Three Honest Steps

One of my all-time favorite songs is a Loggins and Messina song called, The House at Pooh Corner.I’m partial to it because of my life long adoration of Winnie the Pooh and all of his friends in the 100 Acre Woods. The lyrics of the song take us back to simpler times, when the most difficult thing to deal with was how to get a honey jar loose from Pooh bear’s nose.


Real life is much more complicated than the amusing trials and tribulations in the lives of sweet Pooh and his pals. Sometimes we wander so far from those simple times we fear we might never ever get back home again.

At one time or another, we have all gone off and done or said things we wish we could undo. In that way, we are all prodigals. Did you know that “prodigal” simply means: lacking restraint? I know I have lacked restraint in areas, and I am sure that you have, too. My husband might say I lack restraint when it comes to purchasing shoes. He might be right. Sometimes, though, our lack of restraint brings us real trouble we didn’t count on. We might not have gone so far as the son did in Jesus’s parable in Luke 15, but we have all decided to go our own way and found ourselves in a mess.

It’s during those times that we have a choice to make. We can continue down the path we have chosen, or we can return home to the Father. But how do we do that? Sometimes we come to believe that we have to stay on the path we’ve carved out for ourselves. This is the choice we made, and pride tells us to press on. That’s just bad information. Home is rarely as far away as we think it is. Returning home requires only one thing. Honesty.

The prodigal son in Jesus’s parable had to be honest. Initially, he had to be honest with himself. Luke 15:17 says, “…he came to himself”. Have you ever come to yourself? I have. Those moments are both trial and triumph. To strip away the lies we have told ourselves and embrace the bare truth about who we really are and what we are really doing, is big time. But it’s the first step in making our way home again.

The second step was all about the father. The son’s plan in verse 18 was to fall at his father’s feet, confess his sin, and beg forgiveness. The second step in the journey back is coming clean with the Father.

For the prodigal, going home and becoming as one of his father’s paid servants, meant he would have to come clean with others. I mean, it’s not like the servants wouldn’t know who he was, what he had done, and what was going on now. People talk. Going home meant getting honest with others, too. That would be the third step in the journey home.

The prodigal son had grown up with everything he ever needed provided for him. I’m sure those in his father’s employ would have traded places with the son in a heartbeat, but the son just could not see his own good fortune. For him, his fortune was out there somewhere, calling to him, and it was that voice that won out. We have all heard that voice before, and most of us have chased after it at least once. We have lacked the necessary restraint that would keep us on the path marked out for us. Some of us have chased that voice for quite a distance, but it really is just three honest steps back home.

The parable Jesus told doesn’t continue past that day of homecoming when the celebration was planned. I wish it did. We don’t know what day two or three or twenty looked like. I’m sure things were different. The son had learned some things, and likely the father had, too, in those days of waiting. I’m sure their relationship didn’t just pick up where it left off, but I’m pretty sure it was better. After all, it was honest and authentic.

Sometimes the very thing that keeps us following that voice of folly is the scenario we have written in our minds of what our homecoming might look like. How could it be okay? The Father couldn’t possibly be happy to see us after all that’s happened, could He? The son certainly didn’t expect the measure of grace his father showed him. How often do we, too, underestimate the love of our Father for us? Pretty often, I think.

We can’t go back to the house at Pooh corner. But there’s a real, merciful and gracious Father who waits without growing weary for our homecomings. No matter how long it’s been, or how far we’ve traveled. It’s just who He is.


If I were to list the challenges I have faced during 2017, you might find my list compares, in number and challenge, toe to toe with yours. How do I know this? Well, because of what James wrote in the New Testament. He said, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds…” (James 1:2)

He didn’t say, “if” we face trials. He said “when”. And he said we are to count it all joy. All of it. Why?

“…because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:3-4)

We all face these temporary struggles. It’s just when they seem to pile on at the same time or seem to come at us down a conveyor like in the candy factory scene on the I Love Lucy show that things can get tricky.


Our youngest son was in a car accident recently. That is not the kind of call any mother wants to get about her kid. Feeling terribly thankful that no one was seriously injured, I was still a bit emotional about the whole affair… and feeling more than a little bit overwhelmed.

Overwhelmed. That was my word for the day that day. I tried it on several times and decided, yes, I was feeling overwhelmed.

