An Intentional Life

My church has faithfully prayed for me ever since I was diagnosed with cancer 21 years ago.  Yes, my name has appeared on the prayer list almost weekly. “Most people on the church prayer list either get well…or die… yet I have not managed to do either!”  When I made that statement to the congregation at a Wednesday service, I was intentionally trying to be funny; and from their response, I was successful.  Everyone laughed.

I went on to share by way of an update to these dear ones who have prayed so faithfully that there is every indication there will not be another 21 years.  Laughter?  In the face of death? Absolutely!  To me, this is a great manifestation of the grace and mercy of God.  How wonderful that my loving heavenly father allows me to bring laughter even while coming to grips once again with my own mortality.  Just because I may be suffering does not mean that everyone around me has to suffer as well!

Thus has begun in my spirit a subtle but very real transition from this life to the next.  In what I believe was a providentially directed birthday gift from a friend, I have been reading Pursue the Intentional Life by Jean Fleming.  Her insightful writing held up to the test of Scripture is helping me determine how I want to live the rest of my life.  Jean wrote a prayer that my heart echoes:

“Father, dear Father, only You know how many days I have left on earth and what joys, opportunities, and challenges are ahead for me. I give myself to You again.  Lord God, I want Continue reading

Do Good

chickadee taking off Shandi-lee Cox via Compfight

Building a business is inherently stressful. On the entrepreneurial roller coaster, I am experiencing abounding fear, much self-doubt, and occasional panic! As an example, while rejoicing that my first group coaching venture was off the ground, I fretted and worried: How will I find six more people for the next group? How can I market this? I confess to self-doubt and discouragement. Very often in the building stage, the activity level is high and the “return on investment” is low. It was during that fretting and worrying that God began plying my heart with a simple truth: “Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.” (Psalm 37:3)

In a recent week, I participated in, presided at, and prepared for six different events related to a non-profit organization of which I have been a member for many years. “Trust in the Lord, and do good….”

During this same week, there was a non-paid speaking engagement at a local university wherein I delivered a training session for instructors on how to write a good course description. This was not a topic on which I considered myself an expert; thus it required considerable research and writing time. I had prepared a sheet of DOs and DON’Ts with respect to writing a course description and submitted it for duplication. Wondering if I was on target for what I had been asked to do, I inquired of the administrator if she had
read the material and if it met her expectations. Her comment: “Yes, this is exactly what we have needed.” During the presentation, a gentleman commented, “We instructors have to write a course description every quarter. It would be great if this document could be included as a guideline in the form we have to complete for our courses.” I passed his suggestion to the administrator who agreed that was a great idea. “Trust in the Lord, and do good….”

Three more non-paid speaking engagements filled my calendar. Thankfully I was able to use material with which I was already familiar for classes of sixth and eighth graders at a middle school, and an adult student group at a local university. The topics were how to write and deliver a speech and effective speaking skills. “Trust in the Lord, and do good….”

Through all of this, God encouraged me with his promise of “…so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.” There are hundreds of Continue reading

It Takes a Village to Get Grandma Down the River

When the grandchildren made plans for tubing down Davidson River in Pisgah Forest last July 4th weekend, I decided to go along just to watch them launch and start their journey, then walk back to the campsite that was nearby. But what is a grandmother to do when her son shows up with a tube for her? Obviously, he did not get the memo that Grandma was there just to watch. Since I hate to see good money wasted, I felt obligated to join the down-river migration.

The grandchildren were seasoned veterans after having tubed once during this fateful weekend, so they each jumped into their watercraft and floated merrily on their way. They also came prepared with bathing suits and water shoes. I was wearing appropriate campsite attire and leather moccasin-type shoes – not appropriate tubing attire at all. However, since my tube had a bottom in it, I naively thought there was an outside chance I might not get wet. That thought was reinforced when I was instructed to take off my shoes and put them in the bottom of the tube before wading into the water and getting into it myself. It would be nice at the end of this journey to have dry shoes for the walk back to the campsite.

It was bottoms down when I finally managed to get situated in the tube with the help of my son and grandson. With legs hanging over one side of the tube and arms flailing over the other, I was pushed out into the mainstream of the river. Not get wet? What was I thinking??!! My river craft had a leaky bottom and both I and my leather shoes were soaked immediately.

