Friday, October 11, 2019

Holding On to the Plank

The Fall season is our second severe weather season in Mississippi. (The first severe weather season is Spring) While we NEED the rain, the storms that bring the rain are rarely welcome.

My mind went back to a famous storm in the Bible, but I looked at it from a different perspective: a perspective I can relate to.

Acts 27 tells the story of Paul and 275 other prisoners on a stable ship in a storm on the Adriatic Sea. On the 14th night, the storm was so fierce, utterly destructive, the once strong ship was coming apart at the seams.


The Bible says the storm was so bad coupled with their fear, they “prayed for daylight.” (verse 29) The men tied ropes together trying to hold the ship together because it was falling to pieces. By morning they saw land ahead, but ran aground into a sandbar which pulled apart whatever was left of the ship. It must've been dire, because the scriptures say they grabbed planks that were initially attached to the formerly strong ship to help them swim to shallow water.

What Paul doesn't realize is God was using the ship that was falling apart to get him to his destiny. But when you're in the middle of a storm, it's hard to understand. The one thing Paul was counting on, riding on, protected by...his security...fell apart. Demolished. 

What do you do when what God gave you falls apart? Do you give up hope? Do you throw up your hands? Do you scrabble to try and save it? Do you walk away and mourn the loss?

In Isaiah 41:10, God made a promise: "Fear not; for I am with you. Do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

God didn’t promise the ship that He was going to be with the boat. He said He is going to be with you. 

In the above scripture, God promised to get you there, but He didn’t say how. God promised to get you through, but He didn’t say thru whom. If we're not careful, we’ll put all of our energy into trying to salvage the battered boat not understanding success is not defined by preserving the boat. The boat is temporary. We can get so caught up into preserving something God only gave us for a season. 

Every blessing isn’t meant to last the journey.

God brings some people into your life to get you from point A to point B. And if you’re not careful, you’ll get to point B and not get to point C because you’ll stop and try to preserve what you had before, not understanding God has something else that will carry you the rest of the way. Just because the ship comes apart doesn’t mean you have to.

Can you imagine being on the boat bound and tied, stressed and weary? Perhaps you're there now. The one thing you were counting on to get you to the other side, the job you thought you'd retire with to get you to the other side, the friends you thought would be life long or the house you thought you’d have for the rest of your life would to get you to the other side. 

But the storm got it. 

If you’ve ever lost some relationships in the storm or in the devastation of your ship, it can make you feel like a failure. Rest assured, the relationships were a temporary blessing. If it was meant to stay, it couldn’t leave.

The destruction of the boat could be an announcement that you have arrived at your next destination.

Barbie will be the guest speaker at Friendship Baptist Church in Brookhaven, MS this Sunday. She'll be speaking at the ladies tea and bringing the message that evening for the church's revival service.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Torn Down & Rebuilt

Fixer-upper shows fascinate me. A house is picked that badly needs a do-over, a vision is cast for the final product and viola! Whatever needs to be done, it's fixed, cleaned and ready to move back in within minutes, typically in a 1 hour tv show.  Sounds like a great idea, right?


While preparing our cabin on the grounds of the Neshoba County Fair, William threw out an idea: He would replace our tiny shower with a much larger one *IF* we would all help to replace some foundation piers under the cabin.

At his suggestion, I took one look at the kids and said, "Let's do it together!"

Our cabin was built in the mid 1950s by William's dad and grandfather. It's stood tall and secure for over half a century, entertained and slept many each summer. But we began to notice the cabin shaking a bit each Fair season as people would walk on the floor, take the stairs, or even step foot on the front porch. Something was wrong.

As we began to assess where to begin with removing the foundation piers, we used jacks to lift the cabin. A root ball along with the trunk of the tree had grown so much over the years, it had lifted one corner of the cabin and caused the center portion of the cabin to sink. The building wasn't level. Nothing was plumb or square. We surmised doing the work ourselves would take a couple of weeks. All of that changed when we got further into the renovation and discovered many of the foundation piers were rotten. Most of them were missing portions due to years of flooding rains underneath the cabin. As we pulled each pier out, we marveled at how strong it used to be, only to be splinters now.  And the deeper we got into the project, the heavier the replacement piers became, the darker it was under the cabin, the more cuts, bruises and dings we acquired and the worse we smelled!
Countless fair cabin residents drove by our family every day gawking at the mess we had made. Piles of lumber, old wood strewn about, dirt for days, an exposed cabin, all sprawled out for people to see. Some would stop and wish us well in our endeavors. Others were surprised we were doing most of the work by ourselves.  But a few would ask out of curiosity, "Do you think you'll have it finished and ready for the Fair?"

I wondered a few times why we couldn't just saw the worn, torn and rotten spots off the old piers and use the good pieces of wood? I believe some would call that "wood restoration", yet it wasn't an option because those piers were already weakened. 

What God doesn't restore, He replaces.

When we begin to see issues creep up on the surface of our lives, they catch our attention. It's not until we begin to peel back the layers and go deeper in our walk with the Lord that we begin to see just how broken we truly are. Reconstruction can't begin until demolition is complete. The tough part about deconstruction phase is that it's ugly, messy, and no one wants to be around it, much less offer to help.

Yet this is the phase of the project where God steps in! 

Psalm 121:1-2 says, "I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth." Facing those sins and dark spots in our life isn't pretty (that's the demolition part), but thanks be to God that He makes all things new by His grace, mercy and forgiveness of our past (that's the reconstruction part).  

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 proves it: "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong." Even after we raised the foundation piers higher so they couldn't be affected anymore by the erosion of future rains, I was quickly reminded: With elevation comes separation from all things that cause contamination.

In the Bible, God used no one until He put them through the university of adversity. Only then did He allow them to become a leader in the Kingdom of God. So while the task of dealing with our short comings, sin, and shaky past isn't always joy-filled during the process, allow God to be the foreman of the reconstruction project to build something more glorifying of Him.

So put your tool belt on, friend. Sometimes you must be torn down so that you can be built back up again. It's not a loss. It's just God helping you clean house.

(Barbie will be emceeing the Ovarian Cancer Lunch & Learn with St. Dominic and Newk's this Thursday at the Mississippi Ag Museum)

Friday, July 5, 2019

The Proof is in the Fruit

This time of year, the blueberry bushes in our backyard are bursting with fruit. They typically produce more than enough berries to last my sweet tooth for weeks, but something changed this year that's taken me a while to ponder.

Our blueberry bushes are strategically placed in our flower beds. They are not close to each other, but are mixed next to other varieties of shrubs. My favorite blueberry bush has always been the largest one. It towers four times higher than the others. This bush typically grows plenty of berries for several weeks. Its lush, green foliage makes it the prettiest of them all. Something changed this year: it only produced berries for one week. Although it's the most attractive, I was sorely disappointed in its lack of fruit.

The blueberry bush next to our bedroom porch produced large bowls of berries for several weeks, but this bush is one of the scrawniest bushes I've even seen! It's not loaded with leaves, but it's filled with sweetness.

In comparing the two bushes and trying to figure out what changed this season, I quickly noticed the differences. While one bush is the largest, it is surrounded by towering crepe myrtles and bay magnolia trees. It's protected from the thunderstorms, the winds, and the scorching hot sunshine. Indeed, it's beautiful on the outside, but lacks what it was designed to produce--fruit.

Meantime, the bush exposed to the rays of sunshine and severe winds, brought on by storms and hungry birds, has continued to make fruit for weeks.

I've read Mark 11:12-14 multiple times over the years, but seeing this scripture play out before my eyes in the backyard was something I couldn't ignore.

Jesus entered Jerusalem amid exultation from the masses gathered for Passover. In the morning, as he traveled from Bethany, he saw a fig tree “in leaf.” This particular tree draws Jesus’ attention because it has a full covering of leaves. Its foliage signals that it should have figs.
"On the following daywhen they came from Bethanyhe was hungry. And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leafhe went to see if he could find anything on itWhen he came to ithe found nothing but leavesfor it was not the season for figs. And he said to itMay no one ever eat fruit from you again.” (Mark 11:12-14)
With that expectation, Jesus inspected the tree. He was immediately disappointed. All leaves, no fruit. All expectation, no satisfaction.
In a shocking turn, Jesus cursed the tree and made it wither from the roots, never to yield fruit again. 
I've spoken to several hurting people over the last year, and their stories are the same: there's nothing worse than being hungry for prayers from fellow Christians and not receiving them, or wanting a Christian sister or brother to help "bear your burden", but your load is overbearing instead. It hurts deeply when the card-carrying church friends avoid you based on what they've heard, instead of coming to your side and saying, "I'm with you regardless of what happened."
Our personal lives can look like they're “in leaf.” Our leaves may look like those of a supermom, a winner, a perfect family, an A-team Christian with an overstuffed schedule of ministry activities, but the roots may be withered. There may be no fruit of service and no intimacy with God. What’s worse—our leaves may even fool us.

I found it interesting the blueberry bush that's weathered the harshest conditions produced the most berries, while the covered, green bush made the least. 

If your YES becomes a NO when tested, it was always a NO. Every YES will be tested for authenticity; it's the testing of your faith that will produce fruit that lasts. 

