20/20 Vision: Computer Glasses

I love new things! Always have. When I was a kid, if I saw something new advertised during Saturday morning cartoons I wanted it. It didn’t matter what it was – it was new! I was curious. I love to try new foods, visit new places, and make new friends. I even love moving to a new town – though that one is a double-edged sword since I hate to say good-bye to old friends.

At my recent yearly check-up with the eye doctor, I found something new! It may be old hat to you, but I did not know opticians now offer computer glasses. I was complaining to my optometrist about my struggle doing research that combined book work and computer work for several hours in a day editing this blog, and writing lessons and Bible studies. She responded that I would probably benefit from “computer glasses.” She went on to explain that the lenses were made to accommodate up close and moderate distance vision, but not the needs of seeing at a far off distance.

It was new! It was intriguing! I took the bait and ordered a pair. I must say, they solved my problem. No more neck aches from leaning my head back to see out of a different place in my progressive lens. Blue-light blocking built in so that my eyes don’t get tired or damaged from so much screen time. And clarity, whether I’m reading small print in my book or scanning a screen for Greek word definitions or C.S. Lewis quotes.

On a particular sunny morning as I sat at the kitchen table researching, my work-at-home-because-of-COVID husband strolled through on his coffee break to get some pistachios. He paused, looked at me seriously, and asked, “Are you wearing your computer glasses?” I reached up to touch the glasses I had on and realized I was not.

pexels-karolina-grabowska-4468154“No. I forgot to swap them out for my driving glasses when I came in from the post office,” I replied.

“I thought not, you were leaning your head back at a weird angle to look through the bottom of the lens. I figured if I didn’t say something you’d end up at the chiropractor with pain in your neck again.”

He was right. I was grateful. I’m glad I had someone to notice and offer me correction for something I was totally unaware of.

Sometimes we are like that in spiritual life. We may be doing something that we don’t realize may hurt us. Unless someone with insight notices and points it out before the consequences set in, we may find ourselves in pain or trouble. That is why discipleship/mentoring relationships are so important.

What is discipleship?

A discipler/mentor is one who walks alongside another to train them as followers of Christ by scripture study, prayer, accountability, and modeling the Christian life to them just as 2 Timothy 2:1-2 and Titus 2:3-5 show us.

And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. 2 Tim. 2:1-2

Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.” Titus 2:3-5

We all need a mentor, one to walk through life with us and point out to us when we don’t have our computer glasses on. When what we are doing does not line up with what is best as we see in God’s Word.

pexels-samantha-garrote-2467396It has been said that the discipling in our life should look like a ladder. At any time in life, whatever rung of the ladder we are on, there should be someone one rung above us reaching down to help us move up. At the same time we should be reaching out to those on a rung below to share our godly wisdom and help them move up to the next rung of understanding and spiritual growth.

Is it time for you to invest in another’s Christian walk?

Would you pray about discipling someone today?

(Check out GFBC’s Flourish Discipleship opportunities!)

 

Not My Forever Home

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.                    2 Corinthians 5:1

House hunting was surreal to me at the time. It had been so long since I had been a homeowner I somehow felt like I was pretending. We had moved from house to house, and I had long declared we moved more than a band of gypsies.  I had seen the grand old house on the internet, social media most likely, and from the moment I saw it I was head over heels in love. I looked through those pictures dozens of times. I imagined myself living there and what my days would look like. I have a flair for the dramatic and an overactive imagination, so before long I had myself tied up in a mortgage, living my best life in the century-plus beauty built by the Railroad Man. In my imaginary world I had forgotten completely the obstacles to be overcome. The Old Girl had a contract on her, in person she was in disrepair, she needed so much in the way of work. I lacked the budget and the skill to bring her up to code. As the closing date for the contract that was on her drew close, my realtor called me to say she was off the market. I cried.

How could I have been so wrong? I just knew the Old Girl would make me happy. I mourned her loss and felt lackluster about continuing the home search. I was in such despair I had failed to recognize the goodness and faithfulness of God.

I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. John 14:3

I had seen past her peeling paint, saggy floors, uninsulated walls, faulty wiring, pest issues and insurmountable yard work and made her mine in my imagination, how could anything even compare? Every subsequent house after that, paled in comparison and I always managed to find something wrong with every house we went to.

My Husband and our realtor must have grown weary with me and my constant complaints. They are both patient and gentle souls. Both love music, are musically talented, and both love the Lord. We had been to see a home my husband had found. It was modest, in a neighborhood, had all but one of my boxes checked, no fireplace. I just kept saying, “I just don’t know.”

We were sitting in my realtor’s office when she spoke one of the single most life-changing, thought-provoking truths to me. As I write this, I wonder if she even knows. I wonder if she has any idea the impact she had on me that sweltering summer evening. She was perusing the MLS again, looking for anything that might fit us. She knew how much I loved the Old Girl that never was and she sympathized but she’d advised early on that it was a lot of work and that we would be tied to that Old Girl every free moment we had. As we had spent another day traversing the roads and shopping for abodes she had to have been tired. I just kept the “I just don’t know” monologue up. She put her folded hands on her desk and leaned forward in my direction. She said my name to get my attention. 

