Archive for March, 2008

New Staff Member

Living Proof joyfully welcomes Curtis Jones to our staff!

My Dear Siestas, please join us as we welcome my dear son-in-law, Curtis, to our ministry staff. We are beside ourselves with joy! I know I’ve set myself up to be teased for announcing his arrival this soon after Melissa moved to Atlanta, but you’ll have to trust me when I tell you that you can’t talk Curtis Jones into a danged thing that he’s not convinced is God’s will. And I say that to his credit. Last fall we began to sense God opening a door for him here in Houston at LPM and have since worked on developing the position as he finished his responsibilities at the church he, Amanda, and Jackson loved so dearly. Curtis will be a wonderful addition to our team and you’ll be hearing from him through various avenues on the website. Please click onto his LPM page to learn lots more about it. We’re crazy about you guys around here and hope so much that this will be another way God will empower us to serve His Son to you. Blessings!

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Jacksonville Recap

Thanks, Rich!

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Living Proof Live – Jacksonville, FL

May God be praised!

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Baffled

Ok, so I just have a second. I’m at the hair salon in the mall on their wifi and I just met a woman – well past her twenties – that had never had one ounce of color on her hair. We visited a few minutes before we got summoned to our hairdressers and I learned that she and her man were in ministry. She was a darling thing. Interesting. Fun. Clearly loved Jesus. We hadn’t talked hair yet. After all, we are women with our priorities straight. Then we met up back in the color section of the salon where my hair already had enough foil in it to bring in every radio station in North America. That’s when she said it. “This is the first time I’ve ever gotten color.” I was nearly speechless. I nearly broke my neck turning around to look at her. To make sure she’d said what I thought she’d said. The color specialists were aghast at the confession. Shamed maybe. Kinda like, “Some things shouldn’t be said in public.” You could have heard a hair pin drop.

“What did you say?” I broke the awkward silence.

“I’ve never done this before. I’m trying my first highlights.”

For the life of me, I could not think of a single other person I knew of reasonable age who had never doused her head in a tad of tint. I had all manner of questions. Something in me demanded to know why but something else in me felt protective of her. She looked so innocent. So naive. So new. And I was proud. So very proud.

“Your first highlights!” I exclaimed. “You’re doing the right thing!”

And there was bonding.

She came by and showed me later, after it was all blown dry and styled. I looked through the stringy strands of my dripping hair and beheld a vision. Subtle but definitely a start. More bonding. As she walked away, I sat in the chair, blow dryer thundering in my ear, and sighed with deep satisfaction, so thankful I’d gotten my own roots done.

It was a beautiful thing.

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Our Beloved Lee Sizemore

I can’t remember who came up with this word, but somewhere along the way Travis Cottrell and any other (generally invisible) male blog readers acquired the name “miesta.” It is, of course, the male answer to “siesta.”

I want you all to know about a very special miesta who was used by God to bring Christian women all over this nation and even across the world together for Bible study. His name is Lee Sizemore and, to say it simply, he was the visionary and the video producer for the first 10 Bible study series my mom got to film. Had health concerns not necessitated early retirement, he would have also produced the three that followed. From A Woman’s Heart to The Patriarchs(ten years later, and dedicated to him), Lee worked tirelessly to produce discipleship materials for women like us. He also produced video-driven Bible studies for many other teachers, among them Anne Graham Lotz, Jennifer Rothschild, and Angela Thomas. I’m sure many of them felt about Lee as Mom did. She considered him one of the dearest friends she’d ever had and one of the most significant co-laborers God, in His measureless grace, had ever sent her way.

When I was sixteen, Lee hired me to be a production assistant for the To Live is Christ series. I enjoyed getting to work behind the scenes with his team so much. Lee was always there with something encouraging or amusing to say. Throughout the years it was such a joy when the LifeWay team would come to Houston or when I had the chance to be on another film set. They were a very special group of people with an exceptional, wonderful leader.

