Thursday, June 12, 2014

Unity in Diversity

Hello Friends,

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of ALL NATIONS, Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 18-20 (ESV)

I’m not sure if you noticed, but in the verses above I made 2 words bold and capitalized. This is so they would catch your eye. Today I want to talk about Unity in Christ. First, I want you to see how God expects us to look beyond our differences and sees what can or does unite us…Jesus. Second, I want to share a 3 of stories of how graciously, God has blinded some of the people in my family to differences.

A Biblical Example of Unity
I am going to give you a synopsis of Acts 10. Please read it, so you completely understand the story. Even if you’ve read it 100 times, please read it again. I promise you will see it differently this time, with these glasses on. I know I did. So here we go. There was this Centurion in Caesarea. My understanding is he was a powerful man. He was also a God-fearing man. One day he receives a vision of an angel from God. The angel tells him that he needs to send 2 men to Joppa, and have them bring back Peter. The angel also says that Peter is staying with Simon the tanner. So Cornelius does exactly what the angel of God asks. The next day while Cornelius’ men were making their way to Joppa, Peter goes to the roof to pray. While he is up there he becomes very hungry. Well in a vision Peter sees this thing like a big sheet float down. When it comes down where he can see what’s on it, he sees all sorts of animals. Peter hears a voice tell him to Kill them and eat them. But Peter is looking at the types of animals that are there and he says, Lord I can’t eat these they are unclean animals. You see there are only certain animals that God has allowed the Jews to eat, and even those had to be blessed by the Rabbi. Well this happens 3 times, the sheet coming down. If you will notice God only repeats things in the Bible, if he is trying to get someone’s attention or He is showing them the error of their ways. Whichever, repetition always means it is important! Let’s also notice exactly what Peter and God say during this exchange. Peter says, “…I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” God’s response is, “What God has made clean, do not call uncommon.” At this point Peter still doesn’t understand what is going on. In the meantime, the men sent from Cornelius arrive and ask for Peter. They talk and the men explain why they are there. The next day the 4 men travel to Cornelius’ house. When they arrive Cornelius explains his vision to Peter. At that point, I believe Peter got it, he understood the vision God had sent to him. God was telling Peter that ALL men, Jew and Gentile have the opportunity to come to Jesus. There at Cornelius’ house the Gentiles who accepted Jesus were given the gift of the Holy Spirit, just like the disciples were at Pentecost. Now they could spread the good news to Jews and Gentiles alike. Obviously this would continue to be a problem. From this passage it shouldn’t be. Just like diversity in any form should not be an issue today. Not when we are sharing the Good News, not when we are Worshiping and not in our everyday lives. In your heart are you color-blind? Do you view people with prosthetics as your equal? What about the blind or deaf? How about the people down the street whose car is older than yours or they need work on their house because they just can’t afford to get it fixed? Maybe it’s not that, maybe it’s the people with the better house, the fancier car? Satan can cause disunity and keep us from reaching out to those dying without Jesus in all shapes and forms. Let Jesus search your heart and find where you need to be united with Him.

