by Audrey on June 28th, 2014

June 28, 2014  ~ My 34th Wedding Anniversary

Not too long ago, I was in waiting room and on the coffee table was an issue of Brides magazine. Seemed fitting for me since my anniversary was quickly approaching.  I picked it up and began to flip through it ~ admiring the beautiful dresses, the beautiful veils, the beautiful hairstyles, and of course the beautiful brides.

The ads were beautiful too.  But I was drawn in by one in particular that stated:

Marrying the Wedding of Your Dreams . . .

Wow.   Did I read that correctly?  I looked again.  Yes, that's what it said.

Not the man . . . but the wedding.

And it hit me.  For so many young women, it's all about the wedding.  All about the bride.

Now, that's not bad - it is such a special day.  And it's natural and right for a young woman's heart to want to be beautiful on her wedding day.  And so she should.

But goodness - a great marriage is not about a great wedding.  It's not about a great event.  A woman may have a fantastic event planner who can guarantee a great event - but he/she can't guarantee a great marriage.  Great marriages are built.  The wedding is just a doorway.

And of course, we all know that a bride doesn't marry her wedding.  Even the the one who created and designed the ad knows that.

A bride marries her man.  And her man is not supposed to be just a prop - or an accessory to HER big day.

It's not just her day.  It's his day too.  It's their parents' day as they give away their daughter, as they've prepared their son.  Most importantly, it's God's day.  At least it's supposed to be.  For believers, it is supposed to be a sacred worship service.  Somehow we've lost that in the planning of an event.

Weddings were "thought up," if you will, in the heart of God.   He is the One who performed the first wedding ceremony and at that time, no one was registering for gifts or shopping for wedding dresses.

Nope.  It was just Adam and Eve and God.  And they were making a serious covenant to each other - and to God.

And their wedding?  It was gorgeous. She was a beautiful bride. We know what Adam thought of his bride when he saw her for the first time. Just read Genesis 2.  That first groom was expressive!  And we know how God decorated the venue - with onyx stone and gold and four rivers and beautiful trees and flowers.

And we also know what Jesus said about marriage:

"Have you not read, that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female and said, 'For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh?'  Consequently they are no longer two, but one flesh.  What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate."

Marriage is a holy covenant.  We don't just say "I do,"  we say "I will."

Love is not some floaty emotion.  It is built on a covenant.  And it grows with time.  It is a commitment to love, not a feeling.

When Carl and I got married back in June of 1980, we chose a song to be sung at our wedding with these lyrics:

I could never promise you on just my strength alone

That all my life I'd care for you, and love you as my own

I've never known the future, I only see today 

Words that last a lifetime would be more than I could say

But the love inside my heart today is more than mine alone

It never changes, never fails, never seeks its own

And by the God who gives it, and who lives in me and you

I know the words I speak today are words I'm going to do

And so I stand before you now for all to hear and see

And promise you in Jesus' name the love He's given me

And through the years on earth and as eternity goes by

The life and love He's given us are never going to die.

We loved that the words acknowledged the fact that on our own, we could never love each other the way God intended.  We loved how the song acknowledged a complete dependence upon God to hold a marriage together.

We will have been married 34 years on June 28.

Our marriage is not perfect but it is great.  It's not perfect because neither one of us is perfect.  That pesky sin in our lives keeps us from having a perfect marriage.  We've had struggles, very difficult times . . . we are sinners and we live in a sinful world.

Over the years I have pouted way too much.  I have been moody and argumentative at times.  I have not always respected my husband the way I should have.  I have not always loved him the way God requires.

But I want to.  I am growing.  I am maturing.  And I know that as long as both Carl and I grow in our relationships with God - our marriage will be strong.  I always tell young women to care more about a guy's heart for God than his looks (or whatever else she thinks is so important).

All these years later, if Carl and I were having a renewing-our-vows ceremony, there's a song by Brooks and Dunn that I love.  I'd ask Carl to sing it but I don't know - don't think he'd do it.  Don't think he knows it.    I used to have it as a ringtone on my phone for my husband's calls to me but changed phones and well, you know how that goes.  The lyrics go like this:

I dropped to my knees in that field on your daddy's farm.
Asked you to marry me, all I had to give was my heart.
While other kids went diving into swimming holes,
You and me dove off into the great unknown.
We were barely gettin' by, takin' care of each other.
Then I became a daddy; you became a mother.
Was an uphill battle nearly every day,
Lookin' back I wouldn't have it any other way.

