Thursday, September 23, 2021

My Story Matters....So Does Yours!

 

During the years I worked at Arizona Christian as the dean of women, I treasured the opportunity I received to occasionally share with students in chapel whatever recent truth the Lord was unveiling during my quiet times.

I titled my very last chapel connection: My Story Matters!

Because it does....

...for several reasons.

My story matters to me, because it speaks of the journey I've been on with Jesus, the ups and downs, the highs and lows, the sorrowful and the joyous. An added benefit is that the Lord used the telling of my story (usually, out loud) to eliminate some ugly bits of shame the enemy seemed to velcro onto my soul.  Hearing myself share what Jesus had done in my life totally eliminated it. 

I also know my story matters to others, because many times folks see themselves in my story. When they do, they know there is hope for their stories to end in such a way that there is redemption.

Most of all, I know my story matters to the Lord, Himself, since He is the hero of my story...He was, is, and always will be the protagonist in my drama.  As a result, His name and wonderful deeds are glorified. 

The verse at the top of this blog was my go-to-passage for that chapel...and, as I prepared for it, I ran across one translation that used these words:

Set apart Christ as Lord of your Life, and never fail to share the story of the hope you carry...

I loved those six words:

Never fail to share [your] story...


A story is an amazing tool. 

We all relate to a good story! 

And, the beauty of a story is that no one can argue with it!!!! 



However, the point of all this is that your story should not stay hidden. 

It is meant to be told that we might spur one another on!!

Experts tell us that there are several elements to creating a good story:

1) Passion – the more passionate we are, the more authentic we are. The more vulnerable, the more we relate. 

2) Struggle - A story isn’t worth telling unless there is a relatable character who is up against something. If there’s nothing at stake, there is no story.

3) “Aha” Moment – this is the moment when a new truth is realized; every great story has a life-lesson.

4) Transformation – as the story ends, something or someone has changed (usually for the better).


When Jesus is a part of our life, there’s always a story to tell. These are the best stories, because they are the ones where the God of the Universe stoops down to make us (His creation, made in His image) great (Psalm 18:35, NIV). 

These are the best stories, because they are the building blocks of the Kingdom of God; and that is why we are here – to build a Kingdom for God’s glory (Isaiah 43:7).

BUT....Scripture is full of good stories. 

Over the course of the next few weeks, I thought it would be fun to take a look at some of the "characters" that enrich our Bible. 

We might just find that we relate to them as we read about their struggles, relate to their hearts, their passion,  and learn from their “aha” moments. 

Perhaps, we’ll notice that not only were their lives transformed by the Hero of the Universe, but little by little over time, as we study their stories, He will change us! What a thought.

Perhaps, we'll notice as we look at the stories of their lives, that our stories are also worth the telling...

After all, Bible characters were HUMAN just as we are...imperfectly perfect...definitely not folks out of a once-upon-a-time-fairy-tale-world!

The Lord has recorded their stories, to use their lives to build His Kingdom, just as He wants to use yours to continue to do so.

As we dig into some of these interesting folks, start thinking about your story...

It MATTERS!

To me...

To you...

To Jesus...

Thursday, September 16, 2021

The "Wool Dress" Challenge

 

(Hab. 2:2)

An author-friend of mine writes books on writing books.

She's kind of a "how to" girl for other people who enjoy writing. 

This would be her main motto:

Over the years, we've stayed in touch via email, and I think our correspondence has been mutually beneficial in the arena of "words."

Recently, I received a random, rather out-of-the blue email simply letting me know the details of her latest book.

At the end, she added a P.S.

"On a personal note, I took on the challenge of wearing the same wool dress for 100 days in a row. I did so for several reasons, including getting used to putting on "real" clothes every day, seeing if it changes my relationship to clothes, and because I want to simplify my life. As of this writing, I'm on day 89. I'm going to write about the experience when I'm done."

Just FYI, people who write, tend to do a lot of pondering about weird and random things. 

It's simply part of their makeup...and, it gives fodder for the next thing that pushes their pen across a page... 

Can't say, if you did a DNA-test on me, that I'd fit entirely into their profile. 

BUT.....

I did ask myself this question after I read her P.S.

"What would my wool dress be?"

Followed by: "What driving force motivates me to a "ponder," and, subsequently, sit down in front of the computer to face the dreaded blinking cursor on a very white page?" 

Answer: It generally abounds around my studies in Scripture. 

So, I made up my own "wool dress challenge..." 

I'm now on day 51 of 100-days of digging into Psalm 23. 

