Dad In The Dark

What is something that creeps you out? Mine is walking through dark places, especially a dark church. This has been a thing for me since I was a little girl. Not my dad though.

My mom was a waitress in the evenings and I spent a lot of evenings in his care. As the pastor of our church, it was not unusual for my dad to go to the church to pick something up. Not sure why, probably to save money, but he never felt the need to turn the lights on, and we didn’t have any security lighting. So there I was, trailing behind him in the dark like a little duckling trying to keep up because the dark was creeping me out. Funny thing though, as long as I was with him, the dark wasn’t quite so dark.Unknown

As I grew up, I sort of forgot about this. Until recently as I was walking though our sanctuary without taking the time to turn on the lights and those memories flashed through my mind, dragging the uneasy feelings with them, along with a sense of melancholy as my dad is gone now. As this silly memory came back to me, I smirked as I thought of how ridiculous that was. Then the Lord spoke to my heart saying, “That silly thing taught you to follow me. You learned how important it is to stay close to your father and keep your eyes on him. It taught you what to do when you are afraid: stay close, and to keep your eyes on me. ”

A sense of peace and purpose rushed over me knowing God is always there and always taking care of me in the dark. I just have to stay close, and keep my eyes on him.

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:1-2

Stay close to The Father, and the dark won’t be quite so dark.

Are You Worn Out?

Do you ever get weary? Have you ever been so absolutely exhausted that you couldn’t get out of bed? I’m sure you have. We all have.

There are situations in life and seasons of life that take every bit of strength that we have… and more. I’m not talking about busy seasons like Christmas, a work deadline, or a packed kids schedule for example. Although those can wear you out. I am talking about the times in life when the proverbial rock you are pushing up the hill is heavier than you can bear:

Newborns. The energy it takes to grow a baby, deliver a baby, and care for a baby is astounding. The sleep deprivation one encounters in the first few months is excruciating. It wreaks havoc on your physical and mental health. Often, just as you are getting back to somewhat normal sleep patterns… you have another baby! My first four years of motherhood are pretty blurry due to very little sleep.

www.dailymail.co.uk

www.dailymail.co.uk

Long Term Stress. Pressure, anxiety, tension, worry, trauma, etc. all steal your strength when your not looking. Stress is a slow leak. You are going along just fine, or so you think, when all of a sudden warning lights start flashing in your brain.  This causes an unreasonable urge to run away, or act out in some way (usually negative and harmful). Pressure can only build so much before we feel like we are going to blow a gasket. I have been to that edge. It’s not pretty.

Post Event Let Down. When we put a tremendous amount of energy; physical energy, creative energy, and mental energy into a project we are often left feeling deflated and wiped out when it is over. Many people experience this after Christmas, so much so that it has a name, “The After Christmas Blues”. Being an event planner, I can’t tell you how many times I have dealt with this. It has taken me years to learn to pace myself to minimize this, as well accept it and prepare in anticipation of it. I use to get frustrated and fight it, but now I realize it passes much faster if I schedule in time to decompress and rejuvenate from the months of hard work and planning.

Chronic Illness Or Pain. Pain is the master of fatigue. Sickness is the king of weariness. When we get sick or injured and we know with an appropriate amount of time we will be as good as new, we are fine. It is those unexplained aches and nagging pains that push us to our limits. When the doctors don’t know what’s wrong with us and we struggle with our health it takes us to the brink of our sanity.

www.freep.com

www.freep.com

Loss. Mourning and grief suck the life right out of you. Even when you know Jesus and understand the hope of eternity, the loss of someone you love takes the wind from your sails. This took me totally off guard when I lost my mom. She died very unexpectedly on a crisp October morning. The Lord’s sustaining grace was truly amazing, however I still battled tremendous fatigue. For weeks after her passing I slept and slept. It wasn’t depression, as one might expect, but rather the way the Lord cared for my body and mind during that difficult time.

What’s This About?

I have faced all of these things, some multiple times. I’m sure you have as well. Fatigue is a deceptive and powerful tool of the enemy. It is very important that we learn how to combat it so we don’t burn out, run away, or curl up and hope to die. The enemy’s main objective is to drive us to quit. He He has come to steal, kill and destroy us (John 10:10), and fatigue is his weapon of choice.

