Monday, September 22, 2014

The Source of the Sound

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.  Psalm 19:1 NIV
 
A while back, I spent about 100 minutes walking, praying, thinking, looking, seeing, and smelling the outdoors alone. My wonderful Prayer Sisters and I met at the Frederick Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in the late morning, sat in the cafe and chatted an hour and a half or so, then went off on our own.

Beautiful, isn't it?
And did I ever need it.The noises and activities around me for the past...oh, I dunno...47 years (!!) were piling up a bit, and I needed some time with just me, my brain, and God's creation (and just a bit of man's too).

As I walked along the park's boardwalk and nature trails, I was able to truly relax, look, listen and smell the flora and fauna that surrounded me (the sculptures too - but in all honesty, that was the least intriguing in my opinion).

One thing I heard A LOT of was chirping. And some quacking. And perhaps a bit of cooing. I was clearly surrounded, on most every side sometimes, by birds.
But just because I could hear them didn't mean I could see them.
In fact, most of the time it was the exact opposite. Sure, my gaze caught the occasional bird on a branch, eating off the ground, or flying through the air. For the most part, however, those flying singers were hidden from my view.

And I tried to find them. I looked up into the trees, glancing from every possible direction. I stood for several minutes, trying to follow the sound to its location. But, nine times out of ten (and that's probably generous!), I saw nothing.
THESE I saw

But still, I knew they were there. I never assumed I was hearing things, or that the folks at the gardens had strategically placed speakers with recorded bird noises throughout the gardens, playing them to create the illusion of actual birds. They may have been out of sight, but they were still there.

God's like that sometimes too, isn't He? We don't often see Him with our two eyes, but we know He's there. We can hear Him - through His Word, His voice in our heads, sermons from His ministers. He acts in our lives whether we see (or acknowledge) Him or not.

So remember - even if you don't see Him, He's still around. The evidence is all around us - and it's not a recording.


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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Epiphany

An epiphany, according to Wikipedia, is an experience of sudden and striking realization. Generally the term is used to describe scientific breakthrough, religious or philosophical discoveries, but it can apply in any situation in which an enlightening realization allows a problem or situation to be understood from a new and deeper perspective.

In simple terms, you know that moment when the light bulb pops up over the head of a cartoon character? An epiphany.

It can come in the strangest of places and by the strangest methods. A week of unusual busyness had culminated into a hectic weekend with two football games to attend, one an hour's drive away and the other in the pouring rain.

Sunday started with a two-hour drive to a wedding shower. When I arrived, I plopped into a metal folding chair in the fellowship hall of a large church. To say I was tired could be the understatement of the year.

Tired of driving? Yes. Tired of rushing? Of course.

But the biggest source of my exhaustion was fear. You see, seven years ago I had my gall bladder taken out. And my body hasn't been happy with the decision since, mainly my digestive system. I've changed my diet, been allergy food tested, lost weight, and taken a slew of prescription meds, vitamins, and homeopathic remedies. A year ago, I finally found a combination of meds, vitamins, and fiber that has brought my body to a state of relative calm.

But my mind doesn't believe me. Every time I open the car door to drive somewhere, if it's over twenty miles, panic attacks me. What if you get sick again? The voice screams in my ear. What if? What if?

As I sat in the metal chair, I was tired of fighting. I'd traveled the whole week without having a sick spell, but struggled with worry too often. I looked up on the opposite wall, noting a wall banner. It displayed the head of a lion and one of my favorite Bible verses, Joshua 1:9. As I read it, I had an epiphany.

'Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.'

Did you see it? God said, no commanded me to not fear or be discouraged. But that's so hard. How? Read the last part of the verse. God will be with me wherever I go. To the ball game. To the grocery store. To the wedding shower. Every day and every step of the way.

This is a promise, something concrete I can hold onto. When my stomach hurts. When the hours and drive are long. When I worry.

I don't have to fear.

I don't have to be discouraged.

I have a promise.

He will be with me.

And its enough...


