Monday, March 1, 2021

Well, here is my second round in teaching myself how to create Doodly's! This time I tried to write a short summary of the Big God Story. My goal was to stay under three minutes. Trying to think of images and creating them was fun, but kind of hard, too! 😉 I had to learn how to record my voice and upload it into Doodly! In case you did not know, Doodly is not very user friendly when it comes to audio. There is no auditing audio! UGH! It has to be a perfect recording so I used my phone's recording device. Well, that was after recording it professionally in Audacity on my huge Yeti mic and Doodly not accepting it as a download! O boy! So much to learn! I am still trying to master the doodle paths. I am not there yet. But, I did discover that if I use color then it will show up! THIS SO EXCITED ME! So, I am going to give a challenge. Can you create the Big God story in under three minutes and tell it in a creative way and share it for us to see? I would love to see some really great artists put me to shame and challenge me to grow. I imagine some poets out there could come up with great content, too!

Saturday, February 20, 2021

What are qualities of a resilient person?


Why is resilience important?  Recently, I was on a trip for work and I was reminded of resilience by the airline steward. As he stood and gave us the typical before flight instructions telling us that when the mask drops in the case of an emergency that we were to put on our masks first before helping others. This reminded me of the importance of resilience. We cannot give what we do not have! Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behavior, George Kohlrieser, states, “It is often forgotten that one must learn to lead oneself before being able to lead others successfully. Self-leadership provides the backbone for the effective leadership in groups.” When companies build in resilience training it opens doors for resilience to grow. When a company recognizes that our human economy plays an important role in our effectiveness at work and in relationships, we are more likely to be creative and productive. This builds in the natural response of retention because resilience when honored will grow the mental, emotional, social, physical, and spiritual well-being. This always makes for better employees and better work environments. Resilience training provides a framework for relationships to prosper and grow because doors are opened so that communication and conflict resolution skills are able to flourish because people are serving out of balance and stability rather than crisis. How can growing your resilience improve your work environment? Where do you think your team needs to seek out resilience training? 

So, we find ourselves asking, what are qualities of a resilient person? Who in your life have you observed resilience? A mentally resilient person tends to be able to adapt well to new circumstances because they gather information and then seek to be strategic in how they engage their resources to help them and others persevere! An emotionally resilient person will use positivity to help themselves self-regulate to find the internal strength to be calm or mindful in the moment to help them bounce back. Physically resilient people know how to use rest and recovery to their advantage so that they can endure physical challenges without further injury. This is what makes them stronger in the long run! While a spiritually resilient person knows that there is a source of strength outside of themselves that they can call upon. This gives them peace of mind and a sense of contentment despite their circumstances because they use their core values as their moral compass. Spiritually resilient people find ways to empathize with others and serve them on the journey.  This frees them from being so self-focused and reminds them that they must take care of themselves so they can take care of others. The Founder of the Resilient Institute, Dr. Sven Hansen points out that, “Our ability to function, deliver, and thrive depends on how we leverage our mental, emotional and social strength, so any program that wants to a develop more resilient workforce and culture needs to focus on all aspects of the emotions and mind to care and listen with empathy which is difficult in burn out.”  Essentially, we should build resilience in times of peace as much as we might grow in resilience in a time of crisis. Training ourselves to develop resilient awareness and strategies will make us stronger. Which qualities do you struggle with personally or in your work environment? What can you do to grow this area of your life? 

One way to grow resilience is to look for circumstances where resilience is observed. Look for the quality and then consider why that quality is important and how to grow that quality in you. For example, we can discover resiliency characteristics within the animal kingdom.  The animal kingdom seems to have numerous examples of resiliency. I have chosen four creatures to consider. For example, the fire ant. I know it is a creature most of us do not want to encounter because they bite and leave a painful sting when they do! When we were escaping the floods in Houston, we were dodging enormous fire ant colonies floating precariously around us in the flood waters. We were so afraid that if we were hit by one that they would jump on us and sting us all over. This is not a good thing! Curiosity caught my attention by the fact that they traveled in a massive colony through the floodsso I researched and discovered that fire ants can exist this way for months because they interconnect their legs as they move about.  Apparently, an ant can stay under water for as long as twenty-four hours so, the colony keeps moving. They never let go of each other and they always make sure that no ant stays under water too long. This way they all survive and make it through. They are always aware of their need for each other and the importance of protecting one another. The two characteristics that I decided to cultivate in my life from observing the fire ant was keeping a communal approach and to always be looking for the one that needs to be lifted up that might be drowning. What if we had the attitude of community awareness that no one was left below or behind too long?

Emperor penguins show resiliency by also being communal. When the mother penguin goes off to sea for two months for food the male penguin will sit with the baby egg on his feet. The male penguins will huddle together to fight the bitter cold and keep each other warm while protecting the eggs from predators inside their penguin huddle. The male penguins will not eat for the entire two months and in some cases losing as much as two thirds of his body weight. The male penguins use each other for warmth, a barrier to the 90-mile winds and the -40F temperatures, and predators.  What if we lived out sacrifice and shared responsibilities like the emperor penguins? How would our team or family change if we were willing to work together to fight off the elements? What kind of sacrifices can we make to help our team? 