The load we carry in life can make us weary, but the enemy seeks to wipe us out. Even a small burden, when carried for a long time takes it’s toll. When we are exhausted our problems seem SO MUCH BIGGER! When we have to carry something, anything for a long time, we grow tired and weak. To make this point in my class recently, I asked one of my students to hold a simple glass of water for me until I asked for it. I asked her not to put it down or even switch hands, but hold it upright so it wouldn’t spill. After about 30 minutes I asked her to give it to me. Her hand had become stiff and frozen like around the glass making it difficult to release, and her arm was starting to lose feeling. The weight of only a few ounces started to become an unbearable weight. This is what happens to our hearts and minds when we try to carry our burdens and stress ourselves for any length of time.

We cannot control the things in life, or the seasons of life that bring fatigue, we can only control how we respond to them. God speaks to this repeatedly in His Word:

“Cast your cares on the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous fall.” Psalm 55:22

“Have you never heard or understood? Don’t you know that the LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth? He never grows faint or weary. No one can measure the depths of His understanding. He gives power to those who are tired and worn out; He offers strength to the weak. Even youths will become exhausted, and young men will give up. But those who wait on the LORD will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:28-30

“‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.” Zechariah 4:6

“Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light.'” Matthew 11:29-30 NLT

“I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

In 1 Kings 19, Elijah was exhausted to the point of wanting to die. God cared for him by having him sleep and eat. Don’t underestimate the power of good sleep and good food! God sent an angel to feed him repeatedly so he would regain his strength to continue in the work God had for him. I love this passage because I have felt like Elijah. I have been so weary I didn’t think I could go on. When have felt the crippling power of stress and fatigue, I not only found rest and strength in God, but He has always faithfully  sent someone to refresh me. I don’t know if these people will ever know the depth of revival their simple ministry of a meal, a card, a call, a joke or a hug brought me. When you are holding on to a very thin line, even the smallest gesture of love and support fortifies and reinforces you.

www.wnetwork.com

www.wnetwork.com

If you are weary today, I pray you lean into Jesus and gather strength from Him. I pray your sleep will be sweet and you have something good to eat. I also pray  God sends you an angel to refresh you and revive you like thirst quenching water on a parched dry day.

If you know of someone dealing with terrible pressure or pain, be an angel to them. Ask the Lord how you can refresh and encourage them. Take them a meal, send flowers or just a card or silly video, baby sit their kids so they can rest or play, plan a day of fun with them. Remember, nothing is too simple or too small. Just reach out to them, and remind them they are not alone and they are loved.

Don’t Miss The Moment

Have you ever had one of those moments when you are so glad you didn’t say something you were just about to say? It’s like the Holy Spirit puts His hand over your mouth and stops you.

I did just the other day.

photo credit: photo4design.com

photo credit: photo4design.com

It was a simple phone conversation. I was making a hotel reservation. Only something was off. I deal with this particular chain of hotels a great deal, and they always have helpful and competent operators. This gal, however, was slow, unsure and kept making mistakes. I have to be honest; I got annoyed. As we were concluding our reservation she erred again, and this time it was crucial. I was irritated, and just as I was about to become snippy, Pastor’s sermons on love and patience marched through my mind. So I took a deep breath, and tried to keep a check on my tone as I questioned the incorrect information.

Then it happened.

With a tremor in her voice she said, “I’m sorry Ma’am. I shouldn’t even be here at work today. I just can’t focus. My dad just passed away and my family is fighting about the things he put in my name. I am so upset.” She began to sob.

That’s the moment.

The moment I hung my head in shame for what I almost did. Thank you Jesus for stopping me!

I spent the next few minutes listening to her and empathizing with her as she told me, a faceless stranger, her heartache and confusion. Mustering up my courage, I told her I was glad she got my call, and believed it was providential. Then I asked her if I could pray for her. Gratefully, she welcomed it warmly.

What was a routine, ordinary phone call became an opportunity to share the love of Jesus with a woman who was hurting on the other side of the nation. I still shudder when I think how close I was to, not just missing the moment, but shattering the moment with a snippy and impatient attitude.

photo credit: peacewithend.com

photo credit: peacewithend.com

“Love is patient. Love is kind…it is not rude.” 1 Corinthians 13:4

We all have days when we hurting and barely keeping it together, when we need a little patience and kindness… when we need love. I pray the next time you are irritated with someone the Holy Spirit puts His hand over your mouth and keeps you from damaging your opportunity to share God’s love with someone who’s probably hurting.

Remember… Love Above All!

