Monday, December 31, 2018

The Pooping Pup and Other Afflictions

So, I read back over my first post for this last day of 2018 and it sounded rather idyllic.  Perhaps a little "too Perfect" to reflect reality.  I decided an additional list would be appropriate.  All I'm reporting to you has happened in the span of about six hours.  No poetic licensing was taken in the writing of this post.  It has been SOME kind of day!

  • Kitty, the Schreck's Great Dane puppy we're dog-sitting, is NOT house trained.  Kitty is NOT kennel trained.  Kitty is seriously Un-Trained in all areas related to dog training.  Since we picked her up yesterday, she has filled her kennel about six times.  (She only eats four cups of carefully measured food each day.  I mean, WHERE is all this stuff coming from?!)
  • I'm still recovering from a pretty serious cold that started on Christmas day.  All the nasal issues have now morphed into a nasty cough.  The medicine is almost as bad because it makes me so sleepy.  My get up and go has gotten up and gone.  I was getting ready at the speed of someone moving through drying cement.
  • While I was getting ready to go to lunch, Frank called.  He calmly reported that our car was broken down on the side of the road.  He and Steve had been on their way to brunch and smoke started coming out from under the hood.  Fortunately, we have one free tow each year; glad we waited until today to use it.
  • He said I should go on to lunch with Becky.  So I finished brushing my hair, grabbed my purse and hurried out of our bedroom.  That's when I discovered fiasco number three.  It seems the sheets had all bunched together in the dryer which put the dryer off balance which caused serious vibration which threw my container of liquid detergent onto the hall carpet with such force that the lid popped off and detergent SOAKED said carpet.  Why, yes!  As a matter of fact, I HAD just purchased the detergent which usually lasts me about three months.
  • I managed to salvage a small bit of the bright blue liquid, threw a towel over the mess for addressing later and headed toward the door.  That's when I saw the tow truck carrying our little red car coming up the road.  I waited so Frank and Steve could just drop me off and go on to their brunch turned lunch.  They regaled me with stories of the foul-mouthed tow truck driver who seemed to be applying for his own spot on a reality TV show with the unbelievable tales he told during their drive.
  • Becky is a patient friend who said she enjoyed the half hour she had to wait for me.  SIGH!  Her sweet smile was kind but seriously, who wants to wait for anyone that long?  We enjoyed our meal and our time together (as always) then she brought me home. 
  • On the ride home, I received a text from a friend who realized in all our holiday hurriedness, Frank and I had neglected to register for our ministerial licenses.  We had until end of business day to tackle that problem or pay a substantial fine.  Frank took the call like a champ.  "I'll handle it, Honey."   
  • As Becky and I pulled into the driveway, I discovered I had given my house key to Frank.  We've since locked the window I used for climbing in last time I was locked out.  Fortunately, there is a tiny (I do mean TINY) window beside our bed.  There was no other option so I crammed my pleasingly plump self through that 18" opening like a professional contortionist.
  • Relief at being inside flooded my heart as I slowly uncurled my 60-year-old back.  But my joy was short-lived as I realized the air was FILLED with a decidedly unpleasant odor.  I rushed into the dining room to discover that our grand dog had yet AGAIN filled her kennel.  But apparently all that excreting had caused her to want to dance with relief herself.  She had spun round and round in her kennel several times.  So many times, in fact, that she had not only spread everything around every open inch of the kennel, it had also splashed out onto the floor and I even found some on the wall beside her kennel.  Can Not Make This Up! 
  • Being careful where I stepped with the cute little red shoes I wore to lunch, I drug the kennel (with the dog still in it) onto our outside patio.  The hose was waiting.  I reached in carefully and grabbed Kitty's collar planning to secure her on the outside leash while washing the kennel.  Did I mention that Kitty is a very playful and loving dog?  Did I mention that even though a puppy, her paws easily rest on my shoulders she's so big?  Happy to be free, Kitty bounded out of the kennel and started jumping up onto Noni with those huge, poopie paws.  My cute little lunch outfit was quickly covered with unpleasantness!  
Right now, Frank is working with the shop vac trying to get up all the liquid detergent slung far and wide in our hallway.  My seriously soiled lunch outfit is washing. He managed to get us registered for another year of ministry.  We have a plan in place for getting our car to a dealership.  I'm watching Kitty rest while I type - no she has NOT gone to the bathroom again since being outside. And I need to prepare something for our New Year's Eve dinner.  At this point, it may just be chicken soup and a scrambled egg sandwich.  

