Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Friendship’ Category

Earlier this week I sat in my office looking out at a landscape shrouded in heavy7223162 mist. With fresh snow covering the ground and laying like heavy lace on the trees, I have to say the view was breathtaking. It hadn’t made for a fun drive to work, but it certainly gave a soft, gentle, peaceful presence to the landscape.

The impression a misty view gives is one of perfection – no scars, no sharp edges, no dirt or stains. Unpleasantness is hidden by a gauzy veil. But the truth behind that mist is reality. Once it clears, all of those blemishes will be exposed again.

It’s a good lesson in the struggle we have comparing ourselves to others. People can look flawless – but they never are.  Families can appear to be conflict free.  They seldom are.  Other journeys can look pothole free, but believe me, curves and bumps and roadblocks are part of everyone’s life drive.

God has a specific plan for each and every one of his children, all different and unique. He doesn’t want us to be the image of someone else. That would be like an artist creating works of art that never vary in color, shape or design. Part of our uniqueness comes from the battles we survive and the challenges we overcome.

No offense meant here, but there is a reason antiques are appreciated.  They show wear and tear, host a history of everyday life, and remind us of the passing of time.  It’s no different with God’s children. We are marked by the years and the journey.

I was touched by a point Beth Moore made in the final video our ladies group watched last night in our Esther bible study. Beth pointed out how society tends to look at an elderly woman and say “She was beautiful in her time” but God’s word says “He makes everything beautiful in His time.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)  In other words, the passing of time and the events that mark that passing are what create the beauty of a life.

Queen Esther’s early life was all about looking good.  She had to catch the eye of the king and the story makes it clear that this took a lot of primping and preening. And it worked. The misty veil of preparation covered every flaw on the outside until she was perfection to the eye.

It took the life events Esther conquered over the years of her reign to bring beauty to the core of who she was.  Her later life was marked by courage and leadership and obedience to the call of God. We admired her in the beginning but we loved and respected her in the end.

Our struggles are not meant to be hidden by a false covering of perfection. They are meant to be honestly shared in an effort to help others travel the same difficult path.  I don’t mean that we have to spill every dirty detail of our failures and poor decisions.  What I do mean is when a young mother is at the end of her patience with fussy toddlers, lack of sleep and a role that she doesn’t feel she can possibly live up to, we can risk sharing the day we locked ourselves in the bathroom and screamed into a towel to keep from harming the child who pushed us over the edge.  When a woman cries out her pain from a marriage that seems doomed to fail, we can admit that the strong partnership we have today saw it’s own seemingly hopeless moments along the way.

No one sees the whole picture of a life from the outside until it’s over and the bits and pieces are remembered and pooled together to make a completed work. The important thing is to remember – we are unique and God has a specific path for us to travel. Some have more hills than others so God gives them more stamina.  Some have deeper valleys, more roadblocks, sharper turns or rougher terrain.  In every situation, God has the roadside assistance ready to respond.

It’s nice to have days when there’s enough mist (or heavy fog for some of us) to cover the blemishes and give us that soft glow of perfection.  I love it when my mascara goes on well, my outfit coordinates beautifully and there’s not a hair out of place. Those days are treasured because they are rare.

But the more precious and meaningful days  are those when someone sees our soul of overcoming struggles which left their mark, of fighting battles that left us scarred but still standing, of meeting challenges that found us exhausted but exultant in our victory.

“He makes everything beautiful in His time” is the promise.  Our prayer every morning should be, “Lord, today lead me down the path that widens the crevice to allow Your light living in me to escape and bring beauty to the world.”

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Cor 10:31

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Well, it’s over. The dHand of Goday we shopped for, planned for, cooked for, and pushed ourselves to the limit for – Christmas. How was it for you? Did it turn out to be the warm, wonderful, Kodak moment  you anticipated? I didn’t think so. Seems you have to be starring in a family sitcom to come even close to holiday perfection.

Example: My friend who was all prepared for the day with grandchildren plowing through gift wrap. Instead, they spent the day racing  over a snowy mountain pass to meet up with their littlest baby granddaughter who had been airlifted to a children’s hospital. (The baby is improving but it was a close call.)

Example: The lady who posted on facebook that her son decided to spend a couple of hours jeeping in the fresh snow before the big dinner. Instead, they spent 8 hours digging him out of a snowdrift. Dinner ruined and everyone pretty much too exhausted to open packages once they finally got home.

