When worship is a kayak

Our new kayaks ready for the maiden voyage!

It was everything I’d hoped for. And between you and me, I’d built it up like crazy. For the past nine months—ever since posting a blog about my craving to purchase a kayak —the thought of being on the water seemed like the logical answer to any stressor. Not an answer, mind you. THE answer, without question.

Then today it happened: two kayaks actually  belonging to us pushed off from shore, and suddenly my husband and I were in the midst of everything beautiful.That’s how I felt, anyway. No more spectating from afar, no siree. Waves rippling, fish jumping, herons soaring—we were now up close and personal, practically part of them. And it was cool. Really, really cool.

My view as Bill paddled ahead of me.

As Bill paddled ahead of me (he craves exercise; I do not understand this), the peace of God washed over me. His goodness, realized in this simple, picturesque setting, was overwhelming. I was close to grateful tears. Why? Not sure. But before I’d rounded the first bend of that bayou, prayers of thanks flooded my head: God’s love (it’s so BIG); His forgiveness (it’s so PERMANENT); and His faithfulness (it’s so REASSURING) were as real to me as a blue April sky .

Then it hit me: This desire for a kayak didn’t come from me. It wasn’t a hankering for fun or a distraction from stress. For almost a year, the Lord Himself had steadily called me to these waters. He was inviting me for one reason: life-giving, God-honoring worship. And it was good. Really, really good.

The scenery on our first kayak excursion was breathtaking!

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“The LORD is a great God and a great King above all gods, in whose hand are the depths of the earth. . . . The sea is His, for it was He who made it, and His hands formed the dry land. Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker, for He is our God.” Psalm 95:3-7

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Want to check out my first kayak post from nine months ago? Here you go: https://worthydaughters.wordpress.com/2016/06/20/a-nap-is-not-a-kayak/

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Holiness among us

christmas-ornamentBefore Bethlehem, shepherds, and wise men with gifts, there was Jesus. He’s simply always been, residing with the Father in a glorious place. And while He might have stayed there forever, He didn’t. Instead, for thirty-three years, our Lord left His home for an earthly journey; He faced rejection and death. So why would God’s Son choose to do such a thing? The answer astounds me, even now: To save a dying world.

He appeared on that very first Christmas night looking a lot like us—two eyes, ten fingers, ten toes. But Jesus was more than an ordinary baby; He was also extraordinary God. Can you imagine such holiness among us? Can you fathom the King’s humble birth? But there He was, the Lord of Lords, sleeping in a manger, growing up a carpenter, sitting with sinners, and dying on a cross. Why would God’s Son endure all that suffering? In a word, love.

But here are some tidings of joy: His loving sacrifice triumphed! The Christ Child who died as a Suffering Servant is now our Risen Lord. He resides once more with the Father in Heaven where angels bless His name. Can you almost feel their awe? Can you almost hear their praise? “Glory to God in the Highest!” they shout in multitudes of worship.

And we worship Jesus, too. Just as Mary held tight to her Miracle. Just as shepherds ran to their Messiah. Just as wise men brought gifts for the Master. Today, tomorrow, and forevermore, we adore Him, Christ the Lord.

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At the name of Jesus every knee should bow,

In Heaven and on earth and under the earth,

And every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,

To the glory of the Father.

~Philippians 2:10-11 (New Living Translation)

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A little bit of glory

A little bit of God's glory in my own backyard, 2013.

An impressive display of God’s glory in my own backyard, 2013.

Isn’t it just like God to announce His presence when we least expect it? To demonstrate His clear power on an ordinary Thursday? Or in the midst of what’s dreary and downright depressing? In my humble opinion, it’s one of His sweetest attributes. And it happened to me this morning.

You see, life lately has been a tad gloomy. And like many reading this blog, more questions abound than answers. But as I heard long ago, when we’re not sure what to do, we must do what we know. And what I know is that God’s Word is life.

So around 6:00 I opened my Bible. Next up in my “Read It in a Year” plan? Chapters 42-43 of Ezekiel. Silent sighs. Ezekiel’s vision of a man measuring the future Temple continued, and I’m admittedly uninspired by numbers. Regardless of today’s content, though, I readied myself for more Temple stats.

Then it hit. From seemingly nowhere, in the middle of architectural minutiae like “the area was 875 feet on each side with a wall around it,” the Glory hit. Glory with a capital G, and besides an undeniable encounter in my own living room (more on that shortly), Ezekiel saw it, too: “Suddenly, the glory of the God of Israel appeared from the east. The sound of His coming was like the roar of rushing waters, and the whole landscape shone with His glory….I fell face down on the ground” (43:2-3).

