Friday, March 28, 2008

Some gifts keep on giving and bouquets of flowers are among the top in that list!
Last Monday, Mar.17, some sweet person sent a bouquet of gorgeous flowers to me. It was full of intense fresh color that seemed to pull you in so they could show-off the incredible fragrance of that Lily which had opened itself up in complete abandon. I've never seen a more beautiful combination of pinks, purples, and reds - all coming from a blue based color palette.
The card said, "You are a blessing" -- and it was sent anonymously, leaving me with lots of questions! Who did I bless? How did I bless them? Did they know how much this bouquet would bless me?
The surprise on Monday was huge, but every day the bouquet gave a surprise! The flowers maintained their fresh look and even by Friday, were still giving, by opening up a second beautiful Lily! Then on Wednesday - 10 days later - the third Lily came out to greet me with as much beauty and fragrance as its two vase companions had.
I have received more joy from this gift than usual. I still don't know who the special person was that sent it, but I think they must have been part of a Godly plan to show me His great beauty and love! The creation of these flowers and their ability to bless my heart, inspired me deeply. If flowers, which were created by God, can bless someone like me so very much, how much more can I (or anyone else), created by the same God, bless others!
Thank you, Anonymous One! ! ! I pray you will be blessed many times over! ! !

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Gift of Relationship

The value of healthy relationships should never be under estimated. We are made to be connected to people. Going it alone just doesn't work - and there really isn't any comparison between life with healthy relationships and life without them. ( I could list a few other words that would be included in the description of 'healthy': positive, understanding, honest, encouraging, supportive, dependable, wise.)
As my husband and I start a new church work, we are joined by 4 of the most incredible men we have ever been privileged to be in relationship with and to work alongside of. Their wives are also beautiful examples of healthy and mature people and their participation in our church beginnings is truly valuable. But, the men are the leadership - making decisions, forming foundational positions, praying for and supporting Jeff and I in all that God has laid on our hearts to be and to do.
Last night, the men were here at our home for their weekly meeting and during their prayer time, they asked if they could pray for me. I am the one who leads the worship time on Sundays. I've been a 'worship leader' in many churches since I was a teenager. and have been 'appreciated' by many people who have been blessed while worshiping the Lord with me, but, I have never experienced what I did last night - anywhere, anytime, with any other group of people.
Last night, for the first time, I experienced the most overwhelming enveloping of my heart and calling by 4 men I truly love and respect in the Lord. Their recognition of my need to be anointed, encouraged, supported, cherished, and protected caused me to feel fully connected with the whole of everything we are working toward to a degree I could never have imagined. The experience left me with the realization that I am a person of value and worth to them as they are to me. In their humility, grace and love flowed fluently from their hearts, through their lips and eyes to my heart. I will never forget last night.
The effects of their relationship with me, increased my strength and 'vision'. They validated and encouraged me. That's really difficult to do by yourself! They held me up, as it were, to be and to fly in all that I have been created to do. There was no control or condemnation for my struggles - just pure love from the heart of God to me. That's what relationship should do! It should be the instrument through which God can touch our hearts to bring us His life and love.
And, as I prepare for next Sunday, my heart and mind are free! I am so free! There's a perpetual smile on my face that comes from deep within! ! ! There is more worship music flowing through my heart and mind than I can keep up with! What a beautiful state to be in!
Jeff and I have done many 'church' things over the years, usually on our own, as leaders. There is NO comparison between those experiences and this where we are surrounded by strong, healthy, godly men. Thank you, men, for gifting us with your great friendship! and Thank you, Lord, for gifting us with these great men!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Storms of the heart

