…in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:6
I love living in the country. It’s so peaceful and pretty and my front porch looking off into the fields is one of the best places to be. There is, however a drawback to living in the country and that is the gravel road. For some reason this year our road has been giving the county fits. Some spots are just fine and then all the sudden you hit a patch that seems like a remote village mountain trail or a big section of beach sand. The road commission has been working hard but it’s still a mess. I get excited when I hear the grader coming by and the Chloride truck that sprays the compound that keeps down the dust is always a happy sight but then I head off down the road and realize the rough spots are back and I sigh.
One day last week I pulled out of the driveway and took off to the east and the first quarter mile was great and I thought, wow, this is great it’s all in order. Just as soon as I had processed that thought, bam, there was a soft low spot followed by a set of holes that allowed a top speed of about 5mph to maneuver. My shoulders slumped and I thought great, back to this again. The same process repeated itself for the next mile and a half until I reached a paved road. Once I turned onto the pavement there was such a sigh of relief, phew, that’s over I thought. As I picked up speed and headed down the road I realized how much my life resembled that gravel road I live on.
I began to take a good look at the bumps and slowdowns in my own road to Christ and realized I have way more than the road I live on. I might want to complain about them and blame them on someone else but the truth of the matter is they are mine to maneuver. I can’t just stay parked in my driveway waiting on the county to come along and make the path perfect any more than I can sit still waiting for God to swoop in and take away every bump, low spot and pot hole in my life. I gotta get out there and figure out how to find my way toward my destination. The one really good thing about the rough spots in the road is that they cause you to slow down and think about your driving. Sometimes I live at top speed without enough conscious thought about the journey. If I try to blaze down the road too fast it’s easy to lose control, so it is with life too. If I try to blaze through life all on my own without troubling the Father for guidance and support it’s easy to lose control and veer off where the path can be rougher.
The big realization I had is that the whole road isn’t awful, just parts of it. I realized all I was focusing on were the rough parts and not the smooth parts. All my attention was strapped to the parts that were less than expected; I think I look at life like that too. It made me remember that being a disciple is a journey filled with easy and hard but that neither is supposed to last forever. When we’re really happy and life is going along smoothly, we expect it to continue just that way and then when things get rough and choppy (like they always will) we throw up our hands discouraged. Neither is designed to last forever, our life is peaks and valleys. If life were to continue constantly on an even plane without peaks and valleys, the line would always be in the middle…that would be a life of medium and nobody wants that. God loves to meet us and rejoice with us when we hit the peaks and he’s right there with us with his love and mercy when we hit the low spots, who’d want to miss that! It’s all about the journey, not just the current mile. If things in your life are a little out of perspective, take a drive down your nearest gravel road and let God speak to your heart.
A Seed To Plant: Name some of the speed bumps along your journey and pray about the best way to maneuver them.
Blessings on your day!
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.
1 Peter 5:10
There is a great story about a little girl whose mother sent her to the store to pick up an important item. She told the little girl to come directly home after she picked it up. Much to the mothers dismay, she was nearly two hours late returning home. When she arrived, she apologized for taking so long and explained that she ran into her friend who was crying because her doll was broken and she was so sad about it that she just had to stop and help her. Her mother asked her how she helped fix the doll and she told her that she didn’t. She didn’t know anything about fixing dolls so she just sat down and helped her cry.
I’m feeling a lot like that little girl lately! As we wait to return to something; anything that has even a smidge of familiar, the days are getting long and the rules are getting heavy. I’ve chatted with several folks this week and it seems all I could do was help them cry. We’ve cried about disappointments, missed occasions, watered-down celebrations and flat out dismay. We’re frazzled, contained and running out of cheerful creative energy. Parents are tired of teaching and working and juggling a house full of needs, wants and worries. If we’re being honest we may be getting a little sick of each other and blanket forts and sidewalk chalk have lost all appeal. We cook 432 times a day, we can’t seem to get enough toilet paper and for crying out loud why are we out of Cheez-Its and apples AGAIN? It will get better but maybe the best thing we can do right now is just sit down and help someone cry! At our core we want to be compliant, we want to be obedient, we want to be logical but most of us just want to bail off this crazy bus!
I can make a list of a bazillion great things that have come out of this quarantine but right now it’s ok if we’re feeling a little “over it all.” My mom used to say the best thing to do with feelings is just sit still and feel them. Let them wash over you and spit out what you’re thinking. Make a list of all the things your mourning, mad about, disappointed about and feel you were cheated out of. Feel it all…acknowledge it all and realize we have all felt this thing deeply and differently. It’s ok if you’re toast…it’s ok if you’re enjoyed the quiet…it’s ok if you are worried and fearful enough to not want to leave home yet. IT”S OK! Let’s stop judging reactions and just cry or laugh or pray with each other right where we are.
I read a little something that said during times of great testing (like right now!) three things happen. God is able to reveal, to purify and to strengthen. In order for those things to happen we have to “sweep the emotional porch”. Let it all out and then take a look at what God might be doing or might be wanting to do. That purging of emotion will allow us to move forward so we can receive the gifts from our suffering. Through our suffering, Almight God…
*Reveals…what have you learned about yourself during this trial? What is more clear to you now than before? Where are you stronger than you knew and more tender than you thought?
*Purifies…If I want this suffering to bring me closer to God I have to think about where I place my hope? The place I put my hope reveals the source of my security. Am I looking to the Governor or my spouse or the newscaster to bring me hope or am I seeking the pure and true hope of the Father.
*Strengthens…Where is my strength coming from? Do I feel strong only on those days I’m able to pull myself up by the bootstraps and slap on a happy face? Strength isn’t defined by not yelling at the kids or screaming at the screen about the latest goofy prediction or scenario. Strength comes from the Praise and Honor we give the Father in the middle of all that. Strength comes from the Father, not from ourselves. The more we ask, rely and beg for his strength the more we step out of ourselves and into his loving protection. The trials are not without purpose and maybe the three gifts of suffering might help our perspective a little.
A Seed To Plant: Feel your feelings and find someone to help you cry or yell or pout your way through it all so you can see the work he’s waiting to do through the three gifts of suffering.
Blessings on your day!
…what is born of spirit is spirit. John 3:6
One of the favorite things I’ve done during this time at home is watch the series, Chosen. If you haven’t watched it, go to YouTube and give the first season a watch. Talk about making the Gospels real! The series brings so much life, it animates those familiar stories with human personality, humor and “realness”! One of the episodes features the meeting between Jesus and Nicodemus and it brought so much understanding to a section of the Gospel I never really “got”.
I can completely relate to Nicodemus in this gospel. He’s trying so hard to understand, to comprehend, to believe! Sometimes I try so hard to fully understand the words of Jesus and my little mind just doesn’t always get it. When I feel that frustration I realize it’s time to call on the Holy Spirit. He is the divine interpreter and sometimes He brings insight and understanding and sometimes His answer is, I’ll show you later.
In my speaking, teaching and writing I’m constantly relying on the Holy Spirit to swoosh in and do the work for me. As we approach the feast of Pentecost it’s a good time to ponder the power and blessing of the Holy Spirit. Being born in the Holy Spirit means constantly asking to be flooded again and again, and the more we ask, the more He comes and the more alive we become. In Hebrew, spirit and wind are the same word and the Spirit of God can change the course of our days, our words and our hearts much like the wind can change the course of a sailboat. We can’t control the Holy Spirit any more than a sailor can control the wind but what we are called to do is invite the Holy Spirit into our life and be open to the ways He wants to redirect and bless us. When I’m uncertain and need to make sure I’m doing things His way I say these words, “Come Holy Spirit, come now, come as You wish!”
As we prepare to re-enter church and work, there is uncertainty. Some are worried that the rules are too strict while others worry they aren’t strict enough. All of it swirls up around us in uncertainty, fear and frustration. Isn’t it funny that we are about to celebrate the feast of the “antidote” to all of it…the Holy Spirit. He really does hear us…he really will answer our pleas…he really does love us enough to give us the perfect gift as we sit in the center of our uncertainty; the breath of life…the Holy Spirit. Lets do more than watch the next two weeks tick by; lets really pray for the Holy Spirit to blow in and change us, settle us and bring us the joy of the Father!
A Seed To Plant: What things are you are busy trying to control or manage? Those struggles can make us tired and discouraged so where are the places you can invite the Spirit of God to rush in and bring direction, peace and rebirth?
Blessings on your day!
For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them. Matthew 18:20
I had the opportunity to be a part of a webinar this week about Parish Hospitality and Church Re-entry. The goal was to offer suggestions to parishes all over the country about how to lovingly, joyfully and warmly welcome people back to church…whenever that will be…however that will be. I thought I’d share the first question from the interview. The question was about how we could help prepare for re-entry. I offer three things we can all do to help prepare. We may not be making the decisions but we sure play a role in the process.
