Whatever My Lot

It all comes down to these three words – it is well.
I haven’t always known this, felt it, believed it; but now, wrapped in this assurance, life becomes joy to the full. The future, a secure journey.
Whatever my lot…the unknown, loss, hurt, despair, confusion, hopelessness…it is well.
It is a childhood memory, the singing of this old traditional hymn. The story behind it, a recent discovery.
Horatio Spafford, wealthy Chicago lawyer, husband, father to four daughters and one son, devout Christian, student of the word. As his career peaks, loses his only son and shortly after, all of his real estate holdings in The Great Chicago Fire of 1871. As part of an evangelistic campaign in Europe, he decides to bring the family in an effort to restore and heal their tragic loss. In mid-voyage the ship encounters a collision and his four daughters tragically drown. Spafford and his wife, broken in grief, board a boat for home and it is on this trip, he writes those familiar words, “When sorrows like sea billows roll; it is well, it is well, with my soul.”
I have played this story over and over again; how in such immense loss, this man could confess and pen for all to sing, “It is well.” What an amazing God he serves, what a loving Father that gives comfort in the most desperate of times. What a testimony of faith on display, one that left a lasting legacy.
In minute comparison, have I suffered “sorrows like sea billows”, and as the flesh, in knee jerk reaction, goes into a quick panic mode, the Spirit calms me with “Be still and know” and in that stillness comes, “It is well.”
It is a welcomed rescue and a hallelujah praise, always.

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It’s All In What You Plant – Second Chance Roots

f0d72e5940020c8947ed7d56ff14af44imagesgardenFlat on my back gives me a completely different observation perspective on just about everything. At a rare halt in spinning, I can see the dust on the ceiling fan blades and is that a cobweb? When and why did that smoke detector turn yellow. It stands out like a sore thumb against the white ceiling. And that popcorn ceiling – ugh! I’ve watched too many episodes on HGTV this week alone to know that needs to go.

But I do have a lovely view, from the double wide window, into the back yard that backs into the woods. It may be the one thing that has kept me from going totally stir crazy. Even from this vantage point, I can marvel at all God’s creatures that share our little piece of heaven here on earth. The bird bath and feeders, they entice an array of feathered friends – all shapes and sizes and colors. Their songs a cheerful alarm clock in the morning and a lullaby in the afternoon. I’m easily entertained by the squirrels and rabbits, who seem particularly frisky and playful. I watch the trees partner with the breeze as they sway together back and forth to a tune barely heard. And then, there’s the newest addition – a small raised garden, so lovingly put together by my hubby’s hands. I’ve watched as each and every step of his diligent, if not obsessive, planning has come to this – TODAY, I PLANT!! This scene, well, it breaks me and takes me back some twenty-five years.

Twenty-five years – a life time ago and a different life, an abyss that nearly swallowed me whole, swallowed us whole. And then? (I use those two words a lot because, with God, there is ALWAYS an “and then”) It was halted. My life as I knew it, came to a complete stop almost identical to where I find myself this very minute. A freak fall, left me with a spinal fracture, weeks of recuperation, and totally dependant on a husband that I was, at the time, separated from. It saved my marriage and in many ways, my life. There were warning signs. I continually ignored them. Sometimes, the caution lights that are blinking in your face just aren’t enough and everything has to come to an ugly. grinding. halt. And in that halt, when you have nothing but your thoughts and time, you see your life as it really is, you see the rock bottom, you see that the blur that you called life was only a blur because of how fast you were living it, you see your screwed up priorities, you see all of it – the good, the bad, and the ugly. I had been given this awakening and it was here I held my darkness up to the light.

My thoughts are interrupted by a peck on the window. I look to see the gardener smiling as he holds up the plants of future bounty. “You doing ok? Need anything?”, he asks. I shake my head no and smile back. I have everything. Absolutely everything.

And He who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new…Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelations 21:5

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imagesCAIZEP2B Tomorrow my husband and I are going to be schooled. Together. In the same class. Woah and AHHHHH!! Let me add that it is a nine week financial class and already, before it even begins, I think I must be losing what’s left of my mind. Me, the one all about peace, tranquility, the eternal optimist, now questioning why I would put myself through such agony. I mean, really!

I keep repeating, “We will stay married, we will stay married”, after all, we’ve raised two girls, wallpapered an old farm-house with uneven walls, painted when we didn’t agree on the color, built a house, shopped for a swimsuit and something other than camo, compromised on how many deer head were too many (I lost that debate), and we’ve come out on top. Amazing – thank you, Lord. But not once, in thirty-five years, have we sat in a classroom as a couple, and we choose (well, actually I chose) for our first one to be all about our financial junk – the good, the bad, the ugly – again, what is going on upstairs?

