Road map for life

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6

Most of us have at least heard these words before. Many of us can quote them. How many of us, I wonder, apply them?

Trust in the Lord–Well, sure! Who doesn’t know that they’re supposed to trust God?! Lots of us give lip service to this part. We SAY we’re trusting, but all the while, we’re scheming and planning our own ways and trying to work the system or get the people in our own systems to meet our own goals and meet our own desires with little to no thought about whether or not those plans actually line up with God’s Word or His heart. While it sounds like a no-brainer to trust the only One in charge…do we really trust Him? What do our prayers say? Are we telling Him how we want things to go or telling Him that we’re willing to go His way? Are we even talking to Him at all?

with all your heart–Oh, my. If we’re having trouble with that first part, whatever are we doing with this one? With ALL your heart? (Did You really mean, our whole heart, God?) What are you doing with your whole heart? Are you focused–in ANY area of life–with your whole heart? Divided hearts seem to be the norm these days. Are we willing to look simple and foolish because we focus our whole (Definition: “all of; entire; total, unabridged…”) heart on the Eternal God who is actually the only way we can have a whole (definition:  “in an unbroken or undamaged state; in one piece; intact; unbroken; unimpaired…) heart?

and–you mean there’s more, God?! Yes. There’s more…SO much more!

do not lean on your own understanding,–What happens when we lean? We allow our weight to be carried by something other than ourselves. Hmmmmm…What if we were truly willing to allow for the possibility that we don’t have all of the information needed to navigate this life? Anyone else in NEED of the ability to take a break from trying to do it all on our own and get rid of the self-inflicted (not to mention totally unreasonable and unattainable!) pressure to be infallible? Would that lighten our loads in any way? Don’t we need that?!

in all your ways acknowledge Him–Oh, dear. There’s that word again:  all. Every single one? In EVERY. THING? Yes, and there’s still more! Keep reading! In every single thing we do we are to “acknowledge Him. That word means we’re supposed to:

  1. accept or admit the existence or truth of.
  2. recognize the fact or importance or quality of…to celebrate, to praise, to speak highly of, to accept the validity or legitimacy of…(Becky’s definition: believe!)
  3. show that one has noticed or recognized (someone) by making a gesture or greeting. (Becky’s definition: make a change!)
    That sounds like the ABCs of salvation to me! Admit, Believe, Confess…and be CHANGED so that all the rest of this is even possible.

and He will make straight your paths.–So many times we want to know where we’re going and what we’ll see/do along the way. Keep in mind that this verse does NOT say our paths will be easy, simple, without issues and fault lines and mountains and valleys and…we’re still going to have all of those things and–that’s what makes a trip SCENIC, y’all!! Our final destination changes once we’ve done all of that acknowledging, however, and our path will then lead us straight to HIM even when the route along the way gets “scenic” at times.

Father God, Thanks for giving us a way to come straight to You and making it possible to rest in all that You have planned for our journey. We make that harder than it has to be sometimes. Thanks for being patient and giving us a brand new day in which to make better choices. Help us to lean into You today no matter what part of the road we’re on and be at peace with knowing You’re in control. We make that harder than it has to be sometimes, too. Give us You today in ways that allow others to be blessed and see that they need You, too. Help us to represent You well, God, and give us the ability to praise You on purpose no matter what our “scenery” looks like today.

Grace and Peace.

 

Location, Location, Location

IMG_20190916_070458056Happy Monday! Rise and shine! OR as my mama’s family used to say, “Feet, hit the floor!” (grin) To be perfectly honest, I didn’t fully understand that last one when I was a kid. It just made me laugh. These days, I’m aware that whether or not I feel like shinin’ when I wake up, my feet still have to hit the floor for things to get accomplished and for me to make the day as good as I can make it.

“As good as we can make it,”of course, is a relative term. It doesn’t mean everything will go as desired OR as planned OR that we’ll have a party and feelings of total fulfillment at the end of the day, but today I was reminded that while we can’t always choose our circumstances, we can always choose our spiritual location. We’re always just as close to God…as we choose to be.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you.” Isaiah 43:2 (NKJV)

That means even if our “location” today is a challenge for us, we are not alone. God is with us. He is ready to guide us and eager for relationship. We must make the choice to be guided and draw near if we have any hope of navigating this day in a way that honors Him and gives us the benefit of being His in ways that others can see and want to know for themselves.

Regardless of what you’re facing today, I hope you’ll choose to allow God to give you a song. Then, WHEN HE DOES, I hope you’ll choose to sing it loud and clear–and share it with those around you. While the highlighted Scripture above was a specific promise to a specific people, the principle is still the same because our God never changes. We can count on Him to be present–even when we fail to acknowledge Him!–because He has promised to never leave or forsake His people (Hebrews 13:5).

