A Surprise Blessing

Last weekend I went to Dallas for our daughter Jess’ wedding shower.

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The shower was a perfect time to speak blessings and reminisce on all that God has done over the decades from when our church community began.

Linda, mother of the groom, shared when their family came to the church where Jess and Chris eventually met. “I’ll never forget our first day.” She explained that their sons came to church before the rest of the family. “They were spending a lot of time at the church. We were excited that the boys were eager to be at church, but we hadn’t been to that church ourselves. We decided to go as a family and check it out.”

“The place was packed when we arrived. It was difficult finding a place to seat all six of us. We crammed into a section at the back. After the worship Pastor Steve got up to give the message. He paused, looking over the mass of people. Suddenly, he pointed… towards us ‘You there.’”

“We were far at the back and new. Surely he didn’t mean us. Then he said, ‘You –young man in the orange shirt, pointing in our direction.’”

Linda looked around the room full of women, then at Jess. “My son, Chris was the one wearing a bright orange shirt. Everyone else sat down, but Pastor asked Chris to stay standing. You can imagine my thoughts right? ‘Oh no, what has he done?!’”

Pastor Steve addressed Chris declaring that he believed the Lord was going to use him in a powerful and unique way. ‘There’s a high call on your life, son -to serve the nations.’  He encouraged Chris to prepare himself to minister among dignitaries around the world.”

The ladies responded, “Linda! That’s awesome!”

I waited till their happy responses finished, then eagerly thrust my hand in the air, “Wait! There’s more to the story!” I had to tell the other part of the story.

“Ya all, last fall Linda and I met for coffee when I was in town. She shared that story with me not realizing I had been there too, only with an entirely different view of what happened.”

“When she told me of their initial visit I cringed inside. I had forgotten that day up to that point. When she shared, my own recollection flooded my mind as if it just happened.”

“That day, I was up in my special “staff” spot where I took a count of attendees for service planning. The place was packed. We were short on seats and time. It was critical to keep to the timeline so we could move people out, so others could come in for the following service. I was stressed –even ticked, thinking, Why is Pastor Steve going off script for a kid who isn’t even part of the church?!”

“Pathetic, right? Oh, it got worse.”

I shared my unholy thoughts, “Wow God, we come week after week, year after year. We changed countless diapers in the nursery, stayed up endless nights during weekend retreats, camps and all those wacky junior high events. We loved and drudged thru the high school drama and never a special word for our kids who grew up in the church.”

“Then my thoughts went back to the service. What is Pastor Steve thinking?! There was no time in the script for this. It was completely out of his norm. I considered holding up a sign “Timeline!”

The ladies chuckled knowing it would have done no good anyway. I went on, “Later that week Pastor revisited the event saying, ‘I know it was off track, but the impression was just so strong, you know…. like I could feel the Holy Spirit prodding me to speak it. I can’t wait to see what God’s going to do thru that kid.’”

I confessed to our friends, “I secretly coveted that blessing, despite the nagging conviction to ‘rejoice’ for others!”

The ladies laughed, “Wow… See how good God is. He knew your heart.”

“Yeh, he knew my weak and selfish heart… and He still brought Jess and Chris together.”

God is good. At all times: even when we don’t deserve it.

His blessings are constant, whether someone declares it publicly or we have the incredible honor to hear Christ’s rich whispers in quiet places.

I think this verse sums how God’s grace and blessings outreach our wayward ways.

“…the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” Exodus 34:6-7a

As for the bride and groom… surely the good Lord will bless them beyond what we pray or seek. God is good.

ChrisandJess

Top Photo by Micheile Henderson on Unsplash

 

People Are Watching

Do you ever get the feeling you’re being watched? Brad and I love to “people watch”. Downtown is a great for this place because there’s always something going on and plenty of people.

This weekend we went to Acacia Park downtown. Immediately, we saw three young men doing flips. “Brad, look!” One would flip. Then the other flipped and then the next. They paused a moment, caught their breath and repositioned. Then bam, bam, bam; they each did it again, and again and again.

Mesmerized, we got out of the truck excited to see more. And we did. All over the little park young men were running, jumping and twisting into the air doing complete arial somersaults. Some were hanging in trees and a few were jumping from the trees to other objects. A young man climbed onto a four foot wall bordering above a playground. He stood like a diver ready to make a complex dive. Suddenly he sprung off the wall tucking, twisting and arching to spin wildly in the air before landing in a soft bed of mulch.

Nearby, a group was gathered by the small amphitheater where a semi-circle obstacle course was arranged. This was the competition ring for the Jump Fest Event Parkour Festival; a ‘Tranquil Movement’ event.

Every couple of minutes a new heat started in which two men laid flat on their backs –the official start position. At start, they sprung from laying on their backs to jumping up, on, over, thru, under and around large crates, parallel bars, over-size tires and monkey bars.

