A few months back, my friend, Julie, and I headed out to a sporting goods store to purchase kayaks. For some years now, our families have vacationed together at the beach and each year Julie and I rent kayaks. We love to paddle around in the creeks, and really, in our minds; we think that we are well on our way to becoming Master Kayakers. So at the end of last summer, we decided that it was time for us to save our money and buy our very own kayaks.
We researched and talked about it for the next year, and then we were ready. When we got to the store, according to Julie, we had to choose the correct length of the paddle by comparing it to the length of our arm expanse. So we would take a paddle off the rack, stand it up on end, and see if we could touch the top. If we could, it was the right length. Of course, there was also the concern of finding the right color paddle so that it wouldn’t clash with our kayaks. We took down paddle after paddle looking for the right length and color. That in itself made us look like two idiots who thought they knew what they were doing but clearly did not. Then we confirmed our idiot status by knocking the entire display down. THE ENTIRE DISPLAY.
There is no way to discreetly knock down a paddle display.
I guess, truth be known, we aren’t Master Kayakers either.
Really, if you had been with us on our last excursion, you would probably be completely and utterly dumbfounded as to why we would ever want to continue with this as a hobby.
Last year we stayed at a different beach, which had both creeks and man made canals. So the way it was laid out was like this: the ocean flowed into the inlet, which flowed into the creek, which then flowed into the canal. Basically the canals gave the houses access to the creek. Because of their location, the water was much calmer in the canals.
You need to keep that in mind.
We decided to head out late one afternoon because the tide was almost all the way in, and we knew that it was the best time to go and not get sucked out into the ocean where there are waves and big sharks. I have this fear of being adrift in the middle of the ocean with no diet Pepsi or boiled peanuts while the sun is blistering my skin and Jaws is circling my Kayak.
What we didn’t take into account was the wind. When we turned the corner that led out of the canal and into the creek, the water turned really choppy and the wind was blowing, oh, I’d say about 40-50 mph. Listen, if fisherman can make a story respectable by exaggerating the size of the fish, then a kayaker should be able to make her story exciting by exaggerating the speed of the wind.
At first it was really great fun. The wind was at our backs and we were coasting down the creek nicely. The only thing we had to use our paddles for was to steer. The wind did the rest. As the wind continued to pick up, we started moving faster and faster. We were having the best time ever until we realized two things. First, even though the tide was coming in we were going out – quickly. Second, as much fun as we were having with the wind at our backs, we probably were not going to experience that same fun when we turned around. Basically, the coasting would be over.
We decided to turn around and head back to the canal. That’s what we decided to do; unfortunately that’s not what actually happened. We paddled and paddled and paddled. Water was splashing into our faces. I needed windshield wipers for my sunglasses. I began to wonder how much further we had to go because all the docks were beginning to look the same. Then I realized that the reason the dock to my left looked like the one that had been to my left just 5 minutes earlier was because IT WAS THE SAME DOCK. We were not moving. And let me tell you, if we stopped paddling for even a second, we would fall back at least two kayak lengths.
I turned to say something to Julie but she wasn’t behind me. Some kind of way she had made it to a dock and was hanging on for dear life. I couldn’t bring myself to stop paddling because I knew if I did, I would lose all that ground that I had fought so hard for. I could see the bend that lead back into the canal up ahead, way up ahead, but I just couldn’t get there. I was about to give up when I saw a boat round the bend with our boys in it. They sized up the situation and through my fogged up, water spotted sunglasses, I could see the big grins on their faces. Of course, they had several smart-alecky things to say. I promise you I would have smacked one of them with my paddle, but I was too afraid to stop paddling.
They picked up Julie first then came up beside me. When the boat pulled up beside me, hands reached out and grabbed my kayak. It was a beautiful sight! The boys held onto our kayaks and towed us back to the canal. It was still a rough ride and salt water was still splashing all in my face, but the paddling was done and my aching arms were finally able to rest.
Paddling a kayak in a storm is a lot like maneuvering through the storms of life. If we allow God to, He will teach us and perfect two important spiritual disciplines in our lives: endurance and perseverance.
Sometimes, like Julie, we have to hang on – ride the storm out. That’s endurance. We have to be still and wait, and while we wait, we hang on to Jesus with all our strength. In the end, we learn to undergo hardships with out giving in and without losing hope. We learn to trust and our faith increases (James 1:2-4).
Then there are times when we are called to keep pushing forward, no matter how fierce the opposition or how weary and discouraged we are tempted to become. We refuse to give up. That’s called perseverance. We keep paddling because we know there is hope; we know the storm will end or we will make it to calmer waters. We know God is watching carefully, He knows our weariness, and He knows what we are capable of. And when it’s time, His hands will reach out and steady us, and though the wind is still blowing and the waves are still battering us, we will be able to rest as he leads us to still waters. We are stronger for having persevered because we get a glimpse of the real strength, His strength, in our lives (Psalm 28:7).
