Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
My poor puppies really needed to get out this morning. Because of varying circumstances last week, I was only able to take them on two short walks. Needless to say, by this morning, they had a lot of stored-up energy. So, despite the heat, I decided to take them on a long hike. We started at 8:00 this morning and got home around 12:00.
On the way down the mountain, both dogs were full of energy and excitement. They ran and played. They explored. By the time we reached the bottom, however, they were both hot and panting like crazy. I took them the short distance to the lake where I gave them plenty of time to play in the water and cool off. By the time we started back toward the mountain climb, Mitch was refreshed and back into his exploratory mood. Tippy, however, was losing steam FAST!
That's fine. I understand. It was getting warmer, and frankly, I was losing steam too. What frustrated me is that she insisted on walking in front of me at an extremely slow pace. Every time I would try to get around her, she'd speed up. But as soon as I was back behind her she'd slow down again. She was walking so slow that I couldn't even take a full step. I was making little baby steps which was really annoying and tiring.
Finally, I had had enough. Determined to pass her, I sped up to a near jog and cut in front of her. I kept up my quickened pace to make sure she didn't try to cut back in front of me. What I didn't take into account, however, was that we had just reached the toughest part of the climb. For the next little while it was nothing but climbing. Gradually, my pace slowed and slowed and slowed a little more. Then as my legs and lungs felt as if they were on fire, I stopped, bent over at the waist with my hands on my knees, and struggled to take in great gulps of air.
As I stood there trying to regain my strength, Tippy ambled past me. Her pace was slow but steady. She didn't stop when she reached me. She simply continued her climb up the mountain. The whole thing reminded me of the story of the tortoise and the hare. Because of my speed, I needed to stop and take a rest. Meanwhile, Tippy's persistence and determination allowed her to reach the top of the mountain.
Speed and strength don't always win the race. Sometimes all we need is persistence. As yesterday's post stated, no matter what you may be facing, don't quit. Keep on keeping on even if your pace seems slow. It's not about speed. It's about determination.
Monday, June 28, 2010
When the road you're trudging seems all up hill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but don't you quit.
Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about
When he might have won had he stuck it out;
Don't give up though the pace seems slow--
You may succeed with another blow,
Success is failure turned inside out--
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far;
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit--
It's when things seem worst that you must not quit.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed: we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed. - II Corinthians 4:8-9
Do you see yourself in the above verses? Troubled? Check. Perplexed? Check. Persecuted? Check. Cast down? Check. How about the other side of each statement? Not distressed? Um, not quite. Not in despair? Working on it. Not forsaken? I know it's true, but it sure does feel like I'm all alone sometimes. Not destroyed? Check. . .I think. Let's face it -- we have a lot to learn from Paul.
As you've probably noticed for the past couple of weeks, my blog posts have been hit and miss. I apologize for that, but the truth is that my "groove" has been thrown off track. The past month has been full of the unexpected and the time-consuming. I've been working and learning in an effort to launch my new book this month. My husband came down with a terrible case of poison ivy which cost us several nights' sleep and several days of sanity. Last week was children's revival at our church. Monday was our wedding anniversary.
All of those (except the poison ivy) are good things, but I've been a bit overwhelmed by it all. In fact, I had a doctor's appointment last week, and for the first time ever, my blood pressure was high. The doctor was concerned, and asked if I had been under any stress lately. I laughed in his face, then explained what had been going on. He nodded and told me to keep tabs on it just to make sure it wasn't something else. It has gone down since then. I knew it would. After all, I've been here before. I have arrived at the place where I need to re-charge my batteries.
I have plans to go to the park tomorrow. I will take my Bible, my journal, some tissues, and some water. I plan to find a comfortable and somewhat secluded spot, and then I intend to stay there until my spirit feels refreshed. You see, when I read that verse in Corinthians yesterday, it rang too true in my current state. I saw it as God's way of telling me it was time to take a day and "be still." It's good to do that every now and then. It always amazes me at the difference it makes in my life.
If it's been a while since you've had a moment to "be still," you may want to try to work it in to your schedule. It can brighten your day and lighten your load.
Troubled? Sure. Distressed? Nah!
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Today will be the last post in the whitewater rafting series. I hope you've enjoyed reading them as much as I've enjoyed writing them. You know, every event in our life has meaning behind it. It's good to stop sometimes and look at all the extraordinary things we can learn from ordinary events.
