Life is About Living

When I was a college student, I heard and saw a lot of things.  As a Christian, there were many times that I chose to omit a reading assignment, simply because of my personal beliefs.  Other than that, I was the studious student who sat in the front row every day, always asking and answering questions, eager to participate in the class as much as I possibly could without dominating the conversation, which I am sure I often did.  The professors loved having me in their class, always complimenting me on my obvious love for knowledge.  All of my hard work paid off when I achieved a 4.0 GPA on my Master of Science degree, having completed all six years of college with honors.  Of course, I give all of the praise and honor and glory to Jesus Christ, for without Him, I am nothing.  Without Him, I could not do anything.  But with God on my side, I can do anything!

While my college career was primarily a positive one, there was one assignment that I learned about in one of my education classes that disturbed me.  The professor said a worthwhile assignment in an English class for middle or high school students would be to have them write their obituary.  As the words spilled out of their mouth, I was shocked and horrified that this professor would ask mere children and teenagers to write their own obituary.  How mortifying!  I was greatly relieved when I learned that we would not have to personally complete this exercise ourselves.  And while I now understand the merit in the assignment, I much prefer asking my students to write positive, upbeat poetry, essays, and stories.  Nevertheless, I do think it is something we should not necessarily do, but we should all certainly think about.
Now before you get bent out of shape like I was originally, I do not want you to leave this blog or on the contrary, run and grab your pen and paper to begin writing.  Instead, I want you to look at the way you are living your life.  When you go to work, do you have a smile on your face?  Or is your face twisted up into a sour expression?  Do you greet people in the checkout lane at the grocery store, or do you give them a grimacing look because they got ahead of you in line by one millisecond?  And when you go to church on Sunday, do you have a smile on your face and greet everyone sweetly, only to get in the car on the way home and complain about the pastor’s sermon being too long?  Or do you go home and ponder what the pastor said, reading your Bible and studying the scriptures more carefully to get ready for the week ahead?  You see, living life isn’t just about getting up and going to work, eating dinner and going to bed, just to repeat the process the next day.  Life should be about living.
When a teacher’s students are asked to write an obituary for themselves, they must think about the way other people view their lives.  How do people see them?  What have they done that would be remembered?  And how have they treated their family, their friends, their neighbors, coworkers, pastor, and even strangers on the street?  These are the things people will remember.  Most will not even know if you remembered to feed the cat this morning, whether you came to the annual Christmas party last year, or if you donated money to a charity last month online.  They are going to remember how you act every single day of the year.  They will remember how you carry yourself on good days and bad.  They will recall whether or not you have a cheery disposition or a gloomy one.  They will remember if you lived a life for yourself or a life for Christ.
So the next time you are in the grocery store, be the person who sees someone with fewer items in their cart and offer to allow them to skip ahead of you in line.  Be the individual who smiles all of the time, regardless of what is going on around you.  Be the person who people want to be around.  Not because of the clothes you wear, the car you drive or the way you look, but because of the way you act.  Be the one who keeps their head held high, grateful for each and every new day, rain or shine.  Be the light in a world of darkness.  Be the change this world needs.  Let the joy of Jesus Christ shine forth in such a way that it is contagious!  Through your Christ-like example, people will be reminded that life isn’t about sweating the small stuff.  Life is about living.
In Christ’s Love,

Get a Grip!

Have you ever become frustrated while trying to unscrew the lid of a pickle jar or some other container?  No matter how hard you try, you just can’t get a grip on the lid.  Yesterday one of my friends was trying to remove the lid from a travel mug and finally decided to wait until she got home.  We both agreed that one of those nifty rubber grippers we have in our home kitchens would likely do the trick.  And of course, if all else fails, we can always rely on the assistance of the man of the house!  In reality, life bears a striking resemblance to our attempts to get a grip on these various types of containers.  In the same way we experience frustration while trying to unscrew a lid, there are times in life when we become frustrated due to the circumstances surrounding us, to the point of almost giving up.  No matter what we do, there are moments when we simply cannot get a grip.

Whether it is a traffic jam on the way to work, a power outage right in the middle of dinner preparation, or a call from a telemarketer when you’ve just sat down to relax after a long day, there are always unforeseen things that happen to interrupt our otherwise routine schedule.  Sometimes these interruptions, though often miniscule and unimportant, become blown out of proportion when we are dealt one on top of the other.  It’s the same way with the pickle jar analogy.  Even though unscrewing the lid off of a jar should not be a big ordeal, it can cause severe frustration if multiple attempts do not produce success.  And while these daily interruptions like an unexpected phone call or an extra stop at a traffic light should not ruffle our feathers, there are times when all of the frustrations of the day and of life in general surmount to the point where we find it hard to keep things in perspective.  Although it is often hard to keep our perspective, we need to focus on Jesus Christ.  He is the Solid Rock on which we can stand, even in a world of uncertainty.

