Friday, December 31, 2010

Eve is Bursting with Anticipation...

Eve:(1) the first woman; mother of the human race, fashioned by God from the rib of Adam, from the Hebrew word meaning life;(2)the day before a holiday, church festival, or any date or event: Christmas Eve; (3) the period preceding or leading up to any event; (4) archaic word for evening.

So, God fashioned Eve...
We light a candle on Christmas Eve...
On the Eve of His execution...
We'll share a meal this eve...

Eve is a word pregnant with life and expectation.  It stirs our hearts and forces us to look to tomorrow.  It whispers of promise and potential.  Eve dances in the stillness of the ordinary while painting pictures of beautiful tomorrows.  She beckons us from our nap and calls us to life.  Can you feel it?  Do you hear it? That excitement that tomorrow just might be different, that hope that what shames us can be left behind, the promise that the eve is preparing to relent and give way to the morning's mercies- these are the emotions of Eve.   We're on the eve of something brand new...

Or not.

You see, if tomorrow isn't any different than yesterday, eve was only a meaningless cliche.  But, if we allow God to renew our minds and make radically different choices in response to our love for Him, this eve can become a landmark in our lives.  This eve can be the day we decided once and for all that strongholds would be broken.  This eve can be the day that marks our great relent- the day we finally let go of that idol and made an intentional choice for our Creator.  This eve can forever signify the end of a generational curse and the beginning of Life.  This eve can be the last evening of our brokenness that carries us into the first morning of our life, but only if we're intentional in making this year Holy or set apart for the Lord.  

Tell me, friends, what do you plan to do to set this year apart for the Glory of God?

How will this Eve mark your life?

Enough With the Excuses Already!

"Hey! Want to try to read your Bible from cover to cover in just 90 days?"


I'm not as much interested in your answer as I am interested in the thoughts you directed to the question.  If you're anything like me, you allowed your heart to briefly whisper the promise of an intimate experience with your Father just until your mind took over.  Just as you were beginning to see yourself stepping over the "God Margin"- that invisible line that separates everything you can do on your own and what you can do only with the helping hand of the Almighty God- your head interrupted your heart with what has become the worst enemy of your 'abundant life':  EXCUSES.

You know exactly what I'm talking about, don't you?  Those ridiculous 'whispers of reason' your mind gives you for EVERY promising experience that tells a story bigger than yourself.  They've been holding you back for decades, and while you hate the lack-of-life they stand for, you still find yourself hiding behind them whenever your existence threatens to get interesting.  Not only do you give them a voice, but after a while, you give them a choice.  In hindsight, you find that your excuses have practically divorced you from the life you've been praying for, and still, when they speak up, you bend your ear.  Maybe they're the reason you didn't go to prom or the reason you allowed your heart to check out on your marriage. They might be the reason you decided to 'give up' on your own family member or the reason you've hidden and lied every time opportunity knocked.  Maybe it was an excuse that allowed you to be quiet when you hated yourself for it the next day.  Or, perhaps excuses talked you out of school, an introduction, an apology, a trip to Malaysia or sending that letter to your Mom.  Maybe they simply talked you out of dancing in the rain with your first love, making that long distance phone call or making a U-turn to pray with the man you passed on the street.  Bottom line?  Excuses are our not-so-silent killers.  They don't necessarily rob us of our physical breath, but they steal from us the experiences that were meant to define our lives.

"It's too much..."  
"I'm don't have enough..."
"I'll never..."
"But, I..."

Thief.  Liar.  Manipulator.  Distraction.
Excuses rob our lives of memorable, heart-changing experiences.
Excuses tell stories about what we have at our disposal.
Excuses twist our views of who we are, effectively diminishing what we do. 
Excuses grab us by the chin and force our attention from anything  that matters and puts it on ourselves.

I dare you to shut them up.  Like a three year-old writhing and screaming for his way in a grocery store, I dare you to ignore them.  Like the crabby old lady that pulled out in front of you and gave you the finger, I urge you to take a deep breath and concentrate on more important things.  Learn how to shake your head at your enemies.  Remember how to roll your eyes when someone tells you that you can't.  Dig deep and pull out that, "Watch this," attitude.

Wanna' see me put my proverbial money where my passionate pen is?

Starting this Monday, July the 11th, I am again ACCEPTING the challenge to read my Bible from cover to cover in 90 days.  There is Life wrapped up in that leather binding and I'll not allow excuses to keep me from it.  No time?  I'll make time.  It'll be hard?  Good.  I've spent years telling my kids that nothing worth having comes easy.  But, you've never done it before?  Great.  I need something new.  But, what if you fail?  My friends will be right there to help me stay on track...  Get the picture?

Divorce your excuses and get your life back!

From Genesis to Revelation in 90 Days...

What's holding you back from the Bread of Life?  (Or whatever "God Margin" thing you're being asked to do...?)

90 Day Challenge

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Abiding in the Field

Shepherds.  Really?

I mean, out of all the choirs, priests, prophets and prayer warriors, why did God send the Heavenly Hosts to a pasture in search for a worship team?  Why not assemble an army to wake up the town declaring the good news?  Why not pull out all the stops and send a parade complete with talking donkeys down the streets of Bethlehem?  Wouldn't dancers with beautiful ribbons and choirs declaring the greatness of God make more sense?  Or even a band reminiscent of the crumbling walls of Jericho.  Wouldn't that be a better way to announce the birth of the Savior in the stable?

Why, after roaming His eyes to the ends of the earth and back, did God face his angel-servants and point a perfectly Holy finger in the direction of a dark pasture full of woolly sheep and sleep deprived shepherds?  Could it be that our Father has an affinity for shepherds in general?  I mean, after all, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were all shepherds and God chose that bloodline to bless all nations.  David was a shepherd and being so, an unlikely candidate for the crown, and yet was said to have had a heart after God.  And the infant being delivered in the manger was the prophesied Shepherd in the flesh.  It's possible that God, after a history of choosing shepherds to spread His Glory simply continued with His perfect theme and pointed to the sheep herders out of sheer order and symbolism.  But it's just as likely that following suit never crossed the mind of our Creator on that precious Night of nights.

