A happy ending? #Notsomuch

Lately I have read several different blogs that had been posted on Facebook, all with the same basic theme:

God doesn’t promise us a happy ending.

Uplifting thought, right?  I’m pretty sure no one wants to meditate on that for very long.  I attend church, serve others and spend time with Jesus every day.  I believe in His goodness and His love for me.  Shouldn’t I get my happy ending?

Apparently not.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about my life.  I was recently in a wreck that totaled my car but left me with a small scratch on my shin.  I have a family who loves me and more worldly possessions than I deserve. I’ve got a great life happening here in little Auburn, Alabama.

But no one’s life is perfect, no matter how it may look to you from where you stand. You struggle, I struggle, we all struggle in this world.  And we think if we are doing all the right things our happy ending will be delivered on a silver platter by Jesus himself.  We think that when we suffer we will one day arrive to that perfect place of happiness on earth that will make all the suffering seem worthwhile.

We might, but then again, we might not.  Following Christ is not always a happy-go-lucky experience.  Pain – real, gut wrenching pain – affects Christians and unbelievers alike.  I don’t know why some people seem to sail through life while others experience unexplainable hardship and grief.  I have friends who are devoted to Christ but have experienced the overwhelming loss of a child.  And why was I born in the land of abundance while other children are born in Africa and will starve to death?

Questions like those truly boggle my mind. If I think about them too long I have to go get the Saran Wrap and wrap it around my head to keep it from exploding.  There’s so much I don’t understand, but I know this: I have way more questions than answers.  And that’s OK.  The Bible is full of people who questioned God. They asked God “Why?” “Why not?” and “Where’s my happy ending?”  Some got answers, some did not.  But they asked the questions and kept their faith.

“These people were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.  God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.”  (Hebrews 11:39-40)  In other words, many of the Bible heroes did not receive on earth what they were expecting.  Were they disappointed?  Probably so.  But they had an eternal perspective – they trusted that God had something better planned for them, something far greater than anything they could experience here on earth.

Cinderella doesn’t always find the glass slipper, and the beast doesn’t always become the handsome prince.  But when we can look beyond earthly rewards and keep our focus on heavenly ones – now that will be the ultimate happy ending.

Blessings,

Leigh

Singing Like Carrie Underwood

I can sing just like Carrie Underwood.  Yep, I can.  Especially when I’m all alone and there’s no one around to tell me any different.  I mean, I sound just like her in my own head!  You believe me, right?  Or do you want some proof?  Do you really take my word for it or do you want to hear me belt out “I Told You So”? (Oh and I do – in my room, in my car – whenever I’m all by my little lonesome…)

Ask anyone in the deep south if they believe in God and they will probably say yes.  Not everyone, but most will.  And I could be complacent, taking them at their word for it, just believing what they say.  And you would think that would provide me with some comfort where I live, a little bit of protection and shelter.

It doesn’t.

Why?  “You believe that there is one God.  Good!  Even the demons believe that…”  (James 2:19)

It isn’t enough to believe God is real, that He sent His son to pay the ultimate price for our sins or that He created the earth.  Even the demons believe that.

So what is enough?  “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James 2:17)  “His faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.” (James 2:22) “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” (James 2:26)

Just like you want proof that I’m as good as Carrie singing “Temporary Home” (which you will never get), we believers need actions to prove what we believe.  If I say I love Jesus then tell a lie, what does that prove?  If I say I worship Him but don’t serve others what does that show the world?  Without actions we are no better than the demons who believe in God.

Thankfully I won’t subject anyone to my singing (my daughter swears I’m tone deaf).  But I will try to live out each day what I believe with a servant’s heart and joy in my spirit.  Living out my belief with words and actions separates me from the demons.

And I just can’t get far enough away from them.

Blessings this Thanksgiving week!

Leigh

My choice? Chocolate!

I have an insatiable sweet tooth.  Dark chocolate Reese’s cups, peanut M&M’s, vanilla ice cream with chocolate syrup… My list is waaaayyyy too long to post.  (Besides, if I keep listing you will probably speed off to Publix and blow your budget stocking up on junk food.)

I’ve been blessed with height and a small frame, so for years I could eat whatever I wanted.  Fattening foods did my weight no harm in college.  And with my first baby I really bounced right back. (But now that second pregnancy was a different story.)

