Monday, November 19, 2007

When We Miss the Target

This excerpt is from www.MaxLucado.com - UpWords Weekly Devotional Email

When We Miss the Target by Max Lucado

Read the first verse of Matthew’s gospel. Jesus knew David’s ways. He witnessed the adultery, winced at the murders, and grieved at the dishonesty. But David’s failures didn’t change Jesus’ relation to David. The initial verse of the first chapter of the first gospel calls Christ “the son of David” (Matt. 1:1 KJV). The title contains no disclaimers, explanations, or asterisks. I’d have added a footnote: “This connection in no way offers tacit approval to David’s behavior.” No such words appear. David blew it. Jesus knew it. But he claimed David anyway.

He did for David what my father did for my brother and me.

Back in our elementary school days, my brother received a BB gun for Christmas. We immediately set up a firing range in the backyard and spent the afternoon shooting at an archery target. Growing bored with the ease of hitting the circle, my brother sent me to fetch a hand mirror. He placed the gun backward on his shoulder, spotted the archery bull’s-eye in the mirror, and did his best Buffalo Bill imitation. But he missed the target. He also missed the storehouse behind the target and the fence behind the storehouse. We had no idea where the BB pellet flew. Our neighbor across the alley knew, however. He soon appeared at the back fence, asking who had shot the BB gun and who was going to pay for his sliding-glass door.
At this point I disowned my brother. I changed my last name and claimed to be a holiday visitor from Canada. My father was more noble than I. Hearing the noise, he appeared in the backyard, freshly rousted from his Christmas Day nap, and talked with the neighbor.

Among his words were these:
“Yes, they are my children.”
“Yes, I’ll pay for their mistakes.”

Christ says the same about you. He knows you miss the target. He knows you can’t pay for your mistakes. But he can. “God sent Jesus to take the punishment for our sins” (Rom. 3:25 NLT).

Since he was sinless, he could.

Since he loves you, he did. “This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins” (1 John 4:10 NLT).

He became one of us to redeem all of us. “Jesus, who makes people holy, and those who are made holy are from the same family. So he is not ashamed to call them his brothers and sisters” (Heb. 2:11 NCV).

He wasn’t ashamed of David. He isn’t ashamed of you. He calls you brother; he calls you sister. The question is, doyou call him Savior?

From Facing Your GiantsCopyright (W Publishing Group, 2006) Max Lucado

Monday, November 12, 2007

Travel in Jesus' Boat

Greetings all! I was reading a newsletter from a Frontline Missions and came across the transcript of a message by Pastor Marcos - one of the pastors in Brazil. It was so simple, yet powerful, I wanted to share it with you. Below is the message...proverbs from the heart of someone who loves Jesus!

April 17, 2007
Message from Pastor Marcos at Leader Training Congress in Agua Fria, Brazil

I don’t have a Bible, but the Word of God is written upon my heart. So I am opening up my heart so I can speak the Word of God to you.

We are here for one reason-to worship and adore the Lord Jesus Christ. You brought Him here for He is with you, so let us adore Him.

We are called to take His message to the ends of the earth. We are all worshipping the Lord in many different ways. We are all correct – this brings Him joy.

If you seek the Lord, you will find Him

The Lord is returning to receive a spotless church and if your life isn’t right – correct it today.

As sure as the sun rises Jesus will return, so let’s take every opportunity to share with others.

Jesus Christ has all power on earth, in heaven and under the sea. He has all power everywhere.

This morning we all had partridge. If you want pork or beef you would have to go somewhere else. In the same way there is only one way to eternal life. Through Jesus Christ. Only one way!

You can not destroy the devil with a knife or stones, but you can destroy him with the Word of God. Study the Word of God, arm yourself with the Word of God. If you don’t fill your heart with the Word of God the devil will take advantage of you. You will fall if the Word of God is not in your heart.

Noah is our example and Jesus is our ark for our protection. The animals entered the ark male and female, husband and wife. Not man to man or woman to woman. He created us as male and female. Travel in Jesus’ boat. In Jesus’ boat is eternal life.

Don’t allow the enemy to plant sin in your life or rule over you. Like this plant when it is small it is easy to root it out but once it grows big it is very difficult. So sin is the same. Don’t allow sin to grow but turn to Jesus Christ because He has the power to root sin out of our life.

Let the Word of God grow in your heart. Jesus Christ’s word must be allowed to grow so sin cannot grow and then take His Word to others so sin cannot grow in their lives. Study the word of God so you can carry it back to others. The devil is like a jaguar that is seeking our cattle to kill them and carry them off. Likewise the devil is wanting to kill our brothers and sisters. He is a liar and a thief and a murderer.
When I’m in my village I never see the other tribes but I have been praying for you. Now I get to see you and it is good and I am glad. Now I will continue to pray for you for I am glad to see you have the Word of God.

If you are asleep and a song comes to you, get up and sing it. Likewise if you have a bad dream, rebuke it for the devil tempted Jesus and Jesus defeated him by using the Word of God. You can do the same. Use the Word of God to defeat the devil.

We are not better than anyone else. In Jesus we are equal. None better than others, but in Jesus we are all one.

The devil is at work today but Jesus Christ came to give you life eternal. The devil wanted to be all powerful but only Jesus Christ is all powerful. Serve Jesus Christ.

