Building A Fort

Did you ever build a fort when you were younger? Whether it was the real deal built in the woods or up in a tree, or…every cushion, pillow, sheet and blanket from the entire house built in the living room…building a fort is something we love to do as kids. And we loved to bring our favorite things to the fort. Our favorite toys, snacks, a flashlight…the comforts of home that we wanted to make our new spot feel a little bit more…like home.

We could stay in our fort for hours. Playing, laughing, having fun and even sometimes hiding there when we wanted some space and time away from others.

I’ve realized that while I don’t build forts anymore…when I’m staying somewhere away from home I still pack a few things that help me remember home. A favorite scented candle. Technology gives me two for one now because I have pictures of my family AND a flashlight all together! I think we take a little bit of home with us when we travel because we know…there is no place like home.

Home is a place we can feel safe. We can relax and totally be ourselves. Here’s a paradigm shift…the things of God that we value and hold dear…His Word that we carry with us everywhere…they are reminders that while we are here…we are not really home yet. 2 Corinthians 5:6 says, ‘therefore we are always confident, although we know that while we are at home in the body, we are away from the Lord.’ God gave us His Holy Spirit to keep with us as a guide and reminder that we are not home yet.

Someday we’re going to make it home. This whole earthly experience is kind of like building a fort. When we finally see Jesus…we won’t need anything from here that reminds of us home. We will finally experience coming back home!

A Firm Foundation

If you attended Sunday School or Vacation Bible School as a child you may remember the little song we learned about the wise man and the foolish man. One built his house on the rock. One built his house on the sand. There’s a verse in the song that says – the rains came down and the floods came up. It ends with this: ‘the house on the rock stood firm’.

I was thinking about that song as I watched the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. That storm traumatized complete cities, wrecked properties and tragically took the lives of some who stayed to ride out the storm. Here’s the thing that struck me as I’m remembering that little childhood song. Even when our house is built on a firm foundation the rains and floods, wind and fire can cause us to need to move to higher ground for a while. Houses built by human hands are only temporary.

Jesus wasn’t talking about our house when He told this parable in Matthew 7:24, 25. The Message tells it so well. Jesus said, “These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit – but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock.”

Wow! Did you hear that?! Nothing moved the house that is fixed to the rock! He was talking about our spiritual home…our soul. It is immovable when it’s built upon the Rock of Jesus. Yes, disasters in this world happen. Yes, they are hard to bear. But, the most important foundation isn’t the one under our house. The most important foundation is who we build our life on! Fix our soul to the Rock that is our Lord Jesus!

The Moment To Stand

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, we know as NASA, recently had a pretty exciting day. It was the world’s first ever planetary defense test when a rocket they had launched months ago targeted an asteroid to make impact to see if we have the ability to alter its course should we ever need to in the future. Watching the view from the onboard video was amazing as it approached the giant asteroid. The NASA scientists and crew had been watching the computers and all the information closely. So much work had gone into this mission…and the whole world was watching this moment.

As I watched the televised event, the anticipation of this big moment was mounting. A split screen allowed us to watch the control center on one side and the rocket’s view of the asteroid in its path on the other. There was a point in time that the scientists and professionals all stood, stepped away from computer screens and watched the event on screen themselves. They had worked so hard to build that rocket, equip it, calibrate its travel path, make adjustments for any unexpected deterrents…and now was the moment they’d been anticipating. They had done all they could do. Now was the moment of truth.

Our journey is filled with impacts. Some good. Some not so good. There are moments when we must step away from the planning and adjusting….and just – stand. Ephesians 6:13 is our action plan as believers. “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” That’s God’s instruction for us on our mission. Put on all of the armor He’s given us. Stand our ground. After we have done everything we know to do, stand! The victory is God’s!

The Overflow

When I’m in a restaurant that serves coffee in a cup with a saucer I always thought it was to give my spoon a place to rest and catch the coffee when it spills over while being carried to the table. In fact, when it does arrive with coffee in the saucer I usually slide a napkin between the cup and saucer to clean it up. At home I rarely even use a saucer. So I was curious to know how the tradition of cup and saucer began.

