Our pastor sent out a tremendous devotional this week entitled “What are you becoming?” It read, in part, like this: It is insightful to me that when Luke listed the twelve apostles, when he came to Judas Iscariot, he identified him as the apostle "who became a traitor" (Luke 6:16).
Let me start with a question, a sincere question that may be the most important question you can ask yourself: What are you becoming? Judas Iscariot was an apostle "who became a traitor." This was a man who had been used mightily by the Lord to "heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers [and] cast out demons" (Matt. 10:8). Judas knew the excitement, joy and power of personally walking with Jesus. He saw miracles, signs and wonders.
Yet Judas had a serious character flaw, a moral weakness. The Scripture reveals that, despite the fact that God was using him, Judas "was a thief" (John 12:6). He used to pilfer the money box. It is significant, my friend, that Jesus allowed a thief to carry the money box. Sometimes we think the Lord is going to challenge us on every issue, but there are times when His silence about our repeated sin is His rebuke. Judas knew what he was doing was wrong, but since Jesus didn't directly confront him, Judas minimized the severity of his iniquity. Perhaps he rationalized that if pilfering was truly bad, God would not still be using him to work miracles.
How a little leaven leavens the whole lump! A relatively minor sin that we do not attend to can lead to a major sin that destroys our lives. The Bible says that Judas "became a traitor." He started out in ministry loyal to Jesus, but then he began lying about the finances until his deceitful exterior completely hid a very corrupt and darkened heart. Judas was a thief who became a traitor, eventually taking his own life. His compromise with sin went from bad to worse and it destroyed him.
As I think about this, I wonder, “What am I becoming? A negative person? An angry person? A vengeful person?” Or am I becoming more positive, more giving, more loving? See, these things begin with a small step toward something – something that seems harmless at the moment. It reminds me of this great sermon one of our preachers preached about a snapping turtle he had found once. He put it into the trunk of his car to take home to show his boys, and before he got home, it had weaseled its way through his trunk, through the back seats, and latched on to the back of his heel as he was driving! He described it as an example of sin that we pick up, just thinking it’s kind of interesting, and before we know it, we’ve become attached to it and it is driving us rather than us driving it.
I will be honest – I do not like complainers, negative people that just suck the life out of you. And I struggle with how to deal with them – remove myself totally or try to counter their negativity with something positive. And you and I both know that the second choice is so much more exhausting than the first. Wonder if Jesus knew all along that Judas would be the one? Wouldn’t our Lord have the discernment to see inside a person, to the condition of their heart? Would He have prayed that the situation wouldn’t turn out as He suspected? Or He knew where He was headed, through prophecy, and just knew it was another piece of the puzzle? Did He remove himself from him emotionally, or did He dive into that relationship, while it lasted? Oh, if we could only see the dynamics of that group of disciples – were they cliquish? Did they talk about each other behind the other’s back? We know from some scripture that they did. And oh, how human they were but just supernaturally empowered to go on to change the world! I want that!
I would ask you this morning – take a good look at your life, at your private thoughts, at your wants and desires – WHAT ARE YOU BECOMING?
I am so sick of getting up every morning and hearing about more killing. It scares me when I think about how mean this world has become, just downright mean. It is now acceptable to say anything that flies through your mind, no matter how hurtful or awful it might be. People have become famous by tweeting random outrageous things, and then they are honored as someone to look up to. Our society has truly lost its way, and the “turnaround” I have been hoping for is yet to come.
But here in West Virginia, you see love and kindness in action every day. The floods have destroyed so many things, but they have also opened up a floodgate of compassion and true unselfish love for one another. My son Tyler has been really impacted by the plight of the homeless and those who have been hit so hard, and he has been taking his dump trailer to Clendenin and Clay to fill it up and help with the cleanup. I was privileged to get to go with him one day last week, and it was a blessing. We went to Clendenin first and had arrangements to work on a certain street, but there were enough people working there already, so they sent us down to Clay to an area that had been hard hit and had no volunteers there yet. It took us an hour or more just to get there, and when we got to the hollow we had been directed to, no one was home.
We went on down the street to a church that was cleaning out, and we helped there tearing up their floor, walls, insulation, almost gutting the entire sanctuary. We got word that the families down the street were coming home, so we began to gather up to go there. A white van comes down the street, and a man asks, “Are you guys hungry? Have you had lunch?” We hadn’t really had lunch, just bars and scraps of things that we had in our vehicles, so we eagerly accepted his offer of lunch. He pulls in, grabs a table from within the van, sets up a huge pot of brown beans, platters of cornbread, bags with cookies and brownies. We begin to talk, and he says he is from Spencer. I say, “Well, you may know my husband.” When I tell him Tom’s name, he says, “I’m Jeff Fetty.” I know Jeff Fetty, have been to his home, and I just hadn’t even looked at him!