Joani

Back To Basics… Prayer

Why is prayer so difficult? Why do people struggle with praying?

Prayer can feel confusing. Prayer can seem ominous. Some people are intimidated by prayer. They feel like they have to be in church, or at the very least in a proper position of prayer. Some people tend to feel like they haven’t been “good enough” to pray, and some people feel that prayer is reserved for when you really need it. I use to have a friend who, when someone would suggest they pray about something, he would jokingly say, “Has it come to that?” Meaning, of course, why hadn’t they prayed already.

Today I want to get back to the basics of prayer.

photo credit: www.churchleaders.com

photo credit: www.churchleaders.com

1. Prayer Is Talking To God.

When we come to Jesus and receive His sacrifice and forgiveness for our sins, we come into a relationship with God. As in all relationships, we need to communicate with Him. This is what prayer is. Prayer is talking to God. Yes, there are different kinds of prayers and reasons for prayer, but at it’s very core, at it’s most basic state, prayer is simply talking to God. Prayer is expressing your heart, your fears, your joys, and your questions to God. Prayer doesn’t require educated verbiage or a special tone of voice, as a matter of fact Jesus said this:

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” Matthew 6:5-8

Prayer is not just talking. Listening is also a very important part of prayer. We hear Him through His Word, the Bible, and in our hearts as He speaks to us.

“I will listen to what God the LORD will say; He promises peace to His people, His saints, but let them not return to folly.” Psalm 85:8

2. Prayer Is Confession.

Prayer is a time to confess our sins, our wrong doings and bad attitudes to the Lord and ask for His forgiveness. When we try to cover up our sin or hide it from the Lord (like we can do that) it can create a division or a distance between us and the Lord. It is very important to keep our hearts and our relationship, right with the Lord.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10 KJV

3. Prayer Is Praise And  Worship.

photo credit: www.raynipeavy.com

photo credit: www.raynipeavy.com

Praise is giving God thanks for all He has done. Worship is acknowledging who God is: His Lordship, His majesty, His sovereignty and power. Praise and worship is an important part of prayer because it reminds us who God is and how great He is. It keeps our perspective and our hearts in the right place with Him.

“I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever.” Psalm 86:12 NIV

 

4. Prayer Is Supplication. 

This is probably what most people define as prayer: bringing our needs to the Lord. Prayer is when we ask God to work in a situation, to provide, to heal, to guide and direct. Many people feel like they should only bring the “big things” to God for His help. God wants us to bring ALL our needs to Him. Remember we are in a relationship with Him. He is our heavenly Father. He desires to meet our needs. Nothing is too small for God and nothing is too big for God.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

“Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about what happens to you.” 1 Peter 5:7 NLT

5. Prayer Is Continuous.

A lot of people feel that prayer needs to happen at certain times, or in certain places. That is true. There are fitting times and places for prayer, and those should be held in reverence and honor. But God teaches us in His Word that prayer is a continuous, open line of communication with Him. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “Pray continually.” NIV Other translations say, “without ceasing” KJV or “Keep on praying.” NLT. This doesn’t mean we are on our knees all day, it means we remain in an attitude of prayer, making God a part of all the things in our life.

“Pray at all times and on every occasion in the power of the Holy Spirit. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all Christians everywhere.” Ephesians 6:18 NLT

God is making it clear that we are to  keep talking to Him. In relationships the key is to just keep talking. It is when we shut down and quit communicating that our hearts grow cold.

6. Prayer Is Effective.

Finally, prayer is important because it works. There is power in prayer. Some prayers are answered right away, and some take time, but God does answer. His answer maybe yes, it may be no, it may be wait, but He always answers if we listen.

“This is what the LORD says, He who made the earth, the LORD who formed it and established it, the LORD is His name: ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’” Jeremiah 33:2-3

“…The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” James 5:16 NIV

photocredit:www.visionwriter1.worldpress.com

photocredit:www.visionwriter1.worldpress.com

Just Pray!

There is so much that could be said about prayer. I imagine there are more books on prayer than one could read, and more sermons than one could listen to. The very basic point of prayer is… pray! It is good to learn as much as you can about it, but it is more important to do it! Talk to God.

Talk to Him whenever and however. I like to pray on walks. It gives a whole new meaning to the term “Power Walk”! I often pray through journaling. I find it easier to express my feelings with a pen in my hand. I pray when I’m working. I pray when I’m driving. The car is a great place to pray. (Thank you Bluetooth… before when people saw me praying in the car they thought I was crazy, now they just assume I’m on the phone.) I pray about all the things in my heart and on my mind. I know God cares about all of it, because He loves and cares about me.

I want to encourage you today to pray,  to talk to God. Even if it feels odd to you, open the lines of communication with God. Tell Him what is on your heart, He’s want’s to talk to you.

Back To Basics

The Wilson house has always been a baseball house. We enjoy and follow all, and I mean all sports, but baseball defiantly trumps all the other sports. Golf, however, comes in at a close second. The sports enthusiasm comes mostly from my husband, Mark, but I try to keep up. I do love baseball though.

Spring is probably my favorite time of year. It ushers in vibrant colors, sweet aromas, and… Spring Training! March marks the beginning of Spring Training. Baseball teams all over the nation make their way to their designated destination for “Back To Basic” drills.

It’s amazing to me that professional players, who make millions of dollars in the game, go through much of the same fundamental running drills, fielding drills, and hitting drills that Little Leaguers go through.

The most accomplished players understand the importance of getting back to basics. Going back to the rudiment essentials, reinforcing muscle memory of proper and effective form and execution of plays after the long down time of the winter months.

Basics Are Important.

Getting back to basics is important in most of the areas of our lives. We don’t have a “Spring Training” per say, but we go on vacation to reconnect with our families and reconnect with our hearts and minds. Some companies send their employees to annual conferences to refresh sales and management abilities. People go back to school to sharpen their skills. I find doing my taxes every year inspires me get back to basics financially.

What About Our Spiritual Lives?

Life is hectic and sadly, our spiritual lives are one of the first things to suffer when things get chaotic. Some time spent being reminded of the things that we first learned when we came to the Lord can help us recenter on what’s important. It doesn’t matter how long one has been walking with Jesus, it is good to revisit the foundations of our Christianity:

1. God loves us and gave His Son, Jesus, to save us.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

2. Love God and love others.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and love you neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27

For the next few posts I am going to be talking about getting back to basics in the following areas:

1. Prayer

2. Reading God’s Word

3. Praise & Worship

4. Giving

5. Serving

6. Witnessing

What does it mean to you to get “back to basics” with the Lord?

 

It’s The Little Things

In January I started doing Bikram Yoga (hot yoga) for the first time. Yoga is not new to me, but going to a studio and taking a class with an instructor is. I have to say I love it. Do I love dripping with sweat? Do I love stretching my body like it’s on a torture rack? Do I love twisting my body like a pretzel? No, not really, but I do love how limber, renewed and clear minded it makes me feel.

What I have noticed in yoga, especially in a studio with all those mirrors and an instructor watching you, is how the littlest change in a position makes a big difference. Changing the angle of your hands or feet, holding your head in the correct way, dropping your shoulders (my biggest challenge), reaching just a tiny bit further, holding a pose a fraction of a second longer, engaging your core and flexing the correct muscles while relaxing the others, all make a huge difference in the benefits and purpose of the individual poses.

Little Things Make Big Differences.

I don’t think we really grasp the power of a small gestures: a smile, a nod, eye contact, a firm hand shake, punctuality, consistency, etc.

We see the obvious connections. For example, when we work hard on a job we get a positive response. – When we study hard, we get a good grade. Or the opposite: If I forget to do something, or do it poorly, I get a negative response.- If I don’t pay attention in class and I don’t study, I get a bad grade. This we understand. But I don’t think we really understand how important the little things in life are. If we did, we would pay closer attention to them.

I am often reminded of Song of Solomon 2:15, “Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines, for our vines have tender grapes.” (NKJV) The little foxes represent the things in our lives that we may consider small or of no consequence, but these are the very things that can ruin the fruit we desire to produce in our lives.

I want to talk about a one of those “foxes” that I believe is spoiling the fruit of our lives and our society.

Rudeness

I have noticed a trend in our culture right now. Rudeness is on the rise. I don’t think people mean to be rude, and most likely are unaware that they are being rude… but rude they are.

Common courtesy isn’t so common anymore. Sadly, public edicts are becoming a thing of the past. I am amazed at how oblivious some people are. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to step out of the way to avoid being ran into by someone walking and texting. I have had to wait patiently (trying to be patient) to get around someone while they become aware that they are blocking the way. People are rude because they are clueless.

