Into the Storm

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find you in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand
And I will call upon your name
And Keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in your embrace
For I am yours and you are mine.

There was a scene from The Shack that I really liked.  “Jesus” came to Mack on the lake and encouraged him to get out of the boat and walk on the water.  Later, Mack started back to the boat, trying to walk on the water…without “Jesus”.  It didn’t work.  With “Jesus”, they ran.

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I’ve been listening to the song “Oceans” by Hillsong ever since the movie.  The subtitle, Where Feet May Fail, has really captured my attention.

Where my feet may fail

and fear surrounds me

It’s fairly easy to “get out of the boat” when it’s a beautiful day and the sun is shining.  But that’s not how the story goes in Matthew 14.  Reading the whole chapter, you realize that Jesus and his disciples where have a really strange day…a hard day, a day filled with sadness and wonder.

Jesus is told that his forerunner, his cousin, one of the first to know who he was, had been beheaded.  John the Baptist was dead.  Of course, the humanly response would be to withdraw from others, to remove yourself from daily activities, to talk with God, to recognize what this means in God’s plan for Jesus.  Jesus tried to do this, but the crowds followed him and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

As the evening draws near, the people don’t leave and Jesus refuses to turn them away, at the urging of the disciples.  So he miraculously feeds them all, all 5000 or more, with a little boy’s lunch.  Only then does he send everyone away, including his disciples.

The thing is, he sends his disciples into a storm.

Finally Jesus is alone to speak to God.  Maybe the storm that came was a manifestation of Jesus’ emotions of the day?  Later, in the midst of the storm, he goes to his disciples who are stuck in the storm, in the middle of the Sea of Galilee.

Here we have the true miracle that every one of us can experience.

The disciples are scared and even more afraid when they see a “ghost” coming to them walking on the waters through the storm.  It’s early morning now and the disciples have been alone all night, in their storm…or so they thought…and now their eyes are seeing strange things.

Could Jesus have been praying for them all night?

Jesus comforts them from the storm and Peter decides that he would rather be with Jesus than in the boat, so he asks if he can come to Jesus.

He said, “Come.”

Jesus always says “come” when we ask to be nearer to him.

Peter steps out of the boat and walks to Jesus.  But “fear surrounds him” and he takes his eyes off Jesus and immediately starts to sink.

At least he had the courage to get out of the boat!

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The weather has been really strange here in Tennessee lately.  For two weeks we had heavy winds and rains.  The first storm came through and toppled trees and damaged homes.  I was at work and was hearing about it all second hand.  The second storm hit while I was at home.  As the storm started, the house shook and windows rattled.  The lightning lit up the sky…and I turned over and went to sleep.

I mean, Jesus had this, he is still in command of the winds and the rains, so I left those concerns in his very capable hands.  If Jesus could sleep through a storm, so could I (see Mark 4:35).

I wonder how many times Jesus sends us into a storm?  How many times does he wait for us to look past the storm and see him?

Our neighbor has one of those yellow signs in their yard that says “Eyes on Jesus”.  I think of this story when I see it and I wonder why I’m sinking in my circumstances and it just might be because I’ve taken my eyes off Jesus.

Storms will come.  Jesus is in the storm, urging you to come to him.  Keep your eyes on him and  get out of the boat.  He’s got you.

When the Pastor Leaves

Are you a PK, DK, or MK?

I’m a DK.

If you were raised in church you might know what I just asked.  If you weren’t….

PK – Preacher’s Kid

DK – Deacon’s Kid

MK – Missionary’s Kid

The thing about being a DK is that when the pastor leaves the church (and let’s face it…they always leave), you see what happens afterwards.  The PKs move on with their family and never see the fallout after they depart.

Pastors leave the church for a lot of reasons.  Sometimes God calls them to leave because He has other plans for them.  Sometimes the church members ask them to leave because of some issue that took place within the church.  Sometimes they retire from preaching or live out their lives until God calls them to the “final move”.

But the pastor always leaves.

The church remains.

The faithful people remain.

The DKs remain.

They watch their fathers step into an even more important role as the leader of the church until God sends another pastor to the church.  Having been in church for over 50 years now, I’ve watched pastors step down from their role about every 10 years or less.

That’s a lot of pastors.

And the church remains.

But, for a time, her heart is broken.

When the church takes a pastor and his family into their midst, they take them into their hearts and souls.  They allow them into the most intimate part of their lives…their spiritual souls are laid open before them, raw emotions and deep felt love are given freely….and accepted and, usually returned.  The pastor and his family begin the ministry God has put them there for…to share His Word, encouragement, insight, counsel, comfort, and correction.

So when they leave….there is grief.

Some say it is just as real as the grief of the death of a loved one.

That’s what it is.

