Thursday, July 26, 2012

Providence.

Hey you,

I am in a ridiculously good mood, and I am planning on smothering you (and everybody else for that matter) in it over the next few days. Here is how we'll celebrate a victorious week of hard work:

1. The tomatoes in the garden are growing quickly and each day a bushel or two are picked (okay that may be a stretch considering a bushel is roughly 53lbs, but it is a lot of tomatoes). I envision the kitchen to be filled with laughter, music and smells from scrumptious new creations that involve the most delicious red tomatoes. (For those who aren't able to make it for dinner, maybe I could snatch a few of the divine tomatoes I speak of and let you indulge, in your own kitchen, the brilliance of home grown fresh tomato bliss).


2. Whether we grab a chair with the aroma of coffee beans filling the four walls at the local Starbucks, hide a way in the corner of the nearby Barnes and Noble or snuggle to the arms of a soft fluffy love seat, we will celebrate peaceful moments where words of wisdom fill our souls and captivate our thoughts. We will fill the hours with reading, learning, sharing ideas, contemplating new enlightenments, and resting in the silence, book in hand, and offering thanksgiving for just being able to be present with one another.

3. We will enjoy a night of being part of a crowd, listening to live music, cutting loose and spreading the joy and happiness that is overflowing our lives.


4. We will compete competitively and yell "Tweetie" as we are cruisin' up and down and all around town. I will school you as always. I wish you the best my friend, and look forward to a good game.

5. Perhaps we can chit chat with the people who created you and loved you and tamed you. Because I bet you were a wild animal for a while, probably from years 2 to 37 if I had to guess.

6. Maybe we could bring a mutual friend a smile. After getting your wisdom teeth pulled, what says we love you and hope you feel better, than a big tub of yummy ice cream!!?!!!?!!!!

7. Laugh. We should laugh so hard that our stomachs ache. Yep, laughter is a must.

8.  We will sit on a Saturday night church chair, surrounded by broken, hope filled, Jesus lovin' people that will remind me and bring me back to memories of the first time we met--when we were surrounded by broken, hope filled, Jesus lovin' people and providence.
What do you say? You in? To be smothered by my joy? To celebrate with me all the blessings God is pouring down?
----Me

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

I want to be a door holder

Doors.

We are all accustomed to some degree of facing the resistance of closed doors. Some more than others. But rarely, few escape this reality of rejection, of exlusion, or missed opportunity.

Closed doors come in many different fashions.










Being the last kid on the playground to get picked for the game of kickball,













The rejection letter that regrets to inform you, you did not make it into the school of your choosing,













The phone call that aplogizes that the company has chosen a more qualified candidate,













Breakups,













The abusive, degrading words spoken by the ones who should love you and protect you,









Being measured against the world's definition of being successful, being cool, being beautiful.













Lately, my heart's been heavy for the door that many, friends that I have spoken with, and even myself at times, feel is closed. The ONE door that should ALWAYS remain open . . .


                                  

The Church Door.

I am sure you have heard it said, that churches are still the most segregated hour on Sunday mornings. We tend to flock to those who look like us, think like us, act like us . . . and I believe the statement leans more to the truth than we would like to admit.

We may literally have the church doors wide open, and we may even proclaim all are welcomed, but most of the time when someone finds the courage to enter in, finds the courage to take off the mask, finds the courage to share their story and it radically differs from those who fill the seats of the congregation, the doors of acceptance, of understanding, of grace, and of inclusion are quickly closed.

I will be the first to admit, that I have done my fair share of closing doors--more than I would like to confess. But because of God's grace, forgiveness and undestanding that has been poured into my life, I long to be something different. Someone who no longer closes doors.

I want to be a door holder.

One who will boldly hold the door open, eve when it is beiung pushed shut.

One who will say that no matter what your past is filled of, no matter what your life currently holds and no matter what path your life will head down . . .

This door is open . . .










The door that leads to a Savior who loves you beyond your wildest dream,













The door that leads you to the only One who can satisfy the desires of your heart,









The door that leads you to the One who longs for your company,













The doors that leads you to the One whose grace can erase all the mistakes of the past and whose hope provides another chance,












... is ALWAYS open.

I want to be a door holder, the one who walks along side those on the margins that world--the church glances over. To be their friend, to carry their burden and to lend my faith as strength until they find their own.

I want to be a door holder, because I wouldn't be where I am today unless somebody held that door open for me, when so many people where trying to push it shut.

I want to be a door holder, because no matter what I believe, no matter where I stand on any certain issue, no matter what my limited understanding may be . . .EVERYBODY--white, black, gay, straight, transgender, drug addict, porn star, liar, cheater, murder, fake, phony, lazy, hard worker, rich, poor, divorced, single, married, good, bad, young, old . . . have not only the right to meet Jesus, but are being called into His open, loving arms.

A door holder.

That's the cry of my heart.

That's the calling over our lives. And that too, how we choose to hold the door, comes in many forms...









Friday, July 20, 2012

If you had to sing a song right now, what song would you sing?

