Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash

This originally appeared on my personal Facebook page as part of a writing challenge I participated in to stretch my writing:  Five Minute Friday’s 31 DAYS OF FIVE MINUTE FREE WRITES. This is spontaneous writing in only 5 minutes. The word for the day was “Voice.”

“Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth—let your cry ring out, and sing praises!” Psalm 98:4

I have always wanted to have a beautiful singing voice. I would love to sing confidently in church and not worry about hurting anyone’s ears. Alas, that I do not have that much desired gift. There’s a verse for people like me – make a joyful NOISE to the Lord. And so I do.

The Lord may not have given me that prized singing voice, but He has given me a voice nonetheless. For most of my life, I was very quiet. I was afraid to raise my hand in school, and afraid to talk in front of people. That followed me into adulthood, where I preferred to stay within my silent cocoon, too afraid to step out of my comfort zone and even start a conversation with someone. People labeled me as shy, but in reality, my quietness was just to cover up my belief that I had nothing of importance to say. If I had nothing of value to speak, why embarrass myself by opening my mouth?

The Lord has been working on me, though. He has been so gentle with me, giving me opportunities to speak with many people through a new position my employer has given me. I speak with people I don’t know every single day.

Someone recently told me I have a voice, and that the Lord wants me to use it. He seems to want me to use that voice in writing, and only He knows the reason. 

You have a voice, too. You have a story, a testimony, a piece of wisdom that can help someone else. Don’t be shy, and don’t believe the voice that tells you that you have nothing to say, or that you can’t say it well, or that it doesn’t matter. It matters, and YOU matter. You never know whose life you may influence, and that influence just may change the world. 

“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows if perhaps you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’” Isaiah 6:8

The Same Yesterday, Today and Forever

Photo by Erick Tang on Unsplash

But You remain the same, and Your years will never end. Psalm 102:27

I knew something was up when I called to reschedule my dental appointment and an unfamiliar voice greeted me on the other end of the line.  They then asked me which dentist I wanted to see when on the rescheduled date.  Which dentist?  Wasn’t Dr. B the only dentist at this location?  I was told that there were now two dentists in the office.  Being completely comfortable and pleased with the dentist I had always seen, it was a simple choice to make, so I rescheduled with Dr. B.

Then there was a texted reminder of my upcoming appointment, instead of the usual phone call with a friendly voice on the other end of the line by someone who knew me.

As I pulled into the parking space on the day of my appointment, I noticed changes on the outside of the building.  It now listed two names instead of one.  While the name of the practice was still visible above the door, one of the large windows now displayed an unfamiliar name.

Then I walked inside.  The waiting area had received a facelift.  New chairs, clear partitions separating the office staff from the clients, a countertop filled with brightly colored brochures, and a few simple, minimalist decorations.  They had replaced a magazine rack with a large screen television that displayed upbeat music videos.  The room had a completely different vibe.

While checking in at the desk, the employee handed me a clipboard with several forms to complete.  You know, the kind you have to fill in when you are a new patient.  A new patient?

Behold, I am going to do something new, now it will spring up; will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:19

The new office assistants were professional and courteous.  Anyone walking into the office for the first time would have been impressed.  But me?

As I sat in one of the comfortable chairs, waiting for my turn, I pondered the changes.  I had been going to this dentist for nearly a decade.  Even when I moved almost an hour away, I continued driving to his office because as much as I respect him for his professionalism and knowledge, I really appreciated the patience and kindness of him and his staff. 

I had become accustomed to seeing the beautiful smile of his wife behind the counter.  She is such a friendly woman, and she would always ask about my children by name.  We discussed our kids, upcoming weddings, travel, and the fun and challenge of finding the perfect gifts online.  I looked forward to our chats before the appointment and after, and the conversation was always uplifting.  We found much to laugh about, and I always left thankful that I had come.  I missed her that day and realized what a gift her always being there had been. 

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, with whom there is no change or shifting shadow. James 1:17

A familiar face escorted me to the dental chair, though a mask covered most of it.  Still, her kindness shone through her eyes and her touch.  I was always happy when our schedules coincided, which hadn’t happened very often lately. 

As I got settled in the chair, I noticed that music from other genres had replaced the soft jazz that had always played in the background.  Not offensive, but not the relaxing music to which I had grown accustomed. 

Dr. B approached the chair and told me that he would retire in a few weeks.  Well, that explained it.  I had known it would happen eventually, and the changes should have given me a clue, but it did not prepare me for the news.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. Isaiah 55:8

As he and his assistant got to work, my thoughts swirled.  Life gets busy.  The time between appointments gets stretched out.  Issues crop up and because of the busyness of life, visits get delayed.  I know that some people make their routine medical and dental checkups a priority, and they never miss an appointment.  Well, that’s not me.  Over the last couple of years, I have moved, married, and started a new job with more hours and stress that I have felt that I could handle at times (which is also why I have not written in a long time).  Taking time off for a dental visit almost an hour away, only to have to work even harder to make up the work I missed was difficult, so my appointments grew farther in between.

In all of this, never once did I sense frustration or condemnation from Dr. B.  He would just fix what needed to be fixed and never say a word about my extended absence.

