Check out our first devotion at The Grind.
I’m at El Bethel inside the toasty condo. I’m perched on the chaise lounge in the master bedroom listening to the sound of the waves as they crash onto the shore. I love this place. Everything about it screams home. It’s my sanctuary. God speaks to me here like no other place on earth.
I have big hopes for this weekend. I’ve prayed for God to show up BIG here. To bless me with His presence. To talk to each one of us in a special way. I’m so excited. This place to me is like holy ground.
With the exception of the first trip down here back in the Summer of ’09, the quest to enter our sanctuary has been challenged by Satan. He’s pretty creative in how he attempts to delay our entry into this holy of holies.
Just before New Year’s, our arrival was delayed because we missed a turn that sent us about two hours off course. Rumor has it that the turn has never been missed in the history of the condo, which just so happens to be 20+ years. We didn’t arrive at the condo until after midnight. I would like to say that it was good times – and don’t get me wrong, there were some great laughs – but all in all, being stuck in a car after a long day at work for six hours, lost in the pitch blackness of night on a country road 150 miles south of nowhere, is not cool. I don’t care who you are.
Our next journey to El Bethel was early this summer. We were giddy with excitement. (Five months is entirely too long to be away!) It was Memorial Day weekend, and so we knew traffic would be painful. Having two people in a group that delight in efficiency, we devised a plan to avoid traffic. It was genius!
Full of pride, we embarked on our journey. As you know, God isn’t a big fan of pride and being consistent like He is, remained true to His word, “Pride goes before destruction; a haughty spirit before the fall” (Prov. 16:18): three hours into our drive, we missed our exit. (NOTE: When someone says, “You’re going to get off the interstate at 106,” don’t automatically assume that “106” is the exit number. It might be the highway number.)
Just before midnight, we arrived at the condo. We had a minor setback when we closed the garage door before the car was completely unpacked, and to no one’s surprise at that point, the keypad blew a gasket (literally) and we weren’t able to finish unloading the car until the next morning. What are the odds?
Last night we began yet another pilgrimage to our safe haven. Satan was quick to respond and immediately began his assault. We couldn’t find the key, so we petitioned the throne of grace. Minutes later a spare key was located and all seemed right in the world again.
This time no exits were missed and no turns overlooked. We made great time and reached our destination unscathed, despite the fact that we almost hit what appeared to be a tiger (okay, so maybe it was a mountain lion….or a bobcat…or a coyote…they all look the same as they dart in front of your car in the middle of the night).
Unfortunately, Satan’s siege was just beginning as we spoke these eerily prophetic words: “Should we hold off in unloading the car until we check to make sure the key works?” I’m sure you could hear a pin drop in heaven as the angels gasped at the profoundness of that statement. Moments later it became apparent that the spare key was a spare for a reason. And it wasn’t because it worked.
Panic ensued for one as she approached a window in hopes of it being unlocked. Struck down but not destroyed, an attempt was made to contact a family member to no avail. After all, what are brothers for if not to answer the phone at 1 AM?
The path of least resistance (or so it seemed) was to suck it up and phone a locksmith. Spirits were lifted as there was a promise of rescue in 15-20 minutes. One hour and three follow-up phone calls later, we would get the tragic news that our locksmith had been involved in an accident and was en route to the emergency room. Of course he was. I’m sure that happens all the time.
In a stroke of brilliance and armed with an iPhone, a paperclip, knitting tools, and MacGyver-like skills courtesy of YouTube, efforts to pick the lock ensued. I have two words to sum up that plan of action: EPIC FAIL!
Another locksmith was dispatched to our location, and spirits lifted once again as our very own locksmith, who will loving be referred to as Juan Carlos, called to let us know he was on his way. What joy! However, it became evident during our conversation that Juan Carlos was not familiar with the Destin area, mainly because he was in Cuba! Okay, it was actually Miami. Same difference.
