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You Are My Favorite…..

 over hearing

Last night, Jim and I were out eating dinner. In the booth behind us was a set of grandparents taking their granddaughter out to dinner. I could not help but over hear some of their conversation. It was all so sweet and you could tell they were enjoying their evening out. Then, I heard the grandfather say to his granddaughter; “did you know that you are my favorite granddaughter?” Then, I heard a small voice sweetly reply; “really?”.  The grandmother began to explained to their granddaughter that she was the favorite granddaughter because she was their only granddaughter.

Jim Hawkins, Sr. standing with his favorite youngest grandson and his favorite son....at our favorite son's wedding.

Jim Hawkins, Sr. standing with his favorite youngest grandson and his favorite son….at our favorite son’s wedding.

As I over heard this conversation, I could not help but smile. Needless to say, a flood of memories ran rapidly through my mind. I shared with Jim what I had just heard and he smiled with a tear in his eye. I so wanted to turn and say something to this precious family but I refrained out of respect to their having their special time with their granddaughter.

By now, you are wondering why this over heard conversation meant so much to me as I heard it. And, you may wonder why Jim smiled with a tear in his eye as I shared what I had heard.  The answer is simple. We were reminded of Jim’s dad who passed away this past January. Jim’s dad was known to keep a level playing field among friends and family. He had a way of seeing each person’s uniqueness and what made them stand out. How he did this in the family was he had a favorite. Just like this grandfather that was talking to his granddaughter last night, he would tell my niece that she was his favorite granddaughter because she was the only granddaughter.

Bryan, Bethany and Drew The favorite grandchildren

Bryan, Bethany and Drew
The favorite grandchildren

Not only did he tell my niece that she was his favorite granddaughter, he would tell my nephew that he was his favorite oldest grandson. My son, Drew was his favorite youngest grandson. I was his favorite daughter-n-law and Jim was his favorite son. Jim’s sister was his favorite daughter and her husband was his favorite son-n-law.  Jim’s dad showed no partiality to anyone. At his funeral, as each one of us got up to share our thoughts and memories we would introduce ourselves as his favorite…… This over heard conversation was also a comfort for Jim and me. For us, it was Jim’s dad looking down from heaven and reminding us that though we are no longer together on this earth, we are still his favorite.  It was a wink and a smile from heaven.

feather

As I was getting dressed this morning, I was reflecting on what I had heard int he booth behind me  in Fazoli’s last night.  In this reflecting back, God whispered in my ear. He said; “April, did you know that you are my favorite child?” My response was unlike the little girl responding back to her grandfather last night but it was more of a “wow!”.  It was also humbling for me because I know God’s family is huge! In this huge family each person is his favorite.

Psalm 139

Psalm 139 came to my mind. In this scripture we are reminded that God knows everything about us. He knows our good qualities and our faults. Yet, he loves us all!  Each one of us are his favorite because he knows our uniqueness. We are fearfully and wonderfully made!   In the words of Matthew West; “I am the child of the one TRUE KING!”   Each one of us is not only the child of the King but each one of us are his favorite!   In the days ahead, stay in tuned to God’s voice. Because you never know when you will be reminded that you are his favorite with a wink and a smile from heaven. After all, Jim and I were reminded while eating dinner at a Fazoli’s restaurant.

Have a blessed weekend and enjoy the video below:

My Pleasure

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

Mother Teresa

 Chick fil a

My Pleasure

Any time you enter a Chick fil A restaurant, you will be greeted by a server behind the counter with them saying; it’s a great day to eat at Chick Fil A, how may I help you? Once your order is filled and the server hands you your tray, they will say; it was my pleasure. If you should go back to the counter for a refill or some other need, that  need will be taken care of with a smile and the words; my pleasure.

Excuses

excuses

Each day opportunities present themselves for us to serve others. However, there are times when we don’t acknowledge those opportunities. We have an excuse for not answering the call to help others.

  • I really don’t have the time.
  • I don’t know if I have the skill to do that task.
  • I will help more when I retire.
  • When I get my first million I will begin to give back.
  • I am too old to be a part of such an opportunity.
  • I am too young to be part of such an opportunity.
  • What difference would doing this small task make?

Arguing with God

Philippians

When I write out these excuses and think about them, I think about Moses when God called him to lead the people out of slavery. Moses had every excuse in the book to give back to God. He told God that he could not talk before Pharoh and to go ask his brother Aaron to talk to Pharoh. After much back and forth, Moses finally obeyed God. He went  and  talked to Pharoh and lead the people out of Egypt.  (Exodus 3)

Opportunities

how can I help

Everyday, God places opportunities in our path. He may not call us to do something on such a big scale as leading people out of slavery. But, God calls us to make a difference. We may not feel adequate or qualified to the calling and that is where we have to trust God’s leading. After all, we are familiar with the quote; he doesn’t call the qualified but he qualifies the called.

The video at the beginning of this page is an example of people being in tuned to what is around them. Whether they realize it or not, they are obeying the commandment; love one another. It is the small act of kindness that may make a difference for someone’s day and/or life.

In my life time, I have been a recipient of something small done  for me that made a big difference in my life. One special memory I have of someone taking time to help me is a little boy by the name, Jimmy.

