No resolutions for the new year

ImageResolutions for the New Year: none, nada, rien,
That’s right. I’m not vowing to lose weight, eat healthier, budget my finances, organize my home, go to church more, read the bible daily, or  keep in touch with more friends and family.
That was 2010, 2011, and 2012 resolutions. If I haven’t made progress by now, resolving to do those things in 2013 is a waste of energy and sure to cause depression.
Instead, I plan to be me living footloose and fancy free with a ton of fun in my bones.
In the words of Alicia Keys… This girl is on FIRE!
In the paraphrased words of  Ecclesiastics 3, 2013 is time to birth something new, a time to heal, to build, to laugh, to dance, to embrace, to love, and a time for peace, a time to be silent and a time to speak.
…there is nothing better  than for us to be happy and to do good while  we live.
 
So let’s eat, drink, and find satisfaction in all our work and play.  This is the gift of God; the only resolution for me today, tomorrow, forever.

Part 2: Making Room for God, From No Reservations to the Lakehouse Bed & Breakfast

Elba  WELCOME.

Sweet home Alabama.

Now that I had arrived safely in Elba, Alabama, the next stop: Florala for a Friday night event, and then a Saturday drive to Panama City Beach. I had no clue of the distance between Elba, Florala and Panama City Beach, nor did I have hotel reservations in Florala when my mother said that’s too much driving.

At 4 p.m., we set off to reach our destination before nightfall sans a place to rest our head. Additionally, we waited for my cousin in Florala to call us back with directions and an address.

In the parking lot of Subways, I checked my telephone for hotels. One night stays, pricey.  Finally my cousin called with directions. I asked her about hotels and she paused.

“I didn’t know you had planned to stay,” cousin Hazel said. “I would invite you to sleep at my house, but I haven’t cleaned and I’m leaving early in the morning or Pensacola.“

I heard the trepidation in her voice. As the event planner, she needed to arrive at six, two hours before her guests. She said, “Come on, I’ll arrange a place for you to stay.”

“She’ll arrange a place at friend’s house,” my mother predicted.

“Maybe, she’ll let us sleep on the floor,” I said.

“It’s an adventure,” my mother said. “God’s in control.”

“I did fly first class, unexpectedly,” I said.

We set off standing on God’s promise.

I’ll be a personal guide to them, directing them through unknown country. I’ll be right there to show them what roads to take,
 make sure they don’t fall into the ditch.
These are the things I’ll be doing for them—
sticking with them, not leaving them for a minute” (Isaiah 24:16, The Message).

Five minutes across the Florala city line, my cellphone rang. Hazel asked our location, afterwards she Elba florala WELCOME.instructed me to pull over. She parked next to us. After family hugs, she said, “Check-in is at 6:30 p.m.”

We followed Hazel to her home. A beautiful home with room enough to house us. Again we sat and chatted about distance relatives.  As a writer, Hazel and my mother told stories about family members that were characters in novel, a family saga. This reminded me of words of a famous author, “A good writer has a storyteller in the family.”

What a blessing to sit with two wise women with family stories, that I could fictionalize in a novel sequel.

Family storytellers.

Family storytellers.

At 6:20p.m., we headed to Lake House Bed & Breakfast. The owner welcomed
and escorted us to one king size bedroom and one queen on the first floor.

brabhamlakehouse

“The house is empty tonight,” he said. “Check out is 11 a.m. And what time would you like breakfast?”

I met Hazel in the hallway and asked if we should pay now or in the morning. She simply replied, “All has been taken care of. Just enjoy.”

My second God-sized gift in less than 48 hours.

lakehouse BTwo hours after lounging in the sitting room, sipping tea, Hazel returned to the Lake House and gave us a tour of Florala. Then pulled into the driveway of another cousin whom we hadn’t seen in a year.

I knocked on her door. She opened it and screamed, “My cousin from New York.” She slammed the door.

An impromptu family reunion; plans only God could have ordained.

Hooks Cousins

Hooks Cousins night out.

My mother and I by the lake Saturday morning.
My mother and I by the lake Saturday morning.

Part 1: Making Room for God, From Zone 4 to First Class

inside_white_plains_westchester_airport_1614_400_400_1Last week’s post was about the challenge: Did the Bible live in you, today? This week, my challenge included making room for God when plans go awry. I could only face this test by living the Bible specifically standing on God’s promise, Exodus 14:4: “The Lord will fight for you; you only need be still.

At 6:30 a.m. on Thursday morning, I arrived at Westchester Airport for a 7:30 a.m. two-leg flight. At 7:00 a.m. my cellphone rang, the robotic voice said: Your flight has been delayed until 8:00 a.m. Fifteen minutes later the same number popped up on my cell, again flight scheduled for 8:30 a.m.

Immediately, I checked my itinerary for the departure of my connecting flight, 9:50 a.m. in Philadelphia. I shoved my book and trail mix in my knapsack and headed toward the US Airways counter.

