Monday, August 29, 2011

60 Grit

Alton used to have a guy in is circle of friends that he gave the nick-named of ''60-grit'' because, according to Al,  his personality was like coarse sandpaper and it rubbed him the wrong way. I think we all know some 60-grit people and dealing with them can be a challenge. But, as believers, we have to ask how Jesus would have us respond.


Jesus said that the greatest commandment is for us to love God and love each other. And, he doesn’t let us off the hook when the others who surround us are very difficult to love.  In Matthew 5:43-45 Jesus says,  “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.


As Jesus stated in these verses, a key to dealing with difficult people is to pray for them.  When our minds start to “go there”, dwelling on all the ways we’ve been mistreated by a sandpaper person, we need to immediately turn those negative thoughts into a prayer...praying for peace with the situation and that God would intervene and provide reconciliation in the relationship.  

California Dreamin'

"Never give up on what you really want to do. The person with big dreams is more powerful than one with all the facts." ~ Unknown.


This Thursday, I will get to remove an item from my so-called “Bucket List”. I am going to be a contestant on the Wheel of Fortune. And, whether I go home with big money or leave with the $1,000 consolation prize, I will at least have the peace that comes with knowing that I chased a dream far enough and long enough to touch it.

What dreams are you chasing today? If the Lord has put those things in your heart, they are there for a reason. Don’t let them go! There may be risk involved and there may be failure in the end. But, I truly believe it is better for your heart to go after something and fail then to never go after it at all.

War Zone

It was an incredibly intense spring across the United States with a record number of tornadoes taking lives and destroying homes and business. The victims of these storms tend to use the same phrase to describe the damage, they say “It looks like a war zone!” Looking at the footage from these devastated areas, the analogy seems more than fitting.

When I look at the lives of many of my friends and family members, I see another kind of war zone. Broken homes, rebellious teens, bodies ravaged by disease and families in financial crisis are just some of the signs of another battle that is underway.

The Bible tells us that there we are, indeed, in the middle of a spiritual war zone. Listen to these words from Ephesians 6:12-20, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

There’s no need to fear; however, because as believers, we have the promise of God’s power to fight these battles, “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” (2 Corinthians 3-4)

So, if your life looks and feels like a war-zone today, cling to God for His strength and power!

Baggage

Thanks to ever-tightening luggage restrictions being enforced by the major airlines, I’ve learned how to pack a lot of stuff in a little space. I’ve actually developed a real appreciation of traveling with fewer bags. There’s freedom found in traveling light.

Unfortunately, lots of us are weighed down by another kind of baggage…emotional baggage. Just like that poor guy trying to make his way through the airport with 3 or 4 heavy suitcases, emotional baggage makes our journey through life so much more difficult and strenuous.

The good news is that there is a kind Gentleman who wants to help us with our bags…he’s willing to take them from us, freeing us from our burden. His name is Jesus and here is what he has to say to those of us who are still carrying our own bags, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Hear Ye?

Do you sometimes feel like NO ONE is listening to you? You’ve asked the kids to clean their room 3 times and it’s still a mess. Your husband completely forgot the date night you had been planning for months and instead bought tickets to the big game on what was supposed to be your special night. Your boss has, once again, overlooked you for that promotion even though you have expressed your interest in the position several times.


It’s so frustrating to be ignored! But, take heart! There is someone listening, and that someone just so happens to be running the universe. God hears the longings of your heart, the groanings of your agony and the words from your mouth before they are ever even formed. You are not being ignored, in fact, the only one who really matters hears it all.

Be encouraged today by Psalm 116:1-2, “I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.”

Monday, August 15, 2011

Three More!

It was just a scrimmage, but all the boys on my son’s football team were anxious to get out on the field and show what they could do. Just a few plays into the game, on of the running backs on our team scored a touchdown. As soon as he could he looked up to the stands and yelled, “Hey dad! Did you see that? I got a touchdown!” His dad was beaming with pride and shouted back down to him, “That’s great, son! Now, go get three more!”


We all could use a little of that “three more” spirit. It’s a great feeling to experience success when we’re doing kingdom work. But, we can’t dwell there. Like that dad in the football stands, God is thrilled with our kingdom victories, but he knows that we are capable of so much more!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Immovable

My 14-year-old son has undergone quite a transition over the past few years. The cute, chubby little boy that lived in my house a couple of years ago has been replaced by a towering, muscular and extremely strong young man. That little guy who I used to easily pick up, wrestle with or playfully push around can now pick ME up! The other day he decided it would be funny to try and block me from getting into the kitchen. And, you know what? I couldn’t even get him to budge! It might as well have been a brick wall standing in my path!

It’s cool when our faith begins to strengthen like my son’s physique. When we become Christians, many of us are easily swayed. Trials and troubles cause us to lose focus and knock us off balance. But, as time goes by, as we trust God instead of relying on ourselves, our faith develops. Before long, our feet are firmly planted in Him and we are not easily moved. We become living examples of these words from Psalm 16:8, “I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. “

Monday, August 8, 2011

If You Can't Take the Heat

It's hot...and I pretty much can’t take it any more! After sweating through a month of temps in the high 90’s, I can’t remember a summer when I was so ready for winter’s frosty return. Even though I can’t see it or feel it, I know that the season will change bringing relief in the form of cooler temperatures. And, that assurance is the only thing getting me through these blazing days.


Believing the season will change in the middle of one of the hottest summers on record, is a great, real-life example of what having faith is all about. Sometimes, our lives can be pretty uncomfortable, unbearable even. But, having faith means fully believing that God is in control, that things will get better and that a heavenly home awaits us, even in the midst of the pain. Even when we can’t feel or see God.

In the meantime, we can cling to the promise of this long-term forecast found in Revelation 21:4 “‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

YAWN!

Are you tired?

With the crazy schedules most of us keep, how could we NOT be tired?  Most of us are trying to balance work, family responsibilities, taking care of our homes, preparing meals, juggling our kids schedules and their needs, caring for sick or elderly family members, fitness and volunteering.  And, how many of us actually get the 7-9 hours of sleep we need each night.  No wonder so many of us are walking around somewhere between cranky and comatose!

If this hits a little too close to home, don't forget that you have a powerful remedy to exhaustion right at your fingertips (and, no, I'm not talking about Red Bull).  This is God's promise from Isaiah 40:29-31,

"He gives strength to the weary

and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope 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 be faint."

Monday, August 1, 2011

Fog Light

There was a heavy fog on my way into work this morning. With the help of my car’s headlights I was able to see just the road in front of me, but no further. As I looked at the little bit of road I could actually see this morning, it reminded me of this verse from Psalm 119 (105) “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.”
Life is kind of like the foggy road I was driving on this morning. We travel through it not really knowing what the future holds. We can guess, plan and hope, but only God knows. But, what God does give us is his word, to illuminate the path just ahead of us. He wants us to trust him with the future and rely on Him to guide each step we take in the present.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Is This What Jesus Told Us to Do?

I recently read a book called Jim and Casper go to Church. Jim is a

Christian who has also worked as a pastor and church planter. He is
curious about what outsiders think of the church and the way we express our faith,
hoping that this insight will help him find new ways to reach the un-churched.
So, he hires Casper who is an atheist to travel across the country visiting ten churches
of different sizes, shapes and styles. After visiting each church, Casper has
the same question, “Jim, is this what Jesus told you guys to do?”

His question has stuck with me. When I observe the many expressions
of our Christian faith today, I can’t help but ask myself the same question.
For example, the largest Christian church in all of Latin-America is in
Guatemala city. At over 1.2 million square feet, the enormous and beautiful
facility stands in stark contrast to the poverty that surrounds it. As I drove
past it this summer while serving on a mission trip in Guatemala, I heard
the question loudly being asked in my head, “Is this what Jesus told you
guys to do?”