A Boy Named, Jimmy

tying shoes

At one of my dad’s early appointments in his ministry, Dad was in charge of over seeing one of our Methodist campgrounds. Over the summer, many camps would take place for all ages and needs. One week out of the summer, there was a camp for mentally challenged children. In this group was a little boy named, Jimmy. I was about four or five years old when I first met Jimmy. For some reason, we connected. Where Jimmy was I was not too far behind him.

This particular mid-summer morning, we were outside the dinning hall playing. My shoe became untied and although Jimmy could not really talk very well, in his own way he communicated to me to sit down on the ground with him. Instead of tying my shoe, he untied my other shoe. Then, he took my shoes off and placed one shoe in his lap and the other shoe in my lap. With a smile on his face and in the best way he could communicate he began to teach me how to tie my shoes. By the time the lunch bell rang, I had learned to tie my shoes.

I share this story about Jimmy because despite the challenges he had, he saw a need. He saw I needed to learn to tie my shoes. As he showed me how to tie my shoe, you could see compassion and love coming from his heart. Yes, I was only four or  five at the time but when I see that scene as vividly as the day that it took place, I see his face beaming because he had helped someone and he had a purpose. And, thanks to Jimmy I haven’t had to worry about tripping over my shoe laces.

With Great Love

Luke

In the video at the beginning of this article, we see people seeing a need and stopping to help. Some of these events are small ones but they make and/or made a difference for someone. The gentleman in the break room wiping the spill up off the floor probably kept someone from coming in and slipping. The lady at the bus stop forgoing getting on the bus to help the gentleman pick up his papers that fell on the sidewalk.  Who knows? Maybe, her stopping to help pick up the papers saved the gentleman from being late to a meeting and/or losing an important document.

You see, we don’t know how that one small thing we do with GREAT love will make a difference in the bigger picture of life. My challenge for you today is that when you wake up in the morning, tune in to God and be ready to respond to his calling.  Don’t worry about not having the ability because he will make sure you are qualified. Do what he has called you to do with an attitude of GREAT love and with the response; my pleasure.

Check out Mark Bezos’ Testimony:

We’re Here!

family vacation

We’re Here!

washington dc

We’re here!  Were the words my father spoke to the security guard standing out in the Nation’s Capital drive area. You see, my family was on vacation to see the sites of Washington, DC and to visit with my aunt. After many long hours of riding and my brother begging my dad to stop and talk to a sign from time to time (the fast food drive-thru), we arrived in DC at the peak of rush hour!

Stuck in the round about

It was like a scene from European Vacation

As my dad tried to navigate through the metro area of DC, he was quick to learn that streets and lanes change to accommodate the traffic. After many u-turns and barely missing a few flower beds, Dad thought he had reached a parking area or at least where he could find some sort of direction. Thus,  pulling up to our Nation’s Capital and dad rolling down the window to announce the security guard that we had arrived. The look on the security guard’s face was priceless. Looking back, this real life adventure reminds me of the movie, European Vacation where Clark and family keep going in circles in the round-about.

A Simple Trip To The Mall

Sears

This incident was many to come as we vacationed in DC that summer. Dad noticed that one of our tires was in bad shape when we arrived at my aunt’s condo. The decision was made that we would take the car to a Sears the next morning to get the tire fixed. How hard would that would be and how long could it take? After all, Mom and I could do a little shopping and the guys could hang out and look at tools. Then, we would be on with our site seeing of Washington. WRONG!  

Dad, Mom, my brother and I loaded up the car for the day. We are heading to Sears to get the tire fixed. Dad had found out where the closest Sears was and off we went. As we traveled the interstate to Sears, Dad saw the mall coming up on his right side. He was sure the next exit would take us to the right destination. WRONG! 

Yes, we were back in that scene from European Vacation with Clark and family stuck in the round about. Dad would take an exit and then turn around. For a while we were up and down the interstate seeing the mall and all we could do is wave at it as we passed. I don’t quite remember how Dad finally figured out how to get to the mall but we made it. The tire was fixed. Mom and I shopped. Then, we were off to see the sites of Washington, DC.

Mom Reads The Wrong Sign

Metro

After a day of site seeing, we returned to my aunt’s place to clean up and go somewhere nice for dinner. My aunt would be in meetings that evening so we thought a night out on the town would be fun.  Mom had found a travel guide of places to eat in Washington. She had read about one that she thought we would all enjoy. Again, we load up the car and off to a nice dinner we go. As we pulled out of the drive of my aunt’s place, Dad asked Mom where was this restaurant was located. She read off the directions and said it will be on “M” street. Dad goes in the direction of where this place was to be located. As we began to travel to our destination, Dad told Mom to look for “M” street. Suddenly, Mom says; there’s M Street.  Yes, it was a sign that said “M” with an arrow pointing in a direction. However, it was not getting us to our destination. Instead, we arrived in the roughest part of Washington, DC. Needless to say, my dad did not roll down his window this time and announce our arrival but only to  put the pedal to the metal to get us out while my brother and I ducked down in the back seat in fear of our lives. You see, the “M” Mom was seeing was the sign directing you to the Metro stops.

Once Dad got us out of a dangerous area, he looked at the city map and navigated our way to the planned destination. After fearing for our lives and taking wrong turns, we arrived to the restaurant for the dinner we had anticipated an hour earlier. Needless to say, Dad pretty much let us order whatever we wanted on the menu that evening.

Our Journey in Life

My way

So many times in life, we forget that God is in control.  In our effort to get to where God wants us to be we take the wheel in attempt to get to the destination he has set for us. As a result, we arrive but not at the intended destination.

