Your life will be as bright as the noonday sun. Job 11:17

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Who You Gonna Run To?

DISCLAIMER…SPOILER ALERT…EXCUSE…whatever you want to call it.  I am telling you up front, there is yet another Alvin Slaughter song linked to this message.  I don’t know what it is or why it is – maybe I am in my Alvin Slaughter CD Season of Life.  Nevertheless, stop right here, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKhejMWTJPo, listen to the song then come back.

Imagine the following scenarios.

  1. It’s an exciting time in your life. You’ve been working on your advanced college degree, and graduation is just around the corner.  Already you’d begun interviewing for new jobs, and you just snagged one of your dreams.  You begin a new job, graduate and (here’s a bonus) celebrate Christmas – all in a matter of weeks.  You come home to share the good news with your spouse and find a note on the kitchen counter.  It reads, “I don’t think I want to be married anymore, so I’ve moved some things out.  I’ll be in touch.”
  2. You’re tired, but who isn’t these days, so you just keep pushing; things are bound to slow down soon and you’ll get some rest. You get a note in your inbox that you need to telephone your doctor’s office, so you do during your break.  Reception transfers you to the nurse who tells you – over the telephone – that your lab results didn’t look good.  “Actually,” she says, “it looks like you have Cancer.”
  3. Home from the hospital. Alone in bed.  Healing from surgery.  Other people might consider it a bad thing, but this is a good time for you to catch up on your rest, think some things through and craft a new vision and plan for your life – between naps because the Percocet has you drifting in and out of sleep.  The phone rings.  It is the IRS.  They have some questions about your past six tax returns.

Can you imagine?

My question for you, despite whichever scenario you imagined, “What do you do?”

Let’s see.

Scenario 1:  Call a Divorce Attorney?  Phone a girlfriend?  Watch Oprah and Dr. Phil?

Scenario 2:  Get a second opinion?  Google your symptoms?  Start saying your Good-byes?

Scenario 3:  Contact an online loan counselor?  Buy boxes and schedule a moving company?

Perhaps a better question is, Who do you run to?  (Yes, I know it should be To Whom do you run?)

Often we choose from those mentioned above – attorneys, girlfriends, Dr. Phil, Google – or others like them.

John 16:33a (NIV) says, “…In this world you will have trouble…” There is not one of us who cannot testify to the truth of this Scripture. But do you know the truth of the rest of this Scripture? There is encouragement. There is hope. There is a promise. There is a command. There is very present help. We are told to “take heart” because our Lord has “overcome the world.” If we are obedient and look to Him, the source of our help (Psalm 121:1-2 NIV).

Girlfriends are great. I know, I have been blessed with the best. I’ve called a few attorneys and moving companies in my lifetime, and I wish that I had stock in Google. I’ve even watched a couple of episodes of Dr. Phil. But I want the truth of my life to be that when in times of “trouble, pain and fears,” I run to the Lord. Not crawl. Not walk. Not as an afterthought. Not after I have consulted all those other sources.

First. Immediately. Naturally. Readily. Faithfully. Expectantly.


Lord, I run to you.

Because I didn’t have to imagine those scenarios.


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Launch Out Into the Deep

Summer has ended and fall has truly begun – not just on the calendar, but in the weather.  We’ve had some really cool nights and mornings.  I love the change in the seasons, especially between summer and fall.  But I’m a little sad, too.  This summer seemed to fly, and it is the first summer in years that we did not get to the beach.  Once.  Never.  Not even a drive by.

I am really fortunate to live about an hour’s drive from the ocean – the real beach!  Ponds are nice.  Lakes are lovely.  But nothing compares to the ocean.  Waves lapping.  Squishy sand between your toes.  Seashells and Seagulls.  Sometimes we’ve driven to the beach just for a walk along the shore.  With sandals in hand we let the waves wash over our feet, and we occasionally stoop to pick up shells.

That’s a good day – walking hand-in-hand with someone you love along the water’s edge.  But to really enjoy (and experience) the ocean, you have to go beyond the shore.

The same is true with life.  The same is true in ministry.  We have to go beyond the shore.

