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...

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Cleaning Closets

I open the door and it all comes tumbling out.  Rain boots, bags filled with papers, work out equipment, even the vacuum cleaner has "gone rogue" and attacks me handle first as the door swings wide.

The hall closet has become a catch-all.

Don't feel like heading all the way down to the basement?  Throw it in the closet.

Company coming over with no time to clean?  Shove the mess into a bag...and toss it in the closet.

Not sure where something should go or how to deal with it?  Stuff it in the closet.

Sound familiar to anyone else?

Unfortunately, the day has come when my house must go on the market. There's no more hiding things in the closet because people will come in and look there.  And in the basement and attic and all the other places I try to hide everything.

So this week, I started the painstaking chore of  beginning the clean out with that closet.

At first, it was overwhelming.  

I pulled EVERYTHING out.

Now the mess lay exposed, all over the dining room floor.  I started by sweeping out the empty space.  I made sure nothing was hiding in a back corner.  If this was going to be done right, nothing could remain untouched and hidden.

Then I began to tackle the "obvious".  The stuff I knew was useless and unnecessary.  I quickly filled a trash bag and hauled it to the curb.

The weight lifted just a little bit.

Then there was the stuff that was still usable, but not by me.  The skateboard.  The clothes in a size 6 I'll never again fit into.  Those things got brought down to the basement, set aside for the yard sale that will happen when the weather breaks.

I breathed a little easier.

Next up were the emotional things. The things that brought memories flooding back.  Some sweet, some bitter.  Sifting through these were tougher, but ultimately, I gave each their due and then dealt with them, filing and tossing as needed.

Now I was feeling empowered.

What's left is the practical stuff.  Things that still need my attention, still need to be worked on before they can be filed.  Each day I work through a stack, steadily making progress.

Is your heart like my hall closet? Filled with things you need to toss, give away, or deal with?  

As we hurry through life, we don't take the time to deal with situations as they arise.  We stuff them inside, shove them down, until one day, they spill out all over the floor.  The mess of our lives exposed for everyone to see.

It requires a clean sweep...nothing hidden in the back recesses where it can live on to become the start of a new garbage pile.

In Matthew 19:26 Jesus looked at his disciples and said "with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."  He had just had a discussion with the rich young ruler who was unwilling to sell all his possessions and follow Christ.  As the man left, unable to give it all over to God, Jesus tells His disciples that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.   The disciples are "greatly astonished" and ask, "who then can be saved?"  Jesus responds with the quote above.

Jesus wasn't just talking about giving up wealth.  He was talking about giving up what you hold dear. Trusting Him enough to give it ALL to Him.  

Have you ever really looked at what you're holding on to?  It's probably a lot like the junk I found in that closet.  

God is more than willing to help you sort through the mess.  

Some things need to be tossed right away. 

Some things may be the lessons you've learned.  Their greatest value is realized when they're given away - shared with someone else who will benefit from them. 

And then there are things that will require some working through.  

But God is up to the task.  It's not overwhelming for Him.  It's just important that you give Him EVERYTHING.  No leaving something in the back corner of the closet of your heart or the attic of your mind.  He'll see it anyway, but He wants you to retrieve it and willingly hand it over to Him.

The mess in the closet didn't take a day to accumulate and it's taking more than a day to deal with.  The important thing is that I started.  I saw the need, I knew the solution, and as hard as it was to tackle, I felt so much better when that closet was emptied.

Won't you join me today?  Open the door of your heart.  Acknowledge the clean up that's needed.  Ask God to grab a broom and sweep all the junk out. You'll feel a weight lifted.  You'll breathe easier.  You'll be empowered.

Because with man, this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Of Wings and Winter

If he hadn't moved, I never would have seen him. The waning light, his coloring and surroundings all worked together to hide him from view.

Once I realized he was there, I trained my lens on his hiding place and began to zoom in.  It took a second before the blur of grey came into focus and I held my breath, hoping he wouldn't fly away before my finger pushed down to snap the picture.

In fact, he seemed quite content to stay put, allowing me to approach the tree slowly and take pictures from several angles.  When I was satisfied I'd gotten at least one usable image, I began to make my way back to my car before darkness fully settled in.

At home, I downloaded the pictures and was shocked to find the bird I had photographed was a mockingbird.  It's not that they're rare.  On the contrary, they are quite common.  But while the mockingbirds I'd seen in the past were slender, graceful looking birds, this one was...well...chubby!  I questioned my identification for a second, but there was no denying the white wing patches that marked him as a Northern Mockingbird.

Then it dawned on me.  It's been an extremely harsh winter.  I bet this bird had bulked up to stay warm!  I googled "what do birds do in winter?" and found an article on about.com.

The article detailed a number of ways that birds physically adapt to the cold.  They grow extra feathers or fluff them out to create air pockets for additional insulation.  They may stand on one leg or crouch to cover both legs with their feathers.  And sometimes, they tuck their bill into their shoulder feathers for protection.  It went on to say that even small birds can build up fat reserves by gorging when food supplies are abundant to give themselves an extra fatty layer that serves as insulation and extra energy to generate body heat.

Are you going through your own harsh winter?  

It doesn't have to be cold outside to feel like you're surrounded by a desolate wasteland with no hint of life anywhere.

Health issues, financial problems, relationship woes, employment uncertainty, dreams put on hold, the list of things that can hit us like a bitter north wind is seemingly endless.

So what can we do to protect ourselves?

Well, we don't have feathers to fluff out or grow, but we do have armor we can put on.  Ephesians 6:13-17 says "Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the Gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."

Like the bird builds up fat reserves by eating when there is plenty we cannot ignore God when things are going well.  When we pray and meditate on God's word in the goods times, we build our faith and trust so that it is in reserve when difficulties arise.  The promises we have committed to memory become our go to source - our insulation and energy - when things become so difficult we feel totally depleted.

By putting on His armor, we no longer have to go through the gyrations of trying to cover our heads and feet with our own feathers...dealing with issues in our own strength.  

No...we can rest safe and secure under HIS wings.  Psalm 91:4 says "He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart."

But we will not only find refuge, we will find joy - Psalm 63:7 tells us " Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings."

The question isn't if winter, it's when.  Don't let it take you off guard like a snowstorm in April.

Put on your armor...then lean in close and feel the warmth of His wing.