As our ministry team sat around the table discussing and dreaming together about next steps, about plans and purpose, and about ways to impact a community, one common thread stood out. We’ve go to change what we do, we’ve got to get uncomfortable and WE’VE GOT TO GO DEEP (deeper than ever before).
And just like God, when he is speaking to my heart, that common thread somehow finds a way to show up over and over again until it sinks into my thick skull.
It was no surprise (but kinduv it was), when my morning reading took me to Luke 5:1-11. Peter had just finished a long night of fishing with nothing to show for it, when along comes Jesus. As the account unfolds, in essence, what Jesus reveals to Peter, an already expert fisherman, is this… it really isn’t about the pile of fish, rather, it is the discovery of who I AM.
“THE PILE OF FISH WAS NEVER THE REAL MIRACLE. IT WAS THE DISCOVERY OF JESUS.” – S. Eller
When we are tired and weary and worn, we don’t look at the odds, we don’t rely on our own expertise of what we know or how we might already know Him, rather we take a step back, and we push INTO THE DEEP with HIM (because there is so much more to know)! We open our hearts to His possibilities! We kneel in awe of who He is and we look to Him with renewed expectation.
When Peter walked into the deep he came out a changed man. Let us be like Peter…. walking into the deep because then and only then do we live and multiply THE REAL MIRACLES.
My pilgrimage to Bethlehem was quite different than Mary’s. Although we both traveled in the winter months, she carried the savior of the world in her womb, I simply carried the hope and love of that savior in my heart. Her journey was arduous and long, winding thru the landscape of the Judean desert and around the rugged hills of Jerusalem. Mine was a short ride on a luxurious tour bus, protected from the elements and other dangers along the way .
Arriving at the West Bank in modern day, one could easily feel the close and oppressive political climate. Passing thru the necessary military checkpoints, that “not-so-little” town of Bethlehem came into view. A holy hush fell over me, and so did the reminder that in this 21st century moment, Mary wouldn’t even be allowed to pass this way.
Physically standing at the birthplace of Jesus– seeing, feeling, and touching, left me both humbled and awestruck. I wondered what it must have been like that starry night when holiness met humanity, when poverty birthed royalty, when LOVE came down. It was as if I could see both the babe in the manger wrapped in swaddling clothes, and the savior of the world wrapped in my scars of sin hanging on the cross, all at the same time….and another holy hush fell.
Love incarnate, love divine Star and angels gave the sign Bow to babe on bended knee The Savior of humanity Unto us a Child is born He shall reign forevermore Noel, Noel Come and see what God has done Noel, Noel The story of amazing love! The light of the world, given for us Noel Son of God and Son of man There before the world began Born to suffer, born to save Born to raise us from the grave Christ the everlasting Lord He shall reign forevermore NOEL: Lyrics by Chris Tomlin
Christmas has taken on many facets thru the seasons of my life, but at the heart of tradition and festivities lies that holy hush, a love divine. Another season of Advent gives way to the greatest gift we will ever known. We wait no more.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16
Traveling to Bethlehem was an incredible experience and one I won’t soon forget. It has added new experience, and life, and dimension to a moment in history that has changed the world, and to a truth that has changed my life.
With only one day until Christmas…perhaps a pilgrimage to Bethlehem isn’t on your to do list, but a pilgrimage towards the truth of Christmas, experiencing that holy hush, and celebrating His Love Divine is the greatest gift you can ever know.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:11 KJV
I don’t know what images come to your mind when you hear the word JOY. On that first Christmas, Joy came thru a series of unlikely events, after a long, difficult journey, and no room at the inn.
At the core of Christmas lies a JOY that brings with it great blessing and significant spiritual power. The writer of Psalms tells us that Joy is a gift from God – Psalm 126:3.
For as long as I can remember the cold days of December brought with it the festive excitement of Christmas, laden with candles and decorations and gathering together.
Sometimes it was perfect…. And sometimes it wasn’t.
The year there were no gifts….until friends and neighbors showed up at our door with 6 bright red stockings filled with love and the true JOY of Christmas.
