Monday, June 16, 2014

A Parable

Much to share about life right now!

  • Of course, there's the wedding!  October 24th rushes closer every day. 
  • Lots of travel for speaking engagements.  I got to spend this past weekend in Nasheville.  My dear friend, Brenda, lined me up to speak for the women's conference at her church.  Women's conference and time with a best friend?  Ah-mazing!!!
  • Our missions trip to Padova, Italy is less than one month away.
  • Frank and I are watching as a personal miracle unfolds.  (More about that when it's all settled.)
  • It's summer.  So something is going on at church almost every week.  VBS starts next Monday.

Well, you get the idea.

But at the conference, a couple of the ladies came up to talk with me after my first sermon.  They were convinced that I must have heard the message their pastor had preached the Sunday before.

"Your sermon just tied in perfectly with what Pastor said!  We were listening with our mouths hanging open!"  They nodded in unison.

I assured them I hadn't heard their pastor's message.  But it sounded like maybe God had something He wanted their ladies to understand if He sent me from FL with the same thoughts.

They then told me of a parable he used.  And it's so good that I just had to share it with the Embrace the Grace family.

It seems a farmer went to a wise man to discuss his problems.  The crops were not doing well for anyone in that area.  A drought was draining the entire valley.  Bills were mounting.  Everyone was under extreme pressure.  The farmer, a leader in the community, was distressed and considering giving up his life profession.

The wise man talked with the farmer for a few minutes then asked him to put water in the three pots sitting on his stove.   They discussed the difficulties the farmer was facing and the decision before him as the wise man moved about in the tiny kitchen.

When the water in the three pots finally came to a boil, the wise man asked the farmer to drop a carrot in the first pot.  He then handed him an egg for the second and a tea bag for the third.  

Continuing to share his fears, the farmer complied absentmindedly.  

"Everyone is depending on me to know what to do!" exclaimed the distraught man.  "The entire community seems to be looking to me and I'm afraid we're going to lose everything!"

Without answering, the wise man reached for a spoon standing in a can near his stove.  Slowly and in quiet tones he began to speak as he fished the carrot from the pot.  

"See this boiling water?" he asked simply.  By this time, the water was rolling wildly in each of the three pots.  "Look at what it did to this carrot."  The wise man laid the carrot on the stove top and mashed it easily with the back of the spoon.  "The carrot turned to mush."

He reached into the second pot to retrieve the egg.  "And this egg?"  he tapped it lightly on the porcelain top.  The cracking sound was clear.  "The egg hardened."

With that, the wise man dipped the spoon in the third pot and brought out the single tea bag.  "But the tea bag?  Well...." he smiled ever so slightly.  "It seems the tea bag has changed the water, now doesn't it?" 

The wise man laid his gnarled hand gently on the the shoulder of his friend.  "It's the same water boiling in all three pots.  The difference is the item in the pot.  Life's troubles impact us all.  We must choose.  Will we be like the carrot and allow the difficulties to cause us to fall apart?  Will we become hardened by the pressure like this egg?"

He turned and slowly poured the fragrant tea into a battered old cup.  "Or will we bring change to our circumstances?  Will we use the trouble to help release something inside us that we didn't even know we had?"

"The boiling water changed the carrot and the egg.  But the tea bag changed the water."

Father, give us all the courage we need. Help us face the difficulties while determining not to fall apart.  Not to become hardened or bitter.  But determined to impact the circumstances we find ourselves in and create something positive instead!

May we all serve as change agents in our world today!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Pentecost Sunday

Sesame Street had a great song when I was a regular viewer twenty-five years ago. They would flash a picture of four different items then joyfully sing,  "One of these things does not belong here.  One of these things just isn't the same......"

(I'm sure there's more to the song but I can't remember it right now.)

I would immediately see the odd item and start prompting the girls.  "What doesn't match everything else around it?"

Blank expressions.

"See, a brush.  A hair curler.  A ribbon.  A waffle iron." I gave it my best coaxing, patient-mom voice.

Blank expressions.

I knew the timer was ticking.  Some small measure of tension would build in my chest.  "C'mon girls!  You can do this!"

Finally, at the last possible second someone would call out with the announcer, "Waffle Iron!"

"Yes!!  Good job!"  Applause all around.  My children were brilliant and I knew it all along!

Soooo, what does this story have to do with Pentecost?  You're probably wondering.

Well, we had a re-enactment of the "one of these things does not belong here" as we marked Pentecost Sunday yesterday.  (Pentecost is the celebration in Christian churches that occurs fifty days after Easter.)

I don't normally write about special services with our church.  But this one was so unusual (really kind of funny)  I just had to share it today. 