This post is purely for the purpose of giving you a little chuckle and for letting you know that No One has a perfect life.  We all have our maladies to face.  May yours be few this coming year and much smaller than great danes that poop and prance and paw their Nonis.  

Happy New Year, Friend!

Merry New Year!

I guess it's okay to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year all at once.  I do hope your Christmas season was abundantly blessed.  And I'm believing for a year full of opportunity and favor from God for us all in 2019.

There are so many stories and tidbits I want to share on this final day of 2018.  My head is rather like a log-jam with thoughts blocking one another.  I'm thinking more in terms of a letter than a post.  Perhaps a list would be the best way to proceed:

  • We managed to see both of our parents over this holiday season.  We were with Mom Hawley in November.  The entire family gathered for our niece's wedding.  Our Thanksgiving dinner was held at a local restaurant where the service was slow and our laughter was loud. It was great being together!  Thanks to our adopted children (Hoggards) who opened their home to us the three days we were in NC. 
  • We traveled to N FL to visit my dad and his wife, Christeen on December 26th..  After many years, my sister and I were finally able to co-ordinate visits.  It was great fun sharing another Christmas with that part of our family.
  • The Hawley Clan celebrated Christmas the Saturday before.  It was a resplendent day that started with all the children and grands showing up on our doorstep an hour early.  Frank and I were scurrying to finish breakfast preparations when he stopped and said, "Someone is singing!"  They were all loudly wishing us a merry Christmas to announce their arrival.  Such Fun!
  • This was the first Christmas for Parker Franklin McGhee and for Grayson Oliver Smith.  Of course, Papa and I had to see to it that their Christmas pj's included "First Christmas" on the shirt.  The picture of all eight grands was great fun as the girls' pj's had little tutus and the big boys' said, "Never Naughty.  Always Nice."  Parents rolled their eyes at us when those were unwrapped.
  • One dark spot was the day last week when Abby came down a slide head first. She landed squarely on her delicate wrist and fractured the bone.  Their trip to the ER left them wondering if surgery would be needed and if they would have to cancel their trip to NY.  Fortunately, the orthopedic specialist assured them only a cast was required.  Off they went the next day for a 20-hour drive with four small children.  Brave Parents!
  • We were able to attend Christmas programs for Spencer, Abby and Noah.  They all did such great jobs.  They stood straight, sang loudly and smiled broadly!  What more could grandparents ask?  This was Noah's first performance as he is in K-4.  You can never miss with little ones sharing the Christmas story!
  • Frank and I spent yesterday reminiscing as it was the 39th anniversary of our wedding day.  It was all the more special to me because we were married on December 30, 1979 which happened to fall on a Sunday.  We made plans to have dinner at the place we ate our first meal as husband and wife, Church's Fried Chicken!  (Receptions in our day consisted of cake and punch.  We added mixed nuts to take it up a notch.  But I was Hungry when we left so the local drive-thru worked just fine.) 
  • Right now, we're dog-sitting our new grand dog.  Some of you may remember that John and Joy's dog, JJ, died unexpectedly this fall.  The entire family was heart-broken as JJ had been part of their family over 10 years.  A new dog was soon located.  Please bear in mind, John and Joy are both tall people.  They have four growing children and a small backyard.  So they bought the most practical dog you could imagine. . . a Great Dane.  Yes, you read that correctly.  And they named her, "Kitty!"  She will blend right in with their full-tilt family.
  • Another sad spot in our holiday season was the marking of 10 years since my mom's passing.  It seems surreal still.  There are still days that I think to call her and share some bit of good news.  I miss her hugs and her laughter.  My sister and I went to a florist together and selected a new arrangement to place on her grave.  The flowers gave us joy and we both know she would have loved the polka dot bow the florist chose for the lavender arrangement.   
  • Today, I get to have lunch with my dear friend, Becky Smith.  It's always a bonus when they come to FL to visit Meagan and Nathan.  Nathan hasn't had much vacation time as they had to use it all for Grayson's arrival in July.  I feel a little selfish but always thankful when we get time with our co-grandparents, the Smiths.
Well, speaking of which, I need to start getting ready.  But I do pray the Lord's blessings on each of you as we move into the new year.  May you sense Him especially near and may we all move to obey His whispered instructions for 2019.  

