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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

I Want to be Like My Parents When I Grow Up

My mom called about a month ago and asked me if I'd like to join her on her Sunday school class' retreat to Tennessee this coming weekend. She didn't have to ask twice. I'm on a jet plane tomorrow a.m. heading East.

I jump at any opportunity I have to visit my parents, whether they come my way or I get the treat of visiting them in the greener section of our country. I'm quite aware these days that my parents are getting older...because I'm quite aware these days that I'M getting older. I savor every opportunity I have to spend with them.

My parents both retired from professions as educators over 20 years ago, and one of the blessings I consistently thank the Lord for is the good health they have enjoyed during their retirement years. Not only has their health allowed them to stay fully engaged in life through their senior years, but it has also ensured that their children and grandchildren have continued to enjoy their presence in our lives.


Dad continues to construct wheelchair ramps for people needing them, go on mission trips with their church, reconstruct an antique car, and tend after a huge yard. My mom still cooks and bakes for families in crisis, visits shut-ins, works her garden and engages with friends. And they both continue to travel, volunteer on election days, complete daily crossword puzzles and play golf. They are healthy and thriving, enjoying life and serving others daily.

I want to do the same.

Recently I read Dr. Richard Furman's Prescription for Life: Three Simple Strategies to Live Younger Longer. He wants me (and you) to have the kind of thriving, healthy and enjoyable senior years my parents have enjoyed...and continue to enjoy. And rather than make it painful and complicated, Dr. Furman boils it down to four key strategies:
  • achieve and maintain your ideal weight
  • reduce your risk for life-threatening diseases (such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer)
  • make exercise a natural, enjoyable and doable part of your life
  • learn what foods to eat and what foods to avoid.

But let's get this clear: Dr. Furman hasn't written a book for senior adults. He's written a book for all of us...all ages. He makes it clear that leading a healthy lifestyle in our younger years will produce dividends in our senior years. Of course, the converse is true as well. Life sloppily lived in our younger years will result in less healthy living in our later years as well as a likely reduction in the number of years we even have to live.

While I can't say that I've decided to adopt all of Dr. Furman's advice (simply because I'm stubborn and foolish, like most of us), I have committed to continue to exercise regularly and be more vigilant about maintaining a healthy weight. I've also chosen a few foods to work into mine and my husband's menu more regularly and a few foods to steer clear of. I'll work on a few more foods in each column after I accomplish my initial goals. I get overwhelmed if I try to make too many changes at once.

I especially appreciate that Dr. Fuman is a believer in Jesus Christ and presents his material with the goal of helping us to live longer and fuller lives that glorify God. He doesn't just want us to get in a few more rounds of golf; he wants us to be able to serve the Lord and activitly participate in His church for many, many years. 

My parents have been blessed with full and healthy lives in their retirement years. They are such a blessing to me, the rest of their family, their friends and their church. In many ways I believe they have been able to serve the Lord more passionately and activitely in their 60s and 70s than they could while they had the restraints of children and jobs. I praise the Lord for the gift He's given to my parents in their health, but I also praise Him because I see my parents using that gift to bless others every day.

What are you doing to live a longer, healthier life to the glory of God?

He Knows My Name


Because I'm one who learns by repetition...lots and lots and lots of repetition...God reminds me more than once each morning that I belong to Him.

Have you heard the story about how I was baptized with the wrong name? Yep. We had an interim pastor at the time. I was nine years old and I had recently accepted Jesus' gift of salvation through His death on the cross and ressurrection from the grave. I was eager to be immersed in our church's baptismal pool.

I don't remember the interim pastor's name. I'm not sure if that's my subconscious attempt at revenge or just the fact that this all happened 40 years ago and I have of course forgiven him (ahem!), but I think that's kind of fitting...me not knowing his name and all. Anyhoo...when the pastor dunked me under the waters, he said he baptized Kathy Winton in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost (I guess I should just be thankful he got the Trinity's names right!). My maiden name is Winton, but my given name is Kay, not Kathy. I'm pretty sure I swallowed a mouthful of water while trying to correct the minister's mistake, but alas I was under water and the deed was done. Kathy was going to heaven, I thought, but I wasn't sure about me, Kay.

