Wednesday, August 28, 2019

An Open Letter to an Empty Chair

Well, Jay, I kept my appointment. I’m sitting here in the waiting room at STCH waiting on someone who will never come. Chris Tomlin’s song, “My Chains Are Gone” was playing when I walked in. I guess you also had an appointment to keep…it was just one you didn’t know you had.

As you well know, my pen was (and is) my shovel of sorts. It helps me dig down to the depths, enabling me to unearth what’s truly going on beneath the surface. But this week, try as I might, I simply couldn’t find the words. All my thoughts and emotions have stayed jumbled up inside, and today more than any other day this week, they’re finally springing to the surface and spilling out and over in the form of tears. A constant running river of liquid emotion.

Shock. Hurt. Disbelief. Confusion. Deep sadness.

There are occasional smiles mixed in with the memories today, for which I am thankful. But your home going left such a huge, gaping hole in so many lives! I am so thankful God’s presence and peace is bigger still. I know it will all be okay. You are at home with our Lord and reunited with your dad. You are safe. You are healed. You are whole. You are alive…more alive than you ever were here on this earth. I can only imagine the joy you’re feeling at this very moment. I’ve tasted it.

In a dream I had a few years ago, I was walking. I was outside, making my way down a gravel path that wound up and around some slight hills, with tall grass swaying in the breeze. I was looking for someone. I finally spotted them off in the distance and realized they were talking to Jesus. He looked just like He’s portrayed in pictures-long brown hair, wearing a white robe with a purple sash. Inwardly I cringed when I realized He would be able to see through me and would know my every thought. But I literally couldn’t stop myself from being drawn towards Him. He didn’t speak to me when I approached. I wasn’t interrupting- simply standing in the background waiting for them to finish. He turned His head acknowledging my presence and smiled at me as He continued His conversation. As I walked closer, I was completely enveloped in pure, overwhelming, utterly complete JOY! It was truly indescribable. It literally took my breath away as every fear I had immediately melted in His presence. I continued to feel that same joy for a brief moment upon waking before it dissipated. You are now living in that reality.

At your service on Saturday, Scott mentioned that at another funeral he recently officiated there at Parkway, someone did the math using the verse out of 2 Peter 3:8 that says, “But do not forget this one thing dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” The man figured that his wife who had been gone from this life for about 25 years had only been in Heaven for the equivalence of about 30 seconds. Jay, you’ve been gone from here a week now. Around this time is when I was given the gut-wrenching news you were no longer with us. You’re still being embraced in the arms of Jesus welcoming you home. You’re not even aware of what and who all you left behind. The Bible says in Psalm 116:15, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” Just as we look at the birth of a baby as precious and the doctors receive the baby entering this world with tenderness, I can just envision Jesus catching you as you slipped into eternity with the same loving care.

Now sitting in your office where the tears are streaming freely, fierce and hard. Gosh, I miss you, friend! I do not understand why He needed to take you away from us?! “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17 Or as another translation reads, “so a friend sharpens a friend.” You were my flint rock! Your friendship was pure. It was sweet. It was genuine. You weren’t faultless, but you were pure. You loved. You encouraged. You lead. You served…well. All of it well.

If I had to choose the epitaph on your headstone, it would read, “The love of Christ compelled him.” 2 Corinthians 5:14 Jesus is very clear that love should be our highest goal (1 Corinthians 14:1), and that in the end nothing else matters except for love (1 Corinthians 13 & Galatians 5:6). I’m not idolizing you, Jay. I knew better. And even if I were, you were always quick to point any incoming praise straight back up to Jesus. You were such a humble man. Talented, transparent, authentic. So, I know better than to put you up on a pedestal and try to create you into a fairytale character without fault or blemish. You shared your heart with me. You confided some things. You openly shared your struggles, questions and concerns. Yet more than anything, we always talked about the love of God. His faithfulness. His promises. Walking by faith and not by sight. Fixing our eyes before us and going wherever it was God was calling us to go. You have changed me for the better because you loved like Jesus. No guilt. No strings attached. No obligation. No judgment. Just acceptance, kindness, gentleness, respect, love.

