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.

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Top Photo by Micheile Henderson on Unsplash

 

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!

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!

 

What Does Your Stuff Say About You?

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What does your stuff say about you?

Our possessions do not define who we are, but they can tell a lot about us.

I love working with people because each person has a different story. As a family transition specialist, I meet interesting people. I have to admit, I love going thru their stuff.

You learn a lot about a person by the things they keep.

Take Mr. H.  Mr H

At age 94, Mr. H still walks tall and proud (I’m wearing heels in the pic) . He has his wits about him and he knows what he likes. We’d unpacked photos of him in his early years. He had been a very handsome young man.

Mr. H was concerned about particular items:

His Bible, one of the last things to pack and first to be un-packed. It was well-worn and he wanted it out for easy access.

Mrs. H’s stockings nestled neatly in her shoes. Her cosmetic bag kept on the vanity. Mrs. H had passed the year before, but the shoes on her side of the bed and lipstick and blush near Mr. H’s toothbrush made him feel at home –like she wasn’t really that far away.

Mr. H was insistent that his guns come with him (empty of course – he’s 94) . Still, Mr. H wanted them near. He valued his right possess them.

A model fighter airplane was displayed safely on a high shelf. It was a replica of one he flew as a pilot in the US Air Force decades earlier.

This precious collection didn’t hold significant monetary value, but these “things” were of utmost importance to Mr. H.

I went back a few days after unpacking to see how he’d settled in. I also wanted to ask him about one other of his prized possessions.

The letter (photo) was preserved on a little white board. It intrigued me so I hoped he would share the story behind it.

When we arrived, my husband and I heard big band music streaming thru his door.

We banged on the door hoping he’d hear us. Through the trumpet sounds and some other loud noise we heard his holler, “Come on in.”

He was expecting his son, and was surprised to see me and my husband. Mr. H remembered me from the move and welcomed us in.

He was obviously frustrated. He couldn’t get his TV to turn off with his remote. With an aggravated thrust, he pointed it towards the TV that competed with the sounds of the music.

Brad figured it out, while I explained that I’d enjoyed helping him a few days earlier and wanted to see how he was doing. The noise subsided.

He looked at Brad and gave him a quick nod, “Well now that my remote is fixed I’m doing better.”

I couldn’t resist, “Mr. H, I’m curious about your letter.

My letter?” He looked puzzled.

Yeh, the one you have mounted.” I picked it up from a shelf and handed it to him.

He held it, smiled and proudly told the story.

It was written by his father to his mother;

December 2, 1917.

His vision was not so good so we took turns reading it:

Miss Marie –My Dear Friend…

I just wanted to drop you a few lines to tell you that I certainly was glad to get to have the pleasure of being in your company Sunday night, and if you have no objection I would like to call at your house some time to see you

 -providing I don’t leave town pretty soon… Say be sure to be at church next Sunday night will you? Gee girl I think you’re a peach. Sure wish I could take a bite ‘a peach…!!

He was called to duty days after penning this first of many love letters.

Mr. H lit up sharing the story though his eyes looked off beyond the room we sat in.

Dad went and served. Mom waited for him. He fought and he made it back.”

He paused and smiled, looking back at us.

“Well you can figure the rest. They got married and had me!”

His eyes trailed off again, but this time he looked to the black and white photo of Mrs.H.

 “And here I am, and I got me my own peach.”  His eyes welled up.

Mrs. H had passed the year before. But his love for her was fresh. Keepsakes scattered around his apartment reminded him that one day he would be with her again.

In Mr. H, I found an admirable story. He didn’t boast a word, but his “stuff” told the story of his values and allegiance;

God, family, country.

We all have our stories, and often they’re connected to things.

What do your things reveal about you?

What stories have been passed down to you? And what stories are you passing along to others?

More then our stuff, our lives tell a story. We get to fill in the pages.

One way or another we all pass along a story. What is yours?

 

This Is Happening!

This is happening! houseforsale

Our realtors planted the sign in the yard last night. Next week our house goes on the market and we’re one step further in this journey with the Lord, ending one amazing season to enter another.