It isn’t lost on me, because hind sight is a beautiful thing, this class should have been a prerequisite before or early on in marriage. But no, we flew by the seat of our pants, and in so doing, hit most every bump in the road. You know the phrase written on your side view mirrors, “objects are closer than they appear”?, well, that would be retirement. Long story short, we need to get our financial ducks in a row. So, off we go to FPU – Financial Peace University. Let the games begin!

But what if FPU ends up standing for Future Prognosis Ugly, or Unknown, or Undecided? Then what? Well, I have a plan for that, too, and it is the peace that passes ALL understanding –

Jeremiah 29:11
I know what I am doing. I have it all planned out – plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.

Psalm 23:1
The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.

Matthew 6:25-27
…do not be anxious about your life…which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?

2 Peter 1:3
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.

Psalm 27:1, 13
The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?
I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

On second thought, the future looks bright:) Better grab my shades.

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GirlPiano Life is a cabaret, come to the cabaret! Or so it often is at my house. When the littles visit, much that we do revolves around music. It’s who we are and what we do. More often than not, this means I’m accompanying someone on the piano as they perform their favorite tunes. It also means the door to the den in the basement is closed so as to not drown out the hunting show that is on a constant stream.

On this particular day, right in the middle of a two hour concert of covers from various artists – Adele, Elton John, Grace Potter – show tunes from Les Miserables, Annie, and The Wizard of Oz, middle E stops working. Hmmm. So like a mechanic looking under the hood of a car, I lift the top to evaluate the problem. I can see what I think is the issue – the hammer is not striking the string – but this is well beyond my level of expertise. Time to call the piano guy. Long story short, it’s sicker than I thought and requires minor surgery. When the doctor leaves, he has removed the complete keyboard and is taking it with him. I’m left with an empty shell of a baby grand. Bummer. When Michael Jackson sang, “One bad apple don’t spoil the whole bunch”, he obviously wasn’t talking about the internal organs of a piano.

And isn’t that how we so often live our lives? One setback, one problem, one worry, and everything just falls apart. We dismiss all that is good for the one thing that has gone off-kilter. It’s like we are programmed to focus on the negative rather than the positive. We lose total perspective, obsessing over the one thing that is wrong instead of the gazillon things that are right.

Here’s what I know about that – it’s a choice. It really is! Granted, some people are just more positive, more optimistic, than others, but again, you choose. It’s a mindset. You can make up your mind to count the blessings in your life or you can consider yourself cursed. You can choose to the see the silver lining or, like Eeyore, you can stay under the rain cloud. You can look for the good in others or remain jaded by some long ago hurt. You can embrace it as a lesson or you can fail the test.

Off-key or in tune? The choice is up to you but in tune will give you the best harmony in this journey of life.

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Fearless Friday

a9d04bc31e79c3ca01e2809aa6ccd214 Fear is a feeling everyone has. It’s programmed into all of us. We are born with it so that we can react to something that could be potentially dangerous. One could say, it’s there to protect us. Not all fear is a bad thing, actually, some fear is healthy.

I don’t recall being afraid as a little girl – not afraid of the dark, of spiders, of heights, scary movies or dreams. Not one single memory. But somewhere in my formative years, I acquired those not so healthy fears and I think that introduction came in high school. It played out as a drill in my head of two words – failure and rejection. Because we all just want to fit in and not be a total loser, right?

While I could stand in front of a packed gymnasium and sing the National Anthem, speaking in front of a class of 30, left me at the point of puking on my own shoes. As the fear built, my voice nervously became one I didn’t recognize as my own but rather resembled that of the Mayor of the Munchkin City – ugh! Comments from my fellow classmates only fueled that insecurity and to this day, the thought of speaking to more than three people at any given time, is enough to put me in a near panic mode. The fear of failure had been born and there it has remained.

Only behind the trio of aging, illness, and death, failure and rejection top the list of the biggest fears for adults. As followers, it is THE reason for our reluctance to share our faith and to openly share our testimony. Whether it comes from the fear of being shot down (rejection) or the lack of confidence in our presentation and delivery (failure), we are often left paralyzed, running in the opposite direction with our tails tucked between our legs.

Maybe that’s why I love the inspiring and powerful words of King David in Psalm 27. And I love to read it out loud. In doing so, they take on a life of their own and with each verse, I can feel my spirit being lifted.

Psalm 27

Of David.

1 The Lord is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?

2 When the wicked advance against me
to devour[a] me,
it is my enemies and my foes
who will stumble and fall.
3 Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even then I will be confident.

4 One thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple.
5 For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
and set me high upon a rock.

6 Then my head will be exalted
above the enemies who surround me;
at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make music to the Lord.

