Refreshed and Renewed

"God doesn't come and go. God lasts.
He's Creator of all you can see or imagine.
He doesn't get tired out, doesn't pause to catch his breath.
And he knows everything, inside and out.
He energizes those who get tired,
gives fresh strength to dropouts.
For even young people tire and drop out,
young folk in their prime stumble and fall.
But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.
They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don't get tired,
they walk and don't lag behind."
Isaiah 40:28-31 (MSG)

Where do you go to find refreshment and renewal?

What place do you feel closest to God?

For me, that place is Cherry Grove Beach, South Carolina.

I've always loved the beach in general, but this particular beach holds a special place in my heart. It was on this stretch of beach in June of 2001 that I was walking alone and had an honest talk with God, Creator of the Universe, and My Heavenly Father.

At age 30, with two small children, ages 4 and 1, I had come to terms with my new life as a single mom. My divorce would be finalized in just a few short weeks and I could not fathom what my future held. It was there on that beach that I surrendered it ALL to the One who had become my All in All.

I remember holding onto Jeremiah 29:11-13, though I now adore The Message translation:

"I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I'll listen. When you come looking for me, you'll find me. Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I'll make sure you won't be disappointed."

And He did not disappoint.

He amazed me instead.

The Point at Cherry Grove is a place we (my family and I) always walk - the end of the stretch of beach. Just across the way is Waite's Island. It is gorgeous, still mostly untouched by construction. Only a few fishermen with their boats, rods, and tackle boxes line its natural shores.

One of my most favorite places on earth!

This past weekend my husband and I took a quick trip to Cherry Grove Beach and we enjoyed some much needed rest, quality time, and spiritual conversation.

It has become our "bridge the gap" trip between winter and spring! We come back refreshed and renewed, ready to tough it through any last bit of harsh, frigid weather before spring arrives in full bloom.

With that, I am reminded that God is able to bridge the gap between our cold, dark, uncertain seasons into our new, promising, full blooming seasons of growth.

He is the One we must look to for constant renewal and refreshment. Beach trips are wonderful opportunities to celebrate God's breathtaking creation and enjoy His presence, but even if you can't make it to the beach periodically, find a quiet, relaxing spot to spend some time in His Word, talking to Him, listening to Him - just seeking Him with all your heart.

Rest in Him. Bask in His presence like soaking up the sun on a warm, late winter day!

He will refresh you spiritually and you will return ready to soar!

Father God, Help me to remember when I grow weary, when I become tired and overwhelmed, when I simply do not see a light at the end of the tunnel, You are there. You re-energize me spiritually and I am able to rest in You. I take great comfort in knowing that You are the One with the plan and You "bridge the gap" between the known and the unknown. Your ways are always higher and better than mine! I thank You for the special place where I am reminded of Your faithfulness.

Seeking Comfort at The Master's Feet

"...He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided and all was calm." Luke 8:24

Loyal, loving, and totally dependent on me, my Shih Tzu, Bo, follows me around the house at all times. He anxiously waits for my every move. If I temporarily stand in my house, whether it be in conversation with someone, or if I stop briefly and have an A-D-D moment (trying to remember what I was going to do in the next room), he is there. Constantly at my feet trying to anticipate my next move.

He is parked at my feet right now as I sit at my computer at type. In fact, a few months ago I finally broke down and bought my four-legged child an extra doggie bed to put under the desk so that he can lay comfortably at my feet.

However, Bo is also a scaredy cat when the wind takes it up a notch. Sometimes during the night, when there is only a faint howling in the breeze, the shutters gently beat against the house, and the wind chimes make a midnight melody, Bo is awake, anxious and afraid.

He pants heavily and constantly; he paws on me, he walks back and forth on the bed with us, and yes, he even "talks" to me. You know, he wants to bark to get my attention, but is smart enough to know that is not a wise move while everyone is in a state of slumber.

Finally, after several sleepless nights, I asked the veterinarian if there was anything I could give Bo to help calm his little nerves. Believe it or not, I now give my dog Xanax, the antidepressant for canines!

