On the Street Where I Live

Having grown up in a rural area, living in the city has an almost unnerving anonymnity to it. Where I grew up, we waved at everyone we passed on the road. When our neighbor's pasture caught on fire, everyone abandoned the community BBQ to go help put out the fire. If you broke down on the side of the road, within three cars, you'd find someone to take you home or get your vehicle running again. People needed each other, and even during a fued, people were there for each other. It was a good place to grow up.

Sometimes I can get homesick for the kind of life again. Rob and I talk about moving to the country and bonding with the neighbors. I think part of it is craving the simpler life, and part of it is romanticizing the simpler life. In any case, sometimes I simply miss the love of neighbors who care for those they know and those they don't know. Periodically, I wonder if those are days gone by, and then there are days like last Wednesday that tell me such neighbors are alive and well and live right down the city street.

The following is the email written by our friend Chris who happens to live across the street from us. He had a horrible week last week, but in such darkness, love shines all the brighter.

For those of you who know him,

I buried my 7 year old dog Smokey last night.

I was walking him and my 15 year old Chow, Cher, last night, when he was hit by a car. On one particular corner there is a little dog that lives across the street that Smokey likes to see. Excited, he tried running over to see him. I stopped him with his leash but he was very excited and spun around and pulled out of his collar, and darted in front of a SUV.

Smokey went peacefully in my hands with me talking to him.

I experienced something I have felt was lost in today's society. Kindness from total strangers. All the cars stopped and blocked the road and got out to help me move him from the road. Many of those same people from the cars, stayed to help me out with comforting him. The neighbors in all the houses came out to help as well. One neighbor took Cher to my friends' Rob and Jerri's house for me. One brought me a board to lay Smokey on and helped me moved him out of the road. One neighbor is a friend of the animal control officer and called them to come assist me. The Police responded to the call too, and I had them cancel the call to animal control when Smokey passed. The police then offered to drive Smokey and me home. Instead a local neighbor brought me a wheelbarrow to push Smokey home in. The police then turned on their hazard lights and followed me home in what amounted to a slow precession home and then helped me get him into the back yard. Rob and Dan, neighborhood friends, were there waiting to help me bury him.

Its been a long time since I have seen that much compassion from total strangers. As sad as the night was, it restored a little faith that people do still care and will help.


Hoping your neighbors are the kind that love friends and strangers so openly........ hoping your neighbors say that of you........



It's so Easy to WIG OUT!!!! You Should Try It.

As some folks know, nearly two years ago, I donated my hair to Locks of Love to be made into a wig. When my children found out what I was doing and why, they decided they wanted to donate their ahir as well. My four year old son had hair almost to his shoulders, so we figured he had a good jump on things, and our daughter had a bob, but it would grow. Well, more than a year later, Robert's hair was barely past his shoulders and had not grown in months. Due to the ongoing teasing and the lack of end in sight, we cut his hair with the intention of selling it and donating the money to buy a synthetic wig for someone who needed it. That was in January. This week we got the bad news about Anna's hair. The swimming and summer activities have taken its toll. She needs at least two inches cut off, and while it can grow some more, we will face the same problems next summer. She, too, has opted for selling her hair and donating the money for a wig. So, I did some research, andI want to share the information I received from MD Anderson Hospital in Houston.
Our Volunteer Services Beauty Barber Shop would gladly accept any monetary donation that your children would like to make towards purchasing wigs for our patients. Several times a year, we purchase synthetic wigs directly from China in large quantities so we are able to get each wig for about $20. As you are aware, these wigs are available free of charge to our patients. Either one of our two licensed cosmetologists or one of our trained volunteers work with each patient to carefully select a wig for them.

When your children are ready to make their donation, please make the check payable to M. D. Anderson Volunteer Services and note in the memo section on the check that it's for the purchasing of wigs.

Their donation should be sent to:
The University of Texas
M. D. Anderson Cancer Center
Department of Volunteer Services - Unit 115
1515 Holcombe Boulevard
Houston, Texas 77030-4009

If you have any other questions, please do no hesitate to call me.
Maggi Suttles
Assistant Director, Volunteer Services
713-794-4282 Fax

I am sure no one would mind if you shared this information, so feel free to invite others to wig out and bless others.

