Trump and Nehemiah: Two Wall-Builders the World Needed

By Michelle Fitzpatrick Thomas

Originally published on American Thinker.

I was discussing politics with my karate instructor after class one evening.  I had sent him my columns about President Trump and Doug Collins, so we’ve had some talks about related matters lately.  He asked me if I’ve read Nehemiah, and I confessed that it has been a while.  He had been reading it, and he began to explain that many parts of it jumped out at him as parallels to what we are seeing played out in our nation today.  I must give credit to Master Haymore for the inspiration for this piece.

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A little background is helpful to put the book of Nehemiah into perspective.  The Jews had a series of wicked, unfaithful kings through the centuries.  God’s people often lived under the thumb of other nations because of their rebellion to God.  After the death of Josiah — one of the few good kings — there were several wicked kings, each of whom reigned for short periods of time, leading up to the fall of Jerusalem and the Israelites’ exile to Babylon, beginning in 597 B.C.

Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, burned the temple and broke down the wall of Jerusalem.  He killed many of the people of the city and took into exile those who escaped death.  God’s people lived in exile in Babylon for 70 years until Cyrus, king of Persia, was anointed by God to rebuild the temple and send God’s people back to Jerusalem.

Almost 100 years after the exile ended and some of God’s people had returned to their homeland, Nehemiah came on the scene.  He had made his way to the top ranks of the Persian empire — as cupbearer to King Artaxerxes I — so he was trusted more than most anyone to be faithful and loyal.  When Nehemiah heard that his fellow Israelites in Jerusalem were suffering in part because they had no wall and no protection, his heart was burdened for them.  The king noticed that he was troubled, so he asked Nehemiah what was wrong.  Nehemiah boldly described his dilemma.  The king granted him permission to go to Jerusalem and build the wall.  He even sent an escort with Nehemiah and wrote letters on his behalf to smooth the way and provide the assistance and materials he would need.  Within a miraculous 52 days, Nehemiah had mobilized the Jewish people, and the wall was completed.

It’s interesting that if we fast-forward to modern times, the United States has also suffered greatly because of our lack of an adequate border wall.  Our border hasn’t been secure, and thus we have been invaded by millions of foreigners, many of whom do not have the best interest of our country at heart.  Countless dangerous gangs, drug-dealers, thieves, and murderers are living their “best life” here in the U.S.  In addition, our economy is weighed down by the exorbitant costs of illegal immigration — in the Medicaid program, in our schools, in the criminal justice system, and so on.  Americans are paying a steep price — literally and figuratively.  Those on the left who long for open borders seem to turn a blind eye to these devastating effects, all in the hopes of staying in power by buying votes with “free” amenities.  One of President Trump’s campaign promises was that he was going to build a wall and secure our Southern border.  Just like Nehemiah, he mobilized the people and the resources and has begun to make good on that promise.

Additionally, in Nehemiah’s time, taxes were out of control, and the people were having difficulty even affording food for their families.  Some were taking advantage of others, and the financial conditions were dismal for God’s people.  Nehemiah righted these wrongs.  Likewise, past presidents have failed to put our country first in trade deals and in domestic matters.  High taxes and burdensome regulations forced companies to leave the U.S. and set up shop in other nations.  Many of us are still suffering the effects of the previous administration’s disastrous policies.  President Trump has done a lot to “Make America Great Again,” but there is still much to be done.  We are one administration away from tax hikes, disastrous trade agreements, gun confiscation, nationwide mask mandates, further shutdowns, socialized medicine, and the like, which will cause Americans to suffer and could even mean the end of our great republic as we know it.

Like Nehemiah, President Trump was a political outsider.  Neither man seemed to have aspirations to lead his nation, until conditions deteriorated to the point that both felt compelled to step in and help.  As is the case with President Trump, not everyone was happy about Nehemiah’s work and leadership in Jerusalem.  While Nehemiah was working so diligently to build the wall around Jerusalem, his enemies “mocked and ridiculed” him.  Tobiah, Sanballat, and Geshem taunted him and bullied him to try to make him stop.  They even accused Nehemiah of trying to become king (chapter 6:6-7).  Sound familiar?  Enemies of President Trump have spouted the same nonsense about him.  The examples seem to go on and on and on.  Nehemiah’s retort to his enemies would be just as applicable to Trump’s attackers: “Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head” (Neh. 6:8).

Just as Nehemiah’s enemies tried to defame and discredit him, the mainstream media and the elected officials on the left tirelessly attack President Trump.  Nehemiah responded about one such attacker: “He had been hired to intimidate me so that I would commit a sin by doing this, and then they would give me a bad name to discredit me” (Neh. 6:13).  How many thousands of people in this country have been hired to attack and intimidate our president?  They work overtime to give him a bad name and discredit him.  Yet he continues to fight for what’s best for this nation, day after day, with no financial compensation, because he loves America that much.  I dare say that many of us would have given up by now and left the wicked to their carry out their schemes.

Through the ages, the enemy of God’s people — Satan — hasn’t changed.  He is still recycling the same old tricks, and they are still working.  When we fail to learn lessons from history, we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes our ancestors made.  Nehemiah was courageous in the face of his enemies.  When they attacked him, he countered that “[t]he God of heaven will give us success” (Neh. 2:20).  I see many parallels between Nehemiah and President Trump.  May we take comfort in the words that Nehemiah spoke to his people regarding their enemies: “Don’t be afraid of them.  Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” (Neh. 4:14).

We are in the fight of our lives for our families and for the very future of this nation today, but unlike those who take to the streets to ravage, burn, and loot, our fight is carried out in large part on our knees and at the ballot box.  May we fight powerfully and courageously in the days ahead and encourage our friends and loved ones to do the same.  Too much is at stake for our nation and the world to sit this one out.  As Nehemiah encouraged his fellow countrymen, “[d]o not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh. 8:10).

Michelle Thomas is a Christ-follower, wife to Trevor Thomas, and homeschooling mom of four.  Her books include Lord, I Need You, Through Deep Waters, and Debt-Free Living in a Debt-Filled World.  Her website is KingdomCrossing.com, and her email is michelle@kingdomcrossing.com.

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The Resurrection: A Mother’s Perspective

By Michelle Fitzpatrick Thomas

Originally published on American Thinker.

As I was sitting on my loveseat one morning this week, sipping my coffee and eating my Trim Healthy Mama cinnamon toast, God’s Word was playing through the Bible app on my phone. Our church is going through a Bible study together this year called Wisdom 2020 (Well, not so much “together” right now, because of the crazy virus that is wreaking havoc on the nation. Hopefully, that will change very soon!), and that day’s reading included John chapters 18 and 19.

These chapters give a poignant retelling of the final hours of Jesus’s life, from the time he was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane to his burial in a nearby tomb. As I listened to the narrator’s beautiful British accent as he recounted the details of the arrest, “trial,” torture, crucifixion, death, and burial of my Lord, one sentence jumped out at me: “Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother…” (John 19:25).

maria mery sant

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I have read those words many times in my life, but this time, they made my heart sink. I put myself in Mary’s place and tried to imagine myself standing at the foot of the cross, watching my firstborn son Caleb hanging there, with nails through his hands and feet, in excruciating pain and literally dying. My Caleb is a good young man. He’s smart, kind, funny, and loving. He brings joy to my heart daily. But he isn’t perfect. We’ve certainly had our typical childhood moments with all of our children through the years—disobedience, bad attitudes, tantrums, and the like. But not Jesus. He was not only Mary’s first born son, he was her perfect child and her Lord and Savior—the sinless Son of God. Unlike the rest of us, Jesus did not deserve to be punished, for anything. What utter anguish Mary must have felt. What indescribable torture for a mother to endure.

Mary knew from the moment Jesus was conceived that he was no normal child. Yet she labored to give him birth; she nursed him at her breast; she fed and clothed him; she raised him and watched him grow into a man. As most mothers would, she loved him more than life, itself. Jesus was and always would be her baby. And she was watching him bleed and suffocate to death.

I know that many people have lost a child, and that must be the absolute worst thing that one could ever endure in this world. During the first trimester of my fourth pregnancy, our tiny baby died in my womb. With painful contractions, I delivered him at home. Even though it was early in the pregnancy and the baby was tiny, my heart broke as I held that precious little one whom I would never get to know this side of heaven. I grieved for all of the memories that we would never make, for the love that we would never be able to show our child. How I longed for things to be different. We buried our baby in a tiny box in the flower garden in our front yard. My mama heart was shattered.

While that pain of miscarriage was real and hard, I can only imagine the unbearable, heart-ripping sorrow that Mary endured while watching her grown-up baby boy hanging on the cross. People often talk about how hard it must have been for God to watch his son die for the sins of his creation, and that is true. God had to turn his back on his son when Jesus took the sins of the world on his shoulders. God could not look on Jesus for a time, which must have been horrible.

However, God knew the end of the story. He knew that Jesus would rise from the dead very soon. He knew that all would be made right. He knew that the pain was very temporary. Mary did not.

The very best part of the story came on the third day when Jesus arose from the dead and left the tomb. Oh, how Mary’s heart must have leapt for joy, knowing that her baby was back from the dead! What excitement she must have exuded as she ran around, shouting to everyone who would listen that her baby was alive! Jesus was okay!

As we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord this weekend, may we remember all of the sacrifice that was involved. May we understand the pain and torment that Jesus endured, that Mary suffered, that God withstood. It was all for us, so that we could be reconciled with our loving Father and spend eternity in his presence.

“Amazing love! How can it be, that You, My King, would die for me?!” Happy Resurrection Day!

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Welcome to Homeschooling, America!

By Michelle Fitzpatrick Thomas

Originally published on American Thinker 3/17/20.

Here in Georgia, the mass hysteria about the coronavirus has caused the governor to declare a “public health state of emergency.” He has advised public schools and daycare centers to close for two weeks in order to curb the opportunities for the virus to spread. It’s unclear which is causing more panic in the hearts of Georgia citizens — the coronavirus, the toilet paper shortage, or the fact that parents will have to be home with their children nonstop for two weeks straight. Many other states are also closing schools, so millions of our nation’s families are suddenly experiencing a little of what it’s like to homeschool.

text on shelf

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My husband and I have been homeschooling since our first child was born. That child is now a senior in high school and will graduate in May. Thanks to Georgia’s “dual enrollment” program (which, unfortunately, has just been drastically slashed by the legislature), he will graduate with an associate’s degree in computer networking, along with completing his K-12 homeschool program. Our second child will follow suit next May, graduating with an associate’s degree also. Our younger two kids will start high school and middle school in the fall, so we trust that they will have similar success in their high school years.

One of the great benefits of living debt free –- as we detail in our book, Debt-Free Living in a Debt-Filled World — has been the opportunity to homeschool our children. My last day of full-time, outside-the-home employment was the day before our first baby was born. I worked part time from home off and on for several years after we started having kids, but I’ve brought in almost no income for nearly a decade now.

The only reason we can live on a teacher’s salary and still afford to have me home full-time to educate our three teenagers and one pre-teen at this point is because, before we even had children, we started living on only my husband’s salary. We made sacrifices to build our home debt-free and we live beneath our means, buying only used cars, couponing, shopping for sales, saving up for large purchases, and so on.

And for anyone who thinks that babies and toddlers are expensive, please brace yourselves and begin saving as early as possible, because it has been a shock to the system to experience how expensive it is to raise teenagers! When our youngest turns 13 next year, we will have four teenagers in our home. As homeschoolers, we must foot the bill for curriculum, extracurricular activities, music lessons, instruments, all meals (and teenagers eat a lot), transportation, computers, and so on. There’s no such thing as “free” anything in the homeschooling world, with the exception of taxpayer-funded dual enrollment college classes here in Georgia.

The blessings of homeschooling, however, far outweigh the sacrifices and financial costs involved. One of the biggest blessings of being a homeschooling family is that our children are growing up to be close friends. Unlike siblings who spend most waking hours away from each other in public school classrooms filled with their peers, there are immeasurable benefits to spending concentrated time truly learning to live with people of different ages and with varying personalities and abilities. This presents a myriad of opportunities to learn how to work out conflicts, celebrate victories with each other, and grow in their faith together.

Another blessing of homeschooling is being able to help guide the kids’ character development because a parent is with them at all hours of the day and night and can see everything that needs to be addressed. It might be possible to mask certain issues such as dishonesty or pride or greed or slothfulness or lack of self-control when kids are away from home most of their waking hours each weekday. Being together for concentrated times allows parents to see more and address problems as they inevitably arise.

A third benefit of homeschooling is the wonderful flexibility that it affords. We can go to music lessons in the mornings, karate at noon, or orthodontist appointments right after lunch, and get our academic work done around our activities. Our oldest son started working at his first real job a few weeks ago, so he works three full days each week and does his schoolwork during the remaining days. The possibilities are endless.

So while many people might be dreading the next few weeks, I want to encourage parents to look for the blessings that are available in this opportunity. Enjoy slowing down and spending quality time with your families. So many of us are on the go constantly with various activities and events. It is likely to be a relief not to have to rush around so much for a while. Let’s savor these days of being together. Let’s play board games, watch movies together, cook fun foods, and read good books to our kids. This forced respite from the busy-ness of life just might turn out to include some of the best memories your children will recall later in life.

I hope that many families who are thrown into the atmosphere of homeschooling during the next few weeks will recognize the myriad of blessings that come with this territory. Our children are in our homes and in our care for such a brief time, in the grand scheme of things. Let’s savor every moment and give them the very best of us, pouring love and attention and wisdom and encouragement into their lives. This coronavirus scare could very well be a sweet blessing in disguise for many American families.

