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, March 25, 2012

Dancing, Sinatra and God

Last weekend, I went with about 75 others on my church's annual women's retreat.  The event took place at Sandy Cove in North East, MD - a beautiful retreat center with nicely appointed rooms, delicious, plentiful food and the waters of the Chesapeake Bay lapping on the shores of the grounds.  As an extra special gift, God provided absolutely perfect weather on Saturday...70+ degrees, with a light breeze and clear blue skies.  When I read in Psalm 19: "The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of His hands!" the sunsets over the bay at Sandy Cove are often what comes to mind.

The theme of the weekend was "Shall We Dance" and our speaker was Catherine Martin of Quiet Time Ministries.  I love the illustration she paints of dancing with God...wrapped in His arms, surrendering to His embrace and following His lead in a vibrant, intimate, ongoing relationship (dance) with Him through this life...perhaps even more so because it is something I'm so not good at otherwise.  God has given me many creative gifts:  I write.  I sing.  I act.   But dancing?  Not so much.  I've lost several acting roles somewhere in the dance audition.  It's something I've always wanted to do but it doesn't come naturally and I've never taken lessons.  Well, except for that time a few years back when at the ripe old age of 46 I thought a 10 week tap course might help me score a role in 'Singin' In The Rain'.  It did not and for good reason, I admit.  Those poor tap shoes haven't seen the light of day since (that's me in the blue tee shirt staring intently at the instructors feet - to no avail!)

I love watching "Dancing with the Stars" and it should come as no surprise that I like to route for other underdogs.  Those who start out as awkward, clumsy, two left-footed ugly ducklings like me...but through weeks of practice and perseverance, become swans, capturing the nuances of the dance, and bringing the audience to their feet.  That's my dream.  But while I may never look graceful on an actual dance floor, with the right Partner, I can and will be swept into a beautiful, dynamic life dance that will have the angels jumping to their feet with applause when I arrive home.

Our Friday night session asked the question, "will you dance with Him?" and it was centered around Jesus' interaction with the Samaritan woman at the well.  Saturday morning we were challenged with "will you sit at His feet?" and received fresh insight into the story of Mary and Martha and how to cultivate a heart of devotion. 

Saturday afternoon, we had 4 hours of free time to spend on any number of activities: a craft, Pilates, line dancing, playing games, shopping and more...but when God gives you the perfect day in the middle of March, there's only one thing to be done with it as far as I'm concerned.  I headed outside to revel in the day.  I walked the grounds with one friend, and chatted on the dock with another.  I even soaked up the sun with a good book for a bit. 

Session 3 was entitled "will you recognize Him?" and was based on the story of the prophetess Anna, who was on hand when Jesus was presented to Simeon in the temple.  I especially loved this session because it touched upon truths that I have learned and lived first hand.  Like the truth that God is the God of detail and that He loves to surprise you.  He knows your life and your needs intimately - even down to the smallest detail - nothing is too unimportant to bring to God.  Perhaps one day I'll share in another blog post a very special story of when that happened to me in a big way ...but if you want to read it sooner, it's in a book by Carol Kent called "Miracle on Hope Hill and Other Stories of God's Love" - page 55 to be exact.  Come to think of it, the story came to be in that book because of a visit to Sandy Cove about 2 years ago.  Just one of the exciting spins on this dance floor of life with God.

One of the biggest takeaways for me on Saturday night were these statements that Catherine shared:  In experiencing your romance with Jesus, you should linger excessively, listen eagerly, look expectantly and love extravagantly.  Again this resonated deeply with me.  I love to spend time not only reading God's Word and praying, but in spending quality time in His creation, appreciating with all my senses this world He's given us.  It is in these special moments with God that I love to linger...listening for His voice - in the sounds of the birds, in the whisper of the breeze, through the music of the water lapping on the shore. Looking expectantly at snapshots of His glory, waiting for the day of His return.  And I thank Him for his extravagant love - returning it to the best of my limited ability with songs of praise.

The final session on Sunday morning posed this question..."will you remember that the best is yet to come?" and described Mary Magdalene's joy as she encountered her risen Lord at the tomb.  It's certainly not a 'spiritual' song, but as I listened to Catherine talk about 'the best is yet to come' I couldn't get the tune of the Frank Sinatra song by the same name out of my head.  It ends this way:  "Wait til you're locked in my embrace, wait til I hold you near.  Wait til you see that sunshine place, there ain't nothing like it here.  The best is yet to come and won't that be fine...the best is yet to come, come the day that you're mine." 

Are you ready to be locked in His embrace?  Don't you want Him to hold you near?  The best is certainly yet to come, but let's dance with Him while we're here.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Time to Plan a Wedding

Is this the little girl I carried, is this the little boy at play?  I don't remember growing older, when did they?  Those are the opening lines to the song "Sunrise, Sunset" from "Fiddler on the Roof"...and that is my reality today.
My little girl got engaged last April.  It was exciting, but still a bit nebulous because no date was set.  Until today.  It's no longer "my daughter's engaged"... it's "my daughter's getting married, October 4th, 2013."  Now it's really real.  Now the planning begins in earnest.  But first, let me reminisce...

