This Ain’t No Dress Rehearsal 

Recently I cornered my husband and made him engage in an unpleasant conversation. My funeral. Morbid? To me, the I have to plan everything girl, it was a normal conversation. He did not want to participate. “Elizabeth, that’s ridiculous. We both know I’ll go first. And when I do make sure it’s on the way to work”. Confused I said “Huh?” With a chuckle he replied “My life insurance will be worth more if it’s work related”. I was the one not amused.

The facts are indisputable: (1)we are all going to die (2) our earthly bodies have to be put somewhere. Like I said I’m a planner. I want to make sure that my family has planned for my home going. My husband plans estates for a living. I plan our lives. This only seems fitting to me.

I explained to my husband what I had in mind. In fact, a friend of ours came up with a fabulous idea. It’s so good that I asked her permission to share it. I do not want a large church service. I want a private family graveside service. I’ll leave the details up to my family. The rest I want to plan.

I want to throw a party. I want you to show up ready to celebrate! To throw down! I want everyone who has had the pleasure or displeasure of knowing me to come. There will be a band. (Liquid Pleasure would be perfect!) I want you to dance, laugh loudly, and love on every familiar and unfamiliar face that you see.

I want you to indulge in good ole’ eastern North Carolina barbecue, chicken salad, shrimp, fried chicken, biscuits, caramel cake, lemon squares, 12 layered chocolate cake, sweet tea and the adult beverages of your choice. I want there to be blue and white ginger jars and silver vases full of roses, tulips, hydrangeas and peonies.

If it’s warm I want you to see a room full of seersucker, bow ties, sundresses, pearls, sandals, and little girls barefoot in smocked dresses. Little boys in monogrammed John Johns. Am I painting a picture for you? Does this sound like a combination of Easter and a wedding reception? Because that is the point!

When this diseased body finally goes? I will be resurrected out of this temporal life up to heaven to be with my Bridegroom forever. It is a reason to have the largest party eastern North Carolina has ever seen. Not because of who I am (believe me I’m no one ) but because of where I will be going. Does that sound like the most phenomenal day ever?! It will be! No more tears no more sorrow. Healed, whole, and in our eternal home with our Savior.

You don’t think I’m serious do you? Neither did my husband. But I can assure you I have thought this through. And just to keep it exciting I want my family to play a video that I’ll prerecord. I will explain in no uncertain terms: (a) where I am (b) Why I am there (c)How I got there.  And I’ll give the invitation to anyone present to give their lives to Christ right there at the country club. Heck, on the dance floor if that suits your fancy! I live in a small town. People will be talking about it for years to come as a spectacle  or a miracle. “Did you hear about that Wooten funeral? Yes, the tacky one! I heard  they held a revival at the country club” or “Did you go to the Wooten reception? Oh my gosh, greatest day ever!”

I’ve buried two parents, walked a child through addiction, another through illness and been told my life expectancy is 10 years tops. This  ain’t no dress rehearsal. The only “do over” we get? A new life in Jesus Christ. It’s too important to miss! Who cares if your neighbors think you are nuts. Who cares if it’s not politically correct. It’s the right thing to do. It is securing your eternal place in heaven. It’s the most important thing you will ever do.

As we prepare for the Easter season prepare your heart for Him!  Jesus Christ died, was buried, and rose again so that you may have eternal life with Him.

The parties just getting started what are you waiting for?

“Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.”-1 Peter 3:15

  

More Than Enough

What is it in our nature that causes us to want what we think is better? Even when what is in front of us is enough? More than enough? What is it that creeps up from the depths of our soul causing us to wander? Even if it’s not good for us?

Yesterday morning it was cold here. I mean like 26 degrees cold. I got the leashes out for our 8 year old lab and her conniving 8 year old corgi counterpart. They were so excited they about knocked me over. Bella the black lab–the contented four legged child– wagged and waited patiently. The moment my daughter opened the door? Tucker the corgi took off.

We started on our walk with Bella the black lab thinking we’d just catch up to mister cantankerous corgi. We walked. And walked. No sign of Tucker. The wind was chilly and Bella seemed to be satisfied to head home. I just knew Tucker would be sitting at the back door. He wasn’t.

My daughter had to leave to go pick up her students. I had a ton of errands to do before my husband got home. At this point I was mad. I couldn’t just leave the dog without a leash wandering the neighborhood. Oldest daughter left and I waited. Basically my afternoon had been put on hold for a 45 pound short dog with gigantic ears. Not happy at all.

