Monthly Archives: August 2013

God is in the O.R. (Operating Room) (Part 4 of 4: Do You Know Where God Is?)

A mere twenty-seven years ago, my sweet husband John and I were expecting our first little angel.  It’s fair to say we practically floated into a classroom one evening full of other expectant parents.


Eager to learn how to have an easy labor (!), we naively tuned in our ears. Our ultra cheery Lemaze Instructor began to teach…

“YOU can do this…” She insisted.

“It’s all in the breathing.  You can breathe right through your labor pains by using the following techniques.” She added.

“Future Fathers, YOU are your wife’s Coach. This is a very important role, not to be taken lightly.”  She implored.

Sharing numerous massage techniques to make us future Mothers comfortable, tube socks filled with tennis balls seemed to be a favorite for potentially throbbing lower backs.  Goodness, surely not


Overly confident, let’s fast forward to the wee hours of one morning when what we realized was labor, began.  Searing, vice-like pains parked themselves relentlessly in my lower back.  “Coach John” began implementing the many techniques our teacher had taught us.

To be tactful, let’s just say I was uncoachable.  Those hours spent in Lemaze class swiftly flew out the window.  When offered an epidural after seeing my contractions go off the chart on the monitor, I screamed “yes!” before the doctor completed the question.


Nurses suggested John leave the room while the blissful epidural was administered.  After only a few minutes, I was sitting up, smiling, watching TV, oblivious to the pain and contractions.

Nurses allowed John to re-enter the room.  Upon viewing my countenance, he quipped, “Oops, wrong room, this can’t possibly be the same wife who just nearly clawed my watch off my wrist!”

Alrighty then….

By God’s grace, along with the skills and talent of our  OB/GYN, Dr. Louis Kirtley, along with the Anesthesiologist, and the room full of excellent nurses, our firstborn son, John Garnett Hoagland, Jr. entered the world on October 29, 1986, at 11:20 a.m.

Louis Kirtley, his wife Olivia, their son, Chris and their grandson, Rhett

Louis Kirtley, his wife Olivia, their son, Chris and their grandson, Rhett

God was most definitely in our O.R. (Operating Room) that day as He is with you and me today.

(Let’s stop for a moment to praise God for the Kirtley family in the above picture as their son Chris is a cancer survivor.  God was most definitely in their O.R. when Rhett was born with Chris and Katie being proud parents instead of cancer patient and spouse!)


So what’s our challenge?  We keep forgetting to look for God in our midst, too busy motoring along our merry way.  

Please allow me to show you some people who are in tune with the Lord and let’s see what we can learn from them…

My brother-in-law, Billy Hoagland, is a phenomenal General Surgeon.  Many of you have either been operated on by him or have relatives who have.

Over the past several years of his practice, he has made the beautiful habit of praying with his patients and their families prior to their surgery.  If any of you who ever doubt the power of prayer, just ask some of his patients. I can’t begin to estimate the number of people who have told me, not to mention countless others, of his prayer and how it greatly touched their lives.

Doc Hoagland is pictured here with their first grandchild, Caroline.

Doc Hoagland is pictured here with their first grandchild, Caroline.

During a recent radio interview with three women who had recently lost their spouses, my very brave friend, Gwen Paten declared, “My survival has been thanks to the daily reading of God’s Word…

His Word is Holy Anesthesia to me.”


For about the most shallow comment you’ll ever hear, may I say that if an epidural can be that good of an anesthesia when in horrific pain, how much more can Holy Anesthesia be? (Remember Gwen’s husband, Mike, was diagnosed with cancer in May and died thirty-three days later in June of 2011. We still cannot quite grasp this, but praise God Mike was a believer and is in the arms of our Heavenly Father).

In particular, Gwen cites Psalm 46 as her favorite go-to Scripture/Anesthesia:

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth  give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
Though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God  is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Come and see the works of the Lord, the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear, he burns the shields with fire.
‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’
The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”  (Emphasis mine.)