Another animal that you might like being on the resilience list is the rat. These pesky rodents are built for resilience. Their persistence to chew through something is quite astounding. They do not give up. I realize that this is not okay when it is your house, but there is something to be said for persistence paying off. But, what really surprised me about this creature was based on some research some scientists did on rats. Honestly, I do not know that it is necessarily the best methods, but what they discovered is important. Scientists were testing to see how a wild rat versus a domestic rat by survive in adverse circumstances.  Would a wild rat swim longer than a domestic rat? They expected it would, but that is not what they discovered. They found that a domestic rat would out swim a wild rat and survive every time. The scientists came up with a hypothesis that the domestic rats lived with hope because they had someone that would help them survive. So, the scientists set about doing research on giving hope to a rat in bucket that was drowning and not giving hope to another rat. They discovered that rats that were rescued once would always swim longer. Scientists concluded that hope of rescue always made rats more resilient. They came to the conclusion that hope produces resilience. What if we developed hope in each other and lived out persistence? What if we found ways to rescue one another at work and at home? How can we help each other move through? How can we communicate that we are a team that will rescue one another and never let one of our own drown? What might building hope look like for you and your team?

The tardigrade is the said to be the most resilient creature.  It can survive under the most stressful of circumstances. Scientists call tardigrades survivors because they can withstand outer space, be frozen and thawed, dehydrated, and radiated and still bounce back to life. This little creature is adaptable! It will curl up in a small ball and wait it out. If necessary, it will release a special protein that protects its body and then wait until the circumstances change. Essentially, the tardigrade has good genes. There is a special genome that it passes on to the next generation. I realize that we do not have a say in our genes, but we do have a say on what we will intentionally pass on to the next generation. We can determine to pass on characteristics of resilience by learning them and sharing them. What if we made it a determination to make it a mark of our team or family to be known for resilience? What if we were determined to show that we know how to adapt, reduce when we need to, release when we must, and when we can reproduce ourselves in others? Imagine the possibilities!

How are you being challenged right now to be resilient? Which animal characteristic did you like most? Which one do you want to grow in? Which one do you feel your team or family might need to grow in? Imagine the possibilities and determine to be the one to build into the next generation of your team or family the resilience characteristics to bounce back! 😊 Shalom Y’all!


[1] Kohlrieser, George. “Resilient Leadership: Navigating the Pressures of Modern Working life.” REAL WORLD LEARNING. No. 42. 2014

[2] Hansen, Sven. PhD. How to Build a Culture of Resilience. Resilience Institute at https://www.youtube.com/user/DrSvenHansen/featured

[3] Incredible Floating Fire Ants Help Develop Waterproof Materials and New Robotics. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://inhabitat.com/incredible-floating-fire-ants-help-develop-waterproof-materials-and-new-robotics/

[4] H., Y. (2020, October 07). How To Be Resilient like the Emperor Penguin? Retrieved from https://medium.com/in-fitness-and-in-health/how-to-be-resilient-like-the-emperor-penguin-8a95730ae62f#:~:text=Emperor penguins are known,resilient living creatures on earth.&text=They travel over 50 miles, catch and feed the young.

[5] The Remarkable Power of Hope. (2014, May 07). Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/kidding-ourselves/201405/the-remarkable-power-hope

[6] Dvorsky, G. (2016, September 20). Scientists Finally Figured Out Why Tardigrades Are So Indestructible. Retrieved from https://gizmodo.com/genes-hold-the-key-to-the-water-bears-indestructibility-1786814698



Wednesday, February 17, 2021

What is resilience? Do I have it?

You have heard of your Intelligent Quotient (IQ), Emotional Intelligence (EQ), and maybe even Cultural Intelligence (CQ), but what about your Resilient Intelligence (RQ)? What makes a person resilient? How does someone move through difficult circumstances and grow rather than shrink? Resilience is an essential component in the workforce and is a contributing factor to personal success. Did you know that resilience is learnable and achievable? What are key factors that will help you grow resilience? 

When I was asked to lead this session for UNMC and UNO’s GRIT series I immediately asked myself, “Do I have resilience? And when I realized that I do, I asked myself, Where and how did I develop resilience?” I have chosen four moments. I could choose others, but these four proved to be profound moments where I had to choose to move through or bounce back when I did not think I had the capacity to do so. On September 11, 1998, our home flooded in Tropical Storm Francis in Houston, Texas. Greg, Mikayla (our two-year-old) and six-month-pregnant-me along with two dogs had to escape through rapid moving flood waters. We left the cat. It was rescued in speed boat. Along with several other thousand people that day, we lost it all and had to begin the process of rebuilding. It took six months so our new born baby was technically born homeless. In October 2001, ENRON, the Fortune 500 company my husband worked for collapsed and we lost everything financially. We ended up being relocated to Omaha and had to rebuild a whole new community and financial base. On August 3, 2016 while on a leadership retreat with our Resident Assistant Team, I hit a tree while ziplining because my brakes didn’t work. I seriously injured all of the tendons and ligaments in my feet and ankles while crushing my heal pads of my feet. For the first time in my life, I felt what I thought was level 10 pain. I live with chronic pain from that injury even today. And on October 3, 2017, Grace University announced that it was closing. As the Dean of Women, I had to walk through eight months of grief helping the students and staff let go of our 75-year beloved institution. Each of these stories carry intense moments of deep learning and hard choices to push through when I thought I did not have the mental, emotional, social, or physical capacity to do so. But I learned that I am much stronger than I thought I was and that yes, I can move through to a better tomorrow and a better normal. Why? Because I am resilient!

So, what is resilience? Resilience can be defined as the bounce back factor in the face of difficult circumstances without engaging in dysfunctional behavior. Resilience is the ability to move through it and become better because of it. The crazy and amazing thing about resilience is that it is learnable, teachable, and possible for all people. And that with each step we take toward moving forward we strengthen our resilience! In many ways, resilience is caught more than taught in the hard moments of life. It is caught when we get up and take the next step. 

