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Monday, August 24, 2015

Autographed to the Wrong Person and God Used it!

DRUM ROLL! The winner of the drawing for a copy of Kathy Carlton Willis's new book, Grin with Grace, is Dana Rausch! Thank you Dana for entering your name and thanks for everyone who did! I recommend everyone get this book. It's available online and in your local Christian bookstore. Congrats Dana!

On Sunday, the last day of the women’s retreat where I was a speaker, I sat at the book table, selling and autographing books. Kris came up and bought a copy of one of my books and I began autographing for her.

“Oh, no, wait!” she exclaimed. “I’m not buying it for myself but for a friend. I want it autographed to her.” 

I’d only written down “Kris,” so I said, “Oh, I’m sorry, I should have asked like I usually do. I’ll get another one for you.” I put the book aside and autographed another for her friend. A while later, I packed the book with the “mistaken” autograph into my briefcase and drove away, the briefcase beside me on the front seat.

A few minutes later, I thought how good a diet soda would taste, but I didn’t think I’d stop. Better to head straight home. No, I’d sure like something to drink. I will stop. 

There were two different routes I could take, but remembering a drive-through hamburger place I’d seen on the way, I decided to drive that way.

Pulling up to the drive-in window, I ordered a diet soda and gave the young woman my money. She smiled and said, “I see you’re dressed up. Did you just come from church?”

“No,” I replied, “I’m coming home from speaking at a women’s retreat. Do you go to church?”

“Usually I do, but I couldn’t today because I had to work.”

We started talking and I inquired about her faith in God. She said she was a Christian, and we talked briefly. In a few minutes, she turned away to get my drink, and I heard God whisper in my heart, “Give her the book.” (Tweet that!)

I looked at my briefcase and wondered how I’d explain to her that someone else’s name was in it. I’ll tell her that’s how I can give it to her free—because of the autographing mistake. OK Lord, I’ll be glad to do that.

I retrieved the book. “Wouldn’t it be a coincidence if her name is Kris?” I thought. 

“Oh, sure, Kathy, dream on!” I smiled at the far-fetched idea.

The woman came back to the window and handed me the drink. I spoke up, “Remember how I told you I was the speaker at that retreat? Well, I’m also an author, and I’d like to give you a copy of my book. By the way, what’s your name?”

She smiled at the prospect of getting a free book and answered, “My name’s Kris.”

I laughed and explained the situation. “I guess God wants you to have this.” She enthusiastically thanked me.

A few minutes later as I drove away, I marveled at God’s handiwork.  (Tweet that!) “Incredible, God! Thank you for blessing me through giving that book away. You show me so many times that you are completely in control.”

(photos courtesy of stockimages and stuart miles from www.freedigitalphotos.net)

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Quotable Quotes: Guarantee of Deliverance

Guarantee of Deliverance

"People who do what is right may have many problems, but the Lord will solve them all."
--Psalms 34:19 (NCV)

While we have no guarantee God will remove or protect us from trials, we can hold onto the guarantee God will walk with us through them until He delivers us.

(Photo courtesy of James Barker at www.freedigitalphotos.net)

Monday, August 17, 2015

Coping with Mid-Life Stresses in Marriage

Here's an article that was published several years ago in a marriage magazine. It shares about the mid-life transitions we made when Larry retired and we moved to a new home and community. I hope it strengthens your marriage, whether you're in mid-life or newly married.

Kathy’s side:

I was so surprised that after 32 years of marriage, stress was taking a toll on our marriage. Haven’t we learned enough to face these mid-life issues? In the midst of buying and selling a house, moving 2 hours away from family and friends, saying goodbye to our daughter and her husband who moved 3,000 miles away, and making what seemed like a thousand decisions about building a new home, I had lost the joy of being with my high school sweetheart. (Tweet that!) And it didn’t help that my emotions fluctuated along with burning up with hot flashes. I felt like a little cloud of doom hovered over me throughout the day. I knew I was entering the peri-menopause stage and it didn’t feel fun.

It seemed to me that Larry’s reactions were discouraging, even mean. As we made so many decisions about the house, I felt like my opinion wasn’t very valuable. Larry had always been very opinionated but now it seemed like very few of my ideas were important. When I mentioned that I would prefer a concrete pad on the side of the house for the trash cans, Larry's contorted face communicated seeming disgust and unbelief. “Why would you want that?” he said in shock, as if no one on earth could ever want such a thing. My heart felt like it was stabbed with a knife. I became afraid to share my opinion, for fear he would respond like that all the time. Although I’m normally a confident person, I felt my self-assurance slipping away.

