Saturday, January 28

It's All Good

Our study of the Patriarchs is over, and I ended the study with the same feeling that I always have at astudy's end... I wanted to flip right back to page one and start over. It always reminds me of the disciples with Jesus on the mountain of transfiguration. God had revealed Himself to them so powerfully that they wanted to remain in THAT experience rather than move on to possible new experiences.

I get it! God spoke to me in so many ways throughout this study that I'd really like to just go back to the beginning with Him. Maybe I feel comfortable now in the message that I've heard from Genesis. It makes sense to me that my dislike for change could have transferred into Bible study. Or, there could be a little bit of fear that I missed something. Genesis is packed with character and plot. So, without a doubt, I missed out on portions of it. But, mainly, it's the knowledge that I literally met with God through the pages of this study. I KNOW that I did. So, I don't want to move on.

It was interesting reading through Genesis in order and reading about Abraham, Isaac and Jacob like I was reading a fictional book. Their lives certainly read like fiction although it's all very much REAL! Like I said before, we know of NO dysfunction that rivals that of the patriarchal family. And, that provides for much learning AND much comfort.

My favorite character, though, is Joseph. I've always been so intrigued by his story. Portions of his story are some of the first I heard as a young girl. Joseph was the favorite child of his father (Jacob or Israel), and all of his brothers knew it. Therefore, they hated Joseph and plotted to kill him. At the last minute, they chickened out and sold him into slavery in Egypt instead. While in Egypt, Joseph was exalted in Potipher's house. Potipher's wife had something for Joseph. But, when he turned her down repeatedly, she made up lies about him and he wound up in prison. Joseph gained favor in prison with a number of people and ended up interpreting dreams for Pharoah. His interpretation not only guided Egypt through 7 years of famine, but they caused Pharoah to place Joseph in a pretty high position in Egypt. In the end, Joseph's activity in Egypt proves to be the salvation for his family. Without anything to eat/drink, the brothers (the same ones that despised and betrayed Joseph) came looking for nourishment in Egypt. Because they were Joseph's family, they received much more than just food in Egypt. They were WELL taken care of for the rest of their lives.

And Joseph's words from the last chapter in Genesis sort of sum up the redemptive God that we serve...

"What you have intended for evil, God has used for good..."

 Favoritism? Used for good!

Betrayal? Used for good!

Lies? Used for good!

There is no sin so great, no hurt so deep, no situation too dark that God can't use it for His good. Actually, if He has allowed something to happen in the lives of His people, you can bet that He not only CAN but He WILL use it for good. HIS GOOD! The good, the bad, the ugly... It's. All. Good! Oh, I'm so thankful that THIS is the God that I serve.

Now, back to my dilemma! I love the study, I didn't want to finish the study, and I wasn't ready to move on from the study. BUT... I had to. And, since we haven't made up our mind as to what we wanted to do next, we decided to get L3 journals from Pinelake and study on our own for a little while.

First of all, that makes me nervous. There is a reason why I'm always in a study of some type. I need the focus. I depend on blanks that need to be filled in so that I will actually DO the reading. But, I decided I would give it a try. Reluctantly... to say the very least!

So, our last day of study in the Patriarchs was Tuesday. I cried through the reading of the last chapter of Genesis. Jacob was buried just after speaking promises over each of his children. On Wednesday, I picked up the L3 journal to begin reading and GUESS WHAT THE SCRIPTURE WAS?!?!?!

Exodus chapter 1 and 2!

Are you kidding me? He's just placing reminders all around me that He is ACTIVE in my life. I pray that I'm always aware of His hand on my life. In just the first 7 or 8 chapters of Exodus, the Israelites have already had to be reminded several times that their God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Now that I know their stories, I understand what that means. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is relentless about keeping His promises... TO the first family of the covenant, TO me and TO you!

I pray that TODAY, you are aware of God's activity in your life and how determined He is to keep His promises concerning you. There is NOTHING anyone can do to you that can change the plans that He has for you. He's THAT good! And, He is FOR you!

Sunday, January 22

Happy Birthday, Caleb!

It's 9:00 p.m. on January 22nd, and I'm just realizing how very different my life was at this time 9 years ago.

I was getting ready for bed, I'm sure, and preparing for a day of school. Teaching third graders was such a BIG part of my life. I LOVED it. But, it was tiring. Plus, I'd probably brought things home with me from school that I was packing up to take back the next day as well as a lunch, snack, etc. I remember that Scotty had been hunting all day, and I'd taken a little walk. You get the idea... life was pretty much about.... ME.

