the teacher to remember

This week I spent some time training about the wonders of Word & Excel Mail Merge. I reminisced for a moment about first discovering Mail Merge, and how valuable it has been over the years in my career. And I realized, this person may remember this moment for the rest of their life, ok, maybe not. But showing someone something wonderful and new, is so rewarding. Afterall, our brains seem to get permanently embedded with memories of the first, the greatest, the worst and the recent.

It’s the memory that alludes you in the moment you do something pefectly normal, when you can’t help but think, “I’m so grateful they showed me this.” Every time you make really great sweet tea (thank you, Mom!), when you put a boullion cube into a pan of gravy (thank you, Grandma), or when you grind freshly roasted coffee beans, to the perfect degree (thank you Keith’s best man & pastor friend, Derek). Those memories are forever attached to the ones who planted them there.

I remember my business teachers who taught of amazing business and computer tricks. The one that stands out the most was Mrs. Black at Dothan High School teaching us about savvy business attire, and in her southern buttermilk-thick accent telling us how to “double up” our panty hose, “Ladies, if you get a run in one leg, just cut it off, and double it up with another pair of one legged hose.” Because saving money on purchasing pantyhose would come in handy in our future career. Mrs. Black also taught me great jargon, like “bark bustin’ cold,”  that I absolutely must use when it gets below 49 degrees in the south.

I love teaching my neices and nephews amazing and new things, like blowing bubbles with your gum, turning on the jets in a garden tub full of bubbles, how to jump in mud puddles, and where grandma keeps all her good candy. Their parents thank me for it, with someday payback warnings.

When I was five, our church bookkeeper taught me how to make paper-clip bracelets and necklaces, remember those?. Fast foward 20 years, when I was hired to work on staff as the youth assistant in that same church, with the same bookkeeper. I carried on her legacy of paperclip jewelry and belt making for kids, teaching all the staff kids who came into my office looking to play. One day our Music Minister warned me, “please, our mini-van can’t handle any more jewelry.”

I think about someone special when…singing scales,  painting my nails, wringing out the dishcloth at night so it won’t sour, and cleaning out the lint filter in the dryer (that’s right, saving our family money, baby!)

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The Final Summit by Andy Andrews

The Final Summit

by Andy Andrews

Thomas Nelson Publishers

A Fiction Book.  I don’t normally read fiction.  Rarely ever.  But something about the three coins on the cover and the feather looked appealing. I’m a sucker for enticing design.

Without giving too many details away, I found this story as riveting and entertaining as a major motion picture. The way Andrews weaved history with eternity was fascinating. His writing is intelligent and flows well, the word pictures painted murals on the walls of my imagination.  Its my first read by this author and I hear this is not the first rodeo for David Ponder character, so I’m very interested in going back and seeing where this story all began for him. I’m officially hooked!

Here’s the Official Book Description:

David Ponder is back. This time the fate of mankind is in his hands.

This is mankind’s last chance. Centuries of greed, pride, and hate have sent humanity hurtling toward disaster, and far from its original purpose. There is only one solution that can reset the compass and right the ship, and it consists of only two words.

With time running out, it is up to David Ponder and a cast of history’s best and brightest minds to uncover this solution before it is too late. The catch? They are allowed only five tries to discover the answer.

Readers first encountered David Ponder in The Traveler’s Gift. Now, in The Final Summit, Andrews combines a riveting narrative with astounding history in order to show us the one thing we must do when we don’t know what to do.

DisclosureBookSneeze provided me with a complementary copy of this book, in return for my review.  The opinion expressed here is entirely my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

waiting in pain.

I was sitting in a waiting room for a post physical therapy follow up.  A gentleman sitting across from me was leaning forward, his right hand cupped carefully around his left hand which was wrapped in a small white towel.  He was obviously in pain.  Adjusting his position, shaking his knee, at times he was huffing and puffing, closing his eyes or looking in the air.   My heart was melting for this man in his present misery.  The pain in my neck, and my night time headaches seemed insignificant next to his urgency.

