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Resolute Obedience

Happy New Year and a Joyous One!

Each year about this time, we all start making our “New Year’s Resolutions” to only find out by February 1st that we kept maybe a handful of them and those aren’t holding up to well either!  I know that I can be the first to raise my hand and keep it raised.

As I pondred this perpetual dilemma that I face each year, I asked the Lord, “What can I do differently this year?”   Honestly, the answer didn’t come as an epiphany to me, but a gradual answer that He has been giving me for months.

…and, so, out of resolute obedience to Christ — here are my intentional goals for 2018:

  • Obey Christ…even to the point of death;
  • Be delibierate in all that I do in Kingdom Work;
  • Live authentically before God and others;
  • Be and make Disciples;
  • Give more than I take in all things;
  • Daily die to self — Christ FIRST…me last;
  • Be Jesus’ hands and feet;
  • Be more tender-hearted;
  • Put on Christ Jesus!

Resolutions are so easy to break — mostly because they are only made to ourselves.  However, to commit to Christ my all — well, I don’t want to EVER fall short in my commitment to HIM.  One day we will have to make an accounting for our works and that we were faithful in all that He asked of us, and I want to be found faithful in all things.

My prayer for you this coming year is that you will be obedient, intentional, and authentic in your relationship with Christ and with others!

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Philippians 3:12-21)

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The Aroma of Christmas the Essence of Love

Jim & Ginger Shook Family

Christmas Eve always began with the hustle and excitement I anticipated all year long growing up in Powhatan, Virginia.  Our tree had been up and decorated right after Thanksgiving and the anticipation would build each day as Momma and Daddy would make the preparations for the best time all of the year.

When Christmas Eve came around, Momma had a mountain of presents ready to be loaded into our car for our journey to Richmond and time with family at my Aunt (pronounced Ain’t) Scarlett’s house.  We would make the 45 minute ride — each of us four kids chatting on about what Santy Claus was going to bring us — while Daddy would chime in reminding us that we had to get home and in bed in time or he fly right over our house and miss us!  We would cry and promise that we wouldn’t delay the ride home!  Not us!

Arriving at Ain’t Scarlett’s house was filled with fanfare and kisses and love — we would walk into her little house filled with family and friends we had not seen in awhile!  It would take a good 30 minutes or more to get in the house, get our coats and boots off, find Grandma to hug and kiss, while being stopped by Uncles and Aunts demanding their kisses.  Oh, but when Ain’t Scarlett kissed you and hugged you — the love oozed out of her and straight into your heart — you knew you were loved!

The house was filled with amazing smells — Ain’t Scarlett’s meatballs, ham, turkey, mashed potatoes, Ain’t Lorraine’s potato salad, Pinto Beans, Cornbread — and on and on!  The table was filled, every inch, and overflowing with all the Appalachian goodies I can remember!  And then, you turn the corner into the laundry room and the washer and dryer are covered in table cloths with pies and cakes of every variety…we never left hungry…and if you did…well, it was your own fault!

We never did get out of Ain’t Scarlett’s house any earlier than 1 a.m. and that was after Momma helped clean up — even then Ain’t Scarlett would take the left over mashed potatoes and make all of us remaining kids a potato cake!  Then, finally, Momma would helps us get our boots, mittens, and coats on for the long journey home.  We were tired and Daddy would always start encouraging us to look up in the sky, as we rode along the Richmond roads, to see if we saw him — that fat, red-suited elf — flying reindeer through the sky.

Sometimes by the time we arrived home, it had begun to flurry — we carried the many packages in to the house given by Aunts and Uncles and Cousins and Grandparents — Momma and Daddy would shew us off to bed and then they began their part.

I shared a bed with my sister, Angela, and I remember crawling in between those cold sheets and snuggling up under neath of the quilt that Mammaw Shook had made me — falling asleep and dreaming of the morning to come — so giddy with excitement.  We would strain our ears listening for that jolly ole’ elf to land on our roof, but usually sleep won over the thrill of hearing him and the hooves scraping the roof.

