Archive for the ‘Devotional’ Category

Storehouses for the Soul

The weather man, who is rarely at the center of the news, always becomes the highlight when bad weather may be approaching. Everyone tunes in or scrolls through to find out the latest forecast. Will there be a storm, snow, ice or maybe a mix? For my kids, the most important question was always the same. Will schools and workplaces close?

In our small southern town, this news is big news. Everyone tries to predict how bad it will be. For those who aren’t from the South, the trips to the store to stock up on milk, bread and other supplies seems rather absurd. To those from around here, however, this is just a chance to stock the pantry with everything you might want or need. Just in case.  Because, if the snow really comes, and we have all that we need, then we can fully focus on cuddling like a mama bear with her cubs safely nestled in her cave.

Our stocked fridges and pantries are just storehouses. And, storehouses ensure safety and provision during a season of limited resources, limited mobility or even drought. Since no mom wants to think about the possibility of not having enough for their family, we do what we can to be ready for whatever may come.

storehouse

But storms come in many different ways. At some point, we know that the day of not enough is likely to come in one form or another. Even if we never have to cope with a shortage of physical provisions, most mommas know they will encounter something that threatens to tax them emotionally or spiritually. When that day comes, we soon find out that in order to survive we will need to rely upon the reserves we have within us and the support we have around us.

Thankfully, God’s word reminds us that He is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. We need not fear if the earth gives way, the mountains are moved, the waters roar and foam, or the mountains tremble. (Psalm 46:1-3) God will preserve His people when they seek Him for shelter. But, being able to lean into this truth and other hope-filled promises means that we must know it or stored it at some point. The words of hope we stockpiled from regular time spent with God offer us the nourishment we need now. These truths literally become food for the soul.

Many years ago, a dear friend encouraged me to ask God to give me three to five words that sum up a sermon or a main point in the Scripture or lesson I am studying. These become the truths, promises, or descriptors of God that will travel with me throughout my day. Sometimes I write these on a card, in a journal, in the margin of my bible or even on my hand. Throughout the day, I utter them under my breath. Often called breath prayers because they can be spoken in one breath.

This practice has repeatedly helped me cling to a specific truth God has revealed to me that day. Sometimes the words are requests like, “Lord, be my helper today.” More often they are a short summary of a verse or passage. Here are a few from the last week or so of my time with God.

Wait for the Lord.

You surround me.

For your name’s sake, you lead and guide.

I am redeemed.

The Lord is my confidence.

Seek His wisdom.

On days where the rhythm remains the same and nothing but humdrum happens, I have to actively remind myself of the precious provision I hold in my hand. But, when the beat is broken and a battle arises before me, these power packed portions of Scripture offer the emotional and spiritual nourishment I need to cope with the conflict. Sometimes, out of the blue, the truths I held onto weeks earlier will flood my mind and keep me from unraveling. Like food pulled from a storehouse during a bad storm, His truths provide us with the sustenance we require to resist temptation, to trust Him and to press on for His glory and His honor.

With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes! Psalm 119:10-12

Entitlement: Keeping teens from becoming Veruca

Do you remember Veruca Salt in the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory? She was the spoiled, little rich girl that demanded that her father buy her the goose that lays chocolate eggs. When Wonka tells him that he cannot have it, Veruca begins to whine and sing a song about her many other demands. Her father passively smiles and says, “Anything you say dear.” I remember watching this movie many times as a young child and always being repelled by Varuca’s self-centered attitude.  Like other viewers, I was drawn to Charlie Bucket whose humble manner softens Mr Wonka and compels him to select him as the company’s CEO. Unlike Veruca, who perfectly portrayed entitlement, young Charlie depicted rare character traits like sincerity, humility and honesty.  Unfortunately, over 40 years after this movie was released, it appears we have millions of Verucas in our midst and a severe shortage of Charlies.

spoiled

Image courtesy of debspoons/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

