Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Run with Patience in the Rain


I asked Norman just as he was leaving for work one morning, five measly weeks prior to race day, "Honey, could we do a 5k in April?" I know that he answers quickly when he's on his way out the door. (Translation: He only half-heard me.) 

"A 5k, huh? Okay." But it wasn't the usual "okay." It was the long "Okaaaayyyy" that Norman uses when he's wondering what his wife is plotting this time. I am the spontaneous one in our marriage. He is...

...not. 

A few days later, I handed him his new race swag (you know, the fancy logo shirt that makes it look like you're a runner even if you're not), and then announced, "We need new shoes. Our old tennies won't do."

Norman H
Armed with large coupons, we bought new running shoes and were soon decked out like wannabe-runners. I was training in earnest, following a chart printed from the Hot Chocolate 15k/5k official racing website. Things were coming along fairly well for someone who hasn't run competitively since her hair was in pony tails. Norman didn't always feel like training, so he joined in now and then. I had this thought as I observed my Norman's casual attitude towards race prep: "He is going to be burnt toast on race day." 

That's what I thought.

Run

Francie runs for chocolate
Race day arrived, and it brought a thunderstorm with it. Norman heard the rain pounding on the roof and said, "I'm not running in this. I'll end up getting sick!" It was two hours before race time when he made this announcement.

"Well, we've paid for it, so I'm running. You can drop me off and be the race photographer," I said with resolve. I really wanted to run this race together, but oh well. I laced up my five-week-old shoes and rode the short distance to the race. Norman parked the car and met me at the starting gate: "I've changed my mind. I'm going to run." 

Team Taylor for the chocolate!

The Bible has plenty of "run the race" verses. The parallels between running and living the Christian life are inescapable:

A race may have an unexpected outcome. "I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all." (Ecclesiastes 9:11) 

One would assume that the race would always be won by those who trained for it, but "time and chance" can change that. I trained as diligently as possible, but I came in 116th-place in my age category! My Norman trained when he felt like it, then took off like a 6-foot-four cougar and I never saw him again until I crossed the finish line...several minutes behind him. We never know how a person is going to finish until the end of their race.

With Patience

A race requires patience. "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us," (Hebrews 12:1) 

Running is placing one foot in front of the other, over and over again. This is so much like the repetitive nature of the ministry. We lather, rinse, and repeat our various duties every week. It would be easy to become weighted down with cares and distractions (life is so full of them). If you feel like quitting, confide in someone who will be your spiritual "cheerleader." It did me a world of good to look out into the crowd of spectators and see my sister Janelle and brother-in-love Dennis, cheering us on. Running with patience is easier with support. 
Sis Janelle

That Ye May Obtain

A race has a prize at the end. "Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain." (1 Corinthians 9:24) 

The top ten are an elite group in any race, making the rest of us noble participants. My Norman told me how his head shifted into high gear once he realized that he was in a real race. The "old athlete" was called into service and he ran to win. Amazingly, he came in 9th place for the 65-69-year-old men's category! (And this was the man who wasn't going to run. I'm still saying "humph" over that!) Are we running our race as Christians with real goals of honoring the Lord, sharing the gospel, and serving others with our lives, or are we just strolling towards the finish line? 

Hot Chocolate prizes
This race was yet another experience that had many scriptural similarities. I see lessons everywhere: in the garden, by the ocean, and now, on the running course.

At the end of the race, the runners were handed large mugs filled with hot chocolate. They also gave us hot fudge fondue, giant marshmallows, bananas, and Rice Krispy bars for dunking in the fondue. The proceeds from the race will go to the Ronald McDonald House, providing housing for families with a hospitalized child who have to travel far from home for the hospital stay.

Running for a cause is a "work of heart." It is also a picture of life in the ministry. Run with patience.




"My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth." (1 John 3:18)











Wednesday, March 15, 2017

What I Learned Over Pizza and Baby Carrots

I love teaching at conferences, and I especially enjoy going to Pensacola Christian College for the Enrichment Retreat. Even though I am one of the workshop speakers, this teacher ends up on the learning end every time. Isn't it funny how those of us who serve to refresh others have often been refreshed as well?

