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Being Real in Life!

I flew to Little Rock this past weekend to speak in Little Rock at That Church. Yes, That Church’s name is That Church! Not a name you soon forget! Nor the people you encounter there. What terrific place.

I had dinner with the women’s team facilitators on Friday night after we flew in. They were so full of energy and love and joy – though some I talked to one-on-one, were carrying heavy, personal burdens. They had leaned the secret to the abundant life! They were also a hoot! Lots of laughter and you could tell they are truly all friends. I appreciated that they just took Krista and me in like we belonged. It was relaxing. Krista and I enjoyed ourselves.

When you travel like I do, you never really know what you’ll find on the other end. These are folks I communicate with by email or phone until I meet them at the gate. They are usually strangers to me but it doesn’t take long to figure out if they are “stiff and formal” or fun-loving and relaxed. I like both kinds of groups, actually. I have a reserved, formal side and people are always surprised to find I have a keen sense of the ridiculous. I don’t take myself too seriously.

If I am quiet and boring it is usually because I am exhausted!

Anyway, on Saturday I spoke to their women’s ministry “Real Women”. And they are. No pretense. No masks on. It was a joy to be amongst them. I gave my testimony and it was exciting for the first time to include the fact that my 7-year-old grandson was finally able to have the trach removed! He’s had it since birth. He was born with multiple issues – had an Apgar of 1. He has endured multiple surgeries, we almost lost him a number of times. But God is writing his story and it will be exciting – it already has been.

He spent his first few weeks and months of life at The DuPont Children’s Hospital in Wilmington, DE. What a great place! Then  spent many days at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Again, a great place. I am so grateful for the dedicated staff at both places. he has esophageal etrasia and bronchial mylasia. (I am sure I have spelled them incorrectly.) His case is quite rare; caused by a thyroid medication my daughter took before she knew she was pregnant. His case is written up in medical text books.

Through this long ordeal my daughter and her husband have been remarkable. So often having special-needs child destroys a marriage. In this case it didn’t. Yes, there were really rough days but they weathered the storms – not that it is ever smooth sailing.    Overtime they came to visit me they had to basically set up a hospital room: machines, ventilators, suctions, IV pole…  I was always amazed. My son when he saw al the equipment they had to bring at Thanksgiving said to me, “Mom, I didn’t realize.” They never complained. My daughter became his advocate and pity the poor doctor or nurse who got in her way. She is like a mother bear with her cubs. She is fierce!

Anyway, we are rejoicing that his trach is out – he no longer has a tether. (He still has his G-tube.) I am sharing a video of him taking it out himself, trowing it away and thanking people for praying. We are more than thankful for the way God has worked, is working, will continue to work. Rejoice with us!

 

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Potential

This was written by another but I wanted to share it!

“Ponder the potential of an egg. Ideally, under the proper circumstances of fertilization, the egg could become a baby chick. But just as most eggs do not become chicks – their highest fulfillment – so we, a humans, do not usually attain our highest dreams and ideals. Yet, all is not lost, for an egg that does not become a chick is still very useful!

Before this egg is useful, however, it must first go through various treatments. Initially, and egg just be candled and graded. In the candling process, a tube light shines through it to detect imperfections or cracks. It must have a healthy life cell. Just so, the searching light of the Holy Spirit must penetrate our inner life cell to be sure there is a new life cell in Christ and then to expose our imperfections.

Then this egg must be graded for size; some are small, others- medium, large and even jumbo. These are actually equally valuable in that there are occasions when a small egg is more desirable than a larger one and vice versa. Just so, each of us has varying capacities and gifts, but we are equally important and needful in the plans of God.

After the candling and grading process, the egg is boxed and then distributed warehouses and stores. The eggs have no say-so, but must go where they are sent. We, too, have assignments in life. Perhaps at times we feel all “boxed in”because of our circumstance in life. We may even be tempted to break out of the box – that confinement – but f we are to be useful, we must be patient and trusting.

After all this preliminary treatment, finally the egg is recognized for its importance; it is now taken off the shelf and purchased by a shopper. If only the egg new what lies ahead, it would undoubtably prefer staying right there on the shelf in the grocer’s cooler. Without any warning the egg is mercilessly plunged into a pan of cold water. And if that is not ruthless enough, it soon feels the flame beneath the pan. Gradually the water becomes hotter and hotter until it reaches the boiling point. The egg must wonder how it can possibly endure any more treatment – the fact is, some cannot…they crack in the intense heat!

