Monday, March 23, 2015

Family and Easter

Nothing is as special as the real physical family we’re born in or married into! One of my greatest joys on earth is the special feeling I have when I’m with my family. I like knowing any details of life they’re willing to share and I feel privileged to pray for them every day. Don’t you love being with yours– immediate and extended.

I wrote my previous blog about the figurative family of God, our brothers and sisters in Christ - some suffer and are in need – and our desire as Christians to care for them. Yes, they are important. But I want to make clear that in no way do I equate this with the specialness of my physical blood-linked and covenant linked family on earth.

It’s amazing how extended family becomes ever more dear as the years zip by– aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, even our first great niece (gasp) precious Josephine. Facebook helps us stay connected.

Family is a warm, safe, place in your mind and heart – whether you’re physically close or separated by miles. Strong, connected families matter to God. Jesus exalted the family structure. Remember one of Jesus’ final deeds spoken from the cross was to make sure his mother was taken care of by asking the apostle John to look after her.

Easter will soon be here. Many of us celebrate by connecting again with extended family as we did at Christmas. Which leads me to encourage anyone who has a broken relationship with another family member whatever the issue to rethink it. It’s not worth savoring and clinging to your hurt. I urge you to give God your pain. He knows how to heal you. Chalk up your differences to human imperfection. Can you possibly admit that you just maybe aren’t perfect either and forget the pain from the past?

Dislikes can happen. Not all extended family is easy to live with, personality types may clash, but there is an oh so sweet bond that forever links you together and something in your spirit won’t feel entirely whole until you make peace. We don’t have to like everything about our family members. We can still love one another. And even have fun together.

As a counselor I work in the realm of families and have observed firsthand how family divisions destroy inner peace. The primary reason people seek counseling is because of rifts in the family – with a marriage partner, parents, a child or grief over the loss of a family member. Resolution of these issues is a privilege to behold.

Anyone coming to mind? Perhaps do something unexpected and beautiful for the person who has offended you. Send an old-fashioned, still meaningful gift of flowers, candy – whatever - find a way to say you’re still family and important in my life.

What an amazing Lenten sacrifice, an Easter gift, is the humility to say a thank You prayer to the Lord for the family He’s placed you in and added others into.

A suggested family prayer might be: Lord, Help me love them because You do and because You command me to love them as well.  Show me ways I can do good to these precious people who form my physical family on earth.

Yes the family of God is important, but nothing compares to the real, physical family we do life with on earth. Ours is awesome!

This blog is for all our children and their spouses and in-law connections and our grandchildren, and for Joy and Dave and Jennifer and Chris and Nikolas and Frank and Catherine &your children and  Jenny and Craig and your sons, and Dawn, and Jessica and Tony your Josephine, Lauren, Al and your little ones. Lindsay and Carrie and Kyle and Molly and Kevin and your daughters, Glenn and Judy and Greg and Summer and your sons, Bill & Sue, Kathy and Bob, Jim and Jacqueline, Sue, Melissa, Josh, Crissie & Russ and all your precious children and Tanis and Nancy and Gail and Karen and Dorothy and Muriel, Cindy, Jeanne, John and your families. Roger and Marilyn, Jay and Judy and your children. And of course our family in heaven – our four parents, my brother Jim, grandson Drew and cousin Chuck in heaven and for all the yet to be born family members! (And anyone I inadvertently left out.)

"Do you have any idea how very homesick we became for you dear friends (and family). Even though it hadn't been that long and it was only our bodies that were separated from you, not our hearts, we tried our very best to get back to see you. You can't imagine how much we missed you!" 
The words of Paul in Scripture verse: 1 Thess. 2:17-18 Message Bible

Monday, March 16, 2015

What's Going On?

About a hundred plus, all ages, men and women jumping up and down, singing and shouting about Jesus and getting free from drugs in the way that works.  

This was not a regular church service but a Celebrate Recovery meeting we recently attended. It occurs every Monday night in Hollywood, Florida and around 20,000 other locations around the world. Walking into this setting is rather startling at first. People are excited and thrilled to be there praising Jesus. 

These men and women I never met before felt like family to me.

Family understands one another’s pain. Family is devoted to helping one another live their best life. Family will go to the front battle line with you. Family will fight for you.

