A Sleeping God, A Hurricane and A Red Maple {Faith Life Preservers Days 30-31}

Illustration by H. Kent Puckett
from the story “The Wind That Obeyed”
by Ella K. Lindvall

Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, 
so that the waves swept over the boat. 
But Jesus was sleeping.
Matthew 8:24

I sat looking out the window Monday morning directly at the two Red Maple trees that stand firmly in our front yard. The wind had already been kicking up forcefully here in Narragansett, Rhode Island. 

I felt calm and it actually baffled me a bit as I remembered Hurricane Irene’s impending arrival last September. There was such a difference in my whole demeanor that I sought God, questioning if I was somehow in denial about the storm which was coming. I deliberately shied away from the telly, as I wanted to write, focus on tasks and hear God’s voice as opposed to the onslaught of voices that would surely assail me through the media coverage. I confess I also I wanted to immerse myself in Facebook love before it was taken away from me in the days ahead. My daughter and I had visited the Sea Wall and Pier on Sunday evening, the waves and wind were whipping up the sea into a dancing, mad, symphony of wonder. Even in the dark we listened to the hissing, roaring waves while standing at the end of Pier 5 with others witnessing the initial appearances of the monster storm en route to our shores.  
This Monday morning I had already been drenched trying to get pictures with my Blackberry of Sandy’s arrival to our coastline. The storm’s arrival time (I heard) was around 6 AM. High tide would be at 8 AM.
I made it my business to be there before Law Enforcement started to lock down Ocean Road (protocol during big storms). I ended up drenched from two huge waves that splashed against the Sea Wall. Banjo, our dog, and I headed home shortly after I got a few picks. I went home, opted for a hot shower and nesting in tight for the rest of the duration of the storm.
This particular Monday morning I find myself feeling exceedingly sleepy, relaxed and calm. I ask God why Jesus slept through the storm, because for some reason the question is pressing me from within like a cat in a bag that wants release.  I can’t seem to stop the wondering…so I turn to the Book that is Living.
 I am reading each of the passages in Matthew 8:23-27, Mark 4:35-41 and Luke 8:22-25.
And as I go through the day I find myself unperturbed by all of the threats to my peace.
They come in many forms and voices. I am not defensive.
The peace feels like a shield.
A force-field around my heart.
Jesus is sleeping in my belly, I am sure of it.
He is snoozing away and I am napping by His side with one eye open in utter awe.
Cause I know that I know that He is with me.
I ask, “Is this the abiding, Lord?”

I sit in the window, lounging watching the wind, knowing that He is in control. 
I have prayed for peace and safety and He has delivered both.
I think about my magnified fear last year in contrast to this powerful peace this year.
Hurricane Irene threatened and I fretted, darted and bowed to the minute by minute reports.
Stark difference…
I watch a tree refuse to bow to a powerful force and receive a magnificent lesson.
I am spiritually rooted. 
The wind may blow, The limbs may break.
But through it all, my core- my inner being is not shaken.
Finally…roots that grow deep enough.
Strong enough.
I remain in Him, through Him.
Let the wind be relentless.
Let the world shake it’s fist at me.
I may suffer loss.
Yet remain, 
I will.

A tree went down in our front yard. The tall Pine crashed down onto our beautiful, strong Red Maple.
Thank God it did not go into the house. That is the corner my girl sleeps in her new Loft bed.
However the hurricane brought us together into the King Sized for a family bed for a movie (Karate Kid), laughter, Uno and earlier than usual sleep.

Jesus slept through the storm and I keep seeing the Red Maple though suffering a few broken limbs, strong, beautiful, rooted. That wind whipped through and the tree was not moved. When the wind could not move the Red Maple, it blew down a weaker tree and as it fell, it caused some damage.
But you know friends, that beautiful Red Maple is still standing firm…

This is the Maple that took the hit…picture is from
 a previous year.

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. 
No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.
 Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
 “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 15:4-5

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace…
Galatians 5:22

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.
 Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
John 14:27

Could I have asked God for a better wrap up to 
this 31 Day journey?

31 Days of Faith Life Preservers 
October 1-31, 2012
See all other Faith Life Preserver Posts HERE.

Check out all of the other 
31 Day Topics and Bloggers HERE!
*The top image for the post comes from one of my daughter’s favorite childhood storybooks: 
Read~Aloud Bible Stories Vol. 1 by Ella K. Lindvall published by Moody Press.

