Friday, July 29, 2011

Advice from a river... Go with the flow

I've heard this advice before, "Go with the flow."  In 2006, in Costa Rica, from my husband.  I had shared with him what I felt to be a calling from God "to go deeper" and he replied: "Go with the flow."  I've shared a little bit of what 'going with the flow' has meant for me since 2006. 

Let me share a little more.  This summer, in May, I went to Cape San Blas with some girls on a trip.  For me, it was a working trip as I finished papers for seminary and studied.  But, I did get some snorkeling, beach time, sunset cruise, and good eating and fellowship accomplished as well!  I even did a taekwondo workout on the beach!  I also got some shopping done.

One of the things I bought on that trip were two journals.  I'd like to share about one here.  It's called: Advice from a River: Guided Journal.

It caught my attention in the store by its cover and by the words inside:

"Advice from a River"
Go with the flow
Be thoughtful of those downstream
Slow down and meander
Be clear
Follow the path of least resistance
for rapid succes

Immerse yourself in nature,
trickling streams,
roaring waterfalls
sparkles of light dancing on water

Delight in life's adventures
around every bend
Let difficulties stream away

Live simply and gracefully in
Your own True Nature
moving, flowing,
serene and on course

Rough waters become smooth
If you find yourself babbling just smile!
Gor around the obstacles
Stay current

The beauty is in the journey!
~Ilan Shamir

I go to water to for calming, for centering (as evidenced in several posts you may have seen on the blog).  This poem by Ilan Shamir resonates with me on several levels, though there are a few things that differ from my experiences.  Nature is definitely one of my most significant connection points with God, and water is that calming factor for me.  Rushing waters on the rocks, waterfalls, or the slow moving waters of a stream or babbling brook.  The waves of the ocean or the smooth glassy top of a lake. 

This week I'm in Fruitland Park, FL at the Life Enrichment Center.  There is a beautiful lake on the property.  I got to see it raging when I first arrived due to the storm and winds.  But I've witnessed its calm as well.

I've even gotten to see 3 alligators swimming off shore so far!!  But not really close enough to get a great picture.  Here are two different gators.


But that doesn't really have to do with a river, or going with the flow.... EXCEPT that I've chosen this journal to be my starting journal for the 2 year bilingual academy. ☺  I thought it would be appropriate since I've been living into "going with the flow" since 2006. 

As I've shared before, "going with the flow" has meant "retiring" from teaching college, starting into seminary, getting a Certificate in Christian Studies, going back into teaching and teaching some online and then re-retiring after two years, going to SEJ Lay Speaking Gathering in Montgomery, AL 2010, SoulFeast 2010, 5 Day Academy in TN in 2010, re-enrolling in seminary in the fall of 2010 and starting classes back up Spring semester 2011, applying for and starting the 2 year bilingual academy, ETC.  One of those "etc." is accepting a position as part-time Director of Missions at my church.  Another is being a MIR for the first time at Camp Lookout this summer. 

Here is where I seem to differ with Shamir's poem.  This river doesn't seem very gentle or slow flowing to me.  Path of least resistance?  There are risks at every bend of the river for me and it seems to be more windy than the Toccoa I recently went down tubing (see the post on tubing the Toccoa). It's more like the other one in Georgia, the Amicalola River, that we went on with some friends two weeks ago where there are lots of rocks to navigate and the adrenaline flows. ☺

I'm attempting to live into my true nature, my true self.  I believe as I continue to go deeper, I am becoming my true self, the self I was created to be.  That's why I've said "yes" to several things over the past couple of years.  That's why I've said "yes" one more time to a calling I've felt for a while now.  What I've said "yes" to isn't the end all of the journey, it's only the beginning.  Who knows where this journey will lead?  What I know is that in one sense, I have come home by coming to the bilingual academy.  I don't know where this journey will lead, or even what that fully means.  And, what is it that I've said "yes" to that I don't know where it will lead me?  Candicacy.  There, I've written it.  (It's already written in my "Go with the flow" journal). 

Two last things I know for sure: 

(1) the beauty IS in the journey!
(2) I will not be getting in any rubber tubes on the waters around here!

