Thursday, June 30, 2011

Confession 192: With the Morning Light

When I was a child, I was terribly afraid of the dark.  I had, and have, a vivid imagination which would produce very real, very terrifying dreams while I slept, usually involving the "big, bad wolf".  I would wake from my nightmares, heart pounding, ears on point, looking around at all of the objects in my room to make sure all was as it was supposed to be. 

Some nights I would flee from my bed and take shelter in between my parents as they slept.  Other times, my fear would overtake all reason and, sure that some danger lurked within our house, I could not bring myself to step foot out of my bed.  On those occasions, I found myself gazing at the dark sky out my bedroom window waiting for the first glimmer of light that signifies a new day.  I waited for that moment when the blackness would give way to inky blue.  Only then would my heart slow, my body relax, and I could once more rest easily.

Although I have grown out of my childhood fears, there are still moments in my life where I find myself waiting for that first glimpse of morning light.  We all face moments of darkness in our lives, whether it be the loss of a loved one, sickness, unemployment, broken relationships, big decisions or major transitions. Our fear, our sadness, our indecisiveness can all work to paralyze us.  We find ourselves watching for the morning light, because that first glimmer of a new day is our hope for tomorrow. 

They Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. Psalm 119:105

Whatever you face today, know that God will bring you the hope of the morning light.  You may have to wait, you may have to watch, but slowly and surely the light will come.  And while you're waiting, take a cue from the Psalmist above.  Turn to God's Word.  Read.  Read again.  Read some more.  Let the words of God's love soak into your spirit and know that there is hope.  Get up early tomorrow and watch the sky turn from black to blue.  Let your hope arise with the morning light and know that God, your God, will never abandon or forsake you.
Blessings and Peace,

Monday, June 27, 2011

Confession 191: To Live a Better Story

My husband is doing a book club series for the summer, and this week's selection is Donald Miller's A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. In this book, author Donald Miller explores the idea that the qualities which make a good story are the same qualities that come together to make a good life.

Life is lived in story, and as Christians, we are called to live a better story.  Donald Miller states that, "A story is based on what people think is important, so when we live a story, we are telling people around us what we think is important."

Which begs the question....

When you look at your life, what do you see?  Would it make an interesting story?  Would it make a good story?  Is it a story you would want to tell?  Is it a story you would want others to tell?

One of the things that Miller comes back to over and over in his book is that story is about character transformation, and if our lives are a story, then the point of our lives is the journey we take to transformation.  And, we reach that transformation through a series of "inciting" incidents.  "The inciting incident is how you get (characters) to do something. It's the doorway through which they can't return, you know. The story takes care of the rest."

God uses "inciting" incidents in our lives to prompt us to make the changes we need to make in order to live a better story.  These incidents could include the loss of a relationship, loss of a job, gaining of a job, birth of a child, unexpected illness or injury, or, in Miller's case, the opportunity to turn his life into a screenplay.

God used an inciting incident in Paul's life as he walked the road to Damascus.  Confident in his role as persecutor of Christians, Paul (then Saul) was brought to his knees by Christ himself and chose, in that moment, to be transformed and to live a better story.

Life is more than schedules, and work, and the day to day grind.  Life is about living a better story.  It is about allowing ourselves to be transformed by our Creator so that we may go out into the world and make a difference, regardless of the circumstances we find ourselves in.  Look at Job, Miller states.  "Job found contentment and even joy, outside the context of comfort, health or stability. He understood the story was not about him, and he cared more about the story then he did about himself."

It is not an accident then that Jesus spent most of his time teaching through story.  Mark 4:33 states that...

With many stories like these, he presented his message to them, fitting the stories to their experience and maturity. He was never without a story when he spoke. When he was alone with his disciples, he went over everything, sorting out the tangles, untying the knots.
Our life is about living a story.  And, as did the disciples long ago, when we go to the Lord in prayer, he will go over everything in our stories, sorting out the tangles and untying the knots.

So I have to ask: Are you living a better story?

Blessings and Peace,

Linking up with Michelle @ Graceful 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Confession 190: Abiding in Surrender

Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn't get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan's angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn't think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,  
  My grace is enough; it's all you need.
   My strength comes into its own in your weakness. 2 Corinthians 12: 7-9

Surrender can be a bitter pill to swallow.  Many of us go to a place of surrender to God only after life's circumstance throws a huge obstacle in our path we can't climb over, go around, dig under or push through.  We finally say, "That's it!  I give up!  You take it God."  And then we stand back, hands on hips, catching our breath while we wait for God to vaporize it.  And we wait, and wait, and wait.  A few seconds stretch into minutes.  We look each way, then crane our heads to the sky.  Impatience begins to creep up from our feet, which are itching to get back on the path.  The minutes continue on, but the obstacle is still in the path.  "Did you hear me?" we call to the sky?  "Hello!"  "Hello!?"  "Hello?"  Minutes stretch into hours, which bleed away the day.  Darkness falls  and we find ourselves asking, "God, where are you?"  Days pass into weeks, months, even years.  We've gone from a pup tent to pouring a foundation to a 4 bedroom, 2.5 bath house.  And still, we wait, surrendering again, and again with each new day.

The reality of surrender is that sometimes, God calls us to abide in it.  As Paul states in the above passage, these seasons of our lives living amidst obstacles we cannot budge are opportunities for God to demonstrate his power.  But sometimes, the power he is demonstrating to us is his power to provide and care for us in the midst of our darkest hours.  And we learn the lesson that surrender is not a one time thing, but something we must do over and over with the dawn of each new day.  Abiding in surrender.

