"We become like what we focus on!" -- Expectations Transformed!

"We become like what we focus on!" -- Expectations Transformed!

First posted 2011
LBI...Long Beach Island, New Jersey -- sun, surf, and sweet memories.  Home of Surf City and Barnegat Lighthouse!   LBI was a favorite place for us Renners to vacation in our growing up years in the 1950's & 60's -- not every year but as many years as our family of 6 (and later 7) kids and 2 parents, living on one income, could afford.

It was such a beloved place that my brother Conrad and family bought a beach house there in 1998...within a block from the beach, no less!

One year, when our kids were grown but not yet married and out of the nest, we had the most wonderful Renner family reunion at LBI.  Conrad scouted out other houses on his street that were for rent. And so several of us rented for the same week, and we all (along with in-laws, friends, and pets) descended upon that little beach community.

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Embracing my Real Life

We often fight against our own reality, don't we? If you have trouble, as I do, with owning and living your real "today" life, why not pause here with me and reflect on this repost from last month: Living the Life I Have, not the One I Wish I Had

Have you ever thought you didn't have a problem in an area and then all of a sudden you came face to face with the truth? I have! In fact, that happened again to me just the other day.  Here's how it played out:

I was whizzing down my Facebook news feed when I came across a link shared by my sister-in-law Vicky. Now Vicky has been posting some really good stuff lately, and I had a few extra minutes...plus I was drawn into it (could that have been the Holy Spirit?), so I parked there for awhile.

the-scream

the-scream

As I went through the list of quotes for "anxious, highly sensitive, and creative people," BAM! Right between the emotional and spiritual eyes!

We must be willing to let go of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. Joseph Campbell

Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!

So that's my problem! I had been in a funk, a blue mood, lonely,...ok, depressed, for weeks. I haven't wanted to be here in Ohio, starting my job again, beginning a new commitment.

Beth & Nate and boys (3)

Beth & Nate and boys (3)

I've wanted to be back in Delaware...with my new grandson William and his brothers Eli and Kaden and my daughter Beth and her husband Nate (whom I am teaching to crochet, by the way...what fun!)

Or...

Sunrise 8-14

Sunrise 8-14

I've wanted to be in New Jersey...watching the sun rise over the ocean every morning and walking on the beach with my cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee with no one else around, except fishermen like my brother Billy, and photographers like Bill McKim.

sunrise, bill McKim 8-23-14

sunrise, bill McKim 8-23-14

And visiting with my siblings and my dear mama in her new home at Manor by the Sea in Ocean Grove.

mom, sibs, & me Aug 2012

mom, sibs, & me Aug 2012

My subconscious (and conscious) mind has been working on "how can I get back there...sooner instead of later?"

John on Thanksgiving at Beth's

John on Thanksgiving at Beth's

Now I have a good life here in Ohio, great husband, lovely home, awesome son and family, amazing friends, a one day a week teaching job that I love, a new opportunity to teach ladies the scriptures.  BUT...somewhere along the line, I've quit embracing my life and hugging it to my breast and being thankful for it -- both the good and the hard.  And that isn't good at all!

Jeremy & fam...JOY

Jeremy & fam...JOY

I can't live where I'm not! I need to live where I am each day...owning my reality. WHY? Because that is where God is and that is where I meet HIM! He is the I AM in my "right here, right now!"

After reflecting along these lines for awhile, another quote from the list got me:

Stress is caused by being ‘here’ but wanting to be ‘there.’ Eckhart Tolle

Is that what is disturbing my sleep lately? I'm fighting against my own life! How many times have I "preached" against this very thing to others?

So what did I do? I chose to receive the truth the Lord was revealing. "Jan, you need to be fully HERE!"

So here I am in Ohio...not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually. I'm meeting the Lord in my "here" and receiving at His hand "this day, this bread" as the Lord's prayer says.

What about you? What is the life you have? Is it the one you are embracing, or are you reaching out for another...which is not really your life "right here, right now" at all?

Why not do what the Lord led me to do this morning?  Agree with Him, and then list your life and give thanks for each and every part of it by name, the good and the hard.

Then keep on adding to the list each day...till that eternal day when you see Him face to face, when He says, "Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord!"