The Father and Jesus Christ created you. They gave you a mouth to speak the Word of God. Eyes to see His creation and read His words.

Jesus has given us the victory! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

If My People...

There has been a verse rolling around in my head for several weeks. II Chronicles 7:14 - "[if] My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land".

That's quite a promise.

Today, I read that scripture in context. That text is God's answer to Solomon's prayer at the dedication of the temple. Solomon cried out to God and put many scenarios before Him. Solomon reminded God of the promise to his Father, David, that their line would be blessed and would sit on the throne of Israel. He asked God to keep His promise. Solomon presented the house which he had built for the Lord and asked God to live there, to remain there, and turn His eyes and ear towards the people and their prayers in that place. He asked specific things of the Lord.

"Listen to the supplications of Your servant and of Your people Israel when they pray toward this place; hear from Your dwelling place, from heaven; hear and forgive" - II Chron. 6:21

"If Your people Israel are defeated before an enemy because they have sinned against You, and they return to You and confess Your name, and pray and make supplication before You in this house, then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of Your people Israel, and bring them back to the land which You have given to them and to their fathers." - II Chron. 6:24-25

"When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned against You, and they pray toward this place and confess Your name, and turn from their sin when You afflict them; then hear in heaven and forgive the sin of Your servants and Your people Israel, indeed, teach them the good way in which they should walk. And send rain on Your land which You have given to Your people for an inheritance". - II Chron 6:26-27

Solomon goes on and on asking for forgiveness for the people and the foreigner who turns to the Lord. He notes multiple consequences of sin and rebellious disobedience. There are consequences in relationships, in health, on the land, and on the freedom of the people. All of these things are consequences of turning from the Lord. But, Solomon begs the Lord to have mercy on the people if they will humble themselves, pray, return to the Lord, seek His face.

In Chapter 7, verses 12-22, the Lord gives His answer to Solomon:

"Then the Lord appeared to Solomon at night and said to him, "I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice. If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

"Now my eyes shall be open and my ears attentive to the prayer offered in this place. For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that My name may be there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually.

"As for you, if you walk before Me as your father David walked, even to do according to all that I have commanded you, and will keep My statutes and My ordinances, then I will establish your royal throne as I convenanted with your father David, saying, 'You shall not lack a man to be ruler in Israel.'

"But if you turn away and forsake My statutes and My commandments which I have set before you, and shall go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will uproot you from My land which I have given you, and this house which I have consecrated for My name I will cast out of My sight and I will make it a proverb and a byword among all the peoples.

"As for this house, which was exalted, everyone who passes by it will be astonished and say, 'Why has the Lord done thus to this land and to this house?' And they will say, 'Because they forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers who brought them from the land of Egypt, and they adopted other gods and worshiped them and served them; therefore He has brought all this adversity on them.'"

What a promise God gives..."I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land". But, something is required of us. We are to humble ourselves, pray and seek His face. We are also to turn from our wicked ways. He is waiting with grace and healing, but we have to ask for it and truly want it. I've wondered lately how many of us truly want it and are willing to humble ourselves and let go of our wickedness.

Recently, I was faced with a temptation...a serious weakness for me. I have learned from my past failings and put safeguards in place for myself. Instead of fighting the battle on my own, I made myself accountable to people I love and trust. I shared my weakness and fear with them and asked them to check in with me and follow up to make sure I didn't fall. That accountability was vital to my success in avoiding a situation I knew was bad for me. Our flesh is weak, but the Spirit is greater and always gives us a way out. We just have to take it. We have to turn.

As a teacher and worship leader, I have some built in accountability as well. It is much harder to choose disobedience when you are telling others to choose to follow Christ. I couldn't imagine standing in front of my church or the young women I teach if I were engaging in intentional sin. We all sin...that's not the kind of sin I mean. We are all likely to fail at times, maybe even often. What I mean is the kind of sin that is continual and deliberate, even when we know it's not in our best interest and grieves the heart of God. It is in those moments when we have a choice and we choose our own desires over obedience to Christ.

That's where the last part of the passage comes in. Not only does God promise to heal and forgive us if we ask, but He also promises to punish us if we turn from Him. Not only that, He says He will make us a proverb and a byword to all. I don't know about you, but that is NOT how I want to be remembered! I do not want to be an example of what happens when you disobey the Lord.

I'm afraid that the church in America may become that Proverb for all people. No doubt there are large numbers of people following the Lord and wholeheartedly obeying His commands here in the States. But, haven't we gotten lazy? We have the freedom to follow Christ however we choose. No one is beating down our doors and confiscating our Bibles. We aren't being sent to prison, or worse, for our beliefs. And we take those facts for granted. We’ve become complacent, lazy, and lukewarm. We put in our weekly time at church and then live the rest of the week as we choose. We hem and haw about making a stand for Christ even when it costs us little. We “play” at the game of Christianity while there are still people who have never even heard the Gospel. We carefully avoid stepping on someone’s religious toes while our counterparts all over the world are literally risking their lives to share the Gospel, the GOOD NEWS, with everyone they meet.

Is it any wonder that our nation is falling into such turmoil and despair? Where is the Church? Where are the believers? Are we to be made a mockery before the people of the world because we choose to chase our own lusts instead of turning to the Father and away from our wicked ways? I pray that it may not be so. But, we need to wake up and stir the passion within us. We need to fall on our knees in thanksgiving for the freedom we have to share the Gospel. And, then we need to embrace that freedom and live lives of boldness for Christ. I am guilty of this complacency. My heart is crushed because of the time I've wasted. I want to make a difference...I want to do something BIG for God.
Where do we start?

