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...

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Extraordinary Things Done in Ordinary Lives

With this title, I'm totally stealing the theme from the wonderful sermon I heard today.  It was based on 2 Kings 4:1-7.  The passage speaks of a widow with 2 sons. A creditor wants to take the boys into slavery to pay off their deceased father's debt.  The widow cries out to the 'man of God', Elisha, about her plight.   Elisha's response in verse 2 is "How can I help you?  Tell me, what do you have in your house?"  The widow responds that she has nothing but a little oil.

At this point in the sermon, we were shown what 'a little oil' probably looked like...a very small bottle of oil that held perhaps a cup.  Elisha instructed the widow to ask ALL her neighbors for ALL their empty jars. "Don't ask for just a few.  Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons.  Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side."  The widow follows his directions exactly until she is informed that all the jars are filled.  She then goes back to Elisha to tell him the task is finished and his response is "Go, sell the oil and pay your debts.  You and your sons can live on what is left."  The pastor then uncovered what was most likely the size of the jar the woman had been filling.  It was easily 10 times the size of her small pot of original oil. She had not only filled one of these large containers, but every single one her neighbors had provided.  Obviously it was enough to not only repay the debt, but to provide additional income to live on.  Can you imagine her amazement, relief and joy?  I can.

This message was particularly poignant for me.  If you follow my blog, you know that a little more than a week ago, I bared my soul about the bottom line of my checkbook.  It was a bit of an embarrassment to tell the tale of how I was staring at $20 with 12 days to go til my next pay.  But it also appeared to strike a nerve with readers.  I'm obviously not alone.  Many have been caught short or are hurting due to circumstances beyond their control.

That $20 was my "little bit of oil."  Who was my 'creditor'?  At a minimum, I needed to pay a $75  utility bill, put gas in my car, and replenish some perishable food over the 12 day period.  On November 19th, this is what I wrote..."I'm not sure what these next two weeks hold.  Not sure where the funds will come from to get me through although He's already provided some gas money via my friend.  But, through the events of yesterday, I am reminded of what God said in Matthew 6:27 - 33."  The passage I quoted talks about how worry can't add one hour to our lives.  It tells us that God knows our needs and that He's faithful to supply them.  And once again He was.  In the past few days, I received some gas money from one source, and money to pay the utility bill from another.  Money to buy bread and milk came from yet another person, and gift cards for meals from still another.  Some of the money was a loan, some a gift, but none of it came to me because I requested help directly from those who provided it - it was given because I sought God in prayer and He moved hearts to offer assistance.  But God wasn't satisfied with just meeting the immediate need.  He knows I have other needs that have been put on hold.  Things that must be attended to, but were not as pressing as those previously listed.  On both Wednesday and Saturday I received a check... they totaled $600!  If you had told me I'd be receiving money but would have to guess where it was coming from, I would never in a million years have given you the correct answer.  That's because I think in finite terms and God's ways are infinite.    Because I think logically and God's ways sometimes make no human sense...like taking a small pot of oil and filling multiple large jars.  Who does that?

The main points we were given to take away from the story of the widow and the oil were this.  1)  Ask  - when you have a need cry out to God.  The widow did...I did...and we were heard.  2) Listen - Once you have asked God to provide, be attentive to what He's telling you to do.  For the widow, that meant giving over the little she had so it could be multiplied into much...for me that meant confessing my inability to provide for myself while stating publicly that I had no plan other than the belief that God cared about me and my needs...which leads to 3)  Trust - believe that God is faithful to make good on His promises to meet our needs.

In that previous post I also shared that my son accused me of seeing God in too much - of giving Him too much credit for things that happen in my life.  Once again I say 'guilty' - not in the 'too much' but in seeing God in everything, trusting Him for everything, and believing He can do anything.  He does it over and over and over again.  He proves Himself trustworthy, faithful, and loving.  How can I do anything less than give Him all the glory?  Once again, He has truly done something extraordinary  in this very ordinary life.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Today I Saw Jesus

Philippians 2:3-7.  "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness."

Today I say those verses being lived out.  I saw men, women, teens and children allowing themselves to be used by God, doing things for others in love, no strings attached.  I saw it in big and small ways.  A group of men and boys going to rake leaves.  People claiming all 150 "angels" off the Angel Tree - meaning 150 gifts being purchased for the children of prisoners.  A young man volunteering his Sunday afternoon to work on my car free of charge.  People committing to another 85 gifts being purchased to fill our church's "Christmas Store" - a  place where low-income families can shop for their children's Christmas gifts for pennies on the dollar...and when the 'tags' for those gifts were gone, funds were donated.  Someone I met just a few short months ago quietly, unexpectedly, slipped me some much needed funds.  And a group of 25 or so teens and adults worked for 12 hours to prepare, serve and clean up one of the most delicious Thanksgiving dinners ever, for local shelter residents. 

Each served in their own way - sacrificing time, treasure, and talent without selfish ambition.  Each was the hands and feet of Jesus, putting the interests of others before their own.  As a result, people were and will be blessed in the receiving AND the giving. 

Today, I saw Jesus...and it filled me with joy.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Negative Balance...Positive Lesson

I was driving home from a friend's house last night, my mind processing the events of  the day.  It had been a busy one...Fridays always are in my industry and the last six weeks of the year are always the craziest.  Usually I eat a home-made lunch at my desk, but I had rushed out empty-handed that morning.  By 1:30 I was really hungry,  so a brief trip to a local eatery of some sort was in order.  I called a local diner, ordered a grilled cheese with tomato and bacon and a few minutes later went downstairs to hit the ATM.  I pulled out $60 so I could also get gas on the way home.  As I looked down at the ATM slip, I was shocked to see a negative figure, especially since payday had only been 3 days prior.