Blessings, Dear Readers!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Throw the Water!

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the year!!

Christmas and everything surrounding it has long been my favorite time of year.

  • Favorite movies - Christmas.  
  • Favorite plays - Christmas.
  • Favorite music - Christmas.
  • Favorite memories - Christmas.
  • Favorite life surprises - Christmas.
Frank and I started dating just before our Christmas break from college 40 years ago.  I have ornaments and a stuffed dog named Snoopy dressed as Santa which he gave me as gifts in 1978.  We got married just one year later on December 30, 1979.  Meagan (our youngest) was born December 20, 1987.  Our family has countless stories of wonder from our own Christmases while the girls were growing up. 

Well, you get the idea. 

Please take note of one important fact, I said I LOVE Christmas.  However, Christmas isn't always a perfect nor is it an easy time.  Many of my Christmas memories are also filled with sadness and great struggle.

Some of you reading this post have lost a loved one and there will be a massive empty spot this season where that person should be.  Each happy carol, lighted candle or special candy causes another wave of grief to roll over you.

Some have never experienced pure Joy during Christmas.  One's living standard has nothing to do with this part.  Joy is something we determine to embrace; not something we buy.  I've seen both mansions and hovels equally devoid of true Joy.  (Of course, the opposite is also true.)

I'm aware that some readers are in the midst of crisis or great struggle they never saw coming.  To be going through such a time of sorrow is made even more difficult when everyone around you is singing and skipping and kissing and hugging one another.  

Furthermore, Christmas has a tendency to throw us into close proximity to people we otherwise manage to avoid throughout the year.  That can be anyone from co-workers to friends of a spouse or even extended family.  People we would just rather stay away from if at all possible!  (Don't worry.  I won't make you raise your hand or confess or anything.)

The only encouragement I can offer about the first three struggle points is this, I've experienced them all.  There is comfort to be found, dear friend.  Sometimes, we have to make extra effort to find comfort in healthy ways but it's available.  Trust me.

But if you find yourself thrown into a conversation, a party or perhaps even a week-long celebration with people you don't normally enjoy, take courage!  I have a message of HOPE for your situation.

My quick word of encouragement comes from a sermon I heard years ago.  A friend was speaking on the struggles we face when dealing with difficult people.  How do you handle situations that have the potential to blow sky high?  What can you do when too many people are too passionately tied to too many emotions and words start getting heated?  How can you respond when those heated words threaten to spontaneously combust?

The speaker challenged us all to imagine ourselves standing in front of the situation, arms stretched out from our sides.  We were to envision ourselves each holding two completely full water pails.  And the pails we were straining to hold were indeed filled with a solution.  One contained the clear, cooling water you would expect; while the other pail was filled with gasoline. 

Can you see yourself doing the same thing? 

The choice is ours.  We evaluate the situation and quickly make a determination.  Will we throw water on the escalating words and bring peace?  Or will we throw gasoline on it adding fuel to the fire?  It seems like an easy answer.  But when the words are painful for you or someone you love, what then?  

