Why God’s Plan for Friendships is Way Cooler

As I comb out her beautiful white hair she reminds me to take her hearing aids out before I spray it. She has family coming in from out-of-town so she wants to look her best. She asks me to find her favorite pearl necklace out of her jewelry box and as I hang the pearls around her neck my mind goes back over the last eleven years of our friendship. We have joked for years asking, “What did God think an eighty-two year old Italian Catholic would have in common with a thirty-one year old hillbilly Bible thumper? I met Landi eleven years ago when I moved in next door to her. When we first met she’d pop over unannounced, tap on the door, walk in and call out my name. I remember the first time it happened I was making my bed and thought to myself: “Did she really just walk in?” I was a little ruffled by it, I mean in our generation we just don’t do that. We have our privacy walls and fences for a reason, amen? I remember one day in particular when she came by, she asked, “Would you like to come over for a glass of my husband’s homemade wine?” I politely declined being I’m not a drinker and she looked up at me inquisitively asking, “Why is it because you’re Baptist?” I chuckled and right away I was taken in by her eager desire to get to know someone and knew I was going to love her. From that day on we have been inseparable. She always tells everyone, “We just took to one other.”...

To Do or To Be, That is the Question

I like having a “To Do” list. Following the list instead of getting overwhelmed thinking about all there is to do is encouraging. I check things off as I go and see my progress. And a completed list feels good! But is a “To Do” list the most important? There are lots of tasks that demand my attention. Vacuum the house, do laundry, go to the bank, buy groceries, and the list can go on forever. What about my “To Be” list? Do I think about that? When I wake up in the morning, my to do list is already in my head. Do I wake up thinking about what I’m to be? If I made a “To Be” list for today, what would it look like? To Be: Be patient on the road, in the grocery aisle, waiting in line. Be loving to those who wait on me today, to those who crowd the aisles, to those who “interrupt” my tasks. Be kind and gentle with each person who crosses my path even when they irritate me or block my way. Be self-controlled not over indulging with food and drink, not giving in to temper fits, not being lazy. Be joyful walking in praise and thanksgiving to my Father who has given me this day of life. Be faithful to Him. Putting Him first. Listening to and following His Spirit. Be prayerful. Praying without ceasing. Don’t forget to put on compassion and humility! What if by following my “To Be” list, I can’t accomplish all that is on my “To Do” list? “Seek first the kingdom of God...

Does Your Life Have Good Lighting?

Evening passed, and morning came. This was the third day. Then God said, “Let there be lights in the sky to separate day from night. These lights will be used for signs, seasons, days, and years.They will be in the sky to give light to the earth.” And it happened. Genesis 1:13-15 While we each experience seasons differently because of where we live, consider the four seasons of the year. What’s your favorite, and why? According to Genesis, seasons are inextricably linked with the lights that separate the night from the day. Isn’t that what often seems to separate our spiritual seasons as well? Consider it from an experiential perspective. Winter is seen as the most depressing and depraved season. There’s a lack of direct sunlight as well as less sunlit hours through the day. Our spiritual winters feel dark. The clouds seem oppressive. The damp cold chills us. We long for direct sunlight to part the skies and shine directly on us for warmth and refreshment. Knowing the depressing effects of shortened days and lengthened darkness through the winter months, some people opt for light therapy or strategic vacations to help them sustain a balance of mental and emotional health. On the other hand, summer’s extended daylight hours and direct sunshine invite us into increased energy and opportunities to stay active through outside work and play. Bleakness is shoved aside by illumination. Chill is blown away by breezes warmed by sunlight. We fully experience life, taking our hats off to feel the sun’s warmth and digging our bare toes into soft grass and sparkling sand. How would you...

I Almost Died the Summer of ’89

I almost died the summer of ’89. It was the summer after my sixth grade year. My parents moved our family to a new city. My stepfather had a job offer that might afford us the opportunity to stop living paycheck to paycheck. We packed up our Mercedes (I use the term loosely), the ’63 Mercedes of the sagging headliner, cracked vinyl seats, and missing air conditioning, and we moved to Redding, California. It was June. Redding in June is somewhat like I imagine hell to be. Not a temperate climate on the best of days, we arrived in the midst of a particularly hot spell. The temperature hovered between 115 and 120 degrees for a solid week with no reprieve granted during the evening hours. You must remember that this was in the days before cell phones and internet. When you moved from one city to another and you disconnected your phone line, there was no way to get ahold of you until you got to the other side. Somewhere between the packing of our luxury vehicle, the staple-gunning of the headliner to the roof, and the hot and miserable drive to our new destination, my stepfather’s job offer fell through. We arrived in Redding to the realization that we were jobless and homeless. The rental house we had secured would not accept our family when we had no sustainable income on the horizon. My parents did the logical thing. They moved us in to the KOA campground. This is where we would live while my stepfather searched for a job. We lived in a tent, at a...

Go Ahead, Prune Me…

We are clearly not farmers.

We tried. We bought a peach tree, not for abundant August peaches, but for privacy. We come from the school of “plant a tree and sit back.”

We did.

That tree, for some reason, loves the Georgia red clay. She has flourished. She is after all a peach tree. Who knew?

Blowing Up Shame

Shame. It’s a powerful force. Shame imprisons people. Shame keeps secrets hidden. Shame brings on isolation, hurt, pain. Shame divides. Shame terrifies people. Shame keeps people from connecting. Shame causes sin, hurt, pain (etc) to grow. Shame keeps you masked. Shame is defined as: the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another. Synonyms for shame include; humiliation, to mortify, embarrassment, chasten, to humble. In establishments of faith, shame often keeps people from asking for and getting the help that they so desperately need. What would people think if they knew… insert “shameful” behavior here? The enemy uses shame to further bind people, causing them to believe there is no freedom for them and whatever they are struggling with. We all know what happens to things that stay hidden. They grow and they combine forces with shame and the enemy and cause you to enter into a downward spiral. I am an extroverted introvert. Which simply means I have both introverted and extroverted tendencies. As an extrovert I love to meet new people (when the mood is right.) I love connecting with people. I don’t mind (and sometime greatly enjoy) being the center of attention, but my introverted side despises small talk, and favor connecting in deep ways. I am extremely introspective, and I think surface level stuff is a waste of time. Because of my make up and the fact that I get the privilege of helping women (and sometimes men) navigate through life and personal crisis, I LOVE to help people BLOW UP SHAME. I can, at times,...

Got Hupomone?

As we find ourselves in the MIDDLE of a week, we can pause and ask a few questions. Has it been exhausting? Has it been fulfilling? Yeah, well, the reality is that life is sometimes just hard and the weeks can be rough. And it doesn’t have to be monumental to be rough. It’s the little things, right? What we need is HUPOMONE to get us through life. A little Greek word, tucked into Scripture. We need it. We just do. Because it’s rough out there and we’re ALL in this...

“God Won’t Give you More Than You Can Bear”

This phrase has been both puzzling and troubling to me over the years, specifically when I had cancer and during times when I experienced spiritual warfare personally and in our ministry. So, I went digging for answers. There is no scripture that tells us that God won’t give us more than we can bear or that tells us that God won’t allow more than we can bear. What you WILL find is 1 Corinthians 10:13, which states: No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. 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 endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV) This verse is referring to TEMPTATION. God does allow us to be tempted to sin, but He NEVER sets us up to fail. He will not allow circumstances so that the ONLY option we have is to sin. God is loving and ALWAYS gives us an alternative to sin. We misquote this verse and use it to apply to hardships, sickness, and all sorts of troubles…which seems harmless enough. I find comfort in telling you “God won’t give you more than you can bear.” It helps me reassure myself that you are okay and not in need of my help. It’s not as comforting when you are on the receiving end of this platitude. In fact, it has caused me a great deal of grief. I remember thinking on more than one occasion, “Well, what is wrong with me then? I am fairly certain that this is more...

A Necklace and A Movie

“Ask me and I will tell you remarkable secrets you do not know about things to come.” – Jeremiah 33.3 (NLT) Two recent life experiences have taught me a powerful spiritual truth. The first one happened with a necklace I wanted to buy for a friend. And the second with a movie I needed to watch with my husband. My friend’s birthday was coming up and she had just spent several hours editing one of my books, so I really wanted to bless her with a special gift. When she was younger and doing missions around the world, God spoke to her in a far-off country with shooting stars. She asked to experience Him in a tangible way, and that night He lit the sky with dozens of shooting stars. So I felt like I needed to give her a shooting star necklace. When the desire came to me to buy her a necklace, I instantly wanted to start looking for it, but I felt the Holy Spirit tell me to wait for His timing. I put the necklace on the back-burner of my mind, and almost two months later, God said it was time to look. I found the necklace in less than a minute and it was perfect and on sale. That was the necklace God had chosen for my friend. Another day, I felt like my husband and I needed to watch a movie on the following Tuesday. I kept looking through the movies playing at each theater in town, but nothing looked interesting. I was going to buy tickets for a movie that I really...

It’s Not Up to You

It was my first real, paid, speaking engagement. A church halfway across the country had invited me, Jennifer Slattery, Midwestern mom of one, to be their keynote speaker. I was more than intimidated. I was terrified, to the point my stomach felt as if army ants, butterflies, and nasty spiders had declared war within me. Not wanting to reveal the extent of my ignorance and ineptitude, I spent hours crafting and rehearsing my speech and fine-tuning my Power Point. Then the day came. I’d spent so much time preparing and rehearsing I could give my speech backwards. In my sleep. I’d become so confident in my abilities, in fact… God needed to do some confidence-stripping. It started with a casual conversation between me and the educational minister. “What do you plan to talk about?” This struck me as odd, for I’d already sent him my outline. But perhaps he’d forgotten, so I shared my main points, certain he’d be pleased. Turns out, he had a different vision for the presentation entirely. This meant I needed to prepare a completely different speech, and quickly. Those warring critters returned with a vengeance, and cold sweat broke out on my face. On my entire body, actually, only it wasn’t cold. It was insanely hot as we were in Texas at the peak of summer. Except I had little time for a shower. Twenty minutes later, with new Power Point slides and graphics in place, stopwatch in hand, I prepared to spend the next two hours practicing until I’d cemented each word permanently in my brain. Once again, God had other plans. “Come...