Grateful Opportunities

Getty Images

It’s the time of the year that we tend to focus more on gratitude. Gratitude is a fantastic virtue and people who are grateful tend to lead happier, more productive lives.  We have so much to be thankful for, especially in America, where we have  an abundance of variable resources. As my pastor says, most of our problems come from having too much stuff!  We have so much food available to us that we are constantly  trying to avoid the temptation to not over eat.   So many clothes  cram our closets we have trouble deciding what to wear.  The many options  available to us of things to do and entertain ourselves cause us to run ourselves ragged just trying to keep up with our ever increasingly busy schedules.

While I’m so thankful for material possessions, nice homes and transportation, good health care and access to plenty of nutritious food and so much more, what I’m really focusing my gratefulness for this year are opportunities provided to me by others.   A couple of incidents have occurred this fall that have me peeling back this gratitude layer a little further.

First, my former choir director died.  Landy was a huge personality in so many ways.  One of Nashville’s top interior designers, he also was a choir director practically his entire life.  I was privileged to sing under his direction at Christ Church in Nashville for 25 years.  During that time, he taught me along with everyone else under his lead to sing and worship God to the best of our ability.  We all learned techniques that brought our voices to levels we never imagined and then he showed us  how to give  our best efforts to God for Him to add His blessing.  That brought an Holy Spirit anointing that took us right to heaven’s door every Sunday.  Landy worked hard  with the choir, band, and arrangers to produce the beautiful music he heard in his head.   We singers as well as the audience were the benefactors of his passion, talent, and tireless efforts.

We sang at music and worship conferences across America.    He took us on four mission trips to Ukraine where we did concerts up and down the Nipper River as the very first Christian group to go into that country after the breakup of the Soviet Union, singing every song in the Ukranian language.   In America we did concerts every year where we packed out our church of 2500 for 2 or 3 nights or venues like the Grand Ole Opry house and were even invited to sing on the Dove Awards and Country Music Awards.  We sang with artist like Dolly Parton, Reba McIntyre, Glen Campbell, the Judds and many others.   Yet, we were just ordinary people, not professional singers.  Sure we worked hard and put a lot of  time and energy into the choir,  but none of it would have ever happened had it not been for Landy Gardner.   I’m eternally thankful for his passion, leadership, and willingness to bring me and my fellow choir members along on a journey that never could have been possible on our own.  He allowed me personally to reap countless blessings that I never would have otherwise never experienced.

Right after Landy passed, I had eye surgery.  Cataracts had invaded the lens of both my eyes and had to be removed.    Upon a visit to the eye doctor he told me he could not only removed the cataract, but also replace it with a lens that would give me virtually 20/20 vision in both eyes.   After surgery I was amazed at the brightness of the colors and the rooms.  I could see clearly in the distance and everything was sharp and clear.  I had not been able to see that well without glasses in years! How thankful I was to be able to not have to wear glasses to see and even read. Sure it cost a lot of money, but no amount of money would have been able to restore my eyesight if no one  had not been willing to undergo years of training and expense to learn the tedious procedure and become qualified to do eye surgery.   Additionally,  someone, somewhere  developed the artificial lens that make seeing possible.    I’m extremely thankful to all of them, even though I don’t even know them.

This Thanksgiving, take a moment to go beyond just being thankful for the obvious.  When you count your blessings, think about how many  are available to you  because of the sacrifice of others.  I want to be thankful for the contractor that built my house, the engineers and workers that built the roads I travel to work on every day, my boss, whose passions and expertise have provided a job for me to earn a living year after year, government officials who keep order in our society, teachers who gave me an education and my pastor and thought leaders who speak into my life every day.  The list seems endless when you stop to think about how many people help us each and every day just by doing what they do.

Things just don’t happen in this world.  Everything worthwhile comes by sacrifice and hard work from someone.   When we stand on their shoulders and reap the benefits of what others have done,  it’s worth taking a moment to reflect on how they have enriched our lives and  to be grateful for them even if they are no longer here.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers. Ephesians 1:16

Advertisements

Inevitable Change

 

Getty Images

Embrace change!  We’re encouraged to do this in today’s fast-paced, ever developing, technology driven society.  If we don’t change and continually learn, we will be left behind and eventually get to the point where it is hard to even function.

While God remains the same, His world is always changing.   Each rotation of the earth around the sun brings a host of distinct challenges, opportunities, blessings, joys, trials, and sorrows.  Every day people are born into life here and every day some leave.  Plants appear in the spring and then begin to die out in the fall as the trees go bare, only to be replaced by new buds the next spring.  Most animals appear for just a few short years before they die and are replaced by their offspring.

