Friday, September 25, 2009

Trivial Pursuit

T he game of life is a trivial pursuit without Jesus at the center of it.
H e will lead you through each twister and turn, His
E xample as your guide. Yes, the

G ame of life is a scrabbled maze without Jesus as your solitairy gaze. It is
A s you focus on Him that your path becomes straight and your
M ind finally unboggles from the aggravation and struggles.
E veryone should know that the game

O f life is a risky operation without Jesus Christ as his
F irm foundation. Otherwise, he’s no clue what trouble he’s gotten himself into.

L isten…the game of life is a sorry one
I ndeed without Jesus in the lead.
F orget your own strategy, it will leave you feeling
E mpty. That would be a tragedy.

So let's give up the trivial pursuit.

”You're blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by God.
You're blessed when you follow His directions, doing your best to find Him.
That's right—you don't go off on your own;
you walk straight along the road He set.

How can a young person live a clean life?
By carefully reading the map of Your Word.
I'm single-minded in pursuit of You;
don't let me miss the road signs You've posted.
I've banked Your promises in the vault of my heart
so I won't sin myself bankrupt.
Be blessed, God;
train me in Your ways of wise living.”
Psalm 119, 1-3 & 9-12, The MSG

Monday, September 21, 2009

My First Official Speaking Engagement...

I can't remember a time in my life that was dull. God has ALWAYS called me out of my comfort zone in some way, shape or form, and this call to speak for the Mom2mom ladies of Stonebriar Community Church was no exception.

It's crazy how God works. He introduced a Mom named Dana Bailey to me through Facebook & the blogging world who has been extremely faithful with the calling God gave her. Not only does she have ten children and a Godly marriage, but she also leads this dynamic, growing ministry at Stonebriar. She HAD to be listening to the Lord's voice to take a chance on this newbie to speak, and I'm so glad she did. And on a side note, if you're a mom who wants to be involved with raising your kids for God's glory (or anything marriage & family-related), put her blog on your list to read regularly. It's called A Little This, A Little That.You will be blessed. And just so you know, God gives bonuses too, because I have a new friend. We've had a few 3 hour lunches, and we text & pray for one another regularly now. Isn't God amazing?

Back to the main theme. My ministry prayer team prayed for almost a month for me about this event, and many other friends were praying as well, that I would have courage, humility and wisdom to teach on an intro lesson to the Fruit of the Spirit. Margie, one of my prayer team members (and a dear friend), even showed up to pray with me before & during the time I would teach. Another bonus from the Lord.

I cannot speak for the ladies gathering there, but as for me, God did powerful things. He truly was faithful (isn't He always?), and He did in and through me exactly what He said He would. Some years ago, I would've made this experience all about my performance, but because of the transformation He has been busy doing in me, He led me to pray that I wouldn't. And I didn't.

That, my friends, is a miracle.

Also, He gave me proof that if I will ask for Him to get "me" out of the way, He will. And He did.

I love Him.

If God was as busy in the hearts and minds of all the other women in the room as He was in mine on Friday, then a whole lotta lotta transformation was in process. But of course! He's God. That's what He does.

Praise be to my Lord & Savior Jesus Christ, who always keeps His Word. Thank You, Jesus, for reminding me that each and every time You call me to ANY task, You are faithful, and You will do it. All honor and glory to You, and You alone.


Has God called YOU to something that you need to depend on Him to do for you?
What has the Lord been faithful to do for you in the past that you couldn't have possibly done on your own?
What holds you back from trusting Him completely with the tasks He's given you?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Patch from My Past

Last week, I shared part of my mother's miraculous story with you. The Lord has been prompting me for almost a year to write my part of the story, or at least a brief version of it.

I've chosen to post it first at the Internet Cafe. I hope you'll join me there today, and see what lies behind these glasses:

Friday, September 11, 2009

Remember Glory...Again

Her name was Gloria, and she was like no other. As a youth, she was a red-haired, freckled firecracker, those who knew her would say—gorgeous, a total knockout and full of life. Not long after marriage and having her first baby, her whole life was turned tragically upside down because of a missed stoplight. As she drove to pick up some milk from the store, a semi-truck flattened her car, and it is said, that since she wasn’t wearing her seatbelt, she flew into the backseat as a result of the impact. She sustained terrible head and upper body injuries, and her legs were pinned under the driver’s seat. She was pronounced dead at the scene. Unbelievably so, she was revived and rushed to a nearby emergency room in the St. Louis area. After seeing the damage to her brain and internal organs, many predictions were made of her situation---she would not make it through the trauma, and if she did, she would be in a vegetative state, or at the very least severely handicapped with very little use of her legs or arms. So much for predictions.

