For your weekend…

I’ve been up since a little after 3 this morning.  Out of the blue—I just woke up and I wasn’t able to go back to sleep—despite the melatonin and the time of desperately willing myself to do so…hmmm, there might just be a connection to all the jumbled thoughts running through my brain…well, that and another crazy earworm.

(Yep, Frank Sinatra’s “Fly me to the moon” has been playing on center stage for a couple of hours now and, well, at least it beats Adele’s version of the theme from James Bond’s “Skyfall” that’s been there since earlier in the week.  I really need to be more careful about what movies I watch while on the treadmill!)

I always wonder what these middle of the sleeping time wakefulness times are all about.  Usually, they’re a sign that I need to pray for someone or that I forgot to write something down on the eternal (infernal?!) to-do list.  I’ve learned to lie still for awhile and just listen in case God’s telling me something important, as well.  When all of that fails, I get up and check email, play Spider Solitaire or write whatever comes into my head.  I guess you can see where this one led, right?

In any case, it brings me to the weekend challenge:  My husband and I were talking last night about how long it has been since we just did something fun.  Yes, we have some measure of fun every day, but we’re talking about taking some time to just tune out all of the things we have to do and get away and play for a bit.  We’ve been scanning our calendars and trying to arrive at a time and a destination for all this fun…and so far, it’s not just coming to us!  (grin)  We’re going to have to work a bit to make this happen.  So, where’s the challenge?

Here it is:  take some time this weekend and have a little fun.  At the very least, start planning for it!   It doesn’t have to be expensive or expansive—maybe it’s just a trip to see relatives in another state or holing up in a cabin all by yourself.  Perhaps it means picking a place you’ve never been before or returning to a place you’ve been a thousand times.  No matter what the choice, we’ve found that the planning and anticipation can be almost as much fun as the actual trip!  Just knowing that you’ve got something to look forward to can be a real stress reliever.

So, grab an atlas and your calendar and just see what you can come up with this weekend!  The earworm is optional!—or maybe not…

Grace & Peace!

Falling down the rabbit hole

Have you ever felt like that was happening to you?  Finally (!) you’ve gotten to the point where you think you’ve got a pretty good handle on what’s happening in your life.  You’ve got a plan and you’re working the plan…and then…whoops!  There you go!  Out of nowhere, there’s that big ugly “whatever-it-is” that arrives with a bang and a shout to throw you off your game.  All of a sudden, your life looks totally different than it did the day before.

Wake up, Alice, it happens to all of us.

Really.  It does.  You are not alone!  In fact, if you’ve got God in your life you are NEVER alone.

If this reads like your life today, here’s a bit of good news:

“And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:19

Did you get that?

Read it again.  And then again.  MEMORIZE this one!  It’s important!

It says that the God who is PERSONAL to you will supply all your needs!  He knows exactly what you need because He knows YOU!  The answers you need are not some generic one-size-fits-all response.  The answers you need will be given to you on a moment-by-moment evaluation of the situation and provided by the God who knows everything—by the One who knows you best and loves you most!

It says that He will supply ALL of your needs—not just some of them!  Don’t mistake that statement for a blank check that will cover everything you’ve ever wanted.  The One who knows all things certainly knows that there are many days when what we want and what we need are entirely different things!  (When He throws in what you want in addition to what you need…well now, that’s just a bonus…because He can–and He so often does!)

It says He’s going to supply all of your needs according to HIS RICHES in glory—not your riches/financial worth, not whether or not you’re in a good mood, not whether or not other people think you deserve it.  This one’s all on Him!  It’s all going to come from the Source of all blessing straight to you.

It says He’s going to supply those needs by Christ Jesus.  There is no more powerful name in all the world.  There is no more needed answer than to have Christ Jesus in your life.  There is no other name by which you may be saved (Acts 4:12)—and when you’re down that rabbit hole, you need to be saved!  Salvation is always the heart of the matter.  Don’t overlook the importance of this step!  It makes all the other ones possible!

