Back to Basics: Salvation


“On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’Matt. 7:22-23

Grab your coffee this morning. Relax, and let’s have some serious talk.

We have been remiss. Looking back on this year of Back to Basics articles, we seem to have skipped over the most basic of all basics: salvation. In a recent sermon Pastor Kevin brought up something about salvation that really got me to thinking. He wondered aloud what we in the congregation might say if we were asked to explain salvation. That got me to wondering too. Is there confusion over salvation? Could it be true? Could faithful church members who have lived upright lives be confused about salvation? I pondered my own story and the many conversations I’ve had with women over the years, and I realized that “Yes,” even dedicated church members can suffer from skewed teachings in their past and confusion over the Gospel. Pastor Kevin explained, “Many people in the church … not outside the church, but inside the church … many church folk think salvation is by God’s grace plus good works.  Wrong!! If we could work our way to heaven then the cross at Calvary was a tragedy.” Woah! That is a stop-us-in-our-tracks comment.

So let us stop in our tracks and examine ourselves. Would you be able to tell another person how to be saved? Can you explain salvation for yourself: what it means in your life, how you know you’re a child of God, what steps a person takes to be saved? Can you say what salvation is and what it is not? It seems simple, yet so complex. If you were saved as a child, you may sometimes wonder, like I used to, if you did it the right way. Do you? Do you ever doubt your salvation because you prayed as a child, but don’t see much growth in your life right now, and so you wonder, “Am I really saved? What if I’m not?”

When we were younger, we may have gotten the message at church that we had to be perfect. We may have confused healthy admonitions to live a moral life with what it means to be saved. We have seen that people change after they encounter Almighty God, and the enemy or our souls may have twisted that to make us believe that a change in behavior or doing good works equals salvation. But it doesn’t.

What is salvation?

That is such a “churchy” word. But what does it mean? According to salvation is “deliverance from the power and penalty of sin; redemption.” And says that salvation is “an act of God. It is initiated by God, wrought by God and sustained by God.” And our own Pastor Kevin reminds us that, “There is only ONE way to the Father and that way is through His Son, Jesus Christ! There is no forgiveness of sins apart from the substitutionary, perfect, sinless, shed blood of Jesus Christ! It is God’s grace plus nothing, minus nothing!!”

Salvation. From the root word “save.” We are being saved from the penalty of our sin we said. But salvation is much more than avoiding punishment. Salvation is coming into relationship with our Creator, Father God. Yes, I will be saved from the penalty of my sin, but it is oh so much more than that. I will have a perfect father. A rescuer. A friend. A guide through life. A healer. A comforter. And I will become His bride, his friend, his daughter, his beloved, a new creation, a chosen one, a forgiven one, a work of art crafted by the Master Craftsman’s hands.

But how does that happen? How do we come into that relationship with God? He is drawing us. He loves us and wants us to come to Him while we are still wallowing in our sin, while we’re still in our selfishness, our addiction, our drunken reveling, whatever. He takes the initial action – He loves us. These verses say it all.

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins…. We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:10,19)

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

Let’s take a look at the facts of salvation.

So the first step of salvation is realizing that God loves us, even with the mess that we are. In fact, He loved you so much that He was willing to give His only son as a sacrifice for your sin to take the punishment you deserved upon Himself.

The next step is to understand that we sin and to repent of that sin (turn away from it), and ask forgiveness from God. We are sinners. Sin is simply missing the mark. Jesus set a high standard; he lived a perfect life. That is the mark; anything short of that is sin. Murder? Yes, of course. Lying. Yes. Immorality, greed, hatred, jealousy, selfishness? Yes, yes, yes, it’s all sin. We are each and everyone guilty and in need of someone to rescue us from the punishment we deserve because of our sin. The book of Romans has lots to say about sin. Chapter 3 tells us “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Chapter 6 reminds us that “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 3:23 and 6:23) Sin demands a penalty payment, death. But that penalty has already been paid!

Third, we must realize that Jesus’ death and resurrection is the only thing that makes it possible for us to be made right with God. Jesus Christ is that sacrificial lamb, that sacrifice that paid the penalty for our sin. Romans 10:9-10 tells us that, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”

And that’s it, we come to Jesus bringing nothing. We let go and give Jesus authority over our life to do with as He will for the rest of our days. We raise our white flag in surrender. He redeems our mess and makes us into His new creation. It’s all on Him. He does the saving and the changing, His precious work of grace.

When we realize our sin and brokenness and our need for a savior, we have a choice. We can choose to believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, or we can choose to reject His gift of salvation and try to fill up our broken places by our own means. Jesus is tenderly waiting with open arms.

Have you done that? Have you accepted His love for you, realized and repented of your sin, believed that He is the only way to be made right with God, and given up the authority to rule your own life to Him? If not, now would be a good time. If you’re not sure what you did as a 6-year-old, now would be the time to make sure. All you have to do is pray.

We at Priceless would love to hear from you if you have given your life to Christ today. We encourage you to pray, begin to read God’s word each day, and find a local body of believers (church) near you to meet with. We’ve included a simple video below and The Bridge Illustration that express the truths of salvation in slightly different formats.

3 Circles Video

Bridge Illustration from The Navigators.


