“Open The Door And Smile”

Over the course of the last few months, I cannot tell you how many times I have read or heard mention of the story of Mary and Martha from the Bible. Today, I was sent an email that once again recounted this story. I am beginning to think God is telling me to take a hint. So after reading it today I decided to write about it because it definitely relates to me on many levels and makes me think that maybe my mother should have named me Martha!

Mary and Martha were two sisters who were visited by Jesus.

“She [Martha] had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.’ And Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken from her’ ” Luke 10: 39-42

So here is how I picture it. (Ladies, I know you can relate to this. We have all been there.) Jesus and his disciples drop by for a visit and Martha asks them in. I imagine at this point she is looking around wondering if the house is clean enough. If only she would have had time to sweep! She then starts to prepare the meal. What will she fix? Oh, visitors on such short notice. While she is busy slaving and sweating over the food preparations she looks over and sees Mary just sitting there at Jesus’ feet. Well how dare her! Just look at her, lazy woman just plopped herself down in the floor and is not even thinking about lifting a finger to help me! And here I am busy in the kitchen. Hair falling in my face, clothes a wreck. (I imagine there is eye-rolling, huffing and puffing and hands on hips at this point.) Martha has worked herself into such a frenzy worrying about every little thing that she tells Jesus, “Do you not see me over here diligently preparing the meal while my sister just sits there? Make her help me!” But Jesus tells her simply that she is too anxious and worried. Mary is happy and content and he will not disturb her.

The Bible doesn’t say what Martha’s response was. Did she throw her hands in the air and stomp off? Did she hang her head in shame and agree with what Jesus revealed to her? I would like to think it left a lasting impression on her.

I am a “Martha”. Worrying over every little thing. I panic when someone stops by to visit and  the house is not in perfect order, instead of being pleased that someone thought enough of us to visit. I need to open the door and smile. Not do a quick glance behind me to see if everything is in place. This should be my aspiration in all areas of my life. There are moments that I spend more time in an anxious state of mind than in the presence of God, in peace and serenity. I shamefully admit that. I need to constantly “choose my part…the good part” that God has laid out for me. It is mine and it is there for the taking anytime I desire. It is my goal to be Mary in a Martha world. A world where life is fast-paced, busy, always in motion. I want to slow down and concentrate on the things that have the most meaning. Life will be much simpler when I do.

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:27)

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I’ve been thinking about what to say about the tragedy that occurred in Aurora, CO last week. I wanted to be able to find hope in what happened and still see the good in things at a time when our world feels so wrong. I stubled across this blog and wanted to share this story. It’s a true miracle.

celtic straits

(Updates follow article)

Four years ago today, I posted a blog about my emergency room “miracle experience” after the Aurora Theater shooting. The post went viral, and created some controversy. Does God really do miracles? Why for one person and not another? Does a good God even exist?

I don’t claim to have all the answers. But I saw the miracle with my own eyes. Thank you to those who have asked me to repost this story for a reminder: God is still at work.


July 23, 2012

At Columbine High School, I have seen this before. But not up close.  As a church pastor in Denver, I have worked as a chaplain alongside several police and fire departments. I was privileged to counsel parents just hours after the Columbine shootings. However, in this new tragedy at the Aurora Theater Dark Night shooting, one of the victims was a 22-year-old…

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“Old Time Religion”

Last week Greg, Callie and I attended two nights of the 34th Annual Robert Sheffey Camp Meeting. This event takes place in July, in Trigg, VA, just a few minutes down a winding road from our home. Once you turn off of that road, you pass a church, a cemetery, a prayer chapel and the birthplace (transplanted from its original location) of Robert Sheffey.

Mr. Sheffey was a Methodist evangelist and circuit-riding preacher from about 1854 to his death in 1902. He was known for his eccentric nature and power of prayer.He had an unyielding faith in God and believed that God would take care of you if you simply asked and had faith. He proved this many times over along his travels. He eventually ministered, along with “singing and shouting”, to more than fourteen mountain counties spanning Virginia, West Virginia and Tennessee.