“I think you’re like me, this world is not your home, and there is not a house on this planet that is going to make you happy.” If she’d’ve had a Nerf gun and hit me between the eyes she wouldn’t have made more of an impact. She was right. My dissatisfaction was not that I could not have what I thought I wanted or that every other home was subpar.

My problem was I was looking in the temporal for the contentment of the eternal.My problem was I was looking in temporal for the contentment of the eternal. My forever Home is Heaven; I am just passing through this earthly one. I made a decision that day to purchase the all-but-the-fireplace checked box house. I live there now. It is my home. We have spent hours in the yard, gazing at the Heavens. It has become a work from home weather office, a school. It is just right for us, and it amazes me still that I have a back porch where I can look at the trees and talk to the King. He knew all along what I needed, not just a home but someone who could see beyond my protests and speak the Truth in Love to me. Recently, I said something about the Old Girl, a reflection or a memory perhaps, when my son declared his favorite house is our home.

“The one we live in now?” I clarified.

He confirmed it was. He is content, and in his contentment I came to the realization I am too. 

But godliness with contentment is great gain. 1 Timothy 6:6

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Delta Means Change

My daughter moved this week to the Mississippi Delta. Her husband is working at Delta State University (DSU). As I saw the green triangle, a symbol for the school, I was thrown back to high school physics and Mrs. Frankie Underwood, my outstanding physics teacher.

Mrs Underwood was a tall, buxom lady who ruled our honors class with an iron fist, yet benevolently. She expected the best of us: study diligently, turn in your work on time, make the best grade you can, pay attention in class – all the basics. If we failed to toe the line we were loudly reprimanded in front of the whole class. In her booming Southern voice she warned us that we were about to become “a lost ball in high weeds.” This was the greatest tragedy and failure in her mind. We, the brightest and best in math at our high school, to be lazy or careless or not try, to be a useful object lost by the wayside – this was failure.

She taught us about force, inertia, and friction. She ground into us the slope formula, I still remember it, m=rise over run. She made us do word problem after word problem, turning the real world into mathematical equations that were useful. We talked through aps,504x498,small,transparent-pad,600x600,f8f8f8and experimented with velocity, acceleration, drag, wind and Delta, Delta V I remember particularly. We should have all become experts under her tutelage. I remember her showing us this simple equilateral triangle used to represent “change” in physics formulas. I still use that symbol in writing notes instead of writing out the word “change.” I’ve long forgotten how to compute formulas using the delta, but I still immediately think of change when I think of this symbol. 

So, this weekend as we moved my daughter and son-in-law into their new apartment, change was definitely on my mind. With triangles everywhere at DSU, I would have to be blind not to think of change. But also, there were the drastic changes in their life together: an upheaval, leaving a home they’d been in since their honeymoon, a church family that was more like biological family, and all their friendships, old jobs, favorite restaurants, and sentimental places around town.  

Change was heavy on my mind because my adult daughter will tell you she has never liked new things or change. She was the 2-year-old who didn’t want to learn to dunk her head under water at the pool, and was furious with me when I dunked her. She was the 8 -year-old wanting to grow up and sing solos in her children’s choir, but was fearful of the new changes she would face trying. She was the 10-year-old girly girl who was upset when her tomboy-ish 13-year-old sister suddenly wanted to start dressing more girly. She is the 27-year-old who lamented leaving her old home, friends, and church this week even though she knew an exciting new adventure awaited her with the Love of Her Life there in the Mississippi delta.

pexels-alexas-fotos-2277784Our world is also in a state of change – upheaval. The security we felt a year ago to just live life, spend too much money, hang out at the ball park, and hug people we met, that has melted away. The security of life operating by pretty much the same rules we had known since childhood has vanished. A willingness to share our opinions has dissipated as we feel we may be attacked for our ideas. The world is in a state of change. 

Are you, like my daughter, struggling with change?

Is all of this pandemic, political divisiveness, and social unrest just too much?

Are you struggling with an underlying sense of uneasiness, worry, nightmares, depression, or anxiety attacks?

Then ladies, it’s time to do what we always do in every situation, especially in uncertain times, we turn to God’s Word.

So I take you back to the time of the Patriarchs… Jacob was a man who faced many great changes. He changed (faked) his identity with his dad to steal his brother’s blessing. He was forced to leave his childhood home in fear of his life after that, so he moved far away. He fell in love with a beautiful girl and asked her dad permission to marry her, but his father-in-law changed out the bride on him! He went into marriage single and care free, and within a week had TWO wives and a battle of jealousy on his hands. He had 11 sons and decided to head back to his parent’s homeland only to find out his father-in-law had changed out the sheep to keep Jacob and his wives there. Jacob’s life changed with grief at the death of his precious Rebekah. Then he had grown sons who acted with jealousy against their brother and caused Jacob grief again at the loss of a favored son. He faced the changes of environmental factors as famine hit, which triggered more risk and loss. His whole world was rocked when he found out his dead son was really alive! And finally, in his last days he had the huge change of moving to Egypt to live out his days.