I hear you calling to me, "Throw the water!  Squelch the fire!  Bring peace to the situation!"

Oh, Friend!  How I long to say I've always chosen that route.  Unfortunately, I can't.  It wouldn't be true.  Many times, I've let my emotions draw me right into the middle of the foray and before I could stop myself SLOSH went my pail of gasoline.  (Come to think of it, that's probably why my eyebrows are so thin.)

Sometimes, I have chosen to throw water.  I've held my tongue and kept my own emotions from boiling to the surface.  I've chosen to help bring peace.  Those times are the ones I remember with joy.   

Christmas truly is a wonderful time of year.  But we still are all a bunch of imperfect, broken people sharing this season together.  I don't imagine for a minute that every element of this Christmas time will be perfect.  Yours probably won't be either. But imagine yourself holding those two pails.  And rehearse for yourself, "I'm holding the solution that will bring peace to this moment."

Throw the water, my Friend!  Choose to be the catalyst for Peace on Earth and Goodwill to Men.

Your eyebrows will thank you!  

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Looking Up Today

I certainly hope your Thanksgiving celebrations were memorable.  (For all the right reasons!)

We have a few "memorable" Thanksgivings that make us laugh every time they come up because of some fiasco that took place.  Maybe not our favorite, but definitely ones we'll never forget.

Since my last post, we have made a five day trip to NC that included 26 hours of drive time round trip.  As well as a four hour round-trip drive to Treasure Island, FL for Thanksgiving with our children.   Frank and I both enjoy traveling - good thing.  However, I AM standing up to type this post.  That's no joke.

The wedding of our niece and her new husband was just lovely.  She and her parents planned for every detail that could make it an enjoyable evening.  The wedding and reception were held in a castle that was built 15 years ago for the purpose of hosting such events.  Everything from turrets, to fountains, to flagstone pavers, to twinkling lights.  The dream location for many brides.

The most beautiful moment for me was when Frank and I went in to pray with Ashley before the ceremony began.  She was stunning, of course.  No longer the little girl running around our living room.  Now a confident young lady ready to move forward with her life partner.  We held hands, bowed our heads and thanked God for His Grace and Love in all our lives.

I was especially taken with the handsome minister who conducted the ceremony.  So much so that when he left the reception early, I went out and got into his car with him. Away we went to Ocean Isle Beach where we pastored from 1993-1999.  We arrived around midnight; slept fast and were ready for the chapel service by 9 AM.

It's always a treat to minister there.  We were also invited to speak that evening for the church we pioneered.  But my mom had a great saying that is appropriate here.  "My get up and go had already got up and gone!"  

So Frank and I simply took Sunday evening and Monday to rest.  We walked long distances on the beautiful shore.  We took in two sunsets and a sunrise.  We read and talked and sat quietly just listening to the waves.  It was a resplendent respite indeed.

I'll write later about the great adventure we had with our children and grands for Thanksgiving.

The title of this post is, "Looking Up Today."  And there's a special reason for that.

It was ten years ago, on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, that my mom departed this life and began her new life in Heaven.  That exact date was December 2, 2008.  So, I've been preparing myself mentally to mark this decade anniversary on Sunday.

We have a lot going on at church this Sunday with regular services and our annual Christmas party Sunday evening.  I knew I would be extremely busy and anticipated how I would deal with a little sadness.

What I wasn't prepared for was the full-on wash of grief that hit me this morning.  Apparently, my inner heart connected more with the actual day which followed the holiday more than with the calendar date. I'm not often given to tears but they've flooded my cheeks all day long.

After our first meeting this morning, I gave up and came home.  We have a rather special dinner planned with dear friends of our church this evening.  So, I'll pull myself together and go enjoy their hospitality and hugs.

I've let myself remember.  I've allowed myself the luxury of weeping and laughing about my wonderful mom. I've quieted myself so God could wrap me in His rich love.  I ate another serving of pumpkin pie.

