Monday, January 2, 2017

Only One Thing is Needed


Do you often feel overwhelmed by your busy schedule? Do you arrive at the end of your days exhausted and your to-do list half undone? Do you feel frustrated by all the activity with little accomplishment?

If so, take heart. January is the season of new beginnings, resolutions, and intentional life changes. There is hope for these overbooked days.

When I think about all the things on my to-do list, I think about Martha.

Martha who?

I’m glad you asked.

Martha, the brother of Lazarus. You know, the guy whom Jesus raised from the dead after three days. That Martha. The Martha that scurried around her house, flour flying, pots and pans clinging, plates dinging as she prepared a meal at her home for Jesus and a group of hungry men. The Martha that snapped at Jesus as if he wasn’t the Son of God. The Martha who was frustrated because of her sister’s disregard for the things that needed to be done. After all, Mary just sat on the floor in the den listening to Jesus tell stories as if the meal was going to cook itself.

In that scenario I would have been Martha, not Mary.

I’m the one who spells hospitality with a capital H. Fill them with a delicious hot meal and lots of trimmings so they’ll want to come back for more. Make sure they’re well-fed and feeling loved through their stomach.

But poor Martha was at the point of hangry (so hungry she had become angry) or possibly she was just plain mad because everyone else was in the other room laughing and having fun while she was stuck in the kitchen. Somebody had to feed these people, but there sat Mary oblivious to Martha’s distress. And Jesus certainly wasn’t helping by keeping Mary entertained with all His stories.

Martha was working on a to-do list that had quickly become overwhelming and she needed help. So what does she do? She cries out to the Lord.

Or rather, she yells at Him. Why don’t you do something? Why don’t you make Mary get up and help me?

Isn’t that funny? Why didn’t she fuss at her sister instead? After all, she could have told Mary in front of all those guys to get up off her duff and help her, but instead Martha does something surprising. She approaches Jesus. Her guest.

Then He does something surprising. He says to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42 NIV)

What??

Can you imagine how Martha must have felt? She asks for help and Jesus explains that Mary is doing exactly what she needs to be doing at the moment - spending time with Him. How can that be? How are these men going to get fed? Who is going to get all these things done?

At least Martha had the good sense to approach Jesus first before attacking her sister. Most likely a family squabble was averted because of that choice.

Biblegateway.com says some translations read “only one thing is needed” rather than “few things”. Regardless, Jesus points out to Martha that she needs to spend time with Him before taking on a ten-item list of other things then she too will experience the peace that Mary exhibits.

What does this have to do with New Year’s resolutions? For me, this passage in Luke speaks to Jesus’ view of minimalism and how important it is to not take on more than you can handle. At least not without seeking Him first. Less is more. Less activity and more time with Him. So….

My resolution is to simplify my schedule so I will have more time to read my Bible and pray. At the top of my to-do list each day, I will write, Only One Thing is Needed.

This will remind me to give Jesus the first part of my day so the remainder will run more smoothly.

I would love to hear about your New Year's resolutions!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Delayed Gratification



Delayed gratification. Or you may remember the idea as deferred gratification. These are terms you probably haven’t encountered in quite a while. Do you even recall what it means?


The ability to forego an immediate small reward for a larger reward at a later date.


Delaying a want or dream seems to be a way of thought left behind with the advancement of the technological era. With most of our desires at our fingertips these days, we have become a society that has no patience to delay anything. Think about your level of patience on a scale of one to ten when you are waiting for your computer to boot.

In this instant society, Siri can answer just about any question I have (as long as I speak clearly and precisely to her) within a minute. The microwave will present my dinner from frozen to piping hot in five minutes or less. Amazon can have a package at my door the next day if I order early enough (and am willing to pay the cost of next day shipping).

With all the conveniences so readily available it is little wonder that we have abandoned the idea of delaying our wants or dreams to a future moment in time.

But, if we look at a situation from the end to beginning rather than in the normal order of beginning to end, the value of time can be seen more clearly. My career is in finance so I will use an example which shows the value of time as it relates to money.

You have a choice in life to indulge and gratify your wants for shiny new things in the here and now or save the money instead and invest it.

Rather than thinking about the $200 a month you should save for twenty years instead of buying new expensive clothes or fancy makeup (these are my weaknesses), or new cars or over-sized houses, concentrate on the total amount of money you will possess after twenty years of consistent saving.