 

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Modesty is Beautiful; The Super Bowl Stripper Show was Just Gross

by Michelle Fitzpatrick Thomas

Controversy has been swirling the last couple of weeks about the Super Bowl half-dressed, I mean half-time, show. I didn’t watch the show live—I never do because it’s usually quite hedonistic and disgusting—but I’ve seen pictures that I wish I could wash off of my eyeballs.

I’m not sure what the NFL was thinking when they decided to feature skanky women shaking their behinds, grabbing their crotches, and dancing on a stripper pole in the half-time show of the biggest football game of the entire year. But as they say, “Sex sells,” so they were likely thinking about dollar signs as they were salivating over the “entertainment.”

american sports

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When my husband Trevor and I married 22 years ago, he was a high school teacher in his 20s, surrounded by beautiful young things who often wore less than sufficient clothing, as teenagers are prone to do. I was often jealous and insecure and didn’t know how to deal with my feelings, and unfortunately, it became a vicious cycle of mistrust and fear and arguments and tears.

Eventually something clicked in my spirit, and I knew that I couldn’t go on the way I was. My fears and insecurities were out of control. I was miserable, and I was making life difficult for my young husband.

I got some help from Christian friends at work who had been married many years longer than I and who had struggled with some of the same issues, as I now know is common for women—likely because of the airbrushed “role models” to which we compare ourselves as teens and young women. God slowly began to heal my heart and deliver me from many of my insecurities. I’m thankful that after years of choosing to trust the Lord with my husband and praying Scripture over him, I rarely struggle with fear or insecurities in that area of my life any more. However, when too much flesh is on display in public, it can still make things difficult for both of us.

I’m sure this is common knowledge, but men are visually stimulated, much more so than are women. And even if females don’t know this intellectually—or refuse to admit it—they know well that it gets the attention of males when they fail to cover their bodies adequately.

There are various standards of modesty, even within the Christian community. Some believers think that women should wear only long dresses, while others are okay with Daisy Dukes and spaghetti straps and bikinis.

As part of the declining moral fiber of our nation, modesty is sadly going by the wayside. Maybe understanding the importance of modest dress will help to strengthen our resolve to honor the Lord with our bodies and to teach our daughters to do the same.

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines modesty as “the quality of behaving and especially dressing in ways that do not attract sexual attention.” This doesn’t mean dressing like a frump or in out-of-date, unattractive clothing. It simply means covering our bodies sufficiently so as not to attract sexual attention. Modest dressers can be stylish and classy; they attract the right kinds of attention and show respect for themselves and others.

God gave clothing to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden after sin entered the picture because sin taints things. Their eyes were opened, and innocence was lost. We are to cover our bodies adequately because of sin.

When men (and teenage boys) see short shorts combined with long, tanned legs, they have a really hard time thinking godly thoughts. Add to that cleavage or skin-tight clothes that leave little to the imagination, and we’re talking about leading men—even godly men—down a slippery slope directly into sin. Jesus told us in Matthew 5:28 that “Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

I don’t know many reputable women who want the guilt on our consciences of leading men into sin. Our Heavenly Father highly values pure thoughts (“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8), and I have a strong suspicion that it displeases Him when His sons struggle with impure thoughts or worse because of females’ immodest dress.

Elisabeth Elliott once said, “The fact that I am a woman does not make me a different kind of Christian, but the fact that I am a Christian makes me a different kind of woman.” I love that. As Christians, we are to be in the world but not of it (1 John 2:15-17), so we certainly shouldn’t take our fashion cues from Hollywood harlots or our moral instructions from gyrating floozies.

My encouragement to my fellow females is let’s commit to dress like ladies. Let’s show respect for ourselves by covering our bodies, which will help our brothers in Christ to maintain godly thoughts when they are around us. And let’s dress our girls in clothing that teaches them the same. We are daughters of The King of Kings, so we should dress like the princesses that we are. I truly believe that a pure heart that manifests in modest dress pleases the Father.

And remember ladies, “Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion” (Proverbs 11:22).

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Snow!

by Michelle Fitzpatrick Thomas

In honor of the beautiful snow that blanketed part of the Southeast today, I wanted to share some thoughts. Snow is a very rare occurrence here in Georgia, so when it happens it’s a major event. We just aren’t used to it or prepared for much of it, so schools, businesses, and government buildings close when we have wintry weather. You Northerners can make fun of us all you’d like, but we would rather be safe than sorry around here.

Maybe I’m a bit odd, but I love snow. It’s possible that I wouldn’t love it if we had more of it, but to me it’s a beautiful reminder of God’s creativity and it helps us to take notice of the magnificence of His creation more than usual. We are forced to slow down when it snows. We stay home and spend time with our loved ones while the roads are dangerous. We build snowmen and drink hot chocolate. I adore it.

When the weather forecast calls for snow a day or two ahead, it’s almost like Christmas is coming. People rush out for milk and bread, in case we are stuck at home for several days, so the grocery stores and roads are often packed. The excitement in the air is palpable.

Even though I love having snow, I get antsy after being stuck at home for two or three days and by that time I’m ready for a thaw. So, it’s a good thing I live in Georgia and our winter storms are usually short lived.

I helped one of my kids do some research about snowflakes while it was snowing a few years ago. Did you know that there are over 35 distinct types of snowflakes, according to SnowCrystals.com’s “Guide to Snowflakes”? Pretty amazing stuff, right? What strikes me is that these shapes don’t happen just by chance. They aren’t simply blobs of ice stuck together; they have definite geometrical patterns and shapes. They are amazingly intricate and uniquely beautiful—just like us.

Check out the graphic below from Ken Libbrecht’s Guide to Snowflakes (Used by permission):

snowflake picture

If God takes that much care in designing each different snowflake, just think how carefully He crafts you and me. He doesn’t make mistakes.

I wonder sometimes about God’s purpose in making me. I have many, many faults; I struggle with paralyzing fears. I know that I disappoint Him sometimes, just like I disappoint my loved ones here on earth. I’m not perfect, by any means.

At those times when I’m feeling especially insignificant, I can remember the Psalmist’s prayer in Psalm 139:14, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

I love what Bob and Larry tell us at the end of each Veggie Tales episode, “God made you special, and He loves you very much.” Thank you, Lord, for snow!

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Psalm 51:7

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I Understand Why Pelosi Tore the Speech

by Michelle Fitzpatrick Thomas

white and red flag

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For some reason, my husband Trevor doesn’t care for watching presidential speeches live. He prefers to check out the commentary from the pundits after the fact. So since he had been at work all day on Tuesday and at his second job in the evening, he earned the right to control the TV programming. I enjoy hearing President Trump speak, so I sat on my loveseat watching the State of the Union address Tuesday night on my laptop. I delivered my own commentary during the address to various children or Trevor, as needed. One such example that warranted commentary and many tears was the precious part when the military family was reunited. I cried along with Amy Williams as she stood in shock at the sight of her husband, back from his fourth deployment. I absolutely love watching military family reunions, and I think it was awesome that President Trump included that in his annual address.

There were many other praiseworthy moments Tuesday night, including when Rush Limbaugh was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the introduction of the precious baby girl born at 21 weeks, the honoring of the 100-year-old Tuskegee airman, and the recognition of Kelli and Gage Hake, whose husband/father was killed in action in Iraq several years ago. It was a powerful and touching night that honored our country and highlighted many of the outstanding accomplishments of President Trump’s first three years in office.

When President Trump finished speaking and Nancy Pelosi stood up—for one of the first times that evening—and began to tear the speech in half, I started screaming to whomever would listen, “She’s tearing up his speech! I can’t believe this! She’s tearing up his speech!”

I watched in shock and horror as the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives stood behind the President of the United States at the State of the Union address, and like a toddler throwing a tantrum, ripped page after page of his speech in front of the entire world. I felt anger and disgust and embarrassment all rolled into one. How could a woman at her age and with all that she has accomplished possibly behave like a spoiled brat on national television? If anyone needed to be taken out behind the woodshed as a kid for a good, old fashioned spanking to teach her that such behavior is wrong, it was her.

As I’ve had time for my thoughts to simmer since Tuesday, I now understand Pelosi’s actions much better. I tried to put myself in her shoes, and I imagined how I would have felt having to endure sitting behind Barack Obama at any one of his State of the Union addresses. I could never stand to watch him speak for any length of time, because I disagreed so vehemently with everything that he said and stood for. If I had been required to sit behind him and behave myself during an hour-and-a-half speech on national television, it would have been pure torture.

As I mentioned recently, our church is going through a Bible study this year called Wisdom 2020. Our assigned chapter for today was Proverbs 29. In verse 11, it says, “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man [or woman] keeps himself [or herself] under control.” What I took away from that verse this morning is that it’s perfectly okay to be angry. It’s fine to disagree with a person’s politics or the way that he conducts himself, but to act on that anger in a destructive or hurtful way is what separates the wise from fools.

So while I certainly understand Nancy Pelosi’s actions in pouting through President Trump’s speech, refusing to honor our nation’s heroes by sitting still while others gave them standing ovations, and tearing his speech into pieces at the end, I believe if she had the wisdom of the Lord guiding her, she would have made better, more productive choices. But then again, if she had the wisdom of the Lord guiding her, she likely wouldn’t be in the Democrat party at all.

There’s a standard of conduct that is required and expected in order to represent this nation as a man or woman in the United States Congress. Nancy Pelosi fell far short of that standard this week. She owes the president and this nation an apology. But like insolent children who have been indulged too much and who think the world revolves around them, she probably will never humble herself enough to offer that apology. Shame on her. I pray that she will learn the wisdom of Proverbs so she can turn from her wicked and foolish ways and make better choices with the powerful platform she has been given.

The lesson I learned from Nancy Pelosi’s behavior this week was that we will all be faced with super difficult situations from time to time for the rest of our lives. We can choose to behave in ways that please the Lord or we can do things that dishonor Him. It is our “choice.” That’s a word that’s popular these days, isn’t it? It’s essential that we pray fervently, stay in The Word every day, and allow the Holy Spirit to fill us with His power constantly so that we display the Fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) in those tough situations instead of the rotten fruit of the devil.

“The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.” Proverbs 14:1

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Wisdom 2020

by Michelle Fitzpatrick Thomas

Our church is going through a study of God’s Word together in 2020 called “Wisdom: Seeing Life Clearly Through the Lens of Scripture.” Today’s reading is Proverbs chapter 17. My favorite verse in that chapter, and one that I committed to memory years ago says,

close up photo of owl

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“Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue” (v. 28).

I know….it’s weird that that’s my favorite verse of the chapter, but as an introvert, it has always been easy for me to keep silent. I guess that verse makes me feel okay about being such a quiet person. It has always been hard for me to meet new people or speak in public or be a leader.

It’s so interesting to me that an owl is often used as a symbol for wisdom, and one reason for this is because owls can see in the dark.  As we seek the Lord and His wisdom, He equips us to “see” in the darkness of this world with spiritual eyes and to be His light to those who are sick and hurting and lost.

I think what the Lord showed me specifically this morning is that there is great power in our words….for good or evil, for life or death. We desperately need His wisdom moment by moment of every day so that we use our words to build others up instead of causing harm. It’s so easy to lash out in anger or frustration with our kids or spouses, but once our words are spoken, there’s no going back. We can be forgiven for hurtful words, but we certainly don’t want to cause lasting pain to those around us.

There are numerous verses in Scripture that caution us about the words that we use. Here are a few examples:

“A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions.” (Proverbs 18:2)

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)

“Gold there is, and rubies in abundance, but lips that speak knowledge are a rare jewel.” (Proverbs 20:15)

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29)

“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praising and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.” (James 3:9-10)

Whether we talk a lot or a little, God wants us to use wise, life-giving words. I want to commit to be more careful with my words and ask God for His wisdom before I speak. Will you join me? 🙂

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RIP: A Prophet Who Predicted the Mess We’re in Now

Published on American Thinker 8/11/2019.

If you remember the late, great financial teacher Larry Burkett, your life is likely the better for it. I worked with Larry for several years in his Gainesville, Georgia headquarters of Christian Financial Concepts (and continued to work for the organization from home for many years after my children started coming along). In my mind, he ranks right up there with some of our Founding Fathers in his wisdom, love for this country, and amazing foresight in economic and political issues. He even left this world on the same patriotic day as John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Monroe—on Independence Day, 2003, at the young age of 63. His teachings, which were straight from Scripture, changed my life and bent the twig for my children and hopefully future generations.

The department in which I worked was tasked with answering constituents’ financial questions, so I had to be quite the student of Larry Burkett. In preparation for answering a certain e-mail, I had the opportunity to skim through the pages of Larry’s 1991 best seller, The Coming Economic Earthquake. The book was updated in 1994 to reflect the happenings of the Clinton era, and it’s amazing how accurate Larry was in his foresight of what was coming for our economy and for the nation, in general. He touched on many topics in the book, but some jumped out at me as especially relevant for today.

In light of the battles over the Common Core agenda that is being shoved down the nation’s collective throat, Larry said, “Check out the curriculum being taught in your local schools and see if it is anti-free-market. It would shock most Americans to realize that a great deal of the economic information being fed their children in elementary schools, high schools, and especially state universities is blatantly socialistic, if not openly communistic.”

He went on,

The only place that communism still seems to flourish is in the American classroom. It is often labeled ‘socialism’ but, in reality, it is the same doctrine that was taught in the Soviet Union prior to the communism collapse: Government is the protector of the downtrodden; capitalism is inherently evil; people deserve decent incomes, regardless of their desire to work or not; and last, the government is a better purveyor of the nation’s resources than the wage earners are.