After an almost three-year battle with severe health problems, our brother Lee Sizemore went home to be with Jesus on Saturday, March 22, 2008. The next morning, as we all celebrated the Risen Christ in our man-made church sanctuaries, Lee got to see the resurrected Lamb of God with His own eyes and worship in His visible, glorious presence. Though tears fall from my eyes even now, it blesses me to know that our dear friend had this privilege.

Lee leaves behind an adoring, faithful bride of nearly 40 years named Myrna, two sons, two daughters-in-law, four grandchildren, and a slew of friends and co-workers who all loved him very much. His absence will leave a tremendous void in their lives. Myrna’s birthday is this Wednesday and her precious husband’s funeral will be held on Thursday. I know many of you have watched the Bible study videos and will want to cover Myrna and her family in prayer during this difficult week. Thank you in advance. Myrna is a siesta, so if anyone wants to share a word of love, encouragement, or thanks, we will make sure she gets to see it.

*Lee is the one next to my mom in each of these pictures.

The Patriarchs

Living Beyond Yourself

Breaking Free

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For Lives Like Ours

I’ve been sitting here with tears stinging in my eyes. Have really felt like bawling for the last hour or so. Finally went ahead and got on my face and took God up on it. Now I’m back in my chair at my backporch table but still can’t shake the feeling. Nope, it’s not hormones although how would a woman in my season of life know, for crying out loud? I think at least that what moves me this moment is the power of the Cross and all this Resurrection weekend represents to those of us who believe. Who keep believing. And I’ll tell you why. When I asked you how you were doing, I had absolutely no thought of tying these two entries together. I had no agenda at all except to simply know how you are but by the time I’d read the first several hundred, I was so moved by the connection that I could not hold back the tears. I’m not even sure I can explain what I felt but I’m going to try. After all, blogs like mine are not meant to showcase beautifully prepared, deeply deliberated, excellently proofed, and perfectly edited theological treatments. Blogs like mine are more for simply throwing it out there to a bunch of friends. For writing like you’d chat. A place – when it’s appropriate – to say it while it’s raw.

I looked at all 700+ comments and shook my head with love and wonder over what a slice of life was represented there. Many doing great, feeling loved, and sensing God. Others dry, confused, and, as one of our beloved Siestas said, “hanging on by a thread…but at least I’m hanging on!” And either set could trade places in a split second. Many probably have even by this time. One sister’s dad died suddenly of a heart attack and she’s planning his funeral this Resurrection weekend. How perfectly appropriate. Another was taking her teenage daughter for her driving test. God bless her. Another had six kids home for Spring Break. God help her. Another had a three year old with head lice but let’s not nit pick. Another’s nephew was killed in a car accident last night. Dear Sweet Jesus. Another found out two days ago that she’s pregnant. It’s her third pregnancy but she has no children. Lost the first two. Please, Lord. Another is heading with a group of 40+ people to Belize to minister to those with severe needs in the name of Christ. Another will spend Easter weekend on the other side of the world from her deployed husband. Another is hearing the voice of God through His Word like never before in her life. Another is a school counselor trying to help elementary children deal with the death of a 3rd grade girl killed by a van while checking the mailbox. Another is at her wit’s end trying to know what to do with an unrepentant, unapologetic teenage son with a pornography addiction. Another and another and another is in financial distress. Another is five weeks pregnant with her first child and spotting some. Another is “cleaning toilets and changing diapers to pay rent.” I loved that. Another is a 49 year-old bridesmaid. We’ve gotta all love that. Another is sitting in Southern Indiana surrounded by flood waters. Another is celebrating at a Pizza Inn with a group of 75-90 year olds who have just finished studying “Jesus the One and Only.” And another is “tired and deflated and ready for this dry season to end” for her.

And Christ is watchful and active and overflowing with unabashed, unbridled affection over every single one of them. As Present in one as any other. As purposeful in the life feeling the least purpose. The most exhaustion. He still raises the dead. Saves the lost. Heals the weak. Sets prisoners free. He never misses a tear. Never let’s us go. He was lifted up so we could be drawn to Him. Killed so we could live. Beaten so we could win. No matter what stone seems to have you entombed, He can roll it away. Nothing can stay in the grave when God has resurrection on His mind. And, Sweet Thing, God has resurrection on His mind right now.

