As we headed out on vacation this past Sunday afternoon, everything looked good. The sky was clear. The temperature was set to climb into the low 80's. And we would be at the cottage before 4:00 p.m., prepared to do virtually nothing (except relax on the sun-drenched dock) for the duration. However, the message we received upon our arrival was about the opposite of our expectations - though we did arrive at the anticipated time.
The first hint came as we pulled onto our street and saw white caps on the lake. There would be no relaxing on the dock this day. And, then, as we pulled into our cabin, we were hit with a triple-whammy! The leaves we had bagged a month ago were never picked up! Now the bags were rotting on the bottom, with many of the leaves scattered around. A limb had fallen in a storm, and landed squarely on our new wishing well in the front yard. The lawn ornament was smashed beyond repair. And the grass was longer than I had ever seen it before.
However, as the week has gone on, God has been talking to us. One day, all three of the devotions I read had one common theme: pray! I got the hint. And then this morning, one led me to reflect upon some words God gave us through Paul. "I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me." (Philippians 4.11-13)
Then the author reminded me, "The way to stop worrying in the midst of change begins when we stop focusing upon ourselves. That is what worry is all about. When I worry, I focus upon me. When my heart is directed to focus on Him, I worship. In the midst of changes, Jesus invites and even commands us to focus on Him, the one who never changes." That, I believe, says it all.
Sunday afternoon we decided to walk down to the dock, without changing into beach gear, to check things out. The conditions were just as we expected, but not the walk. The ten-minute walk took us over 4 hours! The time was filled with conversation after conversation as we became reacquainted with street-neighbors.
On Monday, as I pushed myself to take care of the leaves and lawn, two neighbors showed up. One came with three teenage sons, the other with a pick-up. What first appeared as an unsolvable dilemma was resolved in less than two hours. Since then, the lawn has been mowed (no, they did not help with that), the weather on the dock has been perfect, and Sunday's conversations have expanded and continued. Additionally, we spent some time at a neighbor's BBQ, and visited with others who arrived by pontoon.
Life does not always come together so quickly, but, and I think this fact is much more important: things are never as bad as we think they are. The key, as that devotion reminded me, is focus. If all we see are the problems, life can go downhill pretty quickly. If we see those problems through the lens of God's promises, we see things in a totally different light. We are empowered by Jesus to say with Paul, "I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. ... I can do all things through him who strengthens me."
For me, the secret is starting each day by listening to the promises. I know the problems will appear, so it is important that I get the promises in place ahead of time. And then, as the day goes on, I am amazed over and over again, how those early morning promises are perfectly matched for what my day brings.
So, as I send this out, I am wondering what challenges you will be facing today ... and, with my lesson learned, I want you to know that will be praying for you.