Here’s Your Sign

It caught my eye.  A sign.  Lots of places have signs and I like finding those with cute or catchy sayings; some very funny signs are outside churches:

  • “Wal-mart isn’t the only saving place.”
  • “Experts made the Titanic, amateurs made the ark.”
  • “God answers knee-mail.”

You get the idea, you can find many more on the internet.  The church sign that caught my eye today was simple and to the point,

“Christians Meet Here”

My first crushing thought was, “No wonder people hate us.”  I was offended by this sign.  Is this church saying they have an exclusive club that only Christians are invited to join?  Are non-Christians not welcome to attend a service or event?  Is it an arrogant declaration that Christians are better than everyone else?  Now, I realize there is more than one way to interpret and read this sign and I am sincerely hoping that this church had the best of intentions but to me that was unclear.

Sadly, a common reason people give for NOT going to church is that they did not feel welcomed,  they felt out of place or they did not feel like they fit in.  One of the things that made me fall in love with Jesus was His ability to speak to anyone and make everyone feel like they had His undivided attention for those moments; He looked at people.  I suggest we, like Jesus, need to much more intentional when we attend our churches.

We need to be intentional in looking for someone we don’t know, especially anyone who looks confused or seems to be alone.  We need to be intentional in focusing on the person we don’t know rather than our comfortable group of friends.  We need to be intentional in not sitting in our “self-assigned”,same seat but moving around so we can greet someone we have not greeted in the past.  Oh, and just another pet peeve, I hate greeting time; if you are the “new person” it is terribly awkward when everyone else is hugging and talking and you are just standing there.  Pastors, if your church does a greeting time, keep it very short – I have been in churches where greetings went on for several minutes; I never go back to those churches.

Church is not about me and getting my needs met; that is a blessed by-product of church participation.  Church is about what I can offer to God and His people.  The only thing God wants, the most important thing to bring to church is my heart, uncertain, searching, broken, wounded, open and sometimes full.  Had that sign, Christians Meet Here, been on the church I visited years ago my unbelieving heart might still be on the outside looking in…

My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism.  For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?   James 2:1 – 4

Blessings, Seen and Unseen

So much to be thankful for, blessings that can be seen and blessings that cannot be seen.  Here are some of the unseen blessings of knowing Jesus as Lord and Savior from Romans 8.

  • No condemnation in Christ Jesus
  • Freedom from the law of sin and death
  • A mind set on the Spirit
  • Life and Peace
  • Life in the Spirit
  • A living Spirit
  • No obligation to the flesh
  • Son (and Daughter) of God
  • Spirit of Adoption
  • Child of God
  • Heirs of God, heir with Christ
  • Saved
  • All things caused by God for my good
  • Foreknown
  • Pre-destined
  • Called
  • Justified
  • Glorified
  • Overwhelming Conqueror
  • Cannot be separated from God’s Love

I am so incredibly blessed that in addition to these wonderful spiritual blessings I also enjoy a wealth of blessings here on earth.  Here are some I am most grateful for…

  •  A good and godly husband
  • My kids and their loving partners
  • My wonderful family
  • Loyal and encouraging friends
  • My home – in Florida – an added gift
  • A new job I am enjoying
  • A wonderful church and church family
  • My Bible
  • Food to eat every day
  • Heat in winter, AC in summer
  • Sunshine, Rain, Clouds, Beaches, Flowers, Trees…

A never ending list of things I am grateful for on Thanksgiving and every day.  Feel free to add a few some of your own “gratefuls”!

…the good old days…

Is there a period in my life I would consider “the good old days”?

The short answer? No.

My early childhood years were carefree and fun.  As I look back, I realize our family had very little in terms of money and stuff but I had everything because I had a family that loved me and made me feel safe and valued.  I recognize not everyone receives such a rare and special gift.  But kids have no control over their own lives and I always wanted to do my own thing!

The teen years, lots of awkward nerdiness – don’t wanna go back there, don’t hardly even want to think about it!

Twenties and thirties – a time for spreading my wings and making my own decisions, some of them very wrong.  There were lots of changes, and some major life bumps, marriage, divorce, learning how to live a single life, then re-marrying and starting a family.  I was overwhelmed with joy to have a baby, then two years later another baby and three years later a third baby!  Early years with kids were unbelievably busy with little sleep but much joy and happiness.  I became a Christ-follower at 39.

Forty – that number felt like hitting a wall, a big number, the realization that my life, statistically, was more than half over!  These years were good as kids grew and my world got bigger, God sent friends, allowed some challenges and different opportunities for learning and growth.

Fifties, sailed by, full of work, really enjoying the years of raising teens and young adults, celebrating my kids steps to independence. Working full-time brings increased income and freedom to travel and enjoy more of what life has to offer.

Sixties, another big number!  I am in the final years of my life. Although I do not know when God will call me home my body reminds me that it’s all downhill from here.  But so what – I’m just getting closer to heaven!

I am blessed with good health, I get to live in a beautiful part of the world, the beach is 15 minutes away and the sun is shining most days.  I have the love of family and friends, I eat every day, I have a home to live in where I feel comfortable and safe.  Compared to most of our world I have it all and I am humbled by this and grateful beyond words!

As I look back over the decades of my life it has just kept getting better and better.  Not because of stuff but because God has been so very gracious to me.  I feel more secure about who I am, my talents and abilities, more confident with each passing year.  I care less what others may think and realize more and more the value and importance of the people God brings into my life.  Stuff, achievement, acquisition, position, recognition, power – all of these are less important to me daily.  I realize I brought nothing into this world and will take nothing out with me; that I need to invest my time, energy and talent into doing what I love with the people I love.  My desire is to leave a vast legacy of happy memories, to ease the burdens of as many as I can in some way and to share the joy and wisdom God has given me with others.

Is there a time in my life I consider the “good old days”, that I would like to return to?  Nah!  Right now is just right!

On My Heart

You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone.  You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. 2 Corinthians 3:2,3


I received a letter from a friend. I don’t actually receive too many, hand-written personal letters. I get phone calls, texts, emails, Facebook posts but personal letters – nuh uh – not so much.

Personal letters are saved and savored. I was anxious to read my letter but I made a cup of coffee and sat in a favorite spot so I could read and enjoy the letter one word at a time – I wanted to make it last longer. I read it through twice – once was not enough and I will read it again. I keep the cards, notes and letters sent to me by friends and family.

Personal letters reflect and reveal the author. It was easy to imagine her sitting across from me. As I read the letter I could “hear” the voice of my friend. I pictured her chucking as she wrote out a funny incident, I “saw” her pausing and thinking of how best to put her thoughts onto the page.

Personal letters take time and effort. Writing a personal letter means you need to gather paper, pen, envelope and a stamp. You have to set some time aside to write it out, it takes time to think about what to say and how best to say it.  Once written, you have take it to somewhere to get it into the mail.

Paul is drawing an analogy between the Christ-followers in Corinth and a letter; a letter from Jesus Christ. Paul is saying that the Corinthians believers are a letter. A letter written not on paper, but written on their hearts by the Spirit of the living God.

Paul’s words to the Corinthians can be applied to all of us who follow Jesus, who call ourselves Christians. Thinking of myself as a letter, a personal letter from Jesus meant to be seen and read by others challenges me to think about my actions and words differently. What I say and do should be a reflection and revelation of Christ.

I want to be a letter that people read and re-read, thinking about and savoring each word. People were drawn to Jesus, they wanted to be with Him, near Him, they wanted to hear Him speak – I want to be a letter like that! The letter people carry around and quote to others, a meaningful letter, and a letter that blesses the reader. There is only one way to be that letter, to spend time with Jesus and in the Word, letting God write His letter on my heart and changing the way I think and act; this will take time and some effort on my part. Believe me, I am not so very great, special or unique. I just want to be a wonderful letter – not because of me but because of the One who wrote the letter on my heart!

Writing 101 – Serially Lost – Part 3 and Part 3

Todays Challenge: Imagine you work in a place where you manage lost and found items. Tell about what you find in the pile.  Todays Twist: Reflect on the theme of lost and found.

A Note: I had the weirdest experience writing the third part of this Writing 101 Challenge – two very different responses emerged.  Both almost wrote themselves.  I decided to publish both here.  (Scroll down for the Second Story).  If you can, please read both; First Story AND Second Story and then “vote” which one do you like better – if you can, tell me why.  THANKS!


Tuesday morning, 8:22am, I push myself around and drag my body out of the car, trudging through the slush; I take one last breath of air before pulling on the door handle. The door swings open with a creak and I walk from the grey morning into a gleaming hallway. And so it begins, another workday at “The BLIP”! Cue ominous music!

Jacob Carson, Jack to His Friends, hates it when we call it that. He prefers the more formal sound of “The Bureau”. But good old Jack gets to sit in his office all day. Good old Jack doesn’t have to flip through file after file, trying to match names to faces, faces to names, hour after hour, day after day. But to those of us doing the grunt work in the file room, it would always and eternally be “The BLIP”! (Dun-dun-DAAA – ominous music, please!)

