What’s God’s Vision for You?


20160309_102709Sometimes you see more with a camera and sometimes you see less.

The other day I went walking through a nearby park where I’ve taken some wonderful pictures of birds, alligators and flowers. But this time I opted to leave the camera behind. As I strolled along, I took in the expanse of scenery. The panoramic view, if you will.

Stunning blue skies, a few wispy white, feather clouds and new blossoms in rainbow variety painted a pastoral landscape. I took it in while the sun warmed my back and the wind teased my hair around my face.

I found a new little alcove hiding a covered bench that overlooked a portion of the lake. The path was new to me, and a smile rushed out of me at the treasure I’d discovered.

Peering over the railing, I rested in the shade and a small movement caught my attention. An orange and green shelled turtle, skirted its way around some cow lily leaves. The surrounding leaves and yellow flowers camouflaged the tiny swimmer.

It was in that moment that I realized sometimes I see more with my camera and 20170816_200512sometimes less. It all depends on what I’m looking for or at. My camera allows me to zoom in from far off and look at things more closely, but I then miss everything in the peripheral.

Had I been looking through the camera lens, I may have missed the tiny turtle hidden among the leaves. I was glad to have been taking in the scene without it.

Later, I spied a white headed bird perched on a tree in the distance.

I live in one of the areas fortunate enough to house bald eagles. We see them more than occasionally. They are a wonder to watch and for a moment, I wished I had my camera so I could zoom in across the lake and see if the bird in question was indeed one the those magnificent creatures. (Eventually, I discovered it wasn’t.)

It all depends on what you’re looking for.

Sometimes I take my camera to my kids’ sports games. I love catching them in action and having a snapshot memory of the event. But when I’m focused on them, I miss the game. Most days, I’d rather see the DSC_0263entire picture than simply one specific scene.

I believe life with God is like that.

I’ve written about looking ahead to the vision, but keeping our eyes on today so we don’t get overwhelmed by the longevity of the road ahead.

But I also see how sometimes we can get so focused in on something that we miss what’s going on around us. Our journey may be centered on a particular path, but there is an entire landscape surrounding us on that journey.

Both are valuable.

Each day, I ask God

“What do you want me to see today?”

“What is your vision for me?”

“What is your plan?”

He may want me to embrace the bigger picture of my life and all that’s happening.20170720_195840 He may want me to see something closer – a trait he’s working on in me, or a way I handled something well, or a hurting neighbor.

God’s vision encompasses past, present and future so he sees far beyond anything I can imagine. With him, I can take in the entirety of a day, a week, a year or a life purpose. If I tune into him, he can point my vision in the best directions. And like a camera zoomingDSC_0141 in to see beauty up close, God also directs me to see things I may miss.

What’s God’s vision for you today?

“He who forms the mountains, who creates the wind, and who reveals his thoughts to mankind, who turns dawn to darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth— the Lord God Almighty is his name.” Amos 4:13

Where’s Your Focus?


DSC_0091This past week circumstances dictated I start riding a bike to work.

I like riding bikes so I wasn’t opposed to the idea, but let’s just say I’m greatly out of practice and shape due to far too many years of illness and injury that have kept me to minimum physical exertion.

This is how the week of riding went…

I have so many miles to go. I don’t know if I’ll be able to make it. My legs are tired and my most recent knee and neck injuries are screaming at me again. What if I get hit by a car? The traffic is terrible–the smell of exhaust and noise grates on me,  I can hardly get a good breath. Waiting at the lights wastes my time.  I can’t believe I have to ride to work. It’s so hot and sweat is pouring down my back. Oh, there’s a bridge in the trees. What if someone is hiding there and will hurt me? It’s dark. Maybe it’s not safe. The sign says I have nearly halfway to go still to make it to work. This last couple of miles is killing me with the wind against me. How long will this take? It’s so hard…

OR

What a great day for a bike ride. The sky is blue and a breeze will keep me cooled off as I ride. I’m so thankful for the shade of the trees and the occasional cloud that covers the sun. I see an osprey flying overhead with a fish. How fun to watch it soar! Look at the turtles on the bank. I wouldn’t see these creatures if I was driving. I’m grateful for the lights that give me a break. Most of the drivers have noticed me and been kind to let me go ahead of them. I can’t believe I’m more than halfway there! It’s been a hard ride, but I’m getting in better shape. Thank goodness for this bridge under the trees. What a great place to get cooled off. It’s taken me longer than I expected, but my boss is gracious and flexible about when I start. This may be hard, but I feel good about myself and thankful to God for sustaining me…

Different days? Nope. Different outlook.

I confess that some days the ride was harder than others, but my perspective made all the difference. I could focus on all the negative, difficult circumstances or focus on the positive things for which to be grateful.

The interesting thing is that one perspective leaves us hopeless, discouraged and frustrated while the other leaves us hopeful, encouraged and moving ahead.

So where is your focus?

A bike ride may not be the challenge for your week. Most likely it’s something of far greater significance. But as I rode, God showed me what a great analogy it is for the trials we face in life, and how he wants to help us, sustain us and give us hope.

Believe it or not, we actually have a choice.

In what circumstances do you think you could change your perspective and make your situation one of moving your life forward rather than staying stuck?

 

 

 

How to Receive God’s Promises


In Philippians 3 & 4, Paul gives us a list of positive ways to live, keeping our focus in the right place. The resulting promises from God are exactly what we need!DSC_0020 (2)

I don’t know about you, but I’m all in.

Here we go:

  • Stand firm by eagerly awaiting Jesus, trusting he will bring all things under his control and transform us by his power. (Eph.3:20-21)
  • Agree with each other in the Lord (4:2)
  • Rejoice in the Lord all the time (4:4)
  • Be gentle when we deal with people in a way that they notice (4:5)
  • Don’t worry, but pray and thank God for who he is and what he is doing even when we can’t see it yet (4:6)
  • Don’t focus on our problems or the bad things happening, but focus on whatever is “noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy” (4:8)
  • Be content no matter what is happening because God is in control and will give us strength to live in it – he will also bring good from it (4:11-13)

When we focus this way, God promises he will guard our hearts and minds with his peace. (4:7)

I need peace, don’t you?

He will also meet us in our trouble and give us everything we need because Jesus is glorious and able to do so. (4:19)

So every time a thought comes to us, we can line it up with this, trusting God to be there for us.

And when we forget or fail?

No worries. God’s still got us covered. We can simply be honest with him and ask him for renewed grace and strength.

I’m so glad we have a God like that! Aren’t you?

How Can I Have Joy When My Life Stinks?


It depends on where your focus is.

Every year, right after school lets out for the summer, our church hosts a week long day camp called VBS. Or as we VBS 011affectionately call it “vibs.” In most parts, Vacation Bible School is a well known event among church goers. Children gather for a few hours and participate in Bible stories, crafts and maybe learning a few songs about Jesus loving us.

At our church, we believe that kids relate to fun so we make VBS hugely fun with an entire morning and afternoon production, sports games, crafts, special events — a climbing wall, bounce houses and a petting zoo (to name a few).

The kids are in age/gender teams and create banners, team cheers and close friendships. They spray water guns and fly down a zip line. Stories are acted out on stage in front of them and discussed during team time with their adult leaders and teen assistants.

It’s a week of special treats like the snack bar, snow cones and ice cream. Songs are sung with dancing and hand motions in an outdoor amphitheater with the words displayed on huge banners. A dance team worships the Lord, encouraging the kids to learn the moves and dance along. Bible Buddies, or B Buds, act out the verses for the day which all fit with the theme for the week.

Today is the our day and will end with an amazing barbeque and final production to give the parents a glimpse of what their children have experienced all week – the reason they are all smiles, dirt and good tiredness.

Sounds like fun, huh?

Did I mention that approximately two hundred volunteers donate their time, often their vacation time from work, to help make this event a success? From that first year I stepped into the role of “team leader,” I couldn’t imagine not helping with VBS.

But last year, I became ill and as we got closer to the event, I realized that my acting role that year was not going to happen. Others stepped in for me at the last minute, and I traveled out of state for some rest. I watched my husband and daughters perform online via live streaming. I missed it. And this year, while I’m better, I’ve still been sick.

I didn’t think I had the physical strength to participate.

And I didn’t have the energy to care. I decided I would stay home and pray. People asked what I would be doing.

Nothing this year,” I’d answer.

But one day a few weeks back, a friend made a simple request. The man directing traffic was desperately in need of help. Since my husband and I had been in charge of traffic a few years ago, my friend wondered if I would consider helping out at all. Even for a day or two. I didn’t think it would work, but I agreed to pray about it. After all, it would only be a couple of hours in the morning.

I said yes.

The traffic director said I made his day. Imagine that. Something so simple brought such joy to him. Monday I arrived in the fog with excitement stirring in my heart. I greeted cars and directed them to the appropriate places. God gave me the energy to run around even when an unexpected situation arose that required way more than I thought I had to give.

After I finished, I watched my daughter sing and dance, kissed my two grand kids and went home to rest. Tuesday I woke with a migraine, but since I felt better standing rather than lying down, I took some pain medication and headed off to VBS again. Within an hour, my head wasn’t threatening to explode anymore. During the singing and dancing, I held my grand daughter.

And so it continued. A few hours of  chatting with friends, welcoming strangers, and participating in song and dance with my grand children in the morning, and then I’ve rested in the afternoon.

It seems like I haven’t done anything much.

But something has happened to my heart. Each day as I’ve worshiped the Lord, waved to parents, cheered for my daughter, watched my son with his team and snuggled my grand kids, I’ve been infused with joy. Overflowing, tears pouring down my cheeks joy.

Nothing in my circumstances has changed. I’m still sick. Our finances are tight. My husband is battling with job issues. We still don’t know what to do about mold, and our landlord has raised our rent, but not made needed repairs. My son sprained his knee and got hit in the chin with a baseball. Life kind of stinks. As do the lives of many of the people I’ve been serving with this week. Illness, injuries, and tough life challenges abound.

But my focus changed this week.

What I see is different. A smile goes a long way to cheer someone. We are in this together, joined by Jesus and our trials. My daughter’s face radiates the joy of the Lord as she belts out worship songs and dances on stage in front of hundreds of kids and adults. Our son rejoiced when one of his friends accepted the Lord. I wake and go through my day with the lines from songs echoing in my head. Words like:

I know You love me. You are for me, not against me …You only think good thoughts about me.

Or

Take me. This is all I can bring. (this little bit of sick, weakness) I feel alive. I come alive. I am alive…

It’s ended up being a great week. I’m no more tired than usual, but my heart is far less heavy. And I’ve found that having joy in the midst of life’s difficulties all depends on our focus.

To check out our VBS FUN visit www.coastlands.org and find us on Facebook.