My Life Application Bible says the THEME of Psalm 46 is:

God is always there to help,
providing refuge,
and peace.
God’s power is complete
and his ultimate victory is certain.

He will not fail to rescue those who love him.”

Eliz and Gwen

May we recognize and savor God’s Word, Holy Anesthesia, which is waiting to comfort us.  God is not only in the O.R., He is with you and me always.

‘Til next time!

(This post has a four-fold dedication:

1 – To my doctor and our friend, Louis Kirtley who, thanks to God’s orchestration, delivered all three of our boys!

2 – To my ever patient brother-in-law, Billy Hoagland,  who has the dubious honor of being the only doctor in our family–lo, those bazillions of phone calls we are still making to him for whatever ails us!!!

3 – To my dear friend Gwennie, whom you’ve heard me talk of so often, who continues to press on and encourage all of us in her path.

4 – To all you brave souls out there who delivered via natural childbirth!  I commend you.  I saw our Lemaze Instructor at a wedding recently.  She looks the exact same all these years later.  Not sure I ever admitted to her I was a flunkee….)

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It’s Time for the Big College Drop-Off: Traumatic or Terrific?

Big, searing, white-hot tears splashed on the newly opened piece of mail…

“Oh, no!”  My mind began swirling upon reading the following information:  “You may bring your college freshman between 10:00 a.m. and noon.  There will be people to help unload your child’s belongings into their dorm room.  Orientation will begin that afternoon.”


I walked out onto the deck where our firstborn was sitting.  Aghast at my appearance (!), John Jr. asked, “Mom!  What’s the matter?”

“We just got your move-in time for UK (The University of Kentucky)! It’s the 19th, so you won’t even be here for my birthday!!!”  More uncontrollable tears followed…

Trying to keep a straight face at the bizarre-o reasoning for my meltdown, John Jr. attempted to calm me down.  “Mom, this is silly.  I’ll be fine.  I’m almost nineteen years old.

“But…” I  whined further, “you’ll need us to help you get your books, set up your room, get your meal plan …”  rattling on, and on, and on.

The dreaded day came complete with foggy, rainy driving conditions.  Only seventy-five miles from Louisville, Lexington and the twin towers of UK’s South Campus soon came into view.


Husband John, myself,  and lots of volunteers helped John Jr. move in.  Off to grab lunch, the day progressed far too quickly.  “THE BIG GOODBYE” arrived.  We clung tightly, not wanting to let go…

All but skipping off (!), delighted to be on his own, John Jr.  was more than ready for college life.  His best friend, TC,  his roommate, moved in that afternoon and life was good.

John Sr.  wisely pulled up a few blocks away from the drop-off area.  My shoulders were already shaking, my  shirt damp with tears, all the while asking,  “We raised him all for this?”

“He’ll be fine…” my calmer-than-he-needs-to-be husband consoled.


Fast  forward into the next week.  The phone began ringing early. …

Already having cried that morning while carpooling our two younger sons to school,  I answered while sniffling, “Hello?”

“You okay?  Just checkin’ on ya…” My sweet friend, Kathy, from Ohio asked.

“Yeah, I’m fine.  I’ve decided to re-arrange John Jr.’s room.  Figured a project would do me good.”  Hoping my voice sounded stable.

“I’ll check with you again tomorrow.  I’m prayin’ for ya!  Hang in there, you’ll be okay.  Just takes time.” Click.  She was gone.

The next three days were like the movie, Groundhog Day.  Each morning  Kathy would call.  I was sorta  still in John Jr.’s room “re-arranging”.


Finally, with a large dose of authority, Kathy said, “Okay, so here’s the deal.  I’m a little worried about you.  If you’re still in there tomorrow, I’m comin’ after ya!!!”

Alrighty then…Clearly my pitiful-poor experience of taking our firstborn to school was way more traumatic than terrific.  Sigh.

So, let’s talk about this for a few minutes.   I know several of you are readyin’ to take your child off to college.  No easy feat.