He had it on His mind with every beat of that hammer on the nails penetrating Christ’s flesh. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” Death never gets the last word. Not even the death of relationship. Respect. Well-being. Health. God cannot – will not – leave well enough alone. His business is life and life at its liveliest. Loveliest. May He roll away every last thing that is stifling His effervescence in us. He never promised that life here would always be fun but He mighty well promised that life here could always be full. Every single ounce of power expended on the Cross is yours in Jesus’ Name. Ask Him what that means. How you draw from it. That’s what I’m doing today. Like you, I’ve had innumerable blessings and unforgettable moments of late. Like you, I’ve also had my own heartbreaks, disappointments, and worries. Felt weary to the bone. Frustrated to the core. I’ve cried, too. Thought I was fed-up with some things, too. Wondered if I’d ever change, too. Then comes Good Friday. The violence that says something’s about to be different. That causes our earths to quake. Then comes the Saturday wait that seems an eternity long. Then, finally, FINALLY comes Sunday morning…long before dawn. By that time the Father has waited long enough. And stones begin to roll.

“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us ALL our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; He took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” Colossians 3:13-15

Some of us are burdened and weary because we never have allowed ourselves to feel the full and free forgiveness of the Cross. What if today you believed it? What if today you believed Him? What if you finally let it go? What if today the deadness in us could no longer resist the sound of Christ calling us forth from the tomb? What if we decided to get up and really live?

I love you so dearly. Blessed Friday of all Fridays and Happy Easter Sunday.

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Tell Me How You Are

Hey, Darling Ones! In case you’ve been looking in the lost and found for your senior Siesta, here I am! I’ve had lots of (good but busy!) family stuff going on and, in the process, got behind on my writing for Esther. SO I had my man take me to the cactus lands of West Texas where cell phones don’t ring, emails don’t send, and deadlines are what happen when someone runs the tractor over the telephone wire AGAIN. A divine set-up indeed. And I got caught right on up, praise You, Jesus. All is well with Moores, Jones’s, and Fitzpatricks. I have all sorts of things to catch you up on and I’ll do that soon. Far more importantly, it is Holy Week and I’ll look forward to reflecting with you on some of what that means – some of what CHRIST means – to us as we approach the weekend.

Until then (most likely Friday), I’d so dearly love to know how you are doing. Check in and let me know. Keep your responses to one to two sentences max so that I can read them all. Can’t wait to hear about you. I’m so sick of myself I could throw up. Love you, Siestas, and I’ve missed you!

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A Tribute

When Curt and I were first married, we served in the youth ministry at Houston’s First Baptist Church. In July of 2003, we were going to help lead a youth mission trip to Tegucigalpa, Honduras. This was going to be the Joneses’ first trip to Honduras and our first mission trip as a married couple. (Curt has been back three more times and is actually there right now.) Our church had strong ties with Larry and Jean Elliott, a missionary couple who had been serving in that area for decades. Every summer HFBC sent a youth team to work with them and their mission churches.

A few months before the trip, the Elliotts were going to be in our city visiting family. They had raised their son and daughter in Honduras and were now grandparents of young children who lived in Houston. We set up a time to meet with them and the other couple leading the trip with us so that we could plan our week. I had never met the Elliotts, nor any other career missionaries, and I honestly had no idea what to expect. In my ignorance and stupidity, I thought the dinner would probably be really boring. I didn’t even want to go, but I knew I should.

