Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Power of Silence

She just kept starring at me!

No nod of affirmation.  No scowl of disapproval.

Just a steady, unflinching gaze that unnerved me more with every passing second.

I was twenty-one years old and trying to express to my trusted friend a plan I'd formulated.  Within the first five sentences, I knew the plan that had seemed so reasonable as I turned it over and over in my head...........SOUNDED wrong.  Completely wrong!

Tricia knew it too and that's why she was starring at me.  Not with a look of disbelief or judgment.  Just listening - intently.

I should have sighed deeply and given up on the plan.  But NO!

I was already emotionally invested in this plan and I had to see it through!  Getting Tricia to agree with me was the first step that would send me on down the course I'd mentally plotted.

She continued to stand there like some sentinel guarding the truth.  And the longer she remained silent, the more I babbled.  Even revealing points of the plan I had no intention of revealing to anyone!  EVER!!

After several minutes of my impassioned plea, Tricia quietly asked one very pointed question.  It was the final shot that brought down my poorly conceived balloon.  And I knew I had to chose a different course of action.  Unbelievable! 

For most of my life words and their power have been a natural gifting for me.  But that day, I learned a valuable lesson about the power of SILENCE!

Tricia served as a trusted friend who knew what meant most to me.  This plan was wrong!  She confidently held to the rudder of truth while my boat of thinking bounced around on the rapids of decision.

She knew that her opinion wasn't the important issue.  She trusted that I was smart enough to come to the right conclusion.  She prayed while listening.

I recognized the power her silence had exercised over me and began to study how to implement it in my own life.  When words are your natural gifting, you have to practice silence!

You know how you can be standing with someone and their hurtful comment stings badly?  You get into your car and immediately the most awesome retort hits your brain.  I mean the perfect zinger that would cause everyone to step back in awe?!

"Man, I wish I'd thought to say..........."

Yeah well, I was the kind of person who didn't have to wait until getting into my car.

Zingers.  One liners.  Verbal slaps.  I was never at a loss for words!

And while usually everyone roared with laughter ( I'm not mean at heart), many times I felt badly and wished I could take back a statement. 

Perhaps that's why Tricia's example of silence had such impact on me.

It took years of intentional practice!

At one point in my life, the Lord had me rehearse over and over this one phrase:
                                           STUDY TO BE QUIET!

For almost eighteen months when I would begin my devotional time, that phrase would come without bidding to my heart.  And I would repeat it again and again.

When I would get into my car and begin a quick trip to the store, "Study to be Quiet!" 

While cooking dinner.  Organizing home school books.  Feeding the dog.  Sweeping the floor.  "Study to be Quiet!"

(Perhaps I'm not the quick study I thought myself to be!)

Then I came across a great adage that I began teaching the girls:
                                     "Only a fool tells all that he knows!"

That one phrase became a benchmark for my little girls as they grew up in a pastor's home.  It gave them the tool they needed in order to not feel they were hiding something or lying if someone asked probing questions they couldn't answer.

(Granted, church people shouldn't ask the pastor's young children probing questions.  But we don't live in a perfect world, do we?)

Now, as adults charged with holding confidences and maintaining trusts, this is a habit for them.   A natural part of life and character.  "Only a fool tells all that he knows!"

I'm so very thankful the Lord challenged me to learn the power of silence.  It did not come easily!

Even today, if you watch carefully, you can sometimes catch me placing a finger over my lips while listening.  That's not just a reflective position.

It's an attempt to capture the words pounding against my lips; demanding expression!

Ah, I can see from your smile that you know exactly what I mean!

Perhaps we would all benefit from a little more listening and a lot less talking.

There's power in that silence!  Wield it carefully!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Love Letter

I love a good sunrise!

There's just nothing else like it.  (Unless, of course, it's a good sunset!)

This morning I made my coffee and pulled back the curtains on a dark, gloomy vista.  The sky, heavy with clouds, promising rain.  As I opened the door for Bella and Gracie to stampede, the steamy tropical air seemed to close in.

This is central FL and it is August. 

At first it seemed rather pointless to sit in my favorite chair on the patio.  No sunrise to entertain me this morning!