It didn’t help that I began listing out the issues currently on my plate. As I played out this ridiculous scene in my head, I began to feel the crushing weight of it all. I began feeling that no one person should have to handle of this at once or in succession. There was no way I could be expected to handle all of this… stuff.

And then it hit me. While I FELT overwhelmed, I was not, in actuality, overwhelmed. I began to do a word search for the word “overwhelmed” in scripture, and found a situation where people were really, truly overwhelmed. When Moses had safely led the Hebrews on foot and on dry land across the Red Sea, God released the waters which then came cascading down upon the Egyptian army that was in full pursuit of them. The Bible says right there in Deuteronomy 11:4 that the soldiers were overwhelmed by the waters. They didn’t FEEL overwhelmed, they actually were overwhelmed.

What I understand about feelings is that they will lie to us. I may feel a certain way about a person or situation, but in my head, I know the truth is far different than what I feel. I have to take control of those false feelings and stand upon what I know.

Here is what I know.

  • I had a lot of tough things to deal with in 2017, but that is okay. God has created me to be a problem solver, and so I work each problem until I find a solution. And sometimes the solution is letting God handle that for which I have no clear solution.
  • I cannot afford the luxury of giving in to my feelings. I have to stand upon the truth in order to withstand the trials that come in this life. There are no trials that are unique to me, and I should not be surprised when they come. See? It says so right here: Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” (1 Peter 4:12)
  • And finally, I am made of good stuff. I stand as a daughter of the Most High King. I do not wallow or whine (much). It does not mean that I won’t struggle, but even though I am hard pressed on every side, I am not crushed. I am often perplexed but I am not in despair. I may be persecuted, but I am never abandoned. I am struck down, but I am not destroyed. (Paraphrase of 2 Corinthians 4:8-9)
  • I am NOT overwhelmed.

As I start 2018, my plan is to give up the word, “overwhelmed” for a much better word. Because as I look at all that is likely to come this year, it could seriously become a theme. Instead, I believe my word for 2018 is trust. I will trust Him in my uncertainty. I will trust Him with plans.  I will trust Him with my family. I will trust Him when it seems like there are not enough hours in the day to meet my obligations. I will trust Him when I cannot see the way. I will trust Him to make a way.

As you look to 2018, what word is the Lord leading you to stand in faith upon this year? Don’t know?

Ask Him.



Five Years From Now

When we moved back to Birmingham several years ago, I interviewed for a job in my field of expertise. The woman conducting the interview asked me a typical interviewer question. She asked, “What do you want to be doing in five years?” With complete honesty, I said, “I hope to be doing this.” She was pleased with my answer. I got the job.


But now that I look back on that day, I am disappointed in my answer. Like I said, I was honest. I was good at what I did, had trained hard and long for it, but did I really hope to be doing that same thing in five years? Here’s the truth. No matter how hard we try to stay the same, we will change. None of us will be the person we are today in five years. We will be better at our jobs, or we will be worse. We will be fatter or skinnier. Our talents will be more or less developed.  Our marriages or other relationships will be stronger or weaker.

And we will either be closer or farther away from God in five years… depending on what we do and how we invest. If I choose to seek God in prayer, worship, Bible study, and godly friendships, then I will be closer to God and stronger in my faith moving forward. If I drift away from my church, let those friendships that push me toward Jesus slide away, and find myself too busy to pray, worship, and spend time in my Bible, then I will be farther away from God in five years.

In life, there is no such thing as putting down anchor and staying put. We are either moving forward or we are drifting backward. We can allow the wrong influences impact us, and we will lose ground. We will eat too much, think less of our spouses, or fall away from God. We can gain positive ground by being very intentional about the influences that speak into our lives, and by doing so, we’ll find that we are in a much better place five years from now than we are currently.

There are some things in my life that I’m not too happy about right now. Like you, I have stress. I have worries and sadness, challenges and struggles. There are some things that I need to do today that will have an impact on where my life will be tomorrow and the day after that. I can chart a course for a destination with intention, or I can drift with very little effort and find myself in a disappointing place in the future.

I would answer that interview question much differently today than I did years ago. My answer today would likely not land me that job. I don’t want to be doing what I’m doing now in five years. I don’t want my relationships to be where they are, or my depth of faith in God, or my talents to be at the same level. I want more. I want different. I want better.

