Enjoy the Journey…

In the midst of every exciting and memorable adventure, a relationship building moment is sure to arise. You know, the unanticipated snafu in the well crafted plan. Perhaps it was the luggage that didn’t arrive at the airport when you arrived at your long awaited location.

Maybe you left your car behind and planned to rent mopeds once you arrived on the island by ferry only to learn that the moped workers’ union was currently on strike. {That was our honeymoon experience on Martha’s Vineyard.} Perhaps, the rental car company took your reservation, but forgot to hold the reservation for you. {Seinfeld reference}

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Ponder your most memorable adventures for a moment. Even as you read the words, you may find yourself begin to smile or even giggle as the memories download. Your very own memory book of adventures is highlighted by the boo boos, isn’t it? That’s definitely the case for me.

My dear man and I have a humorous anecdote for just about every journey we’ve taken together. Most of these events weren’t so funny IN the moment. {Relationship building} opportunities are what we dub these moments. However, we’ve learned over more than thirty years that it is typically the unexpected and even inconvenient unplanned situations which add the flavor to our otherwise vanilla plans.

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,

    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
Isaiah 61:1

Now that we’ve all experienced a number of cancellations, postponements and disappointing changes in our circumstances due to the mandated shelter in place, I wonder how some of these unwelcome situations might be perceived in the future. Will these momentary burdens become memories of delight?

Please know that I am not making light of the terribly unpleasant – even unavoidable – feelings you have possibly experienced in this unprecedented year of 2020. The loss and the grief have yet to be reconciled I fear. Whether the plans were celebratory and long planned for or the unexpected need to memorialize a loved one, to gather in consolation of one another; the losses and the pain have been real and significant.

and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.
Isaiah 61:3

Perspective, though, is a beautiful gift. Having the opportunity to travel on through life and look back from a distance adds color, height, depth and reality to the bigger picture. It may seem absolutely impossible that the disappointments could ever look like anything but an ash heap. We’re all too close to the current moments to gain perspective.

I would encourage you, and myself as well, to anticipate the journey forward, and the vantage point to come. I pray for you, and for myself as well, that God will {as much as He delights to do it} turn our ashes to beauty, our mourning to joy, and our despair to praise!

May each and every one of us look in the rearview mirror to see that the first half of 2020 changed us in all the most positive ways, and caused us to turn a chapter in our lives. May the remaining chapters in our stories be dedicated to living and loving more fully because of the disappointments and painful experiences of today.

May we each look back with thanksgiving to God for His grace and mercy to carry us through while we remember with smiles, giggles, and even tears, the many ways He restored and redeemed our {relationship building} opportunities. May we all be better for all we’ve been saved from and through.

Eyes on Jesus… You shine!

~Lisa

The Door of Acceptance

I waited patiently for the LORD; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD.

Psalm 40:1-3 NIV

Pondering words like wait and acceptance my mind eventually wanders to the waiting room. It’s not a physical space as you might imagine. There are no walls, floor and ceiling; although this waiting room can feel confining and even suffocating at times.

Sometimes we wonder if we’ll ever be released. Other times we laugh because the strangest things are now funny. At times, we cry or scream or choose to get away from it all until we have to come back to the reality of this waiting place.

This place represents a chapter in our story. It’s a many-years-long chapter containing the full range of emotions associated with chronic illness. A diagnosis for which medical science has not yet discovered a cure. It’s a thief stealing a man’s career, threatening identity, and more.

Hardly anyone likes to wait. Waiting requires patience. And although patience is included by God as a fruit of His Spirit, most everyone seems to not want to ask for it. However, as we keep living and breathing and moving along the unexpected pathway of new normal, I find myself not caring so much about the wait.

I can wait for symptoms to get worse. I can wait for increases in medication. I can wait for brain surgery. I can wait for anything that would come against my dear man and take him away from me. I gladly wait with him in this waiting room. We wait patiently for the Lord.

This place where we wait is where Jesus dwells. He has heard our cry and turned toward us. He’s already been here and He knew we’d be here too. When we’ve allowed ourselves to “what-if” to the point of digging a pit, Jesus has ordered a rescue team to pull us out. Sometimes they’ve been flesh and blood people, and other times they’ve been a bit more mysterious like angels in our midst.

Even though our circumstances have not changed, I can now make out a door illuminated at the edge of our waiting room. I don’t think I’ve ever noticed it there. I imagine Jesus, who embodies light, has highlighted it for us. As I ponder life with Him, I realize it’s time. He is beckoning us to walk through this door.

