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.

Observation Point Ahead

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I finally took down my 2017 calendar yesterday and put up my 2018 calendar.

Finally... it is nearly the end of January. What took me so long?

Actually, there are two reasons.  One reason is factual … the other is emotional.  Are you ready for my defense?

 

First, let me give you the facts.  Only the facts…

I was out of town for most of December and stayed out of town until the middle of January.  When I left my home on December 9, I had not even begun to think about the New Year!  I left my home entirely decorated for Christmas and was focused on gift-giving, on holiday menus and on seeing my precious grandchildren. 

Who can blame a girl for that?!

Then, on my 2-day journey home in mid-January, I realized that I had forgotten to even buy my new calendars for 2018.  I was concerned that all the ones I would have likely chosen were probably sold out.

You see … calendars matter to me.

Calendars matter to me very much.  But I will get to that later –

So, in mid-January of this brand new year, I sat down at my computer to order two untouched yet beautiful calendars.  One calendar will hang on my office wall and the other will grace my pantry door in the kitchen.

This is important stuff … so listen on …

I know many folks who are satisfied to only use a calendar on their phones, their pads or on their computers.  Who are these folks, anyway?!

Who would dare exchange the artwork of an exquisite calendar for the boring black and white of technology?

Not me!

I can’t do it.  I can’t convince myself to create a Google calendar.  Efficiency over beauty will never get my vote.

When the calendars that I had ordered finally arrived in mid-January, it still took me a day or two to make the great exchange.

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This year for last year … 2018 instead of 2017 … New for old.

Opportunity instead of mistakes … promise instead of regrets … blessings rather than failures.

You see, the second and primary reason why it was difficult for me to finally change my calendars is because of the emotional process that I go through as I take a fulfilled calendar off its familiar nail and fold it up.

As I hold the dear, yet completed, calendar in my hands, I always ask myself, “Did you do it, Carol?  Did you embrace each day of the last year with gusto and with enthusiasm?”

“Did you wring the joy out of every ordinary day? Did you listen for the Father’s voice in January … In March … and in August?”

“Did you forgive someone in February … in April … and in October?”

“Did you make a new friend in May … and in November?”

“Did you worship rather than whine in June and in July?

“Carol … did you celebrate in March as joyfully as you did in December?”

“Carol … did you live well every calendar day of 2017? Did you do it?”

I am not a person known for living in the land of regrets but I often do a much-needed self-examination as my precious and exhausted calendar is put away at the beginning of a new year.

I just want to make sure that I deeply treasure the life that I have been given.

I desire to fully engage in the rainy days … in the snow days … and in the days of unsurpassed beauty.

I long to discover beauty even in the midst of deep pain.

I don’t want to waste one minute of life that the Father has sweetly bestowed to me.

I am all in … for 365 days a year … for 12 calendar months … for 52 weeks … for 8,760 hours … for 525,600 minutes … for 31, 536,000 seconds.

I am all in, Lord.

And then, as my annual tradition continues, I gently place the used calendar into its bin with all of my other calendars for the past 20-or so years, my heart looks ahead to the sunrise of a new year.

Have you ever been on a road trip just innocently driving among semi-trucks, beside vans filled with families and rapidly passing Cadillacs commandeered by slowly moving grandmothers? It is when you are mired in the mundane of automobile travel that you might come upon a sign that declares, “Observation Point Ahead”? 

You know me by now … when an observation point is pre-announced … I am that driver who inevitably will make plans to stop and gaze at the wonder of God’s creation!

It’s well worth the 5-10 minutes that it puts me behind in my travels.

When I place a new calendar upon the wall of my home, I must admit that it stirs up much of the same emotion as does that road sign that warns “Observation Point Ahead”.

When I stand at the observation point of pondering a beautiful and glorious new year, it literally takes my breath away.

I am in awe that the Father has entrusted me with 365 brand new days.  What?!  I get to live in the magnificence of 2018?

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“You have given me another year, Father?!  What is Your plan for my life during the next 12 months?”

And so, rather than fill the empty pages up with my plans and with my selfish preferences, I intend to give Him full control of the pen of my heart.

“Father, would You give me divine appointments in 2018?”

“Heavenly Dad, Who would you like me to love this year?  Who would You desire that I forgive with compassion and that I am appointed to serve with kindness?”

“Jesus, who have I been designed to pray for this year?

And so, from this observation point of life, let me just declare for the world to hear that this New Year of 2018, belongs to Him alone

My sole job this year is to partner with Him in building a life that pleases heaven.

