Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Expectation of Perfection

As you wake this morning, what is it that you are looking for? As your feet hit the floor are you wishing for a great day at work where everything seems to go your way? Is it that promotion you are deserving of? Maybe the approval of all around you? Could it be something like hoping that as you put on your coat and hop in the car no one will pull out in front of you? Maybe something as simple as the perfect cup of Starbucks coffee on your way to work? A day where the kids do everything you say and come home with a happy smile. A phone call from a friend. The words you have been waiting to hear. The email that will change your future. An easy day of chores. Maybe a quiet day where no one in the world seeks you out.

It's funny really. We wake with hopes of all kinds of things, but are they our expectations or what we think is perfection? Here we go. Are you ready? Disappointment is sure to follow when we are expecting things from others. The truth? Those things may never happen in  our life time. So then what? Do we just keep hoping for that perfect day or do we change the way we think? Do we change the way we approach our day?

There isn't a whole lot we have control over, especially when it comes to others. But take a good look at yourself. (Me included) Do you meet the expectations of others? Are we always on time and always there for others? Have we let others down? We fill our minds with what perfection is and what we expect of others, but we rarely think about the expectations that others have of us.

When I was teaching Junior High in Awana it was one of the greatest teaching tools in my own life. I think at times these kids taught me more in one hour than I could ever teach them in a lifetime. On our first night I always shared my expectations of the class, but I never stopped there. I shared what they could and could not do in class and what I hoped to achieve, but I looked to them and asked, "What is it you all expect from me, as your teacher?" I think that threw them for a loop, because most of the time all they hear is the expectations others have for them, but no one really asks what they have hopes for. Simply put..we cannot expect from others what we ourselves are not willing to give.

So, with that said, we are all, and I mean ALL, going to fall short. We cannot expect perfection in an imperfect world. People are people and most are self seeking. If we are not seeking Christ we are seeking self. Just in that there is a lot to ponder about our walk here on earth. Too often we think about what we expect to happen to bring us a happy day, but we never seem to spend enough time pondering just what we can do to make others smile.

We end our day thinking it to be a failure if all was not perfect. Friends, we are a work in progress. Yes, today could be our very last, so take each moment and live it! Breathe in life and exhale God's boundless love. Stop and think about others. We each have a story. One that goes untold to most ears. We hold back so much of who we are. So we are left to try to figure others out. Oh my, we cannot figure people out no matter how hard we try. This is where grace is so important. Grace is an extension of Jesus.

We expect to hear, "I love you", from our husband. We expect our children to obey our every rule. We demand the attention of others. We search our whole lives for the approval of those around us. We look for perfect teachers, a perfect government, a perfect road to success. We take our day and end it with a good or bad. Friends, there is no joy in living this way. We must be able to let it all go. We must let the expectation of perfection die. With in that we surrender our lives to Christ and in that surrender we find a joy that surpasses all expectations.

It has taken me a journey with Christ to understand joy. I'm still learning. It's not my circumstance that decides the joy my heart contains. It's my Savior. Things in my life have not always turned out as hoped. What if I just stopped right there and died to any kind of joy? Life wouldn't be worth living. Sure, I'd be living, but what kind of life is it if we determine our amount of joy on the expectations of others? Why wait on others to find a pureness and a life of peace? Real peace is being able to trust the Lord in the times we don't understand and believe me, there have been plenty.

Times have been hard. Life happens no matter if we want to be a part of it or not. I mean, the sun is going to rise whether I get out of bed or not. The rainbow is going to appear even in the midst of my madness. The rose still blooms amidst my tears. So, why not be part of this precious gift of life that Christ has given? He died so that I could find true life. That isn't a life determined by others, but a life that He has set before me. I think our idea of perfection is a little distorted. God has brought forth beauty from times in my life that I thought had no hope. Friends, there is always hope. As long as your heart is beating, don't waste a minute of what has been given to you as a wondrous gift.

So what, the dude pulls out in front of you. He's in a rush to get no where fast. Let him go. Let him be and sing your song of joy. So the boss is screaming down your neck. Just maybe the guy has more going on that you can imagine. Give him grace. As he is screaming words pray for his soul. Pray he too can find joy in the craziness of this world. You haven't heard your parents say they are proud of you. Look to Jesus. Measure your life to His Word and His will for your life. Sometimes people just simply can't communicate what they feel. We must stop expecting others to be perfect so we can have ourselves a perfect day.

Bottom line? Give people room to make mistakes. God can take those mistakes and create wonders beyond our comprehension. Give yourself room to make mistakes. Strive for a God centered life. Give all to Him. Live in His standards. When we fall He will be there. He will guide our steps. Pay more attention to the perfection of Christ and all He can accomplish in our obedience than in the imperfections of others and all we expect them to do for us. We can find joy in the midst of the mess. Choose to see and you will see much more than this world has to offer.

"For everyone has sinned; we fall short of God's glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when He freed us from the penalty for our sins." Romans 3:23-24

"Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again-rejoice!" Philippians 4:4

"But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!" Galatians 5:22-23

He Loves Me More

I have a Jesus who rights my wrongs and covers every mess with an undeserving grace. "Oh, Jesus, my hands are undeserving to raise in glory to You, but yet You take me as I am. You fill me with all of You. You love me anyway." 

Am I perfect? Not by any means at all, but what I am is a perfect mess made in the image of Christ and through Him, only through Him, is there a perfectness in me that exists because He created me for greatness, for a purpose, and to bring Him glory and honor. So, if all that's true, there is NOTHING that can hold me back. Living in self I am limited to what I can do, but with Jesus, only through Him there are no limits at all. Only possibilities!!

Are you hearing voices of doubt and shame today? Remember this: Satan has no jurisdiction over you!  Jesus doesn't use shame to bring us to Him. He uses loving conviction. Satan uses shame and condemnation. Be careful to what voices you allow your heart to hear today. 