Hoping your life is hairy and blessed......


It's Fine

We've just finished dinner, and I'm reclining in "my study". I'm going to confess. I've got George Strait playing on my CD player, and I'm feeling a bit gloomy. No, I'm not feeling gloomy because of George. Sometimes I get a little homesick, and the country music CDs come out. I have all of eight, I think. George happens to make up for two of those, but this isn't about George. This is about my gloomy homesickness.

As I mentioned yesterday, I grew up on a farm. It wasn't an active farm. We did sow and harvest crops, but we had a variety of animals throughout my life. Someday I'll tell you some of my middle of the night animal stories. Storms happen in the middle of the night. Goats give birth in the middle of the coldest night of the year, and sometimes you have to thaw the babies to get them to live. Rabbits get hot and pile up so you have to put bottles of ice in their pens to keep them from suffocating each other. I remember getting up at 4:00 am to make bottles for calves and pulling the bottles in a wagon over a quarter of a mile because the ice made it impossible to drive. We broke ice so the cows could drink, and I've milked a cow by hand. I've also had puncture wounds in my leg because I made a pig mad.

Farm life is no picnic, even when you aren't depending on crops that often just pay off the bills from the year before. Still, I have great memories. My grandma owned 40 acres, and my dad, aunts, and uncles owned some land, and put it altogether, there was over 50 acres of adventure for a kid if she was willing to step outside and enjoy it. Course, wire on the barbed-wire fences were close enough to keep a bull or cow in, and wide enough to let a kid come and go. My family owned around 50 acres, but our neighbors owned the rest of the world, and they were willing to share.

I asked my mom if I ever said I was bored as a child, and she looked at me incredulously. "Bored?! You ate breakfast and then walked out the door. You called a couple of dogs (did I mention my folks raised and bred dogs? Now, there's some stories to be told there), and y'all would take off across the pasture. You were home in time for supper. You just weren't home enough to be bored."

Of course, life has changed there. My grandma passed 3 years ago. The farm has been mostly sold off, and the neighbors have either passed on or sold off their places, too. The Land of Adventure had shrunk significantly, and I don't live there anymore. I have my own family. My husband is a computer guru, and there just aren't many jobs for computer gurus in farm country, so that isn't "home" anymore.

Still, it is where I grew up, and the memories are good, and something in me had hoped we would retire there, to sit on the steps of the house and look out over the creek bottom while I sipped my coffee and watched the sun come up like my dad and I had on so many mornings. I looked forward to dances at the fire station and 42 games at the community club. Last week, though, my idealic vision was marred, and I'm not sure how it will turn out.

My mom has asked me to agree to sign a lease so an oil company can drill on our land. She keeps seeing progress. I see capped wells and torn up countryside. She's moving forward. I am not as ready to let go as I thought I was. However, I have learned certain truths in life. Wheat won't grow until the seed dies and falls to the ground. It's hard to move forward when holding on to the past. I see this in so many lives of friends of ours.

Relationships, jobs, offenses, and other "past" things keep people from moving forward. Sometimes the past was too good to let go of. Sometimes it was too bad to risk again. In both cases people are imprisoned by what is over and gone because they can't see what the future could hold. They choose to cling to the dead seed rather than letting it go and seeing what wonders they can harvest.

I'm not going to lie. I miss farmlife sometimes. I miss my dad often. I thought about my grandma earlier today and wished I had the chance to talk to her and ask her questions again. This time I would write the answers down, or maybe I would record her voice so I could hear it again and again. Yep, there's a lot of things that were that tug at my heart, and some of them I would like to give to my kids, but in reality, I only see a part. I know my God sees the whole, and if letting go of the plans I had for the future is the seed that has to fall, I can find peace in knowing God's harvest is worth it. I never out give Him. I will never give up more than He gives me back.

And, who knows? Maybe the farm wil be fine, but if it isn't, I know I will be. That is the inheritance I have from my Daddy.

