Run on the Right Path

Fear motivates, and I run. What from?

A ghost? A memory? A potential confrontation?

A hard situation? . . .

People?

Instead of staying, I run. Instead of facing, I hide.

My desire: stop running from something. My choice: run to Someone.

When running from something, my head turns back. My eyes gaze on potential danger. My feet falter.

When running to God, my head stays forward. My eyes focus on Him. My feet uphold. The threat of peril disappears & safety abounds.

The environment persists. The situation continues. The potential confrontation lingers. But much has changed. Trust motivates. Truth triumphs. God prevails.

I am free to persevere through the trial as He leads or follow Him down a different road.

path 1

Can I clearly see the resolution? Not always. But the path is unobstructed. As long as I follow Him, my feet are secure and the answer is in His hands.

path 2

Corners are less menacing.

path 3  path 4  path 5

The unknown feels adventurous.

path 6  path 7

God’s guidance reassures—a friendly Presence.

path 8

And, while tomorrow’s answers may be a mystery, the ultimate destination remains the same—Paradise.

paradise

When faced with difficult situations, do you run from them or face them head on? What would it look like if you chose to run to God instead of running from something?

Back-out Barbie Battles Princess Barb

Identity_crisis

My back went out.

That four-word sentence contains much meaning and significance.

I struggled with chronic back pain for nine years. Then in March 2011 I underwent back surgery. Until recently I would have said (and might still say) I was miraculously healed. I was the poster child for this type of surgery.

So three weeks ago, when I felt a familiar painful pull in my lower back, old emotions and fears rushed back as reality soaked in. Hence, my original statement that much meaning and significance are wrapped up in the short sentence, “My back went out.”

I am uncertain how this will play out. I could be back to “normal” in a month or two.

Or not.

My mind is reeling with questions, my body has a life of its own, and my emotions are out of control. In the midst of this roller coaster, it has been difficult to pinpoint what is so bothersome—maybe because there are so many layers to unravel.

However, I managed to identify one worry: I don’t want to be “that person.” You know, the person who always talks about some issue or ailment he/she has.

“Nice to meet you. I’m Back-out Barbie. I have back problems.”

“I’m sorry, I can’t pick that up. I’m Back-out Barbie, and I have back issues.”

“Could you hand that to me? I’m Back-out Barbie, and my back isn’t cooperating today.”

“My children are unloading my grocery cart for me because I’m Back-out Barbie, and I can’t bend over.”

I don’t want people to whisper, “There goes Back-out Barbie. She’s got a bad back, and her husband and children take care of her.”

Back-out Barbie feels guilt, self-pity, and disappointment.

On the contrary, Princess Barb walks in her identity as a child of God. She knows her hope is in Christ and this world is not her home. Princess Barb immerses herself in her Father’s love and acceptance and, consequently, reflects His love and acceptance to others. They say, “There goes Princess Barb. She looks so much like her heavenly Father. Even in times of distress she smiles and radiates His love.”

The vigorous battle between Back-out Barbie and Princess Barb continues. I don’t know who will emerge moment to moment.

But I’m certain who wins in the end.

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” Phil. 3:20-21

Are you having an identity crisis?

What false identity are you battling?

Unwholesome Talk and Our Need for Filters

We watched God’s Not Dead last night. Part way through the movie a boyfriend (Schmuck, as Don called him) and girlfriend are dressed up and eating at a fancy restaurant. The man tells the woman he got a promotion at work. The woman looks at the man with fear in her eyes and says, “I have cancer.” There is a slight pause before the man says, “You couldn’t have waited until tomorrow to tell me this?” (Schmuck!)

It was at this point in the movie Kenneth spoke up, “You know how we all have a filter from our brains to our mouths? You know, something that stops you from saying things out loud? Well I think this guy has a giant hole in his filter.” I couldn’t help but laugh out loud.

I picture this brain-to-mouth filter as a screen. A properly functioning screen looks like this:

screen

 

 

 

Some of us have a screen in need of repair.

screen with tear

Just like the screen in my illustration allows unwanted wasps or bees into our home, the broken filter in our brains may allow inappropriate thoughts out of our mouths.

I think our uncaring boyfriend (who obviously has a hole in his heart as big as the hole in his filter) has a screen that looks like this:

screen with big hole

Only bigger animals and objects are going to be stopped by that thing. A rock could sail right through without slowing down. And those hurt! Almost as much as unfiltered thoughts sailing past our lips.

What does your filter look like?

Is it in need of repair?

Does it need a gigantic patch?

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Eph 4:29

A Way of Life

psalm 119

I stood on the porch and watched my eight-year-old son emerge from the house with his head hanging, mouth turned under and eyes focused on the ground. Moments earlier he had bounded into his dad’s (my ex’s) house to ask a question as I waited for the answer.

“What’s the matter?” I asked.

“I let the door slam and got in trouble,” was his reply.

“Well, you know what to do. Tell them you were wrong and seek forgiveness,” I stated.

“We don’t do that here, Mom,” my son informed me.