He has his son Jacob with him and Megan Gainer, another sculptor from Spencer. They had spent the entire day prior cooking all this food and just felt compelled to go into the hills and hollows and see who needed to eat. He was embarrassed when I started telling everything about what a phenomenal artist he is and where all of his metal works are located. He hadn’t done this for publicity or for “credit.” He had done it out of the goodness of his heart, that “Here but for the grace of God go I.”
We end up down the street with this family who had not had their home touched in the week since the flood. When we walked in, the floors were hooved up horribly and the whole home was a disaster. Water had come clear up to the top of their ceilings. We began the tearout, and it took eight dump trailer loads to clean their home out. I’m talking furniture way better than mine (she had a $5,000 couch that she still owed $400 on). They had flat screen TVs in every room, closets stuffed to the gills with beautiful and nice things. It almost made you physically ill to see all the things that were going to have to be destroyed. The wife seemed just in shock – almost catatonic. We would bring things to her we thought were salvageable, and she would just shake her head and say, “No, pitch it.” She was a self-described “hoarder,” but here were all these strangers pilfering in her underwear drawers and in her private things, and she didn’t want to save one thing.
The Vannest in me watched all these salvageable clothes (with good hangers, I might say) getting thrown into a trailer with muddy, greasy items, and I just wanted to grab some things out, take them home, wash them and bring them back. They had nowhere to store anything they kept, they had no washer and dryer to clean them in, no dishwasher to try to sanitize things…..
There was a great group from Jackson County that went with us that day, bringing more dump trailers, including David Borgeouis, who is undergoing chemo treatments. Tim Casto from Kenna brought his dump trailer as well as some workers. And everyone worked nonstop, hard as they could, as the task was enormous, and there were 500 more families just like these, still waiting in line. And you won’t believe what happened after that – on the 4th of July, Tyler ran to Speedway to trade out a tank for the grill, and he sees these people in line in front of him and he thinks he recognizes them as that family from up the hollow in Clay. He introduces himself again, helps them remember who he was, and one of them says, “Did you say Tyler Markham? Are you Trademark Investments?” He says, “Yes, I am.” They say, “Well, our cousin is buying a house from you right now!” Talk about a small world….
And I tell you this story to brag on the people of West Virginia, their spirit, their caring nature, their willingness to step up and help – it is phenomenal to watch, and it erases all those bad feelings of “when will the violence stop?” Because in West Virginia these past few weeks, all the goodness of God has been evident everywhere you look – and the lesson these floods bring (as with any catastrophe) is that things don’t matter one bit – we all have them, and we enjoy sitting on a couch or a chair we have saved to purchase – but in the end, things get you nowhere and bring you no happiness – it is lives that matter, relationships with others, family and friends. When we are stripped down to the clothes on our back (which we will be when we exit this world), all that matters is who we are with our Creator, where our soul is headed, and what we have done with all the blessings He has given us! I would encourage you to go work in these areas if you possibly can – it will open your eyes to what is truly worth hanging on to!
My good friend Jenny and I went to Puerto Rico a month or so ago for a business conference. I am so busy, I didn’t even know about the Zika situation down there being so bad until a couple days before we left. I contacted Jenny and we both decided to go ahead. We get down there, and the first day we are there, you don’t even see a bug in the air – just gorgeous, beautiful place. We decided to take a walk before going in for the night and just eat out on the patio of the hotel. By the time we arrive to the restaurant, we were sweaty and gross, and it was getting dusk. We had sprayed with Off, and Jenny even had this little thing of Off that you hang around your neck and it is supposed to put the spray into the air all around you. We sit down at this outdoor table, order our food, and then is when we see the mosquitoes.
They were EVERYWHERE! On our table, lighting on our arms, in the air – not like a swarm, but not like just a couple. We weren’t feeling like we were getting bit, but we were getting nervous and wanted our food and to get inside. I take Jenny’s little Off necklace thing, and I put it right overtop of one of the mosquitoes on the table, and it does not affect it one bit! It didn’t paralyze it, slow it down, repel it away – NOTHING! We finally get our food and just take it up to our rooms to get away from the bugs. The whole rest of the trip, we just made sure we were in by dusk and we were fine.
The next day, we decided to take our rental car back. By the time we paid for it, they added on so many service fees and all this junk that the price went up by 45%! Everyone who was picking up a car was having a fit, and I almost just didn’t pick it up, but we had four days of no seminars to enjoy the island and we thought we’d want it. Then we get to the hotel, and the parking for the car was another $26.00 a day, so by morning, we had seen what a gorgeous place we were in, decided when we might need the car or not, and it was decided to go do out sightseeing that required the car and then return it that evening. We go downtown to Old San Juan, piddle around the shops and restaurants there, eat something, then set the GPS for the Dollar Rent-A-Car and head out. We drive and drive, and we aren’t seeing the place.
