A Morning Coffee Meandering

Most mornings I try to start out with a cup of coffee in the sunroom and think for at least a few moments and welcome the new day the Lord has given me before I hit the floor running. The house is empty, I am sitting here trying to not focus on all the little things I want to get done before I run out the door, and I am wondering about saying “good morning” to the Lord, God Almighty. I am sitting with my legs crossed, drinking a coffee and wondering … is this an okay way to talk to the Lord or should I fall on my face and lay prostrate before His Majesty? Am I the only one who worries about these kinds of things? In truth I do both-sometimes fall on my knees before the Lord and sometimes just have a cup of coffee with Jesus.

I think about the Lord God Almighty who sent His Son to earth and who now rules and reigns, but Who at one time walked among us, as one of us. I think Jesus loved hanging out with people. I believe Jesus would sit and have a cup of coffee or share a meal with any one of us. I am reminded of Aragorn in Tolkien’s ‘Lord Of The Rings’, who was known as Strider to the Hobbits and then to those who took the journey to destroy the ring of power. They did not realize the extent of who he was but finally saw when he was crowned king. Yet he was forever their friend. And he functioned as both king and friend.

I never want to forget Who He, Jesus, is: King of Kings and Lord of Lords, One Who was and is and is to come! We are told: “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.” (Rev 21:3) I believe the Lord loves when we meet with Him, whether it’s on our knees or sitting with a cup of coffee. I also believe that when He comes into His Kingdom, we will worship Him but also have ‘fellowship’ with Him, sharing, talking, eating, and laughter. Hallelujah!

Doing My Best!

My husband and I did a series on Joseph, a character in the Bible that we really like. One thing that has struck me regarding his time in Potiphar’s house as a slave/servant and in the King’s prison as a prisoner, was his commitment to serve to the best of his ability no matter what his circumstances were.

Genesis 39:6 tells us that Potiphar left in Joseph’s care everything he had; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate. And during that time, the Lord blessed everything Joseph did.

Most of us are familiar with that part of the story where Potiphar’s wife wanted to sleep with Joseph and he refused, she accused him of attacking her and he ended up in the King’s prison. But even there the Lord was with him and God showed kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden who didn’t worry about any of the prisoners or anything under Joseph’s care.

It wouldn’t have been just because the Lord blessed Joseph. Just because I see a person blessed, I wouldn’t trust him with everything I own or do or to take care of my household. I think it was because Joseph did such a good job at whatever he was told to do. I believe he went above and beyond and it didn’t matter to him what his circumstances were (none of these were the best of circumstances). He looked to the Lord and then did the best of his ability- no matter where he was placed.

I want to be that kind of servant. None of us know where life will take us and a lot of us are in places where we never thought we would be and I think we can all learn a lot from Joseph: that no matter what our circumstances are, that if we look to the Lord and do the best we can where we are – we can trust God with the outcome of our lives.

Remember it’s the journey that’s important.

The Extravagance Of God

“Our Lord made the way for every Son of Man to come into communion with God. The Saints do not end in crucifixion; by the Lord‘s grace, they end in glory.”*

Our God is an extravagant God. We see that when we look at His Creation. We can see the beauty in the grass and the flowers and the trees as they are beginning to bloom in Spring. God has made so many things in abundance that, if we think about it really, aren’t of practical necessity but are magnificent. Did He have to make more than 60,000 tree species to partake in the oxygen cycle? Do we really need more than 400,000 flower types? And snow! I love snow and how it covers the world and all seems silent as it falls. Extravagant!

Have you stopped to look at a sunset or a sunrise lately? How many days do you wake up and go to bed but never stop to notice them? Yet they go on the same, the sun rises and sets every day. And the moon and the stars -so beautiful at night… Magnificent extravagance! Lift up your heads, see the heavens and see the glory of Creation and remember that same God poured His extravagance on us not just in creation but in the magnificent act of sacrificial grace sending His son Jesus, who gave His life for us so that we may enjoy the Lord’s extravagant love and grace for all eternity.