"Come on home...to a perfect place, a place you never dreamed possible!"

I looked again and could hardly believe my eyes. Everything above me was new. Everything below me was new. Everything around me was new because the heaven and earth that had been passed away, and the sea was gone, completely.

And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride on her wedding day, adorned for her husband and for His eyes only.

And I heard a great voice, coming from the throne.

See, the home of God is with His people. He will live among them; They will be His people, And God Himself will be with them.

Revelation 21:1-3 VOICE


Living the Life I Have, not the One I Wish I Had

Have you ever thought you didn't have a problem in an area and then all of a sudden you came face to face with the truth? I have! In fact, that happened again to me just the other day.  Here's how it played out: I was whizzing down my Facebook news feed when I came across a link shared by my sister-in-law Vicky. Now Vicky has been posting some really good stuff lately, and I had a few extra minutes...plus I was drawn into it (could that have been the Holy Spirit?), so I parked there for awhile.

the-scream

the-scream

As I went through the list of quotes for "anxious, highly sensitive, and creative people," BAM! Right between the emotional and spiritual eyes!

We must be willing to let go of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. Joseph Campbell

Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!

So that's my problem! I had been in a funk, a blue mood, lonely,...ok, depressed, for weeks. I haven't wanted to be here in Ohio, starting my job again, beginning a new commitment.

Beth & Nate and boys (3)

Beth & Nate and boys (3)

I've wanted to be back in Delaware...with my new grandson William and his brothers Eli and Kaden and my daughter Beth and her husband Nate (whom I am teaching to crochet, by the way...what fun!)

Or...

Sunrise 8-14

Sunrise 8-14

I've wanted to be in New Jersey...watching the sun rise over the ocean every morning and walking on the beach with my cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee with no one else around, except fishermen like my brother Billy, and photographers like Bill McKim.

sunrise, bill McKim 8-23-14

sunrise, bill McKim 8-23-14

And visiting with my siblings and my dear mama in her new home at Manor by the Sea in Ocean Grove.

mom, sibs, & me Aug 2012

mom, sibs, & me Aug 2012

My subconscious (and conscious) mind has been working on "how can I get back there...sooner instead of later?"

John on Thanksgiving at Beth's

John on Thanksgiving at Beth's

Now I have a good life here in Ohio, great husband, lovely home, awesome son and family, amazing friends, a one day a week teaching job that I love, a new opportunity to teach ladies the scriptures.  BUT...somewhere along the line, I've quit embracing my life and hugging it to my breast and being thankful for it -- both the good and the hard.  And that isn't good at all!

Jeremy & fam...JOY

Jeremy & fam...JOY

I can't live where I'm not! I need to live where I am each day...owning my reality. WHY? Because that is where God is and that is where I meet HIM! He is the I AM in my "right here, right now!"

After reflecting along these lines for awhile, another quote from the list got me:

Stress is caused by being ‘here’ but wanting to be ‘there.’ Eckhart Tolle

Is that what is disturbing my sleep lately? I'm fighting against my own life! How many times have I "preached" against this very thing to others?

So what did I do? I chose to receive the truth the Lord was revealing. "Jan, you need to be fully HERE!"

So here I am in Ohio...not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually. I'm meeting the Lord in my "here" and receiving at His hand "this day, this bread" as the Lord's prayer says.

What about you? What is the life you have? Is it the one you are embracing, or are you reaching out for another...which is not really your life "right here, right now" at all?

Why not do what the Lord led me to do this morning?  Agree with Him, and then list your life and give thanks for each and every part of it by name, the good and the hard.

Then keep on adding to the list each day...till that eternal day when you see Him face to face, when He says, "Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord!"

"Come on home...to a perfect place, a place you never dreamed possible!"

I looked again and could hardly believe my eyes. Everything above me was new. Everything below me was new. Everything around me was new because the heaven and earth that had been passed away, and the sea was gone, completely.

And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride on her wedding day, adorned for her husband and for His eyes only.

And I heard a great voice, coming from the throne.

See, the home of God is with His people. He will live among them; They will be His people, And God Himself will be with them.

