Mind Your Own Sin

When other’s actions
Seem harsh or rude,
Hold off on the attitude
And mind your own sin!

When angry words
Speak venom and hate,
Don’t get caught up in debate
Mind your own sin!

When personalities
Tend to clash,
Don’t say or do anything brash
Mind your own sin!

When tempers flare
To the point of flame,
Don’t respond by calling names
Mind your own sin!

When rumors fly
With stories told
Defaming characters young and old,
Mind your own sin!

There’s much to learn
By looking within,
Gaining wisdom and knowledge
When you mind your own sin!

Status Quo

Do you begrudge others for their status in life? I’ve visited that emotional state and let me tell you, it’s definitely not a place where you want to take up residence.

I spent the earlier part of my career feeling inferior to some of my colleagues. My feelings of inadequacy were not tied to my performance or abilities, because I achieved on those levels and have had much success. However, I allowed myself to feel inferior over the ascribed status that some of my colleagues possessed and that I deemed important, yet unattainable for advancement in my career at the time.

I hadn’t graduated from the most prestigious University. I wasn’t a member of the local Country Club. I didn’t have the right social connections and my future wasn’t neatly wrapped with a trust fund bow…and if the truth be known I carried a chip on my shoulder at times because of it and was envious of those who possessed it and the material things that went along with such status.

I spent some time subconsciously trying to crack that social circle. I wanted to attain the status of the upper echelon within my organization but there was no amount of charm, personality, or ability that could get this public school girl a membership card. It was definitely a closed social group and I would never be selected as a member.  I envied those who had inherited this status and at the same time, scoffed at their social network.

Funny how time and maturity will change your perspective on things. I have none of those desires now.I am happy and content with my life and how my career has progressed. Our pastor, Craig Strickland (Hope Presbyterian Church/Cordova, TN) spoke on this very subject during the time when these issues were larger stumbling blocks for me. I remember him telling us that we needed to learn to appreciate God’s grace in other people’s lives. I’d never really thought about the status symbols or “material things” we place on being successful as a gift of Grace from God. I remember Pastor Craig’s definitions of Grace and Mercy from that sermon too. He said, “Grace is God giving us the things we Don’t deserve. Mercy is God NOT giving us the things we Do deserve.” I’m so thankful for His Mercy above all!

Looking back, I’m glad I was never inducted into that social network.  I’m proud of my humble beginnings. I had to work hard for the things I achieved and I think I appreciate it more as a result.

Jealousy and envy were stumbling blocks for me earlier in my career and are venomous emotions that will eat you alive! However,  I’ve also learned that feelings of inferiority are not of God either. Those  feelings are placed in our mind by the evil one to keep us from achieving our full potential.

When we finally learn to appreciate God’s grace in other people’s lives, it frees our hearts of envy and opens us up to allow God to move in our own life. Self-worth and approval does not come from social status or possessions. As followers of Christ, we are members of the Royal Family of The Most High God. So there is never a reason to envy the ascribed status of anyone on this earth.

In the book of John 14:2, Jesus tells his disciples that He is “going to prepare a place for us” and when “everything is ready” he “will come and get us”. Oh what a glorious day that will be! We will inherit the Kingdom riches that Christ has prepared… and that will be the status quo for all those who believe in Him!

Psalms to God

Teach me O Lord your ways.
I continue to stumble over my own feet.
Forgive my missteps, because I know Your path and that Your ways are best.
Yet I continue to do things my own way.I sabotage my own efforts.
Like the Israelites, I too round the same mountain again and again; expecting a different result. How long will the struggle last?

Help me Lord to find my way back to You.
I know Your path is much clearer than the one I continue to travel.
I’m stuck in the thicket. The briars have a stronghold on me again.
Free them from me Lord. I’m tired and weak from this constant struggle.

Just yesterday I traveled your path and it was free from rocks and thorns.
There were no briars, no brush or vines to entangle me. No mountains to scale.
The path was smooth and easy to walk. The way before me was bright and clear.
I came upon the path while reading your word and didn’t veer from it.

But then today, after I closed your book, I wandered off course.
Will outbursts of frustration always be a stumbling block for me?
Just like Paul, the thing that I will to do, I do not do.
And the thing that I will not to do…that is the thing that I do!

