The Prodigal Turtle

Most Saturday mornings find me looking out of my breakfast nook window, but this morning I found a pleasant surprise–an Eastern box turtle diligently crawling through our backyard toward our house. It wasn’t the first one I have seen in the neighborhood.  I’ve seen some alive and unfortunately, a couple crushed in the street.

I took a few moments to watch where he was going and see what he would do.  I got closer to him, tickling him with some weeds to watch him retract his head. After a long while, he protruded his head and restarted his journey.  He reached the back of the house and stood frozen, looking at the huge brick wall that was before him.  What would he do?

“I guess he lost his way,” I thought. There is a huge wooded area behind our yard, so I supposed that he came from there.  All I could think of was him reaching the street and getting crushed like the others.  I thought I would return him to the creek that I had heard was in the back of the woods.  Observing the seemingly lost turtle,  I thought about a parable I could tell my daughter about spiritual bumpers, which, according to my spiritual father, are those events that God puts in our lives to block us from going the wrong way and get us on the right path.  It’s one of the many ways He speaks to us.  While it would be ideal for us to have crystal clear hearing and be able to discern the perfect will of God at all times, it is just not so.  I’ve learned that the Lord usually uses spiritual bumpers in situations where we are sincerely misguided or wrong about a direction we are going.

The first biblical example that comes to mind when I think of spiritual bumpers is that of Balaam and his donkey.  God was not pleased with Balaam traveling with a messenger of a foreign king that meant to do harm to the people of Israel (although He previously gave him permission to do so) so he sent an angel to prevent the donkey from going further. Balaam grew frustrated with the donkey and beat him in order to get him to proceed. After three beatings, the donkey talked to Balaam, and an angel of the Lord said to him, “Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me” (Numbers 22:32).  Here we see that God was trying to spare Balaam from going a way that was contrary to God’s perfect will.

I can recall a situation where God used a spiritual bumper to get my attention and direct me to the right path.  I had joined a network marketing company and despite my best efforts, could not seem to attain the first level of leadership.  It was extremely frustrating.  While talking to a leader in the company, she told me of how another leader switched organizations so as to be situated where he could obtain optimal success. Having joined the company through a magazine ad, I had not personally met my sponsor, and thought that would be the best thing for me to do as well.  I moved to her organization (she also attended my church) and reached the first level of leadership in three months! I believe that I just had to be in the right place in order to experience success.  Whether God sent an angel to frustrate my efforts or not, it certainly was a “bumper” to get me in the right organization!

It was very interesting for me to “play God” with this turtle as I perceived that he  was on the wrong path and that I needed to direct him back toward home.  I was running late for a church picnic, so I decided to do it later ( if I could find him) and left him buried in some leaves.  As I expected, I did not find him when I returned home, but I did later learn that turtles have an instinctive homing ability that directs them back home when lost. Unfortunately, it some times requires them to cross dangerous roads–not good (pethelpful.com)!  I sincerely hope he made it home safely.

It’s been a while since I have written so I’m glad to be back.  Thank you for reading.

 

 

It’s Time For Your New Glasses!

“Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is!” -Isaiah 43:19 (Message)

About a month ago my youngest daughter underwent eye surgery to straighten her eyes. You may read about the story in previous blogs, Assurance + Promise: Part I and Assurance + Promise: Part II.  Not long before that, she received new glasses. Her old glasses were cracked so it was definitely time for new ones.

Shalom’s new glasses were sparking and clear with beautiful, purple frames.  The only problem was, she didn’t like them. She said the prescription was too strong and honestly, I noticed that they made her eyes cross a lot more than the previous ones. Since she was having a hard time adjusting to the new glasses, she didn’t wear them. Her dad and I both noticed this and admonished her to wear the new glasses, at least while out in public.  That worked for a while, but honestly, who thinks to change glasses whenever they go out of the house?

We went through that for a couple of weeks when finally, her dad hid the old ones and told her to wear the new ones all the time.  I thought it was a smart thing to do, although I didn’t agree wholeheartedly at first.   Finally, Shalom was forced to adjust to the new glasses.

An interesting thing happened a few days later.  She was sitting beside me one day and came across her glasses in my drawer.

“My old glasses!” she exclaimed and immediately put them back on.

I was busy working on something so I didn’t give it much thought about trying to take them from her and hide them again.  Later on though, I saw the old pair of glasses back in its case and Shalom was wearing the new ones, without any prodding from her Dad or me.  She had adjusted to the new glasses and once doing that, did not want the old glasses anymore.

I thought about how that relates to our spiritual lives and our lives in general.  Often times God is wanting to give us something better in the area of relationships, jobs, business, or opportunities, but unfortunately, the security and familiarity of the old keeps us from moving forward.  We are often stuck in our comfort zones.

This has been my case on more than one occasion.  I’ll share one. Almost ten years ago, my husband re-enlisted in the Army which meant leaving our then home of Atlanta, GA. I had been there for fifteen years and didn’t have any plans on leaving.  My immediate family members were there and I had served in several areas of leadership in my church for almost fifteen years.  I was definitely in a place of comfort.  When I spoke of my concerns to my children’s ministry pastor, she wisely told me to support my husband as he was trying to support his family.

Those timely words of counsel released any anxiety I had about uprooting and leaving the church where I had received the majority of all my spiritual rearing. Fast forward almost ten years and I am extremely thankful for all the traveling we did as a military family. We have met some wonderful people, made some awesome friends, and visited places that we would not have if we had stayed in Atlanta.

The Bible says in Isaiah 43:19 (Message Bible)Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is!”

Maybe those new glasses for you is a relationship with Christ. Maybe He wants you to end a toxic relationship or mend an old one. Whatever the case, I’d like to encourage you to be willing to abandon the “old glasses” in order to embrace the new ones.   It won’t be easy, but it’ll be so worth it. It’s time for your new glasses!

Thank you for reading. I hope this has inspired you in some way! If so, let me know.

 

Am I Supposed to Fall?

“What normally takes six months God can do in an instant,” she says. 

The other day my loctician told me about her recent visit to a Valentine’s Day skating party with her 13-year-old daughter. She also brought her 20-month-old son and just casually asked if skates were available for him as well.  Surprisingly, they were and even more surprisingly, he skated with them!  Of course they were the type that fit over the shoes and he and his mom stayed in the slower area of the rink with the beginners, but he was dominating his first time on the rink!

She continued to tell me how he was just trying to keep up with the “big kids” (aka 4-5 yr-olds) and he would even fall when they fell, thinking that this was a part of skating.

This made me think how we are often limited by our first and most apparent examples.  When it comes to life, we tend to think that things have to be done the way we have seen them done.  Thankfully, inventors and other out-of-the-box thinkers are not this way.  If they only moved on what they had seen done before, we would be in a pretty primitive state of being.

You’ve probably heard people say, “Well that’s the way it’s always been done, and we haven’t had any problems yet.” This is fine, except for when it’s time to improve. Cassette players, dial-up internet,  and black and white televisions were just “fine” as well, until CD players, broadband and color TV’s were invented, (and I’m probably still behind in technology).

If you read my last blog, “The Focus Factor,” you know that I am job seeking. Often times I console myself with the statement, “Well you know they say the average time to find a job is about six months.”  I believe we can get so caught up in averages that we limit what God can do.   The Bible says that God can do exceedingly, abundantly above what we can ask or think according to the power that works in us (Ephesians 3:20). We are looking at average, but God wants us to look at His Word.  Now I do understand that there is an appointed time and due season for everything, so we can’t rule that out.  I also know that we can dub things that are supposed to be viewed as guidelines as rules.

Take my last job, for example. It took me about four weeks from search to hire. I stood at my stove one snowy morning, talking to God about my need for a job.  A prior conversation I had with a friend came to mind in which she told me where she worked.  I applied online that day and received a response requesting me to move forward the same week. In about a month, I was hired. No resume, no job boards, nothing.  Just a prayer, a thought and an action. I’m sure that I am not the only one to find a job like that so quickly.

