Sunday, August 30, 2015

Best Laid Plans . . . .

A few years ago, our church focused on reading through the Bible in a year.  I was so excited to do this, as I longed to read through the Bible, but didn't know how to start.  Many of you would say, "at the beginning" and I tried that many times.  Yet, by the time I got to the book of Numbers, my interest would wain.  So when they shared it would be a combintion of old and new testament books, I was excited.  It was a great year!  I kept the outline because I found so many times I needed to spend more time in certain areas.  Yet, there were a few books I loved - and Proverbs was one of them.  It's like a book of little gems that help us to better understand how to live our lives.  It is one of those books I should read on a daily basis!!

As many of you know, I'm a planner.  When there are plans to be made, I'm your gal.  Lists to throw a perfect party?  Got it.  Plan a vacation?  Should have been a travel agent.  Plan for a project?  In detail.  These plans not only get in my head, but in my heart.  I become very passionate about these plans.  Please tell me someone reading this understands me??  Of course, those who live with us "planners" tend to see us as a bit obsessive.  I know I probably am.  

Our lives unfold, and here, once again, our plans can get rearranged.  So many things can change plans; people's minds, people's hearts, circumstances, etc.  When plans change, they can create quite a stir in our lives, certainly for us planners.  The plans that we create and hold dear to our hearts can many times feel personal.  When the plans change, it can disrupt our lives. 

What is so important for all of us to remember is that plans change for a reason.  God has the divine purpose that we don't always understand.  His focus, His drive, His journey is the one that we need to be on - and He has a special way many times of gaining our attention to HIS PURPOSE.  Gaining our attention when our plans don't align with His can sometimes seem drastic.  Yet, that may be what is necessary for us to see what He needs us to see.  And I don't know about you, but when my plans are changed by God's plans, it is always better.  It's not that good things occur - truly great things occur.  

God is the ultimate planner - not me.  Sometimes I need some reality checks in this area and God is always willing to give them to me!  I have learned to accept them as His will instead of my will - knowing that His will is divine.  So the next time that plans seem to go array, remember, it's just God telling us that He is the one who is in control - He is the one whose plans prevail.  We just need to have simple faith to continue on His path.

"Dearest Lord, may I always realize that you knew my journey long before I was born.  May I heed myself to your plans, not mine.  May I understand that you know what is best for me and my family.  Let me rely on simple faith to guide me in your direction."

Sunday, August 23, 2015


Submission is a powerful word.  When I hear that word, it doesn't necessarily scream "AWESOME" to me.  It tends to be a word that I would associate with words like:  intimidation, weak, passive, etc.  That was, until this weekend.  Submission has taken on an entirely new meaning, and as I researched it in the Biblical terms, it became even clearer.

This weekend was a difficult weekend.  We brought our son, Christian, to his first year of college.  The only school he wanted to go to was Virginia Military Institute.  It was the only school he applied to, the only school he ever focused on.  That was it.  He was determined and worked hard to make sure his desire became a reality - and it did.  As with any military school, the incoming freshman go through many months of "conditioning"; not just physically, but mentally.  It's a matter of "breaking them down before building them up".  I can't imagine going through all of that - not to mention that this was something Christian CHOSE to do!  He actually wanted this!

So as we walked through the matriculation process on Saturday, I watched not only the incoming students, but also the current cadets, have a sense of submission - totally obeying those that spoke to them.  It was incredibly impressive and even as I think of it now, chills run down my spine.  There was a submission to the process, to the company commanders, to upperclassmen, submission.  To be totally passive in all situations (my original thought) would be difficult for me - yes, many of you know me all too well.

Yet, I researched the word.  If there was one person who was TOTALLY submissive, it was Jesus.  He did exactly as His father asked.  He came down from his throne, endured temptation, endured mockery, endured humiliation, etc. because His father told him to.  He submitted because He knew what it would bring - everlasting life for all of us that believe.  God being the ultimate leader, Jesus followed.  Jesus submitted, or invested, His earthly life in God.  Jesus had knowledge that in total submission comes great things.  Christian is submitting or investing his life to the company commander.  He has knowledge that in his total submission will come great things.