Love, love, love, love.

The searing, radical love of our Father burned brightly in and through you, leaving me permanently scarred. My heart is broken, but in the words of a song we both loved so much, “May the scars I bear be sacred, this brokenness be real, may the wounds so deep within my heart reflect You as they heal.”

Lord, let your love be evident in all I say and do as I go forth from this place.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Fully Known, Fully Loved

Billowing sheets fresh from the dryer, popping in the air, then delicately falling, enveloping the mattress beneath. Watching my mom make the bed when I was little always enthralled me. Sometimes at night I would even remove the bedspread, crawl under the top sheet & kick it up into the air to watch it again and then to feel it gently cover me from head to toe in the process.

It dawned on me recently that this is exactly how I viewed John 3:16 - the most well known (and probably well loved) Bible verse of all time. At the risk of sounding sac religious, I believed it sounded like a blanket statement –vague and impersonal. “For God so loved THE WORLD…” As the sheets draped the bed, I envisioned His love draping the earth. It was nice and all, but my heart was hungry for more. I needed to know - did He love ME? Did he notice me? Did he really know me? Emotionally, I was ravenous, craving a love that was tailor made - formed, fashioned & fitted just for me; not only the world at large.

To be honest, my entire life I’ve struggled with believing I was loved. No matter the people I surrounded myself with (even my husband and immediate family), how long I held a friendship, or how hard I tried, at best I still felt like the fringe on a rug…never a central part; just loosely connected. At worst I felt overlooked, unwanted, pre-judged, cast aside, simply tolerated, picked over, or unknown completely. Ouch!

You too?

Thankfully though, that’s not how our Heavenly Father feels about us at all! One morning as I sat on my couch reading my Bible, God revealed to me how personalized and intimate His knowledge of and love for me really is. The last half of Psalm 139 verse 3 (NIV) stopped me in my tracks. It says, “you are familiar with all my ways.” I read it again…”ALL my ways.” I began mulling it over in my mind. What were “all” my ways anyway? I didn’t even know. But I felt challenged by the Lord to find out. So I picked up my pen and a blank sheet of paper and began to write. As I started listing off some of the more obvious things God knew about me (such as my name), a page full of more intimate & secretive facts also came gushing forth (like my weight among other things).

May I share some of them with you? As you read through this, I would encourage you to take the time to ponder over each individual thought; don’t hurriedly skim over them. Soak in the reality of His intimate knowledge of you personally. Savor the uniqueness of his love for you, and then relish in His delight over you. God, You know my thoughts.

You know my fears. You know my passions. You know my pleasures. You know my pain. You know my sorrows. You know my intentions. You know my secrets. You know my motives. You know my reasons. You know my excuses. You know my hesitations. You know my tears. You know my laugh. You know my calling. You know my questions. You know my doubts. You know my guilt. You know my shame. You know my pride. You know my insecurities. You know my limits. You know my desires. You know my struggles. You know my strengths. You know my talents. You know my weaknesses. You know my complexities. You know my absurdities. You know my expectations. You know my disappointments. You know my heartache. You know my failures. You know my successes. You know my grief. You know my addictions. You know my brokenness. You know my scars. You know my past. You know my future. You know my circumstances.

This is not an exhaustive list, but when I eventually ran out of words I simply sat in the silence, in awe of the depth of his knowledge of me. If others discovered some of these truths, I would be terrified, embarrassed or grieved. But this? This was freeing. I was at peace. I was in awe. I then heard Jesus say to me, “You are fully known and fully loved.”

And the same is true for you. No matter where you find yourself, what your circumstances may be, what you’ve done (or failed to do), and the list goes on, you can be confident in knowing you are fully known and fully loved by our Heavenly Father.

And that my friends, is a very soft place to rest.

Happy Valentines Day, my friend!

