Yearning for Smooth Sailing

An experience from many moons ago… that means as much or more today!

Every time I open the refrigerator door, I’m greeted by a pool of water surrounding the vegetable drawer. The little hole in the back that’s supposed to drain excess moisture is plugged. So far, our attempts to fix the issue have been unsuccessful. So I sop up the water and groan about an old refrigerator that needs replacing.

As I thrfile7631292337511ow the wet towels into the washer, I pause as  the sound of my three-year-old daughter’s cough echoes across the house. “It isn’t even officially fall yet,” I grumble, closing the washer lid a little harder than necessary. Reports of widespread illness in the community make this cold seem more serious than the last one.

Walking past the kitchen table I can’t help but notice the stack of paperwork waiting for my undivided attention. My husband was forced to change jobs earlier in the year leaving our health insurance in limbo. Because of our daughter’s cystic fibrosis, it appears our only option for covering her is to apply for the state’s comprehensive insurance plan for chronic illnesses with it’s high premium and exorbitant deductible.

“Mommy, he’s here!” yells my three-year-old Jenna. Glad for any reason that let’s me put the insurance crisis on hold for even a moment, I hurry to the front door.

Another groan. It’s the man from Roto-Rooter. “Mrs. Steury? I hear you have a problem with your sewer line.” I show him to the backyard all the while praying the solution will be quick, uncomplicated and inexpensive.

By the time Jenna is tucked in for her nap, I’m emotionally and mentally exhausted. Too tired to even think, I stretch out on the couch and close my eyes. Several minutes of quiet my_photography_199soothe my weary mind until once again my thoughts can focus.

Although I am powerless to change the present circumstances of my life, I know that GOD is not. With the slightest touch of His outstretched hand, every one of these frustrating situations could be quickly and painlessly resolved. While I believe without a shadow of a doubt that He could choose to instantly solve every issue, I have doubts that He will.

Why? Because some lessons can only be learned in trying times. Sometimes important truths only become evident in the darkness of adversity. Many rough edges resist through all but the toughest of life’s dilemmas. These daily studies in patience, faith and trust have the power—under GOD’s authority—to make us stronger and more Christ-like.

While my mind accepts these truths, my heart still yearns for the tranquility of smooth sailing. No annoying dilemmas, no difficult decisions, no worrisome waiting.

And so we press on, fully assured that He loves us and is deeply concerned with every aspect of our lives. It is comforting to remember that His footsteps will not lead us where His grace cannot sustain us. His promise, “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” has proven true time and again and will continue to dsailboat_01o so.

Whether he chooses to miraculously resolve every situation in our lives or to use them to mold us into His likeness, the choice is His. It is enough that He promises peace in the midst of the storm. I would rather have that peace with all my current and as-yet-to-be-known issues than to be living a tranquil, problem-free life without His daily presence and provision. No contest whatsoever.

Some twenty-two years have passed since I put this experience to paper. It will come as no surprise that we survived those issues and went on to bigger and more challenging situations! All of which we also survived.

I like to think we are wiser and more trusting now. Yes, more trusting for sure. Hopefully, a little wiser. Definitely a lot grayer! I do believe if anything, our belief in GOD’s provision and compassion, His caring and power are even firmer.

Rarely does a day go by that I don’t find myself thinking, if not uttering aloud, how grateful and thankful I am that what happens in this life is not up to me but up to Him. His ways are not my ways nor are His thoughts my thoughts. And that’s a very good thing!

How about you? Does trust come easily OR are you a worrier?

Christian Movies Gathering Momentum

Summer is drawing to a close, and looking back on things I enjoyed over the past few months, I remember these with particular fondness: golfing, walks on warm summer nights, swimming in our lake, out of town guests, strolls on our downtown boardwalk listening to several bands, and… MOVIE NIGHTS!

Okay, movies aren’t restricted to summers, but around Christmas and summer holidays, you can generally look forward to a few great movies arriving. This summer, I enjoyed Divergent, Train Your Dragon 2, Guardians of The Galaxy (yes, I’m a bit of a sci/fi fan), The Fault in Our Stars, and am looking forward to seeing The Hundred-Foot Journey.

But is it just me, or are Christian movies gaining popularity?

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When Heaven is for Real arrived, I scooted out and took my mom to see it on its first weekend, concerned it would only last a couple weeks at most. But SURPRISE! The movie was in our town for over a month, and the second time I went three weeks after its opening (yes, I do go see movies a second time if they’re good) the theatre was still more than half full! SHOCKING! But very encouraging!

