Friday, November 6, 2015

Becoming the Church

Matthew 6: 10
Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

A popular quote says, "We will never change the world by going to church.  We will only change the world by being the church."  

Beauty is seeing those words lived out.  

My two youngest sons and I volunteer in an inner city ministry’s after school program.  Four years ago, a preacher joined the volunteer efforts - not the first preacher to be involved but new to this ministry.  A seed was planted in his heart, the neighborhood needed a church.  The neighborhood has many churches, some old, some new.   What he knew was that when the Church, the way Christ intended it to be, is planted in the hearts of souls, amazing things happen.  

One Sunday morning, I got a call from a mom from a group I led during my first volunteer year.  Her dad had fallen during the night; he had been without his oxygen mask and was unresponsive.   Due to comedic error in my family of fix-it men, my car could not carry me to her quickly enough to be of any hands- on service that morning.   So my service involved  prayers and invoking other prayer warriors.  Less than three hours after her phone call to me, her father passed into eternity to meet his Creator.    

What unfolded in the days after his death is a tale of the church becoming the kingdom, reaching out to this family with hands, feet, and wallets in love.  

A network of churches is involved in the ministry carried out in the little blue house of Hope.  The people making up these churches sent money to help cover final expenses.  The family had no worries of an unmarked grave; the expenses were covered by generous donations from God's people choosing to love in a tangible way. 

It was a busy, grief-filled week, difficult to carry on with "regular" life in a household of five children and three adults while ministering to one's grieving mom who lost the love of her life.  Men had to go to work, children had to go to school, and arrangements had to be made.  The gift of food delivered blessed the family.  Extra trips to the hospital, to mom, to the mortuary, all of this plus the regular need for transportation - filling up the tank was another way the church helped. 

A beautiful example of the church BEING the kingdom came after the memorial service; the women of the little, less-than-two-year-old-church, fed the grieving family.  A small group of ladies who study God's word together weekly provided a meal, nourishing the family, caring for their bodies and spirits in their time of need. 

Two years ago, most were strangers to one another, neighbors, but unknown.   Because of a seed planted by our Father, and the LOVE found in His Word lived out by Jesus, neighbors are ministering to neighbors in times of need.  That is the church BECOMING!  

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Sometimes We Must Share Our "Failures"

We usually don't share our "failures"  in our social media posts.  Most of us try to post the best memories, experiences, etc.   But it never fails that during this week of this month, I am always carried back to my young adult years in my memories.  Thirty-three years ago, I was preparing to marry the young man I had dated for three years.   I thought I knew him; I could see the future we had planned so clearly.   Thirty-three years ago tonight, we "rehearsed" my walk down the aisle.  My 21 year old heart was so full of love, hopes, dreams, and naivete.  

Six years later, also in the last week or so of October, having added two of the most beautiful, talented, amazing children this world has ever seen, we moved to Knoxville for a "fresh start."   I had been extremely resistant to that move, telling a trusted counselor that I had little faith in this husband who had destroyed most of the trust in our relationship.  I felt fear at leaving the delicate support system that had developed around me due to the kind, loving, God-serving friends who provided love, encouragement, hugs, rides to the grocery store, reminders of God's love for me, etc, etc, etc.    But that wise counselor told me that faith in my husband was not required for this move; all that was required was faith in my heavenly Father.   He had my life in His hands; I just needed to trust.  

And so we moved.    The husband was gone within a month or so; he had failed to attend to some business in our hometown area and was required to return there; since the two amazing children and I could not live with him in the lodging that was provided for him, we stayed in Knoxville to begin "the fresh start."   It helped immensely that my mother's beloved cousin was here and part of my world and that she insured that I landed in her part of town and in her home congregation of believers.   I soon found myself once again surrounded by a group of encouraging people, kind and loving, who provided me with a vehicle so I could give myself that ride to the grocery store; they passed on job leads so that I could escape the poverty I had lived in for the biggest part of that marriage.   And they helped me face one of the most painful decisions of my life. 

