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Archive for April, 2014

Last year I had the privilege of attending the Women of Faith Conference with two friends. We boarded a tour bus  onshock Friday morning to travel to a large Pittsburgh arena where thousands of women would gather to sing, pray, weep and worship for 2 days.

About an hour and a half into our trip, someone in the back of the bus near where I was sitting  alerted the driver that there was smoke coming from the engine compartment at the rear of the bus. We happened to be driving through a populated area at the time with fast food restaurants and a strip mall which would have been a great place for a pit stop while the driver checked things out. He pulled over, got off the bus and walked around to the back to check it out. After making a phone call to the bus company, he boarded the bus and we were on our way again because there didn’t seem to be any apparent problems with the bus.

But within a half hour all of us in the back of the bus could see dark smoke wafting up the aisle in the bus. In the middle of nowhere along the Interstate highway, we pulled over again and the driver got out to check on things. He returned a moment later, pale and trying not to evoke panic as he told the ladies to get off the bus “NOW”  as he grabbed the firs extinguisher. Our bus was on fire!

We found ourselves standing  several hundred yards from the bus in a grassy area along the Interstate watching the drama unfold as the police and local fire departments arrived and motorists slowed down to see what was going on. Even Channel 6 News from Johnstown had shown up to do a quick segment on the “almost major bus disaster”. It probably would have been a more spectacular report if one of us would have been injured, but because no one even got a scrape and the bus didn’t explode,  it just got a very short clip on the evening news.  We had our 5 minutes of fame. LOL!

We waited by the side of the Interstate while the bus company sent a new bus, playing a get acquainted – gift exchange game, thanking the Lord that no one had been hurt. For that hour our conversation revolved around the incident as we retold our story to each other — “that our bus didn’t explode into flames; that we all got out safely; about the silly fun we were having waving at the passing cars;  wondering when our new ride would come so we could go to the bathroom; calling home to let family and friends know we were ok and when they could see us on the news….

As a matter of fact, the conversation for the entire rest of the two day trip was sprinkled with stories about our ill-fated bus and how we could have really been hurt…yada, yada. At first the conversation revolved around the facts of the incident and our feelings about what had happened. But as that first day progressed and we got into the wonderful worship of the conference, the references to the bus became less emotionally charged,  until we were actually making jokes about it and teasing our bus driver  on the way home Saturday night. The trip still comes up in conversation occasionally – like now – as I write this blog.

That’s because story-telling is a natural way to process the emotions evoked by serious  problems, fear or sometimes even excitement and joy. By repeating our stories over and over again to those who will listen,  it prevents the buildup of more toxic emotions like bitterness, hatred and panic that could cause us to have an emotional meltdown later.

Can you think of a time you felt so upset, frightened or even extremely happy that you  shared your story with everyone who would listen until you could process the event? How did it make you feel to share it?

 

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Like a skillful writer God is constantly weaving events and people into the stories of our lives. Sometimes we don’t even realize what he’s  doing as the interactions unfold, but later as we look back, we realize how richly God has blessed us through the people he brings across our path.

Danny Dog and Eggo the Chihuahua

Danny Dog and Eggo the Chihuahua

Several years ago, we wanted to adopt another dog after our family pet died. I began looking at local shelter and rescue organization sites and found a sweet looking boy named Danny. I think it must have been his name that attracted me along with his beautiful face since my husband’s name is also Dan.

We found out that Danny was being fostered  nearby so  We contacted his foster mom and made arrangements to see him and ultimately adopted him. From the first day we had him, he brought  a lot of joy into our home. End of story? No – not in God’s plan. We became friends with Danny’s foster mom – a wonderful Christian woman – and kept in touch to let her know how Danny Boy was doing. When I needed to go back to work, she gave me a great reference that was instrumental in helping me get  a job in one of the school systems as a substitute aide.

But the story doesn’t stop there.  Our Danny Boy became very ill with a cancerous tumor and died just a few weeks ago.  Our friend was also saddened by his passing. But she knew of our affection for dogs and within a few days had found

Daisy

Daisy

us a sweet Brittany girl named Daisy to foster  to fill the empty spot left by Danny’s passing.  Thank you, Susan, for allowing God to write you into the pages of my story so many times!

I could tell many more similar stories of people whose lives God wove into the story of my life that made a big difference on this journey. But as an added blessing, over the past few years, I’ve begun to hear from people I knew many years ago (Facebook and other social media have made the world a lot smaller!) who have told me how the Lord used me in their lives as well.

We never know how our lives will impact others. Sometimes they are only in our lives for a moment, for one small paragraph. Other times  our paths criss-cross many times, in many chapters.

Take time to remember these stories today and also to thank the Lord  for the richness he has added to our lives through these people. And while you’re at it, let them know how much they mean to you too!

 

*** Shameless plug LOL! Our Danny and Daisy both came from NBRAN (National Brittany Rescue and Adoption Network)  For more information on how to volunteer, make a charitable contribution or adopt a beautiful Brit, check out the NBRAN website! Who knows? Maybe God will weave you into the pages of someone else’s book through reading this story?

 

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In preparation for Easter, the youth class I teach started watching one of the early Jesus movies – The Greatest Story Ever Told – which was first1_115304_1 released back in the 1960s.  As the movie progressed, I began to realize something – the teens, especially those who had grown up in church, had a pretty good knowledge of the individual events portrayed in the film. But they didn’t seem to realize how all those stories were connected from the birth of Jesus until his death. It was like a light bulb turned on in their heads as they suddenly saw it as Christ’s whole life rather than just a bunch of unrelated stories!

Think about it – every child who grows up in Sunday School will hear the story of how Jesus was “left behind” by his parents at age 12. They go back and find him engaged in a theological debate with the priests in the temple. The lesson teaches the importance of “being about our Father’s business”  but have you ever wondered why that story was important in the whole picture of Christ’s life?

It’s there because it helps connect the birth of Jesus with his ministry and his ultimate death. Jesus wasn’t just born and never heard from again until he reached adulthood.  The story shows us He was the Son of God throughout his whole life.  But it also shows us that he had to go through  a period of growth and development just like we do to get to the point where he was ready to do God’s business.

Jesus had the knowledge as a young boy to debate with the priests,  but he wasn’t ready to be in full time ministry yet. He had more of life to experience  – like learning obedience and submission to his parents – like we  have to learn submission to God. If he hadn’t become obedient to his earthly parents at that point in his life, who knows what could have happened?

I can picture Christ praying in the Garden of Gethsemane just before his trial and crucifixion. “Father if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” And as he kneels there his mind flashes back to the experience in the temple when he debated with the priests as a 12 year old. He remembers his struggle as he must decide to submit and return home with his parents or to take his rightful place as a Bible teacher. After all, He was the Creator in the flesh and could have easily started his ministry then and there.

BUT HE CHOSE TO SUBMIT his will to the will of his parents. Perhaps that choice some 21 years earlier helped him  to submit to the eternal Plan of salvation as he faced shame and death on the cross. He really could have called 10,000 angels to destroy the world and set him free in that moment.

His life was a journey, like ours – full of individual events and memories. Each one  of these events and memories builds on the one before telling us a little bit more about who we are as a child of God and preparing us for the plans God has for us. We must look at our individual experiences as well as our  whole journey to get the full picture.

What kind of reader are you? Do you  look at the Bible as a collection of individual stories and life lessons? Or do you see it chronologically as a progression of  how God has dealt with man through the ages? Can you see the importance of both?

How do you read the story of your life? Is it a collection of vignettes or a saga of growth and development?

 

 

 

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How do you read a story?

Novels are meant to be read page by page because the stories follow a progression, each page building on the action, tension and conflict of the page before it. That tension is important to keeping the reader engaged in the story until the end where they will see the growth and change of the character. For most people, skipping around or to reading the ending first would spoil the story.

As a young reader, I developed a bad habit. Whenever I reached a point where the tensions began to mount too high for me, I skipped to the end. I had to be sure the hero or heroine would be ok before I could continue. It didn’t seem to dampen my enthusiasm for the story, but rather it enabled me to cope better with the mounting tension. After reading the ending, the rest of the story became a giant flash back, enabling me to see how the characters arrived at the end. I saw details I might otherwise have missed  in the rush to get to that breath of relief at the end.

Unfortunately for us, the story of our lives isn’t like that. God seldom offers us the chance to see how things will end ahead of time. There is no easing of tension in the middle of the action. We have to learn to trust him THROUGH the tension and conflict without being able to see the resolution.

But he does make ways to help us understand and cope with the tension that is causing us to grow and change. Sometimes in the midst of our trials, he will bring others across our paths who have gone through similar experiences. As they share their stories with us, we see a glimmer of hope  that we can and will make it through. Those “mentors” may come in the form of a Bible character or a counselor. It may be an ordinary person who has survived extraordinary circumstances.

God also gives us hindsight to help us through our difficult places. The older we get, the more we can look back on our own Christian walk and see how the previous chapters of our story have worked out. We can see how God orchestrated the events of our lives to make us who we have become. These flashbacks help to remind us of his love and power to keep, heal,  deliver and comfort us through the remainder of the journey. He allows us to see how we’ve grown and changed along the way. It’s one important reason to keep a journal rather than trusting our memory alone.

Best of all, he walks with us,holding our hand or carrying us when we can’t cope with the tension of our lives. It’s a lot like the Israelites’ journey through the wilderness – their circumstances weren’t comfortable or easy, but they always had God’s Spirit with them in the form of the cloud by day and fire by night as well as his provision – the manna. He offers us the same hope that we will eventually come to the Promised Land at the end of the wilderness journey. The Lord will always be with us in the middle of our life story.

We will get through by learning to walk with him in the present, to watch for the help he sends along the way  and to trust him with the outcome. After all, He is a masterful author.

Can you cite some examples of how God has walked with you in the middle of trying circumstances?

 

 

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