Posts Tagged ‘Devotional’

Making the Ordinary; Extraordinary

October in Seaside, Oregon

October in Seaside, Oregon

February is my birth month, and in the words of my Mom, “I’ve done a ‘heap of livin’. From her I learned to be highly motivated; always working on a new project, and to never quit.  From my dad I learned to approach each day as if it were an adventure. Most days, living an adventure is the way I would characterize these past sixty-three years.

The word adventure is a main-stay of my vocabulary.  To my ninety-four-old mother-in-law, I propose, “Let’s have an Adventure.”  To my grandchildren, “You wanna’ go on an Adventure?” To my husband, “I need an Adventure!”  The Bible says, “this is the day the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.”  I tend to think of this verse as an invitation to have an adventure.

Some adventures are exciting, some not so much.  Just as “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder”, so is adventure to those who choose to approach the ordinary in an extraordinary manner.  An extraordinary adventure I launched just before my fiftieth birthday, was the return to  full-time college student status after a thirty-year absence.  This adventure, though exciting, held ingredients of fear, insecurity, and a great amount of anxiety.  Of that experience I wrote in my journal the following observations.

 January 1999
Panic attack.   I can’t do this!  I don’t know what all these other people know!
As I take my place in the classroom full of strangers, I tenaciously look around, noticing telltale signs that they too are uncomfortable. Seeing fixed smiles, nervous twitches, tapping feet, I wonder – facade of security?   Anxious about this experience?  Are they feeling the same first day anxiety I feel?  Perhaps all of us are insecure in some particular area of life.

The Students –
One student, though smiling, continually picks at an almost invisible blemish on his face.  Another student seems to be anxious that his embarrassing tremors might begin at an inopportune time.  Is the boy seated in front of me thinking about his poor writing skills, wondering if he will feel foolish in front of his peers?  The girl across the room appears to be thinking only of the rejection I observed only moments ago when in the hall  her boyfriend broke-up their relationship. A quiet young man seated in the corner seems to be feeling inadequate about his physique as his gaze darts back and forth to the body builder seated beside him. One student appears ill-at-ease because she alone represents her race. The foreign exchange student sits tall, pensive, and quiet.  Is she worrying about her faulty English skills?

The Teacher –
The teacher approaches the classroom with first day jitters – experienced though he may be, he knows each new class evolves a little differently than the one before. There’s that unknown element as he faces the new class.  Is he concerned at all whether we, his students, will like him?  Is he as prepared as he hopes to be as he prepares to present his lecture? And the students . . . we all sit here wondering about the teacher.  Will he be clear in his method?  Will he be fair? Will he be interesting?

The Class –
I begin to realize we all have insecurities of one sort or another.  We each possess some wonderful strengths and feel high levels of confidence . . . each in different areas. I begin to feel less vulnerable, more energized, and am discovering a growing confidence with this thought.  This is the day the Lord has given me to return to college…to rejoice, and to have an adventure, and to be glad in it.  From my individual strengths and weaknesses, I will boldly approach this new learning experience with an adventuresome spirit.  We as individual students will tackle the assignments with an enormous amount of energy and we will all grow into a group.  We will succeed and we will learn.  All our unique insecurities will pale against the brilliance of the accomplishment of learning and new academic achievements. We will gain strength as we each recognize our individual frailties and move beyond our own insecurities.  We will recognize that we are all unified in purpose, we are learners in life; we are pilgrims.  We are masters simply because we have dared to take the risks of simply being students. We have embraced learning as an adventure.

Have you ever experienced a time when you almost missed an adventure simply because you lacked confidence or felt insecure?  Whether your calendar for today is booked with routine, mundane, or stressful activity, how about making it an adventure?   Who knows, the ordinary just might become extraordinary.


What’s in Your Cup?

Wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing to gather together with friends during a frightening storm and sing away your fear like the actors in The Sound of Music?  “I simply remember my favorite things and then I don’t feel – so sad.”  It seems a little simplistic, but actually God has a lot to say about our thought processes.” He is concerned about our feelings of fear, insecurity, apprehensions, and anxious moments. As I ponder these thoughts, many Bible passages I learned as a child are spilling out of my data memory bank like an over-flowing cup. “Whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, of any virtue, praiseworthy…think on these things (Phil4:8). “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). II Corinthians 10:5, asks us to “cast down imaginations and bring every thought unto the obedience of Christ.” My husband often makes the statement, “what we see and hear influences what we think about, and what we think about influences what we believe, and what we believe determines how we behave.”  It seems that our mind-set, whether negative or positive, will effect what overflows from the cup of our lives.

In Psalm 23:5, the writer states simply, “my cup runs over.” I think on the word cup, and perceive it to be a vessel – something used to contain something. A cup can contain pressures, depression, joy, sorrow, worry, anxiety, hope….endless possibilities.  When my youngest daughter was about two or so, she had taken a small cup and filled it with “treasures”.  To me it looked like a bunch of little scraps of paper, but she told me these were her “twesures, and her doe-ing to teep dem.” (“treasures and she was going to keep them”in case anyone needs an interpreter) If I were to take a cup and fill it with my own treasures, it might look just as strange to the person who discovered what I had in that cup.

I’d possibly add to my cup a set of praying hands to remind me that Jesus wept in the garden asking God the Father to “let this cup pass from me, nevertheless, not my will but thine be done”  Out of that very bitter cup – overflowing with pain and the anguish of sin being placed upon His shoulders, came forth an overflowing cup of salvation. I’d place a cross in my cup to remind me that the cross gives me the gift of abundant life. The cross brought Jesus pain and sorrow – but gave to us eternal life.  Sometimes I will have a cup of sorrow and pain, but II Corinthians 4:7-9 helps define our existence.  “we have this treasure in earthen vessels…we are troubled on every side, yet not distressed, we are perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted, but not forsaken, cast down, but not destroyed…that the life of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.” I believe I’d want an anchor – the symbol of hope inside my cup. I want to remember that God is in the cup with me and He can turn my sorrow into gladness.

In 1982, my three-year-old nephew was diagnosed with leukemia.  On one occasion when we were driving him to the hospital for a painful bone aspiration and treatment, his voice suddenly burst into song, “Ding dong bell, there’s gladness in my well, who put it there? God.”  Often during times of discouragement when I’ve felt my cup overrunning with sorrow, I have heard that sweet trusting voice in my memory, and remembered that God can change heartbreak into gladness.  How?  God can put it there.

Jesus says that he came to give me life…not just eternal life, but life ABUBNDANT, joyous, and full! Regardless of my present circumstances He desires joy for me. I want a bottle of bubbles in my cup to remind me of the little song, “It’s bubbling, it’s bubbling, it’s bubbling in my soul, there’s singing, and laughing, since Jesus made me whole.  Folks don’t understand it and I can’t keep it quiet, it’s bubbling bubbling bubbling bubbling bubbling day and night.”  A “Pollyanna smile” is not the ultimate goal.  Life has hard stuff that we must walk through – dying parents, disease, separations, divorce, broken bodies, misunderstandings….stuff that fills our cups with sorrow.  I’m so glad that God gives me some mind- altering promises in Romans 12:2.  “Be ye transformed by the renewing of your minds…”  I have sought various methods of renewing my mind.  Sometimes it’s in  reading scripture, talking to Christian friends, listening to children talk about their joys, or by simply remembering a life journey. Vance Havner, an old time preacher, says that often we get so busy with life and heavy issues, that we lose the wonder of living.  Sometimes, I do lose the wonder, and I plod along with an ol’ empty, dirty cup.

Nearly 20 years ago I had an event in my life that suddenly filled my cup with sorrow, bitterness, darkness, and doubt.  Through this dark time, I discovered that by renewing my mind, following God’s plans for my thinking processes, my bitter cup was being replaced with an overflowing cup. God was giving me an abundant overflowing joyous cup of His presence.  I learned to drink deeply from the abundant life cup, and to treasure each day.  I began to jot down memories from my earliest childhood – the good memories that were in my cup.  In other words, I began to find the wonder in living once again.

As you read this today, why not take a moment to check out the ingredients in your cup.  Is it overflowing with heartache and despair? Do you find anger, bitterness, resentments, and hurt feelings in the dregs at the bottom?  Does the cup need repair, and cleansing?  Is it full of joy and the abundance of zest for life?  Why not take hold of God’s wonderful formula, and fill your mind with those things that will cause your cup to overflow and spill out upon the lives of all those around you as you begin this new week? I’d love to hear how this post encouraged you to “renew your mind” and transform your day.

A Piece of Driftwood

My Testimony - an original oil painting by Ritchie D. Hale

My Testimony – an original oil painting by Ritchie D. Hale

A  Piece of Driftwood
Hidden, discarded, tossed about, on the far-stretching, blinding sands,
A scene of desolation; not made by human hands.
Beyond the distant edge of sea, the green-blue waters still,
Beyond the heavens sun-lit rays, the tempestuous clouds to burst at will. 

Those restless waters closer by with troubled, white-capped surf,
Rolling endlessly to reach the shore of glistening, sandy, turf. 
A towering pine between the surf and I, – driftwood at its base,
Broken, bleached, and scarred by time – scars that nature can’t erase.

I viewed this gnarled starkness, seeing what God might see,
And knew that what I’d been before, no longer would I be. 
My life had been a raging surf, obtaining changing goals,
Joining each new larger wave, with constant, crashing, thrashing rolls.

My life was once a tempestuous cloud, with darkness and despair,
Which overflowed with ugliness, a life in reckless disrepair.
Most of all my life was like the driftwood by the sea,
Broken, gnarled, and scarred by sin, all hope gone out of me. 

But then I saw the sun-lit rays, and lifted up my face
And knew that God who made the world, could all my sin erase,
The raging surf and tempestuous clouds, and driftwood by the sea,
Had preached a mighty lesson on the plan of God for me, 

I knew that as I left those shores I had a brand new start.
And all that God had taught me there, had really changed my heart.

Written by Ritchie D. Hale 1972©

Tale of Three Swings

the swing

             My husband Sheldon is not a carpenter by trade, but he enjoys messing around in his garage, fashioning things from scraps of wood, and in general relaxing from hectic life-demands.  That is how it came to be that he decided to build each of our three children a porch swing.
            For days, he examined swings at various stores, road-side wood project shops, and patterns.  Finally, he designed a pattern that he felt was suitable for up to three people of any weight to be able to sit together and enjoy a good relaxing swing.
             For many weeks he came home from his office and his daily work, and went to the shop to work on the swings.  It was not easy, but he had a goal in mind, and was determined.  He gathered the wood materials from a local lumber yard; purchased a few tools he didn’t have in his shop, and set out on the project.  Each slat had to be cut to his specs, sanded until there was no splinter to catch any little legs of future grandchildren that might one day be sitting there with their parents.  As he carefully measured each slat to line up just right to make a comfortable roll at the front and back of the swing, he had an anticipated excitement that the project was coming together.  After completing the first swing, he covered the swing with several coats of stain, and polyurethane so it could stand up to the weather.  He purchased a heavy duty chain set, and the swing was almost ready.  Using a wood-burning tool to add a personal design on the back of the swing, he was ready to present this work of his hands to his oldest daughter.
            Not long afterward, he began the second swing, and then the third.  Each received the same care and joy as he fashioned the swing for one of his children. (He did decide to leave out the wood-burning touch since this proved much more difficult than he had originally anticipated.)
            That was many years ago.  The first swing, as far as I know, still hangs on an A-frame  in the back yard – somewhat tied together with rope, and showing much weather and age.  The second swing – after many years of hanging from a post frame out in the backyard; a place where each of the family and the three grandchildren rested throughout the day, finally just fell apart and was used as kindling on the burn pile.  The third swing, after being stored, unused for many years, was given away.
            I pondered this the other day as I was traveling an isolated section of interstate; when mile upon mile of highway stretched endlessly before my windshield.  It seems that at times like this my mind has clarity to think on things that often go unthought-of when engaged in the hectic pace of daily living.
            Each of these swings was fashioned by a father’s loving hands, to bring joy and restfulness to his children, and possibly his coming grandchildren.  Though each of the children used the swing in different ways, it didn’t change the father’s original desire and purpose in building the swings.  It was love.
            How like my heavenly Father when he looked across eternity so long ago and set forth his Master plan in Psalm 139, to design my parts in secret, to write all my members in His book, to fashion me in His own individual and personal plan.  How wonderful to know that His thoughts toward me were, and still are, thoughts of peace and not evil according to His word in Jeremiah. 
            I, like the swings, am the workmanship of a loving Father, created in Christ unto good works (Ephesians 2:10).  My choices are many, just as my availability to be used as the Father planned; or not, is a decision only I can make.
            A song by Audrey Meire that I remember from my childhood sings in my heart this day as I write this reverie:

“I’ve a yearning in my heart that cannot be denied,
It’s a longing that has never yet been satisfied.
I want the world to know the One who loves them so,
Like a flame it’s burning deep inside.

                                                                                                     To be used of God,
                                                                                            to sing, to speak, to pray;
                                                                        to be used of God to show someone the way.
                                                               I long so much to feel the touch of His consuming fire;
                                                                                      to be used of God is my desire.”

            Yes, I AM His workmanship, and I so desperately desire to live in that beautiful place of  contentment, joy, and peace in just knowing that the Father created me with joy in His heart, and desires that I bask in that knowledge.  I think I’ll just go out and sit in my swing and meditate on these things.

Hale’s on Adventure

Our Campsite at Williston Crossings RV Resort

           Three years ago, God put it on our heart that we were to move into a camper as “full-timers”.  We didn’t know much about this particular lifestyle, but we were excited to discern Gods leadership in this direction.  And so, our journey began. We purchased a 26 foot Dutchman Travel Trailer with a super slide.  Having grown up camping in tents and a 6’X  9’ pop-up 1960 Nimrod camper, we thought we were moving into a “mansion”. 

          Our first year was an adventure.  We laughed about the night we flooded the camper because we had closed the gray water tank accidentally.  We laughed when the night temperature dropped to 25 degrees and we ran out of propane. We laughed at ourselves as the seasoned full-timers discovered some of our “new to the life-style” mistakes.  It was all an adventure, and God kept our sense of humor sharpened.

            During our second year we felt seasoned in the ways of the camping experience, and began to enjoy the status of “belonging”.  God opened many ministry opportunities as we made friends among the other campers

Williston Crossings Front Gate

who came and went here at Williston Crossings.  We were among the very few who stayed year-round, and so we became “fixtures.”  This meant we were available when a family came to stay while their new-born infant was being treated at a local hospital.  We were able to assist a family when their home burned and they stayed at the campground during repairs.  God allowed us to meet, pray with, and encourage many couples who came for 6 months at a time while one of them underwent cancer treatments at local hospitals.  There were those friends who came to our park having been married many years, but left after the death of a beloved spouse.  God allowed us to be instruments of His peace during those difficult times. 

            Year three began with anticipation of new things ahead.  My husband retired from full-time pastoral ministry, we both were teaching at a Christian school down the road, and we began to travel more often, visiting in churches all over the state of Florida.  We sensed that change was in the air…and our camping adventure was beginning to conclude.  Restlessness began nettling our hearts that perhaps it was time to move into more conventional housing during the up-coming school year.  We began to refer to our camper as “the box” and knew that our full-time status was soon to conclude.  Still, we worked on our flower gardens, landscaping, and little place in the woods. There were yet things we needed to understand about our full-timer experience.  And so, we continued until we had completed our third year. 
            Today is our last day here in our camper.  With confidence, we know that God will use this experience in our future ministries.  But for now, we will be leaving the beautiful Williston Crossings RV Resort to live temporarily in a small apartment in Dunnellon, Florida.  We are referring to this apartment as “our big camper.”  We can only guess what God wants to do in our lives in this new place we will call home.
            When the Bible instructs us to “Trust in the Lord with all [our] heart and lean not to [our] own understanding, in all [our] ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct [our] paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6), we can depend on Him to do just that. So stay tuned on the new adventures of Hales in Ministry in Dunnellon, Florida.

Tabernacle at Williston Crossings

Williston Crossings RV Resort Pavillion at Dusk

I live in an RV Resort.  The management calls this place the “pavilion”.  It is here that events are held; weddings, dances, cookouts, family reunions – whatever the residents want to host. 
              For me in the quiet of the early dusk hour, I gaze upon this place as a tabernacle in the woods.  I am far removed from Williston as I witness the spectacular beauty of “the tabernacle” and remember another tabernacle from my youth.  It was there at the Camp Joy Bible Conference in Brownsville, Kentucky that every August from 1963 until 2000, I spent an activity-packed weekend with teens from across the nation.  My first weekend I myself was only a child; my last, I was the mother of three grown children. 
              What beautiful memories of the quiet times spent on those hillsides, and then the trek down into the valley to sit in the tabernacle for the evening-time of preaching and singing.  As the night-time gathered her orchestration of crickets, tree-frogs, and the lonely hoot of an owl, the light slowly faded from the horizon.  The worshippers were surrounded in a cocoon of night-time fog.  The dampness of dew was refreshing after the heat of the day.
           Many of the decisions which have directed my paths, and brought purpose to my life, were made in that old tabernacle.  Tonight, just seeing this beauty before me here at Williston, I have joy in remembering.

Better than Life

         “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary. Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee.Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name. My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips:  When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches. Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice.  My soul followeth hard after thee: thy right hand upholdeth me.”
Psalm 63:1-8

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