A few decades ago,  most of the people we care about and spend most of our time with today didn’t even exist.  A couple of decades in the future and our family will look totally different than it does today.

Remember when we were very young we though we will be on this earth for what seemed like an eternity. Then suddenly in early adult hood the stark reality hit us that life is going by much faster than we ever imagined.

With each passing day we become a little different.  We are a little older, a little fatter or skinnier, depending on what we ate, a little wiser or dumber, depending on what we allowed into our minds.  A little richer or poorer depending on what economic decisions, good fortune or trouble we happened to experience that day.

No two days will ever be the same and neither will we be the same tomorrow as we are today. Therefore, embrace change and embrace this day.  In a way It will be our last for there will never be another one exactly like it. Besides, it’s the only one we are guaranteed to have!

This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24

Can I Get a Do Over?

Getty Images

I hate regrets.  I’ve made some bad decisions in my life as well as some really good ones, too.  The good ones, I’m happy with and wouldn’t change a thing.  These were decisions that were right, God inspired, and things turned out well.

Other decisions, on the other hand, were made hastily without listening to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, or worst yet, by totally going against what God was telling me to do.  In those circumstances things have not turned out so well.  While God is the great redeemer and has saved me from a host of my dumb mistakes, if I had a chance to do things over, I’d make those decisions differently.

As we mature we learn from our mistakes.  We get wiser with age and then look back and say What was I thinking?  How many times have we said If I had it to do over again I wouldn’t do that again or I would do that differently.

The good news is that we do get a do over.  Not in this life perhaps, but in our eternal life.

The Bible gives us some insight into what life will be like in eternity.  We will know as we are known (1 Cor. 13:12) We will have important work to do (Rev. 20:6) and we won’t have to deal our earthly, sinful nature (Heb. 8:12)

I’m glad God is merciful and has forgiven me of my many sins, short-comings, and failures.  Without His mercy, I would be in a terrible place.  I’m thankful that I’m wiser today than I was twenty years ago.  I wish I had been wiser twenty years ago.  Though I wasn’t, God took care of me anyway – and He still does today.

With God, everything serves a purpose.  Every trial, goof-up, horrible mistake, and sorrow we endure here on earth can serve as a learning ground for not only our future on Earth but in the life to come.

The goal is to mature and grow in Christ, becoming more like him every day.  It’s a life-long process for sure and we all experience set backs in our journey, but for those who endure, blessings await.  For he is preparing us for something greater than we can even imagine!

Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?  I Cor. 6:2

The Power of Five Minutes

Getty Images

If you work full time and have family responsibilities like I do, you know what a challenge it is sometimes to find the time to write. I use to have a goal of writing 15 minutes per day.  Though minute,  I often wouldn’t start because I didn’t have even fifteen minutes before I had to get ready for work or do something else.  Frustrated with myself  because I was going for days without writing, I changed the goal to just five minutes a day.   I could always find five minutes somewhere in my day surely!

It worked and something remarkable happened too!  When I changed my writing goal to five minutes a day, not only did I then always have time to start, usually I’d find myself getting into it and write for much longer.  And even when five minutes was all I really had to spend, I was surprised how much writing I could actually get done in such a short amount of focused time.

Just by changing this simple goal, I went from going for days without blogging to writing practically every day and before I new it, I had the next blog post ready to go.

If you are having a hard time finding time to write, try setting a goal to write for just five minutes a day every day and see what happens.  Sometimes, getting started and taking the first step is the hardest. Yet the smallest progress toward your goal can bring a sense of fulfillment and encourage you to do more.

The same rules can be applied to other aspects of  life about which we find ourselves procrastinating.  You may not be able to make it to the gym every day, but you could take five minutes to do a few set ups or push ups.

Obviously, I want to write more than five minutes a day and we all need to exercise more than that, but if five minutes is all we’ve got, its much better than nothing.

What is one thing you’ve been putting off that you know you really want or need to do?  Try spending just five minutes on that today and see what happens.

  • Your beginnings will seem humble, so prosperous will your future be. Job 8:7 NIV

Your Best Friend

Getty Images

Give me 8 full hours of your day and I’ll return to you dividends that no other can.

I’ll refresh you, restore your spirit, heal your body, I am your best friend.

I’ll cause your mind to be alert so that you can learn, work, produce,  and take care of those close to you.

I’ll give you physical strength and wit and cause you to be a fun loving person.

Don’t rob me of your time with you.  It will cost you dearly in years of life, peace, health and happiness.

Take heed, though, if you spend too much time with me you’ll come lethargic and lazy.