On our knees. "and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land".

Humble Ourselves.

Pray.

Seek His Face.

Turn from our wicked ways.

The promise awaits...

God will hear from Heaven.

God will forgive our sins.

God will heal our land.

We are in need of healing. Our land is in need of healing. As the Church, we need to be on our knees...on our faces...before the Father pleading for Him to hear us. We must do battle from that place of humility. Fight for our churches. Fight for our children. Fight to not become a byword to the nations.

What are the areas of famine in your life? Where are you showing signs that you have sinned against God? In what ways are you in captivity?

Is there discontent in your church? Humble yourselves. Pray. Seek His face. Turn from your wicked ways.

Is there discord in your family? Humble yourselves. Pray. Seek His face. Turn from your wicked ways.

Is there a disconnect in your relationships? Humble yourselves. Pray. Seek His face. Turn from your wicked ways.

Don't wait on someone else to do it. If you can't get through to the people involved, let God battle for you. "The Lord your God who goes before you will Himself fight on your behalf, just as He did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness where you saw how the Lord your God carried you, just as a man carries his son, in all the way which you have walked until you came to this place" (Deut. 1:30-31).

It’s time for us to fight, Church! It time for us to fight with, not against, each other. I have been deeply challenged to pray for my own church and my areas of impact. I have not been fervent in my prayers for my pastor, my fellow team mates, the members of my congregation. I have not been vigilant in my prayers for my community. That has to change. I can’t change many things, but I can change what is in my power. I can change me.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Real Change

Today marks the anniversary of a turning point in my life. Four years ago today, I stood at a crossroads and had to make a decision. Should I choose the road I wanted, or the one the Lord had for me? I'd been fighting that decision for more than 4 years, but I had grown weary of running from it. I was completey worn out from the struggle of being disobedient and ignoring what God had asked of me. So, on this day, 4 years ago, I chose to turn down the road the Lord had set before me and it has made a world of difference in my life.

My journey with the Lord has been a long and interesting one. It started when I was just 5 years old. It was then that I took my first baby step down the road laid out before me. That little girl knew nothing of struggle or heartbreak, only that she loved Jesus...and that was enough. Sometimes I wish I could go back to that pure heart that trusted so easily and loved with reckless abandon. But, at the same time, I wouldn't trade the lessons I've learned that have brought me to this place.

I've had my heart broken a number of times. I've had my trust abused and my boundaries disregarded. Each one of those times, I became a little more defensive and I hid a little more of myself. With each betrayal, I trusted a little less and I hid myself more. On that day 4 years ago, I looked at myself and saw someone I didn't recognize...someone I didn't want to be. I had bottled myself up so tightly that I was merely a shadow of my former self, and not at all the woman God was calling me to be.

It was disobedience that had taken me to that place. It was a stubborn refusal to listen and obey when God asked me to give something...someone...up. I knew the right choice was to be obedient, no matter how difficult, but I was unwilling to submit my desires to His will and His plan. Oh, how much that stubborness cost me. For nearly 5 years, I held tightly to my choice, all the while believe I was surrendering the rest of myself to the Lord. But, surrender can't be partial...it has to be complete. It took me a long time to see the consequences of my disobedience, and it has taken me a long time to recover.

Since that moment 4 years ago, I have returned to full relationship with the Lord. In fact, in that moment of choice, I could feel the flood of His Spirit returning to fellowship wholeheartedly with mine. It's a moment that I will not soon forget, and one I will not soon relinquish. It's now my heart's desire to never allow anything or anyone to come between me and that relationship. It's meant some hard choices over the last 4 years, but each one has been well worth it.

This year has been one of real change for me. I've told my friends, recently, that I feel like a rockstar who seems to have "made it" over night, but in reality, her success is the product of years of hard work and struggling. That is how this year feels for me. I feel like I've been working so hard on myself and my relationship with the Lord and it is all suddenly coming together. In order for you to understand the change in me, I have to share a little more about what needed to change.

I was very afraid. I had stopped trusting my own instinct and my own heart where anything was concerned. I was full of self-doubt and didn't believe I had the ability to hear what the Lord was saying, or make the right choice. Someone close to me had abused my trust in him and took advantage of all I'd confided in him. He abused my trust, ignored my boundaries, and made me feel dirty. I carried the guilt of that encounter as though it were my fault for many years. And, although it likely wasn't a significant moment in his life and many people would laugh at how minor the encounter was, his hurtful words wounded me in a way that caused me to question and distrust men and hide myself in whatever way possible. I questioned every motive, emotion, and dream. All I knew was that I didn't want to miss out on what God had for me, but I had no idea what that might be. I was a perfectionist who didn't know how to handle failure. My type-A personality barely let me rest and I had been caught up in rules and rituals that had taken control of my life. I knew I was supposed to be using my gifts and talents to serve the Lord, but I didn't feel prepared in the least...I didn't feel capable. Many times I heard friends say things like..."God doesn't call the qualified, He qualifies the called"...but, I felt like I had so far to go. There were a lot of things I knew in my head but couldn't translate to my heart. I knew that God had a plan for me and that He hadn't given me a spirit of fear. I also knew that I was more than a conqueror through Him, but I was so weak and unable to move.

