Uncluttered by Grace

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If the magazine rack in the grocery store check-out line could talk it would say, “Stop right there woman with a thousand balls up in the air. You need to buy this edition of Organize magazine in order to get your life together. A few simple steps and you will be clutter-free for life.” As the giant Venus fly trap in ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ yells, “Feed Me!”, so the magazines shout, “Buy Me!” I am caught by the sweet fragrance of ‘self-help’ and of course…I buy them. Guess where they are now? In a “throw pile” labeled “Organize”. Irony indeed.

Any Feng Shui master would literally be stricken ill upon seeing my throw piles that have their own set of throw piles. We live on a daily basis between an overstuffed attic and a garage that is literally a fire hazard. If we had to leave the house quickly, there would be broken bones upon escape. It’s funny how cleaning out a simple drawer empowers me. Just think of the power instilled if I managed to purge and bring order to our entire house. I just might run for mayor! My husband reminds me…take one step at a time.

shutterstock_327210668.jpgAbout 15 years ago, my cousin said to me, “If you are not organized now, you never will be.” If words could kill (insert sideways glancing emoji.). How could she put a knife right through the heart of my desire to be organized? Now, 15 years later, I realize she had a point. I continue to think, “as soon as this or that happens, I will have time to clean out and toss”. But the responsibilities have not lightened. They seem to keep growing.

Finding order is important in life. God was the brilliant designer of order in the universe. Sir Isaac Newton, the author of the theory of gravitation and the father of calculus, was said to have become increasingly spiritual as he uncovered the laws of order in the universe.

“…he became more deeply assured that there had to be a divine creator of a universe of such capacity and yet run with such precision”.

Going to God with my desire for order brings me great peace. (Note: a magazine doesn’t shutterstock_192047702have quite the same effect.) He clears the clutter out of my head in my morning quiet time. I am gently reminded that focus is indeed one of my ‘stumbling blocks’ but by God’s grace it will not get the best of me! He finds the beauty in this and redirects the chaos to the light.

Ask God to give you order in your hearts. Embrace your gifts and the uniqueness God has blessed you with. Do not be held back by drudgery. Where there is truly order in life there is beauty; beauty deeper than the drawers in the dresser, the books on the shelf and the magazines on the rack. Instead of looking for the light at the end of the tunnel; bask in the light throughout the tunnel.

 

“Thou takest the pen ~ the lines dance.
Thou takest the flute ~ and the notes shimmer.
Thou takest the brush ~ and the colors sing.
So all things have meaning and beauty and space beyond time where thou art.
How then, can I hold back anything from thou?”

Dag Hammarskjold via Dorothy Valcarcel author of “When a Woman meets Jesus.”

 

“Order my steps in Thy word, and let not any iniquity have dominion over me.” Psalm 119:133

The Comfort Trophy

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There is something really healthy right between how we raise our kids today and how our parents raised us. When I was growing up, the world didn’t revolve around the kids. We were one generation after “children are to be seen but not heard”. In those days, parents would never change their plans to accommodate children. If we wanted center stage, we had to either do something really good or really stupid. Somehow though, without being the center, we knew we were deeply loved and didn’t feel short changed. A lot has changed in society since those days. Advancement in technology and inroads in psychology have shaken up how we look at just about everything. Some things wonderful, some, not so much.

shutterstock_288896609Let me make this absolutely clear. There is not a bone in my body that doesn’t want kids to feel good about themselves. There’s nothing as heart-warming as a happy kid! I must confess that while writing this piece, I came to the realization that I could easily qualify as a helicopter mom. At least when my kids were young. Looking back, I remember the pressure. Countless hours striving away to get them on good teams with the best coaches, into thoroughly vetted schools, orchestrating playdates and signing them up for way too many activities. Ahh, exhausting! As my children aged out of this phase, I burned out of it.

Lately, in the news, the phenomenon of the “Participation Trophy” has been front and center. A friend of mine calls this movement, “the downfall of western civilization.” Where that may sound dramatic; think about this. The lessons learned from playing sports are supposed to be about teamwork, responsibility, passion, accountability, attitude, winning and losing. While an honorable attempt to make sure that nobody’s feelings get hurt, the ‘participation’ philosophy encourages a sense of entitlement while hindering our children’s growth in so many valuable life lessons.

A ‘give me, give me’, mentality is contributing to a society of takers. Instead of trying to build up our children’s self-esteem with a trophy, why not concentrate on loftier lessons with lasting impact.

Author and motivational speaker, John Maxwell says, “If we are always growing, we are always outside of our comfort zone.” (Whoa there, don’t we want to keep them in their comfort zone?) He goes on to say, “The only guarantee for failure is to stop trying.”

shutterstock_328916051Do we save our kids from failing young only to be devastated by failure later in life? How are kids going to learn and grow from their mistakes if they are led to believe they never make them?

There’s a balance between being tossed out of the nest to learn to fly and being handed a first class seat. Let’s pay closer attention to the spiritual side of things instead of material rewards. Knowing God is the ultimate trophy. Think about who we are “modeling”. In weakness and adversity have confidence that a greater purpose is in store.

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.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

 

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work and learning from failure.” Colin Powell

 

Sandwiched!

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There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned sandwich. My childhood favorites; the classic PB&J, grilled cheese, ham on Wonder bread, and even the dreaded bologna.
My world expanded when my husband’s father introduced me to the offerings of a New York Deli in Brooklyn. In addition to a larger than life stack of delicious mouthwatering cold cuts, you get the smells of giant barrels of pickles and the attitude of Vinny or Joey whose job is to make you a great sandwich, not make friends “wit’ choo.” They know you will come back. Call it a hoagie, a grinder, or a sub; they all lead to the same thing…a food coma or an afternoon nap!

shutterstock_166510760.jpgToday there is a new sandwich in many of our lives. One slice of bread is our children and the other slice is our aging parents. Both need care, feeding, love, understanding and guidance from the ‘real’ meat in between. You. You hold the reigns with one horse running north and the other south. The responsibilities and double duty decisions make caring for an infant… child’s play. School activities and doctor appointments. Stridex and RX. Uniforms and warm pajamas. Boxers and Depends. Another 2 gallons of milk and never, ever, run out of prune juice! Both sides… emotionally charged as they try to understand their unique position in the family and in the world. One side is looking for direction but seeking independence. The other, looking for direction while confounded by declining health and the loss of independence.

Like a good sandwich, this leaves you needing a nap and exhausted. But in the challenge is also opportunity and blessing. I think of the lyrics from the Abba song in “Mama Mia” and task myself to remember to find the beauty of the moment.

Slipping through my fingers all the time
I try to capture every minute
The feeling in it
Slipping through my fingers all the time…

If you find yourself sandwiched, remember you are not alone. As believers in the living shutterstock_144873082God, we are plugged into the ultimate power source for care and strength. We have a God who wants to direct our paths, add beauty and flavor to our lives and give us the supernatural courage to endure our circumstances. He gives us a support system of family and friends to lift heaviness off our shoulders. Your creator is weaving a tapestry of love from generation to generation that enables you to hold the hand of your loved one as you walk them toward heaven.

This week consider this…we humans can turn sour and stale if we are overburdened or exhausted. Recharge. If you feel unplugged from God, make sure to plug back in. Find the rest in His word. Then, go enjoy that sandwich.

“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men…” Philippians 2:3-10

 

“Today will never come again. Be a blessing. Be a friend. Encourage someone. Take time to care. Let your words heal, and not wound.” Anonymous

 

Deer in the Headlights

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I stood in the middle of the Herbert Hoover gymnasium. It was my very first gymnastics meet and it was taking place at our rival middle school. (Note: schools were really called junior high back then but it sounds weird now.) It was my first shot in what seemed to me… the big leagues. So there I am in the middle of the floor.

shutterstock_322885022The music begins…I see my mother, teammates and my best friend who came to cheer me on sitting in the stands. The music starts. Instead of gracefully lunging to the left and then lunging to the right… I froze. I couldn’t remember one single move from my routine. Not a one! Sweat began to pour down my forehead. Gymnastics career…over. My coach whispers to me, “You can’t leave the mat until the music is over.” “No problem coach”, I thought, “I can’t move anyway.” There I stood… a deer in the headlights.

Was I scarred for life? No. Was I humiliated? Absolutely. Did I learn anything from it? You bet I did! I had a choice to make. Sulk and cower or laugh at myself and move onward and upward. Because I had a good coach and wonderful support system, I chose to stick to it and work harder to overcome my fears. Along with facing my fears, I knew I had to practice. Whenever and wherever I could. I needed to understand myself and my potential to be better. It was a tremendous life lesson that carried into many areas of my life, including a search for deeper meaning in life, purpose, and questions about eternity.

While I’d love to say, just go to church on Sunday, kick back and enjoy the ride. We know nothing works that way. Showing up to gymnastics practice in my team leotard, made me feel “really cool” and a part of something special, but it required effort to develop the skills. Everything in life does. Including your relationship with God. Do you want to “get better” at knowing God? Or are you content to get by with what you learned in Sunday school? It’s your choice.

Reading BibleIf you feel a tug to understand Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, God the Father, the bible; you have been given the free-will to do something about it. A greater understanding of God is not just going to sweep over you like magic. This week pray a prayer for direction. Seek advice from a friend who can support you. Visit a local bible study or pick up a small devotional book that points you to the scriptures. The absolute coolest thing about all of this is He wants you to knock at his door and ask because you are loved by Him. When life is tough, or you become paralyzed by fears, you don’t have to be that deer in the headlights.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks… finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8

“I read novels but I also read the Bible. And study it, you know? And the more I learn, the more excited I get.” Johnny Cash

Jonah vs. The Suburbs

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On the morning of the third day of being snowed in I woke up saying, “This is it. Right God? I am going to walk downstairs and see the sparkle of that lovely black asphalt that leads us to civilization!” Open the door…nothin’. Winter storm “Jonah” has turned my well nested home into the belly of a whale. I fight to keep calm. “Breathe. Trust He has a plan. We are in our right place. Help is on the way. This is the day the Lord has made. Remember that!”
I find that our resourceful neighbor trudged through the two foot deep frozen blanket covering our beloved black top to the main road, shutterstock_363000335which was plowed. He caught an Uber, rented a car and was keeping it in the plowed parking lot of our local school. More importantly, I had an invitation to escape the homestead and acquire provisions! I gratefully put on my snow boots, grab a couple of easy to carry grocery bags and was off. I was shocked to find that right outside our neighborhood, most of the streets were plowed and life was going on in full swing! A quarter mile of snow between civilization and solitary confinement. No fair!

At the grocery store, I gather a small cart of essentials and get in line. Remembering one small item only one aisle away, I leave my cart for maybe 20 seconds. Truly. When I get back, my cart has moved between aisle 7 and 8. I know right away who the culprit is and when I looked at him, he looked straight up at the ceiling like a 5 year old thinking “You can’t see me because I can’t see you”. With a baffled expression, I continue to glance at my sub-par criminal. He finally looks at me and says, “Your cart is there.” “No Kidding?” God forgive me for the thoughts that were going through by head. “Breathe. Trust” I choose the high road and roll myself behind him and he looks at me with his full jumbo cart and says “It really shouldn’t take that long.” Smile.

On our way to Home Depot, we pass a local park where we see the Hercules of snow plows meticulously plowing out the parking lot of a local park. What is this…park before citizens? It’s too cold to play there anyway. My friend and I make a U turn and the next thing this poor snowplow driver knows is he is being tailed by two crazy ladies! He stops to see what is going on. “Sir, could you please come to our street just a couple blocks away?” “Sorry Ma’am, I’ll get fined if I plow your street. I work for the park service, not the county. I’d love to help you but …” All I heard was government rules….yada, yada, yada. I thank him for his kindness, because I believe he really would have liked to help. We head back for our trek home.

shutterstock_400893694Finally on the morning of the fourth day, a mighty squadron of snow plows roared down our street like rolling thunder. We grab our dogs out of their path and jump into the snowbanks, blowing kisses to our rescuers. Free at last!

Reflecting I realize I lost a lot of energy (and gained a few gray hairs) fretting about the snow plow situation. Anxious about what is to come next. Worrying why my road isn’t plowed but theirs is. Struggling to change things out of my control. Missing the moment I am in.

The snow was beautiful. We had electricity. Moments with friends and family. And most of all a God who loves me. Be grateful for what you have. Throughout your week. This very day. This very minute!

“Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! “2 Corinthians 9:15

 

“I am thankful for nights turned into mornings, friends that turned into family, and dreams that turned into reality.” Anonymous

Lauren Green-McAfee: Standing for the Bible

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Lauren Green-McAfee is a woman “standing with the Bible” and she wants you to stand with her. As Director of Community Engagement for the soon to open “Museum of the Bible,” Lauren is in a position she could only dream of.

Her well-known family, The Greens, have spent the last few years acquiring an impressive collection of rare biblical artifacts and antiquities. When I say impressive, I mean, one of the world’s largest private collections. Over 40,000 pieces to be exact! They also hold the second largest collection of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the largest collection of Hebrew scrolls and much, much more. Why all this? A deep seeded love and reverence for the Bible and a need to share.

As a young girl growing up in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Lauren met her greatest mentor. Her dad, Steve Green, a hands-on father of six and president of the national retail chain Hobby Lobby. This awe inspired child wasn’t moved by her father just because he was a fun dad and certainly not because of his impressive business enterprise. (Too young for that.) No, she noticed her dad faithfully making the time to read his Bible every single morning. Witnessing this has had a lasting impression and profound impact on Lauren and her life choices.

When I first heard about this magnificent museum for some reason the movie Jurassic Park came to my mind… ‘Spare no expense!’ (I hope that isn’t sacrilegious.) The magnitude of this endeavor is overwhelming to the average Joe. But not to the Green family and the array of multi-talented academics, theologians, business and creative minds they have employed and who hold seats on their board of directors. While Disneyland claims to be “the happiest place on earth”, I think the Museum of the Bible should lay claim to sharing “the most exciting book ever revealed on earth!”

The Museum of the Bible is set to open in the fall of 2017. This is quite an undertaking! What and why was your family led to take on a massive project like this?
My family, through the generations, has always loved the Bible. We started building a collection of artifacts. This was not something we wanted to keep to ourselves. It had to be shared. Studies were performed to investigate interest levels in a Bible Museum. The response… tremendous interest and huge potential! At this point, we didn’t have a permanent dwelling place for our collections, so our first step was to get it to the people. The formation of a traveling exhibit enabled us to share these treasures with people all over the map. We have domestic and international exhibits.

Can you tell us a little bit about the scope of this project?
Our building is 8 stories high, 430,000 square feet in size! It will have three main floors of exhibit space which will be dedicated to telling the history, impact and narrative of the Bible. We will have a biblically themed restaurant that will serve food customary to the region and a rooftop garden with plantings also customary to the region. Also, lecture halls and research labs that contain multi-spectrum imaging for studying the artifacts and antiquities.

How long will it take for the average person to get through the museum?
Good question. It would take 9 8-hour days to see absolutely everything. Yes, that is a lot and in reality, you will need multiple trips to see it all. However, we have designed an iPad program to streamline your tour. When you enter the building you can grab an iPad and fill it out highlighting what your interests are, what you really want to see, how much time you have, do you have kids with you, your level of knowledge (scholar thru first time I’ve seen the Bible) and so on! There will be docents and curators available as well. Our goal here is, of course, to enjoy and learn but also to participate and engage in your interactive tour.
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How did Washington D.C. become your landing place?
First we ran an economic impact study. The three runners up were D.C., New York City, where I live, and Dallas. We found the perfect building in Washington D.C., our nation’s capital and only two blocks from the Air and Space Museum. We are so excited because the Metro runs under our building! We actually own the roof of the metro stop so you can expect to see a giant digital screen with spectacular biblical artwork on banners running 24/7. Needless to say, it will be the most beautiful Metro stop in town! (Note: Maybe in the world!)

Who do you hope to attract to the museum of the Bible?
Everyone! The Bible is the most universally important book. Its impact is felt in one way or another in all cultures around the world. Because of our scholarly pursuits and exhibits, many will learn no matter what their background. A 2000 Time-Life magazine article featured a story about the top impactful events or people in the world. It turns out that Guttenberg’s printing of the Bible, considered to many to be the first ‘modern’ printed book around 1455, was at the top of the list! Not just recognizing the printing press but the Bible itself. This is because the Bible is recognized by many as the most significant book out there.

Is this all about Christianity?
It is all about the Bible, which connects with Catholicism, Protestantism, and Judaism. All different faith traditions can learn from this. It has been a beautiful experience to see a sense of unity throughout different faiths! Where there could be division we are seeing unity.

