Monday, November 28, 2011

Standing on His Promises

On Christ the solid rock I stand...
After celebrating Thanksgiving again and again (our kids came home in shifts), I’m still counting my blessings. They’re nearing 1,000 now and I have decided to keep the list going. (Why stop at 1,000?) After giving thanks for the wonderful people in my life and the numerous comforts and conveniences that surround us all, I have been reflecting on the endless list of God’s promises in His Word.

For these, I am ever so thankful:
  1. All things are possible with God. 
  2. God’s arm is not too short. 
  3. Nothing is too difficult for the Lord. 
  4. He works all things together for the good of those who love Him. 
  5. He gathers His lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart. 
  6. No one can snatch them out of His hand. 
  7. God can turn to good what others intended as harm. 
  8. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 
  9. His mercies are new every morning. 
  10. His anger lasts only a moment, but His favor, a lifetime. 
  11. He will continue the good work He has begun. 
  12. Jesus came so that we might have life, and have it to the full. 
  13. When facing temptation, He provides a way out. 
  14. He will never leave us or forsake us. 
  15. He gives wisdom to all without finding fault. 
  16. With the Lord as my shepherd, I shall not want. 
  17. He gives us immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. 
  18. The Spirit intercedes for us in groans that words cannot express. 
  19. If we seek Him with our whole heart, we will find Him. 
  20. He draws us with cords of loving-kindness. 
  21. Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord. 
  22. He will make our paths straight. 
  23. He will refresh us like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. 
  24. The joy of the Lord is my strength. 
  25. His grace is sufficient. 
  26. He gives us a future and a hope. 
  27. If we abide in Him we will bear much fruit. 
  28. Goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives. 
  29. Better is one day in His courts than thousands elsewhere. 
  30. One day every knee shall bow and every tongue acknowledge that He is God. 
The more I think, the more I thank! I invite you to add your own favorites in the comment section below.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Counting My Blessings

"Those who thank Him in all things find that He gives more to thank Him for." 
"Giving thanks to the Lord keeps my eyes on the Lord." 
"Focus not on the crisis, but on Christ." 
Of all the speakers at the women's conference last weekend, I was moved most by the heart of Ann Voskamp, whose words are above. Through the deep valleys of life, Ann has learned to praise God, to thank Him in all things. She painted a poignant picture of how we can live fully right where we are. It's keeping our hands open to God in life, not closed or withholding anything from Him.

"We were made to give Him thanks," she says. "Not just on one day -- Thanksgiving. We were made to praise Him and to live thanksgiving, every day!" Her book, "One Thousand Gifts" dares all "to live fully right where you are." She challenges each of us to start counting our blessings "to know that God can be counted on."

We all have struggles and stresses, but even on the most lonely of roads, we can find immeasurable blessings if we open our eyes to notice them... fresh dewdrops in sunlight, the rich aroma of coffee, a child's toothless grin, a brisk autumn walk, the flutter of a yellow leaf.

As we start thanking Him, our eyes are opened to the many more blessings... the symphony of the rain, the hoot of an owl, a confidence shared, an invitation extended, the colors of the sky.

I started making a list, and found that the only difficult part about it is taking the time to write them all down... freedoms and flexibility, fresh water in abundance, a delightful memory, words softly spoken, the courage of a young man serving our country.

While I thought I already had a grateful heart, the blessings kept coming richer and sweeter as I recognized anew all that He's given me... to love and be loved, the pleasure of a job well done, a good decision, the privilege of parenting, the gift of laughter... the list continues on and on.

As the appointed day of Thanksgiving approaches, will you join me in making it
a way of life -- to thank Him for all things, in all things? I invite you to share a special thanks you may have otherwise overlooked.

Dear God, giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17), I will never stop thanking you for all you have given me. I'm especially grateful for your grace and forgiveness, and the everlasting hope we have in your son Jesus.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Finding Refreshment

We felt like we had missed the summer -- after spending half of it in hospitals and doctors' offices -- but it's amazing how the Lord has been refreshing us ever since Ted went off oxygen at the end of August.

It began with sailing on the bay with some good friends. Then, we had bonfires, we camped -- in a tent -- on a gorgeous weekend; we went canoeing -- not just once, but a few times! We took a road trip, driving 1500 miles (round trip) to the AACC conference, which totally rejuvenated us. On top of all that, our October was made up of the most beautiful, mild and colorful autumn days, allowing us to do some light hiking in the U.P., a little gardening, woodcutting, raking and other projects together.

On Friday, we once again held a Bible study with some treasured friends in our home. For each one of these things, I rejoice that the Lord has "given us our lives back." These are all things we hadn't been able to do earlier -- and for a time, I thought we'd never be able to do them together again! Ted is truly a walking miracle and I can never look at him the same. I can never thank God enough for what He has done in our lives.

When I spoke at a women's conference in February, little did I know that their theme verse for the weekend would become a lifeline for me through the seasons to follow:
The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. ( Isaiah 58:11 NIV)
What a great reminder it has been that the Lord is the Source of our true refreshing! Abiding and staying connected to Him is the only way we can be refreshed to the core of our beings. When the going got tough, I had to send down deeper roots. But He is always there, ready to refresh. All I have to do is reach for Him.

Gracious God, thank you for the deep refreshing that only you can give. You know all our needs. You continue to give as we continue to stretch our hands out to the Source. Dear Lord, please help everyone who reads this find true and full refreshing in you. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Pausing to Listen

Don't we all long to hear God and know that we are following where He leads?

I attended a wonderful workshop at the AACC conference recently on Learning to Hear God: You Can't Give Well What You Don't Do Well. Presenter Sharon Tilley, PhD, shared her hunger for God and how, with much study, prayer and practice, she has learned to better hear His voice. She says (and I wholeheartedly agree):
"I have found Him to be always speaking, and that I can hear what He is saying to me more and more as I am willing and able to tune in to what HE would like to say, following HIS lead rather than asking Him to follow mine." 
How wonderful it is that we have a God who seeks relationship with us and expresses His love each day in so many ways, if only we would see it. Taking time to still ourselves and look to Him is more important than anything else we could do with our day, but why is it we so often rush and cram all we can into a single day?

This point was illustrated to me so effectively, and in a humorous way. Several times as I was waiting in the long lines for the restroom at the conference, I would see women at the sink trying to get soap out of the automatic dispenser. I'd watch as one would swish her hand quickly under the dispenser and remove it before the dispenser had a chance to dispense. She'd move to the next sink and swish quickly -- and even the next sink -- and still no soap! Then she'd express her frustration at why these things never work for her. I was amused as I watched this happen again and again, each and every time I visited the restroom. 