A third call was placed to a third locksmith. His name was Jimmy. He was not a dispatcher, but a real live locksmith. He speaks English, isn’t in Cuba, and is originally from Birmingham. We like Jimmy! As we waited patiently for Jimmy to arrive, we sat in the car and sang. Would I be pushing the envelope to liken the experience to Paul sitting in prison singing praises to God through his dire circumstances? Probably so, but persecution is relative, so let’s go with it. Ironically, our praise song was, “Your Grace is Enough.” While I certainly do not disagree that God’s grace is sufficient, I do have to say that sometimes having a (working) key is good too.
Jimmy arrives on-site at approximately 2 AM. Yes. That’s right – 2 AM and begins to assess the situation like Sherlock Holmes. He determines that the lock is a Titan lock, one not easily overtaken and which would require cat-like skills to conquer. The question loomed in the air….will Jimmy be able to crack the kryptonite-like lock? We literally prayed that he would.
2:14 AM – Robyn break dances in the hallway and an emergency restroom break is needed because let’s face it, we had to pee. I’d like to give a big shout-out to 24-hour CVS pharmacies with clean restrooms.
Back at the ranch, Jimmy cracks open a can of Houdini, but it would take more than Houdini to crack this lock. Perplexed, but not in despair, Jimmy takes it to the next level. The presence of a drill denotes the seriousness and humor of the situation. Drilling ensues and moments later at 3 AM, our feet walked across the threshold into our promised land.
I’m sure there are spiritual truths aplenty in this adventure, but to be honest, I’m too tired to think about them. In the words of Scarlett O’Hara, “I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow…after all, tomorrow is another day.”
Let me begin by saying that I’m not big on road trips. Four hours is typically my limit. Anything over that and I get antsy and irritable. Last week, I had the somber task of attending a memorial service for a friend’s husband at Dudley Park in Athens, GA. I’ve been to Athens once before but I rode with someone very acquainted with the way.
As I was preparing for the trip, I didn’t ask anyone for directions. I trusted my navigation system (aka Prissy) to get me where I needed to go. Now, you should know that Prissy and I don’t get along much. She’s quite the task master. I want to throw her through the windshield when she repeats “calculating route” at the slightest deviation from her planned course. Let’s just say she has a hard time adapting to any inconvenience, such as when you need to go to the restroom or grab some sustenance while en route! Not only is Prissy a task master, but apparently her definition of “fastest route” is different than mine (and the rest of the world’s, for that matter). Despite her failings, she’s always gotten me where I needed to go, even if she takes me around the world to get there. Considering the route she led me on to Athens that would be an understatement.
Trusting that Prissy would get me to Athens, I confidently typed “Dudley Park” as my destination and embarked on the most frustrating journey that I can remember.
Things went well until I hit Atlanta. Of course, doesn’t everything go well until you are in Atlanta? Ah, Atlanta, you challenge me, but I will have to write about you another day.
I was rocking along singing with the music on my iPhone when I hit a dead stop at the I75/I85 junction. “So much for fastest route,” I said to myself (okay, maybe I said it aloud). Sitting at a standstill, I glanced impatiently at Prissy’s projected arrival time. Realizing at this point that I might not make it in time for the service, I internally started to panic. My mind began to debate whether Prissy did, in fact, know what she was doing.
In my panic, I phoned my friend who grew up in Athens. My trusted pal handed me the bad news: I wasn’t going to make it in time, and I wasn’t going in the right direction! My heart sank. Stupid, Prissy! I decided she was going to be sold at auction immediately upon my return.
Thankfully, my friend and I sorted out where I needed to go. She e-mailed me directions (praise God for the iPhone) and traffic started to move along. I was back in business. Relieved that I had solid directions and my car was actually moving in a forward direction, my heart began to lighten a bit. I started singing again even though I was going to be late for the service.
I’d love to tell you that it was smooth sailing from that point forward, but alas, that wasn’t what God had in mind.
The directions instructed me to take a road and follow signs to the University of Georgia. Along the road I was on, there were no signs for the University of Georgia or Athens. However, I was in a hurry (though I’m not sure why at this point, since I was already going to be at the very least 20 minutes late for the service), so I didn’t notice. It wasn’t until I began to pass landfills that I realized I probably needed to touch base with my friend once again to make sure I wasn’t lost. Guess what?! I was.