These athletes were strong, elegant, daring, fast and fluid. We watched, in awe.

A few came close to falling. “Oh, no, no!” My mother instincts had me wanting to halt the event with a shout of “Hey! Wait a minute guys. This just isn’t safe.” Somehow I managed clench my teeth and flinch quietly instead. It was fascinating to see the smooth flow of body over fixed objects. These guys moved like liquid.

More gathered and watched. The competitors watched as well. They watched one another and they looked to see who was watching them.

This was a competition; a show of their best. They had come from all over the country so the judges could watch them. It was evident; they’d trained hard honing their skills.

Then something else caught my eye. “Brad look!” Coming up near our heels was a small child, a baby actually. He had just mastered crawling and was proudly conquering the soft green grass on little hands and knees.

Obviously he had been watching as well because he wasn’t just crawling. This baby crawled a bit then tucked and twisted. He’d crawl again and arch and roll. He used his body to imitate the fascinating acrobatic athletes all around. “That’s awesome!” His parents chuckled proudly as they watched on their picnic blanket nearby.

The little guy had watched, studied, internalized and was now duplicating.

That’s what we do isn’t it? We watch. We learn. We do. We teach. It seems we’re either learning, practicing or teaching.

Others are watching. I wonder… What do others see when they see me? What about you? What do people see when they watch you? Are they inspired, encouraged or motivated?

Matthew 5:16 reminds us,

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”(NIV)

When you head out today, consider –people are watching. Who will see you? What will they see? Think about it and have a great week my friends, and SHINE!

Cake in Heaven?

For as much time as we have on earth in comparison to the time we will have in Heaven, isn’t it curious how little time we spend considering Heaven this side of eternity?

I thought about Heaven today at lunch with friends. Elizabeth passed her phone around showing pictures of her grandson’s 1st birthday. The little guy had cake smothered all over his face, chest, and hands; happy as could be. I mean, who wouldn’t want to dive fists into a rich chocolate cake and devour sweet goodness, right?!

Imagine cake in Heaven!

After our meal, the conversation led to talk about Karen’s Dad who passed away a year ago. I wish I’d met the man I’d heard so many great things about. Karen, her mom and sister shared reflections of Gene. Their eyes lit up as they reflected on this godly man they obviously all adored. Suddenly Karen looked at her mom and sister. “Hey. Remember when Lynn called about her crazy dream?”

She shared about a time shortly before Gene passed. “So my friend called and told me she’d dreamt about Dad. In the dream he was at some sort of banquet. There was a lot of food and he was eating, even devouring a big slice of creamy chocolate cake with such delight that he ate with his hands, as if eating cake for the first time. “It was all over his hands and face.”

“Yeh, my Dad loved food, but he wouldn’t eat like that.” The friend called to find out if Gene was okay and was surprised to learn that Gene was in a fierce battle with cancer. As Karen shared the story, Miss Jerri turned to me and whispered, “He really loved food, but at that point he could barely eat a teaspoon of pudding.”

Karen went on, “It makes you wonder what it’s like in Heaven.” She and Deb went on to talk about C.S. Lewis’ book “The Great Divorce” in which those visiting Heaven could hardly stand on the grass because grass in Heaven was so much more… real than any grass on earth. The things of Heaven have substance over things of earth which are only offer a semblance of things in Heaven.

I recalled the week before when I saw Miss Jerri after church and exchanged hugs. “Hi Miss Jerri! How are you today?” Miss Jerri is a beautiful woman, full of grace and class. She smiled sweetly but with effort. “Well, today is Gene’s one year birthday in Heaven. I really miss him but I’m sure he must be celebrating.”

Oh… my heart ached for this dear woman missing her husband. I squeezed her hand and offered another hug. “I’m sure he is celebrating more than we can imagine.”

Sitting together, hearing the dream and considering Gene’s “1st birthday in Heaven” was a treat. Thinking about C.S. Lewis’ suggestion of Heaven being more REAL and substantial then the world as we know it caught all our attention. It was as if a glimpse of Heaven passed through our little group as a sweet reminder.

Heaven; it’s a place; a place more real than things earth side of eternity.

Do you think about Heaven? What are your thoughts? Are you excited, curious, unsure?

Friend, join me in taking a little time to indulge, as we would, a decadent slice of cake and devour the promises of what lays ahead for us whose home is Heaven.

I love to talk about Heaven, and I’d love to hear your thoughts about it too!

Unusual Encounter

This post is in response to a post I read this morning from Joel, a blogger I recently started following. Joel’s post was about an exceptional encounter he had.

He referenced Hebrews 13:2

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. 

The post reminded me of my own unusual encounter.

Over 25 years ago I used to jog the beach path with my son in the baby jogger. Occasionally we’d pass a man who my husband and I privately called the ‘Bum of Huntington Beach’. We weren’t walking with the Lord then, and there were few vagrants roaming HB.

Sometimes Brad and I saw the man walking along Goldenwest Boulevard, but more often Jake and I passed him on our runs at the beach. Every time we saw him, he piqued my curiosity. He was tall -like really tall, and though his clothes were tattered and raggedy, he possessed a strong presence. I found it odd that when we passed him, he never smelled. He walked slow, but his posture was upright. He wasn’t just confident looking. I’d actually say he was… poised, almost elegant -in a manly way. His eyes were piercing in a kind way.
There was something different about this man, and I couldn’t figure it out. I wanted to know more about him.

One Christmas morning I went for a jog before we our traditional big breakfast. There on the lonely beach was our man sitting on the sand before the shore. This was the first time I saw him sitting. He always walked.
The thought came to me, I’ll bring him breakfast!

Excited at the thought of meeting the mysterious man, I quickened my pace and took the shorter route home so I could make up a plate and get it back before he was gone again.

At home, I piled the plate high with egg soufflé, toast, and fruit; and put juice in one of Jake’s sippy cups. My family looked at me like I was nuts. But I had too. “Hurry Shell. We’re hungry.”

It’s Christmas. He needs a gift.

I had some crystals that I kept in my jewelry box (again, not walking with Jesus). I held on to the stones thinking they could somehow guide, enrich, and protect my life.

At the time, I was blind, holding on to worthless objects instead of reaching out to the true source of hope.

Laden with a big plate of Christmas breakfast, and a cup of juice. I tucked the gift in my jacket pocket and hurried back to the spot near the pier. The air was cold and damp that morning. The ‘bum’ was still there, just gazing out to the foggy sea. He had a blanket wrapped around him. It was so strange to see him sitting, but he still looked so…tall.

I crossed the bike path to the sand, awkwardly caring my gifts. As I approached the man I began second guessing my brilliant and ‘extravagant’ gift.

What if he’s crazy -or dangerous?

Maybe I’ll insult him and make him mad… What’ll he do?!

I continued thru the clinging sand, contemplating random thoughts. The beach was vacant except for a family taking a walk and a few die-hard surfers.

Now I was beside “the bum”; past the point of turning back. He looked up slowly, his eyes meeting mine. I saw gentleness and wisdom and suddenly felt incomplete in whatever I thought I had to offer. In that moment I realized this man was more than what I judged him to be by his appearance.

I scrambled for words, “Um… Sir. Uhhh…” He seemed to see right through me.

“It’s Christmas.” I offered the plate, feeling like I’d just barged in someone’s private home. Maybe I had.

He looked down at the plate.

Maybe he’s already eaten.

Maybe he owns one of the beach homes and simply chooses to walk in tattered clothes.

It struck me again; he doesn’t smell. Suddenly I realized I did smell. I still had my sweaty running clothes on.

Oddly, I felt quite safe and welcome in his presence despite my embarrassment.

“Here’s some juice.” I handed him the sippy cup, painfully aware that my gift was not so extravagant after all. “That’s… you know; so it wouldn’t spill.”

Hoping to ease the awkwardness, but failing dismally; I handed him the crystals.

“A Christmas gift. Their supposed to help. Bring you luck.” I didn’t know what else to say, but he set the plate on the sand and accepted the clear stones in his hand. He simply looked at the stones unmoved.

Ahhh -what am I doing?! I’m giving a man stones?

He looked up and I wanted to run, but he met my eyes; smiled and kindly replied, “Thank you.”

He didn’t say another word, though his eyes said much. They were filled with wisdom. I could see that he had answers where I had questions. Somehow, I perceived that he knew what I wanted to know, but wasn’t ready to hear. He had answers to the hard questions of life, and he knew I wouldn’t accept them yet.

How did I know? Some things you just know -you know?

I looked down where the sand met his weathered blanket and managed, “You’re welcome.”

I wanted to stay in that unusual place. I wanted what he had but I didn’t know what it was. Very aware of my iniquity I could stand the awkwardness no longer. I stood up and began walking away, weakly mumbling, “Merry Christmas”.

I went home and ate Christmas breakfast with our little family, but instead of feeling fulfilled, I felt empty. Why? I thought I’d had such a good idea.

I had not brought a man food and gems. Rather, I left a man to sit alone on cold wet sand with useless rocks to weigh his pockets.

I gave him breakfast, stones and a sippy cup, but withheld the warmth of opening our home. And though he gave me nothing, he offered peace and warmth.

Brad and I continued to take Jake for walks and runs on the beach. I looked for the unusual stranger, but never saw him again.

That minute spent with “the bum of Huntington Beach” stirred a hunger in me that eventually led to Jesus. I didn’t recognize it then, but that man gave me a desire for peace, wisdom and kindness that could only be found in Christ.

I still look back and wonder, Who was that man? Do angels walk in tattered clothes?

