Watching for His Suprises

Our faith walk is often full of surprises.

Last week, we were blessed with some delightfully warm weather for the end of January. I took full advantage of the mild weather and got outside as much as possible.

My favorite prayer time is when I am out in nature, surrounded by Creation. I also find that when I’m moving my body while I pray, I often become more alert. I can hear and see God more clearly. So, I went for a walk, hoping for some guidance, some answers, and a glimpse of His hand.

I was not disappointed. The weather alone, brought the first thanks to my lips. Then, there were birds singing and squirrels scampering. I even heard two hawks calling to each other. They often appear when I’m deep in prayer about something.

The stream that runs through my neighborhood has finally gotten full again and it made a loud rushing sound as I crossed over it.

I gave thanks for the ability to walk. I gave thanks for my sight and my hearing.

When I turned back on my street, I chuckled at some crows calling to each other and I wondered what mischief they were getting into. I waved at a neighbor and gave thanks for good neighbors.

These are all everyday blessings, the ones that we so often take for granted. They are also the ones we would dearly miss if they were taken away.

When I had almost reached my house, I thanked God for the everyday things and I thanked Him for giving me eyes to see the extraordinary in the ordinary.

And then, a large rooster crossed the road right in front of me. He was beautiful and incredibly out of place. I broke out in a huge grin. I had definitely not expected to see a rooster. He was not ordinary. I stopped and watched him cross. When he was safely on the other side of the road, he let out a very loud cock-a-doodle-doo!

At that point, I chuckled out loud and I looked heavenward and gave thanks for the surprise.

It’s sometimes easy to become very comfortable in our faith walk. We know that God provides for us in dozens of ways all throughout our day, but we forget that He’s full of surprises too.

That rooster was a surprise. As I was giving thanks for all of my daily blessings, God surprised me with something different.

As I thought about it later, I wondered if that’s perhaps the key to opening new doors. Maybe, we need to be thankful for all that we already have before we ask for or expect something different. Maybe, it’s when we give heartfelt thanks for the ordinary, that we are able to see the extraordinary.

One thing is certain; God is full of surprises and when we walk closely with Him and keep our eyes and ears open, there’s no telling what we might see or hear.

A rooster reminded me. Perhaps you needed reminding too.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy πŸ™‚

 

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The Comfort Zone Rut

When we say yes to Jesus, all kinds of beautiful things can occur.

As we plow into January, many of us are taking time to do a little self-reflection and try to address any ruts we may find ourselves. I’m a gal who loves a routine. I love my comfort zones. I mean, the name alone, has the word comfort in it. But, sometimes our comfort zone can become a rut.

A rut is something we may find ourselves in because we have done it for so long, we don’t necessarily know how to get out. Sometimes we don’t even want to get out.

There are times when we do things like eat the same exact meals week after week, that we don’t even realize that we have lost our passion for cooking or for tasting some of the really great foods God has blessed us with.

There are times when we have become comfortable sitting in front of the television night after night, kind of checking out, when we could be reading a good book, or meeting friends for dinner, or actually having a conversation with our families. We could even do something crazy like play a card game or a board game.

My mama actually inspired me right before Christmas. She took a trip to the Canadian Rockies. Now keep in mind, that this woman has always loathed the cold. When we had the rare snow day when I was growing up, she watched from a window inside the house. She’s always been more of a beach gal.

But, a friend of hers convinced her to go. She bought all of the necessary gear and she second-guessed herself all of the way. The trip was too close to Christmas and she had so much to do. What was she thinking?

But, ultimately, she went and she had a blast. She told me without a doubt, it was the prettiest place she had ever been in her entire life. Sure, it was cold, but it was well worth it. She was so thankful that she said yes, to a new adventure.

There are all types of comfort zones, ruts and adventures. Some adventure may take us some place far away and exotic and some may keep us closer to home. There are also spiritual adventures.

Spiritual adventures occur when we decide to open our hearts up to God’s calling for us. Is He calling you to read the Bible more regularly? Is He calling you to get involved in Christian community? Is He calling you to reach out to others in some way? Is He calling you to pick something up? Is He calling you to lay something down? He could be calling you to heal.

All of those spiritual endeavors can be a little scary. It would certainly be easier to stay right where we are. But, following Jesus was never meant to be the easy route. However, following Jesus was never meant to be boring either.