I hadn’t attended the camp meeting in many years and I suppose until this time, I never really took much interest in the history that surrounds it. One evening while Callie was attending the youth event before the service, Greg and I wandered around the cemetery and found our way into the Sheffey Prayer Chapel, a tiny log building consisting of three pews and an altar. I sat down alone for a minute and just took it in, saying a prayer.

We made our way toward the grounds and stopped to visit the small log home that was the birthplace of Mr. Sheffey. It was as small as my living room, one room with a fireplace. It was hard to imagine a family living in such a small space.

Once you travel the remainder of the dirt road, you come to an opening in the trees. It’s a step back in time as the camp meeting takes place there under a roof with no walls and a wood chip floor. Although not entirely primitive (there is electricity for a sound system and bathrooms) there is still something inspiring about being a part of something that started long ago by someone who had an amazing relationship with God.

One particular evening, I walked to the car for my jacket and all I heard was the sound of the choir singing and the birds in the trees chiming in. What better place to spend time praising Him. After the choir sang, and the minister brought his word, there was an altar call. No matter who it is, whether I know them or not, there is something amazing about watching someone commit their life to someone so much greater than themselves.

I left there both nights, with a joy and peace in my heart. Being in the stillness of God’s beauty and in the company of others praising Him and giving Him glory did my heart good. There was a presence that only someone who knows God can feel. It was beautiful.

And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature – Mark 16:15

“I Once Was Lost”

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God – Ephesians 2:8

When I was about 5 years old, maybe a little older, our family went to North Carolina to visit some friends. While we were there, my mom and I went shopping with her friend and her son, who was about my age. I had never been to this store and I was busy checking everything out, playing around and not paying much attention to where I was. I crawled under a rack of clothes as most kids do and stayed there for a minute or two.  When I came out of my hiding place, I looked up and realized that I couldn’t find my mom.  I couldn’t see over the racks of clothes to get a good view and I started to panic. I ran around in circles, frantically searching for her, screaming her name. Then I heard my friend say, “What’s wrong with you? She’s right there.” Sure enough, my mom was just a few feet away but I couldn’t see her for all that was in my way. For a moment I was lost and it was a scary feeling for a small child.

In many ways I still get lost. Not from my mother, but from the Father, the heavenly Father. There are times I lose my way and get distracted from Him. I feel stronger and start to think I can handle things on my own. That I’m strong enough to not need Him. Most people tend to feel closer to God when everything is going well, when they are on top of the mountain. Me, I tend to feel closer to Him when I am in the valley. I call on Him more and spend more time praying. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Most of the time those moments in the valley shape you into the person you are meant to be. But when things are going my way I typically pull away and forget that I still need Him in the good times as well as the bad. He will remind me of that when a bad moment comes along and I realize He is encouraging me to come closer. I must remember daily to let Him be my focus and everything else will simply fall into place. I will remember where I am and where I am going because He will lead the way.

Just like that lost little girl in the department store, sometimes I need to be found. I need to be able to turn around and have someone say “What’s wrong with you? He’s right there. He’s been there all along. You just forgot where to look.” He’s never far away.

“Powerless”

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good – Psalms 118:1

Mother Nature can be a beast. We learned this after a severe, freak storm hit us last Friday, downing trees and knocking out our power. More storms followed, slowing down the restoration in our area. It seemed we had been forgotten, but by the grace of God we made it through.

After seven and a half days without power, here is what I learned:

Day 1: How do people cope during major hurricanes (Katrina), massive tornadoes (Joplin, MO), etc.? Callie and I attempted to go shopping on Saturday to avoid the heat at home (it was a balmy 89 degrees in my house) and to basically have something to do. The shelves in the stores were already empty where gallon jugs of water should have been. Credit card machines were not working, making it difficult for people to purchase anything, including food, unless you had cash. Who carries cash anymore? Not the poor lady at Target with two screaming kids and a cart full of things to get her through the outage. She was forced to leave her things and go to the ATM. I have even more sympathy now for those people in the types of disasters mentioned above. God bless them.