Just under a year after our move to Knoxville, I went to see an attorney.  I had tried to make it work but painfully found that one person cannot make a marriage work, thrive, much less survive.   I did not wish to raise my two beautiful children in the lifestyle to which my husband repeatedly returned.  So by weird, coincidental chance, the divorce papers were filed on our seventh wedding anniversary at the Knox County courthouse.   The actual divorce was granted approximately two and one-half months later. 

It has recently been pointed out to me a couple of times by a friend who has been on the sidelines of this choice and the resulting changes in me, how monumental that decision was.   First I must share that one Sunday during this unfolding transition to being a single mom, (though truthfully, I had been functioning as one for most of the marriage)  the minister of our congregation shared a verse from Jeremiah.   I cannot remember the context or the rest of his sermon (sorry "Uncle" Harold) but I do remember seizing that verse as though it was the first time in my life I had heard it.   The hope that was born in my heart was palpable!   The verse is Jeremiah 29: 11,   

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Through leads from my new church family, I was soon applying for jobs and going to interviews; soon I was notified that I could begin working for the the state of Tennessee as an eligibilility counselor for the Department of Human Services.   During my interview, I was asked what I could bring to this position that other applicants might not bring.   I don't believe I had a moment of hesitation when I answered, "Compassion.  I have been on the other side of the desk.  Being a current recipient of benefits (food stamps now SNAP, AFDC, now Families First, and medicaid, now TNcare) I know what it feels like to sit at a desk asking a worker for help, feeling shame, vulnerability.  I will bring compassion to my clients."  I realize now the better answer might have been empathy; but I do feel that for several years, I successfully handled my clients with compassion born of empathy. 

I will unhappily admit that my compassion became sketchy on some days with some of my clients.  One can only be lied to so many times before patience is lost.   By the end of my seven year employment, I was becoming very cynical; I was unhappy in my job.  It made me sad that "little old ladies" who had sacrificed their entire lives to raise their children and stand by their men qualified for only $10 per month in food stamps because the measly bit of money they drew from their husbands' pension, or as his survivor for social security benefits, was classified as "unearned" income.   Really?   The government doesn't realize that "the greatest generation" earned their nickname by sending their men to war, women working at home and in factories for the war effort, raising children to be respectful, hardworking, productive citizens.  I was embarrassed to tell them that they qualified for only $10 in assistance.   However, that is another story.

What lasted through my years at DHS into my years of remarriage and bringing two more beautiful, talented, and amazing children into this world, homeschooling and volunteer work was my love for and desire to serve single moms.  It's a hard world; but it is harder for those individuals who find themselves raising a child or children alone.  I have walked that walk, had those days of hopelessness, felt the weight of all the decisions being on my shoulders.  I felt the loneliness of evenings completely alone after the children were in bed, the longing for an adult to listen to me, hold me, love me.    

But even that is not the real story.   While I have found single moms to love, nurture, guide all along my path, the true story here is that our Creator is the one Who sees each of us through our lack or abundance of resources, our lonely evenings or those filled with friends and family, our feelings of hopelessness and the highest moments of our lives when we feel most accomplished.   He has a plan for us and it is so much bigger than we can ever imagine or hope for. (Ephesians 3: 20-21)

When I look at my photo of the young bride who was me, I see naivete; I see a sinner, a self-centered, young, idiotic woman who had no clue what life was about or how to go about living as an adult.   But I also see a foundation that was built by my parents and my aunts and uncles, a spiritual foundation on which I returned to and built my life, allowing God to redeem my bad choices and take my mistakes and use them to teach me about His love, His redemption, and His plan. When invited into our messes, His presence does not make everything perfect; it does not remove consequences.  But it does give us hope for the future and a better way to live than we had before we asked Him to change us; then when we submit, He pours His love through us into the lives of others, that is the Story-and I am blessed to be a small part of His Story.

