I Got Suckered By A Scam Artist

I walked past the shivering transient without really seeing her. I barely glanced up as I hurried to get out of the rain. I rushed through the door into the hotel lobby, but my steps slowed when I heard a baby cry. Turning my head, I looked more closely. The woman sat huddled under the overhang. She had a little boy on her lap and a stroller by her side. The stroller was covered with a blanket and plastic bags stuffed with odds and ends overflowing from the basket underneath. She held a cell phone in her hand and stared at the screen, seemingly oblivious to the wailing of her infant. I watched for a moment and then walked away. I was cold and tired, ready to check in to my room and get some rest after a long day of training. As I handed the hotel clerk my credit card, I argued with myself. She might be waiting for someone. There are plenty of other people here who could help her. She has a cell phone. If she can afford a cell phone, she can afford a room. As I finished my transaction and turned to grab my bags, my eyes were drawn back outside. It was dark and I could barely see through the rain, but the screen from her cell phone cast a little bit of light. Her toddler was now running up and down the sidewalk. He splashed through the dark, stomping his feet in the puddles. She didn’t seem to notice him as he played. She is oblivious to everything around her. She is probably on drugs....

Untangling Our Will From God’s

Decisions, the ones that really matter, are difficult. And no matter how hard we try to view a situation objectively, more often than not, each choice will be enmeshed in emotion and obligation, tainted by our sinful nature, and … hopefully, ultimately resting on a desire to be obedient. So how can we separate the latter from the former? Is that even possible? What are some steps we can take to surrender our will to Christ’s and zero in on His guidance? First, we need to understand that we are, by nature, sinful people, prone to pride, selfishness, and self-deception. If not dealt with, these sins have the capacity to squelch the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the first step is prayer, asking God to cleanse our hearts. Consider making Psalm 19:12-14 a daily prayer, especially during times of indecision. “How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from these hidden faults. Keep your servant from deliberate sins! Don’t let them control me. Then I will be free of guilt and innocent of great sin. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to You, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer” (NLT). The next step, which is an ongoing one, is to listen. Throughout Scripture, God promises to lead and guide us. Isaiah 30:21 says, “Your own ears will hear Him. Right behind you a voice will say, ‘This is the way you should go,’ whether to the right or to the left” (NLT). Sometimes God will guide us by gently whispering to our heart. Many times He’ll speak...

When Your Heart Has No Peace and Eggs Are Everywhere

Our Thanksgiving family vacation was over. Greg and I, along with his parents, were nearing the end of our 8-hour road trip back home to the North Georgia mountains. We had spent the week in Orange Beach, Alabama with Greg’s entire family. As we sped along the interstate about an hour and a half from home, I saw tail lights of cars up ahead. Traffic began to slow and whatever had happened was clogging up the interstate around a sharp curve in the road. Traffic moved at a snail’s pace, but move it did, which is a reason for praise in the mess that is Atlanta traffic. Thankfully, it was Saturday and not Friday, which meant a much lighter traffic volume on the highway. Greg’s Mom and I mused about what might have happened as we inched forward. We could see several police vehicles stopped in the left lanes, and policemen were directing traffic into a single right-hand lane. Three fast moving lanes of traffic, plus a lane that merged from a perpendicular road, suddenly bottle-necked into one lane that moved about as fast as a herd of turtles. Within a few minutes we approached the disaster that caused the traffic angst. A large truck loaded with eggs had gone into the sharp curve at a high rate of speed and, oops, did not emerge from the curve upright. A clean-up crew with a front-end loader was dumping the remains of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of eggs into a dumpster that sat on the side of the interstate. Scrambled eggs poured out of every crevice of the dumpster and ran...