I've got stellar parents and they did an excellent job of convincing me that even though Pastor What's His Name didn't baptize me with the correct name God knew who I was. And I love and trust my parents, so I believed them. (And yes, I know that baptism doesn't send you to heaven.)

Still.

Don't you, too, sometimes wonder if the God of this universe, the One who created it all and keeps it all together, really knows you? And even if you had stellar parents and rockstar Sunday school teachers and mind blowing pastors (who baptized you with your given name *wink* *wink*), don't you wonder if God, I mean THE God, really knows your name and has His eye on you and enjoys you and has plans for you and is preparing a place for you... little ol' you? Come on. Really now!

Let's see...

"I have summoned you by name; you are Mine."
Isaiah 43:1

True, God said these words to Israel, His chosen people. But the Bible tells me I am also His chosen people in Colossians 3:12 and 1 Peter 2:9. Therefore, I can know without a doubt that He has called me by name and I, Laura Kay Winton Harms, belong to Him.

So as I read this third scripture in my Soul Satisfying Menu of scriptures each morning, I'm reminded that I belong to Him (I don't belong to anyone else and no one belongs to me). But I also receive the added benefit of hearing that the God of this universe has called me out by name, summoned me into relationship with Him, wooed me into His gracious embrace, romanced me with the sweetest name to my ears (my own, of course!) and singled me out with love. There is no doubt that my God knows me by name and treasures me as His own. I am so adored. You, too.


Monday, October 20, 2014

In Case You're as Confused as I Was

I didn't think I'd ever felt compelled to be owned by someone else. At least not in the sense that would make me enslaved to them. I'm a pretty independent gal.

But I have yearned to belong. In fact, like most people, I've worked hard to belong at times. I've dressed to fit in, joined the club, spoken the language, followed the rules, signed on the dotted line and laughed like I knew what we were all laughing about...even when I really didn't. You, too?

Fact is, God created us with something like a magnet in our soul that draws us to something which can possess us. It can manifest differently in each of our lives, but there is an inner desire in each of us to be owned, ruled and possessed. We long to belong, but more than that, we long to be ruled.


Even God's people cried out for someone to rule and reign over them when, in fact, they had no real need for such an arrangement (See 1 Samuel 8:4-9 & Judges 8:22). God was their King, and He was certainly sufficient.

God is our King, too. That magnet in our souls that searches for someone to claim us as his own, to call the shots, to protect, to love, to rule and to be jealous over us? That magnet is meant to draw us to the very heart of God, our one true King.

Unfortunately, I've been confused on that point at times. I've both desired to be possessed by another and to rule over another. I've wanted to have a king...and I've wanted to be the king.

And I've become angry and resentful when my "subjects" have banished me as their king. And I've pouted when my "king" no longer wanted to play "kingdom" with this damsel in distress.

Maybe I've just now been really vulnerable and hung myself out on the gallows as the only sick peasant in the kingdom...

But my bet is that if you really examine your human relationships you'll find that you've gotten just as confused as I have at times about who is the King and who is the subject. Let me clarify. Better yet, let Him clarify:

Know that the Lord is God.
It is He who made us, and we are His;
We are His people, the sheep of His pasture.
Psalm 100:3

This is the second scripture in my Soul Satisfying Menu that I meditate on each day. It reminds me that I am indeed possessed...by a loving and gracious and pursuing and jealous God. He does not desire to share my allegiance or my heart with anyone or anything else. He wants me to operate each day with full awareness that I am His.

