-setting, mind-blowing list that will turn you into the person you always wished that you were but sorely knew how often you fell short.

This list will enable you to become the friend that you always wish you had been … the spouse that you always wish that you had … the parent that you dreamed about becoming … and you might even become the disciple of Jesus’ dreams!

First of all, the reason that I made this list is because I realized that at the core of anyone of us, what we truly desire in life is to make a difference.

Sure … stamps in the passport would be nice … a substantial savings account wouldn’t be turned away … education never hurt anyone … but the most valuable and sustaining desire that any of us have is to simply make a difference.

I long to be remembered after I leave planet earth for a kindness done.

I deeply desire to live beyond the dash in my tombstone with the invisible legacy that I have graciously bestowed in the lives of my family and friends.

I want acquaintances who don’t even know my name to say, “Remember that girl with the smile? Didn’t she just walk in a room and light it up?”

I want to cross my finish line and hear the Lord say, “Carol! You did good!!  You were a blessing to history! You made a difference!”

So … what does it take to make a difference? Do you have to have your picture on the front of a well-known magazine?  Must you be the host or hostess of a daily TV program?

Must you write a book that is a perpetual best-seller in order to be recognized as a truly impactful person

Is it a pre-requisite to travel to China and feed the hungry for in order for you to be considered for induction into history’s “Hall of Fame”?

I think not.  I think that perhaps the quest to make a difference begins with the simple yet eternal habits that one establishes in life.

So … here it is … you asked for it … well … maybe you didn’t ask for it but you are getting it anyway!

What It Takes to Make a Difference : Living Beyond Your Dash

1 – Smile.  The world is aching for someone with your smile.  Smile at babies … at strangers … at your family … at your enemies … at your best friend … at your spouse.

Smile in line at the grocery store … smile at the mailperson … smile at church … smile at stoplights … smile at work.

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2 – Say something kind to someone every single day. When you lay your head on the pillow at night, if you haven’t said something kind to someone, get out your phone and text someone a word of encouragement.  Then, turn your phone off and go to sleep!

“What is desirable in a man is his kindness.” – Proverbs 19:22

3 – Be faithful.  If you say you are going to do it, do it.  Don’t make up excuses or try to wrangle your way out of a commitment.  Just do it.

4 – Tell the truth.  Don’t exaggerate, fabricate or fictionalize your words.  Be a man of woman of integrity every day of your life.  You will never regret it.

5 – Give something away once a month.  Buy a mug for friend … a book for a child … a bakery goody for a widow … a gift card for your pastor … a flower for your neighbor.  If you can’t afford to buy it – look through your stuff and find one of your favorite items and give it with joy! Your generosity will out live you!

6 – Laugh often and laugh easily.  Don’t be Scrooge, the Grinch and Cruella deVille all rolled into one prune-faced Christian.  Be a delight to be with! Be the kind of person that others just can’t get enough of.  My friend, John Mason, calls this being a contagious Christian!  I’m in … how about you?!

7 – Don’t talk about yourself.  Ask questions of others. I have learned that others are far more interesting than I will ever be.  Be an involved listener rather than a self-absorbed talker.

8 – Figure out what you do well … and then do it! If you are a writer, write.  If you are a gardener, garden well. If you are a servant, serve others with gladness.  If you are a giver, give liberally. If you are a mentor, gather young friends around you. If you are good with money, help others who aren’t.  Live in your sweet spot in life!

9 - Scatter joy wherever and whenever you goI would much rather be known for having too much joy than too little, wouldn’t you?! When you are going through a trial, it is then that your joy becomes the most valuable commodity that you own.  Don’t let anyone steal your joy!!

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10 – Read your Bible every day and apply its principles to your life.  Your Bible is God talking to you!  It is your Creator revealing His heart to you!  It is the will of God unfolded on the written page!  If you want to live a great life … then read the greatest Book ever written!  The Bible is not a “flat” book but it is a Book of miraculous transformation. The miracle begins the instant that you open it and begin to read!

11 – Pray more than you worry. Praying is NOT “worrying on your knees”.  Prayer is worship … it is communication … it is declaring the promises of God!

What’s on your list of how to make a difference?!  I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is! 

The 5-Minute Prayer Experiment

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I have 5 grown children who have all left me!  The nerve of those kids …

They are now pursuing their gifts and destiny in the only Kingdom that really matters.

They are figuring out life for themselves without their mamma’s daily input or opinions.

They are on a journey of joy … of pain … of challenge … of significance … of success … of failure … of hope … of love.

Now, I certainly hope that what my 5 children learned while living at home has given them some type of road map for the journey of life.

I hope that they haven’t forgotten to pray … to read the Word … to be kind … to sing … to play … to dream … to make meaningful priorities … to be unselfish … to trust God.

That timeless saying is really true –

“A mother holds her children’s hands for just a little while but she holds their hearts forever.”

But … that’s not really what I wanted to talk to you about today.  I actually want to talk to you about prayer.

So - allow me to segue …. Or perhaps I should just begin again!

I have 5 grown children who have all left me!  The nerve of those kids …

The hardest days of the year to be away from all of my children is on the day of each of their births. 

(You know - I am not sure that birthdays are for the person who is born on that particular day as much as it is for the mother.)

A mom remembers the joy … the pain … the challenge … the significance of the day of each of her children’s births.

A mom remembers and cries … and smiles … and sighs … and aches … and prays.

My youngest was born when I was standing on the threshold of 40 and she has been one of the greatest miracles of my entire life.

After giving birth to 4 of the most dynamic, energetic and creative human beings ever born, I was given the gift of one more.

Her birthday is May 30 and this year I wasn’t with her on her birthday.  She was celebrating with friends and some of her siblings in the city where she lives which is thousands of miles away from me! (The nerve of my kids!)

What I often do on the day that commemorates the birth of one of my children is to spend extra time in prayer for the one whom my heart is celebrating.

There ain’t no heart like a mama’s heart!

There ain’t no prayer warrior like a mama prayer warrior!

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I pray for the birthday child’s walk with the Lord and for wisdom in all of their life decisions.

I pray that they will be kind and that others will be kind to them.

I pray that they will climb mountains with diligence and experience valleys with humility.

I pray that they will think like God thinks and experience the joy of His presence.

I pray that they will be people of honor and of integrity.

This year, as I was ending my prayer celebration in honor of Joni, my youngest, I began to think about whose birthday was next.  I realized that the next birthday that belonged to a member of the original Clan McLeod was on September 2 … which was basically three months hence.

And then, I had the instant realization, that these two birthdays were separated by a mere 3 months … a little over 90 summer days.

A light bulb went off in my spirit!

The Holy Spirit spoke to me in that moment,

“Carol – what if you prayed for specific needs in all of your children’s lives for 5 minutes a day for the next three months?  It will take you 25 minutes a day – 5 minutes for each of your 5 children.”

The Holy Spirit continued His prompting …

“Carol – would you want to do a “5-Minute Prayer Experiment” with me?!”

I was literally breathless with anticipation to see what I, prayer and the Holy Spirit could accomplish to strengthen my kids’ lives in only 5 minutes a day over a period of roughly 90 days!

The next day – I found one scripture for each of my children that I would be praying over them over the course of the next 2,160 hours.

I was in!!  All the way in!

So … let me tell you how this works …

Every day from May 30 through September 2, 2018, I will spend 25 minutes in prayer; this will consist of 5 bursts of 5 minutes each.

Sometimes it is when I am walking … sometimes it is when I am unloading the dishwasher … sometimes it is when I am folding clothes … sometimes it is when I am driving.