The fondest memory of all and one that brings such warmth to my heart is that of Christmas morning — waking beneath that warm quilt — and I could smell the aroma of Christmas.  It was that of Momma’s Turkey which had been cooking on low all night — it was the deliciousness of smelling Daddy cooking eggs and bacon and gravy and biscuits for breakfast — it was the essence of love permeating the house and sweetly reminding me that I was ever so blessed!

As Earl Hamner once said, “the family got not tokens of love, but love itself.”

We were abundantly loved and cared for and cherished.  We were not told this, but rather it was demonstrated to us through the aromas that filled our home.  God had blessed us — richly — with each other!

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Calloused Knees — The Sojourner’s Last Mile – Part 3

It is raining hard as we make our way down I-95 South — the windshield wiper blades racing back and forth — crimson lights aglow in the stop and go traffic.  We have been on the road about two hours when Ivy awakens.  Our tummies are growing hungry and we decide it might be a good time to stop and satiate them and our emptying gas tank.

I see a sign for WaWa and decide that it is a safe and good place to stop for gas and as we do, we also see a Culvers — well, thank you, Lord, because Karen and I love Culvers and it will be a new experience for Ivy.  We order our food and take a quiet table so that we can get to know Ivy a bit a better and the conversation takes off.

As Ivy explains to us how she found herself stranded in Sanford — she tells us of all the people she has encountered — many not so willing to help her or even speak to her.  She looks at me and says, “Tam — why are you different?  Why were you willing to help me when so many others didn’t want to give me a place to even sit down and rest?”  I know Ivy isn’t asking a rhetorical question — she is asking from the deep places of her heart — a hurting question that begs an authentic answer — not an empty, callous one.

I look at Ivy — I really look at her and see what others are afraid to see and at that very moment I decide to make myself vulnerable — and not pull any punches — because Ivy needs to see Jesus and not Tam…and, I start:

Ivy — most people are walking around life with a great deal of hurt.  Most have gaping wounds that I cannot even begin to understand.  When life has served you up every raw deal that exists — when you’ve been abandoned at every turn — when it took every ounce of energy just to show up that day — most don’t feel that have anything left to give — they bearly have enough to get through it themselves.  I am talking about that young lady who has nowhere to go — maybe her Daddy threw her out on her backside because she announced that she’s pregnant and the young man has left her to handle it all alone — or the single parent who is not even sure how to fill their babies bellies that night and tomorrow is not looking much brighter — how about the gentleman that walked out of the doctor’s office with the stark realization that he has about six months to live and now he needs to go home and tell his wife the life-time they had planned together has been cut short by about 40 years.  I am thinking about the woman sitting on the couch in the  pastors office — weeping — life has been a struggle — never easy — since the age of 5, when for the first time a man touched her in a way he never should have — she doesn’t know how to put the pieces of life together and really doesn’t want to put them together —she only wants to end her life — it is just too difficult to breathe.

You see, Ivy, everyone has a story — everyone is approaching each day from a place of hurt — and many start developing callouses on their hearts.  They allow the callouses to become an armor or shields to protect them from being hurt further.  Often, then, they cannot see people’s hurts because of their own.

Ivy, I am not immune to such hurt either — but I’ve allowed Christ Jesus to soften the callouses of my heart…to take suffering and use it to help others when He can.  Romans 5:3-5 says,

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,
and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

It’s a choice, for me, Ivy — I want God to use me and so I choose to have callouses on my knees rather than my heart!

We reach our destination with Ivy and leave her in the hands of her son.  As Karen and I start back, we are reminded of a verse in Hebrews regarding angels unaware — we are encouraged to help them, who are sojourner’s in a weary land — we might be entertaining angels.  I don’t know if Ivy was an angel, but I do know that God is good to entrust Karen and I with her for a short time!

Be ready with a meal or a bed when it’s needed. Why, some have extended hospitality to angels without ever knowing it! Hebrews 13:2

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Calloused Knees – The Sojourner’s Last Mile – Part 2

As it is almost 4:00 p.m. and Miami is over a 3 and a half hour drive from Sanford, Karen, Ivy, and I get into the car to begin our journey.  Ivy is exhausted after being up for the past 48 hours and we encourage her to just sleep, while I drive.