It also reminds me, however, that no one belongs to me. Not my husband or my children or my friends or my mentees or my employees (if I had any) or anyone else. No one is called to serve or bow to me. No one is to pledge undying allegiance to me. No one is to put me first. (Of course I understand that my husband is to fulfill his commitment to me and my children, when they were younger, were to obey me, but God has even encapsulated those relationships within the parameters of ultimate allegiance to Him. see Exodus 20:3-6)

Hey, maybe you're not confused on this issue as I sometimes am. Maybe the magnetic force in your soul always operates according to the Owner's manual and never malfunctions by drawing you into unhealthy relationships. Praise the Lord! You have been spared a messy dilemma.

But if you've ever fallen into the trap of either serving another as master or demanding such high allegiance from someone else, may I suggest that you commit Psalm 100:3 to memory...and to heart? And fortunately it's not a shaming verse; it's an affirming and loving promise. You belong! You belong to One who has sought you out, paid the price, redeemed you from a pit, commissioned you to service, provided your every need, delights in your companionship and prepares a place for you in His coming kingdom. You belong! And, no, no one belongs to you. But, trust me, that's best. You can't handle it and neither can I. But God can.

Can anyone relate? Have you been confused on this issue, too? Let's pray for healthy relationships and strong commitments to our one true King.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

This is Where I've Been Living

Where in the world have I been? Right? Well obviously I haven't been at my desk typing out blog posts!

But honestly, other than a quick trip to Pennsylvania to speak at the Iron Sharpens Iron Greater Philadelphia Women's Conference, I've been right here at home, sorting through laundry and tired summer clothing and my disheveled office and...life. It's just that the "sorting out"of life has been such a personal and, at times, tiring process that I've had little inspiration to tap the computer keys.

No. That's not entirely accurate.

I've been quite inspired. God has been filling my ears and heart full. I guess I've just been keeping all that He's taught me close to the chest, like a Rummy hand I've not been quite ready to lay down.

But I'm ready now. And maybe, just maybe, you've been waiting...and you're ready for me to share the cards the lessons I've been dealt, too.

So starting today I'll be going back to sharing from my personal Soul Satisfying Menu of scriptures from which the Lord has been graciously feeding me for the past few months. Hopefully I'll be posting at least two or three posts per week. (How many times have I said that?!?!)

Your Assignment, 
Should You Choose to Accept It!
Philippians 4:8

My thoughts have gotten the best of me more days than I care to admit in the past 12 months. In fact, my thought life has been at the root of most of my troubles. Due to some significant (but not overwhelming! PTL!) changes in my life, my thoughts have drifted toward anxiety, fear, doubt, bitterness, self-pity, and other such toxic, emotional cess pools. Yeah, I've been swimming in the stinky stuff.

So the first scripture I've been meditating on each day is one that directs me to lift my thoughts to a higher plain.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent and worthy of praise - think about such things.
Philippians 4:8

Truth is, foul thoughts feed something in us, do they not? Sure, they feed our pride. They justify our behaviors and vilify the other person. They pacify our insecurities and nurse our hurts. They placate our fears and heat our anger to a boil. They irrigate our bitter roots and fertilize our self-centeredness.

But I noticed that when I spent hours thinking my stinky thoughts I began to smell, too. My words were putrid, my expressions were sour, and my attitudes wreaked!

Do you ever have problems getting a hold of your thoughts and lifting them to a higher level? Do you ever feel like your thoughts are controlling you rather than you being in charge of your thoughts? Sure you do. We all do. Especially when we are wrestling with something overwhelming, new or fearful.

Philippians 4:8 reminds me that my thoughts will not just automatically default to the pure and lovely, the admirable and true. I will have to conscientiously put them there. I will have to take each thought that comes into my mind captive to Christ and His Word. And I will need to toss many a rank thought and decisively replace it with one that is based in truth and godliness.

Memorizing this verse has compelled me to be more intentional about taking charge of my thought life at the beginning of each day. And it's challenged me to stay in control of my thoughts throughout the day as surprises and words and people contribute to my day.