Almost an hour later Tucker shows up at the back door. He was covered in dog poop. Smiling and shaking at the same time. He was proud as punch that he broke out. He also was smart enough to know he was in trouble. Big trouble.

Corgis are brilliantly clever. For the life of me I can’t figure out why, being so smart and all, they insist on rolling in dog poop. In fact, I’ve never met a corgi owner whose dog doesn’t do it. I mean when your legs are six inches long it’s not like you can get away from your own stench.

Did I mention that it was cold? I couldn’t bring the dog inside. I couldn’t get the hot water to turn on in the outside spickit. So I put the little sawed off dog in my husbands outside storage building. I opened the door and put a baby gate up so he could at least see outside.

All Tucker had to do was wait 2 minutes (tops) for his leash. He would have had a nice long walk. He could sniff, smell, and explore to his hearts content. But that wasn’t good enough. Nope. He thought he could have more fun galavanting around by himself. Frolicking and rolling in dog poop. What he failed to realize was that it was cold. Poop means bath. Poop means there is no way in Gods green earth you are coming in my clean house. So in the storage building he went until my husband came home from work and could fix the hot water.

Think about Eve. She had every creature comfort within arms reach. She was in paradise. She was in the presence of God. She had Adam. Life was absolutely perfect. Yet she let Satan convince her she could have more. Even though God had provided exactly what she needed in that moment.

How many times have you wanted something that you knew in your heart of hearts you didn’t need? Regardless of the social or monetary ramifications you ignored that little voice in your head (Holy Spirit)? You did what worked best for you in that moment despite the consequences. We’ve all done it. We’ve all regretted it.

God has a perfect plan for our lives. It is because of the garden that we battle with our sin nature. As we grow and mature in our walk with Christ we become more in tune to His whispers. A true sign of mature faith is the Christian who dies to fleshly temptations and adheres to the calling Christ has on our lives.

Until we turn our back on sin? Discipline ourselves? Trust that God knows what’s best for us? We will make the same mistakes over and over and over again. The consequences of our prideful actions can leave a path of destruction in our lives.

Tucker the corgi endured an outside bath in 45 degree weather in February. I knew, ahead of time, his nature. I knew his tendency to roll in poop. I knew he would have to have a bath. I knew it was cold. I knew he could get sick. I knew he needed to be on leash. I knew he’d have a long walk and still be able to enjoy it and stay warm.

Likewise God sees our big picture. He knows what will best benefit our lives.  I can guarantee not listening to Him will create a mess . Our pridefulness effects not only us but everyone around us. 9 times out of 10 we find ourselves scooping up the poop. Cleaning up the results of our decisions.  Wouldn’t life be far easier, and less of a mess, if we just listened to Him?

“Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted”-Matthew 23:12

 

Oh, Sweet Jesus!

I really enjoy cooking. Lately I’ve been on a kick of recreating all of my mother’s 1960’s, 1970’s, and 80’s recipes to gluten free. Usually turns out quite well. I love seeing Jane Condrey’s perfect penmanship on the recipe cards. Sounds weird but I feel a kinship to both she and Cornelia (my nana) when I see their handwriting . My husband, for whatever reason, always praises me for these little cooking extravaganzas. The whole process teaches me a lot, makes me feel good, and in turn makes him happy.

 
Wednesday two of my appointments were rescheduled so I found myself free for the afternoon. I decided to make some casseroles to freeze. Then I had the brilliant idea to make the Pioneer Woman’s cinnamon rolls to freeze for bible study next week. Have you had them? Oh, sweet Jesus! You must make them. They are a religious experience.

 

Baking is a whole different animal. My mother could bake anything. Me? Not so much. But I was feeling confident so I plunged ahead. I pre measured all of my ingredients. I neatly placed them on the counter in the order that they would be used.

 

I then started the lengthy 24 hour cinnamon roll baking parade. The very first snag came when the recipe called for “proofing” the yeast. “Huh?” No idea. So I just threw the packet of yeast into the heated milk and butter. I then let it sit for 10 minutes like the back of the yeast packet said. I was suppose to hear a foam sound. “What?” Well, it was bubbling a bit. So I dumped it into the mixing bowl with the already prepared flour, salt, sugar, and eggs.

