Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Another Black Friday

Well, my favorite day of the year has come and gone: Black Friday.

Looking at my purchases, I didn't score any fabulous deals. But it was a priceless day. Priceless because I spent the day with my favorite Black Friday shopping buddy! We've shopped together for the past 7 or 8 years.

Every year we recount past Black Fridays. We talk about the longest line we've ever stood in. We remember parking strategies. We discuss how the crowds aren't what they used to be. We talk about the changes in our gift-buying strategies. We remember past purchases, and discuss how the lists have changed with family changes. Every year is a new adventure for us.

Although I was sick and exhausted this year, we still had fun. We were standing in line to get into Target at 4 a.m. We passed all the crazies with shopping carts, and wiggled our way through the crowds to grab the items on our lists. Once again, we made memories...the kind of memories that are always more fun in retrospect. (Let's face it...it gets exhausting racing the masses to get one of the "limited quantities.")

All in all, another great Black Friday with a great friend. Looking forward to next year, Natalie!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Week of Thanksgiving -- Day 4

Today I am thankful for food.

My refrigerator and pantry are usually full. If not, I run to the grocery store to restock. I take food for granted.

Today I will eat until I'm completely stuffed, then I'll probably eat some more. There'll be more than enough food for all the family members coming to celebrate Thanksgiving at my house. My mother will bring the turkey and dressing with some sides and a dessert. My sisters and nieces will bring even more sides and desserts. And I'll contribute yet more sides and desserts. No doubt we'll eat until we make ourselves miserable. Don't most people?

Yet there are those within just a few miles of my home who will wonder where their lunch will come from today. They may wonder if they'll even have lunch. Not just today...but everyday. They won't have a huge family to celebrate and give thanks with, nor will they have a smorgasboard of foods from which to choose.

Today, and every Thursday, there is a woman in my church who, with the help of her friends and volunteers, feeds the hungry in downtown Birmingham. Her ministry is called Grace's Kitchen. She does not take food for granted. She sees how hunger affects the homeless. Food is the tool she uses to build relationships and to share the Gospel with the homeless in Birmingham.

What about you? Are you like me?...Do you take food for granted? If so, I challenge you to get involved with your local food ministry. Time, money and food are all resources they can use...surely you can share one, if not all, of those.

To learn more about Grace's Kitchen, click here.

I hope you have a very happy and blessed Thanksgiving! Be sure to take a moment to thank God for your food today!

A Week of Thanksgiving -- Day 3

Today I am thankful for family.

My immediate family...3 beautiful girls, and my wonderful husband.

My extended family...parents, sisters, nieces, nephews, in-laws, cousins...you know, those folks who always make holidays fun and interesting!

My friends who feel like family...you know who you are!

My choir family...those who are as passionate about singing to God as I am.

My church family...many I don't know (it's a big church), but who enjoy spending time together worshipping our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Thank you, God, for family...and for those who feel like family!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Week of Thanksgiving -- Day 2

Today I am thankful for FREEDOM:

of religion
of speech
to agree or disagree
to vote
from the chains of my sin
from legalism
to choose
to sing
to have as many Bibles as I want in my home
to openly share the Gospel

That's a smorgasboard, but the first things that come to mind.

As I was thinking about writing this post, I thought how true it is that freedom is not free. Coincidentally (or not), my nephew, a Marine, posted that very thing as his FB status this morning. He is well-acqauinted with the price of freedom.

Many have died for our freedom as Americans. Many sacrifice time with loved ones. Many families sacrifice their loved ones.

The highest price ever paid was by a perfect man named Jesus, who was willingly crucified on a tree to pay the penalty for our sin. If you don't own the freedom He bought for you, I urge you to read the book of John in the Bible, and consider the price He paid for your freedom.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Week of Thanksgiving

Today begins my week of giving thanks. I am first and foremost thankful for forgiveness.

God sent His Son, Jesus, to die for me, and even though I chose to mock Him anyway, He forgave me. Jesus forgave me, even though He willingly died, taking my sin upon Himself, and I, knowing and believing that, choose to sin anyway. Dwell on that for a moment. One chose to send His only Son to die for a world that mocks Him, turns their backs on Him. One chose to willingly give His own life as payment for our sins, and we still choose sin over Him. If you believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior, and have knowingly and willingly chosen to step into a "big" sin, and have at some point, experienced true repentance, you too are overwhelmingly thankful for His forgiveness. Blessed are those who grasp forgiveness without ever having brought upon themselves the guilt and shame of one of the "big" sins to finally make them understand it.

