While on a Treadmill…

white-male-1856182_1280On a recent rainy Saturday, I headed to the gym and slipped on my headphones. Sometimes, to distract myself from the boredom of the treadmill (just being honest here!), I watch Netflix. Sometimes, I watch a sermon. I chose a sermon that day and started streaming one by Francis Chan It was a great talk on obedience and sacrifice, delivered in his usual way—disarmingly casual, surprisingly funny and always in-your-face challenging. But on that Saturday, it wasn’t a sermon by Francis Chan that renewed my resolve to trust in our loving lord. It was, of all things, an ad for the movie “Hellboy.”

Since I’m not an aficionado of those movies, I can’t tell you which sequel Hollywood is offering this month. What I can tell you is that, as I began to jog along on a noisy sweat machine, the flat screen TV in the corner of the room caught my eye. There in poster-like fashion, bold against a brightly colored background, was this announcement:

ON APRIL 12, OUR FATE IS IN HIS HANDS.

I had to laugh. I was about to spend 30 minutes listening to what would unquestionably be a fantastic sermon by a well-known pastor, but nothing was going to stick in my mind that day like those few words. Because, of course, on April 12th, and every other day as well, our fate IS in his hands. (I hope you’ve figured out by now that I don’t mean the hands of Hellboy!)

Those words are one of the keys to our walk of faith, the reason we can be at peace no matter what is going on around us. Our fate is in the hands of the Lord who loves us. Not in our hands. Not in the hands of any enemy or even in the hands of a loved one. In HIS hands. Ultimately, at all times, whether we see it or not, our Lord is at the helm. And isn’t that the most wonderful news?

So, on April 12th, and on every day thereafter, I hope you will join me in remembering—perhaps with a bit of a chuckle over the source of these words—

OUR FATE IS IN HIS HANDS!! Care to comment? Just click here.

Photo by pixabay

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Sandy

puppies sandy jametiene Reskp via unsplashI want to tell you a story. It’s an old one, but I was astonished to discover that I’ve never shared it here before. Last week a friend asked, “Have you ever had a dog?” and it all came back to me…

Our children were small, and our first dog, Springer, was very old. We’d heard that getting a new dog while the old one was still relatively healthy would be good for old and young alike. So, one sunny Saturday morning, we put a new leash, an old water bowl and two very excited kids into our minivan and headed out for a long drive to the pound. The experience was not what we expected.

  • Disappointment number one: most of the dogs available that day were chow mix, and the ASCPA would not allow any family with children to adopt them.
  • Disappointment number two: the adoption process had changed in the decade and a half since we’d gotten Springer. It required extra paperwork, an evaluation process, and a second trip weeks later to pick up the selected puppy. I understood their reasons, but I can still see Tony, standing there forlorn, with leash in hand, asking, “Do you mean we won’t get to take home a puppy today?”
  • Disappointment number three: the only puppies available were going to grow up to be big dogs, very big dogs. (Somehow, this didn’t seem to bother my husband, but this was not our agreed upon plan.)

As disappointments mounted, my enthusiasm waned. Tony, Elizabeth and I were shown to a small cubicle where we could play with the most likely canine candidate while Steve filled out forms. And then, I kid you not, I got dizzy—like “I think I might pass out” dizzy. Steve had to be called to the cubicle so I could step outside for some air.

I sat out on the curb with my head on my knees. As I waited for my head to stop spinning, I prayed that God would intervene. A few minutes later, confident that the risk of passing out was gone, I looked up and saw a most beautiful sight. There in the parking lot, a woman was walking away from her car, carrying a basket of tiny tawny puppies. I stepped into what felt like a God-orchestrated Disney screenplay.

“Excuse me, ma’am, are you about to take those puppies into the pound?”

“What kind are they? How big do you expect them to be?

“Would you mind waiting just a minute?”

“Steve, would you and the children come out here. I’d like to show you something.”

“Would you two kids like to take one of these home with you today, right now?”

“You can reach into the basket and choose the one you want.”