 
The recipe then called for me to mix the dough until well incorporated. Done. Then I was to kneed the dough for 5 minutes until it was dense and smooth. Can do. I attached my dough hook, set the timer for 5 minutes, let the mixer kneed away for 5 minutes. Next I was to put the ball of dough into a greased bowl, cover with a cloth, and let it rise in a warm spot for one hour.
 
Well, I bet you know what happened. Bingo–didn’t rise. Like not even a lick. Ugh. Wasted ingredients. A whole bag of flower, three eggs, a stick of organic butter, and a lot of time. Geeez was not in the mood to start over. First I had to go back and retrace my steps to figure out what it was that I messed up.
 
One of my favorite scriptures is Matthew 7:15:

 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing,
but inwardly are ravenous wolves”.

They look good but they will ultimately destroy you. Kind of like my dough that didn’t rise. I had all the seemingly right ingredients. All looked perfect. However I used the wrong kind of yeast. Even though the package looked like yeast, smelled like yeast? Ultimately it was the wrong kind of yeast. The end result? I corrupted my recipe. I killed the dough. It didn’t rise.
 
When I figured out the problem I started again. This time with the correct yeast. The perfect ingredient. And as Jesus explained in the parable of the leavened bread just a small amount of yeast grew my dough. It got fluffy, happy, and it expanded.
 
Jesus forewarned us in Luke 13 that if we let anyone come into our churches (or lives) and distort the truth we will be corrupted. One tiny speck of sin will distort the truth. We will not rise. Ultimately we will fall just like my contaminated dough.
 
Following my grandmother and mothers old tried and true recipes work. Just like reading your bible does. Just like walking with Christ does. It is a recipe for life. The more I use those inherited recipes the easier cooking becomes. I feel drawn to them. As ridiculous as it sounds I feel connected to my nana and my mother by seeing their handwriting and reading their directions. Your bible is your inheritance. As you read it you will feel the Lord speak to your heart. You will see all of the directions for your life. You will find that life just makes sense.
 
Maybe it’s my age but I find that we often make the simple more complicated than it really is. Restaurants taking wonderful traditional southern fare and “infusing” it to make it “new and exciting“. The reality is there is just no replacement for good old fashioned southern food.

Likewise you can change the terminology in the church. You can be seeker friendly. You can preach love. You can preach inclusiveness. God’s word does not make room for our interpretation. Oh, you can spin it to make religion more friendly. Sin will creep in. Our churches become corrupted. Our lives a mess.
 
The Good News (see what I did there) is that Jesus Christ died and rose again for all of us. When we mess up? When we mix sin with flesh or the wrong ingredient in a recipe? God’s grace is readily and abundantly waiting for us to try again.

“And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock,
and it will be opened to you.”-Luke 11:9

  

Christ Is Proclaimed 

They see me as their competition, And so the worse it goes for me,
the  better–they think–for them.

So how am I to respond? I’ve decided that I really don’t care about their motives,
whether mixed, bad, or indifferent. 

Every time one of them opens his mouth, Christ is proclaimed, so I just cheer them on!

And I’m going to keep that celebration going because I know how it’s going to turn out. 

Through your faithful prayers and the generous response of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, everything he wants to do in and through me will be done.

~Philippians 1:17-21

How many of us have been hurt by words? Many of us can shrug it off as unimportant. When Christians say hurtful things about us or to us? Members of the body of Christ? That stings. A lot.  Our immediate fleshly response is (1) you are truly a jerk (2) maybe the offender is right (3) how could a fellow sister/brother of Christ behave that way? (4) Just wait until everyone else sees what I see

Been there? Relate to any of that?  What I find absolutely awesome is that Paul, who clearly faces the same challenges we do, is able to stay focused on the good. He makes a conscious decision to cheer on and pray for those that criticize him. Paul understands that God has a plan for his life. He knows the importance of speaking God’s truth in all circumstances. He gets that actions are louder than words. He understands that “everything He (God) wants to do in and through me will be done”. He knows the end story. He knows how it all plays out.

After my mother died I had a huge disagreement with my grief stricken, cantankerous Father. His words hurt me deeply. That one heated encounter caused my father and I not to communicate for over 18 months. Two grown “churched” adults wounding each other with words.

I’ll never forget my father in law saying “Have you spoken to your Daddy recently?” I told him I hadn’t and why. Fully expecting him to jump on my bandwagon. He listened and very graciously said “You know, Elizabeth, I suspect George needs to hear from you. I suspect he needs to see you. He’s your Daddy. If I remember correctly we are suppose to honor our parents. You need to go see ole George”.

