Ten minutes before the start of the Conference, I stood in the Pastor’s study as he and Dwight prayed for God to use me that night. My God-focus generated confidence and energy within me as we opened the session with Praise and Worship. The last song was one I requested and it felt like the Spirit of God was blessing our time together from the start.
The Pastors wife introduced me and I breathed a quick, “Here we Go, Lord” and walked to the podium. This time I was not flat! I could feel the Holy Spirit’s empowerment. There was excitement and expectation in the air as I began. The audience responded well to the message and participated throughout the conference.
The one screen issue forced some added exercise for the ladies to turn around every so often but perhaps that was not a bad thing? Kept everyone awake.
After the first night I had several women tell me it was an inspiring message. There were two older ladies well past retirement age who remain active in YWAM and encouraged me the most. The oldest one, an 80 year old woman told me the message and time spent together was “cleansing”. She had never been able to share and unload some parts of her life with any Christian community up until this conference. That alone was worth it all! To be a blessing in this way to a loyal saint of God still touches my heart every time I think of her.
There were several others who asked for prayer afterward. I pray all the women in attendance received one new thing the Lord revealed to them about Himself and their relationship with Him during our time together. I further pray that they continue to allow His healing in their hearts.
We ended the conference with a lovely fellowship meal. A beautiful woman named Gricelda cooked all the food for the conference. She had a squad of ladies assisting her, busy slicing fruit and preparing desserts. She and her team did a fabulous job. They made me love authentic Mexican food like I never fathomed possible for me, a Pennsylvania Dutch girl.
And so dear fellow FLURISHERS those are the highlights of the 2018 Christian Women’s Conference from Tyler, Texas. Until the Lord opens new opportunities,
“All you who fear the LORD, trust in the LORD! HE is your helper and shield.” Psalm 115:11 New Living Translation
One of my favorite parts of speaking anywhere is the set-up. Each venue has different perks and choices. This particular event was being held in a large church auditorium. I could stand on the upper platform or speak from the main floor. I chose the main floor audience level to keep it more personal and casual.
l also had several options for podiums. First was the heavy traditional pulpit, then an all metal see through lectern with a small shelf. The third option was a beautiful white linen enrobed circular podium perfect for a women’s conference. But I chose the practical over the pretty and traditional. I wanted portability and a shelf for water in case I had a coughing spell or dry mouth. Always be prepared.
We (the pastors, their wives, my husband and I) set up the auditorium banquet style enhancing the intimate atmosphere. We ladies trimmed the tables with festive tropical and European destination accoutrements representing varied life journeys. We also added vases filled with colored pencils finishing off the unique centerpieces.
I set up a white board as a visual aid to draw my life’s journey for the audience to view throughout the presentation. I placed packets at the seats for each attendee that included a diagram to draw their own journey, some personal assessments and an adult coloring exercise. I encouraged the women that the self investigation started at the conference should continue afterward on their own with the Lord’s help.
I spent the early morning of the conference in a quiet beautiful spot praying and focussing on Jesus and His Word, just being silent in His presence. I wanted Him to speak through me for the conference. I knew I was prepared with my material but I needed His Holy Spirit to flow out of me into the hearts and minds of the women attending. My words would mean nothing if HE did not inhabit them.
I needed silence before Him to face the speaking challenge ahead and to conquer any enemy attacks. HE alone is my strength and shield. Being with HIM bolstered my faith and then I headed into the unknown of the day.
In the hours that followed, the beautiful Pastor’s wife blessed me with much appreciated pampering. This Guest Speaker gig was growing on me! We got manicures, did some shopping, had a lovely lunch, and went swimming. It helped me further relax. At 5 pm it was time to shower and dress for the conference.
I arrived at the church early. It was abuzz with prep in the kitchen and last minute tweaking by the tech crew. But there was a problem. We would not have dual screens for my powerpoint. A malfunctioning main screen limited the presentation for the audience. So now what? No time to fix it. Pray and MJT! (Must Just Trust—for any newbies to this blog)
I knew right away an enemy attack unleashed itself to strike fear in my heart. This in addition to two snake incidents that curiously happened earlier on this trip rattled my nerves.
I needed to learn to fight the enemy and not give in to fear, doubt and worry. I raised my shield of faith and held on to God’s truths I read earlier that morning. I had to give my qualms about speaking and any technical difficulties to Him and move forward in HIS peace. Hard as it was, I decided to believe and rest in Him.
Rewind to six days before Conference—-snake 1
The first snake incident occurred during the first half of the trip in Kansas with family. I had been endeavoring to relax and forget about my upcoming speaking engagement in Texas the following week. I would have preferred speaking the first week so I could relax the second week but God had a different plan. Isaiah 55:8 says His thoughts and ways are not my ways. He had more to teach me. MJT again.
I decided not to look at any of my conference material while we were in Kansas. I made up my mind to trust Jesus and it amazed me how He helped me unwind and enjoy all the family events without fretting. Praise His Name, that was HUGE for me!!
As Dwight and I were tooling through the Flint Hills of Kansas to the family reunion in Lawrence I decided to peek at Face Book. Our cousin Becki posted a photo of an unfriendly visitor at the very site of our reunion gathering later that day. I found it rather gruesome that she had to decapitate a full-size Copperhead with just a garden hoe! Not a comforting thought for someone afraid of snakes. Was it a fear tactic sent by satan to further rattle my trust in Christ?