Now, the challenge is for all of us - for you and me.  By submitting or investing our lives to Jesus, we also will have great things.  We receive Jesus' grace, mercy, wisdom, peace and most pivotal, His unconditional love.  You may think it is harder to submit or invest in Jesus as He is not here to guide us.  Yet remember, it is our Simple Faith, that truly guides us to the journey He has laid out for us.  By following the path He has set before us, by submitting to His will - not ours, we will also receive great things - eternal life.  There is no greater gift for our submission than that!  When we submit to Him and tell Him that we know He is our savior, His arms will be reaching out to us from now until we see His face in heaven.  I don't know about you, but for that, I will submit!!  And please, a few prayers for Christian during these first few months as he submits would be deeply appreciated!!

"Heavenly Father, we know that through our simple faith in all that you have given to us, especially your son Jesus, we can have everlasting life with you.  This takes submission on our part to follow the path that you have laid out for us.  I pray that you will help all of us to submit to that journey.  May we be submissive to you as our great leader.  In your name I pray.  AMEN"

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Everybody Counts

Saturday morning. . . . usually the same set of chores.  Get up, go grocery shopping, go out for breakfast, laundry, cleaning, etc.  I'm sure many of you out there find yourselves with the same schedule.  Quite frankly, I enjoy the early morning rituals.  Typically, I'm one of the first people at the grocery store.  I enjoy having the store pretty much to myself.  Those who start their day the way I do seem to enjoy the experience as well.  There is much chatting about the fish, different recipes, etc.  This past Saturday was no different.  It was a great morning.  Until . . . .

I was walking down the last aisle, deciding which check out lane I was going to go to.  Then I heard it, a manager raising his voice to an associate. He was literally scolding this young man in the middle of the store, over how he moved a table.  Obviously, the young man made a mistake. Yet, the way the manager handled the situation was difficult to listen to.   It was bad enough that he was reprimanding the associate in the middle of the store, and to raise his voice.  Yet, the thing that really stood out to me was the way that he continued to scold the associate, same message, over and over again.  Eventually, the "episode" stopped.  With groceries in tow, I left the store, almost in tears myself.

I can't help but think of the many times someone in power has intimidated me similar to that.  Unfortunately, it happens.  People who have the title "supervisor, manager, leader", feel as if they have some sort of power over another person and that gives them the right to treat others with no respect.  Let's face it, it also happens in our homes and amongst our families.  Certain folks feel as if they have the "upper hand" and ensure those around them know that.  It is an uncomfortable situation and typically doesn't promote coaching or respect.

Let's think of the Almighty One, the One who truly does have power over us, the One that has every right to be intimidating if He wanted to be.  I think of my life and how often I have disappointed my Lord, in my thoughts, words and actions.  He certainly has the right to scold me, to reprimand me, in front of my family and friends.  My sinful nature gives him full authority to scold me.  Yet, His correction doesn't come in the form of scolding, yelling, or intimidation.  His correction comes with love, support, guidance and a huge dose of forgiveness.   He provides me a path to get closer to Him, realize my wrongs, and move on with my Earthly journey.  He loves me as I am His child, but there is a sense of humility that comes with His power - one that gives me the joy of learning in His words.

As our verse for today shares, He values me and shows me the way we need to value others, ABOVE OURSELVES.  To live with that level of humility helps us not to live in a prideful or selfish way.  Think about Jesus' life.  He certainly had the right to live with great selfishness and conceit.  Not our Lord, He was the true picture of humility, from washing the disciples feet to dying on the cross for OUR sins.  Let us learn from our Lord the way to treat people, with value and humility.