What helps you to control your thought life? I'd love to know!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Dancing with Scarlett

A friend and I are driving into Tucson to see Gone With the Wind on the big screen next week. I can't wait! I thought for about 10 minutes about rereading Margaret Mitchell's book in preparation. Then I remembered that I went through a full box of tissues when I read it the first time and decided against it.

I am anticipating both the movie and the experience. We're eating lunch out before we catch the flick, so I've already decided that I'll postpone buying my popcorn and Diet Coke until the intermission. Isn't an intermission just so fun?

And I've already been reflecting on my favorite scenes from the movie. I love the opening with Mr. O'Hara surveying his cotton fields. And then don't we all love seeing Scarlett sitting on the front porch steps of Tara with all her beaus swooning over her? All except Ashley, that is.

I'm also especially fond of the scene where Scarlett and the ladies of Atlanta are hosting a ball or gala of some sort for the war effort. Scarlett is in mourning attire in honor of her late husband who has died on the battlefield. But, while she watches the dancing from the sidelines, we catch a glimpse of her toes tapping to the music underneath all of her petticoats. She's in mourning (sort of), but she's itching to dance! And dance she does! With Rhett Butler! Shamelessly!

Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc.
Others are appalled at her dancing in mourning clothes, but you know Scarlett! Fiddle-dee-dee!

Now Scarlett was mourning on the outside with her heavy black gown, but in her heart of hearts she was pining for Ashley. The only thing making Scarlett sad was that Melanie was wed to her beloved Ashley instead of her.

But you may indeed be mourning. You probably are not wearing all black, but your days may feel dark and your mood may be heavy and solemn. Loss is hard. Change is hard. Hurt is hard. And there are times when indeed our hearts feel like they will literally break. In fact, there are times when we feel like we are truly broken. And we wonder if we'll ever feel whole again, much less feel joyful, happy.

Grief takes time. And it includes so many ups and downs; sometimes it seems perpetual and eternal. We imagine that we will surely carry this dull and weighty ache in our hearts every day for the rest of our lives. At certain stages in grief, we even feel like we're supposed to be sad forevermore, that it would be disrespectful or disingenuous to be otherwise. At other times we try desperately to lift our own spirits or at least to somehow ignore the constant ache...but we just can't.

In Psalm 30, David reminds us that God always brings us through our times of mourning into times of refreshing and joy:

Weeping may last for the night,
But a shout of joy comes in the morning.
(vs. 5b)

Thou has turned for me my mourning into dancing; 
Thou has loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness;
That my soul may sing praise to Thee, and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to Thee forever.
(vs. 11-12)

Read those verses one more time, this time looking for the extreme contrasts David draws. Could that be right? Can a mourner (not the Scarlett O'Hara brand, but a genuine and sorrowful mourner) truly go from weeping to shouting for joy? Can you really go from mourning to dancing? Dancing??? Was David taking poetic license here? Or is he serious?

Knowing David, the demonstrative, dancing king, he literally meant the Lord had lifted his spirits so much that he indeed left his sackcloth behind, donned his dancing duds and took to the dance floor.

I believe God can do that for you and me, too. And I have no idea what or who you have lost. I understand the loss of a child is the toughest to be borne, but I haven't experienced that. So I do not pretend to know the depth of your pain, whatever is causing you to mourn.

But I do know the power and depth and love and grace and goodness of our God. And I know He has the power not just to change circumstances, but to change hearts, lifting and soothing and healing and restoring and, yes, infusing with supernatural and splendid joy.

You may mourn today. And if you do, cry into the welcome arms of your Savior. He truly cares. Cry and vent and hurt. Allow Him to press in on your wounds and stop the bleeding. Allow His Word to soothe you like the balm it is. And rest, sweet friend, in His strong embrace. There is a time for mourning. You, unlike Scarlett, may indeed need to take the time to mourn.

But know this. You will dance again. Maybe not later today. Maybe not tomorrow or even next month or the next. But one day, by the grace of God, you will dance again. And when you do, remember Psalm 30:12, and give a shout out to the One who has restored your joy.