While that is the story I want to share, labeling that phase of my young adulthood as a failure or mistake is not entirely comfortable or accurate for me..   As I previously mentioned, I was gifted with  two wonderful children during those years; while the marriage failed, I won!   They are two of God's best gifts I received.   All those precious people who helped me along that journey are also gifts for whom I will be eternally grateful.  While choices and circumstances feel like mistakes and failures, they can only be counted as steps some of us take along the path towards God and maturity in Christ.  Jesus came to provide redemption.  Praise God!

Pressing on in Him

Lisa Ann      

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Finding the (Abundantly) Balanced Life

So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  
I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.  
I am the good shepherd. 
John 10: 7 - 11a

It has been so long since I have written anything.   I reached a point where I felt I had so much on my plate, I could not breathe.  I decided to make first things first months ago and so made an effort to be fully present the last term of the school year with my boys.   Before I had even barely gotten started reading their assignments, other things pushed in on my time.   I had to go to our house rehab project site to meet or pay someone or do that job I promised I would finish last week, or the week before.  My volunteer opportunity needed planning done for the next class I needed to teach.    The bills have to be paid TODAY! Or another big time issue, probably the biggest, I have to read my email and check my facebook page.   What?!!

Recently, our family traveled to Indiana to spend time with my mother-in-law helping her declutter her house and prepare for a rummage sale she and my sisters-in-law were planning for the week after our visit.   This trip coincided with dear mother-in-law's visit here for our nineteen year old son's high school graduation.  She came here, along with my husband's cousin, the day before his graduation.   We staycationed with them for a few days after the graduation weekend, celebrated oldest son's birthday, and then we left for Indiana for a six day visit there.  A niece was scheduled to graduate from high school just about a week and one-half after our arrival and so as our departure date approached, we felt the need to stay one more day and then one more day, and then another in order to see this or that family member who was coming in for that graduation.  Our six day visit turned into a ten day visit with barely a blink of the eye.  We worked, we visited, we ate, we laughed, and we searched out WiFi.  It was our first trip without our "hotspot."  

That may not seem important to most but we have seriously busy online lives.  I will not use this forum to "discuss" my sons' activities with games and vlogs, etc.  I will keep this personal- about my use and consumption of time while online.  

I'm not sure how many blogs I have been subscribed to.  A few days ago, my husband asked me to estimate how many hours I had been online that day.  I was astounded when I heard myself say, "probably about five, maybe six."   You see, all that time away with little time for my inbox had left me with very near 500 unread emails.  I had to "catch up!"   Delete without reading?   Are you kidding me, I'll miss something!   I felt a type of panic when I considered hitting the delete button.  Then I heard hubby's voice in my head asking the question he had asked our sons, "So let me get this straight, you are spending your time reading online about the lives of others and what they do with their time from day to day?"  "Um yep," I answered his question silently in my own head.  Then I asked myself, "What's up with that?!!"  I reflected on my search for a balanced life.  Surely, life is not balanced when one spends five hours reading about the lives of others!  Granted, it's more like two hours per day normally, when I haven't been on vacation away from internet access.  But is that really much better?  Then I begin to reason with myself, "As someone who loves to write, who at one point hoped, okay maybe I still do hope a bit, to be published, to be read, isn't it my duty to support fellow bloggers by subscribing to their blogs and reading every word?  I doubt seriously my agony can be understood by a normal, sane human being. I just let those thoughts simmer around in my head for a few days.   

