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OGIO-motorcycle-rides[1]First motorcycle outing of the year on Saturday and it was glorious. We managed to sandwich the ride in between rainstorms. The sun was out in full force, warming the air to a brisk 50 degrees when we took off. Of course, I had my miracle jacket on high so I was toasty. Bald eagles, deer and mountain sheep were all out in force taking advantage of the weather just like us.

After the long winter break, I kind of have to get back in biker mode and it takes a while. Remembering all the parts and pieces of being comfortable – the silk scarf, the hair pulled back and secured so it doesn’t tangle in the wind, the right gloves for the cool weather, the leathers and of course, the connector cord for my heated jacket.

But the biggest “Oh yeah” for me is the sense of power that radiates from that huge hunk of chrome and metal. The bike roars to life and I find myself grabbing tightly to my guy, taking a big breath and anticipating the soaring sensation that will come as we hit the highway.

And then there’s that lung-filling fresh air after being huddled inside all winter. The great feel of sunshine on my cheeks. Sky so blue it hurts your eyes. And the hope and promise singing from the trees that are covered with spring buds ready to burst into leafy glory. The peach fuzz covering of green on the hills that have been soaking up the rain. The rush of the river pushing at its banks, swollen from the spring thaw.

And so precious, sipping coffee and eating fresh baked pastries with my husband at the old bakery that is a favorite stop of ours. It’s rare, this relaxing, quiet time together – actually having a real conversation, uninterrupted by phones, grandkids, jobs, errands, and the over-zealous dog.

Sometimes I chaff at having to devote every good-weather Saturday to time on the motorcycle. There are many other things I love to do and can only fit into a Saturday. But I have to admit that once we’re on the road, I forget to wish I was elsewhere because I’m so loving being where I am.

Isn’t that just the way in this crazy busy life of ours? Our list is long, our time short. We have to double and triple book to get it all in and half the time we are too exhausted to actually enjoy ourselves. We don’t prioritize according to what we need, we scramble our schedules because of what we want.

Much as I hate to admit it, I need those kicked back Saturdays on the back of the bike, breathing deep, taking in the sights, and being close to my life partner. It brings balance and sanity to my otherwise topsy turvy world.

Life balance is key if we are to negotiate the journey from birth to death with any kind of success and satisfaction. And balance is not what the enemy wants for us. He will always introduce too many choices to keep us from being focused. He will paint unrealistic pictures of the things we desire and then try to convince us we deserve them, we need them, and we should go for them to the detriment of more important, less glittering activities.

Just as that first few minutes on the bike remind me of the power and pure enjoyment I will soon experience, the first few minutes in God’s word reminds of the same thing. His word is rich, bursting with wise instruction, filled with peace and hope. It is solid and sure, and satisfying to my mind, my heart and my soul.

I need those times of breathing deep and drawing close to the One who gives me breath.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Or as the message translation puts it, “I have told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.”

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We hear the word ‘glory’ so often it sometimes becomes a bit hard to define in the spiritual term. What is image[1]glory anyway? Can you truly see glory? And if you can – how would you describe it?

I love our motorcycle rides this time of year because the beauty in the landscape is just breathtaking. So all week I was looking forward to Saturday. Imagine my disappointment when I woke to fog and mist shrouding everything. However, this does not deter my husband in anyway so we leathered up. I always pray at the beginning of the ride for God to show me something amazing along the way. Yesterday I prayed especially for God to show me glory despite the fog and dark skies. (Honestly, I figured in order for Him to answer this prayer He would have no choice but to do away with the fog and give me sunshine and clear skies. How clever of me, right?)

We were just a few minutes on the road when the skies did open up to what promised to be a gorgeous day and I thought, now that’s glory – blue skies, sunshine and a wispy cloud now and then.

But down the road a few miles the fog set in again and pretty soon all we could see was well – fog with a few shadowy tree outlines buried within. We decided to keep going hoping things would change. (I can smile when I say that because my trusty electric jacket was keeping me toasty despite the chill in the air.) As we started over Blewitt Pass things did change. There were places where the sun would break through for a few minutes and shine on the rich autumn landscape and I thought to myself, now that’s glory.

Then the fog would close in again. We came around one corner and though we were still in fog, there was one spot where a break allowed sunlight to come through like a spotlight. You could see the rays radiating down and where they touched on a patch of meadow the colors were enhanced in such a way they shimmered – green grass touched with moisture, red and gold trees surrounding the patch. But it was better than that – standing right in the middle of the scene was a soft eyed doe, just frozen there enjoying the beauty. And – it was even better than that because at her feet was a small pool of rainwater and her reflection was clear as day. And I thought – now that’s glory.

We moved on, the mist closed in again. But a few miles down the road the fog was gone and brilliant sunlight highlighted the amazing fall landscape of red and gold and green and yellow and every shade in between. And I thought – now that is really glory.

But coming around a corner there was a stand of trees that hadn’t even begun to turn. They were still green and lush as if they had ignored the change in the weather. Right in the middle of that stand of green was one small maple – every leaf the brightest yellow. Kissed by brilliant sunlight it was almost blinding. And I thought – that truly is glory.

The realization suddenly came to me that glory is not in a beautiful landscape or the sun or the moon or the stars – the glory is that God chooses to reveal Himself through these things. Glory is in the fact that with our common human eyes – we can see God in the things around us He created. All things move and breathe and shine and shimmer because of Him. We won’t see glory in all its fullness until we meet Him face to face. But in His mercy He gives us glimpses and tastes and touches along the way.

We live life in a fog of busyness, stress, pressure, grief, bitterness, fear, anger, troubling news headlines, soaring highs and plunging lows. The only way we will see glory day to day is to choose to see it. We must believe God is always just a mind shift away waiting to show us He is bigger and better, more powerful, life giving, battle winning, promise keeping and hope shining in the dark. He is the beauty around every bend in the road.

Even more amazing about God and His glory – not only do we get to see it, but we get to be it. Matthew 5:16 says “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

We are to be the small maple among the forest of evergreen, standing out and shining that blinding light of Christ in us to a lost, broken, dark and suffering world. What a gift! What a privilege! What an amazing God to come up with a plan like that.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

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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

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When I got the call from Special Agent John Riley of the Drug Enforcement Agency who left a message saying he was involved in an ongoing federal investigation I wasn’t too concerned. I work for a chemical dependency treatment facility and it wouldn’t be the first time a client was under investigation. However, I got the shock of my life when I returned the call. Special Agent Riley, of the booming, intimidating and very rude manner was investigating me!

He let me know the agency had been tracking illegal prescription drugs shipped from outside the country to my address. I explained to him that he had the wrong person because I had never ordered medications online as he suggested. The conversation went something like this:

“Are you telling me you have never purchased medications over the internet?”  This asked in a very loud, disbelieving manner.

“No, sir, I have not.” This stated in a very meek, frightened manner.

“If you are not being truthful with me this will not go well for you, Cheryl.”

“I am being truthful. I don’t lie and I don’t buy medications over the internet.”

“Your name is Cheryl Thorp, correct?”

“No, sir. My name is Cheryl Dale.”

His immediate response, “Well it may be Cheryl Dale now, but I know you’ve used the name Cheryl Thorp in the past. When did you change your name?”

“Ummm – never – er – actually when I got married 45 years ago but it wasn’t Thorp back then either.”

“Your address is PO Box 2324, correct?” Much irritation in the agent’s voice.

“No. I have no idea whose address that is but it’s not mine.”

“If you are not being truthful with me this will not go well for you, Cheryl.”

I pull the phone away from my ear to keep his loud, demanding voice from damaging my eardrum. Then I get a flash thought – I have many strange friends who might play this type of joke on me.

“This is a joke, right?” I chuckle.

“I guess if you consider a warrant for your arrest a joke, Cheryl. I’m holding one in my hand right now.”

Gulp. “I swear I’ve never purchased medications over the internet.” I want to tell him also I’ve never shoplifted, smoked, skipped out without paying a bill, had premarital sex or folded over the corner of a page in my Bible either.

Finally Special Agent Riley stated, “I will do some more investigation on this, Cheryl, but I’m telling you right now that if you are not being honest with me it will not go well for you.”

Yeah, I get that, I mutter after he hangs up. I know I’m innocent but I start feeling guilty anyway. Then I get nervous. I’ve heard of innocent people being thrown in prison and forgotten for years. I can’t let that happen. Orange is absolutely my worst color!

I decide to bounce this off the Operations Director at work. I tell him the story and he falls out of his chair laughing. He starts to say something but breaks into another fit of laughter. Finally he chokes out, “You of all people?  Me maybe – but you? If this guy only knew!”