Oh, and one other little difference... I was as big as the house. My tummy was about to POP!

Yep! Caleb turns 9 tomorrow. And, this is really hard for me to believe. The fact that is 9 is not the only thing that is shocking. The manner in which he has come into this world and completely changed it for me is the biggest shock of all.

I was pretty sure that I knew exactly what to expect from a baby when Caleb came along. For goodness sakes, my mom had kept children in our home most of my life. I was very comfortable babysitting AND I was a trained teacher! This parenting thing was going to be a breeze. And, "Mommy"? Well, I was going to be fabulous.

I woke up the morning of the 23rd, stepped out of the bed, and my water broke. We called the doctor, called family and off we went. They checked us in, I changed into a gown, the nurse came in to check me for the first time, and I was already 6 or 7 cm dilated. See... no big deal! I really don't see what all the fuss is about.

By noon, much to the surprise of our nurse who knew this was our first, I was ready to start pushing. Things slowed down a little, but still, Caleb was born by 1:40. And, so far, this baby thing was EXACTLY as I had planned.

Then, we kept Caleb in our room the first night in the hospital. He cried, and cried, and CRIED!!! There was nothing I could do to calm him down, and I tried EVERYTHING. That was the first time I held Caleb in my arms with NO idea what to do. And, it wasn't the last.

For the next 9 months, Caleb didn't sleep when I thought he should sleep. He didn't eat the way I thought he should eat. Each and every time I thought we'd established some kind of routine, Caleb would change the plan.

During the months that I was pregnant with Caleb, I prayed for him many times. But, specifically, I prayed that he would be more like my sister than me. I wanted him to be ASSERTIVE... to know what he wanted and know how to express it. Well, first of all, I learned that God answers prayers. And, secondly, I didn't pray that prayer again. :)

Nine years later, though, I'm so thankful for Caleb. I'm grateful that God refused to let our first born come into this world exactly as I had planned, because I would have taken some things for granted. During the first months of Caleb's life, God taught me so many things about myself and about Him. But, the biggest lesson that I learned during that time came when Caleb was nine months old. God brought me to my knees at that point, and I gave up MY plans. I begged God to guide me in parenting Caleb HIS way. At that point, I felt a heavy burden lifted from my shoulders.

The problem, thought, was that 9 months of Caleb's life were gone. I hadn't enjoyed or appreciated those months the way I should have, and I did not get a second chance. At ten months old, Caleb got an ear infection that didn't go away until he got tubes at 13 months old. Therefore, we rocked a lot during those nights. I would rock him in his room with tears running down my face, because I knew I'd missed out on so much of his infant life due to the fact that I was FIGHTING for MY way.

I still regret those lost months. But, I'm thankful that I was taught through them to ENJOY the present. Even if it's tough, even if it's not what I planned, it's a gift. And, it's a gift we can't have again. When Caleb started Kindergarten, I was sad. I remember feeling like it was the beginning of the end. But, I couldn't let myself stay there. I WAS NOT going to miss out on enjoying the excitement of his first day of school. I knew that at Caleb's High School graduation, I would look back to his first days of school. I wanted to be able to look back on a time of enjoyment, happiness and JOY.

I continue to be amazed at how I have to constantly remind myself to just enjoy life as it is. Yes, there are hard times. Sure, things don't always go as planned. But, my days were set before me before the foundation of the world. And, the ONE who set them in place loves me dearly. He carefully placed JOY to be had. He mapped out PEACE to be experienced. Blessings come in all sorts of packages and in all situations. Sometimes, I have to GIVE UP the pursuit of what I thought the blessing was supposed to be in order to see what God had right in front of my face.

Caleb Scott Rogers is only one of my three blessings. But, he's the first. And, he paves the way for us through all of the firsts. He's certainly ushered us into a life that is NOTHING like the life we had nine years ago. It's NOTHING like I thought it would be then. It's way better!

I'm thankful for Caleb's birthday and grateful that I get to be his MOM for a million different reasons. I would LOVE to list them all here, but I fear that would be obnoxious to those of you with your own children who are just as wonderful as Caleb is. So, I'll just tell you that he's my daily reminder that if I'm determined to see things through the way I want to see them through, I just might miss out on what God intended to be a blessing for me. Hard-headed as I am, I did that for 9 months. And, I pray that it never happens again.

So, thank you, Caleb, for coming into this world and knowing exactly what you wanted... a mom with a little lesson in humility. I got it! It was and sometimes still is TOUGH. But, it is worth it! Because life with Caleb is a precious gift.