We seem to be going around and around the same circle, and that circle was right near our hotel, which we knew was not the rental place, as it was near the airport. It is getting dark, and I can hardly see, and we finally see the Dollar sign. It is on the opposite side of the road on what appeared to be a one-way street, and we couldn’t figure out how to get there. So we drive around and around and around the same area about another half hour, trying to get across streets to get to this place. But the whole time, we’re saying, “This cannot be it – it’s nowhere near where we picked it up!” We finally got close enough to it to see that it’s not the pick-up site – it may not even be a drop-off site, but possibly a graveyard for bad cars.
By then, we have driven these same streets over and over and over, trying to get to a different place. We search on the internet for the correct address and cannot find one. We look for a phone number and call it, and that doesn’t take us anywhere either. The first few times around the circle, it was funny. By the last few, we were exhausted and it wasn’t funny any more.
One of us finally says, “Let’s just go back to the airport and sit there and wait on the Dollar van to come and just follow it to the pick-up site!” So we put the airport in the GPS, and off we go. We’re miles away from the airport, so that’s another 20 minutes. We finally get there, and we have to wait and wait and wait. We see all kind of rental car vans, but no Dollar. We’re about to go inside and see if we can catch an address off of a billboard or something, and here comes the van! We jump out, tell the driver that we’re lost and need to follow him. He’s very nice, seems to understand what I was wanting, but if he did, he sure thought we could keep up with a race car!
In the end, we FINALLY made it to our destination and got that car turned in. Then, of course, we had to get a taxi back to our hotel, and that required another wait. As we were heading back, I said, “Boy, this was an adventure – I need to make up a story about it!” Jenny gave me her thoughts on it the next day, and it was also what I had concluded: If you’re going around and around and around the same issues in your life, the same problems, the same destinations, and you are getting nowhere, you need to just start over and go back to the source. I have heard many people say, “I really need to get back in church,” and I wonder if they have mistakenly concluded that going to church means you’re back in a right relationship with God. Church would be the airport; but to get right with God, you’ve got to follow the van, as that is what’s going to really get you to the right place. You’ve got to seek Jesus, quit playing with and swatting those bugs you are hanging out with, that only seek to poison you.
Sometimes GPS can be like the devil, taking you close enough to where you want to go that you think you’re making progress, but all you’re doing is wasting time. Albert Einstein says the definition of Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. There are five awakenings that usually begin the process of coming back to God. Are you LONGING for something else? You know there’s got to be more? Are you filled with REGRET? Wish you had done things differently? Have you reached the end of your rope and realize you need HELP? Are you searching for a true LOVE, one that never dies and never gives up on you? Do you really want to have a full and complete LIFE, not just an existence? I urge you, quit driving around these same old places and seek the source of it all, the originator of the GPS, the One that will lead you home.
Memorial Day was never a big celebration in our home growing up – or perhaps I was just insensitive to it. Seems like when you’re growing up on a farm, the end of May is more about hay season and getting work done. I regret that I didn’t do a better job teaching my children the TRUE meaning of Memorial Day. As I think about the Veterans in my life (my dad, my husband, my stepson), each of them embody the things that Memorial Day serves to remind us of. Dad has this story he tells about being in basic training, and he was caught asleep under a tree one day, and the Sergeant comes and wakes him up and gets in his face and hollers, “Vannest, whatcha you think you’re doing, sleeping on the job? I’m gonna recycle you!” “Recycle” meant start over, and Dad said it happened to guys frequently. He was on his last week or so of training. He just smarts right back, “Well, Sarge, I can’t imagine anyone I’d rather spend my time with than you!” I’m sure you can guess that the “Sarge” changed his mind and got rid of that smart mouth as soon as he could.
When our son Tommy was in the Marines, I was never prouder of him. He rose to the occasion of whatever was asked of him, and he had a bond and a comradery with his Marine brothers that was so special. At his wedding, we all came home with this wonderful feeling of what great friends Tommy had, and how they sacrifice for each other. The brotherhood of the armed forces reminds me of the brotherhood of Christ – you are in this together, for each other, in the thick and the thin, there to carry each other when you’re weak and to celebrate with each other when times are good. One time we got to be at Camp Lejeune when Tommy was coming back from Iraq, and all the family stood for hours waiting on the base where their plane was going to fly in. The feeling of excitement and longing for each other was palpable in this crowd – so many mothers and children and new babies that had not been held by their father, just so much emotion.
We stood there waiting and waiting, with signs and banners, and when the plane touched down, I don’t think there was a dry eye in the place. They did a march in formation of some sort, and we thought we’d get to just grab Tommy up and head home. Not so. There had been some incident, and someone did something wrong, and they all got punished and had to stay there in formation for hours, marching or something that I now can’t remember, but he didn’t get to come home for another six hours or more. We couldn’t believe it. How unfair! But that’s the way the military works – one for all, in the good and in the bad. One of Tommy’s groomsmen couldn’t be in his wedding because he had literally blown his face up with an IED the day before. But there at the reception, in he came – bandaged all over, but he was not going to miss his buddy’s wedding. They truly were there for each other – and they are THERE FOR AMERICA! We forget – we just take for granted their sacrifice as we live our peaceful, free lives.
