Thursday, December 9, 2010

Choosing Not to See

Disappointed in not finding the item I was searching for, I headed for the store exit. Funny, I had felt so compelled to stop here. I hadn't left the house planning on coming this way, but an inner voice had persuaded my direction. Now I was frustrated. It was freezing cold outside. I really hadn't had the time for this extra stop in my travels. I needed to get home. My husband just had oral surgery and I should be checking on him and playing "nurse".

My departure was detained by a young woman leaving the store. At first I didn't see why she was walking so slowly. Completely immersed in my own little world, I was unaware of her need. Upon closer observation I realized she was pushing a baby stroller with one hand, while pulling a fully loaded cart with the other. A human "train" so to speak. She obviously was doing some Christmas shopping and had been more fortunate than I by the appearance of the shopping carts contents.

As she headed towards the parking lot struggling to keep all her treasures within her grasp, a thought filled my mind. Joy, offer to help her. Immediately that idea was dismissed. The kind gesture was counteracted, convincing me such an act would be foolish. I reasoned that she would refuse my help. These days everyone is skeptical of others who offer their services. She would be concerned about 'stranger danger'. She certainly wouldn't allow me to push her stroller, and I questioned, would she trust me with hundreds of dollars worth of merchandise? Offering to help would only make her nervous. She was handling everything alright. I should just leave her alone.

I turned a blind eye. I chose not to see. I walked to my car. Unlocked the door. Sat inside. Glanced quickly back. Then it happened. As she tried to maneuver it all over the curb, the shopping cart swayed and several of her items fell to the pavement. Frustration and exhaustion were written all over her face. As she picked up the skillet, looking for dents, I could almost hear her sigh and see the tear. How could she do it all? Care for an infant, shop, look after all the details of Christmas, and in this unbelievably cold weather too. Surely her baby would rather be at home sleeping in a cozy crib, but she had gifts to buy and time was running out. So much needed to be done. She was so weary.

And there I sat. In a warm car. Opportunity missed. Stricken with guilt gut.

The image of her face at that moment still haunts me. My heart is aching with my own selfishness. I can't turn back time. How I wish I could.

Yes, I know many of you would have helped without hesitation. You would have even gone the second mile, loading her car, returning her cart, making Jesus visible. I made a wrong decision. No excuses. No justifying. Just remorse.

Oh Lord, how I pray it’s not too late. Please don’t give up on me. I don’t want to live a life that is shy of Your best for me. Please forgive me for the many times I have not obeyed Your voice. I can’t go back, but I can move forward. Help me become someone You can turn to and say, “I’ll ask Joy. She embraces My plans for her, trusts Me and steps out in faith.”

I had felt compelled to go to this store, yet I didn't purchase one thing or understand the promptings neccessity. I believe now that God placed me there for the purpose of being His hands and feet to a young mom in need, but instead of letting her meet Jesus in an over crowded parking lot, I said 'no' and walked away. And so tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that, and all my tomorrow's, I will be looking for that one in need. For the weary and wounded. For the broken and betrayed. For the forgotten and forsaken. For the lonely and the loveless. For the abused and abandoned. For the busy and the burdened. For the harried and the harassed. For whoever God places in my path. I will listen for His voice. I will risk rejection. I will face fear. I will combat complacency. I will choose Christlikeness. I will live loud. I will say 'yes'. I hope....

What about you?

"Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity." Colossians 4:5 (TLB)

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Hidden Killer

"The tongue can bring death or life..." Proverbs 18:21

After discovering her body and trying to grasp the 'why's', a suicide note was found. Two words. "They said..."

The power of life and death truly is in the tongue.

Words alone are weightless, yet they can crush or empower. Build up or tear down. Encourage or devour.

Our words can be weapons of mass destruction, but are we even aware of the devastating and debilitating effect they can have on an often already wounded soul? On their own they are neutral. It's the coupling with our heart that fuels them for good or evil. Recently this truth embedded itself on my heart as I heard the following illustration.

Imagine with me for a moment a precious woman rises one morning and dresses in clothing made entirely from sticky notes. Before she even leaves her bedroom she is criticized and the first yellow square falls to the floor. As the day continues words that shame, ridicule, question her worth, make her feel inadequate, insignificant, guilty, unloved, and homely are inscribed over her life and more of her outfit crumbles away, mirroring the broken fragments of her heart as it slowly disintegrates. Some who see the clothing malfunction, try to re-attach the squares with positive feedback and encouraging words but the notes won't stick. The damage has been done. By the close of the day, she finds herself sitting at home, feeling insecure and completely exposed.

It is a terrible thing to be part of any relationship that highlights the negative and the mistakes. When criticism and correction continue, a life is characterized by unending, recurrent pain and insecurity. When faults and failures are all that are noticed, eventually one simply stops trying. What's the use? The effort takes too much energy. The results always the same.

She feels the effect so greatly, it's as if permanent marker has ruined her wardrobe. She looks in the mirror before going to bed at night, despondent, receiving and believing the lies. Crawling into bed she curls up inside the pain. The tongue does kill. She's buried alive in a pile of words.

In the silence a Hand reaches down. He sees. He knows. His love is unconditional. She is treasured and loved. Brushing off the syllables that left her slain, He dresses her in robes of righteousness. Broken, she falls into arms of love.

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Abandoning Jars

As our eyes met, I dropped the luggage weighing me down, and ran into open arms, leaving behind all my personal possessions. Suddenly worldly goods lost their value. They meant nothing compared to the love and acceptance of a friend.

In John Chapter 4, we read of a Samaritan woman who encounters the Savior at Jacob's well. Their eyes meet for the first time, and verse 28 says, “Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town...” In essence, she dropped her 'suitcase' and ran into arms of love.

She had come to the well with a jar and a plan, she left with a joy and a purpose. A thirst was quenched and a jug was forgotten. No hesitation. No clinging to the object. What motivated such complete abandon? An encounter with Christ.

Letting go of our 'jars' isn't always easy. Yet we don't see the Samaritan woman weighing the odds or debating a decision. Unlike the rich young ruler who struggled with letting go of his wealth, this woman didn't even have to think twice.

We all come to Christ with jars. They come in various shapes and sizes. We fill them with people, possessions, property and plans. We hold on to them with a death grip. They give us purpose. We often allow them to define us. Our 'jars' are who we are. Yet, when the Samaritan woman met Christ, her jar was left behind.

We can't embrace Christ fully if our hands are full.

The Samaritan woman's jar was her familiar and her comfort, but it represented her pain and her past. She had to let it go. Her past was not her future. We too must learn to let go. Clinging only paralyzes us. When we cling too long our hearts become diseased by the deterioration of the things we refuse to surrender. Our unwillingness to release things keeps us in bondage, unable to move on, and get on with our lives.

Today God desires to meet you at the well of His grace and love. He is concerned about you and the 'jars' you carry. “Jars” of bitterness, jealousy, grief, guilt, envy, pride, unforgiveness, fear, and insecurity. "We curse ourselves by hanging on to the past and bring disease to our own spirits by refusing to let go of old, unhealthy habits."

Our 'jars' could also represent a relationship or a dream. The Lord does give us dear friends and He also places desires in our hearts. "He delights in doing so, but never with the intention that they should become the center of our existence, our oxygen or our lifeblood. We need to release the jars that keep us rooted to the spot where we now stand. Don't cling too tightly. God will not be relegated to second place in our lives."

The framework and foundation of our identity can be shattered if we build our entire world around our 'jar', whether it be a person, thing or dream. The line between the love of our 'jar' and idolatry is a thin one. If you can't bear the thought of leaving your 'jar' behind and living without it, it has become too dear.

The woman left her jar at the feet of Jesus. She came to the end of herself and let go. When we finally do this, He surprises us with things better than our eyes have ever seen, our ears have ever heard or our hearts have ever imagined. He knows what we want and need better than we do. When we least expect it, He comes bearing an unbelievable new 'jar' filled with all our heartfelt desires and dreams come true.

After the woman left her 'jar', she went back to the town. Today we will live, work, and travel in our 'towns'. We need to discard what we do not need for the journey ahead. Ask yourself, what do I need to leave behind to move forward with Jesus today?

Philippians 3:8 says, “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus Christ my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.”