I am overwhelmingly grateful for my husband's forgiveness. There were times he would've been completely justified in walking out on me. Yet, he stayed. He loves me unconditionally, and forgives me with no strings attached. If not for him, I'm not sure I'd have ever had the tiniest inkling of what it is to grasp God's forgiveness. He offered me forgiveness in a circumstance that if I had been in his shoes, I'm not sure I would've offered it.

I am thankful for forgiving friends. Those kinds of people are few and far between, but when you find them, hold onto them! And be willing to forgive them when needed! If not for a few forgiving friends who kept open ears, held my secrets, and offered wise counsel, I would've never learned what it is to reach out and be a friend to those who--according to the world, the judgmental and the legalistic--don't deserve it. Those friends will forever hold a special place in my heart.

What are you first and foremost thankful for?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


If you read Heaven's New Arrival, you know that a friend very near and dear to my heart passed away on Tuesday. I cried most of the day.

Today, I took my middle daughter to get braces and a butterfly (a crazy-looking contraption in the roof of her mouth). I had no idea what to expect because I've never had braces. She was a little nervous, but did fairly well throughout the process. And it helped that she loves her orthodontist (shout out to Dr. Boggan!). We were almost ready to go, and were told that the butterfly had to be turned. We didn't really have a clue what that meant.

As soon as the key went into the butterfly and started turning it, she started crying. I was little comfort to her. I couldn't tell her how long the pain would last. I really didn't know how bad the pain was. I just knew my baby was hurting, and I wanted to cry with her. It was breaking my heart to watch her cry and know there was nothing I could do for her. (We certainly weren't stopping the process at that point!) I calmed her as best I could, and walked away. I think if I had stayed by her, I'd have done more harm than good. I let the skilled technicians (I assume that's what they're called????) take care of her. When they finished, we were on our merry way. Well, maybe not so merry since she was still crying, but on our way, nonetheless.

I thought about how I had cried all day on Tuesday. My husband tried to comfort me as best he could. But he was really no help. My Mom offered kind and gentle words, as well as friends. But, really, only God is the "skilled technician" in my case. He's the expert in life and death. He knows the sadness I experience in the loss of a friend. He knows why my heart is breaking. He knows how to comfort me. He knows how to make it all better. And my tears are so precious to Him that He keeps them in His bottle (Psalm 56:8). That alone is comfort to me.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Heaven's New Arrival

My heart is very sad. One of the world's greatest Christians has passed away. Aubrey Edwards will forever hold a special place in my heart.

The first time I met Aubrey was when the church I was attending brought him in as the interim minister of music. Our choir had been through some heartbreaking struggles, and Aubrey entered our lives with a sense of renewal. It didn't take long before I fell in love with him and his wife, Phyllis. They became like a second set of parents to me. I spent many times sitting in their living room, chatting about life. Not once did I ever hear a complaint, an unkind word, or gossip from them.

Aubrey encouraged my passion of singing. I can't tell you how many times I would tell him I had a new song ready to sing, and he would immediately set a date for me to sing. When we ended up at separate churches, he would always ask me if I was singing in the choir. At one point, I wasn't singing, and had to answer him with a "no." He told me, "You need to be using that voice." Anytime he introduced me to someone, he followed it with, "She has a beautiful voice. You should hear her sing." God used him to encourage me to sing His praises. I know God used him to do the same for countless numbers of people.

Last year I had the opportunity to sit with him a couple of times when he was having his dialysis treatment. The first time I sat with him, he was in a substantial amount of pain. He would motion and whisper for me to help him get comfortable. He didn't complain...not even once...about his pain. The second time I sat with him, he wasn't in as much pain, and chatted with me a lot that day. I saw how he spoke to everyone in the dialysis room. When someone would ask how he was doing, his response was always that he was doing good and that he couldn't complain.

I had the privilege of hearing countless stories about his life and minsitry. I'm not sure we'll ever know how many lives he touched on this earth...I would dare say thousands upon thousands. He was truly the most loving human being I've ever known. And I think anybody that knew him would agree.

I will forever think of him when I hear Sweet Little Jesus Boy...he sang it beautifully. I will forever think of him when I read Ephesians 5:19:

speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord

I am sad that I didn't take more time to spend with him. But I look forward to the day I will see him again...singing with the hosts in heaven in his new, perfect body! Our world has lost a sweet, precious man. But I can imagine him singing God's praises in heaven even now.

Please pray for his lovely bride, Phyllis, and his daughters, Sondra, Kim and Leisha.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Name of Jesus

It's been a yucky day. It's been rainy and cold all day in Birmingham, Alabama. (For those of you who don't know, I like sunny, warm weather.) My children haven't been minding well lately, especially today. I'm starting to feel the overwhelmingness (is that a word??...) that comes with the onset of the holidays. I haven't been sleeping well due to my husband's newly-developed snoring habit; therefore, I am tired and grumpy. I've dealt with guilty-mom syndrome all day. My knee has hurt all day from falling off a ladder Saturday evening, so I haven't been able to run (which is usually my way of relaxation and release). It's been an all-around yucky kind of day.

So I stole some time to just sit at the computer with the earphones in to listen to some worship songs while I read some passages from Psalms. Then I dove right on into some Christmas music! I listened to Natalie Grant's, David Phelps's, Celtic Woman's and Josh Groban's versions of O Holy Night. One line kept sticking in my mind:

in His name all oppression shall cease.

How true! As I listened to songs about Jesus, I noticed a change in my demeanor. I started to relax. My grumpiness dwindled. My mom-guilt disappeared.

The very name of Jesus is power. Healing power. Restorative power. Changing power. Take-a-deep-breath-and-relax power.

Why didn't this occur to me at 9 a.m. today? I probably would've had a much better day.

Tomorrow's agenda: start the day with Jesus. Ending it with Him is good, but I know starting it with Him is much better!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Casting Stones at Cecil Newton

Casting stones is dangerous. I know. I used to cast them. The one doing the casting is usually not aware of their own "big" sin: pride. Pride isn't scandalous. So many people suffer from it that it doesn't make the rumor mills and gossip columns. It's accepted. Sometimes it's even encouraged. But it's one of the most dangerous character traits a person can possess. Here's why: pride, if left untreated, eventually leads to a downfall.

I rarely keep up with sports news. But there's a story that is currently in the news that keeps catching my attention. I probably couldn't get away from it if I wanted to. It's all over tv, in the newspaper, on the radio, on Facebook. Everybody in the south is talking about it. And no matter which team people pull for, everybody has an opinion on the story. If you're at all familiar with SEC football, you know I'm talking about the Cam and Cecil Newton saga. It's an almost inescapable story.

I've heard and read countless opinions on the story. The lines between fact, gossip and opinion have been blurred. And, quite frankly, I'm disgusted with some of the comments...not because I'm an Auburn fan, but because I'm a Christian. And many of the comments are coming from other Christians. The comments I'm disgusted with are those concerning Cecil Newton, and the fact that he is a pastor. I'm paraphrasing the Facebook comment that sent me over the edge to the point of writing this post:

All Christians are defeated when a "supposed preacher" is caught in any type of scandal.

So I ask...where is the grace we as Christians are supposed to offer one caught in sin? Grace is not excusing or condoning sin. It is offering forgiveness without a price tag.

The rest of the world is crucifying Cecil Newton. IF the story turns out to be true, does he deserve the same treatment from his brothers and sisters in Christ? Some would say yes under the guise of holding him accountable. IF guilty, he will, no doubt, be held accountable...by the world. And he will be held accountable by the One whom he has sinned against. Are we not the ones who should restore such a one with gentleness? This is our time to proclaim God's name and His forgiving power. This is not the time to stand alongside the world, and crucify one of our own. This is the time to show the world we are ALL imperfect beings with a perfect God. This is the time to show God's love...instead of declaring defeat for this man and all Christians, which, by the way, the world wants us to do.

So I ask: who among you is without sin? Let him cast the first stone (John 8:7). If you're honest, you must admit that you should not cast even one stone. None of us are without sin (Romans 3:23). We may not have committed the "big" sins, but we have each certainly committed sins. None of us can know for certain what our responses will be to temptation until we are put in the situation. We can only pray that we will be obedient to God if that time comes. In the meantime, we are to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ, and offer them forgiveness and restoration (Galatians 6:1).

Note: comments are welcome, but any deemed inappropriate will be deleted.

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Message About Music

Music has always been one of my passions. God uses music to speak to me, to soften my heart, to make me question the intentions of my heart. I think God uses music to reach others in the same way. I am always in awe when I hear the lyrics poured from someone's heart in song. To be quite honest, I've kinda always thought I was less than spiritual because God's Word sometimes speaks to me more when put to music than when I read it. In fact, music was a big part of my healing...God used certain songs to speak directly to my heart.

