Tuesday, April 17, 2018

What tiny creations can do


I opened the door to the studio just before Easter looking for a box of plastic eggs for our hunt a couple of days later. I hadn’t been out there in awhile and in my peripheral visionmovement. Then a Carolina Wren flashed in front of me. I turned to see her masterpiece of twigs, moss, straw, and dried leaves built on storage bins. I flashed my cell phone light inside, saw several tiny eggs, and forgot all about the plastic ones I had been searching for.

A twinge of anxiety crept up on me. No bird has ever been successful with a nest out there. Predators of various kinds have intervened coming in the same way she did, a small cat door. But I’m hoping this year will be different. The biggest threat, Mama Kitty, has been domiciled for months in the house, apparently having given up her days of wandering.

I followed the hatching of the baby birds going from nearly naked with a few random spiky feathers on their heads to being covered in them only days later.

Yesterday morning, I took this picture.
 
 

Four days earlier, this is how they looked.
 
 

At first, I thought only three, but now, I can see part of another miniscule beak.

These feathered chicks are fascinating to me. I’ve even named them: Lettie, Louie, Leonard, and Lois. I figure it’s pretty good odds for two boys and two girls.

When I look at those wee faces, I see in them the reflection of their creator, one who cares about every detail. If even one of them were to wriggle out of that nest before it was time, God would know. God would care.

After Job lost everythinglivestock, servants, even his beloved children, he was then afflicted with excruciating sores, but  continued to trust God. At one point he proclaimed God's might to his friends, “But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind” (Job 12:7-10).

This time of year can do amazing things for our faith if we’ll allow God to speak to us through what he is doing in the world around us. If we’re wondering about God’s oversight in our lives, we can take encouragement from his creative power in the tiniest of his creations, because God is indeed, “the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.”

So, I’m off to take another picture.

Leonard was a little squashed in the last one.

For more about Carolina Wrens  and to listen to their song, HERE.

If we’re wondering about God’s oversight in our lives, we can take encouragement from his creative power in the tiniest of his creations, because God is indeed, “the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.” (click to tweet) 


Faith in the Fashion District releases August 23, 2018 and has just become available for presell. This story of how one woman's life on Seventh Avenue launched a lifetime in ministry helps you discover how God can use you--in unlikely places.
If you plan on buying the book, it would be a huge blessing if you could purchase it during this presell period. My understanding is you won't be charged until it releases.      HERE for presell.   
 



 

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Going on an adventure, Part Two


On my daughter’s return from the mountain hike I wrote about in last week’s post, she sent me these pictures.




 
 


 
As you can see, her venture outside her usual world had amazing returns. Even though she faced high winds at the top of the 6500-foot peak, a terrible thunderstorm, and hiking for miles in soaking boots, she said, "I'd do it again." It was worth the trouble for the glorious benefits.

God reminded me concerning our faith, the same principle holds. In my book Faith in the Fashion District releasing later this year (available for presale now), I talk about why we often have to step out of our comfort zone to see God at work. I know from personal experience, God may ask us to let go of security in order to accomplish his purposes and help us experience life at its fullest.

This is unsettling business.

Oswald Chambers wrote, “Jesus Christ demands the same unrestrained, adventurous spirit in those who have placed their trust in Him that the natural man exhibits. If a person is ever going to do anything worthwhile, there will be times when he must risk everything by his leap in the dark. In the spiritual realm, Jesus Christ demands that you risk everything you hold on to or believe through common sense and leap by faith into what He says. “

We can cling to familiarity, sameness, and predictability to the point that we can miss God. Change challenges us. 

To a couple of men throwing their net into a lake, men who knew only one way life, Jesus said, “Come with me. I’ll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I’ll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass” (Matthew 4:19 The Message). Without questioning, Peter and Andrew threw down their nets and went after Jesus.

You gotta love their leap of faith.

Many years ago, I kept having dreams about getting new clothes. In the dreams, I would say, I don’t want new clothes; I like the clothes I have. I knew getting these new clothes would take risk and a lot of work. The clothes I wore at the time were those of a musician. It’s what I’d always done, what I was trained to do, but God was stirring in my heart the first rumblings of becoming a writer. Being a writer means experiencing rejection and enduring solitude. It has not been an easy transition, but here I am all these years later . . . writing. I still do music, but when people ask what I do, I tell them I write. If I had not been willing to embrace what God had for me, I would have missed my life.

