Friday, December 16, 2011

Joy to the world?

When we look around, it would appear that "joy" has skipped a lot of hurting people around the world. There have been earthquakes, tsunamis, recent flooding and on-going famines. Our economy has plunged many into desperate times because employment opportunities and the stock market continue to remain bleak and unstable.

Closer to home, I've watched two families say good-bye to loved ones who have died from terrible cancers, and just last week a couple in my church lost their tiny baby girl at eighteen weeks gestation. Locally, a large homeless population, including entire families, goes unaided despite several shelters and charities like the Salvation Army. Today, I'm praying for a vibrant pastor friend who suffered a heart attack.

Obviously, people are suffering, and as Christmas approaches, their plight is brought forward to linger in our consciousness. As Christians, how do we minister to those whose happiness seems just out of reach, or buried beneath circumstances beyond human control? How do we ourselves keep a focus on joy when everything around us seems to be falling apart?

Jesus said: "I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly." How is that even possible given the above mentioned situations? If God says that abundant life (joy) is possible in the impossible chaos of civilization, then we must surely realize that joy is not the same as happiness.

This is what Oswald Chambers said about joy. "Joy should not be confused with happiness. Jesus prayed that our joy might continue fulfilling itself until it becomes the same as His. Have I allowed Jesus Christ to introduce His joy to me?" "These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full." (John 15:11)"

He whispers, or shouts, calling us by name..."come receive from Me the abundant life." What amazing, miraculous transitions are birthed when despite what goes on around us, near or far, we accept the intimacy of His invitation and remain focused on Him.

God brings life out of dark places from habit. New life comes from the darkness of the womb, and from the vast void of nothingness came His creation. (Genesis 1) He desires to bring hope to those who suffer through the dark night of the soul for He is HOPE. Joy comes from fixing our eyes on Him because He is JOY, and therefore, we can lay all expectations and suffering at His feet. However, it's been my experience this does not come without repetitious, faith filled, effort.

Christmas is the perfect reminder that God is on the side of mankind despite the fact He does not spare extreme hardship or even agonies of the flesh. We can still hail "joy to the world," because JOY came to the world for our soul's redemption in the form of the Infant King Jesus...our Emmanuel...our God with us.

Despite young death, old suffering, or the onslaughts of nature, we may partake in the riches of God's joyful glory ...and not just at Christmas.

Merry Christmas and JOY to your world!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Merry-go-round Gifts.

I've been focused lately on living in the moment. Yesterday, I almost missed one...a delicate, lacy one.

Trimming a plant while watering is such a menial task. A simple duty that takes little attention and little time. As I pruned, I ever so slightly gave the greenery a turn...something caught my eye.

The opposite side...the one soaking up precious light, had gifted itself with a splash of delicate whiteness. I continued the rotation, like a down-sized merry-go-round...sans the music. "Oh!"

The entire back side was covered with the gift of profuse blooms. Surprise, it shouted! Look what you almost missed. "Lord," I whispered...thank you." I'd forgotten this plant ever bloomed at all.

Living in the moment means giving my full attention to the flowing of time that surrounds me with inevitable movement...for sure God's plan. The flow moves me forward, but focusing on the moments at hand instead of the future or the past, I am free. Freed up to notice little gifts on the backside of things.

After my merry-go-round surprise, I began to wonder how many other gifts from God I might have noticed if only I had been more attentive, more awakened to the possibilities of hidden blooms. Since "if only" can drive me to rooms marked guilt and frustration, I refuse to enter there. Not today, hopefully, not ever. See, I'm learning the lesson of moment living after all.

When I am, like a prisoner freed, loosed from the burden of future worry and past mistakes, I am able to focus on the Source of life Who gives me life. A life filled with the exquisite gifts God wishes to lavish on His child. Here I am...I am she! The one He's chosen...the one He dotes upon, and shouts out love to from every corner of the earth... Sharon, come and see...come and see that I am good.

It's exciting to move about with new vision. Who knows what I might discover the next time I water a plant, glance out a window, or open my mail. I can't wait.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Can You Hear Him?

