Refused Blessings

I’m back at Food Lion. For the summer, anyway. One of the regular customers is a man who buys food at a reduced price to feed the hungry. Apparently, he’s part of a Christian group that does the feeding. Which, to be honest, kind of shocked me. He isn’t very friendly.

A couple weeks ago, the man came in to buy groceries for himself. I got to the end of the order and he very gruffly shoved a pack of meat back at me and told me to take it off. I’m guessing I had a quizzical look on my face because he quickly explained that he was about a dollar short. 

Now, I’m not wealthy, my any stretch of imagination, but I had a dollar I could spare that day, so I dug in my pocket and told him I had him covered. He assured me that he would come back to pay me back. I told him not to worry about it – just pay it forward. 

I didn’t think anything more about the situation, until he came back in several days later and thrust a dollar bill at me. I thanked him, but told him it wasn’t necessary, that he was supposed to pay it forward, he proudly stated, “I pay all my debts!”

That’s nice.

Except.

Some debts can’t be paid back. 

I have debts I can’t repay. The folks along the way who have helped us financially, those who have watched kids or made food. And then there’s the friend who gave us a place to live.

It’s hard to accept a gift like that. It’s humbling to recognize that we’ve received such a treasure. And that there’s no way we can “balance the scales.” Some things just can’t be repaid.

Jesus paid a debt for us that can never be repaid. We have zero capacity to even come close to repaying what He did for us. Yet, He offers it freely to all those who will accept.

Friends, if we can’t accept a dollar or food or babysitting or a place to live with no ability to repay, then how can we accept the grace of forgiveness and eternal life? 

Are you in a place of need today? Is someone offering help you’re refusing because you know you can’t pay it back? If so, I would gently remind you to check your pride level. It’s so easy to rely on self, but it’s not what God calls us to. Open your hands, let go of the “should haves” and accept whatever gift God is offering you, through whichever vessel He chooses. I can almost guarantee it’ll be unexpected!

Be blessed and tell someone you love them.

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Wilderness Walking

Twenty two years ago, Keith and I realized that trying to live our lives without letting God be in charge wasn’t working for us. We rededicated our lives to Him and shortly after found a church. Harvest was an integral part of our lives for fifteen years. Over time, though, change occurred. Change in us, change in the church. Seven years ago, God made it clear it was time to move on. It was a hard, emotionally wrenching move, but He assured us we were on the right path and that He had a place of rest for us.

That place of rest turned out to be Lowell Church of God. There were doctrinal differences, but they loved the Lord and loved us, so it worked. We made friends and Lowell became the safe place God had promised.

But, life changes. And ours did, dramatically. I was laid off. Keith was laid off. I took a job in retail where I worked late many Wednesdays and worked every other Sunday. Our finances were in the toilet. Several of our friendships were in the same place. 

One of those relationships was with the children’s, then youth, pastor and his wife. It’s a long story I won’t go into. They were in a bad place. We were in a bad place. There were hurt feelings. And unforgiveness. My favorite sermon at that time was Bishop TD Jakes preaching about his “gift of goodbye.” I had certainly received that gift. I chose to exercise the gift and move on with life.

As all this was happening, God moved them to another church. Then, He moved us. No, not to another church – He moved us to the sticks! 

When we first moved, we honestly thought it was a temporary move. I guess it took about six months to realize that didn’t seem to be the plan. 

We tried a few churches, but none felt like the place we were supposed to be. Mostly, God seemed to be working on teaching us to listen to Him when there was no pastor around to give us direction. 

There were those who would have said we were wondering in the wilderness, like the Israelites. There was a time that I would have hotly refuted that statement! Today, however, God reminded me that it was Him Who had the Israelites in the wilderness. They were never wandering aimlessly and He never deserted them.

And so it has been for us. He has held us aside from “institutional church,” teaching us, guiding us, strengthening our relationship with Him and helping us learn to rely on our ability to hear from Him.

Now, those of you who know me know that one of my favorite things to say is, “We tell our plans to God and He laughs.” 

Guess what! God’s laughing.

That couple with whom I exercised my gift of goodby? Yeah, well, despite the fact that I said I was done with them, they are now my pastors. 

God had revealed to me months ago that it was time to be back in church, that my boy desperately needed it. Keith still works most Sundays, so we visited churches as we could, with or without him. Every time we found one I thought I might could like, God said no. A couple months ago, I woke up with the absolute knowledge that I was supposed to be at Daniel and Tabitha’s church. When I told Keith, his response was, “In Lincolnton???” Yes. In Lincolnton. Forty-five minutes away. He shrugged and said, “if that’s what God’s telling you, then okay.” When I contacted Tabitha, she was a little more excited that I would have expected. It didn’t take her long to tell me that they had been praying for a children’s minister and she thought I was the answer to that prayer. After a couple days of praying, I realized this was God’s plan. (Even though I had also sworn I was done with children’s ministry.)

So. This is a story of restoration. Of God finishing what He started. Of His ability to speak to the hearts of His children. And yes, of wilderness walking. 

Do you feel like you’re in a wilderness? Cling to God. He hasn’t left you or forsaken you and never will. 

And for those of you watching your friends walk around in a wilderness, don’t assume you know what’s going on. Unless God has revealed it to you, you have no clue what His plan is for them. Don’t be like Job’s friends! Just encourage them and love them. God’s got the perfect plan.

Be blessed and tell someone you love them.

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Sized Wrong

Yesterday, as a friend’s two year old came running by, shorts almost to his ankles and sagging like a gangsta, she mentioned that her boy’s shorts were too big. She went on to say that they were sized 18-24 months. Now, it’s been a minute or two since I had a two year old, but this little guy looks like that should have been the exact size he would need. However, these shorts were mis-sized. They had been labeled wrong. We had a good laugh about it and went on with our conversation.

This morning, though, the laughter has turned to contemplation. How often in our lives do we try to “fit” the label someone else has given us? 

Sometimes it’s things like tall kids should play basketball, stocky kids should play football and a kid with long fingers should be a piano virtuoso. But if they don’t have those talents, their size and shape don’t matter. Likewise, if they do have those talents, size and shape don’t matter. (Anybody remember Muggsy Bogues?) What matters is who they truly are, not who they’re perceived to be.

Other times, though, the labels can be much more damaging. Bad, stupid, dumb, fat, skinny, ugly, too tall, too short….just not good enough. Those labels can be applied at any time and can last a lifetime. We all know people who have never achieved much, despite talent, simply because they had been labeled wrong.

If you’ve read the label someone has stuck on you and believed it, I have good news! You are NOT who they say you are! You are who God says you are. And His Word says some pretty amazing stuff about His children.

If you are a child of God, a born-again believer, a follower of Christ, then this is who you are: Holy, righteous, co-heir, salt, light, complete, alive, redeemed! Did that list excite you? It should. And it’s just a partial list, a sampling. The Bible says so much more! 

I know that some of you are doubting me. You’ve believed the labels given to you by others – parents, spouses, friends, teachers, pastors – that you’ve become it. It’s time you understand. They mis-sized you! Google “Who I Am in Christ” and read the list. Look up the scriptures. Meditate on them. And remember that God can’t lie. Let your identity in Christ be the person you become and leave those old labels behind. I promise, it will change your life. He will change your life! Then, go out and share who you really are with the world. We need more of that.

Be blessed and tell someone you love them.

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Days Like This

Yesterday. Oh my. By the end of the day, this one piece of music was running through my head, “Mama said there’d be days like this.” Yep. It was just one of those days. I’m sure you’ve had them. Those days when seemingly everything goes wrong. When the comedy of errors is so absurd your choices are to laugh or cry. When it feels like every effort is blocked by a brick wall. No worries. I handled it like a champ. Wait. Make that toddler. I handled it like a toddler, complete with whining and foot stomping.

This morning, when I woke up, I greeted the Lord. Got my coffee. Sat down with my Bible (app). When I opened the app, the scripture I was reading earlier in the week was still there. Genesis 39. That chapter is telling about Joseph, who had been sold by his brothers to the Ishmaelites. He was then sold to Potipher, Pharoah’s officer. Then he was sent to prison. 

That’s kind of how my day (week) felt! I’m feeling you, Joseph!

The verse that struck me, though, was this: ““The chief jailer did not supervise anything under Joseph’s charge because the LORD was with him; and whatever he did, the LORD made to prosper.” ‭‭Genesis‬ ‭39:23‬ ‭NASB‬‬. 

Wait. Back up the truck. What did that say? He prospered??? But I just told you he was in slavery and in prison. Hmmm. Maybe we should dig deeper into that story.

Joseph’s story starts in Genesis 37. He was the youngest son of Jacob, aka Israel. He was also the favorite son of Israel because he was “the son of his old age.” Joseph’s brothers hated him for it. Also, Joseph was a tattletale. (v. 2). That probably didn’t help. Nor did the dreams he shared with them – the ones that meant they would bow down to him. So, they plotted to kill him. But Reuben couldn’t hurt his dad that way, so he convinced the other brothers to toss Joseph in a pit instead. The brothers saw a caravan of Ishmaelites and decided to make money off of Joseph. They sold him for twenty pieces of silver. Reuben was distraught when he realized it. They then hatched a plan to fool their father into thinking Joseph was dead. They dipped Joseph’s multi-colored tunic (given to him by his father) in blood and presented it to Israel. Israel instantly tore his clothing and began mourning his favorite son.

In the meantime, the Ishmaelites took Joseph to Egypt and sold him to Potipher, an officer of Pharoah. God was with Joseph and he found favor with Potipher, who ended up putting him in charge of his entire household. Unfortunately, Potipher’s wife took a fancy to Joseph. She pursued him, but Joseph resisted, saying, “Potipher has withheld nothing from me except you. I can’t dishonor God that way.” (My paraphrase). Wifey wasn’t happy and kept pursuing him. One day, he was the only one in the house and she tried again by grabbing his clothing. He slipped out of it and ran, leaving her holding his shirt (or tunic or whatever). She then claimed he tried to rape her. Of course Potipher was livid and tossed him into prison.

In prison, God was with him and he was a model prisoner, so he was put in charge again. When Pharoah’s cup holder and baker got themselves in some trouble, they ended up in prison with Joseph. They each had weird dreams and came to Joseph about them. God gave Joseph the interpretation. Basically, the cup holder would be restored in Pharoah’s household and the baker would be killed. When it came to pass, the cup holder forgot all about Joseph, despite his promise to remember him, until a couple years later when Pharoah was having weird dreams.

Pharaoh assembled his magicians and pseudo-spiritual dudes, but they couldn’t interpret the dreams where the skinny cows ate the fat ones. The cup holder told pharaoh about Joseph. Joseph told Pharaoh it was God Who interprets dreams, then proceeded to tell him the dreams meant there would be seven years of plentiful crops, followed by seven years of famine. The famine would be so great that it will kill many. But God had also given Joseph a plan. Pharaoh took Joseph out of prison and put him in charge of the famine plan. Joseph had God’s favor and answered to no one but Pharaoh.

In the plentiful years, Joseph had everyone give a portion of their crops to be stored. When the famine hit, Egypt was ready. The stored food was rationed out and the Egyptians were eating while all around other folks were starving. Joseph’s sons heard that the Egyptians had food and made a plan to go to Egypt for food. Joseph recognized them and after some negotiations and sending them home and having them return, he finally revealed who he was. Joseph was restored to his family and to his father. And the family had all the food they needed. When the brothers fell before him apologizing for selling him, he said, “what you meant for evil, God meant for good.”

Wow.

As I look at Joseph’s story, I’m astounded by the fact that he was put in some very not-good situations, but God used every one of those to reposition Joseph to where he needed to be to achieve God’s purpose. Even in prison, the Bible tells us that Joseph had God’s favor.

Keith and I have been in enough situations in life that we’ve seen the principle over and over. God will use the bad, hard, rotten stuff to move us to a better place. Our hard move to the sticks has resulted in a new son-in-law, among other things. Some days I’m even bright enough to remember that God uses all things for the good of those who are His (Romans 8:28), and manage to not get mad or discouraged. But not always! But I should because God has never let me down. 

So. Are you in a head, bad, rotten place? Are you angry at the people or circumstances that put you there? God is no respecter of persons. I believe what He did for Joseph, He still does for His people. Focus on God and doing the things that would honor Him. I believe He will give you the opportunity to say, “what you meant for evil, God meant for good.”

Be blessed and tell someone you love them.

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Tears

Pain etched on her face, the mom reached up to wipe her daughter’s tears. The unexpected death of a son and brother had left them reeling with grief. As I watched the tender scene, the love of the mom so evident, I thought of Jesus and His tenderness towards us.

Psalm 56:8 says, “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” (NLT) Although I feel certain the image isn’t correct, I can just see Jesus wiping our tears and bottling them. The scriptures promise that our tears will be wiped away and there will be no more crying in heaven. But, as we trudge through life here on earth, heaven can seem awfully far away. Our hearts long for the day when the pain and suffering is gone. However, when we look a little more closely, we see that help is promised for now too.

Psalm 34:18 says, “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” (NLT) In Deuteronomy, we read “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (31:8 NIV) That promise is so important, it’s reiterated in Hebrews 13:5. In Matthew 28:20, Jesus tells His disciples, “lo, I am with you alway, [even] unto the end of the world.” (KJV).

Sometimes, though, in the midst of pain and suffering and turmoil, it’s easy to feel alone and abandoned. Jesus knew we would struggle with that. In John 14:16-17, He said, “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” Ah. There it is. The promise of the Holy Spirit dwelling within believers. God Himself bringing us everything we need, delivered from deep inside.

Life is hard. But God is good. Cling to Him, lean into His strength, rest in His peace. There is no more precious place to abide.

Be blessed and tell someone you love them.

PS Please pray for my sweet friend, who lost her oldest child yesterday, and for her family. 

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Who Am I?

I am Leigh. I’m a wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, niece, sister, friend. I’m a clown, writer, poet, crafter, lunch lady, nerd, fountain of useless knowledge. I am high-strung, emotional, stubborn, loving, loyal, creative. 


I’m sure my friends and family could add some stuff. And the world could add more. But none of that really matters.

A large part of my counseling sessions have been dedicated to making sure I know exactly who I am. And the truth is, as fitting as these labels may be, they aren’t really who I am.  Who am I, then? I am a child of God!

I’m sure at this point many of you are saying, “well, sure Leigh, but you’re still what you listed earlier.” While all those titles may be accurate (some more than others!), the person I truly am is who God says I am.

Now, before you start thinking I’m splitting hairs, hang in here with me for a minute.

Here are a few things the Bible says about me:

• I am a child of God.

But to all who have received him–those who believe in his name–he has given the right to become God’s children … (John 1:12).



• I am a friend of Jesus.

I no longer call you slaves, because the slave does not understand what his master is doing. But I have called you friends, because I have revealed to you everything I heard from my Father (John 15:15).
• I have been justified and redeemed.

But they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:24).



• My old self was crucified with Christ, and I am no longer a slave to sin.

We know that our old man was crucified with him so that the body of sin would no longer dominate us, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin (Romans 6:6).



• I will not be condemned by God.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).



• As a child of God, I am a fellow heir with Christ.

And if children, then heirs (namely, heirs of God and also fellow heirs with Christ)–if indeed we suffer with him so we may also be glorified with him (Romans 8:17).



• I have been called to be a saint.

… To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, and called to be saints, with all those in every place who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours (1 Corinthians 1:2). (See also Ephesians 1:1, Philippians 1:1, and Colossians 1:2.)



• In Christ Jesus, I have wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.

He is the reason you have a relationship with Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption … (1 Corinthians 1:30).



• My body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who dwells in me.

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you (1 Corinthians 6:19)?
• I am a new creature in Christ.

So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away–look, what is new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17)!



• I have become the righteousness of God in Christ.

God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).



• I am no longer a slave, but a child and an heir.

So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if you are a son, then you are also an heir through God (Galatians 4:7).



• I have been set free in Christ.

For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be subject again to the yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1).



• I have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.

Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ (Ephesians 1:3).



• I am chosen, holy, and blameless before God.

For he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we may be holy and unblemished in his sight in love (Ephesians 1:4).
• My new self is righteous and holy.

Put on the new man who has been created in God’s image–in righteousness and holiness that comes from truth (Ephesians 4:24).



• The peace of God guards my heart and mind.

And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).



• God supplies all my needs.

And my God will supply your every need according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).



• I have been made complete in Christ.

You have been filled in him, who is the head over every ruler and authority (Colossians 2:10).



Now, I know that’s a long list. But I want you to read it again. Slowly. And absorb the things God says about you. And know that this is a small portion of the wonderful attributes we have in Christ Jesus.

Okay. Did you read it again? Let’s keep rolling!

I think it’s vitally important to remember who we really are. In fact, I think it’s so important that the enemy of our soul spends a lot of time trying to make us forget or trying to deceive us into believing that we are the “less than” image the world like to project on us. 

Why is it important to remember who you are? Because if you forget, you may forget to do the things you’re supposed to do. If I forget that I’m a mom, I may not take good care of my kids. If I forget that I’m a lunch lady, I may forget to go to work. 

Likewise, if I forget who God says I am, I may forget to act like it. I don’t believe God puts us on this earth and saves us for no reason. I believe He intends for us to use our gifts to help others. And He wants us to tell others about Him. If we forget who we are, we can’t point people back to God. And we can’t experience the richness of His presence the way He intends.

So. Who are you? If you’re still not sure, go back and read the list again. Then get out there and show the world who they’re dealing with!

Be blessed and tell someone you love them.

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Yesterday, the best friend and I had an impromptu adventure day. We started out going to a new place for lunch. It turned out that this new place was an hour away in the middle of nowhere. 

As we were leaving, the gps directions were a bit vague, and I missed the first turn. The gps quickly recalculated and sent us down another road. A couple of miles down that road, we passed a sign that said, “pavement ends.” Amy and I looked at each other, shrugged, and kept going. 

When we made it to a paved road, we sighed with relief and kept rolling, carefully following the gps directions. Surely we were going to be on pavement for the rest of the trip!

Or maybe not. 

The next turn looked harmless enough. It was a fairly narrow road in the middle of farmland and pastures. Quite beautiful. Then, we saw it. Another yellow sign announcing the end of the pavement. 

This road was more bumpy, more narrow, more curvy. We were praying we didn’t come up on a vehicle coming the other way! 

As we were laughing about the fact that our lunch at a new place turned into an adventure, Amy pointed out that this trip was very much like life. Just because the road is bumpy and narrow doesn’t mean you’re on the wrong road.

Oh my! Yep. Truth.

So often, when we become Christians, we think our path is going to be smooth and easy. I’m not sure where we get that crazy idea, because in John 16:33, Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” In fact, Jesus’ life wasn’t easy. Neither were the apostles’ lives. So it’s unrealistic to think we’ll never have troubles.

What to do, then, when you hit a dirt road? Well, I think the physical is a great parallel to the spiritual. Keep your eyes on the road. Keep going. Follow the directions. Trust the voice guiding you. 

Life can take some crazy, hard, unexpected turns. But just because it’s not going the way you thought it would or should, doesn’t mean it’s not God’s plan for you! Look at Joseph. His story can be found in Genesis (chapters 37-46). The short Leigh version is that he was sold by his brothers, but God was in control the whole time. He ended up in the royal palace and had the plan to save the country when the famine hit. Joseph reunited with his brothers and assured them that what they had meant for evil God meant for good. (Definitely go read it for yourself!). The point is, God had the plan the whole time and Joseph was the on His path, even when he felt like he had been forgotten.

Just like us. Just because you find yourself in the middle of nowhere on a bumpy gravel road doesn’t mean You weren’t supposed to be there. God’s plan is always better than ours. Yes, even when it doesn’t make sense.

So, remember, if your road is bumpy and unfamiliar and not at all what you expected, Hod most likely is right in the midst of it! Trust Him. He won’t lead you astray!

Be blessed and tell someone you love them.

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