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!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

"Love and Forgiveness in Sports"...by Guest Blogger Jeanne Hess

This is a new venture for me...having a guest blogger joining us here at "Closed Doors, Open Windows".    I do hope you will make her feel welcome!

Our guest today is Jeanne Hess,  
a native of Detroit, Michigan, and who was a varsity athlete at the University of Michigan in the 1970s. She has been a volleyball coach, professor of physical education, and college chaplain at Kalamazoo College for nearly 30 years, and is the wife of a coach and the mother of two professional athletes. She lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan, with her husband, Jim, whom she met in a gym. You can read more about Jeanne on her blog: Sportuality: Finding Joy in the Games .  Please give a round of applause for our guest Jeanne Hess!

Love and Forgiveness in Sports … in Florida
By Jeanne Hess

Like a lot of people born and raised in Michigan, I have a positive relationship with Florida. Even as a child in the 60’s I remember my grandparents returning from their annual Florida sojurn with gifts of shells and orange perfume. I think I smelled like oranges for most of my formative years. Maybe it’s what kept me coming back to the Sunshine State. From spring break trips to family vacations, to spring trips with the Kalamazoo College softball team, Florida kept calling. When my sons were drafted by the Detroit Tigers and made Lakeland a second home, we began to know Florida as more than just a vacation spot. And now a dear friend has relocated to St. Petersburg, and we’re making plans to visit and bring in the New Year. Next to Michigan, Florida is probably the state where we’ve spent the most time … it has become our second home.

Lakeland was the setting for a story in my book Sportuality: Finding Joy in the Games, where I describe the word “community” with thoughts about spring training. Literally, the word means “to have charge of together” so during the years when our sons played, we experienced the commitment of the Lakeland community to our Detroit Tigers, and therefore unity through sport.

However, while I have enjoyed a peek at the sun this weekend, my most recent time in Florida has been spent indoors at a seminar co-hosted by The University of Central Florida’s DeVos Sport Business Management Program, the Institute for International Sport, and The Fetzer Institute from my hometown of Kalamazoo, Michigan.  This was an intentional community of sport lovers, students, teachers, motivators, and leaders, gathered at a Symposium on Love and Forgiveness in Sport. Now, before you go all “there IS no love and forgiveness in sport” on me, please know that everyone left this hotel with a greater understanding of the power of sport to grow, shape and change cultural norms and outcomes.

From the Red Bandanna Project with Allison Crowther, the mother of Welles Crowther, a 9/11 hero in the last hour of his life, to Jackie Joyner-Kersee’s Foundation providing young women the tools to succeed, to a video presentation by the University of Tennessee Center for Sport, Peace & Society on Coach Pat Summit’s legacy program for Iraqi girls, this 3 day-long symposium featured 12 presentations and breakout sessions where everyone engaged on the level of love and forgiveness. It is one thing to sit among adult colleagues or in religious circles to engage these ideas. But to bring them into the academic arena and to see graduate students in sport management critically discussing what are traditionally spiritual values gives me hope for the fate of our games, toward certain joy in the outcomes.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A "Jesus Calling" Experience...

Today started out with an unusual experience.  My usual routine when I first get to work in the morning after my forty five minute ride through the forest and the city is to head straight to the ladies' room before I do anything else. (enough said!)  To reach the restroom in the church office where I work I must walk through the very well equipped library. This often leads to detours either going or coming, as I peruse whatever new or different books are facing me on the shelves, vying for my attention. Lately I've noticed a little book tucked neatly on the shelf just beside the restroom door and each time I pass it I think to myself, "I need to check out that little book...it seems to be calling me..."   The name of the book is, you guessed it, Jesus Calling,  by Sarah Young.
 I've heard a lot about this little devotional book, and have noticed that several of my Facebook friends often quote it in their posts for the day.  So I've been meaning to check it out for some time now, and always on my way in to the restroom I think of it as I see it there...but on the way out from the restroom I have always forgotten about it by the time I walk back through the library to my office to start my day.  Chalk it up to short term memory...or perhaps overloaded mind getting ready to face the work on my desk.

Today started out just that way. Except this time I made a point of telling myself (on the way into the restroom) to be sure and pick it up on the way out...and guess what I did?  I walked right past is again! I really did! I know, I can't believe that I did that myself!  Well, Jesus apparently wasn't going to take my ignoring Him that easily today.  As I started up my computer and opened up my work emails the very first email I looked at was from a dear lady who has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer and has just had surgery and is getting ready to undergo radiation treatments.  She is having to give up teaching her line dance classes that she holds at our church each week, and has been in a lot of personal turmoil throughout this whole process.  I have been communicating back and forth with her and assuring her of my thoughts and prayers as she endures this ordeal and basically trying to encourage her as best I can.  In her response to me this morning she asked me if I had a copy of the devotional book...you guessed it again...Jesus Calling by Sarah Young?  I was flabberghasted at her question and suddenly remembered that I had forgotten again to pick up that little book this morning as it "called out to me" from the bookshelf in the library!  I told her that I was just this morning planning to check that out from our church library and I thanked her for reminding me!  I said that I was going to march right back in there immediately and check it out before something else came along to distract me!  And so I did.

When I came back to my desk and looked at her next email response, she said, "You really need to have your own copy, and I am going to bring you one the next time I come back to the church."  I thanked her and was so blessed by her thoughtfulness for me when she is the one going through the trial right now...it truly amazed me.

Well, I had to wait until I came home tonight to start reading this little book that I checked out...and as I started to look it over more closely, I noticed the subtitle on the front cover under the title of "Jesus Calling"..."Enjoying Peace in His Presence."  Remember I was just talking about my  One Word for 2013: Presence (click on title for post)...and  again here: "Fill My Cup Lord", plus several in other places throughout the past year as I practiced “presence”
Seeking god’s
In the ordinary
Places of my life
In 2013

As I started reading the introduction I further discovered that Sarah Young's "life changing verse has been "Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10).  (see page XIII, Introduction Jesus Calling).  Wasn't I just telling you all about that verse last week? (Click Here for THAT Post) .  The more I read into this little book, the more I knew that Jesus truly was calling me to come and seek His Presence within these pages.

And so here I am...sitting in my recliner, reading several different pages throughout the year, particularly some special dates, not wanting to read the whole book since I will soon have my own personal copy to treasure...and yet, I find that Jesus is calling to me from within these pages...I believe He is summoning me into His Presence yet again...and I am in awe.

Is Jesus calling YOU into His Presence today?  You don't have to read a special devotional book to enter into His Presence, but it helps.  I find that I am in His Presence in so many places every day...I only have to be aware of His calling me...and listening for His voice. Today was a pretty clear indication that He wanted my attention...what do YOU think?

The reading for today says:

"Leave outcomes up to Me. Follow Me wherever I lead, without worrying about how it will all turn out. Think of your life as an adventure, with Me (God) as your Guide and Companion. Live in the now, concentrating on staying in step with Me. When our path leads to a cliff, be willing to climb it with My help. When we come to a resting place, take time to be refreshed in My Presence. Enjoy the rhythm of life lived close to Me. You already know the ultimate destination of your journey: your entrance into heaven. So keep your focus on the path just before you, leaving outcomes up to Me." 
 Scripture readings: Psalm 27:13-14; Exodus 15:13 ~  Sarah Young, Jesus Calling, page 338

Pretty good stuff, huh?  Yeah...I'm glad I finally listened to "Jesus Calling"...

UPDATE: For the sequel to this little story, go to : "Opening Another Advent Window".  Be blessed, my friends!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Something a Little "Light-er"

This is the view from my dining room table looking out the kitchen windows when the light is on in the dining room, reflected in the window...

Ok, so the past couple of posts have been rather heavy...talking about death and dreams and identities. If you missed them, you can go back and read them later.  Tonight I wanted to say something a little on the "Light" side...so I've posted a picture of my dining room light as reflected in my kitchen windows.  I always notice this reflection from my place at the dinner table, and I love how the light looks like it is actually hanging outside in the trees! I've often thought of taking a picture of this view, but usually I get so bogged down in eating and cleaning up that I forget to stop and capture the light before it disappears.