After being in a coma for three months and in the ICU for months after that--with excruciating determination, intense physical therapy and tremendous prayer and support from family and friends—she re-learned how to crawl and talk, cope and walk. After a few years, she even had a second child—“A Miracle Baby,” the newspaper would call her.

If the story ended there for Gloria, one could read it with a cheerful and inspirational feeling in the heart, but it did not---not by far. Every day was a struggle for her. She fought to the very core of her being to do the things that most of us take for granted. Her voice box had extensive damage, which gave her a low, loud raspy voice that sometimes scared little children and made strangers stare her way. One of her arms was permanently bent, as well as her spine. This crippled her as she walked, and the damage to her legs would make her unsteady on her feet for the rest of her life. She had brain damage, which affected her mental state and her emotional maturity.

Her husband struggled to know and love her in this new way, and alcohol became the crutch that he used for his own handicaps. Drinking exaggerated the demons that already existed inside of him, and he began to abuse Gloria physically and emotionally, as if she wasn’t damaged enough already. After years of living in this oppression, along with some new realizations of the same abuses toward her daughters, she filed for divorce. Now the financial support was gone, too, and she would have to learn to function as a single mother.

As Gloria tried to raise two young children on disability and public aid, her mom, her sisters and her local church helped her to do what was physically needed to get her daughters through school and life in as normal fashion as possible. Even with the extra support, she was plagued with severe headaches, physical pain and emotional insecurity each and every day. She coped as best she could, though, and the same tenaciousness and ornery spirit from her youth remained alive in her to keep her going in spite of it all.

Hating to ask for help or charity motivated her to be as independent and “normal” as possible. She would drive her kids to school and extra curricular activities most days (yes, she passed her driving test) and made pot roasts and sheet cakes for her kids and others when they came for a visit. Many times, she would exercise on a stationery bike just to keep in shape and to keep her muscles as strong as possible.

In the small town that she lived, many people enjoyed her sense of humor and her dramatic perspective on life. What made her so interesting was that she lived in the middle of being an adult and being a kid. She could communicate like a grown-up (learned behavior), but she thought and looked at situations more like a nine- or ten-year old would. While this made her fascinating to some, it made her life that much more of a challenge personally. After her car wreck, she lost the ability to cry. She could sob emotionally, but she could not produce actual tears. Imagine being a ten-year-old female, or any aged female for that matter, and not being able to cry. Her mental stability didn’t have a chance!

She spent the rest of her adult years being in and out of the hospital with various illnesses, surviving a series of car accidents, weaving in and out of delusional and paranoid behavior and coping with an empty house when her daughters went off to college. Numerous medications were part of her daily swallowing regimen, each one fixing a different symptom or problem diagnosed by one of her several doctors. Her choice was to live alone and “take care of herself,” and the consequences were incredible loneliness and fear wrapped up with the satisfaction of making it on her own.

Her sister Carolyn, her Pastor Steve, and her other sisters and church friends helped make her strong preferences a reality by sacrificially taking care of her needs, while allowing her to maintain her dignity as much as possible. Though her daughters tried to persuade her to live with either of them, she felt comfortable with her life the way it was—no one ever totally understood this about her, but most suspected it was that same strong will and determination that got her through her hardships combined with the security from living life in the routine she had always known.

On September 11th, 2006, Gloria finally lost her fight to keep living after a month of struggling to recover from a colostomy in the ICU. The list of lessons one could learn from her life is long. It is for me.
~She was my mother, and I was her miracle baby.~
I know the story between the lines of circumstances, and that is what I hold on to in the pockets of my memory. As a child, I saw her as abnormal and somewhat embarrassing. As a young adult, I saw her as an obligation and a nuisance sometimes. Now as her daughter looking back on her life after it is gone----well, I have a whole other perspective.