How God Has Taught Me Unity In Diversity
I have so many stories to share, but I promise I will limit it to 3 short ones.
A Kindergartener’s Innocent Heart
When my son Colton was in Kindergarten, he would come home and tell me about his friends, and what they did during recess and center time. Well one day he told me he had made a new friend. I was delighted. You see Colton has always been fairly shy, at least when you first meet him. Then he comes out of his shell and watch out!!! He told me this new friend's was named Cody. He talked about how Cody loved the music center, and how they would both lay on the floor and bang sticks together to the music. He talked about helping Cody and other things. I thought nothing of it. I was just glad he had branched out and had many friends. Well the time for Open House came. Of course Cecil and I visited Colton’s Kindergarten class. We spoke with his teacher and asked about this boy Cody that Colton was constantly talking about. Well it turned out that Cody was in a wheelchair. Cody had Cerebral Palsy, but in Colton’s innocent eyes and heart he was no different than himself. I was so proud of my son. To this day, he looks at people all the same. Thank you Colton for teaching me SO much!
A Teenager’s Love
My daughter Stephanie was in High School when she was offered a part-time, consistent, babysitting job. This was no ordinary babysitting job. She would be taking care of a 7-year-old boy who was almost completely blind, had severe hearing loss, diminished mental capacity, several serious health issues, including heart problems and yet was physically very strong. Before the parents would hire Steph, they wanted to “interview” her, as well as see how their son interacted with her. I do believe it was love at first encounter. One of the hardest things for Steph when she moved to Oklahoma was leaving this precious boy behind. They built such a bond that he would ask for her. Granted, Stephanie understands that he is different from other children, but the point I want to make with this story is that she NEVER shied away from getting to know him and loving him just because he is different. I believe that is another way God calls us to love all people in our diversity.
Did I Not Tell You He’s Black?
Please, Please DO NOT be offended by this title!!! It is not meant to offend. You will find out it was a mistake I made. Please read on. I am not going to give you all of the details to the back-story about how I met Bryan. (If you would like to read it, you can click on the link here. It is my blog titled Do You See What God Provides? Scroll down to the heading The Apple Miracle.) Basically, I was in the Apple Store one day and had an appointment with a Genius. The Genius I dealt with was Bryan. He was amazing! He helped me in ways I never imagined. I believe God was using him to minister to me that day. Bryan and I have continued a friendship ever since. In fact Bryan must have told his mom, who lives in Lubbock, about how he took care of my computer problems. Because she sent me a card. He has been a blessing by helping me with my computer several times, but somehow I believe God used me too. Very cool! Anyway, let me get on with my story. So we were looking for a new computer for Stephanie around HS graduation. So I send Bryan a message and ask if he could help us. So he stays late one night to talk to us about what is going to be the best computer for her. Well we walk in and I spot Bryan immediately. We make eye contact and he lets me know that he’ll be a few minutes. I tell Steph and we just start browsing. If you have ever been in an Apple Store, you know they are READY to help! So we’ve been asked once or twice if we need any help. Well this black guy is starting to approach Steph and before he can say anything, Steph goes, “We are waiting….” Fortunately I saw him and I go, “Bryan” walk over and hug him before Steph can finish. Whew! We dodged that one. So later Steph and I are talking. She tells me, “Mom! You didn’t tell me he was black!” I was like, “Oops” As I talked to her I told her that it didn’t even dawn on me that I needed to tell her that. We have laughed so many times about that just because that is how unimportant race is to us. I pray that God helps me to maintain an attitude that color of skin is unimportant.

Living in Grace,


Thursday, June 5, 2014

Mess to Masterpiece: My Life of Loss

Hello Friends,

I am involved in an Online Bible Study hosted by Proverbs 31 Ministries. We are studying the book Limitless Life by Derwin Gray. The book is helping us put the past behind us, and learn to live a Limitless Life in Jesus.

This week we are reading Chapter 3, From Mess to Masterpiece and Chapter 4, From Orphan to Adopted. I want to focus on how God has transformed my Mess to Masterpiece.

When I started this week I felt so broken, so useless. I was reading Chapter 3 of Limitless Life and seeing how God was changing so many lives from Mess to Masterpiece. I even knew that I had the Ultimate Mess to Masterpiece transformation. As a 6-year-old girl, I was innocent in so many ways, but I was still a sinner. I acknowledged to Jesus that I was a sinner. I had lied, I had bad thoughts about others, and I may have even stolen something. Then I told Him that I knew He died on the cross because of those sins. The ones I committed, and I was so sorry for what I had done. But I was so glad for Him dying on the cross, and I thanked Him. Then I let Jesus know that I wanted him to come and live in my heart forever, and from that day on He would be #1 in my life.

So you may read this and think “How can that be the Ultimate Mess to Masterpiece? You were 6. It was simple enough for a child.” I would respond, “That is the point? Jesus can take the worst criminal hanging next to Him on the cross and change his eternity (Luke 23:40-43) with the same prayer as a 6-year-old says to change her eternity.” Now that’s Mess to Masterpiece!

As I was saying earlier, I have the Ultimate Mess to Masterpiece, but where else has God taken the messes of my life and transformed them? Because on Sunday night, all I could see were messes, mess after mess after mess. It’s kind of like the way my house looks right now. Little stacks and piles and messes everywhere and no end in sight. Certainly NO masterpieces! Do you ever find yourself in this place at home, having little stacks and piles of stuff around your home, and they grow into larger stacks and piles until we go through them? Then once you decide to tackle those piles, I think 2 wonderful things happen. 1. As you go through them, which may not be such a fun thing, because you will find mail you need to attend to, but you will also find wonderful treasures; a card you forgot someone sent you, a picture you laid aside, something you’ve been looking for, or something that just makes you smile.  2. When you are finished going through all those messes, you now have a house that is not quite so messy. It looks refreshed, you feel refreshed, and you probably have a new outlook on some things. Well I believe that is kind of what happened to me in my emotional and spiritual life this week. God helped me see that, yes, I had lots of messy stacks and piles in my life. But as I allowed Him to walk me through some of them, we found nuggets of his truth and love. Then as we finished this walk I did find peace and a definite Masterpiece in the way He has orchestrated some of the toughest times in my life.

I know I am long-winded, but I feel it is not only important to share with you how I went from not seeing the Masterpieces to seeing them, but also to sharing one of the works God has done in my life. So please bare with me as I tell you how God has taken the Mess of loss and transformed it into a Masterpiece.

My life has been filled with loss. It is a truth I can look at objectively and state as fact. I faced many losses through my forty….years of life. The first time I was personally touched by death I believe I was seven years old. My Grandpa (Pop) died. He was my daddy’s dad. I don’t remember a lot about Pop, but I do remember that after his death, there was a definite void left in my life. After I finished 2nd grade my family moved to a different house, in a different part of town. This also meant going to a new school in 3rd grade. So this time I experienced loss in a different way. When we moved, there were many friends I had gone to Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade with, that I didn’t know if I would ever see again. For a child of 8 or so, that can be very hard. About a year later, my dad’s job decided to transfer him from Oklahoma City to Lawton, OK. So in 4th grade I would again go to a new school. The biggest loss this time though was leaving all of my church friends. From the time I was a baby or toddler, until we moved to Lawton, I had gone to the same church. And we were there every time the doors were open. So were my friends and their parents! So my friends at church, they were my best friends. Many I am still close to today. In fact one of the boys was Cecil Pettijohn. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because he is my husband! In July we will celebrate 29 year of marriage!!! Ok, time to put the bunny away Haha ya know, chasing rabbits. So moving away from my friends at church left a BIG hole. Well, we spent the next 1 ½ years in Lawton. Then the company transferred my dad back to Oklahoma City. Yay! I remember my mom and dad, as they were searching for a place to live. They were praying that God would put us back in the school district where both my sister and I had started school. Praise God, He did! In fact we moved into a townhouse right across the street from that very school. So as a 5th grader I returned to Windsor Hills Elementary in Oklahoma City. From that point forward we never moved again and I stay with the same group of kids until graduation. On top of that, Mom and Dad felt like God wanted us back in the same church. We stayed there for about a year or so. When we felt that God wanted us to go to a small church that was just starting in Edmond, OK. We had been there awhile and the church was growing. People from Edmond were coming to the church, and our youth group was getting bigger. Well there was a guy in our youth group named Ken. Ken was a Senior, and I was in 8th grade. I had a huge crush on him, but he had a girlfriend. One night Ken and his friend were coming home from seeing Ken’s girlfriend and they had a 1-car accident. Ken was killed and his friend, who was driving, suffered a broken leg and some other fairly minor injuries. That was one of the hardest deaths I have dealt with. One thing that helped was spending time with my friends from church, who were feeling the same loss I was.
Before I go on, I want to tell you about 2 very special people who are part of my loss story. These 2 are my cousins, Stacy and Stephanie. My uncle Benny (mom’s brother) and aunt Ginny had 3 children Stacy, Jerry and Stephanie. Stacy and Stephanie were born with Cystic Fibrosis (CF). Cystic Fibrosis is a genetic, life threatening disease that primarily affects the lungs and the digestive system. My sister Becky and I were always close to Stacy, Jerry and Stephanie. We enjoyed time with them. Due to the disease the girls would have to take frequent breathing treatments or they would cough a lot. When they coughed it sounded like someone with bronchitis or even pneumonia. They would get choked and it could be very scary. Well in 1984 the year Stephanie and I graduated from High School. Stacy had been having a really rough time. She had been in the hospital several times with pneumonia. CF patients are very susceptible to that. The end of June she lost her battle. We were so grateful she was with us for 22 years. At that time 22 years was a long time. Stephanie was able to find an awesome doctor and she was given new treatments and medications. A few years after graduation, Stephanie got married to a wonderful Christian man. We still keep in touch with him. In 2001 Stephanie was 35 when her body could no longer fight this awful disease. Stacy and Stephanie hold a very special place in my heart. Stacy’s best friend named her first daughter after Stacy. When I had a daughter I named her Stephanie. One of the blessings of my cousin living as long as she did was that my daughter got to meet her namesake and spend some time with her.

