Divine Moments

Have you ever been stuck? I was literally stuck once. When I was in high school, I drove my car to the beach with some friends for a week. (I’m not completely sure what my parent’s were thinking just then…) One day we were cruising up and down the strip, at Panama City Beach, when I decided to turn the car around and drive in the other direction.

I pulled into what looked like a good turnaround only to find it was about a foot deep in seashells. I got stuck. The more I tried to free the car, the deeper the tires dug into the shells. The car was going nowhere fast. We all piled out of the car to assess the situation. Yep. We decided we were definitely stuck.

While we stood there pondering what to do, some young men (of course) pulled over and offered to help us. We turned on our best Southern Bell accents and gladly accepted their help. They located a couple of boards and dug most of the shells out from under the tires until the tires could grab some traction and, with a little push, we were on our way once again.

I’ve been stuck other times, too. It happens every time I stop that forward motion. It happens when I allow my mind to stray back to a time when I was experiencing failure, loss, anger, disappointment, or even happiness or achievement. If we are not careful, we can dig ourselves into a pit we cannot escape. We lose traction and there we sit.

When we take those strolls down memory lane, it can cause us to miss those opportunities that are right in front of us. We can spend so much time on what was, (good or bad) and completely miss what is, or what is about to be. I’m not suggesting that we should never take those trips back in time; I’m just saying we can’t just book a one-way flight. Those moments in history are just that. History. The moment ago that you started reading this article is now history. It has fallen to the ground never to live again.

I have a great friend and mentor that encourages me to continue that forward motion. She tells me, “Never go backward; always move forward.”

Your future is ahead of you. Those divine moments of your life are coming. I hope you have had some of those in your past, and it’s nice to revisit those sometimes, but if we camp out there for too long we might miss the next divine moment just on the horizon.

Are you stuck in a moment in time? Maybe you are stuck in several moments at different times. Every time I recount a difficult situation I’ve had with another person, I am stuck in that moment, reliving it over and over again. I recount what they said, then I what I said, and on it goes. I have to purpose to put it behind me and continue moving forward. The same can be true with my “glory days” moments. I can relive the time I won the blue ribbon for the fifty-yard dash in fourth grade again and again. But in reality, that moment is gone, too. I can no more go back than I can invent the time machine that would be necessary to accomplish that.

Our lives are a string of moments each tied together to form our existence. The word “moment” comes from the Latin word that means “momentum” which, itself, indicates motion. Those long dead, past moments we can no longer change also no longer have motion or momentum. This moment, this very moment, now that one has momentum. That one has potential for divine change. Change in direction, change in velocity, and change in purpose.

But only if we are living in it, and not stuck in those past, fallen moments of our lives.

What moments in your past continue to play over and over in your mind? How much time are you spending stuck in those moments you cannot change? How many opportunities or divine moments have you missed because you were stuck?

Need help getting “unstuck”? Let me recommend a great
read by Erwin McManus (Author, speaker, and pastor of
Mosaic Church in LA), It’s called- Chasing Daylight.

Bullies

We have completed our third week of school here in the Deep South. So far so good… at least until Tuesday. That’s when I got the call from the school nurse. Evan, my youngest, was in her office. Evan is no stranger to the school nurse. He keeps her on retainer. This time, Evan complained of a stomachache, and he had managed to throw up a bit, so that bought him a ride home early that day. Wonderful. There wasn’t really anything wrong with Evan. That kid can throw up on command, but he still had to leave school. By the time I picked him up, he was fine. Really. He was fine. Well, physically.

We were no sooner in the van, had not even left the parking lot, before he launched into telling me the real news of the day. Apparently, while walking outside from one building to another with his friend, both boys were knocked down by three other boys. Evan wasn’t really hurt that much, but his friend fell, hitting his head on the sidewalk. When he started crying, Evan ran to get his teacher.

Okay. I am a minister’s wife. I know that. So I have to admit to you that my initial thoughts were not completely “turn your other cheek” in character.

My initial question to Evan was, “So did you knock the snot out of any of those kids?”

Evan, himself, was completely flabbergasted by my question. He said, “No! I’d have gotten in trouble.” Evan doesn’t cotton to getting into trouble. But after a beat or two, he asked, “So I wouldn’t have gotten into trouble if I had done that?” I said, “Oh yeah, you would have gotten into trouble with the school, but sometimes it’s worth it.” I never want my kids to think they can’t stick up for themselves when it’s absolutely necessary. I assured him he would not have gotten in trouble at home for standing up for himself or his friend who was hurt.

We’ve had to deal with bullies before. My oldest son put up with unending teasing his fifth grade year. We tried every approach we could think of to put a stop to it. Landon had begged us to let him handle it. Finally, one day in class, yes in class, he stood up and socked a kid in the face.

In. the. face.

This, after the kid had made fun of Landon’s southern accent for about the millionth time. Landon had finally had enough.

When they called me from the school to tell me about it, I almost laughed out loud. That was the last time any of those kids ever messed with Landon. As we rode home, I think I managed not to high-five him. He had in-school suspension, and missed the fifth grade spring fling, but he didn’t care. He had stood up for himself, and he felt good. He looked taller that afternoon, too.

I don’t ordinarily promote violence. I, myself, have never punched anyone, but I have been bullied. I know how that feels and it’s terrible. It’s not something I ever wanted for my kids to experience. I am pleased to say that the adults at Evan’s school took what happened very seriously, and I doubt those boys will be pushing anyone else around. But Evan is ready if they do. He’s like 007 in “A License to Kill.”

Later, I felt slightly guilty about telling my son to take matters like that into his own hands. After all, I didn’t want to create my own bully. So we talked about it. We talked about how Jesus stood up for righteousness, how sometimes anger can be righteous. We talked about how Jesus cleared the Temple when he saw that people were being taken advantage of through the selling of animals for sacrifice. We talked about how Jesus stood up for the woman caught in adultery. How he defended her against the bullies that were going to stone her, and then how he had shown mercy to her. Jesus doesn’t like bullying behavior, religious, or otherwise.

There’s never been a bully that truly found their identity in Christ. Not one. It’s evident when they bully. When they make someone else feel smaller or weaker, they feel stronger. When they have power over someone else, they feel more powerful.

Ironically, bullies suffer from real insecurities. In the privacy of their own hearts, they live in fear. It’s sad, really.

Conversely, when you find your identity in Christ, it’s all about making him bigger while you get smaller. It’s all about recognizing that it’s in your weakness that his power in your life gets stronger. It’s every day, losing a little more of yourself and finding a little more of him. It’s allowing the Holy Spirit to chip and chisel away everything that doesn’t look like Christ until others look at you and see only Jesus.

After our talk, Evan and I prayed for those boys who bullied he and his friend. We prayed for his right hook, too. Just in case. (I’m totally kidding about that.)

Have you or your kids had to deal with bullies? How did you handle it? How did they? Was it serious?

The Business of Death

It’s been quite a while since I sat in a funeral home office and tended to the business of death. (Just over sixteen years to be exact.) In that span of time, I had forgotten about all that, but last Friday my husband and I sat once again in the office of a funeral home. This time we sat with our sister-in-law while, as best she could, she worked through the mound of paperwork and decisions it takes to place a loved one to rest. It’s a lot. And it is expensive.

As the funeral home staff walked her through everything, I sat there thinking, “Oh my goodness, but this is costly.” My brother-in-law would have likely had a cow if he had known what even the simplest of burials was going to cost. He was a no-frills kind of person, and had instructed his wife that should this day come that “simple” should rule the day. She did her best to abide by his wishes, and bravely moved through the process.

In the few days after my brother-in-law passed from this life into the next, I noticed once again how life as we know it was put on pause. Not everyone’s life, but for my brother-in-law’s family everything seemed to stop. Work. School. Even vacations stopped. And the wild thing is, as much as we think life just must go on as planned, in times like these, we find that it can, indeed, be set on pause.

It’s all a part of the process and everyone knows it. People need time. Time to process things, and time to begin the task of moving on with life. Life without someone they are used to having around.

I noticed over the next few days that words failed me. I love words, and usually they are my friends, but during times like these, they are often empty and seem to fall flat. As I hugged my sister-in-law at the funeral I asked her, “How are you doing?” …I know. It was a stupid question. I told her it was, and I took it back. I asked her to forget I had asked it. Again, words had failed me.

We took comfort in knowing that my brother-in-law had chosen to follow Jesus and is now in the presence of the Most High, but even articulating that seemed inadequate somehow. Sometimes there just aren’t words.

I think that when we lose someone significant in our lives we cannot help but think about our own lives, our own mortality. From the moment of our birth, the dying process starts.

How sad a thought is that?

It’s so sad, in fact, that we rarely take the time to think about it until we are forced to. But as sad as that thought is, God has provided us a rescue. A way out. Because of the sacrifice of His son our lives are saved. What appears to be an ending is only, really, a beginning. For only in dying, as followers of Christ, do we really begin to live.