We have to say goodbye in order to embrace a new hello. It take faith to say goodbye..and faith to say hello.

In her Bible study “No Other Gods”, Kelly Minter writes, “The real travesty is going through all the pain of a goodbye but never enjoying the fulfillment of a new hello." Every follower of Christ will have to take that walk to the well - it is the bridge between the old and the new. A 'jar' will have to be placed at the feet of Jesus, and that takes faith. "There is a finality that must be faced. Yet there are some surrenders that are purely necessary for life to blossom. Certain things - and I won't name them, because you already know them in your soul - choke us, wound us, and bind us in ways that keep us from moving forward. They deserve a farewell. Still we cling because the painful familiar is often more comfortable than the foreign amazing."

I believe God is watching us release 'jars' today that we have been clutching to our hearts and He is cheering saying, 'Now I can do amazing things. I'm ready to take you to the other side.' The question often is, will we let go and follow?

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Thursday, July 8, 2010

A New Grade

"Joy honors Me with her lips, but her heart is far from Me." (Matthew 15:8, Joy's personalized translation.)

Not exactly the words one wants to hear God speak. Convicting, yet not condemning. Words that have gripped my heart in recent weeks and provoked a deliberate time of soul-searching, hence my silence for over a month.

Words come easy to me. The writing of them is familiar. A pen is no stranger to my hand. It feels natural. Comfortable. Home. It's too easy to write what I know others want to hear, while hiding my heart.

Although many times I could have returned here over the past month, I have purposefully stayed away. It would have been easy to articulate the anticipated and echo the expected and no-one would have been the wiser, but I would have known the truth.

My heart began to detour as I was caught up in the gifts God was sending while ignoring the Giver. I began making poor choices. I have been a wanderer and a prodigal, not in the physical sense, but in my heart. I had strayed from my first Love.

A perfectionist, I give great attention to precise and proper words. Precise and proper living. There is a danger to perfection. It can be an enemy to authenticity. Legalistically I had been reviewing and evaluating my performance. Taking stock of where I was going spiritually. A good exercise to do occasionally, but my test results spoke of failure. Falling so far from the standard I had placed on myself absolutely overwhelmed me. Seeing my shortcomings and always aware of my inadequacies, my thoughts were again holding me prisoner to feelings of depression. I felt caught between that rock and hard place. It's been a time of inward reflection and contemplation. The view has not been pleasant. My heart has been laid completely bare. Secrets disclosed. Walls crashing. Freedom.

The Lord had to wean me from other dependencies. "The main danger of misplaced dependence is that it can border idolatry." (Streams in the Desert) Honestly friends, in the past I have sat by my computer for hours waiting for a message from a friend, but I was not waiting for the Lord with the same earnestness. God was saying to me, "Cease striving and know that I am God." (Psalm 46:10 NASB)

I had been lingering some distance from God. I had fallen short in my responsibilities as I've allowed and chosen other things to interfere with my prayer life. "Christ becomes more real to those who persist in cultivating His presence." (Streams in the Desert) My intimacy with God was hindered by my preoccupation with other people and things.

Wholeheartedness opens the way for genuine intimacy. As I lay my heart at His feet, He reminded me that nothing I do, or fail to do, could ever separate me from His love. When guilt conspires, God gives grace.

Oh Lord, how I long for love and passion for You to consume me. The Lord responded to this plea and my desire to know Him, by bringing circumstances into my life where I must trust Him more.

God has called me to step out in faith, with hope, and rely completely on Him. In the weeks ahead there are mountains ahead of me, roads to travel, unknowns and uncertainties, but God has already graded my paper and told me this time I've passed. Victory was secured by my obedience. The outcome no longer is of any consequence. I'm already celebrating my "A" and praising Him for the deliverance already promised!

"I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you." Genesis 28:15

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Saturday, June 5, 2010

Faith's Journey to Hope, Part 7: The Best Friend Club

"We all let people into our lives, but you will find that really good friends let you into your own."

All my life I've wanted a "best friend". I don't know why I've never had one. Not for lack of desire. It just hasn't been. Seemed like everyone else always had one. Envious of others who wrote of such a precious relationship, an emptiness remained. Throughout the years I would watch from the sidelines as best friends did best friend things. Sleepovers. Swapping clothes. Chick flicks. Late nights. Secrets shared. Giggles. Laughter. Hugs. Boyfriend I'm many years too late for that one!...but we can still share dating stories! :) I would longingly watch best friends as an observer, not a participant. I didn't belong to that club. At least, not yet.

Over the course of the next nine days God knit two hearts together. The stitching was elaborate. The thread, His Spirit. The design, a breathtaking original. One-of-a-kind. Diane had an uncanny sixth sense, instinctively knowing my little girl dreams and as if on a mission, she set out to reclaim childhood lost.

A drive to "The Love of Chocolate" for "Girlfriend candy".
"Fried Green Tomatoes" and Kleenex.
Shared Napoleon dessert at the bakery.
A road trip to North Carolina.
Late nights. Later mornings.
Hands held. Prayers spoken.
Shared clothes. Shared secrets.
Giggles. Laughter. Tears. Hugs.
Comfortable silences that speak beyond the power of words.

"The best kind of friend is the kind you can sit on a porch and swing with, never say a word, and then walk away feeling like it was the best conversation you've ever had."

We enjoyed the refreshing of those wordless retreats. An understanding that flows beyond audible communication. Time on the "porch swing" to just enjoy the treasure of being in the company of one another. Kindred spirits surpass the need for words.

Every day, along with the tangible gifts I received, I unwrapped another of much greater value. Acceptance. Love. Trust. Loyalty. Faith. Hope. Diane gave me the key of friendship and extended a welcome with a lifetime guarantee.

Today I continue to thank the Lord for the cup of blessing she has poured into my life. I thank Him for the good times warmed by her lighthearted laughter. I thank Him for difficult times made less challenging by her support and prayers. I thank Him for sharing times that wouldn't be the same with anyone else. God has been so gracious to allow me to join the "Best Friend Club". Nothing will ever compare to the precious memories I hold so dear to my heart.

What continues to make our friendship so special, is that we share the same Father. Together we crawl up on His lap for one another. We rejoice in His presence. Weep at His feet. Kneel in prayer. Worship the One who continues to weave His Presence through our lives. "A cord of three strands is not easily broken." (Ecc.4:12) Lord, thank You for being the One who knits our hearts as one.

"How lucky I am to have known someone who was so hard to say goodbye to." Unknown

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Friday, May 28, 2010

Faith's Journey to Hope, Part 6: The Most Beautiful Hands

To ensure I wasn’t dreaming, I felt the need to keep pinching myself. *ouch* No, this was real. Dream’s desire had become reality.

Walking into Diane’s beautiful home, I smiled. Although I had seen pictures, nothing compared to His presence welcoming me. A peace beckoned me to enter. A quietness called my heart to begin “Faith’s” journey to “Hope”.

She had prepared a room for me. A haven. A sanctuary. A bed had been readied. A treasured heirloom draped it in warmth. A stuffed, fury friend offered chocolate. (As an aside, this chocolate tasted really good early the following morning while sitting in bed with a cup of decaf coffee!) My attention was drawn to a basket. My eyes watered. Little parcels of love. Wrapped and dated. One to open each day while I was there. How do I receive such love?

Overwhelmed by the preparation that had gone into my arrival. Was it not enough that Diane had willingly opened her home to welcome me…but, now to extend all this kindness was more than my mind could fathom and my heart receive.

Each gift chosen personally for me. Beyond the content was the sacrifice. Sacrifice of time. Sacrifice of offering. Sacrifice of pain. The detail and effort did not go unnoticed. Specific Bible verses. Cards mounted on coloured card-stock cut in cascading curves. Hand-written messages on each one. Created by scarred hands. Pain endured for the sake of love. The assembly of these was no small task. Designed by beautiful hands. For beauty, true beauty is found in love. The very most beautiful hands I have ever seen. Hands that resist surrender to defeat. Hands that triumph over trial. Hands that love, care, protect and embrace. I only see beauty my friend. (I can’t fathom the effort it took to prepare this basket of gifts. Diane…am I really…really…really that loved?)

It is great love that endures such pain for another. Pain ‘from’ transformed to pain ‘for’. Scars received to scars redeemed. As I reflected on how beautiful her hands were to me, I realized I had seen these hands pictured before. They looked so familiar. Ah yes…her Father’s hands. Nail-pierced hands. Hands cruelly wounded and marred, yet held by love. Oh, no shame my friend…no hiding…no embarrassment…they are the most beautiful hands I’ve ever seen because they are just like Jesus.

Thank you for touching my life with His hands.

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Faith's Journey to Hope, Part 5: Look


Upon receiving this final text message, my heart beat quicker, my eyes scanning every direction. Where was she? Could she see me? Was she watching even now?

From a distance I saw her white van. I honestly thought I would burst out of my skin. After waiting for what seemed like forever to meet my precious friend, these final minutes were the hardest I had yet to endure. If longing could only close the distance between us, her vehicle would have been travelling so much quicker.

Parking her van, I reached up to open the drivers side door only to find it locked. Camera in hand she was trying to capture this encounter on film. The delay only heightened my desire. Enough! I’ve waited too long already.

In a second the door opened and I will never forget that hug. Embraced in the arms of my friend, we were at last face-to-face. Distance dissipated. Patience rewarded. Waiting over. The twelve hour journey worth everything. I didn’t want to let go. I held on tight. My heart felt ‘home’.

‘Home’. A place of rest, belonging and acceptance. I suppose in many ways, with Diane, I had been there for awhile. She had welcomed me over the threshold of her life months ago, extending hospitality to my thoughts, dreams, disappointments, fears and failures. She had not turned me aside, away or out. Taking my hand, tenderly holding my heart, she listened, prayed, encouraged and received. Shame didn’t shock. Questions never ridiculed. Secrets held secure. Silence accepted and not pushed. Laughter shared. Over a cup of “virtual tea” she never rushed my thoughts, expected perfection or hurried my heart. Patient. Caring. Identifying. Loving.

The waiting over, we stood looking into each others eyes. Mine smiled. A word has yet to be written to express such joy. I will breathe in and cherish that moment always.

I am reminded of a day that will come when even this excitement will seem as nothing. Another encounter. Another wait over. Another longing fulfilled. Another face-to-face moment. Another ‘home’.

Anticipation over. Faith becoming sight. A call to ‘look’ that will linger for all eternity. That day's overwhelming joy and delight becoming but a mere suggestion of what it will be like to meet Jesus and fall into His arms, face-to-face. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

And so our ten days began. We have so much to share about Faith’s trip to Hope. I trust you will continue to take time to return and share in this story of friendship.

Diane…in case I forget to tell you…I had a really great time. Love ya my BFF. Hugs!

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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Faith's Journey to Hope, Part 4: A New View

(Diane's part of our story continues. What a blessing she is to me!!!!)

Excitement leaped across the border as I read Joy's message, “It is set; I am really coming!”

I chuckled as I responded, “What are they going to do; toss you out of the car when you reach the I-95 and Richmond exit?”

Silence. An indication of apprehension. Realizing her fear was rising, my heart in sensitivity responded, “Don't worry. I'll be there to catch you.”

In less than a month Joy would be here. There was much to prepare, both in my home and in my heart. My world was far from perfect. It was one thing to open my life on screen, quite another to be seen. All safe guards would be removed. All covers gone. Ten days is a long time.

My life has been touched by trauma. Disability and divorce have fought to define me. Details aren't necessary, but in the aftermath of my circumstances, unwanted weeds had taken root and were strangling me with pain, loneliness, anger, resentment and bitterness. This is who I had become. These feelings had replaced God and I was allowing them to rob me of His healing work in my life.

I was questioning God. His purpose. His plan. Once an encourager, now I was the one in need of encouragement. Where was my help? Who was going to minister to me? Lord, don't you see all I'm going through right now? What about me?

Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever exhausted all your resources and come to a place of desperate longing, needing someone to pour into your life? Regardless of how strong your faith has been or how assured your belief in God, the path before seems clouded and uncertain.

Still loving my family more than words can express, a void remains. Every waking hour I miss the sound of their voices...their fun...their pranks...their laughter...their touch...their love and need for me. Yet deeper, my love and need for them. Walking a path I would have never imagined and longing to be obedient to God, I desperately want to be daily making right choices that please and honor Him, my life giving testimony to the hope within. Battered and bruised hope, but breathing hope. Joy's coming would not remove the emptiness, but provide a temporary diversion.

With Joy I had drawn back the curtains of my heart and she still welcomed the view. Her desire to travel to Virginia was driven by her longing to minister to me. Realizing that time had long since wearied me with the weight of mountains magnified on the landscape of my life, she had already shouldered my burden, walking so close, her feet covered in the dust from my footsteps. Searching the horizon, my hope was fading.

Sometimes we're just looking out the wrong window.

Joy's coming shifted my focus. Choices had to be made. Would I continue to feed anger and pain, or throw my efforts into preparing a welcoming haven for my friend? I knew her heart too was searching for a sanctuary of safety and retreat. I began to ready my home for her visit. Special treasures purchased. Hand-made gifts a labor of love. As my attention and energy changed direction, God began writing two new words across my life. Disability and divorce were being redefined by Hope and Faith.

Today I see life from a new view. With clearer vision I know I am not alone.

How about you? Are you looking back through anger, pain, bitterness, fear or shame? Maybe it's time to see through the eyes of Hope and Faith.

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Friday, April 30, 2010

Faith's Journey to Hope, Part 3: The Voice of Hope

(So excited that Diane is sharing today's post. This is not just my story, it's ours. Love ya friend!)

“You need to be careful, after all, you don’t even really know this person.”
“ Remind me, how did you connect with her again?”
“ Isn’t 10 days a little long? Are you sure about this?”

Those were just a few of the loving questions of concern I was met with the day I told my close friends that Joy was coming to visit me. Isn’t it a shame that we live in a society where we have to challenge our hearts and motives? As much as I appreciated their care and interest, never once did I doubt the motive of Joy's visit. I had been given perfect peace about the timing, length and purpose of her trip. Let me take you back to the beginning of my story.

I met Joy when I joined an on line blog with Proverbs31 Ministries. I was amazed that because of one woman's commitment to read through the bible in a year, “Faith” met “Hope”. Every day I would go to this blog and read the comments from precious women who were daily seeking God's heart. We became a circle of friends. We shared in each others everyday lives. The only thing missing was physically meeting eye-to-eye.

As the months went by and this group grew closer, I felt led to pray and petition for many of my new friends. I purchased a new pink journal where I recorded their names, as well as their “blog” names. Before I knew it, I had filled page after page with prayers and praises for them and their loved ones. These women were from all around the world. Kristen from California, Lori from Arizona, Nancy from Missouri, Channa from the Bahamas, and the list goes on. We all connected because of one woman, Wendy from North Carolina, who simply said, “Yes God, I’ll commit to facilitate this study.”

When Wendy needed to travel for a speaking engagement or take time away, although seldom done, she would ask Joy to fill in for her. That is when I think I really connected with Joy.

I had met her on the blog, loved reading her comments, and found her insight amazing. I also knew that during this time her heart was heavy for her daddy. You see, he was very sick and Joy asked for a lot of prayer for him. I remember praying continually for her dad. As time went on, her dad's condition worsened. All of us were praying daily for God to show Joy, and her loved one, evidence of His mighty hand.

I would pop in and out on Joy’s blog, leaving her notes to try and let her know she wasn’t alone. Others did the same and there was such a bond with this particular group of women, that words fail to give it justice. Over the next year Joy and I would write back and forth. As I reflect now, I think God was planting roots in our hearts.

Several of us planned to meet at the She Speaks Conference in North Carolina last summer, but Joy was not able to attend. I felt led to be her eyes. I took pictures for her and narrated the entire trip. It was funny how I would seem to capture pictures of the exact people Joy knew and wanted to see without her even asking. Since that time she has revealed to me how precious it was that I sacrificed the time to do this for her. It made her feel so special...almost as if she was there.

Now, let's return to our present adventure. Joy has already started you on the journey, but there are two things, that out of love she has not revealed to you yet. Through all of this I was going through a divorce. I also live with some disabilities. These details don't matter, except that if I omit mentioning them I will rob the Lord of countless praises and fail to let you see the many wonders of His mighty love for me!