One of our friends from church had been a prisoner of war in World War II. When he came home, his own mother didn’t recognize him. He had been locked up by the Germans for many, many years, abused in unspeakable ways. And when he came home, his wife had gotten saved and become best friends with this German lady that lived next door. He left a place of German curses and abuses, and he comes home to America and gets to hear this German accent every time he turns around. He said he hated her – he didn’t even know her, but her accent just fueled the fire of his hate. It wasn’t long after he came home that these two women who had prayed for him for years were able to watch as he surrendered his life to Christ. And one of the greatest miracles of salvation – the minute he stepped up from that altar, Christ cleansed his heart of that hate and gave him a love for this woman who had helped take care of his family while he was gone. And as these couples ended their days, they continued living next door to each other and taking care of each other, committed to each other.
Another one of our friends tells of making God a promise while in a fox hole in Vietnam, as his buddies were getting picked off one by one, that if God allowed him to make it home, he would serve him. God did allow him to live (one of very few out of that battle), and he came home and did not immediately make it right with God. But you see, God doesn’t give up on us, and he doesn’t cut us off from promises we have made to him, but he pursues us until we reconnect with him. God got him a job building the Nazarene church, where he was around Godly men like Jarrell Snodgrass and others, who eventually led him to the Lord. He would recount that he still had PTSD many, many years later, flashbacks and the like, but God was faithful and had saved him to the core and changed his life.
When I think about the sacrifices made by our men and women in the military – not seeing their children born, years going by that they have not attended a ball game or special event, losing not only memories, but body parts as well to the battles they have been sent to, some of which they did not even believe in – we cannot honor these men and women enough, we cannot ever show our appreciation enough. Every time I attend a funeral and see our Veterans participate by carrying a flag or playing Taps, or just by attending in their uniforms, I am overwhelmed by gratefulness and respect for those who have given the ultimate sacrifice of their living life and sometimes their dying life. From me and my house, TODAY AND ALL DAYS, WE HONOR YOU. THANK YOU SO MUCH.
Written during the 2016 Presidential campaign:
I have not said much about the presidential political campaign, mainly because I wouldn’t have had much nice to say…from the moment of the first debate, I couldn’t stand Trump’s smirky face, frankly, and then once his personality let loose, I liked his face even less. I just cannot believe we are going to be living in a country where our president (even if it’s Hillary) is someone that we have to warn our children against – you know, “If you EVER act like that, you will be punished – the president is rude, crude,” or “is a liar and a crook.” If my adult children behaved the way Trump does, I would be so ashamed, and you can bet they would hear about it.
I have a fair amount of stress in my life, and one of the most stressful things is trying to get attorneys to pay us for work we’ve done. My reporters are independent contractors, so they don’t get paid until the client pays us. Every month, we call those who are 60 days past due, and we send them statements as well. Even with all this effort, we still have people who have had unpaid invoices for over a year. Lately, I have been threatening to file ethics complaints against those who haven’t paid in a year, and that has been getting our reporters paid.
This week, though, I had a NASTY exchange with an attorney from Maryland. I call and leave a nice message that we really need to get these invoices paid or I am going to have to file an ethics complaint against him. He sends the office an email saying that the case has settled and that we need to write his bills off. You can imagine how that hit me. The reporter does the work, gives it to the client in SEVEN days, and here a year later, we’re begging to get paid, and he didn’t pay it, settled the case and now tells US to write it off?
I send him a nice but firm email explaining that we have called him, emailed and snail mailed this invoice on multiple occasions, and it is not our fault that he didn’t include these costs in his settlement statement, but that if it needs written off, it is he who should do so. In the same email string that he tells us we never sent him an invoice, he didn’t know about TWO DAYS worth of charges, that very email string reflects a conversation about 60 days after the invoices were sent in which his secretary says she had a call from me and requests another copy of the invoices, which were sent, and she responds back that they are now on his desk. And he STILL insists we didn’t send him anything and he knew nothing about it.
In sending him instructions on how to use our website to pay by charge card, this is the response I received from the email: “It won’t let me enter anything. It works about as well as your billing system. For the record I have never stiffed a court reporter and I also have never had a reporter refuse to write off a bill if circumstances warranted. You did not bill us until after the distribution had been done. The clients owe you the bill, not me. Under Maryland law I was contracting for a disclosed principal—there is no question of you having a contingent arrangement, the bill is owed by the client and because of your screw up I was prevented from deducting it from the settlement they received. The fault is all yours and you are not an honorable person and you do not conduct your business ethically, as is proven by your blackmail threat to make an unsupported, frivolous complaint against me. Now I can’t honor your 24 hour deadline because your website is screwed up. Pathetic.”
