Conntecting the Dots

Listening for Spiritual Clues

While in the marina laundromat yesterday morning, I met a woman I’d never seen before. She lives several hours’ drive away, but she’d accompanied her husband to our marina because he had a job here today. In less than one minute of introductory conversation, I discovered that her knowledge about sailing skills far surpasses mine.

I told Gene about her when I returned to the boat. He said, “You should invite her for tea and get to know her better.”

“It’s too late,” I said. “I don’t even know her name. I’ll never see her again.”

A half hour later, I returned to the laundromat to throw our clothes into the dryer. Guess who was standing in the parking lot beside her van? She immediately accepted my invitation for tea.

Whenever I visit with strangers, I listen for “spiritual clues”—words or phrases they speak that tell me God’s pursuing them and that their hearts are being prepped to hear the Gospel. Knowing they’re already interested in spiritual things totally removes the fear factor about engaging in a conversation about Jesus with them.

This morning’s conversation gave me two clues. Here’s one example. It came as we swapped stories about how we came to own our boats: “There’s a voice out there that speaks to us. We have to listen for it. When we do what it says, things turn out okay.”

Sometimes those clues provide wide open doors to talk about Jesus. Other times, they come with a whisper that says, “Wait.” That’s what I sensed this morning.

Before she left, my new friend took my contact information and invited us to visit them on their boat this summer. “I think we’re going to have fun adventures together,” she said with a cheery smile. “We women boaters need to stick together.”

Meeting this gal was no mere coincidence. God alone knows her heart, but He’s given me a glimpse that shows He’s at work there. Now it’s up to me to pursue future contact. Apparently they come here once each month, so I’ll set up a lunch or dinner date during their next visit.

I believe it was Henry Blackaby who said God works at all times and in all places. He’s right! We only have to be alert to His Spirit’s activity in our lives and wear our listening ears to discover that’s true.

What are your thoughts about listening for spiritual clues in conversation with those who don’t yet know Jesus? Is this a new concept or something you already practice? If the latter, what clues have you received in recent conversations?

#SpiritualClues  #bgbg2

Secure People Serve People

Having been involved in career ministry for more than 25 years means I’ve worked with a few different personality types. One coworker, in particular, was a controller. Rather than encourage those within his sphere of influence to use and develop their God-given gifts, he squelched them and said demeaning things.

His manner both hurt and nearly drove me crazy until I began to understand that it was rooted in insecurity. He couldn’t encourage others to soar because they might soar higher than him. Third parties might then recognize their potential, and this could threaten his position. This understanding completely changed the way I viewed him.

Rather than chafing and harboring hurt, I viewed him with compassion. I now saw him as a man in bondage, a man who lacked inner freedom because he didn’t understand his identity in Christ.

When I read the story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet, I see a Man secure in His identity, and His behavior proved it.: “Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel he had around him.” (John 13:3-5)

Jesus knew who and whose He was. He understood God’s unique purpose for His life. As a result, He never wasted time or energy comparing Himself to others and their callings, and He never felt threatened or intimidated by others’ giftedness.

In this story, Jesus could have asked a servant or one of His disciples to wash His feet. He was, after all, the Teacher. Asking someone to perform this service for Him would have provided a convenient reminder of His position and authority. But why? He had nothing to prove. He was the Son of God, and nothing would improve on or change that fact. Therefore, He was free to behave like a servant and wash His disciples’ dirty feet.

Our human bent might say that stooping to serve others causes them to view us with less dignity than we desire. We might lose their respect. Our authority might take a hit. But in reality, the opposite is true. When we’re secure in who and whose we are, then serving is neither demeaning nor a means of proving something. Rather, it’s a demonstration of our love for others, and it brings joy.

Your thoughts?

What’s one act of service you can do for someone (apart from your family) today?

#bgbg2 #IAmSecure

Photo courtesy of Google images.

Rest — We All Need It

It’s good to be home. After the past ten weeks of both domestic and international travel, teaching, and hosting our booth at four missions conferences, I’m basking in being back on the boat. It’s time to stop, rest, and recharge. It’s time to live Psalm 23:2,3a—“He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength.”

We all need a rest periodically, yes? For some, that means taking a break from ongoing family responsibilities—leaving the kids with a sitter for a few hours, perhaps, so you can go out for coffee with your spouse or a good friend. For others, it means taking an extended vacation away from workplace pressures. For some, it means turning off the cell phone and ignoring social media for a day or two.

