A Life Changing Conversation 

It was one the most influential conversations in my life. Back in 1972, The Sound of Singing Youth,  our church music group  ( yes, I really was young once) was doing a concert in Montreat N.C. with some of the staff of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Team. It was to be my last time with the group before going off to college to prepare for ministry. I was working as a stage hand that night. I remember feeling a lot of confusion about my life at that time with all the changes leaving home not knowing what the next phase of my life would be like.Ethel Waters , former Broadway musical star and movie actress, was there to sing that night. She sang many times at the Billy Graham Crusades around the world. Her most popular song she would sing at those events would be “His Eye is On the Sparrow” which describes how much God really cares for us if God cares for even the sparrow as Jesus said ” The very hairs on your head are numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.”- Luke 12:2 (NLT)
 She ended up standing by me back stage. She looked at me and asked  “Is something bothering you?” I shared about my doubts about my future. She share that “Doubt and Discouragement  are two of the biggest weapons that the devil uses to keep us from being  what God wants us to be in life.” She also told me she read Psalm 40 everyday to remember that God is with us no matter what challenges we are faced with in life…”I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what He has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.”- Psalm 40:1-3 (NLT)

That simple conversation continued to impact my life. When Ethel passed away my mom, who was a great fan of Ethel,  asked me to plant a magnolia tree at our home .That tree eventually grew taller than the house. One night during a thunderstorm, lightning struck the tree and split it apart. To our amazement, the tree survived. Every time I drove in that drive way I would see that tree and be reminded of that conversation with Ethel  Waters. Now years later, although I live in another house, when I pull into my driveway I see a magnolia tree some friends  gave me. Often times I see it after a tough day of visiting people who sick in the hospitals, or trying to help people through a tragedy or crisis, or trying to help people who are hurting in some other way…I’m reminded of what God taught through that conversation. Now as I did then, I give my doubts and discouragement to God because His Eye is on the Sparrow and I know He watches over You and Me. God loves and cares for you and me, not just because of the magnolia tree but because of what Jesus did for you and me on the cross on Calvary. His love for you and me is greater than any doubt or discouragement we may face or encounter along life’s way.

Strength for Today 

I took this picture on the coast of North Carolina several years ago, one morning at sunrise. I am amazed how God takes care of the earth He created. This reminds me of the importance to trusting God and thanking Him for each new day. I have learned (and still learning) that everyday,we should hold our expectations loosely and hold God’s guiding hand tightly. He is there to guide us and give us renewed strength as we in trust Him as we go through our day.. Dr. E.M. Bounds, who wrote several classic books on the topic of prayer said: “We must trust God today, and leave tomorrow entirely with Him. The present is ours, the future belongs to God.” Our strength for today also comes from God… I really like this Scripture from the Bible…”Have you not heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall with exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar and rise above.” – ( Isaiah 40: 28-31).

In our instant gratification culture, there is a tendency for us to give up too soon on our faith especially in times of crisis. Yet, we know that peristence and patience are needed for anyone to be successful in most things. Our confidence needs to be placed more in the Lord than in just our present circumstances. If we do this, it will allows us to keep going during the dark times of our lives. 

    How about you today? Is the major focus of your thinking more on the circumstances than on The ONE who is greater than the situations you are facing right now? Today is a new opportunity for you to grow closer to HIm as you trust Him and go on in faith. When you do this, you will find new strength.

    Max Lucado has said this: ” Since I know God’s provision is timely, I can enjoy the present. The key is this….Meet today’s problems with today’s strength. Don’t start tackling tomorrow’s problems until  tomorrow. You do not have tomorrow’s strength yet. You simply have enough for today.” May you and I find new strength today as we trust in The Lord and go on with what we have to do today and trust Him with the rest…if we do this we won’t be doubting in the dark what God has already shown us  in the light….as God renews our strength as we trust in Him…today!

Take One Step at a Time

One of the most important things about hiking is simple… take one step at a time. A mountain can look impossible and intimidating to climb from a distance, yet just taking one step at a time gets you to the top. You also need to pace your self, stop and rest when necessary. There are other kinds of mountains we face in life. The Mountains of Fear, Doubt, Discouragement, Difficult Situations, etc…Are you stuck at the bottom of the mountain and paralyzed with worry, not knowing what to do next? Let me encourage you to simply take the next step, one at a time. Don’t be obsessed in your thoughts about how much further you have to go, just take the one step at a time. Jesus said…” Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” (Matthew 6:31)

Another important thing to remember  is that God is with you each step of the way. I really like what Chuck Smith says about this, “We have a tendency to measure the obstacles before us by our on ability to climb them. And that is reasonable if we are the ones who’ve do the hiking. But that is  the wrong measuring stick if God is the One who is going to handle the mountain for us. Difficulty must be measured by the capacity of the agent handling the task. If God si the One tackling the mountain, the word ‘difficulty’ has no place in the equation. As He said,’Behold, I am The Lord. Is there anything too hard for Me?’ (Jeremiah 32:27). We must learn to look at situations, not in the light of our strength, but in the light of God’s strength.”  Some other encouraging thoughts: 

 “The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights.” – Habakkuk 3:19

“God arms me with strength, and He makes my way perfect. He makes me surefooted as a deer, enabling me to stand on mountain heights.” – Psalm 18:32-33 (NLT) 

“God doesn’t promise to eliminate challenges; instead, He promises to give us strength to meet those challenges. If He gave us no rough roads to walk, no mountains to climb, and no battles to fight, we would not grow. He does not leave us alone with our challenges, however. Instead He stands beside us, teaches us, and strengthen us to face them.” – Life Application Bible

Happy Trails…See you at the “Top” of the Mountains…as we take One Step at a Time…

My Mom’s Treasure Trunk 

My Mom had an old trunk to keep things in, it was in rough shape, missing handles, and torn in places. I asked her one time, why she kept it. She told me that when she was a child, her dad left and deserted her family. This was during the Great Depression during the 1930’s in the south. Her mom had to put her, her brother and sister in an orphanage to go find a job to provide for them. Their mom came back and got them sometime later. While she was at the orphanage, her few clothes and everything she had was in that trunk.I asked her if was she was bitter about having to go through that difficult time… She said no, I asked why? She replied that while she was in the orphanage, she learned how to share, and get along with others. She said that God used those people skills she learned there in the orphanage to help prepare her for her work in our family’s laundry business years later… What an amazing attitude!

After she passed away, I had a friend repaint the trunk for me. It sits in our (Bear) den. It is an empty trunk but for me, every time I look at it…it is full of wonderful memory treasures from my mom’s life that will always be in my heart, mind, and soul. Things that have blessed and benefited me beyond measure… Such as my mom’s kindness to people, her compassion to help others, showing me that God can use even our hurts to help others, her perpensity to laugh at herself when funny things happened to her through out her life. Some of her favorite sayings were…”you got to widen your horizons” (which means… don’t be afraid to try new things and experiences) and “Don’t look back, you can’t live in the past.”

She taught me these and many other great things by her example. Although she has been gone several years, her impact and influence in my life is as strong as it has ever been. I’m so thankful for my mom sharing these treasures with me.