Thursday, October 13, 2011


Sometimes it's easy to lose sight of who you are and why you're here - to get so self-focused or job-focused or kid-focused - that you just simply seem to fade away as other things overtake your thoughts, time, energy and efforts. It's like a bad dream you can't awaken from even though you're willing yourself awake. Have you ever been there? I have.

Yesterday was the day I finally pulled myself from the slumber of self-doubt and suffocating thoughts of failure - and it didn't happen on purpose or because of something I planned. While looking through old photographs and listening to some songs I had recorded previously, it occurred to me that I had a choice to make. To simply allow the the past three years of upheaval and disappointment to bury me in a wake of unforgiveness and disillusionment (and ultimately, fear) or to re-align my life with God's plan, set others (and myself) free by forgiving and moving forward, recapturing the things from the past that were a part of His plan and taking the lessons learned along on a new adventure. I chose the latter.

I told someone the other day that I don't think our best days should be behind us - ever. I think each day is another opportunity to have our best day, yet. And it's a choice. Not necessarily an easy or painless choice, but a choice nonetheless.

What do you need to do today to regain yourself, your joy, your peace, your health, your relationships, etc.? What will it take to wake you from the slumber that is so desperately determined to keep you asleep? What choices are before you and which ones will you choose?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Rainbows & Butterflies

A few weeks ago I met a woman named Mary Jo on her way to a doctors appointment. She walked very slowly and with a severe limp. She was difficult to understand when she spoke and wore very thick glasses. Sitting next to me, she struck up a conversation. I listened closely and soon was able to understand her garbled speech - though it took a some time and effort. It was with great effort she communicated and I was compelled to reciprocate. I learned much from Mary Jo that day - from things about her life - to heaven - to how to keep long hair from being frizzy. She was full of life - despite her physical condition.

Her growing up years were difficult. She was born cross-eyed. Often the butt of many jokes and ostracized by peers, Mary Jo contemplated suicide on several occasions. In 1999, Mary Jo was in a deadly car accident. She was driving, her dear friend was in the passenger seat and her daughter and grandson were in the back seat. Her friend was killed instantly and Mary Jo was severely injured. Her daughter and grandson miraculously escaped with only a few superficial scratches and scrapes.

Mary Jo remembers the accident and being rushed to the emergency room. She also remembers dying. Her spirit rose from her lifeless body as the doctors worked furiously to keep her alive. Always a lover of butterflies, she saw what she said were rainbow-colored butterflies filling the room as she rose higher and toward a great light. She knew she was in heaven and this is where I got particularly curious.

I asked her all kinds of questions. Did she see anyone she knew? What did everything look like? How did it feel? What did she hear? Did she meet Jesus? I was in a question-asking frenzy, flinging questions faster than she could answer. Once I realized how obnoxious I was being, I sat quietly to let her continue.

"Rainbows," she said. "Everyone is the color of rainbows." "You can tell the difference between male and female and you can tell the difference between those who were human and those who are angels, but you can't tell any difference in races. And it doesn't even matter. All you feel is love - just love - pouring out of everybody. You don't care if you see friends or family because you love everyone you meet with the same love you have for your friends and family. It just doesn't matter. And it sounded like nothing and everything all at the same time - so loud it was silent. We didn't speak. We didn't need words. The love that was pouring out of everyone communicated all we needed."

Finally, I repeated one of my questions. "Did you get to meet Jesus?"

"No." It was the first time during our conversation that I sensed bitter-sweetness in her voice.

"Was it your choice to come back?"

"No. They told me I had to come back here or I would have stayed. I can't wait to go next time and stay forever."

When she re-entered her body, she saw the rainbow-colored butterflies again. She had been dead for over two minutes and saw the look of relief on the doctors' faces as she heard the monitor begin to beep with the beat of her heart. That's the last thing she remembered until she awoke, six months later.

She suffered some brain damage and was in a full-body cast. It took many more months of rehabilitation before she was released from the hospital. Now, she lives in an assisted-living community and most of her family thinks her story about heaven has to do with her brain damage and coma. But she was there.