Selfishness and laziness are big contributors to rude behavior as well. One of my biggest pet peeves is litter. How selfish and lazy does one have to be to just leave their trash where ever they are? Do they think there is a trash fairy that is going to deal with it? There are trash cans everywhere! How hard is it? Just throw it away!

Another pet peeve: abandoned grocery carts. This is a mystery to me. I think the rudeness of this speaks for itself.

“No one is more insufferable than he who lacks basic courtesy.” Bryant McGill

Small things like letting someone go ahead of you in line or holding the door for the person behind you is all too rare. I realized this the other day when, after holding the door for a couple behind me, the gentlemen said, “Wow. I haven’t seen that in awhile.” My response was, “That’s sad.” and I believe it is. What does it cost to wait two seconds to be helpful and kind.

“… always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.” 1 Thessalonians 5:15 (NIV)

Cell phone edict is becoming a big problem in the rude factor. Volume, for starters. Some people are unmindful of where they are and how loud they are talking when they are on the phone. Standing in line the other day, the gal in front of me was having a long drawn out conversation to what I could only assume was the father of her child. I guessed this because her phone was on speaker! Really?! Everybody in line got to hear about the drama they were dealing with. I did get a kick, however, out of watching the irritation and disdain of the customer directly in front of her.

Another way people are ill-mannered with their cell phones is when the conversation via text or voice becomes more important than the conversation they are having with the person they are with. I get answering a quick text or taking a quick call, but feeling like a third wheel to a person and their phone is very awkward.

In the words of Stephanie Tanner (Full House) “How rude!”

I’m sure I sound anti cell phone. I am not! I love the convince my cell phone provides, but one has to admit, for all the good cell phones have brought, they have certainly increased the rudeness in our society. It could be defined as a “little fox” if not used with appropriate edict.

I have noticed an incline of  rudeness on the road as well. People seem to be in their own little worlds when they drive. This is a problem, because there are a whole lot of us on the road with them having to slam on the brakes when they pull out without looking, and swerve to miss them when they drift into another lane because they are texting or something. Don’t even get me started about High School kids who cross the street at will whether a car is heading right for them or not!

“See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise.” Ephesians 5:15 (NKJV)

I have lived long enough and seen enough to realize how much impact all these little things make. Favor is very fragile, and it is won or lost with the little things. Little things like: kind gestures, warm smiles, thoughtfulness, listening, caring, faithfulness, diligence and promptness may seem small,  but they make a big difference in the favor and fruit of our lives.

In our years as Senior Pastors we have employed a number of people, and I have to say it is seldom the “big things” that results in their dismissal, although that has happened. It is most often a build up of “little foxes” that ruin the vine of their employment: a negative attitude, laziness, selfishness, tardiness, and unwillingness eat up their favor and their opportunity to serve with us.

I can’t really do anything about the state of our society, but I can do something about myself. I know I have been guilty of most of these things at some point in time, but my goal is to learn from it and do my best to show the love of Christ through the little things; through common courtesy. After all, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered…” 1 Corinthians 13:4-5

 I want to encourage you to “catch the little foxes” that may be spoiling your vine of relationships and opportunities so your life will be filled with favor and wonderful fruit!

Their Greatest Gift

Continuing in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I want to give thanks for the people that God has so graciously put in my life. I have been blessed with so many amazing people all through my life that have been an expression of God’s love, grace, and compassion. He has put people in my life that have helped shape me, direct me, correct me, and challenge me. He has put people in my life to teach me patience, and teach me to be an expression of His love, grace and compassion to them.

Mom and Dad

I figure the best place to start is at the beginning, with thanking God for my parents. The first two people whom God put in my life.

IMG_0800My parents weren’t perfect (none are) but they were good parents. My mom wasn’t the best cook, but we always had a good meal. She, for reasons I will never understand, hung her clothes back in her closet inside out. She had an insatiable sweet tooth. Her favorite dinner was strawberry waffles with ice cream. She had a very hard time saying “No”, so she often over extended herself.

My dad was an avid reader and never got rid of any books. This was an issue with my mom. We had a three-car garage that we couldn’t park in because it was full of magazines and books, which he moved to three different houses. HeIMG_0801 was an incurable sentimentalist, which was charming as well as problematic. He was a total white-collar guy. He didn’t hunt, fish, or work on cars, but he loved to garden. I remember him gardening in his dress shirt and slacks. I never understood that either.

I am telling you these things to let you know my parents were just real folk. They were however, remarkable. I want to express my gratitude for them and honor them in this season of thanks.

