Welcome to my blog...

Green trees, cool water, a gentle breeze...the perfect place to sit at the feet of the Master and learn. Jesus taught so often on the shoreline, and He's still speaking today.

This is where I share the lessons He teaches me, often during the time I spend on the shores of a local lake. I don't have all the answers...and some days I don't have any. But I go here when I need to draw near to Him in a tangible way. Come with me...

Thursday, September 29, 2011

From Despair to Prayer - The Prayer Addendum

Perhaps I was a bit hasty to write "the last installment".  When I went back over what was written, I saw a lot about my struggle, a lot about the lessons from nature God used to speak to my heart, and yet very little about the actual journey of prayer!  Yes, I logged that I began praying again on my way down to Ocean City.  And that God confirmed the convictions I'd had through my devotional the next day...but I did a lot more praying - especially as I read Bill Hybels book.

One of the things he talked about was the acrostic A.C.T.S.  If you've been a Christian for any length of time, I'm sure you've heard of it.  It stands for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplications (or requests).

I think for a long time, I confused Adoration and Thanksgiving.  Bill talked about acknowledging God for who He is.  Omnipresent.  Omniscient.  Omnipotent.

That's when I began to realize that praising him is not the same as thanking him.  Seeing who he is isn't the same as being grateful for what he's done.  When you're sitting next to the vastness of the ocean, you begin to get a sense of how immense and complex and creative He is.  Can you even fathom counting the grains of sand on that one beach?  Think of it in terms of space and stars and galaxies...does your mind hurt trying to wrap itself around that enormity?  Praise Him for He is glorious!  When you have a more accurate picture of who you're going to in prayer it does a number of things.  It puts stuff in perspective.  If God created all of this - and holds it together each and every day - can he not handle whatever your problems are?  He created you as well.  Psalm 139 tells us we are fearfully and wonderfully made!  That he formed us in our mother's womb and knew us before the beginning of time.  He loved us with an everlasting love - can we do anything less that sit back on our heels in awestruck wonder...or fall on our faces in utter abandonment saying Abba Father, we adore you?  As I began processing these thoughts I started to sing the words to an old, simple song of praise Father I adore you, lay my life before you, how I love you.  Those same refrains then substitute Jesus for Father then Spirit for Jesus.  Then this song came to mind: Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, there's just something about that name.  Master, Savior, Jesus like the fragrance, after the rain.  Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, let all heaven and earth proclaim...kings and kingdoms will all pass away, but there's something about that name.

Now that my heart was in a place where I could truly see His perfection, I also clearly saw many of my imperfections...and I began to confess them.  Again, the book highlighted such a thing in a way I had not thought of before.  Bill tells a story of a congregant who came to see him to say he was tired of all this talk of 'sinning.'  As far as he was concerned, he wasn't a sinner.  Bill asked how long he'd been married.  It was a long time - something like 25 years.  Bill said, 'You mean to tell me in all that time you've never been unfaithful to your wife?  You have always done what is right?'  The man replied, 'Well, I'm in sales.  You know, I'm on the road a lot.'  He laughed a bit nervously.  Bill said 'He didn't admit it outright, but we both knew what he was getting at.'  Then he asked the man, 'Have you ever put down something on an expense report that you shouldn't have?  Gotten credit for something that wasn't really applicable?' 'Everyone does' was the reply.'  'And what about the product you sell?  Ever enhance the benefits knowing it wasn't true just to make a sale?'  'That's just industry standard' he argued 'It's expected!'.  Bill looked at this "non-sinner" and said to him, you've just admitted to me that you are an adulterer, a cheat and a liar.  The man looked shocked.  'Say it out loud' Bill instructed.  'This is what you are an adulterer, a cheater and a liar.'  Wow.  Have you whitewashed your sins?  I know I have.  Are you just sharing stories or are you a gossip?  Are you  just venting or are you a constant complainer?  Do you 'borrow' pens, paper, folders, any kind of office supplies from work?  You're a thief.  Ugly words, aren't they?  But sin is ugly.  We have ALL sinned and come short of the glory of God - instead of denying that fact, why don't you ask forgiveness for it and have it taken away?  I spend some time each day asking God to search my heart.  When I'm aware of what I've done that needs confessing, I do...but I also ask that He would show me areas I may not even be aware of.

