The Family Business

Matthew and I recently sat on a plane next to a young man who took over the family business a few years ago. He was a Samford University grad, so we had that in common. He was a pharmacist, who upon graduation, went back home to Woodstock, Alabama, and took over his father’s small town pharmacy. We talked a bit on the flight about being in the family business, and the pluses and struggles involved. From what he said, it sounded like he was happy with his choice.

After that conversation, it occurred to me that I, too, have gone into the family business. My dad used to own a bridge building business. I can remember him often telling me, as we drove over bridges in our state, that his company had built them. If you have driven over bridges in and around Birmingham, Alabama, you have likely driven over some of my dad’s bridges. (Not the one that fell apart in chunks in downtown a couple of years ago, though. My dad’s company built quality bridges.) I’m a nurse. I don’t build the kind of bridges that my dad’s company once did. I wouldn’t even begin to know how to do that. But I am in the bridge building business, nonetheless.

Bridges make it possible to traverse terrain that would be difficult or impossible to travel without them. Sometimes we find ourselves looking out over the expanse, unsure of how to get to where we need or hope to be. Without a bridge, we are left standing in need or without hope. My experience with bridge building has shown me that quality bridges are not built overnight. Quality bridges take a great deal of study and planning. There’s a good bit of prep work involved before the first piece is laid into place. There must be a clear understanding of the kind of bridge that is needed.

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Quality bridges require intense labor to build. Already there are obstacles to overcome. I mean if there weren’t obstacles, then there’d be no need for a bridge, right? To build a bridge, we have to figure out how to deal with the obstacles. There is a great deal of risk when endeavoring to build a bridge. So many things can go wrong. The dangers are real, but keep in mind, bridge builders are meeting a need, fostering hope. When you weigh the risks against the benefits, generally speaking, bridges are worth the risk.


I know what it’s like to stand at the edge and look out to a destination I can never reach on my own. There is no way around, over or under. There is no way home without a bridge. It’s the old, “You can’t get there from here” saying that I hate so much. I used to think, “That’s so dumb. You can get anywhere from anywhere.” But sometimes, without a bridge, you can’t.

I stood at the edge, unable to make it. Unable… until the Bridge Builder made a way. I was separated, alone and without hope… until a way was made for me. A bridge… a way for me to close the gap between where I stood and a restored relationship with the Father. You see, my earthly father was once a bridge builder, but my heavenly Father was a bridge builder long before that. I guess it should be no surprise, then, that I, too, became a bridge builder.


But here’s the thing about building bridges. Just because you build it, doesn’t mean folks are going to be eager to use it. Some of them will just stand there, continuing to gaze across the gap, unsure, unready to step out and trust the bridge you’ve built. It can be frustrating, for sure. I can only imagine how frustrated God must feel sometimes when we ignore or doubt His bridge. It seems crazy to those of us who have taken advantage of it, but it happens. We shouldn’t then be surprised when people don’t always rush across our bridges. That doesn’t mean we stop building them or tending to them.

Bridges help us make connections. Connections from one place to another, or more importantly, connections between people. In my case, Jesus was the bridge that got me home and restored my relationship with God. If you are believer, then you crossed that same bridge. And if you crossed that same bridge, then you are in the family business, too. It’s about connecting, reaching out, and making a way for people to get from over there… to a place where their needs are met and hope is found, over here.

As believers, we all have our own bridges to build. Do you see them standing there, looking out over the expanse? It’s time to build.

My Five

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

They didn’t ask to be chosen, and they likely would have turned tail and run if they had any warning that they were about to be chosen. But each, at different times, and certainly by divine appointment, made my acquaintance and have forever made an imprint on my life. So much so that in my darkest hours, their names came to my mind. I needed help. Was desperate for it. I needed a fresh word of truth. I needed those with understanding. Not normal understanding, mind you…. spiritual understanding that only comes with a deep and abiding relationship with the Father.

So out of desperation and intention I called to them… and they came. Each with their own experiences and knowledge. Each also a daughter of the Most High King created for such a time as this. Each having walked their own roads of desperation and triumph. All of them imperfectly perfect. In my mind and in my heart, they are My Five.


