Monday, June 30, 2008

Family Pictures

the kids hate this picture

The five of us,..back from Gulf Shores!
This was mom's first big family trip without daddy.

Abby and Casey

My three girls.
Family pictures will never be the same for any of us.

People ask: "Are we all here?"
"Yes!" some reply
But is ain't so.

We are not all here.
I'm missing one.

I've got things to say, but it took me 86 years to load four photos onto my blog. Therefore,...writing must wait.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

No Regrets

I, and part of my family, have rented condominiums on the beach of Gulf Shores, Alabama.

There have been many times here at the beach when I miss Jae Lynn, but it is not the overwhelming feeling of loss like it has been in the past. Just the feeling of sadness that is my normal.

Familiar pain.

Everyone has some type of it.
Maybe it is from having lost someone.
Maybe it is from family "issues".
Maybe it is financial.
Physical illness.
Mental illness.
Other hurts we just don't talk much about because it has become our "normal".

Here's the deal: No matter where we all go,.whether it is to Wal-Mart or to the beach,....we all take all drag our baggage along with us. It's a way of life for all of us. Some days we are good baggage handlers and some days we aren't.
We tend to get impatient with each other, don't we? Especially those that we love.

Vacations though, are a time for trying hard to love and invest in each other.

Thousands of people all around me here,..sunburned and tired,..but all trying to catch a bit of peace, rest and relaxation. I've seen a lot of people having some good times,..but I have also seen a lot of people irritating the fool out of each other.
Don't they know that this vacation may be their last together?
I have things to say to them, but they would probably not appreciate me foisting my baggage onto them.

My family is not perfect,..but I am blessed to be connected to them by blood, marriage and adoption. I wish they were all here.
Vacations are times to make memories and do things that you otherwise would probably not do.
Casey, Abby and Ralph went para sailing this afternoon.
I am planning to bungee-swing later in the week.
Bob's family is going deep-sea fishing in the morning.
We are making memories knowing that soon we will be home and back to our duties and obligations.

When I get home, I don't want to have any regrets about our time spent together here.

When I get home.
When I get to my Centennial road home.

Well,..come to think of it,..when I get to my real home too.
Little things here can translate into big things in Heaven.
No regrets!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Faithful or Faithless?

Does anybody out there like radio preachers?
My favorite radio preacher, bar none, is David Jeremiah.

The bad part about listening to David is that he comes on my
radio at 5 frazzlin :30 in the morning.
I wonder if he is in charge of that evil time-slot decision?
Surely not.

Over the past couple of years,.my mom has given me the gifts of this man's sermon series.
First, she gave me the David Jeremiah sermon series on Heaven. I'm telling ya,..I couldn't do without those sermons and their mental pictures. They have provided satisfaction for my "Heaven Obsession".
I have his series on Angels. I couldn't do without those either. The incredible theology from those sermons have fed my imagination for hours!
Then there is my series on King David. All I can say about those sermons is,..Oh My.

The other day, David preached a sermon and quoted a intense thought by Martin Luther. It was long, so I can not remember it exactly, but it went something like this:

What good is a strong Faith if we do not use it at the point where it impacts us personally? What good is a Faith that is passionate for things which we are not directly involved in?
If there is a place, person or situation in our life which has a need for God's intervention,..then we should not flinch in the battle! That's the time to practice what we preach!
If we will not use our Faith in our daily walk,..then how can we say we have it at all?

I've thought about this every day,..several times a day since I heard it.
What situation in my life needs a "God intervention"?
There are many.

I speak a strong Faith, but what is my practice?

I Samuel 15:22 says " obey is better than sacrifice..."

Where do I start?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Most Important Lesson I Ever Taught

Have you ever come to a place in your life where you ask yourself ,,."is this all there is?"
There was a time like that for me.
It was a time, not too long ago, when my Faith walk had come to a deeply troubling place. I felt that I was working and struggling under the weight of a church religion without experiencing the joy and freedom that it promised.
This particular time in my life often found me worried what others thought of me, and less worried what God thought of me. Unfortunately,..the same oppressive mind-set was devastating Ralph and the three girls.
Where was our peace?
Where was our joy?
Our home was not as it should be.

Over a period of months,..and without a real intention to do so, Ralph and I began to "work out our Faith with fear and trembling".

One day, as I prepared the Wednesday night lesson for our teenagers,..I began to pull together a lesson on Grace. I began with a background of Moses,..the 10 Commandments,..the Laws of Leviticus and how priests were to interpret and intercede on behalf of the children Of God.
I explained how religion all revolved around "rules" and then I would read the teens a few rules from Leviticus.
I then I discussed how generations and time had somehow changed some of the interpretations and duties of the law and it finally reached a point where no one, one,... could hardly ever keep the law.
It was crazy to try.
Interspersed throughout the lesson, I would read several rules from Leviticus.

Most people couldn't read in those days, and were dependent on the scholars and priests to teach the right way of salvation. The Pharisees had a reputation of being pious and proud and the regular 'ole Jewish person was often left wondering if they were "good enough".

Enter Jesus of Nazareth.
Teaching wonderful things like "God will now begin to base His judgement on the one thing you can control,...your heart!"
This was Good News indeed!

But what about the "rules"? the church leaders asked.
Actually it probably was more like:

Grace was a new word,..but was the wonderful freeing Word of Salvation to the people who had been straining under the weight of their religion.

I declared that Wednesday night, that I would be turning over a new leaf! I told the kids that as of that very moment,..I was living my life differently. I asked them to join me as we began focusing on what God thought of us,..and stop worrying about what others thought.

It felt rebellious!
It felt mutinous!
It felt liberating!
Teenagers love all of those feelings! :)

That Wednesday evening,..a beautiful young girl sat there, in her softball uniform and her ponytail, captivated and staring at me as I spoke this passionate and personal lesson on the freedom of Grace.

The lesson was for me.
The lesson was for my teenagers.
But the lesson was mostly for that young girl, 16 y/o daughter, Jae Lynn.
I felt as if I was telling her,.. "Jae baby,..this Grace is for you. You are way too unique to be forced into a stuffy religion and we're not gonna do it anymore! From now on,..Let's follow God with our hearts! Let's live in the freedom of grace."

I could tell. She understood the message.

The date of that lesson was March 17, 2004.
Less that 24 hours later,..Jae Lynn was killed in a horrific car wreck.


I have often wondered why God inspired me to teach that lesson on that night.
Was that His gift to her?
or was it His gift to me?
Both, I suppose.

The real gift, however, not the memory,..nor the lesson,...
It's the subject,....
The real gift is Grace.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

"You Ain't Dead Yet" award

I recently attended a "Youth Specialties" training conference and received the "You Ain't Dead Yet" award. The "honor" was mine because of all the attendees there, no one has worked with teenagers longer than me.

"How long have you been a youth worker? the speaker asked me in front of the crowd.

My answer surprised even me as I told him,...... "Twenty-eight years".

28 years? What in the cotton-pickin heck am I doing in youth ministry after 28 years?
And unpaid at that!

Anyway, this conference, I was one of the few females there and I was the only one who was not sporting a goatee and band t-shirt.
Ok,...Ok,...a few females had no goatees, but they all were wearing band t-shirts.

It's true,..I ain't dead yet. However, I am thankful for a young man and his wife who have decided to throw in their lot with our Church and live life together along side of us.

Levi and Sarah Tucker are the answer to my prayers for Godly leadership for our young people. Not only are they passionate about bringing teenagers closer to our Father, but they are popular, handsome, beautiful and fun!
I knew Levi would be a great youth leader when he showed up on his very first visit to our church youth group. He went outside, scooped up some snow into a monster snowball, brought it into the church hallway and nailed one of the boys right up side the head.

In the church for Pete's sake!
Now that's cool!

What a privilege to work with teenagers.
I pray that in 28 years,..Levi is awarded the "I ain't dead yet" certificate.
But then again,.......maybe I'll put my walker aside and go up to claim it myself!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Abby In Glorietta

Abby is leaving early in the morning for church camp.
Glorietta, New Mexico.

As you can tell,..her preparations have begun.

Don't all of us begin packing for a long trip by dragging out everything we own, throwing it on the bed near a suitcase way too small, and then making a ceiling mobile out of "monster" energy drink cans?
I have prayed for it to be the best trip of her entire young life. I have always told the girls that "God doesn't necessarily talk to us louder or more when we are at church camp,..but we are better listeners when we are there."

I remember vividly sitting in our youth room in the early 1970's and broaching the subject of our church youth group going to Glorietta, New Mexico. We might as well have asked to go to the other side of the world.

Getaways should not be just for kids and teenagers. I think that adults need to go somewhere every year to Church camp. A whole week of worship, powerful speakers, fresh friendships, new location and time to listen to God.

Can you imagine how spiritually tanked up our families and churches would be?
Would God speak louder to us if we went somewhere new or would we just be better listeners?
Does it matter?
Either way, would be life changing.
Just like it used to be.

Pray for our young brothers and sisters who will be on the road tomorrow.
May they never be the same.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Friends in Low Places

Today I am feeling good.
In spite of a frantic day at work. My work is usually very "un-frantic", but today was an exception. For an important reason, but a boring one to blog about.

Feeling good anyway. Here's some reasons:

1. Our church just finished a wonderful revival with two excellent worship leaders: Mike Franklin and Toby Talley. Godly brothers and talented communicators. Lots of salvations and re dedications (mine!)
2. I am going on a Florida vacation in a couple of weeks. White sands. Seafood. Ocean sounds. Oh boy oh boy oh boy.
3. Abby sang a solo (accompanying herself on the guitar) in church last night and I was thrilled at her voice and her presentation. I am most thrilled with her soft heart.
4. My house is clean. (thanks Ralph!)
5. I have the week-end off starting now.

I recall a weekend last fall when my two brother's families and mine traveled to Fayetteville to watch the Hogs play football. Usually we stay the night, but for some reason, a few of us found ourselves driving back home in the wee hours of the morning. I was in the front seat with David, I think, and we were up on one of those big bridges which span the valley of Northwest Arkansas. There was a pause in our conversation and he quietly said
"The trees are beautiful"

The trees are beautiful?
At 1 o'clock in the morning?

"Yes. They are" I agreed.

Hours before, in the daylight and from a different direction, we had driven across that same bridge and admired the November foliage of the Ozark landscape.
Now, here we were, driving through an inky black night, but surrounded still by the same beauty of the mountains.

What had changed?

To say the beauty is still visible would not be true. We really tried, but could not see the trees. We knew they were there and we derived pleasure at being in Northwest Arkansas, but the night-time view did not bring us satisfaction. In spite of our attempts to see the spectacular fall colors which were "right there!", we simply could not.

I think that's where we all can finds ourselves in life.
I know full well the frustration of being surrounded by people who encourage you to
"Look up!"
But sometimes,..we just can not see the good. The beauty is enveloped in darkness.

For me,..and I try very hard to make this blog personal,...To me, it seems that there are times in our life where we are supposed to be in the dark. That's a controversial statement, I know, but it is indeed my opinion. I'm no theologian, but am expressing my puny perception of the life lessons of the beloved Bible characters as well as the ancestors and saints I admire.

What did I gain from my deepest darkest night-season of pain?
Profound things.
Sacred knowledge.
I treasure the things I now know, however, I loathe the circumstances of my new knowledge.

Are the lessons learned worth the pain? God may say "yes", and I confess I want desperately to agree with Him always, but I fear my answer would be an immediate "No!".

I have family, friends and patients who are deeply enshrouded in circumstances of darkness.
I have no idea why God allows such pain in the lives of His children.
I have asked Him why,....A bunch of times actually.
I am sorry and am thinking of you tonight.