$200 a month invested at 3% interest for twenty years will total $64,489. You will have invested $48,000. The rest is interest earned. If you start at age 20, you could accumulate this total by age 40!

What about the same $200 at 3% interest for forty years? $180,963!

You will have invested $96,000 and earned $84,963 in interest! That averages out to $2,117 earned each month! Wish I had understood the value of saving and delayed gratification at 20 years of age.

During the delayed years you choose to wear less expensive clothing, live in a more moderate home, and drive a vehicle that might not get appreciative looks from others and might even receive a little derision if it is that homely, so that in years to come you will have more financial security.

Delaying or deferring comforts and desires in the here and now requires patience, perseverance, and faith that something good will come of it.

Recently, I was thumbing through a book entitled Little Books About big Things –The Bible by William Mackay. The book consists of interesting tidbits listed in the Bible not well known by the general populace. One of the questions asked was “How long did it take Noah to build the ark?” The answer?



                  100 years!

Whew! That’s a loooooong time. Longer than most of us will live on the earth. Talk about perseverance.

Noah knew something his cohabitants on the earth did not know. He had a special Word from God about why he needed to build the thing, how well it needed to be built, and that ultimately it would not only save his life and the lives of his family, but preserve the future of the animal kingdom as well as humanity.

When you think about it from that perspective a hundred years does not seem like such a long time commitment. It seems like a small price to pay for such a huge reward. What kept Noah going day after day when he became weary, endured derision from his fellow man, and the rains did not come?

  • Noah had faith that God would keep His Word.
  • He viewed the project or goal from the ending to the beginning rather than vice versa.
    • He could have enjoyed the easy life for a hundred years but knowing what was at stake, he worked steadily toward building a vessel in which the inhabitants could live comfortably until the coming crisis subsided.
  • He was willing to sacrifice his current comfort for a future reward.
  • He spoke to others about the goal he was working to accomplish.
    •   2 Peter 2:5 describes Noah as a “preacher of righteousness” which makes me think he warned others of the coming flood and explained his reasons for building such a gargantuan boat.
    • Speaking your long-term goals cements them in your own mind as well as keeps you accountable. After all, who wants to announce he is working toward a goal and then not complete it?

What about you? Are you making any sacrifices now for the future?

Thursday, November 24, 2016

A Thankful Heart

Today we celebrate a national day of Thanksgiving. Have you ever thought about what it means to give thanks? Wouldn't you be thankful rather than give it away?

Merriam-Webster describes being thankful as “well pleased or conscious of a benefit received”. The website freedictionary.com defines giving thanks as "expressing gratitude". So it seems that giving thanks is a result of being conscious of a benefit received.


Psalm 50:23 says, But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me. If you keep to my path, I will reveal to you the salvation of God. (NLT)


Until I read this verse I had never thought of giving thanks as a sacrifice, but as I dug deeper into the background of it, I learned the Israelites were commanded to give thank offerings as peace offerings to God. An article from the website, LearnTheBible.com, entitled, “The Sacrifice of Thanksgiving”, by David Reagan (
http://www.learnthebible.org/the-sacrifice-of-thanksgiving.html), explains that we cannot have the peace that surpasses human understanding without a thankful heart. I recommend you take time to read the article as it explains the details and symbolism of the thanksgiving sacrifice.


A blog post entitled “A Sacrifice of Thanksgiving”, by Katherine Harms (
https://livingontilt.com/2012/05/21/a-sacrifice-of-thanksgiving/ ), on the blog, Living on Tilt, explains Psalm 50:23 in the context that God has become displeased with the resentful hearts of His people who are dutifully presenting the sacrifice to Him, but they are doing it with bitterness. They do not want to give to Him what they believe they have worked hard to earn. They did not recognize that all they had was God's from the beginning. He seeks a heart that praises Him and sacrifices willingly. Katherine explains this concept beautifully and in much more depth than I have time to do here today.


Since we no longer bring sacrifices of animals or unleavened bread to the altar, how do we in this modern world offer a thanksgiving sacrifice to God? First we need to be conscious of a benefit received and then we need to express gratitude for it, but we cannot only be thankful for what we consider good things, we must be thankful in all things. Sometimes God allows circumstances in our lives that we do not see as positive in any way, but ultimately contribute to our growth, well-being, or deepen our relationship and dependence on Him. Below are some ideas that exhibit to God you are thankful for the benefit of peace that comes from a relationship with Christ.