I refused to let it get to me. The family reunion at the snake site turned out marvelous and refreshing especially in low humidity after the day before was sweltering. To connect with family members old and new rejuvenated our souls. AND there were no snake invasions while we were there!
Six days later after arriving in Texas, we were setting up the church late at night for the conference as I explained earlier in this post. Around 10pm the Pastor received a call from his son next door at the parsonage that his dog got bit by a Copperhead snake. Josie, a black mouth Cur began stumbling and was visibly ill. She had to be rushed to an on-call Vet’s office asap. We all prayed and waited.
This second snake incident happened on the parsonage property where we were staying and literally a stones throw from the church. It seemed strange to me that two snake incidents happened prior to the conference. Were they spiritual attacks? I won’t know ’til I get to heaven but I refused to give in to fear. Also, I am happy to announce that Josie got treatment and was back to her normal playful self in just a few days.
Fear comes in many forms but our God is all powerful and not the author of fear so trust Him rather than giving fear any room in your mind. Try trusting next time you are tempted to fear.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”
Isaiah 41:10 New International Version
Earlier this week Dwight and I had the pleasure of jet skiing on Lake Tyler in Texas. Pastor Samuel Priddy provided us with this exciting experience along with his lovely wife, Amy. I am so grateful we had this redeeming opportunity and blessed with such good friends.
You see, this happened to be my fourth time on jet skis. A bay in Honolulu in 2001 marked my maiden voyage. I drove the jet ski myself with trepidation around the still water at first but became somewhat confident after an hour. Weaving in and out of the buoys and gaining speed. I loved it.
Second time I rode with someone at a local lake in Southeastern Pennsylvania. This was on a high power jet ski with an experienced driver. We zipped and zoomed across the water at higher velocities than I can imagine. I hung on and what an adrenaline rush!
Third time arrived during my honeymoon in St. Lucia. I wanted to share the thrill of the jet ski experience with my new groom. He loved motorcycles so I figured a jet ski is like riding a motorcycle in the water, right? I talked him into renting a jet ski at our Sandals resort. The problem arose when we discovered that the area where we rented to ride involved only the open sea! Not a bay, not a lake, not calm waters! The swells were about four foot that day.
My precious new husband Dwight did not tell me he was scared to death but bravely took me out onto the open sea. I smiled as I expected a similar experience as I encountered previously, anticipating the fun and exhilaration. Instead, both of us clung on for dear life as we plowed through the gathering waves. Thank GOD for life jackets because Dwight never learned to swim. My heart pounded fearing all sorts of sea creatures lurking below waiting to get a nibble on us if we capsized.
After that harrowing episode I promised never to ask Dwight about jets skiing again. However, the desire never left my heart to someday share a positive jet ski escapade with him. So when Pastor Sam invited us to go on Lake Tyler I was so proud of Dwight for not letting past fear stop him. This time his experience was 100% different than in St. Lucia! He loved it and tore all over the lake! We had a blast!
By the grace of God and His goodness, the positive jet ski adventure has been redeemed! (Click on below)
Are there events in your life that scared you in the past? Things you’ve been avoiding due to fearful memories? Let God redeem the experience. Don’t allow the enemy to steal your opportunity because of fear. Fight back with your shield of faith, fully trusting in the Lord’s care and help. Pray now for His courage to overcome past fears. When occasions present themselves, you’ll be ready to meet and enjoy the challenge in Jesus’ Name!
“I sought the Lord and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears.”
Psalm 34:4 New International Version
“Never trust anyone completely but God. Love people, but put your full trust in God.” —Lawrence Welk
I admit I know very little about Midwives. I did try to watch the popular tv drama “Call the Midwife” once but I was too squeamish to finish even one episode. But I do have a little story to share involving a Midwife.
Over 35 years ago I had a friend who was adamant about not wanting to have children. She never gave details as to why. She complained when women’s magazines printed articles on children and parenting. She felt they over focussed on childrearing and took personal offense. I listened but didn’t know what to say that would not offend her further. So I remained silent and let her vent whenever she felt the need.
This same friend also claimed to be an Agnostic. She believed there was not enough evidence for or against the existence of God. We had many discussions over the years about our differing belief systems.
In the late 80s she divorced her husband and later remarried. Imagine my surprise when she told me in early 1992 that she was pregnant! I couldn’t believe it! Was this the same woman who complained at length about children?
Nine months later as she gave birth in a local hospital she experienced a change of heart and mind. Seeing the birth of her daughter was proof enough to her that God does indeed exist. She adored her baby and became a loving mother at age 34.
Shortly after her daughter turned one, she moved several hours away to a sparsely populated area in the North. We continued to keep in touch and I visited on occasion when time afforded a road trip. I encouraged her and her budding faith as often as I could.
In 1995 she told me she would be having another child the next spring. This time she wanted a more natural child birth experience at home with a Midwife. I admired her for her courage.
Months rolled by and one day I got a frantic call from my friend. Her delivery time was approaching and her husband was out of state on a business trip. She was scared because the only Midwife in her secluded mountain area had taken a full-time job and could only assist with delivering babies on certain days during certain hours. She asked me to pray that the baby would come when the Midwife was available.