So what does that look like? Well, for me… I am being very intentional about the people who speak into my life. I need people who are going to push me and challenge me. I need people to call me out and speak truth over me. Sure… sometimes it hurts a bit, but it’s how we manage to keep moving forward. I make myself pray and worship and seek the knowledge found in the pages of scripture. And yes, sometimes I have to make myself do it. And I am seeking out new challenges. Currently, I am a semester away from earning a Master’s Degree. It’s painful, for sure… teaching this old dog new tricks, but it will take me places that I have not yet been.

My point is this… it is pointless to say that I want things to be the same in five years as they are today (Even if today is really great). It won’t happen. I have to chart a course today if I want to move ahead tomorrow and the day after that. Otherwise, I’ll be drifting back, becoming less than, and getting nowhere good any time fast.

May God bless us as we move forward with intention in the New Year!

Change is Hard. Do it Anyway.

Nothing worthwhile is ever easy. Whether it’s getting a degree, starting a business, growing a marriage, or losing ten pounds, change takes effort. One thing is for sure, the easiest thing we can do is to do nothing. It takes absolutely no effort whatsoever to remain just where we are. We have that situation down pat. Here’s the interesting thing. We often WANT things to be different, but we are resistant to implementing change needed to ensure things ARE different.

Most of us are afraid of change. It’s not that we wouldn’t like for some things to be different. We’d just like for them to be different without any effort on our part, and with every assurance that we will be safe and suffer no ill effects from said change. Sadly, that’s not the way we get to different. Getting to different involves a lot of venture. We have to venture out of our comfort zones and try. Every venture won’t lead us to the change we hope for, but no venture at all will lead us nowhere at all.

I’d like to lose about five pounds. Okay. Ten. As I type this, I have just sucked down a twenty ounce bottle of Mountain Dew. I had a donut from Dunkin Donuts for breakfast. And I just ate three mini Reese’s cups. Chances are, if I don’t make some changes to my diet, I’m not going to lose the weight I want to lose. In fact, I’m going to gain more. I have told myself I am going to make the change in January. I literally plan on eating my way into the New Year. But at least I have a plan for change. Who wants to start a diet in the midst of the holiday season?

Seriously, though, I know that unless I stop eating and drinking unhealthy things and start adding exercise back into my routine, I am likely not going to see the change to my waistline I hope to see. Today, sweet sugary goodness matters more to me than my waistline, and that is nothing more than a head game. But as I said, I have a plan.

Sometimes having a plan is the best first step toward making a needed change. First wrapping our minds around change helps a lot. We can imagine what it might look like for our situation to be different. Currently, I am imagining what it would be like for my pants to fit.


My husband wishes that I would get out of bed as soon as my alarm goes off every morning… but my body and (mostly) my mind need a minute or fifteen to get used to the idea. I PLAN to get up… soon. After I’ve thought about it a little while. In time, and with a moan, my will pushes my feet to the floor, and I sit up. Change can be like this. It can be painful. It often requires a fair amount of convincing. The initial resistance can be tough, but change can start with just the idea of it. Sadly though, that’s where many of us get stuck. We like the idea of change, but our feet never quite hit the floor.

For real change to happen, we have to let go of old thought patterns. This is harder than we might think. Scientists know that thought patterns are actually hardwired into our brains. But here’s the good news, we can fix those. Just because we have always thought one way, doesn’t mean we can’t learn to think or act in another way. We just have to begin to think different-ly.

I can remember being terrified of the monkey bars on the playground at my elementary school. (I realize there have been precious few segues in this piece, but try to stay with me.) There were two ways of getting across. You either had to climb up on the very top and climb over, or you reached for the first rung and swung across, bar after terrifying bar. I was scared either way. Both options meant I had to let go of what I had so that I could grab hold of what came next. That’s kind of how change is. We can’t hold on too tightly to what we have and be able to grab hold of what’s next. We have to let go. What we have is familiar, comfortable in our grasp. But what if the next rung will bring us better or amazing?

I think you know the change you need to make. I know the change I need to make, and there’s no time like the present to start.

Change is hard.

Do it anyway.