Frank felt we should hold a special time of prayer to mark Pentecost Sunday for our congregation. So we began announcing it and encouraging people to attend about three weeks ago.

Now usually if you call for a special prayer meeting and have more than ten people show up - that's a huge crowd.  As prayer meetings go.  But not Garden Grove!

By the time we started the first song, over half our congregation had arrived.  We were so encouraged and excited to see what God had in store.  When you get that many people focused on talking to God about the same things at the same time - well, something is going to happen for sure!

Get the full picture of what was happening through out the service:
          Half the congregation pouring their hearts out to God!
          Encouraging scriptures being read as prayer instruction!
          Songs of passion and praise being sung!
          The electricity going out!


Yep!  We were half way through the order of service when it happened.  One of the men leading a particular prayer had a microphone in his hand when the lights all blinked.  Darkness!  The electric keyboard went silent.  The screens went black.  The people gasped.

The odd thing?  The emergency lighting kicked right back on and the microphone the leader was holding continued to work! We could still hear him reading the scriptures of instruction.

Frank had moved to the back of the auditorium so he just called out, "Keep praying!  Don't stop!"

So, we all closed our eyes again and went right back to prayer.  I mean, if you have your eyes closed anyway, why worry about the lights being out.  Right?!

About fifteen minutes later, all our power equipment returned to normal operation.  But I don't think we'll ever forget the "Power-less" Pentecost Sunday Prayer Meeting!  

Here are a few of the scriptures I was given to read aloud about our friendship with the Holy Spirit:
     I Samuel 10:6  He gives us the ability to change any area of our lives that isn't pleasing to God.
     Proverbs 1:23  He gives us understanding of the Word of God.
     Isaiah 63:14    He gives us rest/comfort.
     John 16:13      He guides us into truth as a teacher.
     Romans 14:17  He bring righteousness, joy and peace to us as we remain close to Him.
     Romans 15:13  He causes us to increase in HOPE!  (One of my favorites)

Monday, June 2, 2014


(Just a little word of encouragement as you start your summer.)

I delivered a sermon recently and entitled it Afraid of the Wrong Things.  The synopsis is this:  too often when God gives us the opportunity to be part of a miracle, instead of stepping forward in faith we step back in fear.  We focus on the impossibilities instead of the blessings that will come.

The points that came to me after prayer were really good.  The message encouraged my heart!

And the best illustration of the sermon actually came during my morning walk.

I'm once again (for the hundredth time) determined to shape up.  This time my motivation is all the wedding pictures we'll be taking in October!  I do not want to look back on those and think, "Wow!  I sure looked fluffy!"

So, the tennis shoes are dusted off and walking clothes sit handy in my closet.

I'm a boring walker.  Amanda never really enjoyed walking with me because I take the exact same path every single time I walk.  Down my driveway.  Left at the first stop sign.  Right at the next.  Left into another development.  Circle two cul-de-sacs.  Back home.  Every single time!

But what's boring to one walker is peaceful to another.  I know the path.  I know exactly how long it will take. I can just walk and think and pray to my heart's content.

Until this particular morning......

Deep in thought, I made the turn into the other housing development.  I even picked up the pace a bit.
That's when I heard it.  A low, menacing growl.  The kind that means, "Imminent Danger Ahead!" 

The growl turned to a loud vicious bark and suddenly, from my peripheral vision, I caught sight of a HUGE, horse of a dog! This dog was at least three feet tall; extremely unhappy; and charging full gallop in my direction!  He had every intention of helping me remember to NEVER pass this way again.

My response?  I just kept walking; didn't even waste time slowing my pace!


Because I've walked this way many times before.  And while the dog isn't always outside as I pass his house, he's been out before and I know that between that dog and me is an all important.....fence!

He's big.  He's scary.  And yes, if he could get to me he would very likely harm me.  But experience has taught me that he can't get to me!  His bark may startle me - but he can't hurt me unless I step into his fenced enclosure.

His intention to hurt me is a fact.  But the truth that he can't get to me is more important.  I just walk on, armed with the truth!

Fear is the only weapon darkness has against us.

(My friend Shirley gave me this acrostic for fear.  False Evidence Appearing Real.  Good, right?!)

We've walked with Christ long enough to know, He is with us always!  He will never leave us alone, nor vulnerable to the fears of life.  So we walk forward, armed with the full truth.

And when we're invited to be part of a miracle, we take the step with confidence!  Experience has taught us that where He guides, He provides.  God is faithful; we can trust Him.

The challenge?  Don't be afraid of what looks impossible.  We should be more afraid of missing out on the wonderful possibilities God has planned for us!

Take up truth and trust.  Walk on.  Don't slacken your pace when the enemy barks loudly.  There are great things to be accomplished - and you're meant to be part of the miracle!