Drowning?

Julia

(FreeImages.com/Irina Martynuk)

There are moments and even seasons in our lives when we feel like we are drowning — when life feels overwhelming.

I remember one of those moments a few months ago.  A situation had occurred that threatened to steal my peace and joy.

One morning, I awoke literally feeling as if waves were hitting me, and I was at risk of drowning.  The storm of my situation was overwhelming me.  I heard God speak very strongly to my heart: “Look at me!”  I still was too overwhelmed by “wave” after “wave” of emotional pain to look up.  Two more times, I heard God speak very firmly to my heart: “Look at me.”  The tone was more firm than I typically hear.  It was the tone of how a father might speak to a child that is terrified and losing control.  It was a tone of firm and loving authority.  His third call to me was finally the “lifeline” I needed to begin to look up.

I then asked God, “What do you want me to see?”  He immediately answered me with a picture of Him hanging on the cross.  I asked Him, “What more do I need to know about the cross?”

Circumstances in life can quickly descend upon us with an unanticipated fury, and depending on our position in relation to our view of those circumstances, we can quickly be swept “overboard” and drown in the “waves.”

A few months ago, God reminded me how the Israelites were brought to an impossible situation when escaping the Egyptians.  They were in a narrow valley, surrounded by steep mountain cliffs, trapped between the pursuing Egyptians on one side and the Red Sea on the other side.  Their obvious choices were to either die by the sword or die by drowning.

Exodus 14

14 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites to turn back and encamp near Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea. They are to encamp by the sea, directly opposite Baal Zephon. Pharaoh will think, ‘The Israelites are wandering around the land in confusion, hemmed in by the desert.’ And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them. But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.” So the Israelites did this.

When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his officials changed their minds about them and said, “What have we done? We have let the Israelites go and have lost their services!” So he had his chariot made ready and took his army with him. He took six hundred of the best chariots, along with all the other chariots of Egypt, with officers over all of them. The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, so that he pursued the Israelites, who were marching out boldly. The Egyptians—all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots, horsemen and troops—pursued the Israelites and overtook them as they camped by the sea near Pi Hahiroth, opposite Baal Zephon.

10 As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. 11 They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”

13 Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

15 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. 16 Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground. 17 I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them. And I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. 18 The Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen.”

19 Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, 20 coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long.

21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, 22 and the Israelites went through the seaon dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.

23 The Egyptians pursued them, and all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and horsemen followed them into the sea. 24 During the last watch of the night the Lord looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion. 25 He jammed the wheels of their chariots so that they had difficulty driving. And the Egyptians said, “Let’s get away from the Israelites! The Lord is fighting for them against Egypt.”

26 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen.” 27 Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the Lord swept them into the sea. 28 The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen—the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived.

29 But the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. 30 That day the Lord saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. 31 And when the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.

God did the miraculous and parted the Red Sea!  What was impossible suddenly was possible!  Where there was no way, God made a way.  The Israelites didn’t have to choose the least horrible method of dying.  God gave them an entirely new solution!

I find it fascinating that so often what we see in the Old Testament, we see in a bigger and more incredible measure in the New Testament!

In the New Testament, we have the story of the disciples on a boat on the Galilee Sea when they see the figure of a man walking towards them on the water.  Peter gets out of the boat and begins to walk towards Jesus… on the water!!!  The Biblical account then goes on to say that Peter began to see the wind and began to drown.  Jesus immediately comes to Peter, and Peter is able to safely return to the boat.

Matthew 14:22-33

Jesus Walks on the Water

22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

29 “Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

What I found interesting is that before Peter took his eyes off Jesus, he was able to walk on water!!!  It was only after he began to focus on the wind and waves that he began to drown.  It wasn’t that Peter’s circumstances changed; it’s that his perspective changed.  His position then changed in relation to his perspective: he began to sink.  Instead of walking on water, which speaks of authority, he began to succumb to the water and drown.

What stood out to me was that in the Old Testament, God parted the waters so the Israelites could walk through the sea without it touching them.  In the NT, Peter had authority/position above the waters.  He walked on the waters.  His position was based on His “view” or relationship to Jesus.  

