Tuesday, October 29, 2019

An Explosion and the Joy that Comes from It

It's that time again--just two more weeks until Operation Christmas Child Boxes are due. My sister and I are about to put the finishing touches on our boxes. If you still haven't packed one or ten, there's still time. I have links below for you to follow in a post I've used from the archives. Happy Packing.

We’re going to have a big explosion around here this week. I’m opening the door to my front bedroom closet, which is so full, items are likely to shoot into the air. My sister, Tammy, and I are getting together  to put together our Operation Christmas Child boxes for Samaritan’s Purse. We’re hoping to prepare twenty-five boxes again this year. From that closet, I’m dragging bag after bag of school supplies, toys, and hygiene items to my dining room so we can assemble the boxes. It’s going to be a mess in there for several days.

In a wonderful turn of events, when I attended a Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writer’s Conference, I was asked to write a piece about the boxes we do for a Christmas Moments anthology Grace Publishing is producing called Merry Christmas Moments. I receive no royalties for this book, as all proceeds are donated to Samaritan’s Purse. This book is one in a series of Christmas Moments collections Grace Publishing has produced. I love that Gigi Graham writes the forward.

My article in Merry Christmas Moments is called, "Sharing the Gospel from my Exploding Closet." You can guess why. According to the Operation Christmas Child Website, “After receiving a shoebox gift, children have opportunity to enroll in The Greatest Journey Bible student course guiding them to what it means to faithfully follow Christ.” These boxes will bring joy to children in more than 100 countries around the world as they learn about God's love for them.

The boxes are quite an undertaking, but I love doing them. As I’ve written before, the way we are able to pack so many boxes is we shop all year at seasonal sales. My friend Dolly inspired me to do this. I don’t know how many boxes she packs, I’m sure in the hundreds, but she has turned her garage into Operation Christmas Child central and works on boxes all year.
So, get out there and pack your Operation Christmas Child boxes. You may not have shopped all year, but you can still do a few. Samaritan’s Purse has drop off locations all over the country. HERE is a link for them  and HERE is a link to the items needed for the boxes. If you don't have time to pack a box, they definitely take donations.
If you were wondering what to get your friends and family for Christmas, Merry Christmas Moments would make a great gift. It’s always great when you can give a great gift and help others at the same time.
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations" (Matt. 28:18-20).

If you're looking for a Christmas gift, Grace Publishing has an anthology called Merry Christmas Moments. I have an article in it entitled, "Sharing the Gospel from my Exploding Closet." Authors receive no royalties from this collection. Instead, proceeds go to Samaritan's Purse. HERE if you'd like to order.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

A sheep encounter and lying down without fear

When Jerry and I arrived at the football stadium where our grandson was playing one Friday night, we discovered that in conjunction with homecoming events, the school also offered activities for younger kids. This included bounce houses, games, and a petting zoo. The petting zoo caused me (a younger kid at heart at least) to veer off the stadium path.

I knelt, talked with a sheep who was lying down, and told her how cute she was--just a Mimi and a half dozen toddlers huddled around her. The sheep baaed contentedly in response. I think she understood me.

My thoughts turned to a book I’ve been rereading, the classic, A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm, by Phillip Keller. Keller grew up in East Africa watching native herders and later made his living as a sheep rancher. He uses his shepherding experience to draw insights into Psalm 23. I reached for the book while preparing a children’s lesson, and it had been years since I read it, so it was almost like encountering it for the first time.

There’s so much to glean from these pages, but I’ve been pondering his comments about  Psalm 23:2a, “He makes me lie down in green pastures . . .” Keller writes, “The strange thing about sheep is that because of their very make-up it is almost impossible for them to be made to lie down unless four requirements are met.” You can read the book to find out about other requirements, but I’ll focus on one of themsheep will not lie down if they’re afraid.

Since sheep have few ways to defend themselves, if there is even a small sense of danger, they will not lie down. Keller shares that two dogs have been known to kill 300 sheep in one night. He pens, “In the course of time I came to realize that nothing so quieted and reassured the sheep as to see me in the field. The presence of their master and owner and protector put them at ease as nothing else could do, and this applied day and night . . . In the Christian’s life there is no substitute for the keen awareness that my Shepherd is nearby.”

A quote from A.W. Tozer echoes this thought. “The only safe place for a sheep is by the side of his shepherd, because the devil does not fear sheep; he just fears the Shepherd.”

If fear has entered your life for whatever reasonfinances, health, family circumstances, or bad news, remember what Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life to the sheep” (John 10:11). By His side, we need not fear. He has made the supreme sacrifice for us. He is our protector, our provider, and the One who truly makes us lie down without fear.

Through the years, I have often gone to sleep with these words on my lips, “I will lie down and sleep in peace for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8). Until recently, I have not connected this verse to Psalm 23. But now, I get it. Jesus as the good shepherd makes this possible.

The football game announcer’s voice sounded over the speakers, and I knew game time approached. I said goodbye to my sheep friend and walked on toward the stadium, grateful for the sheep encounter and even more grateful for my Shepherd.

I'm so excited to share the cover of my new book releasing in January,
A Plan for Everything!

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

When Change is Hard

A lot of balls in the air, so I reached into the archives for this post, which seems relevant to me, at least. Maybe I need to read it more than anyone else this week.

My friend, Dolly, asked me to write on the challenge of change when we’re stuck in a rut and looking for fresh strength.  My sister, Tammy,  and I just had a discussion on that very subject last week.  

I can’t cover the whole gamut of the difficulty of change when we’re entrenched in our bad ways, so I’ll just address one of the most enduring challenges for me—and that is abiding with God in the middle of screaming external pressures.

