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Fabulous or Frustrating?

I was completely caught off guard, and the day is now forever etched in my brain.  Why did I literally wake up in tears and cry unannounced all day—the day I turned forty?  Emotionally, I was a wreck.  It was just another day, but I was totally unprepared.  Everything in my life was as wonderful as it could be, considering there were two teenage girls in our home.  Wait a minute; maybe that was it.  No, really, life was good, but that particular day for me was awful.

What is it about turning 40?  Looking back, the forties was a great decade for me!  Children graduated from high school and college and then got married.  My first grandchild was born.  Monumentally good things happened in my life.

I have learned that God gives us the power of choice.  “Then choose for yourselves this day” (Josh. 24:15).  The day you turn 40, you get to choose your attitude and reaction.  So what will it be?  Fabulous or Frustrating.  OMG Yea!  I’m 40! or OMG Oh no.  I’m 40.  Rejoicing or Regretting.  Thankful or Tearful.  Youthful or Yammering.  It all adds up to F.O.R.T.Y.

Are you nearing that intersection?  Which road will you choose for your day, your year, your decade?

In the Bible, whenever the “forty” milestone was reached, it was the brink of a new season.  Just over this horizon were many blessings.

“After forty days Noah opened a window he had made in the ark” (Gen. 8:6).  Then new life filled the earth!

“The Israelites had moved about in the wilderness forty years” before they entered “a land flowing with milk and honey” (Josh. 5:6).  Then they received all of God’s wonderful promises!

“For forty days the Philistine came forward every morning and evening and took his stand” (1 Sam. 17:16).  Then David entered the scene and killed the giant standing in his way!

Turn the page.  Begin this new chapter of your life with a Fabulous OMG!  Rejoicing Thankful Youthful expectation!

Happy birthday to my sweet daughter, Janet.  I love you.

 

The Press Release

The press release for “Mom, God’s Got This: Jamie’s Story” is finalized and now reaching over 4,000 points around the world. Why? Because Jamie’s story is so much bigger than Texas or the U.S. and needs to circle the globe. It will help young adults and those young at heart pursue God’s call with everything in them and discover and fulfill the purpose for which God created them. Is it a difficult read? Yes, it is. Highly emotional and deeply moving, filled with laughter and tears, “Mom, God’s Got This” will help readers understand, like never before, the amazing grace of God available to us, His unending faithfulness to His children, and the powerful truth of God’s Word that reaches to the highest heavens, and at the same time, the deepest core of our soul.

Often when we lose someone we love, extenuating circumstances surrounding that death increase the heaviness of the grief process exponentially. But God… He is our hope, comfort, and strength to move forward. We find those things and more in Him only. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

God is a healing God but often does not heal our loved ones on this earth. So what do we do with that reality? We keep the faith and love God regardless. We trust Him and remind ourselves that He always does the right thing for His glory. We may never understand the answers to our questions, but He always understands, and I can trust Him completely.

So here’s the press release:
Mom, God’s Got This: Jamie’s Story” is the creation of published author, Karen F. Norton, preacher, teacher, author, and speaker who is in love with the Lord and has an insatiable appetite for God’s Word.
“I froze between the half walls, shelves on my right and left. Small green dishes lined those shelves, free gifts retrieved from packages of oatmeal. I have one to this day on proud display in my dining room hutch; it reminds me of her every time I look at it. I glanced into the back bedroom to my right, looking at the watermark clouds on the ceiling. How many times had I looked up at that ceiling from the bed below, imagination rampant?”
Published by Christian Faith Publishing, Karen F. Norton’s new book is a testament to the value of faith and family as shown through the relationship and actions of a mother and daughter. Despite devoting their lives to God, the author’s daughter tragically passed away. After the author lost her daughter, life was difficult, but with the help of God, family, and those close to the author, life went on. After surviving this ordeal, the author felt others could learn from her experience and also find healing in God’s grace, faithfulness, and the truth of His Word.
View a synopsis of “Mom, God’s Got This: Jamie’s Story” on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k-CU2xApfQQ
Consumers can purchase “Mom, God’s Got This: Jamie’s Story” at traditional brick & mortar bookstores, or online at Amazon.com, Apple iTunes store, Kobo or Barnes and Noble.

