Where can I go from your Spirit?

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Psalm 139: 7-10

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

Rockhound State Park and Spring Canyon, New Mexico.

It was our second day of vacation and the middle of May. Dry, arid, windy, sun-scorched cacti for far as the eye could see. Nothing alive could grow here, could it?

Dried up ground, covered with a rainbow of colored rocks. Hunting for a treasure – a perfect turquoise stone. Turquoise wasn’t found, but beautiful green and red treasures instead, brought to life with a few drops of moisture applied. To remember this day I’ll take some home for my shade garden.

Animals were scarce, except for several enormous black ravens, catching the high winds rushing into the canyon, in hunt of something to eat. Surely, rattlesnakes and lizards slithered for cover.

It wasn’t hard to imagine how anything or anyone could live in such a harsh and deserted land.

Tall rock formations and deserted caves, rocky crags, some with what seemed like a type of arid moss, chartreuse in color.

Is that a cross in the side of a magnificent rock? It is! I see you Jesus, even in the middle of nowhere.

No matter where I go, YOU are there. Your love and faithfulness fill my soul anew every morning.

Thank you for the bountiful and beautiful reminders of your perfect love.

God Speaks…if we’re willing to listen!

I’ve had the privilege of meeting a few believers who are able to proclaim that they knew when the Lord revealed his purpose for their life. Without a doubt, I’m completely aware of when He revealed what His purpose was for my life.
Over the past several years I felt an inward tug to somehow share what the Lord did, and is still doing, with my life and with our hurting world. I didn’t know if I would be conscious of how God would orchestrate it, or if I would even be aware of any of the details surrounding it.
October 30, 2011, my husband and I enjoyed the last morning of a whirlwind four-week trip through California, Oregon, and Washington. We planned to visit a newly planted church where old friends were attending, but, for some unknown reason, that particular morning we felt more compelled to stay inside our cozy cottage snuggled together on the sofa watching In Touch with Dr. Charles Stanley.
Dr. Stanley’s forty-minute message centered on our lives being used for the glory of God. He ended his sermon with a question that radically changed my life, “One day you will stand before the Lord your God. All-knowing God will look you eye to eye and heart to heart, and ask, “What did you do with the life that has brought glory and honor to me?” He’ll continue, “What did you do with the spiritual gifts I so generously gave to you, my child? Who did you tell the Good News of the gospel, possibly leading another precious soul to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ? What will be your answer when He asks that all-important and soul- searching question?”
Suddenly, I heard God’s voice, the words pounding deep in my heart, loud and clear. “Have I not blessed you with a firsthand knowledge of my forgiveness, by my grace and mercy? I’m sending you to tell others about the forgiveness I offer to each one of my children. And that it is I alone who can and do forgive your past, present, and future sins!”
Wow! It was as if I had been hit with a two-by-four! I immediately knew the answer. A loud, reverberating, voice inside of me screamed out, “Write this book, telling others about events of my life and how today I’m able to see that my Lord was with me along every step of my journey. Talk about how deep my pain was, including the answer to the essential question for someone who has been abused, ‘How do I possibly forgive the person, especially somebody who abused me so deeply?’
Throughout the last few years, I’ve discovered that I can truly trust what God’s word promises to those who call him Savior; namely, that Jesus does love his children unconditionally. He knows that we’re sinners in need of His mercy and grace, and without him, we’re lost.
Following Jesus’ encounter with the rich young ruler in Matthew 19: 26: Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible!”
Most of us have heard the poem, Footprints, when a child of God asks, “God, why, during the hardest and most difficult times of my life and during my most painful experiences are there only one set of footprints, and not two?” God lovingly answered, “Because, that’s when I carried you.”
Go back to those years with me as I recollect a tragic, heart-wrenching journey, as well as many celebratory moments, when I was Made New.