From the toddler screaming at the big-box store to the teen storming away from mom when she said ‘no’ to another purchase to the group of kids who laugh and mock their friend for having an “old fashioned” cell phone. Entitled kids abound these days!  This problem is a big one to combat. Everywhere our teens go alluring ads compete for their attention. These images whisper and sometimes even shout, “You need me, you must have me, you will be delighted by me.” Because they are more digitally connected than any other generation before them, they are constantly aware of the things that other people around the globe possess. If they so much as search for that item on the internet then almost instantly, they will see ads appear on the sidebar of their social media sites or search engine results. Even if a parent tries hard to keep their kids from being entitled by placing reasonable limits on purchases, many admit that they must deal with the guilt that rises up when they see their friend’s kids with a new cellphone, game system, laptop or latest gadget. There is pressure from all sides to cave in to this entitlement beast and buy into the delusion that we or our kids ought to have what we want when we want it.

Over the years I have come across articles and books that attempt to address this massive problem in today’s youth.  There are many helpful suggestions out there that include things like delaying or denying instant gratification, practicing gratitude as a family, serving the homeless or underprivileged populations in your community together or even sending your teens on short term missions overseas. While these are all very important and helpful strategies, none of these really nips at the birthplace of entitlement. What will really determine whether  our kids resemble Veruca or Charlie will depend most on what they believe about who they are and who God is. These beliefs will powerfully impact both their internal dialogue and their external focus.

Entitlement germinates from a teen’s belief that they are utterly good and worthy. This belief perpetuates the idea that they are capable and should be in control of all things. While this may seem like a great message to send our kids, it is a humanistic message and quite contrary to Scripture.  God, our Maker, says we are depraved and undeserving because of our sinful nature. (Rom 3:9-18, Eph 2:1-5). This truth reminds our teens that He alone is worthy to be provident over all things.  Only in Christ are we considered righteous and justified.  And, only as we recognize that all things come from His hand will we humbly recognize our utter dependence on God and His provision. (I Chron. 29:11, Ps. 103:19, James 1:17)

A teen’s core beliefs impact their internal dialogue.

The voice of entitlement says,

“You deserve…”  or “They owe you…” or “Go get what you want/need.”

The voice of humility and dependence upon God says,

You don’t deserve…”  or “God owes me nothing”or “God will graciously provide you with just what you need…”

 A teen’s internal dialogue impacts their focus.

Teens who buy into the core beliefs of entitlement focus on their personal happiness, contentment, position and what they can receive.  On the contrary, teens who believe that every good thing comes from God alone find their contentment in Him as they gratefully receive and share the blessings He lovingly chooses to bestow upon them.  Because of this, they will defer praise to the only One who deserves glory.

So, what can a parent do to influence your teen to grow into an adult who demonstrates godly humility instead of earthly entitlement?

Reinforce godly principles by first examining your own beliefs. Ask God to reveal your inner thoughts and focus.

Model a life of humility by your response to blessings and in your decisions to make purchases.

Challenge your teen’s core beliefs through probing questions and regular discussions. Help them see the emptiness that comes from an entitled way of life.

Express gratitude to the One who gave it to you in the first place. Isn’t it so refreshing when you encounter a young person who acts more like Charlie than Veruca? Together, let’s commit to helping our teens move away from the lure of entitlement that ultimately robs them of knowing where true contentment lies.

 

Dealing with Our Weary Heart in the Midst of Unmet Expectations

The picture you see before you looks radically different from the image that was hung in your mental museum.  This wasn’t how it was supposed to turn out.  What you see barely resembles the beautiful canvas you meticulously planned out. The prayers and pleas begin. Please God. Change the scenery…the person…the situation…my heart.  Hope fades as the bridge connecting the gap from where you are to where you long to be grows wider and longer and steeper. Regroup. Reframe.  Remember. He  is able. Even, when you are not.

Nonetheless, sorrow, disappointment, and perhaps, even despair quietly creep in to the innermost cavities of your heart.  These emotions bring exhaustion and weariness along with them.  The burden grows heavier.  You’ve been here before and were not planning on returning to this place.  Yet, somehow the path brought you back here.  The unmet expectations once again form a weight you never thought you’d have to carry again.

Your spouse isn’t who you  thought they were.

Raising kids no longer brings joy or satisfaction to your life.

The path you dreamed and desired so deeply is so different from the path you are on.

The mundane tasks of life crowd away the hope that things will ever change.

This unwanted stone is your reality.  But, oh how I know you long for something else.  Our hearts feels the weight of it all. Our mind replays, recreates, reimagines. Our body begins to drag.  No one wants this heaviness. What will you do with the weight that accompanies this place? Do you hear the voices that rise up from the pack that you are carrying?  The deceptive one lures you to protect your heart, to shield it from feeling any of this?  It promises relief by rejecting what you feel. It warns that these emotions will cripple you and cause your soul to crumble? This voice speaks a message that provokes fear or shame or guilt to swirl within you as you wrestle with how to deal with your reality and the uncomfortable emotions that continue to rise. The more you engage with this dialogue the more you begin to believe that Christians, those who really trust in the Lord, aren’t supposed to be sad and weary.  The voice will keep sounding until you continue to suppress the emotions and form a smile on the outside.  Your heart will begin to hide and sink and disappear.  A dissonance slowly occurs. The outside no longer reflects the agony on the inside.  A war is being waged.  If you continue to give in to this voice, more of you will slip away as you frantically place your energy in protecting the inside and painting the outside.

Amidst the noise that accompanies all this construction, a gentle whisper persistently beckons you to a land where the heart can freely feel and the mind can be renewed.  You want to believe that this hopeful place exists.  Could it be as real as the place you are in?  You try to imagine this but fear strikes you and reminds you that more desire can mean more death. The invitation to this place of authenticity relentlessly surrounds you.  Could this be from God, the lover of your soul?  He continues to invite you to sit and wish and wail on one side of the gap while He sits with you with His eyes able to see the other side.  In the midst of the deepest disappointment, our Great God dares us to lean on Him, to trust Him, to rest in Him.  He offers His promises to us as we lay down our expectations, our fears, our facades and fix our eyes solely on Him. The walls inside begin to crumble in this resting place and our captive heart is set free.  Here we can glimpse the Father’s heart for us.  As we remain here, we are gently coaxed to courageously expect more, dream more, desire more…from Him alone. His promises are enough. He is able.

Living with expectations, with hopes and dreams and desires for our lives can be so difficult at times.  Over and over again, we confront the todays that we could not possibly foresee yesterday. What will you do with the pain that resounds in your heart?  Where will your emotions propel you?  A place of striving, of concocting, of building facades?  Or a place of rest and renewal where your heart is known and loved and set free?

May all that you feel propel you to His feet, to experience His gift of grace, of rest, of renewed hope. In this place alone,you will surely experience rest for your soul.

Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

 

“Mom, you know I can hear you.”

Recently, my husband and I were talking and enjoying some alone time before dinner.  He was updating me on the events of his day and I was briefing him about the highlights of my day at home.  In the midst of my rather uneventful summary, I mentioned the name of one of our kids along with something amusing he’d done earlier in the day.  Immediately, we both heard “Mom, you know I can hear you,” coming from the next room over.  Although he was supposedly listening to music in the study, he was still able to hear what I had said about him.

I am always amazed by this.  Why is it that when I want my kids to fully listen to what I have to say, they often seem to tune me out?  And when I am not speaking to them at all, but happen to mention their name, they hear every single word?

This frequent scenario has had me wonder what lies behind our teen’s ability to listen incredibly well at one moment and totally tune people out at other times.  I did a little googling to see if there are studies about this phenomenon.   While I could not find any hard research, I repeatedly came across the oft repeated quote below from Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Remember that a person’s name to that person is the sweetest and most important sound in any language.

Although I cannot prove or disprove whether these words are always true,  I do know that my own kids don’t always act like their name is a sweet sound to their ears. 

Our kids hear their names many times throughout the day.  Unfortunately, many of the phrases or sentences that contain their name are often filled with commands, criticism or even correction.  Over time they begin to distinguish and even predict the tone of voice that is linked to these types of statements or requests.   The slightest detection of that tone from mom or dad and they begin to enter tune out mode.  But, when that particular tone of voice is absent or replaced with delight, their brain suddenly tunes into the “sweetest” sound they’ve known since they were an infant.  Curious to know what is being said about them, they listen well.

As a mom I must admit I probably do the very same thing.  When my kids were younger, I heard “Mommy” so much throughout the day that I often chose to delay my response until the demand became so desperate or determined that I could no longer ignore it.  That word, “mommy” had been such sweet music to my ears the first time I heard it uttered.  Nonetheless, over the years I somehow learned to tune out the mommy melody as well.

I can also think of moments, however,  when my name was used by a child, a spouse or a dear friend in the midst of statements that contained heartfelt words of encouragement, blessing or affirmation.   In those moments, I fully tuned into the phrases attached to my name.  The words were filled with blessing and deeply touched my heart.  

The Lord is kind to bless us in this way as well.  Quite often, the Holy Spirit will whisper my name followed by a word of Scripture or words of encouragement that I longed to hear.   Whether these gentle words of endearment, encouragement or even admonition included my name, they often washed over me like a gently, flowing stream.

Teachers, parents, siblings, peers and many other people speak my child’s name on a daily basis.   I wonder, however, how often their name is followed by life giving words that are intentionally spoken toward their heart and soul.   No wonder they seemingly tune out their name when they hear it; especially, when they detect “the” tone.   Like you and me, they can predict what will follow by the way their name sounds.  Could it be that they are so used to hearing requests or reprimands after their name that they stop listening?

We must remember how many adolescents feel torn down instead of built up during this season of life.  If the words aren’t coming from those around them, they are often beating themselves up in their own head.  I am certain that many are eager and ready to hear their “favorite word” in phrases or sentences that include kind, gentle, affirming and life giving words that will fill them.

What would happen if you intentionally said the name of your teen in conjunction with words of encouragement, delight, positive observation or love at least two or three times per day?

Together, let’s commit to do this over the next week.  I encourage each of you reading to become more intentional about the phrases or sentences that include your child’s name.  Of course, you will need to continue to give them direction, instruction and even correction.  But intentionally increase the amount of words, sentences, phrases that include words that build them up when you say their name. These can be directed toward him or spoken in front of him.  Pray that the Lord will fill you up with His perspective of your child so that you can speak to their heart in a special way.  Ask Him to give you the actual phrase or insight into how your words should be composed so that your teen can hear them well.  Moreover, take time to tune into Him so that you can hear what words He has to say to you.

If you are willing to try this for at least seven days, I would love to hear from you.  Please share your thoughts, observations, struggles and triumphs in the comment section below.  May God bless you as you speak the name of your child in conjunction with words that bring life to their soul.

Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.    Proverbs 16:24

Resisting Resolutions and Seizing Today

For many parents of teenagers, the retrospection that characterizes this time of year does not seem as appealing as it did in years gone by.  Because parenting teenagers can often be chock full of trials, failures, emotional upheavals and turbulent transitions, I completely understand why many of us aren’t too interested in revisiting those moments all over again.  I also was planning on taking a pass on the tradition this year.  Oddly enough, something happened as I began to hear the resolutions of others and view the year end collages posted by friends on social media sites.  A mental flip-a-gram of sorts began to be fashioned in my mind- a myriad of memorable moments layered on top of personal perceptions and new found reflections.

belly busting laughter from spontaneous utterances
… flowing tears and fighting fears as the oldest leaves home

relentless rivalry between siblings
…regrouping as restlessness and angst begins to brew

kids inching higher and mouths open wider
…detecting personal growth while acknowledging room for more

sideline cheers as remarkable strides appear out of nowhere
…withdrawing, turning down the mental chatter to behold the whispers of my God

in town, out of town, running late, no time to waste
…desperately looking for another pause, to stop, breathe, behold

confrontations, attitudes and a home full of heightened hormones
…craving order yet allowing the mess to mold us

late night talks about everything under the sun
… overwhelmed by the gift of family

daily decisions, dilemmas and dark days
…recognizing my need for God, begging Him to move mightily in our midst

hand in hand, wearied gazes, spontaneous dates, quiet evenings with my love
…seeing them come, seeing them go

freedom increasing, resistance decreasing
…finding some peace, fanning the flame

basket loads of everyday moments
…struggling to absorb the extraordinary in the ordinary

