Where Hope Resides

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

10296344_253602898166084_3708167197644919007_oHope lies deep within your gut.  It is that thing which rises up and drags you to your feet. It forces you to move, to believe, to smile, to ponder, to trust and to breathe.

Hope may wait but it will not wane . . .

Hope will eventually force you to take action.

Hope is full of the unknown. It is that gumption which leads you to the most unexpected places at the least expected times.

Hope holds the key to your inner longing–the true desire of your heart.

Hope has the answer but you must dig deep enough to find it.  When you latch onto it fully it begins to move and shake as things suddenly begin to work together without your control or orchestration.

There is no problem too big for hope.

Hope takes on a life of its own.  It sends you on adventures and causes you to tap into emotions and potential you never knew you had.

The coolest thing about hope is the way it spreads.  You think the hope you find is there just for you but in reality it is for others because it touches lives and leaves a heart-print.  Hope has a ripple effect as it positively impacts everyone and everything around you.

Everyday we should strive to catch a little bit of hope.  It sustains us like the air.  Without it, we perish.

Hope can cause us to do things we never thought or dreamed of.  I know because I’ve lived that kind of hope.

On January 12, 2010 I saw a report on the news about a horrific earthquake in Haiti. My gut burst with compassion and intercession and sadness and, yet, my mind was trembling with hope.

Hope?  What hope could be gained or given at such a terrible time?  What hope could I possible find or share?  What hope could survive the worst natural disaster in decades?

How could I be of value in a place like Haiti especially in the wake of a disaster?

Unsure, I began to pray until I felt a quickening response in my spirit,  That’s when I heard a voice whispering “Wherever there lies a will, there also is a way.”

Like a shot of adrenaline–I knew I must get busy and act on that prompting.  I wanted to latch hold of those sparks of hope so I could carry them with me as I went.

But how could I?  Without a passport?  Without medical skills?  Without search and rescue experience?  I was without even the foggiest idea of how to get there or how I could possibly help.

And yet my gut kept telling me to go.  And so . . . I went.

I made three calls to friends who could tell me what to do.

Within less than a week I was packed and heading to Haiti.  Everything just fell into place.  My media skills were used to help document and share the work of hundreds who came to assist.  I spent a month with first responders and medical teams all over the world.  I fell in love with children who smiled and laughed and whose eyes lit up in spite of the damage and hardship they endured.

My heart broke for the mama’s who bore the suffering on their shoulders and rationed off bits of bread and sips of water to keep their children alive even when they went without and grew more fragile by the day.

The colors in Haiti brought hope.  Bold, beautiful artwork overwhelms the soul and it is everywhere you look.  With that much color–sadness cannot breathe.

Haiti is like a canvas filled with tropical plants, seas and mountains,  brilliant sunlight and magnificent color from the murals along the city streets to the Caribbean cottages on the waterside to the clothes the people wear.

1888466_230130450513329_2394279386585164531_nMore than anything, Haiti birthed in me the heart and soul of a missionary.  I finally realized I could go anywhere and do anything as long as I followed my gut, trusted in God, listened carefully to the voice of hope and then followed it without fear.  Faith over fear is the secret to a full and fruitful life.  Find hope and let it lead you.

 

Its a New Year and a great time to set a new course.  May we dwell on possibilities and ignite the fire of hope in our lives.  My greatest desire for everyone in 2015 is to find that place where hope resides, to visit it daily and to share it with others.

The Voice of Hope

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

10294518_10152472266523674_4508514925462477926_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanksgiving came and went without a word.  I had nothing but my faith and a desperate mother’s prayer to keep me hanging onto hope and clinging to a long-awaited promise I found nestled deep into a prophetic bible verse I stumbled upon more than 30 years ago:  Isaiah 54.

It was the bitter sweet assurance in that passage that enabled me to endure as a single parent and that keeps me hanging on whenever I worry about the well-being of my children who now are far too old for me to have much impact on the way they live their lives.

According to Isaiah 54:  I was called as a forsaken woman (and no one wants to be forsaken), then told that the Lord, Himself, would be my husband and finally, it is written that “great will be the peace” of my children.