What do you think? Are Christians today are doing the things Jesus told us
to do?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Free Indeed

Across America, we’re celebrating Independence Day, a day set apart to revel in the freedom we have as residents of the US. As Christians, we have another kind of freedom to celebrate, our freedom in Christ.

In the New Testament we find many verses about this freedom, here are just a few…
Galatians 5:1 “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
John 8:32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
John 8:36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (NIV)

So, we can rest assured that our faith in Jesus has set us free, but from what?
When we become a Christian by first acknowledging that we have sinned and then accepting Jesus’ sacrifice as the punishment for those sins, then we are free. Free from slavery to a system of laws and free from the eternal consequences of sin. Free Indeed.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Gimme Your Eyes

Not long I came across a line in one of Rick Steve’s travel guides that has caused me to think hard about my place in this world. If you watch much public TV, you know Rick…he’s the guy that does all of the European Travel shows. How do you get that job???

Anyway, Rick was talking about how to best tour a new land and his advice was to enjoy the country more like a local than a tourist. He recommends getting out of the really touristy areas to experience how people actually live. Rick believes that travel can make you a happier American and citizen of the world, because it brings to our attention that we are just one of the nearly 6 billion equally important people who live on the planet.

Whoa…how’s that for perspective? I am one of 6 billion equally important people. Remember, I am an only child, so this is a very hard pill to swallow. But, Rick is right. While it is true that I am fearfully and wonderfully made, and that God knows the number of hairs on my head, it’s also true that he knows and loves hundreds of millions of other people just as intimately.

So either I am far less important than I’d like to think, or everyone else is far more important. I believe it’s the latter. Jesus confirmed this when he said “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 'This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself. To love someone else as yourself means you accept them as equally important.

I encourage you to join me in taking some time today think about your perspective about the importance of others. Ask God to help you to see others through His eyes, each person as an equally important individual created and called by the King.

Fluent in Faith

Thanks to my 7th Grade Spanish teacher and 3 trips to Guatemala, I’ve picked up a little Spanish. On my most recent trip, I found I had picked up just enough Spanish to almost engage in a conversation with someone, but then had nowhere to go because of the language barrier. It was SO FRUSTRATING!!! I’m a talker, I majored in Communication and talking is what I do for a living. So, for me, only being able to have shallow chats with people and not having the words to go deeper was really stifling. Fortunately, the Guatemalans I found myself in this position with were very gracious. They seemed to appreciate that I was at least trying to speak their language, even though my heart to communicate far exceeded my ability.

I sometimes feel the same way when I get into conversations with people about my faith. I know enough about what I believe and the Bible to start a conversation with people, but once we go deeper, I sometimes struggle to find the words to articulate why I believe what I believe. Has this ever happened to you? There are a plethora of books and websites that can help you find the words you need to have conversations about your faith. Josh McDowell’s website, Josh.org is a good place to start. New Christians and long-time Christ followers alike could probably all benefit from a lesson in apologetics.

On the other hand, I have met many Christians who are extremely well educated in theology, doctrine and the Bible, but seem to lack the compassion and love in necessary to communicate that knowledge in a way that others are receptive to. In 1Corinthians 13 Paul emphasizes the importance of love in our communication with others, saying, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”

Paul reiterates the point that the language of our faith is a language of love. We can have the words and the ability, but it is love that allows the message to penetrate other’s hearts.

Butterflies & Moths

On a recent trip to Guatemala, I developed a new appreciation for moths. This happened as an unintended consequence of my roommates and I leaving the bathroom light on at night. Each morning, the room was inhabited by a new collection of these winged insects. They came in an enormous variety of colors, patterns, shapes and sizes.

Moths really are amazing creatures, but they’re the Rodney Dangerfield of the insect world…they get no respect! Instead, their first cousin, the butterfly, gets all the notoriety. Even though there are moths that rival the beauty of any butterfly, you never hear of anyone releasing moths at their wedding. There’s a butterfly farm in Greensboro where you can go see butterflies in various stages of development from caterpillar to chrysalis to adult butterfly. You can even feed the butterflies there and have them land on your hand. You’d never find a similar attraction for the lowly moth. Many little girls have rooms decorated from top to bottom with butterflies. A moth found in a little girl’s room will most likely get swatted.

Just as we may value the butterfly more than the moth, even though they are basically the same insect, we also tend to value some people more than others. Can you think of the butterflies and moths in your life? Are there certain people or groups of people that you value and respect more than others? Is that perspective in line with the example given to us by Jesus?

Remember, when Jesus walked the earth, he spent his time ministering to the people that could be classified as the “moths” of society. He spent his time loving and sharing the good news with prostitutes, tax collectors, fishermen and thieves. He avoided the people who enjoyed an undeserved place of prestige in society. He also calls us as His followers to the same standard, challenging our value system by reminding us that when we serve the “least of these” we serve Him.

Are You a Fruity Christian?

For me, nothing beats a ‘mater sammich in the summer time. In my book, the perfect recipe for this dog-day delight includes a big, juicy home grown tomato, Hellman’s Mayo, a slice of American Cheese and a couple of pieces of Wonder Bread. The tomato must be home grown. The best ones are still warm from the summer sun.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll ever successfully grow any tomatoes at my own home. Alton and I have tried year after year with no success. This year, I even let him put the scruffy looking plants in our front yard, the only location that gets the kind of full sun that tomatoes require. We’ve been so faithful about watering and feeding the plants. I was excited when I saw lots of buds and then little green tomatoes starting to develop, thinking our dedication was finally paying off. However, it appears that some kind of critter, maybe a bunny or a chipmunk, is getting to the nearly-ripened ones before we can. It’s so frustrating!

I can kind of understand how Jesus must have felt in Matthew when he was hungry and was hoping to snag a snack off a fig tree, only to find the tree bore no fruit. I’m guessing Jesus was more that a tad irritated when he said to the tree, “May you never bear fruit again!" causing the tree to immediately wither.

I think there’s a lot more meaning to this story than a hungry Jesus and a barren fruit tree. As Christians, we are meant to bear fruit. While bearing fruit is not a requirement for our salvation, it is an outward sign of the Holy Spirit that now dwells within us. In Matthew 7, when Jesus is teaching the disciples how to identify real from false prophets, he said, “By their fruit you will recognize them.”

Jesus hungers for fruit in our lives. He longs to see us allow the Holy Spirit to take over our hearts and minds enabling us to do great things for the glory of God. Ask yourself this question, if you were a fig tree like the one mentioned in the Gospels, would Jesus easily find fruit among your leaves? If you’re a little embarrassed by your bare branches, ask God for help. Ask Him to help you weed out the things that might be stunting your growth and to direct you down paths that lead to fruitfulness.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Meeting Jesus

My daughter Carley and I are leaving this Friday for a week in Guatemala to serve on a Caroline’s Promise mission team. I am super excited to share this experience with her! There are lots of great reasons to bring your child on a mission trip: they get to experience other cultures, they’ll hopefully gain a new appreciation of their own life, they will learn how to be more flexible, not to mention the incredible opportunity you’ll have to bond with your child while on your adventure. But the best reason I can think of to take your child on a mission trip (as soon as they’re mature enough), is that by doing so, you are giving him or her a chance to meet Jesus in person.
In Matthew 25 (35 & 40), Jesus tells his disciples, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me”...”Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
Let’s be intentional about providing our children with opportunities to encounter Jesus among the least of these. You don’t have to travel internationally to do it, there are plenty of opportunities right here in our community! Just pray about where God would like you to serve and I promise, opportunities will present themselves.
What are your suggestions about places to serve Christ with your kids? Please, share them with me by email, tami@wbfj.fm.
Thanks!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

From Heir to Eternity

Did you hear about the homeless guy from Utah who recently found out that his wealthy brother had passed away and left him a huge inheritance? For several months, this man walked around with no home, pushing all of his possessions around in a shopping cart without knowing his true worth. How many people spend their whole lives walking around poor in spirit because they do not know about the inheritance that awaits them? Through Jesus, we all are entitled to the spiritual riches bequeathed to us as children of the King. Yet, not everyone lives in this truth. Some are still clinging to the ratty things that this world has to offer.