Think about it.  That night was indeed a Holy night and surely the God of the universe was in the mood to celebrate.  After all, the heaven-sent message did tell a story of "good news and great joy!"  The same God who had allowed His people to honor Him with celebration after celebration, feast after feast, and passover after passover was now poised to receive the 'great joy' due Him after the delivery of humanity's Savior.  And on that night, it was obvious that He was unwilling to waste His time convincing people that the baby being born in the barn was worth celebrating.  Imagine how much conversation would have to take place between the phrase, "baby in the manger" and "let's go straight to Bethlehem!"  You see, I think we forget that humanity has been trained to turn their noses up at families who find themselves in the predicament Mary and Joseph were in.  Let's face it, we'd pity that family, not celebrate it.  And God knew it.  Maybe that's why God didn't send the angel to the choir, the priests, the prophets or the prayer warriors.  Remember, people know who we want to be.  God knows who we are. 

God knew who the priests wanted to be.

And He knew who the shepherds were.

You see, those shepherds in the field keeping watch over their flocks- they had a different idea of the manger than we do.  While they may very well have been the poor, smelly old men our Sunday school teachers told us about, they, by their very nature, had a better view of the barn than we do.  We may associate the barn with poverty, and we wouldn't be wrong to do so.  After all, a mere thirty days later paints the picture of Mary offering a couple of birds as an offering because she couldn't afford the lamb.  But the shepherds' response to a birth in the barn was fundamentally different than ours.  As shepherds, they had spent their lives celebrating manger beginnings.  As a matter of fact, stable deliveries had grown to mean the opposite of poverty to the shepherds.  Because they spent their lives raising and protecting a herd of livestock, the 'baby in the manger' could only mean LIFE, LIVELIHOOD and BLESSING to the simple shepherds in the field.  It's no wonder they dropped everything and hurried to the barn to see what God was talking about.  Life had trained them to see the Miracle in the Manger.  Providence had been pretty effective in using the simple shepherds to shame the wise.  And on that Night of nights, the messenger didn't have any problem convincing the shepherds in the field that the Good News deserved great joy.

It's not too late to celebrate, you know?  Part of the beauty of the Christmas story is that it is eternal.   Every year, you get another chance to be a shepherd in a field.  You get the opportunity to believe the poor family in the barn is literally blessed beyond measure.  And each December, You get to decide for yourself how much 'great joy' you're going to give the 'Good News."

Saturday, December 11, 2010

GOOD news...GREAT joy!

Take a walk with me back in history.  Leave behind the computers, central heat and air, Toyotas and asphalt.  For a few minutes, allow yourself to forget about corporate America and the Industrial Revolution.  Allow the language of history to take you back to a place most people have never been, a place we're only afforded a view of because of the pen of some faithful followers of our Savior.  Walk across the dusty road, allow your eyes to adjust as you cross into the dark, fertile field and duck your head beneath the branches of the small tree as you become a spectator of redemptive history.

...And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.  This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Ah, yes.  "The Christmas story," you say.  But, did you read it?  Did you contemplate each word?  Visualize each scene?  Did you give your heart a chance to feel the story you've had memorized since childhood?  If not, I invite you to read it again.  See it.  Feel it.  Let it sink in.
That's what I did this morning.  I opened my Bible and decided that I wouldn't skim over the story I've taught a hundred times.  I decided that I was just hungry enough for the Bread of Life, just thirsty enough for the Living Water that I would ask that God speak to me- even in a story I've committed to memory.  And, He did!  Look closely with me at the wording of the angel of God:

"Do not be afraid. I bring you GOOD news that will cause GREAT joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord."
Do you see it?  Nestled there in the midst of the most told story in history lie two of the most absurd adjectives I've ever seen.  Good news.  Great joy.  Before I had the chance to marvel at the wonder of the infallible Word of God, I carried on a mental argument with Luke.  Surely he mixed it up, right?  Surely he meant to say, "Great news.  Good joy."  My faith is just strong enough that my argument quickly gave way to a very precious and personal assessment of the language of God.  
That news the angel spoke of?  That was the news of the Messiah.  All of heaven was bending down to get a glimpse of the Christ-child in the feeding trough.  The angel of God had just finished a search for someone- anyone who would believe and join the celebration.  Somewhere nearby, an infant was crying out against the cool air and all the evil in the world was shrinking back in horror.  The antagonist collapsed in defeat as Joseph held the infant to his chest, trying to contain the rush of emotions that had been given birth along with the child he would raise.  Yes, the news that angel delivered would alter the eternity of the human race, giving sight to the blind and hope to the hopeless.  And it was good. 
Do you hear me?  The news was GOOD.
But the joy?  Read it again...

"Do not be afraid.  I bring you GOOD news that will cause GREAT joy for all the people."

I was moved to tears at the thought of it.  From Heaven's perspective, the birth of my Savior was good.  But the joy...-the joy was supposed to be GREAT.  Our Father sent a gift, His son to the humanity he'd been wooing since the dawn of creation, and it was a priceless gift indeed.  And on that night, if an All-Powerful God could kneel, I believe He did.  I believe he watched us closely with the anticipation of a Daddy who'd spent too much on a Christmas present for his child.  I believe He watched our faces, looking for that moment when we recognized the wonder of the gift and exclaimed our thanksgiving for the gift we'd needed so desperately.  He watched and waited, wanting nothing more than to see our "GREAT joy" for His "GOOD news."

Good News.  Great Joy.