I was stunned. And hurt. His words stung. They stung because my father in law was 100% without a shadow of a doubt correct. The right thing for me to have done was to understand that my father was deeply depressed and grief stricken after my mother passed away. The right thing for me to do was to have had compassion for him regardless of my opinion. I chose to use words rather than actions.

Jesus calls us to love our neighbors. And crazy family members. We don’t have to like it. We must do it. The gospel can not go forth without doing so. We can not fully live a life of freedom in Christ when we are bound in sin.

I swallowed my pride and we went to see my Dad. During that year it was all about God growing me for His glory. My Dad never got any easier. We did bring him to live with us. Our entire family was with Him the day we prayed the gospel over Him. After squeezing my hand in acknowledgement that he had heard it he died.

God taught me the true meaning of love. He taught me that love is a decision not a feeling. My Dad never thanked me. Rarely said anything kind. Yet my choice to preach the gospel demonstrated Gods perfect plan through me used for His glory.

I know my Dad is in heaven. All the other hurt feelings just don’t matter. The end game means eternity in the presence of the King. “And I’m going to keep that celebration going because I know how it’s going to turn out”. 

“Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.”-Psalm 51:12

 

Through His Eyes

I once took an online theological test to find out what my spiritual gifts are. Turns out I was off the charts in mercy, prophecy and discernment. Which makes perfect sense as to why I gravitated to my new red and white ginger jar vase. I discerned that I needed it. I was attracted to the fact that it was sitting all by its lonesome. I knew I had a perfect spot for it in our home.

My husband and I went to a huge warehouse sale Sunday afternoon. People were pulling the blue and white oriental ginger jars off the tables in a frenzy. The big red and white oriental chinoiserie ginger jar caught my eye instantly. “You’re sure? This one and not the large blue and white?” cute husband said. “Yep, that’s the one. It’s perfect”.

Beautifully dressed women glanced our way. Curiously listening to the interaction between my husband and I. You could see their wheels turning. “What is she doing? Blue and white is the trend”. I proudly helped my husband hoist my find over to the checkout table. I knew I had found a treasure. It stood tall, distinctive and set apart.

I’ve always had the ability to see what others sometimes do not. Probably why I drive anyone who knows me crazy. My brain goes 1,000 miles an hour. In a split second I can spot something out of the corner of my eye. I can be deep in conversation with you and in an instant change my focus. Some call it ADD 😀. I like to think of it as creativity.

The reality is that God has wired me differently than most. As a teenager it tore me up inside. I was in a constant state of inner turmoil. I wanted to be like everyone else in dress and activity. I wanted to be on trend. Yet I also had a deep internal struggle of seeing things differently. Some decisions I made were horrible. Like cutting my hair completely off like Belinda Carlisle of the Go-Go’s. Other decisions worked in my favor. Like the whole preppy thing. I had a southern baptist mother–I had been dressed conservatively my entire childhood. Fortunately, for me at least, that was a fashion trend in the 80’s.

It wasn’t until my early 40’s that I realized this “seeing things others don’t” was a blessing and not a curse. I wish I had been a mother in my 20’s who was mature enough to nurture my kids individuality. I thought, back then, that if they had the best they would better fit in. That fitting in would make them happy. That looking like everyone else and doing what everyone else did would make life easier and less confusing for them. I was wrong.

God wants us to see the world differently. He wants us to see the world through His eyes. Through His eyes we can see the beauty in different. Through His eyes we can see magnificent colors. Through His eyes we see what’s important to Him. Through His eyes we find peace in who He created us to be.

If we constantly are trying to blend in? We will live in a state of longing for more. That hole inside of us can never be filled with the standards of the world. That blue and white, currently on point, vase will not make you happy in 90 days if you bought it because everyone else says its “the thing”.

As for me and my over sized awkward unpopular red and white new friend? We are so good. A gigantic smile pops up on my face every time I look at it. To me it’s beautiful because it’s not popular . It’s a reminder that He’s gifted me to see the world differently. To me? It’s perfect.

“When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer. “-Psalm 94:19

 

 (I’m all about a beautiful blue & white vase👍🏻 Purely an illustration that all jars are beautiful not just the popular ones. No blue and white ginger jars were intentionally condemned in this post 😉).

