Karen

Go Ahead, Take a Chance!

January 3, 2018 in Inspirational

The following is an entry from a book I wrote for Abingdon Press called Wellspring.  I hope you enjoy it today!

 

Send your bread out on the water because, in the course of time, you may find it again.   Ecclesiastes 11:1

 

It’s not easy to figure out when to take a risk or when to start something new. Even making an effort can seem overwhelming, and yet, something nags at you, insisting that it’s time,

that today is a new day and even if you didn’t make it work before, you can now.  Think of the Nike slogan that implores you to “just do it!”

 

Procrastination may make sense in terms of giving your new ideas thoughtful consideration. Weighing the odds is a worthwhile use of your time. Getting uncomfortable, though,

is a challenge, but the writer of Ecclesiastes doesn’t really care. He says “get it done.” With a little due diligence, in the course of time, you may reap a reward, and you may win the day.

 

If you don’t cast your bread on the waters, you know that nothing can return to you. If you simply cast the bread and walk away, you won’t be expectant. You won’t recognize

the opportunity or be ready for the win. So go ahead! Take a chance on becoming all that God meant you to become and show Him and the rest of the world

what you’ve got.  It will renew your spirit and you’ll find yourself in a refreshing stream of opportunity.   Take a chance on YOU!

Karen

Warm Up to a New Year

January 2, 2018 in Inspirational

Many of us are starting out the New Year in a deep freeze as temperatures dip way below zero.  I’ve never been a good cold-weather girl so when Mr. Freeze shows up, this batgirl goes into her cave. The good news is that being in a cozy cave gives you time for reflection, time to consider new goals and what it means to you to get a fresh start.  Personally, I love starting over!  I love the idea of having a clean slate, looking at a blank page, and giving myself a chance to write a new story.  After all, no one can fill in the content of the chapters of my life better than I can.  I get to create the new goals, dreams, and hopes that provide clarity to what it is that really matters.  You get to do that too.

Oh, sure!  We often set these goals in January and by March, they are forgotten. The gyms are full of well-intentioned people determined to lose some weight or get into better shape as they start the year anew.  Those are good goals because your health is primary to everything else you do.  Today though, I’m simply encouraging you to look with love at where you’ve been, forgive yourself for those things that didn’t work out as you had hoped, and then give yourself the grace to try again.  Give yourself the opportunity to exercise your right to be a new you.

If you want to do a few warm-up exercises try this.  Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale and with each of those breaths, give God the thanks that you are indeed alive and well. You are still growing and changing and capable of becoming more than you were last year.  Then as you raise up your arms over your head and look up to the ceiling, imagine there’s an angel there, applauding you on and encouraging you to keep lifting your arms up to heaven.  Laugh out loud as you do your own version of head and shoulders, knees, and toes, and then clap your hands with joy.  Give God thanks and praise that no matter what else is going on, you are still able to try again.  You are in a position to start a new year in hope and peace and strength.

Then relax and pull out that blank journal you meant to write in last year and start creating your story.  Talk it out with yourself and with your heavenly Father and by the time you finish the first page, you will already feel better, more positive, more in charge of the story you will tell this year.

You have an amazing story and no one can tell it like you can.  Open your heart to opportunity, to spiritual growth, and to all that God has for you.  Stay warm, my friends, and Happy New Year!

Karen

Over the Top Christmas

December 16, 2017 in Inspirational

I will confess that I’ve been accused more than once of going a little over the top when it comes to Christmas.  I love all the parts of Christmas, from the birth of the Savior to the generous spirit of Santa Claus.  I love to decorate the halls and the walls and anything else that I can adorn with glittery ornaments.  I love to plan the gifts I will give to my family and friends. Nothing quite delights my heart more than seeing their smiles as we intentionally take time to share our gifts of love.  I bake cookies and breads and give them to anyone near enough to receive them and sometimes mail them off as well.  My husband says I have a childlike heart and I’m pretty sure it comes alive at Christmas, like no other time of the year.

Perhaps my approach to celebrating the event of welcoming Baby Jesus is more than some people do.  Perhaps my desire to express my heart and my love is a little over the top, but it’s nothing compared to all that I receive through the year from the people who support me, encourage my work, revive my spirit, and help me to realize how much I have been gifted by their presence every day.  To those who would wish I might pull back, set my Christmas up more like they would do, I can only say, that we each must find our way to celebrate the greatest gift that ever happened to any of us.  I feel pretty certain that what God did that first Christmas was over the top. His gift was beyond measure and everyone who participated in the event lit up with great joy. Angels and shepherds and those who had long awaited the Savior celebrated in their hearts and expressed their love through songs of joy.  They didn’t hold back. They didn’t worry about whether any one else heard the angels singing or if anyone else found their way to the manger, they simply spread the joy every way they could.

This Christmas, I’m going to be a little over the top again. There will be lots of cookies, lots of presents, lots of Christmas music, and lots of gratitude for what God has done for all of us.  You celebrate however you wish, but I’m going to pray that this season you allow yourself to go a little over the top.

Big love to you all.

Merry Christmas!

Karen

Job’s Wife

September 20, 2017 in Family and Friends

When everything in your world starts rocking at once, you wonder if there’s something bigger going on that you just don’t know about. After all, perhaps Satan and God are duking it out over you like they once did over Job.  There doesn’t seem to be anything biblical that supports the idea that God would never do that to anyone else.  All I know is, that these seem to be our Job days. Just to give you a little run down of the events, it has gone something like this, all in the past two weeks.  First my mother was taken by ambulance to a hospital in upstate New York.  This happened just one hour after my husband and I got there to visit my parents.  We spent the next three days in the hospital and once we brought mom home with new medications and promises to take it as prescribed, we headed for home in Nashville. The hurricane hit Florida that same weekend and so my in-laws were taken to shelters. It was very stressful for everyone to say the least. The day after everyone returned from the shelters, my father-in-law passed away.  We were grief-stricken. The very next day after that, my father was taken by ambulance to an upstate New York hospital. It was becoming a little hard for me to breathe by then, but my dad came home after a couple days.  Whew! Stress!

Bruce prepared to leave for Florida to be with his mother and sister and his flight was cancelled one hour before we were leaving for the airport. We scrambled and found another flight that went to Tampa. While enroute to Tampa, he found out his rental car was cancelled. He couldn’t find a hotel. He wouldn’t arrive there because of delays until after midnight. We prayed. We felt frustrated by everything. We finally managed to find a hotel and another car. He’s now in Ft. Myers.

Yesterday, we had a tornado go through Nashville and a tree came down in our backyard. My step son had a tree come down on his house. This morning Bruce is in the emergency room in Florida with high blood pressure and the potential need for knee surgery. I’m not there. We’re stressed.  I feel like Job’s wife. Tomorrow Bruce’s mom has to have tests for a mass on her liver.

I know that we all go through seasons of challenging times. Personally, I’m waving the white flag. Of course, I won’t be waving it long because I’ll be packing the car to drive to Florida shortly. If you happen to be a prayer person, or just someone with an encouraging word, I’m pretty open to your thoughts. Everything is haywire!  All I know is God must have a huge plan for our lives because we’re going through a boatload of distractions.

Love to you all today.

Karen

Walking in Bill’s Shoes

September 18, 2017 in Uncategorized

My Father-in-love, William Barbour was an incredible man and I have updated this post in his honor.

 

William Rinehart Barbour, Jr. turned 95 in March of 2017!  The sparkle in his eye was as welcoming as ever. His love for his family and friends radiated from a face that lit up when you entered his room, glowing more than 95 birthday candles ever could.  He had enviable silver white hair and a ready wit.  He was a man to be admired; always was, and always will be.

