What is Beauty?

How do you define Beauty? A beautiful person, a beautiful day, a beautiful song…

I recently went to a beauty pageant. I grew up watching the Miss America Pageant. It was fun to dream about being the most beautiful contestant and to be the winner. The problem was, I did not usually agree. I understood that there were judges who had the responsibility to make their choice but they rarely chose who I would choose. 

The pageant I went to was with little girls. They were all beautiful. Yes, some had been in many pageants and had everything from a suitcase that folded out to be a makeup table with mirrors to the power strips to plug in all of their curling irons. Some knew how to walk and how to turn. Some had very expensive dresses. There were some that were there just to get all dressed up and have fun. There were many in this category. They were precious. The pageant started out with babies. How does anyone decide which baby girl in tutus, ruffles, and bows is the most beautiful? Then there were several different age categories during the pageant. It was cute to watch the girls sitting in the audience with their friends waiting for their turn. The giggles, the twirls, the looking at each other’s dresses…….

 I would never make a good judge. 

I know that judges have certain things they look for and have a judging process. I get that. Yes, I know it was a beauty pageant. The judges were looking on the outside – The overall package, the dress, the hair, the makeup, the walk, the poise. All of the things that come from their definition of beauty. It was a pageant, after all.

It is just that is not how I define “Beauty.” Do you know the expression “Beauty is as beauty does?” One of the most beautiful ladies I have ever known would have never won a beauty contest. She would have never have even considered it. She was burned as a child. She never thought of herself as being beautiful and yet she was the first to help in time of need. She was the best cook and she took the best food to those who needed to feed their family in a time of crisis. She could sew and would make beautiful clothes for those who could not clothe their children. She loved the Lord. Her beauty came from inside. I don’t remember her name after all these years but I remember that she was always there and she could always be counted on. Her beauty came from the heart and from all that she was.

It is just that is not how I define “Beauty.” Do you know the expression “Beauty is as beauty does?” One of the most beautiful ladies I have ever known would have never won a beauty contest. She would have never have even considered it. She was burned as a child. She never thought of herself as being beautiful and yet she was the first to help in time of need. She was the best cook and she took the best food to those who needed to feed their family in a time of crisis. She could sew and would make beautiful clothes for those who could not clothe their children. She loved the Lord. Her beauty came from inside. I don’t remember her name after all these years but I remember that she was always there and she could always be counted on. Her beauty came from the heart and from all that she was.

Are you beautiful? What kind of beauty do you have? Does the Beauty of our Lord splash out from you when you walk past people? 

Isaiah 52:7 NIV “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news…” 

Psalm 139:14  “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

1 Samuel 16:7  But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Ecclesiastes 3:11 “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

I am not big on participation trophies either, but I was so happy to see that all of the girls received a Princess trophy. They were all beautiful!

Wide Walkways

It was beginning to drizzle a cold icy rain. I’d had a particularly difficult day and I was weary. She has a craft barn at her house and when I visit I often find she is in it making and creating, using her talents and gifts for such good. I was there to pick up one of those good gifts, t-shirts she’d made to distribute to the Bible Study Peeps. 

In all honesty I’d planned to arrive there earlier than the dark dawning 5:30PM, but things and life, my day really, hadn’t gone as planned. She told me to come to the front door of the big house. It was supper time and I knew it. I’d missed the mark on this one, but as she always is, I knew she’d be gracious when I arrived. 

