Wednesday, December 13, 2017

How I Am Celebrating This Year

Every year, during the Christmas season, I attempt to experience the "old" story of Christ's birth in a "new" way.

During Decembers that I was pregnant, I easily identified and marveled at Mary's role in the unfolding of God's plan. In some years, the shepherds seemed to stand out a little more, while in others the whole, sleepy, unsuspecting town of Bethlehem seemed to speak to how God could be (and is) working all around me and I would be missing it - completely unaware of what amazing things He is doing.

Every December, as a family we gather in our living room around a small advent wreath each Sunday evening leading up to and including Christmas morning. Our girls call this time "Candlelight Christmas" as we light a corresponding candle for our themed focus. We've done this over the years to try and keep the girls' focus on Jesus instead of gifts, Santa or parties.

As I mentioned in my prior post, knowing that my personal Christmases of the past few years have just grown so overwhelmingly busy and even chaotic, I wanted to make sure that this year I was able to meaningfully experience and celebrate a joyful, Christ-centered Christmas season.

Little did I realize the spiritual battle I was entering into . . .

Of course Satan IS trying to distract me with all the familiar temptations - expectation, worry, stress, busyness. . .

I am attempting to battle back with prayer, worship and scripture.

In my prayers, I am confessing that I am not able to do this. I am asking that God will help me to discern and accomplish what is really important. I am thanking Him that He is growing me and teaching me more about Him in and through all this craziness.

My worship has been enriched with some new-to-me Christmas WORSHIP songs this season. Don't get me wrong, there is a TON of solid, worship-filled, rich-in-meaning classics out there that I cherish - but this year, He is speaking to me by teaching me some new ones. I downloaded Chris Tomlin's "Adore: Christmas Song of Worship (Live)" and I cannot get enough of this album. Tomlin did not include "Jingle Bells" or "White Christmas" so a trip to the mall or the grocery has transformed into impromptu worship services on my way to wherever I am headed.

If God has taught me anything in 2017, it truly has been the overwhelming truth that His Word is powerful, transforming and needed. The 10-15 minute devotional time I am spending in the mornings has been encouraging and essential for combating and resisting the very real temptations of giving in to the whole idea of wishing this entire month away.

I just "happened" to stumble upon the advent devotional book I am using: "Unwrapping the Names of Jesus" by Asheritah Ciuciu. It is not wordy or long but it is solid. Not only has she provided the basis for our "Candlelight Christmas" devotionals, but the daily readings have given intentionality for my spiritual focus this December. Each day I am taking a look at a different name Jesus was either given or gave when He was telling us who He is.

As a result of the prayers, the praise and the powerful Word of God, this Christmas season I am learning and realizing more and more the amazing gift God has given us in His Son. The worship songs urge me to "Adore" the newborn king. My focus this advent has become Jesus Himself - not the people or the prophecies around His birth story - but He, Himself.

Last night on my drive between my local Walmart and my daughter's dance lesson, I found myself wiping tears of joy off my cheeks. The Holy Spirit was answering my prayers. God was giving me more of Himself to experience and my heart was overwhelmed - not by stress or worry- but by the amazing gift He gave of Himself.

There, on Madison Street, He broke through the noise and the busy. He met me where I was and I am not the same, neither is the rest of my holiday season. I am not saying that everything is done and I have it all completely under control or together or tied up with a bright, red bow...  But I have been given the gift of His presence, here with me, and I claim His joy through it all.

Monday, December 11, 2017

What ARE We Celebrating?

"What are we celebrating?"

I ask this question over and over again to my daughters, to my preschoolers and teenagers at church AND to myself . . .

The struggle is real and the spiritual battle is on. . . . .

The weekend after Thanksgiving I watched a couple Christmas specials with my kiddos. Neither mentioned Jesus, but both were centered around the idea of celebrating something.

The first was a VERY familiar, "older' cartoon where a certain green goblin attempts to rob the town of their Christmas by stealing all the things the people would use to acknowledge the holiday. He even nabs the "roast-beast!"

The people, without all the trappings, still gather and sing proclaiming that the reason of their holiday can be found within as they stand "heart-to-heart and hand-in-hand." They celebrate the love they have for each other and the "higher" ideals beyond the gift giving and receiving. The Grinch is SO touched that his heart "grows," his crimes against the townspeople are forgotten, and he is given a position of honor as he carves the before mentioned roast beast.

The second "Christmas" cartoon special was this particular franchise's holiday premier. It had some funny moments, but overall, I was not too impressed. The plot consisted of one group of characters trying to invent a holiday for the other group of characters to celebrate. Most of their ideas were pretty frivolous and downright cheesy when the second group realizes that they should celebrate their friendship with the first group. What could be better to celebrate than good friends?

As a Christian, I sat there almost dumbfounded at how confused and blinded the world is. If they take Christ out of Christmas then the holiday celebrates friends or family or tradition or good deeds. Our culture talks of the Christmas spirit, but they mean anything but the Spirit of Christ. Since they don't know the true Spirit of Christmas, then how can they celebrate it?

So I began to think about how I celebrate the coming of the Christ child. Before too long, I began to feel convicted. If someone followed me around or, worse yet, could hear the dialogue within my mind, could they tell any significant difference in how I acknowledge the season than someone who doesn't profess Christ?

My to-do list is seemingly endless. My calendar overwhelmed. My mind fried from trying to remember who is supposed to be where bringing what with them when. Confused? Yeah, me too!