And now I’m in my – um, hmmm – 40’s.  I shouldn’t go around eating whatever I want, even though I still do.  It’s funny how I can be so disciplined in some areas, but put Dove chocolate in front of me and I look like my cat pouncing on a spider.  And my body is not bouncing back the way it used to – my weight is “settling” as my mother would say.

Life is full of choices.  I choose to eat chocolate instead of lose a few pounds and tone up.  I choose to eat 2 cookies instead of work out.  I choose, and I enjoy the reward or suffer the consequence. (Or in this case, enjoy the taste but then suffer the extra weight…)

Moses made a choice, too.  “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharoah’s daughter.  He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.” (Hebrews 11:24-25)  Moses chose to suffer rather than take the easy road.  He could have enjoyed a life of luxury, but at what cost?  The cost of his spirit, his faith.

“He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.” (Hebrews 11:26)  Moses knew that suffering for his faith would bring him an eternal reward, one that is far greater than anything he would experience on earth.

In this world of comfort I live in, I have to ask myself this question:  Am I willing to suffer for Christ and an eternal reward rather than live in luxury?  It’s real easy to say yes when I’m sitting in my warm home, drinking coffee out of a Keurig, cat cuddled next to me.  What if I was stripped of it all, destitute, beaten?  What would I do?

God prepares us for future blessings AND disasters.  He gives us little tests along the way so that we are prepared if and when the big one comes we will respond as Jesus has taught us, a response that will be the right choice.

As I said yesterday, make your choices wisely.

Have a blessed weekend!

Leigh

Life-Altering Choices

For years I have warned my children about making life-altering choices.  You know, the biggies.  Drinking and driving.  Texting and driving.  Using illegal drugs.  Having sex before marriage.  The ones I would think most every parent tries their hardest to drill into their child’s still-forming brain while they are living at home.

We make choices everyday.  But those I just listed come under the heading of life-altering choices.  Choices where the outcome can have a lifelong effect on one of them, one of us, friends and strangers.  Choices that forever change what God’s perfect plan is for us into a huge mess we now must face.

Two weeks ago on a weekend morning at 4:45 a.m. two University of Mississippi students were killed when the vehicle they were riding in went off the road.  The driver and another passenger were taken to the hospital, never to see their two friends alive again.  Four lives forever changed because of a life-altering choice.

The sad reality is that this scene happens every day, in big cities, small towns, college towns and everywhere in between.  We mourn the loss of young lives, lives on the brink of adulthood, on the edge of becoming the husband, the employee, the mentor, the best friend…

This isn’t a referendum on underage drinking – nowhere in the story I read was alcohol mentioned as being a factor in the wreck.  Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t.  But someone made a horrible choice, whether it was drinking and driving or speeding or texting while driving.  Someone made the choice I have constantly warned mine about – the life-altering choice.

I cannot imagine the grief the families and friends of the 4 young men are experiencing.  One minute your son is in college, going to class, pledging a fraternity or practicing on the swim team.  The next day he’s gone because someone made a life-altering decision.

We all make mistakes.  Every day.  Paul warns us in the book of Ephesians: “Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”  (Ephesians 5:15-16)

You may have a personal experience similar to this story.  If you do, I pray for God’s unending love and mercy to comfort you in a way that can only be described as supernatural.  Jesus is the only true way to forgiveness and restoration and it takes an enormous amount of time, effort and faith to ever recover from this type of tragedy.

The Lord’s will is for us to be very careful and to live wisely so that as much as possible, tragedies like these can be avoided. Let us all be far more aware of the choices we make – especially the life-altering ones.

Blessings,

Leigh

Parents – 1, Leigh – 0

One night, a very long time ago, I did something really bad.  I was around 8 or 9 and I don’t really remember what it was.  But I remember being punished for it.  I remember being sent to my room while everyone else was in the den watching TV.  (And that was before iPods, iPads, and video games so it was pretty boring in there.)  I remember lying on my stomach at my bedroom door’s threshold, listening to the TV down the hall and my family laughing and having a good time – without me.

