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!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Getting Back on Track

I seem to be a bit behind in my writing and reading of other friends' blog posts these days.  It's been busy, I've been tired, and just can't seem to get my thoughts together.  I've said that a lot over the past few months haven't I?  Well, even if I haven't written it down here, I've said it in my mind aplenty.  But I'm getting better. Not that there is anything wrong with me...just haven't had the get up and go that I used to have. It got up and went.

It's been too hot here in my home state of Florida to have much energy for anything during the summer months. I keep saying when it cools down I will do such and such...or when I retire I will take care of that, or go there, or build that little guest cabin,
or finish my front porch, or plant those flowers and take better care of them than I have in the past.  Good intentions...we all have them.  Dreams, schemes, and plans for a better life, a great retirement, a wonderful vacation, more friends and fellowship, more time for home and family.

(all signs are courtesy of Ben's Country Woodshop)
Our intentions are always good. The ideas are noble and wonderful.  The dreams are full of marvelous hopes and unselfish desires. And then it seems that things happen to prevent us from doing the things we had been striving so hard to achieve.  Unexpected illnesses, loss of job, death of a loved one, financial losses, disappointments, moves of necessity not of choice...the list could go on and on. These events in themselves may not be the reason we can't fulfill our dreams and plans, but they could cause us to lose the drive and desire to keep striving.  We get depressed, bogged down in the mire of the situation, and become too tired to keep forging ahead. We lose our focus on the vision of the goal ahead, and get sidetracked and discouraged.

How can we turn this around and get back on track? Good question. I'm asking myself that right now. There must be a way. We just can't give up and throw in the towel.  

  1. Pray for fresh inspiration from God.
  2. Look into God's Word, the Bible, for answers and direction.
  3. Spend time in His presence, away from the cares of the world for a while. Every day...
  4. Resist the temptation to go here and there, chasing the whirlwind of activity and worldly answers. 
  5. Don't look at your circumstances and fear that there is no hope.
  6. "Commit your works to the Lord, and your thoughts will be established."  Proverbs 16:3
  7. "Do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind.  For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things.  But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.  Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom."  Luke 12:29-32
  8. Fix your eyes on Christ..."the author and finisher of our faith..." (Hebrews 12:2) and 
  9. "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (II Corinthians 4:18, NIV)
  10. "For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."  (II Corinthians 5:1, NKJV)
I started writing this tonight feeling a little down...could you tell?  But God, in His love and mercy, did exactly what I've been writing about...as I started to work through this list of things to do to "get back on track", my spirits were lifted and my heart was encouraged.  I said a little prayer right back up there where I wrote #1, "Pray for fresh inspiration from God"...and He led me to these passages in His Word.  He also directed me to read a little devotional in the book, "Jesus Calling"   by Sarah Young, and the thoughts for today, August 29th, gave me further words of admonition and encouragement.  

No, I don't have all the answers to my life's questions, but I have the answers that I need to know, found in God's Word.  He gives me hope...He strengthens me and lifts me up when I am down. He sets my feet back on the right track...and gives me a little boost in the right direction when I seem to be hesitant to trust.

If you are feeling off the track of your life's goals and dreams, try these steps listed above.  Look to God for the answers you are seeking.  He will not lead you astray...and He will lovingly guide you back on the right track. I know this from experience.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

How Are You Today?

How are you?  I'm fine, thank you. How are you?  I'm okay.

Does this sound familiar? How often do we ask each other these questions back and forth...and do we really listen for the answer?  Or do we just take it for granted that the person says what they mean..."I'm fine, thank you."...but what if they said, "I'm not doing so well. I really need to talk to someone."  Do we stop what we are doing and listen?  Or perhaps they don't come right out and say it that obviously.  Maybe they simply say, "I'm okay", but with a tone that doesn't quite match up to the statement.  Do we prod any further into their private thoughts? Do we ask what's wrong? Do we care?

I am guilty of not taking things a step further.  I often rush on about my business and don't let it sink in that the person may not really be "okay".  This past week everyone was crushed by the tragic suicide of Robin Williams.  Even though I was not a particular fan, I was still saddened by his death. Saddened that the very people who make us laugh are often the ones crying on the inside, and we are not aware. I won't belabor the subject of R.W. any further as much has been said about him all week long in the news, tabloids, everywhere we look.

I will only say that we need to pay closer attention to what people are really saying to us by their

  • actions
  • words
  • expressions
  • writings
  • non-verbal communications
  • attitudes
We have all heard it said:

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."
This has been attributed to Plato, Greek author & philosopher in Athens (427 BC - 347 BC)

Regardless of who said it when, it seems to be a very true statement.  I can speak it from experience. I mean, haven't we all come through some "hard battles" in life? If you've lived a while on this earth, you surely have had some battles.  I remember one young couple in one of our churches in the past who seemed to have everything going well for them.  Good jobs, nice house, great marriage, beautiful children. The wife once made the comment to me that she couldn't understand why everyone wasn't happy like they were. They considered themselves good Christian people, and therefore they seemed to think that they had no problems, no worries and nothing to fear. Her attitude was that if everyone lived life like they did they shouldn't have so many problems.  I tried hard not to be too critical of this naive young woman, and I didn't want to alarm her, but I wanted her to understand that sooner or later everyone goes through some kind of trial on this earth.  If they don't, then possibly they really aren't living a life worth cultivating.  

The New Testament book of I Peter, Chapter 1, addresses this subject. Primarily in verses 6-8, which say:

"In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while,
if need be, you have been grieved by various trials,
that the genuineness of your faith, being much more
precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire,
may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,
Whom having not seen you love..."

And again we see in the book of James, chapter 1, verses 2-4:

"My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,
knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.
But let patience have its perfect work,
that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing."

See, sooner or later, if we are living right, we will all suffer through various trials...to help us grow stronger in our faith and maturity.  This young woman that I spoke of earlier soon found out that just living a good life did not guarantee them a worry free existence.  Not long after making this comment to us, their sweet little daughter was diagnosed with autism, and a whole new world of learning and trusting and faith was set before them.  I have not seen or heard of this family in many years since we were called on to other places far away not long after, but I wonder if she would be so glib in her thoughts and comments today.  I have a feeling that their lives were changed over night by this difficult circumstance, but I would be willing to bet they are stronger and richer in faith and love and heart because of the trial that came into their lives.

What I am trying to say is this:  
  • Don't be so quick to dismiss someone just because they say they are "Okay".
  • Take time to listen to what might be said between the lines
  • Don't judge others who may be suffering because they don't live life according to your particular standards.  You really don't know the whole story, do you?
  • Don't be so quick to think just because you live right that you won't ever have to endure hardships.
  • Trials come to all of us sooner or later.
The good news is this:  We are not alone in our struggles and trials.

Psalm 55:22 says:

"Cast your burden on the Lord,
And He shall sustain you;
He shall never permit the righteous to be moved."

Matthew 11:28-30 says:

"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden,
and I will give you rest.
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me,
for I am gentle and lowly in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.
For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

Take time to listen to others...and take time to take care of yourself as well.  If you are currently in the midst of a battle, cast your care upon the Lord...He WILL sustain you. He will not forsake you.  Lean on Him and learn what it means to take His yoke upon you and learn from Him.  Then be willing and able to share that knowledge and love with others who may be struggling beneath their heavy load.

Lord, help me to be a load bearer for others who may be struggling beneath their load. Help me not to be so quick to judge.  Help me to remember to lean on You...and lead others to You for strength as well. Amen.

Friday, August 1, 2014

The Waiting Is Finally Over -Random Journal Day

Dear Friends, Today is the first Friday of the month, and for a group of fellow bloggers and myself, it is also known as "Random Journal Day". The idea is to grab an old journal off the shelf and randomly choose a journal entry to share with the world...if you dare! (Click here to see what others are sharing) Well, I seem to have run out of appropriate journal entries to share, but I have started writing the story of our life in the ministry from beginning to end...and it is a kind of journal of the early years of our call to the ministry and some of the more interesting moments that I "dare" to share with the world. So, grab a cup of coffee or tea, sit back, and take a journey back in the time machine with me to the year 1977, when my husband was called to his very first church as a pastor...and I was called to become that curious person known as "The Pastor's Wife". I hope you'll enjoy this little excursion into the past with me...

The Waiting is Finally Over   (August, 1977)

Isaiah 30:18   “Therefore the Lord will wait, that He may be gracious to you; and therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you.  For the Lord is a God of justice; Blessed are all those who wait for Him.”

