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It’s the Little Things…


How many times has a smile spread across your face over the smallest thing? I mean, the very smallest thing?

That’s a very good thing, and one of the ways to cultivate a heart of gratitude. Learning to recognize the value in the little things that come our way such as a simple complement, a smile from a stranger, getting flowers “just because” or help with a task will spur us on to being happy and grateful.

Have you noticed these little things come from others? We need one another in this journey of life.  I believe we receive back what we contribute. Be stingy with complements, smiles and small kindnesses, and you will not receive much in that area. On the other hand, if you are the one to make a point of giving a complement, sharing a kind word, even giving those “just because” flowers, you will reap the benefits.

Whether giving or receiving, it’s the little things.

Let’s try something: today’s assignment is to find someone you can do a small kindness for, share a kind word with, complement, or even give flowers to. I guarantee it will bring a smile to your face. And when it comes back to you – that’s pure joy.

Yes, the little things = the makings of a grateful heart.

Your needs will be met through your giving…

“Your needs will be met through your giving.”

I first heard that phrase spoken by Nancy Alcorn, the founder of Mercy Ministries.  She was relaying her story – telling the details about how God pieced the puzzle together that would become such a powerful ministry to disenfranchised young women around the country. As a nonprofit organization, she had no reason to think they should give money to other ministries.  Why would they? Mercy was surviving on donations and they were precious few.

“Your needs will be met through your giving.” The words were clear. And so she gave. And Mercy Ministries gave. Yes, the nonprofit taking donations to survive donated off the top to other ministries.

And God answered. Needs were met. Not small needs, either – the millions of dollars kind of needs. Four rescue homes built in the United States, with others around the world. Lives transformed.

That phrase has stayed with me – I must’ve written it in my notes three times that day.

“Your needs will be met through your giving.”

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”  Malachi 3:10

There it is. Right there in the scriptures. I’ve heard it much of my life, but have I tested the Lord?

No. Have you?

I’m testing. I recently started a new business with great promise. My business model, first and foremost, is to give right off the top of my earnings. Before my investment is paid off, before I begin to turn a profit. Right from the very first paycheck, I will give. Every month I will choose a different ministry and I will tell my customers they had a hand in providing for that ministry. I have a feeling I will be amazed at what God will do through that simple act of giving. Once you have a heart that gives, you notice the joy creeping in, the song welling up, the prayers being answered.

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Think of it – he says he will “pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” (!!!)

How big is your life now? Think bigger. God wants to fill you up with blessing. Notice it doesn’t say “money,” although that could certainly happen. It says BLESSING. Blessing, blessing, blessing – and SO MUCH BLESSING there won’t be room to store it!

Something tells me if more of us really believed those words, we would be testing, too.

But we don’t even have to believe – he says to TEST HIM. When you test someone on their statement, you are asking them to prove themselves.

Do it.

I double dog dare you.

One Word: Deeper

I’m a bit of a late bloomer on this, but I’ve been thinking for weeks about what my “word” for 2014 should be.  Apparently, this is a thing now.  Instead of New Year’s resolutions, people are encouraged by websites such as  OneWord365  and blog posts from my friend Corie Clark, to come up with a theme word for the year.
This word can be a goal you’d like to reach, a state of mind you’d like to achieve or just a revelation about where you’d like to live the story of your life in 2014.

The OneWord365 website says ~

“Forget New Year’s Resolutions. Scrap that long list of goals you won’t remember three weeks from now anyway.

Choose just one word.

One word that sums up who you want to be or how you want to live. One word that you can focus on every day, all year long.

It will take intentionality and commitment, but if you let it, your one word will shape not only your year, but also you. It will become the compass that directs your decisions and guides your steps.

Discover the big impact one word can make.

One word. 365 days. A changed life.”

Wow. A changed life? Sign me up! I could use some life-changing.

So, it’s March already.  Like I said, late bloomer.  If I’m going to choose one word I’d better get on with it.

I’ve been giving this a lot of thought and have discovered that if you’re a Christ-follower, you can’t just pull a word out of a hat and have it work. There’s a very big difference between the word or words I wanted to project into my year, and the word that describes what God wants me to do with my year.

For instance, when I first was challenged to come up with a theme word for 2014, I wrote a list of words I hoped would speak into my life.  You know, the name it and claim it mentality.  Words like, abundance, prosperity, plenty, bountiful, clarity, increase & thriving.  But I just couldn’t make them stick.

What I found, though, was a constant desire to go deeper.  Deeper into my spiritual walk.  Deeper into my relationships.  Deeper into my profession of voice acting. Deeper into life. Just. DEEPER.

I want to Dig Deeper.

Feel Deeper.

Look Deeper.

Go Deeper.