Don't miss it, my friends.  I dare you to peel through the pages of your Bible until you find it.  It might not be tucked in the same verses that held my "GREAT joy,"  but it is there.  Don't let this Christmas pass you by without coming close enough to smell the stable, close enough to hear the rustling of the hay, close enough to see the wonder on the faces of the spectators of Redemption.  Fight for it.  Strive for it.  Reach for it.  And, take people with you.

Look again at the story you know so well.  That good news that promised great joy had a profound effect on those shepherds.  THEY DROPPED EVERYTHING.  They left their livelihood in those fields.  They walked off their jobs and went chasing the Messiah.  And why?  What motivated them?  Read it for yourself. What brought the shepherds from a silent, terror-filled stupor to a foot race to the Christ-Child?  I contend that the "GREAT joy" moved those men in that field.  I think it did then, and I think it still does.

"Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened."

May our "Great joy" motivate every tribe, tongue and nation to hurry to the Messiah!

The news is good.
The joy is great!

Monday, November 29, 2010

How to Make Your Own Laundry Detergent

So, you've probably heard about all these crazy people who are saving a ton of money by making their own detergents and cleaning supplies, right?  And, you've probably told yourself you were going to try that one day, right?  Well, I say today is the day! Yes, YOU, too can save a bundle on laundry detergent without having to sacrifice on quality!  Making the detergent isn't just frugal, but it's a lot of fun!  And the benefits are countless!  You'll be able to make ten gallons of high quality liquid laundry detergent for just $2.50! At that price, almost everyone I know can afford to be generous and share with an elderly neighbor or a young mom.  Ready?  Gather a few ingredients and get ready to have fun "paying yourself" to do laundry!

Things you'll need to begin this journey:
1 Box of BORAX  (**Can be found at Kroger, Publix, hardware stores and online)
1 Box of Arm and Hammer Washing SODA**
At least 1 bar of Fels Naptha Laundry Bar**
A five gallon bucket (or two stock pots, or a large flower pot- any combination of containers that can hold 5 gallons of liquid for one night.)
10 clean, empty gallon containers with lids (or old laundry bottles if you've saved them)
A spoon
A colander or strainer
A cheese grater
A large measuring cup

Got all that?  Geez, you're fast!  Now, let's get to work!  Take that delicious smelling Fels Naptha bar and grate it like you would grate a block of cheese.  You may have picked up a few at the store, but you'll only need 1 bar for this batch. I've done this several different ways, but the most practical is to simply grate it by hand using a cheese grater. Your final product should look something like this:

Yours doesn't look like mine?  That's okay, because you're fixing to melt it anyway!  Now, put 8 cups of water in a pot on the stove and turn it on Med-High.  As the water warms, add your grated Naptha bar to the water and stir.  When you start, it will look like this:
Stir slowly to avoid excess bubbles.  Stir until the Naptha is completely dissolved.  Within just a few minutes, your new, fresh smelling mixture will look something like this:
 Now, grab your measuring cup and add 1 &1/2 cups of Arm and Hammer Washing Soda to that mixture.  Slowly stir until dissolved.  Repeat by adding 1 & 1/2 cups of Borax.  The powders will dissolve much more quickly than the soap did.  Stir slowly until there's no gritty feeling in the bottom of the pot.  The mixture will be a little thick and slimy, but that's what you want!

1.5 cups Washing Soda

1.5 cups Borax

After you've stirred all three ingredients until they've dissolved, pour your warm, slimy mixture into the bottom of your bucket.  Remember that you started with 8 cups of water, so you now have roughly 1/2 gallon of super concentrated liquid laundry detergent in the bottom of a bucket. (If you didn't have a 5 gallon bucket, you will half this mixture between two containers.)  It will look like this:
To this mixture, we are going to add 4 and 1/2 gallons of HOT water and stir. Don't try to cheat and use cool water- you'll be super disappointed!  Again, if you didn't have a 5 gallon container, you'll be splitting your 4.5 gallons of HOT water between two containers.
Ah.  Take a deep breath and enjoy the fruit of your efforts.  You are done for today.  You should have 5 well mixed gallons of a fresh smelling, yellow, watery liquid.  There may or may not be some suds on the top, based on how briskly you added the hot water and how much fun you had stirring.  Your semi-finished product will look something like this, especially if you're an Alabama fan!
Clean up the mess you've made and walk away.  You'll leave this bucket where it sits until tomorrow.  As it cools, it will take on a super fun and slimy gel-like consistency.  Let's just say when you wake up tomorrow, you'll have a surprise that little hands will want to help with!

Let your bucket sit over night.  This is what you'll wake up to:

This molded jello looking substance is just begging for little (and big) hands to dig in and mash it up.  You'll want to play with it until most of the clumps have been mashed to a slime.  Play with it until your bucket looks like it's full of really thick egg drop soup.  

After you get it to a pourable form, you're ready to dilute this mixture into 10 gallons of ready-to-use liquid laundry detergent.  Gather your gallon containers and a large measuring cup.  At this point, to make sure it's clump free, I pour the mixture (4 cups at a time) through a colander or strainer. 
We're really almost there!  Now, it's time to put the semi-liquid mixture into your gallon containers.  What you're working with now is 2X concentrated, so we're going to dilute it.  Simply place 8 cups of your mixture into an empty gallon container.
And now you're going to finish filling this container up with HOT (again, no cheating!) water.  If perfection is a personal goal of yours, feel free to measure out 8 cups of hot water to mix with your detergent.  The rest of us will simply fill the container to within an inch from the top.  Fill SLOWLY to avoid bubbles.  Bubbles will only slow you down.

Now, simply put a lid on the container, tilt it back and forth to mix the soap and water and set it to the side.  Repeat until you've filled all 10 gallons.  Now you're ready to clean up your mess and hit the laundry room!