Whitewater rafting has given me a new-found respect for Peter. Now, Peter gets a lot of criticism for his act that day on the wind-tossed seas. We tend to go on and on about how he started to doubt and took his eyes off Jesus, then he started to sink. But you know what? Peter was the only one brave enough to get out of the boat in the first place. Peter was the only one with enough faith to give it a try.
And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away. And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone. But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased. Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God. - Matthew 14:22-33
I'm sure that the water on the Nantahala River was a babbling brook compared to what the disciples were facing that night. Still, I didn't want to be out of that boat. The water was choppy and VERY cold. I knew how strong the undercurrent was, and I had no desire to get pulled under. Nope! I was content to stay in the boat. If Jesus had come to me that day and asked me to walk on the water with Him, I don't know that I would have had enough faith to get out of the boat. What if I fell? What if I sank? What if the snakes got to me first? What if . . .?
But Peter got out of the boat. Picture this scene. The lightning is flashing so bright that it temporary blinds all who witness it. The thunder booms. The wind tears at your hair and your clothes. The waves toss your boat up and down, to and fro, reminding you of the tilt-a-whirl at the county fair. The rain beats down so hard that you can barely see the ghost-like form coming closer. At first you are afraid, but then, above the noise of the storm, you hear a voice that you recognize. It's Jesus . . . or is it? Before you realize it, you speak these words, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. You have no idea where the words came from, but Jesus beckons you, and now there's no turning back.
What would you have done in Peter's place? Would you have gotten out of the boat? Would you have put all your faith into the man that stood before you? Would you have shrugged away your thoughts and ideas and instead simply obeyed? Unfortunately, had I been there that stormy night, I probably would have stayed in the boat with all the other disciples. Peter may have lost his faith in the midst of the storm, but at least he had faith to start with.
The next time we want to pick on Peter for his lack of faith, let's stop and examine our own lives. Let's take a good look at our own faith and see if it is where it needs to be. I think we'll find that we have no room to criticize Peter. Peter took the first step. Have we? Peter forsook all safety to get closer to Jesus? Have we done the same? How strong is our faith today? Can it withstand the storms?
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
I was a little nervous when I first found out that everyone in the raft had to paddle. Personally, I would have liked to have sat back, found a good place to hold on, and just enjoyed the ride. No such luck! You want to raft, you have to paddle.
As I mentioned before, I had no idea how to paddle or even how to hold a paddle. My knowledge of rowing a boat went as far as knowing which end of the oar to stick in the water. That's it! Thankfully, we had very knowledgeable and patient instructors. They taught us how to hold the paddle, how to paddle forward, and how to paddle backwards (I had a little trouble with this one from time to time. I thought I was paddling backwards, but I wasn't. Oops! Evidently, I'm not as coordinated as I thought.)
There were two main rules given about paddling. First, always hold your t-grip. The t-grip is the end of the paddle that is not in the water. If you don't hold it carefully, the current can easily swing it around and whack someone in the face. I held that thing so tightly that my hand literally hurt by the end of the day. Rule one? Check! The second rule was to always paddle with your partner. Your partner is the person who is on the same side of the boat as you are. If you and your partner are paddling in rhythm, the raft will move as it should, and things go relatively smoothly (as smoothly as can be down a raging river.) If you're not paddling together, things get ugly.
My partner was Cody, a 16-year old boy. He's tall. He's strong. He's fast. I am none of those things! Since he was in the front of the boat, it was up to him to set the rhythm, and boy, did he set it! My arms just don't move that fast, especially when I'm fighting the current. Still, I have to say that I did very well keeping a rhythm with him . . . most of the time.
The most difficult times to keep the rhythm were the times that it was the most important--through the rapids. During these times, it was hard enough to keep myself in the boat and hold onto my paddle. Rhythm was beyond my control. During these times, my paddle would be forward when Cody's was back and vice versa. Obviously, the latter didn't cause many problems, but the collision of our two paddles was not helping us to make it through the rapids. Our instructor was yelling, "Paddle, Paddle," and I was yelling to Cody, "Sorry! Sorry!" For the life of me, I could not keep rhythm during those times. If I wasn't hitting his paddle, I was hitting the rocks in the water. (At least I didn't hit anyONE!)
My spiritual application? Life is hard. We, as Christians, need to be in rhythm or in step with one another. Amos 3:3 says, Can two walk together, except they be agreed? We need to help one another. We need to encourage one another. We need to uplift one another. We need to be in harmony. There is enough trouble and discord in the world. We don't need it in our churches! We don't need it within the family of God. Just as with the rafting, sometimes the hardest times to get along are the times of great trial, but those are the times we need to strive the most. Those are the times we need to be there for each other to help each other through. May I challenge you today--get your rhythm and stick with it. The sailing will be much smoother in the long run . . . and you'll have to apologize a lot less!
Monday, June 14, 2010
"Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink!" We've all heard that saying, right? You truly understand it when you go whitewater rafting.
I had some white tea with my breakfast at 7:00 in the morning. To cut down on bathroom stops, I didn't drink anything after that. When we arrived in Nantahala, everything happened so fast, and the next thing I knew, we were rafting. Obviously, it was too late to get anything to drink at that point. (Besides, with an 8-mile trip down the river and being a person who has to go to the bathroom every 20 minutes or so, I thought it would be wise to stay away from beverages of all types.)
I was so thirsty!!!!!! It was a warm, sunny day. We were surrounded by water, and all I could think was, I'm so thirsty . . . and I still have to go to the bathroom! Now, I suppose I could have drunk some of the water out of the river. In fact, I thought about it, but when I saw a group of kids on the bank pull a huge snake from the water, I realized I wasn't THAT thirsty. As the day wore on, I thought I was going to die of thirst! Finally, it was lunch time.
The beverage served at lunch was Gatorade. I am not a big fan of Gatorade, but that day, it might as well have been water from Heaven. I guzzled down two glasses and then reminded myself that I had a three-hour van ride through the mountains, so I might want to take it easy. (In case you're wondering, no, it didn't help. I still had to go to the bathroom. Plus, we got caught in a traffic jam, causing the trip to take an extra 30-45 minutes. KILL ME!!!!!)
Anyway, the entire situation reminded me of how we surround ourselves with so many things that seem important, yet we suffer daily from spiritual dehydration. We have our jobs, our families, our friends, our churches, our various ministries, our dreams, and on and on. We have our great intentions and our work for the Lord. We're completely surrounded by demands, desires, and obligations. But our hearts are dry. We're doing all the right things, but we're not necessarily doing them for the right reasons.
I'm reminded of Martha in the Bible. She was busy. She was surrounded by duty, obligation, and a desire to serve. In fact, she was surrounded by Jesus and his followers. But, spiritually, she was dry. As Joanna Weaver put it in her book, Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World, Martha opened her home, but she didn't open her heart. She was doing a good thing, but she was so busy, she didn't take time to be blessed. Jesus told her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things; But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. (Luke 10:41-42)
Doing the Lord's work is a wonderful thing. Being involved in various church functions or other ministries is great. The Lord desires our service, but He wants it with a servant's heart. The only way to get that is to spend some time refreshing our soul with the water of the Word. How can we tell others the Good News if we are so spiritually dehydrated that we can't even remember why we're serving? It has become a habit instead of an act of devotion. God doesn't want that. He doesn't want to see our souls die of spiritual thirst. That's why He gave us His Word. Drink! Drink deeply! Drink so deeply that it overflows and refreshes others as well. We have no excuse. The water has been provided. It is our choice whether or not we drink.
Friday, June 11, 2010
Trust in your guide. Since our trip on Saturday was my first time rafting, I had no idea what to do. I didn't know where to sit or how to sit. I didn't know how to paddle, when to paddle, or even how to hold the paddle. And I certainly didn't know the river.
Our guide, however, had been down that river so many times that he knew every rock and ripple. He knew where the water was shallow. He knew where the trees hung over the river, causing the rafts to dodge in order to avoid the hanging limbs. He knew how to hit every wave, how to steer the raft, when to paddle, and when to coast. He knew. I didn't. So, when he gave a command, I obeyed. When he gave the order to paddle, I got busy. When he said to stop, I stopped. He was the guide. He had my safety in mind. He knew the course and how to handle it. I eagerly accepted his knowledge of the situation and obeyed his every command.
Why don't we do the same with God? He is our Guide. He knows the course. In fact, He's been down it before. He knows the rocks and ripples in our lives. He knows the trees that hang alongside our path, grabbing at us as we strive to make it through. He knows how to go through the waves, how to steer, and how to paddle. He knows. We don't. Yet, when He gives a command, instead of obeying, we question. I don't know if that's really the best way. That's not really what I had in mind. I was thinking of doing it this way.