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Deeper.  The word strikes fear in the hearts of many men and women I know.  They are content to scratch the surface of their lives and never go deeper.  But I am not content with that – I have a  hunger to learn more, see more, reach more, do more.  And when I do, I have a feeling there’s no going back.  Deep cries out to deep.

To go even deeper.

Me? Called to Ministry? Nah.

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I come from a family of ministers.  My mom, my dad, a few aunts, uncles, cousins, my sister and my niece all professed to be “called” to the ministry at a young age.  Even my daughter is leaving soon for a year to minister to others on the world stage of missions.

Me?  Nope. Not me.  If there’s one thing I’ve always known about myself, it’s that I was NOT called to be a minister.  Being called to the ministry was something that happened to other preacher’s kids at summer camp.  Not me.  Many of my friends and family in ministry know God put this call on their lives.  I never felt that way.  Never had that still, small voice telling me to leave my nets and follow Jesus into the unknown throes of ministry.

When I was a kid, being “called” to the ministry meant you HEARD the call, and ANSWERED that call by attending Bible college or seminary, getting ordained as a pastor and leading a group of adults or families or youth or a choir in the day to day living out of faith.  It was messy and challenging and involved being able to speak wisdom in front of a group of people.

I have to admit to being both envious of those who heard the call and relieved that I wasn’t one of them.  Being a PK (pastor’s kid), I’d heard my share of messy stories and really couldn’t fathom being the one who would help out someone in that kind of need.

I don’t think kids now have this dilemma.  If they grow up in a church, they are sent on missions trips out of the country or even in their own towns.  Feeding the hungry, clothing the homeless, bringing hope to the hopeless.  They are the hands and feet of Jesus.  They LOVE like Jesus did.  They don’t wait for a calling. They DO stuff.

But me? I wasn’t called.  So I lived my life.  I raised my kids. I taught them to love Jesus.  I prayed for family members and friends. Even counseled a friend or two in a tough spot.  I gave a sandwich to a beggar on the street.  Gave a blanket to a cold homeless woman on a rainy night. Wait. What? That sounds suspiciously like ministry.

And so, at the ripe old age of fifty-something, I’m finally realizing I am called.  Called just like you are called.  In the trenches of real life.  It’s still messy and challenging, but doesn’t necessarily involve being able to speak in front of a group of people.  (Can I get an Amen?)

What it does involve is being available.  Teachable.  Willing to use your gifts to share the gospel.

Which brings us to today.  LifeWordsToday, to be exact.  The blog launched in 2013 by myself, my sister and our daughters.

About a month before we ever began discussing the idea for this blog, I came upon a scripture – Psalm 49:3  “My mouth will speak words of wisdom; the utterance from my heart will give understanding.”  I was compelled to write it on a card to keep in my Bible.  Next to the verse I wrote, “3/12/13 = from God = (?about what?)”

A calling, perhaps?

What’s your calling?

(This post first appeared in LifeWords Today on 10/02/2013)

What if this is goodbye?

March 27, 2012I kissed my son goodbye this morning before leaving for work.  And the day before that.  And the day before that, too.  For more than a month now.  Yes, my 6’4″ almost 21 year old adult son gets a kiss on the forehead from his momma every morning.  And he hears that I love him.  And I hear that he loves me back.  And that makes my heart smile.

I have some friends who would give anything to be in my shoes right now, even for a day.  They are moms who will never have the privilege of shedding happy tears at their sons wedding, who will not warn him when he gleefully tosses her grandchild a little too high in the air, who will not marvel how her son handles the joys and struggles of manhood.

For these moms who have lost a precious son, there are no more days to treasure.  Only the days they have already stored up in their hearts and will remember for the rest of their lives.  When someone close to you endures this kind of indescribable pain, it tends to knock you into reality.  What if? What if I am called upon to walk this road someday?  What if I become that mom? THAT mom.  The one who has suddenly, tragically and without warning received notice that her son or daughter has died.  It is unthinkable.  But the unthinkable happens sometimes.

I had two friends lose their adult sons within 3 days of each other a few weeks ago, which sent me reeling into mourning their losses.  It doesn’t matter that one died as a result of a tragic accident and one died at his own hand.  Neither mom saw it coming.  Neither mom got to say goodbye. Neither mom was prepared.  But they both shared something profound.  An unwavering faith in a God Who KNOWS.  A God Who knows their pain, Who sees their sorrow, and Who meets them in their darkest moments and is able to bring something equally unfathomable: light to their darkness and hope to their hurting hearts.  Life is forever changed, and the days ahead will be so very hard.  But God knows, and He heals.  He is our Hope.