Now that my heart was lighter, I could truly give thanks.  That week I started with thanking Him for the gift of the beach house, for my senses that allowed me to fully drink it all in - sight, sound, smell, touch...for the car that brought me down there, for the job waiting for me when I returned.  For the friends who texted to say they were praying for me, for revealing His love for me through my Bible and the writings of others.  For every lesson He loving taught me through the birds, the shells, the consistency of the waves and the rising of the sun each morning.  The words of another song came to mind and I sang them too...'give thanks with a grateful heart, give thanks, to the Holy one, give thanks for He's given Jesus Christ His Son.  And now, let the weak say I am strong, let the poor say I am rich, because of what the Lord has done for us.  Give thanks.'

Finally, I brought my requests to God.  I prayed for my children to return to a right relationship with Him.  I prayed for clarity and wisdom on a number of issues where decisions needed to be made.  I prayed for the well-being of my friends - not in general terms, but mentioned each by name and lifted their specific situations to Him.  I asked that He would guide my ministry, the leaders of my church, and those of our nation.  There are always many requests, but with a heart that's been prepared, they don't take on such a 'give me' quality.

As I closed out that specific time of prayer - I say that because I also talk to God throughout the day as things arise - I thanked Him for His promises and that He is faithful to carry them out.  I opened my Bible, read a few Psalms, sang another song of praise and sat back silently to listen to what He had to say.  The words of Habakkuk 2:1 came to mind...I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say to me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved.

So this then, is the true and fitting end to what happened on my journey from Despair to Prayer.  I hope you are able to glean something helpful from it.  I pray that God speaks to your heart as clearly as He spoke to mine...I know He will if you seek Him.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

From Despair to Prayer - Part 5 - The Last Installment

Day Two in Ocean City began early.  I woke up a little after 6am and looked out the back door in time to see the sun beginning to rise out of the ocean at the horizon.  A tiny ball of yellow with hues of blue, rose and orange surrounding it.  I opened my devotional and the words jumped off the page.

If you've followed this journey, you may remember that just the day before I had been praying "...for His forgiveness for my pride, my critical spirit, and my judgmental attitude."  I had come to the conclusion that "My job was to make sure that MY heart was right before God.  That I was seeking and doing His will.  I could pray for others, that they too were seeking God's face in decisions they were making, but beyond that, I needed to hang up my robe and set down the gavel."  Well, apparently I was right on the money about what I'd been doing because THIS is what the devotional said that morning..."Come to me and rest.  Give your mind a break from its habitual judging.  You form judgments about this situation, that situation, this person, that person, yourself, even the weather - as if judging were your main function in life.  But I created you first and foremost to know me and to live in rich communication with Me.  When you become preoccupied with passing judgment, you usurp My role."

I actually stopped reading and said out loud "but God...I came to that realization yesterday!"  He knows me well enough to know I need a reminder.  In fact, just a week after I returned home this was once again put to the test.  I wish I could say I passed with flying colors, not judging things at all, but I can say that where I might have dwelt on the situation and let it gnaw at me, I was able to recognize what was going on in my heart and mind and pray about it immediately to give it over to God.  Progress.

In keeping with my routine, after my quite time, I went down to the beach for a long walk, then grabbed my things and settled in to read.  The book I opened first was "Too Busy NOT To Pray", by Bill Hybels.  This book has been out for years - in fact, I had the "20th anniversary edition" which was published in 2008.  Apparently I'd been really busy, because I'd not heard of it before!  I lead a monthly prayer group for women and I'd been looking for a good resource from which to extract devotionals before we shared requests and got down to the business of praying.  My friend Teri, who is also the leader of our Women's Ministries Team had offered up this book and another as suggestions.  I'm so glad she did!

