During spring break of 2015, my family and I went to Biloxi, Mississippi for a family mission trip. We worked there in Biloxi at a homeless shelter, painting, tiling, doing some general construction-type work, and sharing the love of Jesus with the guests at the shelter.
One day at lunch our work team decided to go to a seafood restaurant right by the marina. A boat had just come in from a guided fishing trip, and the guide was filleting the fish that the group had caught while out in the Gulf of Mexico. A very peculiar thing to me was that a pelican had cozied up to the guide, and was waiting patiently for him to share a scrap of fish. I’d never seen a pelican so close to a human before – it seemed almost domesticated or tame. It goes without saying that this pelican had pursued a relationship with the fishing guide, a relationship that benefitted the pelican greatly.
Isn’t that what we do when we draw close to the Lord through prayer? We pursue a relationship with God almighty. And Jesus encourages his followers to spend considerable time and energy doing this very thing. He tells us to, “ask, seek, knock” – and we will not be disappointed. But the benefits of pursuing a relationship with God through prayer are far greater than a few scraps of fish (sorry, pelican!).
I love what M. Basil Pennington (monk, author, and prayer-warrior) has to say about pursuing a relationship with God through prayer. He states, “In prayer we seek God. We do not seek peace, quiet, tranquility, enlightenment; we do not seek anything for ourselves. We seek to give ourselves… to God. He is the all of our prayer.” The greatest benefit is the relationship itself. We get to give ourselves to this relationship – we get to give ourselves to God. We get to ask, seek, and knock; knowing that whether our prayers are answered the exact way we ask them or not, we are building the most blessed relationship this life (and the life to come) has to offer.
We pursue a relationship with the One who is our Friend, our Counselor; yet at the same time is also our Rock, Refuge, and Guide. We pursue a relationship with the One who is our God – and we will not be disappointed.
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Matthew 7:7-8
Dr. Steven Bell
I live for quotes during my weeks. Quotes and words cause me to pause…remember…reflect…be inspired. They take me from where I am to where I probably need to be in a specific moment. This is why I live for them…they remind me that I am alive. I am capable. I am creative. Quotes give me moments in my day that cause me to collide with beliefs, the world and others. Some push me closer to where I need to be and some remind me that my voice is important. Some even change my life.
My all time favorite quote by Carl Sandburg who said, “Time is the most valuable coin in your life. You and you alone will determine how that coin will be spent. Be careful that you do not let other people spend it for you.” I still have the email from the friend who sent it to me in 2010 and this quote serves as my filter when I take a new project.
For me, the little quotes are gifts from God. God knows me. God knows you. (Even if we try to pretend God’s too busy to notice us.) And God knows how to get our attention on our busy days and on our days when we are just lazy. I need God on both days to either slow me down or pull me out of myself and back into the race for the day. And that is why God created quotes! God was the first in the communication business way before Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. God has used bushes, mountains (Moses really had all the fun), prophets,disciples, scribes, friends and more to communicate with us. God was also the first in the recycling business…God takes us from where we are and turns us into a new creation through God’s love.
This week, I have come across some great quotes and I simply thought I would share. And I hope you might send some of your great ones back to me. It is kind of like a recipe exchange. Who knows…we might even change each others lives.
We may feel there’s way too much to do, but some of it is not his (God’s) will. The pressure is coming from you, or your employer, or your friends, or your parents, or someone else besides God! Article by Tim Keller
Thy will be done. From a friend fighting cancer
To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1 sent from a friend in the mail.
The whole world was changing and I didn’t know how I fit in. Cecil Gaines from The Butler
If you feel your life is terrible, just look at your own profile page on Facebook and your life looks great! from a friend
Who says it has to be itsy bitsy? a talk by Jessica Rey
Sometimes God says yes. Sometimes God says no. And sometimes God says not yet. from a sermon
Enjoy your quote hunt this week!
A few weeks ago, Steven and I went hiking. We hiked through the Hot Springs National Park . The day of our hike, we woke up at the Spring Street Inn, enjoyed a delicious breakfast (one of those meals you can truly eat ALL of it because you know every calorie would be burned off…joy!), stepped across the street from the B&B, and began our hike. We just walked.
After a steep 2 mile climb at the beginning of our 16 mile hike, I needed to take a break. I just sat on the ground. When you are hiking it is amazing what feels good and comfortable…the ground. (I made a mental note to myself to tell my trainer that we needed to work on conditioning my body to do more than a 30 minute workout.) While we were catching our breath and laughing at what we were doing, we heard a familiar noise…church bells. They chimed over the town and through the trees with the breeze. The sound of the bells brought a sense of calmness to us while we rested early in the morning. It was just a moment that seemed to give purpose and peace to the day. God was with us.
Historically, church bells have been used to gather worshipers together for a church service. One small village I visited during college in Costa Rica still used their church bells for this purpose. When the pastor was in town, the bells rang to let the people know to come to the service. Services were not always on Sundays. When I was a chaplain in a hospital, bells chimed twice a day through the halls. Their purpose was to encourage the hospital staff to pause and offer prayer for those in their care.
On our hiking day, the church bells calmed my soul. They reminded me that I was not alone. They gave me a chance to give thanks for a day to explore God’s natural sanctuary. They called me back from my distractions into what is truly important…time with God and my husband. They reminded me that 3 people were hiking that day even though we could only see each other.
Since then, I still hear the bells. They are not as loud at home, but they are still there. When I start my day on the wrong side of the bed, God and I meet again when I think of those bells. Then my day gets a lot better.
I wonder what you use each day to connect your agenda for the day with God’s presence? Prayer, service, scripture, a cup of coffee? What are your church bells? They can be so subtle and quiet that they are hard to hear when we are busy or in a hurry. But I guess being busy and in a hurry is not what God wants us to be doing anyways.
When we started hiking again (up another incline…ugh), I was still struck by how the church bells connected to my soul. I shared it with Steven. And then I said, “Hey, those church bells…that’s our song! We are the Bells!!” We are on this journey together. Glad you are with us too!
Today I learned about a woman who lived along the Cane River in Louisiana on the Melrose Plantation. Clementine Hunter was a farm laborer and never learned to read or write. She lived from January 1887-Janurary 1988. When she turned 50 years old, she decided she would paint. Her paintings reflected the life of the plantation. She is well known today for her work as an American Folk Artist.
The guide who shared her life with me made one comment that has stayed with me. She shared that the reason Clementine Hunter’s paintings were so famous is because she painted from the inside; from the inside of her heart and from the inside the culture of the Creole people on the plantation. From the inside she shared her experience of the world in her own way through painting.
We may often spend more time than necessary tending to our outsides. Clothes. Hair. Makeup. Image. But what about the inside? Patience. Acceptance. Listening. Prayer. Love. These are the things that really matter. Connecting with God and others really matters. Who we are on the inside is what we are called to show the outside.
It is good to pause now and then to take an assessment of our spiritual life on the inside. When we stay busy and distracted by calendar items that are necessary but not life giving, we can easily silence our inner voice or inner thoughts that are inviting us to connect ourselves with our God. When we go along enough days only living from the surface of our selves, we begin to believe that that is all there is to life, when in fact there is so much more. What has been stirring in your heart lately?
Clementine Hunter found purpose and power in turning inside out. I imagine we can do the same when we stop listening to outside voices and start listening to the God who dwells in all of us on the inside.
If you insist on saving our life, you will lose it. Only those who throw away their lives for my sake and for the sake of the Good News will ever know what it means to really live. Mark 8:35
Just this week I found myself in the middle a modern “fishes and loaves” story. I did not wear any thing special that day because I did not know I was going to walk into the story as a main character. I did not know how my ordinary day would end.
School is winding down for us (in fact today was the last day for one daughter) which means our afternoons are less busy. Routine has been thrown out the window…hello world! We even met friends for a snow cone after school this week… spontaneously. (Oh how sad that even a spontaneous, unscheduled, and unplanned snow cone date can feed my adventurous side. Next week I may spontaneously take on the Appalachian Trail!)
