Tuesday, September 12, 2017


Taking a break in this post from teaching to share a life story. 

I had a recent shopping experience that was pretty life changing. If I encountered this every time I shopped I'm sure I'd shop more often.

We were in Toronto for a baseball game.

Yes, I know I'm anti-sports, but it was for my people. There are things you do when you love someone. 

But don't ask me to do it again anytime soon.

We booked an Airbnb which was an apartment just a couple blocks from the baseball stadium. We had the entire place to ourselves. If you haven't traveled with Airbnb yet you need to check it out. Click here to save $40 on your first trip! We paid about half of what a downtown hotel room would have cost. The apartment was in the perfect location and we were able to walk to the downtown mall, the Toronto Eaton Center. This place was bustling and was fabulous. By the time we walked there we were hot and had been rained on. None of us looked our best, but we walked through the crowd and entered Nordstrom. My daughter and I went to the women's department while my husband found a seat and some food.

My twenty-year old could be a marathon shopper. I've learned a lot from her. She always finds great deals, even in Nordstrom. She found a few things to try on and we were approached by Patrick who asked if he could start a fitting room for her. She handed him her items and then returned to shopping. When she was finished Patrick ushered her into the room and then he came back to find me.

"Suzanne, do you want to go in and have a seat with her?" he asked, adding that I looked like I could use a break.

I gladly accepted and he led me into the most glorious fitting room I'd ever seen. It was bigger than my home office. I sat on the chair and watched as she did her thing. I was amazed at not only the ample size of the room, but by the fact that the fitting area was raised, had mirrors all around, and even  had shoes to borrow to try on with the clothing. And they were sparkly shoes. #win

When she was done she took her purchase to the register to pay and the sales clerk asked who'd been helping us. We said it was Patrick and that we didn't know where he'd gone. He joined us at the register within moments and continued the sale. After handing her purchase to my daughter Patrick asked if we'd like a bottle of water, we both accepted. He walked away and returned with two cold bottles of water which he handed to us and said we looked like we could use them. He was kind and thoughtful and treated us as if we'd spent thousands instead of what our total was. 

Patrick was the epitome of good customer service. What a wonderful experience we had. If every store had a Patrick and a fitting room of excellence I would shop more often. We get so used to being ignored in stores and ushered into fitting rooms that are barely big enough for one person and her six items. I've had sales clerks carry on conversations with other people and never once look at me while ringing up my total. I've had them not make eye contact with me. I've had them rush me through to get to the next person like it's a contest to see who can wait on the most people in one day.

I'm not sure if this was a Canada thing or a Nordstrom thing, but the Toronto Nordstrom has got it going on. Patrick is a treasure and I kinda wanted to put him in my pocket and take him home with me.

Every store needs a Patrick.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Bidding Farewell to the Things that Hinder

Kelsey shared her pictures on Facebook from her recent vacation and her excitement over her adventures was squelched by someone chastising her for spending too much money on her travels. This led her to explain herself. She shared how hard she and her husband work in their family business, how she searches for deals on accommodations, and how she saves at every turn. I ached for her as she tried to give an explanation where none was due. 

Jealously is a fiery hot weapon.

It burns anyone it comes in contact with, whether you hold it or it scorches you in the hands of others. 

We've an independently owned coffee shop in the downtown business section of the town I live in. It opened earlier this year and a few months ago I heard murmurings of a second coffee shop opening not too far from my new favorite one. On the day it opened we visited our favorite coffee shop. I walked in and said, "I heard there was a new coffee shop opening in town today so we came here," trying to add a little humor to what I was sure was a little upsetting to Sarah, the owner. 

Sarah paused and then said, "I can't focus on what others are doing or it'll derail me. I just stay in my lane and do my thing." She later told me that she'd learned that phrase from Lindsay, the blogger, barista, and hired manager of the coffee shop. I can't remember the last time a conversation resonated with me as much as this one did.

These ladies, twenty years younger than me, have learned one of life's most valuable lessons. I wish I'd learned this at such a young age, it would have saved me from being my worst enemy.

My mind battles with these thoughts on a regular basis:

"Look at her success..."
"You're never going to make it..."
"Why do you even try?"
"Are you sure God told you to do that?"