My mama’s trip reminded me that it’s good to take stock from time-to-time on where we are and where we would like to be. It reminded me to search for the beautiful at every opportunity and to not be afraid of adventure. Perhaps you needed reminding too.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy πŸ™‚

Categories: Building Christian Character, Trusting God, Watching for God | Leave a comment

Basking in the Blessings

Being thankful is sometimes a challenge, but always a choice.

We recently had some very cold days here in Georgia. Some of our state even got blessed with copious amounts of snow. Unfortunately, in my little town, we just got a light dusting and some bitter cold, which I openly grumbled about.

This southern girl, is not a cold weather person and I found myself really longing for warmer days and an early spring. Yes, I am aware that it’s January and that winter is supposed to be cold, and that spring is a ways away, but still.

Then, out of the blue, the following week got a little warmer everyday. By the weekend, we were in the 70’s and on Saturday, I was outside all day, loving every minute of it.

It occurred to me, that a 70 degree day in January is a blessing and that I should not only give thanks for it, but take the time to enjoy it.

It also occurred to me that being thankful is really not in our nature and something we have to work at.

How often do we pray really hard for something? It could be for a job, or a promotion, or a relationship, or financial issues, or our health. How often do we get those prayers answered, but don’t live in a way that is thankful?

Yes, we may initially thank God, but do we live thankfully? We may have thanked God for that job, but do we jump out of bed every morning happy to go to work? We may have given thanks for the healing, but are we seizing every moment to live healthier and make the most of a second chance? We may have been given the ideal mate, but are we willing to pray for him/her daily? Are we loving that person in a manner that is pleasing to God?

We tend to ask for a lot. We also tend to focus on what we don’t have. But, how much have we been given? How many daily blessings are we taking for granted? There are blessings like plenty of food to eat and clean water. There are blessings like healthy children. There are blessings like a home to live in. There are just so many blessings.

For many of us, these daily comforts have become so common that we forget how blessed we are.

Before Jesus performed His miracle of feeding the 5,000, He gave thanks. He gave thanks before God provided. Perhaps we should take note.

Giving thanks is a conscious choice. Living thankfully is a conscious choice. While it can sometimes be a challenge when all seems to be going wrong, it’s a choice with beautiful consequence.

A 70 degree day in January reminded me. Perhaps you needed reminding too.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy πŸ™‚

 

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The Dream Lives On

This picture was snapped by a patron in line at Dutch Brothers Coffee.

Today, our country celebrates and reflects on the life and the message of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I had to read his,Β “I Have A Dream,” speech for an English 101 class as a freshman in college. I remember being incredibly moved by his words written some 25 years earlier.

I suppose messages worth remembering, like those based on unity, love and peace, have a timeless staying power. Humanity often finds itself in desperate need to hear them.

Since Dr. King was a man of God, I’m sure he was well aware that Jesus told His disciples that the two greatest commandments were to first, love God and then to love one another. I suspect that Dr. King knew that we can’t truly love one another without loving God first because Christian love is different from mere human love.

The ability to truly love others is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. We can only get that from loving God through Christ first.

I came across a story on my Facebook news feed that I found to be a perfect illustration of Dr. King’s dream and I felt led to share it today.

There were some employees at a coffee shop in Vancouver, Washington, who were doing their daily job. They were millennials. Most of us have encountered members of this group in retail establishments. They often have the slacker, completely self-absorbed reputation. This group proved to be different.

The owner of the shop instructed her employees to always take care of their customers.

In this case, a woman came through the drive-thru who was very upset. The guy at the window, went to the trouble to find out why. He had seen her before. She had been in before. She shared that she had just lost her 37-year old husband the night before.

The employees knew that they had to do something to help her. They gave her, her order for free and then they reached through the window and held her hand and prayed with her. The customer in the car behind them was so moved, she took a picture and posted it. It went viral.

As I write this, it has had over 65 million views.

When the employees were later interviewed, they said they had to do something, so they, “took the time and took her hand.”

How many people would have taken her money and let her drive on? How many people would have felt badly for her, but let her go anyway? How many people of faith would have actually reached out to her and touched her and prayed with her? How many people would have “taken the time and taken her hand?” How many people in the car behind would have snapped a picture of God’s love at work?

Clearly, the Holy Spirit was at work.