WRB, as he’s often called, was a man of many talents and for most of us, it’s hard to even imagine walking in his shoes.  Some of you may recognize his name as the man who picked up the gauntlet set down by his father and his uncle to find a way to make Christian books available to everyone.  His uncle, Fleming H. Revell, Sr., and His father, William R. Barbour, Sr. set the groundwork for WRB to continue to develop a publishing legacy.  He was an innovator and when he became president of Revell Publishing in 1968, he wanted to make sure that great preachers, Christian entertainers, businessmen and laymen, and notable women all had an opportunity to get their work into the marketplace.  He pioneered the things we take for granted today…getting Christian books into secular stores, creating books about family values, and ways to live life more honorably.  He published women like Marabel Morgan, whose “Total Woman” was one of the top selling books of the 70’s.  He published Corrie Ten Boom’s, “The Hiding Place”, and Dale Rogers’, “Angels Unaware.”  He was a publisher who was always connected to his readers and humbled by their messages.  He began every editorial meeting with a letter from someone who wrote to share how their life had changed because they read one of the books he published.  “This is why we do what we do,” he beamed.  He was intent on publishing books that mattered.

That’s not the whole story though.  Yes, he was a brilliant publisher, but even more he was a man with a capacity to love and forgive and bless the lives of others in every way he could.  He was a man who loved his brother Hugh and his sister-in-law, Eva. He loved everybody in ways that were reminiscent of the kind of brotherly love Jesus talked about.  He was a man who blessed his children, Bruce, Betsy, and Alan with gifts and talents beyond measure and hearts like his that are as big as all outdoors.  He was a man who honored his wife of 65 years, Mary, and understood the gift that she was to him for many years. He loved his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. William Rinehart Barbour, Jr. was a man with big shoes and most of us will spend years trying to find ways to walk in the path he created.  As his family and his friends, when he turned 95, we shouted with love and joy, “Happy Birthday, WRB!”  “Happy Birthday, incredible, remarkable and wonderful man!

Sometimes we wonder if we make a difference.  Sometimes we look in the mirror and try to imagine what it would be like if the work we did in the world, and the love we shared with others, could be so amazing that it would last forever, long after our days on earth are through. All I know is that it’s a great blessing to me to be part of this family and I’m humbled as a daughter-in-law, as an author of Christian books, and as a friend of this man to realize all he’s done to make my path a bit easier, long before he knew I’d ever be in his life.  I want to be like that.  I want to walk in Bill’s shoes!

Don’t you?

NOTE: William R. Barbour went home to be with Jesus on September 12, 2017.  He was peaceful and loving all the way to heaven.

 

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Karen

Wondering about Wonder Woman

July 5, 2017 in Inspirational

Yesterday was my birthday and Bruce and I decided to take the day off and simply be together.  We rarely go to a movie so we got a big bag of popcorn and pretended we were seventeen and settled back to watch Wonder Woman on the big screen.  It was a great choice for so many reasons.  You may feel differently about it if you see it, but I wanted to share the gift I received in a movie like that.  I appreciate a movie built around a female heroine, but that wasn’t the best part.  I appreciate the amazing technical aspects that bring a film to life, but that wasn’t the best part either.  The best part was that it made me wonder what part of me could possibly be like Wonder Woman.  You may laugh!  Sure, I don’t have her face, her power, or her abilities to fight off evil in the world, but what else did she exhibit? She reminded me that we can live fully and meaningfully if we believe in who we are meant to be.  In my case, that means that I believe God created me for a purpose, that He designed and equipped me to get a particular job done here on this planet.  One of the messages that was often given to Diana (Wonder Woman) as she grew up was that she had to believe in herself. She had to believe in her life purpose.  I think I need to do that too.  Beyond that, I have to learn to try even harder when there are setbacks, or even when there are bullies who want to make the pathways difficult.

When Diana found out who she was, who her Father was, she tried even more to live up to her calling.  She put her whole heart and mind and soul into it.  Now that’s the part, that I can do too.  I have been equipped by my Father to do amazing things. I have to be willing to put my whole heart into those things, to trust that they are part of my calling and to be steadfast in my willingness to keep moving forward in spite of setbacks.  I have to believe that I truly am my Father’s daughter!  I wonder if you and I can find our inner Wonder Woman, (Or Wonder Man)!  Can we believe so totally in who we are and what we are here to do that we put every bit of heart and love and imagination into it? Can we believe bigger now than we ever have before?  Can we put the wonder back into our own lives? No matter how old we are, we are called to perform wonders for the sake of those around us. We are called to love.   I wonder about Wonder Woman because I wonder what else I can do if I put my whole heart into it.

Stay tuned!  I’m getting my shield and my lasso of truth ready to do greater things.  I hope you are too.

Karen

Counting the Days

June 8, 2017 in Inspirational

It can be fun to count down the days to a special event in your life.  Perhaps you count down the days until Christmas with your children each year.  Maybe you count the days before you can take a great vacation.  My husband counts the days we’ve been married.  Today it is 1010.  Whatever reason we may have for counting our days, one thing is clear.  It’s important that we make all of our days count.  As it says in Psalm 39:4, “Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered and how fleeting my life is.”

It seems to me that we now live in a “take nothing for granted world.”  There was a time when I would have taken it for granted that human beings respect and care about human life.  I would have said that love was stronger than hate, and that people with good hearts and good intentions would prevail. When we read the headlines though, it often feels like the good people are simply outnumbered by those who would do them harm.  So what does that mean?

To me, the condition of the world reminds me that there is just one thing I can count on.  I can count on the fact that God is still in control and that He alone knows how anyone’s story will end. If I trust that God knows my story, that He cares about me and trusts me to do a certain work, then the best thing I can do is make my days count.  I can embrace the work I am called to do and make sure that it gets done.  Sure, God can find someone else to do the job He assigned to me, but that cheats both of us out of the opportunity to walk the path together.

Some of us step outside on our own and imagine that we’re fine, that nothing can stop us, that life is built around endless days. That thinking may be the stuff that motivates us the day after we graduate from college, but it won’t sustain us through life.  We run into obstacles along the way and we have to find another route to success.  No matter how old you are, you might start looking at what it would take for you to get God’s work done today, because you simply may not be guaranteed tomorrow.  What you can count on is this moment.  Take this moment and guard it and love it and help it to become significant, because this could be the best moment of your life.  Keep counting the days if you’d like, but wherever you stand and whatever you stand for, be sure that it counts for God’s glory.

This is your day to shine!

Karen

You’re So Right for Me!

May 12, 2017 in Inspirational

My husband recently gave me an anniversary card that declares, “You’re so Right for Me!”  Now mind you, our anniversary is not until September 22nd, but we kind of feel every day we celebrate the wonders of God’s grace in bringing us together.  We like a daily anniversary moment.  This card also reminds me of a selection from my Wellspring book.  I thought I’d repeat it here for those of you who might need a reminder that “You are So Right for God!”  Yup!  That’s why He chose you.

“Sure, God could have passed you by. He could have decided that you had too many issues, too much ego, too many sins to deal with.  He could have thought you were just too much trouble.  He could have. But He didn’t!

In fact, He looked at you with the eyes of compassion and thought how wonderful it would be if you could see yourself as the whole and beautiful person He sees when He looks at you. He thought about your willingness to be tender at just the right moments and your ability to kindly tolerate those who aren’t quite like you.  He saw you in a way that raised you up above the turmoil and the mess that life can be and He determined that everything about you was good.  He chose you.  He thought you were just right for Him!

Today, He wants you to go out and walk in love, share your heart, and do whatever you can to bring peace and kindness to just one other person. You have been forgiven, loved, and entrusted with this one job.  You have been chosen to represent Him to others. Show God what you’re doing with His unending and steadfast love for you. Make Him proud that He chose you!”

Therefore, as God’s choice, holy and loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Be tolerant with each other and, if someone has a complaint against anyone, forgive each other. As the Lord forgave you, so also forgive each other. And over all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.   Colossians 3:12-14

You are simply amazing!

Karen

Humble Roots

May 3, 2017 in Family and Friends

This past week, I had a chance to spend a few days in upstate New York where I grew up.  I’ve visited there through the years, though not often enough, and this time I realized that some pretty significant changes have ocurred.  Either the town has changed or I have!  It seemed somehow out of sync with my current life. The main street is still graced with leafy trees hugging the houses and the center of town.  Some of the old Victorians have been kindly restored and a few even tempt the heart of a poet.  Other sections of town though, seem to have forgotten their original purpose and have not aged well.  I felt somewhat like an outsider peeking through a window of the now defunct train station.

Beyond the creeks and parks where I once played or the memory of river canoe trips and cookouts on the bank, I felt somewhat disconnected. I was drawn to the passage of time via the houses that no longer contained former family members, and by the school that is now an elementary school only and not a K-12 as it had been for me.  The diner where we once hung out after a victorious basketball game was no longer open.  My grandparents and my aunts and uncles have passed, though I’m blessed to have my parents still there, living just outside of town.  Perhaps this is the reason we can’t go home again, visiting our humble roots, hoping to see something familiar that will make us smile.  We can’t ask time to stand still just so we can capture old memories.

Lest this become too somber, I will say that there were also several unique gifts woven into my visit.  Certainly seeing my parents is always one of those, but seeing a high school friend that I hadn’t connected with since the graduation pomp and circumstance was another one.  We went to church together and then out to lunch and caught up a bit on the path each of our lives have taken.  Oddly enough, gray hair didn’t change the smile that could just as easily have beamed from an 18 year old, as he and his wife sat opposite me.  It was so much fun to renew a friendship that helped us revisit scenes from the chapters of our school days.  It was a gold nugget experience; one that I will cherish always.

I also visited Coach Green who still lives in the home he has shared with his wife of 67 years.  His daughter and I had renewed our friendship several years back and we discovered that we had a mutual commitment to our faith.  Sadly, Judy passed away much too soon and so visiting her family had always been something I hoped to do.  Clearly, God knew that we could bless each other’s lives.  I left his home in perfect peace and joy. It’s interesting to note that Coach Green and my dad went to the same high school in New Jersey, and yet somehow ended up in Unadilla.  Life is funny like that!

I know I still have a few old friends back in my home town and I hope that little by little to have a chance to connect with each one of them again.  After all, it’s only in sharing our stories that we can each understand our heritage and the blessings that life has brought us.  I’m so glad I was able to walk those streets of Unadilla once again.  I thank God for giving me a home there.  It’s appropriate that its name means, “The Meeting Place.”  I hope to meet more old friends there every chance I get.  May the grace of God shine on each one of you!

Karen

Heart-Shaped Faith

April 20, 2017 in Inspirational

On May 1st, my new daily devotional called The Heart-Shaped Life releases into book stores.  I’m excited about this book, not only because it happens to be my 100th published work, but because one of my life’s desires is to be counted as a person who experiences life heart first.  It’s not an easy task and I recognize that as well as anybody, but with the help of God, it becomes a task worth pursuing.

As I look out at the world, the one that is way too big and out of control for me to feel at all effective, I realize that it may well be too big for me, but the One who started it all, has to rely on the little lights He has in the world to help make a difference.  He has to rely on you and me. As the world gets darker, we are more needed than ever.  Our hearts are soft and pliable because that’s the way God made us and He did so because He can use a soft heart to do His work.  He can’t do much with a hard heart. Your heart matters to Him. In Proverbs 4:23 we read that it is important to protect the heart because from it comes the wellspring of life or another translation says, guard your heart for everything else flows from it.

I come to you today to encourage you to throw your light around.  In fact, let your heart become so big and your faith become so much bigger that today you can do some of the biggest things you’ve ever done.  Is it possible? After all, you’re just one you…but one you fortified with a big, soft heart, can change the world. Please consider what you can do, wherever you are today to shine a light on others and share from a heart that is willingly and lovingly shaped by God’s hand.  You can make a difference. You DO make a difference!

Don’t be afraid!  Every time angels in the Bible appeared, they usually said something like, “Have no fear!”  My friends, you don’t need to have fear that the world is big and crazy.  You have a source of power like no other and it is BIG!  Reach out! Stand up! Love your neighbor as yourself and God will bless you.  A heart-shaped life is always driven by a heart-shaped faith, and your faith is a gift from God.  Put it on a lampstand and let it shine!

Sending you all big love today!