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Thursday, September 18, 2014

I HEART FACEBOOK

          Love it, or not, Facebook is here to stay. The discussion of privacy issues, unwelcome changes in its formats, settings, etc., roll on --- probably without ever being satisfactorily resolved.
          I have to confess: I love Facebook.
          It's always there with shared "wisdom" and inspiration. Disagreeing with any given post is easily resolved with the Delete button.
          The posts are a snapshot in time, whether of a serious or humorous nature. I'm watching my grandsons grow before my very eyes, enjoying day-to-day contact with out-of-state, even across-town, relatives and friends. The "clap-on, clap-off" nature of the technology allows me to move through my day with quick reprieves from Quick Books and shuffling papers in our home office.
     
           The thing I love most about Facebook is having prayer warriors standing by, ready to unite in one voice for needs that can only be addressed by our Heavenly Father. It's not just seeing their names and feeling their presence, although there is great comfort and support in that. It's the voices in unison petitioning God with the needs of a loved one.
          Labor Day weekend, our niece Edi's husband was seriously injured in a mowing accident. Only Heaven will have the final numbers of those who, through Facebook and phone calls/texts, spoke his name throughout 3 surgeries and the life-changing event that has already strengthened their faith and is speaking to others in their sphere of influence. More than one doctor has commented on how Brian is doing much better than expected at this point after his surgeries.  Opportunities to share are not being wasted on this amazing Christian couple.

"The effectual fervent prayer of a 
righteous man availeth much." 
James 5:16b, KJV
 
          Prayer chains have been around forever. Those who live outside of cyber space, whether by choice or lack of opportunity, still have the ability to be included as needs arise. But the warp speed of the internet is a powerful thing when in a crisis situation. Unspoken requests are also shared and the prayer warriors mobilized without having to know the intimate details. God already knows and our prayers are still honored with His loving response.
          Of course, Facebook is also an avenue for that roaring lion seeking to devour everyone in his path. But what the enemy intends for evil, God can use for His glory. And I am so thankful to be in God's camp, using His universe and my keyboard to call upon and exalt His name.
          And I must always be mindful to run to Him before running to Facebook.

"Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray. 
Is any merry? Let him sing psalms." 
James 5:13. KJV 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Gideon? Really?

Whenever I've read the Old Testament, I'd find myself battling frustration and wanting to bang my fist on the counter. "What is wrong with you? How many times does God have to show you that His intentions are for your good, not harm?" And inevitably, I get through that episode and thank God we've finally learned ...

Or have we?

A week ago I caught myself comparing me to Gideon. Gideon. The man God called "mighty man of valor" (Judges 6: 12) who questioned God's leading in his life; who doubted his strength -- and imagine the questions that must have swirled when God cut Gideon's army from 32,000 to 300.

I have lost count of the times I've asked Him to confirm His direction on my life. In fact, it was only a couple weeks ago that I was telling a friend, I'm probably goofy for thinking this way, because I ask Him continually to show me … like Gideon. I find myself thinking, “If I'm still to write (no matter how much or little while in school) I'll know it for sure if I get to go to this (Writers’ Conference).”

I must say, as I typed those words, the call came from the conference coordinators to inform me that I’d been awarded a full scholarship.

And yet, I doubt. I wonder. I see others zooming past me in this path. And I question. “God, have I missed something? Was I presumptuous? Should I step off the path and let those who can run faster through?” It’s a move out of the way or get run over, right?

Wrong. At least it shouldn’t be. Not in the Kingdom of God. We’ve been given a specific set of talents and a vision. No one path will look exactly like another. Like a thumbprint, we are all unique in our callings, although we may carry many similarities. So it’s important to back away from the temptation to compare.

But when we do, we can rest assured that God doesn’t tire of us questioning him. David learned this, and thanks to him we can see that even the man “after God’s own heart” must have suffered doubt.

For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him. For he knows our frame; He remembers we are dust. ~Psalm 103: 11-14



Friday, September 12, 2014

Overcome

This will be a shorter than usual post, because sometimes even writers are at a loss for words.

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In the mid-August week in which I’m writing this, my heart is very heavy with living in this broken, broken world. Here in the United States, terrible storms are washing away homes in the western desert, and there is an even worse storm of hatred and distrust in the middle of the country, fomented in decades of racism and poverty. A state governor has been indicted, and two teenagers have been arrested for a plot to massacre as many people as they could in their school.

Overseas, there are hundreds of west Africans succumbing to a horrible virus, terrorists have gleefully beheaded a journalist, and rockets are exploding over Israel and Gaza. A passenger plane was shot down no long ago, in an eastern European war zone.