When the boxes around our tree weren’t wrapped with ribbons and bows, rather, they were filled with belonging acquired from our first little home together. Preparing to move 800 miles away from everything and everyone we had known, the REAL JOY of Christmas wasn’t dictated or displaced by external circumstances.
The year our “first Christmas Eve as parents” plans and expectations were dashed by fevered brow and crying babe, was the year we discovered anew… the most beautiful quality of Christmas JOY is the abiding sense of “enough-ness” that it brings.
When my profession found me spending Christmas in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit—challenged and questioning the JOY of Christmas, it was the words of the Prophet Nehemiah that sustained me—“the JOY of the Lord is our strength” – Nehemiah 8:10.
Real joy surpasses worldly pleasure and it even sustains us thru the hard days of loss and grief (in the PICU), or when we face that first Christmas without a dear loved one by our side.
Whatever images come to your mind when you hear the word JOY….
“Don’t be afraid; look, I bring you good news of great joy for everyone.” Luke 2:10
Even in the most challenging times the good news of Christmas ignites Joy.
Amidst the imperfectly perfect…. Fear not! Welcome the Good News! Ode to JOY!
As I align my daily habits to a posture of preparation in the tangible details, help me to first align the posture of my heart in the sacred details.
This Christmas season, even before the decorating and wrapping and baking, may I set aside time to ponder the miracle of your birth, that silent, holy night.
Grant that I would steward well, my time and resources.
Just as PERFECT PREPARATION was in order for sending us the Savior of the world,
let the PROPER PREPARATION make my home and my life a place where gracious hospitality and your spirit dwells.
A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Isaiah 40:3-4 ESV
When obstacles and expectations create uneven ground, stir my heart in the preparation O God, to walk on level ground. When darkness of the valley overshadows, let it be your presence that prepares me and lifts me up.
As this Christmas Season brings a spirit of gathering and celebration with family and friends…Lord, may I not just prepare gifts and goodies for this moment…
But by your spirit, let gifts and goodness flow in every moment…making straight in the desert a highway for my God.
That first Christmas was entwined in both the grandest and the humblest of preparations. May the details of my life this Christmas season and beyond, be no different.
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” Isaiah 40: 5 ESV
The unsurpassed literary brilliance of the prophet Isaiah offers the weary world a compelling message of HOPE. He doesn’t gloss over the need for salvation. Sin and judgement are very real! But so is salvation and restoration.
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness, a light has dawned…For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” Isaiah 9:2, 6-7
As we embark on this season of ADVENT, the cries of humanity loom loud and large. Not much different from the Israelites, who were enduring drought, famine, and exhile.
In their waiting, the faithful Israelites clung to this promise and others, scattered throughout the Old Testament. Isaiah’s description of the Messiah gave the Israelites something to look forward to, and to find HOPE of deliverance in.
Perhaps this Advent season you find yourself waiting. Surrounded by enduring hardships and impossibilities like you have never known, you’d give anything for a miraculous deliverance.
Or perhaps, you are simply waiting in long lines, waiting for that package to be delivered, waiting for the snow to fly, or waiting for the lights to shine.
Don’t let hardships or busyness threaten to crowd out the quiet anticipation of this sacred season. Remember, it’s not the perfect situation we wait for. It’s not the perfect Christmas we wait for. It is a better celebration still to come…. O come o come Emmanuel.
For the nation of Israel, Isaiah’s words were a prophetic message of HOPE. For us, it is a prophesy fulfilled!
“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end.” Luke 1:31-33
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11
In our 2021 waiting, in our 2021 celebration of the Christ Child, and in our 2021 expectation for a Coming King, may the thrill of HOPE breath light and life into our weary world.
“There’s HOPE in the morning There’s HOPE in the evening There’s HOPE because you’re living There’s HOPE because you’re breathing There’s HOPE in the breaking There’s HOPE in the sorrow There’s HOPE for this moment My HOPE for tomorrow” — You Keep Hope Alive by Jon Reddick
There’s an adage that goes, “The race isn’t always to the swift, rather it is to the one who keeps on running.” I have found that to be very true.
As a young woman entering the work force on a hard earned, self-paid, Associate of Science Degree, I faced my share of obstacles. But what is miraculous, is the way doors of opportunity began opening and closing for me. Life and experience began taking me places far beyond what I could’ve ever imagined.
Somewhere in the middle of climbing the proverbial career ladder and raising a family, sat a lifelong, personal goal, and right next to it…. a big fat box that went unchecked. The idea of achieving that personal goal seemed to vacillate somewhere between the “forefront of my mind” and “the back burner of my life” for many years.
No, the race isn’t always to the swift, but it is to the one who keeps on running!
In January of 2020, at the seasoned age of 52, the time had come. And with the help and support of family, friends, and co-workers, I said NO to further delay, and YES to the arduous journey towards checking off that box.
What is that box, you ask? Completion of my Bachelor of Science Degree.
The process at times was painful, sacrificial, and daunting (what was I thinking five decades into my life?). But I persevered and kept running.
There were countless late nights,
writing papers (many papers),
preparing podium presentations,
tending discussion boards
taking comprehensive tests
creating leadership assessments and project proposals
The days turned into weeks and the weeks into months until finally, at precisely 7 weeks before my 54th birthday, on Friday, August 6th, 2021, that box is no longer unchecked…it is CHECKED…and I keep on running.
There is indeed a sense of great pride, but there is also a sense of great relief. At this point, it’s not about the knowledge, the degree, or even how it will change the trajectory of my career or my life. It is more about achieving a lifelong goal, and challenging myself to not settle for that unchecked box.
Comfort and complacency have never been my lane. Setting pace with lifelong growth and learning, has allowed me to remain forward thinking, vibrant, and always pushing past the “norms”. I am grateful for 32 wonderful years as a healthcare professional. The experiences I could write about and talk about, are vast, and at times, overwhelming. Overcoming obstacles and following through doesn’t come necessarily to the swift, but it does come to those who keep on running.
Achieving a personal goal that has seemingly been dormant, has earned me great respect from both my peers and my superiors. But more importantly, it has allowed me to discover a personal strength and insight that motivates me and will surely inspire others.
Perhaps you have your own list of lifelong goals or unchecked boxes that are sitting dormant. It’s never too late. Remember, the race isn’t to the swift. It’s to the one who keeps on running. Know your lane and run it well.
The words still echo, “A 3-cord strand is not easily broken”. A vow still intact, “I promise you forever!” It was the ceremony of our dreams. And today, after more sun-kissed horizons than I can count, and the man I said yes to kissing me good morning,
The rhythm of our porch swing lulls us back and forth
A piping hot cup of home roasted brew in hand, we celebrate a unique and privileged milestone…30 years of marriage. The self in us wants to pen a perfectly packaged “10 keys to a successful marriage”, but the soul in us says getting there was anything but “perfectly packaged”.
The rhythm of our porch swing lulls us back
It started with changing my name, and things have been changing ever since: Changing addresses, changing diapers, changing careers, and yes, changing seasons. In 30 years of marriage, the only constant we have known is change. Even the fierce flickering flame of our young love has changed. It has become as coals, deep-burning and unquenchable.
The rhythm of the porch swing lulls us forth
That 3-cord strand has saved us more than once, and the promise of forever knows a sacredness we couldn’t have possibly understood, so long ago. Living OUR story (and not someone else’s), has allowed us to build an incredible life together, a beautiful family. Sharing like values has been our honor, and making decisions bigger than ourselves has kept us both humble and dependent on the third cord in our strand. I could spend all day talking about our life and the imperfectly-perfect journey that has made us the husband and wife we are today,
But the rhythm of our porch swing lulls us
Our loud and busy teenagers have grown into adulthood and their own young love; and while our youthful beauty may be fading, at the center of this life and love that we’ve built, these things remain:
The power of commitment
A strength of friendship that both fun and fortitude has fashioned
Hearts of steadfast, endearing love
And a deep devotion to all that has been and all that will be.
Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NLT
Happy 30th Wedding Anniversary My Love,
From the rhythms of our porch swing,
We had so much fun this past Friday night, going on a date and recreating our engagement photos (from 31 years ago). ENJOY! In all of our 30 years of marriage, date nights, have been a #1 priority.
When life is filled with the likes of a socially distant existence, taking a Sunday morning bike ride off the beaten path, offers the best kind of illustrated sermon.
The sunshine and spring time beauty brings a welcome change to the normal routine, that is anything but normal and routine these days.
Our world is facing a crisis of great proportion! Yet seemingly out of nowhere, I sense a stirring, a profound sense of hope. It comes to me (on my bike), thru beautiful countryside illustrations and the words of the Psalmist,
“The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need. He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.
Even when I walk through the dark valley of death, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me in the presence ofmy enemies. You welcome me as a guest, anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.” PSALM 23 NLT
I remember with great fondness the day my children could recite this portion of scripture from memory. But today, it filled my soul in a way it hasn’t ever before.
Tomorrow I will resume my duties alongside an incredible team of healthcare professionals. I will choose calm, over chaos. I will choose peace over panic. As I adjust and re-deploy, as I pivot and realign at a moments notice, may it be this message of hope, awakened during a bike ride mission and a not so routine illustrated sermon , that becomes my message and my mission to a world in need.
Do you ever find yourself in a season or a trial that requires more of you than you think possible?
I recently completed a rigorous 17 weeks of physical therapy following a rotator-cuff repair to my right shoulder (dominant hand side), complicated by months of “frozen shoulder” prior to the surgery.
Recovery was a S L O W process. Some days demanded more than I thought possible…..incredible amounts of patience (not one of my strongest qualities), endurance, pain, hard work, humility, persistence, an occasional tear… and oh, did I mention patience? Many people told me it would be so, but no amount of forewarning could have prepared me for the day to day grind of walking it out.
James 1:2-4 says this: Count it all joy, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Perfect! Complete! Lacking nothing! Sounds like a pretty good deal. But could I? Would I count it all joy?
In the early weeks following surgery: *sitting in the recliner to sleep, for weeks. *a friend taking me to lunch and having to cut up my food. *my daughter coming for a visit and doing my hair (because I couldn’t) *my husband being there for better and for worse (helping me get dressed, opening jars, putting my seat belt on, enduring my occasional frustrated temper tantrums) Then as the weeks wore on: *working through persistent pain, that I thought would NEVER subside. *physical therapy sessions 3 times a week that were no joke. (eventually 2 times then 1 time before reaching my goals and being discharged) *feeling like my arm would never “work” normal again. *always two steps forward and one step back. *recovery felt daunting and insurmountable. *making the DAILY choice, both physically and mentally to work hard, to stay the course, and yes, to count it all joy (even when I had to dig deep, or rely on those around me, to count it).
I wrote a blog just days before my surgery about getting my mind right. Little did I know I would face that challenge time and time again on the road to recovery. At 51, I believed I had the mental strength to count it all joy, but could I endure the physical strength & movement limitations (again, not one of my strongest qualities) ?
I’m the first to admit, it wasn’t always easy, not even close. But, this is the first week in 5 months where my days off weren’t spent going to therapy. (I’m celebrating by painting a glider for my porch and it feels so good (and productive). Counting it ALL JOY does come with a price, but with the help of an incredible family, amazing friends and the greatest group of physical therapists on the planet, the dividends are far reaching and beyond compare.
It’s not a road I would choose to walk again anytime soon, if ever! But, at the end of the day, my life is richer because of it….(one step closer to perfect, complete, and lacking nothing). As for my physical progress, I am happy to report I am about 90% to my goal. January 31, 2020 will mark the one year anniversary and I am believing for 100% by then….. on the way to that goal, I AM COUNTING IT ALL JOY.
My hope and prayer for you is this: perfection, completeness, lacking nothing (in context)! When trials come (because they will), may you find it in you to count it all joy.