A Surprise Blessing

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

micheile-henderson-702491-unsplash

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!

Are You Put To the Test?

WarNinG!  Going into business with your spouse may1440543874313 put your marriage to the test.

After 28 years of marriage, Brad and I sold our house, most of our belongings, bought a franchise business and moved from Texas to Colorado.

We made it thru some really tough challenges in early marriage, so 3 kids and 28 years later we considered ourselves perfectly suited to go into business together. After all, we share the same goals and values. We have fun being together and we were mutually excited to make a difference in the lives of others.

We were worn out before we even began.

I really believed that once we got started everything would begin to fall in place.

Hmmm. Months later…

Here we are in Colorado, a full day’s drive from Texas. The mountains are beautiful and the weather is ridiculously aMAZing. We haven’t weathered winter yet, but so far we love it.

Even so, we don’t have those dear old close friends to drop by, have a cry and get a squeeze of the shoulder reminding us, “God’s got your back –and so do I.”

I may have given up entirely at the beginning if I had known it would be so tough.

Our friends, family and church community were a HUGE part of our lives. They helped shape who we’ve become.

I know they’re still there for us, but…. It is different.

Trying to find a new church home is exhausting. It’s just not home. Home is where the people are who you’ve invested your life in.

Did we make a mistake?

I don’t believe so. There were too many doors that opened and others that closed.

This is the hardest thing I’ve had to do. My marriage has been put to the test far more than any time before.

Brad and I get along great, but we are with each other 24/7.

We’re committed to one another with God at the center continuously pulling us upward together.

But we’re back to relearning the basics; communication, forgiveness, sacrifice, flexibility, forbearance.

We have too.

When we “go home” it’s the same person we’ve been with all day. You can’t say, “You’ll never believe what Brad did at the office today.”

At the end of the day, I need to exert energy to clear my head. A vigorous hike renews my mindset.

Brad prefers to chill and enjoy a break from all the “doing”.  Give him time to sit and rest or watch a favorite show and he’s happy.

While I could run him ragged and he could make me stir crazy, we are learning how to meet each other in the middle.

Communication is essential.

We need it as we uncover issues that got swept away in preoccupations of raising children and separate occupations.

Are we there?  No.

Are we working on it? Daily.  Hourly.

Sometimes the hardest things in life prove to be the things that grow us most.

Whether you’re going in to business with your spouse –moving cross country -facing physical hardship –or taking some leap of faith that feels like a dismal fall; circumstances will put you to the test.

Keep in mind; some seasons are just tough. Life gets messy and it’s not always pretty.

I’d like to wrap up this post with a catchy phrase or a nice quote.

I don’t have one today.

The best I have to offer is the best I have to offer: Jesus.

No matter what; -Jesus.

Just look to Jesus.

You can’t go wrong when you turn to Him.

Your situation may not change right away (probably won’t). It could even get tougher!

But your eyes will see the only thing you really need to see to give you the perspective you need –in any season. Jesus.

 

 

Leap the Wall!

“By my God I can leap over a wall.” Psalm18:29. 20150515_180657-1

That sounds great, but when you’re facing a wall of brick and mortar it’s far more natural to think you should turn and go another way. Leap over a wall? Seriously -who does that?

What walls do you face? Is it a challenging relationship or a physical set back?

Maybe you’re like me taking steps of faith, exploring new territory and finding one obstacle after another.

It’s tempting to interpret challenges as indications that you’re on the wrong path -or maybe you just aren’t cut out for the call you thought you were.

After choosing to walk out a dream I continue to be surprised when everything doesn’t just ‘fall into place’.

We moved from the plains of Texas to the mountains of Colorado, to begin our own business as a Senior Relocation Specialists. There’s licenses and certificates, accounts and systems to engage in before we can even start.

We’ve been living out of a suitcase for the last month, having said goodbye to the comfort of our big beautiful house till our rental is available. We’re no longer surrounded by the community we’ve known as family. And there’s been an endless stream of rain, flooding and the hailstorm of a life time along with threats of tornadoes. Who know there could be tornados in the mountains?

Through my complaining, I occasionally I loose by breath. I have to remember; we’re at a higher elevation.

So it is with dreams. Sometimes you have to stop talking so much, adjust and acclimate. You have to keep your bearings and remember what’s really going on. Transition takes time.

When all you see is the walls that surround you, it’s time to look up to Christ.

When I chose to take my view off of me and back on Jesus, the words of Oswald Chamber on  The Habit of Rising to the Occasion lifted off the pages and spoke to me.