When I read this I was so enthralled that I went out and had Isaiah 54 inscribed on my license plate and suddenly found myself sharing the promises found in that verse with an assortment of pain-stricken, broken-hearted and abandoned women at stop lights, in parking lots and wherever my license tag was seen.  Later, I found myself telling others about the promise that my children would be full of peace even though the peace in my own home, heart and children’s lives was nowhere to be found.

And now–Yes, even now, although I’ve found peace and serenity–I can’t help but wonder why my youngest child has not been set free, delivered and healed?  Where is her promise of peace?  Why must she run so fast, so far and so hard?

What peace is there when a mother cries herself to sleep knowing her daughter is out there somewhere, lost and alone in the cold?  Entrapped and entangled in the darkness?  Smitten with addiction?  By choice it seems, her shattered dreams–are they merely dust gone forever with the winds of time?

Or is there still hope?

10347567_276494332543607_1821273560741791740_nThere has to be hope, even when it seems impossible to cope.  Hope must emerge like a flickering candle in the dark.  It has to light the way less we disappear in the darkness never to return.

When a parent let’s go of hope–what’s left?  Nothing.

As for me I will cling to hope and wanting what’s best for my loved ones until my last breath.

Christmas came and still no word.

The battle was on as guilt, shame, sorrow and the pain of failure rose up and tried to strangle me.  I recognized the fight so I clenched my fists and fought off the fear with punches of faith and whatever scriptures I could must up and shout out loud.

This battle has been raging for years.

Whenever it comes, I dig in.  I get up when I fall.  Helpless describes the feeling because I know I cannot fight for her freedom only for my own peace of mind.

Regrets come and go but I refuse to flirt with them.  They only bring me down and try to trap me.  If only I could turn back time.  If I could take back spiteful words.  Fix the brokenness.  Heal the pain.  Start over again.  But I can’t.  Its too late for that.  I can only pour out love.  Move forward.  Trust and hope for better days to come.  Seek God’s mercy and grace–for her and for me.

Serenity says we must find the courage to change the things we can, to accept the things we cannot change–and we must seek wisdom to know the difference.  The Book of Proverbs tells me that wisdom is more precious than silver or gold.

I want more wisdom Lord.  More faith, more hope, more love.

I want to totally trust that Your hedge of protection Lord, is big enough and secure enough and strong enough for my child.  I want to believe that Jeremiah 29:11 also applies to my daughter–that You have a perfect plan for her and that when she finally cries out You, God, will hear and answer her.  And I must keep believing that she will eventually cry out.

hope2My birthday came in December 30th and still no call.  Nothing but silence.  The silence hovered like a dark cloud.

Those who don’t know will never understand so I stopped trying to explain it years ago.  Cut her off they say–shut her out and turn away.  But how can a mother ever cut off her own flesh and blood?  It isn’t in me to do so.

 

I do not and will not support her lifestyle but I will forever love her and desire to simply hear her voice and know that she’s OK.

My greatest hope will always be for her to find her greatest potential in life.

It was 10:52 pm on New Year’s Eve 2014 when a call finally came and I was able to finally breathe a spectacular sigh of relief.

“Hi, Momma,” was all it took to end 2014 with a smile and to renew my hope in God’s promises regarding my children.

Hope for the New Year

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

hope10

As we enter into 2015–let us begin again with hope.  Let’s make it more than a resolution that will surely fade in three or four weeks.  Let’s turn it up a notch and share it with the world.

Let’s make sure our hope and the hope we profess and promote is more than some sugary sappy sermon or a superficial “feel good” thing we say but never surrender ourselves into doing–or more importantly being.  Shallow hope does more harm than good.  The world needs real hope because hypocrites scatter false hope and trample on the dreams of those who once believed.  Genuine hope manifests–it doesn’t deceive.

hope3This world is full of suffering, sadness, false hope and deception.  Shine a light and light a fire.  It is up to us–you and me, the hopeful ones–to be hope for the hopeless.  We must set our sights on becoming hope–not only for family and friends, not just for those within our limited circle of influence, but also for others near and far and especially for those who have no one else to give them the hope, the love and the confidence that life and faith and hope has given us.

