Without Rain (Things in my Head…now)

Lindsey,

Hi! I just wanted to give you my year’s story:)

I think you know that eight years ago I had a life-threatening brain tumor. My kids were only toddlers, and the surgery was extremely rough, but truly went better than anyone had predicted. I recovered completely without paralysis, but they were unable to get “clear boundaries” because of the tumor’s proximity to a main vein in the brain.

At the 5-year mark, a doctor told me my chances were much less of recurrence, and I could come every 2-3 years. (-which was nice because MRI’s are expensive!) My husband said, “no.” He didn’t see why we wouldn’t check it every year. I think his exact words were, “I have more money and only one wife: you need to go every year.”

So last January I went for my annual scan, and for the first time in 7 years, they called me back that they had found something and I needed to have it rescanned.

The rescan eight weeks later showed more definition, and what looked like growth so they sent me to Duke Neuro-Oncology within a few weeks. The specialist called it a meningioma (same name as last time) and said that growth was questionable but that it was so small (“blueberry” size) he wanted me to wait until this January and then we would decide radiation or surgery.

I’ll skip recording here all of my emotions of screaming Nooooo!! We can just say I didn’t peacefully and joyfully say, “well, to God be the glory!” …at least not at first. I prayed – and asked a few sweet friends to pray – that I would “let go of this basket,” the same as Moses’ mother did, but sometimes I would reel it back in as though attached with fishing line. Every little headache seemed to say I was headed down an old familiar brain tumor path, and I tried to talk myself into thinking it was “all in my head” (pun intended).  Every travel I planned, or commitment I made for this spring was weighed down, wondering if I would be able to follow through with it.  Yet I knew I was as good as dead if I decided to stop living while I waited for the next test.  I had to accept it one day at a time.

“My daily bread…” was something Jesus taught us to ask. (Matt 6:11) As I awaited the long, drawn-out period, I often thought how He didn’t say monthly bread or even weekly bread; He said DAILY bread – so I tried to be satisfied with His daily promises and stop asking for the month or year of provisions to be satisfying.

I made some health changes in hopes I was doing my best to either avoid surgery, or ready my body to endure it.

Last week, my husband and I had the appointment with the Duke Neuro-oncologist. He gave us the great news that the scan showed it was STILL a blueberry; he is not worried about it and thought it might even only be scar tissue. He told me he didn’t need to see me for THREE years!!

I praise God for this fantastic news!! Though I didn’t feel like telling everyone along the way, (some roller coasters are better ridden alone) now I feel like shouting it from the mountaintop!!

While I bask in the joy of answered prayers, and realize the floating feeling of lifted weight I hadn’t realized I was carrying in the “back of my mind,” (pun intended) I found it interesting that I want to shout about THIS one. Yet, I didn’t write blogs about the skin biopsies that came back normal, annual exams that didn’t cause concern or the colds I didn’t get. I am so extra-ecstatic this time, because the “last time” had been a bad diagnosis. “Last time” had been a fast-growing, life-threatening tumor that would likely cause seizures at any moment.  “Last time” the tumor was resting on the main vein, in the area of the nerves for my mouth and eating through a bone used for hearing! “Last time” had led to urgent surgery within two weeks followed by months out of my mom-of-the-home position. Argh! “Last time’s”  stormy season had taken everything I had to dance in the rain. And because of that rain, I GREATLY appreciate the sun I have been given in this great news.

In other words, I guess the rainy days in life remind us of the value in the sun.

  • Ask anyone who has had cancer in the past how much they celebrate the clear scans of remission.
    • Ask anyone who has almost lost a loved one how much more they are drawn to that same person now that the storm is done.
      • Ask anyone who has ever lived without a meal how much they appreciate every morsel today.

Ask anyone who fully depended on daily bread, how grateful they are when the sun comes up!

The rain makes us notice the sun…and appreciate it even more.  I hope it makes us tell God thank you even more as well!

If you are in the storm right now,

…like the person in front of me at the doctor, who was scheduling his next chemotherapy, while his wife and dad watched on…

…like the person behind me in the check-out line of the doctor, who was already paralyzed with an obvious head-surgery scar and sat patiently waiting in her wheelchair…

I am praying for you.

I pray you feel the God who calms the winds and waves right there with you, as He carries you to bright skies ahead.

Thanks for dancing in the sun with me.

Terri

 

Morning by morning, new mercies I see.

Lamentations 3:22-23 King James Version (KJV): 22 It is of the Lord‘s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.  23 They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.

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It’s Not Mine

I set the case down next to the sink. No, it might get wet. I thought. I picked it up and put the strap on my shoulder, so the prized possession was resting on my back, safe from water. A woman walked by behind me in the public bathroom and knocked my purse, which knocked the case, pulling the strap from my shoulder as gravity pulled the valuable toward the ground. With Elasto-girl’s flexibility and Jack-Jack’s incredible speed, my hand moved swiftly to grab the strap to avoid the camera hitting, while my purse finished the descent to the dirty floor. Fortunately, it was only my purse and not the camera!

I need to shorten this camera strap, I thought, so it doesn’t fall off again. But wait, it is not mine, so I don’t want to adjust anything in case the owner likes it at that exact length.

