2016: Page 208

Page 208 was my prayer walk day at Michiana Christian Service Camp this week.  I had made a decision at the beginning of the summer that with God’s help, I would spend a day each week of the summer camp season praying on-site for the camp, campers, camp faculty, and camp staff.  Next week the camp has a couple partial week sessions but I will be at a conference, so today wrapped up that commitment I made and it has been good for me — and I pray good for the camp.

But before I made it to the camp, I got some work done in the office and helped get some things moved for some more floor work at church.  As I took care of things I needed to do early this morning and considered how much still needs done before I leave for the student conference this weekend, I could hear a voice whispering in my ear that I didn’t need to go to the camp and pray today — that other things on my list were more important.  It was kind of a strange whisper considering that the workshops I will lead this weekend are about different aspects of developing a lifestyle of prayer.  While the whisper didn’t gain much traction in my mind today, it made me think about how easy it is to compromise our convictions and commitments for the sake of things that seem urgent.  In a results driven society, we like things we can quantify and measure.  That desire is one of the things that makes prayer-based ministry so difficult for churches and ministries to adopt, because it is nearly impossible to measure with certainty the results of God working through our prayers.

I don’t know, and likely will never know, the results of my prayers on behalf of the camp.  I do, however, know at least some of the results in my life that comes from living a lifestyle of prayer.  I’ve said it and taught it often, and this summer has been a good example, that prayer changes things because at the very least it changes the person praying.  So, regardless of what God chooses to do with the camp and its staff in answer to my prayers, I know He has done a good work in my life through these weekly prayer times.

I pray that you and I would recognize the great gift God has given us in His desire for communication with us through our prayer life.  I pray that we would be aware of the things that seem urgent but are only meant to distract us from the things that are most important.  I pray that we would be people of prayer as we allow God to do a great work in our lives as we surrender to Him in our prayer life.  I pray that we would be grateful for the changes God brings about in our lives through our time spent in prayer.

DSC_5766.jpg

2016: Page 201

Page 201 began a bit slowly as the mind is still trying to reset from the emotional toll and exhaustion of last week.  With a little help, I can get about six hours of good sleep or six hours of productive work before the mind starts buzzing with a swirl of thoughts.  As the day began, I headed to the office where I spent some time planning and praying for the workshops I will lead later this month.  As I kept my mind focused on what God would want those workshops to contain, the first of five boxes of books arrived for the conference.  I was actually expecting all of them to arrive today, but after checking tracking numbers it appears this one was sent out a little ahead of the rest.  After looking through the printed books to make sure the layout and appearance was what I expected, I spent some time submitting completed files for both printed and Kindle editions of this latest book to be available on Amazon.

With a quick look at the weather forecast calling for increasing heat and increasing chances of rain the rest of the week, I headed up to camp for my weekly prayer walk while the conditions were a little more favorable than it looks like it will be the rest of the week.  After checking in at the camp office, I began my prayer time with a walk around the perimeter of the property as I have each week this summer — at least as much around the perimeter as the existing trails will allow. 🙂  Doing so allows me to pray a hedge of protection around those who serve in the various roles of camp ministry; from year-round staff to summer staff, from deans and faculty to volunteers in every capacity imaginable.  Once the perimeter is prayed over, I begin a random criss-crossing of the usable parts of the camp property praying for the activities that typically take place in each area.  As I walk and pray, I also take pictures of things that catch my eye as prayer-prompts so I can share them later with others who are praying for the camp and would benefit from some visuals.  After lunch at the camp, I repeated the prayer walk process in the afternoon.  In the middle of the afternoon my mind began to swirl into the haze that this past week has brought about.  As I walked and prayed, I kept thinking about how nice it would be to see something special.  I’ve heard that there have been owls seen on the property, so I found myself asking God if I could see one to photograph as an encouragement to me during my prayer walk.  As I scoured the trees for any sign of this special visitor, it was as if I heard a voice in my head asking, “Why are you searching for lesser things when you already have the greater things?”.  Here I was spending the day in prayer, seeking and basking in the very presence of God all around me, and I somehow thought an owl would make His presence more real?  