I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me. Phil. 4:13

Joan began attending another Baptist church, near Caruthers, and we quickly followed. We were attending this church when our son was born in 1980. I became very involved in the young married couples’ group and made several lifelong friends. Another married couple, Bob and Bernice Pierce, began mentoring me in my spiritual growth. This godly couple proved to be a true blessing throughout the next few years of my life.
Although I don’t recall specifically what I was going through emotionally at the time, one evening I found myself crying near the church parking lot, having my first conversation with Bob. He was such a loving and tender man. His height, thin build, and gentle tone of speech reminded me of Abraham Lincoln. He put one long arm around me and said, “Judy, I don’t know what you’re going through right now. But, I want you to know that we have a promise from the Lord that we can lean on when times are tough. It’s Philippians 4:13, I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.”
“Okay. Thank you, but I’m not good at remembering verses, but I’ll try to memorize it.” Not trusting in myself.
“If you can memorize it, you’ll always have a verse that you can cling too, when times aren’t so good.”
I’ve never forgotten the impact this verse has had on my spiritual journey through the years. Up to that point in my life no one outside of my family had had such a profound impact on my spiritual life as this couple did. Bernice Pierce was just as precious as her husband was. Shortly after we met, she told me that she was a breast cancer survivor, not once, but twice. I knew that this woman truly knew Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior. She seemed to have God’s Holy Spirit emanating from deep within her heart and it manifested itself in the way she spoke and in the way she prayed. Any time I had the privilege to be with her was a memorable one. Those times left an imprint in my heart and they were beautiful representations of Christ’s love for me.
My last memory of Bernice centers on a warm and breezy afternoon as I drove my ‘69 Corvette convertible towards Fresno Community Hospital to say my final good-byes to my dear friend. I walked into her hospital room, and as I entered her smile and the precious glow of her face, gave me a peace in knowing that she knew she would be making her journey to heaven soon. Though her skin was pale and she wore a covering over her head because of what the chemotherapy treatments had taken from her.
“Oh, Judy. Come here and let me hug you.”
Crying, I said, “Bernice, I had to come and see you one last time.”
Other close friends were present, as well, and we talked about old times; social get-togethers, swimming parties, Bible studies, Mary Kay parties, and Mexican feasts at Sal’s in Selma, California after church on Sundays.
She said, “Some day, we’ll all be in heaven together having the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, at one long table, big enough for all of us, and Jesus will be at the head of the table!”
I said, “Eating Sal’s Mexican food!”
Everyone laughingly agreed especially Bernice.
Bernice and I hugged and cried together. We knew that we wouldn’t see each other again on this side of heaven, and we both knew that she was ready to meet the Lord. Within a week, she did.

Excerpt from Made New: A Hippie Chick’s Journey From Abuse to Forgiveness

Life in the Lord is part of His Tapestry

Life in the Lord is part of His Tapestry.

Life in the Lord is part of His Tapestry

Recently, I finished reading Heaven, by famous Christian author Randy Alcorn. Along with the Bible, it made an extremely profound impact on my spiritual journey with the Lord. I became keenly aware that out of all God’s promises we can’t begin to fathom or have any idea of the eternal and unfailing love He has for us.

My eyes, and the doors of my heart opened to receive more of His promises and the glorious eternity He has prepared for us. It’s hard to begin, or comprehend, what life will be like when I step over into eternity.

One important fact that we need to focus on is that our lives are but a vapor, here today and gone tomorrow. I fully believe that there will come a day, when I’ll be able to look back on my life as the Lord lovingly guides me, allowing me to see how both tragedy and joyous events unfolded from an eternal perspective.

We should look forward to the end of our lives, praying daily, seeking God’s will. His desire is for us to serve Him, showing Christ’s love to a hurting world, in the process, continually mending broken relationships through forgiveness.

That takes faith! Yet, remember, Romans 8:28? ‘We know that all things work for the good to those who love the Lord, those who have been called according to his purpose.
Years ago, I read Why do bad things happen to good people?
I don’t recall the name of the author, but he had an intriguing way of describing events that occur throughout our lives.
To paraphrase, our lives are like part of a tapestry, we only see the threads closest to us, each thread woven in alongside and beside us, but God sees the full picture of a beautifully complete tapestry, every thread carefully placed, and sewn in, by our Creator.

Freedom!

Our greatest happiness does not depend on the condition of life in which chance has placed us, but is always the result of a good conscience, good health, occupation, and freedom in all just pursuits.
Thomas Jefferson
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/freedom.html#xZoKSuuR41b2GWu6.99

October 2011: Pismo Beach, California.
Inviting aromas of Splash Café’s world famous clam chowder, served in a toasted San Luis Sourdough bowl and Mo’s Memphis style hickory smoke barbecue drifted up Pomeroy Avenue, towards the rocky cliffs separating the Central coast from the rest of the state.
My husband and I were on another vacation to an area of California that’s all too familiar for both of us, since that was the area where we met and fell in love. We leisurely made our way past rows of storefronts on our way to the pier and miles of sandy beaches stretched along the pacific coast.
Warm afternoon breezes and valley tourists packing up, preparing for the two and a half-hour drive back to the San Joaquin Valley.
Strolling hand in hand, reminiscing over previous years, once again taking in the thunder of the waves, and the cool, hard sand beneath our bare feet. Another pursuit, searching for a unique, yet somehow abandoned, discarded, home of a sea creature.
We sat down together on the soft warm sand, watching surfers riding an occasional wave and skim boarders sliding over a sheet of sand that looked like a giant mirror reflecting a biplane in the clear sky above.
I stopped a young man and asked, “I’ve never seen this before. The sand looks like it’s an enormous sheet of smooth glass. What does it feel like when you skim over it?”
“It feels like you’re floating on it.”
“Wow, that’s amazing!”
“Yeah. When it’s not this smooth, and we try to skim over it, we fall off our board a lot easier. We love it when it’s like this.”
“That is so incredible! You guys have fun!”
Two others, around fourteen, tucked their boards under their arm and waved goodbye.
Watching from a distance, I commented “If they’re fortunate enough to have a father who cares about their day, I bet when they walk into their house, Dad says, “Hey son, what did you spend this nice day doing?”
To which his reply may be, “Oh, John and I spent the day at the beach, skimming waves. The conditions were perfect.”
I don’t have a penchant to go into a political discussion, but I wonder if we really realize how good our lives are in this country.
Pete and I sat snuggled together and began an in depth contemplating conversation about how privileged we are and how much we take our freedom for granted. The reality of a difficult economy has kept many families from being able to afford to go on long vacations, but consider how freeing it is to be able to pack your family in the car and say, let’s go to the Coast for the weekend.
It’s so commonplace for us to just jump in our own car and drive anywhere we want to go, whether it’s to the grocery store, an afternoon matinee, or to a nice restaurant with a list of entrees a mile long.
If we think about it, one hundred years ago, only the wealthy would have had the type of luxury we enjoy today.
How about those living in impoverished nations? I have never been to a nation as poor as many third world countries, but by what I’ve read and seen in documentaries it makes me extremely thankful to be an American. I’ve never experienced the horrors of starvation and unhealthy living conditions friends have told me that they’ve experienced on a vacation or perhaps while sharing God’s love on a mission trip.
May 1998, after landing at Charles d’Gaule Airport and standing in the security line for what seemed like hours, Pete and I hopped onto a shuttle headed into the city of Paris. Naturally, everything was printed in French and the buildings had roofs that reminded me of old Disney movies like Peter Pan and the 101 Dalmatians. I felt as if I had landed on another planet. This was my first visit to a foreign country and it felt exactly like that, for me, foreign.
While in France we toured ancient castle ruins and saw how severely Christians were tortured for their faith as we made our way south towards vacationing for a few days along the Mediterranean coast. I was so thankful when we landed on US soil that I felt that I would kiss the ground.
Living in this Great Country, we have our own citizens living in unhealthy conditions and families that have a hard time making ends meet until the next payday, or those who are homeless, living on the streets, searching through a restaurant’s garbage to find something worth eating.
Why can’t we see how our nation is so fully loved by God? How is it that we’re so privileged and we’re able to live in a country so richly blessed, when there are so many souls in our world suffering? The amount of various responses to that question, is way more than I could possibly answer.
Sometimes, I think we lose sight of the freedom God has given us. We tend to take each other for granted.
Don’t forget that we live in the United States of America, where freedom reigns.
Our greatest happiness does not depend on the condition of life in which chance has placed us, but is always the result of a good conscience, good health, occupation, and freedom in all just pursuits.
Thomas Jefferson

