All the Paths

Psalm 25:10 – “All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.”

I don’t know about you but sometimes words of Scripture that I have read over and over jump off the page of my Bible in a new way.

Example?

This morning I was reading Psalm 25 – a text that I’ve read many times. Verses 4 & 5 often grab me: “Make me know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me.” It always brings to mind the short chorus that my hometown choir would sing after or before the pastoral prayer time. “Lead me, Lord . . .”

Or verse 7 – “Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions” – a reassuring word when I think about some of the mistakes and craziness of my life.

This morning, the words of verse 10 leapt off the page: “All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.”

God highlighted the word – ALL – for me. All means all, not some of the paths but all of the paths. Those paths that are easy and smooth, those that are rocky and difficult and those that are uncertain – ALL of them. The nature of the path doesn’t matter. It’s the nature of our loving and faithful Lord that matters.

Thank you, Lord, that no matter the path before me, You are ALWAYS faithful and ALWAYS extending Your steadfast love.

 

 

Christmas “Wants”

“What do you want for Christmas?”

As a little girl, the question of December was always “what do you want for Christmas?” It was Santa’s main question but it was also a question of my family and friends.  Maybe it was a way to get hints for gift-giving. Maybe it was a comparison of “want” lists. Did Deborah’s list have something on it that I had missed in my thorough examination of the Sears Christmas catalog?

Ah!  The Sears catalog – now THAT was sheer joy – an examination from first page to last of the possible new toys for the list! Sure, there were clothes in the front part of the catalog: matching Christmas pajamas, lovely red velvet Christmas dresses for Sunday School and maybe a new pair of black patent leather church shoes!  But the real fun? The pages of dolls, trucks, games, and chemistry kits (yes, already embracing my nerd-dom – never got one!) gave so many ideas for the “want” list!

Then on December 25, the question shifted to “what did you get?” Early in the morning, brother Gene and I would “patiently” wait for the ok from Mama and Daddy that we could take a look under the tree. Ever wise, my parents did not get us everything on our lists but we were always overjoyed with what we did get!

In the afternoon, we made the trip to Grandma’s house where the question could be asked of cousins: “what did you get for Christmas?” As I got older, I made the call or the ride to see what Elizabeth got from Santa. When we went back to school, we continued to ask the question of classmates. Everyone was comparing, admiring – maybe with a little jealousy – the gifts of Santa!

What do you want for Christmas?
As I’ve talked with clergy and laity this week in my role as ministry coach, I’ve asked each of them: What do you want more of during this Advent and Christmas season?

Hmmm.

Well, one answer may be like the little girl from the Today show story: “a nap” – true story of a little girl (2 or 3 yrs) who when asked the question answered with this wish. Santa was happy to oblige as he reclined and cuddled the little girl for the Christmas wish nap. My guess: it was also the parents’ wish!

What do I want more of this season?
For me: less rush, more quiet, less fixing, more trusting, less activity, more family time

The second question I asked this week: What do you need to do to make this happen?

For me: intentionality, willingness to say no, acceptance that less is more (every Christmas decoration does not have to be put out!)

The third question is an adaptation of “what did you get”: How will you know that it happened?

For me: less frantic running around, a decorated house that brings joy instead of exhaustion, time with family and friends that is easy, and time to actually sit down on Christmas Day!

Most importantly, I want time with God to enjoy his Presence.
I need to spend time each day in moments of gratitude, reflection, reading and writing.
I will know that I’ve gotten my “want” when Advent and Christmas season brings me closer to the greatest Gift that I will ever get for Christmas!

On this first Sunday of Advent:
What do you want for this Advent and Christmas?
What do you need to do to make that happen?
On December 25, how will you know that you got it?

May the joy, love and peace of Jesus Christ, the Gift, be with you!

Emotional Rescue

“You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”          –  Psalm 16:11

 

As we pulled into the rental lake house, I laughed out loud when I saw the name of the house: Emotional Rescue. A blog post started stirring in my mind . . .

While Noah, Will and I are in Louisiana, visiting the Archer side of the family, we are renting a house on Lake St. John. The house belongs to Noah’s cousin who is a big Rolling Stones fan, thus the house is named after one of their songs. Since I’m not a Stones expert, I looked up the words to the song. Uh, no . . . the lyrics have nothing to do with the kind of rescue that I need.

The kind of rescue that I need is illustrated in my journal entry of July 27: “Lord, I’m so tired! I need to be rejuvenated. It’s not a tiredness of the physical – maybe a little. It’s tiredness of mind and spirit!”

Wow! Does Jesus know what you need or what? He even named a house for me!

I’m no different from anyone else. All of us get tired – physically, emotionally, and spiritually.   Family, work, hobbies – all good things but sometimes our lives are drained without any refueling.

I can so easily allow my emptiness to turn into a grand old pity party where I’m the only guest invited. Kindness, compassion, and joy are replaced by resentment, complaint, and grumpiness. I wrote a list of why I should feel drained for this blog entry and then there was the God whisper: “Trish, no one cares about your list. Everyone’s got a list of reasons why they feel drained. “

Yes, all of us can have our own pity parties. Everyone works harder than everyone else. Everyone has family issues. Everyone is more tired than everyone else.  Everyone _____________ (you fill in the blank).

For all of us, there is an answer.