Friday, October 5, 2018


Twenty-two years ago today I was in a relationship that I believed would end in marriage. 💍 That’s what I wanted, that’s what I had decided, & therefore I was determined to make it happen. Unfortunately the guy I was seeing didn’t share the same dream. I was conflicted & wounded yet still very committed. Little did I know just a few hours later in the day I would cross paths with a man who had just ended a long term relationship that he assumed would also end in marriage. When he walked in the door of Baptist Temple that night to attend the Phillip Sandifer concert I was volunteering at, I immediately thought he was attractive & liked the way he was dressed (no, he was not wearing a T-shirt or flannel, jeans & tennis shoes). 😄 I was scared though too, because since I had started seeing the guy I was with, no one else caught my eye. Although we were over 1,000 miles apart at the time, I didn’t have any desire to look elsewhere. But instinctively I knew this was different. I will spare you most of the details, but three days into our friendship he knew I was the one for him. We officially started dating on Christmas Eve, started making wedding plans in February, got engaged in April (so we do things a little backward), & got married the following November - just 13 months after we originally met. We didn’t know then what God was orchestrating but I’m so glad I (eventually) listened to God (and the several others who were rooting for us to get together); including Lori & Irene for convincing Doug to let me go eat with the guys after the concert, Douglas for pushing me out of his car and onto the street at the red light so I would go ride with Paul in his truck, & to David (BeBe) for not winning the “argument” to drive me home so Paul was able to take me. 😄 Memories...😍

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Take Vs. Partake

Have you ever been so busy that you forgot to eat? Or perhaps you didn't necessarily forgo a meal altogether, but instead of sitting down at the table to enjoy nutritious & satisfying foods, you simply chose to grab something quick & convenient from a package while on the way out the door?

I've been there! This past Spring was a particularly busy time for me! In the midst of it all, I was asked to speak to a group of women I was working with organizing & planning a retreat. During this time, I had managed to keep a lot of my commitments afloat (or so I thought), but while preparing what I was going to say to them that night, I became keenly aware of how I had been allowing my family, my home, and mainly my time alone with the Lord to sink.

When I was originally asked to share with this group, my mind immediately dug up an old word picture the Lord had given me in the past, and decided it was the one I would use. But as I sat down to write it out, I felt the Lord impress upon me to "feed them fresh bread."

Due to the aformentioned lack of a regular "quiet time" with Jesus, I didn't know what this "fresh bread" was supposed to be or where it was to come from; and I certainly didn't have the time to sit & figure it out! Like the rest of you, I had a schedule to keep, appointments to uphold, friends to help, a family to take care of, and on & on it goes. The morning I was set to speak, God began putting all the puzzle pieces together for me, revealing the delicacies He had prepared. His timing, although perfect, certainly isn't mine! However, He is faithful, and I pray that what He fed me will also help nourish your soul.

The week before I was set to speak, I had prepared & taken a dessert to our weekly Monday night meeting. After the meeting was over, I went to throw away the disposable pans I had brought the desserts in, but saw the trash had already been taken out. I just decided to take them with me & throw them away once I got there.

As I was about to toss them into the trash after walking in the door, I noticed there were actually a couple bites left in one pan, so I thought I would save it & offer it to my daughter. But as I laid it back down on the counter, & noticed the crumbs left inside, I felt a twinge of guilt (and even embarrassment) that I was planning to offer these meager leftovers to anyone! It was in that moment I felt the Lord convicting me of feeding my family & my Lord scraps. Scraps of energy & creativity, scraps of attention, & scraps of time. Ouch!

In John chapter 13, as Jesus was having dinner with his disciples the night before he was crucified, it says in verse 27 that Judas "took the bread." Again in verse 30 it says, "As soon as Judas had taken the bread..." Notice he didn't eat the bread. He was simply going through the motions. Like me, have you ever been guilty of doing the same?

