Reach

Sheep

Photo by Luke Ellis-Craven 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 “Reach.”

“Your lovingkindness, O LORD, reaches to the heavens, Your faithfulness reaches to the skies.” Psalm 36:5

I will never forget a picture that I saw once that portrayed Jesus reaching one of His hands down to retrieve a lamb who had wandered off and gotten stuck in in a tangle of branches. The picture spoke volumes to me about how we have a tendency to do the same, and how He is still reaching out to rescue us.

The Bible says that all of us, like sheep, have gone astray. At times we might not even notice, as we take one step here, another step there, away from the path we know has been laid out for us. Before long, we look around at our surroundings and wonder how we ever got that far away from where we were supposed to be. I’ve been there, and chances are you have, too. It’s part and parcel of the sinful nature we were born with.

We don’t have to stay lost, though. The Savior will always come for us, seeking us and finding us, if we are willing to be found.

The sheep can choose to continually wander, but away from the Shepherd he is in a lonely, vulnerable place, an easy target, and so are we.

If this is you, cry out to Him. He will hear your cry and come to your rescue. He can reach you, wherever you are. You are so precious to Him.

“My eyes are always on the LORD, for He will free my feet from the net.” Psalm 25:15

Blink

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Photo by Denis Vdovin on Unsplash

LORD, what is man, that You regard him, the son of man that You think of him? Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow. Psalm 144:3-4

I knew I hadn’t written in awhile, due to many life changes over the last year, but I had no idea that so much time had passed since I last sat down to write.  It seems like I blinked, and here I am.

My last remaining grandparent left his earthly body on the 4th of July.  He was 99 years old.  My youngest son and I had plans to go visit him and my parents, who live in another state, in August. In the Father’s Day card I sent my grandfather, I expressed my excitement to see him soon, but that was not to be.  Instead, on the night we celebrate our freedom here in the United States, he was set free from the earthly body that was worn and tired.  A night of celebration across the country.  Was there celebrating in heaven as well?

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business, and make a profit.” You do not even know what will happen tomorrow! What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord is willing, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15

My grandfather was a WWII veteran, and proudly wore a WWII veteran hat whenever he left the house.  The small town he lived in during his senior years is a military town, and they treat their veterans very well.  It was not unusual for him to go out to dinner and have his entire meal, including tip, paid for anonymously.  When I was with him out in public, I saw how appreciative people were, often stopping to thank him for his service.

Some of my best childhood memories include my grandfather.

He and my grandmother lived on a lake when I was growing up, and he would take me fishing early on the mornings when I was visiting.  He taught me how to bait a hook, cast the line, and wait quietly and patiently until we had enough fish for breakfast.  We would come home with our catch, where he would clean and cook it.  The two of us would eat our delicious breakfast on the back patio with a view of the lake.  If the weather was bad and we couldn’t fish, he would make pancakes, and he always had strawberry or blueberry syrup in the pantry.  Breakfasts with my grandfather are my favorite memories of him.

My grandfather taught me to swim, and tried, unsuccessfully, to teach me to water ski as well.  He taught me how to drive a snowmobile, and told me to never say, “I can’t.”  He hung a wooden swing with rope on a huge tree for me, where I spent many hours singing songs and thinking about life.

My parents and grandparents came to one of my elementary school music performances.  I was just learning to play the saxophone, the very one my grandparents had purchased for my dad when he was in school.  I was so nervous, and looked out often to see the familiar faces of my family for reassurance.  My father and grandfather both worked in construction, and my grandfather had been involved in the building of my school.  Throughout the performance, he kept looking up at the ceiling, proudly declaring it a job well done.  And it was.  If anything is worth doing, it’s worth doing well.

It seems that I just blinked, and he was gone.

Wisdom is found with the elderly, and understanding comes with long life. Job 12:12

My youngest son is visiting from overseas, and he will leave for a country in Africa with his father when the summer is over.  It has been a busy summer, but in the quieter times, I have reflected on how quickly time passes, and have been thankful for the Lord’s constant presence and guidance throughout the years.

It is not easy preparing for my son to leave again.  He celebrated his 15th birthday here with family and friends.  It seems like just a few years ago he was born, the dark-haired little bundle who was brought to my hospital room.  He was wrapped tightly in a blanket, and he wrapped himself just as tightly around my heart.

I blinked, and was in Mongolia at a crossroads with my ex-husband.  Would our young son, seven at the time, live with him and travel or live with me near family and have more stability?  I prayed and prayed, planning what I would say in my defense.  When the time for a decision came, I said not a word.  I could not, and need not.  His father stated that he thought it best that our son be with his mother at that young age, and we would arrange summer visits with him instead.  My heart rejoiced, even in the midst of the grief that I felt over our marriage ending.  I knew the Lord had intervened, and I was thankful.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

I blinked again, and was back in Florida, where my 12-year old son was preparing to go live with his father in Barbados.  I felt like my heart was being ripped from me.  It wasn’t supposed to be this way!

