Category Archives: Friends

When You Dread the Holidays… Where’s Our Hope?

Friends!  I pray today finds you well, at rest, at peace, all things trimmed, wrapped, and prepared for Christmas.  That little statement makes me laugh and cry simultaneously.  It looks like a bomb went off in this household.  Sigh…

It recently dawned on me that many folks who’ve lost a loved one may not be looking forward to Christmas or New Year’s or any upcoming holiday for that matter. Where do we find our hope in such circumstances?

I’m delighted to tell you about a new non-profit offering help in a multitude of ways, plus an additional treasure trove of hope from our buddy, Max Lucado.

One of my long-time friends endured the loss of her husband to suicide some seven years ago.  Not one of us would’ve predicted this, and only those who’ve found loved ones that have taken their own lives could possibly relate.

My friend is one you may also know:  Karen Buchanan Meyer.  She told me this week that within days of Don’s death, she felt more than a nudge from the Holy Spirit to figure out ways to help others going thru’ such horrific experiences.

Other friends met with her and over these past few years, Karen and her friend, Lisa Schardein, have formed a non-profit called First Hour Grief Response. (www.firsthourgrief.org)

 

Between Karen’s experiences and Lisa’s (Lisa’s 19 year old son, Ben, was killed by a drunk driver in June of 2011.), and with the help of others, they felt led to start First Hour Grief Response (FHGR) whose mission is to: “Provide free guidance and compassionate support for people who have suffered the sudden loss of a loved one.”

We learn “grief left unaddressed can lead to anger, aggression, deep depression, substance abuse, divorce, and even suicide.” FHGR, Inc. makes it their goal to “help grievers take the path toward hope and healing.”

They offer help over the loss of a child, spouse, parent, friend, or loss by suicide.  Multiple resources for counseling, books, legal assistance, workshops, funeral homes and planning, clergy and churches, etc. are available on their website.  Their office in Louisville is at 4055 Shelbyville Road, Suite B, 40207. You can reach them at (502) 791-9938.

This non-profit is a beautiful visual of 2 Corinthians 1:4, “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”

The website, www.firsthourgrief.org also offers a weekly blog covering all kinds of topics. Two of my favorite sections in their flyer is also on their website for when you’re talking to a friend who’s just lost their loved one:

Karen said many organizations are jumping on board, spreading the word about FHGR, Inc., including a grief support group starting at Northeast Christian Church in the NECC Student Lobby building on January 22nd next year.

Our meeting was timely with it being year-end, should you be looking for other entities to donate to prior to December 31st.  (Their approval to become a non-profit just happened in November.) Please consider helping this well thought out and prayed for organization.  My guess is you can think of several friends or loved ones who could benefit from FHGR, Inc.

And as always, may I recommend a book you don’t want to miss which will bless you with an abundance of hope?  Unshakable Hope:  Building our Lives on the Promises of God by Max Lucado.

Chapter 14 gifts us with Hebrews 6:19, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”

Max teaches, “Our anchor, in other words, is set in the very throne room of God. We might imagine the anchor attached to the throne itself. It will never break free. The rope will never snap. The anchor is set, and the rope is strong. Why?

Because it is beyond the reach of the devil and under the care of Christ. Since no one can take your Christ, no one can take your hope.” Yes!

We also learn God wants us to “abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13 NKJV) Max says this promised hope is “an unbreakable spiritual lifeline.”  Wow, don’t miss that phrase!

He adds, “Since His promises are unbreakable, your hope will be unshakable.”

Let’s close with Russell Kelso Carter’s rich words from a hymn he wrote after enduring a critical heart condition which initially looked as if he was on the brink of death.  During those frightening days, he recommitted his life to Christ and began leaning on the promises he found in the Bible, living with a healthy heart for another 49 years!

(Second verse and refrain)

“Standing on the promises that cannot fail,

When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,

By the living Word of God I shall prevail,

Standing on the promises of God.

 

Standing, standing,

Standing on the promises of God my Savior;

Standing, standing,

I’m standing on the promises of God.”

 

Friend, whatever you’re going thru’, our Lord is by your side. Friends and helpers like those with First Hour Grief Response are standing by.  Don’t go it alone.  Cling to the promises of God and Savor this Season of Christ’s birth.

Our family wishes you and your family a very Merry Christmas with hope for a blessed New Year.