Your circumstances and life season will determine your need for renewal and what that looks like in practical terms. For me, today, taking a rest means spending an extended time with my Bible and journal. I’ve sipped coffee and read a couple chapters of a good book.

After posting this blog, I’ll give the boat a good clean. I know, I know—that doesn’t sound like a rest, but I find a change of activity is good for the soul. Besides, I’ve been staring at winter’s salt residue on the steps entering the salon long enough. I look forward to doing a bit of spring cleaning, and I’ll make it fun by listening to praise and worship music while I scrub. When I’ve finished that task, I’ll schedule memes for my FB Author Page and then go for a walk. Tomorrow morning I’ll be good-to-go and better able to focus on preparing for upcoming speaking engagements.

“Rest” looks different for everyone, but one thing’s for sure—we need it. And we need to enjoy it without feeling guilty.

God knows we’re not super-human. We’re made from dust, and we flourish best when we take occasional breaks from routine busyness.

What does “rest” look like for you?

#Rest #TakeABreak  #bgbg2

Photo attribution: Image by PublicDomainArchive from Pixabay

How Big is God?

This week’s travels allowed me to see bits and pieces of the earth on which we live—the snow-capped Rockies and the towering Alps, the Pacific Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, lush forests, barren islands, and the grand finale—a sunset that painted the clouds pink as my plane descended through them and landed on Middle Eastern landscape.

The vastness of our world boggles my mind. Imagine—I spent 14 hours flying at more than 500 mph and still saw only a fraction of what there is to see. And what I saw was only the big stuff. What about the wee marvels like ladybugs and ants, coral and plankton, flowers and fruit of every variety? My soul can’t help but burst into praise to the Artist who planned all this, spoke it into existence, and holds it in His hand.

Here’s something else that boggles my mind: this same God fashioned you and me.

And that’s just a teeny-tiny fraction of what He does for us. Is it any wonder the psalmist burst into song:

“Come, let us sing to the LORD!

Let us give a joyous shout to the rock of our salvation!

Let us come before him with thanksgiving.

Let us sing him psalms of praise.

For the LORD is a great God,

The great King above all gods.

He owns the depths of the earth, and even the mightiest mountains are his.

The sea belongs to him, for he made it.

His hands formed the dry land, too.

Come, let us worship and bow down.

Let us kneel before the LORD, our maker, for he is our God.

We are the people he watches over, the sheep under his care.

Oh, that you would listen to his voice today!”

(Psalm 95:1-7 NLT)

God deserves our worship and adoration. Because of who He is—our Creator—He also deserves our obedience. Why would we choose to argue with Him or defy His authority when He is clearly bigger and wiser than us?

Tomorrow I’ll board another plane and land in a different Middle Eastern country. Too bad it’s a night flight. I won’t be able to see the landscape this time, but I will be able to see the moon and stars. Perhaps, rather than working in flight as I usually do, I’ll just sit back and enjoy the ride, meditating on the greatness of God as seen in the heavens.

#GodIsBig #bgbg2

Never Ever Alone

I’ve traveled many miles this week. They’ve taken me down freeways, over mountain ranges, through farming country, and alongside rivers and lakes. This morning I woke in the city of Edmonton.

Every time I phone my mom, she asks, “Where are you now? I can’t keep track of you.” I know the feeling—sometimes I can’t keep track of me either. Especially in unfamiliar territory.

True confession—I am directionally challenged. North, south, east, and west mean nothing to me. I’m the only person I know who can get lost in a cul-de-sac.

Maybe that’s why Psalm 139:3-5 resonates with me so well:

You chart the path ahead of me and tell me where to stop and rest.

Every moment you know where I am.

You know what I am going to say even before I say it, LORD.

You both precede and follow me.

You place your hand of blessing on my head.

Next week I’ll fly to a sketchy part of the world. Some people ask me if that prospect scares me. My answer is “no.” I’m on God’s radar every moment and across every mile. He not only sees where I am, He goes with me. I am never alone.

Neither are you.

You might feel alone at times. You might feel a bit lost now and again. You might feel as though you’ve taken a wrong turn on this journey called life, and there’s no hope for finding your way back home. But the truth is—God knows exactly where you are. You’re on His radar every moment of every day. He’s with you.

Is it any wonder the psalmist, after reflecting on this truth, exclaimed, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to know!” (Psalm 139:6).

