Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Unexpected Gifts

My story is long,
My faith has grown strong and sturdy
walking up steep mountains of heartache
gazing from plateaus of peace
wandering valleys of shadows
skipping down paths of wild joy
stepping into cool waters of rest
sticking my toes in the warm sands of comfort
marching through volcanic paths of stress and anxiety
hiking along forest paths of security

All the while
never alone
This brings me to today
understanding where I have been helps me to put today into perspective
It gives today balance, substance, definition

I am in the middle of a fountain of blessings

undeserved, unexpected gifts
that were not even on my list of desires

But my Heavenly Father knew
He knew exactly what would be the best thing for me
what to give to me

Sometimes the package a gift is wrapped up in
gives away the contents of the gift

This is not so for this one.

I had no idea what to expect
my expectations were low
for I did not even expect a gift to begin with.

But here it is....
It is more than I deserve and so grand!

A full life
I thought I had lost it, that it had been stripped away

but instead
it was replaced with a different version

and I am glad
This life
This fountain of blessings
has everything I need

a long-suffering, hard-working, God-loving, devoted husband
(Happy 27th Anniversary!)

children becoming independent
old devoted friends
new faces and new friends
a beautiful place to live and explore
new church family who have embraced us
and possibility

I can not grasp how generous God has been in my new place
how very patient He has been with me
how daily He has handed me one gift at a time to open

Even though I fought the urge,
I am falling in love
with my surroundings
with the quiet, peaceful days
with the body of believers we are being knitted to
with the women who have already spoke soothing words
of grace and peace to my soul
as I have been adjusting to my new normal.

so unexpected
so undeserved

I am striding these hills of Pennsylvania in wonderment
with beautiful companions sent straight from The Lord.
Sweet voices of women who don't know me
but still desire to see me thrive here.
Wisdom they generously give, wrapped up in sisterly love.  

I am so grateful
and God is so good.

Ecclesiastes 5:18-20
Amplified Bible (AMP)
18 Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting
is for one to eat and drink, and to find enjoyment
in all the labor in which he labors under the sun
all the days which God gives him
—for this is his [allotted] part.
19 Also, every man to whom God has given riches and possessions,
and the power to enjoy them
and to accept his appointed lot and to rejoice in his toil
this is the gift of God [to him].
20 For he shall not much remember [seriously] the days of his life,
because God [Himself] answers and corresponds to the joy of his heart
[the tranquility of God is mirrored in him].



Monday, July 22, 2013

living small

 It has been a few weeks
since I have sat down to pen what is going on in my head.
Trying to put into words this process takes time
I want to get it right
I don't want to miss the root of it

I have reached a mile-stone of sorts...
I have been here in my new place for the longest stretch yet
No heading back to Arizona due to
loose ends
home sickness
caring for others
one last meeting
one last lunch
one last coffee
one last tea
one last hug
one last laugh
one last cry

It is quiet here
those who I hold nearest in my heart are further away than ever
I read their words in a text
I hear them through a speaker
I see them on a screen
I cannot touch them

I am asked what do I do with my time
My answer....
I am learning  to live small

At first I had grand ideas of why God had moved me so far away
Would I go back to school?
Would I go to work?
Would I have a place to serve and minister?

things start working itself out
This is not a time to be hasty

For, the louder the world is
the harder it is to hear the voice of God.
And I so want to hear His voice.
I don't want to miss what He is offering to teach me right now.

Living small is harder than it sounds
It means wide open spaces
seeing forever in every direction
and realizing that standing still and staying small
Is what will allow the best vantage point to what God is up to.

The smaller I am
The bigger God is

When I am small
my senses have a chance to tune in to what God is doing all around me.
I can see Him working
I can feel His hand leading me this way and that
I can hear those longing to be heard and I have time to listen and encourage
My vision becomes focused 

As long as I live small my attitude stays right

but I have to admit that there are moments when my quiet world feels oppressive
I go from staying small to withdrawing, disengaging, turning inward.

You see, there is a difference between living small and living like a hermit.
You know what I mean....
it is the difference between
waiting with anticipation or closing out the world
staying in God's Word or spending the day watching T.V.
stepping out of the zone of comfort or slipping back under the covers
speaking words of encouragement or all day silence

I have no doubt that God is here
It is taking every ounce of faith that I have
to wait
to not run ahead
to not "help" God out 
to stand still
to watch

to live small

I love the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 19

Fleeing for his life, he finds himself in a desolate place
where an angel of the Lord ministers to him in his exhaustion
Then.... a wonderful things happens!
God speaks!!!
God ask him what he is doing there.
I think that is hilarious.
It is so God
God knew why he was there, but here He was asking...
at this point Elijah basically vents
Elijah vents to God,
can you imagine?
God is audibly speaking and instead of being on his face, he vents.
Like God is not aware of what Elijah has experienced.

