Saturday, February 15, 2014
I woke up this morning to see the most BEAUTIFUL sunrise ever! (I should mention that it was on a friend's Facebook page; it is Saturday after all.) By the time I filled my coffee mug and sat down to type, warm sun was streaming through the windows and I could feel the earliest tingle of spring. (Sorry to my snowbound friends in other places who are digging out of feet of snow. Come on down, there's lots of room here!) I felt a little giddy when I got to thinking about the season changing. At times when it is cold and dreary, it seems like maybe Spring is broken. Do you ever feel like that in real life? Like maybe Spring is broken and you will be trapped in a cold, dreary season where the moments of light seem short and the darkness drags on forever? Take heart! The proverbial spring is around the corner!
Life can be a really hard thing. You or people you love may be up to their ears in a snowy, icy season, I know, I have a cabin there, too. It may not seem fair. We don't understand why we have hardships when we look around and see others happily skipping around plucking flowers in their own spring lives. We may not understand the current season we are trapped in, but we can know this for sure. Seasons do not last.
I looked up the definition of season. Webster says, "of SEASON 1a : a time characterized by a particular circumstance or feature <in a season of religious awakening." What is your current time characterized by? Are you is a season of hardship, or of joy? Of struggle, or of peace? Are you enjoying a season of pleasure, or pain? Whatever your season, we know as humans our circumstances are temporary. We will all face all types of seasons; from that there is no escape. But one thing I loved about this definition was the example it used in the definition. Did you catch it? "<in a season of religious awakening." I think that is where the lesson lies. You see we may not be able to control the circumstances of life that drive our "seasons", but we can choose to have awakening in any season. What I have learned (and continue to have to relearn because it is a lesson that can easily be forgotten), is that I cannot choose my circumstances, but I can choose what I focus on in that circumstance. If I get caught up focusing on the frost on the window, I cannot see outside to notice that the snow is melting and the sun is shining.
If you are in a season of winter, I want to encourage you. Don't let your focus be on your problem, as hard as that may seem. Look beyond the frost on the window pane to see your family, your friends, your provisions, your blessings. Look to God. When your focus is on Him, you can find warmth and awakening even in the harshest winter. I love 2 Corinthians 4:18 which says, "So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever." I can promise you this; the struggles we face today will not last forever, but they can keep us from living with joy if we become focused on them. On the contrary, if we focus on God and keep our eyes fixed on him, we are focused on the one thing that is unchanging and able to bring joy in all seasons!
One day you are going to wake up and be able to say, "Look! The winter is past. The rains are over and gone. Flowers are appearing on the earth. The season for singing has come. The cooing of doves is heard in our land. The fig trees are producing their early fruit. The flowers on the vines are giving off their sweet smell." Song of Solomon 2:11-12. Your struggle with your current season will be over and you will discover Spring again. Hold on my sweet friend. Do not be discouraged. Spring is not broken, it is just around the corner!
Saturday, February 8, 2014
Do you remember the old carnival funhouses? You know, back in the day before they sort of creeped you out? Moving floors, shaking walls, distorting mirrors, mazes of glass, made us giggle as we fumbled our way through the features. As we reached the end, our sides hurt from the laughter brought forth as we overcame the obstacles.
Sometimes life feels like you are in a funhouse minus the fun. The floor is shaking and the walls are moving, but it brings forth feelings of fear, anxiety, and dread; giggles are hard to find as you struggle to keep your balance. The mirrors around you begin to reflect distorted images, and you begin to lose sight of who you are. The mazes of glass begin to make you feel as if there is no end to the un-fun you are dealing with. You begin to feel as though you can't find your way out. I have to admit that I sometimes feel like I am in the UnFun House, but here are some lessons I am learning.
Lesson One: Sometimes it feels like the floor is falling out from under you; your very foundation seems shaken. In times like this you have to do two things. 1) Grab hold of something secure, and 2) Keep moving. Let's explore those ideas a little more. When selecting what you will grab hold of, you have to be very careful. If you grab onto something unstable and movable, it will be of no benefit to you. Joshua 34:8 says, "But you are to hold fast to the LORD your God, as you have until now." He never moves; he never changes. When you grab onto him you have a foundation to stand upon and that foundation will hold strong even though the "house" may shake. "Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” Matthew 7:24-27. Hold tight to God, and though the floors shake, the house will stand! My second piece of advice is KEEP MOVING! The only way out of your UnFun House is forward. You can't go back in time and sitting in pity will get you no where so grab the rail (God) and get moving! You may still feel fear, you may still feel sorrow, the walls and floors may still be shaking, but you are getting closer and closer to the end of the trial! Don't stop now!
Lesson Two: The UnFun House has mirrors that reflect back images of you and your situation. As you look around you right now, you may be judging yourself and your situation by the reflections you see in the life's mirrors. Situations seem out of balance; you appear broken and disfigured. Your scars appear exaggerated, and you may feel like no one could ever love a mess like you. Those are LIES! Remember this, those mirrors that are distorting your reflection are liars. When you are in the UnFun House, you have to see your situation and yourself as God sees you, not as the mirrors portray you. God sees the impossible as possible. He sees the broken as beautiful. You are His child and he loves you. He knows how He is going to use this rough time to do something beautiful in you and for you. Do not stand around admiring the problem in the reflection of warped mirrors. Keep your eyes on your reflection in Him and once again, KEEP MOVING!
