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, April 22, 2012


Judges 6:36-40:  Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised— look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said.”  And that is what happened. Gideon rose early the next day; he squeezed the fleece and wrung out the dew—a bowlful of water. Then Gideon said to God, “Do not be angry with me. Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece, but this time make the fleece dry and let the ground be covered with dew.”  That night God did so. Only the fleece was dry; all the ground was covered with dew.

Have you ever heard someone say they were "putting out a fleece before God?"  This is the story in the Bible they are referring to.

Let me give you a little more background...over a period of time after being delivered from Egypt, Israel had begun "doing evil in the sight of God."   They began  to worship Baal and other gods.  As punishment God "gave them in to the hands of the Midianites" for 7 years.  It was at this point that an angel of the Lord visited Gideon with this greeting in  Judges 6:12 "The Lord is with you mighty warrior."

Gideon's response sounds very 21st century to me: "Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us?  Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”  Aren't we so like that?  We've gone and disobeyed God, then turn and blame him for the bad things in our lives. 

There is much back and forth between Gideon and the angel resulting in Gideon's request for a sign which is given. But Gideon goes back to the "sign" well not once, but twice more as the scripture above notes. He knows he's pushing it.  It's why he says "Do not be angry with me". 

So why all this talk about fleeces?  Because a few weeks ago, armed only with the knowledge that this story was in the Bible, I brought a huge doubt up to God for the 40 millionth time and threw in a "fleece" of my own.  No, I didn't lay wool out in the backyard.  I asked for something to be given to me that I thought would be extremely unlikely I would receive unless God was in it.  It was a specific item that needed to come from a specific person.

In truth, I'd done this once before.  In September of 2010.  I knew I hadn't stacked the deck in my favor back then because as simple a request as it was, it went unfulfilled - just as I was afraid in my heart of hearts it would be.  Then, about a month ago, a situation presented itself that reminded me of that earlier fleece.  Because all this time later although some circumstances have changed, I still have the same question, I decided to lay the same fleece out.  "Well, even Gideon did it twice" was my response to my cousin when she cautioned that I'd already done this exercise once without the answer I was hoping for. 

In all honesty, I should have done a little more research on this before going forward.  Going from memory, I thought Gideon's use of a fleece was more about his seeking wisdom and assurance that he was on the right track.  What I now see more clearly is that it was about Gideon's lack of faith.  We are told in  Hebrews 11:1: "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."  Gideon needed to see to believe.  Similarly, in John  20:24 Thomas said “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” He was speaking of believing that Jesus had been resurrected. Jesus' response in verse 29 is "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

I needed concrete "proof" of what I hoped for.  So what happened this time?  I received the item. In spite of many circumstances that could have prevented it, I received it in a special way.  Has this put my doubt to rest?  I'm sorry to say, like Gideon, that one "sign" has led me to want further confirmation.  After all, I didn't get a positive result the first time, so why should I trust the positive this time?  Is it just what I want it to be?  If possible, I may have even more questions now.

In a response to "Is it acceptable to 'lay out a fleece' before God in prayer", the web site gotquestions.org has this to say in part: "Still, Gideon asked for two more signs because of his own insecurity. In the same way, when we ask for a sign from God, even when He does provide it, it doesn’t give us the answer we crave because our unsure, wavering faith doubts that it was from God. That often leads us to ask for multiple signs, none of which give us the assurance we need, because the problem isn’t with God’s power, it’s with our own perception of it."  Well, they certainly nailed my experience on the head.

Despite it all, I don't bring you this story as something negative.  Whenever a lesson is learned, there is something good to be gained from it.  In my case, I've been reminded about a number of things.  
  • Read and understand a passage of scripture before "using" it.  The very least I should have done was go back over the story before going forward.  It's similar to what Mom always said - think before you speak. In this case, understand before you act.
  • We are not meant to have all the answers.  If we did, there would be no need for faith.  God provides what we need, when we need it and not before.
  • There are promises in God's Word that we can stand on. Ps 84:11 says "For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless."  and Ps 37:4 says "Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart."  "No good thing" is not always what we want or wish for - it's what the Lord knows is best for us.  And when we delight ourselves in Him, His desires for us become our desires for ourselves, and they are granted.
I won't be placing another fleece out anytime soon.  If my hands are full of the wool of my doubts and insecurities, they won't be empty to receive the gifts and assurances He wants to place in them.  I will continue to pray on God's timing, wisdom, and discernment in the situation at hand, trusting that He will do what is in my best interest in His perfect timing.  It is easier said than done, but I know it's what's best. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Oxymoron of Me - The Wild, Quiet Life

I tend to live life at 100 mph.  Always doing, always thinking, always connecting people one with another.  I work a full time job, head a ministry that could easily be a full time job, and have spent a lot of time lately with my 22 year old son who's been going through some tough stuff the past 6 months.