Instructions for using homemade laundry detergent:

Top loaders: Use 1/2 cup per load.
Front Loaders: Use 1/4 cup per load.
Total cost?  Around $2.50 per TEN GALLONS.

Want more?  How about homemade fabric softener?  Laundry Pre-treater?  More?  Check this out:

*This recipe is not mine.  I didn't create it and make no guarantees to its safety or effectiveness.  While nobody I know has had an allergic reaction to it, I'm sure the ingredients will irritate some.  I've also never known anyone to ruin a fabric or void a warranty or have any other costs associated with using this detergent, but I make no guarantees to this. I am simply a wife and mom who wants to contribute to her home by closely watching the affairs of her family.  I like saving money. I'd like to save you some, too!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Note to Self:

He hates me.

Actually, we've toyed and manipulated the word 'hate' until it isn't a sufficient description of what he feels for me.

He despises me.  He wrings his hands in anticipation of my every heartbreak.  In his dreams, I always fall, always hurt, always cry.  He finds himself strangely satisfied when I'm at odds with people I care about. If he can catch me alone and afraid, he has a hard time hiding his twisted joy. He loves to get my hopes up, dangling some promise above me as I dance, only to snatch it away.   He tugs me closer and closer to the ledge and laughs when I cry out in fear. He tricks me into thinking I'm right, only to ridicule me later for going public with my stupidity. He enjoys the grief he causes when he strips me of purpose and passion and he's constantly searching for a way to make me believe I'm a liar.   He is perpetually pointing a blaming finger my way, jumping from one guilt ridden accusation to another as soon as I find the strength to defend myself.  When I defend myself, he laughs, reminding me of how selfish I am, how everything revolves around me.   He whispers horrible lies to me about my family, laughing when I give in to my fears.  He lies in wait when I'm near the truth, anticipating the perfect opportunity to snatch my hope and replace it with doubts and fears.  My own heart is a constant reminder of my betrayal.  He encourages me when I'm angry and he doesn't hide his satisfaction when I let my anger get the best of me, hurting people I love.  He painstakingly sends me gift after gift of Turkish Delight, and when I, on occasion, believe in its merit, he laughs as I naively accept another dagger to my heart.  He encourages people I love to say exactly what I'm sure my heart can't handle.  He hides my eyes when people go out of their way to prove love, and yet he won't let me turn away when they, however unintentional, disappoint me.    He'll spend every talent, every resource, every alliance in an attempt to get me to pledge my allegiance to him, but not so he can embrace me.  He exists simply to see me destroyed.  He wants nothing more than for me to feel naked, alone and dead inside.  

Yes, he hates me.  Loathes me.  Celebrates my every tear.  Capitalizes on my every fear.  Although the sight of me infuriates him and the thought of my heart causes him to recoil in disgust, he won't leave me alone.  He wishes, more than anything, to hate me to death, and every lie I believe pushes him closer to satisfaction.

And, still, knowing all I know, I allow him to manipulate me. Sometimes, I let him court me with lies and libel.   On occasion, when he breathes malicious ideas into my heart, I entertain him.  And there are days when I clearly see him pulling me the way of anger and bitterness and in an intentional lack of discipline, I willingly submit to his antics.

And the worst part?  I mean less than nothing to him.  Do you hear that?  Less than nothing.  My talents, my passions, my loves- these things don't even register on his radar.  Were I to honor him with every emotion, allegiance and endorsement, he would hate me just as much.  The truth is, while I am the victim of his militant hatred, he has never wasted a single, solitary thought on who I am.  For him, I have earned his contempt not because I'm good or bad, but simply because I'm loved.

And, that, my friends, is the moral of the story.

I am loved.  I am loved.  I am celebrated.  Fought for.  Sought after.  Chased.  Songs are sung on my behalf.  A life was lost so I could live.  I am loved.  

God took one look at me and gave me the job my enemy didn't have the spiritual fortitude to handle.  Now, when Satan looks at me, all he can see is his failure, my success and Jesus' reflection.  I MAKE HIM SICK.

I am loved and my enemy snarls his revulsion.  I am loved and my antagonist responds with hostility.  I am loved and because of that love, powers and principalities are rendered impotent.  I am loved and to strip my enemy of power, all I have to do is embrace that love.

I am loved. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Speak with Care

"Rise to the top!"

These are the words my Dad will obnoxiously yell each and every time he slaps the draw pile on a Rummy table. He's quite animated in his belief that if he slaps the stack of cards hard enough when he yells, that the best card in the deck will be at his fingertips when he draws.  It's silly, annoying and quite futile, but no matter how long he plays, this little antic is a big part of his game.  I don't know what it is about it, but his uncanny ability to have faith in his own ability to conjure the best card and win is endearing.

The funny thing is that I know he knows that yelling at a deck of cards has no power to change the quality of the card on top.  It's downright silly to think that a ceremonial slap and voicing an order to an inanimate object would alter the results of a game of skill, but according to him, he's done it for decades. Nobody who loves him expects him to stop this side of Glory.  Let's face it, it's kind of cute when people pretend their words have power to change the unchangeable.  I mean, it's not like my Dad is changing anything with his words, right?

 But what if he was?  What if we were?

What if we gave ourselves permission to say silly things that culminated in the chipping away of someone's confidence, honor, or future? What if, by giving ourselves permission to be poor managers of our mouths, we shove people into pits that we ourselves aren't strong enough to crawl out of?  Or worse, what if our words really did have the power to lend worth to a person contemplating their significance? What if a truth spoken in love had the ability to snatch a loved-one from a grave? What if the overflow from our hearts was supposed to flow from our mouths and heal the sick,discourage sin and raise the dead?

What if, when the world desperately needs us to be quiet, we carry on and on and on?

What if, when the world desperately needs us to speak truth in love, we withhold what they need the most?