Hoping you are okay, even when things aren't you aren't.......


Small Town

Today we visited one of our favorite stores, Half Price Books. In their clearance shelf, I found a wonderful book entitled Neighbors by Archie Leiberman. Its subtitle is "A Forty-Year Portrait of an American Farm Community". I flipped through it at the store, and being one who loves photographic essays, I found it worthy of the $1 price tag and brought it home.

When I had time today, I sat down and began browsing through the pictures. The truth is I bought it to study the style Mr. Leiberman used. I was hoping to learn something that I could incorporate into my own photography. What I found, though, was a comrade captured by the wonder of small town life, the powerful sense of family that comes from a farm community, and the joy and comfort that comes from belonging there. Mr. Leiberman found out about this earthly utopia due to a photo assignment. I found out by birth. He moved from the city to become part of it. I find myself praying to rejoin it.

The wonderful part of this photographic view of the lives in this farm community is the manuscript that ties them all together. The conversation transcripts, quotes, and stories bring life to the pictures. These written memories and oral pictures of life fill in the gaps and draw one into the lives of these people.

For me, the stories were familiar; the pictures have been lived by me in an earlier time of life. I have seen farms auctioned, churches packed to standing room only for funerals, people sitting at the local store talking about the need for rain or the need for it to stop, and socials where the whole community brought ice cream or cake and no one went away hungry.

As a child, I thought everyone lived that way. I think even then I knew it was a hard way to live, but I also knew it was a good way to live. When people love each other and help each other and take time to check on each other, isn't that a good way to live? I always thought so. I still do.

Hoping life is good where you are......

What Made You Think That?

Last night I had the strangest conversation. Actually, I feel like it was an attempt at a conversation that really was more like attempting to answer accusations before being bombarded by further questions that clearly demonstrated inaccurately applied preconceived ideas.

As some of you know, I take part in Project Dance (www.projectdance.com) events. Project Dance holds concerts in New York, LA, and Sydney, Australia. The concerts take place in large public forums (such as Times Square), and for most of the day (around 9 am to 7 pm in NY) we present the gospel of Christ on a stage for all to see. In April I had the joy of being part of the concert. There was one mime and myself plus a whole lot of dancers. I presented music in sign language. I love worship sign. I've taught it, interpreted for women's nights of worship, and ministered with it. It is one of my favorite things.

Last night I was asked what I used the signing for, and I was trying to explain, and in the course of explaining, I mentioned the concerts in NY and LA. The other lady asked me about the concerts for which I had been paid. I said honestly, "I wasn't paid for the concerts."

She then said, "You implied you were."

I replied, "No, I never implied I was paid. I never gave any indication of being paid for anything. You assumed I had been paid."

To which the lady said, "Well, you called it a concert."

As I tried to explain the concert, she bombarded me with more questions without actually listening to any answers. After I finally got the point that the concerts were done for ministry, and I had done it because I love it, not for money, she then said, "Well, who was deaf?" Huh? "Well, what was the purpose of your signing if no one was deaf?"

"It was worship," was all I could say. The Spirit ministers through worship.

"So, you don't really speak sign language that people can understand." That was not a question by the way. I really tried not to roll my eyes.

"Yes, I do. I use sign language to express music. If someone is deaf, they will understand, but they don't have to be deaf to understand worship any more than the audience members have to be dancers to understand the dance."

It was obvious that she felt that I had somehow misled her since my answers did not hold up to her preconceived ideas of concerts or ministry. In the end I felt like I had just been asked to justify my worship and my right to use it corporately or even consider it important. I did not respond with the frankness that floated through my mind. Rather, I tried to answer with grace, but as I lay in bed last night waiting to nod off to sleep, I wondered if that was part of the problem.

Preconceived ideas create so many problems in our lives. The whole altercation last night was due to preconceived ideas and accusations that arose when those preconceptions weren't met. Perhaps others have responded with their perceived ideas of "grace" and thus, perpetuated this woman's method of accosting people who do not meet her preconceived ideas.

