When the World Blows Up

It was our day off and we were running errands. My husband held my hand and said with a smile, “I am the happiest I have ever been in my life.”

I smiled at him, and told him I was glad to hear that, but deep down a pit formed in my stomach. You see, I had been stressing, and I honestly can’t say I’ve been in the moment with him for over a week. Self-absorbed, lost in my own thoughts, small groups starting at church, school starting, and general overload at work with decisions that had to be made and personalities to consider but time wasn’t allowing me to wait anymore. Even my dreams had been chaotic, one being forgetting to put deodorant on for a very important meeting, another forgetting to take notes for class and being clueless for a test.

Later that evening as we were night swimming, I said, “It truly makes me happy that you are the happiest you’ve been in your life. I have to apologize that I’ve been a brat this week.” He looked intently, “On purpose?” “No”, I replied, “just stressed about work. I’m checked out in many ways. You’ve had a lot of extra to do around here.”

He looked at me earnestly and said, “Listen, I get why you’re stressed but it changes nothing. You made some tough calls this week and you did what needed to happen. In the end though you have to remember that today is all that you have. You pray for tomorrow but it’s not a given. This moment, right here, is all you have and when the whole world blows up what do you want to be doing? That’s the question. Me? I settled it a long time ago. I want to be with you, swimming, making memories, traveling, playing with the grandkids, having a life. I love the work I do but at the end of the day? At the end of the day I leave whoever is mad, whatever department needs coverage, whatever nonsense is happening at the office and I come home to relax and be with you. Time goes by really fast and I refuse to allow work to consume me. Hey, we dance really well in the water.” And suddenly I am aware of the country song on the radio playing in the background and that it is perfect for this moment.

Sometimes God speaks through a moment. The sage advice of one who has lived a little, lost someone, and come back from it all to build it better and stronger. The one who has seen people come and go, programs work and fail, and through it all has seen the faithful hand of God upon his life. The song, which I will link at the bottom, that just happened to be playing during the conversation, even that, is no coincidence.

He’s right. We can be consumed by all of the work put before us. We can get so caught up in all of the things that try to capture our attention but what is the most important thing at the end of the day for any human being? The relationships we are building with one another. The lives we are building for ourselves, the memories we are making. There can only be but one priority. It was an illusion to think there were 16 priorities. It nullifies the word. At work, my priority is to do the very best I can. I give 100%. I work more hours than I get paid to. I must learn the secret of leaving work. The art of stepping out of the office and into my role as friend and wife and mother and Nana and mentor.

Where will you be when the world blows up? Stressed and worried or living in the happiest time of your life? I learned a very important lesson last night. I hope I conveyed it well and you begin to live it better than I have!

May you be blessed to find the precious important things in your life.

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Daddy’s Home

I had the distinct privilege of being raised by a feminist mother who applauded women’s equality and also an intact family.

My father spent lots of time outside of the home. While my father was gone our house almost held their collective breath. My mother made it clear we were not complete without my father. Once my dad arrived it was as if we all breathed a sigh of relief, as if we were finally a family, as if we were a part of a home.

Oh, we got along fine when he was away but when he came home there was rejoicing. Daddy’s home now we are safe, now we are together was the message we received throughout our childhood. It was in those moments that I saw the struggles each family member made to make a house a home. We were never threatened by my father coming home. My mother handled her business. It was not a home in which the ‘wait until your father gets home’ mantra was ever a thing. It was never a home in which my mother made my father feel useless or as if he contributed nothing. We were always keenly aware that mom could hold down the fort with one hand tied behind her back but we knew that she didn’t want to. She had a career, sent cookies to the school for party days, showed up for parent teacher conference and came home and cooked dinner.

Perhaps it is that mindset that was instilled in me that has me thinking of how important a father is to a home. It is with that mindset that I know I can’t be a father, only a mother. I understood early on that we fall short when we try to be both roles instead of being the best in our shoes and not trying fit in another’s.

My mother’s example taught me that being able to financially sustain and run a home was a necessary task and a worthwhile endeavor. She could do that and I can do that. She also taught me the importance of team work and that it doesn’t have to fall completely on my shoulders and that my ability isn’t minimized but rather enhanced in the role of marriage.

Daddy’s home. Men, you often get a bad rap for not pulling your supposed weight or not doing things the way a woman would do it. We minimize your worth and needs but true feminism acknowledges the strengths you have without diminishing ours. You are necessary and you are wanted and needed. You too help make a house a home. You are half of what creates a solid foundation for a family. Feminism was never meant to wipe you out of the picture. We got it twisted. It was always about equality in opportunity not equality in outcome. We will never win as a nation when we fight one another in our home.

Today I thank my father for believing I could be whatever I set my mind to. I thank him for pushing me to learn to think, for allowing me an opinion and for telling me I deserved a seat in the boardroom.

Today I thank my mother who showed me that glass ceilings were meant to be broken. I thank her for showing me how to deal in heels, for showing me that chores around the house were not gender specific, for showing me that a woman only puts up with what she chooses to put up with.

Today I thank my husband because although he didn’t grow up with a working mom he has applauded my endeavors. He has kicked in support at home which allows me to take classes, to teach classes, and to fulfill callings. He has a busy schedule with many demands but when he steps through the door of our house and we are together at the end of the day I can say with a grateful heart and a sigh of relief, we are part of family and we are finally a home.

I’m Proud of TLC4WOMEN

I have taught TLC for women for 16 years now. It is not lost on me all that I have learned.

That women go through some stuff meant to take them out.

That the war on women often is waged by other women.

That no matter how horrific your life has been, someone else has been through things that would have taken you out. We all have our own giants to slay.

But Jesus….

Jesus took a walk through our life and called us to himself. Jesus invited us to a relationship where shame and pain could be healed. Many said no thanks, but you, mighty women of TLC, you said yes. You studied his word faithfully and took him up on his offer to endure the wound care, taking out any infection and stitching you back up to heal. You came to TLC and trusted women, the very ones who hurt you. You did the hard work of healing not because it was easy but because the idea of growing old,resentful, and bitter was not appealing to you. You did the hard work of reconciliation.

My heart is for you. If you are reading this, I urge you to find a solid group of women that can come along beside you and love you right where you are. The expectation is that they will lower your bed before the master physician.

My heart is for you Transforming Life Center 4 Women. You have been my teacher, my cheerleader, my safe place and my love for Jesus has grown exponentially through your leading.

“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭15:10‬ ‭NIV‬‬

He Saw and Believed

Dear Cameron Joshua and Erin Marie,

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Today there is a crisis in our nation and the country is in a Stay In Place order due to a virus called Corona virus, which means we aren’t able to meet together for what for us is the most blessed celebration of our faith, Easter Sunday.  I have been missing you both so profoundly as you, Erin, turn 6 weeks old, and you, Cameron, turn 3 in a few weeks. I am missing more of your life than I ever thought I would but today Hope resurfaced.

Today my beautiful grandchildren, today, your Papa got up and made coffee for us, then he showered and put on a suit and tie. I followed his lead and dressed for church as if it was any other normal Sunday. We got in our car and drove off to the church.

John 20:1 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb.

Today your Papa went into an empty church, and said to the essential staff that it takes to preach an online message to and said, “The church may be empty this morning but so was the tomb and we are going to proclaim the WORD to more people than we would have reached normally.”

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Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed;

Your Papa met Jesus when he was not much older than you are and he has proclaimed him since. He wasn’t going to stay home and not reach anyone on this day, THE DAY,  our faith is built on. He was going to go to his pulpit and shout it out to the world. This isn’t any ordinary day and this isn’t a day to be taken casually. Is any day really?