And so, we did. Sandy was perfect—the right size, the right demeanor, just what we needed. She was still with us long after our kids grew up and moved out. She became another living example of God’s grace, of how he cares so very much about even the small “worldly” details of our lives. I’m thankful for Sandy. And I hope her story encouraged you today!

Photo by jametiene Reskp via Unsplash.com

A Simple Life

photo-1510333337682-fdd0eba357a4 Robert Nyman UnsplashI attended a women’s conference a few weeks back. I had my notebook ready, and captured all sorts of wise words and valuable lessons. One stood out from all the rest.

“Someone asked the question, ‘What are you doing with your life?’
The answer I heard was, ‘I’m following Jesus. How about you?’”

Is life really that simple?

Yes, I think it is. My college chaplain used to say, “Few things are necessary, really only one.” (More about that here.) Our one thing is following Christ. Simple doesn’t mean easy, though. In order to follow Jesus, we have to see where he’s leading us. That requires time and effort and a good deal of going against the flow of our culture. It takes:

Knowing him: spending time in prayer, taking time to read the Bible, immersing ourselves in teaching about who he is and what his will looks like.

Listening to him: limiting distractions that crowd out his still small voice with clamor and confusion, asking him to speak and looking for his leading.

Opening ourselves to others: letting true fellowship take the role of godly counsel at times when we aren’t sure what following Jesus looks like.

Stepping out in faith and courage: taking action in some situations, while waiting patiently in others. When we don’t yet know the path that’s right, and can’t keep waiting to make a decision, we have to seek our Lord’s will and trust that, as we step out in faith, he will keep us going in the right direction. When we do know what following Jesus looks like in a particular circumstance, we still need the strength or courage to follow through.

But at its core, the life we’re meant to lead is one of simply following Jesus. When I’m discouraged or confused, I take comfort in the fact that Jesus wants me to follow him. And he knows I want to do just that. My prayers for guidance are absolutely 100% within his will, and 1 John 5:14-15 says, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”

Photo by Robert Nyman via Unsplash.com

The Herbie Guy Strikes Again

vw bug unsplash @karol smocyznskiWhat does the name Dean Jones mean to you? He was inducted into the Disney Legends Hall of Fame nearly 25 years ago, so maybe you associate his name with That Darn Cat or Blackbeard’s Ghost. Have you ever seen The Love Bug, that first beloved Herbie movie which, incidentally, was one of the highest grossing films of 1969? Dean Jones played racecar driver Jim Douglas alongside comedian Buddy Hackett and a very lively Volkswagen Beetle.

Dean Jones provided the comforting voice that will read the New Living Translation of the Bible to you via YouVersion anytime you want to hear the spoken Word. ‘Talk about a great way multitask while driving to work or doing dishes! But now I’ve discovered my favorite Dean Jones gift of all.

St. John in Exile.

What can I say to convince you to forgo your favorite video entertainment sometime this week and choose to watch this gem instead? “St. John in Exile” is a one man play, filmed beautifully before a live audience without, as I understand it, any editing. Dean plays an aging John, author of both the Gospel of John and the book of Revelation, exiled on the island of Patmos.

  • He reminisces about his time with Jesus, relates his experience of the crucifixion and the later loss of fellow apostles.
  • He speaks of the triumph available to believers even when imprisoned in a damp and uncomfortable cave.
  • He shows you Jesus!

By the end of its 90 minutes you will have laughed, learned and worshipped. I love the way this film entertains, encourages and educates all at the same time. And I’m amazed that one actor could carry out such a feat without a supporting cast.

Go, go, I say! Trust me on this! It’s free to stream on Amazon Prime. The rental and the hard copy DVD are both on sale here at Christianbooks.com.

Oh, and next on my viewing list? The Most Reluctant Convert, C.S. Lewis portrayed on stage by Max McLean.

Enjoy! Enjoy! And then tell all your friends, including me, what you thought of St. John in Exile. You can add your comments here.

Room for Cream

Hot Tea Anita Austvika UnsplashIt was a crisp but comfortable winter day in Austin. Steve and I were still Houstonians at the time, but had come for a visit and were doing the requisite South Congress walk. We passed all sorts of gift shops and food trucks, none of which merited much of a stop for either of us. Then we saw it—Tom’s Coffee Shop. Tom’s looks like an old but well-loved house, complete with two porch swings and a basket of blankets. Inside, there’s all sorts of coffee and tea from which to choose and a decent array of tempting snacks. Steve saved a spot for us on one of those cozy swings while I placed our order. Remembering that we were on vacation, I asked the barista to leave plenty of room for cream. Then, heading over to the “fix up your cup” table, I added a healthy dose of dairy and agave to each steaming treat and headed outside. We sat. We sipped. We watched the people go by.

I’ve lived in Austin for over a year now. I’ve only gone to Tom’s once since our move, and for a rather quick stop at that. Life fills up. We’ve had other great adventures in lieu of tea on Tom’s porch. But now we’re heading into the holidays and I’m reminded that it’s okay—maybe even very important—to leave “room for cream” more often than not.

Of course, I’m not really talking about half and half. I’m talking about the little extras in life, the non-essentials that actually add a great deal of pleasure to the basics. If you’ve already conquered your type A tendencies, you may not need to read any further. If you’re like me, though, you need these reminders:

Yes, God made us to glorify him, and that often means putting in a great deal of effort as we seek to do his will and follow his lead.

But, he also created us to enjoy him, and I think that includes enjoying the world he made and the pleasant moments he puts within our grasp. We don’t need to stay in constant accomplishment mode. Otherwise, he never would have said, “Be still…”

As the holidays come calling, there’s certainly value in answering with gusto the opportunities to bless others and spread the word that Christ the Savior is born.

But maybe this is the year to remember that celebration is meant to be a gift, not a challenge. A few quiet moments here and there (with tea, perhaps?) may be more important than planning or attending a perfect party.

And so, as we move from Thanksgiving to Christmas, I’m wishing you a wonderful holiday season and plenty of moments with room for cream!

 

Photo by Anita Austvika  via Unsplash.com

Old Journals

journal Debby Hudson unsplash.com

Do you journal? If so, I hope that once in a while you pull an old one down and read what you wrote years ago. I’ve been doing that lately, remembering God’s moments of grace through happy times and sad, seeing where I’ve (finally!) learned a lesson that once befuddled me and, truth be told, discovering places where I’m still struggling with the same challenges about which I filled pages a decade ago.

Here are a few quotes from the Brenda of  2005:

“There is only panic when I set my own agenda.” (That’s right, folks, I’ve been working on letting God be in control for a long, long time!)

“The people who watch us notice the ‘little things’—the daily habits, etc., more than the big events of our lives.” (Just last week, a perfect stranger passed Steve and me on the sidewalk and said, “Oh, keep holding hands!”)

“One effective tool of forgiveness is to pray blessings on those I need to forgive.” (Ever have to work, really work, on letting go of an offense? This does help!)

And then, there’s this for all you romantics out there:

“Elizabeth and I are in Colorado to enjoy the preliminaries of a wedding. When asked to write advice on a card, I found there was so much I wanted to say!

I wrote:

  • Believe the best of one another always.
  • Take walks together often; they open up special opportunities for communication.
  • Say “yes” and “I love you” many times every day.
  • Tithe, and spend less than you make.

But I also wanted to say:

  • Expect and encourage the best of each other.
  • Follow all of God’s rules, but don’t put much stock in the ones man makes up.
  • Don’t buy a TV for at least a year. Discover better ways to rest and play together.
  • Be generous to one another.
  • Don’t “keep score’ of anything in your relationship.
  • Make all significant decisions as a team.
  • Point out each other’s strengths. Make up for each other’s faults.

What do your journals say? Or if you had one, what would you have written about your lessons of long ago? I’d love to hear, so please share!

 

photo by Debby Hudson
@dhudson_creative via Unsplash.com