Maybe, like Scarlett, you already feel your toes tapping and you're just afraid to get out on the dance floor for fear of relapse or being misunderstood or letting go. Let your sweet Savior take you by the hand and lead you out to a wide open place where joy comes in the morning. Kick up your heels and dance the Cotton Eye Joe...and dance with Jesus! There is a time for dancing. So trust that it will come.

Could I pray for you today? If this blog post has spoken to you and you have been waiting and hoping for healing of your broken heart, would you let me know so I can pray for that comfort? Just leave a short comment; you don't even have to leave your name, just a word or two. I'd love to pray for you.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Lord of the Details


Things changed on me at the last minute, and I hate it when that happens. Still, it does cause me to rest upon the Lord's strength and provision even more than when I feel like I've got all my ducks in a row.

I needed to rent a car for this weekend's speaking engagement in Fort Worth (Hi Birchman Baptist ladies! I can't wait to meet you all Friday night!) because of some last minute changes in plans. The host church hadn't budgeted for this expense because I had assured them of other provisions. And I hadn't budgeted for this expense...because I don't have much of a budget for any expenses ;-)

I hear of other people getting great deals on last minute travel arrangements, so I was hoping I could find one, too. But for the past two days all my attempts had yielded high prices and fees. I was growing discouraged.

In fact, I cried. 

I sat here at my desk and just wept. I had made a mess of some things and now my poor choices had resulted in extra expenses. I owned those poor choices, but I didn't know how I was going to pay for them. 

So, instead of just crying into my tissue, I cried out to the Lord.

"Please, God, I just need a little help here. I have made a huge mess of things and I know that. But I can't afford the consequences. Can you please help me find a rental car that I can afford?"

I abandoned the web site I had been using with no results, and Googled "rental car." Up popped plenty of options, but I had no idea which one would lead to anything positive. I just clicked on one.

Next thing I know, after filling in 42 the blanks with my vital information for the 29th time in the past 24 hours, up popped the deal of a lifetime. In fact, I wasn't sure it could possibly be legitimate. They offered me a full-size car for $29 a day, and with the fees added in it just amounted to $76 for the two days! The best offer I'd manage to find thus far was well over $225. 

I imagained that when I clicked "purchase" the web site would probably spit me out to some kind of this-is-all-a-big-joke-and-the-real-price-is-$325 page. Or even worse, I'd find myself renting from Bob's Cars and Kitchen Supplies and driving an old delivery truck. 

But nope. The car will be at the Hertz Rental facility (that's a legitimate rental company, right?) at the Dallas/Fort Worth airport (which is indeed where I'm flying to). So all is well. 

And I stopped crying.

And I started praising the Lord of the Details!!

God is not our genie in a bottle. But He is a God who cares about the smallest details in our lives. He is also a God of compassion and tender care. He is good. He is oh so good.

So don't sweat the small stuff today. Don't cry about it either. Well, you can sweat or cry a little if you want to. I did. But when you find yourself sweating or crying or both...run to the Lord of the Details. I'm not promising the deal of a lifetime, but I know He'll take care of you all the same.

I'm joining with other bloggers today offering encouragement and hope through Holley Gerth's Coffee for Your Heart link up. You can find more encouraging posts from Holley and other authors here.


You'll find my other Walk with Me Wednesday posts here.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Because Everything's Not Going to be Okay...

"Don't worry. I'm sure everything will work out just fine."

Truth is, not everything works out just fine. Sometimes we lose. Sometimes we miss out. Sometimes we hurt...and hurt some more. Sometimes everything works out really badly.

But I've learned that while everything may not be okay, I can be okay. 

I learned that when I reached for Holley Gerth's book You're Going to be Okay.

I loved Holley's encouraging book because she not only cheers you toward hope in it, but she gives you practical tools to help you get there.

