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...

Monday, December 19, 2011

It's All About the Details...Or Is It?

When I woke up Saturday morning, one of the first emails I saw was from "God's Daily Promises" with the title "Details, details".  It caught my eye because I'd been up since 4:30 that morning unable to shut off my brain.  For the past 2+ hours I'd been running details for our church's Christmas Store through my head.  We were opening our doors to families in need, allowing them to purchase toys for 10 cents or less on the dollar.  A kind of charity with dignity that allowed them to choose their children's gifts and have them wrapped, rather than receive a handout.  

Over 150 families had been invited and RSVPs had not be required for a variety of reasons, so we were totally in the dark as to how to shop and what to expect.  To complicate matters further, it had been less than 5 weeks from the inception of the idea to date of fruition.  All types of last minute loose ends came to mind and I began to toss and turn.  After a day that had included 12 hours of set up, shopping, another period of set up, then standing outside in the cold for awhile to carol during our Living Nativity which was also going on that weekend, my body was aching.  Since I'd gone to bed late, the hours of actual rest totalled less than 4...and I knew Saturday would be an even tougher go.

I thought about opening the email to see what encouragement I could find, but the time crunch kept me from it.  By 7:45, I was sitting in a diner booth having breakfast with a friend before heading over to the church to face all those potential issues I'd concerned myself with in the wee hours of the morning.  Right off the bat, I was caught off guard.  I had a driving team going to a local shelter to pick up some ladies and their kids, but the keys to the van were missing.  As one of the team began calling 1, 2, 3 people and counting to see who had the keys, I lost it.  I knew it was the exhaustion taking hold, but I just cried like a baby.  Two of my friends tried to comfort me and one of them reminded me of something I'd said just minutes before - "this isn't my outreach, it's God's, and I know He's going to take care of all the details."  Man can I forget quickly.

Eventually, the keys were recovered and the person who had absent-mindly taken them home felt awful about the oversight.  We had only lost half an hour with that phase of the outreach, and in the grand scheme of things, it wasn't earth-shattering or deal breaking.  Certainly nothing to cry over.  The rest of the day ran as smoothly as a first time event of a huge magnitude could.  Both volunteers and recipients had experienced something divinely put together and lives were touched.  At the end of the day, the blessings went even further as unsold toys were bagged and given to another organization looking for unwrapped gifts to give other children in need.

The following day, I went back and opened up that email and read, "But the Lord said to her, "My dear Martha, you are so upset over all these details! There is really only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it — and I won't take it away from her."  Luke 10:41-42 NLT.

The author went on to say "I can relate to Martha. If I were planning a party, she'd be the one I'd ask to help. Martha knows everything needs to be just right.  But Jesus stopped her.  'My dear Martha,' he said, 'you are so upset over all these details!…'  Jesus took Mary's side. He said that Mary was the one who had the right idea. She did nothing but listen and was praised; Martha did everything but listen and was chastised.  The Lord's priorities are not the same as ours. Jesus isn't as concerned about our lace tablecloths and clean kitchens as we are. He's concerned with the state of our heart — the time we spend at his feet, reflecting on his words and resting in his presence."

At the moment of my tears, I was more concerned about the details that weren't in place than in seeking the face of the One who's in all the details.  I knew I couldn't and shouldn't do things in my own power, yet there I was crying over what was out of my control rather than praying.  I was tired, but knowing I was vulnerable should have given me all the more reason to hand over the reigns I had no right holding.  Thank goodness I surround myself with others who are like Mary, who can remind me where to look and what's important if I lose sight of it.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Triumphs and Trials

I can't believe I haven't posted in 3 weeks.  So much has happened in that time.  Life has been very good and very hard.  Days have been filled with unbelievable joy and immeasurable sorrow...but I guess as friend of mine always says "that's life".

So what's the lesson today?  Happiness is fleeting, but sorrow is not permanent either.  Don't look at your circumstances because they will always be in flux - look for how God is moving in them because He never changes.  That's not a trite, feel good suggestion, it's a lifeline in the midst of storms.  Persevere.  While happiness is fleeting, joy in the Lord is rooted deep.  While sorrow is not permanent, it can knock you for a loop if you're not grounded.  God is the great stabilizer. 

I try to remind myself of these things as I go through the day.  I rejoice in the amazing way God is working in and through our outreach ministry, even as my heart breaks over devastating personal trials. 

My last post talked about the story of the widow and Elisha and one small jar filling many pots.  I equated it to some personal finance issues.  But I saw it happen in an even bigger way this month.  I saw God's provision pressed down and overflowing.  My church found an idea for a 'toy store' in an online publication called "The Best Externally Focused Ideas of 2011" put out by the Externally Focused Network.  (Google them, they are a wonderful resource!)  It was a way to give the gift of dignity to struggling families at the holidays.  We purchased hundreds of toys and are making them available to people in our community for just 10% of their value.  Parents will get to shop for a toy of their choice for their child rather than receive a handout.  They have the dignity of paying for the item and the fun of gift wrapping it.  The challenge was that we were asked to make this happen in a period of approximately 4-5 weeks.  We estimated the needed capital would be about $8,000.  At the start we had no venue, differences of opinion on which groups to invite and no funds.  4 weeks later, we have the place, all the groups suggested for participation plus some, and $8,600 in funds.  Nothing but God.  And I got to watch His hand move it all together.  Awe inspiring, trust me.

At the same time, I have been dealing with an immediate family member going through a disabling battle with anxiety and panic attacks.  Trips to the crisis center, the ups and downs of medications and mood swings, arguments over treatment options.  It's been a very dark time, and one of intense spiritual battle.  I have been praying for this person for a long time, asking God to move in his heart.  If I just looked at the circumstances, I might tempted to be angry at God for allowing all this to happen...but I'm trying to see what God is doing in the circumstances.  Is he softening his heart?  Breaking down the anger and pride?  We dislike pain, but sometimes it's needed to achieve a result.  'No pain, no gain' is not just about getting the outer man in shape.

All of this has taught me anew that the rain falls on the just and the unjust.  That just because I am a child of God does not mean my life will be devoid of hardship.  In fact, sometimes it seems that the more God blesses in one area, the more Satan rails against us affecting what he can with his limited power in another.  So I hold on to the truth in Psalm 9:9 & 10 "The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.  Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you." 

Are you going through trials today? This world holds many.  But God holds the world.  Look for what God is doing in the circumstances.  Ask Him to show you how He's working things together.  You may not see it today, or tomorrow, or this year.  But trust Him.  He is not fleeting.  He is permanent.   He will never forsake you.