I remembered this scene a few months ago while teaching on reconciliation. The last point of the session was: make extending and seeking forgiveness a way of life.*

Many of us know what God requires and even practice His ways under certain circumstances (at home with our families, during Bible studies, and possibly with our Christian friends). However, outside a “Christian” setting (and sometimes within) asking for forgiveness, putting others first, or standing up for the undefended is awkward, uncomfortable, and frowned upon. It’s a sign of weakness, not strength. We fear ridicule and rejection so mumble through with a wimpy, “I’m sorry,” take a defensive stance or say nothing.

I don’t fault my son for living a dichotomized life; at his young age he knew no better. Yet we cannot be true followers of Christ by picking and choosing when Christian behaviors apply and when they don’t.

Let’s be people who proactively participate in God’s ways in the midst of life no matter where we are or how tough it may be. With the power of the Holy Spirit’s leading, let’s “do that here”—let’s make implementing Christian mandates a way of life.

*Victorious Christian Living Conference taught by Don and Barb Winters January 2014 – To download the teachings, go to the VCL Conference tab above the family photo

An Orphan Boy, A Pregnant Girl, and Teenage Rebellion: What’s the Connection?

Today my children and I finished a book about a boy who is orphaned twice, once as an infant and again when his family dies in the plague that hit London in 1665. As DCFS was non-existent at the time, this eleven-and-a-half-year-old boy is left to fend for himself. He is dejected and downtrodden, believing his life is worthless. The boy meets up with a man willing to help him out “temporarily.” This man is a wanderer who doesn’t necessarily care if he makes enough money today in order to eat tomorrow. And while he is a huge asset to the boy, the boy’s picture of himself remains one of bleakness.

Last week, I read a non-fiction book in which the author, a girl, fakes a pregnancy for her senior year project. This girl’s mom became pregnant at the age of fourteen, had seven children, and, later, birthed the book’s author out of wedlock. Most, if not all, of the author’s seven older siblings had children before their senior years in high school. The author’s project centered on the thoughts and feelings of teen moms as well as stereotypes and expectations. She believes a person’s image of him/herself and subsequent behavior is highly affected by others’ expectations and actions toward him/her. Even though the author had vowed to stay celibate through high school and was in the top 5% of her class, she heard comments like, “I knew it. It runs in the family,” when she announced her (fake) pregnancy.[1]

During Don’s sermon on Sunday, he held a Styrofoam cup in one hand and a crystal wine glass in the other.[2]  One is disposable, the other precious. Some people see themselves as the throw-away cup—useless, unnecessary. God sees them as the crystal wine glass—valuable, beneficial . . . priceless.

Yesterday I began reading a book called Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion against Low Expectations. The authors believe teenagers have underperformed for years because that is what society expects. They are calling for teens to rise above these expectations and excel—to push themselves beyond what comes easy, to take responsibility, come out of their comfort zones, and rise to their potential.[3]

How we see ourselves is paramount in determining the choices we make. Too many times we allow others’ beliefs about us to affect our choices. We tend to rise or sink to the level of expectations of those around us, forgetting that the truest things about us are what God says.[4]

And what about that eleven-and-a-half-year-old boy? He stumbles upon a mapmaker willing to teach him. In the process, the mapmaker sees in the boy the qualities and artistic skills necessary for making maps. At the end of the book this Master gives the boy a home and tells him, “To me you are of great consequence—an heir for my treasure. Not sacks of gold. I speak of the treasure in my head, my eye, my fingers. . . . You are the gift of God, an empty cup sent to me to pour my treasure into . . .”[5]

And so, you are of great consequence—you are the gift of God, an empty cup (crystal wine glass) sent for His treasure to be poured into. Do hard things—things that can only be done by the power of the Holy Spirit backed by the belief that you are valuable. Along the road, encourage others to rise above the status quo and display God’s wondrous power.

Ephesians 2.10


[1] The Pregnancy Project by Gaby Rodriguez with Jenna Glatzer

[2] For a link to Don Winters’ sermon Physical & Spiritual Blindness, click here.

[3] Do Hard Things by Alex & Brett Harris

[4] See Ephesians 1

[5] Master Cornhill by Eloise Jarvis McGraw

Something Similar to National Lampoon’s Vacation

beach at night

My beloved husband booked a short getaway for us recently. We needed to be in the St. Louis area Sunday evening, so he purchased tickets out of St. Louis Monday morning traveling to Cancun. I gloated (more than once—CANCUN! baby) about leaving behind the foot of snow and all my responsibilities and basking in the sun and gorging myself at the all-inclusive hotel we were bound for.

What Went Wrong:

Monday morning the flight attendant was late due to weather (freezing rain), so our flight took off late.

When we arrived in Chicago there was a plane at our gate, so we had to wait on the runway. We missed our connection to Cancun by ten minutes.

We were added to the stand-by list for three flights but none of them had room for us. (Yes, flights were flying in and out even though Chicago got 8 inches of snow that day.)

We paid for lunch (pizza), supper (pizza), and a hotel room in Chicago while also paying for our all-Inclusive room in Cancun. (I ate leftover pizza for breakfast.)