By now, the egg must be asking apprehensively, “What next?” Suddenly it becomes aware of a cracking of its shell. And not only breaking, but then follows peeling – how humiliating! But that is the part of the process for our becoming useful – our outer shell must be broken. The self-protective facade must be cared so that the Christ life can be released from within.

The peeling is more distasteful than the breaking because of the humiliating exposure of our naked selves. How we resent others gazing upon our losses and failures.

“Surely, matters can’t get much worse for me than this!” the egg must be thinking hopefully. But it suddenly feels the sharp cuttings of a knife across its already peeled body. “Perhaps the chef is cutting me into attractive wedges so I might be used to garnish a salad…ah!…useful at last. But no…they are chopping me into small pieces.” the egg moans. And the eggs is mashed into nothingness.

Until we are aware of our nothingness – without God – we are not useful to God. So He supervises our candling, grading, distribution and then allows the fiery trials, the braking, peeling, cutting and mashing that we might become useful.

Now that the egg has been mashed into nothingness, the chef mixes mayonnaise, pickle, mustard, a little salt and pepper with it, and it becomes a delicious egg salad with which they prepare egg salad sandwiches to feed others! So as the processed oil of joy of the Holy Spirit blends our mashed nothingness with the life of Christ within, we become food and nourishment for hungry souls.”

 

By Ruth Shank Shira in her book, God Recycles Broken Dreams, 2013 ANM Publishers,Charlottesville, VA.22905

Scriptural references: Psalm 139:23-24; Romans 12:4-5; Micah 2:5; Psalm 37:23; Psalm 37:34; Isaiah 43:1-3; Psalm 34:18; I Peter 2:24;  John 3:30; Isaiah 61:1-3.

 

 

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Celebrity

In my country we tend to think “big” is better…bigger is best, biggest is even better yet! The larger the crowd, the more important you think you are. We focus on the size of houses, cars, bank accounts… We tend to be attracted to the flashy, to hype. The better the PR, the better we think it is. If  a person gets lots of press coverage we think they are important and what they have to say is relevant. Mr. Trump is a master at that!

I thought it was very telling when the Pope came to the US last year and he was driven – not in the regular big, black limo but in a small Fiat! It was fun to listen to the news commentators as they talked bout it. It was such an unusual sight to see a man the world reveres and whose fame is larger than most anyone’s, humbly riding in a small automobile! He was perfectly happy and content. I do have a feeling if he had had his way he would prefer to get out and walk among the people – the ordinary everyday people. He didn’t seem too impressed with the trappings of his status or the “important” people who flocked to shake his hand. I love that he visited prisoners and the handicapped. He was genuinely touched by the simple people.

I confess that I can be “impressed”. I do a double-take when a long black limo drives by…or I see someone step out of their private jet (I admit I do envy a private jet!)…but that’s not in my future anytime soon! We are infected with celebrity – even in churches. Often a church is known not by its denominational affiliation or missions giving or doctrinal position but by the pastor’s name and his status. We tend to mention how many books the pastor has published, how many members on the roles, how many Sunday services they have, the size of the ministerial staff…

I don’t have anything against success – far from it. I think it is great but it is not the way God counts success in His kingdom. If we read the scripture it doesn’t take long to realize God does things hind-part before! Backwards. Upside down. To live you must die. To gain you have to loose. You have to turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, give your coat and your shirt. Not what a PR firm would recommend for a successful business model!

Let me be the first to say, I think it is terrific when God grows a ministry, a business, a bank account by numbers. But it is not the only measure.

We like to think success is related to size – it isn’t. Success is related to faithfulness and humility and obedience. Ouch! People often tell me how God is going to honor my Father for the many who came to Christ through his preaching. And I am sure God will on some level. But I always mention God won’t honor the numbers but rather, the faithfulness and obedience of my Father. Just like He will honor the faithful school teacher, the faithful cab driver, dishwasher, small church pastor, Sunday school teacher. Those who serve His faithfully and obediently in obscurity.

Are you feeling obscure, unimportant? God sees your labor on His behalf. God is pointing you out to a great crowd of witnesses  saying, “Look at that one. They are serving me faithfully. That’s one of my trophies!”