Where are you in your journey today?  How does the poem resonate within your heart, mind, and soul?

Whatever you're contemplating, however you feel God nudging you, if I could, I would encourage you to "go with the flow".

~Debra ☺

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Serving God is an adventure!

Today's sermon was "Basin and The Towel" by Rev. Leon Fraley, based on the Scripture verses John 13:1-5.  He also shared Philippians 2:5-8 during the sermon (I always refer to these verses as the "Jamaica verses" as we learned these for our Jamaica mission trip.)   Prior to the sermon, Rhonda Fraley sang "How Beautiful" by Twila Paris.  An appropriate song to precede a message on serving God by serving others. 

There was a basin, a towel, and a pitcher of water set up on a table that Leon used as a hands-on illustration at one point during the sermon.  I took a picture afterwards.  These symbols capture servant leadership, servanthood, serving.  They are powerful symbols for me and are a great symbol for ministry and mission.

There were three points to take with us from the sermon:
  1. Do we miss opportunities to serve due to it being an inconvenience?
  2. When we serve others we will get dirty and wet.
  3. Serving others takes time and attention.
Leon also shared the lyrics to Michael Card's "Basin and The Towel" as he [Leon] had recently been to the concert where Michael Card, Twila Paris, and Steve Green performed together at Abba's house.  (I had wanted to go to that one as those are some of my favorite "oldie" musicians, but it sold out!)  Leon also shared a powerful story from India in a hospital and how one person taking the time to help someone else can make a difference.

Are we willing to serve?  Are we willing to take steps to be involved?  To be inconvenienced?  To get dirty and wet?  To give up some of our time and pay attention to others?

Sometimes I am willing, sometimes I'm not so willing.  I hope and pray that daily I'll be listening and open to the opportunities that come my way.

It's easier when you are set apart.  When you go intentionally to a place, like on a mission trip (locally, nationally, or internationally), then you are there for a purpose.  You know you are there to be open to God, to listen to God, to serve God and serve others.

For me, I had the privilege of serving God and others last week at Camp Lookout in Rising Fawn, GA.  It was my first time back at a summer camp since 1985.   I got to go on a creek walk, learn some new crazy songs, eat s'mores, pet horses, shoot a couple of arrows, watch some cool crafts, get to know lots of campers and counselors, drive a bus, and pull some weeds.  Oh, and I shared God's word and hopefully God's love.  I was blessed to share in three communion services as well.  Most of my time was spent with the day campers and the younger taste of campers, but I got to spend some time with the other campers and the wranglers, as well as some counselors here and there.  It was a great blessing! 

Learning to love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength... and learning to love my neighbor as myself.  That was the theme of camp this year.  That was the new commandment given to us by Christ, therefore the focus of Christ's ministry and mission.

The counselors were inconvenienced this past week because my daughter and I slept in the prayer chapel room, their converted "chill room".  I'm grateful that they willingly sacrificed that space so I could have a place to stay.  I know they'll enjoy having their "chill room" back this week! 

Serving at camp was an exciting adventure!  It was focused, intentional mission time. 

Now that I'm no longer "on the mission field", I hope to strive to continue to be intentional in my serving.  I hope I'll be on the lookout for opportunities to serve, to get dirty and wet, to give away some of my time (which is not really "mine" to begin with, but God's).

How about you?  What adventures in serving God and others are you experiencing? 

Blessings on the journey!


Some pics from my Camp Lookout experience:

trail for the creek walk, coming back up

the lake and some of the boats

serving communion Thursday evening, taken by Charlotte
my heart rock that I found at Camp Lookout!  To remind me to love God with my all--heart, mind, soul, and strength-- and to love my neighbor as myself.  I gave out heart rocks to the daycampers and Taste of Campers (the counselors helped me gather some of those--thanks!)

This year's theme!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

How many times does it take to get it right? The center of the message is love.

Some of you might remember the Tootsie Roll Lollipop commercials with the boy asking the owl 'how many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie roll tootsie pop? And the owl takes the lollipop and answers, 'ONE, TWO, THREE, CRUNCH...' as he takes a bite....

