Does Anyone Really Live Happily Ever After?


marriage5Recently my husband and I have had several people comment on what a great marriage we have and how we seem so happy with each other. This has prompted me to share a few things that we’ve learned along the way and to dispel some myths regarding our marriage.

The truth is, sixteen years ago (after being married only 5 years) we were not happily married. We were on the verge of divorce and were miserable and without hope in our relationship. We were headed straight toward the 50% of couples whose marriage ends in divorce. But at our lowest point we made a decision to do 3 things that changed our marriage, our lives and our situation.

First, we eliminated the option for divorce. We decided to work on our marriage and do so with the intention that we would never, ever divorce. We decided that we would not threaten divorce in the heat of arguments, we would not include it as an option for our future, we would no longer assume that if things weren’t working out that we would end our marriage and we would not think about it in our mind. It was simply removed from our lives and our vocabulary, period. And we didn’t do so just so we could be two people who didn’t divorce but were still miserable together. We did it with the intention that we were going to be happy in our marriage, no matter what it took.

marriage6Secondly, we knew it was going to be work and we committed to be lifelong students of marriage. We were at our rock bottom and it was not going to magically change overnight with the wave of a wand. We were going to have to work and work hard for a very long time to repair the damage that had been done and to build the marriage that we both wanted and needed. It’s been 16 years now and we are still working toward that goal. We read books, we get emails in our inboxes about marriage, we go to conferences, we pray together and for each other, we watch DVD’s, we go on date nights, we lead marriage small groups so we’re forced to study the topic of marriage, we put into practice the tools and information we have learned and are still learning. And guess what, it’s not easy and it’s still work but we know now that it has been worth every bit of effort we’ve put into it. We had to decide what our priority was going to be – our own selfish desires and our own unrealistic expectations or putting in the hard work it would require to make our marriage strong and healthy. We made our marriage the priority and it’s paying off.

Finally, and most importantly, we made God the Lord of our lives and the center of our marriage. We realized that everything we were doing was failing and that we couldn’t fix the relationship on our own. We surrendered our marriage to God and asked Him to do what we had been unable to do our own – restore our marriage and renew our love for each other. And as God always does and with the grace and mercy that only He can give, He came through and answered our prayers in a big way. We promised God that if He would restore our marriage then we would spend the rest of our married lives telling others what He had done in our marriage and encourage them to trust Him to do the same in theirs.

marriage7God transformed our lives and changed our marriage. And He placed in us a desire and determination to do everything within our abilities to continue to work on becoming the husband and wife He created us to be for each other. Our marriage isn’t perfect and we never want people to look at us and think so. Our marriage has the same struggles, the same disagreements, the same challenges as every other marriage. The thing that is different in our marriage that is lacking in the marriages of many young couples today is that we removed divorce as an option, we committed to work on it for the rest of our lives and we surrendered it over to God.

We have people tell us “you don’t understand how bad things are, we don’t love each other anymore and we don’t want to be married.” Trust me, you might be surprised just how much we can relate and how much we do understand. The point is, we do not have the perfect marriage. And we don’t for two reasons, #1 – it doesn’t exist so quit thinking it does and #2 – just because we’re in a good place now doesn’t mean we have never been in a bad place and we still don’t have bad moments. We do not have it all together, never have and probably never will. We simply chose a long time ago to not stay there and decided to do something about it.

marriage4So the question is “does anyone really live happily ever after?” The answer is yes but…..it won’t be easy and it’s going to take hard work and commitment on your part. Just like in the fairytales you have a very real enemy that you will have to battle for your marriage and that enemy IS NOT your spouse. And it will take time, commitment and a willingness to trust God to change you (not change your spouse, to change YOU) into the best husband or wife you can be and to study what His word says marriage is supposed to look like and be like. Then you will have to practice – you will fail many times but with practice you will find that over time you fail a whole lot less often. And you must remove divorce from your thoughts, your vocabulary and your options.

If you do these things I promise your marriage will succeed. It’s God’s will for you to live happily ever after (Jer. 29:11). Start doing your part and start trusting God to do His – you deserve the fairytale He has planned for you.

The Cost of Forgiveness


Have you ever done something and people just look at you like you’re crazy as they shake their head in disbelief? They just cannot seem to comprehend your action or response to a situation because it’s so backwards from what most people would do. This happened to a friend of mine and I wanted to share her inspirational story. My friend, Andrea, experienced just how offensive the gospel can be to an unbeliever when her family went through a terrible tragedy.

Her family lived in Guam where her husband, John, was stationed. By her accounts the military families stationed on the small, Pacific island are a closeknit community. Everybody knows everybody. Early in 2011 John took their two children, along with their daughter’s best friend and next door neighbor Erynn, on a hike to nearby beautiful, rocky cliffs. Andrea was in the United States for some medical tests and to visit family and friends.

