I had the best surprise last night – one of the young women who used to be in my youth group (7 years ago) stopped by unannounced with her two-year-old daughter that I’d never met. I hadn’t seen this girl in six years, and really hadn’t even heard much about her. It was such a blessing to hear where all she’d been, what she’d been doing, which had included being a chef at the Greenbrier Sporting Club until she was involved in last summer’s flood and has now created a nonprofit group that she is the administrator of and is in charge of organizing sometimes 800 volunteers at a time, managing the fundraising, writing the grants, you name it. She was beautiful and animated, and we reminisced about old times and talked of the flood and all the devastation. I am so proud of her – what an incredible person she has turned out to be!
And that reminds me, once again, what a beautiful gift friendship is. I always say spending the day with a friend is like free therapy – once you’ve laughed and sometimes cried and shared your sorrows and your joys, you ALWAYS feel better! Tom and I have been at the beach for a little over a week renovating a condo we bought, and it was truly a torturous affair. We had about six days to get rid of tons of furniture, get new (used) furniture in, paint and stain the new stuff so it looks better, paint the walls, clean, organize, make custom valances, put stuff on the walls, you name it. We had 12-hour days and fell over at the end of all of them, but all the togetherness was really good. We laughed and laughed over stupid things, like Tom driving around Myrtle Beach making two trips to Sam’s Club for mattress and boxsprings sets and having them on the top of the little box trailer we took because they were too big to fit inside. Tal sends him this pic (below) that cracked us up and we sure were glad no one knew us, the WV Beverly Hillbillies.
One day, the wind was incredible – I mean, the force of it could knock you over. We were taking a load of things from the condo to Goodwill, and one of the things was this huge 5’ by 5’ painting of seagulls or some beachy bird that was over the couch – you know, those old paintings that they used to sell that are just huge. I’m carrying this thing out, and as I reach the main door, the wind catches it and it literally almost lifted me off my feet. I’m trying to turn it so it’s not sideways, and when I put it up over my head, it becomes like a hang gliding thing and is running me down the parking lot. I’m laughing so hard I about peed my pants, and I’m saying, “I sure wish we had a video of this!” Tom’s got his hands full as well, but he wasn’t carrying a huge kite like I was…..we laughed and laughed over that, but it was truly a miracle the thing didn’t just break in two or take me off the ground. It was a sight to see, and after it was over, we talked about how powerful the wind is, and totally unseen. If someone had watched that out the window, they would have thought I was crazy, dancing and prancing around with that picture pulling me every which way. Amazing how just a little laughter can turn a yucky day into a fun one.
As I was thinking this morning about the treat of a visit last night and thinking about it being Easter weekend, Peter’s betrayal came instantly to mind as one of the greatest disappointments in the whole resurrection story. Can you imagine being with Jesus 24/7, seeing all the miracles he performs, knowing that His father is the God of the wind and the sea, and this man having walked on water! And yet, even after being warned that he would do so, he betrays his friend, his Savior. Wow. If you’ve ever been betrayed by a friend, you know that sometimes that hurt is more powerful than being betrayed by your spouse. It’s a hurt that lives with you for a long, long time, and is a divorce of sorts. And yet Jesus showed us that hurt, and how He handled it. I found this article that was just great on why Peter could have done this.
Question: "What was the reason behind Peter's denial of Jesus?"
Answer: The story of Peter’s threefold denial of Christ is found in all four Gospel accounts: Matthew 26:69–74, Mark 14:66–72, Luke 22:55–62, and John 18:15–18, 25–27. But why would the chief of the disciples deny even knowing Him? There were two main reasons why Peter denied Jesus: weakness and fear.
Peter’s denial was based partially on weakness, the weakness born of human frailty. After the Last Supper, Jesus took His disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane to await His arrest. He told them to stay awake and pray while He went off to pray alone. When He returned to them, He found them sleeping. He warned Peter to stay awake and pray because, although his spirit might be willing, his flesh was weak. But he fell asleep again, and, by the time the soldiers had come to arrest Jesus, it was too late to pray for the strength to endure the ordeal to come. No doubt his failure to appropriate the only means to shore up his own weakness—prayer—occurred to him as he was weeping bitterly after his denials. But Peter learned his lesson about being watchful, and he exhorts us in 1 Peter 5:8, “Be on the alert, because your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” Peter’s weakness had caused him to be “devoured” momentarily as he denied his Lord because he hadn’t been prepared through prayer and he underestimated his own weakness.
A second reason for Peter’s failure was fear. To his credit, although all the others had fled (Mark 14:50), Peter still followed Jesus after His arrest, but he kept his distance so as not to be identified with Him (Mark 14:54). There’s no question that fear gripped him. From the courtyard, he watched Jesus being falsely accused, beaten, and insulted (Mark 14:57–66). Peter was afraid Jesus would die, and he was fearful for his own life as well. The world hated Jesus, and Peter found that he was not prepared to face the ridicule and persecution that Jesus was suffering. Earlier, Jesus had warned His disciples as well as us today, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first” (John 16:18; cf. Matthew 24:9). Peter quickly found he wasn’t nearly as bold and courageous as he had proclaimed, and in fear he denied the One who had loved him.