When we keep our eyes on Jesus, storms will not destroy
us; they will make us stronger. And when He leads us into
still waters, He will restore our souls (Psalm 23).
Have a great week!
This is an awesome music video by Shane and Shane with an excerpt from John Piper's message, "The Glory of God in the Sight of Eternity." It encourages us to not lose heart in the face of suffering and it reminds us that our suffering is never meaningless. If you could use some encouragement, listen and be renewed.
The last few weeks have been very difficult for my friend, Grace. She and her family found out that her dad was in the final stages of pancreatic cancer. They brought him home to care for him. Tonight he went home to be with Jesus.
When she first learned that her dad had cancer, there was shock, confusion, fear, and lots of questions, some with no definitive answers. There was heartbreak and sadness.
But then God reached down and began showing her his hand. She became clearly aware of His attention, even His attention to the small things. The more aware of His attentiveness, the calmer she became, the stronger she became. It has been truly amazing to watch.
I have a friend, we’ll call her Tracy…mainly, because that's her name, and she gave me permission to share this story.
Tracy’s job between now and June 6 is to get me in "mother of the bride" shape. This is no small task, mind you. I really can’t think of anything I dislike more than exercise, except maybe surgery without anesthesia. Though I haven’t tried that, I’m pretty sure it would beat out exercise for my least favorite thing.
Anyway, the other day, as I pulled into her driveway and parked, Julie, another friend was headed to her car.
“She’s in A MOOD,” Julie informed me.
I felt a panicky feeling begin to rise up in me. What does ‘in a mood’ mean, exactly?
“She almost killed me,” Julie continued as she climbed into her car.
“Well that’s just great,” I thought to myself. Julie is in much better shape than me, so I knew I was sunk. There was no way I could survive if my friend who runs for fun almost died.
As I headed to the front door, my mind began messing with me. When I reached the front door, which is a big, heavy door, I realized that the doorknob was higher than the normal knob and it was gia-normous too… which made me feel intimidated and small - like Alice in Wonderland.
When I opened the door she was standing there, smiling.
“Are you in a mood? Because Julie said you were…” I started.
“What? No,” she assured me as she waved me off with her hand and headed for the stairs. AND I followed her.
As we made our way down the stairs to the basement she said, “You’re really not going to like me after today.”
Well, there it was!
And the hot flashes started.
I am in that delightful stage of life where my internal thermostat is struggling. There are a few things that set the hot flashes off. One would be heat, which is problematic because I live in the south and I own a blow dryer. And the other is anxiety, which I was in the full throws of.
Now listen, I have known Tracy for all of my adult life. I have never picked up on any “sinisterismness”. She has always been friendly and kindhearted. I have never been afraid of her…until now.
For the next hour, she made me do things I would never do left to myself. She wanted me to strengthen my core. “I don’t think I have one,” I told her.
She would say things like, “I know this is hard…you only have 50 more.” Evil I tell you, just evil. And she smiled the entire time.
She corrected my incorrect posture, showed me how to do certain things, and explained how each exercise was beneficial to me even though I was convinced each one was going to kill me.
She told me to do things that in my mind were just too stinking hard and then wouldn’t let me not do them.
Just a little side note: exercise also brings on hot flashes.
At one point, she opened the door to let some cool air in. My mind screamed, “RUN”, but the rest of me said, “It is just so not going to happen.”
To Tracy’s credit, she was very encouraging. She would say things like, “Good job”, and “I know you can do this.”
When I got in my car to drive home, I had two thoughts.
1. “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.”
2. “Where is my ibuprofen?”
As I drove home another thought occurred to me. Just as I need Tracy to come along side me with my physical conditioning, I also need friends to come along beside me with my spiritual conditioning. I need to put myself under strong Godly instruction. I need to seek out those wiser than me and learn from them. I need to surround myself with friends who are also in training. The Bible calls those kinds of relationships iron sharpening iron relationships.
I had asked Tracy for help, and she was doing exactly what I had asked her to do, and she did it well. Truthfully, if it weren’t for her presence, I would not have finished. Okay, while I’m being honest here, I would have cheated on counting the reps, too. It’s true. Sad, but true.
As much as we desire to follow Christ, the truth is, there are times when we face things that just seem too hard. There are times when we just want to do what we have to do to get by, or we just flat out want to quit.
We need sisters standing beside us encouraging us. But we also need them standing beside us lovingly pointing out when our spiritual posture is not correct or when we have become lax in our training and conditioning. Not so we feel beat up, but so we become stronger and healthier in our spiritual walk.
I am blessed to have such sisters.
If you don’t, let me encourage you to consider finding some for yourself. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Seek out a wise Godly woman.
