Canaan in the Desert

There is a wonderful place in Phoenix, that I just heard about last week at my ladies Bible study. It’s a prayer garden that is tended to by a convent of Prostetant nuns called Canaan in the Desert. I mentioned it to my husband when I got home that night and then I googled it. You get the story of Canaan in the Desert by clicking here.

Saturday after our homeless ministry work my husband and I decided to go visit the prayer garden. It is one of the most peaceful places I’ve ever been to. What a surprise this lovely little garden is with its nooks and crannies, each path taking you to a different period in the life of Christ.

Your journey starts with the manger where the tiny newborn lay.

Obviously, not much is known about Jesus’ childhood years so the next stop is Gethsemane, where Jesus asked his disciples to watch and pray with him.

 If you’re familiar with the story, you’ll recall that Peter, James and John were sound asleep when Jesus came to check on them.

Jesus heart was overwhelmed, knowing what was about to take place, and he was very sad at his closest friends inability to stay awake and pray while he was just a few feet away talking to his Father.

Jesus went back to where he was praying and poured out his heart to the Father.

How many times have we said this to God?

I’ve said the “My Father, I don’t understand you.” part…but often I forget the “But I trust you.” part.

When I was going through the turmoil of finding out I had thyroid cancer I didn’t understand why. But God gently nudged me toward the place where I decided to trust in Him and know that no matter what happened, no matter the result of the surgery, I know who I am and Whose I am. And that makes all the difference in the world!

More on the Garden in the coming days.

Quote of the Day

 

I think one of life’s great milestones is when a person can look back and be almost as thankful for the setbacks as for the victories.  Gradually, it dawns on us that success and failure are not polar opposites.  They are parts of the same picture- the picture of a full life, where you have your ups and your downs. (Bob Dole) 

I’m Counting My Blessings, Part 2

Our church has a ministry to the homeless in Phoenix. This is something my husband decided he would like to get involved with and something that I’ve always wanted to do.

A couple of weeks ago my hubby spoke to the man who coordinates this ministry and got all the essential information. He gave the man his email address and the next day the man’s wife emailed my hubby the time/date/directions to their home.

We got up Saturday morning, thinking that we had plenty of time to get showered and dressed and over to the meeting place. Hubby decided to check the email once more for the directions and time. UH OH! We were running WAY late. We needed to be at their house at 8:45 to leave by 9:00. We thought it was 9:30 that we were supposed to leave. We decided we just couldn’t make it.

A minute later my hubby said to me, “You know, if we don’t shower right now we could probably get over there in time.” So off I went to get dressed, pulling my hair back into a pony tail. He was ready and waiting when I got downstairs and we sped off to meet the others.

We carpooled downtown to the area where we were going to hand out bags of snacks, a variety of sodas and bottled water. As we drove up the street toward the shelter, before we even got parked, a young man, obviously hurting, started tapping on the window of the car in front of us, which had our pastor and the organizer of the event in it. He shuffled back and forth on his feet, talked to them and then they pulled away and he ran back to the car we were in. Mike, the guy driving, rolled down the window an inch or so and the guy asked for a quarter. Mike told him we couldn’t give him money, but that we had snacks and water for him. Never stopping his shaky movement, the man asked if we could just buy him some crack. Again Mike told him no, but offered him the items that we brought with us. He declined and then told us he was going to steal our tires! The pain in this man’s eyes was hard to handle. He was suffering, no doubt. I said a silent  prayer for him as we pulled alongside the curb and parked.

When we got out of the vehicle and unloaded the coolers and boxes the folks started coming around. I’ve never seen people so grateful! They stood in line, no pushing or shoving. They were very excited about the sodas! They were thankful for the snacks. Some of them asked us to pray for them and some blessed us as they walked away. The pain in this place was incredible, yet these people were flashing toothless grins that lit up my whole day.

One lady especially touched me. As she took her soda, a water and a bag of snacks she was grinning from ear to ear and she told me, “God had just blessed me so much today!! I’m so excited!” She reached into her pocked and pulled out a broken choker with a cross pendant. “My friend gave this to me today! And then,  when I was cleaning the bathrooms, I found this!” She showed me a shiny silver coin that had John 3:16 on it. “She had tears in her eyes as she said, “And NOW you have come here to share these things with us! This day is so full of blessings!” I hugged her and she hugged me back, tightly. She thought we were the blessings, but I was the one that was blessed by her.

Many others filed in, some taking snacks and sodas to their friends who were in wheel chairs and too weak to come over. They offered to let us walk back with them to see that they were being selfish and taking more than their share!