We've all heard this verse out of Matthew 4:4, "Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God." I've heard it so often, it seems to just skim over my brain without really allowing the full meaning of it to sink in. It doesn't mean we're simply to grab a quick bite out of our Bibles every day & go on about our business. We need to sit & dine with Jesus, allowing His words to penetrate our souls, transforming our minds & ultimately our hearts.

Jesus calls Himself the Bread of Life (John 6:35). In the same way we cannot live physically without eating food on a regular basis, it is impossible to thrive spiritually without daily ingesting the Bread of Life. We're not simply reading words on a page, trying to fill our minds with information. When we open our Bibles & indulge in His Word, we are actually partaking of spiritual food that will lead to transformation!

Psalm 90:14 says, "Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love..."

Psalm 103:5 says, "Praise the Lord...who satisfies your desires with good things..."

Psalm 81:10 says, "Open wide your mouth and I will fill it."

Jesus, our sustenance, our source of strength & life, the One who maintains our very existence is the only One who can truly & fully satisfy us. Food can't. Attention, fame & fortune won't. A prominent social circle & full calendar refuse. All these things we try to stuff onto our plates will ultimately leave us with nothing but an empty heart, and a gnawing hunger for more.

We have a choice. We can choose to rush into our days filling ourselves with mindless activities & busyness, or we can first fill our souls with the Bread of Life; but not both. I want to feast on the Bread from Heaven, our Manna. Will you join me?

Let's not trade eternal, heavenly treasures for simple, temporary, earthly pleasures

Monday, May 15, 2017

Learning to Love Like Jesus

Recently I heard someone say that if they could ask God for any one thing they would ask for a heart that always obeyed the Lord. Although there wasn't anything "wrong" with his answer, I want more than just a relationship built on rules & obedience. I want my obedience to stem from my love for & relationship with Him. Love is the highest goal. It is also the foundation. The motivation...of everything we do. The only thing that matters. A couple of years ago after having this realization stir in my soul, I began praying that above all else He would teach me to love like He does.

"If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing." -1 Corinthians 13:1-3

"All that matters is faith, expressed through love." -Galatians 5:6

The longer I walk this path, the harder it becomes at times. Especially when the hurt comes from someone you assumed would be...should be...on the same side as you.

It's so easy to love those who love you. But there is no growth in that...nothing learned.

"If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them." -Luke 6:32

But to love those who ignore you? To love those who dislike you? To love those who gossip about you & slander you to others? To love those who don't want anything to do with you? To those who just tolerate you? To those who take you for granted? To those who oppose you? To those who seem to intentionally resist your efforts at every turn? To those who continually hurt your feelings? To those who choose others over choosing you? Who assume the worst about you? And on & on it goes. There are so many other possible scenarios.

"Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance." -1 Corinthians 13:4-7

So instead of getting my feelings hurt & giving in to the temptation to retaliate, sulk, or nurse my emotional wounds, I must allow Him to love them through me...regardless of their motives (which are unbeknownst to me), & remember that:

1. They are not my enemies. "For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places." -Ephesians 6:12

2. To bless them & continue to pray for them regardless of their behavior. "Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you." -Luke 6:28

Easier said than done for sure.

But another thing I know and am sure of...

"Love never fails." -1 Corinthians 13:8

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

My God is...

No nice introductory paragraph here, explaining my long absence from the blogging world. Let's just get straight to the point!

My family is under attack...Spiritually speaking. I've come to realize that anytime God is at work behind the scenes, you can be sure Satan will be in the foreground causing problems-attempting to distract & discourage us, causing us to doubt! He will use any and everything he possibly can to get our eyes off Jesus! Whether it's circumstances, relational, or a combination of the two!

One of my favorite Scriptures lately is out of Psalms 50. Verse 23 says, "He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God." There are times when it's easy to thank God for what He's done or has allowed. Then are times like now, when the fiery darts are being shot from seemingly every direction, and it's hard to be thankful. But I know & trust in my God!

I am so thankful that my God is...