What an extraordinary God! Grace is the overflowing extravagance of God toward and for us personally. During our celebration of Easter, let’s take time to reflect on the extravagance of our Lord. See and remember Him in the sunrises and sunsets. See His abounding love in nature and His glory in all creation. Remember the extravagant love He has shown us by making a way for us to be in fellowship with Him forever, because of Christ’s death and resurrection that we celebrate during this time of year. Take a few moments, be still and as the Psalmist says, “know that He is God”** and He is risen! Hallelujah

(*Quote by Oswald Chambers, **Psalm 46:10)

He is the Lord God -faithful and true

Merry Christmas!

We have now entered the Advent Season, which is deemed the beginning of the Church year. It is a time of preparing for the coming of the Lord Jesus – celebrating His birth, His coming in the past and anticipating His coming once again.

Every year it is a struggle to keep focused on the reason we celebrate Christmas. The decorating, gift shopping and gift-giving, Christmas programs, Christmas parades and activities, Church Christmas get-togethers, family visits, eating and eating some more, just to name a few things. Taking time to prepare our hearts sometimes ends up at the bottom of the pile.

Yet this is where our Hope is: in Jesus, His coming to Earth, becoming like us, and making a way for us to be with Him eternally. He came, He is with us now in Spirit every moment of everyday and He is coming again. I believe that. I hold on to His promises – even more so during this season – not just for myself but for those I know, and don’t know, who are deeply hurting. In our small group of friends and fellow believers it has been a season of shocking diagnoses, loss of loved ones, struggling family, friends and loved ones. That’s not something anyone is going to get over in ‘sitcom’ time.

Grieving is a process that we all handle differently and it takes time and we will never know all the whys until we get to the other side. But I believe that my Redeemer is Faithful and True, that He is with us every step of the way, whether I ‘feel’ it or not, and I am thankful that He came, that He walks with us through the valley, and that He is coming again.

Let’s take time to focus on that this Christmas season. Spend some time in the presence of the One who walks beside us through the good and the bad.

There are many scriptures in the Bible that remind us that the Lord is faithful and true (Rev. 22), and the His word is Faithful and true (Rev. 21). And here is a good song, from someone who has had to walk through some very dark times after the death of his young daughter, Steven C. Chapman. My Redeemer is Faithful and True.


I Know Something. Do You?

“When Father Michael looked up, his eyes met Ivena’s as she trudged under her cross. They were bright and sorrowful at once. She seemed to understand something but he could not know what. Perhaps she, too, had heard the song. Either way, he smiled, somehow less afraid than he had been just a minute ago.
Because he KNEW something now.
He knew there were two worlds in motion here.
He knew that behind the skin of this world, there was another. And in that world a man was singing, and the children were laughing. ….

“….Christ lives. He is not dead…..” the priest told the soldier. Father Michael drew a deep breath. “Christ lives in me, sir. His spirit rages through my body. I feel it now. I can hear it. The only reason that you can’t it because your eyes and ears are clogged by this world. But there’s another world at work here. It’s Christ’s kingdom, and it bristles with his power.” (From the Martyr’s Song by Ted Dekker)

In-Christ-AloneChrist lives! He makes all the difference in how we see life and how we handle life. Sickness is the same for all of us, unkindness is experienced by all of us, fear is experienced by all of us, pain is the same for all of us, growing old is the same for all of us, rejection is the same for all of us, trauma is the same for us all, exhaustion is the same for all of us, uncertainty is the same for us all, cancer is the same for us all, death is the same for us all…whether it is natural, sudden or cruel.

But if we know that Christ lives, that His Kingdom is real, and that it is just a step beyond the veil, then in the midst of the pain, and the despair, and the exhaustion, and the agony that can sometimes be life, we can have HOPE. We know that there is more than what we are experiencing in the here and now, another Force, our everlasting Source, the Lord God Almighty, at work and we can face whatever is thrown in our face, no matter how frail our outward aging human body is or how dark things are around us.

Have Faith, Trust Him and have Hope!

The Road Outside My Door

The Long Road

Bilbo: I’ll be fine. Just let me sit quietly for a moment.

Gandalf: You’ve been sitting quietly for far too long. Tell me. When did doilies and your mother’s dishes become so important to you? I remember a young hobbit who was always running off in search of Elves in the woods. He’d stay out late, come home after dark, trailing mud and twigs and fireflies. A young hobbit who would’ve liked nothing better than to find out what was beyond the borders of the Shire. The world is not in your books and maps. It’s out there.