Instead, let’s choose to live in this truth found in 1 Peter (1:3-5)

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, 4 and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Thrill Ride

I’ll never forget the first time my husband took our, then, young son Andrew on a real roller coaster. It was about 2.5 seconds into that ride when my husband had the panic attack. It wasn’t because the ride scared him…but when he looked over at our young son, Alton began to wonder if Andrew was really big enough for the ride. Was he actually secured in his harness? Could he fall out? By the time the ride was over, my poor husband was so weak in the knees that he had to sit down for a few minutes just to compose himself.

Andrew, on the other hand was ready to do it again. And, once he realized that he and his son were safe and that he could trust the harness system on the ride, Alton was ready to ride again, too.
Like a roller coaster, life can be crazy, filled with ups, downs and moments of anticipation, acceleration and exhilaration. Fortunately, we’ve been given a safety harness to help us stay calm, even when life isn’t. In Matthew 11:29, Jesus offers this invitation, “Place my yoke over your shoulders, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble. Then you will find rest for yourselves.”

Friday, June 17, 2011

Lavish Them With Love!

My dad was pretty typical of the men of his generation. He was not very open about his feelings and emotions. I knew he loved me, but somewhere in the back of my mind I always questioned if he liked me. At my father’s funeral I was shocked as co-worker after co-worker shared with me that my Dad regularly talked about me at his workplace. They said he was so proud of me. I was shocked! I really had no idea that he felt that way.
Dads, please don’t let this be your story. There is an ever-growing body of evidence that shows that a close relationship with ones father is a predictor of future success in life. And, I’ve spoken to many people, women in particular, who did not have a close relationship with their father and now struggle to understand their relationship with their heavenly father.

Time is fleeting. Don’t assume that your kids know you love them and are proud of them. Take time to lavish love and praise on your children every day…starting today.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

More Than I Can Handle

1 Corinthians 10:13 may be one of the most misquoted verses in scripture. I’ve heard it and also said it like this, “God won’t give you more than you can handle”.  But the verse actually says, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

When we mistakenly say that God won’t give us more than we can handle, we create an image of a deity who sits in heaven meting out misery, stopping just before we hit our breaking point. Do we really believe that’s the kind of God we serve?

Isn’t it far more in line with God’s character to believe that we suffer trials because we live in a fallen world? And, because he is our Father God, who loves us and provides for us, he offers us his strength and his power to help us cope with these tough times. Instead of not giving us more than we can handle, he actually gives us the strength we need to handle the difficulties that go along with living in a fallen world. We can call on him to give us strength to endure.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Forgiveness, Grace and Mercy

I’ve been struggling lately with an unforgiving spirit towards someone. I’ve committed the issue to prayer and asked the Lord to help me work this out. And, while I long for a more forgiving spirit, when I compare my heart to God’s I realize how totally inadequate my ways truly are. How can I ever come even close to offering the kind of grace God freely gives each of us? Here’s what it says in the Psalms (103:6-18 MSG)



God makes everything come out right;
he puts victims back on their feet.
He showed Moses how he went about his work,
opened up his plans to all Israel.
God is sheer mercy and grace;
not easily angered, he's rich in love.
He doesn't endlessly nag and scold,
nor hold grudges forever.
He doesn't treat us as our sins deserve,
nor pay us back in full for our wrongs.
As high as heaven is over the earth,
so strong is his love to those who fear him.
And as far as sunrise is from sunset,
he has separated us from our sins.
As parents feel for their children,
God feels for those who fear him.
He knows us inside and out,
keeps in mind that we're made of mud.
Men and women don't live very long;
like wildflowers they spring up and blossom,
But a storm snuffs them out just as quickly,
leaving nothing to show they were here.
God's love, though, is ever and always,
eternally present to all who fear him,
Making everything right for them and their children
as they follow his Covenant ways
and remember to do whatever he said.


Let’s take time to thank God today for the mercy and grace that he continues to show us. Let’s also ask Him to grow in us a spirit of forgiveness so we can be a better reflection of his love in this world.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Rest

I just returned from a long weekend at the beach with a friend.  This is something I haven’t done in ages, and it was so refreshing to be responsible for no one other than myself for a few days!    I did feel a little guilty taking off for the weekend and leaving my hubby and kids home to fend for themselves, especially when I found out that my youngest daughter started running a fever just a few hours after I left.  But, the truth is, I have come back a better mother and a better wife after having a few days to recuperate.  And, everyone on the home front survived and I think my husband has a new appreciation of what I do every day.

We all need a break sometimes and that is nothing to be ashamed of. Jesus modeled this for us by regularly taking time away from everything to rest and have time alone with the Father.  The Lord modeled rest on the seventh day of creation.  

Taking time to rest is not selfish, in fact it is one of the best things you can do to be a better servant!  Think of the instructions a flight attendant gives on a plane about the oxygen masks.  We’re told to put the masks on ourselves first and then on any children we are travelling with.  This is because if we don’t give ourselves the oxygen first, we may pass out before we can give it to our children.  Taking care of ourselves first does not come naturally, but it is necessary. Schedule some rest for yourself today.

Mountain Climbing

I’ve never had an actual near death experience, but I came close once on a hike with my family up Hanging Rock.  I didn’t realize how tough the steep, 3 mile hike was going to be and there were several points on the hike that I really didn’t think I would make it.

My struggle to climb that mountain is a good reminder of what happens when we haven’t been conditioning our spiritual muscles and we come up against a difficult situation in our lives.  When molehills begin to feel like mountains it doesn’t take long for me to realize that I haven’t been spending enough time with God.

In the fourth chapter of 1st Timothy, Paul writes a lot about the importance of spiritual conditioning, saying: “ For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come”

Let’s pray today that God will help us find the time and motivation to spend time daily with Him so that our spiritual muscles will be in good enough shape to handle whatever challenges come our way.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Sister Marta

On one of my trips to Guatemala, I met a precious lady named Marta and her adorable little girl, Claudia. Marta, like many single mothers in Guatemala, lives well below the poverty line. Her home, which she rents from her brother, is really just a one-room shack with a dirt floor, leaky roof and no toilet. If she needs to use the bathroom, she can use her brother’s, as long as she PAYS him! Her brother treats her very badly. He claims that he is angry with her for having a baby outside of marriage. He’s taken it upon himself to judge and punish her for her sins.


I can’t help but be angry with her brother. There is so much he could do for her to help her out…fix up the house, offer her some food, install a toilet, or at least let her use his for free. But this supposedly “very religious” man looks with disdain upon his sister and refuses to give her and her child any help at all. So, she continues to struggle every day just to survive.

But, in a lot of ways, I am just like Marta’s brother. When I see people going through a hard time, I often find myself looking for what it was that they did to bring on their problems. Maybe if I can figure out where they are at fault then I am somehow relieved of the obligation to get involved, because, after all, they brought it on themselves.

I’m not sure Jesus is too thrilled with this judgmental and self righteous line of thinking. I can’t think of one scripture where Jesus tells us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and give water to the thirsty UNLESS they are sinners who created their own misery. Actually, it was exactly these kinds of people whom Jesus seemed to spend the most time with! Take a few minutes to read John 4 and the story of the Samaritan woman that Jesus encountered at the well. Here was a woman who had been married 5 times and was currently involved in an illicit relationship with a man who she was not married to. Yet, without ignoring her sin, Jesus still showed her love, treated her with kindness and offered her a sip of His living water.

