Love to Orlando

Sunday morning I woke up to a chilling message.  Mass shooting in Orlando at Pulse club.. Call your friends please.  I  immediately called one of my best friends, heart squeezing in my chest,  and he confirmed the horrifying news.  Pulse the night club had been shot up.   A horrifying amount of innocent lives lay dead; many more had flooded Orlando Regional with injuries.  Yet another senseless shooting, an act of hate so devastating the ripple effects will last for years.  And as I lay face down on my bed that afternoon crying tears for the lives lost and  a city I called home for 9 years and still call my home, I asked God the question we have all asked “WHY.”

It is a simple question with a profound answer.  The “why” is being explored by law enforcement, government, news media, and human beings all over the world. Questions, so many questions, with difficult, if any, answers.  I don’t know the whole of the “why” but I know a part; hate.   Pure, unfiltered, no regard for another humans life, hate.

Martin Luther King Jr once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that. “   Love; pure, asking nothing in return, love.  Love is action.  As the hours of Sunday ticked off I saw post after post on Facebook about love in action. Thousands were standing in the Florida sun and summer heat to donate blood,   hundreds brought food, water, umbrellas, and handing it out to aid those standing in line.  Post after post of prayers being sent up, others opening homes, offering to pay for flights, the list goes on. Pure, asking nothing in return, love.

So often, it is talked about the first greatest commandment “Love the Lord your God with all your heart”, but seldom do we talk about the command he gave after that.   It is just as important as the first one.  In fact Jesus showed us in action after action, told us in story after story, yet we don’t talk about it.  What is that second command?  Love your neighbor as yourself.   LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.   The bible then goes on to read that no other commands are greater than these two.  (Mark 12:30-31)  I have rolled that around in my head, and it has echoed in my heart the last three days.  If we love Jesus we must love others too.  And love is action.  It is standing in line to donate blood, it is helping when and where we can.  It doesn’t matter how big or small the act is… it really doesn’t.  What matters is the love behind it.

Maybe we cannot make sense of this tragedy or the “why” behind it.  But we can love.  We can combat the war on terror by loving our neighbor as ourselves.  Not just in the wake of such violence, but every single day.  Every. Single. Day.  Choose love.  Choose to show love.  To act in love. Love is light and it drives out hate. And as Jesus so poignantly showed us at the cross, love wins. Every time.

June 15, 2016. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

We Are All Human

Human beings

Dedicated to my inspiration for this one: Purple Rain will never be the same.

Who are you?  What are you?  Are you rich, middle class, poor? What about the color of your skin?  What religion do you practice?  Republican or Democrat?   Gay, straight, transgender?    Are you a woman or a man?

I was talking with a friend the other day about community.  Said friend posed an honest, profound question. Why must it be the “Gay” community, the “Straight” community, the “Black” community or the “Christian” community?  Why can’t we just be one community?   Are we not all human?  The questions left me thinking.

So many things this day and age separate us: race, politics, socioeconomic class, religion, sex, and sexual preferences.   We fight, argue, slander, and tell others they are wrong if their opinions don’t match ours, we don’t reach out to others we feel are beneath our social standing.   We hate and discriminate due to skin color or sexual orientation.  And in the midst of it all we forget the simple truth that universally binds us.  We are all human beings.  Despite all the things that make us different at the end of every day, we are still human, the same at the cellular level.

The second greatest command in the bible is to love your neighbor as yourself.  Your neighbor isn’t simply the person living next to you, behind you, or in front of you.  It isn’t just the people you work with.  Your neighbor is every single one of your fellow humans.    We all suffer, have trials, joys, and pain, things that have broken us and put us back together.   So what if they believe different, so what if their sexual preference is different from yours.  So what if their skin color is different.   They are still human.  I would venture to guess that each and every one of us wants the same thing. To be loved and accepted unconditionally.