Finding Beauty in the Broken


How Our Broken Pieces Reveal the Beauty of the Savior

My family will attest to my love of trivia. If it is mundane and generally useless, but intriguing, I probably have it tucked down in the recesses of my brain. If you’re playing Trivial Pursuit, I’m your best friend. If you need anything done that is practical and helpful, unfortunately, I’m probably not your girl.

But sometimes, I’ll come across a bit of knowledge that attaches itself not only to my brain, but to my soul. A fact nugget God uses to remind me of His goodness and grace. You know the King loves a word picture. And most of the time those gems come in the most unexpected places. Like sitting in a required tutor-training session trying to soak up tips about teaching high schoolers Latin and Algebra and Literature. Before one session, my trainer was chatting with us, asking us questions, and somehow she got on the topic of pottery. And she began to tell the story of a ceramic art form called “kintsugi.” It was so fascinating, I didn’t hear anything else that was taught that day. As soon as I got home, I started researching. What I discovered was nothing short of remarkable and, unexpectedly, drove home a truth I’d been struggling with for years. Can God take my broken, mess of a life and make it something useful, even beautiful?

If you’ve been asking yourself that same question, come with me to learn what a centuries-old Japanese art form teaches about redemption. And how it points to a Redeemer.

In Japan, a unique art developed around the 15th century. A shogun broke his favorite tea bowl and sent it to China for repairs. The tea bowl was sent back patched up with unsightly staples. This shogun talked to his artistic friends who set out to develop a more elegant way of repairing broken pottery. What developed was the remarkable ceramic work called “kintsugi.”

a8cabb8b57f87b14206a74ea905dc114-japan-art-kintsugi-diyKintsugi takes broken pieces of pottery and repairs them using a special silver- and gold-dusted lacquer. The practice creates unique pieces of pottery that use the fractures and fissures to tell a story. Instead of attempting to hide or cover the cracks and breaks, kintsugi seeks to focus on the brokenness of the pottery. Kintsugi allows the artist to create an original, useful, extraordinary piece from the shattered shards of what was once deemed unusable. What might’ve been swept out with the garbage is now sitting in a place of prominence, as a representation of the artist’s skill and the beauty of the creation, in museums around the world.

Hey sister, did that picture blow you away? Are you like me, have you asked God if your broken life could ever be used by Him? Have you felt like the shards of your life are meant only for the junk pile, or, even worse, the trash pile? Do you wonder how, or if, anyone can make something beautiful out of your pile of broken pieces? Do you wonder if this mess of your life can be used for anything good? Is there a purpose in the pain and the mistakes and the struggle?

Oh precious friend, let me whisper some truth in your ear. Let me tell you the Greatest Story again, or maybe for the first time. Let me remind you of the Gift. He walked the streets of Israel about 2,000 years ago, but He’s existed since before time began. In fact, He is existence itself. When He came and walked the earth, many people wondered who He was. This man was unique. He had a special purpose; a one-of-a-kind mission. A mission only He could fulfill. When His Father instructed him, He stood up on the Sabbath day in his hometown of Nazareth and announced His purpose. What was his mission? Let’s look at the expanded passage from Isaiah 61 he quoted on that Sabbath day, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me to bring good news to the poor, he has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant those who mourn in Zion—to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning , the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit.”

This God. This Savior. This Gift. He specializes in taking broken people and not just putting them back together, but making them BRAND NEW. He doesn’t just fix our broken pieces, HE MAKES US BRAND NEW CREATIONS. But we’re still human, right? We’re still flesh and bone. But when Jesus makes you new, He fills in all those weaknesses, all those fissures and fractures of our humanness, with HIS SPIRIT. In that filling, He develops in us a genuine faith—more precious than GOLD (1 Peter 1:7). And when you allow Jesus to take all those broken pieces and make you new, you will indeed be more beautiful than your original self because you have been revitalized with new life. He makes ALL things NEW, and uses the broken pieces of your life to speak your unique story of redemption and renewal.

So if you’re wondering if He can use the tragedies and unwise choices and disasters of your life for His good. Trust me, He can. If you’ll let Him make you new, He will take the mess of your life and turn it into a message. He will turn a test into a testimony and a tragedy into a triumph. And with each piece that He restores and renews, you will even more beautifully reflect the love of Christ. So as you ponder the rare beauty of kintsugi, remember in Christ, God is working in you to make an incredible masterpiece, a new creation who reflects His glory with your own unique story of transformation.


For we are His workmanship [His own master work, a work of art], created in Christ Jesus [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used] for good works, which God prepared [for us] beforehand [taking paths which He set], so that we would walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us]. Ephesians 2:10 AMP


Lessons From The Junk Drawer


Truth be told. Sometimes I lie.

For example, there have been times in my life if you’d asked me how I’ve been and I would have looked at you in the face and said “Good,” and it be a lie. Straight up, bold face lie. In my head I try to lessen the blow of said lie by finishing the statement with “if good means I’m not dead and no one is in jail….yet” or “If good means I feel like I’m basically failing at life right now then heck yeah I’m doing flippin’ fantastic!”

