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What Do You Say?

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What Do You Say?

Gratitude. It’s defined as thankful appreciation for something received, whether tangible or intangible. Many of us were taught from a young age that the expression of gratitude for something received is polite and even expected, right?

Last weekend we participated in a Trunk or Treat event. As the costumed children approached, their parents prompted “What do you say?” With few exceptions, the child would respond “Thank you” even though the expectant parent was looking for “Trick or Treat!” The children have a conditioned response to the question “What do you say?”

We are entering into a season of thankfulness and I must confess that my conditioned response too often is less “Thank you” and more “Really? Is that the best you’ve got?”

Now, before you decide I’m an unusually ungrateful person, think for a hot minute about your daily interactions. We often fail to slow enough to truly appreciate the many little opportunities each day presents for thanksgiving. We overlook some of the small but sweet moments of our day.

Yet scientific research affirms the positive impact of gratitude, the expression of thanks. In the article cited below, researchers found that for most who participated in a focus group, making a written inventory of things they were thankful for had a positive impact on their overall well-being.

In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.” [i]

November seems to be a great time to set aside a few minutes each day to list the things we are thankful for. I’m challenging some friends to join me in the following, trusting that by the end of the month we will be more positive, feel better physically and be generally more pleasant for others to be around. Here’s the assignment:

  • Daily: List three things you are thankful for – while it might be tempting to jot the same three every day (spouse, children, parents, for example) try to dig a little deeper and look back on interactions, small acts of kindness, etc. that you experienced throughout your day. You can utilize a small journal or even a calendar to make your daily list.
  • Weekly: Act on your gratitude – send a hand-written note, call or text someone who did more than they had to, speak to the store manager about that employee who went the extra mile or write out a prayer thanking God for his blessings,  answered prayers and faithfulness.
  • At least once during the month: Lavish thanksgiving on someone – spend time with them; whether your budget allows a special meal out or having them over for coffee, just do it! Invite them to lunch or meet for a walk with focused time for you to express to them how they’ve made a difference and to simply say “thanks”.

My hope and prayer for myself is that at the end of the month, my conditioned response to even my very normal days will be “Thank you!”. I trust that I will be happier, more content and much more pleasant because of my awareness of life’s daily blessings. Will you join me?

“I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of your wonderful deeds.”
Psalm 9:1 NIV

With gratitude,

lorraine

 

[i] Excerpt from https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/in-praise-of-gratitude

Escaping the Bonds of Earth

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I’m tens of thousands of feet in the air as I type.

For two weeks I’ve been carefully matching clothes to the days we will be away. I’ve planned every outfit leading up to the main event, a wedding.

I laid them all out on the bed in the guest room and finally last night I moved the stacks into the suitcase.

This morning as I went through my morning routine, I carefully packed every lotion, potion and brush needed to ensure I was presentable. Hubby and I checked and rechecked the gifts for family members, the notebook he would need for the wedding and other critical items.

As we boarded the plane and sent last minute texts to my cousin who would meet us at our gate. I noticed a Facebook message from a friend. I read it with a heavy heart. Her mom is in her last days.

On a plane between heaven and earth, I’m thinking of my sweet friend’s mama. She is on the brink of eternity, a journey like no other; in limbo, so close to heaven and yet still very much present on earth.

Waiting at her arrival gate? Jesus.

In many ways, she’s prepared for the journey for years. With intention she’s planned her life around knowing Him, about pointing others to Him and being ready to meet him when she finally arrives at heavens gate.

She’s ready; her body is weary of this place we inhabit that Lisa Terkeurst refers to as the space between two gardens. Her life, as I’ve seen it, has been filled with a “longing for the place where we will walk in the garden with him again. Where we will finally have peace and security and eyes that no longer leak tears…and hearts that are no longer broken.”

As I prayed for my friend, as I considered her mama’s arrival in heaven; I thought about my angst over a simple trip for a few days out of town. I realized that in spite of my careful and detailed packing, we forgot something important.

And yet, her mama will arrive at heavens gate with nothing in her hands.

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.””

‭‭Job‬ ‭1:21‬ ‭NIV‬‬

She is ready to receive her reward and to greet her sweet family and friends who have arrived already. Her preparation had nothing to do with gathering stuff and everything to do with sharing the love of Jesus.

Thanks for all you’ve taught us, Memaw. I’m praying for you. When you arrive in heaven, please give Sandy a big hug for me.

