A Journey of Faith

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Just a Wondering....

I woke up this morning at home... not at camp. I love camp in general, but the camp that I just came home from is a beautiful place. In fact, the name means 'beautiful spiritual place in the hills', a perfect name for a tranquil place. In the woods, near the edge of the lake, is a little outdoor chapel, further along the path is an outcropping of rocks that juts out into the water. I was able to spend some time at both of these places this week, praying and thinking, and just soaking in the presence of GOD. I wonder though, why is it that some places touch us more deeply in a spiritual place? What is it about a quiet little clearing, filled with rustic benches and a simple cross that pulls me closer to my Creator? What is it about sitting with a friend, praying to our Lord, looking over the water in the quiet of morning that brings home to me how much HE loves me? I am so thankful that I have opportunity to spend time in places that open up that part of my spirit and allow me to draw closer to HIM. What a blessing!!!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Roses, Thorns and Buds

One of the things I did with my group at camp was a camp tradition called 'Roses, Thorns, and Buds'. While sitting around our campfire (or one night around an 'flashlight fire' when we... the adults... were too tired to do a real campfire) I would ask one of the kids to share their 'rose' (something they loved that had happened that day), their 'thorn' (something they didn't like that had happened that day), and their 'bud' (something they were looking forward to the next day). Each day, each kid came up with more than one rose, often they would have no thorn for the day, and they always had at least one or two bud for the next day. Their enthusiasm was awesome. And their excitement over even the littlest adventure was contagious. How great would it be if we approached life like these little kids? If we truly looked at life as a little child. GOD sets before us a new adventure in HIS name every day. Do we look at those adventures like those kids looked at a day filled with songs, games, hikes and canoe trips? Do we list our many roses and buds and anticipate the coming day with enthusiasm and excitement? Or do we agonize over and dwell on the thorns? Do we let the few thorns that creep in choke out the many many roses, and hide the buds from our sight? What if we took a lesson from those kids, and fairly danced with excitement at the thought of new adventure? Imagine what our lives would look like!! A garden full of excitement, full of amazement at the beautiful 'flowers', blessings our GOD has planted for us!!! I pray that those kids I spent half the week with will never stop focusing on the roses, never stop looking for the buds in their lives, and that they will never allow the thorns to choke out their love of life.

Raise up a Child

The past few days I have been at the camp that is connected to our church. I had been asked to volunteer as director of a half week session where kids duckling #4's age come with an adult and experience camp life. What an experience! We had a small group, just four (sometimes five) kids and their parents. And what fun we had!!! We swam, canoed, sang songs, played games, did crafts, hiked, explored nature, and cooked our lunch in the rec hall (we were suppose to cook outside, but there were thunderstorms, so inside we went). But most importantly, it was an opportunity to share GOD's word with these small people. And they got it! It was so humbling to see how these innocent little kids just got how much their Heavenly Father loves and cares for them. It made me think about how the Bible says that if you raise up a child in the way he should go, when he is old he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:). I did not grow up going to church regularly, we may have gone occasionally, but it wasn't part of our daily lives, and talking about GOD certainly wasn't something that we did. My kids hear about HIM on  a daily basis, HE is part of life.
At the camp every morning they have something called morning watch where the counselors do a little devotion/worship time, with songs, Scripture reading, and sometimes a skit. One day it was the Parable of the Sower. I wonder what seeds will grow in these kids that I served with this week? What will they remember from that time spent at camp? Will it be the games, the songs, the hikes, or the canoe trip? Or will it be the morning watch, and the message that GOD loves them unendingly? Will they remember the "Roses, Buds, and Thorns" (more about that later), or praying around the campfire? What will they take with them that will shape their faith, and thus their lives as they grow in their faith? At 'our' camp people tend to come back year after year, it really is like a small (or maybe not so small) community, so I look forward to watching these young people grow and mature. I can't wait to see the adults they become!

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Summons

The Summons (John Bell # 2130 in The Faith We Sing hymnal)

verses 1,2, 4, and 5

Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don't know and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown, will you let my name be known, 
Will you let my life be grown in you and you in me?

Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind and never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stares 
should your life attract or scare? 
Will you let ME answer prayer in you and you in ME?

Will you love the "you" you hide if I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear you hide and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you've found to reshape the world around, 
through My sight and touch and sound in you and you in me?

LORD, Your summons echoes true when You but call my name.
Let me turn and follow You and never be the same.
In Your company I'll go, where Your love and footsteps show.
Thus I'll move and live and grow in You and You in me.

I have loved this hymn for years, it's one of the ones I have learned to play. I love the tune, but the words speak volumes. Will we follow HIM when HE calls us? Will we go wherever HE leads, even if it is somewhere we never pictured going, or something we never imagined we could or would do? Even if that means leaving ourselves behind, and facing leaving behind those who won't or can't support us in our decision to follow HIM? Will we spread the news of HIS amazing love, and HIS unending grace? Even if doing all that HE asks means loving who HE made us... flaws and all? Even if it means facing fears that we have always tucked away so that we can change the world for HIM. It doesn't matter if we only change our little part of the world... if we are doing what HE asks, it is enough. When we listen for that small voice, when we follow HIM, our lives will never -ever- be the same.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Pocket Rocks update

I still carry my pocket rocks... I am getting better at remembering the verses and their 'addresses'. But I have changed something... I use to chose the rocks based on how I was feeling, or what I knew the day might bring my way. Then one day I was at church and had my box of pocket rocks (I was working on making more). A friend was there, and I asked her if she wanted to pick a pocket rock, and she reached into the box and took one without looking. She just let GOD pick the one she would take. It got me thinking. After all, HE knows better than I do what the day will bring. And HE knows my heart far better than I do, so if I trust HIM to lead me where I need to go, I can start with something as small as which verses from HIS word I will carry that day. And I have been humbled by what HE has chosen for me so many times. Like the day I picked Exodus 3:12 "GOD said 'I will be with you'" and thought about it when I was feeling lonely. Or the day after I had trouble praying and picked Ephesians 3:12 "In HIM and through faith in HIM we may approach GOD with freedom and confidence". So, I am continuing to let HIM lead me in even this seemingly small thing. Because really, it's not so small a thing. Carrying the rocks with me has helped me, it has been a reminder that as close as those rocks are to my physical self, HE is to my spiritual self. They also are an easy way to help me memorize HIS word, so that in those moments that I need to connect with HIM, and I can't find the words, I can use the ones HE has given us.

HIS call

I have been thinking and praying a lot lately. Let me start at the beginning...
A little less than two years ago Pastor approached me to ask if I would co lead the Discipleship Bible Study she was offering. My husband already planned to take it, and I hadn't decided if I was going to take it with him or not. When she asked I was surprised, I am very shy and public speaking was not exactly something I loved to do, so I wasn't sure why she asked me. She just said that GOD had put it on her heart to ask me, and told me to pray about it and let her know. So I did. And I couldn't come up with any reason not to, so I agreed to do it. And found that it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be, and I enjoyed it. Then she asked me to do a witness for tithing in church one Sunday... and again, I didn't know that I wanted to, but I agreed, and it went well. I have now done that twice, both times it was easier than I thought it would be, and I was glad I did it. Then she asked a friend and I to fill in for her (I wrote about this when we did it back in January). Again, I felt good doing it, and was glad I had accepted the opportunity to serve HIM, and to serve in my church. Through all this, Pastor has been encouraging me, helping me to get past some things that were holding me back from letting myself hear GOD's call. She had mentioned a few times that I might consider that GOD was calling me to serve somehow. And I listened... and convinced myself that there was no way HE was calling me to anything other that just serving in my church, where I am comfortable and loved and where I feel at home. But in the last few weeks something changed.
I have been thinking about what GOD wants me to do. Does HE want me to be a lay speaker (actually, I took the basic course already), or a certified lay minister, or a pastor??? I prayed and prayed and prayed, and it didn't seem any clearer. When I did the service at the beginning of July, I had prayed that if HE wanted me to consider becoming a pastor, that HE needed to make it clear, because I didn't want to do it if it wasn't His plan for me (I wasn't sure I wanted to do it even if it was His plan to be completely honest). I asked Him to help me to discern whether serving Him that way was what I needed to do. And doing the service felt... right. It felt like I was where I needed to be, and that it was something that I could do...with Him. So I have been praying that HE would give me some kind of indication what was next. I talked to Pastor about going for the training for Certified Lay Minister. It sounded good, but when I prayed about it... nothing. So last night I got to church early and spent almost two hours in the sanctuary, praying and thinking about becoming a pastor... that seemed to just keep coming back, over and over, that was what I would think about. One thing kept going thru my mind..."my heart says yes, my head says no".So I ended up making a list... I like lists. One side was why my heart was saying yes (actually "YES!!!!!!!!") and the other why my head was saying no. During the service, Pastor read Luke 11:52. And then started talking about making the head/heart connection. That got my attention... I had just spent nearly 2 hours trying to do just that. Then she started talking about keys, asking us to take out our keys and select one. I chose the church key. She asked how that space that the key opened benefited our spiritual lives, and how we were called to serve in that space. I was blown away. I had asked GOD to make it clear to me what HE wanted me to do, was this His answer? After the service I asked Pastor how she chose the message that night... she just opened the Bible and let GOD lead her. So I showed her the list I had made, and she agreed that GOD was sending me a message. We had a stewardship meeting next, but then I asked her to pray with me. I just feel like a decision has been made and that it is the right one and that GOD finally got my attention. And I feel peaceful. And ready. I don't know what this new journey will bring. I am sure it won't be easy. But if it truly is what HE wants me to do, it will happen, and HE will be glorified in it. Sooooo.... keep me in your prayers. I will need it! There is a lot I have to do, and a lot I have to think about. But it will be wonderful thing!!! Because it will be with HIM and for HIM.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Common Sense and an Uncommon GOD

Theologian and ethicist Lewis B. Smedes (1921–2002) explains why we call grace amazing.
Grace is amazing because it works against the grain of common sense. Hard-nosed common sense will tell you that you are too wrong to meet the standards of a holy God; pardoning grace tells you that it’s all right in spite of so much that is wrong. Realistic common sense tells you that you are too weak, too harassed, too human to change for the better; grace gives you power to send you on your way to being a better person. Plain common sense may tell you that you are caught in a rut of fate or futility; grace promises that you can trust God to have a better tomorrow for you than the day you have made for yourself.

This was in one of the daily devotionals that I receive each day. It struck me as very profound, yet so simple. It is so easy to be tempted to look at our faith with a common sense mentality. We are so use to basing our human relationships on what we see and what makes sense, that we forget that GOD doesn't work that way. HE doesn't see us the same way those around us do. HE loves us in spite of who we are, not because of what we do.
Sometimes I feel like life is a puzzle. Not a mystery kind of puzzle, but a put it together to get a beautiful picture kind of puzzle. There is the piece that is submission to HIS will. The piece that is acknowledging HIS omnipotence. And the piece that is accepting HIS grace without fear or doubt. There are the pieces that are learning, and trusting, and serving. And praying, and sharing our faith with those around us. Some of these pieces are easy to fit into the puzzle. They come naturally and just feel right. Others are harder. They take hard work and patience and perseverance to make them feel like they are a part of the puzzle, a part of who and what we are. But GOD says that HE will reward those who don't give up, who keep running the race. We can't try to apply common sense to an uncommon God. It just doesn't work. HE's too big and His love is too big and His grace is too big.
I think too, that it's easy to make excuse. We think that we are too unprepared, or too unequipped to serve HIM effectively. We think that we have to do everything 'just right' or we shouldn't do it at all. But it doesn't matter if we can't do it, because HE can. HE can calm our fears, HE can strengthen our resolve. And HE can, and does, equip us to do whatever it is HE wants us to do. And, I've discovered, HE is far more stubborn (can we call GOD stubborn???) than any of us can ever dream of being. HE knows what is best for us, and won't give up on us, even when we fight HIM every step of the way. Thank goodness!!

Monday, July 9, 2012

A woman from another land

Today was the first day of my kid free week, and I headed into the city to meet some friends from church at the museum. As I was driving thru the city, I was stopped at a stop light and a small, older lady was crossing the street. She was dressed as you would expect someone from maybe Africa to dress, a beautiful, flowing, printed dress. A printed cloth wrapped around her head. She walked as if she were weighed down by something. Not something physical. No, it was as if her spirit were weighed down. I wondered if she was from another land... here trying to eke out a living far from home and family and everything familiar. I imagined her tearful parting from those she loves. I see her loved ones gathered around saying goodbye; proud of her courage, yet mourning her presence that would be gone from their everyday lives. I think of those last minutes before her departure.Walking around her home, her village for the last time, running her finger over the door jam of her house. Sighing at the memories, good and bad, that shaped her life. Shaped who she is and what she will become. What thoughts were going thru her mind as she walked away that last day... knowing she may never return??
At the museum there was an exhibit about women who came from places like Rwanda. Women who escaped unthinkable fear and danger. Women who had to walk as much as 8 miles each day... or worse, send their daughters, to get firewood so they could cook for their family. And knowing that there was a good chance that they would be attacked... or worse, while on that mission. Women whose bravery humbles me. Women who feared for their lives on a daily basis. Who had to chose which of their children they would carry with them as they ran for their lives, knowing those left behind would almost certainly be killed. And even after living thru things no human should live through, they still have a joy and a courage and a peace that speaks to GOD's amazing peace. These women came here because of terrible circumstances, yet they are not bitter, and they are not living as victims. They are embracing America as their new home, they are working and excited about the opportunities available to them. They are ready for any new challenges life throws at them. It amazes me.
When I saw that woman walking this morning, I didn't know about the exhibit at the museum. But it all fits together. I wonder if she was one of the women who made the pieces on display there. Even if she isn't, she has a story. I pray it's a happy one.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

My first sermon :)

I filled in today for Pastor. I was nervous (of course!), but it went well, and I enjoyed it. I still need to work on slowing down, and speaking up, but people liked what I had to say, and I even had one person say it was the perfect message for her in her life now... wow!!!! It was a great experience, and I think I need to think more about some things...
Here is the sermon I gave.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0LbDkJS39Zo  (video of it on youtube)

Isaiah  40:31
31 But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

They that wait upon the LORD...
We don't know how to wait. We live in a society of instant... instant food, instant entertainment, instant communication. Instant gratification everywhere. We have lost the skill of being patient. We are constantly looking at the clock, 'Is it my turn in line yet?' 'Is it time for my appointment yet?' 'Is the Pastor done talking yet?' We are never content to just be still and wait in the moment.
 Recently I made a long journey with my kids. For economic reasons, we drove instead of flying, lengthening the 'getting there' process considerably. The whole drive I had to fight feeling impatient. It just seemed so time consuming (and really, shouldn't traveling 850 miles consume a large amount of time??). Now, my impatience was due in part to the fact that waiting for me at the end of the trip were either my niece and nephew, or my home and husband. But part of it was just my impatience.

GOD tells us to be still, to wait upon HIM, to trust HIS timing. The Bible is full of examples of people who had to wait on HIS timing. We learn about people like Esther, who waited on GOD's timing to reveal Haman's plan to Xerxes. And Zaccariah and Elizabeth, who in their later years recieved the son they had so wanted and waited for . And Hannah, who also recieved a much yearned for son. We also learn about people who weren't content to wait on the LORD, to trust HIS timing. Like Abraham and Sarah, whose decision to 'help' GOD fulfill HIS promise of an heir resulted in the birth of Ishmael, a plan they ended up regretting.

 Sometimes GOD's timing seems wrong to us, we hear HIS promises and we want them NOW. We hear a particularly moving sermon, and we want it applied to our lives instantly. We want to skip the journey, skip the discomfort of sitting there for what seems like forever waiting for what is on the other end.

A few times on our trip I imagined what a convenience it would be to be able to just push a button and *poof* be where I wanted to be. But then I would have missed so much. I would have missed the conversations with my oldest daughter, who sat next to me the entire ride, chatting and being silly. I would have missed mine and my kids excitement at seeing parts of our country that we never have, the Erie Canal, Lake Erie, the cute little fake buffalo on the side of the highway, the charming little shops and B&Bs that line some of the less traveled roads we navigated.

 I would have missed seeing the vineyards that stretch on for hours, and the freshly plowed cornfields, and the many many beautiful churches that line the road as we got closer to our destination. I wouldn't have had that rush of excitement when familar landmarks began to surround me on the way home. And perhaps most importantly, I would have missed the opportunity to get to the end of the journey and feel that sense of accomplishment and capability that I, who really hates leaving my comfort zone, who worries about the silliest things, sucessfully got myself and my four kids safely there, with no mishaps, no meltdowns, no problems. Life is sometimes  like that journey that we took. Sometimes it seems to go on forever, with no end in sight, with no relief from discomfort or stress.  Sometimes it seems like it would just be nice to press the fast forward button and skip over the difficult parts and get to the reunion at the end of the trip. But what would we miss out on if we could skip to the 'good stuff'? For one thing, we might miss the little joys that are scattered in amongst the difficulties.

 A few weeks ago I was having a 'pondering' day. I do that sometimes, just kind of spend a day thinking and pondering and praying. Days like that usually leave me feeling kind of drained and mentally exhausted, so I don't do anything or go anywhere, avoiding having to deal with the world. But this day a friend stopped by and wanted to go pick up veggie plants for our gardens, so I told her I would pick her up in a while and we would go.

When I arrived at her house, I was (for lack of better word) swarmed by five of her youngest kids. After making sure everyone got their hugs I chatted for a few minutes. Then I noticed some perfect pocket rocks, rocks that I could use to write Bible verses on to stick in my pocket. The kids quickly started helping, finding a good number of rocks for 'their' Mrs. Savoy (after all, if 'their' Mrs. Savoy wants rocks, rocks she shall have!!! I would not have been surprised if they had put every rock in their driveway in my pile, such was their enthusiasm!).

At one point the three year old was pulling on my pocket, I thought she wanted a hug, so I gave her a quick snuggle, then her mom and I left to run our errands. It wasn't until I reached into my pocket about an hour later that I found three perfect little rocks that she had slipped in there. If I had stayed home,tucked away in my little cocoon, I would have missed the joy of spending time with those sweet kids, missed their excitement over helping someone they love, and missed spending time with a dear friend.

Sometimes the journey is hard, sometimes it wears on our last nerve, sometimes we are certain we have used our last tiny bit of patience, but GOD will somehow give us strength to finish. But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. Really, it's not us renewing anything. We can't. It's the LORD. It's just one more gift HE gives us, endurance.
Sometimes we feel like HE has waited a little too long to give us this particular gift, we feel like it would have been nice to have it long ago, when we could have used it to endure hardships with a little more grace and a lot less heartache. But maybe the joys wouldn't seem as amazing, if we didn't have the pain to contrast them. Maybe little things, like rocks tucked into a pocket by an 'adoring fan' wouldn't touch us as much, if we never had a day that we felt like we were alone on our journey.  And maybe we would never realize how much we can trust and lean on our GOD and Savior, if we never got to where we felt like HE was all that was sustaining us.

GOD promises us that we shall mount up with wings as eagles; (we) shall run, and not be weary; and (we) shall walk, and not faint. I have always thought of this verse in literal terms. I picture reaching Heaven and having strength and endurance that I have not enjoyed in this earthly life. I wonder though, if it is more than that. Have you ever had to get somewhere, fast, under your own power?

A few years ago my two older kids and I traveled to California to visit my brother. On the way out our connecting flight was very delayed, so we ended up having to switch flights. Good because it meant we would not have a second layover, and we woudld arrive  about two hours earlier than planned (and see my brand new niece that much sooner!). Not so good because in order to make this new flight we would have to get to the other side of the airport in about 5 minutes. No problem right?

 Yeah, no. Five minutes to get myself and two children, three carryon bags, one computer, two pocket books, oh and my pathetic lungs, across Washington DC airport, crowded with more people than I have ever seen in one place. We ran as fast as we could, the whole way I was breathlessly encouraging my kids "you can do it" "almost there" "keep going" "just a little further".

Isn't that what GOD does for us? When HE sees us pushing ourselves harder and further and longer than we think we ever could, when our strength is at it's end and we just have nothing else to give,  HE is right there encouraging us "you can do it" "keep going" "almost there".

As I said earlier, I have always seen this verse as a picture of our lives in Heaven, being able to walk and run and never grow weary or faint. It's also a picture of our lives in CHRIST I think. That if we trust and wait, if we step away from ourselves and stay closer to HIM, we will have the strength and endurance to reach the end of our journey with HIM, having experienced everything HE wants us to.

So what is it that GOD is trying to teach you in those waiting moments? What lessons will you learn if you slow down and wait upon the LORD?