I wondered what happened to him.  No one else seemed to notice.  We all live very different lives.  Have different jobs, interests, and experiences.  But one thing was the same today.  Our pain.  His hurt became my hurt.  Sitting there feeling his pain, I remembered the day my left hand was broken, I realized how a one inch surgical cut above my broken ring finger bone made my entire body ache, for weeks.

I wondered if the man knew Jesus.  If he went to church or had some people who could help him feel better.  I wondered if he knew the answer like I knew it?  That Jesus came to heal all of our diseases, to wipe our tears, and take our pain away with the power of what he did on the cross that day.  After all, God sent his son to the earth, the ultimate sales guy, to spread the word about his life changing power!

The thought rose up in my spirit, as if Jesus stepped into our row of chairs, sat down beside me and cleared the air:  “He is the type of person I laid hands on, when I walked the earth.  The type that I would walk up to on a crowded street, when no one else noticed.  I would share my love with him.”  My heart visualized the scene, like one straight out of Hollywood. Jesus, walking up to this man, the man in pain that no one noticed.

As most waiting room scenes go, eyes are glued to People magazine, or CNBC on the TV.  I put People aside and caught eyes with him, smiled, and said simply, “What happened to you?”   He told me the story of starting out to work early and how a truck tailgate accidently crushed his pinky finger.  And now he is in waiting in this room, in pain, and has been for an hour and a half. 

I stood up and walked over to him, to get a better look, and told him I understood his pain, and I shared my story too.  I went up to the desk to be Mrs. Advocate and take up his cause with the nurse.  He and I talked for a few more minutes, and noticed how our conversation has made his whole body language change, he is not huffing and puffing or wincing.  Maybe somehow I had helped him forget about the pain, or the long wait.  I said a brief prayer for him and told him about Jesus.  He thanked me and said he he goes to church and knows the Lord.

Social, Racial, Historical, Financial, Spiritual…there is a lot of difference, and distance in the world we live in.  But we have to break through the ocean of difference, and speak to that pain.  We have to cross the street and break the distance.  We have to place the ususal People magazine aside.  Because Jesus came to heal all of our pain.  Not only did he cross the distance of heaven and earth to come to us, he walked down a road, and up a hill. He gave it all for the ones in pain, the ones who are broken, the ones who are waiting and hurting. 

Maybe my small conversation that day did not produce a Top News at 5 type of miracle report, “Man miraculously healed in waiting room in Downtown Montgomery.”  ~ No.  But what did happen was for a small moment during his day, his pain was lifted, his hope was stirred, his spirits just might have been lifted in that one moment.  And that one moment matters.

My worship today:
Hillsong:
Cry of the Broken

The Other Guys

A few months ago, I was at an event where several organizations were given a panel opportunity for an anticipating audience to promote their cause.

Adoption.

Although the stream of passion that flowed from the voices behind the panel were the same, their methods were as varied as the colors of their shirts, the style of their logo and the catchy tag line from each of their brochures.

Basically we were all there for the same reason, but the competition for first place, or “best in show” seemed to out weigh our reasoning for existence.

During the presentation “the other guys” set out to debate every one of our processes, also pitting themselves against all of the other teams.  “Well, we do it this way instead.”  And, “If you come see us, we will show you how we can help you the best.”

“Yellow is better than blue.  Because who wants to be blue anyway?”

Like that song, “Anything you can do – I can do better!…No you can’t – Yes I can!”

I just wanted to stand up and yell, “Look ‘Mr. Yellow,’ I know you have a different title on your methods, and the monogram logo on your perfect color polo shirt may stand out a wee-bit more in the crowd but we are all batting for the same team here. We are in this together to raise awareness for the #1 most important individual here….the “waiting child.”

It was a rude awaking for me as I witnessed the inner workings of the adoptive world. Unfortunately, the behind the scenes process of choosing how and “who” will help waiting families connect with waiting children is not exactly as smooth as the jazz melodies playing along behind the heart captivating images on the commercials.

Shocking.

In that revelation moment, I thought also about how the church world, the financial world, and probably every other world are as flawed as the community of representatives I witnessed on the panel  that night.

I feel like the corporate evangelist in me wants to rise up and take the hand of our competitors “the other guys” and ask them “what can we do to help you”  or “how can we do this better, together?”