Faithful

The word I would use to describe my parents is faithful. They were faithful to the call of God on their lives. They served faithfully for over 50 years in pastoral ministry. They were faithful to their family. They were faithful to their friends. They were faithful to their communities.

Faithful To One Another

IMG_0795I’m not just talking about “forsaking all others” kind of faithful, however I am grateful that is true as well, but they were faithful to be kind to one another. They were faithful to serve one another and support one another. They were faithful to laugh and play with one another. They were faithful in the good times and in the hard times. I know this sounds very Norman Rockwell-ish, but I am grateful for the good home I came from.

Faithful To Their Kids

I have two older brothers. I’m sure our memories differ on any number of things, but I know we all agree on the devotion of our parents. They were firm but fair. I didn’t always see it IMG_0802then, but as I matured, it didn’t take me long to realize it. My parents held steady to their Biblical beliefs and convictions. They were faithful to not only instill those beliefs in us, but they also lived them out before us.

Mom had a huge heart. She would take me with her to visit the elderly, visit the sick, and pick kids up for church. This modeled great compassion to me.

Dad was a great pianist and taught us the importance of music and worship. He studied hard and worked tirelessly on his sermons. He put his own sweat into the church: cleaning, building, repairing, etc. This demonstrated work ethic and how to truly care.

Both Mom and Dad taught me the things I needed to know to be an independent adult. I know it was their goal to make sure we were self sufficient, and for that I am forever grateful. I was the youngest and only girl, but I still had to learn to chop wood, mow the lawn, as well as house work and cooking. Dad made sure all of us learned how to work, budget (including tithing and missions), keep a checkbook, and pay bills. He wouldn’t let me drive an automatic car before I mastered a manual, all types of manuals (yes, I can even drive a three on the tree). He always said, “No daughter of mine is going to be stuck somewhere because she doesn’t know how to drive a stick.”

Thank you Mom. Thank you Dad.

Faithful To The Lord

We grew up away from extended family because God called my parents to pastor a small church in the small town in Oregon. They were faithful to this body of believers for almost 25 years, when God called them to pastor another small church in California were they faithfully served for another 25 years. Their commitment to love and serve God and His people left an impression on me that I don’t think they even realized. They were just doing what God had asked them to do, but it taught me determination, perseverance and fortitude. Again, I am forever grateful.

Thank you

My folks taught me a great deal about being a person of character, especially when no one is looking. I don’t remember a lot of verbal lessons or lectures, although there were a few. Most of what they taught me, they exhibited before me.

They taught me to work hard and be loyal. They taught me to laugh and play. They taught me about Jesus and to trust God. They taught me to forgive. They taught me patience. They taught me to learn. They taught me to teach. They taught me to serve. They taught me about marriage. They taught me to parent. They taught me to minister.

IMG_0804They taught me to love. I believe this is the greatest gift they could have ever given me.

Both of my parents are with Jesus now, and they still continue to influence my life. I pray that my life will influence my children the way they influenced mine.

“A faithful man will be richly blessed.” Proverbs 28:20a

Come And See

Grocery store displays are filled with cranberries, stuffing and pumpkin pie makings. The images-3spotlight shines on the confection isle: brown sugar, powdered sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and miniature marshmallows come to the forefront. It’s their time to shine. The star of the show is headlining in the back of the store. Unknown-1Mounds of turkeys stack up in freezer bins, like a choreographed spirit squad pyramid.

Thanksgiving Is Upon Us.

The scrapbook of my mind is filled with images of playing football in the yard with my brothers and the cousins I saw once a year on that day. I was usually the youngest, so I did more watching than playing. images-2Impressions of long tables filled with homey decorations, trays of pickles, carrot sticks and olives (best eaten right off your fingertips). The aroma of baked pies, fresh rolls, and of course roasted turkey fill my memory banks with warmth and comfort.

I Have So Much To Be Thankful For.

I can roll out a lengthy list of THINGS for which I am thankful, and I am truly thankful for all the tangible blessings in my life. God has given me more than I ever imagined and I praise Him. I want to give thanks for the intangible blessings in my life. It is the unseen things that give value. Things come and things go, but the blessings of the Spirit are the bedrock of my life.