The Martin world has times when it is totally topsy-turvy, our ups and downs are more downs and there are days I feel any moment the thread might just give way. Recently, a precious one asked me how I was and I could only answer with a vague “We’re good, just having some struggles right now.” The Precious One began to name a few of the many generalized topics one potentially struggles with and I said, “Yes.” Yes to which one? Yes to all.

pexels-photo-416430.jpegRecently, I asked the King for a little order, some straight horizontal and vertical lines in a world full of diagonal ones. I asked Him If He wouldn’t mind to do that for me. In my memory I was taken back to a time when He used His people and had done exactly that. It was one of many Martin moves when some Dear Ones organized my entire kitchen. I came home to cabinets lined and labeled, filled and readied. It still makes me smile when I think of it.

Some mornings ago I awoke unsettled. That is how I often awaken and through a series of unplanned and unorganized steps I found myself staring blankly at a minuscule diorama of what life sometimes feels like. I’ve about decided every home has one, like the families they represent they are equally different yet like those families they are the same. Truth be told, if I’m ever given the opportunity, I like to survey the ones in other homes. Over the years of informal research I’ve found that it is often the most distal and aptly named of places, The Junk Drawer. As I pulled open that rectangle of chaos I surveyed it with equal feelings of disgust and apathy. The feeling of frustration, the knowledge it needed to be remedied and the lack motivation to do anything about it left me standing and staring down an unnatural length of time, so long I had, in fact, forgotten what I was looking for.

What happened next I have entitled, “Lessons from the Junk Drawer.”

1. Survey the Damage. I stood there in a state of shock. Despite daily opening of the Junk drawer I could not figure out how it had gotten so bad. Truth be told, it was a gradual decline I hadn’t junked it up overnight, tossed in something here, thrown in a random thing there. I had rummaged around repeatedly so much so that everything in there couldn’t help but be displaced and disorderly.

2. Resolve to take a step forward, get a plan. Make a pile or two, or in my case 12.


3. Sort through. Process it, but for the love don’t be so stuck on the piles of rubbish and disorganization that you lose sight of the goal. Don’t try to understand why you’ve actually saved for an unknown length of time the netting from a bag of lemons, approximately 146 Hanukkah candles….One hundred and forty-six!!! I’m not even Jewish! One as in a single ONE soda pop tab, a single key to who-knows-where and various and sundry stationery items. No wonder I can never find a pen when I need it. They are all held hostage in the Junk Drawer. Take a moment to pause and evaluate the progress. Document it so you won’t forget when the drawer gets really junky again next week. This is one of the single most important things. I like to journal the progress, my memory is short and I can not deny something written in my own hand reminding me I may not be where I want to be, but I’m sure not where I was.

4. Shed the baggage. Get rid of the unnecessary burdens weighing the drawer down, the decades old band-aids that have no sticky and yellowing absorbent pad that is not in fact infused with antibiotic ointment but discolored from age. The things and thoughts that have cluttered my mind which serve no purpose but to weigh me down. I’m ditching those even as I speak.

5. Start again. I saved all 146 plus Hanukkah candles, I have a menorah or two and I plan to use those, they’ll serve as birthday candles in a pinch and despite the knowledge that I’m not actually Jewish, My King is, so I am by proxy. Those candles make me smile so I’m hanging on to them. The lemon bag made its way to the trash, as did the band aids. The end results are not HGTV worthy but they are indeed satisfying. I know that the process of sorting through the metaphorical junk drawer of life can be painful and tedious, but the end result, that is what I must stay focused on. I am thankful that I woke up unsettled, had I not I might’ve missed such an amazing life lesson from the chaotic Junk Drawer.


There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. Ecclesiastes 3:1

Why Through Pain, Lord?

By Guest writer Angelia Hendon

July 7, 2012. I woke up early on this Saturday morning with all my plans for the day running through my head. Little did I know, God had different plans for me that day.

My husband got up and asked me what I had going on that day. I impatiently went down the list. “Quick” time with the Lord and breakfast, go to the gym, rush home, shower, dress and head to Jasper for a baby shower. Then back home, to work on plans for our daughter-in-law’s baby shower the following week. His next words would come back to me later, and I would never forget them. “Do you think you could have some time for me today?” My reply… maybe when I’m finished. I saw the hurt in his eyes, but I was a woman with a plan, and that plan could not slow down or be altered!

So, off to the races I went! Everything was going according to schedule, until I ran through the den on my way to leave for Jasper an hour away. I passed my husband, Greg, sitting in his recliner. He had been to the gym and was covered in sweat. My first thought was, keep going, don’t stop, just yell goodbye. But, for the first time that day, I listened to the Holy Spirit say, go kiss your husband and tell him goodbye.

So, I stopped, put the baby gift down, and went to the den. That is when God revealed His plans for that day. As I bent over to kiss my husband goodbye, I noticed his lips were clammy, and he was very pale. I asked, “Are you okay?” He opened his mouth, but couldn’t get any words out. I once was a nurse, so I immediately went into Supernurse mode! Also in God’s divine provision, I had just completed a course on CPR and stroke awareness for our business.

Greg is a diabetic, so my first thought was his blood sugar is low. I ran and grabbed a spoonful of jelly and stuck in his mouth. Nothing. No change! Then I remembered the stroke protocol. I got aspirin and gave it to him screaming, “Chew it, chew it!” I went into the bathroom to call 911, afraid he wouldn’t approve.

