All posts by Lorretta Stembridge

Now What?

In the typical vernacular of American hyperbole, the recent solar eclipse was promoted as the “Event of the Century”,  and met with the greatest fanfare and attention one might expect on the occasion of meticulously aligned celestial bodies.    It was spectacular.

While everybody was looking, God did it again: His miraculous nature on display. Some expressed awe over an easily explained scientific phenomenon, however no one would ever deny that NASA scientists neither put the sun and moon up there, nor did they orchestrate such an astounding event. No, like the rest of us, they could only watch in amazement as yet another, every day miracle testified to the unfathomably  precise mind of our Creator, God.

There, plain as day, the Sun and Moon effortlessly glided past one another, exchanged pleasantries (I’m sure), waved to the watching crowd and continued on their way.
Back to work people
.    Just like that it was over.

That same Sun and Moon are still right where we left them, more or less,  dancing their rhythmic do-si-do and declaring the glory of our Creator- right now – with scarcely anyone in attendance. Pulling tides, fueling photosynthesis, boiling mist into clouds to bring rain to parched ground and the countless other miraculous things we take for granted every day.

That moment is gone with another taking it’s place in the record books as a large portion of a large Texas is waterlogged and still in terrible distress. Same God. Same sun and moon. Radically different results.

This, on the heels of media-fueled firestorms disputing deep issues of truth and equality and how to represent our shared history fairly. Even the ugly bits. For my part, I confess my testimony shines brighter because I’ve been given the gift of grace to share the darker places honestly. There are scars because there is healing and this is the reference point orienting my course for the future.  Focus makes all the difference, even for a nation.

If we’re truly honest (and a little quieter), it’s the truth we all must walk by and all we’re left with at the end of every day.  Whether it’s one day gazing at the heavens in stark amazement or the next with eyes cast wide in disbelief at the overflowing waters of the sea, we must surely be struck by God’s power on display and our complete inability to do anything about it.

Not that we’re completely powerless. But we do tend to focus on things that really don’t matter– pushed along by popular opinion and media-driven mob mentality or most often frantically rushing through life striving to feed a seemingly insatiable appetite for goods and pleasure.

So bone wearying and tired.
So lost.
So meaningless.

What really matters?
I mean…REALLY.   What is the end goal?

Have you noticed?    It’s so easy to mindlessly tick off life events as if the only goal is their attainment while time slips through our fingers like the pages of a Very. Slender. Book.  If we could imagine such a book and that each page represented  a year of a “typical” life, most people would agree that 80 + years is a pretty long life, although to hold it in your hand it wouldn’t seem that long.

Our slender story begins when God the Author, in grand “Let there BE” fashion writes His miraculous “Once… Upon… A… Time…” and WHOOSH!  We’re born!      Then what?  

Well… for most of us it takes about 18 pages to grow up!  Page 3, we’re potty trained.  Page 5,  we start kindergarten. In the next 13 pages we lose teeth, fall in love, get mad at our parents,  learn to drive, go to proms work our first job and GRADUATE!  Then what? 

Possibly, we start a full time job.
Or go to college.
Maybe we find a mate
Get married, settle down and start a little family with little stories of their own!  Then what?

Pages 26 through 40-something have us raising that family. We might buy a house and a car, own some pets,  take a few vacations and lots of pictures,   SURVIVE TEENAGERS,   work a whole lot more and retire at page 65.      Then what? 

Hopefully our health is still good and the economy’s been kind.  In the final 20 or so pages we can finally enjoy life and maybe some grandchildren. Maybe we still need to work part time or there’s time to pursue some hobbies. Play a little golf… Take a cruise.  And…   then…   what? 

Nobody likes to talk about it, but at some point, the book of our earthly life will come to a close. There will be no more pages left to turn and no more time left on earth to write our story.   We will die.         Then what? 

Our earthly story is over but it’s not the end of us.

At this point, God’s word  teaches that the only two options for our final “Then What” are either eternal joy with Him in heaven because of the forgiveness we embraced through the cross of Jesus… or it’s the justice of eternal suffering and separation in hell because we refused to repent and receive His gift of salvation.

See, hopefully, at some point in the preceding pages of our life we heard and received God’s saving Gospel by faith. We understood we are sinners separated from God, but in His rich mercy, He made a way offering us forgiveness by sending his Son, Jesus who lived a sinless life and then took our place and paid the price on the cross for our sins.     And then what?

He defeated death and rose again on the 3rd day to claim the victory for us. So that we can live truly ALIVE now no matter how many “pages” we have and then.. someday when our earthly chapter closes, the next one begins with God eternally in heaven.

But only For those who believe.
Only For those who receive.
It’s what Jesus is teaching about in John 14: 6 when He said

      “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

I don’t know what page you’re on today. Me? I’m on page almost-50-something. I don’t know how many “pages” I have left.   None of us does.

What I can tell you is that at some point on about “page” 13 or 14, I heard the Gospel and received God’s salvation offered through Jesus. Since then, all of my “Then What? ” events have been forever shaped and guided by God’s Holy Spirit. Not living perfectly or without pain, but with a purpose.

That moment of decision causes me to joyfully testify and share about God’s mercy and goodness and to care enough that someone else may know Him too and ask, now what?

Maybe today you need to believe and receive God’s gift of salvation and start writing a new story on the pages you have remaining. So when there are no more words left to write in your earthly story the very next chapter begins in His presence.  I’m here for you.

Maybe you say you believe but you haven’t been living like it and you know deep inside that needs to change. Today.

This matters because our stories are never written in isolation and in a grander way, so many of our moments blend and count in the lives of others.

We need to live like that.
We need to love….like that.

Because, let’s face it: time… is short and the pages… are really few.

Being Written by Him,

The Delicate Art of Flying Blind

This crazy phrase. It’s been creeping around in the back of my mind and simmering just below the surface of most every thought these past few months. I just can’t shake it. I decided to look it up.

Classically it means: “To fly an airplane solely by relying on instruments”.  So, I imagine it’s dark, maybe stormy, or otherwise disorienting, and there’s very little, if any, outside guidance or support.  To make it through, you’re gonna have to rely on experience and the tools you have right where you are.   Uh huh. I get that.

The phrase came into use during WWII and was soon after jettisoned into the broader understandings we refer to today.

This “urban” definition summarizes it nicely:   “Doing something tricky (flying) without the basic faculties for doing it”
Oh, and this one: to “Feel one’s way, proceed by guesswork”

Lawd yes… that’s the one.

Y’all… these days are full of emotion and tricky business.    I mean for me.    Personally.    In addition to the headlines and general craziness of the world at large, right here — for me and the man— it’s “ramping up” a bit.

I’ll try to explain: imagine hand-crafting a boat. You’ve spent years planning, researching, acquiring materials, and working on it in your spare time because you’ve had to hold down a job to keep the project going. It takes a little longer this way but it’s worth it. You learn a lot. You’ve got a great deal of “sweat equity” invested and it’s a very personal experience. As you get to the point of near finish, you start planning The Maiden Voyage. All this time you’ve been building in the safety of the harbor, taking a few shorter test runs close to the shore, but that’s not what this boat was made for: it’s time to consider the longer journey into deeper waters.

So here we are: deepening waters.

Not long ago, our youngest home schooled student submitted the final work to complete his high school journey thereby ending a journey of my own.  Second only to raising 3 children (a lot more “flying blind”!), home schooling them was the most challenging thing I’ve ever done— but I’ll go down on the record here and now: it was worth it.    Sure, I didn’t get the family “math gene” to pass along, but they are strong-willed and wonderful, beautifully artistic and creative communicators who know Jesus, and I am oh so proud they are ours.

A page is turned.

Like many churches, ours has a Graduate Recognition Sunday. A few folks searched my heart for sadness and sure, I sniffled through a mixed bag of tears.  However, the blessedness of the moment was not lost on me. Earlier in the week that young, strong-willed, and adventurous one had surgery for a major mishap which nearly robbed us all of this moment of celebration. The Mama in me could clearly picture every other scenario alongside the one before me and I was just SO thankful we were all there. So the few times someone remarked about our “empty nest”… all I could think about was our “full next”.

It’s “pleroma”, the God-kind of full.

I know this….even on the days when the fog of fear and doubt threatens to cloud my vision. Navigation seems trickier (is it really?), and the unknowns start to pile up like mountains all around us. How will we ever ________ ??  On these days, in these moments, it really does feel like I’m flying blind….just ”Feeling my way… proceeding with guesswork”.

I have a plaque with Isaiah 42:16 written on it once belonging to my sweet mother in law. It was a gift we gave to her on the occasion of her retirement and I honestly can’t say that then I gave the verse the kind of consideration I give to it now. I see this plaque every day, several times a day and I’ve pondered this verse deeply. It’s become personal…a place of abiding with the Lord.

However, I didn’t notice this until recently: the verse on the plaque is wrong. See it there… at the end?  For some reason the makers of the plaque decided to use the word “you” when really, in every translation I can find including in the original Hebrew (thank you Biblios.com), it says “them”.     God “will not forsake them”      Them what?

Well, depending on which translation you’re looking at, the verse may read that God is not forsaking those He’s leading… which is true. I mean, if you belong to God then you belong to God always. He will not forsake you. However, other translations— including the Hebrew seem to point to how God is not going to forsake “these things”… things that He will do: lead, guide, enlighten, straighten, make smooth. This is what God will do because this is Who God IS.     To whom?

To the blind.
The dependent.
The needy.
To those Who trust and obey and submit to being led step by step through those places they do not know, through the dark, rough and unfamiliar territory.

It’s a trust thing.

For me it always boils down to a trust thing. Can the control freak in me handle “flying” blind? Can I handle that there are things I do not know, being weak and dependent on God to lead the way?          Do I trust Him?

Thankfully, God knows I’m a nervous “flyer”. He’s very patient with my weakness.  He knows I trust Him even while He’s teaching me to ever trust Him more….that’s one of His “these things” He’s not going to forsake.   It’s helpful you know, to recognize that this verse, these promises are not about us. Sure, we benefit but ultimately all the things….are about God.  

I don’t know what the makers of this plaque were thinking when they decided to use the word “you” but I’ve corrected it.  Does it really matter?  Yes, I believe it does. 

Because although I know that as a child of God He will not forsake me, I’m not dependable enough to base a promise upon. Maybe right now I’m somewhat “blinded” by circumstances and realities and can not fully see how to get to the other side.  That’s ok.  God sees and I can trust His unchanging nature and promise to lead, guide, enlighten, smooth and fly us safely to that “full next”.

Pleroma…God’s fullness. In His way and in His time.
   This blind little bird can bank on that.

How to Turn Around

So….this is my official RE-blogging post.

I never UN-blogged er… un-plugged but for those of you reading this — 72 potential followers plus the “Random Fandom” out there— you know it’s been awhile since I’ve written out here.

It’s been so long that even the crickets have died.  Ha.

In fact, I’ve been so embarrassed to go to my front page and get smacked by the fact that the very last time you heard from me legit was about six months ago…. at Christmas.   I mean, what the what Lorretta?!?

So please bear with me as I just write and spill this…. off the top of my heart and (mostly) unedited. 

Q:  Did I stop writing?
A:  Goodness, no.

Q:  Do I have nothing more to write?
A:  I am SELDOM silent within and God’s voice is never (thankfully) silent within me.

Q:  What’s going on?
A:  More than I can say at this very moment but more will be shared soon.

Truthfully, I have written GOBS of stuff for various reasons other than this. There was a women’s retreat back in February that consumed a good bit of my writing and prayer preparation. Then there’s this MAJOR application that required pages and pages from me and to be honest… the micro-inspection and reflection of it all sucked me dry for awhile.

Add that to the daily do of the Daily Do, many home repair projects,  some sudden and unplanned for interruptions (not all bad),  and this palatable and weighty shame of neglecting my writing space… and well, I just didn’t know where or how to begin again.   

And I MUST confess here and now that what little creative energy I’ve had over these many months got swallowed up in mindless moments spent on social media. Not all was completely mindless but I know there’s only so much the “Insta-Snap-Face” life can offer in the way of depth and breadth. I realize I’ve been standing in the shallows throwing stones out across the deep –too weary or maybe afraid of getting caught up in the current.

I’m sorry.

This morning, while tidying up some stuff I heard from a sweet little person in my life who was letting me know that after a great deal of messing around, etc.,  during her quiet time this morning the Lord revealed to her that she *really* hadn’t submitted her life to Jesus. So… just like that, she did.  She turned. And she wanted me to know it.

So like her… just like that—I’m turning as well and I want you to know it.  Turning back towards going deeper, stretching higher and reaching out with real meaningfulness to you, for my own soul and the glory of God.

One thing God revealed during this time was the HUGE difference between being a Kingdom Consumer and a Kingdom Producer. There is a lot of noisy muck and mud being slung around out here and  I don’t want to add to those conversations.  I don’t want to be another noisy gong.

Instead, stepping out of the shallows again,  I hope to share this space with you in a way that seeks to produce Kingdom moments all around us as we make this journey together even while distances apart. I want to encourage you in your life to do the same….to every day, wake up expecting God to move and show us where He’s at work, and then have the courage to pick up our cross to join Him there.

Thanks for being here, and for waiting on me.

Hang on though… it promises to be quite a ride!