T'was the night before

T'was the night before Christmas... well, actually it t'was the night before the night before Christmas eve...
start again:
Twas the night before  Christmas eve,
when all through the halls, many creatures are trampling the malls.
Some cookies adorned, be them slice up and bake
in hopes that icing would cover for times' sake.
Stressed parents aren't sleeping, well maybe slumped on the couch
after shopping online  and spending... well, ouch!

Clearly. a poet I am NOT.  Although one can barely hear those words, "Twas the night before Christmas" without finishing the sentence and conjuring the beautifully illustrated "visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads."

Though truthful admission, my cherished moments of this season often appear late in the night... donning my frayed pink checkered pajama pants and Frank's favorite Dallas cowboys t-shirt.  Wrapped snuggly around a cheerful Christmas mug filled with steamy coffee or the occasional apple cider (a newly discovered treat), my hands are free to enjoy the moment, forgoing my insatiable need to "write it down". 

With the glow of dimmed radiance mingling with torn, handmade, memory-filled ornaments, the tree gently stands at attention.  Clothed in layers of white, our familiar angel atop the tree gently smiles down on the quiet moment. 

Where do my thoughts wander?  Everywhere about everyone trying to remember everything while desiring to simply guide my attention to a simple reminder of the purpose for all things we are trying so desperately to accomplish.

And then, once more, I'm drawn to Mary... mother of Jesus.  Follow a simple outline of Mary's "life and times" with me.

She perceived and received the news:
But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.  You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus." Luke 1:30-31

She praised God about the news:
My soul glorifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.  For He has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.  Luke 1:46-48

She participated in the news:
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.  Luke 2:6-7

She pondered the news:
But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.  Luke 2:19

Friends, I can... you can... follow Mary's lead in experiencing afresh the wonder of this life-changing, world-changing birth of Jesus.

Might you join me... not just in this evening before Christmas, instead let's spend a few weeks... or even a few months, responding in just the Mary did. 

Perceive once more the news of His birth
Praise again the news of His birth
Participate intentionally in the news of His birth
Ponder each day the good news of His birth

and then, practice daily our response to this good news of great joy for all the people as we have the privilege of loving others in our words, actions and reactions.

Praising God and saying,

Glory to God in the highest heaven, 
and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.

60 years and counting...celebrating legacy

Before you have to ask, no, I am not yet 60...   😁

November, 2017 began a year of celebration for our family.  My father-in-law began the festivities as he turned 80.  Much to his surprise, his family showed up in Florida - children, their spouses, all the grandchildren, their spouses, and great grandchildren including the youngest at just 2 weeks old.

As we gathered for dinner, Frank offered a prayer for the blessing and the legacy his dad has created as a father, a grandfather, a great grandfather, a husband, and a friend.

The year of birthdays continued in April as my dad achieved that 80th year birthday milestone as well.  His love for the sport of pole vaulting offered a perfect backdrop for the day filled with surprises.  Once again, children, grandchildren, great grandchildren along with extended family joined in the fun.  (Yes, my dad still pole vaults in Senior Olympics as he has for over 25 years now.)    He even offered an exhibition performance for all.  And, no, I didn't give it a try!

The year of milestones culminated in the celebration of my parents' 60th wedding anniversary in September, 2018.  My mom, who never enjoys being "fussed over" appreciated that we gathered at a small restaurant in Tennessee - just their three daughters and husbands.  We laughed about memories and listened intently as our parents shared their history together.  Traveling to Winchester, Tennessee, we visited the house my dad built, drove through downtown by the First Baptist Church, and listened a bit more to gain advice and wisdom.

Today, I am overwhelmed with a grateful heart realizing the legacy of love, faith, commitment, hard work and perseverance we've had a front row seat to witness.  To God be the Glory!

What are you thankful for today?

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
    Serve the Lord with gladness!
    Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the Lord, he is God!
    It is he who made us, and we are his;[a]
    we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
    and his courts with praise!
    Give thanks to him; bless his name!

For the Lord is good;
    his steadfast love endures forever,
    and his faithfulness to all generations
Psalm 100

Sweet little memory - surrender

tilt shift lens photography of person lifting handAuthor's Note:  Many of you know that I've been 
writing since the year 2000.  
We've been doing some cleaning out lately and have come across many of the letters I wrote to the Women's Sunday School class I was honored to teach for 12 years.  Below I've copied one the letters I wrote in November, 2004.  Clay (now 21) was 7 at the time.  I'm thankful that the truth of God's word is timeless and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training... and I'm hopeful that my writing ability has improved just a little.  😁