Revelation 21:1-3 VOICE

[youtuber youtube='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xtxmSAqMtDA']

Daily Dying for Daily Living

dying to live

dying to live

I'm dying...little by little...not just physically (aren't we all because we are aging?), but also in many  and various ways. Everyday I die in some way, emotionally, volitionally, relationally, physically, occupationally or... My dreams may die.  My goals may crash to the ground and take me with them.  Right now, I'm going through a bit of that with the death of a vision.

Are you dying too, dear friend?

If you are living on this sin cursed earth, you too are dying every day.

But there's company...and there's hope.  Let's talk about it...

We are in good company.  The apostle Paul died every day.  Listen to his words from Holy Writ:

I die daily...

...always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus...

...we are afflicted in every way,...perplexed,...persecuted,...struck down,...always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus...For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake...So death works in us..." ...that I may know...the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death... (1 Cor 15:14; 2 cor 4:10, 7-11: Phil 3:10 NASB)

And Jesus Himself said,

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone... (John 12:24 NASB)

What is dying?  Death means separation. Physical death is separation of the body from the spirit.

But there are other separations, aren't there?  In the sense we are talking about, there is separation from our our dreams, our desires, our self-life...our self-will, our self-determination, our self-effort, our self-absorption...You get the idea!

death & resurrection

death & resurrection

Our self-determined dreams and visions and projects need to die.  And even the God-given ones must be placed on the altar.  Why? So that the Living God can resurrect HIS Life from the deadness of our flesh-tainted existence apart from Him!

And that's our hope. And a great hope it is!

Here's the rest of the story:

...that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Phil 3:10-11 NASB)

...always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. (2 Cor 4:10 NASB)

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the lifeof Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you. (2 Cor 4:7-11 NASB)

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. (John 12:24-25 NASB)

Knowing Christ! Touching HIM! That is Life indeed!

Join me, O dying friend, in this prayer of relinquishment:

Dear Lord,  we gladly (though painfully) die, even to our current projects and dreams...that we may know You, Whom to know is life eternal...this day and every day!  We freely turn from our self-determination and self-absorption and joyfully give...

Glory to You Steve Green

What do I possess That You did not give to me? What mysteries are clear to me That You did not explain? When did I share truth I had not received from You? What good works have I performed That You did not ordain?

Chorus Any strength I have Any good I do Comes from the life I found in You So in all I am And in all I do I give the glory to You

How do I express My love and may gratitude? For all I am and ever will be All depends on You Where in the world would I be Had You not reached out to me? All the good I have in life Can all be traced to You

(Chorus)

From the strength to obey Your Word when I hear it To reaching out in love It’s all a gift of the Holy Spirit, Coming from above

(Chorus)

I give the glory to You


Extending Grace to Ourselves and to Others: Reflections on Growth in the Vineyard

138_6105

138_6105

One year, I celebrated my June birthday with my daughter and family in California. To my delight, Beth took me to my vineyard for lunch at the lovely restaurant there.

On the way to the Temecula vineyard area, I was amazed to see how the former ruthlessly pruned vines were now covered with lush green leaves.  You may remember those stark vines in a former post.

A Pruned Branch 138_5713

A Pruned Branch 138_5713

That was just a little over 3 months before!

I wondered about the fruit though, because I do know that usually harvest season is in the fall.  So after lunch, we went to see if we could find my vine.  Beth lifted some leaves, and we saw a bunch of beautifully formed green (not ripe) grapes.

138_6101

138_6101

I was amazed at the transformation in such a short time.  However, the growth wasn't complete yet.  The promise of a harvest was evident, but it wasn't yet a harvest.

Those green grapes set my mind and heart thinking about growth and maturity and waiting on God, the Master Vinedresser who knows the process from the beginning to end.  He has promised,

He who began a good work in you will perfect it till the day of Christ Jesus. Phil 1:6

So often, I'm impatient with myself and others, wanting instant maturity or expecting "fruitfulness" before its time.

I think of Moses as a young man in Egypt.  The book of Acts says that he knew about his call to deliver Israel from Egyptian bondage and actually tried to do so before God's time.

When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the children of Israel.  And seeing one of them being wronged, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian.  He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand. Acts 7:23-25 ESV

God still had work to do in Moses life to bring him to the end of himself.  Then he would be ready for the mature "fruit" of being God's instrument of deliverance.

It's the same way with us.  God the Father, our Gardener, promises that as we abide in Christ His True Vine, we will bear fruit in increasing measure:

...fruit,...more fruit,... much fruit. John 15:2,5.

He has us in His process!  The Father does whatever is necessary to bring our lives to fruition.

Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he lifts up[alternate translation], and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.John 15:2

Our job is not perfection, but abiding.  But rather we are impatient and really...immature.  We want to experience mature fruit before God's time.

This reminds me of when we were kids in the 1950's.

Janet, Linda, and Nancy in Az next to cactus in 1954?

Janet, Linda, and Nancy in Az next to cactus in 1954?

Linda, Janet, & Nancy in Arizona circa 1954

In the 1950's, my family lived on the edge of a desert in Tucson, Arizona in a new housing area consisting of cinder block duplexes, but little else.  Not much grew out there.  But one thing that did grow was melon.  The way I know that is when we kids would eat watermelon, we would spit our seeds to one side of our front porch.  After a time, a watermelon vine would grow carrying a beautiful new melon.

Would we wait till the melon ripened to open it up?  Oh no!  We impatiently and prematurely cracked open that baby, only to see white hard flesh where juicy sweet redness should be.  What a disappointment!

And maybe that's why we are disappointed with our own lives and the lives of our children and others close to us!

There's an interesting verse in the New Testament addressed to fathers, but it could very well be addressed to mothers, daughters, sons, brothers, sisters, other relatives, friends, co-workers, neighbors, etc.  Just substitute alternate relationships for the underlined words:

Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart. Col 3:21

How do we exasperate and frustrate our children and others?

By unrealistic expectations of perfection?

By building walls instead of choosing love in difficult situations with others?

By giving up and not counting on God's working?

In reality, full maturity will will not be reached on this earth.  Rather it will come when we meet Christ face-to-face.

So in the meantime, dear brothers & sisters, let us abide in Him, keep on growing, and extend to each other (and to ourselves) God's grace:

And now, little children, abide in him... Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 1 John 2:28; 3:2

But grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. 2 Peter 3:18

138_6097

138_6097

Disappointment...

disappointed
disappointed

We all experience it...from the day we are born until the day we die!  Disappointment! Unmet needs, unfulfilled expectations, failed relationships, frustrated goals, and on and on...Disappointment!

Here is a little gem of a quote I found it on a little card tucked way down in the bottom of a manila folder, and it says it well:

Disappointment:

God's way of dimming the glamour of the world and deepening our ability to enjoy Him.* Psalm 119:37

Think about it!  Has this been your experience? It has mine. Years ago, when my health was breaking...and there were no answers...and there was no one to believe me -- not my doctors, not my loved ones -- that's when I found the Lord in the deepest part of my being.

Now I thank God for that very dark time...because I was abandoned to HIM!  And I've never been the same.

Maybe you are facing deep disappointment right now.  Turn your eyes away from the external things.  Instead turn your attention to the Lover of your soul -- enjoy HIM as you never have before!

We pray for blessings, we pray for peace Comfort for family, protection while we sleep We pray for healing, for prosperity We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering

All the while You hear each spoken need Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops What if Your healing comes through tears? What if a thousand sleepless nights Are what it takes to know You're near?

What if trials of this life Are Your mercies in disguise?

We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love As if every promise from Your Word is not enough

And all the while You hear each desperate plea And long that we'd have faith to believe

'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops What if Your healing comes through tears? And what if a thousand sleepless nights Are what it takes to know You're near?

And what if trials of this life Are Your mercies in disguise?

When friends betray us, when darkness seems to win We know that pain reminds this heart That this is not, this is not our home It's not our home

'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops What if Your healing comes through tears? And what if a thousand sleepless nights Are what it takes to know You're near?

What if my greatest disappointments Or the aching of this life Is the revealing of a greater thirst This world can't satisfy?

And what if trials of this life The rain, the storms, the hardest nights Are Your mercies in disguise?

*Bill Gothard

disappointment-his-app
disappointment-his-app

We become like what we focus on!

