Month: January 2012

You Are Enough

From time to time I have had the feeling that I am not enough. Maybe you have had that feeling before, too. There are plenty of voices that will whisper that lie in your ear if you are willing to listen to them. I used to worry that I wasn’t pretty enough, or curvy enough (now sometimes I think I am too curvy, but that’s just how that goes.) There were times when I thought I wasn’t popular enough or talented enough.

As women we sometimes listen to voices that tell us we are not good enough. Not sexy enough or not smart enough. Not organized enough or creative enough. Not young enough or old enough. Sometimes we even hear that we are not spiritual enough. I think it’s healthy when we can do an honest self-evaluation, see where we fall short in some areas that we definitely need to improve, but I think it becomes of utmost importance whose voice we hear during those evaluations.

Do you hear the voice of a critical parent, or harsh teacher? How about a hurtful spouse or catty girlfriend? How about someone who is always all too ready to point out your shortcomings? Some people survive by measuring the worth of others as less than their own. What they may not realize is those words, not spoken in love, wound our identity. It changes how we see who we are. It influences the value we place on ourselves.

How we see ourselves depends largely on whom we listen to. Who are you listening to? What voice rattles around in your head, getting top billing? I recently had to take my dad to the emergency room. As a part of every initial evaluation, regardless of the reason you came to the hospital, someone comes in and asks the question, “Do you ever have thoughts of harming yourself?” I listened closely to my dad’s response. He cracked a smile and told the nurse, “Nah, I like myself too much for that!” It’s true, my dad is probably the most comfortable person with himself I know.

Some of you are thinking, “That must be nice.” Men do seem to accomplish this state of being better than women do. My husband can tell me that I am beautiful every day, but there are lots of days when I look into the mirror and wonder what he sees exactly. I mean, I see the belly that won’t flatten out again no matter what. I see the grey hairs that multiply like rabbits. I see wrinkles and sags, spots and bags. I look into my magnifying mirror and wonder, “Who’s beautiful?” Then I begin to worry about what drugs my husband must be on.

So how about we set the record straight. Here’s the truth. You ARE enough. You are. How do I know this to be true? Because the Bible tells me that,

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:14

The psalmist wrote that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. He then points out basically that God doesn’t make any junk. He made you to be just what you are. You are enough. You are. I am, too.

Yes we have shortfalls, and weaknesses. Yes, we all have areas in our lives that God wants to grow us and make us more like Christ. But even with all that, we are enough. We are enough because when He formed us in the womb, He knew what He was doing. He didn’t flub it up.

So what should our response be to this amazing news? Our response should be to recognize that He is also enough. His love is enough, His peace is enough, His joy is enough. He is all we need, and He thinks we are the cat’s meow. If God had a refrigerator, (Where else would He keep his moose tracks ice cream?) your picture would be on it. You are enough, not because I say so, but because He does.

Blessing in the Storm

I woke up, as many of my neighbors did, early Monday morning to storm warnings in the area. We found out later that six tornados had ripped through our community. The largest one made a path through a neighborhood less than five miles from my home.

Many of us who were spared from losing our homes felt so blessed, especially as we looked at photos of the devastation so close by.  I felt blessed, but how did my neighbor feel just miles away? Did they feel blessed in the loss of all they owned? And the family of the 16-year-old girl who died, did they feel blessed? And what were we all really saying about God? That He blessed some and not others? Is that what we were really saying?

Then I remembered a fable I once read, and the message it sends. I want to share it here because I think I am not the only one who wonders these things.

Once there was a poor old man who lived in a tiny village. Although poor, he was envied by all, for he owned a beautiful white horse. People offered fabulous prices for the steed, but the old man always refused. “This horse is not a horse to me,” he would tell them. “He is a friend, not a possession. How could you sell a friend?” One morning he found that the horse was not in the stable. All the village came to see him. “You old fool,” they scoffed, “we told you that someone would steal your horse. How could you ever hope to protect such a valuable animal? You could have gotten whatever price you wanted. Now the horse is gone, and you’ve been cursed with misfortune.”