As I was talking to my guide, we began to laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. But deep down inside, I wanted to cry. I became overwhelmed because I wasn’t going to be there for my friend who had been there for me when my daddy died and that I had shared every major life moment with for the last twenty-something years. I felt stupid for not asking for directions before I left. I felt like an idiot for not being able to follow the ones that I did have. I was afraid that when I did finally get to the service, my friend would be gone, thinking that I hadn’t been there for her. I was afraid if they were still there, they would look at me like I was crazy for being so late. I was overcome with the desire to go directly to where I was spending the night, hide there, lick my wounds and regroup. Not knowing if I should laugh or cry, I opted for the former since the latter would mess up my makeup and I had resolved to go, even if no one was there.
I am happy to say that I did finally make it to the park – an hour late! But I did do what I set out to do, which was to see my friend, hug her tight, tell her I love her, and cry with her. That was my mission, and praise God, it is what I accomplished.
So what are the lessons God taught me on this journey?
Lesson 1: God sends us out on missions. Sometimes they are exciting and fun, and other times they are somber tasks. When God gives you a mission, you have to resolve to see it through regardless of your feelings, set-backs, or mistakes along the way.
Lesson 2: Be careful who you trust when you need to get to where God is leading you. Friends, family and trusted advisors may be well-intentioned, but only God knows the way.
Lesson 3: At the very beginning of the journey always ask directions from someone who knows the way. God knows the right path to take – every time. He sees the big picture and can help us avoid things that will slow us down and frustrate us.
Lesson 4: Pay attention. Check in with God before you take a road that looks like it’s the right one. So many times, we think that because something looks good that it’s the road God wants us to go down. We get in a hurry and go too far down a road that God never intended us to be on.
Lesson 5: If you make a choice and something doesn’t seem quite right, before you take another step, check in with the Almighty. God’s shown me this year that He throws me breadcrumbs to let me know that He and I are on the same page. If I begin to notice He hasn’t given me a breadcrumb in a while, I stop and regroup. Just like I phoned a friend, we have the ability to phone a Friend who knows exactly how to get us back on course, no matter how many mistakes we’ve made.
Lesson 6: Enjoy the ride. Sing not only when things are going well, but sing when they aren’t.
Lesson 7: God’s timing to get us where we are going isn’t always what we think it should be. He teaches us through each mistake, and He tests our resolve through frustrations and delays.
Lesson 8: Don’t panic. God knows what He’s doing, even if your navigation system does not.
Lesson 9: Don’t give up until you get there!
Grateful for His leading,
Today, two of my very closest girlfriends met each other for the first time at a little coffee shop in my hometown. They sipped hot chocolate and hot green tea with mint, and across the table and through the steam rising out of those mugs, shared a little about themselves, a little about the paths they’ve traveled over the years, and a little about new lessons pressing on their hearts.
And I wasn’t there. (In the spirit of full disclosure, the hot chocolate and hot green tea with mint are technically educated guesses.)
When my alarm sounded this morning, I checked the clock and sighed, wishing I was there to facilitate their introduction. They didn’t know each other, but I have spoken of each friend to the other, as people do about the folks who are important to them, whom they love. Although it was crazy, knowing that two of my favorite people in the world were hanging out together without me, I knew they’d connect. At the very least, they have one mutual friend.
And, as I’d imagined, they had a delightful time, chatting, sharing, and connecting.
I’d like to think they connected because they both know me, but the reality is, they connected because they both know Christ. There’s something about that divine mutual Friend that trumps our earthly connections, hands down.
In 1 Corinthians 12:12-13, Paul is very clear that when we as believers accepted Christ – in his words, “were baptized by one Spirit” – we were placed into one body, and we all share the same Spirit. That means that we have the same heavenly Father. As siblings in His adopted family, we share a divine connection to Christ Jesus. That fact alone has some serious ramifications, and that’s another blog post for another day. But people, let that soak in! We are divinely connected – we are heirs – to Jesus Christ!