It seems like forever since I sat down to write from the place in my heart where abundant encouragement dwells. The last couple of weeks have had their challenges which I allowed to 'get in my face' or block my focus, as it were.
A very wise person once told me that a person with the gift of encouragement for others is not easily encouraged by others when they need it most. I'm not sure why this is so, but it has definitely been my experience through the years!
Another thing that I do not understand fully is even tho' I know something to be true, believe it with all my heart, am truly convinced of something to be good and right (having lived with a certain principle as a characteristic that has become so great a part of my heart and life), how is it that I can lose sight of it and, at times, have to struggle so hard to keep it in focus?
This past week, as I was preparing music and myself for the first church meeting of Redeeming Life Fellowship, it seemed I was in constant turmoil in my heart. There are basic things I know to be true in the light of this venture: 1. I am created by God with gifts and styles of giftings that are mine alone, and He wants 'me' to be all He created 'me' to be! 2. Being 'me', is the only way to be truly fulfilled and effective in people's lives. (Efforts to be like someone else are fruitless.) 3. When I play the piano or sing, it is always with a heart to worship God, whom I adore. I have not, and I cannot play to impress people.
But, OH MY! This past week, I had to be reminded of these things over and over again! I've never dealt with so much frustration, feelings of incapability and fear about who I am and what I do! ! ! I was in such a dark and troublesome place and was constantly in a stormy sea of up and down, back and forth between what I know and love, and wrong ideas that drained my energies and joy. Finally, on Saturday, I was able to regain my focus and be settled in my heart with the music, my abilities and my simple desire to love and worship God.
My heart is so full of thanksgiving to God for my husband - Jeff, my best friend - Rebekah, and my daughter - Charisa, who tirelessly walked, hugged, comforted and said "Be of good courage" so many times! ! ! They, knowing who I am, could confidently say, "Be who you were created to be! Do what you can do and God will do the rest!" You people are the best!
And, thank you to all the friends who are on this venture of starting a church with us. What an incredible blessing you are as I watch you faithfully be who God created you to be! Thank you for sharing your beautiful gifts with all of us! What a pleasure it is to serve the King arm in arm with you.
I am still not 'jumpy-jolly' today. I feel weak and definitely like I've come through a stormy sea ride, but, my heart is at peace and thanksgiving is flowing. I know that I will be back to my encouraging self - soon.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Redeeming Life Fellowship

On March 16th, 2008, my husband and I (with a few friends) will be launching a new church. Tho' Jeff and I have been in this type of ministry before, we've never had the adventure of starting a new church. The excitement is mounting as we get closer to welcoming people into "Redeeming Life Fellowship"!
Our ministry focus is to demonstrate the heart of God to anyone who has need - the broken, the abused, the grieving, the lost, the needy. After years of experiencing the different kinds of pain and heartache that we have, there burns in us a deep desire to provide a place for others where they will be loved, helped, comforted, encouraged; where they can find rest for their souls and renewed hope; where they will come to know God in a very intimate way and where they will have a place to come into wholeness and be all that God created them to be.
Twenty four years ago, when Jeff was pastoring a church in Vermont, we sang a song at a special function. Its a song that has returned to my heart many times through the years and in the last few days, it has been remembered again. Its a song Steve Green wrote and recorded and it speaks very well the theme of my heart. I copy it here for you to enjoy!

People Need the Lord – Steve Green

Everyday they pass me by,
I can see it in their eyes.
Empty people filled with care,
Headed who knows where?

On they go through private pain,
Living fear to fear.
Laughter hides their silent cries,
Only Jesus hears.

People need the Lord, people need the Lord.
At the end of broken dreams, He's the open door.
People need the Lord, people need the Lord.
When will we realize, people need the Lord?

We are called to take His light
To a world where wrong seems right.
What could be too great a cost
For sharing Life with one who's lost?

Through His love our hearts can feel
All the grief they bear.
They must hear the Words of Life
Only we can share.

People need the Lord, people need the Lord
At the end of broken dreams, He's the open door.
People need the Lord, people need the Lord.
When will we realize that we must give our lives,
For people need the Lord.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Heart's Desire

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
st. francis of assisi - 13th century
"Take delight in the Lord,
and He will give you your heart’s desires.
Commit everything you do to the Lord.
Trust Him, and He will help you." (Psalm 37:4-5 NLT)

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Dash

Sometimes friends pass along things that are extra special. That happened to me yesterday, when a friend of mine sent me a link to a short 3 minute video. Here is what she wrote as an introduction to the video:

"The Dash...
In July 2006, a short 3-minute movie was launched on the Internet called The Dash. Since then, over 40 million people from around the world have watched it; and over 20,000 a day continue to watch it as a result of people passing it along.
The movie has been more successful than anyone could have ever imagine. More importantly, however, it has inspired many, many people to reflect on their lives and ask that all important question, 'Are my priorities where they should be?"

I was so blessed by it, I've included it in my list of Favorites in the sidebar of this page. If you would like to view the video, just click "The Dash" and it will be right there for you to enjoy.
Blessings on your day!!!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The following article, “without self-interest”, was written on March 3rd, by Rebekah Sfair, my best friend and author of ‘loving into wholeness’ – Please find her blog in my Favorites list. I wanted to include it in my blog along with the response I wrote to her.

without self-interest
"Friendship without self-interest is one of the rare and beautiful things of life." - James F. Byrnes

Because there is no self-interest, the safety and invulnerability found in friendship of this quality is truly otherworldly and very difficult to describe in words. How does one convey what transpires so deeply within places you have never been before? Diane and I share something truly rare.

Last night, I wept hysterically for more than an hour. A movie we were watching triggered a fear I wrestle with regarding my son. I ran to my room and cried more deeply than I had in all my life. Somehow, I believe that I reached places within me that had never grieved—as far back as my childhood. There was no room for expressing anguish in an unpredictably pandemonic, abusive home.

My best friend quietly appeared, wrapped her arms around me and pulled me very close—securely. I could hear her sobbing and praying as she held my throbbing body. She said not a word to me, but comforted me like I never imagined another person could. Diane knows deep, overwhelming grief. Two years ago, she lost her beautiful daughter in a skiing accident. Shortly before her daughter's parting, both her parents passed away. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. - 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 NIV

No one ever wants to walk through grief, but when processed appropriately, we come away with compassion: without self-interest.

Diane's husband came home with a tragic story after having breakfast with his comrades this morning. A three-and-a half-year-old little man drowned in a pond yesterday in a neighboring town. Tears filled my eyes as I couldn't help but empathize very personally. My son is four.

Then, my sister reported this morning that her husband's dad has maybe a day to live...

In response to "without self-interest"

Dearest Friend,

There is so much I could say in response to "
without self-interest." As we 'grow-up' in life, we learn that loss, grief and sorrow are as much a part of life as joy and laughter. A relationship with the Living God, the God of Comfort helps beyond explanation at such a time. The more you know Him, and the more you have experienced Him in all His glorious goodness, the 'safer' you will be through the process of grief.

There are many situations in life that have brought me to the absolute, steadfast belief in His goodness, love, righteousness and power to keep a soul through any circumstance one may face. Life is not always a joy ride or a dream walk. It is full of broken roads and sometimes great suffering; BUT, God has promised that He will never leave us in times that are difficult, and I have always found Him there through the highest highs and the deepest depths.

Over the last number of years, when life has presented grievous situations, I have come to find Him by my side, as it were, with my hand safely clasped in His. The experience of His presence fills my heart with peace and security that is unexplainable and I rest quietly, standing and watching as He shows me more of His heart and life in the midst or in spite of it all. I've learned that He will do something next and I don't ever want to miss that either!

There is ALWAYS a 'next'. Things don't ever remain as they are in any moment. The passage of time brings change for everyone, in everything; and, in that we can have tremendous hope, even when all seems lost right now.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Long Beach 03/08

OH WHAT A WONDERFUL WEEKEND! ! ! Long Beach was at its best this weekend! We arrived in the dark of night, but could hear the roaring from our suite. I so wanted to go down to the beach and take it all in right then, but unfortunatley, there are regulations about such things. The next day was extremely windy! We went to the beach and watched people bent over, trying to walk against the gale. We sat in our van with my window open a few inches so I could breathe in the ocean air and hear its awesome sound. The wind was blowing on Jeff's side of the van, so I was shocked when I found a layer of sand on the dashboard and arm rests as we were leaving. The sand blew in a continuous layer across the surface of the beach - it was very wild looking!
It rained most of the rest of Friday and that night there was a thunder and lightning storm RIGHT OVER THE OCEAN! ! ! I was awakened several times by loud crashes - some shaking the bed! I was sure I wouldn't be able to walk on the beach this trip at all!
OH, but, the next morning, the sky cleared, the wind had died down and the OCEAN WAS GLORIOUS! ! ! ! ! Jeff and I walked along the beach and took in all that our senses could possibly hold! The colors, the sounds, the fragrance in the air and the warmth was absolutely delicious! Reluctantly, I climbed into the van to come home.
I did take some video tho', and posted it here to share with you. Enjoy!