Up until this point , I was calm, cool, and in charge! After I called 911, I called my daughter. She was supposed to be working, caring for foster children that day. I didn’t think she could help, but called anyway. As soon as I heard her voice I broke down, and tried to tell her what happened. Again God’s provision, she had been called and told not to go to work. She said, “I’m coming. Wait for me!” Relief! Help was coming. What I didn’t see at the time was that my help was already there!

I went back to Greg, held his hand and told him I had called an ambulance; they were on the way. I knew in my heart he was having a stroke, but couldn’t believe it. It was like a cruel nightmare, and I was just dreaming all this.

It was only a few minutes and they were there. They came in, took his vital signs, and said, “Your husband is having a stroke.” I knew it, but when they said it, I lost it again. My neighbors, whom I had only met, came in saying they worked in the medical field, and helicopter-flying-medical-float-65943asked to help. They began telling me to get his medications and his wallet and send with him. The medics had decided to fly him to either Birmingham or Huntsville. They were taking him on a stretcher out the door, and said, “We’ll let you know which one.”

How was I supposed to know where to go, they didn’t have my phone number! This could not be happening. They’re taking my husband somewhere in a helicopter! What is happening, God? This was just an ordinary Saturday!

The helicopter landed on an empty lot by our house. (God provided a landing pad!) As they rolled him in, they yelled, “Your husband wants to go to Huntsville, meet us there!”
My daughter had just gotten there, so we got in her car and headed to Huntsville, neither of us knowing where the hospital was.

We rode in silence, praying. I was begging God to let my husband live. That’s when I remembered his words, “Could you have some time for me today?” Please God, don’t let that be the last words he says to me!

We made it to the hospital and found him. He seemed ok. At some point my daughter had called our pastor and told him what was happening. In a few minutes, in walked in our former youth pastor and close friend. He had been at the hospital visiting someone, and had heard about Greg. Again God’s provision. He began joking with Greg, as usual. Greg started smiling and laughing. I knew then he was ok.

A few days later, they sent him home.

medicine-2361046_1280We followed up with his neurologist. At this visit, we walked in, sat down, and he pointed to some X-rays. He said, “This is your brain. You’ve had 2 small strokes in the area that controls speech. You should recover completely. But…” What he said next, I wasn’t ready for. “You could have another one any time. You might not survive it. I’ve had 3 patients this week, younger than you, who didn’t. There’s really nothing you can do, go home, reduce your stress, and enjoy your life.”

It was like being punched in the gut, hard! I couldn’t breathe! Somehow we managed to walk out of there. I turned to Greg and said, “We’re getting another doctor!”

While I went to get his records at the hospital, I left Greg in the waiting room. He was very weak. When I returned, our pastor was sitting there with him. He “just happened” to be at the hospital in Huntsville visiting someone. We tearfully told him what the doctor had said. He prayed for us, and tried to encourage us.

When we got home, I sat in his lap, and we cried out to a God. What is going on?! We had no answers, only fear and discouragement.

The next morning I got up early to pray. God spoke to me that morning. He gave me a verse of hope. It is marked in my Bible, July 16, 2012, God is fighting for Greg! Nehemiah 4:14-15. God said, Angelia you and your children are to fight for your husband and father! On your knees! I have frustrated the enemy’s plan! My faith grew that day, as I trusted that He would heal my husband.

And I looked, and rose up, and said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, Be not ye afraid of them: remember the Lord, which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses. And it came to pass, when our enemies heard that it was known unto us, and God had brought their counsel to nought, that we returned all of us to the wall, every one unto his work. Nehemiah 4:14-15

That was 5 years ago. I would face many trials after that, some I wasn’t sure I would survive. But, God is faithful! Ps 33:18-22 says, “The Lord’s eye is upon those who fear Him, who wait and hope in His mercy and loving kindness. To deliver them from death, and keep him alive in famine.”

Yes, Lord, it is through pain I have learned to trust You! May I know You and the power of Your resurrection and the fellowship of Your suffering! (Philippians 3:10) My hope is in You alone!

We never know what God has planned for us sometimes, but it is for our good and His glory!

Never forget – Always kiss your husband goodbye, and have some time for him! It could be the last time.



Back to Basics: Doing a Topical Study

Grab your coffee! It’s time to learn to do some Bible researching. It’s not hard! Don’t panic!

Ever been at the office or out with friends and a subject comes up that gets uncomfortable for you? Maybe it’s a hot topic from the news that has spiritual overtones, or perhaps a spoken opinion on a moral issue that goes against what you believe. Whatever it is, it pricks your heart, or conscience. You feel internal distress. You know you disagree with what is being promoted, but you can’t pull up the scriptural principles you need to be able to support your point, so you sit in tacit agreement even though you know you disagree. Most likely, we’ve all found ourself in this position at one time or another.

Fast forward 2 hours. Dinner is over and you’re home mulling over your regrets about not speaking up. What do you do?

May I suggest doing a topical study of the subject in scripture? You may have felt a bit like you failed because you could not or did not speak up. But as my sweet husband says, those failures or problems are just creative opportunities. So NOW is your opportunity to make sure you are never caught in that place again (on that subject, at least)! Let this “failure” move you to take action, and take an hour to dig into the Word of God to see what it has to say, so that the next time you will be prepared.

