Paddling Through Knee-Deep Waters

Elk River

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.

 Isaiah 43:2

We discovered the Elk River in southern Missouri on our last adventure. Beautiful, clear, and lazy, it is a popular place to take a float trip. How could we resist? The morning leading up to our trip was spent reassuring our seven-year-old granddaughter, Hero, that she would be perfectly safe. The water was only knee-deep in most places after all. She wanted to know whose knees—a kid’s or a grown-up’s. (Important to know when it comes to measuring.) We reminded her of the lesson she had learned in children’s church that week about “God does not give us a spirit of fear. . . but of power, love, and self-control. (Talk about a teachable moment.) She thought rivers were something you should have a good fear about. (Smart girl.) We told her if anything should happen and the canoe flipped over, Grandpa would be right there to save her. Not convinced she reluctantly strapped on her orange life vest and got in the boat.

It was a beautiful ride. The water was so clear you could see the bottom. There were fish everywhere. The surroundings were peaceful. There was a learning curve for us being beginning paddlers, but it didn’t take long to get the hang of it. Mostly the stream did the work and we just steered. It was fun, and we felt a bit like Pocahontas as we discovered places just around the river bend.

And then it happened.

That thing that wasn’t likely to go wrong did. Our canoe got caught in a current and pushed us up under a tree that was hanging over the bank. As we got closer to the tree, we all leaned away from it to avoid getting poked and scratched. As we leaned, the boat did too. We started taking on water and over we went. My husband grabbed Hero by the handle on the back of her life jacket and held her head out of the water. Arms and legs flailing and kicking, she was in a blind panic thinking she was surely going to drown. We told her to put her feet down on the bottom of the riverbed and stand up. Eventually, she calmed down enough to do what we asked. You should have seen the look on her face when she realized the water was not over her head as she feared. It barely came up to her thighs. She was wet and mad, but no worse for wear. By the end of the day, Hero was telling us how good it was to fall out of the canoe. It had cooled us off. Lol!

Life can have an uncanny resemblance to our little trip downstream. You start off on an adventure not knowing exactly what it will look like or where you’re going. You might step in the canoe with caution like Hero did. You have your life vest on, yet you’re not sure if it will be enough for all the ‘what ifs’ you’d imagined. After a while, you get the hang of it. The current isn’t so bad after all and you gain a little confidence in your navigation skills. You’ve got this! And then it happens. Something unexpected shows up and flips your life completely upside-down. The next thing you know, your gasping for air and struggling to keep from going under. But in your panic, you hear it.  “I’m right here. Put your feet down and stand up.”

A few years ago, I was floating along through a great life. I was doing good things, having some successes, and enjoying a wonderful season with people I loved. Suddenly, it all came crashing down. Selfishness and Greed rocked the boat, dumped me out, ruining everything. The grief of losing what had been threatened to suck me under. I lost my footing, and since the pain came from something that happened at church involving church people, I wanted to quit. Forever.

God was having none of it.

He held the handle of my life vest, telling me to just put my feet down and stand up. I couldn’t. I didn’t know where to stand. I thrashed about, sinking deeper, but He didn’t let go. He sent in the troops, trusted friends who gently spoke truth into my life. He guided me back to His word and sat with me as I sobbed through its promises. Slowly, my flailing about stopped, and my feet touched solid ground. I realized the water had not been so deep after all, especially if I used God’s knees as a measure.

I’m happy to say that I am enjoying a relatively calm season in life. The lessons I learned from my experience overboard have proven to be valuable and my relationship with God is deeper and stronger. How will I respond next time I get tossed out of the boat? It’s hard to say until I find myself struggling again, but I do hope it won’t take so long to remember God has got His hold on me, put my feet down, and stand up.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.

Hebrews 10:23

Road Trip: Delivering the News

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If you follow me on social media, you know that with summer and its longer days, the wandering has commenced. My husband and I made our way east via the road less traveled . . . literally. This year, we chose to take The Loneliest Highway across the country to see what we could see. U.S. Route 50 comes by its name honestly. Much of the way, we and the locals were the only ones using it. Cars were few and far between.

That was okay with us. We liked the slower pace it provided. We saw beautiful country. There was also a bit of history to be found. U.S. 50 was built along the Pony Express route. It was fun to imagine the riders as they charged through the wilderness carrying the mail to people who longed for news. Given the short existence of the Pony Express, it had a lasting impact. Today, small towns dot the landscape where there once was only a stop on the trail.

This legacy of the Pony Express made me think of another story I heard from a friend from India. He told me he is only the third generation Christian in his family. It all started when his grandfather, the community’s witch doctor, met Jesus. With news too good to keep to himself, he wanted everyone to know so he took the message on the road, traveling from town to town, delivering the story of Jesus. Today, in each place he stopped there is an active church among its people.

In this busy life with our lives consumed with tasks for today, I wonder how often we think about what will have a lasting impression on our world. Will our actions today bring benefit to others in the future?

There is a story in the Bible about a time when Jesus told his disciples to set sail for a region called Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee. There He had an encounter with a demon-possessed man from the town who had lived rough for many years due to his condition. The long and short of the story is that Jesus healed the guy and restored him back into the community. You can read it for yourself in Luke 8:26-39. When Jesus was ready to depart, the man begged to go with him, but Jesus had something better in mind. He urged the man to return home and tell how much God had done. (Luke 8:39)

That is exactly what the man did.

He “went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.” I may have chosen to go with Jesus and get a new start for myself, but he was obedient and did as Jesus told him. We do not know if he could have anticipated or even knew later what kind of impact his life had on his community, but we have the full story. This particular miracle of healing was the first in Gentile territory, a region called the Decapolis. Sometime later, Jesus did return and a crowd of 4000 came out to see Him. (The story is found in Matthew 15:29-31 and Mark 8:1-10.) Jesus repeated the miracle of healing, again and again, restoring “the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute, and many others.” (Matthew 15:30) Did these people come because of the story they had heard about the guy whose life was changed by Jesus? I like to think it was.

So, what impact are we having in the world around us?

Are we like the transformed witch doctor who carried the news of Jesus to other communities, resulting in churches being established? Or maybe like the man from Gerasenes who just shared his story with the neighbors. At the time, I’m sure neither of these men had any idea that their words would bring thousands to the feet of Jesus. The legacy that belongs to them is great, but ours can be too. We must take what we know about Jesus and make it known to the world around us. These men were not great theologians with exemplary training and a huge following. They were just common individuals who took what they had been given—a relationship with Jesus—and told others. It made an impact and continues to do so, especially if we now take their example to heart. How much of the world will be changed simply because we carried the Good News and delivered it? Only time will tell.

Share Jesus.
Change the world.

 


Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don’t know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!
Anne Frank

 

Hey there! Did Ya Miss Me?

Whew! It’s been a while since I have had time to get over here and post. Have you missed me? I have been traveling (That’s what girls on adventure do. Lol!), making a home in Oklahoma, and even doing a little writing. Over the past few weeks, I have been reformatting the Legacy: Living NOW for Future Generations devotional study journal that I co-wrote with some other wonderful teachers. I am extremely proud of the work we have done with the hope it will help many make the most of their personal Bible study time or even use in their small groups. I am excited for you to see its new form. It will be available by the end of June on Amazon. You’ll hear more very soon.

But in the meantime, I hope you will take look at another Bible study I had the joy and privilege to be involved with. Heart Renovation: A Construction Guide to Godly Character, Lighthouse Bible Studies, will be available for purchase on Amazon June 21st. You can also find it on the Lighthouse Bible Studies site for pre-order right now.

This Bible study compilation is a construction guide to building godly character and overcoming the hidden problems that sabotage it. It explores how God works in our lives and gives us the wisdom to handle such real-life issues as unwanted change, grief, loneliness, financial debt, and difficult people. It shares God’s blueprints for a renovated heart by looking at Jesus’ character, godly people in the Bible, the Fruit of the Spirit, and the Beatitudes. It also discusses how to help our children grow in godly character. And if you want to use it in a small group setting there is a leader guide included. You’ll find me in the section about Hidden Problems.

Heart Reno Cover

So, you see things are happening. Just stay tuned, I have some posts coming up. You can also check out my food blog, The Party’s in the Kitchen. Or you can find me at the usual places—Life Letter Café, SoCal Christian Voice, or Broken but Priceless Magazine.  I am also starting work on a cookbook that will be out in October and another devotional study journal for the spring.