‘Til next time!

 

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Filed under Book Reviews, Friends, Grief

When Your Proficient Procrastination Backfires… (Part 1 of 2) plus FREE BOOK GIVEAWAY!

Friends! Any procrastinators out there? I thought I was at a professional, proficient level until three recent occurrences taught me otherwise…

I’ve been a practicing procrastinator since college. (Scary math:  thirty-six years ago. Oh my.) Pulling all-nighters, accompanied by more than one human’s caffeine quota should allow, I scrambled thru’ four years of college with so-so passing grades.

This past April, a new friend of John’s sent him a One Year Bible published by the folks at Walk Through the Bible, called The Daily Walk Bible:  Explore God’s Path to Life. This Bible is in the New International Version. Ever the optimist, John jumped in regardless of the fact that January was way in the past.

I have several friends who’ve read thru’ the Bible in a year’s time, some more than once. I confess I’ve successfully avoided  it until now. Plus, I concluded that if, and that’s a big IF I were to attempt such, I’d much prefer to read it in the New Living Translation.

I toted John’s new Bible with me when I visited Liz Curtis Higgs one day, showing it to her.  I was relieved to discover she was in the same boat as me, not having bitten the bullet to take on such a project.  She was also in agreement that if she did jump in, she, too, would prefer the New Living Translation.

Fast forward to Mother’s Day weekend.  Gordy and Lauren were in town and the one request I uttered was for Gordy to go thru’ his college “stuff”, still in his old room. (Trying to be tactful here.)

The piles stressed me out every time I walked by his room. (He might have a few procrastinator skills in him too given he’s been out of college six years.)

Mission accomplished, all he left for me to go thru’ was a pile of books. Later that day, I divvied them up into books to be taken to the Christian Book Nook (They’re at 2116 S. Preston St. in Louisville.), while the others will be donated to the Little Free Libraries in town.

When I reached the bottom of the pile, one super thick book stopped me in my tracks.  Get ready for this: It was The One Year Bible.  Guess which version?  Oh yes, it was in the New Living Translation.

Having no recollection of having bought this book, I opened the first page. There, in my Mother’s handwriting, was her name:  Anita Mills. I nearly dropped it like a hot potato.

I dashed down the stairs to show John.  He said, “Wow, now what are you going to do?”

“Well,” I hesitated, “I may start in 2019.”

Now on a roll of decluttering, I made one more round of checking for books to donate or sell, stopping in Woody’s old room. I found a few to clear out the shelves, stopping at a thin, purple, paperback book.  This time I gasped when I read the cover:  No More Excuses! An almost too-practical guide to reading through your Bible—Especially for Women by Pam Gillaspie.

“What?” I hollered out loud, now rushing down the stairs again to show John. We then opened the title page, and Pam, the author, had signed the book for me, see below:

I have zero recollection of this book, either, much less how these books have been in our house for nearly eight years without my knowing about them.  Either my Mom is shouting down from Heaven to me, or the Lord is saying, “It is time you read my Word ALL THE WAY THROUGH.”

John grinned and said, “NOW what are you going to do?”

To which I’m ashamed to say, I replied, “I’ll think about it.” (CAN YOU SAY, “STUBBORN-AS-A-MULE?”)

The following day I drove to Lexington as I was meeting my buddy, Nancy Sleeth, to walk and have lunch.  I toted the two books to show her and find out if she’d read thru’ the Bible before.

She’s done so nearly every year (of course she has), however this year she had not, being busy with editing Matthew’s new book.  She quickly offered, “You know, I’ve really missed my daily readings.  My One Year Bible is EXACTLY LIKE YOURS!”

Before I could comment, she said, “Let’s do this together!  I’m ready to jump back in!”

Now what do you say to that? I stammered, “Uh, well, ok…when do you want to start?  July 1st?” (We were at the end of May by this time.)

“Nope,” Nancy said quite matter of factly, followed by a declaration:  “Let’s start June 1st!” I had no argument left in me…

Matthew prayed a commissioning prayer over both of us, reminding us God’s grace will cover us when we miss a day here and there.  Is God in the details or what?

Not wanting Liz to feel left out (!!!), I decided she needed a Bible just like Nancy’s and mine.  Dubbing it an “early birthday gift”, I told her the story and invited her to join Nancy and me.