There are times, we have to throw down whatever is before us, whatever is familiar and go after God. It may not be easy. We may face high winds and storms, but like my daughter, I feel certain that in the end we will say it was worth it.

 


 

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Going on an adventure


 “Guess what I’m doing next week?” my daughter asked soon after she arrived for Easter weekend. We sat down at the kitchen table. I kind of braced myself knowing how these things can go.

“Tell me,” I said.

“I’m hiking up to one of the highest peaks in the Appalachian Mountains.”

I straightened the placemat and tried to keep my game face. “With who?”  

Turns out, she’s going with a friend who has hiked the Himalayas.

I should be comforted by this other woman’s experience, and I am, but these things still stretch me to the end of my mama nerves. So many of you understand this and are dealing with issues far greater than mine with kids in the military, on foreign fields, or into extreme sports in a big way.

I shouldn’t be surprised at my daughter's announcement. Given my children’s gene pool, there was ample precedence to believe they would be adventurers.

The man I married has fished the deep seas of the Atlantic for Marlin. He has rescued leatherback turtles on the sands of St. Croix. He has hunted wild Russian boar in the swamps of South Carolina. He has skied the black diamond slopes of Colorado. He has waded the trout streams of North Georgia with a fly rod in his hand. He has soloed in a Piper Cub across the clay hills of his Southern home. He has hiked the Appalachian trail and into the wilderness of Yellowstone (On this particular jaunt, he never saw another person for four days and later found he camped among the biggest movement of grizzlies in years). He has waited at dawn for the first movements of turkey or deer and watched for ducks to come in on the water. He has stepped out into a football stadium with 50,000 people cheering him, and played with Bill Stanfill and George Patton and against Joe Namath.

This train was coming down the track, for sure, but that doesn’t make it less of a challenge. The area my daughter hikes will be isolated. No cell phone access. And did I mention bears? Who knew I would go from putting her in pink dresses with lace collars to making sure she has bear mace with her?

Two women in the wild.

I won’t hear from her for three days.

Am I going to trust God for her or am I going to worry my head off?
 

 

The Psalmist wrote these simple words, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you” (Psalm 56:3). That word trust in the original language has these variations of meaning:  to be confident, sure, bold, secure, to feel safe.

Will I choose to be sure, bold, and secure in trusting God to watch over my daughter?

I have a sense my confidence in her safety will only increase as I do.

As I think about this, it looks like we’re both going  on an adventure. I'd love to have you come with me on this trust journey.

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. Psalm 56:3 (click to tweet)



 I now have a release date for Faith in the Fashion District--August 23, 2018 and it has just become available for presell. This story of how one woman's life on Seventh Avenue launched a lifetime in ministry helps you discover how God can use you--in unlikely places.

If you plan on buying the book, it would be a huge blessing if you could purchase it during this presell period. My understanding is you won't be charged until it releases. HERE for presell.   
 




 


 

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

What the palms lead to . . .



I told my class, "We'll be placing palm branches on the altar next Sunday."

“What is an altar?” one little fellow asked.

 
I forget if you haven’t been on the planet very long or are not indoctrinated into church talk, some words don’t make sense.

“Field trip,” I said.

We left our seats and trekked out to the sanctuary. I stood in front of the communion rail and altar table with the cross and talked about how we prayed before it. As I spoke, I wondered if these small children with their concrete thinking were ready to hear about all the details of sacrifice, which is much of what the altar is about.

The altar used to be the place where animal sacrifices were made for the sins of the people, but one Friday over two thousand years ago, God provided the sacrifice of all sacrifices, his own Son, to atone for our sins.
 


When we put those branches down this past Sunday, we were paving the way for what comes next just as the frond-waving crowd did when Jesus entered the city long ago. What came next was the last thing anyone expected. After the jubilant palms came the hard sacrifice.

As we move through Holy Week, we remember what He did. We remember we have what we have because Jesus gave what He gave his life for ours.