It was time for her appointment, so she stood up, kissed me on the cheek and said, "If I don't see you again here, I'll see you there. I love you."

Tears began to form in my eyes and I had to force down the lump in my throat. "I love you, too," was all I could say.

Love beyond words.

Rainbows and butterflies.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Packaging & Labels

I'm a sucker for packaging. Just ask any of my sisters. If it's in a cute box or interesting bottle or has neat paper or a unique design, I'll probably want to buy it - regardless of what "it" is. If it catches my eye or piques my interest in some way that draws me, and I have enough money, I'll get it. Sometimes it's a bar of soap, other times it's a handmade card. It could be lip gloss, soda pop, shoes or a scarf.

Have you ever gone into some restaurant with amazing-looking desserts - piled high with whipped cream and berries or mounds of chocolate gooey-ness? Your mouth waters in anticipation of the delightful deliciousness melting in your mouth. How often does it taste as wonderful as it looks? Personally, I'm often disappointed.

I've had lots jobs, lived in lots of places and met lots of interesting people. I'm learning to not be so taken by someone's "packaging" or their "labels". One job I've had was as a driver for a company that transported "special needs" students, some elderly individuals and various others who needed transportation. Two of my regular riders were labeled as "special needs" and I would transport them to and from school. One was clearly on the autistic spectrum (but really, who among us isn't). I was told he was non-verbal, severely autistic and rarely responded without being talked to like one would command a dog. The other seemed as "normal" as any junior in high school. I was honestly confused by how the latter earned the label. Each of them taught me not to judge anyone by their labels or their packages. My non-verbal, severely autistic rider actually spoke to me on several occasions. We'd sing songs and joke and laugh - and I never had to speak to him like I would command a dog. My other regular rider missed a lot of school. He was very articulate and thoughtful and sweet.

They made me think about how I label others and how I, myself, have been labeled. They made me think about what I say about others and myself - which made me remember Proverbs 18:20 & 21, "A man's [moral] self shall be filled with the fruit of his mouth; and with the consequence of his words he must be satisfied [whether good or evil]. Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and they who indulge in it shall eat the fruit of it [for death or life]."

Do we simply accept and live up to (or down to) the labels we've been given (or given ourselves)? Do we put on a good front (does our packaging genuinely reflect our true selves)? Have we been told we're not enough or too much or not qualified or too qualified so often and for so long that we begin to believe it - and not only believe it, but confess it, accept it, and allow it to be a creative, prophetic force in our lives?

Psalm 139 tells us that God intricately formed each one of us in our mothers' womb. He knit us together "as if embroidered with various colors". (Amplified) He took time to design and craft each of us with specific attention to detail. Each one of us is a masterpiece reflecting His image. He does not label us by our hair color, race, nation of origin, denominational affiliation, political party, vocation, income or education. He only labels us as His - if we choose to be His.

Sometimes I'm pleasantly surprised by the simplest packaging. A box with plain, brown-bag looking paper and a simple twine bow may hold the most astounding contents. And a non-verbal, severely autistic young man may just blurt out "E-I-E-I-O" from the back of the van as you're driving him home.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Shine The Way He Tweaked You!

Admittedly, I am different. The way I think, process and react is different than others. My actions are sheer genius or undeniably abysmal but mostly, somewhere in between. I have often attributed my "different-ness" to being left-handed. Right-handed people seem content to accept that as a reason for pretty-much anything.

Math was never my strongest subject in school. Geometry was a nightmare! My brain seemed incapable of comprehending the concepts and I struggled to maintain grades that were take-home-able. Mr. Head, my Geometry teacher, was a kind man and helped me before and after class but I never "got it".

Algebra was a little better, but, try as Ms. Poole & I did, FOIL is about the only thing I really conquered.

