Thoughts on a Thursday

I shouldn’t be blogging right now, but if I don’t get some words out of me I’m going to explode. So much is happening. Inside me. All around me. There is just so much on my mind. I’ve been promising myself I would blog for weeks, but blogging is a luxury of time I haven’t been able to afford.

Yet, I gotta release the valve. Gotta let a few things out.

  1. Preparing for the 15th Anniversary Celebration for the ministry my husband and I started directing in 2004: New Brothers Fellowship. Memories flood my mind as I look through old newsletters and old pictures. So many people. So may prayer requests. So many answered prayers.
  2. I am baking cookies. A lot of cookies. I haven’t baked a lot of cookies in a long time, but it’s one of my very favorite things to do.
  3. Making curtains for my daughter’s kitchen. Just valances. And, really plain. I don’t do complicated. I only mention it, because I should have made them about a year ago. I hate that it took me so long to even get started. I love to sew, though I have little skill. I wish it was a regular part of my life.
  4. I don’t know why I have eczema now, but I am experiencing first hand the life my husband has lead his entire life. Our skin issues are a little different, but it’s all bad. I don’t feel sorry for us, though. We have skin, and I’m very thankful to have skin.
  5. I see many of Hannah’s peers falling away from Christ and it makes me very angry. I am not mad at them. I am mad at Satan. He laid traps. He crept in under the cover of darkness. He has truly been a wolf, stealing the Master’s sheep. And, I’m not going to stand for it. I’m taking names and I’m praying. The parable of the Prodigal Son is there for a reason. They may all have to sleep with the pigs, before they realize what they have forsaken, but so be it. They will not die there.
  6. The truth is that in MANY CASES it was Christians that hurt these children, now adults. It makes me so mad. Satan is such a liar, thief, and destroyer. We have to face him with utter fearlessness, folks. We need to take back what he has stolen. I’m not saying these backslidden children are without fault. They made a freewill choice to sin. Yet, when a child has not been given truth and taught how to walk in Christ, they are going to have a hard time facing a temptation that promises to comfort their immediate and acute emotional pain and mental distress. If they do not know God, if they do not have spiritual support, what else will they do? I’m not speaking of anyone in particular here, but too many parents have permissively allowed Satan into their homes. They have not set a guard. Too many wives waiting on their husbands to do it, because too many women have not been taught how to be women of God (just a hint: it means more than not denying him physical intimacy). I know people look at Hannah and say, “Well, it’s easy for you to talk.” My kid is amazing, but if you think I wasn’t on guard like a hawk every step of the way, you’re wrong. If you don’t think Satan was at every corner, laying traps and luring her to death, you’re wrong. I never took her innocence or purity or faith for granted. Not for a second. I knew the Devil too well to think she was safe. In fact, it was in the darkest days of our marriage that the Holy Spirit told me to take my eyes off myself and see that the Enemy was really after Hannah. It was all about destroying her. That is true for every child out there, mom and dad. It’s not about you; it’s about them.
  7. I am thinking of posting sermons here that I think some of you might like. I have done it in the past, and have meant to do it regularly, but writing the outlines takes a lot of time. I may just post the message and write the outline later. I know most sermons I share no one listens to except Doug, but it will also be good for me. I will be able to quickly find those messages that have impacted me. The same goes for prophecy updates. I am very picky about which ones I will watch, because there’s a lot out there that’s just stupid and self-serving.
  8. The impeachment stuff is clogging our news, but I urge you to pay attention to the Middle East. It’s what happens there that best indicates where we are on God’s timeline.
  9. As for the impeachment stuff. I don’t think it will go far. It’s so baseless. So stupid. In fact, every American should hope and pray it doesn’t go anywhere, because there is no evidence of an impeachable offense. I am praying that Democrats in the House start to find the courage to speak out against it. It’s a shameful thing to rob anyone of their right to a defense, and their right to be innocent until proven guilty.
  10. Keep looking up, folks. The Rapture really could take place any time. Every prophecy that needs to be fulfilled before the Rapture has been fulfilled.
  11. I am so concerned for Americans who are left behind. They have no idea how severe the judgment of God is going to be on this nation. I don’t mean the Tribulation; I just mean God’s judgment for how we have murdered and abused children. I know this next statement may cause some to think I’m a real freak, but I also doubt anyone will read this, so here it goes: Trump, despite his many past and current sins, has done more to stop the flood of sin against children in our country than any President in U.S. history. I believe his presidency has held back the judgment of God.
  12. I believe our nation has been blessed for Trump’s support of Israel (not that it protects us from judgment). I also think he might be the President who does not send military aid to Israel during the Ezekiel 38-39 war. That has to be the case though, because no one but God can receive the credit for the victory Israel will experience.
  13. I need to go back to work.
  14. Don’t be afraid to obey the Lord, whatever He may be asking of you, calling you to do. Don’t be afraid. If it isn’t His will, He’ll stop you. Just prayerfully and humbly take that first step, then the second.
  15. These are interesting days. I don’t know what God is doing, but something is going on.