Example: My friend who prepared for a beautiful dinner to share with her  son who never made it over the snowy pass to join her. She picked up her husband from the nursing facility to spend Christmas day at home and discovered he’d been taken off his mental health meds by some clause in the infamous Obamacare program. A simple trip home for the day turned into a battle. But they made it and after getting him settled, she put the glaze on the ham and placed it in a 425 degree oven to finish a few more minutes of baking, took the twice baked potatoes out of the refrigerator and set them on the stove – on the burner she’d forgotten to turn off. Luckily her back was turned when the glass casserole dish exploded, spraying glass and potatoes all over the kitchen, melting big holes in the flooring, and making an unbelievable mess. And in the time it took her to clean up the mess the ham baked to a hard, dry ball of pork. I will spare you the ordeal of getting the husband back into the car to return to the care center.

My own day pales in comparison. All we had to do was babysit the dog who had major surgery on Christmas Eve due to a dog fight. Oh, I’ve had my share of Christmas days that would go down in history. Like the one where the dog shattered every ornament on my beautiful Victorian decorated tree, the year we spent the day at the hospital because of my little daughter’s inflamed appendix, the one where I forgot to put sugar in the pumpkin pies, or the one where all the needles fell off my tree by Christmas eve and my husband cut off the dry branches and wrapped the string of lights around the dry trunk. I could go on but I won’t.

Here’s the thing – there’s the Christmas day family gathering you see in pictures all aglow with candles, a clean house, a golden basted turkey and everyone down to the youngest child with head bowed patiently giving thanks before the gift exchange. And then there’s the one that happens at your house. If you’re lucky it’s just a little loud and messy and no one gets hurt.

When will we finally get it?  Only one thing makes a perfect Christmas – the birth of a perfect Savior. Everything else pales in comparison.

Because He came, the tragedy of sitting at the bedside of a dying loved one on a day that should be filled with fun and laughter is made bearable. Because He came, a ruined meal is just that – a ruined meal not a catastrophe. Because He came, relationships are reconciled and forgiveness happens and lives are restored and we more than survive this challenging, stress filled life.

So as you prepare for the new year – make your resolutions and set your goals, plan the diet and write out the carefully executed schedule – remember this. Just as there is no perfect holiday gathering, there is no perfect life on earth. Your year will not go as planned and that’s a promise you can stand on. Trials and triumphs, smooth sailing and tsunami sized waves, laughter and tears, losses and wins – they will come.  Only a few things are guaranteed to stay solid and sure.

The love of God. The sacrifice of a Savior. And the fact that on every new page of every day in 2016 He will be present. He will share the good times, carry you through the tough times, redirect your path when it takes a wrong turn, calm your fears and hold you close when you can’t seem to face another day.

“The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deut. 31:8

 

 

Read Full Post »

imagesQARDRAR3Having just finished our first and very successful Community Outreach Harvest Party at church I’ve been contemplating all the parts and pieces, comments and participation that made up this event.

It was a ton of work. Planning meetings and prep and set up just about did me in. And then just keeping things running on the day of the event challenged us all.

It took a ton of prayer and faith. You never know how these things will go. You can invest a lot of time and money and see no result or you can plan for a few and end up with a bunch.

It took a ton of courage. My least favorite thing in the whole world (with the exception of peas and squash) is going door to door to hand out flyers. But – I did it and found it not nearly as intimidating as I thought it would be.

It took a ton of risk. We risked doing away with our regular Sunday morning church service to move out of the building into the parking lot to try to catch the attention of the neighbors. But just like in the stock market, sometimes risk pays off. And it did with this event. We had fun and made contact with several families we otherwise would not have.

The biggest lesson for me and I hope for others was – church isn’t all about a nice comfortable seat in a nice sterile sanctuary where you sit back and get fed. Just consider the early church and the effort it took to get it going.

In order for the first churches to get off the ground 2000 years ago, a ton of work went into the preparation. The disciples had to plan long journeys on foot, by boat and maybe on horseback. They had to map out the most efficient route and plan for finding provision and shelter along the way. A mission trip back then wasn’t jump on a plane and be on the mission field in a few hours. It took months, years even, just to get where they were going.

The startup churches took a ton of prayer and faith. After all, they were trying to change hundreds of years of tradition and belief, ritual and law. They were leaving loved ones behind, possibly to never see them again. They didn’t have a Bible to carry along with them to pull out scripture when they needed it. They were speaking the words that would become the Bible and they were praying they got it right.