I think that is true about human nature.  We tend to get so bogged down in our daily chores, responsibilities, worries, and activities that we forget to take time to enjoy the beauty around us...the way the sunlight filters through the spider webs so intricately woven and ready to surprise the unwary bug as he passes through..

the way the birds are busily flitting around from tree to tree,
gathering in the seeds and insects to feed their families for their evening meal...

or perhaps the hawk that is perched and watching for his meal to slow down just long enough to be grasped in the his talons.

We get too distracted with so many important issues that we forget the simple joy of stopping to smell the roses that are poised and waiting for us to be blessed by their sweet fragrance...

We walk so fast with our head in the air that we don't even notice the tracks and prints of others who have already passed our way....
We may not even realize that danger could be lurking just around the corner because we just aren't paying attention...  I mean...bears could be walking right across your front lawn and you are totally oblivious because you're too caught up in the stuff that could probably be set aside for a little while!

There might even be a rare or rarely seen bird sitting right above you, but you are too caught up in your plans, your computer, your book, your own little world to even look up.
An almost extinct Scrub Jay, rarely seen in our woods anymore

I know I often even forget to just stop and "GIVE THANKS" for all God's bountiful benefits
that He has so richly bestowed upon me. All this beauty surrounding us,
my family, my friends, my job, my home, my church, my health, 
my country, my freedom, 
So many things that I tend to take for granted.

As I am sitting here safe and dry and comfortable in my home, I am at this very moment listening to the 
news that is reporting the horrific outbreak of severe storms and tornadoes that have 
just swept across our country's midwest and central region. 
Suddenly my "Light-er" emphasis is feeling a bit too lacking in depth and sincerity.
Others are suffering while I am feeling blessed.
I can't explain that, and I don't know how to compensate for this.
It makes me realize just how quickly all of these blessings could be taken away...
and it causes me to stop and pray...and be all the more thankful for what I do have, and
pray that those who are hurting and suffering tonight will be comforted and cared for.

In Matthew chapter 5, verses 3-4, Jesus went up on a mountain and taught this to His disciples:

"Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 
Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted."

A little later He said,

"You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden...." 
"Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house."
"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."   (Matthew 5:14 -16)

I can't do anything significant about the tragedies in the world, but I can try to let my light shine where I am to bring light into the darkness.
I pray that God will help me to be a light - bearer in all that I do.
Then I will be doing my part...
and I can trust God to take care of the rest.

"This little light of mine,
I'm gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine,
I'm gonna let it shine,
let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Hide it under a bushel, NO!
I'm gonna let it shine!
Hide it under a bushel, NO!
I'm gonna let it shine.
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Let it shine 'til Jesus comes,
I'm gonna let it shine!
Let it shine 'til Jesus comes,
I'm gonna let it shine,
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!

Won't let Satan put it out,
I'm gonna let it shine!
Won't let Satan put it out,
I'm gonna let it shine,
let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!

This little light of mine,
I'm gonna let it shine!
This little light of mine,
I'm gonna let it shine!
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!"

Lord, help me to be a light for YOU.
In Jesus' Name I pray,

How about you?  Is your light shining brightly? Let it shine! Let it shine, let it shine!!

Some other "Light" posts you might enjoy : The Light Has Come  , Let There Be LightThe View From My Open Window at 4:30 AM

Who Am I?

Do you sometimes struggle with your own identity? Do you wonder if people really know the real you...and if they did, would they still love you? like you? care about you? Or would they be disappointed, sad, angry, or just surprised?

I know that I have often struggled with my identity. I was reminded of this struggle yesterday when I attended a viewing prior to the funeral for a woman I have known and admired since I was a teenager.  She was my Pastor's wife during my last few years at home before marriage, and actually it was her husband, the Pastor, who married us. She was also the mother of one of my high school girlfriends. I know that she had four children, all of whom are accomplished musicians with trained voices that could lift you to the heavenlies when they sing...seriously!  She and her husband the preacher were also interesting musicians, who often delighted us with performances singing to the accompaniment of a bucket bass, a singing saw, guitar, harmonica, and spoons. I believe this came out of their rich heritage of being raised in the mountains of West Virginia.