From the eleven o’clock news to the local newspaper, it becomes more difficult every day to come to terms with the troubling stories as they unfold right before our eyes.  A father takes his own life and the life of his children.  A prominent individual slanders the name of Jesus Christ.  A drunk driver causes a tragic accident that kills innocent bystanders.  Seeing all of the sorrow and pain in the world, it makes us wonder how this world can last even another day.  Jesus said, “‘You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed.  Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.  Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.  There will be famines and earthquakes in various places’” (Matthew 24:6-7 NIV).  But do not be discouraged!  You see, He also said, “‘I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world’” (John 16:33 NIV).  No matter what happens, there is hope in Jesus Christ.

What about you?  Perhaps you are fighting a battle of your own.  Maybe you are dealing with depression, feeling as if you cannot get a grip no matter how hard you try.  Every day, you try to focus on the positive only to drift back to those negative thoughts of disappointment and despair.  Or you may be struggling with an addiction, whether it is drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, or even an addiction with food that is the cause of your obesity.  There may be moments when you feel that there is no point to trying to wean off of the habit, with the firm belief that you could never make a change.  You could be sitting in the waiting room, wondering when your family member will finally get well enough to come home, having been in the hospital for days or weeks or months.  It may seem like there has been no improvement and you wonder if they will make it through.  Whatever you’re facing today, don’t lose hope.  Jesus will help you cope with your circumstances.  He will help you get a grip on your emotions, your health, and your life.

Friend, I want you to know that everything is going to be okay.  I realize that life may seem hopeless.  Your mind is likely filled with doubt, having struggled with something in your life to the point of complete and utter frustration.  But even in the darkest of midnight, there is sunshine awaiting you.  Jesus Christ is the Light in a world of darkness.  Just like the times you’ve tried to grip the lid on a pickle jar, you might need some assistance.  Don’t rely on your own strength to unscrew the lid.  Rely on God, the One who created you in His image.  Isaiah 40:29 (NIV) says, “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.”  Depend on Jesus Christ who loves you unconditionally.  Whenever you’re frustrated to the point of wanting to throw the jar on the ground, or throw your life by the wayside, allow Him to be your strength when you are weary.  Allow Him to help you handle life’s problems as they come your way.  Allow Him to help you get a grip!  Even when you feel like you’ll slip and fall, Jesus will always be there.  Grip His hand tightly because He will never, ever let you go.

In Christ’s Love,


Escape the Worry

On February 10th, I had the privilege of hearing my friends Karen Peck and New River minister at Taylor Church in Sanderson, Florida.  While the lyrics of the songs were a blessing and the music seeped deep within the innermost parts of my soul, there was one thing that stood out like a skyscraper in the midst of a sea of single story homes.  During the altar service, Karen spoke specifically of people who may feel bogged down with the worries and the cares of life.  She said that the service may be providing an escape from all of that worry.  As I stood there, I realized that this was likely true for the majority of people in the room.  And I knew that it was especially meant for me.  All week, I had been carrying a ton of bricks on my shoulders and just as I thought I would crack under the pressure, God reminded me once more that He always knows what I need.  And sometimes, I just need an escape.

February 7th, just three days before, should have been the day that my dad and I celebrated a very special occasion.  I should have been busily wrapping gifts, writing a special card, and decorating a beautiful birthday cake for my sweet Mama.  She would have been 57 years old.  Now, nearly five years ago since she passed away, I wonder why God chose to take her at the young age of 52.  She died of a heart attack while we were watching The Waltons in our camper.  We were on vacation, our camper parked directly across from a waterfall, surrounded by the beauty and splendor of the Great Smoky Mountains.  One minute, life seemed like a dream.  And the next, reality gave way to a nightmare.
There were no goodbyes.  I cannot recall what I said to her last or what she said to me.  We pleaded for her not to leave us, and later stood by as the paramedic mouthed the words, “I’m sorry.”  While the disturbing nightmares have subsided, I still vividly recall the moment my dad and I sat beside my mom that night and tearfully sang, “Living by Faith.”  In the deepest, darkest moment of our lives, when no hope seemed to be found, we clung on to the words of this beloved hymn:
Living by faith in Jesus above,
Trusting, confiding in His great love;
From all harm safe in His sheltering arm,
I’m living by faith and feel no alarm.

Sitting in our camper that night, I must be honest and say that having faith was nearly impossible.  The emergency lights flashing outside may have disappeared, but they had taken my Mama with them.  And she would not be riding home with us on the journey back to Florida.  The following week was a traumatizing blur of preparations for the funeral.  I had always looked forward to the day that my mom would help me select a wedding dress, but instead, I was selecting a dress for her that I would never see her wear again.
I miss my Mama more than anyone or anything I have ever lost.  I have three siblings, three grandparents, four great-grandparents, one parent, and many aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends in Heaven.  But losing my Mama was the most devastating experience of my entire life.  My mom, dad, and I were truly like the Three Musketeers.  We were always together, enjoying life together.   Now my dad and I continue to enjoy life together, whether we are at home or abroad.  I am forever grateful for the close father-daughter bond that my dad and I share.  Together, we continue living by faith, with the knowledge that God has a perfect plan for our lives.  While we may not always understand the twists and turns we encounter on this journey called life, we can rest assured that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 KJV). 
While some days like my mom’s birthday and Mother’s Day are especially difficult, there are numerous days that are free from worry and free from the stress of this world.  Whether it is a word spoken or song sung at church, a smile or hug from a beloved friend, or a stress-free vacation with my dad, I find that God provides sweet escapes precisely when and where I need them.  I can tell you from experience that these are the moments in life that our faith is completely restored.  These are the times when we have a fullness of joy and hope abounds.  By putting our trust in Jesus Christ, we will find that the awesome days we experience in life will ultimately spill over into the not-so-easy days, providing a perpetual light in the darkness, hope when we’re hopeless, and an escape when we feel there is no way out.
As I write this blog, my heart hurts as I relive the sorrow of that tragic night in North Carolina.  Tears threaten to well up in my eyes and blur my vision as I type.  Yet I am speaking from my heart with the hope that I can encourage someone who is looking for an escape from the worry.  I want you to know that there is a way out.  I Corinthians 10:13 (ESV) says, “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”  No matter what you are facing, whether it is the death of a loved one or any other burden that you carry, God is faithful.  He will never give you more than you can bear.  Do not give up.  Even in the midst of the darkest night of your life, I can personally tell you that there is hope, even when life seems hopeless.  There is sunshine awaiting you.  Because at that very moment when it seems there is no way out, God will provide an escape.
In Christ’s Love,

Bridge Out!

Yesterday morning, my dad and I began our journey to Sanderson, Florida.  As I was driving down the road, my heart filled with excitement and anticipation as I looked forward to seeing my dear friends, Karen Peck and New River.  On the way there, my complete and utter joy briefly faded when we encountered an unexpected detour.  When we were less than 30 minutes away from the church, we came to a place in the road with a large sign that said, Bridge Out.

We had driven for over an hour for the sole purpose of attending church and fellowshipping with dear friends, just to find that the road had been closed.  I immediately began to silently pray that God would show us how to find our way as my dad studied the road map to find an alternate route.  With several twists and turns on winding dirt roads and one particularly narrow little bridge, we finally reached the main road once again, beyond the point where the bridge was out.
As we proceeded on our way to the church, I thanked God for giving my dad the wisdom to use his expert navigational skills in order to find the best route to travel to reach our destination.  Fortunately, we allowed some extra time for wiggle room, just in case we encountered any obstacles along the way.  As such, we arrived at the church with plenty of time to spare.  The service was anointed and the fellowship was sweet.  It was a morning that encouraged, uplifted, and inspired me.  But without that wiggle room, we would have missed out on a blessing straight from Heaven above.
On the way home, I couldn’t help but think about the way that life is a lot like our encounter with the bridge being out.  Many times, we are sailing along through life, going to work, going to church, fulfilling our daily obligations, and then, suddenly, we come to a point in the journey where the road has been washed out.  All of our routines and schedules come to a crashing halt.  We sit staring at the Bridge Out sign, uncertain as to what we should do.  Should we sit there in despair, look for a detour, or simply give up on life because of this obstacle that has entered our path?
Sometimes, there will be things in life that are beyond our control, much like a road or bridge being closed.  It could be that someone in our family gets sick, a friend is in a car accident, or a neighbor’s house burns to the ground.  But when something unexpected comes our way, we have to learn to make allowances for these things that alter our plans, no matter how difficult this feat may seem.  We cannot dwell on the sign that says Bridge Out.  Instead, we have to allow wiggle room.  We cannot abandon the hope that we have in Christ.  We have to remember that He is faithful and He will never put more on us than we can bear.  We have to take our eyes off of the road ahead of us and fix our eyes on Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ will be our Guide through every moment of our lives.  He will make a way when there seems to be no other way.  Jesus Christ is “the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6).  By focusing on Him, we will be able to overcome any obstacle that we face.  If we allow some wiggle room in our lives, then our lives will be forever changed.  He will bring peace that passes all understanding, hope in the most hopeless of situations, and infinite joy along the journey.  So the next time you come to a Bridge Out sign, don’t give up.  Allow Jesus to intervene in your circumstances.  Jesus Christ will be your Bridge when the bridge is out!
In Christ’s Love,