We stand with Stevie B and Ray who head up a charge at the JC Recovery House like the biblical Joshua of old straight into the drug battle to rescue one life at a time. They’re fearless of the enemy. They understand. Addictions hurt. Addictions kill. Addictions trapped our grandson.

Life is hard. Drugs seem easy. But feeling good is oh so temporary. Drugs are a management tool that turns on you and manages you.

I sat three years ago with our grandson Drew as he confessed his addiction. He said I hate what oxy has done to me. I wake up and all I can think about is where will I get my next pills? (At first the pills were prescribed for him after a clavicle injury.  He went on to heroin.)
Drew said nothing else mattered more than getting his next drugs. He hid it from the beautiful girl he loved. His drug use eventually shattered their relationship. Until the day he died at age twenty-four he wanted her back and she never stopped loving him. 

Who doesn’t want to feel good? Drugs are a short cut to euphoria fraught with danger. Nobody sees the danger at first. Addictions tempt us all and they always dirty up a life. Whether it’s drugs or food or pornography or TV shows over the edge of decency that a person must see every week. Addictions prevent living our best life, being our best.

These men and women got caught in a trap. They need to learn they don’t have to be perfect to be loved deeply. The love of God is forever and it’s available even in the throes of their addicted life.

Maybe in the growing-up-years too much was asked of an addict or perhaps too little was expected.  Or maybe none of that. They just thought they’d give this tiger a try for a thrill. Surely they could beat it when they wanted to stop. Wrong.

Drugs are never the answer. Jesus is always the answer. Life is so rich and full when lived as family with Him. With brothers and sisters in Christ.

The design of God for living well can be learned in the biblical book of Proverbs, in the Gospels stories of Jesus, and the life changing works of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus’s plan for every life is always simple and right. He says in effect:  “Use Your God-given gifts with ease and delight, you don’t have to be the best or first. You are not the dregs of your society. You are always precious. Rest in me. Do life with me. I will give you peace.”

Peace is contentment - a sweet word. Average can be beautiful.

The family of God is real. Being part of a family is a safe place.

Some addicts once had families that were destroyed for one reason or another. Some never knew a family life experience. They have family now. Recovery people are their family with skin and beyond that is the huge family of God.  Family feels right and good because that’s how we’re all meant to live. JC Recovery House is a family fighting together to live a grace-empowered life. This place wasn't available when Drew needed it. It's there now partly because of him. Drew's picture hangs on the wall in the office as a reminder that this battle can't be fought alone.

My husband and I will do all we can to help others get free.  We pray and we support the work of JC Recovery House in Hollywood Florida. If you’d like to know more about them check out their website at:

Drew is the model for the cover of my Tommy Smurlee book for children eight through fourteen. Drew was our first grandchild to read it when he was fourteen. He read the 200 plus pages in one day. Since then all seven grandkids have enjoyed the series. Our grandson Steven had the record for the most re-reads - fourteen plus!

"Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible God, who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen."  1 Timothy 1: 17

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Valentine's Day Stirs Our Delight

Something about Valentine's Day stirs our delight in love.

Love, red roses, pink hearts, oh so much more - a movement of the heart, a connection of the soul. Love is speaking your mind with gentleness and respect, sharing your heart when you'd rather stay silent. It's loving when you're tired and loving is challenging but it's right. Love is what makes you feel strong and good.

A Valentine to God

It's all about You Lord. You started this amazing thing called love, by loving us first. You make us feel it in a thousand ways. You are really truly the world's greatest lover and I'm shouting it - I want everyone to know. Have I thanked you lately for making words for telling of our affection and gorgeous flower petals and shades of red and pink and ruby and all that is or ever shall be.

A Valentine to Married Lovers

I wrote recently about lifelong married love between a man and a woman. I also want to honor the special love affairs that occur the second time around. Death happens, divorce happens, sometimes against a spouse's desire, but God often gives another opportunity for a great love. I've personally known of many beautiful second marriages. Is love treasured more after it's been temporarily absent? Whatever second chances can be fantastic!

A Valentine to My Children 

Co-creating a child, teaching it to love and give and serve, what a splendid blessing that lasts forever. The love between a parent and a child is lifelong, ever-growing, a thousand changes in its expression over the years. How I love my children! How you love yours! Let's celebrate parental love too this Valentine's Day.

