If Only

13 years. That’s a long time to walk in the wrong direction. Ask Abraham.

Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram. When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am Almighty God; walk before me and be blameless.”

These two verses from Genesis are only separated by chapter delineation (16:16-17:1). It appears for thirteen years, at least, Abram did not hear from God directly like he had previously. This time period followed he and his wife’s decision to do things their way, a way not given to them by God. This decision was a deliberate choice that could be concluded with two words: “if only.”

So Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael were acceptable to you!”

He said this in 17:18 (Read the rest of the conversation between verses 1-18 to see why his name changed, among other things). Abraham said this in response to just being told, in so many words, quite graciously, “My plan hasn’t changed. Even though you tried your way, I’m still offering you a better way.” Thankfully, we all can say Abraham followed the plan.

This scene offers us hope when we’ve followed Abram’s and Sarai’s path. At some point we all seem to face the choice to wait, or to devise our own way, or to heed questionable counsel. It’s almost as if a salesperson shows us a pair of blinders, and we knowingly reply, “Yes. I’ll have a pair.” For whatever reason, we complete the transaction, say thank you, put them on, and walk out the door…until God shows up, however long that takes.

Fortunately for us, God is gracious. And if we receive that grace and give him our blinders, we reap the benefits of faith. As he was told, Abraham received tremendous blessings that have been passed on to many generations for placing his faith in God’s way despite “if only.”

Do you have an unresolved “if only”? Are you wearing blinders? How long before you follow Abraham’s lead?

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NO ONE Gets There ALONE (book review)

What a nice surprise this book by Dr. Rob Bell was. While checking out a recommended book on Amazon, his book popped up also. Not familiar with him, I was intrigued by the title. Knowing I have a commitment to reading a few coaching books this year, I went ahead and purchased it. Here are some quotes to illustrate why you could consider doing the same:

  • Everyone is an athlete; our office is just different. Some of us are corporate athletes, sales athletes, or entrepreneur athletes. Being an athlete is an attitude and awareness. It means looking through our own lens of life as an athlete.     
  • True competition is me vs. me.
  • Comparison is the thief of joy.   
  • When we focus on the differences between us, we are in comparison mode, believing we are better than or less than someone else.   
  • Talk about all stressful situations in non-stressful environments.   
  • When we are not all-in, we are just in the way.   
  • The chicken is invested in breakfast by supplying the eggs, but the pig is fully committed by providing the ham or bacon.   
  • Complaining is the first small sign of giving up.   
  • There are two types of pain, the pain of discipline or the pain of regret.

You can read this book because you are a coach. You could read this book because you need a coach. Or you could read this book to explore why you should consider being coached. 

For example, Dr. Bell’s section on faith may help you explore yours in a new way. And his approach to mental toughness is encouraging and tool-giving to all readers, regardless of your reading agenda. My personal best takeaway of the entire book was the section entitled “Focus on the Similarities, not the Differences.”

You’ll have takeaways from this easily digestible book. Give it a look and improve how you are getting there.

June’s Jordan Journey

Here is our final team member’s note about her journey to Jordan.

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On our trip I learned just how spoiled we are and how we take things for granted – so unappreciative and selfish.

I saw people with faith, love, and hope with a little of nothing that showed hospitality and welcomed us with open arms-thankful for what little they had and keeping their eyes on the Lord with hope.

When we think about faith like a mustard seed, I saw that firsthand in our home visits the church set up for the refugees where they could come together for the hope needed to carry on.

I worked with children that were far behind in learning and not allowed to attend public schools, and women with skills but could not go to work like we can.  I saw how important the church school and women’s center and in-home visits are to those hurting refugees.  It’s hard to put into words; just something you have to see to appreciate and understand the great need.

Something much needed that we all can do is pray!  Prayers for their families, health needs, visas to be able to go to another country and get settled-just to know they’re not forgotten.  The children need to be in school, women need a place to use their skills and feel self-worth, men need jobs to care for their families.

In all it was a very humbling, heartbreaking experience-an eye opener as I could see how we take things for granted but thankful for the opportunity to go, see, and do.  Praise God!

-June Hartlaub

Sherry’s Jordan Journey

Here is a second team member’s note about her journey to Jordan.

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My recent journey was truly a journey of love and miracles.  When I told my family that I wanted to go to Jordan their reaction was, “No way.”  It is hard to explain why as a retired grandmother I felt God was calling me to take this leap of faith and following His lead. I have no visible talent-can’t sing (but I can make a joyful noise), can’t do physical work, but I can and do have a huge capacity for love.  And God had a plan for me and my love.

While we were there, my time was spent at the Women’s Center and on home visits.  Let me tell you about the Women’s Center. The center offers women the opportunity to come together to learn crafts to perhaps sell them and earn a little money, but more importantly it gives them the chance to fellowship with one another and with us.  I met so many beautiful and wonderful women who are just like us in so many ways, but are so much stronger, happier, funny and joyful.  One Syrian woman absolutely blew me away in every way; but perhaps the most heart breaking way was her answer when I asked her where she wanted to go. Most people said Canada, Australia, or perhaps Brazil; but her answer was she wants to go home, back to Syria.