“And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret, And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon’s, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship.  Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.” (Luke 5:1-4 KJV)

Obediently, but possibly with some hesitancy, Simon launched out.  Isn’t this His command for us, too? Aren’t we to launch out into the deep doing what our Lord commands? No excuses. No hanging around the periphery? No sticking with the familiar and the comfortable. No waiting for something to wash up onshore.

Faith can bring the most unexpected of miracles. Verses 6 and 7 of Luke 5 (KJV) tells us that when Simon and his men had done what was commanded, “they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink.”

Faith is about action. We can say that we have faith, but faith without works is dead (James 2:20 KJV). Simon could have responded to the Master, “Thank you for letting us know that there are fish in the lake. Wow, we were wondering since we didn’t catch any. Maybe we’ll go out tomorrow night.”

Faith requires us to yield – our thinking, our possessions, ourselves. Our Lord’s thoughts are not our thoughts, and neither are His ways our ways. (Isaiah 55:8) We must trust His commands and be quick to obey them.

As Alvin Slaughter sings, “…by faith we must climb into the boat, and follow His command” letting our faith take us somewhere that we’ve never been before. “Launch out, Launch out into the deep.”

Launch Out (by Alvin Slaughter)


“Sometimes we hold on a little longer than we should   Letting go can be hard but it’s sometimes for our good   The fear of what’s ahead sometimes makes us fall behind.  We can see the times are changing but pretend that we’re so blind   You’ll never really know just what the future holds   But we know God holds us in His hand.   So by faith we must climb into the boat; And follow His command.  

CHORUS   Launch out into the deep. Let your faith take you somewhere that you’ve never been before.  Launch out into the deep. Let your faith make you fly. Let your faith make you soar.  Launch out, Launch out into the deep.”

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Labels and Colors

This semester I am teaching two special education classes at my Alma Mater.  I lived a “special ed” life for a number of years – teacher, Program Director, Regional Consultant – before moving into other areas of education and administration.  But as others who have majored in Special Education will tell you, “once Special Ed, always Special Ed.”  You just can’t get away from it.

So, here I am preparing future educators to work with students challenged by intellectual, physical or emotional disabilities.  Because none of my students are Special Education majors, the dialogue has been especially interesting.  Recently I lectured about the core principles of the federal law, IDEIA, including “Nondiscriminatory Identification/Evaluation.”  In one class deep dialogue around biases, prejudices and stereotypes ensued, so I required students to complete at least one hidden bias assessment and to report their findings, feelings and take-aways.

It turned out to be even more powerful than I imagined.

While there were some who seemed proud that the tests confirmed their biases which ran the gamut from “I really just can’t stand fat people because they are lazy and choose to be fat” (Yes, a student wrote that.) to “The test confirmed that I do not like people who do not share my skin color.  I wasn’t surprised. That’s how I was raised.”


Thankfully, that was the minority.  The majority of students “got” what the assignment was about, and while they confessed some hidden biases, they wrote of their desire, prayer, conviction and determination to overcome them and to embrace every child regardless of his or her abilities, appearances or addresses.  As a retired educator who sometimes worries about the future of education, I experienced a moment of relief.

While 60 years have passed since the landmark Supreme Court Case, “Brown vs Board of Education,” and many laws declaring equal rights to all people now rest on the books, the fact remains that our nation is still greatly divided.  We see that every day in the media, in our workplaces, in our schools and in our communities.

During the past two years I experienced racism such that I had never before in my 50+ years of living.  I know history.  I grew up with the signs posted over water fountains and even in my pediatrician’s office distinguishing which fountains and which chairs were for WHITES and which were for COLORED.  But the blatant racism that I experienced every day in a recent workplace and in the town and community in which I worked was, was…  Well, I’ve left that experience behind, but I still don’t have words for it.

But there are words that I have to share with you, and I hope you will share them with your children.  They are the words to a song that I learned as a child.  “Red and Yellow, Black and White, we are precious in His site.”  And the color that matters, the only color that matters is RED – the precious red blood that Jesus shed on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins.

“He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.” (Ephesians 1:7 NIV)

And the only label that will matter in the end?  SAVED!