I parked a few feet away from the sidewalk that diverged off from the driveway. I got out of my van and the cold rain hit me squarely on the shoulders. I grumbled inside. I was weary, worn, and cold. It was getting dark and the to-do list wasn’t yet complete. I made my way up her sidewalk, it leads to her steps. I noticed how wide is was. Perhaps it is because I’ve often walked up to houses and the sidewalk is narrow and I feel like I almost have to suck in, steady  my steps, and focus as I traverse them. Some sidewalks are cracked and broken, weed covered, crooked, all manner of things, some obstacles, some just cosmetic issues. I’d never really given it much thought until I was walking up to my friend’s big house entrance. The wide, warm toned sidewalk stood out in the darkness and it curved just slightly to the right. My feet were relaxed and I didn’t have to steer myself or focus in the least as my heavy footsteps traversed the wide warm welcoming sidewalk. The thought crossed my mind that a fiat or a golf cart could just drive up to the front door of the big house, never once having a tire slip into the neat, sodded yard. I made my way up to the door. My friend answered, she is older than me but she always looks younger, lighter, more carefree than I feel sometimes. She opened her arms and hugged me, I had been quiet until then. 

“Did you know you have a nice sidewalk. It’s so wide and welcoming.” Both were declarations, rather than interrogatives. She tilted her head and let out a chuckle, I thought she might comment on the randomness of my statement to her. She didn’t. She said simply the truth, “God gave me this house.” I nodded and marveled at how in His giving a gift to her at some point in history, He’d given me one too. I wondered at how on that cold and dreary evening when my heart was heavy and my burden worrisome He used a wide warm sidewalk that seemed to speak “Come to me you burdened and weary one, come walk this broad walkway to friendship.” It made me smile. It made me ponder further the sizable widths of walkways. 

I thought about one in particular in the King’s Word, one that talks about broad and narrow ways. 

Matthew 7:13-14 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy[a] that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

Some years ago I’d actually memorized it in the KJV thanks to a repeated viewing of a movie when the verse is quoted as a line, “Broad is the way that leadeth into destruction. Narrow is the way that leadeth to life everlasting.” In the movie the antagonist tosses a coin with a portion of the verse on each side to the protagonist as he urges him to make a choice. He urges him to choose the narrow way of service, rejecting and forsaking the broad way of rock ‘n roll fame. The protagonist shoved the coin down deep in his pockets having declared “broad is the road to his success” and he’s gonna go down it playing the piano, pronounced in true southern drawl “playin’ the pea-anna.” 

I came back to that verse when I studied Matthew and I came away with a new understanding. An understanding not tainted by good screenplay writing and dramatic climaxes in cinematography. 

Not everyone is willing to traverse the path of life that is Kingdom Living, a life lived like Jesus led, a truly sold out heart for Jesus can be people lonely. It can be hard and at times. It often times is a divisive life. Being a Christ-follower means the ease and warmth of this world are to be rejected for the sake of souls in the next. The Narrow way of Christ means recognizing and dealing with the crooked, often overgrown with sin places of an already difficult path. Not everyone welcomes the narrow way because it can be uncomfortable and hard, but the traveler on the narrow path will know he or she will never walk it alone. There will always be another right there trudging through the hard things making the crooked places straight and when the path ends and the earthly walk is over the narrow path is the one that yields, 

“Well done.”

I hugged my friend as I left and I told her how much I loved her and would see her soon. I thanked her for the armload of goodies I carried back to my car. Despite carrying a physically heavy burden in the form of a package, I took those steps feeling just a bit lighter than I had before. 

Be a Barnabas

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I’m known in this world. Now, I’m not talking about popularity or notoriety. I’m speaking about how I’m known in the circle of my Christian brothers and sisters and to the dark world around us.  My heart’s desire has always been to be a cheerleader. One who encourages others.

In scripture, God shows us such a man. His name was Barnabas. Did you know that Barnabas was born with the name Joesph? It’s true, go look it up. The disciples often referred to Joseph has “Mr. Encouragement.” (Acts 4:36) Therefore his name changed to Barnabas, meaning Son of Help. Barnabas was known as a giving man. In fact, the chapter ends with Barnabas taking the money from the field he sold and laying it at the feet of the Apostles. Can you imagine being so encouraging that people referred to you Mrs. Encouragement? Being so giving that you give of your time and your resources with a generous spirit instead of begrudgingly? 