Sometimes I pray out loud and sometimes it is an inner prayer.

I pray the Word over each of my children and I pray for specific needs in their individual lives.

5 minutes a day.  All summer long.  90 days.

The minutes fly by and the presence of the Lord is tangible!

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I am expecting God to intervene in the lives of my children and I am beginning to realize that expectation is the breeding ground for miracles.

A mother’s prayer is a powerful way to impact the lives of their children even after they are grown and gone.

Our grown children can run away from our words but they can never escape our prayers so our strategy should always be to talk less and to pray more!

It’s not too late for you to join me and the Holy Spirit on this journey!  Why don’t you take the month of August and pray 5 minutes a day for your children or for those people that you love the most?

I’d love to hear all about your 5 Minute Prayer Experiment!  And just know .. while you are praying for others … I will be praying for you!

“Prayer is the breath, the watchword, the comfort, the strength, the honour of a Christian.” – Spurgeon

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is! 

Spoiler Alert!

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As most of you know, I have several addictions in life, some of which I am proud and some of which I am sure are fairly unhealthy.

Some of my unhealthy and addictive habits might be but are certainly not limited to….

How many times in one lifetime can a woman tell herself that chocolate is NOT a daily vitamin?!!

If there were an Olympic sport in hitting the snooze button on the morning alarm clock – I would win it.  Hands down.

And don’t even get me started on Target and please don’t ask my husband about that particular drug of choice.

But … now … as I have already stated … not all of my addictions are harmful – some are very healthy, indeed!

Let me share with you one of my healthy addictions -

A singular addiction that has me under lock and key since about the second grade has also benefitted me in ways too numerous to even count.

I am a self-diagnosed, avaricious read-aholic!

In my book - there is no such thing as owning too many books.

Many days of my life I would rather read than breathe … rather read than eat … rather read that talk.

“What is a bookshelf other than a treasure chest for a curious mind?”

Whenever I walk into a bookstore or a library, my blood pressure rises, my heartbeat accelerates and I have to remind myself to “Breathe in … breathe out … breathe in … breathe out!

I am the kind of girl who fantasizes about being locked up in the library overnight!

The books that I have read over the course of my life have helped to mold the person that I am today.  I have traveled through time and have met fascinating people on the pages of a book that I otherwise never would have known. 

I have climbed mountains, survived blizzards, experienced poverty, dealt with difficult people, and lived on other continents simply because I opened the pages of a book.

I have been the President of the United States of America … the Queen of England … a housewife during the Dustbowl … and a missionary who gives her life for the cause of Christ … simply because I have opened the pages of a book.

“One must always be careful of books and what is inside them, for words have the power to change our lives.”

Because I am so very human, I have even developed a frighteningly bad habit right in the middle of this excellent obsession with reading.  Actually, let me attempt to re-describe the questionable habit that thrives in the midst of a stellar habit -

To me – this particular practice of which I speak is actually not a bad habit at all but a dire necessity to my emotional investment.

However, most of my friends say it is simply a bad habit. A very bad habit.

“What is the habit of controversy?” you may ask.

I am so glad that you asked because I can’t wait to answer you fully!

Whenever I pick up a book – fiction or non-fiction – before I read the first chapter, I always read the last chapter.

That’s not a sin, is it?!

The reason that I do this is because I refuse to give myself wholeheartedly to a book that has a murky ending. I refuse to read a page of a book that comes to erroneous conclusions or communicates that which I consider to be a broken theme.

I refuse.

Other well-meaning bibliophiles may accuse me of spoiling the ending but I think not.  Knowing the ending before the beginning actually stirs my interest in and investment to the book. It is true, this habit removes both fear and suspense from my emotional thermometer – but who needs fear and suspense anyway?!

I love the development of the characters to a deeper and richer degree knowing how it is all going to turn out for them. I feel that I own a sweet secret that I am unable to share with anyone whose life story is being written before my very eyes.

And so I trudge along through my well-set pattern of literary perusal and continue to read the last chapter first.

One particular day, as I was reading the greatest Book ever written, I realized how powerful it is to know exactly what the end of the Bible says!  My heart leaped for absolute joy out of my chest as I embraced the knowledge that I know!

 I know how all of this ends for the people of God!

I know how God will tie it all together!

I know what the final act will look like!

I know who wins!

And I definitely know who loses!

I don’t mean to spoil the ending of the Bible for you … but everything really is going to be o.k.

Go ahead!  I dare you to do it!  Read the last chapter of Revelation and break out in exuberant worship!

God has written the end of your story and it’s a good one … a really good one!

There is no reason for fear or suspense in the life of a believer because the ending to all of our stories is simply out of this world!

God has been to your future and it is good because He is good and He is already there.

God has spent eternity past writing out the details of your life and has made an eternal investment in the ending that will trump all other endings … you win because He has already won!

“Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me when as yet there was not one of them.” – Psalm 139:16

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is! 

Kindness Matters

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We live in a broken world, don’t we?

Politics are a mess … the media doesn’t always tell the truth … people are mistreated … the laws need changing … entertainment is warped … the list could go on and on and on.

We live in a broken world.

Do you want to know what I believe? 

I believe that the reason God placed YOU in this world is because it is broken and it needed someone just like you to heal its brokenness.

We all know what John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

That’s a “WOW!” Scripture of the very best kind!  God loved … He gave … we believe … we live!

However – do you know what John 3:17 says?

“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”

Jesus didn’t come to judge us … He came to save us!

He came to save us from sin, from politics, from opinions, from waywardness, from confusion, from pain, from hatred, from war, from anger, from sickness and from death.

I also know that often He needs to save me from myself.  Isn’t that the truth?!

He came to save us and to give us a new way of living … of thinking … and of processing life! 

You see, when we partner with Him in loving this broken world … miracles happen!

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The world doesn’t need another Christian with an opinion – it needs a Christian who will be kind.

The world doesn’t need another religious person to judge it – it needs a gentle word and a loving smile that will serve as a source of encouragement.

This doesn’t mean that we accept the sin and gloss over the compromise – what it means is that we are kind in spite of it.

Your opinions will never change this world – but your joy might change it!

Your judgment will never revolutionize this world – but your heartfelt goodness might do the job!

Your negativity will never deliver this world – but your kindness might make an impact!

Can I tell you a story? 

I’ll try to make it short and I really don’t mean to glorify anything that I have done … I just want to remind you that kindness matters.  It matters very, very much.

It was the summer of 1996 and our family home was on a busy street in a small town in North Carolina.  I would often sit on the porch while my boys played basketball in the driveway and while my little girls decorated the sidewalk with all kinds of amazing chalk designs.

One day while we were outside enjoying an August afternoon, I noticed two young men walking up our driveway. I immediately recognized them as Mormons because of the way they were dressed and due to their clean-cut appearance.

I judged them before they even opened up their mouths.

They chatted with my boys for a while about Michael Jordan and about who was going to have the better team that year – UNC or Duke – and then they marveled over my daughters’ sidewalk masterpieces.

I knew that I was next.

As they paused on the front steps, I pondered what to say to these two boys whose belief system was so very different from mine.

They smiled and introduced themselves and asked if they could have a minute of my time.

Being the softie that I am, I said, “Sure! Join me on the porch.”

While they were settling themselves, I went into the house and brought ice-cold lemonade out for my five children and for these two young men. 

It also gave me a minute to pray.

After I came out with red plastic cups and with store-bought cookies, I settled myself back on the porch swing and let them take a gulp or two of the refreshing beverage.