Later on in the New Testament, Paul’s letter to the Galatians takes this connection one step further. He writes, “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave for free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:27-28). Regardless of our family backgrounds, our salaries, our education levels, or our races, not only are we joined to Christ, but we’re joined to each other.
Having lived in four states over the last fifteen years or so, I’ve often wondered what the day would be like, and when the opportunity would come, where all of my pockets of friends would meet, and mix and mingle. (They’ll all get along, too, because I’m only friends with cool people.)
I think God looks forward to that day too, when all of His children will finally meet Him face to face, and will meet each other, too. Just think of all of us, from all across the world, spanning past, present, and future, meeting together at long last.
That’ll be a glorious day, won’t it? I can’t wait.
Confession: I don’t drink coffee. Although there are other reasons, the bitter aftertaste and the possibility of slowly staining my teeth sealed the deal for me. (Call me a snob, but I’m pretty protective about my teeth and general oral hygiene.) I made a decision when I was about 13 that I didn’t have an interest in coffee, and I was going to be okay with that.
Here’s the rub: Coffeehouses are where it’s at! A childhood friend and I have a standing tradition to meet at a coffee shop every Christmas Eve and catch up. Tough conversations happen in cafes, and awkward first dates happen there. Good grief, I know of someone who slipped her phone number to a barista at a local shop, and today they’re married! What is it with the coffeehouse phenomenon?
I’ve read that coffeehouses go all the way back to the early 1500s, serving as the center of social gatherings where the public could read the paper, organizations conducted business, and people exchanged ideas. By the 17th century in England, they were a “social leveler” of sorts, inviting all people into a common place, regardless of social or economic status.
Based on that concept, I imagine that if Jesus were walking around London back then, he might very much like to duck into a place like that, where folks were learning, connecting, sharing about anything and everything, no matter where they’d been, or where they were going. I think he’d order the house roast, black, and pull up a chair. He loves to relate. He loves to visit and catch up. He loves to share, and to listen.
That’s what happens at coffeehouses, and that’s what we hope to do here. Grab a hot beverage, pull up a chair, get real, and visit our coffeehouse. Even though I have no idea what an “Iced Single Venti Mocha, No Whip” is, praise be to God, I’ve discovered steamers, ciders, and hot chocolates that give me something safe to cradle in my hands and sip on, while I connect with people. So, let’s hear it!
“I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth.” (Isaiah 42:16)
Back when I was doing triathlons, I would often be up before the sun to go on a run. Running in the dark was scary. I always worried about falling because of cracks or debris in the road – especially when the gum ball trees bloomed. So, I bought one of my most valuable (and glamorous) training tools – a head lamp.
Head lamps are great levelers. There is no one that can make a head lamp look cool. Actually, I take that back. There is one person that can make it look cool, and that is the person using it to illuminate a gaping hole in the head of a fellow runner who tripped over something they couldn’t see in the dark. Yep. That person makes a head lamp look cool.
I remember the first time I ran with my illuminated training partner. I felt secure, and I noticed something interesting: The light was of the most benefit when focused not on the horizon, but on the ground two or three feet in front of me. When the light was focused on the horizon, my vision was distorted. I couldn’t see clearly the path in front of me nor could I make out what lay ahead. Everything was fuzzy.
Just like my head lamp, we are of the most benefit to Christ when we spend our time focused on what is directly in front of us. When we try to see where He’s taking us or what’s around the corner, we can miss the things He wants us to see today, or have trouble discerning the short-term steps He’s calling us to take. God wants us to trust Him moment-by-moment, step-by-step, day-by-day.
The Israelites spent more years than I’m sure they care to remember learning that very lesson. Just as God led them with the pillar of fire at night, He leads us today, not with just a light, but with THE Light: Jesus.
God knows how dark our lives can seem at times. But rest assured that if you have trusted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you are never without the Light, for His Word says, “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).
King David knew the secret to brightening up the dark places when he penned these words: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).
If your world seems bleak or your hope seems lost, grab His Word and trust that He will light your path.