As I read this verse, I love that Paul is talking to a bunch of people who have been facing difficult days.  He’s talking to a group of people who’ve had a bit of trouble getting along.  He’s talking to people who need to be reminded not to be anxious (Phil. 4:6).  Sounds a lot like what we face today, doesn’t it?

There’s a reason for that.  God’s word is timeless:  written by a God who never changes to a people whose only hope is in Him.  That was true then, it is true now and it will be true no matter what date in the future you find yourself facing another rabbit-hole situation.

More good news?  No matter where you land, if you’re holding on to Him and staying in His word…you’ll have exactly what you need exactly when you need it.

Sounds like we might have actually landed on a treasure!

Thinkin’ about death and life…

This past Friday was a big day for death.  I attended a funeral of a middle-aged man who passed within mere days of a terrible diagnosis.  I was unable to attend the one for the baby–that young soul born at week 25, who fought valiantly for each breath and so easily won the hearts of a family who loved him…and those who simply knew to pray for him.   Friday was the beginning of an extended weekend over which we celebrate those American soldiers who gave their lives so that we can be free.  Friday was also the fifth anniversary of the day we suddenly lost my father-in-law. Yes, Friday was a big day for death.

Friday was a big day for life, as well, for all of those who were mentioned in the first paragraph made an impact with their lives.  Those who gathered to grieve the losses and those who gathered to celebrate the lives shared much in common.  They gathered because they loved.  The length of the lives they gathered to remember was different in each and every case.  The depth of the impact they made seemed remarkably similar.  Each passing evoked a profound sense of loss.

Those losses could not have been so powerfully felt if the lives lost were not important.

They were important to family members, to friends and to communities and…they were important to God.  That’s really critical to remember during our times of grief.  God grieves with us.  He knows the depth of our losses and he knows the holes in our hearts and the ragged breaths we draw as we fight for control over something we have no hope of controlling.

He knows.

He cares.

He comforts.

He creates.

Yes, He creates–even in death.  He creates memories for us to cling to and arms to hug and comfort, smiles from those who know the loss and the pain and yet also remember the laughter and the stories of what made those souls bind so tightly to our own.  He uses life to create the legacies that live on after the breathing halts.  He creates.  He always creates.

This life is about more than who will attend our funerals and who will mourn and for what length of time they grieve.  This life is about God’s constant creation of opportunities to turn to Him for everything we will ever need.

Think about that.  No matter what day you read this, it is a big day for life.  You matter.  Your life matters.  The choices you make in this life determine more than what career path you follow or which people will miss you when you’re gone.  The biggest choice you’ll ever make is more than just about this life.  It’s about your eternal one.  Choose wisely.  No matter what your choice is, you’re creating, too…

Yes, it’s a big day for life.

“I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life…that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life…”  Deuteronomy 30:19-20

For your weekend…

Here in America it is Memorial Day Weekend.  This is the time of year when we honor those American soldiers who gave their lives so that we could be free.  It is the time of saying “THANK YOU!” for the sacrifices of lives, dreams and ambitions on the part of so many so that many more of us could have the luxury of the lives, dreams and ambitions that we do today.

We celebrate Memorial Day in a variety of ways across our country:  we have parades, memorial services, picnics and bar-b-ques, we fly our flags and we take an extra day off from our regular working schedules.  Sometimes we do all of that…and we forget to actually say–or even think–the “thank you!”  

This year, don’t forget.

Take the time to actually think about those who gave up everything so that you could have it.  It doesn’t matter if you agree with their choices or not, they’ve made it possible for you to be you. 

Make the time to express your gratitude…to God, to the families they left behind, and to those who served or are still serving. 

It’s never to late to be grateful.

Grace & Peace!

Awards Day

It’s that time of year again:  Awards Days and Graduation celebrations!  I’ve lost count of the number of photos I’ve seen in recent days filled with happy faces in caps and gowns with all of the family snugged in tight for the quintessential photo shot.  I’ve seen posts from many proud parents about the honors their child has received and I’m really glad they’re saying something about it and showing the world how proud they are of their child’s academic achievements for the year.  That’s important.