What can we learn from Jacob about change?

Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O Lord, who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your relatives, and I will prosper you,’ 10 I am unworthy of all the lovingkindness and of all the faithfulness which You have shown to Your servant; for with my staff only I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two companies. 11 Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, that he will come and attack me and the mothers with the children. 12 For You said, ‘I will surely prosper you and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which is too great to be numbered.’” …

24 Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25 When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” But he said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 He said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.” 29 Then Jacob asked him and said, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And he blessed him there. 30 So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.” 31 Now the sun rose upon him just as he crossed over Penuel, and he was limping on his thigh. Genesis 32

Jacob learned…

  1. He learned that God speaks to us in our moments of change.
  2. He learned that God blesses us and is faithful to us.
  3. He learned that we have a choice – to choose God as our own Lord or to live with our old sinful, deceptive ways.
  4. He learned to revere God as Holy.
  5. He learned how to trust God through all the change, deception, betrayal, and loss.
  6. He learned that God is a gracious provider and deliverer.
  7. He learned not to fear, but to trust.
  8. He learned to wrestle with God in prayer in the middle of the night, and to not let go of Him.
  9. He learned that God can give you a new name, new habits, and a new identity when He becomes Lord of your life.

Don’t fear change, ladies. Embrace it. Learn from it. Seek God in the middle of it. Stay in His Word, listening for Him to speak to your heart. Pray. Let Him find you there in your fear and wrestling, and He will bless you and give you a new name. And don’t be A Lost Ball in High Weeds! Live with Him in faith and fulfill your potential in His plan! 

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Do not fear! Change is all around in the world Our Creator made!

 

This Will Make a Great Story One Day

Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen. Psalm 77:19

Tough situations in life often leave us with a great story to tell.

As a college and young adult person I hated negative events that popped up in life: having an unexpected flat tire, running across campus in a sudden downpour and having to sit through class a muddy mess, getting lost in a strange city causing me to run late to an important interview, those type things. My goal as a young adult was to avoid all “bad” and ” difficult” circumstances. I know. I was very naive. You can’t expect to have only sunshine and roses in life.

A particular event my last year of college helped me change this “difficulty avoidance” I embraced. My brand new husband, Randy, and I headed out for a picnic to a local lake because we were a broke, college, married couple, and for cheap entertainment you could eat sandwiches out in nature just as well as you could at home. About 7:00 p.m., after a long summer’s day of swimming, picnicking, and fishing, we were looking for a small adventure to complete our outing. We got the park map and saw a road the led to the earthen dam which had been built to create this lake. It sounded like something worth of a brief exploration, and it was on the road out of the park, so we packed up our gear and headed that way.

We found the turn off and drove down the rutted, dirt/clay road to the dam. It was very anti-climactic! Disappointment. It looked like any other bank of the lake; there was no real view of the dam itself. Within 5 minutes we were back in the car to head out.

muddy-road-694774_1280I neglected to say that it had rained all through the night before this picnic adventure. I did say it was a rutted road and a clay road. I also neglected to say this dam was at the bottom of a long, somewhat steep grade. As my husband started up the first bit of incline in the road our tires spun a bit. He kept trying and spinning for a minute, then realized he probably needed to back up to a flatter place and get a running go at The Hill. Second and third try had the same basic result – either tires would spin or we’d run into one of the deep ruts and get stuck and have to back down The Hill to get out. It was then that fear came creeping in.

It was getting late. The sun was setting. The park closed at sundown. No one knew we were here. And yes, it was The Time Before Cell Phones! We were alone, left to our own devices to get out of this one.

I would like to say we prayed and were at peace and God provided a way out, but that is not the true story. We were getting more and more anxious, didn’t think to pray, and felt we had to figure this one out. More than just providing a way out, God provided a lesson we’ve never forgotten.

We walked up and down The Hill a couple of times examining the possibilities. My hubby thought he might be able to get more traction if he drove very close to the roadside near the trees where there were more leaves, sticks, and rocks. We were hopeful, this fourth try looked promising. We backed down to the flat place, revved the engine, took off along the edge of the road… started spinning and fell into a rut again. Stovalls = 0  The Hill = 4. The anxiety was growing because it was getting darker as the sun fell lower behind the trees.

Being the engineer that he is, Randy realized we had to deal with 2 problems: getting traction and staying out of the many long, deep ruts. So his proposal was we spend the next hour before total darkness dragging fallen branches and sticks and rocks from the woods to fill in the ruts and strew across the lengthy, slick patches of wet clay road. It would take most all the daylight we had left and leave us with only one shot to get up The Hill to safety. Failure would mean spending the night in the car. Alone. No food. No water. No restroom. No one knowing where we were.

I was skeptical and a nervous wreck by this time and fully into my usual line of negative second-guessing. Why did we ever think this was an adventure we should try? But what alternative was there? I couldn’t think of anything else, so we set about patching up the road up the hill. I can’t even tell you how long this took. It seemed like an eternity. But finally we had all the deepest ruts and slickest spots patched up with debris.