We might well wonder why Jesus allowed Peter to fail so miserably and deny his Lord three times that night. Jesus revealed to Peter that Satan had asked for permission to sift Peter like wheat (Luke 22:31). Jesus could have easily protected Peter and not allowed Satan to sift him, but Jesus had a higher goal. He was equipping Peter to strengthen his brothers (Luke 22:32). Not only did Peter strengthen the other disciples, but he became the pillar of the early church in Jerusalem, exhorting and training others to follow the Lord Jesus (Acts 2). And he continues to this day to strengthen us through his epistles, 1 and 2 Peter. As with all our failures, God used Peter’s many failures, including his three denials of Christ, to turn him from Simon, a common man with a common name, into Peter, the Rock.
Even after reading this article, I still think “Wow.” To live in those days, though, of turmoil and killing and uproar, we have no idea what we would do.
1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus.
This retirement thing has been going very well – I’m liking this! Tom has gotten a lot of honey-do projects done, and we’ve gotten our garage looking less like a Hoarders show and more like a garage. This is working! I have to admit, I was “cautiously apprehensive.” Our entire marriage, Tom and I have spent a lot of time away from each other. We’ve worked fairly serious hours, had five kids going all directions, done a lot of church things, family things, and enjoyed each other when we could. I wasn’t sure how we’d navigate this new road we’re on.
I have been teaching this series on “The Peacemaker – a Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict.” We had done this book once several years ago, and I remember it being very good, and the class was filled with people sharing their stories and other Christians piping in with how they might handle their exact situation. See, people aren’t all the same in how they handle conflict. My husband and I are total opposites when dealing with conflict. I am the “Let’s sit down and talk about it,” and he’s the “No, some things are better left unsaid – let’s ignore it.” Then that gets me all fired up with the “And that’s why we’re here – because no one would talk about it!” The book uses lots of examples of inheritance type fights and how families who had always gotten along now can’t reconcile with each other because of hurts or hidden agendas or the things that can come out when financial issues get involved.
Isn’t it funny that when you are teaching about something, that’s when it hits you where you live? The last two months have been fraught with conflict in my life – and I’m talking the kind of thing that keeps you up not one night or two nights but entire weeks at a time. I feel like I haven’t slept since December. You know the deal – you lie awake analyzing and arguing your side of the situation, praying in between your mind rationalizing your side of it. This study has helped me so much – it truly has. The whole theme of the book is to arrive at ways to deal with conflict that glorifies God. And you think, WHAT? How can God be glorified in conflict? The only way God is glorified is when His people act in ways that He has taught them. And YES, you can act in those ways during conflict.
There is a little graph in the book called “The Slippery Slope of Conflict” which gives several unworkable ways to deal with conflict: Escape responses of denial, flight or suicide; Attack responses of assault, litigation or murder. The peacemaking responses are: Overlook, reconciliation, negotiation, mediation, arbitration and accountability. I was able to meet with a family this week and try to reconcile them one to another. I have to tell you, it went exceptionally well, and I think all of us left this hours-long meeting with hope. At least I did. There was no yelling and screaming, but there was a lot of truth spoken of things that had been done that were going to take a lot of apologizing and amends-making and time of healing before these wounds are truly healed. But without that truth being spoken, I’m not sure that there would have been hope for healing, because the one party wouldn’t have specifically known what they’d done or what was expected to be done to make things right. We made lists of “Amends to make,” lists of expectations, lists of things to watch out for, and those lists became the plan of action. To me, when you have a plan of positive action, you have hope for the future, not just that depressed “don’t know where to turn and don’t think this will ever be better” weight on your head.
I know you’re wondering why I’m going down this road, but as I see drama unfold on Facebook and in the world and hear constantly about feelings being hurt and people being defriended and attacks against each other, I have to think “Where is God in this?” If we are a Christian (I mean a true worshiper of Jesus Christ who has received salvation and is headed to heaven), isn’t our job to love others, to bring others to a relationship with Christ? It is not our job to divide and conquer. It is not our job to point out others’ faults. It is not our job to embark on political rants that do nothing but divide. It is not our job to gossip about who did what. It is our job to try to show the world that our lives may have conflict, and we may have trouble just like everyone else does, but we can deal with it in ways that honor God and do not destroy people.
When teaching this class to my young people (ages 18 to 25), we began to talk about these escape responses, and I was not surprised to learn that several in my class had thought of suicide, even attempted it. When the trouble of this world seems to surround you, we MUST be the church – we MUST be the arms of Christ – we MUST be the love that gets around the “I’m right and you’re wrong” attitudes we see so often. I pray that God brings a spirit of healing on our nation, as I believe it’s going to take something supernatural to conquer these divisions across our America. I believe I may have found a calling here as well, to try to be a mediator for people who have division in their homes or their churches or their extended families. So if you would like a free negotiator, sign me up – I’d be glad to try to help! Let’s pray that God heals our land….
My weeks are full of stuff. I mean random stuff. I’m sure yours are also. Sometimes when my husband asks me how my day was, I don’t even remember where I was or what I did. My building in Charleston has an alley that runs beside it with all these dumpsters in it. Many a nefarious act has occurred in, near or hidden by these dumpsters. We’ve had people literally defecate right outside our side door, hidden by a dumpster but not hidden when you step out the door! It’s kind of scary at night, and almost as scary during the day.
We have shared a dumpster with a law firm as we didn’t have that much trash. It ended up getting to the point that one or the other of us would have more than the usual, and the sharing thing was becoming not worth the hassle, so we ordered our own dumpster a month or so ago. Everything went along fine for the first couple of weeks, and then our dumpster is all the sudden overflowing with stuff. Bags were everywhere. That continued, so we called and had a lock put on our dumpster (for a monthy $10.00 fee – can you believe that??) Anyway, after the lock is put on, the problem gets worse. Someone cuts our lock off and piles trash in, over and around the dumpster. We get another lock, it gets cut off as well. Waste Management is telling us we’re going to have to pay extra for all these additional bags and mess.
I’m at the office this week and my office manager is telling me all about this, and I’m saying, “Who in the world would be doing this? I mean, what brought this on all the sudden?” She says she doesn’t know, but she’s now called Waste Management and they’re bringing a lock bar for the dumpster that can’t be cut off. We talk about it some more, and I begin to ponder. I say, “Could this be someone in an apartment around here that’s seen a new dumpster put in?” Then that seems a little weird. Then it hits me. I said, “You know, someone is really working hard to put their trash in this dumpster! It’s almost like they think it’s theirs. Is there a new business on Capitol Street that could think that this is their dumpster?” The girls instantly say, “There is a new bakery over there. Maybe it’s them.” I said, “Well, pop over there and ask them.” They’re like, “Well, you can’t just walk in and ask them if they’re abusing our dumpster!”
I’m thinking, “Well, you sure can!” But we were all busy, so I put it on my list to sort out. Tom and I are driving to Virginia to visit the grandchildren, and I just pop on Facebook and get the number of the bakery. Call them up and launch into my story about “Not sure if you guys got a new dumpster too and ours are mixed up or what.” The lady who answered the phone was nice as can be. She says, “Well, SOMEONE put a lock on our dumpster! We’ve had to cut it off twice!” I start to laugh, and I say, “Well, that someone is Waste Management.” She says they called Waste Management up to come and deal with the fact that someone has put a lock on their dumpster, and Waste Management says they didn’t do it.
Long, long story short, after a very nice conversation with my bakery neighbor and an extremely long phone ordeal with Waste Management, we should be on the road to having a dumpster that isn’t a nightmare. I told the lady on the phone I felt like I was in a reality show called “Dumpster Wars!” We had a good laugh and got the problem solved.
And I wonder: Do any of you have situations in your lives that you’re fretting over, drawing lines in the sand (or putting locks on the situation) and all the while, it could just be a misunderstanding? Are you piling and piling things around the situation, building the case, carrying on about what is unfair and not right and shoving more things at the problem rather than getting to the root of the issue? I have found in my life that almost EVERY time I get all torn up about something, thinking it went down a certain way, getting all bent out of shape, a simple conversation can set things right. I’d encourage you today, back up, take a fresh look at that thing that’s bothering you, start thinking outside the box a bit, and you just may be able to work it out! Jesus tells us that we are to work things out with our brothers, not to get in our corner and hunker down with our righteous indignation. Let’s try it His way and see how much better it goes!
One of the biggest blessings in this life is friendship. Time with a good friend is like free therapy – it lifts your spirits quicker than chocolate! One of my mom’s best friends, Sue Groves, went to heaven this week. Sue had suffered a terrible stroke over five years ago and had been in a nursing home, bedridden, for the last five years. Her husband Dave visited her every day – all day – for FIVE YEARS. This is the picture of love in action, of commitment in “for better, for worse, in sickness and in health.” Sue’s body had quit on her, but she had the most active brain, right until the end. She read the local newspaper cover to cover, and probably other newspapers as well. If you forgot something, she could remind you of it – it was amazing! My mom would spend as much time at the nursing home with her as she could, and they could just talk and visit all day. A friendship that began in 1958 and continued until 2016. What a blessing!
When I was growing up, my parents were good friends with three other couples – the men all worked at the plant, and the women spent a lot of time together with all the kids. We went on vacations together, helped each other do chores, went to the same church, lived within a mile of each other. It was an idyllic childhood, really, not fraught with the dangers children live with now. When at the funeral home this week, all of us now 50-some-year-old children got to reminisce and catch up with each other. We ALL remembered being at the beach together on the roller coaster when one of the women’s closely-guarded secret of a wig flew off and was about to fly into the ocean when one of the men jumped up out of his seat and caught it in the air. I’m sure we had many other adventures together, but the “wig catch” stood the test of time. It was so good to see these childhood friends, and I was ashamed I’d let years go by without reaching out to reconnect with them.
As I have been teaching about the ten commandments, my young adults and I had a long discussion about coveting. It was funny – the boys seemed to have more of a problem with the “I want what he has” than the girls – because one of them has a “sweet” truck that everyone would want…
When I think about coveting, it’s not things that come to my mind. I have never had a real attachment to anything physical – my first home was a trailer, and I could go back to that in an instant if I needed to. Really makes no difference to me where I live. But one thing I have had trouble with over the years is coveting other people’s relationships – you know, that best friendship that has been alive since childhood, that marriage that appears absolutely perfect, the family dynamic that seems to have nothing but joy and peace and no upsets like some families have.
Last weekend, a friend and I went to a court reporter seminar in Martinsburg. We had been business partners for years and remained friends, and she sold me her court reporting firm and now works for me. We see each other and visit when we can, but our trip to Martinsburg was SO MUCH fun! We talked nonstop for the 11 hours in the car up and back, laughed and shared stories, enjoyed each other’s company so much. I thought to myself that it is MY fault that I don’t have more time for friends, don’t make the effort to reach out to those old friends that I know I could pick up just like we’d never left off. I get so busy that I just don’t make time for that so, so important component of our lives. Shame on me!
My sister Kim who lost her husband last year is constantly telling me and others, “Go home and hug your husband! Even though it may not feel perfect, you aren’t alone.” I’d encourage you today to reach out and rekindle that friendship you’ve let lapse, hug that husband you’ve been giving the silent treatment. Put down the petty arguments over politics or faith, and realize that even though we’re not just like each other, God has given us each other to love, and it’s not that hard. And for me, I’m going to be taking out more time to spend with friends…..they won’t always be here…..