I chatted with them for a few minutes about where they were staying, where they were from and how hot it was in North Carolina in the summer time.

I then took a deep breath and then said, “Look – I know that you are Mormons and that you have come to talk to me about your faith and to try to convince me to believe like you do.  But I never will.  I believe that Jesus Christ is the only Son of God and the Savior of the world.  I believe that He died on the cross to forgive me from my sins and that it was a complete work.

I really don’t want to argue or debate with you but I know that you are far away from your moms and I am a mom.  So – if you need anything while you are here – let me know. If you need to do laundry, or need advice or just want to hang out with a rowdy family – you are welcome here.”

One of the boys looked at me and sheepishly said, “Can you give us the name of a dentist? I have a really bad toothache and don’t know what to do about it.”

I got up from the porch and called our family dentist who was also a believer and made an appointment for the young man who was far away from home. I also told the dentist what my strategy was and told him to bill us for the appointment.  My sweet dentist said, “Carol – you can’t afford to do that.  The first appointment will be on me and then we will see what we can work out.”

The young men left that afternoon after shooting a few hoops with my boys and I assured them that they were always welcome to just stop by.

After that afternoon, I often saw them on their bikes, in the grocery store and just around town. They would engage with my children and would always chat for a minute or two with their North Carolina mom.

Then Hurricane Fran hit my small town during the first week of September.

We were without power for over a week while other parts of the community didn’t regain power for nearly a month. My town looked like a war zone with trees scattered all over streets, houses and cars.

One day, shortly after our power came back on, my two young friends from Utah came walking up our driveway.  They looked hot and bedraggled.  When they told me that they still didn’t have power and wondered if they could do a load of laundry, we welcomed them into the cool of our delicious air-conditioned home.

They did their laundry, took showers in the kids’ bathroom and then I fed them dinner right along with our kids.  We didn’t talk about religion or about differences but they told us about their younger brothers and sisters. We laughed and talked and ended the evening with a rousing game of Uno.

Several days later these boys appeared at my front door again with notes from their moms thanking me for being kind to their boys.

I never saw them again. But I was honored to love these boys who were so very different from me.  It was the plan of God for me to be kind to these young men whose worldview was in direct contrast to mine.

I don’t know if they ever came to Christ or not but what I do know is that their world was touched by the love and compassion of a believer.

Oh – I could have argued with them!  I could have put them in their place theologically but I felt called to love them in spite of our differences. Sometimes words are cheap but actions will always be priceless.

This world may seem broken to you and to me but it becomes a place of miracles and of wonder when we respond like Jesus would respond.

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So – rather than spew opinions on Facebook this week … just be kind.

Rather than judge your neighbors … be good to them.

Rather than criticize the media … pray for them.

Restore the wonder to this broken world!  It is, after all, what Jesus would do and it is why you are here!

We live in a wonderful world simply because you and Jesus are in it!

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is! 

Summer's Song

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I absolutely delight in the lazy, crazy, hazy days of summer!

Do you?!  Surely you do!

I am addicted to sunshine … to fresh cut grass … and to a slight breeze blowing through my windows at night.

I love the buzzin’ of the bees … the sound of the neighborhood children laughing on my street … and I love having a quiet time on my deck in the early morning hours with a steaming cup of coffee cradled in my hands.

I love the hanging baskets that I see out my kitchen window … the flags flying proudly from nearly every porch in my neighborhood … and I even love the dandelions that audaciously poke their heads up through my well-manicured lawn.

Summertime … I wait for it all year long!

Summer is a time for enjoyment, for growth and for beauty.

Let me share with you how I incorporate all three – enjoyment, growth and beauty – into my summertime routine.

Enjoyment!

First of all, I am determined to enjoy every day of this fleeting season of summer and not to let one gorgeous day fly by without my acknowledgement of it.

I go for long walks outside in the summer warmth and I revel in the glory of God’s creation.

I listen every morning for the birds outside my open windows.

I watch the menagerie of animals that stroll across my backyard in the evening hours … bunny rabbits … very brave chipmunks … sweet mama deer and her twin fawns … and a critter that I have yet to identify!

I water my flowers diligently and find such simple pleasure in snipping off the dying blooms while waiting for the new ones to come alive.

We often eat dinner on the back deck and silently drink in the wonder of God’s brilliant creation known as “summer”.

I enjoy every single day of summer as if it were the last day of summer!

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Growth!

Due to the fact that my schedule generally eases up during the summertime, I am also diligent about creating a space for personal growth in my life.

In addition to my daily quiet time, I choose one book of the Bible and just swim in it!  This year – it is the Book of Hebrews.  How I love this epistle whose authorship is still contested to this day. Was it Paul?  Was it Priscilla?  I’m not sure but I know that whoever wrote it knew the God that I know today in the 21st Century!

I love the strength of Hebrews … and the theology of Hebrews … and the Christ of the book of Hebrews.

“And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the world of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” – Hebrews 1:3

I can barely come up for air as I delve into the depths and richness found in this book that presents history and life from God’s perspective.

I also have a long list of books that I read during the summer. This year my list includes:

Hearts of Fire – The Voice of the Martyrs
The Grave Robber – Batterson
The Making of a Leader by Dr. J. Robert Clinton

Martin Luther by Eric Metaxas
Caroline by Sarah Miller

Now … I don’t just grow intellectually and spiritually during the summer but I also “up” my exercise routine.  Instead of walking a mere 3 miles a day, my goal is 3.5 – 5 miles per sweaty, sizzling day and I love it!!

I also try new recipes during the summer that use fruits and vegetables that are only available during June, July and August.  Here is one of my favorite new recipes that I just discovered on Memorial Day and I have made it 4 times since! Let me know how you like it -

Summer Squash Casserole

12 Cups of Summer Squash cut into bite-size pieces
1 cup chopped sweet onion (I use Vidalia)
2/3 cup of salted butter, divided
1.5 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 eggs beaten well
1 sleeve crushed round butter crackers (Ritz)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 13x9x2 inch baking dish; set aside

Place squash in a 6-quart Dutch oven with enough water to cover. Boil over high heat until fork-tender; approximately 10 minutes. Remove from heat and drain well. Return squash to Dutch oven but not to stovetop; set aside.

In a small skillet over medium heat, cook onion in 1/3 cup butter until onion is translucent. Pour over cooked squash.

Add sugar, salt, pepper, and eggs to squash. Stir gently to combine.

Pour mixture into prepared baking dish. Top with crushed crackers.

Melt remaining 1/3 cup better in the small skillet over low heat. Drizzle over crushed crackers. Bake until golden brown. Approximately 1 hour.

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Beauty!

I look around my home and my eyes linger around my yard during these delicious months and I wonder what I can do to make a more beautiful dwelling space around me.

Do I need more throw pillows on the couch?

Could the guest bathroom use a new hand towel or two?

Can I weed around the front tree to make the yard look neater?

Does the back deck need a fresh coat of paint?

Should I plant flowers around the mailbox?

I also look at me and wonder what I can do to improve what people see …

Do I need a new hairstyle? A pedicure?  To lose 10 pounds or more?

Do I need to smile more?  Listen more attentively?

I know that I need to cultivate the fruits of the Spirit to a greater degree … that will certainly make a more beautiful me!

Enjoyment … growth … and beauty! Those are my words of summer!

I hope that you will join me in jumping into summer and splashing in the joy of every hot day with childlike wonder!

Have a watermelon for dinner … buy some popsicles for the neighborhood kids … open your windows so you can hear the song that only summer sings.

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is! 