Saturday, January 21

Learning to be the LIGHT

Yes. That is the title of a song. It's the title of a great song! I'm loving the tune of this song AND the words. But, I also feel like THAT is what I am doing these days. Learning to be the Light.

Over the past 4 months, I've done a little study on the word "light" in the Bible. Actually, I was looking at it (light) opposed to darkness. Darkness is how I look at the hiding, secrecy and sin that invaded our family. So, "light", was the answer to that darkness, and I wanted to find examples of how it was used in the Bible.

From the very first use of light, the concept spoke volumes to me. In the beginning, God created the light. There was darkness... nothingness... absence of light. Then, at just the right moment, God determined that the time was right to introduce the light. Light that would TAKE OVER the darkness. Now, we weren't living in that kind of darkness in our family. Our darkness came in the form of bondage and sin. But, the light came nonetheless. I've thanked Him repeatedly that He determined that the time had come for His light to overcome our darkness.

Recently, though, I've begun to really think about what it means to BE the light. What exactly does it mean to BE light that dispels darkness and draws others to the true LIGHT? Is there something specific we can do? Are there certain words that we need to say?

Isn't it interesting that we are call to be exactly what Christ called Himself.

"I am the Light of the world." John 8:12

"You are the light of the world." Matthew 5:14

Wow. That's huge to me. I've certainly come in contact with people over the years that have been what I would call "light". They glow! A couple of years ago I was watching a television show that is not a Christian show. Well, I'll just say it... Gray's Anatomy. Judge me if you will, but I still watch it. Anyway, there is an actress on that show that I watched and just knew that she was a believer. There was something about her that was just DIFFERENT. I later read an article where this actress told her story of coming to know Christ. She had been dealt a tough start to life. She had moved to California and married a rough kind of guy. They made all sorts of bad choices in lifestyle, but eventually came face to face with God. He changed their lives. And, although she was just reading lines on a television show, I could see that she was different! Man. I want to be THAT kind of different!

On the other hand, I know people that are constantly delivering a message that is Biblical. These people can recite scripture for every situation. However, somewhere in the delivery, I am completely turned off. I wouldn't consider them light at all. In fact, sometimes I think I'd rather run into hiding just to get away from that presence. It's overbearing and prideful. And, I DO NOT want to be THAT kind of different.

We are living in a world that so desperately needs the Light. Yet, I'm afraid that sometimes WE (believers) who are called to be the light aren't being the light at all. There's a disconnect somewhere between what we SAY and how we ACT. I KNOW that if I could allow others to SEE what God has done for me and what He wants to do for them, they would run without hesitation into that Light.  

So what's the key? How do we "glow" in such a way that others are drawn to us and want to know what makes us different? I hope you aren't thinking that I'm going to end this post with a great answer. I'm not. Well, I can't, because I'm still learning to be this light.

But, earlier this week, a friend sent me an article by Charles Swindoll that was perfect for my questions. Here is a portion of the message that ministered to me...

"Those in the light are a weird phenomenon for those in darkness. And, that is exactly as Jesus planned it.

Think of some distinctive characteristics of light. Light is silent. No noise, no big splash, no banners -- light simply shines.

Light gives direction. No words, no sermon. Jesus says that others "see" a Christian's actions; He says nothing about non-believers 'hearing' what a believer says.

Light attracts attention. You don't have to ask people to look at you when you turn on a light in a dark room. It happens automatically.

At first they may hate the light, but don't worry. They are still attracted to it. Let it shine! Don't attempt to show off how bright and sparkling you are; just shine!

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance."

O.K., so I don't have to be bright and sparkling. Well, that's a relief! Because, bright and sparkling isn't something I've ever been OR aspired to be.

And, apparently, we don't even have to have it all together. Sometimes our problems and our trials make the light that we carry even brighter than before. Shew. That's another relief!

I want my life to be lived in such a way that words aren't really necessary. I'd like to be so real that my life speaks of the Light that is guiding me. Others may not know the Source, but maybe they'd see enough light to want to know where it comes from. I know that we live in a world where living for the things of Christ is not attractive. But, I do believe that people still crave peace, joy, security and love. Those qualities in a life are sure to attract an audience of people that either recognizes or seeks the God that provides them.

"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put in under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house." Matthew 5:14-15

God, You know that I don't know how to do this life perfectly. But, I pray that I will cooperate with however You desire to be seen in me. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to participate in lifting You up so that YOU may draw all men unto Yourself. YOU are so worthy!