It was an early Sunday morning at 1:15 am, while still in the US, that Andrea received the call no one is ever prepared for. While her family and their neighbor were hiking, there was a rockslide. Heroically, her husband attempted to save his daughter’s best friend. But tragically the majority of the rocks fell onto Erynn. Her injuries were too severe. She did not survive. The unbelievable grief of the family and friends of this remarkable young girl was overwhelming. The small, closeknit community had lost one of their own – one who died much too young. One who had so many unfulfilled dreams and ambitions ahead of her. One who was a precious child of God. One whose parents had lost their daughter and were experiencing unspeakable grief. One whose family turned to their Heavenly Father for comfort and peace during this tragic time.

Although it was a horrible accident, Andrea’s husband was questioning if he could have done something differently that could have saved her life, something that would have prevented this whole nightmare. He fully expected Erynn’s parents, Gary and Kathy, to be angry, hurt, and to question him as to how he could have let this happen. He prepared to apologize and take full responsibility as he and his children sat in their home, right next door to the home of their dear friends who had just experienced the unthinkable.

While John tried to make sense of what had just happened, Erynn’s parents had gone to hospital where their precious child had been taken and where they were met with the confirming news that their daughter had died. Their next step was to go home to tell their other children. Friends and neighbors had begun to gather at their home. Two families. Two homes side by side. Both families trying to make sense of what had just happened.

After awhile Gary, Erynn’s father, got up and walked out of his home without saying a word to anyone gathered there. He headed next door to John and Andrea’s home. As neighbors and friends watched, they assumed Gary was going to confront John. After all, one father sat in his home with his daughter alive and safe while he had just lost his daughter.

John didn’t know what to expect when Gary approached him in his home. But to his disbelief, Gary hugged him and told him it was ok. He offered John forgiveness. Erynn’s father offered him an apology for the pain he was going through. There stood John still wearing the bloodstained shirt he had on as he carried Erynn from the accident scene. And her father hugged him and offered gratitude for John’s efforts to save Erynn’s life. Gary prayed for him to find peace in God’s comforting presence. The family who had just found out their daughter had died was offering comfort and forgiveness to the one who felt responsible for her death. John was awed by the love of Christ Gary modeled that night in response to a tragic event that will forever mark all their lives.

But what ensued in the days and weeks following the accident was far more shocking than the selfless actions of this Godly family during their darkest hours. As Andrea’s family continued to grieve with their neighbors, the rest of the community began to murmur. “How can the Haywards continue to spend time with the Mayers after what the Mayers have done to their family?” “Why did John save his own daughter and not theirs?” Why are the Mayers grieving? They didn’t lose a child.” John was hurting because he had been entrusted with something very precious that he was unable to protect when tragedy struck. John and Andrea needed the support and comfort of their community. But what they received was negative comments, rumors, people avoiding them in stores or staring. Both families were hurting but only one received acknowledgement of their pain.

Through the whole situation they learned that people want to be front and center when the drama first happens but once the dust settles and it’s time to pick up the pieces and start rebuilding, they disappear. The relationships John and Andrea had been most intentional about building during their time in Guam were the first ones to let them down. There were families who selflessly stood by them the entire time. They were there to give to the Mayer family, not receive for themselves. But unfortunately, many turned their backs on them.

The second thing John and Andrea learned was that God must be first in your lives both individually and as a family. When your priority is to pour yourself into other people, serving, or involvment in the community, you’re priorities are out of order. With so many opportunities and so many needs, it is easy for God to come behind things we deem more important in the moment, even good things. God must be first, period.

And finally they learned how Sovereign our God is. God knew long before the accident that it would occur. And He set Christian leadership in place at the highest positions on the base who would have the wisdom and discernment to handle the aftermath and assist John in getting orders back to the United States to be near family and close friends. They learned that God’s grace is sufficient and His consuming love for us is abounding. They learned His love alone can comfort and heal our deepest hurts if we will allow it. They learned that a family who models the love of their Lord and Savior will offend those in darkness but will bring hope to those who believe all hope is gone. They learned what true forgiveness is and how to freely give and receive it. They learned that there is no one like our God and even in the midst of tragedy, He is good.

Forgiveness is rarely easy to give and many times there is a cost attached to it. Jesus was willing to pay the ultimate price to give forgiveness to us for our sins. What price are you willing to pay to give forgiveness to others – humility, embarrassment, loss of relationships of those who think you’re wrong for doing so?

The more important question you need to consider is this – what price are you willing to pay to hold on to unforgiveness? It will cost you more than you think.