Here, we have the BEST reason ever to celebrate - God has come to live among His creation, but even the most faithful among us can get easily swept into all the festivities that we can become separated from what we were intending to commemorate in the first place.

Like a parent that becomes separated from her child in a large crowd, assuming that he was with her all along, she turns to find him missing but has no idea how long he's been gone. Despite my best efforts - including buying and reading a daily advent devotional along with planning ahead as much as I can- this mother's desperation to hold on to and find her child could pretty accurately describe me at some various points on any given day this December.

Should I make our celebrations more simple? Should I practice saying "no" over and over again? Should I delegate some responsibilities to others?

Yes, probably . . . but I don't want to disappoint anyone. What if I let someone down?

Then it dawned on me. This struggle is not merely an internal one, but I am in a very real spiritual battle. If Satan can hide the true reason we are celebrating among all the tinsel and all the trappings -of course he would. If he can conceal the real reasons Christ's birth was SO spectacular to even those who tout the slogan "Keep Christ in Christmas!," why wouldn't he? Like a "Where's Waldo?" illustration, even the "good" Christmas sentiments pale in comparison and others are revealed for the folly they contain.

I don't have any step-by-step advice or even practical tips for keeping the "main thing the main thing." Honestly, I don't think I can add any more to my plate right now. I am definitely not looking for a quick fix - but.... how do you remind yourself what you are celebrating?

This Christmas I am learning and leaning... I am learning to stop and be in awe of Christmas by trying to really look for Christ AND I am leaning on Christ to keep up with this frantic pace, trusting Him with the dawn of each new day to be in the details and provide like only He can.

I wanted to grow spiritually this holy season. I just never imagined the lessons that God would teach me would begin with two secular, animated, 30 minute shows on TV. I guess it just goes to show that God can use all this frivolous stuff to still point us to Him. . . Like Waldo on the page, we can still find and acknowledge exactly what we should be celebrating this Christmas.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Going To See Mary Winkler

I had planned to share this story with you all at The Good Cup in November but my time ran out.  (Time running out….what a weird phrase!)  To be honest, I have often thought about sharing this journey many times but never have…maybe because it is so hard to explain all that happened and all that God did as a result…maybe because it is so personal to me…maybe it is because I am not sure how it will encourage, help, strengthen anyone.  Regardless, I am sharing it now.

Going to See Mary Winkler

Saturday, March 25, 2006

I was driving….driving….driving…going nowhere really….just driving and talking and crying out to God.  My heart was broken and I desperately needed the One who gives me all comfort.  (I was running away from home.  Which I do periodically and I highly recommend it for you too!  Insert grin here.)

I was needing a Word from Him.  I had nothing in me to teach for Sunday school the next day…and I had nothing in me to speak to the group of ladies who had invited me to speak the next night.  I was desperate for the Lord. 

I drove and prayed and worshipped

Somewhere in there…God convicted me that as I was teaching the ladies in Sunday school the spiritual gifts…I had been focused more on the gifts rather than the Holy Spirit.  I sensed this was something important.  That God was wanting to get my attention on this.  I repented for not knowing the Holy Spirit like I should…for not experiencing the power that is mine from Him…

During this thought process…and while I am driving to nowhere…I sense the Lord…God…the Holy Spirit…telling me to go to Selmer, TN and see the woman who had been all over the news for several days.

She was a pastor’s wife, from a town just 30 miles from where I lived…who had just recently confessed to shooting (and killing) her husband and running off with their three young daughters.

She had been on my heart and I felt God leading me to go.  Of course, immediately rationale set in. 

“They won’t let me see her.”
“I don’t know where the jail is”
I don’t know what to say to her
It is too far (I ended up driving for an hour and a half which would have been what it would have taken me to get there!!)

And so on…

The rationale won out and I continued to pray for God to reveal to me His power! (Crazy huh?  Wanting power without obedience!)

At home that night…I began searching scripture for teachings on the Holy Spirit.  I wanted more of God….and as I read much of the passages referred to the Power the Holy Spirit brings.

That is what I wanted!  More power!  Mark 12:24 says “Your problem is you don’t know the scripture and you don’t know the power of God”!  True!  And I want to know!!

A peace began to come over me throughout the night and as I taught Sunday school.  I confessed to them my sin of focusing on the gifts rather than the Holy Spirit….confessed my disobedience on not going to see the woman in jail….and confessed my desire to move out of this mediocre faith and for Him to work in our midst.

As I left class…I decided to not stay for our second service (I had already gone to the first service...just in case you thought I might have skipped out totally!  Grin) because I needed to get home to prepare for what I was to say that night.  I had an idea of what God wanted…but was not convinced. (I had even driven by the church the day before in my “running away from home tirade” thinking that being close to where the ladies were I could hear what God wanted me to share!  Crazy!)

I first drove through McDonalds to get a Dr. Pepper and then as I started home…the Holy Spirit compelled me again…

“Go to Selmer and see that woman.”

I had a choice to make….was I going to do like I did the day before?  Choose what makes sense and what was rationale?

Or was I going to say “yes”?

The same doubts and questions came….but I knew that if I was ever going to experience the power I was so desperately longing for…if I was going to know this Holy Spirit that indwells me…I had to say “yes”.

So instead of turning right to go home to prepare….I continue down Highway 64 towards Selmer, TN.

There is no fear….just peace knowing I was doing what I was being asked to do.