Truth is, many of you are a Barnabas. God has given you that gift of Encouragement. You may or may not realize it, and you may or may not be comfortable with it, but that’s the gift He has given you. If all of us with this with gift accepted it and acted on it in faith, can you imagine what growth could occur in the church? 

Rather than people feeling judged or inadequate, a Barnabas would encourage others with the giftings they see in them. They would help them understand that except by the grace of God, any of us could have walked down the wrong path. We all have things in our past we would rather people not know. Isn’t it time that we allow others to know they don’t have to be perfect to come to God? That He will love each of us just as we are, yet with that love, He will totally change a person and transform them into a person that is LIKE Him. 

Kindness is contagious. So is Negativity.  What you would rather be known for? Someone who encourages others to be the man or woman of God He has called them to be, or one that discourages and crushes a spirit? 

There is new song out that’s popular in both the Christian and Country music realms.  In this song, I’m struck by the lyrics that state: 

In a time full of war, be peace 
In a time full of doubt, just believe 
Yeah, there ain’t that much difference between you and me 
In a time full of war, be peace 

In a world full of hate, be a light 
When you do somebody wrong, make it right 
Don’t hide in the dark, you were born to shine 
In a world full of hate, be a light 

Today I encourage you to take a spiritual gifts survey, see what your gifts are. I included a link to one for you here: https://gifts.churchgrowth.org/spiritual-gifts-survey/ 

I think we can all agree though that we can be an encouragement in this world, we can all be a light in a world full of hate. Be a Barnabas today! 

When the Power Isn’t There

My car was packed and I was ready to go. As I pressed the Start button, all I heard was Click, Click, Click. My  first thought was that maybe my foot was not securely on the brake so I tried again.

Click, Click, Click, was the only sound I heard. Questions started running through my mind like Do I have the remote, Are the indicator lights on, Is there a message on the dashboard? I thought Ok now, let me try this again. Just because it didn’t start the first two times doesn’t mean it won’t start the third time. The car went Click and then everything was silent.

As I got out of my car, I reached for my phone and then reached back in the car for the remote. As I closed the door, my car locked and refused any more instructions. The remote was charged but the car was not.

As I went back in the house and figured how my fingers were going to get my remote off the keyring, I was thankful for that tiny key that I knew was inside of the remote that would ultimately unlock my car. That tiny key would be the only way that I could open the car and pull the hood release. Without that key, nothing could be done for my car. That one, tiny key that I had always known was in there but I had never even seen would provide a way for getting the necessary help I needed. That key was part of the car maker’s plan to get the driver out of trouble if the battery went dead.

God has provided us with a key to help us get out of trouble. His Word has all of the answers.

“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” Psalm 119:105 NIV

God’s Word is the lamp that provides the energy to make the light to guide us on our way. With God’s Word, we have the power to move forward. God’s Word provides the charge we need for our daily life.

Sometimes God works to get through to us in the silence, that moment when everything seems dim. God is always with us. He will never leave us or forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5)

God has little nuggets throughout his Word to make it possible for us to move forward with our day. Do you need a Word from God today? It is right there for you in His Word. Even if you do not have a physical copy of God’s Word, you have your phone. Go to the search and type in what you are feeling and then the word, scripture. Let God speak to you. Let him give you that charge you need to send you on your way.

April Fools

I wonder how many children in northern Alabama have been awakened by their parents on the first day of April with the words “It’s snowing! Go look outside!” What?! You’ve never done that? That was the standard April fools’ joke in our house when I was growing up. I’m sure each of you have your own special default April Fools’ joke in your family too, and plenty of creative, new ones each year. It makes for a light-hearted day of fun and trickery.