I'm proud of the house we built.
It's stronger than sticks, stones, and steel.
It's not a big place sittin' up high on some hill.
A lot of things will come and go but love never will.
Oh, I'm proud.
I'm proud of the house we built.

Still workin' our way through the land of milk and honey.
At the end of the day there's always more bills than money.
I close my eyes at night and I still feel
The same fire in my heart I felt out in that field.

I'm proud of the house we built.
It's stronger than sticks, stones, and steel.
It's not a big place sittin' up high on some hill.
A lot of things will come and go but love never will.
Oh, I'm proud.
I'm proud of the house we built.

Oh, look at us today.
Oh, we've come such a long long way.

I'm proud of the house we built.
It's stronger than sticks, stones, and steel.
It's not a big place sittin' up high on some hill.
A lot of things will come and go but love never will.
Oh, I'm proud.
I'm proud of the house we built.

I'd change a few of the lyrics though.  Carl dropped to his knees in the parlor of my dorm.  

And I know I'd say "I'm proud of the house God built."  

See, God has been the One Who has kept us together.  I married a man whose love for God was bigger than his love for me. My husband married me ~ a woman whose love for God was bigger than my love for him.  A wedding doesn't build a marriage - God does.

And because of His building - we've come such a long long way.  

Unless the Lord builds the house, we labor in vain .......

by Audrey on June 20th, 2014

It's coming up.  My wedding anniversary.  

I've been married nearly 34 years. I declare I am just not old enough to have been married so long.

When I think about my husband,  I am often reminded of the reasons I married him.

Like most young women, I had a mental list of what I wanted in a husband . . .

On my list for husband were things like this: he would be taller than I was, he would be rugged, and he would definitely be handsome. He would love to laugh and I, of course, would be the center of his world. He would look into my eyes and tell me that I was the most beautiful thing in the world. He would work hard to provide a living for our family of at least six children. He must love children. And he would definitely be southern.

Growing up in the South, I never thought I would marry a boy from anywhere else.  For me, however, it wasn’t just a southern thing – it was a Carolina thing. North Carolina – where I came of age or South Carolina - where I was born.

Well, I remember the first time I saw the boy who would become my husband.  I was a student at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. It was my junior year. I was very involved in the ministry of Cru (though then it was called Campus Crusade for Christ) and some of my friends and I went over to a sorority house one Sunday evening for College Life. College Life was a meeting filled with singing, skits, a testimony or two and a message to share the gospel with the students who came. On this particular night, a tall, lanky, dark-haired boy dressed in very non-preppy clothes got up to share his testimony. He opened his mouth and spoke in what sounded like a foreign language to me and to most of my friends. He said in a distinct New England accent something like, “My name is Carl Broggi and I grew up in Worcester, Massachusetts.”

Everyone laughed, including me. Who was this guy? Worcester? How do you pronounce that? (Just so you know, it’s pronounced “Wista.”) Please understand, we weren’t laughing at the content of what he said – just the way he said it. He didn’t say y’all and hey.

Sometime later, I heard that he was the new staff guy on campus who had raised his support very fast. I also heard that he shared the gospel constantly and students were praying to receive Christ with him all the time. I heard him teach a few times at our Crusade meetings and learned so much. That’s about all I remember about him that year.

At the time, I was not remotely interested in him - mainly because of, well, a lot of reasons. My senior year, however, I found myself back at Carolina ready to share my faith with students, lead a Bible study on my hall, finish my studies, get my degree, and prepare for the mission field. 

I dated some but I was focused.  And I was ready for God to use me with no strings attached. I thought I was ready before but I was really ready now. It was at the first Campus Crusade leadership meeting where I had a conversation with the new staff guy – Carl Broggi. He asked me about my summer and my previous relationship. I told him about both. I also told him about my plans for missions.

Not long after that, after another Crusade meeting, I headed over to the local ice cream shop with a group of friends. Carl was one of the guys with us. Standing in line, he asked me if I would like to go to dinner with him on Friday evening.

I was a bit surprised but after thinking for just a moment, I agreed. I was not interested in him the least little bit – after all, he was not a southerner, not a Carolina boy, didn't dress very well in my opinion, not a student, and he drove a Volkswagen bug. Not exactly a cool car. But he loved the Lord and I thought I could learn a lot from him.  And to be perfectly frank, I had no idea that he was really interested in me. He might have been thinking, “She’s not a northerner, she is too fashion-conscious, she’s a student, and she drives her daddy's Buick.” Well, anyway – at the time, he seemed too godly to be seeing a girl as anything but a sister in Christ.  I had a lot to learn.

But just to make sure he wouldn’t think this was a “real date” or anything, I offered to pay for myself that night. I don’t do that anymore.

