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Monday, April 30, 2012

Will You Go to Sonic with Me?

***Alert! I have a great Give-Away this week only! Keep reading!***

My friend Kim and I have enjoyed "doing women's ministry" together for 13 years now. It was most fun when we were in the same church in the same town and could get in the same car and run to Party City or a Lifeway bookstore together. But it's still fun 900 miles apart. We just do it a little differently...

 Kim and I at a PWOC Retreat this March

One of our most cherished traditions back in the day was getting in the car after a ladies event--be it a morning brunch, a weekend retreat, or a Friday night fellowship--and going to the local Sonic to split a chili cheese coney and some tots. She'd sip her Dr. Pepper and I'd drink my diet coke while we stuck our forks into that coney and talked about the event. We rarely got to eat our fill at the event itself, since we were busy emceeing or greeting guests or handling situations in the childcare area or thanking the other ladies for decorating so beautifully. Can you relate?

 Kim and I with one of our hostesses 
from Scott's Hill Baptist Church in Wilmington, NC

So after cleaning up, divvying up the remaining food among the team members, and turning out all the lights and locking the doors, we'd sit in our car at Sonic and debrief. "Do you think everyone had a good time?" "I noticed the woman with the five small kids came. Do you think she felt welcomed?" "Didn't Susan do a great job with the decorations?" "What do you think we should do differently next time?" "Why do you suppose none of the ladies from that one small group came?" "Did you notice that Barbara was there? I've never seen her at a women's event before; I'm so glad she came." "The speaker did a great job. Did you notice how the special music tied in perfectly to her message?" "Who should we get to speak next year?" And on and on and on...

 Kim at my resource at a recent event.

 Ministry can be hard work. Whether you're teaching a women's Bible study or planning crafts for your MOPS group, mentoring a younger woman or taking senior adult women to lunch, decorating for a ladies' luncheon or booking rooms for a Bible conference, there's a great deal of work involved. Sure, ministry is highly rewarding and definitely an investment worth our time and energy, but if we try to navigate this path alone, we can burn out and grow discouraged.

 Kim and I spent plenty of "Sonic time"
talking about this lovely stage decoration 
in Bellevue, Washington.

That's why having a Sonic buddy is so important. Do you have someone with whom you discuss the ups and downs of ministry? Do you have someone to bounce things off of so that the "stupid ideas" get wiped off the slate before they ever materialize into real mistakes? And do you have someone to enjoy the victories with -- a new woman came to an event, a lady used her talents and gifts in ministry for the first time, the salvation message was shared with lost people, someone prayed to ask Jesus to be their Lord and Savior? Shared success is oh so sweet!

 After the PWOC retreat in Okinawa, 
Kim and I enjoyed a hike with about 
8 other ladies from the group.

I hope you have your own Sonic buddy, whether you actually drive to Sonic and share a cheese coney or just stand around in the parking lot for a little while after everyone else has gone home to recap the event. If you don't, ask God to send you one. And if you do, I'd love to hear about her and how you share your ministry together.

Meanwhile, I'd like to invite you to "go to Sonic with me." I'm in the process of revamping my twice-a-month newsletter. My goal is to make it something that will really meet some needs and answer some questions for women in ministry. It's not just a newsletter for Women's Ministry Directors, but for anyone who does anything in women's ministry -- MOPS, women's Bible studies, blogging, small support groups, Moms In Touch, Christian aerobics, speaking at events, event planning, you name it!