Looking in all the Wrong Places

“Looking for love in all the wrong places,

Looking for love in too many faces,

Searching their eyes, looking for traces,

Of what I’m dreaming of…”

It amazes me that I can remember the lyrics to that entire song from 1980. I don’t even like country music, but it was what my parents listened to when I was growing up, so it was sort of force fed to me. I can recall lyrics to far more 1970s and 80s country songs than I care to admit. It’s a curse, really. I can’t remember where I put my phone, but hum a few bars of a Statler Brothers hit, and I’ll sing the whole song for you.


I have no explanation for why this particular song ran out of the eighties and through my mind today. I do know that the premise of the song holds true, though. No matter what it is that we seek in this life, chances are, we are looking in the wrong place and often accepting weak counterfeits when the real thing seems out of reach.

When Jesus was here in the flesh and teaching people how to live, he knew there were things that we desperately wanted… things that would drive us to unbelievable lengths to obtain. He knew that we worried we might never have the very things we thought we must have, and that those things would consume our thoughts and actions. To set our minds at ease, He told us how to handle these desires we have. He said,

“Seek first, the kingdom of God, and then all these things will be added to you” Matthew 6:33.

No matter what it is that we want or are hoping to have, if we are looking anywhere besides Jesus, we are looking in the wrong place. I mean think about it. What if there truly was a way to have everything we ever wanted? And what if the way to get those things was in simply turning our attention to Jesus? Can it really be that easy? I mean, that’s not really all that hard, is it? It’s just a shift in our focus. A course correction. It’s not like the way to everything we want is at the finish line of a triathlon, or at the summit of Mount Everest. He didn’t send us on a quest to find the Ghost Orchid in order have all that we want.


We just have to stop looking for what we want in all the wrong places, and find it all in Jesus. He wants us to want Him, first… and THEN all these things will be added to us… then. The problem, my problem, is that I don’t like the THEN part. I don’t much like waiting for what I want. I just want, and like a little child, I will fret, pout, and finagle my way to try and get what I want. I wonder what that must look like from God’s perspective. There He sits, holding literally everything.



He sits there holding literally everything, watching us run around like headless chickens trying to snatch and grab for ourselves what we believe we must have. It has to be a pitiful sight. I am embarrassed for us.

“But my God shall supply everything you need, according to his riches in glory.” Philippians 4:19.

He shall supply. It is already His plan to give to His children. He, who owns it all… shall provide- when we seek Him first. Seems like a sweet deal to me. No fretting, no pouting, no finagling, and no elusive Ghost Orchids. Just seeking Him, first.

We tend to complicate things. Jesus makes them easy. We should stop living an 80s country song. We should choose easy.


Hide Your Goat

I once listened to a motivational speaker who talked about hiding goats. I am particularly interested in all things goat right now. You see, I want two. Little ones. Cute ones. I’m currently working on convincing my husband that two little goats are what’s missing from our already busy lives. I have visions of quitting my job and becoming a goat herder. Although, I don’t think two goats quite make a herd.


So when I heard this speaker talk about goats, I sat up and listened. I soon figured out he was not talking about actual goats. He was talking about not letting other people “get your goat”. What does it mean to allow someone to get your goat? Well, think about that one person in your life that gets under your skin. Oh, you have more than one? Bless your heart. Well, think about those people. No matter how you steal yourself for an encounter with them, no matter how firm your resolve not let them get the better of you… in a matter of minutes in their presence, you have lost your cool and find your usual peace-loving self, ready to resort to violence. And… there goes your goat.

Sometimes we let people we don’t even know get our goat. Other drivers, slow checkout clerks at Walmart, other shoppers at Walmart… pretty much everyone and everything at Walmart. Perhaps I have shared too much, but Walmart makes me crazy. Gets my goat every time. My dad lets almost every other driver on the road get his goat.

We live in a world where everyone just lets their goats run wild for others to get. Offenses fly around like swarms of bats, or bees, or other swarming things, and goats start disappearing. Social media and other forms of internet communications do little to help the matter. Grown adults hide behind devices and post things they would never say in a face to face encounter. I stopped watching the news a few years ago because all the news outlets want is to get my goat. Most of the time, I have no idea what’s going on in the world, but I do know where my goat is.

