Oh. My. Goodness.

Hahaha. If there’s ever a time I begin to doubt what God is doing in my life, smack me upside the head.

My subscription to Audible provides one credit a month to purchase an audio book.  I started listening to books about a year ago, while I drive or bike or other monotonous activities.   I never quite know what to call “experiencing” an audio book – do you “read” them?  not exactly… .do you “listen”? well, yes, but somehow that isn’t a complete description either…   at any rate, this is where I have experienced Mark Batterson’s books.  (In a pit with a lion on a snowy day, Lion Chaser, The Circle Maker, etc).  I thought I had seen all of his titles, but when perusing the library this morning looking for a new book, I came across a new one, and it’s title captured my attention immediately. Soul Print. It reminded me of Erwin McManus book, Artisan Soul, which is another life-defining book for me.   Since I have 2 credits right now, I looked for a second title and came across Francis Chan, Waiting on God, which I thought was appropriate in my year of WAIT.

As I climbed on my bike a few days ago, in my F-R-E-E-Z-I-N-G cold garage to conquer some miles, I looked at both titles on my ap.  In my head I was thinking, I really should begin Waiting on God, but for some reason, my heart was telling me to start with Mark Batterson, so I followed my heart.

How God knew I needed to hear the words penned by Mark is a testimony to what an awesome God He is.   I wish I could simply post the entirety of Chapter 1 here, though  I’m not even sure it would have the same impact on you as it did on me today.  All I can say is.  Holy.  Cow. What a wonderful, wonderful God He is.

God is at work here, for a purpose that is soooo much bigger than me. soooo much bigger than you…   sooooo much bigger.    we are a part of it.

I’ve been thinking about what to study next, and thinking about how many things I’ve messed up on in my life, just like David, who God calls a man after His own heart. One thing that I’ve noticed is that the Bible is full of people who have screwed up royally, but God uses in powerful ways to further His Kingdom and His Sovereign will.  I’ve decided to begin to study more about the life of David and his Psalms to understand how he could have messed up so badly, yet God loved him so much and used him so much. I haven’t started yet. Woven throughout the book,  Soul Print? Stories about David – the things he did well and the things he didn’t.   How funny is that?

For me, starting this book is affirmation that God is leading… I am following. I truly love God and want to do what He wants. I’m laying my entire universe at His feet right now, trusting in what He says!

I mentioned the phrase that I’ve read in some of Batterson’s other books in my previous post – that God wants to get us where God wants us to be more than we want to get where God want’s us to be..  and it was repeated several times in Soul Print.  However, in addition, Mark added a new phrase that stood out to me in this book:  God will not put us where He wants us until we have become who He want’s us to become.

“Your uniqueness is a testament to the God who created you.  There is nothing that God cannot do in you and through you if you simply yield to Him.. All of you to All of Him.   You were created to worship God in a way that no one else can, but living a life that no one else can.. You play an irreplaceable role in God’s destiny – but it starts with understanding your true identity.   Our true identities get buried under the mistakes we’ve made, the insecurities we’ve acquired and the lies we believe.  We’re held captive by others’ expectations and spend too much energy trying to be who ewe are not.. and we forfeit our spiritual birthright.  It’s not that we are lying to ourselves; somewhere along the way, we lose ourselves… if you are still breathing, God has not given up on you yet, so don’t give up on yourself.  It’s never too late to be who you might have been. ”

“The key to fulfilling your future destiny is in understanding your past…. while you live forward, God works backward… all of your days are ordained by God and it’s your responsible to discover your God-given destiny.. despite humble beginnings and huge mistakes, David fulfilled his destiny. … in the pages that follow, we will dissect David’s life in such a way as to help you find your destiny.”

“I don’t know how long you’ve been stuck, but I know that God wants to move you.  We are held captive by so many things… by our imperfections and insecurities, guilt and anxiety, expectations, and lies, and mistakes. Jesus dies to set us free from all of the above, not just to set us free from who we were but to set us free for who we were intended to be.”

“God’s primary concern is who you are becoming – the character of Christ being formed in you until you are more like Jesus – as a revelation of who God is.  You won’t find yourself until you find God.  You are made in His image.  To become like Christ is to become unlike anyone else.”

Mark Batterson, Soul Print

I’ve finished listening to the book (the advantage of spending hours on a bike and in a car this week!).  I’d encourage you to read the book – you can find it here… Soul Print

Be blessed, my friends!

SB

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Copyright 2019 Journey For Life. All rights reserved.

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Crying Out…

Deep, deep within the innermost depths of my soul lies a darkness so black it suffocates.

Of anything I’ve ever written, this is my absolute favorite. To be honest, I think it’s because, without realizing it when I wrote it, it so perfectly describes who I am at my very core… someone who desperately wants to help other people find themselves, but is so desperately broken myself.

In the darkness of this world, we all so desperately need Jesus. Without Him, I’d still be the person in the poem. But for God, I’d still be in the forest.