Monday, January 16


We are almost finished with our study of The Patriarchs, Encountering the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This is one of only a few of Beth Moore's studies that I haven't done before. I had trouble "getting into it" for various reasons. But, once we reached the halfway point, every word has been so applicable to life in general... especially relevant, however, in our current circumstances.

There is absolutely no way to study this first family of the Promise without noticing how truly dysfunctional they were. Honestly, there is no situation we are facing in our world today that wasn't present in some form even then. Throughout the scriptures, though, we see that God was adamant about keeping the covenant He'd made with Abraham regardless of the variety of ways they attempted to wreck their futures.

But, that's not my reason for writing today. :)

Early in the study, we spent a day studying the servant that Abraham sent out to find a wife for Isaac. All along the way, this servant was asking for the Lord's favor -- asking Him to guide him in his search. Of course, it was Rebekah that he eventually found. And, once Rebekah's family agreed to send her back with this older servant, the Bible records that he bowed down and worshiped the LORD.

WORSHIPED! The servant worshiped over the fact that God had led him to the wife of his master's son. He worshiped over finding something/someone that would not even really benefit himself. His life was so wrapped up in his master's that success for the master meant success for him.

And, here's the quote that I can't seem to get out of my head;

"I daresay God esteems the worship of no one more than that of a devoted servant, particularly one who is cloaked in anonymity and who is known only as his master's.

I love it! And, every time I read it, the phrase that rushes through my spirit is, "Please, LORD. Let it be so."

In this servant's case, his worship was literal. He hit his knees and praised the LORD. I'm not exactly sure what that looked like, but I know it was genuine. God had been so faithful to him that he couldn't help himself. He HAD to physically express gratitude for his guidance, provision, PRESENCE in his life.

Our family is presently worshiping in a church where outward expression of worship is abundant. It's not distracting to me. I love seeing the effects of God's presence in the lives of believers. However, a worship service to me is more of an inward experience. I love the music leading up to a sermon. But, there is nothing that brings me to the throne of God faster than the Word being preached. For me, a great sermon causes me to feel a little like Abraham's servant must have felt. However, I'd assume you wouldn't notice it on the outside.

When I leave that service or my time alone with God and He has made Himself known to me through music, His Word or something else, I HAVE to praise Him. And, that's why this blog is so important to me. There's no way I will ever be able to express how faithful God has been to me during my ENTIRE life, but especially over the past four months. My words wouldn't be enough. But, His goodness, His grace, His mercy, His guidance, His provision have been so very evident that, like Abraham's servant, I MUST express my gratitude through an outward expression of worship. And writing here has given me that opportunity.

So, even if no one ever read the words of this blog, I'd sit at this computer and write them anyway... as an expression of my gratitude to a God who is adamant and persistent in demonstrating His great love and care for me.

But, for those that do read, my desire is to MAKE MUCH of our God. You see, when I observe the hands lifted in the worship center, faces pointed straight upwards and HUGE smiles on the faces of worshipers, I often wonder what God has done for them. I KNOW that for someone to be THAT in love with the Father, He's made Himself VERY KNOWN in that life. Their worship has caused me to see the ONE worthy of worship.

Devoted servant.

Cloaked in anonymity.

Known only as his Master's.

In this small space of a huge internet world, God, may it be so!

Sunday, January 15

What a MESS!

We had company this weekend. Scotty's mom and sister came to visit and with them came "the cousins". Scotty's sister, Christy, has three children also. AND... she has two boys and a little girl. Our children have always LOVED their time with the cousins. And, no matter how long we get to spend with them, it's never enough.

It's so fun to watch all of them interact and to see that, while they're each so different, they can pair off into very similar groups. The oldest brother of each family LOVES sports. In fact, they seem pretty sure that's the most important thing in life. The middle two are the clowns. They really enjoy making us laugh. And, the youngest two are complete girly girls!

This weekend, our visit was short. We had planned a day out when they arrived, but our schedule didn't work out as planned. But, they didn't seem to mind spending the evening at our house with games and toys. The girls seemed especially thrilled about this schedule change. We were home no less than 15 minutes when every toy that Claire has in her room seemed to be spilled out all over the floor. I wish I had taken a picture, because the only reaction to the chaos would be, "What a mess!"