What good is hope is we fail to pass it on?  Hope, like light and love, has to be shared in order to reach its fullness.  If we hoard hope for ourselves, we diminish its potential.  We become vessels of selfishness and greed.

My simple hope for all who read this is this:  May you reach a new level of hope and faith in the days and weeks and year to come.  May the New Year bring whatever you need most and in your gratitude and abundance may you share with others.

10678862_287618158097891_5483548875392288523_n

Happy New Year Everyone.  Take what you need and pass it on because no matter what you lack or how difficult life seems to be–there is always someone somewhere who has it a whole lot worse.  Focus on your blessings.

 

 

 

 

Thanks, Giving and Hope: A Lesson from the Book of Jonah

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

T1455965_451521738293088_560271442_nToo often we dwell on the “thanks” but forget the about the “giving”.  Thanksgiving is both.  It is entering an attitude of gratitude via sacrifice and thanks.

We prefer the thanks and omit the sacrifice.

Over the past week I’ve gained new insight.  I am no longer thinking about the simple token thanks we give to family and friends throughout the holiday season.

At times I’ve contributed to food baskets or helped deliver food and gifts to families in my community. For years I made it a point to sponsor at least one angel off a tree at Christmastime and tried to teach my children to do the same.  And surely I’ve filled my share of shoeboxes for Samaritan’s Purse and others.  But this year I am seeing something deeper and different . . . a level of giving and thanks that goes beyond my own traditions.

I am now catching a vision of a much deeper truth–a thanks that is attained only through sacrifice.  The sacrifice is the giving.

“But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of Thanksgiving:  I will pay that which I have vowed.  Salvation is of the Lord.”  Jonah 2:9 (KJV)

1378177_680064178671718_424292218_nI’ve discovered that words of thanks without sacrificial giving and without supplication is shallow and insufficient much like a sugar-coated sermon to make us feel good but without any power to substantial save souls or change lives.

What good is giving thanks out of habit or in an effort to do what is expected?  Real thanksgiving has to come from the belly, for the pit of the soul, from the innermost crevices of the heart.

Sure we can get away with superficial thanksgiving–the giving without thanks or the thanks without sacrifice but is it enough?  Is it sufficient when it comes to demonstrating a thanksgiving that resonates to the heavens?  I think not.

So the real question is your level of thanks!  Is your celebration focused on family and friends or is it thanks and giving unto God?  Are you satisfied to go year after year without deepening your understanding or strengthening your relationship with God?  Will you spend another year feasting on turkey and partaking in parades and charades that make jolly memories but lack the depth of a spiritual encounter? Will you miss a chance to magnify and honor the Lord?

For me, this year, God is more important than my superficial holiday traditions.  When Jonah cried out from the belly of that whale, he not only repented of his wrongdoing but he vowed to complete what he started; and to submit unto the Lord.

How often do we find ourselves in trouble and then we bargain with God making promises we fail to keep?  How often do we vow to make Jesus the reason for the holiday season and find ourselves bowing to social pressures, family traditions or overdoing ourselves through hospitality and lavish spending? Why substitute inferior celebrations for true acts of thanks, giving and unconditional love?

Do this and we miss the meaning of thanks and giving.  Do this and automatically take the Christ out of Christmas.

Sure I’ve always found Thanksgiving to be a great time to celebrate God’s goodness, to pour love out to family and friends–even strangers.  We eat hardy and celebrate the start of another holiday season.  We pray and give thanks out loud.  One year I even sent “Thank You” cards to a dozen or more people who had made a huge impact on my life.

But that did not challenge me or cause me to experience the degree of giving and thanks that I am just now beginning to understand–a thanks that forces me to wrestle with human understanding and a supernatural mercy and grace.

Have you ever experienced the kind of thanks and giving that only comes from a powerful revelation like what Jonah experienced in the belly of that whale?  Or how about the midnight praise that shook the earth and opened prison gates?  How about your own path to salvation?

Today my pastor preached on Thanksgiving from the Book of Jonah.  I initially thought: What an odd place to bring out a new truth about giving and thanks!  I had previously studied Jonah but today I realize something was amiss.  It is this:  Before Jonah was delivered from the whale, he gave thanks.

In the pit of that ghastly circumstance, wallowing in sorrow, shame and guilt and knowing he had run from God and disobeyed and was undeserving of a second chance–Jonah gave thanks.

Just four chapters long, we see four ways of relating to God:

  • Chapter One–Jonah runs from God;
  • Chapter Two–Jonah runs to God;
  • Chapter Three–Jonah runs with God;
  • Chapter Four–Jonah runs ahead of God.

And don’t we all fall into one of those four modes every day and in every situation we encounter.  The question is what do we do?  How do we handle our circumstances and shortcomings and failures?

When our circumstances scream louder than the thanksgiving within us–what do we do?

hope2We can wallow in our sorrow or worry and wait for help that we sometimes don’t even recognize when it comes.  We can cry and scream and shout.  We can doubt.  Or we can refer to Bible stories that show how the breakthrough comes through praise and thanksgiving.  Jonah voiced his thanksgiving from the belly of a whale and God was quick to respond.  Three men in a furnace of affliction were not even scathed by the fire because they praised God anyway and Jesus was with them.

In the Lion’s den there was no fear and Daniel was delivered. When the inmates began to praise and give thanks in their prison cell the gates broke open and they were set free.

What God did for others He will do for you.  Thanksgiving is the key to a breakthrough victory.

 

 

 

Signs of Hope

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

imagesCAO40O2S

In difficult times people look for signs.

We seek signs of goodness, signs of hope.  Signs to inspire and signs to help us cope. Some search for signs of the prophetic while others are fully satisfied with simple reminders that God is with us in the here and now.

God sightings are daily reminders.

A “God sighting” can be a magnificent sunrise or a sunset that only the artistic hand of God could create.  A God sighting might be a smile or a hug or a nod from a stranger or a phone call from a lost loved one or a sudden email from a special friend.

A few weeks ago I volunteered at an art festival in downtown Titusville.  At the end of the day I was tired and hungry and longing to get home and rest.  Suddenly I remembered, I technically have no home  . . .

No place of refuge to truly call my own.

All summer I had been feeding and working with the homeless in my community and even taking some of them with me on projects out of town.  All the while knowing “but for the grace of God go I” and realizing deep onside that I am they and they are me.  For the past six months I’ve been just a car and a friend from those same woods and scary streets.  Just me practicing outreach and love while trying not to let fear overwhelm me in and gain power over my own state of affairs.

Perfect love casts out fear.  I am grateful for God’s perfect love and provision and for family and friends who practice who practice God’s mercy and grace.

I’ve been house-sitting for friends and my time for moving on has been well overdue.  In reality, I have no place to go and no means of getting there.  I have no steady income and no funds for securing my own place.  Yes, I still have family and friends who will take me in but I always feel more of a burden than a blessing and that is a feeling I’ve grown to know and despise.

How did I get in this spot?  I can recite the sequence of events from college professor to three years of health problems and finally a surgery and lingering lack of energy to depression and stupid business decisions to this and that now this . . . on the edge of homelessness.

These painful thoughts caused a tear to roll down my cheek.  I was so engrossed in my problems that I almost ran off the side of the road but there in the median (almost hidden in the grass) I saw a glimmer of hope springing forth from an unlit sign. Just as the dusky evening was turning into darkness, I got what I needed to get myself back on track.

10394578_249021031957604_432796219402425125_nIt was amazing that it even caught my eye.  So timely and so badly needed that I caught the next u-turn and went back.  I pulled my car to the side of the busy highway, grabbed my camera and crossed oncoming traffic by foot just to get a closer look.  I was absolutely certain that the sign was meant for me.  It was the God sighting I needed at the precise moment necessary to bring me back to a place of confidence and hope.

A God sighting is timely, personal and powerful.  It is something that has mega-meaning–often to you and no one else.

God sightings are everywhere but we see them only when we seek them.  To find a true God sighting requires thought, patience and a keen eye.  We might see them but take them forgranted or not recognize them for what they truly are.

A God sighting might be a wrong made right.  It could be a Word of knowledge or perhaps, an answered prayer.  They come on like a light bulb or they slowly unfold.  Some are accompanied with great fanfare and hit us like a lightening bolt.  More often they are slow and simple:  A little lifting of the veil or defogging of the roses in our glasses so we can see things more clearly.

