Lessons Learned From The Buffet Of Life
Who doesn't love a restaurant known for an amazing buffet?
There are hot food stations, salad bars, bread baskets, soup tureen and then there is the dessert bar that ends with twenty toppings for soft-serve ice cream. Seriously, what is not to love about that!
If that wasn't enough...you can have one plate or you can have six plates! Consider for just one moment, how you feel when you walk into the restaurant...and then how you feel when you leave.
"I could not eat one more bite."
"I feel sick!"
Our lives are similar to this buffet; we have so many choices available to us and we only have so much capacity to take it all in! We find it hard to say 'no' when SO many choices look amazing. In a sense, our eyes are bigger than our stomachs and we pile too much on our plates.
Have you ever made this statement, "I cannot possibly handle ONE MORE THING! I need the world to stop for a moment!"
Have you experienced that embarrassing moment while you are walking and talking with a friend, that you suddenly realize that they are not next you?
The amused stares of those around make you feel sheepish and you don't even have ear buds in that would cause others to think you are talking on the phone!
I think we have all experienced this at some point in our lives. We became so engrossed in what we were doing, what we were saying...that we became unaware that our company was not longer with us!
Mary and Joseph turned around in Luke 2:41-52 and realized that Jesus was no longer with them.
How in the world can you lose track of the Son of God?
Well, I'll give them this...Jerusalem had been crowded and filled with excitement. Mary and Joseph, Jesus, family, friends and lots and lots of other people had journeyed to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. There is something about being in the pack...deep in the thick of the crowd...to cause you to lose track of what you are doing!
Check Your Prongs!
Some lessons in life are learned the hard way; this was one of them for me.
My plan...was to throw a load of laundry in and rush out the door in order to be on time for an appointment. The laundry basket was fuller than it needed to be and of course I had topped it off with a few things that needed to be brought downstairs.
"Debbie, the basket is too full, lighten the load."
I recognized His voice and I knew He was right however, this time, I answered in my heart...
"I've got it. I can handle this load."
As I rushed my way down the steps and through the kitchen I heard His still small voice again.
"Debbie, slow down, you are moving too quickly."
(To which I replied- "I've got it." I did not slow down.)
Rounding the corner and entering the laundry room my left hand smashed into the door jam...this time I was forced to stop! I looked down to my now smarting hand to make sure all my rings were intact. I have this habit of moving a ring from my right hand to my left when I am trying to remember something and on this given day, I had four rings on my left ring finger. All stones accounted for...and off I went to throw in the load and start my day.
Sometimes the consequences of our disobedience don't show up until later.
Connected To Power!
The neighbor's front lawn was speckled with clumps of colorful fabric. Pretty colors for sure, but you had no idea what you were looking at! Several hours later I drove past their home and I suddenly felt like a terribly missed friend returning after a long trip! Each one was swaying haphazardly, arms flailing in the air. We all should be welcomed home like that!
A smile crossed my lips as I sat on my porch and looked at my neighbor's lawn. I find it funny how God will use something so ordinary, to teach us something so profound.
Trying to live apart from Jesus....is lifeless.
The Day I Was Benched
We were so excited as a family to hit the slopes in Killington, VT for a three-day weekend of skiing and making amazing memories with our sons! Three hours into our carving down the slopes there was a break in the action…. literally. My husband’s bindings did not release and he suffered a break in his leg, not enough for surgery, but one that ended our skiing that weekend.
We were benched. I was benched and I didn’t even have an injury.
It’s interesting to me that now, over ten years later, I consider those three days of being benched in the condo, as pivotal in my walk with the Lord. Jesus deposited something so sweet into my spirit that weekend.
How Prepared Are You For The Storm?
I am so thankful for the sunshine today.
This has been the week of evening gusty thunderstorms, hail, tornado watches, high winds and torrential rains.