The newsletter will offer tangible and practical tips, resources, and answers for women's ministry. But I want the newsletter to be a two-way conversation. So here's the offer :

I'm giving away $5 gift cards to Sonic (a great value if used during happy hour!) to anyone who meets the following three criteria:
  1. You have to tell me what you do in women's ministry. You don't have to lead anything necessarily, but you must participate in women's ministry in some way. Just name it in your comment.
  2. You need to subscribe to my newsletter by leaving your e-mail address in the subscription box in the right hand column of this blog. Then you'll have to follow through with the link that is sent to your e-mail. Again, I promise this newsletter will be short, sweet, simple, and chocked full of good stuff for women in ministry.
  3. You need to leave me a comment on this post telling me what you'd like to see discussed in an upcoming edition of the newsletter. For instance, the next issue provides two great resources for biblically counseling women. What other resources would you like? What question do you want answered? What sticky situation do you need to navigate?
So that's it. I'll contact you via e-mail to get your mailing address so I can send you your gift card. This is a great deal, because I'm giving away as many as qualify. There's no drawing involved! So tell your friends about it too.

See you at Sonic!

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Doxology

A couple of weekends ago I had the privilege of presenting the Sunday morning message at the Arizona Women's Retreat in Williams, Arizona. Wow! Those ladies had obviously been inspired and recharged by the speakers and breakout session leaders they had heard over the course of the weekend, because they were such a responsive group. And I know God had been at work in our midst because at least two women had prayed to turn their lives over to Jesus before I even stepped up to the mic Sunday morning.

The scripture passage I had been assigned for that morning was the final portion of Isaiah 43:1b-3a:

Do not fear, I have redeemed you, O Israel, 
I have called you by name;
you are Mine!
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and through the rivers,
they will not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be scorched,
nor will the flame burn you.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel,
your Savior.

How else could I wrap up this wonderful weekend of dwelling on God's faithfulness and love than to focus our gaze completely on His character? We had looked at who we are to Him -- His redeemed, His children, His precious possession -- and we'd reflected on how He sticks with us through all of life's storms, but none of that would stick with the ribs of our souls unless we left that place knowing who our God is. If we are going to trust Him in the crises of life, we have got to keep our eyes on Him and see just how perfectly trustworthy He is all the other days of our life, building our confidence in His character and ways day by day.

And so we talked about how our God is able (omnipotent and big), sovereign (completely in control and never taken by surprise), beyond our comprehension (His ways are not our ways), and love (not just loving, but He is love). We looked full in His wonderful face and saw His glory!

To wrap up the morning and the weekend, I led the ladies in a doxology. A doxology, while not a word you will find in the Bible, is a biblical concept. You'll find examples of doxologies throughout the Bible, including Jude 24-25 and 1 Timothy 1:17. Likewise, many of us are familiar with modern day doxologies such as:

Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him all creatures here below;
Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts;
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen.

I bet you've sung those words a time or two.

Whether found in the Bible or our hymn books, a doxology is a brief formula for expressing praise or glory to God. Doxologies generally contain two elements: an ascription of praise to God (usually referred to in third person) and an expression of His infinite nature. I've noticed in Scripture that the writers of the various books of the Bible often inserted doxologies after long passages of instruction or exhortation, as though to point the reader's attention back to the majesty and grandeur of God, sort of reminding them that He is deserving of their obedience and allegiance. The point seems to be to gird them for the task ahead, remind them of God's holiness and rightful claim over their lives, and invoke them to praise and adoration. Doxology literally means word of glory. It's our way of verbally giving God a little glory so that our praises ring in our own hearts and in the ears of those around us as well. 

And so, as we approach the weekend and reflect back on how God has been so good to us this past week, I thought I'd share with you the doxology I wrote for the closing session of the Arizona Women's Retreat. I promised several of the ladies to post it, and of course I have neglected to do that so far. I apologize ladies. I'm glad it resonated with you. May it be the song of our hearts as we finish up another glorious week in the presence of our Maker. There is no tune, but won't you say it out loud with me today, so that God can hear it coming from your lips? And may the demons hear it, too, and shudder!