I chipped a tooth Monday night.

Tuesday morning our flight out of Chicago was delayed because computers were down.

Don at the airport . . . pretending to be on the beach

Don at the airport . . . pretending to be on the beach

When we arrived in Cancun we were told our suitcase was still in Chicago.

We hailed a taxi and drove 35 minutes to our luxury all-inclusive hotel only to be told our room had been given away and the place was booked. (I had called our booking agency Monday but had not been clued in to the fact that the hotel needed contacted to hold our room.)

The “sister” hotel they sent us to was 25 minutes away.

When we arrived at the new hotel, the lone restaurant open served pizza. (See my previous three meals.)

Our sunscreen was in our suitcase. We paid $35 for a tube at the hotel.

Unbeknownst to me, the red flags on the beach meant the waves were dangerous. The pull was so strong Don had to help me back to shore.

When our suitcase arrived at our hotel (Wednesday at 5 p.m.) it was missing a wheel.

On the way home (Thursday), our connection out of Houston was delayed because of severe storms and the drive from St. Louis was difficult because of high winds.

What Went Right:

The children enjoyed time with their grandmother.

A terrific friend encouraged me during our very long delay in Chicago.

I packed our swimsuits, flip flops, hats & sunglasses in the carry-on bag.

The “new” hotel staff and most of the (numerous) airline employees we spoke with were friendly and helpful.

I took a kindle loaded with books which meant I could read on the beach without my glasses (big font) and no worries of ruining a paperback book.

We eventually received our suitcase. (Don’t laugh – I still have a full suitcase that has been floating around out there since 2006.)

We spent 43 glorious hours at an all-inclusive resort with breath-taking views and enormous amounts of food.

cancun sunset  cancun sunrise

The weather in Cancun was perfect.

The food was yummy. (Yes, I eventually got something besides pizza.)

All of our problems were minor and inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.

No one was injured or in an accident.

I spent five days alone with my husband.

don and barb in cancun

We both maintained positive attitudes (mostly) and a proper perspective. (We know people living in countries without clean drinking water.) We also got along well and worked together to troubleshoot problems and help each other during the stressful times.

God blessed us with the means to take a luxury vacation (plus some unexpected extras).

Don and I recognized all along that these were first world problems.

Lessons Learned:

Pack the 3-1-1 items (including sunscreen) even though it is an extra step through security.

Don’t wear embroidered jeans through TSA security screenings. They set the alarms off every time.

Joy is found in the little things.

Cultivating and maintaining a relationship with our loved ones is more important than having a perfect vacation.

God is magnificent. I was awestruck by the beauty of the ocean, sun, moon, beach, flowers, trees, etc.

God is in the business of refining. He uses grandiose landscapes AND minor irritations to purify us.

God is in control.

I am grateful for God’s attention to detail and desire to maintain a close relationship with His children. After our last flight, Don overheard one of the pilots telling another airline employee that something on one of the wings was broken and hadn’t been working during our flight. Wow! That puts it all into proper perspective.

cancun beach

Loss and Sympathetic Grief

Loss and Sympathetic Grief

A friend of mine tragically lost her four-year-old niece a few days ago. When I first learned of the calamity, my heart sunk, grief rose, and tears flowed. No four-year-old should die.

I have never met the parents of this precious child, but as I processed the information and my emotions started to surge, I thought, “I wish there were some way I could transfer some of this young mother’s anguish to myself, to siphon some of the heartache.” If only hearing of the death of this beautiful girl moves me so profoundly, how extensive is the pain and sorrow of her parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles?

full of grief

Yes, I wish pain, grief, and sorrow could be measured like we measure water. And when it was on the brink of overflowing, it could be poured into someone else; thereby reducing the amount of distress felt by the original sufferer.

pouring water

I desperately want to help and at the same time recognize there is not a thing I can do (physically) to ease the discomfort, the agony.

Pain and grief are a part of life. No one can walk through it for someone else. That leaves those of us watching at a loss, feeling inadequate and ill-equipped (which probably explains why I skip out on most funeral services).

I believe God created me with an “extra-sensitive” feelings button. I easily “rejoice with those who rejoice” and “mourn with those who mourn” (Rom. 12:15). But the mourning feels unproductive and “less than.” If I had a measuring cup that magically reduced the hurting person’s misery by the amount of pain I feel for him/her, I could bear it easier.

shared grielf

But while I own no magic measuring cup, I know of One who can bear the pain—One who has borne the pain. Jesus is a “Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Is. 53:12).

My sympathetic grief need not be fruitless because I have access to the One with the answers. I have a direct line to the One who heals. I can throw myself at the throne of grace and ask for mercy to be poured out on the victim of grief. I can ask God to be the Vessel in which they pour their aches and pain. I can hope God’s healing will eventually come. I can rest in the promise that His complete healing will eventually come to those in Christ.

This is my prayer for this young couple and family still reeling in shock.

This is my prayer for those of you suffering from loss or unbearable pain.