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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

For Dennis -The best of the three is love...

"If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don't love, I'm nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.  If I speak God's Word with power, revealing all His mysteries and making everything plain as day and if I have faith that says to a mountain, "Jump," and it jumps, but I don't love, I'm nothing.  If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere.  So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I'm bankrupt without love."  "We don't yet see things clearly.  We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist.  But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright!  We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing Him directly just as He knows us!  But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation:  Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly.  And the best of the three is love."  1Corinthians 13: 1-3; 12-13, The Message

My dear cousin Dennis passed from this earth on Saturday.  Dennis and I were childhood buddies and I am left with many memories as all his family and friends are.  His dad said, "Carmen, you are probably as close to a sister as Dennis ever had" and that may be true.  We played Batman and Robin at the little community school (sliding down the poles from the roof to the bat cave), board games for hours (He taught me to play chess.  I never won??), cooked together, cleaned together, went to church together, youth group and school.  There was a nasty little incident of us filling my uncle's car tank with water.  We really thought we were helping.  I promise!  You see, he lived across the street from my dear grandparents and being at their house was my very favorite pass time.  My mom used to ask me, "What is so exciting over there!?"  I told her I didn't know.  It was just where I wanted to be.  Dennis probably played a role in that. 

I knew him best as a child and very young man.  He loved listening to Lynn Anderson, made famous with "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden", and he told me recently he was proud of that crush.  For those who have known him only as a grown man, he was ALWAYS passionate about anything he believed in. He was passionate about Jesus and church, politics, his love for me and about being more.  He wanted the best for me and when I didn't feel the same way, he certainly tried to show me the error of my ways.  I remember once, (well, more than once) I visited another youth group and he called and reminded me that my youth group needed me.  Where was my loyalty!  I married at 16 and he was in my wedding.  He was so worried I wouldn't graduate from high school.  On my graduation day, I received flowers from him with a card that read, "I am so proud of you! Love, Dennis." 

I married and Dennis went to college.  This is where are paths crossed less frequently.  Marriage and trying to finish growing up took my attention and trying to be more took his.  There is so much of his life I missed out on.  Dennis graduated from Louisiana Tech and moved away and we lost some of that personal relationship.

As his lifestyle changed, I became so confused.  I always loved Dennis but I couldn't figure out "how to love him".  Why is that I ask myself today.  As a Christian, I was torn.  Somehow I had lost sight of the verses above.  I struggled with loving and not agreeing.  I think if he and I would have discussed it, we would have both been comfortable much sooner.  Over the years I have grown in maturity of years and in my Christian walk.  I have learned  more and more that my job is to love unconditionally and let God take care of the rest.  I'm not junior God, thank goodness! 

Each and every year we enjoyed our time together at Christmas and Memorial Day.  He loved his family and was very insistent that we all be together when he was here.  He loved to cook for us and each Christmas we had a wonderful new dish to sample.  He brought New York to us as he brought Louisiana to his friends in New York. 

The last private message I had from Dennis was to tell me how proud he was of my writing.  He had read my blogs and was impressed.  Of course he used words that I had to Google.  What is syntax I asked?  I knew it must be good because he said I used it.  When he was home soon after that message, he continued to encourage me.  He reminded me that all good writers have editors and I was my own editor and doing a great job of it.    "You have an idea...you expand upon it... and you make a point.  And, you do it with good grammar."  That was especially nice of him since I am very southern in speech :)  His praise meant more to me than he probably realized.  I have always wanted Dennis to be proud of me.  He was after all my big brother and friend. 

During this terrible illness that robbed him of his life, he showed such bravery.  On the eve of his first surgery, I texted him that I was praying for him and he responded, "I'm sure everything will be all right".  He fought hard to live.   Knowing that his prognosis was not good, he continued to fight and did it with grace and a smile on his face.  He waited on us to be with him and as we stood at his bedside on the morning of his death, he knew we had come and as he breathed his last breaths, he was surrounded by family, friends and much love.

We now must cherish our memories.  We will certainly miss a celebrity birthday without him.  He always posted a tribute whether they were 150 years old or 50.  How will we ever keep up with the British Royal family?  I once asked him did he ever work?  If you are not traveling you are posting on Facebook!  I will miss him. 

Until we visit again...
Live blessed
Carmen





Tuesday, November 5, 2013

New is not always best...

