Soaking up the Rain for My Soul

Hebrews 6:7 Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful for those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God.

My reading this morning has caused me to consider my soul as the “soil” from which God’s grace is manifest on earth. My grandparents were farmers so I understand the need for rain. I understand that sunshine, rain, planting and harvest all take priority over plans and ideas. There were many times (still are many times) when the farmers in my family did not show up for an event because it was planting or harvest day. We all understand that; it’s the only way you can have a crop to share in the time of harvest. It’s harder to accept this with my soul.

With my soul this means accepting the days of tears with as much trust as I accept the days of celebration. I know the garden cannot grow without rain…but I have to remind myself that my tears have equal value to the moments of joy.

With my soul it means being patient in times of waiting so that everything has time to grow and mature as it needs to be. Yes, even when the waiting feels like a desert. Patience not only for myself, but for everyone else that is connected…because we’re all connected.

Harvest of flowers yesterday from The Giving Garden
Harvest of flowers yesterday from The Giving Garden
With my soul it means trusting that the long days of planting, weeding and tending will actually produce something that blesses in the end. There is some work involved in those activities. I wasn’t a big fan of weeding days in our family garden…which seemed like most days! And this part is not always graceful either. We often encountered a snake or two, and occasionally injured ourselves with our careless hoeing. I used to wonder why my parents found it necessary to have such a BIG garden! Limit the size, limit the weeds…right?

With my soul it means yielding to the plans of God’s bigger picture rather than what I want to see happen in one chapter of life. Every summer we would watch T.V. while we were breaking beans, shelling peas or shucking corn. This was normal…we did it every night during times of harvest. When I went to college I had never purchased a can of vegetables because we always had vegetables straight from the garden, freezer or from our own canning. It was then that I realized what it meant that we used that T.V. time to prepare for the days beyond what we could see. It is a little like yielding to God’s bigger picture even when the view is illusive.

What’s being offered to your soul today? Whatever it is – accept it and give thanks. For in due time, there is a harvest to come.

Prayer: Lord thank you for making it easy for us to see how you work in nature and how you work in our souls too. I love you. Amen.

An Order for Life

Scripture:   Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.  The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no greater commandment than these.  (Mark 12:30-31)

Observation:  The is the order of a life surrended to God. It is the order of life for Love.

Application:  Over the past couple of days a new prayer for my life has emerged and it is a prayer for justice. It surprised me.  But as I thought about it, it seemed to fit.  God’s justice is about setting things right. It is about alignment.  As I read the scritpure this morning, I’m reading from that lens…justice…order…alignment.  “My heart” is the wellspring of life and it is to be guarded and protected. Not isolated or unyielding but guarded and protected as a treasure (Proverbs 4:23).  That provides some great food for thought in daily decisions…
“My soul” is the voice of God within me…the place of inspiration and spiritual gifts..the source of what God will contribute to the world by my presence on earth.  (I Timothy 4:14; and 6:20). This seems like a great start for daily priorities…
“My mind” is the wisdom and understanding developed through learning, skills and experiences given to me on earth.  All of it is to be refined and ever growing. Jesus was frustrated with the disciples and religious leaders for then lack of comprehension. (Mark 12:24, 27) (I Corinthians 2:6-16).  This is my list of learning and applying all of that learning to my daily life…
“My strength” is my physical energy for life…staying healthy and fit so I can live well in the environment of earth. It is taking care of the temple in which my spirit is present.  (I Corinthans 6:19).  This is my care of my body…all of it from health, fitness, nutrition…everything.
If I order my life around these ways of loving God, it leads me to love myself by taking care of the way God created me.  And by loving God and myself….I am free, able and willing to love with my neighbor.

Prayer:  Lord, I know you are a God of justice.  There is an order to the way you created all of creation, including the way you created humans. Help me to live into your order, your justice and your love. Thank you for always teaching and providing wisdom for life.

Yield:  Be true to what I know allows me to love the Lord with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind and all my strength.  Everything else will be “justified” and fall into place.

Holy Holy Holy

My Life journal musings for today:

Scripture:   Numbers 18:1;  Mark 8:2
Give the command to the Israelites adn say to them, “See that you present to me at the appointed time the food for the offerings…
“I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry they will collapse…”

Food is an important and holy thing in God’s kingdom. From the ancient days of food offerings on the altar – to the way Jesus offered food to the crowds – and even the vision God gave Peter about food (Acts 10), food is connected to our physical AND spiritual lives. Eating is holy. Preparing food is an act of giving life. Sharing a meal is entering into the blessing of communion…God’s presence with us as we are with each other.