I stood waiting, watching, praying and listening as the airline representatives begin rescheduling new flights for passengers. The lady behind me asked. “What’s the status?”

My cellphone rang again. The lady said, “The flight is delayed.”

I pressed the speaker button, turned to her and said. “This flight is cancelled.”

The voice announced: 9:30 departure.

“Something is wrong,” I said. “Did you see the movie “Flight”?” I silently prayed. “Be still God is working this out. Don’t panic.”

The airline representatives rearranged passengers to different airports sixty miles south. The older gentleman in front of me looked distressed. His wife was disabled. The back and forth was not good for her knee.  The lady behind me, Jen, had spent her last dollar taxing to the airport because her friend stood her up.

“Ma’am, “ I said to the representative. “Is the plane here?”

“Yes and the crew, but it’s not leaving this airport. The hydraulic hose is the problem.”

Laguardia-airport-LGAThank you Lord for keeping me off that plane.

Then the rep told the older gentleman they would put him in a car and take he and his wife to LaGuardia airport for a straight flight.

“God is good,” he said.

“The Lord will fight for you, just be still,” I said.

Another woman said, “I don’t need a seat. I didn’t want to go on this trip anyway.”

Finally, it was my turn. US Airways representative asked a Delta representative if there were flights. “Only first class. But she can’t have it.”

I looked at the young man, “I’m not good enough for first class.” I was annoyed, but held my temper.

He looked away.

Then I said to the representative. “This young lady also needs a ride.” I pivoted to Jen standing behind me.

“Thanks for looking out,” she said.

However the representative snapped, “You want to give your seat to her.”

I bit my lip, “Be still,” I whispered to myself. “You’re right, I need to take care of me,” I said to the representative.

After my flight was rebooked, I realized my cousin had planned to meet me in Atlanta at 12:30 p.m. I sent him a text explaining I wouldn’t be in Atlanta until 5:22 p.m.; however I would sleep in a hotel and find my way in the morning.

My final destination was Alabama, a three-hour drive.

He texted back, “Let me see what I can do, I don’t want you staying in Atlanta.”

When I got in the town car, Jen followed. I offered her the front seat.

“You’re polite,” she said.

“God’s working on me; my patience and my politeness. I can be quite rude at times.” Let the Bible live in me was challenging.

One hour later, I walked into LaGuardia airport.  The line was long. “Hey,” a voice called. I was Jen. “Come stand here.”

Jen and I chatted, made our way to security and then to the same gate.

I bought a twenty-three ounce bottle of water, remembering her funds were low. For some reason Matthew 25:35b popped into my head” I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me.”

I got an extra cup. Returned to my seat and poured Jenny a cup.

“You didn’t have to do that.”

Jen had a Bible. Jen carried the Bible for protection only. She stopped attending church, yet she believed in God. She didn’t read the Bible because she couldn’t understand the language. Nevertheless, she didn’t judge.

I explained that church is a place of fellowship, a place where we meet God and his people for worship. Then I suggested she read The Message version for more insight.

She looked puzzled. So, I stopped talking and offered her some trail mix.

I opened my magazine and read the following verse: Exodus 14:4: “The Lord will fight for you; you only need be still.”  I chuckled. God really does have a sense of humor. In another article the writer used The Message version of Psalm 47. I ripped out that section and handed it to Jen.

“This is for you,” I said.

She read. She thanked me. She folded the torn sheet and tucked it in her pants pocket.

Minutes later we walked down the aisle of the aircraft: Zone 4 seat 34, me in C her in F. She said, “This really needs to be first class after all we’ve been through.”

“Let’s nap,” I replied. “The day will be over soon.”

Upon deplaning, we hugged each other in the airport lobby.

On my way to course B in Charlotte, my cousin texted me: We’ll be there thirty minute late.

I pulled my ticket out of my back pocket: Zone 1, Seat 4, First Class.

Reading the words twice, I hurried to the front of the line grateful I made room for God to do what He does, while I remained still.

Read Part 2: Making Room for God, From No Reservations to the Lakehouse Inn.

Take the challenge: Did the Bible live in you, today?

December 17 James122This month I have been challenged with this question: Did the Bible live in me today? When I think of an answer, the Bible seems too big to dwell in me.  Although “[a]ll Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of Godmay be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3: 16-17), all 66 books seem just too much for one person to handle.

Therefore, I focused on a few scriptures I had ingested, digested and ruminated on like eating a delectable dessert. For example, one evening my friend and I went to TGI Friday’s for coffee and dessert.  Dessert is my favorite meal. I’m not partial, but I do have my preferences. Often I don’t mind trying something new if the ingredients are palatable.

When the waitress brought the menu, I asked what she recommended. My friend said, if it were chocolate she would eat it. I, on the other hand, needed to look at the offerings first to see what was mouthwatering before digestion.

Sometimes the Bible scriptures we act and reflect upon are similar to how we choose dessert; what is pleasing and makes us feel good.  Such as Jeremiah 29:11, 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.” At first I simple ingested these words. But over the years, I’ve digested each word swallowing and absorbing its flavor.

