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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.

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What Are You Reflecting?

25 Aug

Being Courteous to others is not only respectful to others, but it directly reflects on you as a person. So what does your reflection look like to others?

  • At home – Being discourteous to those we say we love can easily become overlooked. Taking the last piece of cake, not cleaning up after ourselves etc. gets old fast. Being courteous means putting yourself in the other persons shoes instead of thinking of yourself first. It means doing something without being asked and not as a onetime event. We all think we’re courteous to some extent but it takes practice. Bad habits don’t get better unless you’re aware of them. Once you pick up bad habits and behaviors, especially from watching and learning from other people, they become normal.
  • On the Road – Driving manners can be very annoying. It’s not just when we’re in a hurry that we treat others discourteous on the road. Try to be generous and let other drivers out of side roads when their trying to get out. Don’t tail the person in front of you and use your signals in plenty of time for the person behind you. Are you one of those people who take up two spaces in the parking lot? This is really annoying. Most of all, be courteous of other peoples property and don’t bang your door into their car. This is a really bad behavior and damaging to someone’s property as well.
  • At work- Holding the elevator is a nice gesture. Pushing the floor buttons for the other person is even a nicer one. Holding the door is very courteous too. In the business, its always courteous to say “hello” and “goodbye”. If you are on the phone at work, its always wise not to slam the phone down, as this type of discourtesy may leave a bad impression on the other end. Making coffee after you drank the last cup would probably be a good thing as well.

Common Courtesy Do’s and Don’ts:

  • Do use tact and think before you speak. Consider their feelings and an offhand remark such as “your hair looks uncombed today” can be hurtful to them.
  • Do be a loyal friend. Loyalty is very important in any friendship.
  • Do keep track of birthdays and anniversaries and remember to send cards and / or gifts during these special occasions. Be a giver as well as a receiver. Be available for your friends when they need support and likewise, when you need support, ask them for their help too.
  • Don’t make negative statements about a friend’s spouse, children, relatives, pets, decorating, weight or age. Remember the old adage, “if you have nothing nice to say, you shouldn’t say anything at all.”
  • Don’t overburden your friends with constant complaining about your problems, remember, everyone has problems.
  • Don’t take your family or friends for granted, as you would not like it if they took you for granted.

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!

It’s too Easy to be Broken

16 Apr

A man was facing a radical life changing event.  The scarier part was the life changing direction was that is wasn’t even in his hands. He had no control over his future.  His life – his career – his tomorrow was in the hands of another.  He had never faced a situation like this before.  He did not know what to do.  Earlier in his life he had faced situations that weren’t as drastic as this but as he faced them alone, he did not get the results that he wanted.  Now facing this, he had every reason to be in fear.  To doubt himself and the outcome.  Would his life change today? Would he again hear results that his ears, his heart and his mind did not, could not, accept as true?

Unbeknownst to him, I took my concerns for him to a select group of confidential friends.  I shared his fears, my fears, the concerns, the future that he faced.  They poured prayer over this situation with me. For days they continued to pray.  For days they stormed the gates of heaven asking God to intervene on behalf of this young man.   They asked for grace.  They pleased for mercy.  All for a man they did not know.  His burdens became their burdens.  They truly revealed themselves to me as warriors in the battle of this young man.

At 1:30pm he went to learn of his future.  At first, he could not find information at the location that he was initially informed to attend. For over 45 minutes he sought for the person that could give him the information that he sought.  Finally in a totally different building, on the 5th floor, he found a young lady that shared with him that at 8am that morning, the results that he really, really wanted but didn’t believe that he would receive, was indeed the results he received.

His first words upon hearing this news was, “You’ve got to be kidding me!?!”  He could not believe that he heard her correctly.  He wanted those results yet he never believed he would receive those results. “Why are you so surprised?” I asked him while watching tears fill his eyes.   “I didn’t think this would happen!”  I shared with him about the people I asked to pray for him.  I expanded on how they were faithful in asking for God’s favor.  As he reflected on what had just happened, on what he just heard, he sat in wonderment – in amazement.

Ecclesiastes 4:12 reads, “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken”  When he went alone before, he did not get the results he wanted.  This time, he went as a triple-braided cord.  Himself – his prayer partners & God.  He was not broken.  He was not attacked.  He was not defeated.  He got the results he wanted.

