Reading and Hope

There’s a little girl who comes to Thursday Night Lights who has captured my heart. 

We’ve talked about Joan before (I’ve changed her name) but seeing her this week gave me an idea…

She’s out of school for the summer, so I know Joan spends most of her time alone. 

Several weeks ago, I was given some books by a friend who moved back to Shreveport, Louisiana. Many of them were young adult fiction books. 

I asked Joan if she likes to read and she does! Next Thursday I’m bringing her a few books. 

Joan’s 11, which is around the time my own love of reading took off. I bet Joan will have the same experience. 

No matter how bleak the circumstances, the settings of a good book draw you in.

 I’m not recommending reading as a method of escapism, but more as a method of seeing that there’s a world beyond your circumstances. 

Imagination is a powerful force. 

My hope for Joan is that she doesn’t look at her circumstances and think, “This is it.”

Obviously, a relationship with Jesus is what Joan really needs. And I plan on talking with her more about that. 

I just remember how much reading impacted my life as a child. 

If you live in the Tulsa area and have some books you’d like to see go to a good cause, I have some friends who would greatly appreciate your generosity. 

The opportunities in your reality

Did you ever watch The Brady Bunch movie?

It was a spoof from the ’90s that was not that great, but made me laugh nonetheless. In it, Mike Brady gave Bobby some great advice:

“Wherever you go, there you are.”

I’ve seen this “advice” plastered all over novelty items. (I also googled the saying and found out it’s the title of a meditation book. Go figure.) What a goofy thing to say, right? We all know that…..or do we?

Recently, I was part of a conversation where a friend said, “Do you know what I could be doing?” and then went on for about 10 minutes about a job he could have.

I told this friend,  “You’re right and I agree. But here you are, so what are you going to do?”

There’s nothing wrong with dreaming or wanting to better yourself. Just remember that improvement starts right where you are. The weaknesses we possess do not magically disappear with a new opportunity.

The more I listened to my friend, the more I understood that the root of the problem was not feeling appreciated. Maybe an elevated position, a better job would do the trick. These people would appreciate me. These people see my true potential.

Once again, there’s truth in these thoughts. There’s nothing wrong with getting praised and honored for good work. Just be careful that praise and accolades aren’t the primary motivators. Applause is momentary–and it’s fickle too.

Motivation really is everything.

What are you looking to gain from an opportunity?

Be honest.

Answering this one question will show you the motivations of your heart.

Like I said earlier, the messy parts of ourselves–the things we want to leave behind–won’t disappear. You can’t just move on and not leave the new address.

Look around. There’s a lot to learn, a lot to do right, where you are now. Don’t be afraid to dream, but don’t ignore the opportunities in your current reality either.

I know where I’m going

IMG_1694Many times the Lord gives me direction through dreams. I think of it like a road map.

“Audra, this is where you are headed.”

With a dream, though, comes the knowledge that staying stuck is not possible. You cannot decide to camp out on the side of the road when you need to be moving forward.

I find myself facing some situations where running away would be so easy. (I think by now my vulnerability issues are well known.)

During these tough times, I yell–I mean, pray–to the Lord.

He’s given me permission to be 100% honest with him. His exact words were, “I know your heart anyway, so stop hiding.”

God has seen the angelic side of me and the grumpy side of me. My prayer is that as I follow Him, Angel Audra shows up more and more. (Think halo not being held up by horns.)

Do you know where He takes me at the end of each conversation?

My dreams.

Remember, Audra, where you are going. Don’t settle for anything less than where I am sending you.

All of my tantrums are ruined by God.

I am pouting and angry and God just laughs. And HIs laughter is like a whack from a belt.

Then I remember my dream.

I’m such a hard headed brat……..

When God shows you something don’t let go. Take it and run. Let that hope be an anchor for your soul. Nothing will motivate you more than a glimpse of where God’s taking you.  

And no worries if you find yourself camping out either. God will help you pack back up and keep moving.

Grace changes vision

When I was an enemy of God, He decided to make me a friend. His forgiveness is readily available to everyone. It’s not available once your life looks pretty. It’s available right now.

Romans 5:7-8 says:

For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

My heart was a mess before Christ. I tried really hard to be good. Some people even bought into my costume too.

But I knew and God knew that what I really needed was grace–God’s DNA–to make a change. Once I accepted God’s grace, everything changed. I gave up my acting career and became an honest woman.

Grace is a change in vision.

God's loveI now see people as God sees them: forgiven, free, loved, and full of potential. This is the future for those who will accept the freedom purchased by the blood of Christ.

Verse 8 says that God loves people when they are still sinners.

As Christians, we are called to love as God loves. This means that I am to love people when they are still sinners.

The exclusivity of the church from the world makes me angry.

Living in Christian Bubble Land is not included in the Great Commission.

I will not pray for anyone to be delivered from a non-Christian environment. What I will pray is that he or she will  grow up in the faith and stop being a Sissy Christian.

Sissy Christians are scared of non-Christians and don’t understand grace.

Sorry if that sounds harsh, but it’s truth.

Jesus is no sissy and I follow Him.

He defeated sin, death, and hell to give us grace, love, and mercy.

This is the Good News, the gospel we need to spread.

I think some of us forget that we were once a mess. No one asked us to clean it all up before coming to Jesus.

Life is a story

We all have a story to tell, right?

Your life, after all, is one big story that gets written a day at a time.

Of course, every story is different in one way or another, but we all have a lot more in common than we realize.

Can you list all the movies that retell Cinderella?

Exactly. There’s too many to count.

journalThe premise is the same but the small details–time, place, etc–are what make it different.

Our world is filled with brokenness: tragedy, addiction, abuse, divorce. Listen to enough stories and you hear about these things.

No one escapes life without a few sad chapters, with pages covered with tears, blood, and grime.

I am finding, though, that the greatest stories of redemption are found in books where sad chapters give way to victorious chapters.

The victorious chapters are when the villains–and all their filthy, disgusting lies–get their butts kicked.

Love, joy, mercy, hope, grace, forgiveness…..

These are the key elements of  victorious chapters.

But you have to remember that victorious chapters cannot replace the sad ones.

No amount of time or distance can eliminate the past.

Think of it this way:

If I read a book and hate the first half, I can’t decide to only read the second half next time. The story wouldn’t make any sense.

What I can do is choose to see how the character made peace with the past in order to move on.

I said earlier that we’re all more alike than we realize.

We’re all alike because we’re all storytellers.

Maybe you didn’t write the first part of your story.

Let that go.

Focus on the story you get to write.

Focus on the victorious chapters.

And share the hope–the redemption in your story–with the world.

90 years of adventure

Today I went to a surprise party for my friend’s husband. He and his twin sister are 90!
It’s hard for me to think about where I’ll be in 65 years….

Me at 90?

Wow. All I see is gray hair and cardigan sweaters. 

  • I want to be surrounded by a passel of kids and grand kids–and even great grandkids!
  • I want to still be working at something. 

But it’s still hard to picture…

That’s probably why 5 and 10 year plans are next to impossible for me to write out. 

I believe that life is much to fluid to be that scripted. 

The birthday party was fun because I looked around and saw a man surrounded by love. 

He and my friend have walked through tough times but they’ve made it through them together. 

And you can’t ask for more than that. 

I’m sure my next 65 years will be filled with many adventures.

Hopefully you’re still kicking to here about them at my birthday party. 

(I can’t wait to hear more about your adventures either!)

Training Future Generations

I read an article this week on the subject of children and independence. The author talked in-depth about her study of children from various tribes across the globe.

Apparently, their children have tons of freedom to explore and learn without constant adult supervision.

These native kids know survival skills such as hunting, fishing, and fire building by the age of five or six.

 The children of Western culture are way behind.

The author gives three problems as to why: They have too many planned activities, most adults consider them a nuisance, and they are woefully unhappy because of poor parenting practices.

For the most part, I agree with the author. It’s sad when parents scream at their children for making noise, when neighborhoods are not kid-friendly.

 I am so thank that my grandparents allowed me to be a kid. I was free to play outside, to explore my surroundings, and to make mistakes.

I could run, laugh, and be silly with little to no chastisement.

Don’t get me wrong. If I got out of line, there were consequences, but I felt safe within the confines of clear boundaries.

By no means was I killing bobcats with my bare hands or wielding knives to take down crocodiles. (That would’ve been awesome though!) At least I knew how to complete my chores. I was also capable of feeding and clothing myself.

 In today’s times, children are not treated with importance. Training and attention is needed to mold them into a future generation ready to take their place.

I am not a parent, but I have eyes.

It doesn’t take long to notice that children are crying out for attention, for someone to expect more out of them.

What’s the future going to look like if we continue to neglect the children in our care?

Change Your Thinking, Change Your Future

How often do you think about the future?

I know that I think about the future quite frequently.

Sometimes the future is scary because I begin to plug in the variables.

I start thinking, “If I don’t change this area of my life, then this will be the result.” That’s when I get really wigged out.

Years ago, I caught a few episodes of a pretty cool show. Don’t go asking me the name of this show because I don’t remember and it wasn’t on the air long. Anyway, this health and nutrition team would show people what would happen if they didn’t change their diets. It was scary. They looked like Goodyear blimps. I’m not kidding, these people were huge! And all of this because they couldn’t give up Twinkies and Coke…

The cool thing about this show was that there was hope. This team of experts would reveal the inevitable, but then say, “Wait a minute! You can fix this!” Needless to say, a major change in diet and exercise would solve 95% of their problems.

Do you know that changing your thinking will alter your future?

Listen friends. My thinking is constantly being challenged. Just when I believe that I really understand something I find out that I don’t.

I could get mad, pitch a fit, and stay ignorant.

But why?

Why would I want to remain ignorant?

That is the most dangerous thing I can do because I will be held accountable by God for my knowledge and my ignorance! Now that’s a sobering thought.

I can hear God now.

Audra, I’m so glad that you figured this one thing out, but what about this other area? Why did you refuse to learn? Why didn’t you listen?”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be standing speechless because I refused to open my eyes.

If I can leave you with one thought it’s this:

What would happen if you made a few changes? If the course of action seems a bit extreme now, will the end results be worth it?