Thank you for hanging in there with me. Your presence and support here make it all worthwhile.

 

 

Heart Language

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This weekend more than ever I wish I had the language skills to understand Spanish. We were working in a community in Mexico and many times throughout the day I was asked questions that I could not answer. And even when I kind of got what they were saying to me, I lacked the vocabulary to respond in their language. We made it through though. They, with their patience and me, with pantomime and baby-talk. This was not the best-case scenario for building a relationship.

My own relationship with the Bible has had the same moments. The words, even though written in my language, were foreign to my ear. I read and listened, but much of it did not make sense. But over time, I began to catch on to some words and phrases along with the ideas behind them. This didn’t happen overnight. Much like language learning, I had to spend time reading and listening to grasp hold to their meaning.

I have a friend who moved to Germany to become part of the community there and share the story of Jesus with her neighbors. The first thing she had to do was learn the language. She had to immerse herself in the culture and listen to get the grasp of what her neighbors were saying. Little-by-little she became fluent. When I saw her recently, I could tell that English had actually become her secondary language. She now thinks in German, and when speaking to me she had to translate her thoughts back into English. Occasionally, she even started her sentence in German, and then realized it was English I needed. It was quite comical to see her face when she realized her mistake. But what can you expect after being living the language for ten years?

My point, I guess, is even the words of the Bible are a different language to worldly ears. They sound foreign and the ideas seem strange at first, but the more time spent ‘hearing’ them through study, the more we understand. The more we understand, the more they become part of us until we begin to talk and think with them. When God whispers them back to us throughout the day, we don’t have to guess what He is talking about because it has become the language we think in, as well.

Some people call the language they first learned their ‘heart’ language. In the case of my friend in Germany, her ‘heart’ language has changed. She now understands, speaks, and thinks in German. Even though I would love to speak Spanish fluently, I hope my ‘heart’ language will be the one found in the words of the Bible. Those are the words God inspired that will give me everything I need to live this life the way He would like me to. It will take time and diligence, but in the end, it will be worth it.

The good man brings good things out of the good treasury of his heart . . .
Luke 6:45


Hiding God’s word in my heart has developed time. One of the most effective ways I have found is using the SOAK method of study. It helps me to slow down and, you got it, SOAK in the word. Check it out in my post No Connection.

Also, I have co-written a devotional journal that uses the method and can help you get started. To find out how you can get a copy of Legacy: Living NOW for Future Generations, A study in Second Timothy leave your request in the comments.

When Helping Hurts

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What do you do when helping hurts?

I have been faced with that question recently. No matter what I did in the situation, my ‘help’ was just prolonging the hurt. When I considered withholding my help, guilt came, bringing with it a flood of ‘what ifs” to my brain. “What would Jesus do” kept me second guessing my role. I felt helpless going forward and hopeless looking back. There was no consolation, only misery.

Still, what do you do when helping hurts?

In my case, I had to decide to let go of the situation, understanding it probably would grow worse. Heartbreaking when it is a loved one. Not an easy task. I struggled to keep my resolve. Keeping your hands off while keeping your heart engaged isn’t an easy thing to do. I can certainly attest to that, but the thing I had to realize is that God deeply loved this person and had a plan for them.

It’s possible that I was in the way. My helping was keeping their eyes on me and not allowing God to take center stage. This may be where the verse “For I know the plans I have for you” — this is the Lord’s declaration — “plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah‬ ‭29:11‬ ‭HCSB‬‬ comes in. ‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

The verse itself has nothing to do with rescue the way we would like it to mean, but rather growing us up through trials. I guess you can look it as strength training. In the case of the situation I was interfering with, my strength was being proven. I was also taking on the other person’s portion of the trial and doing all the heavy lifting, effectively blocking him from growing stronger. In my crusade to help, it was actually doing them a disservice. In the end, they would not be able to stand up against adversity. They simply would not have the muscles to do so.

Romans 5:2 talks about the same thing saying, “we boast in the hope of the glory of God. But not only that, we also glory in our sufferings.” Why? Because they give us a future and a hope. Through our suffering, perseverance is produced. Perseverance produces character, and character, hope. (Romans 5:4) With hope, we can stand in strength against whatever comes our way. Isn’t this what we want our struggling loved ones to possess?