Somehow the memories of her crinkled up forehead while whining about her pain and discomfort are replaced with the memory of seeing her on her knees praying by her bed at night. The distasteful impression in my senses of her smoking cigarette after cigarette is butted out by the incredible admiration I have for her deciding to quit one day and never smoking again. The recollection of all the embarrassing comments she made along with the neediness that would drain me dry at times are secondary to the example of her sitting at the table reading the wrinkled, coffee-stained pages of her Bible. When I’m tempted to focus on the picture of her fits of paranoia, the Lord is faithful to remind me of the verses of Scripture she quoted during the last days of her life in the ICU. These are just some of the contrasts that have helped me to alter my thoughts and behaviors when my own life story is not so picturesque, and I am changed for the better because of it.

I’ve often wished I could ask God face to face why He allowed my mom to suffer so long, so hard and so deeply, but I know that my futile mind wouldn’t understand even if He told me. I’m thankful for this nugget from 1st Corinthians 1: 27-29 to remind me of what made her life valuable to all who knew her:

“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise.
He chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.
God chose the things of this world that are common and looked down on.
He chose what is not considered to be important to do away with
what is considered to be important. So no one can brag to God.”

Here are some of the important lessons I learned from reflecting from 36 years of life with her:
  • I learned that each day is a gift, and I should not take it for granted.
  • I learned that a childlike sense of humor is useful as a grown-up.
  • I learned that laughter truly is good medicine.
  • I learned that I shouldn’t EVER judge a book by its cover.
  • I learned that opening & reading my Bible is as necessary as breathing in and out.
  • I learned that true strength comes from God, and it is magnified when I’m weak.
  • I learned that having a close friendship with my sister is a priceless treasure.
  • I learned that I am blessed to have a Godly husband who leads and provides for his family.
  • I learned that the church and the people in it are the hands and feet of Jesus.
  • I learned that the “wrecks” in life are inevitable, & I should not give up when they come.
  • I learned that my aches and pains are never as bad as they could be.
  • I learned that good discussions can happen over a good cup of coffee.
  • I learned that the best way to tell others about Jesus is just to do it.
  • I learned that I can overcome my strongholds if I fight them with Christ’s strength.
Some people say that everything they ever needed to know in life they learned in Kindergarten; however, I know a good number of people who would say that everything important they ever needed to know in life, they learned from the life of Gloria,
My mom—God-strong

now dancing before the Lord in Glory with her new legs on…Amen.

Mom (far right) had lots of support from her family after her wreck. Her mom (not pictured) and five sisters (two pictured here, Carolyn & Kathy) who spent a great deal of their time helping Mom in various ways. My big sister and I are the two toeheads front row left.

Despite how rough things could be, mom, sis and I would have fun now and then and put on a good show for the rest of the family. Mom had a VERY hilarious side to her and could make even the most stiff person laugh.

My mother never looked more beautiful than she did on my wedding day, and my sister and I chose to bury her in this dress in remembrance.

Mom was so happy when I came home to IL for my 5-year class reunion. Her greatest deterioration in health began after my sister and I left home.

I can't remember what year this was taken, but she had begun to fall a lot more consistently, and the fall here had led her to a wheelchair for a time. And boy, did she HATE it! We had her in Texas and took her to a rodeo and state fair with us, and it was a VERY bumpy ride for her. (She liked the fresh-squeezed lemonade and the funnel cakes, I remember well, however.)

This picture was taken in May of 2002. It is obvious how much she enjoyed my least when she felt well.

I'll never forget my mom's first visit to see me AFTER she had quit smoking cold turkey. I used to only have visions of her on my patio smoking. After that, she liked to sit out on the patio and watch the kids play in the backyard. I'm so glad I have a picture to remind me of her victory in quitting smoking.

And once again, I'm so very thankful for this picture my sister and I took with mom. It was our last trip together to see her in Illinois before our next visit there to her in the hospital. I can attest to the fact that sis and I are so glad we have that memory with her, and in our childhood home as well.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Big Fat Honkin' Truck on a One Lane Road

Right in the middle of busy Suburbia is a one-lane road (each way) that helps people get from East to West more quickly than the typical stoplight-filled streets. It will usually cut my driving time by almost half, so it has become my choice route when I need to go that way. There’s a drawback, though. Many new homes and businesses are being built along this soon-not-to-be-country road, so that means lots of big, SLLOOOOOOW construction trucks. If I get stuck behind one of these, not only have I lost my “saved” time, but I actually go into debt! Not to mention, my patience flies right out the window with the time, which is where the title of this devotional came from, adjectives barely eeking through the gritted teeth of my firm-frowned mouth.

