Getting Off Track


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I had a vision the other day when I was praying. I don’t know if it was exactly a vision, but often when I’m praying, I get a random picture in my head. Except, I don’t believe they’re random. When I’ve prayed for people, and a picture comes to mind, the person is usually astounded at the way it perfectly relates to them or their situation.

That’s the power of God. He sees and knows all things. His Spirit is able to speak to us and through us if we are willing to be in communion with him and used by him.

All of that is an explanation for my time with Jesus last week.

Due to crazy, unexpected circumstances, our family is in a transition situation with housing. The details for this post don’t matter as much as what I’ve been learning in this season.

The journey is always more important than the destination.

I may know and believe that, but in the middle of circumstantial pressure and timelines, deadlines, pressing in, I forget. And recently, I realized that I was seeking answers from the Lord more than I was seeking him.

Jesus tells us to ask, seek, and knock (Matthew 7:7). He says our heavenly Father is good and wants to give us good gifts (Matthew 7:11). Every good gift is from Him! (James 1:17) The Bible also says that if we lack wisdom, all we have to do is ask and it will be given to us. (James 1:5)

So there is nothing wrong with asking for what we need and seeking direction from God. That’s a good thing!

But what God really wants is relationship with him. He longs for us to be in his presence. We need to seek HIM first before everything else.

I found that when I went to God, I was actually getting off track by:

  • Time restraints – God is outside time, but we live in a timed world that can feel like pressure if we don’t have the right focus
  • Options – sometimes there are many good (and some bad) options available to us, and we can get caught up in the plethora of possibilities trying to figure out the best one God has for us
  • Questions – it’s easy to focus more on “why is this or that happening?” or “what is going on?” rather than trusting that God has a plan and will let us in on it in the prefect timing
  • Outside distractions – illness, broken appliances, world problems, family needs, friends’ issues to name only a few of the daily things that can keep us tied up – the Bible says “entangled”

Praying about all those things isn’t wrong or bad, but I discovered that when I sought only Jesus first, everything else fell into place. Just sitting in his presence, singing to him, praising him, and thanking him changed my heart attitude and made everything clearer.

The Bible tells us to “take every thought captive” and make it obedient to Jesus Christ. I used to tell my kids to think about that verse as if thoughts came knocking at the door of our castle. We might open the little mini-door to see who’s there, but then, if it’s not the lovely, pure, excellent thoughts we should have (Phil. 4:8), we send the thought to the dungeon where Jesus is in charge.

I don’t want anything to distract me from Jesus.

That brings me to the picture I had.

Which was of a large, red umbrella. At the time, I was praying with some people and believed it was for someone. (It turned out it was.) When I first have a picture pop into my mind, it’s just a picture and doesn’t usually make sense, but as I sit and wait for God to explain, it typically becomes clear.

In this case, God said that he was the umbrella and it was time to come out of the rain of things that were an overwhelming flood of distraction coming down. He said to cling to the handle, stay close, and hold fast to him, and he would cover the person. The umbrella was red denoting the blood of Jesus that covers us.

It turns out that the picture was also for me. Maybe it speaks to you as well.

When Jesus is all that matters, he covers us and nothing else, even things that seem (or are) so crucial, lose their position in our perspective. Not only that, but he always comes through with answers, makes impossible situations work out, and makes every crooked place smooth.

I have to remember to keep blinders on – like a horse in a race. LOL

Worship is one of the things that helps me keep my focus on track. This song is one that helped me that day and for days following.

Here’s to keeping on track with Jesus.

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.