What so profoundly spoke to me is that in Jesus, we are “positioned” to walk above our circumstances, meaning to have authority over them.  I know this can be quickly misunderstood, but we have authority in Jesus as His sons and daughters to “walk” above our circumstances and to not be victim to them.  

How?

We keep our eyes on Jesus.  We understand our position in Him — that we are not victims, but we are “more than conquerors through Him who loved us!”

At the cross, Jesus won for us all that He is and has.  We are no longer helpless and hopeless.  We are positioned in Jesus to be victorious!!!

 

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My Almost-Free Trip To Maine

[Warning: This blog post is heavy on the picture end.  :-)]

Three weeks ago, my husband and I were able to take a five-day trip to York County, Maine.  The only expenses we had to actually pay for were our meals, gas for the rental car, economy parking at the airport, and the jet-ski we rented for an hour the one day.  Our flights, our rental vehicle, our two nights at the Nonantum Resort, and then two nights at The Cliff House were completely free!

I have always wanted to take a summer vacation to Maine at a place with direct views of the ocean.  Our trip to Maine was a fulfillment of that dream!

Our first two nights in Maine, we stayed at the Nonantum Resort. Our room had a walk-out patio with direct views to the harbor.  There were colorful ships anchored in the harbor, and there was a little lighthouse that we could see from our patio.

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We enjoyed walking down to Kennebunkport, eating seafood, and taking a jet-ski out for an hour ride.  We also enjoyed a beautiful sunset our first night at the Nonantum Resort.

Our first full day in Maine, we drove to see the Cape Nubble Lighthouse.  It was windy but beautiful!

Our second full day, we rented a jet-ski.  Here is what I wrote to some friends, regarding our jet-ski adventure: “So, I confess that I was scared, but I know it’s healthy to do things sometimes that scare you and that cause you to hang onto your husband and trust his skills. Yesterday, we did something on my bucket list: we went jet skiing. It was truly fun! I held on tight, and I watched his muscles flex as he steered us skillfully over the waves. A marriage of 16 years can still require growth and bring excitement. All good things…!”

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Without kids, we slept in, ate late, took naps, relaxed, and just went with the flow of the day.

Our last two nights in Maine, we spent at The Cliff House.  It was absolutely exquisite!  There were no end to the pleasantries, fine details, and gorgeous views!  When you drive up to the front entrance, you can see straight through the lobby to a stunning view of the ocean.  There are two infinity pools and two large hot tubs.  We enjoyed having one hot tub to ourselves the first night.

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At the Cliff House, there are outdoor couches and even a large fire-pit for s’mores.  We enjoyed roasting our own s’mores the second evening there.  Both evenings, we enjoyed sunsets that bathed the sky and water in soft hues of pastel pinks, lavender, blue, and peach.  (I saw the wine glasses left by guests and thought they made a lovely picture with the sunset in the background.)

Our final morning in Maine, we awoke early in order to watch a sunrise from our balcony.  It was stunning!

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As we took our time packing for our departure, we noticed that right outside our balcony/window, preparations were being made for a wedding.  We had heard talk the previous night about a wedding taking place that day, but we had no idea that they would pick the location right outside our balcony!

I knew that God had something to tell me on this vacation, and I wasn’t mistaken.

I knew that even the places where we stayed had significance.  We started at the harbor with gorgeous views and then moved to a place with a high, cliff view and the immense ocean spread out below.  God began to softly speak to my heart and tell me that the ocean was to represent the ocean of His love for me.  I saw it bathed in many hues of pinks and reds — all colors that represent love.  I knew the views I was seeing had a message for me because God was also speaking to my heart gently at the same time.

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When we first arrived at the Cliff House, I felt like an intruder, like I didn’t belong, and even like it was wrong for me to enjoy such a place because it might be materialistic to enjoy such a lovely place.  God immediately began to address those lies.  He not only told me that the place was a gift for me to enjoy because He loves me so much but also I am to receive His love.  He then revealed to me that I so often live the same way when it comes to the spiritual realm.  I so often feel like the best is for super-Christians and that it’s pride to even want a ministry.  He revealed to me that I hold back from receiving from Him because I keep acting like a servant instead of a daughter.  I keep acting like I have to earn and work to keep my position instead of receiving it as a beloved daughter.

