A Christian Walk….on three different decks

The inspiration that comes from the mountains rivals none. At least that’s what I tell my husband when I get the itch to travel. He is inspired by the majestic views himself but he also knows my desire to roam sometimes transcends the truth.

However, this morning the Lord showed me something that made this vacation worth the entire day it took to get here.

Once again, we are nestled in the Blue Ridge mountains in a three-level creekside cabin. The main level, with the deck from which I’m writing now, has the master bedroom and bath, kitchen, den, and covered porches (partially screened, partial open railing. There’s a table with chairs, red rockers, and an outdoor red-cushioned rattan couch set for lounging. Bonus: there’s a pet gate so I can let the dogs out or keep them in and not have to yell their names every three minutes.

The upstairs level is just as nice, with a full bed and bath with glass and tile-shower, a bunk room with beds, two large papasan chairs and a game shelf, and a small but open sundeck with two large red lounge chairs.

The theme of Rock the River lodge is rustic wood and red, it seems, as the centerpiece of the downstairs level is a red felt-topped pool table. Two arcade games holding a variety of games in each, including the ever-popular Pac-man, sit next to the L-shaped sofa. Another bathroom, laundry room, game corner, and mini-kitchen complete this level. Outside this level is a hot tub, giant hardwood swing, red-cloth rattan wicker seating for 8, and a multi-colored hammock. Off of this deck are 200 wooden steps leading down to the rushing river below.

It is in this beautiful hammock where today’s revelation came.

I was on the bottom (terrace) level and decided to move the hammock close to the railing so I could get a little sun and read the latest Kristy Woodson Harvey novel.

The sun was too bright for reading and the hammock of my memories didn’t groan and sink like this one did. I wasn’t off to such a great start. But the sun felt great on my skin so I closed my book and just soaked it up. Because of the pandemic last year, I have only the faint tan lines of summer 2019. Once I shut my eyes, nature took over. The mighty river below combined with the dozens of species of birds making their music was nature’s playlist designed by God Himself.

But other noises kept interfering. The hot tub, for one, was churning on the setting we’d been instructed to leave on. I briefly considered turning it off to eliminate the distraction but I knew I wouldn’t. The birthday between 29 and 30 had somehow turned me from a rebellious rule-breaker to the rule police, indignantly pointing out others’ missteps. Now at 51, I’m a little less confrontational but still very conscientious. There would be no rule-breaking.

There was also a strange smell. Perhaps there was nearby dog excrement. Or maybe that’s just how the river smells. It wasn’t horrendous but for someone whose house smells like a Bath and Body Works outlet, it was distracting.

This is the precise moment I got my revelation.

You are down on the ground, in the world, He said. This is where you can do the most good. You have the sights, the sounds, the smells of the world but I have taught you how to block those out.

He was right. Our homeless ministry was a perfect example. I had to go into the dirtiest places in the world to bring the gospel. When we do funerals, we are ministering in the world but we still hear Him.

I tuned out the extra noises and focused solely on the river and the birds. It wasn’t quite so easy.

I like it better on the main deck, I’d said. It smells nice and I only hear YOUR sounds. It’s peaceful. It’s nice. I just have to give up the sun, the swing, and the hammock.

His Voice came through the breeze….Kinda like your home…..

Huh?

When you operate in your home and the church, which is literally 30 steps away, you are in a protected bubble. It’s your safe place, He explained.

Yes! Exactly!! There are things I don’t have there that I want (like a swimming pool!) but yet everything I need is there. And it’s safe and nice. I can hear You. I start each day listening to your playlist on the front porch rocker. I meditate; I write; I relax. That’s exactly what the main level deck is like.

His next words: And you spend too much time there…..

Wait, what?!

But my spirit knew what He was saying within two seconds. I do stay where it’s safe- both literally and figuratively. I spend a lot of time where it’s comfortable in my walk with Him as well as in my ministry. One of the perks- and subsequent downside- of a writing ministry is that it’s so peaceful one can easily turn agoraphobic.

Even the top deck was a perfect example of this reluctance to move out of my comfort zone.

I’d checked it out when we first arrived. It was the highest perch in the house. It was small; not many could be up there at once. It had a gorgeous view and the warmth of direct sunlight. The reclining outdoor loungers were bright and inviting. But a previous guest had allowed a large shaggy dog to sit on the chairs and there was pet hair everywhere. I tried to wipe it off with a washcloth but it was going to take more than a simple wipe. I understood why there was an extra $50 charge for removing pet hair. That was going to take some work.

Unfortunately they’d missed it and I decided it wasn’t worth the extra work to do it myself so I went back downstairs.

But lying on that hammock, I realized that this was just another example of me keeping myself stuck in the middle.

Not only did I not want to go down into the world, I didn’t want to put in the work to go UP either. (I did, however, go back after this revelation and scrubbed the chairs if only to show the Lord I was willing.)

Three decks, three levels of worship.

The down and dirty, convergence of good and bad, bottom level is where ministry and service to others resides. I need to spend more time here.

The upper level, where you are alone with Christ in mountaintop worship, requires a little extra work. It’s worth the effort. I need to spend more time here.

The middle level, in what we call the secret of his tabernacle (Psalm 27:5), is where we abide with the Lord in a place of shelter. We are set upon a rock and He watches over and protects us. This is a beautiful place and one we should access easily. But I need to spend a little less time here.

I hope your week is going well and that you take time for a vacation, even if it’s dragging your favorite chair under the big oak tree in your backyard for ten minutes and letting God show you the playlist He created just for you.

Rest the Body; Rejuvenate the Soul

I’m not a real big fan of these 4 AM mornings.

I definitely like it when I’ve worked, exercised, cleaned my house, and caught up on emails by 9 AM though. So there’s a definite trade-off.

BUT, after I’ve been awake for 12 hours, I get pretty tired. Especially if I only got 4-5 hours sleep the night before.

Such was the case last week.

To top it off, we’ve recently started a mid-week service on Tuesday nights at 6 PM so I knew I wouldn’t get to bed early nor was I allowed to let sleepy Gigi out. (Note: She makes a hangry Betty White look like an angel. If you don’t have a tv, eat Snickers, or know how to tie your shoes yet, you can just skip over that one.)

Anyway, I was needing a nap.

I was much like a cranky toddler, to be honest, nearing tantrum levels and very much about to cry. There was no way I was going to make it through a church service, with a gift of hospitality on full display, without one.

But I had two loads of laundry on my bed that I hadn’t gotten to, not to mention that, because of my “I’m not sick” husband who’s been running a fever of 102, I’d stripped the sheets and Lysol-ed the bed. (Can I verbalize Lysol? Can I verbalize verb, for that matter?)

I looked longingly at my bed. Who needs sheets, right? And it’s a king-size bed, so the unfolded socks and shirts can have half and I’ll take the other half. Right?

No way. My parents won’t believe this as my bedroom resembled a war zone growing up but I could never sleep knowing the bed was like this. No matter how tired I was. So I folded the clothes and remade the bed.

I had just thrown the fabric softener sheets in the kitchen trash can and was headed to my long-awaited bed when one of our pastors needed my help with something on his laptop. No problem. Of course, I live in the country and wi-fi is as slow as molasses, but after about an hour, I finally got the program loaded. In fact, it had made its way to 93% and my whole body was relaxing in anticipation of crawling into a bed with freshly laundered sheets when…

The doorbell rang.

One of our church members, one who is far better at gospel outreach than anyone in our church, myself included, wanted to order some more outreach booklets. He can throw the Word out there but he doesn’t do computers so I helped him order everything he needed.

While doing that, the UPS deliveryman brought a box filled with the new promotional materials for the church that I’d ordered last week. I was excited to go through the box as I know that there are so many unchurched, unconnected people in our community.

By the time everyone left, it had been two hours since I was initially headed to take my nap and yet, I felt strangely good. To be honest, I couldn’t understand it. I should’ve been cranky or aggravated. At the very least, I should’ve been really, really tired. But I was none of those things.

“I feel good,” I told the Lord. “Like, I know that helping them was more important than me getting a nap, but what is this I’m feeling inside?”

His answer?

As clear as a cloudless day, I heard Him: Rest is good to restore your body but ministry rejuvenates your soul.

Indeed!

(And I still got a 20-minute power nap before church!)

MINISTRY UPDATE

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It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a ministry update so I thought I’d let you know what I have been doing and where my focus(es) currently lie:

  • Homeless: Our work with the homeless reached an exciting near-conclusion and has shifted primarily to emergency situations, hospitalization needs/visits, and drug/alcohol rehabilitation. In 2017, I led a documentary crew through Tent City as we talked about how we got Veteran Homelessness down to 0% in South Mississippi. (Power Ministries housed the last veteran after many trips to the VA in Biloxi. He is still doing well!) Through filming, many people saw the no-longer nameless faces of the homeless and EVERY SINGLE PERSON in Tent City was offered housing. We were able to work with a local organization to turn over the day-to-day needs for new and returning homeless to the area, though we are still in touch with many of the men and women we’d grown close too. (Sadly, we have also conducted 7 funerals as well. It is a hard life and we pray daily for those still out there.) I am also still serving as chair for the governing council of the Open Doors Homeless Coalition.

 

  • Drug/Alcohol Rehabs: We minister at the local Christian-based drug and alcohol rehabs in South Mississippi and Mobile, Alabama weekly. We receive 5-6 calls per week asking for help in securing a bed to one of these facilities.                         NEEDS: Snack cakes (we hand out approximately 100 a week)

 

  • Senior Citizens/Nursing Home Residents: I currently have a list of 479 people in South Mississippi and Mobile, AL who are in nursing homes and live-in rehabilitation centers without any visitors. EVER. (I discovered this when I went with a church member to visit her mom- a woman MY AGE with physical and mental disabilities- in a facility and learned that 35 of the residents NEVER had visitors. I started visiting when I could and later added another facility. When my sister-in-law went into a similar facility in Mobile for a short period and I saw all of the people there who had no family to visit, I was devastated. I realized my reaction was a call to do something and I began visiting every facility within a 75-mile radius and compiling a list of those who had no visitors.) As of right now, I am just visiting empty-handed, but I have written a book that is being published to hand out on my visits in the (hopefully) near future. The book will be a tool for sharing the Gospel. I am writing as many Christmas cards as I can to hand out before the 25th but will switch over to Happy New Year cards to ensure everyone gets a card!!
  • NEEDS: Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, Easter, or GENERAL greeting cards

 

We also have continued our online ministry tools (Facebook, websites, blogging) as well as a (pre-recorded) weekly radio sermon each Sunday out of Lucedale, Mississippi. Dale conducts a Pastor’s Bible Study every Tuesday and we try to host a young couple or family each week for dinner to minister and fellowship with. We believe it’s important for us to help others along the road we once traveled.

I am still writing and have found a publisher for my book Pruning With Proverbs. It will come out in 2021, along with Seeds of Glory, the book mentioned above. I have a few other children’s books I’m searching for a publisher for. It is a long process! But in the meantime, I’ve received my TEFL and will begin teaching online English courses in January. I’m excited for the new direction, both in ministry and in how the Lord is providing.

If you can help with either of the needs listed above, please send them to me at: Power Ministries, 14701 Lily Orchard Rd. Moss Point, MS 39562. Thank you for your continued love and supportt.