The church evangelist in me has been wanting to do the same thing for years.  I’ve witnessed countless times where the “mission” seemed to get lost in our competitive methods.  I’ve been to many events where much like our panel event, we lost sight of our main purpose:  Jesus.

My frustration melted down a little the following day, when I received an email from a co-worker.  Someone from another organization, was donating a wonderful collection of itemes to us, the other guys.  It was a hugely unsual, yet noble act of kindness.  I responded to the exciting news with my thoughts,  ‘I wish more people in our world could become like this person, with mentalities of ‘what can I do to help you’ – instead of ‘look how better we are than you.”

My hope was also increasingly restored last month watching countless recovery efforts join hands during the tornado disaster in Alabama. How profit and non-profit came together in unison to help.  It was a beautiful site!

I believe there may be a major shifting in our culture moving away from the various reinventions of the wheel.  It seems as if the generations coming up are not about as much ‘look what I can do differently’, but rather, ‘look how we can help each other become better.’

And my prayer lately has been that this mentality would spread throughout our church, the Bride of Christ, that we would tear down walls of separation, competition and sheep counting and become one body, serving one cause.

How We Celebrate

This weekend we celebrated Keith’s birthday with the family.

Actually, we began celebrating his special day last Monday when he called me as I was out of town at a family funeral and he was wondering what was for dinner.  Of course, since nothing was simmering on the stove, he quickly let me know he was going out to eat to celebrate the beginning of his ‘birthday week.’  And I laughed, and asked him since when do we celebrate birthday weeks.  He said since you started celebrating the birthday “weekend” last year, I thought I would take my birthday week.

We decided our family tradition is that the older you get the longer you get to celebrate your birthday.  When you are young, it’s one big special day, with one big party.  But when you grow older you can start celebrating the whole week, and when you get even older you celebrate the whole month.  Then my 86 year ‘young’ grandma added her thoughts to the conversation, “when you are as old as I am, you get to celebrate every day of the year, because it’s a miracle your even alive!”  Oh, just love her!

Master of the Garden

Recently, I’ve been brainstorming ways to tell the world about my relationship with Jesus and share the good news of his Salvation.

When sharing my passion (i.e., long, drawn out, miracle, Jesus stories) I usually feel like a goofball who has absolutely zero theological backing to “prove” my faith.  It’s as if I am saying all the wrong things to the cashier behind the counter at Publix or to the gal giving me a new hair style. So, I withdraw the righteous-path-proposal, and do my best to make a new friend, or at least leave a joy-filled impression or word of encouragement in someone’s world.

I found myself totally frustrated by these “small efforts” that seem to be getting no where in the hearts of my new found friends and cashier clerks.  After wracking my brain and heart for scriptures I should have shared or specific words I should have said, I finally asked the One with all the answers to tell me

“OK, W.W.J.D.?

How in the world, do I actually “win” these souls into your kingdom?”

And that’s when he softly showed me, like a movie picture in my mind, a Master Gardner placing a tiny seed in the ground….who has to patiently wait through an entire season before he can Harvest.

I fearfully questioned, as if doomsday were accurately scheduled in my planner,

But Lord, we don’t have TIME to wait!!

Are you telling me my seeds are enough, and that now, I just have to wait?”

I pondered that Gardner standing in his field, with his tiny, morsel of a seed in his hand – a precious crop to someday become food on his table. His soul survival is now getting tossed in the ground, covered with dirt, and processed with time. Lots and Lots of time. This concept makes no sense to the urgency in my soul winning heart.  I want the Harvest now.  I want to make sure – very sure, that they are on the right path.

So I proved my lack of trust, and continued questioning the God of All Creation…

“Ok God, but…

What if the Gardner knows a storm is coming and doesn’t want to loose his crop?

How does he protect his seed?

How does he guarantee that his seed will someday be harvested and not blown away?

What if something happens to the Gardner, and he’s not there at the right time to prune, to cultive or to harvest?”

{Bottom line} – God,What if this person I love so much never accepts Christ, and goes to hell?”

He reminded me again that the Gardner never stops to worry about an impending storm. He sows today, he waters today, he prepares today for what he “believes” he will reap tomorrow. He never waits or worrys about the what if’s, he just plants, and sows and waters.