Now, I LOVE for toys to be played with. Sometimes I hate to put away games or toys too carefully, because then it seems they get forgotten. It makes me happy to see my children using their imaginations and playing with the toys that are in their rooms. But, what I find so interesting is that Claire never has trouble getting TO the toys and pulling them out. Once they're out, though, she CAN NOT put them away. Without some guidance, she's completely overwhelmed by the mess. She doesn't even know where to start in cleaning it up.

It has dawned on me that there is such spiritual application there. Most of us can make a mess of things, circumstances, situations pretty easily. Sometimes, we can even enjoy the mess for a little while. When Claire is in the middle of her toys all strewn over the room, it feels wonderful to her. Everything she wants right at her fingertip. Until she realizes she can't walk around. Or, she can't find anything. At that point, she wants a clean room. NOW. But, how does she do it?

Aren't there times in our lives that we know we're living in a mess; however, we're enjoying it a little too much to worry with cleaning it up. The problem is that, as believers, there will come a time when we're unhappy in the mess. We WILL want to have a "clean house" again. But, we've made such a mess, we don't know where to start in cleaning it up. In fact, none of our human tactics will even put a dent in the mess.

At that point, I think we are wise to do exactly what Claire does in that moment. She calls for a parent. In her chaos, she at least remembers that there IS someone who knows exactly what to do with the mess. She will look to Scotty or me to begin cleaning it up.

Several Sundays ago, we heard a message on the messes that sin creates. When we find ourselves in one of life's messes, we can call on our Heavenly parent to help us out of the mess. Romans 5: 20-21 says,

"The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more so that, just as sin reigned in death (the mess), so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."

What these verses speak to me is that in the mess of sin is death. We feel dead. We are almost in a state of paralysis in our mess not knowing what to do next. And, I believe these verses are telling us to call out to God and let Him show us how HIS grace has completely covered the mess. We can't do it on our own. But, where sins abounds, grace abounds more and more. And, HIS grace is ENOUGH!

Why is it so hard for us to admit that we've made a mess? Why is it that we feel better about ourselves if we cautiously admit our mess ups with reasons and explanations to follow? I wonder if we (I'm including myself for good reason) may not trust that God's grace REALLY IS enough. It sounds as if we may be qualifying our sin out of fear that parts of the sin are covered by grace but the root of that sin may be just beyond the reach of God's grace. And, where is the comfort in that?

A couple of quotes from a sermon I heard a few weeks ago have stuck with me. I wish I could remember the speaker's name to give him credit. :(  He said,

"There is no ditch you can dig that God's grace can't fill."

Has anyone else ever felt so hopeless in a situation that you could actually picture yourself down in a giant ditch with no way out. Absolutely nothing can separate us from the love that God has for us. But, we have to reach up/out and receive it. FULLY! Otherwise, we always carry with us guilt, shame, or fear.... BONDAGE to sin. And, we weren't made for that. We were made for eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Frequently, I come in contact with people that seem almost angered by this gospel of grace. These people seem much more comfortable speaking of the God that is our Judge (I believe that He is). They seem to fear that too much "grace talk" might make believers feel freedom to sin. The next verses in Romans speak to this fear...

"What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase. By no means! We died to sin. How can we live in it any longer?" Romans 6: 1-2

If you've lived in sin for any amount of time, and you are a believer, you know what Paul is describing. That paralysis that Claire feels right in the middle of her mess when she doesn't know what to do next is what I think believers "stuck" in sin feel like. It's death to them. And, when they experience the full grace pouring from the Father over their situation and freeing them from the mess, I believe that they understand this next quote that I HAD to write in my Bible.

"Just because the faucet of grace continues running, being careless with it still leaves a MESS!"

A mess!

What does your mess look like? How long has it been since you were in the middle of a mess? Or, how has someone else's mess created havoc in your world?

We HAVE to call it what it is. We can't sweep it under the rug anymore. There's no healing there. There's no freedom. But, in bringing it to the surface, we get to EXPERIENCE God's goodness. There is GREAT JOY in His goodness. Our need demonstrates clearly that only HE can meet that need. Only HE can meet us where we are and carry us into something better. And, once we're all cleaned up, we realize that TRUE JOY comes when we live in the boundaries of God's path for our lives. Our mess serves to remind us that the trappings of this world are just that.... a trap! Hopefully, we leave our "bath" in God's grace certain that NOTHING else compares to LIFE in Him.

Sunday, January 8

Knowing HIM!