That “face to the ground” posture is familiar. It’s how believers respond when the Glory comes. The reverence, the worship, the sheer gratefulness that a Sovereign God sees us—simply overwhelming. Is He always there? Yes. Is He always working on our behalf? Yes again. But sometimes, in the middle of our dry-and-despondent days, we need extra-special, Spirit-filled reassurance. And He’s all too willing to shine.

Ezekiel got glimpses of Glory. I did, too. Today, as the words of this Old Testament encounter sank in, another thought suddenly emerged. My eyes blurred with tears. Now, think what you will, but this internal dialogue happened next:

God: “Do you trust Me?”

Me: “Yes, Lord.”

God: “Have I ever let you down?”

Me. “No, Lord. You’ve always seen me through.”

God: “Will you stop trusting me now?”

Me: “Why would I, Lord? Your plan is perfect. You’re all I have.”

God: “Then focus solely on Me.”

And just like that, I was back. Well, face down in worship, but I was back. Still full of questions, still facing day-to-day stuff, but different: Serene. Steady. Strong.

I picked up my Bible to finish today’s reading. Little known fact: did you realize that gutters around the future Temple altar will be 21 inches deep and 21 inches wide? (Ezekiel 43:13). 🙂 Better yet, do you realize that God’s glory is available to all? That He’ll show Himself to you? Even in the drab—especially in the darkness—His radiance permeates all.

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For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair; persecuted but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

(2 Corinthians 4:6-9)

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The one thing I’d say

I snapped this photo of college student Elena spending time alone with her Lord.

I snapped this photo of college student Elena spending time alone with her Lord.

“What’s one piece of advice you’d give Christian girls in their teens or young twenties?” Tough question, even for someone like me who’s spent decades sharing Bible wisdom. And honestly, deciding how to answer the email proved tough; after all, scripture is filled with life-changing truth for Jesus-following girlies. So which one spiritual nugget did I choose to say?

First, two likely contenders that didn’t make the cut:

I almost said this one thing: Believe it when God says you’re valuable, a treasure. You are beautifully clean and worthy, thanks to Him, so ignore the world’s lies and cling to God’s acceptance.

But I needed to add some caution: Yes, we Jesus girls are worthy because of His sacrifice. But we could unintentionally make this truth more about us than Him. If we spend too much time pursuing validation that’s already been given, then we become distracted, self-serving. The question of our value is settled; we’re just fine, thanks to Christ. So let’s keep the focus where it belongs, on the One who made us worthy.

Then I almost said this thing: Everything will work out as it’s supposed to; ask God for direction, and He’ll come through.

But I felt the need to clarify: Yes, God has a good plan and will guide us in realizing it; but it’s His good plan. So what does He desire? According to scripture, God wants us to know Him intimately and to give Him glory. He wants us to love Him and others. And He promises strength, joy, and contentment, even when life gets hard. So when we pray for direction, here’s what happens: He comes through by placing us where these good things will flourish—even when that place looks different than we imagined.

I finally did say this one thing: With all that’s in you, embrace your own faith, a growing, authentic relationship with Jesus that’s steady and strong and satisfying.

Here’s why I chose to say it: At some point—hopefully now—you realize that observing the faith of your pastor or parents is not enough to sustain you. You see, there’s a difference between an obedient spectator going through the motions and an imperfect but sincere Jesus girl connected to her Lord. I wish I could tell you face-to-face how much He wants to awe you with His presence, blessings, and purpose. The secret? It’s really no secret at all: get your own authentic faith.

Maybe you aren’t sure how to connect personally to a Holy God. Start by asking Him to show you. Sounds simplistic, but it’s a prayer He’s sure to answer. Then get alone with God. Grab a Bible. Talk to Him in your own voice, as with as friend, about anything. Join a Bible study (or start one yourself) with those who want a living, breathing faith; then pray for scripture to come alive.

Christ offers to be a real, intimate presence in your life, the One who truly matters. Everything hinges on this promise; I’m praying you take Him up on it.

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Biblical references for this blog: Jeremiah 29:11, Matthew 22:36-39, Romans 8:26-28, Galatians 5:22-25, Philippians 1:9-11, James 1:5-6, and 1 John 4:15-19.

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God whispers (reprint)

sun raysYou’ll never believe it! (Or maybe you will.) I, a regular, somewhat level-headed human, just tuned in to the Voice. No, not the TV show—way better than that. The Voice, as in Almighty God Inside My Head. Undeniably His. And undeniably cool.

It happened at 7:00 a.m. during a bit of anxiety. I was worried about friends, family, money, you name it. And as I peeked into the bathroom mirror, a clear-as-day thought flashed across my brain: “Just focus on Me. Look My way, and you’ll be fine.”

Now, a couple of things need to be said here: Number one, I was not dreaming. And number two, it did NOT come from me.

Believers often say God talks to them. I understand being moved through songs, sermons, sunsets. Most of us have seen a Bible verse leap off the page and into our hearts. That’s God, no doubt. And it’s special.

But can thoughts coming out of a human brain actually be the Voice of God? And if so, how do we know they’re His? Like today. I was certain, squinting in that mirror, that God spoke into my ear: “Just focus on Me. Look My way, and you’ll be fine.” Here’s what convinced me:

1)   It sounded exactly like something He’d say. And it sounded nothing like me.

Throughout the Bible, God says to focus on Him. And His presence calms our inner storm. (Remember Peter’s walk on water?) As for me and my natural M.O, I’m more of a “We’re all gonna drown!” kind of girl. Thank God for His thoughts, not mine. And His Voice is always scripturally sound.

2)   It was a grammar thing.

I distinctly heard, “Focus on ME,” a first person reference to the One speaking. Now, if my brain were talking to itself, it would say, “Focus on HIM,” or “Focus on God.” See the difference? When my thoughts on God switch from thinking ABOUT Him to speaking FOR him (first person I, Me, My, Mine), it’s time to take notice.

3)   I was primed and ready for good reception.

During a recent sermon, God nudged me to clean “house” for Holy chats: Praise songs on, TV trash off. Prayer life fed, gossip starved. Verses memorized, wrongs forgotten. The Bible calls it the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). I call it, “Jesus, invade my brain.”

So listen up, fellow Christ followers. He’s searching for ears to hear. And the words He chooses are true, clear, life-changing: “[Jesus said], ‘My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow Me’” (John 10:27).

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The little things

Some of my best times with God are spent at Pensacola Beach, Florida.

Some of my best times with God are spent at Pensacola Beach, Florida.

I wanted to see dolphins. It was a perfect beach day, the water blue with white waves dotting the seascape. “One thing’s for sure,” I thought: “If I were a dolphin, I’d do flips just past that sandbar.” But so far, no sea creatures wowed me. Not even a jellyfish.

Sitting there with toes in the sand, gratitude flowed. I thanked God for beautiful Pensacola Beach. I gushed about the endless shades of color. And then on a whim, I threw in the dolphin thing.

“Lord,” I began, “You know what would be cool? A dolphin show. I’d love to see some full-body jumps. Or a few of them playing. Or even a fin, Lord. How about just one fin?”

You’re probably guessing that something awesome happened next. After all, God hears our desires and displays His glory. So it makes perfect sense that a Dolphin Miracle, so to speak, was about to happen at noon on Thursday.

If you’re thinking along these lines, you’re partially right: At noon on Thursday, God’s glory was displayed. But it wasn’t through a dolphin.

As I finished my prayer and stared into the Gulf, movement appeared near shore. Not way out there where the big boys play but close to me. Suddenly, in slow motion it seemed, a little fish did the trick of its life.  In my forty-nine years of beach trips, I’ve never seen a jump with such flair! This may be a slight exaggeration, but I think he nailed a triple-twist backwards gill tuck. For sure, it was a perfect ten. And I believe it was just for me.

After laughing out loud and considering a standing ovation, I got it: “Oh, Lord, your glory is not only in the BIG. Yes, you answer weighty prayers, and yes, you lavish us greatly. But your majesty is every bit as impressive in the places we overlook—in the seemingly ordinary, the seemingly unimportant. But it’s all spectacular, Father! We don’t have to wait for big glory to appear. We just have to open our eyes.”

So thank you, little fish. I wasn’t expecting such a gift from such an unassuming source. But I know who created you, and I know His specialty: Making something pretty great out of something pretty small.

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 “Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness. . . . . The Lord thunders over the mighty sea.The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is majestic.  Psalm 29:2-4

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Alive and well

friendsHe’s no longer dead; just let that sink in. A human body once breathed. And then the breathing stopped. But a new day dawned and with the rising sun, the Son of God arose.

He’s alive and well: The angel said it. An empty tomb revealed it. Eyewitnesses proclaimed it. Unfathomable, for sure—But the truth of this birth-to death-to life again event is a literal lifesaver.

Case in point, me. I’m no longer dead. I used to be. Physically I was in the world, but spiritually there was no heartbeat. Then Jesus Christ showed up, helped me see a better way—the only way, in fact. So I chose what enlightened dead folks choose: To follow Him, all the way to eternal life.

Now I’m born again. A Christ follower. Saved. My hope is alive, my purpose is sure, and my Risen Lord is the reason.

So what do I sing this Resurrection Day? He’s no longer dead! Jesus sits in triumph at the Father’s right hand. And His Holy Spirit courses through my veins—Let the miracle of that sink in!

Are you singing too? I hope so.

I hope you’re alive in Christ. I pray you’re dead to old sins, former shame, and lingering doubt. No room for those inside the living.

Happy Resurrection Day, worthy daughters in Christ. Let’s breathe in those sweet gulps of new life. All is well, for He is risen indeed!

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