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My Dad

In honor of Father’s Day let me tell you about my dad.  The best way to tell you about my dad is to tell you how I grew up.  I was the first born to my parents and my first home was a trailer.  Not very long after that I lived in a house outside the city limits of Greenwood, Arkansas in a community called Burnsville.  I lived in that house for 16 years.

It was at that house I learned how to build a fire because we didn’t get central heat and air until later.

It was at that house I learned to ride my bike (only after my little brother did it, did I decide it was worth the risk).

It was at that house I learned to mow the yard and kill snakes with the lawn mower.

It was at that house I learned to climb trees.

It was at that house I learned that if you dump pumpkin seeds under the porch instead of out by the fence (like your dad said) you will have pumpkin patch the next year…under your porch.

It was at that house I learned how to pop the screen out of the kitchen window and climb over the grill when I couldn’t find my house key.

It was at that house I learned my dad was not perfect.

It was at that house I would see my dad reading his Bible.

It was at that house I would see my dad prepare a Sunday School lesson every week for high school and then later college Sunday school classes.

It was at that house I learned that fighting with my brother was never an option.

It was at that house I learned to be creative because we only had three TV channels, one TV, no game consoles, an MS-DOS computer, and no internet.

It was at that house I learned the value of a dollar and a paycheck.

It was at that house I learned to love reading.

It was at that house I learned how to cook because I was responsible for cooking dinner one night a week.

It was at that house I learned my dad had more patience than I gave him credit for.

It was at that house I learned my dad’s faithfulness to my mom while her dad was dying of cancer.

It was at that house I learned my dad’s fortitude for our family when he would take a stand and we followed his decision.

Like I said, we lived in that house until I was 16 years old.  That’s when my dad decided that we were going to build a house.  People now days call it your “forever home.”  We lived in another trailer during the building process.  My parents tried to dress up the trailer thing by telling us it was mobile home but it was a trailer and it allowed us to live at low cost and closer to the property my parents were building their forever home on.  Because my dad did most of the work himself it took longer than houses today.  The forever home was not complete until after I graduated high school.  My dad stayed true to his word of building most of that home himself no matter how long it took.  My dad stayed true to building our family the way he wanted and the way he thought God would have wanted.

Sure, I didn’t have a lot of things other kids had but I do have a dad that loves my mom, loved my brother and I, and now loves his grandchildren.  I do think it’s funny that my dad allows my kids to have things he would have never allowed me or my brother to have but whatever…I’m totally over it.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.  I love you!

Woman hands raised

She Who Is Able: Naomi

The story of Naomi is easily overlooked in the Bible.  If the book of Ruth was a movie Naomi’s character would not even be on the movie poster.  Naomi gets a bad wrap.  We categorize her a cranky old lady.  But let’s take a deeper look.

In a time when a woman’s worth was ranked by her husband and the number of children she had (especially sons) Naomi starts off good, two sons and one faithful husband.  Then her husband dies, she’s a widow, but that’s okay because she has two sons.  Then her two sons die.  Now what?  Who would want to marry a childless widow at her age?  Oh and then there is the added drama of her two daughters in law that are also widows.  Talk about a Lifetime movie!  What is she supposed to do with them?

She does the logical thing and tells them to go back to their homes and back to their families.  Orpah does go back but Ruth does not.  I love Ruth 1:18 where it says, “When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.”  I can see Naomi pleading with this widow, “Just go back!  My son should have never married an idol worshiper anyways.  Go back and leave me to my misery.”  That is, of course, my paraphrase.  What happens next is interesting to me also.

Naomi and Ruth arrive in Bethlehem and the whole town is buzzing about Naomi’s arrival and instead of revel in her fame, as it was, Naomi says, “Don’t call me Naomi, call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.  I went away full, but the Lord had brought me back empty.”  Some commentaries have compared Naomi to a female Job given the circumstances of her day.

Drink that in:  famine, death of a spouse, death of children, moving back home, and moving back with your son’s widow at that.  Sounds a lot like Job except Naomi didn’t have the “wise” counsel of Job’s friends.

Naomi’s wisdom in the this book is what leads to the romance of Ruth and Boaz.  Naomi’s strength to keep moving after all that happened to her had to be an example to Ruth, who in her own right, had tragedies of her own to overcome.  It’s easy to see past Naomi’s example faithfulness because of the romance between Ruth and Boaz but remember, Naomi was an Israelite and obviously this Moabite woman saw something in Naomi’s household she wanted.  She saw faith in a living God being practiced in Naomi’s house.

I put Naomi in the “She Who Is Able” category because she was able.  God made her able.  Think about the things that confine us to our bed to have a pity party:  bad hair day, laziness, depression, etc.  Naomi could have had a giant, very justified, pity party but she moved on to attempt to finish well.  Carolyn Custis James says this about Naomi, “Naomi is here to remind us that–in those long, bewildering phases of God’s silence–our struggles are real and we can be honest about the state of our hearts.