Its our nature to search for something good to help offset the bad.  Just as we force a smile when we are sad or speak positive proclamations over our difficult situations until a breakthrough manifests.

Stinking thinking adds doom and gloom but a good word spoken out loud has the capacity to change the atmosphere.

Where good abounds we yearn for even better.  We long for anything that confirms our faith–anything that brings us hope.  We seek inspiration, edification, insight, empowerment–a steadfast and unwavering confidence through whatever reminds us that we are highly favored Children of the King.

We relish reminders that God is good and greatly to be praised.  We benefit greatly from sudden reboots of vision–God sightings and signs that give us the energy needed to revive our zeal and keep us in the race–the race of living life to its fullest.

If you want to improve your faith, take time to see the signs.  God sightings abound as daily reminders of goodness and mercy, of promise and hope.  Don’t miss out.

The Eleventh Hour and Hope

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

10003054_10152356401453674_875811908_nI’m sure you’ve heard of the eleventh hour–that crucial time when everything changes for good or for bad. It is worse than a mega deadline, more challenging than rocket science, more dramatic than chaos and crisis, more frightening than a full fledge panic attack.  It represents the impossible.  It stings like a two-edged sword.  It crushes all positive energy and has the potential to render you speechless or to knock you into paralysis.

The dreadful eleventh hour feels like Doomsday.  It has the capacity to ruin your life. It can cause you to give up–to simply stop trying.

It is a huge clock ticking too fast, too loudly and too close.  It is constantly looming in the forefront of your mind reminding you that something must happen soon or else the ramifications will be horrid.  It represents streams of irrational thoughts and obsessive, compulsive fear.  It suffocates and forces you to feel helpless and perhaps even hopeless because whatever the situation is you know it is out of your control and there’s nothing you can do but wait.

You nervously twitch and stammer.  You avoid confrontation.  Cortisol levels deplete as you ready yourself to flee or fight.

The eleventh hour can kick-start a physical, spiritual and mental breakdown.  It is laden with fear and can catapult you into depression.  It flashes like a neon sign until even the most patient person goes just a little bit mad.

Anxiety! Stress!  And fear!  Oh dear . . .

So how do we combat this ungodly state of being?  How do we overcome?  How do we lift the veil of desperation and replace the pent up frustration with promises of prosperity, goodness, joy and peace.  Were do we find serenity?

How do we trust God in the midst of our trials?

We start by admitting we don’t have the answer.  We come to the end of ourselves.  Once have used up all our ideas, energy and resources we can finally receive whatever help and hope we need to overcome.

I’m reminded of something I once read about a child taken all of his broken toys back to his father so they could be repaired but the father could not fix them because the child held on too tight and would not release them.

It all begins with trust.  To restore or revive hope in the eleventh hour we must come up for fresh air.  We must dig deep to find the faith that may have waned or faltered in the midst of the struggle, the hardship and the wait.  We need to think back on past victories and recall all the times life has nearly failed us but somehow never left us forsaken, desolate or begging for bread.

1897701_236586189867755_4299517923560215641_nThe best way to restore hope is to find and cling to every promise, every plea, every cry and every encouraging word.  Read God’s Word out loud and you will soon see that even the prophets, the disciples and biblical heroes had their times of difficulty and doubt.  And yet God has always arrived on the scene with solutions and miracles and things have always worked out. God is seldom early.  He is always right on time.

Hope emerges even in the eleventh hour.  Fear subsides.  Life goes on.  We overcome.  The battles we thought would defeat us can be won ad in the end we wind up stronger and better prepared for the days ahead.

People perish without hope–so above all else we must hang onto whatever positive energy we can muster up even in the worst of times.  How we handle our difficulties builds patience and perseverance and character.  When we learn to count our blessings instead of wallowing in our troubles we are better off.

We can learn to be content even when we are uncertain or tired or even a little bit scared.  No matter how bad it seems there are always others who are worse off than we are.  We must remember that and stop moaning and groaning.

When we have a bad attitude or allow fear to hinder our faith we fail to realize how greatly we are blessed.  Its kind of like complaining because we have no shoes and then meeting a person who has no feet.

In the past month I’ve interviewed for three really great jobs that I thought I would surely enjoy and have a great chance of being selected for the positions.  Each time someone else was hired–people I know and admire.  I could respond to this in a couple of ways.  I could become jealous and puff myself up into thinking I could do a better job or I was somehow more deserving or I could recognize the strengths of these others and rejoice in their good fortune and be willing to wait my turn.

At times like this I can either lose hope or renew it.  My choice . . . 1620985_284997665026607_6086199100685123919_n

The question is simple–do I trust God has a perfect plan for me or not?  Do I believe He wants to give me favor and to see me prosper?  Am I willing to keep doing good and not grow weary?  Can I find my faith and renew hope  or will I throw in the towel and decide I just can’t cope?  My choice:  I can either abide in hope or wallow in the mire.  I can find faith or fear in the eleventh hour.  What we believe often determines what we shall receive.

Wings of Hope: Watching Birds in Flight

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

“But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (NIV)


IMG_5384Yesterday I went on an unexpected detour.  I do that sometimes.  I get lost or make a wrong turn and end up taking the scenic route.  Generally I think nothing of it and spend more time getting back to my original destination than paying attention to anything along the new path.

This was different.  Somehow I knew there was an unrevealed purpose in the mix0up.  This time I paid close attention.

It all began as I left the downtown Titusville area where I’ve been volunteering at a week-long art show.  I deliberately headed north to try and make my way to the next town where I had heard a new golf club is hiring an events coordinator. I had been calling that venue daily because I’m really needing to find a job.

IMG_5291At the same time I was considering an appearance at the golf club I was also thinking a quick drive around Black Hawk Drive at the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge might also do me some good.  I’ve been under a lot of stress lately and the best way I know of to fight off the blues is to get back to nature–just grab my camera and chase some birds or butterflied.

With conflicting thoughts in my head I made a sharp turn and decided to follow the river road,  I had also read somewhere that there might be a small cottage for rent. So I spun of on my little detour . . .

Driving slowly along the river was soothing to my soul.  Windows rolled down, I could feel the slight wisp of an autumn breeze.  The sunlight streaked through fluffy white clouds and sparkled when it hit the water.  Boats rocked gently back and forth as I counted the planks on an old wooden dock.  I marveled at the serenity of it all.

Soon I found myself at the end of the road with a big bridge to the right and another smaller bridge up ahead–a little to the left.  Without hesitation I mad a right turn and immediately realized I was heading across the wrong part of the river if the next town was my true destination.  I was now aimed at the wildlife refuge and, eventually, the beach.

IMG_5302

Oh well, I thought.  Moments before I couldn’t choose between a little time with nature and investigating a job lead with a company that was not returning my phone calls.  Maybe my soul will accomplish more at the beach.

I kept driving east.  The entire time I knew I was going on a detour that would eventually produce something.  What I didn’t know.

Deep in thought, I nearly wrecked the car when a large bird swooped amazingly close to my windshield.  This was not an ordinary bird–and it wasn’t one to normally fly so low.  Oh no . . . it was a big bald eagle!

I tried desperately to multi-task–slamming on the break with my left foot and swerving the steering wheel with one hand while turning my head and body to the side as I frantically dug through my camera bag trying to find a decent lens.  I was hopelessly slow and narrowly avoided the deep ditches on both sides of the road.

Determined to get a good shot of the eagle, I left my car running and still in the road as I stepped out, attached my camera lens and scrolled the sky for signs of the bird.  All to no avail.

Bummed out I proceeded to Black Hawk Drive where I believed I would find more wildlife.  When I arrived I was double bummed to find the roadway blocked and no entrée signs.  Weeks of endless rain made all the paths unsafe.

Now what?  I sat in my car and almost cried.  I seemed like a weird confirmation that I couldn’t even spend an hour or so photographing birds.  Yep, the pity party was setting in and I was starting to feel that everything I set my hand to was uncontrollably doomed.  For a brief moment I even considered stepping on the gas, flooring it through the barricade, ignoring the rules, no fear and no common sense.

IMG_5337

I decided to step out of the car and chase a black and yellow butterfly instead. A couple dozen photos later, I realized I may not always get what I want but I can find other options and learn to be content.  There is always something fabulous to be found in nature if we only take the time . . .

With that itty bit of insight I decided to go back where I started–across the bridge and either head on home or maybe head north to where I had initially planned.  Heading out of the wetlands, I found myself distracted once again.

IMG_5318IMG_5317IMG_5328

This time it was a big black bird that flew unnervingly close to my windshield.  Once again I slammed on my brakes and reached for my camera.  Never in all my bird watching and nature shooting had two birds flown so dangerously close to the front of my car.  This one wasn’t a bald eagle–there was to tell-tale white tip on the tail or white heathers all over the head.  But I don’t think it was a vulture either . . .

IMG_5313Vultures collapse in the middle of the road.  They simply flop out.  Or they congregate and lurk.  They pace back and forth.  They fuss and they fret.  They strut with an evil eye.  They peck at the ground and are drawn to their prey.  They thrive on discord and strife.  Vultures turn on each other.  They lie down in the middle of the road.

Lurking and looking to devour . . . Vultures don’t glide like eagles and those who watch them are never in awe of their beauty or their wonder.  No, they are creepy and vile.

IMG_5304

Meanwhile, eagles soar.  They astound us.  They inspire us.  They fly in circles picking up momentum as they go.  They allow the current of the wind to lift them higher and higher. The secret to the eagles success is not of their own accord–it is found in their confidence in the wind beneath their wings.

Eagles differ from other birds because they depend on something beyond their control and in that, they have a steady stride and an air of surety.

Ah, perhaps this is the lesson for you and me.  Depend on the force of nature or the hand of God to help us rise.  Too often we respond like vultures.  We fall or fly below the radar and we don’t know how regain the momentum needed to rise up and overcome.  She’s a sparrow when she’s broken but an eagle when she flies.

I’ve never seen an eagle flap or falter or fail.  They cut through the air like mighty warriors.  They fly sideways and circular with perfectly synchronized movements.  Wings up; wings down.  They go full force and pierce through the clouds without flinching.  They have great vision and relentlessly aim for the highest landing.  They never settle for anything less.  They probably never take detours and they get there quickly because they never get distracted.

IMG_5366

Once an eagle arrives, they simply sit and rest.  They scope out the land seeing what was left behind as well as what lies ahead.  Eagles inevitably arrive at their destination–safe and sound. They look regal and marvelous perched high and full of favor for all to see simply because they found the secret to success.

The secret is getting there, not of their own accord, but rather from trusting and relying on the wind beneath their wings.  When we are tired and hopeless and ready to give up trying, we should look to the birds and watch the way they fly.  There we can find new hope as we turn to the One who guides the wind.

Natures Way, Crawdads and Hope

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

imagesCAK11KB1A wise man once told me if I stopped striving and stood still long enough to watch some little crawdad’s scooting around near the bottom of a shallow muddy creek I would learn all I needed to know about managing too much stress.

The secret is in the way of nature . . .

What he was saying made no sense.  I knew nothing about nature or its ways.  How could a little bug in the mud teach me anything?

Crawdads are freshwater crustaceans resembling tiny lobsters to which they are related.  They are also known as crawfish, freshwater lobsters, or mudbugs.

Crawdads breathe through feather-like gills and are found in bodies of water. Some species are found in brooks and streams where there is fresh water running, while others thrive in swamps, ditches, and rice paddies. Most cannot tolerate polluted water. They feed on living and dead animals and plants.

My friend told me I could learn a lot about stress management by simply watching these little mud bugs.  I wasn’t so sure . . . but I knew he had plenty of opportunity to observe them since he works year round on oil rigs–sometimes in the rough seas off the coast of Norway and other times along the Gulf of Mexico.

I guess when you are miles from land and loved ones and surrounded by nothing but miles of open sky and endless water you get insight and clarity that the rest of us miss.  Such may be the case when it comes to connecting the behavior of crawdads to something we, as people, could employ to help rejuvenate ourselves into a better state of being.