Topical studies are easy-peasy! Here is the scoop:

  1. Grab your Bible, a pen & paper, and a Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, either paper or online.
  2. Jot down on the paper key words related to the topic you want to discover more about.
  3. Look up each word in your concordance and jot down the scripture references that use this word.
  4. Take time to read each scripture on your list.
  5. As you read a scripture write down facts you learn. (Realize that these may support what you believe, or they may not. In the latter case, they may cause you to change your belief.)
  6. Pray over what you have learned and tuck away those ideas for the next time you feel challenged to speak about what you believe on this subject.


At a wedding shower yesterday you found out the bride-to-be has been living with the groom-to-be and they’re not married yet. You were always taught this was wrong, but you know it’s very acceptable in today’s society. You feel tongue-tied, can’t really remember why you believe what you believe, and it’s not the place to speak up anyway.

So you go home with these thoughts nagging at your brain. You drag out your commentary and Bible. (This is step 1.) You write down general words having to do with the topic: marry, marriage, wife, husband, and virgin. And then you think of more specific words and Biblical words: sex, unfaithful, chaste, fornication, etc. (Step 2) As you go to the Strong’s you find L-O-N-G lists of scriptures. You notice that the Strong’s also gives you a phrase beside each scripture reference so you can get the gist of the meaning of that verse. The phrases that don’t seem to relate directly to your topic you skip over and just record the most pertinent ones. (Step 3.) Then you grab your Bible and paper and notate that a man and wife become one flesh (Matthew 19:5-6), that there should not be any impurity or any hint of sexual immorality in our lives (Ephesians 5:3), and that in Ephesians 5:22-33 husbands and wives are seen as a picture of Christ and the church – and you are very aware that Christ would never be seen in an immoral act like sex before marriage. (There are many, many more scriptures on this subject area, but these give us a view of what steps 4 & 5 might look like.) You end your study with prayer for wisdom, prayer for your own strength of character to obey in this area, and prayer for the bride and groom-to-be that triggered your interest in this study. (Step 6.) Notice that there is no “Step 7” that has you go back and bash-with-scripture the people who disagreed with you earlier. You are NOT their Holy Spirit. But you are now better equipped in this area to speak your beliefs in love if the appropriate opportunity arises in the future.

So I challenge you, as you drain that last sip of cafe-au-lait out of your cup, dig into God’s Word in areas where questions have come up in your daily life. Do topical studies. Try it! Today even. Don’t wallow in your ignorance as my grandmama used to say, but take time to learn and “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18) We don’t grow in knowledge to be able to correct others or put them in their place. That mentality comes from a heart of pride. Rather, we grow and learn to know God more intimately and to become more like Jesus Christ, thereby being lights to the world that draw people to Jesus like a moth to a flame.


A Weird One

Giggles. “I just noticed how weird his….Bahaha his eyes look.” – Shelton.

Weird had most definitely been the word of our day. As this weird day had drawn to a close I was snuggled on the couch with Shelton and Maggie. We’d watched a special on the Terracotta Army buried in China and a documentary on William Shakespeare. We’d decided we would like to visit China and Stratford-on-Avon. The classically educated Shakespeare provoked the weird eye comment. Words like rhetoric and logic Latin and Greek recognized by my own classical learners. Shelton’s giggles and observations served to remind me of the bizarre and weirdness of that day.

As the dawn broke that morning and the earliest of Martin risers meandered to the kitchen it was apparent that today would be an “off” day for Maggie. Her choice of a paring knife to spread her homemade butter and jam onto her scrambled eggs evoked a foreshadowing of the “off” day. She “forgot it wasn’t toast.” Those days are ones where things are just off. Her struggles more apparent and obvious to those of us who spend everyday with her. It grieves my heart but kicks me into gear knowing she needs more in the way of help.

Scott Martin had finals that week. Finals mean the louder of the Martins vacate so as not to disturb the test taker. An off day, a plan to vacate, and a to do list a mile long. I should 2005_honda_odyssey_lx_-_nhtsahave deduced early on… weird was in my future. So as my tired old minivan wandered down the roads of Gardendale I shouldn’t have been surprised when the low flying bird collided with the front of my van, death instantaneous, the impact propelling the dead bird carcass onto my windshield wipers where it became lodged.

A little known fact, when I get nervous I laugh. I laugh a lot, an uncontrollable, awkward laugh. Birds are not my favorite. Birds make me nervous. The dead bird on my windshield thrust me into such a fit of laughter I could no longer drive my vehicle and was convinced I might be forced to abandon it on the side of Mt Olive Road. The Martins all having witnessed the event and now witnessing their Mama lose it all had various comments.

“Did that really just happen?”

“Oh it happened!”

“I can’t even!”

I fought hard to compose myself. The decision was made to pull over near a grassy area and propel the dearly departed via a wiper blade into the grass where he would return to earth from which he came. Still experiencing after shock fits of laughter, a short time spicy20chicken20cowlater we reached our destination, the local Chick-fil-A. Charlotte had been saving her gift card she earned early in the summer rocking babies and feeding toddlers during a babysitting gig. The time had come for her to relinquish it in exchange for a much desired spicy chicken sandwich.