Finally yesterday, I came home from an appointment with a new resolve that if I did not begin to make the changes I wanted to see in my life, I would never begin to live my ideal, balanced life.  So having a few hours before the next thing, I thought I would just sit and begin to go through my emails and see what I could eliminate temporarily in order to focus on the most pressing changes I need to be working towards.  I (gasp) started going down my inbox and reading briefly what was waiting on me and then scrolling to the bottom of the page and hitting the unsubscribe button.  I sat for nearly two hours "cleaning" out my inbox and my daily time.   I even unsubscribed to most of my top five favorites- just temporarily, I told myself- in order to get through the next few weeks with laser focus on the changes we are making in our lifestyle and ministry focus.  Of course, bloggers have that built in survey thingy asking why you are unsubscribing and there were a few that I had to explain with some detail instead of hitting the "I no longer want to receive this email" button and being done with it; because the reality is, I love those blogs, I find value in their written words, encouragement for my life and how and what I want it to look like.   But even two hours per day is robbing me of MY LIFE, MY FAMILY TIME, AND MY MINISTRY CAPABILITY.  Is it any wonder my house is always cluttered and has a layer of dirt and dog hair?    No!  

 Finally yesterday, I came home from an appointment with a new resolve that if I did not begin to make the changes I wanted to see in my life, I would never begin to live my ideal, balanced life.  

So for the next few weeks, I will be focusing on my own home, my family, and some changes we are making and spend far less time online.  John and I feel strongly that our lives were designed by a Creator, not just to live on earth for our appointed days, selfishly acquiring things to make  ourselves more comfortable, happy, fulfilled.   We believe we are here to, first, raise our family to be servants of our Creator, second, to love others and teach them about our Creator God.  The focus of our lives should be glorifying our Father, not acquiring and organizing, moving, selling, etc, etc, our STUFF!

And so for now, I have less in my inbox to distract me.  If I have an extra thirty minutes in my day, I will most probably go look up those favorites and see what's new, be inspired, escape.  I feel that's okay.  But primarily, I will be living MY life, focusing on my "first things," and trying to make the changes that will propel us toward the life we desire to live.   We welcome your prayers for and with us over the coming weeks as we make some changes in our day to day lives and focus.  

Pressing on in HIM,

Lisa Ann

Thursday, March 19, 2015

A Balanced Life

Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them.

Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.
Luke 2: 41 - 52

A few weeks ago, John and I met with a trusted confidante to talk about a rough patch.  Our duplex project has stretched out so long and far that I think we are both feeling worn out and anxious.   The term "balanced life" came up several times during that conversation.  

Truthfully, I think John is basically geared towards all work and I am geared towards all play.   If John is not productive, working on something, every waking hour then he feels that he has wasted time and is lazy.   If I don't get to incorporate some play- fun with little man or my own boys, lunch out with a friend, being creative, or goofing off watching an episode of a favorite TV show- in most 24 hour periods, then I start to feel like life is drudgery.   I guess in a weird way, there is balance in our marriage, except there isn't.  

In the twenty-four hours after that conversation with the confidante, I knew that to seek a "balanced life" was important.  I knew those words were significant and I needed to search out what they mean in my life.   I even made a facebook post about it and asked friends to share what a balanced life meant to them.   Before that post however, I did a Google search of  balanced life.  I shared on that facebook post that of course I had done the Google search because that is what I do when I have a question.

In the next twenty-four or so hours after making that  request for friends' ideas, I began to see the fault in my thinking.   First I went to the almighty search engine, then I went to friends.   I was convicted that my first quest should have been made to God..  To me, there is no balanced life if my relationship with my Creator is not at the center of my life.  And upon thinking that thought, Luke 2: 52 came to my mind.  

 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

That is when I saw that Jesus lived out, even as a boy growing into manhood, a balanced life.  He grew intellectually, physically, spiritually, and socially.  And so I had a picture in my mind of what my life should look like in order to follow the pattern set by Jesus.  

In my google search, I had found all sorts of pretty images of pie charts with different categories such as spiritual, physical, intellectual, work, financial, family, social, etc, etc, with all the "slices" of pie being equal.  I could not find the chart I had in my mind so I made my own chart of sorts with a twist.  I am not an artist and I am not tech savvy so I did the best I could which is substandard to most in the blogging world.  But it is working for me.  