As I reflect on my hectic day, I wonder 'how many times does it take to get it right?' ONE, TWO, THREE, keep going.... no "crunch" yet.   No matter how much I grow in my faith, spiritual maturity, or emotional maturity, there is ALWAYS a need for more growth!!  So, I've learned that the journey is ongoing.  And, I've learned to live into the journey: the questions, the ups and downs, the roller coasters, the frustration, the pain, the joy, etc. 

When I fall or fail, I get up again.  How can I keep getting up?  My eyes are on the One from whom I receive my strength, my hope, my meaning, my significance, my security.  (Though I don't always live like I believe it.)

Toby Mac has a song, "Get Back Up".  Check out the lyrics and listen here:

"Get Back Up"
You turned away when I looked you in the eye,
And hesitated when I asked if you were alright,
Seems like you're fighting for your life,
But why? oh why?
Wide awake in the middle of your nightmare,
You saw it comin' but it hit you outta no where,
And there's always scars
When you fall that far

We lose our way,
We get back up again
It's never too late to get back up again,
One day you gonna shine again,
You may be knocked down,
But not out forever,
Lose our way,
We get back up again,
So get up, get up,
You gonna shine again,
Never too late to get back up again,
You may be knocked down,
But not out forever
[May be knocked down but not out forever]

You rolled out at the dawning of the day
Heart racin' as you made you little get away,
It feels like you've been runnin' all your life
But, why? Oh why?

So you've pulled away from the love that wou'd've been there,
You start believin' that your situation's unfair

But there's always scars,
When you fall that far

We lose our way,
We get back up again
Never too late to get back up again,
One day, you gonna shine again,
You may be knocked down but not out forever,
Lose our way, we get back up again,
So get up, get up
You gonna shine again
It's never too late, to get back up again
You may be knocked down, but not out forever,
May be knocked down, but not out forever!

This is love callin', love callin', out to the broken,
This is love callin'.
This is love callin', love callin', out to the broken
This is love callin'.
This is love callin', love callin',
I am so broken
This is love callin' love callin

Lose our way, [way way way ay ay ay]
We get back up, [get back up again]
It's never too late [late late late ate ate ate]
You may be knocked down but not out forever!

Lose our way,
We get back up again,
So get up get up
You gonna shine again
Never too late to get back up again
You may be knocked down,
But not out forever,

This is love [lose our way] callin' love callin' [get back up again]
To the broken
This is love [never too late] callin'
[may be knocked down but not out forever]
This is love [lose our way] callin' love callin' [we get back up again]
To the broken
This is love [never too late] callin'
[may be knocked down but not out forever]

This is love callin' love callin'
Out to the broken,
This is love callin'....

No matter how many times you've fallen or feel like you've failed or fallen short, remember to turn your eyes upon the One who created you, who loves you more than anyone else, and get back up.  It IS love calling out to the broken.  And, as we continue to answer the call of love to us, we are better equipped to share love with others who are broken as well.

How many times will it take for me to grasp that the center of the message of Christ is love?  If only I could've been like that owl, 'ONE, TWO, THREE...'

May you know that love is calling you and may you answer that call. 

Have a Tootsie Roll Lollipop somewhere along your journey,


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Stepping out in faith, out of my comfort zone...the refiner's fire

I talk about it quite a bit, I encourage others to do it all the time.  But, when it comes down to me doing it, well, let's say it's a little more difficult.  Even a tad-bit nerve-wracking.  Surprise?!?!  It's true, I do have a limit to my comfort zone.  Even though I'm adventurous and a risk-taker, I have my limits.  Or, at least it takes me a while to go beyond those limits.  Sometimes limits are set by my personal fears-- fears of not being able to do it all or do it well.  Sometimes the limits are not fear-based, but trust based, or lack there of. 

I've known this time was coming.  I've talked about it in the past.  But, it's here.  I'm embarking on several new adventures, all at once.  And, frankly, that's putting me out of my comfort zone. 

