Santa Barbara

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I have experienced things people only dream about. You see, I grew up in California. Still live here. Which means, the beach is a staple in my life. Going to Newport Beach or Huntington Beach defined my summers in my teen years. In college, regular trips to San Diego included La Jolla, Sea World and Coronado.  For about ten years, I regularly led worship at a conference in Santa Barbara. This meant a yearly trip to that amazing beach. I literally just returned from a long weekend in Santa Barbara.

As we drove the 101 freeway next to the ocean, I realized how few people get this gift regularly. I saw car license plates from New York, Arkansas and other states. For some, this was their first trip to Santa Barbara. For me, it’s normal. Even when we shopped the Sunday art and craft fair along Cabrillo Blvd., I knew a few vendors and their products. I had purchased items from them over the years.

Am I telling you all of this to brag? Not at all. I want to encourage you to look at your normal and see what would be considered a treat to others. My normal is some of the greatest beaches in the USA. For you, it may be some of the best hiking trails, best cuisine, most eclectic art work, incredible musicians, best hometown parade, extreme amusement park, etc. What is something you do annually? Is it something others travel from out-of-state to experience? Think about it. Then thank God for it.

I am humbled and grateful to be able to live in a place where the beach is normal for me. I love it rain or shine. It gives me great peace, delight and relaxation. I know people from all over the world dream of coming to Santa Barbara or San Diego or many of our local beaches. Just as I dream of visiting their towns and beaches someday. For now, I am soaking in the joy of loving where I live. In 2 hours, I can be in paradise. In 45 minutes, I can be on the sand. In my mind, I can relive the serenity over and over again.

Think of your version of paradise that you get to at least annually. Soak it in. Treasure it. Share your pictures on Facebook. Thank the Lord for His incredible provision.

Dream Big! Pray Big!

P.S. The picture is the view from my hotel room this past few days.

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Freedom

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I am choosing my right to not blog this week. At least, not my normal chit-chat. Here are some verses on freedom. Enjoy. Talk to you more next week! Thank you to our miltary men and women who have given us freedom in the USA. Happy 4th of July.

John 8:32 NIV

32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Galatians 5:13-14 NIV

13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh[a]; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b]

Ephesians 3:12 NIV

12 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.

I Peter 2:15-16a NIV

15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil;

 

Dream Big! Pray Big!

F.I.N.E

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How are you? Fine. I am sure many of you were greeted this way at some point this week. Either you said ‘fine’ or you got the reply ‘fine’. Typical, non-committal answer. I even gave it as my reply this past week. However, my friend said, “you know what ‘fine’ means right?” I had no idea.

F: Frustrated

I: Insecure

N: Neurotic

E: Emotional

So when you reply ‘fine’, you are giving a deeper insight into how you really are. I almost always say fine when I am not. It’s the answer when you don’t want to be real or go deeper or you don’t trust the person with your reality. Next time you say ‘fine’, think about why you are giving that answer.

I have been frustrated this week. I was given wrong information from a company and when I interacted with them, our transaction took so much longer because of the inaccurate info. I felt insecure this week when I joined a new book study. I only knew one person in the group and had previously met another years ago. It’s a bit daunting to sit in a group of 8 women and start sharing honestly. However, by the end of the time, I felt comfortable and I already know these are great ladies. For the purpose of this article, I am defining neurotic to be “unstableunbalancedmaladjusted.” Definitely unbalanced while summer schedules are kicking in and mom chauffeur is back on duty. As for emotional, that’s just a given these days.

I encourage you to answer directly when someone asks how you are. It will catch many off guard. However, you may be surprised at the conversation that follows. When you ask someone how she is doing, if she replies ‘fine,’ ask if they really are fine. If they don’t go deeper, that’s OK. If they do, listen.

Dream Big! Pray Big!