God also showed me that the wedding outside our balcony was to represent that just as a marriage is two becoming one, God is inviting my husband and I to go deeper with Him and to become more “one” with Him.  I feel so humbled as I comprehend more of the depths of His love for me!

(Small wedding:)

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Maine was truly incredible, but the lessons I learned there are the memories that remain the longest and are the most precious!

(Last pictures are from our last morning in Maine:)

Life Will Always Reveal The “Security” Of Your Worth…

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I remember those days as a single woman, hoping some guy would like me and choose me.  I thought that if some guy, particularly a really nice guy, would choose me, it would mean that I was worth loving — that I had value as a woman.  Sadly, I thought that my worth could be determined by a guy.  Not only is that dangerous, but it’s false.  I thought that marriage and motherhood was where my purpose and value could be found.

Don’t get me wrong, there is great purpose in marriage and motherhood, but your value cannot be found in it.  In fact, it is unhealthy for you and your kids if you try to find your value and even life purpose in it.

I remember those days then as a young mother with two young babies.  I remember believing that I was a failure because I couldn’t keep my kids perfectly happy all the time, and as a result, they couldn’t keep me perfectly happy.  I thought that I could be the “perfect” mother, and my life would somehow be “perfect” as a result.

I remember those days of four and then five kids and one kid who had serious needs.  We were seeing a slew of medical professionals, trying to find the cause of his struggles.  It was daunting and terrifying.  I remember the hopeless and helpless feelings.  I remember the anger because I felt so out of control, so afraid, and carried boatloads of shame because I believed that if my kids were “perfect” and happy, then I was a good mother — I had worth.  I also believed that if my kids were unhappy and struggling than I was a bad mom and thus didn’t have worth.  I can only tell you those were dark and painful days for me.  To add to my pain, so many Christian circles didn’t seem to want to know about my pain.  To be honest and vulnerable was to admit weakness, and weakness was perceived as shameful and something to hide.  For all our talk of God’s grace, it seemed that we understood it so little.  It seemed that so many people’s false understanding of Christianity meant that you put on your Christian costume to hide the smell and dirt beneath.  It seemed that no one cared how much you hurt — only that you played nice and pretty.  The truth is that if we want to truly heal, we need to bring our pain and dirt to the light.  Light reveals, but it also heals.  This is hard stuff I am writing, but it is the raw truth.

Then, there comes the teen years.  There are teen hormones and attitudes, and yes, society has painted it to be worse than it is.  Let’s be honest though, it has its ups and downs.  Some kids sail through the teen years, and other kids deal with a lot of turbulence along the way.  In addition to all of that, we have way more challenges than the past.  Now, there is internet and YouTube.  There is no great way to completely unplug our kids.  Those of us who dare to forbid our kids from owning their own phones or tablets are deemed as too controlling.  Our kids like to inform us that we are the ONLY parents who don’t allow this, which is of course not true.  The point is, serious dangers are so readily only one click away from our kids.  As we found, we may do everything we can to protect our kids, but a neighbor may bring a tablet onto your property while the kids are playing outside and expose them to something you have worked so hard to block.  If your worth is based on having kids that are innocent of the world, you are facing a very disheartening battle.

I am not there yet, but I have met strong Christians who enter the health challenges of the elderly years.  Suddenly, these aging Christians can’t be as involved and often have to retire from ministries and positions of influence.  I have watched those Christians naturally become discouraged and depressed.  Why?  Because their worth is tied into their usefulness.  This lie is so ingrained within our culture.  Our society seems to give us a “shelf life,” and even Christians tend to look at the young and their vitality for usefulness.  Is it really true that God views us as valuable so long as we can contribute to His Kingdom?  Is our value based on our contributions or something/Someone else?

I have ridden the waves of shame that comes when my worth is tied to performance, influence, relationships, innocence, physical attraction, and abilities.  I will never be enough when I connect who I am and my value with what I do and how I appear.