…that you may know what is the hope of His calling… —Ephesians 1:18

Remember that you have been saved so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in your body (see 2 Corinthians 4:10). Direct the total energy of your powers so that you may achieve everything your election as a child of God provides; rise every time to whatever occasion may come your way.

God is the Master Designer, and He allows adversities into your life to see if you can jump over them properly— “By my God I can leap over a wall” Psalm 18:29. God will never shield you from the requirements of being His son or daughter. 

1 Peter 4:12 says, “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you….” Rise to the occasion— do what the trial demands of you. It does not matter how much it hurts as long as it gives God the opportunity to manifest the life of Jesus in your body.

May God not find complaints in us anymore, but spiritual vitality— a readiness to face anything He brings our way.

He ends taking our perspective higher:

We are here to submit to His will so that He may work through us what He wants. Once we realize this, He will make us broken bread and poured-out wine with which to feed and nourish others.

This is a daily deal.

What are the walls you face? What does Jesus say about them? What does He say about you? Are you in agreement with Him?

Today is a new day. Take the opportunity for Christ to be apparent in your life as you look to Him and choose to leap the walls!

To Be Like Mrs D, An Exceptional Woman

The other day I told my husband, “I want to be like Mrs. D.” She’s an exceptional woman.

Mrs. D is a widow we moved this week. She was at the house when we packed her up. She was present but out of the way of our busy-ness.

“I’m going to be right here if you have any questions, but I don’t want to interfere with your work.” Once or twice she came out to see if we needed anything.

“Can I get you anything for lunch?”

Mrs. D didn’t have much in the way of possessions. She was close with her daughters who’d said she’d already given most everything away in recent years after her husband passed. She isn’t suffering dementia or depression; she’s just a giver.

Occasionally we’d find an undesignated item. We’d ask if she wanted to keep it, sell it or give it away her daughters.

“Oh I don’t need that.” She’d say

The next day as we unpacked and set up her apartment, we found a velvet bag with beautiful gold bracelets. It had been in a closet cubby.

The apartment didn’t have cubbies, so we placed the valuables on her nightstand.

By 2:30 we were ready for Mrs. D to see her new home. All we had left was to hang pictures and we needed her for that.

When she came in, Mrs D lit up, “Oh it’s wonderful!” She couldn’t believe how much care we had put into the details. Everything was set up, plugged in and personally suited for her.

She grinned taking it all in.

When she saw the velvet bag on the nightstand, she looked puzzled, “What’s that?”

My manager picked it up and handed it to her. “We weren’t sure where you wanted this.”

“Oh, I know what this is, but…” She opened the bag. Out slid a handful of gold bangles. “I haven’t seen these in so long. I thought I must have given them away. “

She put a couple on, looked up and smiled. “I really do love these. I’m glad you found them.”

We finished and our crew left to help another one of our teams on different move. I stayed to hang Mrs. D’s art and pictures.

I commented on the two beautiful watercolors she had. They were exceptionally nice pieces.

“There’s a special story behind that one you’re holding.”

Her daughter had painted the smaller one and scrapped it. Mrs. D salvaged it, painting over it to make something different.

I was shocked. These were beautiful pieces. “Mrs. D! I didn’t know you’re an artist!”

I recalled her daughter say she couldn’t believe her mom and given away her water colors. I’d thought she’d collected them. After all, she’d said, “They’re just things. I don’t have space for them. I don’t need them anymore.”

You have to understand, most people we move really struggle letting go of belongings. Understandably so; our ‘things’ are an extension of us. They’re connected to times, places and people in our lives.

I asked Mrs. D if I could take a picture of her with her artwork to remember her by. “I can’t wait to show my husband. I told him about you yesterday.”  mrs d - Copy

She looked at me, “Really, why?”

“Mrs. D, you’re an exceptional woman. You live well. You’ve invested in your daughters; they’re here for you. You don’t hold on to things. You’re Bible is worn and you keep it close. It was one of the last things to pack.”

Age couldn’t hide that she was a pretty woman. “You’re a sharp lady. Age agrees with you.

“Moving is stressful. but you’re not the least bit rattled. In fact, you’re graciously concerned for those around you.

“Thank you.” She lifted her chin in confidence, “I have all that I need because of Jesus.”

I smiled, picking up the last picture. “Yeh, that’s easy to see.”

“Okay Mrs. D. So where do we want this pretty little picture to go? I was thinking it would go nice over here.”

As we finished, I texted my manager; we were ready for the final walk thru.

“Mrs. D, Charlotte will be up in a minute to make sure everything is just the way you want it.”

She pulled out the bracelets and asked me to take a few. “They’re solid gold you know.”

Touched, I refused, “Mrs. D I couldn’t do that. I wouldn’t do that. You enjoy those.”