With hope in Christ alone,

Lysa Terkeurst quote from “It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way”, releasing November 13th.

One Small Thing

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One Small Thing

She approached the well in the heat of the day, expecting to quietly draw water in solitude and peace. There was a man there, but she mostly ignored him.

“Will you give me a drink?”

It was a small request, so ordinary. She was surprised, though. She was a woman, a Samaritan woman. She would expect to be ignored or even shunned by this Jewish man.

You may be familiar with this Biblical account of Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well. It’s a well-known and often shared story of Jesus’ compassion and a woman’s response.

Just a couple of days ago, as I sat with a couple of friends, we visited this passage again. It was one of those moments when a familiar passage suddenly reads a bit differently and speaks to me with a new challenge.

The woman immediately began to complicate the simple request.

  • Why are you asking me? You know I’m not the best person for the job.
  • What do you mean you could give me a drink? You have nothing to draw with.
  • Hey, let’s talk about where we should worship.

His confirmation: I am He.

For the first time in many readings and hearings of this woman’s encounter with Jesus, I saw the simplicity of his request and I saw myself in the woman.

How often does he ask us do a similar simple, small thing?

  • Walk outside and speak to the young mom and her children as they pass by on their walk.
  • Fix a plate for the widower down the street.
  • Buy a cup and a snack for that college student studying at the local coffee shop.
  • Send a card to someone who is hurting, just to remind them that someone cares.
  • Walk into the next room and really listen to a child or your spouse for ten minutes.

He does, and too often I respond just as she did, denying the power of the love of Christ in me and for others.

  • Why me?
  • I don’t have the resources.
  • What if it’s weird or uncomfortable for me (or them)?
  • I’m just too busy.

But it is in the small acts of kindness that we unleash the power of his love. What if we knew that the small things of every day could be huge in the kingdom of God?

I’m committed to paying attention to opportunities in the mundane and the everyday. Will you join me, friends, as we hear Jesus asking us to do one small thing today?

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the things he planned for us long ago.

Ephesians 2:10

Share with me in the comments…how have you seen him use your “one small thing”?

By grace alone,

lorraine

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Not Fine!

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It’s Not Fine!

I was out running an errand at lunch when I heard a text alert. The message was brief. “I’m praying for you all. Everything’s going to be fine.”

My chest tightened and I had a moment right there in the greeting card aisle at Hobby Lobby even as hymns played on the store background music. “Easy for you to say!” I angrily spewed under my breath.

The text was in response to a group message recently sent by a member of my family. Her daughter’s cancer had been in remission – but it’s active again. The news shared is sobering. Her health is deteriorating rapidly. She’s not fine and there is no assurance that she’s going to be fine.

Fine means in good health and feeling well. As much as that is our prayer and hope for her, today she is struggling with serious medical issues. That response appears to minimize the gravity of her condition and the normal maternal response to it.

The people closest to her are faced constantly with the reality of her current condition, regardless of their hope for complete healing and wellness.

I quickly sent a private text to this dear momma, assuring her that people mean well but say dumb things.

Perhaps I reacted so passionately out of empathy. I’ve recently been told the same about another situation that is far from “fine”. It is gut-wrenching, frightful, and agonizing. The tentacles of it have infiltrated and lodged themselves deep into the lives of real people, people who still get out of bed every morning, wake the children, make the coffee and make a living to pay the bills and feed a family while this “situation” hangs over their heads like a storm cloud about to erupt.

The texter likely intended to convey positive thoughts or a message of faith in a few words. I’ve resolved to assume the best about people’s intentions and extend grace. To that end, my message today is intended to suggest thoughtful and compassionate responses to such hard things taking place in others’ lives.

There is an excellent Biblical example in Job’s friends. Though they eventually failed miserably, they got the three things I mentioned (mostly) right. Check out these points from Job: 2:11-13 (ESV)

  • They came to him when he was suffering. “Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place…they made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him.”
  • They empathized with him.“..they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven.”
  • They spent time with him.“And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights…”

Thankfully, today’s social norms don’t include tearing of clothing or scattering of dust! Your presence will be a blessing.
Show up. As soon as possible, set aside a few minutes to speak by phone or in person. Ask appropriate questions and demonstrate genuine concern. Let your friend know you are engaged and available to them. Encourage them to endure; remind them that God sees their pain. Keep showing up – this will require intention, but isn’t your friend worth it?

Follow up. Even if it means putting an item on your calendar for a couple of weeks away, send a card, call or text. Remind them that you have not forgotten and are still praying.