I remember that day a little more than three years ago when God awoke me early in the morning and showed me a massive ugly boulder, blocking my view.  He spoke to my heart and asked me if I was ready to get rid of the boulder.  He told me it was my wrong identity.  I told Him that I was.  I then saw both of us put our hands on that massive boulder, and it rolled off the cliff like it was nothing more than a paper rock.  God then began to reveal the depth of His love and grace to me.  I began to glimpse the overwhelming nature of His love.

All the love that I had longed for from a man was what God Himself was only fully capable of giving.  My husband is a good and loving man, but he can’t love me like I crave and need.  My kids are precious and my greatest treasures on earth, but they can’t give me the joy, peace, and purpose that God can.  Ministries are wonderful, but they can also be exhausting, burdening, and trying without me understanding that I must live for an audience of One!

God has given me gifts and abilities, but thankfully, my worth isn’t connected with them.  In fact, they become more useful when I understand that my worth is inherently priceless and eternal.  My worth is wrapped up in His worth because my identity is wrapped up in His.

“I am my Beloved’s, and He is mine.” — Song of Solomon 6:3A

Is Singleness A Waiting Game…

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(FreeImages.com/onixxino)

Today’s blog post was prompted by a recent FB post by a younger, single friend.  She wrote that you should not be sitting around waiting for a future spouse but get involved in ministry.

Here was my response to her:

You have definitely “hit” on something. Actually, one of the best things you can bring to a marriage is “wholeness” and contentment. So many marry out of need and try to suck from their spouse what only God can give them. It will eventually drain your marriage dry. Not to mention, it actually results in great selfishness. On the other hand, if you are already finding your completeness in Jesus, you will have more to offer to a marriage, will be more mature, and truly able to love more.

The other aspect of this is, so often in Christianity, we have conveyed the message that you are only “complete” in marriage, that you are “waiting” to be married (meaning life hasn’t really begun until your are married), and that marriage is the ultimate goal to reach. I have been happily married for almost 16 years and wouldn’t change it, but I can tell you that our spouses were never meant to be our god.

Marriage is not the end goal. Marriage is not the “completer” of us or our “crowning moment.” That’s all the wrong identity.

Perhaps, this isn’t the best analogy, but marriage is more of a vehicle. It is a means that God often uses to bring us where He wants to bring us — maybe through the many ways it reveals our own weaknesses and also through the ways it can potentially strengthen and mature us.

Marriage is a tool that God uses to potentially multiply His purposes for us (kind of like a hammer and nail — together they work beautifully). Marriage though can also be detrimental to our relationship with God and calling if it’s not in God’s ultimate purpose for our lives and not with the one He has ordained or not in the right timing…

If you are still single, please don’t see yourself as less than, incomplete, or waiting around for “life” to finally happen to you.

Marriage isn’t the fulfillment of life.  It is a blessing and can be amazing, but not for everyone.  It’s definitely not the solution to your lack or perceived lack.

Please know that you are only complete in living fully and being fully who God created you to be.

Another person can’t “complete” you or make you whole.  If you aren’t “whole” when entering into marriage, you will try to live in your spouse’s “wholeness,” and it won’t “fit” you correctly.

Please also don’t have a mindset that you are going to find something to pass your time until the right one comes along.  There is wrong thinking in that.  Your life isn’t meaningless until a spouse comes along.  You aren’t living half of a life and shouldn’t be just passing time until the “real event” happens (e.g. marriage).

You don’t begin “living” once you get married.

I know that singleness can be a lonely road for many.  I also know that marriage can be a lonely road for many.

Focus on becoming all God created you to be — in being whole in Him.

Blessings, dear friend.  Don’t let your marital or single status define you.  It’s just a checkbox on a form.

Preparation/Transition Season…

Bridge over River

(FreeImages.com/CharlieLawrence)

The number 40 has had great significance to me lately.  Besides the fact that I turned 40 this year, it is a number that became meaningful to me a few months ago.