It’s Not the Doing

How are you today?

My day started well enough, but as the minutes ticked by I began to feel pretty stressed-out. The thing that sent me over the top was the Saxophone Player’s text asking if I’d like to go to breakfast. Suddenly, my stress shot through the roof.

Well, that’s just not right! Going to breakfast with my husband should not make me stressed, but I was trying to order my day and that was not something I was making time for today. I knew this was wrong, though, so I stopped everything and turned my focus to the Lord.  If I’ve learned anything, I’ve learned that an absence of peace is proof that I’ve been absent from His presence. No matter how much I might be doing for Him, it’s not the doing that brings peace. It’s the being.

So, I set my mind on Him. I turned on the next sermon on my YouTube playlist. When the sermon was over, I turned on my favorite Pandora channel. Since my hands like to be busy, I made a scripture graphic with one of my favorite peony photos—a gift from God.

I didn’t have “time” for any of these luxuries today, but nothing on my scary, monstrous list of things I need to do—and things I’ve failed to do—matters as much as having the peace of God reigning in my heart. I’m no use to the Lord, if I’m sweating and straining to make things happen. Finishing everything on that list won’t bring me God’s peace. Having everything put away on my “desk” might bring a sense of accomplishment, but it cannot bring God’s peace. Only deciding to make time to be in His presence will restore my soul to a right place of resting in Him. And, that’s all I want. I accepted a long time ago that I’m a total failure as a human, but I don’t want to be a failure as a child of God. I don’t want to fail to love Him and glorify Him. He keeps my hands busy, but He does that for my sake. For His sake, He asks me to just sit with Him and know Him and rest.

He asks us all the same thing. My friend, if the pressures of the day are growing, choking your peace and joy in the Lord, I hope you will stop and sit with Him. Just leave all that there is to do, all that is pressing on you, and just be with Him. We delight in doing, but He delights in us, and in our just being with Him.

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God bless you today. I pray “His peace that passes understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 4:7).

Now, I am off to a late breakfast date with my patient husband. ❤

*I felt inspired to change the pronouns. I hope no one is offended.

Honor Thy Mother

I want to share a video with you.

I just watched it again for the first time in seven years. It’s a video of my mother, and I hope you will watch it to the very end.

I don’t really know what inspired me to conduct an interview, but I’m sure it was the Holy Spirit. Even the questions I asked her—I sound like I knew what I was going to say. I didn’t. It was entirely off the cuff, unedited. And, I’m serious about watching to the end. I couldn’t believe the last shot. Only God!

By the way, Mother would have been 88-years-old today. Instead, of blowing out candles, though, she is in a place of incredible joy with the One her soul adores. Oh, I miss Mother daily—she crosses my mind a dozen times, or more. How she would delight in her many great-grandchildren! She would be “at the height of her glory,” as she used to say.

Yet, I would not wish her back from Heaven. Instead, I rejoice for her victory over death, and the fact that we’ll see each other again. I can’t wait to find out all she has been doing. What a life she is living now!

So, without further ado, in honor of my Mother’s birthday, I humbly invite you to watch this video. If you are in any way at all touched by what you see, will you share it? Maybe, someone you know needs to hear what she has to say. (It can be share directly from YouTube.)

Thank you for remembering Stella with me, even if you never knew her.

Starting the New Year

If working hard means getting a good start to the new year, then I think Doug and I have a lot to look forward to in 2019.

We took a working vacation over Christmas and the New Year, which meant we worked at home only, no outside appointments. We stayed up late, and slept as long as possible.

We also hosted an Open House for ministry volunteers, which was a lot of fun.

Doug did throw his back out after Christmas, but I knew it was coming. The week before he had been doing a lot of lifting and moving, and I kept hearing him say, “There’s something funny going on with my back.” I also caught a head cold, but if it stays in my head, it won’t be too bad.

It’s going to be interesting this year, because we are rolling into 2019 with so much already in place. Normally, we spend January seeking the Lord for His course of action, His plan for the ministry. Well, He set the course for us before 2018 ended; we just have to keep doing what we were doing. So, we have a running start. I like it!

You know, I was thinking about the highlights of 2018 the other day. Isaac, our grandson, was definitely a highlight. How God moved in my heart was a highlight. Doug and I arrived at a new place of goodness in our marriage this past year, and that was a highlight.* It was almost like we remembered we were friends. Maybe, working together frustrates friendship. I think it might. And, HopeMail has been a very big highlight, too. I love how that is coming along.

However, my greatest highlight of 2018 is something I wanted to do all year long. I actually did work on it throughout the year, but it wasn’t until just before Christmas that all the pieces fell into place. It may not seem like a big deal, and you will wonder why it took so long, but I managed to finally finish our spare room, making it a place where the grandbabies can hangout and Doug can play his piano.

And, when those two things come together, well, my heart is pretty full.

I am very thankful the Lord did not despair of me in 2018. His kindness overwhelms me. He does love us like a Father, and we know that because He doesn’t love us any less when we’re ornery. It’s almost like He loves us louder, to make sure that in our blindness we don’t lose our way.

* I would feel dishonest if I did not add that I’ve been repeatedly cranky with him the past couple weeks, which is disappointing for me. I’ve had to apologize a lot. I want to blame my thyroid, but I think it’s more likely just ugly sin.

Breakfast Casseroles Mean Love

Once a month, we have a leadership meeting for the ministry volunteers. Serving breakfast is the least we can do for these awesome folks. And, you know, if you’re going to ask someone to give up part of their Saturday to sit in a church basement, you should offer them a little more than a cup of coffee, right? I love our volunteers. They’re some of my favorite people.

Attendance to our meetings varies from month to month—it’s never a full house—so I’m rarely cooking for more than a dozen people. I can handle that pretty well, and I really enjoy it a lot. I love being able to do something to show them how much they mean to us. It’s a little something, but hopefully they know there is a lot of love in their breakfast casserole.

Tomorrow, I am serving Paula Dean’s French Toast Casserole, lots of bacon and sausage, and fresh berries. I haven’t made a French Toast Casserole in many moons, so I hope it comes out well. Doug scoffed at the four pounds of bacon, but I don’t think it will be enough. Ten men can eat a lot of bacon!

Well, I’ hope you have a great weekend.  I’ll let you know if the casserole was success in tonight’s Saturday Evening Post.

God bless you today! ❤

Newsletter Day

The ministry newsletter always takes me longer to prepare than I expect it to take.

I mean, always. Even when I am not writing the bulk of the message, like this current newsletter.

So, it’s been a very long day, and a very late night. This will have to be my blog post for the day. Actually, Sunday.

I guess I should share the newsletter with you here: NBF FIELD REPORT

The Saxophone Player and me.

We’re Not Only Human

As I was putting dinner in the oven tonight (roast chicken, in case you were wondering), I began to reconsider sharing this post. I fear people being offended. I fear people thinking the wrong thing. But, the Holy Spirit nudged me along. Keep going, Caroline. This isn’t for you.

That means it might be for you.


Oy.

I’m challenged by this call. Sometimes, more than other times. However, there’s no turning back. I mean, frankly, Doug and I have had that conversation more than once. Each time, we know. We know before the conversation even begins. I suppose that’s why we find ourselves seeking the Lord for confirmation about once a year: Are we really in Your will, Lord? Did we really hear You right? Even though this happened, and that happened, and this one is mad at us, and we screwed up over here?

It has been a long summer. Doug and I look at each other some times with a weariness that is really almost comical. Last week, one our leaders was sharing a prayer need, and then he suddenly stopped and said, “You know, this ministry is just really hard.” I started laughing. Pretty soon, another leader was laughing with me. Yeah! It’s HARD. You put your whole heart out there, just to have people smash it in your face. You pick up the pieces, pray for them, and go back and do it, again. Love, acceptance, and forgiveness rule the day. Day after day after day. We trust God has our back, and He always does. One day, we hope, we’ll get to stand in His presence and find out we did at least one thing right.

In January of 2005, our first Winter on this mission field, the Holy Spirit gave me a sort of vision. This was a critical time for us. We had been living by faith for only a short time, and New Brother’s Fellowship had only just begun. Yet, we were really in a hard place financially. It was embarrassing. I’d never seen my refrigerator and cupboards so empty. Every day, I would ask the Lord to help me make a meal for my family, and every day He did, but it was hard for me. I’d been living a pretty cushy life, until then. 

We described our life back then as though the Holy Spirit had said, “Do you see that cliff?”

Yes, Lord.

“Well,” He’d replied, “I want to go right to the edge.”

Oh, that’s scary, but OK, Lord. We’ll do it. We made our way to that edge, faith-filled, and even eager to have this chance to respond to such a specific call on our lives. Putting our fears behind us, we made it right to the edge and breathed a deep sigh of relief. We smiled at one another, even felt a bit accomplished. Squeezed each other’s hands. We did it!

Then, the Holy Spirit completed His instructions.

“OK. Great, Doug and Caroline. Thank you. You’re in the right position now to do what I’m asking you to do.”

But, Lord, we did it. We’re here, on the edge. Livin’ on the edge! See?

“No, My will is there.” He pointed down, over the edge. “You’ll have to jump.”

It was safety and security, or free fall. All these years later, we’re still in free fall. We had no choice.


One day, I am going to stand before the Lord. Oh! The thought makes my heart race and eyes fill with tears. Just imagine it, my friends. Jesus. Face to foot—well, there’s no way I’ll be able to stand and look Him in the face, you know? I’ll be at His dear, wounded feet, washing them with my tears of gladness and gratitude. In that moment, I’ll be regretting the spit I ran from, the hurt I refused to suffer. I’ll be wishing I’d been entrusted with more suffering for His name’s sake. The fullness of His sacrifice for me will suddenly be real, and I can only imagine what that will mean to me, but I think these moments of trials and frustration and trouble will become like steam from my tea cup—gone away in a moment.

Doug wrote a status on Facebook recently that was spot on:

“At what point did you think it was going to feel good to reckon yourself Crucified with Christ?” (Doug Gregan)

I really want it to feel good right now. I want my life to be easy. Comfortable. I like easy. I like soft and cushy. 

Yet, I want Jesus! I want more of Him, and so much less of me, and that means I need to stop keeping me alive. I have to stop feeding my flesh, so that it dies away. That’s hard, but if I’m already trusting Him to give me a safe landing one day, I should be able to trust Him with all of me.

Yes, this past summer has been kinda hard. Heck, these past two-and-a-half years have been kinda hard. I think something about turning 50 just started messing with me. The reality of this life my husband and I live really smashed me in the face. What are we doing? While other people our age are planing for their retirement, Doug and I are living one day at a time, counting on the Lord to bring the balance to our accounts and help us get by until then. This is not the life I expected, and it’s not the life I wanted.

Wanted. Past tense. You see, it really is the life I want now, because it’s the life God has given us. My solution to the challenge is to just stop being so human. I’m not just a woman of flesh. I am called to reckon myself dead, and to let the life of Christ live through me. That’s the spiritual life I should be living every day. You read my blog, so you know I’m not succeeding in doing that, but I will go to bed relying on His mercies and wake-up trusting in His grace. It’s all I can do. 


This is a snippet from a great message on this subject that Doug preached on Easter this year. It speaks to exactly the matter I’ve discussed here. God bless you all who are struggling to reckon yourselves dead to this life. It’s not easy, but His mercy and grace is there for you, too. 

39 Cozy Miracles

I lead a Bible study for the ladies at a shelter in Lynn. During out meeting the week before Thanksgiving, a little seed of hope dropped into my heart. I had been imagining what it would be like to be away from family and the comforts of home on Thanksgiving, and I couldn’t stand the feeling. I kept wishing I could do something to make their Thanksgiving better. I thought there were 24 residents; that wasn’t too many.

As I watered that little seed of hope with prayer, I began to believe that maybe I could come up with two dozen little gifts for the residents.  I knew I had no budget, but I did have some little gift bags. Anything is nicer if it’s packaged well.

I knew we had a Thanksgiving dinner at the Ladder House to pay for the following Monday, and I knew we only had $137.91 in the ministry account, and I knew there was absolutely no way I was going to make this happen myself, but that little seed of hope just kept growing. God could make a way!

I really was stumped for gift ideas, especially for things I could make out of thin air, so I did what I often do: I queried my Facebook friends for ideas.

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I got some great ideas from folks, but nothing close to a universal response. Time was ticking. On Sunday (Wednesday was my deadline) I learned that there were actually 37 residents, not 24. I won’t lie: panic struck. That was a lot more somethings to come up with, and I still didn’t know what those somethings were!

Capture

PAYPAL MIRACLE
Well, by Sunday we had received some donations via Paypal to cover the dinner costs. Praise God! But, the real miracle was that Paypal allowed the transfer of funds to our business account instantly. On the weekend! That just doesn’t happen. It normally takes two business days, but there it was in our account. That meant we could pay for dinner on Monday morning, and it meant I had at least part of the $137 for the gift bags.

Then, I received messages from three women friends, pledging funds towards the Thanksgiving gifts. I was NOT expecting that! God PROVIDED 100%, and leftover money is already designated for Christmas gifts for the residents. Stunning! 

WHAT WAS COZY?
So, I had a budget. I just needed a gift idea. A cozy gift idea. Well, my Mother always said you should give a gift you would want to receive. So, I asked myself what would be cozy to me, and I knew the answer immediately: a mug of something hot. Tea is my favorite, and it’s easy—all you need to enjoy it is hot water. I had a cozy gift!

Now, I just needed 37 mugs.

I had imagined going to a dollar store and finding all the mugs I needed, but I soon realized that in a residence with 37 people, each mug had to be unique. It wouldn’t do for two people to have the same mug in a house with shared kitchens. Though I had a budget, I wasn’t about to blow it on mugs. My sights were already set on those Christmas gifts. So, I decided each mug needed to cost no more than $1.00. This was going to be just a little bit challenging,

Monday we had the Ladder House Mission dinner to prepare for, but I popped into a discount store and found about 15 mugs. That left me Tuesday to find the rest, and that took the better part of the day. I confess I did end up spend a little over a buck for the final few mugs, but it was getting late—and, I was tired.

When I got home and set out all of the mugs, I had 39. I decided to prepare the extra two as insurance against any breakage that might happen in transit. It didn’t take long for Doug and I to assemble the gifts, and I was happy with the finished product. It looked cheerful—and, cozy—to my eyes. What do you think?

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Doug went with me to deliver all the goodies. We also brought a bunch of canned vegetables, paper products, and a sweet potato casserole to add to their Thanksgiving Dinner (one of the ladies coordinated the meal). A few men filed into the room when they saw Doug, so he stayed and we had a co-ed group. It was very nice. And, I was so grateful to know I was leaving little miracles behind when we left.  I can’t tell you what it meant to me.

A FINAL MIRACLE
So, I have one last work of God to share. When we got all the mugs into the house, none of them were broken. I asked my liaison at the house to confirm there were 37 residents. I was going to offer the extra two mugs to staff members.  Before I could say anything, though, she piped up and said, “Well, it was 37, but two more women showed up last night.” Two more women?  I almost cried. Can you believe it? It’s so like God. What kind of love is that, huh?

Oh. folks, will you just stop right now and say a prayer for the men and women at Great Hill? The spiritual need there is extreme. Each week, I hear something else that breaks my heart and leaves me all too aware of my shortcomings as a leader. (Will you pray for me, too?)

If you gave towards these ministry events this month, thank you so much. I wish I could give you a hug, and tell you face-to-face how your contribution made a difference for someone.

God bless you all!

He Thought It Was A Joke

Tonight, we served Thanksgiving Dinner at The Ladder House. The men at the house are all under the jurisdiction of the county jail, but they have earned work release and are allowed to rent a room there. We host an NBF Discipleship Group there weekly, and from time to time we like to take them a meal. At the holidays, it’s especially nice to do something for the guys, because most of them won’t be with their families. This year, that something was a turkey dinner with all the fixings.

Below are some pictures from tonight. Many hands made the evening a success. In fact, things actually went better than they’ve ever gone. We thought we’d be dragging ourselves home close to midnight, but instead we were on our way home before 9:00! The blessing of God was so evident. He provided for the meal, He provided for the volunteers, and He even provided another woman to help serve. I didn’t expect to have anyone help me, but the Lord stirred her heart and she responded. He always knows what we need, doesn’t He?

Before I share the photos, I just have to tell you about Carlos. On Sunday night, Doug went to the Ladder House to post some flyers—just to be sure the men all knew about the dinner.

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Carlos told Pastor Kobe (a leader of the Discipleship Group at TLH) that when he saw the flyer he didn’t believe it. He thought it was a joke. He said, “Who would do that for us?”  It really blew my mind.  Tonight we may be nursing our aching bodies, but we’re also looking forward to the next thing the Lord has on our calendar. Getting to be His hands and feet is a privilege.

 

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

With All My Heart

I came across a bunch of Christmas Cookie Campaign containers and instructional cards in the shed recently.

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The Christmas Cookie Campaign was a huge event we held every year at the local correctional facilities. Seeing those cards and containers brought back a lot of memories. It was a massive undertaking—exhausting, demanding, costly—and I loved every minute of it.

With all my heart.

Allow me to share just a few memories with you. Some of the images are pretty fuzzy, but the memories are as clear as day. If you click on the pictures, you can read the full captions.