When it became evident to me that he was interested in me as more than just a sister in Christ, I’m not sure. But at some point, I knew. And I was very uncomfortable with it. So uncomfortable that I told my friend Cathy I didn’t like it.

I thought she would empathize but instead she quipped, “Well, what’s wrong with Carl?”

Nothing was wrong with him. In fact, there was so much right with him. But I still didn’t like his interest in me. Really – I just wasn't and I told her all the reasons he was not for me.   As I spoke those reasons outloud, everything I said seemed stupid. And I knew those reasons were stupid. Especially since I thought I was maturing as a believer. 

Not too long after this, I was making a trip to my parents' new home.  They had moved the previous summer while I was away on a missions project and I had never made the drive from Chapel Hill.  I asked a couple of different friends to come with me but they couldn't so I thought about Carl.  Would he like to come?  He did.  

My mother really liked him though she did ask, "Audrey, who is this man you've brought with you?"  I still think it's funny when I think of her question.

Yes, Carl was a nice person. Yes, I liked him as a nice person. But that was it.

As time passed, I grew to really like Carl. He was funny, yet he was serious. He was tall. He loved the Lord. It was difficult not to be impressed with his knowledge of the Bible and his love for God’s Word. He was 23 years old and had only been a believer five years but he had a zeal for the Lord unlike any I had ever seen in a young man. His heart seemed to beat to share the gospel with people - any person. It was like he was in debt – and the only way to be released of the debt was to deliver the gospel. He had fervor, still does, to make Christ known to anyone who would listen. He possessed a boldness to keep right on teaching and preaching Jesus no matter what.

I didn’t have this boldness even though I had been a Christian since childhood.

I had so much respect for this Carl Broggi. I was impressed but I was not in love. It wouldn't be long, however, before I learned respect is the foundation for real love.

I could tell Carl loved me. And by Thanksgiving, heasked me to marry him. I said yes. I’m not even sure why I said yes other than somehow I knew he was God’s choice for me. We began planning a June wedding – to take place after I finished my classes and internship and before staff training in Colorado.

He talked to my dad. I met his family. He kept working at his job as I was finishing my degree.

Sometime in the spring, I was walking across campus back to my dorm after my last class. I had to go through what we called the “Pit” – it was an outdoor brick courtyard between the Student Union and the Bookstore.

As I was approaching the Pit – I could tell a crowd had gathered, as it often did – and I could hear someone preaching. I could also hear jeers and hecklers.

As I got closer I could tell that it was a traveling campus preacher – one who had been at Carolina before and one whom so many students hated. Then I heard a voice change – almost as if someone was handing off a baton. And this voice was familiar. In fact, too familiar. I soon realized that Carl had stepped in to help the preacher and he was preaching Christ with the boldness and compassion that I had only read about in the book of Acts. As the issue of Christ took center stage, the jeers and the heckling increased. It didn’t seem to bother Carl.

I stayed back, near the wall – embarrassed – I just wanted to slither into the bookstore unnoticed. Then some girl I barely knew said to me, “Isn’t that your fiancé?”

“Um . . . well...” and I ducked away. Inside the bookstore, someone else I barely knew came up to me and said something like, “Why aren’t you out there? Isn’t he your fiancé?”

I am so ashamed to say it – but I just wanted to get away. Though I had been bought with the blood of the One they were preaching – I didn’t want to be identified with them. So, instead of standing there praying for the preacher, for Carl, and for the students who so desperately needed Jesus Christ, I slithered my way back to my dorm and all I could think of was how Peter denied Jesus.

Carl and I never discussed it.

Then, a few months later on June 28, 1980 Carl and I walked the aisle and said our vows before God and man. I became Mrs. Carl Broggi.

Well, it’s been nearly thirty-four years, five children, two daughters-in-law, one son-in-law, and nine and a half grandchildren since then. I am still impressed by this man and I know what real love is. It’s not the stuff that Hollywood offers and it’s different from what I thought love was in my pre-Carl days. It’s deep. It’s not about being northern or southern, dressing preppy, or driving a cool car.

A few years ago, I was reminded of all the reasons I was impressed by and grew to love this man. We were in Vienna, Austria on our way home from one of our Ukraine mission trips. We had a day in the city and wanted to see as much as we could. Our hotel was near an open market area where we found ourselves taking in the cathedrals, parks, and even an Austrian public school. There were all sorts of ‘artisans’ in the square, including two mimes. One was dressed as an angel, standing on a pedestal. The other was dressed like the grim reaper. Seizing the opportunity, my husband stood beside the angel and using them as props began preaching the gospel.

It was like he was part of their act. Or, I should say they were part of his act. At first, I thought, what is he doing? Then my mind flashed to Carolina’s pit and Carl’s preaching. For half a second, I thought about ducking into a nearby bookstore. But I didn’t - I knew God was giving me a fresh opportunity to stand my man and be identified with him.

See, years before in Carolina’s pit, I had slithered away. Well, in Austria’s pit, I was not going to slither away. In fact, I got out my camera and took some pictures. I felt like saying, “That’s my husband! Listen to him – he’s got a message for you that you don’t want to miss.” I told our children, “Be proud of your dad – pray for him – and pray for those who listen.”

A crowd gathered – some laughing, some standing, and some pausing before they turned away. But some were listening. Out of the some who were listening emerged four teenage boys. When Carl finished preaching, these boys approached him and began asking all kinds of questions about the gospel.

I was in awe of this man – who was tired from preaching and teaching non-stop in Ukraine. This man who had been sick with a stomach virus the entire time kept giving out the gospel and answering people’s questions. He was amazing.

Still is. And let me tell you, this wasn’t an isolated incident. This is how he lives his life. Always ready to share the message of salvation. This man I married bleeds the gospel of Christ. He lives to share the gospel with anyone, and I mean anyone who will listen.  In all these years, he’s never wavered.

Other reasons I love and respect this man? He is faithful. He is gracious. He is business-like. He doesn't return evil for evil. When slandered, he perseveres. And I, who know him better than anyone, who has lived with him for nearly thirty-four years, who knows all his flaws - I am still impressed and I am more in love today than I was when God opened up my heart to him. The world can’t touch the love that God gives, deepens, and grows.

I’ve been to lots of weddings over the years. I am always reminded that the ceremony is just a doorway into a lifelong marriage. I am reminded that the real beauty is not the wedding itself – as important as that is – the real beauty is the covenant kept. A wedding is a sacred trust and a picture of Christ and His bride. A marriage is really about God. Our wedding invitation so long ago declared, “God has called the two of us to be one flesh, united in Him, to reflect the image of His Son.” That’s what it’s all about. Reflecting Him.

Now - about that mental list of a future husband? Well, Carl is taller than I am (lots), he's definitely rugged (you should see him under the hood of a car or working in the yard) and handsome. He loves to laugh - loudly. From time to time (though he’s not given to overdoing it), He looks into my eyes and tells me that I am the most beautiful thing in the world. He works hard and we are content. He makes a living that has always provided for our five children and me. He does love our children and I guess now, after all these years in the South, he is definitely southern. But . . . I am not the center of his world. That place belongs to God and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

I am thankful today that God, in His sovereignty, brought Carl to North Carolina all those years ago. Who, but God, would have ever placed a Boston College graduate from Massachusetts on a Carolina campus? Hey, I guess I really did marry a Carolina boy after all.

​Part 2 coming soon ... all these years later ....

by Audrey on June 18th, 2014

I hosted a homeschooling conference for moms back in 1998.  I hosted another one this past Saturday, June 14th, 2014.   The following article is one I wrote for the appendix section in the notebooks I gave out at the first event and I shared them again last Saturday.  I told the women I’d make them available.  I know not everyone home schools - but since we did, I get asked about it a lot.  I didn't do everything right.  I sometimes felt like a failure.  I sometimes took my eyes off Jesus - but He always brought my vision back into focus.  He helped me.  He worked through me.  My children are so much better than I will ever hope to be.  My prayer is that these thoughts will encourage you whether you homeschool or not.   I called this article "Homeschooling Stumbling Blocks."  All these years later, I still stand by them.
Homeschooling Stumbling Blocks
·          Not seeking the Lord about His will for your family
·          Borrowing someone else’s convictions

·          Expecting your first year to go as smoothly as those who have been at it a while
·          Homeschooling without husband’s support and encouragement
·          Disorganization or unwillingness to plan and organize your days
·          Undisciplined kids
·          Comparing yourself unfairly to others
·          Floating from one curriculum to another – never settling in
·          Failure to develop your own educational philosophy -why you do what you do
·          Failure to connect with other moms for support and encouragement
·          Failure to give your children the time they need

·          Not having a proper balance of work/academics/ministry.  Successful homeschooling will incorporate all three.
·          Not being an integral part of a local church -- God instituted the church.  I think it is tragic when homeschoolers become isolated and form their own homeschooling churches.  Instead of coming under the leadership of a Bible-teaching church and using their gifts to build up the body, they gather in what they call “house churches.”  Most of this is totally unbiblical.  I would encourage you to get involved in a good local church, commit yourselves to serving there and watch God bless  your family.  Your family needs to be fragrant aroma -- not a divisive spirit.  And your children need to see and be a part of your active role in the local church that God appointed.  If you have a legitimate concern about the direction of your church or ministries that you personally don’t take part in, go to your leaders in humility -- pray for your leaders -- but don’t be a gossip and a tale-bearer and complainer!  If your church is straying from the truth of God’s Word, then that is another issue.  You should find another church (or perhaps start one -- open to all) just like everyone else, homeschooling or not.  But if your church has godly leadership you need to be a support and help just like all the saints Paul mentions by name in the New Testament who “supported the work of the Lord.”  He also mentions “brothers and sisters” who were troublemakers.  Let your children see your biblical involvement in Christ’s body.  This is another part of explaining to your children the “Joshua 4” principle.  And that’s leads up to the next stumbling block:

·          A divisive/critical spirit
·          An air of superiority concerning certain types of curriculum.  God is very creative and He leads people to use different things.  One style or one type is not necessarily better than another.  We are to encourage one another; not become prideful over curriculum choices -- that’s silly!!  As you begin to homeschool, you’ll hear lots of terms like “living books”  (Charlotte Mason coined the phrase).  In it simplest form,  it just means is that you are exposing your children to biographies and accounts of the events and people of history as opposed to just reading a segmented portion in a textbook.  Many homeschoolers are opposed to textbooks altogether, but I feel that approach is like throwing the baby out with the bath water.  Textbooks can be a launching pad, a springboard, to get you started.  In a textbook, someone has taken the time to organize the defining moments and people of history, science, literature and I find textbooks to be very helpful.  Remember, any curriculum will work if you are  excited about it and get into your child’s life.  If textbooks are all you have, use  them to your advantage and visit the library.  Don’t feel like you are less of a real homeschooler because you aren’t crafting your own curriculum from scratch.  Personally, I've been very very grateful for those who have developed wonderful educational materials.  However,  you still have to be discerning - and not chase after the "latest, greatest."  Keep it simple. 

·          Becoming so serious that you’re no fun!!
·          Relying too much on learning modalities or personality profiles -- while these can be helpful -- my own personal opinion is that too often they become a distraction.  Walk with God.  Grow in the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Just get to know your kids.  Spend time with them.  You’ll do fine.  God’s Word says nothing about learning styles, modalities, or personality profiles.  But He says everything about the fruit of the Spirit and becoming like Jesus.
·          Making law out of things that God does not specifically address:  homeschoolers do this a lot concerning food choices, clothing choices (I’m not talking about modesty here), make-up, courtship/dating, breastfeeding, home births, baking bread (for goodness sake!), music, group activities among teens, age segregation (our families do not have to be together at all times -- this is an extreme).  Most of the time it is a reaction to the fragmented culture we live in.  We are not to run to  extremes; we are to be sober-minded and weigh our decisions based on God’s Word.

·          Arrogance toward those who do not homeschool
·          Crowding life with activities that don’t fit with God’s purpose
·          Exclusive relationships -- an attitude of being better than others
·          Judging other people’s children
·          Being so consumed with “doing school,” there’s no joy. Love life!  Live life with your children and learn along the way - even when not at the books.  
·          Saying no to ministry opportunities without thinking them through

·          Unrealistic expectations -- there is a difference between living a life of expectancy and placing unrealistic expectations on yourself and others.  If I don’t expect my husband to meet all my needs, then I won’t be disappointed when he can’t.  If I don’t expect my house to look like House Beautiful, then I won’t be disappointed when it doesn’t; If I don’t expect my children to be perfect, then I won’t be disappointed when they’re not.  The most unhappy people are those who live with unrealistic expectations.  But the most content are those who live with a sense of expectancy about what God wants to do and can do in their lives.  That’s called faith.  And without faith, it is impossible to please God.  If I expect interruptions, messes, bad hair days, feeling tired, growing old, dirty floors, noise, then I have a lot better chance of living happily.  Abraham Lincoln once said, “Most people are just about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”    The Bible calls it contentment.  “Godliness with contentment is great gain.”
·          Lack of prayer and dependence on the Lord is probably the biggest stumbling block for both those new to homeschooling and those who have been at it a long time.  We must depend on God for our daily bread.  Yes we plan, organize and schedule our days and years but God directs our steps -- one baby step at a time.