I pray that your week is a rip-roaring celebration of life and that you are fully aware of just how blessed you truly are today. If that isn’t the case (and it CAN be, regardless of whatever you’re facing!), I pray that you will take a moment and make the conscious choice to ask for God to help you see your circumstances through His eyes…and that you’ll be aware that His eyes are looking at you with love. You (yes, YOU!) matter to God and, more than you realize, you and your response to your circumstances matter to the people around you. 

“God Leads His Dear Children Along”  (lyrics by George A. Young, published 1903)

1. In shady, green pastures, so rich and so sweet,
God leads His dear children along;
Where the water’s cool flow bathes the weary one’s feet,
God leads His dear children along.

Refrain: (and THIS is what I’ve been singing this morning)
Some through the waters, some through the flood,
Some through the fire, but all through the blood;
Some through great sorrow, but God gives a song,
In the night season and all the day long.

2. Sometimes on the mount where the sun shines so bright,
God leads His dear children along;
Sometimes in the valley, in darkest of night,
God leads His dear children along.

3. Though sorrows befall us and evils oppose,
God leads His dear children along;
Through grace we can conquer, defeat all our foes,
God leads His dear children along.

4. Away from the mire, and away from the clay,
God leads His dear children along;
Away up in glory, eternity’s day,
God leads His dear children along.

Location, location, location. Where do you find yourself today?

Grace and Peace!

Soul Music

The music collection in this house is eclectic (to say the least). We have music that takes us back to different parts of our lives and melds them all together for us even now. Everything from Kansas and Tony Bennett, Elvis and Lynard Skynard, Bonnie Rait and Ray Charles, Loretta Lynn and Joshua Bell, James Taylor and Trombone Shorty, The Drifters and Ben Rector, YoYo Ma and Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir…You get the idea. We’re just all over the place. Each day is different and requires a different sound track to go along with it.

Today, my house seems newly able to breathe again because I got a truck-load (2, actually!) of furniture removed from it yesterday–with many thanks to two fantastic guys from my church for the loading and hauling!! Actually, the house has been doing just fine; I’m the one who has had trouble breathing with so many extra things around me. Cleaning out the home of my husband’s youth has been an emotional thing, to say the least, and finding all of the family photos and the few things he has desired to keep has played a bit of havoc with my typical “one in, one out rule”–which I had already violated several times myself well before we got started on this elephantine task! (I am now contemplating a new rule: One in, Two out!–maybe 3?) ANY. WAY!  I tend to be happiest with a bit more space around me, so it felt liberating to see the house clear out a bit. As the young men pulled out of the driveway, I raced to put on some beautiful classical music. The house and I needed to celebrate! (grin)

This morning, I put in an instrumental hymn collection as I admired the extra empty spaces and fixed breakfast. Standing at the stove, thinking about what else might need to go and wondering what else we’ll find and need to deal with going forward, a single line of verse from the classic hymn that was playing struck my soul with the force of a dove. Striking hard at the concerns and yet lighting softly on my spirit came this reminder:

For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well.

It was just the reminder I needed. My soul NEEDED the reminder that no matter what else we face going forward, God is in control. He has a plan. The plan is for our good. I know. I say that a lot. I NEED it a lot more than I say it! My soul needs the reminder that no matter what else happens, Jesus DOES do all things well and, since He’s in charge, I can rest in Him when rest just doesn’t seem possible.

God is faithful to remind me of this truth in an amazing variety of ways that are specifically designed to get my attention. Today, He decided to use the words of a woman writer who wrote those particular words 144 years ago. Frances (Fannie) J. Crosby, according to Britannica.com,  was “blinded by infection and medical ignorance at just six weeks old,” lived through the Civil War, and still published over 8000 hymns and gospel songs over the course of her lifetime.

Blind or not, it seems to me that she saw more than most people do. She saw God…when everything around her was in upheaval and nothing felt certain but destruction–when she LITERALLY could not see what was coming or know when to brace for the next onslaught of life, she looked for and saw God. I need to do that. So do you.

Yes, to have lived a life so altered by things outside of her control and found rest in the only One capable of giving true peace…well, that’s a lesson we can all learn from Miss Fannie.

“All the way my Savior leads me” ~words by Frances J. Crosby (published 1875)

All the way my Savior leads me,
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
Who through life has been my Guide?
Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort,
Here by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well;
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well.

All the way my Savior leads me,
Cheers each winding path I tread,
Gives me grace for every trial,
Feeds me with the living Bread.
Though my weary steps may falter
And my soul athirst may be,
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see;
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see.

