Monday, October 29, 2018

Passion to Stand

When you are passionate about something or someone, you will naturally make your feelings known.

When Frank asked me to be his wife, I was ecstatic and let everyone around me know about our plan to wed.  (Actually, I think he may have told more people at the beginning than I did but that's another post.)  My love for this man has grown so much richer over the subsequent 39 years.  There is simply no doubt how much I value and respect him.  My passion for our relationship can not be hidden.

So it is with my love for the people and nation of Israel.  Having the privilege to travel there three years ago was the fulfilling of a decades long desire.  Even people who mark themselves as having "No Faith" will tell you there is something deeply spiritual and moving about walking in that land.

Today my heart aches for the families of the eleven unsuspecting Jewish people who were targeted and murdered in their house of worship this past week.  Evil exploding in a place of trust.  There is a reason the meeting rooms in churches are often referred to as "the sanctuary."  These are supposed to be places of total safety.

It's quite easy for me to identify with those eleven people of faith.  My passion links me to the 26 Texans killed while worshipping on a Sunday morning last year.  I also feel connected with the nine people murdered 2 years ago while attending a prayer meeting in SC.  They were all doing what I've done countless times. . . celebrating Life as given us by God.

Even while praying for the families of those lost this week, I was reminded of a favorite bit of scripture.  "Where sin (darkness/evil) increased, grace (God's love) overflowed much more."  This is from a letter Paul wrote to his friends in Rome.

Some mistakenly think times have never been worse than they are now.  But evil was definitely present when Paul wrote those words.  In fact, he was in prison just because of his faith.  Interesting, isn't it, how passionate (in a negative sense) darkness came become toward people of faith?

But here's a simple truth - darkness will never have the upper hand over light!  We can hold to that truth, can't we?

As a child, I grew up knowing the storms that so often boiled out of the Gulf of Mexico.  During those fearful times, my mom would remind me of the power found in a single candle.  Light one in any darkened room and immediately the atmosphere will change.  Total darkness must yield when even the faintest bit of light can be detected.

So it is in our world today.  We don't have to be the boldest or the brightest of all passionate believers.  We simply must be willing to stand.  Some things we have no control over.  But we all have the power to let God's grace and love flow through us. 

Today I do what my passion demands.  I make declaration that I stand with Israel and with the Jewish people.

Some have asked if Frank and I still intent to lead a team to Israel next February.  Absolutely!  What better time than now to let our passion shine?  We feel it's a moment of destiny our team will mark together.

Under normal circumstances, I post some sort of warning when I share my personal opinions so freely on this blog.  But this feels like an "opinion" more of us should share.  Perhaps our world would feel less frightening if we did.

Thanks for taking time to read all the way through.  Let's open a dialogue, shall we?  I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.


(Also, we have a couple of spots open still with our Israel trip.  Drop a note in the comment box if you'd like more information.)   

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Fresh Eyes

How awesome to have friends!  Even better are friendships that span decades.

That statement may be a bit problematic for millennial readers but you get the idea.  :-)

I've just returned from spending a wonderful time with friends who connected with one another during the 20's and 30's of our life journeys.  We've walked together through so many different life experiences.  Weddings.  Births.  Financial growth and downturns.  Home renovations and construction.  Moves across town, across state, across country.  Deaths of siblings, parents and even a spouse. 

Through it all, we've stayed in touch.  Even with all the changes and the hundreds of miles separating us, our faith has kept us connected.  Praying for one another and with one another was the key.  For several of us there would be no communication for months at a time.  But when the call went out for prayer, we were there.

Our few hours together provided a memory we'll all cherish for years to come.  Of course there were the hugs, laughter, conversations, meals and joy we expected.  The unexpected bonus time came when we were able to stop and pray together on the spot for whatever need was being shared.

"My child is struggling with........."  "Then let's pray over that right now."

"We need wisdom about a decision coming up."  "God is able to provide that wisdom.  Let's ask."

"We can't seem to move beyond......"   "Father, we know you see and can help in this situation."

One morning we just sat around the piano singing praise songs together.  That moved to a devotion and prayer.  We ultimately spent several hours just praying for various needs and offering thanks for all God has already done in our lives.

I've never really experienced a "Girls' Weekend" like that before.  But it was powerful!

When we first started arriving at the home of our wonderful hosts (the Biddix family) we sensed it would be a special time.  We hadn't all been together in over seven years.  Most of the group had come to FL for Meagan and Nathan's wedding in July, 2011.

I think marking my 60th birthday was just a good excuse for a reunion.  Who's complaining?  Certainly not me!

We all came away from our time so refreshed.  Blocking out the days with NO agenda meant we didn't have to rush.  There were no expectations. There was no schedule to keep.  We moved at a slow pace listening to one another and to our heavenly Father.