I bounce it off my boss who is reserved enough not to fall out of his chair when he laughs. He suggests I Google the number and verify the authenticity. So that’s what I do.

Total scam, people! If you get a call from Special Agent Riley tell him to take his warrant and put it where the sun doesn’t shine. Do not fall for his line. The scam comes when you admit that you may have at one time purchased medications over the internet. Or, you are intimidated to the point that you are afraid and just want them off your back even though you haven’t done anything wrong. The agent explains again about the warrant for your arrest, the prison sentence for drug crimes and the very large fine attached to the conviction. Then he suggests that if you want to pay the fine they will give you a break and not prosecute. Your first clue should be the suggestion that the federal government has a heart and is willing to give you a break.

How in the world do people live with themselves when they make their living taking advantage of others? I’ve heard so many stories of people being ripped off through some type of dishonesty. Where did the idea come from that you could lie and act intimidating to get people to do things that work to their advantage?

Actually, it may have come first in the Garden of Eden when a snake (probably looking and sounding a lot like Special Agent John Riley) lied and coerced Adam and Eve into thinking he was doing them a favor.

Scamming is not new, it’s just craftier and more technology enhanced today. Never has it been more necessary to pray for discernment. Snakes are out there doing everything they can to deceive. Don’t take a bite of their apple!

“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.” 1 John 4:1

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MB900423031[1]Here’s what I discovered in the month of November. There are limits to what I can accomplish. I am a chronic over-committer, over-achiever, over-estimator and over-just about everything else.

This past month it came to a head. Here’s what I had on my plate:

  • Full time plus job (and it’s open enrollment which means a steady parade of employees in my HR office, a plethora of paperwork, and a million questions to answer)
  • My commitment to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.
  • Thanksgiving with all the pie baking, etc.
  • My birthday with lunches and meeting friends over coffee and family stuff.
  • Weekly practices with the Christmas choir.
  • Writing of the Christmas pageant.
  • Early Christmas shopping (I did black Friday!!!)
  • All my regular scheduled meetings, bible studies and worship activities.
  • Friends in crisis.
  • And – well – the rest I can’t remember because I am too tired

I think I’m getting old. My body doesn’t hold up as well as it used to and I hate to admit this but I get tired sometimes. There is nothing that gets my dander up more than sitting down in my chair by the fire and falling asleep immediately. I need some kind of device that sends an electric shock through my body the second my head nods.

Everything on my list is something I want to do, enjoy and never want to give up. Not only that, but there are even more things that I’d like to get involved in but to do them I’d have to give up sleeping all together.  It seems the days get shorter and what used to be plenty of time seems to have become never enough time.

Looking back my great regret is that I did not finish the novel.  I did get ten chapters and 20,000 words written.  I wrote from 4:00 a.m. until 5:00 a.m. almost every morning. I squeezed a few more minutes in here and there. I jotted handwritten notes in grocery lines and on my lunch breaks to transcribe later. But I just couldn’t get there. I feel bad about it because I seldom let myself fail to do what I’ve set my mind on.

So I’m using this blog to give myself a pep talk.

  • I didn’t finish but at least I started and it’s a really good start.
  • My novel is shaping up to be a good one.
  • I discovered that I can shake the cobwebs from my brain even earlier than usual (I usually don’t get up until 4:30 a.m. and then I spend fifteen or twenty minutes sipping coffee and letting my brain coast.)
  • The world does not end when you admit that you failed.
  • Life is too short to beat yourself up.
  • When I look at my list, the novel is the only thing I did not accomplish so that in itself is a pat on the back, right?

Writing is hard work. Work is hard work. Having fun is hard work. Ministry is hard work. Anything that you are committed to doing well is hard work.

There, I feel better.

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

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I didn’t sleep well last night. Instead I tossed and turned and fretted over my employees. I am an HR Director and we are offering a great new benefit with a deadline for signing up. For the employees who missed the informational meeting, they don’t know that. So I worried about them. I came to work at 6:00 a.m. to make sure I met with all of my night shift staff.  I’ve been calling and tracking people down all day. I’m so afraid someone who really needs this benefit will miss out.

I also tossed and turned all night because of a little girl in our youth program at work with a very tragic story that was just revealed to us. I want to grab her and take her home and protect her for the rest of her life.