Sound familiar? The very issues that Larry saw as major problems 25 years ago have escalated at an alarming rate.

The government takeover of health care that was attempted during the Clinton administration was delayed only a few years until Obama came into power and had the political backing to force it onto the nation. Larry had great wisdom and forethought in this matter: “Let me say that if the federal government is allowed to take control of health care, which represents approximately 14 percent of our total economy, it will be the stake in the heart of our free enterprise system. The government cannot solve our health care problems—it is the problem!”

He continued,

Only twelve cents of every government dollar spent on health care now actually reaches a patient. It is a grossly inefficient system. There are two old sayings in Washington that describe what will happen to health care as soon as the political system gains control of that area too: ‘A camel is a horse designed by a government committee,’ and ‘An elephant is a mouse designed to government specifications.’

Wow. If only we had heeded his warning, maybe we wouldn’t be facing the disastrous effects of the government hijacking of our health care system.

Regarding abortion coverage, Larry said, “I rather suspect that, if abortion is accepted as a ‘necessary benefit,’ there would be heavy pressure put on those who oppose abortion to participate or be subjected to financial penalties.” Isn’t this exactly what we’re seeing today? Ministries and faith-based companies (Hobby Lobby and James Dobson’s Family Talk are some of the most recognizable) have been forced to sue the federal government over the abortion mandate in Obamacare. Larry added,

Christians will have to take a stand on this issue, regardless of the consequences. We should have acted with one voice when the Supreme Court decided that somehow an unborn human has no rights. Once abortion is funded through a national health care plan, the number of abortions will likely escalate. God’s people must wake up to this offense now! There is no nation that will survive God’s wrath for long, if and when it decides to kill its young (and old).

When writing The Coming Economic Earthquake, Larry reported that at the current rate of growth, the national debt would swell to $8.7 trillion by the year 2004. Even Larry couldn’t anticipate the rate of reckless spending by the most liberal president in the history of our nation. I believe Larry would be utterly shocked to know that the national debt is now nearly three times his predicted 2004 level, and it is higher than the Gross Domestic Product of our entire nation.

Writing about the forecasted 2004 national debt of $8.7 trillion, Larry said,

There has never been anything approaching this level of debt funding in the history of mankind in so short a period of time, even on a percentage basis. The effects of this will be felt throughout the U.S. and ultimately the world’s economies…..Either the government will take the necessary steps to control the budget and reduce the deficits drastically, or they will resort to monetizing the debt by printing massive amounts of new currency.

We know which option our leaders chose.

Larry went on to say that,

Logic and common sense seem to play small parts in our present society….The answer [to these and all other issues] is found in God’s Word. All of these things are but symptoms. The real problem is that we have removed God from the decision-making process in America today. When any nation does this, evil will prosper. This is not the fault of the politicians; they are responding to the wishes of the most vocal groups. It is that the unprincipled people around us seem to be more committed to their agenda than the true ‘moral majority’ is to theirs.

Larry urged us to get involved in the political process and the issues of the day so that we could make a difference for the better. I would add that if we want to leave this great nation intact for our children and grandchildren, we have no choice but to hold our leaders accountable for their foolish decisions and force them to make changes that will lead us back to the founding principles that made us exceptional.

Some wise thoughts that Larry left us:

The one certainty is that God is still in control no matter what happens….However, knowing that God is in control does not remove our responsibility to do everything possible to change what is happening or to prepare ourselves for some difficult times. As Proverbs 16:9 says, ‘The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.’

We are to witness to those around us that God is sufficient in all things….God desires followers who will serve Him regardless of the costs. Adversity seems to strengthen us, whereas prosperity tends to weaken us. As the Prophet said in Proverbs 30:8-9, ‘Keep deception and lies far from me, give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is my portion, lest I be full and deny Thee and say, “Who is the Lord?” or lest I be in want and steal, and profane the name of my God.’

Larry Burkett left this earth entirely too soon. We need his wisdom now more than ever.

Posted in Christianity, Money, Patriotism, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Motherhood

A new friend just sent this quote by G.K. Chesterton to me. I hope it blesses you mamas who might be feeling insignificant today! You are exactly what your children need. You’re enough!


GK Chesterton quote

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I’m Excited to Announce….

Hello, Friends!

I apologize for my very sparse postings lately. I’ve been super busy with two new book projects. As you know, I published Through Deep Waters: Finding Healing and Hope in Devastating Grief in May.


Through Deep Waters

And….I’m very excited to announce that this week I published my first-ever devotional book for moms called Lord, I Need you!

Lord, I Need You

If you know moms who could use some encouragement, this is for them.

I hope you’ll check these out and help me spread the word. Thank you, Friends!

Blessings to you all.

Michelle

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If I Die Tonight, I’m Not Afraid

A few years ago, I began to experience dizzy spells from time to time. It would usually last an entire day, but I would generally feel better the next day. It happened about one day a month at first. I chocked it up to genetics, as my grandfather had struggled with vertigo during his lifetime, or even hormones, as they can do crazy things to us as we age. The dizzy spells began to come more frequently and more severely over time, and they became more and more debilitating.

I woke up feeling dizzy one morning a couple of years back, but I went through the motions of my day the best I could. With four kids, there’s little time to stop and focus on my own health issues. My husband works a part-time evening job, so he was working that evening when I went to lie down on the bed to try to right my spinning world and ease the accompanying nausea.

Lying down didn’t help, so I decided to get a quick shower and get ready for bed. While I was showering, I felt an overwhelming sense of nausea, and then everything went black as I fainted and crashed to the floor. When I began to regain consciousness, I could hear my kids banging on the bathroom door, asking if I was okay. I was so weak that I couldn’t speak very loudly, but I was able to ask them to find a key and come in to help me.

I don’t know how long I was out of it, but the first thought to enter my mind when I regained my senses was this, “If I die tonight, I’m not afraid because my daddy is waiting for me.” My dad had been killed in a DUI a little over a year before this. I can’t explain the peace that flooded me in that moment, knowing that whether I lived or died that night, everything was going to be just fine. I fully realize that Heaven is about much more than being with my dad again, but the Lord was sweet to give me that thought and the peace that I needed in what would otherwise have been a very scary situation.

I was lying naked in my own vomit when my precious 10-year-old daughter was able to get into the bathroom. She helped me off of the floor of the shower and into the tub to wash myself off. My husband Trevor got home while I was in the tub. I could hardly open my eyes, and every time I tried to move, I threw up more. Trevor called my sister, an RN, and she urged him to rush me to the E.R., in case I had hit my head when I fainted.

Trevor loaded me into the car. I kept a bucket with me because the nausea wouldn’t let up. When we got to the E.R., Trevor ran in to get someone to help me out of the car. They came out with a wheelchair and rolled me straight to a room. I must’ve looked frightful, because they wasted no time in starting to work on me.

Someone immediately came to my bed and took an x-ray of my chest. After that, they rolled me down the hall for a C.T. scan. They had to stop and let me vomit into my bucket before they could even get me into the machine.

When I returned to the E.R., the nurse started an I.V. with fluids and meds to ease the nausea. My mom and sister had reached the hospital by this time, and though I couldn’t keep my eyes open for long at a time, I could see that they were terrified. I heard the nurse ask my husband if my coloring looked normal. Apparently, I was a strange, pale shade of yellow.

When the I.V. fluids and meds began to kick in, my coloring improved and I began to feel like myself again. The nausea and overwhelming fatigue subsided, and I was able to sit up and talk. It was by this time the early hours of the morning, and I convinced my mom and sister to go on home for the night.

The E.R. kept me over night. They performed every test on me that I could imagine. They ran blood tests, they checked my C.T. scan for brain tumors, they did an ultrasound of my carotid arteries, they did an EKG, and so on and so on. I felt like quite the guinea pig.

The next day, the doctor came in to release me. Her diagnosis: vertigo. She referred me to a neurologist and sent me home. I was relieved and frustrated at the same time. Vertigo caused all of that trouble and expense? I dreaded to see the bills.

The neurologist referred me to a physical therapist to help me with exercises to treat the vertigo. I never made that appointment. I googled some exercises and did them myself at home. They seemed to help a little, but the dizzy spells continued until God revealed the real cause—my diet. I was eating all of the wrong things and not getting enough protein. My body was starving for good nutrition, and the symptoms were getting worse.

I completely changed the way that I eat, and the dizzy spells have stopped. I haven’t been dizzy in over a year now. I feel better than I have ever felt, and I praise the Lord for the wisdom that He gives us to fuel our bodies the right way.

Have you ever had an experience that made you really think about entering eternity? Looking back on my night in the hospital, I realize that I wasn’t truly near death. At the time, however, no one knew what was wrong with me, and the flurry of activity around me in the E.R. was certainly unnerving, especially for my family.

My favorite verse the last few years has been Romans 8:28:

romans 8 28 for blog

I wear this verse on a bracelet that my friend gave me, and I have it on a plaque above my fireplace. I cling to this verse and believe that it’s true, even when it doesn’t feel true. That’s what faith is all about—believing God instead of our circumstances.

Our circumstances can really stink sometimes. Our loved ones can be killed; we can struggle with health problems; financial disasters can devastate us; rebellious children can break our hearts; the list is as long as there are people on the earth.

But God is good, and His plans for us are good, and He will never leave us. He is trustworthy through the best of times and the darkest of times. And though I want to live on this earth long enough to raise my children and enjoy my future grandchildren, “If I die tonight, I’m not afraid.” Can you say that, friends?

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God Doesn’t Send People to Hell

I have some thoughts swirling around in my head this morning that I need to get out. I was up early with a sick child, and when I lay back down to try to sleep again, these thoughts compelled me to get up and write. I believe that someone needs to hear this today.

When I have trouble sleeping, I usually pray. I figure that if I’m awake in the middle of the night, God wants me to spend that quiet time with Him. Often, those prayers are for my loved ones who are far from Him. My heart breaks for those who are missing out on the relationship that I have with my Heavenly Father.

Many people are having difficulty reconciling a God of love with the reality of Hell. We’ve all heard this argument, or maybe you’ve used it yourself: If God is really loving, there’s no way He could send people to Hell.

God is love

I agree, and here are my thoughts about it. God truly is love. Absolutely. No doubt about it. He demonstrated that in a way that I would dare say very few of us could have done. He sent His Son to die for us. Could you do that? Could you allow your child to be brutally murdered to save people who are mean and cruel and vile and backstabbing and rude and gossipy and murderous and downright sinful?

I couldn’t. There’s no way. But God did. You know why? Because He loves us more than our human minds can even comprehend. And not only that, but He wants to hang out with us forever. And ever. And ever. That’s a super long time.

So God did the hard part. He sent His Son out of the perfection and comfort of Heaven to be tortured and die. Why? Because Jesus was the only person who ever walked the earth and didn’t do anything wrong. He never sinned. Not one of us could say that about ourselves. Even those who don’t buy into sin and Hell know that they’ve done bad things in their lives. We all have.

Because God is a just God, He can’t be with us if our hearts are rebellious and dirty. We need a sacrifice in order to be forgiven, or in other words, to bridge the gap between us and Him that is created by our sins. Jesus became that perfect sacrifice—once and for all time. He paid the price for our sins so we don’t have to.

Not only does God want us to spend eternity with Him in Heaven, but He loves us so very much that He wants our lives on this earth to go well, too. He has laid out in His Word some guidelines for how we should live. Just like we, as parents, want our children to be safe and healthy and happy, so we have rules and guidelines for how they should behave.

When we live outside of those guidelines, we experience pain and hurt and bad things. We just do. There are consequences when we disobey. Some of the guidelines that come to my mind from God’s Word are:

Be “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” [We should be patient and control our anger.] (James 1:19)

“Do not get drunk on wine.” [This is self explanatory.] (Ephesians 5:18)

“Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.” [Avoid gossip.] (2 Timothy 2:16)

“Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure.” [Sex is only for marriage (between one man and one woman).] (Hebrews 13:4)

“He who puts up security for another will surely suffer, but whoever refuses to strike hands in pledge is safe.” [Don’t co-sign loans for others.] (Proverbs 11:15)

“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.” [Avoid marrying or entering into business partnerships with people who don’t share your values and beliefs.]  (2 Corinthians 6:14)

And so on and so on.

God, as a loving Heavenly Father, gives us many guidelines in His Word for how we should live our lives—not to keep us from having fun or to put a damper on our lives, but to protect us. It’s very much like when we, as parents, see danger that our kids can’t see. We might restrict them from activities that we know are harmful, and they might think we are mean or prudish. In reality, we are protecting them because we know better than they do what is good for them.

When we stray from God’s guidelines and disobey His rules, we suffer. He doesn’t punish us; there are simply consequences when we live outside of the good guidelines that He set out for us. When we go our own way and think our ways are best, we often hurt ourselves and we hurt others.

Along those lines, God doesn’t send people to Hell. People choose Hell (a place of torment and eternal separation from God) when they reject God and His ways. Many people are “wise in their own eyes” and think they know what’s best. Instead of trusting the God who created them and provides for them and loves them, they go their own way and try to satisfy their deepest longings apart from Him. But do you know what? It’s impossible. We can’t fill the holes in our hearts with anything except God. It simply doesn’t work.

I totally get that life is hard and it downright stinks sometimes. We live in a broken, fallen world that is full of pain and heartache. Many people experienced unthinkable pain as children, and Satan has used those wounds to make you believe lies. Some of us have had horrific tragedies thrust into our lives—things that we didn’t ask for or deserve. But God doesn’t cause the pain. Instead, He made a way for us to live forever in a place where there’s no pain.

But we have to choose in this very brief life that we’re living now whether we will live with God for eternity or apart from Him where the pain will never end. He won’t force us to choose Him. And once our hearts stop, it’s too late to change our minds. There’s no do-over once we’re dead.

So if you’ve been struggling with some of these things, I urge you to “Seek the Lord while He may be found.” Run to Him with your hurts and your questions and your doubts. He adores you and longs for a relationship with you. He wants to heal you and fill you with joy and peace and contentment.

In Heaven, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.” (Revelation 21:4)

Doesn’t that sound amazing? Won’t you join me there?

 

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Don’t Hesitate

When my husband and I were planning our wedding in 1998, we struggled a little with what church we would plug into once we were married. Trevor had grown up in and was still attending a traditional Southern Baptist church. I was involved with a contemporary Vineyard church. We both loved our churches and worship styles, so we needed to find a church that would be a good compromise. We landed on a Southern Baptist church that had contemporary worship music and solid, biblical teaching. It was just what we needed. We grew there, made some life-long friends, and had opportunities to pour out, too, by leading some Bible studies about finances.

Three years into our marriage, my dad, a local Vineyard pastor, met with us and asked if we would pray about coming to lead the youth group at his church. We decided that God was leading us in that direction, so since 2000, we have been part of The Gainesville Vineyard Christian Fellowship. Once our own children started coming along, however, we passed the youth group on to others and have ministered in various other ways. Our kids have been blessed to grow up in my parents’ church, with Papa as their pastor.

Trevor and I have four children (plus one in Heaven). Our oldest is Caleb, born in 2002. He is the oldest of my parents’ 11 grandchildren. On April 19 last year, the Sunday before Caleb’s 13th birthday, my dad called Caleb in front of the church to pray a blessing over him–not only a pastor’s blessing but a grandfather’s blessing. Trevor stood with them and prayed a father’s blessing over Caleb as well.

As they were praying, I felt a prompting to capture the moment by taking this picture with my phone. I’m so glad I did.

dad-praying-over-caleb

 

Two weeks later, on May 4, my dad was killed in a hit-and-run crash by an intoxicated driver while cycling near his home. I will always treasure this picture and the memory of what Dad did for Caleb. He felt God leading him to acknowledge Caleb’s transition into manhood by praying over him. I’m so thankful that he didn’t hesitate.

We face situations every day in which we could minister to others. Maybe the grumpy cashier at the grocery store, who is obviously having a bad day (or a bad life), could use a word of encouragement. Perhaps the person behind us in the drive-thru line would appreciate our paying for his meal. Or maybe we should take a moment to write a note to (or better yet, visit) an older person who struggles with loneliness.

There are countless ways that God prompts us to reach out to those who need a touch from Him. We are the hands and feet of Jesus on this earth, so God uses us to accomplish His purposes here. Do we listen for the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit leading us as we go about our business, or are we too busy and distracted to look outward to the needs of others? When we do sense God leading us to step out, do we hesitate or do we obey?

I’m certainly guilty of hesitating or of missing the moment because I’m too inward focused at times. It takes effort to reach out to others when life is already hard and full. I wonder how many times I have missed the blessing of being used by God because I was consumed by what was going on in my own life and circumstances and didn’t obey His direction.

Here are some verses that might help us to be more intentional about ministering to others as we go about our business each day:

“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:27-28

“Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” Romans 12:11

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” James 1:22

“Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” Romans 8:14

“My command is this: love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:12-13

“A generous man will prosper. He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.” Proverbs 11:25

Let’s be intentional about obeying the promptings of the Lord without hesitation, so that we can help to bring about His Kingdom here on earth. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for Jesus to return for His Church. I believe the more we help accomplish His purposes here, the sooner He will come for us. Come, Lord Jesus!

 

P.S. I want to let you all know about my husband’s brand new book, The Miracle and Magnificence of America. If you don’t already have a copy, check it out here. I know that I’m biased, but it’s a super amazing account of God’s hand on this nation, from the very beginning to the modern age. He discusses how we have strayed from our founding principles and what we can do to turn the tide. I hope you enjoy it!

TMAMOA Cover Spread 7.27.16

 

 

 

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A Journey Through Grief, A Promise of Hope

Today marks the first anniversary of my dad’s death. It’s hard to believe that an entire year has passed already. I wanted to share with you the following poem that my sister penned this week. It will give you a glimpse into our last year. Blessings, friends.

 

A Journey Through Grief, A Promise of Hope

by Suzanne Fitzpatrick Nunnally

A beautiful Monday in the heart of spring,

Such peace in my heart, full of thanksgiving.

I told the Lord, “Life is perfect, please let it stay.”

No idea what would be changed by the end of the day.

Through random circumstances we had a clue

That something was wrong; in our hearts we knew.

And at the scene, it was confirmed to be him.

My dad was gone, and this nightmare begins.

The first few days pass by with a blur.

Friends and family surround you, give you strength to endure.

I want to wake up from this nightmare, I say.

It can’t be true, I will wake up some day.

But each day, each moment, the truth hits again,

My dad, my greatest friend, is gone to Heaven.

And so this journey with grief, it starts to take hold

The loss and the pain will lessen we’re told.

I want time to stop, but move fast just the same.

I long for a time when I can breathe again

But the farther I go, the longer it’s been

Since I saw him, hugged him, breathed him in.

The world keeps on moving, as if all is the same,

But inside I scream “Stop!” I can’t play this game.

Don’t people know that I’m not okay?

That this pain and the grief don’t just go away?

My faith starts to shake, I’m angry, it’s true.

I needed my dad, and I know God knew.

But just when my faith starts to break, I can take no more,

God gives me a hope, like never before.

God promises always to work for our good.

My mind can’t contain what He understood.

His plan is much bigger and broader than mine.

He weaves it all together from the beginning of time.

And yes, the hole in my life is great and wide,

But God promises always to be by my side.

I cried out to God, said I needed my dad.

He said, “I’m the best Dad you’ve ever had.”

So hold me, my Daddy, please don’t let go.

Walk with me through life, and I will know

That even through loss and sorrow and grief,

You love me, sustain me, secure my belief.

And even though joy is shadowed with pain.

Our loss on this Earth is Heaven’s gain.

I rejoice in the promise I’ll see him someday

When I’m fully alive in Heaven to stay.

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Dads, Write Notes to Your Children

I was a student at North Georgia College in the mid-90s. The campus was about an hour’s drive from my parents’ home.  Because my grandparents lived about half as far from school, I stayed with them during the school week, to make my commute shorter and cheaper. Then I went home on the weekends.

One day after class, I got to my car to head back to my grandparents’ and found a note from my dad, scribbled on the back of his business card and slid under my windshield wiper. He was a licensed professional counselor and was working that day in the area where my college was located.

Here’s the note:

IMG_3352

He had taken time out of his schedule that day to weave through the large college parking lots and locate my car so he could let me know that he was thinking of me and loved me.

It has been over 20 years since I found the note on my car, and I have kept it secure in the bottom drawer of my jewelry box ever since. In other words, I have treasured it.

After my dad was killed in May, I searched through boxes and containers of “stuff” that we have stored in closets and behind knee walls. I was desperate for more written notes from my dad, specifically to me, telling me that he loves me. I found a couple of cards that he wrote to my husband and me early in our marriage, thanking us for contributing to his mission trips to Peru. He also wrote the inscription on a Bible that he and my mom gave me for Christmas one year.

I’m sure there are other notes from my dad that I have yet to find, but by and large the birthday cards and inscriptions and notes and such were written by my mom. Of course I treasure those also, but like all daddy’s girls, this one craves written affirmation and encouragement and love from her daddy.

My encouragement to dads today is to be intentional about writing notes to your children. Write on their birthday cards some of the time. Scribble an “I love you” on the napkin in their lunchbox. Keep a journal for each child, and write to them in it occasionally, telling them how special they are and what you enjoy about them (this is something that my husband and I have been doing since our children were born). If your children are already grown, mail them a “Thinking of You” card and tell them how proud you are of them and how much you love them. Those little intentional acts of love might mean the world to your children one day.

I realize that these sappy kinds of things come naturally to moms and not so much to most dads.  And I know that life is busy and it’s easy to forego the little extras. But please take a few moments occasionally to write special things to your kids. Life is a vapor, and we never know if we will have tomorrow.

Thankfully, our Heavenly Daddy wrote many amazing love notes to us in His Word, and we can draw comfort and strength from them always.

Here are some of my favorites:

“The Lord your God is with you,

He is mighty to save.

He will take great delight in you,

He will quiet you with His love,

He will rejoice over you with singing.”  

(Zephaniah 3:17)

 

“I have loved you with an everlasting love.

I have drawn  you with loving-kindness.”

(Jeremiah 31:3)

 

“For God so loved the world

that He gave His one and only Son,

that whoever believes in Him 

shall not perish but have eternal life.”

(John 3:16)

Amen

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My “Crash” Course in Grief

Pun intended.

It’s been four months today since my dad was killed in a hit-and-run crash. He was cycling near his home on May 4 and was hit from behind by an intoxicated motorist (who was later apprehended). Dad was killed instantly. As I wrote a month after the crash, my dad was my rock, and our whole family is trying to pick up the pieces of our lives and figure out how to go on without him.

In the days and weeks after Dad was killed, I wondered if there would ever come a time when I didn’t think about him every waking moment of every day. My friend, whose father was killed in a mining accident years ago, assured me that the day would come when I wouldn’t dwell on his death each moment. Thankfully, she was right, and I’m at least able to function now.

These four months have been, hands down, the hardest of my entire life. I’ve cried daily for four months straight. I try to keep the tears inside until I’m alone at night…often in the shower. There the tears can flow and I can pour out my hurts and heartache to God without upsetting anyone else. Sometimes, out of the blue it hits me that Dad is really gone, and it feels like I’ve been punched in the stomach. At this point, I don’t know when the tears might stop.

I want to discuss some of the things that I’ve learned about grief in these four shorts months that I’ve been on this road….the good, the bad, and the ugly. And believe me, parts of it are ugly.  The “experts” say that there are stages of grief, such as denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I can’t point to specific stages that I’ve been through; maybe that will come in time. I just know that it hurts. And it’s messy. And I’ve run the gamut of emotions from one day to another or even from one moment to another.

As my mom and I were sitting by Dad’s fresh grave one day, an older lady stopped by the cemetery to put flowers on a grave that I assume belonged to her husband. Her less than comforting words were this, “Honey, it doesn’t ever get any easier.”

But what about “Time heals all wounds?”

and

“Tears may remain for a night, but joy comes in the morning?”

and

“A time to grieve and a time to dance.”?

Where’s the hope that this pain won’t last forever?

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler have this to say: “You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same, nor would you want to.”

Going back to our homeschool academy last month was almost torturous for me. Dad was one of our middle school teachers, and I’m the school administrator. I spent well over 600 hours with Dad at school in the past year alone. When I’m there I can almost hear his voice coming from his classroom across the hall from my office. I can almost see him walking down the hall in his slow, confident gait. I can almost smell his cologne on my children’s clothes, because they would greet him with a hug each morning at the beginning of school. Thankfully, I had the summer to work through some of the emotions, and I try to put on my “happy face” every day at school, but it’s still very difficult even to look in his classroom.

Another really stinky aspect of this has been imagining the actual crash in my mind. I know enough details from visiting the scene of the crash and from speaking with the state patrol officer and some of the witnesses to know that my dad died a terribly violent death. I know that I shouldn’t dwell on such things, but it’s very hard to keep my mind from going there. When I sink into that awful train of thought, I have to pull myself out of it quickly by thinking about other things. It’s been helpful to have my kids around, because they keep things upbeat and are a distraction when I’m tempted to sink into the mire of the tragedy.

Anger has been a prominent feeling for me over the last few months. I wouldn’t say that I’m stuck in the anger “phase” of grief, but I experience angry moments off and on, out of the blue, for no apparent reason. I’ve screamed at God for taking my dad away. I’ve screamed at the man who killed him (well, not really “at” him because I’ve never spoken to him, but in the privacy of my home). I’ve been mad at Dad for riding on a busy road. I’ve been less than patient with my children at times, because it’s been hard to keep the anger from flowing out. I’ve had little patience with senseless quarrels and the insignificant squabbles of others. It’s as if I’ve crossed over a line. I can see now what’s truly important in life, and I don’t want to spend my time and energy on trivial issues that have no eternal value.

I’ve been reading a book called Forgiving the Unforgivable. The author lost his father, grandmother, and great-grandmother to a drunk driver about 20 years ago, and he discusses the process of forgiving someone for something that caused so much pain. He says that it took him a long time (years) to come to the place where he could forgive the driver. In fact, for some time, he wanted the driver to die for what he had done.

To say that I’ve forgiven the driver who killed my dad would be true and false. When he comes to mind, I have to make a conscious choice to forgive him, over and over again. I think it’s a process that we have to go through, of releasing the perpetrator in our minds and praying for him or her until we finally feel no ill will toward the person. I do pray for the man who killed Dad–I pray for him often. I pray that he will come to know the Lord through this tragedy. If this makes any sense, I don’t want my dad’s death to be wasted; I want Dad’s life and death to lead his killer to Christ. I know without a shadow of a doubt that if Dad had been given the choice to die so that his killer would gain eternal life, he would’ve willingly given his life. (Who knows? Maybe Dad was given that choice in the instant before he was killed.) Wouldn’t that be how God operates? To use something absolutely horrific to bring about something eternally awesome?!

Our family still has a long road ahead of us. We’ve already been through one hearing with the driver, and another is scheduled for December. He hasn’t even been indicted for the crash yet, so the trial is still many months away. We will likely re-live the tragedy and loss over and over again through the legal process.

But here are some positives:

One thing that I’ve experienced since Dad’s death is a loss of fear. I’m no longer afraid of death and dying because my daddy has gone before me. It’s comforting to know that He is in heaven holding the babies that my sister and I miscarried until we get there and can hold them ourselves. He was an awesome Papa to his 11 grandkids here on earth, and he’s being an awesome Papa now to the three who are with him in heaven.

Another positive is that I’ve lost some of my shyness about talking to others concerning matters of faith. I’ve always been very reserved and almost afraid to talk to strangers, for fear of sounding dumb or coming across as odd. Since Dad’s death, I have a new boldness and a desire to share with others what’s truly important in life: a relationship with Jesus.

I often wonder if it’s harder to lose a loved one instantly and tragically as we have or slowly and painfully, from a disease. I think to myself that I would give my right arm to be able to tell my dad goodbye, to give him one last hug and tell him how very much I love him. But if I had had to watch my big, strong, wise daddy waste away from a horrible disease or injury, I don’t think I could have endured it. Even in tragedy, God is merciful and kind.

I’ve prayed for Jesus to come back for His church many, many times since May 4. I’m ready to leave this earth; I’m ready for the pain and heartache to end. I wouldn’t say that I’ve been “depressed,” but I’ve had a desire to die since my dad was killed. In fact, several in our family have expressed these feelings, including some of our small children. Of course, I’m not thinking of killing myself, but I would be very happy for God to take me from this world at any time now. My husband thinks I’m nuts and tells me that I’m being selfish and that he and our children would be devastated. That’s true, I suppose, and I wouldn’t wish that pain on them for anything….I just want to be with my daddy again, and I’m tired of hurting. I can’t imagine living 40 or 50 more years on this earth without him. I don’t see how I possibly can.

And then, there’s this: “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13.

Do you see that?

I can because He gives.

If God wants me to live 50 more years here, I have to trust that He will give me the strength. If He wants to take me Home tomorrow, I have to trust that He will give my loved ones the strength to bear it. He is enough.

My aunt sent me a devotional today that gave me peace and increased my longing to be Home. Here’s an excerpt: “Think about the comfortable feeling you have as you open your front door [after a long trip]. That’s but a hint of what we’ll feel some day on arriving at the place our Father has lovingly and personally prepared for us in heaven. We will finally–and permanently–be ‘at home’ in a way that defies description.” (Charles Stanley/In Touch Ministries)

This world is not our Home. We are merely passing through. We are aliens and strangers on this earth. But our journey here needs to mean something. We have Kingdom work to do on our way through this life, and I believe that Jesus won’t be back for His church until we’ve finished the work He has given us. Life is hard. In fact, it stinks sometimes. But God is good. He is faithful. He loves us. And He’s coming for us soon.

In the words of Matt Maher…..

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.

Because He lives, every fear is gone.

I know He holds my life, my future in His hands.

Amen.

Click here to see a glimpse of my dad's beautiful life.

Click here to see a glimpse of my dad’s beautiful life.

Check out my brand new book, Through Deep Waters: Finding Healing and Hope in Devastating Grief.

Through Deep Waters

 

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What Good Are Dads, Anyway?

I never imagined when I posted this piece last year on Father’s Day (see below) that I would be fatherless this year. Everything I wrote is still as applicable today as it was a year ago. I have to trust that my Heavenly Father will indeed be “a father to the fatherless” and “a defender of widows” for our family going forward (Psalm 68:5).

Kingdom Crossing

What Good Are Dads Anyway

In honor of Father’s Day, many of my Facebook friends have been changing their profile pictures this weekend to photos of their dads. I love to see all of the precious pictures of dads—some who are still with us and some who have gone on to heaven. There’s nothing quite like a father.

If you pay much attention to popular television shows, you have probably noticed that dads (and men, in general) are more often than not portrayed as bumbling idiots. They are shown as dumb, lazy, out of touch, and even unfaithful. I despise the message that this sends to a generation of young people who, maybe more than any other generation, desperately needs to see hard-working providers. They need to see men who stick around, in spite of the difficulties, because that’s what dads and husbands do. They need to see men who are strong and brave and who protect their…

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Even in Tragedy, God is Good

On Monday, May 4, 2015, I was enjoying a beautiful homeschool day with my four children and my nine-year-old niece. The girls had spent a couple of hours in the back yard building houses from sticks, berries, acorns, leaves, and such. Around 1:45 in the afternoon, I took pictures of their creations and shared them on my Facebook wall.

Before I closed Facebook, I saw an urgent post from one of my friends that went something like this: “Please pray!!!! I just witnessed a bicyclist hit by a truck in Braselton. The truck left the scene, and the bicyclist is unresponsive.”

My heart started pounding. You see, my dad lives in Braselton and he had in recent years taken up cycling for recreation and exercise. I immediately feared the worst.

I tried several times to call my friend who witnessed the accident, but she didn’t answer. I tried to call my dad multiple times. No answer. I called my sister, who lives close to my parents. No answer. I then called my mom at work and asked her if my dad was riding right then. He was. I told Mom about the post on Facebook and said that I would keep trying to reach my friend who had witnessed the crash. I called my husband and asked him to pray.

In the meantime, I rushed downstairs and told the kids to get in the car. I told them that someone had been hit riding their bike, and I wasn’t sure if it was Papa or not. When I was about to walk out the door, my friend called. Sobbing, I asked her if it was my dad. She told me she didn’t see his face, so she didn’t know. She tried to assure me that lots of people ride bicycles around Braselton, and Braselton is a really big place. She said that it happened on the Oakwood side of Hwy 53 in Braselton (hoping, I suppose, that he didn’t ride in that area), and I told her that my dad lives around there. She said they were doing CPR on the man. She said she had described my dad to the investigator after she listened to the message I had left her and asked him to call her if that matched the victim. He hadn’t yet called, so she thought that was good news. She then prayed with me and for me and for the bicyclist, asking God to breathe His breath of life into him.

My dad wore a GPS tracker when he rode, so I called my mom back and asked if Dad’s ride was still going. She checked it, and it had stopped–on Hwy. 53. So Mom left work immediately and rushed to find where he had stopped riding.

I had a 45-minute ride down to Braselton. While I was driving, I called my sister. Her husband went to check things out. A little while later, I called my sister back to see if Mark had found anything. While we were talking, he beeped in, so she switched to his call. When he hung up and her phone came back to my call, I heard the worst screams and sobs I could ever have imagined. I hung up immediately, knowing that my dad was dead.

My focus then was on getting the five children in my car safely to my parents’ house. I feared that I would faint on the way, so I tried to keep my emotions in check. My mind was reeling. The kids kept asking if I knew anything yet, but I told them that we just needed to get to Mimi and Papa’s house.

When we pulled into the driveway, my mom had just arrived from the scene of the crash. She opened the front door, and we held each other and sobbed. I told my kids that Papa had been killed, and we all held each other and cried for what seemed like forever. My husband came in from the crash scene, sobbing. My sister came in a few minutes later, and then her husband. We all sobbed while my mom called my two brothers to tell them the news.

A little while later, the coroner and a sheriff’s deputy came to ask some questions. They told us that they had the driver in custody. I walked out with the deputy to get my dad’s cycling shoes and sunglasses. I clung to the shoes and sobbed.

Anguish was the word of the day.

My dad was 64. In great health. With a wife of almost 46 years, 4 kids, 11 grandkids, his parents, four siblings, brothers- and sisters-in-law, countless nieces, nephews, cousins, 10 middle school students, multitudes of church friends, and on and on and on.

People started coming in that afternoon….church friends, aunts, uncles, my grandparents, cousins. It was the most surreal and unimaginably horrible day of my life.

That night, I hardly slept. I would doze and then immediately wake up, hoping desperately to be having a nightmare. I was devastated each time to realize that the nightmare was real.

The next few days, we spent a lot of time at my mom’s house, hugging, crying, talking. We had to wait until my dad was released from the GBI crime lab before we could make arrangements at the funeral home, but we began to plan his funeral. Heartwrenching doesn’t come close to describing this time.

We found out that the driver was charged with multiple counts, including DUI, first degree vehicular homicide, leaving the scene of an accident with death, open container, failure to maintain lane, failure to leave a safe distance, and improperly transferred plate.

What do we do with that? To lose my dad suddenly was bad enough, but to lose him at the hands of someone who took substances into his body and chose to get behind the wheel of a vehicle multiplies the layers of yuck in this whole situation. Someone is responsible for taking away my dad. In addition to all of the things that go along with losing a loved one, we are dealing with state patrol investigators and district attorneys and a likely trial and sentencing and on and on. I feel as if I’ve been robbed.

I’m sure that many of you have had to say “goodbye” to someone precious to you. Although I always felt sympathy for others who were grieving the loss of a loved one, I couldn’t truly understand their pain. I had never experienced anything like this before. I had lost a couple of good friends and had miscarried a baby, but that was the extent of my grieving. Nothing could have prepared me for this.

I know that I’m biased, but my dad was hands-down the best dad I could ever have hoped for. He and my mom got married when they were 18 and have been married almost 46 years. I have two brothers and a sister, and between us we have 11 children. My dad was the most amazing Papa to those 11 children. They adored him, and the feeling was mutual. It was evident to everyone who knew him. Catch a glimpse of his awesome life from this short tribute video.

My dad was my pastor. He was my counselor. He was my oldest child’s middle school teacher. He was my occasional babysitter. He was my theology “professor.” He was my go-to guy for technology questions or issues. I would call and chat with him while I was taking walks in the evenings in my neighborhood. He was my blog post proofreader. He was my biggest cheerleader. He was one of my very closest friends.

He was my rock.

We all have a huge, gaping, bleeding, festering hole in our lives now. My dad kept my sister’s kids while she worked as an RN. My older brother called him after every UGA touchdown and after all of his sons’ ballgames. My younger brother rode bicycles with him. He and my mom have had “dates” every Friday night for many years. He paid all of their bills online, took out their trash, handled house maintenance, and on and on. He came to karate tournaments and piano recitals and baseball games and basketball games and soccer games and plays and such. He was there for all of us. Always.

And now he’s not.

I know that I have just barely begun to grieve, yet I’ve shed a million tears. There will likely be many emotions and many, many tears yet to come. But as strange as it sounds, I want to tell you that God is good, in spite of and even in the midst of this tragedy. He has already shown His goodness and mercy in many ways since my dad’s death, that He’s in control and He will take care of us. Here are a few examples:

1. A few days after my dad was killed, I called the witnesses who were listed on the crash report. I wanted to thank them personally for how they helped my dad and the role they played in assisting the authorities with apprehending the driver who killed him. After talking with one witness and hearing his story, I learned that he was a pastor. Another witness, who administered CPR to my dad, was such a sweet Christian young man. He was with my dad when he left this world and entered the presence of Jesus. I mentioned above that one of my friends, a precious sister in the Lord, witnessed the crash as well.  I’ll always be thankful that my dad was surrounded by fellow believers when he took his last breath here on earth.

2. I mentioned that my dad taught at our homeschool academy, so we would need to find someone to replace him, and soon. I knew that we could find someone to teach, but I was so sad that the middle school kids would be missing out on the pastor’s heart that Dad brought to his students. Do you know who God sent, almost immediately after Dad’s death? Two people: A pastor friend to teach our Bible classes and Dad’s brother….another “Mr. Fitz” (a long-time middle school teacher and then elementary school principal), to teach math and science. Even in this incredible tragedy, God showed us his faithfulness and goodness.

3. Dad’s funeral was a beautiful celebration of not only my dad’s life but of the goodness and mercy of God. We have heard multiple stories of people who were touched and changed by being in the service that day.

4.  God is opening doors for our family to tell others about Him through this tragedy. We’ve been making many calls to cancel services or subscriptions or to get help with billing questions as my mom tries to work through all of the legal and business issues she is left with. Over and over again, as we explain what has happened, we are able to share that God is with us and is taking care of us. He will not let this tragedy go to waste. He will use it to further His purposes and to touch lives for His Kingdom.

So even now as my heart is shattered into pieces, I choose to trust in my “Abba Father,” my Heavenly Daddy, to fill the holes and to carry me through this life. Although right now it seems like forever until I will see my Dad again, I know that in God’s timing it’s only the blink of an eye and we will be reunited.

I’ve always been afraid of dying and leaving this world. It’s natural to fear the unknown. But I’m no longer afraid, because I know that my Dad is there waiting for me. I’m eager to join him there, to worship my Awesome God for ever and ever.

This pain and heartache was not in God’s plan for us. Because of sin, we live in a broken world and we all suffer. But soon God will send Jesus for us, the church, His Bride, and we will be with Him for eternity. Everything will be made right.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

As I’ve never prayed before, I say, “Come, Lord Jesus!”

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My precious Mom and Dad. (Click this picture to watch his tribute video, produced by my sister’s husband Mark.)

See Dad’s obituary here.

See the news article here.

Check out my brand new book, Through Deep Waters: Finding Healing and Hope in Devastating Grief:

Through Deep Waters

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Please Pray for My Family

My dad was hit and killed this week while bicycling near his home. My husband wrote the following beautiful tribute to my dad’s beautiful life.

