WHAT I LEARNED AT THE BEACH

Laz-ing away on the beach last weekend, I watched two little kids: pink-suited girl about four and toddler boy with sippy cup.  Little girl had her towel spread just so and assumed the position for sunning, face-down, arms spread…for about three seconds.  Then a seashell distracted her, and she sat up and examined it.  Sippy boy flung sand at her, so she flung more back, then resumed the sunning position…for another three seconds.  Then she had to situate her towel even more perfectly before resuming the position once again.  Pretty soon, she had to see who might be watching her and locked eyes with me, thirty feet away.  Now she became prissy and self-conscious as she gathered her little body and tried to rearrange, no longer satisfied with her position.

Meanwhile, sippy-cup boy wandered toward the ocean, eliciting verbal admonishments and finally foot chase from bikini mom.  Pink-suited girl joined chase and plunged into the surf herself, hauling the boy out, feet dangling, still clutching sippy-cup.

I would like to think that I’m nothing like sippy boy; surely neither instigating a riot, nor plunging head-long into danger, nor holding too tightly to my possessions.  Surely not.

But, oh, how like that little girl I can be!  How many times have I assumed a worship position only to become distracted?  My eyes focus on some chore that needs to be done; my mind wanders to something “more interesting”…like my own unworthy self.  This is a shameful, painful admission.

And I must question other areas of my life.  Perhaps I don’t intentionally instigate sand-slinging, but am I intentional in making peace?

Am I more concerned with getting my worship situation just right than with the eternal God who invites my worship?

I don’t even have to ask the next obvious question…I know how self-conscious and self-absorbed I can be.  Physical expressions of worship, especially when I’m not alone, don’t come naturally to me.  How grateful I am that the Lord knows my heart; yet, have I missed a blessing by being prissy and self-conscious in my public worship?

What does come naturally is being the “hero.”  How cool is that to plunge into the surf and rescue a stray brother (or sister), especially if I think it will please my heavenly Parent!

Here comes the truly hard question.  It’s really not about anybody’s approval, not my fellow worshipers, and really, not even my Father’s, because that makes my motives all about me.  The real question is, where is my heart?  Do I truly know and care about what’s going on with my sippy-cup siblings?  Am I being the hero because I deeply love my sisters and absolutely desire their most prosperous well-being?

If only I can do away with pink bathing suits (literally and figuratively) and don the simple linen of an humble, loving saint!

Okay, ladies, let’s hear your heroic stories…or bathing suit tales, whichever!

 

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COLDWATER THANKS

Easter Sunday, I had an epiphany of sorts.  My Holy Week had been everything but holy—stressful, worrisome, irksome, sick cat, hurt foot—you name it.  To top that off, gratitude was giving me a hard time.  Not that I didn’t truly desire to express my thanks; it just seemed, in light of the magnitude of My Lord’s gift to me, His awful sacrifice to save my worthless hide, that any thanks that I could muster would just be too pathetic. A mountain-top experience, it was not.

But on Easter afternoon, late, after church and family time and naps, my husband and I rousted ourselves from the couch and went for a drive.  We took a back road my husband had never been on, one of those narrow, winding roads meandering up the mountain.  I had driven it, once, a dozen or so years ago, when our ladies’ group had an overnight retreat in a fabulous borrowed house.

Wondering whether I would recognize the driveway leading to the house, I kept glancing at the amazing view toward Pilot Mountain and remembering the spectacular dawn I had witnessed from that house.  Then, around a curve, quick glimpse of the house, and yes, that ridiculous forty-five degree turn-back up the steep driveway!

I mused about the ladies who were on that retreat—a few I haven’t seen in years; one shared her struggles and still hasn’t gotten her act together; another shared her heartache, and still bears that burden daily. I pondered whether anything we did that weekend mattered.

And then I had a flashback.  Friday afternoon, before the retreat began, my friend Sherry and I went ahead to prepare things.  Stirred up two pots of spaghetti sauce, as I recall.  Laid things out just so. I remember walking the halls of that huge, two-story home, praying as I went, and knowing me, simultaneously ruminating over all the many details for the evening ahead.

As I passed one of the bedrooms, through the open door, I spotted Sherry on her knees, praying.  On her knees, in every bedroom, praying over the ladies who would be arriving soon.  The fact that most of those ladies never went to bed is inconsequential in Kingdom currency.

My epiphany:  Those prayers mattered then, and are in effect even today. This is how to thank my Savior.  Do the things that matter, the things that last forever.  Do it especially for messy people; do it faithfully whether or not you ever see the outcome.

Jesus called it giving a cup of cold water in His name.  Doesn’t have to be something big or dramatic.  Saying “thank you” to Him just means being intentional about the things I do in His name.  I’ll leave the outcome and the rewards to Him.

So…Ladies, I’ve accomplished what I set out to do.  We’ve journeyed through twelve weeks—an annual quarter—of AS YOU GO.  Originally, I pictured a postcard-sized booklet, with tear-out sheets for ladies to carry daily “as they go.” Perhaps an online venue is what God pictured instead.

What’s in store next?  I’m not entirely sure what He has in mind.  I can see a series on healthy living, but my desire is to follow wherever He leads.  Meanwhile, if you started late or skipped weeks, perhaps He will lead you to catch up.

I thank you ladies, some whom I’ve never met, from the bottom of my heart.  Your enthusiasm has blessed me greatly.  Let’s meet back in a couple of weeks and find out where the next journey will take us.

Your Sister-in-Christ, Sheri

RESURRECTION FASHION

Observation:  Just about everybody I meet is “broke down.”  Friends are worn out, frazzled, overwhelmed; strangers on the street just appear beat.  Half our church, it seems, is limping, and the other half snorting and hacking from the pollen.  Not to mention the ones with broken bodies and broken hearts. Life tramples us all at times.

Yet here we are at Easter, the time when we contemplate Jesus’ death and celebrate with wonder His resurrection.

If Jesus’ death and resurrection provide our victory, then why, pray tell, do so many of us seem on the edge of defeat?

Let’s explore this question together.

Day 1:  “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”  Rom. 6:11

Maybe one reason we’re all beat is that we’re dragging around a dead body.  Picture a butterfly with one foot hung in the cast-off cocoon.  That’s us.  We’ve been set free to fly, to soar to heights of victory on the winds of the Spirit, but we can’t quite shake off that dead cocoon. In Galatians, Paul exclaims, “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” (Gal. 2:20) Christ in you is the butterfly; your sin nature is the cocoon.  Sure, in this world, we can never quite kick off the cocoon, but we can practice soaring.  Go outside, right now, and flap your arms in elegant butterfly motions.  This free-to-fly creature is the real you, the one you get to be for eternity.  Let that truth lift your heart one more day.

Day 2:  “And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.” Rom. 5:5

And speaking of hearts, yours is overflowing, whether you feel it or not.  In fact, the more God empties His love into your heart, the lighter it becomes.  What happens is, we pack so much baggage around our hearts, that instead of overflowing with hope, they kind of ooze and mix with the garbage and become rank with hopelessness.  This time go to your sink and fill a clear glass with water, let it overflow continually.  This is your real heart, the way it will look in Heaven.  Walk more lightly today, Sister, knowing the full measure of hope that is yours.

Day 3:  “…we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have access through faith into this grace in which we now stand.” Rom. 5:1-2

And speaking of feet, yours are shod in princess shoes.  Yes, they are!  You walk in hope and stand in grace and live in the rich shalom of God, where everything is as it is meant to be.  No, it may not feel that way today, but in the unseen Kingdom, it is.  You are, and forever will remain, the King’s precious and most-loved daughter.  Now I personally don’t own any shoes fit for a princess; maybe you do.  If so, put them on.  If not, cover your feet in flowers and pretend you’re wearing princess shoes.  Marvel at your true identity, and raise your hands to your Father, the only King!

Day 4:  “…in all these things, we are more than conquerors, through Him who loved us.” Rom. 8:37

Speaking of hands, yours is holding a sword, which proves that you are victorious.  It may not feel that way—whether you’re going through a major difficulty or a minor annoyance, you just want it to end, don’t you? And when it drags on, you think you’re defeated.  But what does Paul say our sword is?  The Word of God. (Eph. 6:17) And what does our Word for today tell us?  Through God who loves me, and because of Jesus Christ my Lord, I am…say it out loud together…MORE THAN A CONQUEROR!

Day 5:  “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Rom 8:18

On your head, you wear a glory hat.  I kid you not!  If you could only see the pictures from my childhood of my mother and her two sisters modeling their fancy Easter hats!  I don’t know where that particular fashion trend came from, but I do know that our promised reward is a shining crown of glory. (1 Pet 5:4) I’m not exactly sure what that fashion accessory means either, but I’m pretty certain it involves finally being transformed into the likeness of my glorious Lord.  You see, bonnets aside, Easter means that God’s wrath has been satisfied.  His justice, which demanded that the guilty be punished, rained down on the cross until Jesus, as Mark Buchanan put it, was totally obliterated.  His mercy deemed that you and I, the guilty, be declared righteous, and rewarded as such.  Our reward is this: Forever, we will reflect Jesus’ glory.  You can begin today.  Even though your feet may be dragging and your glory hat a bit askew, put that hat on today and shine, Sister, shine for Jesus!

May your Resurrection Sunday be most blessed!