In a crowd of friends, acquaintances, or whomever, it is not uncommon for one to hear me say. "If you had to sing any song RIGHT NOW, what song would it be." (Just to clarify the rules, NOT answering this question is not allowed, one MUST have a song!) Perhaps, I like this game because there is ALWAYS a song running through my head, and assume that other people have a jukebox constantly playing too, or maybe it is because the more I play this game, the more I get to know the "contestant" who plays along---or at least their music library.


Stick with me . . . I will return to the paragraph above.

Time and time again, in hindsight, we so clearly see the hand of God. As I camped out in Hebrews this week, His hand has been so visible.

Sometime ago I was challenged to hide the words of Hebrews 11 in my heart. This week as I have poured over the familiar words, joy has completely captivated my soul. You see, at the time when I was memorizing these stories about people who stood firm on their belief in God when doubt, fear and uncertainty raged through their lives, I was clueless that 3 months down the road, their stories would be the hope and encouragement I needed to pull myself up and stand firm on my belief in God. As I relearned the words that over the years have became silent, memory after memory kept flooding in of His faithfulness in my life, of the promises He has kept, and that He's has never once left me on my own.

In the midst of a challenging week, Hebrews 11 and the knowledge that my God is who He claims to be, has filled the walls of my cube with peace as phone call after phone call, email after email and problem after problem rolled in. The belief in knowing that He has gone before me and laid down a good path that I have yet to see, has stirred calmness in my soul as the conversations about fear and change replay in my mind. And the joy of understanding that He is always by my side and is for me has given me the strength needed to keep going when the fatigue has set in.

He is worthy of my belief, my trust, my faith.

So . . . back to paragraph one. If I had to pick a song to sing right now, it would be:

"Praise Him through the Night" by Fred Hammond.

I am singing this song, because He has been there by my side through the night. He has been there when my faith seemed paper thin. He has been there when there was sorrow instead of gladness. He has been there when confusion rolled in like fog. He has been there when fear shifted my foundation. He has been the reason I have survived the storms of this life. He has been the reason I have come out better on the other side. He has been the reason my life is filled with joy. And I can't help but praise Him for all He has done, is doing and will do over my life.

Come on, You wanna play?!!

If you had to sing a song, right now, what song would you sing and why? :)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

If my night could, it would.

You know those nights that are filled with friends--those friends whose friendship brings you life?

The nights where spending time together and you leave with your side sore from laughter?

Where you gather around the table with good food and cold drinks?

Where conversations run deep and you are safe to take off all masks and just be . . . you?

Where the corn hole is brought out into the yard, or ladder ball or any other means of cutting loose and enjoying the company?

Where hours fly by and time doesn't seem to matter to anyone?

Those nights where your head crashes on the pillow at some ungodly hour and you are overflowing with gratitude to an awesome God who had chosen you to be their friend?

It would be a perfect evening for such a night!

Except, my alarm will go off at 430am tomorrow morning and work will need me bright eyes and bushy tailed.

Perhaps another night in the foreseeable future.

Because I miss those nights and I sure do miss those friends!!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Today, I Choose . . . .

Today . . .
"I CHOOSE LOVE
No occasion justifies hatred; no injustice warrants bitterness. I choose love. Today I will love God and what God loves.

I CHOOSE JOY
I will invite my God to be the God of circumstance. I will refuse the temptation to be cynical…the tool of the lazy thinker. I will refuse to see people as anything less than human beings, created by God. I will refuse to see any problem as anything less than an opportunity to see God.

I CHOOSE PEACE
I will live forgiven. I will forgive so that I may live.

I CHOOSE PATIENCE
I will overlook the inconveniences of the world. Instead of cursing the one who takes my place, I'll invite him to do so. Rather than complain that the wait is too long, I will thank God for a moment to pray. Instead of clenching my fist at new assignments, I will face them with joy and courage.

I CHOOSE KINDNESS
I will be kind to the poor, for they are alone. I will be kind to the rich, for they are afraid. And kind to the unkind, for such is how God has treated me.

I CHOOSE GOODNESS
I will go without a dollar before I take a dishonest one. I will be overlooked before I will boast. I will confess before I will accuse. I choose goodness.

I CHOOSE FAITHFULNESS
Today I will keep my promises.
My debtors will not regret their trust. My associates will not question my word. My spouse will not question my love.

I CHOOSE GENTLENESS
Nothing is won by force. I choose to be gentle. If I raise my voice, may it be only in praise. If I clench my fist, may it only be in prayer. If I make a demand, may it only be of myself.

I CHOOSE SELF CONTROL
I am a spiritual being After this body is dead, my spirit will soar. I refuse to let what will rot rule the eternal. I choose self-control. I will be drunk only by joy. I will be impassioned only by my faith. I will be influenced only by God. I will be taught only by Christ. I choose self-control.

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. To these I commit my day. If I succeed, I will give thanks. If I fail, I will seek His grace. And then, when this day is done, I will place my head on my pillow and rest."

