This morning I have been doing a lot of thinking and my thoughts have led to the entanglements of life. For the most part, those entanglements involve people. People don’t come in the easy-care, wrinkle-free, stain-resistant department. People are difficult. Whether young or old, they require maintenance and time and energy and effort. I’ll tell you what else they require, they require a lot of patience and forgiveness. If you want an easy, stress free, drama-less life you’d do best to avoid people altogether. Of course you’d also miss out on the best of life while trying to sidestep demanding entanglements. You’d never have a big family fight but, you’d never experience the joy of reconciliation. You’d never lose sleep worrying about problems that are not your own but, you’d never know the great delight that comes in sharing the victories that are not your own.
The truth is, people disappoint us. They falter and stumble. This morning I was reading Romans 15 in The Message and several phrases really stood out to me.
“Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, “How can I help?”

That’s exactly what Jesus did. He didn’t make it easy for himself by avoiding people’s troubles, but waded right in and helped out.” Romans 15:1-3
One dictionary defines entanglement as ‘to twist together or entwine into a confusing mass’. Nothing about that definition beckons unto us saying “come a little bit closer”. As a matter of fact, it pretty much shouts “AVOID AT ALL COSTS”. When Henry and I decided to become foster parents we were cautioned by many to reconsider. After all, the foster care system is one entangled mess. I often call it broken, but, truly entangled is a better description. It is one thing to take a child into your home, it is another to deal with family visits and siblings and relatives and therapies and social workers and court appearances. We were cautioned but, we pressed ahead and in our fifteen years of foster care we fostered forty-five children. A few were there short term, maybe a dozen, but there were many who were with us for years and seven of whom we adopted.
When we were training to be foster parents one of my concerns was how I would feel towards the birth parents. Would I be able to be civil to these people who obviously didn’t want their children and had harmed them in some way? And then, as is so often the case, experience taught me differently. I began to meet these real, struggling, faltering human beings and I was for the most part flooded with compassion.
I remember once that a birth father showed up at our door early on Christmas Morning, pounding until we opened it. He held gifts in his arms and shouted at us to let him see his son. We had to try to calm him while we explained that his son was no longer there. You see, he wasn’t supposed to know where his son was because he would not respect the boundaries of visitation. Social services had found out that he had figured out the child was with us and after over two years of building a relationship with us, he had been moved. I’ll never forget the look on that man’s face when he realized that his determination to break the rules and outsmart the system had resulted in another move for his son. It was an entanglement.
Another time on another early morning one summer, I went to let our pooch out to potty and saw a vehicle parked in our driveway. Inside the car was the mother of one of our teen girls who was with us for nearly four years. She just sat there and I just stood there wondering what to do. I was in my housecoat and had rollers in my hair. I hadn’t even had my coffee. I decided to step to the car and she rolled down the window. “Would you like to come in for coffee?’ I asked. She looked so defeated and sad sitting there that I could hardly stand it. She came in and I hastily went and woke our foster daughter. “Your mom is here,” I told her, “come on, let’s fix her breakfast.” We did and I’ll never forget her comment that she couldn’t remember the last time she had eaten. It was an entanglement.
Once, we had a child placed with us rather suddenly. The social workers knew we could be counted on in a crisis and this was a crisis. The child’s parents were in a heated divorce and each accusing the other of endangering the child hoping to prevent the other from having visitation rights. Tempers had flared in the courtroom until finally the judge ordered the child taken into custody until it could all be sorted out. This was a Friday and that meant a long weekend ahead. The child wasn’t your typical foster care child. This was all new to him and to say he was traumatized is not an adequate description. He was nine years old and I already had two other nine year old boys, as well as several other children. He cried and cried. He would only speak to ask me to take him to his grandparents. I explained that I couldn’t do that but, I could keep him safe until he could return to his family. Finally, I asked him to tell me about his family and then I did something I wasn’t allowed to do. I searched for their number in an old fashioned phone book until I figured out how to contact them. His grandparents wept openly as I explained who I was without giving them a name or address. I’ll never forget their gratitude of just hearing from me, a total stranger that he was safe and being cared for. They had been praying, feeling totally helpless and alarmed. It was an entanglement.
One of my son’s birth mother and I spent a lot of time together. She was young enough that she could have possibly been my daughter herself. I kept her other children many times that weren’t in foster care to help her when she’d find herself in trouble once again. When she got straightened out enough that the judge was willing to give her another chance, I thought I would absolutely die. We were losing our baby. I had invested in her and now my reward was that she would have her son while we lost our son. See how entangled it gets? But I’ll never forget the day, just three days later when she showed up at my door with him in her arms. She told me she couldn’t raise him and she knew I was supposed to. He became one of our forever children through adoption.
If you will, scroll back up and read that portion of scripture from Romans once more. If you find yourself in a position of strength then take the opportunity to lend a hand to those who falter around you. Are you strong financially, then take that as an opportunity for service, not status. If you are strong spiritually, reach out to those whose faith may be faltering. If it really isn’t convenient to get involved, welcome to the life of extravagant love and get involved anyway. Not sure exactly how you can help? Then, ask how you can help. Wade right in. After all, that’s what Jesus did for us and He is our perfect example of how to live this life, even with all the entanglements.