Today, as I walked the beach looking for treasures the ocean coughed up onto the shore, I noticed something about the particular beach I was walking. There were precious few flawless shells. Most of what I found were broken, worn, and damaged. Surfaces worn smooth from the rough surf. These pieces of shell and coral didn’t land here on this beautiful beach in pristine condition so that I might walk by, find them beautiful, and take them home. Their journey was hard fought.

I waded out into the surf until I was just ankle deep. That’s about the depth of the ocean I am comfortable with, but it was deep enough to find a plethora of these well worn ocean treasures.

I dug my feet deeper into the sand to keep from walking on their uneven surfaces, and with each new wave I felt a bit of what it took for each of them to get that far as more and more of them slammed into my legs. But as I looked into the crystal clear water, I began to appreciate the beauty.

We don’t often wind up at our destination in pristine condition. For most of us, our rough edges get worn down as we bump into others, rub up against circumstances, and navigate through the trials of this life. I thought of My Five.

I decided to reach down and pick out a piece of coral for each of them… maybe for them to use as a paperweight, or maybe to throw at me for insinuating that they are well worn. But I think they will know what I mean. 


They are all beautiful women to look at, but it is not the outer beauty that draws me to them. I am drawn to the softened edges, the wisdom that comes from walking the hard roads and seeking it, and the heart of the Father that rests inside them all. And it’s as one of them often quotes, it’s “by the blood of the lamb, and by the word of their testimony…” (Revelation 12:11) Therein lies their value to me.

So to My Five, how do I thank you for responding to my clarion call with such wisdom, prayer and truth? My undying gratitude and a well worn piece of coral, whose path was not unlike your own, for starters. The rest, I’ll have to work on. But if you ever send out a clarion call of your own… count me in.

A Game of I Spy

It’s the week I look forward to all year… it’s the week I spend with Matthew on the Riviera Maya in Mexico. It doesn’t slip by me that not everyone does this. Twenty years ago, I never would have thought I’d be doing it, either. I mean, why me? Yet here we are relaxing, connecting, reflecting, and planning. We celebrate our wins, and dig down into our failures, regroup, and hatch a plan for moving forward. We do this all in a place of beauty… a place where there are no schedules and no demands. Mostly.


This morning our schedule demanded we make a trip back to the airport for an appointment Matthew booked for us. Why? Because he hates lines. There is such a thing now as the Global Entry program. It allows those who go through the process to skip the long customs lines at the airport. Mexico participates, too, so we applied for easy entry into Mexico as well.

We arranged for a ride back to the airport, and our driver promised to wait for us. At least we thought he did. Our Spanish is a bit lacking. The immigration official was thirty minutes late for the appointment. Hello, Mexico. But when he finally arrived, he was nice and very helpful. He led us to an office where he put our information into the computer and took our photographs. Then came the scanning of our fingerprints. No big deal, right? Not unless you don’t have fingerprints… which I don’t.

That’s right. No fingerprints to speak of. You know that iTouch feature on the iPhone? Yep, useless for me. Ever been to a Disney park where they scan a finger for entry? Nope. No can do.

The official at the airport had me try scanning my fingers many times. Light pressure then more pressure…”Try adding lotion”, he said. Okay. I tried, knowing it would do no good. It didn’t. That’s when he started looking at me funny. Maybe it was the CIA spy joke I made. Or perhaps it was the one where I mentioned rethinking my life choices in favor of a life of crime.

In the end, I decided to shut my mouth. Discretion being the better part of valor and all that. Besides, no one comes to Mexico hoping to land in a Mexican jail. The immigration official finally shrugged his shoulders and processed our papers without the prints. He actually ended up giving me a card that would allow me to come into Mexico as if I was Mexican. How about that? I guess I didn’t really look like a spy to him… but isn’t that the point?


We found our driver still waiting for us when we finished, and made the trip back to the resort in time to pick out a nice beach bed before lunch. Matthew poked fun at me a bit… saying how God made us all unique with fingerprints like no one else’s… well except for me. Haha. Funny man.

I’d tell him what happened to my fingerprints, but then I’d have to kill him. I think instead I’ll just order another one of those yummy fruity drinks they serve here, and get back to my Jason Borne novel. 