Look Again


lost and found2Like most people, when I lose something I look for it. I start with the most likely places and keeping searching until I get to the not-so-likely places. And like most, if I don’t find it the first time, I go back to the beginning and start the search again – taking more time to look harder the second time in hopes that I may have missed it before.

Recently I was feeling particularly sorry for myself. It was an overcast, cold day and all I could see before me was a list of all the things I needed to and the small amount of time I had to do them in. All I could see was the commitments, the errands, the responsibilities, the desire for more time with God that doesn’t feel rushed or distracted and the desire for time for me. I tried to find something to be thankful for but in the moment of self-pity I couldn’t see anything.

And while I wallowed in my selfishness, God showed me what I had missed the first time I looked. I began to realize just how much I have to be grateful for and how very blessed I am. In that moment God didn’t stop me and say “suck it up, buttercup!” or “get over yourself and quit complaining!”. With all the love and grace I could stand, He simply turned down the volume of the negative thoughts in my mind and turned up the volume of the singing birds outside my window. I looked again at my circumstances and began to think of all the things I have to be thankful for. I saw the overwhelming love of God as He revealed one by one a list of blessings, answered prayers throughout my life, and simple moments like this one that typically go unnoticed but have the power to usher us into the presence of God if we’ll slow down long enough to allow it to.

refocus5Some of us may be going through difficult times – maybe we’re struggling financially, maybe we are barely able to make ends meet but at the end of the day most of us have a roof over our heads and food to eat because God is providing for our needs. Some may be dealing with marriage or relationship problems, health issues or family situations that are almost too much to bear. But whether you are having a bad moment, a bad day, a bad season or even a bad life – if you say there is nothing for you to be thankful for and there are no blessings in your life – God wants you to go back and look again. He wants you to refocus and look closely for what you may be missing because the noise in your head is distracting you from His goodness. Remove those thoughts from your mind and ask God to show you what you’ve been missing.

Do you find yourself looking at your life, your marriage, your circumstances and you can’t seem to find what you’re looking for? Do you feel alone and far from God? My encouragement to you is to look again – He’s right there waiting with open arms.

The Monopoly Strategy


monopolyOne of the best gifts we bought our son for Christmas was the game Monopoly Millionaire. I grew up during the height of Monopoly’s popularity and remember playing for hours at my friend Donna’s house along with a group of friends from school. To see my son discover the same enjoyment I had when I played so many years ago has been so much fun for me. However, the bad part about playing with my family is that I shared my strategy for winning and now it’s not so easy to beat them. When I play my goal is to buy everything I land on. I spend every fake dollar I have to acquire the most property because I know that I can defeat them by taking from them each time they land on one of my properties, especially once I start building houses and hotels. They don’t stand a chance when I keep taking and taking from them what they hold on to so dearly. They wrongly believe that if they hold on to their money and I spend all of mine then they will win. They don’t realize that even though they may have money in the beginning, eventually I will take it all away from them.

monopoly2We live in a world today where so many people are simply taking from others. They believe they will “win” if they can aquire more and that they will defeat the hurts hidden inside of them by taking from and hurting others. For many their life strategy is “I’ll hurt you before you have the chance to hurt me.” They take trust, time and love from those closest to them and misuse it, abuse it and never give it back in return. They play the monopoly strategy until those who love and care for them have nothing left to give. The game never ends for them because once they’ve taken all they can from one person they just move on to someone else and continue the game. The problem is that no one ever wins in this game.

monopoly5But there’s a different strategy for life that may not work in the game of Monopoly but it’s a proven winning strategy when it comes to real people and real relationships. It’s the strategy modeled by Jesus and one that all believers are called to follow. The world we live in teaches us that the way to defeat people is by taking from them. But God’s way is not to defeat people but to win them over to a relationship with Him by giving to them. When we give of ourselves sacrificially to others – we can give our love, our attention, our time and our trust – we model the same selfless love that God showed when He gave His Son to die on the Cross for us. It was an understanding of that sacrificial love that won me over into a life committed and surrendered to my Lord and Savior. It’s the same strategy that we as Christians are called to today. When we sacrifically give to others – from those we are in intimate relationship with to those who are complete strangers to us – we win them over to the love of Christ by showing them how much He loves them.

monopoly7What’s your strategy? Are you a taker? Are you selfishing hanging on to all you could be giving due to fear of being used or rejected? Are you trying to defeat people for a better position or more pay? Are you taking from others but giving nothing in return? Are you trying to defeat past hurts by refusing to give forgiveness, your time or your love to those who caused the hurt? Has your strategy changed from a giver to a taker because someone betrayed your trust? Are you unwilling to give until you receive?