Whether he was simply a wise and peaceful man or a special messenger of hope, he accomplished much with little. Twenty five years later I still think of him.

In the same way, children of God are to impact others. Some of the surest ways are those most simple;

-living in such a way that others are compelled to Christ; the ‘bum’ drew me first to himself, and ultimately (without a word) to Christ.

-being content with what we have: the ‘bum’ never appeared wanting or forlorn -his peace despite his apparent lack was exceptional, making a profound impression on me.

-showing compassion by meeting others at their point of need: the wise ‘bum’ appeared to see my need and accepted the crystals without mocking my ridiculous gift. Sometimes a person need only be seen, heard and accepted. The Holy Spirit will fill in the blanks in due time.

And you? Are others moved towards God Almighty because of what’s in you?

Do they see evidence that compels them to search that which cannot be bought, sold or contained -only given?

Kindness opens the door for truth.

Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?  Romans 2:4

Lord, stir in us a hunger for Your presence and satisfaction in you alone, that You would be glorified and others be drawn to You.

to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:27

 

Adoption & A Heart for Korea

In our work as Senior Relocation Specialists we meet a variety of some pretty amazing people. Each client impacts us in a different way, revealing something special that causes us to once again fall in love with what we do and the people we serve.

Miss Ellen

When you’re packing up a lifetime of memories for someone’s move, or going through their belongings for an estate sale, you learn a lot about that person. Recently, we did a move and estate sale for Miss Ellen.

We fell in love with Miss Ellen immediately; an accomplished artist, a nurse and a psychologist. She’s 87, but you wouldn’t know it for all her bustling about and tending to countless details with seemingly endless energy and constant smiles. Her home was an orderly explosion of art and color. It was an expression of her.  

Miss Ellen’s home also hosted a great mix of Korean art, furnishings and keepsakes. This intrigued me because my sister, Jenny, is from Korea. Though I’ve never been there, I have an appreciation for the land which brought forth my sister.

Jenny was less than a year when she came to our family. A new child to any family is a gift, but when the child comes from the other side of the world, there is an extraordinary anticipation and a special appreciation. An adopted child and sibling is an exceptional gift.

I was excited sharing a great affection for Korea. “Miss Ellen, my sister is from Korea.”

Miss Ellen talked about their life in Seoul. “You know it was a very difficult time and place for the people there.” She spoke of the challenging dynamics of the culture still tending the wounds of the post Korean War.

I figured Miss Ellen’s family was there on military assignment as most of our clients are retired military. When I asked, she explained “Oh no dear, we were missionaries.”

That made sense. Her love for the Korean people was evident through out her home. She went on reflecting on tender memories, “We’d reach out to the military men stationed there hoping to share with them the dynamics nature of Korean culture, different in many ways from American culture.”

“We spent a lot of time loving on the locals, the military and the orphans.” She touched my arm affectionately, “Shelly, in the aftermath of war and cultural dishevel -the orphanages were so full.”

“We’d just go there and love on all those the little ones…”

I began calculating dates. “Miss Ellen, my sister was born in Seoul. When were you there?”

She pulled out a collection of news clippings documenting the cultural issues of their time there. She paused a moment and looked at me before continuing, “We were there from 1968 – 1973. We worked a lot with Holt Adoption International.”

My heartbeat quickened and tears threatened to spill. Miss Ellen just kept talking.

“Holt would match American families to the orphan children. The children were then placed with in care of eommaleul yang-yughadas. We would visit and help them.”  “We held a lot of little ones.”

I knew about Holt and eommaleul yang-yughadas. Holt was the agency that helped our family find Jenny. They told us Jenny would be in the care of an eommaleul yang-yughada until the process was complete. I hadn’t heard that term since I was a child, waiting to meet my new sister.

Our first photo of Jenny

Miss Ellen was there, working closely with those who were orchestrating the adoption of these young Korean children, among who was my then baby sister.

I stood stunned, looking at this sweet, tiny, white haired woman before me. Had Miss Ellen actually held my sister before I did? What a wild and exceptional possibility!

I was floored with appreciation of Miss Ellen and to the eommaleul yang-yughada who first welcomed my sister to her home.

There is really no way to know if Miss Ellen actually held my sister any more than we know the circumstances that brought Jenny to the orphanage.

The important thing is the impact that resulted because of those who put action to caring for one another; especially those in need.

Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of God and Father is this; to visit orphans and widows in their distress…” James 1:27 NASB

Shelly, our niece Miss E and Jenny

The fruit thereof lasts for a lifetime. I am forever grateful to my parents for realizing one of our family would be born in a far away   land. My sister is special to me because who she is not where she comes from. Yes, her heritage matters to me – a lot; because it’s a part of who she is. She’s strong and beautiful, funny and extremely intelligent. I now see that some of her strength, beauty and unique ways are inherent to the incredible land from which she came.

As we finished caring after Miss Ellen’s estate, I pondered the richness of God’s goodness and providence in sharing this intersection of time and people.

You never know what a day or a “chance encounter” may bring. And often we don’t get to see the full reach of our caring; but sometimes we do.

I hope that one day Jenny and I will visit Korea together. In the meantime, I count myself blessed to have siblings, family, friends and an ever thickened network of people to love and be loved by.

“love one another, even as I have loved you.” –Jesus John 13:34 (NASB)

** Holt Adoption International http://www.holtinternational.org/korea/

 

 

Challenge No. 1 of 50 Hold A Snake

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My 50 Challenges Book

I turned 50 in December with the full determination to embrace life fully, not holding anything back. When my daughter asked me what I wanted, I told her, “I’d love to have 50 challenges to complete this next year.”

Jessie is creative so I knew she’d make it fun, and crazy. I hoped it would even be a little daring.

On Christmas, I opened Jessie’s gift; my own personal Challenge Book complete with instructions, -50- challenges, a journal to record my thoughts on each challenge and 2 disposable cameras for tracking the “proof”.

Okay, this should be fun, right?

I turn to challenge No.1. Hold a snake.

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Challenge No 1 Hold a snake

Wait!?! What?! “Oh no, no, no. This is not cool.” I look to Jess and the rest of the family smiling sheepishly at me.

Jess was quick to respond, “Okay Mom, that’s like the hardest one. Jake (our oldest) helped. The snake was his idea (of course).”

“And remember, you don’t have to do them in order.”

It seemed appropriate to start the year off facing and conquering a big challenge. Get the toughest one done, right?  

So snake challenge it was -and New Year’s Day is a great day to do something ‘big’ and new.

Conveniently there is a reptile shop close to our house. Of all the little shops it was the only one open. Not getting out of this today.

I was glad Brad was with me. We walked in and I immediately searched for creeping critters on the loose. There were only two; a dog and a turtle. “Okay, safe enough.”

There were several customers, so I tried to ‘blend’ in while keeping a safe distance from the warmly lit aquariums. I took deep breaths, hating that familiar stench of fear that accompanied me as I cautiously peered into each glass tank.

The owner, Ronald asked if we needed help. He had an easy going manner and kind eyes.

I can do this.

I explained my fear of snakes and my daughter’s gift of challenges.

“Do you think you could help me? –Cuz I’m kind of freaked out just looking at these guys.”

There were several tanks with a variety of snake; pythons, corral snakes and others.

I tried to imagine them as lizards that lost their legs, but it didn’t help.

Fear closed in around me. It’s like some weird nerve gas that causes your mouth to go dry. You forget to breath and your hands (and pits) get sweaty. Even your face gets all bent out of shape.

I hate fear, but running from it does no good.

Ronald gets my attention back to the task at hand, “Yeh, sure. I’ll have you holding one in just a few minutes.”

He doesn’t know how big my fear is.

He didn’t address my fear; he simply instructed, “Put your hand on the glass –right here beside the snake.”

“You’re totally separated, but you’re almost touching it. It’s safe. Try it.”

Ronald wasn’t addressing my fear; he simply called me to action over fear.

I slowly put my fingers on the glass, on the other side of which the snake’s head rested on the length of another snake.

Nothing happened.

It didn’t squirm into a writhing frenzy or coil up. Nothing.

“Okay, that’s cool.”

Ronald talked about the difference of snakes bred in human controlled environments versus the wild. “All they know of humans is safety. We’re not a threat to them, so they have no need to be a threat to us.” “They only eat natural prey –not man.”

“Hold on, I’ll get one that you can touch,” He turned and went to a tank on the next aisle. Before I could hesitate further Ronald was back holding a several foot youth python. “I’m just going to hold her head away so you can touch her. Just use 1 finger if that’s easier for you.”

She twisted about clinging to Ronald’s wrist. Her reddish spots on white were pretty. I put my hand near her inching and pulling back, inching and pulling back.

Ugh…  I was more disturbed by my fear than the creature herself.

Finally, I slide my finger along her scales. Whoah! Surprise. She didn’t snap at me or flinch or do any strange thing.

I set my hand on her again feeling the strength of her muscles. Her scales were smooth, but not slimy.

Breathe Shelly. I took a cleansing breath.

“Wanna hold her?” Ronald raised her higher, though not closer.

The bell on the entry door jingled as another couple came in the store.

“No. I can’t, not yet.”

Ronald tucked the snake around his neck and went to help the couple. He came back and asked, “Ready?”

I touched her but I wasn’t ready. Then another customer came in.

This place is hopping. And it’s New Year’s Day!

Ronald had paying customers, so he put her back and moved on. Brad had things to do at home —but I hadn’t accomplished what I came for.

I lingered, peering into the tanks trying to picture myself holding the snake myself.

Finally the shop was empty again. I stalled for time. I knew Brad was ready to go and Ronald surely had his shop chores to take care of.