Words. Count them. Memorize them. Practice them. Swallow them.  Borrow them.  Our words can rape a mind or encourage the masses.  They are a currency with the power to rob and ravage or to help and heal.  But of all the things you can say about their power, they can never be erased or voided, and they can never travel back in time to change a destiny.

Speak with care.  But, for God's sake, speak!

The right word at the right time
   is like a custom-made piece of jewelry.  (Proverbs 25:11)

Out of the same mouth pour blessings and curses. My friends, how can this be? (James 3:9)

Friday, August 20, 2010


Have you ever recieved a certified letter? You know, one of those mysterious envelopes that require a signature before it can be delivered. It doesn’t matter that it’s addressed to you, or that the contents were written for you to read, you can’t have it until you sign for it. It’s not really yours until you can prove that you’ve received it. Well, after rolling my eyes at countless church signs over the years that schooled their readers on the efficiency of ‘knee mail’, I have a declaration to make: I recieved the equivalent of a certified letter from my Father.

I have a fourteen year-old son. You would love to meet him. He has a dazzling smile and green eyes that remind me of the ocean after a storm. He’s that kind of guy that you want on your team because even if you’re not playing his best sport, you can always count on him to make sure the team believes they can win. He laughs a lot. Sometimes it’s at the worst times and on his best day, he’ll have you choking back laughter in the middle of an emergency room, changing a flat tire in a thunderstorm, or while you’re cleaning up the aftermath of a flooded basement. He looks good in cowboy boots and belt buckles, makes friends with the elderly, and neighbors are always glad to see him coming. He’s as good as the day is long and the world is a nicer place to live in just because he’s here.

My son is also standing in that chapter of life in which you aren’t quite sure who you are, what matters, or what you believe. It’s not a fun place to be if we’re honest about our teenage years. Stuck somewhere between who you were and who you will be, it’s easy to allow temporary confusion to tempt you to give up on permanant clarity. I worry about that kid. Actually, that’s a gross understatement. If I were completely honest, I would tell you that I cry out to God on a daily basis to speak to him, rescue him, secure his future, and brand his heart. Sometimes, I get so caught up in my worries that I forget all the great things he does. Out of fear, I’ll concentrate on his mistakes, immaturity and what I perceive as wasted potential. Even worse, I find myself pushing him to be more, better or different, but not because he’s missing the mark, simply because I fear that he will. On those days, all I can do is ask God to fill in the cracks when I fail him.

So, after about a year of worrying that my son might make a mistake in my care that will diminish the future that he’s worked so hard for, God decided to send me a certified letter. It wasn’t that He hadn’t tried to get my attention beforehand, because He did. I wish I had written down all the times I’d gone to bed with a perfect peace about my son’s future. I wish I could tell you how many times God reminded me that He used my mistakes for His glory. I wish I could have shared a cup of coffee with you on my porch when I tearfully explained to you how I knew, more than I knew my name, that my son would be okay. But, I can’t. Because all those messages got lost in the mail. I knew they were there, but I never really received them.

A few days ago, I was sitting on my couch watching a Braves game when my fourteen year-old ran downstairs with his guitar. “Listen to what I learned,” he asked, settling in beside me.

For the next few minutes, I listened as he strummed out the most beautiful tune I had ever heard him play. Impressed, I smiled and asked, “What is that?”

Unwilling to let me off the hook that easily, he shook his head. “No, Mom. You know this song. Listen again,” he said. “You know this!”

And so he played it again. I had to close my eyes to hear it, but when the words to that tune found their way to my heart, I literally held my breath, allowing the truth of what I was hearing to sink in. I sang a few words as he played and was rewarded with a dazzling smile and sparkling eyes that remind me of the ocean after a storm. “Great is Your faithfulness, Oh God. You wrestle with the sinner’s heart. You lead us by still waters into mercy. And nothing can keep us apart.”

Right then and there, I signed my name to that message.

“Your Grace is Enough,” my son said.

And it is.

Cold Cup of Water, Redefined

On the way home from the store this afternoon, I saw an elderly man sitting in the side of his yard near a garden. Worried that he had overheated, I pulled the Suburban over and walked to where he was reclining. Now, rest assured, had I one less scruple than the Lord intended for me to have today, I would have taken a picture of this fellow in a heartbeat to share with you. He looked wise, about eighty-years old or so. He was dressed in a pair of blue jeans, a long sleeve t-shirt that I could see beneath his long sleeve, plaid, metal-snaps-for-buttons dress shirt, and a rubber hat that resembled the one in the original Jungle Book movie. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a well dressed man as much as the next woman, but when the heat index is over a hundred degrees, too much is, well, too much!

“Are you okay?” I asked him once, and then a little louder when I realized he couldn’t hear me.

“I didn’t know God was sending me visitors today,” he quipped. “I would have washed my face.”

“Oh, your face looks just fine to me, but I think you got too hot,” I said. “Can I help you?”

At this point, he shaded his eyes so he saw something other than the sun when he looked up at me from the ground. “Well, little lady, I guess this is what you call a pickle. I left my water inside the house there and I am a mite hot. Dizzy, too. I ‘spect I could ask you to go get it for me but I can’t be disrespecting the mister, if you know what I mean.”

“You’re worried my husband would be upset if I went inside your house for you?” I asked, not sure I was following his lead.

“Well, right is right and wrong is wrong. I ‘spect you’ll just have to sit with me and be hot yourself.”

At this point, I remembered that one of my purchases waiting in my truck was a gallon of Milo’s Tea. I can honestly tell you that I was pretty sure super sweet tea was not the best of options for this man, but I know enough to be confident that it was better than nothing. “I’ve got a drink in my truck,” I offered.

“Well, why didn’t you say so?” he asked with a prize-winning smile.

When I returned with the tea, I explained that I didn’t have any cups, to which he reassured me, “I don’t mind drinking after you.”