So, I find myself asking, What did I learn about resilience in these four moments? Honestly, I could never have walked the journey without my community of faith, family, friends, and yes, coworkers and students. As hard as it was to do, I learned to ask for help. After the shock wore off when I hit the tree, I had no choice. I could not stand on my own two feet by myself. I found that my students would carry me when I could not stand, literally! As I experienced their kindness in carrying me, I learned more about how to serve others in those moments than any other in my life. I can give stories from each of these moments where someone carried me. Through these moments of seeking help, I experienced in more profound way the power of love, sacrifice, and service. And that God truly is our help in our time of need and that with God all things are possible. Often His answers come through the hands and feet of those around us! Asking for help is not only a gift to ourselves, but it is to the other person because it allows them to walk in the blessing of serving you.

Another characteristic of resilience that I encountered was the power of being present in the moment even when it meant conflict, suffering and/or pain. I discovered that if I took the time to assess the situation and acknowledge what I was feeling and going through that I was better able to handle the moment. Acknowledging something makes it less scary. At times, I would just verbalize aloud what I was feeling. So, if I didn’t like me in the moment, I would just say it. This somehow helped me to pull it together. It helped me to center myself and be mindful of what I was going through. I had to learn to give myself grace and others as well. If I focused on what I could do in that moment and just take the next step, I would feel like I accomplished something. It gave me a sense of completion and accomplishment which made me feel like I was in control in what was perceived an uncontrollable situation.

I realize that this is not everyone’s story, but for me, I found that if I faithed it, I could make it! I found strength in God and the people of God. This means that even though I could not see what would be, if I stepped out in faith trusting that movement, healing, provision, and whatever I might need would happen that I became stronger. I started saying, “I am faithing forward!” I found ways to feed my soul with spiritual truths that encouraged my heart and mind. I found ways to share with others about my journey. This kept me from living in mental isolation. Which really helped me process and release a lot of stuff. I tried hard to think about how my husband might be feeling and how I could be his encouragement or how my students and colleagues were feeling so that I could serve them with better understanding. On the night that we flooded and lost it all, we were sleeping on a day bed in my parent’s guest room with our two dogs on the floor, the cat on the edge of the bed, our two-year-old wedged between us and I whispered to my husband, Greg, “Babe, we have all we need right here. I am content and we are going to be okay.” I meant it and it was true. Despite losing it all, we can now say that we are better having gone through it than if we had not. 

I could tell you about all the things that God taught me to release like pride, vanity, greed, materialism, and identity in things, positions, power, or influence. But that is another lesson. However, with resilience building I discovered that there were things that I needed to hold onto and things that I needed release. My self-talk was critical. I could beat myself up, tear down others, or remind myself of truths that brough positive outcomes. Two truths that I found myself embracing as I moved through these circumstances were “we will make it through” and that “I am stronger than I think.” I realized that normal is whatever I make it to be. If I take the time to set a rhythm into the routine, then I create a new normal. I am the one that determines what normal is for me, my family, and my work. This was huge! It made chaos comfortable and confusion settled. Why? Because I determined in my heart what the norm was and did not allow the circumstances to tell me otherwise. 

How are you being challenged right now to be resilient? What aspect of resilience have you already developed? Where might you need to grow or take the next step? Go ahead and faith forward and create your new normal by choosing to be in community, ask for help, focus on the moment, do what you can do, and live out good self-talk as you move forward! Shalom Y’all! 😉




Sunday, February 14, 2021

Creation

This is my first Doodly creation! I thought it appropriate that I should try to tell the story of Creation! I hope you like it!

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Thursday, February 11, 2021

What I discovered about God in the story of Deborah and Barak

(Photo taken from https://rockpointechurch.org/deborah-barak/) 

I have always found the story of Deborah and Barak fascinating and a bit creepy when I consider that Jael pushed a tent stake through the king's temple! But when I reflect on GOD and how He works in our lives, I love that GOD provides us a story of a woman leader. It gives me comfort as a woman and as someone that wants to be a leader to see Deborah's example. Recently as I studied the story of Deborah and Barak, I reflected on what I learn about GOD in this passage and I am always surprised by what GOD reveals to me when I ask this question, What do I learn about God? I have provided below some of the truths I discovered about GOD. I especially love how GOD gave Deborah details of who to talk to, what will happen, and how He will work it out. 

Go read the passage and see what God reveals to you in Judges 4. 

Here is what I discovered! 

 1. What do I learn about God? 
     a. God knows when the Israelites do evil. 
     b. God hands Israel over to Jabin, King of Canaan. 
     c. God heard the cry of Israel when Israel cried out to God in their oppression. 
     d. God used Deborah, a woman, as a prophet, to judge and send messages. 
     e. God sent Deborah with a command in what to do. It included who and where! 
     f. God uses details when He sends messages. 
     g. God uses Deborah to lead Barak to lead the nation out into battle. 
     h. God routed Sisera at Barak’s advance.
     i. God waited for Barak to do what was commanded. 
     j. God subdued the King of Canaan, Jabin. 
    k. God caused mountains to quake when Deborah and Barak sang a song praising the LORD. 
    l. God uses people to help Him in battles. 

1. What to emphasize about God?
    a. God does NOT tolerate evil! 
    b. God knows our choices and releases us to our enemies when our choices are evil. 
    c. God releases us to our evil. 
    d. God hears our cry for help. 
    e. God sends prophets and messengers.
    f. God gives commands that need to be followed. 
    g. God uses women to lead. 
    h. God routes the enemy.
    i. God uses people to accomplish help! I find the story so encouraging. I do not need to fear evil and I can trust that GOD will route the enemy. Isn't that comforting! 