Or are you a giver? Do you give of yourself – your time, your love, your attention, your resources – in order to win God’s way? Have you experienced the joy and the blessing that comes from giving instead of taking? Do you seek ways that you can give more to those you love? Do you give even though you may receive nothing in return?

monopoly8Being a giver does not come without risk. But with God’s guidance on how to give and who to give to, you can minimize that risk. The joy you will receive from giving will far outweigh any risk involved. There are so many people who are empty because others have taken from them. So take a look around and see who God puts in your path that desperately needs to receive what you have to give. There’s someone waiting to filled with the love and hope that can only come from God. Let God use you to show others the incomparable love of Christ through sacrificial giving and in turn you will see how truly amazing our God is.

 

You’ve Reached Your Destination


gps 3I began this particular journey about 5 years ago. It began like most journeys God has sent me on with a little apprehension, a little uncertainty of what lie ahead, a little curiousity as to how long the journey would last and a lot of expectation as to what God would do through this new journey.

It wasn’t long into the journey that I realized this one was not going to be an easy one. In January 2008 we moved my grandmother in to live with us. She was 96 years old at the time and in remarkably good health. She was pretty self-sufficient and the change to our lifestyle was minimal. That all changed pretty rapidly. Her health remained good for her age, but her expectations increased a lot. At first it was not that big of a deal. After all, she was my grandmother who I love dearly and I wanted to make this final season of her life as comfortable and enjoyable as possible. But the more and more that was required and expected of me, the more difficult the journey became.

I found myself becoming resentful toward what I began to see as unrealistic expectations. I struggled to continue the journey without an attitude, especially when I felt everything I did was not appreciated and was never enough. The more the journey impacted my lifestyle and my family, the more my resentment built.

destination 4I began to question God as to why He sent me on this journey. I wanted to know when it would end. Don’t judge – I’m just being honest because this is truly one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I wondered what lesson I could possibly be missing that God was trying to teach me. Oh, I knew the obvious ones – patience, serving others with no expectation of anything in return, doing all things as unto the Lord, obedience, praising God through the difficult times – but I just knew that there was something I was missing. I knew I was right where God wanted me to be, yet I became frustrated and defeated because I just couldn’t seem to change my attitude no matter how much I prayed about it.

God certainly encouraged me along the way with special encounters with complete strangers who had also been caregivers. Each time I experienced one of these chance meetings I walked away with a renewed resolve to stick it out until God showed me I had reached my destination and the journey was over. We also had opportunities to go on vacations over the past 5 years that allowed for a time of rest and rejuvenation to continue on. But in the past 6 months, more often than not, I found myself dealing with emotions that were not Christ-like and left me feeling ashamed.

Shortly after Christmas, Sissy (that’s what we call her) fell in her room. We took her to the hospital but they soon sent her home after finding no broken bones. She began having difficulty sleeping, was in constant pain and her health seemed to be declining. After a second fall, we decided together that it may be time for her to be in a place that would be better equipped and trained to care for her. I began to look at different facilities and prepare for the end of the journey.

I quickly found that moving Sissy into a long-term care facility was not going to be an option based on a lot of different variables. I surrended to the fact the journey was not over and in reality, there was no end in site. Once again I felt deflated because I thought I had reached the end of a difficult season only to realize it was not only going to continue, but was going to continue indefinitely.

destination 5I began to pray once again for God to give me the strength to continue on the journey He had set before me and to help me to have a Christ-like attitude in caring for Sissy. A few days later I was doing my typical routine of checking email/Facebook/Twitter when I came across a link to an article on Twitter. It was an interview with Amy Grant, a Christian recording artist, who was caring for her aging father. She talked about the challenges of being a caretaker and the abundance of emotions you experience. But then something she said “clicked” with me. She said there’s no map for this kind of journey but it may be the last lesson you learn from your loved one. My heart began to change and I stopped looking for what God was trying to teach me and began to focus on what I could learn from Sissy.

Within a few weeks God began to open doors for the journey to come to an end. Even though I clearly knew God was orchestrating everything that was happening and I saw that the opportunity was there for my prayers to be answered, for some reason I questioned if I really had reached my destination. I had gotton comfortable in my difficult situation and no matter how much I had longed for it to end, when God did open the door for that to happen, I did not immediately step through. It’s funny how sometimes the very thing we pray for, is the thing we hesitate to receive when God offers it. And when we hesitate, we miss out on the fullness of blessing found in His perfect timing.

gps2In my hesitation, I realized I felt like I had not completely “got it” and that I still needed more time for my heart and my attitude to be completely right. Then one day in Sissy’s room while I was kneeling down before her putting her socks on her feet, God whispered “I see your heart, the journey is over. You’ve reached your destination.”