My dear husband says, "Age and experience can beat youth and enthusiasm often."  Does that include alarm clocks?   The little gem below has been in our family since it's beginning 36 years ago.  It was my husbands faithful companion for 3 years before we married.  I asked him when he purchased this thing and he said, "When I moved out on my own."  He came to the big city to begin school and work and if I know him, an alarm clock was probably his first purchase.  That man loves to be on time.  As you can see, he has replaced the plug with an extra heavy duty one because the original one just plain wore out.  My friend the decorator spiffs up the master bedroom and no matter what changes are made, one thing remains the same, the clock.  She (the clock) has been very faithful and dependable.  General Electric would probably be surprised to know we have one of their little inexpensive alarm clocks that is 39 years old. 

I like new things so I decided to begin using my new phone for my alarm.  She (there I go again) sounds so calming.  No jarring awake each morning.  New and improved.



This morning I was snoozing so peacefully and as I awoke, I thought, "I sure feel rested." and "It sure is light in here."  As I turned over my "faithful" cell phone to check the time, to my astonishment, it was only 1 hour and 20 minutes later than I should have been up.  What happened?!!!!!!!  I tried to unlock the phone with the security swipe, oh no, it wasn't moving.  Just sitting there all bright eyed but unwilling to share info with me.  It was frozen.  Grrrrrrr.

As you can imagine, I began to move in fast motion.  All the while trying to restart that fancy phone of mine.  I had to get dressed.  There were several little task that had to be done in our house before I left for work that I had saved for morning. And they HAD to be done.   Of course my lunch bag wasn't packed.  On top of all of that, I have short hair.  I call it cat hair.  My entire family has been blessed with thick hair.  Full of body.  Not me.  So think cockatoo. 


Carmen in the morning!

As I run, I am thinking.  What absolutely must be done before I leave.  I try to make a plan.  One thing I knew for sure, makeup must be involved.  I mean, let's think this thing through.  If you are going to have a BAD hair day, you have to balance it out with makeup.  No breakfast.  No coffee.  Good grief.  I don't think I even had a drink of water except for what escaped down my throat from brushing my teeth! 

I did not speed while driving.  That's all I needed was a ticket. Or worse.  I was 9 minutes late for work.  When I arrived I had been up less than an hour.  

I don't know what happened to that new fangled phone of mine.  I guess tonight, I pull out the stem on old Betsy.  She may be old and a little raspy but she's faithful. 

My dear husband is vindicated. 

Until we visit again,
Live blessed
Carmen

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Good news...

Do you love a bargain?   Our local supermarket had a buy one get one for a penny sale this week.  I had not looked at the mid week circular.  Actually I remember throwing it away.  That's what happens when you make a decision when your tired.  Therefore when I entered the store, I was ill prepared.  Sigh.  Of course that meant walking down each aisle.  My eyes scanned the shelves like I was looking for a diamond at a diamond mine.  I mean, what if I missed one of those red 1cent signs!  The savings were so good that I even sent texts to my daughter and a friend.

 
 
What is it about a good find that makes us want to share the news?  A young family and I seemed to share the same aisle over and over.  We helped each other.  "Did you see this? or "If you don't mind, I'll just look around you.  Take your time."  She had her circular.  She was prepared and even had her husband and two kids along for the adventure! 
 
As I write this I am reminded of last week at church.  I know it's odd.  How I got there, I can not explain.  Anyway, we took communion.  In the church I attend, the only requirement to participate in communion with us is salvation.  If Jesus is your Savior, you are invited to join in.  Our Pastor spoke of the significance of this ordinance and as each element is taken, he asks someone to bless it.  Thanking God for what this represents.  My mind drifted.  Did I really appreciate this sacrifice?  Did I really understand what it meant?  Conviction.  Of course, if you know me, you will know that I can feel guilt over just about anything.  That first born in me comes out and I feel responsible for it all. 
 
Salvation is really good news.  We have THE best news around!  2Corinthians 4:6&7 (NET) tells me "For God, who said "Let light shine out of darkness," is the one who shined in our hearts to give us the light of the glorious knowledge of God in the face of Christ.  But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that the extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us."  I am just a earthen vessel, a clay jar (actually mine has been cracked and put back together several times) and along with that comes my difficulty.  Can I really understand and appreciate this sacrifice completely?  Ephesians 3:18-19 (NLT) says, "18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God." (bold my addition)
 
This good news is really too deep for me to understand.  That's where faith enters in.  I don't understand the amazing love of this sacrifice.  How can it be that my King would die for me? 
 
I don't want to keep it to myself.  It is worth a text, a call.  Be God's hands and heart this week.  There is no sale here.  Just a gift that cost everything and given freely to all that accept.
 
Love.  Amazing love.
 
Until we visit again,
Live blessed
Carmen



Sunday, September 15, 2013

Samuel Ears...