The old man responded, “Don’t speak too quickly. Say only that the horse is not in the stable. That is all we know; the rest is judgment. If I’ve been cursed or not, how can you know? How can you judge?”

The people contested, “Don’t make us out to be fools! The simple fact that your horse is gone is a curse.”

The old man spoke again. “All I know is that the stable is empty, and the horse is gone. The rest I don’t know. Whether it be a curse or a blessing, I can’t say. All we can see is a fragment. Who can say what will come next?”

The people of the village thought that the man was crazy. But instead, he was an old man still cutting firewood and dragging it out of the forest and selling it. He lived hand to mouth in the misery of poverty.

After fifteen days, the horse returned. He hadn’t been stolen; he had run away into the forest. Not only had he returned, he had brought a dozen wild horses with him. Once again the village people gathered around the woodcutter and spoke. “Old man, you were right and we were wrong. What we thought was a curse was a blessing. Please forgive us.”

The man responded, “Once again, you go too far. Say only that the horse is back. State only that a dozen horses returned with him, but don’t judge. How do you know if this is a blessing or not? You see only a fragment. Unless you know the whole story, how can you judge? You read only one page of a book. Can you judge the whole book? You read only one word of a phrase. Can you understand the entire phrase?

“Life is so vast, yet you judge all of life with one page or one word. All you have is a fragment! Don’t say that this is a blessing. No one knows. I am content with what I know. I am not perturbed by what I don’t.”

“Maybe the old man is right,” they said to one another. So they said little. But down deep, they knew he was wrong. They knew it was a blessing.

The old man had a son, an only son. The young man began to break the wild horses. After a few days, he fell from one of the horses and broke both legs. Once again the villagers gathered around the old man and cast their judgements.

“You were right,” they said. “You proved you were right. The dozen horses were not a blessing. They were a curse. Your only son has broken his legs, and now in your old age you have no one to help you. Now you are poorer than ever.”

The old man spoke again. “You people are obsessed with judging. Say only that my son broke his legs. Who knows if it is a blessing or a curse? No one knows. We only have a fragment. Life comes in fragments.”

It so happened that a few weeks later the country engaged in war against a neighboring country. All the young men of the village were required to join the army. Only the son of the old man was excluded, because he was injured. Once again the people gathered around the old man, crying and screaming because their sons had been taken. The enemy was strong, and the war would be a losing struggle. They would never see their sons again.

“You were right, old man,” they wept. “God knows you were right. This proves it. Yours son’s accident was a blessing. His legs may be broken, but at least he is with you. Our sons are gone forever.”

The old man spoke again. “It is impossible to talk with you. You always draw conclusions. No one knows. Say only this: Your sons had to go to war, and mine did not. No one knows if it is a blessing or a curse. No one is wise enough to know. Only God knows.”

It’s true, who are we to judge what is blessing, and what is not? Doesn’t the Bible tell us that God works all things to the good of those who love Him? I heard one storm victim say, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes way. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” I feel blessed to have my home and family safe. He feels blessed to be alive.

Well Done, Patricia

“Well done, good and faithful servant!” Matthew 25:23

I attended the “receiving of friends” portion of a funeral this week. It was held at the church where I grew up and got married. My parents still attend there and for me, it was a real homecoming kind of experience.

It’s a small church in a small town. Growing up there, I felt loved and accepted. The people who attended that church were the people who always attended that church. Families raised their children together. Kids were birthed, nurtured, raised, and married off in that church family.

I grew up and married a minister, so I left that church to go be a pastor’s wife in another church. It just wouldn’t do for me to stay in that church while my husband served in another, but that small church will always be my church.

As I stood in a long line to pay my final respects to the family, I saw so many familiar faces. So many people had come back for this. I noticed a man ahead of me, and as he turned, I stared. Not polite, I know, but the site of him gave me pause. The man looked just like his own father, only his father has been dead for a few years now. I realized that what I saw in him was what his father looked like at that age, back when I was just a girl. As I saw more of the kids I grew up with, now parents and grandparents themselves, the scene was repeated again and again. That one looking just like her mother, that one his dad. I thought of the scripture that tells us that children are a legacy from the Lord. As I stood there in line, this verse took on new meaning for me.