God is with you, my friend. Let that truth wash over you today and bring you joy.

#GodIsWithUs  #NeverAlone

Obedience and Attitude

Let’s say a mother asks her child to empty the dishwasher. How might that child respond?

  • “Aw, Mom. Do I have to?” The child dawdles to the kitchen muttering, “Why do I always have to empty the dishwasher? Why can’t someone else do it?”
  • “Sure, Mom.” An hour later, the child still hasn’t done the chore. He’s preoccupied with his own interests. Emptying the dishwasher isn’t on his radar.
  • “Sure, Mom.” The child backs up his words with action until he loses interest. The sound of his siblings playing a video game entices him, and he leaves the task half-done.
  • “Sure, Mom.” The child immediately pauses the activity in which he’s involved. He does exactly what his mother asked him of him, and he does so with a cheerful heart.

Which response, do you think, sparks the greatest joy in the mother’s heart?

As followers of Christ, we know He desires our obedience. Saying “yes” to His commands is vital to our well-being, but our attitude is no less important. Psalm 119 tells us what it should look like. Here’s a sampling:

  • “I have rejoiced in your decrees as much as in riches.” (v. 14)
  • “I will delight in your principles and not forget your word.” (v. 16)
  • “I am overwhelmed continually with a desire for your laws.” (v. 20)
  • “I have chosen to be faithful; I have determined to live by your laws.” (v. 30)
  • “If you will help me, I will run to follow your commands.” (v. 32)

Truth be told, immediate and joyful obedience isn’t always easy. When God asks me to do something beyond my comfort zone, my human nature wants to drag its feet and look for something easier to do.

When obedience requires personal sacrifice on my part, I’m not exactly overwhelmed with desire to comply.

When obedience means humbling myself, my nature feels determined to defend personal rights.

But then I recall another verse, and everything changes.  “I reflect at night on who you are, O LORD, and I obey your law because of this” (Psalm 119:55).

Why should we obey God’s commands with a good attitude? Not because He’ll bless us with joy for doing so (although this is true). Not because doing so benefits us (although this is true). Not because it’s the right thing to do (although this is true).

Our most important reason for obeying God’s commands with immediacy and delight is because of who He is—our Creator. Sovereign King. Almighty, all-wise One. Holy God. The Great I AM. Considering who He is, how can we even think about dragging our feet or whining about personal inconvenience when we do comply?

“Father, thank You for knowing what’s best for us in every way and for teaching us how to live well. Please forgive us for reluctant obedience. Forgive us for considering ourselves supreme above You. Grant us humility that we will run to obey Your commands with great delight. Amen.”

#bgbg2 #ObedienceIsBest  #ObeyGod

Loving People Through Hospitality

One of the things I enjoy most about living in the marina is inviting our neighbors over for meals. The food is never fancy, but it’s warm and nutritious. The single men, especially, seem appreciative both of the food and of opportunity to sit around a table and enjoy conversation.

Hospitality in our homes almost seems a lost art in our rush-rush and increasingly impersonal society. And yet, it’s one of the best ways to build relationships. It’s not difficult either, if we keep things simple. The point is not to impress but to serve. To open the door of our homes and our hearts and, through our actions, say, “You’re welcome here.”

“When God’s children are in need, be the one to help them out. Get into the habit of inviting guests home for dinner or, if they need lodging for the night,” wrote Paul (Romans 12:13). I don’t think his suggestion refers solely to fellow believers. Not when people everywhere long to know they’re valued. Not when people everywhere need a friend sooner or later.

And that’s what we can be—a friend. A real-life, face-to-face listener and encourager. That’s nearly an anomaly in our day and age.

A winter storm watch is predicted in our area with high winds beginning around 4 PM today. Snowfall is in the forecast for the weekend. Nothing says “you’re welcome” on a shivery day more than the aroma of soup and biscuits, so Gene and I plan to invite several neighbors for lunch tomorrow. We might do the same for dinner. It seems spontaneity works best in our neighborhood. Today we’re asking God to show us who we should invite—we never want to overlook one of the people living along our dock by inadvertently offering repeat invitations to a certain few.

If you don’t already practice hospitality, I encourage you to do so. Build a friendship with your neighbors over a bowl of homemade soup. Get to know them over a cup of coffee and dessert. Try popcorn and board games. Again, keep it simple. The more complicated we make it, the less likely we are to do it.