This morning it is cooler in the land of pine trees and lakes.  I sit on my screen porch, Gideon Bible study (Priscilla Shirer) at hand and a listening ear for my sweet dear hubby who is feeling very much under the weather today.  I don't like when those I love are sick.  I feel so out of control.

My thoughts today are on what Beth Moore calls "God Stops".  Those times when God shows up in the lives of His children and more often than not, we don't recognize Him.  Let me quote Priscilla, "I wonder how often God has been near, but I haven't noticed because I assumed that His nearness would always be coupled with astonishing circumstances."  Have our spiritual ears become dull? 

In 1Samuel 3, we read the story of the Lord speaking to Samuel for the first time.  Unlike us, Samuel didn't have the Holy Spirit with him continually and the closed canon of His Word available in every format imaginable.  In verse 7 it says, "Samuel did not yet know the Lord because he had never had a message from the Lord before.  What he did have though was a godly mentor.  Time after time that night, the Lord called and Samuel mistook Him for Eli.  Matter of fact, 3 times before Eli realized that God wanted to speak to Samuel.  On that fourth time, Samuel said, " Yes, Lord, your servant is listening. 

I want Samuel ears.  I want to hear God when He speaks.  I want to see Him working in my life. 
In the rush of the day, I fear I miss God's presence. I am comforted by this passage though.  Samuel didn't miss what God wanted to say.  In God's compassion and love He kept speaking. 


Until we visit again,
Be blessed,
Carmen





Saturday, August 31, 2013

Evaluations



While listening to my pastor share the message God had given him recently, my eyes drifted to a verse that I had not noticed before.  This is really a great testimony to the fact that all scripture is revealed by God because I have read all scripture and I never "saw" this verse as I did that day. 
Paul is writing to the Corinthian church.  He is talking with them about being Christ Ambassadors and he says this in 2Corinthians 5:16 (NLT) "So we have stopped evaluating others by what the world thinks about them."  Hmmm.  My spirit grabbed that verse and I began to think.



I sure wish the world would evaluate us like God does. This is a skill I want more of in my life, don't you?  Sometimes I'm like Ouiser Boudreaux in Steel Magnolias, "I'm not as sweet as I used to be". When I get angry, or moody, or grumpy, or have a bad attitude, I am glad God knows my heart.  He knows me best, expects the best and then works so patiently with me to help me reach my best.    "But we have this treasure (the light of Jesus Christ) in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." 2Corinthians 4:7 (NIV)  We are all jars of clay.  Most of us have been cracked and God has glued us back together.  The super glue of the Holy Spirit is wonderful!  I told someone once when her son had made a very unwise decision, "This is something he did, it is not who he is".  I need to remember this. I don't want to give the impression that we excuse bad behavior in others but it wouldn't hurt us to try to give others the benefit of the doubt sometimes. 


Paul goes on to say in 5:17, "What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons.  They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone.  A new life has begun!"  We are not the same.  Although God sees our heart, it would help our witness if we looked a little different from the world.  It would sure make it a lot easier for the world to evaluate us.

Until we meet again...
Live blessed!
Carmen

  

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Pressing past weariness...

Recently during Bible study, "Gideon" by Priscilla Shirer, I read this.  "Passion doesn't negate weariness.  It just resolves to press beyond it".   This really seems to be true.  What am I passionate about?  When I think on that question and then think about weariness and pressing on I see the areas where I press on. My dear husband always says we find time to do what we really want to do.  Not only do we find time, we find resources and recruit help if we can't accomplish it on our own! 

Where does that passion come from?  The Encarta Dictionary defines bestow this way, "to present something, especially something valuable or undeserved, to somebody".  I have talents and I have gifts.  The talents I have, I think, are things that I was born with.  Maybe things that were passed down to me.  Areas that I just seem naturally good at.  My gifts were bestowed by God.  1Corinthians 12: 7 & 11 says, "A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other. 11 It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have."  God, The Passion Giver, The Caller, The Bestower. 


As I mature in my spiritual walk, God bestows different gifts.  It seems that at times I excel in one more than the other.  God has used me to encourage, teach, lead, give, serve just to name a few. (Rom 12:3-8) I have found that as I become a willing vessel, God increases the level of my gifting and my talents too.  I get better in certain areas.  Even my talents when dedicated to God and His plan improve.  Sometimes God enables me to do something that I cannot do.   Maybe something that seems insignificant but special to me.  Like arranging flowers.  I would love to be able to arrange flowers.  That really is one of my life long dreams.  I have no natural talent in this area but I have watched, listened, googled and youtubed!  So sometimes God allows me to arrange flowers and they look beautiful.  During those times I know God decided to help me do something that I want to do but does not come naturally to me.