It’s the door of acceptance.

My confidence is high. He’ll go ahead of us, and lead the way. The door will remain open, I imagine. He’s extending an invitation. We’ll each have to decide for ourselves whether we will accept.

Acceptance is an opportunity. To accept is to come into agreement with. To receive. I believe His invitation to walk through the door of acceptance is an opportunity to step out of our intense season of grieving. Surely, this time of waiting has been our training ground. A testing, which we will come to see as useful for refinement.

What will we find on the other side?

We will never know unless we take steps of faith. If we allow fear to rule our hearts, the darkness of a perverted imagination will keep us stuck. Yet, if we let Godly wisdom judge our options, we will choose to follow our Good Shepherd into the unknown. His promises are fulfilled in His presence.

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in His word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.

Psalm 130:5-6 NIV

A long time ago, I found myself waiting in the darkness of different life circumstances. The loneliness was overwhelming. On my own I had no answers. My flesh could not will it’s way to freedom.

Then too, as I cried out for help, a door was illuminated. A secure, but tender voice called my name. He asked if He could come in and dine with me. I opened that door of acceptance, and Jesus came in. He pulled me up out of my deathpit, washed me, and placed on my unworthy shoulders His robe of righteousness. He changed my name to His and sealed my heart for eternity.

We’ve dined at His table, Jesus and me. For many chapters, we’ve walked and talked, cried and laughed; He’s even carried me more days than I could ever imagine. Patiently, He’s taught me of His faithfulness to keep promises, and His trustworthiness to redeem broken places.

Jesus speaking: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

Revelation 3:20 NIV

The door of acceptance illuminated by the Lord is a divine opportunity to follow Him. There will still be pain and sorrow in the process. And waiting will still be required at times. Jesus has never deceived us about such things. Yet He has also promised us His unfailing love. He’s promised us Himself.

His invitations have always been good. The waiting seasons have always produced the inexpressible Joy of bearing His fruit. That door illuminated just ahead, I’m going in. I think I can see us together walking through the door of acceptance.

That’s the way I see it. What do you think?

Eyes on Jesus and SHINE,

~Lisa

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I’m joining Kate and the Five Minute Friday crew with a combination of the Friday word, wait and the Saturday word, accept. It’s always a delight to read the words so many different writers have chosen to share in conjunction with a one word theme.

Thank you for stopping by and for taking time to read my words.

Consistently Pondering

The #31days2019 writing challenge has been quite an interesting adventure. I’ve participated in this annual October event for a number of years, and not one year has been like another. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s part of the draw for me.

What’s unusual about this year is that I’ve given myself a whole lot of freedom and grace. While I have daily pondered the one word, I have not daily posted to my blog site. Most days I’ve written at least five minutes in my mind. Some days I’ve journaled about the one word. Then when I have posted, it’s because I felt a strong prompting to share the message.

In short, I have felt compelled during these October days to spend more time in prayer, searching scriptures that connect with the day’s word and listen. Listen for the lessons Holy Spirit wants to highlight.

My goal this year is to grow. I want to be teachable. I’m asking for refinement. Seeking to have no bitter root grow up in my heart.

Has it been easy for me to receive grace and freedom from myself?

Absolutely not! Posting only occasionally in a 31 day challenge feels like I should receive a grade of incomplete at best. Realistically, if at the end of October I’ve only posted half the days I should fail the course.

However, the heart work of remaining consistent with the daily pondering adds far greater value to my faith walk. And denying myself the fear of man might be a more important challenge than daily posting proof of my work.

I know that you delight to set your truth deep in my spirit. So come into the hidden places of my heart and teach me wisdom.
Psalms 51:6 TPT

Consistent. I’m not perfectly consistent with spiritual disciplines of one particular sort. Simply consistent am I in wanting to see and hear Jesus interactive in my life today.

Consistent. Father. Jesus. Holy Spirit. Perfectly consistent. And I want to be enrolled in my Lord’s school of wisdom.

That’s how I see it. What do you think?

Eyes on Jesus and SHINE,

~Lisa

I Have a Voice

From my earliest remembrance I’ve thoroughly enjoyed expressing myself. Mostly, I have really just loved to talk.

If you know me up close, you are smiling (I hope) and nodding in agreement. My dear man says I have more words per day than anyone he’s ever known. “That’s why we fit together so well”, I tell him. He’s a man of few words,  and an excellent listener.

As a youngster I followed my mom around the house talking non-stop until she kindly suggested I should look for a friend and play outside until dinner. I shared my words with friends, our dog, God, but I mostly talked to myself.

Music has always been my second favorite form of expression. By simply stacking a bunch of 45’s on my record player, I could entertain myself for hours singing into my hairbrush. Other times, I would lie in the floor of our family room listening to whole albums. The Beatles albums were my favorite. With pen and paper, I attempted to write my own words to the popular tunes.

I had something to say and I wanted to be heard. Opinionated, yes. A love for conversation, yes. A desire to place hard topics on a table and hash it out, yes. Talk it through, every confusing aspect of life, to find the truth is specifically what I desired to do. A tongue untamed and yet unbridled. Yes!

Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. James 3:5 NIV

And therein lies my dilemma. I talked to process information. Within me burns a passion to understand, to get to the root, and find a solution.  I want to know what is true and live in it.  Thus, for as long as I can remember I’ve been asking exploratory questions.

In my immaturity I didn’t understand that flesh and blood people would not be able to answer all of my questions or reveal deep rooted truths. I truly needed to be conversing and listening to the only One who could add meaning to life. But I didn’t know God was available and accessible.

When people grew weary of listening and questions were left unanswered, I began to get quiet. My voice lost confidence, and became a whisper.  I was self conscious in my teen years and mostly refused to speak in public or group settings.

The lie built from within.  I could not be understood, therefore I had no voice. If I had no voice, there was no sense in speaking up. If I didn’t speak up, my questions weren’t valuable. A downward spiral of insecurity and fear ensued. I wanted to disappear.

A friend in college offered me a revolutionary solution. For Christmas, our freshman year, she gifted me with a journal. I had never seen anything like it. A whole book full of colorful empty pages.

She told me the book was for me to fill with all my words!

It was during this season of life that I really began to look for God. I needed Him. I had so many questions. Big concerns. Confusion. Fears and doubts. I wasn’t certain if He was able to hear me, but I talked to Him as if He could.

My journal became the place in which my voice came alive. I could “talk” and write and communicate everything within my heart with pen on paper.

Paper and pen were my safe place. No one argued or told me to speak up. No one told me I was wrong to ask such questions. I “talked” onto pages until my heart was content. Peace arose in my heart as I felt heard by filling blank pages with words needing to be set free.

In the first few years of seeking to know God, I learned that I could not only talk to Him and be heard; He would also answer me. After accepting a challenge from coworkers to read the Bible as God’s love letter to me, I began to find the answers to many of the questions I had written in my journal.

At last I had found The Best Friend in all the world; the One who would always listen to every single word, hear, and understand. And then all the better, He would respond with what He wanted me to know and do. His love desire for me was to teach me truth.

A deep longing in me was being fulfilled.

As I’ve matured in my faith I have learned there are words to be spoken out loud, and words to be only shared with my Father. There are times and seasons, and there are audiences as God ordains it.  For anyone who knows me as a woman of many words, only God knows how many words have never been uttered out loud.

1980 to 2019 – my books of words offered to God as an act of worship.


My Lord continually has much to say to me about the way I speak, my tone and the appropriate use of speech for love and blessing. Very early in my discipleship a friend directed me to the book of James. Knowing how much I love the gift of gab, my heart was pricked, and I began to take seriously the many reproofs regarding an uncontrolled tongue.

I still love to talk, especially over a cup of hot coffee with a friend on the other side of the table. And I fully believe my Father created me with a love for communication and a desire to seek truth. I know that I know He’s called me to use my tiny little voice to speak truth and praise Him in the process.

These journals of mine represent my heart wrapped around the promises of God. They also contain my voice lifted up to the only One I have been absolutely sure would listen, hear every word, care intensely, understand at all, and have an answer even if He didn’t share right away.

Because He’s called me and gifted me with such passion, He will also take as long as necessary to prepare me. The pruning times, the fiery trials, and the desert walks without a trace of rain are all recorded on my once blank pages. He’s taught me and then tested me. He’s coached me through increasingly difficult terrain to build my faith muscles.

My Father, Jesus and Holy Spirit have heard every word. Witnessed every tear-stained page. Sipped coffee with me in the wee dark hours. Held my heart and healed the broken places. God has answered in the depth and variety of Who He is as Spirit and Truth.

I have a voice. I have a tiny little whisper of a voice. I have a   voice more bridled than ever. When Holy Spirit nudges me with fire in my bones, I will speak.

God is faithful. His promises are true, and I can trust Him for everything. I can especially trust Him that He made this tiny little voice exactly as He intended for His purposes and for His praise.

That’s how I see it. What do you think?

Eyes on Jesus and SHINE,

~Lisa

Be Strong?

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

I want to be strong. Don’t you? I mean, who sets a goal to become the ultimate weakling? We want to be strong!

We live in a culture which strives for strength – physical, financial, intellectual – even emotional. And why do people desire strength – followers of Jesus or not? It’s our desire to live problem free and absent of all worry, fear and anxiety. It’s our quest to be in control and above anything which could possibly take us down.

Just a casual review of media advertisements and entertainment options provides proof that human beings value strength. Our culture tells us that more education will help us get more money. More money will gain us more power. More power will create popularity. More popularity will provide community.

If we listen to the voices of the world we will find ourselves on a hamster wheel spinning for more. Striving. Achieving. Climbing. Stepping over and on top of someone else to get to the top to prove we are STRONG.

It’s all a lie. A big fat media hyped advertising lie! And the false promise that we’ll all be happy, successful, prosperous and united at the end of our striving for more? Well, just look at the state of our country. We’re a mess of division, distrust and intolerance. People in general are more stressed, on more medication, and filled with immeasurable anxiety over the future.

The thing is we know it’s a lie. We know it’s stinkin’ thinkin’. Yet even when we agree that the wheel isn’t making us stronger, we find it difficult to step off. We want to BE STRONG!

Besides, God tells us in His Word to be strong. Over and over again, scriptures admonish us to “be not afraid” and to “be strong”. “Be courageous”. It’s what we’re supposed to do. The way we’re supposed to live. We quote. We write. We memorize. We post. In a drive thru, fast food Christian culture, we’re trying to order up an entree of BE STRONG with a side of courageous.

HELP!

And there it is… Help! We begin to learn to be strong when we step off the wheel of our own striving, look up and ask God for help. I have tested this principle and it is quite true. School is in session. Training can begin when I simply admit that I don’t know how to be strong.

Why did God tell Joshua to be strong, to be courageous and not afraid?

How was Joshua to achieve strength, courage and fearlessness?

What did God want Joshua to learn from God’s command to be strong?

  • God wanted Joshua to be trained to trust God’s faithfulness, to obey, and to rely on God in everything he purposed to do.

As I awaken each day, preparing for spiritual battle, it’s essential that I go beyond the simple verse of the day quotables and look at the context of what God is teaching me. Be strong. It’s not a quick fix. Nor is it a pep talk. It’s a declaration of God’s character, and His servant’s (me) position of trust and service.

Spinning on the wheel of my own striving has never made me strong. It’s not taught me about God’s character. Nor did it teach me to trust God or believe He is a promise keeper.

Spinning. Striving. It made me tired. Discouraged. Hopeless. Fearful. But when my own strength gave out, I cried out to God for help. He was there. He heard me. And He arrived ready to teach.

Finally, I’m learning what it really means to be strong.

That’s how I see it. What do you think?

Eyes on Jesus and SHINE,

Lisa

Actively Waiting

We set our alarms for the dark, predawn hour. I slept, but he may not have slept much. Anticipation. A bit of nerves. The tummy rumbles because there’s been no food since dinner.

I had the honor of being the driver. Feeling a bit guilty, I drank my coffee anyway. My boiled eggs were eaten before the pick up. Trying to be considerate, I let the windows down, though the air was frosty; trying to remove the smell of breakfast from the car.

We finally arrived after navigating morning commuter traffic. Bags in tow we found our waiting base camp location. We had snacks and chargers, books and journals, pens and just lots of stuff. Our active waiting would be filled with productivity. Maybe.

We sat with him while he waited to go back. He was wearing the lovely paper cap and heat infused gown, all wonderfully coordinated with the hospital socks. We laughed. Waited. Offered to take his picture. He was not in favor.

And then the time came to kiss, hug and wave a “see ya after” while they wheeled him behind the doors. Nurses assured. The surgeon greeted. He smiled. He placed an assuring hand on her shoulder and promised to take good care of him.

He would wait asleep for good news upon waking.

The time had come. The wait was really on. A once empty room was now quite full. The air nippy outside was warmed by sunlight through windows. Like plants in a green house, we sat with faces turned toward the light and soaked in the sun.

Chairs were rearranged throughout the day to form huddles of loved ones waiting together. Whispering voices created a white noise symphony of various tones. The mood was positive with chuckles filling the air now and again.

Some slept. Snored. Worked puzzles. Many stared at screens. Some read books. All were actively waiting in some capacity.

Waiting. Have you ever noticed that waiting is an activity?

Psalm 37 has an overarching theme of waiting. Wait for the Lord. But in the meanwhile, do these things. Through a particularly long season of waiting, I’ve found great comfort and tons of wisdom for life just in the first 11 verses. Here’s a sample.

  • Do not fret or be envious
  • Trust in the Lord
  • Do good
  • Dwell in safe pasture
  • Delight in the Lord
  • Commit your way to the Lord
  • Trust Him
  • Be still before the Lord
  • Wait patiently for the Lord
  • Do not fret
  • Refrain from anger
  • Turn from wrath
  • Do not fret
  • Hope in the Lord
  • Patience for a little while longer
  • Be meek

Did anyone else notice that the admonition “do not fret” was included three times? Go check it for yourself. It’s in there – three times.

Fretting might be the easiest “go to” activity in a waiting room. However, God says don’t fret – don’t worry. Then He offers all of these other activities to take the place of worrying about circumstances we can’t control anyway.

In this current waiting season, I’m choosing to pursue these activities prescribed by God in Psalm 37. I sometimes forget and default to fretting. And you will too. However, the practice of actively seeking God in the waiting creates faith muscle memory. The more I practice, the more I’m likely to seek His face, to trust and wait patiently for the Lord.

Everyone around me was waiting for news. Hoping for good news. Waiting for the updates. Surgery has begun. The patient is doing well. We’re almost finished. Recovery room. All is well. We’ll come and get you when you are able to visit.

Relief began to fill faces as the waiting time was over… one by one.

I don’t know the hearts of all the people in the waiting room yesterday. There may have been some fretting. It may have been hard to be patient or to trust God. That was true for most of us, I’m sure.

Watching though, I witnessed a whole bunch of kindness, doing good, caring, and concern for other human beings. My heart was filled with hope. Love is still active in our world.

That’s how I see it. What do you think?

Eyes on Jesus and SHINE,

~Lisa

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Today I am joining the Five Minute Friday team in a five minute writing challenge on the one word {active}. I wrote for more than five minutes. That’s fairly obvious. However, I appreciate the five minute timer because it gets me focused and sets me on a course for writing.

Thanks, Kate, for encouraging us to keep writing.

Open, Reach, Do It Scared

And he has appointed some with grace to be apostles, and some with grace to be prophets, and some with grace to be evangelists, and some with grace to be pastors, and some with grace to be teachers.  And their calling is to nurture and prepare all the holy believers to do their own works of ministry, and as they do this they will enlarge and build up the body of Christ.  Ephesians 4:11-12

I carry a picture in my heart, which is intended to guide the way I live daily in relationship with people. It’s not a Sunday walk or a special occasion walk. We’re on a lifetime journey toward our eternal home, so this is an everyday walk along the path we’ve been given.

Along our path are many people. Some share my same destination for eternity, and some do not. Yet, we share this earth walk for an appointed time, and in an appointed place by God’s grace.

In this picture, to which I hold dear, one of my hands reaches forward toward someone walking on the path a bit ahead of me, while my other hand reaches for a person walking along behind me. All the while my eyes are focused on Jesus who is the Pioneer and the Perfecter of my earth walk.

Have you ever doubted your ability to influence this world?

Did you read the Scripture at the beginning and say to yourself, “Well, that’s not me. I’ve not been given grace to build the body of Christ because I don’t hold any of those positions or titles. I’m just plain me.”

Did you just disqualify yourself for service?

May I encourage you take another peek at my picture? Remember, the picture is a goal for living – a plan of action. Just like many of my goals, I definitely do not hit the mark all the time or every day. Yet, because I have a picture in mind, and a mark to aim toward, I live this way more often than not.

So , put yourself back in the game with a plan and a goal.

Instead of me, place yourself in the picture. Eyes looking at Jesus. Now, do the next brave thing. As you walk along the path the Lord has marked out for you; ask Him to bring just two names to your mind. Ask Him to highlight the person walking just a little bit further down the faith journey in front of you. Then ask Him to remind you of someone who might be walking right behind you.

So, now that you’ve taken the first step in faith. Hopefully, you’ve written down two names in your Bible or in a journal. The next step is to ask our Good Shepherd to open a door of opportunity with each of these people.

I know. Most of us are actually very scared right now. Some of us are more bold and brave and will message the two people as a reach for a hand. Others of us, are asking Jesus to make the introductions. And a few of us are considering whether they want to ask Jesus to open even a window let alone a full door for relationship.

These grace ministries will function until we all attain oneness in the faith, until we all experience the fullness of what it means to know the Son of God, and finally we become one perfect man with the full dimensions of spiritual maturity and fully developed in the abundance of Christ. Ephesians 4:13

No matter where you find yourself in this spectrum. I ask you to be bold and brave enough – do it scared – and have a conversation with Jesus about everything you are feeling right now. Good Shepherd will take your fears, doubts and all your oppositions (if you will let Him) and strain them through His filter of love. He’ll hold your hand, and my hand, while He shows us in what direction to reach for the hand of flesh.

These hands reaching, and the people on the other side of those hands represent our need for discipleship and encouragement. We’re meant for community. We need each other, which is why we’re struggling so. We’re far too isolated – even within the family of God.

One hand reaching forward to grab hold of a sister’s hand in front of me represents my need to be mentored. This visual reminds me to remain teachable. No matter how old I am nor the number of years I’ve been walking with Jesus, I am not fully sanctified. There’s always more for me to learn about God, His character and who He says I am because I belong to Him.

Additionally, with every turn or dip on the path I’m faced with situations I’ve never yet encountered. Yet, guaranteed, someone in front of me has already traversed a similar rough spot. I want to hold her hand for awhile. How encouraging it is to know I’m not alone! Together, we can look to Jesus for guidance and wisdom because we know He’s overcome every difficulty we could ever experience!

One hand behind me reaching for the hand of a woman behind me represents the responsibility I have to mentor and encourage another person. As I have been loved, there’s someone who needs to be loved. As I have been taught there’s someone coming up behind who needs to be taught. There’s always someone coming up from behind struggling with something for which I can offer encouragement.

And then our immaturity will end! And we will not be easily shaken by trouble, nor led astray by novel teachings or by the false doctrines of deceivers who teach clever lies. But instead we will remain strong and always sincere in our love as we express the truth. All our direction and ministries will flow from Christ and lead us deeper into him, the anointed Head of his body, the church. Ephesians 4:14-15 TPT

Does it sound all too good to be true? Is the concept seemingly unrealistic? Are you just too scared? Are you still disqualifying yourself?

May I take your virtual hand, and encourage you once more. Simply stop. Take a deep breath. Pull out something to write on and with. Do the next brave thing. Turn your eyes to Jesus. Ask Him what He thinks about everything your feeling and thinking right this very minute.

You’ll be so glad you received His perspective on the path. Jesus will lead you. He’ll make you brave enough to do it scared. He might even cause a hand in front of you to reach back so that all you have to do is grab hold.

Come on, sisters, let’s open our hearts, reach out and do it scared!

That’s how I see it. What do you think?

Eyes on Jesus and SHINE,

~Lisa

What Makes You Want to Join?

No, really, I’m curious. Seriously, I want to know. What is it that you experience through your five senses that causes you to volunteer or apply or simply jump in the middle?

morning coffee by the pool… it’s gonna be a good day!

I know what causes me to say, “Yes, I want to be a part of that!” So, how about you? I hope at the end you’ll add a one word descriptor in the comment section. Look around. Listen to a couple of headlines. It’s more important than ever to try to figure out how to invite someone to connect rather than to isolate.

My husband, more of an introvert, answered my question in one word exactly as I anticipated. His answer? “Nothing” Laughing, I pointed at him, and said, “Yep, right on cue!”

Yet, I had to challenge him just a bit because he actually does choose to join in from time to time. He’s joined church congregations, a college, marriage and family, neighborhood gatherings, volunteer activities, the coffee drinking world, and (knock me over with a feather) Facebook.

What was it that caused him to say yes to joining?

My dear man and I toss the participation topic around quite a bit because we are polar opposites. I am typically on the lookout for a community to join. I’m generally tempted to say yes, if I receive a genuine invitation. And where I sense an atmosphere of mutual encouragement, especially among women of all ages, I’m ready to jump right in the middle!

My question today draws my thoughts toward the story of the Samaritan woman who encountered Jesus at the well found in John 4. As Jesus sat resting at the well while the disciples went to town to buy food, a woman arrived with her water jar. She was alone fetching water in the heat of the day.

Jesus pursued a conversation by asking the woman for a drink of water. This was scandalous behavior! The very non-kosher situation caused her to just blurt out the obvious, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman.”*

I think, the woman had become so accustomed to being ridiculed and shunned that isolation had become her only peace. With a surprise Jewish visitor, she must have anticipated the worst. I imagine her emotional fists were up and ready for a fight.

What would cause the Samaritan woman to join?

Then Jesus made an offer she couldn’t refuse. He responded to her retort with an offer of a gift – the gift of God, no less. He intrigued her with the gift of living water.

I wonder how many times previous she had been enticed by the offer of gifts from a man? Jesus would soon reveal to her that the man she was living with currently was not her husband, and that she had been married five times before. She inquired of Jesus’ authority with skepticism, but He knew her heart desire was for life.

Jesus openly offered His living water this time. He told the Samaritan woman that His water was available to anyone who would receive. The one who would drink of His water would never thirst again. Better yet, His living water would produce eternal life for the one who receives.

That was it! She wanted to join. “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”**

Jesus wasn’t finished with her. His offer was far greater than she could even imagine. Jesus was offering eternal salvation, forgiveness for all her sin and freedom from all her shame. He wanted her to know that she could join Jesus for eternity AND she could join in her community completely redeemed and purified.

As their conversation continued, the veil was removed from her eyes and she recognized Jesus as Messiah. Immediately the Living water she drank in faith cleansed her of all guilt and shame. Then the miracle of her new faith went into action. She became the one who engaged her neighbors; inviting them all to come meet Jesus, Messiah, and to join in drinking His living water.

When my dear man heard my invitation to go to California, he was not excited about the prospect. Only because he loves me and wanted to see my face light up with adventurous delight did he say “Yes.” He took a chance and now he’s glad he joined me for the adventure.

That’s the way I see it. And I’d really like to know…

What makes you want to join?

Eyes on Jesus and SHINE,

~Lisa

*John 4:9

** John 4:15

Grounded Deep

Trees were an important part of my childhood. Some of my fondest memories are wrapped around the enormous ficus tree, which lived in the center of our cul de sac.

A similar ficus. Ours was rooted in the very center of our street. Perrine, Florida in the 70’s.

The Ficus branches were enough for all the children on the street to claim their own. And with seniority came the right to move up to the higher heights. Additionally, the location of the ficus represented the official location of home plate for all kickball games. For our neighborhood cookouts this mammoth umbrella provided ample shade and extra seating.

The tree which most represents home for me though is the palm. Anytime I cross the Florida line and see the tall slender palms waving hello my heart knows it has arrived. The homes in which I grew up were filled with a variety of palms, and some produced the most tasty, fresh fruit. Sweet, tiny bananas and coconuts still containing the delicious milk.

So, when we arrived in LA a few weeks ago, I smiled deep at the palm branch welcoming committee! And, I was amazed at the height of these elegantly tall and slender stalks topped with brilliant green. All the television and movie images of tree lined palms captured from the ground up were right before my eyes.

As we walked the California Pacific coastline for the first time, we found some of the majestic palms had been unearthed by water erosion – possibly from multiple storms. Amazing isn’t it?

Dana Point, CA

This visual really got the wheels of my mind turning. How could these giant and very slender trees continue to stand straight with more than half of the earth removed?

It’s not the earth around the tree that holds it firm. Rather, it is the tentacle like roots, numerous and deeply dug into the earth and rock below, which cause that delicate yet strong palm to withstand the buffeting of many storms. I could only stand and imagine the number of times the intricate root system had held her firm against hurricane force winds, rain, and waves.

Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. Colossians 2:7

I feel a lot like that beautiful palm. People throughout my life have made comments to me indicating how little I am or tiny. I’ve heard most of my life that I might just blow away in a heavy storm or a strong wind.

Not true at all. In Christ my roots are the many truths of God – like tentacles dug deep in a bedrock foundation. I’ve weathered many storms, and I’m sure there are many more to come. However, my favorite palm trees with roots exposed remind me that I am able to stand firm no matter what comes against.

Oh, I might bend, and I might feel exposed, however…

Deeply rooted in Christ alone, I stand!

That’s how I see it! What do you think?

Eyes on Jesus and SHINE,

~Lisa

None the Same; Gathered As One

“I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own sheep and my own sheep know me. In the same way, the Father knows me and I know the Father. I put the sheep before myself, sacrificing myself if necessary. You need to know that I have other sheep in addition to those in this pen. I need to gather and bring them, too. They’ll also recognize my voice. Then it will be one flock, one Shepherd. John 10:14-16 MSG

This last Sunday, as my husband and I sat together congregated in our particular house of worship, I wept. My dear man, handed me his handkerchief as he is growing accustomed. We felt the presence of the Lord with us in a way that felt like a father coming home from a long journey.

I’ve been asking. We’ve been asking. I’m sure many in our congregation, especially our new pastor, have been pleading – “Father, we need You!” The parched air and the famine season of bearing such little fruit has caused us to cry out to the Lord.

“Come Holy Spirit You are welcome here. Please come and bring a down pour of all we need to break this drought.”

If this experience was isolated to our one congregation, I would not be able to use words like drought and famine. One brown, dying yard in a neighborhood full of flourishing yards indicates a very specific problem. The truth is that our church story is not uncommon.

We, my dear man and I, have the privilege of relationship with many brothers and sisters in Christ who congregate in various Christ centered fellowships throughout our local area. Many of our believing friends have experienced similar drought and a lack of fruit bearing during an extended season. It’s been difficult and even painful to walk in hope and JOY through this barren time. However, we have stumbled upon a practice, which has produced hope in us to believe the famine is only for a season.

We’ve stumbled, but now looking back I feel sure it was God’s plan all along, and more so, His provision which has led us this way. We’ve made a practice of visiting with small groups of friends from different congregations over dinner quarterly and weekly for prayer and Bible study. I attend a monthly prayer group of which I am the only member of a different congregation. My dear man keeps up with and prays for his family and college friends via email and Facebook.

None the same; gathered as one.

The extraordinarily beautiful and prosperous fruit tree which has grown up in the middle of this practice is a body of faith. We are none the same, but frequently gathered together to share in the abundant fruit of the Spirit of God. We have needed it – desperately needed this – during the most challenging season of our lives. The prayers of the saints have been powerful and effective, but even more so tenacious for us (all of us) to witness breakthrough after breakthrough.

The planned one service, which we experienced this past Sunday, was a beautiful mixture of our English speaking congregation along with a new Hispanic church congregation meeting in our same building. Talk about none the same, gathered as one!

From the coupled Spanish and English music, to the stirring baptism celebration and ending with the sermon in Spanish translated into English and ASL*; this was truly one of my favorite worship services in a number of years. As our Spanish and English voices, along with many signing, melded together, I was transported back to Miami, the place my heart calls home. The multicultural richness enveloped in one family brought me to tears.

None the same; gathered as one!

As I look back over the last month, I recognize that the glorious celebration we just experienced in our home church actually began for us three weeks previous. We were staying in an AirBnb over 2,100 miles from home, and on our way into town Google plotted our path right past a very inviting church**. The orange banners whirling in the arid breeze, green grass and palm trees presented a picture of an oasis in the middle of a very brown, dry desert landscape.

We took note on Friday and planned to visit on Sunday. After spending a couple of adventurous days in 100+ degree heat, we arrived at the church hoping to worship Jesus with brothers and sisters we had never met and probably won’t see again until Heaven. As we walked through the welcoming committee, we were invited to open seats.

As our eyes adjusted and our bodies embraced the cool air, the familiar music filled our ears. As the words, “Your a Good, Good Father” moved from my ears to my heart, a flood of tears ran from my eyes and dripped from my chin. I couldn’t sing for the enormous lump in my throat.

As my dear man handed me his handkerchief, I simply listened and cried. The overwhelming goodness of God materialized within me like a tall cool glass of clear water. The JOY of the Lord filled me with hope as I realized He had prompted His kids in California to greet His kids from Georgia with this song from home.

And more than that, with the next song from Elevation Worship*** (also birthed on the East Coast) our Good, Good Father reminded my dear man and I that He is always with us. Great is His faithfulness. He never fails. Whether we feel stuck at home or roam far across His creation, He sees us. He knows us. He’s moving mountains on our behalf. Christ, as our Pioneer, is making a way for us where there seems to be no way.

The dryness of our hearts finally cracked through with tears flowing deep. Our brothers and sisters out there in California may never know how they ministered to us that day. The Lord Himself is pleased though as He orchestrated the gathering of His children from coast to coast.

None the same; gathered as one!

That’s the way I see it. What do you think?

Eyes on Jesus and SHINE!

~Lisa

*ASL American Sign Language

**Southwest Church LaQuinta, California

***Elevation Church based in Matthews, NC