On top of all those things vying for my time, I'm on the church praise team, lead a monthly women's prayer group, and I try to stay in touch with many friends through emails, cards, and trips to the diner for a cup of coffee.

And then there are my interests and passions.  Writing, singing, reading, biking, walking, the theater, and most recently some very amateur photography.

I'm very lucky in that while I'll never become wealthy doing my job, it has wonderful perks which allow me access to local theaters, Broadway, concerts, theme parks, ball parks, restaurants and more...all at no cost.  A friend once joked that I live a wild life of constant entertainment.  That might be a tad overstated, but I am fortunate to have many cultural outlets.

Recently though, I've slowed down.  I've taken my foot entirely off the gas pedal.  I've begun to coast.  Part of it might be attributable to the very early spring here in New Jersey.  Beautiful, sunny weather with temps in the 60's, 70's and even 80's last month made day after day a wonder to behold.  And behold I have.  Where normally I'm one to look at the trees and wonder when they'd gone from bare to full bloom, I'm now outside each day seeing the subtlety of change.

Buds tightly closed one day, are cracked open the next.  A day or two later I see the flowers begin to unfurl.  Like watching time elapsed photography, I'm aware of trees, shrubs, plants and flowers slowly and beautifully coming back to life.  Bursts of color...yellow, red, pink, green,  purple, white...a veritable rainbow of hues cover the landscape.

And then there are the walks along the shore of my lake.  Spectacular sunsets compete each evening for "best in show".  Golden sunsets shimmer over the ripples of water.  Trees are highlighted against skies painted with such exquisite intensity it's as if they're on fire.  Even the moon, stars and other planets like Venus and Jupiter have put on an amazing display night after night.

So what's the problem?  Well, I find myself in uncharted territory.  While I've slowed down before, for a day, a weekend, maybe on rare occasion even for a week's vacation, this has lasted for months.  My soul longs to be outside and commune with God's creation.  I rush to the park after work to catch enough light to take the 3 and a half mile walk through some of the woods and fields near the marina.

 I've been setting aside all else so that I can quiet my heart, extend my hand, and let God lead me in the dance.  It's as if I can't absorb enough of the sights, sounds, and smells that surround me outdoors.  I try to log each one somewhere in my mind, tucking it away.  Hiding the experiences in my heart.  It almost scares me.  Why this sudden push to soak in the beauty and stillness of my surroundings?  Why the hesitation to take on all those responsibilities that used to consume my day?  Am I subconsciously aware that there will come a time when I can no longer indulge my senses in this way?  Will there come a time when things are so hard I will need to dig deep to remember this closeness to my Creator?  I don't know, but I'm fighting the part of me that feels guilty for stepping off the treadmill and just standing in awe at all that's around me.

After all, doesn't Psalm 46:10 say  "Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth?" (NIV) And Psalm 23: 1-3 remind us "The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me  lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.  (emphasis mine) He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake."(NIV).  So why should I feel bad?  I also think about Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8 which says: "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace."

I can't stay in this place forever.  I need to get back to family needs, ministry tasks, day to day obligations.  But I have come to believe that this is a God-given season of refreshing.  An extended downtime when He and I can walk together and I can simply drink in all He has to show me and reflect on it.  He has created a world for me to enjoy and I am being obedient when I take the time to do that. When I once again have to pick up the pace, I pray I can find balance.  Rest stops along the highway.  Or better yet, instead of going only 0 or 100 mph, cruising more consistently at a manageable 50.

I generally wrap up my posts with some conclusion, some 'insightful' thought,or lesson learned, but today I feel like I'm just wondering out loud.  It's been such a strange time for me.  I'd love to hear about any similar experience you might have had.  What have YOU learned from it? 