Show up even when it hurts your reputation in the Christian world. Show up for someone just as much when they are at rock bottom as you would when they're on top of the world. It's the people who show up and walk through the fire with you who actually make a difference. It's the showing up that matters. This is how you know if you're producing fruit or being fooled by your own leaves. 
Barbie will be the guest speaker this Sunday at Agricola Baptist Church in Lucedale, MS.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

The Wheel of Pain

Clicking through the channels on tv, I happened upon the Arnold Classic, a strongman competition. Just when I was about to change the channel, I heard the commentator mention the "wheel of pain" was coming up next. Curious, I had to see what it was and why in the world would someone want to compete on something called the "wheel of pain"?

The contraption looks like an old fashioned merry-go-round with one exception--it weighs 20,000 pounds. To win the event, the competitors had to make as many revolutions as possible.

Each strongman had their own unique strategy of pushing the 20,000 pounds around in a circle. Some used one shoulder to push it around. Some used both arms. But the one who took the prize maneuvered himself under one of the poles and used the back of his neck and his powerful legs to push the wheel around in a circle.

The winner of the "pain" contraption was the smallest of the competitors weighing in at 331 pounds. (Yes, you read that right). Most would assume the athlete with the most massive, bulging muscles would win. But the strongest people are not those who show strength in front of us, but those who win battles we know nothing about.

Isaiah 43:1-3 says, "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior."

There comes a point at which strength alone won't win the battle. It's the will to fight the battle ahead that determines the outcome. God is reminding us that our faith in Him is enough to get us through the rough moments that feel as if they're going to crush us. He didn't promise our difficult days or years will be easy, but He said they won't consume us. In fact, God says we are His. He called us to go through this hardship.

No one enjoys the pain and suffering of pressing through. Pain in the process is not a sign God is absent. It is a sign that God is doing something so divine, so marvelous, it's crushing the flesh because humanity has never been able to stand up under the weight of divinity. Just hold on! You're about to see God's Hand in your situation. In fact, God is always preparing you for the thing He has prepared for you. God has given you the strength and the weaponry to do what you've been anointed and called to do.

God is a restorer. The enemy will regret messing with you when you come out of what you are going through all while glorifying God, even if it's a wheel of pain. Our assignment isn't to show others how good we are. Our assignment is to show others how good God is.

(Barbie will be the guest speaker at the Grit & Grace Women's Conference on June 21 in Wesson, MS. For information, )

Monday, May 6, 2019

Growing in the Dirt

I've been watching them for several weeks now. First the cold of winter, then the seemingly endless spring rains we've had. And don't forget those dramatic swings in temperatures from 35 degrees one day to 79 degrees the following day! My rose bushes have seen it all.

The bushes have been loaded with buds. Hundreds of them. The tight buds of each rose is so perfect, so intricate. And while my rose bushes are almost to the size of small trees, I checked out the bottom of each of the stems to see if there was any evidence damage from the weather extremes. Then it hit me: growth happens IN the dirt.

Have you found yourself in the "dirt" of life? Some challenges come and go. Others seem to linger for months or years on end. Hurt from friendships you once thought were solid, emotional turmoil, financial stress, unresolved sin and feeling defeated can all make us feel like we're swimming in the dirt. The hot sun lingers a little too long. The cold snap catch us off guard. The lack of rain leave us parched and wilted. And when it rains, it pours! You wonder if a better day is coming? But the dirt is where the REAL growth happens. It's not above ground. Sure, we all see the beautiful petals on display once the bud opens, but the growth happened in the deepest, darkest place for the flower. It's what you don't see...what's going on in the dirt.... that determines the strength and the color of the bloom.

This is how God often works His miracles in our lives. Some of the most spirit-filled, mature Christians I know are the ones who stayed in the dark places of hurt, mistreatment, addiction, lies, marital problems, betrayal, and everything in between. So much was going on underneath the surface and much of it was unknown to those around them. Yet through seeking God's face, His will and contending in prayer, they grew to glorify God through the mess. They may have some petals missing or a leaf or two out of place, but the growth they endured underground is what gave them a testimony no one can pluck.

1 Chronicles 16:11 says, "Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually."  Isaiah 30:15 goes a step farther: "In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength."

My friend, Perry Sorey, is a tomato growing expert. Anyone who has ever tasted Perry's tomatoes agrees.  I asked him what is his secret? I was shocked when he told me. It's the dirt he plants his tomatoes in. He uses a mixture of dirt, some fertilizer and even adds manure. (Talk about dirty DIRT!)

Rest assured friend, if you find yourself in the dirt right now when it seems like God is silent, He is going to show out not only to take you into your destiny but to prove to those around you that the Lord is on your side. What He's about to do in your life publicly is not going to leave any doubt. God allows the dirt so you will be spiritually developed. If God doesn't take you OUT of the dirt, He's equipping you to grow while IN the dirt. And what was assigned to take you out and block your blooms will end up blessing you because you've weathered it all while getting a little dirty.

Spiritual growth occurs in the dirt; not in the comfort of a vase on display.

(Barbie will be the guest speaker at the Senior Adult Mothers Day Luncheon in Richland on May 9)

Monday, April 22, 2019

Your Comeback Story is Being Written

Sitting on the plane with a window seat, I couldn't help but notice the big, burly man being squeezed in the middle seat next to me. The arm rest we were to share quickly became HIS as the muscles in his arms were larger than my thigh. He was enthralled as he watched the Masters golf tournament on the small tv screen on the seat in front of him. My seat mate had a hand towel draped over his lap which made me wonder if he anticipated sweating during our three-and-a half hour flight. 

As Tiger Woods' golf ball went into the hole to seal his 5th Masters championship, the man with a United States Air Force ring on his pinky finger collapsed next to me crying. He laid his face in his towel and wept alligator tears. Granted, I know nothing about golf, but I had to wonder why he was so crazy emotional about Tiger Woods' win? It was obvious Tiger's road to victory struck an all too familiar chord with him. It was a come back he could relate to.

After we landed, I began to read the commentaries regarding Tiger's win and what made it so special. Most of the articles explained his bouts with drunk driving which began when he crashed his car on Thanksgiving in 2009, leading to revelations of serial infidelity, the breakup of his marriage and years of struggling to overcome sex addiction and debilitating back pain. Tiger had been going through these challenges for 10 years and said as recently as two years ago at the Masters dinner for champions, "I'm done." 

If we were standing at the foot of the cross when Jesus was crucified, we would've thought he was "done", too. How could he save himself? How could his broken, bloodied, beat up body ever be put together again even though he told his disciples he would die and rise again? (Mark 9:31) I can tell you how: But God. There are numerous 'But God' verses in the Bible, but one of my favorites is Genesis 50:20 when Joseph tells his brothers, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done.." 

Reading the negative press about Woods got me thinking how I would feel if I were in his shoes? A crisis may have changed his life, but Tiger didn't let it ruin his life. If people can't kill your dreams, they will attempt to assassinate your character with the mistakes and choices you've made in the past. Don't even worry about it. God has you covered on all sides. 
"Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the LORD will be my light." Micah 7:8
If we focus on the hurt, we will continue to suffer. Yet if we focus on the lessons learned, we continue to grow. Don't waste your suffering. Allow God to make you rise above it as He intends it for good. Yes, even your failed, good intentions  and decisions. Failure in your past doesn't negate the purpose in your future.

Your comeback story is being written!

Saturday, April 6, 2019

The Power of Thank You

Last week I was asked to speak at the President's Inaugural Delegate Luncheon at Mississippi College as they installed their 20th President, Dr. Blake Thompson. Being an MC alum, of course I said YES to the invitation!

While lunch was being served, I told my friend Beth that I wanted to walk around the banquet room and speak to people I once knew in my years as a student there. One of the people I spotted at a table was Dr. Bettye Coward.

Most MC students had Dr. Coward for Child Psychology. It was one of the "core" classes that nearly everyone HAD to take no matter their major. I pulled a chair next to her and sat down. I introduced myself to Dr. Coward and told her I wasn't sure if she remembered me, but I took two classes from her in my years at MC: Child Psychology and Family Life. She put her fork down and smiled back at me.

"Of course I remember you, Barbie!" she said.

"Well, I just want to say thank you for being such a powerful voice in my life years ago," I told her. "You made those classes interesting and you were always so very, very kind. I've never forgotten that about you."

She smiled and we exchanged a few more pleasantries as to where she's living now and how wonderful retirement has been for her.

I left to go back to my seat to be ready for my part in the program. Afterwards, I was standing around talking with several college friends when Dr. Coward walked up to me. She grabbed my hand and looked me in the eye.

"I just wanted to say thank you for coming to speak to me," she said. "Those my age and at this stage in their life could use some acknowledgement in knowing we made a difference in someone else's life."

Proverbs 25:11 says, "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver." Another translation says, "Like golden apples in silver settings, so is a word spoken at the right time."

As I sat in my car driving away from campus, it made me think about her words. How many times have I been guilty of assuming someone knows how much they mean to me or the influence they've had on my life? The answer is too many times I'm afraid. What encouragement we could be to someone today if we just took one minute out of our schedule to send them a note, a call, or a spoken word of thanks for how they treated us in the past or a sweet memory we have of them. Telling those who have influenced you NOW brings a sense of fulfillment to their heart and may spur them on to continue blessing others in the same way they blessed you. The right words may refresh, but no words are as effective as thank you.

I may never see Dr. Coward again this side of heaven, but I could tell she still wanted to feel like she "mattered" to someone else, even in retirement.

Excuse me now as I have my marching orders for today!