After repeatedly replaying the extended version of this flip-a-gram, I realized that a mixed bag of sentiments was beginning to grow within me.  Sorrow, relief, gratitude, hope, joy, awe and a dozen other feelings were linked to each thought, image and longing that I recounted.  Not surprisingly, this heavy satchel of contradictory emotions did not compel me to make a list of resolutions.  Instead, the mayhem, marvels and “aha” moments that have come from raising my three teenagers over the last year coupled with the transitions and triumphs I have experienced as their parent reminded me of just one word.  The word is TODAY.  While resolutions can certainly lead to change, I believe this one word will move my attention to just the right place over the next year.

TODAY I will resolve to do what today requires of me.
TODAY is here now, full of possibilities, opportunities, and challenges.
TODAY’s moments are worth noting.
TODAY I can allow myself to be filled anew with God’s grace, mercy and love for me and for others.
TODAY is manageable, doable, bearable.
TODAY has great purpose.
TODAY offers me an invitation to shift my gaze from the horizon beyond me to the ground beneath me, the steps ahead of me.
TODAY, I get a chance to apply what I learned yesterday.
TODAY, I have just what I need to endure the unexpected challenges and to revel in the unearned graces.
TODAY, I can determine to love and encourage my family well.
TODAY, my teens are indeed, changing. TODAY, I am too.

Surely, 365 fully embraced TODAYS are certain to equal another year of layers on top of layers of instants and insights that God will again use to weave me, my husband and our house full of teenagers into people who will reflect Him, honor Him and love Him more and more as time goes by.

But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “TODAY,”
so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end.       Hebrews 3:13-14

 

STOP and DIG: What’s Happening in Your Own Heart Today?

As an adolescent therapist, I have the privilege of listening to teens as they share their deepest and darkest secrets as well as their everyday complaints and concerns. In the midst of many of these conversations I will gently ask the teenager to “stop and dig” for just a minute. They quickly learn that this phrase invites them to stop talking about the dirty details of the dilemma in order to take a moment to purposefully explore what might be happening in the heart and mind beneath the surface. What are they (or even the other people in the situation) really wanting or needing?   What are their expectations of themselves, the others?  Could God be allowing this struggle for some greater purpose in their own lives?

In these pauses, kids are encouraged and taught how to tune into the deepest desires that might just be dwelling, bubbling and even burning in their heart.  I ask them to connect these longings with the unmet expectations they are experiencing and/or their own strategies, devices or demands to get these needs met.   When they begin to understand what their heart really longs for and how they lean on others or themselves to meet these needs, many begin to see critical patterns in their lives that are worth noting. These intentional moments often help many teens to begin to recognize and consider their constant need for a relationship with the Only One who can fully satisfy the needs of His children.

What about you mom, dad, youth worker?  What “above ground” challenges are you facing today?  What do you see happening around you?  I invite you to pause in your day, to take a moment to stop and dig.  What could be going on inside of you beneath it all?  What might your teen, spouse or even friend be experiencing as well?  As you consider whatever it is that lies before you, stop and think about what you REALLY long for?  What do you find yourself doing to satisfy those deeper needs?  Perhaps, it is a need for order, for healing, for safety, for change, for joy or maybe the salvation of your son or daughter.   As children of God, many of our desires definitely mirror the heart of God.  Still others can become idols that represent desires that are above God or come before God.  When we take time to sit before Him, God will use His Spirit and His Word God to unveil both the desires and deceits of our hearts.

Unfortunately, we often spin our wheels above the surface trying to attack, manage, or solve the problems on our own.  In the end we are left with very little fuel to dig up what lurks below.  Before today ends like it did yesterday and the day before that, I invite you, my friend, to take a moment and sit before God and His Word.  Think slowly for a minute about the problems and challenges that you are currently facing.  Then ask the Lord to expose what might be going on in  YOUR heart.  As parents of teens we often spend so much time tuned into the heart of our teens, that we neglect what might be happening in our own.  As you bring your heart before the Father, you need not fear the hands of the great surgeon.  He will lovingly listen to the cries that lurk in the crevices of your own heart.   He loves you so much and deeply longs for you to trust Him with your heart. Only He can satisfy the longings that you have, whatever they may be.