Now when the breeze blows a little bolder in the late night hours, Bo can literally take a chill pill and sleep with the rest of us. Funny, though he still ends up at my feet, under the covers. And I kind of enjoy the snuggly, furry foot warmer as long as he is still breathing!

Apparently, that is where Bo is most comforted, at the feet of his master.

Isn't that where we should find our comfort as well?

Sitting at the feet of Jesus, The Master, is exactly where Mary was in Luke 10:38-42 - the story of Mary and Martha. While Martha was distracted, Mary was sitting quietly, drinking it all in.

Of course Jesus says, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." (vs. 41-42)

Just a couple of chapters before this scene, the disciples and Jesus were on a boat in a storm at sea. Jesus was sleeping soundly, but the disciples were awake and fearful. They woke him saying, "Master, Master, we're going to drown!" Luke 8:24

Of course, Jesus calmed the wind and the sea...and asked, "Where is your faith?" (Luke 8:25)

When the high winds of life blow and things get rough and stormy, where do I go? I know where I should go. But am I more like Martha? Do I get upset, frustrated, aggravated with circumstances and people?

Or do I choose to kneel at the feet of Jesus and find my comfort?

Another important point for me to remember is that the time Mary spent with the Lord, Jesus said, will not be taken away from her. How important then, is our time spent at the feet of the Master even before the thunder begins to rumble and the lighting ever strikes? It is a relationship that sustains through difficult patterns of weather and seasons in our life.

Lord, help me to long for my Master and constantly abide in Him (John 15:9 NASB), and choose daily to follow You (John 10:27 NASB). Just as a little dog simply wants to be with and follow his master, may I make it a habit to sit at your feet every day. And may the first thing I do is fall at your feet and lay it all down when the storms of life begin to blow.

(c) Christy Long. All Rights Reserved.

Make Me a Hot Cup of Coffee

"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." Revelation 3:15-16 (NIV)

A revelation on Revelation...This will probably be one of several blog posts you will see from me in the coming weeks on the Book of Revelation. Currently, I am doing the Beth Moore study - Here and Now...There and Then and I am really enjoying it. That much as one can enjoy any study on Revelation!

This book is important to me for a couple of reasons.

First, I have always been fascinated with end times events or eschatology. Now, let me pause a moment to make a disclaimer: IN NO WAY WILL I ATTEMPT TO PREDICT END TIMES EVENTS, but I do get excited about studying prophecy found in God's Word about events yet to take place. Mainly, because when I study them, it motivates me to DO more, to SHARE more, to LOVE more, and to PRAY more!

Second, this is the book that stirred my soul to a point of urgency during the summer of 1999, while participating in a Wednesday evening study with a very special interim pastor. It was time to make a decision to settle any doubts I had about my own salvation. Although I had believed in Jesus as far back as I could remember, I confessed and repented of my sins and obediently followed in a sweet baptism on a beautiful Sunday morning in June.

Salt and light, the words that dear pastor spoke as he sprinkled salt from a shaker into my hands and gently led me back into the warm water. To be the salt of the earth and light of the world that Jesus described in Matthew 5:13-16.

In the Book of Revelation, John, the beloved disciple, now an old man in exile on the island of Patmos, receives a vision and instructions for writing 7 letters to 7 churches - letters from God, so to speak. The church in Laodicea is the last of the 7 churches, in which he addresses, "I know your deeds, that you are neither cold or not. 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." Revelation 3:15-16 (NIV)

It is important to mention that not only was Laodicea an actual church back in the day, but it is representative of the last church age, which many believe we are experiencing today. But on a more personal note, it is also meant to be individually applied.

As children of God, we are to be different and stand out in this bland, dark world. Not to merely blend in with the culture...and certainly not to be "holier than thou" self-righteous Christians that turn others away. But rather to live our life and love people in a way that points others to Christ. According to one Bible commentary, "they had one foot in the church and one foot in the world and were, therefore, ineffective believers." (The Easy-To-Read Commentary Series)

As I reflect on this Revelation passage, I remember hearing a sermon several years ago by our pastor at the time, the late Dr. Mark Corts, that has always stuck with me. A hot cup of coffee or a cold glass of iced tea is refreshing...but has you ever picked up your coffee cup and taken in a big mouthful of coffee only to find with dismay that it had become lukewarm? Yuck!