"You're nothing to me."
"You're useless!"
"What is wrong with you? You can't do anything right." 
"You're not good enough."
"You're not pretty."
"You will never amount to anything."

These are ALL lies of Satan and he will use whatever means to make you feel small and insignificant! Stop him in his tracks and look to Jesus for who you are! 

"You are EVERYTHING to Me."
"I created YOU for a purpose."
"In Me ALL things are possible."
"You were created in My image.You are beauty."
"You are loved beyond all measure."
"You are a gift to Me and you, my child, are equipped with everything you need."

"Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you." James 4:7-8

"God's power is very great for us who believe. That power is the same as the great strength God used to raise Christ from the dead." Ephesians 1:19-20 

"I can do ALL things through Christ, because He gives me strength." Philippians 4:13

"The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs-heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ." Romans 8:16-17

Today we have a choice. We can either listen to what the devil and this world tell us about ourselves or we can listen to the Father, our Creator, who knows us inside and out. We are NOT who others tell us we are. Friends, we are children of the King of kings, Lord of lords. I am a child of King!! That makes ALL the difference in the world. There is NOTHING for me to fear. There is NO condemnation and judgement of this world that is bigger than God's grace. I am forgiven and I am loved beyond measure. Jesus is my Defender! That should excite us. That should give us all we need to begin a new day. It doesn't mean challenges will not come. But if we focus on Jesus those challenges don't look so big when our God is always so mighty! 

Let the whispers go. Ignore the name calling. We are living in a time of war. A spiritual war and let me tell you, Satan is roaming. He is on the prowl. He wants nothing more than to destroy you. Being a believer doesn't mean he cannot and will not attack. He will in every way he possibly can. But being a believer means that Satan has no power over you any longer!! You shout, you whisper, you speak the mighty name of Jesus and He is present. He will fight your battle. He will strengthen you. He will fill you with unlimited power to live each day as a child of the King!

When you look in the mirror today know that you are beautiful. You are loved. You are special. Friend, don't give up today. Give God room to move on your behalf. Trust Him. Cast your cares upon Him and know that goes before you, He walks beside you, and He has His hand upon you. Don't allow this world to steal away the glory that lives inside of you. Within you is the Holy Spirit with the strength to move mountains! 

"Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable-if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise-dwell on these things." Philippians 4:8-9

"We have redemption in Him through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure that He planned in Him for the administration of the days of fulfillment-to bring everything together in the Messiah, both things in heaven and on earth in Him. We have also received an inheritance in Him, predestined according to the purpose of the One who works out everything in agreement with the decision of His will, so that we who had already put our hope in the Messiah might bring praise to His glory." Ephesians 1:7-13

Don't allow this world to determine who you are. Look to Jesus and He will show you nothing but greatness!! 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Glory Days by Max Lucado

Max Lucado is a favorite of mine. He has been a great teacher for this Jesus girl. All of his books are keepers, but this one just may be my fave of all time. My copy is highlighted on every page. I absorbed these words and dug deep into the Word as I visited Joshua once again. Thank you, Max Lucado for encouraging me to travel back with Joshua to learn new lessons and to embrace living a 'glory days' kind of life right now!! 

As I turned the pages I found my heart beating a little faster as I was newly excited. These black and white words were leaping off the page and brilliantly filling my heart with something that had been missing. Where had that kind of excitement gone? I found myself saying, "Yes, Max, you go!! I have everything in Jesus, why am I NOT living it? Why am I not embracing EVERYTHING today and living the excitement of Jesus?" This is exactly what I needed to hear. 

What a great time of year for this book to release. A new season. An old is passing away and a new is upon us. Just another lesson learned by Max. When we accept Jesus the old is gone and the new is born. We are new in Christ. We lack nothing. Through Jesus we truly have everything. There is nothing to hold us back from living free!! 

I could share my favorite quotes and pages from this book, but I'm going to hold back. I want you to experience such as I did. I don't want to give anything away. This is a wonderful book that will set you on the track to living a fearless life, one that will be rich with purpose as we follow the plan God has before us. Oh, indeed, it is in that plan that we will find God's glory shine in our day. We must open our eyes, be prepared, and expect to have opportunities to share the love of Jesus. 

This is a cheer-leading book for the believer. Inspiration for the defeated. This is just what my heart needed. I see Joshua in a whole new way. I'm ready to put on my armor, fight the destroyer of this earth, and live out my days giving nothing but glory to the God who created me for nothing short of greatness. 

We all get in a rut. If you're stuck this will be a great read for you. There is a great study, Questions for Reflections, prepared by David Drury,  in the back of the book that will give you an added bonus for this journey with Joshua. I found this amazingly helpful in even gaining a greater understanding. 

This book penned by Max just shares so much. Sure, it's about Joshua, but Max brings such life lesson wisdom to our heart, showing us there is another way, a better way than what we are doing right now. I absolutely soaked up each and every page of this book. I close the last page with a new passion for living and an excitement that had been missing. I didn't realize how often I still live as if I'm still living in the desert. Once again, thank you, Max!!

This book was a gift from Thomas Nelson for sharing my review with you. 

Max Lucado More than 120 million readers have been inspired by the words of Max Lucado. He lives with his wife, Denalyn, and their mischievous mutt, Andy, in San Antonio, Texas, where he serves the people of Oak Hills Church.

God Bless Our Fall by Hannah Hall Illustrated by Steve Whitlow

Children will love this little gem of a book. What a sweet read to cuddle up with as we enter this new and beautiful season. 

I think little ones will love the animals and coloring that will open their imagination to a world of color and sweetness. It is just enough to keep their attention and one that they will adore reading again and again. 

I love books that rhyme. This will be a treat as you can share all that you and your little one are thankful for this season. 

This is sure to bring a harvest of smiles. I can't wait to share this with my grandchildren. 