Amazing (Mrs.) Grace

How content are you with your life? No, really?  Happy with where you are living? What you are wearing? Where your children go to school?  Are you that content? More than that are you at peace with your life? What if the heavens opened up today? What if  God’s voice came thundering down telling you that this was all there was for the rest of your life?  From this point on you would have no more extra’s. You would still have what is on your back and what you physically own. You would still have flourishing familial relationships and friendships. Nothing else.  Would you be fine with that? I mean really ok?

I had the privilege of meeting one of my dear friends mother yesterday. She is an absolute gem. It has been a very long time since I have been in the presence of someone so completely at peace with everything in their lives. Ironically her name is Mrs. Grace. The Lord could not have picked a better last name for her. She exudes grace, peace and happiness.

At 94 years old she is articulate and a delight! Mrs. Grace has had a stroke, been moved from her permanent home to a new town to be cared for, left her cat behind, her friends, buried a husband, buried a son and this was her 17th move. Her philosophy in life has been “bloom where you are planted”. My friend said that her mother made a conscious decision to be involved and happy in each community that her husbands job took them.

We can choose to be happy or we can choose to be miserable.  We can be like Mrs. Grace and be intentional. In our obedience God  grants us the grace to enjoy the things in life that He deems important. Do you make the choice to see His grace in everyday life? Or are you too busy trying to find happiness on your own accord?

This weekend make the decision to find happiness in what God has freely given all of us: the mountains, sunrises and sunsets, the ocean, our family, the landscape, the stars, foliage or snow. Make the decision to be content in His presence.  Bloom where you are planted.

“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”-1 Thessalonians 5:18

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Jesus Our Ultimate Do-over

Who doesn’t love a do-over? Waiving hand vigorously over here! I cringe when I think about teachers, coaches and myself telling our kids through the years “there are no do-overs”. Guess what? We were all wrong. Dead wrong. Life is actually one gigantic do over for most of us. Here’s another fact: do-overs are biblical. Jesus is our ultimate do-over. He died to give us new life. The past is erased and everything is made new. “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!“-2 Corinthians 5:17. Isn’t that the most exciting news you’ve heard ?!

I definitely could use a bazillion do-overs. Words that have stung. Words that have threatened. Words that have belittled. Emotions that came from a place of fear, hurt, and ultimately deep unwavering love. I am so thankful. Let me say that again: I am so thankful. Thankful for God’s grace. I am in utter awe of His mercy. Moved beyond words by the cross.

Secondly I’d like to say prayer works. If you find yourself in a place unable to pray (1) call out to the Lord audibly (2) call, text or email a friend and have them intercede a team of prayer warriors on your behalf. I can not emphasize enough the importance of crying out to the Lord. He hears us. He sees us. He loves us. “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them“-Romans 8:28

Recognize that prayers may not be answered immediately. Prayers may not be answered fully. Prayers may not be answered the way you had envisioned. Guess what? Pray anyway!! God sees the narrative. We may be able to envision how we want the story to end. That conclusion may coincide with God or it may not. Trust that all the hairpin turns and crazy mishaps throughout the journey are making for a story worth telling. A testimony that glorifies what only He can do to save a life.

If you have been in our home you have seen the gallery wall we have in the back of our house. We have every year of school (for each of our daughters) framed from transition to 12th grade. it’s one of my favorite things about our home. Each school year picture reminds me of the joys and challenges from each year of their lives. If it was not a great year? No worries~ just glance to your right and you will see the next school year framed. Each picture holds the joy and promise of a new year. A do-over from the previous mistakes of the year before and a continuation of the great things from years past.

Not all of our prayers have been answered…yet.  I’m 100% certain God will masterfully intervene  when His timing is perfectly suited. Many prayers have not been answered the way we would have expected. And many answered prayers have blown us away. God responds to our prayers, as my mother used to say, in three ways: (1) yes (2) not yet and
(3) I have something far greater planned. Keep praying.

God’s in the business of do-overs. He loves us deeply. There may be a multitude of plot twists along the journey. Probably more do-overs. Today? Today is a new day. Today I know who the Author is. I trust that He is in control. To God be the glory.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”-Hebrews 11:1

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Bonnie & Clyde And The Gold Coins

I did something Tuesday that was better than cake. Better than a massage. Almost better than salt water. I took a nap. A deep sleep drool provoking childlike nap. In the middle of the day. And I felt absolutely no guilt about it whatsoever. It was glorious.

