Saturday, March 27, 2021

Bloom Where You're Planted

Bloom Where You’re Planted

Be flexible, and find joy and purpose in the journey

‘Travel’, ‘Evangelize’, ‘Hit the road’;  It was 2009, my Dad was approaching the age where he wanted to retire from pastoring, and these words and phrases begin to show up quite often in our conversation.  He had always dreamed of evangelizing again after “retirement” (a very inaccurate term).  I was 15, and just beginning to hit my stride with youth and church activities; I was not too keen on the idea of packing up and leaving all my friends, family and comfort zones behind.  

In the summer of that year, we took a long trip out - preaching and singing our way across the U.S. and into Canada.  I guess it was kind of a ‘testing our wings’ outing, and my wings were quite rusty.  I’m sure I enjoyed the trip, but inwardly I chaffed at the thought of doing this full-time while life at home passed me by.  We finished our summer trip by attending Heritage Youth Conference in Colorado Springs.  Something happened at that conference; I can’t tell you an exact moment, or even a specific service, but there was an obvious change in my attitude towards traveling.  On the way home, I realized that the prospect of ‘hitting the road’ didn’t bother me: in fact, I felt excited about it!  I knew that God had worked in me - He had changed my heart, and I had a brand new perception of this next stage of life.

In the spring of 2010, right around my 16th birthday, the adventure began.  We could be seen in our big white motorhome, headed east on the highway.  Evangelizing was SO good for me!  The exposure to all of the different people, places and churches broadened my horizons and pushed me out of my shell.  I learned that if I didn’t want to be lonely, I was going to have to get out there and be friendly; consequently I acquired a bevy of wonderful new friendships.  New opportunities caused me to branch out of my comfort zone.  It was a ‘push out of the nest’ in a way, and through it, the Lord helped me to grow.

Through this experience, I learned an important lesson: your attitude can make or break any stage of life. I began to think about this phrase, ‘bloom where you’re planted’ and tried to put it into practice.  The truth is that God knows exactly where we need to be!  He does everything on purpose and with a purpose. I believe it brings him much joy when we dedicate ourselves to being our best and doing our best for Him - wherever He has placed us.  Does this mean we’re perfect and never have bad days?  No, definitely not.  It does mean that we are making a conscious effort to make the most of the situation we are in and do a work for the Lord!  Think of Daniel: roughly captured and taken to Babylon, far, far away from home.  He could’ve easily adopted a stinky attitude.  Instead, the Bible says that an ‘excellent spirit’ was found in him.  Because of this, God was able to use him in extraordinary ways.  

In a lot of ways, life is taking on another new phase for me, and I am sure there are many more phases to come.  But, I am confident of this one thing: God is with me.  If I will give it my best effort, I believe I can not only survive, but thrive under His care.  Not waiting for a time in the future, but right now - I am determined to be useful to Him and be just what He wants me to be!  His strong and gentle hands have planted me here, and with His help, I intend to bloom.  

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Author, Write My Story - The Story Behind The Song

Author, Write My Story - A Songwriter's Journey 

   Have you ever sat down to write something - a book report, a poem, a song - and felt totally uninspired?  Most of us have felt that way many times. We have those wonderful moments when creativity is flowing through our veins, and then we have those other moments when it just isn’t there.  Sometimes we look at what we’ve written, then crumple it up and throw it away, deeming it junk.  How many of us have stopped to think of our lives as a work of art in progress: a book, or a song, that is still being composed?  Every day we are adding another phrase, another sentence, another paragraph.  How many of us have looked back at the day we just lived or the decision we just made and thought, “Well, that was dumb.”  It happens!  It especially happens when we try to write our story without God’s help.  In Jeremiah 10:23, the prophet said, “O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.”  We’re human, and we don’t know what the future holds.  We’re living out our story without knowing its outcome.  That’s why we need help - help from Someone Who sees not only where we are, but also sees every moment of our past and our future.  

  It was while thinking on these things that I began to feel an urge to write a song called, Author, Write My Story.  It took a while (didn’t all come in one burst of inspiration!), but finally came together.  I was able to record it earlier this year.  More than just a lyric, this song has become my heartbeat.  I have a sign with the words hanging in my room.  I speak them to God when I pray.  I felt this song as I wrote it, and it taught me some very important lessons.  In fact, it’s still teaching me. 

   “Born into this world, my life a book filled with empty pages…”  We all come into this world with a clean canvas.  The future is an endless road before us, our stories are not yet written.  

   “As I began to live, the void was filled with written lines and phrases…”  As we grow, we begin filling the pages with our story.  Tales of carefree childhood and echoes of laughter punctuate those early chapters.  But also, the general direction of our life begins to take shape.  The Bible says that “Even a child is known by his doings…”  Prov 20:11.  These are the formative years - our character and personality begin to speak to others of who we really are.   

   “But, it didn’t take that long to see that it would never be in me to write a story beautiful and true.  Mistakes were made and lines scratched out, there were things I could not figure out…”  Because we are born with the fallen nature of Adam, it doesn’t take long for us to start messing up.  The problem is that unlike an article or a poem, you can’t press backspace 32 times and erase the wrong decisions, or words, or attitudes.  This is real life, happening in real time, and there’s no going back for re-dos.  Sounds kind of depressing, right?  Well, for a lot of people, life is depressing.  They feel in over their heads.  Their story is not what they wanted it to be.  But, we were never meant to write this on our own. 

   This song applies to more than just those who are broken and in a messed up place in their lives.  I’m a preacher’s kid.  I’m known as a good girl who loves God.  And I do!  But, I still don’t have the ability to write my life’s story.  I’ve made mistakes, made decisions based on my own understanding, stressed about things I had no power to control or change.  But, around the time of the writing of this song, a realization began to take shape in my mind: if I want my life to be beautiful, I’m going to have to climb to a higher place of trust in God.  I can’t do this on my own.  I don’t have the understanding or the expertise to write the story of my life.  Oh, but, here is the good part: I have a Friend! 

   “’Til I began anew, and gave the pen to You…”  Every single one of us has the option to ask for help in the writing of our story.  You see, the One Who made us truly knows us.  He sees where we’re at, and where we’re going.  He sees the messes and mistakes, and only He knows how to bring beauty out of the ashes.  He sees our confusion, wondering why things happen the way they do.  He sees our frustrations at not knowing how things will unfold, or when the answers to our prayers will be provided.  He knows it all - His understanding and power are infinite.  He has a plan.  And the best part is, He loves us!  Everything He does is for our good.  He has only our best intentions in mind, and He proved it once and for all when He allowed rusty spikes to be driven into His sinless hands.

   He alone can turn our stories into something beautiful…and He wants to.  Oh, how He wants to!  We make the smartest decision of our lives when we let go, and in sweet surrender, give God the pen.

Author, write my story for Your glory, for Your good.  May it be a testimony to a world in need of You.  You alone see beginning to the end.  Let every line and every chapter be according to Your plan.  I know You love me, so write my story with Your nail-scarred hand.”

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

The Main Thing

 I really wanted to do something special for my mom's birthday.  We were in Benton, a town near Little Rock, AR, visiting some long-time friends, the Emersons. August fourth (day before Mom's birthday) we went on a a little trip and ended up not getting home till about four am...crazy, I know! So, the next day, I got up in the wee hours of the morning (10 a.m.) and wandered into the kitchen with the Emerson's 8-year-old daughter, Jayla. I really wanted to start my mom's birthday off right with a good breakfast; I finally decided on waffles, one of her favorites. My mom was still in bed, and I couldn't find any waffle or pancake mixes, so I went online to find a recipe. Then I confidently strode into a brand new kitchen, sure that I could handle a simple meal like waffles. (Forget that I was 17 and had yet to discover my inner-chef.)

I stumbled around that kitchen - it took me ages to find every single ingredient.  Finally I found what I thought looked like flour.  It wasn't marked, but I didn't see anything else that looked like flour. I got everything together and started mixing it up in a bowl. The lumpy mess didn't look promising. I fired up the waffle iron, and poured some of the mix on. After just a minute or so, I knew that something wasn't right. The waffle mix was seeping from the sides of the waffle iron, as well as smoke. I tentatively opened up the iron to discover a flat, gooey mess. I was sick. My wonderful birthday breakfast for my mother was not turning out the way I had planned at all. It was then that I realized that the substance I thought was flour was definitely not flour.  I later found out it was corn meal.  (Ok, you can quit laughing now.)  As you all know, waffles without flour don't turn out too well! 

This reminded me of a simple lesson Jesus taught in the Bible. He told the Pharisees, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgement, mercy and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the others undone."  Matthew 23:23
Jesus is saying, "You've got the minor details, but you forgot the main thing!"  Oh yes, the little stuff is important, too.  But, so often, if you get the main thing right, everything else falls into place.

"Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and prophets."  Matthew 22:37-40

Lesson learned:  
When you're in the kitchen, don't forget to put flour in your waffles.
And while you're on planet earth, don't forget to love God, and don't forget to love people.