My dad passed away last Tuesday and his funeral is this Tuesday. I told my dad that I would share his testimony with the world. So I am starting with a poem that I wrote about him. My dad spent the last few years of his life testifying to Jesus through his talents in leather craft. He made 4 renditions of Jesus as the Good Shepherd.

 

I love my dad, oh can’t you see.

He’s been a vessel for the Lord since before I was three.

God is our provider. He loves unconditionally. Such things through my dad I could always see.

He had a heart for giving, and providing for all. My dad had every reason to stand very tall.

I needed for nothing, not one thing. God used my dad as the shelter of His wing.

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I love my dad a whole big bunch. He always made the greatest lunch.

Out on the grill, oh what a thrill. With my dad’s steaks I always took my fill.

And oh the hamburgers, the best I’ve tasted. Even the leftovers were never wasted.

Starting in May that’s where he’d be. For the best summer that was the key.

I love my dad, oh can’t you see. He was truly filled with much God-given creativity.

His God-given talents with hobbies and business, through all of them to me he witnessed.

I always admired his scrimshaw and leatherwork. To have such a talented dad was always a perk.

I love my dad. He made for a great team, mainly because he supported every dream.

From my playing tennis to even softball, there he was standing tall.

No matter if I struck out or got a homerun, my dad behind his camera made everything fun.

I love my dad, oh can’t you see. We had the best vacations since I was three.

Whether by plane, or even RV, from Mount Rushmore to the sea, it was always the best thing to little ol’ me.

I love my dad, he is a king. He found joy in every little thing.

He kept an upbeat heart, a joy to be around. I hardly ever saw a frown.

He lived a life truly worthy. It was a life that gave God glory.

I will always be honored to share his story.

 

Bloom Where God Plants You

 

The desert and the parched land will be glad;
    the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom;
    it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
    the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the Lord,
    the splendor of our God (Isaiah 35:1-3 NIV).

 

A morning back in May of 2010 my devotional was on God giving us divine appointments. The author of the devotional asked us if we knew that God has an appointment for us every day to keep. She went on to mention though that we can however, miss our divine appointments if we are too busy thinking about our own agendas. She then said that if we were not experiencing the joy of our salvation that it may be because we were actually missing these daily divine appointments. And I would add, that this means that we are actually missing our testimony, for these divine experiences are what make up God’s story for us; they are what help us to realize that God has a personal relationship with us and a specific plan for us each day.  These appointments help keep us focused on eternity, on the fact that we exist for something other than the frustrations of everyday life.

Anyway, the author went on to talk about such a divine appointment in her life, a testimony that God used to set the stage for a divine experience I was about to have later in the day.  She said that one day while she was shopping for makeup that she noticed that a woman working at the counter was in emotional pain.  She said that even though the counter was full of customers that she pulled the woman aside and asked her if she could pray for her.  The lady immediately burst into tears and told her that her husband had just had an affair and left her and the children.  This lady then accompanied her to church where the pastor gave a message that talked about how God is the father to the fatherless and a husband to the husbandless. The lady and her kids accepted Jesus Christ that day. Anyway, after reading this story, I said a prayer to God asking Him to help me love like that, to give me opportunities to truly love.

Later, on my way to work, I began to listen to a Christian radio station in my car. The announcers were talking to one of several musicians that were currently in London for a music tour, one that involved several Christian artists. Anyway, as I was listening to this interview, my heart began to ache.  Ever since my college days, when God called me to be a missionary, I have wanted a life like the one they were living.  One of my biggest desires has always been to travel the world doing the type of ministry that these men were doing through their music, and so in that moment, I found myself envying their calling. I began to greatly envy the fact that they were being provided for while fulfilling God’s call on their life, while being in full-time ministry. I also envied the fact that they had already found God’s calling on their lives and were living it out at such young ages, while I felt like I was still waiting, long after college. 

Well anyway, this ache of my heart reached God for I then heard His still small voice say to me in that moment, “Susan, you have been bought with a price.  You are not your own.  Trust that I know My will for your life.  Bloom where you are planted.”

I knew God was right, and it wasn’t until that moment that I saw just how perfect that devotional had been for me that day, for I realized that I truly had not been experiencing the joy of my salvation. I knew that I had been focused too much on my own agenda; that I had failed to see the testimony that God was continuing to write in my life, even within the everyday. But God knew and He loved me enough not to leave me in this place.

The day that followed for me, as you can imagine, was a good day, a really good day; one that left me actually clapping my hands to the Lord at the end. To start with, I had recently bought a new laptop a few months before, one that totaled around $300, and although my parents had already paid for it, I really wanted to pay them back, needing $100 more in order to do so. And since saving up enough money to pay them back was taking longer than I expected, I was left questioning whether I was supposed to have bought the laptop to begin with.  However, every time I asked God about it, He kept telling me that I was supposed to buy it and that He would provide.  Well anyway, when I got to the bookstore that evening, my manager approached me and said that he needed to talk to me.  He had a strange look on his face and he made that comment in a way that made me fear that I had done something wrong.  But before I could entertain that negative thought any longer he said “You won $100.” 

“What?!” I said in shock.

I briefly thought he was joking because I didn’t even know that a contest had been going on, but apparently our company had been holding a contest to promote store safety and had picked winners from each district, I being the winner from my specific district.  He then told me to go and look at my name on the bulletin board in the back room and as I began to walk back there, he said that no one from his store had ever won a contest before.  Then when I got back to the back room and looked at my name on the bulletin board, I heard God gently say, “Susan, this money is for your laptop,” and with that comment I had no doubt, and deep inside me I knew that this was what this money was for.  God is faithful.

Well, things just got even better.  As I was working, eventually a lady came in who engaged my help in finding a graduation gift for her daughter who was graduating from middle school.  I helped her a little bit, and although part of the process was helping her find thank you cards to give out to those that had helped with a funeral, I didn’t think much about it.  Eventually, she mentioned that the reason why she wanted to find something special for her daughter was because she had just lost her father. I eventually put two and two together in my mind and realized that this man probably had been this woman’s husband as well. 

Later, as I was standing at the front counter, I looked over at the woman and noticed how sad she looked. She looked as if she was holding in tears and at that moment I felt a very strong love for her.  I even looked up to God and said, “I love her” and asked for a chance to hug her, a chance that did come.  As I was putting some books away near her, I eventually stood up and asked her if I could pray for her.  When she said yes, I then asked her if I could give her a hug, and again she said yes.  I then embraced her and she just seemed to fall into me.  I then prayed for her, and for her daughter. Finally I was then inspired to share with her that God had set the stage through a testimony that I had read earlier in the day, as a means to let her know that God had been the one giving her a hug through a divine appointment.  I told her that God had sent her to me, and she said, “No, God sent you to me.”

After this experience I began to have a desire to buy some kind of reminder of my need to bloom where I was planted; that God can use me to be a missionary in my own backyard. I began to look around for a plaque that said “Bloom” but never really found any I liked or that I wanted to spend the money on. So, I let it go.

However, not too long after this, I ended up having a garage sale and my Bible study leader ended up donating some items for me to sell. But, I have to admit that I ended up keeping these particular items. Maybe it was because of the way that they were laying together in the box she handed me, I don’t know. I just knew deep down within me that God was speaking to me through them; that these items had not been given to me by accident. For anyway, one of them was an herb garden planter with seed packets included, never been used, and the other item was a wooden sign that said “Bloom.” I instantly smiled at God and told Him that with His help that I would BLOOM WHERE I WAS PLANTED.

 

 

Hold on to the Power of the Cross 

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). 

In 2009, my boyfriend Joe and I spent a lot of time downtown where we were given opportunities to display and sell our handmade creations. At that time, I became really intrigued with fused glass jewelry pendants and wanted to try making some myself. At first I struggled with whether or not I should spend my money on a microwave kiln that I would need to make them. I prayed about it, and as I did, I heard God say, “Susan, find joy in this endeavor.” So, I bought one and was really glad I did for making these pendants did bring me a lot of joy and happiness.  I had actually wanted to make these types of pendants for awhile but hadn’t had the means to do so. I also struggled with the fact that it seemed to be a very common art form at that time and I didn’t want to make what everyone else was making. There was even a lady that sold fused glass pendants at the same places that I did. But there was one thing I never found in her collection, even though she was a Christian, and that was a cross.  

As I began this endeavor I could see that it was God-inspired. The fused glass was hard to work with and even though I was new to this art form with God’s help I actually ended up making a cross.  It was beautiful! From there, again God willing, I made even more. I truly seemed as if I had found my niche.  I made 14 crosses before my jewelry premier in a new downtown store. The premier didn’t go as well as I had hoped, mainly due to bad weather that we had that evening. But I was blessed that two friends came, as well as my aunt, to support my work.   

When the evening was over I packed up most of my jewelry except a few pieces that were to remain in the store on consignment. I then mentioned to the owner that I wanted to bring her more glass pendants to sell, and she replied, “Sure bring more, but maybe you can make more besides crosses in order to appeal to more people.” Her comment surprised me and hurt my feelings, for my crosses were an integral part of my collection. I began to really struggle with whether my jewelry appealed to people. Then I began to doubt my calling to sell jewelry at all. 

The next day at the art market where Joe and I had also been selling our art on the weekends, I began to struggle with the fact that I did seem to have crosses everywhere. I thought about the kind of people that came to the art market and the style of art they were looking for. I looked around me at all the different styles of art. The art on the wall was squiggly lines and blotches on scrap wood. As I examined the art more I began to notice skulls in the blotches. All of a sudden I felt like I just didn’t fit in.   

That evening as I lay in bed I needed encouragement. I strongly believed that God had directed me to these art venues. I began to encourage myself with the reminder that God had inspired me to make what interested me and had meaning to me. God had even told me to enjoy making this jewelry. With these thoughts, God then laid on my heart that I didn’t need to focus on whether or not the cross appealed to others. This thought led me to think about the day when I will stand before the Lord. On that day the only thing that will matter is how much the cross did appeal to me and that I did focus on it. 

I continued with this struggle at the art market the next day. As Joe and I sat and talked we came to the conclusion that we just needed to find our audience. We hoped that there were people out there that would be blessed by our cross creations. However, even after our conversation, I was still frustrated. So, in my frustration I asked God if He wanted me to continue selling my jewelry at the art market the following week. I heard, “Susan, hold on.” 

After that, God did move. He brought our audience, for the next people to walk into the art market were two sisters who had been referred to me by a friend of mine. To God’s glory they were like “cross this” and “cross that.” They were enamored by my crosses and they couldn’t seem to get enough. One of the women even shared that she had one of my wire-wrapped crosses from my previous collection. Blessed, I told them how God had sent them to encourage me during this time of doubt. As I shared my struggles with them about whether my crosses would have an audience, they hugged me and told me to “hold on.” 

After the sisters left, one of the owners of the art market came into the art market with her granddaughter and two of her granddaughter’s friends. She had promised that they could buy one thing at the market that day. Even though these two 10-year-old girls could have selected anything in the entire market, they selected my cross pendants. God was still moving! Then, another customer came and ordered two more cross pendants, and by then I praised God for allowing the cross to go forth with these individuals – my audience. His audience! 

The next day, I spoke with the art market owner who had brought the girls the day before.  I told her about my recent struggle with the cross jewelry. She then shared that her granddaughter’s friend had given her cross to her mother. The mother was ministered to and inspired by the cross. She even ended up asking her daughter where she could get another one.  The owner then pointed out to me that because of where my booth was positioned in the art market that it was the first thing that customers saw when they entered. She pointed out that this meant that the cross was the first thing that people saw when they entered. We agreed that this placement hand God’s hand all over it.  I then told her that because of the sale of my crosses that I had finally made more than my booth fee that weekend, and she said that I had been the only one of the vendors to do so. Instantly, what God then brought to my mind, was that even though it had been slow at the art market and at that other store the night before, the cross still won out. The cross found the most favor. 

I have continued to proudly make cross jewelry ever since, and I do so because there is power in the cross. For upon the cross Jesus died for our sins. He then rose from the dead so that we would have the hope of eternal life. This is truly something worth holding on to.      

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18 NIV).

 

You can find my cross jewelry at www.BridgeStories.org

God Romances: A Coffee Story

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. (Psalm 34:8 NIV).

 

                In 2006, after separating from my boyfriend Joe, I entered a season of heartbreak. It was one of the hardest seasons of my life. However, it was a season that God used for His glory. He used this heartache to draw me closer to Him, and as I did, He began to reveal Himself to me more and more. This story is one of many during this season that God used to help me fall more in love with Him, my Ultimate Love.   

                During this time I was in a women’s Bible study that was reading through a book called Captivating, by John and Stasi Eldredge. At the height of my heartache we happened to enter a chapter on romance. Supposedly, the chapter talks about letting God romance you to see the blessings that He will give if you ask and become aware of His manifesting presence. I say “supposedly” because I skipped this chapter. It made me angry because I did not like the idea of resorting to God for romancing in place of Joe; in place of a man.

                However, even though I did not read it, the girls in my group talked about a story from this chapter that caught my attention. Apparently Stasi really wanted to see a whale since her husband had seen one without her. Missing that experience upset her, until God gave her a special moment all her own when she walked out onto a beach that was covered with starfish.  After hearing this story from the others who read the chapter, I was very childish and actually stuck my finger in my mouth and down my throat to point out how this concept made me gag. Despite my childish behavior, my study group still encouraged me to give it a chance.

                “Okay!” I thought to myself, “I will give it a chance.”

The next morning during my time with the Lord, reluctantly, I said, “Okay God, romance me.” Instantly coffee flashed into my mind. I then thought to myself, “How could God really romance me with coffee? It seems like such a trivial, earthly thing.” Later I began to think about coffee again and its importance to me. It went back to my Paris café experiences. After college I spent a year in Paris, France with a Christian organization and ever since then my favorite past time has been to talk with someone over coffee. I love the intimacy that a cup of coffee can bring, or really any warm beverage. In fact, I love it so much that I even began calling my quiet times, or my times with God “Coffee Times.” With that said, I also began to have a strong affinity for coffee paraphernalia, mostly because coffee began to make me think of God. Even to this day, I love to talk to God with a cup of coffee in my hand.

                Anyway, with coffee still on my mind, after work that day, I decided to go and buy myself a single cup coffee maker. I really did not need to spend the money, but in my gloom I decided to treat myself to something special. I headed to Walmart and Target to do some price checking and I settled on a coffee maker I found at Walmart. I was picky and I wanted one that was a certain size and I picked one up that was priced at $49.99. This was more than I wanted to pay, especially since I had decided to get a few more things while I was there, all things that can really add up in price. My spirit sank as I tallied the cost of my purchases, but I headed to the checkout anyway.

                The cashier scanned the coffee maker first. Then, after she scanned the other items she looked up at me and said, “$37.45.”

                “What!? Did you get that?” I asked her as I pointed to the coffee maker.

                “Yes I think so. It must be on sale or something,” was her nonchalant reply.

                She then handed me a list with the exact price of my items. The top of the list said, “Coffee maker $4.00.” Instantly I knew what was happening. You should have seen my face. God bought me a coffee maker. He did romance me with coffee! I left Walmart having spent less than what the coffee maker alone should have cost.

                To continue the story, I went back to Walmart again the following week and found three more of that same coffee maker. This second time they were only $2.00 each! God gave me four coffee makers for $10.00. He doesn’t just give you one apple; He gives you the whole bushel. This experience made me think of Jehoshaphat, a king in the Old Testament. He relinquished a battle to the Lord and ended up not only defeating Moab and Ammon, but walking away with plunder too. As it says in 2 Chronicles 20:25 (NIV), “So Jehoshaphat and his men went to carry off their plunder, and found among them a great amount of equipment and clothing and also articles of value – more than they could take away. There was so much plunder that it took three days to collect it.”

Of course I didn’t need four coffee makers, so I gave a few away! That week, my coffee never tasted so sweet. God romanced me with coffee! He truly is our Ultimate Love.

 

 

Shine Like a Star

“Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain” (Philippians 2:14-16 NIV)

A few Christmases ago God taught me an important lesson, a lesson that I have been reminded of as I have looked at my Christmas star lit up in my window each night during this holiday season.

A few years ago I went to Wal-Mart to buy a movie for Joe for Christmas, and as I went to check out at the register I ended up behind an older gentleman with an oxygen tube. There was only one person ahead of him in the process of checking out and so seeing that all I had was one movie he told me to go ahead of him.  I said, “Are you sure?”  And he replied, “Yes, for it is only me.”  He then joked that I could buy his cookies because his grandchildren would be blessed.  He had four bags of cookies.

Anyway, in that moment my heart really felt compassion for this man, for I began to hope that he really did have grandchildren and that he truly wasn’t really just by himself. But no matter, for I found myself whispering to the female clerk that I wanted to buy his cookies. And well, she was greatly taken aback and began asking me if I knew him, but I simply told her that he had joked with me.  She then began to ring up my movie and his cookies and put them in a bag, and all the while neither of us knew if the gentleman was attuned to what was happening or not.  She however continued to be amazed and I could tell that she had never seen anyone do what I was doing. So, sweetly and genuinely she told me to have a Merry Christmas. 

After it was over I later mentioned to Joe that that moment may have been more for the woman then for the older gentleman, which is all the more reason why I found myself later regretting the fact that I hadn’t even once thought to look at that woman and say, “The love of Christ compels me,” or something of the like that would have given God the glory and pointed her to Him. I mean, I didn’t even happen to have my silver cross necklace on in that moment, which was very rare for me.

Well anyway, the next day I did a devotional out of the Our Daily Bread on James 1:19-27.  Starting with verse 22 James says, “But be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.  For if anyone is a hearer of the Word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in the mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.  But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”

Anyway what really stuck out to me was the inspirational that went along with this passage.  It said that “we are reminded that we as Christ-followers are living observed lives.  Others are watching us.  And our concern for others, particularly the least among us, is an expression of the compassion Christ displayed to the hurting and outcast of His generation.

James, the half-brother of Jesus, challenged believers to put the love of Christ into practice. . .

The example of Christ and the words of Scripture inspire us to care for our hurting world.  Who is watching us?  Our world is watching.  And so is our Lord!”

We after reading that, as you can imagine, I once again started to think about that Wal-Mart moment, and found myself again regretting not being able to look at that cashier and tell her that the love of Christ compelled me. For, I began to even believe that it wasn’t by accident that I didn’t even have my silver cross necklace on, because I always had it on.  It is extremely rare to find me without it, and yet in that one moment it wasn’t there to speak for me.  

I then started thinking about whether or not Christ would be able to shine through me without it, if it wasn’t there to speak for me like it was for me once when I was in Japan and didn’t know the language. Back then in order to witness to an older gentleman and his family I had pointed to my cross necklace and then bowed, after he had bowed to the Buddhist alter in his house to show me his tradition. If I didn’t have a physical cross anywhere on my body, would people still know that I was a Christian? 

Well, wouldn’t you know it, but during this same quiet time back then God brought to my mind the fact that it had taken over a year for me to get around to putting new light bulbs into the light fixtures outside my house, but I finally did it. But to save money, I still turned them off right before I went to bed however, which was something I didn’t used to do. I used to leave them on all night long in order to bring light to the darkness and to bless my neighbors. So anyway, that night, like I had been doing, I turned them off, but I think I quenched the Spirit, for I began to hear a still small voice telling me that it was time to shine. 

Anyway, the revelation that all of this led me too was that maybe I couldn’t depend on my necklace anymore, for it was just a symbol.  Christ however is not just a symbol, He is the Word.  He is the Word made flesh, but now I was the Word made flesh, Christ in me.  I began to reflect on the fact that we should be living so much in the power of the Holy Spirit that when people see our lives that they know that there is a God.  Like I once said, I want to live in such a way that people want my God; that they want to taste and see that He is good.  But was I doing that? You know, it was hard for me to think of never wearing my silver cross necklace again, but I began to think that maybe that’s actually what I needed; that maybe if I didn’t wear it that I would be more conscious of the need to represent the Lord with my actions and words.  That I would be more conscious of the fact that it was I that needed to shine for people more so than my necklace, for as Christ’s body we are now the Word made flesh. 

Anyway, after this I started to get a strong desire to have some sort of outside light Christmas display, mostly to bless my neighbors.  It was a strong desire which is why I knew deep down that it wasn’t necessarily to please my neighbors or to be like them, I just simply wanted to share in the blessing that it was to have so many houses in our circle lit up, the way I used to feel when I kept my outside house lights on all night.  So anyway, around this time I started looking, whenever I had the chance, for outdoor nativity sets.  But, sadly they were very scarce. However, eventually on my search my eye caught a star.  It was simply a star made of white lights to be hung on your door or in a window, and it was even on sale. And well, I don’t know how to explain it, but I just instantly knew that this was it. So I bought it and ended up hanging it on the inside of my house, putting it in my bedroom window, which is my home’s front window, and it shone bright from the inside out.

Around this same time, due to his anxiety over getting all of his Christmas presents finished, Joe asked if he could sleep on my basement couch, for all of his materials were in my basement where he had been making his gifts and he knew he’d be working late to finish them. Well, at first I hesitated, but then told him that it would be okay and I went upstairs to bed.

Anyway, the next day after the events that I am about to talk about, Joe mentioned that he had also had thoughts that night revolving around the fact that he shouldn’t have stayed at my house.  But anyway, that morning I got up and started to have my quiet time in my bedroom since Joe was down in my basement, my usual quiet time room. That morning before my quiet time, although I took the time to put on my makeup, I didn’t do my hair but simply pushed it back with a headband.  I also simply put on a brown zip up sweater without another shirt underneath.  And well, although decent, it made for a funny scenario that I have to say made some of my friends laugh. 

Anyway, as I was sitting in my chair having my quiet time in my bedroom, since the curtain to my front window was raised, I had a clear view of Joe’s nieces approaching my front door.  It was clear that they had decided to stop by since they saw Joe’s car parked in front of my house. Apparently they had stayed the night at their friend’s house that lives in my same cul-de-sac. Well, instantly I became very anxious and didn’t know what to do.  My first instinct was to hide and of course not answer the door, but instead I went downstairs. I then noticed that Joe had gotten up and had gone into the back room.  He was frantically getting dressed and although we talked back and forth about ignoring the door, and about what we would say if we answered it, Joe decided to run up and answer the door.  However, the reason why I didn’t want to answer it was because of the way we looked, for like I mentioned before, I actually looked like I had just quickly thrown on clothing and my hair was messy, and Joe had also just thrown on clothing and his hair was also messy, so as you can imagine the appearance of impropriety was all around.

Anyway, God was exposing our tolerance and our indifference, for we used to be very cautious about the appearance of impropriety. However, it has become easy to let myself get to a place where I did not care about what my neighbors thought, mostly because I hardly know them. But, as you can see, God was teaching us a lesson. He did care. He cares that His children shine for Him in all things.

Well, I ended up hiding in the basement, in a back room, while Joe went and answered the door.  He briefly talked to his nieces and the neighbor kid, showing them what he had been working on in my basement. I learned later that he mentioned that the reason why I hadn’t come to the door was because my hair was messy.  Ug!  How awful.

I was so frustrated, and not just with Joe. I was frustrated because I wasn’t actually doing anything shameful.  In fact I had been having my quiet time, spending time with the Lord.  But nonetheless, I see now that the appearance of impropriety was hiding the truth, maybe not from God but from people, my neighbors. And well, it greatly bothered me because I was doing something that these girls should have been told about. 

Anyway, Joe and I had a long discussion afterward and well, it was then that he admitted that he shouldn’t have stayed and even felt at the time that he shouldn’t have, and we both from that moment on decided that he would not sleep on my couch again, not until we are officially married. You know, it broke our hearts that we were not being a testament to his nieces of another way to live, for because of this situation we were not seen as set apart, as living a different kind of life then other people in their lives that we know of, even though we were.

And on that note what I really believe that God was saying is that just like I can’t hide behind my cross necklace, the same applied to the cross that hangs outside my front door.  The tangible cross sadly has lost a lot of power, for nowadays most everyone uses crosses as jewelry and decoration, whether they believe in the power of the cross or not. I mean, just because someone wears a cross necklace or has some sort of cross decoration in or on their home or garden, doesn’t mean that what truly goes on inside of their home glorifies the Lord, and this goes for not only our tangible home structures but our bodies as well.

Well as I eventually went back and finished my time with the Lord, I began to reflect on how God had been calling me to shine, and I came to realize once again that my house was much like my personality.  My natural instinct is to hide. As an introvert, I have no problem being alone and or sitting at Christ’s feet soaking in His presence. However, what I believe that God was showing me is that even though the inside of my house, this physical structure that I live in, may glorify the Lord and testify to the Lord, as represented by that cross that hangs outside my front door, no one really knows it.  Likewise, even though my heart may glorify the Lord, maybe having a constant “quiet time,” as represented by the cross I wear around my neck, how is anyone truly to know?  What am I doing or saying to show the world that God is alive; that He is alive in me? Because for all they know I am just another one of those average American Sunday morning only Christians, or worse not even a Christian at all.

So, I asked the Lord to forgive me. I told Him that I needed to stop “hiding” away from people, and that I needed to start testifying. I needed to stop hiding my story, my light under a bushel. I needed to let my actions and my words point to God, to glorify Him.

To finish the story, after asking that God would help us with the above scenario, He did. He calmed the storm and in fact it made most people laugh, including Joe’s mom and his sister, his niece’s mother. However, it did serve a great purpose, for it did bring conviction to Joe and I and he still hasn’t slept on my couch overnight since.

Lord, even now please help me to shine for my neighbors, not with just artificial light from a fake star that still shines from my front window, but truly from a spiritual light that comes from within me; that comes from the person who lives within me, Jesus Christ. Thank You.

Finally, that next Monday when I met with my lady friend Connie, she gave me my birthday present. It was a star necklace. God was speaking. And from that moment on, I decided to wear it in place of my cross, not as a symbol to everyone else, like my cross necklace had been, but as a reminder to myself that in order to be Christ to others that I needed to SHINE! So today during this 2012 Christmas season I say through my words and actions with God’s help: “The love of Christ compels me!”

Join me!

 

 

 

The other day I found myself inspired to pray to God for help. I prayed once again as I had been doing that He would renew me; that He would help me feel like it was January 1st and not the end of August. For you know, I was so eager and motivated at the beginning of the year to work on all those areas, with God’s help, that He was calling me to work on, but as the year has passed, I have gotten sluggish and my motivation has started to disappear. However, there is still a lot of year left and so I prayed to God to help me cease it for His glory.

Well, my prayer then evolved to asking the Lord to give me a “New Spring,” a prayer spurred on by how God had set the stage in my life. Anyway, it all started when I discovered that I had a bunny that had made his home right outside my basement window. The sight of me at first used to scare him away but nowadays he just looks at me, and he has been a blessing. I have enjoyed waking up to look at him awhile before starting my time with the Lord every morning.

Then, as Joe walked into my brother and sister-in-law’s house for lunch yesterday he mentioned that he had passed some Bradford Pear trees near their house that had blooms on them. Although he said that this wasn’t a good sign, that it was a sign of the bad weather we have been having, as I began to think about my bunny and found myself inspired to pray that God would give me a “New Spring,” God began to lay on my heart that He was. And, I even have bunnies and blooming Spring trees to prove it, just to make sure that I got the message.

I then opened up my devotional that day to find that it revolved around Ephesians 4: 22-24 (NIV) which says, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

I praise the Lord that with His strength and power that every day can be a New Spring. He makes everything new, always! With God all things are possible, even Springtime in August!

8-16-12

Monday I was inspired to walk around the park, and as I walked I couldn’t help but just constantly thank God for the opportunity. It was beautiful outside that day and despite the fact that it is August and that we have been enduring a drought and heat wave, God sent a brief cold front, for during this August afternoon walk it was only 74 degrees Fahrenheit.

At one point on my walk I looked up into the sky and saw what looked like an eagle soaring. I studied him closely and then of course found myself quoting Isaiah 40: 29-31, while also thanking God for the day and for the strength to walk. I did this because all of a sudden I just knew deep in my heart that God was giving me this chance to walk for a reason, as a way to renew my strength and I delighted in tuning my mind and my heart into His Presence, which is something that I had been lacking for awhile. And God knew this.

Well, that Bible passage has stayed in my head all week, and this morning during my quiet time with the Lord, I found myself inspired to lift this verse up to Him once again in prayer. I found myself inspired once again based on the fear for my health that has come up again, as well as for my dad’s health, that I would not grow weary or faint, praying that God would renew my strength. And well, God spoke, for my devotional today was actually based around Isaiah 40: 27-31, which says, “Why do you complain, Jacob? Why do you say, Israel, “My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God”? 28 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. 29 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 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.”

Thank You Lord for the reminder that You are with me; that I am not alone, and that You will give me strength for whatever lay ahead.

I am leaving with my family today to go to another city, to where they are transferring my dad’s care. During his appointment tomorrow morning they will do some tests that will tell us more about the treatment for the cancer in his liver.

But, I am not alone. God’s strength is with me, and it is with my family, and with my dad. And remember, His strength is always with you as well. God will always give us the strength we need to endure what is before us, always!

Please pray for my dad. Thank You!

I don’t usually water my backyard as well as I do my front yard, mainly because I am hooked up to city water and it costs too much. However, the other day I went out back to check on the apples on my apple tree in order to see if they were ready to pick. As I walked toward my tree I began to notice how dry the ground was. It was dry and cracked. There were literally big, deep cracks in the soil and as I walked I could see the dust rise up. The evidence that we are in a drought right now was very evident.

Anyway, I then got closer to my apple tree and at first everything looked okay. But eventually as I continued to look I noticed that a really big branch had snapped and was dangling from the tree. So I did my best to pick all the apples off of that particular branch because I didn’t want them to go to waste. As I picked the apples, I noticed that right where the branch had snapped that it really did look dry and brittle. It was evident why in that state that this branch couldn’t bear the weight of the apples hanging off of it. And with that, of course I eventually began to put two and two together and realize that like the ground I had been walking on that the tree also was not getting enough water.

Well, of course this scared me a little bit because I wanted to be a good steward with my apple tree, with the blessings that God gives me, and so I got out my water hose that night and aimed the sprinkler head onto the apple tree. I let the water run for several hours.

Before I went to bed that night I couldn’t help but think about the spiritual significance surrounding this scenario. I began to think about how important it is that we, as children of God, also have enough water. It is likewise important that we have regular watering; that we go to the well and spend time with Jesus, the true Living Water. If we do not spend adequate time in the presence of the Lord, we will become like that tree. We, likewise, will become spiritually dry and brittle. As Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5 NIV).

Anyway, the next morning as I began my quiet time with the Lord I found myself praying for my physical body, actually equating it to my apple tree in my prayers. The reason for this is because of some of the symptoms that I have been having with my knees, symptoms that seem a lot like those that my mom is having due to the fact that she is in need of knee replacement surgery. So, I began to cry out to the Lord for strength in my body, especially since I’m much younger than her, fearing what my body will be like in 30 more years. And well, as I did this, what came to my mind was the fact that I also was probably dehydrated, sensing that I wasn’t drinking enough water, something that sadly I am prone to do. So, I then began to pray that God would give me the strength and desire to drink more water, which again isn’t something I do very easily. Anyway, essentially as I went on, I began to really see myself much like that apple tree, in not only the spiritual sense, but also in the physical.

Well God then spoke, for I went on to pick up my devotional for that day and found that it was based around Isaiah 58:11. As I read I began to cry because I knew that God was speaking to me, and I also instantly knew that there had been purpose in events of the day before. I knew that God had set the stage in order to speak to me. Anyway, Isaiah 58:11 (NIV) says, “The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”

God is good! So, let’s go to the Well that never runs dry. Let’s go to the Living Water, to the One who will always quinch our thirst.

 

 

A New Heart and a New Spirit

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26 NIV).

 

 On June 1st, 2012 I ended up sending my friend Connie a text message, telling her that I had my new window installed the day before, which had been a gift from her. She responded back by saying, “Thank You Lord for her new window so that she can see Your world in a new and refreshing way. “ Her prayer blessed me and as I came to find out later, also seemed very prophetic. For anyway, my devotional that day went on to encourage me based on Ezekiel 18:25-31 to repent and to accept God’s invitation to have a new heart and a new spirit. This of course made me think of her prayer that through my new window that I could see God’s world in a new and refreshing way.

Then on what seemed like a not so positive note, that same day I ended up discovering for the first time that I had lost my favorite cross necklace. I cannot even begin to tell you the hurt I felt realizing that it was gone. I had taken it off and placed it within a pocket in my purse one day when I went swimming, and having started putting my keys in that same pocket, I know that it must have fallen out in some parking lot as I reached for my keys. Anyway, my heart ached. It ached because I had lost one of my most precious possessions. I loved that necklace, that necklace that I bought when I was a little girl from my favorite Christian bookstore, and that necklace that had been with me my entire life as I had traveled around this world.

For the next several days I hurt and struggled with confusion as I lifted this concern up to the only One that really understood the significance that I had placed onto this necklace. For He knew; God knew that next to the computer that held my testimony that this would have been the one thing that I would grab from a fire. Plus, God knew the reason why I loved this necklace so much. He knew that it was because it also spoke of my testimony, for as I thought about all of the things that I had done while wearing this necklace, well, it became a tangible reminder of my life’s story, of the abundant life that He had given me up until that point. 

A few days later, worried again about my future as I had been a lot during that time, fearing that my work situation was never going to change, change from what it was into more of a Christian ministry, I heard, “Be patient my child. Your time will come. Enjoy the time that you have been given for it will not last forever.” And God was right, for my situation was good. He had given me a season of helping my family. I just couldn’t seem to dismiss the longing that was within me for more, for adventure and for more Christ-centered travel like I used to have.

Well, a few more days after that, I once again began to process my situation. I feared settling into my current job and falling into what God once warned me of, of waking up 15 years later and realizing that I had settled. Yet, again to this fear God spoke, this time saying, “Susan, you have a great life ahead of you. Don’t be afraid that you will miss it. I won’t let you.” Then, the following day God spoke again, for my friend Melissa was inspired to buy me a plaque and to give to me. It said, “The best is yet to be.”

A few more days later, in anticipation of my family leaving soon for our vacation to Colorado, and also after finding out that Melissa was going to be in Colorado that same week, I was inspired to ask around and to plan something that I had always wanted to do in Colorado, go on a hot air balloon ride. This was something that I had wanted to do for as long as I could remember, trying a few times on past trips to Colorado to get it done, but never having it work out, mainly due to the fact that the rest of my family didn’t share this desire. But this time however, especially due to Melissa’s excitement and involvement, it just seemed possible. And well, sure enough I managed to get her on board, which wasn’t hard, along with my brother. So anyway, through my planning it seemed like a done deal even though I realized that I would be paying for it myself.

The next morning I got the money out of my savings, although as God knew I didn’t like using my savings account for things like this, and drove to my parent’s house, ready to hand it over. Then as I drove I began to think about how I also needed to buy gas, simply making matters worse.  But, I then heard God’s still small voice say very affirmatively, “Susan I will provide.” And provide He did, for when I got to my parent’s house the first thing that happened was that my dad initiated that we all go and get gas for he wanted to use his gas discount on more than just himself.  So, my dad paid for my gas.  Then later in the day as Melissa and I were officially planning our hot air balloon excursion, my dad came towards us and gently told us that he would pay for it all.  Wow! God is good, always using my dad as a wonderful vessel.

Well, then the day came for us to leave for Colorado, but before doing so, as I was spending time with the Lord that morning, thinking about the hot air balloon ride that I would be taking in about a week from that day, I just couldn’t help but also think back upon all the fun adventures that God had allowed me to experience in my life, most of which occurred while actually wearing that cross necklace.  I began to think about how God had just seemed to have blessed me beyond what I could sometimes comprehend, and it seemed especially that during that season that He had also been constantly telling me to enjoy life, much like He had when I was in New York City that previous November, also with Melissa, as well as Joe.  Even then I tried hard to make that trip a sort of mission trip, feeling as if I needed to somehow earn the right to just have fun, but even then God constantly just kept telling me to be blessed and to enjoy the time that He had given me, and it truly was a blessed time.  I learned a lot about His desire to simply bless His children during that trip. He showed me that His blessings are His way of giving us foretastes of Heaven, His Kingdom, and our ultimate Home. He challenged me to accept these foretastes from Him when they came. And well, as you can see, they were indeed still coming.

However, like I had done on that trip to New York, I once again during this time with the Lord, began to feel guilty as I thought about everything that I had done in my life, along with this trip that I was about to leave on, again wondering how these fun adventures behind me and ahead of me would serve to further God’s Kingdom, and so, I asked Him. I asked Him “Why?” I asked Him why He wanted me to have so many wonderful adventures and travels, and He said, “Susan, so that you will testify; so that you will tell the world what a good God I am.” (Crying) And, I believed God for I had no doubt that He had already very clearly called me to testify, to share my on-going story with the world.

So, once again I will tell you this story, about how a month before this that I had lost something very precious to me, my cross necklace that I bought as a little girl.  In fact, I loved it so much that I bought two of them back then.  Even at such a young age I actually bought a backup, yet I never really expected that I would ever need it.  I never really thought that I would need the second one, and so I came to eventually cherish the idea that I would someday be able to give that second one to a daughter.

Well, you may think that having this backup aided in easing the pain of my loss, but it didn’t.  It didn’t because my love for that necklace didn’t really revolve around the necklace itself, but instead around the stories that went with that necklace, for anyway, my friends and family can attest to the fact that it was hard to find me without that necklace.  I have worn that cross necklace my entire life.  It had been with me on every mission trip that I had ever taken, as I had traveled around this world, and I even used it in different countries to share the Gospel when words were not enough, when I didn’t know the language.  I had worn it as I zip-lined off the Great Wall of China while on a mission trip.  I had worn it as I dogsled down the French Alps while spending a year in Paris on another mission trip.  I had worn it while playing archery on a beach in Tunisia on yet another mission trip, just to name a few.  In fact as these moments flashed into my mind I began to see how a list that God had inspired me to comprise a few weeks before that, of my crossed off bucket list, well, it was all done while wearing that necklace (crying).

So anyway, as you can see, it really seemed like my testimony and that necklace, that cross, were one.  For, when I thought of all of the memories that went along with wearing that necklace, I had no choice but to think of God and of His goodness towards me; of the abundant life that He had given me.  So now maybe you can see why I was so distraught, even though the people around me didn’t understand, for to them it was just a necklace, something that will pass away.  I knew that; it’s just that I had always been such a visual person and I’d often needed that necklace to serve of a reminder to me of those stories, but believe me that I tried hard to convince myself of the truth, of the fact that those memories I had while wearing that necklace could never be taken away from me, that they will last forever, because of the cross.

Again, although I never thought that I would need that backup, I did come to believe that God really had inspired this little girl to actually buy two necklaces way back when.  Yet, again although I had the backup, I still hadn’t worn it yet.  I hadn’t worn it because it didn’t have the same value to me as the other necklace had.  My old cross necklace was more than a necklace, but in that moment that one was just a necklace.  It may have looked the same but it didn’t hold the same memories.

Well, still hurting in my heart for my lost treasured possession, I lifted another why question to the Lord a little bit later.  Again, I asked Him why this had happened, because if there was anybody in my life that knew how much I was hurting and the significance surrounding this change that was in my life, it was He.  I knew there had to be a reason for all of this and that is when God said, “Susan it is time for a new beginning.” What then instantly came to my mind was my age.  As of that month I am exactly 35 and ½ years old. I began to think about how even though I may live longer than 70 years that I still found it interesting that I lost my necklace at symbolically the exact middle of my life, when I was literally beginning the next half of my life. I somehow knew God was speaking. I also began to see more clearly why on that upcoming family vacation that God was making a way for me to engage in that one activity that had always been at the very top of my bucket list. 

I had done some amazing things wearing that old necklace, but I never did my number one thing, for riding in a hot air balloon in Colorado had always been the number one on my bucket list. But, I began to see that God had been saving it for a time such as this. For having finally come to a belief in what God was showing me through all of this, I began to see that I was soon going to be wearing that new necklace and that the next chapter of my life was going to begin.  I knew that I would be wearing that new necklace as I road with my brother and my best friend in a hot air balloon over Colorado. God is faithful.

Again, I knew that it wasn’t by accident that the first activity that I was going to get to do with this new necklace was the number one activity that I would choose to do while wearing it.  I also knew that it wasn’t by accident that my balloon was called “Lifeline” and that it had a heart on the side and one on the very top. For as I watched the fire blaze and light up the heart above me, I couldn’t help but think about how the Holy Spirit sets my heart on fire. This view gave this visual person a great representation of a new heart and a new spirit. In that moment I knew that it was time for a new beginning, for new adventures, and yes some may say that these activities seem futile, that they do not serve to further God’s Kingdom.  But I beg to differ, because what they do for me, how they serve in my life,  is that they make it so that I have no choice but to testify; to testify to you that God is good; that He not only instills the desires of our hearts but fulfills them.  And well, I can assure you that as I soared above the valleys and the mountains of Colorado that I, along with God’s beautiful creation, did indeed testify.  Because of this experience and others like it, I now tell the world that God is good and that He is the God of new beginnings, always. 

On that first morning of this vacation, I actually ended up hearing during my quiet time, “I love you Susan. I created you to testify and I will give you a life worth testifying about.” So, I truly do tell the world now that with our God, no matter your age, that the best is always yet to come. Believe and be blessed! For, as for me, it is time for a new number one, and for a new heart and a new spirit. I pray that you would join me and likewise accept God’s invitation, for no one unfolds a story quit like Him. HE IS GOOD!! HE IS FAITHFUL!! He is the giver of new beginnings and of lives worth testifying about.

 

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