I went to bible study, grabbed a quick bite of lunch with friends. Ran home to grab my to do list and let the dogs out. When I walked in the back door I was greeted with havoc. At first I thought we had been robbed. A table was overturned, books on the floor. An 1800’s antique bowl, which was filled with wrapped chocolates, was on the floor. Chocolate wrappers scattered all over the floor.

Quickly I realized the “robbers” were Bonnie & Clyde. Our 80 pound black lab and her 40 pound corgi accomplice. They had some how managed to overturn priceless antiques all in the name of chocolate gold coins. Not only did they eat the left over Christmas candy they left the empty gold aluminum “coin” wrappers all over the house.

I called the vet first. Needed to find out if I would in fact be the one to kill them. Or would the chocolate be their demise. Next a walk to let them get the gold coins out of their pockets so to speak. Then the cleanup began. I was so mad! They are 8 years old not puppies for gosh sakes! By this time two hours had passed and my afternoon out of town to-do list was not going to happen.

So with the mindset of Scarlett Ohara “I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow” I laid my head right down on the sofa. I propped my feet up and slept. For two hours. The only reason I woke up? 80 pound black lab was licking the bottom of my shoe….which, naturally, had an empty gold coin wrapper stuck to the bottom of it.

I actually was mad at my four legged children because they had disrupted my ridiculously over zealous schedule. I was already stressed thinking I wouldn’t get everything done. In the heat of the moment I didn’t think anything except (1) dumb @&?! (I may be saved but when provoked my tongue can’t help itself) dogs! you’ve messed up my whole afternoon (2) I’ll never get all of the “to-do’s” checked off of this list (3) great, just more work

The reality is it just didn’t matter. The list could wait for another day. The world was not going to stop if I was unable to make the thirty minute drive to Fresh Market or SAMs club. In that moment though? I was furious. Mad that my plans, my schedule were interrupted by Bonnie and Clyde (not their real names).

The truth of the matter is that little voice in my head (Holy Spirit) had whispered to me loud and clear that morning. I felt nudged by the Spirit to stay home. I didn’t feel great. I also needed to clean up, work, make phone calls, get laundry started and rest.

Yes, I have to make myself rest. If I do not pace myself throughout the week my type A personality will dictate what it thinks my diseased body should (operative word) be doing. If I pace myself? I’m fine. If I do marathon sprints of activity I usually end up in a flare for weeks. Honestly, if I don’t pace my days I end up in the bed or in the doctors office or in the hospital. When I choose to ignore my body it’s actually a very selfish act. It affects our bank account, my husband and those depending on me. I chose to go out to lunch and jaunt out of town despite knowing that the Lord was tapping me on the shoulder. Yeah, that worked out real well.

Do you struggle with the flesh and the Spirit too? Or is it just me? We receive nudges from the Lord but we ignore them. Our wants and needs before His. I can usually justify just about anything to Him. Usually there is silence which I pretend to interpret as “Yes sir-e my plans are a go!” If my children had done that to me I would be livid. So why do we do it to God?

He calls us to obedience. John 14 clearly tells us we are to demonstrate our love for Christ through our obedience to him: “If you love Me, keep My commandments”. For the Christian, obedience means complying with everything God has commanded. The good news? God’s grace. He showers us with it despite ourselves. Case in point~drool provoked afternoon nap.

I’m thinking that if I had listened to His nudge on Tuesday morning I wouldn’t still be picking up “loose change” and gold coins all over our backyard Thursday morning.

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.”- Matthew 6:34

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Potlucks And Jesus

One of my favorite childhood memories is church potlucks. A time when we were allowed to show up to church in “play clothes”. This may be a new phenomenon to you. Back in the day? We dressed. We wore skirts, Peter Pan collared white blouses, and knee socks with loafers or saddle shoes to school and smocked dresses to church. When we arrived home in the afternoons we had designated “play clothes”. Getting to go anywhere outside of our backyard in play clothes was awesome.

Our church potlucks involved chugging gallons of Hawaiian Punch or Tang and gorging on homemade desserts while our parents attention was on conversation and fellowship. Usually after the blessing, desserts, and way too much Hawaiian Punch a youth leader would take us outside for games. Red rover, kick the can or flag football. I clearly remember the smell of early spring. The damp cool grass at dusk. The total sense of freedom, community, and love. Not a care in the world. Grass stains from running and rolling around in those play clothes. The hope and promise of warmer days. Potlucks rocked.