I am more thankful than I can begin to say for the people who walked beside me during this dark and confusing period in my life. There really have been so many who have lifted my spirit and encouraged me when I needed it most. Many of these people will never know how much life they spoke into my heart. There are some people I'd like to mention here as they were highly significant in the last 4 years of my journey. These are by no means ALL of the people who have impacted my journey, they are just the ones with the most direct contact and knowledge of where I struggled.

First of all, my friend Jamie. I am SO blessed to have someone in my life with whom I can share my whole heart and be completely honest without fear of judgment. Jamie has been my "big sister" since I was a freshman in high school and has had a tremendous impact in my life. It was her willingness to share her own weaknesses and struggles that kept me from being trapped by the same. Her warnings helped me identify problem areas before I was consumed by them. She is a bold and honest friend. She has always shared her heart with me and been willing to call me on the carpet when I am being disobedient. And, she has loved me through it. Even when she was boldly telling me that my behavior was destructive, she didn't force me to change, but merely poured love on me and assured me that love would continue no matter my choice. I am more than blessed to have her continually in my life. She has been my mentor, my sister, and my friend and our friendship continues to be a place of safety, and challenge, support and growth.

Another friend who has continually encouraged me has been my friend Joanna. Now, Joanna is one of those people who just glows with the joy of the Lord. I don't know if you've ever met someone like that, but it is truly an experience. Joanna loves Jesus with all of her heart and it shines through in everything she does. She has a tender heart of compassion and an easy relationship with the Lord. In so many conversations, Joanna would invite the Lord in as easily as if He were physically sitting there with us. She always has a way of calling when I need her...even if it's just to pray for me on my voicemail. She is a beloved sister in Christ and one who has meant more to me than she could ever know. I often wonder how it was that I came to be blessed by having such amazing people in my life. I'm just so thankful the Lord saw fit to place them there.

That brings me to Jodi. Jodi is a life coach, and a very good one at that. She was made for it. In fact, she's basically been my life coach since we met at the age of 16. She has an amazing gift for helping people see the dreams God has placed within them. She also has a gift for drawing it out of them. That's what she did for me. Jodi was my life coach, formally, for about a year. And, we wrestled with so many things together. She helped me identify the fears that consumed me and also recognize their source. She pushed me to examine dark corners of my heart that I wanted to ignore. She helped me pick myself up and face the things that haunted me. It was VERY hard work, and sometimes too much for me. But, Jodi loved me through it, as she always has. She kept pouring her heart into mine and encouraging me to keep pressing forward. She reminded me what it was to dream and helped me define the dream God placed within me. She helped re-awaken the fire within me while walking beside me as I started to step out of my comfort zone. She was a true "border buddy" for me when I needed her the most. And, although our formal arrangement was for a limited time, she is still one of the strongest influences in my life. She leads her life in a way that is inspiring to me. She is living out the dream God has placed within her and it's exciting to watch. I can't wait to see where God takes her next. I hope that I'm a border buddy for her as she has always been one for me. (http://www.realchangeinc.com).

Then there's Miss Shirley...my second life coach. Our official time together was for only several months, but God used her, and has continued to use her, to push me even closer to my dreams. She is always willing to listen and offer advice, or merely a mirror to reflect my thoughts back to me. She has helped me set tangible goals and kept me accountable to keep chasing them. She helped me dig deep into the fears that were such a huge part of what held me back. It was during my time with her that I was able to clearly define the obstacles in my life, even if I wasn't ready yet to get past them. She is yet another mentor and godly woman to whom I very grateful. She has poured her life into mine making my victories hers as well.

And, as a collective, there is my church family. I started going to Fayette Community Church around this time 4 years ago. It was part of my decision to choose the road God had for me. I was invited to check it out and immediately fell in love with the people. I was overwhelmed by the love I felt in that room and the connection that so obviously exsisted between those people. I had been burned by church in the past, but this felt different. FCC felt real. It has proven to be exactly the place God wanted me. It's been a place where I've been able to step outside of my shell and my comfort zone as a worship leader and a teacher. I've been allowed to hone my talents and use my gifts in so many different ways. I've often called it my "ministry boot camp". My pastor, Brad, has always pushed me to continue to grow in the direction the Lord is taking me. He let me sing, then pushed me to lead when I was ready, and even now has me playing keys and sharing my own music on Sunday mornings. Just last week, I was given the opportunity to share my heart with the congregation and close the service by accompanying myself on the piano as I sang a song that I wrote. There is no way I can even begin to explain what a moment of victory that was for me. 4 years ago, I could never have done that. I would never have been so willing to be vulnerable and open and share where the Lord has taken me...my need for approval and my perfectionism wouldn't have allowed it. There have been so many in my church family who have been part of this victory for me. Sadly, I don't see some of them on Sundays anymore, but there are no less part of my church family. The Bests, the Benges, The Varneys, The Dziesinskis, Miss Nancy, the Mirabellas, the Turpins...all had a hand in what the Lord has done. And those who I still get to see every week...The Gridleys, the Grahams, and so many more have contributed to the victory the Lord has given me in the last year. I'm a very blessed and very loved little girl...and I am more thankful than I can say. (http://www.FayetteCommunity.org)

The breaking point finally came for me in April of this year. Some people very close to me broke my heart in a way I never thought possible. I never believed I could feel pain like that and recover. But, all the work, all the love and encouragement, and all the support the Lord had placed in my life for the last 4 years had been in preparation for this moment. Although I was broken, it was exactly where I needed to be for the Lord to give me victory. In the last few months, I have truly found freedom from so many fears. I no longer feel stuck and afraid of what's before me. I know that the worst can happen and I can survive it because the Lord has a good plan for me. He has worked real change in my heart. He has taught me to rely on Him in all circumstances. Even when the pain makes it hard to breathe, the Lord is walking beside me and He is placing people in my path who will walk beside me and hold me up until I recover. This victory is the Lord's. It is because of Him that I can share my struggles. I sing in the shadow of His wing. I am no longer a slave to the things that would hold me back and keep me down. I can now walk forward in bold confidence into what the Lord has for me. He's placed me in a family that loves me and given me close relationships with my brothers and my sister-in-law. He's given me parents who've always been willing to sacrifice for me. He's placed me in the middle of a support system for which I will be forever grateful. I hope to one day be able to clearly articulate just how good the Lord is. Today, I am just celebrating how far He's brought me in the last 4 years and the people He's used to get me here. I am more blessed than I can say and more excited than I've ever been to see what the future holds.

I've written all of this so that you may rejoice with me in what the Lord has done. It's been amazing to take a moment and look back to where I was in order to see how far I've come and be encouraged as I look at the road ahead. So, please pray for me as I continue down this journey. Pray that I will always choose obedience, no matter the temporary cost. Pray that I will be able to pour my life into others as I've had other pour their lives into me.

Psalm 63

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Always an Adventure!!!!!

Hi Everyone!

I just returned Sunday from an amazing (and adventurous) time in Alaska! It was so beautiful and I’d like to share some of it with you. I found out Thursday that I was going to have to head to Vancouver Saturday morning. Alaska has long been on my list of places to see, so I couldn’t believe I was getting to opportunity to actually go! I boarded Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas on May 26th and set off for 7 nights I’ll not soon forget.
The ship itself feels like a destination. It was built with visually rich itineraries in mind. It was difficult to pass from one location in the ship to another without encountering a wall of glass with breathtaking views. Many of the ships public rooms and even elevators offered awe-inspiring views of the Alaskan landscape. There were many options available for entertainment on board. Musicians were scattered about the various public lounges, the cinema constantly ran new releases, the casino was open whenever we were not in port, the Ship Shape Spa and Gymnasium were well equipped, and there were offerings for just about every taste on board. With the gourmet food, Gold Anchor Service from the staff, and the welcoming, luxurious beds in the stateroom, my trip was off to an amazing, and relaxing, start!
The first full day was spent at sea. This gave me an excellent opportunity to catch up on some rest and attend the required learning sessions (after all…this WAS a business trip!). We spent the morning learning about the exciting enhancements Royal Caribbean is preparing to release, and then we were released to enjoy the day. It was a great time to explore the ship and relax in the spa. The Serenade of the Seas has a fantastic Thermal Suite in her spa. The suite is a tranquil room with ceiling to floor windows, warm stone chairs, a sauna, steam room, aromatherapy chamber, and a tropical shower. It was an amazing place to just allow my body to relax. I spent a good bit of time there! The first day at sea was also the first formal night. It was fun to get dressed up and enjoy the wonderful food.

The first port of call was Sitka, Alaska. Sitka was the former capitol of Alaska and the site of the official purchase of the state. When Russia transferred ownership of Alaska to the U.S., the ceremony took place upon Capitol Hill.

Alaska, as a whole, is rich with Russian heritage and native Tlingit lore. My favorite stops were at the churches in Sitka. I ventured first to St. Michael’s Cathedral, a Russian Orthodox Church. I was not allowed to take pictures inside, but truly enjoyed the Russian artwork and artifacts on display. In the 1966, the church, and several other downtown buildings, were completely destroyed by fire. The congregation of St. Michael’s rushed to the building and saved the majority of furnishings, artwork and artifacts. The rebuilt structure was true to the original design. A congregation of nearly 100 families still meets there regularly.


Another favorite stop was at St. Peter’s by the Sea Episcopal Church. The beautiful stone structure made me feel as though I had stepped into another time. The church was open for travelers to come in, pray, and reflect.


This first taste of Alaskan History, Culture, and Beauty just left me wanting more and excited to see what each following stop held

To view more photos of Sitka, please visit: http://www1.snapfish.com/share/p=69551181070943344/l=256909312/g=15410742/otsc=SYE/otsi=SALB

The next day was at sea, but the morning hours took us past Hubbard Glacier. Hubbard Glacier is the largest glacier in Alaska and is roughly the size of Rhode Island. It was a bitterly cold and icy day as we sailed past the glacier, making it difficult to truly see it in all of it’s majesty. Below is a picture I took from the ship, but more information and better pictures can be found at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hubbard_Glacier

More of my pictures of Hubbard Glacier can be viewed at: http://www1.snapfish.com/share/p=91851181071411489/l=256909316/g=15410742/otsc=SYE/otsi=SALB

My next port of call was Skagway, Alaska. We pulled into port at Skagway on May 30th – my Birthday! I’m not sure if I could have chosen a better place to spend my birthday. I was sad to not share it with friends and family, but because Alaska is an U.S. port, I was able to receive phone calls and connect with those back home. Skagway was beautiful and in many ways felt like an untouched Gold Rush town. Many of the buildings were originally built during the Gold Rush of 1898.

The city truly embraces it’s Gold Rush Heritage and exhibits it throughout the town. Outside the Museum of the Trail of ’98, there was a particularly humorous photo op for tourists.


Skagway is also home to the White Pass and Yukon Route Railway. This train follows the path of the Gold Rushers up the mountain. It offered breath taking and overwhelming scenery as we followed the path of history.
Some of the most beautiful pictures I took were on this train ride. You can view them at: http://www1.snapfish.com/share/p=97851181074153322/l=256909318/g=15410742/otsc=SYE/otsi=SALB

The final port of call was Juneau, Alaska. Juneau is currently the capitol of Alaska, although many are trying to change that. There are no roads in or out of Juneau which makes it difficult to access and an expensive place to live.



Alaska is the home of the Mendenhall Glacier (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mendenhall_Glacier). The bluest parts of the ice are the most compact.

This is Alaska’s most quickly receding glacier. As it is the main tourist attraction in Juneau, the town has begun developing attractions that may take its place. Within the mountains of Juneau, there are over 100 miles of tunnels used during the Gold Rush. They are currently developing those attractions into the future main attraction of Juneau.


You can see more of my pictures from Juneau at: http://www1.snapfish.com/share/p=12151181076105503/l=256911302/g=15410742/otsc=SYE/otsi=SALB


Juneau was also the port that held the most excitement for me. As a Travel Agent and a well seasoned cruiser, this part of the story is extremely embarrassing. But, I hope that you will find a good laugh in the following paragraphs.


As I headed back to the ship after my Mendenhall Glacier tour, I was really looking forward to a nap and some relaxation time. It was around 2:30pm when I made it back to the Tram station. I looked around for the bus that was to take me back to the ship and could not find it. I waited for about 20 minutes before I decided to just walk to the dock. I headed towards the dock, but wasn’t sure I was headed the right direction. There were 4 ships in port that day and mine was out of my line of sight. I headed back to the Tram Station to await the next bus. After waiting for nearly an hour for the bus, I gave up and decided to find a taxi to take me back to the dock. Another 20 minutes or so passed before I could find a taxi to take me. I headed towards the dock with visions of a cool cabin and warm bed in my head.


Unfortunately, those visions were shattered as we pulled up to the dock. Off in the distance, I could see the Serenade of the Seas on her way out of port. My heart stopped and I thought I might be sick. I started to panic a little at that point. I didn’t know what in the world I was going to do to fix this situation. As I recalled that moment, I felt sorry for the taxi driver. As we pulled up to the dock and saw the ship had already left, I looked at the meter and it said $6.46. I only had $8.00 in my pocket!!! At that point, I told him he probably needed to just let me out right there as I only had $8.00 and could not afford for him to take me back to town. Out of the kindness of his heart, he reached up and turned off the meter and returned me to the tram station. I’m certain I was probably mentioned at his dinner table that evening, the poor little girl who missed her ship!


As I returned to the Tram Station, I was desperately trying to find someone at Royal Caribbean who could help me with my situation. I didn’t know what the next step should be. As I was being transferred from department to department, I stumbled into the Visitor’s center. Thankfully, the lady working there overheard my conversation and offered to help me. She called the Cruise Line Agency and advised them I had missed my ship. This agency is set up to handle this type of situation, along with medical evacuations, logistical issues, and anything else the cruise line might need. The lady who helped me seemed to think they would get me back out to the ship. I started to calm down at that point and was hopeful that this would just be a minor blip in this trip. Oh how I wish that were true!


When the young man came to pick me up from the visitor’s center, I asked him what the next step was. When he told me that they were going to help me arrange for a hotel, I realized that this nightmare was only truly beginning. I have never in my life felt more like I was walking around in a dream. I kept willing myself to wake up and get out of the surreal world in which I found myself. I kept thinking I would wake up in my stateroom and all would be well. Unfortunately, this really did happen. The people at the port were extremely friendly and helpful. It was comforting to have someone pleasant to lean on as I tried to figure out the next step.


I was comforted to know I wasn’t the only person from my ship to “miss the boat”. There was another passenger named Barbara who was in the same predicament. She, however, was much farther from her home in Australia. I waited with her while she figured out how to get her luggage from the ship. I decided to just meet mine in Vancouver and avoid the hassle of toting it from airport to airport.


After I knew what was I needed to do and that I wasn’t going to be able to get to the ship, it was time to call my parents. I called and talked to my Dad. I said, “Hi Dad. I’m OK. But, I’m in Juneau, and my ship is not”. I’m not sure he believed me at first. He did calm me down and assure me that we would take care of the situation and that he would call me with my flights to Vancouver the next day. I found out later that he was cracking up about it when my mom came home. She wasn’t laughing. My youngest brother, Eddie, apparently couldn’t quit laughing either when he heard. My mom hung up on him. I’m afraid I shaved about 10 years off of her life with this little fiasco.


