Month: April 2012

Lookin’ for Love

“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst”

To say that Las Vegas is a world unto itself would be a true and understated fact. Set in the middle of the desert you find this oasis of self indulgence. Most who travel to this area do so with the full intent of misbehaving-so much so that the motto, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” is like an understood philosophy that all bets are off…. Or sometimes on!

I find myself in Las Vegas for a whole week to attend a professional nursing convention. I would not likely have chosen this destination for such a professional convention. Vascular Access nurses are not, by and large, party animals, so it seems the whole let it all hang out attitude is wasted on this group.

The craziest thing I’ve seen any of the nurses do was when I saw one nurse, sitting in a “Hover Round” type mobile chair, apparently lost control of the thing. In the middle of a lecture in the convention room, she ran it into the wall, backed it up and ran it into the wall again- this time knocking over a pedestal table before she got the machine stopped. I felt sorry for her. I laughed, but I felt sorry for her.

As I strolled through the casino at the Rio Resort and Casino last night, all around me were people seeking pleasure. Some where getting loaded up on alcohol. I saw one couple huffing something from a small vial. Others were hoping to strike it lucky at the gaming tables. Waitresses walked around in outfits that made me want to get them a blanket and call their mothers. I saw a short unattractive man holding the hand of a tall beautiful woman and strolling through the casino with purpose. I knew the only way that man was with that woman was because he was paying for her. I wanted to grab her hand and run. I wanted to poke my finger in his eye. Regretfully, I did neither.

As I watched the vacationing people in Vegas seek to fulfill the hunger they felt inside, I knew they’d wake up the next afternoon (none of them would be up earlier than that!) feeling empty again. It won’t be too long before they’ll need to be back on the prowl to fill the void again. I could sit in judgement of all of those people, but then I know that I can seek what this world provides just as easily. And just as easily, I can find that I come up empty again.

The only hope we have for continual fulfillment lies in which watering hole we frequent. When Jesus met the woman at the well, she had been seeking fulfillment in things that left her empty inside. That day Jesus offered her a new source. He offered her fulfillment in Him. He promised she would never again thirst. He is the well that never goes dry. He is all we need, and until we stop trying to find love, acceptance, contentment, and satisfaction in what this world has to offer, we can count on not finding that which we seek.

I’m a bit handicapped on the road here, But I want to post a video of “Everything” by Lifehouse. I’ve done the best I can to get it on here.

My Name is Stacey, and I Have Issues

I’m a bit of a scatterbrain. Those who know me best know this is quite a true statement. I like to say it is part of my charm, but even that falls on deaf ears sometimes. It’s not that I enjoy being a scatterbrain, I would much rather be organized, intentional, and mindful of all things. I have no explanation for my lack of those tendencies. I was raised in an orderly home with parents who had those qualities. It’s apparently in my DNA, somewhere, unless those are qualities that have a tendency to skip a generation.

The only explanation I can come up with is that the Lord has made me a scatterbrain in order to keep me humble. I cannot boast in myself. I need too much assistance to do that. I am no self-made woman. All that I have, and everything that I am, is a result of His work in me.

The Lord has made each of us with an intended purpose in mind. We can look around at the people close to us and admire their qualities, but they are called to a different purpose and have been thusly gifted. For example, my husband has never lived a scatterbrained day in his life. I have never known a more intentional, organized or mindful person in my life. I am not sure what he did in his early life to warrant being married to a scatterbrain, but it must have been something big. I will say that he has had to learn great patience and kindness in his life sentence with me.

For instance, I locked my keys in the car yesterday. I have a fairly reasonable explanation for how I managed this, but the bottom line is, that I did it. So I called my husband. I didn’t want to, but when you are married to reasonable, organized, and mindful that’s whom you call. When he answered the phone and heard my dilemma, he didn’t miss a beat. He was not surprised in the least that I had done this thing. There was no scolding, no ridicule. Just his reasonable solution.