So, what do we do when helping hurts?
  • Step aside and let them grow strong.
  • Be the one who allows the work to happen in their life.
  • And pray, pray, pray. Everyone needs a cheerleader.‬ ‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer.
Romans 12:12


 

Note: There has been no change that I can detect in the situation. God’s timing and a softened heart will need to align with each other. I am always reminded of do not “grow weary of doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” I will continue to pray and offer encouragement where appropriate and watch for God who sees all things and loves all of us deeply to work out the details.

Practicing Small Things

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I wondered today,
Did I make a difference in the world?
I kissed babies,
Poured Cheerios,
Changed diapers.
But did I do anything that made a difference in the world?
I hugged tightly,
Read words,
Sang silly songs.
I wonder if those are things that can make any difference the world.

What would come from time spent living a simple, quiet life?
Would it pass away unnoticed?
Or return in the lives of those who were kissed, ate Cheerios, or joined in the singing?
Was the world different
By the moments of love,
The small offerings of service,
Or the delight in each other?
I wonder.

Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin . . . “
Zechariah 4:10

First Impressions

clotheyourself

“You can’t judge a book by its cover, but it does tell me whether I want to engage it or not,” my sister stated on Facebook the other day. I have no idea what she was referring to, but I have an idea it wasn’t a book. It made me chuckle. I had just had a run in with someone who claimed to be a Jesus follower but from the attitude she was wearing, I wasn’t so sure.

Clothe yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 13:14

What does it mean to be to be clothed in Christ?

This may be where people find difficulty. Do we know what Jesus looks like? We use a lot of statements about what the Bible says, but how often do we think about how Jesus interacted with the world around Him? When was the last time you investigated the Scriptures to see how Jesus did things? I must admit I spend more time in the instruction found in the letters of the New Testament texts than in the actual stories of Jesus showing us how it’s done. How about you?

To know what it means to clothe yourself with Christ, you will first need to know what He looks like. Let’s take a peek. Our very first glimpse of Jesus acting on His own sets the stage for the rest of us. Start here by reading the story in Luke 2:41-52. I’ll wait.

Seek

In this tiny bit of Scripture, we get to see a snippet of His childhood. Right from the beginning, Jesus is demonstrating to us the importance of seeking God. Here we find Him in the temple courts. Jesus went to the place where He was sure to find what He was looking for. I know, I know, you’re right when you point out that Jesus was always in God’s presence since He was God. But He was also a man, living a man’s life. If we look at His life lived here on earth, we can learn how to live ours better. In this case, He shows seeking is good but there’s more. Jesus also submitted His life to God, His Father. His first recorded words reveal His heart in this when He said, “Didn’t you know I had to be about my Father’s business.” Luke 2:49 KJV

Learn

Along with seeking and submitting, Jesus was also listening and asking questions. In my last post How’s Your Spiritual Life Going, we investigated the importance of taking time to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to His teaching. Jesus goes a step farther here and shows us to ask questions as we search for wisdom. There is a young woman in my Bible study group who is always full of questions. I love this girl and her bravery to investigate what she does not know. As a new Christian, there is much for her to discover in God’s word. Let’s face it, there’s much for all of us to discover no matter how well versed we think we are. When we stop asking the questions, we will also stop growing. Questioning is a sign of the desire to move forward and grow.

Obey

Finally, Jesus shows us the importance of obedience. This story ends with Jesus living in obedience. Our obedience to the Lord is key to living a life that wins God’s approval and is attractive to those around us. Proverbs 3 puts it like this—“My son, do not forget my teaching but keep my commands in your heart for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity. Let love and faithfulness never leave you. Bind them around your neck, write them on the table of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.” Proverbs 3:1-4 NIV

Do you see something familiar here?

The passage in Luke ends with these very words. “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” Luke 2:52 NIV It all came from seeking God out, learning all He could from Him, and living according to His ways.

In a sense, this story begins with the submission of the heart and ends with the practicing of submission in life. If we follow Jesus’s lead, our outside will tell the world exactly what’s on inside. To look like Jesus, we can’t just believe in Him. We must do what He did. The result will be a beauty the world will want to engage.

Those who say they live their lives in God should live their lives as Jesus did.
1 John 2:6 NLT


What is your favorite story about Jesus? What do you learn from His example that can become a part of how you live?