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! 

Choose the Fruit

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During this month of April, I hope that you have enjoyed reading some of the principles from my new book, “Guide Your Mind, Guard Your Heart, Grace Your Tongue”, as much as I have enjoyed sharing them with you!

I pray that as you read this final excerpt from my book that you will examine your speech habits and decide to begin again today!  Decide that you will change the words that come out of your mouth from frustrating to forgiving … from impatient to gracious … and from accusatory to encouraging!

Now listen to me … none of us is immune from mouth disease so this week’s blog is going to hold great challenge for you!  But I believe in you … You can do it!

It is time for you to stick out your tongue and say, “Ahh!”

Have you done that dreaded but extremely vital self-examination lately? Now—look in the mirror as you do it.

Do you have it?

Do you have “mouth disease”? Are you infected with an “oral bacteria” of the very worst kind? Have the germs of the culture attached themselves to your vocal chords? Is your tongue rife with verbal viruses?

What is it with women and their words? What is it with anyone and their words?

We are definitely defined by the stuff that proceeds out of our voice boxes.

The organ that lies between our pearly whites has the capacity to control our very lives.

The vile eruptions that come tumbling unbridled out of that lovely orifice called the mouth are often what color our relationships and the atmosphere of our homes.

Our words have the propensity to direct us, to define us—and to drive us.

It is as if we are compelled by a force of nature to continually talk, and we often refuse to stop talking until we have the very last word in every conversation and in every argument.

The anchor verse that will change the way we talk is found in Proverbs, the book of wisdom that is changing our thought processes, giving boundaries to our emotions, and now will impact the way we speak.

Perhaps you have previously read it and wondered what application it had for your life:

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit. (Proverbs 18:21)

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The stark reality is that, someday—in the not-too-distant future—you are going to be forced to eat the fruit of what you have chosen to say.

When dealing with the tongue, your options are twofold: you can speak life or you can speak death. There is no middle ground between those two choices.

There is no gray area when it comes to the words that you speak.

That’s it. Just life or death. Which will you choose?

When you understand that you have the power to speak life or death every moment of your existence, it will underscore the fact that controlling your own tongue will be one of the most vital endeavors of your life.

First, you must take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ; next, you must guard your heart faithfully; finally, you must put a bridle on your tongue.

If you don’t first think something or feel something, then, in all probability, you will never say it.

Any idea or opinion begins in the mind, travels to the heart, and finally comes out of the mouth.

Perhaps there is no other life matter that we should take more seriously than the matter of the tongue.

The ability to discipline your tongue is more important than the number on your bathroom scale, more essential than your education, and more profitable to you than climbing the corporate ladder.

Consistent discipline in the attempt to manage your mouth will create more beauty than will a home that is attractively decorated, and provide more true wealth than will a full retirement fund.

According to the always-applicable truth of the Bible, your tongue has the power to control the type of life that you will enjoy in all of your tomorrows.

 Will your life be a fruitful one?

If you can maintain godly government over your tongue, your life will be one of joy and peace; you will cultivate a home atmosphere that is warm and inviting, and you will maintain friendships that flourish.

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Conversely, if you refuse to regulate the discharge that comes out of the cavity that lies beneath your nose, your life will be dry and brittle. Nothing beautiful will grow in your life, and you will be known for “halitosis” of the very worst kind!

When Craig and I had our first child, Matthew, every time the pacifier came out of his mouth, we threw it away and plucked a new one out of the sterilized packaging. No dirt was going to touch the lips of our precious, darling boy!

When we had Christopher, just two years later, we could no longer afford the volume of new pacifiers that our previous behavior required, so we placed his discarded pacifiers into boiling water on the stove. Every evening, whether a pacifier had been thrown to the ground or not, it received the boiling treatment under my watchful eyes.

Then, when we had our third son, Jordan, I would merely run his dirty pacifiers under running water at the kitchen sink. I wasn’t picky about the temperature of the water; hot or cold water would do. I justified that it was clean enough after a dousing of fresh water from my kitchen spigot.

When our fourth child, Joy, would throw a beloved pacifier out of her mouth, I would simply put it in my own mouth to clean it off. Just a quick lick, and it was as good as new to go back into her little rosebud mouth.

And finally, with baby number five, Joni Rebecca, I didn’t even bother to replace, to boil, to rinse, or to lick. I would just pick the pacifier up off the ground and put it efficiently back into her mouth.

We can laugh at the way we have parented over the years and how diligently or how casually we have protected our children from germs, but the truth is that none of us would knowingly expose our children to a fatal disease.

There is not a compassionate or concerned person who would willingly bring bacteria or viruses into breathing distance of their loved ones.

Yet, if it is true that our tongues hold the capacity to pour serious and life-altering matter on those whom we love, it is vital that we examine the words that we speak and the tone of voice they are spoken in.

The Holy Spirit is speaking to you, and He is reminding you that words have power for good and power for evil.

Words can bring life, and words can destroy. Words can revive, and words can kill.

You choose... which will it be in your life?

Delighting Yourself in the Lord

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This month, in my blog, I am sharing some of the exciting principles that are found in my brand new book, “Guide Your Mind, Guard Your Heart and Grace Your Tongue.”

Last week I reminded you just how important it is to take every thought captive to the obedience of Jesus Christ … no stinking-thinking for any of us!

Today we are going to deal with the issues of our hearts … otherwise known as “emotions”!

Let me begin by asking you a simple question …

What is it about life this side of heaven that absolutely and fully delights you?

What is that one “thing” that delivers exquisite joy and satisfaction to your heart?

Some people gain the greatest satisfaction from having new cars, rich friendships, or excellent entertainment. Others are delighted by state-of-the-art technology, the achievements of their children, or traveling to far-flung destinations.

I am delighted with books … with Christmas … with college basketball … and with being with those I know the best and love the most.

Because I am a “Word-girl”, you know that I must turn this “delightful” subject back to the Bible! What do the Scriptures tell us about delight?

“Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)

This beautiful phrase “delight yourself in the Lord” in this challenge from the Psalms can be translated “to be glad in the Lord, make merry in the Lord, take exquisite pleasure in the Lord.”

As human beings who are tied to earthbound living, we have taken delight in all of the wrong things; instead, we should be exquisitely pleased in the Lord!

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We mistakenly suppose that pursuing the desires of our soul will make us happy, when true delight is found in splashing exuberantly in the love of the Savior.

When I first began digging into Scripture and discovered this exciting verse, I falsely assumed that if I showered my love upon Jesus, He would give to me whatever I wanted!

I supposed that if I read my Bible in extravagant amounts, I would be able to move into my dream house; or if I sang louder and more robustly at church, I would get to drive a pink Cadillac!

I dreamed of going on difficult missions trips and then being given the opportunity to spend time on a lush Hawaiian island!

Did any of you believe that as well?

Yet this verse holds richer and deeper meaning than my false assumptions could ever begin to realize.

The lovely and sacred truth that Psalm 37:4 teaches is that when I find singular pleasure in the Lord, He will then place His own desires in my heart.