That morning in Sunday school someone asked "how can we know if when something like that comes into our minds…if it is the flesh or if it is the Holy Spirit?"  Another answered…”is the flesh even capable of asking us to do such things?”  Great questions!!  For me…in this situation…I knew it could not be the flesh because my flesh is not capable of suggesting I drive to Selmer, TN and visit a lady I don’t know in jail.  My motive was pure…I just wanted to get this bossy Holy Spirit off of my back!!

As I drove…the same questions and doubts arise…and I am constantly wondering…

How will I find the jail?  I have no idea where it is.
I don’t even know her name.
What will I say to the “jailer”?
What will I tell them I am there for?

About 15 minutes into the drive…I realize I had not even prayed!  How can that be?  How can I be doing such a “God” thing and not pray?  So, pray I did!  For her…for whatever it was God was bringing me to Selmer for.

I get there…not knowing where the jail is….and drive through town looking…drive around the court house looking….driving everywhere looking.  (Interesting that I am the “queen” of stopping and asking directions…but for some odd reason that was not an option.  Was it because I wanted God to do it all??  I really wanted to see His power?  Or was it that if I could not find it, I would not have to go through with this!!??  Obviously, this was before smart phones with map apps too!)

I find myself all the way out of town…no jail.  I end up on the bypass that takes me back to Bolivar.  To be honest I am relieved.  Perhaps God wanted me to just be willing.  That He was not really requiring anything more of me.  Like Abraham and Isaac…God tested Abraham to show him his faith.  But…part of me was disappointed.  I really had wanted to see the power of God.  So a combination of relief and disappointment washed over me as I headed back towards home. 

Just then….to my right….I see the Henco Furniture sign (A familiar business in west Tennessee)….and a large building that says “McNairy county justice building” or some such thing.  Is that a jail?  Could they not call it what it is?  I am passing it and still not sure until I see barb wire.  That’s it!!  God led me to the jail!!  He did it!! 

Now I had another choice to make.  Do I continue along the way or do I finish this?  I can’t stop and turn around…I am on a four lane bypass with no turn around for a while…so I had plenty of time to think about it.  What was I going to do?  I knew I had to finish this.  God had not brought me this far for me to quit!  I wanted to see His power!!

So finally I find a place to turn around and pulled into the parking lot of what I am assuming is a jail.  The lot is surprisingly (and thankfully) empty.  I was fearful there would be lots of media, etc. but, shockingly, there was no media cars or trucks around.

I walked into the building and saw no one.  Straight ahead of me was a narrow hall with a metal door at the end with a sign saying something about jail visitation.  I was in the right place!!  To my right I see bathrooms…and because by now my stomach is in knots…I make a bee-line for the nearest stall!!

I must stop here and put an interjection.  I did not have….nor have I yet….had any speculation about what happened in this case.  It never even crossed my mind if she was guilty or innocent.  I did not care about the ‘facts’.  I just knew that there was a young pastor’s wife who had three small daughters and a dead husband who was in jail and I was compelled to go. 

It was so strange to me that this was national news.  That I was reading about this in the newspaper and seeing it all over the news.  It seemed strange because it was/is so personal to me.  She had been on my heart ever since I heard it.  In fact, I was driving with Lana Rose across Tennessee (we were providing computer training for Ministry Assistants) when I first saw the Amber alert sign over I40 warning of the missing girls and mother.  The second I heard she was a pastor's wife I was burdened and it was personal.

Back to the jail.  When I first got there, there was no one around…but after I left the restroom and walked back into that hallway to the door labeled “Jail Visitation” I saw a small boy sitting on a narrow hard bench right outside the door.  I asked him if he knew how to get through that door…and he said his grandmother just went through it.  (That boy is implanted on my mind and heart as I am sure his mother or his father is in jail and he is dealing with their choices.) 

I try the door and it is locked.  The boy insists that all his grandmother did was walk in!  Not me!  It is locked!

I turn around and see a woman walking into the building and heading straight toward where I am standing.  She asks me what the jail protocol is!  What?  Me?  I have no idea what I am doing much less what the protocol is!!  She then asks "Are you here to see Mary Winkler.  Thank you Lord!  You provided me her name!  Now I know her name!!

Because I am sure she is a friend of Mary’s or a church member or family member, I am somewhat embarrassed to tell her that, '"Yes I am,  but I don’t know her...I have just driven from the west to see her."  Just as soon as I get the words out, she tells me she does not know her either!  That she has driven there from the Nashville area!  Tears fill my eyes we immediately embrace.

Just then a guard appears and asks us who we are there to see.  Now that I know her name, I confidently tell her “Mary Winkler”.  Immediately she tells us we cannot see her nor can we leave her a note.  We could mail something to the jail if we wanted to contact her.

I wanted to yell out….”BUT THIS WOMAN HAS COME FROM THE EAST AND I HAVE COME FROM THE WEST AND WE MUST SEE HER!!”  But before I could…she disappeared behind the metal doors and I was left standing with this new kindred spirit God had brought into my life.

Neither one of us could tear ourselves away from that small area and so we sat down on the hard, narrow, metal bench.  I looked in the eyes of this woman and asked her “Are you a pastor’s wife?”  She said “I used to be”.  She had been married to a very abusive, cruel husband/pastor.  As she began to tell me her story of pain and loneliness and fear, I knew she was one of the reasons God sent me there.

We each shared our story of why we were there…and both used the same word …compelled!  We were both compelled by God to be there.  She left at 7:30 that morning from Dickson, TN and I left later that morning and we both arrived at the same time. 
It broke my heart to think that just a few feet away behind steel doors and bars was a woman, in jail, alone and scared, who had no idea that God had compelled two women to come for her.  Tears flow even now as I reflect on that moment realizing that God does much that we have no idea He is doing.  That He compels people to act in our behalf and much of the time we have no idea.