When I had my turn at the sink, I'd hold my hand under the dispenser and deliberately pause -- longer than I may have wanted to. Sploosh! The soap would land in my hand. I smiled each time and thought how impatient of a culture we have become. We are conditioned to want immediate, instant and automatic!

Unfortunately, I think we often approach God the same way. If He doesn't answer instantly when we pray, we think He isn't answering. We may even rush on ahead of Him, picking the answer we think is best.

With this goofy illustration in mind, I have challenged myself to remember to carefully PAUSE at regular intervals and listen for God's voice throughout my day.

I would like to challenge you, too! Each time you wash your hands, may you remember that God speaks freely when we pause long enough to listen.

Lord, I love the way you lead me. Forgive my impatience and my sometimes hurried ways. Quiet me and still me so that I may receive your wisdom and direction throughout my day and for all my days. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Bursting with Joy

We were filled-to-overflowing on our way back from the AACC (American Association of Christian Counselors) conference in Nashville the last week of September. Ted and I have been attending the world conference, held every two years, and it is always so amazing.

There's so much passion and power, wisdom and godliness. Many of the speakers were well-known authors – Ortberg, Strobel, Crabb, McDowell, and many more. (I have added many book titles to my to-read list!)

Before and after the speakers, we'd sing together the most beautiful worship music, led by Christian artists. Imagine nearly 7,000 voices raised together...("We bless you Lord, God of the ages; highest of all, we magnify you, your name will be exalted, exalted...").

After the sessions, we'd leave the large conference rooms and spill out into the atrium streaming with natural light. The Opryland Hotel is the perfect location, with its rich and tropical atrium – palm trees towering, fountains flowing, fragrant orchids blooming, and walkways meandering through a lush and green paradise.

It is an experience that involves all the senses. It feels as if we were allowed to visit heaven for a few days and now need to come back to earth to finish some work.

I realized I've had the opportunity of abiding – for days. It was like sitting at the feet of Jesus for teaching, soaking up His love, feeling the joys of the beautiful things He loves and yet feeling the pain of the injustices that hurt the heart of God. It was a beautiful time of recharging and refocusing on what's important.

Now we are bursting at the seams with more love and joy than we can contain – nor were we meant to keep it all for ourselves.

Lord, "You make known to me the path of life, you fill me with joy in Your presence..." (Psalm 16:11 NIV). And now, dear God, help us spread your love to all, to help a hurting world.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Don't Quit!

The road was so long and bumpy, so painstakingly slow, it made me want to quit. I was hurting and all I could see ahead was more hurt!

That is how I felt -- often -- over the last ten months of working my arm back into condition after an injury. But I'm so glad I didn't quit, because I would have never known what was beyond.

In May, I wrote about being stretched. I'd had many painful appointments with a physical therapist and lots of diligent hours of exercise on my own. With little improvement, my doctor ordered an MRI which revealed a torn rotator cuff. He referred me to a surgeon who warned that it would be a long and arduous recovery: about six months more of this stretching and rehab would be expected after the surgery.

How would I go without my right hand for that long? I prayed God would give me the grace and strength I needed for the dreaded road ahead. To allow faster healing after the surgery, we were taught some exercises to improve my range of motion that Ted was to help me with.

But then, Ted became acutely ill in June, and it put everything on the back burner. I tried to do my stretches, but I was too distracted to do them consistently. So, for a few more months, my arm ached and my left arm continued compensating.

When Ted's health improved enough that he could help again, we faithfully did the painful stretching exercises with new grit and determination. We'd already been through a lot, so we could climb this mountain too, we said. It was hard to stay patient when day after day we saw no improvement and every exercise made me want to cry and quit.

Finally, how rejuvenating it was to start seeing progress a couple weeks ago! The pinched, achy muscles began to loosen up, a bit at a time. I can once again reach above my head, put on a jacket, tuck in my shirt and sleep on that side, without much pain at all. (I think it is yet another way God is teaching me patience.)

In my last post I told of our joy when we went canoeing last weekend... What sweet victory that was having both Ted and I healed to the point of lifting our 65-pound canoe on top of the car together! And with the nearly full range of motion I'm regaining, I have successfully avoided surgery! Yeah!

What if I would have given up too early? I would have never known the victory. It certainly would have meant more pain. I wonder if we quit too early with other things in life, instead of persevering in prayer?

God, you are good and you've surprised me again with your wonderful blessings. When we think we can't do it any longer, Lord, help us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. (Heb.12:1 NIV) Help us to be joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer. (Rom. 12:12 NIV)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

How Lovely is Your Dwelling Place

One sweet morning Psalm 84 became my refreshment. "How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty!" (v. 1)

How good it is to hang out with God. How good it is to draw near and feel His presence. It gives us joy and we feel secure. We praise Him and we realize how blessed we are and we just want more of Him. It's a beautiful picture of abiding.

"Blessed are those whose strength is in you..." (v. 5) When we trust in the Lord, He renews our strength. We are refreshed by coming to Him -- consciously and deliberately abiding in Him.

The footnote in my Bible mentioned this psalm was used while on a pilgrimage to worship the Lord. It explained,"The joyful expectations of the pilgrims transform the difficult ways into places of refreshment..." and "they experience anew the bountiful hand of God."

How true that has been through these last difficult months! Many times I have crawled into the shelter of His wings to abide in Him and draw my strength from Him. On the day before one of Ted's difficult surgeries when we found ourselves "between a rock and a hard place," I knew God was up to something. Despite the dim prognosis from the doctors, I had a sweet peace and joyful expectations of what God could and would do.

Through the long turbulent weeks that followed, I clung to God's promises. We were encouraged by visits from praying friends and sporatic improvements in Ted's condition, and we found ourselves living "from strength to strength" (v. 7).

But I began to wonder what God would require. Not everyone who asks receives healing. God may have other plans for us. Would we ever have a bonfire again, or camp together or go out in the canoe? I hated to give that up, but I knew I had to lay it down. Wherever you lead us Lord, we'll be faithful in following.

Imagine my amazement after my surrender. The bountiful hand of God has been at work and I am thrilled to report that Ted has been off oxygen for two weeks now! Only a few days after "unplugging" the oxygen, we had our first blazing bonfire. Last weekend, we camped in a tent, thoroughly enjoying the music of the woods -- like it was our first time.

Today, my spirit soared as we glided across a pond in our canoe! With the sun on our backs, I looked deep into the gleaming water at all the life sustained within. The beautiful underwater plant life, tiny snails, lily pads attracting dragonflies and honey bees -- all great illustrations of abiding. I was ever so thankful as I reflected on how God knows all our needs and our wants and He is such a great provider!