I knew I was overreacting and super-sensitive because of my hormonal flux, but I still felt like Larry wasn’t on my side. I even found myself wanting him to fail at things in revenge. He was quickly becoming the enemy and no matter how much I tried to talk myself out of my negativity, each time he responded in his “I can’t believe you think that!” I sank back into my pity-party mental chair. I withdrew more each time and built a protective wall. 

Larry’s side:
When I retired, I got a new wife…I wanted the old one back. After 31 years of marriage I was shocked to discover my loving easy going wife was a wounded and sullen roommate. All of a sudden the comments I normally made caused pain. I couldn’t figure Kathy out. I didn’t understand how 30 plus years of communication between us all of a sudden wounded her spirit. It seemed every time I offered an opinion or comment she took offense. Any attempted explanation or clarification was meant was silence or tears. I ddin’t know what to do. I was tempted to cut off normal communications because it hurt too much to se her in pain. I remember discussing this with her several times. Kathy would tell me how I had hurt her and I would apologize and try to understand her new sensitivity. But nothing seemed to change. Usually these intimate discussions would bring lasting healing to our relationship. Not now! I finally thought to myself, “Larry, just gut this out until Kathy’s hormones get settled. After all, it’s her problem.”

What Kathy and Larry Did:

Kathy and Larry had gone through many stress factors in their marriage over the years, so Kathy rehearsed again that difficulties weren’t unusual and that Satan wanted to divide them. When she stopped looking at Larry as the enemy and saw the real spiritual enemy, she could refocus on trying to having a more realistic view of all that was happening. And that included understanding that they were indeed in a new phase of life that brought new challenges. “Somehow it lightened my mental load to know we were only experiencing the normal struggles of marriage and it could be overcome,” says Kathy. 

That was especially important because as speakers and authors about marriage, Kathy and Larry were representing the Lord in ministry and Satan wanted to divert their effectiveness. “Seeing the real cause of our battles made me more determined to see Larry through God’s eyes,” Kathy says. “That we really were on the same team and I didn’t want Satan to be victorious.” 

Larry: Kathy was away on a speaking engagement. I started to think about the most important theme I share on my teaching about marriage and family issues, the husband taking responsibility to lead. As I thought through this issue, the Lord spoke to my heart, “Take responsibility. Be the leader!” Now this was not an audible voice but the message rang loud and clear. The real issue wasn’t Kathy’s changed sensitivity but my reluctance to take leadership and assume some godly responsibility for my family. I realized that in order to practice what I’d been preaching, I needed to immediately call Kathy. I called and told her, “Honey, I want your forgiveness. I have not provided the spiritual leadership you need and I haven’t been a spiritual covering for you.” I then went on to tell her how my attitude before was that this was just a transition you had to get over on her own. “This is not your problem, but a spiritual attack that requires godly leadership. This is my problem and we’ll work this through together.”  

 When Larry asked for Kathy’s forgiveness, Kathy was so encouraged. Larry proved he was seeking the Lord and also sensitive to her. By the time Kathy returned from her trip, it was as if the burden over her heart and mind was lifted. “I saw Larry in a new light of us being on the same side. When he said that we would do whatever it took to work together on this, I felt as if he had pulled me alongside him to look forward together rather than facing each other in anger and misunderstanding.” 

Kathy also took steps to deal with her hormonal changes. Eating around 160 mg. of soy products a day has helped her body to experience less hot flashes and to handle the negative thinking more effectively. Hebrews 12:15 says, “Keep a sharp eye out for
weeds of bitter discontent. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time.” (The Message). “I recognized that I was discontented because I only focused on the few negative things Larry did. I needed to also focus on the many positive things Larry did and give him credit.”

Kathy and Larry also returned to the basics of their good marriage: instead of putting all their focus on the demands of the house, they made sure they were giving each other affection and saying “I love you” often throughout the day. 

Update: Larry and I moved 13 years ago and our marriage has actually improved. We're more in love now than ever and we just celebrated our 45th anniversary. (Tweet that!) Sometimes we tell each other so many times in a day how much we love and appreciate each other that it almost seems ridiculous. But choosing to love and focus on the positives has kept us strong. I just love my godly man!