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that this precious couple shattered any preconceived notion that I had about missionaries. Larry and Jean were some of the warmest, most joyful, most down to earth people I had ever met. We fell in love with them instantly. One thing that struck me was how much they laughed, and I have to say that it was a treat to hear Larry’s laugh. He had such a good one. Larry and Jean had tons of stories to tell about their experiences in Honduras. It was so interesting to listen to them. God had given this couple an incredible twenty-six-year ministry there. The first church they planted had grown exponentially and had gone on to plant more churches that in turn planted more churches. God had His hand on everything they did. They had a passion for disaster relief, which I believe was birthed out of the devastation that Hurricane Mitch brought to that country in 1998. Only God knows how many lives they were able to touch through evangelism, discipleship, and ministering to folks in the midst of crisis.

After the dinner, I had so much to say to Curt about this wonderful couple. I couldn’t wait for our trip. Before long, we arrived in Tegucigalpa with our youth and got to work. We were able to see first hand what God had done and was doing in that area through seeds the Elliotts, other missionaries like the Torbert family, and local believers had planted.

The Elliotts had our whole team over to their house for dinner one night and served us a great meal. Just being in their home made an impact on me. I remember saying something to Jean about the house and she was quick to say, “Thank you, Lottie Moon!” If you are Southern Baptist, you may know that the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering helps support our 5,193 IMB missionaries on the field.

That night Larry showed us a slideshow and some souvenirs from his recent trip to Iraq. His passion for anyone living in devastation was burning a hole in his heart for the Iraqi people. He wanted to enable hospitals and people to have purified water and, simply put, he could help! I wish I could convey his excitement as he showed us each picture in the slide show. He and Jean were seriously seeking God about ending their ministry in Honduras and beginning a new one in Iraq.

The trip came to an end and I got a big hug and “We love you!” from Jean in the airport. I nearly cried saying goodbye to her. She was just such a dear person.

I came home from Honduras changed in many ways. For one, I had learned that missionaries are regular people – regular people who love the Lord and are willing to serve Him outside their comfort zones. The Elliotts made me realize that being a missionary was not for the highest order of pious, perfect, solemn believers, which is what I had always imagined. Instead, a missionary could actually be someone like me! Or like you! A normal person who loves the Lord, who laughs, who loves their grandkids, and who loves being with friends. Don’t get me wrong. The Elliotts are spiritual giants, but the message of their life said, “You can do this, too. God can use you!”

Just two months later, having gained some confidence that God could use a normal person like me outside my comfort zone, Curt and I began looking into an opportunity to serve teenagers in England. It would only be for five months, but that seemed like a long time to us! We would leave March 9, 2004.

Before we left, Larry and Jean came back to Houston for a visit. Larry needed to borrow a car for a few days, so we got to take him our truck. Later they both came to Tuesday night Bible study. I was so excited to have them there. Jean had been in some of my mom’s Bible studies back in Honduras. I got to send some resources from the office back to the mission field with them and they gave us a bottle of yummy Honduran vanilla, among other things. It was such a blessing to cross paths with them again. Jean told me we might see them in England sometime since that would be sort of a home base for them while they were living in Iraq.

March 9 finally came and we boarded a British Airways flight to the UK. We were really excited, but I was also nervous and worried about being terribly homesick. Just five days later, on March 14, I was checking my email and received devastating news. Jean and Larry Elliott, along with missionaries David McDonnall and Karen Watson, had been killed in Mosul, Iraq. They had been checking out different locations for water purification projects in the city when their truck was targeted and attacked by gunmen. Only newlywed Carrie McDonnall had survived.

My world was spinning and my heart was absolutely broken to pieces. “No, Lord! This can’t be! And we are here – in part – because of them!” I wanted my mother, but she was an ocean away. I wanted to grieve with everyone else and talk about the impact this couple had had on my life, but we would not be able return to the States for their memorial service in Houston.

I don’t understand how anyone could harm, even murder, such precious people – people who had come to help them! And it hurts tremendously to think about the huge loss their families have experienced. But I do know that the Lord, in a way that is hard for my human mind to grasp, honored these servants by allowing them to not only live for Him, but to also die for Him.