But as my needy eyes continued to scour the horizon, suddenly I caught sight of it.  One tiny little sliver of pale pink accented on either side by the blackness.  The billowy clouds of night actually served to highlight the tiny thread of color.

So I took my customary seat for The Show.

Patience has its reward.  As I sipped coffee; patted Gracie; swatted mosquitoes and watched hopefully, the most beautiful colors finally began to appear.

And I was amazed by the grandness of God - all over again.

Nothing I would watch on morning TV could possibly refresh my heart the way a sunrise does.  Nothing I would listen to on Pandora could renew my outlook for the day as do the colors of a morning sky.

Perhaps I'm easily entertained.  But as those pinks, purples and oranges begin their dance I am reminded of larger purposes for life.

I'm reminded of new beginnings.  I'm reminded that God is in control - not me.  I'm reminded of His grandness and great love.  I'm reminded that each day brings its own measure of mercy.

I'm reminded that the darkest hour truly is just before the dawn.  I'm reminded that if we watch for  Him, He will be found.  I'm reminded that God has resources I know nothing of.  I'm reminded that His thoughts and ways and purposes are higher than mine.

I'm reminded that while I am but dust, the God of the heavens uses that very canvas to send me a message of His love every day!

And I patiently watch the unfolding.  With a hungry heart, I read His love letter.  My own words inadequate to respond to such magnificence.

I'm left to simply bow my head before His grandeur and whisper, "I love you, too my Father!  I love you, too!" 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Oval Office and A Coach

(Rather long.  Really encouraging!)

I absolutely LOVE when our Father sends "kisses from Heaven"!

You know:
  • A special scripture answering the question you pondered this morning.  
  • A hug or phone call when you need it most.  
  • A song on the radio that brings a flood of encouragement.
  • A miracle moment you could never orchestrate for yourself!
A "kiss from heaven" that seems to say, "I know where you are!  I haven't forgotten my promises!  I love you more than you could ever know!"

I'm going to tell you about two such kisses that took place for our family in just the past seven days.

Near the top of Frank's Bucket List (things he hopes to do before moving to Heaven) is this item:
                      Stand in the Oval Office of the President of the United States

(Yes, he does dream big!  And that's one of the reasons I love him so!)

We've visited Washington, D.C. several times.  We've toured the White House.  We've shaken hands with people who have stood in that office.  We've seen the office on television.  We've stood in replicas of said office.

But Frank has yet to fulfill the actual item on his list of standing in the Oval Office.  Sigh.

This week, Frank is in Los Angeles, California with Ted, the men's director of GGC.  They've worked at the Dream Center.  (An amazing eight story ministry center located right in the heart of the city.)  They've toured the headquarters of Ted's business.  They've seen two ball games.  And today, they got to lead TEN PEOPLE to faith in Christ!

It's turning out to be a monumental trip.

("Sheri, Los Angeles is a long way from Washington, DC."  I know, just stick with me a minute.)

Last night when Frank called, his voice was tight with emotion and excitement.  He instructed me to have our family pray.  He was about to experience something amazing!

My history buff husband had convinced Ted to take a drive down Azusa Street which is a significant landmark for Pentecostal believers.  On Azusa Street sits an historical site known as the Bonnie Brae House.

It was here, in 1903, that a young African American man named William Seymour sought God until there came a powerful revival impacting Los Angeles and eventually all of North America.  Rev. Seymour was known as a man of prayer; spending six to eight hours a day shut away in a tiny room calling out to God.

He routinely preached with an orange crate over his head because his face often glowed and he didn't want any attention drawn to himself.  All attention had to focus on Christ alone.  We've known about and admired Rev. Seymour's passion for many years.

Last night as they walked past the Bonnie Brae house on Azusa Street, Frank noticed that although the gate by the sidewalk was locked, the door to the house was open.  So, in typical North Carolina fashion, he stood by the gate and began calling to whomever might be inside.  "Hello!  Hello!"

Long story short, within minutes, Frank and Ted were being given a private tour of the historical house.  And his ecstatic phone call was to involve us in a significant moment.

The care taker had granted permission for Frank to have a few minutes praying in the very room where William Seymour spent so much time alone with God.

