22 December, 2010

Wrap Wrap Wrap

Oh, the hustle and bustle. I thought I was past this time of life. I know the real meaning of Christmas! But yet, it’s December 22 and I can’t see the forest for the trees…

Mom, are you sure we have enough lights up? Let’s go buy some more decorations. Wrap, wrap, wrap. Oh dear, I’ve got to start cooking! What’s on the menu for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day? Will we have a brunch or early breakfast? Did I pick up the office gifts? Call UPS and track that package! Wrap, wrap, wrap. What are the ingredients for Eggnog? We need to mail those Christmas cards! I’m off for one more trip to the grocery store. What if they don’t like their gifts? Do you remember where you hid those gifts? Oh my gosh, I’ve got to vacuum pine needles and dust before company comes. Do we have any festive Christmas music? I think I might rearrange the den today. Why don’t these lights work! Wrap, wrap, wrap.

Exhausting, isn’t it? I feel like the family in the movie, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Everything around me is bigger than me and it’s difficult to find my bearings. I am surrounded by Christmas. The to-do list of Christmas has overwhelmed me and in the midst of all that the Christ child waits for me.

“Oh, Kathy, Kathy you’re worried about so many things but only one is important. I am that One. Sit down, listen to me, rest at my feet. Just sit and let my Presence overwhelm you. Be still and know that I am God. I’ve arrived in your world yet you keep spinning around…preparing. I Am. I’m Here. I’m born”.

These are the words of my soul as I read the verses from Luke 10:38-42.

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Oh, Lord I pray to sit at your feet everyday until the Celebration Day. So today, I sit and acknowledge it is You this Christmas.

12 December, 2010

December Baby

Ray and I met after we were both out of college. Our courtship was four years long and it seemed like four hundred to me! When we announced our engagement there were a lot of, “it’s about time” comments. The wedding day was a joyful celebration with nary a dry eye in house…beautiful memories for us.

And then after four years of marriage, we were pregnant with our first child. Now the comments really began to flow our way.

“Congratulations! It’s about time!”
“What are you having?”
“Have you decided on names?”
“Boy, will your life change!”

We were good to answer and smile but we didn’t really think our lives would change that much; you know, people make such a big deal out of everything!

Wow, were we mistaken! Our lives changed all right. Here are few life changing observations:

We cared for their needs over our own - not necessarily joyfully (just being honest!)
Our full hearts of love for each other spilled over to our children and multiplied
We cooked, cleaned, drove, washed and ironed – we served
We celebrated victories – kindergarten graduation, high school graduation, soccer wins
We comforted when hurts brought tears.

Yes, our lives changed. These long-awaited, precious children brought change to our lives. We’ve been changed forever….

And now, there is another Baby whose birth we celebrate soon. When people in Mary’s village saw and heard of her pregnancy, do you think she heard, “Your life will change”? I daresay Mary heard these words and perhaps not in a completely loving way. Can you imagine the gossip and humiliation she faced? Her life had immediately changed and she had an immediate response.

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.”
Luke 1:38

As I contemplate this December Baby, I wonder if Jesus’ birth into this world has truly produced change in my life? Does my list above apply? Can I honestly say, “Wow, my life has changed”? Can I truthfully say the words of Mary about my desire for the Saviour? Am I the Lord’s servant?

Do I care for the needs of the world over my own?
Does my heart spill over in love for other people and children?
Do I serve?
Do I celebrate well with people in my life?
Do I comfort when others are hurting?

I confess today that I have not allowed the news of this December Baby to completely change me. I’ve held back. So my prayer today is very simple:

Change my life Lord Jesus. Come.

04 December, 2010

Little Tree

We turned off the lights and the tree beamed glorious light. The lighting of the tree is definitely one of the best moments of Christmas. This moment happened again for me last week.

I remember as a little girl climbing up into my parent’s attic and hauling out boxes….the infamous box of lights, the ornaments, the icicles, the old tree skirt, the top star and all the other decorations that went throughout the house. It was so exciting to open boxes and remember! I also seem to recall that the decoration process started with my daddy helping us but by the time we had finished it was just mama and me. (It seems that way in many households…smile).