The Doxology of Isaiah 43:1-3

Now to the Lord Jesus Christ,
who has redeemed us with so great a price 
and called us by name (for we are His!),
let us entrust ourselves,
with full assurance that He will be with us
when we pass through the waters
and will not allow the rivers of life to knock us down
or drown us
and will protect us completely when we
walk through the raging fires of life.
For He is my Lord, my God,
the Holy One of Israel,
and the Savior whom I desperately need.
For I am not able, but He is more than able.
And no one else is able,
but He is.
And nothing else is able,
but He is.
I am not in control.
In fact sometimes I fell quite out of control.
But He never, never, never loses control.
His ways are not my ways
and His thoughts are not my thoughts.
That's a good thing.
Because I am small and limited in my understanding.
But He is the immortal, invisible, God only wise.
Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
almighty victorious, His great name we praise!

Have a blessed weekend!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Holy Anticipation

I couldn't wait for the second season of Downton Abbey to come on this past January and now I'm waiting with anticipation for the third season.

I'm looking forward to my family coming out for my daughter's upcoming high school graduation. I think about what we'll do, what we'll eat and how I'll prepare for their arrival every day.

Right now I'm on pins and needles to see if my son wins a computer programming contest he's entered with ESPN. He finds out around May 16th.

And I'm even looking forward to this weekend when my daughter will get all dolled up for her senior prom. My day will revolve around the festivities and I couldn't be happier about that.

Do you have anything you're looking forward to? Ah, the essence of sweet anticipation! I read just the other day in a magazine that anticipation is actually the first part of four distinct segments of enjoying any event or activity. In other words, the degree to which you anticipate (dream about, plan for, look forward to, and weight out) an event on the horizon affects the enjoyment of the moment when the event actually arrives.

I have no enticing segue...just turn the corner with me, if you will.

This morning I read in Psalm 130:5-6:

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
And in His word I do hope.
My soul waits for the Lord
More than those who watch for the morning--
Yes, more than those who watch for the morning.

But instead of these words resonating with me, they convicted me. 

Do I wait for the Lord with such anticipation? Sure, when I'm looking at my watch and tapping my foot in frustration while I wait on His reply to my desperate prayer I may wait with such expectation. But do I look forward to hearing from Him each morning, each day with such eagerness?

This past Saturday, I was struck with a deep desire to hear me "a word from the Lord." I don't know what got into me, but I purposefully got the various clicker flickers needed to operate our television and TiVo, sat down in front of the set, and found me some good preaching on Sunday's lineup to record. I TiVoed Charles Stanley, David Jeremiah, and Tony Evans. And I waited with anticipation to hear from God. My soul waited. And I put my hope in His word.

Then life happened.

Four days later I finally sat down to hear one of my favorite preachers. I still have yet to tune into the other two.

What happened to my anticipation? What happened to waiting and watching for God like the night watchman who is eager for the sun to rise?

Life happened. I got consumed with other things. I became distracted by the mundane, the trivial, the me. I got self-absorbed.

So today, besides making time to sit down and watch my TiVoed messages from the Word of God, I'm also praying for a greater thirst for my God and His word. Here's the thing: when I took the time to listen last night, it was good and satisfying. And when I stopped doing all my "me" things this morning long enough to read from His daily bread, it tasted good and settled down deep in my soul. And when I took the time to meditate on His Word this morning, chewing it up and swallowing it, I was nourished.

God satisfies me like nothing else. His Word quenches my thirst and nourishes my soul better than anything else. But I've got to stop filling up on the candy of this world in order to develop a stronger craving for Him. What candy? Oh, it could be anything that temporarily satisfies my longings so that I have no room for that which is really good for me and tasty to boot.

For me, that candy often consists of reading materials, television, or even just that, candy.

Won't you join with me in an effort to build our anticipation for God? Let's push aside the world's offerings long enough to develop a hunger for Him, and then let's give Him the opportunity to satisfy us. That means we'll have to sit down, literally, physically. We'll have to pick up our Bibles, turn off the noise, resist the ring of the telephone or the call of the mundane, guard that time like the precious commodity it is, and wait for Him there. 