This children's book was a gift from Thomas Nelson for sharing my review with you.

Hannah C. Hall estimates that she has read around 4,500 bedtime stories to her children over the last few years. She is thankful to get to add her own books to their daily rotation. Hannah and her husband, Josh, have three children and live in a small town in Arkansas.

Steve Whitlow lives in Yorkshire, northern England, on the top of a (very) windswept hill, with his wife and young family. Steve followed his artistic calling from an early age and was first published at age 16, producing vibrant characters for greeting cards and then children's publishing. With no formal art training and only his natural talent, Steve has now been working as a professional artist for more than twenty years. "My kids are my critics," says Steve. "The best reaction I can hope for is an exclamation of 'Cool, Dad!' from either Sam or Ethan-or both".

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Through Waters Deep by Sarah Sundin

Sarah Sundin is an absolute gem. She is in the top of the best of the best. She's one of those writers who pens a story deep with lessons of life to be learned. As each page is turned you not only begin to love the characters, but you find yourself within the story. She is a gifted writer who brings stories of hope through the characters who are believable. 

This is the  first novel in her new series, Waves of Freedom. I enjoyed everything about this novel. We travel back to 1941 where war is right around the corner and we find two main characters, Jim and Mary, who have a romance building. I love the sweetness and the pace of this novel. 

This novel is a bit different from others penned by Sarah that I have had the pleasure of reading. I enjoyed it immensely. This is filled with adventure and mystery. These characters are enchanting and it's such an easy read. Much of this story is lighthearted as we see Mary seeing a story in everything. She's always assuming and pondering what could be and walking with a 'who done it' attitude. She questions the motives of everyone around her. She's a note keeper. Keeping track of everything that surrounds her. I loved her energy and heart.

There is so much to these two characters. Sarah brings out their past and allows us the opportunity to watch them grow in faith and build a love bond that begins with friendship. Together they journey a road of romance. One that brings out the best in each other. 

Once again Sarah brings us a story that is not only a pleasure to read, but enriches us greatly by taking us back in history and inviting us to look back. This would make for a great fall read. Just curl up with this gem, grab come coffee, and you will be off meeting characters your happy to share your time. 

This novel was a gift from Revell for sharing my review with you. 

Sarah Sundin is the author of With Every Letter,On Distant Shores, In Perfect Time, and the Wings of Glory series. In 2014, On Distant Shores was a finalist for the Golden Scroll Awards from both AWSA and the Christian Authors Network. In 2011, Sarah received the Writer of the Year Award at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. A graduate of UC San Francisco School of Pharmacy, she works on call as a hospital pharmacist. During WWII, her grandfather served as a pharmacist's mate (medic) in the Navy and her great-uncle flew with the US Eighth Air Force in England. Sarah lives in California with her husband and three children. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Make Room For Love

If we listen long enough to what people say about us we can begin to think we are nothing more than the words being spewed at us. Egg shells were never meant to be walked on and glass shatters easily with just a little weight. If it's heated it'll just burst. Why can't we just be real? You know, unafraid to be ourselves and share from our hearts? Sometimes it's for the reason that if we overstep our boundaries, boundaries that aren't always known, we hear the words, "I'm done". We live terrified that our relationships will be broken if we overstep or make a mistake. 

If our relationships are so vulnerable that a disagreement or a mistake shatters everything between us then our relationship wasn't as strong as we thought. We will not always agree. You know what? Sometimes we may even disagree much more than we agree, but shouldn't love be enough to hold us together? It's in those disagreements that we learn and grow with one another. A disagreement shouldn't destroy a relationship. Coming together on what we can agree on should in fact strengthen our relationship. 

A family's foundation should be built upon love. That's a love filled with forgiveness and gentleness. It's a love that recognizes we are imperfect and we cannot be everything for everyone. Shouldn't we be ready and willing to embrace our family? Most importantly shouldn't we be ready to forgive? 

What we expect from others, we too must be willing to give. If we are asking for truth, then truth must be on all sides. If we are asking for honesty may we share in love without judgement and condemnation. How is it so easy to throw a family member to the wolves, but forgive friends who come and go? It seems our priorities are all mixed up. 

A family is where you invest time. It's what you treasure. It's lasting. It's where you go for truth, for honesty, for love, for encouragement, and for inspiration. It's inviting parents to share advice. It's listening to children as they share. It's giving room to get to truly know one another. Most of all family is the place where respect is given. 

One can become angry at the drop of a hat. But no one wants to pick up that hat and have a conversation. A conversation can't just be one sided. And let me share that when we have issues with our family it should be able to stay within the family and not spread like wild fire to every single person we speak to.

No family is perfect. We have to give each other room to be imperfect. We are all different. We see things different. I'm not the same girl of Christ I was twenty years ago. Not even five years ago. I'm learning that nothing comes from arguing and I refuse to allow anger to shatter the joy in my heart. 

There is nothing good than comes from sharing hurts and confusion about our family with our co-workers and friends. For one thing, they don't know everyone involved and second, they certainly don't know the entire story. They make assumptions and give advice on things they have nothing invested. They are only hearing one side of a story. A story that is construed from untruths that are hurled out of anger. Here's a good rule: If you are not a part of the problem or the solution you have no need to be a part of something that you're not involved in. Now, I'm not saying we can't confide in a trusted friend for prayer and advice. But let it not be every person that's in our daily path. 

We make things so much harder than they have to be. Everyone is going to be offended by something. Family is a mixture of unique people that are all connected in love. One of our problems is that we expect so much from one another and much of the time what's expected isn't even realized by the other. We grow angry at a family member and that person has no idea why until all is blown up in their face. We shout and scream and accuse instead of sitting down and simply sharing in love. Gosh, why is it we forget the love part? We get angry and we simply want our way not thinking of the other person or what our words are doing to them. Family is messy. But you know what? Grace is bigger!!