LBI...Long Beach Island, New Jersey -- sun, surf, and sweet memories.  Home of Surf City and Barnegat Lighthouse!   LBI was a favorite place for us Renners to vacation in our growing up years in the 1950's & 60's -- not every year but as many years as our family of 6 (and later 7) kids and 2 parents, living on one income, could afford.

It was such a beloved place that my brother Conrad and family bought a beach house there in 1998...within a block from the beach, no less!

One year, when our kids were grown but not yet married and out of the nest, we had the most wonderful Renner family reunion at LBI.  Conrad scouted out other houses on his street that were for rent. And so several of us rented for the same week, and we all (along with in-laws, friends, and pets) descended upon that little beach community.

Family reunion at LBI 2000

Family reunion at LBI 2000

Vacation Blog

Vacation Blog

It was a glorious week, filled with swimming, sun-bathing, sunrise watching, etc etc.  But the best thing was the love and togetherness and community that "happened".  We shared meals together, each family taking a turn.

A year or two later, some of us rented houses again at LBI.  I was hoping to recapture the same experience of that previous vacation together.  Well, you know how that goes.  Recapturing "glory" usually never happens.  And it certainly didn't happen this time...or so I thought!

For one thing, we all couldn't make it...for various valid reasons.  On top of that, my brother Paul's family, including his sister-in-law's family, rented a house that was germ infested (probably from the previous renters).  Everyday other members of their families "would drop like flies" with a terrible flu-bug.  So there was often a "skeletal crew" on the beach from that household.

Vacation Blog06

Vacation Blog06

We didn't eat together like the other year.  There was little to no fellowship or community because of struggles going on in individual lives.  My widowed mom, then in her mid-70"s, was staying with us. (Remember her?  My hero in a previous post!)  She was frustrated with issues related to our family house, which was too much for her to handle at that stage of her life!  (We probably had waited too long to move her elsewhere.)  So our conversations were largely negative.  She had to get it off her chest, but with my expectations for a nice relaxed vacation, I was hardly as sympathetic as I could have been.

Not to bore you with too many negative details, let's just say that to me the vacation was a total bust!  And I left LBI mad, mad, mad...and feeling cheated!  For the 11 hour drive home from NJ to OH, I seethed.  I couldn't sleep that night!  And I stayed stuck for days despite dealing with some issues I needed to deal with.   Until...

Until the Lord broke through, "Enough!  Now it's over!  You've dealt with what I told you.  NOW when you think of this vacation, I want you to focus on the one hour of joyful bliss we had together."

Oh my goodness!  I had forgotten about that because of my absorption with my disappointment!

Bageleddi's

Bageleddi's

It was the Wednesday of vacation week.  I woke up at 5:45 am totally awake.  Grabbing a cup of coffee at Bageleddi's (the local favorite), I walked alone to the beach.  It was warm, and the sun had just started to come up but was not yet visible.  The cloud bank above the ocean was turning shades of pink, purple, and blue...and then the sliver of sun started to appear on the horizon. I opened my Bible and read in the Psalms,

The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship... God has made a home in the heavens for the sun. It bursts forth like a radiant bridegroom after his wedding. It rejoices like a great athlete eager to run the race. The sun rises at one end of the heavens and follows its course to the other end. Psalm 19:1,4-6

So Jesus and I walked and talked together that glorious morning -- perfect rest in Him, enjoying together the most gorgeous sunrise I had truly ever seen.  And I had forgotten it all!

So whenever negative thoughts about vacation would start to again flood my mind, I remembered this one joyful hour of bliss with my Lord.

As the days went by, something amazing started to happen.

Other pleasant memories of our vacation started to surface:  like my early morning walk to the beach only to discover a delightful sight -- my brothers and nephews fishing in the surf; and the fun supper at the Mud Hut with my husband and adult children; and a surprisingly wonderful conversation with an in-law that I didn't typically connect with.

By God's grace, He saved me from a root of bitterness in my heart.  As I began to reflect on what had happened in me, I started to realize what I've come to believe is a spiritual principle:  We become like what we focus on.