As I pondered Aprils Fools day last Thursday, I began to wonder How did this holiday begin? No one knows for sure, but I liked this prominent opinion on how it all started. In 1582, France switched from using the Julian calendar (which celebrated the New Year on April 1st) to using the Gregorian calendar which recognized the New Year as January 1st as we do today. People who were slow to get the news (guess they hadn’t checked Facebook ::wink::) and celebrated the New Year on April 1st became the butt of jokes and were referred to as “April fools.” You can read some more ideas about the history of April fools’ Day here.

As we enjoyed the silliness of the holiday the sounds of giggles and “April fools” rang out around us. I enjoyed every last joke, but it made me realize it’s a good time to reflect on foolishness. It’s fine for jokes and fun, but while we make light of fools, scripture has some pretty direct and harsh things to say about fools and foolish behavior. Let’s take a glance at some of them and consider our own ways in light of God’s word.

Scripture, in Proverbs 26 particularly, reveals several nuggets of wisdom about fools. …

Verse 1 – “As snow in summer and rain in harvest, honor is not fitting for a fool.” – These days people try to get their 15 minutes of fame with foolish stunts, rudeness, off-color language, and salacious acts. We honor them with likes on social media, a platform to make money off of, or an Oscar, Emmy, or other notable award. It seems our modern world gives notoriety to fools.

Verse 3 recommends harsh discipline for a fool.

Verses 4-5 seem to communicate two opposites. Don’t get into a discussion with a fool to try to answer him. But do give him wisdom that will convict His heart and help him see his folly.

Verse 6 Don’t trust a fool to give a message for you. Not the foolish co-worker. Not a foolish go-between in a romance. Not those partying fools you hang out with on Saturday nights. Not even the meddling, foolish family member who stirs things up. They’ll mess you up. Speak your own words if God convicts you they need to be said. “He who sends a message by the hand of a fool cuts off his own feet and drinks violence.”

Verse 7Don’t trust a fools “wisdom.” This verse says, “Like the legs of the lame that hang limp is a proverb in the mouth of fools.” In other words, wise words in the mouths of fools are about as helpful as paralyzed legs. Don’t trust even things that sound wise when it comes from a foolish person. I remember once confronting the husband of a close friend who was planning to divorce her. In his foolishness he said, “Well God wants me to be happy, so I’m sure He’s ok with this.” … Uh No! I don’t know where he got his theology from, but I guess he’s never heard the scripture that says, “I hate divorce.” (Malachi 2:16)

Verse 9 goes on to say “Like a thorn that goes into the hand of a drunkard is a proverb in the mouth of fools.” Don’t take the words of a fool to heart. Seek counsel from a wise and righteous friend, not a foolish one who just wants to tickle your ears.

Verse 11Don’t accept the promises of a fool who keeps saying, “I won’t do it again.” This proverb warns, “As a dog returns to his own vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.” They keep on doing the same thing to you. Be wise – look for wise, safe friends who will treat you respectfully.

Verse 17 reminds us to stay out of quarrels with a fool. “He who passes by and meddles in a quarrel not his own I s like one who takes a dog by the ears.”

Verses 18-19 warns us about those cruel jokesters and “friends” who deceive with sarcasm and half-truths. “Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, “I am only joking!”

Verses 20-22Don’t respond to a fool’s evil words and accusations. These verses tell us “Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; and where there is no talebearer, strife ceases. As charcoal is to burning coals, and wood to fire, so is a contentious man to kindle strife. The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, and they go down into the inmost body.” A fool in your life may be stirring up trouble. Gossip may be rampant. Let it go! You may look bad for a moment, but the truth will come out, and the strife will die down if you do’t fuel it with your own words and risk speaking foolishly yourself.

Verse 28 – Don’t trust a fool’s words. “A lying tongue hates those who are crushed by it, and a flattering mouth works ruin.”

Fools cause harm to us. When we act without godly wisdom, foolishly, we too cause harm to others. When we speak foolish words out of hurt or lack of thinking through we cause harm. We must evaluate ourselves to see if we are behaving as a foolish man or a wise one.

I’ll leave you with some final thoughts.