It Takes A Storm {Faith Life Preservers – Day 29}

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Sometimes I think it takes a storm to remind us that
we need to order our days rightly.
To be prepared,
yet understand that preparations are not guarantees.
To recognize that life is brief and fragile.

That we hold life in our hand like a sweet dandelion
that is blown in the wind, 
spreading seeds of whatever we value most, 
into the lives of those we love and encounter along the way. 

That moments make up all that we are,
and will ever be.
And that moments are meant to be lived not hoarded, stored, hidden.
Instead our moments are to be spread generously like seeds
of love in the hands of the sower.

Graciously sent out in trust that there will be a return.
Despite the current appearance or state of things.
For we walk by faith and not by sight, under the care of a loving, living God.
Trusting in the unseen realms for hope.

Today I lift up my eyes, knowing where my help comes from…

My Faith Life Preserver is this:
I am called to praise and thank Him in all circumstances.

As we await what is feared to be the worst storm our area has seen in 70 years,
I look to the One who calms the seas.
He’s the same one who keeps me.

As our tiny state prepares and holds dear the prayers of friends and loved ones,
I thank God for His Presence and Peace.

I will praise Him in this storm.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
 My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.
 He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
 indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.
 The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
 the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.
 The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
 the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.
Psalm 121

31 Days of Faith Life Preservers 
October 1-31, 2012
See all other Faith Life Preserver Posts HERE.

Check out all of the other 
31 Day Topics and Bloggers HERE!
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Disentangling From The Octopus Pt 3 {Faith Life Preservers-Day 28}

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Today I am wrapping up my list of ways I believe we are held back in a victorious walk of faith.
If you are joining in for the first time you might want to stop by and read Part 1 and Part 2 of this series within the series of Faith Life Preservers. As I said when I decided to jump in to The Nester’s 31 Day Challenge (I am #410 of 1236 participants-WOW!), I had no idea where it would lead or what would come out, I have been led, blessed and surprised along  the way.

From the first post:

Here are the tentacles I believe hold back
 and cause stumbling in believers.
The Octopus has 8 tentacles so I considered these 8 in my own life:

1. Negative Thinking and Self Talk
2. Self-Sufficiency 
3. Past Mistakes
4. Fear of Rejection/Failure
5. Discouragement/Depression
6. Critical/Abusive People
7. Self-Defeating Behaviors and Choices
8. Places That Bring You Down

I affirmed the reality that God wants to lead us to victory:
“He lives to disentangle you from the present danger and deliver 
you into a place of safety, truth and peace.”
I want to encourage you at the onset of our concluding post through
 His word for you today of our ultimate victorious position and the triumph of our faith.

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:57

… for everyone born of God overcomes the world. 
This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.
1 John 5:4
We tackled the first five tentacles in our previous posts
 and now we move on to our final three…

6. Critical/Abusive People
The topic of others can be difficult. We are to be salt and light, grace and truth, to a desperate and needy world. But Jesus did not hurry nor was He pressed by the agendas of others. There are those God brings into our lives for a season and there are those who will appear apart from His will. We need to stay close to Him to discern who is in our inner circle and who has access to our hearts. I am a pretty transparent person. I struggle with boundaries and have made some serious bad judgement calls in the past. I am careful now to heed him. Make no mistake, the enemy wants to sidetrack the sheep from the specific will of God. Following Him helps us to make healthy and appropriate boundaries. The hardest of these can be with those we love who challenge our mental health and well being. I will only say this. With God all things are possible. Apart from Him we can do nothing. But because of Him we can walk on water…or at least in places it seems impossible to walk without Him. This too is all from God. We keep our eyes on Him and lean on Him for the difficult people He does have us around, who by His design, we can’t escape. I am trying to be careful and sensitive here. We all have people in our lives who challenge us to our core. God’s word and Holy Spirit are where the answers lie. In the case of physical abuse at the hands of another, I pray I do not have to say that it is not God’s will for a woman or child to be harmed by any one who is supposed to love and protect her/him. 
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; 
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
Psalm 16:6
7. Self-Defeating Behaviors and Choices
We watch helplessly as we see others choose things that we know will not be good for them. We struggle ourselves in many ways and recognize behaviors in our own lives that need to be dealt with and/or surrendered to God. Nothing good comes easy. Effort and perseverance are needed when we are dealing with patterns of behavior, thinking and choices that need time to come under the hand of grace through the relationship we have with Christ. It takes time. Trust. It often involves the love and support of others. We need to be willing. Jesus is long suffering with us. He finishes the work He starts. He never gives up on us (even when we give up on ourselves) and He will have His way in the end. 
Meanwhile let’s remember this verse as He lovingly, patiently teaches us His ways. 
God IS greater than our hearts and He knows everything. Even the secret things. He loves us to the core. 
This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.
Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. 
I John 3:18-22
8. Places Bring You Down
 Early on in my Christian walk, I was going through a bit of a down time. I questioned everything: my salvation, God’s love for me, my future, my choices.
I wondered if anything had really “happened” to me with regard to conversion.
I began to wonder about what it meant to be “saved” and I slipped further from the dock that had only begun to secure my heart and mind safely in the harbor of Truth. 
I remember this one particular time when I heard the Holy Spirit speak clearly to me. 
It was loud because the place I was at at the time had loud, blaring music. I was in the wrong place for the wrong reason and God made it so clear. As I ran around inside this establishment trying to run (literally) from the voice inside which I could not escape, I heard the Holy Spirit repeat “You do not belong here.”
I could not drown out the voice no matter how I tried.
I had been sealed by His Holy Spirit and this specific incident became a turning point for me. Only you know the places you go that drown out God’s voice for you. You don’t belong there. If you hear his voice, heed it. We all have places that we should not go. Some are obvious. Some not so much. God will make it clear to you, so listen and do what He says. 
So, as the Holy Spirit says:
Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts
as you did in the rebellion,
during the time of testing in the desert,
where your fathers tested and tried me
and for forty years saw what I did.
Hebrews 3:7-9
Well Friends, this concludes our Octopus Tale.
 I wonder what tentacles get you tangled up and cause you to stumble now
or in the past in your own walk of faith?
How have you overcome?
Perhaps you can encourage another by sharing your story
and God’s faithfulness and ability to get you untangled!