“But you don’t know how much this means to me. You have really cared for me and I want to give you something.”

I assured her she had given me more than the bracelets.

“What do you mean?”

“Mrs. D, we see a lot of people move. We know how difficult it is too let go.”

“You have displayed peace, kindness, gratefulness and contentment with a joyful heart. You aren’t showy, but Mrs. D –you know how to preach.”

“You’re an inspiration. I told my husband yesterday, ‘I want to be like Mrs. D.’. That is better than gold.”

She squeezed my hand and Charlotte arrived.

I gave her a quick hug and took off to the other floor thanking God for His presence in His people.

“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn bushes, or grapes from briers.”  Luke 6:43-44

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law… Galatians 5:22-23

The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree, He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Planted in the house of the Lord, They will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still yield fruit in old age; They shall be full of sap and very green, To declare that the Lord is upright;   Psalm 92:10-15 (bold italics added)

Pause

pause-button-mdPause is defined by Your Dictionary as a temporary stop or rest.

As a verb, pause means to stop, for a brief period of time.

A few years back, my husband Brad and I did a ropes course with a group of friends.  We started with a name game, as several folks didn’t know one another.

Everyone stated their name as we formed a large circle.  A clock started as a ball was tossed in the center.  We had 60 seconds to keep the ball suspended in the air.  The object was to keep the ball moving at all times.  You couldn’t hold it.   Whoever had the ball would toss it to someone else after first calling out their name. No one could be a receiver twice in a row. Each successive round another ball was added.

The object was to keep everyone in the game as possible without losing balls.  If a ball touched the ground it was lost forever.  At the end of the round if anyone was holding a ball they were out.

The first round was easy. By the 3rd round, everyone knew each other’s name, but it was a challenge to keep the balls suspended.

The saving grace was that once in each round anyone could call “PAUSE”.  PAUSE stopped the game for 10 seconds, enabling us to regroup and strategize without losing balls or people.

It was a great illustration showing how complicated life gets the more we add.

The PAUSE factor didn’t buy more time, but it gave us mental pause to gain clarity on how to best utilize the time we did have.

The next event was to climb up a 30 foot post.  There was a 2 foot by 2 foot platform at the top. From there, you were to jump off the post to grab a suspended rod which slowly lowered you back down.  The climber was harnessed to a pulley for safety in case they fell or missed the rod.

I don’t like heights, but I absolutely hate having something that overcomes me. God created us to be overcomers right?

I opted to climb first. I was safe in a harness, but I didn’t trust it.

Visibly shaking, I made it to the top. I felt like throwing up as I crawled on top of the platform.

My friends were shouting cheers and instructions, but all I wanted to do was stop shaking and get my feet back on the earth.

My shakes became trembles.  This STINKS.  Why did I go first?  Stupid pride.

I remember my peers and holler out, “Guys, I might cuss!”

Laughter and more shouts, “You’ve got it Shelly.”  “Put your foot under your knee.”  “Turn to your left and reach.”

I don’t cuss, but a loud “P A U S E !!” defiantly escapes my mouth.

I’m startled to realize it came from me as I look down (yeh -why did I look down?!)

Everyone is stumped at my abruptness; except my husband.  He’s laughing his bu- – off.

He controls his laughter and shouts back, you can’t “PAUSE” in this one Shell. You’re okay.”

Despite my shaking, I attempt to regain a mental grip. I shout again to my friends. “Sorry guys, but… Can ya all not say anymore?  My head is all messed up here.”

(Don’t you wish you could push some magical PAUSE button in life?)

We can’t stop the clock, but we can take a mental pause any time we want. And we should.

Sometimes it only takes seconds to mentally regroup. Other times it requires more.  Occasionally you have to temporarily remove yourself from a situation or circumstance to gain a fresh perspective.

I did leap from the post that day successfully grabbing the rod, and I still don’t like heights.

I do, however, find myself continuing to use a silent PAUSE… a lot. It helps me remember to do a quick check with the Spirit of God.

It works.  My thoughts shift gears. I become aware of God, and His perspective.

He’s really not so hard to hear. Though He’s God, high and lifted up, spiritual and invisible; He’s also a person; concerned with matters big and small.  He’s both practical and spiritual.

In James we’re encouraged,

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5

Next time you are in a bind, perhaps a little overwhelmed or ill-equipped (or precariously perched high up on a 2 x 2 platform) and could use clarity of mind, remember to PAUSE and sync in to the mind of Christ.

http://www.clker.com/cliparts/P/B/P/j/q/O/pause-button-md.png

Beautiful Mess

My life, a beautiful mess: written last fall, but that’s ok.  My life is STILL a beautiful mess.

Saturday we took our son to the airport after a great 5 day visit.  I hate goodbyes. They make me want to cry.

Sunday I was responsible for portions of a big Back to School event, complete with snow cones.  I miscalculated the departure time of the snow cone vendor and didn’t realize it till they had to leave before our fourth service got their free snow cones.  I was mortified knowing I was the one responsible.  Children cried.Photo by Scott Adams 2005

Today I had an exhaustive list of “to do’s”.  After finishing number 5 on my checklist, I began to drive off.  I looked down at my list.  Suddenly I felt and heard a jolting crunch of metal as I rammed into an empty parked car.  No!  Seriously?!  I want to SCREAM!Thankfully the car was the only one hurt.

Once again, I found myself throwing my hands up in the air,
“Jesus!  I’m a MESS.” 
His faithful response is, “I know child.  You’re a beautiful mess.” 
“Yeh, Lord I know.  And YOU’RE the beauty in my mess.”

This has been a year full of challenges.  Even so, I’ve come closer to Christ in all my messiness this year than I had been for years coasting in perceived “success”.   Each mess, heartache and challenge has brought me closer to reality in my relationship with Christ.

I’ve heard it said that when a jar is shaken, what’s on the inside will spill out.  Is it sweet or sour?

As my life was getting shook up, what began to spill out of me was a heaping portion of sourness; I was full of SELF.  I had become confident in my own abilities, confident in years of being in ministry, confident in doing right, striving for excellence.

There is nothing wrong in well doing, UNLESS Christ is not the center of our focus.   We are out of balance when Christ is the goal but not the means.  We are in danger when we become our own source.

It’s just as important to “press into Christ” when we are heavy burdened, scrambling just to breath or at the top of the mountain conquering new ground.  The truth is, we need Christ ALL THE TIME, no matter what season we’re in.

When we’re at the top of our game, we need time to be transparent with ourselves and check if our perspective is truly Christ centered.

When we’ve fallen face first for the umpteenth time, it’s the same; we need to take time to get alone and really focus on Christ.

What season are you in, and where is Christ in your season?  Where is your focus?  Is it on Him with everything else in the peripheral?

Are you hearing His voice, recognizing His presence in your life?

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and loose heart. Hebrews 12: 1-3 (bold and italics added)

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/sadams/12860434/”>Scott Adams</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>

 

Not too busy this Christmas

There’s not enough hours in the day to DO all that we are called to do.  Our schedules are packed and who doesn’t look forward to days off where we can just catch up.

We’re so busy with LIFE that it’s easy to loose perspective on life.  As soon as we get one thing done there’s always more to do –especially during the holidays.  Going to parties, getting gifts, visiting family, go to Christmas presentations, baking cookies are all great, but be sure not to get overloaded with good things and miss the best.

Martin Luther said, “I have so much to do today that I’m going to need to spend three hours in prayer in order to be able to get it all done.”.   It’s true, we are too busy that we can’t afford NOT to pray.

You may be hard pressed to dedicate 3 hours to prayer, but even 3 minutes alone,(distraction free) focusing on Christ will direct the course of your day.  That time spent with Christ raises our vision from the immediate to the eternal.  And don’t we all need that EVERY day?!

Make that alone time the most important time of your day.

And if your looking for a last minute Christmas gift, consider Bill Hybels Too Busy Not to Pray.  It makes a great gift (and this is one you may want to get one for yourself!).

Because prayer is talking with and listening to Jesus, it’s the breath of life

 

The Heavenly Man

 

Heavenly Man

Heavenly Man

Last night we had a sleepover for our youngest daughter’s Sweet 16 Birthday.  I stopped counting girls after 18 arrived.  My husband was on a job in a nearby city, and wouldn’t be home till well after midnight.

The girls got settled with pizzas, chips, drinks and a whole lot of chatter.  At last I could sequester away in my little reading room with a book I’d gotten at a book exchange.  “The Heavenly Man is the intensely dramatic story of how God took a young, half-starved boy from a poor village in Henan Province and used him mightily to preach the gospel despite horrific opposition.”

While reading, I kept hearing the expected laughs, shrieks and occasional bumping into walls with a house full of fluttering teens.  I quietly read on.  At one point, I came out and told the girls they needed “to chill” a bit, hoping to save my walls and keep from sleepover casualties.

A little later, I put my book down to walk our rambunctious lab pups for the last time of the night.  Coming out of the room the, I found the house pitch black.  I heard whispers and shuffling feet.  Someone brushed by me, stifling a chuckle.