I used the chart above as a guide in making my own which I (very roughly) drew into my newly created balanced life journalMy first step was to remove "a great life" from the center circle.  I then made it the largest circle and labeled it "SPIRITUAL," believing firmly that my relationship with God must be at the center of my life and all other areas of life.  It is the firm foundation.  I then took ideas and words that came into my mind from exploring some of the other pie charts I had viewed  and wrote a synopsis of what I want my spiritual journey to include and what it means to me.  

Then I proceeded to fill in the other circles with different categories - physical, emotional, family, work/financial, social, and intellectual.  I followed the same procedure with those categories, writing a synopsis, putting ideas that I found in my search and ideas that popped into my head as I began my balanced life journal and journey.

In that first week I also got on Pinterest and began to search out pretty illustrations for my thoughts.   Having become proficient at using the copy/paste function, my journal has taken on quite a bit of prettiness!   And I am also building a nice little balanced life Pinterest board.  

Another quote I found that I think is also a nice summary of what it all means to me is this one:

 Within a week of all this new activity and exploration, I had the opportunity to request a phone session with a life coach.  This fellow is special to me as I've known him since he was a boy.  Yes, it felt strange to request a consultation with my oldest kids' former babysitter.  But what a wonderful opportunity and experience it was!  He was a very great help to me.   I must share one piece of advice from him because it is crucial to seeking a balanced life.   I have to remind myself daily to heed his recommendation to choose only one or two areas to work on and give myself grace in the other areas I want to also pursue; otherwise, I will become overwhelmed and give up!  

If you are suffering burn out, I encourage you to explore what a balanced life  looks like to you and to begin to seek it.  One thing I have noticed is that if I don't work on that journal then I feel at loose ends.  The writing, cutting/pasting, making it my own is part of the therapy and stress relief;  imagining the life I want to live, and dwelling on those ideas is an important weekly activity.  And of course, time in Bible study and with God, praying and meditation on His words, is also crucial!  I am seeking to live with joy, peace, and contentment as I pass through this world into the next.

Pressing on in Him,

Lisa Ann

Thursday, March 12, 2015

I Don't Like That Girl

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 1: 5-8

Life is fleeting.  We truly are here for such a short time.   It will soon be 36 years since my high school graduation.  How did that happen?  It feels like the blink of an eye.  And yet, I've lived a lot of life in those years. This post may have a bit of meandering through ancient history to it but the lessons learned are real and important, at least to me.

Once upon a time, there was a little girl; she was raised as the little princess in a family with two older brothers, nearly seven and ten years her elder.  She was terribly spoiled!  She finds it embarrassing how spoiled she was!  Her life was not to remain in a happily-ever-after pattern however.   Just before her tenth birthday, her father went home with the Lord.  Within two years, both brothers left home mostly permanently, with college and marriage for both.  There she was, just her mother and her, still spoiled rotten, more so than ever as she became the recipient of that mother's main focus and energy.  

The girl had always enjoyed learning, but hated going to school.  It's hard to explain or even understand.  But then came high school.  The girl found some good friends, kindred spirits.  The girl met a boy who happened to be on the school's wrestling team.  He had beautiful eyes and a kind heart.  The wrestling coach had decided he wanted cheerleaders to join the scene around the mat during the girl's freshman year in high school.  Because she was the "girlfriend" of the boy with beautiful eyes, she got elected (by the wrestling team) to cheer them on for that school year.   

The girl had always been considered shy.  But during freshman year, everything began to change.   She also had loved to sing since she was a wee little girl.   Joining the school choral department became another major part of her high school career.   The girl cheered and sang all four years.   She loved those activities and her shyness began to fade away.  She didn't become one of the "popular" kids; but she became happy with her life, her friends, her studies.  But in the process, she also became a major twit!

TWIT- a silly or foolish person.