This piece of dialogue is found in the “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” but not in Tolkien’s book on the same subject; yet the tone of it works very nicely. I, for one, was struck by the conversation and have been mulling over my life’s comforts and how easy it is to get attached to them and to settle into a quiet life of ‘being old’. Why am I afraid to “go out my door”? What am I holding on to in my life? Is it security, comfort, a set routine, fear of the unknown, dislike of uncomfortable surroundings or temperatures?

Is there some adventure waiting for me that I am missing because I would rather sit in front of a nice warm fire in my hobbit hole? Is there something I am missing because I am in a routine of doing a “few good things” and not willing to look outside of the very firmly drawn boundaries in my life? I know for most of us, life is made up more of ordinary days than days of extraordinary adventure, but I’ve been wondering if maybe it’s time to ‘stretch’ a little again, reach outside of my comfort zone, learn something new or touch the lives of some of those around me who do not have nice little hobbit holes. No telling what I will find down the road!

On the Journey …. Valerie

Are You a Pioneer or a Settler?

We are on an incredible journey at our church, Life Church Knoxville, and even though we don’t know what’s over the horizon we are trusting the Lord to lead us as we put one foot in front of the other. I am reminded again of the story of pioneers and settlers that I read years ago and thought it was important to share it at this juncture, because no matter where we are on our journey, we must decide who we are.Image

 “There are two visions of life, two kinds of people. The first see life as a possession to be carefully guarded. They are called settlers. The second see life as a wild, fantastic, explosive gift. They are called pioneers. …

In Settler Theology, the church is the courthouse. It is the center of town life. The old stone structure dominates the town square. Its windows are small and this makes things dark inside. Within the courthouse walls, records are kept, taxes collected, trials held for bad guys. The courthouse is the settler’s symbol of law, order, stability, and—most importantly—security. The mayor’s office is on the top floor. His eagle eye ferrets out the smallest details of town life.

In Pioneer Theology, the church is the covered wagon. It’s a house on wheels, always on the move. The covered wagon is where the pioneers eat, sleep, fight, love and die. It bears the marks of life and movement—it creaks, is scarred with arrows, bandaged with baling wire. The covered wagon is always where the action is. It moves toward the future and doesn’t bother to glorify its own ruts. The old wagon isn’t comfortable, but the pioneers don’t mind. They are more into adventure than comfort.

In Settler Theology, God is the mayor. He is a sight to behold. Dressed like a dude from back East, he lounges in an over-stuffed chair in his courthouse office. He keeps the blinds drawn. No one sees him or knows him directly, but since there is order in town, who can deny that he is there? The mayor is predictable and always on schedule. The settlers fear the mayor, but look to him to clear the payroll and keep things going. Peace and quiet are the mayor’s main concerns. That’s why he sends the sheriff to check on the pioneers who ride into town.

In Pioneer Theology, God is the trail boss. He is rough and rugged, full of life. He chews tobacco, drinks straight whiskey. The trail boss lives, eats, sleeps, fights with his people. Their sell-being is his concern. Without him the wagon wouldn’t move; living as a free man would be impossible. The trail boss often gets down in the mud with the pioneers to help push the wagon, which often gets stuck. He prods the pioneers when they get soft and want to turn back. His fist is an expression of his concern.

In Settler Theology, Jesus is the sheriff. He’s the guy who is sent by the mayor to enforce the rules. He wears a white hat, drinks milk, outdraws the bad guys. The sheriff decides who is thrown into jail. There is a saying in town that goes: those who believe the mayor sent the sheriff, and follow the rules, they won’t stay in Boothill when it comes their time.

In Pioneer Theology, Jesus is the scout. He rides out ahead to find our which way the pioneers should go. He lives all the dangers of the trail. The scout suffers every hardship, is attacked by the Indians. Through his words and actions he reveals the true intentions of the trail boss. By looking at the scout, those on the trail learn what it means to be a pioneer.