A Journey Through Time: Finding Purpose In Him

So there's this thing called "Random Journal Day".  I was made aware of it a week ago by my friend Dawn at Beneath the Surface, and invited to participate.  I thought about it for days, knowing that many, many entries were of such an intensely personal nature on one particular subject, that it wouldn't be of much help or interest to anyone other than myself to see where the road has led. 

Tonight, I finally sat down and began leafing through page upon page of hand-written thoughts, prayers and emotions.  As I remembered, there was an inordinate amount of logging on a situation that will remain between me, God and those journal pages.  Perhaps if there's ever a day when it works itself out, I'll share the journey to the resolution, but not today.

Today, I share an entry from June 4, 2007.  I had been separated for 5 months, had gone from leading worship at a church of 2,000 to one with a congregation of 20, and had recently escaped a downsizing at work but was putting in 16 hour days. In the midst of all this change and upset, I was reading through Rick Warren's Purpose Driven Life.  Each day had a Bible verse and a question posed.  This particular day the verse I read was Colossians 1:16b "Everything got started in Him and finds its purpose in Him."

The question posed  was this:  "In spite of all the advertising around me, how can I remind myself that life is really about living for God, not myself?"

Herein lies the irony...my profession is that of commercial writer for a radio station.  It is, in fact, my job to convince people that life is indeed all about them.  That they have a need for a service or product that must be met, and that they are worthy and deserving of satisfying that need. 

The response I logged was:  "An interesting question given the 'purpose' of my current profession.  And given all the 'me' questions swirling in my head lately - 'what should I do about my job, my marriage, my church?'  It seems it would all be so much easier to stop thinking about me and concentrate on God.  Not that the questions will disappear, but maybe the answers will come once things are in the proper perspective.  So how DO I remind myself that it's about living for God?  When I sing at Journey (my church at the time) I look out at just 20 people in the congregation, but I'm enjoying leading in worship - I know it's for God - there's no glory in singing in front of such a small group, yet I'm still content to do it.  It's from the heart and an act of worship, it's not about me - and that's a good thing...I believe I'm using the gifts He gave me, which is pleasing to Him, but I'm not sure whether they're being used for His purpose for my life.  

I know one answer to the question posed - and probably to several of my own - is that reading my Bible and meditating on what it says as well as daily prayer will help me to remember it's about God and what HE wants to do with me...and not about what I want.  I've gotten what I want before and it led to heartache.  I just need to be willing to put down those desires I think I want and need to be willing to wait and see if it's what He has for me...what will fulfill that purpose?  Will I reconcile?  Remain single?  Find new love?  Pressing questions for me, that when held up in the light of eternity, are so very unimportant.  What is important is how I react, act and handle those situations as they unfold.  The world is watching how Christians behave - they need to see Jesus in me and not me struggling for control over Jesus.  In the end, I want to be like Paul and count it all joy - the trials, the hardships and the good times because they all form who I am and how I interact with my Lord.

Lord, you have promised to take care of me, telling me to be anxious for nothing.  So once again, I make a conscious effort to lay down my fears, concerns, uncertainties and desires, knowing you are sufficient to supply all my needs and that you will never leave me or forsake me - and I in turn will strive to live for you."

Almost 5 years later I have some answers to those 'me' questions I grappled with as well as a new found purpose.  I've been divorced for about a year and a half.  While I know that God hates the dissolution of the marriage vow, there were reasons present which 'covered' the decision to end the union.  I am a healthier, happier, more effective person because of it.  I still don't know if God's will for me is to remain single or if He has a new relationship in my future, but I know that His timing is perfect.  The church I now call home is not the one I was in 5 years ago with just 20 members, however that tiny church plant was the place where I was introduced to my life's purpose.  Community outreach was a huge part of who they were as a congregation and I quickly realized that it was something that spoke to my heart in a powerful way.  I now head up a ministry at my new church called CommunityConnections.  I'm at the same job, but have the help I so desperately needed after the downsizing.  In fact, that job has provided contacts and blessings to help further the work of the outreach ministry.  I've walked through a lot of highs and lows in 5 years, but the Lord has been faithful to His promises to always care and provide for me and He has never left me...and I continue to strive to live for Him.