A couple of weeks ago, my minister of music challenged our choir to listen to a message by John Piper, Ambushing Satan With Song. I finally took the time a few days ago to listen to it. And I just have to say:

Thank you, Jesus, for choirs, music, and the gift of singing praise to Him.

I hope you will take a little bit of time to listen to the message here. It will forever change the way you sing, and the way you listen to music.

To Thee I will sing praises with the lyre, O Thou Holy One of Israel. My lips will shout for joy when I sing praises to Thee; And my soul, which Thou hast redeemed. Psalm 71:22b-23

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Black, White and Gray

I used to study the Bible to gain head knowledge. I didn't realize it at the time. And, really, that doesn't sound like a bad thing. But if head knowledge is all you gain, you're missing out. Please understand that I am not discounting knowledge, the knowledge of God, which is repeatedly mentioned in Scripture. The type of knowledge I'm talking about is when you study the Bible without letting it change your heart. It is knowledge for the sake of knowing information. In addition to the knowledge of God, wisdom, grace and a heart transformation should be the results of Bible study.

I can now look back and see that head knowledge was all I had gained. I used that knowledge to be judgmental. I condemned others for their sin. Everything was black or white to me. There were no gray areas. I was very outspoken, and quick to point out when I believed someone was wrong. I didn't stop to think about the possible reasons why someone believed or acted as they did...where their beliefs came from, what their life experiences were, what situations they might be involved in. I didn't handle situations with wisdom or grace. That is totally opposite of the way Jesus lived His life on earth.

Jesus broke the laws and traditions the Pharisees had created. Jesus was friends with people that the "religious" considered to be among the worst. Jesus offered grace and forgiveness to people I wouldn't have considered offering grace and forgiveness to. That's the difference between head knowledge and wisdom. The Pharisees were full of knowledge (or information). Jesus was full of wisdom and grace.

Today when I study the Bible, I pray that the knowledge of God, wisdom, grace and a heart transformation will be the results. I no longer view things as simply black and white. Rather, I see a lot of gray. Seeing gray gives me room to offer grace and forgiveness to those who need it. I'm so thankful for a few friends who saw gray when I needed it. Not a gray that blurs right or wrong, but a gray that leaves room for love.

Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing. Luke 23:34

Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted. Galatians 6:1

Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. I Peter 4:8

Monday, November 8, 2010


People disappoint. Sometimes we're the ones doing the disappointing. Sometimes we're the ones experiencing it because of what someone else has or hasn't done. I've been on both sides. I've caused deep disappointments. I've felt disappointed. Disappointment comes when our expectations are not met.

I have a tendency to question God, and sometimes get angry at Him, when I'm disappointed. My thought process usually begins with:

Well, God, You had the power to change this situation, so why didn't You?

I'm learning to bypass those thoughts, and move straight to:

Okay, God, what now? This is for a reason. I know You love me, so what happens next?

He gave me this answer today in a song:

Praise anyway...worship anyway...show Me you love Me anyway...even now...in your disappointment.

In my disappointment, I'm learning to seek His glory.

What about you? Where do you allow your thoughts to go when you are disappointed?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Football vs. God

I realize that by the time some of you finish reading this post, you'll be ready to give me a piece of your mind. Please, don't. This is just my personal opinion and experience. It doesn't mean I'm right or wrong on the

Yesterday Mark and I took our two youngest children to their first college football game (...War Eagle...ahem...). They were excited because we had built their excitement. When we arrived in town, they were wide-eyed. By the time we got to the stadium, they couldn't wait to go inside. They were in awe over how the band formed AU and USA. They thought it was neat how the band played and the flags flew every time we scored a touchdown. However, they were more than ready to leave by half-time.

If you're from the south, you know that football is practically a god, whether it's toy bowl or SEC. I like football. I have my favorite team (see above paragraph). But I wouldn't say that I love football. I'm not passionate about it. I don't get overly excited about it, although I do enjoy it for entertainment's sake. It doesn't necessarily enrich my life, other than the opportunities for social gatherings and good food. (I know...I'm speaking sacrilegiously in some of your opinions!) And I don't go to games often. But when I do, whether it's high school, college, etc., there is always one question that pops into my mind:

What if I (and the masses in the stadium) were this excited about God?

The same thought came to mind yesterday. I let my mind elaborate:

We spent $30 per ticket (which was fairly cheap). Then we spent $$$ for food and drinks. What if we put that much money toward feeding the hungry?

