Thursday, February 20, 2014

Dark Alleys and Puzzles

Have you ever found yourself in a dark place?

I don't mean a dark alley or a dimly lit room.

Sometimes our doubts, our fears, our anxieties, our shame... they drive us into hiding. They take us to a really dark place. We find ourselves lonely and feeling like, in some way, we're not normal. We look around and it seems like everyone else has it all together. Everyone else is happy and thriving, or at least dealing well. That's how it seems. But that's not how it is.

In our restlessness, we withdraw. We find shelter in our dark places.

                              Do you know God never meant for you to be alone? Do you know 
                                             God never meant for you to suffer alone?  

Alone in your dark place you won't find answers. You won't find peace and you won't find comfort. You will simply find loneliness and despair.

It's easy to turn your back on fellowship with other believers when you're in that dark place. And it's easy to convince ourselves that church is the LAST thing we need. It's easy, but it's wrong.

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up...
1 Thessalonians 5:11  

Have you ever known anyone who had all the answers?  Sure, you know people who THINK they have all the answers. But do they really? No one person can solve the mysteries of this jigsaw puzzle that we call life all on their own. Not gonna happen. But, you know what? Christ DOES have all the answers.  And He works in the lives of believers and gives us individual pieces to that puzzle.

He doesn't give all the answers to one person. We, as believers, learn from our mistakes and from our pain. We each hold wisdom and knowledge we wouldn't have if it weren't for those life experiences, those joyful victories and those painful losses. We understand Christ's love through those experiences and we mature in our faith. What happens when we fail to share that understanding and knowledge?  

That their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ...
Colossians 2:2

Your pain and your blessing have a purpose. You hold a piece of the puzzle. When you dovetail your wisdom with mine we find answers. We see Christ revealed.  We see the puzzle begin to fashion into an incredible masterpiece.  A masterpiece created by God's hand. Courage comes to the fearful. Joy comes to the weeping. Praise comes to the lips of the ashamed. Comfort comes to the hurting. And Jesus comes to the lost. 

Don't run to that dark place. Don't forsake fellowship with other believers. Don't hold tightfisted to your pain. I may hold the puzzle piece that you desperately need. You may hold the puzzle piece that I've been longing to see. 

Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Hebrews 10:25

Now I'm in the mood to put together a puzzle.  See you at church Sunday!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Our 25th Valentines Day - A Tribute to Hottie Scottie

"Who is that?" I said, leaning closer to my new friend, yet not taking my eyes off the stocky blonde walking across the commons area, "He's HOT."

"Oh, that's Scott Whaley," she replied.
It was the first day of my junior year at Jefferson County High School.  My family had just moved to East Tennessee from Fairfax, Virginia and, like most other 16 year-old girls I was already scoping out the boys. There was something about this particular boy.  Couldn't put my finger on it, but I was smitten.

He was a senior and we didn't have any classes together, but I kept my eye on him...  One day I forgot my lunch money.  The handsome blonde just happened to be in front of me in the lunch line.  Not wanting to lose my spot to run back to my table to borrow money, I nervously tapped him on his shoulder.  Eager to help, he reached in his pocket only to discover his pockets were empty and he'd forgotten his own money as well. Being that he never met a stranger, he went straight to the table beside the lunch line and begged for money. That was our first encounter.

About a month later the Home Economics classes had a fundraiser.  Students in Home Economics classes during second period could pay $2 and watch a movie in one of the classrooms.  Sitting waiting for the movie to start, I couldn't believe it when Scott filed into the room with his Interior Decorating class (yes, you read that right, Interior Decorating...).  He sat down right next to me! Throughout the movie he was goofing off with friends and laughing.  As soon as the movie was over and the lights flipped back on, Scott turned to me, finger in his nose, and said, "Don't you hate it when you get those crusty boogers in your nose and you can't get 'em out?"  Shocked, I made a weird face and turned to leave. That was our second encounter.

Months passed, Scott graduated, and we both dated other people on and off.  I was a varsity cheerleader my senior year and I would see him every now and then at Friday night football games.  He would stand on the track and talk and I couldn't keep my eyes off him.  One Friday night he came over to the hurdles that divided the cheerleaders from the crowd.  He leaned over, motioned for me to come talk to him, and said, "We need to go out some time."  I almost passed out.  Knees weak, my shy demeanor taking the back burner for a moment, I grinned and shouted, "Sure!"  A couple of months passed before we would get that chance.

Our first actual 'date' was in the storm drain underneath the town of Dandridge in mid December.  Yep, that's right, folks.  A storm drain.  We had to climb through the locked bars to get inside and had to hop from side to side while running through the drain so as not to fall into the drainage water pooled in the bottom.  My heart was pounding and I could just imagine the dam being opened and us drowning on our first date.  Scary, but exciting!

We were INSEPARABLE from that moment on.  We couldn't get enough of each other.  By early January of my senior year we were talking about marriage.  It only took a month for us to realize we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together.  We discussed our future dreams and what we expected out of life.  We were on the same page.  Scott wanted to be a teacher and I wanted to be a news anchor.  We both wanted 2 to 3 kids and we had everything planned out.  He gave me my engagement ring on the day of my high school graduation.  Our future looked bright.
Scott had made mention of the fact that he felt called into the ministry when he was in high school. However, he assured me that ministry was NOT in his future.  Good thing, because I would NEVER have dated, much less become engaged to, someone planning to go into the ministry. I was a Christian, but my Christianity was nothing more than fire insurance to me at that point in my life.  I knew I wasn't cut out to be a pastor's wife.  But I also knew that wasn't anything to be concerned about.  Or so I thought.

