Karen

Moving Toward Forgiveness

April 27, 2018 in Inspirational

I have a new book coming out soon called What a Great Word!  I’m excited about the book because it takes rather common words we find in Scripture and offers us a new perspective, or another way we might look at those words.  After the recent experience that Bruce and I had with the incredibly careless and deceitful moving company that packed us up haphazardly, broke many of our things, lost some of our favorite items and yet took no ownership of their own craziness, I had to pull a word out of my own book because I was so appalled by this experience. From the company president, to the dispatchers, to the moving guys, we have seldom witnessed such horrid behavior.  The word I needed then is “forgiveness.”

This past few days, I’ve been reviewing my book to make some minor changes for the publisher and when I got to the word “forgiveness,” I found that I had written this:

“Lord, when my fellow believer sins against me, how many times must I forgive him? Should I forgive him as many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, you must forgive him more than seven times. You must forgive him even if he wrongs you seventy times seven.”  Matthew 18:21–22, NCV

Wait a minute! Does this mean if someone does something that feels like a slight, like an intentional act that hurts you, you need to forgive them, not just once, but 490 times? Exactly!
You probably don’t have a chart that tells you how many times you’ve forgiven someone who hurt you. In fact, you may feel that what happened was so wrong that you stopped counting at number one. You stopped counting and you stopped forgiving in the same moment. Certainly, human beings are accountable for many horrendous acts, sometimes repeating them numerous times. Someone in your life may have hurt you more times than you can count.

What does it mean then to move past the hurt, to move past the event that caused you sorrow and get to the place where your heart is willing to forgive? Perhaps the best example is to look at your relationship with God. Would you say that you have offended God by your actions at least once? Twice? Maybe even 490 times? The fact is that God’s love is so enormous that He does not count your offences. He does not keep a chart of the wrongs you have done because once you have asked Him to forgive you, He forgives, once and for all. He does not hold a grudge and He remembers your sin no more. Imagine that. He doesn’t ever think about what you did to slight Him ever again.

When you let go of your past hurts, the offences that have weighed you down for years, you don’t have to replay them in your mind any more. You can give yourself permission to move beyond what was and discover more of what God has for you. The offence will not go away, the offender will not be absolved, but you will be free to start again. Perhaps it’s time to simply forgive others as God has forgiven you, not for the other person, but for yourself.

 

I read this piece several times and as I did so, I thought about each person from this moving company.  Each one lied. Each one denied any sense of responsibility for the incredible amount of damage they had done to our household goods.  Sure, the human side of me is angry.  I believe that they should admit their sins.  But that is as far as I can take it.  I leave them in God’s hands because it’s time to move on to forgiveness.  I forgive them, not for their sake, but for my own, so that I can love my new home and start again in God’s grace.  After all, I know how many times He has forgiven me.

I look forward to sharing more about life in Savannah with all of you in the days ahead.  Blessings to you today.

 

Karen

Two Grandfathers

February 27, 2018 in Inspirational

Hospital waiting rooms are full of stories. Most of those are love stories because some beloved person is having difficulty, and some supportive person is doing their best to trust all that is going on. Recently, a dear friend of ours found himself in one of those hospital waiting rooms. His grandson, only 18 months old, is battling a blood disease.  It’s been difficult to determine exactly what is going on with this baby, and so on the day that this story took place, this tiny boy was in the hospital waiting to have a bone marrow procedure.  Our friend Bob was doing what we all do when we’re called to the hospital; he was waiting and praying for his grandson.

As he sat in the waiting room though, he noticed another grandfather who was also waiting and praying. This grandfather was a Muslim.  Bob couldn’t help but notice how this grandfather prayed over his grandson just as Bob had done earlier. Bob realized he couldn’t understand the language of the prayers going up to Allah, but he related to the moment with compassion. He witnessed the tears in the man’s eyes as he walked away from his grandson after the prayer, continuing to pray even under his breath. Fighting to keep his dignity and composure, the man retreated to a nearby window.

