I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
It was Labor Day Weekend of 1983 when I first pulled into this driveway with Jim. I had flown up from Atlanta to spend the weekend with Jim and to see where he grew up. As soon as we pulled up into the driveway, the door flew open with his mom and dad running out to greet us. This particular weekend was only the beginning of many years of experiencing a home with doors that were open to all. A home that was full of laughter and love.
This past week Jim and I walked through this home and the yard one more time. The rooms that were once full of furniture are now empty. Jim’s dad passed away earlier this year and his mom has moved to a condo. The house is in the process of being sold. As we walked into each room, tears filled our eyes. In the kitchen, we recalled the aromas of many meals Jim’s mom had prepared not only for the family but for friends and strangers who soon became dear friends. Throughout the house there were echoes of children playing, people laughing and you sensed the walls were saying: loved was lived out here.
Before leaving, we walked out to the barn and to his dad’s garden spot. Although Jim’s dad did not feel well, he had planted a garden last year. Jim and I reflected on how much we enjoyed the tomatoes his dad had grown and how they tasted even better last year because we knew his dad had to crawl on his hands and knees to pick them for us. All around us we saw nothing but love and the labor of love put into action.
Jim and I slowly got in the truck. As we pulled out of the driveway one last time with tears in our eyes. We took each other’s hand and looked at one another knowing that his dad would want us to press on toward the goal and continue to share this legacy of love and grace with others.
All of us experience the ending of one chapter and the task of beginning a new one. These transitions are not always easy. However, we must know that it is all a part of God’s plan and it is all a part of our journey to our eternal home. May we press toward the goal of Christ Jesus.
‘I realize that there’s nothing better for them to do than to be cheerful
enjoy what is good in their lives.
Over the summer, I have done very little writing. Instead, I have found myself reflecting of years past and absorbing the moments given to me each day. As I grow older, time moves even faster. This song, “You’re Gonna Miss This” resonates and reminds me of how fast time flies by. I have found myself making it more of a priority to enjoy the people around me and the creation around me. Deadlines and clean houses can wait if there is an opportunity to soak up a moment that will never come back. I want to capture that moment when I see a butterfly resting on my butterfly bush, or the hummingbirds fighting over who has a turn to get the nectar out of the feeder.
I love the quote; “don’t get caught up in making a living to the point you forget to make a life.” The world is at a faster pace than it has ever been. It is so easy to get caught up in what we are doing and what is going on that we forget to stop and absorb the moment.
Capturing every little moment you can became very real and clear for me over the past holiday season. My father-n-law had cancer and was in a decline with the battle. We were at my sister-in-law’s for Thanksgiving dinner and as the family began to get up from the table and start clearing, I looked across the room and there sat Jim’s dad. He had a smile on his face and I could tell he was soaking up every little detail, every word said and simply savoring the moment to the fullest. He did not want to miss a thing. It is an image that will never escape my memory or my heart.
As I sit on the front porch of the Butterfly House at Lake Junaluska, I share and update Mom on the people I have re-connected with from our days gone by. I share how some of the ones I grew up with are now raising kids, have kids in high school/college, and/or becoming grandparents and retiring. Mom says; “it seems like you all ought to be loading up in the car heading to the school for a dance, band practice or a game.” Yet, we are the ones sitting on the sidelines like our parents and grandparents would do cheering our children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews on. Just as the Steve Miller lyric says; ” time keeps on moving, moving to the future.”
As time moves forward, I am reminded of the days when I was a kid and wanted to grow up so fast. Sadly, the world is a hurried place. We rush from here to there. It is easy to get frustrated when the demands of every day living and survival are in over drive. However, it is in these moments when we need to stop. We need to look around and tune our hearts to God’s voice. It is when we do this we find peace in a hectic world and we see blessings all around us.
Are you overwhelmed? Frustrated? Seek God. Listen to God. Know that every moment that takes place is a snap shot that will never come again.
Have a blessed day!
My Dearest Little Andrew,
Today, you were out riding your tricycle and having so much fun. I remember when you got your tricycle earlier in the year for your third birthday. You were so excited to learn how to ride it.
Drew, you were so cute. You would fall off but you would not get discouraged but would brush yourself off and get right back on and try again. By the end of your first week, you had mastered riding and you were so proud of your accomplishment. Yet, there wasn’t a place on either leg that didn’t have a bruise or a band-aid.
Son, in life there will be many things you will have to learn. Hopefully, you will tackle these learning experiences with the same determination that you had in learning to ride your tricycle. There will be bruises, cuts, and obstacles. As these bruises, obstacles, and cuts come along in learning remember to keep your eyes on the goal before you. Life is about trying and keeping the right determination to fulfill your calling by God. Always keep Christ in your heart and listen to the voice of God. Whatever you do, don’t ever give up!
Andrew, I give you this advice because I love you. I am proud of you. God has a special plan for your life.
(Letter originally written May 6, 1990)
There are times in life when we are striving to reach our goal/our calling. Yet, the bruises, cuts and obstacles come our way. It is so easy to want to throw our hands up in the air and just give up. However, if we keep Christ in our heart, keep our eyes opened to God working and walking with us, the obstacles won’t be as bad as we think. Remember, it is the obstacles in the trying and living life where God is carving us into more of his likeness. Life comes with challenges. God carving us into His likeness. How beautiful!!
“Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize
for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. “
“Yet you LORD, are our Father.
We are the clay, you are the potter;
we are the work of your hand.”
I encourage you to take time to reflect on these scriptures. Have you experienced cuts, bruises and obstacles in achieving your goal/calling in life? Give thanks to God for these experiences and acknowledge He is at work in carving you into something beautiful. Journal your thoughts on the scripture and ask God to help you stay focused on the prize before you.
“In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” Isaiah 30:15
“Just one moment.” “The computer is running slow right now.” “I’m sorry your order is taking so long.” “The cook is backed up in the kitchen.” Why is it when we are in a hurry it seems that is when things run slow or we get comments such as these from the person who is trying to help us. All the while we become anxious, look at our watches and cringe because this one little snag is going to affect how our the rest of our day/evening will go.
You experience a life altering event(s) in your life. Things happen that are beyond your control but you have to deal with it as well continue working through the responsibilities/commitments that are already set. It seems everything happens all at once. You get out of one crisis yet to face another immediately after.
Since the beginning of this year. I have lived through and living through both of these scenarios. Up until a couple of weeks ago, I was not the most fun person to be around. I was getting frustrated because I couldn’t do all that was before me. My head began spinning to the point I could not even process all that was coming at me. In the midst of all of it, I knew in my heart God was there but I still felt distant from him.
Not only was I feeling this frustration but Jim as well as feeling a bit frustrated. So many events have happened in both of our lives that he even struggled with how to prioritize. He was working long days at work and then coming home to address issues that life was dealing out to us.Thus, causing him to have long nights and little sleep. Jim was trying to be more than one person to more than one person. He got to the point of exhaustion that his co-workers were even becoming concern for his well-being.
Then, the latter part of May, Jim and I packed the car and headed out on a much-needed vacation. Our plans for our trip were we had no plans. Our destination was the beach and nothing else mattered. We just wanted to be quiet and get away from all that life had been dealing out to us. It was our time and our time to connect back with each other and God.
During this week of vacation, Jim and I simply did nothing. In our own ways, we became still and tuned our ears and hearts back to God. This was a time where we sought renewal and rest.
Life happens. Maybe right now you are on a treadmill that just won’t stop. It feels as though everything and everyone is coming at you at once with some sort of need. Yet, you feel like you can’t stop and you have to keep going.
The world we live in today seems to put the persona on us that we have to be superhuman. We are to be able to meet all sorts of deadlines, do more work with fewer people, in smaller blocks of time, and sometimes for smaller amounts of money. We are to be more than one person to more than one person. It seems that we have to give ourselves permission to be still.
Since our trip to the beach, Jim and I both have become more mindful of the importance of simply being still. We have come to realize that we don’t need permission to be still. It is in the stillness where we re-connect with our Father and allow him to give us the strength to take on anything life or anyone gives us.
Over the last couple of weeks during my quiet time, the song by the Eagles; Learn to be Still keeps coming to mind. This morning, I sat down and not only listened to the lyrics but looked up the lyrics and read them to myself. One lyric that stuck out to me was this:
“Now, the flowers in your garden
They don’s smell so sweet
Maybe you forgotten
The heaven lying at your feet-“
We are all familiar with the phrase; “stop and smell the roses.” Unfortunately, over the last few months, life was happening so much I was not stopping to smell the roses. In other words, I was not sitting still in the presence of God and counting my blessings.
It is so easy for us to get caught up in all that is happening to us that we pray to God. We know God is there but we are not connected with him because we simply will not allow ourselves to be still. Thus, we miss the simplest of blessings that he has planned for us. It is being in the stillness we not only experience God but we experience a little bit of heaven.
In the last few weeks of intentionally being still and connecting with God, the things that life continues to throw at Jim and me don’t seem to be as overwhelming. Instead, we do what we can, count our blessings and seek and experience God’s presence and his heaven here on earth.
So, the next time you are in one of the above scenarios of waiting try not to become anxious of how it is going to affect the rest of your day/evening. Instead, take it as a message from above that maybe you just need to be still for a few minutes. Take that time to send up a breath prayer to God, observe what is going on around you, and be in tuned to God’s voice. It is in those moments of stillness you are going to experience “the heaven lying at your feet.”
How about it? Are you ready to Learn to be Still?
Listen to the video below:
This is one of the most memorable Presidential speeches in our American history. I still get chills today when I hear or think of this speech because of what happened as a result. A wall had been erected in 1961 to divide Communism from democracy during the Cold War. A symbolic division among governments and beliefs.
This week I completed the study on Nehemiah by Kelly Minter with my small group. If you are familiar with Nehemiah you know that the Jews had been in exile in Babylon. It is seventy years later and the King is allowing the Jews to return to their homeland. They return to only see that their city had been destroyed and the wall that had once surrounded their city was torn down.
Nehemiah was so heart-broken when he heard the news about Jerusalem. He prayed to God and sought God’s guidance. He gave up the comfortable life he had been living to go back to Jerusalem to re-build the wall and city. Yet, there would be a day when a Savior would come and tear down that very wall.
Walls. Walls are barriers. In a home they divide the rooms and each room has a purpose or belongs to a certain member or members in the family. When someone is building a home it there is usually great anticipation when the walls begin going up. Anticipation takes place because the house is beginning to come together.
Though walls in a physical home are needed, there are walls among family members, friends, neighbors, congregations, communities and the list can go on that are unnecessarily built. These walls divide God’s people today. Friendships and families have been broken because of walls that were built because someone could not see eye to eye. Walls have been built to the point congregations split because of differences in opinion.
Anytime, I see disagreement or experience disagreement, it breaks my heart. It breaks my heart because I know that is not the way God wants us to live. Just as the wall came down in Berlin and people were re-united, God wants us all united together for his kingdom. Thus, this is why he sent his Son, Jesus. Jesus came to tear down walls and to show us the freedom, the joy, and the peace we receive when we choose to tear down the walls that divide us.
I grew up a United Methodist and I still worship in a United Methodist church. A few years ago the United Methodist Church wrote a new campaign for our church; Open Hearts, Open Minds and Open Doors. It is the church’s way of tearing down walls that may prevent people who are hurting, in need of God’s love and are searching to enter the doors of the church. In other words, we want to meet people where they are on their life’s journey. It doesn’t matter who they are, how they are dressed or the economic status but what matters is that the church wants the person to know they are loved and the church is a place where they can come and experience God and grow in their faith journey. (You can see the video of this campaign on the right side bar of this page).
Today, there may be a wall that has been built between you and another person. You may not know why that wall was built. Or, it could have been built because of a misunderstanding of some kind. A wall could have been built because of a difference in opinion.
No matter how that wall was built, it is time to tear down that wall! It is time to place the situation into God’s hands. Seek forgiveness from God and from the person(s). Invite Jesus to come into the situation/circumstance and ask Him to help you tear down that wall!
Remember what it was like when the wall was torn down in Berlin? There was much excitement and celebrating. There were some families that were united and freer to see each other. You could see great joy as it was shown on television.
Isn’t it time for you to experience a new freedom? Isn’t it time for you to experience that joy? Take your wall to God. Allow him and His Son, Jesus to take that wall down brick by brick. Trust me, if you do this, you will find a freedom and joy in your heart that outweighs the bitterness and hurt that takes place when walls are built.
What do you say? Tear down the wall that divides. Experience joy and peace!
In the summer of 1994, the movie, Forest Gump was released and became an instant hit. As the movie opens, you see Forest sitting on a park bench in Savannah, Georgia waiting for a bus. As he waits he begins to tell people who sit down with him his story. Thus, the movie/ his story begins to unfold before our eyes. At the end of the movie, we see a gentleman sitting with him listening to Forest complete his story. When Forest reveals who he is the gentleman has a hard time believing that he has been sitting with the owner of Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. It is beyond this gentleman’s comprehension.
Thinking about this scene makes me think of the morning in the garden when Mary goes to the tomb of Jesus. She is upset because Jesus is not in the tomb. She wants to know where he has been taken so that she can care for his body. A gardener appears before her and speaks to her. At first this person is a stranger to her but then her eyes are opened and she realizes it is Jesus.
Later two disciples are walking on the road to Emmaus talking among themselves. Can you imagine the conversation they were having with one another? I am sure they were in somewhat of a surreal state of mind. They were asking if they had actually seen/experienced what they had seen in the past days. They simply wanted to make sense out of all that happened.
We have all had those surreal moments where we ask, did what happen just happen? Yet, in the midst of their conversation, a stranger comes up to them and ask if he can join them on their walk. Of course, the stranger is welcomed and the two men begin to tell what they had experienced in the days past. The stranger listens intently to their story.
Next scene, the stranger is welcome to join them for dinner. It is when the bread is blessed and broken that their eyes are opened. They see first hand that what had been prophesied was for real. Christ had risen and he was right there before them.
Many times on my Facebook wall, I will post what I call April’s Random Thoughts. It is in these thoughts I encourage my friends/readers to stay in tuned to God’s voice because you never know where you will encounter Him throughout the day. It is when we stay in tuned to God’s voice with an open heart and mind we discover that we will experience Christ in something we do during the day. Or, we experience Christ through a person that is put in our path. In other words, we can be sitting on a bench and listening to someone’s story and as they finish up and move on, we realize that we had encountered Christ, one of His ambassadors and/or one of God’s angels.
Starting today, I ask that you approach each day with an open heart and mind. Ask God to reveal himself to you throughout the day. Be aware of his presence in ALL that you do. If you do this, you will see and experience Christ in ways that are beyond comprehension!
Keep your eyes open!
We’re here! Were the words my father spoke to the security guard standing out in the Nation’s Capital drive area. You see, my family was on vacation to see the sites of Washington, DC and to visit with my aunt. After many long hours of riding and my brother begging my dad to stop and talk to a sign from time to time (the fast food drive-thru), we arrived in DC at the peak of rush hour!
It was like a scene from European Vacation
As my dad tried to navigate through the metro area of DC, he was quick to learn that streets and lanes change to accommodate the traffic. After many u-turns and barely missing a few flower beds, Dad thought he had reached a parking area or at least where he could find some sort of direction. Thus, pulling up to our Nation’s Capital and dad rolling down the window to announce the security guard that we had arrived. The look on the security guard’s face was priceless. Looking back, this real life adventure reminds me of the movie, European Vacation where Clark and family keep going in circles in the round-about.
A Simple Trip To The Mall
This incident was many to come as we vacationed in DC that summer. Dad noticed that one of our tires was in bad shape when we arrived at my aunt’s condo. The decision was made that we would take the car to a Sears the next morning to get the tire fixed. How hard would that would be and how long could it take? After all, Mom and I could do a little shopping and the guys could hang out and look at tools. Then, we would be on with our site seeing of Washington. WRONG!
Dad, Mom, my brother and I loaded up the car for the day. We are heading to Sears to get the tire fixed. Dad had found out where the closest Sears was and off we went. As we traveled the interstate to Sears, Dad saw the mall coming up on his right side. He was sure the next exit would take us to the right destination. WRONG!
Yes, we were back in that scene from European Vacation with Clark and family stuck in the round about. Dad would take an exit and then turn around. For a while we were up and down the interstate seeing the mall and all we could do is wave at it as we passed. I don’t quite remember how Dad finally figured out how to get to the mall but we made it. The tire was fixed. Mom and I shopped. Then, we were off to see the sites of Washington, DC.
Mom Reads The Wrong Sign
After a day of site seeing, we returned to my aunt’s place to clean up and go somewhere nice for dinner. My aunt would be in meetings that evening so we thought a night out on the town would be fun. Mom had found a travel guide of places to eat in Washington. She had read about one that she thought we would all enjoy. Again, we load up the car and off to a nice dinner we go. As we pulled out of the drive of my aunt’s place, Dad asked Mom where was this restaurant was located. She read off the directions and said it will be on “M” street. Dad goes in the direction of where this place was to be located. As we began to travel to our destination, Dad told Mom to look for “M” street. Suddenly, Mom says; there’s M Street. Yes, it was a sign that said “M” with an arrow pointing in a direction. However, it was not getting us to our destination. Instead, we arrived in the roughest part of Washington, DC. Needless to say, my dad did not roll down his window this time and announce our arrival but only to put the pedal to the metal to get us out while my brother and I ducked down in the back seat in fear of our lives. You see, the “M” Mom was seeing was the sign directing you to the Metro stops.
Once Dad got us out of a dangerous area, he looked at the city map and navigated our way to the planned destination. After fearing for our lives and taking wrong turns, we arrived to the restaurant for the dinner we had anticipated an hour earlier. Needless to say, Dad pretty much let us order whatever we wanted on the menu that evening.
Our Journey in Life
So many times in life, we forget that God is in control. In our effort to get to where God wants us to be we take the wheel in attempt to get to the destination he has set for us. As a result, we arrive but not at the intended destination.
There are times in life where we see where we need to be but we keep passing it by. In other words, we keep going in circles seeing where we need to be but we just seem to not be able to get there. We are stuck in the round about.
Along with wanting to take the wheel, and getting stuck in the round about, we think we see a sign that is telling us that is where God wants us to go. Yet, after following the sign, we find ourselves maybe not in a dangerous place like my family in DC but we arrive anywhere but where God intended us to be.
As a teacher I once worked with use to say, God has a plan. It is a good plan. He has a plan for our path. Thus, we have to pay attention to his guidance. Proverbs 3: 5-6 tells us:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in ALL your ways submit to him.,
and he will make your paths straight.
In other words, there is no need to have to make u-turns, drive through flower beds and end up in dangerous areas in our life when we give God full control of our lives. Each day when we get up we need to get our map (bible) and ask God to direct our paths for the day. We have to pay attention to his leading every second of the day and watch for signs. It is important that we pay attention to his voice within because he will tell us if we are about to take a wrong turn.
Yes, there are times when we will forget God is in control. We are going to make wrong turns. It is my prayer that we don’t end up in a dangerous situation. However, we all know that there are people who have landed in a bad place because they did not allow God to lead them. It is in these times, when we need to pull up to the security guard (God) and let him know; we’re here and allow him to guide us back into the right direction.
The Rest of the Story
My family and I did enjoy our vacation to Washington, DC that summer. I can say that it was one of the most memorable vacations we took except the one trip to Florida one summer. However, that is for another day.
Disclaimer…Please note that this trip was taken many years ago before GPS and guys would not dare ask for directions.
A New Day
This video/song seems to be the new rage at this moment. It is easy to see why it is catching on and why people like it so much. As you listen to the song, you will find yourself tapping your toe, dancing in your seat and if you are not careful humming it under your breath hours after you have listened to the song.
As I listen and watch this video this morning, I turn to Psalm 68:3.
But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God;
may they be HAPPY and joyful.
For those of you who are Peanuts fans, you are familiar with the drawing of Charlie Brown and Snoopy with the saying;
Happiness is warm puppy.
Yes, I can see how happiness is a warm puppy. My precious Smokey brings me happiness every day. Yet, there is more to happiness than a warm puppy. Happiness is seeking joy in ALL things that life brings us.
There are situations/days where we feel anything but happy. The times in life where we wish we could just runaway and hide. We want to go back to bed and pull the covers over our head and simply escape from the day/situation. We have all been there a time or two. However, it is on these days where it is essential to seek happiness and find the joys.
How do we find happiness on the days we just want to go back to bed and pull the covers over our heads? We must seek the blessings. It is in these moments when we have to fine tune our hearts to hear God’s voice and open our eyes a little wider to see the blessings he puts in our path. Instead of staying in bed, we must get up and start singing praises to God. It is when we do this that the situation before us seems to get a little easier to handle. After all, God has woken us up and given us one more day.
Over the years, when I have known people going through tough times, I have encouraged them to begin a blessings journal. In this journal I encourage them to write down five blessings from that day. When I began encouraging people to do this I suggested the end of the day. However, over the years, and after doing this several times myself in tough situations, I have found doing the blessing journal twice a day is good. In other words, start out the day seeking and acknowledging the blessings God is already giving us as we begin our day. Then, at the end of the day, write five more blessings that we experienced throughout the day. It has been my experience that once a person gets going with this blessings journal they will begin to exceed the five blessings. Thus, no matter the situation we can face it with a joyful heart.
I love Psalm 118:24;
This is the day the LORD hath made;
Let us REJOICE and be glad in it!
God gives us each new day. In this new day, he has blessings planned for us in ALL situations and in ALL that we do. If you haven’t already, start beginning your days by singing praises to God. It is when you do this you will feel happy and want to clap along. After all, it is a new dawn; a new day; it’s a new life and you should be feeling good no matter your circumstance.