Oh God, how great you are! You do not withhold any good thing! (v. 11) As the last days of summer are fleeting, you have extended this season of our lives and we find our refreshment doing the things we love -- together. O Lord Almighty, blessed are those who trust in you! (v. 12)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Arise, Come With Me!

Smoky Sunrise by Barb Meacham

When Ted was in the hospital, my friend Barb phoned and encouraged us with reflections from her study time. I asked if she would write it down so it could be shared as a devotional... (thanks, Barb!)

…Arise, come, my darling; my beautiful one, come with me.

In Song of Songs 2:8 the lover is leaping across mountains, bounding over the hills to come to his beloved maiden. He is described as a gazelle or a young stag. He moves freely with agility and grace. Here we see a picture of our risen Lord. Nothing hinders Him. Nothing can stop Him because He has overcome all obstacles. Nothing can hold Him back from His beloved because all things are under His feet. 

As the chapter continues, the lover swiftly descends to his loved one and calls her to come with him to the mountains. For each one of us there comes a time when Jesus calls us to the mountaintop. He summons us to rise above circumstances that turn our eyes downward and inward. He entreats us to rise up in confidence of who He is. Instead of being consumed by anxiety, fear or unbelief we are challenged to lift up our eyes and see our help eagerly coming to us. He bids us to leap and bound with Him on the heights.

The call may come when you face illness or financial problems or broken relationships or any of a myriad of faith-shaking circumstances or events. We can be consumed by them or we can take the hand of Jesus and head for those lofty peaks. 

Jesus yearns to bring us to the fullness that His blood has wrought. And our difficulties are raw materials the Lord uses for His good work. He crafts good from them, they are not wasted. Through our challenges Jesus calls us away from our self focus to greater faith and love.

But we will not go any higher than what we believe to be true of God. Is He trustworthy? Is His leadership good? We wonder, does He really love me or will He leave me dangling off some cliff? What we believe will be seen in the movement of our heart. Will you go with Him? His grip is sure. He is the one who loves you with His whole heart. Believe in His great goodness. He will enable you to stand on the heights. 

- Barb Meacham

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Little Taste of Heaven

I recently came across a familiar face in the obituaries. He was the father of five of my best friends in my grade school years. Oh, the fun we all had!

We'd been neighbors with this nice family years ago. There was always something fun to do while living the country life, some adventure to be had. Our families' ages were well-matched and our values were so similar. We met as kids on the school bus and soon got our parents to be fast friends too. We were like one big family – picnicking, swimming, biking, sledding or just working around the farm or in the garden. This family was always so thoughtful of others, and we loved our time with them.

After they moved away, we stayed in touch awhile, but somehow 30+ years had gone by since we had connected!

When I showed up for the funeral and saw them all together – now all grown up but amazingly familiar – a ton of sweet memories came flooding back. The service was very well attended for this much loved man and was a celebration of 77 years of a life well lived. Each person in attendance had their own memories of how one man made a difference. In my life, he made an impression by loving his wife and children and modeling the way to live with honesty, integrity and generosity. Now I saw these qualities living on in the next generations.

The looks on each face when we greeted one another were priceless! After long embraces and brief conversations with each sibling, my spirit was full to overflowing for days following. I realized what an extraordinary blessing it was to have had them as neighbors, friends and positive role models in those early years. God gives good gifts.

Seeing these dear friends after all these years was truly a little taste of heaven itself. Will this be some of what we'll experience when we step through the gate into eternity someday? It gives me just a glimpse of the joy we'll feel when we meet Our Loving Father face to face and see all that He has prepared for those who love Him.

Is there someone with whom you'd like to reconnect? I am so thankful I made the effort.

God, thank you for the rich friendships you've given us while on this earth. Jesus, I love that you are preparing a place for us to be with you for eternity. (John 14:2 NIV) We'll be so excited to see "things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him." (1 Cor. 2:9 NASB)

Monday, August 22, 2011

With Every Breath

Earlier this summer, I almost lost Ted as we navigated the choppy channel of his severely restricted lung capacity. (We later learned his oxygen levels had been so low they could have sent him into a coma!)

As I watched the rise and fall of his chest after a difficult surgery, I was thankful for his every breath. Later, as he fought to be successfully weaned off the breathing machine, he became keenly aware that every breath was a gift from God. Many, many people were praying and we witnessed a miracle that day and throughout the turbulent recovery period to follow. We know that God still has plans for us!

Facing a life-threatening situation surely serves to sharpen perspective. The whole experience seems "surreal" to both of us. In these few months of healing, we have had much time to reflect. We've been asking ourselves:

  • Have we truly been living life to the fullest?
  • Are we investing well in the relationships that matter most?
  • Am I pointing people to Christ?
  • Are we wisely stewarding the time, talents, money and material things God has given us?
  • What kind of legacy would I be leaving?
We talked of things done well, things we wouldn't change. We didn't mind at all that we haven't gotten around to replacing carpeting, organizing closets or buying a better entertainment center. What matters most is who we've been with and the quality time we've spent together. Of course, we'd always want more of that! We see our most important mission in life as living authentically for Christ and loving others with every breath we're given.

Besides being ever so thankful that Ted is alive, there have been several relationships enhanced through our trials. Some have told us they love us, others have told us more often, and still others have surprised us with care and compassion we never knew. We have learned to receive (when we'd been more comfortable on the giving end), and we are learning to give from a new place in life.

As we look back on the rough waves we've survived this summer, we are ever more aware of God's awesome presence each and every day. The more we experience His love, the more we can pass on to others.

If you were facing your last breath, what would you wish you did more of? less of?

Lord, thank you for life. Thank you that you have come so that we may have life and know its fullness (John 10:10 NIV). Continue to shape our perspectives so that we do not become distracted or busied by the things of this world. Instead we want to focus on the surpassing worth of knowing you as Lord (Phil. 3:8 NIV).

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Facing Trials of Many Kinds

I've been keeping vigil on Ted's health all summer and it was starting to take a toll on me. We'd been through some difficult trials, and I got behind on sleep.

When sleep-deprived, ever notice how your whole outlook changes? Doubt and discouragement creep in. It is a tool of the enemy to steal our hope and joy.

The Bible tells us to “Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds, because the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4 NIV)

Sometimes it is hard to make the leap to “joy,” but I do know I want mature faith. I tell myself I need to persevere so I can be complete, not lacking anything. It will all be worth it. The joy will come again. I’d say, “OK, Lord. If that’s what it takes, then bring it on. But, help me persevere.”