This morning I did my usual loop around the neighborhood with our two dogs. The skies were blue, the breezes delightful….and the streets were littered with branches, leaves and beautiful petals from a flowering tree. I could hear chainsaws in the distance breaking down branches that had fallen dangerously close to houses and cars. Some folks had already begun the clean up work, others walked around their properties inspecting the damage. Yes, the sun had returned, but the aftermath of the storm was still evident.
I was amazed at how some homes looked untouched while others had lawn chairs upside down and shutters hanging off the siding. It was the same storm that hit all of us. Why then, did some houses “weather” it well while others did not?
We recently returned home from a vacation where so many of my normal routines were changed. The food was amazing…and it was made for me!
I mentioned to my husband this morning that as wonderful as vacation was, I was so glad to return to my routine of being in control of what food is on my plate and to tracking my points (a Weight Watchers routine). I feel so much more settled inside when this meal routine is taking place.
Routines are important. No one ever wakes up one day and has a routine. Routines are the result of daily choices…that are made and followed through on day after day after day.
Don't Turn Off The GPS!
My destination was one light, one u-turn away. I could see the building and it was just a stone’s throw away.
I turned off my GPS; after all, I could see the destination. I’ve got this.
The light turned green and I made my u-turn. I looked for the entrance but figured it must be just off this ramp that went around to the left side of the building…
That ramp, however, was the entrance to a superhighway that took me south another 9 miles before I could even turn around! It was too late to back out. The extra 25 minutes I had just added to my trip allowed me for some reflection time.
Twenty-five minutes…to reach a destination that I would have been able to literally walk to in 30 seconds….
Where did I go wrong?
*was it the U-turn?
*was it entering the ramp?
I knew. I went wrong when I turned OFF my GPS. I had placed my confidence in my own ability to take control. I was convinced that what I could see with my own eyes…must be reality. “I can take it from here!” “I’ve got this!”
As I sped down the highway, taking the “scenic view” , the Holy Spirit quietly reminded me that in life, He is the “GPS” that guides me and that I should never turn Him off, even when I am convinced I know where I am going.
Oh To Be... That Gal!
There is a “gal”….and she is someone I aspire to be like.
You can read about her in Psalm 1:3.
“That person (I prefer to call her…That Gal) is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither-Whatever they do prospers.”
That Gal…she has her roots planted in a water source that never runs dry. Her life bears fruit in every season and she has enough stamina that allows her to stay the course. Others look at her and see one who is prospering, not struggling just to get by. The envy of many; her secret lies beneath the surface, in what (or should I say, in WHO) she has chosen to be rooted/anchored into.
The health of a tree is dependent upon its root system. Roots bring nourishment to every branch and they bring stability when there are forces that attempt to uproot the tree. Sure, we enjoy the beauty of lush green leaves, or textured tree trunks that are dark with dew and having screen savers celebrating beautiful fall foliage. However…
…….it is the root system that determines the health of the tree.
Jesus Had A Heart!
One of the amazing things about our lives is that we are doing life with such a variety of people with varying personalities, passions….and quirks!
One of the most challenging things about our lives is that we are doing life with such a variety of people with varying personalities, passions….and quirks!
I am by nature…..an extrovert. I LOVE being with people.
Lots and Lots of People.
There are times, however, where I find myself just exhausted from trying to relate to such a variety of personality types…all with varying opinions and interests….and….
I spent some time reflecting on just how Jesus managed all those personality types.
Hmm, maybe that is why He would go away by Himself to meet with His Father? Maybe even Jesus needed to recharge and get a His Father’s perspective….about their lives…
…as well as those quirks.
Jesus had a heart for people…a very very big heart. Check it out...
Back To Basics... Love!
It’s that “BACK TO” season again!
Back to school…
Back to fall sports, dance classes and musicals…
Back to the regular routine…of eating on the run.
Maybe you feel like it is simply…Back to the grind of daily life!
I feel it too!
I find myself sitting with all kinds of schedules, calendars, forms of technology, curriculums, lists and goals in front of me. I will admit that I do like structure and therefore I don’t mind most of this! I like to plan lessons, make lists, I like to organize programs and I love to teach! My teaching spans from elementary students, to middle school, to high school and to grown women!