No Matter What

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I received an interesting Facebook message recently from a friend.  Her message wasn’t really a “message” but it was presented in the format of a question.

This question has been boiling in the crevices of my heart for nearly 3 weeks now and I am not sure that I have been able to answer it yet.

The friend who sent it is a deep thinker, a true disciple and is on a passionate journey to follow Jesus in all seasons of life. Although she is younger than I am, in many ways – I want to be like her.

This is the question that she posed to me -

What does it look like to follow Jesus no matter what?

To answer questions that seem to me to be humanly unanswerable – I always go to the Bible.  I always ask myself, “What does the Bible say about this?”

When I go digging for gold in the mines of the Bible, I always find the wisdom and the heart of God. And this time was no different …

“And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow me.” – Luke 9:23

If my heart’s desire, this side of heaven, is to follow Jesus then there is a price that I must pay. 

The price that I must pay is that I must deny myself and take up my cross daily in order to follow Him.

What in the world does that mean?! It doesn’t sound like much “fun” to me.

And – it sounds pretty expensive if you ask me.  I am not sure that I can afford the price that Jesus is asking me to pay.

If I choose willingly to deny myself does that mean that I will never go shopping again?  That I will never eat another piece of raspberry pie?  That I will never get to go to Hawaii?

And if I take up my cross daily does that imply that every day this side of heaven there is some sort of difficulty that I must carry?

What does it look like to follow Jesus no matter what?!

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I don’t believe that the cross that we are called to take up is exactly like the cross of Jesus Christ.  His cross was a literal one and ours is perhaps, more figurative … our cross is vividly symbolic of the cross of Christ.

Your cross may not look like my cross but we all have one … you can be sure of that.

I think that if I were to define – in general terms – what a modern day cross is … it might sound like this …

Our cross is that difficult thing that we choose to do simply because we belong to Him.

A cross is a choice and you can choose it or not.  It’s up to you.

Your cross may be seen in loving a difficult person … or it may be found in a place that you choose to go even though it is just so hard.

Your cross may be giving up a relationship that is not healthy or holy … or it may be seen in embracing a simpler lifestyle than you would prefer.

Your cross may be found in serving someone or a ministry for which you receive little or no recognition.

Your cross may be discovered in giving generously to Kingdom causes.

What does your cross look like?

Your cross may look like a nation … or a people group … or a lifestyle … or a person.

A cross may be a change in direction … a denial of creature comforts … or a determination to choose joy even in dark circumstances.

As you can imagine, ever since my friend sent me that simple yet profound question, it has been stirring around in the depths of my soul.

And as disturbing as that question has become to me – the follow-up question is even more unsettling …

Am I doing it?  Am I following Jesus no matter what?

For me personally, some of the ways that I have taken up my cross have been to live far away from my children and grandchildren.  They are pursuing God’s will for their lives and I am pursuing God’s will for my life.  We have, as yet, not landed in the same geographical location.

For me personally, it has meant changing my lifestyle in the wake of cancer so that I can live a long time and fulfill my destiny in Christ.  The lifestyle changes have been challenging but a joyful discipline, indeed.

For me personally, “taking up my cross” has meant embracing the socio-economic level that serving in full-time ministry requires.

For me, personally, “taking up my cross” has meant encouraging my husband to work full-time in missions and to spend long periods of time apart.

What does your cross look like?  Are you doing it?

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After my friend asked me that soul-piercing question, she went on to say -

“I was thinking about our mission trip and thought about how many of us had hesitations about going to the other side of the world to serve the people Jesus had called us to serve, and to spread his gospel.

Perhaps out of fear, or being out of our comfort zones, or missing our husbands or children, or taking time off work, or raising the funds to go etc. so many things can discourage the dreams God has given us to complete his purpose in our lives for the kingdom, if we give into the temptation to let discouragement settle upon us and cause us to doubt his plans for us.

However if we pursue him fervently, what blessing follows when we are obedient to his call on our lives. 

Will we be obedient to go wherever he calls us to?

Will be willing to leave our comforts, families, and friends for the sake of advancing the kingdom of heaven?

Will we listen to his still small voice as he calls us to get out of our comfort “boats” and watch as he parts the waters of the stormy seas before our eyes and reach out to the people in this broken and hurting world?

To truly follow Christ is a moment-by-moment decision requiring denial of self and of taking up one’s personal cross.

The blessing is found in the knowing that He is with us as we carry our cross … and He is helping us do it every step of the way.

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is! 

The Bucket List

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I have never made a bucket list, have you?  At least I don’t remember ever making one.

Now – I have always had things that I wanted to accomplish in my life like …

Writing the books that change a generation …

… Speaking to tens of thousands and telling them about the hope that is found only in Jesus …

… Making a difference for Christ and His Kingdom at my moment in history …

… Raising my children to love the Lord with their whole hearts …

… Building not just a good marriage but a truly great marriage …

… Teaching the Word of God in a way that is powerful, practical and joyful every chance I get for as long as I live …

… Making hell smaller and heaven bigger!

The above list describes goals that I hope to accomplish in my life rather than just experiences that I hope to participate in.

“A generation goes and a generation comes but the earth remains forever.” – Ecclesiastes 1:4

However – a true bucket list of things I want to do and experience while I am still alive and kicking?  I don’t think that I have ever done that.

Have you?

When you look up the phrase “bucket list” in the dictionary – this is what it says:

A list of things a person wants to achieve or experience, as before reaching a certain age or dying.”

I especially liked the definition from the British Dictionary:

A list of experiences one wants to have before one dies.”

And so – I think that it is time.  It’s time to make the expected bucket list. 

Will you jump on the bucket list wagon with me?

“I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in one’s lifetime; moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor – it is the gift of God.” – Ecclesiastes 3:12 & 13

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Here goes – at last … at the age of 63 … a Bucket List!

1 – To go to Hawaii at least one time before I die and dig my toes in the hot sand. I am sure that I would love it!

2 – To walk where Jesus walked … and to be forever changed.

3 – To go to London and visit the haunts of the classic writers that I have read and loved since childhood. To see the Thames River and the Tower of London. To have a cup of tea where C. S. Lewis used to discuss theology with the great minds of his day.

4 – To take my daughters and daughters-in-law and granddaughters to Prince Edward Island and visit Green Gables.

5 – To teach my grandchildren how to catch fireflies on a summer evening.

6 – To go to a Boston Pops Christmas Concert.

7 – To plan a reunion with the girls of my childhood. To laugh with them over sweet memories, to cry over our girlhood broken hearts and to dream together once again as if we were young and wrinkle-free!

8 – To pray for someone who is ill and to see a physical miracle before my very eyes!

9 – To track down all of my teachers from high school and college.  To thank them for their labor of love and let them know that each one of them made a difference in me.

10 – To draw a chalk masterpiece in my driveway with the grandchildren.

Oh!  And that’s only 10!  Don’t think that I am done yet because I have only just begun!

11 – To go to Vermont and celebrate summer with my husband, my five children, their spouses and all of the grandchildren at least one time before heaven calls my name.

12 – To write a Christmas song that is memorable and instills a childlike joy in the hearts of those who hear it and sing it.

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13 – To plan a reunion with my girlfriends from college and go away for three days together.  To talk … to laugh … to cry … to theologize … to pray … to encourage … and to dream again.

14 – To laugh with my granddaughters until we wet our pants. (Everybody needs to do that at least once in a lifetime, right?!)

15 – To take my sons, my son-in-law and my grandsons to the Final Four!  Of course – my husband will be invited as well.

16 – To plant a honeysuckle bush by my bedroom window.

17 – To teach my grandchildren what a wonderful, Godly man my father was.

“A good name is better than good ointment, and the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth.” – Ecclesiastes 7:1

18 – To tell the truth every day.  All the time. Even when it’s hard.  Especially when it’s hard.

19 – To turn every day into Thanksgiving Day – minus the parades and calories, of course!

“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 100:4-5

20 – To create a beautiful space called “home” for my husband and I to live in the rest of our days.  I’d like to fill it with fresh flowers, life-changing books, the pictures of those we know the best and love the most and, of course, timeless music. 

21 – To play a Chopin waltz so beautifully that it makes my heart hurt.

22 – To pray big, bold prayers that only God can answer.

I think that I will stop there for today.  I don’t want to risk making this all about me and my hopes and my plans and my experiences.

The purpose of this blog has always been about causing you to think … to dream … to pray … to experience … to sing … to remember … and to wring the joy out of an ordinary day.

The purpose of this blog has always been about encouraging you to carry on … to hope … to believe … to live with purpose.

So – I am not sure if that will require you to make a bucket list of your own or not … but honestly … why not?!  Just do it! 

Make your own bucket list and determine today to decide what you want the rest of days of your life to look like.

I’d love to hear what’s on your bucket list … as a matter of fact … I dare you!

I dare you to make your own bucket list and then send it to me! I’ll be waiting to hear from you – carol@justjoyministries.com.

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

Tug-of-War

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Have you ever been in a place in life where you felt you were in a tug-of-war with the God of the universe?!

Come on … surely I am not the only one who has ever felt this way!

Perhaps after weeks of desperate prayer, you are just sure that you are pulling God your way in prayer … but your circumstances never seem to cooperate with your passionate prayer life.

Then – you try something else.  Private prayer hasn’t worked so you will take your case public.

What you do next is go to church. Your worship your heart out and even spend time at the altar. You might feel that at long last you have experienced that infamous break-through and … finally … that little flag on the middle of the massive tug-of-war rope has finally landed on God’s side.  Whew!  God won!

Except on Monday morning … you sneakily inch it back your way.

All week long you find yourself talking to God until you are completely hoarse trying to convince Him why your way is the best way and why it makes the most sense … but it seems like heaven is not listening.

You feel that heaven is not interested in your opinions … your desires … your pain … your preferences … your goals … your hopes … your dreams.

 You dramatically beg God to do it your way … but heaven is quiet.

 Did I just describe your life?  It’s called … a tug-of-war with God.

Your will vs. His will.

Your plans vs. His plans.

Your hopes vs. His destiny.

Your desires vs. His perfection.

Can I just help you out here? It’s no fun to win when you are in a tug-of-war with God.

No fun at all.

In fact … it rather stinks in the long run of life.

And while you are listening to me … let me give you one more tip and then maybe I’ll be quiet …

You actually shouldn’t be in a tug-of-war with God at all.

O.K. … I’m not going to be quiet yet.  Hang with me for just a few more thoughts.

Every believer must decide whether they are going to enter a tug-of-war with God or not. 

Every believer.

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It’s inevitable … there comes a moment in life when you have to determine if it is worth it or not.

Abraham had to decide … and God won.

David had to decide … and God won.

Samson had to decide … and God won.

Peter had to decide … and God won.

The odds are on God’s side. If I were a betting woman (and I am not) my money would be on God and not on you.

I have been studying the Book of Job for the past month as I prepare for the next book that I am writing. 

Everybody knows who Job is but no one wants to study his life.  We are afraid that what he had might be contagious or something.

What I am discovering is that the Book of Job is a neglected treasure of the Christian life.

Job was in an appalling, hideous, detestable tug-of-war with God.

Job had been an extremely successful man in business and in agriculture.  Not only had he achieved significance in the world’s opinion but even more importantly Job loved God. 

The Bible calls him, “righteous” and “blameless”.

Even so - Job had lost his entire family except his difficult wife was still around to torment him. 

Everything that he had worked for his entire life was gone in the blink of an eye.

Everything.

And then – boils appeared all over his body.  Crusty, ugly, oozing, painful boils covered Job from head to toe.

The physical pain was excruciating and the emotional pain was unbearable.

But the worst pain of all was the spiritual pain.

Where was God?!

Where was He?!

Did God even care about Job?

And the tug-of-war between Job and God began in earnest.

Job’s friends were absolutely no help at all – they blamed God and they blamed Job. They were the three stooges of the Old Testament.

Job was desperate to hear from God and to figure out what had happened that made his life implode.

For 39 of the 42 chapters of the Book of Job the tug of war goes on … and on … and on.

But finally – the Lord wins the violent tug-of-war (as He always will) and this is what happened next.

(Let me just give you some inside information here:  You are getting a very small sliver of my next book that is coming out in April of 2019. The next words are taken from the rough draft.  It’s so early in the process that the book doesn’t even have a title yet!)

“I can picture Job sitting there, in the ruins of his life, with his three despicable companions inching away from him. God has spoken and the earth, and all that live therein, are now silent.  Perhaps the silence was awkward for a minute or two but then Job lifted up his head and responded to the call of heaven. Job’s beautiful reply is so poignant and lovely that it is almost painful:

            “Then Job answered the Lord and said,

            ‘I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.

            Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge? Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.

            Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask You, and You instruct me.

            I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You;

            Therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes.” – Job 42:1-6

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            The refining work was completed in the life of Job! He retracted all that he had spoken out of pain, out of selfish questions and out of understandable human emotions. Job came out of the fire as pure gold because God had completed a work so vast in his heart that he was able to retract and repent. Job spoke plainly and powerfully to the One whom he served and when Job said, “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted,” what he was actually stating was, “Not my will, Father, but Your will be done in my life.” Job had laid his earthly agenda down and was ready to partner with His Father in heaven for the rest of his remaining days.”

Do you need to retract your case?  Do you need to repent with Job?

I certainly do … I need to lay my will down at His nail-scarred feet again today.

Not my will, Father, but Your will be done in my life.

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

The Circle of Life

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In case you have forgotten this important piece of information about my life or have somehow missed it – my daily walks are nothing if not legendary.

I have had numerous divine appointments with needy, hurting people as I saunter along my 3-mile route in the country.

God has spoken to me through clouds … and through geese … and through the change of seasons … and through my aging body as I trudge along!

My daily walks are the stuff of which dreams are created … prayers are prayed … philosophies are born … and tears are shed.

During the harsh, cold days of winter, I am forced to walk inside my house … basically because I am a wimp and I despise breathing in cold air.

However, as soon as the temperature creeps above 45 degrees or so … you will find me all bundled up and ready to take on my little corner of this great and glorious world!

“How blessed are the people who know the joyful sound! O Lord, they walk in the light of Your countenance.” – Psalm 89:15

On one of my first walks of the season this year it was almost as if I was traveling through time! I was viewing the circle of life from so many different vantage points that I began to giggle at the timing and the creativity of my God.

The first people group that I saw on this particular walk was a young couple pushing a baby in a stroller. 

They were smiling and chatting as the daddy pushed his baby girl around my walking trail.  The baby was just old enough to have discovered her toes; all I saw were two small pink socks gleefully kicking around from the depths of the old-fashioned baby buggy. 

All that I heard was joy … pure joy!

The voices of the mommy and daddy were laced with a sweet mixture of contentment and possibility … while the baby chortled at her brilliant pink toes!

I could only imagine what the hopes and dreams of these two parents were for their little girl … and I gave them a wave as we passed by each other from different seasons and different perspectives in life.