When I hit the ground after a collision with another biker, my life changed in an instant. The pain was unbearable, and all I craved was prayer. In the back of the ambulance, blood flying everywhere, I cried out to the Lord in song. "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles. They shall run and not grow weary, they shall walk and not faint." When I finished, I heard the Lord say, "You're going to walk." I believed Him, though I didn't know my leg was more than broken. It had imploded.

At the hospital, the doctor looked at my x-rays and declared he had no idea where the rest of my leg had gone. Four inches had broken off my tibia and was now missing. After five hours of surgery and three blood transfusions, the doctor concluded that I'd never walk without a crutch or a cane because of the damage to my knee.

That's when I remembered what the Lord had declared to me in the ambulance. I clung to that promise as time went by and I became stronger. In only four months, I was fitted with a brace to support my leg and told that I'd mostly likely have to wear it the rest of my life.

The first time the doctor saw me walk towards him without a crutch,cane OR brace, he declared me a walking "miracle." Of course I was! But I believed all along this day would come.

In the past, I'd spent years walking around the back roads near my country home, but after the accident, I wasn't sure if that would continue even though I now got around my daily life with ease.

On the anniversary of my life-altering-experience, a friend and I went on a victory/praise walk. It was only a quarter mile, but it was sweet and lovely. My thoughts went back to that day in the ambulance. "Oh Lord, I prayed, thank you for giving me ears to hear your comforting voice."

Is there something God has been saying to you? Sometimes He speaks in a still, small voice, or through His Word, or another believer. Wait in expectation, friends, for indeed, He has something to say.

Walking forward with a listening heart, Sharon

PS In the years since, God has restored my leg so that I'm able to walk 8-10 miles every week. Praise the Lord!

Monday, August 22, 2011

An Adage Broken!

Have you heard the adage that says "you can never go home?" Me too, however I believe I've proved that old saying wrong.

For several years in the late forties, home for me was just outside of Worden, Mt., east of Billings...population...small. I was five and my sister two when our parents divorced, and we left Washington to begin a new life near my mother's family.

I was broken hearted, full of grief and anger; yet soon Montana's magic began to work on me from the inside out. A city kid until then, the country became my personal playground, where the Lord intervened with a four-legged adventure named Brownie. She was old, gentle and exactly what a red-headed-tom-girl needed for escape. On her back, I was the sum total of my dreams...trick-rider, cowgirl roper, or a child who could ride into a place of comfort whenever she wanted. The healing began.

Going into town was a weekly adventure I loved as much as farm life. Memories of tart strawberry ice-cream melting on my tongue and the dusty, acrid smell of the feed store, still float through my mind.

Another vivid recollection is a white stucco building in the middle of town...the movie theater.Bambi was the first movie I ever saw in that place of great imagination. How vibrant yet is the remembrance of intimate anticipation., waiting in the dark until the Lion roared and the music began with a dramatic crescendo. Snuggled in Grandma's lap, we shared Black Jack gum, popcorn, and sometimes a Canadian mint or two.

I still missed my dad, but the attention of family, new adventures, and the discovery of the big screen created an environment of protection and comfort. My parents eventually reconciled, and we returned to the Pacific NW, the way we'd train. I cried the long way back , hoping my grandparents would ship the big brown horse when I got home.

Over the years we had several family reunions in Montana, my last visit being as a teenager. But, life goes on, and so did I, with a piece of Big Sky Country remaining with me always.

My husband and I love to "landsail," that's getting in the car for places unknown for exploration,photography and nature observations. Since he's the photographer, and had never been to Montana, the lure of unexplored vistas put us on the road one brilliant October.

We each had a wish list of places to visit. Worden was on mine for obvious reasons. Would it be the faded memory photo of my childhood? Is is possible to hold onto a piece of innocent time and not be disappointed when allowed to return?

We picked the perfect week for our sentimental journey, having wonderful sun-filled days, and crisp autumn mornings the entire way to Billings. We passed through the Bitterroots, stayed in Red Lodge where we had to scrape clinging frost off the windshield before leaving. The deeper we went into the state, the more my memories stirred.