Able. He knows the Beginning & the end. He Cares. He's my Deliverer and my Ever-present help in trouble. He is Faithful and He is Good. He's my Hope. He is truly Indescribable. He and He alone is my Judge. He is the King of kings and the Lord of Lords. He is Mighty, He is Near, He is the Overcomer, and He is Powerful. He is the answer to every Question, and undoubtedly is the Restorer and Reconciler of all things! He's my Savior and my Truth. He is the Undefeated, Victorious Warrior who has given me His shield of victory! He is eXalted in the highest place, and being the Alpha & Omega, means He's my A-XYZ.

There is no one else like Him and I am so thankful He goes before me, preparing the way! No matter what comes my way, "The LORD is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving." -Psalm 28:7

I hope you know the same is true for you too! God is everything you & I will ever need...and so much more! Let me know how I can be praying for you, because we're all in this battle together! Just remember though, God has already won the war!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Are Your Angels Unemployed?

As I was lying in bed this morning trying not to wake up, I just had this thought/picture come to mind regarding angels. Not sure where it came from or if it will mean anything to you, but seeing as how I had yet another visual on angels a few years ago, I thought I would write them down to try & make sense of them for myself before I forget them...and if you get something out of it too, then all the better! ;)

As I said, a few years back, I had a dream...well, I hate to call it that, because I was awake. Similar to this morning, I was lying in bed right before getting up when this picture entered my mind. It was a skit. There were 4 men involved. One was standing near the top of a ladder and there were several empty boxes stacked on top of it. The boxes were wrapped in white paper and there was one word on each box written in big red letters. There was one man dressed in white representing one of God's angels and another man dressed in black representing one of Satan's. Last, there was a man down on his knees in prayer. He was praying for a new job, and the minute he did, a white box dropped from above (that had "JOB" written on it) and the angel in white caught it. He began to run across the stage to deliver it to the man in prayer, but was quickly stopped by the angel of darkness. They had their hands on one another's shoulders as they began to try to push one another in the opposite direction; the angel with the answered prayer was trying to make his way across the stage to the man, while the demonic angel was attempting to prevent that from happening. As long as the man continued in prayer, the "white" angel advanced. But when he would stop praying, getting discouraged because he hadn't received his answer yet, the "black" angel would advance. Eventually, the answer was delivered because the man was persistent in praying.

Upon waking fully, I thought of the Bible story found in Daniel 10:12-14 which reads, "Then he said to me, "Do not be afraid, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart on understanding this and on humbling yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to your words. "But the prince of the kingdom of Persia was withstanding me for twenty-one days; then behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left there with the kings of Persia. "Now I have come to give you an understanding of what will happen to your people in the latter days, for the vision pertains to the days yet future."

As this story points out, Daniel's prayer for understanding regarding what was going to take place in the end times was delayed because the two angels were "contending" with one another. Other versions of the Bible say the Prince of the Persian Kingdom "resisted" him or "withstood" him. Spiritual warfare is very real, people! Yet God is so good and so gracious that he has assigned His angels to watch over us. Check these verses out:

"For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways." Psalm 91:11 " What are the angels, then? They are spirits who serve God and are sent by him to help those who are to receive salvation." Hebrews 1:14

That second verse brings up what I saw this morning. There were a bunch of men dressed in white (in my mind's eye I knew they were angels) sitting around a big wooden table hanging out and visiting. Some were leaned back in their chairs, others were slouched over resting their heads on the table top. Each one was wearing a shoulder mic like policemen wear too. One angel walked through the room and asked what they were doing and one of them exasperatingly responded, "We don't have anything to do...!?"

You can call me crazy if you want to, but when I tie these two word pictures together, I say we (specifically I) need to be in prayer much more than I currently am! When we pray, God answers! He dispatches his angels out to help us when we call out to him! Are you keeping your angel(s) busy, allowing them to do the job God has assigned them to do on your behalf or are they getting to slack on the job for lack of demand? I want whatever help God has given me to be on active duty, not merely part-time time help...or worse yet, unemployed!