As we consider this, we almost certainly hear God calling us to sacrifice. The apostle Paul put it this way, “So, here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary lifeyour sleeping, eating, going-to-work , and walking-around lifeand place it before God as an offering” (Romans 12:1 The Message).

He laid down His life for us. Now we lay down our lives for Him.

This reminds me of a hymn we rarely sing anymore, but is probably in my top five, “O love that wilt not let me go, I rest my weary soul in thee. I give thee back the life I owe, that in thine ocean depths its flow may richer, fuller be.”

For the little fellow in my class and all those who wonder what an altar is for, that’s it. The altar is for sacrifice.

That’s what the palms lead to.

From the beginning of time, it was His sacrifice.
 
And now, hopefully, ours. 
 
We remember we have what we have because Jesus gave what He gave his life for ours. click to tweet


I now have a release date for Faith in the Fashion District--August 23, 2018 and it has just become available for presell. This story of how one woman's life on Seventh Avenue launched a lifetime in ministry helps you discover how God can use you--in unlikely places.
If you plan on buying the book, it would be a huge blessing if you could purchase it during this presell period. My understanding is you won't be charged until it releases. HERE for presell.

 

 

 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Worry Less. Pray More.

As we whizzed down the road toward coastal Georgia, I turned around in my seat to look behind me.

“What are you doing?”Jerry asked from the driver’s seat.

“Reading a wayside pulpit.”

The adage on it hit me hard.
 
 

“Worry less. Pray more,” some pastor or church member had posted in front of their little building. It appeared not more than a few dozen might fit in their sanctuary, but I wondered the countless ones, like me they touched who were traveling the busy state highway in front of their building.

Such a simple truth.

Yet, how often what I do is the oppositeworry more, pray less.

I should probably have worry less, pray more tattooed on my forehead. Sadly, they’d probably offer me a senior discount. Irritating.

We might even shorten the thought to pray more or maybe one wordpray.

Pray, I tell myself when I drag out my list of concerns intending to ruminate over them. Again.  

Pray, when I worry about Jerry’s situation and whether he’s doing what he should to deal with his cardiac issues (If you missed the story from last week, HERE).

Pray, when something touches one of my children or grandchildren and my anxiety starts to rise.

Pray, when I wonder if I can get the right marketing off the ground for my new books. Like most writers, marketing is not in my wheelhouse, but so expected by publishers.

Pray, when the thoughts of a thousand tomorrows invade my brain, and how will things ever work out, anyway?

The Apostle Paul said it best in I Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray all the time.” (The Message).

Because here’s the thingif we’re praying all the time, there’s no time for worry. That’s the benchmark.

In an interview with Jerry Jenkins, Billy Graham told Jenkins the Bible instructs us to pray without ceasing and that’s what he did.

“I was stunned,” Jenkins wrote. “You pray without ceasing?”

“I do,” Graham said, “and I have every waking moment since I received Christ at age 16. I’m praying right now as I’m talking to you that everything I say will glorify Christ.”

So, if you were wondering what we should aim for, that’s it. If you’re like me, you’re a good ways off. We might even need a telescope to see the target. No problem. God meets us right where we are in this moment.

And in this moment, what we do is . . . Worry less. Pray more.

 

 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

All the Matters of Our Hearts


We covered about half the  walk with our dog Lucy for the day when Jerry turned and spoke the words I hoped never to hear again. “I don’t want to alarm you, but I’m short of breath and feeling weird in my chest.”

With two stents in his heart after a heart attack thirteen years ago, we had been here before.

Jerry popped a nitroglycerine. I looked around me, and realized by God’s grace, we were right in front of a coach’s house at the school where Jerry is the football team chaplain. I knocked on the door. “Hi, Denny, Jerry is having breathing issues, and I need to leave him here while I go get the car.

“No problem,” he said. “But why don’t I just put him in my car?”

He carried Jerry home while I ran with Lucy back to the house. At home, we called his cardiologist who directed us to urgent care. After tests, they sent him by ambulance to the hospital.

At two in the morning, we received good news that blood tests revealed no heart attack and no heart damage.

Yet, something weird with the left bundle branch necessitated a heart catheterization.

After an hour praying while he was in the cath lab, the phone call came.
 