A few months ago, I was at a special service.  At the end of the service, a young man and young lady prayed over me.  Before arriving at the service, I had asked the Lord to reveal through some word of encouragement that He would provide for the next chapter in our lives.

As the young man and lady prayed over me, the young man knew that God was telling Him to tell me the words: “Live from my [God’s] abundance.”  The young man then reached into his wallet and handed me money.  Normally, I would have politely turned it down, but I knew that it was coming from the Lord so I gratefully accepted it.  Once I got home, I opened my hand and saw $40.  I knew that God wasn’t just randomly putting money in my hand, but that He actually had that specific amount given to me for a reason.  I began to look into what 40 represents in the Bible.

A quick search of 40 spoke of trials, but studying the number more revealed to me that 40 doesn’t speak of just trials.  It actually speaks of preparation and transition.  Let me explain.

What I found was pretty amazing!

If we start with the physical, we find that the normal time of gestation for human life is 40 weeks.  It takes 40 weeks to prepare a human for life outside the womb.

In the Bible, we find that the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years.

On two separate occasions, Moses was on Mount Sinai for 40 days, where He encountered God and was given the Ten Commandments.

The 12 spies were sent to spy out the Promised Land for 40 days.

Elijah went 40 days without food or water on Mount Horeb.

Ezekiel laid on his right side for 40 days to symbolize the Southern Kingdom of Judah’s sins.

The Roman empire destroyed the city of Jerusalem 40 years after Jesus’ crucifixion.

Jesus was in the wilderness, fasting for 40 days while being tested on numerous occasions by Satan.

Noah and his family were on the Ark for 40 days and 40 nights.

Jesus ascended to Heaven 40 days after His resurrection.

The first three kings over Israel (Saul, David, and Solomon) reigned for 40 years.

The Bible was written by 40 different people — all inspired by the Holy Spirit.

The Egyptians took 40 days to embalm Joseph’s body after he died.

In each of these situations, 40 was a time that marked a fullness of time or completion of an era or set of circumstances.

The day I turned 40, I got down on my knees and asked the Lord to make the next 40 years be twice as powerful as my first 40.  This year, I have a strong sense that I am entering a very different chapter in my life but one that required the first 40 years to teach me pivotal lessons to prepare me for this next season.

God has been speaking to me strongly to let go of the “weights” or “baggage” that is not to accompany me into this new season.  That means to choose forgiveness, to leave behind hurts and offenses, to leave behind fears, to leave behind wrong attitudes, to leave behind self, to leave behind everything that would hold me back.  Ultimately, this means to surrender.

I am called to surrender or yield what I have held onto previously that only served to “weigh” me down and to instead walk freely and with joyful abandonment into all that God desires to abundantly pour into my life.

God, enlarge my heart to receive more from You.

Guardians of the Ancient Mysteries

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(FreeImages.com/AdrianVanLeen)

Chapter One — The Call

Three friends sat, visiting together.  Each of these three friends was unique and beautiful in her own way.  Each had her own personality and gifts.

It is said that a three-some is often not advisable because one will often feel excluded.  In the case of these three friends, they were uniquely matched to complement each other, and somehow they were stronger and more beautiful together than apart.

These three friends had no idea the extent to which their normal and fairly predictable life was about to radically change.

Before we begin the story of their journey, let us understand in greater depth the personalities and gifts of these friends.

The first girl is Analiese Bridget Leone.  Analiese is a tall girl with long, blond hair and beautiful, seafoam-green eyes.  She has a beautiful, creamy complexion.  Analiese has a clever sense of humor and an engaging personality but perhaps is remembered most for her kindness.  Analiese is also extremely creative and can design almost any kind of structure.  Though kind and intuitive, Analiese is also very courageous, and her friends jokingly call her their “lioness.”

The second girl is Serenity Sajan, and she does not have a middle name.  Serenity is of an average height with shoulder-length, brown, wavy hair.  She has large, expressive, brown eyes and a lovely, natural tan.  The third friend says Serenity’s eyes remind her of a doe so the friends jokingly call her their “Deer friend.”  She exudes a peaceful and gentle nature, and everyone feels calmer in her presence.  Serenity has an amazing gift for writing as well as creating beautiful art.  Perhaps, the quality for which she is most remembered is her gentle peace.