This past year I’ve talked a lot about the world and the people in it who have never heard of Jesus; therefore, don’t celebrate the Christmas festival. I’ve been convicted to go into the world and take His message to those who don’t know and I’ve written about it on this blog to urge each of us to go beyond our own borders. Acts 1:8 is our mission statement:

…you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

I’ve learned that Jesus’ call to me isn’t a choice for me. It’s His command TO me. His words reflect taking His love to my next-door neighbors, to my community, to my state, to the US, to the world of China and beyond.

When we turned off the ceiling light the little tree glowed beautifully. It was again just my mama and me. She was unable to help decorate the tree this year. She watched and instructed me. The long ago memories were just that – long ago. The big tree and old ornaments have been replaced with a small tree and small ornaments. The attic visit wasn't necessary. She didn’t have a lot of boxes to open and my daddy has gone to his heavenly home but my mama and me had each other and we had time to talk and just be.

Those moments for me seemed surreal in some ways. How could life have moved so fast that now our family is the caregiver for our mama. What happened to those days of attic visits, TV watching, Mama's food, and everyone gathered in mama and daddy's house for Christmas Eve? She seems so alone now....Oh Lord, be near to her, I silently prayed.

I heard a whisper in that moment. It was a whisper reminding of me of Jesus’ overwhelming love for those lonely and alone. It was a whisper reminding me that the least will be first. It was a reminder to me to love those in my city who wait for Christmas all alone. We all need the touch of the Saviour…so let’s be His hands and feet.

20 November, 2010

Thanksgiving Question

Have you ever had to explain “Thanksgiving” to someone who had no knowledge of the holiday? What words would you put around your definition? My history teacher friends would speak knowledgably about Plymouth Rock, the Pilgrims and the celebration and thanks for a bountiful harvest. I, in turn, feel the need to google Thanksgiving to get my facts straight!

I’ve also begun anticipating a question I’ll soon be asked, ‘what are you thankful for this year’? My family of 30 to 35 people will form a large circle, hold hands and be asked to answer the Thanksgiving question. One by one we’ll go around the circle and hear every voice respond. The youngest to the oldest will give an answer. In the past, we’ve heard all types of responses: I’m thankful for my family, I thankful for my dog, I’m thankful for SEC Football, I’m thankful for Mama’s pecan pie, I’m thankful for military leave…all honest and great responses.

So, on one day in November we pause as a nation to give thanks. One day. One day is not enough for all I’ve been graciously given. I’m like the 9 lepers in the story below. Failing to give thanks for the miracles in my life and instead choosing to celebrate with my family and friends and forgetting the Source.
As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.
One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.
Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?”
Do you notice in this story that the one who returns to Jesus is called a foreigner? Could it be that those in the world who have been born into poor, disadvantaged countries are able to see Thanksgiving better than me? Are our eyes so glazed over that we can’t see all we’ve been given? I mean, really, I have to Google on Thanksgiving to be able to offer a definition to my Chinese friends??

Let me try again to answer the question today:
•I’m thankful for being born in the United States, particularly Mississippi – the Bible Belt. Even as my home state is the poorest of all it is far richer than most others in the world.
•I’m thankful that I worry about being overweight because that means I have plenty to eat; therefore I have plenty to share.
•I’m thankful for my son’s crisis and illness as that brought him back to Jesus this year.
•I’m thankful that the God of the universe has chosen us as His messengers to the world.

After all the healing Jesus has done in my life, where do I now run to offer Thanksgiving? Is to those who already know him? Is it to my own good fortune, my works?

I choose to run to Him today…in Thanksgiving.

10 November, 2010

A Symphony

Have you been to the symphony recently? Have you attended a Broadway production? A Broadway show is one of my favorite joys. I love to dress up for the event and arrive early just to watch the crowd and see the theatre begin to come alive. The crowd comes in talking and laughing and looking for seats. Soon, very soon, the orchestra begins their pre-show ritual. And now, we’re to my favorite, favorite time of the evening. The flutes, the cello, violins, brass, and piano – they all begin to loosen up, to tune up, all playing different notes, adhering to their own personal warm-up session. Do you hear them? Then finally…..tap, tap, tap….silence. And the overture begins, perfectly in harmony and purpose for each instrument. Beautiful.

