What Do You See Outside YOUR Open Window Today?

What Do You See Outside YOUR Open Window Today?
Remember: "When God closes a door, He always opens a window!" You never know what might be out there waiting for you!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Walk Away

"Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying,
'This is the way, walk in it,'
Whenever you turn to the right hand 
or whenever you turn to the left."
Isaiah 30:21

As seen recently on Facebook.com

If you regularly follow this blog, you may remember that I recently wrote a post about a new possibility  for our lives...a possibility of an "open window" of ministry opportunity primarily for my husband, but one that would affect our family as well.  I was expressing my own concerns and a bit of anxiety over the added "commitment of time, energy and love" that this would involve as I learned to "stretch my loving" beyond my present sphere of life. I also stated, "I just have to learn to listen to HIS VOICE...and know when it is God calling me as opposed to when it is the expectation of others calling me."

Well, God spoke, and we listened. I say "we", meaning my husband and I. And when God spoke, He did not encourage us to move forward with this "opportunity", but to "walk away".  I want you to know that it took courage to do that. However, we both realized that not to walk away would have caused more than just some "concern and trepidation".  It could have meant disaster for us in more ways than one.  The day we made this decision to "walk away" I saw this little sign on Facebook.com that I have inserted here to my right. This message was a word of confirmation to me that we had made the right decision, even though it was difficult to do so.

Having served for many years in one kind of ministry or other, we are people who take these commitments seriously.  We don't just move from one thing to another without much prayer and a type of "fasting"...fasting of the soul, fasting of the heart, fasting of the mind.  We search our hearts to be sure we are listening to the right voice...not the voices of others' expectations, guilt laden thoughts, desires to further our own little kingdom here on earth...but THE VOICE of God,  that "word behind you, saying, 'THIS IS THE WAY, WALK IN IT...' "     and if we can't hear that voice clearly, then we need to stop, look, and listen a little more closely. To not heed that voice could mean imminent disaster.  I speak from experience. 

I think this is good advice even if the possible "opportunity" is not especially a ministry...but perhaps any kind of new employment, relationship, activity or other event that may have the potential to lead you in a different direction other than your present situation. Take the time to count the cost of any new venture, whether the cost be regarding finances, time, energy, or physical/emotional involvement.  If you are not certain you will have the resources available that are necessary to complete the task before you...and it is not really a matter of "faith" that God will provide, but a matter of recognizing possible danger signs that to move ahead could be perilous to your health and home, then wisdom says it is better to "walk away".  

I really like what that little sign above says, "walking away, with  your head held high is dignity."  There is no shame in walking away from a situation that you know would only cause serious hurt or sorrow to you in one way or another. Yes, I know there are many situations that we ought to hang tough and stick it out...but in this case, I am speaking about reading the danger signs ahead, and listening to the VOICE of reason...i.e., GOD'S VOICE, and trusting Him to guide you in the right path. It does take courage, and a lot of faith that you are making the right choice, but when you have any doubts at all about moving forward, it is better to wait and take time to listen for that still small voice telling you which way to go. It could save you and possibly others a whole lot of heartache later.

So, sometimes those "Closed Doors" are not all bad.  And not every window should be opened. But when it is right, you will know it, if you are listening to the right "voice".

What do YOU need to walk away from today? Be sure to pray and give God a chance to speak to you before you make any decisions...and then, if that is what you believe God is saying to your heart, "Walk Away"....with your head held high.

May you have God's peace and blessing in your heart and life today. Amen.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Stretching My Love

"Enlarge the place of your tent, and let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings; Do not spare; Lengthen your cords, and strengthen your stakes. For you shall expand to the right and to the left..." Isaiah 54:2-3a  
Illustration showing the successive stages in the erection of a tent.  The tent would be made of goatshair cloth.
(Ralph Gower, The New Manners and Customs of Bible Times)

In this morning's devotional reading at home before breakfast I read the following verse from Luke 13:29:

"They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, 
and sit down in the kingdom of God."

And after that my husband had the opportunity to preach at a little country church not too far from our home with the possibility that he may be extended a call to become their pastor.  It's been a few years since he has served in that capacity; as a matter of fact, it has been so long that his favorite suit did not fit when he tried to get into it this morning...and I didn't even have a pair of pantyhose without runs in them, so we went "casual"...which was actually fine, since everyone else was "casual" as well. Do you know that some stores don't even carry pantyhose anymore? Whatever happened to the racks of  "L'eggs" in every store? And when did they stop putting them in those neat little egg shell containers?
Remember them? I don't wear dresses very often these days, and I don't have the kind of legs that should be seen bare in church. When you work indoors all the time and don't get out in the sun much, people have to put on sunglasses to look at my white legs. But, I digress...this is not sounding very spiritual for a potential pastor's wife.

In thinking about this possibility of entering back into the arena of full time ministry, I do so with some concern and "trepidation".  Not fear so much as careful consideration. There are many things to consider. It is a commitment of time, energy, and love.  Yes, love.  If you don't have love for the people you are serving, it will be a very difficult place to be. I know that not everyone is always easy to love. Sometimes, believe it or not dear friends, even I am not easy to love! Just ask my family. If they are honest, they will say that's true.  (Okay, hubby and kids, you don't have to be so quick to agree!)  But I want to be honest myself...I know that I do not always love others the way I should. There are times that I can be too quick to judge by appearance or circumstances and think unlovely thoughts about others. I can be selfish with my time and my energies and gifts. I can withhold my acts of involvement because I just don't want to get involved...or I am too tired, too busy, or too "I just don't want to do that today".  I am human. I need God's help to be all that HE wants me to be.

Guess what?  I believe God just wants me to be me.  I really don't have to perform a certain way or do things that I really am not qualified or trained to do. But I do have to let God love through me. If He has called me to this place...He will give me the grace and strength and energy I need to do whatever it is He asks me to do. I just have to learn to listen to HIS VOICE...and know when it is God calling me as opposed to when it is the expectation of others calling me.  I will need a lot of discernment...and love.

The closing "prayer" of the little devotional I was reading this morning was actually written by a "Sister" Melannie Svoboda...yes, a "Sister" as in a "Nun", one who has committed her life to service for Christ. (No, I am not a Catholic, but that doesn't matter. We are sisters in Christ.) This is what she prayed:

"Inclusive God, stretch my loving beyond where it is today."

I like that. I need that. Even if we don't receive the call to serve in this ministry, I still need to learn to "stretch my loving beyond where it is today."  Trust me, I really do need that.  I need to be prepared to "Enlarge the place of my tent..." because things just might be getting busier and fuller in the days to come. And I need to get a new pair of "L'eggs" really soon.

How about you? What might God be calling YOU to do today?
For more about our history in the ministry click here

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Miry Clay

Does anyone else remember singing this old Spiritual, "He Took My Feet From the Miry Clay"?
"He took my feet from the miry clay,
Yes, He did! Yes, He did!
And placed them on the rock to stay,
Yes, He did! Yes, He did!

I can tell the world about this,
I can tell the nations I’m blest,
Tell them that Jesus made me whole,
And He brought joy, joy to my soul!

O my Lord did just what He said,
Yes, He did! Yes, He did!
He healed the sick and He raised the dead,
Yes, He did! Yes, He did!

O Jesus washed my sins away,
Yes, He did! Yes, He did!
And made me happy all the day,
Yes, He did! Yes, He did!

He died on the cross to save my soul,
Yes, He did! Yes, He did!
He ransomed me and made me whole,
Yes, He did! Yes, He did!"


I was reminded of this today as I read my early morning devotions from Psalm 40:1-5 
"I waited patiently for the Lord;
And He inclined to me,
And heard my cry.
He also brought me up out of a horrible pit,
Out of the miry clay
And set my feet upon a rock,
And established my steps.
He has put a new song in my mouth--
Praise to our God;
Many will see it and fear,
And will trust in the Lord.
Blessed is that man who makes the Lord his trust,
and does not respect the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies.
Many, O Lord my God, are Your wonderful works
Which You have done;
And Your thoughts toward us 
cannot be recounted to You in order;
If I would declare and speak of them,
They are more than can be numbered."

"I can tell the world about this, I can tell the nations I'm blest. Tell them that Jesus made me whole, and He brought JOY, JOY to my soul!"
That's all for tonight folks. Just wanted to tell you that Jesus has brought JOY, JOY to my soul! Amen, and good night!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

The "Leaning" Pine Trees in our woods before...
and after
"If the clouds are full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth;
And if a tree falls to the south or the north,
In the place where the tree falls, there shall it lie."
Ecclesiastes 11:3

For those of you who have followed my story for the past year and a half, you know that we moved out to the forest and have been living quite the adventure ever since.  From wild bears and snakes, birds and lizards to clapping and dancing trees...and now, falling trees, we never know from one day to the next what new excitement might develop.  The past few weeks we have had pretty much daily thunderstorms, which is normal for August in this part of Florida.  However, it appears to me that the tall pine trees that grow in the national forest surrounding our home seem to be saturated, and suddenly they are starting to crack and fall...three in the past 24 hours, rather astonishingly close to our home.

Obviously this makes me a bit nervous.  Although the majority of the trees are far enough away from our house and leaning in the opposite direction so we do not have too much fear that they will land on the house, but there is no guarantee of that.  Since the trees are not actually on our property, but on government land, we do not have the right to cut them down.  So we are pretty much at their mercy.

I don't like the way this one is leaning toward our house...

I've been trying to pull some kind of spiritual lesson out of all this today...there are plenty of Bible verses about trees, but I couldn't find anything in particular that "spoke to me" today.

Except this thought:  In looking at the pictures above of the trees in the before and after shots, taken about one week apart...I can't help but notice the big bare spot where those two leaning trees once stood.  When I go outside and look in that direction, I am struck by the sheer emptiness of that space, and even though those particular trees were not exactly beautiful or even useful for providing shade in my yard, I notice their loss, and in a way, I even grieve for them.  (Yes, I am a tree hugger...That's why I came to live in the woods).    But I realize this is a natural event...

"All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field.  The grass withers, the flower fades, because the breath of the Lord blows upon it; Surely the people are grass.  The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever."  Isaiah 40:6-8

Please don't misunderstand...yes, we will all fade and wither away someday.  But our place here on earth will be missed.  There will be a huge void in the hearts of those who love us...an empty space that cannot be filled by anyone else. Those of us who have already lost loved ones understand this all too well.  The empty chair at the table, the loss of that precious voice and laughter and smiling face.

Sure, we can always plant new trees.  And it seems as though in the course of life, new lives come along to fill the void left by those who have gone on before...life goes on somehow.

Here's an old poem I heard once.. (Actually, my husband's grandmother had an old fashioned plaque on her wall that had the refrain of "Only one life, 'twill soon be past...Only what's done for Christ will last" written on it).  It speaks to the purpose of our life here on this earth.  Just like in the verse above that says, "The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever",   I believe this poem expresses the truth of what our life is really all about:

“Two little lines I heard one day, 
Traveling along life’s busy way; 
Bringing conviction to my heart, 
And from my mind would not depart; 
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, 
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, yes only one, 
Soon will its fleeting hours be done; 
Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet, 
And stand before His Judgement seat; 
Only one life,’twill soon be past, 
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, the still small voice, 
Gently pleads for a better choice 
Bidding me selfish aims to leave, 
And to God’s holy will to cleave; 
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, 
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, a few brief years, 
Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears; 
Each with its clays I must fulfill, 
living for self or in His will; 
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, 
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
When this bright world would tempt me sore, 
When Satan would a victory score; 
When self would seek to have its way, 
Then help me Lord with joy to say; 
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, 
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Give me Father, a purpose deep, 
In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep; 
Faithful and true what e’er the strife, 
Pleasing Thee in my daily life; 
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, 
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Oh let my love with fervor burn, 
And from the world now let me turn; 
Living for Thee, and Thee alone, 
Bringing Thee pleasure on Thy throne; 
Only one life, “twill soon be past, 
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, yes only one, 
Now let me say,”Thy will be done”; 
And when at last I’ll hear the call, 
I know I’ll say “twas worth it all”; 
Only one life,’twill soon be past, 
Only what’s done for Christ will last. ”
— extra stanza —
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, 
Only what’s done for Christ will last. 
And when I am dying, how happy I’ll be, 
If the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee.”
C.T Studd

How will you be remembered?
How will I be remembered?
Something to think about.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A Gray Rebellion

For all my friends/family who are hiding their natural gray beauty: This is for you! My natural auburn hair is slowly fading into gray something or other...and I refuse to cover it up. People who knew me as a child knew me as a "redhead", but those who meet me now doubt the veracity of that description. 
Here is the link to the website/blog that got me started on this topic on facebook today.

http://goinggrayblog.com/2013/08/women-going-gray-blog-posts/  Read this before you move on to the rest of this discussion.

One of my "old" friends on facebook remembered me as a carrot top...which is true. I was. Here are a couple of pictures from my childhood. Sadly, too many of my pictures were black and white and did not show the true color of my hair.  This baby picture is pretty accurate:
Yes, that's me around 9 or 10 months old! See? My hair was really red!

Here I am, according to the inscription on the side:
"Me-6th grade, Age-11"

This was one of the few times I had a permanent. I can remember how curly it was. I didn't like it much.

