Spying on a Colombian Drug Lord

I promise this is probably the last post I have in me that has anything to do with my vacation last week, but I just have to tell you all this juicy piece of it.  You see, I am convinced that a Colombian drug lord and his wife were also vacationing at our same resort.

You may wonder how I could even land on vacation in a place where someone like that would be… me, too! But there’s no way you’ll convince me otherwise. Why do I think I was vacationing with a drug lord?0.jpg

Because he looked like one.

Just Google Pablo Escobar, and you’ll see what this guy looked like. Spittin image. Had to be a cousin or close relative.

And he spoke Spanish.

Anyway, the couple arrived at about midweek with a lot of fanfare. You wouldn’t believe how the staff at the resort were stepping and fetching for this couple. The whole scene just looked like Wednesday for them … like they were used to this kind of pampering. For me? Staying at that nice place was like an episode of This American Life. I am in no way accustomed to living that way. I am completely unable to get anyone anywhere to step or fetch for me. Ever. Neither am I in the habit of ordering hits on people, so…

As they made their grand entrance on the scene and had the young beach attendants acquiescing to their every demand, I sat and watched from my beach bed, peering through the palm trees. I mean I couldn’t just spy openly, could I?

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Imagine I am the cat and the blinds are the palm branches…You get the idea?

As I peered through the foliage, I couldn’t help thinking, “I’ll bet he’s had people killed for less than this”. From my vantage point, I judged them to be about a decade older than me, and she was about 25 years past wearing that hot pink bikini she was in. Yet she strutted her stuff like it was made just for her. Hey, maybe it was.

It became comical the things his wife had those poor attendants doing out in the hot sun as he stood by silently daring them to refuse. I will relay it all to you here… of course, I do not speak Spanish except to ask where the bathroom is, and I couldn’t really hear them clearly as they spoke, what with all the wind and the distance and all.

Still, I’m pretty sure the following is a fairly accurate depiction of what was taking place.


Put up that umbrella. No, I don’t like this umbrella, I want that umbrella over there. Never mind that the base of the umbrella weighs 500 pounds, I want that one over here… Now tilt the umbrella just a bit… No, not that way, this way. Just a bit more. No. Do you see how my toe is still in the sun? Stop. There. Okay… I’m going to need something to drink. It’s too hot out here not to have a drink. And a snack. I’m hungry, too. No, bring a snack for us both. As a matter of fact bring us both two snacks and two drinks. Okay, well send that boy to go get the food and drinks then… Now I need you to take my picture. Here’s my camera. Take it from here up only. You understand? From here. (She wanted a bust shot) Now wait, while I’m eating this Popsicle, you take my picture. (I will skip the part about what she was doing to that Popsicle… Eww.) Does that look good? Yes? Like this? Are you getting me just from here up? Are my golden fingernails blinding you? Let me see… Ok, now down at the water… Come, come… I will lay down and you take more pictures of me with my head at the water’s edge. No, take more. Take several. I need to make sure you have taken some good ones… Pass the camera to my drug lord husband who is standing to the side watching this whole affair, and let him see the pictures you took… Careful now. He can have you killed, you know… Okay, now help me up. Give me your hand and help me up… Now take some of us together. Yes the two of us together. No, take another one except let me turn this way…


I would tell you more, but it was at that point that Matthew decided he had had enough of those two. His exact words were, “I’ve had enough of those two”. So we packed it in for the afternoon. Now normally, I would pull this all in and have some kind of moral or spiritual lesson to it all that would help us move a step or two in our faith, but for the life of me… I’ve got nothing. Still, maybe you got a laugh or grin out of it, and that should count for something.

Gracias. And if you’re ever in Mexico, or Miami perhaps, and in need of a bathroom, it’s “Donde es el bano?”. (That is “for your just in case”… something cute one of our Mexican friends said to us.)

Empty Boxes and Backside Glory

Last week, Matthew and I took our “annual” trip, just the two of us. It’s just a great time of rest, relaxation, and fun with the Love of my life. We dream and talk about the future and which direction we should go as a couple. It’s totally fun, and it helps to keep us moving forward in life together.

We also have a good bit of time that each of us spends on our own. I love to comb the beach for treasures, and Matt loves to, well, sleep on the beach. During my beach combing, I think a lot and I talk to the Lord a good bit. We sort stuff out.