So I took her urgent request to my ladies Bible study group and asked them to join me in praying. Now I must tell you these dear women loved the Lord. They were older mentors for me and each of them had gone through childbirth themselves, some several times. I was the only one in the group who never experienced pregnancy.
So when I made my request, they snickered. One of them even said, “A baby will come when it’s good and ready.” I could tell they thought my prayer request was foolish. But I was not deterred.
I knew that our great God cared about my friend. HE cared about the fears that were trying to dampen her faith. HE cared about her struggle. I knew HE alone was in sovereign control over the exact moment that baby was to be born. So I prayed for the baby to come when the Midwife was available, believing, inspite of what the other ladies thought. I trusted in HIS best for my friend.
What do you think happened?
When her labor came and proper dilation occurred she called the Midwife. By the grace of God the Midwife had just finished her shift and was able to attend to my friend immediately. My friend successfully delivered a healthy baby boy to join her toddler daughter. Her faith was strengthened by this specific answer to prayer and so was mine!
So never let anyone discourage your faith in God’s care for you! Trust HIM above all others, even those you respect and your faith will FLURISH!
“It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.” Psalm 118:8 New King James Bible
What do you envision when you think of the word Christmas? Are you a Scrooge who only sees it as a money stealing holiday to rob one’s pocket every 25Th of December?
Or do you have fond memories from childhood? A special gift you received one particular Christmas perhaps? Or the annual Christmas pageant you were forced to participate in at church or in school? How about all the glorious lights and colorful decorations adorning the houses and the fresh scent of Christmas trees?
Does your family have any special traditions that they continue to practice year upon year? Growing up in dysfunction left little room for any warm fuzzy traditions.
My family was distraught every year when it was time to set up the Christmas tree. My Mom would pull out the fake tree and adorn it with only two things, pink tinsel and pink satin balls. My three older brothers and my father hated the tree. I think all of them hated pink ever since the first year she set up that peptobismal tree. Pink was and still is my Mom’s signature color.
Mom would wear hot pink lipstick with every outfit and dressed in pink, carried huge pink pocketbooks and come to think of it, we even lived in a pink house. So I can’t blame the guys in our family for their aversion to pink.
I never minded pink. In fact, I love pink and sometimes I wear it in honor of my Mom. When people stare at my bright pink lipstick or clothes I have to chuckle to myself because I don’t care what they think. I’m enjoying remembering my Mom and her glory days.
This year Christmas with Mom was hard. Her dementia is increasing. She’s in pain from a weird rash,the beginnings of cellulitis and congestive heart failure that causes her to retain fluid. Normally affectionate, she’s in pain if you hug her too hard.
Her body and mind are deteriorating and I am praying for grace for her so she doesn’t suffer. She was always such a strong woman. But now she is eaten up by fear and paranoia. She cries at imaginary things and screams for no reason.
I am grateful she could come to my house to celebrate Christmas yesterday even though it was uncomfortable for her as well as for other family members at times. She told me it was “a nice party” but that she knows this will be the last time she can go out of the nursing home bar a miracle.
Mom and I have lots of stories to share with you but right now I ask that you pray for her to be at peace in her mind and be free of pain in her body. Thank you so much!
“O LORD, I give my life to You. I trust in You, my God!” Psalm 25:1 New Living Translation
What does your beginning look like? Or perhaps I should ask what brought you to Christ?
My mother taught me about Jesus from as far back as I can remember. She took me to the same church she attended as a child. I loved Sunday school and learned all the songs like Deep and Wide, Running Over, and I’ve Got the Joy, Joy, Joy. But I only knew ABOUT Jesus, I didn’t really KNOW Him yet.
Everything surrounding Jesus was joyous and good. So I liked learning about Him. But one day The truth about His purpose on earth shattered my heart. I found out He came here to suffer and die in my place. It was hard to accept at age seven but I understood enough about the reality of Jesus to love Him and want Him in my life no matter what.
My father recognized the divine love of Christ that same year of 1970 and made a commitment to Him at a small prayer meeting. I decided if my father did it, I should too. And so I gave my heart to Jesus and began my adventure with Him. The highest praise we can give to God is to give our lives to Him!
So I ask again… what does your beginning look like? Someone may need to hear it.
“. . . This is what the LORD says: ‘When people fall down, don’t they get up again? When someone turns away, do they not return?’ ”
Jeremiah 8:4 New Living translation
How do you view success? Do you see it differently for others than you see it for yourself? Can you recall a time when you failed? How did you respond? Can you recall a time when you felt you succeeded?
In 1987 my father died suddenly. I was 24. My mother needed support financially and emotionally. I decided I should take care of her. We tried to sell her house and move where she could walk to work since she didn’t drive. It was a disaster and two years later I couldn’t take it anymore. I needed to move out. I failed in my plan to take care of my mother. I certainly didn’t FEEL like a success.
As I explained in Part I, I feared failure and any sort of risk. I lacked the knowledge and experience of independent living apart from renting a room when I moved away from home at 19. As with any new venture, alot of unknowns accompanied having my own place. But I was desperate to be independent and I chalked up the failure with my mom to lack of planning. I was not gonna let that happen again.
So I carefully counted the cost of moving out on my own. (Luke 14:28) After doing my homework and seeing my budget on paper I felt a degree of confidence. I prayed and moved forward finding a snug 2 bedroom apartment the week between Christmas and New Year’s.