How about you?  Are you bundling yourself with others?  Are you sharing your needs and concerns so that others can gather themselves around you?  IF NOT, what is preventing you?  Stop trying to do it alone.  It will never get you the results you want.  Try it a new way.  Because

Junk to One is Treasure to Another

15 Apr

I live in a small town that is known to antique hunters as “the place to go” to find really great deals.  Our Main Street is lined with numerous antique stores, an antique mall and multiple what-not stores.  My mother has a blast when she comes out to visit!  I have always enjoyed “finding” a deal.  Therefore, I recently rented a space in the local antique mall and have had a blast filling it to the brim with “treasures” for others to enjoy.  Each week I scour yard sales, thrift stores and the internet looking for deals.  I have been amazed time and time again how something that was rusted, very ready for the trash can be lovingly taken – restored – redeemed and be made beautiful again.  The other day I purchased a table for 25 cents.  The paint was chipped.  It was dirty, gross and just looked nasty. After taking some time with it, cleaning it up, working with the grain, sanding over the rough spots, I applied a fresh coat of sealer to it.  Look at the difference! Once the table was completed and made beautiful again, the table sold for $89!!  Can you believe it?  Being part of this transformation process made me truly appreciate how God shares with us that He too will make us beautiful.  Ecc 3:11 promises us, “He has made all things beautiful in His time.”  Yes! That means me.  Yes!  That means you too!  What in your life do you feel is rusty, ready for the trash, chipped and/or dirty.  My friend, you are promised to be made beautiful!  Give it to Him today.  He is faithful to sand over the rough spots, coat you in His spirit and make you worth much, much more than $89!

He loves you and so do I!!

Moving on a path – them BAM!!

14 Apr

Imagine yourself walking down a sidewalk.  The sun is shining.  The sky is blue.  The birds are singing.  It’s a beautiful day.  You see something on the sidewalk up in the distance.  It is slowly moving from one side to the other.  As you get closer, you notice a child walking towards you. Whatever is on the sidewalk, moving slowly, is between you and the child.  As you approach, you see that it is a large snail. Completely stretched out, moving gracefully, with his “shell house” moving right along with him.  All of a sudden the child that was walking toward you laughs out loud and kicks the snail as hard as he could into the grass!

Imagine yourself in the place of the snail… Life is grand.  After weeks and weeks of rain, the sun is finally out!  The sidewalk is warm and toasty.  It feels so good that you have stretched yourself out completely.  You’ve “put yourself out there”.  You are happy.  You are content.  You are moving towards a goal.  You are excited about the path before you.  Then all of a sudden, your happy day begins turning and rolling, over and over.  What was up, is now down.  What was right, is now left. Nothing is where it should be.  What happened?  You weren’t bothering anyone.  You were just doing your thing.  Content. Happy.

Life is sometimes like that.  You don’t see the thing that is getting ready to derail you from your content and happy path.  It may hurt.  Things may be upside down for a little bit.  So what do you do?  How do you respond?  Let the snail be our guide…  He knows the abilities that the creator has given him.  He has a way to protect himself.  He knows how to upright himself.  To reset his course and be true to the Creator who made him.

So when we are knocked off course, lets be like the snail.  Let’s be true to our Creator too.  Isaiah 41:10 says, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”  See?  We don’t have to fear.  We don’t have to be dismayed.  We just need to accept the help and strength that is being offered.  There is a right hand waiting to make things “right with us” (righteous).  Come on my friend, reach up.

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??

It’s been destroyed….

24 Mar

With each breath of the crisp fresh air, I looked upward at the brilliant lights that were winking and twinkling in the dark vast sky.  Being that high in the mountains, I felt like I could reach out and touch them.  Once again I was awe-struck with the beauty found in the night sky.

My friends were gathered around a fire ring.  In the midst of them piled high multiple pieces of wood.  Each piece of wood represented an event, situation or challenge that needed to be rid of.  The task before us was to take a piece of wood and ask “what in your life did you need permanently taken/removed from your life?”  Once that event, situation, feeling and/or challenge was realized, you gave it to the wood, to “tie” it, if you would.  Then you were to place the wood, coupled with your burden, in the fire ring for it to be destroyed once and for all during the evening fire.

Many had gathered there.  Many, many pieces of wood represented the cares and concerns of the people gathered there.  Numerous were those gathered and numerous were the needs of them as well.  The time had come.  The match was lit.  Smoke began to billow as the fire licked at the problematic wood before us.  By the time the evening ended – those problems were burned – nothing was left but ashes.

As I looked into the ashes, where I too had placed my burden, I wondered if we would truly let them go.  Then I realized that I couldn’t take it back.  You see, my problem was burned.  I couldn’t gather it back to me, because it had been destroyed.  It was no longer mine to take. It belonged to the fire.  That fire took ownership of my burden and the burdens of everyone that placed theirs in the fire ring as well.

Those burdens no longer had power over us.  Even if we tried, it would no longer be the same – to look the same.  You see, our problems had been refined by fire.  Isaiah 61:3 shares, “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me… To console those who mourn… To give them beauty for ashes”

Friends, whatever was burned in the fire or whatever you NEED to have burned in the fire, can be made beautiful again – once it is burned.  You have to be willing to let it go – to throw it into the fire – to release it’s hold on you.  Throw it away.  Cast your cares away and never try to gather it back to yourself.  That which was ugly, can be and will be made beautiful from the ashes!  The match is lit – are you ready??

Praise – Praise – Praise!!

Tomorrow, we journey together again – this time on the path to the cross.