If you’ve read the full book of Job, you know that his friends didn’t remain silent for long. In fact, they droned on and on under the assumption that Job’s suffering was the result of sin in his life. Get this if you don’t get anything else: like Job’s friends, we may know a lot about the Bible but we don’t know the mind or heart of God. Leave it alone.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15 (ESV)

By His grace alone,

lorraine

Things Can’t Get Worse, Right….?

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Things Can’t Get Worse, Right….?

I remember it well. The days leading up to and following the new year everyone was on Facebook proclaiming that this one just had to be better than last. I recall thinking “Maybe you’d better buckle up, because things can always get worse” but refraining from typing the words because I’m an adult. With a brain. And some common sense. Well, most of the time.

Then the unthinkable happened. 2018 roared in like a lion on steroids with a ravenous appetite for my family. Perhaps there is a similar lion in your world; I’m sort of busy over here manipulating a chair and whip while nursing bloody wounds where hearts are supposed to beat with joy and anticipation, but I see you there. This is for you, friend.

  • Well-meaning people are going to ask questions like “Are you okay?” when they know full well you can’t possibly be okay. The only correct answer is the honest one. If you are not okay, let it be known. If they care, an arm will slip around your shoulder and they will stick around without judgment for the tears and whatever else leaks out of you. If they don’t, they’ll find a quick excuse to walk away but they’ll know the truth…and so will you.
  • You might be mad. Did you know that’s okay? I have it on the authority of King David that God can handle our anger, so trust me on this one. He isn’t creating our difficulties, but He is aware of them and we can vent to the one who knows it all and loves unconditionally.
  • Get ready to be amazed. There are two extremes and you will experience both. There are going to people who won’t be willing to join you in your misery. When I say that I’m not referring to some pity party, rather the reality that is your present circumstance. In the words of the icy Disney princess, let them go. Or in the words of Taylor Swift, shake them off. Either way…be done with them. They aren’t worth your limited energy. But you are also going to be blown away by the people who see you and respond with the purest of love. These are not the “Go, keep warm and be well fed” church crowd that James warns of; they are the ones who show up with whatever you need, usually before you know you need it. You might not even know them yet, but they love Jesus and you.
  • Step away from social media. In the middle of your hard season you don’t need to be constantly exposed to everyone else’s highlight reels. Do ask your friends to share their greatest joys with you personally – send those cute photos and funny memes right to your phone or inbox.
  • Continue doing the things you love with the people you love as much as possible. Live even when it feels like you might die.

If you have a friend who is in this place right now, may I suggest some things you can do for them?

  • Stay in touch. Ask “How are you?” and be willing to hear an honest answer. Listen – with compassion and intention.
  • Ask what they need; make sure they know you sincerely want to help.
  • Pursue time together. Ask them to come for dinner/family game night/coffee. Insist, even if it means taking the food to their house and handling prep, serving and cleanup.
  • Share your joy. They not only can handle it, they need it.
  • Refrain from giving too much advice or opinion, especially if they have a team of professionals.
  • Pray for them and listen to God’s prompts for ways to help. Make it your goal to be their biggest encourager.

Trouble rushes in like a tidal wave of disgusting, powerful water and sweeps away normal. If you are barely keeping your head above water, keep treading. If the flood has subsided and you are faced with the muddy aftermath, keep trusting.

Hope and confidence in God is our lifeline; this is the verse that I return to again and again. I pray it encourages your heart as well.

Because of the Lord’s great love for us we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
Lamentations 3:22-26

Waiting in hope,

lorraine

Merry Broken Christmas

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Merry Broken Christmas

We were driving into town for our granddaughter’s ballet recital when the call came. Less than three weeks until Christmas and his mother had suddenly died. His life is in pieces as he navigates toward some sort of new normal.

Just yesterday I exchanged texts with a friend. An affair has fractured her child’s marriage; her family is broken.

A young father we know is facing certain death unless he gets a heart transplant. This dear couple and their children are hanging onto a thread of hope this holiday season. His heart is literally broken.

I watched her grow up; she and my daughter were friends. Tomorrow she faces her first Christmas without her son, tragically killed in an accident. Her grief is palpable. Her world is shattered.

Maybe as you read this, you are overcome by your own broken places.

We lament. Of all times, why do these things have to happen at Christmas?

Tonight I stood next to my husband as we celebrated Christmas eve with our church family and I reflected on that first Christmas.