Wait like one who anticipates the rising of the sun. There's joy in the anticipation, you know.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Knocking on Doors

Have I mentioned that I'm a telephonophobic? I'm not sure that's the scientific name for my particular phobia, but, trust me, it's real. I don't like talking on the phone.

If you call me, I'll answer. That is, I'll answer if I can find the phone. You know how it is with these cordless telephones we have now.

And my mama taught me how to carry on a civil, polite and amiable phone conversation. So you don't need to fear that my fears are getting the better of me as we carry on our business. I can handle a telephone call. Truly I can. Don't worry about me if you need to phone me.

But I don't like making calls. I don't like picking up the phone and interrupting someone's day...even if their day consists of sitting at a desk and waiting for calls like mine in order to schedule appointments, answer questions, or provide information.

I suppose I fear the part of the conversation I can't see: the body language, the facial expressions, the attitude, the preoccupation with something else while we're talking. What if you can't place me, don't remember who I am? Or what if you are truly busy with other things? Or what if my questions, my requests, my needs don't make any sense to you and we both find ourselves at a loss for words?

Ugh! I hate placing phone calls.

Almost as much as I hate knocking on doors.

Change of venue. I'm not referring to real, physical doors on houses. I'm talking about those doors we all have to knock on occasionally if we are contemplating going somewhere new in life, somewhere we haven't been, and maybe even somewhere we don't know where is!

Recently I've found myself at one of those junctures where I think God is pointing in some new directions. In fact, on one particular path--the path where my daughter is graduating from high school and venturing off to a college I've got to send money to periodically--I know He's directing me down a new road. And out before me on those new paths are multiple decisions that need to be made.

But I stand on these new paths wondering which doors I'm supposed to walk through and which ones I am supposed to stay away from. While sometimes I believe God swings new doors open and beckons us to walk through them with a fresh "welcome" mat and a blazing porch light, other times I find that we have to knock and see if the door will open to us.

And knocking on doors can be a little risky.

Once again, sometimes the door we approach swings open and we hear the music playing within the walls and the aroma of fresh baked goodness wafting out to greet us. We walk in confidently, knowing we are welcome here.

Other times, the door barely cracks open and we have to peek inside, looking for the light or a voice or at least an indication of safety. And sometimes, through that small opening we glimpse the light of hope and anticipate a warm welcome only to have the door shut in our faces before we can even take a step inside. If we're smart, we see these closed doors as divine intervention and protection, and we take a grateful step back. But the closing of the door, the lost opportunity, still smarts. It hurts our feelings, makes us feel we may have wasted precious time knocking at the wrong place, leaves us wondering where we went wrong, and teases us with what ifs.

Yes, knocking on doors is definitely risky.

Knocking on doors requires patience, perseverance, proper perspective, and more patience.

James 1:2-4 says, "...when you encounter various trials, know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."

I know we usually apply this scripture a little differently, but today it reminds me that there are times in life when patience and faith are not demonstrated by sitting still and doing nothing, but by knocking on multiple doors until the right one opens. Faith walks away from the closed doors, trusting that something better lies behind another one. Patience keeps on knocking on doors, even when one is exhausted from the rejection of closed door after closed door. And endurance turns away from the closed door and humbly walks toward the next one, trusting that God will eventually open one.

And if we're having a hard time delineating between the doors we should knock on and the ones we should steer clear of all together, the next verse in James one sheds a little light on that quandary.

James 1:5 says, "But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him."

If God is leading you to knock on some new doors today in order to discover your next assignment, take courage. He is a good God. He is not playing some sick and risky form of Let's Make a Deal with you, where you risk ending up with a donkey or a gaggle of geese instead of a bright future. He may take you on a journey before you finally get to the place of blessing, but He will be walking with you, granting you wisdom so you will know which doors to knock on and which ones to leave alone.

