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Its Your Funeral

4 Mar

Recently I went to a funeral for a 38 year sister to a friend of our family.  When I awoke that morning it was cold and rainy.  I wondered about the turn out.  I thought the weather would keep people from attending.  I decided to go early to the church to see if I could help my friend and their family set up or just to be there for support.  When I pulled up to the church an hour before the service, the parking lot was surprisingly no where near empty.  I went inside, shook off my umbrella and took of my coat.  I went and placed my things in the area that I would like to sit and off I went to see where I could be of service.  As I helped the family prepare a memory table, I marveled at the things the family had selected to represent her life.  This was not a woman who lived a small life – this was a woman who lived life large.

As the rain continued to fall, more and more people were lining up inside the church to sign the guest book and to find their seats.  Time continued and the line went out the door.  More time passed, the line began to wrap around outside. The sanctuary filled, people began standing on the sides of the room.  Chairs were brought into the foyer and set up.  They too filled and yet I could not see the end of the line. People began to stand in the foyer along the walls.  The front doors were opened, two tents were set up in front of those doors.  Chairs were set up there too and they were filled and yet the line continued.

As the pastor began the service, he introduced family members who wanted to share her life with us.  One by one they took the microphone and invited us into the life of their loved one.  They shared how that one person effected their life in a big way.  Statements were made like, “She always had a big smile on her face”  “She never met a stranger”  “She would sit and really listen to me for as long as I wanted to talk” “She never wanted attention or recognition, but she always wanted to help.”  “She always had time for me”  “She would pitch in where ever there was a need” “She was my friend”  “My life is better for having her in it”  “She will be missed”

The pastor wrapped up his message and invited the audience to share their stories.  One by one people raised their hands and again the stories and moments that she took to bless those around her were repeated over and over again.  A slide show was presented and we saw how the comments people had shared were brought to life through the memories captured on film.  We saw pictures of her serving.  We saw pictures of her loving.  We saw that beautiful smile in every single picture.  The service ended and yet people didn’t leave.  They continued to stay and share how this woman, who had lived a large life, brought value to their lives because every single person in that room had been effected by this woman.  There was not a single person in that room whom was not touched in some way by her.  All had come to celebrate the difference she had made in their lives.

As I drove home I was convicted about my life.  What would people say about me at my funeral?  As I pondered that I had to ask myself, “What would I want said about me at my funeral?”  As I dissected the things that could be said versus what I hoped would be said, I realized that I could have the things I would like to be said, a reality.  All I had to do was change the areas that needed to be changed to give me those results.

You see, my future, your future hasn’t been written yet.  We still have control of what will be said at our funeral.  We just need to change, to add, or to continue the habits and behaviors to give us those results.  Its in our hands.  Its up to us.  Why?  Because it’s your funeral and the words haven’t been written yet.

Friends as Travelling Companions

20 Jun

Most of us meet new people everyday.  Each of us can look around us and see people that we have no idea who they are, what their name is, where they live or what their story is.

Every day we live and work in an environment with people all around us and we can (maybe sometimes do) feel very alone and lonely.

As you take inventory of your journey through this life, ask yourself, “who are you travelling with?” Look around you. Who is need of someone to journey with.  God has made us to be a community. His Word challenges us to connect.

There will be a day when each of us are not doing well. When you have friends and family, you have others that will come over and love you through your pain and suffering. We should help each other when we are in need. We are more effective when we work together. We help each other do life with our skills and life becomes a little easier and little better.

Someone need YOU today!  Maybe YOU need someone today… Regardless, we are a community of people that need one another.  So take the first step.  Introduce yourself.  Invest yourself.  Make a difference and in doing so, you impact and empower yourself as well as the one you are investing in.

Recently I was challenged by someone when they asked, “Did you come here to be blessed or be a blessing?”  When I shifted my eyes from what I had hoped to receive, to what I could give to someone instead, that moment became life changing.

So what about you?  When you look at your friends, your travel companions as it were, are you thankful?  Do you seek to bless them? Do you recognize them as a blessing?  Stop right now and thank God for your friends, your family and those that you don’t even know yet that you can be a blessing to!  Remember…

Reality Break

18 Jun

End of year exams…graduation…buying teachers gifts…picnics….the list went on and on.  The end of the school year “to do” list.  Your feet hit the floor running first thing in the morning and you drop into bed exhausted at the end of the day.  There is so much to do and not enough time to do it.  Can you relate?

With four out of five of my children still in school, this was my reality and I NEEDED A BREAK!  A break from reality.  So the minute the school bell rang, I packed up my children, their “stuff” and we headed for our condo in Big Bear.  We are in the midst of a 6 day sabbatical and it is awesome.  We have laughed, played, relaxed, taken naps, gone on walks but with ABSOLUTELY no schedule.  We have refused to think about “what we are going to do next” and have lived in the moment.  The result?  Well, I’ve learned a few things that I would like to share with you:

1.  It doesn’t matter where you are.  STOP!  Take a moment and listen to your Creator speak to you.  God is always speaking and you can hear Him. You just need to learn to recognize His voice. He speaks in many different ways, including nature and natural events. When you look at the stars or a sunset or experience a storm, if you look, you can see the fingerprints of God.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” Psalm 19:1-4

Take a moment now.  Look around you and ask God to speak to you right where you are!

2.  It’s NOT where you are going.  It’s NOT how fast you get there.  It’s not what you are going to do once you get there.  The MOST IMPORTANT THING is who you go with!  In life you are going to travel down many paths.  You will begin and start many journey’s.  You will need to make several u-turns and take several detours.  Along the pathways of life, whats important is who is willing to travel with you.  Look around you.  Take inventory.  Who is willing to travel with you.  Who has committed to not bail even when they feel car sick?!?  That is your blessing!

TOMORROW, we will look at who your travelling companions are and how they are blessings to you!  Until then…

Don’t accept it as a Fact…

30 May

For the last 15+ years I have looked exactly the same.  Yes, my hairstyle has evolved numerous times but I am talking about my body shape and weight.  I’ve looked like this for so long, that I just accepted it as “the way I am”  I did not try any type of dieting program or weight loss prevention type things.  I just determined in my mind, that this is the way I am, this “season of life”, so why fight it.  Can you relate?  Has something been in your life for so long that you have just accepted it as a fact, the way things are?  It may not be weight.  It could be a habit.  It could be a mindset.  It may be that thing in your past that you have dragged with you FOREVER!  So what can you do about it?  If you were like me, you just accepted it as true and didn’t look for another way.

That’s where I was.  I just accepted me like that.  Please don’t get me wrong or misunderstand me.  I am not seeking a platform to beat myself up.  I’m not giving you a platform for beating yourself up.  My challenge is this:  Don’t accept what is as fact.  It does not HAVE to be. Walk with me and I’ll explain further what I mean…

A friend of mine was also dissatisfied with her “look” as well.  She researched different programs and weight loss platforms and discovered something that worked for her.  Then, her being the GREAT friend that she is, didn’t say to me, “Why don’t you try it? You need to lose weight!” or anything like that.  Instead, she said, “If you want to try it to, I’ll help you.  I’ll share with you what I learned and I’ll encourage you when you experience challenges.”

You see, she offered to walk with me on this journey.

She didn’t just give me the answer and then walk away. She chose to walk alongside me – over both the rough terrain and smooth paths.

And let me tell you, my friend, there has been BOTH!!

The result?  I have lost over 30 lbs and am now wearing the same size clothes I wore 20 years ago.  Yep, I’m excited and I can tell you my husband is even MORE excited!

Now I don’t want you to miss the point of this story.  It is NOT about losing the weight.  It is NOT about the weight loss program that worked for me.  It IS about the fact that my friend chose to invest herself in me and my “acceptance” of a problem that was not good for me to continue to carry on my life’s journey.  My friend knew I was unhappy, even though I had never voiced it.  She knew that I had accepted it as a fact. She chose to offer me her friendship, her support and her personal challenges, in order for me to shore up the courage to take the first step.  She believed in me – in our friendship and in the results that two together can overcome much.

It comes down to choice.  What was I choosing to accept as a fact?  She chose to offer a hand in my journey.  I chose to accept.  The result is my previous reality is no longer my current reality. Things can change. Things can get better.  Who, in your life, can you reach out to today? Don’t accept their thoughts or feelings as a fact…  The fact is, you can make a difference today.  Get out there and be a friend to someone today.

The results will amaze you!

Become the Complete Package of Comfort and Beauty

26 May

As I stood in my kitchen drinking a cup of coffee this morning, I looked around my living areas and felt pleasure in what we had created. 

You see, we moved into this home in 2009. When we were packing to move here, I conducted a MAJOR house cleaning. I wanted a fresh start – a new look, if you would. Therefore, when we moved into our new home, I had given over half of our “stuff” away. The result? We had to move very little “stuff” into our new home. As a matter of fact, several rooms looked sparse in the beginning. However, over the years, as I have visited antique stores and various stores, I purchased new treasures.

As I looked over those treasures, I marveled over the completed look.  I felt amazed how we had created a total package of comfort and beauty. I stood there and reflected on how I had came by my “treasures”. I did not purchase them from the same place nor at the same time nor did I have a plan when I began. As I found things that “fit” the direction I wanted my home to go, I purchased them. Piece by piece, my home came together. Now, 3 years later, it is beautiful. It is comfortable. When friends and family visit, they enjoy our home as much as we do.  I find satisfaction in what we had created.

As good as my coffee was this morning, the thought that came next was even more delightful.  Our lives can be like this too!  We can take inventory of what we need to clean, or remove, from our lives. What habits, traditions, thoughts and/or feelings do we need to remove from our lives? What, once removed, would give us that fresh start – a new look?

Once we have identified those things that need to be removed, give it away.  Don’t put it somewhere where you can pull it back out later. GET RID OF IT and then DON’T TAKE IT BACK!  Then identify the direction you want your fresh start, your new look, to go.  Most importantly, acknowledge that it will take time.  While you are “building” it, don’t settle for junk or imitation “stuff”.  Wait for the things that match your vision exactly.

Over time you will be able to stand back and savor your “home” of comfort and beauty. Yes, it will be comfortable.  Yes, it will be beautiful. Best of all?  When others are around you, they will find enjoyment in your beauty and comfort too.

A fresh start.  A good cup of coffee.  To become a home of beauty and comfort.  What else could you want?

Don’t let anything stop you!  Experience 

Walking with Grace

31 Mar

When a crisis or situation would catapult itself into my life, I would always work through it, utilizing every skill in my spiritual toolbox.  Once the crisis had past and/or victory had been won, I would then share with my friends and family how God and I had conquered that challenge. I never consider sharing with someone the battle that I was in.  This is a pattern developed over many years.  The end result; yes, victories were won but I never connected with someone on more than a surface level.

Don’t get me wrong, I listened, cried and rejoiced over my friends problems.  I was the first to pray, to be there, to support but it was a one way street.  I didn’t let my guard down.  I wasn’t truly real with them.  They thought I was because I would share the victory (after it was achieved) or what God was doing in my life (non-crisis).  Yet when the chips were down, it was me and God verses whatever life altering problem before us.

Recognizing this as something that must be overcome, when asked to join a group of ladies twice a month, I accepted.  During our last three meetings we have been sharing our testimony.  When it came time to give my testimony, I told the uncut version.  In the past I would give the cleaned up and pretty version – yes bad things had happened.  Yes, I was hurt but God won – yeah!!  Can you relate?  This time, however I gave me – the realness – the truth.  I didn’t try to clean it up.  I didn’t make excuses.  I just told it like it was – uncut.

Want to know the cool thing?  They loved me anyway.  I was not judged.  I was not left alone.  That experience set a foundation that blew my mind.  Yesterday was one of those meetings.  After the meeting was officially over, the leader asked if I wanted to share with them what happened this week.  I did.  Let me tell you, my friend, it has been one of those weeks.  Normally the events of this week would be one of those “challenges” that I wouldn’t share until God had won.  Not this time.  I shared.  I cried and so did the ladies.  They prayed over me, my situation.  Love washed over me with every tear that fell.  It was one of the coolest moments I’ve experienced in “church”

Grace is described as “unmerited, or undeserved, favor coming from God.  I could have continued to “protect” myself by keeping my problems to myself.  I have gone on many, many years like this.  Yet, I know that God is calling me to be different, to respond differently.  Therefore, I opened up and found Grace.  Today, I walk with Grace.  Tomorrow, Lord willing, I will walk with Grace.  The best part?  I have a group of ladies that is walking with me.  Together.  In Grace.

Until tomorrow, blessed one – walk in Grace.  

A Message Into The Darkness

27 Mar

“Hey, it’s me.  If you are out there, come home.  Please!  God, what did you think?  That we would just let you walk out of our lives?  I am so furious at you right now!  Then I think about how scared you must be.  Hiding in some dark place all alone.  But you are not alone!  Okay?  You are not alone!  We are in that dark place with you!  We are waving flashlights and calling your name.  So if you can see us, come home.  But if you can’t, then…you stay alive!  Because we are coming!

As I watched Criminal Minds last week the words of Penelope as she called out to Prentiss, resonated with me.  I can think back to the times in my life when I too removed myself from love and protection – to a place where I felt in control – where I felt, if I went, no one could be hurt.  Listening to these words I wondered at a time when similar words were spoken into my darkness.

Now, I am no longer in that place of darkness.  Yet I wonder who should I be speaking those words to?  Who around me is hiding in the darkness, feeling all alone?  Who needs to see me waving a flashlight and calling out their name?