It would be easy to say I touched a snake and gave it a good effort. But then fear would have dominance over me… and doesn’t the God tell us that He’s not given us a spirit of fear, but rather power, love and sound mind?

I couldn’t give in to fear and walk away.

As I contemplated, Ronald helped me out, “Here, let me show you something special.”

He walked to the back of the store, past where customers were permitted and returned with a much larger version of the snake he’d just presented minutes earlier.

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Even the dog can see my fear

“She’s older and in fact, she’s pregnant.”

The weight of fear began to lift as I held her weight and length in my hand.

She was strong, but slow. I was okay holding her.

Ronald and his massive pup watched and surely saw fear lifting. “Here want to hold her on your neck?”

“Yeh, I would.” Another customer came in.

Really?

“Lean forward. I’ll drape her around your neck.” “Hold her here and here.” He gently placed her in my hands and around my neck.

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Yes. Challenge complete. This lil momma holds sweet momma snake.

The big snake was fully on me alone now.

It was a pretty incredible moment. In the absence of fear I had PEACE. It was such a remarkable contrast; almost palatable.

What did I gain besides a photo and a “Done!” in my Challenge Book?

Truth; fear only holds as much occupancy in us as we allow.

Occasionally fear is healthy and wise. It can protect us. You wouldn’t go into the wild and pick up a rattlesnake. That would be stupid.

By the same token, when we give in to fear over reason, we become out of balance in that area of our thought process.

You can see the look on my face the moment before I let go of fear. Even the dog in the photo appears to see it. It’s not very flattering.

Once I embraced peace while holding the snake, the countenance on my face totally changed.

As a follower of Christ fear is not only unbecoming, it’s a contradiction to the identity of peace that we are given as image bearers of God Himself.

Today was more than completing my first challenge. Challenge No. 1 was a powerful reminder that fear has no place in the transformation life of believers in Christ.

Jesus gives us peace that surpasses understanding–and how much more in matters more consequential than holding a tame snake?

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”  –John 14:27 (NASB)

Only 49 more challenges to go. This is going to be an aMAZing year!!

Eleven 32

Today is a very special day.

Today our home church The Harvest in Allen, Texas announced its’ new name.

When I first heard that the name was changing I was crushed. Our family had been part of The Harvest from some of its’ early beginnings. It was our family, our community and our home. I served on staff for over 13 years.

The Harvest was and still is family1456093874217

It felt like how I imagine our daughter Jessie felt as we sold our home and moved out-of-state. (Jessie remains in Texas studying and serving at our Texas church).

I’m thinking –But that means we’re not part of the church now. We are only part of the history of a church we no longer are active members at.

We hadn’t wanted to leave, but followed the tugging of the Holy Spirit.

Brad and I made the choice pursuing God on a new path in a new state; starting over again with our vocation, home, and community.

The first several months were rough. I felt as if we were being punished. Maybe we were not good enough for what God was going to do back home and He needed us out of the way. (Unguarded; the mind is such a playground for the enemy!)

This hurt at my core, so I turn to Father.

Lord, I know You are doing great things at home. You have clearly drawn us to this new place and people.

But Jesus…  I still miss home and now it has a new name!  Will we still be family there or some old ‘used to be’ strangers?

To which I get His response; Child, really?

I am doing marvelous things. You cannot know it all. You are not capable.

I am growing My Kingdom and the ways I do it will always be new to you.

Remember,  ‘Living things grow and growing things change.’

Pastor Dustin is a man of God filled with the fire of Father’s Spirit; burning fiercely to advance the name and glory of the King.

Bear with me as I segway a minute; this is cool.

 We really love how Pastor Al at Calvary Worship Center has tied together the message of Christ in our lives and culture today -throughout our study of the book of Daniel.

It’s historical, but as last week’s title “Back to the Future” implied; it really is looking back at the prophecies of God to His people, telling of things to come thousands of years ago and things yet still to be fulfilled. It’s all about Jesus.

In Daniel, we see God showing His sovereignty and goodness to His people in the midst of crooked times, leaders and cultures. Daniel helps us to look back as we look forward.

Lord, may we be a people who seek after You standing firm in Your ways no matter the times or the “political correctness”.

This week we would dive into Daniel Eleven.

Yeh, that’s the new name of our home church: Church Eleven 32!

In Daniel 11, we see that Antiochus IV Epiphanes appeased the cultures with deceit. He was all about his own kingdom and his own glory. His character was vile and he despised the Word of God. It was dark times for the people of God.

Motivated by hostility towards God and God’s people, Antiochus stops the holy offerings and desecrated the holy temple bringing in a sow. He attempts to scorn the One true God appealing to Hellenism.

In Daniel 11:32 he appeals to the culture, “By smooth words he will turn to godlessness those who act wickedly toward the covenant,”

We’re in dark times now. And there are plenty of smooth talking world leaders.