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Papyrus 39. Can you explain why this artifact is so note-worthy?
Papyrus is a plant that was used as a type of paper. This particular fragment, P-39, is the oldest surviving copy of John 8: 14 – 22 in existence! This was found in Oxyrhynchus, Egypt in what was virtually a giant trash dump. This is one manuscript of many found in this location.

Tell us about your “Passages” and “Book of Books” exhibits.
“Passages” is our traveling exhibit that started in Oklahoma City, and on to Atlanta, Charlotte, Colorado Springs and Springfield, Missouri. Passages is currently in Santa Clarita, California, where it is on its sixth and final stop. There are four galleries in Passages that cover the translation, transmission, impact, and controversy of the Bible. Our International exhibit is called The “Book of Books”. It has been to the Vatican twice where it focused on history and how God’s word spread throughout the world to every nation. The Jerusalem version concentrated on the Jewish faith and how the Christians and Jews share the same “roots” in the Old Testament. Trips were also made to Cuba and Argentina. These exhibits focused on an overview of history and the impact of the Bible. Each exhibit is arranged to meet people where they are in their culture. All are engaging and experiential. You are “in” the scene of events!

Word is that your family is extremely generous and not only wants to share all of these treasures with the world but also teach generations to come. Can you tell us about that?
These incredible artifacts deserve to be studied, researched and shared with the scholarly world! We have started up “The Scholar Initiative” by partnering with over 100 different schools studying our materials. We want to mentor the next generation in the process. It is our hope that we will be able to allow more access in the future.

Let’s get back to Lauren now, shall we? Can you tell us a little bit more about you and your educational background? Did you know from day one that you wanted to work for the museum?
So I grew up in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and have lived there my whole life…until recently when my husband and I moved to New York City. I got my Bachelors of Arts degree from the University of Oklahoma in “Letters,” which focuses on History, Literature and Philosophy. And no, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do with that degree… I just knew I was fascinated by history. My family didn’t start collecting biblical artifacts until my senior year in college. I went on to Liberty University Seminary, where I got my masters in “Pastoral Counseling”. I married my husband Michael while we were still in college, so, yes, I got married young. (We met each other at age 7, in Sunday school.) Michael also works for the museum as Director of Bible Engagement. The fun part is that our roles cross over and we travel a lot together with work.
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Why pastoral counseling?
Because I wanted to serve the church by mentoring and pouring into young girls. My husband was a youth pastor for the first 4 years of our marriage, and I enjoyed serving the young women in our youth group. I’m excited that I am continuing that in New York City!

As a Green family member, you probably have your pick of just about any position with the Museum. What led you to Community Engagement?
Ooh, that sounds nice to just pick. The truth is, our family believes very strongly in earning your position, family or not. I have worked for almost 5 years starting at the bottom to get to this position. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love my job as Director of Community Engagement. Much of my time is spent sharing with people and groups about why I love the museum, in turn, raising awareness. This is easy for me because I’m so passionate about it! I would not consider myself a “speaker” but I’ve rolled up my sleeves and gotten out there. God knew what He was doing with this. A perfect fit for me. I am humbled and honored to do what I am doing.

How about your father? How does the President of Hobby Lobby and Founder and Chairman of the Board of Museum of the Bible, juggles it all?
Absolutely! My dad is still president of Hobby Lobby and spends about half of his time at the museum. To say he is passionate about this project is an understatement. His dream is to be able to share this incredible, historic and relevant book with the world, not just his inner circle.
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“Stand with the Bible”, can be seen on your website. What’s this all about?
We have an exciting campaign called “One Million Names”. It’s a program that allows all people to be a part of this historic undertaking! We know from research that people want to get involved. By making a donation in any amount, your name will be engraved into the building with all the others. You can make a donation for yourself, family members, or a gift for a friend, it’s up to you. By doing so you are saying: “I stand with the Bible” and now…you are in the heart of the project and in the cement!

At the end of the day Lauren, what do you hope “Museum of the Bible” will accomplish?
I hope this invitation for people to engage…will spread worldwide. That people will plan vacations around this spectacular presentation of the living word. This book has changed the world and has changed my life. What could be better than for seekers and non-seekers alike to have a newer and deeper understanding of “The Bible”.

For those of you whose interest has been sparked, which I hope are all of you that are breathing…make sure to visit the website “Museum of the Bible” to learn more and become “One with a million.” www.museumofthebible.org.