Every Opportunity 

What opportunities are before you today, this week, this month, this summer? Which will you take advantage of and which will you miss? 

I’ve been thinking a lot about opportunities lately. And here’s what I’ve decided. Opportunities abound. They’re often around every corner. The problem is, we are often lacking the motivation to walk around the corner to meet them. 

This weekend I took action and positioned myself in a place to hear about opportunities to do what I like to do, write. I heard tips, made connections and took notes. Now, what will I do with what I gathered at the Southern Christian Writers Conference? That’s the question. 

One of the themes of this conference which focuses on Christians who are writing or dreaming of doing so, is to consider the impact of our printed words on the people who read them. We were reminded that even if we aren’t writing about Jesus, our words should reflect Him. 

Here are some scriptures that I think reinforce that truth. 

“But this will be your opportunity to tell them about me.”‭‭ Luke‬ ‭21:13‬ ‭NLT‬
“Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.”  ‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭5:16‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity.”  Colossians‬ ‭4:5‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.” Galatians‬ ‭6:10‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The word opportunity may be defined by some as a ‘lucky chance’. I don’t agree. Of course as a Christian, I don’t believe in luck or coincidence. I believe in God-incidences. I believe He is ordering my steps. I believe he orchestrates the details of my life. 

With that in mind, I see clearly what I must do with the writing opportunities that were placed before me at the conference and the opportunities next week that will give me a chance to love, to forgive, to encourage, to grow spiritually. I will seize them, I will embrace them. I will make them my own. 

What about you? When opportunity comes knocking will you answer the door? Will you stand up and walk around that corner? Will you take the chance? Will you accept the challenge? Will you roll up your sleeves and do the work required?

Homeschool is Cool

You know, it is true. Homeschool is cool. Well, it is now. That hasn’t always been the case. I’m glad things have changed for the better. Folks hardly raise an eyebrow anymore when we tell them. 

Today is the first day of our 2016-2017 school year. I’ve now been homeschooling for more than 15years. Still, I’m no expert by any means. I’m continually learning and adjusting according to each child’s needs. That’s the thing about homeschooling, you really can be flexible. For this #momofmany that’s a great blessing. 

I’ve changed a lot as a momma-teacher over the years. There was a time when I’d work myself into a frazzle preparing for the first day of school, creating schedules that were beautiful but impossible. I was determined to ‘set the pace’ for the rest of the year on day one. This year, I’m determined instead to ‘set the tone’. 

So, our first day of school will begin with a brunch of pumpkin bagels with cream cheese and hot chocolate. Our biggest project of the day will be individual acrylic paintings on canvas of sunflowers. I even bought pizza rolls for a first day of school lunch (they love those things and I rarely buy them). 

At the end of the day, my goal is to hear them say they are looking forward to school again tomorrow. I want their brains to relax and learn naturally. I believe children are naturally curious and intrigued by the unknown. I firmly believe in delight-driven education. I’m not nearly as interested in the memorization of facts as I am the development of character. After all, learning should be a life-long affair. 

Division Disturbance

This weekend I viewed a video clip of an intense moment between police officers and a young man they viewed as a suspect. There was a lot that disturbed me as I watched. There was one thing that stood out above the rest. It was the fear. The officers seemed to be acting fearfully and that is understandable when they face such danger on a regular basis. The young man reacted fearfully and that is understandable when he was approached in what appeared to be an aggressive manner. Fear ruled. It called the shots. It escalated the moment. It made matters worse. 

Fear, in my opinion, has become our common enemy no matter where we stand politically, racially, nationally or religiously. Fear is, I am sorry to say, also our common denominator. It is what we have in common and it is also the division disturbance. 