I told you…I really like to teach!
I had a thought though….
“Why am I doing…what I am doing? What is my motivation?”
Is my motivation to produce an excellent program where others can learn, develop their gifts and become the best they can be? Is it to have my calendar of activities operate like a well oiled machine?
Here is the challenge for today:
I Corinthians 13:13 (New Living Translation)
Three things will last forever-faith, hope and love-and the greatest of these is love.
Love….needs to be the true motivation…for ALL that I do.
One foot on a desk and the other on a rolling office chair, stretching high with my right hand to reach a Bible commentary that was just….out of my reach. Eyes focused on the prize and yet, aware that my back leg was slowly inching away from the desk.
Fortunately, this time, the story ended well and I was able to grab that commentary!
But I knew better.
I graduated with a degree in Physical Therapy and have spent the past 27 years teaching my patients about how to improve their CORE strength and stability and how to navigate life with greater safety.
If you are going stretch/reach out of your comfort zone, you need to make sure that your foundation is solid. Your CORE needs to be strong, firm and secure. (Needless to say one foot should not be on a moving object!)
“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations for ever and ever! Amen!”
This is a verse about stretching. Beyond.
*Beyond what feels comfortable.
*Beyond what we think we are capable of doing.
*Beyond what others say we have potential for.
I See Half Full, God Sees Room To Fill
I See Half Full, God Sees Room To Fill
There have been many times in my life where I have felt left out.
Left out of invitations, left out of conversations, left out of inside jokes…third wheel.
The widow in 2 Kings 4:1-7 had reason to feel left out too. Her husband had died leaving her to raise her two boys alone. She had debt that she could not pay and now the creditor was coming to take her sons as slaves as payment. I am sure she could see other families in the village thriving: husbands working, wives raising children who seemed to have no cares (at least cares as heavy as her own). Left out. Her husband had been a prophet of the Lord…. but he was gone. Perhaps she wondered if God too, had left her side.
Elisha is summoned for help by this desperate woman. He tells her to give an account of what she has in her house.
“Your servant has nothing there at all,”she said, “except a small jar of olive oil.”
She saw NOTHING. She barely acknowledged what she DID HAVE; compared to what others had, it looked like/felt like…nothing.
Her “nothing” provided room for God to do a miracle.
Hostess With The Mostest
There must be something in my DNA that is wired to hostess. I just love to plan, prep for and carry out a entertaining a houseful of guests.
The more…the merrier, I say!
Guests are welcome for a brief coffee, a long evening, a weekend….shoot, we have had folks live for us for months at a time!
I learned a lot from my mom about hostessing. Mom modeled how to have a hospitable spirit. She was organized, flexible with the plans changing, focused on folks feeling valued and loved with “their” special meals and she put the wishes of others in front of her own.
You see, there is a big difference between being an “entertainer” in your home and being “hospitable.”
The Wrapping Paper Doesn't Define You
Have you ever been to a GIFT EXCHANGE party….one where you get to pick a gift from the pile…and then spend the next 2 hours “stealing” the gifts from one another until there are no more gifts to be selected from under the tree? This game is so fun…it can also be somewhat aggressive! I have seen wonderfully kind friends…show another side that is cut throat, greedy and scheming! One might think we were playing some variation of The Hunger Games where only the fittest survive!
I have stolen gifts, tackled folks, teamed up with my husband…all in order to secure “the perfect gift” by the end of the game….only to discover that my hard fought for treasure, was an 11×14 picture frame of a ridiculous picture of a friend’s head!
Lesson to be learned….the wrapping paper doesn’t define the value of the gift inside!
In Luke 2:4-7 we discover that God didn’t wrap Jesus, the Messiah, in the finest wrapping paper either. Mary’s pregnancy was full of raised eyebrows and speculation in her community, her arrival in a crowded Bethlehem demonstrated that not only was there “no room in the inn”…but worse than that, no one looked at her and valued her enough to even make room for her in the inn! A judgement was made by others, based upon outer appearances, that giving birth in a stable/cave for animals, would be adequate for her.
The Messiah, the very one that the people had cried out to God to send, came…and they missed His entrance…all because He was wrapped in wrapping paper that they deemed insignificant. Why….could God possibly plan and be OK with presenting Jesus in such a fashion?
Hitting The Mark
You have not lived….fully…until you have chaperoned 30 elementary aged kids with bows and arrows in their hands! Seriously, your should try it…at least once in your life!
Every summer for the past 11 years I have taken a crew of fabulous kids, grades 2nd through 6th, away for a week of summer camp. As a children’s pastor I love to see hundreds of kids in corporate worship, praying around the altars and experiencing the touch of the Holy Spirit in new and exciting ways. I find that environment exciting, stimulating…breathtaking…
…but I feel the same way when it is time to place bows and arrows in the hands of these same kids and tell them that they are to now ‘hit the target’. It’s exciting…stimulating…and yes, even breathtaking!
The instructors there are wonderful and they do provide many safety measures so that ALL parties remain unharmed…but still…my heart rate is elevated on this one activity. Those skinny little arms struggle to pull the string back, the bow shakes, arrows drop to the ground repeatedly, fingers get pinched….but eventually (even if it takes a year to accomplish this), the arrow sets sail towards the target! Shouts resound when an arrow hits any target…even if the target belongs to a kid 4 rows away!
This one activity is always a highlight for our kids and it makes me ask the question…why? They lack the physical strength to pull the string back and hold the bow firm, they are easily distracted and they are listening to ALL those who try to give them instructions…including kids who have never shot an arrow! The thrill, I believe, comes from when they see someone else, “hit that target” and they believe…that one day, that will be them!
Don't Dry Up This Summer!
A new season! Warm nights, hotter days, crazy thunderstorms that stir up as soon as I get a half mile away from the house with the dogs, lightening bugs and amazing sunsets. Summer is the season for beautiful flowers!
Every year I ambitiously plant three pots of flowers on my deck and wish them good luck. They need it! I am not known for my amazing deck plants come August! I start out strong, watering them faithfully and dead-heading those blooms past their peak. By mid-July my faithful watering slows down….it’s hot and I don’t feel like carrying the pitchers of water back and forth, day in and day out! Our deck has sun all day long and those poor plants struggle as they bake in the sun.
By August they are no longer sprouting new blooms and it is no surprise! You need sufficient water to bloom, to grow…to flourish! I don’t know why I do this every year….but I do….when I see that the plants are starting to die, I water them even less! What’s the use, after all?
By summer’s end I throw away the shriveled up plants….it’s so sad! I never start out the summer planning on doing this. I see other people’s beautiful planters and am jealous. How do they do it?(of course I know full well how they achieve that, they water their plants faithfully!)
My intentions in the spring are for prolific flowering pots….but intentions are not good enough; you need follow through.
Our spiritual lives run parallel to my potted plants.
How Much Is Enough?
“Did you get enough?” If I could only count the number of times I have said this to the folks at my dinner table over the years! As the chief cook in our home it has always been a priority to me to know that my family/guests had enough to eat! Leftovers were a good sign because to me, it affirmed that I had made enough for all to leave the table satisfied. If we ran out of something, it was a reflection on my planning and not on their eating (this became a challenge as those young boys became teens with bottomless pits!). My meal plans became larger in quantity and selection…and I always made sure that
I made more than enough.
I have noticed that the pressure I put on myself in the kitchen has carried over to my walk with the Lord, more specifically, to my prayer life.
Do I have enough?
Do I have enough FAITH to believe God for the little things, how about for the middle size prayers and more so lately, for the “out of the box” big requests I have been throwing His way? My head knowledge knows what the Word says about God being all powerful, all knowing, above all and able to do above and beyond all I could ask or imagine. I have seen God move in amazing ways already and I know my faith has grown.
What Are In Your Spaces?
What we allow in our spaces has a tremendous influence over the victories or the failures we experience in our daily lives.