While the sessions and workshops were spot on, my favorite time was with the students. I have a tradition of sending a text backed up with a Facebook message, alerting the Minnesota students to meet me for a pizza party while I'm on campus. I'm a "face from home," and they are my "research subjects." I never tell them about the research in advance. It would spoil the party.

We had five large pizzas, two bags of baby carrots, and one bottle of yogurt-ranch dressing. We also had a bakery box of chocolate chip cookies, but we forgot all about them until the end. That would never have happened with homemade chocolate chip cookies.

I have a pre-planned question for every visit. This year's question: "Why are so many students graduating from Bible College and then leaving church?"

Consider these responses:

1. Adults make the ministry look uninviting. 
Why would they want to "sign on" with us if we're always looking so stressed out and unhappy? Suggestion: If you love the ministry, let it show. "Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing." (Psalm 100:2)

2. Problems are not properly addressed.
Too many young people are carrying wounds inflicted by heavy-handed adults intending to "correct" them. And even when it is known that a situation was mishandled, apologies are rare. Inconsistencies from authorities have caused untold damage. Is it any wonder that some students are just counting the days until they can move on?
Suggestion: Instead of staging a cover-up or pretending that problems don't exist, deal with things properly. Otherwise, we may find that some are unwilling to stay in a place where offenses are ignored rather than handled appropriately. "A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle." (Proverbs 18:19)

3. The family comes last.
Long hours in the ministry were mentioned as so common that some students had friends who were in the church building seven days a week (unwillingly). 
Suggestion: Remember your own family while serving others. Sacrificial love and attention are needed at all stages, for all family members. "This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you." (John 15:12)

The students mentioned other things as well, but the overall direction of the dialogue was this: "We don't want something that looks so user-unfriendly."

Is it time for us to make some adjustments?

If we're not too proud, we'll carefully consider these observations without taking it personally. The Scripture reminds us that "Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom." (Proverbs 13:10) If we imagine that these young people "don't know what they're talking about," pride is winning and reason is losing. These students weren't condemning adults (and they are also adults themselves, even though we struggle to see them as such). They were answering a question.

The responses of these young adults were delivered thoughtfully. Not one student had a tone of whining or accusation. I asked a question, and in the limited time that we had they answered honestly. My guess is that they would have had even more to offer if they had more time to think about it. Are we open to suggestions, or do we just demand compliance?

I don't want to have my home church become the First Baptist Church of No Young People, and I'm guessing that it's not your goal, either. I was grateful for the candid feedback, so I'm sharing it with the hope that it may provide some beneficial insights for more than just my research files. 

When was the last time you had a good conversation with someone outside of your peer group? There's a lot that could be learned by opening up a dialogue and hearing another point of view.  Order some pizzas, launch the discussion with a thoughtful question and then just listen. Suggestion: Skip the baby carrots.




"Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning." (Proverbs 9:9)












Francie Taylor is the Editor-in Chief at www.keeptheheart.com. Read more on the website and in the popular quarterly eMagazine, Keep the Heart.




Thursday, January 19, 2017

How (Not) to Become a Crabby Lady



Just what you needed today: three steps for becoming a Crabby Lady. It doesn't take much effort, because crabbiness comes naturally or is easily mastered.

1. Have adult temper tantrums when things don't go your way.

2. Keep telling yourself that other people are really the source of all your problems.

3.  Catalog your hurt feelings. Be sure to alphabetize them for easier access.


Crabbiness is such an easy habit to develop, but it's not a desirable way to live. Just like that crab on the sand, we could hurt someone with our snappiness. When we pinch people with words, they move away. Are we really intending to become repellant? Crabbing at people will achieve this goal, even if it's unintended.

It's not a problem when we have an occasional day that's just a bit "off character," but when it becomes our only mode of operating, it's time to evaluate what's truly bothering us.

Are you sniping because you hate your job?

Are you snapping because your calendar is overbooked?

Are you snarling because you don't feel well?

Are you being snarky because you're really upset about something else?

What's really bothering you? If it's changeable, are you working on it? If it's unchangeable, have you prayed for the grace to live within your situation? 

Life is so much like roses: it comes with thorns. The Apostle Paul had a "thorn in the flesh" that he didn't describe in detail, but he did mention that he prayed "thrice" (three times) that the thorn might "depart" from him. 