In Settler Theology, the Holy Spirit is the saloon girl. Her job is to comfort the settlers. They come to her when they feel lonely, or when life gets dull or dangerous. She tickles them under the chin and makes everything okay again. The saloon girl squeals to the sheriff when someone starts disturbing the peace.

In Pioneer Theology, the Holy Spirit is the buffalo hunter. He rides along with the covered wagon and furnishes fresh meat for the pioneers. Without it they would die. The buffalo hunter is a strange character—sort of a wild man. The pioneers can never tell what he will do next.

 He scares the hell out of the settlers. He has a big black gun that goes off like a cannon. He rides into town on Sunday to shake up the settlers. You see, every Sunday morning, the settlers have a little ice cream party in the courthouse. With his gun in hand the buffalo hunter sneaks up to one of the courthouse windows. He fires a tremendous blast that rattles the whole courthouse. Men jump out of their skin, women scream, dogs bark. Chuckling to himself, the buffalo hunter rides back to the wagon train shooting up the town as he goes.

In Settler Theology, the Christian is the settler. He fears the open, unknown frontier. His concern is to stay on good terms with the mayor and keep out of the sheriff’s way. “Safety first” is his motto. To him the courthouse is a symbol of security, peace, order, and happiness. He keeps his money in the bank. The banker is his best friend. The settler never misses an ice cream party.

In Pioneer Theology, the Christian is the pioneer. He is a man of daring, hungry for a new life. He rides hard, knows how to use a gun when necessary. The pioneer feels sorry for the settlers and tries to tell them of the joy and fulfillment of life on the trail. He dies with his boots on.

In Settler Theology, the clergyman is the banker. Within his vault are locked the values of the town. He is a highly respected man. He has a gun, but keeps it hidden in his desk. He feels that he and the sheriff have a lot in common. After all, they both protect the bank.

In Pioneer Theology, the clergyman is the cook. He doesn’t furnish the meat. He just dishes up what the buffalo hunter provides. This is how he supports the movement of the wagon. He never confuses his job with that of the trail boss, scout, or the buffalo hunter. He sees himself as just another pioneer who has learned how to cook. The cook’s job is to help the pioneers pioneer.

In Settler Theology, faith is trusting in the safety of the town: obeying the laws, keeping your nose clean, believing the mayor is in the courthouse.

In Pioneer Theology, faith is the spirit of adventure: the readiness to move out, to risk everything on the trail. Faith is obedience to the restless voice of the trail boss.

In Settler Theology, sin is breaking one of the town’s ordinances.

In Pioneer Theology, sin is wanting to turn back.

In Settler Theology, salvation is living close to home and hanging around the courthouse.

In Pioneer Theology, salvation is being more afraid of sterile town life than death on the trail. Salvation is joy at the thought of another day to push on into the unknown. It is trusting the trail boss and following his scout while living on the meat furnished by the buffalo hunter.”

Which are you? Valerie May

–Lion and Lamb: the Relentless Tenderness of Jesus, Brennan Manning, Chapter 3, Fleming H. Revell Company, Old Tappan, NJ, 1986.3 

It’s Who You Know!

who you knowJehoshaphat, king of Judah, learned about faithfulness the hard way.

He began his reign by faithfully obeying God’s commands.  (2Chronicles 17:3-9). But he entered into a  military alliance with Ahab, king of Israel, against God’s will. The results were disastrous and God was displeased. No wonder Jehoshaphat was anxious when more invading armies approached his kingdom! .

This time the king and his people all sought the Lord: confessed their powerlessness and cried to the Lord for help and the Spirit of the Lord answered saying THE BATTLE IS THE LORD’S! They found the enemy destroyed!

Faith Knows Who to call on and remembers what He has done!

HE HAD BEEN FAITHFUL IN THE PAST AND THEY KNEW HE WOULD BE FAITHFUL IN THE PRESENT  – Jehoshaphat knew what the Lord had done in the past and this enabled him AND the people to have FAITH enough to trust God in this present crisis.

This is critical in regards to building our faith. His appeal was based on GOD’S HELP IN THE PAST!!!!! Remember what the Lord has done for you! How He has blessed you and has taken care of you – even when you didn’t realize it! KNOW that He is taking care of you right now – no matter what your circumstances are!  Remember – it’s Who you know and we know the Lord, God Almighty!!!

