Thursday, October 31, 2013

85


We gather to celebrate the years.

 
We hope for more of them. And even though he still fights the insidious cancer monster, he remains pain free, and we give thanks.

The family drifts in from scattered places, and we fill our plates with the roast beef, the green beans, and the stuffed eggs. We are stuffed with joy.

He doesn’t say much, but we hear a familiar story or two.

And then, this patriarch leans back, and surveys these ones he calls family.

Reaching past the cobwebs of lupron induced memory loss, he gathers the words and says, “Back when I was a barefoot boy plowing with a mule feeling the fresh turned earth under my feet, I never dreamed so many years later I’d be sitting here at this table with all of you. I’m about the luckiest man in the world.”

We fight back the tears.

He rises from his chair and comes to where I’m sitting, and leans over me and hugs tight. “Thank you,” he says. “Thank you for all of this.”

Then he makes his way to the other side of the table and wraps my sister in his arms.

And my sister and I, we want to press pause on the moment. Keep it close. Look at it again and again. It passes, but we witness it for each other, and we will testify to this Father’s love.

And from this moment on, if we need an earthly reminder of our heavenly Father’s love, we can point to moments around a cake ablaze with years, a daddy bent over his girls, and see we are held and protected and cherished.

“What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it—we’re called children of God! That’s who we really are” (1 John 3:1 The Message).

Though many may not have experienced such a love in an earthly Father, the truth remains that the Heavenly Father extends a love beyond our imagination. And we are the stuff of his dreams.

See him now bent over you, delighting in you, a child of God.

That’s who you really are.

Loved.

Monday, October 28, 2013

When things don't turn out the way you hoped

I've been wall to wall with wonderful family events and writing deadlines. I'm pulling this one from the archives today, but hope it meets a need. Will be back on Thursday with a new post.
 
According to Mr. Webster, to disappoint means “to fail to satisfy the hope, desire, or expectation of.”

We speak of times of disappointment in sentences which begin with should have or could have.

I’ve found disappointment to be one of the most finely honed weapons in the arsenal of the enemy of our soul, because if we’re not watchful, disappointment can lead to a root of bitterness which can quickly establish itself in our lives. And bitterness is like a cancer, eating away all that’s good.

When disappointment leaves me protesting, “I didn’t know it was going to turn out like this,” I have to make a choice not to embrace toxic thoughts and choose to replace those thoughts with the truth of God's word.

I keep coming back to this quote, “Can it be that, that which seems to oppose the will of God actually is used of Him to accomplish the will of God? That which seems evil only seems so because of perspective, the way the eyes see the shadows. Above the clouds, light never stops shining.” —Ann Voskamp










Faith only begins to flex its muscles in times when the darkness settles in around us. In Peterson’s words, faith is “our handle on what we can’t see” (Hebrews 11:5).

Even in times of great disappointment, through faith, we can fix our eyes on Jesus. Whatever situation that left our hopes, desires, and expectations wanting, we trust will be used by Him for our good and His glory.

“…those who hope in me will not be disappointed” (Isaiah 49:23).

“We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!” (Romans 5:3-5 The Message).

“And hope does not disappoint us…” (Romans 5:5).

 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

If you know someone hurting from divorce

My  friend, Dolly Dickinson, just saw her book, Moving On: Coping with Divorce, re-released as an EBook.

I first met Dolly several years ago at a writer’s conference just after she moved to the east coast from California. Not long after she moved, she began teaching Divorce Care classes in her church. These classes have become instrumental in helping many recover from the devastation left behind in their lives after divorce.

I caught up with Dolly recently, and she was kind enough to answer a few questions.

Why do you have such a passion to minister to people who have experienced divorce? My passion for a divorce ministry comes from having gone through the struggles myself. I understand and I'd like to make things easier for others.  