So what are we supposed to do in the meantime? What is life here really for if the next life is where it’s really at? Before our loved ones are faced with the business of our death, we must be about the business of our life.

Our brief time here on this spinning blue planet should be nothing short of a living testimony to the One who spares us eternal death. Through our struggles and our disappointments, as well as in the midst of our joys and days of awesomeness, our lives should reflect the glory of our Creator. When our days on this earth are done, we should leave behind a life worth celebrating. A life that points to the One who gave us that life, and who loved us enough to make sure this world isn’t all there is.

The Wheels on the Bus

My kids are into their second week of school already. Well my younger three are. My oldest child started college yesterday. Wow. That was something. Does this now make me officially old? I certainly hope not.

Anyway, earlier in the morning yesterday, I took my youngest child to his bus stop. It’s a few blocks from our house and on a busy road, so we drive him. Did I mention he’s the baby? Well, when the bus arrived, he hopped out of our car, and I watched him climb onto the bus. Before he got to the bus, he stepped around another, smaller, boy who was not quite sure he was ready to climb on board.

“Bless his heart”, I thought. There he was with his Sponge Bob backpack and Sponge Bob lunch box. His cute new clothes. (Sponge Bob t-shirt) By all appearances, he was ready for school. Yet he stood there as if his feet had been super glued to the road.

He turned and hugged his littler sister who stood there yawning in her Dora the Explorer nightgown and flip-flops. After the hug went on for about ten seconds, I realized he was no longer hugging her, rather he was clinging to her. He did not want to get onto that bus.

His mother gently encouraged him to let sister go and get on. He did let go of his sister. Then he latched onto his mother’s leg. All this while the bus driver and other students waited patiently on the bus. A little less gently now, his mom told him it was time to go. After all, he was ready. He had his new backpack and lunch box full of all the things any new kindergartener needs to tackle whatever kindergarten has to bring.

Still, he clung desperately to his mother’s leg. With more force now, his mother told him it was time to go. He had to go to school. About that time, the bus driver realized he was behind schedule, and he joined in the pleas for the boy to get on with it. His mom pried his arms from around her leg, and she moved him toward the bus. He fought her the whole way. Finally, he realized there was no winning, and most reluctantly, he climbed those big black steps onto that huge yellow bus. The doors shut, and the bus pulled away carrying that little boy off to school.

The sight of it all brought tears to my eyes both for the little boy and for his mother. Such a hard thing for the two of them. I am sure, more than anything, his mother wanted to scoop him up and carry him back home with her. But that’s not what a good mother does. Sometimes we have to play the part of the mother bird and push our babies out of the nest.

I mentioned that my oldest son started to college yesterday. Fortunately, I didn’t have to pry him off my leg to get him to go. Nope. He virtually ran to his car he was so excited to start on this new adventure. Armed not with a Sponge Bob backpack, but rather with his new Apple laptop, (College students cost more than kindergarten students.) I am really hoping he has all the tools he needs to be ready for what faces him in the next several months.

Motherhood is a precious endeavor from the first day of kindergarten to the first day of college and beyond.

As I watched that tearful young mother wave goodbye at the school bus yesterday, I wanted to jump out of my van and hug her. I wanted to tell her to savor every moment, even the painful one just past. Because before she knows it, that little fellow will be flying off to college and a part of her will wish he was still clinging to her leg instead.

We do so much as mothers to make sure that our children have all they need to succeed. Be it a new backpack for a kindergartener or a new laptop for a college freshman, we want our children to be prepared for the things this life will throw at them. As moms, we must remember that the best thing we can give them is a legacy of faith. For no one can provide for their them like their Heavenly Father who supplies for all their needs according to his riches in glory. (Phil 4:19)

When they stand steadfast in the love of their Heavenly Father, he will be their light and their salvation. Who (or what) shall they fear? (Ps 27:1) Nothing. Not one thing. Not a big yellow school bus that promises to take them away to the unknowns of kindergarten, not a big college campus with all the trappings to distract a young person from their calling, or anything in between. No, for the Creator of the Universe will hold them securely in his righteous right hand.

All A-Twitter

It’s a frustrating day when someone who likes to write can come up with nothing to say. I am rarely at a loss for words. It happened once this week. I shouldn’t even bring it up because I have no intention of telling you THAT story. It’s not that I don’t think I can trust you with the story, its just that it’s not really mine to tell yet. I hope to one day tell you that story, but I am supremely hopeful that it is not yet finished and that the conclusion to the story will be quite a wonderful God thing to behold.

In the meantime, I can tell you another story having to do with having nothing to say. Yes. I am about to write a blog about having nothing to say. I can just feel your excitement now.