What am I passing on in my children besides my physical features? I mean, put longer hair on my oldest son and he’d be a dead ringer for me. But what else did I give him? What legacy will I be passing on to my kids after I am gone? I hope it is more than fair skin and brown eyes. Much more. I hope they will possess a passion for Jesus, a love for His Word, and compassion for the lost and hurting. I hope they give their lives for things that matter and leave the rest. I hope they teach their children to love the Lord, too.

As I stood in line and waited for my chance to give my love to the family, I couldn’t help think of all the mother’s I once had in that church. I was there to celebrate the life of one of them. Patricia Rudd had been a great influence in my life as I was growing up and becoming. She taught me to sing “This Little Light of Mine” in Bible school. I watched her as she often led the women’s missions group of our church to help those in need. I saw her sing praises to her Lord, watched her raise her own kids to love and serve Him, and teach the lessons of Scripture to a Sunday school class for decades. She never failed to speak encouraging words to me. She modeled grace and kindness for me, and set a wonderful example of a Godly wife and mother.

She was one of my mother’s best friends, and she lived a life worth celebrating. I know her family, church, and community will miss her, but she left a legacy behind that has already spanned generations. I am sure as she faced her Savior, realizing all she lived her life for was true, that He said to her, “Well, done, Patricia”

A21Campaign Update

“Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless…” Isaiah 1:17

Today is another 21st, so it’s time to shout out once again about the crime of human trafficking. I am so pleasantly surprised that since I first became aware of the problem back in October, its awareness has become huge across our nation and our world. People are angry. People are appalled. And people are saying to those who exploit women and children for their own purposes and pleasure that it will stop. I have been most pleased to see the response of the Church on this issue. I can’t help but believe that God Himself is tired of His little girls being used and abused and is moving His church to action against it. I’ve never been much on “awareness campaigns” because I never really thought that they accomplished much. I have now had to change my mind on that. This problem has been allowed to grow because people like you and I just didn’t know it was happening. But now that we do, we want it to stop.

But maybe you haven’t heard yet that:

Human trafficking is the second largest global organized crime today, generating approximately 31.6 billion USD each year. Specifically, trafficking for sexual exploitation generates 27.8 billion USD per year.

Warning Signs of Human Trafficking
-Signs of physical abuse
-Deprivation of food, water, sleep or medical care
-Someone whose communications are restricted
-A large number of occupants in one residence
-Someone who is rarely seen outside their residence
-Individual not allowed to socialize or attend religious services
-Always accompanied when outside the residence
-Outside locks on doors and windows to prevent someone from leaving the residence
-No travel documents for identification, i.e. ID card, birth certificate, passport, visa, social security card

The National Human Trafficking Center toll free hotline is 1-888-373-7888 or 1-888-428-7581.

We all have to get involved. Really, ladies, what if this was your daughter? The average age for someone being brought into the sex slave industry is 13. They are lured in through online chat rooms and even by other girls at school who themselves are being exploited. Part of their servitude is to bring in their friends. It’s true that the problem is much greater in Europe and Asia, but even one girl sold and trafficked here in the United States is one too many. We know that the hub for human trafficking in the US is right in our backdoor. At least 300 victims a day are brought into the human trafficking industry in Atlanta, Georgia.

Ultimately, the whole human trafficking network comes down to the clients who pay for sex, and as long as they continue to offer their money; the multi-billion dollar sex trafficking industry will flourish.

Organizations are springing up all over our country to work with federal authorities to save these girls. I am so proud of one of my best friends in Charlotte, North Carolina. Debbie became aware of the issue and decided God was telling her to do something. She and a few others have started a ministry called Compassion to Act. They have planned a conference in May at Elevation Church (Blakeney’s Campus) to launch the ministry, but the need for help is so great that they have already been called upon by the FBI there to help some rescued girls who had no one to turn to. All Debbie did was to tell the Lord she was willing, He provided the rest. You can go to http://restoringhearts.net/conferences.html for more information on their Breakthrough seminar.

Churches here in Birmingham are joining in to help. Is yours? If not, find out why not. At the very least, form a prayer group to support those who are fighting on the front lines against this. Collect items to send to shelters like “The Studio” in Huntsville, Alabama run by the Tennessee Valley Family Services. They are always in need of toiletry items, underwear, and clothing. Join forces with organizations like the A21Campaign and send a letter to a rescued girl to encourage her and tell her she is beautiful. Who can’t send a letter? (http://www.thea21campaign.org for more details)

The point is, everyone can do something. Together we can end this. Use your Facebook page as a tool to spread the word and inform others who might not yet know. Send out Tweets that raise awareness. Be a part of the solution in whatever way you can. This is something we can all do together. We can end this. We really can.

Light up the Sky

“The voice of Your thunder was in the whirlwind, the lightnings illumined the world; the earth trembled and shook.” Psalm 77:18

I have a friend who loves a good thunder and lightning storm. What can be frightening to many, in that same thing, she finds comfort. She’s told me this several times. To her, the power and majesty in a strong storm reminds her of the power and majesty of God, and of His utter control over everything. She feels close to God as she watches the lighting and hears the thunder it brings.

I was eating dinner with this friend last night as a storm passed through. The blinds over the restaurant windows were open and as the lightning flashed, her attention was riveted to the window, and the look on her face was of utter delight. She said, “Oh look! Did you see the lightning?” She was mesmerized. Another lady sitting with us glanced over her shoulder for the briefest of moments, and then looked at my friend, shuttered and said, “I could have done without you telling me about that lightning.” Some people fear storms.

For my friend, it reminds her that God is so powerful, so in control of everything. Even in the very midst of a terrible storm, this brings her peace and joy even. For many, like the other lady at our table, we want to hide from the storms. We want them to pass us by as we cower and fret. We forget about the power of our God to save us, to dazzle us in the midst of a storm.

God really does tend to do His best work in the storms of life. Some of the best work He’s ever done in me and through me has been as a result of the terrible storms I have weathered in my life. When Matthew and I lost our baby, Justin, more than sixteen years ago, I was unsure if I could weather that storm, but I did. And through it, I learned what truly matters in this life. I also learned that my God would never forsake me.

None of us welcomes the storms that come to us. It’s not as if we are jumping up and down waving our arms saying, “Pick me! Pick me! I want a storm! Send me a storm!” But rather than turning from it and cowering away when it does come, we can face the storm and watch the God of the Universe work His will and His way in our lives, knowing that the result will be for our benefit.

I can’t help but think of my friend who loves thunder storms when I hear this song from The Afters. Their video interpretation is different from the one in my head. I listen to the song and think of how beautiful the Lord lights up the sky during a lightning show! Listen to this song during the next big thunderstorm that passes through. You just might come to love storms as much as my friend does!

Faith Sprouts

“LORD my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me.” Psalm 30:2

I woke to the sound of the hall bathroom door slamming shut. I was not happy. This was my day off from work, and I had planned to sleep in a little bit. My frustration turned to worry when I heard one of my kids throwing up in that same bathroom. Uh oh. There had been a stomach bug flying around, and I had visions of it flying through my family.

I was up in an instant and heading for the bathroom to see who it was. I opened the door to find my oldest son on the floor in front of the toilet. He looked bad. He was dressed for school, but it didn’t appear he would be going anywhere, and I said as much. In between heaves he told me he really had to go to school. He had just started a new semester at UAB and really didn’t want to miss class.

I appreciated his uncharacteristic dedication, but insisted he was allowed to be sick. He stood up and looked really green. I asked what the cause of his vomiting was, and he told me that he had gone to bed with a slight headache but had woken up with a full-blown migraine. He is prone to those nasty things. While I hated that he felt so badly, inside I breathed a sigh of relief that at least the stomach bug had not landed on us.