This morning Brad and I talked about what needs to be done yet.

There’s more then moving furniture and boxing up clutter. We’re moving out of state and starting a new business. That means saying goodbye to our daughter Jessie and my mom… for a time.

We’re leaving the place and people who have been HOME for 22 years.

Really Lord?

This wasn’t what I had in mind when I stepped out of my role on staff at The Harvest last year. Had I known, it would have been too much to process.

It’s almost too much now.

But God.

As Brad and I finished our exhaustive to do list, my thoughts trailed back to Christ and …running.

 When I do long runs I run a series of connected segments. I visually mark a spot to run too; a flag pole or a tree ahead in the direction I’m running. Doing this gives me something to focus on, diminishing the overwhelming stretch I know I’m going to cover.

I recognize Jesus voice in my thinking;

“Focus on Me as your goal. The details of who, when, where, and how are peripheral. They’ll all fall in line.”

Reaching a destination, accomplishing a project, growing and learning new things are good goals. Serving Christ is a righteous goal. But truly –He is the ultimate goal and the prize.

Being aware of His presence; interacting with the His Spirit, and moving in sync with Him in the midst of everything we do is His goal for us. It’s not so much what we do, but that whatever we do -we do interactively with Him.

He wants to be part of everything we do. He want’s to be seen in who we are. It’s oneness. This is where great things happen.

I look at life as a race. The real start began when I synced in with Jesus and chose to journey with Him. He’s my coach; always there, never giving up. He leads me on this crazy path called LIFE, compelling me to press on stretching, growing, transforming more to His likeness. One day I’ll finish the race and then I will rest in Father’s arms.

As Paul says, ” and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus…” Hebrew 12:1

Jesus is all about the relationship. In that relationship He helps us to grow and transform into something more than we realize we are capable of.

He is the Champion of champions. He loves to win and see His people win. After all, He created us in His image to accomplish His will.

Even so, He only gives us what we can process at the time.

When I run, I can only focus on one marker. I continually look up at my marker while taking in the terrain I’m passing thru. Sometimes it’s hills and they strengthen me. Sometimes it’s a winding wooded path and I’m blown away by beauty. I can’t see the next marker until I’m near the one I’m focused on.

The point is to keep Christ our constant goal. He doesn’t change, though the journey and terrain do. In the race, we become more than what we were before.

So while My head occasionally swims with countless pressing details, I look up and remember it’s about stretching forward with Him.

 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14

Whether we’re making a big move, changing careers or continuing in what seems routine; Jesus and His love remains the goal… and the reward (even before the finish!)

But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” 1 Timothy 1:5

Yeh, I’m excited and I’m a little weak in the knees with all the changes. But honestly, I’m lovin it. Once again, we’re having to absolutely CLEAVE to Christ.

I don’t like goodbyes and this is a big one for us, so instead we’ll just say THANK YOU friends.

Thanks be to God who brought us to and thru a fantastic season; picking Brad and I up out of a dark, dirty pit; cleaning us and calling us His own.

Thanks be to friends and all who’ve become family along the way. You accepted us ‘warts and all’. You’ve made our lives rich with countless blessings and memories we’ll treasure forever.

Thanks especially to those who’ve loved us at thru our worst and spurred us again and again to fix our eyes on Christ.

Our eyes are fixed, and our hearts are hungry to pour out where He plants us.

He wants your attention. When He has it, He does marvelous things thru you.

And truly, the best part will be Him and seeing others as He sees them.

“You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”

Jeremiah 29:13

Carpe diem, seize the day!

Carpe diem, seize the day!  Whatever day you are in, whatever season; make the most of it.  You can’t go back and get a redo!

I just ran 8 miles today.  That’s nothing to brag about, but this morning my alarm woke me from an especially good dream.  I was tired and I wanted nothing more than to go back to sleep and finish my dream.  The last thing I wanted to do was get up, and I definitely didn’t feel like running.   Once I finished though, I was so glad I hadn’t slept in and missed my time to run.   sb running shoes

Isn’t that just like life? Some days we just don’t want to DO what we’re called to do, but we do it anyways; and then we’re so glad we did.