But life is often like that, isn’t it?  We have access to the very presence of God through our prayers and petitions that we offer in humility and worship, yet somehow we think we need more.  And the “more” we think we need isn’t really more at all, but instead it is a personal collection of “lesser things”.  For most of us, the lesser things that we desire aren’t usually bad in and of themselves — at least not until we develop a greater desire for them than we have for seeking and knowing the presence of God in our life.  Perhaps some of our desire for lesser things comes from our human uncertainty.  If I say I encountered an owl during my walk, and especially if I have a picture of it, everyone knows what I’m talking about and has a similar image in mind.  However, if I say I walked with God and encountered His presence during my prayer time, people begin to give me strange looks and want some type of explanation that assures them I’m not weird or off my rocker.  Yet I want a life that is not satisfied with the lesser things when the One of greatest importance has called me to Himself and desires a personal relationship with me.

I pray that you and I would evaluate what it is we are pursuing most in our life.  I pray that we would identify the “lesser things” that tend to draw our attention away from the “greater things”.  I pray that nothing would ever be more important to us than not only living in the presence of God, but in having His presence living in us through His Spirit.

DSC_5726.jpg  

2016: Page 174

Most days I reach the end of the day and have a good idea of what I ought to write on that day’s page.  A few days, however, it is a struggle to know what to write — not usually because God wasn’t teaching me anything, but more often because it was a recurring lesson that I’ve already written about or I’m still processing how to describe the application of the day.  Today is a day that a lot has happened but I’m not real sure what it is I’ll write.  Page 174 began with some cleaning and taking out the trash from some areas that were used during our VBS the evening before.  The predicted morning rain hadn’t shown up, so after taking care of some maintenance issues I headed to the camp for a day of prayer.

This was my third week in a row to pray for the camp at the camp and I find that being there becomes a little easier each week.  When I drive onto the property, I don’t sit in the truck nearly as long now before checking in at the office as I did the first time back.  🙂  My prayer walk routine has been pretty similar each week so far.  I begin with a perimeter walk (as much as possible), praying for a hedge of protection to surround the spiritual teaching and training that is taking place.  As I walk and pray, different things catch my eye and I will often photograph such things and consider how God wants to use those visual reminders to guide my prayers.  The photographs not only serve as promptings on what to pray, as I share them on social media at the end of the day I am able to lead others on a prayer walk of their own.  Once I finish the perimeter, I spend time both sitting and wandering primary use areas of the property where I pray that God’s Spirit would move mightily in encouraging, equipping, training, and convicting each person according to their need through all of the activities that take place.  That process has been taking me through the morning to lunch time when I take a break to eat then repeat the entire process in the afternoon.  

While praying today, I took some photos of the lilies growing around the wellhead in front of the office.  For me it could be because they are yellow, but their vibrant color makes it difficult for them to go unnoticed.  As I watched a hummingbird check out the various blossoms for their nectar, I thought about how we ought to have a vibrant faith that attracts people to the nectar of Jesus in our life.  Our life ought to present a vibrant beauty that comes from having the joy and peace of Jesus in us.  When God’s Spirit dwells within us, scripture tells us that He produces a fruit that contains love, joy, peace, patience kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.  When you think about something containing all of those qualities and then realize that “something” is you when you walk by the Spirit, you soon realize that the vibrant life that attracts others to Jesus is not of your doing at all — it is the work of God!

I pray that you and I would allow God’s Spirit to fill us with the courage to do the good things we find difficult.  I pray that we would pay attention to the many ways that God attempts to teach us each day.  I pray that we would take a good look at our life and consider how vibrant it is.  I pray that we would make it a daily practice to walk by the Spirit so that His presence within us would create a vibrant look that draws people to Jesus.

DSC_5787

2016: Page 167

Page 167 began with cool temperatures and rain but by early afternoon there was no trace of either.  I headed to work early this morning with a light rain falling and a question in my mind as to the wisdom of wearing shorts.  By the time I had checked on the floors I put finish on yesterday and put away some of the fans and things I had out from my floor drying, the rain had stopped and the temperature had begun to rise.  After a quick look at the weather radar revealed that the rain had indeed moved through, I finished up what I needed to do at the building then headed up to camp to spend time praying for the camp session going on as well as the upcoming sessions.