My husband thought he would be more daring to floor it and weave and dodge ruts up the The Hill. So he appointed me to be something similar to those air port signal men. (I white-jeep-suv-cruising-down-the-road-912843had to look it up, but they are called aircraft marshallers.) My job was to stand a couple of hundred yards ahead of him at the top of The Hill and use arm motions to direct him left or right to try to keep him away from the deepest ruts and slickest spaces, since we didn’t know if our patching would be completely helpful.

I climbed The Hill. He backed down to the bottom. at the shout of “1-2-3 Now!” he gunned it and took off my way. The plan was to floor the car up The Hill steering left and right like a madman by my directions, zooming toward me, and I was to jump out of the way at the last minute after he passed the last worst place in the road. I know. It sounds reckless. I would kill my young adult kids for trying such a stunt. But as they say, Necessity is the mother of invention! And those inventions aren’t always safe.

With much adrenalin, racing pulse, and sheer terror on my part, we worked our plan. Randy came weaving towards me at 45+ mph up The Hill. My arms flailed left and right directing him just in the nick of time away from this rut or that slick spot. He was getting really close, really quick. As he passed the final deep rut, I jumped left and he barreled on by me. It worked! We did it! He stopped on level ground a few yards away and I ran and jumped in the car.

We squealed! We laughed! We cried! We shouted, “I can’t believe it worked!” a few dozen times. All was well. After catching our breath and allowing the adrenalin to settle a bit, we drove home in the dark talking over the days’ events. One of us commented, “This is gonna make a great story one day.”

For the rest of our lives, when troubles come or sad, scary or horrible things happen, one of us will say, “This is gonna make a great story one day.” Our kids have even picked it up from hearing us say it at family outings that turned tragic in the moment.

So what is the point of my long story?

Our pastor says, “We are always are either in a storm, coming out of a storm, or about to head into a storm.” Trials will come ladies. They can wreck us or we can realize God allowed them as part of our story, and one day we will relish telling even the scary or sad parts of our story – once we have allowed Him to teach us through them and heal our hearts.

David’s song of praise in 2 Samuel 22 provides us with sweet reminders as we face struggles and trying times. (v. 2-37)

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the hornof my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior—from violent people you save me.” (v. 2-3)

“I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and have been saved from my enemies. The waves of death swirled about me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me.” (v. 4-6)

“In my distress I called to the Lord; I called out to my God. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came to his ears.” (v.7) 

“He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. (v. 17-18)

“…The Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me. (v. 19-20)

“You, Lord, are my lamp; the Lord turns my darkness into light. With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall. As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him. For who is God besides the LordAnd who is the Rock except our God? It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he causes me to stand on the heights. He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze.You make your saving help my shield; your help has made me great. You provide a broad path for my feet, so that my ankles do not give way.” (v. 29-37)

The path of our life is allowed by God our loving Father. It is not always an easy path. Ruts and mud, and trying circumstances can bring fear and anxiety and almost overwhelm us. But God’s path for us is a broad path. He is with us on it. He helps our ankles not to give way. He delivers us, supports us, strengthens us, keeps us secure, and cares for us. He walks with us through trying times, even when (like me in my story) we don’t think to pray. Have faith in your Father God. Trust Him when times are tough and scary.

And I challenge you to remember, come what may, “This is gonna make a great story one day!”

This Will Make a Great Story... One Day!

God Connections!

1901145_10202687380718629_603159704_nby Guest Author Jan Muir Peine (Check out her website here.)

I have had a secret for 35 years, but God now wants it shared for His Glory. I pray you will be blessed by this incredible true story.

Flash back to 1985.

I was a vocational evaluator at a local Rehab facility when a young 16-year-old male was assigned to me. Several things pierced my heart about this boy; the least of which was his malformed right upper limb which I assumed was likely from his pregnant mother’s usage of Thalidomide as a means to stop miscarriage. The technical name of his unfortunate condition is phocomelia, but the result was he only had the usage of his left arm. In addition, he was without parents, the result of a very tragic, life-ending event that he witnessed as a 7-year-old child. Could my heart break any more for this troubled teen?

prosthetics-research-boston-1He was sponsored by the State of Alabama, and my testing revealed that he was quite gifted. But as any teen, he wanted to look “normal.” He repeatedly requested a cosmetically pleasing prosthesis, in lieu of the metal hook that the state approved for his missing right limb. I was burdened; so much so that I began to pray for him. In my prayer, God placed it on my heart that my husband and I were to provide him with the more expensive cosmetic arm; an investment into his future. But how, God?

Unknown

 

I had just sustained a huge pay cut from my sudden career change secondary to our own car wreck. We had a two-year-old daughter, and my recovery from the skull fracture I sustained in the wreck was not inexpensive. But when God calls you to obedience, he provides the means for you to obey. We donated the money to a charitable organization and insisted it be anonymous. We also insisted that he be given a Bible with his new prosthesis. I inscribed it. As per our instructions, he was simply told that he had been “gifted” with the items. He was overwhelmed with gratitude.