 
 
The right coronary artery ninety-nine percent occluded. This artery has a propensity to cause massive heart attacks, often fatal. A stent inserted into Jerry’s artery opened up the passageway so blood could once more bring nutrients to the heart.
 
So, here we are.

Saved. Saved. Saved.
 
Years ago, God rescued Jerry from a massive heart attack with potentially catastrophic damage, and now he has been delivered once more for the work God has for him.
 
These words from the prophet Isaiah seem especially poignant. “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Isaiah 36:26).

An oxygen-deprived heart begins to die and that’s where my dear fellow was headed, but God has restored life.
 
My writer training tells me I need to offer you, my readers, a takeaway, not just share our experience. So here it is.
 
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). As I have attempted to ponder what God has done from beginning to end in our circumstances, I am amazed at all the things that could have happened but didn’t.
 
We could have been anywhere but in front of the house of someone who could help us. Jerry could have again dismissed his rather minor symptoms as he had done a couple of days before when the same thing happened and he didn’t tell me. When we returned home, Jerry even wondered whether he should call the cardiologist. The list goes on.
 
God has indeed rescued this man from a time bomb of destruction.
 
Sometimes, we hear the ticking when something’s about to blow, other times we don’t. But I’m using one of my favorite Priscilla Shirer quotes again, “God is doing something right now for you that you can’t do for yourself.” Right now. God is at work. We don’t have to live in fear that these things are sneaking up on God. He knows. He sees. He cares.  
 
For you. For me. For us . . . and all the matters of our hearts. 
 

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

When you long for color


A snippet of conversation at church resonated with me.

“I really like your purse,” someone said about a friend's floral linen bag.

“Thanks. I changed because I was so tired of black.”

Yes, what she said.

So tired of black, and grey, and brown.

I’m at the point in the year, I’m ready to splash color anywhere I can. That’s coming from a woman who likes dark shades.

While shopping with my daughter recently, I picked up a pair of brightly colored slacks.

My daughter moved beside me. “No, Mom. No.”

She was right. My hind quarters would have looked like a big bubblegum ball in them, but that just goes to show how desperate I am even to consider such a thing.

The good news is spring is close. In parts around here, flowers are poking through the ground and flashing us with promise (Photos taken at the State Botanical Gardens of Georgia).
 

 
 
 
 
 

This craving for color reminds me of a verse in Matthew which Eugene Peterson translates this way. “You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors of the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill” (The Message Matthew 5:14-15).

As we long for brightness when winter grows long, there is a spiritual longing for the colors only God can bring. He alone can ignite the riot of beauty our hearts ache for in this dimly lit world. If we have received him, we are to be the lights shining into dark places bringing out those “God-colors.”

At our church, we’re praying daily during Lent for God to show us who we can disciple . . . who we can help see the “God-colors.”

Winter is almost over. Hopefully not only in our gardens but also in many hearts. Would you join us in this prayer journey?

 

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Drawing encouragement from Billy Graham


This week, we have joined countless others in  remembering and giving thanks for that great man of God, Billy Graham.  He has influenced me in many ways through the years, but none more than in his encouragement to read the Bible.

In a writing class taught by author, Jerry Jenkins (Left Behind series), I first heard this story, which he recently repeated in a blog post. While writing the autobiography of Billy Graham (Just as I Am), Jenkins asked Graham “What form does your searching the Scriptures take?”

Graham’s response: “Wherever I am in the world, in someone’s home, my home, a hotel room, here in my office, anywhere, I leave my Bible open where I’ll notice it during the day. Every time I see it, I stop and read a verse or two, or a chapter or two, or for an hour or two. And this is not for sermon preparation; it’s just for my own spiritual nourishment.”

Jenkins shared in class that he looked over and sure enough, an open Bible lay on Graham’s desk.

This story impressed me powerfully. If this great man Billy Graham needed this spiritual nourishment, how much more would I? And what would be my response to the question, “What form does your searching the Scriptures take?”

It has taken many forms during the years. In my early years of walking with the Lord, I often read Decision Magazine, the magazine of the Billy Graham Evangelistic organization. In it Graham said this, “I used to read five psalms every day-that teaches me how to get along with God. Thin I read a chapter of Proverbs every day and that teaches me how to get along with my fellow man.”