God bless her, Liz jumped in head first, joining us on the Summer Solstice, and so, now we are three. (Fun sidebar: The day we celebrated her bday early, Liz and I went and had our nails done. Don’t hers look beautiful in the below pic? And an even better sidebar: CND Nails gives the best pedicures EVER in their 26 new chairs. Call (502)894-4445 if you live in or near Louisville. You’ll never leave the chair!) Back to our new mission…

Friends, there’s NOTHING like accountability. I’d LOVE for you to jump in with us, with whatever version you prefer. 

Comment “Count me in!” if you’d like to join Liz, Nancy and me. Your name will go into a drawing over the next two weeks (more to this story next week). One lucky person will win a copy of the same One Year Bible we’re reading.

Pray about it. I’ll give you more reasons for jumping in with us next week.

’Til next time!

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Filed under Bible Studies, Book Reviews, Friends, Scripture

Terrific Tidbits From This Year’s Triple Crown Winner…

Friends!  How exciting was this year’s Belmont Stakes with Kentucky’s newest star horse, Justify?  Already victorious in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, suspense built all the way up to June 9th’s last leg of the Triple Crown, finding millions of us glued to the television not to mention those in attendance at the race, all of our hearts pounding…

Much to our delight, Justify and his jockey, Mike Smith, pulled it off for the win.  PLUS Justify was the second horse for trainer, Bob Baffert, to win the Triple Crown since 2015. (American Pharaoh)

I was thrilled to discover Eric Metaxas invited Elliott Walden into his studio on Monday, June 11th for the first hour of the show. (www.metaxastalk.com ). Elliott is the current President, CEO, and Racing Manager at WinStar Farms in Versailles, Kentucky. (www.winstarfarm.com )

Also, in the studio was Lisa Troutt, wife of WinStar Farm’s owner, Kenny Troutt.

We’ve been blessed to know Elliott over the years when his boys and our youngest son, Woody, played football together at Christian Academy. Fast forward a few years and my John got to be with Elliott again. They were two of ten men Bob Russell spearheaded to attend the first Businessmen’s Retreat at Country Lake Christian Retreat Center in Indiana.  (www.bobrussell.org ) Bob’s hosted three so far, and they’re planning on more.

Bob’s been mentoring young pastors from all over the country, teaching monthly retreats for several years since he retired from Southeast Christian Church. He also wanted to do the same for Christian men in the marketplace.

My John maintains their experience was worth a small fortune.  Bob brought in successful business entrepreneurs  and other ministers to share some of their insight as part of the program. Since their gathering, Elliott often sends out devotions he crafts, always centering around a Scripture verse to share with their fellow attendees.

In the radio interview, Eric begins talking with Elliott, sharing how he and his wife, Suzanne, enjoyed the race immensely. When he heard jockey  Mike Smith give all the Glory to his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Eric shouted out a huge “Hallelujah!”

He continues by saying, “I’m a Jesus freak.” To which Elliott says, “So am I.”

Eric said, “I know that.” Christian fellowship at its finest, live on the air!

Elliott proceeds to show how Mike Smith truly walks the walk in his faith, always exalting the Lord and not himself. You’ll learn some jaw dropping tidbits throughout the interview PLUS you’ll get to hear from Mike Smith as well.  Learning of Mike’s faith and witness is heartwarming. What an encouragement to all of us!

A few examples you’ll want to listen for:

How long was Elliott a horse trainer before he got the opportunity to work for WinStar?
Who names these horses?
How do they come up with the names? (This part is fascinating.)
How much does Justify weigh?
How much does Mike Smith weigh? (Aren’t we glad we’re not all jockeys who have to STEP ON THE SCALE before every race?!!!)
How did Elliott wind up in the horse business?
How did Elliott beat Bob Baffert out of a win for another potential Triple Crown many years ago?
How long has Mike Smith been a Christian?
Hear why Mike thinks the Lord has blessed this horse so much…
Will Justify run in more horse races?
How much longer will Mike Smith, now 52, ride?

Run, don’t walk to your nearest iPad or phone or laptop and listen up.  You’ll be so glad you did.

To God be the glory.

‘Til next time!

 

 

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Filed under Friends, Kentucky Derby

When You Flunk Generosity 101… (Inspirational Antidote from Sherry C. Leavell)

Friends! Have you ever been the recipient of a pay-it-forward scenario?  Or perhaps you started a giving chain in a McDonald’s drive-thru…

One very cold Monday morning, sportin’ a severe attitude, I had to haul myself way out east for a mole check with my dermatologist. Who wants to do that, much less on a cold Monday morning?

Further aggravating the situation, my rushing around left me no time to eat breakfast.  Horrors.

Appointment finished, I hightailed it to McDonald’s for a not-so-nutritious-but-oh-so-good bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit.  Surely the unsweet tea canceled the biscuit’s calories?

Fishing a five-dollar bill out of my wallet, I pulled up to pay.

The drive-thru employee said, “The car ahead of you paid for your meal, ma’am. Have a nice day!”

Stunned, I could barely articulate, “Wow! Thank you.”

Still holding my five-dollar bill, I grabbed my breakfast and drove on.

Oh dear.  Why didn’t I give the guy my five and offer to pay for the person behind me?  I’m ashamed to say it never crossed my mind…until I pulled out of the parking lot.

I blew it.  Period.

I rationalized, “That has never happened to me before.  No wonder I couldn’t think on my feet.” Oh brother.

Later that day I picked up dinner for our friends Liz and Bill.  As I sat down at their table, I relayed my gaffe. Bill confirmed my act, “Wow, you broke the chain!”  Yes, well, that helped tremendously. We all laughed in spite of ourselves.

Oh, but then I rationalized again, “Well, at least I’m taking dinner to friends.”

Bottom line?

Grace wins.

Guilt loses.

Shame evaporates.

Lesson learned.

Enough of my saga, allow me to introduce you to the perfect antidote for when you flunk generosity 101.  My dear friend, Sherry Leavell, has just written a marvelous little book that packs a punch.  The book?

Grateful Living:  30 Days to GRATITUDE

Sherry’s written thirty short devotionals which offer help via God’s Word along with excellent questions and ideas on how to apply these Scriptures to our daily lives.  I’ve highlighted, underlined, and dog-eared many a page.

Pictured here left to right are: Yours Truly, Sherry Leavell, and Judy Russell. This was a fun rendezvous for lunch in Fort Myers, FL one day in January while our hubbies played golf.

Sherry shows us the longer we walk with the Lord, the more our gratitude grows.  She takes us on a thirty-day adventure causing us to consider, “Because Jesus paid it all, and all to Him we owe (like the hymn says), what is the best way to live that out?”

Grateful Living also includes a gratitude journal in the back with thirty spots to record small or big things you’re grateful for.  Sherry’s own experience, from a challenge thanks to Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts, profoundly impacted her gratefulness.

I’ll share a few of my favorite entries, and pray you run as fast as you can to The Living Word Bookstore ( www.livingword.org ) or call the gals there to order: (502) 253-8220. You may also contact Sherry via her email:  Sherry.Leavell@gmail.com .

My first favorite entry is #16:  Life as a Bouquet. Scripture given is Psalm 86:12:

Sherry tells a story about Corrie Ten Boom and how Corrie handled receiving accolades for her books and speaking engagements. She accepted these “as if they were flowers. She would present all these compliments (flowers) to the Lord as His bouquet at the end of each day.”

I love that visual! Sherry adds, “Each success, victory and compliment can be accepted as a flower to be arranged in a lovely bouquet and handed to Jesus on a daily basis…sharing it’s Christ’s love which compels us to love others.”

I didn’t expect my toes to be stepped on, but after my faux pas at McDonald’s, clearly I still have much to learn.  In entry #17, Sherry has the gall to suggest (kidding, sorta) we are ALL missionaries.  Yikes.

She proves this by giving us Matthew 28:19,

We readers learn about a young missionary named Val who said, “I keep thinking about what you said that many folks have never met a missionary before. I feel honored and privileged that the Lord has called us to this and then provided, so it can happen. But I hope we all realize that we are all missionaries.” (Please take a moment to pray for our dear friends, Val, Clark, and Hannah Sleeth who are serving at Tenwek Hospital in Africa. www.wgm.org )

Sherry gently reminds us, “As followers of Christ, we’re ambassadors for Him…missionaries who are to share the Good News of Jesus Christ every day, everywhere, with everyone we meet.”