John, the organizer, was asked by a man if he had any t-shirts or clothes, which he did. He had a couple of t-shirts and one pair of jeans. He gave them to the man and another guy walked over and asked for a t-shirt. John told him that he’d given away all that he’d brought with him and the other guy handed him one of the two shirts John had given him. “Here man, I don’t need two shirts anyway. I can only wear one at a time.” he said.

One couple that were at the halfway house spoke to my husband and Mike. They had lost everything. She had a serious heart condition and he is a convicted felon. He’s looked for jobs, but of course is having a hard time finding anything as a lot of companies won’t hire you if you have a felony record. She told us that she would evenutally have to have a heart transplant, but for now she was just taking her medicaiton and waiting. They stood there talking to Mike and my hubby for quite a while.

I watched these hurting people as we handed them the items we brought and I thought about my dad. This could be him. If it were not for the love and care of family members (mostly my uncle), my dad could be, and probably would be, one of these homeless people.

As we drove away I thought about how much I take for granted. Things like my family and friends, my home, my job, my mental and physical health and never having to worry about whether I will eat today all became so vivid in my mind and I suddenly felt more gratitude than I have in a long time! As we drove back to get our car I sat in the back seat praying for the ones that we had served, and thanking God for the blessing of being allowed to give something to these folks.

I went there to bless the homeless people of our community and instead I was amazingly blessed by them!! I can’t wait to go back!

I’m Counting My Blessings, Part 1

Since moving to Phoenix in December of 2005, I have been looking for a church home. There are several things that I was and was not looking for in a church. It took a while; I was beginning to think I was too picky.

I did not want to attend an uber-conservative church where the focus is more on what you shouldn’t be doing than what you should be doing. Been there, done that, didn’t like it much. I’ve found that in these churches it is more about which version of the Bible you should use (King James Version, ALWAYS), how long your hair should be (for women – long, for men – it cannot touch your ears or collar), and how many times per week you are in church (Sunday morning service including Sunday School AND church, Sunday night including an hour of Bible study before the evening service, Wednesday night Bible study and prayer meeting, Thursday night visitation and any other time the doors are open). It is also about not going to movies, never drinking any alcohol in any amount, wearing dresses only if you’re a woman, and shunning Halloween. 

While I don’t particularly mind wearing dresses, and I’m not a big alcohol drinker and I truly enjoy     attending worship services, I do not think that these things make me holy or a better Christian.

I also found out that I don’t enjoy mega-large churches much. I think it could be because I come from a small town in Wyoming where a large church has a regular Sunday morning attendance of maybe 200-250 people rather than 1000-3000 people. The larger churches that I attended here had great music, good activities and excellent preaching. But I needed fellowship and friendship and that’s not something I found. I even tried attending a small group. And I liked the people very much. But there was no fellowship or friendship outside of the small group, even with those people in the small group. I don’t know why, maybe I didn’t try hard enough, or maybe everyone was just too busy.

Since moving into our house in Phoenix, I had noticed that there was a church that met in the elementary school about two blocks from our home. I thought about attending for almost 2 years before I actually did, about three months ago.

And you know what? I. LOVE. THIS. CHURCH!

It is wonderful! I love the teaching (rather than preaching). I love that our pastor teaches through books of the Bible so that we understand what God is saying to us. I love that he teaches us about the context of the book(s) that he’s teaching through, and educating us about the culture, the people that the books were written to and how this is all relevant to us today rather than picking out pet sins to yell about.

I love the people who are friendly and notice if you missed a Sunday. I love that the congregation is small enough to get to recognize faces other than that of the pastor and worship team! But it is also large enough that there are enough people to do all the jobs in the church so that the same few people aren’t stuck doing everything.

I love that there is a real heart for outreach to our community through all kinds of activities (I will write more on this later), and I love that there is a real sense of purposeful Christian living where we realize that WE are the church, and that the church is not a building.

After visiting at least 7 other churches before coming to this one, I’m counting my blessings–I have a church home!

Blogoversary!!

Well, it looks like I’ve managed to blog for a whole year!! Yay ME!!

I’ve not been posting as much of late, but I know that things will pick up again. I need to get out and take some more photos, and write about some of the things that have been happening lately. We haven’t had any major drama or anything, but we’ve had some good things happen and we’re thankful for the small, everyday things that make our lives happy and productive.

I hope everyone has a great weekend. I’m off to get my car washed at the Phoenix Fire Department’s Charity Car Wash that is set up in our Costco parking lot.

Be blessed!!