The third girl is Karamia Lily Kemp.  Karamia prefers the nickname of Mia so her friends always refer to her as Mia.  Mia is also of an average height.  She has long, brown hair with a natural wave and reddish highlights.  Her Irish roots are reflected in her greenish-blue eyes and fair skin.  Mia loves books and writing.  She can constantly be found with a book in one hand and a pen and journal in the other.  Mia is creative, but she also loves research.  When it comes to finding the meaning of a word, Mia is the friend that is delegated to find the answer.  Perhaps, the quality for which she is most remembered is the wisdom that she has learned.  The friends jokingly call her the “Owl.”

The friends will need their combined qualities of creativity, design, research, peace-making, wit, wisdom, courage, and kindness for the journey that they are about to undertake.

It was a warm afternoon in late August when the three friends were sitting, visiting as they like to do.  There was nothing of significance being discussed at the moment, but without realizing it all three girls were starting to lose interest in the conversation and were instead listening  to a peculiar bird song that was increasing in volume.  The bird call had an almost other-worldly sound to it.  Without even realizing each was doing it, each girl had begun to tune every other sound out in order to hear this peculiar bird’s song.  At that point, all talking had stopped, and it was if all other sounds had ceased so compelling was the bird’s call.

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(FreeImages.com/KukiRosen)

As if drawn by some other force, all three girls began to stand up and to walk towards the sound of the bird’s call.  The bird’s song continued to call the girls, and they began to follow it into the woods and then into a forest that continued to thicken.  At this point, without realizing it, the girls were quite far from their original starting place.  They would have been hard-pressed to even find their way back to where they started even if they tried.  The three friends followed the bird’s call until they came to a meadow.  The meadow was dappled with bright spots of sunlight shining through the bright, green leafy canopy of trees.

Suddenly as if awakened from a dream, the three friends realized they were no longer anywhere they recognized.  They began to exclaim with curious wonder over where they were and began to question what the bird was and what it all meant.

They could no longer distinguish the singular song of the original bird.  For now, they were surrounded by many unusual species of birds singing their own songs, but somehow all the songs seemed to meld into one harmonious song.

Even though the girls were in a strange place and could have easily been frightened, the atmosphere in the meadow seemed to envelope them with a tranquility and at the same time a surprising joy.

Each of the girls began to exclaim with excitement when they realized that each of them had been drawn by the melody because it was an ancient tune that they felt like they had heard before and wondered if they had dreamed it.  They felt like it was a tune they hadn’t heard audibly so much as internally.  Even their heartbeats seemed to match part of the musical measures of the song.  Each girl had a sense that the song was somehow a part of who they were and a part of their destiny — though they were not sure what that destiny might be.

The girls began to walk in the direction of a clear, cool stream that meandered through the meadow.  Each girl suddenly noticed how thirsty she was.  Bending down on their knees, the girls began to cup their hands and to drink from the stream.  They noticed that the water they drank not only satisfied their thirst, but it seemed to refresh them all the way down to their toes.  Feeling energized, the girls began to skip and dance in time to the song being sung by the birds.

All at once, each girl stopped and bent down towards the flowers.  Instead of sniffing them as expected, they seemed to be listening.  Sure enough, each girl began to hum a melody.  It seemed that each flower had its own harmony to the song heard in the meadow.  Laughing, the girls declared that everything in the meadow seemed to be singing a part of the song.  Sure enough, even the brook was creating joyful notes that harmonized.  As the girls danced across the rocks, it seemed to create the sound of the percussion.  The wind gently blowing through the trees created the high notes of the woodwinds.  Every living thing within the meadow seemed to join in the song.  The more the girls listened to the song, the more variations in harmony they heard, and the more colorful the flowers became.

As the girls listened and danced, they began to notice that the song had changed slightly and began to crescendo — almost like it was getting ready to proclaim something.  The girls noticed that the birds had begun to move towards the direction of a beautiful gate at the right of the meadow.  Laughing, the girls began to follow the birds towards the gate as well.