Why do I turn away from your truths? When I know they will lead me to a place of peace.How long will it take for me to truly learn your ways? How many sunrises will it take to understand Your truth?

Help me to stay in communion with you, studying and reading your word, painting it on my heart. Steer me in the way that I should go as I keep my heart and mind focused on You.

Your word says Your sheep know You and they hear Your voice. I am one of Your sheep Lord. Do not forsake me when I stumble. Forgive me when I fall. Call on me O God, and I will find my way to You. Yes, You are the lamp unto my feet and the light unto my path.

The Blank Page

IMG_0947The blank page stares at me. Her stark whiteness is almost blinding. I can hear her laughter and scoffing remark…”She thinks she is a writer!”

I grab my journal and begin to scribble, making sure my pen  has enough ink for my project today. I search for a topic but nothing inspires me. I doodle a while, changing pens, hoping the change in color will kindle some creative energy.

I try to ignore her, but the blank page taunts me now… “Really? You’re not a writer, you’re just a doodler. Your work is so elementary.” Her laughter rings in my ears. Her voice, sounding more like my own, mocking every effort.

Determined not to let her get the best of me today, I start with one letter and a word is born. This small word lends itself to another and then another. A few aimless sentences follow but end up missing my target audience. Scratch that.

I reload. My weapon of choice this time is a Pilot G2 .07 cobalt blue medium point gel. The pen begins to glide across the page with ease. I write my name over and over, imagining how I might pen an autograph at a book signing. The blank page roars with laughter now! She can’t contain herself, screaming in my ear…”You’ve got to be kidding! You think you can write a book? You can’t even come up with a topic!”

I try to pay no attention to her vicious taunts and keep the gel flowing; hoping to ignite something, anything that will allow me to save face against her constant ridicule.

The blank page is so crisp and clean. She is pristine in her new white dress. She’d like nothing more than to keep it that way…forever! Yet, I want to write all over it, leaving my mark for all who will read it.

I want to write stories that inspire and move people. I crave sentence structure and paragraphs that stir people to action. I long to create solid statements that stick in my reader’s mind, to impress upon them to share my message with others. I want to use my words as an arsenal against my past mistakes, allowing them to take flight and land in the hearts and minds of those who need to hear them the most.

I don’t want my words to go before me as just a clanging cymbal but rather a  symbol that resonates for Christ! I want to live my life in such a way that my character, my conduct, my conversation and my written words prove that I am a child of God. Forgiven and loved.

So, I reign in my focus. The faint blue lines on the blank page are coming into view now; marching like soldiers as to war. One by one, row by row they lay down on the blank page before me. I honestly expected them to join the sarcastic mockery, but they surprise me today and surrender their spaces on the blank page for me to fill.

Wait, what’s that I hear? Are they actually cheering my on now? The red margins become the point of convergence with the blue lines, as they join together in a concerted effort of encouragement, drowning out the teasing of the blank page. Their voices rise above her cruel sarcasm, as they witness my words form poetic consequences, one word at a time.

My paragraphs beat with heartfelt sentiment, expressing similar thoughts as those of my readers. My content is concise and to the point, not preachy but livable and memorable. The blue lines and margins continue with their exuberant support of my handiwork, as I continue to write.

The blank page has quieted her scoffing remarks now. She sees potential and knows that I am a formidable opponent. I will not let her intimidate me today. I say out loud…”I am a writer!” I scream back at the blank page, yelling at her now…”I will always stain the blank page with my ink!”

I will write on it with all the colors of the rainbow, matching my mood. I will type on it with fonts as bold as the noon day sun. I will scribble notes and to-do-lists. I will compose love sonnets and poems. I will turn my poems into songs that praise our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I will write blog posts and articles that teach. I will hone my craft, writing devotionals that inspire my readers to live their life for Christ! I will pen verse and chorus, prayers and praise! And yes…I will write a book! I will write a book that speaks to young women about the mistakes I’ve made along my life’s journey, in hopes to steer them away from the paths that caused me to stumble.

