Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Quiet Moments With God -- The Greatest Gift

A few days ago a friend called. She wanted to know how I was doing--life's thrown some challenges my way recently. After I groused a bit, she asked, "Is there anything good going on?"

I felt a thud in my gut. Nothing came to mind. I couldn't think of anything. Not because there aren't good things in my life, it's just that I'd lost sight of them. My focus was on my troubles.

I am so thankful for God's grace. He soon reminded me of the abundance of blessings in my life, and a rush of thankfulness came over me. I am surrounded by love--the Father's love, that of my church and friends, and my family.

My husband, daughters, son, parents, and grandchildren fill my days with love. They share their lives with me, pray for me, forgive me, laugh with me, offer lots of hugs, and we even tell stories together, to see who can come up with the most creative tale. No matter how difficult life is we can count on one another. How could I ask for more? Love is the greatest gift another person can give. And God has given me an abundance.

No matter what storm bears down on us I can count on love to calm the tempest.

Thank you Lord!

Grace and peace to you from God.


Tips For Triumphant Living -- Be Flexible

Flexibility is not one of my strengths—I always have a plan. And whenever possible I stick to it. My kids have told me many times that I need to be more spontaneous. I’m practicing—honestly.

Life throws detours at us so we all need to be flexible some of the time. When I write I always have a plot outline and character outlines. But one of the fun and exciting things about writing is the detours. I encounter characters I didn’t know existed and discover plot twists and turns I’d never dreamed of. However, being flexible is easier for me when it’s part of a fictional story rather than real life.

The last few weeks life pressed in. It threw things at me I didn’t expect and I had to force myself to “go with the flow”. I’ve been absent from my blog for a couple of weeks because I’m trying to be flexible. I had other things to do that took precedence. And although not all of them were pleasant, I've actually had fun.

So, I ask myself why I’m compelled to push on, to fulfill the plan or the obligation no matter what? I’m sure my personality as well as routines imprinted on me while growing up have a lot to do with it. But, I also believe it has to do with trusting myself more than trusting God. That sounds ludicrous, but let’s get honest with ourselves—we all do it. God has surprises for us. And I know if I’d learn to rest in Him and enjoy the unexpected life would be less stressful and a lot more fun.

So . . . I’m back. I’ve missed sharing with you. However, I did finish my book and can’t wait to get the OK from my editor so I can start shouting about it. I had family here from California and enjoyed them immensely. My sister and brother-in-law are still here, visiting from Alaska. I’ve loved quiet mornings over coffee with my sis and I’m looking forward to an afternoon of fishing, an evening watching stars and maybe even a night at the movies before she returns to her tiny hamlet in the north.

So, before we miss something that truly matters, take a deep breath and step out of the plan. It’s okay, really. God might have something special for you.

Grace and peace to you from God.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Quiet Moments With God -- He's Got Our Back

While reading today I came across a powerful verse. Isaiah 33:21-22 says, The Lord will be our Mighty One. He will be like a wide river of protection that no enemy can cross, that no enemy ship can sail upon. For the Lord is our judge, our lawgiver, and our king. He will care for us and save us.

As I read these verses, God's peace spilled over me. I was reminded that no matter what life throws my way the Lord will be there to stand with me.

The verse says he will be our "Mighty One". I suppose to each of us this statment brings a unique image to mind. I see a warrior who will prevail against any and all enemies. With Him there is nothing to fear.

There's more. The verse says, He will be like a wide river of protection. I love that picture. I can see myself sitting in the midst of a quiet lake where no foe can come near. It is a place of absolute peace.

Isaiah goes on to describe the Lord as the only one who can decide right from wrong—He is the judge, the lawgiver. We don't have to figure out right from wrong--He's already got it all worked out. God's Word has the answers and they are a resilient and reliable foundation.

And finally, it says He will care for us and save us. God provided a Savior who guarantees an eternal refuge for all who believe in Him. We know without a doubt that there is a place for us in heaven. What better way can a father care for His children than to offer a Savior?

With God there is no reason to fear. He offers peace. He is our foundation. And He has provided a Savior. God is generous with his gifts. We have no reason to worry. He’s got our back.

Grace & peace to you from God.


Friday, August 14, 2009

Tips For Triumphant Living -- Star Gaze

A few nights ago a spectacular meteor shower was forecast. My daughters and I decided we’d stay up late to watch and include the children. As the day went on, my grandchildren’s anticipation grew. In their minds I think they envisioned a fireworks display.

As darkness fell over our country home, we double checked the best time and location for viewing and set out our chairs on the patio. Wrapped in blankets we settled down to watch the show.

It was a very dark night with brilliant stars and an occasional flash from a meteor. A light appeared just below the tree line on the ridge above us. A brilliant half moon climbed into the sky. Its light brightened the heavens and dimmed the meteor show that was just beginning. Still, we saw flares of light in the night sky. One brilliant meteor burned brightly as it shot in an arc across the heavens. After that the display was more hushed, less spectacular. There was a sense of disappointment. We’d expected more.

Sometimes life is like that—our expectations are greater than the reality. Does that mean we have cause for disappointment? Maybe. But more likely we simply need to change our mindset.

The meteor display wasn’t what we’d expected, and yet we’d been given a spectacular view of God’s handiwork. And while we sat together gazing up at the cosmos wonder and gratitude filled us. My grandchildren were full of questions about the universe and God. They talked about their adventures and their fears. We made wishes and shared hopes and dreams. We hugged, laughed, and told stories, and we felt like part of God’s creation.