Phew! Deep breath.

It’s also true that we as Christians are on a narrow road in this life, and It is quite the adventure a good majority of the time--bends, bumps and all. Every now and then, though, a spiritual “big, fat honkin’ truck” gets in front of us, slowing us WAY down and obstructing the view along the way (not to mention our patience sometimes ☺).

Let’s take a moment lately to think about the things that slow us down on our faith journey? What sins have us on a detour? Has suffering pulled us off to the side? Do questions or doubts have us veering to the right and then the left, trying to find the right way? Has wordly pleasure taken us “downtown”?

If the answer is “yes” to any of these questions, then let’s allow the Word of God to be a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path through the power of the Holy Spirit:

“Whether you turn to the right or the left,
your ears will hear a voice behind you saying,
'This is the way; walk in it.’”
Isaiah 30:21
He will show us the way as we are listening to Him...
“Thomas said to Him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where You are going,
so how can we know the way?’
Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.’”
John 14:5-6
He will be our way as we trust in Him...
“For He will command His angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;”
Psalm 91:11
He will protect us along the way as we follow Him...
“Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles,
and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith,
who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame,
and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men,
so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Hebrews 12:1-3
He will help us run with perseverance as we fix our eyes on Him...
“This is what the Lord says:
‘Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
Ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls.’”
Jeremiah 6:16a
He will give us rest along the way as we ask direction from Him...
“Teach me Your way, O LORD, and I will walk in Your truth;
Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear Your name.
Psalm 86:11
He will teach us along the way as we are fully devoted to Him...
No matter what gets in front of us, friends, with patience, we can endure and enjoy this life! SO~~

May God give you more and more grace and peace as you grow in your knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord. By His divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a Godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know Him, the One who called us to Himself by means of His marvelous glory and excellence. And because of His glory and excellence, He has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share His divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.
2nd Peter 1:2-4

Please come back to visit on Friday, September 11th.
I'll have a very special tribute posted that day...

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Freedom In A Cup

My kids loved the movie Open Season. One of their favorite lines from the movie is when Elliot drinks some coffee that he found in the dumpster and says, “(sip) ew. (sip) Ew. (sip) EW! (flying off the handle with the jolt of caffeine) It’s terrible and wonderful at the same time! It’s freedom in a cup!!!”

Now, being the coffee connoisseur I am, that line has stuck with me. It also could be that all three of my kids have taken turns quoting this line in character, oh, let’s say a hundred times or so, but whatever the case, it’s an interesting line….

Although with no comedic tone, I say something similar in my mind almost every time I read the following verse in each of the gospel accounts:

“He went away a second time and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is not
possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it,
may Your will be done.’”
Matthew 26:42

Ew. Talk about being terrible and wonderful at the same time.
Terrible for Jesus, wonderful for us.
Terrible that He knew how painful it would be to die on the cross.
Wonderful that He did the will of the Father anyway.
The cup of obedience to death meant freedom to live for us.
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
John 8:36

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.
Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened
again by a yoke of slavery.”
Galatians 5:1

What should we do with this freedom then? LIVE like we’ve been freed, that’s what! Before we were slaves to sin, now we’re not if we are saved ones. It says so in 1 Corinthians 10:13: “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

See? Even when we’re tempted by sin, we’ve been given the power and the freedom to escape it. Can I hear an Amen? Raise the roof!

What cup has He given you to drink right now?
Are you willing to submit your will to His will?
Can you find the wonderful in the midst of the "ews" of your circumstances?

Remember His cup and ponder your own each time you sip your terrible but wonderful at the same time java (or tea) each morning. It’s so easy to keep the knowledge of our Savior’s sacrifice tucked away in the corner of our minds, but if we reflect on it day after day, it will surely soak in and change us from the inside out as a result. As we receive pleasure according to His will, let's thank Him. As we endure pain according to His will, let's follow Christ’s example.

Let’s live, breathe and obey in freedom as FREED ones, friends. It’s the only thing better than a coffee buzz.

“For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead,
He cannot die again;
death no longer has mastery over Him.
The death He died, He died to sin once for all;
but the life He lives, He lives to God.
In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin
but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
Romans 6:9-11