1. Find something to thank God for each day.


2. Be thankful when times are tough.


3. Pray for the well-being of someone who has hurt you.


4. Tithe willingly and happily knowing that your sacrifice will help someone else.


5. Take time to show kindness to someone who is in need.



                  I’d like to hear your ideas of how you exhibit thankfulness.


Please know that I am thankful for you, my dear reader, and I pray you will have a Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving holiday!















Monday, September 19, 2016

Cultivate a Teachable Spirit


I was nervous when I submitted my first story to an editor to be published in an anthology because I didn’t know if I was a good writer and because anything new is usually exciting and scary at the same time. Not only did I have no idea what to expect but, as any writer understands, I was super sensitive about this baby I had birthed, these words on a page.

Below is a condensed version of the story for learning purposes.

The story involved a six hour road trip my son and I took to Valdosta, Georgia, to visit an uncle who was undergoing a life threatening surgery the next day. My brother, who lives near me, was going as well but had left hours earlier and told me via phone he was taking Hwy 121 through the middle of the state which was the normal route we usually took when visiting family.

For some reason my son and I decided to take a different route and turned toward Atlanta on Interstate 20 then caught Interstate 75 toward Macon. When we reached Tifton around 8:00 or 9:00 that night, I was craving some coffee, real coffee.

After consulting the GPS to find a Starbucks we ended up in a seedy side of town in front of a worn down store that may or may not have sold coffee.  Both of us, uncomfortable to even get out of the car, decided to forego the coffee and head on to Valdosta.

I turned the car around and drove back the way we had come. As we approached the road that led back to the interstate, we spotted the sought after Starbucks tucked away in a corner to the left of the intersection. The GPS had originally sent us to the right at the intersection rather than to the left.

I drove into the parking lot and we walked inside to order the coffee. The wait was not short, so I debated whether or not to stay for the coffee or get back on the road because my parents, who generally went to bed early, were waiting for us in Valdosta and the coffee detour had already cost us several minutes. The coffee craving was strong, so I decided to wait it out.

Just as we were re-entering the interstate, my brother called to ask our location. Thinking he was already in Valdosta, I told him the exit number we were just leaving in Tifton.

He said, “Please turn around. I’m stranded on the same exit with a broken-down vehicle.”

He should have been hours ahead of us, but he had changed course at some point during the day, decided to drive toward the interstate, then encountered vehicle problems.

We turned around, assisted him, then resumed our drive toward Valdosta. Later that evening, my son commented at the divine providence of us being at the same exit as my stranded brother at the moment he called. If we had not been led astray by the confused GPS and a long coffee wait, we would have been much further down the road.

As the writer, I saw my son’s revelation as the ta-da moment of the story.

But, after reading it, the editor replied:

Hi Fran,
Thanks for sending the story. It makes a good point that would fit well in this book. It does need some editing. All the routes, roads, cities, etc. get in the way of the real story. (The first draft was wrought with extraneous details.)


I thanked her for the guidance, made some changes, and resent it. Her next response was to question, “What’s the rest of the story?”


I was stumped. What did she mean by the rest of the story? The story was the story.


I asked one of my friends to read it to help figure out what this editor was seeking. This being my first attempt and submission, I didn’t want to pound the editor with too many questions and seem too amateurish or dense.


My friend read the story and promptly asked, “What happened to your uncle?”


Dumbfounded, I stared at her. “What do you mean what happened to him? That’s not what the story is about.”


She said, “Then why did you bring him up to begin with? I want to know if he is doing okay after his surgery.”


Hmmm, well, seems I had set up a situation without resolving it. As the writer I was so focused on the crux of the story, I forgot to tie up loose ends the reader would deem significant. (Please don't think me a bad niece. My uncle is very significant to me and I love him, but I was not telling the story about him, so it did not occur to me that my readers would be so concerned about his well-being. That concern speaks well of the human race, don’t you think?)


After adding a resolution sentence about the surgery, I resent the story to the editor. She seemed pleased with the revision and commented that I exhibited a willingness to learn.


Writer, if you are new to the editing or critiquing process, cultivate a teachable spirit and consider Proverbs 16:20 which says, “Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers…,” and Proverbs 1:5, “A wise man will hear, and will increase learning…

These actions advised in Proverbs are so important to success regardless of the endeavor.
  • Cultivate a teachable spirit
  • Listen

Two of the hardest things to do because we want to do things our way or we are certain we already know it all. At one point I was certain I was going to set the world on fire with my ability to arrange words on paper, but I soon learned that nothing could be further from the truth without a lot of hard work and a lot of learning on my part.

Once you make up your mind to learn, then you must develop your listening ability. Listening is a form of submission, a deference, if you will, to another person's wisdom or experience. Sometimes, it is impossible to move forward without the benefit of another's help.

Is there something you want to accomplish in life? If so, do you seek out people who are knowledgeable in that area and "listen to and heed their instruction?"


And, in case you were wondering, my uncle travelled to South Carolina recently to visit and is still doing quite well.

My story can be read among 49 other stories in the anthology, Divine Moments, published by Grace Publishing.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Requests for Prayer

Today I'd like to highlight a short post by Lillian Humphries on her website, Connected Christian Women, that addresses how to handle requests for prayer. Her post resonated with me this past week when someone asked me to pray for a member of their family.




How do you handle the prayer needs you encounter each day?




Guest Author Bio
I am a transplant from Florida and have lived in the Upstate area since 2001.  I love living here and being able to see the changes in the season.  Married to Doug Humphries and together we have two girls and two boys and 10 grand children that are the loves of our lives. 







Tuesday, July 19, 2016

What to do?

Sometimes it's difficult to know how to help someone going through a painful season in their life. When my world as I knew it came crashing to an end, compassionate people met my needs in a variety of ways. Hopefully, some of the ideas below will help you show love and kindness to someone who is hurting.


          Share Your Story

Several people came to me when they heard about my heartbreaking situation. They didn’t ask anything, didn’t try to verify rumors, just relayed their own stories, some much worse than mine. For some it might have been the first time they felt comfortable to share their story. After all, I was no longer a porcelain doll without cracks. It was through my own painful experience that I learned people connect and sympathize with our weaknesses more than our strengths, with our hurts more than our joys. I was now someone with whom they could relate and bond because of a shared experience. And not only was I  a safe haven for them, I was strengthened by the knowledge they survived their painful season. If they had, then so could I. It was a win-win conversation.


Make A Phone Call




Pick up the phone and tell them you are thinking about them and wanted to make sure they knew it. Don't ask, “How are you doing?” That’s a hard question to answer, and some people feel threatened by a lot of questions. Just tell them you are thinking about them and wanted to make sure they know it. Let them vent if they have the need. Don’t force it if they don’t.


Pay A Visit

Take the time to stop by. Nothing takes the place of face to face. One friend whom I'd not seen in a while started randomly dropping by (she would call ahead) to check on me and as a result we rekindled a neglected friendship.




                Send Flowers

Flowers are never a waste of money. And they don’t have to be store bought if cash flow is a problem. People who own yards with flowering plants are usually glad to share a few blooms--just ask. Arrange them in a vase, and if you are able, deliver them personally. I still remember a gorgeous bouquet sent to me by a dear friend during my tough season. I took a picture of it to remind me of her kind gesture long after the blooms faded.




Send A Card

Receiving old fashioned correspondence through snail mail can be very uplifting when it is a beautiful card with thoughtful words. The cards I received always came on a day when I needed that extra boost of encouragement to keep putting one foot in front of the other.



Give a Gift


One friend gave me a clear packet containing a small seed. “This is a mustard seed,” she explained. I replied, “I’m not good at gardening.” She laughed then told me it wasn’t for planting but to hold onto when I was feeling low, which was most of the time. She said, "You will get through this," then quoted she quoted the following verse to me.



Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.
Matthew 17:20 (NIV)

For many months I held onto that seed for dear life.....until one day I misplaced it. When I couldn't find it I cried like a baby who had lost a security blanket. Another friend who knew how much it meant to me replaced it with a mustard seed in a locket that I could wear around my neck. I will be forever grateful.

  Extend a Dinner Invitation

A couple of friends consistently invited me to dinner with their families or out to eat with other extended friends. Though I hated going solo, it gave me a chance to get out in a social environment, clear my thoughts, and breathe fresh air. They always made me feel welcome and never like a third wheel.