Scheduled to move at the end of January made it difficult to find volunteers to help me. I didn’t have much money but I remembered I had an insurance policy I received when my father died. He had taken it out when I was born. I figured my first apartment was cause for cashing it in to help with the move.
The Prudential building intimidated me with its vastness. The insurance agent who handled my policy seemed kind and trustworthy. When he found out why I was cashing in my policy, he asked if I had help to move. I told him “No” and he immediately made some calls. He told me he and a few friends from church would help. Yes, I was naive to trust a stranger but I had no one else and so I trusted God’s provision.
The night of my move two big flat bed trucks arrived right on time. Two men and the insurance guy made short work of loading all my belongings onto the trucks. My middle brother also lived at my Mom’s and he sat on the sofa and watched while these men carried my possessions passed him time and again. He never lifted a finger to help and as I carried a box out, he said, “You’ll never make it.”
He said it with such a sneer that the pain shot deep in my heart. I could never forget his words and lack of confidence in my ability. Inspite of what he said, the Lord helped me to live successfully for 12 years in that apartment and then go on to buy my own house.
That failure with my mother became a bundle of lessons learned to help me move forward to succeed on my own. I worked hard through the lean times. I sacrificed when necessary. And no bills were ever late or unpaid. I felt good about what I had accomplished, just me and Jesus.
We can turn every failure into success with perseverance and the Lord’s help. Or put another way; “Whenever you fall, do it forward and get up again as soon as possible.”
So what is your definition of success? Please feel free to share it in the comment section. Here’s my favorite definition of success;
“To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
“The LORD’S loving kindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail.” Lamentations 3:22 New American Standard Bible
HE’S THE ONLY ONE WHO NEVER FAILS!
Anyone remember the old show “Wide World of Sports” and Jim McKay’s famous catchphrase? “The thrill of victory . . . and the agony of defeat?” No one wanted to be that poor skier shown in the footage representing the “agony of defeat”. As bad as it looked, Vinko Bogataj, the Slovenian ski jumper in the clip, walked away with a concussion and a broken ankle. You can watch it on YouTube if you’re too young to remember Wide World of Sports.
His failure made him famous and admired by athletes the world over. Muhammed Ali asked for his autograph in 1981 at the 20th anniversary celebration for Wide World of Sports. Vinko continued skiing competitively and then became a ski instructor coaching the 1991 World Champion Franci Petek. He went on to lead a full life with his wife and family and later discovered his talent for painting.
Think about failure in your own life. Have you had a lot?
I recently read an interview with a young high school graduate. She was asked, “What’s the worst thing about being 18?” In answer to this question, she said:
“Everything you do after you turn 18 counts, so there is no room or time for error.”
Think about that for a moment. This is an 18 year old ‘determined goal chaser’ as she calls herself in another section of the article. I admire her raw ambition and desire to make the most of her time to make a difference in our world.
I was blessed to meet this young woman named Danielle and she has quite an impressive outlook on life. However, I do want to caution her and others not to fear failure. Because for those of us who know Christ, failure is just a different tool in the hand of God to chisel us to perfection.
Each of us will come face to face with failure more than once in our lifetime, but we can benefit from it IF we look to our all knowing God. We can learn lessons from failure that may not otherwise be possible. If we determine to be teachable we can learn and grow from the experience of failure. We should expect it and not fear it.
Don’t know about you but I was taught that if I fail at something then I AM a failure. I believed this lie for most of my life. For years I did all I could to avoid failure. Unfortunately unlike Danielle, my motivation avoidance was not commendable. Self preservation motivated me rather than striving to be my best for the sake of others. I did not want to look stupid at any cost. Too often in my past people were cruel and made fun of me and my ideas so I began to hide my ideas inside and not take risks.
As an adult if I was not fairly sure I could succeed at something I would not even try it. How many opportunities have I missed because of fear? What about you? Have you missed opportunities because of fear?
God in His mercy has scooped me up many times when I felt I could not go on. Then He’d take me at the moment of my failure and teach me useful things so I could move forward into other areas of life I never dreamed possible.
In weak moments fear sneaks in and attempts to rule me again but now I know the truth. That even failures I encounter may be part of God’s divine plan for me. So I turn my back on fear and lean hard into my faith in Christ. Because with His leading and help I can do anything and so can you!
“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13 New Living translation
Take time to enjoy the journey and FLURISH through any failures. And Danielle, as you head off to college remember, He’s got your back!
“I am lonely, like an owl living in the desert, like an owl living among old ruined buildings. I cannot sleep. I am like a lonely bird on the roof.” Psalm 102:6+7 Easy to Read Bible
Heart wrenching seasons of loneliness visit all of us. How do we FLURISH through these times?
As a child I spent a lot of time alone because my siblings were much older and my parents both worked. Every year I dreaded the summer months because it meant being alone for an extended period of time. I enjoyed the social aspect of school and wished it continued year round.
At an early age I recognized and invited Jesus as my Savior to come into my heart. Soon I began making up plays, dramas, dances and songs that I would perform in our backyard to an audience of one. I knew God was watching. I could feel His presence and pleasure. This greatly helped me through the lonely times. So Jesus and I went out to play together as often as possible.