Have you been knocking on doors lately? I'd love to know.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Help! Time is Slipping Through My Fingers!

Just when I renew my commitment to blog at least four days a week, along comes a day like today.

I've been trying for four hours to sit down, read my daily Bible passages from the Old and New Testaments, Psalms and Proverbs, and blog. But it's just not happening. Oh, I got the Bible read. Thank God for that! I needed it. But I don't have time to formulate thoughts on what I read that would remotely benefit you or even me.

I'm just praying for God to do one of those supernatural "His Word will not return void" things with what I read today. Because mulling it over just isn't happening.

I'm trying to tie up the loose ends on my message for this weekend's retreat in Williams, Arizona, but I'm not even sure that's going to happen. Time is slipping through my fingers.

My daughter has needed me to do several things (legitimate things, too, I must add) that have pulled me away from my intentions. Plus the phone has wrung numerous times, one of my editors sent back a submission for a rewrite (yuck!), the dogs have been exceptionally whiny, and the laundry has piled up beyond the point of ignorance being bliss. It has to be dealt with before I leave tomorrow morning.

So, there are no great spiritual truths to be found here today. Hopefully I'll gather the time to write something a little more worthwhile soon, because I'd hate to leave this shameful post for all the world to see (yeah...right) for too long.

But here's what I do have. A question.

What do you do when your day seems out of control, when time starts slipping through your fingers like loose socks falling from my piles of laundry? How do you pull it all back together, reorganize, regroup? Please, do tell.

I'm looking for the spiritual and the practical. I want to know how you deal with life when you realize you're nowhere near getting everything done you meant to do and yet...you have to.

Thanks for bearing with me! And I sure could use your prayers this weekend for the Arizona Women's Retreat in Williams. I'm not the only speaker, so would you just pray that we will all deliver God's Word with humility, accuracy, enthusiasm, and clarity? Thanks, you're a sweetheart!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

What Faith Is and Isn't

Faith. Hope. And love. These three...

confuse the stew out of us!

Little words with huge meanings.

We can try and try and never plumb the depths of these three simple words, words we toss around most every day as though they were as concrete as butter, cat or pencil.  They're not, though. They're full of abstract concepts, emotion, acts of the will, and deep thought. And they're best defined by the source of all three: God alone.

Let's talk just a little about faith today.

Where does it come from? Well the Bible says that even our faith is originated with God. Ephesians 2:8 says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God." So if we manage to have even a mustard seed sized faith, it is because God granted us that bit of faith. And by the same token, if our faith is to grow, it will only grow by God's working in our lives. In fact, faith comes by hearing the Word of God. The more we expose ourselves to the living, breathing Word of God, the more He can increase our faith.

What does our faith do? Does it move mountains, heal bodies, change circumstances, save us from hell?


Only God does those things. Our faith does not change or fix or move or get us anything.

But it does do one very important thing.

It pleases God.

Faith is simply our expression of full and total trust in God. It says to God, "I can't do this. No one else can either. But You can. I will not go to any other source, but I will trust you completely in this matter."

And when we take hands off, let go, and turn our eyes to God with full expectation that He can and will take the thing and run with it in a way that is for our best interest, it pleases Him to no end.

Then, He is freed up to move the mountain (if He so chooses), to heal (if He so chooses), to fix (if He so chooses), or to give (if He so chooses).

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
(Hebrews 11:1)

When we act "by faith" we demonstrate that trust to God and He moves. We step out and He causes our feet to land on solid ground. We let go and He grabs hold. We get up the next day and He sets things into motion. We take our hands off and He lays His on. We quit trying to fix things and He either fixes it or fixes us. We walk "by faith" and He does the work.

It is not our faith, our prayers, our recitation of Scripture, or anything else we do that causes things to turn out, work out, or get out.

It's not our faith. It's Him. It's all Him.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Best Advertisement

Today I watched a little of Rachel Ray's show as I was cleaning my family room. I think the theme of the show had something to do with audience or viewer requests. So they were showing segments that had most been requested by viewers over time.