I followed that advice for years, so no matter what else I was reading, I included Psalms and Proverbs.

For many years, I used a Bible reading guide loosely based on the New Common Lectionary. Other years, I read continuously through the New Testament.

This year, I’m doing something different. I found a plan for reading through the Bible in a year that doesn’t involve being stuck in Leviticus for a couple of weeks. It has an epistle, law, history, Psalms, poetry, prophecy, and gospel reading each week. I’ve done it for two months now and love this flow. I’ll provide the link to the printable plan at the end of this post.

It doesn’t really matter what form your searching the scriptures take. It only matters that you’re searching them.

Graham said, “The Bible can change our lives as we read it and obey its teaching every day.” Reading the Bible has certainly changed my life. I will often open its pages and find a word that speaks to a situation I am dealing with on that very day. “His powerful word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey” (Hebrews 4:12).

I am so thankful I had opportunity to hear Graham preach in person and I'll never forget sitting in a darkened hometown theater as a teen watching his movie The Restless Ones. The title track to the movie captures who God is in my life today, He's Everything to Me. I, like many, many others owe Billy Graham much. 


HERE is the 52-week printable Bible reading plan. If you feel so led, share it with someone else in memory of that servant of God, Billy Graham.

Jerry Jenkins wrote a wonderful tribute to Billy Graham this week that includes the story I first heard him tell in class as well as many other wonderful memories. It is HERE.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Waiting and wonder


Whenever we visit coastal Georgia, I bike over to one of my favorite stretches of marsh to see what might be moving. On a recent trip, I'm pedaling along and then spot this guy. I get off my bike and creep up to him just in time to catch him eating breakfast (a little pixilated, a blow up on an iphone)
 
 
 

At times, I can sit on that marsh bank for what seems like forever and nothing seems to be happening. It feels like only me and miles of grass. But I know that’s not true. I know all around me life is stirring. I just can’t see it. Clapper rails are nesting, blue crabs are scurrying, and small fish are weaving their way through the grass maze.  

In the same way, it can seem even though we’ve prayed, nothing is happening―miles and miles of sameness. And yet, God is moving. In fact, Bible teacher, Priscilla Shirer, says, “God is at work right now doing something for you that you can’t do for yourself.”

We have to keep waiting and believing.

Then, it can be like my heron and his fish. God allows us to see something spectacular. God doesn’t have to do it, but He does. He pulls back the curtains and gives us a peek into the mysteries of His ways. He is always at work, always has our best interests in His heart, and in those impossible problems we can’t begin to solve, He’s already there.

So, if it’s been a long time, and nothing seems to be happening, take heart. A blue heron sized wonder may be just around the corner.

“God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over” (Lamentations 3:22-24 The Message).

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

When you're stranger than you know


Jerry and I took our seats at a table by the restaurant’s front window. As we waited on our lunches of chicken salad, I enjoyed taking in the quaint d├ęcortea pitchers, paintings, and signs with various messages. My gaze landed on one sitting on a mantel.  It hit home, almost as if it were meant for me. It read, “You are stranger than you know.”
 
 

Often, I’ll think I’m being a normal person, but then I realize like all writers, my nature makes me a little weird. After all, I make up stories all day. That in itself should qualify me for some degree of strangeness.

I go to sporting events and spend more time taking in the people around me than what’s happening in the game. You never know when you might find a good character.

I find myself in the middle of a conversation and all of a sudden, I’ll take a step back and realize I could use it in a book.

The fictional world in my mind pops up at the most inconvenient times. You don't want to know.

When someone asks me about my story, I usually give some lame answer because I’ve experienced the truth of the adage if you talk too much about your writing, the story can get away from you.

People ask me what I’ve been doing all day, and when I tell them I’ve been getting rid of  –ly words, a normal task for me, they stare at me, glazed.

I am stranger than I know. “Look at that sign,” I said to Jerry. “It’s true.”

 “It is true.” He smiled, put his hand on mine, and added, “You are stronger than you know.”

I took a closer look at the sign. I had misread it. The word was stronger not stranger.

Hey, but maybe, I’m stronger because I am stranger. Being different can make us have a firmer resolve, a more steadfast commitment to the purpose God has for us.