I confess, I have done that...

Then, oh precious faithful God
He does the most wonderful thing for Elijah
Here is Elijah, feeling alone and exasperated
and God does something perfect for the situation
He reveals Himself

I love this!
First He shows where He is not...
He is not in the mountains breaking apart

He is not in the strong winds

He is not in the earth quake

He is not in the fire

Then He shows where He is...

in the quiet
in a whisper

Elijah recognizes it right away and responds to His voice

Then God asks again....why are you here?

again Elijah shares
but I think that although the words are the same
the emotion behind them has changed

For instead of Elijah being in a desperate place
he is in a place where he can hear and feel God's presence.

This is what I desire
To feel God's presence and hear His voice
in the quiet
in a whisper 

So, I will continue to live small
for as long as it takes
so I may hear Him
so I may go and do what He has for me to do

1 Kings 19:9-16
New American Standard Bible (NASB)
Then he came there to a cave and lodged there;
and behold, the word of the Lord came to him,
and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
10 He said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts;
for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars
and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left;
and they seek my life, to take it away.”
11 So He said, “Go forth and stand on the mountain before the Lord.”
And behold, the Lord was passing by!
And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains
and breaking in pieces the rocks before the Lord;
but the Lord was not in the wind.
And after the wind an earthquake,
but the Lord was not in the earthquake.
1After the earthquake a fire,
but the Lord was not in the fire;
and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing.
13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle
and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave.
And behold, a voice came to him and said,
 “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14 
Then he said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts;
for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars
and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left;
and they seek my life, to take it away.”
15 The Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus,
and when you have arrived, you shall anoint Hazael king over Aram;
16 and Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint king over Israel;
and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah
you shall anoint as prophet in your place.


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Be Ready

1 Peter 3:15-16
The Voice (VOICE)
15-16  Exalt Him as Lord in your heart.
 Always be ready to offer a defense,
humbly and respectfully,
when someone asks why you live in hope.
Keep your conscience clear
so that those who ridicule
your good conduct in the Anointed
and say bad things about you
will be put to shame.
I have been thinking about the concept of 1 Peter 3:15-16.
How it is a call to be prepared
and a call for bravery
Yet it also acknowledges the hurt others can cause
Doing the right thing
Standing up for what I believe
in a way that is humble and respectful
is what I think we all would hope we would do
the honest truth is..
sometimes when I find myself in a situation
where I am trying to defend my faith
defend God's word
I become defensive
which is not a humble and respectful stance
voices raise
lines are drawn in the sand
feelings get hurt
misunderstanding reigns
and what was meant to be a conversation about
the things of God and how wonderful it is
to live in the light of His grace
gets twisted into something unrecognizable
How did I get here?
I wonder
I pray
and then
I know
My conscience. Was it clear?
God's word says to "keep my conscience clear".
I decided to look up the definition of conscience
to see what I was really dealing with.
  • Motivation deriving logically from ethical or moral principles that govern a person's thoughts and actions
  • The faculty, power, or inward principle which decides as to the character of one's own actions, purposes, and affections, warning against and condemning that which is wrong, and approving and prompting to that which is right; the moral faculty passing judgment on one's self; the moral sense.

moral principles
passing judgment on one's self
moral sense

To me, when I read this line in 1 Peter,
 it is saying that before I even get myself into this situation
My heart and my thought life needs a good self check

If I find myself in defensive mode
that self check did not happen
I was not really as prepared as I thought I was for this conversation

Therefore, I should expect nothing less
than to be ridiculed and
for bad things to be said about me.
I deserve it.

Because I was defensive
instead of humbly and respectfully offering a defense
for the Lord, His ways and for the reason I have hope.

I also get it
and have experienced
having bad things said about me
even when I have done everything right.

When I have said things in love
When I have walked with a friend down a hard path
and yet my motivation is still questioned.
When I share God's word, gently, humbly, respectfully

It really hurts 
that is the truth of it

What can I do
When I do everything right
and things still get misunderstood and twisted?

I praise My Lord in my heart
I thank Him for my clear conscience
I feel no shame, for I did everything as I should have done
I pray for peace between me and whoever it is I am at odds with
I pray that my conscience continues to stay clear so that I am ready when the opportunity arrives to pick up where we last left off
I wait on the Lord who is bigger than all of this

That is all I can do

1 Peter 3:15-16
The Voice (VOICE)
15-16  Exalt Him as Lord in your heart.
 Always be ready to offer a defense,
humbly and respectfully,
when someone asks why you live in hope.
Keep your conscience clear
so that those who ridicule
your good conduct in the Anointed
and say bad things about you
will be put to shame.