And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 
(2 Corinthians 12:7--9 KJV)
Did you see God's response to Paul's request? God didn't rush in and provide instant thorn removal, but reminded Paul that he already had an unlimited supply of God's abundant and all-sufficient "grace." The Strong's Concordance describes this "grace" as follows: ...merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues.

Whether you are in a changeable or unchangeable circumstance, handle matters wisely if you want things to turn out well. Dancing around the issue just keeps you from getting to the point. Hiding our feelings in a cloak of crabbiness is an unsuccessful tactic that usually ends in increased unresolved conflicts.

Don't pile on the crabbiness. Get to the source of what's wrong, and deal with it. Gently. Wisely. Prudently, with carefully chosen words. You don't want to become a permanent Crabby Lady. Graciousness is far more becoming.

Wise handling of matters leads to a good outcome.

He that handleth a matter wisely shall find good: and whoso trusteth in the LORD, happy is he. (Proverbs 16:20)




Writer's Block-Breaking Clogs

I am in the final stages of completing a ladies' devotional book, and I hit a WALL constructed of "Writer's Blocks." This happens for all creative types, and we have to be equally creative at breaking down the wall.

Today, I'm wearing my Mom's old clogs to break my writer's block. 


I took them out of the back of the guest room closet where I had tucked them away. I often forget where I've put things, but I was completely aware of their presence at all times. I opened the closet, reached for the clogs hidden behind a stack of boxes, and then hugged them.

"There she goes about her Mom again." If you've read my blog or Facebook posts since May 2015, you know how much I miss her. Can't hide it. Won't try.

The clogs were dusty, so I polished them and then I slipped them on. I've never been a fan of clogs, but Mom liked them because she could just walk into them and slip them off with ease. This means a lot when your mobility is limited.

Do you miss someone who has passed away? Do you have to stop yourself from reaching for the phone to dial their number?

I hope that you have something that allows you to remember your loved one. At first you may remember with tears, but try to remember some of the joy as well. As I wear Mom's clogs at my writer's standing-desk, I can recall how many times I thought to myself: "Clogs don't go with every outfit."

But my Mom was so classy, she could pull it off. 

Here's to finishing a devotional book, in Mom's clogs, with her photo on the wall next to my desk. I am so eternally grateful for the powerful influence Mom had in my life. I hope to honor her by doing a few simple things: I want to live justly, with mercy, and walk humbly with my God. 

That would honor both God and Mom.

"He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" (Micah 6:8)

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Empty Chair

The lady seated next to me in the gate area was very chatty. My head and heart were tired, but I prayed, "Lord, help me here." That's one of my simpler prayers. God knows what I mean. In this case, it meant, "Help me to pay attention to this soul, even though I feel like sitting here zoned out watching planes take off and land..."

The lady looked to be in her 70s, so that soon reminded of the days when I used to travel with my Mom. It also "tenderized" my selfish heart, because while at first I just wanted to sit and be quiet, I began to wonder if this lady was nervous about traveling alone. My suspicion was confirmed when she told me this: "I haven't flown in 20 years, so all of this is very new to me. My daughter is staying in constant contact with me by phone." This elderly traveler was clutching a very old "flip phone," and it rang shortly afterwards.

"Yes, I'm at my gate. A nice man brought me in a wheelchair and he even gave me ice water to drink. I'll be fine, and I'll see you all soon." She pressed the red button to disconnect the call, and then showed me her phone. "How can I tell if I have enough battery power? My daughter told me to plug in my phone if my battery was low."

We looked at her phone (which was probably one of the first flip phones made) and it showed a full-battery icon on the screen. "You'll be fine for the rest of the day," I assured her. 

"Is Minnesota your home?" she asked. 

"Yes," I said. "And you?"

"I'm flying to my Dad's funeral. He was 91."

And they will have an empty chair this Christmas.

As one who spent my first Christmas without our Mom just last year, I was immediately filled with the compassion that comes from having suffered a similar loss. Grief puts people in a "club" that they never would have joined voluntarily. After listening to stories about her Dad, many of which reminded me of my own childhood, I offered my condolences. As she was getting ready to leave, I gave her the tract, "Questions About Eternal Life." I carry them with me, along with several others. "This has some Bible verses that I am sure you will find very comforting," I told her.


