Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Here vs. Present

For most children in the USA, school has either begun or will begin soon.  Just like the photo, I have a vivid memory of sitting at an old wooden school desks at the start of the day and for me, the memories are not all good.

In the 1960's, our school day would often begin with Bible reading and prayer, and yes, this was the public school.  But even before the Bible reading or prayer, the teacher would begin the day with roll call.

Without looking up from the list of names, the teacher would call out the first child's name.  The student's response was usually, "Here."  This would be repeated over and over as the names were called out in alphabetical order.  Then the unthinkable would happen...the pattern would be broken when a child would respond, "Present."

Seeing that my name was near the end of the list, Beverly Smith.  I now had a HUGH decision to make.  Would I be "here" or "present?"  

"Here" was simple, uncomplicated, but being "present" made a power-statement to both the teacher and the class.  I am all in and ready to work.  Bring on the spelling words, oral reading and fractions.  Because I'm present! 

As my nine-year-old mind continued mulling over my choices, suddenly I heard my name called, "Beverly Smith."

I panicked.  My eyes were the size of saucers.  My options ran through my mind at lightening speed, but I was unable to speak a single word.

The teacher glanced up over his reading glasses.  He looked directly at me and said, "Here."  Directing his focus back on the attendance list, he checks the box next to my name and continued calling roll.  

NO! I screamed in my mind.  I'm not here.  I'm present!  But the moment had pasted.  The die was cast.  On that day, I was here.  I daydreamed about what might had been, if only I had been present!

The Here vs. Present dilemma can be seen in many aspects of life.  In relationships, on the job, even in our spiritual lives.  I understand only to well what it means to be Here vs. Present.  In my heart, I want to be present--available and all in, but sometimes my actions answer with a loud, "Here!"

I don't hold any grudge against that teacher who said I was "Here" 51 years ago.  I know people are human and capable of misjudging the actions of other, but not Jesus.  In Psalm 139:7-10 the Word gives us this promise.

"Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.  If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me."   (NKJV)

 I'm extremely thankful when it was me who called the attendance role so many years ago, I called this name, "Jesus!" And His response was without hesitation, "Present, now and forever!"






Wednesday, August 23, 2017

I'm Not Going Back

My husband and I bought our first house in 1996.  It was out in the country with five acres of land, lots of blueberries and a shallow pond.  After a few months, we decided to dig the pond deeper.  It ended up being 17 feet deep.  Then we had a problem.  What were we going to do with all that clay?  The decision was made to make a big hill to block the pond from the road and then distribute all the rest of the ground around the pond. 

The plan seemed awesome at the time because the clay was dry and easy to walk on.  But after a week of rain things changed.  Most people wouldn't try to walk on wet clay, but not me!   I actually thought that wet clay couldn't stop me.  I thought I could handle it. 

On that fateful day, my daughter and I ventured out to try and get as close to the edge of the pond as we could.  We didn't make it very far when we became hopelessly stuck. I don't remember who helped us out of our predicament that day, but there were big boards laid down for us to get back to solid ground.  

The events of that day made a lifelong impact on me.  Now, whenever I hear a song or read a scripture that has the words "miry clay" a picture of that day forms in my memory.      
  • I remember when the wet clay had a hold of my feet and wouldn't let go.  
  • I remember when I lost my balance, and fell down into the muck.  
  • And when I finally was free, I looked back over my shoulder as I walked away. I remember thinking...I'm not going back.  
Psalm 40:2-3 says this, "He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, Out of the miry clay, And set my feet upon a rock, And established my steps. He has put a new song in my mouth—Praise to our God; Many will see it and fear, And will trust in the Lord."

Before you were rescued, you may also remember that feeling of being stuck and sinking deeper as the miry clay of sin took hold and attempted to pull you down deeper.  Do you remember when you called on the Name of the Lord for help, and He pulled you out of the miry clay and set your feet on the Rock who is Jesus Christ? 

I don't know about you, but I remember and I'm Not Going Back!




Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Keep Moving

 I often stand in the hallway outside my classroom at church watching the children arrive with their parents for drop off.  One thing I've seen happen many times is a child happily strolling down the hallway holding mom or dad's hand until they see their fate begin to unfold.  

Suddenly, the parent will feel their arm jerk backwards as the child stopped moving.  The child isn't taking one more step towards the unknown.  Then the parent will prod the child to keep moving.  The parent will get down at the child's level to reassure her that everything is okay.  Mommy and Daddy are near, but the child isn't having any of that!  

If only they would keep moving, we all know it's going to be okay in this safe place where they will learn and experience God, but the child is paralyzed with fear.  

In our spiritual journey, it can be the same.   When troubles come into our lives we can quickly become just like a fearful child who stops moving forward.  God will feel His arm jerk backwards as we become immobilized with fear even letting go of God's hand.  That fear comes into our lives by way of trail, temptation, sickness or even experiences of our own making.  Still, the result is the same, we stop moving forward.  

If you have ever traveled around the United States you know that this country is made up of many different types of terrain.  There are rivers, deserts, oceans, mountains, swamps, prairies and valleys.  As we journey through life, we can be sure of this, things are going to continually change...that is...unless we refuse to keep moving.  

