Thursday, March 16, 2017

Fouls and Free Throws

March Madness equates to basketball out the wazoo! Any good Kentucky girl recognizes March as a time for hoops and hoops and more hoops. Kentucky is a sea of bluegrass and blue Wildcat apparel. It's safe to say we know about religion in the bluegrass - the kind that has you sitting in a pew on Sunday morning, for sure. But maybe just as well or more celebrated is the kind of religion that has you sitting in the nosebleed section of Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY, for any given game if you are ever lucky enough to score tickets to see the beloved CATS. I've told people that it would be easier to get an organ transplant than to get a ticket to a ballgame to see the Kentucky Wildcats. All that to say, if you are from Kentucky, as I am, you know a little bit about basketball and you bleed blue throughout the year, but especially in March. The struggle is real to get our religions in the right order!

All this basketball excitement prompted me to think about a pretty common occurrence in the game of basketball. All basketball games have an offense and a defense. And most all basketball players commit offensive and/or defensive fouls. Some of those fouls lead to an opportunity for the person whom was fouled to take one or more free shots at the basketball goal without any hindrance. Free throws are the game of basketball's way of extending grace. You stand alone, unhindered and unopposed, at the line and aim towards the goal.

As humans, we commit fouls against others and they commit fouls against us. We have all done foul things and had foul things done to us. And we have all been given a chance to take a free throw towards the goal that really counts for eternity. That's a sweet picture. We have a chance to make something good come about from the bad. We get a free shot. Yea, that truly is grace. It's sweet victory.

So, I'll root for my CATS this March and I'll watch a variety of teams take on the excitement of March Madness. I'll see Cinderella teams win games as they win our hearts. Lots of fouls will be committed. Lots of free throws will be awarded. Some will be made and some will be missed. The parallels between the game of basketball and the reality of life will keep us on the edge of our seats.

The take-away from all this is simple. Fouls will occur. Free throws will occur. Some will make their shots. Some will miss their shots. Some will win and some will lose. All I know is that I'm a Kentucky girl who loves her CATS, but loves God even more. I'm grateful for grace and forgiveness. I'm grateful for the free shots I've been given when fouls have occurred. I'm grateful that there is a goal worth shooting for. I'm grateful for heaven. Yes, we may all have fouls in life, but we can also use those fouls to reach victory. Basically, we all get a free shot at some time or another! That's grace,

Thursday, November 24, 2016


Life is a cornucopia of emotions. Today we celebrate Thanksgiving. It's a day to reflect on whom and what we are grateful for. For some, it's about family and friends. For some, it's about survival. For some, it's about joy. For some, it's about pain. For some, it's about rest. For some, it's about busyness. For some, it's a day of celebration. For some, it's a day of anxiousness and loneliness. For all, it's still another day that we have been given, a day we are not promised. We choose whether that is a curse or a blessing. We choose whether that is enough.

I choose enough. This has been a hard and trying season for me. My emotions have been tested. They have proven to be fragile and I have had to dig deeper to rely on what I know to be true vs. what I feel to be relevant or disappointing. What I know is that God has given me a measure of faith. It is a seed that was planted in the fertile ground of my soul. My soul is nurtured as I feed and water it with the Word of God and His living Water. The Holy Spirit lives within me. He is not characteristic of me and my traits. He is true to His own identity. The Holy Spirit of God is always the same and He does not change according to the person that embodies Him. He relates to and identifies with Himself, not to us as individuals. In short, He speaks truth. That is comforting. That is enough.

I have needed to employ everything I have ever learned and come to know about surrender, forgiveness, truth, grace and contentment in recent months and weeks. It has not been easy, but it has been enough. It has not been a natural response or my first response, but it has been inevitable and it has been enough. I have sinned more than once in my emotions of hurt and rejection, but God's truth and grace brought me to repentance. I have been forgiven by God and I have forgiven others. It has been enough.

There is something about this kickoff season to family holidays that triggers our souls. Whatever is deep down in there, gets a little bit of a tasering during this time of year. We get jolted. If we have areas of hurt, they tend to get stirred up. If we have emptiness, it seems to feel like the hole just gets bigger during these days when everyone else seems to be celebrating. When everyone else is throwing confetti, many feel like burying under the covers and sleeping through it all. Those feelings cannot just be stuffed like the Thanksgiving turkey. But they can be evaluated and appropriately dealt with and replaced with truth. We can validate that our feelings are real and that we certainly can't just ditch them. But we can also ask God to remind us of His truth and His faithfulness. We can pray and ask Him to replace doubt, fear, anxiety, loneliness and hurt with truth, love, grace, gratitude, praise and contentment. We can choose to call a friend or loved one and choose community over isolation. We can be with God and be with others. We can fight the urge to be alone in our pity party. Besides, those that have surrendered their hearts and will to Jesus are never alone. Sometimes we just have our backs turned to Him. He lovingly reaches out to us and turns us toward Him again, toward His love and comfort and joy. That is always Enough!

But let's be real. Not all circumstances, not all situations, not all people and families are peachy keen or honky dory. Some of them actually stink. But there is still a deeper more concrete truth. We can choose not to engage in dysfunction. We can choose to forgive as God has forgiven us. We can choose to be forgiven. We can choose grace. We can choose to focus on Who God is and what He has already done. He gave His only son, Jesus, as a sacrifice for my sins and yours. If He never did another thing, THAT is enough. The struggle is to remember this truth.

In our pain and self focus, it is easy to forget that it's not all about us. But God is so wise to have put truth into the bible and into our hearts. We are to be thankful in all things and through all circumstances. That kind of thankfulness helps us focus on Enough. Not all things are good. Not even all people are good. But God is always good. He is a good good Father. He has reminded me, that even through things and people that haven't been so good, He can and does still bring good out of it all and through it all for those that love Him and are called according to His purpose. He is the LORD of redemption and blessings. He is always Enough.