God hates divorce.  The devastation that it causes was never meant for us to experience.  We cope, and God can mend our hearts, but there is still pain along the way that He would spare us from.

I struggled with letting him go, but in the end, the Lord made it clear that he needed this time with his father, and so I had to let him go.  It was agreed that he would return for the summers, but the Lord has been SO GOOD to me that He orchestrated it so that I have seen him multiple times over the last three years!

It has not always been easy, but the Lord provides the grace for everything that we encounter if we but ask for it.  He is our comforter, our refuge, and our strength.

The steps of a man are established by the LORD, and He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because the LORD is the One who holds his hand. Psalm 37:23-24

I blinked again, and now prepare to say goodbye again as he travels with his father to the other side of the world.

He has grown in ways that he would not have here with me.  The experience of being educated in an international school has shaped him in ways that cannot be measured.  It has been a necessary part of his development and I believe this is all going to be used by the Lord in ways we can’t even conceive.  Although I miss him like crazy when he is away, I know this is God’s will for him, and that gives me peace.

Goodbyes are hard, whether we’re saying goodbye to someone who has lived a long, full life or someone who has not been with us long enough.  While we have them with us, we need to love them well, pray for them often, and keep entrusting them to the Lord.

If you are facing a similar circumstance, I pray that you will seek the Lord for His comfort and His peace.  I cannot imagine going through these trying times without His constant presence.  He is only a whisper away.  Talk to Him.  Let Him in the middle of your pain.  He is faithful.  He will walk with you and guide you if you but ask.  He loves you so much.

Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts before Him. God is our refuge. Selah Psalm 62:8

Friends by Michael W. Smith

Focus

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Photo by redcharlie on Unsplash

I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.  Psalm 16:8

I was in my bedroom one afternoon, looking out at the backyard through the sliding glass doors.  The doors have old, cracked, and peeling window tint to help keep out the heat from the hot Florida sun.  The sun beats down on this second story room for most of the day, and the window tint helps significantly.

I watched the branches of the tall palm trees in the backyard as they swayed with the breeze.  It was so beautiful, and so peaceful.  After awhile I began talking with the Lord, thanking Him for His provision and the many blessings in my life.  Soon I began pouring my heart out to Him about the challenges I was facing. This was such a difficult season of my life.  It’s hard to admit, but at times I even questioned whether I would make it through.

As I continued gazing at the branches, the Lord opened my eyes to something right in front of me that had somehow gone unnoticed.  He showed me that when I focused on the peeling window tint, the beautiful palm trees faded into the background, just a blur, and barely noticeable.  When I focused on the palm trees, the cracked window tint faded and I saw the splendor and magnificence of the stately palms.

His lesson that day?  What we focus on can completely change our perspective.

So what are we focusing on?  And Whom are we focusing on?

When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, O Lord, I shall seek.” Psalm 27:8

My mother is an amazing woman.  When she turned 50 years old, this quiet homemaker decided that she was no longer content riding on the back of my father’s motorcycle, so she enrolled herself in a motorcycle course and learned how to drive one herself.  After successfully passing the course, my father rewarded her with a Harley Davidson motorcycle of her own.  We were all so proud of her!

During the course, one of the points the instructor kept drilling into his students was WYLIWYG – Where You Look Is Where You Go.  He reminded them to keep their eyes on the road ahead, and not be distracted by the things around them.  After a few mishaps, they learned the lesson well.

That lesson is for us who are Christ followers as well.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2

Yet the problems of life loom large at times, blocking our view of everything else.  We lose sleep, we lose our peace, and the problem in front of us seems to grow bigger with each passing day.  We know the Lord could step in and fix it, remove it at any time, and we question His goodness in letting it remain.

What if we were able to see past the problem, and focus on the presence of God instead?  And what if we stopped worrying about the worst that could happen and instead focused on His promises?  His promise to never leave us nor forsake us.  His promise to never give us more than we can bear.  His promise to provide what He knows we need to eat, drink and wear.  His promise to work all things together for our good.  God is not a man, that He should lie, and He can be trusted.  He truly can.  He is faithful, day in, day out, and always, always keeps His promises.

Abram believed the Lord, and it was counted to him as righteousness. Genesis 15:6

None of our lives are perfect.  We are all works in progress, and the process is messy at times!  Sometimes things in our lives may look pretty rough – cracked and peeling even, but that can’t be our focus.  We can and should do some clean up work, but the Lord helps us with it.  He instructs us what to do and how to do it, and brings along the tools to complete the work.

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

Lord, remind us, over and over if necessary, that You are our ever present help in times of trouble, and that You are with us always.  When we have a tendency to look at what is wrong, or broken, remind us that You are a miracle working God with a master plan, and that You are working in the background and will bring deliverance at just the right moment. Help us to trust You even when it looks hopeless, because with You, there is always hope.  Help us to look beyond the cracks and see the beauty in our lives.

If My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14