As if the frustration at the situation and my anger with myself weren’t enough punishment, I then had to spend the night in a Super 8 Motel in a room where the air conditioner was broken and the sheets were scratchy. As I sat there in my room, eating convenience store food, I thought of the luxury bedding and gourmet meal that was floating out to sea.
The next day I headed to Vancouver and spent another night. I washed my clothes in the bathtub and then had to iron them dry. Around 8:45am on Saturday morning, someone from the Vancouver Cruise Line Agency called and told me they had my luggage at the pier and I was to come pick it up. I arrived at the port around 9:30am to discover they did not, in fact, have my luggage. It was still aboard the ship and had not made it through customs yet. I began to get anxious as I had a 12:15pm flight and had to be checked in no later than 11:15am.

Unfortunately, I did not get my hands on my luggage until 10:45am and arrived at the airport at 11:20am. Having missed my flight (the only direct flight home), I was instructed to call Delta reservations in order to change my flight to the 1:18pm through Salt Lake City.


When I called reservations, I was advised that they could not change my flight as it was too close to departure. It was at this point that I really lost it. Until then, I had held things together pretty well. When I thought of having to spend another night away from home after everything, I began to cry hysterically. I sobbed, “You HAVE to put me on that flight. I CAN NOT spend another day here. I HAVE to go home!!” They were still checking people in for that flight, so I couldn’t understand the problem. She put me on hold for about 10 minutes and came back and told me it was not possible to confirm me on that flight because it was less than an hour before departure. It was then that I looked at my watch and realized it was only 11:30 – an hour and forty-five minutes before my flight. When I brought this to her attention, the agent realized she had been checking the wrong time zone and quickly confirmed me on my flight. Needless to say, I was more than relieved when I made it to the gate before they even began boarding the flight!

At this point, I knew I was going home. I was beginning to relax a little. I landed in the Salt Lake City airport around 4pm and settled in for the long wait for my Red-Eye 11:50pm flight. I did manage to read “The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood” from beginning to end and make it half way through Dan Brown’s “Deception Point”. So, the time wasn’t completely wasted!

When I arrived in Atlanta at 5:30am Sunday morning, I had never been so glad to be home!
Oh how I wish the story ended there. All of the drama is over, but the ribbing will continue for a lifetime I’m afraid. When my brother, Eddie, came to the office on Monday, he found one of our model cruise ships. Periodically during the day, he would come up to me and “sail away” and ask me if that’s what it looked like when the ship left. Then, he also found a model airplane and “flew” it away from me, all the while wondering if that’s what it looked like when I missed my flight. All of this was of course done between his fits of non-stop laughter at the thought of me missing the ship. Oh, I’m NEVER living this down!!!


I will now leave you with my brother’s most impressive jab at me. I hope my story brings a little smile to your face and laughter to your heart. I think the most important thing I’ve ever learned is to laugh at myself no matter what. It makes things like this a lot less painful! I hope you enjoy this fine work of art!




Saturday, March 17, 2007

Our Tabloid Society

I typically do not have a difficult time organizing my thoughts and putting them to paper. However, the topic of this blog is one that has stirred me so greatly that I’ve had trouble organizing my thoughts about it. I’m still sorting through the reasons it has affected me as deeply as it has, and writing is usually part of that journey for me.

The tragic death of Anna Nicole Smith has affected me in a way I could not have anticipated. Although aware of Ms. Smith, I never considered myself a fan. However, the media spectacle and constant conjecture surrounding her life has stirred my heart and challenged me to take a closer look at myself and the culture in which I live.

Since her sudden passing, I’ve heard many people (in the media, in conversation, in the blogosphere) say things like “What a wasted life” in regards to Anna Nicole Smith. The constant media scrutiny of the situation has also given many the opportunity to make other judgments about her life, i.e. “She married her husband only for money”, “She did too many drugs and partied too hard”, or even that she was a “hedonist”. And, while I will agree that anytime a life ends, it is sad and sometimes tragic, I wonder who we are to make the judgment that it was also a waste. In addition, I wonder who we are to make a judgment on the heart of a person. I wonder how many of these people knew Ms. Smith personally and had intimate access to the things of which they speak. Many only knew what they witnessed on her show, in the news media, or in the tabloid press. As far as I can see, we, as a general society, do not have enough genuine information to make any judgment calls on the life and times of Anna Nicole Smith. What makes us think that we do? What makes us think that we have the right to sit in judgment over the actions of strangers?

This has made me truly ponder our “tabloid society”. We find it so intriguing and exciting to catch juicy pieces of gossip from the lives of celebrities. We take sides in divorces or become obsessed with the next painful detail to emerge. How often do we truly step back and realize that celebrities are just people? Do we ever stop and recognize their pain and what it would feel like to have that pain so publicly explored? Just because we pay them to entertain us, does that give us the right to demand that they also live their lives on display? I don’t think so. My heart goes out to those who are forced to live heartbreaking experiences on the front page. How devastating it must be to have details you desperately want to keep private splashed across the grocery checkout lines for millions to see and debate.

Of all the buzz surrounding the Anna Nicole Smith tragedy, what has pained me most has been the continual comparisons made to Britney Spears. There is no doubt, from what has been seen, that Ms. Spears is in a tumultuous time in her life. Anyone who has children so close together and is also in the midst of a divorce must feel a bit overwhelmed at times. Many in the media have expressed concern over the direction her life is taking, and I have often heard it said that she could likely be the “next Anna Nicole”. How dreadful. What must that be like to hear? How unsettling it must be to have the thought of your death so freely bantered about daily in the media. If the concern were genuine, wouldn’t a large dose of privacy be in order to allow her to heal from whatever wounds she is facing? Instead, her every choice, her every mistake, is plastered all over the media for her to continually re-live.