Today I took a spiritual gifts test.  It was 85 questions (Oh my word!) to help me see what my spiritual gifts are.  I persevered and found the response interesting.  I will trust God to help me sort out the tests responses and to understand how and when He wants to use any gift He gives me. 

It is an amazing feeling to be used by God.  We will be wise to remember that without the power and ability given us by the Holy Spirit, we work in vain. Psalm 127:1 says, Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted.

If you would like to take a spiritual gifts test, try the one I did.  It will not give you all the answers you are looking for (God reserves that for the Holy Spirit.  He never wants us to depend on anything more than Him.) but it will give you something to think about.  Some of those questions were convicting.  On some of them I had to remember that all of our gifts are needed to make the body of Christ (the church) be effective.  It's not necessary for me to have them all!  Leave me a comment if you try it and let me know what you think. 

Ministry Matters Spiritual Gifts Test

Until we visit again...
Carmen

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Life is sweet...


2013 has arrived!  There is an old wives’ tale that says what you are doing at midnight is what you will be doing all year.  Midnight for my family was spent together with lots of laughter and that is how I hope our next year will be spent because 2012 had its fair share of sadness.  The Bible says that “laughter is good medicine”.   Solomon with all of his godly wisdom was right. 

 
Do you make New Year’s resolutions?  I try not to.  There are lots of things I sure hope I do better this year though.  I always want to eat better and less!  My aunt’s doctor told her once, years ago, when she asked him for diet pills, “You don’t need a diet pill.  You need a smaller spoon!”  Boy, oh boy, do I ever need a smaller spoon! 

 
Exercise – groan. When I think of how blessed I am to be healthy and able to exercise, I always feel guilty for being so lazy.  There will come a time when I can’t do what I want and I don’t want to look back and think (Like I have about some other things), why didn’t I use those legs when I could?

 
I want all of those things you do.  More time with my family, more time with my mom.  Reading more could never hurt.  Writing and learning and trying to notice all the times God works in my life –“God stops” sounds good.   Be encouraging, make a difference.  When I stand before my Savior and King, I want Him to say “well done good and faithful servant”.  The older I get, the more I want to help.  Good grief, what a waste it would be to have survived some tough times and not share that with others.    

 
I am excited about women’s ministry for 2013.  One year ago I accepted this call and Lord willing, I will be blessed to be used another year by God.  The women God has placed in my path in ministry have made me want to be a better person.  I want to learn, teach, mentor and love more than I plan, prepare, and stress over details this year.   About details, Oprah once said “love is in the details,” and I think that has a lot of truth in it.  One of the ways I show love to the women that Shoulder2Shoulder touches is in the details.  I must learn how to delegate some more of those details though.  God is working on me :) 

           
2013 is a new chance.  Somehow it seems that January 1 always feels like a new chance, a new opportunity for a start fresh.  I don’t know why that is.  God tells us His mercies are new every day.  In reality I can hit refresh any time and any day.   Our family usually starts our new year with a fast.  The concept is giving God the first fruits of our year.  Some amazing things have happened during fasting times.  We usually make a list of 4 or 5 things we focus on in prayer, seeking God in some major areas of our lives.   Our plan is to offer those 21 days again this month.  How about you, do you ever fast? 

 
Can I make a suggestion?   Love more, laugh more, give more, have more fun.  Examine yourself every once in a while, seek God and strengthen your relationship with Him, which usually means spending  a little more time in prayer and Bible study. Go to church.  It is true that attending church won’t make us a Christian like sitting in a garage won’t make us cars but we miss out on so many blessings and gifts that God only manifest in the local church.  Get involved in a Bible teaching group of believers.  True, local churches are made up of often fragile, flawed people but those same flawed people can be some of your biggest blessings.  God said not to forsake it, so don’t.  Enough said on that.   When you are working, work hard, be the kind of employee that you would want.  “Work as unto the Lord” in all the tasks you do.  When you are not working, leave it at the office.  Be the kind of person you want to be around.  Be graceful and merciful.  Be a peace maker and not just a peace keeper.  Life is so short.  It is “but a vapor”.  I would say think about the legacy you will leave but really, if you live your life as Christ asked, a wonderful legacy will be assured. 

 
The expectation is there - expectation of changes for 2013. I don’t want to be anxious; I want to be full of anticipation!  God has a plan for me and for you.  Thank goodness, He is not waiting on us to come up with one.   As I have heard it said, “Lord willing I get another year”, what will I have experienced in 2013 that I will reflect on next January 1?    

 

Until we visit again…

Live blessed!
Carmen