But as I grew older I forgot these precious moments with my heavenly Father. I stopped spending creative times with Him. I even thought at one point in my life that it was just foolish child’s play.
As a young adult I spent 15 years living totally alone. It became agonizing at times. Then one day I remembered the loveliness of the moments spent as a child dancing and singing in His presence where I could be my complete self. Loved for exactly who I was. I realized what I did as a child was not foolish but something led by God. I needed to lay down my pride and begin to recognize His presence and respond to Him as I did when I was young.
I began believing what the Bible says; He is ALWAYS with us. (Matthew 28:20b) The Bible also says to “Never stop praying” in I Thessalonians 5:17. So if HE is always with us and we are to talk to Him all the time then we had better learn to practice His presence.
One of the first things I began doing to practice His presence was to pick out music that spoke to my heart. I’d crank the volume and dance around my apartment with a fair amount of abandon. Praising and jumping for Jesus’ sake. Sometimes I did cheering type moves or ballet. Probably only a God who is Love Himself could enjoy it? I do know it always released stress for me and gave me a supernatural joy. I could be a carefree kid in His presence. Of course this is easiest to do when you are alone because others might try to have you committed somewhere other than to Jesus, if you know what I mean?
Years later when I bought my first home I had an upstairs Rec room with laminate hardwood flooring. One day while having devotions, I felt a still small voice in my heart calling me to play. At first I dismissed it as my imagination. But it did not stop. So I got up from my sofa and put some funky praise music on my stereo system.
As the first notes hit my ears I felt like moving. In my pajamas and socks, I discovered I could slide across the laminate. Jesus was calling me to slide with Him. Laughing and zooming across the floor, we had a great time. Later, I rearranged the furniture so there would be maximum sliding room. I created a little track and slid around it with Jesus often.
When my young nieces and great niece visited, I taught them to slide with Jesus too. I didn’t care if they thought I was crazy. I was crazy about Jesus and He was the only one who filled the lonely void in my life. Being seen acting crazy about Jesus is nothing new. Consider King David:
“And David danced before the Lord with all his might, wearing a priestly garment. So David and all the people of Israel brought up the Ark of the Lord with shouts of joy and the blowing of rams’ horns. But as the Ark of the Lord entered the City of David, Michal, the daughter of Saul, looked down from her window. When she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she was filled with contempt for him.” II Samuel 6:14-16 New Living translation
Notice that David “leaped” and “danced” before the Lord. He simply delighted in the Lord and the return of the Ark to the City of David. David laid aside his royal garments to dance before his Lord. HE was willing to look foolish in the eyes of anyone for the Lord’s sake. That is a tight relationship. So powerful that it can destroy the chains of loneliness.
If you find yourself lonely take advantage of being alone, where no one can see you. Put on some music you love and surrender your pride as worship to your Lord. Dance, jump, sway just do whatever you can. Trust me, HE will love it and you may be surprised at the results on your end.
“God can’t give us happiness and peace apart from Himself because there is no such thing.” C.S. Lewis
Shine on. . .
“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.” Psalm 42: 11 New International version
My rambling thoughts cause twistedness and strife within my mind.
I want freedom. I want peace. I want purpose. Do I know that all these things can be found in You? My head knows it but my heart isn’t feeling it at the moment.
That’s when my faith must rally the courage to step in and take control of the helm of my soul. Faith must rise up and remember the God who has never failed me! The God who provides for me! The God who masters an entire universe and yet cares about me. The God who loves me when I hang on my last thread above the abyss of despair. The invisible God who I cannot see with my eye but who I believe remains even in my pain.
The God who whispers, “in all this I remain by your side and I will carry you ’til you can walk on your own again.”
“and in the wilderness where you saw how the Lord your God carried you, just as a man carries his son, in all the way which you have walked until you came to this place.” Deuteronomy 1:31 New American Standard version
“You go before me and follow me. You place Your hand of blessing on my head.” Psalm 139:5 New Living translation
May I trust You, knowing You are with me no matter what I face or feel today.
“Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.” Romans 13:1 New Living translation
In 1989 when I began work on the PA Turnpike, the uniform of the toll collector included a metal badge similar to a policeman’s badge. We wore it on our shirts in summer and our coats in winter. It was an important part of our uniform. It was a symbol of authority and the customers recognized and respected it.
Sometime in the next decade the badges were removed as part of the uniform. The effect produced more paperwork for the state police because customers no longer saw collectors as any type of authority. When a dispute arose, a State trooper was called.
Often I have customers who refuse to pay their fare. Some will demand to see a State trooper or some other authority figure. If my boss is unavailable, I tell them I can call a State trooper for them but I am careful to add that the State trooper will simply make them pay the fare. This is an attempt to spare the customer wasted time. Most customers listen to reason, decide not to involve the law and pay their fare.
However, there have been customers who insist on seeing a police officer. The officer arrives, listens to the customer plead their case, and then explains that they must pay the fare. After all, it is a toll road.
Occasionally I have witnessed customers arguing with the police officers after they’ve been told by the officer they must pay the fare. It seemed so ridiculous to me at the time. It happened only a few times in the last 28 years but I sense a wave of change coming.
I wrote all this to say our world is changing rapidly. Things have been going on recently that are so ridiculous they seem surreal. As followers of Christ we are commanded to submit to governing authorities as stated in the opening verse. The word submit means to accept or yield to a superior force or the authority or will of another person.