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Too Much or Not Enough

I was reading the notes captured from an interview between Dolly Parton and Allison Glock (for Southern Living Magazine).  Dolly was summarizing 10 lessons she had learned while filming Steel Magnolias.  Lesson #7 was “There is No Such Thing as Too Much.”  Specifically Dolly was quoted as saying that this applied to “hair, jewelry, laughter, heel height, cake, cleavage, pulled pork, emotion, faith, persistence and revelation. Contrary to the old adage, less is actually less and more is divine.”

Well, there are a few of these that I might agree with.  You know I really like jewelry – and the bigger, bolder, quirkier and unique, the better.  And in the words of Emeril, “Pork fat rules!” But, it seems that we have become a society where “too much” is the norm.

Too much TV.  Remember when it used to sign off at midnight?  Now there’s programming for every hour of the day.  Nielsen says the average American watches about 33 hours of television each week.  Doesn’t sound like much to you?  Well, that’s about 71.5 days/year just watching television.  And remember, this is average.  Some people watch much more.  Too much?

Too much food. (Am I really typing this?)  The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) says we suffer from “portion distortion.”  In the same report, the NHLBI says that 20 years ago the average fast food cheeseburger contained 333 calories; today it offers a whopping 590 calories.  Sodas came in cute 6.5 ounce bottles (remember those cute little green Coke bottles).  Today single-serve sodas commonly offer 20 ounces and 250 calories.  Too much?

Too much cell phone.  I am amazed every day.  By who has a cell phone.  Like Kindergarteners.  Really?  By how often people talk on their cell phones. (Nielsen says 34 hours each week – that’s a week more than we watch television!)  By where people talk on their cell phones.  My doctor’s office has a sign that reads:  You may be denied service if you are talking on your cell phone.  Really?  There has to be a reason why he posted that sign.  Too much!

Too much shopping.  Based on an analysis of Federal Reserve statistics and other government data, the average household owes $7,281 on their cards; looking only at indebted households, the average outstanding balance rises to $15,607. Too much!

Too much stuff.  A UCLA study says, “The rise of Costco and similar stores has prompted so much stockpiling — you never know when you’ll need 600 Dixie cups or a 50-pound bag of sugar — that three out of four garages are too full to hold cars.” (While watching those 33 hours of television did you by any chance watch the popular show, Hoarders?)  Too much!

I could continue, but it would probably be too much for you to really take in, so I will offer just one more.

The American Bible Society reports that 88% of American households own a Bible, 80% think the Bible is sacred, 61% wish they read the Bible more and 37% of those households actually read the Bible. Not enough.

So how much of what should you be doing?  I cannot say for you, but I will suggest you assess your own habits and make adjustments asking yourself just two questions – Too much?  Not enough?

Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. (1 Corinthians 9:25 ESV)

Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity… (Titus 2:7 ESV)

Let your moderation be known unto all men. (Philippians 4:5 KJV)

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. (Joshua 1:8 ESV)

With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. (Psalm 119:10-11 ESV)

But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. (Matthew 22:29 ESV)

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That’s What Friends Are For

I was all prepared to post something else.

Then yesterday I received a prayer request from a friend – actually a series of requests for various individuals with various needs.  There is a group of us, some known and others unknown, who somewhat regularly intercede for each other as well as for friends, family and acquaintances of each other.  It’s powerful.

At the end of yesterday’s requests my friend wrote, “Pray for each other because that’s what friends are for.”

She’s right.

The Bible provides many examples of individuals, including our Lord Jesus, praying and interceding for friends.  We are even commanded to pray for our enemies.

Consider these Scriptures:

~ “The LORD restored the fortunes of Job when he prayed for his friends, and the LORD increased all that Job had twofold.”   (Job 42:10)

~ “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…”  (Matthew 5:44)

~ “…bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”  (Luke 6:28)

~ “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints…”  (Ephesians 6:18)

~ “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority…”  (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

Do you?

Do you pray for your friends?  And your enemies?

In our church when individuals come forward at the invitation, our pastor asks us to commit to pray for them.  He also says, “If you’re not going to pray for them, don’t say that you will.”  Sounds a little harsh, but how often do we tell people that we will pray for them then in the next 15 minutes we’ve forgotten not only about them but about our promise to pray?

I remember participating in a Beth Moore study that included a live webcast.  Beth shared a humorous story about her mother praying for her.  She said that her mother would pray petitioning the Lord for Wanda Elizabeth Green Moore who lived on _Blank _ Street in _Blank _ City.  She said that she laughed and told her mother that she was sure the Lord knew who she was, but her mom was insistent that she didn’t want any mix-ups.

Hey, laugh if you want, but that is how we ought to pray for our friends and our enemies.  When we ask the Lord to “bless” our friends (or enemies), well, He already did.  If they woke up, they were blessed.  If they had food, they were blessed.  If they were able to walk, they were blessed.  Praying for the Lord to “bless” seems somewhat banal to me.  I like being able to clearly document when a prayer has been answered.  (Yes, I often write my prayers and I write and date the answers.)  In seasons when the Lord seems quiet, I am encouraged when I read past prayers AND answers.  I like reading what the Lord did in the lives of Joseph and Abraham and David and Daniel…, but I LOVE reading what He has done in Debbie’s life!

Clearly, specifically, passionately, persistently, pray for your friends and enemies.

That’s what friends are for!

ps Remember this?  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CdHFElOHQzs

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When You Lose Your Song

Author Max Lucado shares in his book In the Eye of the Storm a humorous yet poignant story about a parakeet named Chippie, who had a very bad day. It all started when the bird’s owner decided to clean Chippie’s cage.

With a vacuum cleaner.

Things were going well, and then the phone rang, so she turned to answer it. Before she knew it, “ssswwooopp!” (Wish I had a sound button.)  Chippie was gone. Sucked right in.  In a panic, the owner unsnapped the top of the vacuum and ripped open the bag. There was Chippie, covered in dirt (and all that other stuff that gets in your vacuum cleaner), gasping for air and obviously stunned. The owner grabbed Chippie and rushed to the bathroom to rinse him off under the faucet. Suddenly it dawned on the owner that Chippie was now cold and wet, so naturally she grabbed the hair dryer.

Lucado wrote, “Poor Chippie never knew what hit him.”

His owner was asked a few days later how Chippie was doing. “Well,” the owner replied, “Chippie doesn’t sing much anymore. He just sits and stares.”

Have you lost your song?

That’s how life seems sometimes.  One minute we are whistling along – loving family, great job, bills paid, healthy bodies, clear minds and blue skies.  Like Chippie, we never see it coming.  Divorce, pink slip, cancer… Worries suck us in.  Situations make us feel washed up.  And relationships gone awry leave us feeling blown out.  Life can steal the song from your heart.  Or it can try.

Ephesians 5:19 says “be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord…” But how do you sing in your heart when your world has been turned upside down?  Look to Colossians 3:16 for a clue:  “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”  As the Spirit of God and His word dwell within us, we have songs in our hearts!  Hold onto yours, and sing it!

And until you have your song again, here are some from Alvin Slaughter, Hillsong and Ron Kenoly.  Hold one in your heart.

That’s When He Steps In:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTLmHJlq-6Q

God Can:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYi4OGFdAHY

This is How We Overcome:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o-0V_LkaJME

Lift Him Up:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4Rs4RDVHB4

Encouraging Scriptures

Bible Study Tools:  http://www.biblestudytools.com/topical-verses/encouraging-bible-verses/

Life, Hope & Truth:  http://lifehopeandtruth.com/bible/bible-study/encouraging-bible-verses/

Lynn Dove:  http://lynndove.com/2013/03/16/25-encouraging-bible-verses-to-give-you-peace/

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One of my favorite places to wile away literally hours – a good book store.  When I drive past a Barnes & Nobles or a Books A Million, something inside me stirs.  I even get that same feeling in the book section of an Ollie’s.  Ollie’s slogan is “Good Stuff, Cheap,” and it is.  Especially the books!  While other people love navigating the aisles of kitchen gadgets, flipping through the room-sized carpets and rambling through the clothing section, you can find me in the book corner.

I found myself in a book store this weekend.  Nirvana.  My sweetie is the most patient of men, so I literally had as long as I wanted to bask in the smell of new editions.  While the “Religion” section is my favorite (though I honestly dislike that name – Christianity is about Relationship more than Religion, but that’s another blog post perhaps), I also spend time in Magazines, Cook Books and Children’s Books.  But this weekend, the Self-Help section caught my attention.