There are times in life where we see where we need to be but we keep passing it by. In other words, we keep going in circles seeing where we need to be but we just seem to not be able to get there. We are stuck in the round about.

Along with wanting to take the wheel, and getting stuck in the round about, we think we see a sign that is telling us that is where God wants us to go. Yet, after following the sign, we find ourselves maybe not in a dangerous place like my family in DC but we arrive anywhere but where God intended us to be.

Directions

My way is not working

As a teacher I once worked with use to say, God has a plan. It is a good plan. He has a plan  for our path. Thus, we have to pay attention to his guidance. Proverbs 3: 5-6 tells us:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart

and lean not on your own understanding;

in ALL your ways submit to him.,

and he will make your paths straight.

In other words, there is no need to have to make u-turns, drive through flower beds and end up in dangerous areas in our life when we give God full control of our lives.  Each day when we get up we need to get our map (bible) and ask God to direct our paths for the day. We have to pay attention to his leading every second of the day and watch for signs. It is important that we pay attention to his voice within because he will tell us if we are about to take a wrong turn.

Yes, there are times when we will forget God is in control. We are going to make wrong turns. It is my prayer that we don’t end up in a dangerous situation. However, we all know that there are people who have landed in a bad place because they did not allow God to lead them. It is in these times, when we need to  pull up to the security guard (God) and let him know; we’re here and allow him to guide us back into the right direction.

The Rest of the Story

The Rest of the Story

My family and I did enjoy our vacation to Washington, DC that summer. I can say that it was one of the most memorable vacations we took except the one trip to Florida one summer. However, that is for another day.

Disclaimer…Please note that this trip was taken many years ago before GPS and guys would not dare ask for directions.

God has a plan

A New Day

A New Day

"I'm happy!'

“I’m happy!’

This video/song seems to be the new rage at this moment. It is easy to see why it is catching on and why people like it so much. As you listen to the song, you will find yourself tapping your toe, dancing in your seat and if you are not careful humming it under your breath hours after you have listened to the song.

As I listen and watch this video this morning, I turn to Psalm 68:3.

But may the righteous be glad and rejoice  before God;

may they be HAPPY and joyful.

Charlie brown and snoopy

For those of you who are Peanuts fans, you are familiar with the drawing of Charlie Brown and Snoopy with the saying;

Happiness is warm puppy.

100_3128

Smokey

Yes, I can see how happiness is a warm puppy. My precious Smokey brings me happiness every day. Yet, there is more to happiness than a warm puppy. Happiness is seeking joy in ALL things that life brings us.

There are situations/days where we feel anything but happy. The times in life where we wish we could just runaway and hide. We want to go  back to bed and pull the covers over our head and simply escape from the day/situation. We have all been there a time or two. However, it is on these days where it is essential to seek happiness and find the joys.

hiding under the covers

How do we find happiness on the days we just want to go back to bed and pull the covers over our heads? We must seek the blessings. It is in these moments when we have to fine tune our hearts to hear God’s voice and open our eyes a little wider to see the blessings he puts in our path. Instead of staying in bed, we must get up and start singing praises to God. It is when we do this that the situation before us seems to get a little easier to handle. After all, God has woken us up and given us one more day.

"Blessings"

“Blessings”

Over the years, when I have known people going through tough times, I have encouraged them to begin a blessings journal. In this journal I encourage them to write down five blessings from that day. When I began encouraging people to do this I suggested the end of the day. However, over the years, and after doing this several times myself in tough situations, I have found doing the blessing journal twice a day is good. In other words, start out the day seeking and acknowledging the blessings God is already giving us as we begin our day. Then, at the end of the day, write five more blessings that we experienced throughout the day. It has been my experience that once a person  gets  going with this blessings journal they  will begin to exceed the five blessings. Thus, no matter the situation we can face it with a joyful heart.

I love  Psalm 118:24;

This is the day the LORD hath made;

Let us REJOICE and be glad in it!

new day dawning

God gives us each new day. In this new day, he has blessings planned for us in ALL situations and in ALL that we do. If you haven’t already, start beginning your days by singing praises to God. It is when you do this you will feel happy and want to clap along. After all, it is a new dawn; a new day; it’s a new life and you should be feeling good no matter your circumstance.

dog have a great day

Small Callings

knittingLast Thursday evening as Jim and I sat in our Coffee Talk small group, Mary brought her knitting. She asked if it would be rude if she knitted while we had our share time together. No one objected because we knew that this piece she was knitting would one day be prayed over and given to someone who is in need of God’s loving and comforting touch.

Psalm 23

Psalm 23

Our lesson taken from Psalm 23:3 he leads me along the right paths for his name sake.  The focus for our lesson was our purpose in this life and God’s calling us to this purpose. In other words, we need to be in tuned to God’s still small voice and allow him to guide our path.

looking for an answer

Purpose/calling. When we hear that word we sometimes think of the evangelists, the missionaries, the song writers/singers and writers that up there front and center fulfilling their purpose. It can be intimidating at times and make some of us ask if we are actually hearing God’s voice and fulfilling our purpose in life.

Nature Facebook cover

For some of us, we have had different callings in our life time. In other words, just as the seasons change in nature, our seasons change. Some of us question if we are truly listening to God’s voice and following his leadership when our seasons change. We may feel guilty that we are not continuing the same path we have been on for many years. Know that there is nothing wrong with this change in path. There are times when we fulfill one purpose and God is ready to move us on to a new task.  It is all a part of his refining us into his likeness.

2014 Winter

In Kentucky this winter we have had winter in all its glory.  In our life there are seasons where our purpose/calling may be up front/center stage. There is no doubt we know our calling just as there has been no doubt that we have had winter.

different seasons

Then, there are times when the seasons are calm. Last year, Kentucky had a very quiet and mild winter. No big headlines were needed. It is in seasons such as these we sometimes question God and his purpose for us. We wonder if we are truly answering his call. Are we actually hearing his still small voice from within.

black white coffee cup

As these thoughts were bounced around our small group the other night, I looked across the room at Mary’s knitting one stitch at a time and yet seeing this beautiful prayer shawl come together. Seeing her loop one thread over another one, I saw a connection.

There are times when we are called to do big things. But most times we are called and our purpose is to do small things. We think that these small things really don’t mean much and aren’t making a difference. It is this thinking that causes us  to miss the lesson that God is teaching us. This can result in our missing the blessing that God has planned for us.

Mother Teresa on small things with great love

You see, it is the small things/callings that make the big difference. It is the opening the door for someone who has their hands full and smiling as we do it. It is that simple phone call to that one friend that came to mind or sending them a message/card. It is taking time to stop to help that stalled car get  pushed to the side out of harms way. A simple wave to someone next to us. It is posting that one encouraging thought on Facebook.

Just as one thread being looped over and over, each one of answering those simple callings eventually become a beautiful blessing and they bring glory to God. We may or may not see the impact from answering these small callings while on earth. I do know that when we reach our eternal home that we will see the results of people answering the smallest of callings. We are going to see the most beautiful tapestry that is beyond our earthly comprehension.

tapestry

In the days ahead, God is going to call you to various things/purposes. There will be different seasons with different callings. Just know no matter what season and/or how great or small the calling that you are making a difference.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:8-9

Take a moment to listen to the video below. As you listen, think about God’s calling/purpose for you.

What A Ride!

“This is the day the LORD hath made! Let us REJOICE and be glad in it!

Psalm 118:24

100_3448

Jim’s Bucket List

My husband, Jim has always dreamed of owning a convertible. His eyes have always been set on a Miata. Yet, in the Fall of 2011 on the eve of Jim turning 50 June 2012, we came across a very sweet ride and purchased our Toyota Solara. Needless to say, mid-life crisis/fun had hit the Hawkins’ home.

100_3502

One of our favorite areas is the Smoky Mountains. It is our favorite area because it is the area where we met, fell in love and have taken many trips together. Both our families had vacationed in the area before we met. Since the Smokies are one of our favorite places, we decided we would vacation there for a week the Summer of 2012.

The Dragon's Tail

The Dragon’s Tail

In the process of planning our vacation, Jim mentioned that he would love to take the convertible out on the Dragon’s Tail. It is a stretch of road that is eleven miles of 318 curves. It is known as America’s number one place for motorcycles and sports cars to take a “joy ride” .

deals gap

Getting The Courage

When Jim described the route to me, I was hesitant because I don’t do curves/roller coasters very well. As a matter of fact I have not been on a roller coaster since my early college years. Yet, I could see the determination in Jim’s face of taking on this ride to say he had done it. 

Courage John Wayne

After much hard swallowing, going to the local Walgreen’s and stocking up on Dramamine and  praying, I agreed to take this adventure with him. After all he would turn 50 in a week and if this was all he wanted for his birthday, in the words of my son; ” I could cowboy up” and take on the adventure.

Smokey at the over look just before we start "taming the tail"....I don't think he was very sure of it either...

Smokey at the over look just before we start “taming the tail”….I don’t think he was very sure of it either…

Deep Breath and Prayer

After stopping at the over-look and talking to other motorist who were about to tame the tail or had just returned from taming the tail, it was now for us to take on the adventure!

Smokey ready to take on the challenge!

Smokey ready to take on the challenge!

Without much hesitation (for Jim that is) we got in the car, put the seat belts on and begin the challenge. We knew once we started there was no turning around. In other words, we had commitment and there was no stopping until we got to Deal’s Gap.

Entering the Tail of the Dragon

God’s Challenges:

Challenges Ahead

Challenges Ahead

Just as the Dragon’s Tail was a challenge that Jim wanted to conquer, God places challenges us before us. Just like the Dragon’s Tail having 318 curves in eleven miles, there are times where God is going to place curves in the process of us meeting that challenge/calling. There are challenges that once we have commitment there is no turning back. All we can do is keep going until we reach the destination that he has planned for us. Just as I had to trust Jim’s driving those 318 curves, we have to trust God in his leading us.

There are those of us who are like Jim that when God calls us to take on a new challenge, we immediately rise to the occasion and with determination face the challenge and all the curves that go with it head on. Then, there are those of us who are like me. We have to a lot praying, convincing ourselves it will be okay, swallowing hard and realizing God is in the driver’s seat guiding us.

The Rest of the Story:

The Rest of the Story

After the first couple of curves, I was okay, As a matter of fact, I don’t know who was having more fun Jim or me. Each time we complete a couple of curves, you could hear a “whoo hoo!” cheering from the car. As far as needing the Dramamine, I didn’t need it. I was so caught in enjoying the ride that I forgot about all the concerns I had when Jim first brought up this challenge.

We Made It:

Us at the end of 'The Tail"                Deals Gap

Us at the end of ‘The Tail”
Deals Gap

Jim and I pulled into Deals Gap with a sense of accomplishment. We got out of the car all excited about what we had just done. After a few minutes of walking around taking pictures, talking to others and of course getting t-shirts to say we had “tamed the tail”, it was time to make the return back to Gatlinburg for a celebratory dinner. In the process of getting back in the car with our cola’s and snacks, I asked Jim which way are going on home. His reply; “babe, the same way we got here. Are you ready?” I looked at him and said; “it’s on!”.

The Journey:

the journey

No matter the journey that is put before us, it is when we trust God and his leading that we find out that the ride wasn’t as scary as we thought. It is by trusting him we see the fun, the adventure and the blessings that he puts in the path of the challenges. Just like the curves on the Dragon’s Tail each curve has something new for us to enjoy. Sometimes we have to seek those blessings a little more versus other times but in the end we reach that destination.

Turning 50:

fifty

In a couple of weeks, I will reach that magical number of 50. As this date approaches, I look back on all the curves that I have taken on throughout my lifetime and all the challenges that were before me. Some of the outcomes were awesome and some were not so good. Yet, I would not  trade this ride in life I have had thus far for anything. It is the thrills, the ups and the downs that has made my life interesting, fun and sometimes entertaining.

My bucket list may not (or maybe it will) have a thrill ride such as “taming the tail” but I do know that I want to enjoy each day God gives me to the fullest. I have come to a point in my life where I know that even in the hardships/struggles God has a blessing and lesson for me. It is up to me to seek that lesson and  blessing.

On March 14th as I awake and turn 50, I will look up at God and tell him that “it’s on!”.   In other words, I will keep my heart open to his calling and his purpose for me. Though there will be times in the days ahead where I may have to take a deep breath, swallow and hold tight to God’s hand, I will take on the challenges he puts before me. I will do this because I KNOW  arriving at the destination will be awesome!

Roller Coaster

“Life is not a journey to the grave with intentions of arriving safely in a pretty well-preserved body. BUT, rather skid in broadside thoroughly used up, totally worn out and LOUDLY proclaiming what a ride!”

(By the way, Jim and I ended up riding a total of 636 curves that day!)

Blessings-

SFT….What Matters…

Seven Days in Utopia Title Page

How can a game have such an effect on a man’s soul?”

Johnny Crawford

Seven Days in Utopia

You will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way.”Follow it whether it turns to the right or to the left.”

Isaiah 30:21

Seven Days In Utopia is a movie that has been on my Netflix list for quite sometime. Saturday evening, Jim and I made time to just sit down, sit still and watch this movie. From the opening to the ending we were pausing and rewinding back to hear a line. It was an excellent movie about life, our purpose in life,  God’s purpose for our lives and what really matters in life. Needless to say, I had my notebook in hand and was taking notes!

Luke's melt down

 In the beginning of the movie, Luke is a pro-golfer who  is at the last hole and has a melt down. Due to the nature of his meltdown, his dad/caddy walks away from him. Thus, afterwards, Luke does what we all want to do when we melt down, he runs away.

In the process of his running, he comes to a town called, Utopia. It is on his arrival he meets Johnny Crawford whom he finds out later in the movie was once a pro golfer that had walked away from the game.  Johnny says that he can help Luke with his game if he is willing to stay seven days in Utopia. Luke takes him up on his offer.

Luke's first lesson

LESSON ONE

It is in Johnny’s instructions that he not only teaches Luke how to improve his golf game but he teaches Luke about Life.  For example, the first morning on the golf course, Johnny asks Luke why he grips the club the way he does. Luke shrugs his shoulders and pretty much says it is the way he has always done it.  In other words, he was asking Luke;

“Why do you do the things you do? In finding a good game, you have to find some conviction.”

“If you don’t have conviction, one simple comment can affect your game and ruin your confidence.”

“What is your foundation?”

Johnny hands Luke a journal and tells him to go home and write why he does what he does. In other words Johnny wants Luke to seek the depth of his soul and find the true Luke not the Luke that his dad, golf, or the world wants him to be.

writing in journal

There are times in our lives where God throws us a journal and ask us to do some soul-searching. Most times these moments happen when we least expect it. Or, these moments could happen during an illness and/or a life changing event.  The questions that Johnny asks Luke apply to each one of us. In other words, God wants us to be still and listen to his still small  voice within. We must look deep within our souls and seek what makes our true foundation.

LESSON TWO

take control

Johnny takes Luke up in his plane. Johnny begins to teach Luke how to fly the plane. Without Luke’s knowing, he turns the engine off. Johnny tells Luke he has to land this plane. Luke starts to panic. But, Johnny tells Luke just as in life he has to take control.  As Luke gains control of the plane, Johnny laughs and starts the engine back up. He says to Luke;

You can’t  play unless you are ready for the unexpected.”

How many times does the unexpected happen to us? I know for Jim and me the unexpected has happened more than once in the last couple of months.  Yesterday, I sat in the doctor’s office and heard the doctor tell me that I had shingles and I was contagious. Therefore, anything I had planned for the next ten days has had to be scratched. Though life has thrown its share of punches to Jim and me lately, we have control because we know God is in control. He is our foundation that holds up during these moments of the unexpected.