One of the segments was about an individual, in this case a tv news anchorwoman and mom, testing out several new products at home and then letting the audience know what she thought about those new gadgets or beauty products. In between dusting various items in my family room, I think I picked up that she tested some stick on eye-liner (hmmm...), a nail polish pen, some sort of gadget that sits in your stove pot and stirs for you while you do other things, and a teeth whitener wipee. Well now.

At any rate, the supposition of the segment, of course, was that if someone else we can see and hear and like appreciates a new product, we're more likely to give it a try as well. If this cute, sophisticated, news woman likes the nail pen, the stick on eye-liner and the pot stirrer, I could like it too.

Marketers are smart like that. They know the best advertisement for any product is a satisfied customer. And I buy that, don't you? I'm much more likely indeed to buy something or even look in the store for something if I know someone else who is raving about how much they like it. (Except for stick on eye-liner.)

Better yet, if I see the product working for that person -- making their skin look younger, causing them to lose weight, helping them manage their time better, improving their cooking skills, or whitening their teeth to a dazzling sheen -- I'm quite likely to inquire about it and head to the store!

By the same token, if I know someone who's going on and on about a new exercise program but they still look like a roly poly in my eyes, then I'm not only less likely to subscribe to that program, but I might even stay as far away from it as I possibly can.

Or if someone sings the praises of a their hairdresser but their hair looks butchered, I probably won't be calling for an appointment.

And that brings me to the thought that crossed my mind as I read in Psalm 126:1-3:

When the Lord brought back the captivity of Zion,
We were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
And our tongue with singing,
Then they said among the nations,
"The Lord has done great things for them."
The Lord has done great things for us,
And we are glad.

Isn't that the way it is? When God does something especially grand for us, people notice our contentment, our laughter, our singing of His praises. And they might even say to one another, "Boy, the Lord has done something great for her." And indeed He did.

At such moments we are great living billboards for God's goodness, grace, mercies, love, and power. We are advertising to the world, or at least our little worlds, that we have a mighty and faithful God.

But what about today? Maybe today you haven't received any special answer to prayer, any huge revelation, or an extra dose of grace. So is there any reason to rejoice? Any reason to give a positive endorsement to your God?

You bet there is.
  • My sins have been forgiven.
  • I have been redeemed from the penalty and power of sin. I'm free!
  • I am swimming in the grace of God.
  • I have resurrection power within me, equipping me to do anything I need to do today.
  • I have a new heart. A heart that is sensitive to the teaching and correction of my God, so I can obey Him, live a life that pleases Him, and serve Him well. I can. I can.
  • I have the gift of the Holy Spirit living inside of me. God with me. God directing me, teaching me, reminding me, living through me. Wow!
  • My Savior lives! And He sits at the right hand of the Father, talking with Him constantly about me. Little ol' me...
  • My God loves me! 
  • He satisfies my soul daily with truth, living water, satisfying bread of life.
  • I have the Word of God at my disposal. I have the manual. I can read it. I can eat it. I can live by it.
And so, others ought to be looking at me, seeing my laughter, hearing my singing, and knowing that "The Lord has done great things" for her.

And when I'm asked about it, I should say with booming assurance, "The Lord has done great things for me, and I am glad...so glad." 

What about you? For what are you glad today? And how's the advertising for that good thing going today? What message are you sending the world about God, who He is, and what He can do?

Monday, April 9, 2012

On the Edge of the Earth...but Surrounded

Out here in southern Arizona I sometimes feel like I'm at the very edge of the earth, isolated. Not only are we a good hour plus from a major city with no towns of any great size between us, but the terrain looks like the outer edges, the rim, the end.