I also know that when their family moved into the parsonage that our church provided for them, they brought very little with them in the way of furnishings.  At that time I belonged to the Methodist church, and it was the practice of that denomination to move their pastors about every four years. Most churches provided furnished homes for their pastors, so the families didn't have to worry about moving a lot of "stuff" so often. Our youth group was on hand on moving day to help them move into the parsonage, and I remember thinking to myself, "Wow! I can't imagine having so few personal belongings for a home!"  I was hoping that they wouldn't mind the old worn out furniture that was in the parsonage, and was wishing there was some way we could spruce things up for them and make it really nice.  It was an older home that had not had much updating over the years, except for an added on family room that was fairly new.  The former pastor had been a bachelor, so not much had been done to beautify the place during his tenure.

Pastor and Mrs. Parsons
But I remember Mrs. "Parsons"...yes, that was her real name...and her husband was "Pastor Parsons"...so you can tell they were cut out for that profession...I remember her being so gracious and appreciative of everything in that home, and she especially was so kind and thankful for our help in bringing in their things and placing them wherever she directed.  She had a ready smile and a sweet spirit that I found warm and welcoming.  She wasn't loud or bossy or overly outspoken.  She was real...a lady in every respect who appeared to know her place as a pastor's wife...a helpmate, wife, mother, and one in whom you could place your confidence.  She was a woman who knew her identity and seemed to be very happy and content within.

What struck me yesterday as we entered the room at the church where Mrs. Parsons' body was placed, I realized that the Agnes Parsons that her family and friends and parishioners had known and loved and cherished, was really not there. It was her body, the familiar face and hair and hands that had once loved and smiled and laughed and cried...but her person, innermost being, spirit was not there. All that made her who she was was no longer present.  Oh yes, her loving, heartbroken husband was there. Her children and grandchildren and loved ones and friends and many former parishioners were there. But she was not. Her identity was now a true reality in heaven. The REAL Agnes Parsons was being embraced by her Savior, Jesus Christ, whom she knew and loved.  The Real Agnes Parsons was possibly dancing on the streets of gold, and singing with the heavenly choir with a voice even purer and clearer than ever before.  She was no longer being addressed as Mrs. Parsons, the preacher's wife.  She is now, Agnes, totally beloved of the Father in Heaven, precious child of God and a member of the Bride of Christ.

I started out saying that I have often struggled with my identity. See, I too, became a "Parson's Wife"...no not  to my Pastor Parsons...but a "preacher's wife"....and for many years that was my identity..."The Preacher's Wife."  Once my husband was no longer serving in that capacity, even though many still think of me in that role, I have struggled to figure out just who I really am.  I no longer have that place or position in life, and it is sometimes difficult to realize that I have a new identity.  But, like Mrs. Parsons, I do have a clear identity, even though I am still here in the flesh on this earth, my identity is also in heaven...where I am known and will someday live as Pam, totally beloved of the Father in Heaven, a precious child of God and member of the Bride of Christ.

So, who are YOU?  Is your identity tied up with your mate's position or as the wife, mother, daughter or sister (or husband, father, son, brother) of your family members? Or is it your position in life as a preacher, teacher, bookkeeper, lawyer, doctor, nurse, waitress, singer, writer, secretary, sports figure...whatever it is...is that what defines who you are?

"Who Am I" by Casting Crowns   is a song that I have loved and appreciated since the first time I heard it.      

"Who am I, that the Lord of all the earth
Would care to know my name
Would care to feel my hurt
Who am I, that the Bright and Morning Star
Would choose to light the way
For my ever wandering heart

Not because of who I am
But because of what You've done
Not because of what I've done
But because of who You are

I am a flower quickly fading
Here today and gone tomorrow
A wave tossed in the ocean
Vapor in the wind
Still You hear me when I'm calling
Lord, You catch me when I'm falling
And You've told me who I am
I am Yours, I am Yours

Who am I, that the eyes that see my sin
Would look on me with love and watch me rise again
Who am I, that the voice that calmed the sea
Would call out through the rain
And calm the storm in me

Not because of who I am
But because of what You've done
Not because of what I've done
But because of who You are

I am a flower quickly fading
Here today and gone tomorrow
A wave tossed in the ocean
Vapor in the wind
Still You hear me when I'm calling
Lord, You catch me when I'm falling
And You've told me who I am
I am Yours

Not because of who I am
But because of what You've done
Not because of what I've done
But because of who You are

I am a flower quickly fading
Here today and gone tomorrow
A wave tossed in the ocean
Vapor in the wind
Still You hear me when I'm calling
Lord, You catch me when I'm falling
And You've told me who I am
I am Yours

I am Yours
Whom shall I fear
Whom shall I fear
'Cause I am Yours
I am Yours"

If you are not sure of your identity today...if you don't know for certain that you have a place waiting for you in heaven...if you don't know that you belong to the God of heaven and earth...then perhaps now is the time to seek His face...to discover His amazing love and grace;

"Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!"  I John 3:1

"But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."
John 1:12-13

This amazing Lord of all the earth loves you and cares about your every need and hurt and cry.  He wants to welcome you into His family...and give you a name that is an everlasting name...and a place at His banquet table. There can be no greater identity than that. The invitation has already been issued, with an R.S.V.P. attached.  I hope you'll respond in the affirmative.  Then someday we'll be dancing on those streets of gold together, and singing in that heavenly choir with Mrs. Parsons and all the rest of the saints! 
 Praise God!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Presence of God...and the Ninety and Nine

This past January I selected a new "One Word" for 2013: PRESENCE.  (Click on the word Presence  to see that particular post).  Today in my morning devotions I was reminded again of that word, "Presence", particularly as we think of the Presence of God in our daily lives.  As I ponder God's presence in the ordinary places I find myself throughout the day, week, or even at any given moment, I realize that He is always so close that if I actually take the time to pay attention I could practically, literally reach out and touch Him.  I actually wrote about this as well back in January, HERE, in "Watching in the Ordinary Things".

Today's scripture reading leads me to give thanks to the Lord for all His mighty deeds and wondrous works...

"Oh, give thanks to the Lord!
Call upon His name;
Make known His deeds among the peoples!
Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him;
Talk of all His wondrous works!
Glory in His holy name;
Let the hearts of those rejoice
who seek the Lord!
Seek the Lord and His strength;
Seek His face evermore!
Remember His marvelous works
which He has done,
His wonders, and the judgments 
of His mouth,
O seed of Abraham His servant,
You children of Jacob,
His chosen ones."
Psalm 105:1-6

I give thanks to the Lord for His Presence in my life each and every day. Even during the night seasons He is with me. I experienced this in particular during the night just before dawn today.  I was having a dream about a childhood/school friend, who passed away over thirty years ago.  In the years since this friend died I have struggled with his untimely death, primarily because I was not certain in my heart whether or not he was actually in heaven.  (I wrote about this on one of our "Random Journal Days" here...).  I'm not sure why he came to my mind again in my dreams at this time.  Perhaps because I was reminded of him last weekend when I visited the church youth camp where we both attended as teens, and then today I was going to go to a funeral at the church we attended for the wife of our former pastor that we both loved.  In my dream he seemed to be sad that no one had ever really loved him here on earth. I found myself cradling him like a little child, and rocking him back and forth and telling him that he is loved, and that he is loved with an everlasting love.  

This dream was very troubling to me, and I shared it with my husband when I woke up because I just couldn't shake it.  I told him that this dream seemed so very real, like I was actually talking to my friend, and then when I woke up I realized that I couldn't be talking to him because he is dead.  My husband, wise pastor/counselor that he is, said something that brought great comfort to me and settled this quandary for me once and for all.  He said, "Remember what Jesus said to the Sadducees concerning the Resurrection,
"But even Moses showed in the burning bush passage that the dead are raised, when he called the Lord  'the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.'  For He is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all live to Him."  Luke 20:37-38  "
This may not make any sense to you...but it made perfect sense to me...because I realized then that my friend really isn't "dead".  It was a comfort to me to finally put it to rest...it was as though God's presence was reaching through my dream...and then my husband, to assure me that my friend is alive and well...in heaven. My doubts about his salvation were because his life took a wrong turn as an adult, at least in my mind, but as I looked back over our childhood experiences together in church, youth camp, I realized that first of all, I am not the judge of whether or not a person is "fit" for heaven...that is God's business, and that sometimes things happen in people's lives that hurt them so deeply that they wander away from the fold of God, thinking that no one could possibly love them.  That doesn't necessarily mean that God no longer loves them, or that He stops reaching out to them.  Actually... God goes out and searches for that one lost sheep...and brings him back safely to the fold.   Listen to this wonderful old song.The Ninety and Nine...which tells the story of how much God loves His wandering children.  (You can read more about this story in  Luke 15:3-7)
I keep this picture in my Bible to remind
me that Jesus always watches over His sheep, and
He will seek and recover the one lamb who goes astray.

This whole story may be more than you really care to read about...and you may think I've gone off my rocker talking to people in my dreams, etc.  Sorry if you feel that way. I'm here to say that God works in mysterious ways to bring comfort and closure to His children. For me it was a dream. For you it may be something totally different.  You see, as I quoted earlier, "He is not the God of the dead, but of the living..."  Why? Because He lives!
"I serve a risen Savior, He's in the world today;
I know that He is living,whatever men may say;
I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer,
And just the time I need Him,
He's always near.

He lives, He lives,
Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me
along life's narrow way.
He lives, He lives,
Salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives:
He lives within my heart!"
("He Lives", Alfred H. Ackley, 1887-1960)

I hope that you know this wonderful Savior, and that He is living in your heart today.  "Just the time I (you) need Him, He's always near!"   Experience His loving Presence in your life right now. That's where the peace comes from.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Be Still and Know...

"Be still, and know that I AM God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." Psalm 46:10

This past weekend I had the privilege and joy of attending a ladies' retreat at the "Life Enrichment Center", specifically "The Mary Retreat", a "retreat for women who do too much."  As per the website description: "This 24-hour time apart is designed to allow those of us who practice discipleship in the active, doing form -- the "Martha" style -- an opportunity to change roles and sit at Jesus' feet like Mary (Luke 10:38-42). The agenda for this retreat is very simple - step away from the frantic pace to spend time resting and reflecting: an opportunity to "BE" instead of "DO."" 

On the "Welcome" sheet that was left on each of our beds as we entered our rooms was written the following words:

"Have you arrived distracted? Take a few moments now to center yourself, asking God for a new kind of strength-strength to relax.  Be still, and know God is here. Sit at Jesus' feet this weekend.  Just...be.   Welcome Home."
And that is exactly what I attempted to do...spend time resting, reflecting, relaxing, reading, writing, time alone with God.

But then I also found myself sharing thoughts and dreams and desires with precious friends
who came in search of the same thing.

We gave each other space to spend time alone
in their personal journey...

and then we also came together to laugh and play and find our "inner child" again:
S'mores anyone???

coloring time can be very therapeutic

We embraced one another with words of encouragement, prayer, testimony and love.

I am still trying to sort out my own personal thoughts and reflections from this time of retreat and rest. 
When one is so used to having a programmed life,  full of schedules, deadlines, agendas and scripted times of worship and organized religious experiences,
it isn't so easy to just put yourself at the feet of Jesus and expect Him to meet you there.  
We are so used  to being led there by the worship leaders, the pastors and teachers...or by being the leaders who are expected to "perform" in a certain way at all times so that others may be taught and brought to a place of worship and praise.  We sometimes neglect our own
personal spiritual experience and growth. We do what
we believe we are supposed to do for others and forget that in order to be able to lead others we must also do what we are supposed to do for ourselves. 
That's what happened to Martha  (Read Luke 10:38-42). She was so busy tending to the needs of others that she resented her sister Mary, who had discovered the joy of sitting at the feet of Jesus and growing in grace and beauty and truth. Martha was a good person, doing what seemed necessary, but her own personal spiritual growth was lagging behind. She was missing out on the joy of serving her Lord because it had become a job...and not an act of worship and love. She became all "knotted up", like this tree; unable to let go of her sense of duty.

She needed this masseuse to knead away the knots in her mind and body and soul...like I did:
Ahhh! That feels SO good....

Martha's  personal spiritual well was drying up and she was becoming dehydrated.  She needed to learn to take time to draw from the fountain
of the living water of Jesus...and to become revived, refreshed, and renewed.