But… what I know now, that I didn’t embrace back then, is as Liz Curtis Higgs says, “God’s got this!”  (Read her blog on Romans 8:28.  It’s the )

Where you are in your faith will determine how you handle your child’s big college drop off….

The experience will either be traumatic or terrific.

Fearful or Fearless.

Lamentations 2:19 says, “Pour out your heart like water before the face of the Lord.  Lift your hands toward Him for the life of your young children.”

Max Lucado, in his book, Fearless—Imagine Your Life Without Fear,  says, “Parents, we can do this.  We can be loyal advocates, stubborn intercessors.  We can take our parenting fears to Christ.”

Max Lucado Fearless

 I confess I did not have a steadfast faith when we took John Jr. to college.  (So sorry, bud!)  I did pray for him, but I didn’t make such an emphasis on his faith like I should have.

A favorite quote from Max is “Prayer is the saucer into which parental fears are poured to cool.”

 bigstock-Coffee-41268634 “We can’t protect our children from every threat in life, but we can take them to the Source of life.  We can entrust our kids to Christ.”

*SEVEN (7) Simple ways to SURVIVE your child’s college experience:

1 – Pray twofold:  One that your child will meet Christian friends perhaps thru’ a Christian organization.  (Our youngest two boys discovered Campus Outreach at UK and it was a huge blessing in their lives.

Secondly, pray for them and their interaction with their roommates, new friends, teachers, and entire college experience.  Enlist friends to pray with you and you can pray for their children.  Prayer warriors are invaluable.

Max Lucado reminds us in his book, Walking with the Savior,  “Praying for our children is a noble task.  If what we are doing, in this fast-paced society, is taking us away from prayer time for our children, we’re doing too much.”  Do NOT miss that warning!


Max Lucado Walking with the savior

There is nothing more special, more precious than time that a parent spends struggling and pondering with God on behalf of their child.”

2 – Quit stewing.  A bottom-line quote from Max’ book says, “Worry is like a rocking chair, it never gets you anywhere.”  Control freak that I am, I finally realized we cannot be with our children 24/7.

Grandpas Ole Rocker

When you feel like fretting, repeat the prophet Jeremiah’s words:  “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:  The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is they faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion’, says my soul,therefore I will hope in him.’” (Jeremiah 3:21-24 RSV)

3 – Rest in God’s Sovereignty.  He is in control and He loves your child more than you do.  Max reminds us, “As followers of God, you and I have a huge asset.  We know every thing is going to turn out all right.  Christ hasn’t budged from his throne and Romans 8:28 hasn’t evaporated from the Bible.”

“And we know that in ALL things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

4 – Do NOT cry in front of your child.  Seriously…it scares them. Worse, it embarrasses them.  (At least wait ‘til you get in the car!)  Plus, if they’re the least bit weepy, your tears will only make them unsure. You won’t want to leave them that way.

5Best advice we received during this whole “season” is to ALWAYS plan a future get-together.  That way you ALL have something to look forward to.  As my friend Jayne says, “Get something on the calendar.”



Mark down when Parents’ Weekend is, or a football game, or something!

6 – Savor Scripture.  My favorite passage, which I need emblazoned upon my brain (as I say about every Scripture) is Philippians 4:4-7, every verse of which oozes with comfort, encouragement, and promises:

“Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it againRejoice!

 Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”


7 – Sign up for a Bible study—it will be the KEY to your sanity!!!

By now, you know how passionate I am about Bible study.  It’s been the very lifeline to my sanity on numerous occasions, in many different seasons.

For more on Bible studies, checkout:  “But I  Don’t Have Time for a Bible study…” and “You are invited to a Bible study…”

Ask the Lord for Him to take His Word from your head to your heart.  Ask Him to show you whom to invite to go with you.  You’ll never regret it.


This week I’m praying for ALL of you taking your college-bound children.  I have three sweet friends in particular on the road as I type.  Gulp…Fay is the Mom of an only child heading to Asbury College, Mary Jude is  taking their third child, their baby, far away to the University of South Carolina.  Their other two children are within an hour of here vs. eight hours to South Carolina!  And Hilliary is taking her firstborn to the University of Kentucky. All scenarios are equally difficult. (We’d better not forget to pray for the Dads either:  Tom, Scott, and Patrick!)