Grieving is something very personal, I've discovered.  Everyone walks it in their own way.  But a few things I know for sure:

  • I'm thankful for the years I had with my mom.
  • I'm thankful she loved me richly and taught me about Christ.
  • I'm thankful she taught me to pray and to laugh.
  • I'm thankful she loved Frank and my girls.  (She would have loved my sons and grandchildren, too!)
  • I'm thankful I'll see her again some day.
So my choice on this day when tears keep flowing unbidden, is to look up.  This world was not the forever home of my mama.  It isn't my forever home either.  

I look up and express my gratitude for God's rich love and free salvation.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Dressing the Part

So this coming weekend we will be in eastern NC for the wedding of our precious niece, Ashley.  She'll change her last name from Hawley to Bell and the excitement surrounding their big day is REAL!

They asked Uncle Frank to officiate and Aunt Sheri will be part of the cake serving team.  (Hopefully, I'm helping start the process and the actual servers will take over.  Otherwise, my inexperience with official cake slicing might leave us without enough cake to go around.  That would never do!)

This morning, between phone calls and emails, I've been trying on dresses to see what I have that might work.  The wedding is early evening so the attire will be on the dressier side; a little bling will definitely be in order.

As usual, I've taken photos of each outfit to send for evaluation by my daughters.  A couple were definite "NO's" but I took the pictures anyway because the look made me chuckle.  (One made me laugh out loud.  No sense groaning, right?!)

Based on how I'm feeling today, my preference would be to add some rhinestones to my favorite lounging pants and pair them with a billowy top.  But that's not happening.

I must admit I enjoyed pulling the dresses and skirts from the back of my guest closet.  Each one brought with it a sweet memory.  The burgundy, portrait collar top with a velvet belt is what I wore for Joy and John's wedding.

As I put it back on the hanger, I was lamenting aloud to myself that I should have gone with the larger size when I bought it because it would still fit well.  Upon checking the tag, I started laughing out loud because it appears I DID buy the larger size ten years ago as a point of comfort.  Oh well!

There's the dress the Hollis family bought for me when I was ordained into ministry.  A lovely navy blue number with just the right amount of dark sequins off-setting the front of the jacket.  Elegant and still understated.  I've cared for this dress and worn it for multiple events over the last eighteen years.

Disclaimer:  It's also a great "camouflage" style dress that has allowed for the ebbs and ummm, "flows" of my figure.

The dresses I wore for Meagan's and Kristin's weddings would not be warm enough.  And the thoughts of pairing them with my little purple hooded rain jacket for the evening didn't seem quite appropriate.


I'll probably just stick with the navy lace dress I've been wearing most lately.  It's structured but not at all form-fitting which fits my current situation quite well.  If you know what I mean.

So I've come away from my walk down the memory lane of clothing with a couple of thoughts:

  • Every decision has a consequence.  Every time I've disciplined myself with exercise and healthy eating, those same zippers have moved more easily.  Excusing myself has had the opposite and equal consequence.
  • I miss my mama.  I miss her today just as much as I did when she died ten years ago.  Putting on the ordination dress took me right back to her hugging me and telling me how proud she was.  Thankfully, I know I'll see her again some day and we'll never say another good-bye.
  • Taking care of what you DO have is important.  It's really not necessary for me to run out and spend money we don't have budgeted for a new dress when I already have just what I need tucked away in my own closet.  Traditional pieces you love and care for never go out of style.  (That truth goes for relationships as well!)
  • The REAL focus is important to remember.  This is a marvelous family celebration that will center on the joy of Ashley and her beloved, Cody.  Keeping that thought the focus, helps me choose from what I have and maintain a happy heart.  Hopefully, I'll have time to stand up tall and hold my breath for whatever picture they snap with the cake serving team.
I'll be sure to let you know what the girls decide to dress me in and how lovely the wedding was in a future post.