There has been an abnormal amount of physical activity going on in our bed lately…and no, it’s not what you’re thinking. Over the past year, multiple times we’ve had Laney in our bed. Not intentionally, of course (although there is nothing like snuggling up with a grandchild – precious!) Laney usually wheedles and begs to “sweep in Nina’s bed” until I give in and let her go to sleep there, with the agreement being that she’s getting put in her bed when Peepaw comes to bed. Then Peepaw will just leave her there rather than bother her.
She’ll even run into his office and say, “Peepaw, we’ve got a deal. I’m going to sweep in your bed until you come and then you put me in my bed and I won’t cry. Deal?” Last week, she was sleeping in her new sleeping bag at the foot of our bed, and I feel this feeling on my arm in the middle of the night like a spider, and I swipe it away right before this little voice at my ear says, “Nina, can you help me figure out how to get back in my sweeping bag?” I just throw her in with me, where she proceeds to woller until she gets herself laying sideways in the bed, feet pressing at my waist. Not a lot of sleep going on here….
We got a new comforter in the spring, and I love it. It’s big and fluffy and cozy. But it is so heavy that it wants to drag itself off the bed. It was also too hot in the summer, so we’d have to fold it up at the foot of the bed and just use the sheet and blanket. Then if the fan was running, sometimes you’d need it. With it being at the foot of the bed and so heavy, it was an ordeal to get it up in the right position. And then, of course, Tom didn’t want it because he was hot when I was cold, so he’d take his share and throw it over on top of me, which then made me burn up. I would start out the night with it and eventually it would start sliding down and I’d just let it go. Or Tom would take his part and try to fold it over so it wasn’t on me but wasn’t on him either. Which made it want to slide down the bed even more. Time after time, I’m trying to hold on to this comforter that feels like it’s got a sand bag in the bottom of it dragging it down.
Now that it’s cooler, I’m thinking I can stop this ordeal we’re going through with the comforter. We can just start off with it, hang on to it all night, and it will stay put. Not so. Now as it slides, I’m cold and need it, so I’m fighting with it to keep it up at my neck. I even had a dream last week that I invented this device that holds a comforter in place. It wasn’t real elaborate – basically consisted of a piece of elastic that went around your neck and had two clasp things at the front that you would attach to the comforter so it would stay where it was supposed to. I’m telling someone about this and they are looking at me like I’ve lost my mind. I mean, who dreams about a comforter? Really? And then I think about what if I have this contraption on my neck and Tom tries to get rid of his half? I’m going to have to make sure my elastic is flexible so I don’t get choked…..
One of my attorney friends tells his hilarious story about when his wife was going through menopause and burning up, had like two box fans blowing on her, with the air conditioner cranked way up, while he is freezing. He says you had to see it – she is lying on one side practically naked, sweating while these fans blow, and he is huddled under five blankets shaking and frozen to death. I can just picture it.
And where am I going with this? As I keep fooling with this comforter, my husband says we’re getting rid of it, and I say, “No, no, it’s beautiful! And it will settle down – it just needs worn in a little bit, just needs to get itself adjusted.” It reminds me of our relationship with the Lord. You know, when you go to get in bed at night, it just feels wonderful to sink into that bed, cuddle up with a blanket – it’s warm and safe. Just like when we go to Jesus – it’s comforting, it’s safe, it’s a wonderful place to rest. But sometimes we let that relationship slip away – almost as if it got distant while we slept. And then we don’t give it the proper attention, and before you know it, we’re throwing our part off to the side, or we’re kicking it off or we’re getting rid of it entirely. Do you ever wonder if the devil is that sand bag in your relationship with the Lord, just slowly, slowly tugging until you’re closer to the floor than the bed? We have to be vigilant and protect those things that are precious – don’t let them slip away! If only I could invent a collar that would hold our relationship with God tight……
It’s been a big week at our house: Five years ago, Talia and Jimmy were married. On the same exact day two years later, Laney Lu arrived! Then one year ago, on Aunt Sally’s birthday, Milley arrived, just four days after her sister. Some of you will remember the story about Tal’s wedding, and even five years later, I cannot remember her wedding day without a hurt in my stomach. You see, I did a stupid thing that resulted in a snowball from hell that began rolling over this wedding celebration. We had everything planned, lists and lists, everything down to the last detail. But see, in the details are people. And sometimes people fail. They don’t always mean to, but sometimes they just do.
We left the house with ten bridesmaids, two bridal gowns (one for the reception), and when we arrived at our destination, no one (including me) even thought about my gown, the one we had all walked by hanging right by the back door. It wasn’t until time to put it on that the wide-eyed looks began to occur, the “Did you get it?” “Did you see it?” “Where did we put it?” began. By then, we were close to an hour out from the wedding, at a venue almost an hour from our home. Thank the Lord, one of the flower girls’ fathers hadn’t left Ripley yet, so he ran by our house to get it. Easy fix – thank you, God! All else was perfect – we had a sunny, warm dry October day, just what we had prayed for!