Russell Little has been in the kitchen for 11 days.  It is set up in a large hotel room here where we stay.  He has a variety of fantastic assistants each day, all of which he has convinced the locals are his 3 wives. Diane (the REAL Mrs. Little) was there the first day, and  then Debbie and Dudley rotated through Russell’s kitchen. All of us take clean up duty nightly assignments and preparing sack lunches for the next day.

Russell has prepared breakfast and a feast for supper every day. He goes to the grocery daily and buy fresh food for us. His gifts for cooking and hospitality have blessed us physically and spiritually.  As we return from the worksite each day, we enjoy some of the best cooking you can imagine. How awesome is that???

Sharing the evening meal, this “offering”, gives us time for conversation and telling the day’s stories around our table.  We come to know one another in a different way. We cool down from the heat of the day and the pressure of long lines of people waiting to see the dentist. We rejuvenate as we feed our bodies and let our souls find relief.

Wednesday morning for our morning devotional, Robin (Dr. Wilhite, the dentist from Columbia FUMC) led us in sharing of our experiences over the past 11 days. We served each other communion. We sang and we prayed. We told stories of what God has done in us this week. We walked through the holy space of God’s presence among us and our heart were and are forever changed.  Let it be.

Remember that whatever food I take in today is an offering of someone, and whomever I share that meal with is joining me in a walk through the holy space of God’s presence with us.


SCRIPTURE:  But now I urge you to keep you your courage because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed.

OBSERVATION:  Sometimes the “vessels” are destroyed, but God protects what needs to remain and continue.

APPLICATION:  Sometimes our vessels (institutions, dysfunctions, thought patterns, etc.) have to be broken down and removed.  When God is involved, this leads into a new way and a new freedom. Becaues the ship was destroyed, Paul and his fellow travelers encountered the grace of God.  Out of chaos, fear, wreckage and destruction everyone was transported into a new place and met the power of God.

PRAYER:  Gracious God, please protect your image in each one of us and hold us in the safety of your hands. When life is like a shipwreck and chaos and fear is strong… please show us the way to Hope. Give us the courage to continue and trust in you.  I love you. Thank you for so many times you brought me safely out of the shipwrecks of life.

YIELD:  Trust God in the shipwrecks.

Dress Code of Heaven

My Life Journal musings for today….

Mark 16:5  As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

Observation:  Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of James, got a big surprise when they went to visit the tomb of Jesus. It had to be pretty spooky! It’s not everyday you go to the cemetery and meet a visitor from heaven.

Application:  We just passed Halloween in our cultural celebrations and All Saints Day (or “the day of the dead”) is this Sunday.  We celebrate the lives of those who have gone before us.  In preparation for Sunday, I’ve been reading in Revelation 7 this week…where it describes this great crowd of people from every nation, tribe, people and language..all wearing white robes.  There are other places in the Scriptures that describe visitors of heaven in white robes; it seems to be the dress code of heaven. (John 20:12; Matthew 28:2-3; Luke 24:4)

I wonder what it will feel like to be dressed in white? In our human context we think of a bride – pure – clean – carefully prepared.  Sometimes we even discuss silly questions like, “is it OK for a bride to wear white for a second marriage?”  We take those questions seriously; most often the answer is “no, it is not OK. She can wear off white or color, just not white.”   But that is not how God works.  God offers us something new to wear…something that does not bear the marks and wounds of life on earth.  And it is not a color that says, “not quite perfect”.  Dressed in white there is nothing to prevent us from feeling worthy to move forward…to walk straight into the holy space and take our place in heaven.  When he was struggling so hard with his mistakes, King David cried out in his prayer to God, “wash me and I will be whiter than snow..” (Ps 51:7).

Somehow, by God’s grace and the pouring out of God’s love in the life of Jesus Christ, God has made it clear: all of our mistakes, dysfunctions, failures, those “what was I thinking???” moments…none of it stands in the way of what we will become.  None of it causes Jesus to say, “Ummmm….sorry, your white robe was taken off the rack yesterday, it isn’t here”.   Love is stronger than death and God is love. Sometimes mistakes and sin feel like “death”.  They destroy our self-worth.  They distract us from the greater things God has for us.  They make us turn away from God because we think we are no longer “good enough” to ask for God’s help or God’s grace, much less God’s plan for our life!   That’s just not true.  There is a white robe with your name on it hanging on a rack in heaven.  And every now and then, in the ordinary days of life on earth, God is going to invite you to see a glimpse of how good it looks on you.  And if you are really interested in a relationship with God – you are likely to get invited to wear that robe in some very surprising ways while you are on earth! You will probably never know you have it on…but you will know something heavenly has taken up residence in you.  Enjoy the journey.

