Who can You Trust?

Yes, we are all growing weary of this campaign season. We are bombarded every day with new information about this candidate or that one. Choosing the person who will be seen as the leader of our country is an ominous responsibility. It all boils down to this- Who can we trust?

As a Nation, we have grown so distrustful. One by one, every authority we have relied on is betrayed. We hear of corrupt teachers, religious leaders, policemen, judges. Even in the world of sports, the fans do not trust the officials who are close to the action. They want to see a replay on a huge screen so that they can make the call.

Why is this? We have grown so unsure of any authority figure, that we want to decide for ourselves. As if we are the ones who are most qualified to decide. With the advent of the internet, we think we can find proof to back us up, but if we examine those sources, we become even more confused. Just because something has been shared millions of times, that does not make it true.

So, we are back to the question of trust. When making any decision, we must have a final authority. Someone we put all of our belief in, someone we can rely on to never betray us.

Proverbs 3:5 says “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not on thine own understanding.” Here is our base, our foundation. With much prayer and faith, we can make every decision. He is the authority. The next verse gives us a promise. If we share with others the source of our strength, He will be with us. “In all thy ways acknowledge him, and He will direct thy paths.”

Trust in the Lord. He will direct you.

Greater is He that is in You

An uncommon post from me today- a Movie Review. I enjoy movies, but with my full time job and all of the extra projects that seem to find me, I don’t get to sit still long enough very often. This new movie, called Greater is one that I am happy to talk about!

There are so many reasons to go see it- For one, it is an “indy” movie made by, for, and about Christians. As important as Amazon reviews to online authors, ticket sales for movies like God’s Not Dead (one and two), The War Room,  and all of the other fine titles out there will guarantee that we have more of these gems to enjoy!

Secondly- if you or anyone in your family is a football fan- Here’s the story of a very determined “walk-on” who won’t take no for an answer. He’s the first to arrive at practice and the last to leave. This young man from a small Arkansas town, Brandon Burlsworth, becomes an inspiration to all who know him. His never give up attitude and dedication to doing what is right becomes it’s own mantra. The Razorback coaches begin to tell the other players to do things “The Burl’s Way”.

Also- if you are the mother of a son, you will identify. It’s the classic struggle to hold on tight, and let go at the same time. You will feel for this Mom who sacrifices her own comfort to help her son get to where he wants to go to college, and then drives halfway to meet him for a special weekly rendezvous.

Lastly, if you have ever felt the pain of losing someone before you thought it was time, you will empathize with the struggle of Brandon’s older brother, Marty.  The journey through anger at the unfairness of life to the realization that God’s plan is much greater than ours will warm your heart.

Of course, if you follow Razorback football, you will know this story, and the time you spend watching this movie will be little bit of Hog Heaven. Watch for a cameo by a familiar former coach. Can I get a “Woo-pig” ?

 

Up Close and Personal With the Clouds

“I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.” Psalms 121:1 KJV.

Since I was a youngster, traveling into the hills of Arkansas has caused a distinct and very strong sensation deep in my core. My emotions are at their highest. I feel a strange mixture of elation and sadness.

A scientist might submit a physical reason. Maybe the thinner air, the change in barometric pressure affects me. I think there is more to it than that.

As a Kansas teenager coming to visit with my Mom and my sister, there may have been a premonition of where my future home would be. A sort of reverse deja vu.  Home

 

But, now that I have lived here for well over half my life, the feeling is stronger than ever. When we drive from our home in the lower Arkansas River valley and head north, that familiar stirring increases. Part of the attraction is definitely the fact that my husband is a native Arkansan, and he loves the mountains as much as I do. Our favorite day is spent navigating the roads that are marked as “crooked and steep”. The vistas around each curve bring out almost constant oohs and ahs. That is, when we don’t have our favorite songs turned up on the radio, prompting joyous sing-alongs.

We have now discovered a wonderful get-away spot, at a lodge on top of the tallest peak in Arkansas, Mount Magazine.Lodge We love it at all times of the year. It is always a full ten degrees cooler at the top of the mountain compared to the “mainland”. The food is great, and every room has a balcony with that incredible view.

But, remember, this feeling I have accompanies me each time I am in the mountains. Whether I am with other members of my family, or completely by myself. I don’t know whether I want to weep, or shout! What is it?

On our most recent trip, from my spot on the balcony, gazing into a cloud that was literally close enough to touch, I figured it out. As I released an exaggerated sigh that left my worries hundreds of feet below, I felt I could reach out and touch God. That’s why I love the mountains.  From a mountain peak, I could almost take one step and be in the arms of my Abba, Father. Don’t worry, I’m not considering jumping. God will bring me home in His time. But for now, a mountain-top experience can give me a glimpse of my heavenly future.

If you can’t find me, lift your eyes unto the hills. You just might see me up there.

Sunset

 

End of Summer- Endure or Enjoy?

Oh those dog days of summer. We’ve had enough of the heat. The back to school supply lists seem longer than ever. There’s nothing on TV but Olympics. Then there’s those crazy pop-up thunderstorms. Phew. Bring on the cool weather, football games, pumpkin spiced everything. We just have to hold out for a few more weeks.

A recent post on Facebook said, “It’s a good thing Shakespeare didn’t live around here. We would have never had Sonnet 18.” That’s the one that starts out “Shall I compare thee to a summer day?” They might be right about that, because where the famous bard lived, there are many dreary days in the winter and spring. Summer is probably a very welcomed break. But, I have a feeling that that poetic soul would have found a way to put a positive spin on even the hot summers in the American South.

It’s all in how you look at it.

This summer, in Central Arkansas, we have had several days of 100 degree weather. When the actual temps didn’t quite make it, the heat indexes made up for it. Steamy, sweaty, sloggy days. But, to break things up, God has been sending almost daily thunderstorms. This is not the norm here, as it is in the more tropical climates near the ocean. The clouds build to a crashing breaking point, and the sky bursts into refreshing showers of blessings. For a little while, we can splash in the puddles, watch our lawns soak up the refreshment, and praise the Father for having everything figured out.

At our house, we don’t have to deal with school supply lists anymore. In our community though, we have a day devoted to making sure all of the neighborhood kids get what they need. I volunteered on one of those steamy mornings to pass out gently used clothes while others provided backpacks full of pencils, paper and colorful markers. Snow-cones, happy songs, smiles, and even a contest for a free bicycle were the order of the day. Hard to grumble much that day!

And then, there’s the Olympics. Don’t get me started! What a joy to watch these young people who have worked so hard for so long enjoying the fruits of their labor. Yesterday, a famous swimmer started the day with a picture of his “death glare” as he waited for a race, and ended it with joyful tears as he stood on the podium listening to the national anthem of the country we all love. Amazing, and so inspiring to the rest of us who get weary  just getting up and going to work every day in the August heat. Our excuses sound so feeble, and their joy is so apparent.

So, look around. There is something to celebrate, even in the dog days. Like when the Disney photographer says,”Look down, and pretend there is something totally amazing and a little scary sitting on my toe.” You never know what you might see when the vacation pictures come back! Enjoy!

 

 

 

Walking Humbly on Social Media

Many writers choose a word to guide them through the year, and Christian writers usually back it up with a verse of scripture that will guide us. This year, my word was “Walk”. My verse was Micah 6:8. “He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” I saw it as a call to action. I read the whole book of Micah, and realized that the times the prophet dealt with were very similar to the ones we live in now, in the United States. Here was a nation of people who should have been so grateful to God for bringing them out of bondage. Instead, there was war, strife, violence, division. Abominations to God’s promise and his Word.

I chose the word Walk because it was an action verb. I could no longer just sit around and be just, merciful and humble. I needed to get up and Move.

Lately, though, I am realizing what it means to walk Humbly. So many posts about one political candidate or another prompt a strong reaction. I have learned that commenting on these posts almost always causes an argument. But, I rationalize, I have a right to express my opinion and everyone wants to hear My opinion, right?

So how should I “walk” during an election year? As an aspiring Christian author, my job is to encourage, to entertain, to comfort and strengthen. I use social media to try to fulfill those tasks.  How does creating division or dissension check off any of those jobs?

I have been on the verge of firing off a comment more than once. I do feel very strongly about many things. I also respect and believe in the American system of choosing a new leader. It is important for all of us to listen, pray, and choose carefully, and then be sure to vote. We must be sure that the freedoms our forefathers worked so hard to establish continue.

But, my role will be to do this all with a humble attitude. It will keep everyone happier if I keep my opinions to myself. I don’t have a problem sharing my opinion if I am asked, but let’s take that conversation offline.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s Buried Under Your Tent?

“And Achan answered Joshua, and said, Indeed I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done.” Joshua 7:20.  Our recent study of the book of Joshua was not the most comfortable way to spend a Wednesday night.

We had enjoyed the familiar tale of the fall of Jericho. It took a lot of obedience on the part of the nation of Israel. After days of marching in silence, their trumpets and shouts brought the great walls down. They recognized that it was the power of God that had made this happen.

Feeling a little too confident, they moved on to Ai, a smaller city. This time, they sent only a small portion of their army, and they were defeated. Joshua asked why, and God told him that sin was hiding in their midst.

With Achan’s confession, the forbidden loot was discovered buried exactly where Achan had said it would be. A terrible sentence was carried out on Achan and his family, but the nation of Israel was ready to move on, having learned a hard lesson about obedience to God.

I left with a sense of sadness, but with the distinct feeling that Achan had died with a clear conscience. His confession was honest and without excuse. Since Jesus came, we now have eternal forgiveness, and a route to heaven. Only God and Achan know what happened to his soul. But, he had done all he could to clear things with God and man.

The next day, I pulled something out of my file cabinet at work that I had been very worried about. A report that seemed to be filed every year had not been done since I took over the job. How would this reflect on me and my employer? I had avoided bringing it up to my supervisor, afraid of her reaction. What would be the repercussions?

With Achan on my mind, I went to the office ready to face whatever was to come. No excuses, just the facts.  “Here is what I found, I have been delaying mentioning it, and I am very sorry.”

The result? The report I found was something that was no longer handled by our department. The files I found were outdated, and there was no reason for me to worry. I had agonized for months over something that was put behind me in a matter of minutes. It felt wonderful to have this burden gone.

Confession is truly good for the soul. Is there something you need to clear up? First, take it to God and ask for his forgiveness. Then, be prepared for the consequences of your actions. The penalty may not be comfortable, but having it behind you will enable you to move on. Don’t leave anything under your tent!

Photo credit:”http://www.flickr.com/photos/8313637o credit: <a hre4@N05/26027031860″>Patagonia-30</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>phot

When You Don’t Know What to Say or Do

It’s a hard time when someone we care about has lost a loved one. In some ways, it is even harder to know how to react when the loss is outside of our immediate family. We  want to express our hearts, but we are at the crossroads of doing nothing and doing the wrong thing. Here are Five lessons I have learned over years of trying to be an encourager.

  1. Put yourself in their shoes. Cut them some slack if they lash out in anger, or show frustration. Remember how you felt at a time like this, and realize it is all a part of the grieving process.
  2. Actions speak louder than words. As an old country song says: You say it best when you say nothing at all. Sometimes, a heartfelt hug, a basket of flowers, a bag of groceries brought to the house while it’s full of company speaks volumes about your concern.
  3. Less is more. When it comes to the actual words you say, a simple “I am so sorry” may be best. You may have some very profound thoughts about how beautiful heaven will be and how God walks along with us through our journey. The preacher at the funeral will say those things. I find it is so much better when the person is walking this difficult walk to just be there for them.
  4. Come back later. When the services are over and the company has gone home, don’t forget about your friend. Phone calls, invitations to attend worship services with you, encouraging messages on social media, will be so helpful as they emerge back into their daily lives. Don’t just promise to keep in touch, follow through!
  5. Pray. In these social media crazy days, we may have stayed very close to our friends during their loved one’s final illness. It is a given that when a Christian says “I am praying for you” they actually are doing just that. So, when the loved one has passed away, don’t stop praying. Your friend needs prayer more than ever. It’s the most powerful tool we have at our disposal.

It is a very good thing to want to express your feelings when someone else is hurting. Don’t be one of those people who doesn’t “Do funerals”. Take the Love of Jesus with  you, and do your best. As he assures us in Matthew 28:20, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”Uncle Damon's service

 

Train up a child. Proverbs 22:6

I saw a video on Facebook that demonstrated a familiar theme. A precocious boy was talking about having children some day, but he was adamant that he did not want to ever be married.  You could see the wheels turning in his little head, as the adult recording the video encouraged him to express his very strong feelings. Cute. Entertaining. But, it really made me think about how kids eventually come to decisions about what they believe.

Proverbs 22:6 advises us to “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” If the parents don’t actively try to influence and direct a child’s path, someone else will.

The three good looking young people pictured here were raised in church. Though by no means perfect, their parents tried very hard to model a happy marriage. They attended activities together, volunteered in their community, worked and played together.

So, while none of them would want to be called old, they are all grown, married and raising their own children. I know pride is a sin, and I struggle not to let my buttons pop off when I see how these kids have turned out.

The oldest and tallest, Chris, is very involved in his community. He volunteers with the rural fire department, helps to organize community activities, and is very involved with his local congregation. He has a reputation for being a motivator, with speeches, prayers, and devotionals edifying and encouraging so many people on a regular basis.

Our daughter, Carrie has always been the family’s organizer. She works from home, and loves nothing more than researching, scheduling and planning for every event. She has helped with Cub Scouts, little league baseball, and even formed a women’s group for the local ham radio club.

The second son, Jon, is working at the profession he chose very early in life. After completing a degree in broadcast journalism, he has held jobs with increasing responsibility, which led to his current job: Executive Producer at WESH in Orlando, FL. He is now coordinating his station’s coverage of the biggest story of his career. He is drawing on his faith, and every lesson he has learned at school, at church, at home.

Ephesians 6:13 says “Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”

We never want our children to face an evil day, but it is an amazing feeling to recognize that they are ready. Forgive me Lord, I am very proud.

 

Inspired by a full quiver

“Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord; and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of the mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them; they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.” Psalm 127: 3-5

Have you ever had a weekend that left your heart so full of love that you think it might just burst? Our kids started arriving from three states Saturday at noon and some are still in town from our fortieth wedding anniversary celebration. Unfortunately, because of technical logistics, I don’t have proper pictures of that event yet. Believe me, I will be sharing them soon. The picture at the top of the page is a favorite of me and the first four grands during a past Granny camp.

But, what is so rewarding and exciting is that for the first time, all five of our grands were together. Sorry, I don’t have a picture that captures that moment either. Were you ever so busy just soaking up the love that you didn’t take proper pictures?

These children represent the future of the McLeod and Carlisle clans. There is so much promise in their faces. Whether they are together or apart, they represent who we are, where we came from, and who we will be in the future. Our three kids and their spouses are an absolute joy and blessing to their Dad and me. And now, the grand kids. Be still my heart. I love them so much it hurts.Beach with Graham small

You Can Go Home Again

Along a writer’s journey, one baby step leads to another. For me, the desire to share the stories that live inside my head has been a long and slow process.  When my kids were small, I began to look for others who understood  my passion, and could help me with my craft. This led to a local writer’s group in Central Arkansas, which eventually led to attending a conference in Northwest Arkansas called Ozark Creative Writers. Although there were writers from every genre, one year the featured the Christian fiction team of Hannah Alexander who were actually a man and wife from southern Missouri. They introduced the whole idea of inspirational fiction as a genre. I had never dreamed there was such a thing!

Long story short, my path was now more defined, and I began to concentrate on writing what God had put on my heart. Back at home, I found an online critique group called Writing Chambers. Some of these folks were members of American Christian Romance Writers. Soon after I joined, they became American Christian Fiction Writers. Now, I was Really  home! These folks had a seemingly unlimited supply of resources to help me along the way. I learned about a national conference in Nashville, saved my money, convinced my hubby to go along, and learned of another wide, wonderful world of publishers, editors, agents.

At that conference, I met an author named Deborah Vogts who was from my childhood home of Southeast Kansas. She told me about their group’s annual conference in April, named Called to Write.  They are a small group, but they attract big name authors like Deborah Raney and Kim Vogel Sawyer, and agents like Hartline’s Terry Burns. Since my hubby was less than enamored with writing conferences, I convinced a friend from that first Central Arkansas Fiction group to accompany me on a road trip, and we returned to my home territory.

The picture at the top was taken that first year, when I actually won an award. That’s me in the middle of the back row with the big smile. I have been back three more times. Lifelong friendships, honing my craft, showing my friend the sights in my hometown, Pittsburg, Kansas. What a joy !

Along the way, I made connections with my first agent, and this year, I met a small publisher who asked me to submit a proposal. In a few days, when I hit “Send”, another new chapter in my story may begin.

Bottom line, let God take your hand as you walk. He will definitely lead you gently Home. Called to Wrtie-2016