After several months of watching my sons and my husband partake of Twitter, I succumbed to the pull of setting up my own Twitter account. I do like the whole concept of throwing out random thoughts or information to be disseminated quickly. It’s certainly a different venue than Facebook.

Mostly I enjoy seeing what my two teenage sons throw out there. That is until my oldest son threw out there one day the fact that my house was a mess and that it smelled of pancakes and syrup. I didn’t so much mind his Twitter world knowing that my house smelled of breakfast, but telling the world that my house was a mess might surely prevent my home from ever being featured in Home and Garden Magazine. I insisted on a retraction.

I have enjoyed my Twitter account. I have been selective in who I follow. I have limited it, in addition to my husband and kids, to people who encourage and inspire. Not that my kids and my husband don’t inspire, they do, but others also have to meet a pretty high standard. I don’t want to hear what people ate for breakfast or that they are sitting in the carpool line at the elementary school. When I pull up my Twitter account, I want to be happy with how I spent those few moments.

I can count on my Pastor quoting his favorite verse from the One Year Bible for that day. Andy Stanley usually tweets something relevant for leaders or re-tweets something he found inspiring.

I’m not looking for everyday stuff. I have Facebook for that.

Now. Because I hold to this view of Twitter, and while I have had my account now for a couple of months, I have yet to tweet anything. This is for two reasons. First, I want to tweet things that have meaning, and I want my first tweet to set that tone. If I can’t be inspiring, at least I want to be amusing. This has put quite a bit of pressure on me. I have nothing yet to say that seems “first tweet worthy”.

Second, to date, the only people following me on twitter are my two oldest sons and my husband. Oh, I take that back. My great friend and once guest blogger, Catherine from Charlotte, started following me today. So. Four people will see this first tweet.

What if no one else decides to follow me? Now I am back in fourth grade and fearful that no one will choose me to play on his or her kickball team.

I’m not sure how to resolve these issues.
Perhaps I can petition people to follow me on Twitter. That would solve problem number two. That still leaves the issue of problem number one. What to tweet?

I will have to work on that one. But I am planning to take the dive sometime this week. I’m just going to do it. I’m going to walk out to the edge and I am going to jump. It’s going to be 140 characters or less of…. something. Hopefully it will be inspiring, encouraging, or amusing. With any luck it will be all three.

In the meantime, if you have a Twitter account I would like to invite you to follow me. I will follow you back. Just please don’t tell me what you are eating or that you are stuck somewhere in traffic. Deal?

Also- Whom are you following that brings you a smile, or inspires you with their tweets? Share them with me here. I need some inspiration. Really I do.

Then you can find me on Twitter at: @staceygbenson.

“Okay, What’s Next?”

Folks who know me know that I care nothing really about sports. I don’t show favoritism, I am equally uninterested in them all. I rarely attend sporting events, watching them on TV makes me want to pluck all my eyebrows out, and talking about sports seems to be a waste of precious breath. I’m not anti-sports, though. It doesn’t bother me at all if sports are your thing, and I do think there are some positives from the whole endeavor. I just usually avoid participation.

So you may find this blog a bit out of character at first.

I woke up this morning, checked my Facebook to get my news and there it was. Two of my friends from Charlotte had posted that the Carolina Panthers had let 16-year kicker, John Kasay, go. I was a little surprised.

So why would I care about this? How would I even know, as a self proclaimed non-sports fan, who the kicker for the Panther’s is? As most of you know, my family lived in Charlotte for eleven years and while there, I came the closest to being a sports fan as I ever have.

Charlotte loves the Panthers. It helps one become a fan when Charlotte’s favorite kicker goes to your church. It’s a little easy to get caught up in the football frenzy when on game Sundays everyone shows up to church in the their Panther jerseys, and the pastor makes sure he’s done with his preaching in time to let everyone out to see the game.

In a society where people like Ke$ha (Seriously? She has a dollar sign in her name?) and Kenye West are elevated and revered by young people its kind of sad to see someone who is really worthy of admiration leave the public stage. I suppose it’s possible for John Kasay to move on and play for another team, but at forty-one years old that might be a challenge.

The Panther’s kicker would sometimes speak at our church during the off season and, in spite of the fame and wealth professional football brought them, the Kasays seemed to value the things my family does. It was well known that John was not shy about sharing his faith among his teammates, and that he was a positive influence on and off the field. I worked with his wife, Laura, once on a large women’s event and learned that while their bank account might have looked fuller than mine, she shared the same concerns for her four kids as I did for my four.