Can you imagine if I had said the same thing to our rafting guide? When he gave the order to paddle, can you imagine his response if I turned to him and said, "Are you sure? I was thinking we should just ride this one out." That would be ludicrous! That would be dangerous! That would be the exact same way I often treat God. The One who knows all things gives me a direct order, and I question. Sometimes, it's worse than that. Sometimes I merely thank God for His "suggestion" and go about doing things my own way. Is it any wonder I run into trouble? I have no doubt that if I had not followed the rafting guide's instruction, there would have been trouble. Why should life be any different?
How much better would life be if we would simply trust our Guide? We often sing the song, "Trust and Obey," but it's a lot harder to live it than it is to sing it. But, we should. God knows the way to get us safely home. He has our best interest at heart. Let's listen to His instructions. Who knows? We may find more joy in the journey!
Thursday, June 10, 2010
The trip to Nantahala takes about 2 1/2 hours. For the last several miles of the trip, the road actually follows alongside the river. This gives you the opportunity to watch other people whitewater rafting before you ever reach your destination.
As nervous as I was, I didn't think it would be a good idea for me to watch other people. I thought it would scare me more than I already was (if that was possible.) However, when you follow the river for that long, you can't help but look. And so, I watched, and I found that I was actually feeling better. The water didn't look that rough at all. In fact, it seemed like the rafts were barely bouncing as they floated along. I can do this, I thought. Little did I know I was in for another lesson.
The water is rougher than it looks! Within a few minutes of actually being in the boat, I realized just how choppy the water really was. The ride wasn't smooth like I had expected after watching other rafters. Why had it suddenly become so rough? It hadn't. I had fooled myself into thinking that it was calm water and that I was fully capable of smooth sailing. I truly realized my mistake after about an hour on the river. The guides had an activity planned, so we steered the rafts over to shore. When I stepped into the water, the undercurrent swept my legs right out from under me. The water was that strong . . . and this was a smooth spot! What a shock when I fell face first into the water.
Life has surprises too, doesn't it? Sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking that all is smooth sailing, then WHAM! We're face down in freezing water. Why do we do that? Why do we convince ourselves that we are invincible? Why is it so hard for us to admit that we need God?
I can already hear some of you saying, "I'm not like that. I know I need God." Well, I know it too, but I don't always act like it. When I was a child, I asked Jesus to save me, acknowledging that I couldn't get to Heaven on my own. Since then, however, I find myself racing ahead of God time and time again, doing the things that would be better off if I left them in His hands.
My problem? I hate waiting! You see, God has a purpose and a plan for everything, and even though I know that He knows best, I grow impatient as I wait for Him to meet my needs. I often take the attitude, Fine! If you won't help me, I'll help myself! And, before long, I find my feet swept out from underneath me. The current is too strong. My strength is insufficient.
Life it tough. If you haven't already discovered that, you will soon. We can't make it through alone. No matter how strong we think we are. No matter how smooth the path before us looks. We can't do it alone. And praise the Lord, we don't have to!
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. - II Corinthians 12:9a
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
One of the most important things you learn when you go whitewater rafting is how to stay in the boat. There are no ropes or handles to hold onto. Plus, your hands are busy holding tight to your paddle, so you have to hold on with your feet. You sit on the edge of the raft and tuck your feet firmly into little compartments that are formed by the shape of the raft. That's it! That is all that is holding you in. If your feet are not firmly secured, you'll find yourself floating down the river without the aid of a raft. (Note: Because of how you have to tuck your feet, your legs will become very sore and tired by the end of the day.)
I made sure that I tucked my feet in securely as soon as I got in the boat. In fact, I had my feet so secure that I think I cut off the blood flow for a little while. I didn't care if I could feel my feet or not. I just wanted to make sure I didn't fall off into the freezing water. Near the end of our 8-mile journey, our guide warned us that we were coming up to "the falls." I did NOT like the sound of that! He cautioned us to make sure we had our feet secured. At first, I didn't think it was possible to wedge my feet up any farther in that compartment, but I found a way. With my feet secured, I made it through the falls without ending up in the river.
The whole situation made me think about how important it is to have our feet firmly planted in our faith. When the rapids of life come upon us, it is very easy to "fall out of the boat" or give up on our faith. It's not difficult to find ourselves floating down the river of life without a paddle or even a boat. Circumstances can cause us to question where God is and why we feel the need to serve Him when He doesn't even seem to care about what's happening to us. Situations can cause us to turn our backs on God or fellow Christians. Life is not easy. We must have our feet firmly planted. But how?
1. Stay in God's Word.
2. Talk with God.
3. Share your burdens with other believers.
4. Keep a positive outlook.
5. Be thankful.
There are many other things you can do to strengthen your hold on your faith, but these are a few good ones that will help you through those tough times. Trials come, and there's no way to get around them. Life will toss us around just like a raging river. But we can stay in the boat if we will strive to have our feet firmly planted.
Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the water, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river. - Jeremiah 7:17-18a
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
On Saturday, we had the opportunity to take our youth group whitewater rafting on the Nantahala River. Wow! That was an experience. To be honest, I learned a lot of interesting things during that trip. In fact, the next few blog entries will be lessons that are related to whitewater rafting. It will be a series of sorts.
Today, I'd just like to tell you a little about the trip. If you've never been whitewater rafting, there are a few things you should know.
1. No matter how warm the day is, the water is FREEZING!
2. It is impossible to stay dry, and unfortunately, your bottom gets soaked the most often. (Don't worry though. It becomes numb very quickly.)
3. Whitewater rafting does not work only your arms. It works every muscle in your body. (I know this because when I woke up Sunday morning, every muscle in my body was crying. They're still whimpering today, but it's getting better.)
4. Sun + Water + Energy expended = SNORE!!!!!!!
5. The water is moving much faster than it appears, and if you try to walk in it, you will fall down.
6. The safest place to be is in the raft with the three strongest guys. (Yep, that's where I was!)
7. Even the experienced guides can get thrown out of the boat.
8. If the rafting doesn't kill you, your life jacket will. They cinch those things so tight that every breath is a true effort.
9. When someone in your boat starts a water fight, expect to have a paddle full of water splash into the back of your head as the boat shifts, putting you directly in the line of fire.
10. When your shorts get that wet, they become very heavy, so you may want to tighten your drawstring. (Don't ask!)
Well, that's all for today. Check back over the next week to find out what other valuable lessons I learned from whitewater rafting. I guarantee you'll be surprised!
Monday, June 7, 2010
It's good to be back from my "time off." I wish I could say it was a restful week, but alas, it was anything but. Here's a quick rundown:
Sunday: Tried a new order of service for church. I was confused and VERY busy.
Monday: Helped hubby build the new sound room for church. We spent nearly 12 hours at this task, and no, it was not completed. (We had to go hither and yon to purchase the materials too.)
Tuesday: Jason worked a long day, so I spent the time trying to make some progress on my book. I also tried to recover from Monday's labor.
Wednesday: Jason worked a morning job while I took the dogs to the lake for some much-needed exercise. Jason took the remainder of the day off, so we left at lunch time to continue the work on the sound room. We worked until church time and got a lot done. By the end of church, I was barely able to keep my eyes open.
Sometime in the early week: Jason got into some poison ivy or poison oak. We noticed a little bit of it on Wednesday as we were working, but didn't think much of it. By Wednesday night, Jason was VERY itchy, so sleep was hard to come by (for both of us).
Thursday: Jason worked a full day despite his worsening itches. I tried to work on my book, but found that my concentration was not up to the task. (Go figure!) Still, I got some work done around the house and some progress made on my book.
Thursday night: VERY LITTLE SLEEP!!!!! Too much itching and scratching. (Caffeine, please!)
Friday: Jason soldiered on and went to work again. I took the dogs out again for some exercise. After that, I ran errands and picked up more medication for my itching and extremely miserable husband. Then, I finally made some more progress on my book. (It's sad, really. I spent so much time designing the cover when it really shouldn't have taken more than a couple of hours. I'd been working on it all week - well, when I had time anyway!)
Friday night: You guessed it -- no sleep!!!!! (Seriously, I really need caffeine!)
Saturday: With a long list of things that needed to be done, we decided to trash the list and get some rest. Jason rested while I got caught up on some things and worked on getting things ready for homecoming on Sunday. Food? Check. Clothes? Check. Offeratory? Check. Special music lyrics? Check.
Saturday night: Some rest. (It may have had something to do with the herbal sleeping pills I took. Who knows?)
Sunday: Homecoming. Good service. Good food. No evening service which means more rest for the weary (that's me).
So, as you can see, it's been a very hectic and "interesting" week for us. Still, I'm glad I can honestly say that God has been good to me! He has given strength and patience (for all you ladies who have ever had to tend to a sick husband, you know what I'm talking about).
Thank you for your patience during the past week. I honestly don't think I could have fit another thing in, and even if I had, I'm not sure how coherent my posts would have been. Anyway, thanks for your faithful following. Lord willing, I'll have some great posts for you this week. And keep your eyes open for news concerning my new book, Random Ramblings of a Raving Redhead.