Can you think of someone?

If so, are you ready, willing and able to go into their darkness and bring them safely back home?

1 Peter 4:9-10 encourages us to, “Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay. God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.”  Notice the verbiage there is to share with one in “need”. That one hiding in the darkness is in need.  We all have been gifted with different spiritual gifts – to be used differently but we ALL have been given the gift of love.  Let’s use that love, channel that love and reach into the darkness. We are unaware of who we may be helping when we reach out.

Hebrews 13:2 says, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.”

Please hear my next statement for what it is.  When I was in that place of darkness as a 17 year old young lady, a Christian family reached out to me and gave me a home to live in.  They didn’t “preach” at me.  They didn’t put me down for the past choices I made.  They gave me a place to stay.  Food to eat.  And hope.  Hope that I could be better.  My past did not have to dictate my future.

They didn’t know that 13 years later I would be a pastors wife.  They didn’t know that I would become a children and youth pastor. They didn’t know that my love for people would become a platform where I help people know and understand Christ more fully.

I’m certainly not an angel but that family entertained me into the presence of God.  He saved me from the darkness.  Now it’s my turn to shine my light and call out to others…

Want to join me??

Can Those Around You See?

10 Mar

A man was sitting on his couch in his house.  As the day turned into night, the house grew darker and darker.  By nighttime it was darker in his house then it was outside.  A friend of the man was walking by and he had not seen his friend in awhile.  He stopped and knocked on the door.  The man got up, opened the door, greeted his friend and welcomed him inside.

As the man walked in the house he noticed it was dark.  When his friend shut the door, they were in complete darkness.  The friend who stopped by said, “Why don’t you have a light?  It’s dark in here.”  His friend replied, “I have a light.”  “Well why don’t you light it?” his friend asked.  “I did” the owner of the home replied.  “Then how come I can’t see it?” his friend asked.  “It’s right here” the owner replied.  The man then turned toward the table, put out his hands, grasped a bowl and lifted it.  Immediately his friend gasped.  “Why did you have it under the bowl?  How do you see?”  he asked.  “Well, I know where everything is, so I don’t need a light.” He replied.

The friend became frustrated and said, “Well what about when I came over, how come you didn’t lift the bowl so I could see?” his friend asked.  “I just didn’t think about it.”  the home owner replied, “I just never thought about others not being able to see.”

Jesus talks about this very person in Luke 11:33-36.  It reads, “No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it is hidden…instead he puts it on its stand, so that those who come in, may see the light.”

Our prayer needs to be “You, O Lord, keep my lamp burning: my God turns my darkness into Light” Proverbs 18:28

 

Nashville or BUST

3 Mar

A friend of mine has been a fan of Brad Paisley’s for many years and for the last 10 years she has wanted to attend his concert in Nashville.  Over the years she has attended fan parties, listened to all of his CD’s, and has looked for ways to make this dream come true. Whenever the conversation of country music was broached, she would eagerly share her excitement about Brad and her desire to attend his concert.  When she learned of his 2011 concert tour agenda, she became excited.  Numerous times she attempted to make her dream a reality.  Time and time again, her attempts failed.  She found a ticket to the concert but she could not arrange airfare.  Last Saturday she sat by the phone and shared with a friend that she was not going to be able to make it happen.  She shared with me that after that conversation she sat down and talked with her Abba Father.  “God, I have tried to make this happen and it is apparently not meant to be.  So unless you intervene, I understand that the timing is not right.”  On Wednesday, just 3 days before the concert, her phone rang.  A husband of another friend had won a plane ticket that was expiring and was going to go to waste.  The husband and wife decided to give my friend the ticket.  I am happy to share with you that last Friday her dream became a reality.

Galatians 6:2 from the Amplified Bible reads, “Bear (endure, carry) one another’s burdens (concerns) and in this way fulfill and observe perfectly the law of Christ (the Messiah) and complete what is lacking [by your obedience to it].You see if she had not shared with her family/friends the desire of her heart, others could not have helped her complete it.  Those that helped her “carry” out her plans were as blessed by the experience as she was in attending the concert.  It became a win-win situation

I don’t like to share my burdens while they are going on.  I like to “work through it alone” and then share with others how it works out.  I don’t want to be a burden to others and/or put them out.  By listening to and watching the above work out, I realize that by my keeping things to myself, I am missing out on blessings and I am also denying others the blessing of being obedient by helping me bear it.

What about you?  Are you trying to go it alone or are you blessings others with being real and allowing them the privilege of being your burden bearer? Allow your friend to assist in the completion of what is lacking – you both will be blessed by it!