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If you’ve ever preached to an empty room it isn’t easy. You get feedback and body language from those who are present and came to hear. It helps you move forward but your Papa has been doing this a long time. And he pushed through knowing he was called by God to give Hope and an invitation.

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So today he was a Pastor to a world who is scared that they will get a virus. He preached for you both, that you always know that Jesus is the center of our life. He preached to the ones who still don’t know about Jesus and he reminded me and himself that Jesus is the center of it all. While God has sat us all down, Papa is still doing what he has called to do.

I wrote all of this out in my bible today but just in case it is lost, technology will live on. One thing you will have forever is that Nana and Papa love you with their whole heart and you have a strong legacy of prayer and service to the Church and Jesus Christ. Hallelujah! He is Risen. We have hope and God’s Promises.

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Aiming Faithfully

Garett Kelli

The disciples were asked to watch and pray while their Shepherd soon to be Savior went off to pray. Distracted, not sensing the importance of the training and the hour they found themselves in, they quietly fell asleep. How alone Jesus must have felt. Yet in just a short while he would endure the cross and let God be famous.

Pastors feel this way sometimes too. Lonely. Yet their faithfulness to their calling keeps them steadfast knowing they are truly never alone and that Jesus is nearby. Never wavering to the allure of slumber or limelight although both sometimes seem appealing they keep moving forward. Big boisterous voices wagging fingers in condemnation or watered down gospels get applause and a sensation of grandeur for a moment while the pastors in the trenches of community work year after year to train those at the sound of their voice to listen for the voice of Jesus. Let God be famous.

Beth Moore said, “Cynicism is just arrogance pretending to be smart.” We can criticize the church and/or their leaders, tell you how we would do it, tell you that she is irrelevant but we would be exalting ourselves and not the one who reigns supreme. Let God be famous .

No, it would do us best to serve and love faithfully. When my husband was a young pastor a pastor and mentor told him, “Doug, if you want to make a difference in your community, plant deeps roots in the city, buy a pick up truck, and serve the people.” In other words, don’t quit. Make a difference where you are planted. Serve God faithfully, do what you can do for people and let God be famous.

Leadership Lessons From Lulu The Wonder Dog

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When Baron arrived as a puppy to our home he happily bounded throughout the house. We began the daunting task of training him to sit, to stay, to walk on a leash, to use the doggy door and not the floor, to chew on his toys and not on the furniture.

Lulu The Wonder Dog was 10 years old at the time and she began the task of training him to be her assistant in the house. She corrected him when he came near her bowl. She corrected him when he pounced on her when she was taking a nap. She corrected him when he crawled on her bed without her permission. He learned quickly the boundaries of what would be acceptable and what wouldn’t.

The difference in these two breeds was noticeable. Lulu is a Cattle Dog, she herds for a living. She likes her humans in the same room, she walks ahead of us, then circles back behind us to make sure we are rounded up and sticking together. I am the alpha of the herd so she follows me and knows exactly where I am at all times. She is serious about her job and if you want to play fetch she won’t stop you, she just insists you go and get the object.

Baron is a Golden Retriever. He fetches things, socks, underwear, water bottles, doves, ducks, and tennis balls. He isn’t as sophisticated as Lulu so he chases cats. He isn’t concerned with herding, instead he looks for puddles, pools, lakes, mud, all while carrying two to four balls in his mouth at once. He hunts, he runs, and he is happy go lucky. If Lulu is the administrator, Baron is the frat boy.

Day two of his being home he was herded into the bathroom where I was getting ready. Not his scene he decided to turn around and proceed out of the bedroom. Lulu ran ahead of him, stopped him at the bedroom door and once again she herded him into the bathroom. She then laid across the bathroom entrance so that Baron could see what the mission was. She followed this pattern for days as if to let him know that their job was to guard me.

John 7:16 So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me.