What blesses you about this story? 

As you read through what I discovered about God and what I thought was important to emphasize did you have anything that stood out to you as important? 

What made it significant to you? 

I know for myself each time I read through it I can apply it to different areas of my life. I confess that it is a little bit scary to know that God will release a person or a nation to their choices when they are evil. This has such great consequences for those around us. But, I have tremendous hope when I realize that GOD will send messengers, prophets, and leaders to do His work. We just need to be willing to obey when He does. I love that GOD uses people to accomplish His work. I love that you or I could be the one He chooses to use! Don't you! 

How can you pray this story into your life today? For me, it is that I listen to Him clearly and that I give the messages He asks and I do what He presents to me to do!

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Put a mark on their foreheads

(Taken from art.thewalters.org)

"With them was a man clothed in linen who had a writing kit at his side. (Ezekiel 9:2b). 

The phrase "writing kit" caught my attention. Why was it so important to know he wore a horned inkwell about his waist? I immediately read anticipating the explanation for this unusual identifier. 

"Then the LORD called to the man clothed in linen who had the writing kit at his side and said to him, "Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it" (Ezekiel 9:4). 

Oh dear! The next verse terrified me.

"As I listened, HE (the LORD Almighty) said to others, "Follow him throughout the city and kill without showing compassion..." (Ezekiel 9:5). 

(Taken from Dreamstime.com)

The one with the pen gave life. The one with the sword brought death. In this moment, the pen was mightier than the sword because it brought life not death. My mind went all over the place, but the first thing I must see is that God spares His children. This is a consistent storyline throughout the Bible. He spared Adam and Eve in the garden. He spared Cain and put a mark on him so no one could kill him. He spared Noah and his family for his righteousness. He spared anyone who put the blood of lamb on the door posts when Israel lived in Egypt on the night of the Passover.  You get the idea. God is for us. He searches the earth to and from looking for the one fully committed to Him (2 Chronicles 16:9).

So God seeks the one seeking Him,  but what about  us? What are we responsible for? If we believe in the LORD,  we will be appalled at unrighteousness and evil. In fact, we will hate it. This is not the kind of hate that wants to kill or destroy but the kind that comes from deep sorrow and grief because it knows there is a better way. We will hunger for the best in others and fight for righteousness. This is not about selfish gain or vain glory. So, the pen writes to bring life knowing once the sword is used the choice is gone.

Now don't get me wrong. I know the pen can bring death, too. I learned that as a child when I sent a note to a boy I liked. "I like you. Do you like me?" And he answered with big bold letters, "NO!" Written words hurt. They are painful. I later learned as an adult I should not write things down that are unkind. People can read them over and over. There is something devastating because the imprint of the visual sticks. So, I get it. The pen can hurt. And in some cases the pen is used to set about death, but the pen can choose to give life or death. And in this account the pen gave life to the righteous one.

In this passage, the pen wrote a mark. What was that mark? Listen to this quote in David Guzik's commentary, 

“There is a prophetic significance in the Hebrew word for the mark. It is the Hebrew letter T (Tau), which at that time was written as a cross. Without being superstitious we can rejoice in this anticipation of salvation through the death of Christ on the cross” (Wright) (https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide2017-Eze/Eze-9.cfm).

The life giver wrote a cross. The significance of the cross was that Jesus gave His life that we might have eternal life. Jesus died on the cross that we might have righteousness. When we are in pursuit of His righteousness, we will grieve the detestable things around us. So, what are the detestable things? I imagine you can give a long list, but I will give just one. Idolatry for one is a big one. This beast can manifest itself in so many ways that we often do not realize we are in its grip. I will let you consider the countless ways you see idolatry in our culture. Oh my. Father, forgive us! Personally, we must deal with our sin and this is when we can change our culture's detestable things. It starts with the one. 

So, today if the man with the linen clothes and a writing kit at his side were to come and mark you, would it be with a pen or would he step aside for the sword? Pursue righteousness at all costs and righteousness is found at the cross in the one who died as an innocent man to pay our debts that we might have the free gift of eternal life. 



Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Did you know that ants have resilient intelligence?

Did you know that in a flood fire ants will float as a community bonded together and they can stay this way for months? An ant can only stay under water for about 24 hours. For this reason, the floating ant colony is constantly shifting and moving so that no ant stays under water too long. If the ants stay together and hold onto one another they can survive. It is in their community bond that they develop resilience in the face of adversity. 

As I pondered the floating ant colony, I realized we can learn a few lessons from our fellow creatures in how to build resilience in our lives. I love how they interlink their legs and they just keep moving. It is when we turn to one another that we develop strength to be resilient to move through adversity. As we take time to listen and lift someone up as they share their story, we become what helps them to keep moving forward. 

I love the fact that ants do not let any ant stay under water too long. This makes me want to look around me and see in my community who needs to be lifted up. Who might need me to go down so they can go up for fresh air? 

If we seek to work together and help each other to keep moving to make sure that no one stays under water then we can keep each other from drowning in adverse situations. I love that the focus is on "us" not "me". The colony's survival is dependent on the survival of each ant. Fewer ants means greater exposure and vulnerability to predators or not enough in the colony to keep everyone above water. For an ant, isolation is dangerous. This is true for us as well. When left alone we are also vulnerable and at greater risk to predators and the elements. We need our community to process and find strength.