I have not seen that woman since that day and I have long forgotten her name and her face, but I have not forgotten her.  She and Mary both represent women who are married to pastors and who struggle.  Women like them will forever be a burden I carry to the Lord.

There is more to this story….and I might share it later this week….and even though I never did get to see Mary, I communicated with her by letter until her trial was over.  I prayed for her a lot…and still do as He reminds me.  To me she represents all ministry wives who are struggling in silence…and I pray for them/you.  You are not alone. 

Side Note:  One of the rationales I have a tendency to give whenever the Holy Spirit asks me do something crazy is “I can’t stop and go see everyone who is in jail.”  Or “I can’t stop and pick up everyone who is walking along the side of the road who might need a ride.”  Or “I can’t befriend every homeless person!”

What I am hearing God say to that is this, “Dana James, I am not compelling you to go see every woman in jail…or offer a ride to every person walking on the side of the road….or befriend every homeless person.  I am compelling you to go see her!  To pick that one up.  To befriend that homeless person.”

You are not alone.  You are not forgotten. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

What is Next?

Wow!  It has been nearly four months since I have written/posted.  I’m pretty sure I have been fired….and deservedly so.  Every time it has been ‘my turn’ to write….I had nothing to say.  Or at least that is what I told myself.  Perhaps the real truth is I had plenty to say….I just didn’t know how to say (write) it.  Or I had plenty to say but I simply did not think anyone cared to hear (read) what I had to say.  Or I had much to say but did God really want me to say it?  Or I just didn’t want to write?  Regardless, the result was that I said nothing.  For nearly four months.

Today I have much to say but the same thoughts as above haunt me now….along with many others.  Where to start?  How to finish well (just in case I am fired)? 

Maybe I will start with how to finish well.  That has been a statement I have said out loud to my husband a lot these past few weeks.  You see, a few weeks ago he told our church that he was ‘retiring’ at the end of December.  What in the world???  ‘Retiring’?  What is that?  That is for old people.  Besides that word is not even biblical! 

We have been in full time ministry for 42 years.  42 stink’n, awesome, hard, crazy, busy, amazing years.  Now what do we do?  What is “next”?  The answer?  We don’t know. 

Truly, I never thought this would ever happen.  It was not anything that was ever on our radar.  In fact, each time the topic would come up in our discussion…..the discussion would last about five minutes.  Nope, ‘retirement’ was not for us.  Ever.

But God.  We have no idea why or how or when this happened but we both agreed that it was ‘time’.  Time for us to step away from serving our current church.  Time for us to stop and seek God and see what He has for us ‘next’. 

This is so new for us.  Every time we left a church it was because God was sending us to another one.  We always have known what was ‘next’.  Not now.  We have never left a church without leaving the town so this is also new….and awesome!!  It’s so hard to leave a church you love and where you have invested blood, sweat, and tears in and then leave them to invest in strangers…who before we know it, have become ‘our people’. 

For us, for now, we have no plans to move (but God might and that’s OK)...besides, where would we go?  We determined right away, for the betterment of our church and their new pastor, we will need to find another church to go to and to serve.  How do we do that?  We have NEVER looked for a church to go to!  God has always sent us to one to serve!!  Will that change?  Probably not!  He is still in the business of sending!!

Shockingly, I am not fearful or anxious or stressed about not having a paycheck.  Crazy, I say, crazy!!  I am excited and have much peace.  Granted….that might change tomorrow because that is how the enemy works….he does not love for us to be excited and/or have peace! 

Between you and me….I can already feel and see the stress and pressure of ministry slowly seeping out of us both.  I can tell my husband has so much more freedom as he preaches since he does not have the ‘business’ or the politics of the church on his plate/mind/heart.  He can preach and teach and love people!  No finance meetings.  No personnel meetings.  No weighty meetings!  Just preaching, teaching, loving.  What a novelty! 

As much as it is true that I am super excited to see what’s ‘next’….I am also quite reflective.  Forty two years, five churches, countless people.  I have often spoken and written about my feelings of inadequacy as a pastor’s wife….and truthfully don’t often see myself as one….yet that is all I have known for the past 42 years.  As I wrote in August...who am I? 

I have also taught two Bible studies in our churches every week for forever… what?  Is He done with me? 

As you can see I have many questions.  Many unknowns.  Many thoughtful moments as I ponder this new season.  What I do know is that He has a plan.  He will provide.  I must trust.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Thankful, Grateful, Blessed-Part Three

If you have followed my post the last couple of days, you read a little about my girlfriend who has Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA).  You also know that RA can cripple and leave a person feeling useless.  My sweet friend loves baking delicious decorated cookies.  When RA hit her, the baking and decorating stopped because she could not work her hands.  However, she did not let this fact get her down.  She kept her eyes on Jesus and repeated her motto, “Thankful, Grateful, Blessed.”

Today we will briefly inspect our last word.

Blessed-divinely or supremely favored; fortunate bringing happiness and thankfulness.

I found another great quote that really hit home with me.  “Talk about your blessings more than you talk about your problems.”  This is so true!

We all have our issues.  They range from health to ministry issues.  However, we, as believers in Christ, are blessed beyond measure.  We do not deserve anything.  Yet because of God’s love for us, we are children of the King!  Girls, we are God’s little princesses!  Talk about blessed!