This is a beautiful story of faith at work all on its own. The fact that I saw it for the first time, the day before MLK day and that it shows people of different races praying together, is also the Holy Spirit at work. The story took place last March.

Dr. King had a dream of unity. He had a dream of us coming together despite our outward difference in skin color. Through Christ, we can achieve that and I’m happy to report that despite what we may have heard, Dr. King’s dream lives on.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy πŸ™‚

 

Categories: Building Christian Character, Watching for God | Leave a comment

Sharing the Light

Praising God with all of our hearts, changes our hearts.

Last Sunday, one of the teens in my Sunday school class told me she had something to tell me. I kind of chuckled, wondering what it might be. You just never know with teenagers. Their stories can make me laugh, or make me cry, and sometimes make me think.

She ended up sharing a story about visiting a trampoline park over the Christmas break. She said that a song came on, “This is Amazing Grace.” I knew the song and we sang a few lines together. She said when she heard it, she started singing along. But, the more she sang, the louder she got. She said she found herself jumping on the trampolines and singing the song to the top of her lungs.

She said she had no idea why, but she really couldn’t help herself. When the song was over, a little girl who was seven or so, began to follow her around. She didn’t know the child, but wherever the teen went, the little girl went, smiling at her the entire time. She clearly wanted to be close.

The incident remained on her mind for the rest of her break and she really wanted to talk about it. She knew there was something special going on, but wasn’t sure quite what.

I assured her that she was right. I shared with her the story of King David dancing for God after he had been blessed with victory. David was very passionate about His love for God and wasn’t afraid or embarrassed Β to show it. The Bible says that David was a man after God’s own heart. She hadn’t heard that story.

I am always amazed at what happens when we willingly give ourselves over for God to use. When we put our worship of Him above everything else, including the opinions of others, beautiful things can happen. The Holy Spirit can get to work and people are naturally drawn to the light they see. It’s hard to resist.

The little girl had no idea why she was drawn to the light my teen friend was shining. She just knew she wanted to be close to it.

Hasn’t that always been the best way to share the love of Christ? When we love Him completely, it changes us. It draws people to us and ultimately to Him.

When we openly praise God, it becomes impossible to focus on all that is wrong in our lives. We are reminded that we worship the God who called the world into being, the same God who calls us by name, the same God who loved us before we were even born.

When we try to wrap our brains around that kind of love, it’s hard not to smile. It’s hard not to rejoice. It’s hard not to embrace. We may even find ourselves singing to the top of our lungs or dancing. The message is just that good.

A teenager reminded me. Perhaps you needed reminding too.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy πŸ™‚

P.S. I have attached the song if you would like to hear it.

Categories: Biblical Wisdom, Building Christian Character | 2 Comments

The Beauty of Christian Community

Christian community is an incredible blessing.

Over the holiday break, my family and I made a trip to South Carolina to visit our Two Rivers family from our summer mission trip. It’s always so good to see that faith family that God has so graciously placed in our lives. It was well worth the three hour drive.

Besides the food and fellowship, I was privileged to hold a baby that was on the way last summer. She happened to be the same baby that I got a call about asking for prayer, because there were complications late in the pregnancy. I prayed without ceasing and when she smiled at me that day, I saw Jesus. I saw answered prayers. I saw God’s work firsthand, as I often do when I’m with these people.

That’s the beauty of Christian community.

I also saw my friend who had lost his grandson in November. I wanted to tell him that I was sorry for his loss, and that I had been praying for him, but I struggled to find the words. Would I upset him? Would my words make him think about it? I just didn’t know what to say and so I said nothing.

Have you ever been there?

Thankfully, someone else did say something and then I expressed my condolences. It turned out, he really wanted to talk about it. His grandson didn’t just die in a car accident. He died trying to clear a huge piece of debris from the roadway so no one else would get hurt. He was only 22.

He went on to share that his other grandfather had given him some life changing news. Not too long before the accident, he had committed his life to Christ. He and his girlfriend had been attending church. That information made all of the difference to a grieving grandfather who now knows that he will someday be reunited with his precious grandson.

When I told him I was still praying for him and his family, he shared that the prayers from Facebook had really kept him going.

It turns out that there really weren’t any wrong or right words; he just needed someone willing to enter into his grief with him.

That’s the beauty of Christian community.