--Max Lucado

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Like chasing the wind


Lately, I have found myself camping out in the book of

 




Not the easiest book to read, but I have been reminded that:

Great food, Great ambiance, and Great Conversations,
 
 

















A fun night out with friends at the Diamond,


 

















The gift of life, the joys of tiny toes and sweet coos,
 
 


















A niece that I am completely smitten with,

 


















Unexpected vacations,

 











Floating in the sun over peaceful waters,

 


















Weddings filled with old friends, laughter, and dancing,

 


















and a relatively clean desk on a busy week,

 














are just bonuses in this life!!!

They bring me happiness and smiles.
They fill my life with excitement and laughter.

But at times happiness fades, smiles can turn into frowns, excitement burns out and laughter can lead to tears.
I am not sustained by those things above, nor am I defined by them.
Yes, I enjoy them immensely, and I am filled with gratitude that my life is showered with such "bonuses."

But apart from Christ, apart from His unconditional love, apart from my life bringing him glory and praise, these bonus and all of the others that have come and gone are meaningless.

And chasing after them alone to satisfy my life, is like chasing after the wind.

Thanks for the reminder Solomon.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Smile!

Sometimes, all you need is a beautiful Richmond sunrise to make you smile.
Other times, putting away kitchen goodies with your best friend, followed by some raw honest words filled of excitement and truth, crankin' up the tunes and singing like a rock star, accepting a phone call with the caller is in the other room, hitting the mall as it is closing to shop for a wedding gift, and sipping ice cold beverages, enjoying laughter and reminiscing on the patio of Nacho Mama's in Carytown will do just fine. I smiled a lot yesterday. Smiles out of thanksgiving for freedoms I am privileged to experience. Smiles from gratitude for all who have sacrificed to allow such freedoms. And smiles commencing from the blessings God has poured over my life. But today, the 4th of July is over, not forgotten, but over. We have all moved onto July 5th. A day filled with it's own smiles, it's own memories and hopefully filled with just as much gratitude. So here's to it folks, get your smiles on and be thankful for all the little things each day holds. So for now, for this morning, a cup of coffee in bed, morning prayers, a yellow kitty cat, and a squeeze of the hand already has this girl grinning from ear to ear.


Monday, July 2, 2012

Just Another Manic Monday!

Oh, how I do wish it were Sunday . . . or any other day from this past weekend! But alas, there is only forward motion, and sometimes out of a fun, amazing, belly laugh filled weekend, comes the Manic Mondays. And today is no different. So, for the sake of remaining sane, I am taking a break from the hustle and bustle of the insurance world and sharing some random "Mel thoughts."

1. As of noon today, we are on the other side of finishing 2012. In January I wrote about my desire to see His blessings pour over my life, and admitting that there was still so much I was clinging to that didn't allow room for those blessings to enter. (you can read about it here) Standing here, on July 2nd, 2012, I won't claim that the work is complete, but I will be honest in confessing that I never imagined I would be where I am today. I believed that He would create a new creature in my surrendering, I knew that in Him I would find life again, but despite all of that, I honestly questioned whether or not some parts of me, the parts I gave away, would ever be restored. In the last month, my times of self reflection have shown vividly that work of a mighty God who is not only in the healing business, the life giving business, but who excels in the restoration business. He is restoring me, in ways I truly doubted could be done. Today, once again, I am humbled by a God who cannot be contained by shallow expectations.

2. If your nickname (mine being Mel) could be either male or female, perhaps when filling out contact forms, a full name would be better. Today, I received an email update of Men's Bible studies, Men's work day information, A Men's football outing and registration for the upcoming men's retreat. I appreciate the update, but will decline on the fact that this Mel ain't got no . . . well, I will exercise my good judgement here and rephrase that simply to state that . . .I am a she!

3. Many times God leads down the path that will stretch us the most. I am finding at work, I am currently walking that path. The new work isn't hard in itself, but the juggling and time management to get the work load accomplished . . .and accomplished well, has proven to be a challenge. A challenge that I haven't always received with open arms. I am counting down the days until I hand back over the new job duties. In the mean time, I have daily been reminded by a wise soul to stop counting the days, to stop fighting and to lean into what God is asking of me. Perhaps days like today happen because I am fighting too hard. Perhaps I wouldn't get so frustrated and overwhelmed if I let go of my agenda, my expectations and my pride of being able to do it all.

4. My car is in the shop. State inspection. I recently purchased 4 new tires. All the lights work and the wipers look good. There really isn't an obvious reason why I am anxious about what tomorrow's phone call will entail. I've been circling my car in prayer over the last two weeks. (Circling in prayer is from Mark Batterson's book The Circle Maker--a book about audacious prayers) To some that is a silly prayer, but I don't have the best luck with cars, and to surrender the outcome and trust that things will be okay no matter what the call will reveal, is something I will continue to circle in prayer tonight.

5. I haven't kept up with the Yankees since 2005. I have always and will always be a faithful fan, and always willing to throw down some smack, but in the last 7 years I have really have falling out of touch. This season, I have watched most of their games . . . a rekindled passion. This makes me happy.

6. Obama health care . . .just kidding. I'm not going there! :)

7. I love corn hole.... Especially when I win!!