The walls close around me as I self talk the room smaller and smaller. 

I can see clearly when I take the focus off of myself and put it on the task at hand. The world invites me to engage and the doors all appear open in front of me. 

I've been on the opposing end of jealousy as well. It's obvious when another is holding something against you that is so outlandish it can only be defined as jealousy. I've caught the eye-rolls and have heard the whispers, sometimes even said to me. 

Marcie used her insecurity and jealousy to put me down in front of people at church on a regular basis. One morning she approached me and demanded to know why I wouldn't hug her. "Don't you like me?" she asked. It was hard to reply because, no, I didn't. I'd never had a positive interaction with her and as she physically backed me into a corner I knew I had to end this once and for all. With few words I let her know I wasn't going to be controlled by her behavior. She didn't magically change after that, but something in me changed, and I've learned that our behavior is the only one we own. We can't change what others do and how they perceive us, we can only change how we respond to it. I can now understand when someone acts out in jealousy and, though it still burns, I can see it for what it is and I can then begin to pray for them.

It doesn't go away at the snap of a finger. This is why the Bible tells us to act this way,
"Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ," 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NKJV)

Take every thought captive.

When I see myself drifting out of my lane, when my thoughts wander to places they shouldn't, when the jealousy or bitterness starts to creep in, I need to capture the thought and get rid of it as quickly as I can. This is a daily action I need to take. The enemy knows where my weakness lies and he will shoot arrows at me any chance he gets.

Keeping my lane free from jealousy and the destruction it reaps leads to spiritual maturity. I'm not saying I've conquered this, only that it's a daily battle. It's recognizing my need to surrender each day. 

"Lord, help me today to focus on you and not on those around me. Their thoughts and words can derail me, I need only concern myself with your opinion of me. Help me to do what you've called me to do and not worry about the details."

Monday, August 21, 2017

Walk in Truth and Grace

I was excited to share the news of being able to attend an event with a nationally known speaker and mentioned it in conversation at lunch with another ministry couple I'd been thrown together with for the day. My elation was met with a scrunched nose and words of, "You couldn't pay me to sit through that and listen to Glenn speak."

My table-mates then tore apart the speaker, nit-picking over things they'd heard (misquoted, at that) and stomped on my admiration of this man who'd done more to point me to the cross than anyone else in my life. 

I learned long ago not to argue with these types, not to try to defend the speaker I was excited to see, because preconceived opinions are rarely changed. At each bit of their dissection of Glenn they sat a little taller in their seats. 

"He's divorced, you know."
Yes. Everyone knows, it was headline news. 
"I  heard he cheated on his wife and that's why he got divorced."

I sat back and listened to the negativity being served and hoped that lunch would end quickly.

"He's done things we would never do."

And that's when it hit me.

No, you might not sin in the same way he has but you still sin.

I looked at this couple and hoped that when the years grew them into maturity they'd realize their words did not align with their actions, because I'd witnessed Julie and Scott in a web of deception that reached far beyond the walls they tried to keep it in.

Julie and Scott were in youth ministry at the time it happened. Pastor Scott was growing the youth group out of the room designated for them and had permission to rent space closer to the high school, but this space was also used by the town council and they had some city memorabilia on display in the space that they didn't want moved or damaged. "No problem," Pastor Scott assured them, "We will take good care of it."

On the first evening they met there one of the teens tossed his shoes across the room and they knocked over the display. Pastor Scott watched in horror as the milk bottle from a now defunct dairy farm fell to the floor and shattered. He quickly cleaned up the mess and put the items back on the shelf.

Instead of confessing what happened to the town council, Pastor Scott and Julie said nothing. Instead, they did an internet search for the bottle and bought the first one they found. When it arrived they were dismayed to see that the bottle was quite larger than the one they'd watched break.

They returned it and continued the search. Even going so far as to have extended family look for this particular bottle at antique stores. They were nervous every time they went to have their youth meeting at the new location. They didn't make eye contact with the city council members when they saw them in public.

They didn't know what to do.

Finally, after about six months of this, they listened to the advice of Julie's parents and told the council members what had happened.

And you know what?

The council members laughed it off. The bottle was one of a dozen they had stored in a back room. They simply got another one and put it on display.