Do you not want to spit it out of your mouth as quickly as possible? And if for some reason I should feel the need to force it down, it literally provokes in me a chilly, spastic type of reaction, as I cannot wait to get the disgusting taste out of my mouth!

On the other hand, there are few things that satisfy and provide as much stimulation and enjoyment as a fresh, steaming hot cup of bold coffee each morning. How I look forward to that first cup as soon as my feet touch the cold hardwoods!

I don't want to simply go through the motions of my Christian life with a love for Jesus and for others that is merely lukewarm. How repulsive this must be to God!

I don't want to lose my saltiness...I don't want my light to become dim or faint in this dark world.

I want to be piping hot, on fire for the Lord! Living my life with the purpose God intended for me, so that I'm ready when Revelation is fulfilled.

So where is the comfort you might ask? The comfort is in the promise..."To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on the throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne." Revelation 3:21 (NIV)

I want to be an overcomer! What about you?

Lord, make me like a hot cup of coffee...Forgive me when I have missed opportunities to represent You and weakly blended into the world instead. Help me to be filled each morning not only with my favorite K-cup, but with Your indwelling Holy Spirit. May I be as excited and stimulated as I drink in Your Word while I sip on my coffee. And may I not be ashamed in the way I share be bold for You in a culture of political correctness and diversity in which the Bible is often unpopular and even mocked...may I be bolder than my favorite blend.

(c) Christy Long. All Rights Reserved.

Better than a Box of Chocolates

It's one of Forrest Gump's famous mama quotes, "Life is like a box of chocolates...because you never know what you're gonna get."

Reflecting this Valentine's Day about one of the most common sweetheart gifts other than roses - a box of chocolates. Did you receive one? I did not, but I bought 3 small ones for my kids and I'm hoping they will share! Guess I'm a little optimistic!

I'm wondering, if you had to describe your life today with a piece of chocolate, what type would it be? The delightfully satisfying, mouthwatering chewy caramel? The exciting rich, dark chocolate with exotic coconut on the inside? Contentment as with a comfortable peanut butter cup? Or maybe do you feel like you got stuck with the yucky flavored nougat?

Sometimes life's box of chocolates gives us wonderful surprises, but there are also those not so great or just downright devastating events that can feel like a shock to the soul. There are also just times where we feel like we keep getting stuck with the least favorite in the entire assortment and we either have to choke it down or spit it out. Neither is any fun and we're left with tainted taste buds.

Whatever it is you are facing, may I offer a little encouragement this Valentine's Day? God is not surprised by anything you are going through in your life.

Did you know that God knows the story of your entire life? He's knows the beginning and the end and everything that happens in between. Psalm 139 says, "all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."

Did you know also that He goes ahead of us in all that we do? Deuteronomy 31:8 reminds us, "The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed."

But perhaps most importantly, on a day where every other cubicle in your office may be flaunting red roses or balloons, and whether you received any chocolates or roses or a teddy bear, I want you to know that the God of the Universe loves you more than you could even imagine. And His love is not like any human love we have ever experienced.

Proverbs 20:6 states, "Many claim to have unfailing love, but a faithful person who can find?

Of course that doesn't mean that no one can ever be faithful to us here on earth...that is God's perfect design for marriage. But unfortunately sometimes people hurt us and disappoint us because after all, people are human.

God's love is unfailing and he wants us to make sure that we know it because it's referenced 32 times in Scripture. (I learned this from a Beth Moore devotional, Breaking Free Day by Day) and I have looked up every one of those references!

Our God is an awesome God who loves each one of us and desires for each one of us to be His special Valentine. He is the One we can count on year after year, day after day!

May you delight yourself in the Lord this Valentine's Day!

For His Glory,
Christy Long

(c) Christy Long 2011. All Rights Reserved.