Due to longevity, I can claim expertise in several areas, but at tubing I was a complete neophyte and had much to learn. It all seemed so simple. Get in the tube and float. Nothing to it, right? Seems the river was somewhat low that day, so I had not floated long or far when I hit a rock and got hung up. I managed to push off one nearby and get moving again only to be snagged by another rock. And so it went for a good portion of the adventure. Once I even got caught in some brush near the riverbank. My son, smart man that he is, was following closely behind and came to my rescue. A man fishing from the bank with an amused expression on his face watched my struggle. I decided to laugh with him by saying, “It takes a village to get Grandma down the river!”

Once you are in that tube on the river, you have no choice but to finish the journey. Along the way, I finally realized I was getting snagged by so many rocks because….well, let’s just say I was sitting very low in that tube! The rocks were visible, so I began arching my back to lift myself off the bottom. Amazingly, I skimmed the rocks and floated easily! Wow!

Lots of life lessons here. None of us shows up for life truly prepared for what is going to happen. Yet, if we waited until we were “dressed appropriately” (fully prepared), we would miss so many unexpected blessings and learning opportunities. The best Continue reading

In Quietness

It is the wee hours of the morning. I have just completed a list of things in preparation for what is now today. Stopping, I am taken with the quietness. There are no cars speeding past, no noises from the apartment above me, no emails flying in requiring a reply, no phones ringing. All is at rest seemingly.
What a perfect scenario for basking in the presence of God without distraction. When sitting down to read God’s Word, even soon after rising, I find myself so distracted with the cares and plans of the day. There is a constant re-focusing and a frustration that my concentration is not what I would like it to be. Thus, during this brief respite, I will rehearse the goodness of God and offer to him the praise and Thanksgiving due unto his name.

God and I have shared some sweet moments in recent days as I have once again been confronted with my own mortality. The latest CT scan shows that the cancerous tumors in my lungs continue their steady, albeit small, growth. The paralyzed vocal cord is directly related to one tumor specifically that is putting pressure on a nerve. While I do not sense that my demise is imminent, I do sense that my time is drawing nearer. We are still talking years, but not many years.

Thus we have diligently sought to know the mind of God: Do we continue pro-actively fighting this disease? In all the reading I have done on the particular ovarian cancer cell that is now in my lungs, I have learned that it is a rare form of ovarian cancer, that it seldom metastasizes. It is further characterized as slow growing but very tenacious. I have not read that this cancer is curable. The praise and thanksgiving to God is that I have survived over 20 years since the original diagnosis! They don’t track survival rates beyond 10 years because most women who have ovarian cancer do not live that long!

Recently the Lord spoke to me through Hosea 6:11, “Also, O Judah, he hath set an harvest for thee….” It was as if the Lord was saying, “You have something to look forward to but your work is not yet done. If you expect the harvest I have set for you, you must continue planting, watering, tilling – working!” So, with great quietness of spirit, peace of mind, and fervency of heart, the approach is to continue a protocol that we trust will give physical strength and stamina to “keep on keeping on” as Dr. Bob Jones, Sr., so often admonished his “boys and girls.” If any healing occurs, it will be because God ordains healing. We are not focused on healing. We are focused on doing the will of God from the heart as long as he gives strength and enablement.

In discussing various options with my family recently, one of my sons said, “Mom, nothing you do will alter the number of days God has ordained for you.” That helped to confirm in my heart that regardless of how many days are left, I want them lived well and “to the praise of the glory of his grace” (Ephesians 1:6).

“In quietness and confidence shall be your strength” (Isaiah 30:15). The Lord be praised!

God’s Process of Change

“Change is the only constant in life.” (Heraclitus) “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” (Quote attributed to Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr.)

“In whom [Christ] also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: That we should be to the praise of his glory ….” (Ephesians 1:11-12 KJV)

The phrase “predestinated according to the purpose” leaped off the page while reading this week as part of my pastor’s call to special prayer and focus on the book of Ephesians. God spoke to my heart in a wonderful way through this verse as I contemplated the truth that his purpose for my life was determined even before the foundation of the world that he created!

The spirit seemed to take this thought process much deeper. First, the inheritance I have obtained began with salvation by grace through faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ “wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.” (Ephesians 1:6 KJV) Thus began the many-times-painful process of change that endures even to this day as the chiseling continues.