The Waterfall

15-112612 The Waterfall

Chapter 15: The Waterfall

“God, where are you in my life?”
When you ask that question, you had better be ready for his answer. As this recollection of events will reveal, He answered in an unexpected way when Pete and I moved from California to Oregon.
Shortly after Pete and I met in 1993 and I first visited his bachelor pad in Santa Maria, I noticed a poster that his sister Linda had given him. He had mounted it in a plain black poster frame and placed it on the living room wall. The picture centered on a rushing waterfall that flowed into a rocky stream, surrounded by lush green ferns, trees, and thick moss, all under a darkened forest canopy and fair blue skies. My awe in the beauty of God’s creation in a full range of blue and green colors was breathtaking, and Pete and I couldn’t help but feel privileged to be able to enjoy something so beautiful together.
In 1997, while our new home was being built in Buellton, we removed the picture from under the poster frame, painstakingly trying not to tear it, which we did accidentally, having to discard part of the clear rocky stream. Once we had carefully removed the waterfall portion of it from the frame we rushed it to Michael’s crafts store and had it set within a simple wooden frame behind glass.
We were settling into our newly built home and wanted to place it in an area where we could enjoy looking at its beauty every day. So we decided to hang it in our small dining room, where it remained for the next five years until we carefully packed it away for our move to Eagle Creek, Oregon in June 2002. Once there, we decided to place it in our bathroom to create a feeling of the green Oregon outdoors.
It had been nine years and many hours of meditation, asking, “I wonder where that waterfall is, or it could be anywhere, only God knows where it is, and we’ll probably never know.”
Santa Maria is well known for its “Santa Maria style” Tri-Tip barbecues, prepared over red oak, and we wanted to share Pete’s expertise in preparing the mouth-watering meat for our new friends from AEC. We had settled into our new home and thought it was a wonderful way to begin making new friends.
Within minutes, a few of the guests came out to our deck, asking, “Where did you get that incredible picture in your bathroom?”
“Pete’s sister gave it to him before we met and we’ve loved it so much that we had it framed a few years ago. We’ve been enjoying it ever since.”
“Do you know where that waterfall is located?”
“No, we wish that we did, though.”
“You’re not going to believe this, but that waterfall is called Punchbowl Falls and it’s about a two-mile hike along Eagle Creek off of the Columbia Gorge highway!”
We couldn’t believe it! Of all of the waterfalls on this earth, God had placed this waterfall into our lives and we believed He was using it to guide us to where He wanted us to grow in our spiritual journey. He truly does work in ways that are mysterious to us and that we can’t even begin to fathom!
In August 2002, Pete and I took a three-day trip to San Francisco and Hopland, California for Fetzer Wineries’ annual event, “Fun in the Sun with Emeril Lagasse.” We knew the day we planned to return would be the perfect opportunity for hiking to Punchbowl Falls, so before leaving home, we made sure that we packed clothing and our hiking boots in the car.
When Sunday finally came we were both ecstatic and ready to fly back to Portland. Our plane touched down and we hurried to our car parked in one of the two long-term lots and made our way east on Highway 84 towards another new adventure.
I have to confess, I’m terrified of heights and rocky trails, much as I like hiking. But, somehow I managed to endure the two-hour hike along steep cliffs, cliffs that dropped off to Eagle Creek, one hundred feet below. It seemed as if I had a six-inch path to make my way on, trembling, wanting to close my eyes at times, wishing I wasn’t experiencing this. But, I was determined to see Punchbowl Falls for myself.
My feet hurt terribly when I asked somebody, “How much further is Punchbowl Falls?”
“It’s just around the corner!”
The last turn, there it was, Eagle Creek gently flowing into the small pool, making its way down a rocky stream towards the Columbia River.
Pete and I stood admiring this wonder located within a mere hour’s drive from our home in Eagle Creek, Oregon. We both knew that God had placed this into our lives for his purpose. We were in awe as we contemplated what the Lord was going to do in our lives next, and we didn’t want to leave.
A few moments passed, and as we turned to hike back to the car, a pure white butterfly flitted around my feet until it finally rested on my boot. I sensed God saying, “I’ve brought you here for a purpose. Trust me.”
Pete and I believe that God led us to Eagle Creek, Oregon for His divine purpose. God already had an incredible plan for our lives when I had asked, “God where are you in my life?” a few months earlier. He had already determined to show me!
Neither one of us believed that any part of what happened that day or in the weeks before could have been coincidental. When God does something this powerful in your life, you know in your heart that it can’t be just another coincidence.
I’ve shared this story with nonbelievers and they have said they think it was a mere coincidence. “I don’t believe in a god works that way in our lives,” more than one of them has said.
I know that my God does. It may sound strange, but I believe that God can use any circumstance, person, any place, or any thing, to make a positive change in somebody’s life.
We have had the opportunity to repeat this story, as well as other profound moments, with many of our friends and it never fails to amaze me how sharing the magnitude of God’s work in our lives amazes and touches their hearts. Ours has been a journey of unfailing faithfulness and trust. Punchbowl Falls made a lasting impression on us, for sure!
Jeremiah 29:11, has become the foundation of my decision to place my trust in the Lord. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD.

A Father’s Love…A true picture of God’s unconditional love for his children

A Father’s Love
Non-fiction, true story

It was St. Patrick’s Day, Saturday, March 17, 2012, and my newly divorced son, actively serving in the U.S. Navy, decided to spend a fun weekend with his three children at Balboa Park in San Diego, California. He made a special trip to the base the week beforehand to purchase tickets for an exciting and fun filled day since only a few months before he had returned from a deployment overseas. Before deploying he had intentionally taken the time of forming an everlasting bond of love with his children, one they would never forget.
That morning, Jonathan, age fourteen, Joshua, nine, and Stephanie, five, were taking in the museums, attractions, and venues, when out of the cool, clear, blue sky, Joshua was gone.
Joshua is a smart little guy, often becoming sidetracked, wandering off to take a closer look at something he finds interesting or peculiar. There was so much for his curious mind to absorb and he couldn’t wait to investigate all Balboa Park had to offer!
Once Joseph realized Josh was missing, an agonizing and intense search ensued. Joseph and Jonathan, with Stephanie in tow, ran, searching frantically, through the park for an hour, but Josh was no where to be found.
Out of sheer terror, Joseph decided he had a decision to make, and reported Joshua as missing at the Information Booth.
His decision was made and Balboa Park came to a screeching halt! An ‘Amber Alert’ was issued, the gates were locked and doorways into the museums and other attractions were forced into lockdown mode. Everybody, moms and dads, police, and park staff joined in on the search for Joshua.
As Joshua’s Nana, I can’t begin to imagine what was going on in his mind. I’m sure he must have been just as frightened as Joseph was. He must have run through the park too, thinking, ‘I’m in this huge place with all of these people, how, on earth, am I going to find my Dad?’ Finally, in his nine-year-old mind, he made the decision to return to the spot where he thought his dad would eventually come looking for him.
The search drug on for nearly half an hour when Joshua was finally found in the enormous parking lot, shaking nervously in the mid-day sun, next to his dad’s truck, amongst a sea of other cars. By the time he was found Joshua was pretty shaken up by the events, as was the rest of his family, and everyone at the park that day.
All he could think of to say was, “I thought you left me!”
Joseph lovingly responded, “I will never bring you someplace and then abandon or leave you! Do you believe me?”
“Yes”, with his head hanging in embarrassment and relief.
What a wonderful thing for a frightened child to hear!
Yet, our Heavenly Father has made the same promise to us! Throughout scripture the Lord reminds us that He will never leave us or forsake us. The definition of forsake is to quit, abandon, leave behind, or to cease from.
God, in His sovereignty, holds and shapes every life He’s ever created, or will ever create, in His powerful hands! If you can begin to wrap your mind around what this means and the promise He has made to those who belong to Him, we should never have moments when we feel far from him and his love.
Deuteronomy 31:6 God says He will never leave us or forsake us! Allow that truth to sink into your heart and soul the next time you’re feeling afraid or alone, and be truly grateful, and full of praise, for a God who loves you this much.
I’m reminded of a phrase I learned years ago…there is nothing I can do to make God love me more and there’s nothing I can do to make Him love me less!
Knowing and embracing this truth should transform our lives into a desire to live to honor Him and Him alone. If we’re walking in true communion with God’s Holy Spirit, we will take enormous comfort in knowing He is in control of our lives. Are we willing? Are we able to get past our own agenda and follow God’s will for our lives, trusting and clinging to the words He has promised?

Made New excerpt..Allow God to do His sanctifying work in….

Looking back, Pete and I can both see God growing our spiritual lives during those years. He has shaped and molded us all along the way. With all of his children, He grinds a little edge of our lives here, and then a little there, until He shapes and polishes us into the diamond He has set in His mind for us so that we can reflect His love and light to the world. Yet, our hearts yearn for it because we will not reach that ultimate perfection until we cross over into glory to live with Him forever and ever. It’s an awesome moment when you realize how God is transforming your life to bring glory and honor to Him.

Trusting God

An important fact that we need to focus on is that this life is but a vapor, here today and gone tomorrow. I fully believe that one day, when we’re in heaven with the Lord, we will be able to look back at our lives and the Lord will allow us to see how events unfolded from an eternal perspective. We should look forward to the end of our lives and do whatever we can possibly do to mend any broken relationship.

Have you ever asked the Lord to show you, or to reveal to you, who you need to go to so that past hurts can be healed?
This is where our faith and trust in God comes in. Romans 8:28 ‘We know that all things work for the good to those who love the Lord, those who have been called according to his purpose.
We must trust in God’s plan.  God knows every single thought we have. He doesn’t just know all of our thoughts, but he also knows the thoughts of all who have ever lived and all who are presently living, and those that are yet to live on this earth! He’s omniscient! He’s sovereign! He knows and sees everything. God has called us to place our hope, faith, and trust in Him and Him alone! He knows everything about each one of us.

Why wouldn’t we want to get out own agenda out of the way and fall on our knees, completely surrendering our lives to the Lord? He knows where you’ve been and where you’re going. He has promised to reward us for our faith. If we slow down enough to allow Him to work in our lives, we will receive powerful revelations of His love and an intimate relationship with Him that will change our entire outlook on this life.

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