Sabbath Sweet Sabbath

Sabbath is about taking a break, doing something different, and recharging. My husband and I often like to take a Sunday drive (Does anyone even do that anymore?) and seek out something new to explore. Today was no exception. After church, we along with our granddaughter wandered about the countryside near where we are staying in New Jersey. At the recommendation of friends, we stopped at Hacklebarney Farms Cider Mill in Chester for pulled pork sandwiches and their famous cider donuts. Sorry no donut pics, but here’s a couple of others.

Next we took a short hike at Hacklebarney State Park. Beautiful surroundings along a creek.

But we weren’t finished. We drove on to Jockey Hollow National Park and visited the soldiers huts orginally erected in 1779 for Washington’s troops during the winter. We saw only a few of what would have been hundreds needed to house the ten thousand soldiers stationed there.

From there, we headed to Morristown to where General Washington hung out for the winter. Quite different situation for the officers. They stayed with local residents. This is the Ford Mansion where Washington stayed. It is now part of Morristown National Park.

One more stop before heading home. Our kids insisted we stop by Carlo’s Bakery. Yes, more sweet treats, but it’s Sunday. Calories don’t count. Haha!

I hope your Sabbath brought you some relaxation and rejuvenation and perhaps some sweet treats.

Not That Way!

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After last week’s article Follow Me to The Place I Will Show You, I thought I would tell you of a time I didn’t do what God asked. I hope it will speak to you if you are struggling to say yes.


No, that doesn’t make sense. I can’t be hearing you right.

I stood in the cold near a homeless girl who sat under her makeshift shelter, arguing with God.

Take your coat off and give it to her.

I hesitated. I ran through all the reasons, justifying my reluctance and His faulty thinking in the situation. I walked away, coat still on my back.

If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. James 4:17

Tears started to flow but I kept walking, her face etched in my mind. But this story is not about the young woman or her poverty, but me and my choices. That night, I rejected God’s words and chose mine instead. I didn’t trust Him or His wisdom in the situation. I chose not to do the good I ought to do. I chose to sin.

What comes to mind when you think of sin?
Transgression, ungodliness, evil?

Sin means any reprehensible or regrettable action, behavior, or lapse; especially a willful or deliberate violation of some religious or moral principle. This definition doesn’t sound so devilish, but he is in the details. He is all about tempting us into sin knowing full well it is what separates from God. It is his mission in our lives.

When I look at all the actions that come with the definition of sin, lapse is the one at times that is the hardest to come to grips with. Jesus says, “If you love me, you obey my commandments.” (John14:15) We get the thou shall nots, the things to avoid when we are living our lives according to God’s ways. But it is those thou shall dos that sometimes trip us up.

The original translation of the word sin—hamartia— means loss or forfeiture because not hitting the target. It is the brand of sin that emphasizes its self-empowered nature. Willfulness comes to mind here. Sort of like when I said no to God’s prompting and walked away. I didn’t just miss the target. I aimed for something in the opposite direction. I chose what I wanted above God.

I have often thought of the time I said no. It has shaped how I now respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. I want yes to be on my lips and in my actions even when things don’t make sense. I want God to know that I love Him by doing what He tells me to do.

Being a grandparent has some pretty great perks. One comes from my four-year-old granddaughter, Brielle. All through the day, she runs to where I am, wraps her arms around me, and says, “Grandma, I love you.” Then off she goes again to continue playing. It melts my heart. I can’t help but think God is the same way. I picture our yeses to acts of kindness, service, and compassion—those love your neighbor moments—as a great big hug and an I love you to God. His response may sound a bit like this—

‘Well done, good and faithful servant!”

Matthew 25:23 NIV

I love you, too.


Have you ever found yourself reasoning with God on whether you should follow His command? How did that go for you? What did it reveal in your life?

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

horse cowboy

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

 

Adventuring On

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January brought some exciting adventures to the Schell household.

We have journeyed to places we have never been, doing things we have never done. It has been a wonderful experience.

Our year started off with the purchase of a second home in Oklahoma. It was one of those things we knew was right even when we couldn’t imagine how everything would fit together. But there is no adventure in standing still, so we jumped it, and the result was perfect. It’s just down the road from our girls. We have land to grow things on, woods to explore, and a roomy house we hope to welcome lots of friends and family into. To top it all off, our new town, Guthrie, was named the cutest small town in the state.