I’d rather have that. As the dear soloist, George Beverly Shea, sang so sweetly, “I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold; I’d rather be His than have riches untold; I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands. I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand.  I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause; I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause; I’d rather have Jesus than world-wide fame. I’d rather be rue to His holy name. Then to be the king of a vast domain or be held in sin’s dread sway. I’d rather have Jesus than anything this world affords today.”

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I'm vintage but, I'm back!

I was unaware that I was “vintage”…on the verge, yes. But already there? Good grief!

On a recent afternoon I was editing an article I wrote when my computer shut down. I booted it up again. It shut down. I booted it up and, again, it shut down. It quit. As in “done”. Nada. Nothing. Gone. Over.

So frustrating. I called Apple. They were very patient as we tried a multitude of fixes. Nothing.

The tech asked me when I bought the computer. I told him I thought about 2007. He then surprised me by saying Apple considers such an old computer as “vintage” – then went on to say they no longer make parts or service such “vintage” machines!!

My only recourse was to buy a new computer…talk about “planned obsolescence”! Unfortunately I have been an Apple user since the early 1990s. I did my college work on the early Mac – the all in one unit. (It took me a long time to finish my BA degree! But that’s a story for another day!) My oldest daughter took it to college and finished her college work on it! Now, that’s vintage!

I even remember the first PC that used the DOS system! That wasn’t so long ago – I didn’t think. But I guess that makes me more than vintage!!

So to the Apple store I went. And after much discussion and going from store to store, I had to buy a new computer. All the while my work was piling up and I was getting frantic. Finally, I found a local place that sold and serviced Apple computers. I,  sadly, could no longer afford to replace the one I had. I called my sister, Anne, who uses Apple products, and asked which one she liked and why.

I settled on a laptop but now have to get a larger monitor so that I am not hunched over… I already have the wireless keyboard and mouse. (They’ll be vintage soon.)

I am not a fan of technology…I use it because I have to. Nothing replaces hand-written notes or phone calls or face-to-face interaction.

Anyway, I am back on-line!

I am so glad God does not determine we are “too old”, vintage”, to rehabilitate, redeem and use for His glory! As a matter of fact, He seems to like “vintage” – think of Abraham, Moses, Elisabeth & Zachariah… Age means nothing to God. He looks for willing and obedient hearts.

Now, when I look at that standard I know I lack but I am a “pilgrim in process” – not yet finished. God isn’t finished with me. He won’t be until He calls me Home! That’s hope!

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Prayer Circle in Washington, D.C. (some photos too!)

On Monday night I had the joy of meeting up with my friend Sarah who lives in Washington…she is so interesting as she knows the city well and little details you don’t get from a tour guide. On Monday evenings she a group of her friends walk around the impressive government buildings, praying. She asked if I would join them. I was more than eager to do so.

It turned out to be just the two of us…we walked from the Tidal Basin around the White House, Executive Office Building and the Treasury. (A prayer circle – read Mark Batterson’s book by that title.) It was a muggy night but beautiful. Official Washington D.C. is really one of the prettiest cities in the world. As we walked, we stopped at various locations and prayed aloud – to those around us it would have sounded like normal conversation – we were not making a spectacle of ourselves! But God heard us as we directed our requests, with thanksgiving, to Him.

The buildings and scenery are impressive but the people in them are not in control – contrary to popular opinion. God is. He is Almighty. He is the Creator. Sustainer. He sits on the eternal throne and He is holy, just, merciful and mighty. His plans are being carried out. What a comfort!

It was a special evening! (I have attached photos.) I felt honored, humbled and privileged. And overwhelmed by the needs of those serving in our government as well as the military. They have huge responsibilities and without God’s wisdom they just cannot do it well. PLease pray for all in authority – as Paul wrote to Timothy. He didn’t say we had to agree with them or even like them – we were to pray for them. And Jesus told us to pray for our enemies. And don’t forget Jerusalem! The need is even greater in these uncertain times.

Pray for Sarah as she faithfully does this week in and week out. What a dedicated precious young woman.

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Israel – What Can We Do?

I was reading Psalm 89 this morning. It mentions God’s faithfulness to His covenant with David. This Psalm is a powerful description of how God holds His covenant with King David.

My heart breaks for all that is going on between Israel and Hamas. Israel is fighting for survival – it is not invading just protecting itself from this evil aggression that threatens all of civilization. Our media makes Israel out as the aggressor – it is not.