November 2, 2004

"Hands up, you filthy animal, you better surrender!"  Clay likes to catch me off guard with those words.  That line is his own combination derived from the movie, Home Alone, and a couple of old Western movies or cartoons.  He does actually know the word "surrender" means, at least in this context.   Clay recently learned a hard lesson about his own surrender or submission to the authority of our garage door.  He often like to "challenge" the door as we are leaving to go somewhere by pressing the button at the back door and running/sliding under the door just in the nick of time.  I know that when a bike or a bat get in the way of the closing garage door, it stops and goes back up, don't you?  Frank, Mollie and Clay were headed to get a pizza.  "Mother" Mollie gently reminded Clay as he pushed the button that it wasn't a good ideas, and he now heartily agrees.  Half his body landed inside the garage, while the other half rested on the driveway.  In retrospect Frank said he looked like a turtle in distress, arms and legs flailing.  It took all Mollie's strength, with an extra push from Frank, to get the door back up.  Clay has some scrapes and bruises on his back, probably due more to the "flailing" than the actual door.  He was a little shook up, and later told Frank he just wasn't ready to go to Heaven yet.  So, he's now a little more respectful of the garage door.

Sometimes I really wish we could learn some lessons without the hard knocks and bruises that often come with our "hard" heads.  As we studied the second chapter of the book of Esther on Sunday, I couldn't help but think of her obedient surrender.  Surrender to the authority of the King's decree, surrender to the authority of her surrogate parent, Mordecai, and surrender to the wise counsel of Hegai, the King's eunuch.  We aren't told exactly how willingly she surrendered, but given the tone of the book regarding her, I believe it must have been with a genuine strength of character and grace.

Our society often equates surrender with losing, or giving in to a stronger opponent.  Some you know I am again working through Rick Warren's book, The Purpose Driven Life.  If you have a copy, join me in the 10th chapter.  Warren says, "surrendering to God is the heart of worship."  He offer three barriers that he believes block our total surrender to God. 

#1  our lack of trust in God
#2  our pride, adding here that our desire, to have complete control, is the cause of so much stress in our lives,
#3  we don't really know what surrender means.  

"Instead of trying harder, you trust more," Warren writes, "Genuine surrender says, 'Father, if this problem, pain, sickness, or circumstance is needed to fulfill your purpose and glory in my life or in another's, please don't take it away.  In Jesus' case, He agonized so much over God's plan that He sweat drops of blood.  Surrender is hard work.'"

When questioned about why he felt God had used and blessed his life, Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, said, "When I was a young man, I made a contract with God.  I literally wrote it out and signed my name at the bottom.  It said, "From this day forward, I am a slave of Jesus."
I guarantee that Clay will not again challenge our garage door.  I know that Esther's decision of surrender was a part of God's plan to save the jewish people from destruction.  

Can't help but wonder a little, what part of God's plan involves and uses my surrender?

So when the king's order and his edict were proclaimed, and when many young women were gathered in Susa the citadel in custody of Hegai, Esther also was taken into the king's palace and put in custody of Hegai, who had charge of the women.  And the young woman pleased him and won his favor. And he quickly provided her with her cosmetics and her portion of food, and with seven chosen young women from the king's palace, and advanced her and her young women to the best place in the harem.  Esther 2:8-9

so very busy

I've missed you, friends!  Many of you know how much I love to write, how much I love to share what I am learning from God's word, from others, and from circumstances... its is joy for me!

This fall has been F.U.L.L!  What about you?  Can you really believe we've just turned the calendar page to November - you realize November is the 11th month of the year... the one right before December... the F.U.L.L.N.E.S.S. of the coming season is here.

One of my goals this year has been to cut out the word "busy" from my vocabulary.  Have you noticed what happens when we begin a conversation with the word, busy?  Here's how it might unfold...

We run into a friend at the Mall..
Oh my goodness, it's so good to see you.  
and it's great to see you, too.  I've been meaning to check in with you, but I've been so busy.  Let's get together for coffee... soon.
Then you think, but, for sure don't say aloud...
I understand, friend.  Even now, you have a mission to accomplish.  Coffee probably won't happen.


Your phone rings... and your screen reveals your friend calling - love that sweet friend, but you remember she called two weeks ago and asked that you return her call... no hurry, just whenever you have time.  Truth is... you've been so busy, you haven't had a chance to call. 
Better let that call head on to voice mail.  Maybe you'll call her on the way home.

And, there's one other thing about the response of "I've been so busy..."  Instantly your, well - my responsibility is absolved.  It's okay, we respond, when we are the recipient of the busier friend... no big deal.  And here's why we respond with, it's okay.... because we are also "so busy".

So... let's make a deal  😏

 As we look ahead to the next 8 weeks - a time of thanksgiving and gratitude and a time of celebration of the birth of our Savior, will you join me in avoiding just "busy" and agreeing to those things, those activities, those traditions that are determined from a posture of intentionality.

If your best intentionality comes through a list, start making it tonight.  Maybe you make this list, then take some time to pray through each item/event on the list... then even begin crossing off a few unnecessary things.

So this evening... I'm looking so very forward to having lunch with a couple of sweet ladies that we've talked about/thought about and have been too busy to gather for months.  

I'll see you at noon tomorrow,  friends!  Looking forward to seeing you!