The first step is Prayer. We need to pray for our Bishops, Priests and Parish Leadership…this is tough work. It will require obedience and trust. Those are a little tricky these days so it’s important to think about where to find the truth. In Wednesdays first reading there was dissension and dispute so they went to the Apostles for the truthful answers and counsel. That action from the Acts of the Apostles is so appropriate for us today. We count on our Bishops who are the Apostolic successors to make the decisions best for all of the Church family and they need our prayer and our support. We need to pray for them rather than second guess and heckle them. We also need to pray for our own obedience. If we can’t be obedient to requests for public safety how can we expect to be obedient in the big ways that will be necessary for heaven?
The second thing we need to do to prepare is adjust our Perspective. All of us are are coming from different places; for some it may be a place of fear, anger or isolation. This thing has affected all of deeply and each of us differently and we have to be so aware of that. As I was thinking about what re-entry might look like I couldn’t help but think of the first day of school and the kindergartners across the hall from my 6th grade room. Some come afraid, some are a little nervous, some aren’t really sure they’re ready to be there, some are excited and have been waiting their whole life for this day and can hardly contain their enthusiasm. With those new students, it’s our job as a school community to acknowledge them all, meet them where they are and offer the same warm, friendly welcome to each of them. It isn’t our job to get everyone on the same page, it’s our job to welcome them the way they walk through the door and make them feel safe, welcome and connected. Our duty as members of a Church family is much the same. We have to be patient and gentle with each other.
The third thing we need to do is Act WithThe Love of Jesus. There will be so many things…masks or no masks, those who think we’ve done too much and those who think we haven’t done enough. We are welcoming back the scrupulous and those with a relaxed attitude about it all. Every decision, every attitude, every new best practice needs to be steeped in the love of Jesus. How we say things matters greatly. It will be very different to say “For the greater good of God’s people we will be doing this” instead of “You may not enter if”. We have to remember what we’re coming back for…we’re coming back for JESUS! We’re coming back to worship in his house with joy and connection and hope. We have to make sure we remember what we’re getting ready to come back to!
I’m ready to go back…I’m ready to pray together and connect with church family and I hope this time of prayer and longing has made us a stronger, more compassionate, more joyful people and our return will be like a Wedding Feast!
A Seed To Plant: What have you missed most about public worship and how will you take the joy of the Lord with you when you go back?
Blessings on your day!
Today I'm borrowing something old! Sorry for the radio silence last week but I got a shiny new knee and the recovery process has been a great reminder of how I am certainly not in control! I was so sure I could Zoom with the girls, lead staff morning prayer, write and carry on life as normal from my chair. Yeah...not so much! I'm grateful, humbled and today reminded that if I'd like to present something meaningful, I'd better go with a re-post!
Don’t pray when you feel like it. Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it. A man is powerful on his knees. ~ Corrie Ten Boom
Each year as the little lovelies come to my classroom I’m on the lookout for the storyteller. They are the one who can make a 20 word story last for 7 minutes. They are usually very animated and I love listening them bring a simple event to life with living color and spectacular detail. Unfortunately we don’t always have time to stay tuned in for the entire story and I have to ask them to skip to the end or give us the “tiny size story”. I hate to do it but sometimes I just have to. One year not so long ago I had 4 storytellers and that was the year I learned a true appreciation for the gift of telling a powerful story in just a few, choice, touching words. I just began reading a new book called God Help Me: How to Grow in Prayer by Jim Beckman and it is fabulous; he is an amazing storyteller!
Sometimes I use too many words like the storytellers in my classroom so today, I’m going to borrow some simple, powerful words from Mr. Beckman…I don’t think he’ll mind; especially if you become inspired and decide to buy the book yourself. I hope they hit your heart as hard as they hit mine.
“I previously approached prayer as a kind of drug. I used it to help me feel close to god, to give me experiences of his presence. But as with a drug, I could choose when to take it and I could sometimes go without it. Prayer now has become more like air. It’s not really an option: I can’t breathe without it; I can’t live without it.”
“There is very little in prayer that depends on me. I can’t make myself have deep spiritual experiences. I can’t create consolation for myself. I can’t make up a word from God or make myself any holier. All of that depends on God. His movements are his and I can’t do anything to make them happen. The only things that I bring to the mix are consistently showing up for prayer and the disposition of my heart when I’m there.”
How’s that for straight to the point! I don’t think there’s any need for more words today…I need to concentrate on these and see where He leads me and my prayer time.
A Seed To Plant: Take these two passages to prayer with you and see what the Holy Spirit speaks to your heart about them.
Blessings on your day!
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