Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Illegal U-Turns

I made an illegal u-turn Monday.

Innocently enough, I didn't KNOW it was illegal. But the motorcycle cops did. 

As the story goes, I was taking my lunch hour while working in Murfreesboro and had decided to spend my time browsing around Target and then grabbing a bite at McAlister's. Driving up Old Fort Parkway I realized 'browsing' around Target wouldn't exactly be beneficial to my checkbook ('cuz we all know you can't just browse in Target), so I decided it would be best to just head back to the office and get something from the break room. CHEAP, healthy, and quick. Coming up on an intersection, I decided to make a u-turn and head back to the office. I didn't see a sign prohibiting it, so I got into the left lane and proceeded to turn. The moment I began to complete the turn and straighten out the steering wheel to go in the opposite direction I noticed two motorcycle cops on my tail end. Literally, On.My.Tail.End..... At first I assumed they were just trying to get by me to chase a speeder. But it didn't take long for me to realize those blue flashing lights were for me. The fact that one of the officers was waving at me in the rear view mirror and sharply pointing at the emergency lane kinda clued me in too.

I had a little conversation with one of the officers while the other stayed on his bike and stared at me non-stop in my side mirror. AWKWARD. After me clarifying why the address on my registration and the address on my driver's license weren't accurate, the policeman asked what I was doing in Murfreesboro. I had to spell out my 'work from home' situation and explain to him that I traveled to the area about every two weeks to work in the office. He eventually asked, "So, do you travel THIS road much?" Knowing I used to travel it at least five days a week and not wanting to lie, I replied, "Yes, allllllllllll the time." As soon as the words came out of my mouth I realized I'd probably just dug my own grave. He proceeded to tell me that there was a sign CLEARLY stating that u-turns were illegal at that intersection. I promised him I didn't see a sign, which I honestly didn't. He made his way back to his motorcycle with all of my information in his hand. I sat in the car shaking and trying not to look into the face of the officer staring at me in my side mirror. Again, AWKWARD.

After about seven minutes that seemed like an eternity, the officer returned to my window with a pink piece of paper dangling from his right hand. He gave me back my license, registration, and insurance information and said, "I'm gonna give you a 'gimme' today." Confused and completely unsure of what he meant, I prepared for the worst. Then he said, "Most people wouldn't be so forgiving. You said you travel this road all the time, so you should know there's an illegal u-turn sign back there. But, you were honest with me."  He handed me the pink piece of paper with WARNING written on it and said, "I'm just giving you a warning today. That means no court appearance, no citation, just a warning. But next time you decide to make an illegal u-turn, DON'T do it with two motorcycle cops on your tail end!" Shocked, I said, "What?!? You were behind me when I turned?!?"  He replied, "Yes! How do you think we pulled you over so fast?" I laughed and said, "I don't know! I would HAVE to be an idiot to do something like that..." He laughed and replied, "No, you're not an idiot. I understand. You were probably just focused on getting to work." I kind of chuckled and told him that what was so crazy about the whole thing was that I was actually on my lunch hour and had decided not to spend any money so I was turning around to head back to the office and eat something cheap out of the break room. He laughed and said, "And then you almost ended up spending $130 on lunch!" I sunk in my seat and let out a huge sigh of relief knowing that a $130 ticket would've been very difficult to pay. Then, with a charge to drive carefully, he sent me on my way.

I think my legs were jell-o for the next thirty minutes or so. 

I thought about my interaction with that motorcycle cop all the way back to Knoxville that evening. I also thought a lot about u-turns... My u-turn was a criminal offense, whether I knew it or not, whether I believed it or not. Truth is, he could have given me a $130 ticket and been justified in doing so. I may have thought there was nothing wrong with what I did, but Murfreesboro's criminal code says differently. Absolute truth is that it is illegal to make a u-turn at the intersection of Old Fort Parkway and Stones River Mall Boulevard. Remember that, my 'boro friends.

According to that truth, I should have been cited for my offense. But this particular police officer showed me mercy. Some might say he showed me grace. But it was mercy. It was compassion. He gave me something I didn't deserve.