An entire family  that is loved is suddenly ripped from the heart of the church and it hurts…not for a few days, but for weeks and months afterwards.  There’s a hole, a void that can’t be filled….not even by the new pastor.  Because sometimes, when the new pastor comes, the church is afraid to love them as much….but eventually they will.

And the cycle begins again.

Yet…this is what God wants us, the church, the pastor & his family, to do…it’s how His will is carried out.

“I give you a new command:  Love one another;  Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  John 13:43-35 CSB

In a perfect world, the separation between pastor and church, would be smooth.  The truth is, even if there were no hard feelings when they left, there are hurt feelings because the lose of the friendship we once had is inevitable.  After some time, the former pastor and his family may reach out again to the former church family and friendships can be renewed.

But for those first few weeks and months, it has to be a clean break.  Grief has to have its time to work it’s healing touch in every one’s life.

I remember the first few days after Mom died.  I was unconsolable.  Everything reminded me of her, especially the church where we served together.  I stopped going to those places that brought the hard memories.  Then slowly, the hurt eased and the memories made me smile instead of cry.  One day, I was serving again, stronger, wiser, remembering what she had taught me.

I think that’s how it is when the pastor leaves.  One day….not today…the hurt will ease, the memories will make us smile and we’ll be  stronger because of what they taught us of who God is and how He loves.

Go ahead and grieve now.  Let it do its healing.

The church will remain.

God is still at work.

He didn’t leave.

This Bread is My Body – Take It

At the last supper, Jesus passed the cup of wine and said, “drink, this is my blood”.  Then he broke the bread, passed it down the table, and said, “eat, this is my body”.

Honestly, I’ve always thought that was a little gross.  Oh, I get the symbolism of Jesus, the Lamb of God, and him giving his body as a sacrifice for our sins.  It’s something he offers, something we must accept and take into ourselves.

But today, I think I finally “got it”, that it is something we are also asked to do.  When we have people at our table, when we “break the bread” and pass the plate; we are in fact, giving a piece of ourselves to those at the table with us.  We can’t have communion with someone without giving a part of ourselves to the other person.

Maybe it’s memories we share.

Maybe it’s tears we share.

Maybe it’s our heart we share.

We give a piece of our body, they give a piece of theirs.  We take a piece of their body, they take a piece of our body.  We become one, fellowshipping together, loving on each other, caring for each other.  We leave the table connected, closer in our friendships, forming a bond that distance can stretch, but not take away.

Come, let us gather together.  Let’s become a part of each other’s lives.

Let’s break bread together.

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Focus – Backwards vs Forward

The rear-view mirror in your car is small, because you need to be more focused on looking at what’s right in front of you, than look at what you’ve left behind.

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I took a trip to the mountains a couple of years ago and got fascinated with the images in my rear view mirrors and side mirrors (that’s one of my pictures above).  The problem was, I was so focused on what I was leaving behind, that I nearly missed what I was headed into.

Isn’t that the way life is?  We focus on what we’ve lost and fail to see the blessings we’ve been given today; right here, right now, in this moment.  I was reminded of that when reading a blog post by Pete Wilson.

Backward Focused:

Some are the victims, who are defined by the hurt of their past. Something happened to you and you’re just paralyzed by it. Or, there are the romantics who are just stuck in their glory days. You relive old dreams and think your best days are behind you. If I’m honest with you, I feel myself in this realm quite often these days. It’s easy for me to not be fully present in my moment because I keep getting pulled into daydreaming about my past.

Slow down long enough to be fully present and notice that almost everyone God allows you to lock eyes with in the course of your day needs some sort of healing.

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I don’t think Pete is saying that we need to totally forget the past, but to not let it become so important that we don’t live fully in today.

I do that sometimes when I get sad or depressed in remembering my mother.  I let the day go by, having accomplished nothing other than a headache and gloomy mood.

I see my husband do it, getting caught up in his past glory days.

Sometimes the past just looks better that were we are now.  We want to go back to those times.  But if God had wanted us to stay in that time period, He wouldn’t have made the changing of the seasons, the hours, the daily cycle of the sun and the moon. Everyday He gives us a new day, new moments, new memories to make to occasionally look back on.

God told the Israelites to remember how He had rescued them from the Egyptians (Exodus 13:3), but He told them to keep moving forward.  It’s okay to stop, look back and remember, but then move on, going forward.

Face forward, march on!  There’s more…better ahead.

Are you so focused on what was left behind that you can’t take the next step to move forward?  What’s holding you back?  What do you need to remember from the past that will help you to move forward?

What did God bring you through so that He could take you on to something better?

Changes

Day 1 of 42 days devotional – Faith That Breathes

I’ve had trouble finishing any book or devotional plan I start.  Maybe because I’m doing the devotions on my own.  There’s no accountability.  It’s hard to do things on your own.

Or maybe, as my mother-in-law used to say…I’ve done those before.  They all sound the same.