She wasn’t concerned whether his breed herds or not. She had a mission and it was his job to help her complete that mission. She wasn’t concerned that his breed is smarter than hers, there was a mission and a way to complete that mission. She wasn’t concerned that he was younger and bigger than she was. You see, she understood delegation and empowering leaders.

She knew the mission was to empower leaders to implement the vision that she had been given for her family.

Baron would much rather do his own thing. He brings me a ball as I get out of the shower. I toss the ball but if it goes past the bathroom door, he stops and waits for me to leave the bathroom. Where is Lulu? Lulu who is now 12 years old, lays on her bed, inspecting what she expects, keeping on eye on her charge.

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Hebrews 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

I think of Lulu often when I’m at work. I don’t always like doing the jobs I have been tasked with but I have been empowered to implement the mission and I do so to the best of my ability, faithfully, no complaints, well some complaints, because it was what I was given to do.

How do you empower leaders in your line of work? How do you use your skills and talents to implement the vision of what you are putting your hands to do? I hope it’s with character and integrity.

 

Boundaries

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I admit it. I was a little crispy fried a couple of weeks ago. I hadn’t had a full day off in a few weeks. A few hours here and there but there were a couple of short term projects that needed to be completed and this wasn’t the normal schedule.

Finally, Wednesday came, our day off and and I took full advantage of it. I woke up early, and stretched out and decided I had nowhere to go, so I read, watched some TV and stayed in my pajamas. Until about 10:30 then Doug and I got ready to go out to eat.

He surprised me by heading out of town to go have some fun. Both of our phones kept ringing. Work, counseling, work, advice, work. At one frustrated point, I said,

“Wait! Everyone knows it’s our day off. Why do they call us anyway with non-emergencies?”

The answer was simple, we didn’t have boundaries.

The calls weren’t emergencies. They were simple things. I wasn’t mad at the people, I was annoyed with myself knowing that I hadn’t set boundaries to protect time off.

Sometimes, things are your own fault. So when you are feeling frustrated, ask yourself, “What am I doing to cause this?”

No, you didn’t set up the phone calls but you did respond even if it was just to open and read the text message or the email or listen to the voicemail.

What boundaries do you have to put into place so that you can get quiet and have some down time?

Remember, Sabbath is not a suggestion. It’s a commandment.

 

 

 

When You Say Nothing At All

 

Opinionnoun – a view or judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge.

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In the world of ministry, as in the political arena I suppose, your own voice becomes not your own but rather you must decide and calculate, what the cost or gain will be to actually have an opinion on something. There is a unmerciful machine that rages forward and unforgiving attitudes still prevail. Just ask Rob Bell or Jen Hatmaker two Christians who dared have opinions in our world. Books, endorsements, and speaking engagements were pulled immediately. The idea of keeping a public page on Facebook and a private page of Facebook or just getting off of social media completely is in full force. Ask people privately what they think and get a view of people who are deciding that in order to speak to everyone you can offend no one.

So I stopped writing about controversies because I didn’t want controversy in my life. I    wanted to speak to everyone about anything. I wanted to hear opinions and views that weren’t my own because that is where I either solidify my view or see a perspective I    had not seen before and thereby change my mind.

Only that goes completely against who I am. I sat as a small child at the dinner table and discussed politics and world  views with my parents. In fourth grade I wrote to President Gerald Ford and I received an answer. I don’t have an opinion because I’m a Christian, or a pastor, or a woman. I have an opinion because I have a brain who is forever learning and wants to be challenged.

“But you’re going to have to minister to people who don’t share your view and they won’t be able to receive from you because of it.”

WHY? Because we can no longer tolerate an opinion that isn’t ours. We’ve become so engrained to think that if they do not think or do things as we do then they are against us. They aren’t of our tribe so therefore they are out.

Luke 9: 49John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” 50But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.” ESV

Mark 9:38“Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.” 39“Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40for whoever is not against us is for us. NIV

Only here’s the thing: When we say nothing we say much. While quiet observation serves while opinions are formed there are also two camps forming, those who think you are with them and those who think you are against them. Ultimately this is really not about you. It’s internal strife turned outward. It’s intolerance. Sadly, it’s prevailing in America.