I find that I can also get caught up in the buzz. At times I’ve had conversations with friends about “Tom and Katie” or “Brad, Angi, and Jen” as if they were people that I knew or with whom I was friends. Inevitable one of us points out the absurdity of the moment and we laugh and move on to something else. But, I find it interesting how we are drawn to the details of the lives of strangers. I can only assume it is because they seem to live lives beyond our comprehension and we want a glimpse behind that curtain. But, how is it that we forget that they are people too? How do we objectify them in such drastic measure?

I just finished reading a book by Christian artist Sandi Patty entitled “Broken on the Back Row”. In this book, she pours her heart out as she shares her journey to and through a painful divorce many years ago. In 1992, when news of her divorce hit headlines, the Christian community responded with outrage. There were rumors glibly tossed about as to the reason for the split. And, Ms. Patty’s career took an enormous hit. Yes, she had placed herself in the public eye with a specific message. She claimed the name of Christ and professed to be one of His followers, and she made a terrible mistake. The Lord has taken her down a path of grace and reconciliation. His followers, however, in many cases haven’t been so kind. Why do we withhold grace from those in public positions? We often hold them to a higher standard as they have placed their life on display in the public arena. But, especially as the Christian community, should we not have welcomed our wounded sister with open arms and helped her heal? In her book, Ms. Patty painfully outlines the process she went through with her pastor, her ex-husband’s pastor, her church elders, her church body, and all of those her actions affected. She took responsibility and humbled herself before all of those in her life. With a poignant and sweet vulnerability, she worked through a very difficult period in her life. Hers is a story of grace and redemption.

What will our story be? As a society as a whole, and specifically as the Church within this society what will history say of us? Why must someone sacrifice all that they hold dear in order to chase their dreams? It breaks my heart to see the trade off of fame and celebrity. Why isn’t it enough to allow entertainers to simply entertain us and then enjoy their life without interruption? What is this phenomenon and what does it say of our humanity? As I walk through the grocery store check-out lines, or see the latest Entertainment news on my computer screen, I will make a conscious effort to remember that real people stand behind the glossy prints. Their divorces are painful, their loves – private. And, I will try to have more respect for those who have given up so much to chase a dream and entertain us.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A bit of truth from fiction

I just finished reading the last book in a series about a family in Indiana. The story started with The Redemption Series by Karen Kingsbury and has continued in The Firstborn Series. (I hear there's a third series on the way and I can't wait to see what happens next). Anyway, this series of books follows the ups and downs of a Christian family as they learn to love each other and make it through the trials that are thrown their way. At the heart of the family are John and Elizabeth Baxter, the parents. In this story, they weather many storms together through decades of marriage. At one point in their journey, Elizabeth takes the time to write down her "Ten Secrets to a Happy Marriage". And, although this is drawn from a fictional story, I found the words to be poignant and applicable to all relationships, not just marital ones (although some of them are specific to marriage and may even raise a few eyebrows for some of you). I wanted to repost them for you here.

1. God has you here to serve on another. Love acted out is serving.

2. Women need respect and nurturing. Love your wife so she knows you'd lay your life down for her. Continue to date her and admire her. Share a hobby - find something you can do to have fun together.

3. Laugh Often

4. Be patient. Love crumbles quickly under the weight of unmet expectations

5. Spend more time trying to fix yourself than your spouse

6. Keep short accounts. The Bible says, "Do not let the sun go down while you are angry." Make it a habit to forgive

7. Determine up front that divorce is not an option

8. Learn about love languages. not all people show love or receive it the same way. You want a back rub and your spouse wants a clean kitchen. the love languages are fairly simple: acts of service, time, physical touch, gifts, and words of affirmation.

9. Words of affirmation are a love language for all men

10. Men are born to be leaders. He cannot lead unless she gives him the confidence to do so. If you love your husband, build him up. confident men do not seek love outside the home

Monday, March 05, 2007

Nope...haven't fallen off the face of the Earth...

Fallen off the face of the earth…

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged anything. It’s actually been a while since I’ve done much communicating at all. For a natural born introvert who converted to extrovertism at a young age, there often come times when I need a break from all social activity. Sometimes these periods are brief, other times they can be quite protracted. I have no idea when this one will end. I suppose the fact that I’m even thinking about sharing my most recent thoughts is a good sign that the end is near. We shall see.

During these periods of introspection, I spend a great deal of time reading and “chillin’ out” and not much time conversing and connecting. I find that I need these stretches of time to recharge myself and again be able to face my world of extroverts. However, I think these phases of mine confuse my friends. I think they begin to feel as though I have “fallen off the face of the earth”.

Thanks to Jamie for drawing me out some this weekend. It was really wonderful to spend some meaningful time in conversation with my dear friend. And, thanks again to those I saw on Saturday night…several friends who I don’t see often enough.

Maybe one day I’ll decide which I really am…introvert or extrovert. Then again, probably not. Those who know me best understand that these periods of silence are more about me and my ability to give than about my desire to spend time with them. Sometimes I just need to disengage. So, for those of you who are certain I’ve fallen off the face of the earth…I hope to resurface soon! ;-)