Ivy stretches out in the back seat of the car and settles in for a long nap and Karen and I begin to softly talk about how God works out His purposes for us all…having a willing and ready heart to do as He bids…letting fear go and trusting.  Ah, trust — that’s a big one!

How do we trust God that the woman, all 100 pounds of her, does not have evil intent toward us?  I watched her in the rearview mirror, as she leaned over the back seat into the way back of Karen’s car, and fumbled with her suitcases.  Unzipping this and zipping that and all the while my mind unzipping fears — “Lord, what is she doing?”

Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in you.  Psalm 56:3

We snake our way along 46 trying to make our way to I-95 and are overcome with the flood waters.  Hurricane Irma’s remnants have turned the pasture land into a virtual swamp — we are stunned that it is still so high.  The cows have been displaced — horse stables are washed out — lives still floating in a sea of uncertainty.  That seems to be the theme for the day — Ivy’s life sure was floating in a sea of uncertainty too.

I can hear her heavy breathing, as she trusts — trusting that we do not have evil intent toward her either.  Resting in chaos — exhaustion pulling you beyond your boundaries — having nowhere else to go — surrender — how when life has thrown you a curve ball and you have nothing left and you’ve been left?  You are broken and at the mercy of strangers — spent.

As we continue to make our way, we see more of Hurricane Irma’s destruction — death!  There is an alligator on the side of the road that has been hit by a car.  The rising waters had carried him beyond his safe boundaries — then a turtle who has met the same fate as the alligator — and an armadillo — all crushed and left for the vultures to clean up!

I have been forgotten like one who is dead; I have become like a broken vessel.  Psalm 31:12

I am certain that Ivy felt crushed and left too.  Finally, the sign for I-95 and the onslaught of rush-hour traffic.  We make our way onto the on-ramp, accelerate, and I think of the line from Peter Pan…” Second star to the right and straight on to morning.”  We still have more than 3 hours to go and Ivy continues to breathe heavily…we continue to talk softly…and God continues to weave a story, while we trust Him and all that He is doing.

Tomorrow I will continue Ivy’s story, please come back!

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Calloused Knees –The Sojourner’s Last Mile — Part 1

She called and left a message that would tear the most hardened of hearts right out of their chest.

My name is Ivy and I am 62 years old and 100 pounds.  I am stranded in Sanford and have been awake for the last 48 hours.  I am at the Dennys and the manager said I can stay here until 5:00 p.m. and then I must move along.  I am trying to get to Miami, but son doesn’t get off until 6:00 p.m.  Please can someone help me <uncontrolled crying> I am desperate!

My heart breaks as I listen to her sobbing and pleas of help…of hope.  I am at a loss…how can I help this woman.  “Lord, show me what to do…please!”  She’s in a strange town…far from home and far from family.  I do the only thing I know to do — I jump into gear!

The first thing I do is call my best friend, Karen, and ask her if she can run to Dennys and pick up Ivy.  “Who in the world is Ivy, Tam?”  “She is a lady stranded here in Sanford…she needs our help, Karen!”  “Well, I just walked out of the grocery store and I have cold stuff and what in the world do I do once I get her?”  “Bring her to my house,” I say.  “Okay  — I’m on my way!”

Karen arrives at Dennys, walks in, sees a battle-worn, frail, and tired woman and says, “Are you Ivy?”  Ivy says, “Yes, but who are you?”  “Well, I am Tam’s friend!”  Ivy retorts, “Who is Tam?”  Karen explains that I am her friend and I received Ivy’s frantic message and that she has come to collect her to take her to my house!  The manager helps put Ivy’s luggage in Karen’s car and they drive to my house.

Ivy and Karen enter through my front door and I see a woman that the world has all but abandoned.  She appears every bit as battle-worn as anyone I’ve ever seen — there are chinks in her armor — she needs love…the love of God and a kindred spirit.