There seems to be more to divide us than ever in this time of social media and information overload. I was thinking just the other day how very few people I agree with across the board. What I mean is if I have a friend that I agree with when it comes to child rearing we may be divided when it comes to politics. If I have a family member that I agree with politically we may differ when it comes to matters of faith. If I agree with a fellow church member concerning matters of faith we may differ when it comes to racism. I could go on for pages and pages. You get the idea. 

It bothers me when I don’t agree with people I care about. I waver between feeling that if I explained my position carefully enough they would surely agree with me and resisting feeling offended and condescended by those who seem determined to convince me of why my position is obviously wrong. 

For a long time there have been some major divisions in this country (and many others) that most are fully aware of. One is racism, another is gender, the other is poverty. We have come a long way in addressing these divisions. I’m not saying we have arrived, but we have made progress. 

Now, it seems every day there are new ways to divide us, to sort us, to categorize us, to put each other in a box and label each other accordingly. See her, she believes differently than me so she must go in that box over there. Mark it ignorant. No, that’s too harsh, let’s mark it under-educated. That way we can feel pity for them as we disagree with them and we will not only know better, we will be above such things as labeling others. 

There is likely no greater division among the American people right now than that of politics. It’s a whopper. Families, friends, churches are seeing things vastly differently and everyone has an opinion. Thanks to social media, everyone has a megaphone handy to voice that opinion. Whether done in a gentile manner with fancy words that really only emphasize how stupid you believe the people who disagree with you are, or blurted out in crash and rude words that really only emphasize how much you disdain anyone with an opinion different than your own, everyone can speak their mind. 

This morning I was reading in the Bible and came across the verse below. Jesus was teaching, preaching and yes, dividing. We don’t like to think about that aspect of His teaching. The fact is, He spoke truth and people did not want to hear it. 

“So the crowd was divided about him.”‭‭John‬ ‭7:43‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“Thus the people were divided because of Jesus.” John‬ ‭7:43‬ ‭NIV‬‬

So, here is what I want to say to you and to myself today. If you are struggling with division disturbance, don’t be discouraged, you are not alone. Resist the urge to label other people. Avoid the temptation to convince everyone to agree with you. Refuse to be labeled or label others. Admit that we are never going to all ‘just get along’ and try hard to respect other people’s opinions and their right to have them. 

Above all, abandon the fear that would have the hearts of us all. Uproot the fear of those who are different. Believe what you believe and stay true to your convictions, but don’t allow fear to rule your life. Fear, when it is planted in soil that is ripe for growth, springs up eagerly to bloom division and result in hate. That, my friend is a division disturbance. 

Dreams and Visions

We aren’t taking the day off from school in honor of MLKjr Day, but we are discussing what it means and remembering him. With my five youngest still school aged, I divided our chalkboard into squares and asked them to complete this statement.

I have a dream…

I was moved by what each of them wrote. I’d like to share some of their thoughts with you. This is a portion of what my 15yod said. ‘Open their eyes, see that children are in need, do something about it.’ 

What a message. It is especially poignant because she has lived it. She was the child who was in need until she joined our family at 6 years old. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream, it was a beautiful powerful dream. Im glad that my daughter has a dream too. 

I couldn’t help but think of this passage of scripture from the Bible which is often labeled ‘The Day of the Lord’. 

I believe this applies to me and my children. I believe this can apply to you and your children. I believe that there is no age limit when it comes to having a dream and seeing a vision of how things could be, should be better. 

My 16yos said, “I have a dream that one day will will all live in peace, but today is not that day. Today we fight for freedom.”

He’s right. That day has not yet arrived, but it is worth dreaming of, it is worth fighting for. Peace is not necessarily the result of tolerance. On the contrary, it may instead be the result of confrontation. 

Too often we declare peace when peace has not been achieved. Too often we declare healing and wholeness when only a surface treatment had been accomplished. 

Today as we consider a man who refused to accept things that had always been and refused to look away from what needed doing, pause for a moment and ask yourself what it is you need to stop tolerating. What is it that is worth fighting for?

This quote stirs my heart and challenges me to resist the temptation to grow weary in well doing. I only have one life to live here on this earth. My days and opportunities are numbered. My influence can be without measure when I open my eyes, see what needs doing and do something about it. I have a dream too. Do you?