And she and I agree strongly on a very strong premise:

You have to meditate on truth in order to change your thinking and your feelings, so that you can, indeed, be okay.

I teach that very concept at the Satisfied at Last Conferences I've been presenting in churches and conference centers all over the country for the past three years. I encourage women to search out scriptures that feed their soul hungers for things like love, significance, purpose, and security, and to chew on those biblical truths three or more times a day through meditation.

But sometimes, when a difficulty or unusual life change occurs, we flounder for truth. Because of hurts, disappointments, and rejections, we find ourselves not just hungry for truth, but starving for it! And if we don't lay hold of some truth fast, we end up swallowing the lies surrounding those unwieldy circumstances instead...causing even more hurt and frustration.

In recent months I've been starving for truth. Satan has aimed an arsenal of lies in my direction and pulled back his bow with full strength, targeting my wounded and insecure heart.

And that's why Holley's newest book, What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days, has been such a lifesaver for me.


Holley has given us 52 well chosen, encouraging truths to hold on to when the difficult days come. I can tell that Holley is no stranger to hurt and disappointment because she has selected scriptures from the Psalms that soothe and gently encourage. She offers no platitudes or empty promises, only scriptural truth full of holy hope and grace.

Holley writes like a friend speaking to you from across the corner booth at your favorite coffee shop, leaning in and looking you in the eyes, taking your hand in hers occasionally. She doesn't promise the moon or even that "everything is going to be okay." But she does promise you things such as the following entry titles:

God Makes Sure Even the Darkest Night Leads to Dawn (Psalm 4:8)

God is Thinking about You Today (Psalm 9:18)

God Says You're a Delight, Not a Disappointment (Psalm 18:18-19)

God Doesn't Want You to Try So Hard (Psalm 44:3)

God is Bigger Than Your Problems (Psalm 97:5)

and

God Will Train You to Do Battle (Psalm 144:1-2)

Remember, she has 46 more biblical and hope-inspiring truths where those came from. In fact, if you'd like, you can have one for each week of the year.

I like to fill a scripture memory and meditation album with soul-satisfying scriptures that feed my current hungers and voids. I explain how to do that here. But the basic jist is to slowly (as you find them) add satisfying truths to your 4x6 photo album on 4x6 index cards. I keep the album with me throughout the day and read through it several times daily, and even memorize the scriptures over time.

Holley has pointed me to some fresh scriptures that I had never meditated on before. She brought new meaning to familiar scriptures, but she also led me to some that I had never really pondered before, such as:

But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. (Psalm 3:3)

Holley says, "Jesus is looking at you and loving you. He's reaching out his hand to cup your chin and lift your face so you can look into his eyes. What happens when we lift our heads? Our perspective changes."

and

Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. (Psalm 63:7)

Holley writes, "We will never know all God has shielded us from...What we do know and can trust in with all our hearts is that he was willing to die on a cross to protect us. And that means he's committed to our well-being."

I'm pretty diligent about digging into God's Word for life-changing scriptures for myself, but during this season of change and hurt I have welcomed Holley taking me by the hand and leading me gently to well-chosen and meaningful verses that have fallen fresh on my famished soul.

For the first time, Holley will be hosting a book club featuring What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days. You can find out more about it here. All you have to do to join is like her Facebook page here.

I have absolutely loved this little book. It makes a great gift for a hurting or grieving friend, but I think it's one you'll want to have on your own nightstand as well.

Have you read any of Holley's books? Do you have a favorite?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Good Morning, Dear Friend!


Morning used to be my favorite time of the day. I loved the blank page in the journal, the sun low in the sky, the coffee in my cup and the coolness in the air.

And then I encountered a heartbreaking and difficult season in my life.

For the first time, I had a hard time opening my eyes to the light in my bedroom, I dragged out of bed, and I dreaded the birds' new song. My mind would land on the same daunting thoughts every single morning, and hope seemed swallowed up by the fears and what-ifs that I toted from the previous day into the new one.