This is what's amazing about how God works.

I WASN'T cut out for a life of ministry, but God set out to prepare me for something incredible.  After two years of marriage I started having anxiety attacks.  I dropped out of school, completely setting my life on a different track.  My dreams of anchoring a news desk were shot.  Scott had changed his major multiple times and ended up deciding upon a career as a Golf Course Superintendent.  He graduated from UT and we moved to Nashville for him to begin his life on the golf course.  It didn't take long before we realized we were miserable with a capital M.
Life just wasn't what we expected.  Sometimes it felt like all of our dreams had been shattered.  In February of 1998 I had the worst panic attack I'd ever had.  I begged Scott to take me to a mental hospital and leave me.  He didn't, thank God.  Instead he held me and prayed with me all night long.  In the days and months following, I learned what it meant to depend on God.  To TRULY depend on Him.  I breathed Scripture, literally.  I couldn't survive without the hope I found in His word.  My suffering brought me closer to Christ. My suffering brought my husband closer to Christ.  We learned a lot over the next few years.  
We moved to Manchester in 1999 for Scott to take the Golf Course Superintendent position at a smaller course. He went into the job telling the owner that church would come first on Sundays, not the golf course. This was a total change in priorities for Scott.  I was so proud of him.  We found an incredible church and became very involved.  I taught 11th and 12th grade girls in Sunday school and Scott was asked to serve as the director of the youth Sunday school department.  He loved working with the kids and so did I.  One afternoon Scott came home from work and we started talking about life and where it had taken us.  He mentioned that sometimes he still felt like God wanted him in the ministry and that he didn't think the call on his life had ever gone away.  All I know is that we ended up on our kitchen floor sobbing.  We cried out to God and asked Him to guide us and show us His will for our lives.  Within months, Scott was in Wake Forest beginning seminary.

Before finishing seminary Scott was called to serve as the Minister of Youth at our home church in Manchester.  We were thrilled.  It felt like God had finally brought us full circle and we were right where He wanted us.  Only one thing was missing...

We struggled with infertility for several years.  Even though we desperately wanted children, we trusted that God had a perfect plan for our lives with or without a child.  In 2005, God gave us the most beautiful gift we could ever have asked for.
We had been married for 14 years and it was quite a change to suddenly have another human being in the house!  I think we surprised ourselves at how well we handled it.

Scott graduated from seminary in 2007 and is now working on his Doctorate.  We moved back to East Tennessee in April of 2013 and we feel like, once again, we're right where we're meant to be.  Life has brought many challenges in the lives of the Whaleys, but somehow we've made it through.  

I know I couldn't have survived the last 20 years of my life without Scott.  He's been the one to point me toward Christ every step of the way.  We've been together almost 25 years now.  I couldn't ask for a better husband.  He has his faults, but mine surely outweigh his!  

Thank you, Scott Whaley, for loving me and CHOOSING me!  I adore you, my friend.  

Happy Valentine's Day!  

Now, enjoy a photo tribute to Scottie! 


Sorry, you can't actually click on the text above to access his sermons!  But, if you're interested you can visit the church website at!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Grace Is Not An Excuse

Grace is not an excuse.

It's not an excuse to live in sin.

"What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply? Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it?" Romans 6:1-2

I'm a born sinner.  Yep, it's true.  That sweet, pudgy little face in my baby pictures is the face of a sinner. 

And the face you see in my Facebook profile pics?  Yep, that's the face of a sinner, too.  Just ask my sweet husband.  He'll tell 'ya. tiny-smileys-yesemoticons-052 

The difference in the two is that the latter is the face of a sinner saved by grace.

I've been struggling with something lately.  I'm trying to figure out this whole 'grace' thing.  Trying to get to that light-bulb moment where I say, "Now I get it!"  I'm not quite there yet, but I do know one thing about grace.  It's not an excuse.  Grace is what saved me.  Grace is what justifies me through my faith in Christ's death on the cross. It's the foundation of the Christian life. But Jesus didn't die on the cross to give me freedom to follow my heart.  He didn't die on the cross so that I could do what 'feels right' and not have to worry about the consequences. He didn't suffer for my sins so that I could live my life the way I please. Grace is not in an excuse to live a life of sin.  

It's an amazing thing, you know?  Grace, that is.  For those in Christ, sin doesn't separate us from God.  It can't.  Nothing can.  His grace covers our sin.  But sin does damage our testimony and hinder our relationship with Him.  Disobedience in the life of a true believer will cause misery.  I know this to be true.  I speak from experience.  I've been there, done that.  I know the shame, the ever present awareness that I'm grieving God.        

Grace frees you, but it binds you.  It pardons you from the penalty of sin, but it binds you to a life of faithfulness and obedience.  This doesn't mean that we automatically live a perfect life when we accept Christ.  But it should be motivation to live a righteous life.  This same grace disciplines us when we're off the mark because it calls to mind the penalty Christ paid for our sin. 

It's hard to understand how a Christian can say God's grace permits them to live a sinful lifestyle.  Many Christians today negate the severity of sin often saying, "Oh, I think Jesus would look the other way on that." No, I don't think so.  I think sin grieves Him.  I wonder if He thinks we cheapen grace with such an attitude when He paid such a high price for it.                                     

  • Romans 6:13, "Do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead."