The Shore

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I have read this story in Acts 27 so many times, loving how Paul takes charge and encourages the sailors and passengers in the midst of a storm.

He speaks words which infuse with courage and calms their anxiety. He breaks bread and feeds them for their own good. He prays, thanking God for Who He is. I have so appreciated that although the ship was smashed by the force of the waves and completely broke apart, not one life was lost. All 276 were spared.

But there are times, God has more to say and He diverts our eyes to take in a few words differently ….

“Once we were safe on shore, we learned that we were on the island of Malta.” (Acts 28: 1, NLT)

Those very words seemed to leap off the page. Or perhaps God was using His megaphone. Not sure. But I know His Word sank deep into my soul as it brought new revelation to me – – -

Sometimes we have no idea where we’re going until we land safe at shore.

When life throws its uncertainties at us, we want to know the outcome. At times, we even desire to control the outcome. As the waves pound and the winds howl, we want to know the direction we are headed.

But sometimes, we need to trust Him and go for the ride, knowing He will take us safely into shore.

And here’s the thing about the shore ….

“The people of the island were very kind to us. It was cold and rainy, so they built a fire on the shore to welcome us.” (Acts 28: 2, NLT)

The place we land will be a place which welcomes us. There will be a fire waiting to warm us, bringing the comfort of safety and community.

Sometimes we have no idea where we’re going until we land safe at shore.

The very place where the storm and safety meet.

The shore.

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Our Written Words

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The written word.

I don’t seem to see it as often as in years passed. Even with birthdays, it seems so many send electronic cards. Now don’t get me wrong, I love those too. It is always a surprise to see them in my inbox.

But the written word falls like a balm to the soul and a feast to the eyes.

There is something so special about seeing handwriting. Not penmanship but handwriting. It is so personal to each of us – neat or sloppy, big or small, slanted or straight, blue ink or black. And then to realize…there is a hand which touched our paper, a person who cared enough to share. Yes, that is why I will hold onto and cherish each card I receive for a long time.

Have we forgotten how endearing and precious the written word can be? The power and impact they can have on a thirsty soul?

God certainly knew as He gave Moses the two stone tablets inscribed with the terms of the covenant, written by the finger of God. (Exodus 31:18, NLT) Can we even imagine the sight of the very penmanship of God?

Paul, while imprisoned in Rome, also knew the comfort of the written word. In writing to Timothy, he instructs him, “When you come, be sure to bring the coat that I left with Carpas at Troas. Also bring my books, and especially my papers.(2 Timothy 4:13, NLT) Paul received comfort from personal notes and letters he had received. He wanted the familiar scrolls, probably parchment paper, in his hands. The familiar would bring him joy.

And the Lord is still writing each day ….

“Clearly, you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you. This “letter” is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts.”
(2 Corinthians 3:3, NLT)

Perhaps this is the very reason my heart skips a beat when I see a handwritten envelope, with my name on it, in the mail. Amidst the junk mail and advertisements and mail for others and bills, there is one envelope which comes from the heart. The one piece of mail which will come from the heart and deposit into my heart a bit of encouragement, hope and love.

A little piece of that which He has written on the heart of another delivered right to my heart in its moment of need.

The written word.

We all need some now and then.

In our mailbox.

From one heart to another.

 

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When Doubts Rush In

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MD_ConvergentImage_AuthorSite_2I was raised in the church – Sunday School (complete with pins to show I passed each year), VBS (Vacation Bible School), youth group, and church several times a week. My parents did everything right in growing me to know Who I believed in.

But then I hit middle school.

Those years when most begin to question and question in a big way. Middle school for me was during the time of peace movements, the hippies, the Beatles, the Monkees, and Alice Cooper (topic of my very first oral report).

It was also the time of 9th grade algebra with Mrs. Kramer (whom I loved!) and drugs being passed around sneakily from desk to desk. Some kids came in high and bragged about it. Others tried to deny it. But we all knew.

The questions began to form inside of me.

And then came my first introduction to the theory of evolution, presented brilliantly and my questions deepened.

So did the feeling of being a spiritual misfit.

