Archive | March 2018

Let It Go

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Do you know anyone who is bitter?

Perhaps the bitter person that you know has chosen that sordid emotion because of his or her childhood … or due to a failed marriage.

Some people are bitter because of the economy … or because of the way their children turned out … or because someone that they loved dearly died too soon.

Some people mistakenly believe that they have a right to be bitter just because life has thrown them a curve ball or two.

H-m-m-m … “ a right to be bitter” …

Wow!  Is that a sad way to live, or what?!

I know … I know … if you are one of those people who are ferociously treading water in the Sea of Bitterness … you might accuse me of not understanding your justifiable right to live a bitter life.

I guess that it’s true … I might not understand or have experienced your particular pain … but it is also true that we all have gone through excruciating life circumstances that have attempted to toss us into that great, angry and consuming sea.

However, what I have learned in my life’s journey is that bitterness is actually a by-product of self-centeredness.

O.K. … I will be quiet for a minute while you process that thought.

Bitterness is a by-product of self-centeredness.

If you have placed yourself in the center of your life, then you will perpetually process pain through a spirit of offense.

You will be offended when your husband doesn’t take out the trash.

You will be offended when your kids don’t call you.

You will be offended when the pastor doesn’t acknowledge your giving.

You will be offended when the talking media heads don’t agree with your political opinions.

You will be offended when you don’t get the raise or the promotion.

 

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I am determined to raise up a generation of unoffendable women!

“God will see to it that we are in circumstances best designed by His sovereign love to give us opportunities to bear fruit for Him.” – Elisabeth Elliot

Oh!  How I long to be a fruit-bearing Christian in all seasons and in all circumstances.  When someone takes a bit out of me … I want kindness and patience to come dripping out!

I deeply desire to exhibit love when everyone else is pontificating opinion.

It is my heart-felt yearning to respond with joy when met with unbelievably discouraging circumstances.

The truth is this, my friend … bitterness hurts no one but yourself.

Bitterness doesn’t change your circumstances but it does change you.  It changes you from a beautiful, caring person into an ugly shadow of your former self.

There is no other way to say it … bitterness is ugly and it only creates ugly.

“I will wander about all my years because of the bitterness of my soul.” – Isaiah 38:15b

If you dip your unsuspecting toe into the Sea of Bitterness, the riptide will quickly suck you in and you will lose all direction in life.

Bitter people never walk in their destiny … they are never an agent of encouragement … and a bitter person often squanders a formerly incredible life while thrashing around and wrongly believing that bitterness is their life jacket.

Bitterness is not a life jacket … it is a weight of iron that is guaranteed to drown you.

So … as believers in Jesus Christ … what should we do when life has squashed our dreams and when friends and family members have walked away?

What should we do with anger and human pain?

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” – Ephesians 4:31

You and I need to determine that bitterness is not an option!  It is not one of the emotions that we are allowed to embrace while living in the glorious warzone of life.

Bitterness is not on your long list or on your short list.

For you and for me … bitterness has ceased to exist because of Jesus.

 

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“See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.” – Hebrews 12:15

The grace of God has uprooted every seedling of bitterness in our hearts, which is part of the miracle that being a Christian enables! What a wonderful possibility!

Grace has taken away bitterness and has planted mercy and grace in its place.

Bitterness is a weed of carnal, fleshly living while mercy and grace are exquisite flowers that are planted in your life in order to gather a crowd!

Bitterness gathers a crowd, too, but the problem is that this particular mob has gathered to see the vicious fighting that is going on.  And, inevitably, they will be drawn in to the jealousy, anger and gossip that will ensue.

Not my kind of crowd …

O.K. … now I am going to tell you something that you are going to have to think about and pray about before you react to it.  Are you ready?  Take a slow, deep breath and let’s move ahead …

I heard someone say recently that the way you treat me and what you think of me is not my business.

This person went on to say that my only business is how I treat you.

Wow!  Powerful stuff, right?!!

My sole business in life is making sure that I respond with love, forgiveness and joy to every event, every person and every circumstance.

The one thing that I am called to do above all others is to trust my life into the hands of the One who knows me best and loves me most.

I can trust Him in the storm and in the sunshine.

I can forgive you regardless of your words … your actions … or your accusations.

I can because He did.

I refuse to be caught in the riptide of that emotion known as “bitterness” and I choose to love … to exhibit mercy … and to show compassion.

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

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Who You Really Are

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What is the hardest thing you have ever gone through in life?

Perhaps it was the death of a loved one from which you have ever truly bounced back. The grief may be enormous and relentless from that one horrific event.

Maybe it has been a moral failure that has given your life more definition than you care to admit.

Have you gone through the unfair loss of a job or even bankruptcy?

Perhaps you or someone you love dearly deals with addiction on a daily basis and that is just so hard.

For some people, it is a traumatic diagnosis, perpetual pain or health challenges that are just plain hard week after week … month after month … and year after year.

It is a sold life truth that none of us is able to escape the opportunity of experiencing something hard and devastating this side of heaven.

What is your “hard”?

I have learned to embrace difficult circumstances and situations as opportunities for greatness rather than as pathways to failure.

Let me share with you today three truths that I have learned in my life from crossing that dangerous and difficult river known as “hard”.

First of all, it seems to me that “hard” has the innate power of revealing one’s true self in a manner that days of “soft” and “easy” are unable to manifest.

Who you are in a storm is truly who you are.

Who you are in a fire is truly who you are.

Who you are on the mountaintop of life or during times of great fulfillment does not have the capacity to reveal true identity in the manner that disappointment does.

It’s just truth … who you are in the “hard” is who you are.

If you respond to heartbreaking and trying circumstances with resolve and with inner strength … that’s who you are.

If you respond to relationship challenges and family problems by whining and gossiping … that’s who you are.

If you respond to bothersome people and troublesome events with peace and with joy … then that is who you are.

 

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You see, it is in the easy days of life that we determine who we will be in the hard days of life.

“To trust God in the light is nothing, but to trust Him in the dark … that is faith.” – Spurgeon.

The second truth that I have learned from the hard days of life is that it is in the “hard” that my relationship with the Lord is defined to a greater degree.

During a difficulty in life – I will either chase after my loving Father or I will run away from Him.

During a potentially destructive storm, I can either blame God or I can bless God.

When the flames of life around me are threatening to destroy all that I value and hold dear, I will either love God or I will loathe Him.

Let the fire for God within you burn hotter and brighter than the fire of devastation around you!

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.  Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10

I must not allow my personal pain to change my view of who God is! I must remind myself day after long day that God is good all the time and that He works all things together for my good.

God has been to my future and it is good because He is good!

“Whatever comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” – Tozer

During the storms of life, I must remind myself that He is good indeed!

The third lesson that I have learned from the storms of life is that how I handle the storm just might determine my very destiny!

If I respond emotionally to strenuous and severe conditions, I will leave the storm with a limp in my walk and with a joyless outlook on my life.

 

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However, if I am able to sing through the storm, my destiny becomes glorious and unlimited!

The world is listening for your song while you walk through the storm … while you cross the mountains of life … and while you put out the flames of a hot and angry fire.

The world is listening for the melody of your life especially when you doing hard … so sing louder and sing stronger!

If you will turn to the Lord for comfort rather than away from Him due to immense emotional pain, you will find that the landscape of your life becomes magnificent and magnetic to others!

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” – II Corinthians 1:3 & 4

I have heard it said that God doesn’t comfort us to merely make us comfortable but that He comforts us to miraculously make us into comforters.

If you process your “hard” only through your personal pain and through your emotions, you will forever be paralyzed by the trauma of it all.

However, if you are able to walk triumphantly through arduous and formidable storms in life, you will find yourself as never before … you will know God as never before … and you will be used as never before.