So, I spent half an hour sitting beside my new friend. We swapped that gallon container at least a dozen times and I shared it with him swig for swig. After we’d downed about a third of a gallon between us, he reclined on his elbows and talked in that ‘I’m too lonely to care that you’re a stranger,’ kind of way. He shared with me a few nuggets of wisdom that I wanted to pass along to my friends.

1. If you dont’ work, you don’t eat. This is the wisdom I received when I asked him about his vegetable garden. After he said it, he shook his head as if I’d completely figured him out and said, “Yeah, I’m a Republican.” Adorable!

2. I didn’t have to stop. And he probably wouldn’t have died if I didn’t. But I would have missed out on getting to meet someone who’s been around for a long time. (His words, not mine.)

3. Young people need to learn how to build their futures as well as they’ve learned to build trouble.

4. A good Mama is the kind of Mama who tells you something so clearly that even seventy or so years after she tells you-and thirty-one years after she’s gone to Glory, you still cringe at the thought of her seeing that you came out in the heat without a jug of water.

5. It’s not safe for women to drive a truck as big as mine. (The country girl in me took this as a high compliment!)

6. Old folks can make the best of friends.

And finally, he told me that Jesus was a real guy and that I could talk to Him and tell him my ‘quandries,’ but I ought not use Him to get my way. Nobody likes being treated that way. He’s seen a lot of that in his days, by the way. He also said that he God’s people should get ‘comftable’ with improvisation cause sometimes a cold cup of water can really be a cold jug of sweet tea.

And so, I made my way home with a smile and a story. And, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to know that I was a ‘mite’ more thankful for our encounter than he was.

Owning Redemption

Rick Morgan inherited a painful legacy. Marked by a generation of unforgiveness, he finds himself the undeserving owner of his grandfather’s dream; Redemption Ranch. In a world where character seems to have lost all value, Rick stands up to rescue a handful of at-risk teenage boys. Will his own inability to forgive render his heart ineffective, or can his love, strength and integrity build a bridge to Redemption?

Kate Porter was coming home. She had walked away from her family, fiance and faith when her heart and identity had been shattered. A teaching job at Redemption Ranch gave her a place to stay and a purpose, but how long can she work alongside the ever-praying Rick Morgan before either her temper or her resolve give way?

Owning Redemption is a story about one man’s desire to live a life of character, to do hard things, to love difficult people. Will Rick learn that giving all he has simply isn’t enough? Or will he learn that one man with character and integrity inevitably leads to another?

Owning Redemption Synopsis

Between the rolling hills, majestic pines and two horse towns in the Heart of Dixie, battles rage. Young men find themselves in a fight for their lives, incapable of throwing a proverbial punch. Families are broken, twisted and separated by death and desertion. Neighbors sit idly by while children are being abused. Love goes uncommunicated. Men forget that they were born to protect. Women build fortresses around their hearts that would turn an army away. And Rick Morgan finds himself in the middle of it all.

In the small town of Union, Alabama, Rick inherits the dream and responsiblity of a grandfather he never met. Attempting to swallow the guilt and rage that was passed to him in the form of a broken family, he digs his heels in and tries to answer a calling that screams from beyond a grave, one that offers hope to the hopeless. Redemption Ranch, run by a handful of ordinary people with extraordinary hearts, opens its gates to teenage boys that the world has tried to forget. Suddenly, Rick’s world revolves around a few friends and family members, some kids that test and amaze him at every turn, and a teacher that could offer the world- if she could only open her heart, a heart that Rick finds irresistable. Will Rick’s own demons render him ineffective? Or can the faith, character and integrity of one man pave a road to Redemption for a stubborn, broken hearted woman and a barn full of teenage boys?

Time Isn't On Our Side

With a child nearing the teenage years and all the emotional turmoil that accompanies that, I have spent a lot of time lately thinking and praying about my parenting. My children have always been important to me, but lately, I feel like my time with them is just evaporating before my eyes. In asking God to help me navigate through what I and everyone else in my home is feeling, He led me to take a verse inside out and truly think about it. I wanted to share with you what God has opened my eyes to.

Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

I have always known and loved this verse, even when it intimidated or frightened me. I love that God knew I would be wondering, fearing and begging someone to tell me what to do, so He told me in advance.

I have to admit that in the past, when I would read this verse, I would always think future tense- as if I had all the time in the world. When you have babies, it is easy to forecast the “training” for later, when things get tougher. It was easy for me to tuck that verse away in my heart as some sort of insurance plan that I would lean on when my kids turned 18. I didn’t have a clear picture of “training up” anyway, so it was at best, an obscure promise to me. But when I prayed and studied this verse, I realized something totally different.

I have been trained in several things. When I was younger, I played softball and we would have “training”. It was intense, fun and focused. We played ball EVERYDAY and now that I’m older, I still have a talent for ball.

I also “trained” in the color guard. I remember weeks in my summers where I spent so much time flipping a flag or marching that I didn’t have the energy to do anything else for days at a time. It was intense, fun and focused. I spent weeks and months learning routines and tosses and spins and now that I’m older, I still have a talent with a flag.

In both instances, the training began as soon as I joined the team and it never really ended. I didn’t spend 12 hours prior to a game learning what the 3rd baseman does in a double-play. I knew it probably 5 years before I had to use it in a game. I knew how to bunt years before I was called to do so. I knew the rules of the game well enough to keep a legal book before I was 10. I was asked to keep a legal book my senior year (and every year since my children starting playing ball). The training was PRESENT TENSE for FUTURE USE.

Thinking about training in this manner changes what I believed about that verse. My kids won’t have a “character camp” between their 17th and 18th birthdays in which we will equip them for life. I have been “training” them since they were born to be one way or another. For example, when I think about this verse in light of the fact that I have always been training my children, whether for the good or for the bad, I can come up with some pretty scary projections. I am going to make a list. Some of these will be personal to my family, others will be random things you might be teaching your children. Some of you, when reading these statements, may realize they are true for you. Read them and personalize them and CHANGE them.