I once heard a preacher say, “Everyone likes change, but no one likes being changed!” I challenge his presumption that “everyone likes change” simply because I resist change and sometimes vehemently so. However, I would wholeheartedly concur that no one likes the process of being changed. Yet, if I am to fulfill the purpose for which I have been predestinated, I must change! I must participate in the process of change by embracing it and aligning my heart with God’s purpose for me. Why? That I “should be to the praise of his glory….” What a blessed contemplation! Every change that Christ works in me should ultimately return glory and praise to him. O Lord, I pray it be so!

There is more change coming, of that I am sure. I sense that God has allowed this meditation to prepare my heart for things anticipated but yet unknown. He is allowing me to see that his changes are “according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will….”

The Lord be praised!

Valley Moments

Nepal - Valley of Eternity  (Ripuk, Barun Valley)Creative Commons License“… He leads me beside still waters, somewhere in the valley below; He draws me aside to be tested and tried, and in the valley He restores my soul.” In a second verse of that same song, are these lyrics: “And I question, ‘Lord why must this be?’ ”

In the Spring I had an extended bout with bronchitis. While very ill, I was rejoicing that it had not gone into pneumonia. Along with the bronchitis I had what I thought was laryngitis. In spite of a compromised voice, I fulfilled several speaking engagements and even competed in two speech contests, placing second in both! Since the voice issues lingered long after the bronchitis had cleared, I was referred to an ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) doctor who determined with one quick test that I have a paralyzed vocal cord on the left side.

That is just about the worst news a professional speaker could receive! And in my depraved humanity, I asked, “Lord, why must this be?” Why would you choose to afflict me in the one organ that impacts my ability to earn a living? What’s a professional speaker to do?

Oh, my! How dangerously close to outright rebellion those questions are! I confess to having asked them, but God in his gracious kindness and tenderness has rebuked me. Certainly he is not intimidated by my questioning, but there is great risk to me if I languish and wallow in self-pity and fail to see his loving hand. It is here that I must turn the questioning into praise because of who I know my God to be.

Thank you that you love me too much to allow anything in my life that is not for my good or your glory;
Thank you that once again your strength can be made perfect in my weakness;
Thank you that you have faithfully met my needs throughout life;
Thank you for showing my pride in thinking anything was up to me;
Thank you for “peace in the midst of my storm.”

Another thing I know about my God is that any trial he allows is part of a plan much greater than I could ever comprehend this side of Heaven, and my little part is very insignificant and not at all about me. It is possible that Christ could take a raspy voice and use it for his glory to an even greater extent. It is also possible that the door of public speaking is closing for me. Then, perhaps there are other untried doors about to open. While waiting upon the Lord for his direction, my part is to “stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.”

I have been in God’s valley more than once in my life. Thankfully, he does not allow me to linger long or languish in “Why me?” Instead, he nourishes my heart in green pastures and calms my soul beside still waters that restore and enable me to walk in paths of righteousness FOR HIS NAME’S SAKE! With praise to my Savior, I am no longer in the valley. I’m just changing mountains!

The Lord be praised!

Dhilung Kirat via Compfight

“Nothing is Random”

At the crossroads Thomas Guignard via Compfight
In Jesus Calling, I read, “Nothing is random in My Kingdom. Everything fits into a pattern for good, to those who love Me.” Thus, I began ruminating especially on the phrase “Nothing is random….”

The Lord frequently reminds me…because I too soon forget…just how intimately he is involved in the minutest details of my life. From being “fearfully and wonderfully made” to being “accepted in the beloved,” there is a divine concert in my life that continues playing out moment by moment through the masterful conducting of Christ. When I can grasp just how intricately he is weaving the warp and woof of his plan, there is rest and a fearless trust. In recent months, I have experienced a blessed rest that comes from fearless trust. Yes, I will confess to moments of fear, but fear is fleeting in the face of who my God is.

I have been at a crossroads trying to discern the Lord’s forward path for me. I was not questioning God’s master plan as I felt sure I was headed in the general direction of where he wanted me to go. Yet I was very perplexed at how he might possibly be executing that plan.

