God sightings

What Layers Am I Missing?

Bibles

Every Bible story still has lessons to learn. (photo from morguefile.com)

Sometimes when we grow up in church — or have been there for a long time — it can feel like we know nearly every Scripture passage the pastor reads on Sunday morning. But, even if we know the passage, that doesn’t mean we know all the lessons. Which was the lesson I was reminded of (again!) during church a couple of weeks ago.

The main Scripture for the sermon was Acts 8:4-8, Acts 8:25-40, and Acts 21:8. It’s the story of Philip being directed by God to travel south along the road from Jerusalem to Gaza, across the desert. Along the way, he met a eunuch who was reading the scroll of Isaiah as he traveled. Philip felt God nudge him to talk to the eunuch and ask if he understand what he was reading. When the man admitted he didn’t, Philip joined him in the chariot and explained the Gospel of Jesus to him. The eunuch believed what Philip said, and Philip baptized him.

I’ve always looked at this as a story about following God’s nudges when we feel them, about not being afraid to talk to others about God, or about not being embarrassed to ask questions about God-things. I still think those take-aways apply, but the pastor added some details to the story that I’d either never heard or had never thought hard enough to figure out.

Detail 1: The eunuch said he had been to Jerusalem to worship. The Jewish people traveled to Jerusalem to worship all the time — but the eunuch wasn’t Jewish. He was Ethiopian, and a high-ranking one at that — a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. If he had gone to Jerusalem to worship, how had he learned the faith? How long had he followed the faith? And, wow, what a long way to travel — from Ethiopia to Jerusalem — to worship! That’s dedication!

Detail 2: The traveler was a eunuch, and Scripture expressly forbid eunuchs from worshiping at the temple. If you need verification of this, check out Deuteronomy 3:21 — it makes it quite clear! So where did the eunuch go to worship? Just outside the temple courtyard? And if he wasn’t allowed to enter the temple area to worship, could he still give some type of offering? Or did his contributions have to be actions rather than monetary? I have no idea. Might just have to research that ….

Detail 3: The eunuch was reading the words of the prophet Isaiah. That meant he had a scroll of the teachings, which was a rare thing for someone to have — and very expensive! How did he come to have such a precious thing? Was it his, or the queen’s, or someone else’s? An interesting question I won’t ever know the answer to.

rock layers

There are always more layers than we expect. (Photo from morguefile.com)

Hearing these extra details brought the story to light for me in a new way, even though I’ve heard it since childhood. It also made me start thinking about how I look at things in my own life. Nothing is ever what it seems on the surface. How many times am I guilty of surface interactions or reactions without looking to the underlying layers, those extra details that support the situation? More than I’d like to admit, I’m sure!

What can I do about it? Work to be more empathetic and open toward others. Ask for clarifications before I jump to conclusions. Remind myself that there’s always more than meets the eye, as the old saying goes. And that sometimes those extra details aren’t any of my business, but acknowledging there are things I don’t know can help me handle things better.

Will I be successful? Not always, but hopefully more often than I have been lately. Baby steps every day. That’s what it’s all about.

Your turn: What’s a familiar Bible story you’ve learned something new about lately? Or, how do you keep a mindset that’s open to seeing all the layers of a situation? Come share with us!

Categories: God sightings, Living in Faith, Monday Musings, Scripture Lessons | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beauty Beneath the Surface

Our family went to the Georgia Aquarium while the kids were on fall break a few weeks ago. We hadn’t been in a couple of years, and I always love seeing all the different types of fish and water creatures. Some — like the otters — were too quick for me to get decent pictures. But others cooperated a little better.

I’m far from being a professional, but when you have such amazing subjects to work with, how can you keep from getting at least a few good shots? Here are 10 from that day that I liked, but that barely scratch the surface of how creative God really is. I hope you enjoy! When’s the last time you saw a great example of how creative God is?

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Categories: God sightings, Monday Musings | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

A Tribute

Cancer. For such a small word, it sure does carry a lot of weight. A lot of fear. A lot of sorrow.

We all know that cancer doesn’t care who it touches or how it affects their lives or how much pain and destruction it leaves in its wake. It doesn’t care how old or young or rich or poor the person is. It doesn’t care how much life they still have to live.

Cancer overtook two friends of our family in the last two weeks. One was a man in his prime who won’t see his only grandson reach high school. The other was a boy who will never finish first grade. Neither one seems at all fair.