So that was my article.  And now, all of my children have graduated from our home and my last child will graduate from college in December.  And I'm so grateful to our Lord for His grace and His help.  He helps us in our weaknesses.  He really does.

by Audrey on May 17th, 2014

I never knew when I made a quick decision to bring the basket home with me . . .
I had spoken at a women's retreat in New England and the women were so gracious to give this basket to me filled - with all kinds of wonderful things.

A card, some specialty pralines and chocolates, a little stuffed bear, a Yankee candle, and soap.

When I was packing,  I took all the items out of the basket and put them in my suitcase.  I was hoping to wedge the basket in as well.

But it was awkward.  I tried to maneuver it, I rearranged . . . but I finally realized it was no use.  

The basket would be crushed - just no room.  I put in on the desk, thinking I would leave it with a note for the housekeeper.
But as I was heading toward the door, I looked back and thought about my grandchildren.  I thought about all the crafts I do with them and all the pecans that we pick up together in the fall and all the nature walks and wild crazy things.  I use baskets!  Baskets can make clutter disappear.   So I made a quick decision - I would bring the basket home.  Just carry it with me on the airplane.

When the shuttle-man came to pick me up from the hotel, the first thing he noticed was the basket. He commented, "That's a nice little basket. Left over from Easter?"

I smiled.  Well, no, I told him.

As he lifted my suitcase into the back of the shuttle, he added, "Oh, I guess you just like it."

Yes, I guess I just do.
Shuttle drivers are ready for conversation so he followed up with another question, "Where'd you get it? Must be special for you to carry it on your trip."

I told him that it was given to me by a group of women at a retreat.  I told him how it was filled with things but all those things were now in my suitcase (besides the chocolates and pralines - yes, I ate them) and he finished my story, “And you just couldn’t get the basket in and you didn’t want to leave it.”
Yes. The next question, "What kind of retreat was it?”

And so I told him.  I told him about how I taught the Bible to a group of women and then I began to ask him about his faith. He shared a little bit about his upbringing and how he had been at his church all day “yesterday,” so I asked him what he believed about Christ.  I listened, then I assured him that salvation was because of the blood of Christ and not the works we do.  "The Bible teaches we can't earn our way to heaven."  

We pulled up to the curb and as he got my bag from the back, he said, “I'm so glad I had the chance to meet you today - you have a nice flight.”
I checked in my bag, then walked through security carrying the basket. The TSA agent commented, “Are you traveling with a child today? I see you have an Easter basket.” 

I said, “No, not today.” 
“So you’re traveling alone?” 
I smiled.  “Actually, I’m not alone. God is traveling with me.”  

I know what you might be thinking.  Kind of weird to say that - but those words just kind of tumbled out.  See,  I'm actually a big baby and so I remind myself often that I'm never alone - God is always with me.  In fact, back at the retreat, one of the women had asked me if it was hard for me to travel alone - to a place I've never been and to be with women I've never met.  And yes, it is.  At least for me.  Because I am a baby.  A big one.

So, after I made my weird comment to the TSA agent, she looked me right in the eye and thanked me for reminding her that she is not alone.

Then she added, “Best words I've heard all day.  You made my day! You really did.”  I realized it wasn't a weird comment.  It was a refreshing one.

As I boarded the first flight of the day, the flight attendant said "Nice basket. Left over from Easter?"
I had to keep moving toward my seat, so I just turned to her, smiled and told her it was a gift. When I got to my seat I put the basket in the overhead bin and kind of forgot about it.

As I was standing in the line waiting to board my next flight, there were two women who were close in line to me.
One was quite a bit older than I and she said  "Nice basket. Left over from Easter?" And she kind of laughed.  I did too as I remembered the shuttle-man.
The basket. Part of my life now.   
"No, it was a gift," I was getting used to this.
She asked some follow-up questions and I began to tell her the same things I told shuttle-man.
At this point the other woman who was next to me asked, "What kind of retreat? Were you the speaker?"
I said yes, I was and it was women's retreat where I taught the Bible.
She followed up, “What did you teach?”
We were now moving down the jetway, which was very crowded, but we continued in our conversation as she asked questions. 
I told her I taught three sessions and the first two were from the book Colossians, chapter 2 - the first 12 verses.
She then asked me about Colossians - where was that in the Bible?  She was familiar with the Old Testament and some with the New Testament but she didn't know Colossians. What’s in Colossians?  What did you teach?

I told her the purpose of the book, why the Apostle Paul had written it, and shared with her a little bit of what I had taught in the first two sessions.
Then she said, "That's a lot of theological stuff.  What did you do in the last session?" 
Wow again.

