Sunday, November 27, 2016

Fertile Myrtle

Have you ever heard of a "Fertile Myrtle?" Women, don't get offended. The baby-making machine reference isn't a criticism. Productivity should be a compliment. After all, didn't God make man in His image to go and multiply? If you're a Fertile Myrtle, rejoice! You are fulfilling the call of God.
Unfortunately, forum posters on don't necessarily agree with my positive spin on Myrtle and her fertility. They claim that Fertile Myrtle was originated by anti-feminist, Leave it to Beaver watching macho men. The term actually originated from a retired b-bomber. The military vessel had a stork graphic painted on the side of the engine complete with a wicker basket in beak. Someone with a quirky sense of humor named the bomber "Fertile Myrtle," painted the name across the plane's engine and the rest is reproductive history.
Now a Fertile Myrtle isn't a bomber, its a female with a healthy pregnancy history and slew of offspring. Apparently this is offensive to some women although I can't understand why. The ability to procreate is a beautiful gift. For women who have no trouble reproducing, they may not recognize the immense blessing it is to carry in their being new life. They take it for granted.
The women who've never had to think twice about their ability to have a child might not realize that every step along the way to bringing a child into the world is a glorious gift. It begins with the relationship between the woman and her man. That union symbolizes companionship, love and togetherness. From there a deeper, immeasurable unity is developed between mother and her developing baby.
What Fertile Myrtle haters don't understand is the alienation and lonesomeness that comes from infertility. They overlook the blessing that is a functioning reproductive system because they can't comprehend life without it. But for those of us who will never carry a child we understand that there is a loneliness that comes from being incapable of giving life. Something feels dead inside. Where others enjoy life and the giving of it, the infertile feel an emptiness.
The blessing of procreation is about more than the nine months a mother spends carrying her child. It is about the unity of hearts and bodies. It is togetherness. It is connection.
If I could tell the Fertile Myrtles of this world one thing it would be this: don't take your gift for granted. Treasure the health and vitality God has placed within you. Even if you never choose act on it, don't overlook what an immense blessing you have within you. 
And if you're like me, not fertile and not named Myrtle, take heart. God blesses with two kinds of fertility: the fertility of the body and the fertility of the spirit. For those of us who will are incapable of reproducing, our capacity to give and enjoy life need not be dead. We can still have a fertile spirit if only we will ask God to impart that blessing in our hearts. Unlike fertility of the body, fertility of the spirit is a choice we make. It is not dependent on how our body's function or what our organs do on a monthly basis. Spiritual fertility depends on our daily submission to God and our unwavering confidence and obedience in His will and ways. When we invite God into our hearts without condition or hesitation He comes in and makes us procreate with His love. He'll use our fertile hearts to share His grace and the goodness of His salvation.
When you and I, physically fertile or not, ask God to have His way in our souls, He will make each of us spiritually Fertile Myrtles.

Thursday, November 24, 2016


I have lots of reasons to be unthankful. In fact, I have a whole plethora of thankless misfortunes to choose from. The question is where to begin?
I could be unthankful for my health. That provides a whole host of grievances in the form of symptoms in which I could air. Lets just say that if this were Festivus and Seinfeld were real life, my physical body would provide plenty of ammunition for the annual Airing of Grievances. I'd kick off the ritual by telling my body that I have a lot of problems with it and then I'd enumerate those problems starting with the most recent muscle flaring in my left leg. I would then travel up my left arm, rant at my optic neuropathy and curse headaches. If there would be time during the celebration I might discuss symptoms that didn't occur just this week.
There would also be the option of beginning outside of my physical body. I could be unthankful for less-than ideal family circumstances. For the second year in a row, the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays will be spent under a dark cloud of heartache. Wayward children have caused a sadness to befall every get together. Strained relationships have cracked and walls of hurt have been built in their place. How can a family celebrate when there is so much disharmony?
Outside the walls of my home and the boundaries of my body I can easily find more reasons to be unthankful. The world is in peril. The news tells a twenty four seven story of tragedy, danger and distress. Rioters burning flags. Students killed on their way home from school. Countries at war. Christians persecuted and killed for their faith. Where the news leaves off sitcoms pick up. Even so-called "comedies" are a tragedy with their immoral, debase humor and crude language.
If I had an unthankful tree it would be in full bloom.
Thankfully, I tore down the tree.
This Thanksgiving, next Thanksgiving and every day in between there will be cause for unthankfulness. In this fallen and sin-covered world there will always be tragedy, sadness and reasons to grieve. Loved ones will disappointment. Health will fail us. Defeat will knock on our doorstep. Evil will be set like a trap in the woods.
And yet there will always be reason for Thanksgiving.
You see, what satan means for our destruction and our emotional devastation, God means for good. He has plans for our ill health. God has stories of restoration and redemption to tell in the shattered plot of family discord. There is spiritual renewal to be experienced in physical distress and holiness that can only be found on our knees.
The truth is, all of the reasons I can find to be unthankful are precisely the reasons to be full of praise and thanksgiving because the struggle is where I get to meet my Savior. When Christ gives me a cross to carry it is so that I can walk alongside Him. God hasn't given me trials and heartache to have a Festivus celebration. He's given them to me so that I can have the truest, purest, most genuine type of joy. The kind that can only be found when I come to the end of myself and find my thankfulness in simply being one with Him.
When you and I look at our circumstances with the eyes of the world we will always find reasons to be unthankful. So turn your eyes to Jesus. He will rewrite your reasons to be thankful. He will turn your unthankfulness into joyful praise. Because He is alive and active. He is at work in your family, your body and this world. He is working in the struggles and the trials to write the story of His great redemption and everlasting love.
Aren't you thankful?

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Perfectly Staged

To stage or leave empty? That is the question all listing real estate agents must ask when considering how to best market their vacant properties. Once the owner has departed what is left behind is a residence in flux. The personal touches that make a house feel like home depart with the resident. All that remains are nail holes and various pieces of furniture that didn't make the cut for the big move. The space doesn't look or feel like a home. It feels like an extended stay hotel that forgot to stock the kitchen with utensils.
What is an agent to do with such a conundrum of a listing? In my case, a conundrum of a condo? Should the agent enlist an interior decorator to bring in new furnishings and appealing accents to create a home "experience" for buyers? This option isn't cheap but it can do wonders for pictures. Or maybe the agent should hire movers and rent a storage unit. Left empty, buyers would have a clean slate to imagine their dream home in the unfilled, unencumbered space. And of course, there is the option of doing nothing. The agent could leave the listing as is and hope for the best. Maybe buyers will like the Residence Inn look?
The "right" way to handle such a listing is the subject of debate and disagreement among agents. Some swear by their go-to home stager while others have a mover on speed dial. I'm new to this business and as of yet, I don't have either a home stager or mover at the ready. Nor do I have enough experience to claim one approach is more effective than another. All I know is the Bible and it doesn't speak to the most effective way to stage a home in the world of real estate. It does, on the other hand, know the most effective way to stage the home in the heart.
In Revelations 3:16 the Bible speaks to a different kind of home staging - one far more important than any real estate listing and far less confusing, too. It's simple. Don't be lukewarm. In other words, don't be half-staged with random assortments of furnishings. Be hot or cold. Be staged with the best of the best or be a blank slate. God rejects half-way efforts. He doesn't look fondly on hearts with one foot in His kingdom and one foot in the world. He wants His followers to be all in or all out.
Just like buyers on the hunt for a home, God isn't buying into a sparsely, oddly furnished life. He doesn't want our random nick-nacs and old, beat up chairs. God wants to open the door of each heart and see either a home already furnished with His goodness or an empty, vacant, surrendered spirit ready to be made beautiful by the Master Stager. God wants to be all in. He doesn't reside in hearts that want a new look without getting rid of the old couch. He wants to decorate every square inch of hearts with His righteousness.
The principle of heart staging is simple. Give God the keys and let Him get to work. But what does this mean for real estate? I'm not an expert but I have yet to meet a buyer who wants to live in the Residence Inn full time. So I have a recommendation and it is based on the best kind of experience - Biblical experience. If you can't do the staging up right don't do it at all. Give the master - the person you hope to be the new buyer - an empty space and let their mind's eye get to work.
Your buyer may or may not buy your listing but in the end that isn't the most important sales transaction. What matters most is whether or not you signed over the deed of your heart to your Master in Heaven and gave Him your surrendered spirit.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

A Year-Round Operation

One teddy bear and one fairy princess doll. A bright red jump rope, purple kazoo and coloring book with crayons. Socks with prancing reindeer, gloves in a festive Christmas stripe and a comfy green shirt with a smiling owl. A pink Disney inspired toothbrush and a tub of bubblegum flavored toothpaste. An oversized bag of gummy bears and two packages of "hair pretties."
Every November I take a shoe box and fill it with little toys and gifts for a special child thousands of miles away, in another part of the world. Operation Christmas Child collects millions of these boxes every year and delivers them to needy children who would likely go without a single gift at Christmas if not for a shoe box filled with treasures. The precious kids who receive these boxes and the love of Christ tucked inside, are more accustomed to fleeing war-torn countries than being tucked in at night. They are more familiar with the mile walk for water than bounding down a flight of steps to find a tree surrounded by gifts on Christmas morning.
Each year I add a box to the millions that bring the Christmas message to one special child. I imagine the child in my mind. This year I pictured a five year old girl named Grace. In the isles of the Dollar Tree and Walmart I wandered around picking up little toys and trinkets. Would Grace like this shirt? Would she want to play with this doll?
Finally I settled on a box I thought she'd love but when I brought it all back home my box looked incomplete. Everything in the box looked so generic. Anyone could buy the things I purchased. I looked at the shirt made in mass quantities and the toothbrush with the same Disney princess I'd seen a thousand times and wondered how Grace would know she was precious, unique and unlike any other?
And that's when I spotted it. Sitting on my desk was a little wooden sign cut out in the shape of a word. "PRAY." Months ago I had colored the sign while helping with children's church. The sign had sat on my desk ever since. I had nearly forgotten about it. Now I saw it again and realized it was the special something my box needed.
With prayer in my box it looked complete. I secured the box with rubber bands and put my label on top. Most importantly, I prayed for Grace. I prayed that she would cherish her box and feel the love that went into it. I prayed that she would smile when she picked up the doll and hug her little white bear. I hoped she would see that little wooden sign of prayer and feel the warmth of the Holy Spirit's embrace.
As I stacked my box in a pile with hundreds of others I was struck by the great need symbolized in the mountain of gifts before me - the need for the gift of love, of feeling special and of being cared for in prayer. That need is not unique to third world countries. It is universal. Right here in my hometown there are precious children, made in the image of God, desperate for the gift of love and attention. They need to know they are cherished by God. They need to know that they are supported and lifted up in prayer.
I took a moment to look at all of the boxes ready to be sent across the world. It was an amazing sight of generosity and a powerfully convicting one, too. That mountain of boxes was just the start. This month and all year long God requires that I be packing boxes of love and prayer. In every interaction, in every season and in all twelve months I am called to give the joy of Christmas.
I packed one square shoe box this November but my generosity can't stop there. God won't let it. This year I'm going to spend every month packing boxes of prayer by how I live and how I treat the precious children of God living all around me.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Third Shift

3:45 AM rolled around and it was time to clock into work. I heard duty call out silently in the night, "Wake up and get to work." Immediately I knew it was God issuing the call. He stirred me - body and soul - no alarm clock necessary. He woke me up to get about to his work - his praying work.
For a few minutes I tossed and turned in an attempt to fall back asleep but my heart wouldn't rest knowing there was an uncompleted task sitting on my spiritual desk. So I finally shut my eyes, not to sleep but to speak. I prayed the only thing that came to mind, the only pressing need I could pinpoint in that moment: God, please won't you bring a buyer for my listing on Society Court?  Chaos and turmoil are ravaging the world, robbing lives and destroying families and yet the only trouble I could think of was my own petty real estate dilemma. I could think of nothing else and for the next two hours I prayed with nothing but lame and self-absorbed motives.
Finally I fell asleep but I still wasn't at peace and when I woke up at six to prepare for the day I knew why. God had woken me up for work and I had never locked in. Sure, I showed up but I never suited up. I never got around to doing His business. I spent two hours obsessed with doing mine.Regret and shame fell on me like a heavy weight. God had given me a third shift prayer job and I ignored the assignment. I failed to spend a single second on task. I frittered away two hours on my own selfish laments and temporal concerns.
Thankfully, God is forgiving and didn't fire me on the spot. He gave me the opportunity to repent and come to work the very next night. At three AM He sounded another silent alarm, stirred my soul and handed me my assignment and I immediately went to work. I clocked it and got to the job of praying for the lost, broken and blind. I went to work interceding on behalf of God's precious children in need of salvation and new life.
And do you want to know what happened? I fell back asleep. It didn't take two hours. It only took a few minutes. Once I got on task God brought it to completion. He graciously clocked me out, filled with me with peace and sent me back to sleep.
Until the next night when I was honored to go to work for God once again.

Monday, November 7, 2016

A letter to Americans

It was a sunny Saturday afternoon as I sat on the park bench looking at the world around me. There off in the distance I saw a man being attacked by a thief. The robber came and beat him. I watched, motionless, paralyzed to act. I looked upon the scene in dismay and yet I didn’t make a move.
My friend on the bench beside me watched, too. We did our best to ignore the horror taking place just steps away. We looked away, chatted casually and pretended the assault wasn’t happening. But it was happening. The bloody sidewalk stains were proof of robbed innocence and injustice run rampant. Where were the police? Where was this man’s protection? Surely two women shouldn’t be charged with breaking up a fight.
Or should they?
Friends, can you imagine if that story were true? Can you imagine standing by and watching innocent life being taken while staring blankly, doing nothing?
I am here to tell you that the scene I have just described is taking place on park benches and church pews all over America. There is an attack under way and it is on the most innocent, vulnerable among us. Helpless babies. The vicious assault of abortion is robbing the heart beats of precious children still resting in the womb. The brutality of a beating is underway in doctor’s offices and clinics across this nation.
We can look away. We can say that we alone cannot step in and stop a problem so overwhelming. We can chat casually with our friends to drown out the sound of silent pleas for help. Yet the beating continues. Innocent, vulnerable, precious babies are still dying needlessly on the operating table in the name of “choice.” What kind of choice is this? That poor child doesn’t even have the choice to fight back.
So we must fight for them
This Tuesday we can confront the brutal scene before us at the ballot box. We can intervene on behalf of the innocent and send the attacker into retreat. We have that power with a vote. We have a responsibility to defend the helpless. With the gift of life we were given the blessing of choice - the choice to fight, to protect and to refuse to back down.
So this Tuesday don’t sit on the bench. Stand up and protect the vulnerable. Step in and defend the weak. Say “enough” to the brutal beating robbing the innocent of their choice to live and fight. Refuse to let evil have the last word. Vote for life.