The Bureau of Lost and Invisible Persons is housed in an ordinary industrial style building in an office park full of similar buildings. The BLIP squats on its plot, surrounded by asphalt, innocuous, unobtrusive, bland but inside is a subdued hive of activity.

My days here are generally long and monotonous. But every day had a golden hour; my favorite part of the day, I like to call it “The Crazy Call Hour”! Cue fun, circus clown music! I prefer to tackle “ The Crazy Call Hour” right away. I grab a coffee, adjust my headset, wiggle into my seat and switch on – all systems GO!! “Good morning, Bureau of Lost and Invisible Persons, Terry speaking, how may I help you this morning?”

I never know what I am going to hear and that is what I love about it; the element of surprise! Most calls fall into two categories: The Criers and The Stumblers. The Criers are just that – can barely get a word out and they’re already snifflin’ and snufflin’ their sob stories. The Stumblers are usually so shocked to be speaking to a human; it takes several tries before they get to their tale of woe. Do I sound cynical to you? Too bad! Go tell it to somebody who gives a crap!

But I was patient, I was calm, I listened and took good notes. Remember, “Your call may be recorded or monitored for quality assurance purposes.” Inside, I was laughing my butt off trying to decide which of these crazy nut job stories I would tell everybody at lunch!

That’s my day, that’s my life, hey, it pays the rent! The rest of the day is spent sifting through the musty file stacks. I take the names and information I collect during “The Crazy Call Hour” down to the File Room; also known as “The Pit of Despair” (more ominous music again, maestro!). Here in this cold and featureless place I begin my search. Oh yeah, there are times it’s kinda fun, like finding the missing piece of that jigsaw puzzle your grandmother gave you. A name in my hand matches a file, a family, a friendship – gets reunited – really what are the odds. Those days are growing increasingly rare of late; there are fewer and fewer matches, more and more disappointments. My frustration and boredom with this thankless job has reached epic levels.  But I gotta remember why I’m here, gotta listen, gotta pay attention, stay sharp.

So, I’m down in The File Room doing my search thing when all of a sudden, I glance to my left and see the unthinkable. J. Jacob Carson, Jack to His Friends, striding towards me with his perfect hair and his ever-present, stupid grin. Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, smile, look up, say, “Good morning, Mr. Carson.”

“Hello there, Terry, how are you today?” “I am fine Mr. Carson.” “No, no, please call me Jack, all my friends call me Jack!” My cheeks are starting to hurt from this fake smile I have plastered on, please get this over with. What could this mutant freak want? “Terry, could you come with me up to my office. We have a small matter to discuss, won’t take long.”

When we get upstairs I am startled to see one of the Bureau’s Security gorillas standing outside Jack’s office. Where do they find these poster boys for steroids? Immediately, I start to sweat. What’s going on? The Rolodex in my mind begins to whirr. I was only joking when I told that story about that Crier – I didn’t give any names. Hey, everybody does that! Did they find out about the stapler? I just needed it for a few days. Why didn’t I bring it back the next day? Actually, I hope it’s all about staplers and small talk, be cool, I got this.  All these thoughts and more are spinnin’ through my brain as Jack opens the door to his office and tells me to take a seat.

Ok, breathe, it can’t be that bad; Jack to His Friends is still smiling. I sit down. Sweet office, I wonder what he did to get it – moron! Oh yes sir, no sir, keep smiling, all gonna be fine, no worries. Suddenly the door behind me opens and Jack to His Friends stands up.

Who is this babe, I wonder to myself. Tall, young, professional, never seen her in this building before; wha oh!  She’s got a Bureau badge on her jacket. She shakes Jack’s hand and, like they rehearsed this friendly act, they both turn to me with the same phony smiles. “Terry, this is Ms. Kelly from our Southern Division Office, “ chirps Jack to His Friends. “She has a few questions for you. Won’t take but a few minutes.  Just answer her questions and we’ll let you get right back to your work.”

Kelly doesn’t waste any time, she starts right in slamming me with questions one right after the other, scribbling notes on her tablet. It is getting harder to keep this smile on my face and lots harder to answer her questions. My head is buzzing, I feel the sweat on my upper lip, seems awfully hot in this office. I got my own questions and it ain’t pretty. “Where did they get their information? I know I wiped all my files before I came up here. Who talked? How did they find me?” I could feel my face getting redder. I tried to swallow but I had no spit left. I kept wiping my hands on my pant legs – back and forth, back and forth. I need time to think. I noticed Ms. Babe Kelly and Jack to His Friends weren’t smilin’ so much any more.