But we don’t, we let the shit get in the way.   It is time we shovel the shit out of the pasture of humanity and start loving our neighbor as we do ourselves.     Maybe, just maybe, then some of the shit killings, bullying, and hate will stop.   Martin Luther King once said “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”  It’s up to us.

Human

June 29, 2015. Tags: , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Great is His Faithfulness

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These last two months have been an interesting season in my life. The season has brought many changes, ones I never saw coming.   My heart and mind have run thru a gamut of emotions:  grief, sadness, pain (physical and emotional), joy, peace, and confusion.  It has been dark and stormy full of questions yet sunny and full of hope and promise.

I decided about six weeks ago to separate from my husband and end my marriage. This was my no means an easy decision, but the best one to care well for myself and be healthy.   I walked away and felt grief yet more strong than I had ever felt in my entire life.  In the days that followed my separation I drew much closer to God. Sometimes overwhelmed with questions, what if this, what if that, all I could mutter was his holy name, Jesus.   Despite all of the chaos in and around me, I also felt an enormous amount of peace.  I truly began to know what the peace that passes all human understanding was.  I can’t explain it.

In the midst of this I also found out I needed a total abdominal hysterectomy.  I had been suffering for many years with pain during my monthly cycles but over the last two years things had gotten much worse.  I was to the point of being in physical pain all of the time, and was struggling to work and do the things I needed to do.  While I knew the hysterectomy was the absolute right decision for me, it was still a difficult decision to make.  More questions swirled in my mind. I knew that I would not be able to care for myself for a few weeks, and I was going to need help.   I prayed, and saw God intervene.  My mom and a friend of hers worked it out to be here with me.

Over and over again in the last eight weeks I have seen God move in ways I cannot explain or would have even been able to fathom in my human mind.   Nearly every single day something has brought me joy.   It has come in unexpected ways and been found in unexpected places.  I have seen the grace, mercy, and love Christ has for me, every single day.  I have had to take life day by day sometimes moment by moment, but have learned what it means to be able to do all things thru Christ who gives me strength.

One of my most loved scripture verses has long been Lamentations 3:22-23.  The unfailing love of the Lord never ceases!  By his mercies we have been kept from complete destruction.  Great is his faithfulness; his mercies are new every morning.  I say to myself “The Lord is my inheritance therefore, I will hope in him.”

I don’t know what you might be facing in your life’s journey today.  It might be all sunshine and rainbows or like me it might be storming and there are more questions than answers.  Hear me dear one.  God loves you, he has your back.  Call upon him. He will answer.  Look for him in the moments of every day.  You will see the joy, the grace, the mercy, and the love he will show you.  He is faithful and I know that like the answers have come to me right when I needed them, they will come to you too.  Stay strong; remember you can do all things thru him.  He is your source of joy and all things.

May 6, 2015. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Forgiveness

ashes      I attended my first Ash Wednesday service tonight.  I must say I was overcome with emotion.  As I sat there, ashes on my forehead, holding the bread and wine of communion, contemplating the state of my heart, I felt something come over me.   And it wasn’t the shame of my sinful heart.  It was love.

I have long known I needed forgiveness because I was a “sinner” in need of redemption.    I remember first asking for this forgiveness at the tender age of 5.  I don’t think I truly understood what I was doing, or what I was asking for.   As I grew up I began to understand more and more what it all meant.   So many times I asked forgiveness, wailed over my sin, human frailty, all the while guilt and shame consuming me.   I missed something.  In all my 39 years of sitting in church hearing message after message on salvation and forgiveness, I missed an important part of it, love.

I am not sure how I could have missed it, but I did.   Forgiveness is an act of love.   God sent Jesus, his Son, to die on the cross because his love for us outweighed any hurt we would cause him.   I forgive my husband even when he hurts me. Why? My love for him is greater than any hurt. God forgives us when we sin and hurt him because his love for us is greater than any hurt we could cause him.