I wonder what other preconceptions I have that cause problems or misunderstandings for me. For a long time I believed anyone who disagreed with me would quit speaking to me because my father was like that. If he had a disagreement with someone, he would get mad and not talk to them anymore. I wonder how many honest friendships that cost me. I wonder how much agony it caused me thinking people were mad and staying mad at me.

One of the biggest concerns I have are preconceived ideas of God. For a long time, I thought God was like my dad. I thought God was perpetually mad at me, and I kept thinking that at any time all those things I had ever done would come be thrown at me for some infraction that had never been addressed before, and the consequences would be extreme, usually including being ignored for some length of time before being told again how it was my fault. Others have ideas of God that are quite the opposite where they believe God is more like Santa Clause who just gives good things and gifts to anyone who is a pretty good person. Both of those ideas do nothing but drive a person from the truth of God.

The truth of God is that He is a loving God. He loved us so much that He sent His Son to die for us. He is also a just God. While the price has been paid, it is for those who choose His Son. It is not enough to believe there is a God out there. In the book of James it says the demons believe in Christ and have the sense to tremble. Satan knows the reality of Christ, but he isn't going to Heaven. What makes us think a human believing Christ is real will buy us anything else?

I think there are two significant problems here. First is simple rebellion and refusal to submit to Christ as Lord. The other is preconceived ideas based on human nature.

First we have to address the reality that Christ is called a King. He is the Prince of Peace. He is the Son of God who sits at the right hand of God. If He is royalty, then our place as people ransomed by Him is that of servant. That means we must obey His Lordship. To believe Christ is the Son of the King and refuse to obey Him as Lord puts us on the level of demons who know He is the Son of God but refuse to obey Him.

Second, we project human-ness onto God and what He requires or offers. John 3:16 says simply, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that anyone who believes in Him shall have everlasting life." All that is required is belief. However, this word is not so simple. If we believe something is true, then we are required to act in accordance with that truth. If we believe a fire will burn us, we don't stick our hand in it, do we? If we believe the God of the universe gave His Son for us, we are required to respond and to act accordingly, as people forgiven of sins not as those who are given a free ticket to sin. We are required to spend time seeking His purpose for us, learning His character, hearing His heart. We do this not out of legalistic demands by God but out of our gratitude and love because we know the truth--we were dead in our sins and we were headed to hell, but the Lord God saved us by the shedding of His Son's blood. How can we not respond with gratitude and love to someone who saves us from torture and death? My opinion is the only way we are not affected by the depth and immensity of God's love is that we either have such hard hearts that we prefer our selfish way to Him or our preconceived ideas blind us to the truth. In either case, we miss Him, and that has an eternal price tag.

May all preconceptions fall at the feet of the Truth as the Truth is shone in all His glory....

14For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. ---Ephesians 3

Room 12--Part 2

Tonight was the second sermon in the series "Room 12". The line for the series says, "It's not a place. It's an experience." I really like that line.

In the first sermon our pastor Robert Morris gave his testimony. Powerful. A few people I know either listened or watched it. In fact, Iona's comment is attached to the first post. Tonight Dr. Michael Brown (http://www.icnministries.org/) gave his testimony. It was also good, and we saw another 10 people or so saved in our service.

Our friend who joined us commented that she felt last week's was more powerful, not just because of the number that was saved but because it was different. I agreed, and I've considered what the difference was.

Ultimately, it is God's presence, but why was it more powerful last week? Had more people fasted and prayed? I tried to spend prayer time on this alone every day this week. I doubt I was the only one. In truth, I can't tell you. I don't know for sure why God blows us away at one time and seems so distant at another.

I can tell you a difference for me, though. This week's testimony was huge in that it took someone who seemed beyond candidacy as a Christian and has changed him into an international missionary for the Jews. He had some pertinent facts that should make us all walk more cautiously.
-If you taste sin, you'll develop an appetite for it.
-You don't quit sinning because the desire goes away. The desire goes away when you choose to quit sinning.
I strongly suggest you listen or watch the sermon when they get it posted for the context because it should jar everyone of us into considering even the slightest sin we allow into our lives.