As is customary, Shelton chooses a table, gathers condiments, and the girls and I obtain the food. As we sat down at the table I was seated directly across from Maggie. In the same position at the table behind us was another family. A common denominator was obvious to me as I looked around our dining table: three separate families, all with multiracial children, two of which were seated in the exact position. To my right an exasperated mom of said children and who, in the words of Maggie, was “talking mean to her kids.” Soon the mean talker mamma left and another weird thing happened. Maggie and her opposite table counterpart were clearly affected. Maggie watched intently as the woman gathered her children and looked at me with the question she asks often, “Why do people talk mean to their kids?” The counterpart at the opposite table shed tears. Soon he was wiping his eyes with the recycled paper made napkin. Within moments Maggie was doing the same.

54c6bfefb302dd3b87d157dae74c5981I offered all I could to Mag’s, the only balm that can truly ease a broken heart, prayer. We prayed for the mama and we prayed for her kids. We prayed for the weary and the broken. We asked for forgiveness if we’d acted in such a way that doesn’t honor our King. After our prayer we carried on with our meal. The crying counterpart continued to mourn.

The weirdness of the situation, the seating arrangements, even the unspoken thread that seemed to link them, a history of mean talking did not escape me. Wounds made long ago by mean talking and mean acting that still feel fresh when confronted with that mean talking mama. Soon our meal came to a close and we moved on with our day. We giggled as we talked about the bird incident and how Daddy would react when we told him. We laughed hysterically when I purchased “Jesus’s head stickers” that Charlotte promptly placed in the glove compartment for safe keeping. Everything about that was weird.

Soon we arrived home and the weird gave way to mundane, that was until the Shakespeare observation. Did Shakespeare have a lazy eye in need of correction? Maybe some not yet named ocular disorder. Perhaps the artist’s rendering was inaccurate or he spilled some ink in a most unfortunate place when depicting the famed playwright. As Shelton surveyed the likenesses on the television screen, he had drawn the conclusion that regardless the etiology, Shakespeare looked weird. As I made my way to bed that night I gave thanks for weird, for unique; most of all I am thankful for laughter and for a King who freely gives it as a balm to the weary and broken soul.

A bit more weirdness to brighten your day!

Pig photo credit


My Bethlehem – My “House of Bread”

After 25 years a house gets old and begins to need major repairs. Living through that is an interesting experience. So as the pounding of the hammers and roar of saws and rivet guns and whatnot began to put This Girl into adrenalin overload, I escaped to the nearest  quiet restaurant for peace to focus on a Bible study I was writing. Day 1 was so productive that this escape became the norm for a few days.

On day 5 as I sat in Panera enjoying my coffee, I took a deep breath, stretched, and thought how very thankful I was for my life. As a semi-retired, empty-nester I was getting to do what I loved most: research and write Bible lessons. I was digging into Revelation at the moment and 1:3 hit me with power and beauty, “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.” All I could think was Yes! 

pexels-photo-179912.jpegWith my Bible open before me and a table full of commentaries and notebooks strewn all around, a strange thought came to my mind. Here you are sitting in a bread shop consuming the Bread of Life. This is your House of Bread, your Bethlehem.

I’ve always been intrigued by names and symbolism in scripture. And the Word Bethlehem is one of my favorites. From the first mention of the Bethlehem in Genesis to its distinguished spot as the birth place of Jesus in Matthew 2 and Luke 2, Bethlehem, the House of Bread, intrigues me. Many years ago in a Christmas message, I first heard my pastor speak of Bethlehem as the House of Bread. I’d never caught that before. But it dawned on me that day, the one who said, “I am the bread of life,” was born in the House of Bread! (John 6:35) Bethlehem, the place where the Son of God came to meet us and meet our evey need – how symbolic.

If you follow the word “bread” beginning in Matthew, you’ll find it a thread woven heavily in the gospels and on throughout the New Testament. One of the first mentions of bread in the NT is Jesus reminding His enemy, and us, that man doesn’t live by bread alone, “but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) In His model prayer Jesus prays for God’s kingdom to come (a grand thing) and for our daily bread to be provided (an ordinary thing). (Matthew 6:11) One of his many miracles was multiplying bread to feed thousands! (Matthew 14:7)  He ate the consecrated bread in the temple (Matthew 12:4) and reminded the disciples not to even worry about taking bread with them as they went out to minister. (Mark 2:26 and 6:8) And in his final hours He took bread, fed His closest 12, and set up a symbol of His life with bread – “Take and eat, this is my body.” (Matthew 26:26) Who knew bread was such an important symbol in God’s word?

pexels-photo-461313“Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life…” But the thing that hit me that day sitting in Panera Bread was the rest of Jesus’ words in John 6:35, “…Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’ ” The spiritual reality hit me heavily that morning. So many days and seasons and years of my life have been spent hungering. Hungering for that undefined, unfulfilled need to be met. Stuffing in anything to fill that hole in my heart that hungered and yearned for meaning and for purpose and for more out of life. And this day I encountered the “Bread of Life” in a new way. I realized a satisfaction and fulfilled hunger in my soul as I sat with Him “listening” to His written word and absorbing His love for me, His purpose, and His ways that are beyond my understanding.

I leave you today with a hope for you and a challenge. I hope you too will find Jesus to be the Bread of Life that satisfies your hunger. And I challenge you to dig into His word, and as Jesus challenged His disciples in John 6:27, “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” In your soul hunger, turn to The Bread of Life and find satisfaction living in your Bethlehem!