My unbelievable assignment is to laugh more than I complain … to worship more than I whine … and to dance more than I plod.

My heaven-created destiny is to forgive beyond measure … to give without reserve … and to love with reckless abandon.

And I can’t wait for the journey! I am expecting with grand anticipation all of the unmatched adventure of life that will be lived during this year of 2018. 

Will you join me in giving these days to the Father?

Will you join me in wringing the joy of out an ordinary day?

Will you join me as we craft a life at which heaven stands to its feet and applauds?

Will 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!

Dream Big Dreams

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It has been said that, “Little girls with dreams become women with vision.” I like to believe that’s true, don’t you?

Can I be honest with you today?  I don’t really like talking about New Year’s resolutions but I do love to talk about dreams, goals and personal vision. 

You see … what I believe is that it’s not just the month of January that is a good time of year to reinvent yourself … to look ahead with anticipation … or to decide that there is a thing or two about yourself that you would like to change.

That particular activity should be on the agenda of one’s life often.  Very often.

As a matter of fact, I wonder if every day we should ask ourselves, “Who do I want to be today?”

Or perhaps, “What do I want to accomplish today?”

Or even, “Is there anything that needs my attention today?”

So, rather than only setting new goals during this pioneer month of the year, perhaps what we should do is to take our “planning pulse” more often than merely one time every 365 days.

I’d like to submit to you that every day is a great day to dream with God!

“I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 3:13 & 14

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Did you know that I write this blog every week with you in mind?

I like to imagine that this weekly time together is not just a conglomeration of words, written at my messy desk and thrown aimlessly into the vacuum of Internet reading material.

What I like to suppose is that you and I are having a cup of coffee together at one of our favorite places.  I imagine that it is a time that we have set aside for one another, to listen to each other’s hearts and to spend some time talking about the truly important things in life.

What could be more important to talk about than our heartfelt dreams?  What could be more crucial than taking the time to share our plans that will enable us to embrace life with gusto?

Most of my friends know that when they spend time with me, I am going to be throwing questions at them right and left!  When we plan a lunch date, it is often known as “The Grand Inquisition”.

I love digging deeply into the soul of those whom I love and discovering the as yet untapped treasure in their extraordinary hearts.

So, my friend, get ready for an interview! If I had another life to live, I would choose to be Diane Sawyer so that I could ask all of the looming questions that gather in my brain and actually get paid to do it! What fun, indeed!

First of all, when you were just a child, what was the one thing that you wanted to do or to be more than anything else?

Where did that dream go?  Is it buried under a mountain of disappointment?  Have you allowed it to be lost in a fog of regret?

Go and find that dream!  Resurrect it!  Become it!  Live it!

It’s not too late … it’s never too late to go back to school … to begin again … to breathe deeply and to change.

Are you ready for interview question number two?  Here we go …

What is your last thought at night and your first thought in the morning?  What is the one thing that you just can’t escape but that comes back to haunt you day after day … week after week … year after year?

Perhaps you were made for this very thing.  Perhaps the fact that you can’t escape it means that God is talking to you.  Perhaps …

“ ‘For I know the plans that I have for you’, declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’ “ – Jeremiah 29:11

And finally, let me ask you one more question and then I will stop badgering you today.

What is the one thing that you just love to do the most?

Do you love to sew?  Or read?  Or take pictures?

Do you love hanging out with small children?  Or with the elderly?

Do you enjoy writing notes to people?  Do you enjoy jogging?  Or traveling?

Can I just submit to you today that perhaps what you love to do the very most is actually what you were created to do!

Honestly, my friend, when I am sitting at my computer and writing I could just giggle because I am so very happy!  God created me to be a writer!

I love words … I love reading other people’s books … and crafting my own books.

I love communicating the truth in the Word of God to anyone who will listen!

It fills my soul to encourage someone who lives in the Philippines … or in Colorado … or in Great Britain!

Perhaps I was made for this …

“Who knows whether you have been born for such a time as this?” – Esther 4:14

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Today is your day to dream with the Father!  Today is the most important day of your future life so open your journal … reach for your Bible … and ask God to speak to you.  You can begin by asking yourself my three thoughtful questions:

When you were just a child, what was the one thing that you wanted to do or be more than anything else?

What is your last thought at night and your first thought in the morning?

What do you love to do the very most?

I am praying that you will become all that God has created for you to be in 2018! I am praying that you will dream again … that you will hope again … and that you will look to the future with grand anticipation of all that God can do with your ordinary yet extraordinary 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!