Faithinflipflops

Living simply, loving deeply!

Psalm of Gratitude: Response to Pilgrimage to Israel

I just returned home two days ago from a pilgrimage to Israel. Words cannot express all that I experienced. I am still extremely jet-lagged and still processing all that transpired on this pilgrimage. I journaled every day I was there and I am sure there are many more blogs to come out of this trip. On my last day in Israel, I wrote a Psalm that captures my gratitude for all God did in me during this amazing pilgrimage.

Heidi’s Psalm of Gratitude

 God, You have been so good to me!

I asked, “God, would You please meet me in Jerusalem?

In the land You walked and called home while on Earth before You

made Your home in me?”

And Jesus, how You have met me!

 You have provided my way for this pilgrimage,

To appear before You in Jerusalem,

You have strengthened me,

You have delivered me from feelings of abandonment,

You have healed me.

 

When I turned my face to the wall,

Like You told me to do,

You met me!

You have filled me afresh with the Holy Spirit

You have brought me back to the Cross-and the empty tomb.

 

How can I not praise You?

How can I not commit myself afresh to You?

To holiness, to the study of Your Word, to prayer,

To loving people, to the calling You have on my life?

 

And as a sign of my fresh commitment to You

Under the Jordan River I went

When I arose out of the baptismal waters

Joy filled my heart

Laughter was on my lips

The joy of the Lord truly is my strength!

 

Forever may I praise and worship You!

And proclaim to the nations what You have done for me! Amen!!!

Praying at the Wailing/Western wall. Such a powerful moment for me.

Praying at the Wailing/Western wall. Such a powerful moment for me.

Praying before being baptized in the Jordan.

Praying before being baptized in the Jordan.

Being baptized

Being baptized

The empty tomb

The empty tomb

In the empty tomb.

In the empty tomb.

Taking communion in front of the empty tomb. Powerful time.

Taking communion in front of the empty tomb. Powerful time.

I so believe this!

I so believe this!

 

Prayer for Vermilion: Response to Psalm 122

In my last blog, I wrote about the psalms I wrote as a response to a study I had done on the Psalms of Ascent. Tonight I thought it was fitting to post the one I wrote for my city. I live on Lake Erie in a small town that has a river running through the middle of it. This winter has been brutal. Due to a recent warm-up and lots of rain, we are currently under a flood warning for our river.

Ice jam at a section of the Vermilion River.

Ice jam at a section of the Vermilion River.

We are actually laying on the frozen Vermilion River. I kayak at this actual spot in the summer.

We are actually laying on the frozen Vermilion River. I kayak at this actual spot in the summer.

What the Vermilion River looks like in the summer! Amazing!

What the Vermilion River looks like in the summer! Amazing!

Vermilion River in the fall

Vermilion River in the fall

Standing on frozen Lake Erie with the beach behind me.

Standing on frozen Lake Erie with the beach behind me.

Same lighthouse in the summer

Same lighthouse in the summer

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Haha! I told you it has been a brutal winter…eyebrows and eyelashes frozen!

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frozen Lake Erie

frozen Lake Erie

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Lake Erie in the summer

Prayer for Vermilion

I was glad when God brought me back to Vermilion.

I am glad that my feet are planted here.

Vermilion is a beautiful place, with beautiful people

that needs God’s help to face the challenges she faces -

social, economical, and political.

I pray for the peace of Vermilion.

I pray for those that belong to You that live in Vermilion;

Prosper them, keep them, protect them.

May peace be within her borders

May peace be within the walls of our church

Because of the name of the Lord

I will seek and pray for the good of Vermilion.

Amen!

Summer will be here soon!

Summer will be here soon!

God is For Me

Last spring, I led some of the ladies at my church through Beth Moore’s Stepping Up Bible study. It was a study on the Songs of Ascent found in Psalms 120 – 134. As I am preparing to go to Israel in 33 days (I’m so excited I could jump out of my skin!!!) I thought it would be good to study these Psalms again. These particular Psalms were songs that the Jewish pilgrims would sing on their way up to Jerusalem for one of the three religious feasts that took place throughout the year.

Ascending

Ascending

As I pulled out my notes from this study, I found the psalms that I had written based on the corresponding Psalms we were studying. I thought I would share a few of them as I continue my preparation for my own pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

God Is For Me (Response from the study of Psalm 124)

If God had not been on my side – (and He is on my side!!!)          I will say it again, if God had not been on my side when the enemy of my soul and my own sinful desires afflicted me,

I would be lost – I would be miserable –                                                 I would be drowned by lust and addictive behaviors                       I would be battered and worn.                                                                  I would be an old soul –                                                                                I would have been swept away in waves of anger, depression, and remorse.

