By Liz Cowen Furman -
Two weeks before my first writer’s conference I was in a car accident. Rear ended at a stop sign, I contracted a closed head injury.
One of the biggest challenges for closed head injury patients is that any information or sensory overload makes the patient very tired. A writing conference? What was I thinking?
I planned to travel back to Denver nightly to save money. The first evening, I was so exhausted I didn’t think I could drive across the street, let alone the dark, windy road down the mountain.
$42 is the sum total of the money I had for the week, but I knew it was not possible for me to drive home. I decided to ask if there might be an old room or even a closet, where I could just lay down.
With a big bruised forehead, and both eyes rather blackened,. I practically crawled up to the desk at the YMCA. A cheerful middle-aged woman listened as I shared my situation. She smiled, “Let me see what I can find. Well, look here, I could put you in the outdoor lab building. You’ll have your own bed and bath, but will share the building with many children, would that work?”
“I’m a teacher, with three small boys, that would be perfect.” I was afraid to ask the price.
She winked “Would $40 for three nights be possible?”
“For all three nights?” I croaked.
Very matter-of-factly, “You need to stay for the whole conference don’t you?”
Walking to the bunkhouse, I decided I could just eat the snacks put out for the conferees and lose a few pounds as I had just gladly given my food money for a bed. Weary as I was, I didn’t care if I ever ate again.
Opening the room door I was stunned, a queen and two sets of bunk beds in a lovely room. I sank onto the bed and opened the envelope. When I opened the folded receipt a meal ticket for the whole week fell into my lap. With tears flowing down my cheeks, I slid off the bed onto my knees to thank God for His provision.
Next evening, I decided to thank the woman for her kindness, so I went back to the office. I asked the clerk if Linda was working. She looked puzzled, “We don’t have a Linda working here.”
I said, “Oh maybe I have the name wrong. She is blond, about 50, very pretty and VERY nice, she was here last night.”
She shook her head again, “I’m sorry but we don’t currently even have any blonds working here.”
I walked away in disbelief.
Had I just been touched by an angel?
Every year but one since 1997, I have made my way to Estes Park in May to enjoy one of my favorite weeks of the year at the Colorado Christian Writer’s Conference. Now, by God’s amazing grace, I get to teach there too, but few years have rivaled the blessings I enjoyed at that very first one.
This, and many other instances in my life, have brought the words in Hebrews 13:2 to life.
“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (KJV).
By Kim Stokely -
I have a confession. I am directionally challenged. If there’s only one way to get to a location, I’ll still manage to take a wrong turn. I’ve accidently gone to another state. Even with that handicap, I’m one of the only people I know who doesn’t have a GPS device in the car. I don’t think I ever will either.
The one time I tried using one was in a friend’s car. We were on our way to a retreat and plugged in our destination. I’d been told it would take us an hour to get to the center. An hour later, my friend and I were lost in some rural town with no name out in the middle of nowhere. Her Garmin kept telling us to turn right which would have sent us into a cornfield. The disembodied voice seemed quite put out that we wouldn’t obey her command. Every time we tried to find our way back to the main road I could hear Garmin sigh as she told us she was, “recalculating.” If she’d been a real woman, I know she would have crossed her arms and tapped her foot with impatience. We finally turned off the GPS and called someone we knew was already at the retreat center to help us find our way. I have no idea where the GPS wanted to send us, but it certainly wasn’t the place we wanted to go.
Others have had similar trials. One friend told me their GPS led them to the edge of a lake before ordering, “Find a way to the other side.” Sounds pretty much like Garmin was telling her to go “jump in the lake” to me! Another friend was trying to find an ice skating rink and instead ended up in a cemetery. Fortunately, he’s not paranoid. Me? I would have been convinced Garmin was trying to tell me something.
Give me a plain old map. I love to unfold the colorful accordion of paper and locate my destination. My fingers enjoy tracing the route. My brain likes to read the different towns along the way. And, I admit with a small amount of pride, I can usually re-fold the map into its original slim rectangle without a problem.
I feel the same way about my Bible. It is God’s map for us. It’s the same today as it was thousands of years ago. Although it never changes, it is new every time we read it. I know there are fancier ways to read scripture (apps on Smart phones and I pads) but I like to crack open the pages of my leather bound Bible. My fingers like to follow along certain passages and I love to mark out new “routes” that I discover along the way. Whether you choose an old-fashioned Bible or an electronic app, make sure to be in God’s word daily. As Psalm 119:105 says, it truly is “a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path” (ESV) and will keep you from getting lost in the rural cornfields of life.
By Dawn Wilson –
The scenery surrounding Temecula, California, is gorgeous. My friend Judy told her daughter, Jennifer, about the time she took a drive through the wine country. Jennifer’s son, Connor, seven-years-old at the time, was sitting nearby, listening to their conversation.
Suddenly he piped up, “Wine country … is that where people go to complain?”
Although everyone laughed at his innocent question, complaining is not all that funny. Complaining – also known as grumbling, whining, murmuring, griping or belly-aching – only makes circumstances worse.
Christians tend to place complaining in a “lesser category” of sin, but God dealt with Israel’s complaints severely: “And the people complained in the hearing of the LORD about their misfortunes, and when the LORD heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the LORD burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp” (Numbers 11:1 ESV).
The Israelites’ attitudes displeased the Lord, not just because they were ungrateful for His provisions, but, at the root, they refused to trust His care, playing into the enemy’s hands. Complaining always opens the door to Satan’s destructive influence (1 Corinthians 10:10).
Complaining is simply one proof of an unbelieving heart. If we truly believe that God is in charge, our complaints about others or our circumstances are actually an accusation against Him (Exodus 16:8; Psalm 106:24-26). A godly perspective believes that God works for our good and can redeem any circumstance (Romans 8:28).
One of Jesus’ disciples, Jude, equated grumbling and complaining with ungodly deeds (1:15-16). Because complaining should never be part of believer’s conversations, the Apostle Paul instructed Christians to do “all things without complaining” (Philippians 2:14 NKJV).
Complaining arises not only from a heart of unbelief, but also from a heart of discontent. The Christian is called to find contentment in Christ (Philippians 4:11; Hebrews 13:5; 1 Timothy 6:8).
I was a mega-complainer as a young college student. I grumbled about the food, teachers, the weather – you name it! But a godly suite-mate cornered me one day while I complained about one of my classes.
“Dawn,” Janie said with love, “I’m concerned for you, because all of your complaints are idle words, and the Bible says you’re going to have to give an account for each one.” She pointed to Matthew 12:36-37. Under great conviction, I joined her in prayer, repenting of this sin God so clearly hates.
Janie then suggested I turn my complaints into trust and my murmuring into praises. It was a lesson I took to heart. I realized I had a choice. I might not be able to choose my circumstances, but I could always watch my tongue and express faith and joy.
By Rhonda Rhea -
Somebody asked me what super power I would want if I could have any of them. I thought about it, and then I decided on Batman’s. Because as far as I can tell, Batman’s super power is this: having a fat boatload of money. That one just seemed the most reasonable.
After thinking about it a little more, I decided it was entirely conceivable that I’ve already been bitten by a radioactive spider. It would have to have been a spider that had the spider super power of being a regular human. So now that’s my super power. You know. Being a regular human. But again, this worked out okay for Batman.
So I’m not going to get all bent out of shape about not being a super hero. For one thing, getting bent out of shape would make me Mr. Fantastic or Elastic Man or somebody stretchy like that. But mostly because all of that is silly pretend power. I know where the real stuff comes from. We have power available to accomplish everything worthy of accomplishing—all through the power of the Spirit of God.
Through His power and according to His plan, every believer has the amazing opportunity to work for the Kingdom of God. Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (ESV). I love thinking about the way every task has been long ago hand chosen for each of us individually by a loving Father.
If He hand picks each mission, why would we even for a second wonder where the power would come from to carry out each of those missions? In that same chapter in Ephesians, we’re told, “In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit,” (verse 22, ESV). We never lack the power to carry out whatever job He’s given us to do. That power—His power—dwells in us. First Corinthians 12:6 says that “there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone” (ESV).
We’re not talking about a person’s “abilities” here. Not our strength. Not our intelligence. Not our possessions or our money—even if we have a fat boatload of it. This power is infinitely bigger. We’re empowered by the Holy Spirit of God. Super powers of the highest order.
If you ever find yourself feeling inadequate for a task you believe God has called you to, let me encourage you to remember that you don’t need to hesitate for a second. He will accomplish through you by His indwelling power every job He’s calling you to do. No need to shy away from any task—even those that seem overwhelming in your own non-super-heroic powers.
The power to share His Gospel, for instance, comes directly from the Holy Spirit. Acts 1:8 says that “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses” (NASB). You will receive “power.”
The power to change the world is right there. And it stretches from here to eternity. Without the slightest assistance from Mr. Fantastic.
By Liz Cowen Furman -
The thunder boomed. We ran to the windows and watched the rain come down in buckets. I felt like Noah. I looked down from the top of our 20% grade drive and saw several infant canyons forming.
That spring convinced me that there is no way it took several hundred millennia to create THE magnificent canyon. A few hundred wet springs max and voila, the Grand Canyon.
Matthew, our middle son, and I were home alone. We sprang into action with hoes and shovels. Toiling in the icy mountain spring rain, and with fervor, we attempted to redirect the torrents of water. Such a rare (to Colorado) wonderful wet spring caused the drainage gutters to overgrow with thick grass. We hadn’t even noticed the danger growing there. So, with nowhere to run, the water shed to our gravel driveway and more specifically to the middle of the drive.
As it flowed, it took with it the soil and gravel too weak to stand against the pressure and power of the rushing water.
Drenched to the bone and shivering as the clouds rolled away, I noticed several stones stayed put. Those anchored into the ground somehow managed to stand. Some of the trenches were over two feet deep and in only a few minutes.
We walked to the bottom of the driveway and were horrified to see literally several tons of gravel, sand and dirt on the paved street below our house.
I noticed so many analogies in that storm. First, in storms and life it seems, only those anchored to The Rock will stand the test of the really big ones. When tragedy strikes if we aren’t tethered to the Rock we wash out.
Then there is the sad realization that a super storm takes out not only those not anchored but as the water gushes, it sweeps away the surrounding bystanders too. There were several small rocks piled behind the big anchored ones left in the trenches. I want to be one that others can cling to in a storm, not because of me, but because I have the power of Him shining through me.
The most troubling analogy? The weeds that went unnoticed until it was too late. They just grew on the side of the road like some of the sins in our hearts. When the storm came, they kept the safeguard gutters from working. Since it is the time of year for April showers…I’m thinking it might also be time for some spring cleaning. Not just in my house and driveway, but in my heart as well.
The last observation really hit us, for days after the storm. With our wagon and shovels, we had to clean up from the mess the storm left. Just like the storms in our lives, if we let those things go unchecked, then we won’t stand strong in a storm and will have a mess to clean up, too.
If we had just taken inventory of our driveway, a little spring-cleaning, if you will, then when the storm blew through, all we would have had to do is a little emergency adjustment shoveling to make sure the water shed to the gutters.
Starting this spring, I want to do constant inventory so that when the storm rolls in I will be the one standing on the rock for others to cling to. How about you?