You’re fired

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No one wants to hear that phrase. Trump popularized it with his “Apprentice” show. I am grateful I have never been fired from a job. I quit a few. In 5th grade, our classroom had a full government setup with jobs, a President, paying taxes, a store, etc. I learned how to write a check, how to balance a checkbook, how to calculate sales tax and much more. I had the job of a banker. I love numbers and math. However, after too many complaining customers (my classmates), I got fed up and tossed down my stack of papers exclaiming “I quit.” Like I said, I learned a lot in the class exercise, including how to control my temper and work with difficult people. It led me to eventually being a team manager in my profession as an adult. With that responsibility, came the possibility of firing someone. Thankfully it never happened. However, after the sermon I heard yesterday, I realized I have fired someone on a regular basis – God.

You see I’m a bit of a control freak. Every time I take control of my life without submitting to God, I’m firing God. Mark Pikerill, pastor at Christian Assembly church in Eagle Rock, shared an amazing sermon yesterday in his Fighting for Freedom series. Here is a link if you are interested – http://cachurch.com/sermons/weekend-message-june-16-17/. Mark, too, is a control freak and shared all the ways he takes control from others including God. This got me thinking how many times I have fired God.

“I’ve got this.”

“No problem.”

“I have my 5 year plan laid out.”

All these things are me handling it all.

Now hear me out on this. I don’t believe that I need to spend weeks or months praying over a decision. I know God has great plans for me to help Him further His kingdom and to create depth of character in me. He wants me to be more like Him in all I do. If I decide to go to college A over college B, it isn’t going to thwart His plans. I feel that if I am immersed in God’s word, aware of God’s character and striving to serve God, the choices I make will be a reflection of Him. I am mature in Christ. I’m not still drinking from the bottle. (See below for Hebrews 5:11-14) I can step out and make decisions. I do pray and ask Him to guide me or to protect me or to make His presence known in the midst of my life. So when I fire God, it’s a matter of me ignoring Him. Me living my life without time with Him. I’m not just avoiding asking Him what He wants, but every time I go out in the world and haven’t connect with God, I’m firing Him.

Last week I wrote about “More God.” I guess I am again this week. More God means I’m not firing Him so much. I may seem to be repeating myself, but it hasn’t fully sunk in for my life yet. Has it in yours? I usually need time to make a change. Incorporating God daily, I usually do. Incorporating God all day, I don’t do. I want to. I want more God. I want God to keep His job. He does it much better than I do. His resume is flawless. So friends, today let’s give God his job back.

Dream Big! Pray Big!

 

We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. – Hebrews 5:11-14, NIV

More God

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I wept on Friday. The service for my friend, Alice Pendleton was last Friday. The love of her family (all the way to great grandkids) filled the chapel. God’s word came from all of their lips. Alice’s influence, because of her deep, abiding love of Christ, touched generations. As most of us do at funerals, we ponder our own existence and influence on this earth. Am I as patient as I should be? Do my kids know God’s love abides in me and they too want a part of that? What do I need to add or remove from my life to make it more meaningful, inspirational, valuable? My answer was surprisingly simple: I need more of God.

I wake up, do my back stretches, make breakfast, feed the kids, and start on whatever chores are before me. Sometimes I find time to read God’s word or listen to a sermon before I get out of bed. Usually I check in with Him at some point in the day. I’m not getting enough God. I love Him. My life does revolve around His ways. I’m just not spending enough time with Him for Him to rub off on me more.

It’s summer. My kids are home. Woohoo. I love it. I am sure in a few weeks I’ll be using their slang and be up to speed on what’s hot in their music and video game lives. They will rub off on me. I want that from God too. For Him to rub off on me more.

I read a devotional on creating habits. The main point is, successful people create a habit and stick with it for the long haul. I need to stretch my back daily. If I don’t, my lower back will spasm and hurt. If I do my stretches, I am good. My doctor told me that most people do their stretches faithfully until they feel better, then they stop. They think they are cured. She said my stretches are for life. I can do that. If it keeps the pain away, it’s worth it.