Invite God to our pity party. Go ahead and get it out there. Admit our brokenness. But don’t wallow in it. What’s that saying? Misery loves company? I can’t make everyone around me miserable too!

Ask: what needs to change? What can change? Some things are beyond our control but what are the things that we do have the power to change?

Then look for ways to refresh, rejuvenate, and restore. We are blessed to be spending a week away in this lovely place (see picture) but Monday, it’s back to reality. What can I do to replenish when the phone starts ringing again, when the emails must be answered, when life comes back in full force?

I need a different rescue than the kind in the Rolling Stone song. I need the kind found in the song by Jared Anderson, “Rescue”:

You are the source of life; I can’t be left behind.

No one else will do; I will take hold of You,

‘Cause I need You, Jesus, to come to my rescue . . . *

Lord Jesus, may it be so.

_________________________________________________

* © 2003 Integrity Worship Music

Special thanks to Buddy and Betty Paul for their restful place, Emotional Rescue.  We look forward to returning!

A Place to Sit

I love my new sitting room. What do I do there? Mostly just sit . . . think . . . ponder . . . read . . . write . . . pray.

I never knew how much I’d enjoy this new room. It’s really not a new room – just an old room that has changed its function. Several weeks ago, I enlisted the creativity and know-how of my decorating friend. In 2 days, we changed 2 old rooms in our house into 2 new rooms, complete with a change of furniture, paint and purpose. The old living room became the new dining room. The old dining room became the new sitting room.

It’s a much better use of space. I don’t know why we hadn’t done it before now.

Now I have a place to sit and ponder . . .

And there’s so much to ponder. It seems at every turn God has been stirring something within me.

Maybe it’s the “Second Half of Life” questions (Richard Rohr’s book Falling Upward) from a recent retreat:

Who am I?

Where do I belong?

What do I care about?

What is my life’s purpose?

Maybe it’s the challenge of the speakers at Catalyst:

“Be a student, not a critic.”   – Andy Stanley

“When you own your story, you get to write the ending.” – Brene Brown

“Do not miss your moment! What God is speaking into your heart now may be for a moment down the road.” – Margaret Feinbeck

“We should be more focused on God’s sufficiency than our insufficiency.” – Louie Giglio

One thing is certain: being still is necessary for me to understand the stirrings of God in my heart.

Thank you, God, for a place to sit.

Psalm 46:10 – “Be still and know that I am God.”

Psalm 66:12b – “You have brought us out to a spacious place” (NRSV)

                            “You brought us to a place of abundance” (NIV)

*************************************************

Question to readers: Where is your “place” to hear God’s voice in your life?

Comment here or send me an email.

Seeing Potential

Shed with Potential

I admit it. I am a Fixer Upper fan – the HGTV show that features Chip and Joanna Gaines and their gifts to turn a house that might be a realtor’s problem listing into a beautiful home someone will love for years to come.

I love to watch the transformation: tear down walls, open up space, install new appliances, install French doors, re-do the master bath . . . it’s enough to make me want to move to Waco that so that Chip and Joanna can redo a home for me!

Chip and Joanna have the ability to see potential.

Reminds me of a conversation with my dad at an auction:

Daddy: “Why would you want that, Trish?”

Me: “Because it has potential” . . . my reasoning for buying an old table or a well-worn chair.

This old building (above) sits behind my parents’ home. It has looked this way as long as I can remember. My dad has occasionally said he should tear it down to which I respond: “NO! It has potential.” I know that it could use some paint and maybe a new board or two but I really like it just the way it is.

For me, it represents potential. It’s not the outside. It’s what’s on the inside: Daddy’s tools, his years of working out in “his building” fixing something, building something, reworking something or just piddlin’.

God sees potential. He doesn’t care about the outside but sees deep inside. He looks at us: “oh, yes, I can work with her. I’m not concerned with the outside. I am more concerned with the inside. I can work with brokenness, torn lives, imperfections, damaged souls . . . I do my best work in these situations!”

Thank you, Lord, that You see our potential. Thank you, Lord, that You see it even when we can’t.

Blog entry is part of my sermon “Soul Improvement: A Work in Progress”, preached Sept 6, 2015. If interested in full sermon, audio and/or video found at www.pvumc.net.  If not interested, I will get over it.

Blind Faith

Every time I see them do it, I find myself yelling . . . “NOOO, don’t do it!”

But there they go: Mommy and Daddy geese, leaving their home around the retention pond and leading their gaggle of baby goslings into the heavy traffic – the six lanes of Shipyard Blvd.  I can’t believe it!  I don’t like to cross Shipyard Blvd on foot and I usually move faster than the geese!  So far in the numerous times that I’ve watched them do it, I haven’t seen any casualties.  Amazingly, folks actually slow down and stop.

It’s one of those moments of life when nature stops us.  There’s no reasoning with the geese not to walk into traffic.

There’s no making them hurry. Some drivers blow their horns. The geese ignore them.

They just take their time and lead their children into the road, unaware that cars traveling 55 miles an hour are dangerous.

The goslings don’t know that they are in danger. All they understand is Mom and Dad want us to move. All they know is to follow their parents, trusting that they will not lead them to be hurt.

There’s something spiritual about watching the geese.   Something about blind faith . . . following their parents . . . trusting the One who gave you life

 

** thanks, pj bolduc, for the photo