True Story

True story: In a predominantly Islamic nation, one man sold books of which most were Islamic. One day, the police arrested him because one of the books in his inventory was the Holy Bible. He had no idea how it got there. Regardless, he spent several weeks in jail. He was determined now to read that book and discover for himself what all the hullabaloo was about. He read it and he believed.

“Don’t waste your time. It’s not worth the read.” Oh really? I’ll be the judge of that, I thought. “Have you read it?” I asked. “No, but I heard about it from a very reliable source.” That brief conversation made me want to read the book more than ever and form my own conclusion.

Nicodemus finally had enough of his Pharisee comrades trying to shove their opinions about this man Jesus down his throat. What was all this controversy swirling around Jesus? What was the truth about Him? He wanted to meet Jesus for himself and make up his own mind (John 3:1-21). He did and he believed (John 19:38-42).

It takes no effort to be lazy and take the word of family, friend or foe, when I should be the one searching out the Truth for myself. The Truth has a name, and it is Jesus, and He can be found in the pages of the Bible. Experience has taught me that I can trust God and His Word 100%. Everyone else in the world? Not so much.

Time in God’s Word is precious and time well spent. Meet Jesus in the pages of the Bible, for it is God’s true story – and believe. Psalm 119.

Gutsy

“I bet he doesn’t have guts enough to do that again!” I exclaim under my breath as love bugs pepper the windshield and front end of my clean white car. I fail to see anything loveable about love bugs. Yes, it’s that time of year again when East Texas is plagued with those pesky flying black gutless double-dots.

Let’s talk about guts for a moment. It’s not a pleasant topic, but guts are imperative to life. We refer to our belly, stomach, or abdomen as our guts. Everyone has them, but what about gutsy? What does that word mean? It means having a great deal of courage or nerve (probably more nerve than courage in my case), robust and vigorous. So, in this life, we need our fair share of gutsiness if we plan to leave our mark.

Jesus was gutsy when He turned over the tables of the money changers in the temple (John 2:15). He was gutsy when He called out the scribes and Pharisees for what they were (Matthew 23:17). He was gutsy when He told Peter to get behind Him (Mark 8:33) and when he held children in His lap (Mark 9:36). Jesus lived His entire life on earth submitted and obedient to His Heavenly Father and the words of the prophets. “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (John 13:15).

I recently joined the mentor team for Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) and am excited about this opportunity. One of this year’s themes is the freedom to be gutsy. I love it! I’ve been gutsy a few times in my life: the first time I jumped off the high dive at Lake Tejas, when riding roller coasters, zipping along on a zip line, and flying to China all by myself. But the gutsiest thing I’ve ever done is write a book about my daughter’s life and death. That took more guts than I could muster, but God supplied what I needed to complete the task He gave me. He always does.

Here’s one caution before plunging into a gutsy endeavor: Be gutsy in obedience to Christ and not gutsy to stupidity. I’m no dare-devil; I contemplate excessively before I go gutsy. Sure we will make mistakes in our gutsiness, and that’s OK. We will learn from it and live gutsy again. I refuse to live opposite gutsy and be a doormat. It also helps to have an awesome husband who allows, tolerates, and encourages my gutsiness.

What are you thinking about doing that is gutsy? Peter said of Jesus, “You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). So read God’s Word and know what He says about it and then run with it. Live gutsy!

What More Could I Have Done?

He sat quietly and inconspicuously, observing people walk to the front of church and place their offerings into the chest. Several worshippers carried heavy bags of gold coins, held visibly for all to see and echoing loudly as they were dropped on top of the gifts of others.

Then He noticed her. His gaze fastened to her bent frame, her eyes down, soft tears streaking her face, her hand in a tight fist. He knew. He knew what she carried—two small coins—all she had to live on. He saw her heart of devotion and obedience to His Father (Mark 12:41-44).

Did Jesus, in that split second of time, have a “flash-forward” moment and see Himself on the cross giving His life’s blood for the sins of the whole world? He knew the day would soon arrive when He would give everything He had to give. At the same time, God His Father, would give His all, His best, in giving His Son.

“…because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (Is. 53:12). He bore my sin on that cross. He bore your sin. The price has been paid.

I am powerless to clean myself or get rid of my guilt and shame (Jer. 2:22). I cannot save myself. I need a Savior, and His name is Jesus Christ, the living Son of the living God.

“What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it?” (Is. 5:4). Nothing. He is waiting on us. Run into His outstretched arms today. He loves you. He will save, cleanse, comfort, and heal your wounds today (Matt. 23:37).

Back in the Day

“Back in the day, we sang from hymnals in church, and everybody wore their Sunday morning best to church. Anybody and everybody could sing in the choir, and we didn’t have all those high-falootin big screens and text-to-give nonsense. Yep, God moved back in the day. And candy bars were a nickel, too. Those were the good old days.”

If you’ve lived long enough, you have a “back in the day” when things were done differently. The Pharisees lived every day stuck in their “back in the day”, and most missed the new life Jesus introduced. “The Pharisees said to him, ‘Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?’” They accused Jesus of forsaking the Jewish “back in the day” tradition. Yet Jesus desired to give them a new day so much better than they had ever known.

We think we know how church should be today—up to our specifications—the way it used to be. Look around you. Young families are flooding through our church doors. People are giving their hearts and lives to Jesus. Lives and futures are made new every day by God’s power. Yes, growing churches look much differently today than they did twenty-five or fifty years ago. And that’s a good thing! Don’t sit in church with a judgmental scowl on your face. Don’t miss what God is doing today and what He desires to do in your life. Join the living!

In a few years, should the Lord tarry His second coming to earth, today will be the “back in the day” for our young people.

“Father, forgive me for all my wrong thinking and speaking. I want to move into the middle of the activity of God in my church and in our world today. I trust you, Lord, and I thank you.”

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV).

“This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24 KJV).

Totaled!

There I was, driving home from an out-of-town trip, minding my own business, when all of a sudden, I topped a hill and there it was in the middle of my lane! I had nowhere to go while driving 60 MPH in the outside lane with no shoulder and no choice but to nail it dead center! And that’s what I did! As I gripped the wheel my precious, sweet, little Elantra jerked as it rolled over that heavy chunk of metal whatever-it-was. I knew there had to be damage underneath; I just didn’t know how much.

“God, just take care of me and my little car. Help me get to a safe place. Help me, Lord.” One second later and over the next hill was a log truck stopped in my lane, and the driver was exiting the cab. My conclusion? Something important to the function of that log truck fell off, disabling the log truck. My little Elantra and I just happened to be the next vehicle in line. I missed the log truck; I was traveling much slower now.

Same prayer as above repeated many times over the next few minutes until my baby on four wheels died while I coasted into the parking lot of a small business.

That piece of metal took out the radiator, transmission, motor, bent the frame, and busted a hole in my floor exposing carpet from underneath. It almost became a front seat passenger! God watched over me the whole time. Thank you, Lord.

Totaled! My sweet little car still looked beautiful on the outside with not even a scratch. But underneath was an entirely different story.

How often do people look so gorgeous, all together, every hair in place, nothing to indicate anything less than complete perfection on the outside. But underneath is an entirely different story. Brokenness, pain and loss; damaged, bent and busted; beyond repair. However, there is hope. A new beginning is possible. And it only comes through Jesus Christ.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV).