I invite her in and offer her a place on the couch next to me —“Welcome, Ivy!”  “Please make yourself at home.”  I tell her that she can rest here until her son can drive up from Miami — she can take a nap — we’ll fill her belly — all is well!  She sits down — in shock — overcome with gratefulness and begins to weep.  I reach over and clasp her hand and say, “All is well!”

Ivy

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.  Matthew 25:35

As she pulls out her phone and calls her son, there is relief now in her heart — she is safe — she is loved — she is sheltered.

Then Karen, Dave (my husband), and I begin talking and we hatch a God-breathed plan to take Ivy to Miami ourselves.  Ivy begins to weep again, calls her boy, and we load up into the car and begin our journey.

Join me tomorrow, as we continue our journey with Ivy on calloused knees.

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Why I Have Chosen to Jump on the NFL Boycott Wagon

In the on-going debate over certain athletes in the National Football League (“NFL”) protesting, by taking a knee, during the singing of the National Anthem, there are lots of opinions, anger, and disgust.  Facebook has been pillaged with memes, opinions, hate, and a range of other emotions.  To further kindle and fuel the fire, there are several different boycotts against the NFL — some with no defining purpose other than to boycott and others more specific and defined.

My friend, Lauri Rogers, shared on her Facebook Wall the following [taken in part]:

Entertainers are very highly paid because people will pay more to be entertained than, say, have their kids safely watched. I am always amazed at how a person will negotiate such a small amount of money to daycare workers. We don’t even pay or value stay-at-home moms who are even more valuable to our society’s future.

Lauri is spot on! Those who perform the most valuable jobs in our society, i.e., daycare workers, policemen/women, firefighters, teachers, and stay-at-home moms are the least valued.

We don’t prioritize many things well and I feel that we are far too enamored with celebrities and public figures than we need/should be. We, as a society, have given them “god-status” and then after placing them on a pedestal, we want to demand that they acquiesce to our values and standards when we find out that the bill of goods they sold us doesn’t measure up! It is wrong!

My problem(s) with this whole NFL/National Anthem fiasco is that:

  1. Little eyes are watching. If someone does not want to sing or salute or give pause or whatever to the National Anthem that is their own private business and the First Amendment affords them that right. However, do it without making a scene — because in the 30+ seconds you are dropping to your knees in front of a potential million people does not give you the opportunity or platform to explain your protest — it just makes it all about you! Then those little eyes mimic you with no idea why!
  2. While the players who are kneeling are not intentionally trying to disrespect our Veterans, they really are because it is perceived as disrespect. Perception is reality!
  3. The players who went to the UK and chose to not honor our country not only disrespected our country but they bordered on treason BECAUSE they did stand in honor to “God Save the Queen.”
  4. What is their true protest:
  • The National Anthem being played before the game;
  • The continued racism that does exist on MANY levels in our country;
  • Is the National Anthem racists; and/or,
  • Slavery and if slavery, which kind? Black slavery from before the Civil War Era (that none of us was a party to), human-trafficking for sex-slavery, or the continued effort of certain leaders in our society to keep the black man/woman dependent on BIG MASTER GOVERNMENT by giving them just enough to scrape by and “plantationing” them into ghettos or hoods?

There are a lot of issues here — some being mentioned and others being ignored. However, when a football player or baseball player or any other high-profile individual decides to “take a knee” or turn their back or spew their own hate and fake oppression (I call it fake because they, as individuals, are not oppressed when they are making millions of dollars) are only fueling racism and hatred. Wouldn’t these athletes effect more change if they went into the poverty-stricken, low-income, crime infested, pit of oppression that exists in every State, City, and Town in our country, and drop some of their money and much of their time by showing them that they do honor our National Anthem because America is a place where there IS HOPE!?!

So — I am boycotting the NFL and any other over-paid individual who is willing to waste our time instead of getting up off of their knees or laurels and putting their time and money where their mouth is!