I remember a time that my oldest son got to use John’s tickets and parking space for a Panther’s game. John had offered his tickets to one of the pastor’s at church and he had chosen to take a few young guys to the game. They drove to John’s house, picked up the tickets and went to the game. Getting out of the car parked in John Kasay’s spot was so fun for those kids.

There are a lot of folks who are learning, like the Kasay’s, what it feels like to be “let go” from jobs they’ve held for years. My family is no exception to that. It feels quite like life’s rug has been pulled out from under you. It’s more than the money lost, although there is that. It’s the feeling that you somehow were not valued enough to hang on to. That what you brought to the table wasn’t valuable enough to keep you there. That feeling is far worse than the income loss.

It’s then, while you are dangling there in mid air, that you have to look around and decide where and how you will land.

It really is quite a critical time. Where you land will often decide where you will go next and how you will fair in the meantime. It’s then that who you are and whose you are become really important. When you are a child of the Most High, then you know that whatever comes, you are valued and you matter. Holding bitterness and harboring ill will toward those who did not value you will not serve you well. It’s only natural to be hurt or offended, but allowing yourself to stay in that frame of mind will only delay what God, as your Provider, has in store for you. So how you land matters as well.

I don’t know where the Kasays will land, but I am willing to bet their faith has been kicked (no pun intended) up a notch and maybe, just maybe as my husband suggested this morning, a new ministry will be born. I know this much, as long as we still have breath in our lungs, God’s plan for us here is not complete. When we come to the end of one experience, it’s time to look to the Father and say, “Okay, what’s next?”

What Any Momma Wants

Ask any momma what she wants for her kids and most likely she will say that she just wants her kids to be happy. Moms do quite a bit to see that their kids are happy.

I can remember when Laura was about five; she wanted to have a fairy party. So I spent an entire week working on a huge mural of a fairy scene on butcher paper in our garage. It was September in the south, and the temperature in my garage was quite hot, but I didn’t care. When I finished, it covered one whole wall of our screened in deck. All that to see her eyes light up at her party and make her happy.

When Landon was small he had a pet hamster named Jerry. Landon loved Jerry. We’d had the hamster for quite a long time when he started having trouble with one of his eyes. It had become infected and swollen. Landon was so worried. It grieved me to see him so sad about his little pet. As the eye got worse, I tried crunching up small pieces of an antibiotic pill someone had, and feeding it to the hamster on a grape. I washed the eye several times a day and finally nursed the hamster back to health. He did end up losing the eye, but he lived. All this so my son would be happy.

My husband and I just had the great pleasure of surprising our sixteen-year-old son, Ryan with his first car. A jeep. Yes, he was happy! Need I say more about that?

The next great plan to bring happiness to my youngest son, Evan, is even now in the planning stages. This is going to be big. He is probably going to wet his pants. I cannot wait.

Seriously, I love to see my kids be happy.

Yet while I love to see them being happy, it’s not what I want most for them. I love to bless them with things or experiences that bring them happiness, yet I do not want them to spend their lives chasing happiness.

Most of us know that happiness is a very fickle, unpredictable thing. Just when we think we’ve caught it, we open our hands to see that it has slipped past us, again. And sometimes when we do catch it, we find that it fails to deliver on its promise.

I was just this week talking to my two younger kids about happiness. I was pleasantly surprised when my ten-year-old son said this:

“You shouldn’t go after happiness, because it doesn’t last. You should chase after God because his joy lasts forever.”

When I found my voice again, I said, “Preach on, little man!”

He had stolen my thunder and I couldn’t have been happier… er, more joyful. At ten, this boy understands what most adults do not. God does not call us to be happy. He calls us to be holy. There are many occasions when God calls us to do something that does not make us happy, but our joy comes when we are obedient to his calling.
By it’s very nature, happiness is elusive and must be chased. Americans believe in the “God given right” to pursue happiness. But God doesn’t want us to pursue happiness; he wants us to pursue HIM.

If I am honest, I spend lots of time in the pursuit of my own happiness. Even worse, I expect others to do or say things to make me happy. That can seriously be a full time job… making me happy. If my husband, Matthew’s, job was to make me happy, he’d never have time to do anything else for what makes me happy today, does not always make me happy tomorrow.

So many relationships break apart because someone no longer makes us happy. What a huge burden to place upon someone else.

I do what I can to make my kids happy. I do it because, honestly, it makes me happy. But happiness is not what I want most for my kids. What I want most for my kids is what my ten-year-old said. More than anything else, I want them to “chase after God because his joy lasts forever.“