She's always been early.  It started when she arrived two weeks before her due date, and 26 years later, she's always the first to arrive at work, losing patience with the ones she has to wait on to gain access.

She's always been a bit of a daredevil.  I remember her in a baby swing, throwing her little feet out to force herself higher - the legs of the swing would sometimes lift off the ground.  I thought then, this kid is going to love amusement park rides...and in fact, the higher and faster the roller coaster, the better she likes 'em. She's a little heavy-footed on the gas pedal too!

She's always - well almost always - been a Fashionista.  It started with her first tap costume - a 'bo peep' like number that she pranced around in long after the recital...and now she's a visual merchandiser for a well-known, world-wide clothing chain.  Of course, there was a year or two in there when goth clothing was her thing.  Not the makeup, hair or piercings, but oh how I remember those horrible baggy pants with tons of zippers.  It's hard to believe that same child who once proclaimed "I hate dresses - I'm going to wear a suit at my wedding!" now wants to say "yes to the dress" - and desires one of the laciest 'vintage' wedding gowns I've ever seen.

And she's always been creative.  When she was about 4, I took her for her regular check up.  The doctor asked her to draw a picture of herself.  When she was done, he was amazed.  "Incredible detail for a child her age" he marveled.  "She's drawn buttons on the clothes, laces on the shoes, and barrettes in her hair."  When she was about 7 and her brother was 3, she wanted him to play school.  He whined "mom, I don't WANT to learn my letters and numbers again!"  Jackie thought a moment and  played on her brother's interest of ocean creatures.  "I know...we'll play 'sea school' she announced..."I'll be Mrs. Octopus, and you can be a whale!"  Now that's creative - my son bought into it 'hook, line and sinker'.  Ultimately, she graduated from college with a degree in Visual Arts with a concentration in photography.  Some of her work can be seen on her photography Facebook page...J.C. Photography

I'm proud of my daughter and the woman she's become.  She's hard-working, thoughtful, giving and loving.  She's chosen a man who loves and cares for her and takes care of her...and occasionally indulges her penchant for stuffed animals since their apartment complex frowns on having REAL polar bears and tigers live on the premises.  And now, she's getting married.  October 4, 2013.  We have a date.  Let the official planning begin!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Power of Words

I'm making hamburgers for lunch.  As the meat sizzles in the pan, my almost 22  year old son says to me "making monkey brain sandwiches?"

"What?" 

"I don't remember much from childhood" he continues "but I remember you once told me ground beef was monkey brains - that's why I won't eat it."

This is a revelation to me.  I don't ever in my life recall making that reference.  Ever.  But he is insistent.  So, maybe he's right.  Maybe I joked about it never thinking that it would cause such a strong reaction in him.

As someone who loves words I thought I was very aware of what these little symbols on a page can do.  My "love language" is words of affirmation, so I know when you express words audibly, with emotion and inflection behind them, they have even greater power to bring joy or sorrow, healing or pain.

It's one of the reasons why, when this same son and I used to share a computer, he would groan if he wanted to use it and I was already on.

"What's the matter?  I'll be off in a minute...I'm just writing a quick email."

"There is no such thing as a quick email for you" he'd complain.  "You don't just write them, you write and re-write!"

In fact, that's true.  A friend of mine says I don't write emails so much as 'craft' them.  I try to be thorough and clear since there are no verbal cues to indicate intent.

It's so easy to take words and how we use them for granted.  I lead a prayer group once a month. We're reading and discussing "Too Busy Not To Pray" by Bill Hybels.  This past week, there was a section entitled "Mean What We Say."  He talks about using 'sanctified jargon' while praying, saying that many may not even think about the implications of what they are saying.  He gives this example "Dear Lord, please be with me as I go on this new job interview" or "be with me as I go on this trip."  When you first hear it, the request sounds holy.  Unfortunately, it doesn't make sense.  I'm often tempted to ask the one who is praying, "why do you ask God to do what he is already doing?"  In Matthew 28:20 Jesus says, "Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."  In Hebrews 13:5, God says, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."  ...One of Jesus' names, Emmanuel, means "God with us."  We don't need to ask God to be with us if we are members of his family.  Instead we need to pray that we will be aware of his presence, that we will be confident because of it."  Seems so obvious when he puts it that way, doesn't it?  But I'm sure we've all been guilty of something similar.

The Bible has much to say on the power of words.  Proverbs especially dedicates many verses to the subject. 13:3 warns "He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin."  16:34 instructs "Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." and 18:21 says "The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit." There are are many more examples, but I'm sure you get the idea...words can be a weapon or a healing salve...or in the case of what I'm assuming must have been a teasing, off-the-cuff remark, they have the power to alter how someone else views things, good or bad.

So here's my challenge to you today.  Think before you speak.  Whether or not your conversation is emotionally charged, your words have a lasting effect on others.  Use them to encourage, teach and uplift.  And never, ever tell a kid that ground beef is really monkey brains LOL!