Click the link below to go to the original post:

I Cried Out

Blessings,

SB

Copyright 2019 Journey For Life. All rights reserved

All that we see or seem…

Edgar Allan has long been my absolute favorite American writer – I think I fell in love with his work in late elementary school, perhaps early junior high.  A tragic life, his works are drenched with his darkness, which intrigues me to understand his psyche.  Somehow, at times, I feel a deep connection to that darkness.

My favorite Poe work has always been Annabel Lee, a poem about true love that was separated prematurely through death. However, of late, I find myself connecting most with this work, which I’ve included below, that you might enjoy as well..

His soul cried out…

A Dream Within a Dream

Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow —
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.
I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand —
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep — while I weep!
O God! Can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?

My rose colored world

My husband, ever the pessimist, sometimes haughtily accuses me of living in a dream world. Just the other night, he remarked that my rose-colored glasses were clouding my thoughts.

It’s not that I don’t see the ugly side of life. In fact, I see it with both of my eyes open wide. There’s a tremendous amount of brokenness and ugliness in the world. Not only do I see it, I have lived it, and, if I allowed myself to be consumed by it, could easily fall prey to my dark side.

I made a decision long ago, however, not to allow my dark side – the monster inside of me that I never want to let you see – be the outwardly visible part of me. In that same moment, I decided never to let the darkness of the world bring me down.

It’s very, very easy to become victim of circumstance; it requires strength and determination to live above our circumstances. Seeing the world through the lens that I choose helps me to keep focus on the positive. I’ve been rescued from victim mentality – and choose never to go there again.

I rather like my rose-colored world – my rose colored glasses remind me of the world from which I’ve been rescued – and the Light which I know dwells within me.

photo cred: agodman.com

Stay positive, my friends. It’s more than OK to see the world through rose-colored glasses – in fact, if I dare say, I’ll take my rose-colored to jaundiced eyes any day.

Blessings, my friends.

Copyright 2019 – Journey- For-Life All rights reserved.

If you’re interested to understand more about the darkness from which I’ve been rescued, you can read my journey in my fiction book (laced with reality) Masquerade

…Because I Care

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of lunch with a dear friend, former boss turned motivational speaker – one who challenges me and inspires me to be all I can be. (To understand more about what made him a special leader, see my post: Exceptional! )  As always, lunch was filled with thought provoking discussions and challenges for both his life and mine.

During our lunch, he told me about an upcoming opportunity he has to be the keynote speaker at a school lunch nutritional convention in Minnesota. He’s been asked to provide a motivational speech with a phrase for the audience to “take away”, sort of a theme that can become their mantra. The intention of the convention is to encourage those who are serving lunches to see the students as their customers and infuse a sense of caring into their jobs to make a difference in the lives of the students. As he begins to build his speech, he is leaning toward using the phrase, “I care” for the take-away phrase.

As we were talking, I recounted to him a recent conversation with another special friend, (who also challenges me) who asked me why I do what I do  – why I spend hours (in addition to my full-time job) teaching students to play the piano – and hours being a youth leader at my church, talking with broken teenagers looking to find their way – reaching out to broken-hearted people to let them know God loves them. “Why”, he asked, “do you put yourself out there to a world that largely doesn’t care?”   His question was well intentioned, his logic that, if the world doesn’t care, why should I?

As I thought how to answer this question to my lunch mate, I recited the story of the boy on the beach, throwing starfish back into the ocean after they’d washed up on the beach. Someone criticized him, asking why he did it when he couldn’t possible save them all. As he picked up a starfish and gently tossed it back into the water, he said, “I made a difference for THAT one”.

My friend paused several times during our conversation to make notes of things we talked about so he could include in the speech. At one point, he said, “you know, for some of these students, a caring lunch lady might be the only sense of caring they feel all day. Everybody just needs to know someone cares.”

And that, my friends, is why I do what I do. To summarize what I’ve heard our pastor say so many times, “you might be the only Jesus that they see.”

Everyone needs to have someone who cares about them. Be that person to someone today.

Be Jesus for someone today.

Blessings,

SB

Copyright 2019 Journey For Life. All rights reserved.

Unmerited favor

Grace. Oh it’s amazing. For reasons I cannot begin to fathom, our Lord has bestowed unmerited favor on me time and time again.

Last Saturday morning, my 82 year old mother suffered a heart attack. In the wee hours of the morning, I was woken up by our oldest daughter, home from college for Christmas break. Both she and my mother have bedrooms in the basement of our home. She told me that Nana thought she was having a heart attack. I lept out of bed and called an ambulance, which took her to the local hospital. The kids and I waited in the lobby while they got her settled into the emergency room; it seemed like an eternity.

Eventually, the doctor came to speak with us. The look of concern on his face was discomforting and he shared with us that her heart stopped twice while they were getting her settled. He and a team of nurses performed CPR and brought her back. Shaken, he also shared with us that when she came to, she told them not to revive her if it happened again. She has no written medical directive, and he was visibly upset by her instruction. I assured him that was consistent with anything she’s ever told me about dying, and that it was OK to let her go if it happened again. She knows where she’s going and she’s ready to go there.

The nurses all gathered around when she asked to see me for what we thought would be the last time. As I looked down on my mothers tiny, frail body, her face seemed shrunken and her eyes looked different. The nurses were crying and telling me they were sorry. My mother shared a few words with me, said she had no regrets and told me to make sure her grandkids knew she loved them.

Just then, the cardiologist on call entered the room and demanded to know why the cath lab staff hadn’t been prepped. The nurses apologized to me for his bedside manner, and proceeded to alert the cath lab team. Within moments, she was whisked away to surgery, after saying goodbye to my kids. We were ushered to the family waiting area where I made contact with other family members to let them know what happened.

Some time later (because honestly it’s hard to keep track of time in times like those) we were informed that the surgery was successful, that they put a stint into her heart and removed the 90% blockage. She came home from the hospital just two days later on Christmas Eve.

While we were leaving the hospital on Sunday afternoon, my son ran into a friend and his wife who live nearly an hour north of us. Puzzled at what they’d be doing in the hospital in our town, they shared that his father suffered a hear attack on his way to visit family. He was in the cath lab having surgery by the same doctor who did my mom’s. Hours later, we were informed that he didn’t make it.

Although I was thrilled that my mom was okay, I felt a strange sense of guilt that Jim wasn’t. He was younger than my mom, and as far as I know, had no sense of eternal life. Yet he passed and mom didn’t. My family attended his funeral visitation this week while I stayed with my mother. Such a strange dichotomy of feelings washed over me.

I’ve experienced this same dichotomy of emotions when my friend, Bob, buried his 19 year old son who died in a tragic car accident on the weekend my husband and I flew to visit our son for the first time since he left home for college; and the day our school experienced a mass stabbing when my daughter stayed home in an ironic twist of fate, but I drove my son early to school that day so he could take a youth retreat invitation to his friend who ended up the first victim.

I am repeatedly reminded in ways that my simple mind cannot understand that God’s ways are not my ways. The Bible instructs is to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. I am both rejoicing and mourning today.

Be blessed today, my friends. We don’t know what tomorrow holds, but we know Who holds tomorrow.

Blessings,

SB

Copyright 2018 Journey For Life. All rights reserved

The Ruffian – Hooligan

During my first year of junior high, I unexpectedly encountered situation with an upper-classmate that some people would refer to a bullying in today’s climate. At the risk of offending some readers, I personally believe the word “bully” is over-used and often applied inappropriately. Be that as it may, my experience taught me something about myself, and about “bullies”.

Tim was in ninth grade when I was in seventh. He was very tall tall with broad shoulders, and wore $hit-kicker boots and a chain from his wallet to his pocket. Greasy, dishwater blond hair touched his shoulders. He was regularly suspended for fighting and had a nasty reputation as a cruel dude. He and I shared the same lunch period (along with 200 of our closest friends) where he sat in the first row of tables closest to the garbage can students used to empty their trays before putting them in the “to be washed” pile.

Every day when I’d take my tray to the garbage can, he would mutter, “Bitch” and other obscenities under his breath. At first, I thought he must be talking about someone else because he didn’t even know me; but it literally happened every single day for the first month or so of school. Many students, back then as well as now, would simply have cowered in intimidation. Some may report either to a friend or a trusted teacher.

One day, I just decided I had enough of Tim. I a moment of fool-headed bravery, I dumped my tray and boldly marched right up to Tim. I got my face up close to his and stuck my finger out and put it in his chest. Undaunted, I proceeded to tell him off, footnoting that his statements were invalid because he didn’t even know me. The look of astonishment on his face was priceless, and I’m sure the scene was comical to spectators who’d never dream a shy, diminutive damsel would have the courage to stand up to such an insolent tormentor.

From that day forward, Tim became my “big brother guardian”. Every time I saw him, he gave me a hug. He’d check in with me on a regular basis to see if anyone was giving me trouble (and he assured me that if anyone ever did, he’d take care of it).

To be sure, there are probably plenty of reasons why bullies do what they do. I always felt that, in Tim’s case, he intimidated people that he could intimidate – and I believe he secretly respected the fact that I stood up to him. Without excusing his behavior, perhaps he was simply looking for someone who would stand up to him .

The incident taught me there are times in life when we must stand up for ourselves. I was proud of myself for having the courage to do it, and the outcome encouraged me to continue to stand strong in the face of difficulty through the rest of my life.

In an odd sense, I’m grateful that Tim taught me about myself. I last saw him at a high school reunion. He had lost his wife (my classmate) to cancer, and was missing a sparkle from his eye, but still hugged me and asked if anyone was giving me trouble.

Have spunk and courage, my friends. Life is tough.

Blessings,

SB

Copyright 2018 Journey-For-Life All Rights Reserved