I remembered some of my favorite passages of Scripture:

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another... For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Cor 3:18: 4:6 ESV

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Col 3:1-4 NIV

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthythink about such things... And the God of peace will be with you. Phil 4:8

So here's the question, dear friends:  What's your attitude, your frame of mind, like right now?

Maybe you need to hear the Lord say (as I did), "Focus on Me and remember joy!"

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3


Lessons from a Family Vacation: Expectations Transformed

Jan at Barnegat Lighthouse 2000

Jan at Barnegat Lighthouse 2000

LBI...Long Beach Island, New Jersey -- sun, surf, and sweet memories.  Home of Surf City and Barnegat Lighthouse!   LBI was a favorite place for us Renners to vacation in our growing up years in the 1950's & 60's -- not every year but as many years as our family of 6 (and later 7) kids and 2 parents, living on one income, could afford.

Vacation Blog05

Vacation Blog05

It was such a beloved place that my brother Conrad and family bought a beach house there in 1998...within a block from the beach, no less!

One year, when our kids were grown but not yet married and out of the nest, we had the most wonderful Renner family reunion at LBI.  Conrad scouted out other houses on his street that were for rent. And so several of us rented for the same week, and we all (along with in-laws, friends, and pets) descended upon that little beach community.

Family reunion at LBI 2000

Family reunion at LBI 2000

Vacation Blog

Vacation Blog

It was a glorious week, filled with swimming, sun-bathing, sunrise watching, etc etc.  But the best thing was the love and togetherness and community that "happened".  We shared meals together, each family taking a turn.

A year or two later, some of us rented houses again at LBI.  I was hoping to recapture the same experience of that previous vacation together.  Well, you know how that goes.  Recapturing "glory" usually never happens.  And it certainly didn't happen this time...or so I thought!

For one thing, we all couldn't make it...for various valid reasons.  On top of that, my brother Paul's family, including his sister-in-law's family, rented a house that was germ infested (probably from the previous renters).  Everyday other members of their families "would drop like flies" with a terrible flu-bug.  So there was often a "skeletal crew" on the beach from that household.

Vacation Blog06

Vacation Blog06

We didn't eat together like the other year.  There was little to no fellowship or community because of struggles going on in individual lives.  My widowed mom, then in her mid-70"s, was staying with us. (Remember her?  My hero in a previous post!)  She was frustrated with issues related to our family house, which was too much for her to handle at that stage of her life!  (We probably had waited too long to move her elsewhere.)  So our conversations were largely negative.  She had to get it off her chest, but with my expectations for a nice relaxed vacation, I was hardly as sympathetic as I could have been.

Not to bore you with too many negative details, let's just say that to me the vacation was a total bust!  And I left LBI mad, mad, mad...and feeling cheated!  For the 11 hour drive home from NJ to OH, I seethed.  I couldn't sleep that night!  And I stayed stuck for days despite dealing with some issues I needed to deal with.   Until...

Until the Lord broke through, "Enough!  Now it's over!  You've dealt with what I told you.  NOW when you think of this vacation, I want you to focus on the one hour of joyful bliss we had together."

Oh my goodness!  I had forgotten about that because of my absorption with my disappointment!

Bageleddi's

Bageleddi's

It was the Wednesday of vacation week.  I woke up at 5:45 am totally awake.  Grabbing a cup of coffee at Bageleddi's (the local favorite), I walked alone to the beach.  It was warm, and the sun had just started to come up but was not yet visible.  The cloud bank above the ocean was turning shades of pink, purple, and blue...and then the sliver of sun started to appear on the horizon. I opened my Bible and read in the Psalms,

The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship... God has made a home in the heavens for the sun. It bursts forth like a radiant bridegroom after his wedding. It rejoices like a great athlete eager to run the race. The sun rises at one end of the heavens and follows its course to the other end. Psalm 19:1,4-6

So Jesus and I walked and talked together that glorious morning -- perfect rest in Him, enjoying together the most gorgeous sunrise I had truly ever seen.  And I had forgotten it all!

So whenever negative thoughts about vacation would start to again flood my mind, I remembered this one joyful hour of bliss with my Lord.

As the days went by, something amazing started to happen.