Our website was working totally fine three hours before, and worked immediately after, so I’m thinking it might be operator error? Anyway, not to belabor the point, but this goes on and on with me showing him the15+ times we had contacted him, as shown by our billing system. He then insists that we have “recreated” entries in our billing system to show things that did not happen (which is impossible, of course). He ends emails with statements like “Wouldn’t it be funny if you lost your license?” On our last exchange, he says he is going to pay it just to get me off his back, and his last words were, “Your screw-up, not mine!” I tell you, after dealing with this jerk, I was ready to drive to Maryland just to let this guy have it. I didn’t, of course, and all my correspondence was professional and direct to the point. He now says he is going to pay.
And why am I telling you this? I’m wondering, is this what our country is going to look like soon? Or does it already look like this? People going crazy over literally nothing, accusing, cursing, carrying on? Here’s what Jesus tells us: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
He also tells us to turn the other cheek, to give someone our coat if they need it, and tells us that the greatest commandment is that we love we each other as he has loved us.
I’m struggling with this thing, I’ve got to admit. Even if this guy pays, I am really inclined to turn him into the Maryland Bar anyway. I’m thinking they need to know what kind of an attorney he is, someone that goes off on random vendors with such venom and hatred. But is that just as bad as he is? I admit, I am very firm when it comes to fighting for my people. I don’t get ugly, but no one is going to use my reporters to make their case and then walk away and not pay them for it. What do you think? Turn him in anyway, or turn the other cheek?
I just cannot get over this caterpillar/butterfly thing. Did you know that once a caterpillar becomes a butterfly, they have different DNA? I am just so amazed by that whole metamorphisis that I have begun studying about it, and the more I learn, the more in awe of God I am. Every time a child is born, we see His handiwork – every time a storm arises, we see His power – every time a healing occurs, we see His mercy. Last week for the teens, I taught about this and used the video below – please take time to watch it. And as you watch it, think about what your life was like before you became a Christian – or think about what your life is like now if you are not a Christian.
See, when the caterpillar begins the process of getting in the cocoon, basically what happens is that they eat themselves and turn inside out. They then digest themselves and their insides become what the scientists call “caterpillar soup.” So inside that cocoon, this used-to-be caterpillar becomes a mush. Inside that mush are butterfly parts that had been in the caterpillar but did not digest and become soup. Out of the mush, the butterfly parts begin to get into place and then God does this incredible work of creating a butterfly. And you have to wonder – why? Why not leave the caterpillar as a caterpillar? Why not just create a butterfly on its own without it having to be a caterpillar soup before it can be what it is?
Have you ever been to a wedding where they’ve ordered these frozen butterflies to have fly away once the bride and groom say “I do” or do their kiss? I’ve been to one once, and we were so nervous about taking care of our butterfly, we almost missed the experience. As you checked into the wedding, you were given a frozen butterfly right out of a cooler. You held that in your hands, kind of cupped, and they thawed out. And when you opened your hands, voila, the butterfly was alive again and could instantly fly. It was miraculous! And then now that I learn that this miracle creature was literally created out of soup, with almost no parts to start with, it’s like God just leans down and breathes into that cocoon and says, “Arise, my child, arise!” Makes me think of that old hymn that sings that “Arise, Arise my child” with a great crescendo.
As I studied and watched videos and read about this process, God began to whisper into my soul that this is what we are like – we are nothing but a caterpillar, no purpose really, just kind of a slug crawling along – that is, until he turns us inside out, breathes life into us and gives us the ability to be an incredibly beautiful creature, one created to inspire, created to touch lives and bring beauty into this world. It also made me think of the people who believe they are saved, but they really haven’t experienced a metamorphisis, a turning inside out, a change in their spiritual DNA. Many people believe because they go to church, they will see God and experience heaven. But the truth is, the Bible tells us that we have to have an actual moment-in-time experience where we turn our life over to Christ, accept him into our heart and believe in him, ask him to forgive us of our sins and clean us up. All of us know people who once they became saved, they literally turned into another person – the old creature was gone and a new one had appeared, just like the scriptures tell us! There is no greater witness of God’s power than that life you see that has been radically changed!
I beg you today – watch this video, and ask yourself – has God turned me inside out like this? Or have I just slipped into believing that I’m already a Christian because I’m a good person? If you haven’t made a commitment to the Lord, please do so – your life will be forever changed, and you will feel like you’ve been frozen all along, just waiting for the ultimate Creator to breathe life into you so you can fly!
I am ashamed to admit that I did not know this incredible fact until last Sunday – that when a caterpillar turns into a butterfly, they have totally different DNA. Isn’t that incredible? How does this occur? When you study it, it’s even more miraculous than just talking about it. And I have to say, when I hear people believing in the “big bang” theory, I just want to scream, “Are you nuts? How in the world did a big bang create the chameleon, the fish in the sea that know how to hide, the animals who love and mate for life, the plants that feed us and provide medicine?” And add the caterpillar and the butterfly to the list. How one ugly, creepy creature turns into an entirely different “person” in one of the most beautiful forms of artistic creation God is capable of?
All this has reminded me of my latest project. For years, our bedroom was gold and cranberry. It was really pretty, but kind of got old – you know, cranberry is “gone” and it was a little darker than I wanted. So I changed to a blue bedspread with brown accents, got some new chairs that matched, new wall hangings, the whole ball of wax. Didn’t like it from the first minute. Kept adding different decorative touches and still didn’t like it. But you know, when you’ve paid good money for all this stuff, you can’t just get rid of it, so I was stuck. Been stuck for a couple years with this blue bedspread and all its trappings. Couldn’t wait to get rid of it.
I figured a couple years is a good enough waiting period to use something – and besides, we have a cabin that needs bedding now, so I can just “repurpose” it and not have to look at it every day. So I get a new bedspread that still matches the gold paint so I don’t have to paint the walls, get some curtains and blinds to match, but my chairs that went with the blue are patterned and won’t match at all. So it’s new chairs, and then there’s another big expense. Being a Vannest, I just cannot bring myself to pay the price for reupholstering when you can buy a new chair for that same amount. We had these cranberry chairs that were in the bedroom originally, and they were the best chairs – extremely comfortable and the perfect size. They had been relegated to the kid/toy room when the bedroom got redone.
So I got this hairbrained idea to just paint those cranberry chairs. I mean, you see people on the internet doing it all the time, don’t you? So I watch some videos, look at people’s blogs, buy me some cream paint and some fabric medium, and to town on these chairs I go. I probably should insert that these were Tom’s favorite chairs, and when he heard of my plan, he was not all about it. This is a man who has no decorating sense – when we got married, his house walls were ALL cream, totally devoid of hardly any pictures or anything. Cream everywhere. And when he moves in with me and I’m painting my son’s room with dark purple and teal and black stripes, he about hyperventilated. So he is about to plant his rear in these chairs to save them, but I got my painting started while he was at work, so it was too late!
The first coat went on really splotchy, like I’m thinking it will never cover. Long story and five coats later, I have these beautiful cream chairs. The internet stories said the only problem is that the fabric gets kind of rough, sort of like duck fabric. So in between coats, I would sand the fabric down a bit before the next coat. But by two coats in, I knew you were not going to want to sit in these chairs in shorts or something, or you might end up feeling like you’d just encountered a brair patch….
Anyway, in the end, they are in the bedroom and they match and the whole scene is serene and peaceful, all grey and cream and gold. Just gorgeous. I wait for the chairs to really dry before I sit in them for the first time. Imagine my surprise when this huge ripping sound comes out of the chair just as you sit down – think industrial Velcro tearing apart or a brand new potato chip bag getting sat on….I died laughing, as I’d been hearing what a mistake I’d made and how I’d ruined these chairs and yada yada yada. In comes Tom, and I say nothing. He goes over to the other chair and begins to sit down. I start laughing before he even gets his rear on the chair. He hears this huge sound of the ripping, and he jumps up like he’s been caught on fire, turns around and looks at me. I’m still laughing over it.
Okay, and I get it – I’ve ruined the chairs. Although, I am ever the optimist, I still think we will wear them down so they won’t squeal so loud, or I hear you can wax your paint and that makes them softer. I truly had to rest on the chairs for a while, after the five coats, so we’ll see how long it takes me to get that wax on. For now, I just hold my ears everytime I sit down – LOL.
And you are wondering where in the world this is going, I’m sure. These chairs have got me to thinking: Is this what we try to do rather than turn our lives over to the Lord for a full transformation, a change in our DNA? Do we paint coat after coat after coat, trying to make our cranberry lives look like they’re cream? There’s constant cranberry showing through, and on top of that, anytime someone touches us, we’re rough to the touch, and if we get sat on, wow, the real noise comes out! See, you can’t fake people, and you can’t fake God. We can paint ourselves until we’re blue in the face, but until the Creator changes us from the inside out, we’re just still a cranberry life hiding in a cream shell. If you are struggling, trying to live as a Christian, or just struggling with life in general, there is an answer, and it is simple: Turn your life over to Jesus Christ – just believe in Him – and you will experience the most incredible change you have ever though possible – He will clean you up, He will give you joy, He will give you a whole new outlook on life! And no more will you screech and scratch everytime someone brushes up against you…..instead, you will surprise yourself with the love you feel for absolute strangers.