Chemistry was about as bad as Geometry. Mr. Hole - yes, that was his real name - was quite a character. He reminded me of Gene Wilder in "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory" and certainly fit the "mad scientist" stereotype. He recognized my struggle and gave me extra credit points for nearly everything he could think of: name on paper = 1 point, date on paper = 1 point, etc. Again, it never "clicked". One day, I stayed after class to go over a pop quiz I had failed miserably. Mr. Hole graciously and slowly explained the chemical formulas step by step and how to arrive at their correct calculations. To my blank, glazed stare he responded, "This isn't your strong suit. You're probably really good in English." He meant well and he was right. English was a whole different story...

Needless to say, I was not looking forward to Algebra II - in fact, I was dreading it. I had heard all about Mrs. Longnecker - again, real name. She was a tough, no nonsense teacher who didn't allow any foolishness in her classroom. Was I intimidated? Yes. Had I already failed in my mind? Yes. But the first day of class I realized something as she wrote her name on the board...she was LEFT-HANDED! Finally, I had a math teacher who was able to explain things in a way my brain could understand. She even had two ways to explain each problem. If you understood the first way, she told you not to listen to the second way. I didn't become some Algebraic genus or anything, but I made As & Bs. She was brilliant!

As I've mentioned before, I grew up in a large family with four sisters. To make things more interesting, all our names start with "J". People would always get us confused and often compared us to one another. Though we are all very obviously sisters, we all have quite distinct personalities.

Once, I was at a church gathering. A man with a prophetic gift, who had never met me before, asked if he could share a word he felt he had from the Lord for me. Of course, I said he could (knowing that prophetic words must line up with the Bible, should be confirmed by other, trusted, Godly people and normally support things you already know). He said, "You stand out as one who is different. I've made you different. When lined up with the others in your family, you're different. But it's okay. You shine. Not above the others - but differently than the others. Don't compare yourself to your sisters. Shine the way I tweaked you."

I think that's a word for all of us. God created each of us differently than anyone and everyone else. Things that may be simple for one may be simply impossible for another. I may never completely understand Geometry or Chemistry - and don't even get me stared on the Trigonometry debacle of 1989 - but I can successfully balance my check book and even earned a Business degree, making it through Accounting classes.

I Timothy 4:14 reminds us not to neglect the special inward endowment that the Holy Spirit put within each one of us. Verses 15 & 16 tell us to "Practice and cultivate and meditate upon these duties; throw yourself wholly into them [as your ministry], so that your progress may be evident to everybody. Look well to yourself [to your own personality] and to [your] teaching; persevere in these things [hold to them], for by so doing you will save both yourself and those who hear you." (Amplified)

Thankfully, Mrs. Longnecker allowed her unique personality to come through in her teaching enabling even a math moron to successfully calculate quadratic equations.

Be encouraged today. Practice and cultivate those unique gifts and appreciate the different gifts God's given others. Allow your individual personality to flow through all you do and shine the way He tweaked you!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Not Lost in the Shuffle

Growing up as the fourth daughter in a family of five girls had its ups and downs. For the first 4 years, it was great! I was the baby and my older sisters were already off at school when I arrived.

I remember taking walks with my dad. Holding his hand always made me feel completely safe and content (though if you ask him, he was probably having to bribe me with Welch's Grape soda featuring the "Happy Days" characters for a moment of silence...I was quite chatty).

Mom helped her dad with the race horses and I got to tag along. We had a pony named Angel - who must have been named on opposite day. I probably could have become a trick rider just learning how to stay on her back as she purposefully scraped against the stall walls in attempts to brush me off. I enjoyed those time with Mom. She was so beautiful and strong. Effortlessly she cared for the horses - from feeding to training to mucking stalls - instilling in me a life-long love and respect for animals - all while her long, thick, dark auburn hair stayed in a loose bun atop her head. Amazing!

Something happened when I was four. Mom got pregnant. I was so excited! I prayed and prayed for twin baby brothers. My excitement began to wane as more and more attention was focused on the "new" baby and its/their arrival. By the time Mom went to the hospital, I was less than thrilled. Once I learned that my prayers had not been answered and I just got another sister, I was over it. Not only was my role as baby of the family being stolen, she wasn't even a boy. I wonder if, in my subconscious, I knew there really wouldn't be any comparison or competition between me and twin boys. I'd still be the baby girl. This new addition made me question for the first time who I was.