On March 1st Sissy will be moving to a small, privately-owned assisted living home. She is looking forward to being somewhere offering around the clock  care and to meeting new friends. She knows the time is right for this next season of her life.

Are you on journey or in a season of difficulty that you wish would come to an end? Or perhaps God is bringing to an end a season you’ve been in – even a comfortable and good season yet you may sense that He’s telling you it’s time for it to come to an end? Don’t question the end of your journey, God just may be preparing you for your next great journey in life. Trust in His timing, you have now reached your destination.

Strength in Numbers


strongerLike many other Americans, I watched the Grammy’s last night. Since the early American Idol days, I’ve been a fan of Kelly Clarkson’s music. And last night her album “Stronger” won the grammy for Best Pop Vocal Album. The album, and single by the same name, were also nominated for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Pop Solo Performance. The song has become an anthem of sorts for those going through difficult times, especially in the area of relationships, who believe that what doesn’t kill them will indeed make them stronger. And Kelly Clarkson is not the first to sing about finding strength through trying times. Kanye West had a song with the same theme. The saying has also been quoted in the movies Conan the Barbarian (1982) and Steel Magnolias (1989). The philosophy that we are strengthened by the situations we endure and survive originated from German philosopher and poet Friedrich Nietzsche in 1888 and it is a philosophy that many live by.

There is certainly some truth to the concept and there are many who have gone through major crisis situations in their lives that forever changed them for the better. They walked away with a resolve to use their circumstance to reinforce and strengthen their determination that nothing can or will destroy them. Based on the number of life difficulties some of my friends have been through, they should be nearly invincible at this point according to Nietzsche.

stronger 5Yet I have come to understand that while that may be true for some, it is most certainly not the case for all. I have encountered those who have lived through extremely challenging situations and the ensuing result is far from strength. What didn’t kill them made them hardened toward life and toward other people. It wore them down to the point that they found themselves no longer fighting their situations, but accepting them as the hand that they’ve been dealt. In some cases, what didn’t kill them has left them broken and mistrusting of others. It has made them bitter and closed off to the love and acceptance offered to them by those who attempt to reach out. What didn’t kill them has worn them down to the point that they are simply enduring life instead of living it. It has left them hopeless, weakened and lacking the will to fight through their circumstances. What didn’t kill them has nearly destroyed them.

I believe there is danger in looking to life’s difficulties for strength. When we do so, we come to rely on ourselves to get us through the hard times. And while there are those who seemingly are the exception, the majority of us need something so much more than our hardships to find strength. After a series of hard times early in my own life, I found myself beaten down and defeated. I was angry and resentful that I didn’t have it as “easy” as everyone else seemed to. My marriage was added to a list of personal failures and I was left feeling weak and hopeless. It was during that low point that I turned to God, who had been waiting for me all along. I sought God at my weakest point and in that moment I surrended control of my circumstances to Him. And when I turned the fight over to God when I no longer had any fight left in me, my life was forever changed. For me, my strength was never found in that which did not kill me. My strength was found in Christ.

stronger 2I found that when life gets hard and I feel beaten down, I find such hope in knowing I no longer must rely on my own strength to fight the battle. The battle belongs to my Lord who is my strength and my shield (Psalm 28:7). I trust in Him to be my strength and the bible promises that “those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31). What didn’t kill me taught me that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil. 4:13) – not through the challenges I face, but through Christ. In 2Cor. 12:8 Paul asked God to take away a hardship he faced and God told him “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

In recognizing his source of strength, Paul concluded: “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2Cor.12:10).

stronger 6It’s no easy feat to “delight” in our weaknesses, hardships and difficulties. But when we find our strength in Christ and not in how well we endure what life throws our way, there comes a point when we realize that finding delight through the tough times by relying on Him is a whole lot easier than relying on our own strength. We were never meant to fight alone. We were never meant to struggle through life in attempt to barely crawl across the finish line when our life is over. We were meant to soar on the wings like eagles!

What have you been through that hasn’t killed you but has made you battle weary and broken? Are you ready to surrender the fight to God and lean on Him to give you the strength to carry on? In battles of war, surrender is a sign of weakness. But in the battle of life, surrender is strength. Isn’t it time you wave the white flag?

