Face TO Face

It’s been 6 months since my friend Amy passed on to her reward. Not a day goes by that I don’t want to call her up and laugh, cry, pray or whatever with her. I have photos galore, journal entries, memory upon memory to keep her alive in my mind and my heart. But, I miss that face to face, voice to voice time.

This summer I have a part in helping to care for Amy’s little girl who has just recently turned 9. She was just 8 when her Mommy died. Do you remember how long days seemed to be when you were a kid? Time seems to drag. You want to grow up. You want tomorrow to come because you have great plans. You feel like it takes forever to wait, wait, wait, wait.

Just the other day she said something to me that really dug into me. I’ve been pondering it since. It made me think about our relationship with God, our Father.

She said, “I am starting to forget what it was like to be with Mommy.”

OH….goodness. I thought, “how could this be?” But, upon further reflection, for a 9 year old girl, 6 months is an eternity! Of course she has pictures of her Mom that she sees every day. But, since she was just 6 years old her Mommy had been sick a lot. Especially the last 6 months before she died, Amy couldn’t do what most Mommies were doing with their little girls.

I realized that it is partially up to me to keep memories of Amy alive. It is up to me as Katy gets older to tell stories about her Mom so that she knows just what an amazing person and friend she was. I knew her Mom very well for 20 years, so I must pass that knowledge on.

You see, Katy remembers generally how her Mommy was. She knows what she looks like. She remembers that she was hilarious and kind and that she loved her dearly. But, she is starting to forget the details, the specifics. She also didn’t have enough years with her to build a huge bank of personal memories and knowledge of her Mom.

This is kind of what it’s like with our relationship to God. When we step back and don’t spend time in the Word or in prayer talking to Him on a daily basis, we start to forget what it was like “being with Daddy.” We remember the gist – that He is good and kind – but we start to get dim on the details. The promises He gives us that we can claim. Reminders of His loving and generous nature and the way He wants us to be with others.

Memories of special times with God are great. Gaining knowledge by listening to others who are very close to God is great.

BUT, nothing compares to the daily FACE TO FACE personal time that He desires to have with us. That is where our relationship gets deep. That is where we gain the most intimate knowledge of our Savior and Creator.

Evidence of LIFE

Sometimes the chaos seems to overshadow the calm and gratitude. Doesn’t it? 

In this era, it seems that people are SO BUSY on a daily basis. This kid has to be here, this kid has to be there…. there is this appointment, and that deadline, and a big dinner party to plan for then…it seems never-ending for most!  

On top of all the constant activity, we have to keep our homes, cars, pets and selves tidy and clean! This in itself can be a full time job! 

I personally am not a parent, but most people I know are. However, I have had a little guy and his Mom living with me at my house for two years. He just turned six last month. 

It has been amazing having them live with me, but I must admit this has been quite an adjustment. It was just me and my tiny little dog for years on our own. If I put something away or cleaned something, or left something out – whatever I did – it would stay that same way until I changed it. This is not so when there are other people in the house! Especially little ones! Now I get it!  

Spills. Random stuff on the wall. Finger prints on glass. Crumbs on the floor. Shoes left here and there. Constant clean up.  

Sometimes I get frustrated. Really frustrated. 

Recently, God knew I needed a word. 

The other day I was listening to Christian radio in my car, and a message from Proverbs 31 Women’s ministry played. She talked about how one day she counted 14 pairs of shoes strewn throughout the living room and kitchen area where they were not supposed to be. She admitted to her frustration and said she felt like her kids were not grateful and were disrespectful. HOWEVER, she said that God gently reminded her that is was a joy to have those healthy, vibrant children in her home and in her life, and that these frustrations were trivial. The perceived chaos could be viewed as beauty instead, and gratitude is in order!

In fact, all that mess was EVIDENCE OF LIFE.  

This message really set in with me. Sure, without other people (or even animals) in my house I would have less to clean. It would be quiet. Things would stay as I left them. 