The grocery store?  Well, I got in my car and just couldn't leave the parking lot.  I called the manager and shared my disappointment with the manager.  Yes, amongst tears flowing down my face, I shared with him that nobody deserved to be disrespected that way and that someone needed to let the manager know that there was a better way to handle the situation, to handle it with coaching, guidance, and a sense of value for others.  I got off the phone, prayed for both of the men, and know that God will handle the rest!  Pray for your own humility in every situation, whether it is with a co-worker, a family member, or a friend. Value others as our Dear Lord values us!

Dearest Lord, our days can be filled with many things on our to do list and situations can be very stressful, especially when someone may not meet our expectations.  In those moments, help us to find humility, Jesus, as you showed humility to us.  May we always value those who we come in contact with and enter situations with your Holy Spirit guiding our words and actions.  Please give us the Simple Faith to turn to you before we turn to ourselves."

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Filling the Ache

It started a few weeks ago.  I noticed the red cardinal that kept coming around.  I'd see him by the bird feeder.  I'd see him flying around with other birds.  I'd see him at other houses.  Yep, I'm sure it was the same cardinal.  They say that cardinals represent someone you love who has passed.  I was convinced it was my dad.  Our daughter, Krystina, wanted to plant sunflower seeds (my dad loved sunflowers).  We did, they are growing beautifully.  Every time I look at them, I think of him.  His beloved pick up truck was the center of a party we threw for our son yesterday - proudly displaying a banner of him winning the state championship game.  Again, I couldn't help but think of how proud my dad would have been.  I think of him every day, but for some reason, it had been more lately.  When I think of my dad, it is typically with a huge smile on my face.  Lately, though, my heart just seems to ache.

We all have someone in our lives who has passed on and gets to see Jesus every day in our heavenly home.  Maybe it is a parent, a sibling, a spouse, a child or a dear friend.  Maybe the losses have been more tangible such as a job or a home.  It is difficult to processes these losses here on Earth.  These losses leave us with an ache in our hearts.  These losses are difficult to comprehend many times.

Mourning and grief are part of our lives.  They are emotions that we need to work through when there are losses.  Many times we try to bury them, we try to tell others, "I'm okay."  Yet, it is important to work through these losses to understand better what we can gain.  Gain?  I'm sure you are all thinking, "What can we possibly gain from loss?"  Well, my friends, let me share with you what we can gain.

We get to know that loss brings peace.  My dad would have been 82 years old now.  We lost him 14 years ago.  If he had survived, he would have had 14 more years of pain and suffering - something he endured a good portion of his life.  He was finally able to have the peace that he so rightfully and justly deserved.  God's plan is far greater than our wants.  His plans for our loved ones, whatever they might have been, is far greater than our understanding.  The child I lost in miscarriage?  Their life might have been filled with trouble and turmoil far greater than I could understand.  The friend I lost all too early?  Her life may have been filled with trials far greater than she might have been able to bear.  We don't always know, but we can find peace in knowing that the One who does know it all is in control.

So what can fill our ache?  The passage today can!  What joy there must be in heaven!!  The knowledge that one day we will see all those who have passed before us, what a wondrous day that will be.  There will be a day when our tears will be dried and there will be no more mourning, no more crying.  I can't imagine the wonder of it all.  Yet, I do know that knowledge gives ME peace.  This morning, our church family sang, "it is well, it is well with my soul."  Yes, a tear may have been shed, but I know that God's will is well with my soul.  His ever-present love and peace is always with me.  This ache that I feel?  It will one day be replaced with the joy of seeing my Earthly father's face in paradise.  Now THAT make's my heart leap!!  I hope it makes your heart leap as well.  Know that our ache can be filled with the faith and knowledge that we will see our loved ones again.  Know that our ache can be filled with the truth of life everlasting.  Know that God loves you and will ease your pain.  Blessings for filling those aches with knowledge, truth, and love.