I continued babying the camera for the three hours it was in my possession.camera baby

My 12-year-old daughter was in a talent competition, Actors, Models and Talent for Christ, and wanted an actual camera as a prop in one of her acting scenes. We borrowed one from a grandparent of another performer.

I was so nervous to hold the camera. I didn’t want anything to happen to it before it could be used for its purpose in the acting competition. Besides, I pretty much hate borrowing anything…almost ever…because I am afraid I will mess something up.  It is as though my pride can’t handle being the one to hurt something that is not mine.

I wish I treated my life as if it were Someone else’s!

To Whom Does This Belong?

How do I keep forgetting Whose life this is?

My pastor, Stephen Davey of Wisdom for the Heart,  did an illustration not long ago. He brought a man to the front of the church and asked him to give him his wallet. The man did. The pastor then took $20 out of the wallet and handed the man his wallet back – $20 short. The man said, “Thank you.” As we all would expect when someone gives you something back – even though:

  1. It belonged to the man to begin with
  2. The pastor was returning it with less value than it originally had.

His example was an illustration of tithing – how God gives us “a wallet of money” and we give a portion back (sometimes only 10%!), and then act like God should say “thank you,” when really it was 100% His to begin with!

Wallet of Twenty-Four hours

I liked the illustration, and for me, I applied it to my “wallet of time.” I have 24 hours in a walletOfTimeday that God has given me. I am embarrassed to say that sometimes I act like He should say “thank you” if I give “some” of it back, while I try to keep the rest of the time “for me”.

The fact is that all of the hours were His and still are. It is up to me to represent them that way.

It’s funny to me how much I like to compartmentalize life: This hour is for Bible time with God; this hour is for exercise; this hour is for motherhood; this hour is for my husband.  But God sees all the hours! All of the words, all of the thoughts, all of the actions,  all of my all is meant to be used by Him!

I guess I need to treat this life like the camera next to the sink – as a precious possession of Someone else’s- and protect every inch of it, so it is ready to be used when the time of its purpose arrives.

If I recalled Whose life this is, would I guard my brain’s intake more wisely? (Phil 4:8)  Would I use words purposefully (1Thess 5:11)? Would I rest more, eat better, and in general beat my body into submission to what I should be doing? (1Cor 9:27)

What if I took care of all of my possessions – as if they are gifts for His use and not mine? (because they are.) (1Chron 29:14)  What if I used my life as the gift He loaned….and used it for His purposes alone?

In reality, there is no-such thing as a compartmentalized Christian.

“Either you live your life for God’s glory, or you are living for yourself. There is no ground in-between.” – Chris Brady

May God keep us focused on living for His glory…with every hour He graciously puts in our “wallet”,

Terri

(note: Illustrations by my daughter, Christine Brady, age 12)

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Why is There a Dead Bird on the Air Hockey Table?

Dear Lindsey,

I got off to a start this morning. My oldest drove himself to school. The next three kids and I loaded into the car before Chris was even downstairs for breakfast. Off to the appointments we headed when I got a text from Chris that changed my day:

“Why is there a dead bird on the air hockey table?”photo_2

Stopped at a red light, I read the text aloud to the kids in the car, sure that my backseat held the culprits.

“[silence]”

Suddenly, the 13-yr-old in the front seat was stifling giggles that refused their restraint and started sneaking through his pursed lips in bursts.

Shocked, and trying to be strict, I subdued the humor of the text – but my own choked laughter (holding up my cup to hide my smile) led to the coffee-down-the-wrong-pipe-choke, so I prayed the light would stay red for a while as I tried to get oxygen.

That’s when the back seat spoke with remorse:

“We felt bad it died yesterday in the back yard, and we were going to bury it…”

“…But the dog was going to eat it…”

“… we couldn’t find the shovel…”

“…then Nate asked if I would throw football…”

“…and I didn’t want to have a funeral without people…”

“…and then we left for evening church in a hurry…”

At eight and ten-years-old, their voices are undistinguishable, so I couldn’t tell which Dead Birdone was talking when (and I was seriously just trying to breathe again), but I got the gist of their story. I only wish that Chris had not been the first to find the carcass: a messy house drives him crazy! Although I can’t think of too many people that are happy when they find a dead bird on the air hockey table.

Irresponsible!

They are not getting this “pick up after yourself” thing that I have been teaching since before they were born!

Oh my…I cannot put into words to even speak to these two right now. They know what they did was wrong!

That’s when my thoughts of frustration were interrupted by a protective (or perspective) mechanism:

  • Thank You, God, that we found the dead bird on the air hockey table today, and not next week when guests are here.
  • Thank You, God, that my kids have good hearts that had compassion for Your creation. (I am glad they were not ruined by my roadkilling a few years ago.)
  • Thank You for a 13-yr-old who was mature enough to see it wasn’t a life-threatening, eternal consequences moment (but that he stifled his laughter until the lesson was taught).
  • Thank You that they put the thing in the bug cage, so at least if it had bugs on it, they were contained in the cage…and I hope that means they didn’t actually touch the dead bird.
  • Thank You for creating the birds that we could fall in love with, even when we don’t know them.
  • Thank You that I didn’t choke to death. (And thank You that the choking reminded me to say thank You that I don’t have a brain tumor…as it always reminds me now.)
  • Thank You that my children will never bring a dead bird in the house again. (I believe.)
  • Thank You that I have children.
  • Thank You for the dead bird on the air hockey table that reminded me of so much for which I can be thankful.

I think it’s ironic… I was trying not to get too bent out of shape, so I made a list in my mind of what to be thankful for (my normal redirection mechanism), and I ended up being thankful for the exact thing I was trying to reframe: the dead bird on the air hockey table.

When Bad Things Happen

I think the point here is that this mechanism is applicable to bigger issues than dead birds on the air hockey table. When I go through bad times (This began during my years of massive headaches while I had young toddlers!), I have a protective mechanism of listing things (at least three each time!) for which I am thankful. It is ironic to me the number of times when I am listing thankfulness to distract me from a problem – and give me perspective – that the list goes all the way back to thanking God for the exact problem with which I started: the dead bird on the air hockey table.

I suppose one of these days, I will be able to skip the “Why?…” part and get to the “Thank You, God for even this,” faster.

A friend, Jane Zempel, spoke at my church recently about “contentment.” She told a story of figuring out what one thing is so bad in life that you would want God to change. What one thing would you get rid of? If you were granted only one thing about yourself you could change, what would it be?

“Now thank God for that one thing,” she said.  “It’s amazing how when I did this, I had to force the words ‘thank You,’ but once they were said, enough times, I realized I could believe it.”

She went on to say that when we believe that God is sovereign over all, we can say thank You for even the things we don’t want, because we recognize God has a plan in even them.

When her son came home from school in tears (again) at age twelve, being teased as a “retard” for having Down Syndrome, she taught him this lesson of saying, “thank You,” even for Down Syndrome, because God had a purpose in his life. She saw that purpose thirty years later when her son told a doctor what a “blessing” Down Syndrome was to him…and it changed the doctor!

When things are rough….

When we can’t change it all…

or when we can’t change even one thing…

Let us give thanks.

Make the list now. To what do we owe God “Thank You”?

What if you woke up today with only the things for which you said thank You yesterday?” – Peter Bonner

I am thankful for you!

In love,

Terri Brady

“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” – 1Thes 5:18

“But godliness with contentment is great gain.”  1Tim 6:6

“I thank my God every time I remember you.” Phil 1:3

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The Book is Here!

Introducing: Letters to Lindsey in book form!

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Thanks to my husband’s initiative and his incredible, creative team; thanks to you who requested it; and thanks to the late Russ Mack who persistently encouraged it: Letters to Lindsey (the book) is available! With a foreword by Laurie Woodward and introduction by my best-selling husband Chris, let the stories begin! The chronicled journeys through infertility and the brain tumor survival,  tea parties and fishing trips, along with enflamed underwear (size 4T) on a chandelier are all decorated with my kids’ cute quotes in Post-It note form.  It’s a short read, a long read or anything in-between. So curl up with a blanket in front of the fire, make some fresh popcorn and hot chocolate, (or just go to the beach!) and relish some quiet reading time as you laugh with me, cry with me, and grow with me!

Enjoy!

-Terri Brady

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Readers (you!) in line for book-signing in Milwaukee, WI.

The Ring

Dear Lindsey,

(Español: El Anillo)

My mother handed me the ring with a deep grin that punctuated the significance of the gift.ring  It was a tiny ring, just right for my 7-yr-old finger. “This is a REAL diamond,” she said, handing me the tiny fraction of a karat in a size 4 band.  She explained that she had bought the ring before I was born and saved it for when I was old enough to wear it.  I could hardly believe she would allow me to hold it – much less have it in MY size! I thanked her and felt that special warmth in my heart my tomboyish buffalo skin normally tried to repel. I headed out to play.

“Tether ball” was a favorite sport of mine. The two-person game involved standing on either side of a pole that had one ball tethered to it from the top. One would hit the ball clockwise, while his opponent tried to hit it counterclockwise with greater force. As the opponents smacked the ball, it gained potential for more height.  My trick was to hit it with strength at the angle to send it just out of my opponent’s reach, elliptically landing back within my reach so I could send it in the same pattern again the next time around. The game increased speed as the tether shortened, wrapping around the pole, until the tether was tightened to the last inch, proclaiming the winner.

It was at the end of such a game in the neighbors’ backyard when I realized that the ring I had possessed for less than 24 hours was gone. I searched below the pole, combing the grass with my fingers to no avail.

grassHeart-broken, and mad at myself, I couldn’t help but think that maybe I should have been “a good little girl” playing with dolls or makeup like other girls instead – then I would not have lost the ring.  I sinfully didn’t tell my mother about the loss, because I figured it would take her a few weeks to notice, and that would sound better than, “I lost it in the first 24 hours.”

Besides,” I thought, “I didn’t want that ring anyway. Who wants something that doesn’t even stay on during tether-ball?!”

It was my nature: when I felt defeated, I would convince myself that whatever I didn’t get (or couldn’t keep) was something I didn’t want anyway. It was easier than admitting I needed to change.

Anniversary Gift

On our tenth wedding anniversary, Chris decided to get me a ring. The buffalo in me liked the idea of a simple anniversary band, with no “annoying stones” to get snagged on my pockets when they warmed my hands. Chris had a different idea.

The solitaire was a diamond to be admired by any passerby. The round cut magnified the colors that only God could place in such a gorgeous gem. Its clarity drew in light, seemingly multiplying it in the reflection with a disco-ball effect on the ceiling of the store, to my embarrassment. “We’ll take it!” Chris said, while I shied away, telling him “no way!” But inside, I felt pretty just being treated as pretty.

The store sized it to fit my finger like a glove, although any glove worth working would not fit on this ring without getting caught.  Chris glowed with pride as we traveled to the resort where we were staying that night. We had a beautiful evening celebrating our first decade together, and I wore my ring with pride, almost wanting to point it out to strangers, as I did my engagement ring the night he popped the question in Pittsburgh, PA a decade prior.

I felt loved.

The next morning, I rose early and headed outside to enjoy the sunrise for my quiet time with God.  As I recorded the previous evening’s shopping and date in the journal of my mind, a feeling of sadness surrounded me. I felt like a phony. “I don’t even LIKE rings. I forget to put on jewelry that I already have! I am not pretty enough to have people looking at my hands. My nails are chipped; my hands are rough, because I don’t know how to ‘act like a lady.’  I cannot fake this. I am not the jewelry-kind-of-girl. Did he forget who I am? Where I have been? I am not worthy of its cost, much less its beauty!”

As I continued trying to read my Bible, the self-degrading thoughts continued. I started planning how to return the ring, and how I would tell Chris. Tears trickled down my cheeks, thinking about how we would owe the store for the custom sizing, even if they gave us our money back. Regret overcame me as I realized I had worn it the night before as a phony – mesmerized by its sparkle, as if that fit me.  The conflict was still vibrant in my heart when Chris awoke and came outside to where I was sitting.

“Are you wearing the ring?!” he excitedly asked as he approached, looking for my hand.

I wiped my eyes and confessed my thoughts to him. “I cannot own a ring like this. I am not meant to wear something so valuable. We need to get it back to the store. Today. We can see if they will give us all our money back, even if we have to pay for the sizing. I’m sorry.  I have never had such a tremendous case of buyer’s remorse.”

He stared at me dumbfounded for a split second, then kneeled down on one knee, cupped my face in his hands and said firmly, “We will not take the ring back. You cannot have buyer’s remorse, because you did not buy the ring; I did. It is my gift to you; now stop insulting me.”

He kissed me, as if it were the first time our lips had met.

The tears disappeared from my face.  My quickened heart rate sent a cleansing blood through my body.  A peace came over me as I realized he loved me so deeply to look beyond what I saw in myself. He didn’t give me the ring because of who I was, but because of who he is.

Hating Myself

As I recall that story, another story comes to mind: the one where I say, “I hate myself! Why can’t I be like others? I keep doing wrong. I can’t change. I will never get better. I am worthless!!”

And God gently answers, “I created you. Stop insulting Me.  I knitted you to be an original.  Your hands are My design. I know the depth of your heart, the chasm of your sins and I sent my Son, Jesus Christ, to take it all. I have a purpose for every strength you have, and for every failure it took to gain that strength. I have a purpose for EVERY weakness you possess, since My strength is made perfect in your weakness. You can’t change, but I can change you. My purposes are greater than your vision.  I created you just the way I intended. I bought you for the price of my Son, and I have no remorse. Now stop insulting Me.”

The Gift of Forever

Girlfriend, that eternal salvation is a gift that was bought before you were born to fit you God wants usprecisely. It is ironic that we cannot have the peace of His gift pumping into our veins until we have the remorse over our sins cleansing the path.  No one can comb through the grass to find His gift, and none of us deserves its worth. It is ours because of Who He is, not who we are. He loves us so deeply to look beyond what we see in ourselves.  It is amazing that just when we say, “I have such remorse!” He answers, “You can’t; I’m the One who bought you!”

I hope you feel loved, because you are.

I guess I am not a buffalo, or a butterfly or even a buffafly after all. I am a new creature in Christ, and I want His glory to reflect from my life like a disco ball!

In Christ,

Terri

God knitted you before you were born. Ps 139:13

His strength is made perfect in my weakness.  2 Cor 12:9

I am a new creature in Christ. 2 Cor 5:17

Salvation is a gift from God, because of who He is, not who we are. Eph 2:8-9

Confess your sins (with remorse) and you will be forgiven. 1 John 1:9

The gift of forever: For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Crucify Him! (the song)

Good Friday

Dear Lindsey,

blur CrucifyMusic somehow reaches the core of my being. A certain song will command movement and make a workout more intense; another tune will force a smile to overcome my countenance; yet other combinations of notes slow my pulse and restore me.

“I wrote this song yesterday; I think this is the piece we have needed for our Good Friday service,” Gary Hallquist, the pastor of music ministry of our church, said a little over a year ago. His music-writing amazes me.

Our Good Friday “Service of Shadows” is a choral and orchestral production centered around Scripture reading, depicting the last days of Christ before crucifixion. The lighting changes to darkness slowly throughout the musical evening, ending the service in complete darkness and silence, as if the Light of the World was extinguished. On Sunday morning, the service begins in the dark, and the lights come up – into full brightness to celebrate the Resurrection.

At the Service of Shadows, singing “There is a Fountain” or “Oh Precious Savior” leaves the listeners and singers in wonder and awe of Christ. But Gary’s song called, “Crucify Him!” stirs different emotions. I didn’t want to sing it.

overall crucifyThe orchestra leads the introduction with dissonance. Conflicting notes that don’t yield “happy” build on top of one another, creating suspense like the theme from “Jaws”. The listener is transported back in time to the day that Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, asked the crowd, “What do you want me to do with Jesus?”

“Crucify Him!” is almost shouted in bass tones in a syncopated rhythm that is woven throughout the piece. The shout begins on the first beat of the measure, but then it changes: beat two, or the second half of four – as if a crowd is sporadically shouting their opinions, yet so musical in chorus. The orchestra echoes the rhythm, with the bass instruments randomly repeating it while the choir is singing other melodies, like an underlying hatred in the world.

I hate singing, “Crucify Him!” The words pierce my heart, yet I know singing it creates the emotions for the service that must have been there the day the chief priests and officers were shouting it to the Roman prefect. (John 19:6)

The men sections come in full force, singing the words of Pilate in powerfully ominous bass tones: “Whom do you want me to release to you?”

Title CrucifyThe choir women answer as if they are the crowd of Jewish leaders in front of Pilate, “Give us Barabbas!”

“What do you want with Jesus your king?” Pilate (the choir men) asks.

The crowd (choir women) interrupts with the answer, “We have no king but Caesar; We want Him put to death! His blood be on us and our children!”

What… an… angry… crowd. I cannot imagine the emotional overcast that day.

Do I have to sing and pretend to be that?! I would NEVER scream, “Crucify Him!” If I were there, how could I possibly say that I would rather have Pilate release a prisoner and kill the Son of God instead? Barabbas was known for robbery, which in those days often meant terrorism and/or bloody insurrection. (Mark 15:7) I would NEVER have chosen to release him, knowing that with my words, I could have voted for Pilate to release Jesus, a man who never sinned, instead!

Do you ever have these thoughts?

  • “How could those leaders act like that? Wasn’t a crowd just yelling, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ last Sunday?” (John 12)
  • “How could Peter, one of the disciples, say he didn’t even know Jesus, when just hours before, Jesus had washed his very feet with His own hands?” (John 18:17)
  • What kind of man is Pilate, that he would allow a crowd to make the decision for his conviction.
  • “I would NEVER yell, ‘Crucify Him!’ I would never want to free a bad guy instead. I would NEVER say I didn’t know Jesus. I would never be like that.”

sync crucifyBut I can never say, “never.”

When I judgmentally thought, “That’s disgusting,” looking at someone dressed differently, adorned with things I would not have near my body, and walking in an unattractive way, I was not loving.

When I had to talk myself back into emotional control when the flight attendant gave me a hard time about “FAA regulations,” (which must not have existed on the 3 previous flights that day!) I was not seeing her as Jesus.

When I received a negative email, how much did I want to return the negative with a kiss of betrayal?

“Crucify Him!” I was shouting with each thought, each emotion, each lack of love.

If I am not for Him, I am against Him. (John 3:18) I shout “Hosanna!” in church, and by the time I am home at the end of the week, or sometimes even the day, I have denied Him three times.

I cannot say, “never.”

Barabbas was guilty.

Jesus was innocent.

Barabbas lived; and on that first “Good Friday,” Jesus died in his place.

I am guilty; Jesus died in my place.

Maybe Pilate represents all those men of power who lack the courage of their own convictions. He thought Jesus was innocent (John 18:38, 19:4,6), yet followed the crowd. I have been Pilate.

Peter may stand for those who have been there: felt their guilt, know their need for a Savior, and yet hide it under the pressure of the “in” crowd, a friend or spouse. I have been Peter.

Today, Good Friday, as we remember the day that Jesus was crucified, may we lay our own lives aside and live for Him. “Greater love has no one than this: than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

Closing this letter is best done with the words of Dr. Ray Pritchard:

“Finally we are left with the question Pilate asked: “What shall I do then with Jesus?”

You can stand back and say, “I don’t care about him.”

You can push him away and say, “Leave me alone.”

You can open your heart and say, “Lord Jesus, I welcome you into my life.”

That is the best thing you can do. It is the safest thing you can do. Trust him. Run to the cross and lay hold of Jesus who loved you and died for you. What more could you do than what he has done for you?

Jesus or Barabbas. The choice is yours.”

May God give you grace to believe in Jesus and crown him as Savior and Lord today.

In love,

Terri

Suggested Reading: John, Chapters 17 -21

Related Post: Climb the Ladder

Below:  Video recording of the Service of Shadows (Crucify Him song is near the 40th minute, but feel free to enjoy its entirety for the real message.)

 

 

Stop in the Name of the Law

Dear Lindsey,

“Gasp!”

Ok, now that you got that out of the way, I can share the story that made you do it.

As we continue this series on symptoms of pride/ego, I can go back a few decades to high school again. Unfortunately, I can probably think of more recent examples, but my pride couldn’t handle sharing those 🙂 ; it’s easier to think it was only a problem of my youth.

Next symptom: Thinking I am above the law.

My high school’s shop teacher, a former Army Colonel, was my neighbor and he had a cute little poodle, “Cocoa.” For easy cash, I often took care of Cocoa when its owners were out of town. Rather than walking down the block to my house when he returned from his trip, “the Colonel” (as we students called him) chose to pay me when he saw me in the school cafeteria on the Monday after my pet-sitting.

This led to many jokes of which the Colonel was unaware:

He would approach my lunch table full of teens of both genders, hand me money and say, “Thanks for last night.” Or: “This is for the weekend.”

As he left, snickers would fill our table. Soon, they would see him coming and get silent to see what words he would use when he handed me cash:  “Here he comes to pay Terri for her ‘services.’ Be quiet!”

I never mentioned the torture to him, but I cringed each time he approached.

One weekend the Colonel had asked me to pet-sit, but after accepting the job, I realized I had a commitment to go somewhere with my family for the weekend. I forgot to tell the Colonel that I was unable to keep poor little Cocoa. I didn’t remember until Monday morning when the Colonel approached my lunch table.

The table hushed in anticipation of his words.

“Thanks for the weekend,” he said as he slid a ten-dollar bill into my hand in front of my friends.

I gulped.

I must have forgotten to tell him I couldn’t take care of his dog.

My heart raced, but my ego ignored the urge. “You’re welcome,” I said and took the cash, hoping the Colonel would disappear quickly.

He never asked me to take care of Cocoa again.

During my senior year, my parents (unknowing of my story) suggested I have the Colonel write a recommendation for me for college, since an Army Colonel would be a good advocate to have. “No, thanks,” I said.

How I wish I could go back and change what I did! The Colonel knew I hadn’t taken care

A brown standard poodle at five weeks

of that dog. I can only imagine the damage in his house when he returned. A starving, thirsty dog probably left messes all over and destroyed anything in its path.  I don’t know why the Colonel chose to see if I would be a big enough person to admit it; maybe he knew the years of guilt would be worse than the verbal confrontation. I have tried searching for him online several times in my adulthood so I could apologize- to no avail. God has forgiven me, but forgiving myself has taken longer.

I don’t know why I thought “Thou shalt not lie” (Exodus 20) didn’t apply to me, but I did.

I can remember the following week, justifying the fib in my mind:

  • What was I supposed to do? Everyone was listening!
  • I didn’t really “lie” per se; I just said, “thank you.” (note: It’s still “bearing false witness.”)
  • It was only $10.
  •  It’s just a dog.

Ugh.

Thinking a law (especially a law of God) doesn’t apply to me is a symptom of pride.

When telling a negative story, I prefer to use myself as the example, so I can use others as positive examples, but obviously in this world, there are many examples of actors, business owners and presidents who have had an ego that caused them to put themselves above a law…or two.

Huge scandals begin with a small thought in a heart. One little lie, because it was only $10, leads to millions unless the ego gets under control.

  • “I deserve to take these supplies home from work, because no one notices anyway,” is justifying stealing.
  • I can watch these movies because I am an adult now,” justifies adultery.
  • I am running late because of traffic,” (when really we left our house later than we should have and happened to also run into traffic) OR “I’ll be there in 10 minutes,” (when we know it is really 20, but we don’t want the appointment to leave) is still lying.
  • That rule doesn’t apply to me, because I am so important to this team,” is taking advantage of your blessings.

Thanks to an analogy from my husband, Chris, I have often imagined that one day God will play the movie of my life back to review my behavior, while I watch beside Him. My stomach churning would never allow for popcorn during that movie. I imagine that it is MY life and no one else can be seen in the film. My heart has a voice in the movie, so my thoughts, actions and words are of equal volume, but the circumstances around the words, thoughts and actions cannot be seen, only the deeds for which I am responsible. My legs weaken when I see the laws that I took so lightly, thinking I was only doing what “anyone would do.” I do not like myself in so many of the scenes of those home movies.

Thankfully, God is not done with me yet. We can repent of our sins and ask forgiveness from those whom we have hurt. (Acts 3:19) He can make us white as snow again. (Isaiah 1:18) Repentance begins with recognizing the need for repentance. Pride blocks recognition of our own sin and our need of a Savior.  Pride is the eclipse that blocks the Son from being seen. May I decrease that He may increase (John 3:30), and with that decrease, I can recognize that I am above no law.

Although God’s laws have no exceptions (Hebrews 10:16), neither does His grace. (Lamentations 3:22, Hebrews 4:16, Ephesians 2:4) Believe in forgiveness through the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved. (Acts 16:31) Wow! God is amazing!

Although I chose to write about ego/pride during this holiday season because of its tremendous negative impact on relationships, I guess it’s becoming obvious that the ramifications go far beyond the family Christmas dinner and into eternity.  May we gain strength to live with eternal perspective, always.

God bless,
Terri Brady

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Wanna Talk about ME!

Dear Lindsey,

“Will I ever keep my mouth shut?!” I have thought after regretting an argument at an event

English: Northern Mockingbird juveniles at a b...

with friends.  The truth is, the problem was not my mouth, but my heart that was speaking. John Maxwell says pride is the reason for ALL conflict. The Bible says it comes before the fall. Pride develops through the way we view ourselves and will affect the number of relationship conflicts we have this Christmas season, and in life. In these next few letters, I hope to sharpen each other as iron sharpens iron, while we enjoy laughing (or gasping!) at stories of my prideful past, learn to diagnose an ego problem, and get to the HEART of the matter. “Peace on Earth,” begins with pride-under-construction, so let us aim for a Christ-full Christmas leading to Christ-full lives.

Kids say the darndest things! They tell the unmasked truth at times, like when my then 6-yr-old said, “Sometimes I feel like my friends aren’t listening to me. It’s like they are quiet when I talk, but they are only thinking of what they are going to say next.”

Toby Keith’s song makes me smile every time I hear it:  “Wanna talk about me, wanna talk about I, wanna talk about number one, oh my me my!” In the song, he’s talking about a girl he is dating who talks so much about herself, he never gets a chance to say anything.

I really don’t even remember dating Toby Keith, but the song describes me (at least the “old me”) so well! I even had a “gramma down in Alabama!” (the song states).

“Pride” is defined as:  a feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements (or children’s achievements or possessions), according to the dictionary. However, a Christian definition may be:  Full of self, and therefore no room in the vessel to be full of God.  Proverbs 11:2 says that with the humble comes wisdom. Too often, we walk around, so “unwise.”

Like a skirt accidentally tucked into nylons, revealing a woman’s undergarments for an entire wedding reception dance, pride is a sin that is evident to all those around, but seemingly hidden from the bearer.  I have heard that “EGO” stands for “Edging God Out,” but when I first was figuring out my own pride problem, I loved God, and really, I figured I loved God more than most did, so I was safe from any ego issues. Ha! There was that pride again.

Pride destroys teams.

Whether it’s a business team, a church team, a marriage or a family, pride is a cancer that will starve the body. However, a problem cannot be solved until it is properly defined, and a prideful person, it seems, cannot see his own sin. “That’s about others, because I don’t feel good about myself,” I can remember thinking EVERY time I heard the word.  This is where the reader is cautioned: we may be talking about YOU and you don’t know it! (Just kidding! We all know we are talking about the ones who would never read this letter!)  All I know is that I am talking about me. As I said in another letter, (Turkey Tastes Better without Lilypads) pride is an addiction from which I am always recovering.

I often hear people say that they have low self-esteem, and not high self-esteem, and so therefore this problem is not applicable to them. Ironically, when I collected the following symptoms of pride, and subsequently compared them to the symptoms of low self-esteem from the book, Building Your Mate’s Self-Esteem (Rainey), I couldn’t believe the irony that many of the symptoms were identical.

“How is that possible?!” you may ask. “Aren’t low self-esteem and high self-esteem opposites?”

In the middle of each description is the answer: “self.”

Whether it is “low-self” or “high-self,” when we esteem ourselves as anything other than God-esteemed, we are doomed to live lives of conflict.

That leads me to the first symptom of pride: talking about yourself.

I can change ANY subject back to me, and I used to think it was quite a talent!  Imagine my conversations:

Her: “We moved here from Colorado.”

Me: “I have family in Colorado.”

Her: “My child is really struggling in math.”

Me: “Oh that’s funny; my son is acing math!”

Her: “I had such a rough day today.”

Me: “Oh I know; I hate Mondays.”

Blechhhhh.

I HATE to think of myself having these conversations. How much could the Lord have done through me if instead I had been interested in the others’ words? How the math student’s mom could have been encouraged by words about HER not ME! Maybe the “rough day” was looking for truly caring words: “I’m sorry to hear that! How can I help?” What if the one from Colorado was only wishing for someone to know that she was new to the area?

Pride. It leads to relationship conflict and edges God out.

So what now? What if as we read the symptoms through the next letters, we identify an issue with pride, what next? Don’t despair! God is bigger than the pride boogie man.  Identifying the problem is half of the solution.

Ironically, I feel VERY confident writing about pride but not qualified to write about humility – which is the only solution.  Reading CJ Mahaney’s book Humility: True Greatness gives the reader great perspective.

However, for this first symptom (talking too much about oneself) the practical answer is obvious:

  1. Talk less about yourself. Some will read this and think I am saying that we should NEVER talk about ourselves; however, it is truly a matter of the heart. Are we listening to others? Are we caring about others? Or are we pushing opinions, experiences and ourselves on others, trying to uplift ourselves?
  2. Pray. Well …maybe that should have been #1. Since pride seems to be the king of invisible sins (Invisible only to the beholder, visible to all others…), we must ask God to open our eyes to where we are blind.
  3. Think more of others than of yourself.  C. S. Lewis said, “true humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”

“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” -C.S. Lewis

My husband says that a man doesn’t marry a woman for her body, her brains, or any other of “her” self. He says he marries her because of how she makes him feel.  It is the same in business relationships, friendships and marriages alike: In relationships, our goal should NOT then be to make others think highly of us, but our goal should be to make them think highly of themselves, or better yet, think highly of our God when they are around us.

The most important commandment is to “Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul and mind; and the second one is like it: love your neighbor as yourself.” Matt 22:37-40.  To truly love God, we will love His people. We will care about them, and listen to them.

May we use our ears twice as much as our mouths today!

“Let every man be swift to hear and slow to speak.” –James 1:19

God bless,
Terri Brady

Recommended reading: Building Your Mate’s Self-Esteem by Dennis Rainey

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Be still!–for your Ears’ Sake

“Both my noses are clogged!” my then 6-yr-old son woke me in the darkness of morning. I consoled the patient and dug for remedies, while my mind realized that it was “night time” to him, but this was my early morning. I was now not only

English: Alarm clock

missing my last couple winks of sleep before my alarm would sound at 5:30, but soon my exercise time and Bible time would vanish…again… while I coddled him, allowing him to get needed sleep leaning on me.

I always feel like I can’t fill the needs of my family until my needs have been met, and yet once again, I started my day of filling their needs, while my tank was “on empty,” despite my intentions.  The clock continued its never-ending race, while I ran the laps up and down the stairs to rouse children for their school day.

Breakfast- breakfast dishes- wipe the counters (after the 6-yr-old had already wiped them) – split up sibling squabbles – clean up dog mess – wipe tears over the “eaten” toy – get to the car to take the oldest to school, then back home quickly to get the other three started in their homeschool around 8:30.  This was the daily routine of this entire school year.

We had our family Bible time, then math, grammar, the regular subjects – I switched from one subject to the next, sometimes teaching one, while spinning plates in the background with two who didn’t have my full attention at the time. The day continued at breakneck speed.  I looked forward to after school, when all were settled, and I would have an hour of silence before heading with the taxi-full to evening activities.

That’s when the 11-yr-old said, “Can you cut my hair before pictures next week?”

“Sure!” I said, as if it were an easy task. The week’s schedule flashed through my mind. Weekend travel and week night activities, concerts, and the like made me realize that my “hour of silence” that afternoon would once again be taken by something more urgent: haircuts before pictures next week.

Cutting my boys’ hair began as a money-saving venture when we had one child. It grew into an ear-saving venture, when my second son wouldn’t sit still long enough and I was worried the “ear-ritated” barber would cut off his ear. (Sorry – I couldn’t resist the pun!) But at this stage in my life, the currency being saved was time. I could cut three boys’ hair in 45 minutes, which is how long I would have to wait before even starting at some salons.

I began with the oldest and worked my way down to the youngest. I probably should have used the opposite sequence, because by the time I got to the 6-yr-old with a cold, my patience had waned lower than his.

“Be still, please.” I said as I went over the top. He squirmed side to side, and tilted his head at every snip.

“Be still.” I said more firmly, worried I would clip his ear, but hardly slowing my scissors.

“Be still!” I practically shouted at him as I continued my race to get it done before the evening schedule commenced.

Ps 46:10 abruptly came to my mind: “Be still! And know that I am God.”

I smiled to myself thinking of God shouting to me to “be still!” with an explanation point, or He would chop off my ear.

Regret filled me as I realized how “not still” my day was. I felt like promising I would do better tomorrow. “Tomorrow, I will have a quiet time with You.” “Tomorrow,” I will have a less rushed day of motherhood.” “Tomorrow, I will BE STILL and KNOW THAT YOU ARE GOD.”

As quickly as I made promises, I wondered what part of my day I was supposed to have done differently.

Was I supposed to tell the sick child to “go back to bed! I want to be with Jesus now!”?… I don’t think so.

Should I have skipped breakfast or lunch so I could “have a quiet time”?!… Not necessarily.

Should I stop homeschooling, or take kids out of activities, so I can sit around with my me-time and make it God-time?

What am I doing wrong?!

A.W. Tozer in his book, Pursuit of God, hit me hard. I wasn’t born when he wrote the book, but his seeds were planted for a harvest in this year and eternity, I’m sure. In Chapter 10, he talks about ME!

The day of the haircuts was as though I was saying, “Sorry I have to do all of this menial stuff called life, but God, I want to be with You, and tomorrow morning, while it is still dark, THEN will be my sacred life.”

The conflict comes when I try to separate my “sacred” life and my “secular” life.

The “stillness” God wants from me is that my sacred life and my secular life are one. It is then that we truly can be still.

1Cor 10:31 says that whether we eat or drink we should do it all for the glory of God. It’s so significant to me that it says “eating and drinking” – such “menial stuff called life.”

Be still, and recognize the gift of motherhood He gave.

Be still and be thankful for the usefulness of my life; I have something to exhaust me every day!

Be still and praise God! …while I go to work, attend school, cut hair, drive the carpool, coddle the sick one.

But don’t wait for quiet time to do it. Believe me: I LOVE quiet time, and set my alarm clock early on purpose. But if God’s purpose for me wakes me before the clock, I can’t second-guess His plans for my day. It is then that I can be still, and know that He had it planned just perfectly, all along.

I suppose being still has little to do with cutting off ears, and more to do with opening them to hear God’s plan for the day.

May you enjoy this day the Lord had planned for you!

Terri Brady

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Art Exchange

Gallery

This gallery contains 40 photos.

Dear Lindsey, I found a note on my desk from my daughter. It read, “Dear Mom, I borrowed some paper but will give some art.”  As the paper was indeed returned in its promised form, I was pleased and impressed … Continue reading