Is It Live or Is It Memorex?


memorexWith all the recent media attention given to Beyonce’s singing (or not) of the National Anthem at the Presidential Inaugaration I thought it may be a good time to share some thoughts on authenticity. There was a commercial from the early 1970’s – yes I’m dating myself but let’s suffice it to say I was very young and barely remember the commerical 🙂 The commerical was for Memorex tapes which were used for recording purposes. They featured Ella Fitzgerald  singing a note that shattered a glass while being recorded to a Memorex audiotape. The tape was then played back and the recording also broke the glass as the announcer voice asked “Is it live, or is it Memorex?” The point was that the recording was so close to the real thing that you couldn’t tell the difference between the two. People have always been fascinated with the real versus fake stories in which something we thought to be real was revealed a fake – think “Lance Armstrong doping scandal”, “Manti Te’o fake girlfriend”, “runaway bride from Georgia”, and the heartbreaking story of Susan Smith of South Carolina. These stories make for headlines that we just can’t seem to get enough of.

memorex 2I think the fascination comes from our instinctive desire for authenticity. We want people to be real and we want to believe them when they appeal to our emotions in an effort to make us buy into their story. We want a happy ending for them, we cheer on the apparent victim and our hearts ache for those in seemingly impossible situations who display incredible strength and hope. We want desperately for their story to have a positive outcome. And then there’s the letdown – the moment we turn on the news and confirm our doubts and suspicions that it was all a big fake. Dozens of these stories over the years have created a cynicism among us that causes us to question every story and every person as we wonder “are they for real?” Whether a person’s behavior is good or bad, we just want them to be real and authentic. That’s why many celebrities with less than stellar reputations have such a following of supporters. They may behave horribly but in people’s minds “at least they’re being who they really are and not pretending to be something they’re not.”

memorex 4We long for authenticy because it’s part of our design. We were created to seek what is real and what is true. In a perfect world that longing would lead us to Jesus. But for many of us we are drawn to what seems real only to find ourselves fooled by imposters. The enemy of our souls is a master deceiver and he uses his abilities to draw us into believing in something or someone other than Christ. Many times the fakes are packaged so well it’s nearly impossible to tell the difference between what’s real and what’s not.

Because we instinctively seek that which is authentic, we can be incredibly scarred when we believe something to be real only to find out it never was. People who are seemingly real wield great power to influence those desperately seeking something or someone who is genuine. Sometimes that is used to bring great harm to those who believe the lie. Jim Jones and David Koresh are just two of many such individuals who took advantage of people who were seeking the truth only to later to be revealed as masters of deception.

The impact that such deception, whether intentional or simply by the succeptibility to failure of the human nature, ranges from mild letdown to devastating hurt. Many have put their trust and faith in a person, a job, an organization, a church or an ideology only to be forever damaged by broken trust and crushed faith when they found that what they believed to have been true and real was not.

memorex 5There is only One in whom we can securely put our trust and faith in. And with great confidence we can believe everything He says to be true because He has never failed, never been anything other than who He says He is. His love for us displayed in the sacrifice of His son, Jesus, is proof that His love is real. For those willing to say they believe, He reveals Himself fully as the Truth. But many find it hard to believe and hard to trust because their previous misplaced trust and faith has brought them great pain in the past. So they respond with disbelief and doubt.

For those of us who call ourselves Christians, we are charged with sharing His truth with those who doubt. And if we are to be successful in influencing them to share in what we already know to be real, we must first be authentic ourselves. People must see Christ through us so that we are not setting them up for letdown. If we are solely depending on our own abilities to influence others we are risking failure and loss of trust. But when they see Christ in us, we cannot fail because He never fails to be anything but authentic.

memorex 6The way we do this is by spending time with God through prayer, reading His Word, and spending time with other believers who seek the same. In doing so we are molded more and more into God’s image and that becomes what is reflected to others when they encounter us in the workplace, in school, in our neighborhoods or in the community. And we must always guard our hearts against the deception and temptation of the enemy. There are many people in the world today seeking something real and we have the opportunity to show them God by being authentic ourselves. We must take our responsibility seriously and refrain from actions and behaviors that would compromise that opportunity for influence.

As humans we were made to seek that which is truth. If you are a believer, make sure you do everything you can to ensure that when they meet you they’ll see the authenticy of Christ in you. Unlike Memorex, being a real good copy will never have the same impact as being 100% real. Make sure when someone asks “are they for real?” the answer is a resounding yes!

The Fixer


scandal 2One of my favorite shows on TV is “Scandal”. The show’s main character, Olivia Pope, is known as a “fixer”. Or more appropriately, she is The Fixer in Washington, DC. When someone finds themselves in the midst of a major problem or scandal that needs fixing, Olivia is the go-to girl. She has an uncanny ability to know exactly how things will play out in each situation and she has a response plan in place before her client hardly knows what has hit them. She is cool under pressure and a brilliant communicator. She is a strong woman who can handle most anything thrown her way and she never reveals her hand before it’s time. Even her own team many times has no idea what she is thinking because she is unbelievably difficult to read. The show’s characters are complicated, Olivia being the most complex by far. Her life revolves around her repairing the damage of one scandal after another. But like everyone, even the seemingly unbreakable Olivia Pope has a weakness. And while she is the Queen of fixing everyone else’s problems, the one thing Olivia cannot fix is herself.