I don’t know what to say about either case, except that’s it hard to know what to say. There are times when the hurt and anger and injustice boil over and it’s easy to scream or cry or throw things. But there are other times when the void is so big that nothing will come out. Everything is so awful you can’t put it into words.

I hurt so much for their families, but any words that come to mind seem so flimsy I’m not even sure what to pray, let alone actually say out loud. God keeps reminding me of Romans 8:26 that says when we don’t know what to say, the Holy Spirit will intercede with wordless groans for us. I thank Him so much for that. This is definitely one of those times when I can only go to God and say, “My mind can’t wrap around the words to say to you, or to them. So will you just take it from me and give them whatever it is they need? Because you know exactly what they need and I don’t have a clue.”

And He reminds me that what I’m asking is exactly His specialty. No matter what we want to say or scream at Him, He’s big enough to take it … even the mean and ugly stuff. No matter how empty we are, He can fill the void like no one and nothing else. No matter what we need, His love and compassion are the perfect prescription.

It sounds like a pat answer that would have more of a Band-Aid effect than true healing. But that’s when He reminds me that He binds up the brokenhearted and heals their wounds (Psalm 147:3). And that His thoughts aren’t always the same as ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). And that, in the end, the insidious disease called cancer hasn’t really won after all. Our friends have won because now they’re whole and pain-free in heaven (Revelation 21:4).

And, as painful as things might be for those of us left behind, it’s hard to deny them a beautiful eternity. We’ll just look forward to seeing them again someday.

 

 

Categories: God sightings, Scripture verses | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

What I’ve Learned Lately … with Colleen Capes Jackson

Today I’m glad for the chance to introduce Colleen Capes Jackson, director of my local writers group (East Metro Atlanta Christian Writers). Colleen is one of the most even-keel, trusting, generous people I’ve ever known. She’s always helping someone, whether it’s through prayer, teaching, handling more than she ever should, or slipping a couple of dollars to my daughter when she sometimes acts as our “security guard” during meetings. 🙂 Visit Colleen online to learn more about her writing, CDs, and photography.

 

What’s on your mind when you wake up in the morning? For most of us, it’s an agenda that has little room for the unexpected. Getting to work on time, getting kids where they are supposed to be, house and yard work, bills, errands, community, and church . . . all encompassing, right?

Believers struggle with finding time to pray and worship. We feel overpowered by the demands on our life and waddle in a pool of guilt. I struggled with this too until a friend shared something very special with me. Every morning, as soon as she opens her eyes, she says, “Good morning, Father, good morning, Jesus, good morning, Holy Spirit – I love you.”

I adopted her advice and found such a peace that I have continued it for the past twenty years. By acknowledging the blessed Trinity, it opens up a spirit of worship and conversation that last throughout the day.

I now expect the unexpected from God. I look for miracles in my life. I receive sweet acknowledgements that I am never alone. He often sends a refreshing breeze to sweep over me as I walk to my car at the end of the work day. Before, I would have missed that gift altogether because my mind was too busy. By putting our minds in tune with God at the beginning of the day, a sense of peace follows all day long.

My eyes are aware of people in the grocery store who need prayer or a word of encouragement. God opens conversations that tell me he has walked ahead of me and planted a seed that I have been sent to water. A man of humble means was behind me in the store with only a handful of groceries. I stepped aside and allowed him to go ahead of me. He thanked me and we began to talk. He had accepted Christ six months prior and is living a new life of sobriety. He was having a difficult time that day. I had the pleasure of reminding him God loves us and knows our struggles.

I remember to be thankful for running water that I don’t have to tote or boil; for air that I can breathe without need of a mask; for shelter that isn’t a makeshift bed in the woods or under a bridge.

I indulge in the most precious favor of God as I see his hand in my life in the smallest to the most important detail. A parking space opens up just where I need it; finances fall into place; a newly found wisdom helps me to handle a situation that would have otherwise devastated me. When I feel poured out, God refreshes me and I’m bursting with creativity and understanding that I know could not possibly have come from me.

So here’s the challenge. Give your first thoughts to God; get rid of guilt and replace it with God’s amazing love, forgiveness, friendship and guidance. “Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting you. Show me where to walk, for I give myself to you.” Psalm 143:8, NLT

 

Thanks, Colleen, for a wonderful testimony and challenge that can make all our lives better. I’ve started following that line of thinking myself and love how it makes me more aware of God everywhere around me. Anyone else up for giving it a try? If so, we’d love to know about it today and get an update from you down the road about what kind of difference it made in your life.  Thanks for joining us today!

Categories: God sightings, What I've Learned Lately | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments
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