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. Revelation 7:9

A symphony of people will be standing before the throne of God. Among these people are those who have yet to know the unconditional love of God. Today, in my city there are those who do not know of this Love, they’ve never heard and they’ve never seen it lived.
Will I live the Love today? Will I stop my busy life long enough to unconditionally love one person who is hard to love, who looks different from me, who has a hard time speaking English? I will see them at the throne one day; will I love them today?

A few weeks ago in English class, we were practicing prose. As the Chinese students read aloud I was listening to their English and helping them correct pronunciation problems. We were in a small group of 6 and huddled together in order to hear each other. When a troublesome word would come up for one student, I’d noticed that all the students begin to repeat it, mimic my pronunciation, and before long all were practicing the word. On this day, we were using prose from the most famous Book of all, the Bible. As one student read, he stumbled and pronounced a word, “Jesirs”. We began to work on the word….Je…..sus. Listen well as there is no R in the pronunciation, I said. So again, Je…..sus. Je….sus.
All around me, the pronunciation spread…..the practice…..Je….sus, Jesus, Jesus they repeated over and over again. I closed my eyes and just listened. A symphony, a tune up as they had no idea of the name they called that day. But He heard them and knows them by name…..can I love someone today like Je…..sus loves me?

27 October, 2010

Hello Son

"When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him.” Luke 15:20

And from a long way off, he saw him. He leapt off the porch and ran to greet him. His lost son was making his way home. What a glorious sight, he was coming home. This is how God feels about you and me. Whether we wander by choice or by circumstance, He waits, looking and searching for our presence on the road home.

Our son was born on September 7, 1989. It was 6 a.m. What a day! How glorious was God’s blessing. In some ways it seems that our son had been running away since his birth date. Of course, we didn’t know or recognize that he was running. We had a wonderful, blessed life with this son that included the normal ups and downs of child rearing. It is after all not for the weak of heart! So he grew and grew and ran and ran.

Days went by, even years, and before we knew it this son of ours was 20 years old. And yes, he was still running. Relationships were existing but damaged, painful, shallow and remote.

Then the miracle, we see him coming home from a long way off. He’s beaten, bedraggled, wounded, in pain, caught, and scared…..just like his dad, his sister and me. Could it be? Could it be our boy we see coming home?

This boy is different. His eyes are alive. His spirit seems full of hope. It’s as though he is a stranger to us. We talk, we laugh, we use words of love and encouragement, we share life stories, and we work through difficult decisions. He smiles a lot now. He shares his heart, his dreams, his pain, and his journey.

After 21 years, he’s home. It’s almost more than my heart can take…Hello son, it’s so nice to meet you.

19 October, 2010

Eyes to See

High School Graduate. College Graduate. Graduate School attendee. PR Director. Field Director. Coordinator of Giving. Associate Director of Development. Director of Development. Executive Director of Development. These are all places and titles of where I've been in my life. Some of these labels I liked more that others. However, they all provided an answer to the question, "What do you do"? I liked being able to answer with a job title. Yes, I work. Yes, I contribute to society. Yes, I do something in the workplace. Yes, I have value.

For the last seven years, I have not worked. So this societal question, "what do you do," is not as easily answered for me. I'm not a career woman anymore. I'm not in the workplace. I've realized over the years that even in jobs I didn't particularly enjoy they gave me a sense of worth in the world.
This is a place where I struggle. My own self-image is damaged so I enjoyed the shield of protection a job title gave me- a title hid me. It gave me an 'I belong' or an 'I'm OK' stamp of approval. For a girl like me who has self-image issues this was critical. What would I become without it? Meet Bartimaeus. He had no title. He had nothing but yet He found his worth.

He was a blind beggar sitting by the road. An unimportant man, sitting in an unimportant place. He merely heard the crowd approaching and heard the name Jesus being spoken. Jesus was covered up with people, crowding around him, walking with him. His escorts, his followers, curious people, all sorts of movers and shakers, I bet. Yet, Jesus heard Bartimaeus cry out for Him even as others tried to shut him up. You know the story, Jesus stopped and called Bartimaeus to Him. And the Bible then says,

"And casting aside his cloak, he jumped up and came to Jesus." And....Jesus said, "What do you want Me to do for you?". He answered, I want to regain my sight."

The worth in Bartimaeus was not in his job title, his authority, his position in life. It was Jesus who saw, recognized and gave him his worth. Isn't this our truth too? Our ONLY worth is in Christ.
I want to become the blind beggar, Bartimaeus,
By Calling out to to Jesus;
By Continuously calling out to Him even while the world tries to hush me;
By Throwing aside my cloak. The cloak of worldly possessions - of how I look, how I dress, my family's good and bad, my successes and failures, job security, needs, wants...;
By Jumping into the day I've been given;
By Answering His question with 'I want to regain my sight'. I want to see again. I want to see Him. I want to see others in need. I want to see His will in my life. I want to see His guidance.
By Going....going into the world and sharing His blessing of worth.

Oh Lord, give us eyes to see...

06 October, 2010

The Who's of Whoville

Go and make disciples of all nations…Matthew 28:19

Today, I’m sitting in a Starbuck’s in Birmingham, Alabama. It’s 7 a.m. and all around me is quiet. It’s just my latte and me this morning. It’s so quiet that the still small voice is easily heard. Actually, there are two voices this morning and the conversation is going like this:

Voice 1: So, here you sit. You fulfilled the American dream. College educated, happily married, nice 25-year professional career, 2 grown children, 1 old golden retriever, nice home, multiple friends. All good.

Voice 2: Did you make a difference? Did that fulfill you? Now what will you do? Will you go?

Voice 1: You can sit back, relax, read good books, go on trips, and enjoy the blessed life you’ve been given.

Voice 2: There is much to do. Many are calling out. Is your life fulfilling?

Voice 1: What can I do? I don’t know where to begin! I have family obligations…a husband to support, children to love, and a mom who needs me. And actually I don’t know how to find people in need. OK, if I get a phone call to volunteer, I’ll do it! I promise!

How does one GO into the world anyway? Are you asking me to leave this city, this county, this country? Is it to leave my back door and serve my neighbor? What are you saying, Lord?

This is a conversation I’ve had with myself a lot lately. Words I’ve heard and ignored most of life are now before me again in the book, Radical by David Platt.

Go. Into. World.

He’s certainly called me and …you. And I’m finding out that that there is nothing in my life as fulfilling as acting on the command Go. Nothing else even comes close. The few times that I’ve experienced the blessing of “going” are times when I suddenly knew who I was created to be and what I was created to do with my life.

Months ago, I was having lunch with two Chinese brothers. Our conversation had moved to serious matters and one of these friends began talking about his family in China. He explained their level of poverty, the family dynamics, the lack of education, the sour economy and their lack of understanding about Jesus. He then said these words, “Who will tell my people of this Good news? Who will go? Who will tell people on this campus?”

We are blessed to be ‘the who’ in this question from my friend. The Who’s from Whoville!!

Let’s add these words to the conversation: Where? How? What?

28 September, 2010

Dusty Cross

There is a ‘cross wall’ in my house. And recently, I’ve realized that we’ve had such a space in our various homes for the last 15 years. It holds a special place in my heart as each cross represents birthday celebrations, Walk to Emmaus retreats, places we’ve lived or traveled to visit. There are hand-made crosses, crosses from abroad, crosses given by family members, by old friends and by new friends.
This wall creates a conversation starter with guests in our home. Many people ask about it and wonder about the crosses and their meaning. I’ve been asked several interesting questions: “did you make them all” or “did you buy them all” or “do they have special meaning to you”?
The answers seems obvious to me. “Heavens no, I didn’t make them”. And then a little offended, “No, I didn’t buy them” (Ok, maybe one or two!) And lastly, certainly they have special meaning…..they represent special places and people, I say proudly.
But oh, why don’t I speak of their true meaning - the true meaning of a rugged old cross. But no, I hang beautiful crosses on my wall, around my neck and in my ears and forget. It’s decoration for my world.
All the days I close my mouth and go about my daily routine the cross becomes a decoration. All the days I fail to see the wall of need in front of me the cross collects dust. All the days I forget that there are those who have never heard of the cross.
Who do I see today that needs the cross? A teenager needs a compliment and encouragement. A busy staff member needs a special thank you, a boss needs a word of appreciation, and a person from another country needs a smile and a hello from an American wearing a cross around their neck.