Self-Help.  Just the name of the section is interesting.  So, I walked the aisle reading some of the titles aloud.  “The Power of Intention:  Co-Create Your World.”  “Real Magic:  Creating Your Own Miracles.”  “The Mindful Way Through Depression:  Freeing Yourself From Chronic Unhappiness.”  Interesting.  Lofty Ideas.  The last title I glanced was the most interesting:  ‘Working on Yourself Doesn’t Work.”  Now, I’ve not read any of these, but the only title I was inclined to agree with was the latter.

Working on yourself doesn’t work.  That’s not what much of society, especially the “self-help” segment would have you believe.  If you just focus, meditate, tap into your true inner self and dig deeper, you will be successful.

Let me suggest you look to the example of Joseph.

Genesis 39 (NIV) opens, “Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there.” You know the story – betrayed by his brothers, stripped of his precious coat and sold into slavery.  So he arrives in Egypt – alone, half-naked with only the clothes on his back.

Well, he had one more thing because Genesis 39:2 (NIV) says, “The Lord was with Joseph.”  Continue reading this chapter, and I am confident you will agree with me.  This was all that Joseph needed.  In about five verses Joseph goes from arriving, alone and naked to running the house of Potiphar.

He must have read “How to Attract Wealth, Health, Love and Luck in 10 Easy Steps.”  Or maybe it was “Winning Friends and Influencing People for Your Personal Wealth.”  Probably not.  Rather than meditating, chanting mantras or digging deeper, Joseph looked to God.  He didn’t look within; he looked up.  The Lord was with Joseph.  That means that Joseph was also with the Lord.

And the best news this Monday morning?  The same God that was with Joseph, is with you if you accept Him as your Lord.  The promise He made to Joseph is the promise He makes to you.  “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go.”  (Genesis 28:15 NIV)  

He offers you what is needed, God-Help.

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Just Where He Wants You

The crowd rose up together against them, and the chief magistrates tore their robes off them and proceeded to order them to be beaten with rods. When they had struck them with many blows, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to guard them securely; and he, having received such a command, threw them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. (Acts 16:22-24 NASB)

Paul and Silas had not been long in Philippi when they met Lydia, a seller of purple fabrics. (Acts 16:14 NASB) The Lord opened her heart and she and her household were baptized. What a great high Paul and Silas must have experienced. Their ministry here was off to a great start. They headed next to a place of prayer, perhaps to thank God for safe travels, for the Holy Spirit leading them past Phrygian, the Galatian region and Bithynia to Macedonia. Along the way they meet a slave girl with a spirit of divination. What a great opportunity to show God’s power and to share His Gospel! Without missing a beat, Paul says to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!” And it came out at that very moment. (Acts 16:18 NASB)

How pleasing this must have been to the Lord. His Spirit had led Paul and Silas to this region and they were busy about His work. It seemed they were just where He wanted them to be! How pleased God must have been. How displeased Satan must have been.

But wait a minute. In the very next verse (19) we find Paul and Silas being seized and dragged into the market place before the magistrates. Keep reading and we find them being beaten with rods, thrown into prison and fastened in the stocks. How displeased God must have been.   How pleased Satan must have been. It seems that he now has them just where he wanted them to be.

That’s the thing about looking at situations through earthly eyes.

Lost jobs. Foreclosure. Bankruptcy. Divorce. Death. These all seem like tragic conclusions, ends of the road and final chapters in our eyes. Seems like Satan has us just where he wants us. Confused. Distraught. Alone. Weary. Feeling Forsaken.

“But about midnight,” says the Scriptures, “Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; and suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundation of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. When the jailer awoke and saw the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped.  But Paul cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!”  And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, and after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:25-30 NASB)

Seems like God had them right where He wanted them.

What Satan intended for evil, God used for testing and ultimately for good.

Every day God tests us through people, positions, problems or pain. Our first inclination (and prayer) is to escape the situation or experience. Rather than pray for immediate deliverance, quick relief or escape, determine to understand and do the work that God has for you in the place where He has you.

He knows where you are, and He has you just where He wants you.