All the way my Savior leads me,
Oh, the fullness of His love!
Perfect rest to me is promised
In my Father’s house above.
When my spirit, clothed immortal,
Wings its flight to realms of day
This my song through endless ages:
Jesus led me all the way;
This my song through endless ages:
Jesus led me all the way.

And, yes, I know. “Jesus Loves Me”–the Bible tells me so…as did the music that continued to flow through the house and fill up all those empty spaces.

Will you let God fill up your empty spaces today? He loves you, too!

Grace and Peace

Beholding and being held

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”  Luke 2:10-11 (KJV)

IMG_20171221_124155195My history with these verses goes WAY back. In fact, I don’t remember there ever being a time when I didn’t know about them. My parents and extended family saw to that. My teachers did, as well. In fact, years ago–in 5th grade, to be precise–one of our teachers, Mrs. Hayes, gave us the prize of a giant peppermint stick if we could recite Luke 2: 1-14…or maybe, through verse 20…I’m not exactly sure now because that was a VERY long time ago and other teachers encouraged me to learn the longer passages. To this day, I still recite it (in the King James Version, of course, because that’s how I learned it! LOL) whenever it is read or shared during the Christmas season.

I love that the angel starts off with “Fear not…” because I’d imagine suddenly seeing heavenly hosts in the middle of nowhere would have been a little scary. I also love its relevance today because “scary” things still seem to come out of nowhere even now sometimes and we still need that reminder that not all of them are bad–just different than we would have expected…or planned, if WE were in charge.

I also love that next word…”behold.” It’s the King James version of “Stop what you’re doing and look over here at what God is doing for you today!” I still need that reminder, too. Regularly, I need it. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I can get sidetracked and miss out of what God is up to, so this reminder is just as freshly needed today as it was all that time ago. I don’t want to miss a thing that God has planned for me, but I’ve got a history of getting caught up in the details of my own life and, perhaps, missing out on the big picture of what God has planned.

I also love that the word “behold” reminds me that as I am looking for Him, I am actually being held by God. He’s at work doing things for me every day because He loves me and holds me in His more-than-capable hands. This year as I’ve been consumed with business details, He’s been bringing me people to share Him with at our shows. He’s brought us people to pray with and people to bless, people to encourage and people who just need a friendly smile…because He’s holding them, as well.

He’s held us as we’ve faced new challenges and continued to deal with older ones. He’s held us in our joy and held us as we faced the desperate need of it. Through it all, God has given us the constant reminder that He is HERE with us no matter what we face. Being held–a source of comfort and great joy–is available to ALL people because of news that came to shepherds long ago. We have a Savior and He is Christ the Lord!

As we celebrate the Season of His coming, let us also remember to share the good news that He is here to behold and we are able to be held. People need to know that. I know I do.

Grace and Peace…and a very MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

 

NCN 2018–Day 26

We all have our days and I guess ours might have caught up with us this weekend. Although we’ve been more careful about adding to our schedule and trying to stay rested this year–and especially this show season!–the husband and I were on the verge of a crash Saturday night. We were beyond tired all of a sudden, so we had a mini-conversation and decided we would just stay home on Sunday instead of going to church. We would sleep in, set no alarms, and take the day to rest and recover.

IMG_20180418_104244495_HDRExcept…it was only the second Sunday in a row since September that we had been free and without a show. I’ve missed being in church. It’s too easy to get out of the habit of going and I had actually asked a few prayer partners to pray about that specifically for us: that we wouldn’t be drawn away and lose our desire for the fellowship. As I got ready for bed, I looked at the alarm and still chose not to set it. Instead, I just told God, “If I need to be there, wake me up in time to get ready.”

Boy, did He ever. 4:35 AM. Wide awake. Nope, rolling over wasn’t going to help. I just got on up and started doing little quiet chores in areas away from the sleeping husband and the cat who thinks he must be with me…loudly…as much as possible. I laughed about it to myself as I straightened the guest rooms and cleaned bathrooms: Apparently, I really needed to be in church…and, when my husband walked into the living room about 6 AM, I figured that he needed to be there, as well…but I didn’t say anything.

I finished preparing a few “happies” that needed to be delivered that morning, we fixed breakfast and finished watching the game that almost never ended. (LSU v Texas A&M–SEVEN overtimes?!! I am SO grateful for the DVR that allows me to sleep and watch football when my eyes can stay open!) I got up and started getting ready. It wasn’t long before my husband was preparing to go, as well. Sometimes, the encouragement of seeing someone else do something you know you should do is enough to help you push through and do it, too.