One of the ladies who is rather techie has set up a communication group for us.  Hopefully, we'll be able to stay connected more easily.  We also determined that we can't wait another seven years for a repeat reunion.  Time moves too quickly and friendships are too precious to squander on the altar of "we'll do that tomorrow, when it's more convenient." 

I'm so grateful for my husband who understood the importance of such an investment.

Of course, this concludes all the 60th celebrating.  I mean, my actual birthday was the end of July. I've managed to mark it with family, friends, our church family, kind acquaintances on FB, even with Barbara, our Chinese houseguest.  Eventually, everyone has to take off their party hat, right?!

Thanks to Frank and so many others, I'm entering this next season of my life with fresh eyes. 

I'm taking my cue from a favorite lady in the Bible named, Anna.  She dedicated the second half of her life to constantly watching for the promise of God.  She wasn't disappointed.  Anna was privileged to hold the infant, Christ.  I'm just simple enough to believe I will hold His promises to our family as well.

A wonderful truth is available to us in Deuteronomy 4:29, "If. . . you seek the Lord your God, you will find Him."  Let's move into this beautiful fall season with fresh eyes.  Eyes watching to see what God wants to show us.

What are you watching for in your life?  Have you enjoyed a reunion with friends recently?  We'd love to hear about it in the comment section...... 


Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Never Burn a Bridge

 I apologize for the “radio silence” of the past couple weeks.  It’s been a wide-open time.

We had such a wonderful visit in England.  If you missed my story about using the wrong word to communicate a major point in one of my sermons, you should pull up the last post.  You’ll smile, I promise.

Believe it or not, I’ve made another trip since returning home.  This one was to Daytona Beach for our annual ladies’ retreat. We were a group of eleven ladies and two infants who joined the other 1,200 conference attenders from across Florida. 

Our state women’s director, Deanna Shrodes, did an amazing job putting together the event called THRIVE, 2018.  We spent three days laughing; sharing meals; hearing fantastic sermons; encountering God; experiencing sunrises over the Atlantic Ocean.  Simply Resplendent.

Right now, I’m preparing for the final installment of my birthday celebrations. I’m getting ready to meet a group of girlfriends in Asheville, NC. Some of us haven’t seen one another in over seven years. 

I’m beyond ecstatic.

Some of you may remember we pastored in the Asheville area our first twelve years of ministry.  In fact, all three girls were born in the same hospital there.  We formed many strong friendships during those years. 

Frank knows how much I value and appreciate all the friendships we’ve made over the years.  So when these ladies contacted him about planning a surprise for my 60th birthday, he quickly jumped on board. 

That guy is such a gem!

I’m still not sure what all they have planned but a few things are certain.  There will be too much food; lots of laughter; hysterical stories; a few tears and even some prayer time.  Having friends who share your faith and passions makes life richer.

We moved away from that region over 25 years ago.  But no matter how sporadic, we’ve made the effort to stay in touch.  I’m most thankful.  These are ladies who add value.  They can hold a confidence.  They know how to pray.  They’ve watched my girls change into young ladies and now celebrate them as moms. 

One of the first churches we pastored in that area wasn’t an easy situation.  We were young and inexperienced.  The church leadership had a strong idea of how things should go.  Eventually, it became apparent a change was imminent.

While trying to prepare to leave, Frank talked honestly with a trusted friend.  “I can hardly wait to leave this place and burn the bridge behind me!”

Up until that statement, Bob had listened patiently.  But he suddenly put up his hand and broke into Frank’s tirade. In that moment of vulnerability, Bob taught us a lesson we’ve never forgotten.

“Frank, you never want to be the one who burns a bridge.  If you do, you almost always find yourself needing to cross back over at some point in life.  It seldom comes quickly, but that moment will come, trust me.”

Frank may have been young and inexperienced but he has always been teachable.  So, he prayed over the challenge and decided to heed Bob’s advice.  Frank led the final meeting in a civil manner.  He offered respect and honor instead of acting on his original emotions. 

He chose to leave our side of the bridge standing.

We went on to work with another congregation which was a much better fit for us.  We enjoyed nine wonderful years with the new group.  The friends gathering this week became connected during those years.  We seldom thought of our pain from the past assignment.

In 1993, we were called to leave the mountain community we’d come to love and move to pioneer a church on the coast of NC.  This was a Faith Adventure.  With only thirteen congregants committed to the work, there were NO funds available for the move.

Faith Adventures will always improve your prayer life.  We began to pray diligently.

That’s when Bob’s admonition took form.  Two weeks before we were to move, we received a call from one of our former church members.  They wanted to meet with us as soon as possible.  My stomach was in knots!

We met in Frank’s office and they got right to the point.  “We never felt things finished well at the other church.  We’ve received a financial blessing that God wants us to share with you to help with the new church plant.”

They slid a check across his desk.  The amount was more than enough to completely cover our moving expenses!  Needless to say, I began to weep with gratitude. 

On the way home Frank quoted Bob’s wise words, “Never be the one to burn a bridge.  You’ll need to cross back over it someday.”