A Valentine To My Readers

If you’re one of my readers I absolutely love, love you. Writing for you is a joy and a privilege. I hope I’m contributing fun to your life and somehow making it better relationally with my family-themed mysteries and non-fiction books. If it wasn’t for YOU I’d never click another keyboard or move my pen to shape another word. Thank you!

FREE Kindle ebook versions TODAY of my two Tommy Smurlee mystery fantasy books!  Still looking for Valentine's gifts for children ages eight and up? May I help?  Go to Amazon books and type in Tommy Smurlee.

1 John 4:16-17
God is love and all who live in love, live in God and God lives in them. And as we live in God our love grows more perfect. (New Living Bible)

Monday, January 26, 2015

Marriage Matters

Wayne and I were in Fort Pierce, Florida trying to collect information on a former boss with whom he’d lost contact. We discovered he lived to be ninety-seven and the obit said he and his wife “had a beautiful marriage for sixty-six years.

I knew him during a time when their relationship wasn’t problem-free, but forgiveness and vulnerability and commitment restored it and made it beautiful. I was delighted to learn they made it to the victory lap.

As a marriage and family counselor for many decades I’m always interested in principles to help marriages stay strong. I recently heard the pastor of Calvary Chapel in Fort Lauderdale say the key can be summed up in two words no secrets - total honesty. Truth-telling requires being emotionally vulnerable, opening your heart wide and only to your spouse.

A few days ago I heard from a woman who gave my women’s book now titled Loving Every Minute, 52 Ways to Live, Laugh & Love As A Woman to a female relative. She said the principles in it saved her marriage. This was more than a little thrilling to hear. Man in Command is the corollary book for men with principles to keep the family connection strong.

Wayne and I are fifty-two years into this thing called love and my advice to couples is hang in there for the long haul. It’s so worth it when you can share the memories of a lifetime together.

Don’t give up the joys of a lasting marriage for a momentary infatuation, sexual thrills or because you have personal struggles needing to be resolved. Ask for help from a pastor, a mature couple at church, read some helpful material, seek out counseling or do all of the above. Pray together even if you don’t feel like it - that's powerful too.

You can fall in love over and over again with the same person!!!

1 Peter Chapter 3 contains everything you need to know about love and respect for your spouse.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Pie, Art and Angels

I was checking out pies in the bakery section of Winn-Dixie when a dignified elderly lady scooted over in her electric cart. She commented on how expensive the pumpkin pies were and I agreed. I ran into her minutes later near the donuts and she asked if I could do her a favor. I said I’d be happy to if I could.

She said her church had suggested everyone do something special for a stranger and could she give me $10. Before I stammered out a reply she opened her wallet and handed me the bill.

I was wide-eyed to say the least. We chatted briefly about her church and I shared that I was a Christian author. Might she want to choose someone else? No I was to be the one. What a sweet, gracious gift from God. I want to do something special with the money. The Salvation Army fund? Cookies for local police to encourage them and thank them? I’m praying. Lord, what would you have me do?

“In me and through me and for me” keeps running through my mind. In Christ and through Christ. We are receivers so that we can be givers. We give and receive again and again and the cycle never ends.

Just a few days before I’d been privileged to give a gift to a man named Lawrence. Wayne and I met Lawrence at a local marina. He was drawing a picture on his sketchpad of a moored boat. I noticed he'd only done a few although he seemed quite talented. Perhaps he hadn’t been at this long?

As we chatted I learned two months ago Lawrence went back to church after a forty-year absence. He said being there broke his depression and renewed his enthusiasm for life. He’d found a community of people who cared about him - another artist he met there encouraged him to take up drawing again. Happiness rippled from Lawrence. He was thrilled when I gave him a print copy of my Breathless Mini-Meditations to encourage his spiritual life.

Last week I gifted a print copy of my women’s book to a young mom I met on the beach with her three children. Watching her eyes light up was a gift to me.

It’s the unexpected that makes us feel special – that someone singles us out for no purpose but to bless us. Isn’t that being Christ in the world?
Or perhaps angels on assignment?

Giving and receiving. Christ came and gave all his love, all his life so that we might give with abandon. We need only see and speak to the saints and sinners and angels we meet in the course of our “ordinary” days to make our days truly extraordinary.

May something good happen through you and to you today and every day in 2015.