Signs and Seas

It’s a cool, beautiful leaf-strewn day in early October.

I slow the car for a lazy curve, praying and and thinking back over the last troubling week of seemingly never-ending problems. Self-imposed deadlines, expectations of others, an untimely sinus infection . . .

On and on. I allow the mean little puppy of anxiety to to nip at my heels.

Help, Lord.

A a small white country church nestled in a sea of fall colors, its spire piercing upward, reaching for the clouds floods my view.

On the church sign, my eyes and imagination are caught up in the words. “A smooth sea does not make a great sailor.”

My sea has been far from smooth.

But always my strength and my song, He has me glimpse a simple sign.

I negotiate the next curve and smile as He rights my ship.

He’s with me. Within His will and with His help there isn’t anything I can’t do.

Those rough seas shape me,

keep me becoming the best sailor I can be for my Captain.

“Troubles are often the tools by which God fashions us for better things.” Henry Ward Beecher

“Faith pulls the black mask from the face of trouble, and discovers the angel beneath.” Charles H. Spurgeon

“The LORD is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble; And He knows those who trust in Him” (Nahum 1:7 NKJV).

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NIV).

“Then He [Jesus] arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace, be still!’ And the wind ceased and there was a great calm” (Mark 4:39 NKJV).

Jesus said: “And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:26 NKJV)

Troubles, trials, tribulations, tumults, whatever they are termed, we never have to go through them alone.

What are you facing today that has you running to the LORD, your stronghold and very present help in time of trouble? Reread those verses above and “take heart!”

Love,

Sally

 

Be of Good Courage

The hallway of the nursing home settles into a soft hum of lessening noise with residents getting ready for bed.

A child of God, a woman, sits in her wheelchair, bound up in sadness and loneliness, her countenance etched with fear and tears. Head bowed, chin-to-chest, slender fingers white as she grasps the arms of her chair.

She rarely leaves her dim, quiet room and feels secure only within their enclosing walls. But Light shines through another, an old man with a snowy-white beard. He rolls his wheelchair down the hall and pauses at the open doorway of the woman’s room.

He doesn’t notice as a nurse motions for the aide with her not to interfere. But the two stand and watch as he slowly maneuvers through the doorway and stops alongside the woman, facing her.

For a moment, he simply sits quietly. Then he touches her arm.

His gentle hand stays in place as his still-sweet tenor voice permeates the silence and births music. A song swells from the depths of his heart and fills the room, chases out shadows, melts away loneliness.

Darkness lifts and vanishes before the Light.

Loneliness and isolation had covered a soul with the wide, black brush-stroked paint of fear.

Unpretentious love casts the radiance of His Light to bring moments of comfort—and a tenuous smile.

Two children of age, transformed by time’s passage, one drawn to the other through the heart’s essence of compassion.

Uninhibited, innocent love and mercy pour from a heart where Jesus lives.

♥♥
The nurses where my father stayed for a while shared the woman’s fears and described to me how they’d watched and what they’d seen as Dad visited her room.

In spite of his own suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia, he found a way to comfort her through the one gift he could give—a song.

♥♥

A tender song, a heartfelt prayer, a soft touch to a fearful or suffering child of God—if you give those small gifts, how do you know you aren’t bringing the Light of Christ into the world of another?
Watch for what God is doing. Heed the tiny urges to “go” and “do” that you sense in your spirit.

So, go there and do that, and don’t look back. Be encouraged in the knowledge that you’ve entered a dimension where God’s listening children work with Him Hand-in-hand.

Dad loved roses.

“Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

“And David said to his son Solomon, ‘Be strong and of good courage, and do it; do not fear nor be dismayed, for the Lord God—my God—will be with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you, until you have finished all the work for the service of the house of the Lord.'” 1 Chronicles 28:20

Love,

Sally

Sleepless in Shushan

Have you ever had a night when you just couldn’t sleep

because those little night gremlins

wormed their way into your head

and began gnawing on the edges of your mind?

Once in a while, night can become Satan’s playground. We may be unable to fall asleep or may be awakened out of a sound sleep, ripped away from resting and thrust into groundless fear that forgets faith for a frightening moment. But if we know and love the Lord, it’s only for a moment.

“The mind is a beautiful thing,” they say. But what if it refuses to settle down and sleep?

What if your lovely gray matter decides to take the night off?

What if it says, “Nope, we’re going to think about every little detail of the day and take over the night, whether the rest of you likes it or not?”

Now, right here, is the perfect spot to give you a magical list of six great ways to solve sleeplessness.

Really? Are there any?

Sure, there are ways to help, like count sheep, deep breaths, recite scripture, think lovely thoughts, sip warm milk, or just give up and get up. You know them all and have probably tried them all.

But, once in a while, there may be a good reason why you’re wakeful.

 In the Bible, in the Book of Esther, King Ahasuerus was sleepless in Shushan the citadel.

“That night the king could not sleep. So one was commanded to bring the book of the records of the chronicles; and they were read before the king” (Esther 6:1).

Queen Esther’s husband, King Ahasuerus was troubled with his wakefulness and called for someone to read him boring records so he’d fall asleep. But there were reasons for the king’s inability to sleep.