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord
And whose trust is the Lord.
“For he will be like a tree planted by the water,
That extends its roots by a stream
And will not fear when the heat comes;
But its leaves will be green,
And it will not be anxious in a year of drought
Nor cease to yield fruit.

“The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it?
 “I, the Lord, search the heart,
I test the mind,
Even to give to each man according to his ways,
According to the results of his deeds.

Jeremiah 17:7-10

 

Raising Teens Might Prompt You To Run For The Hills!

Everybody has their ‘thing’.  You know the something you run toward when life is difficult, stressful, exhausting.  And even if you habitually run to the Lord when you’re weary, your ‘thing’ will always remain a close second.  My thing is the mountains.  When I am feeling pecked at by kids, beaten down by the daily grind, and sucked dry by stressors of all sorts, the urge to get in the car and drive away from my troubles toward the nearby peaks, often consumes me.  It’s no wonder most of my closest friends also share the same ‘thing’.  Sometimes, we feed each other’s desire to run to those hills and desperately look through our weekly appointments and demands to quickly find a “free” day to be set free.

The mountains somehow invite my soul to begin breathing more rhythmically, peacefully once again.  And if I meander down a perfect trail-the kind that runs along a creek, through dense forests of trees changing colors-where a rock and a view await me at the finish, then for just a moment I often feel as if I have literally ascended into heaven.  There is nothing like it.  On the rock at the top I find deep rest.  Whether the skies are full of clouds or beholding the deepest blues, soaking in the marvelous beauty somehow soothes places I didn’t even know were aching.  Here, I calmly reflect and reconsider what really matters down below.   I never want to leave that rock once I sit down.  More often than not, I stay a little too long, think a bit too hard and wonder a tad too much.   Eventually, the stuff from the valley begins to find its way back into my mind and beckons me to mosey back down the trail and head home.

Like a child who collects stones during a nature walk, I often wish I could bring that enormous boulder with a magnificent view at the top home with me as well.  Then when this tired mama needed her ‘thing’, I could step out into my backyard and find relief by just sitting on my huge rock.  I truly think my husband and my teenagers would want me to have this as well.   As I continue to amble down the trail persistently pondering the impossibility of lugging a huge rock home with me, a whisper in my spirit reminds me of  THE Rock that dwells within.  Jesus, the Cornerstone, has provided me with the precious, indispensable foundation upon which God has made me a new Creation. Because of Christ, I am daily walking on a path that leads to the most incredible view that exists at the Summit.  While I spend my days on the trail leading homeward, the Rock that is my God invites me to sit, stand, rest, gaze, wonder and hide in Him along the way.   Like the Israelites whose daily needs were satisfied by the rock, my Rock daily refuels me by His Spirit and His word.   I too, can find refuge in my Rock when life is full of trouble just like David who experienced God’s safety and security by hiding in the rocks.  And when the forecast for today is foggy and the visibility is low, my Rock bids me to cling to Him until the haze wears off and I can see life around me once again.

In all honesty, raising teenagers has increased my desire to run off to the mountains more often.  Somehow I am sure that the trail that runs beside the creek that meanders up the mountain leading to that rock with a limitless view will definitely give me what I need for the day.  How thankful I am that it in actuality it is His creation that reminds me so deeply of what I can only find in Him.  As a mother of teens, a counselor of teens and a friend who is passionate about encouraging others to love teens well,  how blessed I am to know that whatever we face today,  He is our present help, our firm foundation, our fortress, our  deliverer, our dwelling place and so much more.

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.  I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
and I am saved from my enemies. In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help.

Psalm 18:2-3, 6

“Oh Captain, MY Captain!”