Our entire day revolved around the game. What if we spent that much time telling others about Jesus?

These questions can be asked of any form of entertainment. I'm not saying that entertainment is wrong...at all. Again, these are just thoughts that come to my mind.

This morning we went to church. I'm usually in the choir for the music portion of the service. Today the youth choir was singing, so the adult choir had a break. We walked in a few minutes late, and were looking for a seat among all the people standing. While the worship leader, youth choir and praise team led in an upbeat song about our Savior, I looked around the congregation. I made the following comment to my husband:

What a bunch of deadbeats.

Very few people were singing, and I didn't see anyone around us smiling. Yes, I know that was judgmental on my part. But the thought process from yesterday had come to mind, and I wondered if those same people show excitement and enthusiasm at football games. And if so, why not at church? Here again, I don't show a lot of excitement at football games, nor at church. But, I do wear a smile when I sing. And I sing...loudly...not because I'm good, but because I'm worshipping. And, I DO worship...I have a reason to worship. I have a Savior who has saved me from my destructive self.

Next Sunday when you're in church, think about the big game from the day before, and ask yourself if you're as excited about worshipping God as you were about the game.

O clap your hands, all peoples; shout to God with the voice of joy. Psalm 47:1

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Few Random Things

A few things you might (or might not) want to know about me:

My favorite Starbuck's drink is a non-fat white chocolate peppermint mocha, no whip. When I can't make it to Starbuck's, I fix my own imitation with chocolate truffle coffee and peppermint mocha creamer.

I was raised the youngest daughter to a Southern Baptist pastor. My mom says I was in church nine months before I was born. Being a Southern Baptist kind of drives me crazy, but I doubt I'll ever leave it.

I decided one week before school started this year to homeschool. Oh my! I didn't know what I was getting myself into! But I love having my girls home with me!

Singing and writing are my passions. When I go extended periods of time without doing either, I feel like I've lost part of myself.

I don't like surface talk. Chit-chat about mindless topics drives me nuts. I'd rather hear what's on your heart, and I'd rather tell you what's on mine. (Unfortunately, those conversations are few and far between. Most people prefer chattery surface talk because it's easy.)

Four years ago I made a disaster out of my life. I'm glad God is faithful when I am not.

I have one friend I know I can call for anything. I wish I had more friends like that.

I love the book of Psalms. Without a devotional guide that tells me to read a certain passage, I'd probably never read any other part of the Bible. The Psalms have gotten me through the past four years.

Something I've longed for, but never thought would happen is finally happening. I'm excited. And nervous.

I have no desire to ever work in a corporate setting again. None. I love being home with my family. I would eventually like to do some freelance writing.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are my favorite times of year, followed closely by Easter. I detest Halloween.

There are several blogs I read on a daily basis, or at least when they update: Sarah Markley, Serena Woods and Jenni Clayville. I think you should check them out too!

Tell me something about yourself!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Is God Alone Enough?

Bear with me in this post. I usually write to express what's going on inside of me. In this case, I'm trying to figure out exactly what that is.

So, if I'm being honest, I have to say that I question whether God alone is enough for me. You know, just Him...not what He can do for me. Is the fact that Jesus died for me because He loves me enough for me? The answer my head and heart both know is yes. But sometimes I allow my circumstances or my feelings to dictate otherwise. And it's always a particular set of circumstances and feelings that lead me to question whether He alone is enough.

There are two things that I believe make me, me. And, when I don't get to or don't have time to do those two things, I start to question. Truthfully, those last two sentences are probably not even valid. What makes me, me is that I'm a child of God. That's all that should really matter. That should dictate everything about me. Having that relationship should automatically remind me that God alone is enough. But sometimes I struggle with remembering that. I sometimes want to see His hand move. I want signs and wonders. And when God is still and/or silent with me, I question. I get frustrated. I eventually make it back around to remembering what He's done for me, and that is enough to make me run to Him, knowing that if He never does another thing for me, He still loves me.

I think that's okay...because I think there are many people who need to know that. There are so many hurting people...people who question, many of which don't have a relationship with God. I think they need to know that Christians aren't perfect...that we don't have it all together. They need to know that I mess up, I question, I struggle, I sin; but even through all of that, I know that God loves me. And in my heart and mind, I know that when my circumstances fail, and when my feelings falter, God alone is enough for me.

Sheesh! I'm not even sure I can wrap my head around this post. Too much...and still too little.