It breaks my heart to hear about children and parents not getting along. When I was forty I wrote my mom a letter. I penned that letter on my birthday. I poured my heart out to my mom. I shared my love for my mom and shared with her an apology for all that I had ever done to bring hurt to her. Oh, I wasn't a bad kid, but I was a kid who did a lot of dumb things. It didn't matter how big or small I listed everything I could think of and shared with her how sorry I was for the things I wasn't even aware of that hurt her.

My mom read that letter with tears and a heart of joy. She still has that letter today. Maybe it was having children of my own. Maybe it was growing older too. I realized in helping to raise five children just how difficult it was for my mom and dad. My dad died when I was nineteen. I wish I'd had a chance to pen my dad a letter. That's the thing. We wait too long. We get mad. We say were done and that's it. We give up too easily. Then that day comes when we no longer have time to make up. I don't want to live that way.

I love my children and grandchildren so very much. I'm so proud of my children. It isn't anything that they do that makes me super proud. It's simply the fact that they are my children and grandchildren. My kids could do anything and I wouldn't ever love them any less. Nothing they could do would make me love them any more than I do today. A momma's love is mighty. A daddy is protective.

I would love to share a Sunday dinner once a month with our family. I'd love to share with my kids and have them share with me. You know, a conversation that goes way below the surface. Heart to heart talks that give us room to really know one another. Why is it so hard for us to make time for our family?

We can get so angry at one another. You know my mother has brothers she hasn't spoken to in years. I have my dad's entire side of the family and I have had no connect with them in over twenty something years. I have no idea of where to begin looking for them. I'm disconnected from my mother's side of the family for the most part. I wasn't blessed to have grandparents. That's why I try my best, my very best, to be everything I can to my grandchildren. With all of my health issues it isn't always easy, but that's a whole other topic on chronic illness.

I guess what I'm trying to say is let the small stuff go. I'm not saying the small stuff doesn't matter, but in the broad scheme of life, a life that we have no idea what can happen in the next second, does it really matter? Do we always have to put our foot down and be right? Do we always have to make a point? We spend way too much time attacking one another than spending time overlooking the small stuff and enjoying all the other stuff we love about one another.

For each chair that isn't filled at dinner makes a difference. That's one child missing. One grand that isn't there to fill the home with laughter. Friends, say, "I'm sorry", and start fresh. Give each other room to make mistakes and when mistakes are made give room for grace.

Simply put..just love one another!

"And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love." 1 Corinthians 13:13

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A Well Meeting

What a meeting place. Why did Jesus meet this woman of Samaria at the well? I found myself reading the story of the woman at the well found in John 4 and was filled with a new insight that showed me a well of mercy from the Savior. This woman was a Samaritan. Jews didn't associate with them. They were the low of the low. This woman would travel to the well, which was also Jacob's well, in shame and discomfort. Did she feel like all eyes were upon her? Did other women wait to gather their water until after she was done just so they didn't have to come close to her path of walk? 

As she drew water from deep for Jesus, He drew from her a heart ready to pour, to be refreshed, to drink Jesus in new. Jesus drew from her what had been buried deep. If this woman could have seen her reflection in this well of deepness what would she have seen? A woman lost, living in a world where freedom was not found for her kind. 

Jesus has asked for a drink. He has met her right where she is. Soon she is asking Jesus to give her water. Living water so that she will thirst no more. A water that was a deep reservoir of love and grace. Mercy met this woman at the place where she least expected. 

Could they have met anywhere? Why did Jesus choose the well for this perfected meeting that He had already ordained in advance? A place where she would not only be alone, but feel alone. This is our Jesus. He meets us where we are. He meets us at our weakest moment without condemnation, but with compassion and mercy. 

This woman's reflection would soon change from condemned and unaccepted to a woman redeemed. A woman that no longer had to hide but one ready to now share her story and how Jesus opened her story up like a book and penned a new chapter for her. One that would give her life a new meaning, a new path, and one with a gem of an ending. 

Jesus met her at her most vulnerable moment where shame covered her. He met her when she least expected. An unexpected mercy meeting would change her life and the lives of those around her. This woman of sin kept hidden the life she had been living. But nothing can be hidden from Jesus. Through grace He showed her a life she could have verses the life she was living. 

Unclean by the standards of others looking down on her, this woman would soon be cleansed by the love and forgiveness of her Savior. She would leave her shame behind and walk, no run, to her town and share with not only women, but men also her story and how Jesus changed the course of her life by a mercy meeting at the well. Many came to believe!! 

Oh, the deep this woman covered up. The sin so deep. Jesus asking her for a drink of water, but now she would ask Jesus for a drink. I love this picture of a Father Redeemer with such love. He knew her deep. She believed Him deep. Her story mattered to Jesus. His story now became real to her because of the compassionate love He shared with her. He could of gotten His own drink. The Disciples could have found a bucket for drinking. No. This wasn't about Jesus serving Himself or His Disciples gathering water. This was about a woman who felt she wasn't good enough. A woman who settled for life as it was. A woman who thought nothing would ever change. A woman in deep pit of misery. The same daily life living a pattern of sin. A woman that had nothing. A woman in need of everything. Nothing this would could fill her with alone, but all that her Savior could give in a mercy meeting. 

See, what this mercy meeting shows me is a mighty kind of love. A meeting planned out perfectly. A love even more perfect. The Disciples didn't understand why Jesus was even associating with this woman. They were still learning this mercy that Jesus so freely gave. I remember the moment I received Jesus as my Savior. I will never forget my mercy meeting. Everything changed that day. The perfect day that He had predestined for me to receive Him. He knew when my heart would be ready to accept and believe. 