Monday, October 10, 2016


If anything beneficial could come out of the distasteful political landscape of late, it may be that it could cause us to confront the lack of morals we, as a country, have espoused in recent years.

Morals. Every body's talking about morals all of a sudden. On any given day in modern society, they are a nuisance to many. Yet, this week, you would think "Leave it to Beaver" is once again the only type of entertainment consumed by the American public and that we all live and behave like the Waltons in our little houses on the prairie. I would love it if that were true, but that ship has long since sailed.

In the real world, I began to question the sincerity of a suddenly puritanical approach to American politics and society, in general. Ponder this, if you dare:

1. How many of the same people outraged over the terrible language Donald Trump uttered on tape some 11 years ago can claim they have always been morally upright in every way? Maybe a few, but probably not many.

2. How many of those who were the first to throw stones, might need to be reminded that God sees their own thoughts, hearts, words and deeds? A few indictments for moral failure may be in order, if we are in a court of honesty and transparency.

3. How many of us use foul language, ourselves? Do we have a potty mouth either in public, or in private? Have we ever had inappropriate sexual behavior that is outside of God's will?

4. How many of us are diligent to guard our eyes, ears, hearts and souls against immorality? Do we keep offensive things from entering our world? Here are some questions to help us answer honestly:

- Have I ever in the past viewed, or am I presently viewing, anything that could be considered pornographic or, at least, sexually promiscuous?

- Do I watch television shows and movies, read books, or consume any kind of content that has bad language, sexual intimacy or lewdness - for example, have I read or watched Fifty Shades of Grey, Magic Mike or the like? Do I ever see sex scenes on the TV shows I watch? Are shows like the Bachelor and the Bachelorette things I watch because the relationships are wholesome? Or am I aware that sex is the norm in that atmosphere?

- Do I listen to music with lyrics that consider sexual conquests an accomplishment? There is sexual innuendo in much of today's popular music genres. Do I consider that offensive? Especially, if the music is fun and I don't really listen to the words they are saying?

- Do I make excuses for any of the above to rationalize that it's different for me and it's somehow okay?

I'm not defending the mistakes of Donald Trump. He has made many. I could not and wouldn't even try. I have even been angered by his words in the past. It's never okay to denigrate others with our words or actions. I hope he has changed, or can change, because I know that no one is exempt from being redeemable, no matter what they have done or said.

But, I started taking an honest look at how hypocritical many of us can be. The point is not to exonerate him, but to show us how shallow our own views and hearts can be. Our own sin looks pretty ugly on someone else, doesn't it? It should, at least.

But then, maybe we're not really looking at ourselves because we think what we do, personally, doesn't really have an effect on anyone else. Especially, since we didn't say what he said! And it's unlikely, even if we did, that it would be broadcast for the whole world to hear.

I contend that many of us have our own vulgarity issues. Pornography, for instance, that can be found in many of the above examples, has an effect on God, ourselves, our families and our relationships. It's not harmless. A large percentage of men, and some women, really have an issue with this. Some of us have never gone there, but too many have.

So, really, many of us are not in a position to throw stones, insults and innuendos, lest they turn into boomerangs. I'm reminded that I should take care of my own shortcomings instead of broadcasting others'. Forgive me, Lord. For I have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. I don't think I'm alone in that.

We can try to be good. But we are incapable of being good and embracing the morals that would honor God unless we know Him, personally. A Christian worldview is one in which we live and evaluate everything we do through the lens of a Christian perspective. We look at the life of Christ and we attempt to follow Him in obedience, in spirit and in truth. We fall short. It's not an easy path. We are humans and we tend to revert to human behavior which is sinful. We can be disobedient to God's Word and insist on doing things our own way. Or we can try our best to be obedient and rely on the Holy Spirit of God to help us be more like Jesus and carry out good behavior that we can't even begin to carry out in our own power. If we are willing, God is able to help us as an individual, and as a nation, to return to the morals that bring Him glory.

Monday, April 11, 2016

My Fight Song

I had a mammogram today. It's odd how you don't realize you are worried, but you wait a bit tensely for results. I got a good report, so I breathed a deep sigh of relief and a prayer of praise. I've now been a survivor of breast cancer for 6+ years and I'm grateful for each good report. It reminds me where my help comes from. My blessing of being cancer free had nothing to do with my ability to kick cancer's butt. I am convinced that God gave me the grace to survive. I'm even more confident that any healing I have experienced has come from His hand and not my ability to do it on my own.

I guess that is why I always pause when I hear people say, "I/they kicked cancer's butt!".  I get where they are coming from. They are excited that they or a loved one has been victorious in the fight against cancer. They are just celebrating that. I cannot blame someone for celebrating the fact that they get to live another day and another season where cancer did not win, where they have survived the diagnosis. I understand and I really do love that song that goes something like, "This is my fight song, take back my life song", because it makes one feel encouraged and empowered. 

I just don't happen to feel comfortable saying that I did anything in my own power. I didn't kick cancer's butt; my God did! I prayed. I believed God and He did it all. To say He saved me has layers and layers of truth and dimensions to it. He has saved me in so many ways. He saved my soul. He saved my marriage. He saved my life. Yes, I know Whom has saved me. I know where my help comes from: "My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth". Psalm 121:2

I do have a fight song. It's a praise song. It is one that goes like this, "Your praise will ever be on my lips"!

"My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to You— I whom You have delivered." 
Psalm 72:23

"I will extol the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips." Psalm 34:1

I am grateful today. My God continues to fight my battles and His praise will ever be on my lips!