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Faith's Journey to Hope, Part 2: God's Provision

“I'm praying for you my friend, but is there anything else I can do?” My question was filled with longing to minister to a need. I waited to hear how I could put action to my prayerful petitions.

“What time is your flight arriving?”

It was this response that echoed in my heart time after time. It was this answer that quenched anxiety and fueled faith. It was this reply that called me from complacency to courage and turned timidity into triumph. It was discovering that there are times when love trumps fear.

Longing to visit my friend, I began to pray for God to make a way. Many of you know that I am a white-knuckle airline traveler, yet I told the Lord I was willing to get on a plane if He asked it of me. Never had I felt such a pull to surrender all my inadequacies for the sake of another. Not only did I want to go visit Diane, I wanted to be Releasing the timing to the Lord was hard. Would He bring it about quickly? Surely He saw the need. Surely He would intervene. I would trust in Him.

Not long after I was sitting with a friend at Bible Study. She was excited as she shared about her upcoming trip to Florida. She and her husband were going to have a couple of weeks in the sunny South. They were leaving soon and driving down for a holiday. As I listened, a question formed in my mind and burst out of my mouth before I could contain it.

“You wouldn't want to drop me off in Virginia would you?”

Her immediate response: “Sure, no problem”.

As I was half joking with my question, I assumed she too was joking with her response. It seemed too easy.

Five days later I “happened” to see her again. Her first question to me was, “Did you really want to go to Virginia?”

Did I really want to go? Oh, I'd been praying for nothing else. Yes, I wanted to go!

Then, it was settled. She had already spoken with her husband and they would be happy to provide my transportation. My friend was thrilled to know that God was using them as an answer to my prayer. It would take us twelve hours to drive to Virginia and they were thinking of stopping there the first night anyway. They would 'throw me out' of the car at a designated destination and Diane could pick me up. Within minutes the plan was put in place.

I remember sending Diane a quick e-mail saying, “Friend...I hope you were serious...'cause I'm coming down!”

Within 24 hours I had rescheduled two weeks of appointments and agenda in order to take care of things while I was away. Every detail fell into place. My son received his driver's license and would have my car for transportation while I was gone. My husband was so supportive of this trip and encouraged me to go. I was able to arrange two weeks of Bible study in my absence and found a replacement for teaching Sunday School. Not one detour or roadblock appeared. Confirmation of God's hand on this timing.

I was as giddy as a young school girl. I had never taken a holiday by myself...ever! The adventure was about to begin!

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Faith's Journey to Hope, Part 1: Unwrapping Hope

“Good morning there sweetie,
Would you join me this morning for a cup of virtual tea?
We can just sit and enjoy each other as we wait for your results.
I would like to hear all about your life, family and what it is like to live in Canada.
I will share my life with you.
We can share all the blessings God has given us.
If at any time we need them, there is is a box of tissues beside us. We can use them for tears of fear or laughter.
Near the tissues is a Bible, ready to lead us to any of God's words as He directs.
There is my hand, ready to hold and my arms are ready to hug.
because I care.
Joy I am there today and I care my sister. HUGS!”

I had awoken that morning filled with fear. A series of medical tests had been completed and this was the day the phone should ring and results be shared. The possibility for unwelcomed news had birthed panic, instead of the peace I longed to claim. Anxious. Afraid. Alone.

A notifier on my computer indicated I had mail. The message above greeted me. Tears began to flow.

I first 'met' Diane through a Proverbs 31 Speaker's blog. She and I often left comments on the same site. We shared some mutual friends. I did not know her, but I always enjoyed reading her remarks. They were real...sincere...and frequently made me smile. She had a wonderful sense of humour, and my life had been lacking genuine laughter.

In the summer of 2008 I actually remember seeing her while attending the "She Speaks" conference in North Carolina. With almost 600 women in attendance, something...Someone...drew me to take notice. I heard life had recently been unkind and recognized a soul's emptiness through her eyes. I had often seen that same reflection in my mirror. Lack of courage kept me cocooned and I did not meet her, but her face was sketched on my heart.

Then, in January of 2009, we both embarked on a journey together to read through the Bible in a year. Daily I would leave comments on our facilitator, Wendy Pope's blog, and I'd always check to see if Diane had shared her response to that days reading. She many times would pen my thoughts and I looked forward with anticipation to find her heart revealed. Her authenticity and vulnerability drew me into her life and I longed to know her in a deeper way, but my insecurities kept me from reaching out on a more personal level. I was so afraid of rejection.

I began to pray for her...and I also continued praying for a kindred spirit friend...not knowing that God would intersect those two prayers and knit together one answer.

In March of that same year my world was turned upside down with my dad's unexpected nine-month hospital stay. My faith was tested. I was walking a road of tremendous heartache. Days I felt like I was suffocating in uncertainty and pain. I was questioning God and longing to see His hand restore healing. At times when I thought I couldn't endure another moment, a message would appear on my computer.

“Praying for you Joy,

“Have no regrets, no matter how hard, my friend. God has his hand in the center of your back and he will give you all the strength you need, and then just a bit more.
I am praying and thinking about you,

“You have been in my prayers and in my heart. Standing with you my sister”

I'm ashamed to say I rarely responded to her kind notes at first. I was just so exhausted. So weary. I appreciated her kindness, but blanketed in despair, I felt I had nothing to give, yet she didn't go away. As I look back over all her messages now, almost daily she was pouring into my life. She was a constant amidst the turmoil and the tears. For some unknown reason, she had taken up a burden that was not her own and was holding me up, encouraging me and showering me in love.

Having had friends walk away in my life recently, fear bound me. I couldn't stand the ache of rejection. Not now. My heart couldn't take loving and losing. I was cautious. I longed to respond, but I just couldn't find the strength to trust.

She continued to reach out. She included me in so much of her life. Unable to attend the "She Speaks" conference last summer due to my dad's extended hospitalization, she even took me with her via camera and video. I felt like I was there as I received pictures of my friends and 'talked' across the miles via the Internet. I couldn't fathom such kindness. No-one had ever given me so much.

Return now to a day in January earlier this year, and an invitation for virtual tea. She remembered. She cared. My heart was overwhelmed. Barriers of protection fell. The safe distance I had wanted to maintain disappeared. I was going to risk opening my heart and life.

Late night chats. Skype. Prayers. Tears. E-mails. Even comfortable, contented silence. Slowly I started to realize I had found a safe place. I began to see the blessings in brokenness and the delight found through a path of despair.

One night an honest, innocent statement was shared and all my defenses fell. The strength to resist collapsed. Like a retaining wall destroyed because of one weak crack, a flood of emotion poured forth and "Pandora's Box" was opened. My words were met with understanding. No judgement. No wrongs. No rights. Complete acceptance. As she received my heart without question, held it gently, cried with me, prayed and encouraged, I realized the most amazing gift had been placed in my hands.

I began unwrapping Hope.

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Kiwi Anyone?

(The following post was written as an entry for the "She Speaks Scholarship Contest". To read more about the She Speaks Conference, click here.)

I was afraid and went out and hid [my] talent in the ground. (Matthew 25:25)

As the runner dove for home plate, the ball slammed into the catcher's mitt. With a shout of affirmation the umpire hollered, “Safe!”.

Isn't that what we all long to hear? We desire safety almost above all else. We purchase security systems, install locks, buy alarms and firewalls for home, office and computers. We pray safety for our family. We want to live safe little lives, untouched, but sadly unfulfilled.

I don't want to go through life pursuing safety, while missing the Savior.

We are held hostage and paralyzed by the things that frighten us. We need to make personal all that God has made possible, claiming His promises.

Beth Moore has said that we are eating apples and oranges when there is kiwi available. We're like little birds splashing around in a mud puddle on the sidewalk, when there's a large pond just over the hill.

Author Hilary Price writes, “It's time to step out from huddling in the security of the little pool of light at the base of the lamp post, with all of it's limitations, and go on the road with Jesus – what an adventure!”

“She Speaks” is the kiwi, the pond and the adventure!

I have attended the “She Speaks” conference twice in the past. I have chosen safe seminars, shared safe presentations, and sat safely in the back row. I have pursued safe dreams and kept the treasures of my heart locked behind doors of inadequacy, insecurity and fear. What has this pursuit of safety done for me? Left me living a life overflowing with 'should have's' and 'if only's', disappointed in myself for not fully trusting God.