I have a new car!

Don’t Farkle. Sparkle!

Gene and I got together with a few friends recently for a fish fry dinner and a game. Anthony can catch ‘em, and he knows how to cook ‘em! His friends know how to eat ‘em! Afterwards, with full bellies we proceeded to clear off the table and play a round of Farkle.

Farkle is a game of chance played with six dice (forgive me, Lord), where the rules are simple and the object is clear: Be the first one to reach a score of 10,000 points and try not to farkle! It happens when a player takes a chance and rolls for more points, and it backfires. Farkle! Lots of laughter and ribbing follows!

Rick was having a good night. He was taking chances, rolling the dice, and racking up the points. “Okay, Rick, it’s your turn. Now farkle!” His reply? “I don’t farkle. I sparkle!” I love it! He went on to win the game.

As a child, sparklers were my personal favorite at our July 4th and New Year’s Day celebrations. A sparkler can split the darkest night with its bright moving points of light. I had to be careful though and make sure I lit another sparkler before mine went out.

Here’s my thought: Don’t take a chance on your salvation. Know you’re saved and on your way to heaven, and then share your light with others. One sparkler lights another, then another, then another. Don’t farkle. Sparkle!

Surely there are fish fries, fun, and laughter with friends new and old in heaven!

“Arise, shine, for your light has come” (Isaiah 60:1).
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5).
“Let your light shine before others” (Matthew 5:16).
“Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever” (Daniel 12:3).

Checked Out

I want to talk about being “checked out” today. By that, I don’t mean the check-out line at Walmart. And I’m not inferring how boy checks out girl, or girl checks out boy, or girl checks out other girl’s shoes. Actually, if truth be known, we are always mentally “checking out” everyone we come in contact with every day. None of that.

Think about this. Was there ever a time when you were present in body in a classroom but absent in brain? Of course! We’ve all had those moments! What about present in church, physically sitting on a pew or chair, but miles away in thought or dreams. Be honest.

Where am I going with this? Here it is. More important than being physically present when I read the Bible, can God put a “P” for present beside my brain, heart, and spirit when I open His Book?

So how should I approach God’s Word? Empty. If I really desire to hear and learn more about God, His character, who He is, who I am, and what He wants me to do, I must approach Him empty of self. I can be so full of me that there is no more room for Him! This is not a good place to be for it will stifle my spiritual growth.

What’s the answer? Get rid of the mental and spiritual junk. Do this exercise with me. Stand up. Place an imaginary empty box on the floor beside you. Remove all the unwanted space hogs from your everything but physical self, such as preconceived beliefs, judgments, conclusions, and let’s save the worst for last—disobedience and sin. Put an imaginary lid on that box. Now kick it into oblivion!

That done, you and I are now ready to sit at Jesus’ feet, look into His face, and receive His love and precious truth for our lives. We sit quietly, repentant, humbled, and needy. We can hear Him clearly now because the clutter is gone. We are intently focused on Him. We learn and grow in our walk with Jesus.

My prayer: “Show me, Lord, what I don’t see and teach me what I don’t know.”

“But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults” (Psalm 19:12).
“Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law” (Psalm 119:18).
“Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground” (Psalm 143:10).

Are You an Anyone?

I’m an anyone. The Bible mentions me in King Solomon’s prayer of dedication for the temple. “…when an enemy besieges them in any of their cities, whatever disaster or disease may come, and when a prayer or plea is made by anyone among your people…being aware of the afflictions of their own hearts…then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Forgive and act” (1 Kings 8:37-39 and 2 Chron. 6:28-30 NIV).

If there was ever a time when we need many “anyones” to pray for our nation, it is now. I think it is safe to assume that you are an anyone. Therefore, both of us have a crucial part to play in the salvation of our nation. Must America suffer a major catastrophe for the “anyones” to fervently pray? We must pray for America now.

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Heb. 11:6).