Sunday, September 29, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: "Jesus IS Coming.....Soon!"

Shortly after we moved to Mt. Vernon in 2001, I remember losing a bet with some friends over the Dallas Cowboys.  See, I never quite got over the Jerry Jones firing Tom Landry incident and hadn't been able to root for the Cowboys since February 26, 1989...the day Tom Landry was fired.  My penalty for losing the bet was I had to wear a sign, front and back, on the NE corner of I-30 and Hwy. 37 here in Mt. Vernon that said, "I Love Jerry Jones" for four hours one Sunday.  I was humbled....I was humiliated....I was thankful no one knew me in town.

A few Sundays ago, I crossed over I-30 and saw this man standing on that same corner holding a large hot pink sign that read, "Repent!  Jesus Is Coming!" I sat through half a green light to snap a photo of this brave....yes...B-O-L-D man standing there for the world of Mt. Vernon to see proclaiming a message he knew we all needed to see.  Did he lose a bet?  Or was he just betting we all needed to be reminded of this message?

As I sat there staring at the man with the hot pink sign, I couldn't help but wonder if I had his same boldness to tell the world "Repent!  Jesus Is Coming!".  Do I love my Jesus enough to share this news with the stranger stopped at the red light?  Would I be embarrassed that you, my family...would see me standing there practically begging you to "get it"? 

We are so quick to judge those who practice their faith different from us...and I'm first in the Guilty line, friends.  Before God and I became BFF's, if I saw someone in church lifting their hands in praise...totally moved by the Holy Spirit....I would be embarrassed for them.  If I heard someone yell out "Amen" during the sermon, I'd get a whiplash looking to see who said it.  What's interesting is, I was perfectly at-home lifting my arms at a football game or yelling out "YES!"" when a touchdown was made. Kinda makes you think, doesn't it?

But the closer I get to God, the bolder I'm becoming.  If I ask you if you know Jesus, it's not because I'm nosy, it's because I care what happens to you.  If I say I'll pray for you, it's because I long for you to feel God's arms wrapped tightly around you comforting you. If you see me lift my hands in praise, just know I'm boldly and humbly standing at the throne of God at that very moment, eyes closed, holding the hand of God.  I feel His breath on my soul and my emotions are so raw, they leak out my eyes.  I pray....I feel this too.
Jesus IS Coming...SOONER than you think.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: "White Space, New Chapters & The Thorn"

"....even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God, so to keep me from becoming proud,
I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.

Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. 
Each time He said, "My grace is all you need.  My power works best in weakness." 
2 Corinthians 12:7-9

I have often wondered what Paul's thorn in the flesh was.....a bad back?  Headaches?  Arthritic knee?  Does it really matter?  It makes him so real to me....him talking about this thorn much like we all have digging into our flesh.  Jesus' disciples rarely talked about things like this, but I am convinced God allowed Satan to place that burden on Paul (us), possibly to strengthen him, possibly to help him be a better preacher, better person, better example of God.  Wouldn't it be a waste of good paper here in 2 Corinthians if I didn't take that example on myself? 

"We miss the lesson when we pick at the thorn. 
The enemy would have us be so blind by the pain of the thorn that we can't see the beauty of the rose garden. 
Look past the thorn - His grace is enough for the thorn He chooses not to remove."


Sometimes.....I feel as though God allows my thorns to prepare me for a new chapter in my life now that I've caught my breath from the last chapter.  I'm not sure what the next chapter holds.....more Pain?  Hurt?  Disease?  Death?  Truth is, none of us know what the words on the next page says.....what lies around that next corner we can't see around....but we do know God is there standing next to the mess ahead of us.  It's scary and although I don't fear the future.....I want to slow down and approach it cautiously.  I want to be sure my hand is out for Him to grab and walk it out with me. 

"Father, whatever is around the corner for me, hold onto me....let me feel Your presence.  Open my ears so I can hear You my eyes so I can see You....just like the white egret flying over me right now.....circling....making sure Danger knows Your presence is there.  Step me out of the white page of the last chapter into the next chapter of unknown.  Secure my breastplate....strap my helmet on.....and lets do this together.  Amen."

Sunday, September 15, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: " "The Same God Who Led You In.......Will Lead You Out."

"In some way or other, the Lord will provide.
It might not be my way.  It might not be your way.
And yet in His own way, the Lord will provide."

In much the same way I tend to use our personal flood years ago as a measuring stick of time, we Americans will always use 9-11-01 as a means of measurement in the history of our lives.  Chuck and I had been married four years when September 11 occurred.  His Multiple Sclerosis had not yet taken over his body and we were enjoying life as much as I'd ever enjoyed anything.  Life was was safe....and we had no worries.

And then the clock ticked over to 7:46 am CT....

We remember what we were wearing....what we were doing....the confusion and shock we felt that beautiful sunny Tuesday morning that forever changed the way we look at the 11th day of September.  A notch in the measuring stick of time had just been created.  And we now worried about tomorrow.

Between the cloud of dust and debris, we saw America kneel and pray in desperation.  Prayers of protection and healing....of rescue from the evils of this world we wake up to each morning.  Many people prayed for the first time in their life that day....desperately needing to focus their blood-shot eyes somewhere other than the hole where there once were two skyscrapers:

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus.....
Look full into His wonderful face...

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.”

And I am reminded of my own bloodshot cried-out eyes from the Red Sea moments that have happened in my life over this same measuring stick of time. 

And although many lost their lives that fateful day, even more didn't.  They experienced a "Red Sea" rescue, much like the Israelites ..who, scared and fearful...grabbed their children and helped their elderly parents cross between the walls of water as the Red Sea was miraculously parted just for them.  They followed the path where only faith alone could walk, until they reached the other shore.

"The Lord will make a way for you where no feet have been before.
That which, like a sea, threatens to drown you, shall be a highway for your escape."
Charles H. Spurgeon

Sunday, September 8, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: "Can You Hear Him Whispering?"

Eighteen years ago when Chuck and I moved to the lake from Dallas, the only stores we were familiar with in Mt. Vernon were Brookshires, Vaughn's Catfish and the Exxon Gas Station.  Oh, and I almost forgot....a restaurant called Barnstormers with a cool plane hanging from the ceiling where McDonalds now sits.  It would be another 12 years before I realized we didn't live in Mayberry.....that there was another "side" of Mt. Vernon few of us knew about. 

Fast forward to 2014.  A single, young 22-year old local Librarian named Anna Hood was also noticing we didn't live in Mayberry.  She saw the kids who had no where to go after school hanging out in her corner of the square at the Library.  She befriended them...kept watch over them....taught them life lessons from the safety of the Library, and they fell in love with Ms. Anna.  She saw a need....she took a leap of Faith...and she opened The Bountiful House; a non-profit temporary after-school "home", complete with its very own family that included mentors, tutors, teachers and people like you and me just wanting to make a difference.  And because of her strong Faith and Trust in God, she never once asked for money.  Nope...not once.  And God always provided.

In the Spring of 2019, the Hilltop Baptist Church building located right smack in the heart of Mt. Vernon and across from where most of the kids live, was donated to The Bountiful House as a place to grow this little family, touch more lives and make an even bigger difference in the children of this sweet town.  I'll never forget driving up the road to the future "Bountiful Place" for the first renovation meeting two months ago.  I was expecting maybe 20 people....but the place was packed!   Volunteers filled the donated church to the brim!  Electricians, plumbers, concrete contractors, roofers, sheet rockers and general contractors were all sitting together ready to change the future of Mt. Vernon; all because one young Librarian had the Faith of a mustard seed.  I just couldn't stop smiling.

And neither could God.  Without His whispers continually on the hearts of many in this small town to donate their time, their pocketbooks, their skills and their hearts to secure the futures of our children in Mt. Vernon, this extensive project would not be happening.  It's in the whispers, friends...the same whispers that stilled the winds and the water...that whisper to our souls.

"He said to them, “Where is your faith?” They were afraid and amazed, and said to one another,
“Who then is this, that He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey Him?” 
Luke 8:25

Lean in.....can you hear Him whispering? 

Sunday, September 1, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: "Follow My Voice Back Home"

When Chuck and I purchased our first Garmin GPS many years ago, he felt sure he had unfolded his last giant paper map taking up real estate in the glove compartment. The Garmin was bright and shiny and he was the first of his friends to get one.  He smiled like an awkward-skinny-toeheaded little kid with a new GI Joe.

Our first trip with Felix....yes, we named the GPS....was in the motorhome headed to Florida.   Having Felix with us was like having a third member of the family that shared information only when we needed them to.  We felt so smart when Felix traveled with us.

Until we ignored his commands.  Then we'd hear, "Recalculating", "Make a safe and legal u-turn" and, maybe it was just my imagination, but it sure seemed Felix would take a bit of an "attitude" with us when we didn't take his suggestions. 

Truth is, we had agreed to put our trust in Felix on this journey and yet, decided midway to ignore him and go out on our own.  It's the same way with God.  We place our trust in Him....we listen to His directions...until...we come to a road that looks better than the route he has mapped out for us.  We think we know best, so we leave the safe road and choose our own way.  Before we know it, we find ourselves at a dead end; confused, scared, and we're frantically asking how to get back on the "right" road. 

And that's when everything has to be "recalculated". 

But here's the really awesome part of this story:  Although WE changed locations, God's location never changed and His voice will always guide you home when you ask Him....even when you make a wrong turn.  He will bring you home no matter how lost you matter how far you have roamed. 

Listen for His whisper to you...."Return to Me with all your heart....Follow My voice back home."