If they had asked me for my wisdom … I would have told them how quickly life passes by … and to wring the joy out of an ordinary day … and to read books and sing songs and play games with their little bundle of femininity.

I wanted to tell them to rock her … and to turn off their smart phones … and not to sweat the small stuff.

Oh!  How I ached to be them!

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My heart had just barely gotten over the delight of seeing the young mom and dad when barreling around the next corner came a pig-tailed girl of about 8 or 10

She was on her purple bike and was practicing riding with no hands. She had freckles dancing across her nose and determination written all over her face.

I wanted to tell this medium-sized bundle of energy to stay innocent as long as possible.

I wanted to encourage her just to be content playing with dolls and sitting on her daddy’s lap.

I wanted to explain to her that there is a singular magic about childhood and that it never comes again.

I wanted to tell her to pick daisies … and to catch fireflies … and to dance in the rain with her sister.

Oh! How I ached to be her!

And then – believe it or not – the next person who came into my view was a teen-age girl with earbuds in and … let me tell you … this girl was jogging hard!  She had worked up a mighty sweat and was intent on one thing … going fast and finishing strong!

I wonder if she had the Olympics in her heart -

This teen-ager was a lean, mean running machine and I quickly stepped to the side so that she could fly right by me.

I almost turned around and tapped her on the shoulder so that I could tell her to choose her friends wisely … to dream gargantuan dreams … and to save herself for marriage.

I wanted to see if she would meet me for coffee so that I could listen to her heart and then sweetly coach her to be kind to her parents … to read great books … and to reach out to someone at her school who was struggling.

This girl was gorgeous … skinny … and motivated. 

And I wanted to tell her that “having it all” doesn’t meant that you’ve got what it takes to build a meaningful life.

A meaningful and significant life comes from generosity … from diligence … and from gratitude.

But she flew by me and never even attempted to make eye contact with me.

Oh! How I ached to be her!
 

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And finally … on this early Spring walk that had just about drained every bit of emotional stamina out of my heart … I saw him.

I had seen him last year on my walks and, frankly, I wondered if he was still alive.

He was an elderly gentleman and one side of his body was obviously weakened.  He held his left arm at a strange angle and dragged his left foot as he walked.

He was never alone but always had someone with him.  His companion often changed … sometimes I wondered if it was his daughter … other times I assumed that perhaps it was a nurse or an aide.

My walking trail of choice has benches interspersed along the way and this kindly and persevering man stopped at every one – just to catch his breath it seemed.

Perhaps he stopped to enjoy the sound of the geese squawking and the birds’ singing.

Perhaps he wanted to drink it all in – this treasure of life that has been so grandly bestowed upon us, the created.

“The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it.” – Psalm 24:1

We made eye contact that early spring day and paused for a minute to exchange pleasantries,

My first question to him just sort of popped out, “How was your winter?”

(Now mind you, I don’t even know his name!)

“It was long and cold,” he replied with a twinkle in his eye.  I could imagine that he had been quite the handful as a young boy!

I continued my conversation by asking the all-inclusive, all-convenient question of,

“Well … How are you doing?”

He responded in his weakened voice, “Not too bad for an old guy …”

I could sense at this point that his companion wanted to move on along so I ended our short conversation by simply saying, “It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it?”

And as he started to walk away from me, he barely turned his head and whispered just loud enough for me to hear, “Everyday is a beautiful day!”

Oh!  How I ached to live well!

“Then Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people.” – Genesis 25:8

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is! 

This is the Time

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The days pass by so quickly, don’t they?  Just like that … there goes another one!

It seems like just yesterday that it was Christmas … and today we stand on the brink of sunshine, dandelions and Popsicle weather!

In my life, it seems as if the seasons have passed more quickly than the speed of light - have yours?

Surely I was just an enthusiastic teen-ager last month … a homesick college freshman perhaps a fortnight ago … a young bride last week … and certainly it was only yesterday morning that I was enjoying a quiver full of children in my home!

Today, my nest is empty, I have been married for 4 glorious decades and my delightful grandchildren are scattered from coast to coast.

The nerve of those children of mine … growing up and leaving me!

However … let me let you in on a little secret … my heart still feels like it is barely 26 … or maybe 28 … or at the very oldest … 32.

The date on my birth certificate somehow doesn’t match the grains of sand that have fallen through the sandglass of my heart.

When I look in the mirror – I still don’t see wrinkles even though they are there.  I continue to see potential.

When I get up in the morning … my joints might be a little slower to respond to life than they used to be … but after a few minutes of stretching there remains a spring in my step and purpose in my gait.

When I face another birthday … I don’t dread the coming year but I am just so thankful to be alive!

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Time … I must admit that I endure a “love-hate” relationship with you!

There is something about the measuring cup of “time” that seems to empty far too quickly for my liking.

How can my measuring cup of time already be more than half empty?! Where did it all go?

I think that the reason that this entity known as “time” is such a conundrum to human beings is because we weren’t made for time – we were made for eternity.

“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” – Ecclesiastes 3:11 – NIV

The world that we live in is our temporary home not our permanent destination.

The outer shell that we call our “body” wasn’t made to last forever – it was made to last for several decades but not for forever.

However, our hearts were fashioned for eternity!

The deepest, most precious part of our temporary life was made for eternity! What joy there is in that particular piece of knowledge!

No wonder there is a dis-connect between me and time … between life and time … between the memories that I have made and the commodity known as time!

I was made for eternity and for all the glory that it offers.

I wasn’t made for time but time was made for me by the God of eternity!

God has given me the majestic gift of time as a tasty hors d’oeuvres that only precedes all of eternity.

God, the Father, delivered the asset known as “time” to His creation in order to bequeath us with the priceless opportunity of choosing Him before we get to eternity.

Of serving Him! Of knowing Him! Of loving Him! Of worshiping Him!

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Time was meant to prepare me for eternity … and so I must spend every day, as the hourglass quickly sifts through its allotted amount of sand, in pursuit of eternity!

In pursuit of Him!

“But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” – II Peter 3:8

I believe that as I involve myself in eternal pursuits that the Lord will grant me 1,000 years of impact in just a 24-hour period!

I believe that I am not a captive of time but that I have been made in the very image of the God of eternity!

No wonder I don’t “get” time … I was never meant to understand it or embrace it.

Time might say that I have been living over 6 decades … but God says that I ain’t seen nothin’ yet! 

God says that I have only just begun to splash in His joy … dive into His hope … and taste His abundance!

There is definitely more of life ahead of me than behind me! So let’s get on with it … let’s get on with the business of tasting eternity this side of heaven.

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is! 

 

When Your Friends Are in a Battle

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I am standing strong in the battle right now for two very dear friends. 

Have you ever had to do that?

Have you ever had to watch someone you love dearly go through pain, uncertainty, devastating circumstances and years of sorrow?

It’s not pretty.

It’s certainly not easy.

It’s just plain hard.

It’s heartbreaking to stand on the sidelines when a friend is dealing with the heat of the battle, isn’t it?

 Oh! How I wish I could save her from this!

Oh! How I wish that he didn’t have to go through this!

What do you do when you feel helpless to help?

What do you do when the heat of the pain is not your own but the sparks that are flying everywhere are leaving blisters on all those who have gathered around to watch?

What do you do?

What do you do when a friend is diagnosed with cancer?

What do you do when a dear friend loses her mom much too early?

What do you do when a friend deals with the pain of an abusive childhood?

What do you do?

Are you ready for yet another list of mine today? 

As you know by now, I am famous for my lists! I keep a small notebook in my purse and jot down ideas that often take the form of valuable lists in my life.

