How blessed we are to have friends who lift us up, who speak truth to us, who listen, give advice, encouragement and their constant prayers. This is richness; this is true treasure to have such wonderful women in your life.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Give Joy Away

Every once in awhile I will meet someone who I think EVERYONE should know:)   My friend, Elaine, is just such a person, so you will be meeting Elaine on the pages of this blog today.  But before I introduce Elaine, and how she fits into the theme of "Giving Joy Away," I thought it might be good to talk just a bit about what makes us, instead of joy-givers, joy-killers. 

Kay Warren in her book, Choose Joy, talks about "joy-killers" in the chapter "Nurturing Joy in Others."  She mentions four:  cynicism, criticism, selfishness and ingratitude.  There is nothing that sucks the joy right out of a day like someone who is focused on and wants to talk about all the "bad stuff."  Now, I'm not talking about a friend who calls for help with a problem or situation in their life...someone who genuinely desires counsel, encouragement and prayer. They are truly reaching out, and we need to be there for them. But there are those wounded individuals who like to talk about the bad, the sad, the devastating, and depressing without wanting anything except to spread the gloom. And if they can't find something in their own lives, they would be glad to tell you about someone else's problems, or, if all else fails, they will give you a detailed report about all the tragedy and terrible on the news.  Cynicism and a critical attitude are so much apart of them it has become ingrained in their day to day existence.  A counselor told me some people have had so much trauma and drama in their lives they do not feel alive unless they are feeling the emotions that go along with trauma-drama. It is truly a heartbreaking way to live.  This counselor went on to tell me that many of these sad souls, even when their lives are drama free, will manufacture trauma or take on others' depressing situations simply to feel like they are living.  They will actively look for the sad, bad, and unhappy moments in life; consequently, they very much believe "we're all going 'to hell in a handbasket'" (I'm not sure what that means, but I am sure it's not good).  Even when something good happens, there is always a "but" added.  "Dinner was good, but it seemed so rushed."  "Sea World was fun, but I got drenched at the Shamu Show."  "I enjoyed the concert, but the music was too loud."  I especially found this one amusing from a bride TV show:  "I liked the quaint church wedding, but there was too much talk about God."  Most of us can relate to hands us difficulties one right after another and we begin to see everything through a grey veil. We almost don't dare think good can happen for fear of being disappointed.  Better to think the worst and then be pleasantly surprised. Escaping from this kind of constant critical and cynical attitude is not easy, but as sure as there is a risen Lord, there is a way out.  I've seen success.  I've lived success.  

Sometimes we are not all together cynical, but we can be about one or a few people in particular.  Those poor unfortunates are the ones we think the worst of first and then readjust our focus as they prove us wrong.  With my darling husband Peter, I had that problem.  I thought I KNEW his motives...and in my mind, when I saw an action, I immediately subscribed a motive to it and then reacted out of what I KNEW he was thinking.  Let me just give you a little example:  Let's say I get dressed up to go out with Peter, and he doesn't say anything about how I look, instead, we just scoot out the door.  My thought process might go something like this:   I wonder why Peter didn't say anything about my outfit.  Maybe he doesn't think it looks good on me.  Maybe I don't look nice anymore.  Maybe he wishes I still looked like I did when I was 19. As the evening goes on,  he does not try to hold my hand or put his arm around me.  I don't think Peter wants anyone to know he is with me.  He isn't proud of me anymore. Well, fine!  I won't try to hold his hand either!  Two can play at this game.  When we finally get home, we get ready for bed and I am fuming.  He doesn't try to kiss me goodnight or anything. I knew it!  He doesn't even want to kiss me good night.  (Frankly, I wouldn't  want to if I were him either.)  Fine and dandy...I very aggressively roll away from him and the tears start up...I cannot believe he does not find me attractive anymore:(  My heart is broken.  Peter hears my sniffing and felt the aggressive roll away. 

"Cherri, what is wrong?  You have been acting weird all night long!"  

Finally, I get to tell him what he thinks!!!!!  "You don't think I'm pretty anymore.  You don't find me attractive.  You didn't even want to hold my hand in public!" 

"What the heck are you talking about?"

So as I explain to him what he was thinking throughout the night, he explains to me that I am 100% wrong about what he was thinking and his motives behind his actions or inaction.

I wreck a perfectly wonderful evening with my overactive imagination and negative thoughts.  Yep, a joy-sucker for sure.