It is those true desires, given by Him that He is then able to fulfill and bestow.

We erringly assume that pursuing our heart’s desires will make us happy.

In reality, it is being fully glad in the Lord and allowing Him to establish a desire in our hearts that He Himself will fulfill that will deliver a satisfaction infinitely better than simply being happy!

When I delight myself in Him, and He fulfills the desires that He has placed in my heart, it brings me unmatched joy, deep contentment, and the peace that passes understanding.

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The Surprise of God!

Craig’s mother, Becky, is one of my heroines of the faith.

She is a woman of prayer and a student of the Bible. She has loved her family well, and we all grieved with her when her beloved husband, Wesley, went home to be with the Lord.

Shortly after Wesley’s death, Craig and I and our five children moved nearly a thousand miles away from her. She has one other son, David, who lives three hours away from her.

Becky, whom we all call “Nanny,” has spent her entire life “delighting herself in the Lord.”

When we left North Carolina to serve the Lord in the northeast, she found herself alone and living on a very limited income. It would have been very understandable if she had thrown a pity party or two and stocked up on mountains of tissue boxes in order to wipe away her understandable tears. However, she determined not to waste those years of her life and became a pillar of faith in her small community.

On Monday mornings, a group of women gathered in her home to pray for their children and grandchildren. On Wednesday evenings, Becky attended prayer meetings at her church, and on Thursday evenings, she invited a group of neighborhood women into her home for a Bible study. On Friday nights, she played games and had a potluck dinner with other widows. On Sunday mornings, she taught Sunday school and then would often go to a neighbor’s house for lunch to which she brought the rich, Southern dessert.

Becky was happy and fulfilled during those challenging years because she delighted herself in the Lord in a very lonely season of her life and did not give in to the malaise of her soul. She has found deep delight in loving and serving Jesus!

You, too, will be surprised at how God is able to change the desires of your heart when you choose to delight yourself in Him.

Your heart will miraculously mimic the desires of God, and the greatest Gift Giver of all will fulfill your deepest desires.

The joy that you will experience will be enormous and purposeful when you delight yourself in Him and all that He is!

Take some time today just to enjoy Jesus … sing a favorite Sunday School song or spend some time just praying for the people in your life who you dearly love.  Open a well-read devotional book and read it again!  Make a list of your blessings and of all the things you have yet to look forward to!

Listen to a Christian radio station or the podcast of a favorite Bible teacher. Call someone on the phone and spend some time praying together.

The Lord will meet you in that place of delight and He will refine the desires of your heart.

The Power of the Mind

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I am having so much fun this month sharing with you principles found in my new book, “Guide Your Mind, Guard Your Heart and Grace Your Tongue”. This week, we are going to be talking about the warfare that goes on in the gray matter between your two ears!

If you have a problem with worry, anxiety, self-defeating thoughts, negative thinking, fantasy in your brain or critical cogitations, then this week’s blog is for you!  It’s time to clean up your thought life and to guide your mind!

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. (2 Corinthians 10:3–5)

These three verses, written by Paul through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit about two thousand years ago, hold the compass that unmistakably points us in the right direction whenever we deal with an assault by Satan on our thought life. If you are tired of struggling with the enemy’s barrages against your mind, these verses will give you the strength you need to press on as an overcomer in Christ.

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh …”

With our minds, we both conceive of and receive thoughts; then, we either reject those thoughts or accept them.

It’s true … the place where we have given the largest amount of ground to Satan, by accepting many of his false ideas, is in our mind – which is the most dangerous place of all.

The mind is dangerous because it is part of our fleshly system, or fallen human nature. Yet, if you ponder this truth, you will quickly realize that this is actually great news if you are in the middle of spiritual warfare, because although your mind has been clogged by countless conversations with Satan, you will not have to fight him in the weakness of the flesh—you can defeat him in the power of the Spirit!

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It is fighting Satan in the flesh that wearies you and drains you of all of your purpose and all of your productivity. When you attack Satan in the Spirit, rather than in the flesh, you will find yourself strengthened, and you will miraculously begin walking in the authority of Christ.

“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but are divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.”

This particular Scripture firmly states that we are to attack the lies of the enemy with something that is divinely powerful”!

What in the world could that be?  What is the divinely powerful weapon that we have been given access to?

This one-two punch of “divinely” and “powerful” is best translated from the Greek as “absolutely God”!

Let me say that again … absolutely God!

There should not be one bit of your flesh in the fight; you can stand with the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, in your hands and let that sword rip Satan into shreds on your behalf. (See Ephesians 6:17.)

When you fight your battle with “divinely powerfulweapons, you will demolish “strongholds” in your thought life.

A stronghold is an area in your mind that Satan controls because he stated his argument in a deceptive conversation with you, and you believed his misleading hypothesis.

Many Christians embrace the lies of Satan and rehearse them over and over and over again until those lies have become strongholds in their mental real estate. If Satan can gain a foothold in our minds, he will likely control our lives, because as we think within ourselves...so are we.

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Do you know what this means? Read on, my friend, read on …

You literally give to Satan a parcel of real estate in your brain when you allow yourself to think thoughts of fantasy, worry, criticism, or anything else false and negative. All that Satan is capable of giving you is deception; all that God is capable of giving you is truth.

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.

When we have given Satan a piece of real estate in our gray matter, our thoughts will inevitably begin to contradict the truth of the Word of God.

Our heavenly Father took a great risk when He gave us the freedom to think for ourselves. This privilege of being able to choose our own thoughts confirmed the gift of our being made in the image of God Himself. We are set apart from animals with this extraordinary gift of having the ability to choose our own thoughts.

We do not fight our Satan-induced doubts with drugs, with neuro- logical reconnections, or with a lobotomy! Instead, we bring down every thought that is contrary to the knowledge of God and destroy speculations at their very root.

Once and for all, we need to do what the Word of God says to do with the lies of Satan: Destroy them! Take them captive! We must take captive our outrageous and unhealthy thoughts and make them obedient to Jesus Christ.

As you strategically choose your thoughts, your goal is to fill your mind to a greater degree with the principles and truth found only in the Bible. If you have a “default” setting in your brain, it should always be set to the Word of God!

Examine me, O Lord, and try me; test my mind and my heart. For Your lovingkindness is before my eyes, and I have walked in Your truth. (Psalm 26:2–3)

How God Thinks

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I am not the neatest person in the world, are you?

The sad truth is that I did not receive the “cleaning gene” that most women seem to receive at birth … or at least when they begin to care for a home of their own.

More often than not, there are dishes in my sink, clothes on my bedroom floor, and yesterday’s towels strewn across my bathroom. (I am blushing right now.)

Some days, my bed is haphazardly made, but most often, it is left askew from my postmenopausal sleeping patterns. Additionally, my kitchen floor perpetually needs sweeping, and my laundry is a never-decreasing mountain on the laundry room floor.

It’s not that I am opposed to cleaning, I just always have more important things to do, like answer e-mails or read a book or talk to one of my children on the phone!