I can have extended periods of time where I appear to have it all together. I can even begin to become impressed with myself. I start thinking that I have turned some sort of corner in my life and have dug deep and pulled up those qualities I am sure are down deep inside that would allow me to live an organized and predicable life. And then I discover that I have left a black ink pen in the pocket of my lab coat, which has exploded in the dryer and ruined a whole load of clothes. And while I stand there bemoaning the fact that I have just rendered perfectly good clothes to the ragbag, I manage to burn the yeast rolls I have in the oven for dinner.

And I am once again reminded that if it were not for the grace of God I would be nothing, and that even with His grace I leave a lot to be desired. Whether our issue is being a scatterbrain, anger, obsession, fear, insecurity, or a host of other issues, we can rest assured that we were made for a purpose and with a plan in mind. Even Paul had his “thorn in the flesh”. We can, and should, work on our issues. Even if it is just to benefit the poor people who have to live with us. But we can also be comforted that God knew what He was doing when He made us, and He didn’t mess up. He has a plan, and He’s not done with us yet.

Well, Shut My Mouth

I love words. I love new words, old words. I love them all strung together to make an exciting story or a beautiful love song. I love it when they are used correctly and spelled correctly. I am not, however, a fan of intentional misspellings of words in business names, such as “Kidz Tyme” or “Krispy Kreme”… no wait. I am totally fine with Krispy Kreme. Totally fine, you deliciously fried and glazed confection!

Words are a gift. As a nurse, I am always profoundly sad to see a patient who has lost their use of words. Strokes or other disease processes can rob people of their ability to speak words. Even when this loss is temporary, it puts the patient in a very precarious spot. A patient with Guillian-Barre syndrome, for instance, can lose their ability to speak while having complete cognitive function. They fully understand their surroundings and situations, and yet they are unable to convey or contribute verbally to their situation.

God knew the blessing the gifts of language and speech would be to humanity. The ability to communicate to each other through words was going to be invaluable to humankind. God also knew that what He meant to edify, would in time, be turned and used to wound. He warned us of the great power in words and how none we speak fall dead to the ground. We may regret speaking harsh or unkind words, but they are forever, those words.

Death and life are in the power of the tongue… Proverbs 18:21

The Bible speaks strongly to the believer who has lost control of his tongue:

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. James 1:2

I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak… Matthew 12:36

Stan Lee wrote this famous line in his Spiderman story:

“With great power, comes great responsibility.”

These were important words for Peter Parker aka Spiderman. We would do well to hear their message even if we don’t wear spandex. God so understood the power of words that Scripture is full of instructions for their usage. The power of positive word use is so great that we are even instructed to use our words to bless the very ones who persecute us. (Romans 12:14) Wars begin and end with words. Relationships do, too.

We have all been wounded by the words spoken from the mouth of another. We know the power of the spoken word is no myth. I’ll bet we can all remember an unkind word spoken to us or about us in our distant past. The enemy loves it when others use words to tear us down. Those go right into his arsenal to use against us again and again.

We really have got to stop giving him that ammunition. We are told in Ephesians (4:29) to take care that no corrupt talk comes from our mouths, but instead we are to speak words of grace.

I’ve been heavy on the Scripture citing in this piece. Yet I have merely scratched the surface of what the Bible has to teach us about words. Can we tolerate one more? Matthew 15:18 communicates that the words that come from our mouths originate in our hearts. Words are a window to our very core. They are a reflection of what’s really going on deep inside of us.

Alone, we are helpless to tame our own tongues. (Factoid: As I have been writing this piece, my own tongue has waged a battle for control against me.) So we must commit the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts to Him, so that in our dealings with people we reflect His grace, and His mercy as the words tumble out of our mouths. Let us be slow to speak and quick to listen. If someone speaks harshly to us, listen. Hear the torn places in their hearts speak in the words they say. Only then will you be able to respond not in kind, but out of the abundant love and mercy of the Father who has the power to heal even the most damaged of hearts.