Mary and Joseph found a stall in the stable behind a local inn. We don’t know the details; maybe a midwife was summoned to assist with the birth. But when Jesus was born, he was wrapped in rags and laid in a borrowed manger. There was no room for him in the inn.

“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.” Luke 2:6-7

As I thought about his meager beginning, I had a sort of epiphany. Fast forward about thirty-three years to the first Easter. After a brutal series of events, Jesus body was bruised and beaten (but not broken!). His garments had been gambled away by the soldiers. He hung naked on a wooden cross.

They laid his body in a borrowed tomb, and later he was wrapped in linen grave clothes that were not his own.

“Going to Pilate, he (Joseph) asked for Jesus’ body. Then he took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid.” Luke 23:52-53

It was because of our brokenness that Jesus came.

He isn’t put off by our mess; he stepped from heaven into a filthy stable and was laid in a feeding trough for animals. The place was not fit for people and certainly not a king.

He specializes in brokenness; in fact, he will come and sit with us in the middle of it. Emmanuel. God with us.

Life has taught me that perfect days and good times can be risky and dangerous. When we achieve our notion of perfection, we don’t recognize our need for him.

But in the brokenness, we see it.

I am sorry if you are walking through a season of brokenness this Christmas. I’ve been there; my heart aches for you.

More, Jesus sees you. He came for you and this season of pain. Invite him in and know that he is fine with the mess.

I have to confess; this Christmas, I want to be broken enough to see my need for Jesus.

I want to be the stable, not the inn.

Merry Christmas, even if  it’s broken…

lorraine

What Do You Want?

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What do you want_2

When standing at a crossroad of decision, do you ask yourself what you want?

Of course there are lots of factors to consider, but knowing what you want is a key component to making the right choice.

This week I revisited a familiar passage in the Gospel of Mark.

Jesus, along with a large contingent of followers, was passing through Jericho. It had been a long day of teaching as they plodded along dusty paths and cobblestone streets. As they were leaving the crowded city, a voice called out to Jesus.

Bartimaeus, blind since birth, sat near the edge of the city. Daily, he assumed his position, begging for alms from the passers by.

On this day, he heard that Jesus was nearby and began shouting for him. “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

The crowd chided him to hush.

But Jesus heard. “Call him.”

His next words were spoken directly to Bartimaeus.

“What do you want me to do for you?”

For you. Not for the world, not for your neighbor, not for the terminally ill leper sitting next to you…you.

Most likely, Bartimaues was hungry. He may have longed for a good home or a hot meal. His belongings were meager. His needs were many.

Bartimaeus spoke from the depths of his soul. He knew precisely what he would ask of the Rabbi.

“I want to see.”

That blind beggar knew that every other desire and need hinged on his deepest longing. He wanted his sight.

There is a stirring in my soul. The question begs an answer, this question that Jesus is still asking us as we cry out to him.

“What do you want me to do for you?”

Unlike Bartimaeus, we waffle in indecision. We struggle with answers to life’s constant questions because we haven’t decided what we want.

When I’m faced with a decision or even a choice, I often go to Jesus in prayer, looking for answers. I ask and ask what I should do and he answers.

What do YOU want?

Consider an example. You’ve been asked to serve on a committee. It’s a worthwhile cause and you like the people involved. The experience gained would be great for your personal development. So far, the answer sounds like a simple “yes”.

Because you have learned to value of being thoughtful and prayerful in your answers, you go to Jesus.

Perhaps his reply to you will be the same as to Bartimaues.

“What do you want?”

This is where it can get sticky, because like Bartimaeus, you have needs and desires that will distract you from what you want.

They are all good things, but suppose a deep desire of your heart is to build more intimacy with your mate?

Perhaps you long for some slow, measured time with your children during the golden hour of each evening.

How will this “yes” impact those?

Jesus didn’t tell Bartimaeus what he needed. He asked him what he wanted. Don’t let good things distract you from the best.

“Take delight in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

Psalm 37:4 NIV

 

Delighted by his grace,

lorraine

Friends, this is such a milestone…my one hundredth post! Talk about getting what your heart wants….God has been so good to me in this writing journey. Thanks to each of you who has encouraged and followed as I pen stories of his grace all around. I love you each!

Like a Child

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Like a Child

I’ve just spent three days at Walt Disney World. In fact, I’m writing on my phone in a restaurant at  Hollywood Studios while sitting with a napping grandchild.