mr fix itLike Olivia, many of us live our lives as fixers. We are constantly attempting to fix things like our marriages, our finances, our family drama, our job situations, our kids, our loneliness, our sadness, our addictions, our hurts and our brokenness. Some of us accept the help of others by receiving their advice, counseling, methods or resources. Others simply say “I got it” and attempt the needed repairs all alone because they have all the tools they think they need at their disposal. Olivia Pope has a team that works with her but she is undoubtedly in charge and what she says goes. And each team member is forever indebted to Olivia because they too have been “rescued” from impending disaster by the one and only Olivia Pope. Although she is surrounded by others she is completely in control and very unwilling to relinquish one bit of that control.

You may be like Olivia Pope and you may be a really good fixer. In fact, you may be the best fixer among those you know. You may have fixed long-standing family feuds, you may have fixed your marriage or your finances, you may have even fixed a personal addiction, a problem with your child or a major job issue. But like Olivia Pope, you too have an area you cannot fix, yourself. No matter how hard we try we will never be able to fix certain things. There will always be areas of hurt, unforgiveness, anger or other wounds to our hearts for which there is only one fix.

God healsGod is the original fixer and He alone can fix the areas that you and no other person or thing can fix. I was a fixer and I always found a way to fix that one thing that I just knew would make my life complete. The problem was that I never really fixed what was really wrong. Each thing that I thought would bring me happiness was only a temporary “fix” and I found myself right back where I started, feeling empty and looking for my next fix.

Finally someone told me I didn’t have a happiness problem, I had a joy problem. I based my happiness on my circumstances. I thought that if everything was fixed in my life then I’d be happy. What I didn’t realize was that there would always be something that needed fixing. But that if I would surrender my life to The Fixer, Jesus, then I could still have joy even when there was some area of my life in need of repair. I didn’t need a better husband, a bigger house or more stuff. I desperately needed a Savior. I needed to admit I couldn’t fix everything and that I needed Him to fix me.

nativity 2I needed to stop living a life of sin where all I thought about was myself. I needed to surrender my life to Jesus and seek His will for my life and not my own. I needed to stop trying to pretend like some things I couldn’t fix would simply fix themselves with time. I needed to trust God to heal those areas I’d never be able to fix or the areas I didn’t want to face. I needed the love of Christ and the peace that surpasses all understanding to fill the voids of my life. I needed the strength I have in Christ alone to overcome the things I’d never be able to in my own strength. I needed the promise of eternal life that I received the moment I said “I believe”. I needed His comfort in times of sorrow and His guidance in the times I felt lost and confused. I needed to believe that things could get better and they did when I placed my hope in Christ alone and no one else, including myself. I needed that precious baby born in a manger so long ago who came from heaven to earth to die the death that you and I deserve so we don’t have to. I needed his forgiveness of my sins so that I would be able to forgive others. I needed His unconditional love and acceptance more than I ever realized. I needed fixed. I needed Jesus.

Game Over


nfl 3My husband and I are NFL fans and most Sundays we have football on the TV no matter what teams are playing.  Because we live near Nashville we see the Tennessee Titans games locally. My 100-year-old grandmother, who lives with us, is also a football fan and more specifically she is a Titans fan. Yesterday she was watching the game from her room and about midway through the 2nd quarter she came out and announced “well, the Titans have lost.” I told her the game was only in the first half and even though they were behind there was still plenty of time for them to win the game. After all, in the NFL things can change very quickly and you can’t assume a team has lost until every last second has ticked off the clock. But my grandmother’s mind was made up. She had already given up on the Titans and she had written them off before the game was even half over.

As Christians we many times face the same scenario. By all accounts it’s game over. We check the scoreboard of our life and we decide there’s no way we can come back from our current situation. We give up hope as we determine that there is no possible scenario for us to stage a comeback from our dire circumstances – the marriage is over, we’re never going to get out of debt, we’ll never be happy or find Mr. Right, finding a good job is a lost cause, the family drama will never end, our spouse will never change, overcoming this disease just isn’t a reality. We walk out and give up and add our situation into the “loss” column. Yet many times we are just an instant away from a game-changing moment. If only we’d just hung in there just a little bit longer……..

scoreboardI’ve done it myself and I’ve witnessed it in the life of others. We decide early on that there is no way that whatever we are facing can end up being a “win” in our lives. So we just give up. We lose hope. We don’t have enough faith to believe that things can turn around. We can’t imagine any possible way. We proclaim that it’s going to take a miracle but then determine that miracles don’t happen to people like us. We can’t do anything to change the outcome, it is what it is. We underestimate God. And so that’s it.