What is your vision for your ministry to divorced people? In my writing and in my Divorce Care support groups I would like people to feel loved, accepted and understood. I made many mistakes and would have done better with a little solid advice. The other day I told one of my Divorce Care assistants, "If I dwelt on all my mistakes, I wouldn't be able to lead this group." He answered, "I think your being open about your failures is helpful to people who are struggling. If I needed to lose weight, I'd rather my doctor not be someone naturally slim but a trim man who used to be overweight. He would understand."  

What is your greatest joy in this ministry? When people come to me, they are falling apart, dejected, barely able to make eye contact. In the end, they leave with hope, nearly singing and always feeling they have the tools to get through divorce to a better place. People who read my book feel that way too, and all this brings me joy.

Dolly’s introduction to Moving On: Coping with Divorce offers a helpful metaphor that illustrates her heart to help others:

“When I was a child growing up in Maine I dreaded getting stuck in the spring mud or winter snow. Invariably we would spin our wheels with that unforgettable sound. Tension would mount until my father would cuss, my mother would pray, and we kids would try to become invisible.

In the end, we'd all pile out and shovel sand around the tires for traction. We'd push the car forward and it would roll back, again and again. The wheels might sink deeper or they might suddenly catch and the car would be out.   

When I left home for college, then married and moved to California, I did not miss the weather. But the marital storms that eventually resulted in my divorce were worse. I felt stuck, spinning my wheels, unable to get enough traction to move forward.   

Now, years after the divorce, I realize that getting through those times was harder than it needed to be. 

To be sure, the struggles were difficult, but there would have been less tension and dread if I'd had an understanding guide—someone who had already found joy and peace on the far side of divorce. 

I wish I'd had someone to soothe my insecurities, warn me about the miry places, and push me toward moving on sooner. 

I pray that this book will be just such a guide for you.” 


If you or someone you know is going through divorce, please check out Dolly’s essential book Moving On: Coping with Divorce available here. She also pens a blog here.

“All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5 The Message).

Monday, October 21, 2013

Definitely divine appointment


Years ago when I started attending writer’s conferences, I learned a valuable lesson. I’d stand in the doorway of a room full of people I didn’t know, and before I entered, I’d pray for divine appointments. I’d ask the Lord to send me to someone I could help, or to someone who could teach me something. And so often, God did exactly that.

I returned to my hometown  for a class reunion this weekend, our first in about twenty years. Our last happened three weeks after my daughter was born, so I had other priorities and didn’t make it. This year’s reunion was held with three other classes, most of whom I hadn’t seen in decades, so how would I recognize the people I once knew, much less have the opportunity to speak to them all?

So, I prayed again that God would give me divine appointments.

And He did. Several. But I’d like to share an exceptional one.

While writing Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees, I was quite a ways into it, and still hadn’t named the fourteen-year-old protagonist. Names are enormously important to a story, so I wanted it to be just right. It needed to be southern, so I thought a two-word girl’s name would be great. It came to me almost immediately—Mary Helen.

When I was in the sixth grade, the winds of change were blowing through the south; segregation giving way to integration, bringing the first African Americans  to our school.

“Be nice,” my mother said before the day of their expected arrival.

“Why wouldn’t I be?” I pondered.

The first students of a color other than my own came in and took their seats next to the blackboard on the far side of the room. I can’t imagine how scared they must have been.

I hardly knew what integration meant in the sixth grade, but in the following years, it would mean race riots in our school that led to shuttering the doors on more than one occasion. I remember days of fear, when we all, both black and white, wondered about our safety.

But from those turbulent years, one face is so memorable—a face of color. She exemplified grace and dignity in the midst of what at times was simply chaos. She might have been the poster child for Martin Luther King Jr.’s goal of achieving change through nonviolent methods.

When I came to name my protagonist, I named her Mary Helen to honor this woman and others like her who faced those pivotal years with such bravery. In my own mind, it gave more weight to the character of this young girl in my book who’s trying to deal with her own set of serious challenges. The character Mary Helen is not in any way the real Mary Helen, but both of them found a way to embrace their lives, and allow the pain to make them stronger.

I searched extensively for Mary Helen when I wrote Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees, but could not find her. I had a longing to connect with her, but  as the years have gone by, I wondered if I’d ever see her again in this life.