PEACE

Peace of mind and peace of heart are a treasure that cannot be bought. Peace only comes from God. It comes from being at peace with Him. It is a peace that cannot be explained: only experienced. It is not reliant on the conditions of my life and those around me. It is a peace that overrides chaos and turmoil. It is a peace that defies fear. It is a peace that permeates pain.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

“Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.” 2 Thessalonians 3:16

JOY

Lots of things make me happy: my husband, my kids, my ‘lil dog, my friends, my home, new shoes, ect., (the tangible things). But they are not the source of my joy. Joy comes from within. Joy comes from the Lord. Joy comes from choosing His way. Happiness is fickle. Joy is trustworthy.

“You have made 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

“The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.” Psalm 19:8

STRENGTH

I am so very thankful for God’s strength. Yes, I am grateful for the physical strength He has given me, treasuring it and respecting it with the knowledge that it can vanish in a moment.

I am thankful for the inner strength of the Lord: strength that rises up when your heart breaks down, strength that holds to the course when the pull of life’s wreckage is so fierce, strength that gives grit to your faith, and gumption to your spirit. It is the strength that makes the impossible possible.

“Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O LORD. They rejoice in your name all day long; they exult in your righteousness. For you are their glory and strength, and by your favor you exalt our horn.” Psalm 89:15-17

“The LORD is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation.” Psalm 118:14

LOVE

I am so thankful for love. I can’t even imagine life without it. I am thankful for the astonishing love of God and the gracious love of family and friends. Love is a subject on it’s own. I will expound more on this in my next post.

Come And See

This Thanksgiving, echo with me the adorations of the psalmist, “Come and see what God has done, how awesome His works on man’s behalf!” Psalm 66:5Unknown

The hand of the Lord in our lives is truly awesome. He has done so much for us on our behalf. I have walked the road where peace is threatened, joy is endangered, and strength is jeopardized, but God has never failed me. I only need to reach out to Him; He is always there to take my hand and lead me. I am thankful for God’s work in my life.

What works of the Lord are you thankful for?

Remember To Breath

My friend and I finally got around to cashing in our Christmas gift to each other from last year. We thought we probably should do it before Christmas is here again!

IMG_0732We went indoor sky diving at iFLY.  It was a new and exciting experience. It is great fun. I recommend it.

When I was there I was just thinking about controlling my body correctly and yes remembering to breath. But after I got home and reflected on the event I started thinking about a number of spiritual parallels.

 

Follow Directions

Like most any paid experience, we were required to go through simple yet very important training. Our instructor gave us some quick education about the wind tunnel itself and the meaning of the hand signals he would be using so we understood his directions. (The wind is so loud you can’t hear anything.) This information proved to be very important to our safety and enjoyment.

Pay Attention

I’m glad we paid attention during the training, because once in the tunnel, it was a lot harder with a 150 miles an hour wind rushing. Your heart is racing, your adrenalin is pumping, your brain and your body are not communicating, and you’re laughing hard because drool is flying out of your mouth! I lost visual with my instructor at one point and didn’t get what he was telling me to do, and I got flipped around by the wind and thrown to the wall, losing control for a bit. I was not hurt, just confused. My friend got a good laugh.

Relax

The key was to relax. Trust the wind and trust the instructor and the directions. I have found this to be true in all of the adventure experiences I have done: Snorkeling, Canopying (zip lining, but through trees instead of platforms), swimming with Dolphins, Indoor Rock Climbing, and Parasailing. I had a hard time relaxing during Parasailing because the strap sounded like it was going to break. It wasn’t. It was fine, but that fear kept me from relaxing and enjoying the ride. I regret that, because the scenery was incredible.

BreatheIMG_0733

It’s amazing how we forget to breathe. Breathing is so important, not just to stay alive, but also to slow down your heart rate and reduce the anxiety you are feeling. I told my instructor after my first time in the tunnel that I was struggling to breathe. He said something very profound: “If you can’t breathe, it’s because you’re not breathing.” It made me laugh, but it was true. I had to control my breathing to combat the strong wind that was taking my breath away.

How Does This Compare?

We are asked to follow God and His ways, His laws and precepts many times through out The Word. Many times, not always but many, when a person finds themself in situation one can trace their steps backwards to a place where they quit following the Lord’s directions. I know it has been true in my life.

“You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am the LORD your God. Keep my decrees and laws, for the man who obeys them will live by them. I am the LORD.” Leviticus 18:4-5

“He who obeys instructions guards his life, but he who is contemptuous of his ways will die.” Proverbs 19:16

Life has so many distractions it is easy to not pay attention to what the Lord is teaching us and showing us. One must pay attention in order to follow and obey instructions. When my eyes are on things other than the Lord, my heart, or even my life, can be flipped upside down and tossed around just as I was in the wind tunnel. Except it’s not funny.