So what does any sane individual do . . .

when in the middle of negotiating prices, ordering inspections, and signing papers to purchase a home do? They set sail for Central America where they will be totally out of reach, of course. And that’s just what we did. When we planned to travel in January, we had no idea we would be purchasing a house, but the thing of it is—all went on as planned without us. We relaxed and enjoyed our time exploring places when had never been. We met new people and learned of their stories, enjoyed some good food, and saw many interesting things, some of which I’m sure will find their way into future posts on this blog.

Life has a way of surprising us sometimes.

We found that to be very true over this last month. When we headed for Oklahoma to spend Christmas with the girls, we had no idea we would be buying a house, too. And even the plans we had made for our travel were greatly enhanced by the unknown. It was the people and places outside our expected itinerary that made the trip memorable.

We, humans, tend to map out our lives in our perfectly devised plans and expectations, but God often has a very different course that will really wow us. It makes me think of the Yiddish proverb “Man plans and God laughs.” I think He chuckles at us simply because He knows what’s coming and He can’t wait to see our reaction. I imagine our look of awe and wonder please Him much like the pleasure we receive when our children discover something new.

I have said it before and I will now say again—

God has the best adventures.

Everyday contains something He wants us to see and experience. There is something truly amazing about walking with God. He has a way of giving us the best views that have the potential to bring the most impact to our lives. Whether or not it has any effect will depend on our willingness to trust and follow Him. What can we lose? Nothing, and what will we gain? Just an amazing journey through life with the Creator of the Universe.

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”
“1 Corinthians 2:9 NLT

Keep watching for the adventures as they come. You never know what you might experience. Follow me. I’m happy to share mine.

Cheerful Satisfaction

pattyschell.com

I meet with a group of wonderful women to study the Bible. We are currently looking into the book of James and his advice on how to live a successful life following Jesus.

James wastes no time getting right to the point—

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” James 1:2NIV

I have to admit, this verse makes me cringe a little every time I read it. Perhaps it does the same to you. It’s a good thing it is followed by verse 2 and 3 which tell us—

For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. (NLT)

Here is a short devotion I wrote a while back on finding joy in our trials. I hope you enjoy it.


 Cheerful Satisfaction

Groans could be heard throughout the airplane as it bounced and dipped. Turbulence. It was going to be a long flight. Each jerk of the aircraft caused a new round of complaining from its passengers with one exception. From seat 27D could be heard squeals of delight. A small, blue-eyed, blond-headed mite of a girl cheered with joyous abandon. To her, this flight was more than she could hope for. Her ‘sit in your seat and just be quiet’ ride had turned into an exhilarating experience. I couldn’t help but smile at her happiness. In the midst of a less than satisfactory situation, this little one had found great pleasure.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

 Galatians 5:22-23


Joy

Greek: chara khar-ah

Meaning: Cheerfulness, Calm delight


Joy’s very definition can make us smile. The idea of being full of cheer lightens our mood. But there is one more definition we should consider.  Delight means an extreme level of satisfaction, and satisfaction means a source or means of enjoyment: Contentment

Ahhh. . .Who knew that joy bubbles up right from satisfaction and is quickly followed by contentment. Out of the list of attributes of the Spirit found in Galatians 5, joy is the one that shouts out “This is pretty great!” If this were fruit we were eating, joy would be the part that would make us want to take another bite, savoring every bit of its lip-smacking goodness.

Joy is the optimist, bringing with it the knowing that hope is still alive. Joy is the spark of a smile mingled with tears as we remember God is near and He has a plan. Joy is the light that brings new perspective.

So when you feel joy slipping away, just think of little Miss 27D and her infectious giggles. No matter what you are facing, God is in it with you and that is cause for celebration.

“A cheerful heart brings good healing. . .”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭17:22‬ ‭NET


I hope joy finds you today wherever you are today.
Do share.
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Christmas Cross

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As we pulled into a small village on the Baja peninsula in Mexico, there was a car coming in the opposite direction with a lop-sided cross mounted to its roof. I thought it a bit odd, but I have seen stranger things tied to cars south of the border. As we pulled past I could see that the cross was actually the wooden base nailed to the bottom of the Christmas tree.

I was struck with the juxtaposition of these two items—the tree and the cross. Both were symbols of peace and goodwill. One represented the season when God made His way to earth to dwell among men. The other, God making a way for man to reach heaven to dwell with Him.

I love when God uses seemly obscure moments of life to bring His story of hope to mind. It was but a brief sighting of something so ordinary, but the message behind it will last an eternity. I pray as we enter into the festivities of the Christmas season, we will keep the entire of the story in mind.

For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16 NET