Let’s pray today for hearts that are filled with grace and that a judgmental spirit never gets in the way of our compassion.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Month of Sundays

Friends, I am so happy that this day has finally come!  You see, for several years I have been trying to compile a collection of some of my "Moment for Mom" devotions into a book.  Since I have been working on this whenever I could find a few spare hours, and since spare time is something that is almost non-existent for me, this has taken much longer than I expected!   

The book, "A Month of Sundays: 30 Days of Reflection and Inspiration" is finally a reality.  Praise God!  It is a collection of some of my favorite "Moment for Mom" devotions, thirty of them to be exact.   In addition to the devotional that you'd normally read here on the blog or hear on WBFJ, the book also includes a special prayer and some thought provoking questions to go along with each devotion.  I also have included several journal pages where you can add your own thoughts, prayers and reflections.  I hope that you will find each day's devotion to be like a mini-sermon, giving you something to think about and deepen your relationship with God.

The interesting thing is that, even though I did not select the devotions for this collection with any theme in mind, one has definitely emerged.  Many of the devotions in this book, although each unique in its own right, seem to center around staying faithful, focused and encouraged, even during life's difficulties.  I don't believe it to be a coincidence that this is the theme that has emerged.  Even though these devotionals were written over the past five years or so, the past year has been a very difficult one for me.  So, I believe that God is pointing out to me that he was preparing me for the trials I would face in my life far in advance, by
giving me these words long before I would fully understand their meaning.

I am selling the books for $18.00 each (+ $2.00 shipping/handling for online orders). Currently, the profit is going towards offsetting the high cost of printing.  As soon as that is covered, my intention is to use the proceeds of the book towards mission trip expenses and other charitable causes.  

You can order a copy right here.  Simply click the button below and you'll be directed to Paypal where you can securely complete your transaction using any major credit/debit card or your Paypal account.  You do not need to have a Paypal account...simply choose to complete your transaction as a guest when you get the Paypal website.  Your order will ship via USPS within 48 hours of reciept of payment.  Thank You!






"A Month of Sundays" Cover
A Peek Inside

Table of Contents

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Thing About TV Dinners

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth – Revelation 3:15-16


So, I’m in the kitchen at work warming up today’s frozen entrĂ©e for lunch. Todays offering is Lasagna Florentine…a “rich, five layer lasagna, with ricotta cheese, zucchini and spinach”, the box boasts. A highlighted section of the package tells me with great excitement, “Now with Garden-Style Marinara Sauce!” The photo on the cover looks like a dish I might be served at our neighborhood Italian restaurant. And, momentarily, I believe that the lunch I’ll be eating at my desk today is gonna be good….real good.

But then I snap back into reality and realize that this is a $2.00 TV dinner ($1.50 with coupon) and despite the skillful wording and lovely photography on the box, I’m still going to be eating food that has been in a cryogenic state for an unknown number of months (or years). As I peel back the plastic film and take my first bite, my disappointment is confirmed. No, it’s not the worst thing I’ve ever eaten but it isn’t “A Good Thing” as Martha would say.

As I’m chewing the last bite of an elastic noodle, God reminds me that my TV Dinner disappointment is kind of like the times that I’ve let Him down with my worship. I think about those Sunday mornings when I rush around trying to get myself and everyone ready, putting the girls in their pretty dresses so they’ll look nice for church. Husband Alton trims his beard, son Andrew cleans behind his ears, and I, sometimes, even manage to get some make-up on. We pile into the van, pull into the parking lot and head into church…even managing to smile and wave at the folks we pass by on the way in.

And then I, in all my “Sunday Morning Packaging”, step into the sanctuary to worship God. And, even though all the right words are coming out of my mouth, what’s on the inside doesn’t live up to the picture on the outside. I’m distracted, looking around at others, thinking about how bad someone’s singing is and quietly cracking an occasional joke to my husband. My worship, if you can even call it that, has an “off flavor”, it is mushy, flavorless and still partially frozen. Not exactly what you could call a fragrant offering, now is it?

So, I’ve decided that he next time I find myself in church mindlessly singing along to the music and nodding my head at the preacher, I’m going to ask myself this question, “Am I offering God a TV Dinner or a gourmet meal?”

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

No Pain, No Gain

Now that the kids are back in school, like many moms, I've resumed my regular workouts. Things are going pretty well, but once again, I'm dealing with muscles that are screaming out in protest over their new work schedule. However, I'm trying hard to push through the pain because I know from experience that in a week or two things wil improve and I'll feel stronger and more energized.


I did some research online about the cause of muscle soreness after a workout. I learned that when we exercise we lengthen and contract our muscles. In the lengthening phase, we create tiny tears in our muscle fibers which result in the soreness that appears a day or two after each workout, especially for those starting a new exercise routine. It is through this process that our muscles adapt and strengthen, becoming better prepared for the next time they have a task to perform. Now that I know the soreness is actually a sign that my muscles are getting stronger, I don't mind it as much. In fact, I hope to be a little sore after each work out, that way I know it was effective. After all, I probably won't see the results of all this hard work for a few more weeks, so feeling the results right away is encouraging.

Pain is often a part of a strengthening process in our lives, isn't it? Spiritual and emotional growth rarely happen during the peaceful times in our lives when everything is going well. Unfortunately, periods of great growth usually happen during times of great trial. These are the times when our spiritual, emotional and mental "muscles" are tested, torn and ultimately strengthened.

Even though it may not feel like it, God is closest to us in these painful seasons. Psalm 34:18 assures us that "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." And, in Isaiah 40:29-31 we find the encouragement that after the pain comes a time of renewal and increased strength, "He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope 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 be faint."

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Mixed Messages

Check out the following story recently emailed to me:

One day, there was a blind man sitting on the steps of a building with a hat by his feet and a sign that read: "I am blind, please help."

A creative publicist was walking by and stopped to observe. He saw that the blind man had only a few coins in his hat. He dropped in more coins and, without asking for permission, took the sign and rewrote it. He returned the sign to the blind man and left. That afternoon the publicist returned to the blind man and noticed that his hat was full of bills and coins.

The blind man recognized his footsteps and asked if it was he who had rewritten his sign and wanted to know what he had written on it. The publicist responded, "Nothing that was not true. I just wrote the message a little differently." He smiled and went on his way, knowing that now the sign read, "Today is Spring and I cannot see it."

This story reminds me that, often, our needs are not met because we’re not communicating them effectively. This is especially true when it comes to our close relationships. Is there someone important in your life who, you feel, consistently ignores your needs and feelings? Maybe it’s time to take a hard look at the way you are expressing yourself.

One classic conflict resolution model is the I-Statement. It goes something like this: "When you _________, I feel __________, because __________, so what I would like is __________________." For example, if your spouse keeps leaving dirty clothes on the floor…instead of yelling or nagging, try this: When you leave your dirty clothes on the floor, I feel taken advantage of, because I work hard to keep the house clean all week. So, what I would like is for you to use the hamper instead of the floor from now on.

It may seem simple, but it really works! Just by changing your tone and your words the same message may be heard in a whole new way.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Clean Slate

Recently, another class of men and women graduated from the Triad Community Kitchen Cooking School. The students in this free, 10-week culinary training program, are folks who, for whatever reason, have been unable to find and keep gainful employment. Some of the students are even homeless. Classes are led by Chef Jeff Bacon. He provides the students with the education and training they need to be ready to work in the food service and hospitality industries upon graduation from the program.

There is something even greater than cooking skills and job readiness that Chef Jeff offers his students. The greatest gift he offers them comes in the form of a clean slate.

Each man and woman in Jeff’s class has a past that includes tough times. They have each overcome some pretty big bumps in the road. But, at Triad Community Kitchen, the focus is not on what’s in the rearview mirror, it’s on what lies ahead. And, each graduating class is comprised of people who had the courage and motivation to make a u-turn in order to follow a new path that leads to success.

Can you relate to these students? When you look back do you cringe at what you see? When you look ahead, do you see a new beginning or do endless miles of the same unproductive, painful path lie ahead?