I turned right around and headed into the bank to put the money back in and get back on the plus side...albeit only by a few dollars.  I told the teller what had transpired and she brought my account up on the screen.  It was all there in black and white...after paying all my bills I had less than $5 to make it through the next 12 days.  I remembered an uncashed check for $16 in my wallet, so I deposited that too, bringing my grand total up to $20 and change.  I live modestly, but the reality is still that it's generally hand to mouth.  I truly make it through by faith in God's grace and provision, but this was a bad situation even by my standards.  I now realize where things got off track - it's actually a number of factors coming together - but unfortunately, I hadn't been paying attention closely enough to avoid the problem.

As I left the building again, I said under my breath 'God, how am I going to get through these 2 weeks?'  I'd pretty much lost my appetite at this point, but I felt bad - I'd ordered the sandwich, so I went to go pick it up.  When I arrived at the diner, I dug out my credit card.  I've been trying to pay them down and hated to use it for something so trivial.  Inside, I handed it over to pay the $6 bill.  The man behind the counter pointed to a sign I hadn't seen - "$10 credit card minimum".  "There's an ATM in the lobby" he said.  "I don't have cash" I countered.  "No, there's an ATM for you to get cash in the lobby."  "I understood you" I said again..."I have two dollars on me and this card...that's all.  He shook his head.  "Then I guess I won't be able to buy the sandwich."  He let me walk out the door.  I assume he wasted the food by throwing it out rather than relent on the $10 minimum.  I know credit card companies charge a fee and that was the reason for the minimum, but by sticking to his guns, no one won.  He probably lost as much money on that food as he would have by taking my card.  For myself, I was utterly humiliated at the exchange, crying as I got to my car.

I was embarrassed, frustrated with my lack of attention to detail that landed me in this spot, and hungry.  I headed to Wawa to pick up something because I knew they wouldn't turn down my card.  I picked up a sandwich, diet soda and two little York peppermint patties because, as I'm sure everyone knows, chocolate is the great spirit lifter lol.  Once back at my desk, I finished out the day.

At that point, it was time to turn my attention back to my paltry account to make sure no more surprises were in store.  I have a lot of things automatically withdrawn which assures things get paid on time, but a problem can arise if there's a hiccup in a utility bill for example.  The phone rang, interrupting my worrying, and a friend of mine asked if I was still at work.  She invited invited me over for dinner.

While we chatted at her kitchen table, I shared the story of my mistake and ensuing embarrassment.  She didn't say much at the time, but before I left, she passed me $40.  When I protested, she said "I've been there, I understand."

So there I was, on my way home, thinking about the money I had and how best to utilize it to make it through, when the car in front of me slowed down.  There weren't a whole lot of cars on the road and the light up ahead was green so it annoyed me that the vehicle seemed to be slowing for no reason.

I threw my blinker on, got in the left hand lane and was just about to pick up speed when I saw it.  A very confused doe, unsure of whether to run back to the woods on our right, or take her chances by continuing on.  I immediately hit my brakes, and looked to my right because I knew where one deer was present, more were sure to follow.  In fact, there was at least one other deer on the side of the road, watching to see how this would all play out, wondering if she should stay put or venture into the melee.  The doe in front of me finally opted to run on to the left side of the street.

As I watched all this transpire in a matter of seconds,  I thought about the impatience that almost cost me an accident.  "Thank you Lord for protecting me."

How often do we put ourselves in harm's way?  God has us traveling at a certain speed for a reason, but all we see is a road block - something that's slowing us down from getting where we want to go at the pace we want to get there.  Instead of trusting that He knows best, we take matters into our own hands and wind up in a dangerous situation... maybe even a wreck.  Only then do we see some of the bigger picture and realize that God wasn't trying to frustrate us or keep something from us - He was saving us and protecting us from harm.

It's the same with my money issue.  I made an assumption based on the only thing I chose to look at - a sum of money had been deposited a few days before.  I hadn't taken the time to tally all the obligations I'd met to realize there was nothing left.  I was spent, and it resulted in my embarrassment at the bank and in the diner. Isn't it the same way with our lives sometimes?  All the little sins add up until one day our world comes crashing down.  We think we're 'okay' not realizing how the little things are chipping away and then suddenly the mess is exposed.  Only then do we turn to God to ask 'what do I do?'

When we take our eyes and minds off God and start to put trust in what we think we know, disaster follows. The Bible says in Proverbs 16:25, "There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death."

I'm not sure what these next two weeks hold.  Not sure where the funds will come from to get me through although He's already provided some gas money via my friend.  But, through the events of yesterday, I am reminded of what God said in Matthew 6:27 - 33 "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?  And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own." 

Not long ago, my son had this "accusation" for me.  "I think you see God in too much...I don't think He's as responsible for as much as you give Him credit for."  While hearing those words from my son saddened me on one hand, on the other, I was glad that an all consuming trust in God is what he sees when he looks at me.  Because trusting in God for everything...everything...finances, protection, day to day provision, and more...is not a Pollyana approach to life.  It's faith, pure and simple...and I learn that lesson more and more every day.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Hurt and Healing

Words spoken
Heart broken
Excuses made
Trust betrayed

Suspicions rise
Denials fly
Walls erected
Heart protected?

No.

Anger grows
Sadness flows
Mess created
Still unabated

Solutions where?
Why care?
Nothing's fair...
Try prayer

Now.

Letting go
Saying no
Finding peace
Sweet release

Walls crumble
Heart humbled
Healing starts
Sin departs

Forgiveness.