I have been attending Weight Watchers for a few years and one of the principles they encourage is to examine what (food) you have in your spaces. If your pantries are full of chips and chocolate you will be finding the struggle is much greater to maintain healthy eating choices. We are encouraged to fill our spaces with those food items that fall into those healthy categories like whole grains, fruits and veggies. The struggle has been real for me as a mother of teenage sons (and all of their friends). My pantries have been stocked full for years with those tasty treats that boys, whose metabolism is faster than a speeding bullet, can enjoy in large quantities. The trouble is that my ears are attuned to the call of the Tasty Cake in the midnight hour. Interesting how the carrot sticks and celery do not call to me!
My spaces have gone through an overhaul over the past few years and I am happy to say that I did hit my lifetime goal for Weight Watchers…one choice at a time. You cannot eat what is not in your space!
Lining Up…Settles Me Down
One of the coolest things about my life, is that it changes constantly. One of the hardest things about my life, is that it changes constantly!
As a boater, I appreciate how on any given day, a body of water can be a still as glass, then develop gentle waves and then suddenly whip up a storm that rocks everything. (One time those sudden stormy waves caused my cantaloup to roll off the counter and explode on the floor! That is just how life is sometimes…the sudden storms can cause some mess…in our minds, our emotions, in our hearts.)
There is a scriptural principle that I have come to appreciate so much over the years; it has been a tool to help me navigate my thought life, my emotions and my actions when those sudden storms have arisen…”rocking my peaceful boat.”
Amos 7:7,8 “This is what he showed me; The LORD was standing by a wall that had been built true to plumb, with a plumb line in his hand. And the LORD asked me, “What do you see, Amos?” ” A plumb line.” I replied. Then the LORD said, “Look, I am setting a plumb line among my people Israel; I will spare them no longer.”
A plumb line is just a weight on the end of a string that builders use to assist them to make sure that the wall they are erecting is perpendicular to the ground. Gravity has the final say as opposed to someone’s “eyeing it” or their “opinion”. The position is established quickly and the work on the wall can begin without much argument.
The Word of God is a plumb line for us. It is TRUTH. It never changes and it never becomes “outdated”. God’s guidelines for how we are to navigate through life are clearly written in His Word. He tells us how we are to handle a barrage of emotions (like anger, grief, frustration, confusion) or decisions we need to make that will impact many. His Word addresses our friendships, our marriages, our finances, our ministries, our health and so much more. The more we really study what His Word says, the greater our ability to anchor that plumb line up against the rough seas that rock our boat.
The faster I align my attitudes and my choices with God’s clear instruction in the Word (His plumb line), the sooner I settle down. His Word helps to narrow down my choices by eliminating so many that are contrary to His instruction. His plumb line anchors me. My emotions calm down, my thoughts become less scattered and my joy returns. His Word does not necessarily give me the “easy or more appealing” choice of action many times, but He gives me the right choice. His way is always best.
Father, as I begin this day not knowing what the seas will bring me, I establish in my heart that YOUR Word, will be my plumb line. I choose to align myself according to Your Word and I thank you for how this Truth settles so much deep within me.
The Secret Place
Several years ago, on my last ski trip to Vermont with the family, I had an epiphany with the LORD.
It was with great excitement that we layered ourselves in clothing, strapped on our boots and hung our ski lift passes on our ski coats. The weather was perfect for shredding down the mountain! Three hours into our first day of skiing, my husband’s skis became lodged in an ice mound and the bindings did not release. He broke his fibula and sprained his ankle badly. For the two of us, our big ski adventure came grinding to a halt.
We returned to the condo while the boys continued to ski and spent the next two days relaxed on separate couches. It was there, on that comfy sofa, that I had an encounter with Jesus that has profoundly changed me.
I was meditating on Matthew 14:22-23. Let me highlight some key insights the LORD impressed on me…the journaling pages were with much greater detail…I will leave you to discover what the Father would say to you, personally, from this passage.
