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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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?”
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.”
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.”
As I look at the possibilities of 2021, I have set a few new goals:
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.
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.
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.
Build the “artist” in me.
Refine my watercolor painting skills with on-line classes, etc.
Continue to quilt and sew to create usable pieces of art
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.”
The excitement is over. The packages are unwrapped. The food is now put away and the last of the eggnog is served. There’s a rousing game of horseshoes in the backyard along with the dogs and the goats. And now, I’m taking a moment to sit and quietly reminisce.
Memories flow through my mind like a gentle stream. Christmas through the years: my first bicycle, the Mary Poppins doll, doll clothes and doll houses. Unable to sleep, while thinking of the stocking treasures awaiting me.
I think of the years of watching my children and their excitement. It was my turn to be the over indulging parent: Roller skates, scooters, dolls and cars. Finding the green Power Ranger and searching for the perfect Cabbage Patch doll. Late nights at Walgreens on Christmas Eve.
There were the dark years, when I never thought I would enjoy Christmas again. There were as many years as laughter during that time.
The kids are grown and the excitement has changed. Christmas is celebrated on different days. It’s still about food and fun. And, family is still the center of it all.
I still get excited about Christmas. But, it’s not the stockings or the gifts that fill my dreams. These days it about having all of my family together.
Merry Christmas and Happy Néw Year from the Benson-Douglas crew!
“I’ll Follow You Anywhere” is a popular Christian song that we sing during our worship services. The song is wonderful, but I have to ask the question: Do we really take those words seriously?”
When I was growing up in youth choir, we spent quite a bit of time READING the words we were singing. Mrs. Stapp wanted us to understand what we were saying through the songs. We were made aware of the words, the punctuation and the meaning behind each verse. That training has stuck with me. If I am going to sing a song, if I’m going to say the words, I want to understand and stand behind those words.
” You make it easy to love You You are good and You are kind You bring joy into my life You make it easy to trust You You have never left my side You’ve been faithful every time
The first verse of the song ends with “all I want is you.” So, if everyone I loved walked away, would I be satisfied with Jesus alone? After losing my first husband unexpectedly, I can state quite emphatically that my heart wasn’t echoing this verse. I desperately wanted my husband back. I wanted my old life and my old family back. It took quite a bit of time to accept his death and to come to the point that Jesus was enough for me. That may sound a bit sacrilegious. I’m just being honest. My human heart was broken and I wanted so much that I couldn’t find solace in Jesus alone. It was my faith in the eternal plan of Christ as my Savior that moved me forward to find that peace and comfort once again. So, I can sing those words, again. I admitted to adding the following requests, though:
Keep my family safe
Don’t allow pain in our lives
Keep my lifestyle comfortable
The central message of the chorus is no matter where you lead me, I’ll go. Is that true?
“You are the refuge I run to You are the fire that leads me through the night I’ll follow You anywhere There’s a million reasons to trust You Nothing to fear for You are by my side I’ll follow You anywhere”
So, many times in my life, I’ve been willing to go anywhere, but (insert here.) I would serve anywhere, as long as it was still in:
At first the USA
Then in Texas
Later in the Houston area
And when I had kids, in the same school district
My qualifications grew more restrictive as my life was more complicated. I didn’t want to leave the comfortable nest I had created. I didn’t want to rock the boat. Raising my children was a priority. I’m not saying that it was wrong, but I’m admitting that my parameters did change because of my children. Truthfully, I believe that I followed the call and was serving exactly where I needed to be at the time. But, I continually asked myself “Are you truly willing to go ANYWHERE?”
” Oh Jesus, You came to my rescue Took my place upon that cross You redeemed what I had lost Now my whole world revolving around You Yes You’re the center of my life You’re the treasure, You’re the prize”
My husband and I have built our marriage around our faith in Jesus Christ. We constantly seek His guidance in our lives. Five years ago, I got very angry with God. I had prayed and begged for a particular outcome and for some reason, He didn’t come through. He said “NO!” During that time of anger and upset, I was not treating God as the center of my life. No, I was treating Him more like a Big Blue Genie or Santa Claus. I made my wishes known and they were supposed to be granted. I didn’t “treasure” my relationship with God. I was just mad that I didn’t get my way. There are still times that I question that “no”. And, honestly, I haven’t stopped asking for favors from God. However, I have come to understand and accept that the journey is often too important to avoid. I need the time of growth. Or there is someone that I need to meet on the journey. Or both!
