Monday, April 27, 2020

New From the Old

There are so many NEW things in my life right now I hardly know where to begin.

First off is the NEW look of the blog.  Do you love it?  I'm so happy that it reflects this new season in my life.  Cody McGhee (aka son-in-law #3) designed it and helped update all the information.  He worked with another marketing genius, Ashley Scanlan.  I think they did a superb job.  I can't wait to hear your thoughts.  (Special thanks to Amanda Bock Hoggard for my original design.  I loved it so much I hadn't changed it for 10 years.  Well done!)

There are several NEW things I want to share with you today.  They seem to have all come about while we are in the middle of a New way of living.  And while I'm writing about many new things, they really are New things simply coming from many Old things.

Let me back up and explain.

Sunday Coffee with GGC

This picture represents the NEW way we're "doing church."  Frank and I serve as lead pastors for the most amazing congregation in the history of forever, Garden Grove Church.  They love us and one another as ardently as we love them.  For us to be socially distanced from one another is genuinely painful.

Fortunately, our fantastic associate (John Schreck, aka son-in-law #1) and the media team he has developed were able to help us with the disconnection part.  They stepped up to the challenge and were able to help us begin broadcasting our services online from the very first week.  (If you zoom into this picture, you'll see Frank on the TV screen behind the cups.)  We tape our entire service on Saturday mornings then air them at our normal time, 10 am, on Sundays.

Sunday Worship Service in our Living Room

This is very new for us.  But fortunately the services and relationships and truth shared were all familiar elements.  We've spent fifteen years learning together and developing our mutual love for God's Word and for one another.  So the new approach didn't rock us, it simply breathed New life on what was already an Old, well-established fire.

Feel free to join us before or after your own Sunday services.  Go to: and it will lead you to our Facebook page.  Services can also be viewed after the fact.

Then there's this New thing:

My Newly Created Professional Page

I now have my own professional page or author page.  Cody and Ashley also worked on this for us.  Together they created this beautiful page to highlight my work as a speaker and writer.  Doesn't it look so very official?

It looks so official because well, it IS official.  I have this other New thing to share on my new author page.

I'm a Published Author!!

Can you hear the high-pitched squealing that's happening here in central Florida?!  Believe me it will be louder when my copies arrive on my doorstep.  No, my name isn't listed on the cover because this is a compilation of works.  Some twenty women came together to share their personal stories of God's amazing grace.  Grace that is as old as time itself.  (Once again, New from the Old.)

I have dreamed of becoming a published author since first learning to read.  That magical draw of words pulling us into stories both truth and fiction has had a hold on me for decades.  The dream of offering my own words for readers to enjoy is rather old.  But I find myself in a wonderful new season where the old dream is taking shape in new venues.  And I'm thrilled!

(Special thanks to Becky Smith for once again editing my work so that the publishers made almost no changes.  You're the BEST!)

So what does all this new springing from the old have to do with you?  Had you wondered that?  Well, let me turn the question back to you.

What in your life is New from the Old during this time of upheaval?

During our trip to Israel last year, our tour guide Eli taught us an amazing truth.  "How is it that we can say this olive tree is over 2000 years old?"   He asked the question as we stood in the Garden of Gethsemane looking at trees that would have sheltered Jesus as He prayed.

"The answer is found in the way an olive tree grows," Eli motioned us forward to better observe the tree.  "Do you see how the new shoots are growing inside the bark of the tree?"  He pointed to the tender shoots as he went on to explain.  The older parts of an olive tree actually expand making room for young shoots to form.  This way the youngest shoots are protected from external elements and have the best chance to flourish. 

An Olive Tree in Israel

New from the Old.

The ancient olive trees never really die because they continue to provide room and nurture new growth.  I cried standing in that public place listening to Eli explain the process.  I cried because I knew two things were certain:

  1. I need to never bury a dream no matter how old.  That dream is the incubator serving as a safe place for the new things in my life to spring forth.
  2. I must watch for those around me who need the nurturing protection of my life experiences in order to be encouraged toward their own dreams being realized.  
That's a lot to ponder on a Monday afternoon.  But for someone, it's a timely question.  Spend some time thinking about your own experience during this pandemic.  What is New that is springing to life from the Old for you?