Not only does each entry begin with a Scripture, it also ends with a prayer.  These are so helpful as many times I can’t come up with the best take-away from a devotional and Sherry helps us do just that.

Entry #17 is the perfect example of applying the Word to our life:

Three more of my favorite entries are:  #20 – Walking Like Jesus (Glean helpful ideas to take with you the next time you walk with a friend), #22 – Seeking Answers (You won’t believe how specifically God answered one of Sherry’s prayer requests. Discover Liz Curtis Higgs’ connection in this entry. Liz is also who challenged Sherry only a year ago to write this book!), and #28 – Living the Life That is Truly Life (Uncover Sherry’s incredible bad timing with her first job, you won’t believe it! Plus grab lifelong advice from Jess and Angela Correll. www.angelacorrell.com )

Finally, here are 3 of a gazillion pearls Sherry equips us with:

Grab your own copy of Grateful Living and see which entry is your favorite!  May all of our eyes be opened to grateful living, passing Generosity 101 with flying colors.

’Til next time!

P.S.  Sherry’s first book is one you moms don’t want to miss:  A Mother’s Mission:  Thirty Thoughts for Thirty Days.

 

 

 

 

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More Christmas Gift Ideas! New devo’ by Liz Curtis Higgs and Beautiful Custom-Made Mirrors! (Part 2 of 4)

Friends! Oh, each week leading up to Christmas gets better and this week I’ve got TWO gift ideas just for you!

Liz Curtis Higgs’ newest book, 31 Proverbs to Light Your Path would make a spectacular gift for your friends or family.  The book’s jacket gives us a teaser saying it’s “A daily devotional and small group Bible study gift book brimming with encouragement.” You can take that to the bank a la Lizzie…

Each of Liz’s thirty-seven books, upon launch, is my current favorite du jour, but this one, call me crazy, is really, really, special—in a bizarre-o way. Most of you know Liz was diagnosed with cancer this past summer. She had completed the manuscript for this book prior to her diagnosis.

When you read 31 Verses, it is uncanny how the Lord went before Liz, as if preparing her for what was ahead.  Each chapter gives me chills, especially “Tomorrow, Tomorrow.”

In true Lizzie fashion, Liz dissects these verses, word by word and phrase by phrase, showing us different translations of the Bible which are eye-opening. I’ve highlighted and dog-eared many a page.

The verse in this chapter?

Liz reminds us, “A thousand years after Solomon wrote this verse in Proverbs, Jesus offed the same wisdom:

While statistics can scare us silly, Liz, a lovely ambassador for hope, tells us point blank, “I am not a woman without hope.” In the wake of chemo’ and radiation, Liz will be boldly speaking about “Endless Hope” in her talks for Prison Fellowship events, pointing us to the One who promises hope:

Each chapter concludes with a fun little activity called, “One Minute, One Step.”  It’s a suggestion to help you grab onto the concept of the Scripture verse Liz has just written about.  These are easy and make you say, “Huh, why haven’t I thought of that before?”

At the end of the book are 2-3 Bible study questions per chapter which you can do on your own, or with your Bible study group or Small Group.  They’re thought provoking and rich with application.

I could never choose a favorite chapter, but I can give you one more peek into one more chapter because I have yet another special gift idea for you which relates directly to this verse!

This comes from the chapter called “Looking Glass” and the verse Liz helps us with is Proverbs 27:19,

Each chapter also concludes with a prayer and the one from this chapter is the perfect lead in to our next gift idea:

Amen.

So, while we’re talking about our appearance, allow me to introduce you to a darling, young entrepreneur by the name of Nicole Tarpoff. She is creating custom designed mirrors in all sizes and colors.

For an early Christmas gift, Gordy, Lauren and Lauren’s Mom, Pam, presented John Jr., and Diana with a gift during Thanksgiving.  They’d given Nicole a picture of our granddaughter (Well, ok, their niece, too. LOL), Claire Elizabeth. Nicole prayed for Claire while she made this mirror and included a personal prayer especially for her on the back of the mirror.

Nicole started her ministry by saying, “An object that the enemy once used for destruction in my life is the very same object that the Lord is using to birth a ministry.”