So, back to the subject at hand...why do we cover up the natural aging process of turning gray? Is it because we don't want people to know we are getting older? Is it because we want to stay as young as we can for as long as we are able to fool ourselves or others?  Do we think that if we color our hair to cover up the gray that people won't think we are getting old?  I've got news for you!  Growing older is a natural event...and sooner or later it catches up with us.  We may hide the gray, but then the wrinkles give us away! Or the arthritis, or the age spots, or the forgetfulness. I'd rather have my naturally occurring hair color so people don't wonder why my mind or body is really old while my hair still looks young.  But then again, if I can keep them fooled for a while, I may even convince myself that I'm still young enough to do all the things I want to do before I really get old. (If my body would only let me...)

My maternal grandfather's hair turned white when he was still a very young man, and so did my Aunt Belle's hair (his daughter).  I always thought they had the most beautiful white hair. I never thought of them as being particularly old because of it. They would've looked funny to me with any other color!   My Grandma Mursch had beautiful white hair...I never saw it any other color. I guess it must have been something else when she was younger, but that is the way I will always remember her...and she was lovely. 

My mother tried to keep her graying hair covered with a dark brunette color for a while, but I remember her best with her lovely silvery gray hair. Her eyes still twinkled and her rosy cheeks still enhanced her beautiful smile. 

My Dad had red hair just like me, but his eventually turned a lovely white as well. Although I know he was a redhead and suffered all the usual torments as a redheaded little boy...("I'd rather be dead than red on the head!"  "Billy the redheaded billy goat!")...When I think of him now, I see him with his soft white hair and his big blue eyes.   Here is a picture of my Mom and Dad, the way I remember them now that they are both in heaven:

Here they are when they got married...Mom was a beautiful brunette, and Dad was a redhead! 

They say that our hair color helps to define our "character" or "personality".  Because I was a redhead, people expected me to have a fiery temper.  I guess you'd have to ask those who knew me best if that was true.  I never thought of myself that way.  (but I could be wrong...)

But, if hair color does define our temperament or personality, then what does that say about those who have gray hair?  Do we automatically tone down our thought processes when our hair color tones down? What about those who go bald? (naturally, not because of illness) What happens to their personalities? Do they change? Or do they simply learn to accept it and laugh it off?  Baldness is another whole subject, and one which I am not qualified to discuss. (Whew!)  

"The glory of young men is their strength, and the splendor of old men is their gray head."  Proverbs 20:29

I guess that verse could be said of women as well as of men...Our glory has nothing to do with our hair color... Our glory is found in the strength of our character and spirit.  When we are finally gray headed, we may not think of that attainment as our "splendor"...but it should be a sign of wisdom and maturity...grace and charm. The choice is up to us...we can fight it, or we can embrace it and use our new found "splendor" to confound those who may think gray is bad.  I like that idea...gray = splendor! Yes!

What a splendid idea!

To all my artificially colored hair friends:

Start a Gray Rebellion!

Set yourself free!!!

Go find your "splendor" today!!!

(Now please don't throw something at me)

Monday, August 5, 2013

A Magical Golden Evening

"The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. 
 Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge.  
There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. 
Their line has gone out through all the earth, 
and their words to the end of the world.

In them He has set a tabernacle for the sun, 
which is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, 
and rejoices like a strong man to run its race.  
Its rising is from one end of heaven, 
and its circuit to the other end; 
and there is nothing hidden from its heat."  
Psalm 19:1-6

There is something magical in this golden sky.
Mystical, mysterious, glorious, marvelous.
My sensors are tuned in to a sweet melody
heard among the swaying trees, whispering secrets in my ears.

"For You will light my lamp;
The Lord my God will enlighten my darkness.
For by You I can run against a troop,
By my God I can leap over a wall.
As for God, His way is perfect;
The word of the Lord is proven;
He is a shield to all who trust in Him.

For who is God, except the Lord?
And who is a rock, except our God?
It is God who arms me with strength,
and makes my way perfect.
He makes my feet like the feet of deer,
and sets me on my high places."
Psalm 18:28-33

"God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though its waters roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with its swelling."
Psalm 46:1-3

"Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!
The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge."
Psalm 46:10-11

These are just some of the thoughts that the Lord has shared with me tonight as I drank in the beauty of this magical golden evening. I thought perhaps you would enjoy them as well.  One more Psalm comes to my mind to share with you:

"I will lift up my eyes to the hills~
From whence comes my help?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.

He will not allow your foot be moved;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel
shall neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade at your right hand.

The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The Lord shall preserve you from all evil;
He shall preserve your soul.
The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in
From this time forth, and even forevermore."
Psalm 121:1-8

I hope that this will give you some comforting thoughts tonight as you go to sleep. 
I know it has soothed my mind and soul.
Good Night, my friend.
Peace and blessings

"Peace I leave with you,
My peace I give to you;
Not as the world gives do I give to you.
Let not your heart be troubled,
neither let it be afraid."

