Woman on Fire

I smelled something funny and realized it was me—on fire. I’ve only literally been on fire three times.  The first was as a bridesmaid when my sleeve came too close to a candelabra.  Fortunately, the sleeve sizzled a bit…but the flame just sort of melted the fabric. I’m grateful, as this could have been quite the distraction if I’d had to start rolling down the aisle.

The second time happened when I was blowing out birthday candles…and forgot to pull back my hair. (Singed a few that day—one of the hazards of aging and more candles).

The third was (spoiler alert: Not for the faint of stomach) when I had a tubal ligation while under local anesthesia and inquired about the source of “that burning smell”—only to be told it was part of my anatomy. Special. Actually, I suppose my catheter ablation from a few years ago would qualify as a fourth “inner fire” experience.

So, Saturday night while at a concert listening to a song my friend Amy Black wrote (and sang) entitled “Woman on Fire”—the title caught my attention. While the song was actually about a swooning Elvis Presley fan, as I brought this thought into the spiritual realm I asked myself if I was (am), in fact, a woman on fire.

Ask yourself, along with me:

Do I live my life (yes, even doing good and right things) just habitually? Or do I live it with passion in my soul?

Do I look forward (in eager and faithful expectation) to seeing God work in ways that are beyond what I dare ask and imagine?
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,
to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
(Eph. 3:20-21)

And speaking of this, what exactly do I ask…and imagine—not to mention DARE to ask or imagine?

And, do those around me feel the heat (or see evidence of my faith)?

I’m reminded of a scripture that speaks to these questions.  A scripture written to Christians:

“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.
I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!
So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”
Rev. 3:14-16

Yikes. What a challenging scripture.

I pray to be more and more a “woman on fire”.  I can too easily cool off.

So, how can we “catch on fire” spiritually?

  1. Stand close to the flame:  Just like my sleeve, I’ve got to stand close to the flame. If I don’t spend time with God, there is no way I can become or stay passionate and faithful. (2 Tim. 1:5-9)
  1. Don’t pull back: My hair caught fire because I didn’t carefully pull it back.  Likewise, I’ll catch fire if I don’t pull back my heart and my faith. And that’s a fire I need. It’s all too easy to become careful, safe, and comfortable—pulling back our hearts.  I must continually overcome fear and step out in new areas of faith to be a “woman on fire”. (Matthew 22:37-40)
  1. Let the Spirit’s fire penetrate and refine: Like the experience with my tubal and my heart cauterization, I must do more than “watch” the fire. I’ve got to let it go deep into my soul, allowing it to transform me. There will likely be fear and some pain for this to happen…but it’s necessary for growth.  (1 Peter 1:3-9)

How desperately we need to be fueled by the Spirit of God— and how desperately the world needs to see our fire.0001-27341311

There is a candle in every soul, some brightly burning, some dark and cold

There is a Spirit who brings a fire

Ignites his candle and makes His home…

So carry your candle, run to the darkness, seek out the helpless, confused and torn

Hold out your candle, for all to see it

Take your candle, and go light your world.

…Cause we’re a family whose hearts are blazing, So let’s raise our candles and light up the sky

Praying to our Father, in the name of Jesus

Make us a beacon, in darkest times.   (from Go Light Your World by Chris Rice)

Troubles and Treasures of Travel

I have come to realize that I am a home-body.  Yet, for years my job has required travel.  A number of years ago we (my husband and I) worked with a ministry in our church that served the poor throughout numerous under-developed countries. It is impossible to do this without physically going to these places, seeing the needs and getting to know the people. That required travel.  Now, as part of a different assignment, we work with churches in various places – for strengthening and training purposes.  I am humbled and grateful to be able to serve in this way, and grateful for the experiences and training we have received which enable us to give back in some way.  However, I don’t like to travel.

As I write this I’m still about 4 hours from Boston, just below Iceland.  My computer is sliding all over my lap, as we have hit some turbulence.  Hopefully, writing will distract me more than make me sick.  My palms will sweat…they always do when in turbulence.   I so wish I was one who loves to travel.  Alas, I am not.  There are many trials in travel. Though I always try to be very careful, I’ve managed to get food poisoning in the Philippines, Mexico, India, Romania and most recently on another trip to Eastern Europe.  Those moments were quite simply – horrible. Most times when traveling I can’t sleep at night, and during the day must try to prod my body out of its deep sleep rhythm.  Given our time away is usually fairly short, we meet with people from early morning until late at night. Travel involves more than the actual time away. There is preparation before leaving and catching up when getting home.  While away from my home church family, there are responsibilities that need to be covered.

Then there is the actual transit part of travel – early mornings, traffic, taking off many items of clothing and getting x-rayed, buying a five dollar cup of coffee – and then finding your tiny little seat.  ( I am quite sure that airplane seats are made for people under 5 feet tall who weigh less than 90 pounds.)  Usually your luggage goes with you, but not always.  Once I chuckled when I saw various articles of clothing and toiletries coming across the luggage claim conveyer belt.  I thought about the poor person whose article these were and wondered what happened to their luggage – that is until I started recognizing the articles.  Yes, they were mine.  My suitcase had been run over by the loaders and was utterly destroyed.