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

March Gladness

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March is the month of windy days, of cool yet not biting temperatures and of the certain promise of spring. 

Sometimes March roars in like an angry lion but we are all hopeful that it will peacefully whisper out like a sweet lamb.

March is the temperate bridge that connects the icy days of winter to the glory that is spring!

March pushes winter into history and welcomes spring into miraculous reality.

“It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.” 
― Charles DickensGreat Expectations

This month of March, that is sandwiched between the frigid hours of February and the sunny weeks of April, is famous for its kites, for its lengthening days and for hours and hours of basketball!

Basketball … did somebody mention basketball?! How did you know?!

My family has always had an addiction to college basketball.  We lived for 16 wonderful years just outside of Raleigh, North Carolina, and were absolutely intoxicated with the earthly delight of cheering on those North Carolina teams to victory.

Having had three athletic boys before finally giving birth to two little girls, the basketball rite of March became as familiar and dear to us as the perpetual pounding of orange spheres on our driveway … the vibrant roar of a crowd in our small town basketball gym … and the secret anxiety that filled our minds as we each filled out our brackets.

The media world calls it “March Madness” and the sports world refers to it as “The Big Dance”.  For the family McLeod who lived at 816 East Academy Street, it was simply an annual opportunity for family bonding, for cheering on our teams and for experiencing the agony of defeat and the thrill of victory.

I am now older than the young mom of those exciting days and my rambunctious and competitive children have all grown and flown. In this quieter season of life, I have learned to enjoy the games of March with greater temperance and with much less angst. Even as I will be watching the Cinderella teams and the traditional champions on the hardwood, I wonder what teams my boys are cheering for.  You see, a mother’s heart never forgets.

A mother’s heart was made to remember all the traditions, the sayings and the experiences that happened in the house that her little brood called “home”.

I remember … but I must also look ahead.

I must tie my heart not to the memories of yesterday but to the calling in which I live today.  I must move ahead into these days of March with a song in my heart and with hope on my lips.

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I can remember sweetly but I must forge ahead bravely.

And so, this March, I have decided to sing a song of gratitude for the life that I have been given and for the hope that springs eternal.

In this season of my life, rather than focusing on the “madness” of March … my heart is tied to the “gladness” of March!  Each day, I am choosing to sing a song that has shaped me and that has laid a wonderful foundation for my faith.

“A mighty fortress is our God! A bulwark never failing!” #marchgladness

“It is no secret what God can do … what He’s done for others, He’ll do for you!” #marchgladness

“There is none like You! No one else can fill my heart like You do!” #marchgladness

“Through it all … through it all … oh I’ve learned to trust in Jesus … I’ve learned to trust in God!” #marchgladness

“Something good is going to happen to you … happen to you … happen to you!” #marchgladness

“Jesus, Jesus, Jesus! Sweetest Name I know!” #marchgladness

What are the songs that have shaped your life?

I would love to hear from you and be reminded of the faith songs … the worship choruses … the stately hymns … the Gospel tunes … and the hopeful ballads … that have meant a lot to you over the years.

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How has God spoken to you through the lyrics of faith?

Would you join me in posting those lyrics on social media with the reference “#marchgladness”?

We are all ordinary folks who are trying to deal with the madness of life by tying our hearts to the gladness that only He brings! If there is one thing that the enemy will try to steal from your life, it is the song that you have been given to sing.

During these dreary days of March, I choose to sing louder!

Living on this bridge between the sweet memories of yesterday and all that is yet to come in the glory of tomorrow, I choose to sing!

Will you sing with me?

Honestly … I can’t wait to hear your song!  So sing louder!

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

The Life of Billy Graham

On February 21, 2018, the Reverend Billy Graham took his last breath on earth and walked triumphantly into eternity and into the presence of His Savior, Jesus Christ!

After nearly 100 years of earth-bound living, William Franklin Graham Jr. crossed his finish line.

He heard the two simple words we all long to hear someday, “Well done!”

I have read so many articles, blog posts and editorials concerning the life and home going of Billy Graham and I wondered, quite frankly, if there was anything else left to say about this incredible man of God.  He was a man who dined with queens … who prayed with presidents … and whose opinion mattered to political leaders.

He walked upon the grounds of the White House … in the hallways of Buckingham Palace … on the floor of the United Nations … and on the dusty and unmarked roads of Africa.

“Everywhere I go I find that people … both leaders and individuals … are asking one basic question, ‘Is there any hope for the future?’ My answer is the same, ‘Yes, through Jesus Christ.’” – Billy Graham

How could my perspective on the life of a man I had never met bring any more tribute to the life that was lived so well?

And then, I remembered something that I often say to young moms when I am teaching on the importance of motherhood …

“Someone is going to raise the next Billy Graham … why not you?!”

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And so, my tribute comes in the form of a challenge to the next generation of moms; I challenge you to raise the next Billy Graham!

I challenge you to raise a man or a woman so filled with integrity that it leaves the culture in which we live absolutely breathless.

“Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.” – Billy Graham

I challenge you to raise a man or a woman so filled with moral virtue and purity that he or she is mocked by the gurus of the day.

“The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life but rather a legacy of character and faith.” – Billy Graham

I challenge you to instill a love for the Bible in your son or in your daughter so rich and so rare that every choice, every opinion and every philosophy is birthed from the sacred pages of the Word of God.

“I read the last page of the Bible. It’s all going to turn out all right.” – Billy Graham

I challenge you to teach your children how to handle their finances in a conservative and God-honoring manner.  Pass on the wise philosophy to them that money can’t buy happiness, that success is not dependent upon bank accounts and that it pays to be honest.

“When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost.” – Billy Graham

I challenge you to raise a man or a woman so filled with calling and with purpose that absolutely nothing holds them back from their God-ordained destiny.  Teach them to tune their ears to the calling of God and not on the applause of men.  Remind them often that they are living for eternity and not for fame.

I challenge you to teach your children to tell the truth … the whole truth … and nothing but the truth.

And then remind them that the Truth is Jesus.

“The wonderful news is that our Lord is a God of mercy and that He responds to repentance.” – Billy Graham

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I challenge you to raise your children to love the simple things in life.  We live in a Disney World-saturated, Super Bowl-driven, People magazine-promoting, false-idol-worshipping, technology-overload society. Lay all of that aside and then make a list of the truly valuable things in life:

Fresh air and sunsets …

The company of grandparents and missionaries …

A game of tag in the backyard …

The delight of family jokes and healthy teasing …

The stories of ancestors and heroes and heroines of the faith …

A family prayer time at the end of a day.

I challenge you to raise your children in a common environment that smacks of uncommon virtue.

“A child who is allowed to be disrespectful to his parents will not have true respect for anyone.” – Billy Graham

I challenge you to raise your children to know that this life is not all that there is to living.  We live for eternity not for the pleasure of tomorrow.  Remind them day after day after day that heaven is a real place and that there is only one way to get there … through Jesus.

“My home is in heaven – I am just passing through.” – Billy Graham

I challenge you to teach your children the value of prayer.  Pray with them every day over the little things and the big things in life.  Remind them that God listens and that God answers. And then get on your knees with your children and pray.

“Prayer is simply a two-way conversation between God and you.” – Billy Graham

My prayer today is that this world will never forget the life of Billy Graham … I hope that you never forget the difference that one ordinary person can make for eternity.  He lived to make hell smaller and heaven bigger!

My prayer is that in our quest to honor him we do it by calling the next generation to live their lives with the moral fiber and with the spiritual tenacity that it takes to cause heaven to stand to its feet and applaud!

“I haven’t written my own epitaph, and I’m not sure I should. Whatever it is, I hope it will be simple, and that it will point people not to me, but to the One I served.” – Billy Graham

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!