To me it was just a really odd analogy.  It was almost silly.  Yet I was willing to entertain the thought since I so desperately needed anything that might help me to relax and de-stress.

It has been over five years now but I remember the conversation as if it happened yesterday.

“Watch . . .,” he said.  “Watch closely and see how these little critters make their way over to this tiny stick in the water.”

He was bent down, smiling and pointing his finger down towards the dirty creek.

I saw nothing but dirt and debris.  We were glaring into a small creek next to a boat launching area at the western end of the Louisiana Bayou off Highway I-10.

“Surely you see them,” he said.

I had no idea what he was talking about.  As he motioned forward, I stepped a little closer. He kept talking and I listened because I had a deep respect for just about anything he said and because I was desperate for any ideas on how I might get de-frazzled and back to a calm and normal state of being.

We had stopped to take a rest after a very tiresome ride and a week long mission trip to help rebuild houses in Galveston–homes that had been destroyed by Hurricane Ike. I was especially out of sorts and under some sort of emotional, physical or spiritual attack.  I had been unable to sleep and seeing all the damage and suffering the storm victims experienced had reminded me too much of a house fire my mother and I had endured.  Making matters worse Murphy’s Law had kicked in and as a team leader almost everything I set my hand to do seemed to fail or get overcomplicated.  I had lost sight of the mission I was on to serve and help others because I had let my emotions and my feelings get way out of control. I was a wreck because I believed I had disappointed myself, my team, those we came to help–and mostly my God.

All of this threw me into an almost manic state of mind.  So I was eager to get a release.  If watching crawdads in the water would help me, I was certainly willing to do so.  All I needed was some rest and all I wanted was a hug and some peace.

The crawdads might not have helped me that day but the idea that nature has a way to make us relax and that valuable life lessons can be found in the way nature and animals and God intertwine is something I did manage to take away–and that has never left me.

My friend pointed out that these tiny little mud bugs instinctively gravitate to sticks and plants to get nourishment and to find their rest until they are ready to drift back out into the murky water.

“See how they cling to that branch,” he asked while still pointing his finger into the water.

“Yes,” I slowly agreed.

“They hang on right there for just as long as they need to,” he said.  “They stay as long as it takes for them to get restored, re-energized and ready to go back out into their muddy little world.”

I nodded again because I finally understood where his talk was leading.

“We have to do that too–we have to find a safe place and then cling to the branch, cling to Jesus . . . ” he said.

Ah . . . suddenly I got it.

It was the first time in my whole life that I had ever stopped and stepped away from my busy-ness long enough to contemplate nature.

imagesCADU42C8Today I am so glad I spent that time watching those tiny lobster-shaped bug-like creatures swim around in dirty water.  It was an odd lesson but one I still remember and cling to whenever I get restless or weary.

Mud bugs clinging to sticks.  The fuel for life is in the plant.  Jesus is the branch . . .

When stress comes look to nature.  That simple lesson never left me.  When I feel stressed, I now know I can simply walk or sit or use my camera to capture the beauty and the mystery of how God works wonders in the sunrise or the sunset, in the flight of a butterfly, in the intricate details of a strand of wheat or a flower–in nature.  God clearly cares for and restores all of us (from the tiniest mud bug to the most anxious, stressed out and complicated person alive).  Our hope is always found in nature and the secret is in the stillness and in a total reliance on God’s plan and His provision.

An ASAP Hope Request

Originally posted on The HOPE Report:

“Restoration and hope is available each time you return to God.”
Jim George

When an emergency arises on the mission or the battle field or on a deserted terrain, a seasoned traveler instinctively knows what to do:  they send up a smoke signal, light a flare and carve an urgent message in the dirt.  Its called an SOS.

1621785_743041732373962_1850938442_nThe same is true when a person of faith reaches the end of their rope or has taken on so much of an emotional, physical or spiritual struggle they know they can’t make it alone.  They feel trapped even when there is no cage or chains to bind them so they send an emergency prayer to the heavens–an ASAP hope request.

I have been to that place.  I am not ashamed to admit I can’t make it on my own.  I need God’s help.  I rely on His mercy and His grace.  Too often…

View original 1,087 more words

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 816 other followers