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?