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.
1 Corinthians 2:14

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
1 John 16:33

Praising Him with you today!

31 Days of Faith Life Preservers 
October 1-31, 2012
See all other Faith Life Preserver Posts HERE.

Check out all of the other 
31 Day Topics and Bloggers HERE!
I want to take the time here to thank Biblos.com and Bible Gateway who make my Blogging life, scripture reference and research a breeze and a blessing! 

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Disentangling From The Octopus Pt 2 {Faith Life Preservers-Day 28}

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Here are the tentacles I believe hold back
and cause stumbling in the faith walk of Believers.
To see part 1 of this post, CLICK HERE.
Friends, believe it or not I feel I have to do a Part Three. 
The word count came in at a whopping 1600 and 
I do not want you to feel I have sunk you with too many words.
We will take the first five “Tentacles” today and 
the final three with concluding thoughts tomorrow.

Thank you for journeying with me!
The Octopus has 8 tentacles so I considered these 8 in my own life, 
and shared a scripture passage to consider for disentangling from each one.
1. Negative Thinking and Self Talk
This is an area I am sure we can all attest needs to be addressed in our own lives. 
We need to be our own best friends in how we speak to and think about ourselves. 
Truth in love, gracious, kind.
The word of God is the key to freeing ourselves from the 
bad habits of negative self talk and thinking.
Plugging in God’s word specifically and  immediately helps us to train ourselves anew!
As any athlete knows, proper training makes  the difference.
Our battle is to bring down every deceptive fantasy and every imposing defense that men erect against the true knowledge of God. We even fight to capture every thought until it acknowledges the authority of Christ.
2 Corinthians 10:5
2. Self-Sufficiency 
Self -sufficiency is rooted in pride. It buys into the lie that we can do it on our own. 
That we don’t need help and that we don’t need anyone else to make it or get by in life.
The American Dream is largely a self-sufficiency platform. 
The philosophy of our culture is currently diametrically opposed to the principles of the Eternal Kingdom.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.
Isaiah 55:8
3. Past Mistakes
I’ve made plenty. 
Fact is, I made a mess of my life before I came to Christ, 
and then I made a mess of it again after I became a Christian. 
Guess what? God still can use me anyway.
His grace and face is the same yesterday, today and always.
I’m not perfect now, I never was. 
When the enemy (and some unkind others) remind me of my past mistakes 
I point to my Advocate. He covered the past. He’s got the future covered. 
His blood covers me. Completely.
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. 
But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense–
Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.
1 John 2:1
4. Fear of Rejection/Failure
I have been rejected. Have you? 
If you live past the age of  two you will experience rejection.
This past year has been The Year of Rejection more 
than any other for me! But whether or not I am rejected for a job, for my beliefs, for my lack of experience, for the way I slurp my coffee or for any reason, 
I am accepted by the Lord.
 I do not like to fail any more than anyone else, either. I hate failure. But if you are going to try anything new, there is the risk of failing as well as succeeding. Either way, if I fail or succeed I am neither a failure nor a success. 
I am His, and He determines the way. 
Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.
Psalm 27:10

