Who Do You Follow?

“When one of you says, “I’m on Paul’s side,” and another says, “I’m for Apollos,” aren’t you being totally childish?”

1 Corinthians 3:4 The Message

I grew up in a rural community in North Texas in a small Southern Baptist Church. Pastors didn’t seem to stay too long in our little town. They would come, do their work and then move to the next church. Four years was a long time in church years. We had summer youth director’s that came and invested in our lives for the summer and then went back to college to finish up and start their own lives. Rarely did we see or hear from them after they left.

Maybe it was because of the constant change, I came to realize that I was a part of my church not because of the pastor or the youth director.  I was a part of the church because I was a follower of Jesus.  While I was often sad when their time at our church ended, I knew that God was STILL a part of my life and I would continue to worship Him.

When I moved to the Houston area, the plethora of church choices was a bit overwhelming.  Every denomination, large and small, surrounded me.  I moved my letter to one church because I liked the pastor.  He was well known and pastored one of the faster growing Houston Churches.  But, I never got involved in the large metropolitan church.  It was too easy to hide, too easy to get lost in the crowd.  So, when another, smaller church came into my life, I jumped at the chance to join and be a part of the community.  I fellowshipped and worshiped with my church family for 10 years under 3 pastors.  I met my husband there.  Both my children were born and dedicated while at this church.  There were issues throughout that time.  But our main focus never changed:  WE WERE THERE TO WORSHIP GOD AND TO HONOR CHRIST.

My husband and I served on the staff of 4 churches during his lifetime.  I saw people really focused on the Christlike goal.  Unfortunately, I also witnessed a lot of politics and power grabbing too.  We even took a break from ministry because of the politics of one particular congregation.  That was a painful time.  However, it reinforced my goal to seek Christ in my home church and not to focus on the leaders, the music or other members. 

I know that a dynamic speaker will attract people.  There’s nothing wrong with being a pastor and a great speaker.  The run comes when the speaking (some would call it manipulation) is the primary goal and shepherding the ENTIRE family is not.  I’ve seen churches founded and built on the abilities of the lead pastor to deliver strong and impassioned sermons.  And, I’ve seen many of those churches fail when that pastor left or fell off of his pedestal. 


When asked this question, do you talk about what church you attend or do you immediately say I follow Christ? 

Do you follow a person that leads your church, your Sunday School, your Small Group, etc?   Or, do you follow the risen Savior, Christ Jesus and go where He directs?

Do you depend upon the words of your chosen leader to guide you? Or, do you spend time in scripture and in prayer hearing what God would have you do?

Do you follow a leader that is concerned with getting the attention and the power?  Or, do you follow a leader that points you to Christ and prepares you to grow and move in your own path of servanthood?

“But for right now, friends, I’m completely frustrated by your unspiritual dealings with each other and with God. You’re acting like infants in relation to Christ, capable of nothing much more than nursing at the breast. Well, then, I’ll nurse you since you don’t seem capable of anything more. As long as you grab for what makes you feel good or makes you look important, are you really much different than a babe at the breast, content only when everything’s going your way? When one of you says, “I’m on Paul’s side,” and another says, “I’m for Apollos,” aren’t you being totally childish? Who do you think Paul is, anyway? Or Apollos, for that matter? Servants, both of us—servants who waited on you as you gradually learned to entrust your lives to our mutual Master. We each carried out our servant assignment. I planted the seed, Apollos watered the plants, but God made you grow. It’s not the one who plants or the one who waters who is at the center of this process but God, who makes things grow. Planting and watering are menial servant jobs at minimum wages. What makes them worth doing is the God we are serving. You happen to be God’s field in which we are working.

1Corinthians 3:1-9 The Message


Can Christians Grieve?

Grief: deep sorrow; trouble or annoyance.