One morning, I had rejoined Matthew on our beach bed in front of the resort, and after a time he asked me, “So what are you thinking about?”

I looked at him and told him, “I don’t really think you want to know.”

He laughed because he knows me. My mind can go strange places, and not everywhere makes good sense to him.

So as he steeled himself for my answer, I told him. I will tell you that what I told him brought up more questions than answers, so consider yourself fairly warned as I share it with you now.

I read a short book on the way to Mexico that fed right into some ideas and ponderings of my own over the last couple of years. Even as a believer in Christ, I feel like there is just more to it than what most of us live every day. We say we believe in the truth of the scriptures, but most of us live a much different life than we see painted there. Many experience a much more wimpy version of what I believe is available to us.

We have accepted a version of Christianity that is packaged in a nice, neat box that we carry around and feel good about. It’s not at all messy or particularly impressive. It fits into our American idea of what it means to follow Christ. We see what we want to see in that box, and we behave accordingly. We are supposed to live within the boundaries of scripture, but most of us live inside the boundaries of that box… never venturing out to really taste and see that He is so GOOD.

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The Bible says we have the power within us because of the Holy Spirit to heal people, but we rarely see that happening. We rarely see anything miraculous happening. Somebody somewhere decided miracles were no longer taking place so we just said, “Oh, okay.” Only that someone forgot to tell those folks in foreign places where healings and miracles happen all the time.

Oops.

Jesus told us that with just a tiny particle of faith we can move the mountains in our lives with the words of our mouths, but we allow those mountains to sit right where they are because we don’t really believe Jesus was telling us the truth. Of course we would never say that, but it’s what we believe, right? Because we may not live what we say, yet our actions belie what we truly believe. Unmoved mountains speak to that truth.

The Bible tells us that when we accept Jesus as our Savior, it is no longer us who lives, but Christ in us who is alive there in us. How is this possible? The Bible tells us that we are right now seated in heavenly places. That’s funny, I thought I was seated on the beach with my husband. What? The Scriptures tell us that we were chosen by God to be His sons and daughters. How? Why? What does it fully mean to be the son or daughter of the Most High God? None of this fits into that neat, nice box, but all of that and more tells me that most of us are cruising on auto pilot and missing out on most of the goodness of being an adopted son or daughter in God’s family.

Over the last few years, I have desired to live outside my box. I want to live the life that is available to me because of Christ. The real one He offered me, not the pale, pitiful substitution that gets marketed so often to so many. I want to have eyes to see and ears to hear. I want to live inside the boundaries of scripture, but outside the boundaries of safe religion. In fact, I don’t even want a box. Just throw away the stupid box.

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So what would I see if I had those eyes that see? What would I hear if I had ears to hear? I don’t know. I told you my musings ask more questions than they answer. But if I am currently seated in heavenly places then that vantage point alone could help me out so much! How can I see what she/I see? Is that possible? Some kind of vision (understanding of present circumstances) must be possible, or Jesus would not have admonished his disciples for failing to have it, right?

When I finished this long and ambling answer, Matthew just smiled and shook his head. I know. I don’t have the answers, but I’m going to keep looking. There’s more to this life than most of us live out. Like Moses, I want to see God’s glory, even if it’s just the backside. What I do know for sure is it’s not in that box. Nothing He wants us to see or hear is.

Sea Birds and Butterflies: Observations from the end of the pier



So far on this vacation, each morning I end up standing at the end of a longish peer that stretches out over the ocean.
The tour boats have already left for the day, so I have it to myself. Just me and God hanging out for a while out where the water gets deep. 

The wind on the peer is constant and fairly strong. It continues to blow in a singular direction. South. I think. I’m more of a left vs right person than a north vs south person, but I’m thinking it’s south. 


The first day standing at the end of the peer, I noticed a cool thing.
Yellow butterflies. They would blow past me at warp speed. There would be one or two and then six at a time, flapping their little wings like crazy, blowing in the direction of the wind. In some ways it looks like they are going in the direction they intend, but then again it looks like they’re  just trying to maintain a little bit of control as they are swept along. 

Some days, I can relate.

I’ve enjoyed these little yellow blessings for a few days now, out there at the end of the peer, all to myself. No one back on the beach knows about them, one has to be out at the end of the peer to see them. 

Today, I saw something else out there over the water. Birds. Big ones. I don’t really know what kind they were. It doesn’t matter. What I noticed about them was how they were flying in contrast to the butterflies. 

Instead of flying in the direction of the wind, they were flying into the wind. Like, North. Wings spread wide, they weren’t even flapping. Just coasting. Into the wind. Effortless. Up high… above the fray.


I decided as I looked up and saw the birds floating effortlessly above me, that I would much rather be hanging with those guys. Intentional, purposeful, and way cool. They had learned to use the wind for their own purposes rather than being beaten half to death by it. 

Maybe you are flapping your little wings for all you’re worth and you’re still getting swept along, out of control. Let me suggest something I’m going to try. 

Climb higher. Gain some new perspective. Turn into the wind, spread your wings, relax and just go. Intentional, purposeful, and way cool. 

I Will Not Protest You, But I Will Proclaim the Truth

I try not to be in the habit of alienating people. When I do that, I am operating counter-productively to my purpose which is, in part, to be winsome and attractive to the world for the sake of Christ. So invariably, when we speak out against something, it tends to offend the folks who support the thing we are speaking out against, and offense quickly shuts down a willingness to hear. sign.jpg

But still, there are shifts in our society that are just troubling to me. There is a social minority in our culture that is pushing an agenda forward that is so destructive it is hard to ignore and play nice all the time. I want to love the person and stand against the practice, but keeping the two separate is growing ever more difficult. (Sometimes I want to just shake them while verbally interrogating their sanity. It would serve to make me look nuts, but it might make me feel better.) We have come to the point where those who speak out in opposition are seen as backward, non-progressive, closed minded, and bigoted… to the point that the majority has been bullied into submissive silence.

But the thing is, it is destroying our society. Piece by piece, family by family. Over the last 30 years or so its progress has been deliberate, calculated, patient, deceptive and unfortunately… successful. It is dividing parent from child, and husband from wife. Sound societies have always been built on sound family units. Broken families are one of the first signs of a failing and broken society.

When every person decides to do what is right in their own mind, look out. When there is no consideration for the guardrails for living we find in scripture, expect moral decay and unholy practices.

So what is a winsome believer supposed to do? I am having a hard time pretending the darkness I sense pressing in all around me is not there. Am I supposed to dig out my soapbox and start hurling criticisms with vengeance at those who insist on traveling this destructive path and dragging the rest of us along with them? Do I make “Anti Them” signs, and show up in places where their influence is the strongest and shout my displeasure?

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I don’t think so. But neither do I think I am to go quietly into the dark night. No, what I am supposed to do is be a light in the darkness. The only thing that can dispel darkness is light. As believers in Christ, we are the light of the world. As followers of Jesus, we are the only hope this dying world has.

So I will not sling mud at the people who march this agenda forward. But I will not be made to keep quiet about the truth. At least for now, America is still the land of the free and I am still free to speak and write truth. Our society has made a mockery of the family and of marriage, so I will promote them and their benefits. Society has decided that God’s word is irrelevant, so I will speak of its pertinence and its power. The world wants to paint God as harsh, distant and uninvolved, so I will tell of His boundless love and care for us, and how more than anything, He desires to be in relationship with us… no matter who we are or what we have done.

th.jpgChristians should not be rude or dishonoring of others. We are to speak the truth in love so that its life changing power can be experienced in the lives of those who need it so much. The darkness is here and it is growing. If you don’t see it, it’s because you choose that. Jesus said those with ears let them hear. He encouraged us to have eyes to see. (FYI- Just because you have ears doesn’t mean you hear. Just because you have eyes…)

Recorded in Matthew 13 Christ said, “Though hearing they do not hear, though seeing they do not see.” And then he refers to Isaiah the prophet who said,

“You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.”

So there’s the answer. It is an act of your will to align yourself with the things of God. Only then can you see and hear in truth. I mean, the alternative is to be swallowed up, deaf and blind, with the rest into the darkness. I don’t so much recommend that.

If You Give a Chicken a Haircut

Stop rubbing your eyes. You read the title correctly.