On the Journey … Valerie May

Just Waitin’ On You Dad

fathers handFather’s Day is this Sunday. These type of celebratory days are great for some people and really hard for others. Great if you have a dad, or a significant father figure in your life: Hard, sad or depressing if your father has passed away or if you never had a father figure in your life or a less than ‘acceptable’ father figure if your life. No matter our lot in life – what I am thankful for, is, “Our Father, Who Art in Heaven”. We are all familiar with those words. I am thankful for the constancy of our Father in Heaven – the One who says I have been and always have been with you! Praises for that!

One of the most stick-to-you stories that I remember reading is the one about a little boy, a 4-years-old out playing in the front yard at the family’s vacation lake house, who ran too close to the edge of the pier and fell in. His older sister (who was supposed to be watching him) screamed and his dad, who was in boathouse, knew immediately what had happened and dived into the 8 ft water after him. Frantically he felt around in the murky water for his son, but twice, out of breath, he had to return to the surface. On the 3rd try he found his son – clinging to the wooden pier several feet down. Prying the boy’s fingers loose, he bolted to the surface with his son in his arms.

Safely ashore, his dad asked him, what were you doing down there? His son, little Billy, replied, “Just waitin’ on you Dad, just waitin’ on you.”

As young as Billy was, he already had a history with his father – a history of feeling safe, protected, accepted and loved. He knew from experience that his dad loved him, was delighted in him and he was aware of his dad’s faithfulness.  His dad had been there in the past for him, so little Billy was hanging on, trusting that his dad would come and help him in this current situation. That’s the kind of Heavenly Father we have! I am thankful  to have had a father who loved me dearly. He passed away at 52 (over 30 years ago) and I still miss him a lot! I am also thankful for a husband that strives to be a good dad to our 3, now grown, kids. I am thankful for the many ‘father’ figures in my life! But most of all, I am thankful for my Heavenly Father who loves me just the way I am; and loved me enough to send His Son, Jesus, so I KNOW that I will see my own father and the many others that I love, again someday!

How do we get to know our Heavenly Father better?  By spending time with Him, by reading His word to see how faithful He has been to all who followed Him through the ages; by being around his children (being a part of the body of Christ, i.e. church, small group, etc.), hearing others talking about how He has been faithful to them; by reading stories about how He has been faithful.   Get to know this Father who loves you dearly!

“Be still” and “Know” that I am God. (Ps. 46:10)

On the Journey … Valerie May

Back to the Basics

backtobasicsIn John 25, Jesus heals a blind man and some of the Jewish folks marched the now seeing man before the Pharisees whose perfunctory behavior was true to form: “obviously Jesus cannot be from God because he didn’t keep the Sabbath.” Talk about missing the big picture! They were always focusing on the wrong things. Jesus kept telling them to open their eyes and look at Him and what is going on. Didn’t happen. 2 Timothy 2:14-18 reminds us of this again. “Remember the basics, don’t get caught up in pious nitpicking, which chips away at the faith… and just wears everyone out.” Isn’t that what the Pharisees did, and don’t we see the same thing happening today in our churches? We are taught “they will know we are Christians by our love” – not our bickering, our rightly dividing the word, or by how busy we are in church activities. LOVE! Show compassion to the hurt and needy and those suffering or lost!

Dear Jesus save us from ourselves! Keep us from forgetting that we all deeply need YOU – your love, your mercy and your grace. Teach us to build one another up in a world that is constantly tearing us down! Help us to see that but for your death and resurrection we would be so lost! Help us keep our eyes fixed on you! Help us to ‘see’ people more than traditions. Help us to reach out to humanity in your name: to not just give you lip service but heart, soul, body and mind service!

“Repeat these basic essentials over and over to God’s people. Warn them before God against pious nitpicking, which chips away at the faith. It just wears everyone out. Concentrate on doing your best for God, work you won’t be ashamed of, laying out the truth plain and simple. Stay clear of pious talk that is only talk. Words are not mere words, you know. If they’re not backed by a godly life, they accumulate as poison in the soul. 2 Timothy 2:14-18