Having set upon the path of being a professional speaker, I knew it would take some time to find my niche. Never mind that I was entering a very crowded and highly competitive field. I was confident of the Lord’s leading in the matter. My vision was of speaking engagements here, there, everywhere! And God granted some exciting opportunities over time. It was humbling when I had to rely on family for support when there was not income sufficient. At one point I even took a part-time job that allowed me great flexibility for scheduling speaking engagements, but the whole time I sensed the Lord was not pleased by my lack of trust in his ability to care for me. When that job played out – not enough work to keep me busy – the Lord had made his point. There were some difficult months, but God was faithful.

At that crossroads, in desperation I cried out to the Lord with a very unglamorous prayer: “Lord, I need to either go big or go home.” In reality, that prayer was God bringing me to the point where I was ready to boldly step out AGAIN in faith and trust him to open every door, guide each step. Shortly after, the Lord began sending people who needed help strengthening their speaking and communications skills who were willing to pay for the help! The exciting thing is that this is as much a ministry as it is a service, and seeing someone grasp the principles of effective speaking is great reward. The beauty is that Christ has allowed me to witness how intricately he has been working to prepare and enable me. Truly, I see and know experientially that “Nothing is random….”

God has opened the way for me to help people who put both feet in their mouth at the same time because those folks don’t have a leg to stand on! The Lord be praised!

Redemption in Snow

Frozen Vista Randi Scott via CompfightThere is nothing quite like a good snow to halt the pace of life and give time for quiet contemplation. I live in the South, and my area is being blanketed with snow, sleet and freezing rain in unusual proportions. While reading in Exodus recently, I came across Exodus 11:10: “And Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh: and the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go out of his land.”

We are such performance-based, results-oriented people. Each time Moses went before Pharaoh, in his humanity I am sure he wanted results, i.e., for his people to be allowed to leave Egypt. How many times we read that in response to God’s command, Moses “stretched forth his rod” and saw both miracles and plagues. The plagues were for the Egyptians; the miracles were for the children of Israel in that they were protected from the plagues. Surely Moses would have been justified in asking why it took so many plagues before Pharaoh begged for the Israelites to leave Egypt, but all we read is of Moses’ obedience to the command of God. I found it eye-opening in Exodus 11:9 where the Lord told Moses “Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you.” If I were in Moses’ shoes, I know what my reaction would be: “Why should I even try if there is no hope that I will be successful?” And then God told Moses why he was hardening Pharaoh’s heart: “that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt.” This information did not come to Moses until before the tenth judgment. And in a divinely-placed parenthetical moment, God instituted Passover, the clear picture of redemption. This message of redemption was the wonder that God wanted multiplied in the land of Egypt.

My thoughts turned to those I know serving on the mission field. One shared his frustrations in learning a new language – frustration because of his deep desire to share the message of redemption. Another friend has been on the field for many years, has reared a family there and is experiencing heartache with respect to one child in particular. Both of these are in situations where, like Moses, it is difficult to see God’s bigger picture. How will redemption be manifested in these situations? That remains to be seen, but we can have confidence that there is a higher purpose being played out. Like Moses, the challenge for these servants of God, and for us, is to respond in obedience and without question to the call of God on our lives.

There is redemption even in this beautiful snowfall. Families are indoors together where stronger bonds can be forged without the distraction of everyday life. People are staying off the roads and thus lives are being saved. Perhaps some are “redeeming the time” with extra prayer and Bible study. While there are aspects of this snow that are disruptive and even dangerous – we may lose power – there is no doubt that God’s redemptive purposes, his bigger picture is being played out as he continues to demonstrate his sovereignty and grace.

The Lord be praised!

What a Trip! What a Mother!

The trailer was loaded and hitched to the rear of a 1946 Plymouth sedan in preparation for our move to Arizona. No doubt Mother was hopeful that things were going to be better for us. Vernon was working steady as a security guard and had rented a house, so all that remained was for us to get to Arizona.

My mother, a lone woman with ten children in her car and a trailer in tow, pulled out mid-morning to begin the trek of our lives from Arkansas to Arizona. Carefully stowed in the trunk were fried chicken and biscuits that someone had prepared for our first meal on the road. As best I can document, it was February 1958. I do not recall how many days we were on the road, but it had to be two or three. Nevertheless, Mother drove relentlessly across the wide prairie of Texas.