I have trained my children to disrespect authority (talking back, rolling their eyes, whining at chore-time…) and when they are old, they will not depart from it.

I have trained my children to think only of themselves and when they are old, they will not depart from it.

I have trained my children to do the right thing when people are watching and when they are old, they will not depart from it.

I have trained my children to be lazy and when they are old, they will not depart from it.

I have trained my children to run to God only when something is wrong and when they are old, they will not depart from it.

I have trained my children to be pessimistic and never give God praise or Glory and when they are old, they will not depart from it.

I have trained my children to be wild and disobedient and when they are old, they will not depart from it.

I have trained my children to keep thier emotions hidden and when they are old, they will not depart from it.

I have trained my sons to disrepsect and dishonor women and when they are old, they will not depart from it.

I have trained my daughters not to depend on a man for anything and when they are old, they will not depart from it.

I have trained my children to be dishonest and when they are old, they will not depart from it.

I have trained my children not to speak up when they need to and when they are old, they will not depart from it.

…The list could go on and on.


I believe that God has also shown us how to train our children the right way. He is the Ultimate Father and He makes no mistakes, so we can confidently look to Him for parenting tips.

He is always honest.

He is always loving.

He always looks out for what’s best for us, even when we can’t see it.

He is always consistent.

He is firm, but loving.

He is a promise keeper.

I truly believe I have found the answers to my questions and fears. I pray that you will run to God with your children in your hands and ask your Father to show you what to do!

To the Young Men in My Life

Dear Brother in Christ,

I had the special honor of speaking with you this Vida Nueva weekend on Saturday night. Let me start by saying that I will never forget the measure of heart I witnessed from you during the weekend. I was blessed and honored to be able to spend two and a half days with you! Several of you have asked me to write down what I said to you so that you can read it and come back to it later. In this letter, I will attempt to do just that. I am also going to add a few things that I wish I had remembered to say when I was with you.

Adam and Eve are a wonderful example to me of the importance a young man’s character. Adam was created by God and was granted everything a man could ever want, or so it seemed. Adam had power and authority and dominion. He had an untarnished relationship with God, no fears, no regrets, no shame. At Adam’s first complaint of lonliness, God created all the animals for Adam to share the earth with, yet Adam was still lonely. Eventually (and I think it is significant that God made Adam wait on her), God created Eve for Adam. Adam was amazed by this final creation. I imagine he thought she was beautiful and I imagine he was terribly grateful for her presence. Shortly after this, satan came to Eve and lied to her. He told her basically, that God was holding out on her and she would have what she really wanted if she disobeyed Him. Eve bought the lie and ate the fruit. She passed it to Adam who was standing right beside her, and he shared it with her. This was the beginning of shame, heartache, disappointment and grief.

What puzzles me so is that Adam was right there. I wonder why he didn’t defend her or fight for her. I wonder why he allowed her to be lied to and hurt. I question Adam’s character in that moment. When we are young, we dream of being certain people and playing certain roles in life. Consistently, a young woman dreams of being beautiful and protected and cherished. Consistently, a young man dreams of being strong and valiant and needed. Why didn’t Adam use his strength? Why didn’t he fight? Why didn’t he realize that Eve, the woman he loved, NEEDED him?

It is no different today. Only the lies have changed. Satan still comes to us, men and women alike, and lies to us. To you, he says, “If it feels good, do it!” “Nobody will ever know.” “It’s your life, why let someone else tell you how to live it?” “You don’t have the strength to deny this temptation.” To young women, satan says, “If you want to keep him, you’ll have sex with him.” “No man has ever loved you. If you’ll do this, you’ll finally have the love you are seeking.” “He will leave you if you don’t.” “This will make everything better.”

I am asking you to use your character and stand up and fight for yourselves and for the young women in your life. I shared with you the history of the word bachelor and how it literally translates into “knight in training”. I know that is not how you feel, but that is EXACTLY what you are. You are training for something amazing and wonderful and if satan can trick you into believing otherwise, he can trick you into not fighting the fight you were meant to fight and win.

I believe that your character is all you really have that is yours and in your control. I can’t think of anything else that is truly, completely ours. Character is that great conviction in your heart that says, “I am going to do the right thing no matter how it feels or what it costs, simply because it is the right thing.” Your character is what you will be remembered for. The pages of your life story will be written on your character. I encourage you to question your character. Look deep inside yourself and ask, “When I’m faced with temptation, what do I do?” Do you fight it? Do you ask for help? Do you pray? Do you make changes in your life to protect yourself from it? Or do you start trying to justify ways to get what you want and not have to pay the consequences for that choice? Find a friend or a mentor that cares deeply about your character and make it a habit to talk about it often. You will never regret the effort it takes to become a man of great character! Your friends, your family and your life will be better for it. If you ever doubt that you can be a man of great character, study the life of Jesus and remember that He lives inside you. His strengths and wisdom and love are yours for the taking.

Now, what do we do if we truly want to become a person that fights for the people we love and a person who is strong enough to make great decisions, but we’ve already crossed that line in our past? First of all, open your heart up to God and tell Him what He already knows. Tell Him what you’ve done and how you’ve messed up. I know from experience that there is nothing that God can’t redeem. His whole story, from creation to today is all about redemption. He wants to take our mistakes and make them right. Your enemy wants you to believe that because you have made a mistake already, that you are damaged goods…a failure…unfit for battle. But that is a LIE.