"Dearest Lord, our hearts can ache at times with holes; holes of loss.  These moments of aching can lead to sadness.  Please remove the sadness from our hearts and replace it with the knowledge, truth, and love that only YOU can.  Remind us that our tears will be dried and there will be no crying.  Remind us of paradise with you.  Remind us that your grace and mercy are with us forever.  Thank you, Lord, for giving us paradise.  In your gracious name, Amen."

Sunday, August 2, 2015

From the Mountaintop

This past weekend we had the privilege to take a gondala ride up to the top of the mountain at the Killington Ski Resort in Killington, Vermont.   At the base of the mountain, we couldn't even see the top.  Yet, once we arrived at the top (elevation 4,241 feet), I was truly amazed.  As soon as we stepped out, the beauty was all around us. No matter where you turned, no matter in which direction you looked, there was the stunning beauty of the Green Mountains in Vermont.  In fact, we were able to see Mount Washington in New Hampshire from that vantage point.  It had to be one of the most beautiful sites I have seen.  Yes, it is summer and there was such beauty.  Yet, I can't even imagine what it would look like in the fall with God's paintbrush or winter with the snow covered trails.  It was just stunning.

When I see God's beauty just shine out like that, I can't help but believe what a wondrous and amazing God we have.  To know that He created all of that is really too hard to comprehend sometimes.  I am sure all of you have had an opportunity when you witness the hand of God and can't help but stop for a moment, in peace, and know that we have an Awesome God.  Maybe you viewed some of the wonders of this earth, maybe it was at the birth of a child, or it could also have been at the passing of a loved one.  Any one of those moments, and so many more, is when we get to stop and say, "Thank You God for giving me this gift!!"  

This moment of awe can also happen in every day events.  Once again, moments that just take your breath away when you least expect it.  This happened a couple of months ago.  At the end of each quarter at work, we take time to have a luncheon for all the new hires that have joined our company during that quarter.  It is a festive time as we celebrate their joining our work family and they enjoy a special lunch with our executive team and each other.  We chat about our every day lives - our families, pets, hobbies, etc.  This particular luncheon was going on without a hitch.  The typical introduction would be something like, "I'm Susan and I have a wonderful family with four children and a dog.  I enjoy writing, etc. etc. etc."

Yet, this day a young woman shared, "I'm _____, and I'm a Christian."  Yep, right there in our work luncheon she declared her love for her Lord.  "WOW" was really the first word that came to my mind.  I was in awe of this wonderful woman who spoke right out and shared her faith.  I've never done that.  I always "hope" people can tell I'm a Christian by my words and actions, yet, to get right out there and share it - that was incredible.  In our passage today, we hear our Lord sharing that even if our faith is as small as a mustard seed (and that is REALLY small), we can still move mountains.  What faith this young woman has to declare her love in such a work setting, with all the vice presidents and president there!  I can imagine she would be able to move those Green Mountains in a heartbeat.  

The glory of our Lord comes in so many different ways.  It can come through majestic mountains.  It can come through a moment in our lives that is truly a gift.  It can come through a declaration of faith in our Jesus.  Find those moments, those peace-filled, heart-stopping moments and cherish them.  God puts them in our paths so that we stop and give glory to Him - right then and there!  It's what I did at the top of that mountain.  It's what I did the day the woman shared her faith.  I pray those moments are frequent in your life for they should be cherished.

"Heavenly Lord, so many times we run through life without stopping, without taking time to appreciate your awe and wonder.  Help us to have moments where we just need to take a few minutes and revel in the gifts you have given us, whether it be a majestic mountain or a kind woman declaring her faith.  All of those moments are filled with your reach and awsome love.  Thank you, Jesus, for giving all of this to us.  In your gracious name we pray, Amen!"

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Thank you for visiting my blog. I hope we can share how God's grace has been life changing and that SIMPLE FAITH, getting back to a life that is rooted in the basics, can truly set us free to achieve so much in our lives.