I have been reading these books by Author Joel Rosenberg (The Third Target starts the series) and they have been keeping me up at night. I usually read to get calmed down and settled in, and these books have done the exact opposite – no more reading them at night, that’s for sure! He has a series that’s like a modern-day Left Behind, but it’s got ISIS and a weak president and the Muslim caliphate, and it is so real that it leaves you extremely unsettled. I finished the last book in the series last week, and then I awoke to the news about Brussels. It’s like what I’m reading at night is literally playing out in the morning on the news. I think we’ve become to numb to hearing all of these things – beheadings, bombs, refugees, we have forgotten to truly listen.
The first book I read from this author was called The Auschwitz Escape, and it was fiction, taking you through three different people’s stories that all end up at Auschwitz. It was so horrible, so utterly sickening, that it almost seemed like it had to be made up. But it wasn’t. As I read that one, I lay there in bed thinking about this Syrian refugee situation. I must admit, when I heard America was taking some of the refugees, I thought that we would end up bringing more terrorists over here. And I still think that. But the Christian part of me says, “What about these people, these Christians, or even peaceful Muslims, who are literally watching their children die, who are being beheaded just because they won’t join the caliphate, because they won’t send their children as suicide bombers.” Isn’t this just like what happened with the Jews?
Like what the famous pastor Martin Niemoller said,
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
I really wonder about this country. We have our heads buried in the sand – no, wait, they’re buried in our phones, reading on Facebook who got their hair cut and who got new furniture and who went on a vacation. A few weeks ago, I was kicked off Facebook, and even though I hardly ever get on but Saturdays, at that time, I was spending an inordinate amount of time in hospital rooms, in cancer waiting rooms, and I would jump on Facebook while waiting just to see what was going on. While I was kicked off, there was this absence of just the “I can’t get on” type of feeling. So I began jumping on to the Bible app I have on my phone – and wow, what conviction came over me. Here I sit, every day with that Bible in my purse, in my lap, and seldom do I take the time to get quiet and read and study it. See, we take it for granted – it’s just always been there and always will be.
In this first series of books I started out with, there were Muslims who had converted after Jesus appearing to them, or a friend secretly sharing with them the story of Jesus, and they were devouring the Bible – memorizing and studying it at their every opportunity. You see, these Muslims all around the world have begun learning the Quran when they were under the age of five – some will have memorized ENTIRE BOOKS by the time they are five years old. What do our children know about? SpongeBob! Who – don’t get me started – is a name caller and not a good influence, as far as I’m concerned. But that’s me.
The point is: We, Americans, are the most blessed nation in the world, yet we are the unhappiest, unhealthiest, most self-centered people on the face of the earth. Lord, help us! I would challenge you today to get your Bible out and read the story of Christ’s betrayal and crucifixion and resurrection from each of the Gospels so you get a fresh look from different perspectives. Put that phone down – turn Facebook off – and commune with our Savior. Does He not deserve just one weekend of your time? I will tell you, I challenged myself with this, and once I start reading, I can’t stop! These books have made me have a thirst to know the Bible better and to fill my spirit with its strength, more so than ever before. I pray it does the same for you and that you see Jesus as you’ve never seen Him before.
Do you think we’ve become a disposable society? Seems like everywhere I was this week, people were telling about “being done” with someone. I know I have tried to work through relationships that have faltered, failed for one reason or another, but it has always bothered me to just say, “I’m done.” Maybe that’s the optimist in me that always thinks if you work hard enough, you can make it better. But I watch children give up on their parents, parents walking from their children, siblings not getting along and just giving up on each other, best friends walk away from their friendship over one small thing that was that “mountain out of a mole hill.”
I believe God created us to get along with each other, and I think we need to try harder. I’m not saying, of course, that we need to put up with abuse, or even neglect. And sometimes we can only do so much. I’ve always encouraged anyone I knew who was thinking about divorce to do EVERYTHING in their power to make it work: Counseling, forgiving what seems unforgivable, whatever it took to get to the root of the problem. A lot of people just don’t want to go that extra mile, and they’d rather be done with it and start over. That is, until you start over and you realize that a new relationship has just as much work as the old one did – perhaps just in different areas. The grass is not always greener on the other side.
When being disturbed by this subject this week, Jesus reminded me of the scripture of the lost sheep and how He would leave the 99 and go search for the one that was lost. I know it is a spiritual analogy relating to our heart’s condition, but it seems these relationships we have thrown away all lead to loss, and sometimes if people hold things against us as Christians, it can prevent them from seeking the one who can truly erase their hurt. I am reminded of a friend I had made while our kids were growing up, and we would do things with our girls together. Something happened with her daughter while I was chaperoning a school trip, and the daughter and I ended up in a huge confrontation that did not end well. I wasn’t sure whether the daughter had told her mother what happened, and I didn’t want to rat it out, but I didn’t want to lose the friendship with the mother either. I sort of waited it out to see how it might go down, and I didn’t really hear back from the mother, so I assumed that the mom was mad at my discipline of her child, and I just chose the coward’s way out and never really addressed it all.