Jesus knows your past. He knows the worst thing you have ever done. And, that’s what makes his gift so amazing. Listen to this passage from the 5th Chapter of Romans: “8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. 9 And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. 10 For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. 11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.”

If you haven’t accepted His offer yet, what are you waiting for? Jesus stands ready with a clean slate and a new beginning. Hand your life over to him today, ask him to forgive your sins, and experience the freedom that only comes with grace.

Tending Sheep

Just weeks before I took my first mission trip to Guatemala, some friends of mine who had been trying for quite some time to adopt finally got the news that they had been waiting for…they were matched with a newborn baby girl. God’s timing was so perfect! I, along with another friend of theirs, would soon be traveling to the children’s home where she was placed and we would be able to meet and hold their new baby.

At the time there were close to 60 children living at the home. While I tried to give attention to each of them in the limited time that we had there, I made a point to give extra attention to the baby my friends were adopting. I held her as much as possible and took lots of pictures. After all, I had a special connection to her, I knew her parents. I also knew that when I came back from my trip, these parents would want to know about every moment I spent with their baby. I wanted to be able to tell them that I had given her the best care that I possibly could.

As parents, we all want to know that our children are treated well in our absence. Similarly, I really believe that some day, when we stand before God, He will ask us how we treated His children. Did we take time to love each other, provide for each other’s needs and answer each other’s cries for help?

Consider the exchange between Jesus and Peter recorded in the Book of John. Jesus asks Peter three separate times if Peter loves him. Each time, Peter replies, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you”. Jesus responds first by saying “Feed my lambs”, then “"Take care of my sheep” and finally by again telling Peter, “Feed my sheep”. Jesus makes it clear that he expects us as his disciples to care for one another.

Now, loving this baby that my friends were adopting was easy, she was precious. However, each day, we encounter lots of people, and some folks can be difficult to love. However, when we take time to consider that we know and love their Father and He has asked us to treat his children well, we’re given a new perspective and motivation to love and care for one another.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Just One Won't Hurt

The sign in the cookie stand at Subway looked innocent enough. It read, “Just one won’t hurt.” I was waiting in line to pay for the sensible, nutritious salad I had just ordered when those 4 little words caught my eye and nearly convinced me to buy a cookie. But then I realized that the “Just one won’t hurt” mentality is the cause of my being overweight! In actuality, the path to destruction is laid with statements like, “Just one won’t hurt.”

CS Lewis was definitely on to something when he said, “Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance.” Now, obviously, one cookie is not a bad thing. But the destructive things we do rarely happen after just one bad choice. No, it’s usually a chain of bad choices…just one cookie, just one drink, just one impure thought, just one little lie, just one item purchased on the credit card. Those just ones rarely stand alone.

How do we break free from these bad choices? Listen to this advice from 2 Corinthians 10:4-5, “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ”

So, if the “Just one more’s” have brought you to an unhappy place in your life, take comfort in knowing that God is ready to supply you with the power you need to break the chains that bind you. Ask him for forgiveness for the bad decisions you’ve made and for the strength and will to choose the right things in the future.

Stormy Weather

The news story read like this:

“The center of the Tropical Storm has barely moved in the last several hours. That has meant a lot of flooding rains with some areas getting as much as 25 inches and more is expected.” Think about the poor folks experiencing this deluge, caused by a storm system stalling out over there area. They must have wondered if the rain would ever stop.

Sometimes, life can feel that way. We all experience times when stormy weather sets in and after a while you feel certain it’s here to stay. Pain, discouragement, tragedy and loss come pouring down in buckets and you can’t understand why God doesn’t just make it stop.
These are the times that our faith is tried and tested the most. We cry out to God, wanting to know why he is allowing our pain. We want answers but all we get is more rain.

Maybe you are feeling this way right now. I can’t offer you answers, but perhaps I can offer you some hope. This will not last forever. Just like the Tropical Storm in the news story mentioned earlier, your storm will move on. You may be left with some floodwaters and a mess to clean up, but you will get to a place where the rain stops and you can move forward with life.

During this time it’s essential that you cling to God with the assurance that he has not forgotten or forsaken you. Consider these words from Psalm 37: (7 & 28) “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him…” and " For the LORD loves the just, and will not forsake his faithful ones. They will be protected forever…”

God promises to offer you peace and strength. Take him on his Word. Listen to these verses from 2 Corinthians (9&10), "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Baggage

Have you ever watched someone with multiple pieces of obviously heavy pieces of luggage trying to make their way through the airport? It’s quite a sight, isn’t it? Maybe you’ve even been that person before…questioning whether or not you really needed to pack 3 different outfits and 2 pairs of shoes for each day of your trip. PBS travel Guru, Rick Steve’s advises travelers to pack just one carry-on suitcase for a trip. That seems a little far to the other extreme. I don’t think I could pack everything I need for a weekend at the beach in one carry-on sized bag, never mind a 2 week trip to Europe!

Unfortunately, lots of us are weighed down by another kind of baggage…emotional baggage. Just like that poor guy trying to make his way through the airport with 3 or 4 heavy suitcases, emotional baggage makes our journey through life so much more difficult and strenuous. It trips us up, weighs us down and just makes us miserable! So, what is packed in our emotional bags? Usually they are full of past hurts that we carry with us, giving us a dim out look and getting in the way of healthy relationships with others. We don’t need these things, yet we carry them around with us everywhere we go.

The good news is that there is a kind Gentleman who wants to help us with our bags…he’s willing to take them from us, freeing us from our burden. His name is Jesus and here is what he has to say to those of us who are still carrying our own bags, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

United We Stand

I recently took my girls to an event at a church that is part of the same non-denominational denomination of the church we go to. On the way home I made the mistake of mentioning that the church we had just been to was a sister church of our own.

“What’s a sister church?” Carley asked. I explained that it is a church that is the same type of church as ours, a Church of Christ, or a Christian Church. “Aren’t all churches, churches of Christ?” my wise daughter pressed. “Well, uh, yes” I answered, knowing this was going in a difficult direction, “but, different churches have different, um, beliefs and ways of worshipping Christ.” Then, 7 year old Laura chimed in, and showing her understanding of world religions, said, “Some people worship Boota”.

I have to admit I was relieved that the discussion had shifted away from denominational differences among Christians. It was a lot easier for me to explain to the girls the difference between Christians and “Boot-ists” than it was to explain the difference between Pentecostals and Presbyterians. I guess that’s because in my kid’s eyes, Christians, no matter what church they attend or denomination they ascribe to, are simply followers of Christ.
Their view of Christianity is so pure, so perfect, I don’t want to mess it up by telling them how far we really are from that ideal.

The Gospel of John records this prayer from Jesus regarding those of us who would one day be known as Christians, “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

Imagine what the Body of Christ, the church, could do if we really were all one. If we really had the complete unity that Jesus prayed we would have. I don’t know how that can happen in a world with somewhere around 38,000 different denominations. But a good place to start is in our own homes and own congregations. Let’s pray today that God will give us hearts focused on serving and glorifying Him in a way that unites us with other believers.

Monday, March 28, 2011

You're in Better Hands

Harold, who currently works as a waiter at the Nashville Hilton, is originally from the southern part of Louisiana. A few days before Hurricane Katrina hit, he, his wife and their 2 children packed up a few changes of clothes and other necessities and left town. Concerned about possible flooding, Harold wrapped up pictures, valuables and other irreplaceable items and tucked them away in his attic between the rafters before evacuating.

Thankfully he and his family escaped injury. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of their home which was destroyed. All their belongings, including the pictures and valuables tucked away in the attic were now buried somewhere under the 5 feet of putrid sludge that filled what was left of their home. His insurance company, you know, the one that promises to keep you in good hands, refused to cover his losses because of a technicality somewhere in the fine print of his policy. The worst part of all, however, was losing his Mother and Mother-in-Law who both died as a result of the storm.

