Why it’s Not a Good Idea to Stay on the Beach

Some of you know that I’ve been spending a lot of time at the beach lately.  I never tire of the view and the sound of the waves splashing around me.  Each visit to the beach produces treasures and discoveries. Each trip brings a measure of peace and rest that is refreshing.

But I’ve been thinking about the beach in another way.

When you stand on the beach, you can view the vast sea with its endless horizon and feel the safety of the ground under your feet. It’s from a place of safety that we can view life too.

God has been speaking to me for several months about risk.  He has found multiple ways to draw me to a place where I am more willing to step out of my comfort zone and risk living life in a new way.

There is a verse in Luke 5 where Jesus is speaking to Simon Peter  after He has borrowed Simon’s boat to speak to the people on the shore of the lake. Jesus says to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” 

I got to thinking about how it is at the beach. When you look out at the water, if you are patient, you can see fish jumping. You might even see a dolphin or two.  Out there, where the water is deeper, is where the fish are. It’s where life is.

Life isn’t on the beach. All the discoveries and treasures I mentioned finding on the beach are, for the most part, dead.  Everything that washes up on the sand is dead or dying.  You could argue that there are seeds that get tangled in the debris and seeds contain life, but even seeds won’t grow and produce just lying there on the beach.

Life is out in the deep waters. The deeper you go the more you will find.  But going into the deeper water is scary. It’s feels safer to stay on the beach, just watching from a distance. But if you do that, you will miss out on some of the incredible things God has for you. You have to be willing to risk something to gain something.

It’s fine to take time to sit on the shore and watch. A time to be refreshed and to rest for a while. But when the rest period is over you need to take a deep breath and dive back in!

What Theme Song Would You Choose for Your Life?

When Randy and I came to Florida to visit  our oldest son Andrew last May we took a trip to the beach on our last night. It had stormed much of the day and as the sun set there was a beautiful rainbow. I was sad to be going home but thinking of the possibilities that maybe we would come back for good. Andrew found a song on his phone and played it as we stood watching the rainbow slowly fade as the sun set.  The song was “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. The version with the ukulele. It became my theme song for that period of time when we were trying to decide whether God wanted us to move or not.

After we moved we had a truckload of belongings to store since we’d downsized so drastically. It was a hassle to unload and figure out what went into storage and what we would need at Andrew’s.  My creative son again found a song to bring a little comic relief to a stressful situation. The song was the theme from the old television show called  Sandford & Son.  Now every time we talk about going to the storage unit you can count on hearing that song in the background as we leave the house.

This week I was diagnosed with diverticulitis. It hasn’t been too bad, just painful but I’ve spent much of the past two days in bed. Again, my son came to the rescue. He found a song for the occasion. Steven Curtis Chapman’s song “Dive”. While it was an obvious play on words, (have I mentioned that my son has a rather warped sense of humor?) the lyrics really do apply to times of trial. One line especially speaks to me.

But we will never know the awesome power
Of the grace of God
Until we let ourselves get swept away
Into this holy flood

Sometimes you just have to throw yourself into God’s waiting arms and let Him handle what’s going on in your life.

One thing that happens when you spend time recovering from an illness is you have lots of time to think.  Last night after Andrew had played “my song” before telling me good night, I got to thinking about the playlist he is creating as things happen. It’s amusing and we get a good laugh but it also made me think about how songs relate to our lives.

I asked myself what I would choose as the theme song of my life if I had to have just one.  Some people might choose a song like Frank Sinatra’s “I Did It My Way.”  Others might look at their lives and choose a song like the theme from the movie Titanic, equating their lives to a sinking ship.

After thinking about it, I think I would choose a song that never fails to move me when I hear it. The song is “In Christ Alone.”  That is the song that helps me navigate this life with all its trials and struggles.  I especially love this verse:

No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life’s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
Till He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand

No matter what life brings, it’s a comfort to know that NOTHING can remove us from the palm of God’s hand.

John 10:29  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.

 

What Can You Do With Sardines and Crackers?