Just as Janet, my friend, knew the brownie made with Ghirardelli chocolate-fudge sauce, topped with caramel, pecans and ice-cream would please her sweet tooth, I know this scripture lives in me because all the good things that happened in my life were by God’s design. My plan to break the corporate glass ceiling, instead for 13 years I was a stay-at-home mom learning the craft of writing. Then I planned to write full-time; however, God put me in the position of teaching. He knew I could do more even when I didn’t. I never dreamed of teaching on the collegiate level, and here I am an adjunct teaching writing and a writer who writes. I know for sure God’s plan for me is better than any plan I have for myself.

Then there’s the verse that seems pleasing, has the right words yet until I read and meditate on it that scripture does not resonant for example, Exodus 14:4 “The Lord will fight for you; you only need be still.”  When I first read this, I said really. One thing I despise is a fight, and if one has to occur I get tense, anxious, and begin making plans A, B, and C. I pray. I call my mother, my prayer partner and ask them to pray. On Sunday morning, I go to the altar and give it to God. But the moment I walk away from the altar, I pick up the battle again. I think about it, I look at the best and the worst scenarios.  And most likely the next Sunday, I take it back to the altar and pick it up again.

Likewise with the New Whiskey Cake on the TGI Friday’s dessert menu. The description read: a sharable portion of warm toffee cake, topped with glazed pecans and vanilla ice cream and served with butterscotch Jack Daniel’s Whiskey sauce.

I never had toffee cake, however pecans and butterscotch were my favorite ingredients. I knew cooking with whiskey would make the flavors savory and sweet. Sharable portion meant Janet could have a piece, too. When the miniature wrought iron skillet arrived, I dipped the tip of my spoon into the sauce. Yum. I scoop a spoonful. “This sauce is delectable,” I said, slicing a little over half. I couldn’t wait for Janet to take her portion so I could scoop the remaining sauce onto my cake.

Despite our smorgasbord of conversation, I sat still, slowly digesting each bite letting flavors burst in my mouth. Although I had a piece of Janet’s brownie, the whiskey cake was more appetizing. I had no doubts or regrets about my chose.

In the same way, I took pleasure in eating that cake bit by bit, I reflected on each word in Exodus 14:4 when I knew I had a fight on my hands. First, I did my part, I confirmed that an agreement had been signed, sealed and delivered. I called and emailed respective parties. When the struggle began, I prayed “Lord you said in your word that you would fight for me and all I needed to do was be still.” At that moment, I did not complain, I did not grumble and I put the problem on the altar and left it believing without a shadow of doubt that God had my back.

And now I’m sharing this scripture and this story because God is big enough and strong enough to satisfy all our needs.

So, when I think about the question: Did the Bible live in you today? And reflect on my answer, realizingDecember 17 BIBLE I can live the Bible, all 66 books, daily. Why? The Bible is Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. And since heaven is on earth, as earth is in heaven I need to search the scriptures for all my answers.

Did the Bible live in you today?

In a Place of Adversity
Enjoy this reblogged post Carrots, Eggs, and Coffee from Morning Story and Dilbert. I’ll share first. Once upon a time I was an egg: fragile until faced with adversity, then I became hardened and bitter. Praise God, I can say today I’m a coffee bean fragrant and flavorful making the best and sweetest time despite adversity. Which one are you a carrot, egg, or coffee bean?

Morning Story and Dilbert

A carrot, an egg, and a cup of coffee…You will never look at a cup of coffee the same way again.

A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved, a new one arose.

Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to boil. In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil; without saying a word.

In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them…

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In A Place of Cheap or Free Grace

ImageMy grace is sufficient for you…” is a powerful verse. Although easily said, it’s tough living the scripture when life doesn’t seem smooth or when our preference is not God’s provision until one truly understands grace. When God blesses us, despite the fact that we do not deserve it; that’s grace.  When good things happen to the unworthy, that’s grace. And it’s free. Free to those who believe in Jesus Christ. Hence God’s daily bread for our life is ample.

Imagine a moment when you were in a place of free grace? Scriptures illustrate these characteristics of those blessed by God’s grace: fruitful and grow, Genesis 1:22, happiness and prosperity, Genesis 22:16-18, build you up and give you an inheritance, Acts 20:32.

However these blessings come only with obedience to God’s commands. Repeatedly from Old Testament to New there are if then clauses: If God’s people obey, change, seek, love…, then He will provide, increase, protect…you get the picture.

So why would one want cheap grace? In Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book The Cost of Discipleship, cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance. Baptism without church discipline. Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, the cross, and without Jesus Christ, living and personified.

And living with cheap grace gives us unholy rest.

I don’t know about you, but I want free grace. I don’t want to claim to follow Christ, yet live my life my way: no rules, no discipline, no structure, no Bible, no prayer, no  church, wanton and crazy. I’ve done that, too.

Are you in the place of free or cheap grace?