Whether referring to a police officer or the head of our country we need to take the Word of God to heart. He chooses who He puts in power whether in lower positions or the highest in the land. It is ultimately His call. He has reasons we cannot imagine because He knows eternity past, present and future. Our job is to recognize, respect and obey the position of authority, even if we personally dislike the individual holding the office.
As we have seen recently, the unrest is escalating. Ugly hatreds increasing. Attitudes of bold rebellion are cropping up at alarming rates together with violence. We must stand for what is true and honorable according to His word and be examples to our world. We must be aware of what the Last Days will be like. Read II Timothy 3:1-8 New Living translation
Verse 3 especially stuck out.
“They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good.”
Let’s make the upcoming fourth of July celebration here in the United States a marker, a reminder to begin to meditate and pray on our attitudes toward authority figures. If you live elsewhere choose a significant date for your country and begin the process to pray and appreciate the position. Let’s ask God for new ways we can be extra supportive and respectful of our governing powers upholding the law, i.e., members of the military, law enforcement officials, the President, his cabinet and our local statesmen and women. We need to set a standard for the world to see and pray they follow our lead.
Remember, these governing individuals have our heavenly Father’s backing and they should have ours. They could be the only thing standing between us and a world where chaos is king. Support our governing leaders and obey the command of God.
“Never make light of the king, even in your thoughts.” Ecclesiastes 10:20a
“A joyful heart makes a cheerful face, but when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken.”
Proverbs 15:13 New American Standard Bible
Do you have a healthy inviting smile? I’m not talking about nice white teeth or perfectly shaped lips. More about what your smile conveys to others.
At work one day an older gentleman pulls up to my booth and says, “My you have a beautiful smile! I’m a musician and your heart’s all over your face.” He circled his hand around his face as he said this.
The guy seemed sincere enough and not just blowin smoke, as they say. I don’t know much about music but I wonder if this musician could recognize a song in my heart from the smile on my face?
Recalling his words in that short exchange now reproduces a smile on my face and my heart because I know the smile I gave him that day was long in the making.
You see, you cannot give what you don’t have. I remember hope dashed every year when my school photos arrived. There I was in living color gritting my teeth or forcing out a smile. I hated the way I looked. One year I decided to do something about it.
I appraised my smile whenever I had a mirror available. I wanted it to be beautiful. My family made fun of me but their insults only reinforced my determination.
I experimented with varying widths of smiles. Mouth open, mouth closed. How many teeth to show etc., In Junior high I had no idea the reality of the problem had nothing to do with my mouth. No matter what I tried the smiles all came out forced and gauche. Why?
It wasn’t due to my awkward adolescence. It stemmed from a deeper issue of the pain and sadness occupying the space in my heart. At that time in my life no song played in my heart to filter through to my face. For years I thought I was smiling but my sad eyes revealed the truth of my private world to the public.
Only after I began allowing Jesus to take over and heal my heart, replacing the sadness with His joy did my smiles flow without effort. A song rang out in my heart and spilled onto my face.
This is a recurring favorite in my heart by Luther B. Bridges, 1910
HE KEEPS ME SINGING
“There’s within my heart a melody
Jesus whispers sweet and low,
Fear not, I am with thee, peace be still,
In all of life’s ebb and flow.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus
Sweetest Name I know,
Fills my every longing,
Keeps me singing as I go.”
Ever hear of a Duchenne smile? French neurologist Guillaume Duchenne conducted research in the mid-19th century on the physiology of facial expressions, specifically on smiling . He identified two types of smiles.
A non-Duchenne smile utilizes only the muscles around the mouth. Whereas, a Duchenne smile engages the muscles around the mouth as well as the eyes and is sometimes referred to as “smizing”, or “smiling with the eyes”. A Duchenne smile is uniquely related to positive emotion which emanates from the heart.
In essence when your entire face engages in the smile, that is a Duchenne smile. What a wonderful thing to have named after you!
So my smile issue began to improve in direct proportion to my heart issue. As my heart healed, the smiles widened.
So I ask again, do you have a healthy inviting smile? Are you sharing a song with your smiles?
“He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what He has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.” Psalm 40:3 New Living translations
“The Lord hears His people when they call to Him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles.” Psalm 34:17 NLT
But what if there’s no time to call for help? Have you ever been in that kind of danger? When something unexpected suddenly crossed your path? How did you react? Please feel free to share any stories you have in the comment section.
One year close to Christmas I decided to pay a surprise visit to my second Mom, EmKay. Preoccupied with carrying a gift and maneuvering the icy steps leading to her front porch, I hadn’t noticed that “Woozie” was out. “Woozie” was short for “Woozem’s Woo” the name EmKay lovingly chose for her black Chow puppy.
Earlier that year when “Woozie” first arrived, he was an adorable ball of fur resembling a miniature bear. I played with him out in the yard several times that spring and summer. Rolling around in the grass and hugging him close so he could lick my face. His cuteness unleashed my playful side. To anyone who knows me well, this would seem odd. I’m not known to be much of a dog person. But Woozie stole my heart.
Months later at Christmas time when I approached the gate giving access to the front porch, I heard a low growl. A large black shadow moved and bared gleaming white teeth. Another even lower growl emanated from the darkness. Woozie dipped into the light where I could see his fully grown form.