The kids in church never talked about their doubts or struggles. We showed up every week as though everything was fine and our belief system firmly intact. I doubt anyone would have suspected I even had any doubts at all.

Gratefully, I was able to openly and comfortably discuss my doubts with my parents. It was weeks of discussion, or maybe it was debate, as I shared what I was learning in school.

As the struggle grew strong and the battle for my faith heated up, one Sunday upon leaving church I asked him if I could have a few minutes to talk to him.

Our pastor was a small man with a relatively quiet demeanor. His preaching often seemed educated and way too deep for me to understand at times. But I had come to realize one thing, he knew God’s Word. While he seemed surprised, he invited me into his office with my parents and I began to share my questions.

He listened intently, validating my questions and then asked me if we could put my questions on hold for a bit. He asked me to come back to his office after the church service Friday and I agreed. He also asked my parents if he could talk to me alone.

All week I wondered about what he would have to say that he did not want to say in the presence of my parents. Friday just couldn’t seem to come soon enough.

Friday came and I sat in his office, he on one side of his desk and me on the other, it was then he shared ….

“I have struggled with doubts as well.”

He said it quietly, matter of factly, without shame for which I will forever be grateful as I felt relief. After all, he had questioned and had lived to talk about it. There was yet hope for me.

He shared openly, asking me questions. I asked him questions and he gave answers. At the close of our conversation, he handed me a few books on the very topic of evolution. He suggested I read them, taking as long as I needed with them and to be sure to come back and let him know what I thought.

He never ridiculed me nor made me feel ashamed for questioning.

The books were marked and written in. I began to understand this man, our pastor, to be one who read and wrestled his questions out with God. But more so, I discovered a God Who was bigger than my questions and well able to handle my doubts.

And somewhere between my second and third book, I discovered I did indeed believe that God, my God, was the Creator of all things …

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.
He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation,
for through him God created
everything
in the heavenly realms and on earth.
He made the things we can see
and the things we can’t see -
such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and
authorities in the unseen world.
Everything was created through him and for him.
He existed before anything else,
and he holds all creation together.

(Colossians 1: 15-17, NLT)

I cannot say this was my only misfit experience. But it surely paved the way for this truth to be planted in my soul – my God wanted me to come to Him with my questions. He desires a good wrestling with me as He always would win, for His truth does prevail over any question I may raise.

Yes, you might be a spiritual misfit if you doubt and question God.

And it is in the wrestling match, our God transforms you into spiritually fit.

 

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Focus Determines Everything

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A few years ago, I read Calm My Anxious Heart by Linda Dillow. Every once in a while, I pull the book off my shelf and read a few pages. Today was one of those times …..

The Lord is my peace. I shall not live in anxiety. He puts me under His wing of comfort and calms my spirit within me. He takes all my anxieties on Himself and helps me to focus on Him. Yes, though I walk through a time of grave uncertainties and fierce anxieties, I will not fret – for You are my peace. Your Word and Your presence calm me now. You hold my uncertainties in the palm of Your hand. You sooth my anxious mind – You smooth my wrinkled brow. Surely serenity and trust in You shall fill me all the days of my life. And I shall keep my mind stayed on Your forever. (page 204)

“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! (Isaiah 26:3, NLT)

 

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Lessons From Family

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This week was a week of challenges – meeting them head on and overcoming them. I discovered God truly does deposit into us exactly what we need to meet the demands of each day. It was also such a good reading week and I could have shared more than five. I do believe I have it down to five:

1) We all love when our families come together. Multiple generations all at the same time. It is the perfect set-up for a family portrait. In this post, we discover taking a family portrait can reveal more than just our appearance. It may even reveal what we ordinarily would not have noticed.

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2) She watches as he struggles to get himself dressed. At less than three years old, he’s almost there but not quite. In this post, Janet discusses the fine line between God doing for us and at times, allowing us to learn on our own. You truly will not want to miss this touching post on what happens when we get stuck.

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3) As moms, there are lessons we want to pass on to our children. In this post you will find 25 life lessons this mom wanted her daughter to know if she were not here to tell her. This may be a starting point for us all.