21 September, 2010

Cracked open

He came into the restaurant without his usual smile and the twinkle in his eye. I knew immediately that he was down. We spoke of class, of family, of mutual friends before we finally got to the burden and he opened up.

“I am nothing. I am a failure. I have disappointed many people. I am embarrassed. I do not feel good inside of myself”, he said as tears welled in his eyes. “My mom tells me every day that I am her only hope. And now, without a great score I will have to return to my country as a failure”.

These are the words from an international Scholar attending the University of Alabama; he is one who excelled and traveled to the US for higher education. There are millions of others who did not achieve enough to come to the US to study. But this one has earned a Master’s degree, with another Master’s degree to be completed in December. He is also a PhD candidate. And yet, his words of inadequacy haunt me and teach me.

This young man of twenty-five knows Jesus as His Saviour. He met Him while studying here. He is struggling to piece his life together from the world from which he came, a world of condemnation to a world filled with hope, with Jesus. His mom has no basis for hope; she has never met a Christ follower. She has never heard the story of redemption except through her only son, this student. He carries the weight of success for his family, of achievement, of returning to improve their life situation. It is indeed a heavy, heavy burden.

I, too, have said these same words. “I am nothing. I am a failure. I have disappointed many people. I am embarrassed. I do not feel good inside of myself”. Lord, how I praise you that because of Your love and sacrifice, I can now proclaim: I am nothing, yes, but I am Yours. I am a failure but You reign. I have disappointed everyone but You make all things new, You redeem my broken heart.

I pray today that this student claim his inheritance from our God, the Father. Pray with me for this special scholar that he may come to a new realization of God’s unconditional love of him – not condemnation for there is NO condemnation in Christ.

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:1-2

09 September, 2010

He seeks

One Sunday, our pastor used an illustration that has stayed with me. He asked us to envision a line running across the sanctuary, a line whose beginning and ending we could not see. Then he picked up a small speck off the floor and placed it on this imaginary continuum; this is our life, he said. In the scheme of time, this is our life. We are the speck-a infinitesimal portion of the whole.

Recently, I met with a Chinese friend. We have been friends for several years and he is a follower of Jesus so our visit was sweet with the love of Christ. Our life experiences are literally worlds apart; however, we connect through Jesus. He was sharing with me about his family who live in China. His mom, sister and brother-in-law are all Christ followers. Yet, his father does not believe. My friend said, “I think he will not change his mind. In the end times, he will be lost forever. He does not listen. He does not hear.” It was a serious moment and one of pain for my friend. I reminded him of God’s unfailing love and efforts to reach each of us. We will pray for his father.

Do we really understand all God’s effort to reach us? I’m in a Bible Study and we are currently in Kings. (And yes, I used to be one of those people who would look ahead to the pastor’s scripture text and if was Old Testament, I might skip that day! He is patient with me!). But thankfully, now I’ve realized the Old Testament is actually the start of God’s love affair with us. For it contains His creation of us, His unending forgiveness for us after time and time of overt sinfulness. He calls to us. He sends another prophet, another king, another person to carry His love to us. His heart for the entire world is overwhelming. This scripture below is beautiful to me. This is King Solomon speaking to the people after he had prayed:

Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant Moses. May the LORD our God be with us as he was with our fathers; may he never leave us nor forsake us. May he turn our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways and to keep the commands, decrees and regulations he gave our fathers. And may these words of mine, which I have prayed before the LORD, be near to the LORD our God day and night, that he may uphold the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel according to each day's need, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other. I Kings 8:56-60

The words are beautiful because they say to me that He desires all the people of the earth to know Him. He is still seeking us out. The scripture also convicts me with the words: that He may uphold the cause of his servant, the cause of His people to each day’s need, so that all the people of the earth may know that the Lord is God.