I will not sleep well tonight because I spent my lunch break listening to a precious friend who is in a really bad situation and needs out. However, her options are limited by her ability to financially do what she needs to do. She feels alone. She feels trapped. She feels discouraged and defeated. I want to load up her things and bring her home. I want to give her money. I want to take away all the pain.

I have a friend who is in pain all the time and I want to fix that. I have a friend who has a difficult situation at home along with health problems and I’d love to make that better. The list goes on and on.

I could go to a doctor about my inability to sleep, be diagnosed and put on medication. But that would cost me time and money. It seems a waste when I believe I know exactly what my condition is. I have an chronically enlarged heart.

I also know the carrier of this disease, the One who gave it to me. His name is Jesus and as I get to know Him better, my condition worsens.

I’m finding soft spots where I used to be hard and sensitive spots where I used to be tough. I can no longer shield myself from the germs of love and caring that make me so susceptible.  I find I’m compromised – unable to fend off an attack of overwhelming compassion.

When your heart is enlarged because of a physical condition, it’s not a good thing – it’s life threatening.  But when your heart is enlarged because of a spiritual condition – it’s life affirming.

How will you know if you have this condition?  Here are some symptoms:

  • Arms that ache to reach and comfort someone who’s hurting
  • Sudden bouts of crying out to God on behalf of another
  • Watery eyes, sympathy pains, and blistered knees from long periods of intercessory prayer
  • Love that leaks from every pore in your body
  • Empathy that makes your heart rate increase
  • Limited movement – you are unable to walk away

 

As bad as it sounds, it is a condition everyone should long for. There are so many benefits that come with Christianity and one of the greatest is being able to love with the heart of Jesus. It will hurt and it will cause you to lose a lot of sleep. But it will make you kinder, gentler, and believe it or not – it will lead to excellent spiritual health.

But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth; I humbled my soul with fasting; And my prayer kept returning to my bosom. I went about as though it were my friend or brother; I bowed down mourning, as one who sorrows for a mother. Psalm 35:13-14

 

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A work related experience this past week made me do something I never, ever do – cry. I am not a weepy person, I seldom get overly emotional in situations and I pride myself on being able to handle stress very well. But this particular incident, for some reason, took me right over the edge.

It involved a co-worker and a communication issue where I believed I’d thoroughly done my part but was caught up short when the co-worker adamantly insisted I had done nothing. I was blindsided. I felt like I had been made a fool of in front of my boss and to be honest, the co worker blatantly lied.

When in a situation like this, our first reaction is to fight back. I wanted to defend myself by listing out every action I’d taken over the past year in an effort to prove myself right. I desperately wanted to win this battle, but, so did she. It could have gone on for a long time with my poor boss the victim for having to sit through allof the she did, she said, I did and I thought stuff.

So, I gave up and walked away feeling like dirt on the bottom of a shoe.  I, who never ever cry in public, had to shut my office door and whip out the Kleenex.  In fact, the whole situation hit me so hard I thought I was going to have to leave for the rest of the day. For me, that is  extremely unusual  but I was really shaken.

 With due respect, I have to say my boss showed concern and checked back with me to make sure I was okay.  I wasn’t, but I was better.  And the reason I was better was this – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 is tucked under the plastic cover of my desk. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” The verse ends with Paul stating “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

When I’m walking tall I’m not thinking about Jesus. When I’m bent over fighting tears I’m crying out His name. Do you ever wonder if God get’s lonely for the sound of your voice so He decides to let a little crisis in to remind you that’s He’s waiting?

He pulled me out of the pit I was in and bolstered me to make it through the rest of the day. Was it a huge, devastating storm I went through? No. It was more of a heavy shower that forced me to practice some recovery methods. Now, I’m a little better at handling rain because I’ve practiced again. When the big storm hits, I’ll be up for it.

Am I rejoicing in that confrontation with the co-worker?  Absolutely not. But am I rejoicing in a Savior who never fails to bail me out? You bet I am.  I’m remembering again that I have a God big enough to supply all my needs (Phil 4:19), a God who fights to prove my innocence (Psalm 37:5), a God who will give me perfect peace in chaotic times (Isaiah 26:3) and a God who enables me to face any giant (or co-worker) out there (Phip 4:13).

As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.”  Romans 10:11

 

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