I have long struggled with the shame and guilt of my sinful nature. I wear them like a heavy winter coat.  I am quick to point out all my flaws and frailty.  I can curse like sailor, think thoughts I shouldn’t, struggle with anger, I could go on.  But God looks at all that and says “You asked me to forgive you right?  I don’t keep a record Mindy.  I have already forgotten it.”   Love keeps no record of wrong ( 1 Corthians 13).   He loves me enough to not only forgive but forget my sin.   So why can’t I?

As I sat there in my seat tonight these thoughts racing through my head, I felt the heaviness of shame and guilt fall off, and love run down.    God gave up his son, because his love was greater than any sin I could or would commit.   Forgiveness is an act of love.

love

February 19, 2015. Tags: , , , . Uncategorized. 2 comments.

A Goat and Contentment

Goat

A few years ago I decided to make a change from making New Year’s resolutions to making the year about focusing on a word or phrase.  Last year my word was “best”. I focused on being and giving the best in any and every situation.   Sometimes I succeeded, sometimes I failed, but I always tried to give everything my best.  I decided my focus for 2015 was going to be contentment.  And it all started with a goat and a cell phone.

A few months ago I was having a fit about my cell phone not working properly.  Truthfully I was mad because I wasn’t able to get the phone I wanted. The phone worked just fine, the problem was me, not the phone.   In my fit of frustration my Pastors words from the previous Sunday came floating by in my mind.   He and some others had been on a recent mission trip to Haiti and had provided some goats to help families have a source of income.  The Haitians were grateful and happy about getting a goat to help their families.  A goat! And there I stood in my home complaining about a working cell phone.

It started me thinking about contentment. Why couldn’t I be content with the phone I had?  Why did I want something more when what I had was much more than people in Haiti, or even in the United States has?  Was I really letting material things define me? Was I discontent?  Oh boy.  The longer I spent pondering those questions the more I didn’t like the answers.

I am reluctant to admit it but yes, I do let material things define me to some degree.  I just feel better about myself when a label is attached to my clothes or handbag.  I have a lot of nice things, but it never seems to be enough. I frequently find myself wanting more, something different, something new.  The cold reality set in long before the last minute of 2014 counted down.  I am not content.

This spills over into other areas of my life.  Contentment isn’t confined to just material things, but relationships too.  People aren’t perfect, and relationships are hard and messy. It is easy to become discontent.    And discontentment leads to a lack of peace, about me, my relationships and life in general.   That isn’t how I want to live.

2015 is the year I learn to be content.    The last message I heard in 2014 was on Psalms 23. A well known biblical passage, but I was given a fresh perspective.    An underlying theme of that passage is contentment.   With the Lord as my shepherd I will never lack anything.   I will be led to quiet, peaceful, places of rest and refreshment.  I will be guided along the right paths for me. When I walk thru dark valleys the Lord will walk with me and comfort me.  When facing my enemies a table will be prepared for me.   I will be protected.   Goodness and mercy will follow me every single day of my life.  My cup will overflow.   The secret to the kind of contentment found in Psalms 23 is me.  The Lord is my shepherd as long as I make the choice to follow him.  Those things are mine when I choose to recognize them and be content in them.  My cup overflows when I am content with the things I have and my relationships.   Contentment is a choice and it is time I start choosing it.

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January 15, 2015. Tags: , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

A Grateful Heart

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For the past few years, I have done “30 days of thankful”.   Every day in the month of November I would post something I was thankful for as my Facebook status.  My intent was to do the same this year, until I thought about an old song we used to sing in church, “Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart”.  We “give” thanks with our mouth.  We speak it.     But do we mean it?

The mouth is a wild animal, often speaking before we can check the attitude of our heart.   The song title suggests that when we do give thanks, we must check to be sure that our hearts are as grateful as the mouth.   I didn’t post something every day for thirty days because I wasn’t sure that in years past my heart was sincere.   So I asked myself a difficult question, am I truly giving thanks if my heart isn’t in it?  God hears me when I talk, but he also sees my heart (I Samuel 16:7).  I don’t feel I am truly giving thanks if my heart isn’t in it.  The words of my mouth and the attitude of my heart must be the same.  Then I am truly grateful.

I made a decision to spend the days up until now thinking of things that I am truly grateful for.   Friends, I give you my heart.

I have not and will not have children come through me but I have many whom have come to me.  They enrich me, challenge me, change me, make me think, and give me more love than my heart can hold.   I am so grateful for the gift that is each one of those kids.   Lil Man- in my heart, every day, forever.

My husband- God didn’t give me what I wanted, He gave me what I needed.  And that is so much better than anything I could have ever dreamed of wanting for myself.  He isn’t perfect, and neither am I, but we make it work.  He is my teammate!

My family- all inclusive!  I am blessed to still have grandparents, and at my age that is a true gift.  I enjoy relationship with them.   My parents are such an example of marriage, dedication, and hard work. To say thanks for not giving up will never be enough.   My brother, in spite of it all, we managed to find our way.   My sister in law- truly grateful for the wife and mother she is!  My nieces, you are quite simply my world.  To the many I didn’t mention- thank you for the things you add to my life. My heart overflows because of each of you.

My friends and church family- What a blessing you each are.  It is a pleasure to laugh with you, cry with you, and live out life with you.  You are a community Michael and l have chosen, and I am happy to say we have chosen well.

Last but not least- Jesus, keeper and savior of my heart and soul without whom I would be lost.

This is my challenge to you, when you are thankful today, consider your heart, and listen to it.  What is it grateful for?b4eabf6d80bdd1a0eee5352c88d05920

November 27, 2014. Tags: , , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Faithful In The Community

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Our church has a very simple mission statement: “Focused on Christ, faithful in the community.”  To be honest, when first attending LifePoint I thought the mission statement was probably just that- a statement.  It was evident the first few Sundays my husband and I attended that the church was focused on Christ. After just over one year of attendance the church is still focused on Christ first and foremost.  What I didn’t expect was to see the “faithful in the community” part of the mission statement carried out. And I have. Not just within our church community but in the surrounding community.

Our church provides meals at Grace and Grits, a ministry that serves the homeless.  A woman in our congregation cut the hair of a stay at home mom with a special needs child, and offered to do the babies first hair cut.  And she went to the house to do this so mom didn’t have to leave baby.  A homeless mom stopped by the church asking for diapers and wipes for her baby. An email was sent out and 24 hours later a mom was blessed with diapers, wipes, gift cards, and other things she didn’t expect.  My husband and I have been prayed over and supported in tough times. And that isn’t all the things I could mention.   I didn’t believe it until I seen it, but LifePoint is faithful to the community both within and outside the church walls.

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It isn’t easy. To be a church that is faithful to the community inside and outside the church isn’t without difficulty.   Here are my thoughts on why it works and what it takes.

  1.  LifePoint has Pastors that care so therefore they pass it on the congregation.   We all know our Pastors care for us; they also encourage us to care for each other.  They can’t carry the burden alone.  They devote themselves to keeping the focus on Christ so the burden of caring for each other and the community is shared responsibility.   We strive to do that.
  2. It is realized that although we are care for each other and are faithful in the community there is always room for improvement and growth.   New ways can be tried, new ministries developed, improvements made in current ministries. Healthy community is all about improvement and growth, and that is strived for.
  3. Individual growth has to happen.  A community can only improve if the members are growing as individuals.  Being focused on Christ does help to facilitate this, but we each have to make our own decision to grow spiritually, emotionally, and mentally.  Healthy community has healthy people in it.  If we know we aren’t healthy inside, we need to do what it takes to become healthy.
  4. It takes authenticity and vulnerability.  Being faithful to each other and to the community outside the church means we have to be authentic, we must offer our truest self, struggles and triumphs.  This is, in my opinion, the hardest yet most important part.  If we are going to care well for each other we have to know that we all struggle and we all triumph.   Doing life together means sharing both the good and bad.  Authenticity means being vulnerable first.

Being a part LifePoint has been a wonderful experience and one I hope to continue for many years to come.  I have learned so much more about what community is and what it means to be faithful to the community.  What is community to you? How can you be faithful in your community?

November 17, 2014. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Sweet Surrender

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  Surrender.  What a profound word.  It can mean conceding defeat, giving up a seat, or it can mean giving up control.   It can be easy to give up a seat to someone who needs it more; it might be easy to concede defeat.  But giving up control? Who wants to do that? Not I.

    I long ago had a dream to become an RN and I was sure this was also God’s plan for my life. Then the unthinkable happened and I was accused of hurting a child while caring for them.   I didn’t hurt said child, would never do so under any circumstances.  But boy did it impact my life.  I took my RN dreams put them in a deep dark cellar of my heart and shut it with a heavy metal door, securing it tight with the biggest, strongest pad lock I could find.  Did I ask God about this? Nope.  I decided I didn’t want to be an RN anymore,  I was going to do something else. What about God’s plan?  Didn’t care, didn’t want it.  For 2 years I stood over this cellar in my heart with its padlock, arms crossed, daring God to make me surrender.   And for 2 years he let me have my way. 

     Then two weeks ago something happened. Somehow, this dream got out of the locked down cellar and began creeping up into my thoughts.   I admit to being a bit freaked out. Surely God wasn’t asking me to do something I had no desire to do!  The bible says God gives us the desires of our heart (Psalms  37:4) so if this wasn’t my desire why would God give it to me?   I kept ignoring it, thinking it would go away.  Then I got an email about a program that fit my needs.  I couldn’t ignore the thoughts any longer.  I had to do what I didn’t want to do…. Surrender my will and desires for God’s bigger plan. 

      I would be lying if I said I had peace. I didn’t. What I had was a big knot of fear in stomach, and a lot of “ok God here is what I need from you” type of prayers.   God answered every single one of my “needs”, and although I still have a lot of fears, there is also a prevailing sense of peace.   Why did I surrender? In between the dream creeping back up, and the email, I realized a few things.  

  1. Not following God’s plan would be wasting my talent.  God gifted me when it comes to nursing.  I am good at it, and I have a brain for it.  God gives us talent to be used up. That is part of his purpose for us- to use everything he gives us.  To not do so cheats the world around us.   Surrendering to God’s plan opens up opportunities to use everything he gave me.
  2. No regrets.  I decided I didn’t want to get to end of my life and have a case of “I wish I would’ve”, “I should’ve” or “I could’ve.”  Those are the opening words to regret statements.  I don’t want to come to the end of my life and have regrets.   Surrendering  to God’s bigger plan means I can be content with the way my life was lived.
  3.  Jesus gave his life, why can’t I?  This, I feel, is the most important reason.  Jesus surrendered his life unto death to free me from all my sin and shame. He did so out of love and to share eternity with me.  Who am I to deny such a simple thing as going back to school and getting my RN?   It is a small sacrifice in light of what he sacrificed for me                       It was hard to surrender. In fact, I held on fingers bleeding and muscles trembling from fatigue and exhaustion, until the last possible moment.   When I finally gave in and surrendered? Sweet relief.   Surrendering control for God’s will and not my own isn’t and will never be easy, but it will always be sweet.      482

August 21, 2014. faith, life, spirituality, Uncategorized. 1 comment.

Acts Of A Heart

Cam 2

    I take things for granted every single day.  I am not referring to big things like my home or job.  No, I am referring to much smaller things. Soap, shampoo, toothbrush, toothpaste, razor, shaving cream… These things keep me clean and make me feel good. But what if I didn’t have these things?  What then?

     There are people who live without these things.  They don’t have time to worry about such things as soap because they don’t always know when they will eat again or where they will sleep.  I am referring to the homeless and hungry.  The people our church serves at Grace and Grits.   This leads me to a story.