The dress arrives right as it was time to line up. I was ready. Hop in it, zip it up, turn to get into line, and I feel it begin to split down the middle of my back. This is a floor length gown. It is now locked together at the top of the zipper and the bottom of the zipper, and the back is gaped wide open for about 15 inches. The girls begin to try to sew me up with orange thread (on a brown dress – but at that point, who really cares??). The sewing is taking too long, and I know my daughter who has dreamed of this wedding day her whole life and has been the most unBridezilla bride I had ever seen, patient and easy to deal with in the whole planning, was about to lose it. I said, “Come on, just forget it – I’ll go down the aisle like this!” One of the girls grabs a chair tie that was gold, wraps it around my gaping hole, ties a bow, and we have redesigned my gown, “repurposed” it, you might say. Down the aisle I go with the groom’s mother.
We reach the area for the candle lighting by the mothers, and the wind is blowing so hard, the tablecloth is practically standing on end and barely holding on to the table, upon which there are candlesticks AND NO CANDLES! The decorator forgot them….Thank goodness, Jimmy’s mother is a saint, so good-natured. She and I just laughed – the crowd laughs with us. And I’m thinking, “Okay, we’ve had our two bad things – we’re good to go.” That’s what you get for thinking. Talia comes around the corner in a horse-drawn carriage, the flower girls dance down the aisle whispering, “The bride is coming, the bride is coming,” the sun was shining, all was just gorgeous. She makes her way to James, and the ceremony begins.
The wind had been blowing quite fiercely, but once the ceremony began, you could really tell it had mischief under its wings. The sound system begins to screech and wail and crackle, and you cannot hear a word through the racket. Talia’s veil begins to pull and tug at its bearings and eventually is ripped from her head and flies out into the field. Talia and Jimmy had a song they were going to surprise all of us with, and they weren’t able to sing it. Eventually the preacher just yelled through the ceremony so everyone could hear. It was still beautiful, what you could hear. The DJ and sound man was highly overpaid, and he had not tested the wireless mics at all, because he flew in there last minute. He ended up totally ignoring the dance song list and all his other instructions at the reception, and Talia was incensed when she found out I paid him. We really did end up with no usable video of the ceremony because of the screeching, and I took some off of his bill, but there was no amount that was going to recover our beautifully-planned ceremony.
There were other things that went wrong, like at every wedding, but by then, we just had to laugh. I mean, it was like the devil had gotten into the mix and once that snowball of my dress began to roll, things just piled on until it was more than you could even imagine. We barely got Talia through the reception without a total meltdown of disappointment and horror that her dream day had gone so wrong. Thank God, five years later, the marriage is good and the wedding day is but a good story to tell in the vein of “You think your wedding day was bad??” We did find some crazy videos after her wedding where people had fainted or the rain had just poured or lightning struck, or all kinds of unimaginable things that made our problems seem like nothing.
I remember telling Tal later that I wondered what God was trying to teach us. Did we need to care less about what other people thought? Because isn’t a wedding really a “show” that you invite your friends and family to, a little play to participate in? Maybe we needed to learn the lesson that we should only care what God thinks and not whether other people approve of us or not. Talia has always been my “say it when she shouldn’t say it” child, like telling me she was NEVER going to be a preacher’s wife and have to wear a house dress her entire life! Or nor was she going to put her life in God’s hands because He might just call her to be a missionary, and she wasn’t doing that!
And the real kicker is that as she battled God for 23 years, doing it her way, it wasn’t until she truly laid it down before Him and said, “Take me, I’m yours – do what You will with me” that she met the love of her life and really knew what true happiness was. The morning after, as she is crying and talking about how humiliating her wedding was, she never once – NOT ONCE – blamed me for starting the disasters or for not planning better or doing more or any of those things. I then said to her that I wondered what God was wanting us to learn from this, and she says – just like Tal – “Mom, do you think JUST ONE TIME God could let me NOT learn a lesson from my life? Like perhaps on my wedding day???” I had to laugh. I guess you do get a free pass on your wedding day, or your birthday perhaps….
And why am I telling this story? Because this week being busy for our family celebrating things, it has also been busy in our country, with the last debate and all the ruckus surrounding and following it. And I think to myself: I STILL feel shame over how I messed up my daughter’s wedding day. I can’t think of her wedding without feeling bad. And yes, I didn’t do it on purpose, but it happened, and I did it, and I’m ashamed that I did it. Where, I ask you, is the SHAME in this country? We have two OLD adults running for the most important position in the entire world, and neither of them has any sense of shame – not a shred! And isn’t shame where we begin with repentance? Remember in the garden, Adam and Eve, once they sinned, realized they were naked, and the Bible says they were filled with shame. All through the Word of God, we read of how people were ashamed of their actions and they repented. THAT is what is missing in this country!
Parents, it is not being hard on your children to teach them that there are things you DO NOT DO. God has given you these children, and it is your DUTY to raise them to fear the Lord, to respect their elders and people in authority, not to run around like hellions spewing curse words and violent acts, thinking the world revolves around them. There are things in this world that are black and white, and there are things that are right and wrong. And when you do wrong, you need to be ashamed, and you need to seek forgiveness – not just from the person you wronged, but from God Almighty. THIS is how we receive peace and the joy that makes life worth living.
Thank God for forgiveness and the cleansing it brings – from people and from Him! LET’S BRING SHAME AND REPENTANCE BACK, AMERICA!
We recently had a missionary from China come and speak to us – what energy and zeal for the Lord he has! It made me ashamed that sometimes we have an apathy about our salvation – we don’t appreciate it like those who are constantly persecuted do. He is a teacher of ministers, and recently he taught in Korea to many pastors and their wives, all of them staying at a hotel. As he was showing us the slides, I’m thinking to myself, “Why in the world are they in Korea?” Well, duh. You can’t have a seminar related to how to be a better Christian pastor in China. Can you imagine having to go to another country just to be able to learn more about your faith, to have to go to that expense and trouble? These pastors get up at 4:30 a.m. and begin to pray and pray for hours before their seminar begins. We are so lazy, we barely say a little prayer as we’re lying in bed waiting to fully wake up, and we think we’ve done something that God is pleased with. Lord, help us.
This week in Jackson County has been a gutwrenching look at the face of evil. There is no other word for it. The Bible warns us of evil constantly, and we tend to think that it is something other people do, but not something we are capable of. One of the things this Chinese speaker said was that one of his teachers once said that the only thing you need to teach young pastors and Christians that if you follow the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount, the rest of the Bible is just extra. I sat there listening to that and thought to myself, “What??” Then I begin to wonder, “What exactly is in the Sermon of the Mount? Isn’t that the beatitudes?” Sad to admit, I couldn’t come up with what the rest of it was. But since then, I have been teaching my young adult class about jus these things, making sure we KNOW exactly what they say.
As we’ve gone over the Ten Commandments, I have been convicted that I probably violate at least two of them on a daily basis. Not intentionally, of course. Like the rest of America and the Israelites, I have allowed my life to slip into disobedience in those gray areas. I’m betting some of you are violating them also. As a reminder, the Ten Commandments are:
And the keeping the Sabbath Day holy hit me hard as well. I never stop. I use the excuse that it’s in my DNA, but the truth is, I do not FORCE myself to just stop, relax, sit for a while. A few years ago, Tom and I both were very convicted about working on Sunday, and we made a vow to just rest on Sunday, go visit people, relax and stop doing any work-work or housework like laundry, etc. We lasted about three weeks, then Tom had a crazy Monday with 40 cases to get ready for, and I had a transcript due, and back we were, working every Sunday again. I am working on this one again – the Lord is going to have to help me!
But isn’t it ridiculous that someone who has been a Christian her entire life cannot follow the Ten Commandments? Or won’t follow, more like it. Isn’t following. However you want to phrase it. I would ask you: As we all discuss this evil that has plagued us this week, let’s examine what God has to say about evil.
There are six things which the LORD hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, And hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that run rapidly to evil, A false witness who utters lies, And one who spreads strife among brothers.
I note that this verse has lying in there twice. Twice! Do you think that means He really, really hates it? When is the last time you lied? My teens used to tell me that they lied multiple times a day – no one really cares – everyone lies. The Lord HATES liars! Yet is it something that everyone has accepted? There are many scriptures about evil, and we could be here all day, but as I have lain awake in the night, sickened by the things that have occurred, dreaming of castrations and horrible violent things, the Lord has reminded me that there are a lot of things He hates, and we need to examine ourselves more than point fingers. When we actually live the life God has called us to, we can be that light on the hill the Sermon on the Mount speaks of.
Romans 2:21 tells us: Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Let this be our goal – to live as God calls US to live, and to let God be the judge of evil men. There is a day of reckoning for all of us. And when we can’t even keep the Ten Commandments, we need work on US!
My mother is truly the most incredible woman I have ever known. Tom always says, “If you look as good as your mother when you’re 75, you’ll be doing good!” I say, “I don’t look as good as her now – what in the world makes you think I’ll look like her at 75!” This woman not only looks good, but she is the most Godly woman and hardest worker I’ve ever known. She makes the Proverbs 31 woman look like a slacker….
We were on vacation this last week at the beach – kind of a random coming and going of our family, working around schedules. Tyler and Molli and the girls flew down the prior Wednesday, so I drove down the day before to haul all their stuff and my stuff and check out what repairs and things needed done. We were using both of our places, which are about a five-minute walk from each other. My sister Kim and her daughter and children came down on Friday, then Mom and Dad and Tom drove down on Saturday.
We had a great time, just very relaxed and casual – no big rushing around. Kim brought her kayaks, and we took them out on this little inlet one evening, and that was something different and neat. After the kids leave on Wednesday, Mom announces Thursday morning that it’s she and Kim’s last day of vacation and they have decided that our guest cottage needed cleaned from head to toe, and that’s what they wanted to do on their last day at the beach. No arguing with her, she was bound and determined. She couldn’t take the sitting around any longer and needed to do something. So she, Kim and I tear into the place. Mom cleans the kitchen cabinets, takes out all the dishes and silverware, makes sure it’s clean, inventories it, etc. Kim and I begin the cleaning of the blinds, the fans, the windows, scrubbing bathroom floors on our hands and knees, the typical “spring cleaning.” The place begins to look like a bomb went off in it…..
When you are working, though, with people you love, it does seem like a vacation (well, sort of!) We took a break and went to the pool, and back at it. Everyone but I was leaving the next day, so we still had stuff to pack and get out of the way. Kim begins to hook up the powerwasher and washes her kayaks and then Tom works on finishing powerwashing the concrete that had gotten yucky. Kim and her gang load their vehicle and move over to our oceanfront condo for the night so they didn’t mess up any of the freshly-done beds or baths. The next morning, everyone gets up early and I get them packed off. The condo also looks like a bomb went off in it, with the kids there all week and all of us hanging out, but I had the project going on at the other place, so I head out the door with them at 8:00 a.m. and begin trying to finish the disaster I had started there. When you begin to clean one thing, it uncovers another filthy thing, and the job just never ends. Then I cleaned a white wicker thing that looked more grey than white, so I decided it needed painted. That involves a trip to Walmart. You get the drift…the job that just keeps multiplying.
The big ordeal of the whole week had been that I had had to fire the cleaners. Now, get this – they KNEW I was coming, had been forewarned, and when I arrived, there was mildew in both bathrooms in the condo, hair in the trap, just a skimming of cleaning had been done (if that), as well as a gift card to Outback stolen. The guest cottage was even worse: Shower curtain with mildew all over it, food on the floor with ants….I could keep going, but I won’t. It was a topic of conversation all week, and just very upsetting. We had to interview new cleaners and get that going, plus go meet with the old cleaner to get our linens. Not really what you want to be doing on vacation, but it had to be done. As did this cleaning head-to-toe business.
We didn’t have many bookings for September, so I had advertised a half-off special for next week on Thursday night. Someone messaged me that they wanted to come Thursday through Sunday, which would have worked great. Then they messaged back and they already had gotten a hotel, so didn’t need it. No problem. So Thursday, I take a break from cleaning and run to Lowes. I get a message from these women that their hotel had fallen through and they wanted our condo. Great! But the message indicates they’re on their way! They meant THIS Thursday; I meant NEXT Thursday. And the condo was a nightmare – no beds changed, no cleaning done whatsoever as I had been concentrating on the guest cottage. I didn’t want to turn it down as we needed the rentals to keep all the lights on, so to speak, and it was a friend and someone I really like.
Well, Patty Vannest didn’t raise a slacker either! I went into panic mode, rushed back to the condo, called the new cleaners with an “emergency request” and frantically tried to pack up all my clothes. Now, remember, I still have Tyler and Molli’s stuff, two car seats, all their suitcases, a stroller, bags of purchases they’d made, plus my suitcases, all the food we didn’t eat, a carpet scrubber thing I’d taken down, and purchases I’d made for Tal’s new house. It was 96 degrees also, as I’m making all these trips up and down and getting all this packed. And the kicker is: I need to now move to the guest cottage which is partially cleaned, and all the bathrooms and bedrooms are spotless, and now I’ll have to mess one up to spend the night.
I know this is going on way too long (just like that cleaning job from hell that ended up resulting in a broken vacuum that I had to dismantle and repair the next morning before I could leave) but all this scrambling and feeling “not ready” made me think of the parable of the ten virgins from Matthew 25: 1-13. Five of the virgins were ready to meet the bridegroom, but five were not and were left out. Had I known which Thursday we were talking about, I would have been ready, but because I was not, a panic ensued and a rat race began. May we make sure we are truly ready for the coming of our Lord so we can look forward with anticipation and not panic!25 “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3 The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4 The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5 The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
6 “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
7 “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’
9 “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’
10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.
11 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’
12 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’
13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”
What do you wear to work? I have to admit, when I go into hospitals and see these nurses bee-bopping around in their tennis shoes, I am jealous. High heels are harder and harder the older I get. There are days that I need to do errands after work, and I will abandon them just because my feet hurt and I can’t take it anymore. That said, I believe if you are in a profession that requires a certain dress code, you should adhere to that lest you be taken less seriously or do not give due respect to the type of work you do. But you see this “dressing down” more and more.
Last week, I worked with a very nice attorney from out of town. She got to the deposition late, came in with hair still wet from a shower, had on a slouchy shirt and pants, and FLIP-FLOPS! I could not believe it. The male attorneys, for the most part, were still in a suit (all but one). This was a big case, and her client was very important. What in the world? We ended up in the restroom together, and she was very friendly. She says, “Was it one of your people who worked with us on Wednesday?” I say, “No, I’m not sure who that was – we just got hired for Thursday and Friday.” She pauses a minute and then says, “Well, she wasn’t nice.” I’m like, “Who? The court reporter?” She says, “Yeah – and I could hardly believe it. I mean, all court reporters are nice. We attorneys are paying their bill, after all!” Well, then I just had to know. I said, “Well, what happened?” She says she had forgotten to bring a pen, and she asked the reporter if she could borrow one. The reporter supposedly huffed, huffed again, snarled up her face and said, “Well, I guess.” She then makes a big ruckus looking in her briefcase and throws her a pen. The attorney was floored – and frankly, so was I! I was thrilled to be able to just instinctively know that that would never be one of my reporters – and that was a blessing.
The week prior, we had a huge focus group that involved an expert from New York City. This expert had been extremely difficult to deal with prior to her arrival, so we took great pains in cleaning the office from head to toe, going over logistics, having a staff responsibility practice (kind of like a fire drill, as it turned out!). The expert had mistakenly copied me on her e-mail to the client with her final fees, and they were almost as much as my husband makes in a year FOR THE ONE DAY! I was pretty burnt up over that, as our fees for gathering up 44 jurors, feeding 58 people two meals, providing the facility and all the recordings ended up having us lose money on the deal. But it was something we’d not done before, so we wanted to see how it went. And boy, it went.
The expert shows up the night before, seems nice enough, apologized for all her previous demands and e-mails, and I accepted her apology and was hoping for the best. I was shocked at how she dressed, though, I must admit. Very frumpy – flat shoes – casual clothes, no make-up, hair back in a ponytail. She did wear an air of bossiness, though, like a cloak. The next day did not go well. To make an incredibly long story short, we were incompetent, our jurors were possibly criminals or deaf or annoying and needed sent home without pay, our facility was unacceptable, our video feeds were atrocious – you name it, we got blasted with it. And yes, in front of everyone. She even accused one of the jurors of having a DUI in front of other people! One of the jurors asked for a one-minute break to call her employer (when they were only allowed a break to stand up and stretch after over two hours), and she was told she couldn’t – that she should just leave and go on home, without pay, after having been there for over five hours already. It was awful. It was so bad that by the end of the day, all you could do was laugh, as it was just so unending and predictable.
