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, January 30, 2017

Confessions of a Fixer

I'm a fixer. I want to make everything better.  I want everyone to be happy. Unfortunately, that's just not possible.

Sometimes I just have to admit things are out of my control. Sometimes I can't make anything better. The need is too great and my resources are too small.

And I don't like that.  Not one little bit.

Still, there's nothing I can do about it, right?

Last week, a woman walked into my office. Homeless, she wanted a place to stay for the night. I tried to get her story, but with each question I asked, she switched the direction of the conversation and headed down another rabbit trail.

I don't think it was deliberate. I don't think she meant to mislead. She was just unable to stay focused. Her restless mind was jumping all over the place.

It was obvious she was chronically homeless. Several times she referred to previous periods of homelessness. She talked about "couch surfing". She knew all the places I was going to refer her to even before I shared them.

At one point, she buried her head in her hands and whimpered "please don't make me go back there" when I suggested contacting shelters in Trenton. There was no way to really know the extent of the hardships she had endured along the way to our doorstep.

I went into problem-fixing mode and spent an hour and a half with one ear pressed to my cell phone as I waited on hold for an emergency resource, and listened to her disjointed memories with the other.

When I finally got through to an operator, the answer was "there are no shelters available tonight, tomorrow, or for the foreseeable future."

Can you imagine?

And we've had a mild winter so far. What would happen when temps dipped into the 20's, the teens, or single digits?

Even so, she's luckier than most. She has a car. It offers some protection from the elements. But sleeping in 30 degree weather in a tin can with no insulation is still brutally cold.

In the end, all I could do was help a little with food and gas, but the memory of that afternoon has lingered. I've thought about her constantly since our encounter.

Yes, sometimes I just have to admit things are out of my control. Sometimes I can't make anything better.

And sometimes, I confess, I forget to talk to the one who can.

As I recounted what had transpired to a friend, their first question was, "did you pray with her? I'm sure that provided some comfort."

That question cut me to the quick.

I hadn't used the only real resource I had.

I was too busy trying to solve the problem on my own. Too busy getting annoyed at the long hold time. Too busy thinking about all the other things I still had to do that day.

I had forgotten to "Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always." (1 Chron.16:1)

I may not have had the power to change her immediate circumstances, but it was well within my power to intercede on her behalf with El Roi, the God who sees.

"He will respond to the prayer of the destitute; He will not despise their plea." (Psalm 102:17)

Although it felt as if the opportunity had been lost, I heeded my friend's question and prayed after the fact for this woman. The following day, I had a conversation with the person who is basically my counterpart at another church and I explained that she might be coming his way since we mentioned his church as a possible resource.

"Well, it must have been God-ordained" he said. "Last night, I attended a meeting and sat next to a woman who runs a program that is specifically geared toward helping people like this woman. Do you happen to have her contact information?"

In fact, I did. Although I had no idea why I might contact her, before she left, I asked for her phone number "just in case anything came up."

I provided him with that number and he was going to have the program reach out to her.

At this point, I don't know if they've made contact with her, but I do know this...This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us - whatever we ask - we know that we have what we asked of Him. (1 John 5:14-15)

The need is great, but my resources are not too small.

Neither are yours.

We possess the most powerful resource of all.


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Lessons from an Orchid

I was proud I'd kept the orchid given to me as a birthday gift alive for more than two years.

It was quite a feat since I have a "black thumb". I have killed hearty cacti, and now I was responsible for this exquisitely fragile flower.

Every Wednesday, I faithfully watered it and in return, it offered up delicate white flowers with veins of purple for my enjoyment.

But almost a year ago, I was away from the office for a period of time that encompassed two Wednesdays and had forgotten to leave instructions on watering in my absence.

When I returned, my heart sank. 

In that short time, the flowers had dropped off, and one of the two stems was brittle and dry. The second stem was in desperate need of water and the only signs of life were two leaves at the base that were browning around the edges.

I mourned my mistake and for a few moments considered tossing the whole thing out. Instead, I took out a pair of scissors and clipped the lifeless stalk. Although I doubted I could revive the remaining one, I again took to watering it weekly. 

There were many days I wondered if my efforts were wasted. There was no sign of change. Just a brown stick propped by stakes and flanked by those leaves that hung in there.

Then one day, a strange thing happened. 

I noticed a new leaf and "aerial roots".

For some reason, roots that should have been at the base of the plant, appeared at the top. I looked up the phenomenon and learned this:

Aerial roots function as anchors, affixing the plant to supporting structures such as trellises, rocks and walls.

While there was still no sign of a flower, it was obvious there was life and growth and I was encouraged.

With a renewed sense of purpose and the growing anticipation of possibility, I continued to water the plant.

Then last week, I walked into my office to find...

...four healthy buds just days away from popping open to display their elegant blooms.

It took months of blind faith and persistent watering with no promise of success, but ultimately, life sprang from death.

Hope has grown out of discouragement.

My friend, are you in season where all you see are the decaying remains of something once beautiful?

Perhaps a relationship has died. Or a dream has withered away. Money, once plentiful, dried up after a lost job. Life has a way of throwing us unexpected curves that can leave us feeling neglected, brittle, and in desperate need of care.

Have faith.

Although you may not see it, life remains. 

It may take a lot of time and patience and nurturing, but God will water your thirsty soul. And if you are willing to receive it, that water will slowly, perhaps ever so imperceptibly, bring life back to the surface.

In the process, some aerial roots may grow. Situations that don't seem to make sense at first, but that God has created to serve as anchors to the Rock.

Then one day, what you thought would never be possible, is right in front of you.

Life, in all its fullness and beauty, returns.

Hebrews 11:1 puts it this way: "Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see."

Have faith. God is always present even when we can not see Him with our mortal eyes.

Is there something you're trusting God for today? Please share it with me in the comments - I'd love to pray for you, believing together that God will bring hope out of discouragement.