Did you know that in the 18th century it was common to pour tea or coffee into the saucer and…sip it from the plate? The beverage cooled faster on the wider surface and stayed hot longer in the cup. I don’t remember ever seeing anyone drink from the saucer! But visualizing this made me think of Psalm 23:5. “You (God) anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” The oil in the Bible is symbolic of the Holy Spirit. Can you just envision God pouring His oil…His Holy Spirit anointing over us…and our cup overflowing?!! God’s Spirit splashing into our cup and spilling over on to everything and everyone around us! What an incredible word picture that is to us!

Maybe it’s time we start drinking from the saucer. The overflow of God’s Spirit in our lives. The beauty of that is that it covers us…and it can impact the atmosphere around us. Let’s live in the overflow!

A Quilt For Remembering

When one of my co-workers was getting ready to move away and begin a new career the rest of us starting planning a party to celebrate her years with us and wish her well in her next chapter. A couple of the team who are very handy in crafting collected a t-shirt from each of our fundraisers and different events over the past seven years that she worked at The Bridge and used the designs from each shirt to make a beautiful quilt. Every square was a different design and each one held memories of the different events she was a part of during the years she served with us.

As I looked at the handmade quilt stitched together with a lot of love I began to think of what a perfect gift it was for her. As often as she looks at it she will remember her time here and the amazing things that God has done.

It is important to remember the highlights and good things that have happened in our lives. When hard times come, and we know that they will, we can look back at the times we know God intervened. When the goodness of God hand delivered miracles right on time. Psalm 103:2 from The Message says, “O my soul, bless God, don’t forget a single blessing!” and Psalm 126:3 (NIV) tells us, “The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.”

We may not have a handmade quilt of memories to remind us but the more we express our gratitude to God for His many blessings and miracles in our lives the more we will remember…and the greater the joy we will have.

Friday Nights

Something special happens on Friday nights in the fall months at high school football fields across the country. People of all ages, backgrounds, ethnicities and beliefs come together for a few hours to do ONE thing. Cheer on the home team!

Whether it’s your child, grandchild, nephew or niece, student, or friend we full out cheer for our football team, cheer team and the marching band, don’t we?! Oh we want the win for the home team, even if we don’t know the rest of the team, because we want our person to feel the thrill of victory! And victory achieved when the whole team plays well is even sweeter.

Having a common goal among a group of people is strong motivation for digging in, working hard, pushing past the limits of just getting by to accomplish the work. Imagine what we could achieve for the Kingdom of God if we set our differences aside and focused on the Kingdom goals that God has planned for us. God’s Word says ‘Be of one mind’ in 1 Peter 3:8. The Living Bible says, “And now this word to all of you: You should be like one big happy family, full of sympathy toward each other, loving one another with tender hearts and humble minds.”

Be of one mind. Cheer one another on in the faith. That’s a good goal to have today!

Growth Measurements

When we moved into the home we had built for us – our kids were very young. In fact, our daughter was only 5 weeks old at the time. Our son had just turned 6 and so a tradition began that on each birthday we would mark their height on the door frame of my office with their initial and the year. Some years there wasn’t much more than an inch or so difference. Some years they were several inches taller than the year before. What a sweet tradition to see their growth over the years and celebrate it with them!

Some days while I was working in my office I would find myself staring at those markings and remembering how much joy we had in keeping with that tradition. I regret not finding a way to take that doorpost with us when we moved out of that home a few years ago. On the bright side, I will always have the memories of watching them back up to the doorpost and stand as straight as possible while I marked the post over the top of their head. Watching them spin around to see how much taller they were than the year before…such joy!

There is another important growth track for us. It has nothing to do with how tall we are. It has everything to do with our faith journey – our walk with the Lord. Our spiritual growth track has eternal value. There may be days when we feel that we haven’t learned a thing…that we aren’t growing as we should. And we must pay attention to what the Bible says to us about growing in our faith.

Romans 12:2 (NIV) is a clear measuring stick. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Learning what God’s will is for our lives so that we walk in it happens when we purpose to lean in to Christ every single day. We may not feel like we’re growing in the day to day. But there will be times when we realize we didn’t respond to a situation or a person the way that we used to…and we’ll realize that God is surely at work in our lives. And guess who is right there celebrating with us??!!

Bloom Where You’re Planted

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever been given is ‘bloom where you are planted’. When you have something you love to do and you have the seed of a dream within you to share it with the whole world!… Where do you begin?

Do what you do – and – keep doing it. Hone your craft. Study it. Practice it. Do it! I believe that God gives us dreams to inspire us, to stretch us, to motivate us and to keep us moving forward. The truth is the world needs who we were created to be. And God has a plan for just what part of the world gets to experience it.

And then…give your dream to God. It may seem absolutely counter intuitive to hand over your dreams. In fact, at the time, you might even wonder why God would want us to give our gifts and talents and dreams back when He gave them to us in the first place! I believe when we trust God with our deepest dreams we keep His command to love Him above all else.

When we are faithful to our corner of the world, blooming exactly where God has planted us, we may be surprised at where He takes us next. Romans 8:28 (NIV) “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Bloom where you’re planted.

Oh The Waiting

The waiting room. No one likes the waiting room because no one likes to wait! It’s inconvenient. It holds us up from being productive. If it’s a doctors office, clinic or emergency room we add in that we’re not feeling well. We find ourselves surrounded by strangers…who are also inconvenienced, possibly ill and frustrated at the wait.

Earlier this year I ended up in a hospital emergency waiting room. I was really sick. The room was packed. It was 10 hours before I was able to be seen and once they made the decision to keep me I waited another 42 hours before being moved to a room. That is a lot of waiting! I didn’t have anyone with me and my phone battery was low so what could I possibly do? A person can only watch so much HGTV! So I started praying for the people around me in the waiting room. Pain relief, healing, peace, comfort. After a while I realized that despite the fact that everyone was tired and hungry and needing some sort of medical attention there was a calmness in the overcrowded waiting room.

The more I prayed for others the less time I focused on my own pain. And, the more compassion I felt for strangers who really didn’t seem like strangers anymore. I wish I could say that I make that choice every time I find myself waiting. It might not be a room we find ourselves in. It might be a situation being controlled by someone else. Perhaps a doctor’s report is keeping us waiting.

Oh the waiting! Here’s the thing: It’s not just about the waiting. It’s about what we do while we’re waiting. Do we take it to God? Do we turn to Him first or do we worry and make noise about our situation? Do we trust God? Philippians 4:6-7 says, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication (or humble pleading), with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

We may be limited in our waiting…but we can always pray.

Who’s Writing Your Story?

I love to read and I have a favorite author. Actually, I have several favorite authors. And every time one of them publishes a new book I am putting my order in as soon as it’s available! I will literally block out a day to read it cover to cover when it arrives. If you like to read you know the kind of book that holds your attention so well that you can’t put it down. I love that! I think it’s because I love stories.

I love meeting someone and hearing their story. Sometimes I am so overwhelmed by the dramatic highs and lows of the story that I find myself forever changed by it. And sometimes I find myself connected to the storyteller by something our stories have in common. A shared joy…a familiar pain…a similar loss.

Your life…and my life…are stories. And God is writing our stories WITH us! Whether we came to know Him as a child…or we just came to know Him last week…regardless of our age…we can look back over our lives and see His fingerprints, His ink, all over our story! After all, God made us in His image. Our pages are filled with hope, anticipation and love! We may not always feel that way…but maybe its because we haven’t read to the finish yet.

Are you like me – trying to pick up the pen and write a few pages on my own? Oh I find myself in serious trouble when I do that! How much better we are to rest in God and trust that every chapter He writes of our lives will be filled with scenes that only He could bring to life. And the most beautiful part is that He is in every single page! Jeremiah 29:11 confirms it. ‘For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.’

Some days our stories read like a barnburner. Some days are like a cliffhanger! But every day, between the lines, on every page, our story is a love story, carefully crafted, written in red, by the Author who is Love. You and I….are God’s love story…and, He says it’s a best seller!