Dear Emily: Here Are 12 Things I Learned This Summer…

I follow Emily Freeman because she has such quirky posts.

So when she asked me to come up with a list of “What I Learned This Summer” I thought, “Why not?” And then I wondered, “Can I come up with a dozen?”

So, here’s my list.

what i learned this summer

I learned you can’t grow tomatoes in triple digit temperatures, surrounded by forest fires, that turn your skies gray and foggy with choking smoke.

But, I learned smoke and heat make for hours and hours more time for writing and reading.

I discovered that even at sixty-six years of age a bully can still make me cry, BUT…

I also learned that when Jesus says, “I’ll handle this one.” He means it, and He does it with such finesse, I am so GLAD I listened to Him instead of—well you know!

I didn’t get everything done I’d planned to do this summer, but I got a few things DONE that weren’t on my To-Do-List, and that feels just as GREAT!

I learned huge spiders can still scare the willies out of me when I should be “so over it” by now—sigh!

(Honest, that BLACK WIDOW was as big as a Ping-Pong ball!)

I learned that blogging three books at the same time is total chaos if you don’t number your drafts.

I learned that I am still a recovering workaholic when I thought I could start writing a fourth (what was I thinking)!

I learned that grief does eventually release it’s iron grip on your joy—because Jesus wins—every single time.

I discovered that I can still swing an axe! Who knew!

I’ll admit that with childish abandonment, and shameless delight,  I still love to play in the mud.

And saving the best for last,

I am still learning each and every day just HOW MUCH Jesus loves ME even with all my faults and hang-ups.

Looking back over this list? I have to say, “Thank you Emily.” this really was a good idea!

God Thank You For Loving Me

 

 

A Closer Walk: God Never Plays Games With Us

God never plays games with us. He never lies to us. He always shoots straight with us.

I believe that is why Jesus plainly said,

“And no one can be my disciple who does not carry his own cross and follow me. But DON’T BEGIN until you count the cost…” Luke 14:27-28Luke 14:27-28
English: World English Bible - WEB

27 Whoever doesn’t bear his own cross, and come after me, can’t be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, doesn’t first sit down and count the cost, to see if he has enough to complete it?

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What could be plainer than that statement?

So, why don’t we believe Him?

God demands everything

Why do we play games?

(Because we do.)

In the Western Church we act like this “discipleship-thing” is some sort of a democratic club. We sing that God is supreme. We say that Jesus is our King. But, if things don’t go well? If we don’t get to have our say, or have our way? We bail out—plain and simple.

The sad truth most church statisticians agree upon.

We hate to be inconvenienced, and because of that, there are as many people going out the back door of our churches as are coming in the front door!

If we don’t get what we want, and by that I mean, the pastor’s length of sermon, the style of music, the style of service, a good parking spot, or our favorite seat—we find a way to say, “Bye-bye.” Suffering—REAL suffering—is definitely not on our agendas.

And that was me!

I was seriously thinking of bailing—and here was God—painting a picture of greater suffering?

I had lost my health, my job, and with it, all of my income, my good credit, my freedom and choice of movement, my church, all my church “friends” and now God was saying, “…things could get worse.”

Worse?

You bet I was re-thinking my discipleship!

I was raised in the democratic Church in the West.

We vote on everything and I wanted a VOTE on this kind of agenda!

All InIt’s all well and good to be sitting on my nice clean cushioned-seat, in my lovely safe air-conditioned church building, singing sweet songs about how much I love Jesus.

BUT, it was quite another to contemplate things getting much worse—while I was occupying my own personal ash pile!

What was I really signing up for?

Did I want this dream I had asked God to give me?

I mean, did I really want it—at any cost?

faith or control?God was using words like “danger” and “hardship” with no apologies for either, you bet I was thinking long and hard.

Did I love Jesus as much as I claimed?

His words, “… don’t begin until you count the cost.” was certainly clear enough.

It was time to decide.

I know it looked crazy, (It probably sounds crazy too.) but my answer was, “Yes.”

I said, “LORD, I don’t have any idea where the two of us are headed, but I’ve come too far to turn back now.”

I was scared.

Life already looked plenty grim.

But regardless—I decided—I was all-in.

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WHY DO YOU WEAR THAT FUNNY LOOK?

So you have chosen. Good. Good!

No turning back.

I AM glad you have chosen to  go on.

It had to be your decision.

You are surprised?

upgrade your faithHave I not chosen to bind Myself by men’s free will? What kind of relationship would choose to hog-tie the other’s free will? That is not friendship, that is slavery!

I AM no slaver!

I AM the Divine Lover.

I never force.

(No, it is not My way.)

I do want you to come away with Me—with all My heart I want this. I AM so jealous when you choose “another love” instead of Me.

I freely admit it  I AM crazy about you!

Why do you wear that funny look?

Had you not figured it out by now?

Did I not tell you?

I would move stars and planets for you!

I would make the sun stand still for you!

I would follow you to the deepest, darkest cave, to win your love!

(This you know is true.)

Let Me shout it, “I LOVE YOU BELOVED!”

Let Me whisper it, “I love you.”

I love you with an intensity you will never understand!

When you choose Me—freely choose Me—no matter the cost? When you lay your life down as you have chosen to do?

My Spirit soars!

You are My passion Sweetheart. I wanted you to know it now, and for all time…

I love you.

a closer walk

 

“But we have never turned our backs on God…”

Hebrews 10:39Hebrews 10:39
English: World English Bible - WEB

39 But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the saving of the soul.

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Never Losing the Light: Billowing Dust Beneath His Feet

terrors of cycloneI AM in every storm child.
Let that sink in…

(Selah.)

My word says,

“He shows His power in the terrors of the cyclone and the raging storms; clouds are the billowing dust beneath His feet.” (Nahum 1:3Nahum 1:3
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3 Yahweh is slow to anger, and great in power, and will by no means leave the guilty unpunished. Yahweh has his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.

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I re-arrange things by storm.

Is that not My sovereign right as Creator of it all?

Remember child, storms not only wreak havoc, they bring blessing.

I know it never seems that way at first—but, think. The fiercer the storm, the more stable everything becomes—afterward.

storm downed treeThe loose, the flimsy, the decayed, these are all removed.

Only that which:
First, is firmly rooted,
Second, with solid foundations…
⦁ Will remain steadfast and standing after the hurricane has swept by—yes?

The aftermath of storms causes everything to be re-evaluated.

Is this not a blessing in disguise?

It is the same in your life. The storm tests everything; removes the flimsy, and brings a re-evaluating.

tested by stormsThe lovely by-product is that you tend to run and embrace Me tighter than ever in a storm.

This is also a blessing in disguise.

(Well, disguised for you… not Me.)

Yes, all in all, I find great satisfaction in the storm.

I AM a Creator. I AM forever making things new. Storms are merely My servants. I send them to accomplish My will.

Your storms will save you child.

stormy seas

“My mercy and justice are coming soon; your salvation is on the way”

Isaiah 51:5Isaiah 51:5
English: World English Bible - WEB

5 My righteousness is near, my salvation is gone forth, and my arms shall judge the peoples; the islands shall wait for me, and on my arm shall they trust.

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C S Lewis quote

A Closer Walk: No Turning Back

This is one of my favorite things about God: He never wastes words. God can pack more punch, in less space, than the finest writers who have ever lived.

“Decide.”

On that one little word hung everything in my future.

I had come to some sort of fork in the road with God… and I knew it.

I remembered reading somewhere once, “The Lion of Judah is a WILD lion. Every time you try to cage Him, He will break loose in your life, and do the unexpected.”

The Lion of Judah

Was that what I had tried to do—cage God?

When I looked the idea square in the eye, it did seem ridiculous, in the extreme.

Did I still want the things I had prayed for?

Those things had sounded so wonderful when I had asked God for them. Healing hearts, encouraging the hopeless, gathering the broken, it had all sounded so good. But this road I found myself on was not the kind of road I had expected we would take to do all of that.

I hated what had happened.

Now there it was, the honest naked truth.

I was feeling like I had been mauled by that Wild Lion.

(That was honest, too.)

No head-faking-bull… that was our deal.

My heart felt frozen staring at my choices… my mind was reeling.

crossroads decisionWe used to sing a song at the church I served at. Every time someone was baptized and they would go down into the water, they would come up to the sounds of the church singing, “I have decided to follow Jesus… no turning back… no turning back.”

No turning back.

Yes, in my heart, I knew I was at a crossroads.

Whichever road I chose there would be no turning back.

From this point forward everything would be different…

(And it terrified me.)

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THE PATH

Child, seeing what you see now? Knowing what you know now? Would you forsake all your shame and suffering, and go back to that place of soft easy pleasure?

You have counted some of the cost to follow Me…

the right pathWould you change course; would you do things differently, if you could?

Before you go forward, these are questions you must honestly ask yourself.

Search your heart.

Think long and hard.

The path you’ve chosen is not an easy one. There are many stones along the way; jagged and cutting. There are briars and thorns. It is a narrow way, too. Many places along this path are wide enough for only two ~ you and I.

difficult paths & higher callings

I have been sifting you. (You already know this.) But, the time is fast approaching when I will begin to sift My Church.

(You will be more alone than ever.)

Can you… will you… still go with Me?

We have to decide this now, together.

What sets your soul on fire?

I have to know that you have looked at the danger and hardship, square in the face, and chosen freely, knowing what is to come.

You know Me well enough now to know that I will never leave you.