How can you build teamwork within your family, community, or work environment? What can you do to ensure that no person is left behind or underwater too long? What needs to happen with communication to check up on each other? How do you provide a safe place so that people feel that they can say, "Help, I am drowning?" Are you willing to move underwater for a period so someone else might move up to the surface? Can you trust those around you to provide a way for you to move out of the underwater conditions in a safe time? How can you assure those around you that you are willing to help them if they are underwater too long? 

The ants resilient strength is born in their community and willingness to move together and make a safe place for all in the colony. They are able to survive for long periods of time because they work together. Without each other, they will not survive and will be picked off by predators. What do you need to do to develop resilient intelligence like an ant?

Do you have Resilient Intelligence (RI)?

I was recently asked to speak on resilience. I wondered how the person who asked me to speak had come to the conclusion that I was a resilient person. I found myself asking myself, “Do I have resilience?” By definition, a person with resilience has the ability to bounce back in difficult circumstances. As I reflected on various life circumstances, it occurred to me that God has allowed me to face some very unique circumstances that reveal that I have the ability to bounce back. I realized I am a resilient person. One moment that wrought great havoc in our lives occurred when Tropical Storm Francis dumped 25 inches of water on Houston in less than an hour. Greg and I were sound asleep when the phone rang. When I picked it up my sister-in-law was frantic, “Get up and prepare! A tornado is coming toward our neighborhood!” We lived in the same subdivision, but in different city grids. It was 5:30 am in the morning and I was almost six months pregnant with Grant. Fast movement was not on my list of things to do at 5:30 am. Greg jumped up to go see what he could see, and he came back running into the room before I had fully stood up and said, “Forget the tornado! We are flooding! We need to get out of here!” Greg immediately started telling me what to gather. It was all very fast. I packed up a bag for Mikayla, who was two at the time, while Greg packed up important documents we would need. He had the forethought to place some files in the attic. 

We had just bought and had delivered a few days before our first pieces of real wood furniture. They were in the garage because Greg was in the process of staining them. I do not know how, but the two of us lifted them onto sawhorses so they would not be standing in the water. One hour later when Greg went to open the door, it was already two feet high outside. We realized that we couldn’t open our door without flooding our home. He ran and flipped off the circuit breaker so that we wouldn’t risk getting electrocuted and we called our neighbors to get them up. We had two dogs and a cat. There was no way we could manage all of them, but we had two floaties and a little life preserver my mom had just bought for Mikayla that summer. So, Greg climbed through the window and held the floaties as I passed the dogs and Mikayla through. Somehow, I hefted myself up over the ledge and out the window. 

At this point, the water was now waste deep. Greg carried all of the bags while I carried Mikayla. We had the two dogs laying perfectly still on the floaties between us as we began our journey of wading out to safe ground. We had no idea how far we would have to go, but we hoped to make it to our family that lived in different sections of the subdivision. It was so surreal. Mikayla kept crying, “Swim! Mommy, swim!” We passed by neighbors that refused to leave. I started to cry when I saw Samantha in her diaper looking out the window at us crying. I wondered, “Will I ever see her again?” We kept walking. We discovered that fire ant mounds were floating toward us and we had to dodge them. It was the craziest thing. They were fully intact and flowing rapidly with the water. We were very alert to the debris, tree branches, and the possibility of snakes because we lived right off the bayou. Fortunately, for us as we approached my parents house about eight city blocks away the water was only up to their front porch. It had not reached the inside of the house. When it was all said and done our house filled up on the inside about two feet deep with sewer and mud. And yes, we had a few surprise moments with snakes. Anything the water touched was destroyed. Our cat was rescued by a speed boat and we found ourselves to be homeless and very uncertain about what tomorrow would entail. 

What held me together? What held us together? How were we able to bounce back? It was a devasting time. Our neighborhood looked like a war zone. All but three families on our street ended up divorced because the journey of returning to normal was more than they could push through. The ability to push through starts in our thoughts. It was our faith in God and the truth that God uses all things for our good when we are in Christ Jesus that gave me hope when it seemed so bleak. I immediately started praying and asking God what He wanted from us in this moment. I remembered the that the God of all comfort and compassion will pour into you so that you can pour that same comfort and compassion into others (2 Corinthians 1:3-11). So, I asked God to show us how to pour out His comfort and compassion to others. I also started praying and asking God to show me how to give Him glory through this and how to give Greg glory. These were the core spiritual truths that made me strong inside when I felt very weak. I held onto them and believed them to be true. Some might call this positivity, but I call it faith walking. I believe that my faith walking made me resilient. 

The other thing that made us resilient was our family. When we were wading out, we knew that if we could get to our family, we would be safe. We knew our family would take care of us and help us through this even if they were going through it too! Fortunately, we were the only ones in our family of four families that lived in that subdivision that flooded. Our family carried us. We knew if we could get to them, we would not sink. It was our family community that made us strong when we were weak. Our lives were filled with hard labor for many weeks and lots of rebuilding for nearly seven months. In that time our family housed us, fed us, helped us, did laundry, hauled garbage, packed up items that were salvageable and comforted us. And when little Grant was born everyone took turns caring for the baby. 

That first night as Greg and I lay in bed with our two-year-old snuggled up sleeping and our baby nestled deeply in my womb, I whispered to Greg, “Babe, we have all we need. I could not be more content than I am right now. We are together and we are safe. We are going to be okay.” I believe without a doubt that another reason I stayed resilient was because I made a conscious choice to think from Greg’s perspective and other peoples perspectives of what they must be going through and this caused me to want to serve others. I made a choice to find ways to help others. Greg found ways to help others, too. So, when our church started showing up to help us, we started sharing people to our neighbor’s homes so that they had help, too. This gave us a sense of purpose and healing. It helped build our hope because we were able to get outside of our own pain and consider another’s pain. This grew a spirit of thankfulness and gratitude in us for others and each other. We discovered the gift of gratitude. 

Resilience is something that we all want, but the reality is that resilience is not something you even know you have until you are pushed beyond your limits and discover you must find a way to bounce back and push through. I remember walking into church two days later to give a testimony for an event coming up called, Friend Day and thinking, “No one in the church knows that my life had changed. I am not who I was when I was asked to share this story, but I will not disappoint them. It doesn’t matter what I have just been through, I have a chance to encourage my church to become a people that seeks to build friendships with someone different than them.” I wanted my church body to see that I was still able to see the value in being a good friend to those around me even when I was hurting. I look back now and realize that if I could have put a word to it that day, resilience would have been a good word to describe what I hoped to model. 

Resilience is born in adversity. It receives its ability to bounce back through faith. It is empowered by community to push through and emboldened by serving others to keep moving forward. Resilience is forged in the battlefield of the mind. It does not allow itself to settle for being a victim or a whiner. It makes the choice to seek God, live in community, and serve others even when it hurts. Resilience when practiced births the gift of gratitude and thanksgiving. Resilience finds hope and pursues hope at all costs, and this is why it has bounce back strength. Adversity grows our resilient intelligence. Do you have RI? Are you willing to pray for it and ask God to grow you?

Monday, January 18, 2021

New and Old Treasure

I marked this verse some 20 years ago in my Bible and just read my prayer and right now I am overwhelmed by the old and new treasures God is pulling out of me. The Quest study Bible says that people who have been instructed about the kingdom of God are like home owners that have the gift of hospitality. They share all of their belongings both old and new to refresh others. May the wisdom of the past and presence bring forth refreshment that heals souls!  Amen

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Where is your inheritance?

"Spare your people, LORD. Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, 'Where is their God?'" (Joel 2:17). 

I realize that this verse is a cry of the prophet Joel for God to move in behalf of the nation Israel during a terrible time when locusts destroyed the land. It is a desperate plea for a remember me, remember my people, and remember, we are Your inheritance. I was praying this thought when I began to praise God because He has chosen to call His children, His inheritance! What a beautiful reminder when our contemporary situation of COVID and political unrest seem distraught with destruction and implosion. Joel used the temporay pain to call the people to remembrance and repentance. 

"Rend your hearts, not your garments. Return to the LORD your God for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love" (Joel 2:13).

But, He also used it as a reminder to the LORD, we are Your inheritance! The nations are watching! Let them see You are at work among Your people! Now that is not just an Old Testament thought. It is also a New Testament promise. 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. ...(1 Peter 1:3-12).

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1:11-14).

And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified (Acts 20:32).

Do you see that as a believer of Jesus we also have an inheritance that is imperishable! Yes, we will face trials of many kinds, but we must remember where our hope resides. It is not in people, programs, health, politics, or even possessions. Our inheritance is eternal, imperishable and guaranteed. So this morning as I pray, I am praising God for the remembrance that I am His inheritance and He is mine. So, when I am asked "Where is your God?" I can say very securely, "He is with me. He has not left me. He walks with me on this journey through COVID and political unrest. I look to Him for my hope and deliverance." 

What about you?  Do you know where your hope rests?  Do you know you have an eternal inheritance? Do you know the blessing of being called God's inheritance? If not, read the verses again and pray they become true in you. Do you need to rend your heart, repent, and return to God? Do you know God is a compassionate and loving God? Do you know the hope found in Jesus? Can you say with confidence you have the Holy Spirit at work in you? 

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints... (Ephesians 1:18).




Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Why is it so important to listen to or read the Bible?

Why is it so important to listen or or read the Bible? I get asked this question enough that it is worthy of answering. Sometimes. It is asked in sarcasm, but other times in a plea for understanding.

This is a great question considering we all have so many things vying for our time and energy and the fact that we are living in a time of Biblic illiteracy. When I did my research for my doctorate Dr. George Hunter of Asbury Seminary said that America was nearly 80% Biblically illiterate. This is sad considering that the Bible helps us to grow in our relationship with God so we know how to be in relationship with man.

The Bible is a sacred text. It is holy and set apart because it tells the history of how God interacts with people. The Bible is God breathed and it teaches us and equips us (2 Timothy 3:6-7). The Bible judges our thoughts and the motives of our heart (Hebrews 4:2). The Bible endures forever (Isaiah 40:8). The Bible blesses us when we listen to it and obey it (Luke 11:28). The Bible is for all people because God loves the whole world (John 3:16). 

Have you ever listened to or read the Bible? Why or why not? Would you just listen and see what He might reveal to you? I know for myself that the Bible is what radically changed my life because through reading it and obeying it I got to know God and how much He loves me.

Remember, to be in God's Word, to be with Jesus, to be transformed! 

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Resilience

I woke up this morning pondering the word resilience. It was the last thing I talked about before I went to sleep last night. I was sharing with Grant my outline for a speaking engagement coming up in February. The topic is resilience. When I woke up I had the this visual of a tree that was deeply rooted with strong character traits that helped it dig in deep into the earth so that when the winds blew it was steady. I was reminded of verses and character traits that have helped me in moments of resilience. The tree's leaves moved from green, to yellow, to red, to brown, to nothing on the branches. This showed that resilience that is built on faith and the character of God can withstand the seasons of fruit bearing and even barrenness because its roots are deep. What character trait or verse helped you stand resilient through the seasons you have walked through?  I would love to know!