When I arrived at camp I began my prayer time with a perimeter prayer walk of the property — or at least as much of a perimeter as existing paths would allow. 🙂  The grass was still wet and as I walked the paths through the woods, water droplets danced on the tree leaves and a hazy mist rose from the woodland floor to meet the sun.  After two miles of prayer walking which covered the perimeter and a few zig-zags across the center, I spent time sitting in a few locations praying about the activities that would take place in those areas throughout the summer.  When I had checked in to the camp office to begin my prayer walk, I was invited to stay for lunch with the promise that it included a “blizzard bar”.  As it was nearing lunch time, I headed to the kitchen to see if they needed help serving for the day and found myself assigned to helping serve the ice cream and toppings — talk about putting the fox in charge of the hen house! 🙂  But I was good and served all the campers and everyone else wanting some before I served myself.  After lunch I began another perimeter prayer walk under a beautiful blue sky with the puffy white “sky texture” clouds.  The temperature had also risen, and with it the humidity, which made the second round a little less comfortable but made for some beautiful photos.  Photography has become a tool that I use during my prayer times — particularly during prayer walks.  I shared some of today’s photos, and some prayer notes on each of them, at https://www.facebook.com/tomlemlerphotography/ which is my Facebook photography page.  After completing the second prayer walk and spending time praying in some additional areas of the camp, it was time to call it a day and head home.  

As I think about the day, I look back and recognize some of God’s work in helping this day to happen.  I doubt that I even know all the dots, but it is fun to connect the ones that I’m aware of.  It was during an intense time of prayer two and a half years ago, focused on some issues surrounding my departure from the camp staff, that God put the first of what ended up being many poems in my mind.  In a short three-month time span, those poems became a poetic devotional book which began a season of writing in my life that continues to this day.  After my first two books were published, I was reminded of a list of scripture references I had been given quite some time before the writing even began.  This list was given to me with the suggestion I “do something with it”.  The subject matter of each reference had to do with who we are in Christ.  Now that I was in writing mode, that list became the seeds for my first 31-day devotional journal, “In Christ Alone”.  My proofreader stated that the devotions in this book were exactly what she had always wanted camp week devotions to be.  With that thought in mind, I made arrangements to set up a display at the Christian Camp Leaders Conference this past January where I was able to make copies of my books available to camp leaders from around the country — including camp leaders I had formerly worked for and with.  Not only did I have a display set up, but I attended the conference sessions as well.  It was through the main session messages that I felt convicted to pursue God in prayer regarding my need for healing and restoration.  Over the next couple of months I prayed about what the next step would be and eventually arranged a meeting with the camp director that went well.  When the camp had its annual prayer breakfast last week, I knew it was time to return and pray.  That time of prayer on the camp property last week led to a decision/knowledge that I needed to overcome the emotional block that has kept me away and return on a regular basis to pray.  So, long story short, today’s prayer time began with a poem that was put in my mind back in December of 2013!

I pray that you and I would always pay attention to the prayer reminders that God continually surrounds us with.  I pray that we would understand that some parts of our story takes longer to unfold than other parts.  I pray that we would constantly seek God, even and especially during times of discouragement, heartache, and confusion.  I pray that we would obediently take each step that God puts before us, trusting that He has them ordered in such a way that they take us to where He wants us to be.  

DSC_5428.jpg

2016: Page 50

Earthdate: 20160219 — These are the ramblings of one traveler’s journey on earth as he makes his way toward a heavenly home.

Hold onto your hat, Christopher Robin!  It seems we had a rather balmy “Windsday” show up on Friday!  With a strong south wind blowing all day, the temperature rose to sixty degrees and the snow cover disappeared from the ground.  

I arrived at work at my usual 6 AM to find that someone had done at least part of the cleaning last night.  That worked out well because other areas needed extra attention to start the day as some sticky concoction had been spilled and/or trailed through the hallway.  It is always interesting how God seems to go ahead of me so that when unexpected things need extra attention, something that I had planned on needing to do doesn’t need done.  After the planned and unplanned cleaning, I spent some more time trying to figure out some network connection issues.  Fridays are generally my long day that requires both an early start and a late finish — I still have an hour or so of work to do once I finish writing this day’s page.  Fortunately, I am usually able to get away for a while at some point during the day.  As I consider how the day has gone, I am reminded of God’s Word which says that His ways are higher than my ways.  Not only are they higher, they are much better!  I pray that you and I would learn to pay attention to the ways of God in order to give him the glory and honor He is due.  I praise God that He cares for me, His child, and can arrange for others to help carry my load and/or give me the strength to carry it with His help.

Today’s “get away” was to go to the funeral visitation for a relative who slipped from this life into the next one night this week in his sleep.  I saw a lot of vaguely familiar faces but they were older versions of people that I used to know.  Many of them seemed to know who I was though, so I guess I haven’t aged a bit! 😀  When I got home from that, I finished up the initial writing for the first in a series of devotional booklets that I am working on.  The idea for these booklets came from the recent camp conference I attended as a number of camp leaders I talked with asked about devotional material for their summer staff that would be meaningful without being too complex and time-consuming.  The idea I am working on is a series of booklets that I’ve called “Devotions For Those Who Serve”.  Each booklet will cover 7 days and focus on some aspect of serving.  This first one is “Called to Serve” and is focused on the calling we have from God to serve one another.  As I searched through my photo files to find what I wanted for the cover of this booklet, I found a picture of Susan and I taken during campfire worship a number of years ago.  I’m still not 100% convinced that it is the right picture for this cover, but it is such a great picture that it is what I’m going with for now.

Called to Serve (front cover) 

Filling The Cracks

“I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none.”  Ezekiel 22:30

When  you examine your life, what types of cracks do you find?  I think we all have them.  Sometimes it is a gap between what we say and what we do.  For others, it might be a crack in their confidence or their ability to see themself as God sees them.  For many, there are cracks in relationships — in our relationship with God, with family, with co-workers, with church family, or with unreached people.

I’ve spent a good part of several beautiful fall days filling and sealing cracks in the basketball court at camp.  As I did, God reminded me of His call for someone to “stand in the gap”.  As I worked on the asphalt, I had plenty of time to think about what it takes to be one who fills the cracks in the lives of people.  I believe God taught me some useful lessons those few days.  Lessons for me to practice and to write down so that I don’t forget and so perhaps others may benefit from those lessons as well.

Being one who will stand in the gap requires that we first recognize that cracks exist and that because of their destructive nature they need repaired!  While this may sound very simple, many times this is the hardest step of all.  Too often the cracks don’t appear serious enough to demand our time and energy taking care of them.  We either don’t notice them or we don’t believe they can really bring about that much damage.  Recognizing the gap means that we see a difference between what is and what should be.  To do this effectively we must have a firm grasp on what God says our life ought to be.

I’ve noticed that the cracks in the ball court asphalt never get smaller.  If not taken care of, even the tiniest of cracks become larger and more of a problem as time passes.  The same is true in our life.  Left unfilled the gaps that exist in our pursuit of God, in our relationships, in our faithfulness, and in any other area soon become larger and more destructive to ourself and to those around us.  It is also important to note that the sooner the crack is dealt with, the less work there is involved in restoring it to useable condition.  But if left uncared for, unfilled, the cracks in the court, and in our life, become larger and larger until the task of restoration is very difficult.  You and I have the opportunity to help others, and each other, recognize and repair the gaps that exist in people.

In the days of Ezekiel, God says He looked for someone who would stand in the gap and He found no one — what a sad commentary.  I pray that you and I will be ones who will stand in the gap.  As we notice the cracks in our own life and in the lives of others, let us be the intercessor who goes to God in prayer seeking the filling and repair that is needed and that only He can provide.

Back Again . . . Maybe

It has been a while since I have done any writing . . . and even longer since I have written on this particular blog.  My plan is to return to writing on a regular basis — whatever that might mean. 😉

As I thought about this return, I had to consider why it had been so long.  Has God not been teaching me important lessons?  Have I not been listening?  Did I miss the value in what I have learned?  Have I missed the importance of writing down the insights gained no matter what size they appear to me?  Is there no more treasure in this jar of clay worth sharing?

While each of these questions may have some element of truth to them in regard to my not writing, I think the cause is much simpler and more pervasive in its attempt to draw me away from that which is good and right.  A lifestyle of busyness and distraction has been the primary culprit in keeping me from recording and sharing the lessons I have been learning.

It has been nearly 3 years since I have written on this blog and 4 months since I have written elsewhere.  I know that in that time span there are lessons I have forgotten because I did not write them down.  Lessons that I need to be reminded of.  Lessons that others may have benefitted from if I had bothered to share.

Paul wrote to Timothy, “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.  Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you.” (1 Timothy 4:13-14)  As I consider the gift of preaching and teaching, of writing and communicating, that God has given me, I want to be careful that I don’t neglect this gift.  I want to use it for the good and benefit of others that they would grow in their relationship with God through His son, Jesus Christ.

So, my encouragement for you is the same admonition God is placing on my heart — discover and use the gift(s) God has given you!  Do not neglect your gift but use it to invest in others to the glory of God!  Encourage others by using your gift.  Encourage others, including me, to use their gift — reminding them gently if they begin to let the busyness and distractions of life sidetrack them.  God has given us the “one anothers” in our life for both our benefit and theirs!  

Praying that we live our life in such a way that people would see our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven!