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Hearing God

I’m taking a few moments to revisit some previous posts. I would love to hear others share how God speaks to them and guides them in living a life of faith.

areliablefaith

I had never really thought about it too much, but as I was speaking with a wonderful brother yesterday, he asked me exactly how God spoke to me.  I had related the following story to him.

When we moved to Tennessee we owned a house in Louisiana that we had purchased 4 years earlier.  The economy in Louisiana was in a decline when we moved and houses were not selling.  We had no money to purchase a home with until our house in Louisiana sold.

We looked at houses in Tennessee on our first visit to the area in January.  The realtor had our list of “needs”, our list of “wants”, and the price we could afford when our house in Louisiana sold.  He showed us 20+ homes that first visit focusing upon our needs and the price range we gave him.  None of the houses enticed us.  At the…

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Psalm 27:8 “My heart says of you “Seek His face! “  Your face, LORD, I will seek”.

Psalm 27:14 “Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.”

Today we begin a 9 day road trip down the West Coast from Seattle to San Francisco.  We actually made it to Tacoma last night.  As with most of our adventures I am anxious to get started. I am ready to rush out and conquer the trip. Too often I slip into the attitude of a “task to be quickly dispatched” rather than “a good meal to be savored.” We head to Seaside, Oregon from Tacoma today. Along the way we will visit Cape Disappointment, Washington. Now if you’re like Lisa you just scrunched up your face and thought “Disappointment? Why do they call it that? And who wants to begin with disappointment? “

It’s funny but I never even considered the odd name until Lisa posed the question last night. I popped out the first logical thing that came to mind. “Because a lot of ship wrecks have happened here which is a very disappointing thing.”  She believed me. I hope I’m correct and we’ll try to find the answer.

As I sit here I realize that a lot of people seem to live in perpetual disappointment. I think of Eeyore, the donkey character from Winnie the Pooh. For Eeyore life is a perpetual grey. Eeyore lives in the same world as the ever optimistic Pooh, but their comprehension of that world couldn’t be more different.

I believe that’s a truth that makes the admonition from today’s scripture so powerful. I could follow through with my first inclination to rush through the day ticking off tasks.  But unmet expectations, detours, and changes could easily cause me to miss the Cape and just end up at disappointment.

When we seek the LORD first and we wait for Him, He meets us and He transforms us. Instead of our goal being a completed task list by days end, it becomes the sacred journey with Him and the people He places in our path.

And that my friend is the journey I want to take.

All of you on this trip with us are special friends and family. We love you and we are so thankful you are in our lives. I hope (and pray) that what we share will make you laugh, smile, think, and perhaps touch your heart.

 

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The Lord knows what we need.  He always, always does.  The real question is do we respond when He says, “Let Me give you what you need.”

This week marks my 10th straight week of travel for work.  I signed up for it.  Actually I like to see new places, meet new people, tackle new challenges.  But 10 weeks is a long time to be away.  A few weeks ago the Father brought me to one of those – “Let Me give you what you need” moments.  It was a tremendous encouragement to me.  But over the past few days I have realized the message of that moment was given not just for me, but to be shared with others.

It started on a Friday night.  I had traveled all week.  My wife and I sat down together and watched a melodrama we like called “Heartland”.  We watched three episodes and to be quite honest with you, I was upset with the amount of drama going on in the characters lives as I went to sleep.  Now I know it is bit silly to get emotionally invested in fictional characters on a TV show, but what was happening wasn’t totally fiction.  You see I know people who are hurting just like those characters.  I also love people who can’t seem to consistently make wise decisions and that hurts me too.  I cannot unplug from the problems of the people around me and the show that evening touched a resonant chord in me.

After a restless night of waking, praying, dosing off for a few minutes only to wake and begin praying again, I finally fell asleep around 5.  I woke at 7 with a start.  It was like I was shaken awake.  And I immediately sensed the Lord whisper in my spirit, “Come let Me kiss you.”  I have three grandchildren and they know me as Papi.  When they come over, particularly if we have been apart for a while, the homecoming has plenty of hugs and kisses.  It was with that same sense of excitement that I got up and slipped into the front of the house.

I left our dark bedroom, slipped through the lighter kitchen and into the living room.  When I turned toward the east facing front of the house, the brilliant sunshine reflecting off the china cabinet struck me with tangible force.  I was drawn to it.  As I stepped into the warmth of the sunshine I felt the Lord embrace me and I knew the reality of the Father holding his child, me, and giving him a kiss of pure love.  I don’t know how long I stood there just soaking up the Lord’s gracious love.  After some minutes, I started making a circuit back into the darkened kitchen and back into the light.  For six or seven circuits I would just stop and soak in the sunshine and the Father’s assurance of His love for me.

After some time, I found myself just staring out the back of the house to where the sun’s rays were turning the early spring morning into one of golden clarity.  And the Lord spoke one more time.  “I am not through with you.  The best is yet to come!”

That, my friends is a balm for a road-weary soul.  That is a promise I can and will hold on to.  That is a promise for everyone who puts their trust in Jesus and then pursues Him with all their heart.  He wants to be found by us.  He desires to fill us with good things.  He will transform our heart to become more and more like His heart if we diligently seek Him.

And God, my God is new every day.  The creator of the universe is able to do abundantly, amazingly more in and through us than we can possibly imagine.  All He is asking is for us to take our Next Step with Him.

To reach out when He whispers, “Say hello to that person.”

To take the time to listen in love to that hard-to-love person God has put in your life.

To read His Word because you realize it contains the Word and words of life.

To be the spouse you know God is calling you to be.

To live a prayerful life even when busy-ness threatens to overtake you.

To slip out of bed when He says, “Come let Me kiss you.”

 

Be blessed my friend and realize you are the blessing God wants to bring into someone’s life today.

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Always be ready.

I was not raised evangelical.  In fact the denomination I was raised in, Episcopal, was referred to as the “Frozen Chosen” by evangelist Billy Sunday.  Talking about faith, particularly speaking from the heart, speaking with passion, was NOT something I witnessed growing up.  That is not a value statement or a condemnation.  In fact I knew many Episcopalians who practiced the faith in very real, very devout ways.  It was just not a normal experience for people in the church I grew up in to speak about the faith… unless they were paid clergy.  And even then it was primarily a cerebral exercise more than a discussion that engaged the emotions.

So when I came to faith at age 23… in an Episcopal retreat called Cursillo, I was on fire for God, overwhelmed by a love and passion for Jesus and others, yet without a natural outlet to tell my story.  I can distinctly remember my Dad laughing good-naturedly and telling me, “Yeah, some people think that new Christians need to be locked up for a few months right after conversion so they don’t scare everybody to death.”  I believe I took that in the right way… that I needed to be sensitive to where others were and approach them in the right manner.  I also realized that was a very “Episcopal” thing to say.

Thirty two years later I’ve made plenty of mistakes both being too bold and being too timid in sharing my faith.  But along the way I’ve learned a few things that I think the Father would have me share with you.  As always we cannot go wrong with looking at Jesus, modeling what He did, and seeking to follow the Holy Spirit in speaking and doing as He leads.

  1. Beginning our day in intimacy with the Father sets the stage for our engagement with others.  When we start with time alone speaking with God, reading the Word, and allowing His Spirit to brood over us and work within us, we are spiritually prepared for the meetings with others we will have through the day.
  2. Keeping an open heart to the Holy Spirit will make us sensitive to the needs of others.  Today I was in a trade show for the consulting firm I work for.  I gave a presentation this morning (which for all intents and purposes was my main reason for being here) and then I manned the booth to meet potential customers as they walked through the exhibits.  On multiple occasions today as I stood at my booth awaiting someone to walk up the Holy Spirit impressed upon me to pray for divine conversations.  I did and sure enough, they happened.  (That is the real reason I was here!)
  3. Divine conversations have a two critical components – a listener who is receptive and a story-teller who is sensitive to the Lord’s leading.  I talked business about 85 – 90% of the day, but the 10 – 15% where the Holy Spirit opened the door were amazing.  This is an area where I have often erred either being too strong or too soft in my delivery, but today it consistently flowed.
  4. Our job is not to convert people.  Our role is to be obedient to the Lord’s leading and faithfully share from the Word in us and the life experiences He has brought us through.  It is the Holy Spirit’s job to bring people to conversion.  Yes, there will be times when we are there at the point someone makes a decision to give their life to Christ.  This is a glorious experience and true blessing to be a part of, however we do not need to take too much responsibility.  Our responsibility is simply to be obedient to the Holy Spirit’s prompting.
  5. This life is a prelude to something greater, something more real.  It is the door through which we pass to get to our ultimate home.  This life is not inconsequential, but it is also not our ultimate destiny.  The relationships we have here are the one thing that appears to have a link on through to eternity.  That belief helps me to hold onto the things of this life lightly, the relationships in this life more firmly, and the faith in Jesus most tightly.

It was a God-day and a great day.  I was able to hear other people’s stories, engage them where they were, and in a number of instances share God’s love through telling God-stories.  I sit here with a light and joyful spirit thinking of how good God is to allow us to participate with Him in His work to reach people wherever they are and draw them closer to Himself.  He is soooo good!

I pray you have a day full of divine conversations.  Be blessed and be a blessing!

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Michael is a TV news anchor in our area.

Although I have not directly experienced the challenging life he lived through, I understand the truth of what he describes. My heart goes out to all who are in the twisted normal Michael describes and I pray that the sound wisdom he espouses will be heard and heeded.

Enjoy.

Michael Cogdill

What some parents don’t want to remember their children can’t forget.

I’ve turned fifty, yet the child within me can’t help but remember.

In a small house in Arden, North Carolina in 1964, my mother tried to wake my father from a deep nap on the living room couch. Beer likely fueled that nap. I would soon learn even one or two lubed the gears of violence within that beautiful man.

But I was too young to know that then. I was a little past three years old. This ranks as my first memory of childhood.

My dad sprang from the couch, straddled and pinned my mother to the floor, and beat her so hard with his open hand her head thundered off the hardwood. She fought him, hard. Screamed for him to stop. I joined her. My cries fused with hers from where I stood, no more than six…

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Gravestone of Mom's Grandparents, Charles Washington "Wash" Wyatt and Julia Pearl Edmonston Wyatt.

Gravestone of Mom’s Grandparents, Charles Washington “Wash” Wyatt and Julia Pearl Edmonston Wyatt.

Family gathering at Pick's Pond around 1988 or so.

Family gathering at Pick’s Pond around 1988 or so.

This past weekend my wife and I accompanied my parents to the annual Harvey’s Chapel Homecoming in Marmaduke, Arkansas (population 1,111). My Mother’s parents and at least two generations prior are buried there. For the past few years I have been researching our genealogy and have built a fairly sizeable family tree using my grandmother’s 40 years of research on Dad’s side of the family, my Mother’s recollections and assorted notes, and Ancestry.com. I was excited to go to the reunion to meet cousins who might share my interest in genealogy and be able to help flesh out my tree. My most recent finds have been ancestors from England back into the 1300 – 1600’s (which I find really cool), but the time in Arkansas gave me a fresh appreciation of a more personal reason we traveled the 600 miles – to build relationships with friends and family and to experience a common life that we share as God’s children. I want to share vignettes from the weekend that provided life lessons for me.

The first day we drove to the Harvey’s Chapel cemetery to place flowers on the assorted graves. As we walked from grave to grave Mom recited stories from her childhood visits each summer to Arkansas from her Michigan home. I saw my great grandparents with new eyes and a keener appreciation for what life was like in the 1940’s and 1950’s in rural Arkansas. Mom’s mother passed away when she was only 5 years old giving birth to a baby sister who also passed.

Mom at her Mother's Grave in the Harvey's Chapel cemetery.  Her mother was Lorene Zelma Wyatt Pickler.

Mom at her Mother’s Grave in the Harvey’s Chapel cemetery. Her mother was Lorene Zelma Wyatt Pickler.

Mom, Joy Pickler Moss, sharing stories from her childhood summers spent in northeast Arkansas.

Mom, Joy Pickler Moss, sharing stories from her childhood summers spent in northeast Arkansas.  Harvey’s Chapel is in the background.

Mom telling Wyatt, her youngest grandchild, about his relatives.

Mom telling Wyatt, her youngest grandchild, about his relatives.

Yet Mom’s maternal grandparents, Charles Washington “Wash” Wyatt and Julia Pearl Edmonston Wyatt, were her second family and played a huge role in raising her. I had their names, basic life details, and pictures from my Ancestry.com research, but listening to my Mom and later several of my cousins, I began to see them as real people with trials and challenges, hopes and dreams, times of loss and times of abundant joy – not much different from you and me. It was like the black and white pictures I have took on color and life while listening to the stories from their loved ones.

Later that day we headed to Pick’s Pond where, as children, our family would regularly spend the fourth of July Holiday. Grandpa Pickler purchased the land and with the help of my uncle Don, built a series of catfish ponds on the property in Crowley’s Ridge near Boydsville, Arkansas for Grandpa’s retirement. Sadly, Grandpa was diagnosed with Chronic Leukemia in his late 50’s and his health deteriorated fairly quickly limiting the amount he was able to do on the farm. Yet I still fondly remember his fun-loving antics and his love for his grandkids. He always wanted to “tell me a secret” only to get me close enough to nuzzle my ear with his grizzled chin – a trick I now do with my two grandsons.

Fishing on the big pond at Pick's Pond in 1985

Fishing on the big pond at Pick’s Pond in 1985

Bo. the black Labrador retriever, loved to play king of the inner tube - and he often won.

Bo. the black Labrador retriever, loved to play king of the inner tube – and he often won.  About 1974.

A favorite game of "bounce the boys".

A favorite game of “bounce the boys”.  About 1988.

Step three of the Game Bounce the Boys.

Step three of the Game Bounce the Boys.  About 1988.

Seining one of the breeder ponds.

Seining one of the breeder ponds.  About 1988.

Mom - Joy Pickler Moss, standing in front of the Big Pond at Pick's Pond.

Mom – Joy Pickler Moss, standing in front of the Big Pond at Pick’s Pond.  About 1977.

The farm at that time was basically a large open field with six ponds on the gently sloping hills. One thing that Grandpa insisted on is planting lots of trees on the property. He lined his driveway with “little-bity” pine trees and surrounded the “big” pond with small cypress trees.   I feel certain he knew he wouldn’t see these trees grow to maturity, but it was his desire to leave something of beauty and worth for future generations. I was stunned when we pulled into the driveway.

Pick's Pond, May 2015.

Pick’s Pond, May 2015.

Another view across the Big Pond at Pick's Pond, Ma 2015.

Another view across the Big Pond at Pick’s Pond, Ma 2015.

Fishing under the Cypress trees at Pick's Pond.

Fishing under the Cypress trees at Pick’s Pond.  May 2015.

2015-05-15 13.41.05There was no field. Nor were there any little-bity trees. Instead was a beautiful pine canopy over-shadowing the tree-lined drive with forests on either side. An even more amazing sight awaited at the big pond where Grandpa’s cypress trees now soar above the shoreline providing shade respite from the brutal summer sun.

Grandpa Pickler around 1975 - 1977.

Grandpa Pickler around 1975 – 1977.

My heart was full of thankfulness for my Grandpa’s vision and desire to make something beautiful for those of us to follow and for my uncle Don who helped Grandpa turn his vision into something tangible.

The next vignette came on Saturday evening when we gathered at my first cousin Kelly’s home in Piggott, Arkansas. Since Kelly was a lot younger than me we did not play together a lot as children. As we drove up I saw the landscaping Kelly and her husband Jamie had installed and we had an immediate connection that I didn’t realize existed. I enjoy landscape design and making those designs become a reality. We talked extensively about plants, landscaping, and the challenges of our hobby.  Today instead of being simply my younger cousin with a husband and two fine sons, my relationship with Kelly has taken on depth and life through our similar experiences and passion. This theme repeated itself throughout the weekend as I met new family members, 2nd and 3rd cousins, who shared some of the same interests and tastes as me, but had experienced life in a much different place and time. The sense of what a small world we live in and the impact of shared DNA was really fascinating.

Our final event was the Memorial service at Harvey’s chapel on Sunday morning. The chapel is now only used this one weekend a year. I guess it seats about 60 or 70 folks comfortably. With the rain showers that began about 45 minutes prior to church time, I wondered if the crowd would be pretty sparse. As we entered it was definitely a throw-back to simple days and the small country church. My sister said she was half expecting Laura Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie to slip in. As 10:30 arrived I looked around and happily noticed that the church was almost filled in spite of the nasty weather. The service was camp meeting style with songs and order of service a good bit different from what I am used to. But there were a number of things that were welcome touch-points for me. The scripture used was the same tried and true Word of God that I read every day. The verses were familiar ones God has used numerous times to guide, strengthen, and challenge me in the past. During the invocation the speaker quoted CS Lewis, one of my favorite authors. But the thought that sticks with me is that my ancestors over 150 years ago met in this same place seeking to establish a community of faith. One relative donated the land. Another relative started the church meetings in their home. Many others made up a large portion of the congregation. Even the current Memorial fund which helps keep the grounds maintained and the building in good repair has been funded in large part by other relatives. While the community now gathers at other newer and larger churches on Sundays, the fact remains the roots for those churches are the small country churches like Harvey’s Chapel and they stand on the legacy of our forebears in the faith.

The lessons reiterated from the weekend. We are connected to the family of faith throughout history. Those that have gone before us sweated, cried, cheered, prayed, and lived so that those following would have a place to stand… a place to live… a place to worship God.

We are more alike than we realize and God made us that way intentionally. God is most interested in relationships. Person to person, but especially person to living Lord. Strive to really get to know the people God places in your life. Ask God to make those connections from which relationship grows. And out of those relationships, the life of Christ can be shared.

We may not always fully comprehend the purpose for the events of our life until much later. In fact when the group met in the Edmonston’s home in 1859 for the first time as what would become the Harvey’s Chapel congregation, I would be really surprised if anyone spent much time thinking about the fact that in 2015 a group of 60 believers from all over the US would still be meeting in the church they would birth. Jesus talked about faith the size of a mustard seed, though extremely tiny, able to produce amazing results. I saw that this weekend in a little country church and the families that have lived, loved and served the Lord in a steady faith.

Have a blessed day and be a blessing to someone today.

A few more fun pics from Pick’s Pond.

Don explains why these mulberries taste so much sweeter.

Don explains why these mulberries taste so much sweeter.  It’s the fertilizer.  This tree sits over the old outhouse.

Keith's double handful of sweet mulberries.

Keith’s double handful of sweet mulberries.

I think Don left the truck parked there a little too long.

I think Don left the truck parked there a little too long.

Cousin Anna, Don Pickler's youngest daughter.

Cousin Anna, Don Pickler’s youngest daughter.

Mom wins the fishing contest this day.  Day is awfully proud of his entry although I don't remember why.

Mom wins the fishing contest this day. Day is awfully proud of his entry although I don’t remember why.

Sister Christin Joy Moss and Cousin Kelly Robinson Wilson.

Sister, Julie Elizabeth Moss Denton, and Cousin, Kelly Robinson Wilson.

My parents and siblings with our entries in this day's fishing contest.

My parents and siblings with our entries in this day’s fishing contest.

Uncle Don shows off his physique.

Uncle Don shows off his physique.

Keith and Julie.  Keith's description of an Arkansas 4th of July trip.  "Go to Grandma's. eat a biscuit, and sweat!"  July 1989 I think.

Keith and Julie. Keith’s description of an Arkansas 4th of July trip. “Go to Grandma’s. eat a biscuit, and sweat!” July 1989 I think.

We ate watermelon until just before it started growing out our ears.

We ate watermelon until just before it started growing out our ears.

Cousin Jason and my oldest daughter, Rhiannon.  About 1988.

Cousin Jason and my oldest daughter, Rhiannon. About 1988.

Eric's jet ski on the big pond.  Jason prefers Rhiannon power though.

Eric’s jet ski on the big pond. Jason prefers Rhiannon power though.

Eric takes Rhiannon for a ride on the big tractor.

Eric takes Rhiannon for a ride on the big tractor.

Aunt Allene was Mom's Mother's sister.  This is Aunt Allene and Uncle Rex's 50th wedding anniversary.

Aunt Allene was Mom’s Mother’s sister. This is Aunt Allene and Uncle Rex’s 50th wedding anniversary.

Aunt Fay and Uncle Roy.  Fay was Grandpa Pickler's little sister.

Aunt Fay and Uncle Roy. Fay was Grandpa Pickler’s little sister.

Dad, John Moss and my lovely wife, Lisa.  This is about one year into our marriage.  We just reached 30 years of wedded bliss last month.

Dad, John Moss and my lovely wife, Lisa. This is about one year into our marriage. We just reached 30 years of wedded bliss last month.

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The sunrise was glorious this morning.  I am so thankful I had an opportunity to see it.  The rich variety of color and texture that continued to change during those 15 minutes even as the chill in the air tickled my nose and fingers was amazing.  Pictures simply don’t do it justice… but I will continue to take them.

A theme that runs throughout the bible is that God is the omnipotent creator.   Genesis opens with a formless void and proceeds to describe God bringing into being all that was made.  Watching this sunrise I see God’s power, His artistic flair, and His supreme sense of beauty.  I guess there is one more thing – His perfect balance of timing.  While it only lasted for about 15 minutes, it was sufficient to lift my spirit and make a settled certainty for the day – “We are not alone – He is here!”

2015-03-18 07.28.27

2015-03-18 07.30.55

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Psalm 19:1-6

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. 

Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.

They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them.

Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.  In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.

It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course.

It rises at one end of the heavens and makes it circuit to the other; nothing is deprived of its warmth.

 

Be blessed today my friend and be a blessing.

 

By the way, here are a few other sunrise or sunset pics I’ve taken over the past year.

 

2015-03-15 07.25.27 2015-03-15 07.27.22 2014-09-01 06.59.16 2014-09-01 07.05.41 2014-09-01 07.06.57 2014-12-19 07.19.26 2014-12-19 07.20.18 2014-12-19 07.41.29 2015-01-29 07.13.13 20140727_065434 IMG_5404 Labor Day at River 072

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