Yet there is more to be blessed about.  My friend, who is struggling with RA, keeps going because God is her constant companion.   She shares, “I am thankful and grateful that He (God) listens and hears my voice.  That He has given me a loving family, brothers and sisters in Christ, that care so much for me.  When I feel I can’t go on, he gives me hope.  I am truly blessed beyond measure to be a child of the Living God.”  God has not forgotten her, left her, however, he has enabled her in this time to inspire and encourage people through her continual witness.

 Girls, God never leaves us when ministry or life is hard.  He does not forget us when our pain is great.  His love for us never fails.  No matter our struggles or joys God is always in the blessing mode even when we do not see it.

Let me leave you with this cute saying about blessings:

B-Begin your day with

L-Love in your heart

E-Expect Blessings

S-Share goodness

S-Shine like the Sun (Son)

I-Inspire someone

N-Never forget that

G-God is with you all the time

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Thankful, Grateful, Blessed-Part Two

I shared in my post yesterday that a friend has Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA).  When asked how she is doing, she always says, ‘Thankful, Grateful, and Blessed.” When my girlfriend responded to my question of what being grateful meant to her, she sent Psalm 116:1-14 to me.  As I read those words, verses 3-6, spoke volumes:

“The cords of death entangle me the anguish of the grave came upon me.  I was overcome by trouble and sorrow.  Then I called on the name of the Lord: “Lord, save me!” The Lord is gracious and righteous, our God is full of compassion.  The Lord protects the simple hearted when I was in great need, he saved me.”

Today, we will examine the word grateful which is similar to being thankful but I believe it goes deeper.

Grateful-warmly or deeply appreciative of kindness or benefits received; thankful; refreshing, welcome.

While reading the meaning for grateful, one word leaped off the page-“refreshing.” Have you ever been so weighted down with the yuck of burdens that you literally could not sleep?  With the lack of sleep comes stress, illness and a host of more maladies.

I have learned there are times my prayer life becomes empty words.  I become restless.  My soul is not a rest.  When this happens, I “force” myself to express my gratefulness to the Lord.  I do not ask for anything from Him.  I simply praise the Lord for what I am grateful-family, home, food, good health, clothes, vehicles, ministry (in the good and bad times) and being able to think.  You know what I have found?  It is in the grateful mode that the Lord provides rest for my weary soul and freedom from my burdens.  Ah, a refreshing and welcome peace overcomes me!

I found this quote that I love: “Being grateful does produce blessings.”  Yes, it does!

Girlfriends, take a moment today to express your gratitude to the Lord.  If you are in the midst of a dark time, simply take a breath and then thank the Lord for it.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Thankful, Grateful, Blessed-Part One

“Everything in my life seemed to stop.  Everything except the love of the Lord. I prayed.  I asked others to lift my name up in prayer.  God heard our cries.  He has carried my through, and He isn’t finished with me yet.” 

These are the words of my 49-year-old friend who was diagnosed in June with a very aggressive form of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA).  It has affected every aspect of her life from caring for her family to simply walking to the bathroom.  Everyday task like brushing her teeth and fixing her hair bring her to tears due to the pain in her hands and fingers.

When asked how she is doing, this girlfriend smiles and replies, “I am thankful, grateful and blessed.”  She doesn’t focus on the current storm in her life.  Instead, she keeps her eyes on Jesus.  As I have watched my friend, I have been inspired to be more thankful, grateful and blessed.  I decided that we all need to take a moment and rediscover what these three simple words mean. 

THANKFUL-“a feeling or expressing gratitude; appreciative.”

Now I am always thankful that there is a stash of chocolate in my home for my bad days.  However, this word goes deeper.  Can you recall a time when you were appreciative of someone’s kindness shown to you or of a special moment that you now treasure in your heart?

Although it was difficult at the time, I remember the four months I spent caring for my mother as a disease took her life.  I will forever be thankful for the 2 a.m. chats with my mom.  The Lord knew needed to hear the wise words from my Godly mom.  I am also thankful I had enough sense to grab a pad of paper and a pen and write down messages from my mom to her grandchildren and unborn great-grandchildren.  Now, these words are treasured by each of them.  I am also thankful that mom’s last words on earth to me were “Happy Birthday,” because it was not a sad goodbye but a joyful moment of celebration.  These special moments are treasures of gold in my heart.

I wonder if we could all learn from my sweet friend and be more thankful in our seasons of pain and heartache.  Could we set aside our “whiny” nature and put on the garment of praise and give thanks to the Lord above?

This week as we celebrate Thanksgiving and enter the Christmas season I want each of you to consider what you are thankful for and share it with us.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Black Friday

By the time you read this blog, many will have shopped, shopped, and shopped some more! After all, this day after Thanksgiving ritual has become a modern American tradition. But, why wait until Friday? In recent years, many stores now offer their merchandise on Turkey Day to entice shoppers who are anxiously waiting to get a good deal.

I was curious about the term “Black Friday” and searched the internet to find out how this day got its name. As the story goes, in a shopping context, the phrase originated in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, around 1961, to describe very heavy pedestrian and vehicle traffic the day after Thanksgiving. As the term became more widespread, it’s popular meaning now represents the point in the year when retailers expect to turn a profit, going from “being in the red” to “being in the black”. I am a bit of a trivia buff, so it was interesting to learn this new fact.

I thought about another “Black Friday” that occurred much earlier than 1961. This “Black Friday” occurred over 2000 years ago, and it was the darkest day in human history. I am referring of course to the day that Christ was crucified.