I’d be strong one moment, and then doubt would enter in. I’d think of how long a road this has already been and how little progress I’ve seen lately. I’d start to wonder if Ted would ever get off oxygen again. Would we ever be able to sleep in a tent and hear the sounds of the crickets or the loons singing on the lake? Would we ever feel the peaceful glide of our canoe on the water? Would we ever enjoy a late bonfire, watching the last few valiant embers fade? These are the things we love. We’ve enjoyed the sweetest of outdoor memories together, but what if that’s all we have now – just memories of doing these things?

I struggled and wrestled. What if this were God’s will for us? I cried out to God. I grieved the loss of my summer, the loss of the life we knew. Finally, I told God I would accept whatever He has for us and I would still praise Him. I’d have to adjust, but I’d still love Him and praise Him, whether in the valleys or on the mountaintops.

After my prayer of surrender, God began to encourage me. Ted’s strength increased a great deal in a few days. Yesterday, he got to turn his oxygen down a notch, and his blood counts show the infection is going away… yes, progress! (I celebrated by bringing him flowers from the farmers market and a loaf of his favorite bread – yes, he can have carbs again!)

This morning I opened my Bible to read where I had left off, at the story of David and Goliath. Once again, God reminded me of how we can conquer the giants in our lives – beat incredible odds – if we just trust in Him. We must not focus on the giant, but on God.

Do you have a “giant” that is trying to discourage you?

Oh God, you are so good and you are faithful beyond our comprehension. I trust you with whatever you allow to happen in our lives, because you are in control. Thank you for the glorious hope we have in knowing you.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Sending Down Deeper Roots

Just as the clearing was coming into view, another obstacle entered in. Ted is back in the hospital and our routine is anything but normal. Behind on sleep and overwhelmed at times, I press on to the priorities in life. I know that God is in control and that He equips me for all that He calls me to. I struggle but hold on, realizing He must be taking us deeper. And for that I can be thankful.

When I feel that I am not enough, I try to remember that He is. I am to trust in the Lord with all my heart and I am not to lean on my own understanding. (Prov. 3:5-6 NIV) What does this trusting look like?

Last night I was refreshed by the words of Jeremiah the prophet, "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out is roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit." (Jer. 17:7-8 NIV)

When I had opened my Bible in the middle of the night, a card fell out that Ted and I had prepared together several summers ago to lead devotions when camping with our friends in the Sylvania Wilderness. Interesting that it was six years ago to the day (on Sunday) that we had shared this devotion together.

It brought back memories of canoeing in the pristine waters and hiking amongst towering trees on mossy earth, spongy from years of a naturally rejuvenating forest. We had gathered the dozen adventurous campers around a crackling campfire for a time of Sunday morning fellowship. We talked about the above verse, discussed how a tree illustrates trusting, and explored what is involved in sending out roots. It was one of those sweet spiritual conversations I have treasured among close friends. Just as we were wrapping up our devotional time, someone looked up and noticed six bald eagles circling in the clearing overhead! Overflowing with thankfulness, we watched them for quite awhile.

It refreshed me as I thought of how that devotion is just as relevant today. "Just as we have received Christ Jesus as Lord, we continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as we were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness." (Col. 2:6-7 NIV)

When times are tough, it calls for deeper roots. I envision sinking my roots deep into the stream of Living Water, abiding in Him, trusting in Him to make my path straight.

How can we strengthen our "roots" today?

Dear Lord, Creator of the vast heavens and everything lovely on earth, you make all things beautiful in your time and we will put our hope and trust in you.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Hold Fast to Him

Hiking in the Smokies in April 2010.
This summer is turning out so different than what we anticipated or planned. The activities we had in mind now seem so far away... camping, canoeing, biking, hiking and backpacking. Ted is now on oxygen 24/7 after a few surgeries and two weeks in the hospital. I've been on PTO from work and we've cleared our calendars to work full-time on restoring Ted's health. We were not prepared for this.

...Or were we?

As I reflect, it is clear that God has been equipping me. For several months, God has been impressing me to be still and know He's in control. I'd been inspired to commit more time than usual to God's Word (now I find I've been fortified by reading half the Bible since last summer). I'd also read several books by authors with extraordinary faith in various difficult situations (see my reading list). In my previous blog posts, I am reminded of all God has been teaching me... like how He's there to guide us through the storms, how He provides all we need for each day, and how we can beat incredible odds by trusting Him!

I am not unprepared. And my strength is certainly not my own.

As a couple, we work at surrendering our lives to the Lord to use however He chooses. We often don't have a clue how He is working in our lives, but we do know that God is good and He has a purpose in all of it. In my reading of the Old Testament I have seen repeatedly the command to "hold fast to Him and to serve him with all your heart and all your soul" (Joshua 22:5 NIV). That is what we strive to do every day.

Whether we are out and about traveling wide circles, or limited by health issues, God uses us right where He has us. We are His servants and we let Him make that call. It is a privilege to hold fast to Him and serve Him wherever we are.

How about you -- has your life been "detoured" lately? How will you serve Him through it?

God, you are all good. Anything that happens to us must first pass through your hands. We trust in your design for our lives. Thank you for equipping us, guiding us and providing for us. We hold fast to you and follow you wholeheartedly through the storm.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A Whole New Level of Abiding

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Is. 41:10 NIV)

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal. (Is. 26:3-4 NIV)

These are some of the scriptures I'm clinging to while facing the unknown.

What we thought was Ted's cancer morphing to another form appears not to be the case. The next step was to go back into surgery to sample some lung tissue after all. (This was the surgery that was avoided on Sunday.)

So, on Wednesday afternoon, back into surgery he went. The early examination of the samples identified a serious lung condition with any number of causes. Determining the cause will help pinpoint the treatment, but the process is long and tedious, with labs now being sent to Mayo Clinic.

After surgery Ted was again on a breathing machine and would be on it at least overnight. He was heavily sedated to keep him comfortable. I sat helpless in the darkened room with only the hum and hiss of the machines and the constant activity outside his room in ICU.

While I had rested in perfect peace just a few days before, that night I wrestled desperately to find that peace again. I realized God was taking me to a whole new level of abiding.

I had relied so heavily on Ted when making important decisions; now he was unable to communicate. I had relied on the doctors to find the cause and fix it; now even they were dealing with uncertainties. I had felt relief knowing what it was on Sunday; now all that had changed. I had leaned on our family and friends for prayers and support -- and while all that has been wonderful, there is no substitute for fully relying on God. There are times we are so alone and the ONLY answer is God.
"God, I am so lost, but help me remain in you. You are my Source of all I really need. Give me your perfect peace again. Strengthen me for the road ahead and give me your wisdom. Give the doctors your wisdom," I pleaded...
A few have reminded me of the words of a beautiful song by Scott Krippayne that fit so well at this time:

"Sometimes He holds us close
And lets the wind and waves go wild
Sometimes He calms the storm
And other times He calms His child..."

While the wind and waves were wild that night, with the morning came a strength and, once again, a sense of indescribable peace. A peace that only He can give. A peace we can only receive as we look to Him for all our needs.

Lord, I don't even know all my needs, but You do. There are so many unknowns on all our paths. But I will trust in you, abide in you. I will rest in your comfort and draw my strength from you.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Wrapped in His Love

After a whirlwind week, Ted and I feel wrapped in God's love. Maybe I should say "rapt" in His love!

Saturday, in the Intensive Care Unit we were given heavy news. Ted's condition had baffled the good doctors and we were given three suspected scenarios of what might be causing the rapid decline in his respiratory system. Treatment for one might conflict with the other diagnoses, making things worse, so guessing would not be an option. The best way to know what is going on would be an open lung biopsy. But because Ted's oxygenation was so low, they feared he would never come off the breathing machine after surgery. This would mean being fed through a tube, and communicating by writing notes, no talking. Maybe for the rest of his life. This was what they prepared us for...

"We're between a rock and a hard place," one doctor said. "You're right on the cusp and we may have to make the decision for you. We can't afford to wait much longer." A second opinion from another doctor concurred.

We looked at each other, overwhelmed. Then we prayed.

"God, you know everything going on inside. We need Your direction. We surrender this to you, because it's way beyond us to figure out. As always, we want to abide in You."

Our pastor and his wife (our friends) were here within minutes to pray with us. Then a steady stream of others shared their wisdom and prayers through visits, emails, voicemails and texts. Another thoughtful doctor from our church stopped in (during his vacation) and share his insights.

A peace was growing as we saw one direction clearly taking shape -- we consented to the surgery.

We talked with each of our kids regarding the surgery that was scheduled for the morning. Each was sobered by the risks involved. Alyssa asked, "How does he feel about all this?" I handed Ted the phone for a few words.

"I have a peace about it." he said.

"How can you have peace with all this ahead of you?" she asked.

He softly said, "It comes from a lifetime of walking with the Lord, being in relationship with Him. I know He is with me every step of the way. He's going with me in the operating room and He knows all. I have nothing to fear."

We truly felt the love of God surround us. The peace that passes all understanding came to us.

The surgery came out far better than we had anticipated. They were able to do a less invasive surgery and get an adequate sample of a cancerous lymph node. Less cutting equals faster healing. Just knowing what it was brought some relief. That was the first hurdle cleared. 

The second one was cleared about an hour later when the breathing tube was successfully taken out!! Praise God. We are still hearing Ted's sweet voice and enjoying his smile.

Today, Tuesday, we are still awaiting the pathology results so that a treatment can be determined. Meanwhile, with other medical (and supernatural) interventions, his condition has improved enough to move out of ICU to another floor.

We still feel that incredible peace. Despite facing great darkness, it was a sweet weekend. We absolutely felt bathed in the beauty of the Lord. Wrapped in His love, we have nothing to fear.

Thank you, God, for being our Rock, our Shelter, our Peace!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Draw Me Away

Today I share with you a guest post; a devotional written by my friend, Barb Meacham. The beautiful photograph is one of her own, too!

Song of Songs 1:4 NASB
Draw me after you and let us run together!

Temptation has a loud voice, doesn’t it? It may start out as a whisper but given the chance will crescendo to a consuming roar. Recently I heard that familiar voice enticing me into another bout with temptation.

I used to think I could handle temptation, you know manage it. What a big mistake with an even bigger mess for an encore. Falling flat on my face is what it took to learn temptation is not something you play with. No wonder scripture tells us to flee it.  We need the Lord’s help. This takes surrender and dependence on him.

In Song of Songs 1:4 the maiden calls to her lover, ‘draw me after you – lets us run together!’ It’s an urgent cry to be drawn to a place of intimate communion with her loved one. He is the one she wants with all her heart. 

Jesus our Bridegroom-King delights in being our complete satisfaction. The longings of our heart are meant to be deeply satisfied in intimacy with him. It brings Him glory. When faced with temptation urgently cry out like the maiden, ‘Lord, draw me after you – let us run together!’ Not only is this beautiful love poetry but is the powerful Word of God, the Sword of the Spirit.

Who Jesus is in himself is the drawing power. He is an inexhaustible source of wonderful; a rich provision from the Father's loving heart. As the Holy Spirit reveals Jesus’ beauty and glorious perfections greater passions are awakened in us. Seeing his loveliness creates the continuous draw to run after him. When our hearts are captivated by Jesus, what the tempter baits his hook with loses its attraction. Temptation's alluring voice is drowned out by the magnificence of Christ.

Barb Meacham

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Stitched Together

When we visited our daughter recently in rural Iowa, we noticed a number of "barn quilts." A barn quilt is an 8'x8' piece of wood painted like a quilt square and mounted on the side of a barn. We learned these are seen throughout the Midwest, begun as a way to draw visitors (appealing to both men and women) to these communities. With the open farmlands, these art pieces can be seen and enjoyed for miles.

Each quilt square was interesting by itself, but the whole concept became more inviting and interesting as we spotted more and more different squares. They brought unity to the community. The idea had caught on and spread to other communities becoming "stitched" together. We took long drives and had fun counting how many quilt squares we could spot on any given drive.

It made me think of how different we all are, and when we give of ourselves, collectively, it's a beautiful thing. It's needed in a family, in a church community, on a team.

My daughter is grown and living away from me, and there are times I miss her so much. I long to strengthen our family connections and do day-to-day things with her the way I see other mothers and daughters doing locally. But our love has to stretch many miles.

We made the most of our limited time together realizing each memory we make is a stitch that makes us stronger, bonds us together. She still benefits from my influence and I thrive from connecting with her. We need each other. We're family, and our lives are forever woven together. Like a quilt, each square is unique and beautiful by itself, but when they are together, it becomes so much more!

God, thank you for the gift of a daughter. I love her so much. She's forever part of the fabric of my life. She's a joy and she is beautiful. Give me wisdom to encourage and support her in the ways she needs me in her adult life.

Love is patient, love is kind... It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Cor. 13:4-7)

Is there a "stitch" you can reach out and make today?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Being Stretched

I injured my shoulder and thought it would heal on its own. After several months of protecting and babying it, I found I have lost some flexibility. So now I’m in physical therapy working hard to get my range of motion back. I almost wiggled off the table in pain when my therapist stretched my arm in a direction it didn’t want to go. It is so painful to be stretched in different ways to allow the flexibility to return.

While driving home from work, I thought of the various ways God has stretched me to be a more tolerant and loving person. If I had not experienced some of the struggles and adversities in my life, I would not have cried out to God for His infinite wisdom and guidance in those areas. These things would not be familiar and I would not be prepared to embrace others with similar struggles.

If I had somehow been able to live in a safe and protected little world, I would have little range of motion and little flexibility. If I love only the lovable, is that any big deal? (Matt:5:46 Msg) My reach would be short and it would be awkward and painful if I tried to use it beyond that.

“No pain, no gain,” is what they cheerfully say in physical therapy (ugh!). But, I realize God has allowed the sometimes painful stretching to make me more mobile, flexible and useful to Him.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Cor.1:3-4 NIV) Thank you, God, for stretching me. 

Reflection: Are you being stretched? Can you see it as a good thing?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

10 Sweet Ways to Say "I Love You"

Attentiveness is one of the things that make a great marriage, don't you think? Some of these are so simple you may have forgotten how powerful they are.
  1. Ask. Are you warm? cold? tired? hungry? Do you need anything while I'm up? These are questions that say I care. When I'm perplexed or distressed, my favorite question from Ted is, "What do you need from me?"
  2. Listen carefully and with full attention. Don't multi-task when you have an important conversation going on. Whatever it is, it can wait.
  3. Eye contact. Once in awhile Ted will let me babble on for paragraphs without any acknowledgement. When I look up to see if he's listening, he smiles as if he were waiting the whole time to look in my eyes. (oops!)
  4. Smile. I love to see the same sweet grin I saw when we were dating, and I'm sure he does, too!
  5. Primp. Some women touch up their makeup or their hair just before hubby comes home so that they always look their best. Sometimes I keep my dress clothes on from work until he gets home because I know he likes that. But looking good is not all on the outside...
  6. Attitude. What kind of attitude do you wear? Are you focusing on the positives or always finding something that's not quite right?
  7. Greet. Stop what you are doing and make it a priority to greet him when he returns. Tell him you are happy to see him and to be with him.
  8. Always kiss goodnight. (It's such good advice, they made a plaque with those words!)
  9. Gratitude. Watch for the good things and communicate your appreciation.
  10. Don't guess. What makes you feel loved? What makes him feel loved? It's not a bad idea to have this conversation!
This was another part of the marriage seminar I gave recently. Let's keep the conversation going. What would you add to this list? What are your best tips on being attentive to your love?

Dear God, thank you for this wonderful man that you gave me. I sure love him. Help me never to take him for granted. Fill me and refuel me and help me to love him well.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A Cool New Way to Journal!

I love to journal and to encourage others to do so. The biggest reason? To remember amazing things that God has done as I abide in Him!

As I re-read my journals, I am so encouraged to review what God has orchestrated. As I turn the pages, I see how the pieces fit together as part of His great plan. I get excited as I see my prayers of surrender and know that beautiful answers are coming in the pages that follow.

Maybe you don't have much time to journal... maybe you don't want to write too many details... or maybe you don't want others reading what you've written... Hey, I've found a cool new solution to all three!

It's called 280daily, an online way to journal. Here's the link to go and check it out. Set up your own secure account (it's free), and you'll get an email reminding you to sum up your day in 280 characters. That's the number of characters you see in the green paragraph above. If you use Twitter, it's twice as many characters as you can put in a tweet!

The site allows you to sort your entries in various categories, add photos, use the search feature, review fun stats (like how many times you've used certain words), and export to a PDF, CSV, or a book format.

How cool is that?! It's organized, private and portable! (Did I mention it's free?)

I've found it's a fun way to maximize my writing -- I practice telling the best story I can with only those few characters. It's also a reminder to optimize my life. Each day I want to have a story worth telling.

How do I sum up my day in 280 words? I try to capture a sweet moment, write what I'm learning or how I perceive God speaking to me on that day.

And for those days that just can't be summed up in 280 words, I still cherish the traditional method of journaling!

Lord, you make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. (Psalm 16:11 NIV)

Do you journal? Why or why not?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

What Needs to be Done?

Last fall, Ted and I co-led a "Spiritual Parenting" class based on the book with the same name by Michelle Anthony. It was excellent and we highly recommend it. Our kids are grown, but they're never too old for the new ways of loving and encouraging we found in this book.

The simple question, "What needs to be done?" 
can open doors to selfless giving.
The author wisely shared her prescription for "igniting a transforming faith," helping kids "find their identity in Christ," and putting them in "the path of the divine," rather just managing behavior and looking good on the outside.

One of my favorite parts is her introduction of the question: "What needs to be done?" Anthony suggests this is one of the best questions you can ask of your kids. She describes how children, even at an early age, need to move beyond "all about me" and see their interdependence to the world around them. When they see what they can contribute, they begin to grasp the value of serving others.

I did a lot of reflecting on this simple, yet profound question. It's so appropriate in so many situations:
  • Ask it of a toddler when it's time to pick up toys to go to bed.
  • Ask it of a 10-year-old who needs to set priorities for schoolwork.
  • Ask it of a teen sorting her way out of an emotional conflict.
  • A couple in our class told us they asked it of their kids when a realtor phoned wanting to show their home. The kids each found things to tidy up to make the place look more inviting.
  • We can ask the question of our kids, grandkids or other kids in various mentoring situations.
Asking that simple question teaches our youth to contribute to a family or group, which reinforces their worth and belonging. Then, it takes their identities in Christ a step further by encouraging them to give their gifts to others as part of His family.

The essential lesson of helping kids to become others-focused opens doors to independence, confidence and responsibility. When we ask, "What needs to be done?" we equip them to walk into any situation or relationship and use their leadership and problem-solving skills. They will be a better playmate, team-mate, room-mate, sibling, spouse, parent and community volunteer because of it. We empower them to assess the situation and to think for themselves, as we are there to guide them. Asking questions is so often better than giving answers!

We've all seen kids (and even adults) who are stuck in selfishness, not developing and using their gifts, not feeling equipped or empowered, waiting for someone else to do it. What a great thing it is when we teach  kids to really think for themselves. It's sure to enhance the purpose and meaning in their lives.

What needs to be done? Of course, the best way to sink the roots in deep is to model this behavior for our children. When they see us loving and serving others, they grow up knowing it is an important part of life.

Dear God, help us as we teach our kids to love one another, to see the gifts they have to give, and to find their divine purpose in life. Equip us, as parents, in this very important role!

Who can you encourage with this question?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Blessing Waiting to Emerge

Several months ago, I got a little handwritten note card from someone with whom I had lost touch over the years. She invited me to give her a call and to have lunch sometime.