Is my cause today, that all the people may know He is God. How am I letting Him use me in the world to tell of His love? Do the people I encounter today know He is there? Can I be His hands and feet to today? Does the Chinese father of my friend hear His voice calling? Can I pray for him to hear?

As we are the speck, how is it that this sovereign, omnipotent God keeps seeking, keeps calling? How can I not tell of this Old Testament God that seeks and seeks and seeks…

31 August, 2010

One More

Football season is upon us again. In fact, our local paper in Tuscaloosa has reminded us every day for the last year just exactly how many days remain before kickoff...5 days as of today (Monday). In our city, over 101,000 people will attend a football game on Saturday. Of course, that is in addition to all the high school stadiums filled to the brim on Friday night.

These teams will run out onto the field welcomed and encouraged by those of us watching. That must be an overwhelming feeling for a player...to feel the passion and enthusiasm of the crowd. Do football players get goose bumps? It just seems they might with such an experience. We learn in Hebrews that there is a crowd of witnesses watching us too. I interpret the scripture to mean that the crowd of witnesses includes: Abraham, Moses, Rahab, David, and many other faithful. They wait and they watch, encouraging us, welcoming us, cheering for us.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud [crowd] of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:39-13:1

Did I read that right? We have a great cloud of witnesses just for you and me. A packed stadium encouraging us to run our race. Run the race of finding one person who doesn’t know the name of Jesus. Run the race to find one person who is hurting and needs to see the love of God expressed in his life. Run the race to tell those who have not heard the Good News.

Last semester, a friend and I were having lunch with two Chinese scholars. The Chinese scholars are Christians who are passionate that their classmates learn of Jesus. At the end of lunch and after the discussion of semester plans, Peter spoke. With deep concern and sincerity, Peter looked at us and asked a simple, quiet, stirring question, “Who will tell my people? Who will tell them of Jesus”?

On Mondays, I think of Peter and his question. Who will tell? Often Monday is a day of slow starts but when I think of the crowd of witnesses encouraging us to persevere and to keep running toward the prize…..one more, one more may know the Good News today.

24 August, 2010

Beautiful Boy

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
Luke 15

I have recently finished reading the book, Beautiful Boy by David Sheff. It's a book of a father's love, loss, and struggle to reclaim his troubled son. As I read it, the words were often difficult but always compelling as the father, over several years, pursued his son in love. It's a love story.
Over the last several months many of our friends have spoken to us about their sons. Sons who are home from Iraq, sons who have shipped out to Afghanistan, sons who excel academically and received college scholarships, sons who play football, sons who drive big trucks, sons away at college...all our beautiful boys. One friend has just taken her beautiful boy to college and he is the last child to leave home. She and I have talked about what it will be like in their home now that all their kids are gone. A part of her heart seems to be spread across the globe with each of her children. I feel she is thrilled with their success but also struggling with their leaving. I've learned slowly that the heart of parents burn ever brightly for their children, ever hopeful.

I, too, have a beautiful boy. He'll be 21 on September 7 and I wonder how in the world that could be possible. My beautiful boy. In my minds eye, I still see his dirty sneakers and smell that little boy smell. He captured our hearts the second he was born. This year my beautiful boy has struggled, stumbled and fallen...And he's figuratively come home bedraggled and wounded. Yet I have seen the Father God run off the porch to meet this beautiful boy. I have witnessed His unbelievable love and unconditional love.
When our children struggle there is pain straight to our hearts. Their pain becomes an extension into our hearts. We literally 'take-on' their pain, don't we? I can feel their joys and their sorrows in the deepest part of my heart. I ache as they ache. I'm joyful when they are joyful.

The heart of parenting has led me to think about the Father's love for each of us. Our pain, as His children, becomes an extension into His heart. He literally 'takes-on' our pain. He feels our sorrow, He feels our joy. His complete care and concern overwhelms me today. If we love our children with such passion just imagine God's love for each of us. He must whisper our names....Oh, beautiful girl. Oh, beautiful boy....I'm so glad you're home.