For years after, I struggled with my role and place in the family. It's not something I talked about - I doubt I could have verbalized it at the time. The roles of singer, athlete and brain were taken by my three older sisters, respectively. My role as the baby was taken by my younger sister. The only title I had was "the left-handed one", but at least I liked the distinction that I alone carried and shared with my mother.

The past few years have been quite tumultuous - which Webster defines as "marked by violent or overwhelming turbulence or upheaval" - for me. No part of my life - from personal to professional - has been left unscathed. I've lost friends, finances, furniture, and even my sense of self. I've questioned everything - from where I should to live and work to if my presence in those places even matters - feeling shipwrecked in a sea of overwhelming circumstance and lost in the shuffle of everyday existence.

But reading today in I Timothy 4:14, encouraged me to reflect and remember. In the Amplified it reads, "Do not neglect the gift which is in you [that special inward endowment] which was directly imparted to you [by the Holy Spirit]..."

I asked the Lord to remind me of the gift He placed within me - that special inward endowment directly imparted to me by the Holy Spirit - and He's showing me.

I want to encourage you to do the same. We are each uniquely gifted, distinctively designed and incomparably crafted. I'm learning that only when I'm utilizing that gift within me am I truly able to find peace in the midst of the storms and not be lost in the shuffle.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

GOD is my helper?!

I read Psalm 121 yesterday morning & again this morning - marveling at the magnitude of its truths and remembering the reason for its memorization nearly a quarter century ago.

At the time, I was a freshman in high-school and I was cast as "The Mother Abbess" in our school production of "The Sound of Music". My assumption is that most people reading this are familiar with the musical - but if not - near the end, the von Trapp family executes their plan to escape the Nazi reign in Austria by trekking through the mountains. They perform at a festival and as they leave the stage, they meet The Mother Abbess who sends them off with the wisdom and comfort of Psalm 121:1,"I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help" & then breaks forth into the beloved "Climb Ev'ry Mountain". It's quite an inspirational tearjerker.

"The Sound of Music" is one of my all-time favorite musicals. It is a classic and the storyline is as compelling today as it was in 1959. Belting out that finale song at the top of my lungs, with the orchestra swelling and as the choir of voices crescendo to the climactic "TILL YOU FIND YOUR DREAM!" is - honestly - utterly exhilarating! But I wonder whether Rodgers & Hammerstein ever read the remaining seven short verses of Psalm 121.

Take a look:My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip or to be moved; He Who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand [the side not carrying a shield]. The sun shall not smite you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil; He will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore. (Amplified)

Wow! Climbing every mountain till I find my dream looses its climactic impact a little when compared to God - Creator of the universe - being my helper, not allowing my feet to slip, never sleeping so He's always protecting me, guarding every area of my life that's not shielded, not allowing the sun or moon to hinder me, keeping me from all evil, making sure I stay alive and watching over me at all times - from now to forever!

I'll always love "The Sound of Music" and would love to reprise the role of "The Mother Abbess" but now I'm wondering how amazing a Rock Opera telling the story of David might be...

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Let's LIVE

Psalm 75:1
“We give thanks to You, O God, we praise and give thanks; that Your name is near Your wondrous works declare, and they who invoke your name rehearse Your wonders.” Amplified

As I was reading in Psalm this morning, I realized I had never paid much attention to this verse before. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t reading it from the Amplified. I love the Amplified. All the words really help me have a better understanding – they really…amplify it! Anyway, I was so taken by the last part of this verse I decided to go to and look at various other translations of the same verse from Psalm 75. The word “wonder” always catches my eye – along with its other forms and variations. This particular verse contains not just one, but two – “wondrous” and “wonders”…piquing my interest even further.

What I’m realizing from this particular verse is that God is near & His wondrous works confirm and declare that He is near. He is here. He IS. Those who give thanks and praise Him because of Who He is, tell about Him and His wonderful deeds. As we do so, we are invoking His name and – guess what – as we invoke, use His name (we’ve been given power and authority to do so through Jesus) we not only recount His miracles, we do them too!