Offense. Just Let It Go

The procedures I perform as a nurse require that my patients sign a consent form first. You know the ones I mean. The consent forms basically say that you give me permission to perform the procedure, and you won’t blame me if I mess up. (That’s not what they really say.) They actually are to insure that the patient understands the need for the procedure and the possible side effects and risks involved. No signed consent, no procedure.

Most patients can take care of signing this themselves, but sometimes a patient is unable to. They might have what we call an “altered mental status” either from the medications they are on or from some disease process.

In these cases, another person must be willing to step up and sign for them. Most folks have some family or significant other close by they can depend on, but sometimes a person is just without anyone at all. Still, in other cases the person or persons who normally would step up, refuse to get involved.

I can recall a patient I once had that needed to have one of his sons sign his consent form. The old man was just too confused to fully grasp the situation at hand. Sadly, neither son was willing to do anything. One had not seen his father for over a decade and had not had contact with him in all that time. The other had been estranged for a lesser amount of time, but just didn’t want to get involved. They both lived just a few short miles away, but neither was willing to even consent to the procedure over the phone.

I couldn’t fathom this. As I stood there looking at this pathetic, ailing, old man, I couldn’t help but wonder what had transpired in that family that caused his sons to refuse to come to his aid even in his final days. I understand that sometimes there are cases where parents have severely mistreated their children and have severed relationships there, but much more commonly the rift in families- or in other relationships- is over far less.

We are often so quick to take up an offense… and then we like to hold onto that offense. Stroke it, feed it and watch it grow. We build a hard and fast, ironclad case for cultivating it. We even try to garner support and gather fans of our offense. We feel as if we deserve to be offended, and yet, if we are to die daily to ourselves (and we are) it is a true statement that dead people are un-offendable. We are to lay down our very lives (set aside our own agendas- Matthew 16:24-25) and take up the cause of Christ every day. Doing this leaves little time to tend to an offense.

Holding onto an offense puts our focus on ourselves. Those sons were not willing to take their eyes off of themselves, and the offense they had nurtured, long enough to simply do the humanitarian thing for their father.

We can find we are offended by big things for sure, but little things can cause us to take up a personal offense, too. Just this week, I was standing at the grocery deli counter along with a few other people. I needed to get some sandwich meat. I waited patiently for the person ahead of me to be served. When the deli lady then asked for who was next, before I could speak, a man standing next to me spoke up his order. This offended me. This little thing. I wanted to say, “Hey buddy, I was here first, and besides, this is still the south and its still ladies first down here!” It wasn’t until I had left the store that I was able to lay down that offense. I didn’t even know him, and I had allowed him to rob me of my peace!

“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” Isaiah 26:3

Offense robs us of peace, contentment, relationships, and intimacy. Holding onto an offense instead brings us pridefulness, discontentment, estrangement, and anger.

Being right isn’t more important than doing right. Our greatest example of a person who deserved to be offended, and yet refused to take up the offense, was Jesus. I cannot fathom his ability to- while they were in the process of murdering him via crucifixion- ask God for their forgiveness. Incredible. That is our example.

So how do we, mere mortals, accomplish this?

Change our focus and let it go. Just. Let. It. Go. (Refer back to Isaiah 26:3 above) And then the next time we have the opportunity to pick it back up… don’t. Leave it. You’ll find that an offense without a host quickly withers away.

Did God go to Church Today?

I love it when God goes to church. I’ve been to church when God wasn’t there. It’s dry and lifeless and nothing God-sized ever happens. When God isn’t at church it then falls to man to bring it, and by bring it, I mean to produce an experience that comes as close as it possibly can to one that looks like God attended.

Some of us have been attending church so long without God that we have forgotten what it looks like when He does show up. I know, I’ve been to that church. I’ve been a part of churches where God was never even invited to come, or even expected, really. Some of the best-orchestrated services one can imagine, and still… all without God.

So. My question today is… Did God show up at your church service today? How about last week? Last week was Easter, surely He came then, right?