It is always nice to be remembered by someone, and it made me smile. Nonetheless, it caught me at a busy time and I set the card aside.

Now, anyone with good manners would never approve of how long I procrastinated before making that one phone call. I had good intentions of making the call, but would move it from one stack of "to-do's" to another. I looked at the card every day -- can you believe it? -- for several months. What was I waiting for?

I have no idea why I made a little thing that could be so easy seem so hard. But, when I finally made the call, it wasn't difficult at all. We made plans and got together for a delightful lunch and sweet conversation. Not only did I reconnect with someone I had long ago admired, but now we have a richer connection as we found we are sisters in the Lord!

All those months I looked at that card as a "to-do" instead of a relationship "to be"! How could I have been so lax? The positive connection made me wonder how many other blessings I've been putting off or missing altogether.

Is there anything you've procrastinated about? Maybe it's time to move on it. There could be a blessing waiting to emerge.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the blessings of the people you put in our lives. Some for a reason, others for a season, some for forever! Thank you, especially, for my brother and sister believers. They're special indeed because we'll share eternity together.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

More Delight. Less Division.

"Love More Delightful Than Wine" was the name of the marriage enrichment seminar I shared yesterday at the Women's Breakaway. (I named it after the deep, committed, passionate love portrayed in the book of Song of Solomon.) I have a passion for helping women make the most of their marriages. I want to see couples find more delight and less division. Let's take just a few tiny sips of that wine today...

A great way to find more delight is to have a "teachable spirit." Are you always ready to learn more?

With all the negative forces around us, I think we need to be sharing encouragement with one another, building strong marriages and keeping delight flourishing. Let me share a few things I've learned, and then I'd love to hear from you, too!

It's not about me. Look around you and see how solid marriages are built up with selfless behavior and others are torn down with self-centered behavior. I have been blessed with a wonderful example watching my mom and dad serve each other and look out for one another's best interests (married 57 happy years and counting). Conversely, haven't we all seen marriages stagger under the weight of "it's all about me" thinking?

Listen to his heart. Remember how you hung on each other's every word when you were dating? Everything he said was important and you replayed the details in your mind when you were away from each other. Let's strive to listen like that again! Listen for the heart, and not necessarily the words chosen. Don't read more into it than what's there; don't run on ahead. Believe that your partner is on your side.

Don't put him in God's place. My husband is wonderful, but he's not God! He can't be everything for me or fix everything for me. I need to be bringing those needs to God. I've found that when I put God first in my life, everything else has a way of coming into the right focus. (Besides, my husband could some day be taken from me, but nothing can ever take God away!)

Gracious God, you've given us the example of perfect love -- it's sacrificial, unconditional, lavish and extraordinary. And it's for eternity. Let us bask in your love today. Please teach us how to love!

There's so much more, but I'll save it for another day. Please feel free to share your words of wisdom on any of the above. What makes your marriage great?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Blessings for Obedience

We recently returned from southern Arkansas where the fruit trees were blossoming and warm breezes were blowing. Now who around here, still looking at a foot of snow, wouldn't find that refreshing? But hang on, Spring will arrive for us, too!

A road trip clears my mind and freshens my perspective. With my husband driving the many miles we covered, I had the opportunity to read to him, and then we'd discuss what stood out to us. We were in Leviticus (which can be a challenge), but here is the treasure I found there:

"If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands, I will send you..." (I'll summarize, but you can read it here: Leviticus 26:3-13 NIV) rain... crops... fruit... harvest... safety... peace... security... favor... increase... abundance... freedom. The Lord shared beautiful promises:
  • "I will look on you with favor and make you fruitful..."
  • "I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people..."
  • "I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with heads held high..."
And the one that really charmed me was:
  • "Five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand, and your enemies will fall by the sword before you."
What this says to me is when we walk with God, we can beat INCREDIBLE odds! When we walk in obedience, surrendered to Him, He can do things we could have never imagined.

Ted and I talked about times in our lives we've known that to be true. Sweet times of fully trusting; we saw God's hand and His favor in our lives beyond what we would have believed. Dismal situations that turned out far better than we could have hoped.

We wished it could always be that way, but we sometimes get in the way of that. God wants our full obedience... we say we want to follow Him wholeheartedly, but we hold back a little piece of ourselves. We try to give God power and authority over our lives but we hold onto something we don't really want Him to change. We live under burdens we don't need to carry because we want to do it our way.

When we worry or doubt, we are focusing on ourselves and not God. With people things seem impossible, but with God all things are possible. What power there is in surrender! We're afraid of losing, but in reality, we have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

God, help us to be careful to obey your commands. We want your blessings for obedience. With our eyes on you, we strive to let go of all that holds us back. We want to beat the odds, to rise above the selfishness that keeps us from knowing your perfect will.

Is there something that seems too big in your life? Give it to God and watch Him work.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Be Still. Do Less. Be More.

My new year's resolution was to "Be Still." I'm still working on it, and I've added a tagline of "Do Less, Be More."

I wake up with 6,000 thoughts on my mind and sometimes want to plunge right into doing...

If I am too busy to “be still,” I will likely miss the inner promptings of the Holy Spirit. I will miss going to my God for deep refreshing, and I will end up trying to do things on my own strength.

If I am too busy to read the Word, I am missing out on Truth. I am going from memory only -- and sometimes that is not so good. J

Jesus prayed for His disciples to be “sanctified by the truth; Your word is truth.” (John 17:17) Sanctified comes from the Greek word hagiazo, which means "set apart for sacred use."

If I'm too busy to read the Word, how can I be set apart? I may miss being used by God for His Glory. I may miss seeing Him working, I may miss the opportunity to share His love with someone who really needs it... and I may miss the blessings He had for me to experience... all because I am too wrapped up in getting things done.

So many times, my mind leaps back to productivity. It's like I want to redeem every minute of every day so I can fit more good things in it. Do. Do. Do. But that leads to multi-tasking, overloading, not being present in the moment and missing out on relationships. It's the Mary and Martha story (Luke 10:38-42), all over again! I'm a human being, not a human doing. I realize there are times I need to DO less and just BE more. I want to choose what is needed, what is better... and often that means taking time to be refreshed at the feet of Jesus.

Heavenly Father, please help me to hear Your beautiful "still small voice" and to be available to You today. Refresh me so I can BE who you need me to be. Your Word is Truth. Sanctify me by Your Truth!

Do you sometimes have a tendency to DO too much? Do you want to DO less, BE More?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Making the Climb Together

Last summer, Ted and I had a wonderful time hiking Logan Pass -- 6,646 ft. above sea level, along the Continental Divide in Glacier National Park, Montana. Or should I say, I had a more wonderful time than he did...