When my daughter shared with another mentor there, her concerns about a friend who is making some bad decisions, he quietly listened to her and reminded her that all we can really do is plant seeds and maybe give a little water. The rest is not up to us. He encouraged her to be there for her friend, but to remember that she can’t fix it.

That’s the beauty of Christian community.

I had my own struggle when I arrived there. I had seriously been praying about whether or not I should keep blogging. I have so little quiet time these days. I had yet to receive any answers. When we went to visit one of our homeowners, we went back over to the cross we had placed in the yard, to take a picture. We didn’t get one last year after we cleaned up, because it was raining.

There, at the cross, two different people said to me how much they enjoyed reading my words and I had my answer. Why am I not surprised that I got it at the cross?

That’s the beauty of Christian community.

I sometimes forget how important and empowering Christian community can be and what an incredible gift it is. A trip to South Carolina reminded me.

Perhaps you needed reminding too.

Have an awesome day!

Categories: Community, Salkehatchie Series | 4 Comments

Everyday Can Be New Year’s Day

Everyday with Jesus is a fresh start.

As I write this, we are a little over a week into the new year. I bought a brand new calendar that I have already begun to fill with school breaks and family dentist appointments. I love a new calendar and all of the possibilities that it represents. What new things will I accomplish this year?

There was a time when I made a list of my plans for the new year. I love making lists, but I found that list making didn’t really help me get new things accomplished. By the end of January, my planned lifestyle changes like doing cardio everyday, never really took hold.

Last year, I tried something different. In early January, I created a slogan for myself, “The year with no fear.” I typed it up and placed it where I had to look at it everyday. It was a visible reminder that God is in control, no matter what. I have to admit that it worked.

Life got kind of crazy last year. I went back to work full time. There was a vicious election. Facebook was covered with negativity, as was the internet. The media tried to convince us that it was Doomsday, yet I held on tight to my little slogan and to the knowledge that God had a plan and I never really worried about any of it.

This year, I am reminded that “the calendar,” and January 1st, are human creations. Humanity along with the weight loss and fitness industry, has decided that January 1st, is the only day that we begin with a clean slate. Last year’s mistakes are wiped away. We get to start on that day with a brand new plan on a brand new path. We are encouraged to make resolutions that lead us to a better life. They can be anything from stopping smoking, to getting a better job, or going back to school.

Resolutions in themselves, aren’t necessarily bad. It’s just that human will tends to be weak. When we find that by the end of February, that we are failing miserably, we often just throw in the towel altogether. We vow to try again next year.

But, there’s good news. Those of us who walk with Jesus, have New Year’s Day everyday. “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23

Because of grace, we can ask for forgiveness for our many failures and begin everyday with a clean slate. We can accomplish what we set out to, when we cover it in prayer and give it to God. There’s a reason that successful addiction programs acknowledge a higher power.

There’s not a lot we can accomplish alone, especially not the hard stuff, but the Bible assures us that we are not alone. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

Keeping this in mind, I would like to say, Happy New Year to you, today and everyday. Perhaps you needed to hear it today.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy πŸ™‚

P.S. After a lot of prayer, I’m going to start posting on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Thanks to all of you who shared your encouragement and support over the past couple of weeks! God spoke to me through our words. Thanks for sharing. πŸ™‚

Categories: Biblical Wisdom, Building Christian Character | Leave a comment

Merry Christmas Break

My kids have the next couple of weeks off and I’m blessed to have a job that allows me to be off right along with them. I’m going to take the time to soak up a lot of family time and rest and re-charge. I hope to meet you back here right after the first of the year. I pray that you and your people seek and find the true meaning of Christmas and have a very merry one. I hope that you have a fabulous new year too. See you next year!

Have an awesome day!

Wendy πŸ™‚

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Just As We Are

The manger calls us to come just as we are.

Next Sunday afternoon at our church, we will have our 2nd Annual Family Christmas Pageant. All of our members and anyone else who wants to come is invited to participate. We have a designated Mary and Joseph, two teenagers and we have some wise men, a few adults. Everything else is up for grabs.

We will have readers read through the Bible story of the birth of Christ and as people hear their parts, they join Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus at the manger. We will sing “Silent Night,” “Away in a Manger,” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing, accompanied by guitar music.”