Do the Work

A week into the new year. This is the time of year when I realize just how big my goals and ambitions were. It happens every year—at least every year that I set goals. I always start so well. And fall so fast. It seems the bigger the goal, the faster I fall. Can you relate? I have a feeling Gideon could. Gideon, the man who was threshing wheat in a wine press, has been on my mind so much lately. God gave him a task to do that wasn’t just out of his comfort zone, it was way beyond everything he thought he could do. He was to deliver Israel from the Midianites—an enemy that was compared to a swarm of locusts. They swooped in, ate and destroyed everything in sight, and then high-tailed it out, leaving Israel to starve for another year. And God told Gideon to deliver Israel from the Midianites. He said to Him, “O Lord, how shall I deliver Israel? Behold, my family is the least in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father’s house.” But the Lord said to him, “Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat Midian as one man.” Judges 6:15-16 That’s a big job. No, it’s a huge one. And look at what God replied to Gideon’s question of how he was to do that. “Surely I will be with you…” The secret to Gideon’s success was God’s presence. It was nothing that Gideon or his band of 300 merry men did. The one thing Gideon needed most was the thing God promised him. “Surely...

He Gives Rain… In.Due.Season.

“If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them,  then I will give you your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. Your threshing shall last to the time of the grape harvest, and the grape harvest shall last to the time for sowing. And you shall eat your bread to the full and dwell in your land securely.” Leviticus 26:3-5 (ESV) – emphasis added The land was vast, and yet, seemingly desolate. A desert of sorts, the people knew that, unlike the Egyptians who had the fertile Nile to irrigate their crops, Israel was solely dependent on the rain season to be able to harvest bountiful crops. When I visited Israel many years ago, I remember listening to the tour guide describing the abundance of its harvest. I had never tasted fresher fruit and vegetables before. Indeed, this tiny piece of land yields some of the most beautiful crops on earth. I find it especially interesting that of all places on the planet, God would choose to place His chosen nation in a land that would completely depend on rain to produce successful harvests. But then again, The Holy God of Israel knew the heart of His people. Had he chosen Egypt as the Promised Land, the people would gladly depend on their own ability to channel the waters of the Nile into their crop beds. Rain would not have been a deal breaker every year, necessarily. However, the success of any given harvest season in Israel did not depend on...

Resetting For the New Year

I’m pretty sure I was born wearing running shoes. Then, somewhere along the way, in my rush to get things done, I picked up a heavy dose of people pleasing, coupled with an aversion to saying no. Combined, this can leave me with growing obligations and decreased flex time. And every year, come December, I’m left wondering how this happened. How one obligation led to another then another, many times without me paying attention. Then again, that’s the problem–that I don’t pay enough attention, and that I don’t plan ahead enough, leaving cushion for the unexpectes that are sure to arise. Which begs the question: How can I be led by the Spirit when I’m dominated by my schedule? When our daughter was young, I was determined to follow God’s leading in every area of my life, in every minute of my day. My goal–to learn to discern God’s voice better. I was convinced the more I turned to Him for guidance, the more I tuned my ears to Him, and the more I responded to His leading, the better my “hearing” would become. If I was in the middle of a task and sensed God telling me to stop, I did. Or if I felt Him nudge me to do something else, I did. I let go of all my expectations and plans and simply rested in Him. I soon discovered that with this plan, everything got done, only instead of stressing and angsting over the when and how, my days were filled with peace and the deep fulfillment of walking hand-in-hand in with Christ. I’ve often wondered, what...

Stop And Smell The Roses – Taking Time For A Year End Review Of Your Life

  But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15b ESV All the hustle and bustle of the holiday season is coming to a close: the house is a mess, the decorations might still be up, and yet now is the perfect time to stop and smell the roses and make time for a year end review of your life.  As a matter of fact, apart from the major holidays this specific week (between Christmas and the New Year) is my favorite time of the year. Do you want to know why?  Every year I take this week to sit and review what worked, what didn’t work, what needs to be improved and what I hope to do in the next year. It’s not a complicated process, but it is a strategic process that my husband and I do every year. We started doing this about ten years ago and it’s turned into the most thought provoking and productive week for both of us. Chances are you do something like this either mentally or on paper, so why not make a plan and see what you learn in the process. I’m going to share with you what I do, you take it, then tweak it to fit you and your family. Here’s what you need to get ready; paper/giant sticky notes/notepad colored markers/pens/highlighters calendar (last year and the coming year) music (this is very important for me) – I love to listen to “Epic Soundtracks” on Pandora so that I don’t get distracted by the words in the songs. I put those giant sticky notes...