We arrived without incident and I set out to deliver my happies. Before I could leave the sanctuary, however, I spotted a friend who has been battling cancer for quite awhile. She was there despite the pain etched in her face. I stopped to hold her hand and pray. She is amazing. Leaving the sanctuary, I saw her husband, who is equally amazing. He had stopped to take a break, having gone as far as he could in that moment. I went over to tell him that we loved him and that we were continuing to pray for him, as well. He never looked up; he just said, “Dear Lord, don’t ever let’em stop.” I moved on before I burst into tears on the spot, praying for them as I went.

I also had to pray–for myself–and ask forgiveness for my attitude. Though no words of complaint had left my lips, my attitude was not a positive one…because I was tired. Here were my friends, battling pain, significant health concerns, and weary beyond belief from their long battles, making their way in to worship. I was humbled. I was chastened. I was encouraged. I had already received my first sermon and the services hadn’t even begun. I was reminded, for the second time that day, that sometimes, the encouragement of seeing someone else do something you know you should do is enough to help you push through and do it, too.

I’m sharing this today, at the beginning of this week–this MONDAY after a long holiday weekend when going back to our schedules feels harder than we remembered–as a reminder to all of us:  complaint isn’t always verbal. Choosing to do what we know we should and doing it with a good attitude helps more than just us. Be a good example to those around you. Honestly, when I first typed that, it came out as “be a GOD example”–and that’s not bad advice, either, since that is what those of us who love God and are called to bear His name are supposed to do anyway, right?! Because, sometimes, the encouragement of seeing someone else do something you know you should do is enough to help you push through and do it, too.

Help those around you today by choosing a good attitude along with your choice not to complain. You never know who needs the encouragement to keep doing the same.

Grace and Peace!

Romans 12:21!!!

(Side note: no, that’s not a picture of my church, but one of my favorite small chapels in the world. This one is at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, GA. If you’ve never gone down to see the Gardens, you need to do yourself a favor and plan yourself a trip. If you happen to be there on a Sunday afternoon, you can sit in the chapel–or outside and enjoy the beauty there!–and hear hymns played on their organ as the music swells out into nature and it feels like the flowers are joining in the worship. Really. You should go sometime!–and save me a seat.)

 

 

NCN 2018–Day 6

Good Morning! It’s barely 5 AM and I’ve been up for quite a bit already today–many things running through my head and lots to do, so this post will be a short one today. Among the many responses I’ve received to NCN this year, one of my favorites is a quote sent to our Line by our #12 (hey, Marsha!), as an encouragement for those who were struggling with the challenge this year. This quote has reminded me that complaining is never just about me…or them

“Complaining is never just horizontal. Every complaint has verticality to it. Embedded in complaining are questions of God’s wisdom His nearness, His compassion, His faithfulness, His goodness, and His love.” ~P.D. Tripp

I needed that.

There’s nothing quite like a dose of truth, is there?

Praying for each of us to have a wonderful, complaint-free day because we’re so very busy remembering the provision, the nearness, the compassion, the faithfulness, the goodness, and the love of our great God. Getting to know the truth of Who He is makes us more aware of how very blessed we are…and leaves us little room for complaint.

Grace and Peace!

Romans 12:21–Can you say it from memory now?

NCN 2017–Day 29

 

IMG_20171129_074101543

Against the backdrop of fog this morning, the Japanese maple in the back walkway bed still shines like a beacon. It’s the same one that was all lit up in red and gold in yesterday’s sunny post photo, but the surroundings are a little different today. There’s a stillness to the air that replaces yesterday’s lively bird chatter and the air is a little bit cooler without the obvious rays of the sun. It is no less beautiful a day; it’s just different…

Kind of like this month has been for some of us. Sunshine and shadow, good days and bad, we’ve made a concerted effort to reduce the negativity in the world by…oh my goodness! Imagine this!:  placing limits on ourselves! We’ve chosen to speak the positive things and not the negative ones. We’ve CHOSEN to control what we can…or rather, WHO we can.

Truth be told, it’s all we can do on any given day, not just the ones in November. Remembering that can make all the difference going forward.

For the past few days, I’ve had a song in my head. An old hymn has run through the night and been with me almost constantly. These words, originally published in 1752, still seem most appropriate for us today and for the days going forward, as well. I hope you’ll see the connection and embrace the choice to continue our challenge long past our month of NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER.

Be Still My Soul

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.

Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and blessèd we shall meet at last.

Be still, my soul: begin the song of praise
On earth, be leaving, to Thy Lord on high;
Acknowledge Him in all thy words and ways,
So shall He view thee with a well pleased eye.
Be still, my soul: the Sun of life divine
Through passing clouds shall but more brightly shine.

*Original words by Katharina A. von Schlegel, published in 1752
Grace and Peace!