I know...I know...I know.... If I would just spend a little bit of time every day on my home, I might be able to keep it in order. I get that; I do!

I have a friend who has tried to train me from the earliest days of my marriage that if I would just spend one hour a day first thing in the morning on cleaning and straightening, my house would never get disgustingly out of control. I did try that strategy for a day or two, but within about fifteen minutes of my first attempt, I was distracted by a magazine article or by a piano piece that was calling my name.

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As much as I find absolutely no enjoyment in cleaning my home, I do, indeed, enjoy the results when I discipline myself to roll up my sleeves and get to work.

I love it when my blue bathroom towels are all folded and put away neatly and in order.

I love looking into my bedroom and seeing a bed that is made with precision—with no wrinkles to be found!

And oh, the rapture that fills my messy soul when my kitchen floor is swept and there are no dishes lingering in my sink!

And did I mention that I love the smell of a sparkling-clean bathroom, of freshly washed laundry, and of dusting polish?

Why do I love the results but absolutely hate the process? Why, indeed? It is, quite simply, because of the daily effort and focus required.

Our minds are much like the homes in which we live: we must daily keep up with the process of organizing our mental clutter and cleaning up the cerebral dirt and grime that accumulates in our thought patterns, not to mention scrubbing the dark and dusty corners of our brains; otherwise, spiritual havoc will quickly ensue.

But while the process of sanitizing our brain may be exacting and frustrating, the results will be absolutely fabulous!

But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that He will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:15–16)

The powerful, heavenly implications of this verse are nothing less than astonishing!

We, as mere mortal, have the miraculous potential to think like God the Father thinks!

When we partner with the Holy Spirit in our mental processing, we are able to understand situations, people, and events just as Jesus does. We have the miraculous ability to receive the wisdom of the ages. As human beings, we have been bequeathed the glorious discernment of the Holy Spirit.

We can have God-sized dreams and divine creativity in our pea- sized brains!

Wow … just wow!

When the channels are open between you and heaven, you are invited to tap into the infinite mental powers of the God who created such glorious demonstrations as diamonds, giraffes, and stars. You have been given the wisdom of the Father who invented the water cycle and electricity. Your creative Partner is a Genius who paints sunsets and renews the seasons every year.

You have the mind of Jesus Christ.

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When my husband, Craig, was the youth pastor of a church in the Deep South at the beginning of our ministry together, we became close friends with one of the families who attended that church. The father, Harold, was an engineer and served as a church elder. The mother, Sarah, was a stay-at-home mom. Harold and Sarah’s family was built around Mary, their teenage daughter; Michael, their middle-school-age son; and Ricky, their ten-year-old son.

When their son Ricky was in the fourth grade, Harold and Sarah were called in for a conference with his teacher. The teacher made them feel comfortable but wasted little time with small talk. She quickly let them know that Ricky was not doing well in school. Furthermore, she informed the shocked parents that Ricky was showing symptoms of some serious learning disabilities and that he likely would never graduate from high school. The compassionate yet truthful teacher had great concerns about Ricky’s future ability to succeed in middle school and suggested that they look into a special school for their delightful, lively child.

As Harold and Sarah processed this diagnosis, they decided that, to succeed in his studies, what Ricky needed was the mind of Christ. So Ricky and his determined mother began to memorize Scripture together. Sarah placed Scripture verses on every kitchen cabinet and on the bathroom mirror in their home. While Ricky was eating breakfast, he was looking around at the Word of God. While Ricky was facing the bathroom mirror, brushing his teeth, he saw only Bible verses.

Sarah was so focused on helping her son to be able to process information in a normal way that she even climbed up a ladder and attached Bible verses to the ceiling over Ricky’s bed so that, every night before he fell asleep, he would see the Word of God, and every morning, when this little man woke up, his very first sight would be the truth of God’s Word.

When Ricky entered fifth grade, his parents began to see a miracle in the making. His grades slowly began to improve, and he was able to pay attention in class, in spite of the usual distractions. Ricky began to repeat at the kitchen table what he had learned in class, and he developed a voracious appetite for learning. His improvement continued, and he eventually graduated in the top ten of his high school graduating class of nearly five hundred students! He later graduated magna cum laude from a private university and earned his MBA from one of the most prestigious universities in the nation.

Today, Ricky is the CEO of a major pharmaceutical company, all because he had parents who believed in the importance of tapping into the mind of Christ.

My blog this week is taken from my new book, “Guide Your Mind, Guard Your Heart and Grace Your Tongue”.  Released on April 3, this book will change the way you think, it will revolutionize your emotional responses to life and it will make your tongue the loveliest part of you!  You can purchase it at Barnes and Noble.com, CBD.com, Amazon.com or at our website, justjoyministries.com.  Why not buy a copy for you and for a friend?! 

Let It Go

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Do you know anyone who is bitter?

Perhaps the bitter person that you know has chosen that sordid emotion because of his or her childhood … or due to a failed marriage.

Some people are bitter because of the economy … or because of the way their children turned out … or because someone that they loved dearly died too soon.

Some people mistakenly believe that they have a right to be bitter just because life has thrown them a curve ball or two.

H-m-m-m … “ a right to be bitter” …

Wow!  Is that a sad way to live, or what?!

I know … I know … if you are one of those people who are ferociously treading water in the Sea of Bitterness … you might accuse me of not understanding your justifiable right to live a bitter life.

I guess that it’s true … I might not understand or have experienced your particular pain … but it is also true that we all have gone through excruciating life circumstances that have attempted to toss us into that great, angry and consuming sea.

However, what I have learned in my life’s journey is that bitterness is actually a by-product of self-centeredness.

O.K. … I will be quiet for a minute while you process that thought.

Bitterness is a by-product of self-centeredness.

If you have placed yourself in the center of your life, then you will perpetually process pain through a spirit of offense.

You will be offended when your husband doesn’t take out the trash.

You will be offended when your kids don’t call you.

You will be offended when the pastor doesn’t acknowledge your giving.

You will be offended when the talking media heads don’t agree with your political opinions.

You will be offended when you don’t get the raise or the promotion.

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I am determined to raise up a generation of unoffendable women!

“God will see to it that we are in circumstances best designed by His sovereign love to give us opportunities to bear fruit for Him.” – Elisabeth Elliot

Oh!  How I long to be a fruit-bearing Christian in all seasons and in all circumstances.  When someone takes a bit out of me … I want kindness and patience to come dripping out!

I deeply desire to exhibit love when everyone else is pontificating opinion.

It is my heart-felt yearning to respond with joy when met with unbelievably discouraging circumstances.

The truth is this, my friend … bitterness hurts no one but yourself.

Bitterness doesn’t change your circumstances but it does change you.  It changes you from a beautiful, caring person into an ugly shadow of your former self.

There is no other way to say it … bitterness is ugly and it only creates ugly.

“I will wander about all my years because of the bitterness of my soul.” – Isaiah 38:15b

If you dip your unsuspecting toe into the Sea of Bitterness, the riptide will quickly suck you in and you will lose all direction in life.