One of my favorite scriptures is found in Isaiah 43:1-5 NET


“Don’t be afraid, for I will protect you.  I call you by name, you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I am with you; when you pass through the streams, they will not overwhelm you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not harm you...Since you are precious and special in my sight, and I love you, I will hand over people in place of you, nations in place of your life.  Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.

This week you may be facing something that has caused you to stop moving forward.  You may feel like you are frozen in place, unable to move or you may feel like running in the opposite direction.  Take courage, God's Word says, "Keep Moving."    And it’s not without this promise…I am with you!






Wednesday, August 9, 2017

One Sentence

My husband likes bullet points.  He is not interested with words and flowery descriptions.  Just get to the point!  If the wind is blowing, then that's it...it's blowing.

Verses me...the breeze rushed through her hair causing goose bumps to raise up on the back of her neck under the overcast sky while she stood poised on the deck of the ship

 Nope, the fewer words spoken the better.  

I love to write in my journal in the morning.  It is partly about the scripture that spoke to me in my Bible reading that day and partly about my activities for the day.  I also write out my prayer.  I get up early most mornings to try and accomplish this quiet time, but with a house full of company I've not been successful on many occasions.   

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to actually write one sentence before I heard these words, "What ya doing, Grandma?"   

I glanced up to see a sweet granddaughter walking towards me in her jammies.  I looked down at the one sentence  starring back at me from the otherwise empty page of my journal.  That one sentence made me think of that famous phrase less is more.    We don't often hear that in the church world.

The longest verse in the Bible is found in Esther 8:9.  Feel free to look that up to fact check me later.  Depending on the version you read, this verse has over 70 words...in just one verse.  When you compare this long verse with the shortest verse in the Bible found in John 11:35, you can really get the picture that  less is more.  

Almost everyone knows this verse, Jesus wept.  

It's one sentence...with two words...that says so much.  
  • Jesus loved.
  • Jesus cared.
  • Jesus had friends.
  • Jesus felt emotions.
  • Jesus lived in the moment.
All this ran through my mind as I looked down at the one sentence in my journal while my cute little granddaughter snuggled up under my arm.  She was asking me question after question.    I listened as she spoke.  

She asked me things like; what ya doing?  What ya gonna do next?  Why are you writing?  What are you reading?  Can we go to the store today?  

They weren't super important questions, but she wanted as much of my time that morning as I was willing to give her.  I glanced down at that one sentence.  It was a scripture verse I'd read that morning.  

"I take joy in doing your will, my God, for your instructions are written on my heart."  Psalm  40:8

Suddenly that empty page didn't look so empty anymore.  What greater joy could I have than seeing God's word written on my granddaughter's heart as I took the time to answer her questions, cuddle with her and be present in her life.  

That day my journal page had one sentence, but my heart was full! 




Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Good Bye

 Over the course of my life I’ve gotten pretty good at saying “Good bye.”  I’m not saying that it's always easy, but I’ve been doing it for a long time.

When we were missionaries, our family moved halfway around the world.  We were far from loving family and our children were two, eight and ten.  There were many sad faces the days leading up to our departure, but no one was as sad as my mother-in-law.  Days before we were to leave, she would hold our two-year-old daughter and sob.  She would cling to her to savor every moment.  

It is a known fact, in my family, that my husband is the weepy one.  Me...not so much.  He’s the one who cries at movies, sad stories, or things he’s read.  He often will glance in my direction whenever something tugs at his heart to see if I’m equally affected.  Tears will stream down his face like Niagara Falls while my eyes are as dry as the Sahara Dessert.   However, I will admit, seeing my mother-in-law cry over the pending loss of her grandchildren for years on end was difficult.  This was before Facebook, FaceTime, cell phones and even email!

Now, here I am getting close to saying good bye to that same “two-year-old daughter.”  She and her husband are months away from taking four of our grandchildren to a faraway place to be ambassadors for Christ. That big good bye is getting closer by the day, but like I said before it won't be my first. 

I’ve said, Good byes, to loved ones as they have pasted from this life to eternity and many, many friends as ministry has moved us from place to place all over the world…I just want to interject here that I’ve heard the song, Friends are Friends Forever, more times than I care to say.

Yet, the biggest and best Good bye of my entire life was at an altar when I was seven years old.  That was Good bye to the old and hello to the new.  It was also a promise that there would be one thing in my life that I would never have to say Good bye to.

In Romans 8:38-39 there is a promise to the Believer that nothing can separate us from the love of God.

For I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels won’t, and all the powers of hell itself cannot keep God’s love away. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, or where we are—high above the sky, or in the deepest ocean—nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love of God demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ when he died for us.  (TLB)

I’d love to never be separated from any of my family or friends, but these separations are inevitable. My life is destined for many Good byes, except for this one—God’s love isn’t going anywhere and that's a promise!

I think I’m feeling a strange moisture in my eyes.  Could it be…




Keep Swimming

After a slow start to summer, it's   full-on   swimming weather.  Yeah! For me to really enjoy swimming, the weather needs to be at ...