There are very few costumes or props. Last year, our wise men and shepherds were in bathrobes. We had an adult show up in a cow costume. We had a couple of angels who were eating cookies. It was a menagerie of mismatched, imperfect people, coming together to pay tribute to the birth of Christ and I’ve no doubt that the residents of Heaven smiled on us.

It was simple. It wasn’t practiced or polished. We all came as we were, and approached the manger with what we had, no spectacular solos, or beautifully written soliloquies, just humble believers attempting to retell and relive part of the greatest story ever told.

Last year’s experience touched my heart in such an unexpected way. I’ve helped direct and write my share of Christmas pageants with great costumes and characters, but there’s something so genuine and raw that comes from approaching the manger just as we are.

Isn’t that what the meaning of Christmas is? Jesus left Heaven and all of glory and became one of us, a simple, frail human, so that we can approach God, just as we are. We don’t have to have the best clothes. We don’t have to have a great singing voice. We don’t have to have eloquent words.

Because of that baby in the manger, we are able and encouraged to come as we are, young and old, broken and ragtag, sick and well, happy or covered in sadness. We are called to come and witness and participate in the birth of love’s true light.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the Pinterest worthy perfection of this season. We tend to have a drive within us to seek out perfection, but we won’t get it this side of eternity. What our souls really seek is the perfect love that comes from Christ.

Taking some time this season, to remember that God’s own son wasn’t born in a castle and wrapped in fine linens, but was born in a stable and placed in a feed trough, should be enough to make us take pause and reflect that perfection is not what God seeks from us.

What He seeks from us, is our hearts and our true worship and He calls us, just as He did those shepherds so long ago, just as we are.

A simple Christmas Pageant reminded me. Perhaps you needed reminding too.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy πŸ™‚

Categories: Building Christian Character, Christmas | 2 Comments

Peace Cannot Be Stolen

Peace from the Holy Spirit cannot be stolen.

Yesterday, I made a quick trip into Athens, to purchase a couple of Christmas gifts for two ladies who I have come to hold dear. I had been thinking about what I wanted to get them and then I had been given an unexpected gift card. I took it as a sign and I went on my little shopping trip.

As much as I dreaded the holiday traffic, it was unbelievably light and I was thankful for some time to pray. My morning had been hectic. I had to help my son get a cooking project together for his Spanish class. I didn’t have any time to read my daily devotion. I ran out the door and was a few minutes late for work.

My day turned out to be as busy as my morning was with zero downtime. As I drove along in the light traffic and the beautiful sunshine, I found myself praying. I also found myself asking God to show Himself.

When I arrived at the store, the items I bought cost almost exactly what my gift card was and there it was. God had given me an unexpected blessing and was allowing me to use it to bless others. I was basking in that revelation as I wound through the parking lot to head back home.

I patiently waited as one pedestrian after another, needed to cross in front of me. Every single one of them smiled at me and gave me a little wave for stopping for them. I felt a deep sense of peace.

As I continued through the parking lot, listening to Christmas music, I ended up in a fairly long line of cars, waiting to get back on the road. I was in no rush and I was enjoying the alone time.

Then I heard a blaring horn. Apparently, I hadn’t pulled up as far as I possibly could to the car in front of me and had partially blocked the entrance to a bank. I pulled up and the man who blew his horn, whipped in and gave me and incredibly angry look.

And then I remembered a conversation I had with our associate pastor one Sunday. I had a headache that day and I asked her to pray for me. She did. She put her hands on my aching head and said a beautiful healing prayer. She also told me she could feel my tension and her next words really stuck with me.

“Your peace cannot be taken from you because it’s given to you by the Holy Spirit. You only lose it when you willingly give it.”

How often do we allow the actions of other people to drive us crazy, make us angry, or bring us stress? A simple drive across town can make us see red if we allow it to. Then there are long days at work, hectic mornings, disagreements with our spouses or kids, financial issues, or health issues. All of those can be peace stealers, but they don’t have to be.

We have a choice. The Bible tells us to guard our hearts. Maybe we should guard our peace too, keeping in mind that we have an enemy who delights in taking it.

Remembering that it’s ours to give our to keep, well that changes everything. An angry man in traffic reminded me. Perhaps you needed reminding too.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy πŸ™‚

Categories: Biblical Wisdom, Building Christian Character, Watching for God | 1 Comment