My husband likes sardines. Not sure why, but as long as I don’t have to eat them, he can have all he wants!  He takes them to work for his lunch with a variety of crackers. Over the weekend we had to go out and restock his supply.

On Sunday our pastor talked about the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand.  He talked about how the fish and loaves were probably more like sardines and crackers then what we might picture in our minds as plump fish and large loaves of crusty bread.

I wonder what the disciples were thinking, looking at that measly offering. Did they have the faith to believe that Jesus could actually feed all those people with just that little bit?

Sometimes Jesus asks me to do something and the first thing I think about is the resources I have. Usually a pitiful amount in my own estimation. But in God’s economy, the amount isn’t the important thing.

The important thing is that we offer what we have. We start where we are. We don’t wait to feel like we can accomplish the task until after we have taken inventory and are assured that there is enough to do the job.

I am guilty of waiting far too long before I move forward.  In my last post I talked about taking risks. Being able to complete the work God has called me to do requires taking risks. Moving forward always requires a certain amount of risk. But then I have to ask myself, “what do I have to lose?”  If I stay the way I am, waiting to be equipped before I move forward, I could be waiting forever. The Israelites had to step in between the walls of water when the Lord parted the Red Sea. They didn’t have time to take inventory, they had to just move.

It’s a lesson I’m still working on. The idea that I already have the resources to take the first step. Whatever I need for the rest of the journey will be provided AFTER I take that first step of faith. Why is that so hard for me to believe?  I think it’s because I have accepted the lie that seeing is believing.

The reality is that believing is seeing.

Hebrews 11:1  Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

What Do I Really Need?

This week I got an email from a friend. We’d been friends in Iowa and went through a period where both of our husbands were looking for new jobs. We were able to encourage each other as we travelled the same road.  Little did we know that the road would lead to Florida for both of us!  Both of our families moved to Florida in December. We moved in with Andrew’s family and my friend moved into a temporary apartment and began the house hunting adventure.

As we’ve both been adjusting to our move we’ve communicated about the challenges and the joys. One of the things she said in her recent email was that now that she’d moved into her new home she felt the “chains of stuff management” take hold again. I understand completely!

I mentioned in my post Learning to Be Content in the Big things and the Small Ones Too that I had downsized from our large home in Iowa to a bedroom in Florida. While that’s true, it hasn’t been as much of an issue as it could have been. God began teaching me about being content a long time ago.

But lately He’s been speaking about much more than the amount of stuff I have. Now it’s about my time and where I focus my attention. And the question comes down to this.  If God has promised to meet all my needs then what do I do with my time?

One thing this season is about is serving my family.  I have decades of experience in so many areas, I can offer to help my family in a million ways. Or…I can become self-absorbed, spending my time fussing about trying to find my place and how difficult it is to adjust to my new life.

Another thing I feel strongly about is that this season is about using the gifts God has given me. I mentioned that in my previous post.  Then on Sunday our pastor preached about the parable of the talents (Matthew 25).  One of the main points was that God gave each of us resources to use to multiply His kingdom and we cannot be faithful and “play it safe” at the same time. We have to take risks. Just like the servants in the story, we have to invest what we have in order to see an increase. We can’t just hide in our room and hope for the best. We must DO something with what He’s given us.

If you know me well, you know that I am the QUEEN of playing it safe. I don’t like the unknown. I don’t like risks. I like to know all of my ducks are in a row, even though some days I can’t find a duck to save my life.  I’m learning to trust God, but some days it feels REALLY risky to do so.  What if He has a plan that it’s just too far out there? Just too scary?

Then I look at my life and realize I have taken TONS of risks. I’ve lived through every one of them. My life is better because of them! God has never left me in a position that wasn’t exactly right when I look at it from further down the road. He has always supplied everything I have ever needed for whatever was going on at the moment. He is faithful. He is a good Father.

So the question, “what do I really need?” can be answered easily.  I don’t need a house, I don’t need stuff, I don’t need all my problems solved immediately and I don’t need to stay in my comfort zone to be happy. What do I need? Only God. That is all I REALLY need. He provides everything else.