I couldn't believe she was asking me these types of questions though I shouldn't have been.  I had prayed in the morning that God would give me an opportunity to talk about Him to someone I might meet in the airport today.  Imagine Him answering my prayer.

I had hoped to talk about Him with the young couple I sat next to on the first flight - but the wife got sick and was throwing up the entire flight ... 
But now, I had a woman pulling God out of me - I didn't have to start the conversation - the basket made it so easy.  

I  shared the hope of the gospel and why Christ came and what His death and resurrection mean and how He urges in that particular letter for Christians to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel and how  believers are to apply that "theological stuff" in our lives.
As I kept talking,  I realized that those around us stopped talking.  They were listening. 
Then, as she continued to ask and as I continued to answer - she asked a question that led to our discussing hostility toward Christianity.
And before either my new friend or I could finish another sentence, the older woman who had originally asked me about the basket, jumped in and blurted out, "Well, it's not that people are hostile towards Christianity on their own - it's because all those right-wingers have made them that way. They are the hostile ones and everybody else is responding to that."

I didn't want to go there - well, actually I did -  but I sensed the Lord wanted me to stay focused. And I sensed that comment was a fiery dart aimed at me to go down a wrong trail.

My desire was to continue the conversation with my new friend but as we kept slowly moving through the jetway, the older woman just kept talking and dominating until … she decided to take a seat near the front of the plane.   “Have a good trip!”

I turned to my friend and asked, “Would you like to sit together?”
She did  -
It was so obvious that God's hand was behind this encounter.  Two women, very different lives, going and doing very different things.
Yet God, behind the scenes, orchestrated to put us together.  
He had something to accomplish.  Truth to be shared.  Hearts to be encouraged.

The conversation that followed was personal and I have no idea if my new friend will end up reading this post, but I was so encouraged.  I knew this was the person I had prayed for that morning.  She told me that she was so very thankful she had met me.  And I am so thankful I met her.
After I arrived in Charleston, I picked up my car and headed home.  I thought about Colossians 4:2-6. 
"Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving;  praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned;  that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak.  Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person."
The Basket.  It was my door for the word.  

by Audrey on May 1st, 2014

When I get ready for a run these days, most of the time I look for a sermon based on its length, not necessarily its topic or book of the Bible.  If I want to run for an hour, I search for an hour-long sermon – if it’s a short run day, I choose a forty-minute sermon.
Because I listen to great men of God, I don’t have to worry about the depth or clarity of the message.  I don't have to wonder if they will twist the truth or just tell me what will make me feel good.  I don't have to wonder whether they are holding fast the faithful word (Titus 1:9).  I listen to tested men, men who have been and are still faithful.
Well, the other day, I didn’t want to run for a whole hour, but neither did I want to  run only 40 minutes … so I searched for a sermon in between and I found one  – 51 minutes. 
Perfect.  I noticed it was from John 14. Perfect again. I was excited as I began my run.
As I ran and as I listened, I was convicted.  I was stirred.  I was encouraged.  I was exhorted. I took comfort in the passage and mostly in my Savior.
That pastor affectionately called it the comfort chapter.
And it was.
When my run was over, I looked for the sermon title so I could later listen to the rest of the series – and suddenly, it was like someone dumped a huge bucket of cold water on my sweaty body.  I stared at the screen.
I noticed the date.
June 6, 1971
43 years ago. 43 YEARS AGO.
I had not even reached my 13th birthday forty-three years ago.   I had never heard of this man.  I wasn’t doing in depth Bible studies. 
No, at that time of my life, my family was living in a little town. It was a town where, for the first time in my life, I actually lived inside the “town limits.”  But there was strange irony about that - I walked to the high school with my older brother and sister and then my younger brother and I got on the bus to be bussed out to the middle school – which was in the country.  I remember thinking how weird that was.  
But still, this was a time when my life consisted of doing middle school homework, noticing boys, wondering why my parents wouldn’t let me wear certain clothes or listen to hippie music.  It was a time of going to church, to my brother’s baseball games, and learning to cook supper for the family – really, just doing all the things you do when you live in a little Southern town.  I was in the teeny-bopper years collecting Tiger Beat magazines and going to Osmond Brothers concerts and singing You've Got a Friend by James Taylor.
Just growing up.  And yet, at the same time, forty-three years ago, this preacher whose 1971 sermon I was listening to just last week was a young man.  Probably in his mid-30s.   I tried to imagine what he looked like back then – but it didn’t matter – he was doing then what he does today - teaching the faithful word. 
And I thought how fresh and relevant his sermon was – forty-three years later as I was running.  I would have never known it was so, well, "dated" had I not noticed the date.   My heart was so encouraged.   This message was fresh and relevant because God’s Word is always fresh and relevant.
And I was thankful that for all these years – this man has honored God.  I was thankful that no big scandal touched his life – that he was still in the pulpit week after week, teaching, exhorting, comforting, pleading, expounding . . .  not only to those who were members of his church, but also to those far beyond his church.  Those who would, like me, one day be listening to his message  . . . being encouraged, exhorted.
He couldn’t have imagined the impact of his faithfulness all those years ago.  And yet his faithfulness has not just touched my life – no – he has touched thousands - millions even.  
And there are others like him.  In this day, when many pastors have come and gone, when they’ve fallen or turned away, or given up, or left . . . this man of God and the others like him, representing their generation, are still here.  Still proclaiming the truth.  Like mighty oaks.  Which yields its fruit in its season, whose leaf does not wither.  They are still preaching the word, in season and out of season.  No matter the trends in Christianity or the trends in the world. And I don't ever, ever want to criticize or tear them down - no, I want to pray for them. I want to be like Deborah of old - I want to strengthen and encourage them to do what God has called them to do.
I am grateful.  And I am inspired.  And I thought about my husband – now 30+ years in the ministry – 24 of those in the same church just continuing on . . . shepherding, teaching, exhorting, pleading, loving . . . faithful. 
It wasn’t too long ago that I read an article by Brett McCracken called “Has Authenticity Trumped Holiness?”  It’s worth the read (you can find it at The Gospel Coalition).   The entire article really resonated with me for many, many reasons, but one part in particular:
“But why must ‘real’ be synonymous with flawed and imperfect? When someone opens
up about their junk, we think, ‘you’re being real,’ and we can relate to them.  But what
about the pastor who has served faithfully for decades without any scandal, loved his
wife and family, and embodied the fruit of the spirit? Is this less real?”