But –—! “but the people who know their God will display strength and take action.”

Here in COS we’re studying Daniel 11 and verse 32, while back home they banner the name in commitment to be the people “who know their God, will be strong and carry out great exploits”.

Of all the verses we would study today –it’s the very one our home is lifting as a beacon committed to advance God’s glory and Kingdom.

Only God knows the times and seasons, and yet, we are in a time where it is politically correct to honor all gods of all people. It’s not ‘acceptable’ to banner Jesus as THE ONLY WAY to God and heaven.

Jesus said,

I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”    John 16:6

It’s all about Jesus, wherever we are –we are to be about standing firm, honoring the King of all kings; to know Him and make Him known.

So, I’m totally rejoicing here in Colorado, excited to see what God will do next here, there and everywhere that people will stand firm to raise the name of Jesus.

Wherever you are, bloom where you’re planted -and raise the name of Jesus!

 

Baby Shoes?!

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I have a large closet that doubles as my hideaway office.  It’s quiet and secluded.  This is one place I go to get away with God; free from distractions.

I was enjoying being alone with Him when I asked, “God, of all my shoes, which ones are your favorite?”

I know… God is far more concerned with bigger matters than my shoes.

But this was a personal question. I want to know how He sees me personally.  It helps me understand how He sees others.

I look around the closet, wondering which ones He’d pick.  Pumps, sandals, winter boots, cowboy boots, my favorite flats…

My eyes turned to my running shoes.

“I’m thinking it’s either my flats or my running shoes –yeh, no, definitely the running shoes.”

My running shoes are special to me.  That’s what I wear when I’m out on the path, heart pumping; mind clear.

It’s another ‘place’ I go to hear His voice.

My attention is drawn to a pair of bronzed baby shoes. They were my first shoes. I keep them up on a shelf wedged between my favorite pumps.

Mom likes to chide me about them because they’re exceptionally BIG.  They look more like toddler’s shoes than baby shoes. I had big feet.

“Those?”

“Why?”  “I’m not a baby anymore.”

“They’re My favorite because they are what you wore when you learned to walk. You would get back up every time you fell.  They’re a milestone child.”

I love that He calls me –child.

I’m reminded that He was there before I wore shoes. He was there for my first shoes, first heels, and first real running shoes.  He’s always been there, whether or not I realized it.  20140831_125255-1

I’m working on a book in which I share the perspective of God’s constant presence in an ordinary life.

God’s presence has been, and always will be right there beside each one of us. His goodness is evident in every season no matter how dark or lonely.

Wow! We know that in theory, but do we believe it? Can we see it?

Is it possible to get a picture of Christ in our darkest hours?

We cannot presume upon God, but He beckons us to seek Him in all things.

Maybe you too have asked, “God, where were you when —–?”

“Why didn’t You —-?”

God is sovereign and does not need to answer to us. Even so, as we seek Him in all things He simply cannot hide His goodness.

I didn’t want to revisit the dark places of my past. But, as I looked for evidence of Christ’s presence is the good ones, I found He was and is just as present in the darkest hours as well.

I’m continually surprised as God reveals Himself is so many ways –if we’ll just seek Him!!

“You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13 NASB

God doesn’t hide. Look for Him.

Pick up a Bible and listen for His heart. Walk outside and find evidence of Him in His creation.

Lord, give us ears to hear. We want to know what You have to say to us.

Author Note –Anything I share of what I ‘hear’ from the Lord is not based on words. I hear with impressions and concepts that I merely attempt to attach words too. Any error of wording or accuracy falls entirely of my feeble attempts to share to the best of my ability the goodness of what I receive.

Hearing God

I was looking over journal notes thinking about how we hear God. Below is how I heard Him New Year’s Day 2015.

The cozy little restaurant was practically empty New Year day. Sue, and I were enjoying the warmth of a fire discussing the past and future.

We laughed, reflecting on the ridiculous mistakes we’d made as moms and wives. We shook our heads acknowledging God’s overwhelming grace and goodness despite us.

As we finished our soup, I noticed an older gentlemen seated on the other side of the fireplace. He was by himself. The thought of eating alone on New Year’s day tugged at my heart.

Sue and I continued to talk. The gentleman look our way several times. It wasn’t an intrusive look, but rather one of curiosity; as if he thought he knew us.

Sue began to talk about hearing the voice of God. I was tickled because inwardly, I was trying to hear if the Lord had anything to say about this man on the other side of the flickering flames. I wanted to know his story. Why he was alone?Phonto

“So how do you hear His voice?”, Sue asked.

I struggled to articulate an answer. Words are so inadequate to describe how I hear Him …but I was hearing Him right then!

I would describe it as an overwhelming… stirring:

Sometimes it’s inexplicable assurance; peace in chaos.

Other times, it’s having particular understanding in the absence of knowledge.

Often it’s a relentless nudge to serve someone without understanding why.

It’s both ridiculously simple and highly complicated. Though it may not make sense, it always reveals God’s goodness.

Sue pulled me back to our conversation, “Like… do you hear Him with words?”

Here was a moment in time where two different planes of thought collided in perfect harmony.

I smiled at my friend, “Do you trust me?”

She looked at me puzzled. Clearly she did, but I hadn’t answered her question.

“Come with me.” We left our table and went to the other side of the brick wall housing the fire. I introduced us to the gentleman, wishing him a Happy New Year.

It was a little awkward to start, but we were soon in a conversation that was unmistakably meant to be. God’s presence was undeniable.

Luis shared his story. He was heartsick to have never pursued the love of his life. When he did, it was too late. Now he was still single in his 70s. He told of his passion for trains and traveling; more dreams he hadn’t pursued.

We talked about dreams and how God breathes fresh life in dreams when we least expect it. The more he spoke, the more Luis was convinced it wasn’t too late to pursue his dreams of train travel. It was fun to watch his countenance change.

We sat and listened, then we prayed for one another and the new year that lay ahead.

Afterwards, Luis eyes were wet, “I was watching you earlier. You look a lot like the young woman I used to know. You spoke with an excitement that I’d long forgotten.”

He wiped his eyes, cleared his throat, “It caused me to pray.”

He cleared his throat again. “I was praying when you both came over.”

We all just sat for a moment silently appreciating how the Lord gets our attention.

I love what Jesus said in John 10:27 (NIV)

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”

Yes. I believe we can hear from God!

What about you?  You probably hear Him more than you realize. Sometimes we hear him and simply don’t recognize it’s Him.

Take time and see if you recognize His.

The scriptures tell us we hear by God’s Word;

“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” Rom 10:17 NASB

Get alone, get in the Word -and listen!

 

A Reason to Sing

A Reason To Sing

I wrote this months ago during an especially tough season.

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I’ve been walking thru a dry and lonely season. Tonight we went to a worship service.

I felt wooden. I sang the words, but it was forced.

I knew the worship song, and I sang despite the empty feeling.

I lifted my hands. They felt like clay.

Not only did my arms feel like clay. I felt like clay.

I closed my eyes, wanting, aching to see Him.

Lord.

Numb. I stood several moments surveying this strange awkwardness.

It had been growing, but now the stark emptiness echoed within me.

I stood there; a deep hollow cavern.

I spoke quietly to Him, “I am thirsty.”

Others around me sang. I didn’t care.

I was strangely aware of my heartbeat.

Lord. What do You want from me? I don’t have anymore to give.

I’m tired. I don’t want anything but you.

What more do You want?

Awareness of others dissipated and suddenly I became profoundly aware of Him.

I stood frozen in my barely 2 foot square spot of “solitude”:  A turbulence rose within me.

I brought my hand to my neck.

Pulse …normal.

What is going on?

Lord!

The turbulence became a hunger; a growing inner tremble;

“Let go.”

Let go? What am I holding on too?

Let    go.

Selah.

For a split moment all thoughts stopped. All senses shift to a serene, sublime neutral. For a simple, splendid moment I stood in exceptional awareness of His Presence.

No words; only concepts run thru my mind:

Life –heart beating strong

Air –breath, sustaining life

Light –capturing evidence of His Creation —everywhere

Movement –life in motion

Color –outlining, underscoring traces of His beauty

Sound -harmonizing an eternal Hallelujah!

The scent of rain –cleansing

Electricity -pulsing in the air

Power -heaven streaming to the natural

Always THERE.  ALWAYS Him.

Our existence within the Creator’s presence.

There’s no existence outside of Him.

Too magnificent to comprehend. A splendid instant; a moment paused in time.

Imprinted and sealed for a lifetime.

Aware only of Him… Him EVERYWHERE. Him in EVERYTHING. Him for all TIME.

The charge of an electric, unseen, I AM HERE, overtakes my cares of everything BUT Him.

My heart quakes within my chest

Hope –like fresh air to lungs; floods my being.

The Creator’s love rooted in me rises to acknowledge Him -the Giver of life.

Love. This formidable force is impossible to resist.

…like a nail drawn to a magnet.

We do not love on our own anymore then a nail draws a magnet.

We are loved; drawn too love.

His love permeates our souls.

He flows TO  IN  THRU us.

His presence IN me -roaring like a burning flame –a fire in my bones, a welcomed brilliance –aching to release the fire of His goodness & mercies onto others.

The moment passes, but His presence remains.

Lord, if this is the desert. Gladly here I’ll stay.

The desert path continued, but hope accompanied me to the place of absolute surrender. This path is good, and on it I’ll stay, wherever it may lead.

Truly, His presence alone is all we need!

Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.”           Hebrews 13:15 NAS

Phonto