I guarantee you this—opening your door will bless all who enter. And you’ll be blessed in return.

#PracticingHospitality  #OpenHeartOpenHome  #bgbg2

God’s Goodness and a Broken Water Main

It feels a little odd when women I don’t recognize walk up to me and ask, “Are you Grace Fox?” But when it happened at my hotel’s hot tub on Saturday night, it was over-the-moon extraordinary.

Gene and I had spent the day hosting our ministry booth at Missions Fest Winnipeg. Our feet and backs ached from standing so long, so we slipped into the hotel’s hot tub to soak our wearies away.

We were about to leave twenty minutes later when a woman entered the pool area. I had to walk past her to reach the exit. As I approached her, she said, “Excuse me. You’re not Grace Fox, are you?”

“I am,” I said.

The woman broke into a big smile. “My name is Carolyn, she said. “This is amazing. I was on a women’s ministry committee that brought you to Winnipeg many years ago, and I attended the conference at which you spoke here last October. I receive your newsletter and blogs, and I follow you on Facebook. I consider you my mentor!” Then this dear woman proceeded to tell me about the events leading to that moment.

Carolyn visited me at Missions Fest on Sunday

Carolyn had awakened that morning to a harsh reality: a water main had burst beside her family home. Water several inches deep flooded her entire block, and her house suffered the most damage. Several feet of water filled her basement before city workers arrived to turn off the main.

“I’ve been reading about your broken furnace,” Carolyn said. “Now my furnace is broken too. So is my hot water heater. Gone. Destroyed. I have no clue what’s next—what repairs will be needed or how long they’ll take. But guess what? I read your Friday blog about God being good all the time, even when bad things happen. That blog was exactly what I needed. And then I come here tonight and I meet you in person. What are the chances of that happening?”

A sense of God’s sweet presence and sovereignty fell on us. We both recognized that He had orchestrated our meeting as a tangible evidence of His presence in her situation. I mean, just think about it: My husband made reservations at this hotel weeks ago; her family booked their room—at the same facility—that day. We’d decided to soak for about twenty minutes and were about to leave when she showed up. If she’d come a minute later, we would have missed each other. Equally, we would have missed each other if either of us had decided against using the hot tub.

In light of what I wrote about God’s goodness on Friday, our human tendency might be to think it could have prevented the water main from breaking and Carolyn’s home from sustaining so much damage. Why would God’s goodness displace her family in the dead of winter? And as for her entire neighborhood, well, no one has water at this time. Everything’s shut off until repairs can be made. Meanwhile, the flooded road, driveways, and yards are slick like skating rinks. What’s with that?

We don’t see the big picture God’s painting, but we have to trust that He’s doing something that’s ultimately going to be good. Sometimes that “good” isn’t seen in the circumstances themselves but in the transformation that takes place in us as they refine us, making us more like Jesus.

“God is good all the time,” said Carolyn. “Even though all this stuff happened, the truth is still the same—He is good.” I agreed. We hugged and marveled together that, In the midst of this hardship filled with uncertainty for Carolyn and her family, God crossed our paths at a hot tub in a Winnipeg hotel so we could experience His goodness firsthand. Who would have thought?

How have you experienced an evidence of God’s goodness recently?

#GodIsGood

God is Good—All the Time

God’s sense of humor makes me smile, especially when the joke’s on me. I wrote the Bible study Forever Changed exactly a year ago, and now the weekly online Bible study group of which I’m a member has chosen to use it. So, here I am, a student of my own study—learning from the things I wrote last year at this time. Today’s lesson speaks of God’s goodness.

Have you ever heard someone say, “God is good,” after something favorable happens? For instance, an item for which we’re paying turns out to be thirty percent off the last marked price. “God is good.”

A medical treatment or surgery achieves the desired outcome: “God is good.”

The weather’s ideal for a family picnic: “God is good.”

Yes, blessings such as these are evidences of God’s goodness in our lives. But what about those things that are blessings in disguise? You know, the circumstances that, humanly speaking, aren’t those we’d choose? I can recall a few….

  • When my husband contracted a blood infection as a result of having a biopsy.
  • When my new grandson spent a week in the NICU after his birth in December.
  • When our boat furnace quit working and the recommended repair guy broke his promises to come and fix it every day for nearly two weeks (the saga continues—“God is good”).

It’s not our natural tendency to declare “God is good” when we get stuck in traffic or our internet connection feels sluggish or an unexpected phone call interrupts our plans. How much less is it our tendency when the big stuff happens.

Those unexpected and often unwelcome blessings in disguise come along, and we lose perspective. We focus on our circumstances and lose sight of the good God who orchestrates them for reasons beyond our understanding.

Would you agree with me that our understanding of God’s character might be flawed? I suspect that, if we truly understood who He is, we would more readily declare “God is good” even in the midst of tough stuff. You see, our circumstances don’t determine whether or not He’s good. He IS good because that’s His nature not because we perceive Him to be so.

If we truly understood God’s goodness, then we’d recognize it in the very fact that we woke up this morning. That we had food in the fridge and in our cupboards. That clean water poured from the tap the moment we turned it on. That, even if woke up to circumstances difficult and beyond our control, we still have a wise and loving God who’s sovereign over them and who promises to turn ashes to beauty and who offers to carry our concerns if only we’ll let Him do so.

God is good not only when life is good. He’s good all the time. Even when life stinks. Even when the furnace dies in winter.

Gotta love it when He reminds me of the truth using something He directed me to write a year ago.

Read Exodus 33:19 and Exodus 34:5-7. What do you discover about God’s character in these verses?

#GodSmiles #GodisGood

When We Feel Like Whining

Some of you have followed my saga on my FB timeline. Our boat’s furnace died nine days ago, and we’ve been living without heat (apart from two little space heaters) since. If we were in the South Pacific, that wouldn’t matter! But living in Vancouver’s damp winter cold is another story.

And then there’s the feeling of being held hostage by circumstances beyond our control. The furnace repair guy, bless his heart, is run off his feet with work. Several times we’ve rearranged our schedules to be here at the time he said, but then he’s canceled or texted to say he’ll be later than expected…and then texted again to say he’ll be later than expected. We wait and postpone and reschedule and cancel because we need to be here when he shows, but all for naught. You get the picture.

Yesterday afternoon Mr. Fix-it installed the repaired furnace. It ran well for a few minutes. He packed up his tools and went home, and then it died. My hubby worked on it until bedtime and started again at 6:00 AM today, trying everything he knows to do but without success. He texted Mr. Fix-it a couple hours ago; he just replied saying he’ll come by tonight. Time will tell. Meanwhile, Gene’s efforts have pushed him further and further behind in the office.

I rose early this morning and carried our dirty laundry to the marina laundromat before the sun came up. As I walked, I felt my thoughts slipping into a negative mindset. Poor me. Here I am, a 60-year-old woman living on a boat—in winter—with no heat. Carrying her laundry in the cold. In the dark. Blah, blah, blah.

 

One word came to mind: Toxic.

“Don’t go there, Grace,” an inner voice whispered. “Stop whining. Give thanks instead. Do it.”

I passed a marina resident hobbling across the parking lot on crutches.  Whatever his condition is, it appears permanent. I’ve never seen him walk without these aids. The sight sparked gratitude for my two healthy legs. Self-pity began losing its grip.

Two empty washing machines awaited me. I had two loads of laundry. Perfect. “Thank You, Jesus, for reserving these for me.”

I’d have thirty minutes before needing to transfer our clothes to the dryers, so I headed back to the boat. Frost covered the dock, making it a slippery danger. The marina stocks a big box with salt for days like this. The last time I looked inside, it was empty. This morning, it was full. “Thank You, Jesus, for salt to melt the frost.” I filled a bucket and sprinkled it along the entire dock, praying for my neighbors as I passed their boats.

When I checked my emails, I read about a Pakistani believer named Asia Bibi. She’d already endured imprisonment for nine years. Recently released and acquitted, she now faced a judicial review of the same charges that sent her to prison in the first place. If found guilty, she faced hanging.  I paused. I prayed for my persecuted sister. And I pondered. Suddenly living without heat for nine days didn’t seem so bad.

This inconvenience shall pass sooner or later. Meanwhile, I have a warm blanket to spread across my legs. I have food in the fridge and propane on which to cook it. I have clothes to wear and wash. And I have a husband who works tirelessly without complaint. I also have a Savior who cares enough to warn me when I’m heading into Toxic Territory.

How long will this saga continue? I really have no clue. But this one thing I do know—I choose, by God’s strength, to give thanks in the midst of it.

For what are you thankful today, my friend?

#gratitude #GiveThanks