That story reminds me of a wonderful promise from the Bible:

      “Yes indeed, it won’t be long now.” God’s decree. “Things are going to  happen so fast your head will swim, one thing fast on the heels of the other. You won’t be able to keep up. Everything will be happening at once–and everywhere you look, blessings!” (Amos 9:13-14, Message Bible)

In one of her podcasts, Terri Savelle Foy, a cheerleader of dreams and motivator of hope, believes that God is accelerating things.

“What normally takes six months God can do in an instant,” she says.

What is it that you would love to see accelerated in your life? Have you been looking at all the “beginner skaters” instead of what God says in His Word?  Be encouraged that God has a specific plan to manifest His promise to you, and it won’t necessarily happen the way you’ve seen it done in the past.

Thank you for reading. I hope to hear from you soon.

 

 

The Focus Factor

“The person who chases two rabbits catches neither.” – Confucius or Romanian Proverb

About two months ago, I left my job despite the fact that I didn’t have another one lined up. It was a great company, and although many would say it doesn’t make sense to do something like that, I can’t say it was a hard decision because there were so many factors pushing me to do so.  Despite my happiness with my decision, unfortunately, I haven’t found a job yet.

The job search has been interesting and educational, to say the least.  Honestly, the first month I was just glad to sleep at night on a regular basis (I worked the overnight shift) and didn’t focus on much besides subscribing to job boards and updating my age-old resume. The second month I began to realize that I really want to write and decided that any job that afforded me the opportunity to write about interesting topics was a winner.  I purchased a subscription to a jobs website that published writing jobs and a variety of writing gigs every day.  I soon realized that almost all of the jobs required writing samples of which I didn’t have many relevant ones.

I made it a goal to write articles every week, but unfortunately, I didn’t.  I got distracted with reading emails from the multiple job boards I had subscribed to and even applied to a few jobs that I really didn’t like.  I applied to temp agencies and other temporary jobs and if I learned one thing, it is that job searching takes time!

Thankfully, I recently listened to a podcast by Terri Savelle Foy that has changed my whole perspective on job seeking.  During the podcast, Terri talked about focusing on one goal until it is achieved.  As I said earlier, I didn’t have any relevant writing samples with which to apply to any of the writing jobs, so I didn’t.  What I was doing was reading emails from multiple job websites that honestly didn’t even have the types of job I was looking for.  When I realized how much time I was wasting, I unsubscribed to all but one job board. That left me time to do what matters–write.

In that podcast, Terri also referred to a former publisher of “Success” magazine. The publisher said that many people want to know what those who have appeared on the cover of “Success” magazine have done that 7 billion people haven’t done and the answer is in one word—focus!

“They are so obsessively focused to doing one thing at a time,” she said.

The former publisher also interviewed Warren Buffet and asked him, “If you could boil your success to one thing, what would it be?” His answer was that for every 100 great opportunities that are brought to him, he says “no” 99 times.

This podcast has helped me tremendously to get focused on what I WANT to do to earn income instead of what I CAN do or what is AVAILABLE to do.  My Father wants to give me these type of opportunities. He asks me what I want to do.  Jesus Himself even asked the blind man, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:51)

What do you want God to do in your life? What is the one thing you need to FOCUS on to reach your next goal?  I encourage you to ask the Holy Spirit to direct you and help you to reach it.

Thank you for reading. I’d love to hear from you.

 

The Divine Name Change

“Why did you have your name changed?” I asked Roger.
“I wanted to have the same name as my father,” he replied.

While looking through my safe, I came across a document that belonged to my husband.  It was a name change document that indicated that his last name would be changed from “McNeal” to “Daniels.”

I thought the verbiage on the document  was interesting.  It stated:

“This day Roger Rydell McNeal appeared in open Court, having at least 30 days prior hereto filed his application praying for an order changing his name to Roger Rydell Daniels.”

Praying that his name would be changed? What type of legal document indicates that someone is praying?  I thought that was odd.

“Why did you have your name changed?” I asked Roger.

“I wanted to have the same name as my father,” he replied.

Without going into further details, he wanted the same name as his biological father, and not that of his older siblings’ father.

There is so much power in a name.  Women marry and take on the name of their husbands. Women divorce and regain their old names, not wishing to associate with their ex-husbands.

I still remember when I was a newlywed. At my then workplace, we introduced ourselves to new employees.  For a long time, I identified myself as “Selene Jones” instead of “Selene Daniels.”  It took a while for me to catch on to the fact that I was no longer a Jones.  My DNA did not change, but I had to begin a new way of thinking and acting to carry out the title of Mrs. Selene Daniels.

Several years before I was married, I took on another name change. It was from “unrighteous,” to “righteous.”

Isaiah 62:2b states, “… you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow.”

I’ve had this new name of “righteous” for almost thirty years now, but I still remember when my name was “unrighteous” and I didn’t have hope. I still remember when someone asked me, “If you were to die today, where would you go?” and unfortunately, I knew it wasn’t to heaven. I knew I was not a child of God.

Consequently, I had no self esteem or confidence.  My former name of “unrighteous” didn’t afford me true confidence in myself, or my future, but, my new name brought along with it hope and direction.

In Ephesians 1:4-5, the Lord tells us that the Father in heaven, “… predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ….” Thank God for Jesus who paid the price for my adoption and that of the whole world.

Although my biological father gave me the name “Jones,” I thank God that my spiritual Father in heaven adopted me and gave me a new name in Christ that gives me hope, confidence and direction in life.

My husband changed his name because he knew who his true father was.  On November 13, 1988, my name was changed from “righteous” to “unrighteous” because I discovered who my true Father is as well. My prayer is for you to do the same.

Thank you for reading.

Assurance + Promise: Part II

“Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”–Jesus in John 11:40

“Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”–Jesus in John 11:40

 

As you read last week, my youngest daughter, Shalom, was scheduled to have eye surgery this past week.  I am happy to report that all is well.  The surgery lasted 30 to 40 minutes, just as the doctor said.  There is still some redness in the corner of her eyes, just as the doctor said.  But, she is doing just fine, just as the doctor said.  His constant assurance leading up to the surgery brought me great peace.

Despite his words, every so often I wondered if I would hear a small voice in my spirit telling me not to go through with the surgery, or if an overwhelming feeling of worry or fear would engulf me.  Thankfully, neither ever occurred.

As I reflected on the form I signed freeing the hospital from any liability in the case of several undesirable, but possible outcomes such as blindness, paralysis, or even death, my mind quickly remembered God’s promise to me, “Your expectation shall not be cut off.” 

I am expecting Shalom to emerge from the surgery in peace and wholeness.  I am expecting her eyes to be ten times better than before, 20/50 eyesight, and straight eyes.  This is what I am expecting, and it will not be cut off,” I quoted to myself.

Colossians 3:2, instructs us to, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”  I actually had to SET my mind on God’s promises and TAKE them off those negative possibilities.  Notice that this scripture involves action. Just as we set our alarms or our thermostats, we must set our minds, by recalling God’s words to us.

The day of the surgery was Tuesday, February 21 at 9:00 a.m. and we were instructed to arrive at 8:00.  I still remember when Dr. Wortham walked in completely donned in his surgery gear. He introduced himself to Roger, restated his plan for Shalom’s eyes and left the room saying, “We’ll take good care of her.”

After the surgery, they wheeled in my precious 11-year-old and the first thing I noticed was that she was not smiling.  I had never seen her frown the way I saw her frown that day.  Her eyes were still a bit closed and there was a little blood dripping from the corner of her eyes.  I asked her a question, but she did not answer.  Thankfully, my husband, who has had six surgeries of varying degrees in his lifetime, all of which required anesthesia, schooled me on its affects after surgery and gave me insight as to how she was feeling.