Yes, from the viewpoint that God worked mightily in an unlikely life, tonight was powerful.

Last week was a bit different. Pastor Robert wasn't as unlikely a candidate, or so one would think. Although I would argue he might have been more unlikely due to the power of religious spirits, but that isn't what really touched me last week. What touched me was Pastor Robert's vulnerability. He was so candid, and he admitted that some of the things he told were hard because he was so ashamed of them. Sometimes his voice broke. Sometimes his voice was quiet. Last week was a man sharing intimate parts of his life with people he loves, people who trust him to lead them and have their answers. A man who is trusted to teach thousands about Christ every week shared openly how he had mocked Him. There was no arrogance. There were no airs to be put on. It wasn't a stoic presntation of this is who I was but I'm not that person anymore and that person has no hold on me and let's move on. Instead, Pastor Robert was a real man who had things in his past he wishes he could change, things that he knows were shameful. He was a real man who was saved by a real God.

It was powerful.

If you really need God, He really wants to save you, too. It isn't hard, but it is powerful. All you have to do is realize that you are a sinner and you need Christ to forgive you for your sins. Then confess your sins to the Lord and ask for forgivness. Next tell someone. Tell everyone! The Bible says in Romans 10:
9That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. 11As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame." 12For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."

There is no patented "prayer of salvation", but if you need some help, you can pray simply, "Lord, I know I am a sinner. I know I need Jesus as my Lord. I ask you to forgive me and take my life to do with as you will." That's it. Then tell someone. Find a church and get involved in a local body. Pray for the Lord to lead you to a church. If you drop me a comment, I'll pray for you. In fact, I've already prayed for you because I pray for this blog to lead people to Christ and for Him to be glorified through everything I write. Drop me a comment, and I will better know how to pray.

Praying the very real presence and power of God reaches into the lives of real people.....


Saying "Thank You" to a Soldier

A friend of mine sent me a URL for a neat website where folks can fill out a postcard that will then be printed and mailed to a soldier. I tried it out last night, and it took two minutes. The only personal information they ask for is name, home town, and state. You don't have to register to use the site or anything. I'm telling you, easy and painless in two minutes. I wanted to pass the information along for those who are interested.


The level of gratitude affects one's attitude. Hoping we all better our attitudes in all areas of our lives.....


Room 12

Our church is in a sermon series called "Room 12". Last Saturday was the first sermon of the series, and very few sermons have impacted me like this one. It was so powerful to me that I have invited everyone I know who is not saved to go with us this Saturday. I have told everyone I know who is saved to bring everyone they know who isn't saved. I am that convinced that this sermon series will change lives. I am convinced if anyone isn't saved, they will get saved if they attend this series.

Most of y'all can't attend this series, but you can either watch or listen to you. All you have to do is go to www.gatewaypeople.com and click on the sermon links. The one that is there right now is "Jake's Motel". That is our pastor's testimony. It is worth your time to listen. In fact, you might know someone else who needs to hear it as well.

And if you are a mom, you need to listen and hear the encouragement for praying moms.

I hope you take time to listen and pass it on. Just so you know, our church has five services. In the early service on Saturday, about 100 people were saved. In our service on Saturday, about 100 were saved. Friends of ours go to the Sunday 10:00 service, and they said about 100 saved in that service. I don't know about the other two, but in those services alone, around 300 or more were saved. Yep, it's powerful stuff.

Hoping the Power is flowing where you are....


Picking up the Pace

First of all, how does so much time pass so quickly between posts? It doesn't seem like that much time passes. I think Iona has it right. I think you have to schedule writing. In fact, I think you have to schedule the important things because if you don't, the "necessities" of life will take over and the stuff that means something won't ever be done. I'm not the first to think or say this, though.

Do you remember the email that has been going around for years about the speaker who did the demonstration in the business class? He took a big jar and put big rocks in it. Then he added small rocks which slipped in between the big rocks. Next he added pebbles. After that he added sand, and after that, he added water. The students watched silently as he did his little demonstration. When his jar was all full, he asked the students if they knew what it meant. "You have the ability to make room for more things?" proposed one. Others suggested this or that, and when all the ideas were exhausted, the man looked at the students who were sitting with pens poised for the wisdom he was about to dole out, and he said, "You always have room for what you put first, so put only the important things first." He then left the room.