It was a simple evening spent on a patio gazing at a night sky, and yet it was so much more—it was a night filled with love. God surprises us. He is love and sometimes that love spills over into our lives when we least expect it.

His gift of that precious night will go into my book of memories. And the amazing thing is I can go there and open that book whenever I wish and relive the wonder. Memory making is important--they will be there when we need them most.

Grace and peace to you from God.


Sunday, August 09, 2009

Quiet Moments With God -- Pray Big Prayers

I recently watched a movie called Faith for Potatoes. It’s based on a true story of a man, Angus Buchan, who lives in South Africa. As a young man his life was filled with struggles and hardship and his heart was full of anger and fear. One day he joined his wife in church and he heard the Word of God and believed in Jesus as Savior. Angus was transformed.

His Christian walk began like many of ours. Deep joy and hope bloomed inside even though his life remained painfully difficult. Through struggles, he learned to trust God. One night during a storm Angus’s neighbor was hit by lightening and died, but God raised up the person, gave him his life back and Angus saw that his God could do anything.

Angus became a voice for Christ. And when it looked like he would lose his farm, he prayed a "ridiculous" prayer and then he waited . . . believing.

I don’t want to give away the ending of the story, but I was struck by how puny my prayers are. God is powerful. He can do all things. And yet I live as if He is frail and faint of heart. In spite of my weak faith God still listens to my prayers and answers them. Sometimes He says yes, other times He tells me I must wait, and there are circumstances that require a no. But there is peace in relying on God's greater wisdom.

I wonder how different my life would be, how different I would be if I truly grasped how BIG God is. What might I accomplish?

I say it's time to begin praying BIG PRAYERS and trusting God to overcome impossible odds. Shall we believe together for the impossible? I say, a great big YES!

Grace and peace to you from God.


Friday, August 07, 2009

Tips For Triumphant Living -- Trust in God's Perfect Timing

I’m weary from back-to-back trips—one to the OCW Summer Conference and the other to Washington State to see my mother. It’s a physical challenge to combine travel jaunts. And a long list of tasks waiting for me make it even more difficult. But I needed to spend time with my mother.

As it turns out she needed me too. Not five minutes after arriving at her home we were on our way to the hospital. Mom was in terrible pain. The episode felt very similar to one she’d had when blood clots had run amuck. My stepfather and I spent the afternoon and evening in the ER.

Mom had been poked and prodded, undergone numerous tests, and had been given what seemed to be large doses of morphine, although it did little to ease her suffering. We waited.

I sat beside her while monitors blinked and chimed their unsettling annotations. I prayed this was only a bump along her path of life. Yet I knew it could be the end. Mom’s eighty-four years old, and heaven may not be far off.

I was grateful to be there with her. Our hands clasped, we prayed together, then we chatted as her pain allowed. It felt good to be a comfort to her. I remembered all the times she’d sat with me—through every kind of flu and virus, through heartache and change. Now it was my time to be there for her. She told me over and over how thankful she was for my presence.

I thank God. He made sure I was with her. Although the timing for my trip seemed all wrong He knew it was perfect. And the gentle loving experience that I had with my mother in that sterile room was a gift to me and to her.

I’m glad to say, Mom’s home now. She’s feeling much better. The doctor’s don’t know what’s wrong but they’re working to figure it out. And I’m home, exhausted and wishing I could have stayed longer, but grateful for the time I had there.

For years, the miles between my mother and I have been a sorrow to me. And I’ve often wished I’d never moved away from my Washington home. My mother never complained and the years here have been rich and filled with blessings. I figure God knows best and so I thank Him for my wonderful life here in the Oregon forest. However, I’m going to visit home more often and trust that God’s timing is always perfect.

No matter where we are or what we’re doing He is with us. He knows all things. So, when we feel the prodding of the Holy Spirit we best listen. He may have something important for us to do that we have no knowledge of.

Grace and peace to you from God.


Sunday, August 02, 2009

Tips for Triumphant Living -- Show Up

After spending four days at the Oregon Christian Writers Summer Conference, I trekked down I-5 to my home in Southern Oregon. I haven’t missed a conference since 1992. Lonnie Hull DuPont closed the conference with a stirring personal story and I set out for home with my heart full.

I love to teach and have a special affection for OCW. Members of Oregon Christian Writers were my first and long-time mentors. In the days preceding the conference, however, fear taunted me. I had committed to teaching the Advanced Critique Class, and students who had worked hard depended on me to show up. I wondered if I’d make it through.

I’ve battled physical disability and chronic pain since an auto accident in 1991 and this year I’ve had several painful flairs. I fought a voice in my head that told me I couldn’t do it, not this time. God reminded me I wouldn’t be alone. He would be there. And so I went.

The first morning, I joined five students around a table and realized that each of them had most likely faced their own fears or doubts. I can only guess at the battles they waged. Knowing the enemy wants to stop quality writing by Christian authors I expect getting there wasn’t easy. I felt a surge of pride for them—they’d made it.

With each session I was more and more impressed, not just by their quality of writing (which was excellent) but by their character. Marion was steady and thoughtful. Dan expectant, yet capable. Barbara, quiet and studied. Joel, mentally sharp and bold. And Marlene brave and determined.

I am privileged to be part of their writing journey. They are serious writers who took a risk and showed up. We learned from one another, and the time we spent together will stay with me. I pray I was a help to them—I know they were to me. I believe because of our time together we’ll become better writers. However, we were required to face our fears and insecurities, battle our demons and show up.

Life waits—don't forget to show up.

Grace and peace to you from God.