The hardest part of travel is being away from family. When my children were still at home many arrangements had to be made for their care and needs. I tried to travel as little as possible during that time period. It was hard to be away from them and all that they were involved with.  Now that our children are grown I thought it would be much easier.  I would only need to arrange care for the dogs.

It is much easier, but it’s still hard to be away. Last fall I cut a trip short when my daughter went into the hospital with early labor, the day after her son was admitted to the hospital for a bad case of croup.  Yesterday, as I was preparing to eat dinner with friends, I got a call informing me that my newest granddaughter had been in an accident and was on her way via ambulance to Children’s Hospital.  Needless to say, I ate no dinner and many prayers were offered on her behalf.  She had a slight brain bleed, which was very scary. (She is doing fine and  home from the hospital. Thank you, God!)  It is so very hard to be away in times like these.  I feel so helpless.  Yet, I am comforted to know that wherever I go I can join hands in prayer with the Christians around me, and at any given time and place access the creator of the universe, who happens to be my Father.  And that’s just what I did.

So, why do I keep doing this travel?  I ask myself this question often and keep coming back with the same answer.

In Luke 12 Jesus tells a poignant parable about seeking God’s kingdom first, instead of going after worldly pursuits.  He tells us to be ready for his return, to care for the poor, to have faith and focus that calls us to act…and to trust that God will provide what we need.  As if I’m not already convicted enough….at  the end of this parable is a most challenging verse – Luke 12:48

    From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

God showers blessings upon us, though sometimes in our pursuit of other things we can miss the blessings.  I think of things I have been given…forgiveness of sins, a clear conscience, direction for how to live life, God’s power living in me, countless promises, and eternal life (to name just a few). I have been given years of training in learning the scriptures as well as learning how apply them. I have an amazing, Godly husband and incredible children who love God wholeheartedly and are training their children to do so as well. They are best friends to me and to each other.  I  have a son who grew up in one of these underdeveloped countries.  He has taught me a new way of thinking and understanding for which I am grateful and blessed. I have a loving church family and dear friends. I have a warm home, running hot water, plenty of food and everything I need.  I have been able to connect with and meet so many wonderful people, as well as see the many needs that exist throughout the world.   I have been given much, and deeply desire that more and more people all over the world can know these same blessings.

I’m glad I wrote this.  It reminded me again why I do what I do.  As I unpack my suitcase, I will remember these amazing blessings and next month when I pack it again strive to remember and be forever grateful for the spiritual treasures God has given me to “carry in my suitcase”.  Bon Voyage!

The Red “X”

For days now – months actually, I’ve driven by these two trees.  I always notice them, as each one displays a big red “X” on its trunk.  I’ve wondered if the markings were graffiti, or if the trees were diseased and needed treatment, or if they were perhaps marked for cutting.  However, I surmised that if they were to be cut down, they would not need large red X’s to distinguish them – as they were the only trees in this particular front yard.

Each time I went by these trees I became more curious.  They were singled out.  But why?  What did they do to deserve this big red X?  Why were they seemingly chosen?

After driving by this site for so long, I decided two days ago that I would take a picture of these trees, as they were beginning to teach me lessons.  I was learning each time I cruised by.  So, armed with my camera I pulled into the driveway beside the trees and rolled (pushed the button actually) down the window of my car.  The wind was blowing, and I heard a wonderfully sweet, melodic sound coming from one of the branches.  I explored further to find that wind chimes were producing this beautiful sound.   It was a lovely moment, as I sat listening to the song from the red X’d tree as I snapped its picture.   I felt sort of strangely attached to these trees that had taken my attention.

Today I drove back down this road, only to be stopped by a police officer directing traffic.  Two large trucks were in the road and a few branches were scattered here and there.

“My” trees were gone!  Kapoom!….Gone!…Nothing left!   In my personalization of these trees, I hoped they were marked because they were “chosen” for something special.   Sometimes being chosen feels good, and sometimes it’s hard.  I think of the scripture in John 15:19

    If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.

God has, in a sense, put a big red “X” on me.  Through the blood of Jesus, he chose me to be his daughter.  He chose me to be part of his family, and to live with him and be loved by him.  That feels really good.  Yet, when we live for God, the world doesn’t understand.  That sometimes doesn’t feel good.

In a way, each of us is marked with a red “X”.  God has chosen each of us; however we must decide to choose God in order to have a relationship with Him.  We can’t choose God and the world.  We belong to one or the other.   Jesus gives a sobering lesson using the visual of a tree.  Matthew 7:17-19

    Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. [18] A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. [19] Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

This makes me all the more eager to guard my heart, so that it will bear good fruit.  Prov. 4:23 NRSV  23 Keep your heart with all vigilance,  for from it flow the springs of life.

As long as I am standing I pray that, like the wind chimes in the tree, a melody from the fruits of God’s Spirit can come from my life – and that it is pleasing and delightful to Him.  “My” tree with the red X may be gone, but I’d like to think many a home can be warmed by the wood it produced.  Like the wood that comes from that tree, I long to be useful in fueling the spark that ignites and warms human hearts for Him.