These four: cynicism, criticism, selfishness and ingratitude often ride in the nasty attitude car together.  Because we have a cynical attitude, we are naturally, critical, and these attitudes feed our self-focus.  When living in the world of cynicism, criticalness, and selfishness, there is no place for gratitude. Many times we don't think there is anything to be grateful for.

If life has caused a cynical and critical spirit in us, or if we find ourselves having a critical attitude about a chosen few in our lives, it doesn't have to stay that way.  Change is just a choice away.  I love the twist on the famous "Serenity Prayer":   "God, grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know it's me." 

Now for my friend, Elaine...

Think opposite of everything I have just talked about and you have Elaine:)  This woman is extraordinary.  She lives with a serious disease every day of her life and has for many years now.  Sometimes she receives good news and other days bad...but you wouldn't know it from the look on her face as she greets you at church.  This lady ALWAYS smiles.  Not only that, she takes the time to encourage anyone who has the joy of being in her life.  She, even with all she has to deal with day after day, is proficient in giving joy away.  This humble, sweet servant of our living Savior has learned to "trust in the Lord and do good" (Psalm 37:3) and in all her doing and trusting she has learned a valuable lesson she shares with us about living life as a Christ follower...Joy is not based on circumstances or is based solely on the One who is our joy.  Elaine shows me that joy is a beautiful process or cycle...We receive joy from God, who freely gives...we give joy away as much and as often as possible and all that joy we pour out on others it covers us as well.  Have you ever tried to fix an irrigation system while it's on?  Peter and I did.  A head came off our drip system and was shooting water everywhere.  We both worked at fixing the problem and eventually succeeded, but we were drenched from head to toe and completely silly with laughter as we looked at each other.  Well, I was silly with laughter...He was just plain silly.:)   Joy is like covers even in the midsts of troubles and problems and while living in a world that is "going to hell in a hand basket."  

My friend, Elaine, in the midsts of her trouble, hands out muffins and bulletins at our church with smile.  She encourages and loves with messages over Facebook.  She attends parties for newlywed wives who are starting up home businesses.  She leads Bible study tables for the women's ministry.  She gives encouragement with  a hand on a shoulder, a hug or kind word.  She gives joy extravagantly everyday.  

There are scores of opportunities to give joy away as we live out each day. I pray our eyes would be open to all the possibilities that come our way.  I pray that cynicism and criticalness would become a thing of the past in our lives and believing the best and gratitude would take their places.  I pray that we would be joy gushers to those around us...that they would feel drenched in the joy of the Lord.  Lord, fill us with Your joy.  Help us to trust you for our circumstances and while trusting, that we do good for others bringing joy to You and those You put in our paths.  We love You and desire Your goodness to be known among men.

Love to you, my joy-gushing friends!


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Detox for the Distracted Soul

Well, I think it is finally time to admit it...I am growing older.  Over the past five years, I have begun to love gardening and watching birds and these are tell-tale signs for sure:) Hummingbirds are some of my very favorite birds to watch because they are just so different from any other bird on the planet.  The very first spring I spent in this home, I found two hummingbird nests in my backyard.  One was right outside my bedroom window at eye-level, so my kids and I had a "bird's eye view" as we watched two teeny-tiny eggs hatch and mature from naked, pink and unidentifiable, to a lovely grey and flashing metallic green.  Soon they were too big for the nest, and one morning, they were gone.  From that moment, I wanted to always have hummingbirds near, so I bought a six "holer," very highly rated feeder off of Amazon and hung it right outside of my bedroom window.   

Having the feeder outside my window has given me a new view of these beautiful "sweet" birds.  First of all, I have never...let me say it again NEVER seen six hummingbirds on the feeder.  One time I saw two, but that is it...and it wasn't for long.  Believe me, it is not for lack of hummingbirds that my feeder stays empty or nearly empty throughout the day.  It is solely because hummingbirds are mean to each other.  They viciously fight over the feeder.

Usually there is one bird who is "the big bird" at the feeder.  Last year it was actually a little guy who was  unmistakable...he had a little black spot on his chest.  My granddaughters and I called him "the hummingbird with the black heart."  He was stinkin' ruthless.  He would perch himself in a tree, and if any other bird came near the feeder, he came at them in lightening speed making a LOUD chattering noise.  One afternoon I watched "Blackheart" chase a wasp from the kidding.

Here is the bizarre part, I have a beautiful trumpet vine that blooms all throughout the spring and summer.  It has the "real" stuff.  My feeder is filled with one part plain old sugar and five parts tap water...that's it.  But the hummingbirds are soooooo intent on the feeder...especially whoever is the boss bird for the season...that most of them miss out on actual real nectar from the flowers!!!!!

