Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Hand of God

 The Hand of God so evident
From the front
     so clearly seen this year.
Pondering particulars 
     often leads to tears.

Tears of joy and thankfulness
     for His presence in my days.
Tears of wonder and amazement
     for all His many creative ways.

Your hand, O God, protected
     in the midst of flames and smoke last June.
Your hand, O God brought comfort
     and kept from being consumed.

Your hand accompanied Your voice
     through the encouragements of friends.
Their words spoke truth and honor
     to this amazed and grateful one.

Your hand a guide for my hand
     as words tumbled from my pen.
Or drawn inside a sketch book,
     Your truth all new again.
From the back

Your hand orchestrated events
     that brought great joy to all.
We gathered, we celebrated, we worshipped.
     Before You in awe we fall.

To grasp Your hand, to hold on tight
     To walk with you today.
Father, that is my desire.
     Please continue to lead the way.

And on this day, Thanksgiving Day,
     I bow in wonder as I pray.
So thankful for your hand, O God
     that eased each moment that I trod. Amen

The Hand of God piece pictured, a gift from my dear friend Carolyn, inspired these words. Carolyn carried this Olive wood hand-carved piece crafted in Israel across the ocean to bless and lend perspective to us. Thank you, Carolyn. I’ve made it the anchor of our Thanksgiving table.

Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.                                                                                                                                       Psalm 147:1

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Overwhelmed by Generosity

Thanksgiving 2013 will have a new richer flavor. My eyes wide open to blessings (like our home) formerly taken for granted. Motivated by Ann Voskamp’s 1000 Gifts, my thankfulness list has exploded since June. I am overwhelmed by generosity.

As I drove into the free farmers market for Black Forest fire evacuees last summer, I didn’t know what to expect. And the thoughts that did rumble around my mind didn’t come close to reality. 

There was a twinge of guilt—we had grocery money. My plan was to pick up a few apples, maybe some oranges, express my thanks and continue on with my day. I knew our community wanted to help; I wanted to return the favor by being an appreciative receiver of their generosity.

And a receiver I was! The experience drew tears; it was overwhelming. My thanks seemed feeble. Our pantry overflowed. I shared with neighbors.

Generosity also displayed itself in the prayers of our friends. I am not a good pray-er in emergencies; thank you to all who stood in the gap.
Friends opened their homes to us; others, sometimes people we didn’t know, provided meals. 

There were emails, texts, phone calls, and notes that daily ministered to our souls—each a breath of fresh air to our smoke-filled brains. 

The gift of time and energy came through the lives of many from our Sunday school class who offered their chain saws, pick-up trucks, and muscles on a HOT Saturday morning helping clear away burned trees and rebuild our stack of firewood. Some I was meeting for the first time.

Then there were the firefighters who valiantly fought the flames that threatened; who dug fire lines around one side of our home and pulled the lawn furniture away from the house. Thank you to our military for dropping slurry (we wondered what that orange stuff was in the yard); thank you to our sherriff, his crew, The National Guard and other law enforcement agencies.

Thank you to the Red Cross and the Salvation Army who provided quick lunches for us—and the best hot dog I ever ate. The tools and clean-up kits met a practical need. And, and, and …

Generosity displayed itself in many creative ways reflecting the creativity of our Savior. It continues to be overwhelming. 

As I’ve pondered what was most helpful, a few generalities surfaced:                     1. Those who told (instead of asked) us how they were helping.                             2. Scripture shared without commentary.                                                                                                            3. Friends who identified with our emotions without offering wisdom.                    4. Technology—communicating from a distance.                                                     5. Our pastor’s sermon from Romans 8.                                                                  6. Lamentations 3:22 ~ my go-to scripture this summer.

“The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help.”                Acts 11:29

2 year old Marianna wanted to get in on the helping too.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Sabbath-Living Retreat Fun!

The Jews have a saying... The Jews don't keep the sabbath as much as the sabbath keeps the Jews. I identify.

My devotional time has morphed into sabbath-living. For me that means being attentive to the One who is always attentive to me... or enjoying my friendship with God.
 "No longer do I call you servants... but I have called you friends..." John 15:15.

Sabbath-Living is also the name of the retreats I facilitate. Each has a bit of a different emphasis but all are anchored in listening to God and enjoying his presence. 

Last week several ladies of Village Seven Presbyterian Church gathered for a Sabbath-Living retreat. This time the big theme was our identity. We kicked off the afternoon with everyone choosing a hat that allowed them to introduce a piece of who they are. Fun, fun, fun. 

Sandy surprised us by creating the slide show below. Enjoy and smile as she lived out her identity and captured in pictures our afternoon. Thank you, Sandy!You've received a Smilebox!

You've received a Smilebox
Just for you!
You've received a Smilebox!

Created by sandra faye marthaler

Find inspiration for your creation!

What is Smilebox?
It's an easy way to share the big and little moments that make life sweet. It's invitations, greetings, slideshows, photo albums, collages, scrapbooks and more - customized in minutes by you!
A wonderful tool to make an
impression in minutes!
Highly addictive, fully recommended!
-Gabriela H.

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Thursday, November 7, 2013

True-Blue Self

“But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave the power to become children of God” John 1:12.

As a brand new Christian and college sophomore, this is the first scripture that connected with my heart. It communicated my identity—child of God.

The word 'power' also fascinated me. Over and over I thought about the power of a young child.  When the cries for help come, responders respond. As a child of God, when I call, the response of my Father is sure as well. I clearly remember believing (perhaps for the first time) that my prayers were more than words that stopped at the ceiling.

Recently I fell in love with Eugene Petersons rendering of this verse in his Message translation.  “… he made them to be their true selves”. Child of God—my TRUE self. 

I’m discovering the security of believing those words. Becoming a child of God is becoming me. Being me is good. Wondering how others perceive me is melting. It frees from people-pleasing tendencies. It frees from self-absorption. My heart sees though my eyes and I see the real in others. They are important too. I peek behind their veneer and affirm. 

God highlighted this for me at the neighborhood Halloween party (not a costume affair).
I donned nice slacks and my new top; the other hostess was dressed up a bit too. The other guests … with one exception … were comfortably and casually attired. One decked out in a scary affair.

It felt good to be me. I’m glad the others came as they were or in the case of the one had fun with her costume.

I found it easy to inquire about and listen to stories. During a few I inserted my experiences; but I was not compelled to share me. I experienced quiet confidence.
I wondered about the costumed one. Did she feel out of place? I loved looking behind that gross mask and affirming the good that was there.

I left wanting to also affirm the ones who didn’t join in—communicate that we missed them but understood their choices.

I loved being the true-blue me.

What about you? Have you discovered your true-blue self?

"'But whoever did want him,
    who believed he was who he claimed
    and would do what he said,
He made to be their true selves,
    their child-of-God selves'
(The Message, John 1:12) ."