So, here is where I am today. Why am I not living this mercy life in a world still so very lost and in need of mercy? Why am I not so excited and unashamed as this woman to run into town and share Jesus with everyone I meet? What do I have to lose? Really? I already have Jesus. I know my R.S.V.P. is signed, sealed, and delivered. I have heaven and Jesus waiting for me. Friends, it doesn't get any better than that! 

I have been forgiven. Mercy has found me. But I find myself still living as if there isn't anything good to share. Sweet Jesus, forgive me for not sharing You with everyone. See, this woman left everything at the well and took with her a love deep with mercy and forgiveness. She was so excited to share this mercy meeting with everyone that she left her water jar at the well.

I think some of us could fill that well full with our sin. We live daily trying so hard to hide what we don't want others to see. At the mercy meeting Jesus was able to pull out what this woman had been hiding for no telling how long. What about you? Are you in need of mercy? In need of giving mercy? This mercy meeting at the well springs forth a love unconditional. Jesus already knew the life of this woman. He knew her story. He too knows your story. He knows mine as well. There's nothing to be hidden from Him, but so much to uncover. He is our Savior with a reservoir of the Living Water that so sweetly tastes of mercy.

Mercy: Compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within our power to punish.

Grace: The free unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings. 

"Jesus said, "Everyone who drinks from this water will get thirsty again. But whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again--ever! In fact, the water I will him will become a well of water springing up within him for eternal life."" John 4:13-14

Friday, September 11, 2015

September 12

My windows were open allowing a soft breeze to grace my morning. Coffee brewing as traffic passed in a hurry. I was just getting started with my day of cleaning and then planned to have an afternoon with pen in hand writing what my heart was ready to pour. Across at our neighbor's home I could hear her readying the school bus to pull out of the drive. Just a normal morning.

Just a few moments later my phone would jingle an early tune. Too early for a call. Who would it be calling me? I answered to hushed sobs. "Rob, you have to go to Bobbie right now. She needs you. Donnie has been killed." 

Another call. Broken sobs once again. The voice on the other end telling me to go. My phone dropped from my hand. I don't know how hard I fell. I went to my knees. Screams escaping. I was on my face crying, "No, no, no. Sweet Jesus, no. Not Donnie." 

My phone rang me back to wiping tears from my face. I didn't want to answer. It would be my daughter's voice on the other end. She had heard. "Mom, you can't go yet. The road hasn't been cleared. You can't drive being so upset. You have to wait a while, Mom." 

I sat shaking. All I could see was Donnie's sweet smile. I had to get to Bobbie. What would I say to my friend? My God, what would I say? I gathered myself together. Keys in hand I walked out the door only to unlock the door and walk back inside. It just couldn't be possible. 

I'm driving down Hwy FF with tears rolling faster than my driving. Uncontrollable emotion. I have to gain control of myself. I'm on Hwy. 30 now. Just a few more miles and I will be there. 

I have no idea how I have made it thus far. Cars are just now beginning to move through. I get close to the drive way and what I see blinds me from all reality. Yellow paint in the driveway. Dear, Jesus, what has happened here? I can't breathe. How do I drive across? People are everywhere. Faces in shock. I see a crashed car. Sweet Jesus.

I knock. Why am I knocking and just not opening the door? I feel like a stranger in a home of my best friend. This just can't be. It's not possible. Faces are everywhere filling the house. The home of my friend who covets her privacy. I'm only looking for my friend. 

She's there on the sofa. Clearly in shock. All I can do is wrap my arms around her. "I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry. I love you. I love you." My words are spoken in a whisper. Her reply in sobs. "Rob, my baby is dead. My baby is gone. He's gone, Rob." 

Unimaginable agony hit this family like a tornado. No warning. Unexpected devastation on a morning that began in normal happiness. Nothing can be rebuilt. Nothing will ever be the same. How will they pick up the destruction that has been scattered and tossed from the winds of this storm?

This is a morning I will never forget. Just as I will never forget the morning of 9/11 as I watched in horror and disbelief at the devastation and agony of those in the path of these evil men who had nothing in their hearts but evil. 

It seems like yesterday that was to be the morning that changed our hearts forever and shook us to the core. How does a young, bright, fifteen year old ready for school, walk down the drive to wait on the big yellow have his life ended in the blink of an eye? How is it possible his life ends the moment a drunk driver crashes into him? 

How is any of this even possible? Who is drunk at 7:00 in the morning? The sun just beginning to rise and create a day of beauty to be canceled out by a group of men intent on making life all about them. What kind of men have a mindset to drink so early and make the choice to get behind the wheel of their cars? Who downs their beer and has the audacity to race down a dangerous section of highway where a bus is readying to pick up children? Just a few more minutes and Donnie would have been on the bus! 

These men made the choice to not only drink but to race to the local diner. Needless to say they didn't make the breakfast rush. What they did make was a disaster that cannot be reversed. 

If only they would have chosen wisely. If only they would have gone home after work instead of drinking. If only they didn't enjoy racing to see who could what? Get there quicker? What a grand prize for the winner. Who was it who won the race on this day? They didn't get past Donnie without killing him as he did nothing but stood in his driveway with pack back and computer in hand. If only these men could have thought about someone other than themselves. They not only took their own lives for granted, but the lives of everyone on the road that day and the child's life that ended because of their actions. 

A year has passed. This family lives the unimaginable daily. Living one breath at a time. Courageously facing court cases that are continued over and over again. Bars do not yet hold these criminals from living their lives so freely. A freedom they took for granted. One day soon may justice prevail and may these heinous men be held within the confines of four walls and lose the freedom they have taken from a family who is living in the wake of their actions. May they face justice and be held accountable for taking the life of sweet, young Donnie Tipton.

Donnie's story doesn't begin or end on this day of September 12, but it was forever changed. Donnie's life was so huge. The impact of his shine will forever light in the hearts  that know him and in those who are just now knowing his name. 