What about you?  Will you be attending a fall wedding?  Do you have favorite articles of clothing that stir memories? We'd love to hear about them in the comment section below.....

Monday, November 5, 2018

Need a Smile?

I dare you to read this post and not smile, chuckle or perhaps burst right out with a genuine, "BaHaHa!"  As usual, the funny came in the middle of some dark clouds.

Grayson Oliver Smith (newest member of our tribe) was in the hospital for three days last week.  The poor little guy kept having moments where he would choke and completely stop breathing from some unexplained blockage.

Doctors eventually concluded his breathing problems were stemming from an extremely severe form of acid reflux called "gerd."  Treatment steps are in place and he is already improving, thank Heaven.

Needless to say, Meagan and Nathan needed to focus solely on him.  So Noni and Papa stepped in to monitor the lives of Madison and Noah.  Now, please note my carefully chosen phrasing.  Noni and Papa weren't directing these two, we were on the scene to monitor and care for only.

Madison Riley is now 3.  She could have taken care of them both herself if only she were tall enough to reach the buttons on the microwave.  We were also considered helpful for the driving thing.  She can't reach those pedals yet either.

Noah is 5 and even as a first born, he's pretty content to go with the flow.  Madi, however, has a plan for everything and an opinion about everyone!  Frank says she's like me but I know the truth.  Her headstrong nature is a perfect blending of the determined natures found in both her parents.  (Notice how gracefully I dodged that bullet?!)

The first night, I went into their "sleep over" room (a.k.a. our guest room) around 9:30 to confirm both angels were sleeping.  I found Madison sitting up straight as an arrow having a conversation with her imaginary friends, Emily and Jemily.

She seemed completely alert. Noni, on the other hand, was already yawning, groggy and ready for her pillow.  What to do?

"Madi!"  I spoke in a strong, staccato whisper so as not to wake Noah. "Why are you still awake?"

(Why, oh why, do we ask silly questions at a time like this?  Is it because we adults can't evaluate the situation quickly enough?  Are we perhaps buying time for our tired brains to concoct a consequence?)

Madison sighed at my lack of understanding then responded in her matter-of-fact voice,  "I not sweepy, Noni!"  Well, yeah.  I guess that was obvious.

I responded to her rationale in my stern whisper, "Well, well, you just better lay down and go to sleep anyway."  Oh, that was brilliant.  Who else could ever have thought up with such a witty and compelling come back?

Fortunately for us, Nathan and Meagan are strong, no-nonsense parents when it comes to training their children to be obedient.  Madi laid down as I'd requested and that was that.  (Thank goodness.)

There were a few more times over the three days that Noah or Madi would "test the water" with Noni or Papa.  But each time we would quickly remind them we expected obedience just like Mom or Dad would say.  Once we established the same boundaries they have at home, everyone settled into a peaceful routine.

The one word that came back to me from my own days with toddlers was: CONSTANT.  The talking, the needing, the bickering, the exploring are constantly happening; simultaneously; at all points in the home; without ceasing.

Caring for multiple little ones does not afford the care-giver a break.  Ever!  Nap times and bedtimes are not breaks.  Those short hours are solely for the purpose of recharging the battery of the care-giver.

Usually, the littles wake up and immediately have some dream or some crisis which they need to describe to the care-giver . . . slowly; in great verbal detail.  And trust me, they know if you aren't really listening.  They will call you on it every time.

Without a doubt, one of my favorite moments happened as we lunched at Noah's restaurant of choice, Chick-fer-Ray.

He was pointing to the letters on his placemat and quoting corresponding scriptures he's been taught:
"A - All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.  Romans 3:23"  
"D - Depart from evil and do good. Psalm 34:14"

Madi did not intend to be left out.  She straightened up in her high chair then called out loud and clear in her sweet baby voice,
"A - If you ahr in twouble, dial 9 1 1!"

Can't make it up, friends.  Several people at the tables nearest us began to chuckle.  At first, she was offended then she flashed her biggest smile.  "Isn't she cute?!"  "How old is she?" 