I LOVE Sundays! I love waking up with the anticipation of spending an entire morning with my family. I love knowing that I am going to be ushered in to the very presence of God during worship service. And, I LOVE being challenged each week with God's Word while being covered in His grace and mercy. I appreciate being part of worship that is clearly planned with the faith that "if HE be lifted up, HE will draw all men to Himself."

Today's service was unbelievable, and I am going to do my best to summarize my "take away".

1 Chronicles 28: 9 and 10 record some of David's last words to Solomon before his death in the next chapter. As king and father, David saw the importance of giving some last instruction to Solomon. Apparently, there is a list of 6 instructions that we will look at over the next few weeks. But, today, we studied only the first.

You know, David had MUCH life experience. He had done many things well with God. However, he'd done many things wrong. He had messed up plenty. So, as he's on his way out of this earth, he had so many life lessons learned the hard way that he could share with his son. That's why I think the #1 item on his list is so important.

"And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge (know) the God of your father..."

Why didn't David say, "stay pure in your marriage", "do not lust", "be brave in the face of difficult situations", or "forgive your enemies" as the first of his instructions? These are IMPORTANT things and clearly areas where David struggled and learned to depend on his God.

I thought that the pastor did a beautiful job of explaining why David chose to encourage, and possibly plead with, Solomon to know God first in his dying words to his son. And, everything that he said rang true in my spirit in connection with this journey I have been on. The overall point is this...

When we KNOW God, truly KNOW Him, our lives are TRANSFORMED from the inside out. Everything about us changes. When we know God, we can't help but to allow the natural tendencies of our human nature to become more like His.

The problem many of us face is that we don't really KNOW Him. We live in the Bible belt, so we would be hard pressed to come across someone who didn't know who God is. Most of the people that I come in contact with even believe in Him. But, we were challenged today by the question, "Do you know him as intimately as you know your spouse?" To KNOW Him means that, as well as possible, I know his thoughts, actions, and beliefs. And, when we know these things about God, we trust Him more which leads to obeying Him.

In David's case, his knowledge of God allowed him to view his problems in light of God's truth. That's why he was able to do with Goliath what many others were terrified to attempt. They saw Goliath as a giant, impossible situation. David saw him as small in comparison to his God.

David was "a man after God's own heart", yet his sin was GREAT by any standard. The human tendency when our mess ups are this bad is to run from God. Like Adam and Eve, we want to hide inwardly and outwardly from God and others. David, however, ran TO God in his times of greatest sin. Why? Because He KNEW God. He knew that God was the one who could forgive. He knew that God wanted to forgive and restore. And, because David KNEW the benefits of a close, intimate relationship with his heavenly father, he wasn't willing to let ANYTHING hinder that relationship.

I think the point is that so often we want to MAJOR on the MINOR things. Wouldn't it be easier for us to come up with a list of all of the things we should do. Then, we could make a list of all of the things we shouldn't do. And, sticking to the list would be a good life's goal. We should go to church, we shouldn't watch certain things on TV. We should love everyone, we shouldn't have prejudices. We should be quick to forgive, we shouldn't gossip. The list could go on and on... and on! And, by the way, I'm comfortable with everything on the list so far. I think it's a good list. So...what's the problem?

For me the problem is the FOCUS. If my focus is on what I should or should not be doing, then my focus isn't on knowing God. If my focus is on what others are or are not doing, then my focus isn't on God.

My knowledge of WHO GOD IS has been my salvation for four months. Someone asked me recently what I would have rated my life on the morning of August 26th right after hearing terrible news from Scotty. I had to stop and think, because I always want to be honest as I share how God has brought me through heartache and betrayal. But, after a few minutes, I honestly answered, "Surprisingly, I still rated it pretty high."

And, here's why. My God has proven faithful, loving, good, and compassionate to me too many times in my 36 years for me to have worried that He was going to stop now. What I know of Him is that He has GREAT plans for me. Plans to prosper me and not to harm me. These are plans that give me hope and a future. I also know that my God is BIG and there is nothing any person can do to thwart His plans for me.

"Oh taste and see that the LORD is good."

I've tasted and I've seen and I trust that HE is GOOD. Here me say, AGAIN, that there have been difficult days. But, His goodness didn't stop on those days. And, even then, my "sight" was on what He WOULD do with the mess if I just gave it to HIM.

So, I agree with David. If I were speaking last words to my children today, I would begin with "Know Him." And, if I have the honor to watch my three children grow into adulthood, I pray I get to see evidence that they know their God and that they actively pursue and greater knowledge of HIM. If they know my God, He will guide them, correct them, love them and pursue them. Life may get hard, but intimacy with God through Jesus Christ will provide them with everything that they need to do this life and do it WELL.