I asked Harold how he held together through it all. He simply pointed heavenward. He said that he had to be strong for his kids and his wife during it all and that strength came from God. Several churches pulled together to help provide his family with the necessities until they could get back on their feet. And, now, three years later, thanks be to God, his life is finally starting to return to a new state of normal.

So, whose hands hold your life? There is only one set of hands prepared to carry you through the difficult times we are all eventually bound to face. Natalie Grant’s song, “In Better Hands” says it well, “I am strong all because of you. I stand in awe of every mountain that you move. I am changed, yesterday is gone. I am safe from this moment on. There’s no fear when the night comes round, I’m in better hands now”

Friday, March 25, 2011

More Like Falling in Love

I received an email from a young woman who was feeling distant from God. She said she wanted a relationship with Jesus like the one described in the song “More Like Falling in Love” by Jason Gray. Basically, she had identified that she wanted a relationship not religion, but wasn’t sure how to get there.


I think she’s right. We’ll never get to a place of real communion with Jesus by following a system of rules and rituals. Yes, church is important for fellowship and hopefully, provides us an opportunity to learn more about God and spend some time worshiping Him. But, too many people falsely believe that going through the motions of church every week will lead to a relationship with Christ. I don't think that works...it's never worked for me.

In my experience, the times I have felt closest to Jesus are when I am serving others. There is something about giving everything you have to people who could never pay you back that opens the door for Jesus to really take hold of your heart. I love the scripture in James 1:27--"Pure and undefiled religion before the Lord is this, to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unpolluted from the world".

In addition to serving others and avoiding the pitfalls of sin, I also think it’s important to spend time with God each day by reading the Bible and praying. This is how God communicates with us. We can ask God where He is calling us to serve. We should also ask Him to give us the strength to help us avoid temptation and stay pure and unpolluted by the world. That's hard, I know. But, we have His strength and His Holy Spirit to help us. And, when we mess up, we have His grace to cover us...we can pray for forgiveness and move on.

I don’t have all the answers, but I think these are the things (seeking Him, serving others, and staying pure) that make our relationship with Jesus more like falling in love.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Pulling Weeds

My hubby and I were pulling some weeds from a small flower garden in our front yard when I noticed that the weeds growing among the daylilies looked an awful lot like the daylilies themselves. So much so, in fact, that it was hard to tell the difference between the weeds and the plants. I told Alton that it takes a clever weed to grow and disguise itself among the leaves of good plants that look just like it. Then we talked about how the weeds in our garden were a lot like the sin in our lives…how the things that pull us away from God often look really good at the outset, only later to be revealed as destructive choices and behaviors that choke out the fruit we’re meant to bear.


Alton and I are not the first people to make this comparison between cleverly disguised weeds and sin. In fact, Jesus made a similar observation a couple thousand years ago…we know it as the “Parable of the Weeds” and it’s found in Matthew’s Gospel. In the story, Jesus describes a farmer who planted wheat and the farmer’s enemy who came along while the farmer was sleeping to plant weeds among the wheat, weeds that probably looked a lot like the wheat. The farmer advises his workers, when they discover the problem, to leave the weeds alone, because if they try to pull them, they may accidentally pull some of the good wheat along with the weeds.

This parable is loaded with meaning, and literally volumes have been written about it. One of the things I’ve learned from it, and the point I’m getting at today, is that Satan, like the enemy of the farmer, is crafty and clever. He will plant seeds of sin around us that, at first, may look like things that are good and appealing. How do we tell the difference? I think the fruit we bear is one way to tell. Seeds that God has planted in our lives will bring forth fruit that bountifully points back to and glorifies Him. Seeds planted by the enemy will not produce beautiful blessings. Most importantly, we need to remember to ask God to point out weeds in our lives and to rely on His strength to remove them.

The Parable of the Weeds

Matthew 13:24-30 (NIV)

24Jesus told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.
27"The owner's servants came to him and said, 'Sir, didn't you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?'

28" 'An enemy did this,' he replied.

"The servants asked him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?'

29" 'No,' he answered, 'because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. 30Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.' "

The Parable of the Weeds Explained

Matthew 13:36-40 (NIV)

Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, "Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field."

He answered, "The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.

40"As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear

Monday, March 21, 2011

Savor the Flavor

I’ve been trying to drink more water lately. I find plain water quite boring, so I like to get flavored, sparkling water. And, because I’m a bit of a tightwad, I only allow myself one bottle of flavored water a day, then for the rest of the day I just refill that bottle with plain water.

One afternoon, my daughter spotted the bottle and wanted a sip. I told her that I had already finished the “good stuff” and the bottle was filled with plain water. She said, “That’s OK. There’s probably still a little flavor left in the bottle.” And, she was right...there was a hint strawberry-kiwi flavor in the regular water.

We all have a “flavor” that we leave behind…an essence that permeates a room after we’ve left. It can be a pleasant flavor-like Joy, Peace, Happiness or Grace. Or, it can be an unpleasant one…Bitterness, Anger, Impatience or Stress. Either way, our attitude, or flavor, has an effect on our surroundings and the people we come in contact with.

This is especially true when it comes to the people we spend the most time with, our spouses, family members and children. In fact, our “flavor” can be so strong and so consistent that it changes theirs, for better or worse.

Today, let’s pray that God will show us the way that our attitude is affecting those around us, and that He will give us the strength we need to replace any of our unsavory flavors with ones that are pleasant. Just as Paul encouraged the Ephesians, let’s pray together that we will “be imitators of God, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:1&2

Many Happy Returns

“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.”
-Chuck Swindoll
_____________________________________________________

It had been a long day of traveling following a week and a half of mission work in Guatemala. Our group of 19 was ready to be home, reuniting with family members and sleeping in our own beds. However, our patience was put to the test when our connecting flight from Atlanta to Greensboro ended up changing departure gates 3 times and being delayed for over an hour.

I was pleased to observe the positive attitudes maintained by our group’s members, despite our anxiousness to get home. We used the delay as an opportunity to grab some dinner and spend some more time chatting with each other before we would have to part ways.

Unfortunalely, not everyone on our flight was able to keep the same kind of positive outlook. One passenger in particular caught our attention…a minister was overheard loudly complaining into his cell phone about the delay. He told the person on the other end of the line that he still didn’t have tomorrow’s sermon written because the airline kept delaying his flight.

My friend Glen, who also overheard the perturbed pastor’s phone call, said, “What he doesn’t realize is that God just gave him an extra hour to get that sermon done”.

Glen’s insight made me wonder how many times I’ve gotten wrapped up in a frustrating situation and missed out on the blessing God was trying to hand me. We’ve all been there before haven’t we? But, Romans 8:28 assures us “that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

If we believe God’s word to be true, than we ought to trust that no matter what situation we face, God can and will use it for our good.

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Do you have a great story about a blessing in disguise of a tough situation? Please share it by leaving a comment below or emailing me at tami@wbfj.fm.

He'd Better Be Sick!

“All I know is, he’d better be sick!”

Those were the words I muttered as I headed out the door. It was a busy Monday, I had lots to get done, and now I had to leave work at 9:30 in the morning to pick up a supposedly sick child from school.

It’s not that I minded having to leave work…I’m a mom first and taking care of my kids when they are ill is my job. And, I have a very understanding boss when it comes to this kind of stuff. But, to completely rearrange my schedule for a child who just has a bad case of the “Mondays”…well, that’s a different story.

Still, when I considered what I had said, “He’d better be sick,” I thought to myself, “What kind of mother hopes that her child is sick?” But, the more I thought about it, the more I felt quite comfortable with my statement. In my opinion, when it comes to a minor illness, I’d rather a child actually be sick than lying about being sick. An illness is temporary and physical in nature. Lying, however, is a condition of the heart. It’s spiritual in nature and is much harder to get over than a little bug.

