Thursday, October 27, 2016

Choose H.O.P.E.

Happy Fall Y'all!

I see the temperatures dipping.  I see pictures of fireplaces roaring.  I hear friends getting their jackets and sweatshirts out of storage.

Here in FL, we're just thankful for the reduction in humidity!  Very grateful indeed.

As soon as the temperatures fluttered here last week, our local stores rolled out the boots in hopes of selling a few pairs, at least.  We buy them ( I confess I have two pair) because we are people of hope. We know that flip flops and sandals are going to be comfortable footwear right through November.

But we eagerly watch for the two or three days when the forecaster promises nothing above 75 degrees.  That's when you'll hear the shouts of, "Break out your boots and scarves.  There's a cold front coming!!"

Yes, we are people of hope.

However speaking seriously, the world around us has gotten extremely tangled and fearful lately.  Our church sign this week reads, "Hope is the only thing stronger than fear."   It's an attitude choice; a decision of where we'll focus, isn't it?

I prepared a message to share with our church family about the importance of taking steps to invite hope into all our lives.  It's a simple acrostic using H.O.P.E.  The highlights are given below.  I hope you enjoy it.

H - Hands Out
      I prefer to live with my hands out toward others in a posture to give.  A hopeful person can afford to live generously toward others.  Our girls have always been especially generous souls.  But since they usually worked two part-time jobs and took classes full-time, people would often say to them, "You can't afford to do this."  One daughter finally started answering,  "It's okay.  I have all the money in the world!"

     She certainly didn't have much money at all but she understood the power of generosity.  There's always something we can give.  And giving is the best antidote for selfishness which manages to suck the joy right out of life.  

Ps. 112:5 puts it this way, "Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely."

O - Open Arms
      Those who go through life with an "arms crossed" attitude are seldom ever satisfied and usually unhappy.  I've not always had what I wanted in every relationship but I do try to offer open arms to those around me.
     We're seldom given the opportunity to control how blessing comes into our lives.  More often, we stumble into the most wonderful relationships and friendships by offering open arms to whoever is around.

Proverbs 18:24 in the King James Version says, "A man that hath friends must show himself friendly."

     And besides, when I consider all Christ has given to me I clearly understand, "I can afford to be generous!"

P - Peace-filled Countenance
     There is a woman written about in Proverbs 31.  This lady is a super-hero that all women can aspire to emulate.  But I especially love this description of her, "She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come."

     A simple smile is powerful.  Did you know that psychologists have done studies proving if you give someone a smile it will trick your body into feeling better?  True story!  Just try it for yourself.
      Proverbs 1:33 says, "...but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm."  That's a promise able to create a feeling of genuine peace.  And that feeling will creep right up to your face breaking out into a smile every time.

E- Expectant Heart
     God is faithful and you can trust Him!  It's a phrase Frank has shared with each congregation we've served.  When I believe this, I'm able to live with an expectation of good things.

     In fact, Paul wrote to his friends in Rome and urged them to expect good not evil.  He also told his friends in Corinth, "Since we have such hope, we are very bold."

     How we choose to live our lives really does matter.  Others are watching us and usually, they could use some HOPE as well.

I finished my sermon by reminding people of this, "What you look for, you will find."

I'm a person choosing to live life filled with HOPE.  How about you?

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Home Again!

Last month was an historic first for "Embrace the Grace."  And I sincerely hope, a last!

It was the first time in over five years of writing that I missed an entire month.  No post for over thirty days.  My journal bears the same stigma - entry dates are August 31 followed by October 2.  I hope to never again repeat this.

But Frank and I were able to go to England!!  (Please insert here large quantities of joyful shouting and some serious jumping up and down.)  It had been seven years since our last pilgrimage to Great Britain and we were thrilled to finally go back.

Fourteen days visiting the U.K. would have been wonderful enough but we also went for a purpose greater than tourism.  Frank and I were invited to preach for several churches and even a women's conference.  It was brilliant!

Our dear friends, the Parsons, served as hosts and organized the speaking itinerary.  The women's conference was the catalyst for our trip. But because we've ministered there four times over the past 18 years, we were given the fantastic invitation to preach for several other groups/churches, as well.

Of course, there's never really a quiet season here at our wonderful home church.  So our original plan was to fly out following Sunday services.  Which also followed the beautiful wedding (on Saturday) of a couple whose parents serve as board members.  This was all planned.

But then we lost a dear friend just days before the wedding.  Her memorial service took place Friday morning before the wedding rehearsal Friday evening.  Joyce was one of our founding members; my close personal friend.  Her unexpected home-going surprised us all but her Godly life was easy to celebrate.

I was incredibly thankful for the amazing people all around us.  Wedding plans had been set well in advance and our part in the ceremony was all printed and waiting in a stately-looking folder the week before. Kristin and Meagan volunteered two hours to help me plan my clothes for speaking and touring the Monday before departure.  Joyce Demo's team of marvelous workers covered every detail of the funeral meal for over 100 people.  John, Joy, Cody and Nathan all stepped into various roles from preaching to tech to photography to singing in order to make things run smoothly.

By the time Frank and I actually boarded the plane Sunday evening, we were exhausted but confident we had left the church in good hands.  He sent one final text as the engines whined and our phones stayed in airplane mode for the next two weeks.

We saw the English Channel for the first time.  (I'll write about that experience on another day.  It was a God-moment for sure.)  We visited Exeter, the hometown of our host.  We spent three days in the beautiful, wild region known as Cornwall.  (Those of you who watch British programs on PBS would recognize the names Poldark and Doc Martin both shows filmed in that region.)

Then it was on to Stoke-on-Trent for ministry times in several different locations over the following days.  Frank and I aren't the typical tourists.  We prefer long walks, fish and chips, hot tea, Yorkshire pudding, watching sunsets in the garden and just experiencing local life that many miss.  Our friends know this about us, so they planned accordingly.

We came home with bags full of happy memories.  Acquaintances renewed.  New friendships formed.  One lady gave her heart to Christ on Sunday morning following Frank's sermon.  She came to the altar bedraggled and weary; her story was one of betrayal, abuse and alcoholism.  When she returned that night and the next week for the conference, she looked like a totally different individual. We were dumb-struck by how beautiful the transformation was.  (Please keep praying with us for this dear soul as she begins her walk with Christ.)

Shortly after we returned to Winter Haven,  I flew to Tennessee to speak for another women's conference being held in Pigeon Forge.  My lifetime friend, Brenda, was able to join me for part of that event.  I came home with my sides aching from the wonderful tears and laughter shared with over one hundred pastor's wives.  Such an honor, believe me!

Needless to say, I'll have many stories to share with you in the days ahead.  Thank you for continuing to check in here even though new material was absent.  And thank you for coming back today.

I sat down to write this afternoon and to be perfectly honest, I was flooded with feelings of shame because of being absent so long.  The thought came, "You don't really have anything useful to say. Why bother writing at all?"  Sometimes negative thoughts are so articulate and loud.

But then I glanced up to see the statement made by my sweet little Mama just days before her home-going.  (One of the girls here copied and framed it.)

"With the help of the Lord, I Will!"  

So, with the help of the Lord,  I just started typing.  Joyce Meyer has a great quote that I rehearse often, "Never let your yesterday determine your tomorrow!"  Why would I miss out on sharing with you the wonders we experienced during September just because the blog won't have a September date?

One generation telling the next of God's goodness is NOT time sensitive!  Aren't you glad?!

Don't be robbed of doing what you set out to do, dear friend.  It may seem late by your estimation, but it may also be right on time by Heaven's!  Hugs to you ALL and a warm "Cheerio!"