Breath of Heaven

It was almost 22 years to the day. I was 9 months pregnant and due on January 8th. That’s what THEY SAID; SHE had different plans. When the doctor finished his examination, he calmly stated that I would be having a baby, “TODAY.” “TODAY, as in TO-DAY?” “Yes, and we’ll need you to head to the hospital – NOW.” “What? That is NOT the plan.” “It is now and if you can’t assure us that you’ll head straight for the hospital, we can arrange for an ambulance.” I went out to my car,  a baby blue Ford Escort, on an absolutely frigid day in Chicago, ice and snow covering the ground. That little car needed time to warm up, so I sat reluctantly patient for a moment and waited, all alone. I was trying to wrap my head around the fact that I WAS GOING TO HAVE A BABY! The journey had been a long one. I had prayed for years, endured fertility treatments for years and I knew the magnitude of this event. The day had arrived and it looked NOTHING like I had planned. My husband was downtown in a pre cell phone age, and I needed to get word to him. Travel plans needed to be changed. I still had Christmas shopping to do. I was told that I could not even PACK my own bag; I needed to get to the hospital immediately. As I sat there in the car, overwhelmed in the moment, a song came on the radio. Now, it wasn’t the first time I’d heard it, but the first time I HEARD it… ”...

Why It’s Important To Forgive, Even When…We Don’t Want To

I can almost hear the sighs of exasperation. You are probably thinking to yourself, “seriously, she’s going to talk to me today about forgiveness? She has no idea what I am going through, what’s been done, what’s been said or how far off track things have gotten lately.” You know what, you are absolutely right! I don’t know what you are going through or have been through. I don’t know how bad it is gotten in your world lately, nor do I need to because I can tell you this, it has been a doozy of a run in my world too. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure I have stamped my foot (a lot here lately) and cried out to God that this just isn’t “fair”. This is just as hard for me to write as it is for you to read because I have been wrestling with God over this one and here’s what I’ve come up with. but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:15 ESV (underscoring mine) But. I never thought about it that way. But..if you do not, neither will your Father. But…I don’t want to. I still hurt from it. Oh my friend, you have no idea how much this pains me to write, but here it goes…we need to forgive much because we have been forgiven much. There, I said it. This is not to say that you agree with what has happened, but that you are cancelling that debt against you. When we hold on to that anger, resentment,...

Get Over Yourself

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10 ESV Listen, I know when you first read the title you were probably taken aback a bit, but I hope you hear my heart on this–sometimes we really do just need to get over ourselves. We live in a world where it’s all about ourselves and what makes “me” happy. The problem starts when we live a life that is only focused on ourselves then we can become entitled, self-righteous, judgmental and sometimes downright ugly. When our thoughts and lives are filled with only thoughts about us and our needs/wants, then the rest of our relationships become strained or even nonexistent. It’s hard to have a relationship with someone who only thinks about themselves. So, what’s a person to do who is struggling with this? First, I’d say get a copy of Tim Keller’s book, “The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness”. It has radically changed my thoughts on this whole concept. In his book he talks about a gospel-humility that takes thinking of ourselves right off the table. How do we even do that? Through lots of prayer, lots of patience and lots of practice. I read this book over a year ago and it’s still been something I wrestle with daily, but something that I intend to keep on wrestling with and working through. We spend our days scurrying around trying to fill our lives with more of stuff to make us happy, but the reality is that the “stuff” we long for isn’t really going to bring us the fulfillment we...