From November of my Senior year in High School through January of my Freshman year in college we had 3 deaths in my family. They were all on my mom’s side. In November of 1983 my mom’s mom died, then June of 1984 my cousin, and in January of 1985 my mom’s dad. It was a tough time.

As the years went on Cecil had to watch his dear grandpa as he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It was so hard to deal with. He passed away in the mid 90s. A few years later Cecil’s grandma followed. Along that same time his Grandmother Pettijohn died. Then Alzheimer’s hit my family when my dad’s mom began to deal with it. And somewhere around 2000 she passed away.

We had no idea we were about to enter one of the hardest times of our lives when we entered the new millennium, but that we did. In June of 2000 my sister’s husband was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). ALL is the most common type of cancer in children and there is a good chance that treatments will lead to a cure, according to the Mayo Clinic’s website. However, the chance for a cure is reduced greatly when ALL occurs in an adult. I won’t go in to all of the details of the ten months from the time my brother-in-law was diagnosed in June until he passed away April 2001. I will say that it was a difficult time, but it was a joyous time because I don’t think Brian was a stronger witness for Christ than while he was sick. As I have stated earlier my cousin Stephanie also died in 2001.

All of the losses I have written about so far have affected me, some of them deeply. This next and last one has hit me harder than any other. November 15, 2008, two days before my daddy’s 64th birthday, my husband and I were browsing a craft fair. I found a blanket with 3 Labs on it, Chocolate, Black and Blonde. My Parents have a beautiful blonde (really he’s white) Lab. I new my dad would love the blanket. Due to the lack of a thyroid because it was removed when they found cancer, my dad was always cold. Later that day my mom let me know that dad was at the hospital because he hadn’t been well for several days. They were concerned about his heart and would be doing an echocardiogram the next morning. So I decided I needed to go see my daddy. The next morning I drove from the Dallas area to Oklahoma City. When I arrived mom told me that they discovered that dad’s heart was only working at 10%, so they were going to move him to ICU, get him started on meds, and he would be fine. As they moved him to ICU mom and I waited in the hall. All of a sudden a nurse comes out and tells us that when they were moving him from one bed to the other his heart stopped. They worked on him awhile, but God had already called him home. My heart still aches when I think of that day. I will never stop missing my daddy!!! But I KNOW that he is not only so much better off than he was when he was here, but he’s better off than I AM!!!

We have gone through all of those stacks and piles of loss that have been cluttering up my life. What did we find? I saw memories, people I love, some heartache, and history. Those are some pretty great things I’d call those little masterpieces. But as I look back over my life what can I take away from all of this loss? I’ll tell what I can take away, sympathy, understanding, love, comfort, tears, empathy and hugs. Those are things that I needed from friends each time I had a loss. I may not have wanted these losses, but God has given me a tender heart and a special understanding for those who are grieving that I would never have if I hadn’t been through the losses I have. Not just the amount of losses but the variety of losses. God is so good. He never takes you through something without a purpose.

I know this was long, but I pray God was able to speak to someone.

Living in Grace,