Called by a New Name

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17-18

Like a good Southern girl, I named my daughter after her great grandmothers. And, like a good Southern momma, I stubbornly decided she would be called by both names. I know. I know. But where would the world be without those wonderful double name traditions. I mean, who doesn’t love a Sarah Beth or an Anna Grace or a Betty Lou? Those names just roll off the tongue like sorghum, don’t they? (Insert eye roll emoji here.)

What I didn’t realize is the frustration those double names would cause my girl as she moved on to college and the professional world. When she first started taking college courses online in high school, she realized those double names made it really difficult for her to engage in her virtual class discussion. Her name took far too long to type in when she wanted to answer a question. So Mary Catherine became Catie. That name soon followed her as she started classes on campus. It was on her first college student ID.

pexels-quang-nguyen-vinh-2159129A similar thing happened when she started working as a barista at a local coffee shop. She couldn’t realistically fit her entire name on her nametag, so she shortened it to MC. Then you had the whole standardized test and college application complications where she was only recognized by her first name. So, on campus she was Catie, at work she was MC, and in any official capacity, she was Mary.

Now she’s headed off to graduate school at a new university and is considering going by Cate. You can imagine the type of identity crisis she’s had over the past four years or so. Thankfully, as her momma, I still stubbornly call her by her double name. Not because I’m trying to be difficult, but because that name has meaning to me. It is the name I thoughtfully and prayerfully gave her before she even came into the world. So no matter what everyone else calls her, she is Mary Catherine because that’s the name chosen just for her.

Recently, I was reading through Revelation. It’s not a book I tend to get settled in because, to be honest, the content absolutely boggles my mind and overwhelms my soul. As John promised through Revelation 1:3 I have been blessed by reading Revelation, but I’ve also been perplexed by it. I come back to it reluctantly throughout the year. I read through and pray and ponder and ask the Lord to give me some insight. This time around I got stuck on this idea of names.

In Revelation 2:17 the Spirit reveals to John these words for the Church at Pergamum, “To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.” Similarly, Isaiah 62:2 says, “The nations shall see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory, and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give.” And back in Revelation 20 we read about the book of life and in it are the names of those who belong to Christ. I couldn’t get over this idea of a new name. I not only was a new creation, but I had a new name. I had a new identity. An identity conferred to me by my Abba. And I think that name is the one written in the Lamb’s book. So naturally, this piqued my curiosity and I kept asking the Lord in private moments of intimate conversation, so what’s my new name?

name-s-2319472_1280A few weeks after I asked that question, I was reading through 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ by the Spirit of God.”

I sat before the King with those verses and the Spirit whispered, “You are no longer called by these names because you are now called by MY NAME.” I sat and wept at that truth. My old name was Unrighteous. My old name was Unholy. My old name was Condemned. My old name was Separated. My old name was my identity as a sinner. But that is no longer my name. Because of Jesus. Because of the Name above all Names, my sin no longer defines me. Because my old name is now washed away in the blood of Christ. In Christ, my new name is Righteous. My new name is Holy. My new name is Redeemed. My new name is Restored.

Too many times even those who are in Christ tend to define themselves by their old names. By their sin, but if you are in Christ you are no longer called by that name. You have been given a new name. And as I have pondered and prayed over the powerful and beautiful truth that it only matters that I am called by the Name of Christ. That new name could be Rescued. Restored. Redeemed. It doesn’t matter the specifics as long as I know the One who gave me the New Name, and I know that I am no longer defined by who I was, but Whose I am. I am His. He is mine. I am called by a New Name. A name the Lord Himself has given me. Jesus. Jesus. Precious Jesus. That is the only Name I need to know.  

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Filling Big Footsteps

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV

“You’re following in your Mama’s footsteps aren’t you?” 

I have heard it half a dozen times in my lifetime. I’d often nod my head, acknowledging the speaker was correct in his or her assumption. Truth be told though, I never really understood exactly what that meant. It sounded good. Ask near anyone who genuinely knows her and they will tell you that my Mama is a pretty good one to follow. She is gracious and wise. She is a peace-maker and brims over with hospitality. So why wouldn’t I want to follow in her footsteps. I just never fully understood the meaning behind it, so I would agree. In many regards I have unknowingly followed in her footsteps and as I tend to to do, I just accepted it as such and moved on. In my mind we wear almost the same size shoe, so it didn’t seem odd to me that I was stepping into her shoes, after all they fit just fine. Clearly I had confused two expressions, “having big shoes to fill” and “following in someone’s footsteps.” 

To follow in someone’s footsteps means, To pursue something that someone else (often a family member) has already done. 

Having big shoes to fill roughly means that it’s going to be hard for you to do the job as well as they did it.

For most of my life, well all of it until now, I reckon I did not fully understand what I was agreeing or not agreeing to in regards to shoes and footsteps of others. That was until recently anyway.

pexels-james-wheeler-1522285We had made our way to our annual beach vacation trip. The previous year had not yielded such a luxury, so this year was an especially anticipated event. I counted down the days and would decide “How many more sleeps until the beach.” I would say in my head “Two weeks from today, where will I be?” The answer was always the beach, no matter if it was two weeks, two days or tomorrow. I was ready. More than ready. I had been depleted for quite some time, and the waves and the wind, the constant of the always-the-same, never-the-same gulf leaves me filled up and ready to push through. I have been known to sit and to soak and to hear the King speak through His creation. I have often said, “A rainy day at the beach is better than a sunny day at home.” I am not sure if that rings true for everyone, but it does me. 

As the thunder began to rumble off in the distance and the sky darken, I knew we would have to head indoors soon. It had been a successful day for me, one filled with books, and snacks, sun-kissed shoulders, and a breeze that drowns out the noise of the world better than anything else I know. My feet looked like they’d been dusted with caster sugar.

My Sweetheart had worked some while we vacationed, catching up on things neglected at home; then he made his way down to the seaside. He isn’t filled by it like I am, but he does enjoy a lazy afternoon listening to music, people watching, and most of all watching the sky. It was the same place, sky watching, several years ago that ushered in a career change for him from artist to meteorologist. 

As the sky darkened and he nudged me I knew it was time for our party to return indoors. We gathered  up our belongings, and began the arduous task of take down. 

Loaded down with a burden of camp chairs, trash, all manner of sandy toys we made our way up the beach. We moved single file, our party of ten, and I was directly behind my husband. As he walked, his large size 14 sandal-clad foot made exaggerated depressions into the sand. Without realizing it I was following in his footsteps. Then I began to actually step in the places he has stepped. The walk was so much easier when I would place my foot just where he had been. The sand already packed and solid made for easier stepping. His stride is larger than mine and that proved tricky but the burden I carried was much more tolerable when I followed in his footsteps. Many times after, as we made our way up, I noted that following in his steps was always less of a hardship than going my own way. I likened that to my walk with the Lord. Sure there are times when following Christ can feel awkward, when His stride doesn’t match mine, but I can follow in His footsteps knowing, He already knows the way, He has already made a way, and in fact He is the Way. 

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Galatians 5:16 NIV

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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!

person-writing-on-brown-printer-paper-3826674

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.

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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.  

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