She adds, “Every mirror is prayerfully designed to be a piece that shifts the atmosphere in the room. These pieces are to serve as a reminder we’re called to reflect Him. We were made for love, we were created to serve, and we were designed to bring Him glory. But it starts here. It starts by us boldly claiming who we are in Him, declaring over ourselves the very truths that He has spoken over us from the beginning. This is more than mirrors, it’s a movement.” AMEN

Here’s our little Claire when she received her mirror:

Here’s a snippet of the prayer Nicole wrote out for Claire (…and may I add there were several tears flowing down all of our cheeks during the reading.)

 

I recently heard Andy Stanley talking about when people do something nice for your children (or grandchildren in this case)…You discover it brings you honor and you never forget it.  It blesses your socks off and warms your heart. It’s the BEST. Who are you thinking about who could be blessed by one of these mirrors?

If you’d like to contact Nicole about making a mirror for your daughter or granddaughter or niece, her email is:  Nicole.tarpoff@uky.edu  She’s also on Instagram under her name and you may direct message her @nicoletarpoff.

May you and your families savor the wonder of this Christmas season.

‘Til next time!

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Filed under Book Reviews, Family, Friends, Grandchildren, Holidays

Who’s in Your Balcony? (Encouraging book: “Balcony People” by Joyce Landorf Heatherley)

Friends! This is a post I’m bringing back from three years ago, its’ concept of being a “balcony person” well worth repeating should you have missed it. I pray you’re blessed by it.

Enjoy!


Oh, the days of cheerleading.

Peer pressure at its’ peak.

Mine peaked in Middle School as we know it now.  In my school days, (when we had to walk a mile in the snow to school) we attended “Junior High”, which included sixth thru’ ninth grades.

Seemingly every girl in eighth or ninth grade tried out for cheerleading.

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Clueless, I signed up.

What, pray tell, had I gotten myself into?  We had to attend several practice clinics.  Quickly, try-outs were upon us.

Bad-n-sad memories of not making it in eighth grade surface.  Oh, but then came ninth grade and by some miracle, I made it.  You haven’t “made it” ‘til you make the cheerleading squad.  Or, at least that’s what appeared to be true.

Shallow, naïve, junior-higher that I was, our new cheerleading squad became my new friends.  Dumping my old friends for girls I didn’t even know was my “M.O.”   Horrors.

We quickly learned new cheers, cheering for football and basketball games.  Humorous given I had no knowledge of sports, much less which cheer to do, etc.  Follower…Very insecure follower.

So, had I known of the concept we’ll discuss today, that of “Balcony People”, I’d have told you my tally was a big, round, fat zero.  Oh, but wait ‘til you see how many we have!!! Hang with me…

One of my favorite gifts I received for Christmas this past year, a must-read, is Balcony People by Joyce Landorf Heatherley.   Joyce has the gift of opening your eyes to people in your life.  She talks about people with the gift of affirmation: Those who go around affirming others, not dragging them down.

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Those dragging you down are known as  “evaluators”, also known as “basement people”.  Know any of these?  Making a mental list?

“Basement people” spew snide remarks such as, “you’ll never make it…you can’t do that…”, inflicting judgment, damage, and unnecessary critiques.  Note the lower location of this moniker. (!!!)

One woman wrote to Joyce and asked, “Please keep reminding us how much God loves us.  We need that love, not the constant judgment we pour on ourselves.”

We got a large dose of judgment last week (check out “When Grace Rescues You From Judgment”), so this week we’ll discover “Balcony People”.

Joyce asks, “Who is the special affirmer who catches quick glimpses of the flames from the fires of your potential and tells you so?  Who, by his or her words, helps you to respect and believe in your own value as a person?”  We can dub these sweet souls our personal cheerleaders.

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Joyce douses any doubt you may have should you think you don’t have any affirmers.  She said, “I have known only a few genuine affirmers, but one affirmer is worth a thousand evaluators.”

She adds, “The need for affirming one another is crucial to our process of becoming real, not phony or hypocritical, people of God.  Affirming brings authenticity and credibility to our faith as it is lived day by day…Otherwise, we miss one of the main concepts of the Holy Scriptures—to love one another and to bear one another’s burdens.”

These affirmers, or “Balcony  People”, “practically hang over the rail, cheering us on.  As you begin to think of who in your life may be in your balcony, you’ll find it fun to discover these people do not have to be alive.” Do you love that?

One of Joyce’s friends shared his list of Balcony People: Number One:  The Lord (think about THAT!!!),  Paul the Apostle, and David the Psalmist, for starters.  Joyce added Peter the Apostle as well as her Mother who had also gone Heavenward to her list.

One aspect I love from Joyce is she includes her children on her list.  I’d like to think our boys and their wives are in my balcony.  That completely warms my heart.  You?

I have to say my biggest cheerleader/balcony person is my husband, John.  Love is blind comes to mind, God bless him.  (Kidding.  Sorta.)  Amazing grace.

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Jumping backwards to Middle School or Junior High, I can tell you I was not in my Mother’s balcony.  I gave her enough trouble to bond with her “basement people”  for years.  Awful.  By the same token if you have middle schoolers right now, never fear, for they will mature to cheer you on later.  Pray hard.

Joyce gives us one of my all-time favorite verses:  Hebrews 12:1 “telling us to run with patience (and perseverance) the race that’s set before us ‘since we have such a huge crowd of men of faith watching us from the grandstands’”.

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With that in mind, here’s the kicker to this whole concept of “Balcony People”…

Joyce admits, “Listing the people who were in my balcony, I concluded, was only half of what should be written.  So I got out another sheet of paper and put down all the names of people to whom I’d be a “balcony person.”  She continues, “It was time to concentrate on my balcony people and on being a balcony person to others.”  Whoa.  That turns the tables a tad, huh?

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Taken from Liz Curtis Higgs Facebook page, “‘The Choir’ by Ofra Zimbalista, three life-size statues made of painted aluminum in 1995. You can almost hear them singing…”

Joyce teaches us to look for and cultivate the following three traits of a “Balcony Person”:

1 – “They Love.”

2 – “They Listen.”

3 – “They Care from the Heart.”

Joyce directs us to the entire sixteenth chapter of Romans where Paul is cheering numerous people onward.  Joyce calls it the “Biblical ‘balcony person’ passage.”  She says her “favorite balcony motto from Paul is ‘whatever you do, do it with kindness and love.’” (I Corinthians 16:14)

When Jesus was juggling the disciples’ arguments over who was the greatest among them in Luke 9, He gave them the formula, as Joyce calls it, “for being the best manYour care for others is the measure of your greatness.”

 

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In closing, Joyce shares a memory of her grandson being very fearful of an unknown noise:  A big garbage truck screeched to a halt in front of their house.  Joyce said, “James looked up to her yelling, ‘Hug! Hug!’ And the look on his face screamed, ‘Hurry!  Hurry!’”  She added, “I remember reaching down for him and wallpapering his little body to my chest.”  Precious…

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From that experience, she paralleled the noisy “pandemonium of this evil world making us desperate to be:

Hugged,

Rescued

Home safe…

We are shouting through our panic, ‘Hurry!  Hurry!’”

Then she poses, “What is the frightening noise in your life?…

Is it the noise of:

Cancer

Divorce

Rejection

Discouragement

Depression

Loneliness…?

Whatever is pounding loudly in your mind, your body, or your soul,

LET ME BE YOUR BALCONY PERSON.

LET ME HUG YOU WITH MY WORDS.

LET ME WALLPAPER YOUR SOUL TO MINE.”

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Joyce reminds us of the Apostle Paul’s words:  “Long ago, even before He made the world, God chose us to be His very own.” (Check out the whole passage:  Ephesians 1:4-14)

Joyce further encourages: “You and I are His children.   I believe in you.  I’m leaning way, way over your balcony railing; I’m waving my coat above my head, and I’m yelling above the frightening noises of your world, You can do it!  Keep at it!  Keep on!  God’s here beside me; yes that’s right, He’s here, and He’s not sitting down.  YOU  are His child, He is YOUR Father.  and we are BOTH in your balcony cheering YOU on together!”

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I pray this concept of Balcony People has encouraged you…

Who’s in your balcony?

Whose balcony are you in?

May God guide us all to be more attentive to those whose paths we cross.

‘Til next time!

 

 

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More on Gathering Around a Table with Help from Shauna Niequist’s book: BREAD AND WINE

Friends!  The past few weeks we’ve been looking around with mission-minded eyes from our back yards to our front yards, perhaps plopping down turquoise picnic tables in them.

This week we’re going to mosey on inside, and try a few recipes in the kitchen, making some unsuspecting guests at our table very, very happy.