As many of you know, my husband and I became backyard chicken farmers last year. Our little brood arrived in the mail from a website called mypetchicken.com. I’m serious. Look it up. We decided to add to our brood early this summer and ordered a few more little peeps.

thAnyway, as the babies began to outgrow their smaller enclosure, we decided it was time to integrate them into the flock with the adults. This is actually pretty tricky. It’s the whole pecking order thing, and if you aren’t careful, the younglings can get pecked to death. Not the outcome we hoped for.

Two days into the whole integration thing, I noticed our polish chicken didn’t look so good. Right off the bat, she’s got two strikes against her. She’s naturally smaller (a bantum), and she has trouble seeing through the thick foliage on her head. I saw that she was a bit lethargic. It’s been about a thousand degrees here in Birmingham and it occurred to me that I had not seen her drinking from the waterers we have for the big chickens. Either the bigguns weren’t allowing her access to the water (again with the pecking order), or she couldn’t see her way to them. Either way, she was half dead.

Ever the chicken lady, I scooped her up and took her inside. I rushed her into the dining room and asked my son to bring me a cup of water. After pushing her head down into the water a few times, Flopsie decided to drink. It was that or drown.

Like a wilted flower, little Flopsie perked up after a while. It was then that I decided we needed to give her a haircut. In order for her to rejoin her flock, she at least needed to be able to locate the waterer. I had never given a chicken a haircut before, but the results were fabulous. With the feathers removed that shielded her vision, and adequate hydration, she was like a new chicken! Isn’t she the cutest?

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Flopsie, mid-haircut

Now you guys know me well enough to know that I don’t have something like this happen, and not relate it somehow to our spiritual growth. As I sat there loving on my little chicken, I couldn’t help thinking how quickly I dehydrate spiritually when I am separated from that which gives me life. Whether it is from my own shortsightedness, or because I allow things to keep me from connecting with God, the result is the same. Spiritually, I can look a lot like Flopsie… wilted, withered, and well, half dead. The good news is, I don’t have to drink in His goodness for long before things begin to look up.

I had a good friend tell me that we can only minister to others out of the overflow of our own spiritual cup. If you are feeling used up, burned out, or spiritually drained, maybe it’s time to drink in what only the Father can provide. He’s fully capable of supplying everything we need if we just ask. In the words of Chris Tomlin, “He’s a good, good Father”. It’s who He is.🙂

I am entering into a twenty-one day period of prayer that started yesterday. Each fall, the members of our church commit to praying, connecting, worshiping and refilling our lives again with the goodness and power of the Holy Spirit. If you are feeling a bit wilted, it’s not too late to join us. Don’t be like Flopsie. Don’t be a half dead, wilted chicken… spiritually speaking.

“But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” Jesus, (John 4:14)

To Serve or Be Served

If you have accomplished all that you have planned for yourself, you have not planned enough.

You know who said that? Me. Not too bad, huh?

At 49 years old, I have to admit I’m already into the second half of my life, right?  I mean I’m not exactly elderly, but I’m no spring chicken either. As I grow older, I have begun to think about how I want my later years to play out. I do enjoy pouring life into younger people. I think that they can benefit from my experiences… and I think hanging out with young people helps us stay young! I also believe the time comes as we grow older that we need to pass certain batons on to the next generation and watch as they take up the race. But, I’m not sure that means we just decide to look around for a good seat, plop down, and allow life to become a spectator sport…

As long as we have breath and even some physical ability left in our bodies, there is something we can do to serve others.

Recently, I participated in an annual event at my church called Serve Day. Once a year, we all come together on the same day to serve the people of our communities and be the hands and feet of Jesus. This year, more than 22,000 of us showed up. (We also had more than 300 other churches around the country and around the world join in with us! Super cool.) I helped out with a project that benefited a well-known organization called Operation Christmas Child.

If you have been in a cave since the 1990s, OCC is a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse that takes shoe boxes filled with gifts to children in third world countries at Christmas time. The boxes are the foot in the door. The real aim is to share the gospel with those kids and their families.

As we got ready to put boxes together, I noticed an elderly man folding boxes, stuffing boxes, and preparing boxes for shipment. All from his scooter. This man could have easily said, “I’m old and can’t get around well. Let them serve me today.” I mean there were plenty of us who were serving folks just like him that day. But he didn’t. He did what he could do, and he had a blast doing it.

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At another site, volunteers were working to make some needed repairs to an elderly woman’s home. This woman is what we call a “shut-in”. She has severe respiratory disease, is on oxygen, and her prognosis is not so great. She has become a part of our online campus, and watches services on her computer from home.