A fool will be repaid for what he has done and the harm he has caused. Verse 10 tells us “The great God who formed everything gives the fool his hire and the transgressor his wages.” And Romans 6:23 says it this way: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Matthew 7:24-27 tells us the story of the wise and foolish man. What is the difference in the wise man and the foolish man? Obedience. The wise man is the one “who hears these words of mine and does them.” Both men’s words and actions yield consequences, either a stable life or destruction. A disobedient fool digs himself a pit and will fall into it. Choose wisdom.

Enjoy the silly, foolish times when they come, but give thought to your own life and how you handle those around you.

He is Risen!

He is risen indeed!

“Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.

His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men.

But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.”

Matthew 28:1-7

Celebrate the risen Savior!

Missing Ministry

So pretty close to a year ago, the entire world came to a screeching halt. No school, no social events and no church. We made our way as a family through this unbelievable journey and like many of you reading this, we are ready to move forward to the future. Please notice I did not say “back to normal,” because I am pretty sure there were parts of our normal around the village that we needed to say goodbye to! We were able to enjoy more family time, beach time, bike riding, camping and making memories, and the phrase uttered many times a day “get your mask”!!

We survived all the mask mandates, the social distancing and the safer at home orders, but to be honest for me the one thing I have struggled with the most is missing the ministry God has allowed me to be part of for 37 years. I was blessed to become a musician years ago and never dreamed that when I picked up that saxophone back in middle school it would become one of the most incredible blessings of my life! I enjoyed learning to play years ago and that passion has continued throughout my life, right up until last year when a virus stopped everything. I have continued to practice but my den is just not the same as my orchestra chair!! The cat is not impressed!!

I made the comment to a friend one time that it was so nice to be able to worship while I was playing and she asked me if that was really possible. My reply was “absolutely!” Music speaks to a part of the soul that sometimes even the best message can’t reach. I can tell you countless times that God has spoken directly to the deepest part of my soul through a line in a song or a phrase that might describe where I am in my life and the need for His words to just speak life.

My favorite song of all time is “Alabaster Box” by CeCe Winans. One small simple line in that song almost at the very end says ‘You don’t know the cost of my praise.” This past year has been hard, not the kind of hard that you just take a deep breath and walk away from but the kind of hard that just wrecks you. There has been so much loss in our world, our nation, our state, our city and yes, our church. I have seen so many stories from my orchestra chair before the virus hit as I looked out into the congregation that bring this line to life. We can look around our church and see dressed up folks who may be totally broken on the inside from life and circumstances and especially the circumstances of this last year. We don’t know the cost of their praise, we have no idea what it took for them to make it to the seat in the sanctuary and worship.

I have been there. I have had days where in my mind I would think if I could just get to my seat in the orchestra without having to talk to anyone, I will be ok. There is something so special to me about that chair. I have seen God move from that chair and I have felt the presence of God as I played notes to lift His name up. There is nothing “magical” or particularly special about that chair but to me it represents ministry and passion and appreciation for blessings and I have a sense of purpose when I am sitting there using the gift that God has given me to give back the praise He deserves. I have missed that over this last year. My heart has missed that chair and the music and being a part of worship. That chair is where I am supposed to be!!

This weekend our church, my church, will be gathering to worship and celebrate the resurrection of our precious Lord and I am so thankful to say that the worship ministry, the choir and orchestra, will be together again for the first time in a year! I could use a thousand exclamation points and I’m not sure it would accurately describe how happy my heart is!!! When God speaks He stirs our hearts for worship! Each time the Bible tells of a battle there were always musicians that went out ahead and prepared the field and the people for battle. If this last year has taught us anything at all it is that we need to prepare for battle!! I hope this weekend will find you in a seat in the sanctuary lifting praise to God for His grace and mercy and love. I know where I will be… in that orchestra playing with all my heart to the One who gave me breath to play!!! Blessings to you!!!!

“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.” Ps. 150