I know I'm getting long winded. Please hang with me, because this part is so important to me. Honestly, I'm crying a little as I start to write it.

The knowledge that I have of God began in me through many people. I've listed them here before... parents, family, church leaders, friends, husband, children, etc. I have been so blessed in relationships. So many people have been willing to pour into my life from their own believing relationships. However, if I had been satisfied with Who God was to THEM, I would not have been very prepared for the events of August 26th. Let's be honest, I wouldn't be very prepared for the events of my daily life. See, God wants a PERSONAL relationship with each of us. Obviously, he desires that each of us come to saving knowledge of Him, but I believe HE wants even more. I believe that He wants each of us to know Him intimately.

Where am I going with this? I almost don't want to say it, because it truly sounds prideful in my head. But, I'm going to say it anyway, because I can't handle worrying that anyone might make my words your Bible or my relationship your relationship. In fact, I was told in one of my relationships a while back that a friend had made ME her God. I can't tell you the pain that causes me. He's SO, SO GOOD. I don't even come close!! If you settle for me, you're settling for WAY less that God intended for you. And, you know what else? You're setting yourself up for disappointment, because I am human and I HAVE AND WILL mess up. I don't use that as an excuse to do as I please with my testimony, but I know it to be fact. There is not a human on this earth who was meant to be God to another person. It will never work!

God has revealed Himself to me over and over. He has lavished me with his love and comfort. He has provided for my every need and demonstrated a plan to continue in that provision. He has given me great favor! BUT.... I AM NOT THE FAVORITE! No one else has to live off of the love He has given me or the knowledge of who HE is to ME. He desires YOU to experience it as well. If I get to be somewhat of a part in ushering you to the Father, it would be a great honor. I just pray that I am always a pit stop in the path to HIM. I can't be the finish line.

So... let's KNOW Him! Let's ask Him to show Himself to us. Let's be careful not to only ask Him to show us what He can do for us. I want to know Who He is. HE is our very great reward and worthy of our pursuit. He WILL NOT let us down.

Saturday, January 7

Lunch With Friends

Friendship is such a gift! Life is full of gifts, but I believe friends provide one of the greatest blessings we can experience in this life.

I drove to Hattiesburg today to spend an afternoon with 2 of the friends I've had since childhood. These friends plus one more who wasn't there today (we missed you, Macy) have been some of my closest friends since Jr. High. During lunch, we calculated that our friendship is going on 30 years!!!

There is not enough space on this blog to write about all that we have been through during those years. Three of us experienced moves in high school, divorce of parents, remarriage of parents, college/career struggles, weddings, new marriage struggles, 11 births, new mommy struggles, a scary health diagnosis, the loss of grandparents, the loss of a parent, the DEATH of a SPOUSE (whoa!), and  don't even know how to categorize what they've recently lived through with me.

Friendship is such a gift! That's a lot of life to have to experience alone; and, thankfully, we haven't had to. Now, a couple of people have felt they needed to encourage me not to close myself off of friendships. I have been reminded that Satan can't have victory over me by tempting me not to trust people and friendships because I have been burned so badly in friendship. I appreciate that advice, but I don't think that will be a temptation. And, here's why...

The Bible calls us to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. It has been the greatest honor to be able to do that with friends. We didn't really talk about it today, but it was exactly 4 years ago that Stephanie and Jason found out he had leukemia. He lived only 7 short months after his diagnosis. If you've known me in any capacity over the past four years, you've heard me talk about her story. She was so strong during that time, and her dependance on God was amazing. Even in his death, her trust in God's sovereignty was life changing. I knew Stephanie's fear of being alone, so I felt the biggest testimony of her struggle was that God WILL provide every bit of grace we need to live in any given situation. If we weren't open to friendships, Stephanie never would have shared her journey with us and we never would have experienced the gracious love of our Father through her situation.

So, I still thank God for friends. I wish I could name all of you here. If you are someone I call "friend", I hope you know what a treasure you are to me. I hope you know that it is one of the great joys of my life to be able to walk a journey with you.

Wednesday, January 4

Three Simple Words

Do you know what people have said to me over the past four months that has meant the most to me? Don't get me wrong. There's nothing simple about my situation. I realize some people may have avoided me completely; because, really, what do you say? When there was nothing else to say, you said it... "I am sorry."

Three simple words, but they have been my healing. To hear Scotty say to me (over and over) "I'm sorry for what I've done to you, our family and myself" has given me the freedom to heal and to help him heal.