I pulled a few books from the bookshelf today and thought, again, of reading one of them.  To my surprise, a bookmark fell from one of them.  On the back of the bookmark was a note from my mother.

A word of encouragement.

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I had moved back to Tennessee and she was encouraging me to go to church with her.  I thought at first it was from before I moved back, but the copyright date on the bookmark shows it was at least after 2004.  I’m not sure what was going on…she just knew I needed encouragement.

I’ve gone to church on my own for many years, especially the evening services.  My dad works from sun-up to sun-down, which means that during the summer, when it’s time for evening services, he was still working.  Mom would call me and ask me to go to church with her.

Her encouragement was all it took for me to met her at the back door, ready to go.

So I felt, today, her encouragement was leading me to do this 42 day devotional.

Day 1 – Change:  It’s Inevitable, Psalm 102:25-28

Everything changes…except God.  He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

How can my faith grow stronger by living that truth every day?  This body is dying daily, it withers a little more each day, slowly turning back into dust.  This earth is falling apart, literally; mountains crashing into the seas, stars falling from the sky.  Yet God remains the same.  His promise is this….His children are secure, not only them, but their offspring.

I’ll be honest.  My concern for tomorrow is not if I will wake in the morning, it is if I have left a legacy of faith that my children can build on….will build on.  Have I been strong enough, have I set the proper example.

Lord, may you not find me lacking.  May I finish this race strong in my faith, leaning totally on you and nothing else.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Current Needle Projects

I shared at a women’s event a few months ago, that I loved to write more than I loved to sew or piece a quilt (not quilt a quilt…because I hate doing that!).  I have a friend that still can’t believe that I said that.

Creating makes me feel good, gives me a sense of accomplishment, something that I can physically see that is finished or in the process of being finished.  Words on a page, blocks on the quilt wall….they both give me that satisfaction.  Words sometimes come easier for me than quilt blocks, but the quilt blocks still come.

Before Christmas I needed to finish up some items that had been collecting dust in the sewing room.  They were in that “process of being finished” category and I put them off as long as I could.

My dad’s friend, Mary, asked me to quilt this basket quilt top she had pieced.  She’s lost some of her eyesight and quilting isn’t something she can do any longer.  Since my dad was leaving right after Christmas to go and see Mary, I needed to finished it up.  I did just a loop quilt design in the background, some leaves on the stripping and some outlining on the flowers.  I think it turned out pretty and was honored to do this for her.

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About 2 years ago, my brother, James, literally chased me down the road and when I finally stopped, he ran up and threw an armload of t-shirts in back seat of the car. “Make me a quilt.”  I think his wife had finally told him the old t-shirts had to go, so why not send them to my house.  I’d been slowly working on stabilizing the blocks I cut out from the backs of the t-shirts but decided before the first of the year I wanted those t-shirts out of my house.  James is a promoter (among other things) and these t-shirts were from events and concerts he arranged while he was working to bring some attractions to our county.  (Yeah, that’s a Blake Shelton t-shirt over there.  James had him come long before he was the big-time star he is now….but sadly…it didn’t make the cut for the quilt.)  I wasn’t able to quilt this on my machine, just put it together for him.20161223_124352

I have a lot of scraps from my  own stash of fabric but I also inherited more from my grandmother and mother’s fabric stashes.  I had this idea of making a quilt using all the backing scraps my mother had (the whites of the blocks) and her reds (she loved red).  I designed the block pattern, which has a slight variation from other basket patterns.  You can read about that HERE.  Most of the flowers are my own design and whim.  I like the way it turned out.  Just need to get it quilted now.  Did I mention I hate to quilt?
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I know…another applique…but I love applique.  I can do it anywhere or at anytime, especially late at night when I can’t sleep but the sewing machine is too loud to pull out.  I made the 9-Patch blocks for a class I taught last year and was showing the class how to do some different things with the blocks.  So…this one is still in the process of being finished.  Just need to do the applique now.  It’s certainly one of the brighter quilt tops I’ve made, but it’s fun.20170115_171001

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My mom had a rule.  “What you do for one of the children, you do for all the children.”  I guess that applies to brothers too.  For my brother, Ray, he requested I make him a cross quilt.  I was really pleased with the pattern and everything was going good until I started actually putting the panels together (the pattern calls for constructing this quilt in panels made up of the arms and legs of the cross).  At some point, I switched the top panels and the consistency of the design got out of whack…which I didn’t notice until I was done.  Oh, well.  Ray was pleased.  I quilted a straight line in the design of the cross and then did stippling quilting in the background.

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When time permits….always hand sew the binding down.  It just looks and feels better.

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This was a minding job I finished up for a friend.  The boarder had become frayed and torn, so I just cut it off and then patched a few block within the quilt. It is made from vintage sheets and I loved it.  This quilt is headed to India this spring.  The family will be doing some mission work there for a while.

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Hopefully this post will help ease the concern of those who are worried that I’m not quilting anymore.