I was afraid that his headache had come upon him because our family had given up sodas four days ago as a part of a church wide twenty-one day fasting period. I told him he probably needed a little caffeine. I poured him some tea, gave him some Advil and told him to lie down for about twenty minutes. After that we would decide if he was able to make it downtown for class.

After about twenty minutes I walked back into the den expecting to find him still horizontal. I was surprised to see him standing up. It was then that I also noticed he was crying. I thought, “No way is this kid going to class today.” He crossed the room and hugged me, still crying. I told him it was okay if he needed to stay home. I told him he was sick.

But then he said, “I’m not sick.” To which I said, “Migraines count as sick. You cannot drive in this shape.” Then he pulled back from me and I could see he was smiling. I was completely confused then. I asked, “What is wrong?” Landon told me he was no longer sick. He told me that as he lay there in the recliner, a friend from church had texted him and had basically told him that nothing was too great or too small for God. So my son lay there and asked Jesus to take away his headache. And He did. Right then. He said it felt as though a wave washed over him and he immediately felt better. Hence the tears and the smile.

I thought to myself, “Well Jesus, the tea and the Advil didn’t hurt either.” But immediately I was thankful. Thankful for Landon’s friend who texted him and reminded him that no problem was too big for God. Thankful that Landon’s faith led him to pray for relief and that it was granted. I have a feeling my son’s faith grew by leaps and bounds in that moment. I could almost seeing it sprouting up around him.

I had to laugh as he checked his hair and ran out the door for class, and I knew that was going to be a great day.

Time to Refocus

 “I will take my stand and keep watch. I will take my place on the tower. And I will keep watch to see what the Lord will say…” Habakkuk 2:1-2

I can say with full confidence that I have never used a reference from Habakkuk here at Cracked Pot Pieces, but Habakkuk wanted to hear from the Lord and he went to great lengths to do so. It’s pertinent.

It’s been kind of quiet around our house this week. Sunday started a twenty-one day run of prayer and fasting for our family and our church. It’s an annual thing for the church we attend, and it’s a great way to start off the new year. It’s all about refocusing our lives and allowing God to be our focus. Part of our family’s fast is from television, movies, and video games. None of any of it for twenty-one days. My kids are also fasting social media.

I will admit that I started to turn on the television about thirty times that first day. It was hard not to do it. It was almost automatic. I’m a little embarrassed by that, but yesterday and today the lure has been much less. I mean it’s not like there’s anything all that great on television anyway. Apart from Parenthood, what is there that’s all that great? (I do so love Parenthood. If you are not fasting TV you should watch it.) We pay for a bazillion channels, and most of the time we can’t find anything worthwhile to watch. And yet the set is on most of the day just providing meaningless background noise for our household.

That’s the primary reason we decided to give it up for our fast. We’ve made some dietary changes, too, but I think the media fast will impact us as much as anything else. We surround ourselves with so much “background noise” that we hardly ever just turn it all off and appreciate the quiet.

Sunday evening while our older kids were back at church, Matthew and I sat on the floor in the den and played card games with our youngest son, Evan. We played for an hour. It was fun. It was quiet. I can’t remember the last time we did something like that. Evan wanted to nominate us for Parents of the Year. I even let him win. That’s a lie. He beat me fair and square.

We are hoping that we have emptied the noise from our home in order for it to be filled with God’s voice. We want to refocus. We want to listen for His voice. We want him to lead us, bless us, and work in us this next year. We want to hear from Him.

Sometimes we all need to stop and refocus. What is our focus? Jobs? Money? Bigger, better, more, more, MORE? The world will tell us that what we have is not enough. God wants us to know that He is all we need.

Manufacture some quiet into your day. Turn off the television, let your computer rest, and put down your smart phone. Maybe you’re not ready to go cold turkey on media, but maybe you can set aside some intentional time each day to be quiet, refocus, and listen for God to speak. He is speaking.