Living in Faith

What Driftwood Taught Me About Myself

IMG_0740A couple of weeks ago my husband and I enjoyed a belated anniversary getaway while the kids were out of town with my parents. We went to Fernandina Beach/Amelia Island, Fla., and relaxed for two days by wandering through shops in the historic district, feasting on fabulous seafood, and sunning on what was practically a private beach at Little Talbot Island State Park.

One of my favorite things about the beach was our time spent walking along the shore. An infinite array of shells covered the sand, a rainbow of every color and in every size.

IMG_0745But as much as I love shells, the best beach treasure for me was the sections of driftwood scattered around. Stark and white from the weather’s bleaching, they reached in all sorts of directions as if they were trying to scrape the brilliant blue sky.
Some were simple – just a couple of straight branches like a slingshot. Others were a tangle of intricate knots.

They were all beautiful and they all fascinated me in their own way, even though they are long dead and no longer have flowers or leaves to rustle in the sea breeze.

It took a while for me to figure out why they fascinated me so. After all, they were leftover parts of dead trees.

Then I decided that was partly why I liked them. They used to be part of something else, something bigger and fully alive. Then something happened to break them away from the rest of the tree and leave them stranded on the beach.

IMG_0753How many times has the same sort of thing happened in my life? I make my lists and map out my plans and think I know exactly how things are going to happen. Then – just like with the driftwood – something happens and changes everything I was expecting.

I’ve been through that scenario more times than I can count, in both my personal and professional lives. The issue quickly becomes a question of how I handle the surprise and upheaval. Do I distance myself from others who might want to help me in a hard time and become hard and brittle? Or do I remold myself and let the twists and turns become part of a new me instead of something I fight?

I’d like to say I’ve learned to always adapt to the new version of things and become a beautiful reinvention like the driftwood. But if I said that, I’d be lying.

IMG_0754I probably will always be a list-maker and a plan-mapper. I just need to learn to not be quite so married to those lists and plans because they can change in half a heartbeat. I can’t be paralyzed like those branches, still reaching for things that are no longer in my grasp. Instead, I need to be open to God’s leading and be flexible enough to adapt and find joy in whatever He sends my way.

It’s not always easy. But if I ask for God’s help and keep working at it, I can be beautiful wherever God puts me. Just like the driftwood.

Your turn: When was the last time God changed your perfectly-laid plans and sent you in a new direction? How did you adapt and still show His beauty?

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

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
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