(photos courtesy of David Castillo Dominici and samarattiw from www.freedigitalphotos.net)

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Book Give Away: "Grin With Grace"

I don't think any of us can hear or learn enough about grace--and how we can have our hearts and minds transformed by understanding the enormity of it's value as an amazing gift from God.

That's why I'm so excited about a new book called Grin With Grace by Kathy Carlton Willis. And Kathy Willis has offered to send an autographed copy to the winner of my drawing. Learn how to enter below. 

Here's the format of each chapter:

  • Grin with Grace contains real-life stories and observations. You’ll laugh at the humorous confessions and wacky insights, and relate to Kathy’s transparent honesty. Be inspired to see grace in your everyday life.
  • Grow with Grace features a grace word study. Kathy examines Bible verses and personalizes the meaning to your situation. Workbook prompts allows you to write down your thoughts as you read along.
  • Go with Grace offers life application. Pick one action step and make it work for you, or pick all of them—but do something to live out your grace-walk.
  • Give with Grace advances life application further, equipping you to become an instrument of God’s grace to others. You’ll be inspired to take what you’ve learned and give it away to others. This is when faith becomes ministry—when your focus expands to see the needs of others.
  • Your Grin with Grace Challenge describes a grace-challenging scenario to give you an opportunity to exercise your newfound grace. It allows for speculation and judgment calls, to prepare you for the what-ifs that happen in life.

In "Grin with Grace" you'll learn how to be empowered to:

  1. Swallow your words rather than share them before it's time. 
  2. Give the benefit of the doubt rather than assuming the worst. 
  3. Let the other person have the spotlight while you live in the shadows. 
  4. Forgive a wrong that really hurt your heart even when they don’t know they messed up. 
  5. Treat your neighbor like you wish she’d treat you, even though she doesn’t deserve it. 
  6. Control your temper at your job when a co-worker takes credit for your project.
  7. Not always defend yourself when you're misunderstood. 
  8. Not take it personally when your friend declines your invitation and goes elsewhere. 
  9. Speak the truth in love rather than taking the easy way out and fabricating a lie. 
  10. Not pass along the juicy bit of gossip you just heard. 
  11. Not hold a grudge even though you have a really good reason!
  12. Look past another's prickly exterior to see a wounded heart beating out of tune. 
Here's the endorsement I gladly wrote for Kathy's book:

Kathy Carlton Willis is a remarkable communicator who is able to inspire us with grace on how to grow in grace. You won't feel discouraged with "shoulds." You'll feel motivated with encouraging examples, gentle guidelines, her own vulnerable sharing, and biblical enlightenment. Responding with grace is a challenge for all of us. Kathy reveals not only the "how-to-s" but the "why's" and the rewards.

Kathy Carlton Willis writes and speaks with a balance of funny and faith—whimsy and wisdom. Not many funny girls also have Bible degrees! Kathy’s a pastor’s wife, which gives her plenty of opportunities to grin with grace. She shines the light on issues that hold women back and inspires their own lightbulb moments. Almost a thousand of Kathy’s articles have been published in books, magazines, newspapers and online publications. Kathy’s tagline describes her best: Light & Lively: His Reflection/Her Laughter. Kathy lives with her pastor/husband, Russ, in Rockdale, Texas.

WEBSITE: www.kathycarltonwillis.com


Kathy's book is available at your local Christian bookstore or at all on-line book stores. 

You can put your name into the drawing by giving a comment on my blog or emailing me Kathy speak @ gmail. com  (remove spaces). I'll draw the winner on August 20th. When you make a comment on the blog, my website system doesn't give information about you, so please check back to see who won or put your email address into the comment and include spaces in it. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Naomi Had A Lot to Worry About

Naomi had a lot to worry about! After her husband and both of her sons died in a foreign land, Naomi trudged back to her native land with one of her son’s widows, Ruth. When she returned to her home in Bethlehem hardly anyone recognized her, so great was her grief and depression. When she identified herself, she explained, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has witnessed against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?” (Ruth 1:20-21 NASB)

Naomi was correct in identifying God’s hand upon her. She recognized His sovereignty, but she didn’t trust Him. (Tweet that!) She couldn’t look at her trials and tribulations, thinking, It's all about God! All she could think was, It’s all about me! And it isn’t pretty. Look what God has done to me.