Granted the version you heard may not be exactly like that, but that is my paraphrased version that my brain remembers when my calendar starts looking too crowded. When something has to go, I begin to remember the simple truth: you always have room for what you put first, so put only the important things first. How good life would be if we truly followed such a simple logic.

Of course, for some, life does not offer such luxuries. Some truly do have lives that seem to require a great sacrifice of important things. Parents who have to travel, a spouse who has to travel. Workers who work long hours and come home exhausted. Sadly, what has to be most important is making a living and supporting those you love, and sometimes that requires a lot of sacrifice, but really, for most of us, that is not the case. For most of us, we either don't know what is important or we forget to put it first.

Sound like a sweeping generalization? Maybe, but I still think I am right.

But this isn't about everyone else. This is about me and my life...and sweeping, which I did today. I even mopped and vacuumed. I didn't dust. I honestly don't see much point in dusting. However, I did get rid of spiderwebs today. They grow as fast as time passes between posts! I wiped away a few magnum opus (opi?), great works for those of you unfamiliar with Charlotte's Web. On one hand, I sort of feel bad about it. Think of all those bug eaters that are going to be born in the garbage dump now rather than in our yard where we need bugs eaten. On the other hand, think of all those eight-legged critters that won't cause my children (or husband) to scream hysterically or leave marks on the wall when the obliterate the little critters with their shoes. Besides, I would think the little guys will be happy with the buffet of bugs in the garbage dump, wouldn't you?

Believe it or not, I had not pondered bugs, bug eaters, or bug buffets when I started this. What I was considering was the sweeping, mopping, and cooking, though. I was pondering art time with children, crawling up into The Big Bed for reading time, and homeschool stuff. I was considering the stuff of life and how it is and isn't scheduled in.

Presently, it is our plan to start a women's group in our home the Monday after Labor Day. Different ladies have asked me to expound on Christian warfare, and the Lord has brought it to my attention that most people in the church don't know how to war over their identities or destinies. I have met very few who even know their identities in Christ, in fact. The Lord has placed it on my heart to have a class that teaches identities, warfare principles, walking in the Truth rather than man's interpretation of the Truth, and so on. In all honestly, I'm very excited.

I'm also a little nervous. With homeschooling two children, trying to keep the house up, laundry, cooking, Bible study myself, being a wife, having some semblance of a social life and so on, I'm pretty stretched. I find myself wondering how I am going to fit leading a women's group and attending a life group, which is necessary in order to apprentice for the purpose of leading a group under our church's umbrella. I sort of look at this group as a beta group. I am hoping to learn and figure out things so if I lead another group, it'll be smoother.

Anyway, I've been trying to see how I can schedule all this in without giving up my own personal quiet time and time to renew myself. I don't want to go into this blind and then get blasted from exhaustion and figure out after the fact that I simply don't have time to do this. The thing is, I do think I have time to do this. I think this is of God, and I think everything will work out okay, but to aid the transition, I'm adding a few things here and there. I'm working on homeschool schedules, working on making sure I have my quiet time in the morning, making sure I get some time during the day to be quiet and be renewed, and still not ignoring required house needs. Things aren't perfect yet, but we are moving in the right direction.

The key is figuring out what is important and putting that in first.
Then take those things and arrange them so they fit and make sure to add room for the necessary extra time for preparation of those things.
Then decide if there is anything else that needs to be added or I want added.

I think I have figured out what is important, and now I am trying to work them in so they fit well. I have other things I'd like to do if there is time. If there isn't time now, maybe later.

Speaking of time, it is time to work on some school curriculum. We started back with reading and math this week. Next week I'm going to add Spanish and another subject, and the next week I'll add something else. By the time the week after Labor Day gets here, we'll be in full swing and comfortable with it. However, to get there, I need to do some more planning, so off I go.

Hoping you know the important things and have the courage to put them first......