Walking Mom Home

This is hard. This business of watching someone die. Really, really HARD. But as with all things that are hard, it has had its joys, as well. Right now I suppose I can’t think of any, but I am sure they are there. My dad went quickly, just over two months ago. We barely said good-bye. Now it’s mom’s turn, and the good-byes seem endless. It’s a paradox, really. You want it to be over, but you never want it to be over, for that means your beloved mom is gone. But I promised myself I would walk my mom Home, and, along with my brother and sister and my husband, that is what I’m doing.

Sitting for days watching the natural progression of death, or THE PROCESS as we have come to know and hate the phrase, causes a person to evaluate life at its most basic level. What will my children be saying to me and about me when faced with this same scenario?

Actually, that was the easy part. And possibly the joyous part, as well. Aside from some silly quirks that we loved to tease her about, my mom was darn near perfect. I’m not kidding. This woman, born on a farm in the midst of a great flu epidemic, was tough as nails. A self-described tomboy, she grew up in a family of 5 girls and 3 boys. Her dad nicknamed her “Johnny.” Always joyful, smiling, and full of life, she had great stories, and what a storyteller she was!

And yet, she was an enigma. By the time I came along she was 40 and had lived nearly half her life. She was polished, educated, and well versed in her parenting and pastoring skills. She always said I was a compliant child, so I guess that didn’t hurt, but she had this way about her that just made me want to please her. Spanking wasn’t necessary – it was THE LOOK that made me want to do the right thing, and never disappoint this amazing Woman of God. I wouldn’t be truthful if I said I actually accomplished that….. But that’s another story.

Yes, I was the youngest daughter of a lady preacher. It made for an interesting life, to say the least. She was a tell-it-like it is, no-nonsense person who continually believed in her children and their greatness. Some of the most important lessons and biblical truths I learned were from watching my mom.

There was the time a man came to the door, asking for a handout. We lived in the house next to the church, and everyone knew it. I stood back as I watched her tell the man to sit on the front step while she went to the kitchen and made a sandwich. Bringing it to him with a drink, she shared Jesus’ love in a tangible way and he was grateful. When I asked her why she didn’t give the man a couple of bucks and send him on his way, she told me the Bible says that we could be entertaining angels, unaware, and proceeded to tell me a story from her childhood during the great depression. One of her most vivid memories of God’s provision was when her family sat down to eat at a table with no food. After saying grace, there was a knock. The man at the door said he was from a new bakery in town and they were delivering bread samples to the local families. That night, the large family gave thanks for a generous businessman. Upon asking around the next day, though, they could find no one who knew of this bakery. It didn’t exist. So, the family story has always been that an angel brought the loaves of bread that night. For the rest of her life, she never wavered in her belief that God would always provide what they needed. And He always did.

Being the daughter of a lady preacher in the 60’s and 70’s gave me a sense that I was part of the Women’s Movement long before it became the mainstream. I could do anything. There was no boundary that would hold me back from what I wanted to do because my mom had blasted through the ultimate glass ceiling. She was a woman doing the work of a Man of God. And she did it well. Her sermons were compelling, her counseling wise and her prophesies accurate. At home she was just “mom” to us and “Mrs. J” to my brother’s buddies, but to the rest of the world she was a force to be reckoned with.

The authority with which mom prayed and preached was not lost on me, even as a young girl. Without saying a word, she taught me about spiritual warfare and the dire consequences of taking it lightly. It seemed that the enemy was constantly on the attack, and she handled each one with a firm grace that defied what must have been going on inside of her. I knew, without her ever telling me, that if her bedroom door was closed, she was in prayer. And not the sit on the edge of your bed God Bless Yous, either. She was in the fervent, groaning in the spirit kind of prayer that turns God’s ear a little bit closer.

Her favorite saying was, “But God!” When things looked hopeless and bleak, she would say, “But God!” When she would write in her journal about the destruction in the church brought by people with jealous spirits, she would write, “But God!” When she was discouraged about family members she had prayed for without an answer, she would say, “But God!” Her faith and confidence never wavered. Ever.

So I guess walking my mom Home really started when we began our walk through life together. I have gleaned 50 years of experience and knowledge from her. Some I have used already, most I suppose I have yet to draw from. But now, in these final moments of her life they come crashing through my brain like a flash flood. It is almost overwhelming, the legacy she leaves me. I only hope I can do the same for my own children.
(December 21, 2009)

From Tami: It seems there is no end to the words I am constantly putting together in my head. I “write” all day long – life is a running narration for me; that’s just how my brain works, I guess.  Unfortunately I seldom actually put it down on paper or electronic media. During the long weekend that we were in waiting for my mom’s imminent death, I read a book, mindlessly flipped through magazines and glanced at photo albums. Finally, I pulled out the laptop and started typing. My mom took her last breath 7 minutes after I hit the “save” button.  I thought it was time to share this with you.