5. Discouragement/Depression
I’d like to say that I never get discouraged nor have never known depression.
I have known both well.I’ve battled discouragement along this road and have had my duels with the dragon of depression. I know what it is like to walk in both of these states with the Lord and without. He keeps me from the pit of hopelessness and despair where I used to dwell. Having myself lived through the victimization of Childhood Sexual Abuse makes me a candidate for this dynamic duo. I sought the secular road of self help and psychological knowledge long before I came to the saving grace and healing power of Jesus Christ. I sensed the glass ceiling of earthly wisdom, and Christ shone His light upon me. True freedom, hope and healing are found nowhere else. No glass ceiling blocks my heavenly view or the reality of His presence. He is the difference.
Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again–my Savior and my God!
Psalm 43:5
See you tomorrow for the wrap up!
One concluding thought and Faith Life Preserver for you today 
in the form of a verse
Cling to it, will you?
What, then, shall we say in response to this? 
If God is for us, who can be against us?
Romans 8:31


31 Days of Faith Life Preservers 
October 1-31, 2012
See all other Faith Life Preserver Posts HERE.

Check out all of the other 
31 Day Topics and Bloggers HERE!
I want to take the time here to thank Biblos.com and Bible Gateway who make my Blogging life, scripture reference and research a breeze and a blessing! 

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Disentangling From The Octopus-Part 1 {Faith Life Preservers Day 26}

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I have been considering the things that have held me back or caused me to stumble in my own Christian walk. Ironically, I recognize as perhaps you do that some of my biggest mistakes and falls have also been times of growth and deep dependence on God.
But, there are things that continue to cause us to stumble in our walk as we go on and although He does bring beauty from ashes, I figured I would share a little of what came to my mind as I sought God about the topic.
My mind envisioned an Octopus whose tentacles, each one, 
represented something that holds back the living 
swimmingly and victoriously in His grace and truth. 
 Why do we always imagine that this Christian life is supposed to resemble Disneyland? Maybe that is just me. I came into my Christianity and quite honestly, in retrospect, I believed God was like my own personal vending machine to the good life. You know, I thought my stars had lined up: I had the God, the guy, the life- what next, Lord? Give me more.
 My expectations were so naive. So superficial. In a word: infantile. 
I got more. 
In the shape of extrication. 
Exit the guy, the life and the more. 
What?
Life with God was going to start with less, it seemed.
 I remember the birthing of the new life brought painful loss.
And learning the words, “Not my will, but yours.”
This can’t be said at all until we lay our own lives at the foot of the 
Cross and ask to be taught.
I wondered, “How does this crazy Kingdom work, Lord?”
 It made no sense to me!
We are misguided to assume that knowing a God who is a Consuming Fire is something that is small.
He is a God who consumes us with His love and burns away that which is not useful to our eternal person-hood. He is a God to be reckoned with and to be feared. He is also the giver of limitless grace for those who are willing to trust Him in the flames and  for those who trust their lives to the flames of adversity as they come…and those fires do come, friends. 
But all of the flames of testing and fire of adversity are in the hands of the One who is ultimately in control.
He is the Consuming Fire and Only True Living God.
Back to the Octopus. 
The Octopus has tentacles reaching long and strong from your past to the present.
Some of the tentacles are things you did, or didn’t do, could or could have done, failures, circumstances, strongholds and fears. 
The Octopus wants to consume you but your Life Preserver is found in the fact that each of these tentacles can be dealt with by grace through faith in the One God whose love consumes you.
He lives to disentangle you from the present danger and deliver 
you into a place of safety, truth and peace.
Here are the tentacles I believe hold back
 and cause stumbling in believers.
The Octopus has 8 tentacles so I considered these 8 in my own life:

1. Negative Thinking and Self Talk
2. Self-Sufficiency 
3. Past Mistakes
4. Fear of Rejection/Failure
5. Discouragement/Depression
6. Critical/Abusive People
7. Self-Defeating Behaviors and Choices
8. Places That Bring You Down
Tomorrow, I will share a few thoughts on each of these
and a verse to consider for disentangling from that appendage.

See you then?



31 Days of Faith Life Preservers 
October 1-31, 2012
See all other Faith Life Preserver Posts HERE.

Check out all of the other 
31 Day Topics and Bloggers HERE!

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