“Oh ‘Woozie’ it’s only me”, I said as I innocently reached over the gate to unlatch it. No sooner had the last syllable exited my tongue, then adorable “Woozie” leapt across the wooden deck floor. He snarled into my face, his paws pushing on the top of the gate. With one quick lunge he clamped his powerful jaws around my neck.
Scared out of my mind, not even a squeak could escape from my compressed voice box. Fortunately for me, the cold weather coaxed me to wear a heavy coat that night. This particular coat had a quarter inch thick collar attached that completely covered my neck. Woozie’s tenacious grip did not loosen as he rocked my entire body back and forth on the step. Only the wild scuffling of his toe nails on the wooden deck floor alerted anyone inside the house that there was a problem.
The small porch light came on and the front door opened with instant commands for Woozie to get down. He did not obey. He growled louder. EmKay’s husband had to grab and pull Woozie’s choker before he released his grip.
I tell this story because up until that day, I had no idea how I would react to sudden danger. At the mercy of the jaws of a large and powerful dog, I found myself helpless. However, the protective hand of God spared me. Woozie could have bit my uncovered face or hands or both. Instead he went for the jugular, the one area that was protected.
Some believe such things are only coincidence. I choose to fully rely on what the Bible says about His divine protection of those who trust in Him.
“The Lord watches over you—the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm— He will watch over your life: the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” Psalm 121:5-8 New International version
How about you? What are you trusting in for protection as you travel through life? Our world is growing more chaotic than many choose to think about. Isis, MS-13 and other murderous threats here and abroad are rapidly increasing. Look to the only One who sees all and safeguards His own. FLURISHING cannot coexist with fear.
“For the angel of the Lord is a guard: he surrounds and defends all who fear Him.” New Living translation
March 2017 holds two milestone anniversaries for me personally. Ten years of marriage to Dwight and the first anniversary of this blog site. Both I consider wonders of grace provided exclusively by my heavenly Father. I am so grateful for His faithful love inspite of all my frailties and flaws.
This particular series “Lord of the Rings” is a declaration of His loving care and guidance. Matthew 6:33 says, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.” New Living translation
I have experienced the glorious truth of these words and I pray you have as well. If not, keep giving more of yourself consistently to God. His promises do not fail. You can trust Him and His care for you.
Dwight wanted to get married barefoot on a beach and I said fine if I get to pick the beach. I didn’t want a lot of fuss over the ceremony and details. I knew I needed to focus more on preparing for a “marriage” rather than plan a “wedding”. So we chose an all inclusive resort on a beach that provided wedding ceremonies in the package price.
I knew that two people from two different backgrounds successfully learning to live and love out the rest of their days together would take mutual commitment and intentional effort. So we carved time out of our schedules for marriage prep work.
Dwight and I signed up for an all day seminar for engaged couples. It proved to be a fun experience learning just how much we didn’t know about each other. We attended premarital Christ centered counseling regularly as a couple and took personality and temperament tests. We learned to pray together. We asked God to help smooth off each of our rough edges to make us ready for a tighter fitting bond.
Closer to the wedding date we sought out a special therapist to begin family counseling with Cortney. All three of us needed assistance in the upcoming transition. Any tools concerning marriage preparation we tried. We were committed to giving this union the best foundation possible (Matthew 7:24) which definitely included worshipping together.
During working hours, however, I daydreamed constantly about less important things. I was obsessed with a certain suite at the resort we booked. It had two large rooms and a bath with a private plunge pool and patio connected to the bedroom. The suite sat high the on bluffs overlooking the Carribbean sea. The view was phenomenal.
Unfortunately, the cost was phenomenal as well. An extreme luxury that we couldn’t afford. There was no way I could justify starting our marriage out in debt. The suite had to remain only a dream. Dwight and I were splitting the cost of the wedding/honeymoon package and our big splurge was to stay for 14 days. So we booked a regular room in the main building with a balcony area attached. This would be where our marriage began.
Seven months after our engagement, we got on a plane and flew to St. Lucia. We were like two teenagers brimming with excitement and hormones. I knew now why we traveled in packs as singles. Just so much easier to behave ourselves.
Dwight and I were committed to doing things God’s way. The first challenge was the two day legal requirement being in St. Lucia together before we could be married. Funds at this point were tight. Perhaps we should spring for two separate rooms? We decided since our room had an attached balcony area that Dwight would sleep out there until we were married. I appreciated His willingness and it saved us a bundle. Maybe not the wisest decision but by the grace of God this arrangement worked for us.
During the two days prior we kept busy with our friends who were honeymooning at the resort and agreed to be witnesses to our wedding. We ventured to the local market area and bought souvenirs and explored the vast grounds of the resort. We set up some couples spa treatments and other excursions for later in the trip. We had meetings with the onsite wedding coordinator and told them our ideas for the ceremony. And then the big day arrived.
My dear friend Sue curled and styled my long hair in the bedroom of their beachfront bungalow. Hyperactive butterflies beat their wings inside my chest as I thought about what would transpire in the next few hours. Part of me remained steadfast knowing I had done my best to prepare for this day. But another part from my past cowered in the shadows attempting to overwhelm me with fear. I realized at this moment, as Sue gently added the sparkly barrett to my hair, that I was grateful we travelled so far to get married. Being here away from all that was familiar forced me to lean on Jesus for the unknown like never before. Marrying Dwight in a few moments would be just another step of faith with Jesus holding my hand.