I don't spend long each morning - maybe 15-30 minutes max.

I read through the Psalm (I know, it's a long one - an entire six verses), then go verse at a time and sometimes a word at a time, following whatever lead the Lord seems to place on my heart. 

I'm still on verse 2a: He makes me lie down in green pastures....



It's been interesting the twists and turns, the detours off the main path, the upward climbs and the downhill slopes, the words of life and love, and the deeper pangs of conviction, that this journey of 100 days into Psalm 23 have taken me. 

More than anything, I've been reminded that the Bible is RELEVANT RIGHT NOW in 2021 North America, South America, Asia, Africa....and the uttermost parts of the world.....

I've been intrigued at those who think it's BORING...I just don't see it.

I'm stunned that Scripture has so much to say about SCRIPTURE...

And, ultimately, this Albert Einstein quote resonates the more I continue on the journey...

So, what's this all about?

Let your intellect have a little fun when it comes to studying God's Word. 

Yes, it is also a "serious business" of heaven...

But, let the Word challenge you to stretch your imagination and find deeper intimacy with the Lord waiting on the other side. 

Only one rule applies: Never wander off the pages of Scripture as you journey. 

You can detour all you like, but always detour into another page of this main source. 

As a little encouragement, I recently pulled out an old file in the cabinet where I had been saving different articles, clips, and notes on diverse Bible Study methods. 

I pulled out some of my favorites, compiling them for a series I did for another ministry that zeroes in on global workers around the world (can I just say, we had a lot of fun doing this and sharing with one another how the Lord had spoken from week to week). 

So, I'm attaching the link for that compilation - maybe you can enjoy a little "different" as you have some fun in Scripture:  Finding Joy in the Discovery. (Note: You are welcome to download and share...)

And if you have some additions, please share! 

"What's YOUR wool dress going to be?"

Thursday, September 9, 2021

A Parable of Two Trees



Two trees sit in our home.  They are remnants from a lightning storm on the ridge in the National Forest behind where we live...

They have a story to tell…a word of truth, an assurance that rests in a God of All Hope - a nod to our Good! Good! Father!


Their story declares:


When all seems Over and Done…


Burnt and Broken…


Scorched and Scarred…


The LORD is not finished.

Our Abba is still at work.

Our Elohim is still creating.

Adonai is still crafting.

Jehovah is still writing a story...

and, Yahweh is still in the Resurrection 

& Restoration business….


It’s exactly what Jesus was trying to tell the women at Lazarus’ tomb, when He brazenly declared:


“I AM

the

Resurrection & the Life…


ALL who are in me will not die….”


###



High above our home in the national forest grew two trees..


Regal pines, full of life, with branches abounding and leaves flourishing…


Daily they raised their arms in praise to the One who created them, shouting with GREAT JOY!


Their sweet smelling aroma rose to the heavens, like prayers, filling the nostrils of their Creator God. 


But, there on the mountain, they were susceptible to the storms that squalled.

Winds that blew with gale force.

Lightning that struck like thrusting swords.

Rain that pounded mercilessly.


And, as each element battered the trees,

They discovered their limbs broken…

Their leaves burnt to ash…

Their trunks scorched and scarred…


Their lives were spent.


In spite of the fact that they no longer seemed able to fulfill their given life-purpose…to GLORIFY their GOD, still they stood as strong and proud as they possibly could…


...and, EVEN IF, they could no longer lift their arms in praise, they were still a testimony of their Creator!


Sometimes feeling overlooked and abandoned, they waited and waited; and, wondered…

“What can the Father do with withered, blackened, burnt up stumps? We are but a shell of ourselves - Is there still purpose for us on this earth?”


And, they remained steadfast, simply waiting and resting….


Until, one day, the keen eye of an “artist-of-sorts” saw those two broken, bruised, blackened mess of scorched wood, not as worthless, or useless. Not as purposeless or without value. 


Instead, he saw ART! He saw BEAUTY!


So, cutting, dragging, washing, spraying, the artist-of-sorts re-instated them to a new calling….a HIGHER CALLING…


They would stand once again, 

Pure

Proud…

Pointing to their Creator, Abba (the Father of all Living Things) once more:

The One,

True God -

Who reverses destinies,

Redeems the broken,

Restores beauty from ashes.



The story of these two trees -

The message they shout -

Is a parable that points to the heart of a Father,
Who takes failures and flaws

And out of the fire,

Brings forth a Phoenix

with further future grandeur…



They stand to remind us

Our Abba is not done with us on this earth until He Heavenward carries us…

And, then, oh what awaits!!!!


