ponder anew

Leaning against a large boulder near the water’s edge, he pulled me in close.  I sunk into his full embrace.  The breeze tossed my hair across his face, but he didn’t move.  The gentle lapping of the surf was so soothing.  The little sandpipers flitting from rock to rock around us were fun to watch.  But for us it was precious stillness.  Peace.  REST.

I had a flashback to late afternoons on the bayside beach in Ocean City, NJ.  The sun sinking, the shadows stretching across the sand.  Mom and Dad happily extending their hours of fishing.  And me… sleepy from a full day of sun and sand and surf.  Those were the best times to curl up on a blanket and doze off in the breeze.  A kid-sized power nap!  Utter REST.

That moment with him by the rocks felt just like that.

It was his only chance to breathe, and REST, in the middle of a hard-fought season.  A wearying stretch of time, in every sense of the word, for both of us!  In just a few days, he would close the door of his office of seven years for the last time, having put in long hours and late nights in these final days to finish well, with integrity and honor.

A new chapter was just around the corner.  A new job opportunity.  A fresh start.  The long prayed-for chance to shift gears, to embrace a new challenge.

We exhaled that day on the beach, lingering in that embrace.  We breathed in peace and whispered back gratefulness!  A long-anticipated day was a threshold away and we were soaking in this pause before stepping boldly forward.

“I want to remember this day,” I said softly.  He held me a little tighter and nodded.

. . .

A study about King David this week drew my attention to his habit of praise.  In victory or in defeat, the words from David’s heart seemed to start and end in praise – to the LORD, the Almighty, the One who had always been with him, the One who had chosen him, the One who defended and provided and guided and orchestrated so many details for David.

Sing praises to GOD and to His Name!

His Name is the LORD – rejoice in His presence!

The GOD of Israel gives power and strength to His people.

Psalm 68:4, 35

. . .

I will sing of the tender mercies of the LORD forever!  …

for the LORD has said, “I will love him and be kind to him forever;

My covenant with him will never end… I will never stop loving him, nor let My promise to him fail.”

Psalm 89:1, 28, 33

As I finished the questions for our group discussion, I simply jotted down the title to an all-time favorite hymn: “Praise to the LORD, the Almighty!”

My mind drifted to our moment of quiet gratefulness at the beach.  And to a second flashback, much more recent than childhood fishing days.

Just days before our wedding, we visited the arboretum where our professional photography would take place.  We wandered the grounds, looking for favorite spots.  My mom, with camera in hand, was eager to snap a few pictures, capturing our excitement (and even a little silliness) while no one else was around.

One of my favorite pictures from that day was almost identical to our moment by the rocks at the beach.  He was leaning against a stone wall and pulled me in close.  In the chill of that October day in Pennsylvania, it was so cozy to lean in against him, surrounded by his warm, strong embrace.

I felt safe.  In a place of utter peace and REST.  Our long-anticipated wedding day was a threshold away and we were soaking in the pause before stepping boldly forward.

We breathed in happiness and whispered back gratefulness.

Our wedding day was quiet, deeply meaningful, yet bursting with JOY.

We exited the chapel as our guests sang “Praise to the LORD, the Almighty!”  Twenty years later, our theme is the same!  But so precious to realize how these words ring truer and deeper today than they did then:

Praise to the LORD, the Almighty, the King of creation!

O my soul, praise Him, for He is thy health and salvation!

All ye who hear, now to His temple draw near,

Praise Him in glad adoration.

Praise to the LORD who o’er all things so wondrously reigneth,

Shelters thee under His wings, yea, so gently sustaineth!

Hast thou not seen how thy desires e’er have been

Granted in what He ordaineth?

Praise to the LORD, who doth prosper thy work and defend thee,

Surely His goodness and mercy here daily attend thee.

Ponder anew what the Almighty can do,

If with His love He befriend thee.

Praise to the LORD, O let all that is in me adore Him!

All that has life and breath, come now with praises before Him.

Let the Amen sound from His people again,

Gladly for aye, we adore Him.

[Joachim Neander, 1650-1680, Tr. by Catherine Winkworth, 1829-1878]

. . .

As we turn the page into this new chapter, we REST in the LORD’s faithful and gracious hand in and through it all.  We praise Him!  We thank Him!  May all that is in us adore Him!

Twenty years later, what a gift to “ponder anew all the Almighty can do, when with His love He befriends us!”

We look forward again (and still) to all He has planned for us … together.

Leaning on our Rock, both of us surrounded by HIS embrace, there is no place of greater REST and peace. 

in His arms

He will say to Me, “You are my Father, my GOD, and the Rock of my salvation.”  Psalm 89:26

. . .