A Letter to My Child


The Outpouring of a Mom’s Heart to Her Daughter Heading Off to College

“May the God of HOPE fill you with all JOY and PEACE in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in HOPE.” Romans 15:13

Oh my precious girl,

I can’t believe this day is actually here. The day you begin a new adventure. One that is all your own. One that will be incredibly difficult and more rewarding and beautiful than you could ever imagine.

All I can see in my mind’s eye is a replay of your life. The first time I saw you and fell instantly in love. Holding your little three-month-old hands while we prayed for God’s pexels-photo-236164provision so I could stay home with you. Watching you with shock as you took your first steps at NINE months old. You never were much for sitting still. Learning what it means to parent a stubborn, strong-willed toddler – the stand-offs over nap time and sippy cups. Sheesh!  Being amazed by your three-year-old self – watching those raven curls bounce as you climbed and played and bossed your siblings around. I’ll never forget how you would look at me with that mischievous grin and those gorgeous chocolate eyes of yours and I would feel equal parts of frustration and adoration (truth be told, I still feel that way about you some days). The day you fell in love with Jesus. The days when I knew He was transforming your stubborn little heart. Watching you grow through the elementary years and discovering just how unique and remarkable God made you and what a one-of-a-kind gift He gave you in your ability to think deeply and drink in knowledge. The teenage years were a bit rough and rocky. You made lots of mistakes. But you learned to lean in to Jesus and find His grace was sufficient for you. You were cautious and careful about the choices you made and the people with whom you chose to spend your time. You grew in wisdom and in stature. You were willing to stand with truth, even if it meant standing alone. You showed yourself a faithful, loyal friend (even when it caused you heartache). You have the most genuine love for God and others I’ve ever encountered. You do not seek attention or applause. You simply love Him. You are steadfast. You love for Christ is deep and true.

beach-1868772_1280For that reason, I am continually praying that your love for Him deepens and the roots of truth dig down deep in your heart. The branches may be shaken by experiences, but if the roots are solid, the tree will stand firm no matter the storms that blow. Know that you can take your cares to Christ—all of them, ALL OF THEM. Remember your life verse, “Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.” Psalm 62:8 He hears. He knows. He cares. He answers.

I’ve told you many times before I never really thought about having kids. I never dreamed of being a mom. I dreamed of being an adventurer. But I knew, when God began to reveal His plan for me and daddy to marry, that kids might be part of His plans. I also knew if I had children I wanted to be all in, invested completely and deeply in their lives. I didn’t want to miss a thing. And I got the privilege of being not only your momma, but your teacher for 18 years. And it has been one of God’s greatest gifts to me. To love you, to pour into you, to cry with you over fractions and research papers and friendships and hard decisions. It is such a JOY and continues to be a JOY to call you my daughter. You can frustrate me more than any one human being ever could, but, honestly, I am astounded by you and who you are becoming. You’ve got lots of growing to do; lots of learning to do; lots of incredible experiences waiting to be enjoyed; and lots of difficulties coming your way. But I know, to my very core, you will be stronger for having walked this road. You will learn even more to lean in to the faithful One and He will prove Himself faithful. Keep your eyes on Him.

Just a few things before I go:

pexels-photo-129859LOVE BIG. When you get bogged down in your own little world, you’ll get depressed. Seek others out and love them big. Remember to consider others better than yourself. That’s one of the secrets to unlocking the true joy of Christ.

TAKE RISKS. New friendships and new adventures are scary. That’s true for everyone. I’ve never known you to be afraid of taking risks when you travel, but take the same risks with friendships. You might find some unexpected treasures.

BE OPEN. Be cautious about who your share your life with, and when you find those treasures, don’t be afraid to be genuine and vulnerable. Guard your heart, but don’t wall it up.

LAUGH LOTS. You are about to jump feet first into one of the most incredible seasons of your life. It will be FULL of potential and adventure and experiences that you may never have an opportunity to experience again. ENJOY the moments. They are a gift of a gracious God.

DRAW NEAR. To Jesus Don’t neglect your time with Him. Not out of guilt or shame, but because HE loves you more than you could ever imagine.

My precious girl you are loved more than you could ever know. It is my honor to call you my daughter. Now go and bring glory to your heavenly Daddy. He has chosen you before the foundation of the earth to be His child. He has chosen this university for you. He has plans for you at this place for such a time as this. Plans I can’t even imagine, but I know they are good. It will be hard and it will be scary, but it will be better than you could ever dare to imagine.




Back to Basics: Faith

hope despair directory-466935_1280

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. … By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. … And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:1,3,6 NIV

It’s coffee time! Or tea! Or chocolate milk! Or… whatever. Grab you favorite morning treat and sit back, read, and sip.

I’ve heard it said that we tend to judge others based on their behavior, but we judge our self based on our intentions. I have found this to be true of myself. I intend to exercise and eat right every day, I intend to save more, spend less. I intend to write cards to people more often than I do. The reality is I often find stray cards around my house that have been half written in and never mailed. So I imagine I’m falling short in other areas too.

I intend to walk in faith when tough times come, too. I consider myself a woman of faith. Maybe you want to think of yourself as a woman of faith, too. You know the Word of God, you want to have faith, you intend to have faith, but when a crisis hits… hmmm. Do you walk through it in faith? Or do you find yourself so overcome with the tragedy or the unknown or the fear that faith flies out the window? I’m sure I’m not the only one who has gone to church and heard people say in response to the turmoil, “I’m praying. Trust the Lord. He’ll get you through this.” And you walk away thinking That’s easier said than done!