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30 NIV
“But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
Matthew 7:14 NIV
Living the Christian life is hard. Christ carries the burden of our guilt and shame, but living in a world filled with corruption and sin is difficult. We want immediate gratification, recognition, comfort. Christ doesn’t offer that. In fact, we have been promised persecution, suffering and required self-denial as Christians. Many call themselves Christians, but how many are really followers of Christ? How many can say, truthfully, I’ll follow You anywhere. That’s who I want to be, an unabashed, totally dedicated follower of Christ.
While scrolling through Facebook and Instagram, I see that many people have already put up their Christmas trees and holiday decorations. Many have stated that since Thanksgiving won’t be the same this year due to Covid, they want to move on to celebrate the Christmas holidays. I can honestly understand the sentiment. There was a time that I wanted to skip over the holiday season completely because it was just too painful. However, are we missing the real meaning of both Thanksgiving and Christmas?
When I think of Thanksgiving, I think of turkey, cornbread dressing, pumpkin & pecan pies and family. The holiday is about being together as a family. We trace our tradition of Thanksgiving back to the Plymouth colonists. Their first year in the new world was awful. They were hungry & miserable. The native Americans taught them how to survive. The first “thanksgiving” was a festival to celebrate their first harvest. Things were still hard, but they could see a reason to celebrate.
It wasn’t until 1863, during the Civil War, that Thanksgiving was proclaimed a national holiday by Abraham Lincoln. He requested that Americans ask God to “commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civila strife” and to “heal the wounds of our nation.” FDR signed the bill in 1941 to make Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday of November.
The Christian Church celebrates the birth of Christ during the Christmas holidays. Originally called Feast of the Nativity, it grew to become a a carnival-like celebration much like Mardi Gras. The Puritans did away with the celebrations and it wasn’t until 1870 that Christmas was declared a federal holidy in the USA. Americans began to embrace Christmas as the perfect family holiday. Christmas traditions were reinvented to fill cultural needs and pieced together from many other customs. St. Nicholas became Santa Claus. Rudolph became a symbol of courage and overcoming adversity. Charles Dickens, Washington Irving & Clement Clarke Moore have had more influence on the traditions that we celebrate at Christmas than Matthew, Mark , Luke or John.
I find it a bit troubling that so many are willing to skip right past the season of “giving of thanks” and jump to the season of “give me everything.” I know that in the frenzy to get everything “done” for Thanksgiving guests, I often forget to be thankful. We are already planning for Christmas. The only positive thing about Thanksgiving is time off and the Christmas sales that will commence. There are lists of what we want to receive, budgets for what we can spend. The stores have been shouting about the excesses of the Christmas holidays since October. The celebration of Christ’ birth is too often lost in the political correctness to which we now subscribe. I am SO guilty of this!
If the origins of this United States holiday is actually hardship, then wouldn’t it make sense that 2020 would be a super Thanksgiving year?
It’s been a rough year. Lives have been changed in ways we are still attempting to comprehend. The Covid virus has brought with the illness a true sense of panic and helplessness. Death hovers around every thought, every outing.
Isn’t it time to be thankful for what we do have?
Thanksgiving was meant to be a celebration of survival, to offer hope for a better future. Maybe we should be more aware of giving thanks and looking for our direction from God. Let’s take time to truly be thankful for any blessings we have. I for one will be grateful for my husband, my family, my home, my friends and my job. I will try to remember that every breathe is a gift from Him. In my moments of panic and worry, I will turn to God and remember His promises to me. While I am not guaranteed anything but suffering in this life, I will be grateful for the moments and look forward to my future.
When you pass throught the waters , I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over your. when you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.
“For I know the plans I have for you” declares the Lord. “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Chirst Jesus.