17 August, 2010

Hold You

When my children were around 2 years old, they would come to me with their arms reaching up and I would hear them say, “hold you, hold you”. They wanted me to pick them up and hold them but the misuse of the words of ‘hold you’ were so precious to a mother’s ear. A child’s transparent need and desire for holding and healing speak to me. Children know their needs and do not hold back in expressing them. They are not afraid to be honest and open.

In John 4, the Samaritan woman has a conversation with Jesus about needs, honesty, and openness. They meet at a well for water.

Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water."

"Sir," the woman said, "you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water so that I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water."

With each year that passes in my life, I’ve noticed that I’ve become comfortable. My life and my surroundings are comfortable. Let’s count the ways we’re comfortable: good jobs, good friends, good church, food to eat, attend church at least weekly, give charitably, happy marriage, great kids, great dog, family is fine. All of those are the outward appearances that make up my Samaritan woman look.

But yet, I know and God knows that the well inside me is so very deep…the well of pain, of disappointment, of failure, of lost dreams, of lost hope, of lost love. There is so much heartache in this earthly life.

Even in acknowledging those places, I find that often the world swirls around me so quickly that I forget my great need of a Saviour. I actually start living like I believe the comforts in my life will save me. Or I actually find myself believing that I’m really OK. Like the Samaritan woman, we continue our daily lives that are filled with obligations and activities. We go through the motions all the while the wells inside us are so very deep.

We are a broken people. We are a people in need of a Saviour. The
need to know and be known is inside each of us…the need, the desire to hold and to be held by our Saviour. Hold you, we cry.

10 August, 2010

After the Comma

“Red Rover, Red Rover send Sally right over”. Are you too young to know the game Red Rover? Surely, some of you remember this old game. I can remember it from my elementary days. Standing hand-in-hand in a long line waiting to hear the other team yell my name, Red Rover Red Rover send Kathy right over! There were other games we played when the choice of players was one by one. Each team captain chose one player, then the other team captain chose a player. Back and forth it went until all were placed on a team. It was uncomfortable waiting and hoping to be chosen but only to be passed over time and time again. Teams wanted the most athletic, the fastest runners. Choose me, choose me the overweight, slow, non-athletic girl in me cried. This cry from early childhood would stay with me for many years.

It was many years later, that I finally realized and accepted that I had been chosen. From John 15 we read, you did not choose me but I chose you. These words were some that God used to heal hurt places in me. I couldn’t get over it – the God of the universe chose me?? Are you kidding me? How can that be? He chose me, you, all of us for relationship, to be on His team. Just like in Red Rover He calls to each us…..send Sarah right over, send Elaine right over, send Janis right over, send Nick right over, send Peter right over, and on and on and on, He cries out. Amazing love. Hallelujah!

However, there’s more. I have found that in my life I often don’t read past the comma. I like to comfort of certain words of the Bible but don’t often complete the verse. So the entire verse of John 15:16 reads,

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit - fruit that will last.

This is Jesus speaking a final word to his disciples. And He’s speaking to us today – his disciples. Yes, He chose us. He has healed us. He has completed us. And now keep reading. “I chose and appointed you to go and bear fruit”. Please read that again to yourself and just ponder it a moment…………………

For so much of my life I have interpreted these words to mean: He chose me, He loves me so I will faithfully attend a bible study and worship every week. I will also teach a bible study for other believers. I will sing in my church choir. I will teach Sunday School. And I did. And I do. And I will continue. All these activities are good, great ways to serve the existing Body of Christ. I need fellowship and bible study but I’ve also got to read past the comma and apply that command to my life today.

I believe His words to His disciples and His words to us are the same. Yes, I chose you AND now appoint you TO GO (into your neighborhood, your city, the world) and find those who do not know me and show them my love. Bear fruit to those who have never heard or seen Me.

How about you? Do you dare read past the comma?

03 August, 2010

Every Knee

We’ve just returned from a weeklong vacation in San Francisco….breath-taking beauty, overwhelming creation and cool weather! It was glorious. We toured China Town, North Beach, Height Street, Golden Gate Park, Sausalito, Stanford University and points in between.