Oh, how I missed my friend, though, and I often regretted letting that friendship just slide away. I would think that maybe I should open up the door of conversation, and then I’d figure it was just too late and too much water under the bridge, and I should just let it go. Long story short, after many years had passed, the mom and I ended up at a bridal shower together. I knew she was going to be there, and I was so hopeful she would receive me well and we could reconnect. We got to the shower, and as soon as I saw her, my eyes welled up with tears, and I just went straight to her and hugged her. I had missed her so much! And why, why, why did I let something come between us and ruin all that time we could have been together? It was pride and cowardice and stupidity and just plain laziness, I think. My friend and I reconnected after that shower, talked things out and have been close since then – and I vowed to never let another friendship slip away just because neither of us made the first move.
I would encourage you today, examine your relationships – look into the past for those that you let just fall away by neglect, or you let fall away due to a fight or a disagreement, or those that you have just determined in your mind “I’m done.” Think about how you would feel if they were to die with this unsettled business between you. Think about whether your actions might prevent them from coming to know the Lord. Think about what you are missing that might enrich your life if you just reached back out for that friendship you no longer have. Think about that relative who wrote you off or you wrote off who could come back into your life if you were just willing to reach out and start over. Let’s not “unfriend” each other so quickly…
I’m not sure who this story is for today – perhaps it’s just me – but God is reminding me that the days are short, our time is limited, and we must make good use of it. I would encourage you today, go search for that one that is lost….perhaps you will even be able to lead them to the One who Heals all Hurts!
One of my clients said I was becoming like Trump this week (during the 2016 election). I was like, "I think I'm offended by that." He says, "Well, I mean you're becoming so successful, you're gonna be the next Trump." I laughed and said, "Well, if I turn that mean or have that bad of hair, someone needs to punch me in the face." (Glad we didn't have this conversation when I had my bangs incident this summer.....)
One of the other lawyers says, "It is pretty bad when you have a two-year-old who sees Trump on the face of all the magazines and says, 'Daddy, this man always looks like he is mad. See how red his face is?'" The discussion between four lawyers and I went on to express who and what we liked and why, and all in good fun. No hatred here. That's what adults do when they express their opinion.....well, most adults.
Have you noticed that there seems to be a very sad meanness that Facebook brings on, or allows? Perhaps it's that people used to talk about others behind their back instead of to their face on this medium? I wonder how many times people have posted something here in a rant of some sort and then wish they hadn't. I know I've sent an e-mail or two that I wish I hadn't sent, wished I had toned it down, said it differently, more gently or more graciously.
When I think about our words and how they scar and wound, I am always reminded of my first grade teacher, Mrs. Staats. She is one the one I think of when I have to do a security question when they ask you for your favorite teacher. I've had lots of great teachers, and they made an impact on me, but Mrs. Staats made a LIFELONG impact on me by eight little words. They might have been the eight words she placed on every report card she handed out - but to me, those words had a huge impact. I was the little red-haired, freckle-faced, pop-bottle-glasses-wearing face only a mother could love. I don't remember ONE negative thing about my childhood other than knowing I wasn't the "cute girl." And would never be. I grew taller than all the boys early, so I stood in the back of every picture, went last in almost every activity from the time I was very young. I wasn't athletic either, perhaps because my mom and dad didn't hold athletics at a high priority like some parents do. But I was funny. And now Mrs. Staats thought I was more than that.
Those eight words were: "Teresa is very smart. She can do anything." I have looked back on those words - wondered if I really was smart as a six-year-old, or if she just wanted me to BELIEVE I was smart. Either way, it worked! I graduated high school with almost a 4.0 GPA, and it began in first grade. See, there was a belief in me put there by this sweet, sweet woman, and there was also an expectation to perform. Her words gave life to my actions. My parents were great encouragers also. My father was dyslexic before dyslexia was popular or known about. He could hardly read. But I will never forget the night at the dinner table that he told me how smart I was and that I could choose anything in the world to pursue and he would work as hard as he could to see that I could achieve that degree. He mentioned doctor, lawyer, all those "biggies" that parents dream for their children. He got off easy when I chose to go to a vocational school for court reporting and only had one year of formal education, but he never expressed one word of disappointment that I had chosen something that I believed I would love. And love it, I have.....it was and still is my dream job.
A new friend posted something a day or so ago about "What's a girl to do in the snow? I think I'll send some cards." That just warmed my heart. As we sit in our homes, blessed to be warm and cozy, plenty of food and family around, I believe this is a great time to use our words to encourage, to bless someone, to apologize, to take stock of what's important and what we believe in. The Bible says, "Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be." Let's use our mouths to love on people, not to destroy them......
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.