As Christians we are grafted into the Jewish family – we are deeply connected to the soul & soil of Israel. We need to be in earnest prayer for them. (See my last post.) Israel is at the very heart of God and His people.

My friend, Lydia, has suggested we read the book of Deuteronomy. A marvelous, reassuring book for these days and made me aware of some excellent organizations that are working to aid those suffering in this tragic conflict in Gaza –

a) CMJ – has begun”Operation Respite” at all their guest houses in Israel to offer shelter and relief to families (Arab and Jewish) who are being bombarded by Hamas rockets. Pray for these efforts and funds to support the loss of income at the guest houses.

b) Fellowship of Christians & Jews – This group provides relief of every kind from bomb shelters, food, medical care, humanitarian & spiritual assistance.

c) Christians United for Israel – Is having their annual Conference in Washington, DC, to promote relations between Israel and America as well as between Christians and Jews. A Night to Honor Israel will held tonight, July 21. They will contact our senators, representatives and political leaders.

We can too…call write…your representatives. They need to hear from us. Our voice can be heard. And will be in heaven!

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Refugees

I have written about my oldest daughter and her family – I called them “my refugees” – living with me while their house was being repaired last year (3 weeks) and then again as the house they bought this year was/is being remodeled (8 weeks). I know they weren’t really refugees. They had a safe, dry, clean (that’s a relative term), cool (until the AC gave out of freon) place to stay. They didn’t have beds but we made do with soft pallets on the floor. They had a bathroom and a small yard of grass and beds of mulch to play in with very tolerant, pleasant neighbors. They had their family together.

However, it was a very difficult time for them – so much upheaval and uncertainty. The children were so good but the effects of the commotion and changes began to show. (I am so proud that they didn’t break one thing!) They needed their own beds and own space – as did my daughter and son-in-law. They moved out about 10 days ago. The windows no longer have finger smudges or lip prints, the rugs are clean, sheets and towels laundered, the furniture dusted…it’s quiet and orderly once again.

I am glad they had my place to come to – I hope they will remember these weeks with fun memories! With or without fun memories I am sure they will remember the chaos and dislocation.

As we went though all of that I have to think of the refugee children on our borders. The chaos, upheaval, fear, uncertainty – it must be overwhelming to a child. I wrote about some of this in my other blog at BeliefNet: http://blog.beliefnet.com/safeplacewithruthgraham/

I don’t want to get into the politics of it here…that’s not my purpose. I do appreciate my friend Glenn Beck’s going to the border with food and toys. “We’re going to fill some tractor-trailers with food, with water,” Beck said. “The churches have asked us if we could bring teddy bears and soccer balls, so we’ve loaded up a whole tractor-trailer of nothing but teddy bears and soccer balls. And then I’m going to go serve breakfast and lunch, and I’m going to help unload these trucks, hot meals for 3,000. That’s what we’re doing.” Read Matthew 25:35-40.

In my opinion that’s the right thing to do. Many also need medical screening and attention. This is a humanitarian crisis. However, we must act with discernment and wisdom. The politicians will do what they do…they are a mess. We must do what we can do – see these innocents, the true innocents, protected and helped to be reunited with their families.

If Jesus were on earth where do you think He’d be?

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The Unrelateableness of God

Recently I was thinking about my relationship with God. (And I am thinking out loud here…) I confess I sometimes treat Him too casually. I find Him easier to related to than Jesus – perhaps because I have such a loving earthly father.

But anyway, I was thinking about it in contrast to what the scripture says about His awesomeness. He is awesome in His terrible power. I cannot treat Him casually. God is not my “buddy”. He does not fit into my back pocket.

God is holy. Majestic. Magnificent. In Heaven, all in His presence fall down and worship. That is some Presence! The heavenly hosts cry, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty.” He is eternal – He is not affected or bound by time. He created all things. He has dominion over all things. Glory and honor, and power are His.

When Moses was at the burning bush God told him to take off his sandals because the very ground was holy. When Moses asked to see God’s glory, God said, “I, Myself will make My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will show compassion on whom I will show compassion. But He said, you cannot see my face, for no man can see Me and live.” God told Moses that he could not see His face. God put Moses in the cleft of a rock, covered Moses with His hand as His glory passed by. Once it passed, He removed His hand and Moses could see God’s back, not His face. God was being gracious and compassionate to Moses.