Just like Job and David and Naomi you can question God and plead for answers and plead for resolve.  And just like Job and David and Naomi He will come through.  Maybe not as fast as we mere humans would like but He will come through.  We read in Ruth 4:17 after Ruth and Boaz had conceived, “The women said to Naomi, “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer.  May He become famous throughout Israel!”  Note the “!.”  These ladies were excited for Naomi, her God had come through and He did not leave her.  He will not leave you but you must cling to Him as Naomi clung to Him–for dear life.

Woman hands raised

She Who Is Able: Drug Court

Friday, June 5, 2015 I had the privilege of attending the Benton County Drug Court Graduation Banquet.  Let me share with you some things I heard at that blessed event:

“Man, can you believe you’ve been clean for 22 months?”

“Every morning I used to buy a gallon of liqueur and 1/4 pound of meth.  Now I buy a gallon of milk and 1/4 pound hamburger.”  

“Drug court saved my marriage and kept my family together.”

“I want people to see me and be a witness of God’s grace in me.”

“Hope and second chances is what drug court is all about.”

There was more excitement in that graduation than most high school graduations.  These graduates have completed the four phases of Drug Court and it takes, at least, a year to complete.  This is not a quick fix, this is a tedious process that gives the addict resources and accountability to make them clean and sober and changed–for life.

I met one former graduate that has been clean for six years.  She told me drug court saved her family.  Her grown children are back in her life and thanks God and Drug Court for the last six years of her life.  She still deals with the consequences of her past; with a felony on her record it’s hard to find a job and good housing.  But you know what?  She’s in the last year of getting her bachelor’s degree and her hope is to work in Drug Court and help others upon graduation.

I walked away from that event witnessing God’s grace and the many second chances He gives us…no matter what we’ve done in our past.

At the very beginning of God’s Word He says, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us…”  You can find that in Genesis 1:26.  The very first chapter of the very first book of His Word, God makes sure we know that “human beings” are made in His image.  God made you to be you.  Nothing in your life takes Him by surprise.  Be encouraged today that God is a God of second chances.  You will still deal with the consequences of your decisions but rest assured that God is with you and ultimately it will all be for His glory.

Woman hands raised

She Who Is Able: The Bleeding Woman

Perhaps I like, “she who is able,” because my favorite story has come to be the story of the bleeding woman in Luke 8:40-48.  This woman had been miserable for 12 years!  It’s one thing to have a cycle go two weeks, then two months, then two years…but 12 years!  That takes misery to a new level.  This story came to life for me when we were in Israel actually walking through a crowded street.  I’m imagining everyone in town knew about this lady because she was probably ostracized.  Remember, according to the Old Testament laws anyone who touched her was unclean and had to make themselves ceremonially clean again, which was a rigorous process.  So eventually it’s just easier to not touch your kids or your husband or your friends because you know the trouble they have to go through.  But something happened to this lady one day.

One day she heard this man was coming that had done miracles, He had calmed a storm on the Sea of Galilee, He had healed demon possessed people, surely He could heal her.  She left her home and saw a crowd, this must be Him, she dared to push her way through the crowd, reaching out to touch Him and get His attention but all she could grab was the corner tassel of His robe.  Luke says this in verse 44, “She came up behind Him and touched the edge of His cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.”  There had to be a slow motion moment in her life when all she did was touch the corner of His garment and He turned and wanted to know who touched Him.  Was she in trouble?  Had she done something wrong?  Did she care?  She had been miserable for 12 years and immediately she was healed?  Would she care that He was angry?  Was He angry?

Luke says this in verses 47-48 “Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at His feet.  In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched Him and how she had been instantly healed.  Then He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you.  Go in peace.”  BOOM!  Every time I read that I get chills that He identifies her has His daughter and it’s as if He said, “You will be okay.”  She was able to get out of bed that day and power through the shame she had felt for 12 years to hopefully interact with this man that had done so much for others–perhaps He could do the same for her.

Perhaps He can do the same for you.  God made women to be great beings.  He gave us strength to fight.  Strength to fight for our marriages, our kids, and His kingdom.  He gave us that.  He made us able to do so much.

What are you allowing God to do through you?

Woman hands raised

She Who Is Able: Mary & Elizabeth

Yesterday I was at a luncheon for a local charity and the term, “she who is able,” was mentioned to be a sort of subtitle for this ministry.  I mulled on that the rest of the day.  When I googled, “she who is able,” the verse Luke 1:45 showed up in the search results.  Luke 1:45 says, “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.”