God had every intention of providing for her, but in her gloomy outlook of focusing only on the difficulties, clouded by deep grief, she allowed her trust to be overcast by worry. 

However, in the end, Naomi did recognize God’s provision. Her daughter-in-law, Ruth, married a rich relative named Boaz,  and soon Naomi was blessed with a grandson. 

Her story finishes with this forecast of hope: “Then the women said to Naomi, ‘Blessed is the LORD who has not left you without a redeemer today, and may his name become famous in Israel. May he also be to you a restorer of life and a sustainer of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you and is better to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.’ Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her lap, and became his nurse. And the neighbor women gave him a name, saying, ‘A son has been born to Naomi!’ So they named him Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David.” (Ruth 4:14-17 NASB) 

Naomi’s story shows us both God’s sovereignty and His faithfulness. He didn’t give up on Naomi, even though she was defeated and blind to His love for her. (Tweet that!) Naomi turned back to the Lord. In that, we want to be just like her, and we can be!

(photo courtesy of jesadaphorn and photostock from www.freedigitalphotos.net)

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Quotable Quotes: No Condemnation

No Condemnation

"So now, those who are in Christ Jesus are not judged guilty."
--Romans 8:1 (NCV)

If you are "in Christ" you don't need to talk or think negatively about yourself! (Tweet that!)

(Photo courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.com by Arthur 84)

Friday, July 31, 2015

It’s All About God, Not Tomorrow!

In our series on resisting worry, we find out Jesus deals with our concern about tomorrow. Jesus says, “For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:32-34 NASB)

I’m worried! I’ve been wondering, If I get breast cancer, should I take traditional chemotherapy or try a nutritional approach? (Have you noticed how fast "wondering" turns into worry?)

No, I don’t have breast cancer, but I was just wondering what I should do if I get it. You see, several of my friends and acquaintances have breast cancer, and I was just hoping to plan now what I should do. 

No, it's not really funny and I wasn't laughing when worry made me mull over those ideas for several days. Those thoughts are how the “Gentiles” think. Jesus is pointing out that they don’t trust God. They “buy” trouble in case they need to cash it in later. 

We don’t want to be like that! Jesus is telling us that tomorrow is in God’s hands and we’re just supposed to be concentrating on today, not worrying about tomorrow. (Tweet that!) When I’m worrying about what kind of therapy I’ll take if I get breast cancer tomorrow, what is my view of today? It's muddied and sullied by worry! As someone has said, "If you have one eye on yesterday and one eye on tomorrow, you'll look at today cross-eyed." (Tweet that!)

God will take care of tomorrow. Yes, I should make plans for whatever I truly have control over in the future. But not for those things over which I have no control. If I seek His kingdom, if I obey what He wants me to do today and follow His promptings for any planning for tomorrow, then I can entrust tomorrow to God.

Herman, unfortunately, couldn’t quite trust in that. Some time ago Larry and I had lunch at our friend John and Dixie Murray’s home, and they told us about their cat, Herman. Herman has gone to cat heaven now, but we were enthralled to hear about him. 

Herman was a twenty-pound, black and white mix cat who loved to eat. And John and Dixie were generous in feeding him. But when the food in Herman’s bowl got a little thin—you know, he could see the bottom through some of the food?—he got nervous. He would pace and meow and look up at John and Dixie, worried that his bowl wasn’t full of food. John and Dixie laughed when they saw the pacing, meowing and worry-lines on Herman’s forehead. After all, the bowl wasn't even empty yet; we're talking “starting to see a tiny portion of the bottom of his bowl while there’s still plenty of food.”

As John and Dixie pointed out to us, within a foot of Herman’s bowl was a pantry with a ten-pound bag of Herman’s cat food. There was always plenty, but Herman couldn’t trust in that; if the bowl started to look empty, he figured there was something to worry about!

Worry is unnecessary for us too. We are more important than Herman, the birds of the air, or the flowers in the field. When you feel like life is out of control, trust in God’s sovereignty to provide for every need you have. He knows what’s best and He will do it! It’s not about you; it’s all about God!

(photos courtesy of Stuart Miles and tiverylucky from www.freedigitalphotos.net)