Why was it black? The Bible says that as Jesus hung between two thieves, “from the sixth hour darkness fell upon the land until the ninth hour” [noon to 3:00 pm] Matthew 27:45. Darkness in the middle of the day! But there was another reason why that day was dark; Jesus, the Savior of the world, was dying on the cross. It was dark because for the first time in all eternity, Father and Son were separated, as Christ bore the divine wrath as the once for all time sacrifice for your sins and mine. Our Lord cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Matthew 27:46 I call this the true “Black Friday”, and even though it was a dark day, it’s glorious outcome brought salvation to all those who would trust Christ as Savior!

The shopper’s Black Friday, some may say, ushers in the official holiday and gift buying season. But, think about this: there would not have been that true “Black Friday” if there had not been the miraculous and wonderful virgin birth. Our Savior’s first advent is truly what this season is all about. He brought true joy, love, and peace to this world.

So, as you “shop til you drop” on Black Friday, ponder the true “Black Friday”, then meditate on Jesus Christ’s birth, and celebrate the coming of Immanuel, which means, GOD IS WITH US!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Let's Be Grateful

Gratefulness. Why is that mind set so hard for us at times?

Recently, I believe that I got it right…….

Just the other day I was at the store and I started for the checkout line with a few items in tow. The “10 items or less” line didn’t appear to be a fast option, so I proceeded to get in one of the “regular lines”. Even though I noticed that the shopping cart in front of me had a lot of items, I decided I wasn’t going to try to find a “shorter line; I would stick it out.
Well, much to my surprise the lady in front of me noticed that I had only a few items, so she graciously said (and I paraphrase), “Come on in front of me, since you don’t have that much”. Wow! What an act of kindness! I immediately thanked her when she initially made the kind gesture, and actually thanked her several more times before I grabbed my bags and left the store. As I walked to my car, I thought that I had responded with real gratitude for such a kind act.

I went over and above to make sure that the kind stranger saw my thankful heart. Yet how often do I go over and above to be constantly thankful to my Heavenly Father for all that He has done?
A verse that I find myself meditating on from time to time reminds me of why I should be abundantly grateful. Colossians 2:6-7 says: “Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.” (New American Standard Bible)

From these verses, here’s what I see:

I believe that true gratefulness begins with a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. In Christ we are made new from the inside out. He has taken away that old nature and given us a new nature that is no longer controlled by sin. In Him, we are set free from sin’s power, and now we are capable of living a life that pleases Him. We can, by His Spirit, continue to “walk in Him” …Thank you Lord!

True gratefulness can manifest itself when we know we are “firmly rooted” in Christ. Our identity in Him and our security in Him are indisputable realities! We are in His grip for all eternity…Thank you Father!

The Lord gives us the desire to be established in our faith by reading, studying, meditating on and memorizing His Word. Growing in Christ just doesn’t happen. By Christ’s Spirit, we can be instructed to serve and honor our Savior, not by compulsion or coercion, but because we love Him….Thank you Jesus!

Our natural response for all that the Lord has done should indeed be gratitude! Why not take a moment, or several moments, to reflect on the goodness of the Lord. I’ve come to realize that even in the midst of my trials and my “bad days”, my Savior loves me and in Him there is glorious hope!

Thanksgiving Day comes once a year, but being grateful can be on our agenda every day of the year! Just as I offered many thanks to the compassionate woman in the store, even more so should I offer up to the Lord continuous words of gratitude and praise, for HE IS WORTHY!!!

Let’s be grateful and Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Even on Bad Days....

EVEN on Bad Days................these two bring me a smile.


Our kitchen is FINALLY completely finished.....................

I know you have probably gotten bored following my "KITCHEN ADVENTURE"............but you have to remember...............when we moved to this house 23 years ago....we had to purchase a new stove.................however to fit in the spot tdesignated for the stove, we had to get a small, apartment size stove.  The oven would not even hold a large cookie sheet.  AND....for over two years, the oven and part of the eyes did not work properly, sooooooooooo after 23 years....I AM OVER-JOYED to have a NEW KITCHEN....with a normal size OVEN...that WORKS.

So...thank you for being patient with me and it is FINISHED so you don't have to view again.  Smile.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Listen to God...and Pass It on.

A couple of months ago, there was a situation that happened at my job that had m VERY upset.  I lost a night of sleep and did tons of praying.  I had made up my mind to just not say a word to anyone and just deal with it.

I walked in the school that morning and my principal looked up and said...."Kathy, what's wrong?"  The tears came.  I totally broke down....wound up in  her office and opened up to her.  She listened, but more importantly.....she walked around............took my hand and asked if she could pray for me.  Right then and there she prayed for me.

It was like a HUGE weight was removed. church and even in homes, I do not think twice about stopping and praying with someone, but doing it at work was not a practice of mine.

A few weeks ago, we were having open enrollment at school...............and a broker that the county had hired was at our school to help us.  My appointment was at 8:00 Thursday morning.

I went in and began telling the girl that I was not sure what I even needed since our benefits had always been through my husband....................but God was going to take care of us.

Long story short..............after I mentioned God she began talking about God.  Suddenly she broke down..................................she was going through a very difficult season in her life and marriage and asked me to please pray for them.  I walked about...................took her in my arms and prayed with her right then and there.  We held each other and both cried. 

 A total stranger.

In the course of talking with her, I found out her name is Kaye and we exchanged phone numbers, addresses and Facebook info.  I even showed her my Redneck Bible Journaling.

She was so appreciative that later that day she sent me flowers.

We have stayed in contact.  Last week, she was at a school in Lynchburg, VA and was Redneck Bible Journaling and sent me a picture.  It was not colored yet because she had forgotten her pencils.....but she promised to finish it and send me another picture as soon as she got home.

Later that day.......she sent another message and shared this story: 

She had noticed a lady across the room who God revealed to her that was at the break, she went over....showed the Lady her Bible Journal and the lady broke down crying......said the verse was just what she needed to read.  Kaye said God told her to pray with the lady, so she did and then she gave the lady her Bible Journal,. 

She then shared with the lady about mine and her encounter........................the lady thanked her and told her she had been a blessing to her so she was going to keep her eyes open and pass the blessing on to someone else also.

Listen to God....................and Pass it on!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Forever Family

On channel 3 in Chattanooga, they often feature kids who are looking for a "Forever Family"...................just wanting someone to love them and adopt them.

I was watching it one night and was VERY surprised to see that the featured boy was one of MY STUDENTS.

It broke my heart........and changed everything for me...................and the other teachers.  NO WONDER he can not grasp "rounding" in Math.................that is not important.  He has more important things to worry about.......................he wants a family to love him.

The next day, I called him up to my desk and very discretely told him I saw him on TV and now he was famous since he was on TV.  He just smiled......  His name is Korben, but on TV and told them he prefers to be called Ben.  I asked him about that and he said we are all now calling him Ben.

I do not even know his whole story.........................but I am sure he as been through a lot.  And what makes it even worse, is the foster home he is in is not the best situation.
(Few families choose to be foster parents because they feel called by God to do so.............but many do it for the $$$$.  Sad, but true.)

Long story short............Ben got in trouble Friday.  He made a bad choice and was sent home from school.  He was VERY upset and asked if he could talk to Mrs. Britton.  My principal came and got me.  I went in and talked to him about consequences of bad decisions.................and learning from our mistakes.  He cried like a baby....although he is in 6th grade.  I could not stop the tears, so finally I asked him if he went to church.  He said not now, but he use to when he lived with his adopted family..............but they got tired of him to put him back in foster care.

I told him if he use to go to church then he knew about I could not change his situation, but I could pray for him.  He then asked if I would pray for him right then.  SOOOOO,.....I DID.  Bless seemed to calm him a bit and when I left he told me he loved me.

Please pray for Ben...................and pray he will get his Forever Family.

In this season of Thanksgiving..................I am Thankful for the freedom to pray with a hurting student that asked me to. 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Calling all Bi-Vo Wives......

Tennessee Baptist Bivocational Ministers and Wives you are invited to the 2018 Bivocational Ministers and Wives Retreat which is set for January 25-27, 2018 at the Music Road Hotel and Convention Center in Pigeon Forge. This will be a blessed time. Register Today! You can register for the retreat if you have not already done so either online or by mailing in the registration form. The REGISTRATION DEADLINE is December 8, 2017. We must have complete registration and payment by then to reserve your room. If you have any questions or need more information please contact: John Parrott, Bivocational Ministry Specialist, or 423-921-2488 or Carrie Smith, Ministry Assistant, or 800-558-2090 ext. 2025. We hope you will come and enjoy this time of renewal and refreshment. Go here to find out more information on the retreat and to register either online or print a registration form:


There are hurting folks all around us.....and we may not even be aware of it.

Right now, my husband and I are "hurting on the inside" because of something we are facing that we have never faced before. 

(You are suppose to find something positive even in the positive is that  this "hurting" has over-shadowed Roger loosing his secular job and made that not important at all.)

We are hurting......................and right now we can not share.  We are asking our church and everyone around us and now I am asking YOU to PRAY..............God KNOWS the reason.

I am sharing this with you for two reason:
  2. We ALL need to be more aware of the people around us.  We do not KNOW what other people may be facing or going through that they can not even share with us.

One day....I may be able to share.  Thank you in advance for your prayers. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Season of CHANGE...

In Sunday School, we had a lesson with the preschoolers a few weeks ago about "CHANGES"........................EVERYTHING changes....we change, the sun changes, the weather changes, the seasons changes, the leaves changes, etc....................EVERYTHING.......EXCEPT GOD.............GOD NEVER CHANGES!

Roger and I are in a season of change.

Most of your husbands are full-time ministers so you may not understand this post....

Roger is a bi-vocational minister.....which means he has TWO God called him to do and another one that pays the bills.  Or maybe I should have correctly said HAD instead of has.

Friday was his LAST DAY of his secular job.  He had worked from home for 21 years with UNUM in IT.  His last day was Friday because they decided to Out-Source the IT department to a company in India.

He was soooo close to retirement from the secular job.  (He can begin drawing retirement in one year.)

Now What?  At 61 years old, he did not want to begin a NEW CAREER......our church is growing and keeping us busy, so he does not have time to "learn a new career."

GOD IS STILL IN CONTROL................

We do not owe very much at all.  I have a job teaching and although our insurance was through Roger's job, we were able to pick it up through my job.

GOD WILL TAKE CARE OF US......................NO DOUBT.  We are not worried.

Since he only has a year to work, he has decided to do odd jobs......................he doesn't need benefits.  Years ago, he and his dad built  houses.  (That's why I was blessed with a NEW KITCHEN...that HE BUILT....even the cabinets.)  He already has a dentist that wants small repairs done at his office......our son-in-law works with farmers and helps get them grants.  One farmer has a greenhouse and needs someone to put it together..............
several elderly people are wanting small repairs..........