And I’m telling you all this why? Maybe to vent…. I’m still not over it. And oh, it even lasted after it was over when we sent her a bill for the FedEx charges she incurred – got back a long e-mail with more complaints about how unprofessional we were, blah, blah, blah, and she didn’t think she owed the bill. My billing department was included on the e-mail, who happens to be my pastor’s wife, and she sends me an e-mail as soon as she sees the list of complaints and says, “Before you send a response, PRAY!” Too late! I had already responded and didn’t pray…. I did, however, bite my tongue in two with all the things I wanted to say: “It would be worth paying YOU not to ever have to deal with you again” or “Oh, I’m sure in those thousands and thousands of dollars you got, you have no room for a $60.00 FedEx bill.” I didn’t say those things, but I did respond with “Fine, don’t pay it if it makes you feel better.” No response. I deleted the bill and hope I never ever hear of this woman again.
And to stop venting and get to the point: The girls in my office and I keep bringing up how unprofessionally she was dressed. Looked just like someone off the street, not even really business casual. And here she is running this big focus group for a multi-million dollar case. After one of them mentioned it again the other day, I said, “Listen, here’s the truth of the matter: If this woman had worn those clothes and come in here and been nice, we would have said she was so down to earth and kind, coming from NYC, how great it was to work with her. Because she was a witch instead, we are still harping on what she was wearing!”
And what does God tell us? Colossians 3:12 – “Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.”
1 Timothy 2:9 - “Likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire.”
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”1 Peter 3:1-6 - “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious.”Proverbs 31:30 – “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”
If we dress like God says, I doubt very seriously anyone will be telling nightmare stories about us …..just saying.
Some of you may remember my story about my fountain that leaked. I loved that fountain, believed in it, and just KNEW it could perform as expected, if only I put a little more work into it. Well, last summer, she bit the dust. More work, more patching, more products, and about two weeks after the final application, she leaked. I was done…just done. So we replaced the fountain with a pool. You might say I’m asking for even more trouble, and you could be right. It did remind me, though, of what one of my youth group teens said one time that was so profound. I asked them what God did if He had called us to do something and we didn’t do it. This teen instantly responded, “He’ll replace us. He won’t wait on it or beg us anymore – He will just get it done!” That truly hit me – so true – if God has a work to do, He will get it done, whether we want to obey His call or not. The work will go on! I thought of that analogy when I replaced my fountain with a pool – that what my poor fountain got replaced with was something grander, more beautiful and more productive. And if only my fountain been faithful, think of what she could have enjoyed.
That leads me to today. As a new pool owner, I really have no clue how to take care of this thing. Tom and I are so busy, we haven’t even figured out how to backwash it (whatever that is), but we have heard that is part of the process. We barely know how to vacuum and clean out the filter. We have had great fun in the pool this summer with the grandkids, and I have actually really enjoyed coming home and swimming before bed, stretching out those legs that have cramped up by sitting all the time. It’s been so refreshing in this hot summer we’ve had.
But the rain this week has turned our pool into a green mess of algae, though, and I’ve been having to learn how to fight that. First I tried chemicals, then cleaning, then more chemicals, then was told to stir up the algae often so it can get in the filter. You name it, we’ve been trying it. And the fact that it has rained almost every day hasn’t helped. As I was lying in bed thinking about needing to get up and get on the daily “what now” with this green pool, I began to think about how as Christians, we sometimes get rained on. Or as nonChristians, we get rained on. The Bible tells us it rains on the just and the unjust. And I wonder how you behave when you get rained on? Do you begin to grow a cloak of green, full of negative attitude, “woe is me” talk, or do you dance in the rain, shaking off the potential bad effects, enjoying this challenge to see what God can do with it?
As I have stirred my pool and vacuumed my pool and treated my pool, I’ve grown weary of it. I’m tired of this algae. Oh, yes, it’s better than it was the first day when the algae was big and in clumps – now we just have smaller particles, but still a green tinge. Is that how we let God clean us up? He can scrape off the big pieces, but we’re holding tight to the dust, just so we can clump it together into a big whine if we need to? And He stirs us and stirs us, trying to get us to allow Him to clean that up, and we hold tight to that slime. Speaking of slime, I’ve thought that today I might have to get inside to clean with the vacuum so I can press harder, and do a better job - and you’ve got to wonder if God thinks the same thing: “I’ve cleaned them on the outside time and time again, but if they’d let me inside, I could zap that mess and be done with it.”
Why, oh why, do we hold on to things we know are harming us? Why do we walk around with a tinge of green over everything we say and do – and yes, other people see it – but we just need to hold that negative thing and stir it up every once in a while just so people will feel sorry for us or we can get some attention. Christians, there is a work to be done out in this world – and if you are a slimy mess, no one will want a thing to do with you, or with that God you say you serve….
Get out that chemical treatment (the Word of God) and fill your insides with His words and His presence, and I guarantee you, you will begin to feel that sweet clearness that is transparent and beautiful to behold, that refreshing pool that is like an oasis in this crazy world we live in....
My name is Teresa Evans. I am a wife to Tom, a retired Circuit Judge, and I am a court reporter by trade, a mother by God's grace and a lover of Jesus Christ. I've grown up in a family blessed with many miracles, and have received multiple miracles myself.