Pray With Them

One day I sunk the lowest that I believed I could go. "I can't take this," I thought. No longer had the words entered my mind when a young woman from church dropped by my office. She took one look at me, saw my despair, and said, “Can I pray with you?” And she did. Right then and there. That thoughtful act was a turning point for me. At the very moment I thought my life was lost, God’s timing prevailed. If she’d been too busy that day as she ran business errands, my faith might have crumbled.


Make a Box of Verses


One of the most surprising things I received during that time was a box full of Bible verses, not just any old random verses either, but ones handpicked toward my situation. A friend had typed the verses placing my name at the beginning of each one making it appear as if God were talking directly to me. She then cut out each verse, folded it, and placed it in the box. There are probably fifty verses in that box. Each day I would open the box and pull out the words of encouragement.



I am so grateful to each person who took the time to show me love and kindness during a difficult period in my life. Please feel free to share unique ways you have blessed others going through a painful season.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Incredible Trust

By Fran Lee Strickland @FranLStrickland

A few years ago I read a book that forever changed how I view money and God’s ability to provide for those who trust in Him. It is the true life story of a man who petitioned God through prayer to meet his every financial need. Before he became a Christian he attended seminary at the behest of his biological father because preaching was one of the best ways to make a good living in nineteenth century Prussia. Neither he nor his father believed in Christ so it was purely a decision to insure his future earning potential.

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
Mr. Müller documents his raucous youth and disregard for the heart of God even as he attended seminary. Eventually he realizes he at least needs to act as a Christian if he’s going to be a preacher. After all, it just wouldn’t look right to the congregation if he didn’t outwardly walk the talk. He writes of his many attempts to turn his life around through his own resolutions and the sheer futility of that struggle. After multiple tries  to be “the real deal”, he pretty much gave up on the idea. Soon afterwards he was introduced to a man whom he claimed was the first person he had ever seen pray on his knees. This humble act of submission and the man’s genuine commitment opened his eyes and heart to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and it became the turning point in his life. 

When George Müller began preaching in 1832 at Bethesda Chapel in Bristol, England, he was by then a committed Christian. To make a long beautiful story short, he determined not to ask any human being for financial sustenance, He would depend wholly only God. As a result, he decided to move the tithing box away from the front of his podium so he would be unable to see what each parishioner tithed. He did this because he did not want to bias his sermons toward those who gave more to the church than others. In addition, he instructed his deacons to pray each week about what his salary should be. He would be content with what the Holy Spirit led them to pay him.


Click to access Amazon
The book, The Autobiography of George Müller, is his daily journal of financial struggle and how God met every need. It is an amazing story of how Mr. Müller not only trusted God for his and his wife’s needs as they ministered to others, but how God prompted him to build orphanages for the children whose parents had died in the war. Before all was said and done, Mr. Müller built several orphanages and clothed, fed, and educated thousands of children without ever asking anyone for financial help and without going into debt. His only requests were in the forms of prayers. The donations whether they were money, food, clothing or other items sometimes came from acquaintances and sometimes from strangers, but they came—often just in the nick of time. He recorded daily each of the needs he encountered and how each one was met.


One of my favorite stories that he chronicles is about a sweet woman who contributed much of her inheritance to the church and orphanages. When she told Mr. Müller what she intended to do he sat her down and had a long conversation with her to ensure she had “counted the cost” of giving away funds she might need later to survive her twilight years. She responded that she would give five shillings more as proof of her decision to give cheerfully to the Lord. Meanwhile she sewed clothing to earn money for her daily needs. As a result of giving so much to the church she did indeed end up penniless when she was elderly having given up her luxuries and retirement fund so others could have food and shelter. When she became so feeble that she could no longer sew to make a living, she recounted God’s provision to her that was provided in the form of other people who stepped forward willingly and selflessly to take care of her without her ever having to ask for help. Her story, observed by Mr. Müller,  was a faith builder for a man who was trusting his own daily needs to Christ.

George Müller’s life has been an inspiration to many. Even today his legacy lives on through the George Müller Charitable Trust. The trust exists today to advance evangelical Christianity and to aid any disadvantaged persons including orphans. The trust receives donations by check or electronic donations online but never solicits or participates in fund raising activities remaining true to its founder's belief in prayer. I encourage you to learn more about Mr. Müller through his own autobiography, his other writings, and the links below.


Müllers                  georgemuller.org              Wikipedia - George Müller


I would love to hear who has inspired you with his or her unshakeable faith!