How did they find me? I’ve stayed lost for years and years! I don’t want to be found!


How do you lose a whole person? I mean, in general people are kinda large unless they are kids or babies but I am not talking about them; I am talking about full grown, average size, people.

I have lost buttons, keys, coins, and earrings lots of times, they are little, easy to misplace or drop. Depending where you are, when those tiny objects fall to the floor they may not even make a noise. You don’t even realize they are missing until much later if at all. But people? How do you lose an entire person? Even though I have lost a more than a few, I still don’t always understand how it happens…

There is the obvious of course, some people I lost to death. A few were lost in anger; some words were said, hot, bitter – those people stomped away; some of the time it was me doing the stomping. The ones I wonder about are those that are simply and painfully, lost, the drifters.

One of us would move or change jobs. We would always promise to stay in touch, to call to write. Nowadays we might say that we will text or email or “friend” on Facebook or follow on Twitter and maybe at first we both keep those promises. But somewhere along the way the time between calls, between the emails grows longer and longer and eventually, inexorably ends. You have changed, your friend has changed, life, time, and distance has come between you. We’ve drifted apart.  These friends are now lost.

Over the years the same methods, calls, emails, Facebook, that seemed to absorb old friends and take them away have returned a few. Somehow, through persistence or luck or some combination of both we have found each other again and re-connected. These links to our common past are rare and delightful, like a rainbow after a storm.

Most surprising of all are my newfound friends. God in His mercy and wisdom has helped me find some new friends and miracle of miracles other new friends have found me! How does a friendship begin? Slowly, a bit painfully; questions are asked and answered, past history is carefully revealed, and new experiences are shared. Friendships are built from bits of our lives, added in layer by layer – little friendship cakes. Newfound friends are fragile and frightening and full of hidden land mines; but are worth the risks.

And rarely, if you are very, very lucky a newfound friend develops into one of the best gifts of all, a Friend, a capital “F”, Friend. A Friend who stands the test of time, who will not fade into an ever-widening gap between phone calls, who remembers your birthday, who sends you a crazy text just because. When you find a capital “F” Friend, you will never run out of things to say. If your conversation is interrupted you pick up right where you left off even if hours, days or weeks have gone by. There is an indefinable quality that moves “newfound friend” to “friend” to a Friend. What is it? When does it happen? I think it is during the small moments you begin to see how much you really enjoy being together, that you uplift each other, you bring out the best and the silliest in each other. The moment you know, you are THERE for each other and you WILL BE there for each other; to laugh, cry and pray together. I am so very grateful to be able to say that I have found life’s rare treasures – capital “F” Friends!

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend…” Proverbs 27:6

Writing 101 – Serially Lost – Part 2

Earlier in Writing 101, you wrote about losing something. Today, write about finding something.   Today’s Twist: Make this part 2 of the series started on Day 4 of Writing 101.

When she found me I was in the middle of a panic attack. Gasping for air like a marathon runner at the end of a race, I was paralyzed, rooted to my spot on the asphalt. I knew if I moved even one more step my guts were going roar up from my stomach, through my throat and explode out onto the pavement. My fingers were tingling, my scalp was itching, I was sure I was going to pass out. It was my first day at a new school.

All around me everyone seemed to know where he or she was going. Kids were shouting greetings to one another. The girls were ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’ over new hairstyles, new shoes, new backpacks and book bags. The boys, of course, were shuffling around punching one another in the shoulder, laughing in embarrassment as they watched the girls with sly glances. Me? I was just standing there – a panicked, paralyzed outsider.

The first bell sounded its warning and all of us began our slow, reluctant, progress inside, I inched my way along at the fringes of the crowd. In the mass of kids I felt someone tugging at my sleeve, “Hey, hey. Are you new here?”

I turned to see a face, not just any face, a smiling face, a friendly face, a VERY friendly face. A friendly face looking right at me! “Yeah, this is my first day, “ I managed to choke out. “Oh wow! Then you don’t know anybody! Do you know where you are going? I bet you don’t. I can show you. I know where everything is. What’s your homeroom? Where do you live? I used to live in Boston but now we live here. It’s pretty nice here, you’re gonna like it. I didn’t really like it at first but now I do. See, here is the cafeteria; everybody eats lunch in there. Did you bring a lunch? It’s ok if you didn’t, you can buy one. Don’t worry I can help you. I like your shoes.” She bombarded me with dozens of questions and never took a breath! It was amazing, it stunned me and, best of all, I was no longer panic-stricken!