The day we left for Worden, I prepared myself for disappointment. Knowing how much change could take place in decades of "progress," I wanted to be ready. Nothing looked familiar as we followed the map and road signs. I was silent while picture memories passed through my mind like the highway's mileposts.

When I spotted our turn off, my heart skipped. We were now on the old road from Billings.Searching for Worden's main street, I wondered if I'd recognize it, or even find it after all the encroachment of time and development.

We drove a short distance, and I spotted some buildings on our right. "Stop, this is it," I told my husband. "It's right here. The main street is right here."

We pulled in front of an all brick, vacant building. Peering in the window, I could see worn, hard wood flooring, and evidence of various vacated businesses scattered around. Something stirred' I was certain I remembered standing on those old floors. Was I only imagining the sounds and images that came to mind? This had been the bank! I closed my eyes and I was five, filled with delight. Delight, and something more. I choked back tears to do more ex;oration.

Directly across the street, a hardware business stood where the feed store once thrived, modern metal a substitute for old, fragrant wood. A couple of doors down, another structure begged to be recognized. The movie theater. Only now, it was the American Legion Hall, doors locked and blind pulled. Tempted to look around back for a discarded popcorn machine, or perhaps and abandoned velvet seat, I reasoned against it, wanting my imagination to remain intact with the past's youthful content.

As I continued the explorations, the memory of delight remained and I realized what the "something more" was. Security. That's what this place brought to mind. In the middle of a chaotic decision beyond my childhood control, this little town had been a place of refuge.What had started as a miserable chapter in my life, ended with something good and nurturing.

I'm so very grateful that I had the opportunity to turn back the pages of m life and not be disappointed. As a matter of fact, I've been back often...if only in my mind.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Here, then gone!

A few Sundays ago, a friend came to church, served in children's ministry, participated in worship, then went shopping before heading home. She never made it. While in a store, she collapsed and died en route to the hospital from a massive stroke. She didn't know when she got up that morning, she would be dead in a few short hours.

When I heard the news, my heart rejoiced for her heavenly homecoming, but I wondered about the last words she spoke. Would she have said something different if she knew those words would be her final ones?

I'm a writer, and I love words, but I've often used them negatively in anger, or frustration. What power we possess through our speech...power and opportunity...opportunity to bless or to curse.

Of course I want to be remembered for the words of blessing I've spoken, words full of grace and mercy. One of the first scripture verses I learned was from proverbs. " Whoever guards his mouth and tongue, keeps his soul from trouble." When I fill my heart with kindness, mercy and things of good report, my mouth reflects it. "Not what goes into the mouth, but what comes out of the mouth defiles a man."

When my final appointment with destiny comes, I hope my friends, family and my readers will remember my final words with a smile or two. Until then, I will be practicing.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


In the dead of winter, with the Columbia River gorge winds blowing, my heart is longing for spring. I want clear skies, warm breezes and fresh flowers on my table. This is a seasonal longing.

I have another longing that runs through my heart like a deep, endless ocean. I am homesick, dreaming of a place without sickness, pain or suffering. This earthly dwelling place is exhausting with the trials of life and all the burdens we encounter as mortal humans while residing here.

When I read scripture, I find I'm not alone in such emotional turmoils. Paul said: "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose, I cannot tell." He concluded by acknowledging the body of Christ needed him...they had work to do for the Lord. Phil. 1:21-26 Paul found joy in the serving regardless of his circumstances or his own heart longings, by submitting to God's plan and not his own.

I find great encouragement in this today, watching winter's rain pelt against my window pane. I have a renewed interest in being about my Father's business here on earth, and will continue to serve Him mortally with His eternal Hope.

Are you tired of waiting, friend? Tired of grappling with earthly troubles and burdens? Here's what God said to Jeremiah. "I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. Plans for good and not for give you a future and a hope." Jer. 29:11

I'll be longing for Heaven until I take my last breath, but in the mean time, I'm willing to "wait upon the Lord," who renews my strength on a daily basis. How about you?