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Archive for March, 2011

I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer.
You are yourself the answer.
Before your face questions die away.
What other answer would suffice?

~ C.S. Lewis  ~

My husband tells the toddlerhood story of sitting in his high chair, kicking, swinging his legs and pushing himself backwards from the table. After a stern warning from his parents, he continued his antics, giggling like any small child would. Pretty soon, the chair crashed backwards, leaving him in an incredulous heap on the floor, looking up at his parents and asking, “Why didn’t you catch me?”

Looking back, he laughs. It was a pretty silly question to ask, one his parents didn’t bother to answer. his mom just gathered him up, sat him on her lap and rubbed his head until the tears stopped.

We like to ask the Lord all kinds of silly questions like that. When we sin, we wonder why He let us face the consequences of our actions. When we are feeling distraught, we wonder where He is and why He’s not right there holding our hands. When circumstances are painful, we wonder why He just doesn’t fix it so we don’t have to hurt.

But the truth is, He’s always there, in every situation, holding us, helping us, walking with us. We usually are in too much hurt to notice. Most of the time, even if He answered us, we wouldn’t pay attention to His answer because we were too busy feeling the pain and discomfort of the moment. So He sits quietly by, waiting for us to calm down and seek Him out.

I was always taught never to ask God the “why” questions. But the older I get, the more I understand it’s a part of the healing process to ask. Whether He answers or not, I need to ask.

If I don’t ask Him why when the bad things happen, I usually bottle up my pain, increasing the pressure, anger and bitterness I feel. I close up emotionally and build walls between God and me. Asking helps keep the lines of communication open between my heavenly Father and me.

Maybe that’s why we experience so much spiritual growth during the painful times of our lives rather than in the good times. We need Him when we hurt. We are more willing to draw near to Him – yes, even more willing to fume at Him. In some ways, we become consumed with Him, either by raging at Him or pouring all our energies into trying to ignore Him. We become hot or cold..

To ask Him  “why” and even to beat on His chest in our frustration allows us to vent those harmful feelings in a safe place – His arms. His chest is broad and His arms are strong. He can handle our emotional outbursts. Then when we’ve poured it all out, we can finally sense His embrace and the comfort of His beating heart, in the place where nothing else matters but Him. 

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Today’s In Other Words is hosted by Jennifer of Scraps & Snippets.

If you’d like to play along, post your response to the quote on your blog, then visit Jennifer’s blog and follow the instructions there for linking your blog.

Be sure to leave her a comment and take the time to visit the blogs of other participants. There’s a lot of inspiration here!

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I’m not sure why I thought about my friend Joan today. Something I saw online triggered the 44 year old memory of a summer Bible camp experience in Tennessee. Joan, a missionary to Brazil who was home on furlough, took me with her that summer for a two week  trip to the camp where I became a junior camp counselor.

I remember a lot about the camp – the big old wooden tabernacle, the cabins, learning to play Mancala as I sat on the wooden rockers that adorned dining hall porch, swimming in the pool,  the drive through the huge Smoky Mountains, visiting a small rural missionary-run Sunday School on the weekend and the two sweet ladies who taught there. All those memories came flooding back.

As I thought about the camp,  I wondered what had ever happened to my missionary friend. Well, you can find just about everybody online these days so I decided to Google her name. What a thrill as I found several articles about her and her work in Brazil!

Well, I got really curious then and decided to look on Facebook. I wasn’t sure she     would be on there since she was retired and  might not enjoy puttering around with computers. But, there she was! I knew it was her because her smile and eyes remained the same. Suddenly, I wanted to connect with her and let her know how much her life had meant to me. the very fact that she was willing to take me with her to camp even though I was just a young girl from one of her supporting churches at the time.

It was a long trip from southeastern PA to the Great Smoky mountains of Tennessee. At Bancroft bible Camp in Kingsport, TN, that summer, I remember the Lord ministering to me. I experienced my first miraculous answer to prayer on that long drive to the camp.  I know I grew spiritually that week. When I wanted to play games, Joan encouraged me to memorize scripture. When the week was up and I was supposed to return home, she found a way for me to remain there for another week. It cemented my heart’s desire to do ministry of some kind for the Lord when I grew up as I interacted with Joan and the children in the camp.

We never know who our lives will touch or where their paths will lead. But this I know for sure – it is like ripples on the surface of a pond. When we touch one life, that life touches others we might not ever come in contact with otherwise. If we fail to touch that one life, who knows how many opportunities for the spreading of the Gospel might be missed!

So thank you Joan for taking the time and caring enough to minister to a teenager so long ago!

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A trip to visit the family in central Florida isn’t complete without at least one      trip to the coast. Ahhhhh! The ocean. Smell the tang of salt water. Enjoy the breathtaking view of an expansive sea of aqua.

When I was a girl myself, we made an annual family pilgrimage to the Jersey shore. My father insisted an annual face full of the ocean water helped cure sinus problems. I had no fear of the ocean then and would wade out chest high in the water to play in the waves.

As I age, however,  my balance isn’t as good so getting beyond the rough breakers at the edge of the shore  is a little more difficult. I usually just content myself to stand in the shallows and watch the grandchildren bob on their floaties a little farther out.

I guess it’s the grandma in me- but I worry about them drifting too far down the shoreline or getting caught in a rip tide so I’m not always paying attention to the incoming waves. Inevitably I’ll get knocked off my feet by an unusually large wave because I failed to see it coming. Other times, I lose my footing because the receding waves shift the sand around my feet.

Life is a lot like that. There are predictable events which we can prepare for: the usual problems associated with child bearing, rearing and launching them into adulthood. We can see changes and expected challenges of each stage coming so we brace ourselves to maintain our balance against the shifting waves. We even anticipate the empty nest and can prepare for the impact of that wave. When we are paying attention to the signs of swelling waves, we are prepared for their impact and remain on our feet even though they buffet us.

But sometimes we get caught up in coping with everyday activities. At that moment an unexpected breaker sneaks in and slaps us silly, knocking us completely off our feet, maybe even hindering us from righting ourselves for a time as it ebbs and flows back out to sea. Sometimes one big wave follows another before we can even get our breath, keeping us off balance and causing us to spit and sputter from a mouthful of bitterness while we’re down.

Perhaps it’s the onset of a sudden illness or a devastating diagnosis. Accidents catch us off guard and cause us t flounder as we learn to cope with a new reality. Sudden death or loss from a natural disaster keeps us off balance and completely submerged in our grief for a time until we fear we will drown in our sorrow. These types of life events  catch us unawares and leave us floundering until we can regain our balance and ability to cope.

As Jesus faced his death on the cross, he tried to prepare his disciples but they still lost their spiritual footing for a time. Even though he walked with Jesus for three years and loved him deeply, John denied he ever knew Christ when questioned by those around him  during the early hours of the crucifixion drama. (Mark 14:30) Shortly after Christ’s death, the disciples scattered and hid for fear they would be next.

But the depth of relationship they had established with Christ through the years they walked with him became their lifeline – a way to be pulled from their sudden unexpected pain and sense of hopelessness. Jesus called himself the true vine in the book of John 15:1-8. By remaining attached to that vine even through the difficult and unsettling events of His death, they found the strength to regain their spiritual footing and become the leaders in the early church.

Life will often buffet us with unexpected trials and trauma. Though we can’t be fully prepared for some of life’s breakers, we can strengthen the cords that bind us to our lifeline, Jesus, so when we lose our footing in the waves, He can pull us up again!

For those who don’t know Him – when  the trauma comes, Christ offers His hand to pull you from the depths and help you stand upright again if you will only reach out and grasp it. He will pull you to safety, and strengthen your heart, bringing hope and spiritual health from the pain.

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I imagine the Israelites would have grumbled loudly at Friedrich Nietzsche’s statement as they wandered around in the wilderness for forty years. 

As they stared at the mountain called freedom that stood in front of them at the entrance to the land God promised, fear rooted their feet to the ground. They resisted taking the first step up the mountain on the road to the promise.

God knew they had to shed their slave mentality resulting from 400 years of oppression in Egypt before they would be ready to accept the rights and responsibilities of the new land He offered them.

That fateful day when they rejected the report of Joshua and Caleb of the wonders of their new homeland, God began a training program in the wilderness to strengthen them to climb to the heights of His promise. He never abandoned them, but lovingly, firmly and fairly guided them each day, training them until they had the power and the skill to reach the heights of faith and take hold of the promise.

Oh how I can relate to that! I sometimes look out over the valley and see how far God has brought me on my journey from fear to faith. On those days I’m thankful for His help.I can rejoice in the climb up this difficult mountain. But then i look upward to the peaks that still await me, shrouded in clouds. and my faith wavers. I know I’ll need a little more training before I’m ready to go higher in God.

Other days I realize I’ve been wearing a trench in the mountainside, traveling the same path around and around again, feeling like I’m not accomplishing anything in my Christian walk – the  old one step forward, two steps back feeling.

It usually means I haven’t mastered some necessary lesson  yet – some valuable insight I need to take my faith to the next level. But the temptation is there to rebel and rail against God for making me work so hard. After all I could have been there already on my own. LOL!

Thankfully, God in his wisdom knows what I still need to learn. He knows when I’m rested and ready to continue my climb and the lessons I need to master to continue. Today He’s training me to reach tomorrow’s heights and though I grumble, I know I’ll look back later and realize He was right.

Father, help me to be content in my journey – whether i;m climbing my mountains today or training for the next level tomorrow.

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“When we align our thinking with God’s,
we’re given a glimpse of what it’s like to see through His eyes.
When we’re able to view our storm from His perspective …
it changes everything.”

~ Be Still by Cherie Hill ~

Potholes! Every spring it’s the same thing here in Central PA. The ground freezes during the winter causing the paved roads to heave in spots leaving the less travelled secondary  roads with a wash-board feel. As Spring comes, the ground thaws and the pavement settles again, leaving gaping holes where the road used to be. Ah yes! That’s life in Central PA. LOL!

I think my car has an APS installed – an Automatic Pothole Sensor with a magnetic attachment which steers the wheels straight for those pesty potholes every time too. I’ve tried to have the mechanic remove it, but to no avail.

Ok – busted. I really don’t have a pot hole magnet installed on my car. I just don’t see them fast enough to avoid hitting them.  After hittinh several dozen potholes,  the tires begin to wear out unevenly and the axels want to pull toward the right or left. It won’t get better by itself either – at least once a year, we have to have to pay a mechanic to have  the car aligned.

I often find myself “out of alignment” with things of the Spirit as well. Unexpected storms  in life come, and when I hit those rough patches of my journey where the road seems to have heaved or gone missing and it jars me to the bone. I take my eyes off His path and find myself veering to the right or left rather than staying on the path. It causes a lot of emotional wear and tear on myself and everyone around me.

Thankfully,God’s a Master Mechanic and knows how to get me back on track, running straight and smooth.

Thank you, Lord for keeping me in good running order, on track and able to steer a straight path with your help!

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     Today’s In Other Words is being hosted by Debbie over at Heart  Choices. If you’d like to play along, simply blog about the quote on your blog site, then hop on over to Debbie’s site and leave a link so we can all visit your blog.

If you’d like, visit the other participating blogs and leave a comment to let us know you stopped by.

Blessings,

Bonnie

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“It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.”
~Francis of Assisi~

Many years ago, I was traveling down a dark path in my life, full of painful heart examination and recovery from difficult childhood events.  Whenever I came into church, our parishioners would be concerned that I wasn’t smiling.  A few of them were upset because I answered, “I’m okay,”  when they asked how I was doing. It seems they thought I should be beaming and answering, “I’m doing great in Jesus.”

At the time I battled within myself, putting myself down because I could no longer paste on the fake smile and lie  out loud saying, “I’m great today.” I had done that for years because I thought I had to be strong as a pastor’s wife, always putting on the appearance of overcoming, whether I felt like it or not.

Not so.  By merely pretending to be happy and strong,  I was preaching a false message, modeling  outward self-sufficiency, a dangerous grin-and-bear-it type of life that had no basis in faith.  No I’m not advocating that we go about moping all day, spreading gloom and doom everywhere we go. But there is a place for the honest expression of our weaknesses.  And the church should be a safe place where we sense the support and care of our brothers and sisters, not putting on pretenses.

What I learned over time was to  admit my weakness. It allowed others  the opportunity to hold me up in prayer. Plus, it gave them the up close and personal opportunity to watch as Christ lifted me up out of that pit. In my weakness, the faith of those around me became strong. As the healing came through their prayers and through a deepening dependence on my Lord, I learned to be open and honest.  I grew in my ability to trust and rest – real big issues for me! I didn’t always need to be strong.

The wonderful thing about Jesus is that even when my steps falter through weakness, failure, hurt or fear, my walk can still preach volumes of  His truth to others. It is when I give up and don’t struggle to walk at all  that I have truly failed Him. I don’t always need to be strong, but I do need to be seeking Him. That becomes the greatest truth I can reflect in my daily walk.

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Thanks to Tami Boesiger for this great In Other Words  quote today. Be sure to visit her blog at The Next Step. If you’d like to play along, blog about the quote on your site, then visit Tami to add your link to her site. Be sure to visit the other blogs to read their take on today’s quote and leav them a coment to let them know you visited.

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I have a special pair of earrings, given to me by a missionary friend that I wear sometimes when I write or when I pray. They were made by the women of Teen Challenge in Bombay India, many of which were rescued from sex trafficking in the brothels of Bombay’s red light district.

Many of these young women were stolen from their families at a young age or promised a better life in the cities, then forced to become prostitutes in the slums and brothels with no hope of ever working hard enough to “repay” the debt for their food and clothing. Through the compassionate gifts of Christians worldwide, a small percentage of these young women have been rescued out of the terrifying clutches of sexual predators, and given a life of hope in Christ. They are given skills to live, giving their lives meaning, purpose and dignity again through the love of Jesus. But there are so many more hurting and in need out there….

Another gift I received is a yellow head covering like women might wear in the Middle East. That scarf was given to me in a special service  where we experienced  s mock trip to the middle east. We  boarded a “plane,” faced questioning in customs, walked  through crowded streets where everyone tried to sell something including young girls and finally received scarves and head coverings as we sat to  listen to several missionaries sharing their middle eastern experiences.

My dear friend Kathy is a missionary to a tribe in Africa. She has sent me several necklaces made by her dear people who have come to know the Lord. I love her stories  of her trips into the bush of Africa to minister to them through her limited medical training as a nurse and about their love for Jesus.

Sometimes when I pray or sit down to write,  I “dress up” in my gifts.  The connection to those represented by these gifts is often so strong, I begin to weep. I see two pictures – one a loving Christ who weeps as He holds the broken, battered body of a misused woman or girl and the other of a Savior with fire and anger flashing in His eyes for those who would care so little for humsn life. Not only do I pray for them, I want to do whatever I can to help.

No, there’s nothing magical about the earrings, the scarf or the necklaces that makes me write better or helps me pray better. But they are a visible, palpable reminder of the women I want to help through my writing and praying.  Touching or wearing those items helps me to know the reality of their needs and their tenuous situations. Real women made those items – real women with hurts and needs greater than mine.

Today I’m praying for you too – that God will enhance your prayer experience and place a burden on your heart to stand in the gap for those who are hurting and beaten down by life. What will remind you to pray for them?

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