The girl's mom had told her that she had her first boyfriend in the hospital nursery just after birth.   Her mom also labeled her "boy crazy."   The girl had many boyfriends in high school.  She remembers that there was drama with some, but she really doesn't even remember why most of them didn't remain part of  her life.  It was just a succession of four years of dating and very shallow friendship with a bunch of boys, no long term relationships, at least not by adult standards.  

Through a popular social media website, the girl has "found" some of those boys again in the last few years.  Of course, not all adults are in that social media world so she certainly hasn't reconnected with all of those "boys."  The girl has tried to show that she can be a true friend now, not a twit most of the time!

There was one boy she asked about through the years  but never managed to talk or connect with again.  Just recently, the girl found out that the boy had passed on suddenly.  She was taken back in time to the few months they had shared; she remembered his constant smile, his kindness, his always being a gentleman.  He was a good guy, one of the best.  So what happened?

The girl was a twit!  She was silly and foolish and decided she wanted to date someone else and rudely ended the relationship with the good guy.  And that's the part that makes the woman unhappy.  The twit girl was rude, unkind.  And the girl never took an opportunity to apologize to the good guy for being rude and unkind.  She was a twit through and through!  And she realizes how sad it is when our chance to say a simple, "I'm sorry I was mean, wrong, unkind," is gone. 

In college the girl basically dated one guy and she had the wedding band on her finger before her college graduation arrived.   Wouldn't it be wonderful if the spoiled little girl lived happily-ever-after?  

In his mercy, God never intended for that spoiled girl to remain a twit!   Thank you Father!  

I am not saying that God caused sin in her life or anyone else in her life.   My theology does not support that theory.   But being human, her husband and she both had sinful natures.  Unfortunately, his sin repeatedly pulled him away from his bride and the two children that were born of their union.  Finally, the girl who had grown into a young woman could see no other way to deal with his choices than to give him up and let him suffer the consequences of those choices alone.  She could not raise those two precious babies in the environment he chose for their lives.   And so she became the divorced, single mom.  Was it easy?   No!

But God was growing her all the way.   She was blessed to have been surrounded by good, godly people along her journey into adulthood.   One minister who had counseled her and her husband through some of those hard times and a move she found difficult to make finally helped her understand one of the most important things about her hard journey into young adulthood.

The young woman struggled with forgiving the ex-husband.  He had caused worlds of hurt to so many people that she loved, not just her and their children.   His choices involved family, friends, church members who were second family to the girl.  She spoke with the helpful preacher about this lack of forgiveness knowing it was sin.  He very pointedly asked her to think back to the eighteen year old girl who had accepted the future husband's date request.  He asked if she wishes she had remained that girl?     Her thoughts: "TWIT!  No way!   Thank you God I am not her any more!"    The preacher kindly pointed out that the journey with the husband had brought her out of that selfish twit state.  She had to grow up fast, be humbled, and develop compassion and empathy for others; and all that misery in those married years helped her progress towards those attributes. 

Now the girl's journey is far from over.  She still has times of twittiness.  She still has much growth to accomplish to become Christ-like.  She is still being refined through fire by God.   But thank the Lord God Almighty, she is not that girl any more, because I don't like that girl!  

Thank you heavenly Father for continuing to grow me up in You and Your Son!

Pressing On in Him,

Lisa Ann 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

In Favor With God and Man

"Attempting to please 'the world' will only lead to frustration and disappointment.  Instead, commit yourself to pleasing the Lord.  Live for Him, and experience an unexplainable peace that only God can provide."    (from the Positively Inspires facebook page)

The quote above flitted across my facebook page the other day and I quickly shared it with my friends.   Little did I know how it would taunt me in the coming days.   

I have been "under the weather" the last few days with a respiratory virus.  I think in times of sickness Satan can have his most fun in my psyche.  I have coughed, sputtered, and sneezed myself senseless.  Tired and depressed, having pressing work and not feeling like even doing the "have to" jobs, my mind has had too much time to dwell on poor, pitiful me!