I think God probably sees it the same way. There are times that He allows us to endure some physical discomfort in order encourage spiritual growth. Our eternal, spiritual natures are of such greater consequence than our temporal, physical ones. I don’t know about you, but this is such a hard concept for me to accept, because my physical nature is what affects me most right now. So, I have to learn to trust that God sees a much bigger picture than I do.

Throughout the Bible we see countless examples of people whose physical suffering produced spiritual growth. In Romans, Paul puts an exclamation point on the concept that our spiritual well-being should be our number one priority when he says, “we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (Romans 5:3-5).

Will you join me today in Praising God for that infallible hope offered to us through his son, Jesus? Let’s also pray God will give us the courage to always seek spiritual growth before physical comfort.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Nobody's Perfect

I have a news flash for you. You are not perfect. Neither am I. We are fallen human beings in a fallen world and we are going to mess up. A lot. Ecclesiastes 7:11 states, "There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins." So, why do we try so hard to convince ourselves and others that we can avoid making mistakes?

A healthy dose of perfectionism can be good. There is nothing wrong with wanting to do your best work and to strive to reach your God-given potential. However, perfectionism, when it becomes out of balance, can be very unhealthy. George Bernard Shaw said, “A life making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.” How can this be so?

First of all, when we attempt to be, or at least appear to be perfect, we are forgetting that God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. We need to allow ourselves and others to see God’s work in our lives. That only works when we are willing to admit that we can’t do it all on our own.
The appearance of perfection also hinders our witness. Others may look at our wrinkle free exterior and assume that only perfect people can be Christians. I wonder how many people hold back from accepting Christ because in their mind they could never be good enough.

I once had a boss that loved to use this expression, “When you’re green you grow, when you’re ripe you rot”. This points to another danger of perfectionism. When we know it all, there’s no reason to learn and grow.

Perfectionism can also be paralyzing. We decide that if we can’t do something to perfection, we won’t do it all. How many important jobs are being left undone because we cannot do them to meet the impossible standards we have set?

Finally, we need to examine the reason for our perfectionism. Often, it is caused by pride. Perfectionism happens when our primary concern becomes how we are presenting ourselves and how good we look to others, not how we are presenting Christ and serving others. If that’s the case, it is time to re-prioritize.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Giving it All Away

Sacrifice. It’s a difficult word, isn’t it? When I hear that word, I think of giving something up that is important to me…. maybe something that I enjoy, a behavior that makes me comfortable, a person that I love.

Yet, sacrifice is exactly what Jesus asks us to do in order to follow him. And, how can we deny Him? After all, he made the ultimate sacrifice for us when he died on the cross, taking the punishment we deserved and forgiving us of our sins.

I can better understand why we have to be ready to make sacrifices for Jesus when I think about my relationship with my husband. I want to come first to him (after God, of course). I don't care if he still watches football, spends time at his art desk or spends an afternoon on his own, doing his own thing. Those are all things he enjoys. However, if he started putting those things before me on his list of priorities, I'd have a real problem with that!

So, what is it that God wants us to sacrifice? Everything. Does that mean that we have to physically give everything away, isolate ourselves from the people and places we love? Not necessarily. But we do have to have a heart that is ready and willing to part with anything in order to make room for Him.

Look at the example of Abraham. God asked him to sacrifice his precious son, the child that Abraham had been promised. When Isaac was bound on the altar and Abraham held the knife in his hand, it was evident that he was ready to let go of the single most important thing in his life in obedience to God. And, the Lord not only provided a ram for the sacrifice, he also blessed Abraham abundantly.

In the New Testament, we see people leaving many things to follow Jesus. Andrew and Simon Peter left their nets…their livelihood. James and John left their boats and their father…giving up not only their work, but leaving their family as well. Nathaniel left the comfort and safety of his fig tree to follow the Lord. Matthew left his sinful and greedy ways as a tax collector.

So, what are you still holding on to? What thing is it in your life that is stopping you from fully giving your heart to God? Ask God to clearly show you the things that you still put before him. Then pray that He’ll give you the strength and courage to let those things go completely.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Forget Me Not

The older I get the worse it seems my memory becomes. When I was a kid, I could remember all of my friends phone numbers; I could tell you anything you wanted to know about my favorite celebrities and I could memorize a song after only listening to it a few times. Now, I can’t even remember my own children’s names most days! The phrase, “Oh, I’m sorry, I completely forgot about that” has become a too-frequent part of my vocabulary.

I guess I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. Forgetfulness is just one of the less pleasant side effects of getting older. God knows how prone we are to forget things, which is why in the Bible he so frequently implores his people to remember his miracles, his covenants, his promises and his word. He urges us to keep these things top of mind so that we stay profoundly aware of His relationship with us and his presence in the world.

Jesus used what would be his last time around the Passover table with his disciples to encourage them to remember Him. Paul paints the scene in 1 Corinthians: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

Following this example and taking Communion or the Lord’s Supper is a very intimate way to reflect and remember Jesus’ sacrifice for us on a regular basis. We can also look for other ways to remember God’s faithfulness. Maybe it’s a prayer journal that you keep. Periodically, you can look back through it to remember God’s intervention and answered prayers. An artist might create a picture or write a song expressing a spiritually significant experience. Parents, you can use time at the dinner table to ask your kids about the things they are thankful for and to talk about the way God is working in your family’s life. Be creative! How you do it is not important; but, what is important is that God’s love stays always fresh in your mind.

Bring the Rain

I am currently in Nashville for GMA. The highlight of the week is the Dove Awards, it’s sort of like the Grammies of Christian music. So, I’ve decided to use Moment for Mom to dig a little deeper into some of the nominees for song of the year.

One of my favorites from the list is “Bring the Rain” by Mercy Me. It’s a courageous song that with a theme that says, “If hard times are needed to bring me closer to God, then so be it…bring the rain.” Honestly, I don’t know if I’m spiritually mature enough to sing that song yet. It seems pretty risky to say out loud, “I know there’ll be days when this life brings me pain, but if that’s what it takes to praise You, Jesus bring the rain.”

However, I do know that Bart Millard, the lead singer of Mercy Me and co-author of the song, knows exactly the implications of these words. Bart has seen more than his share of rain, including the untimely deaths of his father and his brother-in-law. In addition, his son was recently diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes. So, I would consider Bart to be an authority on the ways that God uses our painful experiences as opportunities for growth.

We don’t have to take Bart’s word on it...God’s word verifies this in Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” And, Bart is not the only person who has gladly accepted difficulties with the greater purpose of growth in mind. In the first book of Peter, the disciple says, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

Nobody enjoys trials, but we are all bound to go through them. When we do, let’s turn our eyes to Jesus, asking him not only for comfort, but that he will reveal a greater purpose for our pain. So tell me…what’s a little rain?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Dust to Dust

John 15:3-4: You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

I gotta admit…I love cleaning gadgets. I am so easily lured by the promise of an easier, quicker and elbow grease free way to get things done that I’ll open my wallet for just about anything making that promise. But, I’ve found that there is one major setback with every new fangled cleanser, gadget and appliance on the market…you actually have to USE them in order for them to work! Believe it or not, that swiffer sweeper, greased lightening and $500 cyclonic vacuum do a horrible job of housecleaning when they are sitting in the closet. Don’t believe me? Just come over to my house some time and you’ll see what I mean.

It’s the same thing with our spiritual houses. God has provided us with countless tools to help us grow in our faith. But, if we don’t use them, they don’t work! I have at least 10 different bibles in my collection…the NIV, the Living Bible, the Message, Study Bibles, Life Application Bibles and Devotional Bibles. But it wouldn’t matter if I had ten thousand bibles and never read any of them. God has provided me with a wonderful church home, and dozens of other wonderful churches within a 10 minute drive of my home. He has surrounded me with supportive Christian friends and mentors. My bookshelves at work and at home are full of books about Christian Living and Spirituality and my CD shelves are filled with Christian music. God even offers open communication with him through prayer any time I want it. He has indeed provided the resources, but it is my job to put all these things to work in my life. Here’s the really good news, though. Putting our faith building tools to work is usually much more pleasant than housework and the rewards last for an eternity….that’s much longer than a clean kitchen floor!