Later today I’m going by to get my mother and we’re going to head toward a local school gymnasium to attend my youngest nephew’s Awards Day ceremony.  Now, he’s a smart one and we already know he will receive several different honors.  We’re proud of him—of all three of them, actually—and I’m glad I’m near enough to participate today.

Academics are important.  Education is crucial.  It’s a good thing to celebrate how far they’ve come. Building a child’s self-esteem is both a duty and a privilege.  Every year I go to these events, however, I always wonder about the children who don’t receive the top honors or get recognized for outstanding achievement.  You know, the ones who may not be academically gifted and are squirming around in their seats because they have to go and sit through the event without hearing their names called.  How are they celebrated?  Is somebody doing that for them?

I’ve been thinking about that a lot in the past few days—especially in light of the recent destruction of those elementary schools out in Oklahoma.  My heart breaks for those who have lost so much because they’ve not only lost those children, they’ve lost all those celebrations…the big ones we look forward to like graduations and weddings…and the ones that show up unexpectedly like learning to be kind and finally understanding how to hit that ball or play that instrument.

It makes me think that we ought to celebrate a little bigger today…maybe even every day.  Perhaps we should make time in our schedules to tell the people around us that they are loved and admired and praise them for the things that we notice…but usually never say anything about.  Maybe it’s even time for us to slow down and LOOK for things to celebrate about the people around us.

So, here’s a mid-week challenge for you today:  Keep your eyes open and when you spot someone being courteous or giving great service, doing well in a presentation or taking extra care of the people around them, being consistent in their work ethic, looking good in that color or just having a great smile…TELL THEM.  Let them know they’re appreciated!  Express your thanks, your admiration or just wish them a great day with a smile in return.  Celebrate the people around you.  Celebrate the now.

It’s all we’re given and that means that every day should be an Awards Day.

Before you get in your truck and head to Oklahoma…

The tornado sirens haven’t been silent for long in Oklahoma.  The rescue workers that didn’t need rescuing are just starting a shift that will last for weeks.  The families aren’t all together yet—and many never will be.  The dust hasn’t settled and the numbers aren’t known.  Those things will take a long, long time.

Our hearts hurt to see the destruction and hear the news stories and, for many of us, our instinct is to go help…right now.  Please don’t.  Not yet.

In late April of 2011, the northern part of Mississippi and portions of Alabama were hit by multiple F-4 and F-5 tornadoes.  The devastation was monumental.  I was asked by my church leaders to head north to a church on the edge of the most damaged area and help them organize all of the volunteers and resources that were pouring into our state trying to help.  I said “yes” and headed north every day for weeks.  Here are just a few of the things I learned throughout this process:

  • Southern Baptists are a big-hearted people who don’t always listen well.  I am one, so I can say this with absolute certainty.  We are not alone in this trait–the same thing can be said of every single other faith group and civic group!–so I’m spelling out the following as clearly as I can.
  • If you are not able to COMPLETELY take care of every single detail of your own personal safety, care, provision and survival, then STAY HOME right now.  I can’t stress this one enough!  These people just lost their security, their homes and so much more than you can imagine.  The last thing they need is a massive influx of people who show up saying, “We’re here to help you!  Show us where we can sleep and when are we going to get fed?!”  Many of them are going to have to locate those services for themselves over the next few weeks.  Having the available resources actually BE available for those in the area who desperately need them is critical.
  • FEMA must go see the sites before people can get approved for financial aid after these areas have been declared as ‘disaster areas.’  Take photos as soon as possible, but DO NOT totally clear lots without documentation.  Doing so will only reduce the amount of aid available to those homeowners without insurance.
  • The people on the ground are going to be grieving, shocked and tired and they’re STILL going to know more about what they need than the truck loads of people who arrive to assist them.  Please listen carefully to what they have to say.  If you’re asked to stay out of an area, please honor that request…even if it does look like something you could do without too much trouble.  They know best.
  • Do not clean out your closets and send clothing you no longer want to wear.  There will be plenty of clothing there within the next few days.  After that, they have to take up valuable storage space to sort through things that, often times, should have been discarded before it made the long journey out west.
  • If you want to send money to assist those affected, please do so through reputable groups.  Unfortunately, these types of disasters bring out the jackels who prey on those who want to help as much as they do on those who so desperately need the assistance intended for them.
  • Please know that there is a difference between types of disaster relief.  Skills needed for flood and hurricanes are simply not the same after tornado/wind events.  Be flexible and don’t insist that you or your group can help when you’re told “please, not now” or just “no.”  Tying up limited phone lines hunting for a place to ‘take your group on a mission/rescue trip’ helps no one there at this time.  There will more opportunities later.  I promise.
  • Make contact with a local church or civic group and follow THEIR guidelines if you want to be of assistance.  They will know what resources they have, those resources they are in need of and what others have already volunteered.  THEY WILL NOT KNOW ALL OF THAT WITHIN THE NEXT 12 HOURS.  Give them a chance to breathe and then be ready to send what they ask for ASAP.
  • This isn’t going to be over for a long time.  There will still be time to help.  Those volunteers who are on the ground right now can’t stay indefinitely.  They will need to return to jobs and families and you WILL get an opportunity to help if you really want to do so.  Trust me, waiting can be more helpful than you can imagine.

I know this isn’t what some of you want to hear or read.  It doesn’t make it any less accurate.  PLEASE take these points seriously.  If you truly want to help those in need, do it in a way that actually helps them.

A holy “hush!”

When I was growing up, we weren’t allowed to tell people to “shut up” because my mother considered that phrase extremely rude.  Instead, we were told to find other–less offensive, perhaps–vocabulary words to obtain the desired result.  The word most often used was “hush”…and, trust me, the tone used as you say a word has a lot to do with it.  (“Hush!” can still sound just like “shut up!”)

I had every intention of blogging on my regular schedule last week, but it didn’t work out that way at all.  In fact, I turned on my computer three times on Monday to start a post and each time, the words that were in my head just failed to appear on screen.  I created a short draft of a couple of ideas and it still just didn’t sound anything like I wanted, so I stepped away each time determined to try again later.  It worked the same way on Tuesday morning.

By the end of the day on Tuesday, I was convinced that I was being told to “hush!”…by God.  I didn’t even try to bring my computer up again for the next few days.  Instead, I just hushed…and I listened.

Phone calls, emails, texts–all arriving through my phone–began to arrive as if orchestrated…hmmm.  Each one held a different topic and came from a different source, but the message for me was the same:  Listen.

Don’t try to solve.  Don’t try to instruct.  Don’t try to protect or trouble-shoot.  Just listen.  Offer support, but first, offer your time, your ear, your silence.  Just listen.

Here are some of the things I heard:

  • I’m not sure what to do next.
  • I’m scared.
  • I’m just so exhausted.
  • I’m hurting.
  • I’m not sure I like all these changes that are coming.
  • I’m angry.
  • I’m frustrated and I don’t know what to do about it.
  • I’m lonely.
  • I don’t understand.
  • I want to try something new.

In each case, my “fix it” personality could have come up with a workable plan…a realistic step-by-step how-to-do-this plan.  But, no.  “Hush” was my order of the day.  “Listen” became my mantra.  “Just be and let them hear from Me” was my instruction.

Honestly, I don’t know if the people I’m talking about heard from God at all last week.  I hope so.  I choose to believe that He spoke to them…He just didn’t use me to say the things I’d normally say and you know what?  They all lived.  They all survived and went on to live perfectly well without hearing or following my plan.

I’m still waiting for my instructions for this week.  I’m listening for God’s voice and typing all at the same time.  It’s coming out on the screen the way it reads in my head, so I’m sharing, but don’t be surprised if you call this week and I just listen again.  I learned a lot while I was being hushed–and it wasn’t all about what I was hearing from the ones who were doing the talking.