Flash forward to last Thursday when I received a call from a potential buyer for my deceased daddy’s “Jazzy Scooter,” which had remained in my mom’s garage since Daddy’s death.

My caller was a church organist from Childersburg, and he wanted to come immediately, which involved about a 2-hour drive to my mom’s farm. He said he was bringing a friend to help him transport it home if he bought it. When I saw the now 51-year-old, one-armed male, something clicked in my brain.

“It’s him,” I thought to myself. Surely not; what would be the odds? So I asked him if he had been tested at a Birmingham rehab center when he was 16. He affirmed. I asked him if he received a Bible with his cosmetic prosthesis. He looked puzzled, clearly didn’t remember me, but again affirmed.

I said, “Did the inscription in the Bible say something like, “God loves you and so do we.” He froze.

“How could you know that?” he asked in amazement.

“Because I’m the lady who wrote it.”

“Then you’re the lady who gave me the cosmetic arm? I never knew.”

“Yes,” I told him.

He asked, “Why would you do that for me?”

I told him that God had always been watching over him, and while earthly people had let him down, his heavenly Father never would. Needless to say, we were all three touched by this reunion.

He marveled, “It’s a small world.”

I responded, “Nope, it’s a very big world, but we have a bigger God who connects the dots for all of us within His own timing, even after 35 years!”

We decided together to share our story. And yes… they got Daddy’s scooter!

He is faithful always!

For the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does. Psalm 33:4

Thank you Jan for sharing your amazing story!

 

Psalm 100

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!

Serve the Lord with gladness!

Come into his presence with singing!

Know that the Lord, he is God!

It is he who made us, and we are his;

we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,

and his courts with praise!

Give thanks to him; bless his name!

For the Lord is good;

his steadfast love endures forever,

and his faithfulness to all generations.

~ Psalm 100 ~

Where are you today mentally and spiritually? Are you weighed down and discouraged? Or are you focused on obediently following God’s Word?

Let’s all take a time-out and try to let the spirit of Psalm 100 inhabit our thoughts and hearts.

Where ever you are and what ever you are doing – make a joyful noise to God!

Serve Him – right now! Find a way. Just do it! And do it with gladness!

Sing! Sing praise songs, worship songs, hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs. It will bring you into Hs presence!

Tell yourself that He is God (And you are NOT!)

Remind yourself that He created you and therefore knows you better than anyone. You belong to Him not to yourself.

Take note that You are one of His people! But you are a sheep –  a rather dumb, wandering animal that focuses on eating and drinking and wandering away when she shouldn’t.

Make a list of all you’re thankful for, even in a bad situation – then Bless His name for His provision!

He is Good.

He will love you unconditionally. Forever. No matter what.

He is faithful to all generations. The world may seem to be falling apart and we may wonder what future generations will be like, but one thing we can count on is that God will be faithful to be there for us and for our kids and grandkids for all eternity.

Be blessed!

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20/20 Vision: Fog

On a vacation to the beautiful mountains of Virginia our family experienced one of our That-will-make-a-great-story-one-day events. It will require another blog post to fully explain that phrase, but suffice it to say, those are unexpected events that seem sad, scary, or horrible at the time, but we come to relish telling the story over and over as the years go by.

This particular That-will-make-a-great-story-one-day event started out, as they all do, with a normal day. From our cozy, rental cabin in Virginia just off the Blue Ridge arch_JDSC3104_523-259x355Parkway the six of us had set off that morning to visit Virginia’s Natural Bridge and surrounding outdoorsy tourist attractions. The day was great fun. The 4 kids were between the ages of 6 and 16, so they were independent and adventurous. We hiked and took photos, read historical markers, and marveled over the rainbow trout in the crystal clear creek that runs under the this non-manmade bridge.

Natural Bridge Virginia truly is a national wonder. This solid rock bridge fashioned by Our Creator and the forces of nature He set in place is so big, thick, and strong that the traffic of US Highway 11 crosses this bridge, though an uninformed traveler might not realize it. The 215 foot high limestone bridge was once owned by Thomas Jefferson, and you can even see one place where George Washington carved his initials on the wall of the canyon.

We went from the Park to a wax museum of historical people, and then drove to the James River for a picnic. After a late afternoon meal and lots of playing and hiking we headed back to our home-away-from-home. We passed through several small communities with only a flashing light and a couple of stores and were climbing back into the Blue Ridge Mountains by a different road than we had come. Since it was dusk, we planned to cross the mountains here and travel a 4-lane highway north along the other side of the mountains back to the turn off was for our cabin.

fuel-2741_640Less than a mile up the foothills, I looked down at our gas gauge. It was just short of the big red E – Empty! (This is not uncommon for me, so the whole family was giving me a hard time.) I quickly found a scenic pull off where I could turn around. The kids were a little nervous we wouldn’t make it back to get gas, but dad assured them he’d seen a gas station at the last little community we’d been through and that he was pretty sure we could coast to it if we ran out of gas.