Parenting can be so wonderful, yet such a challenge as well.  It seems that just when you think your family is sailing well through the season you are in,  something out of the blue arises that stirs you up for a while.  It may be a temporary struggle, a tough challenge, or a storm that seems to linger.

Very recently, I found myself at a place like this in the big ocean of life.   I had just been rejoicing over the place we were in as a family of five.  I was thankful that our three teenagers were doing well and our marriage was strong.  And then suddenly a Leviathan rose up from out of nowhere.  Sadly, my “Aaahhs” were quickly transformed to “Aarrggghs”.  And for some reason I was momentarily surprised that amidst the gleaming waters of the ocean there could also be storms.

I was prompted to write these phrases while reading Psalm 34 and seeking the Lord’s help  that morning.  Whether  you are in the midst of a storm, sailing smoothly, or spinning around in a cesspool, I pray they somehow minister to the needs of your heart.

And the radiant sun, it’s shining.
The wind is blowing and the load is laughing
As the sailboat glides toward that beautiful point on the horizon.

The sails, positioned just right
Are easily harnessing the wind to
Smoothly move our vessel through the choppy waters.

We sail past other water crafts
Some spinning, struggling with the elements of the sea.
Others have succumbed and sink as we float by.

Though my heart is saddened,
My joyful heart sings out for all to hear.
“The God of the seas is good!”
“He is our deliverer!”
“Glory to His name forever!”

And though I try to bask in the radiance of this moment
the face of the sun slowly hides itself behind the clouds.
The winds howl and the waves swell up.

The “perfectly positioned” sails can no longer harness the gusts
And our stressed little dinghy begins to take in the waters of the sea
From within the hull we are jostled to and fro

Splashed repeatedly and forcefully,
The powerful waters beckon us to enter
and mingle with the marvels of the sea

From the stern and the bow we sound the alarm
To look for the light house on the shore
and locate the Captain of the seas

My spirit cries, “Oh Captain, my Captain”
Alive and leading still
I beckon you to lead us out of this storm

And from the depths of my soul my spirit proclaims,
“The God of the seas is good!”
“He is our deliverer!”
“Glory to His name forever!”

And though the clouds linger,
our boat bobs on through the waters
And the Captain leads the way
as the radiance of the Son shines upon us.

Whether you find yourself sailing, spinning or bobbing through the oceans this day,  look to the Captain.  He is not dead.  He is alive and He will cover you with His radiance and lead you to His home.

I will extol the LORD at all times, his praise will always be on my lips.
I will glory in the LORD; let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt his name together.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.
Psalm 34:1-5

 

 

Rain Down On Me

It has been a long time since I have chosen to walk in the rain.  I suppose I  prefer to be on the other side of the window when it’s raining outside.  With all the kids at a youth retreat this past weekend, however, my husband and I decided to drive to the mountains and go on a hike, despite the forecast for rain.  As we approached the park the dark gray clouds began to form overhead.  Just when we stepped out of the car and on to the trail, a steady drizzle welcomed us to Dupont State Park.  With no sign of a break in the clouds, we decided to press on through the rain to enjoy the three waterfalls we knew were a part of this trek through the woods.  After all, the stunning waterfalls would be a treasured reward for our willingness and determination to trudge through wet, muddy trails.

Much to my surprise, the more we sauntered through the woods, the more I found myself enjoying the rain more than the idea of seeing a waterfall.  The soothing sound of raindrops splashing onto leaves overhead drew me in.  The mighty streams along the way appeared so gentle as they passively received the drops coming down from the heavens.  Brilliant colors that typically blare forth in the Fall were out staged by the wet nourishment coming down from the heavens.  Even the waterfall, the prize at the end of the trail, seemed less powerful with the rain blending into its torrent.

Like God’s Word, the rain overpowered anything and everything that may have appeared more brilliant on previous days.  Like His Spirit, the rain affected everything in its path.

Rain gliding off green leaves still attached to their trees…Sustain me Lord through your Word as you keep me where I am despite the many changes happening around me.  

Rain gently tugging at leaves detaching and surrendering to the fall…Help me trust your Word Lord when you invite me to let go and surrender to your ways.