Recently I was given a Kindle by a dear friend.  What a blessing!  Funny thing is I bought Soul Detox:  Clean Living in Contaminated World, by Craig Groeschel as a Kindle book that week, and I didn't have a Kindle...yet:)  I think God really wanted me to read Soul Detox.  
Twenty-eight pages in and I know why.  Craig gives an example I could completely relate to...growing up in a smoke-filled home.  The odor of smoke permeated our was everywhere...IN the furniture, the curtains and every piece of clothing we owned.  When you live in smoke like this, just as Craig relates in his story, you don't smell it anymore.  It's not until you are in a clean environment and someone says, "Man, you stink!" or you have been out of it for so long that when you come back, it hits you in the face, that you realize how bad everything, including yourself, stunk.  Interestingly, now that I have been out of the smoke for decades, I cannot handle smoke at all.  It literally burns my nose and hurts my chest after I have breathed it in for awhile.  Times like these, I can't imagine how I managed to survive in a smoke-filled environment year after year.  But I did and I thought it was normal, and I had no idea I "stunk to high heaven" as my grandmother used to say.   I did not know there was a better, cleaner way to live.  The words in Soul Detox pretty much take you by the shoulders and shake you back to reality.  Craig wants you to see that you are living in a "smoke-filled," sin-immersed environment and, if you are not diligent, you will live "in sin" like it is will actually think this is the way Christians live.  What deception.  This is how Craig says it:

I believe our spiritual enemy blinds us with a smoke screen of poisonous distractions.  Just like I lived unaware of the smoke in my home, many people aren't fully aware of the forces stunting their spiritual growth.  Without realizing the impact on their faith, people embrace harmful relationships, consume toxic media, live with addictive habits, and remain oblivious to the long-term effects.  We think the way we live is perfectly fine, normal, harmless, or even positive.  Some people don't want to take an honest look at the way they live, claiming, "What you don't know wont hurt you.
 Unfortunately, this just isn't true.  Many individuals who inhaled secondhand smoke--not to mention all the millions of smokers--have suffered permanent and painful effects.  The truth is this:  what many people don't know is not just hurting them but killing them spiritually.

Sometimes it is not that we "don't know" as much as it is we don't want to know or  pretend not to know.  Kind of like a little kid who sticks his fingers in his ears and yells "LA LA LA LA...I CAN'T HEAR YOOOOOUUUUU!!!!!"  

Kay Warren in her book, Choose Joy, in the chapter "Nurturing Joy in Yourself," gives us the same lesson just from a different vantage point.  She, too, warns against the distractions that keep us from a joy-filled life of obedience to God.  Her perspective alerts us to worry and busyness, among others, as places of subtle rebellion that steal from us the God-given joy we could have.  Joy through a truly soul-edifying life is as available to us as trumpet flowers are to my hummingbirds.  But just as the birds buzz at hyper-speed past the real to the fake, so sometimes do we rush past all the wonder of a God-filled life to the self-indulgent, sin-filled pseudo-life.  We can sit on the branches and defend our choices with a zeal unmatched by anything we use toward pursuing and defending the God-honoring, or we can start identifying sin in our life for what it is...sin.  We can fill our lives with the real and life-giving or excuse the life-defeating, joy-sucking and keep walking along life's path with our finger's in our ears singing "La La La La" to the top of our lungs.

One hard truth we have got to remember is this:  Our choice to identify ourselves as Christ followers and then redefine sin will have repercussions on many.  Here's the fine love with grace, live righteously without being self-righteous and still not compromise when it comes to sin.  Our focus has to be on Jesus, His life giving Word, and His will for our lives.  

Love and a truly cleansing detox to you,


Monday, August 6, 2012

Treasures in Dark Places

"I will give you treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name."  
Isaiah 45:3

I have had two deep, dark times in my life.  The first was in my twenties when I suffered a miscarriage.  This loss was so great it staggered me, but God gave me Kirsti and my joy returned.  The second time was in my forties over a decade ago. I ran recklessly into a year-long journey of depression and despair.  I was emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually drained to the point of collapse.  Even now, as I think back on those days, a lump forms in my throat.  Darkness I had never experienced before descended on me and at the worst of it, I lay tightly curled in a fetal position in my bed.  The tears just would not stop. But it was in this place that God gave me a "Light to love on the way," and I have not been the same since...Praise God!

A year before, my boss, the principal at the school where I was teaching, told me:  "Cherri, you are a formidable woman!"  I couldn't help but smile at the truth of it...I was formidable.  I felt formidable.  I could do it all:  be a mother, a wife, a teacher, advisor, activities director, sister, friend, leader in the church, anything to anybody.  I was a great savior and an awesome holy spirit as well.  My boss was right...I was pretty darn formidable.  And then I found a lump in my breast.  My mom and aunt both had breast cancer, so lumps in breasts were not usually a benign symptom in our family.  At first all the tests came out negative, but they were going to "keep an eye on them," so I would be coming back for mammograms every six months.  Then came the call one evening after my first recheck, shortly before I was to leave for an East Coast trip with a group of seniors...the lumps had grown...that was NOT a good sign.  My doctor told me I would have to have surgery to remove all the lumps and as soon as possible.  So to cement in your mind just how "off" I was, I told them the surgery would have to wait until after I returned from my trip.  Stupid.  I could not stomach the thought of failing anyone, because I never failed. 

How many times did I hear with pride, "Cherri, you sure have a lot on your plate"?  Yep, I did...a lot on ALL my plates and my plates were spinning.  I had them humming through the air like an acrobatic artist while I walked the wire not even thinking of the possibility that one of my plates might fall.  But a breast cancer diagnosis hanging over my head and always ALWAYS in the back of my mind, took the "formid" right out of my "able."  You can't feel it in the moment, but the wire is starting to shake.

I had my surgery a couple days after returning from the East Coast and purely by His good grace and mercy, the lumps were all benign, but a different kind of cancer had invaded during the year...a fear of failing...of not being the "strong" woman I thought I was.  Fear of failing morphed into flat-out terror and plates began to fall all over the place.  As my "formidable" spirit ebbed away, I found I couldn't be anything to anybody.  I crawled into bed, pulled the covers over my head and felt darkness fill every cell of my body, every thought in my mind, every desperate emotion that I felt.  

My sweet husband, once again, had no clue to what to do with this creature who now inhabited his wife's body.  My children were scared, too.  I wasn't the same, not at all.  Peter convinced me one Sunday morning to go to church.  We sat in the back of the church, trying to stay away from anyone we knew.  I just did not have the strength to even pretend I was "fine."  And then the Holy Spirit began speaking to me through my pastor, David Parker, and tears, once again, began to fall.  By the end of the service, I was on my knees in front of my seat sobbing my eyes out, and I DID NOT CARE WHO SAW MY WEAK, PATHETIC, BROKEN SELF.  Sweet, sweet victory in brokenness!  He had "summoned me by name," and in an instant, through the darkness, the Lord began to pile treasure after treasure on me!  

Jesus, He is the "riches" I found in my dark places.  He is the Light that penetrated a darkness I thought hopeless of light.  He is the treasure I found in the midst of dark depression and despair.  And though, like, Kay Warren, I have never prayed for "treasures of darkness," I have prayed prayers of gratitude for those times, and I have come to see them for the priceless treasures they surely are.

I "stumbled" recently upon an old song by Michael Card entitled "Joy in the Journey."  I love so many of the lyrics in this song, but the lines at the beginning are a sweet promise to us:   "There is a joy in the journey.  There's a Light we can love on the way."  Sit back, close your eyes and let the music and words of this song remind you of the hope we have in our Savior.

Redeemer!  Redeemer!  Redeemer!  Redeeming darkness into light!  Despair into Hope!  Giving sight to those blinded by depression!  

Please, if you have treasures from the darkness...if you have made it through a dark time and found "riches stored in the secret places," take the time to share it on the blog.  There are those in the midst of darkness right now who need to know there is "hope for the hopeless."  If you have trouble posting, e-mail your post to me at, and I will post it for you.  

Light and love to you, my friends, even in the darkness,


Friday, August 3, 2012

Pray for the Church

My dear friends,

This is going to be a different post.  I have no witty words to offer you this morning...only a request.  We need to pray for our church...His church...His body...His bride.  We need Him right now.


Your church needs your help.  We are attacking each other and it is dividing and weakening your body.  Speak wisdom to us, Lord.  You have promised your Holy Spirit to be our counselor...Lord, we need your counsel.  Help us, Lord, to refocus our eyes on You, so that we might hear your voice more clearly, be obedient to all your desires and love you above all.  Please, Lord, come to our rescue!

Thank you, Father, for always hearing the prayers of your children.  We love you, though sometimes feebly, graspingly, distractedly; we want to love you more.  

"Be exalted, O God, above the heavens, and let your glory be all over the earth.  Save us and help us with your right hand, that those you love may be delivered."  Psalm 108:5-6

Love you, my friends, more than words can say...have a blessed day,