Love ❤️ is….

As we embark on the Hallmark Holiday, Valentines Day, we are inundated with images of “love”; from hearts of chocolate to chocolate covered strawberries to roses, whose cost inflate during this month to the point you need a second mortgage on your home to afford, to diamonds and pearls. These images, coupled with television advertisements showing people in love, reaching for each other in idyllic images of love, leave people who don’t share these experiences feeling as if they are unloved and unlovable. The reality, however, is that love is not a feeling at all, but commitment.

When we were married, twenty two and a half years ago, part of our wedding vows included these words: “for better or worse, for richer and poorer, in sickness and in health, forsaking all others, so long as you both shall live”. So long as you both shall LIVE, not so long as you both shall LOVE. In the years following that vow, we have been tested, for sure; tested in health, tested in financial ways, tested in relational ways; yet we both acknowledge and hold firm to the vows we made to one another.

Sadly, this message is largely lost in our society today. Too often, we seek the “feeling” that love is, and as soon as the challenges come, we mistake the hardship for a lack of love, when, in fact, it is merely a lack of commitment to work together through the hardship.

During our hardships, I had Christian friends who encouraged me to leave, telling me that I was justified in leaving because God would not want me to be unhappy. I remember one friend, however, who had the courage to tell me that God would honor me for honoring my commitment.

By no means am I suggesting someone stay in an abusive relationship. What I am saying is that true love is not based on the flutter-feeling by you get when Love is young. In my experience, Love deepens over time as you choose to work together through difficult times. For our relationship to be successful, we had to put Christ at the center of it to anchor us and pull us towards Him and each other. If it weren’t for Christ, I don’t know where we’d be. I am very thankful that both of Ian honored the commitment we made so long ago.

I wish you many blessings Valentines Day this year.

SB

Love 131 I may be able to speak the languages of human beings and even of angels, but if I have no love, my speech is no more than a noisy gong or a clanging bell. 2 I may have the gift of inspired preaching; I may have all knowledge and understand all secrets; I may have all the faith needed to move mountains—but if I have no love, I am nothing. 3 I may give away everything I have, and even give up my body to be burned—but if I have no love, this does me no good.4 Love is patient and kind; it is not jealous or conceited or proud; 5 love is not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable; love does not keep a record of wrongs; 6 love is not happy with evil, but is happy with the truth. 7 Love never gives up; and its faith, hope, and patience never fail.8 Love is eternal. There are inspired messages, but they are temporary; there are gifts of speaking in strange tongues, but they will cease; there is knowledge, but it will pass. 9 For our gifts of knowledge and of inspired messages are only partial; 10 but when what is perfect comes, then what is partial will disappear.11 When I was a child, my speech, feelings, and thinking were all those of a child; now that I am an adult, I have no more use for childish ways. 12 What we see now is like a dim image in a mirror; then we shall see face-to-face. What I know now is only partial; then it will be complete—as complete as God’s knowledge of me.13 Meanwhile these three remain: faith, hope, and love; and the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:-13 | GNT

The widow maker

My cousins’ husband was a hard worker his whole life. He worked in construction and often did side jobs on the weekends. He was average height but built like a tank and very, very strong. His physical condition would have made even young guys jealous. Because he worked so hard, we were all surprised when he semi-retired. We couldn’t picture him not working. Of course, it didn’t last very long as he began doing some “part time” work which was basically full time.

Nothing surprised us more, however, than the day my cousin called to say he had a heart attack on his way to work. He had driven himself past one hospital and ended up at another, where he collapsed upon entering the doors. The hospital staff actually went outside to see which vehicle he came from, found the company truck and called them to track his family down.

The nickname for the heart attack he suffered is the Widow Maker, aptly named because not many survive. In fact, most die instantly. His heart stopped, and he was clinically dead for eight long minutes. He was Life-flighted from that hospital to one in town better equipped to handle his condition. He was defibrillated and brought back, but the doctors were not hopeful. He spent ten or so long days in Intensive Care in a medically induced coma. His organs began shutting down and he went into kidney failure. No one really thought he’d survive.

In his early life, he had made a profession of faith, proclaiming Jesus as his Savior. He had not, however, been faithful to the Lَife, and hadn’t stepped foot inside a church for years, perhaps decades. There he was, his life hanging in the balance.

Miraculously, God gave him a second chance, a chance that not everyone gets. We felt as if God gave him a second chance to make things right with him, and prayed for his full recovery both physically and spiritually. He did regain consciousness and had a long road ahead to rehabilitate his body. Because his kidneys failed, he had to have dialysis several times a week.

During that time, my kids, now driving, helped to bring him to and from his appointments. A shadow of his former self, but beyond thankful to be alive, he gave all the glory to Jesus, and renewed his faith and life to bring Him honor.