Since becoming a part of our church in that way, she has decided that she wants to reach out to other shut-ins in our church and encourage and support them! The picture below shows one of our pastors baptizing this precious woman at her home on Serve Day… oxygen and all! The folks from our church were blessed to get to serve her on that day, but she’s not ready to stop serving others.

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The actions of these two senior saints reminds me of a quote from Edward Everett Hale:

“I am only one, but I am one. I can’t do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will.”

I once heard former pastor, author, and leadership guru, Dr. John Maxwell, say that he wants to be a lifelong learner. John is in his seventies. I happen to think he’s pretty wise already, so to hear him say he wants to keep learning made an impression. I think the tendency as we get older is to get to the point that we think we don’t need to learn from others anymore… especially from the younger generation. We want to share from our wealth of knowledge, but do we want to learn?

Getting older doesn’t have to mean that we just sit and hold court for anyone who is willing to listen. It doesn’t have to mean that we stop serving other people. Maybe we can’t do all we used to do, but we can do something.

Rocking chairs are for losers.

To Hell in a Hand Basket

I try not to watch CNN and Fox News. I try not to watch any kind of news anymore. I guess to some that may not seem very adult or responsible. Shouldn’t I want to gobble up all that tragedy, violence and general mayhem going on in the world?

I walked into my parent’s house yesterday and they had the news on. Three more Baton Rouge police officers were gunned down by a “deranged” gunman. I think “deranged” is the new politically correct word for crazy. My dad asked me if I had heard about it. Surprisingly I had. Someone had mentioned it to me at church that morning. More tragedy, violence and mayhem.

On the TV screen in that moment was a quote from the local Baton Rouge Police Chief or Sheriff or something. The quote basically said that the problem is in the hearts of people. I thought, he’s got that right.

The prevailing idea of many people is that things aren’t going to change until there is a regime change in this country. It’d be nice if the fix was that simple. Half a century ago in this country, we decided that we did not value the gift of life enough to protect the unborn. Decades ago we invited God to leave our schools and began teaching theories to young people that go against the truths of scripture. Today, we have told Him that what He defined as marriage is not inclusive enough, and that we have redefined it. Now we are telling Him that his design of the human body is flawed, and that we know better who we are than He does. (Isn’t that kind of like the clock telling the clock maker where he went wrong in his design? But I digress…)

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What we have today is the result of people telling God that He is no longer relevant in their lives. I mean it’s not like it hasn’t happened before. Israel was God’s chosen people. You can read for yourself how when the people of Israel followed God’s plan they prospered, and when they didn’t, well, they pretty much lost everything. In fact, they generally found themselves slaves to someone else. You see, we will belong to someone. We like to exert our independence in this country, but we will belong to someone. For two hundred years we belonged to God, and we quickly became the most powerful and wealthy nation ever to exist on the earth. Now we’ve made God irrelevant and we are surprised by what we see on CNN?

It would be easy to be all doomsday and want to hide in our homes. After all, it does seem that the world is going to hell in a hand basket. The threats of violence are more real today than ever before. Darkness is covering the earth. This will not change because of who is sitting in the Oval Office on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.  For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,  having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.” 2Timothy 3:1-5

There is no caveat to this that states… “…unless you elect the right person President…”

(I get points for using the word, caveat.)

I think about the times when I was growing up and how peaceful and prosperous they were. I could wish for that time again, but I won’t. Those times did little to draw people to Jesus. No, it’s during dark, treacherous times that people seek God. To be a part of the church at this time in history is like none other. You see, we have the hope. We have the answer for the ills of man. Jesus is the hope. Jesus is the answer. There has never been a better time to be alive and be a part of the church than right now. We weren’t put here in this time and in this place to sit around wringing our hands, watching CNN, and complaining about the government. This is not our home. Those are not our affairs.

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The darker this world gets, the brighter the church will shine. Oh, it will bring us trouble, but the church has faced trouble before. Darkness doesn’t care too much for the light, but we are called to be that city on a hill that cannot be hidden. (Matthew 5:14). While the things happening around us are quite disturbing, we can take hope in the fact that it is all happening right on schedule. The harvest is great in these last days. Let’s turn off the news, and go light up the darkness.