Today, on the fourth anniversary of the homegoings of Larry and Jean Elliott, David McDonnall, and Karen Watson, let’s give profuse praise to God for selfless, courageous people who put their lives on the line every day as they work to build up God’s Kingdom. Let’s thank Him for the advancement of Light into darkness and for the souls who will worship before the throne from cultures that are hostile toward the Gospel of Christ. Let’s pray for our Christian brothers and sisters who are enduring persecution, especially in Iraq. Let’s praise God for their perseverance and for the glory they bring to Him. Let’s ask God to bless our sweet friend Carrie McDonnall as she continues to pour out her life for her Savior. Let’s praise Jesus for the victory He has already won and for the day He will do away with death forever!

We may not want to die like these precious saints, but we want to live like them – with courage, selflessness, faithfulness, and love.

“They overcame [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” (Revelation 12:11)

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

*If you’d like to read more about these missionaries, check out these two resources:

Facing Terror by Carrie McDonnall and Kristen Billerbeck
Lives Given, Not Taken by Erich Bridges and Jerry Rankin

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Something On My Mind

Hey, Girlfriends! I don’t have long because Jackson’s at Bibby’s house but we’ve had lots of good time together this morning and he’s preoccupied for a few minutes. I’ve got something on my mind that I’ve got to share or I’m going to combust.

Yesterday I was with somebody I love who was describing frustration over not being able to get a breakthrough in a work matter. I’ve been in on it for a while so I knew it had been hard and I was searching for encouraging things to say that weren’t just the usuals that we turn to when we don’t know what to say. I reached out my hands toward the loved one’s hands and said, “Let’s pray about it right this minute.” And we did. We had no more than said, “In Jesus’ Name, Amen,” then the telephone rang. It was the call the person had been waiting for and the breakthrough came. The phone call lasted some time so I just kept praying and even doing a few little thank You dances. When the loved one got off the phone, I said, “Can you believe that? That was the Lord!”

To which my loved one said, “You’re probably right.”

“No,” I said, “there’s no ‘probably’ to it! That was the Lord! I mean, did you see that timing??”

The person nodded and said, “Sure may have been!”

WHAT DO YOU MEAN, “SURE MAY HAVE BEEN”?? Are you stinking kidding me? (I didn’t say all that part.)

“But you’ve gotta give Him His glory!” (I did say that.) Or what compels Him the next time when He didn’t get any credit the last time? (Didn’t exactly say that.)

Girls, listen. GIVE GOD HIS GLORY! When He does something for you, don’t sit there and wonder if that may have been Him. GIVE HIM SOME GLORY!! Jump up and down about it. Get excited about it! I don’t know about you, but I want God to ENJOY doing some things for me. I want Him to think I’m fun to get a reaction out of. I want to dang well NOTICE. Can you imagine when we thank Him for something that He’s up there on His Throne shrugging His shoulders and saying, “I’m not sure what you’re talking about. I didn’t have anything to do with that”? Does Phil. 2:13 not say that God works in us to will and to act according to His good purpose? Ain’t no doubt, Girlfriend. It is GOD.

“Many, O Lord my God, are Your wonderful works which You have done!” Ps. 40:5

“I am the Lord; that is My Name! I will not give My glory to another or My praise to idols…Let them give glory to the Lord and proclaim His praise…!” Is. 42:8,12

Not fussing. Just feel passionate about it. I love you so much and want you to enjoy your God!

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Bad Day?

Me, five minutes ago on the phone: “Amanda, I am having the worst hair day of my life.”

Her: “Worse than day before yesterday??”

Me: “Amanda, that was hair I woke up with. This is hair I have fixed!”

Her: “Oh, Mom.”

Me: “AND, I am having a bad face day.”

Pause for reflection.

Her: “A bad hair day and a bad face day all on the same day.”

Silence with groanings that cannot be uttered.

Her: “Well, Mom. At least you can know that tomorrow it’s gonna be better.”

Bad day, Dear Siesta? Well, at least you can know tomorrow’s gonna be better.

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and His glory appears over.” Isaiah 60:1,2.

It’s gonna get better. And I’m talking about more than your hair. The Son’s just about to rise upon you.

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