Sent from my iPad

Epidemic: The Crisis of Identity

The mid-life crisis. When I was growing up, it was the only identity crisis anyone made any kind of a deal about. It was the one some middle aged men had that caused them to buy a toupee and a ridiculous red sports car. They fooled no one. It arose from fear that life had passed them by, they had missed out on taking advantage of opportunity, and for a brief time, they would look and act ridiculous. While some of them went so far as to trade their wives in on younger models, most of them got over the crisis and after a time, sold the car, and settled back in.

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These days, identity crises are on the rise and everyone seems to be susceptible. Some might even suggest they are at epidemic proportions. It’s as if we no longer know who we are… so we just give in to who we feel like we are, or who we would rather be. This seems like such a fluffy, all inclusive, comfortable way to allow people to live, but it is anything but that. In the end, this skewed view of our identities will bite us hard.

I read an article recently that told of a middle aged man who decided that he identified as a six-year-old girl and would live his life as that person. I’m not joking. I wish I was joking. In the comments section, precious few people were willing to speak to the obvious serious issues this guy was having for fear of being labeled as intolerant. So who’s more messed up? The grown man who wants to live like a six-year-old girl, or the people who think it is okay that he wants to live like a six-year-old girl?

How far are we willing to allow people to go before we address this epidemic? Countries such as Canada and Germany are leaving blank the sex determination on birth certificates when parents wish to let the child determine their sex later. They are going to let the child decide? Canada is considering it child abuse if parents refuse to allow their young child to transgender. How about we let the children decide everything, and we, as parents, can kick back see what happens?

Many in society are desiring to behave is if there is no blueprint for living, and it has become a free for all when it comes to determining our own identity.

Here’s the quite unpopular truth about identity. Our identity, every bit of it, is predetermined. I am probably not who you say I am. I am likely not even who I say I am. You can be wrong. I can be wrong. I am who God (who is never wrong) says I am. And who does He say that I am?

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I am the Daughter of the Most High King. I am a Pearl of Great Price. I am created with a divine purpose and set apart for His glory. I was designed with clarity and intention with no detail left to chance or speculation. My identity was determined before the foundation of the earth, and it is wrapped up in the person of Jesus Christ.

God Almighty is the beginning and the end. He does not leave loose ends, and in Him there is no uncertainty. If we cannot believe in ourselves, we can believe in Him and who he created us to be. I know who I am because I know who I am in Christ.

If you don’t know who you are, get close to the One who made you. He loves to tell you all about you. You are precious to Him. He took time to design you, mold you, make you. He shaped your nose just so, and put those bright eyes in place with that special glint in them. He made you distinctly female. (Or He made you distinctly male… for the random male who made his way to this blog.)

What you feel does not determine who you are. God determined who you are. Some days I feel like I identify as a crazy woman. I, however, am not actually a crazy woman no matter what my opinion might be that day. I have the mind of Christ. How do I know this? God told me in 1 Corinthians 2:16.

We have to protect ourselves from the epidemic of identity crisis. Romans 12:2 tells us “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Conforming to this world will leave us in a heck of a mess. I mean look at the stuff going on and passing for okay. It’s not okay, and it’s okay to say it’s not okay. As a matter of fact, we have to say it. Folks need to know that on days when they struggle with knowing who they are… that they were designed by the God who knows them more intimately than they know themselves, and their identity is secure in Him alone.

 

I’m Better Than You

Okay. I’m not really better than you. But, we live in a world of comparison. Women are more notorious than men at this game, but men compare, too. When a woman walks into the room, there is a tendency for other women to size her up and compare themselves to her. Are her shoes cuter than mine? I wonder how much she paid for those ______. (You can fill in that blank!) Is her haircut more stylish or her clothes from a better store? Well, maybe so, but look at her purse, it doesn’t even match her shoes. (Says the woman raised in the 80’s).

Men go about the comparison thing differently, but they still do it. Since all men think they’ve got it going on physically (even if they don’t) they tend to compare accomplishments. What car does he drive? What position does he hold? How much power or influence does he have? Does he make more money than I do?

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I think we compare because we are looking for our place. We are looking to see that we are not on the bottom. We know we are bad… but how bad? If we can find someone else a bit worse off than we are in one area or another, then our pitiful state looks a bit less… pitiful. How pitiful is that?

I stopped listening to the news a while back. That may seem just a bit irresponsible of me to some of you. Shouldn’t I know the latest atrocity going on in the world? Don’t I need minute by minute updates from news makers who vow to only inform and not push an agenda? (Well find me that news source and maybe I’ll listen.) While I don’t listen to the news, I do know that racism has once again reared its ugly head in our nation… I mean by a few people. Not all that many, from what I understand. I mean, what are we talking? Tens of… tens? But as usual, the few displaying bad behavior get the attention, because good, upright, loving people are boring and not newsworthy.

Add that to the list of reasons I don’t watch the news.

We compare style, status, and influence. We compare skin color and ethnicity. We judge according to political party and social views. We explore any and everything until we can declare ourselves better than someone else. It’s why those white supremacists do what they do. They have decided that white skin trumps all other shades. I think that’s a fairly arbitrary position, don’t you? Isn’t it a fine coincidence that they happen to have white skin? That worked out pretty well for them, didn’t it?

But the truth is no matter how we scratch and climb to get a little higher than others on the I am better than you scale, we all fall miserably short of the standard. You see, I am not the standard. You are not the standard. No one living or breathing now or ever, except one, is the standard.

It’s Jesus. Jesus is the standard. He is better than you (and me). And thank God for that. Most of us will limit encounters with those we feel we are better than, but Jesus left heaven to pay the price to rescue everyone that He was better than. He left the glory of heaven in exchange for the misery of this world. Why? To make us better than.

There is only one who is Supreme. Only one. Anyone claiming supremacy for anyone other than Christ is allowing themselves to be a tool of the enemy. Comparison is always the enemy of community.

We can throw rocks, protest each other, make more laws and puff ourselves up… but we are no better. The only way we get better is by following Him. We have value only because He added it to us. Before Jesus, we are nothing. No money, status, religion, or skin color is enough to give us the value we need. Apart from Christ, we are nothing. With Christ… we have value.

We can compare, complain, push our fists in the air… but until we begin adding value rather than subtracting it from people, we will never be like Jesus. Many Christians spend far too much time making sure their party or candidate gets into office, or protesting the opponent who did get in, and far too little time adding value to people. If they don’t love you, they won’t listen to you. If you don’t love them, they’ll likely never love you. We have to love first.

“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

Jesus is the standard.

One Liners

I love one liners. Probably because that’s the best my brain can hold onto most days. One of my favorites lately is from the movie, Gifted.

“I thought I taught you to never get on the bad side of small minded people who have a little authority”.

(I’m thinking of Homeowner’s Association board members)

My mother had one that I love, and that also made me think she was a little bit crazy. Whenever I was concerned about someone being upset with me she’d say, “If they kill you, they can’t eat you” which I have just recently decided is a messy translation of a verse in 1 Peter, Chapter 3. No wonder I always felt better when she said it. The Bible according to Bonnie.

Another one of my all-time favorites was spoken years ago by my son, Ryan, who was trying to teach his little brother, Evan, to properly throw a Frisbee. Ryan said, “Aim at my head!” While this was good advice for Frisbee throwing, I do wish there had been a good one liner for Evan with regard to catching a Frisbee. Very shortly after that, Evan had his front tooth knocked out when he unintentionally caught a Frisbee with his mouth.

But just this week, I have a new favorite one liner. I was binge watching the latest season of Madam Secretary on Netflix and there it was. Get this… it is one liner G O L D.

“I want to slay dragons; I don’t want to play Whack-a-Mole with evil.”

whack_a_mole.jpgBe still my heart! I nearly fell off the couch trying to reach my phone so I could write that one down! I mean it SPOKE to me.

Does that ever happen to you? It’s that chord that gets struck deep inside, and you know that line was for you.

I want to do significant things in my life. And since I have likely stepped over the halfway mark of my time on this spinning blue ball, I feel the need to get on with it. For a while now, my focus has been on raising stellar children. Well, the light is now appearing at the end of that tunnel, so Matthew and I are looking forward and asking, “What’s next?”

I think most of us get to this point in the journey and think… I want to do BIG things. I don’t want to merely swim around in my petty problems and temporary struggles.

I want my life to count for something significant. I don’t want to live a life of hit or miss in my fight against the evil one. I want to land punches! I want to wield my sword, and I want to slay dragons!