After we cooled off with our snow cones, we headed to the park. What we found there took me by surprise. Our neighbor. She is a teenager and she was with her friends. School was out and she was just hanging out before walking home. We chatted. Then I remembered that after her parents divorced, she is often home alone with her brother in the afternoons until her father gets home from work. Then I remembered this has been going on for a while, but I had forgotten.
Once we returned home, my daughters invited our neighbors over to play. I made after school snacks and started on dinner. For dinner I was preparing a salmon dish. (The fish in the story. But I doubt Jesus served salmon.) I knew the meal would feed my family of 4. But I was not sure about company. Before long, the dinner question arrived in my kitchen, “Can they stay for dinner?” I looked at my fish and it looked back at me as I muttered something like, “Sure”. (God’s response…ABSOLUTELY)
This is when my dinner plans were hijacked by God. God had other plans for my fish…hospitality and love. As I was finishing up the meal, God and I had a chat. My meal prep and serving suddenly turned spiritual. Our neighbors had a place at our table that night. They weren’t alone on the playground or in their own home. They were with us, their friends. Because they were with us, our circle became wider as we simply became aware that they needed us on that day. Our tent grew, our table grew and our love for them grew. And by the way…somehow the salmon (fish) and loaf (well…really Jasmine rice) grew. We all had enough and we were all filled with much more than food when we left the table.
Simply aware. Simply Available.
I love this passage from Proverbs 16:9. It gives me comfort and peace when life is uncertain – when things are a bit out of control. Right now our family is in the process of moving. We are transitioning out of an area where we have lived for 13 years. My prayer every day is, “Lord, direct our steps.” And I truly believe God is doing just that.
Back in the Fall I was outside raking leaves in our front yard when I felt a presence. Something was walking towards me – some things! I quickly looked up to from my perfect pile of Southern Red Oak leaves to see the vile villains with whom I was about to engage in battle, but all I saw were three ducks who had taken notice of my labors (it feels good to be noticed). I thought they were coming for a friendly visit, but they had ulterior motives. They were walking up my street in front of my home for only one reason – smushed acorns! You see, a street runs right in front of our home, and as I raked, acorns rolled into the street. Then cars drove by (some way too fast – so slow down!) and smushed the acorns. Then the ducks waddled into action to nibble the deliciously smushed acorn tid-bits. These ducks knew exactly what to do (eat smushed acorns) and when to do it (right after the acorns I’d raked into the street had been smushed by my neighbor’s fast-moving car).
The question is, “Do we?”. Do we know what to do and when to do it? I believe we can, but it’s neither easy nor normal. We all have plans and agendas (and pursuing these plans and agendas is how we spend much of our time and energy), but there is One who directs our steps. Our plans and agendas may or may not come to pass, but can we trust the One who directs our steps? It seems we have a lot to learn from ducks!
Let me introduce you to Gloria. A little over two weeks ago, my family received a call and we were told we would soon be moving our tent. Not just the new indoor tent we are enjoying, but our bigger tent. We were all a little taken back by the news. But to calm our initial thoughts, we decided to go and spy…tip toe spying.
When we arrived at our new location, we stopped to have lunch at the Collin Street Bakery. With sunglasses on and hats pulled low, we entered the welcoming eatery. The first things we saw were cakes, pies, cookies and of course fruit cakes. Our first reaction, this is going to turn our just fine. Yummy!
Then we met Gloria (aka God). Gloria was a beautiful woman and her spirit shined. She brought us our food and quickly observed that we did not receive any chips to go with our sandwiches. She talked to both of our daughters and said, “Little mommas…come with me, you need some chips.” They soon returned with smiles and four packages of chips. They were so excited explaining how they were free, really free. Later when Gloria (aka God) checked on our spy table, she observed that we did not have one cookie on our table. Once again, she recruited our daughters to correct this problem because she recognizes good help when she sees it and said, “Little mommas…come with me, you need some cookies.” They returned with bigger smiles and a plate full of twelve cookies.
Our spying skills seemed to slip under the table as laughter and smiles filled our hearts. When we left we looked for Gloria (aka God) to thank her and could not find her. Then we knew she really was God!
We are on a new adventure, but we know that God is there too!