I have a friend who made a lot of mistakes in her past. She was sexually active with several partners before she realized that God wanted her to be different. Instead of saying, “I’m ruined, I might as well continue what I’m doing”, she gave it over to God and started a journal. In the beginning of the journal, she wrote her stories of mistakes. After she had journaled all of her regrets, she started writing down WHY and HOW she was different. She kept this journal for years. On tough days, she would write, “Today was a real fight. I really wanted to slip back into my old ways, but I’m trying to stay focussed on my future.” Eventually, she met the man she was going to marry and she was pure and honest in her relationship with him. On the day she married this man, she gave him her journal. He read it in it’s entirety and later told her that he couldn’t wait for their children to read it. He is sure that her children will think she is the most beautiful and strong woman BECAUSE she turned it around. I read a sentence in a book that said this: You are better off healed than you would have been well. This woman, my friend, is better off! Her husband has an even greater respect for her because she beat the odds. She messed up, but she didn’t stay messed up. She stood up and fought! If you’ve made that mistake, first of all, speak up. Let it be known that it won’t happen again, and why. Find that friend who cares about your character and let him know you need help. Remember that you, too, are a knight in training. When knights make mistakes or learn bad habits, they just have to work harder to correct them. Remember, “virginity” is merely a clinical term. “PURITY” is spiritual. If you set your heart on purity, you can and will achieve it no matter what your past looks like!


I pray that you will stand up and fight. I know that you can. I pray that you will.

“Love covers a multitude of sins!” ~ King Solomon

“How can I do this thing and sin against God?!” ~Joshua

“I will finish what I started in your life!” ~ God

With much Love and Respect,

Sue Taylor

Don't Blink

When will we live like today is important?

How many days, weeks, months, or years will we put off doing the most important things, saying what is on our hearts, loving with no regard to what we’ll get in return?

As you know, my kids and my family are very important to me. I love them more than air. I enjoy them everyday and I am so blessed to have a home filled with love and fun and laughter. Tim and I try our best to be great parents. We talk about “character” and “right and wrong” and how as kids, they are practicing to be adults. We ask them hard questions and try to show them that there are consequences for their actions. We hug our kids and kiss our kids and pray with our kids. And yet, Monday, I felt like a ton of bricks landed on my heart.

Maybe only a Mom would be able to follow this heart-logic, but I’ll tell the story anyway.

Chandler and I do various projects together and in the past, when lifting something heavy, he would say, “I can’t lift that!”. I would always go and lift “that” and then say, “Baby, If I can lift it, you can lift it.” After this, he would suddenly be stronger and the task would be completed with only minor grunts of exertion.

Monday, I was in the garage trying to pull the lawn tractor out to cut the grass. (Yes, I LOVE to cut the grass!) The big, old, lawn mower was parked up against a wall with fourwheelers and you couldn’t move it an inch in either direction. My only hope in moving it was to move a fourwheeler. Believe it or not, I got that done all by my lonesome. After about ten minutes, Chandler came to the garage to “check on Mom”. He showed me that the lawn mower had a flat tire up against the wall and that we would have to pick it up and move it 90 degrees in order to air up the tire without pushing it off the rim. I immediately went to the front of the lawn mower and tried to lift it. I tried several times and I couldn’t move it, not an inch. Chandler walked over and offered to help and I told him, “Baby, if I can’t lift it, you can’t lift it.” I asked him if we could each get a side and try it together, but before I could get a plan in motion, Chandler bent down, lifted the lawn mower, walked it 90 degerees, and set it down. Then he very casually walked to the air compressor to air up the tire for his Mom.

I couldn’t believe it.

I just stood there.

I’ve known that Chandler was growing up. I’ve known that he was getting taller and thicker and well, yes, OLDER. But I didn’t know he was STRONGER than me.

It was like, in that instant, everything changed.

No longer will he call for me to help him do something he can’t physically do.

As a matter of fact, I’ll be calling him.

I’m not saying he’s grown and I’m two falls away from assisted-living. I’m just saying that God used that to tell me something precious.

Time is God’s. Not mine. I can’t manipulate it, beg for it, get it back. I can’t rewind to yesterday and say what I wanted to say. I can’t fast forward ten years and see if my kids will be okay. I have to live with my whole heart TODAY. If my kids need me to be their hero today, then tomorrow can’t be an option for me.

Chandler turns twelve in 8 days. On a timeline, that would mean that I’ve already used up 66% of the time God gave me to parent and protect him. I know that I’ll have opportunities when he’s an adult to help him and influence him and pray for him, but the “raising up a CHILD” kind of ends when he’s a man.

I don’t want to waste it. I don’t want to be old and look back at all the things I could have done, should have done, but didn’t do.

I pray that we will love ridiculously. I pray that everyday we do or say something that will give Christ freedom in our home and the hearts of our children. I pray that we will fix what’s broken now, and not let our kids take “broken things” into their futures.

As Kenny Chesney says, “Don’t blink. A hundred years goes faster than you think!”

What If?

Have you ever ended up right back in a place you swore you’d never go? Why is it that prayers, advice, counseling, church, duty and promises fail to keep us out of the hells we hate? And if there’s a way out with no going back, what is it?

What if you knew that no person could help you, would that change your approach to healing? I’m not saying that friends can’t help each other, but I know that I have spent a lot of time trying to help people but they truly are not better because of me- and vice-versa. What if all of our “help” really just keeps someone down longer because they are counting on us for hope? Don’t get me wrong, I want to help people! But what if my help is really “enabling” or a small deposit into a God sized hole that is just big enough to temporarily disguise the hole in the first place?

I have heard the advice from a few friends that I try to “save” people. I have heard straight talk from one who says that in my attempt to go the distance in helping people, especially those whom I allow to turn to me instead of Christ, that I will end up a gross disappointment. I have also read in a great book that the only person who can pull a person out of a pit is Jesus, and that I can’t want or will or beg or manipulate them out of it.

So, I’m asking for your thoughts. Where do you draw the line? What is encouragement and what is enabling? What is speaking up for someone and what is speaking for them? What is caring and what is controlling? What is giving up and what is giving it to God?