Look who's talking TOO

"Look Who's Talking, Too" was the sequel following closely the same plot as the first movie.  This time, the children, a toddler and a baby, were the stars of the show as they talked to each other without the parents' awareness, while the audience enjoyed the entertainment and humor.  Now with a toddler and a baby engaged in conversation, the plot changes.

Think about it... in the original movie, the audience simply heard the thoughts of baby.  In this sequel, the conversation involves both children's thought an perspective.

Can you believe he said that?
Did you hear how she talked to him?
Would you have ever thought they would do that?

We girls do love to talk, don't we?  Let's face our own faults together, conversation can convert quickly to gossip.

If I only tell one person, is it still gossip? 
If what I tell is true, is it still gossip?
If the one who told me didn’t state, “don’t tell anyone and I tell it, is it still gossip?
If I only tell so that the person can pray, is it still gossip?
If the person I tell promises confidentiality, is it still gossip?

So, I’ve answered all the questions… and the answer is a resounding yes!  Do you agree?

I have started a conversation with, "can you believe?' and "did you know?" or "have you heard"?
I have shared more than necessary information in the form of prayer request at Bible study.
I have offered unnecessary information to justify my own words or actions with others.

Often it seems, gossip is intended to lift me up while pushing someone else down.  Surely it will make me feel better about myself, about my circumstance, about my choice or decision.  

Gossip has no place in our conversation.

1 Corinthians 13 is well known as the love chapter in the Bible.  Many wedding ceremonies include the entire chapter as words to live by in marriage.

As I read through this chapter again, while pondering the gossip thought, I realized that verse 7 of that chapter could and should guide not only my thoughts, but also my words.  Those absolute words like never and always tend to leave me feeling inadequate and under qualified for most any task.   Maybe, though, I could memorize and allow this one verse to influence and direct me.  Can you imagine?  

 It [Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. '
1 Corinthians 13:7

Let's challenge ourselves this week... in our marriage, in our families, in our work... replace the word love with your name...

Susan always protects, she always trusts, she always hopes and Susan always perseveres.
Gossip quickly become a non-issue and is replaced with protection, trust, hope, perseverance in word and deed.  Are you in?

Look who's talking

The premise of the 1989 comedy, Look Who's Talking, was simple - build a movie around the thoughts, being spoken aloud to the movie goers, by a baby.  Of course, the other characters in the movie cannot hear the words being spoken, but the movie watchers giggle at how the baby views the world, each new circumstance, and his parents.

Warning so that

2 Timothy 3:16 states, All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”

Numerous sources agree there are approximately 800,000 words in scripture ultimately encouraging us to be more like Jesus.   I can humbly confess to times when I wasn’t interested in being taught, being admonished, being corrected, and especially not trained to be righteous.  My attitude ruled with  selfishness and pride, uttering, “I am in charge of my own life, decisions and future; and that seems to be working just fine for me.”

On a recent trip to the beach, a crystal clear picture unfolded before my eyes of this tendency most of us have to “lean on our own understanding”.  At every public beach access, a flag system instructs beachgoers of the current ocean conditions.

This sunny afternoon, the double red flag was flying. Clearly displayed concise understanding:  WATER CLOSED TO PUBLIC.  Rule followers obediently embraced the warning of a double red flag… those “others” trusted their own decision-making, determining their own rule of safety.  Several self-sufficient souls ignored the warning flags and ventured into the water.  Waves crashed around one young man who, at first watch, embraced the unpredictable crests.  Moments later the massive whitecaps erupted around him. 

Emergency responders were already in route to summon the swimmer to shore – the scene changed quickly:
“call him out of the water with a sharp reprimand.”
“save him from the water with a lifechanging rescue.”

This young man’s regard for the flag system skyrocketed to a healthy reverence… as did the gathered crowd witnessing the incredible rescue.

Watching this dramatic rescue was powerful to the bystanders, but the young man who lived the rescue will share the story with a breathless enthusiasm.  His experience, his story, his appreciation for his salvation can and will be useful.

I wonder if he might briefly share this way:
I fully understand that the authority of the flag system is in place to teach me, to correct me, to train me in the right way for good, so that I stay safe and now, I can tell my story.  My experience is now useful for myself and others.

Maybe, just maybe, he wasn’t aware of the flag system. 
Maybe, just maybe, he hadn’t known of the system’s value.
Maybe, just maybe, he didn’t seek the wisdom of the authority.

Our Bibles are available to us 24/7 literally at our fingertips.  As Christ followers, we have chosen to place ourselves under His authority.  We speak clearly in the waters of baptism, I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, my Lord and Savior. 
Those words of declaration, “Lord of my life” demonstrate surrender, giving up my control, my attitude, my decisions to the authority of God through the sacrifice of Jesus and the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.

Pick it up, tune it in, get the app – Open your Bible and find His promises, His ways, His heart for your life, so that you can share the good news of Jesus through your story.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.  Romans 15:13