(Sometimes I write my lists in my phone if I can’t find my pen … because even though I love lists … I’ll admit it … I am not very organized.)

(Hey … I just had a thought … sometime I need to give you a list of my lists … wouldn’t that be a fascinating blog?!)

Here you go – this is my “go-to” list for what I am going through right now …

“When Forced to Stand and Watch a Friend Fight a Horrific and Unexpected Battle:

1 – Remind yourself what an honor it is to be called along side your friend during a battle.

You are not the one dealing with the personal pain – they are.

So … don’t get all stuck in self-pity and mired despondency but remind yourself every single day that it is a high honor in life to help someone who is in the fire.

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God looked around and chose you to be a voice of hope.

God looked around and chose you to be a calming influence.

God looked around and chose you to be a prayer warrior.

It’s a high honor so treat it as such. Don’t ignore it or walk away from it.

There are few honors greater in life than being called to be a friend when times are tough.

You got the job so do it.  Do it well.  Do it with humility and with grace.

“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” – John 15:13

2 – Don’t just say that you will pray … but really pray.

When someone else is in the heat of battle – your prayers have the power to extinguish their flames.

Your prayers have the capacity to lessen the intensity of the heat they are facing.

Your prayers on someone else’s behalf have the divine ability to strengthen … to comfort … to heal … to soothe … to restore joy … and to deliver.

Why in the world wouldn’t you pray when a friend is being tested?!

“ … Pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” – James 5:16

You are a powerful friend when you pray! Your prayers can get the job done!

Set aside specific times of prayer for the one who is in the battle.

Pray while you are brushing your teeth in the morning … pray while you are in the shower … pray while your cup of coffee is brewing … pray on your way to work … pray during your coffee break … pray during lunch … pray on the commute home … turn off the TV in the evening and pray for your friend … pray while you are brushing your teeth at night … pray when you lay your head on the pillow.

Pray when you are folding laundry … pray when you are weeding your flower garden … pray in the grocery store … pray instead of playing games on your phone … pray when you are fixing dinner … pray when you are loading the dishwasher … pray when you go for a walk … pray when you are sweeping or dusting … pray rather than spend time on Facebook.

There is a call to pray from heaven so take it seriously! Spend time in focused and determined prayer for your friend.

It might just save their life …

3 – Show up and be a friend.

Put other things aside during this season in life and just be a friend.

Choose friendship over entertainment and over business and over distractions.

Take a meal.

Send an e-mail.

Give them a call – if they don’t answer – leave a voicemail.

Send a card in the mail.

Hire a cleaning service for their home.  If you can’t afford to do it – gather a group of friends to chip in.

Mow their lawn.

Buy them flowers.

Give them a gift card to their favorite restaurant or store.

Babysit their kids or their pets.

Go to the grocery store and buy groceries.

Water their plants … wash their car … do carpool for them this week.

Be the hands and feet of Jesus when a friend is in pain. 

Be Jesus with skin on.

Don’t just “say” that you care … “show” that you care.

Don’t just “say” you are a friend … “be” a friend!

And finally …

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4 – Be a voice of hope.

“But encourage one another day after day as long as it is still called today.” – Hebrews 3:13

Don’t tell them horror stories about their condition … but be a voice of hope.

Don’t worry out loud with them … but be a voice of hope.

Don’t tell other people how bad it is … but be a voice of hope.

Send them scriptures in the form of text messages.

Send them the lyrics of powerful hymns of faith.

Help them to dream and think about the good future that God has for them.

Give them something to smile about today because a cheerful heart is good medicine for anyone’s soul!

Step up to the plate and be the friend that your friend needs you to be in the fires of life!

Who knows?! You might have born for such a moment and circumstance as this!

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is! 

Qualified

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Have you ever wondered if you “have what it takes” to be used by God?

Perhaps, like I have done during so many gray days in my life, you have slogged through the greasy morning dishes … the intimidating mountains of laundry … the unending text messages … and unpaid bills … and then have thought, “My life will never change. God will never be able to use me like He did Esther, David, Daniel and Ruth.”

Or maybe for you it is not just the foggy nothingness of life that is keeping you from your destiny in Christ but it is a past sin or failure that dogs at the heels of your potential.  You wonder if God can use someone who has had an abortion … who has been divorced … who has gone through bankruptcy … whose child deals with addictions.

I have loved a powerful quote and often remember it when I am in my own self-created depths of despair.  I hope that you don’t think that this particular quote is hokey or cheesy … but that you can use it as a tool of encouraging yourself in the Lord as I have!

                Jacob was a cheater – Peter had a temper –

                David had an affair and killed a man –

                Noah got drunk – Jonah ran from God

                Paul was an assassin - Gideon was insecure

                Miriam was a gossip - Martha was a complainer

                Thomas was a doubter - Sarah was impatient

                Elijah was moody – Moses stuttered

                Zaccheus was short – Abraham was old

                Lazarus was DEAD –

                Now … what was your excuse again?!

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You see – the truth that you and I often ignore in our deepest discouragement is this Scripture-based fact: The only type of people that God is able to use are imperfect people!

One of the most amazing characteristics about the God we serve is that when we make a mistake God doesn’t love us any less than He did before the mistake! 

When we sin – He doesn’t turn away from us but He comes after us!

What an astounding fact!

I believe that it is actually our human weaknesses or frailties that qualify us for service in the Kingdom of God.

When we are weak – He is strong.

When we fail – He is perfect.

When we cry – He holds us.

When we sin – He forgives.

When we say, “I can’t” … He declares, “But I can!”

So today – for all of us who are feeling unusable – I thought that I would encourage you (and myself!) by sharing with you what I believe are the 6 qualifications that it takes to be used by God!

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Are you ready?!  Let’s go …

6 Qualifications for Service in the Kingdom of God

1 – Simply love Jesus.  Love Him with your whole heart every day in every possible way.  Tell Him that you love Him … tell others that you love Him …  and think loving thoughts about Him as you drift off to sleep at night. The first thought that you should think when you hear the alarm clock ring in the early morning light is, “Wow! I have been given another day to love Jesus!”

2 – Worship Him unconditionally.  Sing a loud song of praise on the very worst day of your life. When the bills aren’t paid … and the house is a mess … and the kids are screaming … break out into a hymn of worship! Don’t ever allow your circumstances to stifle your praise. Sing often and sing vibrantly! Make a joyful noise to the Lord as you drown out the clamor of your circumstances.

3 – When you blow it – get right back up and begin again. Don’t be paralyzed by your failures in life but dust yourself off and try again!  Try again and again and again. Failure is never final as long as you are willing to learn from your mistakes!

4 – Tell the Lord that you are available.  Ask Him to use you.  Give Him your heart, your mind, your mouth, your talents, your fears, your weaknesses, your successes, your shame, your failure, your strengths, your family, your home, your time, your money … give Him everything that you are and humbly ask Him to use you today.

5 – Look for ordinary open doors and be on the alert for common opportunities. When your church needs a Sunday School teacher – make yourself available. When your neighbor needs a ride to the doctor’s office – just do it. When your mom needs encouragement – you are just the person for the job! When a young mom needs a morning off – offer your services joyfully! So many people are waiting to speak in arenas in front of massive crowds … or to lead worship in front of thousands … or to write the best-selling book of a generation … but I have learned that the biggest thing in life is simply to be faithful in the little things!

6 – Create opportunities for ministry. Invite people into your home for a Bible Study … ask a widow out for coffee and pray with her … be kind to the cashier at the grocery store … share a favorite book with the girl who does your hair or nails … invite your neighbors to church. You ARE the ministry so just make it happen!

