Finding Sydney

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This story happened several years back when my daughter, Sydney, was probably about five years old.  I had stopped at the mall with her and my other two daughters for a quick look at some exercise equipment in the sporting goods store that was at the end of one of the “arms” of the mall.  Since we were just going to be there for a few minutes, I left my cell phone in the car and off we went.  In the sporting goods store, we quickly looked at some of the treadmills and moved on to the workout clothing, when suddenly I realized that Sydney was no longer trailing behind me.  I re-traced my steps with my other two daughters, expecting to find Sydney still looking at something we had already passed, but she wasn’t there.  In fact, I couldn’t find her ANYWHERE.

If you’re a parent, you can imagine what was going through my mind — every story I’d ever heard of every child abduction and all the ways that this could end really badly.  Very calmly but firmly, I asked for the manager to come right away because I had a missing child.  The manager seemed willing to help but uninformed as to what to do, so I calmly asked him to post security people at each of the entrances/exits from the building.  I waited, but there were no reports of having found her.  I had them check the bathrooms and the changing rooms, and those were also reported to be clear.  Other store personnel were fanning out across both floors of the store, but they were coming up empty.

This simply could NOT be happening.  I felt the fear really beginning to rise now, although I was fighting it.  I knew I needed prayer…but my phone was in the car.  I had no way in that moment to reach out to my prayer warrior friends or to ask people to come to the mall and help me find my daughter.  WHY had I left my phone in the car???  Meanwhile, I was still directing the search for Sydney with the help of the store manager.  I was standing at the entryway to and from the mall “arm”, scanning everywhere for the light brown curls of Sydney’s hair as I clutched the shoulder of Sydney’s twin sister.  

Fear threatened to turn to outright panic.  I prayed hard.  Seconds felt like minutes…minutes felt like hours.  I said to the store manager that he needed to lock the store down and call in the police if she weren’t found in the next minute or two.  I saw the indecision on his face and was preparing to convince him, when suddenly a young man walked up to me and said, “Are you missing a little girl?”  HOPE sprang up in my heart.  “Yes,” I said, and I described her to him.  He said he thought he had seen her down the “arm” of the mall and asked if I wanted to come see if it was her.  I did, but I also didn’t want to leave the store I was in, afraid that they would stop the search for her and that I would never again see my precious girl.  The young man saw my dilemma and asked instead if I would rather he go check and see if it was, in fact, my daughter.  With gratitude beyond anything I could measure, I said, “Yes, please.”  He jogged off down the mall.

Tick.  Tick.  Tick.  So much time had passed.  Where was she?  Was she okay?  Was this going to work out all right?  I prayed fervently.  

Finally, I saw the young man returning to where I stood, a huge smile on his face.  Just behind him was a concerned-looking woman holding the hand of my precious daughter.  A cry of relief sprang from my lips as I ran to her, my arms open wide, with a quick, “Thank you SO MUCH” to the young man.  He was my hero for sure.  As I hugged Sydney, the woman with her explained that she worked at the pretzel place in the middle of the mall and that it was her habit to watch for lost kids.  When she spotted Sydney, she brought her into the safety of the pretzel stand and they tried to call me, not knowing where I was.  Again, I mentally kicked myself for not bringing in my phone on this “quick trip” that had almost turned into a nightmare…but the most important thing was that I had my Sydney back safely again, thanks to these two heroes — the woman who found her and the young man who recognized the look of anguish on my face and put it together with a missing child.  There is nothing that I wouldn’t have done to repay these two heroes for returning my daughter safely to me.

It struck me later that day that this is how the Father feels about His lost children.  His heart breaks because they are apart from Him, and He searches and searches.  “Have you seen My son?  Have you seen My daughter?”  Every now and then, one of us gets to help one of these lost children find their way home.  We get to tell them about the love that the Father has for them, how He longs to hold them close and tell them how precious they are.  Then, we get to knock on the door of Heaven and ask the Father, “Is this him?  Is this her?  Is this the one for whom You’ve been searching?”  Then we get to put the child’s hand in the hand of the Father, and His heart is overwhelmed with gratitude and love.

“For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”  Luke 19:10

 

 

 

 

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A Valentine’s Thought About Nothing

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A Valentine's Thought About Nothing

I know many who dread Valentine’s Day every year. It can be very difficult for those who long to have a significant other, someone special with whom to spend time and do romantic things.

While I understand the desire to experience that with another human being, isn’t it amazing that we already have Someone who loves us unconditionally? Someone who gave Himself sacrificially for us. Someone who has never stopped loving us and who never will, no matter what. In fact, NOTHING can separate us from His love. That’s incredible! Our marital status, our employment status, our bank balance, and even our sins cannot separate us from His love. That’s the kind of love that I want! That’s the kind of love that Jesus offers.

Have you ever stopped to consider how great His love is for you personally? If not, I invite you to do so. Just ask Him to show you His love for you, and it will be His great pleasure to do it. If you need some help, just message me — it would be my privilege to help you hear His voice.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Photographs

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I recently posted this picture on my Facebook page.  It’s a picture of me from way back when I was 9 or 10 years old, riding a friend’s pony, Goldie.  I also posted several other pictures that were taken in that same era, and I have enjoyed the comments of friends and family alike as we have re-lived some memories together.  It has been very fun to connect with them again over those particular memories — times that I have cherished, although some of the moments had faded from memory before finding these photographs.