Instantly I knew what was going on.  The Underground Church. The girls were playing a game that simulated the underground culture of persecuted churches.  These girls have grown up playing this game, praying for those scattered around the world who live and die for sharing and spreading the gospel.  I walked thru the dark house leading the pups out with whispers.

As I walked the neighborhood, I pondered the game going on in my home.  Our lives are such a contrast from the persecuted church.  We gather freely, worship loudly and openly share the word of Christ.  I’m humbled and grateful to be part of the people of God.   I love my girls, their friends and the families they represent.  People of compassion and purpose.

And yet…

What would we as people look like if the church here became underground?  Would I be more or less passionate?  Sadly, probably more.  And with that thought I hear the whisper of my Savior once again beckoning me to live today and tomorrow fully embracing Him whatever my conditions.   “This is the life I’ve given you, walk it vibrantly child, loving boldly and generously; keeping your eyes fixed on Me.”

That truly is enough.

My prayer then for you the reader and myself is, “Lord, let Your fire burn bright and your love run deep.  May we serve well in loving boldly; friend or foe, believer or not.  Fill us to the fullness in God by your indwelling presence Holy Spirit.  Let us speak words of life and eternity.  Jesus be the honored by our lives.  Let us wake up tomorrow with an expectation of YOU and excitement to see MORE of YOU moving thru us throughout the day.”

“And to the persecuted church oh God; pour out your grace, fueling vibrancy that only burns brighter with every heartache and hardship our brothers and sisters face.”   Minister to them in their dark and lonely hours.  Give them visions of heaven and the substance of hope to pass on to others.  Increase our faith oh God.”

Grace upon grace.  Amen.

 

 

It’s A Dog’s Life

It’s a Dog’s Life, Puppy Point 120131023_175743-1

This is Piper, 5 months; Jack, 8 weeks, and Riley, 5 years; two labs and an Aussie.

There’s such a distinct difference between retrievers and shepherds.

We didn’t realized just how obvious this was until we had both in the same home.

Our sweet Aussie has always been a “herder”, tirelessly corralling people, animals and anything that moves.   She guards and protects.  Riley is our alarm service.  If a fly burps, she barks to shush it into submission. She instinctively wants everything to be in its right place.

The labs on the other hand don’t seem to care where anything is or what is going on.  They just have to be in the center of whatever is going on.

The differences are especially apparent when they play.  Throw a ball to Riley and she jets off in a flash to get it.  She’s possessive and can’t seem to let go.  It’s as if she’s charged to take care of the possession and wouldn’t dare relinquish her responsibility.  She’s a control freak.

Throw a ball to Jack or Piper and they can’t wait to scoop it up and bring it back so you can throw it again and again.  They truly love to play.

Seeing this, I thought about differences in people.  We all serve in our own unique way.  Everyone has their own natural “bend”.  Like Riley, some are excellent at rounding others up; keeping them in line and making sure things get done and get done right.  These seem to have a bigger picture and know how to run things.  Task oriented achievers.  They are responsible and loyal to the charge (and help make the world go round).

Others want to PLAY, making everything a GAME.  The goal is not their objective so much as who they will get to be with as they go about getting the goal done.  These folks seem to be more at ease, though their opposites may see them as irresponsible.

I found myself “judging” our Aussie (pretty sad when you judge a DOG!).  It annoys me to no end when Riley runs after the ball and keeps it, while the pups bring it back every the time.  You’d think all the praise she sees the pups getting would entice her to do the same.  Nope.  Ain’t happening…  Especially if it’s her red bone.

Physically speaking, Puppy Point 2jack1

It cracks me up to see the differences in the physical attributes of labs and aussies.  When our aussie Riley runs, she appears to be fluid; a steady stream of black, brown and white pouring over terrain. Given good space to openly run at full speed, she takes my breath away.  She was made for speed and efficiency.  She’s sleek and agile.  It’s a great show of magnificent design watch her run.

Our labs on the other hand… They do run, and grant it they are still pups, but their runs are floppy, bouncy erratic spurts.  I’m reminded of the old steel spring rocking horses in playgrounds, bobbing about in all directions not really going anywhere efficiently.  They are ridiculously fun to watch.

We have a baby gate to section off a carpet free area for the pups.  Riley leaps back and forth over it effortlessly while we humans awkwardly hoist our legs to get over.

And the labs?  Though Piper is tall enough, she simply isn’t designed to make those long, high stretch leaps.

Again I’m reminded of the differences of man.  We’re all SO different.  One can only imagine the joy God has in appreciating the unique qualities and quirks He’s wired into each living thing.

I am in total agreement with King David of old, “O Lord how great are Thy works!”

Be sure to take time today to look around and appreciate the magnificent works God has done.