Rain saturating the path to fill a reservoir deep in the earth for the winter months ahead…Fill me anew through your Word, so that my spirit may be refreshed and able to nourish those you have called me to feed.

As you journey through your day today, may His word be like the gentle rain falling from the heavens- sustaining you, freeing you and filling you.  And like the rain, may His spirit flow out of you and powerfully affect all that is in its path.

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Isaiah 55:10-11

Finding Wisdom in the Maze

READ THESE RULES. ABIDE BY THESE RULES.  HAVE FUN!

1.     If you are in a hurry, please do not enter the maze.  This maze takes time. Most people do not finish in less than 90 minutes.    

2.     Collect pieces that are hidden throughout the maze in gray mailboxes.  Pieced together they will form a map to help you find your way out. 

3.     Please stay on the paths.  Short-cuts through corn stalks are not allowed

4.     Kids, stay with your adults.  Adults, supervise your kids.

5.     Paths are rough and bumpy.  Watch your step.

6.     Please be kind and courteous to others who are in the maze with you.

After quickly reading the rules, my son and I eagerly entered our first corn maze.  Confident we would hear our names announced as the fastest corn maze participants for the day, we scurried down the leading path.  The stalks of corn towered over us on each side, creating winding trails interconnecting with each other across 7 acres of farm land.   As we traveled through the maze it was clear we had no strategy.  Despite our impulsive decisions, we lucked out and quickly found three mailboxes holding puzzle pieces.  The map that would lead us out of corn world was rapidly coming together.   We slapped each other high fives and boldly predicted we would make it out of the maze in less than 90 minutes!   Unfortunately, our celebration ended pretty quickly, when we found ourselves circling the same area of the maze repeatedly.

With the afternoon sun taking center stage overhead, our morale began to sink. Both of us were hot and tired and frustrated by the repeated dead ends.  The maze felt more like a cage at this point.  This is when we briefly began to reconsider the guidelines for the maze.  Should we go ahead and try taking a short cut through the corn stalks in order to cross over into a section that seemed out of reach to us?  Convicted by the very thought of taking the easy route, we encouraged each other and pressed on.  SLOWLY, but surely we entered new sections of the maze and located more pieces of the puzzle.  The way out became more and more obvious to both of us.  When we found the last piece we squealed and excitedly sprinted toward the exit of the corn maze.  I am proud to say we made it in record time!   Yes, our time of 2 ½ hours was one of the slowest times recorded that weekend.  Regardless, we were the owners of a completed map maze puzzle and a precious memory made with each other.

There are many treasures in life that require us to be persistent in our efforts to find them much like the corn maze was for my son and me.  In Proverbs 2 we are told that even in our search for godly wisdom we must be patient seekers who are willing to slowly put the pieces together in order to find what we desire.  Wouldn’t it be so nice if the Lord granted us wisdom and guidance as parents at the mere clap of our hands?  Instead, he allows us to hit dead ends so that we are moved to call out in desperation for understanding.   In Proverbs 2:1-6 we find several requirements as we search for His  treasures.  They are

    IF YOU…    

  1. accept my words
  2. store up my commands within you,                                                                                                                                                                   
  3. turn your ear to wisdom
  4. apply your heart to understanding—
  5. call out for insight
  6. cry aloud for understanding,
  7. look for it as for silver
  8. search for it as for hidden treasure

The list of verbs suggests action and/or intentionality toward God and His word.  Moreover, they are not something that we can do for short periods of time or on just one occasion.  They are lifestyle verbs.  God’s wisdom cannot be found through a quick treasure hunt.  Yet there is a promise for those who remain steadfast, refusing to take short cuts in their search for His will and His wisdom.  Proverbs 2:5-6 says “Then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.  For the Lord gives wisdom.”

As you seek His wisdom today in the ordinary and extraordinary circumstances of your life, may you be sustained by Him as you heartily or wearily accept, store, turn, call out, cry out, look and search for His guidance.  And I pray that together we will understand the fear of the Lord as we discover His wisdom.


 

© 2017 Jackie Perry. All rights reserved|Hickory, NC web site design by m.e.