2. Ask her to help you – just like I asked Tracy.
3. Give her full permission to speak truth into your life – even if it is hard or it hurts.
4. Trust her, listen to her, follow her guidance.
5. Meet with her on a consistent, regular basis.
6. Let her see your weaknesses and struggles. Drop the mask.
You will be amazed at the transformation.
Have a great week!
Here we are…2015. How are your New Year’s resolutions going? Anybody bailed yet?
I’m not one prone to make New Year’s resolutions because I’m not really good at remembering what I resolved to do or not do. It’s really kinda sad. I get caught up in the emotion of the moment, declare my resolve, and then I get distracted with, well just about anything, and I forget until the next New Year. Then I remember that I failed.
A long time ago, as all my friends were avowing what their New Year’s resolutions would be, I came up with a most ingenious idea. I resolved that I would no longer make a New Year’s resolution. There. Now I had a resolution I could keep. While everyone around me would eventually either berate themselves for not being able to stick to their resolutions or make excuses as to why it was impossible, therefore, not their fault that they didn’t stick to it, I would just smile and enjoy my success.
But two years ago, as I sat at my computer waiting for Parkingspacefaith.com to hit the Web, I found myself breaking my longstanding resolution to not make a resolution.
As I sat waiting for Ken Lewis, our website administrator, to launch PSF, I began to think back over the journey that had brought me to that moment - all the little things that God had orchestrated. From the first tugging to do something for His glory to the realization of what He was actually calling me to do. I remember the overwhelmingly confused feeling when I felt the pull to build a website. I had no idea how to go about building a website. For crying out loud, I am the one who is usually threatening to throw my computer out of the window.
Then to complicate things further, God sent me three precious friends to help. Carolyn, Grace, and Lisa, who by their own admissions, were more computer illiterate than I was.
Four women doing something that they had no idea how to do…
Isn’t that just like God? He gives a seemingly impossible task – one that is not within our range of ability and then He waits for us to surrender it to Him completely. I guess He knows that if it were within our realm of capability, we would take off on our own and completely mess things up. God began working out every little detail. He sent the right people, with the right gifts, at the right time. He left no doubt that it was His hand.
God often calls us to “God sized” tasks. The problem is, we often dismiss them because they seem beyond our ability, not in our area of expertise, or they aren’t in our area of “giftedness”. Oh yeah, and there is usually a little issue of time…not enough of it.
Please, all of these I consider to be valid arguments, and make no mistake, I have used them all. However, I don’t think God finds them acceptable; at least He hasn’t for me.
You know, I found it scary yet freeing to be called to a task that I was incapable of doing because really, the only thing God required of me was a willing heart. He did the rest.
Now that I think about it, Moses didn’t have the expertise or ability to part the Red Sea, but it parted. Peter was not a gifted teacher nor did he possess a superior intellect, but Christ used him to build His church. And, I guess if a few fishes and loaves can be multiplied to feed thousands, God is quite capable of multiplying our time in order to fit His purpose into our schedule. By the way, there is the option of eliminating some things from our schedule in order to have more room for God’s plan for our lives.
So that night in 2013, I resolved to embrace the “God size” tasks more willingly. Whether it involved Him working through me to do something for His glory or working in me to become something for His glory, I knew that it was God who would “equip me in every good thing to do His will.” (Hebrews 13:21)
Now, two years later, God is still taking care of the details. He is still equipping us to do His will. He added a few more to our count, Robert Coker, Melanie Moseley, Sarah Kathryn Marlowe, and Chris Reardon. Because of them, we have a new website, and we can be found on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.
We are excited about sharing 2015 with all of you!
Yesterday, I was led to share something about my past that I didn’t want to share, especially because it was in front of someone whose approval is very important to me. For the rest of the day, my heart was heavy. I found myself struggling with why sharing this particular part of my story was causing so much hurt in my heart. I have shared parts of my story many times before, and though it has never been easy, I've never experienced emotions quite like this.
I found a quiet space to just sit still before my Father, and I asked for help. As I sat there, the Holy Spirit, the Counselor, gently shed light on what was happening.
A good bit of my story revolves around things that happened in my life before I came to a saving knowledge of my Lord and Savior. But, this particular part of my story happened after Jesus saved me from my wicked and sinful self.
Before Christ, I sinned against a God I didn’t know, but now, when I sin, I sin against a Father I do know, and that makes the sin all the more grievous to me. I thought about the disciple, Peter. What incredible heartbreak Peter felt when he looked into Jesus’s eyes as he realized in full whom he had sinned against. I was feeling that heartache.
I want to make sure you understand that my struggle was not with whether or not I had been forgiven. When we repent of our sins, God takes them and throws them as far as the east is from the west, and He remembers them no more. I believe that with all my heart, so I knew that there was no place for condemnation.
So why the broken heart?