To preach the word and start up new church cells took a ton of courage for sure. As evidenced in scripture, the disciples suffered much for spreading the gospel. They were beaten, imprisoned, spit on, mocked and even martyred. No doubt their families suffered as well by association.

And without doubt, risk was involved. What if no one listened? What if their friends and family turned against them? What if, what if, what if? They experienced the misinterpretation of what they had preached and had to go back and re-teach. They ministered in violent times – where the innocent were tried and convicted and crucified. Many of them had seen that firsthand!

The early church services were held on hillsides, beside sick beds, under open skies and hidden away in secret sanctuaries. They happened on stormy seas, on sandy beaches, and on crowded streets. Wherever the Word of God was offered – be it verbally or through a smile or a healing touch, by laughter and fellowshipping with the Godly men who made it their mission to teach, through soft words of comfort in tough times or shouts of joy in a baptismal stream – wherever, church happened.

The only place it probably didn’t happen back then was in cushioned chairs surrounded by painted walls and controlled temperatures.

Even though we didn’t have “church” as we have come to know it last Sunday, as my pastor said, “We were church – to the friends and neighbors who came and saw God’s people reaching out.”

Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. Luke 14:23

Read Full Post »

images84YL6NK0I have been feeling the heaviness of responsibility for two weeks and it is pretty much all tied to the new Bible study I’m leading. I struggled with the decision to do Beth Moore’s Children of the Day (a study of 1st and 2nd Thessalonians). Don’t get me wrong, I love her studies, but they are intense and demand a lot of time if you are going to get the most out of them. I have such a mix in my group, from brand new Christians to seasoned believers, it’s hard to always know that the material I’ve selected will meet everyone’s needs.

All that said, I felt impressed to move forward with Children of the Day. We are only in the first session, but I’ve already had some amazing testimonies from my ladies. One of my favorites was this – “I’ve never ever committed to actually following through on all the lessons of a Bible study until now. So far I’ve done every one and I’m hooked.”

I’ve had three ladies tell me in separate, one on one conversations “This is exactly what I needed right now.” And one who said, “I’ve been looking for something to motivate and get me moving and this is it, I can tell.” And today I heard from one who just made a decision to join us that ‘she doesn’t know anything about the Bible.’

I’m excited but I’m nervous at the same time. With so many women expecting great things I worry that I’m not smart enough, strong enough, educated enough to be their leader. I’ve been having mini panic attacks and major anxiety over this. So today I pick up my current personal bible study on the book of Esther (also by Beth Moore) and there God meets me with just what I need. Again!

This morning’s lesson focused on Esther 4:12-14. Mordecai has requested that Esther approach the king on behalf of the Jews and Esther has responded with the fact that she is most definitely not the person to approach the king. He hasn’t been interested in her for the past month. She has obviously lost favor with him. And death comes to those who approach the king without an invitation. There must be someone better for the job.

I’m sure you remember Mordecai’s response. “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

God puts us in a time and place for a purpose. To back off when that purpose becomes apparent is to deny that God can and does use us, inadequate as we are, in mighty ways. With Esther, Mordecai assured her that God would still accomplish His purpose because to annihilate the Jews would go against all of His Old Testament promises. But Esther and her father’s family would not be moving forward in history if she didn’t accept this task.

With me, I recognized from this study that God didn’t have to use me to see that these ladies’ spiritual growth takes place. But for some mysterious reason, He has chosen to use me. And – if I refuse – I am the one who will suffer, not them. I am the one who will not experience the miracles and the wonder and the enlightenment that takes place when His plan collides with my ministry.

Am I still nervous? You bet. But I’m taking it on because He will be with me, and it’s His show. It may look like I’m center stage, but I’m not. And that’s a good thing. Because when His shadow covers my spot at the head of the table, I’m disabled and He’s enabled to do great things.

“For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose.” Phil 2:13
Or as the Message Bible puts it:
“Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God. That energy is God’s energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure.”
Wow!

Read Full Post »

I saw a news post this morning called Five Things Couples Can Learn from Pairs Skaters. It featured several of our Olympic couples and listed the following as the glue that keeps them together:

  1. Share a Purpose
  2. Talk, Talk, Talk
  3. Forgiveness is Divine
  4. Learn to Trust
  5. Define Your Roles

Just having returned from a long day in the car with my spouse of 46 and one half years, I can accept that list. But I’m not sure it fully explores the key to success – at least for marriage.  So I came up with my own list.

5 Things Couples Can Learn From 46 years of Skating (sometimes on very thin ice):

 Share a purpose or have an ulterior motive.  Example: My purpose for a recent 4 hour drive was a half day workshop. That’s a lot of driving in one day and I didn’t want to spend the night. I thought about how fun it would be if my husband went along and did all the driving.  I realized he might not think it that much fun. So, I planted an ulterior motive seed. The town we were visiting has a huge Cabela’s a few miles from where my workshop was being held. Instead of asking him if he’d drive, I simply suggested he might like browsing one of his favorite stores while I was in my training. Bingo!  Applied to several hundred situations over the 46 years this method has resulted in lots of smooth skating and successful routines.

 Talk, Talk, Talk or Not, Not, Not.  Flashing back on a one day road trip a few weeks ago I took with my girlfriends I distinctly remember every single second being filled with conversation.  I can honestly say there was no down time. There never is, whether it be a Starbucks break, a trip, or a quick run-into them at the mall.

It’s different with my husband. For one thing, he is a man of few words and I mean few. He is not a chatterer. If words were money, the ones he saves – leaves unsaid – would put him ahead of Bill Gates in wealth. There are times when I spend several minutes asking a question, filling it with lots of flowery description, analytical thought and analogies lest he not get where I’m headed and, heaven forbid, answer in the wrong way.  All that effort most usually gets a yes or a no, period, end of conversation.  We have come to the point where I don’t expect more and he doesn’t expect less.

 Forgiveness is – well, you need a goodly supply.  A long marriage doesn’t usually have big problems like infidelity. But it isn’t without its small, incredibly irritating, grating on your nerves, drive you to insanity issues.  Like the fact that he never attempts to fasten his seatbelt until you are already flying down the road. Or the fact that he doesn’t think to turn on the windshield wipers until you are past the point of  being able to see  the centerline. Or the fact that he keeps messing with your radio station settings. And I haven’t even started on the toilet seat, the whiskers in the sink, his dog on the bed, ad infinitum!

Then again – he does carry out the garbage, fix my flat tires, lift heavy things, repair broken stuff, ad infinitum! So – a lot of forgiveness and a lot of praise and thankfulness have kept us in the gold medal running for a long time.

 Learn to Trust: Trust that he will someday start on the honey do list. Trust that he will learn to do laundry or cook or load the dishwasher. Trust that he will someday remember you don’t like cheese on your hamburgers and you can’t drink water without a straw.  The earlier you trust the fact that rocky spots won’t last forever, the days you can’t stand him will be overshadowed by the days you love him beyond measure, and he may not be perfect but compared to what’s out there you are pretty darn blessed – the longer you’ll be partners, and the more synchronized your marriage dance will be.

Define Your Roles: That’s easy in my house. My role is to make him think he is the boss.  My role is to make him think it was his idea. My role is to make sure he knows how great he is. And my role is to remember that I picked him out of a very big pond and since I’m pretty much always right I must have made the right choice.  Yes – sometimes I shake my head in wonder and yes, sometimes I ask “what was I thinking” but for the most part he and are the perfect triple Salchow (a skating term that I have no idea what it means but it sound cool). Our ice dance just gets better and better.

“But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’  ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife,  and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one.  Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” Mark 10:6-9

 

 

Read Full Post »

r4-7a[1]You may have noticed I’ve been absent from my blog for several weeks. I wish I could say I broke both arms and was unable to type or give some other really credible excuse.  I can’t.  It’s just that life came at me with both claws bared and I have been fighting to regain a little control. My sister finally gave me a convicting call, encouraging me to get back on track. So – I’m back.

We’ve pretty much finished motorcycle season. Temperatures have dropped drastically and even though we’ve had some blindingly sunny days, don’t be deceived. It has been cold. The last few rides were glorious with the autumn colors in full splendor, a method of luring you into enjoying the view and ignoring the obvious warning that winter is well on its way.

I just returned from a wonderful, uplifting and highly enjoyable two days away with 20 other ladies at a Women of Faith Conference.  Along with being spiritually stimulated we laughed so much our sides ached.  There is not a topic that can’t be broached when you get a bunch of ladies in a car together. I have a stack of funny stories to tell but I will limit it to one today.

Three carloads of us caravanned over the mountains to make sure we all found our way to the hotel and the conference location.  I took the lead, driving my sister’s new car which is of course equipped with a highly technical GPS system. Staying connected on the freeway in bumper to bumper Seattle traffic is not easy.

We were doing great until the sweet-voiced GPS lady took us down a bad path. Once we realized she had mislead us and was “recalculating” we had to exit the freeway, circle around and get back on the freeway headed the opposite direction.  All three vehicles actually managed that with no problem.

Shortly after getting back on route however, my cell phone rang and my sister answered. She spoke for a few seconds, collapsed in hysterical laughter, and it took us about 10 miles to get out of her what the call was all about. The driver of the van behind us had called because she saw us taking a wrong exit.  She was trying to tell us to get back on the freeway before it was too late.  But, she went ahead and followed us onto the exit, as did the other car in the caravan. Turns out they were following the wrong white Hyundai!

It all worked out. Everyone ended up at the right destination and we laughed about the confusion.

So what do my bike story and my caravan story have in common?  Deception.

How many times in life have I gotten so involved in the beauty of the moment that I totally ignored the warnings of what lay ahead?  And how many times have I chosen to follow someone and found myself off track and needing redirection?  More times than I’d like to admit.

God’s word tells us  “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” 1John 4:1

We should never listen blindly to anyone’s direction and we should always be sure of whom we choose to follow.  Today more than ever false prophets abound, telling us one behavior is right when it is clearly wrong, or another act is acceptable when it is definitely not. Our attention is caught by many things including bright colors and clever wording and before we know it we are separated from the only One who can give us good and wise direction.

A few wrong turns on a ladies weekend can be cause for laughter. A few wrong turns in our spiritual walk are not quite as funny. In fact, they are dangerous, damaging and devastating.

Let your everyday GPS be the Word of God and you will never have to worry about fighting your way back onto the freeway.

“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ…” Phil 1:9-10

Read Full Post »

Business jetI’ve missed a few weeks of blogging due to travel, both business and pleasure. It has been a whirlwind and I’m like most everyone else, wondering if taking a vacation is really worth it.

Piles on my desk, emails to answer, phone calls to return, laundry to catch up on – you know the routine I’m sure. It’s nice to know you were missed and nice to know your services are appreciated but not so nice to be reminded that just because you stopped coming into the office for three weeks doesn’t mean the work did.

But – what a three weeks it was, the first two spent on our Harley Davidson Ultra Classic traveling with our good friends. I think we saw it all.

I’ve been on the top of mountains, in the depth of valleys, flying along freeways, secondary roads, scenic routes and some not so scenic routes. I saw ancient fossil deposits and Pueblo Indian ruins, high class ski areas and small poverty stricken towns, wildlife and no life.  You name it and I’m pretty sure we saw it.

Our weather was great interrupted now and then by a little rain, a lot of heat and a bit of wind. We traveled in eight different states, stayed in ten different hotels, covered approximately 4,200 miles and laughed a lot.

My return from vacation was quickly followed by a three day business trip to Billings Montana which turned out to be as eventful as my vacation.  My return flights were cancelled shortly after I arrived and my only option was to miss half the conference in order to rebook a flight that would get me home in time for important meetings at the office. But, talk about customer service! My conference host did not want me to miss out so they offered to fly me home on their private jet.

If you’ve never had that experience, which I hadn’t, wow! It’s the only way to fly. No airport crowds, standing in line, taking off your shoes and whatever else might set off the alarm, having your bag searched, waiting to board, squeezing in next to a complete stranger, having to settle for a teenie tiny bag of peanuts and then arriving to stand around and wait for luggage.

I was transported to the airport, dropped off at the private hanger, walked right onto the plane, given a one minute safety briefing by the co-pilot which included pointing out the fully stocked beverage bar and abundant snack supply. I settled into a most comfortable seat, relaxed and experienced the smoothest flight ever.  On arrival at another private hanger I was met and transported to the auto rental counter which was low on cars so I ended up with a brand new, super shiny black Camero to drive myself home.

At the conference I was immersed in the latest information and technology for administering benefits and on the social excursion I experienced a step back in time exploring part of the Lewis and Clark journey. It was a vivid contrast in cultures but a sure reminder that life changes quickly.

The best part of it all – In those miles of travel, through the exposure to the old and the new, in and out of hotels and restaurants, with friends or strangers, seeing glorious panoramas from the top of a mountain or out the window of a jet and miles of changing scenery from the back seat of a motorcycle – in all of those places I was never out of God’s loving care.

One constant, never changing, solid, unshakable presence in the ever changing landscape of life –  my precious Savior. How blessed I am.

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Deuteronomy 31:8

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »