by Terry Magness
An amazing tree-covered lane near my home is one of those take-a-deep-breath-and-let-it-all-go places. You know what I mean. Exiting the main road onto a rural farm road after a harrowing day in traffic, a half-mile canopy of sheltering branches opens its arms to welcome you. Streaming sunlight casts wonderful limbed shadows across your path while squirrels scamper for walnuts dropped on purpose. The white flash of a deer's tail appears suddenly, as he jumps the fence, hides in the woods, and watches just feet from your passing car. Startled by a stranger on his turf, a raccoon quickly rushes into the brush. In your heart you know all is well with the world.
As a visual person, serene beauty like this brings healing relief from the stresses of the day. Eagerly entering its sanctuary, I find myself wanting to slow down and soak awhile in its peace. What an earthly reminder, yet merely a taste of the glory awaiting us in the secret place of the Most High.
A few weeks ago a strewn beer carton and plastic bottle shouted to me from the side of our beloved lane. Their presence desecrated and marred its beauty.
“Someone needs to pick this stuff up,” I muttered to myself.
Running behind, I drove on home. The next day, a paper drinking cup carried by the breeze, bounced along the pavement.
Not wanting to be late for my appointment, I thought, “I can pick it up on my way back.”
By the time I returned, it was after dark, and I simply couldn’t be out on that rural road alone at night, right?
Discarded items continued accumulating alongside my peaceful tree-covered lane until one day wrapped bundles of blue shredded hay bale plastic appeared scattered along the entire center section of road. I shook my head in dismay, but it was too cold to stop and pick up all that stuff. Surely, the farmer who lost it will see it the next time through and retrieve it.
Each day I dodged those ugly clumps of blue plastic and tried my best to ignore the other litter invading my space. My displeasure and focus upon these unexpected distractions grew in intensity until they robbed me of my peace and tranquility. It hurt my heart to see them lying there. Angry and agitated, I could no longer see the beauty here or feel the breath of God on my face.
It was then I realized I must seek refuge in another beauty-beyond-description place nearby, a heavenly haven available to me anytime I choose to enter in. In this secret place, under the sheltering outstretched arms of Jesus, I can see the situation from His vast perspective. In this wonderful place He shields me from the earthly, the rude and insolent assaults of each day. I am reprieved from distractions and narrow escapes on the noisy and congested road of life. I am cleansed of the dingy road film and mud that clouds my understanding, brings shame, and hides the pure. I am freed from the distractions and trials of the day that seek to bury me in their lies. Here in this place I am refreshed, energized, and healed from the abuses of life. I am strengthened and delivered from all the cares and worries that strangle my God-given vision and stifle His creativity in me. It is in this beautiful atmosphere, I receive an attitude adjustment.
With my focus upon the Lord, attitudes that held me captive to any number of emotions and behaviors changed. No longer honing in on the way I want things to be, my yearning heart enters His presence and finds rest.
The following day I again turned the corner onto the beloved lane near my home. Sun glistened through the bare limbs of the trees pouring its warmth through my windows. In the beauty of that place and in the warmth of His nearness, my soul filled with surrendered love and gratitude. . .just as my eyes fell upon one of those clumps of plastic.
Pulling to the side of the road, I put my car in park, got out, picked up the bundle, and put it in the back floorboard. I got back behind the wheel, drove to the next pile, and picked it up. . .then the next, and the next, until every pile had been retrieved, as well as the beer carton, and a plastic bottle or two. What joy! A great sense of satisfaction and accomplishment swept over me as I threw the last of that unsightly pile into our trash dumpster. I felt free! With the right focus intact, beauty, order, and rest was restored to our beautiful lane. . .but most importantly, these priceless essentials were restored in me.
Terry Magness has been in Christian ministry for forty years, is a licensed minister, author, pastoral counselor to church leaders, missionary, and founder of Grace Harbour Ministries, a Bible based international teaching and discipleship ministry to women. She oversees and teaches needs-based Overcomers classes in her local church, dedicated to helping men and women apply Biblical principles to every life situations. Terry is a lover of people in general, and her family in particular. She enjoys good friends, stimulating conversation, writing, photography, and fishing with her husband, Don.
by Kelly Godzwa
My morning meditation was entitled, “Finding Courage in the Storm.” It was certainly appropriate and timely given the state of our world and the “storm” that is COVID-19 with its effects. You see, I decided to read the book Meeting God in Scripture by Jan Johnson, which contains forty guided meditations, during Lent this year. As I read Chapter 21 and the passage from Mark 4:35-41, I followed some of the author’s suggestions—thinking of a time when God calmed your fears, reading and rereading the passage, understanding certain words or phrases a bit more deeply, picturing the scene, placing yourself in the story, etc.
I thought back to a time last year when anxiety came over me as Dave and I sat in a bank in Mexico working through the steps to get the money from the sale of our vehicle that was in the Mexican bank transferred to a US account. Even though we went through correct protocol, one glitch after another seemed to arise. There we waited—not in control of the situation and powerless to do anything about it, but not really able to leave or distract our minds with something else. How hard can it be? They’re a bank! Don’t they do things like this every day? What if the money is stuck here? What if. . .? As fear rose in me, the Holy Spirit reminded me of an exercise to name the things I was feeling, thinking, and doing. I found paper in my purse and began writing. Frustration had turned into worry. But, what did I believe about God? What was true in my situation? Who, but God, could turn this situation around OR give me peace in the midst of it?
As I read this story Mark writes about Jesus’ disciples—with Him asleep in the boat when a storm suddenly springs up—I have to smirk a bit as I picture it. The first thing I realized is that the disciples must have been furiously working to scoop water out and man the sails when someone notices that Jesus isn’t helping! How could Jesus sleep at a time like this? We’re all going to drown! “Teacher, don’t you care that we are about to die?” It seems as if they just wanted His help, but He appeared to be oblivious to their peril. Then much to their surprise when He does gets up, He doesn’t grab a bucket. He speaks. However, he speaks not to them, but to the wind and the waves! “Be quiet! Be still!”
When I read this passage aloud, tears came to my eyes. Although a different type of anxiety from what I felt while sitting at the bank, there is fear in the hearts and minds of many of us as we face the unknown—the storm with its effects. Perhaps, like the disciples, we are scooping out water, lowering the sails, and trying to lessen the severity of the consequences. Our frustration turns to worry, and we wonder if God is asleep. Why won’t He help? But. . .what do we believe about God? What is true in our situation? Who, but God, can turn this situation around OR give us peace in the midst of it?
Let’s name our fears. What are we thinking, feeling, & doing? How does that align with the fact that Jesus has power over wind and waves? Might He have power over viruses, too? Our fears are not silly or small; it just helps to readjust our perspective in light of what we know to be true about our God. Do we have faith in Him? He doesn’t tend to work like we want Him to or when we think He should, but when He does act, we will be in awe, reminded again of Who loves us and sees us, even at our most vulnerable moments.
Kelly and her husband, Dave, have served as SOMO missionaries to Mexico since 2006. While they have recently moved into the role of Mexico Area Directors, she remains active online as publisher of the Refresh Newsletter and is a part of the District's Connect Refresh groups. They have 2 college-age children, a son in high school and a miniature schnauzer. disciplemexico.org
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