(I need to know the same about you.)

Make your choice.

a closer walk“It was by faith that Moses… refused to be treated as the grandson of the king, but chose to share ill-treatment with God’s people… he thought it was better to suffer…” Hebrews 11:24-26Hebrews 11:24-26
English: World English Bible - WEB

24 By faith, Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to share ill treatment with God’s people, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a time; 26 accounting the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he looked to the reward.

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Never Losing the Light: Desperate Faith

caught in stormWhen I look at you I see a magnificent ship caught up in a desperate and fierce gale; broken mast; tattered sails; but still afloat!

This hurricane you’ve sailed into has brought it’s damage for sure. I would never deny what you have endured.

But… you are carrying such a rich cargo!

No wonder the enemy has tried to sink you.

I know there were times you thought he would.

Never mind—doubt arising is not a sin.

(You have been mistaken about that.)

There are dark clouds of doubt in every storm.

dark clouds of doubt

The sin is in surrendering to them.

When the dark clouds of doubt surround you, you must listen for My footsteps. You must cry out for My aid. I will come bringing the Light of My word to guide you through the darkness.

Listen child. (hush) Be quiet now.

I AM coming, walking upon the waves of your storm, and when the time is right?

When patience has perfected you?

I will still the storm, never fear.

Doubt not Sweetheart, My love and care for you have not changed.

The storm has it’s purpose.

Lean on Me.

I AM your strength, remember?

I AM carefully observing all that is happening.

Nothing is beyond My righteous reach—nothing.

desperate faith

The damage you see is not as devastating as it looks.

Keep your eyes on Me.

Believe what you behold there.

I love your desperate faith.

(Really I do.)


we are all desperate

 

 

“Listen to Me, My people; listen O Israel, for I will see that right prevails… “

Isaiah 51:4Isaiah 51:4
English: World English Bible - WEB

4 Attend to me, my people; and give ear to me, my nation: for a law shall go forth from me, and I will establish my justice for a light of the peoples.

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What Is God’s Will? by Lysa TerKeurst

decisionsI used to think it was crucial for me to know God’s will. If I knew His grand plan for at least this season of my life, then I could direct all my decisions to fall in line.

Is it His will for me to stay in this job or change to that one?

Is it His will for me to send my kids to that school or make another choice?

Is it His will for me to teach that Bible study, serve on that committee, or go on that mission trip?

I ponder and I pray. I ask friends. I read the Bible. I look for confirmations that point in one direction or the other.

I assume there is one right answer and in order to stay in God’s will I must make the right choice.

That’s a lot of pressure for a simple girl like me. After all, I’m choosing between one good thing and another good thing. And so I fret and wonder, which of these things is God’s will?

But what if I’m wrong?

What if God’s will is more simple than that?

It’s great to pray, ask friends, and look for confirmations. But what if God is more concerned with us looking for Him than looking for answers?

What if God just wants us to pay attention to Him in the midst of whatever choice we make?

Recently I heard a story that shook me to the core. It had been a busy day at a restaurant with lots of customers coming and going. But at one point a guy came up to the manager and handed her a card. He told her, “This is for your staff.” And with an emotional catch in his throat, he said, “I just wanted to make sure they knew.”

The customer then turned and left as the manager tucked the card into her apron pocket.

A little while later, she had time to open the card.

It was a note directed to the staff thanking them. It wasn’t for their service or for the food. It was for their smiles.

He explained in the letter that he’d made plans to take his life that day. But their gift of simple conversations with simple smiles gave him the gift of hope.

As I heard the story, I cried.

Something stirred deep inside of me.

I got this overwhelming feeling that this is such a beautiful picture of how God’s will works. He intersects our lives with people that need His hope and whispers to us, “You have the hope they need… give it to them.

Maybe it’s to offer them a little of our time. Maybe it’s to share a little of our story. Or maybe, like with this customer, it’s to simply offer a smile. And when we listen, a shift happens. It’s like the world splits open with each of our simple acts of obedience to God and His light breaks apart the world’s darkness.

God instructs us to let our light shine. This is His will. This is His plan. This is His instruction.

And when we get in the habit of obeying His instruction today, we’ll develop a keen awareness of His direction for tomorrow.

The more we pay attention to these moment-by-moment instructions by God, the more our thinking starts to line up with God. Our mind gets in a new rhythm of seeing what He wants us to see, so that we can do what He wants us to do.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2Romans 12:2
English: World English Bible - WEB

2 Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God.

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, NIV)

This is why I wrote The Best Yes. I want to unrush my schedule, unrush my life, unrush my soul… so I can have enough space to pay attention to God. To see those divine opportunities with people who need hope and to be able to say yes to God’s instruction. These are my Best Yes moments. And I don’t want to miss them.

I suspect the same is true for you.