So, I’m standing in line with hundreds of others to get my tee shirt and tickets for the reunion weekend a few days ago. I introduce myself to the woman in front of me.

She says, “I’m Mary Helen.”


I squeal, hug her, grab my husband and introduce him. He says, “Mary Helen, I have a feeling you’re about to be in a blog post.” At this point, she still has no idea what’s going on.

So, as we wait in line, I tell her about the book and Mary Helen the character, and she tells me she’s been in ministry her entire adult life. It seems she graduated seminary about the time my husband left his law practice to enter seminary. She’s also married to a pastor.

Can I even tell you what a glad reunion we had?

The time was too short with her, as there were still many with whom we both needed to speak, but the next evening, I managed to slip her a book.

I marvel after decades of no contact, one special evening in a great crowd, God arranges for us to stand right beside each other. He reminded me that He connects us with people in His perfect time and always knows exactly where we are.

Definitely a divine appointment.
 
So, the next time you face a room full of unknowns, pray. Only God knows the possibilities.
“My times are in your hands . . . “ (Psalm 31:15).


 
 


 



Friday, October 18, 2013

If you have tangles


 
That would be our exterior landline phone box. We have a signal outside, but the phones won’t work inside. If you remember the old Green Acres television show in which the character, Oliver Wendell Douglas ,  had to climb a telephone pole to make a call, well, we’re close. We’ve had to go outside and plug a phone into the outside box to receive calls. Not everyone has my husband, Jerry’s cell number, and as a pastor, he needs to be accessible. We now have a cord running from the box through the door into a phone in the house.


 Can’t seem to figure out what to do next, and trying to avoid a service call.

One of our other snarls is Jerry was involved in a car accident last week. We continually offer praise to God that all walked away from the accident unharmed, and are so aware how close we came to tragedy. Our hearts are full of gratitude. Yet, we deal with the reality that the insurance company totaled our automobile. Already down a vehicle here, since our daughter’s car was also totaled a few months ago, she’s now borrowing one of ours as we’ve not found a replacement for hers.

After much prayer, driving hundreds of miles, and days of searching lot after lot of cars for transportation that fits our budget, has the right safety features, and other specifications, we still have a rental in the driveway.

When my husband and I sit to eat, we have to declare our meal a no problem-solving zone, because honestly, it seems we spend hours every day trying to find solutions to nearly unsolvable enigmas.

In addition to that, my husband’s ancient Blackberry cell phone died, and he finally moved to a smart phone, which has put him on a steep learning curve. He enjoys this gadget maybe a little too much, and when he asks me about uploading info to the cloud using Bluetooth, I may or may not have said that I didn’t want to talk about it. Ever.

And I won’t belabor the fact a toilet upstairs keeps leaking, and we can’t figure out why.

It all seems such a tangle.

But then I hear a song about a Name that is above tangle, snarl, and problem, and my twisted core starts to uncoil.

(If you're picking this up on mobile, you may have to go to the site to get Big Daddy Weave's The Only Name.)

 

So if you’re in a tangle, too, lean into that Name in prayer right now, and trust Him for the answers to life’s vexing problems. I’m right there beside you believing he’s going to make macramé from all these knots.

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father(Philippians 9:2-11).

 

 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Peddling after Joy


Bike riding brings me much joy. I love to take off on my ten-speed and explore the island where we vacation. I seek out seldom used paths and brave the brambles on the chance I might spot a marsh hen, a snowy egret or a bank of morning glories opening in the early sunlight.

But recently, cycling brought something else my way. 
 

Monday, October 14, 2013

When you're looking for inspiration in entertainment


Last week, I had the privilege of attending the Movieguide Faith & Valor Banquet in Atlanta where Chris Zarpas , producer of Grace Unplugged (now in theaters), delivered an inspiring message.

After a career that included production of several films, and a stint as a vice-president at Walt Disney, Zarpas left the entertainment industry for several years. His motivation to do so came from Matthew 16:26 , “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” Zarpas didn’t want to continue making compromises that he felt were not pleasing to God.