Because if he stops planting, he will surely stop reaping.

Yes, he has to weather the storm, wait out the rain and the winds and trust the seedlings strengh to survive. And also has to trust the Lord of the Harvest to care for what he cannot.

He also will have to wait until the exact moment, checking and testing, until the fruit is completely ripe before he begins picking.

I imagined a Gardner picking all of his fruit before it was ripe, ruining the harvest, and the same Gardner waiting so long and watching it all fall to the ground, only to have the birds carry it away. It’s a delicate process, one that takes time, patience and knowledge.

In 1 Cor 5, Paul talks about our work in the kingdom. We all have equal share in the work, as long as we each do our part to contribute to that greater work. And it doesn’t matter which part we work, we all share in the reward!

Winning souls is like gardening.
Some sow.
Some water.
…but God brings the increase.

He brings in the harvest!

I can trust Him with that.

Worship with Darlene Zschech

Last Tuesday night I had the awesome priveledge of attending a Hillsong Worship Workshop led by Darlene Zschech, at Church of the Highlands in Birmingham. surreal. Thanks to business teachers in High School who taught about the power of goal setting, I became an avid life list maker. One dream has included “someday going to Hillsong to study worship, and meet Darlene Zschech.” Needless to say, It was a gigantic heart fulfilling moment last Tuesday when I went to my seat, and watched this anointed worshiper lead us into the presence of the Lord. I tweeted, “I cant believe where I’m standing at this moment.” I literally could not believe it. simplistic. When “Darlene” and her team were introduced, they entered the stage and began to lead us in worship. She opened her black bible, and read a scripture. She looked up to the heavens and declared the Glory of God, she prayed a brief prayer, and spoke to the intention of the evening. She did not elaborate her message or the word, or her prayer. She just read, prayed and then begin to sing. very strange. I’m never lost. In fact, in every musical, vocal or theater venue I attend, I am the epitome of “un-lost.” I often have to force myself out of the Paula Abdul chair, over correcting the harmonies, and notating musical flaws. Yes, I’m that one. I find it very difficult to sit in an audience and simply worship – without the distractions of my musical and vocal perfectionism taking over. I find it difficult to press in and just find Jesus and focus on Him. As the sound amplifying from the lead singers mic has entirely too much “high” in the mix, or a guitar amp that has a mosquito buzz so killer it sounds like something straight out of an African safari. I just want to run up on stage or behind the sound booth and fix everything. When the singers sing about the Joy of the Lord, and look like death warmed over, I analyze and over correct. It’s a nasty nemesis, this flesh I fight. But I know I’m not alone. And fighting through the distractions makes those moments of finding him through the crowd that much sweeter when he gently reminds me that the mosquito buzz I hear is His Joyful noise, and it pleases his heart…so I find the place in my heart for it to please me too. And then I cry. But I have to say, that Tuesday night was very strange. When the worship experience ended, I felt full, complete and content – like I had actually been taken into an unusually real, manifested presence of the Lord. I wasn’t standing there disappointed that the music was ending, with my score sheet in hand, or standing there with my legs killing me from standing up so long, now so happy to be able to sit down. No, I felt like I had just eaten this delicious meal, and I was perfectly content. I knew I wanted to come back sometime soon, but for tonight, I was full. It was strange to sit down, and think, I’ve never felt this before. I’ve never heard this type of unity in any band or singers before. The band ebbed and flowed together like perfect waves crashing on the shore. I never even realized there was a keyboard player (no offense, keyboard dude), until I heard the band intrinsically and melodically step back and lift him up on their shoulders, as he did for them moments later. I opened my eyes, surprised to see, “Oh wow. there’s a keyboard player up there.” Yes. I was that lost. …and sovereign. During the opening of worship, after a few moments, minutes, maybe seconds, I can’t recall, something happened. I went from star-struck, “I can’t believe I’m here” to totally enveloped by the presence of God, “I would not want to be be anywhere else right now.” In fact, about two songs later, I realized that I had completely forgotten that “Darlene Zschech” was actually in the room, that Hillsong musicians and singers from Australia were actually leading us in that moment. I felt connected and engaged in an atmosphere of the most authentic, raw, humble and pure praise and worship experience I have ever encountered. It was like I was translated back to my little secret place, singing out to God in my bedroom or in my kitchen. I was lost. Wrecked, like never before. How does someone genuinely take every single ounce of recognition, fame, glory and even honor and transfer it all completely over to the Glory and Honor of Jesus? Nothing remained of “Darlene” or “Hillsong” in that state of worship. Nothing but Jesus. Four familiar songs – I can’t even list by name – 15 maybe 20 minutes of worship, no more no less. When the last note of the last song was played, it was perfect bliss. I was left ready for the word. Darlene lead a worship workshop with her singers and musicians. The notes I took do not compare to the vast wisdom and exponential knowledge that I received from her session. I could speak and write volumes regarding only one of the points she mentioned. They were all so meaty and heavy. She shared about the Presence of the Lord. “The Presence of God fuels our worship.” As worship leaders prayer and the word are vital. Prayer and Worship together are what gets God’s attention. If the reading of the word is absent in our life, we are in a dangerous place. “You have to feed on the word!” She also quoted scripture after scripture, regarding the Presence. It’s indwelling. it’s manifested. It’s everything. I left challenged to memorize and study the scriptures more. The greatest note on worship that I took away from the night was from her BGV, “Dee” who responded to a question on humility. “How to you stay so humble in the face of such great success and fame.” – Dee said, “You have to be really great, no you have to be #1 at being #2.” Because no matter what part you play in the team, the choir, the vocals, the musicians, the leader, you are all #2, and HE, Jesus is #1. — Humility in worship, is now officially the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.