*Jesus modeled the need to be away, alone with His Father. Why? Ministry is draining. Loving others and pouring yourself into their lives causes you to become weary physically, emotionally and spiritually. Being alone with the Father allows us to recharge.
*Jesus dismissed the crowd so He could have some alone time with His Father. He modeled that it is ok to set a boundary around His activities. Do I protect my time with Him?
*Jesus went up on the mountain. He had a special place that He regularly went to be alone with His Father. While meditating on this section of scripture, the LORD showed me a vision that changed my life.
I saw in the Spirit a beautiful wooded landscape, with rays of sunshine streaming down between the openings in the canopy of green leaves. I could hear in my Spirit, Jesus’ voice beckoning me to come deeper into the woods. I saw myself walking along a small dirt path deeper and deeper into this peaceful forest. There, seated on a fallen log, was Jesus, motioning for me to come and sit down with Him.
We sat quietly on this log for quite a while, listening to the sounds of the forest and just enjoying being together. The blanket of peace that settled over me was amazing. I didn’t want this moment to end. Then he looked at me and impressed very clearly into my heart the following message.
“Debbie, this is OUR SECRET PLACE. I want you to make coming to this SECRET PLACE a priority in your week. There will be things that I will only share with you here, information that you will need for this next season of ministry in your life….things that I will not share out in the hustle and bustle of your normal life. You will not want to miss what I have to share. Go home and make it a priority to come visit me here, on this log, several times a week. Do not come here to work on teaching lessons. Come with your heart, ears and eyes open. Bring only your journal and My Word. Don’t forget, Debbie. I cannot stress to you how important this is…OUR SECRET PLACE”.
That day the LORD planted a desire for that SECRET PLACE TIME that has never gone away. I have a picture of a beautiful wooded scene in my kitchen, the busiest room in the house…to remember.
May you discover where your Secret Place Time is to be with the Father. Let Him show you…
More Than A Band-Aid
He Offers More Than A Band-Aid
I have been studying Mark 2:1-12 this week…where Jesus heals the paralyzed man who is lowered through the roof by 4 friends. This passage is rich with insights but there was something that really caught my attention in a fresh way.
Sometimes we come to Jesus looking for Him to heal “the obvious” need that we perceive we have. “I’m paralyzed”. What I really need is to be healed so I can walk. Jesus’ first remarks to this man are, in verse 5, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” This poor guy must have thought he had heard Jesus wrong….my sins? It’s my legs that don’t work!
Jesus perceived this man’s real needs and it involved his heart that needed forgiveness.
How many times have I come to the Lord asking for help with something that has paralyzed me, like worrying about the opinions others have of me. There was a time in my life where my goal was to keep everyone liking me. How exhausting! Some call it being a “people pleaser”, others refer to it as being an “approval addict”. Whatever you call it, this mindset led me to feeling bound up and paralyzed. I constantly lived in fear of rejection. I ran to the Lord for help so I would be able to please people better to keep the peace (like saying ‘please fix my legs!’). I heard Him say instead that my real issue was that I was living to please man and not the Lord. Proverbs 29:25 says that “the fear of man will prove to be a snare but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.” He encouraged me instead…to focus on Ephesians 5:10 which states that I should “find out what pleases the LORD.” My focus had been all wrong.
He saw my real need, dealing with the sin of putting others above Him. I asked for His forgiveness for this and began to make it my goal to ask the Lord in different situations, “Lord, what pleases you?” The result was peace…and a new level of freedom in my different relationships.
As I studied this, this Lord gave me a visual that I found cool. Picture being bound head to toe with a thick rope…because sin binds us up just like that so we are unable to move. Jesus comes by and we cry out to Him to come and put a bandaid on our brush burn that we got from trying to free ourselves from the ropes. Instead, Jesus takes a sharp blade and removes the ropes that bound us. He saw our real need.
Hmmm, like the paralyzed man, have you been crying out to the Lord to heal you/set you free from ____________? I encourage you to run to Jesus and ask Him to reveal to you what is really the source of the struggle. Don’t just treat the symptom, let God heal the cause.