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Now, the movie, Noah, was surrounded by much controversy, as it really didn’t follow what many consider biblical fact. But to be fair, the movie was based upon only a very short part of the bible: Genesis 6 – 8. So there was a lot of ‘artistic license’ used to pad the story and fill 2 hours. When I went with my minister and a few friends to see it, I was prepared for an aftermath of heated words against the producers, directors, screenplay writers, characters, and anyone else connected to the movie. Imagine my awestruck wonder when my minister LOVED it! His comment was that Noah kept to biblical principles and themes, and was a good ‘ride’.

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Next up, will be Exodus; Gods and Kings. With actors and actresses like Christian Bale, Sigourney Weaver, and Ben Kingsley, and director Ridley Scott (Aliens), my ears are in a full-up-perk.

But even if these movies tank, which they haven’t so far, the whole idea that religious movies are starting to take center stage is exciting. For so long, any movie that had even a sniff of Christian content, would rarely make it to the big screen, (The Passion of the Christ being one of the exceptions of course).

I remember when a bus cruised through our town sporting the words “There’s probably no God, so stop worrying and enjoy.” I was appalled to say the very least, however a minister was quoted saying “When the subject of God enters conversations for any reason, it’s all good. These words on the bus started a dialogue.” Which was true, it certainly did!

So what is your opinion on the latest religious movies? Have you seen them? Did you like them? Were there any others you enjoyed over the summer?

What if the Body of Christ Looked Like This?

Imagine for a few minutes with me, if you will.

Imagine if every Christian did what they were created to do.  If every disciple of Christ followed so completely the life path plotted specifically for him or her by the all-knowing God.  If each servant were so in tune with God’s heart that selfish motives, worthless pursuits, worldly amBIblebitions simply vanished.  Crowded out by the very character of God, invited and allowed to inhabit His people, until there would be no room for anything else.

No thought to what others would think.

No endless nights spent contemplating the why or the how.

No embarrassment or self-consciousness.

Nothing but straight forward obedience.

What would that even look like in today’s world?

The factory worker, the school nurse, the drug store cashier, the bank executive, the pastor, the surgeon—each living a life so in touch surgeonwith the Father that every moment was about ministry.  The salesman, the athlete, the police chief, the lawyer, the missionary, the author—each with a life and faith so molded together that no line distinguished between living and ministry.  Every disciple more concerned with being who God wanted him to be, with doing what God wanted her to do, that nothing else mattered.

Just imagine how this would change how we do church.

FreeDigitalPhotos.net By Sira Anamwong,

A pastor before his congregation, literally on his face at the feet of God seeking only to be His vessel. So empowered to speak the word of the Lord that he delivers with absolute freedom and humble confidence that very message no matter how unpopular… or controversial… or unpleasant it may be.

The worship leader, the praise team, the soloists all bowed in prayer, seeking the anointing of the Lord, calling on His name alone, in the moments before His service begins.  Again, no misaligned motives, no false ambitions, no faithless missions ….. nothing but Spirit-led pursuits.

Parishioners, one and all, expressing his sacrifice of praise or her act of worship in complete freedom, not concerned with man’s appraisal or blessing, criticism or review.  Lifting hands, hearts, voices in praise, worship, and adoration.  Reaching for and touching the very hem of His garment in true, life-changing worship.

Servants respondingguy praying to God’s voice, His intimate leading—no matter where they are seated, no matter who’s watching, no matter the depth of the call—with not one thought to how anyone but the everlasting God will judge them. Being obedient to the Spirit’s call regardless of what such obedience asks of them. Whatever it may be. Praying with or seeking forgiveness from a fellow congregant. Bowing before the Almighty at a point in the service not designated for such behavior. Embarking on a change in vocation that will rock their world. Whatever it may be—settling for nothing less than total and complete obedience.

Imagine if ideas large and small could be trusted because concern that self-gratification or hot-headed impulsiveness or incompetent notions provide the guiding force would be virtually nonexistent.  Just think if every God-inspired idea received the effort and attention it deserved. No missing the boat. No neglected opportunities. No need for do-overs. Just imagine the possibilities.

What about free will? It would still exist but seldom—rarely even—would it contradict the calling and the very purpose of the Almighty God. Why? Because His all-consuming Spirit would so indwell each servant, creating not only the perfect union of faith and trust, commitment and power, but the most fertile soil for obedience.

With abandon the saints would march on. Not reckless abandon—without a plan or purpose. But rather an abandon controlled by and filled to over flowing with Spirit-led confidence. An abandon free of nagging doubts, needless worry. An abandon empowered by God himself.

Oh, that our world—our hurting, confused, misguided world—could experience such a manifestation of God’s people being God’s people.

FreeDigitalPhotos.net by imagerymajestic

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by imagerymajestic

 Oh, God, I want to be so in tune with you each moment of each day that every minute of my life is about being Jesus, about doing His will.

I implore your SPIRIT to so fill me that hour by hour there is less of me  and more, so much more of You.

As I seek to fully know and live your plan for my life, remind me of the necessity of being in touch moment by moment with You, the Author and Perfecter of my faith.

Make me, oh, God, into the servant-minded instrument you desire me to be.

May I live to worship YOU.

May YOU be the very air that I breathe.

 

 

 

The Great American Teen

girl.flag.horse  In honor of Independence Day (one of my favorite holidays), I’d like to celebrate the American teen! Just in case you thought American teenagers might become a generation of lazy, rude, uncultured couch potatoes…

According to the website stageoflife.com, when teenage high school and college students were surveyed in 2013,

60.4% of them planned to spend more time outdoors than indoors during the summer.

38% of teens surveyed planned to READ nine or more books during the summer. (I’ll do the math: that’s an average of three books per month!)

During the school year, 77.7% of teens said they read at least one book per month for personal pleasure or that isn’t required.

When asked the question “From which do you draw the most inspiration or have your biggest ‘Moments of Awesomeness’, teens ranked the following from highest to lowest:

Reading and Writing #1

Music #2

Nature #3

Exercise & Sports #4

Religion #5

Food #6

91% of teens said that civility, manners and etiquette are either “very important” or “important” in their lives.

And for teenagers surveyed regarding their feelings of patriotism:

90% loved their country, although 64.5% had been ashamed of their country at some point.

88.7% felt that serving in the military is a patriotic act.

62.8% recited the entire Pledge of Allegiance when it was being recited.

64.5% could sing the entire National Anthem.

And–83.5% considered themselves patriots.

Here’s wishing all teens and those who care about them (that’s practically everyone!) a happy and safe July 4th.

Cynthia

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The Chrysalids Catalyst

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A terrifying story of conformity and deformity in a world paralyzed by genetic mutation.”

 

This is a quote from the back of the YA novel, The Chrysalids, written by John Wyndham. The book, published in 1955, became a classic used in the school curriculum when I attended. The author takes the reader into a future post-apocalyptic world where a few pockets of human settlements battle the effects of the fall-out of the war. Because of radiation, deviations in crops, animals and people were extremely common, but were rooted out and either destroyed as offences and abominations or exiled to the treacherous ‘Fringes’, the surrounding lands where deformities were the norm.

In the middle of this strict enforcement, David and a band of other teenagers are barely able to conceal their telepathic abilities. This deviation from a cruelly rigid norm would have gone unnoticed except for a bombshell that comes in the form of a little girl – David’s kid sister, Petra, who shows a powerful telepathic gift…

 

“Who is it?” Rosalind asked, in real words, and a shaky voice. She put her hand on her forehead. “Who was able to do that?”

I told her.

“Petra?” she repeated, staring incredulously.

I carried my little sister ashore, and laid her on the grass. She was exhausted, and only semi-conscious, but there did not seem to be anything seriously wrong with her.

Rosalind came and knelt on the grass on the other side of her. We looked down at the sopping dress and the darkened, matted curls. Then we gazed across her, at one another.

“I didn’t know,” I told her. “I’d no idea she was one of us.”

Rosalind put her hands to her face, fingertips on her temples. She shook her head slightly and looked at me from disturbed eyes.

“She isn’t,” she said. “Something like us, but not one of us. None of us could command like that. She’s something much more than we are.”

 

Oooooh, now they’re in trouble!

 

The Chrysalids was the one book that was the catalyst for my thirst for fantasy and science fiction. From the moment I finished reading it, I wanted to create alien worlds where strong-characters had to fight for what was important to them. But it was more than that, I loved the underlying comments on our societies that the genre offered. Other books like The Day of the Triffids, and 1984 fed my imagination, but paled in comparison to the effects The Chrysalids had on me. Lord of the Flies and Animal Farm were a bit heavy-handed for 12-year-old me, but the stories stayed with me nonetheless.

Petra, the gifted telepathic girl in John Wyndham’s book has been the seed for many characters I’ve written about since my school years. The innocence of a gifted child mixed with the ability to destroy lives fascinated me, and I’ve seen similar characters in other stories I’m fond of. Ender’s Game, and Harry Potter to name a few.

Was there a book that truly affected you from your school years? If so, why?