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4) There are some lessons we learn best from observing nature. It can often be our best teacher. In this post, a little bird teaches a huge lesson in motherhood … “Sometimes, as moms, we can’t rescue our kids, but we can stay close and comfort them.”

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5) Helping children with learning disabilities can present challenges. In this touching post, Sarah shares what she tells her child. And what she tells herself during those hard days.

finish6) I have to include one more as I cannot leave this one out. Divorce. It has hit so many. In this transparent post, Michelle shares how she worked through a battle. More so, she teaches us all Who wants to go into battle on our behalf.

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Did you notice the common thread through each of these posts? —> Families. Families can present some of our greatest challenges. And some of our best lessons learned. So pull up a chair and your cup of coffee. Relax and stay a while.

Love,

Joanne

 

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Finish

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5minutefriday{{Today is Friday!!!  It is the day I link with Lisa Jo Baker for Five Minute Friday. Here is how it works…. One word prompt. Five minutes. No editing. Lots of women. We all write on the same word.})

Today the word prompt is …. Finish.

There’s no way to know for sure when it first hit, only that it did. The thought came I had now lived more of my life than what remains before me to be lived. It was as if the clock had thrown down the gauntlet. You know … challenged me.

The desire in me became increasingly greater to live bigger, braver and daringly. For Him.

I want to make the most of my remaining days not for myself but for His glory.

Scripture tells me,

And I am certain  that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
(Philippians 1:6, NLT)

With this assurance in place, I can trust Him to lead me in the very things He has for me to do. Each day, I can place my day in His hands, asking Him to give me the thoughts and words to share; to place people on my heart to call or write or pray for. He places people and opportunities before me, opening and closing doors.

As I have continued to think about finishing, and finishing well, I remember the song which has followed me everywhere for several weeks now. Down in my car, in my kitchen while I cook, this is the song which has been on repeat.

“Finish” reminds me of my Savior Who finished well and completely.

He has the last word over my life.

And His very last words were …..

“It is finished.”

 

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Take the Medicine

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I love when I open the page of  my devotional, no matter how many days have passed from the last time I read, and the reading is appropriate for that very day. The topic this morning was ….

Being cheerful.

It’s the easiest way for us to be when everything is coming up roses. When life is going the way WE would like. When we have everything we want. And none of what don’t.

It’s easy to be cheerful when life is perfect.

Let’s prick the balloon at this point as here is what I just fully and completely came to realize ….

Life will never be perfect. I know I am slow on the uptake. It took “Miss Happy” fifty seven years to come to this conclusion.

I have honestly found this last week to be depressing. There I said it. Not that I am depressed but I certainly have found myself to be less joyful. And then I read ….

Your heart and mind are intricately connected.
(from Jesus Lives by Sarah Young, page 80)

Here’s the point …. Intricately (according to dictionary.com) —>

  • having interrelated parts or facets; entangled or involved;
  • complex; complicated; hard to understand, work or make.

Our hearts and minds are so intricately connected which makes it totally perplexing and hard to understand the way they affect one another. But take it to the bank – they. surely. do!

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.” (Proverbs 17:22, NLT)

Being cheerful does not mean we take on the proverbial, “fake it to make it”. It means we put our trust in Who our God says He is and what He says He can do. We nip the downward spiral before we hit bottom. It means we do not let the negative thoughts take us farther away from the truths which God promises in His Word.

We ask Him to restore joy back into our hearts as we trust Him to ….

  • to bring job opportunities
  • to help us pass tests
  • to not get discouraged under demanding or unreasonable bosses
  • to give us the energy to deal with teething toddlers
  • to bring our dreams to fruition – mine and each one of yours
  • to provide a way out of situations where we feel stuck
  • to show us how to do “ministry” (youth and otherwise)
  • and yes, to relieve back pain
  • to bring healing to hurting hearts
  • to take care of the needs of the world around us

The truth is, while our circumstances may not change today, today is all we have and we will never live today again. So we might as well live it cheerfully. And honor Him. And bring Him glory. And trust Him.

Because if I am reading it correctly -

A cheerful heart is good medicine.

May we take a good dose today.

**This post is not negating the illness of depression nor the need for medication. It is addressing the occasional feeling of depression which everyone feels at times in life.

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