Vacation Blog01

Vacation Blog01

Other pleasant memories of our vacation started to surface:  like my early morning walk to the beach only to discover a delightful sight -- my brothers and nephews fishing in the surf; and the fun supper at the Mud Hut with my husband and adult children; and a surprisingly wonderful conversation with an in-law that I didn't typically connect with.

By God's grace, He saved me from a root of bitterness in my heart.  As I began to reflect on what had happened in me, I started to realize what I've come to believe is a spiritual principle:  We become like what we focus on.

I remembered some of my favorite passages of Scripture:

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another... For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Cor 3:18: 4:6 ESV

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Col 3:1-4 NIV

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthythink about such things... And the God of peace will be with you. Phil 4:8

So here's the question, dear friends:  What's your attitude, your frame of mind, like right now?

Maybe you need to hear the Lord say (as I did), "Focus on Me and remember joy!"

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3


The Vineyard Revisited: Reflections on Growth

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A Pruned Branch 138_5713

I just returned from two weeks in Southern California visiting my daughter and family.  During that time, I celebrated another birthday...and to my delight Beth took me to "my vineyard" for lunch at the lovely restaurant there. On the way to the Temecula vineyard area, I was amazed to see how the former ruthlessly pruned vines were now covered with lush green leaves.  You may remember those stark vines in a former post. That was just a little over 3 months ago!

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I wondered about the fruit though, because I do know that usually harvest season is in the fall.  So after lunch, we went to see if we could find "my vine".  Beth lifted some leaves, and we saw a bunch of beautifully formed green (not ripe) grapes.

That has set my mind and heart thinking about growth and maturity and waiting on God, the Master Vinedresser who knows the process from the beginning to end.  He has promised,

He who began a good work in you will perfect it till the day of Christ Jesus. Phil 1:6

So often, I'm impatient with myself and others wanting instant maturity or expecting "fruitfulness" before its time.  I think of Moses as a young man in Egypt.  The book of Acts says that he knew about his call to deliver Israel from Egyptian bondage and actually tried to do so before God's time.

When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the children of Israel.  And seeing one of them being wronged, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian.  He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand. Acts 7:23-25 ESV

God still had work to do in Moses life to bring him to the end of himself.  Then he would be ready for the mature "fruit" of being God's instrument of deliverance.

It's the same way with us.  God the Father, our Gardener, promises that as we abide in Christ His True Vine we will produce fruit in increasing measure:

...fruit,...more fruit,... much fruit. John 15:2,5.

He has us in His process!  The Father does whatever is necessary to bring our lives to fruition.

Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he lifts up[alternate translation], and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.John 15:2

Our job is not perfection, but abiding.  But rather we are impatient and really...immature.  We want to experience mature fruit before God's time.

It reminds me of when we were kids in the 1950's.

Janet, Linda, and Nancy in Az next to cactus in 1954?

Janet, Linda, and Nancy in Az next to cactus in 1954?

My family lived on the edge of a desert in Tucson, Arizona in a new housing area consisting of cinder block duplexes, but little else.  Not much grew out there.  But one thing that did grow was melon.  The way I know that is when we kids would eat watermelon, we would spit our seeds to one side of our front porch.  After a time, a watermelon vine would grow carrying a beautiful new melon.  Would we wait till the melon ripened to open it up?  Oh no!  We would impatiently and prematurely crack open that baby, only to see white hard flesh where juicy sweet redness should be.  What a disappointment!

And maybe that's why we are disappointed with our own lives and the lives of our children and others close to us.  There's an interesting verse in the New Testament addressed to fathers, but it could very well be addressed to mothers, daughters, sons, brothers, sisters, other relatives, friends, co-workers, neighbors, etc.  Just substitute alternate relationships for the underlined words:

Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart. Col 3:21

How do we exasperate and frustrate our children and others?  By unrealistic expectations of perfection?  By building walls instead of choosing love in difficult situations with others?  By giving up and not counting on God's working?

In reality, full maturity will will not be reached on this earth.  Rather it will come when we meet Christ face-to-face.  So in the meantime, dear brothers & sisters, let us abide in Him, keep on growing, and extend to each other (and to ourselves) God's grace:

And now, little children, abide in him... Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 1John 2:28; 3:2

But grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. 2Peter 3:18

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