The blank page shrinks back, spineless, unable to stop the creative energy flowing from my pen. Her own lines and margins abandoned her. She wipes a tear from her eye. Her tear drops begin to flow now, falling on her pretty white dress. She weeps uncontrollably, seeking mercy from me but I continue with the onslaught of ink! I am relentless. I have won the battle against the blank page today and I smile as I close my journal, proud of my work.

I can hear her weeping softly through the night. But her cries don’t affect me anymore, because I know there will be another day that will champion her untouched beauty. I will awaken to a new day. My thoughts will engage as my ideas give rise to yet another writing project. I will reach for my journal to record it, but my excitement will be subdued, as I once again stare at the stark whiteness of the blank page.

Claim “12”

Growing up, I can remember pushing my age by the 1/2 years, because I couldn’t wait to be all grown up. “I’m Twelve and a 1/2” sounded so much more mature. I just couldn’t wait to be older! However, I never really thought much past the “age” of sixteen, when I would finally be old enough to get my Driver’s License; or much beyond the legal “age” of twenty-one, that represented freedom to all young adults. But, even though I wanted to be older…I never really contemplated a 50th Birthday either.

Oh, how I wish I could go back and talk to that young girl at “Twelve and a half”. I’d tell her to claim “12” and to relish that carefree time. Responsibilities will find you soon enough. I’d tell her how beautiful she is and  that her long, brown hair was adorable in pigtail!  I’d tell her to ride her bike from sun up to sundown and to NEVER stop exercising!

I’d tell her to really think about the desires of her heart, and to chase her dreams, so that she doesn’t find herself sitting in a rocking chair with the “if only” syndrome. I would also teach her to control her actions, so that her heart would not lead her astray. Oh to have lived a life with no regrets!

The past 50 years slipped by like a vapor. I could swear I just turned 12 yesterday! Yet this morning I woke to a body that aches more today than it did last year. The thing that haunts me the most is still feeling young and vibrant on the inside yet the reflection in the mirror screams at me with sagging skin, lines and wrinkles, making me wonder who is that old woman staring back at me?

I was feeling especially fragile today as I struggled this morning trying to make my hair presentable. I’ve lost a wig-full down the drain. Thyroid issues and lifelong allergies have left their “baggage” under my eyes too. So, even on days when I feel rested, I  look tired. And that makes me sad.

I’m sad too for the girl of my youth, who didn’t really live her life, her life lived her. She had no real life plan, no real direction, just happenstance. Some of those life experiences turned out ok, and others led her down darker paths. I can’t totally blame her though, she didn’t know all the right questions to ask, she just needed someone to tell her.

I wish I could go back in time and be there for her, embrace her, give her the wisdom and knowledge that all these gray hairs have earned. So that she wouldn’t have to stumble over the same things that tripped me up along the way. But as much as I’d like to do that, I can’t but I can share it with you.

So, today I tell all the young girls out there, who wish they were older, smarter, more talented, prettier, funnier, whatever “er”…”don’t wish your life away, plan your life away.”

Study hard, make good grades, think about what you really want out of your life. Research career paths, set short-term goals and keep a record of your achievements. Write a mission statement and review it every year as you get older. Make changes to your course of action as your desires and interests change. Hone your talents, pursue your dreams!

Above all, strive to live a righteous life. Seek God in everything you do and ask for His guidance in making your character, your conduct and your conversation pleasing in His eyes always.

So, claim 12 and all the wonderment of youth while you can, keeping your heart and mind open to the calling of our Lord.     Proverbs 31:30 reminds us, “Charm is deceptive and beauty does not last, but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.”

 

 

Battles of the Mind

Ephesians 6:12 (NLT)

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

Do you struggle with random thoughts that are not praiseworthy? Have those thoughts ever taken flight and become verbalized? Are your words a stumbling block for you?

I love the monologue by Christian Comedian, Chonda Pierce, where she says a lot of the time she thinks things and sometimes they don’t get “sanctified” before they come out of her mouth! That statement has my name written all over it!

I was always trying to be funny or command attention growing up and have often said things in anger as an adult, before taking the time to think about how they would be perceived by the listener…never allowing my words to be “sanctified” before spewing them on anyone in my path.