But don't think for a moment that God is being mean, choosing to ignore a very real problem for the sake of disciplining his pig-headed children.  While we are learning to abide in surrender, God is working on the other side of that obstacle building a better rode, toll-free, for us to travel.  He's straightening out the curves, adding extra lanes, re-paving and re-painting.  He's adding new road signs to help guide our path and creating new exits for us to take.  God is working while we're abiding.  Make no mistake about it, God can and will vaporize that obstacle blocking our path, but not before the road, and we, are ready!

Blessings and Peace,

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Confession 189: Lessons from Dad

As it is Father's Day, I thought I'd write a bit about my Dad.  My Dad has been a teacher for the past 30 + years.  He "retired" seven years ago but has two part-time teaching jobs which keep him busy everyday.  My Dad has been one of the greatest influences in my life, and I wanted to share with him (and you) some of the most important lessons this perennial teacher has taught me over the years.

Lesson One: The Importance of Faith
I was raised in the church.  From the beginning, church was a priority.  If the doors were open, we were there, actively involved in kids groups, choir, missions, bells, etc...  But more than that, it was important to both of my parents that not only were we in church, but that we "got" church.  In our house, we talked about our faith constantly.  After church on Sundays, my dad would ask us what we learned.  It wasn't a quiz, it was a true discussion.  We'd share, then we'd talk and reflect on what was shared as a family.  My dad encouraged us to go deeper into our faith, to ask tough questions and to ponder the answers.  Even now our conversations are full of biblical study as we continue to question and ponder the mysteries of faith.  If I have a Bible question, I call my dad.  He gets his Bible out and we go through it together, figuring out the answers together.

Lesson Two: It'll be Okay
Born out of faith, this expression is one of my father's personal mantras.  Whenever I feel overwhelmed, I call Dad and he assures me with full confidence that, "It'll be okay."   And when he says it, I believe him.  My Dad gives me peace of mind and heart, while he takes all of my worries and anxieties upon himself.  He works through my problems, seeks expert advice, then comes back to me with possible solutions for the problem at hand.  No matter how old I get, I know that I will always be my Daddy's little girl and that, until he takes his last breath, he will be working in my life and the lives of my children trying to "make it okay".

Lesson Three: Laughter Cures All
In our house, there is laughter.  It doesn't matter how serious the circumstance, how formal the occasion, we laugh.  My Dad, with his goofy sense of humor, has taught me that you can, and should, laugh at yourself on a daily basis.  And, if I can't laugh at myself, he will do it for me!! :-)  Laughter relieves tension, makes impossible situations seem manageable, and keeps you from taking yourself too seriously.  When my sister was younger, she had a lisp.  And, although my parents got her into speech therapy, it didn't stop us laughing about it.  My Dad and I used to ask her to say my name, which has several "s"'s in it.  When she'd lisp her way through it, we would all be rolling on the floor.  Mean?  Maybe.  But was my sister embarrassed about her lisp?  No way!  No one could give her more trouble about it than us! :-) Laughter cures all.

Lesson Four: Work or Play, Give Your Best Each Day
My Dad's philosophy on life is to take it by the horns and go.  Work as hard as you play and play as hard as you work.  My Dad's philosophy on life is that it's a gift which should be used.  When my Dad works, he gives all of himself.  He builds relationships with his students that last throughout the years.  Students from 25 years ago proudly call him friend.  Growing up, Dad lived at the school.  He taught high school English, History, Speech, Psychology.  He directed the school plays for fifteen years, announced the high school football games for 20, kept stats at the basketball games, coached the golf team to several state placements,  and ran the speech/debate program.  If his students were in the building, he was there.  And, more often than not, so were my sister and I.  The high school was a second home to us, which probably explains why my sister and I love working with teenagers today.

Yet, not only does Dad give 110% at work, he also gives 110% at play.  Growing up, Dad would play golf every day in the summer leaving my sister and I at the pool.  We spent our time splashing around in the water and ordering frozen Snickers bars, cheeseburgers and Shirley Temple's from the clubhouse bar.  We'd slide back home minutes before Mom got there and scramble to do at least one of the chores she'd left for us that day!  Each summer would also bring a road trip with picnics and museum tours and hours spent scouring old Civil War battlefields.  We got up early and stayed up late, filling each day with memories.

Lesson Five: Love Each Day
Now that I have children of my own, my Dad is helping me to appreciate the beauty of each day.  One of his best and most common pieces of advice is, "Just enjoy it.  You're going to miss these days when they're gone."  And although toddlers are a challenge, there's a part of me that knows he's right.  Because, Dad does know best.

I love you, Dad!!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Confession 188: The Lord is My Shepherd

The Lord is my shepherd
 We will lie down in green grass

We will walk by quiet water
 God will give me peace in my soul

Because God loves me, he will lead me
His rod will show me where to walk

His staff will keep me safe

 Enemies may be all around me

 But I will eat in peace and safety
I am the Lord's welcome guest

My cup will run over

God's goodness and love will be with me every day of my life

 And I will live in God's house forever

Phil A. Smouse- I Can Read God's Word: The Lord is my Shepherd

Friday, June 3, 2011

Confession 187: Annual Conference

Heading down to Springfield, Missouri this weekend for Annual Conference--bureaucracy in the name of the Lord!  I'm not sure this is what John Wesley had in mind in the early days of Methodism.  I think he'd prefer a two hour business session and then send people out to continue the work of God.  However, this is the 21st century, and we like meetings.  Wish me luck!  My bottom is already sore just thinking about all of the sitting I'm going to be doing.

I am going to make it a productive session, however.  I'm beginning the process of writing a devotional book using the themes in some of my blog posts.  I printed all of them off, and I have to say it's kind of cool to be holding a body of work I've actually written.  I don't know that anything will come of it, but writing is a dream I've always had and I figure there's no time like the present! :-) 

So, what's your weekend look like?

Blessings and Peace,

My Family

My Family

My Family 2

My Family 2