Sure enough, we made it safely to the gas station – without having to coast in. We filled up and everyone breathed a sigh of relief, weary from a fun-filled day and the moment of fear and just ready to be “home.” I was still driving. What else could go wrong? I’d already nearly run us out of gas.

The sun had fully set by now, so I turned on the headlights as we headed back up the mountain. At nearly the same place where I had discovered we were low on fuel, trouble hit again. It was as if we had run into a gray wall. In just those few short minutes it had gray-concrete-road-between-trees-covered-with-fog-3808853
taken us to go get gas, a cloud had descended over the mountain. The fog was the thickest I had ever seen. We pulled off at a scenic overlook again, this time to get out the car handbook and figure out how to turn on the fog lights. After a little digging the fog lights were working and we thought we’d be on our way.

The fog lights did little to help our situation. We were completely engulfed by heavy fog to the point that I struggled to see the painted lines to stay in my lane and on the road. We were ascending the mountain, so the fog seemed to get thicker. The kids were giving us the whimpering “Mommy? Daddy?” voices, while we adults were debating the risk of keeping on driving versus the risk of trying to turn around when we couldn’t see. I slowed to under 15mph and still struggled. It got so blindingly gray that I slowed down even more and my husband, in the passenger seat, opened his door and watched the white line on the edge of the pavement as I drove to make sure I didn’t run off the road.

The short trip over the mountains, turned into over an hour of anxious driving before we crossed the peak and got far enough down the other side that we drove out of the fog bank just as suddenly as we had entered it. Relief filled the car as the danger faded behind us.

How often do we experience the spiritual version of this? We suddenly hit a spiritual fog bank that obscures our vision. Even right now in the US as we navigate through the unknown fog of COVID-19, rioting, racial tension, and political bickering I feel as if I’m in a spiritual fog. There have been several times these last few weeks that I have felt I needed help finding the white line and staying on the road. What are we to do walking blindly through this fog?

  1. street-238458_1280Stay in our lane. Keeping our eyes on the lines to stay in our lane spiritually means to be in God’s Word daily – as often as possible. The Psalms, all the wisdom books, Paul’s letters with comments on how to live and how to treat others, and the stories of the Old Testament that teach us about God and about people are crucial to read and know to stay in our lane. Once we’ve read them, then it is our job to live out the truths scripture teaches.
  2. Have someone in the passenger seat helping you. The old “Jesus is my co-pilot” phrase is really not a bad one. Some people say no, that we should let God be at the wheel. But all through scripture I see God giving people a job to do and then allowing them to do it. He’s always there directing and strengthening, but I don’t see Him driving so much. So make sure you are praying and in tune with the Holy Spirit and His direction as you navigate the dense fogs of life.
  3. Don’t let the fear and confusion blind you. Our emotions can ruin us if we trust them and follow them. We must trust our Heavenly Father over our feelings. Philippians 4:8 tells us, “ Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” When our mind thinks on those kinds of thoughts, the emotions of fear, anxiety, anger, jealousy, confusion, pessimism, envy, and such fade away. Proper thinking frees us to see clearly through God’s eyes in those sudden times of turmoil.
  4. Trust the Light of the World to guide your through. God will be that guiding light in every situation. Are we focused enough to listen for His still, small voice that whispers, “Don’t type that post,” “Don’t say what you want to,” “Don’t take offense at that even though they meant to try to offend you,” “Forgive.” “Trust.” “Love.” At times the voice will be so quiet it will be like my lights in that fog bank, it will seem not to help much at the moment. We will find ourselves longing for a quick fix or retribution. That’s when we choose to follow the Light of the World even at what seems to be our own expense. He will get us through to the other side of that scary mountain. Trust Him.

landscape-photography-of-road-and-forest-775203

 

 

Upturned Not Uprooted

When I was younger my Aunt Sis was notorious for her plants,

“I put ‘em in the ground and then after that they’re on their own.” 

We were standing in her yard across from my Mam-maw’s house, I was maybe thirteen. She had flower beds and shrubs of nearly every variety of the annual variety, hence the vowing of independence she spoke over her plant life. As she dug in the ground and planted she would teach me the difference between a Japanese Iris and a standard Iris. She had gobs of Irises and buttercups. She would thin out and redistribute those tubers because,

 “They [Irisis] don’t do as well all bunched up together.” 

My Mama had less gardening time in her younger years and in mine, but did have an uncanny ability to call a botany kind of roll. As we drove down the road or passed patches of wildflowers she would point out Queen Anne’s Lace, Oak Leaf Hydrangeas, Trumpet Vines, and Tiger Lilies also known as “Ditch Lilies.” We would occasionally go to the Leath’s Greenhouse (and I honestly thought it was Leaf’s Greenhouse because that made sense in my head) and she would name marigolds, zinnias, Asteraceae, daisies, (Shasta Daisy’s were her sister Margaret’s favorite.)

fuchsia-4594792_1280I learned to recognize the frequent and familiar. Azaleas were a familiar and over time I have come to love a wild azalea more so than a not wild azalea, the distinction was never given to me but I can recognize the difference in the two varieties. The wild azalea has a large open bloom, they tend to be pale pastel in color, and  in my imagination look like little floppy hats perched on the ends of the branches. 