I have been reminded again of  just how much work I have to do to not be petty and hurt by perceived slights from those around me.   My mind has roamed to times when I felt overlooked or ignored; I've wondered why some seem to always be the "golden ones" in any situation and most of us are just the "others."  It seems that whether in the preschool, school years, the workplace, or even the church, there always seems to be the "teachers' pets."  Some folks just seem to have the love of others simply because they are - they exist - that's it.

Don't get me wrong, in the church setting we are all loved and we know it.  But that doesn't mean there is no favoritism among the body of believers, that's human nature. While looking for King Saul's successor, even the great prophet Samuel was reminded by God that he should not look at the outward appearance.  I Samuel 16: 6 says, "When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, 'Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.'”  God Himself tells us through Samuel that God had to remind Samuel that He sees what man cannot, our hearts.   Therefore man fails and flails in his admiration for those around him.   

" But the Lord said to Samuel, 'Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.'”

So  what should I learn from this?   I need to not worry about  the elderly gentleman who looks right through me, walking by me without comment, to heartily greet the person behind me.  I need not ask myself, "what does she have that I don't?  Is she prettier?  Is she more humble, more of a servant?"   I need to extend grace to all my sisters and brothers, coworkers, friends, family, everyone I meet when I feel slighted or ignored by them.  And I also need to work at not ignoring individuals right in front of me because I have someone else with whom I need or want to speak.

Mostly I need to be secure that the One Who matters most sees me, acknowledges me, hears me, and loves me deeper than I can imagine and will never quit. He sees my heart and His love, perfect love, never fails.   

Pressing On in Him,

Lisa Ann

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Whatever You Do, You are Serving the Lord Christ

  Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,  knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. Colossians 3:23-24

One day last week I walked into a local fast food establishment in order to get a much "needed" cup of liquid caffeine.  This particular location has been the scene over the last seventeen years of many first day of school breakfasts, last day of school celebratory lunches, emergency breakfasts with a trusted friend when life was just too overwhelming and I needed to ventFrequented often by our family, I have seen many managers and employees come and go.  

On that morning last week, I witnessed a scene I don't recall ever witnessing before.   First of all, it was just after 10 in the morning and it was a morning when concern for the possibility of very slick roads for the morning commute had been of utmost importance the night before.   And at just after 10 am as I approached the entryway and tile sidewalk just outside the door, a young man had a wet mop applying water to the tile surface.  I hesitated a bit just to check for a thin sheet of ice that might be appearing.   I did not see any ice so I proceeded.  The second sight to greet me was the dining room cleanup lady busily mopping a large section of the dining room floor.   I walked towards the counter and was stunned at what I saw next.

Usually upon approaching the counter, I am greeted by the lady who has been there as long as I have lived in this community or one of the other cashiers and asked what I might like to order.   Usually there are one or two employees behind that counter, maybe two or three in the drive-through area, and usually two or three visible in the food prep area behind the front line.  But last week, there were so many bodies present in the space, I just stopped and stared.  People were moving over each other wiping surfaces- counters, monitor screens, cleaning the floor; I heard the sound of the grill being scraped and saw bustling bodies working, working, working, cleaning every surface, one on top of the other.   It was like an out of control machine with parts moving in all directions, interfering with the work of the one beside because space was tight.  

The only greeting I got was a very tense, "What would you like to order?"   I got no smile, no bantering, no asking about the kids.  The girl who waited on me looked as though she wanted to cry and I wouldn't be surprised if I learned that she had done just that before the morning was over.  

But the most striking observation of all was the manager who was prancing like a peacock back and forth across the front area, then down the side towards the back work area when asked a question by some poor soul.  She was barking orders every couple of seconds to someone, everyone.  She was in charge and left no doubt about it to the observing outsider or to those insiders whose expressions showed clearly they regretted being in that place at that time.  In my short time in that establishment on that morning, I heard her bark at her employees numerous times.  Someone dared to tell her they were out of food for an order and she barked back that breakfast is served until 10:30 am and she was not going to tell a customer at 10:26 am that they could not have what they wished to have. "We have chicken; we have the other ingredients; so get it prepped and get the order ready!" 

 On the one hand, that's good customer service; on the other hand, watching and listening to her took my appetite away.  My stomach knotted in empathy for her employees.  I figured that if I had hung around until 11 am, I probably would have heard her barking at those same employees about how many extra biscuits and small pieces of chicken were left over and what a waste they had created that morning!  She was in charge and every one in that dining room knew it as did every employee. 

And shamefully, I took the sights and sounds and realized that at times, my children, all four of them through the years, have had those same emotions and expressions that those fast food employees exhibited.  

Confession:  I am a horrible home manager!   My house is so overrun with clutter that sometimes I feel like I cannot breathe.  I cannot tell you the last time it was REALLY clean all over, every surface, much less organized and neat.  I have let busyness and other commitments get in the way of creating and maintaining a haven for the ones I love most in this world.   And oh my, if someone calls and says they need to stop by, then I become that barking manager, "Pick up this, get rid of that!"   The only difference is I don't just bark, I do participate.  In fact, I have carried more than my share of what work is done for years.  I have not trained my youngest children well at picking up after themselves; I shudder to think how much my future daughters-in-law will loathe me because of this.  

The fast food-cleaning frenzy experience sparked an internal spiritual dialog.  It reiterated that I need to lead my sons like Jesus led his apostles- through servant leadership.   Jesus, King of the universe, did not strut around barking orders.  He got down and got his hands dirty washing the dirt and dung off the feet of those He loved, served, and taught.  He walked among the sinners and the sick and He touched and He healed their physical ailments and their soul ailments.  Jesus was not too good to work; He worked hard and long and showed us the way to love and manage the people with whom we are entrusted

And now, as for me and my household, we need to get down to work.  We need to work together to create order, rid ourselves of dirt, dog hair, and chaos. or as FlyLady Marla Cilley ( calls it, Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome!   

Pressing on in Him,


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

How Focus Changes Everything

"Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep." 
 Romans 12: 15

Yesterday was a rainy day and a Monday.  (I could hear the Carpenter's lyrics rattling through my brain for half the day.)  It was cold, the perfect day to stay in and attend to my out of control, cluttered house!  But we had business to attend to elsewhere, family business.

On the last day of last week, a sweet friend in our church family had to release her dear mom to eternity.  Yesterday was the day that her family celebrated that life and said their temporary goodbyes to their mom, wife, grandmother, aunt, sister...

I quit my house rescue mission just after lunch and went to shower and dress.  Shower, check.  Makeup, check.  Hose, check.  Little black skirt, check.  Shoes, uh oh!  I never got the shoes I wanted to wear out of the vehicle my husband drove to work today.  Time? Nope, not going to work!   Shoes, ugly and old which don't coordinate with anything but maybe blue jeans on a slouchy day, check.

Dressed and ready, old, ugly shoes and all, I walk to the living room.  Ahhh, boys are ready.   One of the advantages to home education is that their education can include times like this of showing up for people we love.  One says, "I don't like funerals."   I reply, " Well son, no one likes funerals; but God tells us to love our family, His children, by being there, sharing their sorrow.  

As we began our journey across town, one of the boys says he cannot believe we haven't picked up his new shoes.  "Look at these shoes I'm having to wear; they are gross, paint-splattered, nasty-looking!"   I reply, "Yeah, well son, my shoes aren't so great either.  But you know what?   Today is not about us; no one will be concerned about our shoes."   But our friends will know we love them.

And that was the moment that helped me take my mind off my shoes and realize how blessed I am to be a child of God and part of the family He created.   Life in Christ is never about ME, it's about HIM and others.  It makes all the difference in my ability to serve when I remember that.