Also this week, John and I will be taking our baby (!), Woody, to Lexington for his senior year at UK.  Please tell me where the time has gone?  Can it be eight years ago that we first took John Jr. to college??? Sniff, sniff…

‘Til next time!

(This week’s post is dedicated to our dear firstborn son, John Garnett Hoagland, Jr.  Soon to be twenty-seven years old, now working with John Sr.– my better half!

John Jr., being our first, is a living miracle given our inept parenting skills.  He’s shown me more than once there’s only a one-letter difference in the word “Mother” and “Smother”, if you get what I’m sayin’…

God Bless you, J, we are so very proud of you. Thanks for grace! Mega praises go to our Lord and Savior who got you thru’ college!!!)

Elizabeth and John Jr

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YOU Are INVITED!!! Please Join us to Meet TEN Bad Girls of the Bible! – Bible Study Begins September 10th…PLUS: Freebie Book Offer!!!

Sweet Friends, PLEASE mark your calendars and join us September 10th for a super fun, educational, and potentially life-changing-a-la-Liz–Curtis-Higgs Bible Study!!!  We’ll be meeting at Middletown United Methodist Church (MUMC) in Louisville, Kentucky.  If you are anywhere near Louisville, please come join us!


Middletown United Methodist Church
11902 Old Shelbyville Road
Louisville, KY 40243

Best-selling author and speaker Liz Curtis Higgs has recently revised and released Bad Girls of the Bible and Lessons You Can Learn From Them.  Plus she has filmed a brand-new teaching DVD to go along with it!  My friends, Jane Chilton and Nancy Tinnell, and myself will be team-teaching tidbits as well.

2013 Bad Girls of the Bible COVER 300x450

We will meet beginning  Tuesday, September 10th and run until November 12th.  We are offering a morning class and an evening class.  Classes will last only ninety minutes.  Mornings will be from 9:30-11:00 a.m. (You’ll beat the lunch crowd if you run out for a bite afterwards!), and 6:30-8:00 p.m. for the evening class.

Lizzie will be teaching us about ten bad girls (!), so we’ll meet for ten weeks.  One week per chapter.   We’ll learn all about Eve, Potiphar’s Wife, Lot’s Wife, The Woman at the Well, Delilah, Sapphira, Rahab, Jezebel, Michal, and the Sinful Woman.

Liz’ writing in the fictional and Biblical accounts will bless you, encourage you and leave you equipped in God’s Word and bathed in His grace each week.  Best way to register is to call Kelly McDonald or Nancy Tinnell at MUMC at (502) 245-8839.  You may also register by visiting their website:

I also suggest going on and getting your book as we’ll dive right in the first week and you’ll want to have read the intro’ and first chapter by  September 10th.  You will love Liz’ format on the DVD and our format for discussion.  Not to mention that Liz will pop in one of these Tuesdays to surprise us and teach us LIVE!!!


FB Liz in front of red door SQUARE


This is a great opportunity for you to invite your friends.  Last summer we were blessed to have women of all ages, friends, neighbors, etc.  The more the merrier!

Liz says, “The point of Bad Girls of the Bible is that categorically and absolutely, whatever your story is, you are not alone.  There are lessons here for all of us…”  Oh, I promise you, you are in for a treat!

Additionally, Liz has a new book due out in mid-September, The Women of Christmas—A Fresh Look at the Nativity Scene through the Lives of Elizabeth, Mary and Anna.  Waterbrook, her publisher, has a great deal going right now where if you pre-order the book, you get a BOGO offer (buy one get one free!!!)  Think “early Christmas shopping” if I dare broach that subject!!!

Go to:

TWOC 2-4-1 300 x 250

And for those of you melancholies out there wondering where part 4 of 4 is in the “Do You Know Where God Is?” series, please rest assured it’s coming in a couple of weeks. For parts 1-3, you may click on…(part 1, part 2, part 3).