(Words of Jesus, found in John 14:27)

Friday, August 2, 2013

Random Journal Day: Safe in the Shepherd's Hand

Here we are back to another "Random Journal Day"... taking a walk back in time and peering into the thoughts from the past...and hopefully gleaning something positive from such a venture.  Some of my favorite blogging friends are doing the same thing....so perhaps you will take a peek at what they were thinking about years ago as well...

My trip back in time today goes to May 8, 2001. It was a Tuesday, according to my journal entry, and it was 11:17 a.m.  I always like to add the time and day to help me understand where my thinking was at the time.  Sometimes my thoughts were much clearer in the daytime than at night...but then again, not always necessarily so. I think the fact that this particular post was written in the middle of the day on a weekday means that I was still recuperating from an earlier surgery that year and had not yet gone back to work. That could explain some of my thoughts.  So here we go. Ready to get on the magic carpet ride back in time?

"My sheep hear My voice; I know them, and they follow Me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.  NO ONE can take them out of My hand." John 10: 27-28 (Jesus speaking).

I really love today's devotional readings. (Note: I do not have the name of the devotional book written down) The title is, "Safe in Jesus' Hand".  The author, James McGinnis, says,

"Jesus is not a shepherd who leads from afar.  We're not following Him at a distance.  His hand is securely and lovingly holding on to our hand. What a sense of security this should give us! No matter how stormy or threatening the situation, Jesus is there holding us tightly in His hand."

"Thank you, Jesus, for walking with us, hand in hand, each day of our lives.  Keep us mindful of the bond we have and give us courage to follow wherever You lead, for You lead us to fullness of life."  Amen.

I went on to say:  These thoughts are very comforting to me today.

Psalm 28:7 ~ "The Lord is my strength and my shield; My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart greatly rejoices, and with my song I will praise Him."

Psalm 27:14 ~ "Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord."
We need to remember that whatever the circumstances in our lives~ "God is in control".  We can safely put our hand in His  hand.

In a later entry in the same journal, (six months later) I wrote the following:

"I just re-read the entries in this little book that I've written throughout this past year.  God was truly ministering to me during those days of convalescence from my surgery.  I see that I haven't written anything since going back to work in May! So much for goals and keeping up with writing! But I guess it has been all I could do over the past six months to keep up with house and home and work, let alone trying to write a book!  I really haven't had the physical energy--as well as the spiritual power--necessary to write all that was on my heart.  Looking back, I realize that I have been in a real emotional fog for most of this year.  I wish I could say that the fog has totally dissipated and I am walking fully in the sunlight at this time.  But I cannot honestly say that.  Each day seems to bring new challenges to my faith and mind.  There are days that I find myself wishing there was some means of "escape".  And yet, I know that is not what God would want for me.  I know I must persevere and remain faithful to His calling on my life.  To quit now would show a lack of trust and faith.

Lord, You know I believe, but help my unbelief.  I am only human, after all.  There are days that I fear that I will either lose my mind or my life~but then I remember that God is able to sustain me throughout all of my life~in all circumstances.  I need not fear what man may do to me~I am safe in the arms of Jesus.  He continues to carry me and protect me.  Praise God!! Jesus never fails!"
 Thankfully I did not lose my mind or my life...and God HAS sustained me through even harder days than those in the subsequent years.  He still continues to carry and protect me, much like that Good Shepherd...tightly holding on to my hand.  And I can still testify to His holding power...I AM safe in His arms. Praise God!! Truly, Jesus NEVER fails!  I hope that you have found this to be true in your life as well. If you are not sure of where you stand in Christ, take a moment to ask Him.  He will hear you...and He will give you the peace you are seeking. And that is a peace that lasts a lifetime, no matter what the circumstances. Try it and see for yourself! What do you have to lose?

Even Jesus had difficult days...in this picture, which is one of the several beautiful stained glass
windows in the church where I presently work, Jesus is praying to His Father, God Almighty, while in the
Garden of Gethsemane.  This was the night before His crucifixion. He had gone into
the garden to pray because He knew what was about to take place. And this is the prayer He prayed,
"Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done." (Luke 22:42)
When He finished His prayer and came out of the garden, Judas Iscariot betrayed Him with a kiss, 
and the rest is history. 
 He died for our transgressions. 
But the best part of the story is, three days later
He arose from the dead...and conquered death forever!
That is why I have hope and peace.
"Because He lives, I can face tomorrow!" (song, Bill Gaither)
I hope you have this same hope.