A Legacy of Love

 In the How to Manage Your Money Bible study by the late Larry Burkett, while discussing wealth and stewardship, Larry noted that, once we leave this world, what we will be in eternity is decided forever. And the only things that will matter are the things we did in the name of Jesus. So often in his sermons, teachings, counseling sessions, or simply everyday conversations, my beloved father-in-law, David Fitzpatrick, would urge us to say the things that Jesus said, and do the things that Jesus did. Jesus was his standard–always.

David didn’t simply tell others to do and say such things, he modeled this behavior with his own life. Whether giving away grocery bags full of items that couldn’t be purchased with food stamps (soaps, toilet paper, toothpaste, and the like) at one of the Gainesville area housing projects (a service he performed for well over a decade), preparing and delivering sermons, counseling young couples looking to marry, helping to plant churches in South America, supporting Choices Pregnancy Care Center, offering prayer to strangers in public places, being overly generous to those who waited his table in restaurants, keeping his grandchildren while their parents worked or ran errands, pouring life and truth into the middle school students that he taught, and on, and on, and on, David was very busy being the hands and feet of Jesus.

“Papa” with 3 of his 4 children (along with their spouses) and 10 of his 11 grandchildren this past Christmas.

As a result of such a walk, David’s life was rich and full of joy. I almost never saw him angry. (Something with which I sometimes struggle. Thus, I will continue to look to his life as a reminder of how I can do better as a husband and father.) He was certainly one of the kindest and most generous men that I’ve ever met. (I’m nearly 46 years old–and I’ve been married to his oldest daughter Michelle for over 17 years now–and he still insisted on getting me a birthday present every year, while also taking my whole family out to dinner on each of our birthdays!)

David and Margie went to their grandchildren’s birthday parties, baseball games, karate tournaments (he and Margie traveled to Ellijay this past weekend to watch Caleb, Jesse, and Caroline compete in karate), piano recitals, horse shows, and the like. However, after his relationship with his creator and Savior, David was most devoted to his wife Margie. This devotion was clear to all of us who knew him best. This is perhaps his greatest witness.

With such devotion, David has made an eternal impact on his children and grandchildren that we will remember for the rest of our lives. I’ve often said that, after our relationship with our Creator, the most important relationship in the universe is that between a husband and wife. David’s love for Margie was as precious and proper as any marriage I’ve ever known. (As an aside: Leading up to the legal arguments on marriage made before the U.S. Supreme Court, and answering Ted Cruz’s challenge to preach and teach on marriage, the last two Sundays in April of this year, David’s sermons were on God’s plan for marriage. He spoke the truth well.)

Additionally, David LOVED to “get lost” in musical worship. He craved it. It was a point of emphasis while he was a pastor on this earth. However, he knew well that a life of worship went far beyond the songs we sing on Sunday morning.

This life of worship would certainly extend to showing love and forgiveness to the man that struck and killed David as he rode his bike near Braselton. This man must answer to the law, but in no way would David have us wallow in hate or anger in this tragedy. In fact, David would have us pray that God would reach down into Mr. Bowers’ life and bring hope and healing.

Thank you, Papa, for a life full of love. I, and many others have reaped much, and will continue to do so, from all of the love that you’ve sown. This is only goodbye for now. All who know Jesus will see you again. Come quickly, Lord Jesus!!!

Copyright 2015, Trevor Grant Thomas At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason. www.trevorgrantthomas.com Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World tthomas@trevorgrantthomas.com

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My Romantic Valentine’s Day

hearts

Do you have romantic plans with your sweetheart for Valentine’s Day? A special dinner out, perhaps, or did he surprise you with flowers and chocolate?

I remember when I was in high school, “the thing” was for the girls to receive flowers or balloons at school on Valentine’s Day. I recall dropping some not-so-subtle hints to my parents about it, and they were very kind to bless me with a special vase or balloon. You see, I didn’t want to be the one who went home empty handed (although I’m sure there were many who actually did so). Even though I knew that people loved me, I had a desire for others to see that someone went to the expense and trouble of sending me a token of love on Valentine’s Day.

This is now my 17th Valentine’s Day married to Trevor, and we decided long ago that we wouldn’t make a big deal of this day…..mostly because we’re so frugal (aka cheap) that we can’t stomach paying full price for flowers and cards and candy. To us, it’s seems like an occasion manufactured by card and candy companies to increase their sales. We know that we love each other, and we don’t need to be pressured into buying things on February 14 to show it….we should show it all the time.

But that doesn’t keep us from taking advantage of clearance candy deals after Valentine’s Day. 🙂

With all of that said, I want to tell you how my husband is being romantic and showing me true love on this Valentine’s Day. I’ve written before about how tight our budget is lately. Some of it is just life….things break; people get sick; the economy fluctuates. Some of it is our choice: we’re making sacrifices and scrimping so that we can afford the kids’ homeschool academy, karate classes, and piano program. For us, it’s worth the belt-tightening because we feel that we are doing what’s best for our children.

Trevor is a hard worker and a wonderful provider for our family. He’s a public school teacher, so his income depends a lot on whether the economy is robust or poor in a certain year, and unlike the corporate world, there’s little opportunity for economic advancement.

Lately Trevor has accepted some outside tutoring requests, for which I’m very thankful. And he was given the opportunity to work the gate at a basketball tournament this weekend to earn some extra income. So this morning, on Valentine’s Day, he left to tutor for a couple of hours, and he will then work until 10:00 or so tonight at the basketball tournament. I’ll hardly see him today.

It’s not fun being away from my soul mate all day on Valentine’s Day (not to mention having the kids by myself all day), but in my opinion he is doing the most romantic thing he could do for me….bringing home some extra “bacon.” And for this vegetarian, that’s a pretty yummy thing!

So, Happy Valentine’s Day, Trevor, and thank you for working so hard to care for our family!

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a)

 

 

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16 (Now 17) Years

On the day I graduated from high school, in June 1992, I remember looking out of my bedroom window and thinking to myself, “This is it. The next thing I know, I’ll be graduating from college, then getting married, raising kids, and before I know it my life will be over.” Deep thoughts for an 18-year-old, huh? But in that moment, the brevity of life really weighed on me. I realized that “life is but a vapor,” and time really does fly.

A couple of years after I graduated from college, I met my Knight in Shining Armor. I was 23 and Trevor was 27, and we were fixed up by mutual friends. We both were sick of dating the wrong people, and we both knew right off the bat that God had brought us together. We had a brief, whirlwind courtship and married exactly seven months after we met— 16 17 years ago today. (For more juicy details, check out my book.)

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I would be lying if I told you that we rode off into the sunset and have lived happily ever after. Our first two years of married life were anything but bliss, and the next several weren’t exactly anything for the books, either (Among other things, we were digging our way out of debt and building a home ourselves. Then we added four children in rapid succession.). Our families of origin would be quick to tell you that Trevor and I are both very strong willed and opinionated, which isn’t the greatest combination sometimes, and we tend to butt heads. A lot.

The good news is that we have worked through a lot of the kinks in our relationship, and the last few years have been much better, for the most part. Of course, all marriages have “issues,” but we have matured, mellowed, and meshed through the years. We’ve learned that we each have strengths and weaknesses, and God intends for the strengths of one of us to compensate for the weaknesses of the other, and vice versa. We still butt heads and probably always will (“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17), but I like to think that the conflicts help to mold and shape us more into the image of Christ than if we were doing life on our own. God has a purpose for everything, even conflict.

Trevor and I now share many goals, such as raising godly children, making a real difference in the political arena, and doing all we can to encourage and strengthen the Body of Christ.

We are learning to use the strong wills that God gave us to fight against the schemes of the devil, instead of each other. Well, most of the time. And here’s an interesting thing about our strong wills—maybe the most important thing: when we said “I do” 16 17 years ago, we meant it. And we’re stubborn enough to make our marriage work, no matter what. We’re sticking together through thick and thin, or “for better or worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part.”

I have to say that the Lord knew what He was doing when He gave Trevor to me. As much as I’d like to send him to the dog house sometimes, I don’t know where I would be without him. I’m thankful that he works hard to provide for our family so I can be home to raise and educate our children. I’m grateful that he stands up publicly for The Truth, knowing that he will be criticized and attacked at times. And I’m humbled that he still loves me, even after 16 17 years of seeing my faults and experiencing my failures. He’s committed to the Lord, and he’s committed to me, to us.

Trevor tells me that I’m spoiled, and maybe I am. But he is, too. And that’s okay, right? I’d like for us to take the next 16 17 years and figure out how to spoil each other even more.

Here’s a poem that my precious sister wrote for my wedding day. It still brings tears to my eyes…..

wedding poemWe’re in it for the long haul, and that’s a really good thing. Happy Anniversary, Sweetie. 🙂

IMG_8095

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Happy New Year 2015!

Happy New Year!

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Have Your Way With Me

kids fighting

Hello again. First I must apologize for my extended absence from the blogging world. I really don’t have a good excuse. I have started working outside the home for the first time in over 12 years, so that has been an adjustment. I also have been taking time to read more (Stay tuned for book reviews!), which I haven’t done in many years, either. I’m enjoying both, but my poor blog has been quite neglected.

As many of you know, my four children attend a local homeschool academy on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays each week, and I teach them at home on Mondays and Fridays. They love their homeschool academy. They have wonderful friends, amazing teachers, and a precious Christian environment where they can learn and grow.

My children behave extremely well at their homeschool academy. They almost never get into any trouble there. They are respectful, kind, obedient, and diligent, for which I’m very thankful.

On school at home days, my children leave their bodies and monsters take over.

You think I’m kidding, don’t you? My sweet little angels couldn’t possibly behave poorly, could they?

I won’t terrify you with details, but suffice it to say that it seems as though they bottle up all of their badness during the week and then release it all on Mondays and Fridays, just for me.

Last Friday was a particularly bad school at home day. Maybe it’s because Christmas is just around the corner, and everyone is “over” school. I don’t know for sure, but I found myself locked in my bathroom, wondering what in the world I’m doing wrong to cause such madness.

I’ve been pretty discouraged lately about this parenting thing. It seems that instead of getting better, some of the issues with my kids are going in the opposite direction. Sometimes I lose my temper with them, which makes things even worse. I couldn’t agree more with the title of James Dobson’s book, Parenting Isn’t for Cowards. A coward is exactly what I feel like sometimes in this parenting journey. It’s hard and I fail a lot and at times I feel like giving up. I won’t give up, of course, but in my flesh I often feel weak and defeated and overwhelmed.

I was listening to worship music this evening while I was dipping peanut butter balls in chocolate. The house was quiet. My husband was gone with the younger three kids, and my oldest was reading on the couch. As one of the songs played, I feel that God spoke to me. He seems to reach me often through music, when I get quiet enough to listen.

If you’re struggling with any part of your Christian walk, see if these lyrics might touch you, too. It’s called “Have Your Way ” from the Sweetly Broken album by Vineyard Music:

In my own strength I’ve tried

to live a holy life, struggling till the end.

Then you find me on my knees,

praying “God forgive me please.”

And “I’ll try again.”

So when will victory be mine?

I’m running out of faith and time.

To live on a mountaintop, it takes more than a will to climb.

So have Your way with me.

Let Your strength be what flows from me,

and let the blood that ran down Calvary run through me.

Oh, Lord, have Your way with me.

 

It seems like self never dies.

The harder I try, it comes back for more.

There are times I lose this fight

before the battle has begun.

And Your blessings must wait once more.

So when will victory be mine?

I’m running out of faith and time.

To live on a mountaintop, it takes more than a will to climb.

So have Your way with me.

Let Your strength be what flows from me,

and let the blood that ran down Calvary run through me.

Oh, Lord, have Your way with me.

 

Though this flesh is what covers me,

Holy Spirit take control of me.

When I want to give in,

don’t give up on me.

Cause where grace abounds, there I want to be.

So, have Your way with me.

Let Your strength be what flows from me,

and let the blood that you shed for me run through me.

Oh, Lord, have Your way with me.

Yes, Lord. Have your way with me. You gave me these four children to raise, so give me the strength and the wisdom to parent them as You direct. Give me patience and let your grace flow through me into their lives day by day by day, for the days are short that they will be in my care. Amen.

As we celebrate the birth of Christ this week, may we focus on our walk with the Lord and all that He means to us. May His joy fill us to overflowing, so that our problems and struggles fade away. That’s my prayer for your family and mine. Merry Christmas to you all!

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Gray Hair and Pimples

gray hair and pimples

I was talking to one of my dear friends recently, and we were lamenting the fact that, in our forties, we still deal with occasional face break-outs. It seems to be worse when stress levels are high or hormones are wonky, but nonetheless it’s frustrating still to have zits at my age. As my friend so hilariously put it, our bodies need to make up their minds whether we’re young or old. It’s not okay to have gray hair and pimples!

Sometimes it’s hard to wrap my mind around the fact that I’m already 40 years old. When I was growing up, I thought that 40 was “old as dirt,” which, when you think about it, is really “middle aged,” considering that the life expectancy for females in the U.S. is around 81. Thankfully, I don’t feel old as dirt, and I pray that I have many more years to enjoy my kids and future grandkids.

Do you ever forget that you’re a grown up? I do for brief moments sometimes. Maybe that’s weird, but occasionally I think of myself as a teen or young adult, and then suddenly it’s like I’ve somehow time-traveled into the future. I remember that I’m 40 years old and responsible for four little people, and I’m shocked back to reality. I guess time really does fly when you’re having fun. 🙂 But those moments also reinforce how very brief our lives on this earth are. We are here for just a blip in time, and then we’re gone.