He wondered if he’d ever make another movie, but then Grace Unplugged came along.

He along with several other speakers applauded the work of Movieguide publisher, Dr. Ted Baehr, who has labored tirelessly to help redeem “the values of the mass media of entertainment.”

Most of the speakers including Zarpas suggested that any Christian entertainment we’re watching today is directly or indirectly a result of the many decades of work by Dr. Baehr.

Bev with Dr. Ted Beahr
Dr. Baehr, in conjunction with the John Templeton Foundation is responsible for establishing the Kairos Prize in screenwriting to help encourage writers to pen faith based scripts, as well as the Epiphany Prize for “Most Inspiring Movie,” and “Most Inspiring Television Program.” I’m honored to have been a finalist for the Kairos Prize a few years back and a semi-finalist for the last couple of years.

I received a couple of take aways from my attendance at the banquet.

First, Dr. Baehr’s perseverance inspires me. Highly educated with a degree from New York University School of Law, he could have continued to have a career as an attorney but chose at personal sacrifice to devote himself to making God known in Hollywood. I’m sure Dr. Baehr has felt discouragement, but he has never given up. I’ve heard him speak many times, and have had classes with him, and every time I hear him, I feel renewed for the work ahead.

Second, the story of Telemachus. Dr. Baehr referenced one of Ronald Reagan’s favorite stories, and after a little research, I found Reagan used it in his remarks at a 1984 National Prayer Breakfast. Reagan relates the account of the monk Telemachus who put an end to the gladiator games in the fourth century with his last words, “In the name of Christ, stop.”

We also are called to intervene in the injustices, and cultural degradation around us. We are called to declare, “In the name of Christ, stop.”

This is what Dr. Baehr, Chris Zarpas, and others like them are trying to do through media. I hope to count myself in that number, as well. Your ticket to a faith-based film is your vote for wholesome entertainment and makes it possible for other faith-based films to receive funding and distribution. It’s your way of saying, “In the name of Christ, stop, ” to entertainment that has no redemptive value. 

So, see Grace Unplugged  this week.

You may read Ronald Reagan’s National Prayer Breakfast remarks here and a wonderful review of Grace Unplugged here.
 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

If you're not satisfied



While resting from pulling weeds on a hot fall day, what I believe to be a Silver Spotted Skipper circled and lit on my garden glove. I’d seen him earlier on the lantana, and my colorful garden glove I’d bought on sale at a discount store must have attracted him as it resembled the brilliant lantana (butterflies can see a whole range of colors, even ones we can’t).




He stayed a long time, maybe trying to figure out why something so appealing did not satisfy. I finally had to shake him off.

How frustrated the Skipper must have been trying to draw nectar from faux flowers.

Much around us looks like the real thing, too. But it does not fill us.

I recently declined to buy erasers for my Samaritan’s Purse shoeboxes because they looked like candy. It seemed a cruel thing to send children who might not have enough food a daily reminder of what they didn’t have. I was concerned they might try to eat them.

Spiritually, we often try to draw from the fake what only the real can give.

 We’ve just started another Bible study, and we’re using Beth Moore’s, Breaking Free. I’ve led it several times before, but it seems new to me. That’s because much of it is new, as Beth has revised the material since she first wrote it ten years ago. In a chapter where she introduces the benefits of being a child of God, the third benefit is being satisfied in God (Other benefits are knowing Him, glorifying Him, and experiencing His peace and His presence).

Beth points out Isaiah 55:2, “Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?”

She says, “We can easily be led into captivity by seeking other answers to needs and desires only God is equipped to meet.”

I thought of my butterfly trying his best to draw nectar from a fabric glove. If he'd persisted in the deception, he could have starved. We too, labor and labor trying to be satisfied with material possessions, an ill advised relationship, ungodly entertainment or a host of other substitutions for the real thing. But in the end, our souls become malnourished.