I am determined to live the life God intended me to live – a supernatural life filled with His presence. Because it’s filled with His presence, signs, wonders and miracles will follow me. Not to bring attention or acclaim to myself – but to bring honor, glory and fame to Him and to draw those who are lost to Him.

Oh how He loves us! How He longs to see us living lives He purchased with His life to the utmost! There is always more with God. Always!

Acts 2:28 goes along with this. I pray it and am expectant for it to be a constant reality in my life. “You have made known to me the ways of life; You will enrapture me – diffusing my soul with joy – with and in Your presence.”

Here’s are some lyrics that came to me from a quite time of reflection about His presence:

I don’t ever want to leave Your presence
Where You are is where I always want to be
All my days I will sing of Your greatness
While I have breath I will not cease to give You praise

In Your presence there is joy beyond measure
In Your dwelling place is life forevermore
Oh the vastness of Your love for me is far beyond compare
Being anywhere without You there is more than I can bear
So I don’t ever want to leave Your presence

Here are some of the other translations of Psalm 75:1 I found particularly interesting:

“We thank You, God, we thank You – Your name is our favorite word; Your mighty works are all we talk about.” The Message

“God, we thank You; we thank You because You are near. We tell about the miracles You do.” New Century Version

“We give thanks to You, O God; we give thanks. You are present, and Your miracles confirm that.” God’s Word Translation

“To You, O God, we give praise, to You we give praise: and those who give honor to Your name make clear Your works of power.” The Bible in Basic English

Come on, people, let's LIVE - SUPERNATURALLY so His Kingdom is advanced & lives are transformed!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Holiness & Love

For the past couple weeks, since being back in TN, I've attended Grace Center in Grasslands. Both times I've known that I was exactly where I was supposed to be and God made sure that the messages have been precisely what I needed - not to say that they weren't for every other person in attendance, too!

I've been praying and reading and pondering and searching and wrestling and asking about all kinds of things. Two specific things keep coming up - and have been for over two years - are holiness & love.

As I've been reading through Romans, chapters 13 & 14 have talked about both. At Grace Center this week, pastor Jeff touched on holiness and re-connecting with several friends who have been wounded by - what I call "religious love" - has only made me further my pursuit of revelation on both subjects.

Yes, volumes have been written on each topic individually and I don't in any way claim to have a full grasp of one or both, but felt compelled to share what I feel the Holy Spirit showed me this morning.

How can anyone tell that I'm a Christian by just looking at me? Do my words, actions, clothes, habits, hobbies, & priorities paint a clear picture of who I am? Am I more influenced by the world around me or by God inside me? Does my outside match my inside?

In my notes from Sunday's message I wrote, "Lord, remove me from the influence of the world. Help me not to dull my heart with what I watch, think, say and listen to." It is my desire to be holy - not "holier than thou". "Holy" is defined as "devoted entirely to the deity or the work of the deity" to be holy my life needs to be devoted entirely to God and His work.

We can't be holy if we don't know love. (Check out 1 Corinthians 13 for an in-depth look at love.) Webster defines love as, "a : unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another: as (1) : the fatherly concern of God for humankind (2) : brotherly concern for others b : a person's adoration of God"

Romans 14:13 reads, "Then let us no more criticize and blame and pass judgment on one another, but rather decide and endeavor never to put a stumbling block or an obstacle or a hindrance in the way of a brother." This passage is clearly talking about someone who is a Christian - a "brother."

Romans 13:9(b) & 10 read, all the commandments "are summed up in the single command, You shall love your neighbor as [you do] yourself. Love does no wrong to one's neighbor [it never hurts anybody]. Therefore love meets all the requirements and is the fulfilling of the Law." This passage is speaking of neighbors. Neighbors can be anyone - not necessarily a Christian.

So where do we start? If we walk in love toward everyone (our neighbors) and stop criticizing, blaming and judging our brothers (fellow Christians) we will be well on our way.