Prayer:  Gracious God, thank you for finding so many ways to get our attention and draw us into your love.  Thank you for coming to earth in the life of Jesus Christ and revealing yourself to us in a way that we could relate to as human beings.  I love you and I’m looking forward to someday wearing my white robe!  Please help me to live into its fitting while I’m here on earth.

Building Plans

my life journal musings from today….

SCRIPTURE:  “For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything.”  Hebrews 3:4

OBSERVATION:  God uses people to “build” the house of God’s presence on earth.

APPLICATION:  When I read the stories of our faith I can see the obvious purposes of God being carried out over the generations. Moses had his part in leading the people out of slavery; Joseph had his part in feeding the hungry and leading a community; Solomon had his part in building the temple; Lydia had her part in funding radical ministry; Paul had his part in sharing the gospel in other lands. The list goes on and on.

Uncle Bob does his part in keeping us grounded in the simplicity of how life works. he built bridges in his career. Today he builds hope and delivers it all over the nation. Sometimes it is in his own community teaching in church; another time it is delivering a truck load of Bibles to a community that needs them; on any given day it might be him just showing up with a truck when you are sitting there saying, "I sure do need a truck to haul away this stuff!" Uncle Bob is quite simply, an answer to prayer for many people, most of whom are complete strangers.

My Lester grandparents had their part too. P.E. and Myrtle Lester were a poor couple raising 9 kids and farming in Western Kentucky. It was a hard life.  P.E. brought the gift of faith to the mix. Myrtle brought the gift of unconditional love.  What started out as two young, poor but determined people, has grown into over 100 of us now that make up this small part of the  “Lester generations”. We are scattered everywhere…building our part of the plan.  When we are together we can see the diversity and richness of what God has created with us….what God is building with us. We have all been given the gift of unconditional love. It was not something we earned or gained by skill or even deserved. It was passed onto us by our grandparents as a gift from God.

Aunt Cozi, Nancy & Ouida with Alan and Angela. Three of P.E. & Myrtle's 9 kids doing an adventure in Alaska this year. Aunt Cozi builds joy, Aunt Nan builds courage, Aunt Ouida builds people. Alan builds communication that respects and honors people. Angela builds love. Just a glimpse of that far-reaching "plan". In this picture it is reaching from Southern California, through Colorado, Washington D.C. and on down to Florida. Pretty amazing!

For my grandparents – it was building a family based on faith and unconditional love, while also caring for the land to make it fruitful for feeding the world. They had no idea how far their part of the “building plan” would reach.  We have no idea how far our part of the building plan will reach.  My cousins are all busy with their part.  When I see them I am reminded that God is designing a house on earth that changes the daily experience of people we encounter.  I want to be part of that building plan. What about you? What building plans have you been given?

Cousins! Luis and Elizabeth came into our family by way of Costa Rica when we were all kids. Teresa, on the far right, was a welcomed guest at our reunion this year. She is a friend from Mexico.
Cousins! Dustin and Ellyana. These cousins build in Kentucky!
Cousins! Sean and Kevin Fitzpatrick. They build in Alaska, Hawaii, and soon...Kevin will be building in India. Sean builds people and environments where they can flourish. Kevin is just receiving his part of the "building plan" and we know it involves India!

PRAYER:  Lord, thank you for reminding me of how you work. Thank you for showing me this in my family. I am happy to do my part in whatever way you choose. Thank you for involving me at all.














YIELD:  I will give attention to the plans of the Lord and be faithful to do my part.

Against All Odds

My life journal musings today….

Scripture:  “As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed – the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.  (Romans 4:17)

Observation:  Abraham encountered the miracles of God because he believed that God is faithful. He followed what he could not understand. He accepted what was beyond human capability. Even when he would sometimes doubt, he kept going foward because he knew God is faithful.  He was “fully pursaded” (4:21) that God would do what God promised.

Aunt Cozi, Ouida and Nan ready for the the 7-leg zip line in the Alaskan rainforest. A mere 150 feet up in the air adventure. Amazing ladies!