Last week, I watched an interview with one of the Olympic skiers. When she first started she couldn’t get enough of the drills. Down the slope and right back up again for more. Everyone else was whining and complaining. Not her. They thought she was strange. Our passions set us apart.

Perhaps, we’re all a little stranger than we know when it comes to what ignites our hearts. It’s okay. It makes us the unique people we are. It can make us strong.

And God can use all of this for His glory.

“Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adorationwhat a creation! You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something” (Psalm 139:14-15).

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Groundhog and Hope


Whether you call him a groundhog, a whistle pig, a woodchuck, or even a marmot monax, he still let us down this year.

Both Punxsutawney Phil and Georgia’s own General Beauregard Lee have predicted six more weeks of winter.

Groundhog Schmoundhog.

With such a cold start to the year, my shingles, and so many having the flu, we were hoping for an early spring. We needed an early spring.

The General has a certificate from a faculty member at the University of Georgia designating him a Doctor of Weather Prognostication and Georgia State awarded him the Doctor of Southern Groundology, so you would have expected better. But no, no, no. Take away the fancy titles and what you still have is a big fat rodent.

Jerry and I delivered food to my sweet girl who has been afflicted by the flu. When leaving her house, I spotted a yard full of yellow crocus blossoms. I made Jerry stop the car so I could take a picture.
 
 

If the groundhog is right, and we’re staring at six more weeks of winter, we need to cling to all the bright hope we can, keeping the promise of spring ever before us.

In our lives, it can sometimes feel as if the bad stuff is about to overwhelm, that it will go on forever, but focusing on God’s promises helps us keep perspective. He is still on the throne. His promises are still true.

In the eternal scheme of things, He will bring ultimate restoration. He will redeem not just a few things, but He will make all things new.

Meanwhile, we take comfort that even through arctic days, God is at work bringing renewal from the cold, hard earth and also from the hard places in our lives. Winter won’t last forever. The world is already starting to bloom, again.

And I might add, no thanks to the groundhog.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Walt and what he taught me about unconditional love


My friend, Walt, is trying to come back from the stroke he had a few days ago.  

I’ve known Walt almost my whole life, and two words come to mind when I think of him and his wife, Marthaunconditional love.
 
Walt and Martha with my son, Aaron, and me nine months pregnant about to deliver my daughter, Bethany.
They sent this picture to me only two weeks ago.
 
Walt was my pastor way back in high school. Though I was the church pianist, I was already on my wandering way to making several disastrous decisions that would take me in a very wrong direction.

Walt attempted to counsel me. I can still see him sitting in the chair opposite me, trying to help me see the error in my thinking.

Would I listen?

No.

Headstrong, I refused to take his counsel and ultimately caused a massive train wreck of my life.

After several years, I finally surrendered my life wholly to God, to the only one who could untangle the wreckage and make sense of what remained.

Walt never rejected me. I never heard an “I told you so.” He didn’t stand on the sidelines waiting to criticize or make sure he had the last word.

Instead, as my life came together, he began inviting me to sing and speak at his churches, welcoming me with a loving heart and open arms. When I married Jerry, he invited Jerry to preach at events held at churches where Walt was a pastor.

For a lifetime now, Walt and Martha have epitomized unconditional love for me and given me a picture window into the heart of God. God loves us not for our work, but because we are His. Walt and Martha helped me see authentic love doesn’t make the beloved jump through hoops or meet performance standards. Real love loves, no matter what.

I know someone today, advanced in years, who seems to love based on others' performance, a person whose affection is up and down depending on circumstances and criteria met. I think of all that person has missed of what unconditional love means, and I feel sad for them, sad they couldn’t learn from someone like Walt and Martha.

In books already written and in the acknowledgements of Faith in the Fashion District releasing later this year, you will read Walt and Martha’s names, where I thank them for their spiritual mentoring. Their example laid a foundation for me that has proved sure and steadfast now for many years. They gave me a gift I try to remember and pass on to others. Their love has helped me love better those in my life.

Walt, please know I’m praying for you. I am incredibly blessed to have you in my life. And to quote a man who knew himself what it was like to be loved unconditionally, “I thank my God every time I remember you” (Philippians 1:3).

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