Sometimes even well meaning ministers or lay people can have a great idea, decide to put that idea into action, and only then ask God to bless their endeavors. We want God to come be a part of what we are doing. Sometimes He just says no. I’ve been in that spot myself. You see, that’s God following us, and that’s backwards.

I love being a part of a church now that rarely, if ever, has a weekend where God doesn’t show up in a big way. Last Sunday over three thousand people decided to follow Jesus at the church where I attend. That’s big. Like Pentacost big. We saw many of those people be baptized today. It was spontaneous. Oh, the staff had made arrangements for anyone who wanted to do it… down to providing them with clothes to be baptized in, a towel, hair drier…. even… dry undies! Still, this was not a thing that had been broadcast in advance. The people who did it didn’t come planning to do it, but God showed up, and they followed Him. Hundreds of them followed Him in baptism. Hope. Of. The. World.

God wants to be inside the prison facilities in Alabama. So our church has followed Him there. Now the Bibb County Correctional Facility has a church service every week facilitated by the staff and volunteers of church I attend. The service has over two hundred in regular attendance weekly. Very soon, we will follow God into all the correctional facilities in Alabama. That’s where God is going, and we are happy to follow Him. This will not increase our church membership, or our church coffers, but it will increase the Kingdom. The local church is the hope of the world.

God is saying that the church is not only for America. So we have followed Him to China to help educate 3000 pastors there. Did you know China even had 3000 pastors? I didn’t. Even in communist China, the local church is still the hope of the world. You get it, yes?

So I’ll ask my question again. Did God show up at your church today? How can you tell? Did anything happen today that only God could have pulled off? If not today, how about last month? Last year? …Ever?

Lots of churches are busy. Many of them have scads of programs to offer. But busy-ness doesn’t mean that God is in attendance. Does the church exist for itself or for the furtherance of the Kingdom? Is the church following after God or asking God to follow after it?

When God shows up at church, it’s people feel alive and energized. When God is not there, a church can suck the life out of its people. It has to. Without God there supplying the life, it must get it from somewhere.

I’m sorry if it seems that I am bragging a bit on my church. I’m not really. I’m bragging on God. I am blessed to be a part of a church with leadership that sees the value in following God rather than leading Him, and that still believes that the hope we have is still worth sharing. Do you have similar stories to share of your church? What is God doing there that only He could do? Do you feel energized and rejuvenated when you go? Did God go to your church today? Is your church still the hope of the world?

Even When the Rain Falls

“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:10

I am thankful to have several ministry women and ministry wives that follow Cracked Pot Pieces blog. These women hold a special place in my heart and in my life. Lots of people who are called to others things and not to ministry cannot understand the unique position it is to work full time in this area of life. I am a ministry wife. I have been for over twenty years. I am blessed. And I am called upon to make sacrifices. Mostly, I don’t mind these sacrifices. I understand the burdens/blessings of a life in ministry.

I am rejoicing with a ministry wife friend of mine this week. She and her minister husband and their children are moving. Again… burdens/blessings. To pack up all of your worldly possessions and move them and your family to uncertain territory is both a burden and especially in this case, a blessing. My friend is so ready to get away from the people of their current church, she’d walk barefoot over hot coals the many miles to their new appointment.

When I hear her tell of the struggles and hardships her family has endured at the hands of these church people, I want to scream. We are warned that we will suffer for the cause of Christ, but I’m not sure we were properly warned that some of the suffering would come from the hands of those who also profess Him. I want to scream because I have been there. I have watched as my husband, who has given up what this world could provide him, has in the past also endured harsh criticism and mistreatment from those who claimed Jesus.

As ministry wives, we are forced to take a position that does not allow us to run these people over with our cars in the church parking lot. Don’t think that we haven’t thought about it. Don’t think that we haven’t sat behind the wheel and imagined it. We have.That and other tempting retributions involving hot tar and feathers. Ministry wives can be fiercely protective. Instead, we have to smile at the people who throw verbal daggers at our husbands, and go home and cry… or yell at… no one. Who can we yell at?

Often ministry wives have no one with whom they can be completely honest. No one they can vent to. We can talk to our husbands, and we do, but they are already suffering and we try not to add to their frustrations. Instead we love on them and encourage them to remain faithful. To endure. To run their race, however hard it is. To week after week continue to minister and lead the unleadable and teach the unteachable. But often we endure these things alone.

All for what? All for the Kingdom. For what most ministry wives still understand, is that the local church continues to be the hope of the world. It is still the way that the Lord is reaching people. And that even though it often doesn’t look like a blessing, even though lots of times it can appear as a burden, to be called to the ministry of the gospel is a high calling. So we send our spouses out to the front lines again and again. Not for the small monetary reward most get each month, but for the sake of eternity. Because they have been appointed by God to do it, and to do anything else would be like asking an American Idol hopeful not to sing. Okay, some of them really need to stop singing, but you get my point, I hope. Just as a fish must swim, those called of God to ministry, must minister.

There are wonderful church folks out there that recognize the blessings and burdens of a life in ministry. I thank the Lord for those people. They probably don’t know just how much they enhance the lives of those who work diligently to see the Kingdom of God realized here on earth. I am so thankful for the church where my husband now serves. We have been blessed there like never before. I am continually amazed.

If you have a ministry wife crossing your path regularly, remember to pray for her. When you see her, give her a hug. I promise you, she needs it… even if she has a smile on her face. Sometimes we mask the hurt in our hearts with a well-placed smile. You don’t have to be in ministry to know that’s true.

And to my friend, even while you were crying, praying, and imagining the fleas of a thousand camels inhabiting the armpits of those nasty churchgoers, God heard you. And when you thought He wasn’t listening, He was, and now you know just what He was doing for you.

And Stephanie? This song’s for you!

Are You 100% Sure?

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. 1 Peter 3:15

Both of my older sons work at the Chickfila in the town where we live. It’s a good place for a teenager to work. Recently, as my boys were working the lunch rush, a lady came up to Ryan’s register and after ordering her food, she hastily handed him a religious tract, and before grabbing her food, said, “My family hands these out.”

He didn’t know what it was. Had never seen one, but he stuck it in his pocket. It wasn’t until long after she had left that he was able to read it and discover what it was. On the front it read, “Are YOU 100% Sure?” On the inside it basically took a person through what religious types call the “Romans Road”. (Lots of verses from Romans that explain the way to salvation in Jesus Christ.)

Can I just be completely honest here and tell you that those tract things make me mad? People use them in place of a real honest conversation about Jesus. Now, had that woman taken just a few seconds to ask my son if he knows Jesus, she would have learned quickly that indeed he does. No tract needed.

Now if he had said, “No”, I wouldn’t have minded if SHE had used the tract to prompt HER in telling him about Jesus and salvation, but to hastily throw a scrap of paper and hope that someone will come to know Jesus with it is… to borrow a word from my daughter… “sketch”.

Jesus came to earth and showed us how to love people. If you want to see a life changed, its more likely going to happen in the context of a relationship. Life change requires investment. It takes time. Real life change costs us more than a hastily handed scrap of paper with a few Bible verses printed on it. Investment requires us to… invest. Give time and attention. Get a little dirty even. Sometimes.

Today we celebrate the miracle of Jesus conquering death. Today we celebrate that because He did that, we can live forever in the presence of the Lord. It’s a big deal, a really big deal. It’s worth time invested with people who need to hear it for the first time… or for the seventy-first time.

It’s worth risking the embarrassment of rejection. People hand out tracts because they want to avoid the conversation, for whatever reason. Someone risked embarrassment to tell me. Someone invested in me, and then told me the truth about Jesus. And I am so thankful they did.

Jesus gave His very life for our salvation. That piece of truth is worth an honest conversation, don’t you think?