Repeat That Again…

21 Mar

During the time of one of our breaks, I wandered off in search of….I don’t know what.  Have you ever been like that?  Like you go into the kitchen and you open the refrigerator and look.  You don’t know what you are looking for but you just know, that you know, that you know that you are looking for something.  You will know what it is when you find it.  Can you relate?

Well, I’m walking around, my thought closet is pretty full from the water fountain and low and below THERE IT IS!  A group of boulders – they were huge!  This is one of the things that freak me out about California.  These absolutely HUGE rocks!  Nowhere in my life have I ever seen such huge, gi-normous rocks.  Some are bigger than houses! 

Now mind you, I did study geography in school.  It just never occurred to me that the Rocky Mountains were called that because of THE ROCKS!!  (Let’s just keep that to ourselves – shall we??)

Well, I’m standing face to face with these boulders and I’m in awe.  This southern belle is at a loss for words – CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT!?!?!?!?  Then I see Ezekiel 11:19 written on a sign nearby, “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.”

Do you ever wonder why God repeats things?  I do – IT’s ME!!  You see there are times when I don’t get it – I don’t hear it right the first time – or I completely miss it all together.  Our God is so faithful that He knows this about all of us, so He allows us to hear it again and again.  He allows us to grow a little bit at a time.  This was one of those moments.

You see, God knew that I was impressed with the fountain.  I saw my hardness and coldness for what it was.  None, we needed to dig deeper – to the heart of the matter.  What is the condition of my heart?  Is it as hard and as unmoving as this stone?  I stood there and took inventory.  I reflected on Ezekiel 11:19 again.  Fleshing it out, God shares that He will give THEM an undivided heart and put a new spirit in THEM.  He will remove from ALL the hardness of heart.

That’s what I needed.  That is what I still need.  Friend, it is what you need too.  God does not want us divided.  He does not want our hearts to be divided.  For those of you that have children, think about how much it pains you when your children are divided – not speaking – having hurt one another.  Now, see yourself and those that you are divided with as God’s children.  Do you feel his hurt?

I then understand that I can’t hide from those that hurt me in the past.  I now regret that my past church didn’t attend this weekend.  It really doesn’t matter what was said in the past – yes it hurt – but more importantly, we need not to remain divided.

God wants to remove that heart of stone FROM ALL OF US.  He wants us undivided.  Let’s grab our sledgehammers and start pounding away!  Let’s cherish the heart of flesh within us.

I’m willing – are you?

Tomorrow, more truth about the water – the trickle, the moving and the overflowing.

Ready to become drenched???

 

Buckle Your Seat Belt!

19 Mar

My bags are packed and my friend arrives.  I have a big smile on my face but what was on the outside was not what was going on in the inside.  Can you relate?  On the inside I felt sick – that queasy, sick to my stomach, it’s going to go ALL bad feeling but I wouldn’t let you know it.  I was laughing, joking, sharing the “good” things about my life and on the inside I was a quivering mess!!!

Still the thoughts rushed through my mind – what are you going to do Teri?  What will you say?  The drive took us up into the mountains.  I remember looking back through the side mirror at my home – the valley that I lived in – the place where I was comfortable and SO WANTED to run back there.  We continued on the windy, curvy road up, up further from my home – my safe place – the place where I am loved for who I am and am not judged.  We continued on, driving away: then up, up, up, higher and higher.

Have you ever noticed that sometimes God needs you get you above the situation for you to truly see what He sees?  Well, this is one of the truths that He taught me.

We arrived at the camp.  On the wall was listed all of the names of the churches that were represented at the conference. With eager eyes, I searched the walls.  My breathing labored.  With each name that I read, my breathing became more hurried.  I just knew that with the next sign, “THAT” name would be realized.  My insides were in turmoil.  I got to the end of the list.  I didn’t see the name of my old church.  Did I miss it?  I again sought the names listed on the wall.  IT WAS NOT THERE!  I went up to the conference check in table.  I gave my name, received my packet and then I asked, “Is this all of the names of the churches that are coming this weekend?”  Holding my breath, I waited for an answer.  “Yes” she replied.  I breathed deeply for the first time.

Then God spoke to my spirit.  “Teri, it doesn’t matter if their name is on the wall.  Yours is.  Your being here this week-end has nothing to do with THEM but everything to do with YOU.  Their attendance is not necessary this week-end.  Yours is!”

At that moment I knew I had just overcome part of my past.  You see, I could have allowed FEAR to keep me at home.  I could have rationalized 6,000 ways not to attend but I knew me – my short comings – my weaknesses and I allowed my new friend and God to overcome ME.

The acronym for FEAR is “FALSE EVIDENCE APPEARING REAL” 

God needed to work on me some more.  F.E.A.R  wanted to prohibit that.  God won.  Fear lost.  This weekend was going to be powerful but first we had to go around the road block of FEAR.

What F.E.A.R. is in your life?  What False EVIDENCE is Appearing Real to you?

God has something right around the bend in the road for you.  Don’t allow your FEAR obstacle to stop you!!

Tomorrow our journey begins at the fountain.  I’ll meet you there!