That is why I went to this particular retreat this weekend. I could have gone instead to another retreat that was being presented by a dynamic well known woman Bible teacher, with lots of praise and worship time and divinely inspired teaching.  But I chose to draw from the well of quiet, peace, and restoration. To sit by the water and be inspired from God's Word as He led me to the verse above, "Be STILL and KNOW that I AM God!"  These words and reminders from Psalm 46:10 were everywhere...first in my early morning devotional reading down by the lake,

then in the scripture verses I prayed as I walked through the "Labyrinth" walk...
and then in the Prayer Chapel as we knelt and prayed and prayed for one another:
and most definitely as my precious sisters in the Lord went with me on a little spiritual walk down memory lane at the place where I first committed my life to the Lord... at the lighted cross on the water at the youth camp across the street from the adult Life Enrichment Center where we were staying:

Several of us sat together on the "silver benches" along the lake shore and shared our testimonies of our individual walks with the Lord..such a precious time with sisters in Christ...truly the highlight of our weekend...we didn't want to leave that place.

But the time came to leave...and we parted knowing that somehow we were changed inside.  The time of rest was accomplishing its task...restoring, renewing and refreshing us for the days and tasks ahead. 

My prayer is that I will take this peace and rest with me wherever I go and whatever I do.  In our bedtime devotions, my roommate shared a reading from the book When God Whispers Your Name, by Max Lucado, from Chapter 24, "The Gift of Unhappiness".  In this chapter Max Lucado quotes the former journalist, Malcolm Muggeridge, who said in his book, Jesus Rediscovered
"Thou has made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in the Thee."
 (Amazing how God chose this particular random devotional for us to read that night, along with the morning devotional in my daily devotional guide that just happened to focus on the Psalm 46:10 verse for that day...coincidence? I don't think so)

For this peace and rest to last...it has to be centered in Christ. There can be no rest or peace unless I know Him.  Do YOU know Him? Have you found that rest and peace in Christ?  If not, I implore you to not wait for a spiritual retreat to seek His face. You can do it right now.  Just...
"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

 "Welcome Home"

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

So, What's New With You? - Rerun from 1/22/11 updated

Updated 11/6/13, originally written 1/22/11.  Nothing has changed in this message! Still current and appropriate to use as a "rerun"....

I've noticed that if I don't put something on my facebook status statement every day I don't get many messages from my facebook friends.  I also notice that if I don't check it frequently, I miss all of my friends' status updates because there are so many statements flashing by every minute.  How does one keep up with all of that and maintain any kind of life? 

Have you ever wondered how God keeps up with all of our "status updates" each day? I mean, think about this:  How many billions of people are there in the world...and how many of them are "facebook friends" with God?  Actually, God is our "facebook friend" even if we don't realize it.  He is always watching our "status statements"...even before we utter it out of our mouths (or print it on our page).  He hears our every cry, even when it is still a deep pain within our hearts or minds.  He sees our faces as we laugh and rejoices along with us... and He feels our hurts and sorrows and weeps with us as He reaches down with His loving arms and cradles us to His bosom.  He never misses our status updates.  I have a feeling that He oftentimes gives us the "like" thumbs up sign when He sees us reaching out to others with compassion and concern. 

Psalm 139:1-4 says, "O Lord, You have searched me and known me.  You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off.  You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.  For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, You know it altogether." 

Verses 23-24 says, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." 
11/6/13: I found this heart shaped leaf imprint in the sand
in our road. One of God's ways He shows us He loves us
and He's thinking about us...?!

I hope He doesn't find too many reasons to give me a "thumbs down" sign.   Oftentimes I react first and think later...  This makes me stop and think before I write...or speak. 

"Where can I go from Your Spirit?  Or where can I flee from Your presence?"  (verse 7)

Yes, God has been well aware of my "status" since before I was even physically formed on the earth...and He will continue to be a part of my life until the day He calls me home to be with Him for eternity. 

"Such knowledge is too wonderful for me.  It is high, I cannot attain it."  (verse 6)

So, what's new with you?  I may not be able to keep up with your status updates, but I can assure you God is already aware...and is already taking care of whatever the need may be.

That is truly wonderful news.  Amen.