I’m certain I have hurt other’s feelings with these outbursts. I’m sorry. And yes, I’ve been embarrassed on more than one occasion for the insensitive things that have come out of my mouth. I regret that too.

But as I grow and mature in my walk with Christ, I’m finally learning to think before I speak. (Note I said learning… this is still a process.)

My Dad gave me some wise advice after I got married to my husband, Lee. I was talking with him during a visit to my parents home one Sunday afternoon early in my marriage. Dad and I were sitting on the front porch swing having a nice Father/Daughter chat. I was telling my Dad that Lee and I just seemed to argue over everything. I already had one failed marriage under my belt and I desperately wanted this one to work. I asked my Dad how he had handled controversy with my Mom in the early years of their marriage. He responded with a very short, simple but profound statement…”not everything deserves a comment”. WOW! Those 5 simple words made such an impact on me and has literally changed my life.

I can remember witnessing heated arguments between my parents when I was growing up. I often thought my Dad was weak, because as I got into my teen years, he would often let my Mother “rule the roost” in those disagreements. But I came to the knowledge years later through that specific Father/Daughter chat, that he was NOT weak at all! He was in fact, very wise!

The Bible tells us in the excerpt from The Sermon on the Mount in the book of Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the Peacemakers for they will be called the children of God.” No doubt my Dad was, and still is a Peacemaker. He could have continued to add fuel to those fires back in the day, but he often chose to battle the spiritual forces of evil, by turning away wrath instead of turning it toward my Mother.

When we allow the battles in our mind to take on such a stronghold where it manipulates our actions…we are giving in to those forces of evil.

I still struggle with being “mouthy” occasionally. It has been, and still is at times, a stumbling block for me. But I find that when I take control over the battles in my mind, when I think before I speak, when I choose grace instead of strife, that I take away ALL of Satan’s ammunition to control me or my tongue.

If you’re a little “mouthy” like me, won’t you consider letting these verses seep into your heart and take a stronghold… and let the battles of your mind find peace, as you become wiser still, while practicing to hold your tongue.

Power Verses:
James 1:19 (NLT)
“Everyone must be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for man’s anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness.”

Proverbs 10:19 (NLT)
“When there are many words, sin is unavoidable, but the one who controls his lips is wise.”

Ode to “She Speaks”

IMG_0340

Traveling alone,
Far from home.
Anxiety peaks,
Over the unknown.

Delta’s airspace,
For the birds,
Some would say,
My anxst absurd.

My knees are weak,
My stomach aches,
My adrenaline up,
My heartbeats race.

Wondering?
What lies ahead?
Will “She Speaks” be fun?
Or three days of dread?

My flight arrives.
Shuttle van in place.
I hop aboard.
No time to waste.

Shuttle fills with friends anew.
Writers, Speakers…Dreamers too!
Some are seasoned…been there before.
Newbies like me…can’t be ignored.

Dreams of speaking to a crowd,
Or writing words to read aloud,
To pitch an idea for a book,
Grabbing attention with just the right hook!

Sessions begin, we’re underway
Listening, learning what “She Speaks” has to say.
Jotting down notes with a favorite pen.
What did “She” say? Could you repeat that again?

Conversations ignite.
Kinships spark.
Dreams take flight.
Now out of the dark.

Rock Concert Worship!
Keynotes amaze!
Uplifting our hearts,
It’s Jesus we praise!

So much contemplation,
Over the silliest of things.
Like travelling alone
On Delta’s wings.

But had I known then,
what I know now.
I’d do it all again
Some way, somehow.

Cause I met a dear friend
Who, much like me,
Is a writer of words,
Inspiring others to see…

The Gospel in us
According to Luke
That not even “yet” sinners
Can rebuke!

My Darling Daisies

The day is filled with solitude and calm. The sky, a brilliant heather blue, bodes wispy white clouds that float along giving the appearance of trailing smoke from a cooling chimney in the winter time… yet temperatures today are near 75 degrees with a gentle breeze that is crisp and clean.

I can hear the screech of a black bird overhead trying to scare away the Robins and Cardinals who’ve taken refuge nearby… all eyeing the bits of fruit, nuts and seeds that rest inside the bright orange bird feeder at the corner of the deck.

The rustling of the water falling over the rock bed and spilling into the small kidney-shaped Koi fish pond at the base of the rocks, lends a serene sense of calm. The water lilies have multiplied and show off their lavender blooms early in the day.

I wish everyday could be like today, with time to enjoy all of God’s handy-work.

Lush palm fronds from the “Boston Ferns” drape heavily over the edge of their hanging baskets; while orange, yellow and peach “Gerbera Daisies” burst with color and stand up tall on their tippy-toes inside a jade blue and green urn.

The Gerbera’s wave their outstretched petals like messy fingers from an afternoon of finger painting. They’re holding their little arms high, so as not to get their leafy green foliage covered in paint…almost screaming “Hey Mom, look at me!” They’ve become my surrogate children you know… these darling daisies that surround me.

The yellow “Marigolds” are unassuming yet magnificent in their own right; as they sit quietly minding their manners in the center of a small whiskey barrel; while their more outgoing younger “Portulaca” siblings keep the conversation flowing in hues of pastel pink, terra-cotta, deep coral, lemon sherbet and cherry red.

The songbirds begin to add glory to the day; whistling and singing, calling out to their colorful cousins. In a nearby medieval gray concrete planter with a raised coat of arms bearing the family heritage… purple “Starburst Daisies” amplify the bird songs like a trumpet; sending the music down to the dapper dressed “Red Begonias” on the step below.

Squirrels scamper across the top of the deck posts waiting for an opportunity to close in on the feast that has been spilled onto the deck by the birds. A Grackle, a Cardinal and a Wren join the squirrel and take turns swooping down to the feeder; nibbling on a few bits for themselves and then obviously taking pieces back to a nest hidden away in a tree close by.

Like good little children, they don’t cause any commotion. They mind their manners and wait their turn. But then there is always one little stinker in the bunch as the “Blue Jay” makes his bold entrance…scarring away the others as he breaks line and eats his fill.

Seven coral azaleas wait patiently in their containers for their turn to be placed into the ground. Shaded from the sun’s rays by the salsa striped patio umbrella…they long for a shawl of fertile soil to drape at their shoulders, as the cool breeze begins to shed some of their blooms. I keep telling them it won’t be long now.

Oh, and we can’t forget the peach “Hibiscus” that resides proudly in an urn near the base of the brook. She’s the oldest and except for the birds, has traveled the farthest to join our family. She speaks mostly in the morning and then curls up for a nap at the end of the day, resting her blooms inside the Kelly green leaf blanket that she brought along with her. I’m sure it gives her comfort; being so far from her tropical home.

The crimson red “King Canna” are beginning to awaken from their long winter’s nap too; sending their stalks up through the earth first… testing the waters to make sure it’s o.k. to wake up the rest of the clan. The Canna will give privacy and a gorgeous backdrop for the mass planting of “Red Begonias” that is soon to come.

The white “Indian Hawthorne” and the lavender “Hydrangeas” afford a much-needed hedge; while the “Hasta” stand guard at the base of a new Bloodgood Maple tree. She took the place of a tired, old, weeping Crepe Myrtle that had to be put to rest last season. We miss her cherry pink blooms but have gained a different kind of beauty from the lacey leafed maroon Maple.

Dressed in variegated colors of green and maroon, the “Caladiums” in the north bed beckon to the lacey “Laurapetalum” as if to say “come on let’s play”. You can almost hear the music that has them holding hands and dancing in the wind.

And last, but most definitely not least is the “Carolina Jasmine”, resonating a sweet honeysuckle scent when in full bloom… she is now bound to a stake at the southwest corner of the deck. “Carolina” likes the morning shade but loves the warm afternoon sun the best. Soon she will be trailing off on her own; casting her golden blooms in the sun. She gives me so much joy and I look forward to watching her grow too.

Our Little Town

Badminton tournaments
and a croquet match.
Playin’ hide and seek and
a game of catch.

Ridin’ bikes all day
’til the sun went down,
that was summer fun
in our little town.

Makin’ mud pies
and playin’ hop scotch.
Sittin’ in the bleachers,
a baseball game to watch.

Doin’ cartwheels and
swingin’ on the front porch swing.
Spinnin’ 45 records and
we’d sing and sing and sing.