She was awake, but drowsy. She mentioned that her tongue hurt.  I called the nurse to inquire as to the cause. A familiar sense of nausea overwhelmed me and I knew I had to leave the room.

“All is well,” I quoted over and over as I left the surgery area and walked into the lobby.  I thought about how nice Shalom’s eyes would eventually look and heard the Lord say that often times we must go through pain or discomfort to receive a reward or even advance to the next level or season in life.

Are you currently going through a time of emotional, physical or relational pain or discomfort? What is your expectation from it all?  Jesus went through great pain, torture, and humiliation so that we could be healed, whole and have eternal life. Never doubt His endless love and the great plans He has for you.

An encouraging quote I read on Facebook said, “God is working on something and its better than you thought it would be.”

Thank you for reading. I’d love to hear from you.

-S.D.

 

 

 

Assurance + Promise: Part I

In less than a week, the youngest member of our family, Shalom, will undergo surgery to straighten her eyes. She has had very poor vision and strabismic amblyopia, a condition which causes her right eye to turn inward, every since her first set of immunizations at 3 months old.  I am amazed at her courage and peace as she faces the fact that she will be put to sleep and a surgeon will use a sharp object to impale her skin and adjust the muscles of her eyes.

When I think about this, I am amazed. Amazed at how far technology has come and amazed at the skill, precision and technique of human surgeons. Only God could produce such wonders.

What is interesting about all of this is, eight years ago, my husband and I started our military journey right here in this very city–Fort Lee,VA.  We visited the very same doctor who is performing the surgery, and he advised the very same surgery for our then 3-year-old. However, at that time, I was not ready.  I had talked with a lady whose daughter had undergone the surgery and had amazing results, but still, I was not ready.

Fast forward five years. I’m listening to my spiritual father speak of how he underwent surgery to correct a situation he was facing.  The light went on.  I heard the Holy Spirit confirm to me that Shalom’s healing will take place through surgery.  Of course we had been praying for healing for her eyes and putting on patches, but God chose to use this surgery and it still took four years to happen.

I think the Lord divinely orchestrated us to have this surgery performed at this time by this doctor.  He has been performing these surgeries for about 29 years, and he said that he performs about 300 of them per year.  I would think that after about 9,000 surgeries, he knows what he’s doing.

He assured Shalom, “You won’t feel any pain, just a little discomfort.”

He also said that her eyes may or not be completely straight,  but he assured us that her peripheral vision would improve greatly. His years of experience, in addition to his wonderful bedside manner, really helped put us at ease.

Shalom and I discussed what the doctor said about her eyes not being perfectly straight.  I told her (and the doctor) that whatever the surgery wouldn’t do, prayer would.  It’s a promise I have from the Father.

Proverbs 23:18 says, “For surely there is an end; and thine expectation shall not be cut off.”

I have an expectation for her “eye muscles to be strong, her eyes to be straight and for her to have perfect, 20/10 vision that is perfect and entire, not needing any assistance or aid by eyeglasses or contact lenses.”  I have spoken this expectation through this prayer for years, so it shall not be cut off.  Well, it may be a bit altered, since Shalom says she wants 20/50 vision and she wants to wear contact lenses, so I don’t think the Lord will override her will!

Dr. Wortham gave us assurance, but the Word of God gives me promises.  Another great scripture I love is found in Psalm 62:5.  It reads, “My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him.”  Thankfully, my ultimate expectation regarding the success of this surgery is from the Lord.

What are you expecting God to do? You know that nothing is impossible with Him, (Luke 1:37) and if we ask Him anything according to His will, He hears us and we have what we are asking for (1 John 5:14-15), right?  Those are pretty awesome promises, if you ask me.

I’ll give you the report on Shalom’s surgery next week. Until then, I’d love to hear what you are expecting God to do in your life.

I hope this finds you well.