Bitter people never walk in their destiny … they are never an agent of encouragement … and a bitter person often squanders a formerly incredible life while thrashing around and wrongly believing that bitterness is their life jacket.

Bitterness is not a life jacket … it is a weight of iron that is guaranteed to drown you.

So … as believers in Jesus Christ … what should we do when life has squashed our dreams and when friends and family members have walked away?

What should we do with anger and human pain?

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” – Ephesians 4:31

You and I need to determine that bitterness is not an option!  It is not one of the emotions that we are allowed to embrace while living in the glorious warzone of life.

Bitterness is not on your long list or on your short list.

For you and for me … bitterness has ceased to exist because of Jesus.

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“See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.” – Hebrews 12:15

The grace of God has uprooted every seedling of bitterness in our hearts, which is part of the miracle that being a Christian enables! What a wonderful possibility!

Grace has taken away bitterness and has planted mercy and grace in its place.

Bitterness is a weed of carnal, fleshly living while mercy and grace are exquisite flowers that are planted in your life in order to gather a crowd!

Bitterness gathers a crowd, too, but the problem is that this particular mob has gathered to see the vicious fighting that is going on.  And, inevitably, they will be drawn in to the jealousy, anger and gossip that will ensue. 

Not my kind of crowd …

O.K. … now I am going to tell you something that you are going to have to think about and pray about before you react to it.  Are you ready?  Take a slow, deep breath and let’s move ahead …

I heard someone say recently that the way you treat me and what you think of me is not my business.

This person went on to say that my only business is how I treat you.

Wow!  Powerful stuff, right?!!

My sole business in life is making sure that I respond with love, forgiveness and joy to every event, every person and every circumstance.

The one thing that I am called to do above all others is to trust my life into the hands of the One who knows me best and loves me most.

I can trust Him in the storm and in the sunshine.

I can forgive you regardless of your words … your actions … or your accusations.

I can because He did.

I refuse to be caught in the riptide of that emotion known as “bitterness” and I choose to love … to exhibit mercy … and to show compassion.

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! 

Who You Really Are

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What is the hardest thing you have ever gone through in life?

Perhaps it was the death of a loved one from which you have ever truly bounced back. The grief may be enormous and relentless from that one horrific event.

Maybe it has been a moral failure that has given your life more definition than you care to admit.

Have you gone through the unfair loss of a job or even bankruptcy?

Perhaps you or someone you love dearly deals with addiction on a daily basis and that is just so hard.

For some people, it is a traumatic diagnosis, perpetual pain or health challenges that are just plain hard week after week … month after month … and year after year.

It is a sold life truth that none of us is able to escape the opportunity of experiencing something hard and devastating this side of heaven.

What is your “hard”?

I have learned to embrace difficult circumstances and situations as opportunities for greatness rather than as pathways to failure.

Let me share with you today three truths that I have learned in my life from crossing that dangerous and difficult river known as “hard”.

First of all, it seems to me that “hard” has the innate power of revealing one’s true self in a manner that days of “soft” and “easy” are unable to manifest.

Who you are in a storm is truly who you are.

Who you are in a fire is truly who you are.

Who you are on the mountaintop of life or during times of great fulfillment does not have the capacity to reveal true identity in the manner that disappointment does.

It’s just truth … who you are in the “hard” is who you are.

If you respond to heartbreaking and trying circumstances with resolve and with inner strength … that’s who you are.

If you respond to relationship challenges and family problems by whining and gossiping … that’s who you are.

If you respond to bothersome people and troublesome events with peace and with joy … then that is who you are.

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You see, it is in the easy days of life that we determine who we will be in the hard days of life. 

“To trust God in the light is nothing, but to trust Him in the dark … that is faith.” – Spurgeon.

The second truth that I have learned from the hard days of life is that it is in the “hard” that my relationship with the Lord is defined to a greater degree.

During a difficulty in life – I will either chase after my loving Father or I will run away from Him.

During a potentially destructive storm, I can either blame God or I can bless God.

When the flames of life around me are threatening to destroy all that I value and hold dear, I will either love God or I will loathe Him.

Let the fire for God within you burn hotter and brighter than the fire of devastation around you!

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.  Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10

I must not allow my personal pain to change my view of who God is! I must remind myself day after long day that God is good all the time and that He works all things together for my good.

God has been to my future and it is good because He is good!

“Whatever comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” – Tozer

During the storms of life, I must remind myself that He is good indeed!

The third lesson that I have learned from the storms of life is that how I handle the storm just might determine my very destiny!

If I respond emotionally to strenuous and severe conditions, I will leave the storm with a limp in my walk and with a joyless outlook on my life.

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However, if I am able to sing through the storm, my destiny becomes glorious and unlimited!

The world is listening for your song while you walk through the storm … while you cross the mountains of life … and while you put out the flames of a hot and angry fire.

The world is listening for the melody of your life especially when you doing hard … so sing louder and sing stronger!

If you will turn to the Lord for comfort rather than away from Him due to immense emotional pain, you will find that the landscape of your life becomes magnificent and magnetic to others!

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” – II Corinthians 1:3 & 4

I have heard it said that God doesn’t comfort us to merely make us comfortable but that He comforts us to miraculously make us into comforters.

If you process your “hard” only through your personal pain and through your emotions, you will forever be paralyzed by the trauma of it all. 

However, if you are able to walk triumphantly through arduous and formidable storms in life, you will find yourself as never before … you will know God as never before … and you will be used as never before.

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!

March Gladness

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March is the month of windy days, of cool yet not biting temperatures and of the certain promise of spring. 

 

Sometimes March roars in like an angry lion but we are all hopeful that it will peacefully whisper out like a sweet lamb.

 

March is the temperate bridge that connects the icy days of winter to the glory that is spring!

March pushes winter into history and welcomes spring into miraculous reality.

“It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.” 
― Charles DickensGreat Expectations

This month of March, that is sandwiched between the frigid hours of February and the sunny weeks of April, is famous for its kites, for its lengthening days and for hours and hours of basketball!

Basketball … did somebody mention basketball?! How did you know?!

My family has always had an addiction to college basketball.  We lived for 16 wonderful years just outside of Raleigh, North Carolina, and were absolutely intoxicated with the earthly delight of cheering on those North Carolina teams to victory.

Having had three athletic boys before finally giving birth to two little girls, the basketball rite of March became as familiar and dear to us as the perpetual pounding of orange spheres on our driveway … the vibrant roar of a crowd in our small town basketball gym … and the secret anxiety that filled our minds as we each filled out our brackets.

The media world calls it “March Madness” and the sports world refers to it as “The Big Dance”.  For the family McLeod who lived at 816 East Academy Street, it was simply an annual opportunity for family bonding, for cheering on our teams and for experiencing the agony of defeat and the thrill of victory.