When my husband died, I didn’t really understand grief. I didn’t know how to manage it. Often, the words of “comfort” I got from other Christians made me wonder if I had enough faith. If I had enough faith, I wouldn’t be sad but would be celebrating. If I had enough faith, I would just keep on going. I often heard this verse:

“give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV

I couldn’t give thanks for my husbands death. Did that mean my faith was empty? Did I need to be happy and cheerful and not weep? Was I failing by grieving deeply?

The answer: NO. My faith gave me hope through the tears and pain. Faith allowed me to be thankful for the time and the family we had while still grieving the loss. Faith upheld me when I couldn’t stand on my own.

I have friends that are grieving today. Not the loss of a person, but the loss of something important and special. Anytime there is change, good or bad, there is a time of grief for what is no more. We may grieve the death of a dream, an idea or an expectation. We grieve when someone we greatly admire falls off of the pedestal and proves they are human. We grieve when something we love and have worked to support is irrevocably changed.

One thing I have learned to accept over the years is that I NEED to allow myself to grieve. No matter how important or trivial the issue is, I have to process it. I have to work through it in order to move on as a whole person. Not only do I need to grieve, I cannot feel guilt (or at times superiority) for my grief. My grief is not meant to shame or belittle anyone else. It’s my process and mine alone.

“being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”Philippians 1:6

No matter how broken things appear, no matter how helpless I feel, I know that God controls it all. There will be times when I need to sit and rest for a bit, catch my breath, and then start the journey again. I may cry bitter tears, but that’s okay. I have my eyes on the prize that God has set before me.

Peeps and my Grief

Bunnies and Chicks

Peeps: you either love them or you hate them. My late husband loved Peeps. Any color, any flavor, any shape-he would eat them. My kids were never excited about receiving them at Easter. He was happy to eat their rejects.

The first spring after Terry’s death, I was in a store and the Easter Peeps were on the shelves. My heart jumped. Like a woman obsessed, I searched the shelves to be sure I had both bunnies and chicks in every color. When I unveiled my Peeps stash to my kids, they were bewildered. None of us ate Peeps. They thought Mom had lost it. Again. I couldn’t explain it. I just “needed” to buy Peeps just like I used to do, one more time.

I continue to buy Peeps at Easter. Not in the volume as that first year, but I still purchase at least a small pack of four. This year, my grandson and I bought purple bunny peeps. I explained to him that his Grandfather Terry loved Peeps. He had great fun stuffing the bunny peeps in plastic eggs. He saved the last one for me.

In the beginning, seeing Easter Peeps reminded how much I missed Terry. They brought me to tears and caused panic feelings. I bought them as a way to reach back and grab the memory of our life together. Gradually, the tears were replaced with smiles.

I still look forward to the Easter Peeps. But now, they bring joyful memories. I buy Peeps to remind me of the gifts of the past and the promise of the future. I can build new traditions with my grandson while honoring my memory of Terry.

Grief never disappears. It will always color everything in my life. Grief taught me about kindness and empathy. Grief opened my eyes to the love of my Heavenly Father in a completely new way. I’ve never been thankful for the pain of grief, but I am grateful for the growth grief forced me to do.

Peeps show up every Easter and remind me that “joy comes in the morning”. Joy and laughter have replaced sadness and sorrow. I think I’ll go enjoy a purple bunny peep. Happy Easter!

Humility, Grace, Acceptance

“There but for the grace of God, go I!”

I used to hear this often. It was a way of acknowledging that another’s misfortune could be mine. It was admitting that it could be my young teen daughter that is pregnant. It was accepting that I hadn’t been caught in a legal web for my offenses. The phrase was uttered not in condemnation but in humility.

Today, it’s more often “Look! How terrible he/she is!” “How could that have been allowed that to happen?” “I would NEVER. . .” We are quick to point fingers, condemn others by what we’ve heard, and deny understanding or grace of any kind.

If the past few years have taught me anything, it’s that truly good and kind people get caught up in addictions and sins. It’s not their intent to be swallowed up, but it happens. They lose their family, their home, their way of life. In short, everything is lost because of that first step on a slippery slope.