      There is a young man in our church who just turned eleven.  For his birthday he requested, not games or toys like most eleven year olds, but travel sized toiletries to give to the homeless at Grace and Grits.   He got about four hundred of them.  I was blown away by this story and even more blown away when I got to take him to Grace and Grits and help him hand them out.   I learned something.   

    Our message the week before had been on Acts chapter 2:42-47.  In this passage we are told the early church and its three thousand new believers sold whatever they could, be it property or possessions, to give to those in need.  They took care of each other and anyone who had need.  Did they do so begrudgingly?  Did they do so with grumbling and complaining?  Not at all.   They did so with glad and sincere hearts.  A sincere heart is a selfless heart; a glad heart is a grateful heart.  As I stood helping my young friend hand out toiletries to the homeless it occurred to me.  A young boy had given up birthday presents (what he had) to give to those in need and he did so with a sincere and glad heart.  The acts of the early church were playing out in 2014.

     I learned what it is to give from a sincere and glad heart.  A sincere heart is selfless, it thinks of the needs of others and ways to help provide for those needs.  A glad heart is a grateful heart.  A glad heart thinks because I am blessed I can give to others happily and willingly.  I learned church isn’t the place I visit every Sunday, but it is people coming together to help others.  Gladly and sincerely.

       It might seem you don’t have anything to give.   But trust me you do. That night I gave some of my time.  A boy gave up birthday gifts.  Maybe you have some time you can give to help others, maybe you have gifts you can give, or maybe you don’t.  However, you still have something to give.   We can always offer up a smile, an encouraging word, or a prayer.   May we do so with glad and sincere hearts.

     Cam, this one is for you ❤      Cam one

July 31, 2014. faith, life, Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Believing I Am Beautiful

   7c545945ff3174447d6f7b152d7416f6  I sat in my chair listening intently.  Dan was giving the father’s day message at church and he was talking about men and the 7 things women can do to be a better help mate to them.  I have to say I was blown away- it wasn’t anything like I had heard before. It seemed simple enough, hang out, accept him, listen to him, and then he got to number 4.  Believe him.  Ok…  Dan went on to explain.  When husbands tell wives they are the most beautiful woman on the earth they mean it with all their hearts.  They don’t see anyone else.  I felt smacked between the eyes and I think I even leaned forward in my chair.  It wasn’t so simple anymore.

     I look in the mirror getting ready and Husband comes in, “you’re so pretty”.  I used to quip back “Really? “And then list of all the flaws I could see to him.  Then I changed that response to “thank you” while listing said flaws in my head.   REALLY!  I don’t know what he is seeing but it certainly isn’t the same reflection I am looking at.  My forehead is broke out and red, I have chin hairs, fine lines around my eyes, my hair is a mess, and I am too fat.  I am pretty all right.  Do you hear the self-contempt?  

       I have bought into the lie.  The lie the world tells me that what my husband wants, what all husbands want, is the perfectly made up, never a snotty nose, pimple, or chin hair, hair always in place, skinny and fit, wife.  I have let the lie the world tells me define me and tell me what is beautiful.  The truth is that isn’t what my husband or any other husbands I know, want either. 

                   The truth is I am beautiful to my husband because he sees past the physical to what does define me- my heart. He sees my love for God, him, my family and friends. He sees my compassion and kindness, my passion for writing and the Chicago Bears; he has seen me triumph amidst struggle.  I’m beautiful because I stand by him and hold his hand when the seas get rough and I don’t give up on us.  He sees the real me.  And it isn’t this fragile body. 

                        That is what my husband wants and what I think other husbands want too.   They want the real us, not some fake made up version.  They want us to believe that we are the most beautiful woman on earth because they do.  They want us to see what they see, past the physical to the stuff inside.  

                   I refuse to believe the lie the world tells me any longer.  I am beautiful just the way I am.  I will believe Husband when he tells me I am, and refuse the thoughts of self-contempt.   Who is with me?Beautiful

 

July 13, 2014. life, love, marriage. 1 comment.

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