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Fight the fear of being alone


In this podcast, I share a moment when I felt very alone and how God became my comfort. Jennifer and I discuss how Hagar struggled with feeling alone, too.  

Click on this to hear the story: Fighting the fear of being alone

Check out Wholly Loved Podcast: Faith over Fear. Thanking God for Jennifer Slattery, Jodie Bailey,  and Shellie Arnold. I am learning so much from this podcast team. All three are prolific writers. Go Google them! It is so much fun to sit and talk over life and Scripture together.

The spiritual discipline of storytelling

God showed me how He took a struggle and fear into a spiritual disciple that became an act of worship. 

Click on this to hear what God taught me: The spiritual disciple of telling a Bible story

Friday, January 8, 2021

Spirituality does not have an age requirement

Spirituality does not have an age requirement. Faith does not have a quantity requirement. Both fly in the face of our attempts to reason with faith. Obedience determines our spiritual age and our dependence and utter recognition that without Christ nothing is possible, with Christ all things are possible is what builds our faith. Both spirituality and faith are strengthened by complete surrender. Easier said than done! O Father, increase our faith and grow us spiritually! In Jesus' Name, AMEN! Today, we will record about the demon possessed boy in Matthew 17:14-21.

Run swiftly toward holiness and pursue peace

"In every relationship be swift to choose peace over competition, and run swiftly toward holiness..."  (The Passion 12:14). 

Choose peace over competition and run swiftly toward holiness. Yes and amen! I love this. I want this! Read it this morning and prayed over me and you! See, if I do not choose peace then I set up opportunity for bitter roots. Those are ugly beasts to break. I read once that one leader cannot stop a mob because the root is embedded too deep. They are too far gone. You stop bitter roots by slaying the beast within in the moment it shows up. A leader gives what a leader has within. We cannot give peace if we do not choose to run to it personally in the quiet of our own homes in those early morning hours when it is only you running amuck in your head. What do you do with those thoughts? Well, stewing and brewing will not promote peace, but running swiftly toward holiness will promote peace. Father, help us all to run swiftly to You and allow Your peace which surpasses all understanding guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen

Esther by the artist Ann of Head Trip Creations

Scripture Art Journaling from Headtrip Creations by Ann

Click on Esther and you can watch how the artist created this piece of art.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem with Rami of JEO

"In peace I will lie down and sleep,for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety." Psalm 4:8

As the world's eyes turn to Bethlehem as advent begins, would you like to see the little town for yourself? Check out the video below to see our Director Rami share some encouragement, some views of Bethlehem and catch our vision for  sharing Christ with the people here. We invite you to make your investment in His kingdom in this little town today. Let's make a difference this Giving Tuesday! https://newhorizonsfoundation.com/projectsdonate/1359-jeo-ministry/backingRami of JEO at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem"

The Big God Story Summary

A simple metanarrative of what GOD did in sending Jesus for mankind.

Click on the title to watch the story summary. The Big God Story Summary

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Complete others! Don't compete!

"True vision doesn't compete with others, but completes others!" John C. Maxwell. How does my leadership complete others? Now that is a question worth asking! You know that crazy moment when you feel the thought of jealousy rise up? That is comparison or competition. Slay it! Repent of it! Ask God to cleanse it! It only destroys what could be! Choose to celebrate the gifting and beauty you see in others! Recognize that God has gifted you distinctly as only you can serve. There is no one exactly like you because you are you. Don't try to be someone you are not. Be unapologetically you and let others be that too! Oh in my younger years that beast would pop up in me and I would have to make determined choices to slay it! With practice and humble submission before God it isn't as daunting anymore. I now thrive in unleashing others and see this more the better way. See, if I am competing with you then I cannot unleash you to be you with me and vice versa! So, today let's determine to ask ourselves, how can I complete you?

How to pray a specific prayer from Scripture

Several people asked me questions about how to pray specific Scriptures, in this video I answer those questions and share different ways I have prayed Scripture. 
Click on the title to open the video:
How to pray specific Scriptures

Monday, January 4, 2021

I prayed for 3 and circled the number 3


(Art created by Marge Mowczko take from https://margmowczko.com/samaritan-woman-john-4/)

Our small little church was holding a women’s retreat in our living room. The speaker was tall and beautiful. The kind of person you look at and say, “I want to be like her!” She was the most organized woman I had ever met. She was introducing us to a Day-Timer-Calendar that held spiritual components so we could get organized in all areas of our life. I was young and eager to learn. I had no idea that one of the concepts that she shared with us would be a life-changer for me. She asked, “Have you ever asked Jesus to give a certain number of disciples in a year?” “Uhm, no!” I could honestly say, I had never prayed for the LORD to give me a certain number of souls. She then said, “I want you to pause and pray right now and ask God for a number of people for you to be the one to lead to Him this year! I want you to write it down in your calendar and circle it. Then go back and see what God does for you this year!” I thought, “Oh my that is bold. WOW! I am really going to go big here… 3! Yep! I wrote down three and circled it big and then worried that I was asking God for too much. How in the world would He ever use me to lead three whole people to Him this year? I feared God would not answer my request and I would fail. LOL! 
As the Minister to Children and Family Life for our church, I was responsible for the follow up on cards that were filled out by parents or children that visited our Safety Fair the week before. So, on Monday after the retreat I was going through the cards and noticed that Nancy had written down that she wanted to know more about Jesus. I called her up and asked her, “Nancy has anyone ever shared with you how to know Jesus?” She responded by saying, “No, but sure would love for someone to do so.” Okay, that was fast! I thought, “God, what are you doing?” So, I asked her, “Would you like for me to come over and share Jesus with you?” Nancy said, “Yes, how about Monday at 4:00 pm?” So, I found myself driving to Nancy’s house on Monday a week later. 