This week we needed to get details out on this Bible study since so many of you have asked and it’s fast approachingThe other upcoming activity involves so many of you who will be taking your children to college next week.  Gulp!  We’ll be talking about that too!  Thanks for your patience.

‘Til next time!!!

(This post is dedicated to all of you out there who have been asking about this Bible study and who will be coming and bringing friends! Keep ‘em coming!!!  We have been praying for you and ask that you keep the whole study, all the attendees, all the details, and our sweet author, who’s feverishly writing yet another Bible study, Liz Curtis Higgs, in your prayers!)


Filed under Bible Studies, Book Reviews

God Sees You When You Escape from a Monastery (Part 3 of 4: Do You Know Where God Is?)

The woefully weary minister reluctantly met with his doctor.  Guessing the doctor’s diagnosis,  his ears began shutting down.  Never mind his heart had shut down months before…

“Wayne, are you listening, buddy?”

An almost undetectable nod followed.

“This is in your best interest.  Best interest for your church.  Best interest for you and your health.  Best interest for your marriage.  Your church, can survive without you for a few months.”

“But who will take my place?  Who else knows how to run our church like me?  Who cares as much as I do?”  The all-about-me questions spewed forth like rain.

Doc answered sharply, “If you want to avoid a nervous breakdown, and you are very close to it right now, you must take a season to refill and recharge.  A sabbatical is no longer a suggestion.  This is mandatory.”

Wayne soon found himself registered for a retreat at a monastery.  As he drove up the long, winding hill, two and a half hours in the middle of nowhere, doubts hovered.  He forced himself to park his car.


He walked into the entryway.  Discovering several monks, he asked them where to register.  Funny, they didn’t answer him.  They didn’t talk at all.  Not one word.  One monk pointed to paper, the other to a map.  No talking.

Once in his cabin, Wayne also realized there were no phones, no TV, no wifi…Therefore, no checking email, no receiving texts, no voicemail, etc.  Only silence.

The monks did make some noise twice a day:  At five o’clock in the morning, they could be heard in the Chapel, singing psalms in Gregorian chants.  At five o’clock in the evening, they could be heard singing vespers.

The only time they used their voices, they were praising the Lord.  (Think about that for a minute…That very point stopped me cold.)

Day, after painful day while in the monastery, time crawled. Worse: No caffeine could be found anywhere.  By day three, Wayne’s eyes had been opened, but the pain was almost unbearable.

He was beginning to hear from God.  God was giving him a message. And he was slowly writing it down.

Yet, discontentment still gnawed at Wayne’s soul.  “If only I could escape, just for a few minutes…I’ve had enough of this place!” he told himself.

Mountains travel

Realizing the monks would be distracted while singing, Wayne made his escape during their praise time. He jumped in his car, and quickly drove to an internet café.  Ordering the biggest cup of coffee they had (!), he fired up his laptop, and placed a call to a friend.

Whispering, he informed his friend, “I’ve just escaped from the monastery!”

Can you imagine receiving such a phone call?  Can you hear God chuckling over Wayne’s efforts?

Yes, God saw Wayne escape from that monastery. And in His faithfulness, He softened Wayne’s heart, and taught him some lessons, we too, can learn.

After loading up on some of “the world” at the internet café, Wayne did in fact return to the monastery.  He finished out the week and savored the quiet.  Savored the sabbatical.  Studied God’s Word.  Filled legal pads.

Handwriting with broken pencil point on yellow pad

My husband, John, and I were blessed to hear Pastor Wayne Cordeiro, from New Hope Church in Hawaii ( ), speak at the North American Christian Convention (NACC) a couple of weeks ago.  We could not take notes fast enough.  Very engaging, (the escape story was shared during his workshop) Wayne taught us how to care for our souls.

Wayne confessed to enduring “profound burnout, to the point of clinical depression.”   Years prior, he’d started a church which led to numerous church plants.  He wrote book, after book, after book.  He helped start a Bible college. He had a leadership role in every single endeavor he’d begun, squelching any ounce of free time.