The fried chicken was our last taste of home as we knew it. When it was time to feed her brood again, Mother simply found a grocery store where she would purchase bread, baloney (she could not afford bologna!) and milk. My youngest brother was still in diapers and not the disposable kind! I had just turned 12 years old, so that gives you a picture of how close in age we ten children were. Close in age and close in proximity in that car as we rolled off the miles. Mother finally reached her limit somewhere in New Mexico where she pulled into a rest area, a primitive oasis by comparison to today’s roadside facilities, and slept for a time. Piled on top of each other, we children slept out of sheer exhaustion.

Our guardian angels were already on overload when, in what must have been the very early morning hours, we crossed from New Mexico into Arizona and headed into the mountains. Up, up, up we climbed only to find ourselves going down, down, down and around monstrous curves. It was not long before the brakes were burning. Mother had never driven in terrain such as this, plus she had the trailer in tow. While there was risk that the brakes might fail, the specter of the gas needle nearing empty brought greater fear to Mother’s heart. A resourceful woman, she managed to coast where she could to get enough momentum to make it up the next climb. Daylight had not yet broken as we literally crawled into a gas station in Superior, Arizona. We slept while waiting for the station to open.

With both the car and our stomachs refueled, we pressed on and made it safely to Phoenix. Our new house was quite nice by comparison to what we had experienced. We began the process of settling in, enrolling in school and acclimating to our new surroundings.

As a twelve-year-old girl experiencing this trip, I did not grasp the magnitude of the situation nor did I recognize the protection and provision that came from God. I just knew I had a Mother that always came through, no matter what the challenge. Her strength and determination to do what she thought was best for her children always carried the day. She was an amazing woman, and she deserved far better than what was waiting for her in Arizona.

A Bright Spot

Writing from the perspective of years, I look back over my life and see how God was protecting and shielding me from many things. Even the fact that my childhood memories are so spotty is a blessing. But the recounting of my life and childhood would be incomplete without sharing the story of my salvation

We were faithful to the Nazarene church every time the doors were open. One of my brothers was born on a Sunday and Mother had him in church the next. He did not miss a Sunday for several years. The Nazarene church used to give out pins for perfect attendance. The first year pin was followed by the second year crest that encircled the pin that was then followed by bars for each succeeding year. The Roberts children each had long strings of pins. But church attendance does not a Christian make.

I believe I was nine years old when I understood that I was a sinner. It was during a Vacation Bible School week. If I could visit the Rose Hill Church of the Nazarene today, I think I could go to the exact pew where I got on my knees and asked Jesus to be my Savior. Even though in later years I would question my salvation, there is no doubt in my mind that this event was real and I knew what I was doing. Afterwards, I felt different, as if a real change had taken place. Because we were always in church, I don’t think there was a noticeable outward change. But I knew Christ was now in my heart.

The pastor was a good man who preached the Gospel along with Nazarene doctrines. I remember hearing many sermons on being “saved and sanctified.” The church believed there was a second step after salvation that believers needed to take called sanctification. There was also a great deal of emphasis on holiness. There was not any preaching on the security of the believer. Even though my grandmother “loved Jesus,” she was never secure in his love for her and always felt there was a chance she could lose her salvation. If you would ask my grandmother if she knew for sure that she was going to Heaven, she would say, “I hope so.” Then she would study her Bible, teach Sunday school and work as hard as she could be to be sure that did not happen. I was standing beside her bed shortly before she died. It was not until then that Mama seemed to have the peace that she truly was going to be with Jesus.

I had a Godly Sunday school teacher who loved the girls in her class. Everyone looked forward to being old enough to be in “Aunt Lottie’s” class. She had a quiet, serene demeanor and a smile that warmed your heart. I felt sure she lived the closest to Jesus that anyone could live, and in her presence I felt truly loved. She knew my home situation and tried to encourage my mother. What a sweet memory from my childhood – one of a very few.

It is hard to pinpoint the exact year in my life when Mother filed for divorce from Daddy, but I think it was when I was in the sixth grade. In time, she met a man through her nursing, one of her patients, who helped us move away from the house across the cow pasture from Mama. By this time, Daddy had been released from the hospital and was under a court order to stay away from us. Once the divorce was final, Mother married this man who had two children of his own. It was not a happy union.