As I've also said in previous posts, I thought I had the prayer part of my walk down pretty well.  Thought I was pretty faithful.  But the truth is, there is ALWAYS room to grow in our relationship with God.  And as imperfect human beings, we need to remember that we've never got anything 'down pat' this side of heaven.  In fact, it reminds me of a joke I heard once.  After a service, a pastor was shaking hands with attendees.  One man said, "Pastor, I just want to tell you, I've worked very hard at keeping all the commandments this week...I haven't broken one!"  To which the pastor replied "well, now, you must be very proud of that."  The man nodded in the affirmative, not even aware of his sin of pride.  We can't and won't ever get it all right all the time.  If we could do that on our own, we'd have no need of a Savior.

Back to the book...of course it's broken into chapters, but in addition, each few chapters have an overall theme...God calls us into His presence, God invites us to talk with Him, God breaks down the barriers between us, God speaks to our hearts and God prompts us to action.  Many concepts in this book weren't necessarily new to me, but they brought me back to the basics in such a manner that I saw things in a fresh way.  There was a chapter called "mountain-moving prayer" that I especially connected with.

Bill Hybels begins the chapter by quoting Matthew 21:21-22..."Jesus said, 'I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt...you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done.  If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.'"  Then Bill says "Jesus, of course, was not in the excavation business.  He had little interest in relocating piles of rocks to the ocean's depths.  He was using the term 'mountain' figuratively, in hopes of conveying to all believers that we can be confident that our prayers carry great power."  He then goes on to cite two principles he'd learned over the years...1) Faith comes by looking at God, not at the mountain and  2) God gives us faith as we walk by His side.

I had been looking at the mountain so long it had paralyzed me with fear and filled me with frustration.  It had kept me from seeking the Mountain Mover.  When I failed to walk by His side daily, my faith weakened.  I didn't doubt God, but I wasn't trusting Him for everything and in everything either.

Later that afternoon as the tide went out, I took another walk down the shoreline looking at all the shells left behind.  I found a small conch shell and picked it up.  When I turned it over, I saw that it was broken.  I was disappointed because I thought it was complete until I saw the underside.  As I went to toss it into the waves, I stopped, because I felt God was speaking to my heart... "you're like this shell, Toni.  Even though it's been tossed by the sea and broken in places, I created it with an intricate beauty that remains.  In fact, those seeming imperfections are what make it unique, different from all the others"  I realized that God would never toss me away because I was broken.  I rinsed off the sand and brought it back to the house.  It now sits on my desk, a daily reminder that there is beauty in our brokenness when we let go of the despair, and receive healing through prayer.

Friday, September 23, 2011

From Despair to Prayer - Part 4

For my 3 day respite, I'd brought 6 books to read in addition to my Bible - always an over achiever!  I wanted to crack them open, but that first day spent laying back in my beach chair I was shocked at how tired I was.  For hours, I floated in and out of consciousness, soaking up the warmth of the sun.  My body and mind needed even more rest than I had thought.  I did open my Bible long enough to read Psalm 42 which begins and ends this way...  "As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul thirsts for God, for the living God.  When can I go and meet with God?  My tears have been my food day and night...Why are you downcast, O my soul?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God."

When can I go and meet with God?  Anytime, anywhere.  As I said in the first part of this saga, He had never left...he was waiting for me to come to him and lay down my cares, but I was too angry, frustrated, tired, and full of excuses, to seek his face.  And so my soul was downcast and disturbed.  But like the psalmist, despite the tears and sadness and time apart, my soul still thirsted for God and I knew I had to make my way back.  Once you've met with Him in a personal way, the world is not right when you're apart.  So that day, as I read the Psalm all the way through without interruption or distraction, I once again felt myself longing after what had been missing for weeks...that sweet, powerful time alone with God in communion and prayer.  Finally, I was able to move on the next sentence..."Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God."

After several hours of cat naps, and reading, and people watching, and just staring at the outgoing tide, I decided to take a walk up the beach.  As I walked and watched the birds, I noticed the sandpipers.  These little skittish birds are funny to observe.
They travel in groups, making quick, sharp movements.  Up the sand they run just ahead of the waves.  Then they turn, and dash toward the water, stopping occasionally to poke their rather long beaks into the beach trying desperately to catch and eat the tiniest of crabs as they burrow back into the sand.  "So many people are just like those sandpipers" I thought.  "Running up and down, back and forth, never seeming to accomplish anything, never stopping to enjoy their surroundings, never breaking from the crowd...just scurrying to and fro on a relentless quest to do enough to survive."  Lately, I'd had a sandpiper mentality and it became very clear just how utterly exhausting it was to exist that way! 

The seagulls were an interesting bunch too.  There was variety in their coloring - some white, some grey, some a combo of the two, some brown, some speckled - and variety in their behavior.  Some seagulls strutted the beach crying in loud, piercing gasps.
Perhaps they were angry at other gulls for stealing their food or maybe they just liked to complain.  Since I don't speak gull very fluently, it was tough to know for sure other than they seemed an unhappy lot.  Then there were the gulls who just stood their ground in the sand.  Let the meal come to them seemed to be their attitude.  Eventually something will wash up and all they'd have to do is reach over and peck a bit to satisfy their hunger.  Others seemed oblivious to all the activity and just tucked their beaks under their feathers and snoozed...I could relate to them today!  Then there were the gulls in the air.  For the most part, they were no different than the sandpipers really.  They circled and dove and fought off other seagulls from the boundaries of their airspace that no one but them could see.  But then there were a few who really held my attention.  They were the ones who spread their wings and kind of hung in the air.  There was a pretty good breeze blowing but they weren't pushed off course.  They faced into the wind and kept aloft, using what some might consider a problem, to their advantage.  They kind of rose above it all...watching, anticipating, facing into the winds of change, not losing momentum.  I wanted to be like them.  Not being busy all over the place, not complaining loudly to anyone who'd listen, not oblivious to everything, hiding from life, or even fighting to hold on to my perceived rights...no, I wanted to soar.  I wanted to have the staying power necessary to face the winds of adversity and use them...not be pushed around by them.  How like God to teach a lesson so simple and clear through His creation.

So how does one achieve that staying power?  Through prayer.  Despair had finally begun to lift...it was time to move fully and completely into a place of prayer.  And that's the story for tomorrow...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

From Despair to Prayer - Part 3

Monday morning finally arrived and I got on the road, headed down to Ocean City, New Jersey.  Up until the previous week, I knew my friend was going to allow me to use his house for a few days, but I didn't know when.  Luckily, the God who created the entire universe also knows exactly what each of us needs and when.  The timing couldn't have been more perfect.  When I thought I was at my breaking point, I was given the opportunity to slip away, reconnect with Him and get back on track.

I took my time driving down.  It was a picture perfect September day - a deep blue sky with fluffy white clouds ambling across the heavens, and temps in the high 70s.  The sun warmed my face, and I rode with the window down to enjoy the slight breeze.  About half an hour in, I stopped at a farmer's market for some plums.  I really wanted blueberries for pancakes the next morning, but they were out of season.  Another 45 minutes or so down the road, I  grabbed a sweet tea at a McDonald's.  The more miles I put between me and my stresses, the better I began to feel.  Finally, for the first time in weeks, I began to talk to God.  I poured out my heart telling him about all my frustrations, uncertainties, and anger.  I was able to articulate things I couldn't before, but I was also taking ownership of certain feelings, not just pointing fingers and casting blame.  I asked for His forgiveness for my pride, my critical spirit, and my judgmental attitude.  I recognized that no matter how right or wrong I might be about someone's motivation or behavior, it wasn't for me to judge in the first place.  The ability to correctly read the heart belonged to God alone.  My job was to make sure that MY heart was right before God.  That I was seeking and doing His will.  I could pray for others, that they too were seeking God's face in decisions they were making, but beyond that, I needed to hang up my robe and set down the gavel.

When I realized that I did not have to take on the actions of others, it was like a huge weight was removed.  That may sound like a no-brainer to you, but I'm a pleaser by nature.  I care very much - too much - what people think about me, how they react to me, the impression I make on others, and so on down the line.  So the behavior of others greatly impacts me, with the end result being feelings of frustration, a perception of being taken advantage of, or feeling slighted because my pride tells me I'm better suited to a task than the one who was chosen.  It all sounds very childish, but selfish, prideful behavior often is.

When I arrived at the house, it was almost 11 am.  I slipped the key into the lock and took a look around.  Just as I remembered it...bright, clean, quiet, and a back porch view of the breakers.  I could hardly wait to hit the beach.  I quickly lugged in all my things from the car, putting away the food first, then hanging up my clothes, and finally, putting on my bathing suit and lathering up the sun screen.  I filled a cooler bag with water, a blueberry Special K bar, my books, Bible, pen and pad, then slung it over my shoulder followed by my chair and umbrella, each of which were in a handled case.

It was just a few dozen yards up the path to the beach, which was far more full than I had anticipated at this time of year.  I found an empty patch of sand and dropped my gear.  The chair was positioned so I could look straight out at the ocean, the  umbrella plunged into the sand directly behind the chair.  I plopped myself into the seat, dug out the bottle of water placing it in the chair's cup holder, pulled out my devotional, Jesus Calling, and opened it to the entry for September 12th.  "Receive my peace.  It is my continual gift to you.  The best way to receive this gift is to sit quietly in My Presence, trusting Me in every area of your life.  Quietness and trust accomplish far more than you can imagine:  not only in you, but also on earth, and in heaven.  When you trust Me in a given area, you release that problem or person into my care.  Spending alone time with me can be a difficult discipline, because it goes against the activity addiction of this age.  You may appear to be doing nothing; but actually, you are participating in battles going on in spiritual realms.  You are waging war - not with the weapons of the world, but with heavenly weapons; which have divine power to demolish strongholds.  Living close to Me is a sure defense against evil."

As my friend Agnes says, "sometimes that book is just freaky the way it says what you need to hear, just at the right time."  Truer words never spoken.  I closed my eyes and, for the first time in a long time, sat quietly resting in the Presence of my King.

Tomorrow, we take a look at the rest of Psalm 42...

Monday, September 19, 2011

From Despair to Prayer - Part 2

Before I go any farther in detailing this little journey I've been on, please note the title is "From Despair to Prayer" - not "From Despair to No Cares".  Even as I write this, there are things going on in my life that are burdensome, uncharted, possibly life-altering territory and if I'm going to make it through, I need to cling to God...hard.  Note too, that prayer isn't a magic little pill you swallow that turns everything to sunshine and rainbows.  But prayer will give you strength and focus and keep you from drowning in that sea of despair.  It is that lifeline that connects you to the One who holds you fast.  I've heard it said that the day you have no troubles is the day you wake up in heaven.  We live in a fallen world with a real enemy who, even though he may have lost the battle for our soul if we're believers, still intends to do everything in his power to keep us from living joyous, power-filled and victorious Christian lives.  He can't alter our future, but he can mess with our present if we allow him to.  The thing to remember is, greater is He who is in us, than he who is in the world. 

Yesterday I said "all of a sudden, I found myself in the desert".  It's not that the trip into the desert was sudden, it was more the actual realization that I had grit in my teeth and was parched, that was kind of overnight.  Looking back, I see that things had been piling up, one by one.  That's always the way, isn't it?  Like the Casting Crowns song says:

It's a slow fade when you give yourself away
It's a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
It's a slow fade, it's a slow fade

I was burning the candle at both ends, and letting things fall through the cracks.  Before I knew it, I was so busy dealing with the squeakiest wheels, I had no time to slow down and hear the still small voice calling me.  The more I didn't pray, the more I didn't want to pray.

By the weekend before I left on vacation I was physically spent, emotionally raw and spiritually empty.  Sunday I went to church, but I didn't want to go in and sit down.  I saw a friend in the lobby and I began to share with her that I had an overwhelming sadness I couldn't explain and that the big picture looked so insurmountable that I didn't even know where or how to take my next step.  She asked if I'd been in to the service yet, and I confessed I really wasn't sure I wanted to go.  "You need to hear it" she said..."he's talking to you right where you are."  I begrudgingly slipped into a seat in the balcony .

That Sunday was the 10th anniversary of 9/11.  The sermon was out of Habakkuk, and the message was about moving from despair to praise.  I began to weep.  I wasn't ready to praise.  I walked out and tried to regroup.  Eventually, I walked back into the sanctuary downstairs, not taking a seat, but standing where no one could see my red eyes.  On the screen flashed verses from Psalm 42.  Several times I read the words "Why are you downcast, O my soul?  Why so disturbed within me?"  That's when the tear ducts really opened up. Like the psalmist, I didn't know why, but I knew my soul was downcast.  I couldn't stand anymore.  I turned on my heel and left.

That night, before I packed to leave for the shore, I called a friend.  I shared some of what I was feeling.  She gave me an assignment.  "You're going for 3 days, right?"  I confirmed.  "Okay...each day, I want you to read a chapter out of Habakkuk - there are only 3!"  She gave me some other instructions, and said she would be praying for me.

I hung up and set about the task of packing my bags, grateful to be going far enough away that I didn't have to deal with anyone I knew for a few days. 

Tomorrow, the praying begins...

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Call to Change

I had a blog post in mind today but I decided to write something different after reading what my dear friend Pam wrote in her blog, "In The Shadow of His Wings".  You'll find the link under 'Blogs I follow’ on the side of this page.  Now when you read her post today, "Change of Direction", you'll see that she refers to me and my blog.  We are not having a mutual admiration society meeting today, I promise…although I am truly blessed by the way she expresses what God lays on her heart.  I’m bringing it up because I too had a “change of direction” experience today.

I spent the early part of this week on vacation in Ocean City, New Jersey and during my short stay, I developed a routine. 
 Up by 6:15, I made a warm cup of tea, grabbed my Bible and my Jesus Calling devotional (Pam also refers to this book – I highly recommend it!) and went out on the back porch to read, journal and pray while I watched the sunrise over the ocean.  Then I’d head out for an hour long walk along the beach before plunking a chair in the sand and relaxing. 

I came home Thursday and, I’m sorry to say, while I started with a devotional and prayer time, there was no walk, just time spent catching up on church business, checking my work and personal email, Facebook and the like.  Friday was worse.  NO time with God, just hit the ground running after spending a fairly sleepless night fighting a stomach bug.   It bothered me all day as I kept thinking “there’s still time to read and pray…I’ll get to it right after…fill in the blank.”  Needless to say, that time never came.

So this morning I knew there were no excuses.  I fired up the tea kettle, grabbed my books and headed for my front porch.  I live in the city - Trenton, in fact.  Know anything about the capital of New Jersey?  Let’s just say clean air and beaches, it doesn’t have.  Still, it was a cool, clear morning and no one was up and about in the neighborhood yet.  I spent some time with the devotional, my Bible and journaling, but got a chill.  I moved inside, sat on the couch and started to pray.  Now, when I pray at home, I tend to do so with my eyes open.  I hope that doesn’t shock anyone.  I do that, because it becomes much more of a real conversation for me when I pray out loud, eyes open, just like I would converse with any of you.  Problem was, my email was up on the computer, and my eyes kept being drawn to it.  Finally, I said, “You know what God?  Why don’t we go for a walk?  It’s been too long since I’ve been to the lake – why don’t we walk and talk for an hour?”  And just like that, things changed direction.

As I eased my car into the marina parking lot, I saw a sign “3rd Annual Walk to End Homelessness.”  I’m not sure if I’ve ever really gone into what I do at my church, but I oversee an outreach ministry called “CommunityConnections” and we do a lot of work with the homeless.  I laughed out loud and said, “Well, God, I thought this walk was my idea, but it would seem you wanted me here.”  I got out of the car, walked up to the registration table and introduced myself.  The woman behind the table was the founder of the organization holding the walk. “Homeless to Independence, Inc.”  She and I chatted for a little, exchanged business cards and I was off on my walk.