I know the focus of McCracken’s article was not about pastors, yet this one example, this one observation, moved me to tears.
See, I’ve been married to a faithful pastor for nearly 34 years.  And while I know all his flaws - my life has been so blessed by his faithfulness.  And I know too, as President Reagan used to say about economics, that my life has been blessed through the “trickledown effect” of those who walked before him ... those who invested in his life.  My husband was once the young pastor of his day listening to the older men, modeling after them, learning from them.  He was grabbed by God and God hasn’t let him go and he is still preaching the faithful word in our day.
All this stuff – flooding my mind – all this from a date on a sermon that I thought I was listening to because of its length
Oh my.  God has so much to teach me.  More than just learning about the comfort chapter (which would have been enough), God was teaching me about faithfulness, about staying the course, about perseverance, about continuing, about wanting to imitate those who've walked before me in their faithfulness, and about being the kind of person worth imitating.
"Yeah, we all have bruises," as the song says. But God calls us to faithfulness.
So …. I began to give thanks for so many – by NAME – whose lives have blessed mine through their steadfast loyalty to Christ.  Those who have pointed me to Him – many who will NEVER EVER KNOW what they have meant to me. Who don't even know me.
I thanked God for those who have walked before me and have lived faithful godly lives and have served our risen Savior Who is in the world today.  Those who are here and those who speak from the dead – through what they’ve written and what they’ve spoken.
Then, as if all of this wasn’t enough - my mind drifted to the night before Easter of this year.  My son-in-law read words that the great missionary John Paton wrote about his father back in the 1800s.  My son-in-law read them for my grandson – to encourage him before his baptism the next day. But those words profoundly touched my heart.
See, when my children were small, I had read John Paton’s missionary story to them.  About his leaving home and the comfort of his life, saying goodbye to his parents –how he was so faithful, but I had forgotten . . .
I had forgotten so many things . . . . . 
A few days later, I pulled out my John Paton missionary story and re-read it. I then remembered the extent of the sacrificial life he lived as God used him greatly in the New Hebrides Islands.  He lived well – and died well.  Born in 1824.  Died in 1907. 
John Paton walked before me - his parents and other faithful men walked before him.
Each one passing on the legacy of a life lived for the Savior.  Holding fast the faithful word.
I want to be like them.  I want to stay the course.  To stay true to the One Who saved me.  I want to live a faithful godly life. 
I hope to be an encouragement to those who come after me – 43 years from today – 100 years from today – 1000 years from today, if the Lord should tarry.
God is faithful to ALL GENERATIONS.
All this from a sermon preached 43 years ago.  And I haven’t even begun to grasp all that God is still teaching me.

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