All of the fretting and deception of the previous few months could have been avoided if they'd simply confessed immediately. 

Unfortunately this act of deception was on display for their youth group and family to see. Not the kind of witness they hoped to project. 

Our lunch finally ended and I walked away remembering the words I'd seen on Facebook earlier that day, "Don't judge someone because they sin differently than you do."

We each fail daily. Walking in truth and grace are two fundamentals of being a Christian. Be honest, be kind, be like Christ.

The world is watching, be the light. 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Do You Hear What I Hear? - A Glimpse into the Life of a Ministry Wife

I've spent years trying to immerse myself in the world of working in the yard. I've tried my hand at gardening, have planted flowers at least once, had a nice little strawberry patch for a couple years, but finally came to the conclusion I'd known all along.

I don't like yard work.

It's too dirty. It ruins my nails (even with gloves on) and we all know I need glitter on my nails, not dirt. 

Several years ago I hired a woman from our church to help with some yard work. Desiree enjoyed being outside and submerging her hands in the soil (and even without gloves!) while I preferred to stay inside and keep up with the housework because there is enough of that to last a lifetime. Is the laundry ever really done? 

It started out well. Desiree did her job and I did mine. Once in a while we would chat when she took a little break. I enjoyed getting to know her.

Or I thought I did.

It began slowly, "What does Pastor do that keeps him from answering his phone? Mark was trying to get him last night and couldn't reach him."

I wondered how Desiree knew Mark tried to call. I shouldn't have wondered long though, as she continued before I could answer.

"He called around several places looking for the pastor. He told us he tried the Jones' and the McManigen's. He should really be easier to get in touch with."

I was aghast listening to her. I didn't have words to respond with. I changed the subject and stewed the rest of the afternoon. 

The next time Desiree came to work on the landscaping she carried more complaints with her. 

I mean suggestions.

"You know, the reason people have left the church is because Pastor caters to the younger crowd and not the older ones." 

I silently counted the ones who'd left and realized they were all under forty. Clearly not due to being catered to.

"...and another reason is because the music is too loud on Sunday, is there a way to turn it down?" Desiree was holding a flower, roots dangling from her hand, and I felt sorry for it. 

"And Kendra wants you to tell him to preach on Revelation because she hasn't ever heard him do that. Does he not know how to preach on Revelation?"

Needless to say this was the last day Desiree did any work for me. 

It's one thing to complain about the pastor to me at church (no, really, don't do this) but to do at my home? I'm peri-menopausal. She's lucky I didn't throttle her physically or with my weapon of words. I've never had a harder time taking every thought captive as I have since entering this next phase of womanhood. 

And Desiree is just one person. Imagine the pressure on your favorite ministry couple when several hundred people have ideas on how things should be. 

"I could run this place better than you," is one phrase uttered to my husband several years ago.

And that's the problem. Allowing little things to mar our view of the cross and what really is important. 

It's not about you.

It's about Him.

It's about Jesus and trying to be like Him. If everyone in the church would do that we would all be more effective in our communities. If we would be the light instead of being gossip-carriers and complainers the world might be able to see the difference in us.

So if you see my house (which is not pictured above) and wonder why there are no flowers in the yard...wonder no more. 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Be Still

Be still. The words resonated with me as I climbed the hill on my morning walk. Every step added to my angst. My mind whirled with self-loathing, hormonal rage, and annoyance at the dog on the end of the leash who just wanted to spring after each and every bunny she saw. I came home and decided I needed to step back from the world. 

It's okay to put yourself in time out.

When the world is hurried and we begin to feel overwhelmed perhaps it's our soul crying for some time to be still. 

It's in the stillness that we are able to listen to the voice that matters most. God beckons us to come to Him and rest. He wants to refresh us with His peace and His song. 

The laundry can wait.
The dishes can wait.
The television show will still be there.
Facebook isn't going anywhere.

Today is fleeting. Tomorrow isn't confirmed.

Take this moment and wait. Be still. Allow His presence to find you and relax in it. 