The gate was a beautiful white with an intricate design of scrolls.  As the girls moved towards the gate, they noticed the figure of a person up ahead.

Are There Legitimate Excuses… Reasons?

TIME STANDS STILL

(FreeImages.com/MargaretYoung)

“No excuses!”

I have read the motivational phrases and the examples that have been lauded for us to follow: women and men who never quit and never say never.

I understand why they are lauded.  These are men and women who have faced incredible challenges and yet have never allowed their challenges to keep them from reaching above-average goals.

I love reading the story of Nick Vujicic for that reason.  The man is one of my greatest heroes!  He was born without limbs, and yet, he has accomplished far more than most people who have been born with limbs.  Nothing seems to daunt that man!

The truth is some of us need to believe more so we can live the more.

For some of us, our perspective is just not big enough.  Our dreams aren’t big enough.  Our belief isn’t big enough.  

On the other hand, there is another side to this whole “No excuses” motto.  There is a lot of pressure behind this, telling us that once again we are not enough or that we are making wrong, lazy, or even selfish choices if we decide that enough is enough.

The danger is that our culture is constantly telling us as women that being a wife and mother isn’t enough.  We hear the phrase “I am just a stay-at-home mom.”  There seems to be a sense of shame with that — as if raising future human beings with all of their God-potential is substandard.

I am all for education.  I am all for being a Proverbs 31 woman who is a skilled business-woman.

What I don’t like is when I hear the pressure being put on women that somehow they are wrong if they decide that they like to live a simpler life.

We put so much emphasis on performance and praising the women accomplishing “super-woman” feats that it makes every other woman feel like she has to do the same or she is living a substandard life.

The question is, “Who determines fullness of life?”  It’s not a company.  It’s not a title.

Can I just say that fullness of life is found in living fully the life that God has given for you to live — not another person’s life?

Can I also say that if you live for the more, to be more, or to accomplish more, you will never be content nor live the full life?

More is always that indefinable goal that is ever elusive and never truly attainable.

I am going to just say what I have been thinking for awhile:

There are good excuses/reasons for not doing more.  The truth is when you say “yes” to one thing, you are always saying “no” to something else.  Sometimes, the something else is actually the thing you should be saying “yes” to instead.

There will always be business ventures and some new product to sell.  There will always be something new to buy or admire.  There will always be something you will want to change about your physical appearance, BUT…

Your kids won’t always be in your home. They won’t always be little enough to hold on your lap. You won’t always be able to watch them blow dandelions in the wind. You and your husband may not always be able dance together, play Nerf gun wars with your boys, and go for a run together.  Each of these moments can’t be recaptured.  Today can only be lived today.  

Reaching a new level of achievement is exciting, but can I be very direct with you?  You are not going to be content at that new level if you haven’t learned to be content at the level where you are currently.  I know this sounds counter-productive to any type of sale’s job, but I am telling you that at the heart of the constant pressure for more is discontentment and a lack of identity or simply being.

A full life is a place of understanding the simplicity of fully “being” in the moment.  It’s being content where you are.  That’s what it means to be fully in the moment.

The invitation God has given to enjoy Him today and set aside distractions can’t be accepted tomorrow.

Dream for tomorrow, but live in today.

There are many things that call for our attention. The question is, “Which invitations will you accept, and which ones will you regret you didn’t accept?”

I want to live, knowing that I have accepted the most important ones, and often those aren’t the ones that others see or for which I will ever be recognized.

May it not be that what we do is what defines who we are, but may it be that who we are defines what we do. There is a difference.

Is It The Seed Or The Soil?

Grass

(FreeImages.com/MartinBoose)

I have been contemplating Matthew 13 and the account of the Parable of the Sower.  There are so many deep lessons to be learned in it, but for the reader’s sake, I will keep this as simple as possible.

Let’s first read the passage:

Matthew 13

The Parable of the Sower

13 On the same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the sea. And great multitudes were gathered together to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore.

Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: “Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”

The Purpose of Parables

10 And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?”

11 He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. 13 Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says:

‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand,
And seeing you will see and not perceive;
15 For the hearts of this people have grown dull.
Their ears are hard of hearing,
And their eyes they have closed,
Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears,
Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn,
So that I should[a] heal them.’[b]

16 But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear;17 for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

The Parable of the Sower Explained

18 “Therefore hear the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside. 20 But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. 22 Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. 23 But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”

This passage is one that both challenges us and also clarifies.

1. The first question to be asked is:  “In each example of sowing the seed, which changed — the seed or the soil?”

There is no indication that a different type of seed was sown in each example.  If you look in the Greek for the word seed in these verses, you find 4687 is used, which means seed, scatter, sow.  In the cases of the seed that grew in the good soil, 4690 is used which is derived from 4687 and means offspring.  In each soil, the seed was sown, but only in the case of the good soil did it result in actual “offspring” or an accurate reproduction of the parent.

First truth is: The seed sown didn’t change; the soil did.

2. The second question is: “Was the seed sown in all types of soil, regardless of the outcome?”

The answer as seen above is yes.  I have highlighted the portions of Scripture that address this.  In each case, we see thorny soil, rocky soil, the wayside, and then good ground.

Second truth is: The seed is sown everywhere, regardless of the outcome.

3. The third question is: “What other factors affected the outcome of the fruit from the seed sown?”

In the case of the seed that fell among the wayside, we read that the birds came and devoured it.  Birds, in this case, are referring to the enemy that snatches away the seed that was sown.  Notice that it was easy for the bird to snatch the good seed because of its location: it was along the wayside.  The wayside means a beaten path or ditch.  It implies hard dirt where a seed can’t easily bury.  This explains why it’s even more susceptible to birds coming along, easily finding it, and eating it before it has a chance to flourish.  The hardness is referring to a lack of openness towards God and His Word. Many things can contribute to this hardness.  We find Scripture indicates that a lack of repentance towards sin, an unforgiving heart, unbelief, and pride are all factors that contribute towards a hard heart.

According to the Parable, we also see that the hardness of our hearts will make us more susceptible to the enemy.  He spots our vulnerability and is able to quickly snatch away any truth we have heard before it has a chance to take root in our hearts.

The thorny soil, as explained by Jesus, is soil that has bad things also growing in our hearts that will eventually choke out the growth of the good seed and prevent it from becoming a fruitful plant.  The thorns refer to sins/compromises that we allow in our lives that will eventually choke out the voice, truth, or seed of God in our lives.  We may think we can hang onto “little” sins and also follow God, but as the Word says, “You cannot serve two masters.”

The rocky soil is also speaking of a hard heart.  This heart though isn’t just tough or jaded (lacking belief or trust).  This heart has actual obstacles or objects within it that are completely impenetrable by the seed.  Packed ground is hard to sow into and needs to be tilled up in order to plant seed into it.  Rocks though will only serve to damage the blades of your plow and have to be removed all together in order to plant anything of value within its soil.  I believe, this soil speaks of people who have “strongholds” (places that the enemy inhabits or has a claim) within their lives.  In order for there to be any chance for the soil of truth to actually flourish and produce fruit, the strongholds must first be removed.

In contrast, Jesus calls His disciple, Peter, a rock.  God also calls Himself our shelter and a firm foundation.  Rocks speak of strength and security.  In the case of the rocky soil, it is referring to a place of strength that the enemy has in a person’s life.  Any source of strength that is not of God becomes a “stronghold” that actually makes us a prisoner to deception and bondage.  So interesting!

The good ground is a beautiful contrast to the previous heart conditions.  In the good ground, we see a heart that is fertile or ready to receive.  This means the heart is hungry and receptive (believing and ready to yield).

Third truth is: If we want to see growth in our lives, we need hearts that are yielded to God and hungry for Him, ready to receive His Word.

Note: The soil isn’t the seed and doesn’t have the ability to actually reproduce the offspring.  That “DNA” all is contained within the seed. 

We have no ability to produce righteousness or truth within ourselves.  Belief is a matter of surrender and receptivity.  It is a response of our hearts to God’s Word.  That is what faith is: a response of our hearts to the Presence and truth of God’s Word.