My granddaughters are obsessed with princesses. I love seeing my sweet girls twirl in their sparkly gowns. You may question the wisdom of it, but I want them to be comfortable with celebrating the beauty that He longs to set free in their hearts.

The King’s daughter is all glorious within;
Her clothing is interwoven with gold.

~ Psalm 45:13

Reality has a way of interrupting the magic, even at the happiest place on earth. As we waited for a royal meeting the phone buzzed with a text that jerked my adult self to attention.

Now alone with my thoughts my stomach churns, my jaw tightens and I am tempted to run down a familiar path that leads to worry and despair. A glance at the sleeping toddler makes me pause.

Early this morning, way before dawn, I woke as my bedroom door opened. Her little princess feet pattered the well-known path to me, her arms filled with princess dolls and her blanket. She lifted her burden toward me and spoke one word.

Grandma.

I unloaded her arms and pulled her into my bed; I wrapped my arms around her and she settled into the curve of my embrace. Her breathing  slowed and sleep came.

Anxiety, fear and fatigue will steal my joy in a skinny minute if I’m not paying attention. Instead, what if I choose the path that leads to  him? What if I choose to speak his name rather than reciting the woes that are sure to come?

Jesus.

I come to him, my arms filled with the worries, burdens and hurt that will steal my joy. He takes my heavy load and he pulls me close and I settle into his embrace. The weight of burdens lifts and he sings over me.

The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing. ~ Zephaniah 3:17 NIV

I love that sweet little girl, but I know that my love for her pales in comparison to his love for me. He never sends us away; he pulls us close and sings songs over us. Whatever you are dealing with today, come to him…hand it to him and let him take the burden and pull you close.

Mark this: Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child,
you’ll never get in. ~ Luke 18:18 The Message

Resting in his grace,

lorraine

 

 

 

 

 

What Are We To Do?

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What Are We To Do?

The world is messy right now and I’m struggling to find my voice.

By  nature, I’m a pleaser and always struggle with the notion that I might say the wrong thing, so often I remain silent. I think the biggest struggle I’ve had is with the radical differences of opinion between people I know, people who are in loving relationships with one another. And yet, there is tension.

I am craving a safe place. I want some rest. I know, there is hard work to be done and God’s people need to be about the business of reconciliation. As with most social issues, the answer is found in loving people the way that God loves. Unconditionally.

So this  morning, as I drink my coffee from a real cup, sitting in  my favorite spot…the smell of bacon cooking in the oven and the sight of my dear husband reading across the room, I remember that God has been speaking a word over me this year.

Rest. I don’t have to solve this problem today.

I began searching the Bible for verses about rest. On a day that I have much to do, I wanted to find a reason to linger in this sweet spot.

“And the kingdom of Jehoshaphat was at peace,
for his God had given him rest on every side.” – 2 Chronicles 20:30

Lovely verse, but I wanted to know more about this peace. I backed up and read the rest of the story.

Their current reality was the threat of a vast army. In fact, they had no hope of defense. Jehoshaphat led the people in prayer, one of the most simple, beautiful prayers I’ve ever read:

We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.

The words settle on my heart and I read on.

God answered; the people followed his instruction. They sang a simple chorus as they went about the business he called them to:

Give thanks to the Lord for his love endures forever.

As they walked in obedience toward the battlefield, eyes on God, they made a startling discovery. Their enemy lay slaughtered in the valley below. The battle was over.

The human heart wants what it wants. It is a place of great deceit. I don’t trust mine. I’ll go with Jehoshaphat instead.  I find rest in this:

Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the vast army.
For the battle is not yours, but God’s.

Whatever battle or struggle you are facing friends, it is his to fight. Walk forward in what he has called you to do, praising him for who he is and what he has already done.

He’s got this.

Resting by his grace alone,

lorraine

 

 

 

 

 

 

Greetings from the East Coast

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Greetings from the East Coast

Greetings from the sunny sands of one of Florida’s favorite East Coast beaches. We’ve stepped away from life for a few days to celebrate the blessing of forty-five years together. We’ve needed a rest for a bit, and we are so very grateful to dear friends who made this possible.

I’m also stepping away from the keyboard for the rest of the month. Writing is a beautiful gift; I love everything about sharing stories but I know that the creative part of me needs to spend some time listening to our creator…the great author of every one of my stories.

I’ll be back soon, but in the meantime, I’ll be sharing one of my favorite posts from the past over on my Facebook page each Friday morning. Click here to travel over there and see this week’s nostalgic post. 

lorraine