LESSON THREE

Johnny says blessings in Utopia

My favorite scene in the movie is when Johnny and Luke sit down to dinner with friends gathered in. Those gathered around this table take each other’s hand. It is Johnny’s prayer that spoke volumes to me. He teaches in his prayer to see and be thankful for what we have and be aware of other’s needs.

How many times do we get so caught up in ourselves? We complain about having to change plans and yet there are people who are wandering around  out there that would love to be able to make plans. How many times do we complain about the food that is served to us and there are many out there who would love to eat what we have before us? Each night we lock our doors and some set a security alarm but think about the many people who don’t have a door to lock or a security system to set. Instead, they never know their fate. Someone can come in the night and take their lives away. In other words, what we think are problems are minimal to the big picture of our Father’s world.  It is so important to praise God in the midst of the struggles that life hands our way.

Johnny’s Blessing:

“For food in a world where many walk in hunger. 

For faith in a world where many walk in fear.

For friends in a world where many walk alone. 

We give you thanks, O Lord, Amen.”

LESSON FOUR

johnny and luke utopia

Luke finds Johnny sitting in the cemetery with a hole dug holding a box. Luke ask Johnny what he is going to bury. Johnny tells Luke he will soon find out. Then, he ask Luke;

What’s going to be on your epitaph?

Johnny explains to Luke that God is all around us. God is inside each one of us. He is that still small voice that is talking to us and leading us. Johnny says to Luke;

See God’s face (he is all around us)

Feel his presence. He is all around us and in us.

Trust his leading.

It is at this moment Johnny gives Luke two pieces of paper and a pencil. One piece of paper Luke is to write down all the things Luke has learned about life while in Utopia. He is to write down the truths of life when it comes to relationships, character, faith, integrity. He explains to Luke that God has a purpose and calling for his life far deeper than getting that little white ball into that cup on the golf course. Johnny continues to explain that these truths will become his new heartbeat and his foundation for life.

Truths. What truths have we learned about life, relationships, faith, character, and integrity? Maybe we need to write down the lessons life has taught us in these areas and allow these truths to become our heartbeat. It is when we acknowledge the truths of life and acknowledge God as our foundation, we receive new life.

On the other piece of paper, Luke had to write down all the lies he has been told all of his  life. In other words, did the golf scores state who he was and what was his self-worth? How many lies of the world had Luke bought into and allowed them to define his purpose?

It would be good for each of us to sit down with a sheet of paper and write down the lies we have been told. The lies from the world that tells us if we have this house or this car we have arrived! The lies that if we are not busy 24/7 we are not worth anything. Our identity is what the world says we need to be instead of listening to our Father and hearing what his purpose is for our lives.

Once these papers were complete, Johnny says;

“Take the truths with you.

Bury the lies.

Once you bury the lies, chisel your living epitaph.”

Each one of us need to do this. We need to take the truths with us and bury all the lies. In this process, we chisel our living epitaph. We define our true purpose/calling  that goes beyond anything that the world could ever tell us.  It is how we live our lives out loud that show that our foundation is with God.  We demonstrate our integrity and what/whom we truly believe.

LESSON FOUR

What really matters

Luke goes back to play his first tournament since he had his melt down. Of course the media makes a big deal out of this. We intensely watch the tournament. It gets down to the winning hole, and this last putt will determine if Luke wins or not. Yet, we do not see the outcome. I love the words of Johnny:

“What does it matter?

How can such a game have an effect on a man’s soul?”

How does life have an effect on our soul. Does it matter if we make that putt. In other words, in the end does it matter how much money we have in our bank account? Does it matter what kind of car we drive? Does it matter where our status is in the world?

What really matters is how we stand on the foundation of Jesus Christ.

What really matters is that we:

Seek God’s face in all that is around us and all people we encounter.

Feel his presence. Take time to be in God’s presence. Allow him to fill us  up with the holy spirit. Be aware that God is everywhere we go.

Trust his leading. There are going to be times when God is going to nudge us in a direction with which we are not comfortable. Yet, it is in these moments where we have to trust his leadership. After all, he is our creator and he knows our purpose.

“How can a game have such an effect on a man’s soul?”

In the days ahead, know that what we do does have an effect on our souls. What we do also has an effect on those who are watching us live our lives. In other words, SFT!

I highly recommend you watch Seven Days in Utopia. It is a wonderful movie for the entire family and there are many more lessons for us all in the movie.  Jim and I give it two thumbs up!

 

Unbearable Obstacles

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:14

If you are familiar with this movie, Here Comes The Boom, you know that Kevin James’ character is a school teacher that decides to prize-fight to keep the arts/music program in the school where he teaches. In this scene we see that Kevin James’ character is being pushed to his physical limits.

In life, there are times when we are pushed to our physical limits and are faced of what we think are unbearable obstacles. Within these moments we hear, “follow my voice, you can’t give up”.  Then there are other voices telling us that enough is enough and to give up. We are pushed to the point that life becomes blurry.

life blurry

It is in that blurred moment where we have two choices. We can follow The Voice ( God) and take a moment to sit down and allow him to help us continue. Or, we can listen to all the other voices of the world and Satan tell us it is no use and at to just give up and throw the towel in the ring.

Kevin James Here Comes The Boom

It is in the most unbearable obstacles where we can be someone else’s inspiration. Just as Henry Winkler’s character pointed out how Kevin’s character had already been an inspiration to the students. He saw an obstacle and he was determined to remove that obstacle. He was determined that the sound of music from the orchestra room would still fill the halls. Thus, teaching the students there is nothing in life too hard to fight for that is worth fighting for.

There have been moments in my life time where I have sat on the sidelines and watched someone go through what seems to be an unbearable obstacle. It is in my observation that I stand amazed of how they kept going. They live life as nothing wrong is going down. Yet, they continue to take punch after punch.  They seek the voice that says; “follow my voice.” In other words, they keep their eye  on the prize, Christ Jesus. These people have inspired and taught me to stay focused in my times of unbearable obstacles.

signs of obstacles

Personally, the above video clip speaks to me. In the last couple of months, life has handed some things to me that I viewed as unbearable obstacles. I won’t mention the nature of these obstacles. Yet,  I will say that as punch after punch took place, I heard that still quiet voice within me telling me to follow His voice. It is sitting down at His feet to rest in the midst of the fight where He shows me the blessings that have already taken place. He assures me that no matter the outcome He will still be with me.

prize fighter

In between the rounds of a fight/boxing match, the fighter goes to his/her corner. As they sit on the stool to allow their team to take care of them, a towel or blanket of some sort is placed over them until the bell rings for the next round to start. A couple of weeks ago something similar happened to me.

 I went to my small group for the first time in several weeks.  There was no denying that I had come battle worn and life was getting a little blurry.  For me, this was my corner that I went to and go to when I need to catch my breath in between the punches life has and/or throws at me and to gain my focus back on the true prize, Christ Jesus.

prayer holy spirit

 On this particular morning as the meeting came to a close, my small group friends surrounded me and draped a prayer shawl around my shoulders. They knew I was battle worn and yet when I left there were still going to be rounds I had to face. As they draped this shawl around me, they began to lay hands on me and prayed for me and my family. It was a sacred moment and I did not just feel their hands around me but I felt one hundred times more than what were actually there. It is without a doubt the Holy Spirit and all of God’s angels were surrounding me at that moment. It was in that moment that the unbearable obstacles became bearable. And, just as Kevin James does in the movie, I got back up and re-entered the ring to continue the fight.

There are many of you right now facing unbearable obstacles. Some may be dealing with a family with a terminal illness such as cancer, some it may be caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, loss of job or it may be a troubled relationship. No matter what the situation is at the moment, know that it does not have to be an unbearable obstacle.  Instead, use these moments to sit at the feet of Jesus when you need renewal, allow the Holy Spirit to drape around you and fill you up with what you need. Make the choice to follow The Voice and block out the voices of the world that are telling you to give up and it’s no use. It is in doing this that your unbearable obstacles  become bearable. 

Last but not least, know it is in following the voice of Jesus Christ and keeping our eye on the prize that we become an inspiration to others.

Sabbath Moments

Years ago, I participated in a weekend seminar with Majorie Thompson. This seminar focused on our spiritual life and walking closer with God. In one of the sessions, she spoke about sabbath moments. 

Her definition of sabbath moments are moments when we stop and remember who we are and that we are a child of God. These moments help us to focus on what is really important to us and to stay connected with our Creator.

One of my favorite places to go for a Sabbath moment. Lake Junaluksa, NC

One of my favorite places to go for a Sabbath moment.
Lake Junaluksa, NC

Not only are these sabbath moments are a time to stop and remember who we are and re-connecting with God, they are moments for us to simply sit down and rest. These moments are a time of rest for the soul. To quote Majorie; sabbath is what begins our spiritual life. 

Life happens so fast these days.  You would think with the computer age and social media as it is that life would be easier. Yet, it seems that life and the expectations of others have become all the more demanding. Unfortunately, there are many who will not allow themselves to stop and rest.

Luke 10:38-42

Luke 10:38-42

In Luke 10:38-42, we read the story of Jesus visiting Mary and Martha. Martha is busy around the kitchen trying to prepare a meal for their guest of honor while all the while Mary sits at the feet of Jesus. You know the rest of the story. Martha complains that she is doing all the work! She will not allow herself to stop and sit at the feet of Jesus. In other words, Martha denies herself of having a sabbath moment.

Young woman reading bible

Sabbath Moments require stopping.  They require us to be quiet and listen to God speak to us. These moments are times for feeding our souls so that we can be a better servant for God. It is in the sabbath moments that we get to know who we are and gain a clearer perspective on where we are and where God wants us to go.

It seems the  older I get the more I have come to see the importance of these sabbath moments. Sabbath moments have been what has carried me as life has thrown punches at my husband and I in the last month. Yes, there have been moments when I have cried and yelled at God about what life was dealing to my family and I. Yet, in the midst of the anger, hurt, aggravation and tears, I found my sabbath moments. 

In recent weeks, my sabbath moments have been:

Sitting beside a dear loved one as he left his earthly shell only to enter the gates of heaven where he received his robe and crown. A beautiful moment and a moment where God showed me the importance of family, friends and where I felt His holy presence. 

heavens gates

In the midst of a time of grief, looking out the guest room window of my sister-in-law’s home and seeing this beautiful sunrise. A reminder from my Creator that He is with me in everything I do and everywhere I walk.