This verse is at the end of the story when Mary visited Elizabeth.  This statement came from Elizabeth.  Remember, she was old and supposedly barren…but God had other plans for Elizabeth and her child, just as He did for Mary and the child inside her womb.  Elizabeth would have been one of the ladies in charge of the church tea, she was married to a priest, she was mature in her spiritual walk, and now people were starting to see how great her faith was.  She must have been such an encouragement to a naive Jewish girl named Mary.  She must have encouraged her because directly following verse 45 is the famed, “Mary’s Song,” where she gives God all the glory and honor for what she is able to do for Him.

Mary and Elizabeth were both able.  They were kindred spirits.  God made them able to carry two boys that would later fulfill His prophecies.  Both of their sons would both die a martyr’s death.  The difference in these women is that Elizabeth would not witness her son’s death as Mary did.

Put yourself in Mary’s shoes.  She was eye-witness to her Son’s crucifixion.  She was a good Jewish girl, she knew what was said about the Messiah and she was the one chosen to carry Him and bring Him into the world.  She would also be witness to the day when He was beaten and taken from this earth.  She who is able…God made Mary able.

He can make us all able.
He can make us able to get out of bed and live our life after watching a child die.
He can make us able to wake up every three hours for a child that will not sleep.
He can make us able to pray for a child that has gone astray.
He can make us able to pray everyday for a child of our own.
He can make us able to love unconditionally all people who are made in His image.
He can make us able to forgive people who have wronged us.
He can make us able to overcome addictions.
He can make us able to pray and help a child that has an unknown diagnosis but your mother’s intuition knows something is not right.
He can make us able to care for a husband that is sick.
He can make us able to care for parents that once cared for you.

He can make us able but we have to be willing to let Him.  Mary allowed God to work through her just like Elizabeth allowed God to work through her.  Both of these women gave glory to God for making them able.

Are you giving God glory for making you able?  Are you letting God make you able?

A Story About My Mom

In honor of Mother’s Day let me tell you a story about my mom.

Way back when I was in sixth grade my parents decided we were going to change churches.  The church I grew up in, up to that point, was a very small country church and most Sundays if me and my brother weren’t there, they didn’t have Sunday school for little kids because we were basically the only ones.  Leading up to student ministry age my parents decided it would be best for us to go to a bigger church.  I was not a fan of this move.

Of course the church they picked was the biggest church in town.  I was now attending a class with at least 12 other girls.  When seventh grade started it was even worse for me.  I was introverted and did not have many, if any, friends at this bigger church.  My mom would make me go to Wednesday night student ministry events and I complained or sulked the whole way there, I sat in the back of the room, and as soon as it dismissed I was waiting for my mom.  Every week I would beg my mom to not make me come back and she never let me quit.  She would tell me to invite my friends from school, make new friends, don’t sit in the back, etc.

I never remember her being demeaning or demanding about this stage but she did know better than me.  It was a hard transition for me but eventually I did make friends at church, eventually one of my school friends did start coming to that church, eventually I came to love that student group, our student minister, and that church.  I consider that church my church home.

I tell you this story to encourage you, Mom.  Moms out there that know better than your kids, you don’t like to see your kids hurt or be uncomfortable but take heart, you know better.  My mom never let me quit.  My mom encouraged me every week to get outside my comfort zone.  And let me tell you, learning to get outside your comfort zone is no small task so start practicing early.  Even twenty or so years later I’m not a fan of getting out of my comfort zone but I know that God always blesses that leap of faith.

Even at 35 years old my mom encourages me daily, thanks to text messaging and e-mails.  She has been a champion on my side since the day I made her a mom.  Love you, Mom!

Heart girl hands (2)

Take Heart Small Group Leader

I love small groups.  I love to teach small groups.  My dorky self loves to find new small group material.  I even, on occasion like to write small group material.  But being a small group leader is hard…even if you do love it.

Leading a small group is hard for many reasons.  You do your homework and prepare a lesson and 2 people show up.  That’s hard.  You do your homework and prepare a lesson and more than two people show up but they don’t come back next week.  That’s hard.  You do your homework and prepare a lesson, new people show up, they love it, you get a text later that someone doesn’t like your group.  That hard.  You work full time and stay up late to prepare a lesson and wake up needing more coffee than the day before and then realize no one has clean socks in your house.  That’s hard.

Being a small group leader is hard but guess what?  People are hard.  If you are going to work with people you must know they are hard.  Once you get to know them they will share their hard stuff with you.  That is hard.  Life is hard.  But guess what?  I’m being reminded on a daily basis that God is in control.  Whether it feels like it or not, God is in control.  He’s in control of your small group.  He’s in control when it seems like you are spinning on a hamster wheel going no where fast.  He’s in control when a group member confides in you and your brain is reeling.  He is in control.

Take heart, Small Group Leader…