It wasn't uncommon for tears to gather in my eyes almost as soon as the morning's light opened them.

But each of those mornings, when I hesitated to lift the covers and leave the safety of my bed, my dearest Friend persistently and gently reminded me that He was waiting for me on my back porch.

I've been prone to have a "daily quiet time" for most of my adult life. Sure, I've had spells of time when I was negligent in this daily ritual, and I've even gone long periods of time when my quiet time was nothing more than a quick cursory read of a short verse and someone else's poetic words. But more days than not, I'm guessing, I've at least sat still for a few moments with God.

When my season of depression began (that's the first time I've owned that word...depression...hmmm) I lumbered on through my daily times of scripture reading and prayers out of necessity and desperation. And God met me where I was. I wouldn't have. If I'd had someone who showed up out of desperation each morning to whine and moan and cry in my presence, I'd have sent some lame excuse for my absence and found someone else to hang with.

But every morning I found the Lord waiting anxiously for me to pour my coffee, let my dogs out and hurry out to the porch already! No kidding, as the days went by I truly sensed that, while I was still dragging my feet, He was practically pacing back and forth, looking at His holy watch and sporting the same silly grin children have when they're waiting for their parents to sit down around the Christmas tree. No disrespect intended here, but I just want you to know that it truly felt like I was keeping an excited and eager God waiting just beyond my sliding glass door each morning!

His enthusiasm is contagious. And that holy enthusiasm is now what causes me to once again cherish my mornings. More than ever before, my "quiet times" are not just a daily ritual or even an anchor for my day. They are the most thrilling and enjoyable times of my week.

I still have mornings when I wake up to tears and fears, frustrations and lingering bad dreams in which I've struggled to sort out those frustrations. But now I quickly move on past those initial daunting emotions and remember that my God awaits my company.

When I sit down on my backporch glider with my coffee, my IPad and a carefully chosen book or two, I know He is there, too. Sure He was also with me when I first awoke, as I slipped back the bed covers and even while I brewed the coffee and released the dogs from their "beds." But when I settle into "our spot" on my porch I feel as though I have arrived for a much anticipated appointment. Like a girl on a date with a special guy, I feel a little nervous, excited and plum pleased to be there. Even better, I feel His pleasure about our meeting as well. His joy warms me and causes me to smile...or cry happy tears.

One of the reasons my quiet times with the Lord have taken on such new life in recent months is because I have become so desperate for His consistent, persistent and overwhelming love. And He has not disappointed me. Like any satisfying and joyful meeting of friends, it is often hard for me to get up and leave our little tryst each morning. The conversation is so rich. His gentle teaching and quiet encouragement resonate so perfectly with my hungry soul. And He's such a caring and compassionate listener. But in the end, it is usually He who dismisses me to move on with my day, promising to stick close throughout and reminding me there is work to be done.

***

When I began this post, my original intention was to share with you about one of the precious books that the Lord has used to minister His truth and love to me during our daily times together. I still want to do that. But it became important to me for you to know the setting in which I have opened this book and others each morning. So tomorrow I will tell you about Holley Gerth's new devotional guide, What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days: 52 Encouraging Truths to Hold On To. Please let me share that book with you. It has truly spoken grace and love over me when I desperately needed it. I think it will do the same for you.



But today I'd like to end here for now:

I don't know what you're going through these days. You may be in a season of depression as I've been (there's that word again) or you may be all hunky dory! Or maybe, like most folks on most days, just somewhere in between. But no matter where you are, God wants to meet with you for an amazing, soul-satisfying few minutes tomorrow. He's been trying to get your attention and He would be thrilled for you to take Him up on His persistent invitation. And even if you show up whining and crying or dragging your heels or looking at your watch and hoping to get this thing over with, He will be thrilled to sit with you if you'll let Him. Let Him.

Have a good morning.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Boldly Seeking Grace


It's one thing to count on God's grace when we are in the clear, when we have honestly done nothing wrong. Maybe we've been wronged; but we've done no wrong.