Further — I saw on the news last night that there is an individual in Orange County, FL who has started an organization called, Young Fathers of Central Florida to teach young Dads how to be Fathers. I will share the link. But, before I do, I just want to say that this individual, Haki Nkrumah, understands that in order to change what is, that you have to get up off of your laurels and jump in and start making a difference — not just talk about it. Mine is just another opinion in a sea of them —let’s all put our money where our mouth is!

Here is the link:

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Sealed in Christ

This morning my husband and I were talking about the devastating flooding in Houston and surrounding areas in Texas and Louisiana.  My husband said that there are reports that people are beginning to panic and some violence is ensuing.  It brought to mind, for me, the account of Noah and his family in Genesis 7:13-23 when God sealed them in the Ark.

Only Noah, his family, and two of all breathing flesh (male and female) were saved from the flood that destroyed all of the rest of mankind.  Here is the account:

On the very same day Noah and his sons, Shem and Ham and Japheth, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them entered the ark, they and every beast, according to its kind, and all the livestock according to their kinds, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, according to its kind, and every bird, according to its kind, every winged creature.  They went into the ark with Noah, two and two of all flesh in which there was the breath of life. And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him. And the LORD shut him in. The flood continued forty days on the earth. The waters increased and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth.  The waters prevailed and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the face of the waters.  And the waters prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered.  The waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep.  And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, livestock, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all mankind.  Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died.
He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark.  Genesis 7:13-23 (ESV)

Sadly I began wondering what Noah and his family witnessed once God had sealed the Ark?  I imagine that when it first began to rain the people outside of the Ark were still making fun of Noah and badgering him. They probably continued to dance around, party, and actually enjoy the rain, as it had not rained for a very long time.  I can even imagine them lifting their goblets of drunkness to Noah and his family — taunting them — probably even throwing objects at the Ark.

However, I am quickly ushered to those rain waters getting ankle deep — then waste deep — and then my mind quickly envisions a completely different scenario!  A scenario of desperation — people scratching at the sides of the Ark begging to be allowed in — cries of repentance — maybe even still curses of defiance.  My heart breaks as I think of Mommas and Daddies lifting there children high above the swelling and begging for Noah — for God — to save their children.  Truthfully, it was too late for the world during the days of Noah — judgment had come — it had come drowning them in their sins — no hope — all was lost for eternity, as the time of repentence got swept away before the rain drops began to pelt the earth.  Parched and unrepentant souls were deluged by the fountains of the deep when the windows of Heaven were opened and like a dry desert they were left unquenched by salvation.

There is coming another judgment one day, but not like it did in the days of Noah.  God, who is Faithful and True, promised to never flood the entire earth again in Genesis 8:21 and 22.  You see, Noah’s story and Noah’s Ark are a picture of Christ Jesus — God, in HIS great love for us, sent HIS only Son to die on a Cross for our sins.  Scripture tells us in I John 2:2, that “He [Jesus] is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” (ESV)  That means He became sin for us — He made atonement for our sins meeting the demands of the Father, to appease His wrath, so that humanity could be redeemed to God.

When you ask Jesus to forgive you of your sins and to save you, you are then sealed in the Ark of His Covenant.  Jesus’ death on the Cross assured mankind that there is a remedy — that for the saved Believer there will be no eternal, damning judgment.  God’s redeeming provision is in the person of His Son Jesus — and when we accept Him, God seals us in…just like HE sealed Noah and his family in the Ark.

Beloved — which side of the Ark are you on — sealed in the inside or doomed on the outside?  There is still time — today is the day of salvation — will you ask the Lord to forgive you of your sins and be Lord of your life?

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”  Romans 10:9-13 (ESV)

You can pray like this — theres is nothing magical about the prayer, as it is just a guide:  “Lord, Jesus, I am a sinner — I have sinned against God and I am sorry, please forgive me.  Your have promised that if I repent of my sins and turn from them that you will save me.  Jesus, save me!”

If you have prayed this prayer and would like more information on how you can begin living for God, please contact me.  I would love to help you connect with a Bible-Believing, Christ-Seeking church in your area.  God bless you!

If you have not prayed and asked Jesus to save you, please do not wait.  He loves you so very much!