“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” Matthew 26:41

“Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” 1 Timothy 4:16

Relax means to trust. When I relax and trust the Lord I enjoy life so much more. When I am filled with anxiety everything is a struggle. I have learned, and continue daily to learn that God is worthy of my trust. He is sovereign, faithful, righteous, just, and He loves me.

“Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.” Psalm 9:10

“When I am afraid, I will trust in you.” Psalm 56:3

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” John 14:1

Finally, breathe. Breathing is so important. When we are upset, fearful, frustrated, or angry we tend to take shallow breaths, denying our brain and body of much needed oxygen. This only acerbates things. Taking a deep breath helps us keep calm.

The popular phrase, “Just breathe.” conveys the idea of stepping back, taking a moment. It also means to gather one’s self-together to refocus. For me, it also means to receive and release. Receive (breath in) God’s grace, strength, and love. Then release control (breath out), and committing my life to His plan and purpose.

“Into your hands I commit my spirit; redeem me, O LORD, the God of truth.” Psalm 31:5

“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by Him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.'” Romans 8:15

Does your life feel out of control? Maybe you are experiencing an “adventure” in your life that’s causing you fear or frustration. I want to encourage you to follow God’s direction and pay attention to His leading. Relax and trust His love for you, and… remember to breathe. After all, life with the Almighty God is the greatest adventure of all!

 

What Are You Afraid Of?

I’m always glad when Halloween is over. I do love a good costume but other than that, I’m not a big fan of Halloween. I am intrigued, however, at our obsession with fear; our delight in being frightened, and our enthusiasm in scaring others. images-2

We pay good money to ride roller coasters and rides that make us scream our heads off.  My favorite: Tower of Terror in Disney California.

We watch movies that make us hide our eyes and clench the hand of the person we are with. Maybe that’s why they are great date movies.

What is so entertaining about fear?

We have great fun in sneaking up on someone and watching them jump out of their skin. We love a good gag that freaks a person out.

What is so fun about making someone afraid?

Fear, when danger is only imagined, is indeed fun. Increased heart rate, shortness of breath… just enough to remind us we’re alive.

Fear is an interesting thing. It can serve us well, such as keeping us from running into the street and getting hit by a car. It can also sever us, keeping us bound and restricted.

People deal with all kinds of fears. Some fears are silly, and some bully us into bondage. We have phobias that dictate our behavior, and anxieties that steal our peace.

God doesn’t want us to be ruled by fear.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7 NLT

Fear can make us conduct ourselves unreasonably, often acting in ways that bring about the very thing we are afraid of. (Job 3:25) Fears can make us overcompensate, putting our lives out of balance and costing us a great deal.

When I’m Afraid

I find myself battling certain fears: I fear for the welfare of my family. I fear missing the leading of the Lord. I fear I’m not doing enough. I fear making a mistake that can’t be undone. Just to name a few.

As I have dealt with fear through out my life, I have come to understand that fear is a sign I am not understanding the love of the Lord in that area and need to grow in Him.

“There is no fear in love (dread does not exist), but full-grown (complete, perfect) love turns fear out of doors and expels every trace of terror! For fear brings with it the thought of punishment, and (so) he who is afraid has not reached the full maturity of love (is not yet grown into love’s complete perfection). 1 John 4:18 Amp

images-3Grow In God’s Love

If fear is intimidating me, I need to grow and mature in my realization of God’s love. I do this through confessing my fear to the Lord and maybe even to someone I trust. Confession sheds light on the fear and puts it in perspective. Kind of like pulling the curtain back on Oz. Secondly, I learn what God has to say about it in His Word and choose to trust Him and walk in that truth. Thirdly, I worship. Worship changes my heart, and worship silences the enemy, the author of my fear.

A little playful scare is OK, but fear that deprives us of all that God has for us is not. Remember what Jesus told us, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

What Are You Afraid Of?

What fears do you battle? Are there fears in your heart that are producing unreasonable behaviors? You might need to ask someone close to you because we don’t usually see it. Be open for their answer though.

Are you overcompensating in some area because of fear? Ask the Lord to show you.

I encourage you to use the three steps and address those fears with God’s love. Grow in your experience and understanding of God’s love for you and see what happens.