Don't be afraid to be gentle to yourself. The world and its bustling is relentless in its pursuit of our time and our minds. Do you remember what it was like to spend an afternoon or evening in rest? We tend to only indulge in these moments when on vacation but it's important for our body, minds, and spirits to be quiet and relax. Take in a sunset, go for a walk around your neighborhood, sometimes even sipping a drink slowly instead of rushing through it is enough to relax me. 

The next time you feel the walls pushing in I dare you to step out of the room. Take a moment or an hour, take what you need. Close your eyes or leave them open, surrender the moment and time to the Lord. Let Him refresh you. 

The funny thing about life and time is that it still moves forward. There is nothing we can do to hinder it, so take some of it and use it for good. 

Try it today.  

Just be still. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Whatever Happened to Common Courtesy?

My husband and his administrative assistant were at the church on a recent day and saw, courtesy of the security camera's view, a car pull into the parking lot. They watched as a teenager wrangled free of the full car and waltzed into the church. After a moment of quiet my husband strolled out to the foyer where he came upon said teen and asked if he could help him.

"Can I use the bathroom?" the teen asked.
Wayne agreed and that was that.

But that was not that.

Soon more people piled out of the car and came into the church one at a time. Kids of all ages. Then the mother joined them inside. After a few minutes she went back outside to collect her Squatty Potty from her car.

I wish I was kidding. 

She carried it to the bathroom where I suppose they had quality family time together.

My husband and his AA were watching this unfold with their jaws dropped. After another few minutes mom was seen walking back out to the car where she collected a bag and brought it back into the church. Wayne then decided to go see what she was doing and found her in the kitchen washing some of her family's dirty dishes.

"Can I help you?" he asked.
"I'm just washing some dishes," she replied.
"Don't you think you should ask?"
"I didn't think it would be a problem," she said.

Whatever happened to common courtesy? Would you take it upon yourself to go to a church (or any private business) and do these things without asking? 

They left in their car with New York plates without thanking anyone. The idea that we are entitled to do what we want is ruining our country.

We have a dumpster behind our church and had a recent yard sale. At the end of the day the items were sorted into a donate pile and a trash pile. The trash was taken to the dumpster and strategically placed inside to get as much in as possible without it peeking over the lid because the trash hauling company has a rule about it being that way. My husband arrived at church the next morning for Sunday service and saw that the dumpster had been rooted through and rearranged so it was now overflowing. Not only that, but things the dumpster divers didn't want were left piled outside of the dumpster on the ground. He had to once again put everything back inside.

It seems we aren't teaching people a few basic life lessons:

Ask before assuming you can do things. 
Leave things as you found them.
If it's not yours don't touch it.

Join me next week when we'll discuss the people who sit in church and clip their nails during the service, leaving a pile of their DNA on the floor.... 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Did you get the message?

Messages have been directed towards us since the day be breathed our introductory breath. Some of the first we heard first were, "Shhhh," and "Don't cry."

When we were a little older we heard, 
"Sit still"
"Speak up"
"Finish your dinner"
"Don't eat too much"

Once school started it was, "Don't talk in class," and, "Don't talk to strangers."

Talking in class is pretty much the only thing I ever got in trouble for. I can't help it. I like to laugh.

School was filled with messages.
"You're not applying yourself."  
"You could do so much better."
"You'll never get into college with these grades."
"You'll never amount to anything, why try so hard?"

We were forced to participate in all kinds of school activities (of which gym class was my least favorite of all). Some of us were forced to be in church every time the doors were open. Some made to endure music lessons even though they lacked talent and desire. Still others lived lives where they were forced to do things unspeakable. 

Commercials send us messages.
We hear messages from parents, our spouse, teachers, and friends. 
Movies and television share their opinions with us.
Politicians -- nope, not going there.
Music has a message too.

Over the course of a lifetime we are filled with even more messages from church and Christian teaching. Some of us became really good at knowing how to be a Christian without ever actually becoming one. 

But what if we've missed the message entirely?

What if it's so much more and simpler than we imagined?

"You're not good enough," the world says.
"I love you as you are," God says.

"Nobody cares," the world says.
"You are not alone," God says.

Sometimes we need to not listen to the messages around us and give heed to the author of the only message that matters.

The message of eternity.

Your life is worth so much more than what the world is trying to sell you.

Even on the days when you feel worthless, you matter. God loves you.

His message is one you can trust.