If your heart’s desire is to make a difference at your moment in history – please don’t make it any harder than it is. 

God is looking for a few good men and a few good women who are head over heels in love with Him … who know how to sing loudly … who are never paralyzed by their mistakes … who offer their services daily … who meet the needs around them … and whose very life creates a ministry environment.

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is! 

Here's to You, Moms

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Happy Mother’s Day!

This is the single week of the year in which we celebrate the calling and the cause of motherhood.

We salute all types of moms this week … biological moms, adoptive moms, foster moms, grandmoms and empty nest moms. 

We take the time to pray for moms whose children are dealing with serious illnesses and those who have sent their little ones to heaven much too soon.

Our hearts go out - especially this week - in compassion and sensitivity to those women who are not moms yet, but who ache to be moms.

We remember the moms who have no relationship with their grown children or grandchildren and we cry with them.

No matter what season of life you are in … regardless of how the call to motherhood has wearied your soul … no matter who empty your arms and heart may feel today … I think that you would agree with me that all mothers deserve celebration.

And so, in honor of mothers this week, I am sharing with you an excerpt from my book, “Pass the Joy, Please!” I believe that in some miraculous way – it was the book that I was born to write.

The subtitle of this devotional is, “Passing the Joy of Motherhood from Generation to Generation!” 

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I believe that part of my life’s call is to remind moms of the enormity of their call and the joy that it delivers.

So … from my heart to yours … Happy Mother’s Day, y’all!

Motherhood is not for the faint of heart!

Motherhood presents the challenge of a lifetime, it heralds the call to be uncommon in common surroundings and it exacts an exorbitant price from a woman.

I can assure you without wavering and with no apology that being a mom will be the most daunting test of your entire life.

If you were to be the first woman president of the United States of America, it wouldn’t hold the challenge or significance that raising a child for the cause of Christ entails.

If you were to write numerous best-selling books that sold for millions of dollars, it is just a pittance compared to having an impact on one child’s life.

If you were to be an entertainer that thousands flocked to hear on stages from Los Angeles to London to New York City, it wouldn’t mean as much as singing a simply lullaby to an infant child in your lap.

If you were a world-famous doctor who was renowned for intricate, exacting surgeries and for brilliant scientific discoveries, it would pale in comparison to putting a little band-aid on a tiny finger and consoling the miniature person who depends on you for daily care and consolation.

God has placed you in a situation where every ounce of creative, spiritual, mental and emotional energy is being squeezed out of you every day from dawn to dark.

This is the season in life when you need Him most.

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It is during the years of hands-on motherhood when you will die to self as never before. It is also the season of life in which you will realize a delight and a fulfillment that you have never before experienced nor will you ever experience this particular delight and fulfillment again.

The only way you will make it through this monumental test of motherhood is to discover the joy!

You are the chief joy- bringer to your child’s life so stir up the joy in you!

If joy is not abundant in you, it will not be abundant in the home.

If joy is scarce in you, it will be scarce in the home. Take some time today to cultivate deep joy in your heart, and as you do, you will find yourself discovering a strength that you never before knew.

This is my prayer for you today, 

“Father, I pray for every mother reading these words today that you will help her be a woman of excellence in the home. I pray that she will be filled to overflowing with the fruits of your delicious Holy Spirit and that she would learn to rely on You for strength. I pray that, like the Proverbs 31 woman, the teaching of kindness will always be on her tongue. And, I pray that, like Jesus, she will go about doing good in all the ways she can ... to all the people she can ... as long as ever she can. In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen.”

No Trespassing Allowed

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Criticism hurts, doesn’t it? 

I think that it especially hurts when people say, “Don’t take it personally…”

Because it is personal.

Criticism is most often personal.

What do you do when you feel like you have been criticized unfairly?  What do you do when people judge your motives, your heart and your intentions?

What do you do?

There are so many times in life when I am just left reeling by what I perceive to be unfair judgment.  My mouth is dry … my heart begins to beat faster … and there is a general sinking feeling in my stomach. 

Yuck.

What did I do to deserve this?!!

Now – I will be the first to admit that there have been many, many moments in life that I deserved a swift kick in the pants … a raised eyebrow … or a stern talking to. There have been times when I was thoughtless, unkind and quick to spout an unnecessary opinion when a friend or family member had the absolute right to put me in my place.

In those momentsI deserved criticism.  I deserved a reaction.  I deserved what was given.

But there are other times in life when I am left with a dropped jaw concerning the negative assessment that was aimed in my direction.

Come on … has anyone else ever felt this way?! 

Don’t leave me standing here all alone as the cruel arrows of commentary fly viciously in my unsuspecting direction!!

In case you were wondering, I have decided that when I am chastised for what I believe to be an unfair reason, that there are four things I can do to speed the healing process in my soul.

Would you like to hear the miraculous treatment for the ugly wound that an improper reprimand causes?

First of all – forgive quickly and fully

Don’t try to understand their unwarranted verbal sideswipe or try to defend the issues in your heart.  Just forgive the one who critiques. 

Quickly. Fully. Completely.

Let. It. Go.

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Life is too short to hang onto fictitious and mistaken commentary. So, rather than lose sleep over the bad review, it would be a wise choice to send the momentary bitterness quickly away from the address of your heart. Don’t let bitterness or blame anywhere even close to the boundaries of your life.

Put up a “No Trespassing Allowed” sign at the entrance to your heart and make sure that any residual bitterness and spiteful blame walks the other direction.

Secondly – find a way to bless the person who has reprimanded you.

You might choose to say something kind to them or about them even though you would rather not do so.

Your application of this healing remedy might include sending a small gift, an encouraging card or a bouquet of flowers.

How wonderful it would be to invite the person out for coffee or for lunch and pick up the bill!

There are times in life when we just need to act like Jesus even though we don’t feel like it.

There are moments in life that call for kindness when everything within would rather give the cold shoulder.

“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.” – Colossians 3:12 & 13

It has always been so interesting to me that Paul, through the unction of the Holy Spirit in these verses, said that believers in Jesus Christ should “put on” a heart of compassion.

Kindness is always in style … it always fits … it is always appropriate for any kind of relationship weather.

So put it on.  Put on kindness.

The third thing that I do … and honestly perhaps it should be the first thing … is that I pray for the person and for the situation.  I pray for understanding and for blessing all around.

In that moment of honest human pain, I pray that the difficult event would not cause an irreparable break in our relationship.  I ask Jesus to give me His heart of love for the person who reprehended me.

And sometimes, when appropriate, I pray that the Lord would give me the opportunity to share from a loving heart concerning how perhaps we can handle these situations in the future.

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I humbly ask the Lord that if it is His will that He might give me the opportunity to share truth and insight from my very fallible yet honest heart with the person who has criticized me.  And then I wait. 

I don’t make it happen on my own but wait for Him to open the door in His time.

And finally, would you like to know the fourth thing that I do when I feel that I have been criticized unfairly?

I resolve in my heart never to treat someone else that way.

I determine that even when people say things that I don’t understand or may not agree with me that I will be compassionate enough to give them that universal gift known as “the benefit of the doubt”.

I determine that the words that I speak will be perpetually kind and that when I find it necessary to have a heart to heart conversation with a friend over a difficult issue, that my words will still be kind.

I decide that when life is hard and that when emotions are flowing and when opinions are opposing that I will listen before I speak and that I will only respond … I will never react.

Forgive … bless … pray … be kind.

It sounds like a blueprint for life to me, how about you?!

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!