This makes me think of our place in God’s Kingdom. I’ve heard it described often as “The Already But Not Yet.” We are already a part of God’s Kingdom, but because we are held captive in these earthly, decaying bodies in this sinful, broken world we can’t yet completely experience all that the Kingdom entails.

Here’s an explanation of Kingdom Theology from Wikipedia: “Kingdom theology distinguishes between the world some believe to be ruled by Satan, the one we live in, and the world ruled by God, his kingdom. Kingdom theology holds the importance of the kingdom of God as a core value and teaches that the kingdom currently exists in the world, but not yet in its fullness. The theology maintains that the kingdom of God will come in fullness with Christ’s second coming. In the future fulfillment, evil and Satan will be destroyed and God’s complete rule on Earth established. Theologian and director of the Vineyard Bible Institute, Derek Morphew argued that the kingdom of God encompassed both signs and wonders and social justice. Although kingdom theology presents history as a struggle between God and Satan, there is an eschatological expectation that God will triumph over Satan, which is why suffering for the sake of the kingdom is accepted.”

I realize that’s pretty heavy, but we can basically boil it down to this: We have full citizenship in God’s Kingdom now. We can experience His power, see His signs and wonders (YES!), and hear His still, small voice at times, but when Christ returns for us, we will be transferred into the fullness of God’s glory and dominion. We will be made perfect. We will be completely healed. We will worship at God’s throne. We will see His face. We will be reunited with our loved ones who have gone before us. Oh, what a glorious day awaits us!

So, if you’re like me and you’re still dealing with pimples while suffering with changing hair color, take heart. Soon and very soon we will shed these perishable bodies and exchange them for glorious, perfect ones. Everything will be clear. Everything will be made right. No more sickness. No more tears. No more pain or heartache.

Come, Lord Jesus, come!

 

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Marriage Commitment Challenge

 wedding

This is a guest post from my husband Trevor. Please read the following prayerfully and ask the Lord how He wants you to respond. Blessings, friends!

Marriage Commitment Challenge
by Trevor Thomas
September 14, 2014
 

In light of the viral “Ice Bucket Challenge” that has significantly raised both awareness and money in the battle against the terrible disease of ALS, I recently had an idea for a different type of “challenge.” This is a challenge to stand up for the truth—to be seen and heard in the fight against another, much more devastating plague on our culture.

For years now, I and many others have detailed the tragic effects of the breakdown of the traditional (biblical) family unit in our culture (see my archive of columns/articles on my “Marriage/Family/Sexuality” page; also search my site for “marriage and family” and the like). In addition to the devastating effects for children brought up in a home without a loving and married mother and father, as has often been chronicled, the breakdown of the family is linked to an increase in poverty, violence, crime, and a host of other social ills.

Divorce, out-of-wedlock births, promiscuity of every kind imaginable, prostitution, pornography, sexual exploitation of children, sex-trafficking, homosexuality, same-sex marriage—each of these once considered grossly immoral (“sin”) by most Americans—with some considered so gross as not even to warrant a discussion—are now not only considered acceptable in many circles, but some are even celebrated.

This is especially true of homosexuality. The federal government, the federal courts, state governments and state courts all across the U.S., school systems, corporations, Hollywood, the news media, the sports industries and media—virtually every realm of our culture has capitulated by some measure to the homosexual agenda.

Such acceptance and celebration has infected not only our secular culture, but the church as well. For the last decade we have watched as denomination after denomination, congregation after congregation, in the name of the fallacy that is today’s “tolerance,” compromise long-held biblical truths on marriage and sexuality.

Additionally, the movement to redefine marriage, which is being rabidly debated throughout the U.S., is not only seeking to shatter the foundation upon which all of our social institutions rest, it is seeking to legitimize—using, among other things, the full power of our legal system— homosexuality and all of its perverse variations, including transgenderism.

Bakers, florists, photographers, wedding hosts, and the like have suffered under our legal system due to their Christian views on marriage and homosexuality. This will certainly continue. As I noted a few months ago, and as Al Mohler recently pointed out, “We are in the midst of a massive revolution in morality.” Mohler adds that, “sexual morality is at the center of this revolution.” He refers directly to a “crossroads” and alludes to an unavoidable showdown that is looming within the evangelical church. However, I believe this is the case for our nation in general.

Given all of this, and as I mentioned at the beginning of this piece, the success of the “Ice Bucket Challenge,” I think it’s time for all who are concerned about where our nation is headed with marriage and sexuality to embrace a different type of challenge. This one involves no financial donation but could cost you plenty; there’s no ice-cold water involved, but it could be much more “chilling” for some. However, if this catches on and turns hearts and minds toward the truth, it will all be worth it.

What I propose is the following: Married couples—husbands and wives that is—as well as interested singles, would video a short (less than 1 minute) commitment statement on marriage and sexuality and post it online—Facebook, YouTube, etc.—for all the world to see. The statements I created (one for marrieds; one for singles) are below. You could use one of mine or create your own. It needs to be brief, so that people can view it quickly, but it needs to communicate clearly the truth on marriage and sexuality.

I propose that husbands and wives alternate reading sections, but do so in a manner that demonstrates unity: the type of unity that a Christian marriage is supposed to have. In other words, two are reading it as one. (My personal preference would be alternating the reading instead of reading it together, but others may reach a different conclusion.) Also, large groups such as Sunday school classes, church small groups, or even whole congregations could make the commitment together. Husbands and wives could make the commitment with their children present.

I especially challenge Christian leaders—pastors, elders, deacons, ministry heads, leaders of Christian colleges and universities, and the like—to make the marriage commitment and do so boldly. I also especially challenge Christians in high-profile parts of our culture—TV celebrities, movie celebrities, sports celebrities, news media celebrities, and the like—to make the marriage commitment.

However, the vast majority of us who make this marriage commitment will be those with a much smaller circle of influence. It will be this group that will convince most people that this commitment is the right thing to do. In other words, it will be the every-day Americans that will point the vast majority to the truth on marriage and sex.

As you challenge others to this commitment, I recommend that you do so in private. Some may not respond well to a public challenge on an issue such as this.

Yes, many of us who are in a Christian marriage have already said our vows before God and a crowd of witnesses. Yet, these drastic times call for more. The voices of deception are many. They need to be countered.

I’m under no illusions that the few words in these marriage commitments will, by themselves, elicit real change in our nation. Neither am I seeking merely a political solution. By and large, our politics are only a reflection of our culture. Real change will come as people live out the commitment and God uses His truth to bring repentance.

In other words, change will come when those deceived and those seeking the truth see millions of loving, committed, and fruitful marriages lived out before their eyes and God reveals to their hearts that this is the way that marriage was meant to be. Nevertheless, given where we are with marriage and sexuality in our nation, we need a large wake-up call and I believe that this “marriage commitment challenge” could be that call.

Dr. Mohler is right: sooner or later we’re all going to have to decide where we stand in these matters. We may as well start now. Is this “corny”? Perhaps, but certainly no more so than dumping a bucket of ice water on your head to help cure a disease—and look what that has accomplished.

Below are the commitments that I’ve written. Each one has been examined, and edited where necessary, by pastors and those involved in family ministry.

Married Couples:

As husband and wife we commit, before God and all who witness this, to remain faithful in all that the Bible reveals on the holy covenant of marriage.

Namely, we commit to remain faithful to one another and keep our marriage bed pure; and we commit to remain married until our earthly union is dissolved by death. Furthermore, as a union of one man and one woman, we commit to allow God to use our union as He sees fit to build His Kingdom.

Last, we commit to model and to teach others the truth on marriage and sexuality. Namely, that marriage is the union of one man and one woman for life and that the only rightful place for sex is within marriage.

Singles:

I commit, before God and all who witness this, to remain faithful to all that the Bible reveals on the holy covenant of marriage.

Namely, I commit to keep myself sexually pure while unmarried and model and teach this behavior to those in my circle of influence. Furthermore, I commit to allow God to use me as a single person as He sees fit to build His Kingdom.

If I am ever married, I commit to remain faithful to my spouse, keep our marriage bed pure, and remain married until our earthly union is dissolved by death.

Last, whether married or single, I commit to model and to teach others the truth on marriage and sexuality. Namely, that marriage is the union of one man and one woman for life and that the only rightful place for sex is within marriage.

See our marriage commitment here:

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“Are They All Yours?”

children

It happened again….

I took my kids to Taco Bell for a treat after school one day this week. Taco Bell has “Happier Hour” every afternoon, and the kids enjoy the frozen drinks. That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking with it (Don’t judge me. I love Taco Bell.). My four children actually all behaved the entire time we were there. Shocker, I know. So, I was refilling my drink before we left the restaurant, and the man behind me commented on the kids. He was a guy around my age, so I was surprised when out jumped “The Question:” He said, “Are they all yours?” (I usually get the question from older people….I guess they take more time to notice.)

“They are,” I replied. “They keep me busy!” (Maybe I looked overwhelmed, or something?)

He went on to tell me about his two girls and how much fun they are. I remarked that they grow up too fast. It was a pleasant conversation, and then we left.

I try not to take all of the kids out to stores and such by myself unless I absolutely have to, because sometimes those trips are less than pleasant and sometimes I end up stressed to the gills. Maybe that’s why I get the question so often from complete strangers: “Are they all yours?” I hear that question more often than you would believe. And the next comment usually is, “You have your hands full!”

Okay, maybe I’m crazy, but four kids isn’t really an outrageous number, is it? I mean, it’s not like twenty-four or anything. My grandfather is the youngest of 13. I realize he was raised in a different time, but during his 84 years of life we seem to have gone from celebrating large families to looking down on them.

Hopefully most people are just trying to make conversation when they ask if all the kids are mine. I have to say that it comes across as kind of rude or judgmental, though. I almost feel like I need to apologize for reproducing so many times or explain that we really can provide for them ourselves.

I’m not quick enough on my feet, and I’m not one to be sassy or confrontational to strangers, but sometimes I wish I had some really great come-backs ready when people ask “the question.” Things like:

  • “No, I picked up a couple of extras on the way here.”
  • Or “They are, and the other seven are in the car.”
  • Or “These are just the ones from my first marriage.”
  • Or “Oh, yes. I’m producing workers to help reduce the Social Security deficit.” (I got this one from my friend, who also hears “the question” a lot.
  • Or “Absolutely! Four future conservative voters.”

Okay, well, maybe those aren’t the greatest responses in the world. But something like that would probably be better than the apologetic look and sheepish response that I usually give. I think I need to be more enthusiastic when I claim all of my children in public. What are they, if not an incredible blessing, straight from the Father?

Our society has seen a drastic shift from one that values life to one that thinks of children as a burden—something to delay until one’s career has taken off. Or not to have at all. We have Roe v. Wade to thank, in large part, for devaluing life, which has led to decreasing birth rates, increasing child abuse rates, some serious financial problems for the nation, and so on. Sure, we don’t “need” large families anymore to work on the farms and such, and modern medicine makes it easier than ever to prevent pregnancy. But I believe that we, as a nation, need to re-focus our priorities, return to an emphasis on family life, and celebrate the gift that children are to this world.

Consider a few things that the Lord says about children and family:

  • “Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.” (Psalm 127:3-5a)
  • But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Luke 18:16)
  • “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.'” (Genesis 1:28a)
  • “Has not the Lord made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth.” (Malachi 2:15)
  • “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 113:13-16)
  • “All your sons will be taught by the Lord, and great will be your children’s peace.” (Isaiah 54:13)

There are many more.

My heart goes out to people who desperately want children but are unable to have them. I want to be sensitive to those families, too, and not imply that children have to be present in order for a family to be complete. God is sovereign and His ways are higher than our ways.

But instead of giving large families weird looks or making unkind comments, let’s commit to celebrate when we encounter them. After all, without children, the world’s population would die off and cease to be. Some countries are headed that way if things don’t change. I’m glad to be doing my part to re-populate the world and hopefully make it a better place in the long run.

Bottom line: Children are a blessing, even when they’re misbehaving in the grocery store. 🙂

 

 

 

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Don’t Worry; God’s Got This

don't worry

My name is Michelle, and I’m a worrier.

There are all sorts of groups for people who have problems. Maybe someone needs to start a Worry-Warts Anonymous group. Maybe I’ll start one. Any takers?

Some personalities lend themselves to a more carefree lifestyle; others—like mine—are more intense and tend to promote worrying. If I could’ve chosen my personality at birth, I think I would’ve opted for the easygoing, mellow, relaxed one. But alas, the choice wasn’t mine.

So, here I am. The worrier.

What kinds of things do I worry about? The list is long, I’m afraid. Here are a few examples of thoughts that run through my mind these days….

  • Noah is coming down with a cold. Oh, no. Now everyone will get it, and we’ll all be miserable for a week.
  • The refrigerator died. We weren’t expecting such a big expense right now. How are we going to afford to replace the car if it dies soon, too?
  • I can’t believe I said that in front of so-and-so. What is she going to think of me?
  • What if the kids misbehave at their friends’ house? I’ll be so embarrassed.
  • With the history of Alzheimer’s in my mom’s family, will she be okay?
  • Will this blog post offend anyone?
  • My kids seem to argue constantly. Will they be close as adults?
  • What if my kids rebel as teens/young adults?
  • My husband just looked at that woman. Does he think she’s prettier than me?
  • Will my kids marry the people God has chosen for them?
  • I really hope my kids’ spouses will like me.
  • With the direction this country is heading, what kind of place will it be for my kids and grandkids?

The things I worry about these days are different from the ones that burdened me in years past. Here are some that I can remember….