Bob said that the man’s words were unknown to him, but he fully understood the anguished and pleading prayer of a man who loves his grandson and the god of his heart. As the day progressed, it happened that the two grandfathers had a chance to sit and talk to each other. It wasn’t easy since one of them spoke little English, and the other spoke even less Kurdish. It didn’t matter. They were simply two grandfathers bonding over the circumstances that brought them together. They were two men of prayer and faith, and two men who loved their grandsons.  They didn’t need a greater bond than that.

When the two men finally shook hands and parted, Bob realized that the Muslim man loved Allah every bit as much as he loves Jesus. In his heart of hearts, he couldn’t help asking, “Why can’t we just get along?”

Personally, I believe that love always binds us together and when we start with love, we get along.  May you have a blessed and genuinely heart-shaped life today and may love be a witness to all you do.

Karen

In Praise of Billy Graham, the Soul Man

February 22, 2018 in Inspirational

Yesterday morning, I woke up with a song running through my head.  You know what that’s like.  A song goes through your mind and you can’t seem to get it out.  For me, it was a song I hadn’t actually thought of for some time.  It was a song called, “Just As I Am” and it was the cornerstone hymn of nearly every Billy Graham crusade.  I didn’t know until later in the morning that the incredible man who had dedicated his life to telling God’s stories was now sitting at the table with his Lord and King. I suspect we can’t imagine the standing ovation he must have received as he showed up at heaven’s gate, but I’m sure the sound of celebration and applause was deafening.  Probably 90% of those cheering him home were people who had come to know God at one of his crusades.  I imagine that even hours later after reaching the gate, he’s still shaking hands with all those grateful people, ones who might have missed being there if it hadn’t been for Billy Graham.

It’s a little sadder for us on this side. A significant light went out and we will all feel the loss. Perhaps in Billy Graham’s honor though, we could each make an effort to shine a little brighter, turn the light up where we are and remember to tell God’s stories. He was a soul man, out to catch as many souls and guide them to heaven as he could muster. He reminded us that we too can spread the light.  In fact, he said that “you might be the only Bible some people ever read.” I don’t know about you, but that makes me want to be sure that the word someone hears from me helps create more space in their heart for God.  Today, let’s lift our banners higher than we have before. Let’s make it our personal crusade to help others come to know Christ and to remind them that God knows them already.  If God knows you already, that means He’s just waiting for you to stop long enough to get acquainted. He’s waiting to share one on one time with you so you each have more stories to tell. He’s waiting to remind you how special you are to Him.

Billy Graham has more stories to tell than most of us, but our job here on earth is to keep talking, keep walking, and keep shining the light so others can see.  We might not be the amazing soul man that Dr. Graham was for his entire life, but we can be the “Good Word” of grace and love and forgiveness that helps our neighbor become a friend of God. We can each share the love.

Thank you, Billy Graham!  You made the world a better place for all of us.

Karen

Would You Like to Get Well?

February 8, 2018 in Inspirational

I love the story in John 5 about the man who waited for 38 years to get into the pool where miraculous healings happened when the waters were stirred up.  It’s one of those short biblical stories that can be read in a few seconds and if you don’t really stop and digest it, it simply disappears in the text, as Jesus did when He slipped into the crowd after the healing.  It fascinates me that somehow the man managed to get to the healing pool every day, that his friends perhaps carried him in to be sure he was there at the right time, but he never managed to get into the water.  He never responded at just the right time.  He told Jesus he couldn’t get in the water, well, because others got there first.  I don’t know about you, but this story resonates with me. It reminds me of all the times I’ve waited for God to change me or do some miraculous thing in my life, only to sit and wait, sit and wait.  Oh, sure, nearly every time that nothing happened I had an excuse.  I could say that someone else got my promotion at work, or someone else wrote the book that sold millions, or someone else jumped ahead of me in line, but not one of those things would change my circumstances.  Not one excuse could save the day!

Jesus asked the man, “Would you like to get well?” and it seems like an odd question. Of course he wants to get well. He’s been waiting 38 years to do so. Or, has be become so used to his own excuse about not taking any action to get into the pool that he simply lets the world pass him by?  I’m quite aware that I have often just been paralyzed by my own fears to move, or even to ask God to help me take another step.  I’ve been afraid of falling down in front of the world and discovering that I simply wasn’t worthy of the goal I had set. Here’s the thing!  I believe that you and I are meant to get well. I believe that we are meant to get stronger and stronger and the only thing that prevents that from happening is our fear of moving closer to the water, to the stirring of the Holy Spirit, to the plan God has for our lives. Let’s not wait 38 years! Let’s not wait another day to let Jesus know that we truly do want to get well.  In fact, we want it so much, that we will trust in His word that we must simply get up, roll up the mat that we’ve filled with excuses, and start to dance.

Whew!  There’s no one ahead of you in line today.  Get up and shout for joy!  This year, we’re not making any excuses!

Karen

“What Would You Have Me Do for You?”

January 30, 2018 in Inspirational

Recently, I was honored by my former High School and inducted into the Unatego Hall of Distinction for my work in writing and publishing. It was a tender moment for me, an opportunity to reconnect with old friends who are still dear to my heart, and to make new friends as well.  During the day, I had a chance to speak to three of the current high school classes about the work I do.  Since I was born and raised in a small upstate New York town, I was asked by one of the teachers to help the students understand how it is possible to come from humble roots and still make your mark in the world.  I thought that was a good question and so as I spoke to the students, I found myself suddenly 17 again, sitting in a classroom and wondering what could possibly be beyond those walls. Back then, I wanted to be a teacher and I hoped somehow to have a positive effect on the people around me.

I gave them a brief glimpse of my journey from teacher, to the greeting card industry, and on to publishing. I realize that we may each measure success differently, but the thing that is important is to recognize our own talents and strengths, and then do what we can to make a difference in the world.  As I said to the students, “It’s not where you come from that matters.  It’s about where you want to go.” All of this brings me full circle to the Gospel story of Jesus and the blind man.  Jesus asks the man, “What would you have me do for you?”  Now, most of us would think it’s obvious.  The man wants to see, he wants to have his eyes opened.  Or is it?

Here’s my thought.  I think we can get complacent about life. We can give ourselves excuses about why we didn’t become what we meant to become, or why we never accomplished our goals. We can be blind to those things that seem obvious to others.  We can imagine that we’re out of time or out of possibility.  I would challenge us to rethink that.  I would challenge all of us to get more curious about who we are and seek to have our eyes opened so that we could see more clearly all that we still can be.

I know for myself, I’m just at the starting gate.  I’m still curious about what else God has for me.  I want Him to touch my heart in a way that gives me a panoramic view of all that I can accomplish.  When I think that way, I’m rejuvenated, 17 again, willing to risk and try and fail and if I’m lucky, perhaps even be successful.  I’m still working on the answer that I would give if Jesus asked me, “What would you have me do for you?”  Maybe you are too!

Karen

Power Plug

January 16, 2018 in Inspirational

 

I know that the One who designed the universe by simply speaking it into being has the power to design my life. I believe God can remold and reshape me and any circumstances in which I find myself.  I simply have to be brave enough to ask.  

This quote from my Prayers from the Heart book spoke to me in a big way as I started 2018.  It reminded me that no matter how many power outages I might experience in my life, or how many times I’ve tried to move forward and failed, that I always have a chance to reconnect to the Source of my possibility.  My Surge Protector is on hand at a moment’s notice and my blowing a temporary fuse, doesn’t take me out of the game. In fact, He sees the breakdown coming before I do and helps to reset my course as quickly as possible. He knows me so well.

He knows you too.  In fact, He knew you before you were a gleam in your mother’s eye.  The problem is that we get confused about what it means to be in a position of power.  Politicians, Theologians, CEOs and Generals remind us all the time of the power they weild. They speak and one way or another, somebody jumps.  The thing to remember is that all the power players have the same Source you and I do.  Our Source will reshape and redesign us, and make us new any time we are brave enough to ask.  The One who sees us, heart first, knows who we are and what we need to turn up our light in the world.

The truth is that you have more power available to you than you realize; more than you ever will use.  You are able to do more than you give yourself permission to do.  All you have to do is stay plugged into the One Source, the One Light, and the  same Source who spoke the very universe into being.  He sees you right where you are.  Draw near, seek His voice, listen with your heart, and you will soon glow with the joy of all that He intends for you.  Plug into the ultimate power of the universe. We all benefit from your light.

Karen

Go Ahead, Take a Chance!

January 3, 2018 in Inspirational

The following is an entry from a book I wrote for Abingdon Press called Wellspring.  I hope you enjoy it today!

 

Send your bread out on the water because, in the course of time, you may find it again.   Ecclesiastes 11:1

 

It’s not easy to figure out when to take a risk or when to start something new. Even making an effort can seem overwhelming, and yet, something nags at you, insisting that it’s time,

that today is a new day and even if you didn’t make it work before, you can now.  Think of the Nike slogan that implores you to “just do it!”

 

Procrastination may make sense in terms of giving your new ideas thoughtful consideration. Weighing the odds is a worthwhile use of your time. Getting uncomfortable, though,

is a challenge, but the writer of Ecclesiastes doesn’t really care. He says “get it done.” With a little due diligence, in the course of time, you may reap a reward, and you may win the day.

 

If you don’t cast your bread on the waters, you know that nothing can return to you. If you simply cast the bread and walk away, you won’t be expectant. You won’t recognize

the opportunity or be ready for the win. So go ahead! Take a chance on becoming all that God meant you to become and show Him and the rest of the world

what you’ve got.  It will renew your spirit and you’ll find yourself in a refreshing stream of opportunity.   Take a chance on YOU!

Karen

Warm Up to a New Year

January 2, 2018 in Inspirational

Many of us are starting out the New Year in a deep freeze as temperatures dip way below zero.  I’ve never been a good cold-weather girl so when Mr. Freeze shows up, this batgirl goes into her cave. The good news is that being in a cozy cave gives you time for reflection, time to consider new goals and what it means to you to get a fresh start.  Personally, I love starting over!  I love the idea of having a clean slate, looking at a blank page, and giving myself a chance to write a new story.  After all, no one can fill in the content of the chapters of my life better than I can.  I get to create the new goals, dreams, and hopes that provide clarity to what it is that really matters.  You get to do that too.

Oh, sure!  We often set these goals in January and by March, they are forgotten. The gyms are full of well-intentioned people determined to lose some weight or get into better shape as they start the year anew.  Those are good goals because your health is primary to everything else you do.  Today though, I’m simply encouraging you to look with love at where you’ve been, forgive yourself for those things that didn’t work out as you had hoped, and then give yourself the grace to try again.  Give yourself the opportunity to exercise your right to be a new you.

If you want to do a few warm-up exercises try this.  Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale and with each of those breaths, give God the thanks that you are indeed alive and well. You are still growing and changing and capable of becoming more than you were last year.  Then as you raise up your arms over your head and look up to the ceiling, imagine there’s an angel there, applauding you on and encouraging you to keep lifting your arms up to heaven.  Laugh out loud as you do your own version of head and shoulders, knees, and toes, and then clap your hands with joy.  Give God thanks and praise that no matter what else is going on, you are still able to try again.  You are in a position to start a new year in hope and peace and strength.

Then relax and pull out that blank journal you meant to write in last year and start creating your story.  Talk it out with yourself and with your heavenly Father and by the time you finish the first page, you will already feel better, more positive, more in charge of the story you will tell this year.

You have an amazing story and no one can tell it like you can.  Open your heart to opportunity, to spiritual growth, and to all that God has for you.  Stay warm, my friends, and Happy New Year!

Karen

Over the Top Christmas

December 16, 2017 in Inspirational

I will confess that I’ve been accused more than once of going a little over the top when it comes to Christmas.  I love all the parts of Christmas, from the birth of the Savior to the generous spirit of Santa Claus.  I love to decorate the halls and the walls and anything else that I can adorn with glittery ornaments.  I love to plan the gifts I will give to my family and friends. Nothing quite delights my heart more than seeing their smiles as we intentionally take time to share our gifts of love.  I bake cookies and breads and give them to anyone near enough to receive them and sometimes mail them off as well.  My husband says I have a childlike heart and I’m pretty sure it comes alive at Christmas, like no other time of the year.

Perhaps my approach to celebrating the event of welcoming Baby Jesus is more than some people do.  Perhaps my desire to express my heart and my love is a little over the top, but it’s nothing compared to all that I receive through the year from the people who support me, encourage my work, revive my spirit, and help me to realize how much I have been gifted by their presence every day.  To those who would wish I might pull back, set my Christmas up more like they would do, I can only say, that we each must find our way to celebrate the greatest gift that ever happened to any of us.  I feel pretty certain that what God did that first Christmas was over the top. His gift was beyond measure and everyone who participated in the event lit up with great joy. Angels and shepherds and those who had long awaited the Savior celebrated in their hearts and expressed their love through songs of joy.  They didn’t hold back. They didn’t worry about whether any one else heard the angels singing or if anyone else found their way to the manger, they simply spread the joy every way they could.

This Christmas, I’m going to be a little over the top again. There will be lots of cookies, lots of presents, lots of Christmas music, and lots of gratitude for what God has done for all of us.  You celebrate however you wish, but I’m going to pray that this season you allow yourself to go a little over the top.

Big love to you all.

Merry Christmas!

Karen

Wondering about Wonder Woman

July 5, 2017 in Inspirational

Yesterday was my birthday and Bruce and I decided to take the day off and simply be together.  We rarely go to a movie so we got a big bag of popcorn and pretended we were seventeen and settled back to watch Wonder Woman on the big screen.  It was a great choice for so many reasons.  You may feel differently about it if you see it, but I wanted to share the gift I received in a movie like that.  I appreciate a movie built around a female heroine, but that wasn’t the best part.  I appreciate the amazing technical aspects that bring a film to life, but that wasn’t the best part either.  The best part was that it made me wonder what part of me could possibly be like Wonder Woman.  You may laugh!  Sure, I don’t have her face, her power, or her abilities to fight off evil in the world, but what else did she exhibit? She reminded me that we can live fully and meaningfully if we believe in who we are meant to be.  In my case, that means that I believe God created me for a purpose, that He designed and equipped me to get a particular job done here on this planet.  One of the messages that was often given to Diana (Wonder Woman) as she grew up was that she had to believe in herself. She had to believe in her life purpose.  I think I need to do that too.  Beyond that, I have to learn to try even harder when there are setbacks, or even when there are bullies who want to make the pathways difficult.

When Diana found out who she was, who her Father was, she tried even more to live up to her calling.  She put her whole heart and mind and soul into it.  Now that’s the part, that I can do too.  I have been equipped by my Father to do amazing things. I have to be willing to put my whole heart into those things, to trust that they are part of my calling and to be steadfast in my willingness to keep moving forward in spite of setbacks.  I have to believe that I truly am my Father’s daughter!  I wonder if you and I can find our inner Wonder Woman, (Or Wonder Man)!  Can we believe so totally in who we are and what we are here to do that we put every bit of heart and love and imagination into it? Can we believe bigger now than we ever have before?  Can we put the wonder back into our own lives? No matter how old we are, we are called to perform wonders for the sake of those around us. We are called to love.   I wonder about Wonder Woman because I wonder what else I can do if I put my whole heart into it.

Stay tuned!  I’m getting my shield and my lasso of truth ready to do greater things.  I hope you are too.