Her face was full of expression and she was in constant motion, pouring out her questions and sharing important information in a verbal flood. As she pointed out different rooms and teachers, she kept nudging me forward into this unknown school. Dark hair, dark eyes and an up-turned nose sprinkled with freckles. It turned out we had the same first name, both of us had annoying brothers and we both loved to read. I found all this out and more within those first few minutes.

My new friend had found me.

Writing 101 – Full of Character

Today’s Challenge: Write a post focusing on one – or more – of the people that have recently entered your life and tell how your narratives intersected. The Twist: Turn the post into a character study.

Moving to a new place has made me more intentional about meeting people – it is sometimes lonely being the “new kid on the block”! I can already tell that I do not want the narratives of some to intersect too closely with my own! Others, many others, I want to know more…One of these is Mary. Mary is not her real name but it is a name that suits her very well. If I had to describe Mary in a single word, the word would be “understated”. I first observed her as we exited the same building, her first, me just behind her. Her posture and bearing caught my eye immediately; she gives the impression of being much taller than she actually is as she holds herself perfectly straight, like a ballet dancer, gliding easily and effortlessly out into the parking lot.

I greet her with a friendly, “Good morning” and she quickly returns my greeting; suddenly, I was intrigued. Mary posssess a classic, refined and elegant British accent, to me, sounding like the aristocracy. In fact, I am calling her Mary because she sounds so much like Lady Mary Crawley from the show, Downton Abbey. Each word is carefully and clearly pronounced, I so want to listen to her speak and say my name so I quickly introduce myself. Oh, joy – she repeats my name to make sure she has it correct. Instantly, I feel more refined and elegant, I stand up straighter!

We have had several chance meetings since and each time I am more curious about her. I have learned that she actually lives nearby. I saw her in my neighborhood walking her dog early one morning. Even though she was several blocks ahead of me I was sure it was she; I recognized her walk, even as her dog was pulling her, urging her to walk faster. She walks like a dancer, posture perfect, placing each foot precisely.  She comes across as somewhat distant yet she is consistently friendly and warm each time we meet. Self-contained and reserved, she is so “not American”.  She moves at a slower, steadier pace; not frantic and hurried like so many others; she, seems always at ease.

What story brought her here?? In the almost unbearable humidity of Florida’s Gulf Coast, how does she maintain that look of cool composure? Is she, was she, a dancer? I picture her as Isadora Duncan, barefoot, with several flowing chiffon scarves, trailing and floating behind; instead she often wears a simple, pastel shirtwaist; belt cinching her waist, strappy sandals encasing her feet.

Knowing next to nothing about her, I imagine a story for her.  I imagine a life full of travel to exotic and foreign places, Morocco, Delhi, Sao Paulo, places I want to visit, places of mystery and romance. I picture her striding, cool, stately and completely at ease through the street markets of Madrid, Santorini, Cairo; stopping occasionally to pick up a piece of fruit, to exchange a quick word with the vendor. Looking like Grace Kelly, I envision her seated in a sidewalk café, leaning over the table to share a secret with her companion, a cigarette held loosely in her left hand. I long to hear her story as she would tell it; in her endlessly charming accent, her constant smile. If I spend time with her, will some of her cool refinement, her sophistication rub off on me? I would like that.

Writing 101 – Serially Lost – Part 1

Maureen and Darlene are lost to me. Perhaps someday they will be found but not today, that is almost certain. They were lost at the same time but were not together when they were lost. It is possible they are together even now. They may be alive, but they may not be, I don’t seem to be able to find out their fate.

I left them. I went back to the place where I left them recently but they were not there. I actually did not expect to find them there but I hoped I might.   Perhaps putting this in writing for the first time will help. I would like to find them but I am a bit afraid of what I might actually discover if I find them. I might learn more about myself than I want to know if I were to find them.

Both of them had (have? I do not know) very dark hair. Maureen had (has) piercing blue eyes, Darlene’s are/were dark brown. Maureen has/had few charming freckles across the bridge of her nose and onto her cheeks. Both were then but may not be now, my height, I am 5’8”. Darlene is more indistinct in my memory; I spent more time with Maureen and her younger sister Karen. Actually we all avoided Karen, she was annoying.

I cried when I lost them. I cried off and on for days afterward. There was no suitable replacement or substitute for them. It took a long time to find someone who even came close, it was a painful loss; I don’t think I ever really recovered. There was someone else who finally came along, she filled the void but differently, and it was not possible to be the same. I lost her for a time too; but now I know where she is; she actually found me. I will tell her story in Part 2…

Maureen and Darlene, childhood friends, lost when I moved away to a new neighborhood long ago, a part of my childhood lost with them.