This summer will be three years since his heart attack. He enjoys his retirement by volunteering at soup kitchens (he is a wonderful cook) and Salvation Army and gives glory to God, the Father for his life. We are so very thankful and grateful that God chose to give him a second chance, Not only because we can spend more time with him on Earth, but because we can also spend eternity with him.

We don’t always get a second chance. Instead of taking that gamble, we can rest assured that we will spend eternity with the King by accepting Him as our Savior today. If you’d like to know more about how to do that, please contact me at sbjourneyforlife@gmail.com

Copyright Journey For Life 2018. All rights reserved

Make good choices.. Love, Mom

After a brief text exchange with my college son last night regarding various recent events in his life, he replied, “I’m making good choices, mom”.

When our children are young, we make their choices for them, but as they begin to grow up, they need to begin making choices of their own so that we can help to teach them the difference between good choices and bad choices. We’ve all made bad choices, and so will they. It’s funny, though, how our perspective changes once we are the parent. The truth is, we don’t like to see our kids make choices hat we know will lead them through heartache because we know it will be painful. Worse yet, they could make a choice from which is hard (or impossible) to recover.

When the time comes for them to be completely independent (which, although sad in some ways, IS what we want for our children) I want them to be prepared to think through the consequences of all of their decisions. One method I have used is this admonition: MAKE GOOD CHOICES.

Life is all about choices. I have seen people make some very, very good choices in life, and I have seen people make some very, very bad choices. For every choice car we make, there are consequences. If we are forward thinking enough, we can think about what tho consequences might be given choice A or B, which may help guide us to the best choice. Ultimately I know my children will own their own choices, both big and small. Who to marry, field of employment, place to live, church to attend. I want to equip them with all of the tools to make the very best decisions. But how do we do that?

1. Teach them to think and seek advice from wise people.

The Bible is full of wise advice, as well as examples of good and bad choices. Life, too, is full of good and bad choices. It’s important to talk with our kids about choices we see others make, and point out alternate choices that could have been made to affect different outcomes. This process will help develop critical think skills essential in making good decisions.

Finding other people who can be trusted with choices is also important as we teach our children; people other than their parents who they can trust (face it, when our kids are working hard to prove their independence they may not seek our advice).

2. Let them fail. (This is hard)

This advice is hard to execute because we want our children to have everything better than we did. If we can teach them to own the consequences of their choices in the smaller, seemingly insignificant choices , they will be better equipped to own the big ones too. As we’re teaching them, it is important to refrain from the dreaded, “I told you so” responses that do nothing for building healthy relationships. Let them discover, on their own, consequences from negative choices. Again, this helps build their own decision making process.

3. Love them

Most importantly, continue to love them and keep open relationship, even if the choices they make are different than those you would have made. This step is particularly difficult if their choices are poor, but even more important in this case. Our kids have got to know they always have someone who will help them in time of need.

4. Model itWhether we like to admit or not, our kids follow our lead; the good as well as the bad. For this reason, it is equally important for us to model the lessons we are trying to teach. MAKE GOOD CHOICES.

copyright 2018 Journey-For-Life. All rights reserved

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Coincidence?

A few weeks ago a new battle began for us; well, really not a “new” battle, but a battle that had lay dormant for about 10 years, suddenly raging without warning, consuming our thoughts and minds.

Everything came to a head on Sunday morning. I was considerably distracted, and, although present in church, I failed to really hear the message. My husband and I were stressing about the situation.

Prior obligations on Sunday afternoon kept us from talking more about the situation, but when I had a few moments in between those obligations, I sat quietly in my car and watched the beginning of that days’ sermon from a pastor friend of ours that streams live on Facebook each week. Coincentally, or not, the topic of his sermon was ANXIETY. I watched about 5 minutes before I decided I needed to watch it with my husband later that evening.

My next obligation was accompanying our pastor for a service at a local senior resident building for a service we do once a month.  My aunt and uncle were coming to our house for dinner, and my mother had asked if I might be able to find someone else to play for the service that day.  Coincidentally, or not, it had not worked out, and I needed to fulfill my obligation.  I sat down at the baby grand piano and began to play music for prelude, and God’s peace began to flow through my fingers. I realized it was the first time I had actually breathed all day.

As our pastor began his message, he read from 2 Samuel 23. Coincidentally, or not, he talked about facing battles that seem impossible to win. This piqued my interest and I listened intently.  (It was, most likely, the same message he gave at our own church in the morning, but I had been to distracted to focus then).