It’s always much easier to say things than to walk them out. But we want to become women who “Walk by faith not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7) So how do we do that? How do we have faith when we don’t have faith in that moment? If we dig in scripture and make a careful observation of God’s word we get some help.

pexels-photo-259027Hebrews 11:1 tells us that “faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” What do you put your confidence in? Some things I have chosen to put confidence in over the years are my husband, a job, finances, doctors, my “good”-ness, truth, family – and these are just a few. Have these ever rescued me? No. I guess they’ve made my anxious heart quit racing a little at times, but they have never had the answer or the final say. There is only One worth putting our confidence in. Only one that we can be assured has the power to rescue.

Do we truly believe what Hebrews 3:11 says? “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” Or is this another of those things that we want to believe? If we truly believe in the depths of our being that God formed the whole universe out of nothing, then, mercy, what could there ever be to worry about? The one who made it and spun it into motion is in control! Perhaps that’s our core issue. Because we can’t reason it out, we struggle to believe it.

436b8212d90f6d298b44b1df8e16a243-whirlpool-galaxy-black-holesI see articles on faith issues being “proven” by science. I know these are meant to calm our curious mind and help as we struggle with unbelief. But in reality, faith and science are on opposite ends of a spectrum. Science is based on what can be observed by the senses. But faith… what does it say? It is the “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (KJV) Totally unobservable by the senses. Faith is based on nothing physical, but on everything spiritual. It goes against our rational 21st century technologically leaning brains. Faith is believing in the unseen, not the observable. But we will see the results after we walk in faith.

In the Gospel of Mark there is a story of a young man who was mute and had seizures. In desperation his father had brought him to the disciples to be healed. The disciples prayed over him, but to no effect. Cue the heralding trumpets… and our rescuer, Jesus, appears in the story! He has come to save the day, as He does. But not without a quick lesson. His first words are not words of healing, but a gentle rebuke, “O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you?” He chastises them for their unbelief! I wonder what He would say to me in many of my trials and unbelief (that I like to call “weak faith,” it sounds nicer).

But today I’m going to call it what it is: unbelief. In their unbelief the disciples wanted to heal the boy. In his unbelief the father brought the boy and “hoped” he could be healed. In our unbelief we come to Jesus and say the exact thing this father said, “But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” (Mark 9:22 KJV) We desperately want Christ’s intervention in our life. We pray for His help, but we come to Him many times on shaky faith-feet just like this father, wondering if He really can.

possible-1060212_1280The story goes on… “And Jesus said to him, ‘ “If You can?” All things are possible to him who believes.'” (Mark 9:23 KJV) Jesus tells us flat-out, all things are possible! The condition on that possibility is belief, faith, trust in God that it WILL happen, not just that it CAN. In the next chapter of Mark, Jesus tells His disciples that “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” And Luke 1:37 says it the other way around, “For with God nothing shall be impossible,” (KJV) or as it says in the NIV, “For no word from God will ever fail.” Why are all things possible simply by our believing? Because we are a believing in a God who never fails.

And then comes the part of the story that we need to focus on to strengthen our faith. “Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, ‘I do believe; help my unbelief.'” (Mark 9:24 KJV) The father realized Jesus’ power, and he realized his own frailty, his lack of faith. This is where I live. I go for days or weeks at a time living life under my own power, doing the routine things that do not require the supernatural. (We can do that, you know? Live from day-to-day without the influence of God.) And then a storm, or trial, or problem comes along where I need God. And it takes that moment for me to realize God’s omnipotence and my insignificance and poverty of soul. At that moment I fall before Him in prayer confessing my total lack of faith and my inability to make myself believe. I believe Lord! Help my unbelief!

So there you have it one of two keys to having faith: ask God for it! So simple. Just ask God, “I choose to believe Lord, help me when I can’t make myself believe.”

pexels-photo-208278And the second key to having faith? It is found in Romans 10:17, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (NKJV) Our faith comes by hearing His Word. When my faith is weak, I go to His word and read it. And just lately I’ve begun reading it out loud because of this verse. If the Bible says “faith comes by hearing” then I want to literally hear it with my ears as well as hearing it in my mind when I read silently. And at the same time our enemy is hearing the scripture I’m building my life on, and he’s getting the message to “back off” because this is where I stand!

The other verse quoted above from Hebrews 11 reminds us that “without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” If we want to please God, we must choose to have faith. Do you desire to be a God-pleaser? Then it’s time to make a choice and act on it. My sweet husband says that faith is like a muscle, the more we exercise it the more it grows and develops. I’ve found that to be true in my life. As I’ve learned to take a good intention of having faith and turned it into a choice I act on to believe God in any situation, my faith has grown. God proves Himself true by the results, and walking in faith becomes easier year by year as my faith muscle grows.

So ladies, there you have it, some simple keys to faith: 1) Acknowledge our belief and ask God to help our unbelief. 2) Hear the word of God. 3) Choose to believe and act on faith. To believe or not to believe, that is the question. It’s your choice. Will you be a God-pleaser? As Joshua 24:15 says, “Choose you this day whom ye will serve; … but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”