It’s not my job, my responsibility or my right to condemn others. (And I’m really good at it!) How many times have I broken the law by speeding and not paid the penalty? How many times have I slaughtered someone’s reputation with no consequences? How many times have I watched a lascivious scene on TV and not even blinked? How many times have I been “too good” to associate with one of those people?

My choices do have consequences. I don’t always “get caught”, but there’s always the next opportunity. So, maybe the next time you see that person fighting for sobriety or in recovery, don’t be so quick to turn away.

“There but for the grace of God, go I!”

Cute as a Little Baby Owl

We are in the midst of planning my daughter’s wedding.  She’s picked her dress and the colors.  The bridesmaids and groomsmen have been asked.  The venue and date have been booked.  We are working on the decorations, guest lists, menus and other details for her dream day.  But there is one element that will be missing and there’s nothing that can be done.  Her daddy will not be there to walk her down the aisle.    

The apple of her daddy’s eye, my Gracie had Terry wrapped around her little finger.  He doted on her.  My son loves to tell the story of his “favorite day”.   Normally, if there was a difference in what Zac or Gracie wanted, Gracie was known to come out ahead.  And, she had this little refrain that she would sing quietly to her brother “I always get my way.  I always get my way.”  On this day, she must have been a little louder and her dad heard the sing-song tune.  That was the day that Zac got to pick everything they did.  He got a pick of any treats.  That was the day Terry realized how easily Gracie could manipulate him.  She was daddy’s little girl. 

Gracie was fourteen when her dad died.  She’s lived longer without him than he was on this earth.  Both Zac and Gracie have tattoos to honor their dad.  Zac’s is a cross with Terry’s name and dates under it.  Gracie’s is a brightly colored sugar skull owl.  Terry embraced a phrase from the Radio Music Theatre in Houston:  “Cute as a little baby owl!”  A stuffed toy owl sat on the dash of his truck.  This toy was known to find its way onto the stage when Terry was involved in a skit at church.  You never knew where you might see it.  He would howl with laughter when it was discovered.  The owl has become our symbol for Terry. 

So, as we plan this wedding, I keep thinking about all the things Terry would be doing.   I try to find subtle ways to include his memory in the event.  And, I have a charm for her bridal bouquet with a picture of Terry and Gracie sitting on my mom’s sofa.  Gracie was in elementary school at the time.  Terry may not physically walk her down the aisle, but he will be there as I walk her to the altar.  On each table during the reception, there will be a small owl charm.  Most won’t know why, but those of us that loved Terry will.  Gracie loves brunch (just like her dad) and her wedding cake will not be as much cake as it will be waffles.  This day will be filled with laughter and love and a few quirky moments.  The daughter of Terry Benson would have to have those.  And, there will be a few tears as we remember and celebrate.

This November, when my beautiful red head walks down the aisle to her new husband, I suspect I will hear Terry’s voice say “She’s just as cute as a little baby owl” and maybe a little sing-song child’s voice chanting “I always get my way.  I always get my way.” 

Fit for Purpose

Throughout my career, I have heard the term “fit for purpose.”  Basically, it means something that is designed for a specific purpose.  Guys on the drilling rigs were written up for using tools incorrectly:  a wrench as a hammer for example. I think of the times I’ve used a butter knife as a screwdriver, or the handle of a screw driver to hammer a small nail. It’s always best to use the correct tool. It’s safer and it’s often less frustrating. 

1 Corinthians 12 teaches that believers are meant to be “fit for purpose”.  

“You are Christ’s body—that’s who you are! You must never forget this. Only as you accept your part of that body does your “part” mean anything. You’re familiar with some of the parts that God has formed in his church, which is his “body”:  Apostles, prophets, teachers, miracle workers, healers, helpers, organizers, those who pray in tongues.  But it’s obvious by now, isn’t it, that Christ’s church is a complete Body and not a gigantic, unidimensional Part? It’s not all Apostle, not all Prophet, not all Miracle Worker, not all Healer, not all Prayer in Tongues, not all Interpreter of Tongues. And yet some of you keep competing for so-called “important” parts.”

Corinthians 12:27-31 MSG

I have seen so many new Christians burn out with the effort to become “important” in the church.  The excitement is overwhelming and the enthusiasm is palpable.  Unfortunately, they are often missing a true mentor to help teach and guide them.  They get caught up in being “busy.”  I have been guilty of standing back and watching instead of stepping up and helping to direct this new found passion.  Finding our “calling” or where are “fit for purpose” in the church body makes all the difference in translating enthusiasm into a standard of life. 

“Now God gives us many kinds of special abilities, but it is the same Holy Spirit who is the source of them all.  There are different kinds of service to God, but it is the same Lord we are serving. There are many ways in which God works in our lives, but it is the same God who does the work in and through all of us who are his.  The Holy Spirit displays God’s power through each of us as a means of helping the entire church.”  1 Corinthians 12:  4-7 TLB

1 Corinthians 12:  4-7 TLB

We all want to be seen and valued. But, do we all need to stand in the pulpit?  Do we all need to be “the star”?   Watching my kids and their friends grow to adulthood, I saw the struggle of one young lady as she desired to be the leader of the group. I also saw her frustration when another one of the group fell into leading so easily.   We have all witnessed the person who insists on performing during a worship service only to be wounded by the lack of response from the congregation.  How many times have we endured the “teaching” of one that seems to speak just to hear themselves and doesn’t know when to be quiet?   

 But I also want you to think about how this keeps your significance from getting blown up into self-importance. For no matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are a part of. An enormous eye or a gigantic hand wouldn’t be a body, but a monster. What we have is one body with many parts, each its proper size and in its proper place. No part is important on its own. Can you imagine Eye telling Hand, “Get lost; I don’t need you”? Or, Head telling Foot, “You’re fired; your job has been phased out”? As a matter of fact, in practice it works the other way—the “lower” the part, the more basic, and therefore necessary. You can live without an eye, for instance, but not without a stomach. When it’s a part of your own body you are concerned with, it makes no difference whether the part is visible or clothed, higher or lower. You give it dignity and honor just as it is, without comparisons. If anything, you have more concern for the lower parts than the higher. If you had to choose, wouldn’t you prefer good digestion to full-bodied hair? 

1 Corinthians 12:19-24 MSG

My home church meets in a movie theatre.  We would not be able to function without the setup crew. Early every Sunday they unload the equipment and set up the areas we use. And, then they tear it down after the services and load it back up. The host teams make sure the coffee is made, cold water is available and puts out the donuts.  When the theatre shut down during the pandemic, we were allowed to keep using the building.  During those months, some of the most important members were the ones that volunteered to clean the theatre.  Volunteers cleaned the restrooms, took out trash, swept, whatever was necessary to keep the building ready.   You don’t really see the people involved in these areas, but you DEFINITELY know when they don’t show up. 

“ I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less. A body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge. It’s all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together. If Foot said, “I’m not elegant like Hand, embellished with rings; I guess I don’t belong to this body,” would that make it so? If Ear said, “I’m not beautiful like Eye, transparent and expressive; I don’t deserve a place on the head,” would you want to remove it from the body? If the body was all eye, how could it hear? If all ear, how could it smell? As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where he wanted it.” 

1 Corinthians 12:  14-18 MSG

It’s a lot more fun to be on stage; to be known as the preacher, the singer, the teacher, the musician.  But not everyone can or needs to be in the spotlight.  Just as we protect our more modest body parts, we must watch our own egos to keep them in check.  We must find where we fit in the body.

We must be fit for purpose. 

The Unavoidable

Death. We run from it. We don’t discuss it. We do everything to delay it. We hate it. But, death still comes. Sometimes quickly but always too soon.