In a Bible study, I’m currently doing, Priscilla Shirer says, “True abundance is really seen when you’re sitting in a prison circumstance, when you’re eye to eye with an impossible situation, and right in the heart of your impossible, you experience the fullness of God.”

So, the time to experience abiding and resting in God is right in the middle of a to-do list that screams to be done. Right here. Right now.

“But . . . , “ you say, “you don’t understand what I’m up against.”

We’re all up against. We all hear that voice that if we don’t get it done, the walls will cave in.

When I was trying to recover from Posttraumatic stress, people would tell me I was always in a hurry.

I was.

I was in a hurry to run away from the way I felt. But, of course, I couldn’t. I had to face it. Part of facing it was to stop, to be intentional about quiet moments. Often, I didn’t even want to sit, but I knew it was an essential part of my recovery. Instead of fighting the way I felt, I had to accept it. The way I felt wouldn’t kill me. In time, my legs and hands stopped shaking as I stopped fearing my feelings and the peace inside me grew.

We are the ones who often set ourselves up for shaking hands by our over scheduling and our excuses for not taking time outs. It’s almost as if we’re addicted to busyness. The time to stop that is now. The time for change is now.

And yes, we’re going to fail. Change is hard. But God’s grace is always there. I still struggle with hurrying, with feeling life is an emergency,  but God’s amazing grace comforts me in ways I can’t even explain.

I’ve been waking up singing this song for days. It’s taken from I John 4:4 " . . . greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world." and it helps me to know that the One inside of me is greater than anything screaming at me from the outside. And when we’re trying to find fresh strength, when we’re trying to change, these words are great news.
There might be a commercial at the beginning. Just x out of it to get to the song, "Greater," by Mercy Me.

I'm so excited to share the cover of my new book releasing in January,
A Plan for Everything!

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Saved from or saved in

A few days ago, I glanced at a green traffic light as I moved through an intersection. Just as I entered the cross roads, a black pick-up pulled right in front of me.
It seemed a black wall of disaster.

I stomped the breaks, tried to turn the car to navigate around the front of the truck, but it was useless.

The black wall rushed at me.

My tires screamed as they slid across the pavement and the scent of burning rubber assaulted my olfactory sense. I braced for impact.

Then . . .

The car stopped.

I leaned forward. My car was inches from the truck.

Shaking, I tried to take deep breaths. Yet, I marveled at how close I’d come.

I still had a ways to go before I reached home, but during that time, I reflected on all from which God saved me.

Later when I related the story to Jerry, he said an angel grabbed my back bumper to stop me.

I believe it.

Psalm 34:7 reads, “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.”

I had a very real sense of God’s deliverance and a memory of a mealtime prayer that day which contained a request for God’s protection in travel.

Metaphorically, our lives can be filled with something like that black wall I experienced when the truck pulled in front of me. It seems calamity is rushing at us at lightning speed. Yet, God gets the last word.

I’m well aware God does not always rescue us from something, but rescues us in it. If we belong to Him, he uses all that touches us for our good and His glory. Years ago, when I was diagnosed with cancer, God warned me in advance that I faced a big challenge, yet, he chose not to save me from it, but to work through it. That's what He did.

Every day we live gives us more reasons to praise Him for what He has done and is doing, no matter what we face.

So thankful, friends, to be with you today.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

The treasure she left behind

At our writer’s group meetings, we try to help every writer reach their goals. Those goals are as varied as the people a nurse practitioner works on an historical novel, a court interpreter writes a children’s book, a former executive secretary writes for a national magazine, a stay at home mom puts a non-fiction book proposal together, a bio-chemist pens a Bible study, a pastor inks a memoir, and the list goes on. Because I also write screenplays, we’ve even had a scriptwriter attend. However, some who come aren’t necessarily seeking publication.

Our friend Colleen was one of those. She wrote to capture her testimony for her children and grandchildren. She wanted to insure her family knew how God worked throughout her lifeto document His faithfulness. She understood memoirs are a hard sell to a publisher and their salability mostly depends on a person’s platform and reach, because publishing is a business. She wasn’t interested in developing that platform, so with that in mind, we tried to help her make the pieces readable, and always enjoyed when she shared one of them.

Three years ago, Colleen’s husband died unexpectedly, and the grief took a toll on her creativity. She dropped out of our group for a while, but a few months ago, Colleen returned. I was glad to see her writing, again.

At our meeting in mid-September, Colleen read a story about the peace of God. As always, the words were poignant. The gist was she decided not to let anything take away the peace God placed in her heart.

This past weekend, I clicked on a social media post. I couldn’t believe what I read. Colleen had died.

As I reeled from the shock of her unexpected death, I took comfort in that last story. It was as if she were leaving us with this message, “It’s fine. I have peace with God.”

Many people believe they should write a book. Sometimes our stories are for publication;  sometimes they are for encouragement to our families. If we are believers, the value of those stories is more than any other legacy one could leave and is worth committing to paper. Revelation 12:11 reads, “They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” The power of testimony helps us conquer the enemy. If you sense God’s leading in committing your story to paper, do it. Discipline yourself to write. In the writing, you too, may be encouraged as you revisit the faithfulness of God in your life.

Some operate under the delusion that we only write when inspired. No, we write as a discipline. We sit down at the desk and do what God has asked us to do. Of course, at times, we may have the feeling of inspiration, but we should not depend on that feeling alone to guide us.

Colleen was obedient to follow God’s leading. Because of her faithfulness, and despite her unexpected death, who knows what her writing might accomplish? What a treasure she is leaving. She has certainly left one to me.

Judy, another member of our group who raises butterflies will soon release one in Colleen’s memory. Dear Colleen, thank you for all you have meant to us. We sure will miss you.


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