Honestly, when they announced at church Sunday morning there would be a potluck that evening I didn’t give it another thought. We had made plans to go out of town to a furniture warehouse sale. Leaving church my husband said “Wanna call Anne and David and see if they want to go?”

We were, I think, the four oldest people there. Good food and great fellowship. Little boys running to and fro. Babies squealing. Dads cheering during the football game being broadcast before the meal. Moms chatting happy to just be able to sit down and breathe. Pre-teens playing ball outside. I had forgotten that happy feeling from forty some years ago.

So what does a church supper have to do with Jesus? Well, everything actually. A great big sanctuary filled with a variety of foods and an array of personalities. When all thrown together it’s a potluck. Ordinarily it wouldn’t work. But it does. There is something for everyone. There is no agenda. No schedule. Just a common sense of community. A group of believers from all different educational and economic backgrounds gathered for a meal. A core belief in Jesus Christ as the centerpiece.

How incredible would it be if we faced the world like it was a potluck supper?! We just assume that everyone will bring something different to the table and we make it work!

Actually, I’m pretty sure that is what Jesus did in his assembly of the disciples. A mixed bag that resulted in a perfectly orchestrated buffet.

“Do we not all have one father? Has not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously each against his brother so as to profane the covenant of our fathers?”-Malachi 2:10

Flickr-potluck

God Is Good, Y’all!

I am a member of two closed groups on Facebook. One is the scleroderma group. The other group is for lupus patients. They are wonderful resources for updated medical research as well as patient trial availability. Like any good thing too much can be bad.

I try not to spend too much time on the boards. However recently I got on to look up a drug trial that I was interested in. My 15 minutes of perusing turned into an hour of reading people’s stories. Many are heartbreaking. The common theme? “Why me?! My life is ruined and I want it back”. It was incredibly depressing reading story after story of total despair.

Auto-immune diseases, like most diseases, change your life forever. You live with chronic pain the rest of your life. There is no cure. You can expect to die from the disease or complications from it. It is inevitable. The cruel joke is that your death is usually a long and arduous one further complicated by illusive symptoms and side effects. Your body literally attacks itself. Ultimately you run out of drug therapies. Organs shut down. Sounds dreadfully depressing doesn’t it?

Here is the good news: God is good. That is the message I so desperately wanted to share with patients in the closed group. God is good, y’all! Even in the bleakest of situations He is good. And He is there. Here. With us.

All of us can say “why me?” Why did the marriage fall apart after 20 years? Why aren’t my kids getting it? Why am I unhappy? Why does my best friend have a more financially prosperous life than I do? Why do I have to work? Why do I look 60 and my neighbor looks 40? Why is she so gorgeous and I’m not? Why doesn’t my husband look at me like her husband looks at her? Why can’t I loose weight? Why is my child left out? Why weren’t we invited? Isn’t the question really “why not?”

I stopped asking “why me?” ten years ago. And Lord knows I have a lot, do you hear me, a lot to whine to God about. You know what changed my perspective? The book of Job. God referred to Job as “blameless and upright.” God allowed satan to afflict Job, but God was not punishing Job for sin. Job suffers because he is among the best, not because he is the worst.

Job looses his fortune, his wife, his kids, his friends, his health and he just about looses his mind. Through it all? He never stops crying out to God. He never stops believing in His Abba father. He doesn’t understand what is happening to him. Job certainly doesn’t like what has happened to him. He never stops believing that God is there.

At one point Job starts questioning why God is causing all of his trials. God speaks to Job in a tornado. God physically and literally shows up in a storm. I love that! Even in the midst of the storms of our lives He is there.

Instead of asking “why me?” I started to ask “What is God up to?” I mean certainly He has a plan for me. And you. And if every single life is worth saving then what exactly is God up too? What is He trying to produce in me? You? In us? Could it be that God uses our suffering to produce righteous character? Does He want those who suffer to be more dependent upon Him? Could it be He is trying to get our attention?

“Elizabeth, that is sick and cruel. You mean to tell me a ‘loving’ God is going to cause my cancer or my illness or my divorce?” Honestly, I have no idea. I do know that God knows each of us by name. I do know that He wishes none of us to not have eternal life. I do know that He is a gentleman. He sent His only Son to die for our sins. I do know He gives us a choice. He is not going to force us to choose Him.

If our lives are turned upside down? We have the option to call on Him to turn us right side up. I don’t know about you but right side up, to me, sounds really hopeful in a world of upside down.

Who do you choose today?

“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.”-Isaiah 40:29

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