And in the body of the Church, it seems to me that there is more division than ever.

Sometimes I’m saddened almost to the point of immobility. All I can do, at those times, is to cling to this, which needs no elaboration from me:


"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

For a Good Time...

I enjoy my life. Spending time with my loving husband is wonderful. I often have lots of fun with my two kids (when they're not driving me crazy, of course). And I adore my friends - both "in the flesh" and across the Internet. I enjoy reading, writing, studying God's Word, working with kids.

Life, for the most part, is good.

One question on a "secret sister" form, however, has me pondering my life and what I enjoy. The question? "What would you consider a fun day?"

I had no idea what to write. And after an hour, I finally wrote something - but I'm still not pleased with it. Even now, I really don't have a good answer.

Oh, in the past, it would have been easy.

Thirty five years ago? Probably a trip to the zoo and some ice cream.

Twenty five? A day at an amusement park, most likely.

How about fifteen years in the past?  At age thirty I probably wanted a day with Marc, maybe a whole-day date, with a movie, meal out, and maybe a few fun museums.

A decade ago (in the midst of my husband's health issues), a fun day would have included a 12-hour nap.

But now? I really don't know. Have I lost my sense of what enjoyment is? Am I so caught up in my own rat race that I am blind to the possibilities of  "fun?" Or, maybe my life is already so fun that I can't picture anything better. (Ummm...)

Regardless, God wants us to relish and enjoy our lives. We are to be filled with joy - live life abundantly.
"But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful." Psalm 68:3

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Philippians 4:4
I'm still not sure if I've forgotten what fun is, or if my happiness in what I have has made me content enough that I needn't worry about it. 

But I DO know one thing: my life is good, and even fun sometimes. And even in struggles, He allows me peace and joy (if not a bit of fun).

And that's a good thing.


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Saturday, September 6, 2014

It's not the Cookies, It's the Crumbs



Ever since they were in kindergarten, I have sent my daughters off to their first day of school with homemade cookies. Every year. Usually the all-American chocolate chip, but sometimes glammed up Rice Krispie treats. Whatever else might be in their lunch bags, homemade—love-made—cookies would be there too.

But this year I dropped the proverbial cookie. This year, their lunch bags held leftover pizza, fruit, cheese sticks and…granola bars. Pre-packaged, processed, boring, last-resort snack, granola bars. The girls were too excited to care.

But it mattered to me.

So, after the hugs and kisses and prayers for a great day/year/classroom, both children were delivered to their respective schools and I returned to my blessedly empty home. It was my first full day to myself in 3 months. And what was I going to do?

Make cookies.

Oh, yes. There would be—there HAD to be--homemade cookies waiting when my girls got home. 

So, I preheated the oven and pulled the ingredients out of the pantry. I had the necessary flour and sugar, but beyond that, the pickins’ were slim: barely a handful of chocolate chips (the remains from someone’s late night munching) and half a bag of butterscotch chips (clearly not a snacking choice).

I was out of any other ingredient for any alternate cookie. I decided to use what I had on hand. It’d have to be chocolate butterscotch chip cookies, with a few chocolate pieces mixed in. I set to work. 



In the end, I got my estimated yield of 3-4 dozen as promised. Admittedly, this batch of cookies was not my best work. They won’t make the cover of any foodie magazine—they were thick, and dry, and the first batch burned. They tasted…okaaay.  A lingering dunk in a glass of milk or cup of coffee would certainly be needed.  


But then I realized it didn’t matter. When my daughters got home from school, we’d sit at the table and they’d inhale the cookies and exhale the stories of their day. Milk would dribble, crumbs would fly, and the laughter would wake the cat. I knew this because I’ve been there before-many sweet times. This was why the tradition had to be maintained—a tradition that I know will end too soon. This is really why it was so important to me to make the cookies. Not for the sake of the cookie, but for the sake of the crumbs.

In our walk with Christ, we sometimes focus on the spiritual equivalent of making perfect cookies—consistent quiet time, perfect church attendance, unwavering peace, limitless patience, godly children.  And if it’s not perfect, we’re not good enough. Know what? We’re not perfect, we’re thick and dry and sometimes burnt on the edges. But God doesn’t care, he just wants us to sit at his table and talk.

Let the crumbs land where they will.

Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.

Matthew 11:28 (MSG)



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