The ceremony in the garden gazebo floated along with my steps to Karen Carpenter singing “We’ve Only Just Begun” and looking more like my mother than I wanted. Dwight looked incredibly sweet in the gauze shirt we picked out together and his favorite ripped jeans. The sun shone brilliantly through the purple and pink bougainvillea climbing the trestles of the gazebo. We read our heartfelt vows that were open, honest and realistic. Dwight sang “You’ll Always Be Beautiful in My Eyes” and when he got choked up, we finished the song together swaying with the tune and Joshua Kadison.
Then we travelled down to the beach for the second part of the ceremony. Dwight stopped on the steps to sweetly help remove my white sandals so we could walk barefoot together across the warm sand.
The ceremony on the beach exceeded all my expectations. I was living in my own fairy tale that had “only just begun”.
After the wedding we were asked to see the resort manager before heading out to a special celebration dinner. Turned out due to an error by the manager we were being upgraded for the duration of our stay. Where do you think we spent the next 12 glorious nights? You got it, the very suite I dreamed about! God is so good to His children. In my heart I felt it was God’s special blessing on our marriage. A divine wedding gift. I knew then He would take care of us the rest of our lives if we kept our marriage focussed on Him.
We just celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary and our love and marriage have bloomed more colorful every year as we remain rooted in Christ. He continues to care for and provide for us through the good and bad that find their way into all our lives. Even the rough patches haven’t seemed too bad because of His amazing grace. May each of you also FLURISH because of His blessing in your lives and never stop seeking to know Him more!
“And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to Him must believe that God exists and that He rewards those who sincerely seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6 New Living translation
“. . . I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.” Jeremiah 29:11 The Message
Now it was time for the rubber to meet the road. Could I successfully hold up my end in a healthy relationship? Doubts continually attacked my thinking, but I pressed on in faith. I accepted the ruby ring and began walking into a relationship with a man I hardly knew. In the beginning I found everything deliciously exciting.
Dwight and I planned many events together for Christian singles. Hikes, dinner theatre, pool parties, etc. Two of my favorite events were a Pajamarama Cereal Social where everyone brought their favorite breakfast foods. We wore pjs, while watching movies and eating cereal into the wee hours. Dwight decided to design a logo and made T-shirts for those who attended. He even ironed everyone’s logo on their shirts during the gathering. He had such a servant’s heart.
The other event I called a Decade party where everyone dressed up in clothes from a certain decade. Dwight chose the 60s and I chose the 90s. We played decade music trivia, staged our version of the Dating Game and attempted the game of Twister. The costumes were a hoot.
Dwight took me on many day trips in the months that followed. Sometimes with the singles group and sometimes alone. Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, Washington, D.C., South street in Philadelphia, Ocean City, N.J. were a few stops. I traveled more in those few months than in my last 20 years. He loved to drive and I loved seeing new places.
Every other weekend we had Cortney with us. Being a Tweenager at the time, her moods were anything but stable. We attempted to include her in our adventures, but she had a love/hate relationship with this new arrangement. She truly struggled giving up first place in her father’s life. Looking back, I wish I could have been more mature myself and assured her that I was not trying to take her father from her. Of course in reality, I did not want second place in Dwight’s heart. Unless it was to Jesus. So Cortney and I danced through power struggles for Dwight’s attention that first year. It became a season of growth for all three of us as we slowly merged toward becoming a family.
In September of 2006, I drove to Dwight’s place after work on a Sunday afternoon. When I arrived I noticed he seemed exceptionally giddy. Laughing about almost everything I said. I spotted a fresh gash in one of his fingers so I inquired. He downplayed it and chuckled to himself. Tempted to become suspicious, I told him I was hungry and he said “patience is a virtue”. That did not go over well. Frustration began to form. I told him I needed food asap. He invited me to get in the car.
We headed toward the next town but then began driving around in circles. My agitation increased. “Why aren’t we stopping to get some food,” I demanded.
“Wait. Wait.” Was the response.
Finally he pulled into WaWa and parked. “Just a minute,” He said as he jumped out of the car. I rolled my eyes in exasperation. I heard him bumping around in the trunk.
What is he doing back there, I wondered?
Momentarily he appeared at his open car door with a glowing white candle and a leather satchel. He carefully placed the glass ensconced candle in between our seats and opened the satchel revealing two champagne flutes and a bottle of sparkling grape juice. He pulled a wrapped package from the roof of the car and handed it to me grinning all the while.
I began opening the package to find a journal inside. I thought it was for me to use to write so I didn’t open it. Dwight prodded me to open it and perhaps I should let the photos tell the rest of this story. . .
The gash in Dwight’s finger occurred while he made this book earlier in the day. The ring inserted in the last page is the same one I wore for the murder mystery almost a year before. Dwight contacted the owner and made arrangements to purchase the one of a kind ring I loved.
The Lord not only provided this gorgeous ring to be available, He also provided Dwight with the money to buy the ring. HE is our loving provider and LORD of the Rings! So of course I accepted the ring!
“It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, He had His eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose He is working out in everything and everyone.” Ephesians 1:11&12 The Message Bible
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