I remember the mind numbing all encompassing hold of grief. Some describe it as swimming in mud. I felt crushed! I found it hard to breath. Any activity exhausted me. But, sleep was elusive. At first, food was tasteless, but later it became a refuge. At least I could enjoy SOMETHING! I felt broken and useless. Too many treated me as fragile and avoided any contact that might upset me. Even in a group of people, I was isolated. The friends I thought I could lean on seemed to avoid me. I was as alone as I had ever been in my life

As I’ve talked with others who grieve I began to learn that I was not alone in my feelings.

If you have a grieving friend, don’t avoid “tender” subjects. Here’s what we advise:

You are NOT going to hurt me. My pain is already deep. So please don’t put off the phone call or the visit.

Don’t be afraid of my tears. They fall often, whether you are there or not. You don’t make me cry, but you can allow me to cry.

You really don’t need to “comfort” me with standard sayings. I’ve heard them. Many times. Just being willing to be with me is comfort.

A hug means more than any words.

Please talk about my loved one. I yearn to know he/she is not forgotten.

Most of all, don’t avoid me because you are uncomfortable. I’m not comfortable either, but I don’t have a choice. Just walk with me.

It’s been 15 years since grief began to suffocate me. I’ve walked through it and survived. There are still regrets. There are precious memories both before and after Terry’s death. I learned to live in my new normal; a normal I could never imagine during those dark days. I healed from the wounds of grief, but I carry the scars. Much like weather causes rheumatism to flair up, there are days when the ache returns.

For I will always be a member of that most hated club: widowhood.

Strong Coffee and a Strong State

This has been a hard week in the Lone Star State. The entire state has been affected by the freezing weather. In our on home, just west of Houston, we were prepared. Or so we thought. We had no idea we would be without power for 50+ hours in freezing temps. It was definitely a new experience.

Its not the first time I’ve been without power. Having been through several hurricanes and tropical storms, we are fairly accustomed to power/water outages. After my first hurricane experience (Hurricane Alicia), I lost power for a full week. The difference is the temperature: during hurricane outages you open the windows and try to stay cool. You can fan, use cold compresses, or Strip down to the bare minimum. It’s a whole different ballgame when it’s 11 degrees outside.

We were blessed to be able to use our fireplace to keep at least one room about 50 degrees. My dogs were more than happy to share their body heat with me and my blankets. The goats were safe and warm in their newly insulated area. we could cook on the gas stovetop so we had hot meals. If only I had thought to get ground coffee. Our fancy pod machine is no good without power. The fear of losing food was lessened since we could move items to the patio to keep them cold/frozen. The neighbors were checking in on each other. We knew we were not alone.

I’ve watched on social media as people offered to help others. Offers of heat, warm food and showers were always put there. All you had to do was mention a need and it was usually met. I know men that are working to repair pipes (at least temporarily) for others when they could easily have focused on their own homes. Scarce plumbing supplies are being shared as frozen pipes begin to warm up and the breaks become apparent.

Once again, the people of Texas are stepping up to take care of each other. Some outside of the state are quick to ridicule our circumstances. Some saying we deserve this calamity and pointing out differences they don’t/won’t accept. But, Texas will come out of this freeze stronger and better than ever. We will be refocused on those things that need to be improved and repaired.

Let the “entertainment” industry cackle and point. The east coast liberals can mouth off all they want. The biggest and the best are from Texas. Never fear Texas will thaw out and continue to stand strong together: Democrats, GOP, liberals and conservatives all love our State.

As the ice is melting, I am grateful to be a Texan by birth. I am also grateful for hot showers, good company and fresh coffee. Stay tuned you naysayers: Texas is coming back on line with a vengeance.

You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the supple moves of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.