We are told that God and Moses spoke “face to face” as friends. Is that a contradiction? I think not. It is referring to relationship not exhibition.

How do I relate God? There is no way I can relate. It is only through Jesus that I can have a relationship with God.

But I am intrigued that in response to Moses wanting to see God’s glory, God talks about His goodness. Jesus told the rich young ruler, “There is only One who is good…” Goodness is central to God’s character. He, indeed, would be terrifying in His power and dominion (cruel and capricious) if He were not good. The apex of His goodness is Jesus. God also told Moses that He would proclaim the name of the Lord. How important is that name! It is a name not to be trifled with or used casually. We hear so much “OMG!” today. We have no idea what we are saying…He is the King and Lord of Heaven and earth…

I was at a church meeting last year when one of the denominational leaders said “Allah ” is just another name for God. That is absolutely not true. God’s name is above all names. As is His character.

Our love for God as “father” is only possible through Christ.

This may seem a bit rambling…I am developing my thoughts…but I know God only through Jesus. I am deeply humbled that God has chosen me in His Son and grateful to Jesus for dying on the Cross for my sins. How wonderfully good is all that!

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Visit with Paula Deen

Many of you may remember my blog about Paula Deen’s fall from favor last summer. I thought the attacks were highly vicious and unfair. Political correctness gone amuck. If we are all held publicly accountable for things we said 30 years ago, we’d be in sad shape. I knew at the time Paula Deen was no racist but the media decided she was and blew it all out of proportion. I was sad for her. My heart ached.

I didn’t know her and didn’t really know how to get hold of her. So, you may remember, I wrote an “open letter” to her last year. In March I went to Hilton Head and so wrote to her, presumptuously, that I’d love to drive to Savannah to meet her. No agenda, just show support and try to be an encouragement. It wasn’t possible at the time.

Last week I drove to Nashville with my daughter and her four children to visit dear friends who have moved there. It’s a long drive but the kids were so very good. My daughter was like a woman possessed! She was determined to get to Nashville in eight hours. And we did!

It was a fun trip. This is a 3 generational friendship…I have know these folks for 40+ years. I met them when I was living in Pennsylvania and expecting my oldest. The Lembrights are special to us – and well worth the 8 hour drive. Their daughter and 3 kids were visiting from California. We kept the kids busy and exhausted. One day we took all 7 kids to Franklin to eat at Maridee’s – it will never be the same! Fortunately my friend spent 30+ years as a first grade teacher so knew all about “crowd control”.

While waiting for lunch in Maridee’s I got a text from my business partner’s granddaughter who said, “Exciting news. Call me”. I planned to call after lunch. She then rang me on my phone so I took it. She told me Paula Deen was going to be in Pigeon Forge, TN to do a cooking show and she had contacted Paula Deen’s people. She mentioned my name and they said they’d love to have us come to the show on Sunday night and meet her.

Not a celebrity hound, I was a bit reluctant. But made arrangements to drive to Pigeon Forge – had to rent a car since my daughter had to drive on back to Virginia with the four children for a Monday event. (Did you know one-way rentals are outrageous. Hertz wanted $1000!! I used Enterprise for considerably less.) I was not happy with her driving alone but she is more than independent and capable. As they left, I “threatened” the kids to be good on the drive home!

I arrived in time at Pigeon Forge along with half the population of the East Coast! We were met by her delightful assistant who took us to a back room to wait for Paula – she was doing a “meet and greet” plus she is having difficulty with her eyes and needed some rest. Her Aunt Peggy came as did her good friend “Bubbles” and two very nice business associates who handle her food products. Such nice people! Sometimes the people around a celebrity can be really obnoxious. They couldn’t have been warmer or more delightful.

Paula eventually came we we had a good visit. She loves my aprons!! She is adorable and exceedingly gracious – as is her husband, Michael! She is as cute in person as she is on TV. We all fell in love with each one we met.

The show was great fun – we had a blast. And were able to meet with her after the show. Not sure where she gets her energy!

Please pray that she be able to get the rest she needs and her eyes heal – completely.

As I have said so many times, God loves to restore. And He is restoring Paula after a terrible episode in her life. With her new venture, I pray she will enjoy every success!

Paula Deen & Michael