The Power Based Life by Mike Flynt

The Power Based Life

by Mike Flynt

Thomas Nelson Publisher

–This book came into my life at a very poignant time. Approaching the beginning of a new year, I began praying and seeking for a life coach. I was looking for someone that would show me objectively (not relationally or emotionally) how to go to the next step with my goals, to begin to live out the dreams in my heart. I did not want one more year to go by with me remaining the same. God heard my prayers, and gave me my very own life coach in the form of “Coach Mike Flynt.” Reading his book, I really felt as if I were stepping into his training room, and he was my very own personal coach. His writing makes you feel like he’s not addressing an audience, but rather interested in helping you as an individual become your best. Reading Coach Flynt’s stories, in the beginning of the book, of the successful people who have all won and lost, right away gave me a belief that I too, could do all that he is teaching me.

Subtitled: “Realize your Life’s Goals and Dreams by Strengthening your Body, Mind, and Spirit,” is exactly what the book did for me as a whole. Coach Flynt shares his own personal stories of tragedy and triumph. He became the only 59 year college football player in NCAA history. Talk about overcoming obstacles and “realizing your life’s goals and dreams!

The practical applications of living out a “power based life” are truly achievable and have already made a difference in my life.

With this book, you will want to keep a highlighter and a stack of notecards handy. It is full of power-packed quotes that will change your life.

One specifically that is now on my refrigerator is this one from page 9, in a story about a baseball pitcher:

“Refuse to throw good effort after low potential.”

My husband is reading through it now, too, and he keeps saying ‘wow, this is good stuff.’

I would highly recommend this book to anyone out there looking for a personal coach for life goals, weight loss, health benefits, or even spiritual growth. This book really works to strengthen to all areas of life – mind, body and soul.

I review for BookSneeze®DisclosureBookSneeze provided me with a complementary copy of this book, in return for my review.  The opinion expressed here is entirely my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Would they pick me?

Part of my new job includes keeping up with a notebook of children who are waiting to be adopted by forever families.

At the end of a busy day I began to make my updates, adding the new children’s pages to there new place in my notebook.  These pages are a reflection of their smiling faces and a short bio of their personalities, their likes, their dreams and hopes.  These pages are children.  Not just a social group that we mention in our circles.  Not just a number, lump summed together. Beautiful children, with beautiful names.

The three-ring binder is large and has a powerful presence in my office.  It is the center of everything we do in our organization.

They are the center.

As I flipped through these pages late yesterday evening, I begin to look at their smiles, their names, the clip art images chosen to reflect their personality.  What were they thinking about while standing by the river or leaning against that tree?  Are they thinking about their future family?