#HeisourRock  #Hisembrace  #RESTandPEACE  #letallthatisinmeadoreHIM  #ponderanew  #whattheAlmightycando  #withHisloveHebefriendsus  #catchingourbreath  #newchapter  #lookingforward  #HOPEandJOY  #together  #happyheartsmonth  #sweetFebruary  #liftourPRAISEtoGOD

 

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purposely placed

Wow.  How perfect!  I smiled at the exactness of the Father’s plan in placing this new release from Revell Books in my hands.

After months of questions and wrestling homesickness and prayers for direction, it became abundantly clear that the answer I hoped for wasn’t coming.  Because the LORD had already given His direction… seven years ago!

It wasn’t time to move back “home.”

It was long past time for me to embrace where He had already placed us!  To make the conscious choice to call this place HOME.

So, there I stood at the mailbox, having ripped into the package right then and there.  Staring at this new title… “Love Where You Live: How to Live Sent in the Place You Call Home” by Shauna Pilgreen.

Ummm… yes!  Please help me!  If we really heard Him correctly seven years ago and this is the home He has called us to for the foreseeable future, I need any insight I can get that will warm my heart to this place.  [No offense intended, dear south FL, I just never really wanted to live this far from the northern hills.  Please understand!]

And I was curious to hear her thoughts about “living sent.”  This is a new concept for me, and I was eager to learn more!

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*  *  *

Well, here’s the long and short of it…

I dove into this book with selfish intentions – to help my own heart find a happier place!  And I’ve turned the last page realizing that the real takeaway is not about me at all.

It is about lifting my eyes to see everyone else who is also living in this place, and longing for them to know JESUS.  It is about finding any and every possible way to make genuine connections that help me share the love and truth of who GOD is and the good news He offers!

I am not stuck here.  I have been purposely placed here. 

Choose to stay, she implores.  Consciously decide to settle in, get to know my city, walk the streets next to others who live and work and play and worship here.  Get to know them.  Listen to their stories.  Welcome them into my own.

Remember He sees me here, she reminds.  Far from anything familiar or comfortable, JESUS sees me!  He sees each one around me too.  He wants to use me to help others know that they are seen and noticed and loved beyond belief!  [Maybe He has placed me far from “home” on purpose, so my deep longing for connection and “family” will urge me to reach out – and welcome others in!]

Look for JESUS here, she says.  See others through His eyes.  Extend His love and grace and kindness, no matter what.  There are people here who need JESUS – desperately.  And He chose to send me here.  How has He created and molded me in such a way to be able to reach those who need Him?  Do I trust Him enough to be brave – to just be the “me” He has been growing and trust it helps them get to know Him?

Trust the challenges, she urges.   They are often the very way He lifts our eyes to find Him and His purposes… and they also give us stories to share and experiences through which to connect with others.  Let others see my need of Him – and the ways He makes Himself real to me again and again as He meets those needs.

Start small, she advises, but start!  There is a LOT of work to do.  A LOT of needs.  Ask Him to lead me to one person who needs His love and His truth today.  Don’t underestimate the kindness of a smile, a helping hand, a reliable resource, an encouraging word, faithful support.

Live sent, she echoes again and again.  Purposely placed.  Embrace each new day, asking Him to show me what new path to explore, or which well-worn routine to retrace, trusting that each encounter is working toward a greater story.

*  *  *

We are all part of a greater story, graciously unfolding since the beginning of time.  A story of Creator GOD who loves us and longs to be reunited with us in a deepening, intensely personal relationship.  He sent His Son to be our Savior.  He sends His redeemed children to share His love and His truth so others can come to know and love Him too.

This morning, as I take a long walk along the same sidewalks I have covered many times over seven years, as I wander out later today to run errands at the same businesses and interact with the same sweet people I see each week, maybe I will see it all differently.

Maybe this time I will pause to ask Him, “why was I purposely placed exactly here, exactly now?  What have You given me to share with them?  What next chapter in their story might I have the joy of watching as it unfolds?”

I kinda can’t wait!

live sent 2

What a shift! … from heartsick and longing for another place to genuinely excited to be part of a greater story.

His story!

Right here!

*  *  *

If your heart is aching for a shift, a fresh sense of wonder about the place you have called home for decades or just days, you may find the help and hope you need from  “Love Where You Live: How to Live Sent in the Place You Call Home,” by Shauna Pilgreen, published by Revell Books.

*  *  *

#lovewhereyoulive  #choosetostay  #notstuck  #purposelyplaced  #Iamsendingyou  #LOVEasIhavelovedyou  #trustingJESUS  #othersneedJESUS  #lookforHimhere  #Heseesmehere  #Hehasapurposeformehere  #HOMEiswhereHeleadsme  #startsmall  #trustthechallenges  #livesent  #shaunapilgreen  #RevellReads  #bookreview