As I sat there, I realized his actions reminded me of someone else.

Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. The younger son said to him, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. After a few days, the younger son got everything together and journeyed to a distant country, where he squandered his wealth in wild living.

After he had spent all he had, a severe famine swept through that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. He longed to fill his belly with the pods the pigs were eating, but no one would give him a thing. Finally he came to his senses and said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have plenty of food? But here I am, starving to death! I will get up and go back to my father and say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.”’

So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still in the distance, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. The son declared, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let us feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again! He was lost and is found!’ So they began to celebrate.” Luke 15:11-24

In the same way the father had compassion for his son and welcomed him back with no words of condemnation, Dr. B. welcomed this prodigal back time and time again.

On my drive home, I felt a sadness that this chapter in my life is almost over.  I like the familiar.  I like knowing and being known.  I like routine, even if the routine isn’t always the easiest (there is another dentist about a mile away from my house).  I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.

Times change. Covid has definitely changed things. Some changes are easy to accept, but others…well, it’s a process. I would say most, if not all, families have had to adapt over the last year. Sickness, food and supply shortages, loss of income, loss of friends and family, are just a few of the challenges we’ve experienced, and continue to experience. These times have stretched us beyond what we ever thought possible.  If our only hope was in this world, here and now, we would be tempted to give up, and who would blame us? 

But as for me, it is good to draw near to God. I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may proclaim all Your works. Psalm 73:28

If that’s you, too, may I make a suggestion? Take a deep breath, close your eyes, and shut out the noise within and without. Quiet your thoughts, and reconnect with the One who made you, loves you, and knows you best.  Change is inevitable, but there is always good that will come from it if we have eyes to see it.   

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

Lord, thank You that when we are hurt, confused, and don’t know where to go or what to do, You are there, our Refuge, our Shelter, and the One who goes with us.  When it is hard to find the good in our circumstances, help us to find it.  Give us eyes to see what You are doing in the midst of our trials.  Comfort us as only You can, and restore hope and joy again.  Thank you for making us more like You in this process.  While things may change around us, You never change.  You are the same yesterday, today, and forever.  Thank You for walking with us, and for giving us strength for the journey.  Lord, You are good and Your mercy endures forever, and we praise You.

Now to Him who is able to do so much more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21

Unexpected Worship

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Know that the LORD is God. It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and bless His name. Psalm 100:3-4

This morning took an unexpected turn.

I am staying in a hotel room, awaiting a training workshop that will begin tomorrow.  I had the idea that I would watch a church service online, and I caught the tail end of one.  The next service would begin 45 minutes later.  While waiting, I decided to check my email.  I found several notifications of an artist’s blog that I recently started following when time permits, and so I happily clicked away.

I was not expecting to have church.  I was expecting to look at a few recent sketches or watercolor paintings.  What I found was a handful of photographs that drew me in, mostly of trees on a riverbank.

I have a fascination with trees.  I can’t name them, haven’t studied them, but they tend to capture my eye when the colors are extraordinary, and especially when the trunks and lower branches are shaped in an unusual way.

I studied the photographs, and then went on to view more of their work, and some of the pieces brought tears to my eyes.  They were breathtaking. I wondered aloud if the Lord looked at this work and felt the same way.  I marveled at the gifts He had given this husband and wife team.

Oh, Lord GOD! You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too difficult for You! Jeremiah 32:17

He has given the same gift to countless others.  They try to recreate what He created with the gifts that He has given them.  Does it bring Him joy to see the fruit of their labor, and His?

I looked around the hotel room.  It’s a beautiful room, and I am thankful to be here.  It was designed by man, but inspired by the creativity of God, whether the designer recognized it or not.

I looked out the window for the hundredth time at the autumn colored leaves (in December!), and saw God’s creative handiwork there, too.  I watched as the copper and golden-colored leaves glinted in the sunshine, and I don’t know how it is possible, but it looked like diamonds were placed amongst the leaves, glittering in the sun as a gentle breeze moved them.  It was breathtaking, watching the leaves dance before my eyes.  I wondered if anyone else noticed, or were they busily going about their day, as I normally would be?

For you will go out with joy and be led forth with peace; the mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Isaiah 55:12

As I poured out my heart to the Lord, my thankfulness for the beauty that surrounds us and the gifts that He gives us could not be contained, and my thankfulness erupted into praise. How marvelous are His works!

I began to wonder what His thoughts were.  Does He look upon His creation in nature as beautiful, but then look at us, also His creation, as less than beautiful because trees don’t sin, but we do?

Immediately I knew in my spirit that He doesn’t see it that way at all.  He looks upon ALL of His creation as beautiful.  That brought me to tears all over again!  We so don’t deserve the love and forgiveness that He generously bestows.

We were created in His image, after all, and He is altogether lovely.  That great love is why He sent His Son, Jesus, Yeshua, to reconcile us to Himself – so that He can have a restored relationship with us.

He has placed gifts in all of us, and when we use them, His creativity is released, again and again.  He didn’t stop creating in the first chapter of Genesis, He is still creating.  Will we choose to be His instruments?

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Ephesians 2:10