Lesson Three: Some rooms in the UnFun House are made of glass walls. As you try to find your way out, you bump into invisible barriers that seem to hold you captive, but there is a way out. I have two pieces of advice: 1) Let God guide you and 2) you guessed it, KEEP MOVING! The bible says,"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." I don't know about you, but I do not understand my current situation, but I can rest secure that God does. I don't know how to get out of this maze, but God does. If we are wise, we will trust him and follow. Both steps are necessary. If I trust Him, but don't follow, I am stuck. If I am moving, but not trusting Him to guide me, I am going to face plant into an invisible barrier. We have a guide that can get us out of this maze of trials. All we have to do is follow.
Lesson Four: At some point in the UnFun House you begin to feel like you are never going to find the exit, but I promise you it is up ahead. There is a season to everything. "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace." Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. You and I may be in a season of struggle, but everything that starts also has to end. Don't lose hope. KEEP MOVING!
This morning I read this verse: "I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure," Psalms 16:8-9. I immediately had this image of this UnFun House and how the struggle can make me feel like I am at the mercy of my surroundings, but that isn't true. If my focus shifts to the floor, the mirrors, and the walls of my struggle, I will be shaken, but if I keep my eyes on the Lord, I am secure! I choose to keep my eyes on the Lord. With Him beside me I WILL NOT BE SHAKEN so I am glad and I will sing. My body is secure!!! I am going to be like Olivia Newton John in the movie Grease and put on my high heels and stomp right through this stinking UnFun House (Minus the cigarette, leather pants, and big hair!) and sing to my God, "You're the One That I Want!" (Okay, if that last reference went right over your head you're going to just have to go watch the movie. Perhaps I dated myself with that one!)
I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, Psalms 16:8-9
Saturday, February 1, 2014
The summer of 1987 I was working in an inner-city mission in Houston, Texas. Oh, the lessons I learned that summer as we worked with gangs, poverty, and the hard-ships of inner-city life. It was one of the best times of my life! On the wall in one of our centers was a poster like the one on this blog. I can't even begin to count the number of times in my life that the words have run through my mind. While it has ministered to me countless times, I have to say that in the past week it has been a great reality. So many times this week I have looked at the storm around me and wondered how in the world can I feel so calm? I know it isn't coming from me. It is something much larger at work. I began to ask myself this question, "What have you learned from the storm this week?" Here are some of my answers:
1) God loves me with an indescribable, unbelievably passionate, totally personal, all sufficient love---and He does you, too. Over and over this week he has been whispering directly in my ear his words of affection. It is as though the songs on the radio have been a playlist straight from him. The morning and evening sky have been precious gifts to remind me He loves me and is a beautiful creator who cares deeply about His creations. His answer to prayers great and small have been overwhelming. He has connected me with people at just the right moments to impact my life (and hopefully theirs) in the most significant ways. He doesn't just care about the masses. He cares about the individuals. I am his daughter and he adores me.
2) God has prepared in advance all we would need to survive this storm. During this last year so many of you have been so faithful to pray and encourage us. I honestly don't think we would have survived this long without you. I had the neatest experience in the last week or so as I discovered that one of my great prayer partners is actually family. A dear man, David Ritter (who is a survivor himself) has sent me bible verses every morning during the past year. His daughter is a friend. Their family has prayed consistently for us. His wife messaged me this week to as if I was related to Mastens in Plainview. As we talked we discovered that her grandfather and mine were half brothers. They have prayed for me for so long and now we discover that we were connected generations ago. I have heard it said that God goes before us and stands behind. I know that he has gone before me to clear my path and build supports for the rough times. He walks the path with me daily and is behind me all the way!
3) Storms can be beautiful. Have you ever gone out on your backporch just to sit and watch a storm? (If you live in West Texas I KNOW you have!) My son Spencer and I love to go sit on the backporch under blankets and watch the lightning streak across the sky. Our hearts pound a little harder when we hear the claps of thunder. The rain falling refreshes our senses. The time we spend together as we weather the storm draws us closer together. Which leads me to my next precious lesson.
3) God uses us to lift up and encourage one another. Just as Spencer and I draw closer as we weather storms together, so do you and I as we weather the proverbial storms of life together. You bring peace and encouragement to me. Your prayers, cards, "AS IF" nods, and messages have meant more than you will ever know. I am so blessed by you! Never for a moment underestimate the influence you have in the lives of others. Your prayers are the air we breathe!
4) Final lesson- Like the storms in West Texas, the storms of life are strong when they come, but they pass; they are unpredictable, but they are certain; they can be destructive, but they bring new life; they are dark in the moment, but they are followed by a rainbow. I am in the midst of a storm, but I am choosing faith over fear. As the thunder rolls, I am reminding myself they will pass. As the wind seems to be trying to destroy pieces of my life, I am focusing on the new life I am given each day. When the darkness seems to roll in, I remember the sun is ALWAYS present, even when it is out of view. This too shall pass.
I grow frustrated once again with myself as I recognize how much more in tune I am to God and his lessons in bad times. I want to be so close to him that it doesn't take storms for me to cling to his presence. Are you the same way? I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God whispered in each of our ears this week. He orchestrated moments to reveal himself to all of us. He was waiting to meet us on the "back porch", but maybe since there wasn't a storm you didn't have time to sit down with him. My prayer is that we all grow better at clinging to God on the clear days so that we know what to do in the storms. I pray that we will know the SON so well from the bright days, that we know He is still there on the dark ones!
Thank you again for joining me in my storm. I know you don't have to, but I am so glad you do!
For God's Glory!