  • What if I never find my soul-mate?
  • Can we afford to build a house?
  • What if the baby is born with something wrong?
  • Will my baby EVER sleep through the night?
  • What if my child throws a tantrum in public?
  • My child just threw a tantrum in public; those people must think I’m the worst mom in the world.
  • Maybe I don’t have what it takes to teach my kids at home.
  • My child hates to read. Is something wrong?
  • Etc.
  • Etc.
  • Etc.

Get the idea? Do any of those things (or other things) cause concern in your life? Are you a worrier like me?

You know what? ALL of the things I worried about in years past turned out okay. All of them. Do you know why? Because “God’s got this.”

Whatever it is, God has it under control. He has proven Himself to me over and over through the years, yet I still struggle with worry when I’m faced with difficult or uncertain situations. The following verses spoke to me today regarding worrying. If you need some encouragement in this area, let these words soak into your heart and mind, as well.

  • “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)
  • “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)
  • “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
  • “When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?” (Psalm 56:3-4)
  • “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
  • “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.” (Psalm 55:22)

If you want more, check out these, or these, or these.

For me, worrying becomes an issue of trust. Do I really trust that God is capable of handling the situations of my life? If so, do I trust that he will take care of them? It comes down to a choice. I must choose daily to trust Him. When faced with difficulties, do I pray and leave them in the Lord’s hands, or do I take them on my shoulders and try to carry them alone? It’s a constant battle with my flesh. It’s not that I want to worry; it’s just that worrying comes naturally to me. Trusting someone else to take care of me does not.

God knows human nature. He knows that we are temped to worry. That’s why, in His infinite wisdom, He told us literally hundreds of times in His Word to “fear not” or “do not worry” or “trust.”

So, if you’re a worry-wart like me, I hope you’ll take comfort in the knowledge that whatever your situation, God’s got this. He loves you. He’s all powerful. And He’s in control. 🙂

 

 

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Why Sex Outside of Marriage is Bad For You

couple holding hands

I feel compelled to delve into a very touchy subject here. My heart is burdened by the record numbers of young people who are engaging in sexual relations outside of marriage, evidenced by the rates of abortions, out-of-wedlock births, and couples cohabiting. Not enough is being said these days about the dangers of extramarital sex, and our young people are suffering for it. I realize that I might step on some toes here, but I believe that this subject is important enough to push forward anyway. Please read the following with a prayerful heart, and if you agree in your spirit with what I have to say, I ask that you share it with those in your circle of influence.

Here are some reasons why I believe that sex outside of marriage is bad for you:

1. It is physically dangerous.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1,422,976 cases of chlamydia were reported in the U.S. in 2012 alone! When you add in gonorrhea, syphilis, HIV, herpes, HPV, genital warts, and other STDs, we’re talking massive numbers of people who are affected by these disgusting diseases (and if you’re not convinced they’re disgusting, try googling images of sexually transmitted diseases and see what pops up). The fact is, these diseases are optional. They aren’t like a brain tumor or Type 1 Diabetes….you get to choose whether you contract an STD by your lifestyle. People in monogamous, lifetime marriages just aren’t targets for these things.  

Did you know that some STDs are symptomless, so people might not know that they have them until years later when maybe they have infected others or they might be dealing with some heartbreaking consequences? Did you know that some STDs can cause infertility? Some can cause cancer? Some can even cause death? I don’t know about you, but for me, a few moments of pleasure aren’t worth such risks. 

2. It harms your relationship with the Lord.

The Bible tells us that sex outside of marriage is sin—this includes sex between unmarried people (aka fornication), adultery, and homosexual sex. Any sin that we allow into our lives separates us from God. That’s why Jesus had to come into the world and die and be raised again. Because we sin, we need a perfect sacrifice to bridge the gap between us and our Holy God. 

Listen to what God has to say: “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:18-20)

And this: “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” (Hebrews 13:4)

And this: “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people….For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person–such a man is an idolater–has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” (Ephesians 5:3,5)

3. It harms your spirit.

God created each of us with a conscience. That means we inherently know right from wrong. As we live our lives and make choices that are contrary to God’s plan for us, our consciences might become seared or dulled, but deep down we usually know whether something is good or bad. 

This should be especially true for those who have Christ in their lives, yet we see young people today who claim to know Christ but are living together without being married. I think one contributing factor is the lack of stigma in our “anything goes” culture, but I think churches are to blame, too. We often try so hard to make people feel comfortable in our churches that we fail to speak the truth on matters of sin. That is a disservice to a seeking, hurting, lost world that wants to know the truth.

Here is truth: Sin is bad for us. Sin hurts us. That’s why God tells us not to do it. He wants the very best life for His children, but when we get ahead of Him and go our own way and make choices that are outside of His plan, we get hurt. Period.  

4. It robs your future spouse.

When two people unite sexually, a bond is created between them. When that bond is created outside of a committed marriage relationship, pain and heartache and guilt are often the consequences. It might not happen right away, but eventually people suffer because of engaging in sex outside of marriage. When they then move on to other relationships, they carry a part of the previous partner with them, and it is difficult to get past the pain. 

I don’t know about you, but when I go to the grocery store to buy produce, I want it to be fresh and free from blemishes. I don’t want fruit that has been handled and nibbled and sampled.

Isn’t that sort of like people who engage in sex before marriage? They have tarnished themselves and have given away a precious part of their souls before the right time. They have robbed their future spouse of sharing the most intimate part of their lives only with them.

There’s a reason that a bride wears white in her wedding. It symbolizes that she is pure, that she has saved herself for her husband. What a precious gift a young couple can give to each other….the gift of purity in their marriage with no skeletons in the closet, no shameful memories, no soul-ties with another.

When I first started dating my husband, I didn’t know much about his past relationships and specifically whether he was still a virgin. That was one thing that was a must on my list for a potential husband. I wasn’t sure how to find out without coming out and asking (which I was too shy to do). We were riding in the car one day, and I asked if he would be willing to listen to a tape with me. It was a sermon (if I remember correctly, by Mark Rutland) about pre-marital sex. After it started playing, Trevor turned to me and said, “I’ve never had sex before.” Well, there you go! That answered my question and put my mind at ease.

As is the case with so many young people, Trevor and I regret some things that we did while we were dating and in prior relationships. However, by the grace of God, we both stood at our wedding as virgins. It wasn’t easy, and opportunities were there for both of us to give away our virginity. We had to make a conscious decision not to do things that we were tempted to do because we knew that God’s plan was better. It always is.

If you have already engaged in sex outside of marriage, all is not lost. We serve a mighty God who is still in the business of healing, restoring, and making things new. I know people who lived in promiscuity before marriage, but God has done a miraculous work of healing in their lives. If they could live their early lives over and save themselves for each other, would they? Absolutely! Are they training their children to live lives of purity for their future spouses? Most definitely.

They key is to start now, right where you are….

Are you considering giving away your virginity? Make a vow to the Lord to remain pure until marriage and seek out like-minded Christians to hold you accountable.

Do you need to break off a relationship that is unhealthy? Ask God for the strength to do it.

Do you need to move out if you are living with someone to whom you aren’t married? God can help you.

Are you suffering because of past choices to give yourself physically to another? Consider this: “He himself [Jesus] bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24)

If you need some encouragement to let God lead in this area of your life, here are a few books that I read as a young adult that might speak to you, too:

No Compromise: The Life Story of Keith Green by Melody Green

Passion and Purity: Learning to Bring Your Love Life Under Christ’s Control by Elisabeth Elliot

Knight in Shining Armor by P.B. Wilson

The Bible by God

And here’s a huge list of books related to sexual purity from which you can choose. 

One last thing: God loves you. He is for you. He wants the best for you. If sexual purity were impossible, it wouldn’t be His standard. By His strength, you can live in purity, and you’ll be so glad that you did!

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Watch us on Life Focus TV’s “Dealing with Debt.”

dealing in debt pic

 

How is your financial situation? Is debt weighing you down? Do you find it difficult to make ends meet month to month? 

When my husband and I got married in 1998, we lived in a 1-bedroom apartment, had nothing in savings, and owed around $25,000 in debt. Trevor was a teacher, and I worked for a ministry, so our incomes were far from extravagant. I hated being in that much debt; it felt like a heavy stone was hanging around my neck.

After the wedding, we immediately went to work on a budget, based only on Trevor’s income, and we used my income to pay down the debt. We “snowballed” our debts, by paying extra to eliminate the smallest one first, then rolling that payment into the next one, and so on. With this plan, we were able to pay off our debt completely within about 14 months.

Many years have passed since we made our last debt payment, so the excitement has faded, but I remember feeling such peace. At that point, we still had a long way to go on our financial journey, but knowing that we no longer were indebted to anyone was such an amazing place to be. 

During the time that we were paying off our debt, God called us to commit never to take on debt again….for anything. That meant that if we ever hoped to own a home, we would have to save up and pay cash for it. Seems like a daunting mission, right? But yet, I had a strong sense of peace that God would help us do what He called us to do. Nothing is impossible with God.

To make a very long story short, over the next almost five years, we saved, toiled, cried, sweated, bled, and sacrificed to build our home debt free. If you’d like to read the whole story, click here to check out our book called Debt-Free Living in a Debt-Filled World

DFLDFW front cover for KDP 4-8-14

Life Focus TV interviewed us about our financial story. I hope you’ll watch the program entitled “Dealing with Debt” at this link (our segment starts at around 9 minutes in). It’s also airing on various stations nationwide, such as PBS, TBN, and NRB Network, so check for it there as well.

If you’re struggling with debt, I want to encourage you. Nothing is too big for God. As you commit your finances to Him and submit to His authority, He will give you wisdom, guide you, and provide for your needs. The financial mess in which Trevor and I found ourselves was of our own making, but God didn’t hold it against us. He was merciful and led us out of bondage and into freedom. It wasn’t an easy process, mind you. We worked hard and sacrificed, but the long-term benefits far outweigh any discomfort that we experienced.

My prayer for you is that you will find your path to financial freedom. It is worth it. I promise!

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”  Galatians 5:1

 

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Independence Day: July 2nd or July 4th?

flag and fireworks

Today, I’m re-posting a column that my husband wrote a few years ago about Independence Day. I hope you enjoy it!

 

By Trevor Thomas
July 4, 2007

On July 1, 1776 delegates of the Second Continental Congress entered what John Adams called, “the greatest debate of all.” Even after over a year’s worth of conflict against the mightiest military force on earth, declared independence from Great Britain was far from a forgone conclusion. Just weeks earlier the majority of the men in the Congress were very much hoping that some formula for peace could be found with Great Britain.

In The Light and the Glory by Peter Marshall and David Manuel, it’s noted that these Congressmen knew very well what it would cost them personally to, “cast their votes with those few who were advocating an open declaration of independence. For the men who signed such a declaration would, in the likely event of America’s defeat, be held personally responsible. And the penalty for instigating rebellion against the Crown was death.” Declaring independence required a unanimous vote from the Congress, and as Ben Franklin soberly put it, “We must indeed all hang together, or most assuredly we will all hang separately.”

During the debate on July 1, John Dickinson, representing Pennsylvania, made powerful and lengthy arguments against declaring independence. With quiet resolve, but equal conviction, Adams answered him concluding with, “All that I have and all that I am, and all that I hope in this life, I am now ready here to stake upon it. And I leave off as I began, that live or die, survive or perish, I am for the Declaration…Independence now, and Independence forever!”

Shortly following this exchange, Congress voted. The majority supported independence, but it was not unanimous as required. Nine of the thirteen colonies were ready to officially declare for freedom and the war necessary to achieve it. Pennsylvania and South Carolina voted no. Delaware’s two delegates were split. The New York delegates abstained. Debate was to resume the next day followed by another vote.

On the following day, July 2, the South Carolina delegates, for the sake of unanimity, were swayed to support the Declaration. New Pennsylvania delegates voted for independence. With New York still abstaining, Delaware was the key. Its two delegates remained split. With a dramatic and grueling overnight ride through stormy weather, where often he had to dismount and lead his horse, an exhausted third Delaware delegate, Caesar Rodney, entered the State House in Philadelphia around 1:00 p.m., just as the final vote was about to occur. He had come to break the deadlock among his fellow statesmen.

Barely able to speak he exclaimed, “As I believe the voice of my constituents and of all sensible and honest men is in favor of independence, my own judgment concurs with them. I vote for independence.” Therefore it was unanimously decided (New York would join with the other colonies officially on July 9th). Thus, The United States was born on July 2, 1776.

The significance of the event and the day was such that, on the following day John Adams wrote his wife Abigail and said that July 2 “will be the most memorable…in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations, as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore.” So according to John Adams, the celebration of our independence is a couple of days late.

It was two days later on July 4 that an official Declaration of Independence document was actually signed, albeit only by two members of Congress: John Hancock, the President of Congress and Charles Thompson the Secretary of Congress. Most of the rest of the Congressmen would sign the Declaration about a month later.

On July 4, 1837, in a speech delivered in the town of Newburyport Massachusetts, John Quincy Adams, son of John Adams, and the 6th U.S. President, proclaimed, “Why is it that, next to the birthday of the Savior of the World, your most joyous and most venerated festival returns on this day? Is it not that, in the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior? Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the foundation of the Redeemer’s mission upon earth?”

Witnessing the events of the Revolution as a boy, and then going on to serve his country in many various capacities, John Quincy Adams saw that Christmas and Independence Day were fundamentally linked. He understood well that the Founders simply took the principles that Christ brought to the world and incorporated those into civil government.

That, my friends, is why the United States of America is the greatest nation the world has ever known, even though we may be celebrating its birthday on the wrong date.

Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
www.trevorgrantthomas.com

 

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