Love leads to holiness & holiness compels us to love.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Fast that God Chooses

Recently, I've encountered several people who are "fasting" or "on a fast". Having grown up in the church, it doesn't surprise me that this is an act often practiced by those who call themselves Christians. I, myself, have partaken in the act of fasting many times over the years.

This morning, as I sat down to spend some time reading the Word and in prayer, I felt compelled to simply open my Bible at "random" and not read from the specific passages I had planned for today.

I opened to Isaiah 58 and found that chapter quite interesting as it is about - you guessed it - fasting. Though I've read this chapter several times, it seems I read with prejudice or pride or pious presumptions, previously. This morning, I read with concern and conviction and crystal clarity - thanks to revelation of Holy Spirit within me.

Often, I had fasted to "get God's attention" - and I don't think that's wrong. I've done "crash diets" to lose weight and called it "fasting". I've deprived myself of food or media or other things in attempts to manipulate God into doing what I wanted - all the while using the religiously accepted label of "fasting" to allow myself to feel justified in my self-righteous pursuits. "Look at me, Lord. I'm fasting for ten days so You'll listen to me and do what I want. Look how humble I am. Look how hungry I am. Look how sacrificial I am in this sackcloth. I know You'll reward me with what I want." All that happened in those fasts was I was hungry and frustrated and a little angry at God for not rewarding me for my religiousness. Sounds silly, doesn't it?

Verses 4 & 5 in Isaiah 58 (Amplified) reads, "The facts are that you fast only for strife and debate and to smite with the fist of wickedness. Fasting as you do today will not cause your voice to be heard on high. Is such a fast as yours what I have chosen, a day for a man to humble himself with sorrow in his soul? Is true fasting merely mechanical? Is it only to bow down his head like a bulrush and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him to indicate a condition of heart that he does not have? Will you call this a fast and an acceptable day to the Lord?"

I've also partaken in fasts that were completely out of desperation to hear God - and He's answered me. I've fasted and spent extra time in prayer and intercession as the Spirit led - and seen amazing, miraculous things occur. So what's the difference? Motivation.

Look at verses 6 & 7: "Rather is not this the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every enslaving yoke? Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house - when you see the naked, that you cover him, and that you hide not yourself from the needs of your own flesh and blood?"

On my way home the other night, I stopped to get an Arby's Jr, value sized curly fries and a Dr. Pepper. I pulled into a parking space to eat it and a lady approached my car. She asked for help. She said she needed $35 for a room and only had $15. I asked her if she needed a ride. She accepted and got in. I asked her if she was hungry. She was. I gave her my little value meal. I drove her to the place she wanted to go and gave her $20. Now, I don't know if she used that money to get high or drunk or if she used that money to have a roof over her head and a bed for the night. I was simply being obedient to what I felt I needed to do in that situation. I think that's a true fast.

I don't share that to puff myself up, pat myself on the back or make myself feel good. I share that because I think God was trying to get me to see the difference between a fast that I choose and a fast that He chooses. I hope it helps anyone reading this to see the difference, too.

If we continue to read Isaiah 58, look what happens when we allow ourselves to be participants in a fast that God chooses.

"Then shall your light break forth like the morning, and your healing (your restoration and the power of a new life) shall spring forth speedily; your righteousness (your rightness, your justice, and your right relationship with God) shall go before you conducting you to peace and prosperity, and the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and He will say, 'Here I am'. If you take away from your midst yokes of oppression wherever you find them, the finger pointed in scorn toward the oppressed or the godly, and every form of false, harsh, unjust, and wicked speaking, and if you pour out that with which you sustain your own life for the hungry and satisfy the need of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in darkness, and your obscurity and gloom become like the noonday. And the Lord shall guide you continually and satisfy you in drought and in dry places and make strong your bones. And you shall be like a watered garden and like a spring of water whose waters fail not."(Verses 8-11)

Those verses are full of precious promises available to those who will surrender their own agendas and fast according to God's plans and for God's purposes. The fast that I choose, from now on, is the fast that God chooses.