We have to learn to hide our goats. We can’t just let them run lose for others to take. It’s not easy, hiding goats. If you know anything about goats, you likely know that keeping them pinned up is a challenge. They are persistent climbers and unless you have taken great care in building their enclosures, you’ll look around to find them running loose. We have to take responsibility for managing our goats.

Here’s the thing about goat getting. No one can get your goat unless you allow them to get it. When you guard your goat carefully, it may appear that you are disengaged or disinterested in the drama before you, when in fact, you are simply hiding your goat. The people who enjoy getting your goat will then find themselves dissatisfied, and move on to less well guarded goats.

Lines at the bank will no longer frustrate you. Poor wait staff at restaurants will still get a decent tip from you. You’ll stop gesturing wildly to rude drivers, sit pleasantly through holiday family get-togethers, and you’ll no longer feel it necessary to post your two cents worth on the latest internet offenses.

Why? Because you’ve decided to hide your goat.

Greener Pastures

My dad and my brother still keep cows on the farm that was once my grandparents’. It’s not like a huge Texas herd or anything, but a couple dozen cows is still kind of a deal to deal with. The cows are forever breaking through the fencing and helping themselves to the grass in the neighboring pasture. Last week, Dad told me that, once again, the cows had broken through, and he would have to go repair it.

I said, “I thought you put barbed wire fencing up to keep them from doing that. Isn’t that the point of the barbs? Doesn’t it hurt them to push through that?”

He answered yes to all of that.

When I said I didn’t get why they didn’t just stay in their own pasture, he told me that they get convinced in their cow brains that whatever is on the other side of that fencing is better than what is on their side, and they are willing to endure whatever pain and agony it takes to push through the fencing to get to it.


Am I about to compare us to cattle?  Yes, I am.

Society drives us to comparison. We stand at our spiritual, moral, and ethical fences looking out at what lies beyond that border and convince ourselves that what sits just beyond our reach is exactly what we need. We consider the conditions on our side of the fence, and they seem to pale in comparison. If we stand there long enough, we begin to debate what it would take to push through that fence.

I could push through this. It will hurt a bit, maybe it will hurt a lot, but the reward when I get to the other side will be worth it. I’m thinking that grass over there? That grass is so much greener than the grass over here. I can almost smell its sweetness. I can nearly feel its texture in my mouth. I can’t even bring myself to think about the grass over here. It’s the same boring grass that’s always been over here. There’s no excitement to this grass, no hope for adventure or newness with it. Do I really have to live with this same old grass for the rest of my days? I deserve that better grass over there.

That fence that was put there to protect us begins to feel a lot like a prison. We get itchy, and we get antsy. And then we get tunnel vision, and one day, we make the decision to go for it. Nothing on our side of the fence matters anymore. Not our marriages, not our families, ministries, or our jobs. We lean in, pressing into the fence, gritting our teeth at the pain of it. We could stop. We could. But we have momentum, and if we stop now we might not start again, so we just keep going. The barbs dig into our flesh, we bleed, we cry, but we push and push until we break through, at last running wild and free into the greener pastures we dreamed of for so long back on our side of the fence. We run, frolic, and eat up all the goodness we can on the other side of the fence. We ignore the pain from pushing through the fence. It doesn’t matter.

Only it does matter. In a short while, it matters a lot. We take a furtive glance back at the destruction we caused when we pushed through the fence. We swallow the grass in our mouths and realize as it slides down to the first of our four stomachs, that it’s pretty much like the grass we had over there, only that grass came without a lot of hurt and pain.

We look around with new eyes at the grass on this side of the fence and see the briars and stickers in the grass growing over here. We couldn’t see those from the protection of our fence. There were definite issues back over there, but there seem to be issues over here, too, now. It’s harder over here, and it’s lonely, too.

The odd thing about my dad’s story is, the cows came back home on their own that time. One by one, they came back through the hole in the fence to their own pasture… acting all casual-like, as if they hadn’t caused all that trouble. That’s okay. They are cows.

We are not cows. We cause a lot of pain for ourselves and for those who love us and depend on us when we choose to push through the fencing. Those guardrails are put there for our protection, and for the preservation of those who love and depend on us. Temptation will always call to us from the other side of the fence. It will always tell us that the grass is greener over there… and it will always lie.