You'd never guess it was July 8th, because there was snow all the way up the 1.5-mile steady incline to the overlook of the still-frozen Hidden Lake -- sometimes soft, deep, unstable snow, like walking on the beach in thick sand, but also slippery at times. (Two are better than one... if either of them falls down, one can help the other up! Eccl:4-9-10)

We took longer than most to reach the summit, but it was an exhilirating hike and the views were spectacular tromping around in the "Crown of the Continent." What I didn't know then was my dear husband had pain with every step... but he conquered the hike because he knew I was looking forward to it so much. (He went on to have hip surgery in November.) What a man!

This is just one of many beautiful things in our marriage. With not a grumble, he suffered in silence to do something he didn't want me to give up. I love his sense of adventure in wanting to provide these opportunities for me. My confidence has grown with his love and encouragement every day. It's a love more delightful than wine. It inspires me to watch for more opportunities to love, honor and support him, too. It urges me to share our blessings to help others embrace what we have found.

I'll be sharing some of what I believe makes a marriage great in a breakout session at the Women's Breakway on April 9. Is it romance, mystery and adventure? Sacrifice, companionship, attentiveness, grace? Indeed, it is all these things as we seek to live the extravagant love our Father has modeled for us. We're going to celebrate the blessings of marriage with practical wisdom, personal stories and scriptural examples.

I love when I hear people in praise of their marriages, don't you? Isn't it encouraging to hear sweet things instead of only what went wrong? I suspect many couples could be a lot happier than they are. Let's not take our relationships for granted -- every great union needs nurturing. What do you do to keep your marriage on solid ground? We can help model the way for others to keep marriages nurtured, encouraged, God-centered, healthy and strong!

Father, we know that You designed marriage and called it good. A cord of three strands is not easily broken (Eccl. 4:12). Teach us how to follow your example of unfailing love and lavish grace.

How do you nurture your marriage? What is the best advice you could give another woman wanting to keep her marriage strong?

Monday, February 21, 2011

True Refreshing

On Friday, I was getting a little frazzled as I worked to pull a newsletter together under deadline. As editor, there was lots to be done... e-mails were flying, phones were ringing and there was a flurry of activity around me. This is what I love to do, but there were many details pulling me in many directions and I was feeling overwhelmed.

I was also eagerly anticipating speaking at a women's retreat that would begin after work. The theme of the weekend would be how God refreshes us like a well-watered garden in a sun-scorched land (Isaiah 58:11). I realized that if I were going to share a message of refreshment with the ladies, I needed to be authentic and recognize when I needed refreshing!

I hadn't even taken a break, so I slipped away to a conference room to get some quiet time and get my head together. I spent a few minutes surrendering to the Lord and listening for His wisdom. The focus of my talk was to encourage women to take a consistent quiet time with the Lord, to practice abiding in Him, to look to Him for wisdom, nourishment and refreshment, and to journal to remember what the Lord has done. I reviewed my notes and soon it was time to return to work. I felt a new peace and was glad I had made the time to go to Him for refreshing.

When I came back, my day certainly turned around. I was told about a raise I would be receiving...what timing! But the best was yet to come...

I went to retrieve a particular graphic from the iStock photos website. I logged in and punched in the 7-digit number of a specific roadsign graphic I needed for the newsletter. For a split second, I saw the graphic I was retrieving, but then the screen mysteriously redirected to another page...

The new screen was full of graphics and I marveled as I saw what they were... a girl washing at a faucet, raindrops gently falling, waterfalls, streams and more waterfalls, a video of a water droplet, more streams, a gushing spout, fresh tulips in the rain and … a bloom abiding on a vine!! I was exhilirated with each new treasure as I hovered my mouse to enlarge each photo or play each video one by one.

I have no idea how all these exciting graphics came back when the number I entered should have brought back only the one that was not-so-exciting. There was nothing in the search box. It wasn't until later that I noticed the keyword in the upper left said simply "source."

I saved a screenshot of how God blew me away with His display of love. He is the SOURCE of our REFRESHMENT. Be encouraged, all who read this. Go to Him for refreshment as often as you need it and know that He knows exactly what you need!

Oh Gracious God, my heart is so grateful for all You have done and continue to do. Let me never again ignore what You are so willing to give.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Wisdom Over Worldly Things

It was a beautiful song, now that I'd finally been able to listen to all the words.

Before this, I'd heard only fragments of the lyrics, and I had no idea how it would move me.

The same way, God is speaking to us through many sources, but we may hear only fragments at a time. He may use an inspirational  reading, a stimulating conversation, a perplexing problem or a story in the news...

Then in the quiet, we begin to process and put the pieces together.

Some of it begins to make sense, other things remain a mystery, for now. God shapes our perspective to give us a higher thinking; wisdom over worldly things. Instead of going with the flow of the world around us, our thinking begins to rise above, our perspective takes on a new capacity. We begin to realize things we can do.

The world groans for Godly solutions. Poverty, disease and oppression in the wider world view; as well as misguided pursuits, loneliness and suffering near to us, too.

God has given us what we need to reduce or solve many of these problems. He has given us resources and talents that match the gaps around us. Best of all, God has given us the Holy Spirit to guide us. The Holy Spirit molds and shapes our hearts, and ignites the passions within us. He gives us the courage, the confidence and the cause!
As author Max Lucado says, "There are 145 million orphans worldwide and there are 236 million people in the U.S. that call themselves Christians. From a purely statistical standpoint, American Christians have the wherewithal to house every orphan in the world.
But I am only one person, I think. How can I solve the world's problems? I can't do it all, but I can do something. Why do these injustices remain when there are Christians with big hearts and amazing talents spread all over the earth?

Is it because we lack the quiet times? Maybe we are so busy in our own worlds doing what we think needs to be done, that we don't take enough time to listen for God's voice, to process what He is saying, to let Him fully equip us for what really needs to be done. We want to hear Him. But we often let our good intentions be drowned out by other distractions, all to settle for a lesser satisfaction. (You know, settling for what's good instead of what's best.)

If we miss the quiet, we may miss the wisdom of how the pieces fit together. We may miss out on being a part of the solution. We may miss the lyrics of the beautiful song that could be sung.

Dear Lord, help us to tune our ears to you so we can reach that higher perspective. My heart longs for solutions for hurting people. I will work to preserve that special quiet time with you. I will do what I know now, focus on listening, and trust you for each next step.

Proverbs 8:34 [Wisdom calls...] Blessed are those who listen to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway.

Do you have enough quiet in your life to put together the fragments of what God is telling you? How do you preserve that quiet?