When we get to Heaven, I believe that we’ll find that God has photo albums full of His favorite memories of us from our time here on Earth.  (After all, He has other books, so why not some photo albums and scrapbooks?)  He cherishes us and I’ll bet that He has mementos of key moments in our lives.  I can picture myself sitting cross-legged on the floor with Jesus, photo albums and scrapbooks lying open, laughing and smiling and sharing memories with Him and with other loved ones who have gone before me.  How wonderful that will be!

Courage

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I’m not much of one for making New Year’s resolutions. They’re usually pretty nebulous… “Lose some weight,” or, “Get into better shape,” or “Be nicer to people”. Like most people, my resolutions don’t usually make it to the end of January. Like the end of the first week of January, maybe! Anyway, this year I decided that I would set some goals for myself — something that I can measure and say that I did it or didn’t make it. I’m also sprinkling it with grace this year, which is something I never allowed myself with resolutions.

Part of my goal-setting came from what was, for me, a stunning realization. That was that I don’t have to wait until I’m retired to start enjoying life — I can do it NOW! That’s probably a “well, DUH” to most people, but it was revolutionary for me. I started thinking about what I really want to do and experience in life and started making a bucket list. Some of these goals can be accomplished this year and some will come in the next few years. Some of them are so far out there that I have no idea how or when they may come to be, but at least I have my goals written down so that I won’t forget about them.

There are some things that I want to do which I’m scared to death to do. The truth is that I have always tried to portray myself as fearless when in actuality I’m afraid of almost everything. I’m not afraid of heights per se, but I am afraid of falling from a height, so one of the things on my list — hang-gliding — flies in the face of that fear. Why do it when I might be terrified? Well, because of the word that the Lord gave me for 2014: COURAGE. Courage is not the absence of fear, but it is acting in spite of being afraid. I can’t think of a better way to kick fear in the face than to take courageous action. So, for my birthday in March, I’m going hang-gliding in Chattanooga! I’m so excited about it! It will be a great experience, I am sure.

In what ways are you stepping out this year? What word did the Lord give to you for the year?

Dream Accuser

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I don’t often remember my dreams, but I had one a couple of weeks ago that really stood out to me. In it, I was talking to a dream character about goals that I have for my life. The conversation went really well until someone else came in and started telling the first dream character about all the mistakes that I’ve made in my life. The first character then started laughing and jeering my goals, saying, “How could someone like you ever hope to attain those goals?” and reminding me of all the things that I’ve done wrong.

Have you ever had something like that happen to you in real life? Sometimes it’s the people around us who discount our goals for one reason or another. (This doesn’t always happen out of meanness; sometimes it’s done with the idea of “helping” us choose a “better path”.) Sometimes it’s less well-intentioned, as it was in my dream — someone telling us that we’ll never measure up, we aren’t good enough, we’ve failed so many times before that how can we expect anything but failure in the future. Most often, it’s the voices in our heads that mock us in this way.

The thing that really stood out to me about the dream is that I didn’t buy the lie.  Even in my sleep I rejected the voices of accusation because I know that I am forgiven and washed clean of my mistakes – past, present and future.  My mistakes may have marked who I was in the past, but they don’t mark who I am today.

One thing that I know is true is that God has even bigger and better plans for my life than I have for myself.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord.  “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

I’m so grateful that my hope is in the Lord!  My future is in His loving hands.  Is yours?

Why Worship Him

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I’ve got to admit that I don’t fully get the whole worship thing.  I mean, I know that it blesses God’s heart in ways that we can’t fully imagine.  I know that He is worthy of our worship; He’s the only One who is.  I know that worship takes my eyes off of me and puts them on Him — which is a much better place for them to be.  And in the times that I can truly connect with Him through worship, it certainly is good for my heart and boosts my intimacy level with Jesus.  

In spite of that knowledge, worship often feels like a foreign language to me.  I just don’t feel like I’m fluent enough in it to really communicate to Him in it, and sometimes that makes it hard for me to connect my heart to His through worship.  So, I’ve decided to do something about that.

I thought I’d start by seeing what the Bible has to say about worship.  Why did the people in the Bible who serve as our examples worship Him?  I found out in Exodus 34:8 that Moses worshiped in response to Who He is.  In Psalm 48:9, worship is out of response to His unfailing love.  In Psalm 29:2, worship is the response to the glory of His name and the the splendor of His holiness.  In Job 1:20 I found a remarkable verse where Job responds to overwhelming grief by worshiping God.  Amazing!

One place where I don’t seem to have much trouble connecting my heart to His through worship is at Fused, our church’s youth ministry where I have the privilege of serving.  It is flat out astonishing to worship with hundreds of middle and high school students, many of whom know Jesus as some of whom are still on the journey to figuring out who Jesus is and whether or not they want Him for themselves.  No matter whether they know Him already or not, these students worship in ways that I think must take God’s breath away.  They sing His praises at the top of their lungs, they worship freely with their bodies as they dance before Him and, in a way that honors God above all else, they live out the words of the worship songs on a daily basis.  They fill me with awe at the ways that they worship, but best of all, I’m learning through their example how to worship Him more freely myself.  

How do you worship Him?