But, I can’t imagine my life going back to that now. The noise, the laughter, the messes, the constant movement…. they are all EVIDENCE OF LIFE.  

I guess I am learning to feel blessed by the mess! It means we are alive and well!  

I imagine God, our Father, looks down from time to time at our messes and could be frustrated with us. Thankfully, His mercies are new every morning, and He created us, and He sees our messes as evidence of life and beauty. He is gentle, patient and kind. Though He expects us to continue to learn, grow and improve, He waits on us with great joy and compassion.  

In wisdom He made each one of us, and all creatures. Let us try to have His perspective as we press on through the beautiful mess of life.  

Psalm 104:24 “How many are your works, LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.” 

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Quitting Too Soon?

We’ve all done it at some point. Given up on something just short of a breakthrough. Is there something difficult, but good and big in your life that you are considering walking away from?

My Pastor made a point in his Resurrection Sunday sermon last weekend that stood out to me. The story was from Luke chapter 24 about Cleopus walking back home on the road to Emmaus. He walked with another, and their heads were hung low in defeat. They had believed that Jesus was the Messiah, but Jesus had died on a cross Friday night, and they were headed back home early on Sunday.

Jesus actually caught up to them and asked them what they were talking about. They told Jesus, whom they did not recognize, that they had seen Jesus die and they were disappointed that he was gone and that all they had believed was not true. HA! Their messiah and their hope was right there beside them, but they didn’t even recognize him!

Jesus had told them all that he would die and that he would resurrect, numerous times. Cleopus still gave up and started walking back home to his old familiar place TOO SOON! Shouldn’t he have waited around on Sunday to see Jesus resurrected as he had promised?

Cleopus gave up just short of the breakthrough and headed back to his comfort zone! Thankfully for him, Jesus pursued him on his wrong path anyway! He ALMOST MISSED the most important moment that could have ever happened to him!

Whatever you are doing in life that is worth doing and biblical – whether it be a challenging job, building and staying with a relationship, getting in shape, eating healthier – that you feel like giving up on because you are not “seeing results,” STICK WITH IT! KEEP GOING! You have been promised the results, and they will come if you keep on. They say 80% of the progress comes in the last 20% of the time spent on a project. Push forward and don’t turn back to your comfort zone and quit! As Dory would say in Finding Nemo, “just keep swimming!”

DON’T QUIT TOO SOON OR YOU WILL MISS YOUR BREAKTHROUGH!

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VALUE and the Loss Of My Friend

What is it that we all want in life? How do we want to feel? What do we want from people, places and things?

Is it Love? Security? Respect? Sure. All of that. But those things can vary in meaning depending on the individual.

In light of the recent sudden and shocking passing of my dearest and deepest friend, I have been evaluating my priorities. My decisions. The way I spend my time. The people with whom I spend my time. My goals, my dreams. The way I treat myself and others. My relationship with God….

You get the picture.

Death somehow focuses us on life. Our mortality, and our immortality. Our legacy. It makes us present and focused on each moment.

When I think about my friendship with Amy, I think of all those things. But, encompassing them all is: VALUE.

I think that may be the word that sums up what we all want out of life.

TO VALUE and TO BE VALUED.

VALUE is both a noun and a verb. It’s a state of being AND a way of being. It is:

  1. the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something. – worth, usefulness, benefit, gain, good, help, merit, importance, significance.
  1. considering someone or something to be important or beneficial; have a high opinion of. – think highly of, rate highly, esteem, appreciate, respect, prize,         cherish, treasure.

“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3

“For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” 1 Timothy 4:8

“Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Matthew 10:31

My dear Amy was an example of all these perspectives on value in my life. She made sure I felt valued and valuable – both by her and by God. She reminded me all the time. In fact, I know by the stories I’ve heard, that she made everyone she met feel this way. She gave love unconditionally to all, and had enough to go around. What a gift.

Let us all remember the importance of value – in every sense and use of the word. Placing value on ourselves the way God sees us, and treating others as valuable will change our lives. There is no greater charge in this life.

Let’s all do it the way Amy did it.

Don’t let a day pass without knowing YOUR value, and showing the ones you love how much you value them. For you are never promised tomorrow.

Amy 2RIP Amy Mohler Brooks, 8-22-76 ~ 1-18-17

We sure do miss you. <3

Feeling Insignificant?

I’m just one in a million. Who cares about my point of view? I just plug along day after day like the billions before me, and have nothing original to say.

Do you ever feel this way?

I do. I struggle with the fact that I am literally one of billions of humans in the history of mankind, yet God created me to be unique. This seems contradictory.

You are, literally, just one of billions of other humans that have walked, walk or will walk the earth. However, there is NO ONE else exactly like you. You are genetically made like none other, EVER. You also have a unique Spirit which has been fostered in a unique set of circumstances. This means your perspective is one of a kind.

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You are created in the Image of God, in His Likeness. He is Creative, therefore we all have the capacity to create. Your life itself is art. Art is: the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination.

I am learning to shut out the critics and negative voices within and without. What I have to say is valuable, first to God my Creator, and then to me. I learn something every time I create. Every time I snap a photo. Every time I write. Every time I interact with a stranger. Beyond that, if someone else appreciates what I say or create, it is just icing on the cake.

I must stop seeking to please others, constantly wondering what “they” will think of my life/art/writing/creation. If God is pleased and I have grown, that is all the purpose it needs. Our society values others’ opinions too highly.

My challenge to myself and to you is to stop giving credence to the “critics” and to listen to what God says about us. His voice is the one that matters most. Sure, we should have checks and balances, and there are healthy ways of achieving this. However, if your life and your art lines up with Scripture, and your unique soul is connected with your Creator as you live your life, then you are on track my friend.

I also challenge us to stop being so critical of others. Allow others to uniquely create as God has inspired them. Encourage and uplift.

The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.
Aristotle

Psalm 139: 13-16 says:
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

Take heart. Know you are special and that your insight into this life is unique and meant to be shared. Be empowered and strengthened by the fact that God your Creator designed you just as you are. The rest of us need to see and hear and feel what you create. Be bold and share it. You were created to do so.

You Never Know…..

Not to be morbid, especially at this joyous time of year, BUT….

None of us were born with an expiration date printed on our skin. We NEVER know what day will be our last day, what words will be our last words.

A few days ago on my drive home from Thanksgiving break with my Mom in Florida, I had to stop for two hours and put my car in park on I-95. Thousands of cars were backed up in a stand-still at the Georgia/South Carolina border waiting for a crash to be cleared. It turns out it was fatal. Those people had no idea when they woke up that morning that it would be their last. I wonder if the last words they said to their loved ones were good ones?

Upon my return to Charlotte I found out that my godson’s 35-year old baseball coach had a seizure, fell and hit his head and died – on Thanksgiving Day. He left his wife and two young children with no warning. None of them woke up that morning thinking it would be his last. I hope their last moments together were positive ones. What an unexpected tragedy.

“In your anger, do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” Ephesians 4:26

I have failed at this at times, as we all have. But, my Mother engrained this in my mind and my heart, and for the most part I do not allow myself to go to sleep or to part ways with loved ones after an argument or disagreement without at least agreeing to talk later and letting them know I love them. For we must always be prepared. We are not guaranteed tomorrow.

The election has been a time of division among many families and friends, and now we are in the thick of the holiday season. The holidays bring joy and many people together, but they are also times of grief, pain and isolation for some. Let us remember to speak life to all we meet – and especially to remain in good relationship with those closest to us, regardless of our differences in opinion.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:29-32

Speak life today. Forgive. Do not hold on to the things that bring bitterness. Be kind and do good. For you never know what day will be your last.