Application:  When God nudged Abraham to do something, he did it. Most of it seemed ridiculous or impossible. He acted anyway.  Because of that – things unfolded that changed the world.  It started in his family and grew to “all nations”.   A few months ago my Aunt Cozi posted on Facebook an invitation for any of the family to join her for an Alaskan cruise. She had decided to go on this adventure in celebation of her birthday.  She felt “nudged” to invite the family to join her.  When I read it, I said to myself, “impossible” and never thought another moment about it.  Over the next many weeks different family members began to book the cruise…oh my goodness…the Lesters (my mom’s family) are going to Alaska!  We are scattered across the country…there are over 100 of us now.  In the end, 15 of us ended up on a ship bound for Alaska. My sister and I were on board.  Something that was impossible happened because Aunt Cozi acted on a nudge.

Aunt Cozi with two of my cousins who live in Alaska (Kevin & Sean), one who lives in Colorado (Angela) and my incredible sister! We are standing in front of the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau. A lot of "impossibles" are in this picture!

Conversations were shared, memories were made, relationships were blessed and we expereienced God’s grace in a new way….a way that forever changes our lives.

Doris from the Volunteers in Mission (VIM) office in Guatemala; Pastors Juan Pablo and Mario

Just a few weeks ago I got a nudge. Guatemala…return.  But I went with the team…I did my part…how could I imagine a return?  I could not ignore the nudge, and so, like Abraham, I trusted God more than I did all the reasons why it could not happen, and I shared the nudge with someone else and asked for prayer. Doors began to open. God was making a way for the impossible. I packed my bags and returned.  What I encountered was God’s grace in a miracle that changed my life forever.  It is not a miracle that belongs to me, it is something God is doing – much more than my eyes can see or my heart can comprehend.  Ezekial is in deaf school;  Bibles are in the hands of people hungry to discover God’s love; Friendships are established for collaboration and peace in the time ahead. Dreams were spoken out loud.

When have you experienced the impossible or the “what can not be” to just happen anyway?

Prayer:  Gracious God, I thank you.  You are amazing.  You do set things into being that are impossible in human terms.  You nudge us and involve us in your miracles on earth.  Please help us all to have the courage and faith to act when you nudge us…however subtle or obvious.  Open our eyes to the many ways you are speaking.  Let us be faithful like Abraham, let us be obedient like Christ.

What are your Plans?

Some reflections from the Life Journal reading this morning…

Scripture:  I Chronicles 28

Observation:  King David was near death and a successor was needed.  His closest confidantes, Bathsheba and Nathan, go to his beside to let him know….”it’s time”.  David already knew what to do. The Lord had already prepared him for this day.

God had blessed David with success in battle and now the Lord had plans for a time of peace in the land.  That time of peace was for a specific purpose: so the people could build  a temple for worshipping the one true God.  The Lord had already chosen Solomon (David’s son) to lead the building of this temple while he served as king.  David had the vision, he had the plans and he had the faith. He had walked closely with God and he had listened along the way.  God has shared the vision with him. and God had equipped the people all around to the work for the time ahead.

David’s advice to Solomon as he passes this mantle of leadership on:  “Be strong and courageous and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the Lord is finished.” (I Chronicles 28:20)

The concrete project in Guatemala was started because the dust storms would throw dirt all over the outside walls of the school. The people said, "we need to concrete it in" Norris said, "we can make a way for you to do it".

Application:  As I read this what I see in my mind is Guatemala, a couple by the name of Norris and Fran Allen, and plans.  Norris is the leader for the work and teams from our area that have been going into Guatemala for several years. I’ve only just recently come to know him.  He and Fran were in my office a few days ago…on May 2nd. They had just returned from a trip the night before and I was leaving for a trip the day after. We had sandwiched this meeting in between so I could hear their history and dreams about Guatemala and I could share with them my experience from the most recent mission at La Toma.  It had been difficult to schedule it in for all of us.  Sarah from our church’s team met with us. I’m so glad she was also there!

Norris brought water system plans and drawings. He brought stories written on paper and stories written on his heart.  Fran shared dreams and an obvious joy for God’s faithfulness as she could see the unfolding of continued vision. We looked at pictures. We spoke of the future. We imagined plans. We said we would pray about it and talk to our friends in Guatemala and finalize whatever seems to be best for future work.  We were all blessed in this sharing.

The plaque on the wall at La Toma School showing appreciation for the vision and collaboration of the Guatemala Methodista Church, Norris and the teams from TN

Over this past weekend Fran experienced a massive stroke.  Suddenly the conversation we shared a few days ago has become more poignant and more urgent. I find myself recalling every word she and Norris said…looking at my notes and praying I remember everything.  What strikes me this morning as I read the scripture is that God works things out. God has plans. Our role is not to do the planning so much, but to be open enough to hear and brave enough to follow whatever God gives each of us to do.