Treat me right and I’ll be your best friend for life – I am sleep.

I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; For You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8

 

What is Real Love Anyway?

 

Getty Images

All God really asks of us is that we love Him with all our heart and love each other as ourselves.    Sounds so simple, yet why is that so hard to do?  Humans beings have been fighting each other ever since the beginning of time.  History reveals one war after another and it continues today.  You can’t turn on the news without hearing about  murders, terrorist attacks, wars or slanderous assaults on one another.

Social media wars have become rampant with people posting comments expressing their opinions in sometimes the nastiest of tones.  In the midst of it all, we hear a lot of talk about love and tolerance, yet it seems like the people who scream tolerance the loudest have the least amount of it to offer others.

Do we even know how to love each other any more?  As Christians what should we tolerate and where do we draw the line in order to stand true to our own beliefs and convictions yet continue to show the love of Christ to those whose beliefs are different?

What does real love look like?

While no one would argue that hurting someone physically or emotionally is unloving, telling someone the actions they are taking are good and right, when you know deep down those activities will actually eventually destroy them, is one of the most unloving things we can do.

Who is a friend and who is really showing love? The one who goes along with us no matter what choices we make or the one who challenges us to think differently, considering that there might be a better path to a more abundant life?  A true friend speaks truth in love even though that truth may be painful in the moment.

I don’t mean condemnation.  Those who condemn have no interest in helping others and seldom do.  I’m talking about people who care for one another speaking truth into the life of another person because they care for them as a family member, friend or fellow human being.

I personally am thankful for the teachings and convictions that have helped me get back on the right track in my life when I’ve strayed down the wrong road.   They may not have been pleasant words to hear at the time, but I would not be enjoying the abundant life I now live without some warnings, conviction and course directions from God, His Word,  and  people who genuinely care.

I want to know the truth.  Is this activity going to bring abundance to my life or destruction?  It is always a question worth asking.

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.  John 10:10 NKJ

Apple Cider Vinegar, Epson Salts, and Salvation

apples

What does apple cider vinegar and Epson salts have in common?  They are both cheap, simple fixes for some common ailments. So cheap and so simple it’s hard to believe they actually work.

My dad used to swear by epson salts.  Whenever I had sore muscles he’d say, “Soak in epson salts and it will make you feel so much better!”   I thought that was just a wives tale and really didn’t believe him, until I got older and wiser and actually tried it.  Turns out Dad did know a thing or two about life.  Now I find myself encouraging my family and friends to soak away their tired, sore muscles the same way.  One cup in hot bath will relieve stress, relax the muscles, decrease pain and rejuvenate you.

The Apple Cider Vinegar trick

A few years ago, a friend told me that if you take a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar each day it will relieve indigestion.  I took her advice with a grain of salt because, frankly, that seemed too cheap and simple of a remedy.  After all, my indigestion was really bad and at that time I was taking 2 Nexium a day which were costing me $1 each.  Then recently my son blurted out at dinner one night. “You know I’ve been taking a drink with apple cider vinegar, lemon, and honey each money and my stomach problems have completely gone away.”

That got my attention, because I knew he had always struggled with stomach issues.  So I tried it starting the next day and my indigestion and stomach pains went away almost immediately.  Now I’m a faithful drinker of the solution each morning as well.

I was reluctant to try these remedies because they seemed too simple and too cheap – just too easy! Even the experts disagree on if they really work or not and how.  But they are currently working for me so I’ll keep bathing and drinking while the experts continue to debate the issue.

What’s that got to do with salvation?

I think sometimes our spiritual life is that way.  Jesus said “Whosoever will” come to me and I will give him eternal life.  What?  Give freely?  It seems too easy.  Surely we must do more than that!  There’s got to be a high price to pay for forgiveness of our sins and getting to spend eternity in heaven.    Well, there is … and Jesus has already paid it on the cross!

Just because it’s simple and free doesn’t mean it’s not true.

And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.   Revelation 22:17

White Privilege

We hear a lot about white privilege these days.  The essence is that somehow someone is privileged because they were born white.  Well, I am here to say that I am white and I am privileged.  However,  I am not privileged because I am white, but because I am a child of a king.  King Jesus that is!

There are a lot of privileges that come with being a child of the king.  He owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10) and as a good father He loves to give good gifts to his children. (Matthew 7:11). I have been a recipient of many of those gifts.

Is that to say that my life is or ever has been or ever will be without trials.  I wish!  Rather, I had tragedies, sickness, death, atrocities, disappointments, injustices and heart break  to deal with just like everyone who spends any time here in this fallen world.