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My sabbath moments have been watching the sunset over the Ohio River. Again, a reminder that God makes ALL things beautiful in His time. No matter how rough the day may have been it is the beauty of the sunset that tells me God is smiling down and sending His love. 

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Sabbath Moments are intentional moments with God. They are moments where we don’t have to have permission to stop and rest. We just do it!

My friend, life happens. Sometimes life happens  with punches coming from all sides. Deadlines are going to always be there. The list of things to do is always going to be there. Yet, in the midst of the lists and deadlines, it is important to disconnect from the world and all that is happening around us. It is important we stop and have those sabbath moments.It is the sabbath moments where we get our strength to handle whatever punches life throws our way.

In the days ahead, my prayer for you is that you find your sabbath moments.

.

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Shepherds In The Storm

My husband, Jim's 50th birthday...his dad, Jim, Sr standing with him.

My husband, Jim’s 50th birthday…his dad, Jim, Sr standing with him.

It seemed as though our family had just gotten to the funeral home. We were seeing my husband, Jim’s dad for the first time since we stood and watched him leave his earthly shell only to enter into his eternal home. As we stood there hand in hand,  the room began to fill up with people. People who knew Jim Hawkins, Sr.

Jim's mom and dad enjoy a ride through Roaring Fork in Gatlinburg, TN Louise and Jim Hawkins, Sr.

Jim’s mom and dad enjoy a ride through Roaring Fork in Gatlinburg, TN
Louise and Jim Hawkins, Sr.

The gentleman who drove us to the burial site asked us if Jim’s dad had been a politician or public figure. It is usually public figures that command such an audience at such a life event during the week. Our response was that Jim, Sr. was just an ordinary man who loved life, people and was a faithful servant.

Jim, Sr. aka Granddaddy He LOVED his chocolate chip pancakes at the Pancake Pantry in Gatlinburg, TN

Jim, Sr. aka Granddaddy
He LOVED his chocolate chip pancakes at the Pancake Pantry in Gatlinburg, TN

Sunday, as Jim and I returned home, I reflected not only the past week’s events but I reflected on the past three years. Three years ago my precious father-n-law got the news he had mesothelioma and was given six months to live.  Despite the diagnosis and prognosis, Dad H. kept on living and had hope.  He knew that it would be the power and support of friends that would hold him, my mother-n-law, Louise as well as the rest of the family up. In other words, he taught us how to live through a storm.

Jim. Sr enjoys a visit from some of the choir members from the choir he loved so much...FernCreek UMC

Jim. Sr enjoys a visit from some of the choir members from the choir he loved so much…FernCreek UMC

In this reflection, I thought back on this last Christmas. We gathered together at my husband, Jim’s home to celebrate one more Christmas together.  Jim and I went early to decorate the tables and to help get the Christmas meal together. As we were preparing for our family’s Christmas gathering, the doorbell rang constantly with visitors wanting to come see Jim’s dad. The phone rang constantly with people checking in to see how Jim’s dad was doing. Needless to say, it was a non stop procession of shepherds taking care of one their flock.  Later on, I said something to Dad H. about the amount of people who had called or came to visit. I said to him; “you’ve hardly had a minute’s rest this weekend with the visitors/family coming in and for the phone calls.” He turned and smiled at me and said; “I would never have it any other way. I can’t imagine going through what Louise and I have been through alone.” In his short and few words, he was saying that there is no excuse for anyone to walk alone in a storm.

shepherd's staff

Jim Hawkins, Sr. was a shepherd. He grew a garden every year where he shared the fruits of his labor with family and friends. If someone needed something fixed or just an extra helping hand, he was right there helping.  In other words, when he saw or heard of a need he was right there for his family, friends, community and church. A shepherd.

At the end as hard as it was for him to allow others to do for him,  he knew he needed  to allow others to shepherd him and his family. He had said several times to me over the last several months that it was the love of people and their prayers is why he was still with us. These shepherds praying to the Good Shepherd is why we had more than just the six months given three years ago.

In many of my writings I have shared the importance of encouraging others, loving others and being a Shepherd to someone in a storm. Yet, in these past days, weeks, months, and years, I have been reminded that sometimes we have to allow others to shepherd us. God didn’t promise us that we would have nothing but easy days but there would be storms to come in life.

Life's Storms

Life’s Storms

It is when we are faced with a raging storm, we MUST share with others what is going on. It is sharing your storm with others that gives not only you the strength you need but it gives your family the strength they need as they walk through the storm with you. After all God created us to walk together with not only him but also with the earthly shepherds he places in our lives.

My bible sits opened to the 23rd Psalm. As I read it this morning, it takes on new meaning for me.

Green pasture

‘The Lord is my shepherd’…..he will give you everything you need and will send his earthly shepherds to walk with you…

‘He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside  peaceful waters, He renews my soul”….he sends his shepherds to pray for you , it is the sweet smiles and hugs of his earthly shepherds that bring you peace…it is through these earthly shepherds we are  reminded of his presence and love for us…

‘He guides me along the paths of righteousness for the sake of his name. Even though I walk through the dark valley of death, because you are with me, I fear no harm. Your rod and your staff give me courage’…..allow the people God places in our lives to be God’s ambassadors and rod and staff to us in our time of need…

In your times of difficulty, know that there is no reason you have to weather the storm alone. God sends his shepherds in the storm. All you have to do is let them know your storm.

Blessings and Peace

help us to help each other

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