In 1996 my husband and I walked out of 2 Jacksonville Jaguar football games thinking the game was over only to hear the stadium erupt as we left and we had to listen to the Jaguars stage an incredible comeback from our car radio. It didn’t take us long to figure out that we were never going to leave a Jaguars game again before the final second had clicked off the scoreboard. The Jaguars went on to have one stunning game after another and as fans it was thrilling to be a part of. No matter what the scoreboard said and how bleak the situation looked we believed they were going to win because we’d seen them do it and we had the faith that they we able to overcome even the most dire situations.

comeback2Our lives and the lives of many people we know have paralleled the Jaguars 1996 miracle season. I have experienced and I have seen it firsthand in the lives of others great comebacks when by all accounts there wasn’t a chance. My own marriage made a miraculous comeback when it seemed like there was no hope left. I’ve seen friends overcome impossible obstacles. I’ve known people who have come out on the winning side when the odds were highly stacked against them. I also know those who are right now in the middle of a losing battle. They feel like giving up. They know it looks like it’s game over. But like those of us who have lived through an unbelievable comeback, they are putting their trust in God to stage the comeback of all comebacks. They know that they cannot win without Him. They know the odds are not in their favor. But they know never to underestimate God and to never, ever walk out until the last second has clicked off the time clock.

touchdownHow much time is left on your clock. Have you already called the game when there’s still plenty of time left. Are you heading out the door because you’ve decided the game’s over? There’s still time left. Don’t take the chance that you may miss the very moment when the momentum shifts in your favor. You may be giving up just before the breakthrough. Praying to God right now and telling Him that you can’t see any way your situation can change but that you know that He is more than able to turn your loss into a win, may just be the game-changer you’ve been waiting for. Don’t miss that moment when the heavens erupt into a chorus of cheers because you hung in there and made the decision that you’re not giving up until you have a victory. It can happen. You’re moment is coming. Don’t find yourself on the outside when it comes. Take a seat and ride it out. Your comeback is playing out right now – and trust me, you don’t want to miss one second of it.

Seriously, Is It Worth It?


More often than I would care to admit this very question enters into my mind. Sometimes it actually makes its way out of my mind as I utter the words aloud in disbelief. Why, you ask, does this question frequent my thoughts? Blame it on Pride and her ugly, little step-sister, Stubbornness. All too often I encounter people who allow pride and stubbornness to keep them from something or someone they really wish they had if the truth be known.

So many of us allow our own pride to keep us from the very thing we want. Our pride and stubbornness becomes the barrier to our blessing. And more often than not we find every other possible person or thing to blame other than ourselves. If only we could be willing to act in humility and to take the step to break down the barriers, we could experience the blessing of whatever it is our pride and stubbornness has kept us from. And from my own experiences, it normally takes far too long before we reach that point of surrender. Then we find ourselves wondering “why did I allow that to go on for so long?” Standing your ground for the sake of your pride will never be worth whatever momentary embarassment, shame or humiliation – real or imagined – that you may feel. I promise.

What is your pride and stubbornness keeping you from? Is it the reconciliation of a relationship you once valued but one “offense” is keeping you from each other because neither is willing to take the first step toward an apology? Is it peace within your household because you and your spouse have decided to keep a scorecard on each other (“he did that so I’m going to do this”)? Is it freedom from the bondage of sin because you are unwilling to admit that your friends and family are right and that you really do have a problem and need help? Are you missing out on all the ways that God wants to bless your life because you are unwilling to surrender control to Him? Are you in a perpetual cycle of financial struggle because you think you know better than God how best to manage your money? Do you have years of anger and resentment built up toward someone because you’re unwilling to forgive them for something that happened a lifetime ago? Do you refuse to stop rolling your eyes every time someone mentions your coworker’s name because you think she got the promotion that you deserved? Have you been giving your spouse the “cold shoulder” for three days because you absolutely WILL NOT be the first to say I’m sorry this time? Are you willing to risk your eternal salvation because you have taken the stand that it will be your decision when you’re good and ready and not because your wife keeps nagging you about the whole church thing?

Whatever you are missing out on because of pride and stubbornness, seriously, is it worth it? Let me answer that question for you, no! It’s not worth it! It never will be! So what are you waiting for? Get over yourself and humbly take the first step toward conquering Pride and Stubbornness in your life. Only you know what action you need to take but whatever it is, don’t waste another minute.

And for the record, a funny thing always happens when I release a tirade upon the shortcomings I see in others. God gently put his finger on an area of pride in my life and lovingly whispers “seriously, Renée, is it worth it?” And in that moment, humbled by His overwhelming grace and mercy that I will never deserve, I find myself once again crying out “Father, forgive me.” Won’t you do the same? It’s so worth it!