Philippians 4:19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus

 

Is It Time to Stir Up the Gift?

We had a guest speaker at our church yesterday.  His name is Albert Mohler and he is the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. One of the largest seminaries in the world. Dr. Mohler is an excellent speaker and author and has a long list of accomplishments. He is also two months younger that I am.

I could look at him and ask myself, “why has he accomplished so much is a lifetime the same length as mine and I’m still waiting to feel like I am making a difference?”  Or I could ask God, “why have you blessed him and not me?” But both of those questions would be the wrong question.

The right question is, “how can I stir up the gifts God has given me and do what He created me to do?” That’s what Dr. Mohler  has done. He has grasped the vision for his life and faithfully moved forward in it.

Isn’t that what God wants all of us to do? We don’t all have to be some great personality that everyone knows. We don’t all have to accomplish astounding things to feel like we are successful in our lives. We just need to seek God and ask Him what He would have us be doing while we are on this earth.

Right now, by the world’s standards I am not really contributing much at all. But in this season of my life, I am investing in my children and my grandchildren. Perhaps reading a book to a four year old for the hundredth time doesn’t seem like much but I can be sure that the minutes spent with a little boy in my lap are not wasted time.

God has given each of us gifts and right now He is using my love for books to encourage reading in my grandchildren. If I look at this as a small accomplishment I am missing the point.  God has given us each gifts that he wants us to use for good. He intends to use those gifts and passions for His purposes and when we try to predict when He will use us and how it will look we can get side-tracked. We can also get distracted by all the activities that crowd into our day and completely ignore the gifts God has given.

This morning I read this verse in 2 Timothy.

Therefore I remind you to STIR UP the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. (verse 6)

Some translations say “rekindle” or “fan into flame.”  So what does it mean to “stir up the gift?”  It means to not neglect the fire God has put inside of you. Stir those embers and use the things God has given you to make a difference. Don’t worry about how big or small the impact may look to you. Remember whose you are and that He has a purpose for your life.  He designed you with a particular set of gifts and talents that may only be combined in that exact way for one person on earth. You.

Sometimes I get discouraged about writing this blog. I wonder if anyone even reads it. Then I get feedback from one person who says, “that is exactly what I needed today.”  If I take the position that being faithful to write these thoughts isn’t making any impact, or if reading to a four year old grandson isn’t having an impact, then I am missing the blessing.

If today, God wants to use you in just one person’s life, in perhaps what appears to be a very small way, don’t walk away! Stir up the gift and make a difference!

 

Living With Your Choices – Embracing the Future

Yesterday I stayed home to do some work on the computer. I could have gone to the beach with the grandkids. It turned out that I didn’t get done what I wanted to anyway. I should have gone to the beach.  I felt something familiar to all of us. Regret.

I regretted my decision. I missed a great opportunity with my Treasures.  They grow up so fast. I should take advantage of these opportunities. But instead, I let something else distract me.

At church a couple of weeks ago, they sang a song by Matthew West. The song is called, “Hello, My Name is.” The verse that caught my attention goes like this:

Hello, my name is regret
I’m pretty sure we have met
Every single day of your life
I’m the whisper inside
That won’t let you forget

I am finding there are a lot of opportunities for regret to whisper in my ear lately.  This move to Florida has brought huge changes in every area of my life. Changes that take time to adjust to and cause me to feel like I want to turn back the clock and go back to what was familiar and comfortable. I remember feeling the same way when we moved from Ohio to Iowa.  There were times when I was especially homesick where I would start second guessing our decisions.  I’d wonder if we had made the wrong choices. On the most difficult days I would yearn for the opportunity to go back and change things.  I could close my eyes and see my old home, know exactly where everything was in my memory. See the view from my window, hear the familiar sounds, and know that it was home.

But it’s not home now. God has started a new chapter.  If we really pay attention, we will find that He is doing that more frequently than we realize.  Life is about growth and for that to happen we need new experiences. We can’t keep looking over our shoulder at the “old days” and wishing  to go back.  We have to move forward even though it’s hard.  Of course we don’t have to ignore the memories, but we can’t live in them.

I have always tried to teach my boys to make choices that don’t bring regret. Things like mending relationships and taking the time to tell the people you care about just how much they mean to you while you still have them with you.  I also try to help them to recognize opportunities and to take full advantage of every one they can.

I guess I should listen to my own advice! If I had done so yesterday, I would have had a lovely time enjoying the sun and the waves on a beautiful 80 degree day in February.

But I didn’t. And now I have to live with my choices. It does me no good at all to dwell on the fact that I missed it.  I can grouse about it and wish it had been different but I can’t change it. I just have to move forward and learn from my experience.

The dictionary says regret is ” to feel sad, repentant, or disappointed over (something that has happened or been done, especially a loss or missed opportunity)  Regret is about the past.

The Bible challenges us to take a different view.   Isaiah 43:18-19 says, Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

If I am constantly looking back and wishing to return to the way of life that was familiar I will miss what God wants to do from here forward. I will become stuck in the past. I will constantly be comparing where I am with where I was.

Ecclesiastes 7:10 says, Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.

Today I am asking God to give me wisdom so I may see the hope for the future and not be tempted to remain in the past, whether it’s the distant past or just in the regrets of yesterday.

Ask God today if there is something in your past that you need to leave there. Maybe it’s a choice you made or perhaps it’s a choice someone else made for you. Either way, God wants you to find joy in this day and hope in tomorrow. He’s already there and knows the way. Keep your eyes on Him.

 

 

Seeds and Fire Ants

Yesterday we drove across the  Sunshine Skyway Bridge between St. Petersburg and Bradenton, Florida. 174 feet above the water. I’ve been over that bridge many times but it’s still breathtaking.  A huge tanker was going under the bridge just as we were going over. I wished we could just stop and watch for a while but there’s no stopping on the bridge! I wonder how many people going over that bridge yesterday were miles away in their thoughts and didn’t even notice the spectacular view much less the large ship below us.

After crossing the bridge, we drove for a few more minutes and arrived at our destination, Dooley Groves.    We were on a mission to pick  Honeybell tangelos.  When it was our turn to go out to the grove, the guide gave us baskets and some specific instructions. The most important of which was, “watch out for fire ants.”  The lanes between the trees were filled with fire ant hills and stepping on one would cause the ants to attack the closest foot or leg.  With five children, five adults and a stroller it was tricky business to avoid the ants.  Several times we had to quickly  brush ants from the pants and shoes of one of us who, focused on the bright orange fruit, neglected to watch where we were walking. Fortunately there were no serious bites to contend with.

We picked enough to fill our baskets and headed back to the van for the trip back across the bridge.  At home we were all anxious to taste the fruits of our labors which we had been thinking about all the way home.  After peeling a softball-sized fruit, I had juice running down my arms.  I’m sure I’ve never eaten an orange so close to harvest before. But as I ate, I realized that it would require some concentration to fully enjoy this treat. If I didn’t pay attention I could possibly break a tooth!  LOTS of seeds!  I found four in just one single segment as I ate.  I just took my time and savored the sweet flavor but I was careful!

Afterwards I thought, could we just have gone to the grocery store and bought oranges (without seeds)  with much less hassle?  Of course. But the experience and the waiting and the effort it took to eat this delicious fruit made it all the more special.  And the memories we made in the process will outlast the sweet flavor of the fruit.

I think sometimes we get in such a hurry to get to the next thing on our calendar or our to-do list that we miss the blessings that God has for us if we are willing to slow down and appreciate the moment. In a lot of ways, I believe God purposely puts fire ants and seeds in our path to cause us to slow down and pay attention.

Perhaps today you can take a look at the things in your path that may seem like a hassle and think about why God may have put them there.  It might just be that a sweet blessing is there waiting for you to notice.

Psalm 34:8  Taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.

Psalm 31:19 How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you.