In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul talks about a thorn in his flesh. No one knows with certainty what that thorn was, but Paul explained that it had a purpose:
“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (verses 7-12)
I found myself agreeing with Paul. I will be glad for my thorns. The pain reminds me of who I am apart from Christ and let me tell you…that keeps me in a humble place. It reminds me that His grace is precious and all I need. I’m so thankful that I don’t have to be strong on my own; that when I am at my weakest, He does His most powerful and amazing work.
I found myself gladly embracing my broken heart. In fact, I always want my heart to be broken when I am called to revisit those dark places because on the heels of the heartache is the sweet reminder that I am a cherished child of the Most High God. I always want to be amazed that He would saved one as wretched as me because when that reality sinks deep into the inner most parts of my heart, I find myself loving Him more and more.
Who is like our God?
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”
-1 Peter 5:6
There is a devotion in The Women’s Devotional Bible written by Beth Donigan Severson that has given me much needed visuals during seasons of my life that prove challenging. If I may, please allow me to paraphrase it for you.
Claude Monet’s painting the Water Garden is painted in the round in Paris. As you stand in the
middle of the room and turn around the garden engulfs you. Then as you study the piece, one of the hidden surprises is that the majority of the canvas is filled with dark blues, blacks, and greens. These colors lie in stark contrast to the lighter pastels of the flowers. However, the painting does not translate as dark and dreary but as light and full of life. The darker shades actually enhance the lighter ones and the pastels are what your eyes rest on.
Severson relates this painting to the colors of her life. Often times we focus on the darker times so much we fail to see the blessings staring us in the face. God has a purpose for each stroke he breathes across our canvas… the difficult and the happy ones! He allows the dark blues and blacks so the pastels stand out more. When we know this, we can look back on
the times when we are misunderstood by those we considered to be our friends or when our dreams for our children are crushed or when a physician tells our precious parent there are no more options and begin to see God’s “handiwork in creating a brilliance of color and beauty from pain and suffering”.
She also writes that “just like the water lilies in Monet’s masterpiece, God keeps the leaves and petals afloat through the muck, wind and rain that are part of the storms of life. Water gardens survive April showers and worse, and I will too, by God’s help and grace.”
Isn’t that just a great analogy to life! When God is in it, it’s all used for our good! I personally have trouble seeing the pastels sometimes when I’m in the middle of the muck, but that’s when God shows up and reminds me He is there through it all … just hold on a little tighter! He has me and He is NOT letting go! What better promise could we hear than that!
I do not like acknowledging my weaknesses. I guess it’s more of a pride thing than anything else. Of course, I don’t like acknowledging that I’m prideful either…but there it is.
Aside from pride, why is it hard to acknowledge our weaknesses? Weaknesses make us feel vulnerable and we don’t like to feel vulnerable. Our weaknesses can keep us from being part of something that requires strength in an area where we do not have strength. They make us feel ashamed, inadequate.
Now when I refer to weaknesses, I’m not talking about shortcomings in areas that I can control. For example, I might want to say that I have a weakness in the area of patience. I’m not always patient, especially when I’m tired or pressed for time. When I say hop, I want people to hop…like right then. I don’t want to say things twice. In fact, I don’t want to have to say things once if I think someone should intuitively know what I want done.
The patience issue is not a weakness; it is my sinful nature. When all is said and done, I choose to be impatient. I can exercise more self-control; sadly, there are just times that I don’t want to.
On the other hand, the weaknesses I’m talking about are the things that I have no control over. They are infirmities; a handicap; limitations to what I am capable of doing intellectually, physically, or socially; a disability.
Not long ago, I found myself trying to console a child who has a learning disability. He posed this question to me, “Why am I not smart? Why do I have to struggle like this?” His heart was hurting and he was so frustrated. I wanted to ask God the same questions.
Why would God want His followers to have weaknesses?
In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul talks about one of his weaknesses that caused him great distress. He called his weakness “a thorn in his flesh.” He was completely incapable of changing it. He even asked God to remove it, but He didn’t. In the end, Paul was grateful!
All of us have weaknesses and limitations. You know, I have found that there is great power in recognizing and accepting my limitations; not as handicaps, but more as a means of fully embracing God’s mercy and grace in my life. If His power is perfected in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9), then He doesn’t see my limitations as handicaps but rather as opportunities to show His power; so should I not see them in the same way?
Not only will God use my weaknesses to display His power, He will use them to protect me. My weaknesses keep me humble and free from pride and arrogance. A person's pride will bring about his downfall, but the humble in spirit will gain honor (Proverbs 29:23).
So, while others boast in their strength, I will stand with Paul and boast in my weakness because I know that when in my weakness I become strong, it is the power of Christ that dwells in me.
For those with weaknesses, take comfort in knowing that God’s grace is sufficient for you, that where you are weakest, you are strongest because His power is perfected in your weakness.
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