Plus....he still has our church.

God is going to take care of us. is a SEASON OF CHANGE.  He got paid twice a month.  His ONE check was larger than my ONCE a month it will be different.

BUT....I do believe that God allowed this change to happen to protect Roger.  For the past five years, his job has caused him tons of stress.......................he does not need that. 

We are looking forward to the plans God has in our lives.................we KNOW that with HIM in CONTROL................they are going to be WONDERFUL.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Season of Thanksgiving....

Our sermon Sunday was on "Complaining" which is the complete opposite of Thanksgiving.

I love this time of year.

We should ALWAYS be thankful, etc...................but I love to stop during this time of year and really reflect on the blessings that God has given us..

Last weekend, I cooked an early Thanksgiving meal for our immediate family....children (by birth and by marriage) and grandkids. 

We go to Alabama to spend Thanksgiving with my mom and Roger's mom and our kids come I never cook Thanksgiving for them.

This year.............because I have a BRAND NEW KITCHEN.....I decided to cook an early Thanksgiving.  I told them I was baking a ham, Roger was smoking a turkey breast and each of them got to request ONE dish.  :)  Boy, did we have an assortment.  Smile.

We had the traditional....ham, turkey, cornbread dressing, gravy, cranberry sauce, green beans, English peas, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, homemade yeast rolls AND....I had two requests for fried okra.  Fried Okra..............who has fried okra on Thanksgiving?  WE DID....  Smile. was delicious!

Yesterday, we had our Thanksgiving meal at church.  Yum.  It was also delicious!

I feel so blessed and am thankful for some many, many things.....

  • I have a Godly husband who is not only my best friend, but my pastor and my mate.  
  • We have four grown children who love the Lord and faithfully serve him.  
  • We have two adorable grandchildren.
  • We have a Church Family who is truly part of our family.  Even after almost 21 years...they still love us and take care of us.
  • Our moms are still living and in great health at the age of 80 and 84.
  • I have a NEW
Anyway.....I could go on and on listing the things that I am thankful for...the list would never end.  God has blessed us beyond our imagination.

I am thankful for the freedom to worship God and serve him.

Let's all just sit back and reflect on the many things to be thankful for......we are ALL truly blessed.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Happy Veterans Day!

Living in Clarksville Tennessee is a unique American experience.

You see, Clarksville shares the state-line with a special part of Kentucky. I've been told that more of Ft. Campbell is actually on the Tennessee side of that line, but since Headquarters is found on the northern part of the base, Kentucky gets to claim the Army's home for the 101st Airborne Division.

In addition to 101st, there are several other divisions and groups stationed out of Ft. Campbell. As a result, I worship, shop, and live in a town saturated with active duty and veteran heroes. In my work, I get to love on Army kids as I work alongside many Army wives.

Throughout the last 11 years we have called Clarksville home, I have lost count of the number of Army families that I have had the privilege of getting to know, to love and to send off to their next duty station.

With this being Veteran's Day weekend, I just want to take a moment to stop and say thank you to the Veterans. I have seen up-close and personal just some of what they (and their families too)  risk and sacrifice for all of our freedoms.

No matter who lives in the White House or what the political climate may be, these heroes have stepped up and stepped into to whatever, wherever duty has called.

My dad is a Vet - My stepdad, father-in-love and grandfather too. I grew up near an Air Force base and was taught to respect the flag, the anthem and the uniform.

By God's grace alone I was born an American and I am beyond thankful for it. Just a few minutes into the evening news and I feel my appreciation grow. To be a Christian here is a blessing, and regardless of how anyone feels about current events, God has blessed this nation through the blood, sweat and tears of the United States Veteran.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Christmas in November?

It would seem that the "it" question at this time of year is "When do YOU put up your Christmas tree?"

Everyone seems to have an opinion on when is too early to begin the 24/7 Christmas music too. 

Growing up, our family made a tradition of going to cut our own tree and decorating that night sometime after Thanksgiving. We NEVER hung the first strand of twinkling lights or baked the first batch of cookies before the last balloon of the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade had been deflated and stored for at least 24 hours. 

Now, the store shelves and advertisements are filled with yuletide wares in early September. Commercialism aside, there is definite pressure to begin celebrating the season earlier and earlier. 

As a parent, there are SO many activities for our kids. Then, there are work obligations. There are family expectations. The church calendar is full of both expectations and obligations. It can be exhausting just glancing at the calendar for December and it is only the first day of November. 

For me, I have decided not to fight the lengthening Christmas season, but instead to embrace it. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to rush past or overlook Thanksgiving. Being thankful is VERY important . . . 

My idea is this - let's make Thanksgiving a part of the Christmas season. What better way to begin celebrating the birth of our Savior, then being appreciative of all that He has given to us? 

Besides, I have often wondered who non-believers express their Thanksgiving gratitude to, if they aren't thanking God. 

Let's teach our children how the two holidays fold into worshiping the same Jesus. No matter when the tree is decorated, the sense of awe over what God has provided, can still, and should be central to our celebration of BOTH days. 

Spilling a little red and green into fall's oranges and browns can help us spread the stress out as moms while at the same time giving us a longer opportunity to teach our children the real reason for the seasons. Decorating the tree and enjoying its light doesn't have to feel like an "I've got to" as we rush to cross off one more thing from our to-do list. 

"Happy Thanksgiving!" can be part of "Merry Christmas!"

What do you think? Yay or Nay - should we start celebrating Christmas in November?