Finally the day came when the District Superintendent called John on the phone and told him that he had a small church that wanted to hear him speak.  However, it was several hours south of us, in a very retired community.  Of course we leaped at the opportunity! This was what we had been waiting for!  So we went down for a weekend to meet the people and “candidate” for the position of pastor.  Did I mention that it was August…and very hot and humid?  Well, it was…and the people with whom we were to spend the night did not have on their air conditioning.  They had an air-conditioner; they just didn’t have it turned on!  Our baby Scott was just about six months old, and we took along a plastic-sided port-a-crib for him to sleep in.  That poor baby was just ringing wet with perspiration all night long in that hot little bed in that very hot little room. We had the windows open, but unfortunately with the humidity it didn’t help at all.  Not to mention the fact that the house sat right next door to a bowling alley, which was also not far from the railroad tracks!  So you can just imagine what kind of night we spent! Every few minutes we could hear the loud crashing of the pins in the bowling alley, only to be followed by the whistle of the train as it roared by, and then the poor hot baby crying in his bed and us trying to sleep so John could preach a powerful sermon the next day!  Talk about testing!   I don’t think this test came from God…I’m quite sure it was Satan himself trying to keep us from succeeding in this idea of preaching the Gospel! 

Morning came all too early, and as we tried to put on our very hot suits, ties, and panty hose, dress, etc., the lady of the house came in and said, “Oh, you can turn on that air conditioner in your room if you want!”   Thank you very much…why couldn’t she have told us that last night?????

So you can imagine what frame of mind we were in when we headed over to the church that morning to meet and greet all the people and put our best foot forward so they would invite us to come back and be their new minister and family! There was a lot on the line for this very tired, hot, cranky family that day!  Our two older boys were all spiffed up in their little suits and ties, and the baby was cooled down with his bath and dressed up in the cutest outfit I could find for a bouncing baby boy of six months.  I was dressed just as perfectly as I could possibly muster after dressing and feeding the boys and making sure that John had his tie on straight and his shirt and suit coat not too wrinkled.  And since I was still nursing the baby, I had to make sure that he was well fed before we got to church so he wouldn’t start demanding more food in the middle of the service!  Yes, the pressure was definitely on!!  There was no time to pray!  I had to whisper a few hurried prayers to the Lord that morning like, “Help!” and, “Lord, please help the boys to behave and the baby not to cry and help John remember his sermon!” 

I wish I could remember what John preached that day…I haven’t got a clue…but whatever it was, they said they liked it as they filed past us, shaking our hands at the close of the service! But then came the real test! THE INTERVIEW!  After lunch the church governing board took John for an interview, and the “bored wives” decided to do a little interviewing of their own, of ME!  I hadn’t bargained for that!  I mean, after all, John is the one they are hiring! What could they possibly want to know about me? 

I was asked if I could play the piano.  I responded that I could not, having never taken lessons.  The woman asking the question was astounded and she replied, “Why! Our Pastor’s Wives have ALWAYS played the piano!”   I said I thought they would get a little tired of singing “Mary Had A Little Lamb” and “Chopsticks”, the only songs I could play! (I was thinking to myself “Can you imagine trying to sing “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” to the tune of ‘Chopsticks’? Now THAT would be funny!”) A little perturbed, she went on to her next question.  She said, “Well, of course you WILL be the President of our Women’s Missionary Prayer Fellowship!  Our Pastor’s Wives have ALWAYS been the President!”  Not wanting to be a total disappointment to these dear ladies,  (and not wanting to lose the job for my husband if I didn’t meet their approval) I told them I’d try...but it would be kind of hard to be the President of an organization that I had only visited once or twice!   After all, I had a new baby and two other active youngsters, and hadn’t had much time to attend meetings! 

Believe it or not, we still were called to serve that church, and during the installation service
Anointed for Service in the Kingdom, 1977
I found out what my REAL job was going to be as a pastor’s wife!  During the prayer of installation, the dear District Superintendent who was praying for us laid his hand on my shoulder and prayed, “and dear Lord, please help Pam to be a “real Mother” to these ladies of this congregation!”  I almost couldn’t control the giggles that were welling up inside of me at that point...you see, our congregation was made up of people who were, in the main, at least as old as my own grandparents!  Following the service, one of the sweet elderly ladies came up to shake my hand and lovingly looked into my eyes and said, “Hi, Mom!”  I knew then that I would love being “Mom” to these ladies, and many others afterwards in different places, and of all ages!

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”      (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Oh Lord, help me to be the woman of influence that you desire me to be.  Help my influence be one that leads others to You.  Help me to “keep on keeping on”, even when my feet are tired of running the race.   Give me the strength that only You can provide.  Give me the desire to be a “real Mother” to the women that you bring into my path each day.  They are YOUR children, and I am YOUR servant here to lead them to YOU.    I will consider You, “who endured such hostility from sinners against [Yourself], lest I become weary and discouraged in  [my] soul.”   (Hebrews 12:3)  Thank You Lord, for not giving up on me.  Amen.
Rev. and Mrs. John F. Steiner, Pastor and Wife, 1977
Gee, we sure were young. Sigh...where did all the years go?