“These are the names of David’s mighty warriors: Josheb-Basshebeth, a Tahkemonite, was chief of the Three; he raised his spear against eight hundred men, whom he killed in one encounter.”   2 Sam 23:8 NIV

Other examples where God fought a battle came to my mind as i sat and listened, emotions welling up inside me.  David and Goliath, Joshua and the battle of Jericho. During his sermon, he said, “Stand your ground, in Jesus’ Name and watch what He will do for you”.    It was during that time that i realized that i was there, in that place, at that specific moment in time so that I would hear the message that God had for me – that He is fighting our battles.     I knew it was not a coincidence that i couldn’t find a replacement to accompany our pastor that day.  I knew that it was not a coincidence that i had a few moments before that service to hear a few words on anxiety.

We are in the thick of the battle as we speak, but we are standing firm in Jesus’ Name, watching eagerly to see what God does.  We know that we belong to Him, and He has our back.

 

tree of hope

Gasping for air,

the darkness surrounds me,

oppression so great,

the waters they drown me.

No where to run,

No where to turn.

I crumble within,

beginning to burn.

I see through the fog

The might of Thy hand

that reaches below

the enclosing sand

to pull me to safety,

returning to me

that which belongs to You.

Mighty, Your tree,

In glory it stands

for all that you’ve done,

to show who You are.

The battle is won.

Keep fresh in my mind

the work that You’ve done.

Help me to show others

Your heavenly Love.

Copyright Journey-For-Life. 2017. All rights reserved.

Between Jack Daniels and Jesus

Every year in April, our church hosts the annual Blessing of the Bikes.  It’s an event that started when 4 bikers from the church approached the pastor with an idea to bring their friends to church. The first year, there were 162 bikes, and our town wondered what in the world was going on as they all rolled through.  Over the years, that event has blossomed and is very well-known in the area.  Our town actually sends the Mayor and emergency workers now, and even shuts down traffic for a while, to allow the event to be held.  It’s a completely free event, because, in the words of our pastor, “so is a gift of salvation”.   This year, on the 20th anniversary, we estimated approximately 15,000 bikes piled in – to our parking lot, and the adjacent streets, and the parking lots along the highway.  Figuring many bikes had 2 riders, we’d say there were A LOT of people who turned out for the event.  For the past 13 years, I have had the privilege of participating in the music for the service.   This year, our good friend Dave Smith, sang a song called “Jack Daniels & Jesus”.   I’m pretty sure there wasn’t another church in the country that sang that song on Sunday.

(By the way, I think there’s a message in here somewhere about starting a “movement” – it doesn’t take something BIG to make something BIG – it just requires someone to dream it and make it reality).

I am watching life unfold for several young adults – some of them are making some very good life decisions, and some of them are making some incredibly bad life decisions, some of them very, very public, and some of them very private.   My heart breaks.   In almost all of the cases, I say to myself, (and I’ve heard their parents say), “but they were raised differently than that”   and then I remember the words, “somewhere between Jack Daniels and Jesus” and remembered that we’re really ALL somewhere on that journey.   I haven’t had Jack Daniels in over 30 years.  One REALLY BAD experience with it all those years ago, and I can’t even smell the stuff to this day…. And I was raised differently than that…. Still, I made some poor life choices along the way – hopefully, ones that I have learned from, and that have made me stronger.  By the grace of God alone, He brought me through those poor choices and gave me a second chance, or maybe a third and fourth.   And, by the grace of God, He will bring those folks through their choices as well, allowing U-turns to correct their course.   Pray for them, will ya?

 

Keep ‘em Safe in the Hallways

On Sunday, after the news broke about the church shooting in San Antonio, I read a tweet that said “Our thoughts and prayers failed”.   It broke my heart. In response, I would like to address the tweet by sharing my experiences with answered prayers, for I believe in the power of prayer, and have personal experiences with God answering prayers, both large and small.

Ever since my children were in elementary school, part of our morning routine was to pause for a moment of prayer before they got on the bus.  My children were mere babies (and one of them not even born) when the tragic events unfolded at Columbine high school, but the effects of that event and countless subsequent events have guided me to cover my children in prayer every morning.  We’d gather for prayer shortly before they left the house, and, on most days, my prayers would include the phrase, “keep them safe in the hallways”.   As with many prayers, we establish routines, and sometimes, by rote, they seem to sound all alike, but we go through the motions.  I repeated this prayer every day for ten years.  In the back of my mind, with all of the emphasis on anti-bullying campaigns, I probably subconsciously thought that phrase was to protect them from being bullied.   I prayed also that God would bring them home safely.

Never in my wildest imagination would I have guessed what would unfold in the hallways at our high school in the tenth year of that prayer.   I interrupt the narration of large answered prayer to share with you a small one (it will all make sense in a moment).

My eldest daughter is very even-tempered, well-mannered young lady, who works hard to avoid drama and conflict in her life.  In spring of her sophomore year of high school, she played defense on the Lacrosse team and was managing several advanced level classes.   Lacrosse practice often ran from 8-10 pm, so she was often up very late working on homework.   She neither liked to miss school or homework assignments.  Did I mention that she’s typically very even-tempered?    On the evening of April 8, 2014, after Lacrosse practice, she was working on a school project in a foul-mood like I have never seen before.  I mean wicked.  I had never previously seen her behave this way, nor have me since this evening.  I reached my boiling point around 11:30 pm when I said to her, “Just go to bed!  Forget your homework!  Stay home from school tomorrow and finish your homework then!”  I honestly didn’t even care if she turned her homework in at that point.

She replied, “I CAN’T skip school tomorrow!  I have a lacrosse game on Thursday, so if I’m not there tomorrow, I can’t practice and if I can’t practice then I can’t play!”

“Go in late, then!  Just GO TO BED!   Sleep in tomorrow, get your work done, and I’ll take you to school before you’d be considered absent.”

With that, she stormed off to bed and I was left wondering what in the world just happened.  She was sixteen years old and, up to that point, had never really exhibited the moodiness that parents of other teenage girls complain about.

The next morning, my fifteen-year-old son was up early.  He asked if I could drive him to school instead of waiting for the bus.  He was excited to pass out a pamphlet for an upcoming youth retreat to his friends, one in particular whom he’d been praying for an opportunity to share his faith.  I took him to school early, and dropped him off.  Had he ridden the bus, he would not have been at the school until much later, and would not have been in the hallways when it happened.

As he was getting ready that morning, I readied myself for my day at work as well.  I checked my Facebook news feed and ordered a book about loving others from Amazon.  I exchanged a few texts from my youngest daughter’s voice coach, then headed off to school.  As we approached the school, I prayed as I drove, “dear God, please keep them safe in the hallways”.   I never realized what that meant until that day.

I returned home, and to the kitchen to make myself an egg.  I had literally just picked up an egg when I heard my phone buzz. I assumed it was the vocal coach, so I continued making breakfast.  I cracked the egg into the pan just as my oldest daughter came around the corner of the kitchen.  It was 7:23 AM, and she was supposed to be sleeping in to rid herself of that nasty mood from the night before.   I started to say, “What are you doing up so early?” when she said, “–N just texted me and said that J– was stabbed”.   Instinctively, I picked up my cell phone and read the text from my son.  It said, “People were stabbed.  I’m ok.  Please pray”.

To our horror, we learned that a fellow student went on a stabbing rampage that morning.  The attack occurred before the school bell had rung.  My son was walking with a group of his friends down the hallway.  The friend he’d been praying for to come to a youth retreat was the first one stabbed, tackled from behind by the perpetrator.  Before the boys could process what was happening, the student had jumped up, running down the hallway wielding two kitchen knives, stabbing and slashing everyone he could along the way. The attack lasted only a few minutes before it was thwarted by the vice principal and some others, but not before 21 people were stabbed.  My daughter’s boyfriend was one of the victims, and I very quickly realized that, had she been in school that day, she very likely would have been standing with him, and could have been a victim herself.  (That was the first answer to prayer – the small one.)

The next few hours were a blur. The boy was apprehended.  The school made umpteen phone calls to the homes of students giving instructions for where to pick up our kids, except for those who were victims or witnesses. News traveled like wildfire across the entire nation, and, in an instant, our worlds changed.  It was several hours before I could pick my son up since he had to meet with the FBI before they would allow him to leave.  Our church planned a prayer service for that evening, which was initially intended to be a place for our own youth to find sanctuary and turned out to be an enormous event,  packed not only with community members, but news media and politicians.

Over the next few hours, we learned the extent of the injuries sustained, some of them were very, very serious.  The next few days were spent chauffering students to visit hospitals all over Pittsburgh, and praying for the victims.  A few days after the event, a note was found in the students’ locker describing how long he had planned his attack, and how he idolized the shooters from Columbine, dispelling the media allegations that he simply snapped from being bullied.  Several of the students remained hospitalized for a very, very long time, and underwent multiple surgeries to repair damage done to their internal organs.  Miraculously, the 8″ blade of the knife that stabbed my daughter’s boyfriend went right in between two of his organs, completely missing anything vital.  Another answered prayer.

Miraculously, despite the perpetrators wishes and plans, there was not a single loss of life in this horrific event, which took place… you guessed it, in the hallways.   I never fully realized what exactly I was praying for, but I believe, with all of my heart, that God heard ten years of my prayers to “keep ‘em safe in the hallways”, and answered in a very large way.  Answered prayer.

Eventually, over the next several months, all of the students were released from the hospital and have recovered physically from their injuries.   I will never fully understand why God allowed my daughter to be spared that day, and why other students were not.  I will never understand why I delivered my son early that day, to be present for an event which he might otherwise have missed.  However, through all of it, I can honestly say that God heard… and answered… my prayer.  There is no doubt that God was with them in the hallway that day.   Thank you, Lord, for your answered prayer.
Copyright Journey-For-Life. 2017. All rights reserved