I'd love to hear about your observations in the comment section below.  And please take a moment to visit my new author page.  If you would, please click the like button.  Blessings! 

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

A Tale of Two Trees

I want to tell you a little story of two trees.

These are trees I pass routinely when I take my main route to work.  (There are several different routes we can take to get to work/church.  I vary them often . . . just because.  "Variety is the spice of life!" was one of my mom's favorite sayings.)

So, back to the two trees.

The first tree is barren and rather sad looking.  Scraggly, uninviting, down-right ugly.  If not for the crisp blue of the sky I captured in this picture, there would be no indication of life.  In fact while driving by, I've often wondered if the owners shouldn't just cut it down.  Honestly, what purpose does it serve?

Tree #1

The second tree is the complete opposite.  It is absolutely bursting with vibrant color.  Delicate, bloom laden branches wave gracefully in the morning and afternoon breezes.  The lavender blossoms and green leaves backed by the brilliant blues of the sky create a breath-taking scene.  I find myself anxious to round the corner and experience the thrill of spotting this tree twice each day.

Tree #2  
Quite the difference, don't you agree?  So tell the truth.  When you compare what the two trees offer, wouldn't you agree with me that the first one would serve better as firewood?  I mean, really!

Except, look again.  A little more closely this time.  Can you see what I'm talking about?

These are not two different trees.  These are actually pictures of the same tree just taken at two different times.  Surprised?

The first picture was taken in January.  That day was cold and nasty. Rain clouds are just outside the frame.  Actually,  it was rather bleak by Florida standards.  The second picture was taken week before last.  The day was warm and spring was literally"bursting out all over," to quote Rogers and Hammerstein.

The first picture was taken with this blog post in mind.

I knew I would have to wait patiently for several weeks to write it.  But because I've been passing this tree for over five years, I knew it was just a matter of time.  Eventually, the ugly branches would begin to bloom, supporting the fabulous lavender flowers and tender, pale green leaves as they pushed their way into the sunlight.

If we're honest, there are times when all we can see are the barren, ugly, scraggly parts of our lives.  We hope for beauty but there is none to be seen.  We long to see purpose but it's hidden from view.  We feel we have nothing of value to offer.

In those times, it's vitally important that we exercise patience.  Don't Give Up!

The first picture is not the whole story.  And if you're in an ugly season of life, please hear me calling to you, "This moment is NOT the whole story."

I've lived through those times, too.  Times like now when everything around us feels shrouded with uncertainty and ugliness.  We're hoping for things to return to normal.  We long to see at least a small semblance of what we can embrace.

But this moment in time isn't the whole story.  If we exercise patience and faith, we can eventually see fruitfulness begin to bloom from our barrenness.

Isaiah 55:8-9 has long been a favorite Bible passage for me:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

    neither are your ways my ways,”

declares the Lord.

“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Beautiful, right?!

Dear Reader, please understand that God created that tree to respond to the seasons.  In just a few weeks, the delightful lavender blooms will all drop away and the leaves will push to the forefront.  The tree will spend the better part of this year serving as a magnificent shade tree.  (Much needed here in FL.)

I didn't create the tree.  So the first year I saw it, I didn't understand the barren branches would only be like that for a short while.  Imagine my utter joy when I first rounded the corner on my way to work and realized it had become such a show-stopper of beauty.

God created you and I with the ability to respond to the seasons, as well.  Just because you don't see beauty and fruitfulness in your life right now doesn't mean it isn't there.  

Don't give up, Dear Reader.   God has thoughts and plans for you that are so much higher.  Your season of service will come.  Be patient.  And watch for the beauty that will soon bring delight to all who observe it!

How about you?  Have you been feeling more like the first tree, lately?  Does it seem like your season of barren living has gone on too long?  Or maybe you've started seeing a few blooms of hope.  We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comment section.......