Even if you’re challenged in the cooking department like me, you’ll be so inspired to try what author Shauna Niequist suggests in her super fun book, Bread and Wine—A Love Letter to Life Around the Table (with recipes).

Shauna’s honest, no-nonsense style and wit make this book a page-turner.  Divided into three parts, most chapters, which are lovely vignettes, include a recipe.

All her chocolate recipes call for my favorite ingredient:  dark chocolate. The one I most desperately wish to try ASAP is her three-ingredient “Simplest Dark Chocolate Mousse”.  I know…  She dubs it “cheater mousse”.  LOL.

Sensing some of her readers may be cooking impaired, Shauna offers entertaining tips, a list for what to stock your pantry with, and menu ideas.  It’s the best!  Plus, for those of you who need to eat gluten free, she either shows you how to make the dish GF, or it already is GF.

You’ll become acquainted with Shauna and her husband, Aaron, their two boys, Henry and Mac and many of their unique friends. Her Supper Club sounds like a blast.

Her extended family makes cameos as well and you’ll get a feel for how real they are. In reality, I’m sure it’s tough to escape from under the microscope of her Dad’s mega church, Willow Creek.  (www.willowcreek.org )

Also an accomplished author, Shauna’s Dad, Bill Hybels, clearly loves his family.  Getting a peek into their family is so sweet.  Their devotion to one another is beautiful.

I love how Shauna calls her Mother, Lynne, “a global soul: a poet, an activist, a woman of creativity and conviction and vision, a woman I aspire to be like in a million ways.” Lynne is also a fantastic author.

Just as author Kristin Schell showed us easy ways to be hospitable via a turquoise table, Shauna does the very same at her dining room table.  She proclaims, “Fuss not!”, blissfully chucking perfectionism out the window.

This is how she puts her foot down:  “You can decide that every time you open your door, it’s an act of love, not performance or competition or striving. You can decide that every time people gather around your table, your goal is nourishment, not neurotic proving…” I need to make that quote into a sign and hang it in our kitchen!

Here, Shauna’s readying to prepare a meal…

My Mother was a long-suffering perfectionist.  When John and I would go home to Lexington for dinner, she’d spend the entire afternoon in the kitchen.  We’d serve our plates and she insisted we “go on and eat.”  We complied, but by the time she fixed her plate and came in to eat, we were all nearly done. There we sat.

One petite example:  Jelly was never served in a jelly jar, it was presented in a crystal bowl, silver spoon at the ready.  To this day, I still laugh when I whip out the ketchup and barbecue sauce bottles, salad dressing bottles, etc. and set them on the counter for everyone to self-serve.  (Mother would be horrified. Shauna would say, “Yes!  You can do this!”)

Above and beyond striving for simplicity, Shauna and I could be buddies on many levels. In addition to being a mom of boys, I adore her love for bread.  I’d go one step further and confess my love for bread and butter. (Any of you Whole 30 advocates out there are cringing.)

Shauna explains her title beautifully:  “…I am a bread-and-wine person. By that I mean I’m a Christian, a person of the body and blood, a person of the bread and wine…The two together are the sacred and the material at once, the heaven and earth, the divine and the daily.” To me, that makes communion that much more special.

Another of many favorite quotes in the book is: “Many of the most sacred moments in my life, the ones in which I feel God’s presence most profoundly, when I feel the goodness of the world most arrestingly, take place around the table.

Something extraordinary happens when we…

Slow down,

Open our homes,

Look into one another’s faces, and

Listen to one another’s stories around the table.”

We also learn early on Shauna bravely put herself in a culinary boot camp.  I applaud her effort. Her experience filters throughout the book in an encouraging if-I-can-do-this-you-can-do-this way.

One statement from the Intro’ seems to be a goal of the book. We readers get to see it in action in each of the meals Shauna serves.  I see it in three parts:

What makes me feel alive and connected to God’s voice and spirit in this world is creating opportunities for the people I love to

(1) Rest and

(2) Connect and

(3) Be fed at my table.” (I added the numbers.)

Dash  to your local bookstore.  Find this book and flip thru’ it.  My guess is you’ll see enough recipes you’ll want to try, especially when you learn the stories behind them…even better!  Bread and Wine would make a great gift as well.

‘Til next time!

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