But thanks be to God

He has not allowed me to be ripped to shreds by the enemy or by my own stupid, sinful choices.                                                        He showed me the way out -

I am free

My help came from the Lord, the Maker of the Heavens and the earth.

Amen!

Valentine’s Day from a Single Girl’s Perspective

Faithinflipflops:

With Valentine’s Day being tomorrow, I thought I would reblog my favorite blog from last year! Enjoy!

Originally posted on Faithinflipflops:

In case you are living under a rock, today is Valentine’s Day. The one day that single people are treated like they have just been diagnosed with a deadly disease. Or you’re told that Jesus is your valentine or Facebook statuses state they are praying for those who are alone (i.e. single and pathetic) on this day that love is celebrated. While attempting to “comfort” those who are single, they do the exact opposite.

This made me laugh!!!!!!

This made me laugh!!!!!!

Valentine’s Day can put pressure on single people that is simply unnecessary. Last night in youth group, I used Valentine’s Day as a theme for my lesson. It was actually a fun night. And the history of Valentine’s Day is fascinating. We played name that tune of songs with the word “love” in the title. (As a side-note…kids don’t know good music these days…none of them knew the Beatles song “All You…

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Weather: The Last Frontier

This Sunday I am preaching on the seasons of life. And how God is faithful in every season. And how we must remain faithful in every season. Even the tough ones. The Preacher in the book of Ecclesiastes says,

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”  3:1

My studying led me to pose the question on Facebook about which season do you consider to be the first season. Spring, summer, winter, or fall. I got quite a response. Though the question that I should have asked is “what is your favorite season and why?” And that led me to study the benefits of the four seasons (not to be confused with Frankie Valli and his Four Seasons)….confused yet? Yeah….I thought so. I’m letting you into a rare look on how my brain processes stuff. Not for the faint of heart.

Ha! Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons

Ha! Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons

Up here in Northeast Ohio, we have had one of the coldest, snowiest winters  we have seen in a long time. Looking at the 10 day forecast, there doesn’t look to be much of a reprieve on the horizon. We are all hoping that the groundhog doesn’t see his shadow….or is he supposed to see his shadow? I don’t know, I get mixed-up. I’m from a town where a guy predicts our winter by looking at a Woolly bear and his stripes and 100,000 people come to hear him make this prediction. He got it wrong this year. So very wrong. So I’m not putting much stock in the ground-hog either.

In case you wondering...this is a woollybear....

In case you wondering…this is a woollybear….

So while studying today in my office, I read a quote  by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. He said, “The best thing one can do when its raining is to let it rain”. Thanks, Henry. Like we can do anything else. I think it was Henry’s way of deluding himself to the fact that he has absolutely no control over whether it rains or not. I also thought of Creedance Clearwater Revival and their deep, probing question in the popular song “Who’ll Stop the Rain?”. In all of our scientific advancement, we cannot control the weather. We can track it, talk about it, fear it, respect it, prepare for it BUT…you can’t stop it from coming. You have no choice but to let it rain or snow or sleet or hail or monsoon or whatever it chooses to do.

The South got hit with snow this week. 2 inches. And it shut them down for a week. Motorists left their cars stranded along the interstate. I heard the Mayor of Atlanta saying it wasn’t his fault, he is only responsible for the roads in Atlanta. I heard the Governor blame someone else. I think I heard the President blame global warming or maybe the republicans. And republicans blaming democrats. The whole world has gone mad! And we are taking it out on each other. I realized today that fear is big motivator. And we fear what we can’t control.

Seasons and the weather make me stand in awe of God. We need the winter to let the ground rest and plants to die so the soil can be nourished for the next season. We need the cold to kill germs. We need the spring rains and hot summer sun.

I love the fact that there are still things in the world that are shrouded in mystery. Things that still capture our imagination. Things that we cannot control. Things that point us to our Creator. Like the weather. It’s powerful and something we cannot control. I’m grateful that there is still something that shows us that we are not as in control as we think we are.

Laying on the frozen Vermilion River!

Laying on the frozen Vermilion River!

Frozen Lake Erie

Frozen Lake Erie

Sisters

Sisters

One of my goals for the New Year is to combine my love for pictures and my love for writing by posting my favorite picture from the previous week on my blog. The first week of 2014 started and ended with a snow storm. Two of my nieces and I made sure we took time to enjoy the winter wonderland. This picture captures so much!

2014: The Year of Replenishing

The last few weeks of December were very difficult. And it wasn’t just because I struggle with the holidays. It felt like the wheels were coming off of everything in my life. Circumstances led me to complete, overwhelming despair. It felt like I was being attacked on all sides, financially, physically, spiritually, and morally. I didn’t know where to fight first. So I didn’t fight at all.  I would lie in my bed and just sob. I avoided people because I could not keep it together when they would simply ask how I was doing. This is not normal for me. I may have a day or two of being down, but never anything like this. I am a “glass is full” kind of a gal. It was paralyzing. I finally texted and e-mailed a couple of my closest friends to pray for me.

On the spur of the moment, my dear friend and mentor, Harriet, asked me to go to lunch with her right before Christmas. We talked for several hours. As we talked, the clouds began to clear a bit.

Harriet and me at lunch! So love and admire this lady!

Harriet and me at lunch! So love and admire this lady!

I had just come off an amazing Fall. God did some amazing things at our women’s retreat and in our Bible studies. Many women found freedom in Christ. A couple of classes I was involved with at church saw people growing in their faith.  At lunch that day, I was reminded of a quote I heard when I went to Gettysburg  and watched the short movie they show in their visitor center. The movie is entitled A New Birth of Freedom. Morgan Freeman narrates it. He says  “Freedom, like power, will always be contested.” The freedom I had helped others find was being contested in my own life by the enemy of my soul. And as a result, I was tired. A bone-weary, soul crushing tired. And when you’re tired, everything is overwhelming. And it is hard to fight.

There are some big challenges facing me in 2014, (as well as some amazing adventures.)

challenges_ahead

The only way I know how to meet a challenge is to walk right into it. My motto tends to be “the only way around a challenge is through it”.

I usually formulate a plan and execute it.

But I have no plan for the challenges that face me.

I feel powerless. Stripped. Tired.

Last Sunday, we had ministry time during our first service. As I prayed with people, I would pray for their next year. I would pray a word that would capture what God wanted to do in their lives. Today, the word that came to mind for my own life was “replenish”. Jeremiah 31:25 says,

“For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.”

The word replenish means “to fill something up again” “ freshen” “nourish”.

I get so busy helping others nourish their own soul that I tend to neglect my own. 2014 has to be a year in which I make room for God to replenish every area of my life.

As I write this, I can feel a plan beginning to formulate. And hope is rising. May 2014 be a year of replenishing for us all!!!

The Tale of a Recovering Scrooge

People are always surprised to find out that I despise the holidays. Especially Christmas. Since I am a Pastor and devout follower of Jesus, everyone assumes that I would love and embrace all things Christmas. After all, it is celebrating the birth of Jesus.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

There are a multitude of reasons that the holidays and me do not see eye-to-eye. Let us begin with Thanksgiving. Growing up, my dad was an alcoholic. Not a functioning one either. All I remember about Thanksgiving was going to the bars looking for him and the fighting. I think the Canadians are on to something, celebrating Boxing Day the day after Christmas. I know the origins of the holiday but the name is appropriate to what most people want to do after spending two days with family members. Beat something up. ;)

Growing up, Christmas Eve was always a good holiday. We had traditions. My mom would make sloppy Joes and all my siblings would come over. Santa would come while we napped or went to 11 pm church service. I have fond memories of my hair catching on fire while we sang Silent Night and I fell asleep in the flame. Fire and young children do not mix. ;) We would open gifts at midnight and stay up until 2 or 3 in morning and sleep in on Christmas Day. This all changed when my mom died the summer before my Senior year of high school. Christmas really has never been the same for me. Somewhere along the way, my dad threw away all of our childhood Christmas ornaments. He did not mean to do it, I don’t think he even knew he did it. And anyone who knows me, knows that pictures and home-made gifts and memories are important to me. One of the reasons I love writing so much is that it captures important moments, moments I don’t want to forget.

Christmas Eve 75 or 76

Christmas Eve 75 or 76….none of those ornaments are around anymore :(

My dad and I went years without a Christmas tree. Eventually, we would put up the ceramic tree my mom made. I remember one year, we put a white sheet over our grill and put the ceramic tree on it. The Beverly Hillbillies had nothing on us. Classy was our middle name.

My mom's ceramic Christmas tree. Somewhere throughout the years, the star was lost!

My mom’s ceramic Christmas tree. Somewhere throughout the years, the star was lost!

I think the biggest reason I struggle with the holidays is that it is a reminder of what I have lost. In the past 12 years, I have lost over 14 family members. My dad, my brother Jerry, and a brother-in-law are counted in that number. While most in my family have gotten married and have had children, I have not. Christmas is not a single person’s holiday. Don’t get me wrong, I love my life. I love where I am and what God has called me to do. I always knew that I did not want kids. Marriage isn’t out of the question but up until this point, I haven’t found the right one. And to be honest, I haven’t tried very hard to look. I figured it would happen when it happened. And some of the loneliest people I have met have been married. But I digress.

And then there is the over commercialization of the holidays. The money people spend that they cannot afford. The guilt one feels with every Christmas card they receive from someone knowing they did not send one back to them….

So I have faced the holidays every year like most people face a root canal.

Several weeks ago, my church had a Grieving through the Holidays workshop. The ironic thing is that I am the one who planned it. The speaker was a wonderful, licensed grief counselor that I have received training from in the past. He asked each of us to share. To help others share more easily, I shared how I have basically skipped Christmas for the past 20 or so years. When he closed in prayer, he prayed for each of us that had attended. When he prayed for me, he prayed that God would show me how to begin to re-engage with the holidays. That my 20 year hiatus was long enough.

Grief work and counseling tells you to start new traditions. And over the past few years I have made feeble attempts at it. The past 4 years on Christmas Eve, I have had dinner at a Mexican restaurant with several friends. Thanksgiving has been spent at Cracker Barrel with family and friends. And instead of a Christmas tree, I now have a palm tree and decorate it.

My Christmas palm tree.

My Christmas palm tree.

Anything beach :)

Anything beach :)

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I love that this Pink Flamingo is playing a fish as a guitar! Tis the season!

I love that this Pink Flamingo is playing a fish as a guitar! Tis the season!

But I  realized that I needed to do something more. Something to make it meaningful and to make it mine. And to make it something that would honor Jesus.

This holiday season at church, sacrificial giving was emphasized. We were encouraged as a church to give and give and give. And give some more. Four opportunities  were given to us to choose from. The first opportunity was to help provide Thanksgiving meals for people in our community. We gathered food and delivered them to 41 families in our community. We run a commissary and those who needed help signed up. We provided 15 pound turkeys and everything one would need to cook a meal from butter to potatoes to pie crusts. Baskets were filled and ready to be delivered in 10 minutes!!! That is how many people showed up to help. What fun it was to deliver the baskets to people who don’t have much.

The second opportunity for giving was feeding lunch the Friday before Thanksgiving to all the personnel of our school district. Teachers are such an overlooked and under appreciated segment of society. They are entrusted with the most valuable asset of any community…our children and we wanted to show appreciation. So we fed 230 teachers, administrators and support staff a Thanksgiving lunch in the three different schools in our community. What a blessing! They were so appreciative!

The third opportunity to give was with Christmas Shoeboxes. Members of our church donated toys, soap, toothbrushes, combs, socks, etc to be put in shoe boxes and delivered by Buses International to Appalachian children at a sister church of ours in Virginia and an orphanage in Kentucky. We exceeded our goal of boxes we wanted to send.

The last opportunity was the Angel Tree. A lady in our church heads up our prison ministry. On the very Sunday she presented the idea of buying gifts for children whose parents are incarcerated, every name was taken off the tree!

And last Saturday evening, we had an appreciation dinner and program that was cooked and served by the teens of our church to honor the older members of our congregation (60 and over). This idea was birthed in the heart of a 2nd grader of our church who loves older people. He went to Pastor Jim and simply said he wanted to feed old people. He had his dad draw different pictures and sold them so that he could fund part of this dinner. Amazing!

Christmas is celebrating and honoring the best gift we have ever received, Jesus Christ. He stepped out of eternity, into time to be born as a helpless baby so that when He grew up, He would die on the Cross to restore mankind’s relationship with God. The holidays are about sacrificial giving. Giving even when it hurts, when you don’t feel like you have anything left to give. Giving when the hurt and loneliness are so overwhelming, you don’t think you can breathe.

It is buying food for those who cannot afford to, it is serving a meal and honoring  people who weren’t expecting it, it is making sure orphans in the Appalachians have something to open on Christmas morning, it making sure children, whose parents are in prison, know that they are not forgotten. It is honoring those who have gone before us.

So this Scrooge began to take back Christmas for herself. Through giving. Just like the example Jesus set. 

I want to say that I am looking forward to Christmas which is less than two weeks away. I’m not. But I’m not dreading it either. That my friend is progress. And I will take it. After all, the blog is entitled “The tale of a RECOVERING Scrooge.”

Black Friday vs. Thanksgiving: a tale of a girl’s first Black Friday

Faithinflipflops:

I wrote this 2 years ago. Thought it was fitting to reblog while I work on a new one for the holidays!

Originally posted on Faithinflipflops:

Black Friday.  I have never taken part in it. Never observed it. Never had the desire. And never will again. This year after the coaxing of some die-hard black Friday shopper friends, I decided to go and observe. I lasted two hours.

Our first stop was Target. It opened up at midnight. There was a line around the building. There were four cop cars with dogs in them. It was insane. It looked like a swat situation. Target seemed to have it organized. Once they opened, they would only let 50 people go in at a time. After two people being sent to the hospital on stretchers last year, they learned their lesson. It took an hour to get all those people into the store. While in the parking lot observing and taking pictures, we talked to two ladies who were sitting in their car. They were sisters and this…

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“We Did it!” (Thoughts on a life well-lived)

Last Sunday during worship – there was a moment – a moment in which an appreciation – an overwhelming appreciation washed over me- an awareness of how blessed I am, on how good life is, on how good God has been to me…how faithful He has been to me. I just stopped singing and savored the moment. I so wanted to be able to push the pause button and just stop the clock from ticking even if it were just for a minute. It was one of those rare moments when one feels FULLY alive.

Life is not perfect. Life has not always been easy. There have been deep hurts and tough challenges. But in this season, there is so much joy in the journey. And there is within me a knowing that this is how it is supposed to be in every season of my life…joy in the journey.

A couple of weeks ago, I came across a bookmark that someone had given me quite awhile ago. I had never fully read it. There was a line that stuck out to me. And it annoyed me. It said:

There are women of wit and wisdom who –

through strength and courage –

MAKE IT THROUGH

Isaiah 44:20 says,

He feeds on ashes, a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say “Is there not a lie in my right hand?”

What ashes have I been feeding on? What insecurities, unhealthy coping mechanisms, what lies have I been feeding on? What lie is in my right hand that I have not recognized as such? One of the lies that I have believed and so have many other Christians is that we just need to “make it through”. We are just sitting here, biding our time, managing our sin until our real life begins when we die and go to heaven. Not really enjoying life or making the most of it. Passively watching life go by. Limping through life, nursing old wounds. Bruce Springsteen really was right when he sang “It ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive.”

We were created for so much more! To live an abundant life. A life full of joy, peace, and righteousness. Jesus has made this possible for me! What is an abundant life? It is not being rich (though God can bless that way). It is not attaining the “American Dream”. In fact, the older I get and the more I study Scripture, the more I see how opposite the Kingdom of God and the American Dream are to one another. Most other Christians living outside of America live in poverty but have rich lives marked by joy and peace even in the midst of suffering.

An abundant life is a life that follows Jesus. Wherever He may lead. Whatever it may cost. Loving people. Standing up for what is right. Showing compassion. Putting others before ourselves. Living a life of gratitude. Being wonder-struck by the many ways He blesses our lives.

I say all of this to say this:

When I have breathed my last – I don’t want to have just “Made it through” – God forbid, I just make it through life. I want to finish well – to finish with energy – to finish strong.

At the end of my life

  • I do not want to say “I made it”
  • I do not want to say “We made it”
  • I do not want to say “I did it”

I want to cross that finish line with Jesus and say:

“We did it!” 

Jesus and me and the people He gave to me to run the race with because no one runs the race by themselves…and to think you can is to have a lie in your right hand. We were meant to serve Jesus in community.

We did the stuff.

We did what God purposed for us to do – no matter how difficult or hard the task.

We did it with joy.

We did it with grace.

We did it with peace.

We did it with faithfulness.

We did it with humility.

We did it with power.

I think that moment I had last Sunday…of overhwhelming gratitude and feeling fully alive….can happen more often. I must not choose to just “make it through” but to live life full throttle, arms opened wide, embracing every opportunity and taking risks as I follow Jesus. And when I have closed my eyes for the last time on this earth and opened them for the first time in Heaven may I hear Jesus say “Well done, my good and faithful servant…WE DID IT!!!”

 

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