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The Parables of Our Lives: March Madness

This is one of my favorite seasons. Not only does the earth appear to be waking up from a long sleep, it is college basketball playoff season. As I followed the brackets along with the rest of basketball fanatics, I was also following friends on FB who were working in their yards and getting ready for spring.

What does spring preparation and basketball have to do with each other? Well, believe it or not, there is a parable to consider.

Tevin and Lauren walked around the nature trail for one final lap. As they slowed their pace they noticed a group of businessmen leaning over a log. Suddenly one of the men jumped back while another told them all to be careful because there were fire ants in the log. Tevin and Lauren approached the men and saw that ants had covered the right side of one of their jackets. Tevin told them to remain calm as he began to help the ant covered man remove his jacket. 

As Tevin removed the man’s jacket and shirt it became 

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obvious the man was covered with ant bites. Lauren quickly told one of the men to call for an ambulance. The man with ant bites was obviously allergic to fire ant bites because his arm and back were starting to blister.

After the ambulance transported the ant bite victim followed his companions, Tevin and Lauren sat on a nearby park bench.

“Wow. I’ve never seen anything like that before,” Lauren said.

“Me either,” Tevin shivered. “I’ve never seen so many ant bites. He is going to be miserable for some days.”

“I’m sure. But did you notice that he never actually touched the log. The ants covered his arm and back, but not his chest and legs? How could be that be?”

“I don’t know, but it would seem that he needs to avoid places where there are fire ants.”

“Yeah. He underestimated the power of those tiny creatures.”

As I was writing this parable I was half watching basketball highlights. The ants in this story aren’t the only things that are underestimated.

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Several teams made it to the “Big Dance” this year and caused some stings of their own.

I’m sure Virginia had plans to be still in the bracket as well as Houston and TCU.

Loyola-Chicago, Michigan, and Syracuse weren’t on the list of many 2nd round predictions, but they made it to the final 16.

 

 

The ants in the parable and the upsetting teams have a few things in common:

  1. Vision (They had a place they wanted to be.)
  2. Strategy (They had a plan for the opposition.)
  3. Determination (They didn’t let the opposition steal their place.)

We may feel small and insignificant, but we all have potential to make a difference in the world around us. We can do big things for God even if we have failed in the past. The Lord has given us everything we need that leads to success (2Peter 1). He has given all of us the ability to dream. He teaches us how to fulfill the dreams He places in us. He has equipped us with His Holy Spirit who will guide us (John 16:12 – 15).

We have power to protect what He has given us.

Victory and success is ours if we don’t quit when we face struggles and opposition.

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7 Things Courageous People Will Do

David was a brave warrior for the Lord. He was bold in his prayer life as well as in battle. He is our inspiration and example for how to walk before the Lord in the light of life.

Psalm 56

Courage

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14 Days of Blessings: Day 2

This time of year can be very stressful for many reasons. People who have lost loved ones may not be feeling very festive. Others are experiencing financial hardships and may feel they are missing out on the gifting. Still others are recovering from illnesses and broken relationships. Many are going through the motions of celebrating, but missing the true gift of this season. Whatever your condition, you are a gift to this world. You have a destiny of blessing others.

Your future of hope is much like a beautifully wrapped gift. The outside of the package looks inviting, but covers the true gift inside. Receiving your destiny will take you through the same process as unwrapping a gift. Yes, it is a process.

The process requires removing the facade and excess wrapping.  Letting go of  pain and regret is not easy, but is necessary for God to complete His perfect work in you. He has given you a heart to love, hands to give, and His likeness to show the world. What’s inside is what the world is waiting for. Your circumstances won’t last long. Put your hope in God. He promised to never leave you nor forsake you. Day 2 Blessing

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Yours to Give Away

Love today is yours

To give away.

You have the power in your hands

To fill the atmosphere

With love that is so dear.

A laugh, a smile, a hug

Filled with love has power

To change the world.

Give it away…..

Let it flow where ever you go

And watch the transformation

See the revelation

Hear the confirmation.

Someone was waiting for what you were holding in your hands.

 

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Native Plant Garden Glass Recreation Center Tyler, Texas

Remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose.   Acts 11:23

 

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Change the World with Love and a Vision

This morning as I was meditating and preparing for a prayer meeting, Holy Spirit lead me to look up Trenton, New Jersey. At first I was confused, but I obeyed and found an article written in the Trentonian (January 2016) featuring the thoughts of a known gangster, Earlie Harrell. Harrell is known for his association with a popular gang, but what makes him distinctive to me is his wisdom about what makes young men join a gang and why they resort to crime for their livelihood. Harrell says poverty is the reason and the lack of an education is the cause of poverty.

I am not surprised by Harrell’s conclusion, but I believe many of our young people would be surprised that a gang member encourages getting an education to avoid poverty and a life of crime. Harrell didn’t quote any scriptures, but his philosophy can be found in Proverbs 4:5 – 7. Getting wisdom and understanding is essential to successful living.

As an educator I encounter children from all walks of life. I have students from very wealthy families who are blessed with the latest and greatest things and they are clothed and fed with the finest. I also have students who live in near squalor conditions and their only access to running water and hot meals is found at school. Although their home lives are different, they have many things in common.

They are all capable of learning. They all desire to be loved and accepted. They all want to succeed and they all have a God-designed purpose. Interestingly enough, they can also have behavior issues that don’t reflect their potential as productive citizens capable of sustaining a strong community.

It is those behaviors that often affect their learning and cast a negative light on their personalities. Teachers get frustrated with constant redirection and try various types of discipline strategies. Most strategies work on most students, but some require a more creative approach–a Christ approach.

I am challenging myself and others who are blessed with the responsibility of working with difficult children and adults, to change a life with love and a vision.

Loving others is one of the greatest commandments and we have learned by Christ’s example how to show His love. When we are emotional I think we forget about the vision part that goes along with love. Christ loved us before we were born. He saw into the future and sometimes we forget that His disciples had character flaws.

Some wore arrogant and felt entitled. Others were greedy, doubtful, and quick-tempered. He didn’t judge them as losers. He did the opposite–He loved them and He showed them what they could be. He showed them their potential, taught them by example, and then gave them opportunities to practice what He was teaching. He called them by their purpose–His disciples, His friends.

That is our challenge–to speak to others as if they are walking in their divine purpose and potential. I love the Good News Translation of Proverbs 18:21, “What you say can preserve life or destroy it; so you must accept the consequences of your words.” If I want to see all of my students grow into women and men who make a positive influence on their community, I know that I have to help them see their potential. I have to speak to them as if they were in the future.

Jesus said to His disciples before they were sent, “You are the salt of the earth,” “You are the light of the world,” “You can feed them” “You will do the works that I do, and greater works”. He even spoke to our future. He prayed for us before we were born (John 17:20-21). We were on His mind then and we are still on His mind because He is still praying for us (Hebrews 7:21).

Let’s rise to the challenge. Let’s speak to the potential of this generation and the next:

You may not see it yet
But I see who you are.
I see your potential
You're not what you've done so far.

The plan for your life lingers
Waiting for you to realize
The unlimited possibilities
You have locked inside.
Your potential is inside
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Uncluttered Part 13: Rest, Reflect, & Refresh

My favorite thing about the weekend is I get to rest, reflect, and refresh. When Monday comes I am ready to start again. This weekend during my reflections, I was reminded of conversations with several people who want to see changes in their life but they don’t know how to start.

I believe that we can apply my 3R’s for a great weekend to making changes that we desire in our lives.

Rest

The process for change requires us to rest.  We need to rest from worry, stress, self recrimination, unforgiveness, and the pressures we place on ourselves to be perfect. Resting helps us quiet our minds and gain new perspective.

What is causing us stress? What makes us doubtful of our worthiness to have something better, to dream for a higher call? What grudges are we clinging to that stifles our personal growth? Who are we comparing ourselves to that makes us feel we don’t measure up?

Choosing to rest and let go of everything can help us discover God’s plan for our lives. God intended us to rest. He even gave an commandment for it (Exodus 23:12). Jesus says we can come to Him and He will give us rest (Matthew 11:28 – 30).  Meditating on these words places us in the position to get a fresh look at ourselves and opens the door for reflection.

Reflect

Reflection is a proven strategy to winning battles, learning new skills, and creating something new. There are numerous studies on reflective practices. Experts tell us to use reflection in business, education, and our personal lives when success is our goal. Reflection is also essential for our personal and spiritual growth. Throop (Christianity Today) encourages a reflective approach to learning what the bible says about our lives, our faith, and our purpose.

When we reflect about what we have accomplished, where we’ve been, and our hopes for the future, we can begin setting goals for what comes next. This leads us to a greater sense of purpose and helps us face what lies ahead refreshed and ready to make the changes we want to see.

Refresh

Refreshed doesn’t always mean completely rested, it means we have a new perspective on our lives, our plans, and our dreams. Dictionary.com defines refresh as providing vigor and new energy, stimulating, making fresh again, or refreshing appearance. I really love that they have added this computer definition:

  1. to access (the most recent version of a webpage) from the Internet instead of from the cache:
  2. to display (an image) repeatedly, as on a CRT, in order to prevent fading.
  3. to read and write (the contents of dynamic storage) at intervals in order to avoid loss of data.

I believe the computer definition applies to this message. Do you know the world longs to have access to the latest version of you? You refreshed can bless the world around you. You refreshed can display the love of Christ in your own unique way. You refreshed know when you need to return to the states of rest and reflection so that you don’t lose momentum. You refreshed can see yourself in a new light and appreciate the process of change.

Remember the 3R’s for a great weekend can be applied to  your personal relationships, your work life, and your dreams. Everyone has the power to change. We are never without hope for something better when we intentionally look at where we are and set our minds to making things different.

As this weekend comes to an end, I pray that you have rest, that your reflections lead you to the life Christ paid the price for you to have, and that you face the future refreshed with vigor and new energy.

Step Into a New Life

2 Corinthians 5:17  
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he/she is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

 

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Flowers & Verses 2: You are Free to Live

The blue iris is said to symbolize hope. The butterfly is also a symbol of hope. Many people miss out on a wonderful future because they are stuck in the past.

Free to Live

Don’t let your past hurts, mistakes, and failures stifle your joy today. Forgive yourself and others so you can enjoy the gift of a hope-filled life.

 

Romans 6:6 (NIRV) 
 We know that what we used to be was nailed to the cross with Him.

 

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Uncluttered Part 10: Focus on What Matters

Life is full of missed opportunities. Some of those mishaps cannot be avoided, but others are those of our own making.

I admit I am a tech lover. I crave for enough devices to use in my classroom. I want a new laptop so I can have something faster for writing and creating digital messages. I recently purchased the latest Galaxy phone not because by S5 was broken but because I was drooling for a new device. I was having so much fun getting familiar with the phone that every time my husband walked into the living room to talk to me I was distracted. I even caught myself swiping my screen in church. Shame on me.

I’m not alone in my obsession with my device. Did you see the video clip this weekend of the woman who was so focused on her phone that she fell down an eight foot construction hole?   https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2017/06/09/the-alarming-video-that-may-convince-you-to-never-ever-text-and-walk/?utm_term=.393a60e2deee

The State of Texas finally passed a law that addresses texting and driving. Yay! It’s about time! The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that every day in the United States, more than eight people are killed in crashes that involve a distracted driver. There is another casualty I’m sure they haven’t considered and I know they cannot pass a law to protect it–relationships. If we are going to be distracted by our devices we should expect to miss out on something really great and necessary, building relationships.

Remember when going out to eat involved  conversations? Now we can see people sitting around the table on their phones. Parents are bringing tablets to keep their young children occupied so they can enjoy their meals. Business associates spend meal time checking and answering messages. If you look closely you can see servers and cooks checking their devices as well.

I recently had a conversation with an employment coach who told me they had to remind their clients not to take their cell phones into a job interview. I thought it was interesting that it was necessary to give that advice. The coach said he had a client who didn’t follow his advice and checked his cell phone during an interview. Guess who didn’t get the job?

I’m issuing 3 challenges this week.

First: Count how many times a day you check your device at work and at home.

Second: Count the number of face-to-face conversations you have (personal and business).

If the device wins, maybe we need to revise our relationship with our device.

Third: Be intentional in placing the needs of others first. Resist the temptation to plug in when in the company of others.

I’m going to take the challenge myself because at the end of the day, I don’t want my husband to think my phone is more important than him. I don’t want my son and granddaughters to think I would rather be on my computer or phone more than spend time with them. I don’t want my only contact with my friends to be on social media and I certainly don’t want to be so distracted by my tech toys that I don’t spend time strengthening my relationship with my Creator.

Jesus teaches us in Mark 12:30 & 31, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, with all your strength AND you shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no greater commandment than these.”

If we follow Jesus’s teaching, we will gladly limit our time with our devices in favor of focusing on what matters most. Love. Let us not love with words only, but also with our deeds (1 John 3:18).

Let LOVE be the device we use to show our children they have our unconditional support.

Let LOVE be the device we use at work to be the most productive employee.

Let LOVE be the reason we make phone calls more than we text or “message” on social media.

Let LOVE be the reason for your hope knowing that the Lord loves you and desires to spend time with you.

  • Is your device the first thing you pick up in the morning and the last thing you use at night?
  • What are some steps you can take to focus on what matters most?
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Flowers and Verses 1

Giving flowers is a great way to express your thoughts to the people you care about.

This morning I wanted to give flowers to my followers and  discovered peonies can represent Happy Life. So here’s wishing you a happy life…..

Thinking of you.
Wishing you well.
Praying that peace
And love overtake you!

Peony flowers

Philippians 1:3  – I thank my God for you every time I think of you!

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An “Angry” Message

Tonight I am working on a story for the Reaching for Rain podcast. The story is called Wyatt’s Rain. It is a story about a young man who becomes very angry and bitter. He is having trouble finding a way to express his anger without hurting someone he cares about. He eventually finds hope by creating a campaign against cyber bullying at his school.

The story is still developing, but I thought about some angry messages I have seen on social media lately and wanted to give the world something to think about.

Angry Message

Ephesians 4 (TLB)

26 If you are angry, don’t sin by nursing your grudge. Don’t let the sun go down with you still angry—get over it quickly; 27 for when you are angry, you give a mighty foothold to the devil.