Donnie's story begins with a God who created Donnie into existence with glory and might. Donnie was created in His image for a great and mighty purpose. He was created in greatness for greatness. It carries through to a momma's love for him as he was just beginning to form. This is where Donnie's story begins. 

His life on this earth was magical as he touched the lives in a powerful way of everyone who knew him. Donnie did more in fifteen years to impact the hearts of others than most do in their entire life lived many years. Donnie didn't have the chance to continue his journey here. That was taken. Stolen from him and his family. 

Donnie's story will continue on in every heart. And there will be a day, oh, that day will come where we will all meet once again. Right now Donnie is living on the other side of heaven. I can only imagine the beauty that has touched his sight and brought new emotion he didn't even know possible. His loving Creator never taking His hand off His child. But reaching deeper and wrapping His arms around him to carry home the child He created.

Oh, how the stars are brighter for Donnie now. He's on the other side of this earth with his Heavenly Father. His momma has been without her son for 364 days today. I can't fathom spending one without my son. My heart aches for my friend and her family. Life unimaginable isn't changing. Time isn't healing all wounds. Life is breathless and each day is one that they rest in the hope of Jesus, knowing one day soon they will see Donnie again and until then they live with that hope, a faith that remains and is too strong to be broken.

How do you not question everything in life now? How does fear not cover you like a think blanket? Jesus. He is the only answer. This doesn't make sense. This new life for them is unbearable, but with Jesus they breathe in and breathe out with a lasting hope of forever where the stars are brighter and no storms can reach. A place beyond the agony they live daily. A heaven that only our Father created. It is through Jesus that hope is alive and through Jesus that faith stirs in us a longing for home.

We love you, Donnie. See you soon.

"Do you not know? Have you not heard? Yahweh is the everlasting God, the Creator of the whole earth. He never grows faint or weary; there is no limit to His understanding. He gives strength to the weary and strengthens the powerless. Youths may faint and grow weary, and young men stumble and fall, but those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint." Isaiah 40:28-31

"The Lord is my light and my salvation--whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life--of whom should I be afraid? When evildoers came against me to devour my flesh, my foes and my enemies stumbled and fell. Though an army deploys against me, my heart is not afraid; though a war breaks out against me, still I am confident. I have asked one thing from the Lord; it is what I desire: to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, gazing on the beauty of the Lord and seeking Him in His temple. For He will conceal me in His shelter in the day of adversity; He will hide me under the cover of His tent; He will set me high on a rock." Psalm 27:1-5

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

When is it my turn, God?

"When's it my turn, God? When is it my turn for the "Good Stuff" in life to come my way?" My neighbor just purchased a new truck with his new raise. I can't even find a job! My girlfriend just had a baby to add to their growing family of six. I can't even have one of my own! A couple at church just shared their 50th wedding anniversary. My parents are both suffering from Alzheimers and can't even remember what year it is. Have you been there? You see all the excitement around you and your wondering, "Well, God, is it my turn today?"

The barn door flies open and the chickens run wild and you're home all alone to do what now?  The kids run through the door screaming at one another and your wondering, "What in the world happened on that bus ride home?" It's time for dinner, but the fridge is just about empty. No money left to do any shopping this week after payment after payment has stretched your checkbook as far as it will go. Katie needs a new pair of shoes and Josh needs braces. Where is that money going to come from? The sky?

We do see it all the time. Good things happening to others. But when it comes to us, it's like we were left out of the gift aisle and left stranded in the next time pile. Only, next time isn't coming so quickly. We can feel depressed and lonely when there are tons of people around us. Our hearts can be heavy even when we smile and pretend all is fine. I mean, after all, aren't we suppose to smile? Aren't we suppose to wait with patience and just get over it? 

We have all been there when the next girl walks in the party and wins the door prize. We see family after family living happy lives, while all we want is to have one dinner with our children. We would just like to gather together once in a while and here we see families gathering every Sunday for dinner and every Friday night to watch the game.

Ever ask yourself, "What did I do wrong, God?" We are left wondering and searching through our messy lives just trying to figure it all out. Why did Sam have that car accident? He went to church every Sunday. He served. He gave. He did everything right! Why are the Smiths getting a divorce? I thought they were happy. Who knew he was having an affair for five years right under Betty's nose? Betty is such a lovely woman!

Does it ever make you mad? Even just a little? Life can seem so unfair especially if we are looking at life through a tainted vision of entitlement. We just expect good things to happen to us. Nothing bad is suppose to happen. It's not good if it happens to someone else, but at least it's not me, right? You know when you see a teenager who has been in a terrible accident you think, "Praise the Lord it wasn't my Sally." I do it too!

In reality, shouldn't we be asking ourselves, "Why not me?" Look at the life of Job. He lost everything. It wasn't over a long period of time. It was one thing right after another. At some point, you know he just fell to his knees. Nothing was left. Nothing...or was it?

Satan and God are battling it out. Satan is almost laughing. He thinks the only reason Job is so faithful is the fact that his life is so full. Could he have a point there? Is that true for you? God is all knowing. He knew the heart of Job. He knew because he told Satan he could take everything, but his life. Have you been there on one of Job's days? Have you felt as if everything was gone and there was nothing left? I have. I have been there on that dark day when all you want to do is just stop breathing. No breath, no pain. Can you see, Job, on this day when everything starts to take hold of him? One messenger after another is coming with nothing but bad news. Soon, all Job has left is his faith.

That's right. Faith. Sometimes we don't know what we really have until all we have left is faith. God restored Job. He brought joy into his life again. Even after those around him were trying to get him to give up. Talk about needing some encouragement! God was Job's encouragement. He was all he needed.