Matthew 5:43-47 MSG

Regrets, Resolutions and the New Year

New Year’s resolutions are a norm in our society.  January 1st is a good time to “draw a line in the sand” and make life changes.  Unfortunately, those changes often don’t last as long as the month of January.  I know that goal setting is an important part of a successful life.  So, how to we set goals that are attainable and that make it through the ENTIRE year?

“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” 

Proverbs 16:9
My hallway view

I can’t begin the journey into the New Year without looking back.  Actually, there’s a part of me that looks back every day.  When I awaken in the morning, I see my husband and am reminded of the life we share.  But, from my bed, I can also see a photograph of my life the way it was in 2005.  It’s a photo of Terry, Zac, Gracie and me taken just a few weeks before Terry’s death.  Each morning, I have the opportunity to give thanks for what I had yesterday as well as what I have today.  Most goals begin with a look back. 

Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.

Isaiah 43:18-19

While memories can be seductive, I cannot live in the past.  There was a time when all I wanted to do was live in the past.  I didn’t want to move forward.  January 1 was a horrible day that marked another year of loss.  Setting goals for myself was the only way to move forward.  Simple goals were all I could handle:  going to work every day; walking around the block; journaling every day.  These very simple things were things that I could accomplish and enabled me to move forward with my life.  I couldn’t change the past, but with God’s help, I could live in the present and influence my future.

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?” 

Luke 14:28

Some of the most common resolutions concern losing weight, getting fit, saving money, etc.  The first quarter of the year is known as “the fitness season”.  It’s during this time that people are most interested in getting gym memberships, buying fitness equipment, hiring trainers and other avenues of getting fit.  It’s easy to set lofty goals.  When you are trying to lose weight, seeing the scale drop only a pound in a week is discouraging.  Yet, the healthiest and best way to maintain your weight loss is losing an average of a pound per week.  Some weeks, the best you can achieve is not to gain weight.  But, I know I get discouraged when there aren’t BIG changes to see.

Money Management is another good place to goal set.  Its probably not be realistic to set a goal of saving a $1,000,000 this year.  (Especially if you don’t have a net income of more than that!) But, there are ways to save.  Having money taken immediately from your paycheck to a savings account is a no-brainer for me.  I don’t have to think about it and the savings will add up. For me, I need a savings method that I can access, but not too easily.  I have a small investment account that is accruing interest and dividends.  The money is deducted each paycheck and I’m often surprised when I look at the amount I have saved. 

 “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” 

Proverbs 16:3

One area of goal setting that is often overlooked is tithing.  One of the hardest things for me to implement was tithing from the “first fruits”.  I wanted to be sure that I had enough money to cover the month BEFORE I made my tithe.  What I have learned through the years is the importance of making the sacrifice and tithing first.  My husband is very conscientious about tithing on every bit of income we have.  Being able to make an online payment has made this much simpler.  We give the first part to God.  Period.  I truly believe that tithing should be an integral part of every believer’s budgeting plan. 

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” 

Philippians 4:8   

As I look at the possibilities of 2021, I have set a few new goals:

  1.  Daily goal setting and journaling.  I’m not good at this.  I’ve been through several classes that taught the importance of handling each day as an investment.  This year I have invested in a Christian planner to use and I hope that it will keep me on track.
  2. Read through the Bible again (or more precisely, listen to the Bible).  I have started an audio study that will take me through the Bible in a year.  It’s amazing to me the new things I learn each time I do this.
  3. Find new ways to serve others.  I will continue to serve on my church’s prayer team.  I am also in discussions to begin a grief support group.  I want to help support others who are dealing with the death of a treasured family member.
  4. Build the “artist” in me.
    1. Refine my watercolor painting skills with on-line classes, etc.
    1. Continue to quilt and sew to create usable pieces of art
    1. Learn to use my embroidery machine

What goals/resolutions have you made for 2021? 

Have you subdivided your yearly goals into manageable monthly (or weekly or daily) pieces? 

Will you be a more complete person at the end of 2021 by reaching your goals/resolutions?

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” 

Hebrew 12: 1-2a