Who wants to send a child off to kindergarten or summer camp or college?  How difficult is it to give away your daughter’s hand in marriage or see your son land his first big job in another state?  Who wants to say goodbye to loved ones who move or a friend who passes away?

It’s difficult to turn the page on an especially good season.  There are some seasons we just don’t want to leave.  We don’t always get to make that choice, and life is not always fair.  Time and life rolls on.

And yet more often than not, each new season turns out to be richer than the last, just in a different way.

The truth is we don’t really know what lies ahead.  Our best plans rarely turn out the way we envision they will.  If we keep Christ the center of our focus, then everything ~EVERYTHING else pales in comparison to the amazing wonders He reveals in each passing season.

Find the treasures of the season you are in, and recognize that you only have it for a timeAppreciate what you have now and welcome what is yet to come.

 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow.    James 4:13-14

Prayer and Fasting

If your 2014 goals and resolutions include starting something new and growing closer to God, consider how that will be accomplished.  We intend to make more time for prayer, but our schedules are so full.  I actually calendar daily “appointments” for prayer.  It’s too easy to overlook.  Every year, our family takes a period of time for fasting.  It gets  posted on our annual calendar.  Have you ever fasted?

I used to absolutely cringe at the thought of fasting.  I envisioned overly zealous fanatics and hardcore health nuts depriving themselves of LIFE, having to crawl into the emergency room in need of an iv to revive them “back”.  dogwood park

Then, thirteen years ago our Pastor called our congregation to a 40 day church-wide fast.  Many of us were new to fasting, and I didn’t quite know what to expect.  I didn’t want to change my eating habits.  As one who eats healthy anyways, I knew I’d have a “limited menu”.

Those 40 days boosted my prayer life.  My relationship with God deepened substantially.  Fasting made me hungry for more of Him.

Fasting is very personal and private, even when you join others.  It’s a time to humble yourself; saying no to appetites, listening instead to the voice of Christ.

Everyone who participated in that 40 day fast was impacted in a great way.  My husband and I included our children, modifying the fast accordingly.   It’s now a special time of year our whole family looks forward to.  Every January we prepare our schedules and menus to unite with the people we share life with.  We value this annual time of prayer and fasting.

It’s a special time to draw closer to one another, as we draw closer to God.  We turn off the tv, say no to needless “grazing” and take time and focus to key in on our relationship with God.  Some of the most powerful times we’ve had with the Lord, have been times of prayer and fasting.

In our church, each family (even each individual) usually does their own type of fast.  Some fast from media, others omit all sweets and junk food.  Many do a Daniel fast eating only vegetables and nuts.  Some are more serious, fasting from all food.

Typically our fasts are 21 day days.  We finish the last day together with a special time of prayer and worship.  We then break the fast going out to celebrate with dinner.  I seriously love these days; so rich is the fellowship with God.

If you’ve never done a fast before, start simple and go easy.  Jentezen Franklin Ministries offer helpful resources online, many of which are free.

Get answers before you start a fast:

Why are you fasting?  What will your fast look like?  How long will it last?  Who will support and encourage you?  When and where will you make time to take time to be alone and listen to God?  

Schedule times for prayer throughout your day.  A scripture based devotional is a great tool to help you reflect and focus your thoughts on God rather than what you’re NOT eating or doing.  This is so important because it really is tempting to get caught up in the depravation and miss the whole point of WHY you’re fasting in the first place!

Keep in mind, that on an extended fast, the first 3 days will most likely be the most difficult.  And if you do mess up, don’t throw in the towel.  Just pick up and continue.  It will be worth it!

Our fast begins Sunday, Jan 12.  Devotionals will be posted daily on The Harvest website.  You can also hear a messages about fasting on The Harvest’s Podcast on ITunes.

Jesus didn’t say “If you fast.”  He said, “when you fast.”  Matthew 6:16

Fasting is a powerful way to humble your body, soul and spirit, placing focus on Christ above self.  “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”  Jeremiah 29:13.   God never disappoints.  How better can we prioritize our time and attention?