I am now older than the young mom of those exciting days and my rambunctious and competitive children have all grown and flown. In this quieter season of life, I have learned to enjoy the games of March with greater temperance and with much less angst. Even as I will be watching the Cinderella teams and the traditional champions on the hardwood, I wonder what teams my boys are cheering for.  You see, a mother’s heart never forgets.

A mother’s heart was made to remember all the traditions, the sayings and the experiences that happened in the house that her little brood called “home”.

I remember … but I must also look ahead.

I must tie my heart not to the memories of yesterday but to the calling in which I live today.  I must move ahead into these days of March with a song in my heart and with hope on my lips.

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I can remember sweetly but I must forge ahead bravely.

And so, this March, I have decided to sing a song of gratitude for the life that I have been given and for the hope that springs eternal. 

In this season of my life, rather than focusing on the “madness” of March … my heart is tied to the “gladness” of March!  Each day, I am choosing to sing a song that has shaped me and that has laid a wonderful foundation for my faith.

“A mighty fortress is our God! A bulwark never failing!” #marchgladness

“It is no secret what God can do … what He’s done for others, He’ll do for you!” #marchgladness

“There is none like You! No one else can fill my heart like You do!” #marchgladness

“Through it all … through it all … oh I’ve learned to trust in Jesus … I’ve learned to trust in God!” #marchgladness

“Something good is going to happen to you … happen to you … happen to you!” #marchgladness

“Jesus, Jesus, Jesus! Sweetest Name I know!” #marchgladness

What are the songs that have shaped your life? 

I would love to hear from you and be reminded of the faith songs … the worship choruses … the stately hymns … the Gospel tunes … and the hopeful ballads … that have meant a lot to you over the years. 

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How has God spoken to you through the lyrics of faith?

Would you join me in posting those lyrics on social media with the reference “#marchgladness”?

We are all ordinary folks who are trying to deal with the madness of life by tying our hearts to the gladness that only He brings! If there is one thing that the enemy will try to steal from your life, it is the song that you have been given to sing.

During these dreary days of March, I choose to sing louder!

Living on this bridge between the sweet memories of yesterday and all that is yet to come in the glory of tomorrow, I choose to sing!

Will you sing with me?

Honestly … I can’t wait to hear your song!  So sing louder!

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 Life of Billy Graham

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On February 21, 2018, the Reverend Billy Graham took his last breath on earth and walked triumphantly into eternity and into the presence of His Savior, Jesus Christ!

 

After nearly 100 years of earth-bound living, William Franklin Graham Jr. crossed his finish line.

 

He heard the two simple words we all long to hear someday, “Well done!”

I have read so many articles, blog posts and editorials concerning the life and home going of Billy Graham and I wondered, quite frankly, if there was anything else left to say about this incredible man of God.  He was a man who dined with queens … who prayed with presidents … and whose opinion mattered to political leaders.

He walked upon the grounds of the White House … in the hallways of Buckingham Palace … on the floor of the United Nations … and on the dusty and unmarked roads of Africa.

“Everywhere I go I find that people … both leaders and individuals … are asking one basic question, ‘Is there any hope for the future?’ My answer is the same, ‘Yes, through Jesus Christ.’” – Billy Graham

How could my perspective on the life of a man I had never met bring any more tribute to the life that was lived so well?

And then, I remembered something that I often say to young moms when I am teaching on the importance of motherhood …

“Someone is going to raise the next Billy Graham … why not you?!”

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And so, my tribute comes in the form of a challenge to the next generation of moms; I challenge you to raise the next Billy Graham!

I challenge you to raise a man or a woman so filled with integrity that it leaves the culture in which we live absolutely breathless.

“Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.” – Billy Graham

I challenge you to raise a man or a woman so filled with moral virtue and purity that he or she is mocked by the gurus of the day.

“The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life but rather a legacy of character and faith.” – Billy Graham

I challenge you to instill a love for the Bible in your son or in your daughter so rich and so rare that every choice, every opinion and every philosophy is birthed from the sacred pages of the Word of God.

“I read the last page of the Bible. It’s all going to turn out all right.” – Billy Graham

I challenge you to teach your children how to handle their finances in a conservative and God-honoring manner.  Pass on the wise philosophy to them that money can’t buy happiness, that success is not dependent upon bank accounts and that it pays to be honest.

“When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost.” – Billy Graham

I challenge you to raise a man or a woman so filled with calling and with purpose that absolutely nothing holds them back from their God-ordained destiny.  Teach them to tune their ears to the calling of God and not on the applause of men.  Remind them often that they are living for eternity and not for fame.

I challenge you to teach your children to tell the truth … the whole truth … and nothing but the truth.

And then remind them that the Truth is Jesus.

“The wonderful news is that our Lord is a God of mercy and that He responds to repentance.” – Billy Graham

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I challenge you to raise your children to love the simple things in life.  We live in a Disney World-saturated, Super Bowl-driven, People magazine-promoting, false-idol-worshipping, technology-overload society. Lay all of that aside and then make a list of the truly valuable things in life:

Fresh air and sunsets …

The company of grandparents and missionaries …

A game of tag in the backyard …

The delight of family jokes and healthy teasing …

The stories of ancestors and heroes and heroines of the faith …

A family prayer time at the end of a day.

I challenge you to raise your children in a common environment that smacks of uncommon virtue.

“A child who is allowed to be disrespectful to his parents will not have true respect for anyone.” – Billy Graham

I challenge you to raise your children to know that this life is not all that there is to living.  We live for eternity not for the pleasure of tomorrow.  Remind them day after day after day that heaven is a real place and that there is only one way to get there … through Jesus.

“My home is in heaven – I am just passing through.” – Billy Graham

I challenge you to teach your children the value of prayer.  Pray with them every day over the little things and the big things in life.  Remind them that God listens and that God answers. And then get on your knees with your children and pray.

“Prayer is simply a two-way conversation between God and you.” – Billy Graham

My prayer today is that this world will never forget the life of Billy Graham … I hope that you never forget the difference that one ordinary person can make for eternity.  He lived to make hell smaller and heaven bigger!

My prayer is that in our quest to honor him we do it by calling the next generation to live their lives with the moral fiber and with the spiritual tenacity that it takes to cause heaven to stand to its feet and applaud!

“I haven’t written my own epitaph, and I’m not sure I should. Whatever it is, I hope it will be simple, and that it will point people not to me, but to the One I served.” – Billy Graham

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 Someone You Love is in Pain...

 I am a list-maker, are you?

I love lists of all kinds … grocery lists … Christmas lists … “Honey-Do Lists” … reading lists … prayer lists … even cleaning lists are on my list of lists that I love!

I love making a list of all the places I have been and all of the places I yet long to visit. (Hawaii is number 1 on the list of the places that I long to visit in case you were wondering!)

I have a list of things that I would LOVE to accomplish this year.  (Let’s see if anything at all gets checked off that list!)

I have lists of diets that I have tried over the years … some worked and some didn’t!

I have a list of the names of my friends … my childhood friends … my high school friends … my college friends … and now my adult friends.

I have a list of everyone in history that I would have loved to have met at some point.

I have a list of questions for the president. (Don’t ask …)

I have a list of questions for Jesus when I get to heaven … but I have a feeling that I will have forgotten them by the time that I am in His very presence!  Imagine that!!

I have a list of books that I have yet to write

I guess I need to make a list of all of the lists that I have ever written!!

I love lists.

Because of my great affinity for lists, I thought that I would share a list of mine with you today.

I started this particular list years ago when a young woman at our church in North Carolina was diagnosed with aggressive cancer.  She was a homeschool mom with 2 little girls and I observed people at our church that responded so lovingly to her and to her family but I also observed others that reacted so inappropriately.

Out of that painful time of observation, I made this list that has served me well during all of my years of loving people in pain.

A List of Things to do When Someone You Love is in Pain

1 – Pray.  Don’t just say that you will pray but truly pray.  Get down on your knees and pray.  Pray out loud.  Ask God for an answer … for a healing … for deliverance … for mercy … for wisdom.  If you never do anything else again for someone in pain … pray.  Just pray. Invite people over to your house to pray for the situation.

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2 – Listen. You don’t have to talk and you don’t have to have all the answers.  Sometimes the most significant way we love someone in pain is just by listening to his or her heart.  You don’t have to have any great, earth-shaking answers.  You can just listen quietly without pontificating or preaching. Sometimes the only thing that I say to people in pain is, “”I am so sorry that you are walking through this.”

3 – Be there … show up … that is, after all, what true friends do.  Be careful not to overstep any personal or family boundaries but sometimes just being present is all the comfort that someone may need. Your quiet and compassionate physical presence is a healing balm to a person’s broken heart.

4 – Do something. Make a meal … go to the hospital … volunteer to babysit … walk their dog … clean their house … do their laundry … mow their grass … clean a toilet.  Serve the one who is need.  Don’t wait to be asked and don’t even ask what needs to be done.  Just do something and don’t expect a thank you card. Roll up your sleeves and get to work quietly serving.  Make life as easy as possible for the family or person in pain.

5 – Write something. Send a card … or an e-mail … or leave a scripture in their car or on their kitchen table. Give them something powerful to think about during the long hours of the night and something comforting to ponder as they awake to face the light of a new and difficult day.

5. Be peaceful. Don’t bring extra confusion or commotion to an already tense situation.  Don’t worry out loud and don’t draw attention to yourself.  If you cry, cry quietly.  If you talk, talk quietly. If you serve, serve quietly. The Kingdom of God is a Kingdom of Peace so usher His peace into a situation that has been devastated by the storm of circumstances.

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6. Be kind. Even if you think that they are handling the situation wrong, it is not your situation to handle so just be kind. Ask God to give you a heart of compassion to match the pain of the circumstances.

7. Be Jesus with skin on. When life has fallen apart, we, as His disciples, are invited to represent Him. Represent Him well.

8. And when the situation is over and life has gone on for that person who experienced excruciating pain … go back and read this list again.

Read this list over and over and over again and then do it over and over and over again. Their pain will not go away for a long time so your ministry to them has only just begun when their catastrophe has seemingly ended.

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! 

Open Letter to Hollywood

Dear Hollywood, the Entertainment Industry and Video Game Producers,

I am writing this letter to every producer and director in Hollywood.  I am writing this letter to every writer, to every actor and to every actress.

I am writing this missive to TV show producers, to directors and to writers.

I am writing this plea to the gaming industry.

I am writing this humble but passionate request to the sponsors who pay for movies, television shows and games.

Please listen … please read … and please respond.

As a mother, as a grandmother, and as a woman who loves America deeply, my heart is broken by the shootings that happened last week in Parkland, Florida.  17 vibrant and hopeful people lost their lives when a gunman opened fire in their own high school.  Teachers were gunned down … scholars were assassinated … future leaders were violently killed in America. 

I know that this ugly problem is multi-faceted and that there are no “easy” answers; however, I do believe that there are answers that can prevent a mass shooting such as this from happening again. 

I have to believe it … I must.

I happen to believe that the true answers America is searching for will never be found in a political candidate

And believe me, America does need some answers. America desperately needs answers that will never come from an editorial, from Congress or from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Some of the answers to this very confusing and devastating problem are found in the solutions that the mental health community can offer and some can be discovered in the security that needs to be addressed in our public school system. 

The breakdown of the family has contributed greatly to this horrific dilemma and then there are the politicians who should humbly but personally take responsibility as well. 

Every congressman, every senator and every member of the president’s White House staff should visit the grieving parents of these beloved children and hear their pain.

The answers are vast … the questions are numerous … and the blame enormous.

However, as the producers, directors, writers, actors and actresses who create movies … you are not without blame!

America has raised an entire generation of young people in a culture that has taught that when you have a problem – a gun will solve it.

Your movies have sent the message that if you don’t like the hand you have been dealt in life … well then … just shoot somebody!

We have modeled by the scripts, by the themes and by the visual images of television series and of award-winning movies that violence is an acceptable and even applauded lifestyle.

Hollywood … stop it!  Just stop it!

Take responsibility, all of you in the entertainment industry, and change your message.

Change your message before one more innocent young person is murdered.

Hollywood … directors … producers … actors … actresses … writers … when you look at your hands today … you may just see a drop of blood or two.

I am appealing to the mothers and fathers who are producers and directors in Hollywood … I ask you to never again make another movie that glorifies violence.

I am appealing to the mothers and to the fathers who are actors and actresses in the film industry and in the television industry … I implore you to refuse scripts that tout guns as the answer.

I am begging cameramen and camerawomen who love children to walk off the sets of violent movies.

I am beseeching screenwriters and television writers who have ever felt the sweet arms of a child around their necks to take every act of gratuitous violence out of every script and re-write it.

I am calling to the gaming industry and asking you to take responsibility.  Lives are more valuable than money.  Stop creating games that recreate violence. 

I am adjuring the sponsors of movies, television shows and the gaming industry to stop the flow of money to visual images and themes of violence.

Stop it … just stop it!

Nothing will change until we all change. 

Will you change, Hollywood?  Will you take personal responsibility and choose to send a message of hope and honor rather than embracing themes of violence and blood-shed?

Will you change, gaming industry? Will you choose virtue over vice and meaning over money?  Will you?

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Every producer who has ever produced a violent movie should attend the funeral of the well-loved Alyssa Alhadeff and the courageous Scott Beigel and the sweet Cara Loughran.

Every director who has ever included an assassination or a murder in a movie scene should humbly attend the funeral of the beloved Martin Duque Anguiano and the scholar and athlete Nicholas Dworet and the bubbly Gina Montalto.

Every writer who has written a script that sent a message that carnage is acceptable should attend the funeral of the basketball player Luke Hoyer and the heroic Aaron Feis and the positive and loving Joaquin Oliver.

Every cameraman and camerawoman who served as an accomplice to a crime splashed across a movie screen or a TV screen should attend the funeral of the beautiful Jaime Guttenberg or the brave Christopher Hixon.

Every member of the gaming industry who has made millions of dollars by promoting violence should attend the funeral of the compassionate Alaina Petty, the angelic Meadow Pollack or the friendly Helena Ramsey.

Every actor or actress who has ever appeared in a movie that glorified violence should attend the funeral of the musical Alexander Schachter, the brilliant Carmen Schentrup or the patriotic Peter Wang.

The pain that these families are bearing is inhuman and devastating. Let’s save another family from ever enduring this pain again.

Hollywood … writers … directors … producers … actors … actresses … cameramen … camerawomen … gaming industry … how wonderful to know that you can change the world!  You can choose the message you send to a vulnerable world.

I ask you with every cell in my broken heart to re-evaluate your motivation and your message.  Children’s lives are at stake.

In the Meanwhile...

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What do you do when you are going through unfair treatment and are facing a challenging life situation that is nearly too difficult to bear?

What do you do?

What do you do when you are struggling for destiny and feel that your life has been put on hold?

What do you do?

What do you do when bitterness threatens to cloud your ability to worship and to feel God’s presence?

What do you do?

I can only tell you what I do … I go to the Bible.  I go digging for gold among the sacred pages of the Word of God.

Often in these moments – God will remind me of the life story of a man or a woman in the Bible who faced similar circumstances to mine.

The Bible reminds me that I am not alone and that God will always write the end of my story.  

Always.

Can I share with you in some bite-size pieces one of my very favorite Bible stories?

Trust meyou will never be the same. 

I have always loved the story of Joseph in the Old Testament.  I love knowing that he was a dreamer and that he kept a pure heart through all of life’s trials.

I love knowing that God used him in spite of being separated from his family and thrown into an Egyptian prison.

I love knowing that Joseph was a young man who wasn’t swayed by sexual temptation.

“She caught him by his garment, saying, ‘Lie with me!’ And he left his garment in her hand and fled, and went outside.’” – Genesis 39:12

I love knowing that even the world saw greatness in him even when he was just a lowly servant.

“Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant.”  -Mark 10:43

I love knowing that the Lord was with him every day of his life.

“The Lord was with Joseph so he became a successful man.” – Genesis 39:2

I love knowing that the Lord’s presence was so obvious in him that everyone else saw it as well.

“Now his master saw that the Lord was with him and how the Lord caused all that he did to prosper in his hand.” – Genesis 39:3

I love knowing that Joseph heard from God even when he was in prison.

I love knowing that Joseph always gave God glory for his wisdom.

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“Joseph then answered Pharaoh, saying, ‘It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.’” – Genesis 41:16

I love knowing that Joseph brought answers to his culture when no one else could.

“So Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Since God has informed you of all this, there is no one so discerning and wise as you are.’” – Genesis 41:39

I love knowing that Joseph was able to move past the pain that his family had caused him.

“God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.’” – Genesis 41:51

I love knowing that Joseph gave God glory and honor when he was the beneficiary of God’s abundant blessings.

“God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.” – Genesis 41:52

I love knowing that Joseph was kind to his brothers even though they had been cruel and judgmental toward him.

“Joseph took portions to them from his own table, but Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as any of theirs. So they feasted and drank freely with him.” – Genesis 43:34

I love knowing that Joseph wasn’t bitter because of the way his family had treated him but knew that God had been working in his story the entire time.

“Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. 

Now therefore it was not you who sent me here but God.” – Genesis 45:5, 7 and 8a 

I love knowing that Joseph not only forgave his brothers but he blessed his brothers.

“Do not concern yourselves with your goods, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.” – Genesis 45:20

I love knowing that Joseph had a rare and beautiful perspective on his life in spite of all of his difficulties.

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” – Genesis 50:20

But the part of Joseph’s story that speaks to me the loudest is revealed when Joseph was only 17 years old.  He had been mocked by his brothers, stripped of his tunic and thrown into a waterless pit.

Have you ever felt like that?  Have you ever felt that no one cares about you … that you have been stripped of dignity and of destiny … and that you have been tossed aside to die?

Then, if that wasn’t enough pain for one young man to endure, his brothers sold him into slavery! They sold him to a people group who couldn’t wait to get top dollar for this young, strong, good-looking boy.

Joseph had been betrayed and belittled by his brothers and then he had been purchased by the enemy.

Now … here comes the verse that never fails to wrap its meaning around my betrayed and belittled soul.

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“Meanwhile, the Midianites sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, Pharaoh’s officer, the captain of the bodyguard.” – Genesis 37:36

Meanwhile … meanwhile … meanwhile.

When his brothers betrayed him … God was working in the meanwhile.

When he was sold into slavery … God had not forgotten him in the meanwhile.

While his father was mourning him … God was with him in the meanwhile. 

And sometimes a meanwhile can be a mighty mean while!

In all of our lives there is a meanwhile.

In all of our lives there is a meanwhile when we don’t see the hand of God working on our behalf but you can be sure that He is working.

The God of Joseph is the God of you! You are not forgotten and you have not been tossed aside.  The enemy will not have the last say in your life!

The story of Joseph is an astounding story of God’s presence, God’s sovereign goodness and God’s ability to work all things together for good.

If you are in a meanwhile season today … take heart! God’s goodness will write the end of your story.

He did it for Joseph and He will do it for you!

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” – Romans 8:28

Joseph was called according to the purpose of God … and so are 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!

Your Moment in History

In case you didn’t know it, I have a new book that came out last week entitled, “Pass the Joy, Please!”  It’s a book that encourages moms of every generation to embrace and to even celebrate the joy that is unique to motherhood.

“Pass the Joy, Please!” is a devotional and can easily be read in 5-10 minute pockets of time.  I designed it that way so that even young moms, who are in the trenches of motherhood, can carve out time to be encouraged and to be reminded of the joy!

And so, today, in my weekly blog, I thought that I would give you a peek into my new book and then next week we will back to other business of the heart as usual.

Here you go … from “Pass the Joy, Please!”

God chooses the moment in history into which an ordinary woman is born.

God knew that I would be born in the middle part of the 20th  Century when women were just beginning to roar. The battle of the sexes was being fought in the boardroom, in the courtroom and in the classroom.

The feminists of my generation were burning their bras while I sat nursing and rocking.

Women were shattering the glass ceiling while I was wiping up spilled milk from my kitchen floor.

Women were infiltrating the network news while I was reading “The Little Engine that Could” to toddlers who listened to my every word.

Now we are well into the days of the 21st Century and more than ever the identity and the call of women is being fought for.

Now, I certainly believe that a woman is as capable as a man to accomplish great things in life. I believe that a woman should be well educated and that her pay should be commensurate with the male counterparts in her profession.

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But I also believe, even though it might seem politically incorrect to you, that God created men and women with certain inherent differences. I am not ashamed nor am I embarrassed by these differences but I choose to celebrate those determining factors!

Do you want to know what I believe at the very core of my being? The words “maternal” and “powerful” are not mutually exclusive but they create a glorious harmony that the world is waiting to hear!