7 Hear my voice when I call, Lord;
be merciful to me and answer me.
8 My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”
Your face, Lord, I will seek.
9 Do not hide your face from me,
do not turn your servant away in anger;
you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me,
God my Savior.
10 Though my father and mother forsake me,
the Lord will receive me.
11 Teach me your way, Lord;
lead me in a straight path
because of my oppressors.
12 Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes,
for false witnesses rise up against me,
spouting malicious accusations.

13 I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
14 Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.

David knew fear better than most. We may not find ourselves as outcasts, pursued by murderers, with our lives on the line, but our problems and fears still plague us, as our hope evaporates. But David BEGINS with a sense of certainty and calm in the midst of his storm. He isn’t in desperation mode, waiting for the final seconds to throw a hail Mary. His starting point is not in his circumstances but in the God who controls them. He isn’t in denial of his situation but it doesn’t define his response. David is showing us that when we fill our minds with who God is and meditate on what He has done, fear begins to fade away. Seeking God in the sunshine gives us confidence in the shadows.

David was a seeker. He pursued God boldly and with confidence. It wasn’t that he didn’t have fear but he had even more faith. He knew that God’s presence would provide the defense for his situation just as it will for each of us.

I pray that we face each new day and every fear, big and small, with the boldness and faith of David. Give us the year of favor in being fearless in Your name.

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images “I was wrong. I am sorry. Please forgive me. I love you.” Twelve words that can break the chains that bind. These words, profound in their simplicity, also stirred my convicted heart to action.

Let me preface that with a blog piece that so shook me to the core, that my nights have been as restless as my soul. I knew, without a doubt, that God was expecting me to be intentional in calming a storm that at times, laid dormant, but then out of nowhere, would rage inside of me, the waves of discontent often washing me overboard.

6 warning signs we’re becoming accidental Pharisees

(Larry Osborne)

Pharisees are more than mere tidbits of ancient history.

The Pharisees’ sad transition from God’s most zealous defenders to Jesus’s archenemies is important for every Christian to understand. As long as our only image of a Pharisee is that of a spiritual loser and perennial enemy of Jesus, we’ll never recognize the clear and present danger in our own life.

I’ve found that becoming a modern-day, accidental Pharisee is a lot like eating at Denny’s. No one wants to go there. We just end up there.

The journey usually starts out innocently enough. It begins with a desire to be at the front of the “following Jesus” line. We step out in faith, make some big changes, clean up areas of sin and compromise, and begin to pursue new spiritual disciplines.

So far, so good. But as we press forward, it’s hard not to notice those who lag behind. And it’s at this point that we have an important decision to make: will we keep our eyes glued on Jesus or will we turn our focus onto those who lag behind?

Don’t look down!

I remember once meeting with a group of men who were passionate about their walk with God. Somehow our conversation turned toward those in the church who were not so passionate. Next thing I knew, they were ripping on the way everyone else raised their children, spent their money, read their Bible, and set their priorities.

Now these were quality men. They were doing far better than most raising their kids, spending their money, reading their Bible, and setting priorities. The problem wasn’t that they noticed the difference. The problem was what they did with the information. They used it to justify looking down on everyone else.

He hates haughty eyes

When I called them on it, they were mildly remorseful, sort of like they’d been busted for a speeding ticket. But it was clear to me that no one felt particularly convicted or determined not go there again. So I decided to take them on a little journey through Scripture to see God’s perspective on the conversation we’d just had.

We started with Satan’s prideful fall and moved on from there. But the shocker for most of them was a list of things God hates. It’s found in Proverbs 6:16–19. Right at the top of his I-hate-it-when-you-do-that list is “haughty eyes,” the disgusted and disdainful look of arrogance that parallels the harsh conversation we’d just had.

There are lots of things that can anger God. Few would guess that looking down on others would be at the top of the list. Yet it is.

Now that got their attention!

But it’s true. Their dismissive and judgmental take on others wasn’t minor chitchat—it was major sin. Top-of-the-list sin.

I wrote Accidental Pharisees because I’ve become increasingly concerned that many in our tribe are making the same mistake. We strive to be at the front of the following-Jesus line. Yet the closer we get to the front, the more we’re tempted to compare ourselves with those in the back.

So here’s a brief list of six of the most telling indicators that we may have inadvertently started down the road of an Accidental Pharisee, looking down on others and trusting in our own righteousness.

1. Disdain for those at the back of the line

Instead of a Jesus-like compassion for those who can’t keep up, we view them with a deepening sense of frustration, cynicism, and a cocky arrogance.

2. A spirit of exclusivity

When thinning the herd becomes more important than expanding the kingdom; or raising the bar becomes more important than helping people climb over it, something has gone terribly wrong.