I am much like Mama and now I do the same. My children show about as little interest as I did back then and I figure perhaps that limited knowledge of roadside plants is somewhere taking root on their memories. 

Nowadays mama and I will ride down the road and have a ten minute conversation about it being too early for ditch lilies and not soon enough for the Shasta Daisies. Tiger Lillies always bloom “during Vacation Bible School time” Mama said, “they just seem too early to be blooming right now.” I agreed as we drove on and thought maybe time was passing by at breakneck speed or perhaps the mild winter could account for their early bloom. 

waterfall-2556072_1280When we stopped the car and made our way down a steep embankment to a gorge that opened with a waterfall on the left and a creekbed of rapids on the right we both were taken aback by the sheer beauty of it. The hike down had been as Mama declared “treacherous.” I had almost abandoned the mission as the Martin 3, my 11-year-old niece, Mama, and I scrambled and scooted our ways to the bottom. I was glad that I had not abandoned the mission before we were able to see the beauty before us. 

As the younger members of our party played, mama and I sat in amazement of the green lush and the cool and shade made by the rock overhangs. We pointed out particularly fascinating or eye catching things to one another. We sat on rocks and fallen trees, we picked up rocks shaped like things, a perfect isosceles triangle, a unicorn horn, a heart. The water was cold, ice cold and the rocks not nearly as slick as some creek rocks with which were familiar. The falls rumbled and roared so we had to talk louder than normal, yet in the midst of it all was such a peacefulness. 

“Look at that.” She pointed to our left and above us, there was what appeared to be a beautifully blooming wild azalea suspended over the water. We determined we could not definitively call it an azalea because while the blooms looked that way, a bush it was not. It  was more spindly and vine like and hung upside down growing toward the water, rooted in the rock cliff. I wondered out loud if it had been a recent storm victim having been pushed down by violent winds and left to die uprooted, tangled and hanging inverted. Mama said she didn’t think so and as we sat some more and hiked a bit more I realized that it would’ve looked deader had that been the case. 

“How do you reckon that even happens?” Mama was a few steps ahead of me. She paused and said, “I guess when you’re a little acorn and you take root, you don’t really pay attention to the direction.” I thought about that and how despite the circumstances, the odds unfavorable to that suspended plant it continued to thrive and that perhaps its longing for water, thirst for the essential, superseded what seemed the likely, reasonable, or even possible direction of growth. 

I determined I want to be like that unlikely upturned beauty. So desperate for water, Living Water, that I am willing to defy the rules dictated to me to achieve such beautiful growth. Clinging so closely to the Living Water that I am hardly aware of the anxiety producing circumstances around me. I want to cling so closely to Christ that I am hardly moved when the storms of life do their best to tear me down.  

cascade-creek-environment-fern-460621

Unseen Path

by Sheila Keedy

Your road led through the sea, your pathway through the might waters- a pathway no one knew was there!  Psalm 77:19 (NL)

close-up-photo-of-dog-3397939We have a new puppy. Her name is Pearl and she is very strong-willed. (Eye roll!) She does not like to be told no and wants to go her own way.  When we take a walk she has to be on a leash as she runs away if not and we end up chasing her around the neighborhood.  (Double eye roll!)

The leash is her worst enemy.  Pearl does not like following where we lead and the leash takes the brunt of her disapproval.  She has literally dangled in the air as she’s jumped up and clamped down on the leash.  Mercy!  We are going to persevere through this and maybe one day she will come to trust that we are leading her down the best path and will follow more obediently. (And maybe we’ll be able to recover financially from the number of leashes we’ve had to buy.) 

Actually, I’m sure I’m a lot like Pearl.  Looking back over my life there have been paths that I did not want to travel.  Miscarriages, breast cancer, loss of a 17-year-old niece, loss of a parent to name just a few.  Many times though, on these difficult journeys were pathways to ministry, testimonies, sharing and caring.  Pathways I didn’t know would be there, but found hope and joy again in that part of the journey.  And best of all, growing in my relationship with my Healer, Comforter, Savior and Friend.     

Over the last several months, I have worked my way from Genesis to Kings and Chronicles.  I have read story after story in the Old Testament of people whose lives were changed by the power and presence of God.  One example? Sarah at 90 years old having a baby!  Only God could make a way for her when there seemed to be absolutely no way! As the journeys of others like Rahab or Ruth came to an end, I was ready to let out a cheer, or a hallelujah, what great things HE has done! 

Because I see it from this perspective, beginning to end, I sometimes get detached from the difficult details of their stories – the parts where they resisted the path they were on.  I revere them for being such amazing women of faith and perseverance, forgetting they would have struggled just as we do.  They were real women, with real problems and I tend to overlook the reality and pain of their difficult journey because I know the outcome.  They did not.  

Eve – experienced the death of a son. 

Sarah – had to wait for the promise of a child to be fulfilled.

Hagar – cast out and alone.

Leah and Rachel – dealing with sister rivalry.  (and jealousy over a man????)

Rahab – wondered if there was hope for someone like her. 

Naomi and Ruth – grieving the loss of a their respective husbands.

Hannah – longed for a child. 

Tamar, David’s daughter and Tamar, Judah’s wife – wondering if there would be justice for what was done to them. (should you say “sexual abuse” or “rape” for those who may not know?)

Not to leave out the difficult pathways of a few women in the New Testament, think about these: 

the shame of the woman caught in adultery,

the despair of the woman at the well as relationship after relationship fell apart,

the woman with the issue of blood searching for healing,

and the torment of Mary Magdalene before Jesus delivered her.  

Am I trying to focus on their difficulties? Not at all. What I want to draw attention to is this: they had to travel down paths that they didn’t know how long it would last or where it would end. 

We can take heart from their stories for many reasons, but most importantly because we see God was right there with them.  He didn’t miss one part of their journey.  In fact, their paths led to Him.  

Genesis 16:13  So she, (Hagar), called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.” 

John 20:18 Mary Magdalene announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”

As we read their stories in Scripture, we get to see so many amazing attributes of God such as His faithfulness, grace and mercy.  We get to see that He is Redeemer, Provider and full of love and compassion.  We can be encouraged because what He did for them He will do for you and me. 

Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

When it comes to our story, our journey, we are still in the midst of it.  We may not see or understand the path He is taking us on.  We struggle and resist.  What makes it worse is we don’t know the outcome of our stories like we do those of of the women in Scripture, and we want God to fix things now!  We want to know that what we’ve been through will be worth it.  But, this is where faith comes in.  Faith is believing in the unseen, the unknown.  

Hebrews 11:1 says: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  (ESV) 

If you had asked Moses and Israel as they stood on the edge of the Red Sea what they saw, they would have said nothing but water in front and the enemy behind them.  But what happened next changed everything! 

Then Moses raised his hand over the sea, and the Lord opened up a path through the water with a strong east wind. The wind blew all that night, turning the seabed into dry land.  So the people of Israel walked through the middle of the sea on dry ground, with walls of water on each side!”  Exodus 14:21-22 (NLT) 

brown-colour-dawn-environment-132428There it is, a pathway no one knew was there.

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.”                       2 Corinthians 5:7 (ESV)

Whatever obstacle is in front of you, 

whatever storm you may be facing, 

whatever darkness lies ahead, 

whatever deep waters you find yourself in, 

there is a road unseen, unknown, a pathway you didn’t even know was there.   And right there with you is the Lord leading you and walking with you, step by step.  No matter how you struggle and resist, He will not leave nor forsake you.  He will remain faithful.  

Psalm 26:3 For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness.  

One day, when we look back on the path He had us on, we’ll say along with the women in Scripture, hallelujah, what great things God has done! 

Luke 1:46-49  “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,… for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 

***********************

Using the Scriptures below, pray them for your journey.  They will comfort you and give you the courage to keep moving forward.   

Deuteronomy 31:8  The Lord, himself, goes before you and will be there with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.

Psalm 23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me;…

Psalm 31:14-15a But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God. ”My times are in your hand;…

Isaiah 41:10 Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

John 8:12  Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” 

 

The iPhone Dilemma

My husband and I have 2 granddaughters, 5 years and almost 2 years. They have loved our iPhones for quite a while. Even the little one loves to have possession of a phone. While the baby had my phone, she seemed very frustrated and could not find the apps she usually uses. I looked at my phone to see what was wrong and realized all of my apps were wiggling. For anyone that has an iPhone you know that this means apps can be deleted.

Sure enough, I was missing quite a few apps and my apps were in the wrong place. Not only had she deleted my apps, she had rearranged them. Even though my apps were saved to the cloud, I ended up having to restore my phone to a previous setting. Thanks to my husband, I was able to recover apps from the cloud as I realized which apps were missing. My phone was a mess but it was back to the way it had been previously. Everything that was missing could be restored from the cloud. Even though the apps were deleted, they were actually still there. I could go to “the cloud” to find them. (When I say I could do this, what I mean is my husband/tech support could do it.) The apps were not really gone.

Thankfully, that is not the way forgiveness works. When God forgives our sins, he deletes them. God does NOT store our sins anywhere. When we ask Jesus to be our Lord and Savior, His blood deletes our sins. He restores us to the original created person with all of the plans he has for our lives.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” John 1:9 NIV

Psalm 51:10-12 ESV Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

He knows the plans he has for us. He orders our steps. 

Jeremiah 29:11 NIV “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

God not only forgives our sins, He throws our sins away. 

Psalm 103:12 tells us “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” 

How far is that? The further you go West, the further away East is. The further you go East, the further away West is. Our God is so forgiving. He would never go to “the Cloud” and download our sins for us to remember. Are there consequences for sin, Yes.  Just like my phone being “messed up”, we can mess up our lives but God is faithful. When we call on him, he is always there.

Romans 10:13 says, “for whosoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Isaiah 40:31 NKJV “But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.”

1 Peter 5:10 ESV “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”

Don’t go fishing in the sea of forgetfulness to remember sin that God has forgiven.