Most I’ve brought on myself, but not all.  Sometimes injustices and bad things just happen to us.  Jesus even promised that they would.  In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.  John 16:33b (KJV) Even in tribulation we are still privileged.  Why?  Because Jesus said basically “I’ve got this!” I can attest that he has seen me though every last one of my trials and turned every injustice and even my own  sins and bad decisions and ultimately used them for my good.  Not without penalty, of course.  After all, a good father always disciplines his children.  He desires for us to be holy, but thankfully he’s there to help and guide us even when we are not.

Kinds of Privileges 

One privilege we have today is that we have the word of God readily available to us as a reference to life.  It is filled with truths,  insights and promises that help us navigate our time here on earth and prepare us for our life in eternity as well.  All we have to do is read it to discover its truths.  What a privilege that is to have at our fingertips.

We have the privilege to approach the throne of God with our request.  Last summer my husband and I took a tour of  Buckingham Palace in England.  We were only able to tour the inside  of that magnificent castle because the queen was residing in Scotland at the time.  If she had been at the palace, there was no way we would have been permitted to enter, much less approach her throne.  While I may never have the opportunity to approach any king or queen or even the president of the United States, I can come boldly to the throne of God through prayer and bring any request I want.  Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.  Hebrews 4:16

God may not always grant my request, but the cool thing is that many times He does!  And it always blows my mind, that the God of the universe who created this whole world  would  consider a request from little ole me even once and make it happen.

Who can obtain this privilege

The best thing about this privilege is that it is open to anyone and everyone.  It doesn’t matter if you are white, black, brown, red, yellow, blue, green or purple.  Jesus died for all of us making way for our redemption and all we have to do to become a privileged child of this king is accept  and confess him as such and commit our lives to follow him.  There is plenty of God to go around. Don’t miss out!

The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance -II Peter 3:9 (NKJV)

Family Ties

img_4325

Every year my husband and I, along with our four children and their spouses plus all the grandkids, take off for a winter get-a-way in the smoky mountains on MLK weekend.  We’ll get a large five bedroom cabin in the woods, hang out, play games , hike, ride go-carts (the grand-kid’s favorite) see some of the attractions and cook and eat some delicious family meals.  It’s my  favorite weekend of the year!

After our last trip I posted a picture on Facebook that we took with the entire family–all fifteen of us. One of my friends commented “I love that you do that, don’t ever stop!” I love that thought, but the truth is that, unfortunately, we will stop one day.  Not because we want to but because nothing on this earth last forever, especially people.

Most of us have a very small nucleus of people that we get to go through life with in a tiny window of time allotted us on earth.   While we may have lots of acquaintances, we have very few family and friends that we can always count on in life, no matter the circumstance.   Those who will be there in good times and bad.  For me, these are those people.

I heard a pastor once say that when you die, there will be room around your bed for approximately eight people and those are the eight people you should always make a priority in your life.   I think that is good advice.  Of course, even those eight will change through the years.

My dad’s favorite saying whenever I was fretting over some teenage drama was “Don’t worry about it.  In one hundred years it won’t make any difference.”  While his statement frustrated me at the time, now remembering that helps me keep a lot of things in perspective.

Looking at the picture of my family, the fifteen people closest to me in the world,  I know that in one hundred years, we will most likely all be gone from earth to our new home in heaven.  One by on, we will each pass away.  Even the cute little babies will have died of old age by that time and their sons and daughters will be the patriarch and matriarch of their own families.

But right now, I’m not worried about 100 years from now.  I’m enjoying this present time that God has graciously given to me and my family on this earth and am looking forward to next year when, if all goes well, there will be sixteen of us in that picture as my youngest daughter and her husband are expecting their first child in June!

Keep ‘um coming, folks!

There is a time for everything, and a season for everything under the heavens.  A time to be born and a time to die.  Ecclesiastes 3: 1-2a

Defenseless Army

It began in 1973

This war on our defenseless army

Who are these robed men

From where comes their power

To say we’re unworthy to live in this hour

At first we thought this war we could win

After all what person would stoop to such sin

But now oh how we have cried

That over 58 million have died

Our mothers were deceived

They bought into the lie

When society told them

It’s for the best that your child die

We were created for greatness

That’s always God’s plan

Never for spare parts

Lying cold in a pan

Who will help us

Who will stand in our stead

It seems that no one cares

Now that so many have bled

Are your hearts so cold

Is evil that great

That you can’t even see

How we’ve  been betrayed

We are innocent, vulnerable

Depending on you

If God touches your heart

Please help to see us through