3. Extra-biblical rules and expectations

Few of us would see ourselves as legalists. We think we’ve moved on from old-school legalism because we no longer judge people by what’s in their refrigerator. But the spirit of legalism still runs strong. We now judge people by what’s in their driveway and how big their house is.

4. A pattern of idolizing the past

Whether it’s the New Testament church or the scholars of old, we tend to give them a free pass for their failures. But the present-day bride of Christ and the current crop of leaders whom Jesus has put in place are assailed for their blind spots, failures, and feet of clay. Like the Pharisees of old, we rip on the living prophets and then build monuments to them once they die.

5. A quest for clone-like uniformity

Jesus had room for Simon the Zealot and Matthew the Tax Collector. Yet sometimes, the more biblically grounded we become, the less room we have for anyone who hasn’t yet learned all that we’ve learned. The result is a circle of fellowship that’s tighter than Jesus’s circle of acceptance.

6. Gift projection

“Gift projection” the toxic belief that my calling is everyone else’s calling. It disfigures the body of Christ by insisting that ears become eyes and hands become feet. It looks like passion for the mission, but in reality, it’s candy-coated arrogance.

Two roads diverge

The good news is that even if we’ve inadvertently started down the road of an accidental Pharisee, we don’t have to end up there. We can repent, turn around, and reset our gaze on Jesus. But for that to happen, we have to recognize that we’ve left the path of discipleship. And that’s why I wrote Accidental Pharisees, to highlight the warning signs that we’ve left the path and turned down a dangerous detour that turns well-intentioned zealots into accidental Pharisees.

OUCH AND WOW!! Pride comes before the fall, right? These words laid as heavy as a rock. Don’t throw me in the water any time soon, I’ll sink. Three of those six were screaming my name and I had been applying them to a friend of almost twenty years. I had been thinning the herd (#2), closing my circle (#5), and I my expectation was for her to follow suit with my every step (#6). This relationship had required setting up healthy boundaries but I had become a mason, building a brick wall, refusing to allow her “sin” to penetrate my world. Hmmm. Self-righteous? Yes. Prideful? You bet. Opposite of being Jesus? Amen!! Called to the carpet? Absolutely.

This is the friend, who reaches out when her life is falling part. The one who asks me to pray for her. The one who seeks guidance and advice but rarely takes it. The one that just can’t get it together. Just can’t make that first step. But she is also the friend that shared my life when it was good, bad, and ugly. When I walked the path most traveled, when I lived of this world, when I was lost. And it breaks me that what I’m saying to her isn’t what I’m living to her. That the distance she feels from me is nothing more than judgement. What if I am the only Jesus she will ever know?

I’m glad it’s never too late. So, in the wee morning hours, I write those twelve words and hit send.

Father, I am your child and I falter through this life. I am grateful for the love that opens my eyes and my heart to those missteps and convicts me to make them right. Bless this friend and move in her in a way only you can. Let me be the instrument you desire me to be.

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Not a Resolution but a Revolution

imagesCAZHIO4D “You say you want a revolution, well, you know, we all want to change the world.” John Lennon wrote those words and I am immediately transported back in time to when his political views were publicly displayed for all the world to see, catapulting him into the limelight of a god-like figure. Released in 1968, I was nine years old, with no understanding of what it was he wanted to change, but what stuck was the amazing fact that one person could unequivocably, alter and initiate it – for better or for worse.

He started a revolution.

There is “plain” Ann. A farmer’s wife, mother of six, gifted with pen. With transparency she writes of her heartbreak, her failings, her messy life, her need for grace, all the while finding joy in giving thanks. It changed her life from the inside out and in turn, it is changing countless others.

She started a revolution.

Auntie Ro, are you even aware that you are a revolutionary? Your life that was long ago given in service to the one and only God, the life of selfless dedication to others, this life of being the hands and feet of Jesus, your light that shines as an example for all to see? You have changed lives and I am one of them.

She started a revolution.

There is a small group of ladies I call Sisters of Simpatico. I doubt this unassuming gathering of friends knows how very much they inspire their world, my world. With them, I have shared some of my most personal thoughts, concerns, and beliefs, and faithfully they reciprocate with encouragement, humor, and prayers. They are warriors on my behalf and on the behalf of others.

They started a revolution.

Some 2000 years ago, a man would start a revolution of epic proportion. His was a revolution of love – the most powerful force in the universe. Jesus, God’s revolutionary change agent here on earth. He comforts the broken, feeds the hungry, clothes the naked, heals the sick, He hates the sin but loves the sinner, He shepherds the lost, saves us from ourselves, giving life to the dead. Jesus, the spiritual awakener –

He started a revolution in me…

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