We tend to think we just deserve great things. We are special. We are entitled to have everything we dream of, right? We are just suppose to wake up and everything before us is to be perfect. Really? Think about that for a minute. If life was so perfect would we even need faith? Would we seek out God? It's those very things we think are so difficult that bring us into deeper faith. Those days that take us to our knees bring us to the throne room of God. We call upon Him not because everything is great around us, but because it's all falling apart! Why do we wait? Why not celebrate all the good with Him? Who am I to have a better life than another person? Why is it okay for Kelly to have breast cancer and not me?

We must stop looking at life as if it isn't perfect we must have done something bad. We have it in our heads that good things happen to good people. Bad things happen to good people all the time. It doesn't mean one is more special or better than the next. If life was perfect I don't think we would be longing for heaven. We might just have the attitude that sounds a little like a spoiled child. Ouch! Have we really changed all that much from the Israelites? They were a people of want. God gave and gave and it wasn't enough. Even when they found themselves full, they wanted more. They never did learn to be content.

Our very worst day is a good day for someone else. Remember that always. Whether we look at Job or any other person in the bible who lived a life of struggle. We are now able to see beyond that struggle into triumph! With God they moved beyond the valley of tears to topping that mountain of hope. They actually made it past their worst day! It can be done, my friends. God has no desire to leave you in despair. He wants you to succeed in ALL He has for you. He wants to use your worst day and turn in into beauty. All those no answers you hear are yes answers for what God has for you. He sees way past your imagination of the perfect day.

Trust Him in every situation. Know that the Son is going to shine. It isn't going to rain on your parade every day. There is going to come a day when you race toward that finish line and you cross it hearing the words, "Well done!!" We have hope! We can be confident that God is going to bless us. Everything in His perfect will and His perfect timing. Hang in there. Reach for the heavens with your prayers. Strive to make each day count. Live in His promises. That is enough for us today.

"We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies." 
1 Corinthians 4:5-10

"We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, and because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love." Romans 5:3-5

"For examples of patience in suffering dear brothers and sisters, look at the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. We give great honor to those who endure under suffering. For instance, you know about Job, a man of great endurance. You can see how the Lord was kind to him at the end, for the Lord is full of tenderness and mercy." 
James 5:10-11

Finding Strength To Battle The Giants

Today I found myself reading in 1 Samuel. I wanted to find David once again within the pages of this Book that gives me such strength and courage to beyond any fear. 

God calls David. He sends Samuel to find the Lord's anointed. He searches Jesse's sons, but none are the one whom He has called. David comes out of the fields. There in the young one of the family, the unexpected, the unknown, the anointed is found. 

David's job watching over the sheep was not an easy one. I think at times we ponder the sight and come up with a diluted vision of David just playing music as he sits underneath a tree keeping watch. David fought bears and lions to protect the sheep under his watch. He took his position seriously. This entire time God was molding David for the path ahead. To face a Goliath much stronger than any lion or bear he had yet to face, but through those trials God gave David the confidence and courage he needed. He knew he could overcome. Not by his own strength or fight, but by God's hand that would cover him and make a way. 

David doesn't just face Goliath. He faces the uncertainty of his brothers watching who didn't believe the sight before their eyes. Saul girds David up in bronze protection. Much too heavy for the youth with a mighty faith. David wasn't just born with a strong faith. He grew in faith through trial, through seeing God move on his behalf many times when David should have been taken by the strength of a lion or bear, God provided. 

 David takes off the armor that is to protect him. He knows that isn't the armor that will protect him today. His Armor will come of a different kind. Five smooth stones, but only one stone, a stone of faith isn't just released, but it is seen by all. David is a new warrior in the eyes of those watching. David is sure to give praise and honor to the God who provided and gave way for this young man to the the mighty men before him that it isn't about the power they yield in their own hand, but that of the God before them. 

David's story only begins here. It continues to unfold. What we see in David is a youth who becomes a man and he too needs reminders of the God who provided. This is where I am today. Needing reminded of God's power to move every mountain ahead of me, His hand upon me, His work before me, and His will for my life. 

In many ways I am that youth of David. Still learning to walk this journey of faith. This world tells us we can't do it. You know, this life isn't easy. We fight battles of every kind each day, but our biggest battle is ourselves. The doubt that lives in us. The fear of failing. We live in the unknown everyday. Beyond right now we have no idea what's to happen in the next minute, the next breath could rock our world. But what we must know with certainty is that the God who created us isn't leaving us in the fight alone. He's there with us, standing guard, filling us with strength, and covering us with a hope that gives us a trust that in any challenge we face God is going to move on our behalf. 

There is no Goliath too big for God. Here's the lesson I'm learning. Every battle isn't mine to fight. That's huge! The battle is God's. I'm His vessel when He calls me to the front lines. But I need to listen for His call and jump the gun and go ahead into every battle with my own agenda. I am to wait upon the Lord. As I wait I am to pray. We forget how mighty prayer is in any battle. Prayer can win the battle when our trust and hope is found in Jesus. 

"I waited patiently for the Lord; And he inclined to me, and heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps. He has put a new song in my mouth-praise to our God; many will see it and fear, and will trust in the Lord. Blessed is that man who makes the Lord his trust."  Psalm 40:1-4

Somewhere Out There

Somewhere out there today is a girl hiding in a deep pain that she tries to escape from, but isn't finding peace. A mother just trying to make it through the day without falling apart. A husband trying hard to provide, but just doesn't feel he is enough. A young man trying to make his way but forever being held back from the mountains that seem too high to take alone. 

People everywhere are hurting, struggling, and so fearful of where their next breath will take them that they are frozen in a pain that seems indescribable. We look everywhere for encouragement and inspiration, but let's be honest. Sometimes it just isn't there. We hit one road block after another and pretty soon we just want to give up. 

We try to so hard to keep up. So much is thrown at us throughout the day. How can we endure one more blow? We hide the bruises. We keep our thoughts to ourselves. Why? Because those around us seem to be all put together. Their lives are like a dream. Family postcard happiness is what we want others to see. We love for others to think we are surrounded by friends, our jobs are perfect, the house is clean, the kids are reading their Bible and going to church. 