Grace is surely coming then.

But what about when we have finally come face to face with our ugly? When we've owned the mess we've made? Maybe we can hope for grace, but can we boldly ask for it?

David did.

I went looking for David's hanging head and solemn words in the familiar Psalm 51. I knew of his confession, his repentance, his sorrow. I thought I'd find a pattern of sorts for my own admission of guilt.

I found those things.

But I also found a man deeply familiar with God's grace, a man who expected to find grace in the pit of his own making.

And David didn't wait until he'd spilled his ugly confession to ask with head hung low for a little grace.

He began his plea with bold request...not even a question...but an imperative:

"Be gracious to me, O God, according to Thy lovingkindness; according to the greatness of Thy compassion blot out my transgressions, wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin."
Psalm 51:1-2

Wait a minute. Shouldn't David clean up his own mess? Shouldn't he apologize a little more profusely before so boldly requesting cleansing? Shouldn't he throw in a few promises of "doing better" or making it right?

But David knew a God of grace. He had called on God to be gracious before (see Psalm 31:9, Psalm 56:1, Psalm 57:1), and God had surely given him what he lacked.

Sometimes I think forgiveness is something I can earn, something I can pay sufficiently for, something I can attain over time...with a clean track record. But I can't earn it. I can't pay for it with good deeds. And I can't even keep my track record clean.

When I sin and mess things up terribly, which I have surely done, my only hope lies in the fact that I serve and know a gracious God. And He is indeed so gracious. So gracious. So gracious.

Want a glimpse of God's grace in David's deplorable situation? It will amaze you. Take a look at 2 Samuel 12:13, 2 Samuel 12:20 (you can't worship a God who has His back to you), and 2 Samuel 12:24-25. And when you look at that final passage, you need to keep in mind that Jedidiah means "beloved of the Lord."

Do you desperately need the grace of God in order to see the light of day? I do. I'm counting on God's grace to cleanse me from my sin, to make me hear joy and gladness again, to create in me a clean heart, to renew a steadfast spirit within me, to restore the joy of my salvation and to sustain me with a willing spirit. Gladness, joy, a steadfast spirit, a willing spirit. These are no small survival tools; these are luxurious riches! David needed those very things, and he asked God for them with bold confidence. 

We have a God who remains for us even when we have turned our backs on Him. That is grace. And that is our hope.

If you find yourself in a situation of hopelessness or hurt caused largely by your own sin, don't despair. God is still for you. He still has blessings in reserve to pour out upon you. He still has a plan for you. He still has healing to give and wholeness to restore. He still loves you. And, yes, He still delights in you.

God doesn't just want to get you out of your mess. He wants to give you great joy again! What grace!


Thursday, August 28, 2014

What's Your Big Deal?


Today may seem mundane or extraordinary. You may have plans; you may have planned to have none. You may have put your makeup on and your cute shoes, and be heading out and about. Or, like me, you may have put on some clothes you found lying around your room and skipped the makeup, knowing that you have no intention of drawing attention.

Regardless, this is the day that God has made for one spectacular purpose. Makeup or no. Cute shoes or flip flops. Big plans or mundane chores. God has called each of us to one over-the-top, momentous opportunity.

Today we have a prime chance to make a big deal of our God.

Whether we're making appointments on the phone, standing in line at the post office, running copies in the copy room, sorting through the concerns of our family members, shopping on line, wiping noses and sticky hands, or serving trays of food to hungry customers, we get to show off the Lover of our Souls. We get to sing His praises, point out His benefits, brag about His faithfulness, give Him our allegiance, rest in His strong arms, and call upon His name in the company of others.

Let's not let 24 hours go by without making big over our God. That's the one thing we're all called to do today. We may do it differently, with various personalities, dressed in unique styles, with words or without. But we all get to make a big deal about our God.

How will you draw attention to your God today? How will you reflect His glory in your life?