I think it's difficult to understand grace until you first understand mercy. Mercy is NOT punishing me for my sin (or my illegal u-turn) like I deserve. Mercy is deliverance from judgment. In light of the law, I should have been punished and there should have been a judgment. But, thank God, that officer gave me mercy instead. I could've rejected it. I could've denied that I'd done anything wrong, using the fact that I didn't see the 'no u-turn' sign as my excuse. But that would be nothing but an excuse, and it would be ludicrous. Why would anyone deny mercy and choose judgment instead?

So many people make this choice in life. Turning away from the mercy and grace offered by God, they choose to deny what is freely available. Some believe it's a lie. Some believe Christians are fools. Some are simply blinded by sin.

Eternally, there is no mercy and there is no grace without Christ. There is no merciful motorcycle cop standing at the gates of Heaven waiting to allow you in with just a warning. There is no 'gimme.' There is no hope for eternal life without Him.

God's grace is a person...

"For the grace of God has appeared with salvation for all people, instructing us to deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age, while we wait for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for Himself a people for His own possession,eager to do good works." 
Titus 2:11-14

Jesus Christ is grace personified. 

You know, not all u-turns are illegal....  

"Therefore repent and turn back, so that your sins may be wiped out, that seasons of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord..." Acts 3:19

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."

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

If You Only Knew...

"I'm beginning to think people aren't really as happy as they seem on Facebook."

The other day a friend from high school made a post stating simply that.  I thought, "Honey, if you only knew."

Wouldn't it be great if our lives were really as incredible as we make 'em look on Facebook?  Well, I'm just here to tell 'ya, they're NOT!  If you could see into my mind and see the everyday struggles I face, you'd cover your eyes and RUN!

My life isn't all rainbows and roses.  I don't wake up every morning with a smile on my face.  Bluebirds don't fly around my head chirping and flitting gracefully to joyful music filling the air...  Shocked?  If you have a clue, you're not.  I can actually remember, in the years before Scott went into the ministry, looking at the youth pastor's wife at our former church and thinking, "I wish I had it all together like she does..."  Her life looked perfect to me.  She was always smiling.  She had lots of friends and she seemed genuinely happy. When Scott became the youth minister at that same church, I took my place in her former pew.  I often wondered if people were sitting in the balcony looking down on me thinking that I had  my  life all together in the same way I used to look at her...  I hoped that wasn't the case, because I knew better than anyone that my life was just as chaotic as theirs might be, if not more.

I've struggled with depression and anxiety since the fall of 1993.  I had to drop out of college because of panic attacks.  I couldn't force myself to return to school after having my first panic attack during a political science class. There are times now when I can't pull myself out of the funk, no matter how hard I try.  There are times I fear the silliest things...  They aren't silly to me, but they would be to you.  Sometimes I lie in bed at night afraid that I'm losing my mind.  I can be sitting at a red light and suddenly fear that I might gun it and drive straight into traffic.  I can be the passenger in a car and suddenly fear that I might open the door and jump out while the car is moving.  I have a fear of 'losing control.'  When the fear overwhelms me I simply take a deep breath and cry out to Him.  I'm thankful that, no matter what, I know the One who IS in control.  Even if I lose it, He is still on the throne.

Philippians 4:6

Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.
I wake up every morning grateful for another day.  I thank God every night for my family, my friends and my incredible church family.  I do NOT have it all together and I never will in this life.  My life is not perfect.  My marriage is not perfect.  My child is not perfect.  And I am not in control, no matter how much I would like to be.  I am happy and I have incredible joy in my life.  But, my life is certainly not one to be envied, no matter how great I make it look on Facebook.  I'm not saying anyone DOES envy my life.  I'm simply saying that the only real joy in my life comes from the peace I have in knowing that Jesus is the Lord of it.

17 But whatever is good and perfect comes to us from God, the Creator of  all light, and he shines forever without change or shadow.  James 1:17

Monday, December 9, 2013

Mary's View

A couple of weeks ago someone asked me to name my favorite Christmas song.  I'm a big fan of the traditional Christmas carols, but my absolute favorite Christmas song is "Breath of Heaven."  I love imagining what Mary was thinking and how frightened, yet excited, she must have been.  A few years ago that led me to write the following poem about Mary's view of the birth of Christ...

Mary’s View
How, Lord, shall I nurture as divine a life as this?
Why send Thine hope through such a one as me?
Mine bosom is not fit to brush the cheek of this sweet Child.
I am lowly, Lord, and He is Majesty.
Mine eyes behold such glory when I look upon His brow,
And I cannot fathom all His shoulders
I’ve pondered in mine heart the depth of all that is to come.
Yet, now mine arms embrace Thine Truth declared.

This gentle Babe, now born of flesh, beneath the moonlit sky,
Shall light the way for all who long to see.
His brow shall bear the crown that is above all other crowns,
And He shall rule throughout eternity.
Faithful ones will long to touch His garment,
And the wise will bow to worship at His
His name shall be esteemed above all other names,
Emmanuel, the Highest, Servant-Priest.

Still, I wonder at the favor Thou afforded unto me,
As I gaze upon this One to be adored.
As Thou proclaimed, mine womb brought forth this Savior, Prince of Peace,
This King of Kings to reign forevermore.
O’ grant mine heart the strength to be Thine servant,
To carry out Thine plan as Thou
To foster this great One as Thou wouldst lead me,
As Thine hand fulfills Thine prophecies of old.

Kari Whitworth Whaley ©2004

Thursday, November 7, 2013

National Adoption Awareness Month

He doesn't look like me.  He doesn't look like Scott.  He has dark skin and the most beautiful rich, brown eyes.  His tender heart is unlike that of any person I've ever known.

I see his dad in him all the time.  Selfless.  Kind.  Faithful.  Funny.  They're two peas in a pod.

No, they don't look like each other.  They don't share DNA or the same blood type.  But, they're no less father and son.

Franklyn came into our family through adoption.  I can remember as a child thinking that adoption was the most incredible, amazing thing.  I was completely in love with the idea of adoption as a little girl and always knew I wanted to experience it when I was older.  Once I found out where babies came from, I was even MORE convinced that the only way I would ever have children was through adoption. But, once Scott and I decided we were ready for children, we longed to bring a child into this world the way most people do. I dreamed of being pregnant and having the blonde-haired, blue-eyed child we were sure God wanted to give us.  Well, our desires didn't line up with His will.  And we are SO glad things worked out the way they did.

Our adoption journey was incredible.  God worked in the most unbelievable way to bring Franklyn home to us in a short three months.


Adoption is a pretty remarkable thing. It paints a beautiful picture of God's love for us.  

a·dop·tion : the act or process of giving official acceptance or approval to something

But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a virgin, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying “Abba! Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God. [Galatians 4:4-7]

I was once an orphan.  But, through God's grace and mercy I came to faith in Christ at the age of 16.  I was a sinner.  Now I'm a sinner redeemed by grace.  I was accepted into God's family because I chose to accept Christ as my Lord and Savior.  I chose to recognize my sin and accept the fact that MY SIN was the reason for Christ's death on the cross.  I'm still a sinner.  I still mess up every day.  But, I'm no longer an orphan.  I'm a part of God's family.

Franklyn was once an orphan as well.  He needed a home.  He needed a mother and father that would care for him, teach him and love him.  We chose him.  We chose to bring him into our home and give him all of the rights and privileges that come with being our son.  He will carry on the Whaley name and he will inherit all that we leave behind.  (disclaimer: there may not be a lot left behind!)

Franklyn accepted Christ a couple of years ago.  At that time he was also adopted into God's family.  God chose to bring him into His family and assign him all the rights and privileges that come with being His child. Franklyn chose to accept God's gift of salvation.  He is to carry on the name of Christ.  He is to be an example of Christ in a lost and dying world. Along with that, he inherits eternal life.

Adoption is costly.  Scott and I were blessed to be able to afford to bring Franklyn into our family.  In the same way, adoption was costly to God.  His Son, Jesus Christ, paid the price to bring us into His family.

November is National Adoption Awareness Month.  Take a moment to consider how adoption has or could have an impact on your life.  Maybe God is leading you to examine the idea of bringing an orphan or a foster child into your own home.  Maybe you're not a Christian and God is prompting you to see Him for who He really is.  

We brought Franklyn into our home to give him a hope and a future.  But, the hope and the future we offer him is nothing like that offered to him by God.