THE King of kings is Greater than any president

In just a few hours we will find out who will be the next President of the United States of America. This campaigning has been insanity and the country is divided in a way that I have never personally witnessed. People are fighting, calling one another names, and cutting off relationships due to this polarization in opinion and thought in a fight to join one band wagon or the other.

This is what I know:

– The God I serve is bigger than any person or election process.

– Life will continue no matter who sits in the White House for the next four years, and it is my duty to live a life that Christ would approve of by loving all people as much as myself, practicing gratitude and giving of my time and resources to make the world a better place.

– Many people are now at least using their right to vote in what appears to be record numbers. This means more people are paying attention to the issues, which is great news. When life rolls along “well enough” we become complacent and lazy. I see a new spark.

If you read through the Old Testament you will see a roller coaster ride of good and bad kings. God would give the people a good king and there would be wealth and prosperity in the land. Then, the people would rebel in some way and beg for a different king. Then, God would allow the people to have what they wanted so that the new generation would learn and come back to Him. It is a definite pattern.

Perhaps this is happening now. We can see in the candidates a culmination of the collective views and values that citizens in the U.S. share. We will reap what we sow, always. This election has put a lot of topics in the spotlight that need to be there. Regardless of the outcome, we will push forward. The sun will come up every day and will shine on the righteous and the wicked and eventually we will finally come to that most glorious day when we see Christ return.

We shall not fear or waver because our God is King of kings and Lord of lords.

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“For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome….” Deuteronomy 10:17

“But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith…. In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus….I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in his own time – God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.” 1 Timothy 6:11-16

“On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” Revelation 19:16

Note: Do yourself a favor and go back and re-read the last post by my Aunt Tami as well: “Which ‘One Another’ Are You?”

LOVE Your Enemies

Ouch. This is a tall order.

But, Jesus Himself tells us to pray for and love our enemies. UGH.

“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:27, 28

At this time of great political dissension in the USA, not to mention riots, hate crimes, and general unrest, it is pertinent that we as Christians not only remember these direct words from Jesus, but that we actively participate in them daily. If there has ever been a time to love and pray for our enemies, it is now.

Our enemies range from ISIS to the “Frenemies” that permeate our daily lives. From that deadbeat Father that refuses to pay child support and tries to intimidate, to the head of a country who threatens nuclear war. Jesus makes no distinction. We must love and pray for them all.

Without fail.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

We did not deserve it, but He loved us anyway. And He loves us now and forever despite our constant shortcomings. We must think of loving our enemies in this way. We expect nothing in return, but give the unconditional love of God to those who don’t deserve it. It is only when we can turn our hearts from hatred to this kind of love that we can truly pray for our enemies and hope the very best for them – that they will also come to know the love and salvation of God on a personal level that will change them from the inside out.

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Regardless of our political views, we are to pray for our President and the leaders of the nations. Regardless of our personal disappointments and hurts, we are to pray for those who mistreat us.

This is truly a challenge. Will you take it with me? Will you commit to this kind of prayer and love? The world needs us now. Let us stand by humbling ourselves on our knees in authentic prayer and love for all.

Slow to Anger

“STOP THAT! STOP BEING SO BAD!” she said as she smacked her child’s hand and grabbed him, continuing to pull him through the store aisle. He had been trying to grab a box of cereal from the shelf, like ALL kids do!

I must have seen that 5 times in my short grocery trip. Not one time did she stop what she was doing, look him in the eye and explain to him how she expected him to behave.

What a contrast with another Mom whose little girl did the exact same thing. The little girl grabbed something off the shelf, and with great poise and patience, her Mom put the package back on the shelf and stopped her cart. She knelt down and looked in her child’s eyes and said, “I know it’s so exciting to see things you like and it is tempting to grab them! But, when we shop I need you to keep your hands to yourself and be a good girl. Mommy loves you!” She ended with a hug and then they continued on her way.

That little girl held her head up high. She had been very gently reprimanded and she knew how much her Mommy loved her. By contrast the little boy who had been smacked and dragged through the store continued to grab things and never behaved properly. He pointed his eyes toward the floor and walked with a posture of anger and defeat.

Thankfully our God is like that second Mom! He is slow to anger and quick to forgive. He loves us and carefully and lovingly corrects us. He is patient and makes sure we know how much he cares for us. Imagine what life would be like if He were like that first Mom!

He wants us to be slow to anger and take time to process our circumstances before we act. I used to be much more of a “reactor” than a patient processor. With some time, usually the issue becomes much more manageable and seems less dramatic.

GraceYes, I am still perfecting this skill. The better I get at it, the less reparations I have to make in my relationships and the less stress I have to manage within myself. It is fabulous!

Let us all remember the great patience and love our Heavenly Father has for each and every one of us despite our glaring imperfections! And, let us pass this same grace on to others.

“The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.” Psalm 103:8 NIV

“For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, And abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You.” Psalm 86:5 NASB

Creatures of HABIT

The power had been off for hours, yet every time I entered a room (carrying my flashlight) I still reached for the light switch. Whaaaa? 

Every time as I was walking through the darkness I would remind myself NOT to flip the switch. Yet 9 times out of 10 I still did it.  

A few weeks ago we had a major storm and a pole just a couple blocks up my street was struck by lightning and came down, power wires in the wet street and all. We had our power out for 4 days in humid 95 degree weather. July in the South! I can’t tell you how many times I tried to flip fans and lights on! By the third day I started to remember that flipping the light switch would NOT actually turn the light on. 

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I recently had my hot tub removed from behind my house. It sat right by my back door and I used it daily to set things on as I was working in the yard or whatever. It sat there for almost 13 years. After a couple weeks I still walk out the door and automatically reach out to the right as if I am going to set down whatever I am carrying. I’m slowly catching on. (HA!) 

Have you ever checked your mailbox on a holiday when you KNOW there is no mail delivery? You remind yourself as you drive home that there will be no mail…but somehow when you get there you drive or walk right up to that box and check?  

We do function on auto-pilot a lot. Habits can be a good thing because we don’t necessarily have to use our brain power to move through the motions of the day. However, habits, good or bad are very hard to change or break. Let us remember that our habits do not control us, but that we control our habits. So, good habits can be learned and bad habits unlearned.  

The American Journal of Psychology says that, “Old habits are hard to break and new habits are hard to form because the behavioral patterns we repeat are imprinted in our neural pathways, but it is possible to form new habits through repetition.” 

I have recently been focused on taking inventory of my daily habits. Are they working for me or against me? How much time am I wasting doing things that are inconsequential? Am I sitting too long at a time at my desk staring at a screen when I should be getting up to move every 20 to 30 minutes? Am I just being busy or am I moving toward my goals? Am I balancing work and play along with properly appropriating my time between myself, my family and my friends?  

All this can be tough to balance, but inventory of your routine can point out strengths and weaknesses. Some of the things we do “without thinking” can be very detrimental to our health, our wealth, and most importantly our relationships. How much time do we spend watching tv or Netflix? How much time do we spend playing games on our devices or on our social media caring about what other people are doing more than what is happening right in front of us? Do you know that a recent study shows that Americans touch their phones an average of 150 times per day? That means for many, it is a lot more. Much of that is necessary now that we do a lot of business and communication this way, but how much of it is wasted time? 

If you haven’t already, may I suggest that if you have an issue with a bad habit (or ten, lol) that you identify it (if more maybe take them one at a time) and begin to work daily to tackle it. Consciously take a hold of it and change it by repetition. Your innate capacity for habit forming will eventually kick in.  

It may be frustrating at first (I know this first-hand, ugh) but like that light switch that we flip when we walk into a room without even thinking, we will begin to form the habits that will help and not hinder us. We will be present and set our devices aside in lieu of the human company before us. We will eat more healthy choices. We will exercise, get more sleep, accomplish more.  

The better we control our habits, the more successful and effective we will be in life.  

“Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.” Romans 12:10-11