Josie Bissett writes, “Dreams come a size too big so we can grow into them.” Growing isn't safe. It requires stretching and seizing opportunities. God's dreams for me are big, but I have controlled the abundance right out of my life.

Tired of self-preserved living, I'm abandoning my safety in exchange for His security. Security implies such an assurance that there is no need for apprehension. Resting and trusting with full confidence that though life isn't always safe, God always is and He will not fail.

Safety says, “Don't register for the conference. The cost is great.”

Financially that might be true, but the cost on my life if I don't attend is a greater sacrifice. Another year passes. Another regret. Another missed opportunity. I don't know how God will provide, but I know He will.

Safety says, “Don't sign up for speaker evaluation or a meeting with a publisher.”

Failure looms and threatens in both these areas. Voices echo in my head that I am foolish to even consider trying. Failure and pain won't kill me, but meaningless will. A very dear friend encouraged me with this thought: “You can't claim victory if you don't get in the fight.” Again, Beth Moore writes, “Satan is standing on your God-given ground daring you to take possession of it.”

I've existed in safety too long allowing the enemy to claim land that is not his. "She Speaks" is an invitation to occupy my land. I need to take a stand on some broken, parched ground. It's time to live. It's time to allow God to stretch me. It's time to walk in obedience and “'Get your supplies ready... go in and take possession of the land the LORD your God is giving you for your own.' " (Joshua 1:11) Crossing the River of Fear, I'm heading to the Land of Promise.

Safety is completely over-rated. It denies and deprives us of adventures that God longs for us to experience. Adventures in faith. Adventures in living, letting go and leaning on Him.

Afraid, I have buried my talent in the ground, and along with it my dreams and desires.

The Master responds, “That's a terrible way to live! It's criminal to live cautiously like that!” (Matthew 25:26 The Message)

I'm trading my fragile dreams for God's phenomenal realities, trusting in Him to supply.

Standing on sacred ground.

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Saturday, March 6, 2010

Found at Sea

"Put out into deep waters." (Luke 5:4)

Living on the shore, splashing in puddles, I've been afraid of the deep. Afraid of my feet losing footing. Afraid of the fight and effort required to keep my head above water in deeper depths. Putting out into the deep would render me helpless. What if I dove in and couldn't make it back to land before drowning in a sea of vulnerability, pain and confusion.

"The depth of the water into which we sail depends upon how completely we have cut our ties to the shore, the greatness of our need, and our anxieties about the future."

Shallow seemed safer. Deeper decisions, dangerous.

Letting loose the lines that held me to the past, I've suddenly found myself flailing in unfamiliar waters. Going under, self submerged, His grace washes over me, soaking sorrow, sin and shame. Covered by His love, I long for forgiveness, acceptance and deliverance. Grasping for breath, I struggle, terrified of being exposed, left and abandoned.

Will I drown in billows of humiliation? Can I give myself permission to stop fighting the currents pull and believe Someone will hold me...carry me across to the other side? Can I leave the familiar shore for the foreign unknown? The water seems colder. The wind unfriendly. I panic as I sense the sharks circling, waiting for the opportune moment to strike. I feel my insides torn even without their touch.

Glancing at the faraway horizon, struggling and so very much afraid, lost and lonely, giving up, a life-line is thrown. I am not alone in the ocean. God provided a friend who has charted these waters and sailed similar seas. It will be hard, but I will not be alone.

When the undertow is strong and I want to surrender to it's pull, she encourages, "Keep swimming!" When the way back beckons louder than the call to journey forward, she implores, "Keep swimming!" When the weight of the burden I'm still clenching threatens to pull me under, she helps me open tight-fisted hands and with understanding whispers in my ear, "keep swimming". When the sound of the sea confuses me and panic overtakes, she yells above the chaos, "KEEP SWIMMING". When the waves toss me relentless and I'm battered and bruised by authenticities price, she tenderly cries, "Keep swimming, dear one, keep swimming". When I call for help she holds my hand. With her touch I suddenly notice that she swims beside me as God calms the raging storm in me.

I wish at this point I could share a conversation I had with the dearest of friends Thursday morning. Incredible doesn't begin to describe the journey she took with me. Through a carefully crafted illustration the waves continued to roll, but instead of fighting, we began floating in the Hands of God. She directed my gaze to a boat ahead and the Captain who was waiting for us there. When seen through God's eyes, the waves that were threatening moments before appeared gentle. God was rocking us in the cradle of His hands. His boat was anchored, reliable and dependable. "My darling baby girl, I am not going anywhere."

As I reached to borrow her binoculars to see the boat ahead, she pointed something out to me. I had freely let go of her hand...twice...and I had stopped flailing and kicking against the waves. Why? Because my eyes were back on Jesus. She reminded me that Jesus "provides that never ending anchored strength and calm in the storms of life."

Sometimes we just have to "relax and trust the process".

Thanks Diane. Love ya tons. I discovered I was never lost at sea, but found. His eyes have never left or shifted their gaze from me...not even for a moment. His stare steadfast. Exchanging my weariness for His rest. In floating I am strangely secure.

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Saturday, February 20, 2010


“So Abram left, as the LORD had told him...” Genesis 12:4

Leaving. Not a welcomed walk. Surrendering the comforts of our present 'home' for a fresh abiding. It could be physical, but more often it is emotional. Letting go of the familiar and embracing the foreign. Relinquishing the now for the new. If God is truly my hearts desire, why is that letting go so difficult? Why is it not easy to abandon all else for the pursuit of the Lover of my soul?

Maybe God is opening an opportunity for ministry, yet the steps seem uncertain. Waiting for clearer vision, desiring divine confirmation, we are hesitant to take that next step. The invitation was extended, but direction either way has been unclear. If we believe God is in control of our life, and everything that touches us is first sifted through His hands of allowance, could this not be His request? The Lord frequently uses His children in our lives as counselors and guides. Would this leaving and following bring God glory? Would faith be required and strengthened?

I was thinking about another area of my life where I've been seeking God's direction. I desire so much that a voice from heaven would just boom down in great clarity making my obedience easier. But God is not after ease. As His silence has remained, I'm the unsettled feeling His Spirit? Is the longing for change His sign? He gives us the desires of our hearts (Psalm 37:4). Is this desire the planting of the Lord and He is waiting to see if I will surrender something I love for Someone I love? Do I love Him more? Maybe God doesn't always make every decision perfectly clear for the purpose of revealing our heart. In our choosing we show our allegiance as to whether we love the Lord just in word, of if our lives are completely His, willingly following Him anywhere in everything. There's a sacrifice required, yet how can I even begin to compare this giving up with the cost of Christ's sacrifice.

It is only human to want to see before we step out on a new path with God, yet the call alone should evoke the obedience. I like all my “ducks in a row”. When I plan a vacation, before leaving home my itinerary is settled. Hotels booked. Destination planned. Steps of faith don't come that neatly organized. New journey's require leaving behind and facing the uncertain and unknown. Trying to carry the past into my present will weigh heavily and slow down my walk, dragging my feet as I carry the needs from a previous season. God is saying, “Let it go!”

I believe it was Oswald Chambers who wrote that we cannot worry about the positions or people left behind. God is aware of their needs and He will supply for the gap left due to our obedience. Our remaining and refusal to respond to the Lord will only rob another of their opportunity to answer God's call.

What has God been asking of you? Where have you felt that struggle and conflict of interest between you and God? Throw off all that hinders and like Abram, go without knowing all the details. Just take His hand. He will lead you to His Promise Land.

So Joy left, as the LORD had told her...

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Friday, February 12, 2010

Then Yesterday

I've been very unsettled lately. God appears to be taking a sabbatical of silence. There's been a void and nothingness that has awakened my heart in search of more while living in my less.

Around me stories circle of 'burning bushes'. God is speaking, calling and directing others, yet though my ears are attentive for His voice, I'm strangely detached.

No voice.


God's silence does not go unnoticed. It's deafening in it's absence, while all the while my heart cries for just a whisper.

Friends share how God is working in their lives, fulfilling dreams, designing opportunities and I rejoice with them while wondering what's wrong with me?

I echo Christ's cry, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46 NIV)

Some days, does it not feel like you are living in a soundproof room?

Yet, as each day is met with silence, I'm learning that instead of faith wavering, it's growing. Without answers, trust grows deeper roots. In the face of darkness, God is still there. I don't need His voice to validate His presence. My walk with God is often more like a series of bars of rest in a musical score, than it is a brilliantly orchestrated overture. Silence is the watering for the flower of faith to grow. Not silence on my part, but on God's. I keep talking to God. I keep expecting and anticipating while accepting. God's love for me is not defined by how many times He has spoken to me. His love was defined once and for all on an old wooden cross. Love reaching and touching beyond the power of words.

My faith is not founded on signs, the sensational, spectacular or superficial. It is founded on a Savior.

"Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believe." John 20:29 (NIV)

God's silence does not indicate abandonment or inactivity. The 400 years that span Malachi to Matthew were silent, yet not quiet. "In fact, the silences of Jesus are as eloquent as His words..."

Seasons of silence need to be endured. Walked through. God's silence can actually act like "a pretty accurate barometer of whether we really have faith in God." (A. Gregory)

Sometimes all I hear is the empty echo of my own voice. Though I know He is a fixed variable, at times He seems more irregular than constant.

Then yesterday.

His purpose was explained.
His presence bathed my quiet time in His Word.
His pleasure gave companionship as I walked.
His peace filled my heart as I shared concerns with a friend.
His plan was opened through an invitation.
His promises rebirthed hope.
His power infused me with excitement.
His pursuit took my breath away.
His pulse beat within my heart.

Then yesterday.

Now today.

I walk it with renewed wonder and knowing.

In the silence, God is here.

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Removing Blinders

Courage is more than seeing sin.

How often, because we so desperately desire to see good, are we deceived? Longing to believe that what is, isn't, we are quick to excuse and grab hold of any thread offered. A thread woven with lies. A blind eye will only hide sin, not remove it.

Francis Frangipane writes, “Sin wears a cloak of deception.” It embraces rationalization and compromises. “For sin engulfs the mind in a cloud of alibis and cover-ups as it seeks to keep itself alive. It twists and distorts the truth, and without plans for repentance it calmly reassures us, 'God understands; He'll never judge me.'”

“Should an embarrassing sin nearly be exposed through circumstances etc., we thank God that our secret problem remained hidden. As likely as not, however, it was not God who kept the sin hidden; it was the devil. The attitude of heaven towards sin is plain.”

Sin needs exposure. Some are easily deceived. Some don't count the cost of 'looking the other way'. Some are deluded into believing that which is false. In haste they believe any explanation, quick to endorse and excuse. It takes courage to see sin. It is painful. It tears us apart emotionally and physically.

“Proverbs 29:1 warns, 'A man who hardens his neck after much reproof will suddenly be broken beyond remedy.' Paul also warns of those whom 'God gave...over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonoured among them.' Why? Because 'they exchanged the truth of God for a lie' (Romans 1:24-25). Every sin is the exchange of the truth of God for a lie.”

Falsehood protects sin.

People are held spellbound in fantasy worlds of falsehood.

It takes courage to accept revelation to know the truth.

It takes courage to discern what is right. A covering of grace extended only perpetuates the evil when there's been no repentance.

Purify us Lord of lies and illusions.

Lord, give me courage to seek, see and speak truth.

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Motivated By Love

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven...a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak” Ecclesiastes 3:1,7

I'm discovering already that courage is required and demanded for a lot more than elevator rides and catwalks. When compared to yesterdays call to be brave, these are trite and insignificant. Weighed in the balance, there is no question how the scale fell. Only six days into this trek to 'take courage' and already I want to abandon the journey. Today I have a weak and wounded heart.

For reasons I cannot explain, yesterdays step of obedience in the path of courage, required divine wisdom and strength. Truth needed to be shared.

Stumbling upon the reality of a dear, precious soul embracing a lifestyle of evil was not something I wanted to discover. Yet, the Lord led me to this knowledge. What was I to do with it?

Courage and truth walked hand-in-hand. Silence would have condoned. I had to speak or others would pay an awful price for my personal discomfort. Yes 'discomfort', as I would have suffered alone carrying the burden of this news...yet to hear the words spoken only shared and deepened the pain. It was not a day for cowardice.

Courage to speak the truth. Withholding the truth would only delay the painful revelation. A friend wisely shared with me just two days ago, “Lies and secrets are never good grounds for loving.”

Knowing the land needed the tilling for good ground in preparation for the footsteps of the holy, some uprooting and exposure needed to take place in order to plant seeds on facts. Deceit's mask was manipulating. The revealing has left me completely spent.

How do you look into the eyes of those you wish you never have to hurt and gently share news that will cut so fiercely and wound so deeply that it steals your own breath away to utter its accuracy? You don't do it on your own, that's for sure. Led by the Spirit and surrendered to His plan, I opened my mouth for His filling.

These are not just mere acquaintances. Our relationship extends this painful privilege, one I wish had not been bestowed upon me.

Beyond the misery of truth's revealing is a life concealed and bound by lies. Choices are walking a path far from God and leaving such heartache and confusion in its wake. Sin never touches just one life. The devastation is wide-spread.

My motivation for yesterdays bravery? Love.

A soul is in grave peril.

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

More Than Stamps

Fighting to keep her composure, the clerk at the Post Office served the gentleman in line ahead of me.

He gave the common greeting, “Hi! How are you today?”

He received an uncommon response. The expected, yet often rote, ‘Fine’, was replaced with silence, followed by a broken reply, almost inaudible.

“We had to put our cat down today. Her liver stopped working.”

The gentleman expressed his condolences, seeming very uneasy. Handling a woman…a stranger woman in tears, was obviously not his area of expertise. Why did his wife send him to mail these parcels today!

Shortly thereafter I approached the counter. Normally I would have purchased the needed stamps and quickly moved on, but not today. Today I was choosing courage.

“I couldn’t help but overhear that you had to put your cat down today. I’m so sorry.”

A single tear escaped and trickled down her cheek.

I paid for my stamps and moved to the side. She served two other customers and then turned again to me.

“His name was ‘Andy’. We loved him so much. We had him for 17 years. I’m sad, but it’s my husband I’m worried about. He’s devastated. He couldn’t go to work today. I have just phoned to have a gal come and take over my shift here shortly so that I can go home and be a comfort to him.”

Now was not the time to tell this grieving clerk that I don’t even like cats. Now was not the time to shyly move away. Now was not the time to rush off to accomplish the next item on an already overly scheduled agenda. Now was the time to listen.

Her face brightened as she spoke of Andy’s antics. It was apparent that he was a much loved companion.

I left with her name and her husband’s name and told her I would be praying for them. Again she reiterated, “Oh, I’ll be OK, but please pray for my husband.”

Bravery came today in a sharing of sympathy, a listening ear and a promise to pray.

Adding a Post Script to the Elevator Saga:

If you read Tuesday’s post, you know “Day one” of my journey to choose courage had me riding in an elevator. Well, a funny thing happened yesterday. The very fitness center I wrote about here, was having repair work done, closing off the entrance to the stairs. Guess what? The only way up was to use the elevator! It’s a very small elevator and quite confining. Before Tuesday I would have discovered this predicament and walked away, deciding not to use the facility again until I could climb the stairs. Not yesterday. Yesterday I bravely faced my enemy again…looked him in the eye…pushed that button…and rose to greater heights! I also made a discovery. I was with my sister…and she seemed more nervous than me! ;)

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Call Me Crazy

Well, if you read my post from Tuesday, you know that I'm on a new adventure with the Lord. I shared with a friend yesterday morning how I am praying each day for the Lord to give me an opportunity to choose courage and she told me I was crazy.

You know what? I don't mind being called crazy for the Lord.

I don't mind being crazy if each day requires that I depend on Him a little more.

Crazy sounds great if I'm walking towards faith and away from fear.

I'd much rather live crazy in love with Jesus and following Him, then afraid. Let me tell you. I've lived with constant anxiety for years and it just wasn't working for me.

So, do you want to know what I did yesterday?

I have a membership at a Fitness Center where they have a walking track. I try and go daily and I walk at least two miles. There is one 'catch' with this track. It is, for lack of a better description, suspended on a second floor. The architectural design of this truly is amazing. As you walk you are entertained by the activity around and below. The problem? I'm afraid of heights!

Every day so far it has been a major challenge to go and use this facility. I didn't want to look down on skaters, swimmers, volleyball players, weight trainers, people coming and going in an open hall. I literally have to force my feet to keep moving while my palms sweat and my heart beats quicker (Which of course isn't bad considering I'm there for the cardio!)

There is one small section of the track that resembles a catwalk. It's a narrow, elevated walkway with railings on both sides. Approaching it, my knees always go weak. Yesterday this was my 'Goliath'. Knowing it was taunting me with threats of defeat, I began claiming God's promises.

“(Joy), preserve sound judgment and discernment, do not let them out of your sight; they will be life for you, an ornament to grace your neck. Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble” Proverbs 3:21-23.

Sound judgment. Good, proper and right assessment.

Discernment. True understanding and perception.

Wearing a necklace of truth, my foot will not stumble walking in God's wisdom. (As an aside, I was wearing my "peace for the journey" necklace from my friend, Elaine. I don't think I'll be leaving home without it these days. A great visual reminder and word of assurance that the Lord brings peace as I walk with Him.)

I walked that track 26 times yesterday and gained glorious victory. Just once I felt that flutter of panic as I glanced over and witnessed a man on scaffolding washing the glass windows at such height, while standing on such a small platform.

Who knows? Maybe one day!

For now, just call me crazy!

(If you think of it today, would you pray for my son, Chris. At 2pm this afternoon he will be trying his A.R.C.T. Solo Performer's piano exam. Two adjudicators will be coming down from the Royal Conservatory of Music and Chris will play for an hour - all by memory! He must receive at least 70% on each piece to pass. Please pray that the Lord will enable him to do his very best and that nothing would confuse, startle, distract or detour him from giving his best performance. He has worked so hard and this is the culmination of 13 years of lessons. It would be so wonderful if he could have this completed now, as his next semester in High School will be very challenging and in the Fall he heads off to University. Thanks for much for your prayers. I think my 'fear not' challenge today will be sitting outside the examination room in peace and enjoying this final performance.)

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I Rode An Elevator - TWICE!

From self preservation to brave determination.

Watching Session Four of Beth Moore’s DVD series on Esther for the third time today, that sentence began to penetrate my thoughts.

Self preservation. An instinctive tendency to protect oneself from harm.

Beth said that we can protect ourselves right out of our callings. We are our own biggest obstacle in overcoming fear.


That nasty four letter word that has plagued my life.

Beth said we might be just one brave decision away from our destiny.

For almost 48 years my life has been motivated and manipulated by fear. Every decision has passed through a grid of anxiety. Almost every time, without fail, I have chosen safe and secure.

Can’t go skiing with my family for fear of falling.
Hate being on the boat for fear of drowning.
Refuse to speak up in a group for fear of appearing foolish and not being accepted.
Won’t sit near the front for fear of a panic attack.
Never get in elevators for fear of being stuck or cables breaking.
Don’t stand when speaking for fear of fainting.
Miss out on travelling for fear of flying.
Not booking an airline flight for fear of crashing or hijacking.
Terrified of animals for fear of being bitten.
Didn’t participate in sports when young for fear of being injured.
Awake all night in thunderstorms for fear of lightning striking.
Nervous of every Dr’s appointment for fear of a life-threatening diagnosis and terminal illness.

My list just goes on and on. Each fear breeds another fear. I believe many were taught to me as a child, but that's another story.

This morning Beth encouraged us not to deny the reality of fear, but to deny it’s authority or victory over us. With every decision there is always, ALWAYS, a possibility to be brave. We will never be in a fearful situation where God doesn’t offer us the courage of His presence.

Proverbs 3:10 speaks of the wife of noble character. Beth explained that the original Hebrew word for ‘noble’ used here is an army term that means ‘brave’. A woman of valour who can find? Proverbs 31 is about a courageous woman. Oh, how I want to be a P31 woman.

Funny, I write that and it makes me laugh. Years ago God placed it on my heart to be a P31 Woman. I always thought it meant I needed to move to the States and be part of the P31 Ministry. Thinking now…maybe not.

Ambrose Redman said, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but the judgement that there is something more important than fear.”

In His Word, God calls us often to “take courage”. It’s like He has it there, in His hands, available, and He is encouraging us to just reach out and receive it.

Beth said that we decide how good our story is going to be. My story up until this point, although peppered with some profound moments because of a few right choices, is more a lullaby than a symphony. I might only be one good decision away from the most important step in my destiny.

With tears pooling in my eyes, I silently bowed my head.

Father, I long to know what it’s like to live without being held in the tight fist of fear. Lord, from this moment on I want to choose courage. Will You place before me an opportunity today to choose to be brave? Give me strength to live. Really live.

Today was a great day to utter those words. Dad had a repeat of the procedure that began our horrific journey last year. As both my sisters were unable to accompany my parents today, one due to illness and the other due to commitments, the responsibility of their care fell to me. The day went amazingly well. The Lord sent Dad’s favourite nurse from last time to care for him. The surgery went well. It was time to take Dad home. All patients being discharged must leave in a wheelchair. We needed a wheelchair. They were on the main floor. We weren’t on the main floor. It’s pretty much impossible to get a wheelchair up the stairs or on an escalator.


Me on an elevator.

Me and a wheelchair alone on an elevator.

Lord, You know I’m terrified of elevators. I climb multiple flights of stairs and avoid them like the plague. You are extending courage.

Joy…take courage. Take courage.

With each step those words walked before me.

There is never a situation where I cannot choose to be brave.

Me and a wheelchair alone on an elevator.

Doors close.


Pushing a button.



Up and down.


Doors opening.






I rode an elevator - twice today.

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

All IS Well

Well, yesterday I received my first e-mail encouraging me to come back. So here I am. I have been most grateful for the time “away”, not physically at some distant location, but time away from the daily demands I had placed on myself here. God had called me to come away and I had to give myself permission to let go and rest. They say music is sweeter after a rest, so I trust the melodies conducted through His hand here now will sound lovelier and more harmonious.

Saying that, I’m afraid today’s tune is punctuated with minor chords. I awoke this morning excited to read God’s Word. I crept silently downstairs, turned on a tri-lamp to a low light, stopped momentarily to ask the Lord to speak His Word to me today, give me ears to listen and then opened my first devotional for the morning.

This year I am reading from two devotional books. One is the classic, “Streams In the Desert” and the other devotional came from a precious friend at Christmas, “Jesus Lives” by Sarah Young.

Here’s my quandary today. What do you do when both readings speak of trials tomorrow? I mean, I know struggles come. None are immune to their appearance in our lives. But here’s the thing. I was feeling great. I was anticipating a wonderful day. I was looking forward to spending time in God’s presence and receiving His blessing. Suddenly, my entire outlook changed. Suddenly fear has me gripped in it’s vice. Suddenly panic presented itself in a quicker pulse, a pounding heartbeat and sweaty palms. God’s Word, which should bring calm, brought confusion. Peace departed. Anxiety entered. I wasn’t aware of any concern in my tomorrow. I am awaiting results from my Doctor, but they should come today. Why did two readings that call me to trust God with the hours before me make me fearful? Do I not really know Him? If I truly embraced His presence, would these words not bring comfort instead of distress? Suddenly these daily readings became a horoscope predicting gloom.

Father, please teach me how to read these treasured writings, apply them and meet You through their pages. Lord, I don’t want to be coming to Your Word in terror each morning. Today I should be thanking You for promises found. Promises of peace. Promises of provision. Promises of protection. Promises of presence. Promises of perseverance. Promises of a prepared path. Promises of power. Promises of purpose. Yet today what I hear loud and clear are Your promises of pain.

Father, I know your children are not exempt from suffering and persecution, but the warnings today in both devotions have left me so anxious. What have I missed? Where have I allowed the evil one to control my thoughts and replace delight with doom?

Using an expression I’ve often heard my mom say, I’m talking to myself like a Dutch uncle. I must remind myself that whatever tomorrow holds, God is already there. He is already in my tomorrow. Time is not the same to God. My ‘tomorrow’ could be years away. My tomorrow may not hold a direct hit, but a coming alongside sorrow. He reminds me that He goes on ahead of me. (John 10:4)

I don’t want to lose the gift of today held captive in the possible grief of tomorrow. Lord, help me not to miss the “splendors of the present moment” as they parade before me. Help me believe in Your sufficiency in every situation. Keep me from worrying about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:34)

Dark is the sky! And veiled the unknown morrow!
Dark is life’s way, for night is not yet o’er;
The longed-for glimpse I may not meanwhile borrow;
But, this I know and trust, HE GOES BEFORE.

Dangers are near! And fears my mind are shaking;
Heart seems to dread what life may hold in store;
But I am His - He knows the way I’m taking,
More blessed even still - HE GOES BEFORE.

Doubts cast their weird, unwelcome shadows o’er me,
Doubts that life’s best - life’s choicest things are o’er;
What but His Word can strengthen, can restore me,
And this blest fact; that still HE GOES BEFORE.

HE GOES BEFORE! Be this my consolation!
He goes before! On this my heart would dwell!
He goes before! This guarantees salvation!
HE GOES BEFORE! And therefore all is well.

J. Danson Smith

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Monday, January 4, 2010

Loud and Heartily

One of the scenes depicted in the Christmas musical presented at our church this year, was a scene right out of Dickens. Adorable children in old fashioned nightgowns awoke Christmas morning to empty bellies and no presents. The Director of the orphanage tries to encourage the children to look beyond their circumstances. Though the situation appears bleak, maybe if they sang a song loud and heartily the Lord would hear and respond.

The children then sang a song with a chorus that said:

“With a little bit of faith we can do it
With a little bit of hope come what may
And no matter what the test we’ll make it through it
It’s not hard to see the answer’s on its way.”

My thoughts today ponder, what about when it is hard to see the answer on it’s way? What about when circumstances continue to worsen making trust difficult?

God wants us to have faith. Believing faith. The Lord desires singing loud and heartily before the answer arrives. We need to praise and thank the Lord for the answer yet to come.

Faith is taking God at His Word. We don’t learn faith from the easy chair. For faith to grow it must be challenged. Those circumstances that look past the point of no return can be reversed in an instant. Beth Moore says that God is working where we least expect Him. He is working where He is least invited. Faith precedes the turnaround.

Lord, today I specifically think of a situation that seems so far beyond anyone’s control. Thank You that it is not beyond the reach of Your hand. Father help me not to waver through unbelief or pray faith diminishing prayers. Give me faith to keep believing. I’m lifting my voice and singing loud and heartily and waiting for Your response.

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Sunday, January 3, 2010

Setting the Pace

Dad took part in a campaign for our local hospital years ago entitled, “Setting the Pace”. It was a fundraiser that encouraged different companies, organizations and individuals to donate money to expand and equip the existing medical facility. Each one was to ‘set the pace’ by example and excellence, being leaders in advancing technology to the ‘cutting edge’.

I read a verse today that touched my heart. A verse where setting the pace was not about striving harder or raising the bar higher.

“I (will) move along slowly at the pace of the droves before me and that of the children.” Genesis 33:14

Isn't that beautiful? The pace was not set by the swift, or those with the longest stride, but by the slow.

My mind pictures a family at our church. The husband is well over six feet tall. A week ago I walked behind them entering the building from the parking lot. Daddy was carrying the youngest, while their three year old son ‘ran’ at his side. Yes, this precious cherub, with short little legs, was desperately trying to keep up with his daddy. Thankfully they didn’t have far to go, as I could see exhaustion, discontent and distraction already changing to whining and complaining.

Today the Lord knows how you and I are formed and remembers that we are dust (Psalm 103:14) With the entrance of a new year, He is well aware you and I have not walked this path before. He will move us along at a pace He knows we can handle. If we feel the pace pick up, it's because He already knows we’ll make it. He’ll either strengthen us for the footsteps required or suddenly halt the journey, understanding our need for rest, knowing right now, we just can’t take any more or go any further. Such compassion and consideration for each day’s journey. The Lord knows and the Lord knows how.

Father, I will walk alongside You this year. I will allow You to set the pace. Sometimes we’ll stroll. Other times we’ll run. But always…always…hand-in-hand.

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Saturday, January 2, 2010

Aspire Higher

My son and his friends saw the movie “Up”. Apparently, the main character, Carl, realizes that sometimes life's biggest adventures aren't the ones you set out to find. Often the adventure lies not in the destination, but in the journey.

This morning the Lord woke me early to spend time with Him. In His presence He was calling me ‘up’. Asking me to choose to live above. More than a movie marquee, this word needs to be a morning by morning mentality. Refusing to be satisfied with the meagre and mediocre, I must aspire higher.

I’ve always been afraid of heights. I’ve never climbed a tree or scaled a mountain. I don’t ride roller-coasters, sit in balcony’s, enter elevators, look over railings or wear high heels. Yet, more than the physical fear of heights, it has smothered and stifled spiritual ascent as well. I linger in lowlands, terrified of mountain peaks. As expressed in “Streams in the Desert”, I too often stay in the mist of the valley and never learn the mystery of the hills. I indulge self, never knowing the glory that accompanies the courage of the climb.

One of my favourite quotes of A. W. Tozer says, “Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to my soul, ‘Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.’ Then give me grace to rise up and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wondered so long.”

Lord, is there a mountain You desire that I climb? I’ve always enjoyed pictures of mountains. It’s the terrain of Switzerland that has always captivated and lured my heart. May I not be satisfied with scenes or pacified with photographs.

I desire to live “up”. Physically that means living free of my fear of heights and learning the mystery of the mountain by finding courage to say ‘yes’ to opportunities that are bigger than me, but not bigger than God. It means abiding by His heart. Mentally “up” involves a mind renewal. Emotionally it would result in rejoicing in the Lord always.

Not just adjustment in altitude, but attitude.
A new outlook from position and dispostion.

Father, remove my longing for level ground. There’s an inspirational incline calling my name. I desire all my tomorrows find me looking down on today. May each day bring me higher.

God’s Word says that there is victory for the upright (Prov.2:7).

Remember the land God told me to take possession of yesterday? Today He is saying, “For the upright will live in the land.” (Proverbs 2:21)

“I want to scale the utmost height,
And catch a gleam of glory bright;
But still I’ll pray, till heaven I’ve found,
Lord, lead me on to higher ground.”
(Johnson Oatman, Jr.)

And now...just for a little fun:

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Friday, January 1, 2010

Live, Love, Laugh

Live Love Laugh

I’ve seen decorative signs with those three words so often.

Words without meaning to me…until today.

Today I did all three.

Today I gave myself permission to abandon agenda.

I awoke shortly after 7am. I quietly crept downstairs to a dimly lit corner to commune with the Lord while my guys slumbered. I was struggling with letting go of 2009. Why I’d want to hold on is beyond me, yet surrendering it to yesterday and embracing today was frightening me. What would 2010 hold?

The Lord heard my questions, and opening my devotional I read, “To those who are anxious comes the gracious promise…He is the Source of our mercies, mercy will never fail us.” “The Father comes near to take our hand and lead us on our way today. It will be a good and blessed New Year.” “The land you are…to take possession of…it is a land the LORD your God cares for; the eyes of the LORD your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to it’s end.” (Deut.11:11-12)

Reading this, and even remembering it now, His power permeates my entire being, empowering me to trust. I decided I would live today to the full, filled with His fullness.

I did three loads of laundry. Ironed 15 dress shirts. (My two men like to look nice!)Washed a sink full of dishes by hand. Took time to prepare a special lunch for my guys. Wrote eight hand-written, snail mail notes to friends. My guys and I played a game of Scrabble. Words, imagined and real appeared to squeals of delight. Dictionaries were consulted. Dictionaries were questioned. Dictionaries were discarded. I threw my head back and laughed so hard. Laughter has been such a stranger. I honestly can’t remember the last time I knew such unbridled joy. I watched a couple of movies tonight just for the sheer pleasure of doing so. They didn't have a lesson or a moral. They were just fun. Around 9pm, I made a cup of tea, just for me. Serious and sensible were surrendered for silly.

Free from pressures, expectations, perfection and pleasing others. Releasing myself from personal mandates, deadlines and commitments. Today I lived…I loved…I laughed.

No longer an alliteration on a decorative plaque.

Words that breathe, feel and dance.

Words that held me in their embrace today.

I think this will be my theme song for 2010.

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