So it is with God. I am devoted to Him and His word when I’m in crisis or a struggle. When the crisis passes, I give up that habit and don’t engage with Him regularly. I need to remember that my time with God is a lifetime commitment. Not only that, but I like it. I like God. I like learning. I like growing. I like worship. Why am I not making it a daily thing? A million reasons why but nothing more important than God. I seek to make this summer a time to solidify this lifestyle change. I want more God daily. I challenge you to use the “lazy days of summer” to add in a new way to connect with God. It can be reading His word (the Bible), worshiping, journaling, whatever works for you. I just know that life can only be better with more God.

Dream Big! Pray Big!

Dream Small???

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I am all about Dream Big! I close my blog with it each week. The other day I heard a song on the radio called “Dream Small” by Josh Wilson. The song messed with my head. I went home and printed the lyrics and pondered his message. The chorus is:

Dream small

Don’t buy the lie you’ve got to do it all

Just let Jesus use you where you are

One day at a time

Live well

Loving God and others as yourself

Find little ways where only you can help

With His great love

A tiny rock can make a giant fall

Dream small

 

OK. I get his point that the little moments in life make a difference. He even says in the second verse “Of course there’s nothing wrong with bigger dreams Just don’t miss the minutes on your way to bigger things.” I can get behind that. While I’m waiting for my novel to be published or to buy my beach house, I need to invest where I am today. I agree with that. However, I think I wouldn’t call it “Dream Small”. I say “Invest your all” or “Live fully where you are today” (that one doesn’t rhyme but it clarifies the message.)

I am grateful for the “small” moments in my daily life. Today I had a nice conversation with the checkout clerk at the grocery store. Last night I sent a text to a mom in need. I often pick up trash that isn’t mine. Those minutes aren’t wasted at all. They made a difference.

However, I must conclude that Dream Big is still the way to go. So just

Find little ways where only you can help

With His great love

A tiny rock set that giant where he lay

Live fully where you are today

(Sorry to change those lyrics Josh – I just can’t Dream Small.)

Dream Big! Pray Big!

My cup overflows

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I love tea. Hot or cold. Unfortunately, at this season of life I am mainly a decaf drinker. Yet, I probably have at least one cup of tea every day. I recently made a mason jar of sun tea. Have you ever had sun tea? You fill a glass pitcher with water and tea bags and sit it in the sun all day. Pour over ice and you have one of the best cups of iced tea ever. I made mine with Lipton decaffeinated black tea. Heavenly.

Recently, I attended a tea party and had the privilege of sharing a bit as their speaker for the event. I spoke about my cup overflows from Psalm 23. I’ll share the whole passage since it’s short and very well-known.

Psalm 23, NIV

A psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
    he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

In preparation for speaking, I learned what the term “my cup overflows” refers to. In Jewish culture, in Biblical times, the amount of wine poured into your cup indicated the hosts pleasure with you. When travelers would stop in for a meal, the host would eventually serve wine. If the guest was found to be offensive in some way, the host would fill their cup half way, indicating they were no longer welcome. If the cup was filled but not overflowing, it meant the traveler was welcome to finish the meal but it was nearly time to go. If, however, the host overfilled your cup and spilled onto the table, you were welcome at their home anytime and please stay as long as you want on this particular night. The overflowing cup meant your company was desired and welcomed.

So when we see God overflowing our cup in the Psalm, He is tell us we are always welcomed and He desires to be with us. He wants to spend time with us. He loves our company.  Wow. I have read this Psalm a million times. I even memorized it. Before understanding the culture at the time it was written, I never understood the cup part. I just assumed it meant my life was good and full of good things. I never imagined it meant God loves spending time with me and I’m always welcome in His presence. What a gift! What a delight!

I challenged the women at the tea I spoke at to think every time they poured themselves a drink – they are loved and their company is requested by God. I extend you the same challenge. Let your cup overflow.

Dream Big! Pray Big!