But what does that look like, really? I can’t exactly show up to my workplace brandishing a sword and speaking in Old English prose, can I? (Can I?) The dragons we face are not the tangible kind. It would be so much easier if they were. At least we’d be able to adequately size up our opponent and pull together an offensive to defeat him. It can get a bit tricky to fight a foe we cannot see with our eyes.

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I get weary of playing what looks like a losing game of Whack-a-Mole with the enemy. Sometimes I land a hit, and other times my efforts are too little, too late. I want to make significant advances for the Kingdom of God. I want to take back territory that has been stolen.

One of my favorite one liners from the Bible was spoken by Mary, the mother of Jesus. You can read the full account in John, Chapter 2, but basically Jesus and Mary are attending a wedding, and the host has run out of wine. The long and short of it is Mary gets Jesus to remedy the issue. He is reluctant, but He honors his mother. Here’s the one liner I’m talking about. She looks at the servants standing nearby and says, “Do whatever he tells you to do”.

BAM. Quite possibly the best one liner of all time!

If we want our lives to count for something. If we want to slay dragons and advance the Kingdom of God here on the earth. If we want to accomplish anything that is worth anything, we must:

Do whatever He tells us to do!

 

 

The Way to a Man’s Heart

I think we’ve all heard that the way to a man’s heart is through is stomach. I am living proof that statement is false. If it had been up to my cooking to secure my place in Matthew’s heart, I’d still be single. Now, the man does like a good meal, but a satiated appetite is fleeting. If I am going to endear myself to him for the long haul, I’ve got to do better than producing good food. I’ve got to reach his heart with something that has staying power.

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If you poll men on their greatest need from their spouses, you might guess that it’s sex. (Let me pause here and apologize to my best friend for talking about s-e-x in the daytime. I promise I’m not going to dwell here, but I have to talk about it just a second.) Sex comes in at a very close second to the thing that they really need the most from us. It’s not love. It’s not humor. It’s not us being thin and beautiful. It’s not money. And it’s definitely not food. The single most important thing they need from us is actually two fold. They need honor and respect from us.

I just lost some of you there, didn’t I? Hang on… stay with me. I know he’s got issues. I understand that he might not be the man of any woman’s dreams. But unless you are from a culture where marriages are arranged, you chose him at some point and found him worthy to be your husband.

Okay.

Maybe you were young and dumb, but there was something, right? Now those rugged good looks have given way to a balding head and a spreading midsection. His once funny jokes have a hint of sarcasm now that life has gotten serious and challenging. And those dad jeans? Mercy, does he have to wear them every day? And when did it become okay to wear socks with sandals?

I don’t have to point out the man’s faults to you, do I? You cannot help but see them. As a matter of fact, some days, they are all you can see. But let’s take a second and lay all that to the side… they’ll still be there.

What if you could have the man of your heart’s desire? I’m not talking about trading him in for another model. I’m talking about rebuilding the one you have…

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What if you could influence your husband with your words? You’ve tried that, you say, and he’s still annoying? I’m not talking about telling him all the things he does wrong. We are good at pointing out faults. I’m talking about speaking life over your husband. The Bible tells us that there is the power of life and death in our words (Proverbs 18:21). How often do we choose to speak death over our husbands and our marriages? Do you find that it’s easier to be critical, and less easy to be edifying? Building someone up is hard work… especially if they are bad at giving us good material to work with. BUT…

What if all it took for you to see changes in your husband is for

you to change?

What we say to and about our spouses has profound influence over our marriages. The simple act of honoring and respecting our spouses with our words can actually begin to change the way we see them, and it can change the person they are. Ephesians 4 says that we are to let no corrupt talk come from our mouths, but only words that build others up.

Begin small. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Find ONE thing for which you can brag on him. Is he a good provider? Brag on that. Find something no matter how small and honor him for it. Does he pick out his own clothes and they match… mostly? It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it’s true. Tell him. Tell others.

Proverbs Chapter 31 talks about the “virtuous woman”, and says that her husband is respected at the city gate. I would imagine he didn’t get that respect from her trashing him to everyone. I realize it may seem silly to you to speak life to and about a man that seems to fall so short of your mark. But what if it could really work? What if all that stands between you and a blessed marriage is your words? Speak life over your husband and your marriage and watch things start to turn around.

The way to a man’s heart isn’t through his stomach. It’s through his ears.