So, today, take some time to pray that the Lord will show you the tools he’s placed in your spiritual “cleaning cabinet” and that He will provide you with the time, energy and motivation to put them to work in your life.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

It's My Party and I'll Whine If I Want To!

The other day I threw a party for myself. A pity party. Do you know what I’m talking about? It’s the kind of deal where you sit around moping because nobody appreciates your hard work. You tell yourself that nothing you do for others is ever enough and you might as well just give up.

Well, in the midst of my little party for one, an uninvited guest showed up…in the form of a new thought. I realized that probably everyone feels unappreciated from time to time; that I am not the only person alive whose hard work sometimes goes unnoticed. I put my new theory to the test and took an informal poll of my friends…and, wouldn’t you know it, over 75% of them said they feel unappreciated at least some of the time.

So, what does this mean? I think our feelings of being taken for granted come from 2 things. First of all, we probably aren’t thanking each other enough. When is the last time you told someone that you appreciated them because of something that they did, or just because of who they are? It’s such an easy thing to do… ”Thank You SO Much!”, “I Really Liked it When You ____”, “Good Job”, “I’m so glad to have you as my ____”are just a few words to use. Let’s make a commitment to express our sincere appreciation to someone every day.

However, if you feel unappreciated most or all of the time…it’s probably time to look within. Examine your motivation for doing things for others. Is it because you genuinely want to help, or is it because you’re looking for praise? Are putting too much of the focus on yourself and placing a higher importance on the things that you do than they really deserve? OUCH! Are your toes hurting as bad as mine are right now?

If so…open up your Bible…the whole chapter of 2nd Corinthians 9 contains some great advice on the attitude we ought to have about serving and giving…without expecting anything in return. Listen to these words from Paul, “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

What's Your Sign?

I love Brandon Heath's song, “I’m Not Who I Was”. In the song, Heath describes finding an old picture of someone with whom he’s had some type of falling out with in the past. Upon seeing the picture, he is reminded of the anger and bitterness this relationship left him with. However, he comes to the realization that he is no longer the same person that he was and he has forgiven his old friend. Heath wishes this person from his past could see the person that he has become. The song’s message is beautifully summarized in this verse, “Well, the thing I find most amazing in amazing grace is the chance to give it out. Maybe that's what love is all about.”

The video for the song shows pictures of people holding up signs. In the first picture of each person the sign they hold describes the kind of person they used to be. The second picture shows the same person with a sign describing the new person they have become in Christ. This video made me think about what my “Before and After” signs would say. One thing I have always struggled with being too self absorbed. The fact I’m an only child may have a little to do with that! But, It’s something I am really trying to change, because I know Jesus wants me to. So, my signs would probably say “Completely Self Centered” and “Trying to Put Others First”.

What about yours? What would they say? Can you look back at who you were before you knew Jesus and see a difference between then and now? That change is a sign that your faith is sincere and that your heart is in 2 Corinthians 5:17.. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

Let’s pray that God will continue these transformations in our lives, making us more and more like him each day!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Get Lost!

My husband likes to say that when it comes to my personality, I am more like a man than most men he knows. I think he gets that from the way I drive. I’m the kind of person that hates to ask for directions when lost. It’s not a pride thing. I just enjoy the challenge of trying to figure out the right way. Eventually, I always do…otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this right now, I’d still be driving around in circles somewhere in the middle of nowhere.

This reminds me of an analogy I once heard at a Weight Watchers meeting. The leader was talking about getting back on track when you’ve fallen off the diet and exercise bandwagon. She told us to imagine that we were on a cross country road trip when, about half way to California, we realize we’ve taken a wrong turn and have ended up about 200 miles away from the road we were supposed to be on. She asked us to think about what we’d do in that situation. Would we just keep driving in the wrong direction…further and further away from our destination? Or, would we decide that we didn’t feel like driving the 200 miles back to the main road and choose just to stay put where we had ended up. Of course not! The only logical option in this situation would be to turn around and get back on the path that leads to our destination. Yes, it would be frustrating to have to drive an additional 400 miles on an already long trip, but that would be the only way to get where you wanted to go.

This analogy also works when we think about our developing faith. Occasionally, we will take a wrong turn, ending up on a path that leads us away from God. This is called sin. But, as soon as we realize we are heading the wrong way we have to turn around and get back on track. The good news is that God is ready to give us the directions we need. Even stubborn folks like me need to stop and ask for his help when we get lost, remembering these words from Psalm 23, “He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.” So, If you are feeling lost today, pray that God will give you the strength to turn around. Ask Him to lead you back to that path of righteousness, back to a road that leads to an eternity spent in his loving arms.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Seek Ye First the Milk and Bread

I was in Wal-mart the other day and walked passed a woman pushing a cart full of miscellaneous items. She was apparently on her way to check out. I overheard her say to her friend, “I only came in here to buy one thing! One…stinking…thing! This happens every time I come here!”

I can totally relate! Can you? Walmart is like a black hole for my wallet I chalk it up to loss of focus. The clearance clothes, cute flip-flops and the newest offerings in mascara are just a few of the enticements waiting to distract me from my original goal.

It’s easy to lose focus, isn’t it? And not just at the store but in life in general. We can have fantastic goals, but never achieve them because one distraction after another keeps throwing us off track. This can be especially true when it comes to our spiritual growth. We know that regularly reading the Bible, having quiet time with God, keeping a prayer journal and being part of a small group of believers are all things that will help to mature us as Christians and bring us closer to Jesus. However, life happens and these very important things get left out. It’s like the times I’ve gone to Wal-mart and gotten a bunch of non-essentials but forgotten to pick up the milk and bread! My family can live with out the new shoes and the lovely new shade of nail polish, but we need to eat!

Making a list and remembering to check it is one way to remember everything I need at the store, and it’s also a good way to remember my priorities in life as well. If you think that loss of focus is derailing your attempts at spiritual growth, one solution may be to make a list of the things that draw you closer to God. Schedule your time to allow for these things on a regular basis.

When you are busy it’s easy to push God-time aside. But this is such a huge mistake, because it is your time with God that will help to balance the rest of your life. Finally, remember Jesus words from Matthew 6, “So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Better than I Found it

A kind friend blessed our family this summer by allowing us to use her family’s home at the beach. The condo was beautiful and in immaculate condition. This made me quite nervous, especially since we had three kids with us. I watched everyone like a hawk, making sure food and drinks were only consumed in designated areas, that dirty hands and faces were washed before sitting on the furniture, and that shoes were removed before walking on the plush, light colored carpet. Before we left for home, we made sure the condo was spic and span with nothing out of place. I took way better care of her home than I do of my own. My friend was very gracious to allow us to stay there in the first place, so I figured the least I could do was take excellent care of the lovely home she had entrusted me with. It was my desire to leave it even better than I found it.


I wondered, as I was putting things back in order at the condo, what my life would be like if I truly acknowledged God as the source of every one of my blessings. Would I keep my house nicer if I saw it not as my home, but the home God has allowed me to use? Would I take on a healthier lifestyle if I accepted the truth that my body really belongs to God as a temple for His holy spirit? How would I spend money differently if I viewed every dollar as a gift from God?

King David understood this concept of stewardship. In the Bible after the people of Israel brought forward generous offerings to build the Lord’s temple, David praises God, saying, “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.” (1 Chronicles 29:14) And in Psalm 24:1, David writes, “The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;”

Let’s pray for an attitude like David’s. Let’s ask God for hearts that recognize the truth that all we are and have comes from Him. Finally let’s pray for a deep desire to be better stewards of our gifts, and to leave this world better than we found it.