As I drove to Nancy’s house that day, I was white knuckled! I had been to seminary, but I had never personally shared Jesus with anyone that I knew that had decided to become a Jesus follower. I was terrified of messing things up! I prayed hard and begged God to show up. I had said the prayer and He was out to show me this is the kind of prayer He will not say, “No!” to! I would like to say it was hard, but it wasn’t! Nancy was what you would call ripe fruit that was ready to be picked. I just happened to be the person that bumped into her to help her understand the Scriptures. I stayed for a couple of hours as Nancy and I talked about what it meant to be a follower of Jesus. She then asked me to come and share Jesus with her son, Logan, the next Monday at 4:00 pm. I did. Then her daughter, Morgan, the next. Both of them became followers of Jesus. This hit me quite profoundly. I had only asked God for three people to become followers of Jesus in a year and He showed me that He could use me to lead three people in three weeks. Well, more than that, it was over the course of six weeks I went to Nancy’s house to share with someone that needed to know about Jesus or recommit to Jesus. Eventually, I stopped counting that year. It was enough that I realized that I should not limit God with just a number. If He can use a Samaritan woman to lead a whole village to Him, then He could use me. 

The whole point of a testimony is to bear witness to what I have seen and heard and in the case of being a Jesus follower it is to tell what I have seen and heard about Jesus. When I do this from an authentic heart of what Christ is at work in me then others will come along and want to join in the beauty of what God is creating in me and would like to do so in them! 

What makes an effective testimony?

Taken from: http://www.crosswalk.com/faith/spiritual-life/two-tombstones-the-story-of-the-samaritan-woman-and-jesus-christ-11582592.html

I am reading through the Samaritan woman in preparation for the podcasts for Wholly Loved Ministries and I am caught by the beauty and simplicity of a testimony! It never ceases to surprise me that when I study a passage that I have studied many times through the years that God brings out something new. Last year I was caught off guard by the reality that the disciples were sent into the Samaritan woman's town to get food. It occured to me that the disciples somehow missed the bigger picture of the harvest. They were distracted by the physical need to get food for their master and in the process forgot to take spiritual food to the villagers. I realized that I could not be upset with the disciples because I do this all the time. You know the drill, I rush into the store to get food and instead of taking time to make eye-contact and have conversations with the strangers in the store. I keep my eyes focused on what I want and need and get out. Instead of going through the longer check-out I might rush to to the self-check out so that I don't have to bother with human contact. Instead of helping the person struggling to get something off the shelf I walk by and move on because I worry they might not appreciate the lack of social distances. I assume and presume my way in and through the store without ever once thinking of the soul harvest right there before me. 

As I reflected on this Samaritan woman this time, God caught me by the effectiveness of her testimony. It helps to know that it would be considered embarrassing for John to write a story about a woman, muchless a Samaritan woman as the one who led the entire village to Jesus. Theologians refer to this type of testimony as validity by embarrassment. They would not tell it unless it was true because honorable men would not talk to women of ill-repute or to a Samaritan woman much less use it as story to share Jesus. Oh the crazy and foolish barriers we put up in culture. GOD forgive us! I love how this woman was so fast! One theologian called it the "Cry of a new life" (Holman Bible Commentary: John, quoting Boice). There is something beautiful about such a cry. It is honest and simple. 

So, I found myself asking, What makes an effective testimony based on the woman at the well? I noticed a few things that caught me. Simple statements like "Come and see!" are inclusive and initiates the conversation. But, the woman didn't just tell them what they needed to know. She asked questions that invited them to reflect on their own thoughts to determine their answer. She asked, "Could this be the Messiah?" I love that she was inquisitive enough to pose questions to Jesus and to those in her community. Her passion was undeniable! She went to go get water, but was so excited she left her jar behind and chose to share her felt experience and express it in such a way that she ignited others to want to join! Her invitation to come and see included welcome and participation! 

It makes me wonder if I give testimony so simply. Am I inclusive and intiate conversations? Do I inquire and ask questions to invite reflection? Am I ignited so that others see my passion and want to join in? Do I invite a spirit of welcome? Her testimony to come and see is so welcoming because her passion and transformation are evident to all who know her. Have you reflected on sharing your testmony? Can you say these are also true of you? Or are you like me and the disciples and have moments where you focus on the need of the moment rather than the harvest fields? I know I want to be more like the Samaritan woman. How about you? 

Sunday, January 3, 2021

How to pray through Scripture from Genesis to Revelation


Do you sometimes wonder does God hear my prayers?  How do I pray in God's will? This will help you to know what to look for to help you pray with authority, power, and in the will of God. 

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Do I teach anything that is universal?

I often ask myself if a concept I am teaching is universal. Will it apply anywhere and why? Get this! God's love is universal! In His gracious love, God sent Jesus that all who believe in Him will have the gift of eternal life. All people need to know they are loved. All people need to know they have value. All people need to know they have a purpose. These truths are universal. I love that God gives good gifts. We do not have to work for it, compete for it, or even earn it. His love is free. We simply receive His love given in the gift of His Son, Jesus. I have visited people in many nations, jail, prison, homeless shelters, hospitals... always the heart of the issue... Am I loved? Do I have value? Where do I belong?  What is my purpose? The answer is found in knowing God and His plan. He loves you! He created you! He has a purpose for you! He has a gift for you... Jesus! We must simply believe.