Good, sound reasons.

If the king had slept, he’d have missed what was written in those chronicles that ended up being instrumental in saving Queen Esther and her people from certain death.

God is in the details of why the King couldn’t sleep.

Could He be in the details of why we sometimes can’t sleep or wake up unexpectedly? Can that happen to us?

The king couldn’t get to sleep. But what about when you’re awakened from a deep sleep with a sense that something’s not right.

You get up and go directly to your child’s bedside–and discover a fever that needs your immediate attention. Or there’s an uneasiness, you can’t seem to go to sleep, and you rise. You’re drawn to turn on the TV and find there’s an overwhelming need for prayer. On the west coast, a gunman is holding many hostage—terrified people. And you’re certain they’re praying. They need prayer. And you pray.

Or what about the time you really wanted to watch the blood moon lunar eclipse but were just too bone weary from a difficult day. You tumble into bed and forget to set the alarm.

Then suddenly you’re wide awake. You glance at the blue digits on the clock. Three-thirty-two.

Did You do that, Lord?

And instantly, your bare feet are on the floor taking you to the front porch to feel the world move beneath you.

You stand in awe of the wake-up call and the sight of earth-shadow inching across the rugged face of the moon, the power and glory and mastery of God. An eclipse you would otherwise have slept right through.

But you know. You’ve been there too.

We love and serve an awesome God. There is nothing He cannot do. That includes the dearness of waking His child, whose little one needs her or whom He knows will pray for others or who has the desire to enjoy His creation, right on time.

“It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so He gives His beloved sleep” (Psalm 127:2 NKJV).

“Keep sound wisdom and discretion so . . . when you lie down, you will not be afraid; yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet” (Proverbs 3:21, 24 NKJV).

Saint Teresa of Avila has the last word this week. I love this quote. Savor its depth and insight.

“God gave us faculties for our use; each of them will receive its proper reward. Then do not let us try to charm them to sleep, but permit them to do their work until divinely called to something higher.” Saint Teresa of Avila

Love,

Sally

Rewind!

Oh, boy, I really messed that up.

My aim was to share, encourage, and entertain. But how could anyone have gotten anything out of a talk that was so personal, passionate, and rambling?

The day after I’d given a talk to the Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) group at church, negative replays of that morning began tumbling through my mind like a windstorm of errant autumn leaves. At one point, those replays were so annoying I stopped everything to pray about the criticism I was giving myself.

Plopping onto a kitchen chair, elbows on my knees, palms pressed hard against my forehead, I poured out a plea. “Please, God, help me let this go.”

Did you feel encouraged to lift Me up as you were speaking?

“Yes, but what about how I talked so much about myself. My childhood. My mother. My writing. And I dragged it out . . . on and on . . . ”

And afterward? How did your question and answer session go?

“It went well, but—”

But—I wasn’t listening and kept right on agonizing and praying for help to let go of the constant “hashing over” of what I’d so passionately shared.

Minutes later, I pulled on a sweater and half-listened to the program in progress on a Christian radio station. The pastor giving the message didn’t waste any time getting right down into my business as he read the first of two Bible versions of Revelation 3:16.

“So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”

Uh oh. But I hadn’t exactly been lukewarm in my talk, had I? Coffee sloshed in the cup as I set it on my nightstand and stared at the radio. The pastor had my attention.

He continued, reading the second version, which put the verse in words a whole lot stronger “So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.”

He paused, thoughtful, and seemed to draw out his words for effect, “So, being lukewarm makes God sick.”

I let out the breath I’d been holding. I’d heard enough. I “got” it.

Doubt had taken my focus from the Lord. I’d focused squarely on myself. I was sinking as fast as Peter had after he left his boat and walked on the water to go to Jesus. Instead of keeping his eyes locked on the eyes of Jesus, Peter looked away to the winds that whipped the wave tops and buffeted him. In sudden fear, he began to slip beneath the waves like chunk of lead and called to Jesus to save him. I had done the same. Jesus reached out to Peter.

“And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’” Matthew 14:31

And in the midst of my doubts and  fears, the Lord reached out to me with a reminder. Sweet reassurance that He had been in every detail of my talk to the young women. My passion had come from His heart. My job was to trust and leave the rest to Him.

All those replays, doubts, and worries had been custom designed by Satan to attack my weak spots. I had prayed over what I would say to the gathered moms. I’d trusted the Holy Spirit. I’d been passionate. I’d done my best to lift up the Lord, so why had I doubted?

Satan, the universal doubt-planter, the one who paces the earth like a roaring lion, ready to devour, was overruled as God spoke to my heart through the pastor’s words.

And I let it go.

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1Peter 5:8).

So He said, ‘Come.’ “And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus.  But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, ‘Lord, save me!'” (Matthew 14:29-31)

I’m thankful we serve a gracious God who cares when we lose our way in trusting Him. He loves us with an everlasting love and turns our tribulations into triumphs . . . and into stories to share.

Have you ever doubted and started to sink into a sea of unbelief?

There’s a song for that; Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.

Love,

Sally