Day 2: Greg’s mom and step-dad are very generous people. I knew this already, but they were particularly generous in the coming days with food, beds, fresh towels and showers. We were very grateful to have somewhere to stay for four nights and the added bonus of some bonding time. God blessed us.

Day 3: Sometimes things work out just right despite the odds. We had planned a trip to Carowinds in Charlotte for Monday and had made reservations to spend the night in a hotel. A much needed break and a hotel room were just the ticket. We had AC, beds, a bathroom, fresh towels and free breakfast without worrying about bothering anyone.

Day 4: I loathe the Laundromat. Is there a stronger word than loathe? If so, I would use it. It was 96 outside and 96 inside. It took what seemed like an eternity to dry the clothes. The power went out while I was there. Thankfully I was almost finished. Then a storm brewed as I loaded the car. We made it home safely though and had clean clothes. We also were able to fill jugs of water from the river (thankful to live close to the river!) to flush toilets. God provided again despite my grumblings.

Day 5: Greg will do whatever he can to make us happy. I admit my patience at this point had run thin. I just wanted some normalcy and it didn’t seem to be coming anytime soon. I still have a lot of work to do in the “be patient” department. We managed to borrow a generator and air conditioner window unit and sleep at home in our own beds. I am so thankful for a man who takes care of us. He is wonderful. God bless him.

Day 6: Back to work for me. I learned it IS possible to get ready for work with a generator-powered flat iron and a Coleman lantern. It’s the little things. 

Day 7: At this point, I learned to just roll with it. Praying for those white trucks to come along and for God to give them the abilities they needed (in the miserable heat) to restore our power. Someone left us a case of bottled water on our doorstep. People were still being generous despite everything that was going on.

Day 8:  The half day! Our power was restored before noon. How grateful we were. We were all frustrated with the slow efforts at some point but unless you were out there working for AEP, then you don’t know how difficult it was. It would have been easy to blame the workers. I even heard that their trucks were egged. But I’m sure they were doing the best they could against the odds and I salute them for their hard work.

 The biggest lesson learned is we should never take anything for granted. Things such as clean, running water, electric heat or air conditioning, indoor plumbing, refrigerated food and ovens are luxuries to a lot of people in other countries and some of these things would be considered luxuries for people in our own country. When they are taken away from us for a length of time we can see this with a new perspective. It could have been worse. We kept our house and only lost our power. We lost our power, but kept our faith (even in moments of grumbling). God provides. He truly does.

“Good Enough?”

Hebrews 10: 22 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water
First I want to start with saying that it never ceases to amaze me how God arranges situations and people to come into your life for a purpose. Somewhere out there in the world, someone is going through something similar to what you are going through. If this person comes into your life, you can be sure it is God’s hand at work. Someone such as this inspired this post.
Having said that, I want to talk about being “good enough”. Personally, I have struggled with this all of my life. Going through several months of pain and suffering earlier this year certainly didn’t help with that issue. Being brought to my knees more than once definitely made me feel less than normal, inadequate and overall, a failure. We all struggle with these issues though from time to time no matter what the circumstances. Am I a good enough mother, daughter, sister, friend, girlfriend, granddaughter? Am I a good enough christian? Am I good enough for God?
But whose standards are we judging ourselves against? Everyone has issues whether they are easily recognizable or not. More than likely that person you compare yourself to is doing the same thing. Comparing themselves to someone around them. We talk ourselves into believing we aren’t good enough or we let someone who has hurt us convince us we aren’t good enough. This kind of thinking leads to feelings of guilt and a total lack of confidence. We let ourselves be defined by what that person has done, or by comparing someone else’s life to ours. It’s a waste of valuable time.
Our worth is not based on past experiences, our personal thoughts of ourselves or other people’s opinions of us. Our value comes from what God says about who we are. He still loves me despite what I have gone through because I continue to lean on Him and trust in Him. It isn’t always easy and I’m not always as faithful as I should be but I want to be defined as a child of God.  He says we belong to Him. We are made in His image. He loves us as we are.
And isn’t that good enough?