I didn’t enjoy that night.  Wasn’t supposed to.  So whatever my crime, I did the time and knew I didn’t want that feeling of separation again. (Score:  Nana & Pop – 1, Leigh – 0)

My parents disciplined me out of love for me, not because they didn’t like me.  And you know what?  Unlike many of today’s parents they weren’t afraid to punish me and my sister for our own good.  God does the same to us, to those He knows as His children.  “Endure hardships as discipline:  God is treating you as sons.” (Hebrews 12:7)

I was punished out of my parents’ love and their desire to teach me.  It was worthwhile suffering, even though I didn’t enjoy it.  “Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.  No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.  Later on however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”  (Hebrews 12:10-11)

No one enjoys being punished.  It’s shameful, embarrassing and hurtful.  But discipline is important in raising a child and in your walk of faith.  God isn’t going to let you run around like a wild child because He loves you and wants you to experience His holiness, His righteousness, His peace.

So when hardships come and you are lying on the threshold of your punishment, thank God for the lessons He is teaching you at that moment.

You’ll need that discipline later.

Blessings!

Leigh

Don’t mess with this momma

Yesterday morning my small group met and our topic was spiritual warfare.  And I mean it was GOOOOD.  We learned demons are real (I’ve believed that for a long time), demons want to destroy you (I can testify to that), but also that demons respond to a higher authority (hadn’t thought about that one).  How do we fight the demons?  We learned to use the name of Jesus, the authority of the Word of God, and the authority of the Blood and the Cross to drive demons out.  We shared great testimonies of driving the enemy out of situations and we were on fire!

It was an awesome morning.  Yep I was ready – bring it on!

So he did.  The enemy, that is.

I get in my car and the first text message is about how bad my son’s day is going at school.  And let me say that he wasn’t whining – he didn’t text me – my husband had asked him how his day was going and it was pretty bad.  See he’s the only Georgia fan at his school here in Auburn, and – well, unless you were living under a rock last weekend I don’t think I need to explain what was going on at school.

But the point of the story isn’t what the people at school were doing.  The point isn’t how my son handled himself.  The point is I must have really ticked satan off, because I hadn’t even started my car after my LIFE group and he was already trying to get at me, get at my son.  Well, THAT TICKED ME OFF.

So I turned off the radio and prayed the whole way home.  And I mean it was an angry prayer – anger at the enemy for getting near my son.  I declared him dead in my son’s life.  Claimed Jesus’ name and His authority over the devil, and flat out said I’m not gonna have it.  At all.  He needs to go on because he’s not winning this war.

If you think satan is a picture of a red guy with horns and a pointy tail, I’ve got news for you.  He’s real, and he’s out there, and his mission is to steal, kill and destroy. (John 10:10)  But here’s the kicker – he won’t win if you don’t let him.  First you have to recognize these attacks for what they are – they are the enemy’s attacks on you, on the ones you love.  Then you have to declare your victory in Jesus’ name and believe you have already won.  And you say it over, and over, and over until the victory happens – because it will.

God doesn’t expect us to do His part, but He’s not going to do our part either.  My part today is to fight for my son’s spirit.

Bring. It. On.

Blessings,

Leigh

Probability – #Not

It’s been a long time since I sat at my kitchen table and helped my children with homework (Praise the Lord and Hallelujah!  Free at last, free at last!).  My husband & I divided the subjects down the stereotypical line – he helped with math and science, I was the English and social studies tutor.

I often had to step in the math & science world because Todd did have to work after all.  And I would do all right until it came to one concept in math – probability.

The word problem would look something like this:  Sally puts 3 green chips, 8 yellow chips and 2 blue chips in a bag.  What is the probability that she will pull out a green chip?

My answer?  WHO CARES????  I never could understand why we cared what color chip a kid would pull out of a bag.  Still don’t.  As my friend Barbara would say, “We just need to teach them to tell time and make change.  They can survive on that.”

So if you put 3 Baptists, 8 Methodists and a couple of Catholics in a church, what’s the probability that they will agree on doctrine?  (Sounds like a bad bar joke, I know).

And that’s where I say again, who cares?  I’ve been a Methodist my whole life so I’m not knocking any denomination.  I’m simply saying that we all too often let doctrine get in the way of showing Jesus to others.  Jesus doesn’t want us fighting over our different beliefs – He wants us spreading the Gospel and living out His teachings.

In the book of Romans Paul wrote, “Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another.  Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way… Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” (Romans 14:13, 15:7)

We are to accept others as Christ accepted us.  As we are.  Yucky, sinful, but His children nonetheless.  When you put it that way, the differences become very small, and the probability of serving Jesus hits 100%.

Have a blessed Monday!

Leigh