Variations of those three words spoken to me by other people who have hurt me have caused me to see them in their brokenness, to see them a little more as God would see them and to begin the process towards forgiveness.

And, so many of you have said to me, "I'm sorry you have had to go through this," and I am now realizing that those words may have been the catalyst towards my healing and restoration. Sometimes, we just need a little affirmation in our feelings of hurt, betrayal, confusion, etc.

So, I want to say that to you! I'm sorry YOU have had to live through this tragedy. To some of you that may seem strange. You may be thinking, "Why are YOU apologizing to me?"

You may be wondering why I would assume anyone outside of the immediate circle of our hurt needs to be apologized to.

Some of you, however, may be thinking, "Thank you. As a fellow believer, I DO feel affected by the sins committed." And, I would say to you that I completely agree.

You see, I believe that when we wear the name, "Christian," we invite others to share in our lives. Relational living is the way God does life, and it's the way HE calls us to join in life. We weren't created for isolated living, and our actions DO affect other people.

Now, on good days, we are so grateful for that gift. We love sharing in the happy times with friends and family. A birth, a marriage, a birthday or an accomplishment are made much sweeter when others join us in the celebration.

Even in difficult days, we are so very thankful to have others coming in beside us to share in our struggles. Especially when those people are affirming us and building us up. It's during those times that we can't imagine doing life any other way. We realize our desperation to have others to lean on.

But, when we REALLY mess things up, wouldn't you agree that we'd rather just "bring it in" and focus ONLY on ourselves and MAYBE those that were directly affected? Wouldn't it be easier if we could somehow disconnect from the rest of the world when we have things we'd like to hide. Of course, it would be easier! For self! But, what about for the rest of those people that we've invited to share in every other part of our life?

What's my point? Well, let me see if I can bring the craziness of thought in my head together in a sensible way. Scotty and I know that there are still people in our small town talking, discussing, and bothered by our situation and what he did. The truth of the matter is, we are broken people living in a broken world. We all sin when we act out of that brokenness. And, I would venture to say that all of us act out of brokenness in varying ways. Some ways are more culturally accepted than others. But, to depend on anything other than the healing powers of our Heavenly Father to mend that brokenness is sin.

It would be very easy for Scotty and I to say to the few that may still be struggling with his sin, "This has nothing to do with you." "We are healing, and you need to let us heal in a supportive way." Or, "You do realize that you sin daily, too."

Let me tell you what I believe would be wrong with any one of those attitudes. They all focus on US. Now, is it important that we focus on our marriage and our family? Sure! I even agree that we should be our first focus. But, do we focus on ourselves and disregard the MANY people who we have done life with over the years? People who have walked with us throughout varying life situations? People who may still be struggling with how a person can say he believes one thing then act in a very different way? I say we CAN NOT!

A verse found in 1 Corinthians chapter 8 has come to my mind over and over during the past couple of weeks. It says,

"Be very careful, however, that in living out your freedom in Christ you do not become a stumbling block to the weak."

I know that Scotty is forgiven. He knows he's forgiven. But, I just wonder if we could be a real stumbling block to others if our attitude was, "You just need to get over it. This is between us and our family. We are healing and you need to forgive."

I don't know the correct answer. But, we feel that we will have to live out patience as those in our small community heal. So many have been so very supportive of Scotty's healing and complete restoration. But, we know there are some still badly hurt and very confused. We acknowledge that hurt and confusion as REAL, and we say, "We are so sorry."

I know that there is still much gossip going around, some of it true and some completely untrue. Believe it or not, that doesn't make either one of us angry. To Scotty, it's a real reminder of how badly he messed up. To me, it breaks my heart that our sin may have caused others to stumble in their walk. Either way, you matter to us. And, even as we are trying to heal, we are praying desperately for every person (young and old) that was affected by our situation to find each and every answer they need in our loving God. Sometimes the means to find Him aren't pretty, but He is amazing! I just encourage you to be very honest with Him about your hurt and confusion and get ready. When He brings it together and shows you how He can work everything together for good, you'll be forever changed.

We are forever changed to live, work and relate with those in life. We are forever changed so that we might possibly work WITH God to forever change the life of someone else. It's not about me... Not even for a second. I'm a very important part of the big picture, though. And, I think that's quite an honor.

So, if I need to utter a simple, "I am sorry," three little words, so that another important part of the big picture can heal and move on, I'm going to do it. You are worth it to me.