When we hunger and thirst for God, only He will satisfy. There is no substitute—even and especially if we find it on sale at a discount store.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Catalyst Atlanta and a big surprise


Even after several twelve-hour days on my feet and hardly any sleep while volunteering at the Catalyst Atlanta conference, I left feeling energized, so sad it was over.

As I checked attendees in on Wednesday, I greeted people who had traversed the wide circumference of this spinning globe from places like the Philippines, South Africa, Australia, England, and Canada. Some were travel weary but high in spirit to be part of what God was doing at the conference.

On Thursday and Friday, I worked in the resource center at the front of the Gwinnett Arena. When the doors opened at 8:30, I could only marvel at the 11,000 who streamed into the Arena to be inspired, encouraged, and motivated to reach the world for Christ.

I met people I may never see again this side of heaven like my friend from Jakarta, Indonesia, and look forward to seeing other new friends like Laura in the near future.

I hugged close Melissa and Mandy whom I’ve long loved but rarely get to see, and wished I could have spent more time with them.

 


And if I didn’t already feel blessed, I had one of the biggest surprises of my life.

On Wednesday, I slipped into a session where Ann Voskamp was speaking. She delivered an inspiring message encouraging us to pause and give thanks, to be present in His presence in this moment, and to pour out and bless others. She left the platform immediately after her talk, and I assumed she’d headed to the airport so she could get back to Canada and those six children of hers.

But the next day, I came around a corner, and there she was, her standing at the Zondervan booth, and no one around. I could hardly speak for tears, when I told her how much her honest and transparent words had meant to my family at a very dark time. The next thing I knew she had her book, One Thousand Gifts, in her hand, and she signed it to someone who’s very beloved to me. We hugged tight.

It took me quite a while to get myself together, so that I could once more do my volunteer job, but I will long treasure the wonder of these amazing hours at the Catalyst conference.

I don’t know how next year could be any better, but I’m ready to do it again.

May need to get some orthopedic shoes, though.

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!” (Ephesians 3:20)

 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

A few random things I learned while home educating my children that you might not know either

I’m volunteering over at the Catalyst conference for a few days, and I’m sure I’ll have much to share when I return. In the mean time, I thought I’d pass along a few noteworthy items drawn from eight years of home schooling my children.



You may have missed these things, too.

1.  The “t” is silent in the word “often.” Don’t tell me you already knew this. Everyone I know pronounces the “t.” My husband has two postgraduate degrees, and he didn’t know about the silent “t” until I told him. I learned this while home schooling my FIRST grader. I was so shocked; I called a friend who was an English professor at a state university. “No student leaves my freshman English class without knowing the “t” is silent,” he commented. I never had his freshman English class, and if anyone ever told me the word “often” had a silent letter, I’m not sure I would have believed them. If you don’t believe me, look it up. I still have trouble saying it correctly.

2. The countries in the former U.S.S. R. We cold war kids had a geographic meltdown when the Soviet Union broke up. I couldn’t even say Azerbaijan much less find it on a globe. Enter, Geography Songs. The kids and I sang our way through the countries of the world and to this day, I’m one of the few people my age who can recite all the former Soviet bloc countries. Okay, I can’t say them, I have to sing them. But still. 

3. That reading to your children is more than about teaching them. It creates shared memories. My children were able to read almost anything by the time they were six, but despite that, for years, we always had a book we read aloud as a family in addition to the Bible reading for the day. It was like taking a daily trip together where we discovered new characters, new places, and new experiences. From Laura Ingalls Wilder’s stories of growing up on the American prairie to C.S. Lewis’ tales of Narnia, we navigated between fact and fantasy and carried away a boatload of wonder. If you have children or grandchildren, read a book aloud together. You’ll be talking about it the rest of your lives.

Well, there you have it. Just three things out of so much that I learned while home schooling. I have a degree in education, but it sometimes seemed I didn’t know much until I home schooled my kids. Home schooling probably helped me with punctuation and grammatical skills, too. I have ôʹ fən had trouble with them.

“Start with God—the first step in learning is bowing down to God…” (Proverbs 1:7 The Message).

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