These smiling children captured my heart and made me smile back at them as I alphabetized them in my notebook.  Some of their smiles are choking back the pain that is spilling out through their eyes.  Some of the faces are full of joy and steadfast hope, even in the face of their immense obstacles, their eyes are bright.

And then I begin to place myself in the seat of the Adoptive Parent.  The one who will someday sit down and look through my notebook.  They will come and look at these pages, with these smiling faces and sweet stories.  What will they be thinking? What will be going through their mind when they look through this collection of those who are Waiting?

I wondered what my page would look like if I had not been born into my incredible family.  What if I had grown up like them? Waiting. Wondering.  It’s almost unimaginable – the thought of life, especially childhood, without my wonderful parents.

I wondered what the “Waiting Parents” would think when they read my page, or saw my smiling face sitting by a tree.  Would they deem me “the one?” Would my childhood interests and hopes be a match for their home.  Would they have picked me? Out of all the others?

Thankfully, that’s not how the process actually works today. Our social workers are “gifted hand holders” and “matching experts.”  The families are matched with the children, almost poetically…from what I have seen so far.   When we have “finalizations” – and the “We have a match!” email is sent out – it’s a real cause for celebration in the office.

And it all starts with a smiling face, and a story on a page in that waiting child notebook sitting on my desk.

…a few interesting FACTS.

Bicycle Balance

Using your God given gift is like learning how to ride a bike.

You get one for Christmas as a young child. You have rarely seen it used before, but you know it is now yours to enjoy!  And after all, there are not too many kids in your neighborhood have bikes like this just yet.

You can’t just leave it in the Box…You have to open it.

You might even have to read the instructions and put it together peice by piece.  But maybe your dad has done all this for you, and your new bike is ready to ride!

You cant then store it away in the garage and expect to supernaturally learn how to ride it!  You have to go out there every day and try…and then keep trying to learn how to use it effectively.

You may not have an earthly father or spiritual mentor to take you by the hand and support you 100% of the time, until you learn.  No. You might just have to teach yourself, seek it out for yourself.  But there’s one thing you absolutely should not do – give up. Never, ever Give up.

You may look and say, “Oh, it’s just hands on the bars, and feet on the petals, that’s it.” But when you try to do what you have watched others do so effortlessly, all you do is hit the ground.  Somthing is not working, until someone shares with you the missing piece, their precious wisdom and advice:  “you have to learn to balance first.”

Step out there. Climb onto your bike.  Get really comfortable resting on it and practice your balance. Because the pedaling, and the steering are the easy parts.  It’s the balance that will make or break your success.

And, sure, now you can jump on and go.  But you won’t do very well unless you set your sights, your vision, on a clear destination.

————–

Lately, I’ve felt like that little girl on a bike, trying to peddle, trying to steer, and all I do is topple over.  The quitters-voice inside me says, forget it, give up, go back inside and play with the easy toys.

Romans 12:6-8 says “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”

I love how this passage follows each gift with a mandate, “then do it, and do it well!”

There are many spiritual gifts that the Lord gives his children.  It is valuable to know what your gift is, and then learn how to use it effectively.  And you may say, “but I don’t have a gift!”  I assure you that you do!!  If Jesus is your savior, then there are gifts inside your spirit, ready to be used for His Glory!   My wise hubby and I often take a “Spiritual Gifts Test” – every few years or so, to re-define our spiritual gifts.  We use this one at churchgrowth.org.

All of the members of our Sunday School class also took this test with us last fall and we discussed it as a group.  One thing we found in most couples was that the husband and wife had unique gifts that complimented each other. Where the husband would score very high in say Evangelism, the wife would score extremely low.  And when the wife would score high in one spiritual area, the husband would score low.  It was empowering for our couples to see how God has uniquely matched us with our soul mates.

Maybe you’re like me and you know what your gift is, but when you exercise that gift and begin to use it – you often feel as if maybe this gift is not really something you know how to use just yet.  I challenge you to join me in putting your feet on the pedals, gripping your hands on the bars, and balancing your spirit through prayer, to learn how to use your gift well, with great success to Glorify God and journey out into a new destination.