He drew a huge picture of a cup.  Its’ contents were nearly at the top.  His point was, “We must be intentional about what fills our cup and what drains our cup.”

Cup with Levels

“If you keep draining your cup, physical consequences will take their toll on your body”:  an anxiety breakdown leads to an emotional breakdown which can lead to a full-blown nervous breakdown.

Wayne continued:  “Worse, these breakdowns eat up margin in our schedules.”  (Click here for more on Margins. If you want to read more from this 4-part series, click: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 4)  One thing Wayne  learned to do is before he ever writes down an event or commitment on his calendar, he builds in the rests first.  MARGIN…White space in your calendar, rest notes in music, room to breathe…


Music sheet


He reminded us that God will hold us accountable for what He’s gifted us specifically to do.  It equates to five percent of your life.  He said that eighty-five percent of what you do, anybody can do.  Ten percent of what you can do, someone can do with some training.

This leaves five percent of what you, and only you can do.  Therefore, concentrate on the last five percent.  This is where the health of your soul is.  Don’t miss what God has for you.

Wayne shared several lessons he learned from his week at the monastery.  (You can hear him, or see him, depending on your preference, by going to Christian Audio Tapes is the company who made cd’s and DVD’s from the NACC.)  I’ll share three of these with you.

First was the five percent lesson.  Wayne added an exercise for us to do, suggesting we do this with our spouses.  (It can have positive results for your marriage as well.) Make a list of what fills your cup and what drains your cup.

His examples of what fills his cup are: water sports on the ocean, reading, riding horses, riding his motorcycle, and Bible study. (Let’s hope the Bible study comes before the motorcycle riding.  I’m just sayin’…) Filling vs. draining equals your passions vs. your “I-dread-this” list…


John and I had a hey day with this little exercise.  The next morning he scooped up our perpetual-puppy, Gracie, and said, “Gracie FILLS my cup!”  To which I retorted, “Wonderful!  Gracie DRAINS my cup!”  Get the picture from that very bad example?!!!

Remember John Piper telling us we can’t be gloomy and glorify God at the same time?  See…”God is on the Golf Course…”    Same idea.

My favorite lesson Wayne taught us is:  Refuel daily.  Be disciplined in your devotions and Bible study/reading.

He added, “By diligent daily reading, you get to know the characters in the Bible.  There’s not one scenario you’re going thru’ or will go thru’ that one of the characters in the Bible hasn’t gone thru’ already.” They’ll become your friends, divine mentors, if you will.

Divine mentor

They leave you “crumbs” to find which are the key to your sanity.   Wayne built this case beautifully and ended it with:  “If you never visit them (the characters in the Bible), how can they possibly help you?”  (Go to:  for help with daily devotions.)

Hebrews 4:12 reinforces this point:  “But the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword. It penetrates even to dividing soul and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

Finally, Wayne cited the second chapter of Mark,  where Jesus heals the paralyzed man.  He pointed out that the man had four friends to take him to Jesus.    Carol Kent calls these “stretcher bearers” and expounds on this concept in her compelling  book, When I Lay My Isaac Down.

When I Lay My Isaac Down

Wayne implored, “We must have friends who will take us to Jesus.” Friends who’ll take us out of harmful situations and place us in safe respites.  “No matter how sick you are, figuratively or literally, you must have friends who will care for you.  Close friends recognize your needs.”

Don’t “go it alone”…because God sees you, whether you’re escaping from a monastery (!), or just about your daily to-do’s.

Psalm 73:23 is a good reminder:  And, “yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.”

‘Til next time!

(This week’s post is dedicated to Pastor Wayne Cordeiro.  What a bummer to “have to” minister in Hawaii!  Kidding…Thanks for coming to Louisville and teaching us from your heart.   Thrilled you discovered fried green tomatoes!!! Your honesty and lessons you learned during the hard times are pure pearls for us to live by.  Blessings to you and your family and your ministry!)



Filed under Book Reviews, Conferences, Life Lessons, Margin