 It was a powerful encounter!

Not because of the room itself.  There was no power in the tiny 8 X 8 cubicle with wood floors and undecorated walls.  But men had gone into that room hungry to experience the presence of God.  And His promise is that if we seek Him......He will be found!

As I journaled about this wonderful moment this morning, the Father whispered to me, "Frank has wanted to stand in the Oval Office - a room of authority and power.  I gave him that experience.  But this was a room of heavenly authority and power!"


And the Coach?  What's that about?

Well at our General Council last week, there was a special event for minister's wives.  A lovely reception planned for nine hundred women.  Kristin and I volunteered to help the team decorating

We worked quickly putting out the gifts provided for each guest along with several pamphlets.  Kristin was her normal meticulous self.  Placing each item with care; hoping to make the ladies feel even more special.

The women's director had said it would be fine for Kristin to get a ticket and attend the event.  So at 1:00, we hurried back to the hall.  We wanted to be there when the other ladies began arriving.

The air was electric.  And I was having the time of my life welcoming minister's wives, helping them find friends and locate seats.  The noise level rose quickly from all the voices as the hall filled with precious servants of God.

Kristin and I met the national director, Kerry Clarensau, last spring.  Such a warm and encouraging person.  We were thrilled for her that the event (which had been her dream) was such an obvious success.

Halfway through the program, the planning committee was introduced.  Each one stepped to the microphone and told a little about herself.  She then drew the name of someone attending and presented that lady with a door prize specially chosen by the committee member.

When Kerry took the microphone and held up her door prize, it was a purse.  She loves purses and had chosen one to give away to some lucky lady. 

Kristin shares that love.  I have a picture of her as a two year old with her arm straight in the air, the strap of my big purse over her shoulder, bag dragging along behind her.

"And my purse goes to.........Kristin Harvey!"  Kerry announced.  Everyone began applauding and looking around.

"No, wait.  That's Kristin Hawley!!" 

Our table erupted in squeals and cheers and exclamations of disbelief as Kristin headed to the front.  She beamed as Kerry embraced her. Out of 900 names, she had drawn Kristin's!

And you see, it wasn't just any purse.  It wasn't Kristin's normal bargain purse.  It was a genuine COACH!  (Which I've learned, is a very nice purse indeed!)  A purse Kristin's only ever dreamed of owning.

Reminds me of another scripture, "God does exceedingly, abundantly above all we can ask or even think!"

Kisses from Heaven in the form of an office visit and a purse.

He knows where we all are! He remembers His promises!  He loves us all more than we could ever know!


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Ballet Shoe Shuffle

Did you know that as we age, there is one part of our body guaranteed to loose weight?

Not the arms.

No, that's the part that continues to hail a cab long after the cab has already pulled to the curb.

Not the posterior.

No, that's the part that feels obligated to pad all sitting for the rest of the days of our lives and therefore collects all the extra fat available.

Not the stomach.

No, that's the all important "Nana-Roll Region."  Our bodies reason that it would be unfair to short change grand babies by subjecting them to pokey ribs.  "Store all necessary padding," our brains say.

But it has been scientifically proven that as we age we can count on the fact that any and all fat will most assuredly disappear from the area of.........................our feet!

For someone who has worked diligently my entire adult life to keep weight from ballooning out of control, you'd think I'd be excited to learn about guaranteed weight loss.

But I'm not!

Instead I want to look into the heavens and loudly implore, "WHY?!  Of all the weighty areas you could choose, why would you choose to make us loose weight in our feet?  And just at the very time of life I could USE extra padding on my poor, abused tootsies!"

Yep, that would be my question.

I alluded to this problem in a post last year when I told about discovering Mr. Clark.  (My new favorite shoes that offer comfort and a bit of style.)

But General Council 2013 (the biennial gathering of all U.S. Assemblies of God ministers) was the first that I've had to face this dilemma head on.

Each year before when we've gathered with thousands of other missionaries, pastors and wives from all around the country I've used the "Ballet Shoe Shuffle" quite effectively.

What?  You aren't familiar with the "Ballet Shoe Shuffle" you say?

Well, it's like this.

Many years ago I discovered that my little black Dearfoam bedroom shoes were made just like ballet slippers.  They also fit perfectly into a pocket inside Frank's dress coat.  Each coat he wears has a similar pocket.  I think the pocket is actually designed for papers and such but I called dibs!

When we would leave our hotel and begin the hike toward the convention center, I would don the little black Dearfoams (with their handy-dandy, thin rubber sole) and walk contentedly the entire distance.

Once we hit the main artery of pastoral traffic, I'd quickly switch the Dearfoams for my high heels. Shuffling them into Frank's waiting pocket.  (Sole sides together, of course!  I'm thoughtful like that!)

This worked well for many hikes to and from the huge convention centers all around the country.

But not this year!

I've now hit that auspicious season of life where the scientific studies are proving true.  The wonderful fatty padding for my well-used feet has almost completely disappeared.

The farthest I routinely walk in high heels now is from the car to my office.  (About twenty feet.)  I quickly remove them and slip on the bedroom shoes always waiting under my desk.

When it's time for service, I walk from my office to the sanctuary.  (About a hundred feet.)

As soon as I can get to my spot on the front row, I slip them off and stand bare-footed until time to greet people.

The one exception to all this shoe shuffling is when I'm speaking.  Somehow, the Father has seen fit to allow a special dispensation of some sort and my feet never hurt during sermons.  

Now, I am well aware of my limitations.  So each outfit I packed for use at General Council 2013 began with the shoes.

If Kristin (my resident fashion consultant) couldn't identify a comfortable pair of sandals, slides, wedges or flats to co-ordinate with an outfit, it didn't matter how cute it was or how skinny it made me look - it didn't make the cut!

I only have two feet.  And even at 55, I'm hoping they'll transport me for many years to come.  That could be thousands of miles yet.

So it has become comfort over cuteness.

And I'll continue to pamper my thinning feet.  You can count on it!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Jam Packed

Life is never dull!

I think that's pretty much true for everyone I know.

Whether they live in a city or in the country.  Parents of small children, teenagers, adult children or no children.  Big family or small family.  It matters not whether they work days, nights or both.  Take extra classes or don't.  Work two jobs or one.  Use internet or don't.

We're a bunch of busy people!

Frank and I just concluded an extremely wild week. When we finally sat down last night, all we could do was sit beside one another and stare straight ahead.  We were too tired to even watch a video or read.

Now that's too tired!

I won't bore you with a blow by blow description.  But all our planning did lead to a whirlwind 36 hours that included-but was not limited to-the following: a mission outreach for the men, a baby shower for Meg and Nate, dinner at a Sweet 16 party, laundry and packing for our national conference, hosting a Sunday morning guest speaker, a leadership luncheon following church,  mentoring time for Frank and myself, as well as a couple of hospital visits squeezed in between.

Nope, you'll never hear me complain about being bored!

But I also know that life is short. 

So in the middle of all that excitement, I made sure I got a few minutes with Spencer and Abby.  I patted Meagan's belly and said hello to Noah.  I rubbed Frank's head, talked with my dad, hugged Kristin and Joy, told John and Nathan how amazing I think they are.  AND had brunch with my dear friend, Becky Smith!

This week is the biennial gathering of our fellowship (the Assemblies of God) in Orlando.  Beginning with registration this afternoon, we'll be on the run until next Friday. 

We'll sit in services with amazing speakers, prayerfully participate in business meetings, attend late night reunions and early morning memorials. 

One of the most exciting parts of this General Council is that one of our very own GGC students, Kendall Katina, made it to nationals with her presentation for Fine Arts.  (Fine Arts is a program giving A/G teenagers a great competitive venue for expressing creative gifts.  Over 10,000 students will participate in Orlando this week.) 

So of course we'll skip whatever the adults are doing when it's time for her to go on stage!

And rest assured there will be intentional lunches, coffees or even sitting in service with dear friends from all over the country that we haven't seen since the last General Council.  Those hugs and snatches of catching up are the recharge needed by this "Energizer Bunny"!

Yep, life is jam packed.  But we all know that jam makes dry toast a treat! 

May the Lord give us all eyes to see our busy lives as the "treat" they truly are!