Why do we live in a facade? Why can't we be real with one another? Let's face the reality that life isn't perfect. Not even close. Our daughters become pregnant and instead of basking in joy over a grandchild we hide in shame of what the church will think. Our son makes a mistake and loses his job. Nope. Can't share that one either because Joe and Teresa just shared their four children are all in college, top of their class, jobs on the side, sports scholarship, and they call home every night to just say, I love you, and what are they going to think of my son that can't hold a job right now?

Friends, why are we always making excuses? We are left feeling as though we aren't good enough. We are faltering in some way. Why are things so good in other's lives, but falling apart in ours? Doesn't anyone else have troubles and days that need do-overs?

Should we be able to celebrate the beauty of life? You betcha! Let's celebrate together, but friends, let's be real. Let's share our struggles, our flops, those days where everything seems to fall apart at the seam. We keep our fears hidden, our stumbles out of sight, and our biggest tests to ourselves, because just what if we fail, what will everyone say after we have shared in Sunday school? 

Somewhere out there is a girl just waiting to feel like she isn't alone. A young man who just needs a friend to reach out. A mom who just wants to share how she really feels at night when everyone is sleeping. A dad who would love to be asked to go fishing with the other guys. 

If we were real, I mean really true to what our lives are each and every day we could impact this world in a huge way with Jesus! See, when Jesus is in our lives everything isn't perfect. In fact, life is often a mess, but with Jesus we can find beauty in that mess. 

I recently stood in the check out line as a girl bagged my groceries and shared with me, a total stranger, she opened up and shared that she is a single mom of a sixth month old and how difficult things are for her right now. The baby's daddy hasn't wanted anything to do with his child, but now wants to try to make a go of it. 

I walked into our local gas station to pay and as I stood in line turned to see the woman coming through the door with tears falling down the cheeks of her make up stained face. Her boyfriend had just exploded on her in the parking lot. Hearing her tell another, "I just needed to come in for a drink". As I walked out a police officer was just arriving. 

We forget that people just need love. Just love. Why is it so hard for us to be real? To let others think that was once us? There was a time before we knew Jesus. At least for me there was a time where I lived without the knowledge I had a Savior. My life then is much different from my life now. Not that I'm better than another, but that I now live my messy life with Jesus and that makes all the difference. 

Jesus is the answer, but we often don't let others see just how Jesus helps us in our messy lives. We try to hide the mess and pretend that since Jesus entered all is perfect. That isn't the Jesus this world needs, friends. They need to know the Jesus that loves the messy, that forgives the unforgivable. 

We don't have to be able to understand everyone's circumstances to understand their pain. Pain is pain. It's raw and real and it burns like fire. Jesus can quench that fire. He can give strength where weakness abounds. He can put a new kind of a fire in the heart of man, but first we have to be real with one another. 

I shared with the girl behind the counter that I remember that hurt very well. That I was in similar circumstances long ago when my girls were just babes. She looked at me as if to say, "You? I would have never thought." I shared my heart with her. Basically I was a friend for about five minutes, but in that five minutes she found a place she could share. 

The woman in the gas station? I didn't approach her. But what I did do was pray. I sat in my car and prayed for God to move in her life and to give her an escape and a new peace that she didn't know even existed. 

What I'm learning is that I need to speak up more, pray more, and give the Holy Spirit room to do His thing in His perfect timing. Most of all, I need to be real with people. What about you? What is it that you're needing today? If we just give our time to people, open our hearts, share our past and pain, Jesus will shine through and give way to changed hearts. 

Somewhere out there is a person in need of a friend who will just give an ear without judgement and condemnation. We all want to be loved and accepted. If we can be real with others, be honest and pure, Jesus will flow through our words and most of all our actions as we sit with a heart ready to hear and open to pray for each and every need. 

"For thought I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those are under the law, as under law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being with law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the gospel's sake that I may be partaker of it with you." 1 Corinthians 9:19-23

Thankful by Eileen Spinelli and illustrated by Archie Preston

This is a wonderful book for children to learn and grow in thankfulness. In our day children are consumed with everything. It's often hard to purchase a child a birthday gift because they already have everything imaginable. We are living in a time where thankfulness is often left to the side and more is always better. 

This would make for a great read sitting on a blanket underneath a tree as the leaves are changing. As Thanksgiving is upon us this would make a wonderful gift for children. A blessed bedtime read to go over all that we can be thankful for that has been given throughout the day. The writer gives a wonderful grouping of things to be thankful for. Not overwhelming. Not too long or complicated for little ones, but just the right touch. The illustrator did a magnificent job at giving little ones a visual and captures the heart of thankfulness through color. 

This little gem is a reminder to be thankful for not only the big things, but in the little things we often take for granted. This is a wonderful tool to open the imagination and the heart of children to find thankfulness in all. 

I can't wait to read it to my grandchildren who will turn four and five this autumn. 

This children's book is a gift from Zondervan for sharing my review with you. 

Eileen Spinelli is a poet and picture book author with a talent for lovable stories that tug at the heart. She is the author of more than forty books for children, including Nora's Ark, Heat Wave, When You Are Happy, I Know It's Autumn, Thankgsiving at the Tappletons', Sophie's Masterpiece, and Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch. Ms. Spinelli lives in Wayne, Pennsylvania

Archie Preston, born in the UK, first arrived in the States working as a stuntman in Hollywood. After appearing in many films, tragedy struck when he fell badly during filming. Being unable to continue his dangerous lifestyle, Archie turnted to his other great passion in life, illustration. This is his first published book. "This was a very challenging book," says Archie, "the text was so open to interpretation, but once I found my way in, it became one of my easiest stunts to pull off." 


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