I'll leave you with one more smile.

First, the background:  You may remember John and Joy recently had a loss in their family.  JJ, the dog who had been with them over ten years, passed away suddenly.  She had been a wonderful pet and it was a heart-wrenching time.

Because they are dog people, they soon began discussing what type dog they would next add to their family.  After much research, it was decided . . . a Great Dane!  Yep.  My daughter who has four children and works as care-giver for two others wanted a great dane.

They finally found the perfect puppy through a local breeder so they could meet the parents and have now added a great dane puppy to their household.  Are you ready for her name?  "KITTY."  Katherine the Great Dane will be referred to as Kitty.

Joy can hardly wait to be in a dog park or at a boat ramp and watch people's faces when she calls, "Here, Kitty!" and a monster great dane comes bounding in response.  That's my tribe for you.

Certainly hope this post gave you a smile or two.

Two important reminders today:
  1.   If you're in the U.S., be sure to prayerfully exercise your right to vote on November 6th.   
  2.   Our registration for the trip to Israel closes this week.  Let us know if you'd like more information.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Passion to Stand

When you are passionate about something or someone, you will naturally make your feelings known.

When Frank asked me to be his wife, I was ecstatic and let everyone around me know about our plan to wed.  (Actually, I think he may have told more people at the beginning than I did but that's another post.)  My love for this man has grown so much richer over the subsequent 39 years.  There is simply no doubt how much I value and respect him.  My passion for our relationship can not be hidden.

So it is with my love for the people and nation of Israel.  Having the privilege to travel there three years ago was the fulfilling of a decades long desire.  Even people who mark themselves as having "No Faith" will tell you there is something deeply spiritual and moving about walking in that land.

Today my heart aches for the families of the eleven unsuspecting Jewish people who were targeted and murdered in their house of worship this past week.  Evil exploding in a place of trust.  There is a reason the meeting rooms in churches are often referred to as "the sanctuary."  These are supposed to be places of total safety.

It's quite easy for me to identify with those eleven people of faith.  My passion links me to the 26 Texans killed while worshipping on a Sunday morning last year.  I also feel connected with the nine people murdered 2 years ago while attending a prayer meeting in SC.  They were all doing what I've done countless times. . . celebrating Life as given us by God.

Even while praying for the families of those lost this week, I was reminded of a favorite bit of scripture.  "Where sin (darkness/evil) increased, grace (God's love) overflowed much more."  This is from a letter Paul wrote to his friends in Rome.

Some mistakenly think times have never been worse than they are now.  But evil was definitely present when Paul wrote those words.  In fact, he was in prison just because of his faith.  Interesting, isn't it, how passionate (in a negative sense) darkness came become toward people of faith?

But here's a simple truth - darkness will never have the upper hand over light!  We can hold to that truth, can't we?

As a child, I grew up knowing the storms that so often boiled out of the Gulf of Mexico.  During those fearful times, my mom would remind me of the power found in a single candle.  Light one in any darkened room and immediately the atmosphere will change.  Total darkness must yield when even the faintest bit of light can be detected.

So it is in our world today.  We don't have to be the boldest or the brightest of all passionate believers.  We simply must be willing to stand.  Some things we have no control over.  But we all have the power to let God's grace and love flow through us. 

Today I do what my passion demands.  I make declaration that I stand with Israel and with the Jewish people.

Some have asked if Frank and I still intent to lead a team to Israel next February.  Absolutely!  What better time than now to let our passion shine?  We feel it's a moment of destiny our team will mark together.

Under normal circumstances, I post some sort of warning when I share my personal opinions so freely on this blog.  But this feels like an "opinion" more of us should share.  Perhaps our world would feel less frightening if we did.

Thanks for taking time to read all the way through.  Let's open a dialogue, shall we?  I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.


(Also, we have a couple of spots open still with our Israel trip.  Drop a note in the comment box if you'd like more information.)