She took the tract, looked at the front and back, then carefully tucked it into her purse. "Thank you so much. I am going to need this." She had tears in her eyes as we parted ways. I believe that by now, she has read that tract filled with Scriptures on salvation and eternal life.

I wonder how many people are flying "home" for funerals at the same time that others are flying home for comfort and joy? Countless numbers of people are celebrating Christmas with someone missing. Did you have a loved one pass away this calendar year? You're not alone.

What can we do when we're surrounded by celebrations at the same time that we're trying to navigate our way through the uncharted waters of grief? Here are some suggestions:

1. Carry tracts with you everywhere you go. Someone may be grieving just like you, and may deeply appreciate the real comfort that comes from the True Comforter. Have a variety of easy-to-read, high quality tracts in a tract wallet. God may use you to make a difference that goes far beyond this side of Heaven. Think of it as passing on a gift that was given to you to share with others.  "Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift." (2 Corinthians 9:15)

2. If it feels like you've been knocked over by a wave of sorrow, let someone know. Allowing others to help us through the tough spots is like being thrown a "life preserver" from Heaven. Don't shut people out; pull them closer. "A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity." (Proverbs 17:17) Friends don't automatically know when we need them. Sometimes, we just have to call.


Mom's tree
3. Keep family traditions alive. Mom loved to have me invite my sister friends over to her house to help decorate her tree. She was unable to do it herself after a certain point in her illness, so we did it as a group and turned it into a party. Her little tree is on my front step now, decked out in honor of our Mom. "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones." (Proverbs 17:22) Traditions make the heart merry. 

Is recovering from grief as easy as 1-2-3? Not at all. Grief is one of the most complicated human experiences that we will ever have, but God knows more about this than we do, so He is able to carry us through our dark days until the sun breaks through again.

On a recent evening after church, my husband Norman and I were looking at airfares to Los Angeles, planning a trip for him to go and visit his oldest sister. We knew that she was doing poorly after having had a recent accident. "Why don't you fly out in January instead of February?" I suggested.

Two hours later, on December 11, 2016, we received a call informing us that my sister-in-love, my husband's sister Dolores had passed away.

Life is a vapor. Scripture tells us that. The truth is that none of us knows how many days of "vapor" we will have, so now is the time to cherish our loved ones. Right now. 

And while it is a comfort for a Christian to know that we will see those who have passed on before us in Christ in Heaven someday, we still have to face the reality that being without them can bring waves of occasional longing and sorrow. Thankfully, God knows how to soothe us with the presence of His Comforter: "And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever..." (John 14:16)

Do you have an empty chair at your table this Christmas? Invite someone to fill it.

"Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away." (James 4:14)

Note: If you are reading this and are unsure about your own eternity, click this link to read more about what the Bible says about salvation and eternal life:
http://www.fbcrosemount.org/salvation/

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

So Grateful and Thankful

Do you have a gratitude list?

It's easy to make. Just sit still for a moment and jot down all the things you are grateful for, and then thank the Lord. Be gratefully thankful.

I'm grateful for a godly and loving husband. I pray for him daily, and I know that he does the same for me. And he's fun, too. Gotta love a man who laughs at his own jokes.

I'm thankful for a happy marriage. It's not as common as it used to be, and those of us who have this treasure need to be continuously thankful and willing to share what we've learned over the years of staying happily married.

I'm grateful for our three children (and a daughter-in-love). They are uniquely "themselves" and we have been enjoying the process of watching them grow into adults that can even pick up the tab. Ha ha. My turn to ask for a twenty!

I'm thankful for friends that I can call or text and say, "Can you come over for coffee?" And then we get caught up on our lives, our families, and our lessons that we're learning from the Lord. Whether we're laughing or crying, it's just good sister time.

I'm grateful that my parents taught me how to be a person of character. Their photos in my home office serve as reminders of the integrity that they demonstrated throughout their lives, and while I miss them both more than words can say, they are in me and I am of them. Do you talk to the loved ones in your photographs? I do. God understands, and I believe that He even relays our words to them if we ask Him. I'll find out if I was right or wrong when I see Him and them in Heaven.

I'm thankful for my church home. There is simply no way to describe all the important principles I've learned over the years, but suffice it to say, it has been more than a multitude. We were baby Christians when we first started attending First Baptist Church of Rosemount back in 1985, and it's hard to believe that so many years have zipped by since we first walked through those doors as visitors.

I'm grateful for my extended family members; especially my sisters. After the passing of our Mom, we are tighter than ever and I love it! While I wouldn't wish the pain of grieving on anyone, I wouldn't trade the blessing of the closeness it has brought into our lives.

I'm thankful for Christ's mercy on my soul, providing me with salvation free of charge to me but at tremendous cost to Him. Where would any of us be without the Lord? I hope He doesn't mind me talking to Him all throughout my days, and it's probably a good thing that I work alone in the home office so that we can have all these private conversations! It was a life-changing day when I heard this verse: "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." (Rom 10:13) And I love being a "whosoever"! 

I'm grateful. I'm thankful. This is just my starter-list of blessings, but I hope it will inspire you to count your own. Be gratefully thankful.

"In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." (1Thess. 5:18)

A Thanksgiving message for those who are wondering about their relationship with Christ:
The same salvation I mentioned earlier is available to anyone. Paid in full, just waiting for the gift recipient to accept it. Being "saved" is a Bible term for being "born again," which is also a Bible term for accepting the free gift of salvation, which we all need:
1. God loves you. 
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)
2. Everyone is a sinner. 
"For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God..." (Rom. 3:23)
3. Sin has a very high price tag.
"For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Rom. 6:23)
4. Jesus paid it all.
"But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom. 5:8)
5. Ask Jesus Christ to be your Saviour now.
"That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." (Rom. 10:9)

www.keeptheheart.com

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Petty Little Things


You worked hard on that church event, but nobody recognized it. You aren't speaking to someone because you're holding a grudge over an offense that's so old it's growing mold. Your family wasn't personally invited to the fellowship (even though it was open to all), so you're considering changing churches. There is not one life-changing issue in this list of oversights, but it's often the little things that trigger big deals. Petty little things. Pettiness is a cause of many unnecessary disputes, leading people to have their days end poorly.

Are you allowing some small thing to keep you trapped in a swirling cloud of negative emotions? When we do this, we're being petty, and it hurts us and repels others. Pettiness is a lot like a flu virus; once you catch it, people don't want to get too close, and you will need to get over it before you can function again.

Pettiness comes when we allow minor issues to morph into major offenses. When we reach the age where we are (somewhat) free to indulge ourselves, we may stray into the zone of behaving like a toddler in a grown-up body, treating people any way we please. We may have our "favorites" who always get the best treatment, but then there are others who we feel free to snap at without a second thought. Are we dividing people into categories of those who are worthy of respect and those who fall somewhere below the bar of favor?

It's petty to categorize people when God has clearly stated "As it is written, There is none righteous, no not one..." (Romans 3:10)

It's petty to hold a grudge when we can forgive. "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." (Mat 6:12) Withholding forgiveness increases our indebtedness. 

It's petty to be angry because someone didn't do something our way. "He that is first in his own cause seemeth just; but his neighbour cometh and searcheth him." (Pro 18:17)

Pettiness is the art of making mountains out of molehills, often leaving a trail of wounded bodies in our wake. Thankfully, there is a cure. The Lord knew that we may struggle with this character flaw, so He left us instructions that gently nudge us away from our tendency to make felonies out of minor faults. A very essential word transforms our relationships for the better:
"Others."
"Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others." (Phil. 2:3-4)

It takes thought and discernment to treat others with proper consideration, regardless of what they do or say. When we strip away the selfishness, pettiness fades.

"A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another." (Jhn 13:34) 

Do you know what happens when we consider others before ourselves? Life becomes more enjoyable and less stressful as we remove the faulty measurements and love sacrificially.

Instead of being trivial, let's be bountiful in love and consideration. We don't have to allow petty little things turn us into petty little people. 







Run with Patience in the Rain

I asked Norman just as he was leaving for work one morning, five measly weeks prior to race day, "Honey, could we do a 5k in Apr...