See, we are all basically the same; we want to be home.  And perhaps many of the beautiful, wonderful people God gave me the blessing of meeting may not get to go home until we are all home with Jesus in heaven.

-Sherry Morrow

Bob’s Jordan Journey

Our team that went to Jordan had a life-impacting journey. Here is one member’s note about his journey.

img-20180418-wa00161158138559.jpgOn my first Syrian refugee home visit, I choked back tears as I listened to heart- wrenching stories of their lives. I began to wonder how I would make it through the next 10 days. I wondered if my being there was a mistake. Then God began to show me hope! These people who have no material possessions have everything in Jesus Christ. They have faith that I can only pray to have someday. That faith, that God is in control, gives them hope for tomorrow and a better life.

I went to Jordan to be a blessing, but as God would have it I was blessed. Truly a humbling experience that I am grateful for.

-Bob Sagrilla

Proud vs. Plain

(Three brief thoughts from I Peter 5:1-11, The Message)

  • Keep a cool head…proud people get bent out of shape; plain people live carefree.
  • Keep your guard up…proud people believe they’re untouchable; plain people know they’re vulnerable.
  • Keep a firm grip on the faith…proud people are tempted to go it alone; plain people believe that two is better than one.

What is God Calling Me to Become?

In making decisions currently, I have not asked where I am to be or what I am to do, but what it is that God is calling me to become. (p. 103, The Critical Journey: Stages in the Life of Faith)

Today’s blog and the following one will be based on thoughts from this book I’m finishing:

This quote resonated with me because it’s a question I’ve wandered in and out of over the past decade. It seems, as we go through stages/seasons of life, this would be a great question to keep in front of us. It’s very possible that the answer will change as we journey and grow.

So here is what I wrote in my journal on March 8 to answer the question, What is God Calling Me to Become:

  • A lover of all people
  • A helper to the wanderer
  • A friend to my colleagues
  • A present dweller
  • A faster forgiver
  • A questioner rather than a teller
  • A relaxed worker
  • A Spirit listener
  • A dependent child
  • A contented kingdom dweller

What is God Calling You to Become?

Turning Back

Been here?

  • Standing at a very familiar life intersection wondering how many times you have to keep crossing
  • Staring in the face of prior pain dreading its possible return
  • Knowing you’ve taken a step backwards but not sure how or why
  • Believing you heard and followed the right path but unsure it’s going to be as advertised

Congratulations! Welcome to the human race! It’s been going on for centuries. Here’s an example:

“Then the Lord spoke to Moses: “Tell the Israelites to turn back and camp in front of Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea; you must camp in front of Baal-zephon, facing it by the sea. Pharaoh will say of the Israelites: They are wandering around the land in confusion; the wilderness has boxed them in. I will harden Pharaoh’s heart so that he will pursue them. Then I will receive glory by means of Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am Yahweh.” So the Israelites did this.”

‭‭Exodus‬ ‭14:1-4

Yes, they turned back as instructed, but soon began to challenge the decision. That’s what we all are tempted to do. 

  • “What are you doing, God?”
  • “Why are you making me turn around into the face of pain that I thought you had rescued me from?”
  • “This makes no sense at all. God, you don’t know what you’re doing.”

We find ourselves at the intersection of Faith and Pain, or Trust and Doubt, or Follower and Fool. We are faced with the choices from being turned back. 

  • Will we believe in God’s salvation for this moment
  • Do we believe that He truly cares
  • Can we trust this God who dishes out unbelievable promises

If He says it’s for His glory, shouldn’t we want to see the outcome? Getting to the other side of the sea ain’t easy when all we do is question God. It’s much more awe-filled, beautiful and serene when all we’re doing is resting, walking and trusting in all His knowledge and power. When He says, “Turn back,” our response should be, “How Far?”

Here’s a Turning Back Prayer you might say if you’re having a difficult time saying, “How Far”:

God, thank you for Exodus 14. Thank you for turning them back so now all of mankind is still talking about your power, your glory, and your willingness to fight for your people. I have no reason to fear. I have no reason to believe you will make a mistake. I have every reason to remember you have always remembered me. Forgive me for wanting to run forward when you may want me to turn back so you can be glorified. Fight for me. I’ll do my best to be quiet.

What if God Doesn’t Meet My Expectations?

   

In his book The Prisoner in the Third Cell, Gene Edwards makes you face this question. That’s a good thing. Why? Because all of mankind has silently or openly asked it but not all have dared to stop and determine their answer.

Edwards makes you face this question by telling the story of John the Baptist. His was definitely a unique life. And at the end of it, he had questions that we can’t be certain he found satisfactory answers before his life was disregardly taken.

Other biblical characters faced the same challenge-Joseph, Job, Peter, Elijah, Ruth, Mary, Noah, Jonah, John, to name a few. Some of these were graciously granted a resurrected view of God before they died, but even that cannot be guaranteed to anyone who places their faith in God.

And therein is the core of the question. How deep is your faith? When your finite expectations are tested by an infinite God, what do you do? Will you continue to follow? If you want to be challenged to meditate further on these questions, this book is a good resource. If you can’t answer yes to the blog title question, this book should be in your next-to-read pile.