Climb the Redbud tree
in Mom’s front yard.
Hangin’ from the limbs
like they were monkey bars.

Much simpler times,
nothin’ seemed hard.
Not even catchin’
fireflies in a mason jar.

Ridin’ bikes all day
’til the sun went down.
That was summer fun
in our little town

Getting’ squirted
With the water hose
Takin’ Poloroid Pics
“Y’all strike a pose”!

No Playstation
or MP3
No cell phones
or games called Wi.

That’s how it was
way, way back…

Whether to the movies
or the go-kart track,
we ate homemade concessions
from a paper sack.

No money or treasure
could buy its worth
Just fun in the sun
on God’s green earth.

To the Methodist Church
every Sunday morn.
We learned about Jesus
and got re-born.

Ridin’ bikes all day
’til the sun went down.
That was summer fun
in our little town.

That’s how it was
don’t you remember when?
Life was so much simpler then.
Man, I want to do it all again!

Ridin’ bikes all day
’til the sun goes down!

The Skirted SwimSuit

Destin Beach FL was once again packed with vacationers as rows and rows of umbrella chairs lined the sand from the boardwalk all the way to the beach behind almost every condominium . As we headed down from our 12th floor room overlooking the gulf for our first relaxing day of fun in the sun, the thought projected onto my mind like a movie marque that this was my very first year on the beach in the dreaded “skirted swimsuit”! I really could have cried, but your supposed to be happy on vacation right ? The  past few years of stress at work, thyroid and hormonal issues, had left their mark and my body had changed!
It changed from the slim and trim, 115  lb. 5′ 3″ petite frame I used to carry,  to a fuller figure with about 35 extra pounds. But hey, I’m not a teenager any more either.

My 51 years have led me down some interesting paths…some darker than others, but I’ve finally settled into the light where Jesus is The Lord over every area of my life…well almost every area.

I am  finally in a good place spiritually, and a good place with my family and friends,  but once again my weight is an issue.

I’ve struggled with my weight off and on over the course of my life and always find that I’m heaviest when I’m the happiest…go figure?

I can be stick pin thin,  when the world around me is crumbling. But when life is good everything just tastes better!

But I decided to put the depressing thoughts out of my head and tried to stop the comparisons to the other seasoned women that were sunbathing, because after all… I do clean up pretty good! And yes it has to be said, that everyone looks better with clothes on anyway!

But then another even more disturbing thought crossed my mind. Do I embrace the dreaded “skirted swimsuit” in all of its glory, or do I embrace this down time as a time to recharge my battery and get back in the game, finally giving this struggle to God as well.

(I just shared the first draft of this article with my sweet Husband, Lee,  as we sit on the back of our new 38 ft Searay motor yacht, that The Lord has so graciously blessed us with, and after reading my draft,  he plays “One Hot Mama” by Trace Adkins over the stereo and turns it up so loud that I just have to laugh! What a guy! Even in the skirted suit he still thinks I’m Hot!! And that’s all that matters anyway, that my guy still thinks I’m One Hot Mama!! Right?)

Maybe so, but the Girl I want to be, wants it all and she seems to think she deserves it!

I’m thankful for the road I’ve travelled, even in times of adversity, because it has led me to this new season in my life.

So, I’ve decided to use this revelation as an opportunity to work towards attaining it all.. Simultaneously!! What a revelation! I can have it all and all at the same time!!

Yes! You can have great relationships, a great job, great health and be physically fit,  if you give it all to The Lord!

So, Lord, I’m giving it to you and asking you to help me make better choices with the food that I put in my mouth!

Help me to get back in the exercise game too, strengthening my  muscles and building stamina.

When I contemplate that my body is the vessel that houses the Holy Spirit, I’m drawn to the fact that I need to take better care of myself!

Thank you Lord for all the good things too, as  the song now playing by The Afters  reminds me that “you’re the reason  for every good thing, every heart beat, everyday we get to breathe!”

And I don’t want to waste another minute of it! So as I make this decision once again to regain focus on what’s best for me I’m saying goodbye to the skirted swimsuit season and trusting that next year I’ll be fit and trim and worthy of the two piece bikini one more time before I die!