What would you say if opinions truly mattered and we were really a free people?

 

In Time

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Last October I was given a vision of my next step in ministry. I couldn’t wait to see it fulfilled. I began to research, to ask questions of those I knew, and to make plans. Each time I got ready to launch something got in the way of the plan and it was stalled. I wasn’t frustrated just chomping at the bit to move forward. God’s timing is not like our own and so I waited.

My husband began to see the vision of what I was going to do and began to pray with me. Then he began to change the ideas I had. This is when the test happens because the question becomes,

I had my own ideas, I had my own lists, I had my own plan but what happens when they aren’t where we are going in ministry?

Well, as I always say,

Submission isn’t submission until we disagree. 

So I got on board with the vision of the house, I began to input where I was asked. We launched last night, prayerfully, considerately, and mindfully, a leadership team. You see, my vision was to make a path to ordain women into ministry. My husband challenged me to think broader. Together we forged a plan of ordination for all people. We gathered our combined resources and gathered wisdom and materials for a clear path. There are 15 of us in the beginning stages of this new phase of our ministry. There were 7 women which was still important to me. Now I get to watch it all unfold. I’m excited and glad to have waited for proper timing and direction.

Sometimes things take awhile. Even though we may have a vision and it seems clear, the path isn’t always how we think it should go. I would prayerfully ask you to be mindful of this and to wait for God’s timing.  This isn’t the time to push forward your own agenda over that of the church in which you serve. A pastor friend in Arkansas preached on the Baptism of Commitment. He said,

Are you committed to your own agenda or are you committed to your leadership? 

That’s a great question to leave you with today.

Pursuit

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Walking along Broadway in Nashville, Tennessee you get to see pursuit of a dream. As we meandered about what I call night clubs and what they call Honky Tonks, I listened to the music streaming from each door until we found a sound we liked.

We stepped inside this place and listened to the music. It was about 3 pm and the band was wrapping it up as the new band was arriving. I became fascinated with what happened next and to be honest paid more attention to people watching than to the music itself.

The band came in each carrying their equipment. They set their equipment down by the stage and grabbed some bottled water the establishment had for them. It was hot. Over 100 and in Nashville there is extreme humidity as well. They walked back and forth to their cars hauling all of their equipment including a seat for the drummer. They were happy and talking and in full roadie mode. Only they weren’t roadies, they were the musicians.

As the band that was playing wound down to their final song I wanted to see the transition. A bucket was passed around for donations for the band. I was told it was how they get paid. The band quickly went into wrap up mode, grabbing their cords and instruments and walking them off of the stage. Their audience who I guess knew the drill, were asking each of them, “Where are you going to next?”, to which the bassist replied pointing, “I’ll be at such and such in about an hour playing with so and so.”, and so on. These musicians were in pursuit of a dream.

I looked at my husband and said, “Do you see that? They left everything behind and are hauling their own equipment and playing wherever they can find a gig for whatever amount is in that bucket in the hopes of a bed, food, and the chance to be discovered for their talent.” My husband smiled, ever the Pastor, and said, “I know how that works. I left a business making just over $200,000 a year to go to a place I had never heard of called Los Banos, CA, to reach the lost for whatever was in that bucket each week. When you have a calling you pursue it no matter the cost. I left my parents, my comfort, my home and went to preach the gospel. The Lord provided for us. Once I didn’t have enough money for groceries and diapers and a stranger at Walmart paid the bill for me. I will never forget those early days.”

The band finished loading their equipment then came back in and sat behind us at a table and divided up the money in that bucket and rushed off to their next gig. The new band set up and began to play and I discovered a new admiration for those who are willing to go the distance and do whatever it takes in pursuit of their callings trusting that somehow things of the world will work out. It was humbling to say the least.