The airports were packed both coming and going. San Francisco was packed with tourists, tour guides, locals, buses, cable cars, taxis, subways, food, more food, sidewalks, long walks, music, sweaters, coats, and more people. People everywhere. We saw people from every nation. And met people from Italy, Ethiopia, China, India, Germany. People laughing, solemn, begging, hurting, dancing, going, moving, achieving, dreaming, wanting, looking, hoping.

My thoughts were, “there are so many people, Lord. How can love so many people at one time and love them so well and so unconditional. Who is telling them about you?”

…so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:10-11
Photos by SKHayes

20 July, 2010

A StarFish Story

"A young girl was walking along a beach upon which thousands of starfish had been washed up during a terrible storm. When she came to each starfish, she would pick it up, and throw it back into the ocean. People watched her with amusement.

She had been doing this for some time when a man approached her and said, “Little girl, why are you doing this? Look at this beach! You can’t save all these starfish. You can’t begin to make a difference!”

The girl seemed crushed, suddenly deflated. But after a few moments, she bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean. Then she looked up at the man and replied,

“Well, I made a difference to that one!”- adapted from the Star Thrower by Loren C. Eiseley

There are many nights that I fall into bed and begin reviewing my day. I play the day over in my head and think of what I accomplished, of how I spent the day. I try and think if there were any starfish that I helped throw back into the sea…just one?

Last week, some friends had English Corner in the student building at the University of Alabama. English Corner is a time Chinese students come to share a cup of coffee or tea and speak English with native American speakers. It’s always interesting and always well attended. Friday, we had a good group and enjoyed sharing life, laughing and visiting. Just as we were about to leave one of the students, Lan, told us that in two weeks she was transferring to another university to continue her studies. We were surprised. We had just met this young woman in May when she traveled with us to a retreat at the University of Memphis.

We planned the retreat hopeful that 6 to 8 Chinese women would travel with us to Memphis. We had 8 women agree to go and of that eight we only had previous relationship with two girls. We knew these women were God’s eight!

My friend Julie and I picked up these students on Friday and drove four hours to Memphis getting to know these brand new friends. We were with this group of women from 3:00 p.m. Friday until 3:00 p.m. on Sunday. During that time we visited several American homes, spent the night with American hosts, joined a University of Memphis Chinese dinner, visited Graceland (home to Elvis!), ate real Memphis BarB-Q, took a trolley car tour of downtown Memphis, had swimming lessons, cooking lessons, etiquette dining class, attended an American church service, witnessed baptism and heard personal testimony of Christ’s work in several women’s lives. For some of our students, this was their first ever introduction to the Person we call Jesus.

During the weekend, I had noticed the Lan was fully engaged and enjoying herself. She was especially attentive on Saturday night when we heard a very moving testimony from a woman who had suffered a great, great loss yet shared from her heart of Jesus’ grace and love. Lan was particularly disturbed by this testimony and asked many questions. She was angry at the losses incurred by this dear woman. She did not understand the cruelty of life and how a person could praise God for such a tragedy.

Several weeks later, I met the girls from our trip for lunch one day. We relived the trip, showed pictures, and had girl talk. There was nothing heavy or spiritual in the lunch time. We were just there, together, being friends. The only mention of spiritual matters was the comment that they still pondered the story of loss, tragedy and hope.

I long to tell you that there is a great ending to this story….a typical American, fairytale, happily-ever-after ending. The ending has yet to be revealed. I only know that God orchestrated Lan to go with us on the weekend to Memphis. He provided a way for her to hear of His great love and grace. When Lan and I said goodbye last week, I reminded her of our trip. I asked her to remember the stories, to remember the Word that was planted in her heart and mind that day. I asked her to continue pondering all she saw and the witnesses she heard. She assured me that she would. As we hugged, she said to me, “Kathy, I will never forget you”. And I will never forget her.

She is on her journey and I will probably never see her again this side of eternity. My heart aches for Lan to meet our Jesus. I pray she is one of the starfish we helped throw back….Will you throw some starfish today?

"...whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me" Matthew 25:40

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