James, a Friend During Difficult Days

After so many years of reading the book of James in the Bible, you’d think I’d have it memorized by now. I don’t have every word memorized but, I am familiar enough with the letter that James, the brother of Jesus, wrote that I often turn there for correction and guidance and comfort.
Do you know what often causes me to turn to James? Difficult people. Do you know a few of those? I sure do. I first became best of friends with Brother James about ten years ago. My son who is about to turn twelve was a toddler and still our foster child at that time. Difficult times were upon us. I had developed a difficult relationship with his birth mom. It was complicated and it was difficult. 

I wanted to reach out to her and help her. I did. I sometimes kept her other children. I sometimes ran errands for her. I tried to help her because I loved my son, her son, our son. I tried to help her because I loved Jesus. 

On days when I felt that my best efforts were frustrated and realized there were no easy answers, I would turn to James. On days when I felt foolish for so diligently helping the one person who might take my son from me, I turned to James. On days when I felt trapped or resentful or weary, you know it, I turned to James. 

James became my mantra, my plumb line, my consistent go to when I needed reminding that my first allegiance was to my Lord and doing His bidding. It helped me to set aside my personal feelings of feeling a bit taken advantage of at times. It helped me trust the Lord with the eventual outcome when I worried about losing my son who had come home straight from the hospital into my arms. It helped me to see beyond the often irrational, unreasonable actions of a young woman who seemed to be her own worst enemy. In short, it helped me be what I claimed to be, a Christian. 

As a matter of fact, the book of James became so important to me during that time, when the day finally came for our adoption of our precious son, we gave him James as his middle name. I never wanted to forget the struggle and subsequent relief that those difficult days provided. 

Today, I found myself turning once again to James. I am once again facing a difficult situation. But, truthfully, that’s pretty much how things are in this life. Whether it’s a difficult co-worker, a difficult fellow Christian, a difficult family member or even a difficult stranger, people are often difficult. 

So, the real question is, not whether they are being difficult but how will I respond? Will I hold my tongue? Will I extend mercy and grace? Will I maintain my Christian testimony? Will I remember whose I am and the mission before me?

What if I truly try and my best efforts are treated scornfully? What if I am worried and concerned about the eventual outcome? What if it seems to make no difference at all. 

Well, then, my friends I will remember the many times before when there have been difficult days. I will remember that God was enough then and He is still enough now. I will do my best and I will trust God with the rest. And so should you. 

“Do any of you think you are religious? If you do not control your tongue, your religion is worthless and you deceive yourself. What God the Father considers to be pure and genuine religion is this: to take care of orphans and widows in their suffering and to keep oneself from being corrupted by the world.”

‭‭James‬ ‭1:26-27‬ ‭GNT‬‬


Now, Do you Understand?

I don’t like to be misunderstood. But, it happens. When it does, I have to resist the urge to feel frustrated and aggravated. I try so hard. I choose my words very carefully and deliver them very clearly. Surely then, I tell myself, I can make sure that folks understand. But, sometimes, no matter how hard you strive for clarity, people just do not hear what you are saying. Jesus could relate. 

“This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.”  ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭13:13‬ ‭NIV‬‬

When I sit down with someone I care about to discuss an important matter, I want them to hear what I’m saying. I want them to know I hear what they are saying. I am a big believer in open communication. I want to walk away from a discussion with understanding and being understood. Don’t you?  But, the truth is, too often, what is said is not heard and what is seen is not perceived. Jesus can relate. 

“You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭13:14‬ ‭NIV‬‬

As a parent I sometimes struggle with getting my kids to listen. They’re often distracted or disinterested.  Sometimes I make them stop and repeat back what I said to them in an attempt to make sure they heard me. Even then, there is a chance that they’ll return moments later and ask, “What did you say momma?” Or “I heard you say to go get something from my room but I didn’t hear you say what it was.”

I’d like to offer this thought for you to ponder today. Have you been listening lately? I mean truly hearing what God said? I mean understanding and perceiving what He is trying to communicate with you?  Has the Holy Spirit been attempting to get your attention to no avail? Are you distracted? Disinterested? 

As I read the parable of the sower and the seeds in Matthew 13 this morning I knew that too often the descriptions of unheslthy heart conditions listed there, applied to me and my heart. What about you?

“When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.””

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭13:19-23‬ ‭NIV‬

Today and the days following I am going to start listening more carefully and go beyond the surface of the words I can often repeat without much effort. This week and the weeks to come I am going to attempt to settle in and put down some roots so I won’t be so easily scorched. This month and the months to come I am going to do a bit of weeding and soil preparation. And then, I’m going to look forward to a harvest of peace and joy and hope because I will have positioned myself to receive all that God has in mind for my life. Now, do you understand?