I returned from Guatemala on April 18th, almost a month ago. People have asked me several times, “what are your plans?”  I smile and say, “I’m listening and praying”.  It’s not so much about what we want (David wanted to build the temple but God chose Solomon for that part), it is rather, about paying attention to what God is planning and simply follow the Creator.  Period.

This is an old suspension bridge over the river that has been replaced by a nice paved bridge. Not sure why the old one was left hanging but having it visible there speaks to me of new paths for peace, health and friendship.

Prayer:  Father, please be with Norris and Fran. Please be with the people of Guatemala. Please keep me open enough to always hear my part in your work on earth, courageous enough to follow you and humble enough to see your plans. I love you.

Yield:  No need to ever worry about the future. God’s got it covered.

Joy Comes in the Morning

My life journal musings for today….

View from Long Bay in Alaska. A God that creates this kind of beauty can handle whatever comes up in our lives. "I will exalt you, O Lord"

Scripture:  Psalm 30:1-3. I will exalt you, O Lord, for you lifeted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me. O Lord my God, I called to you for help and you healed me.  O Lord, you brought me up from the grave; you spared me from going down to the pit.

OBSERVATION:  King David was a great man that loved God with all of his heart.  He was a great leader, a man of great compassion and a strong warrior. Still, David made a lot of mistakes, just like us.  He also had tough life experiences that were not his own choosing, but that were very hard to live with each day.  When these situations happened in his life,  (whether by his own actions or the actions of others)  David did not run from God – he ran to God! He prayed.  The Lord heard his cries and responded.

APPLICATION:  As I read this Psalm (and the II Samuel 24 reading ) I can relate to how faithful God is when we call out for help.  It feels awful to make mistakes and face the consequences of them.  It feels awful to realize that there are destructive paths that lead us into dark places where we don’t need or want to be.  The “enemies” of our lives today are different. They are the enemies of busyness, distraction, depression, addictions, rage, fear, over-indulgence….etc., etc.  The “grave” and the “pit” are those places where poor decisions create a life we don’t want.  Or maybe the “pit” is that situation that you want so much to get out of but it feels like you can’t.  Maybe the “grave” is the reality of a big disappointment, a lost job, a relationship gone bad, or an illness that is taking up more of your life than you expected.  That is the time to pray! That is when we stop trying to do it on our own and we ask God to help us.  God is faithful.  As the Psalm reads…”weeping may remain for the night, but joy comes in the morning!” Whatever your situation is – take it to God and know for certain that God is faithful. Prayer changes things.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for caring enough about me that you hear and respond when I call for your help.  Thank you for changing circumstances every day when we invite you into our lives. Your faithfulness is my strength every day! I love you.

YIELD:  Whatever comes up today, the Lord will be in it with me.

A Different Way of Doing Life…

My Life Journal reading for April 20, 2011

Sometimes the "kingdom of heaven" comes near in the provision of dental care for those who have none. A dentist, Dr. Robin Wilhite, lives out his obedience to Gods call on his life by providing this in Guatemala.

Matthew 7:21  (a teaching of Jesus)

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.’


God is not interested in our performance; God is interested in our obedience.  A focus on performance in our own agendas distracts us from the greater life we are called to live.


In this reading we are being invited into a different way of approaching life. It is a way that helps us discover the “kingdom of heaven”.  The “kingdom of heaven” is not so much a place as it is a state of life…a state of abundant peace, love and joy even in difficult circumstances.  (Matthew 13:31-32) The path to finding that life is being obedient to the will of God.  It is easy to focus on all the things I think I am “supposed to do” and get so busy there is never time to listen and do the things God asks me to do.  In truth, my life needs to be full of ONLY those things God asks me to do. It is a practice of great risk, enormous trust and incredible love. It is a practice of adventure and freedom in Christ.  When we follow this path things begin to happen that are beyond what we could have imagined.  The impossible becomes possible. The darkness loses its power.  Families are healed. Nations are transformed.  Peace seeps into our lives and takes up residence.  In other words, we enter the “kingdom of heaven” in ways we never imagined. What is God inviting you into today?


Gracious God, thank you for this teaching. Please help me to have the courage to follow your nudges and your will in my life today.  I trust you completely and I love you. Thank you for your faithfulness.  Amen.