I was born at this time in history for a reason and I won’t keep silent!

I will call the women under my watch to their destiny in Christ and perhaps away from the call of the culture. The culture in which you live should have no determination and no deciding voice in your destiny!

Every drop of purpose and circumstance that you choose to walk in should be actuated by the principles found in the Word of God.

You are a world changer, dear mother! You, with baby spit- up on your shoulder and circles under your eyes ... you are a world-changer!

You are a history maker, sweet mama. You, with a pile of dishes in the kitchen sink and a mountain of laundry waiting to be folded ... you are a history maker!

You are a woman of unmatched influence, dear mother! You, with the cry of a colicky baby in the air and the tantrums of a two- year old as daily reality ... you are a woman of unmatched influence!

You ARE the woman’s movement, purveyors of the next generation! And so I challenge you today to enjoy the journey. Enjoy every moment of outrageous Godliness and sweet strength that this job requires.

Love your life and celebrate with ferocity and with joy the little ones who call you “Mom”.

One of the most discouraging aspects of motherhood might be that your destiny is chiefly forged where absolutely no one sees it happening.

Your destiny is determined in a rocking chair during the midnight hours.

Your destiny is refined while building blocks with an impatient preschooler and while changing a fussy baby’s diapers.

Your destiny is most assuredly shaped when figuring out how to get your toddler to eat yummy and nutritious vegetables.

The culture in which we live taunts that we are only productive if we earn loads of money or if we use our very expensive education in the corporate world. The world falsely promotes the idea that we are only important if we are somehow able to garner the public exposure that we so deserve.

May I just simply and honestly say this ... the way of the culture has never been the way of the Lord.

God uses the backside of the desert to refine a person’s character; God has been known to use the dusty streets of Nazareth to prepare a person for greatness. God has even used the inside of a whale to forge a valuable work in a person!

During the years that I spent hidden while training my children and while fanning the flames of greatness in their miniature hearts, my college and high school friends were climbing the corporate ladder and making six-figure incomes. The only vacations that our family was able to take were ones that were paid for by very generous and loving relatives while my over-achieving high school friends were going to Hawaii and were driving BMW’s.

Our birthdays were mostly homemade and for Christmas my children only received what God had miraculously provided! But let me tell you ... our lack of material substance did not inhibit our ability to celebrate!

I remember during one class reunion that I attended while wearing a dress that was ten years old and knowing that I had left a colicky baby at home with my mother, one of my very successful and worldly friends declared to me, “Oh Carol! You are making such a sacrifice to stay home with your children!”

I humbly but respectfully responded, “Actually, it’s not a sacrifice at all. Being with my children is not a sacrifice but it is a joy!”

During those years, I said “No,” to prestigious job opportunities and I said, “No, thank you,” to significant ministry opportunities.

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Knowing my destiny as a mother gave me the strength and the fortitude to say a resounding, “YES!” to God. And in saying, “YES!” to God, I was also saying, “YES!” to joy.

Joy is often found in the dark of night while comforting a sick child, on the dusty streets of motherhood and in the middle of a mountain of laundry!

He is with you during these days of motherhood ... and so you can count on experiencing the joy of His presence in abundance!

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!

Motherhood Would Have Them All

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I have loved reading biographies of women who have impacted history beyond the realm of ordinary living. I devour books that have been written about women such as Corrie ten Boom, Mother Teresa, Ruth Bell Graham and others who have lived in such a way that all of heaven stood to their feet in a resounding roar of affirmation.

In one of the many volumes of literary treasures that have been written about women, I happened across a quote that had been inscribed on the gravestone of a woman who had been a missionary to Korea. These words, written decades ago on her well-worn tombstone, so moved me when I was in the years of diapers, of peanut butter and jelly crusts and of loads of laundry stacked as high as Mount Everest, that they changed my perspective on who I was as a woman and on what God had called me specifically to accomplish with my ordinary life.

This woman who had given every day of her adult life to preaching the Gospel to the people of Korea had this written on her tombstone:

“If I had a thousand lives to give, Korea would have them all.”

This singular and anonymous woman had more dreams and visions for Korea than one lifetime could accomplish.

I don’t know her name or even when she lived historically but her words and her heart move me deeply. For this extraordinary woman, Korea would have her first life and her thousandth. Her life was poured out for others even though her name has been ignored. This woman of matchless focus and uncommon calling had no regrets ... she only wished that she could do it again ... and again ... and again! She achingly desired to serve the people of Korea and the Christ of Calvary for the value and the impact that one thousand lives would have.

My heart lies in puddles as I contemplate who she was and how deeply she loved.

I feel the same way about motherhood and I hope that by the closing page of this devotional that you will feel the same way, too. Perhaps the inscription on my tombstone ... and on yours ... someday will read, “If I had a thousand lives to give, motherhood would have them all.”

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When you understand the deep purpose of motherhood, the joy will come rushing in. If you think that you are merely a babysitter, a maid or a laundress, there will be no joy. But if you know that you are changing the course of history for the Kingdom of God, you will experience the lavish joy of motherhood in gargantuan proportions!

Joy always follows knowing one’s purpose. You are a woman of eternal purpose, mom!

History would not be complete without the lives of the little ones whose diapers you are changing today.

There would be a vacuum in the course of humanity without the talents of the children who are finger painting at your kitchen table today.

You are raising the Daniels, the Esthers and the Peters of the next generation so do it with joy!

The greatest work you will ever accomplish will be within the walls of your own home.

The most expansive work you will ever complete will be among the ordinary people who you know the best and love the most.

There is no doctoral degree in mothering but if you can stay the course ... you deserve that advanced degree with the highest of honors!

There is no Olympic event for living through two-year-old tantrums, but if you can keep your sanity during those days, in my book you get a gold medal, flowers and a pedestal! You also deserve the national anthem being played in your honor!

There is no lifetime achievement award given to women who raise healthy children but believe me, my friend, God notices your labor of love and is giving you a standing ovation!

All of heaven is roaring in approval of your uncommon life, mom.

For every long night He gives His strength to weary mothers.

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For every early morning, He delivers His faithfulness to doubting mothers.

Every tear you have shed is precious to Him and He saves each tear in heaven. Your tears are His trophies.

Every prayer you pray has been heard, sweet mama. He has inclined His very ear over the gates of heaven and has given you His undivided attention.

Every desire you have whispered is not forgotten. Your desires are of utmost importance to Him. He longs to hear you express your heartfelt desires at His feet.

Every song you choose to sing is a glorious anthem to heaven’s ears! God smiles when you sing!

God is well able to give you the grace that you need for an ordinary, uneventful day of mothering. He loves your children so much more than you ever could and He has chosen to partner with you in developing their character, their temperament and their discipline.

Your greatest accomplishment in life may have nothing to do with your college degree, your income level or the awards that you garner but your greatest accomplishment in life will be someone that you have raised.

You have been chosen to raise the children under your watch. I challenge you to do it with grace, with strength, with joy and with honor!

You are enough, dear mother. You are more than enough.