Don't get me wrong. I've come to love the unique beauty of this high desert -- the endless blue sky, the subtle and changing hues of purple, pink, blue, and gold that dance over the mountains as the sun moves across that wide expanse each day, and the humming birds that often dance around the flowering cacti. I used to think, when I first arrive here in Arizona, that it was "pretty in its own way." Then I thought it was amazing..."in its own way." Now I just think it's absolutely lovely. Period.

But even with all its beauty, the rough and expansive desert can be a striking reminder of how far you are from, say, New York City. Or from my home of origin in the green and rolling mountains of the Southeast. Or from the ocean.

Maybe it's the fact that you can see for miles and miles and miles out here. You can drive down the highway, look out the windows in all directions, and see for miles. Depending on where you're standing, you can see into Mexico or New Mexico. And there's not much to see in either of those places either, just more of the same.

And so, looking around in search of civilization, where life is thriving, where things are happening, where people are bustling, you find very little. You feel like you are at the end, on the edge, out in oblivion.

But of course, you're really not.

Still, have you ever felt that way? Not geographically necessarily. But emotionally.

Have you sometimes felt pushed to the edge, about to fall off the precipice of pressure and high demands?

Have  you felt on the outskirts? Pushed out, left out, ostracized, and discarded?

Or maybe you've felt forgotten, alone, insignificant and unloved?

We all feel at times that we are on the outside looking in. Whether you're standing in the wide open spaces of the southern Arizona desert or you're in a crowded room with no one speaking to you, you've probably felt far, far away from anything and everyone else. Or you may have been abandoned in some way. Or maybe just lonely.

I was reminded this morning as I read my daily Bible reading (still walking through the Bible!) that we may be alone, on the edge of nowhere, on the outskirts, or completely abandoned by everyone else, but we are still surrounded by the most precious thing in the world -- the consistent and amazing love of God.

As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
So the Lord surrounds His people
From this time forth and forever.
(Psalm 125:2)

Where I live I can see mountains all around me. All around me. They are strong, tall, forcible mountains. They peak over the clouds at times. Or the clouds may occasionally hide them completely, but I know they have not moved. Most every morning, the first thing I do after pulling myself out of bed is to look out the windows of my house and glance toward those mountains. Somehow their constancy, their majestic beauty, and strength give me assurance.

They hedge me in, keep me from falling off the edge. They wrap around me and give me security.

So to speak.

After all, they are just mountains. Placed there by The Mountain, who surrounds me wherever I go.

If you are out on a limb today, deserted in the desert of loneliness, abandoned in the middle of nowhere, or far, far away from where you want to be, just remember: You're not alone. The Lord surrounds you like the mountain ranges that encircle me each and every day. It may be a little cloudy and you may lose sight of His visible presence now and again. But He is there. He has not moved. And He will not.

The Lord surrounds His child. Forever.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

I'll Let the Pictures do the Talking!

I used to post what I called Wordless Wednesdays, and since I don't really have time to blog today but I want to share more of my photos from my trip to Okinawa, I thought I'd shut up and let the pictures do the talking.

So here goes...

Scenes From the PWOC Retreat at Okuma

 Friday Night Cookie Bar

 A Cookie Bar definitely needs a Milk Bar!

My Book Table

 After the Amazing Race

 The Amazing Race Begins
My Team

 Amazing Race

This is what you call full participation!

This is my team at the finish line, I think. We're waiting on our "pregnant girl" to get there! She was such a trooper! We came in 2nd.

 The PWOC  theme for this year was Three Keys: Intimacy, Simplicity, and Legacy
It just happened that my three messages for my Satisfied...at Last! conference fit the three keys perfectly!

 The ladies gave me one of the most unique and precious gifts I'd ever received: a Sayonara doll. Its a beautiful wooden doll whose kimono contains a long scroll on which they all wrote their sentiments about the retreat and signed their names. I'll treasure it forever!

I keep going back to the lovely faces of the women I served and befriended. They are still the most beautiful part of that unforgettable week.