The path around the lake and through the park is about a mile and a half one way.  I prayed and praised and softly sang as I made my way through the park.  At one point, two doe came silently out of the woods, turned and gave me just the slightest of glances, then crossed into the stand of trees on the other side of the path.  In the seconds it took to reach where they’d been, they had disappeared into the vegetation.  When I hit the halfway point, I turned around.  About a quarter of the way back, I noticed a sign on one of the trees.  Someone had written in fancy script, Eph. 3:18 “And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.”  That verse was especially meaningful to me because as I was de-stressing down by the ocean just a few days before, the lyrics to a Dave Pettigrew song haunted me as I looked at the vast expanse of water…"Every day I think so small.  Not seeing who you are or how you surround me.   There are so many times I fall.  But from my knees, I learn to see, how high you carry me.   What could separate us from your mighty hands?  Not death, not life, nor hell on earth could ever stand a chance. How deep, how wide, how strong, is the love of Jesus.”  I was surprised by the sign, because I was sure it hadn’t been there on my first pass, and yet I didn’t see anyone carrying signs to hang.  I smiled and thanked God for the personal message. 

A few hundred feet down, I spied another…Isaiah 40:9 & 10: I am God, the only God you've had or ever will have— incomparable, irreplaceable— From the very beginning telling you what the ending will be, All along letting you in on what is going to happen, Assuring you, 'I'm in this for the long haul, I'll do exactly what I set out to do.'  A few hundred feet more and there was another sign, then another, and yet another…all the way back, messages of God’s love and faithfulness. 

When I got back to the registration table, the folks from Homeless to Independence and I chatted a little further and discussed possible ways our ministry and their organization could work together.  I don’t know what God has in store, but I know there are no coincidences…only Godincidences.  And I know the change of direction this morning - both in thought (my purposeful decision to spend quality time with God) and in action (getting off the couch to head to the lake) - were changes that honored and pleased God.  Pam obeyed the invitation to change her plans and was rewarded with beautiful sights and a peaceful time with Jesus.  I obeyed the call to change my behavior and was rewarded with a sweet time of communion with God, words of encouragement, and a possible new ministry connection.  What reward will you miss if you don't listen for the call to change? 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

It's Christmas already?

I've never much liked the 4th of July. It's not that I'm not patriotic...not by a long shot. It's really more about the logistics of summer. Somehow once the 4th of July has passed, it seems the rest of the summer flies by in the blink of an eye and before you know it - it's Labor Day. The days grow short, the weather grows cold, and I grow an extra layer of fat from hibernating in my warm house.

So as Labor Day looms, I view it with bittersweet anticipation.

You know what's funny?  This is the start of a post I wrote in August...3 years ago.  Everything changes and everything stays the same lol.  I've taken to saying that MY calendar jumps from Labor Day directly to Christmas.  Now that may be an over exaggeration, but it IS bumming me out that, among other things, trips to the lake are less frequent.  By the time I'm done running my 'after work' errands these days, the sun has almost set.  I want to dig in my heels and yell at the top of my lungs...STOP!!  Time is just moving too fast.

You may be feeling the same way.  Vacations are pretty much over (and I'm NOT happy I never made it to the beach this summer)...college has begun and grade schools start up in a matter of days (I AM happy I'm beyond the life stage of finding just the right back pack!)  And all those things you were going to accomplish in the lazy days of summer...the books you wanted to read, the room you wanted to clean out, the sewing project you were definitely going to finish this time...never got done.  Where did the time go?

Before you know it, we'll be singing Auld Lang Syne and making a whole new list of resolutions.  So before that happens, I challenge you to join me in trying to beat time to the punch.  Right now...today...what can we do differently so that time is not so fleeting we can't remember how we spent it?  What or who would you pay more attention to?  What would you give up?  Something is eating your time...what is it?  Look at the beginning of this blog post - the one I wrote 3 years ago...I was going to start blogging way back then, got a paragraph in and didn't touch it again for all this time.  What dream/calling/desire have you put on the back burner that you need to grab hold of?  Time waits for no man...or woman...don't just watch it pass you by.

That's it this time around...no lesson, moral, parable or teaching.  No 'deep' theological insights.  Today I've just got questions...and they aren't rhetorical.  I invite you to weigh in and comment!