We still aren’t used up.

Not for eternity...

Not ever…


For we were created ALL FOR HIS GLORY ——

For! ever! more!




Thursday, September 2, 2021

Ready or Not....He's Coming!

 I know everyone's social media feeds look different, but yesterday mine seemed full of September greetings. 

Always one ready to welcome the start of fall, I find myself dragging my feet this year (just a wee bit). 

Summer simply slipped by way too fast (and, I only got out on my paddle board about three times - sigh).

Yet, as I turned the page on my calendar to a new month. it seemed like the weather was in co-operation with the onset of my normally favorite time of the year. 

The signs are here.

As I went for a morning walk, I spied the emergence of changing colors, indicating that whether I am ready or not, here comes fall. 

XXXXX

When last I wrote a blog post, the Lord clearly called me to a season of "sabbath."

His words to me, through Scripture, evidenced a sweet invitation to just "come." 

Little did I know then how much I would need the space to simply be with Him and pour out my heart, even as I listened for His voice speaking life into me. 

On June 29th (last posting), I wasn't certain if I'd pick my blog back up or not... 

I'm still unsure, to be honest, but I'd committed to a summer Sabbatical, and with the coming of September felt that commitment complete. 

What I do think is that I will not be quick to write, nor, necessarily, write as consistently as once a week. 

My newest resolve is to only "speak" as I feel led and compelled with a clear message from the Lord.

So, what that looks like remains to be determined. 

XXXXX

That said, back to the changing season and my calendar...

As I prep for all that's coming during the month ahead, I took note that the first holidays to be observed fall on the same day: September 6th.

In America, we celebrate Labor Day, and it coincides with the Jewish holiday, Rosh Hoshanah (or Feast of Trumpets). 

I'll zero in on the latter. 

Here's what I know about Rosh Hoshanah (simplified):

1. It is a two day period of time set apart to celebrate the Jewish "new year (it falls between September 6-8 of 2021)." The celebration connects with the onset of the new moon (not a full moon, which is easier to determine), but the new moon - that sliver in the sky that is sometimes hard to detect. So...no one knows exactly which day the new moon will begin to shine in the darkness. Once spotted by at least two witnesses, who inform the High Priest, the festivities begin. 

2. In Jewish culture, the Feast of the Trumpets is known as the "feast of awakening blasts." Over nine different sessions, the priests will blow the shofar eleven times, followed with one long and loud 100th trumpeting. The purpose: "to awake those who are sleeping (in a spiritual sense)..."

3. Called by yet another name, Yo Ha Din (Day of Judgment), Jewish participants recognize this as a time when the Lord will "weigh the right vs. wrong of individual lives."

4. If three names aren't enough, a fourth emerges: Yom Hazikaron (The Day of Remembrance). It's a day to look back and celebrate God's watch care, His shepherding over His people...and, our Jewish brothers and sisters will pray that the Lord will continue to "remember" those who are His in the coming new year.

5. For Jews still waiting on the Messiah (although, you and I know He has already come!!!), Rosh Hoshanah is set aside as the wedding day of their long anticipated Bridegroom... They celebrate with a looking forward to that day of His coming...

Ah....but what does Rosh Hoshanah have to do with Jesus-Followers?

Glad you asked (ok, you didn't, but as I dug into the holiday, I did…)

Like almost all Jewish feasts and celebrations, the Feast of Trumpets links us to New Testament teachings and prophecy. 

Much about this season is a reminder that our Redeemer is coming again...

1. No one knows the day or the hour (Mark 13:32-33)...

2. He will come with the sound of a trumpet blast (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). 

3. He will come for those who are His (Luke 17:34-36)...sadly, some will be "sleeping" (just as they were when He came the first time)!

4. He will come with judgement (Revelation 22:12-13).

5. He will come for His bride - the church (John 14:2-4 full of Jewish wedding language).

As a "new season" is upon us, Paul reminds us to encourage one another with these words: 

Jesus is coming again!

(1 Thessalonians 4:18)

The signs are here...

So, write on your calendars "Feast of Trumpets" (and circle it with hearts) - in a topsy-turvy world, let's remember to celebrate this one for-certain-truth. 

Let's get ready, Bride of Jesus...your bridegroom could be near. 

For those who don't yet know Him as Savior, I pray no one is unprepared for His arrival; just in case ****see below...

Ready or not....He is coming for His own...

XXXXX

**** If you're not sure you are "ready" for the bridegroom...here's a link to a video presentation my husband just made, titled "Ready or Not..."