I knew Camp Lookout was coming up.  I'm to be a MIR (Minister in Residence) for a week.  I'm excited to be going back to camp.  I grew up in camps since I was 6 years old, up until I was 20 years old.  Camp was a HUGE part of my life!  I learned about God, relationships, sharing, how to do many activities, how to teach, how to take care of campers, etc.  Now, as an adult, I get to go back.  Yet, in a different role.  This time, I'm Ellen.  Now, for you Camp Skyline old timers, you'll get the reference.  For everyone else, it means I'm the person sharing the devotions.  It's a little scary for me.  I've been reading the Scripture verses and the curriculum, all the while trying to chill and be still as I prepare.

The week following Camp Lookout, I begin my 2 year Academy journey with the bilingual academy.  I'm super excited about that experience as well.  Speaking Spanish, worshiping in Spanish, meeting folks from all over, spending time learning from faculty, getting some silence and solitude time.  Oh, yeah!!  Yet, at the same time, I know this journey is going to change me.  Or, at least I will have the opportunity to change.  How can one not change when traveling an intentional journey of spiritual formation?  And, though I advocate change and growth, I'm a little bit nervous. 

To add to the mix, I've recently accepted the position of Director of Missions at my church.  I'm super excited about this new opportunity, yet nervous about it as well.  The list of expectations on the job description are huge!  There is no way a part time person can do all that.  So, I accepted the position with excitement and a little fear. ☺

I'm okay with fear.  For one, it helps me realize that I'm not in charge, control.  Any one of these things is bigger than me.  Put them together, well... it's definitely time to go through the refiner's fire.  But, wait a minute.  Wasn't I here before?  Why does it seem that I'm always going through the refiner's fire?  It's because I am.  And, it's because I need it.  There is so much iniquity, impurity, dross (whatever term you want to put here), that I need constant purification through the refiner's fire.  Stepping out in faith, out of my comfort zone, into these areas of intentional growth and service are definite ways to ensure that I won't stagnate on the journey.

What about you?  Are you continuing to put yourself into situations that cause you to step out in faith, out of your comfort zone?  Are you allowing the refiner's fire to cleanse you?

I have a long way to go on this journey before I will ever look like the One I am following.  However, I hope to become more like my model each day.

Blessings on your journey,


Lyrics to "Refiner's Fire" by Brian Doerksen:

Purify my heart
Let me be as gold and precious silver
Purify my heart
Let me be as gold, pure gold

Refiner's fire
My heart's one desire
Is to be holy
Set apart for You, Lord
I choose to be holy
Set apart for You, my Master
Ready to do Your will

Purify my heart
Cleanse me from within
And make me holy
Purify my heart
Cleanse me from my sin
Deep within   

Saturday, July 9, 2011


I just finished my second "Sisterchick" novel today by Robin Jones Gunn.  In the first one I read, the main characters went to Mexico.  In this novel, Sisterchicks Say Ooh La La!, the characters go to France.

Though there were a couple of places that were missing their accent grave (`) [grandmère and , for example] and "bon jour" was separated instead of together, that didn't keep me from enjoying the novel.  It was fun to revisit Paris through the eyes of these two friends.  It was also good to view friendship and a relationship with others and God through their eyes as well.

To those who have warned me not to take notes while reading Sisterchick novels, I promise that I did not take physical notes, only mental ones.  I didn't even flag the pages with colored sticky notes or flags.  I will admit to going back through the book and finding quotes that caught my attention, however. ☺

In the back of the book and on the website (http://www.sisterchicks) there is a definition for sisterchick. 

A "sisterchick" is someone who is "a friend who shares the deepest wonders of your heart, loves you like a sister, and provides a reality check when you're being a brat."  Based on the novel, I'd say that a sisterchick provides a reality check whenever needed, not necessarily only when you're being a brat. 

Do you have people like that in your life?  Now, I realize that if you are male, you may be close to tuning out (if you haven't already).  But, guys have guy friends too.  It's different, I know.  But, still important.  We all need relationships along our journey, people who will walk beside us through thick and thin, through the good, the bad, and the ugly. 

So, these sisterchicks going to France.... what caught my attention in this novel? 

I've been to Paris.  It was a stopover on the way to Israel and back.  We spent some time at the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, we even stayed at a hotel that looked toward the park and the Eiffel Tower.  We did more in the short time we were there, but it has been 11 years this summer.  It was fun checking out the history, the tourist spots, the shops, the cafés, using my third language.   So, I related to this novel on the travel level.

Then, there was the friendship level.  Friends growing up together.  Whether from grade school on or later in life, I've been blessed by some excellent friendships that have helped me through life's passageways.  Even the challenges of friendships have been positive as they have been part of my growth as well.

In the book, the relationship between Amy (Amelie) and Lisa goes through different stages from their childhood into adulthood.   In Chapter One, Lisa says this of a friend: "I look back now and realize that the gift of a true friend is that she sees you not the way you see yourself or the way others see you.  A true friend sees who you are inside and who you can become." (21)

Amy started learning Scripture to apply to her weightloss efforts with the encouragement from Shirleene.  One verse that Amy shares with Lisa on the flight to Paris caused me to chuckle as Amy explained it was more of a mid-life verse applying to the lack of muscle tone, especially beneath the arm, where the flab tends to jiggle.  The verse?  Revelation 3:2.  What does it say?  "Wake up!  Strengthen what remains."  This is what Lisa says of Amy here: "I wondered what God thought of Amy at moments like this.  Somehow I had a feeling she made Him smile." (80)  Something about that section made me smile.  Picturing Lisa laughing at the verse and the situation.  Picturing Amy smiling.  Picturing God smiling.  ☺

Overcoming fears, experiencing life's adventures, growing.  These are the things that I read about in the novel.  Seeing these two friends give the space of grace into each other's lives for growth and reading about their adventures is like sitting down for coffee or tea with an old friend and listening to their story. 

There's a scene in the Notre Dame cathedral that Lisa shares, of a girl hiding from her father behind a pillar.  There is a spiritual analogy and an awakening for Lisa as she observes the scene.  All of us struggle with the image of ourselves and our relationship with self, God, and others.... to some extent, at some point in our lives.  Sometimes we find that we grow a little yet have a long way to grow.  The best news is that we were created for relationship, and that we are loved.  God loves us how we are, where we are, as we are.  Whew! 

I'm grateful for that love from God that has not given up on me and continues to draw me into relationship.  I'm grateful for the love and friendship of others throughout these 40 something years.  To all the teachers, camp counselors and directors, bus drivers, swim coaches, band directors, track coaches, sunday school teachers, pastors, youth directors, friends, relatives, bosses, ETC.--- Thanks!  Thanks for being salt and light in my life as I have traveled on this journey.

Now, where is my passport?  I'm thinking it's time to go back to Paris..... ☺

May your journey include friends and adventures!


Rolling down the river.... tubin'

We celebrated July 4th this past Monday by going tubing (tubin') down the Toccoa River.  It's the river that runs into (changes into) the Ocoee River, which is known for its rapids and kayakers and rafters.  It was the site for kayaking for the 1996 Olympics.  We were above that area.  Our "rapids" were nowhere near anything found on the Ocoee.  And, that's okay.  This trip was intended to be a laid back float.

On the way up to McCaysville, GA we did stopped at Ocoee Dam #2 so we could watch some rafters and kayakers and took some pictures.  I had the vantage point of the bridge.  The kayakers would hang out and wait so they could play in the rapids.  One kayaker didn't quite time his playing very well and didn't move quickly enough when a raft came down.  The raft bumped into him, turning him over and they floated on down.  I missed that "kodak moment." 

We went tubing with "TRA", though there are several other places from whom you can rent tubes.  Ours were $6 for the trip.  Though I took a water-proof camera with me, I haven't developed those pictures yet.  So, I don't have the adventure on the water to share at this time.  I can share a few pictures from the take-out spot and the rental place itself though.

You didn't have to float down the river in a tube, you could come down on the top of a kayak.

I haven't been tubing since I was a kid.  In those days, we used real tire tubes.  You know, the black kind with the valve stem sticking out.  They could get real hot on a hot, sunny day and those stems could poke the heck out of you.  But, it was fun.  I remember tubing in South Georgia with my aunt Cindy.  I don't know where else I tubed, but we did it quite a bit growing up.

I was looking forward to this tubing trip.  A time to get away, get on a river, and float.  Nothing like Huckleberry Finn or Tom Sawyer, mind you, but still an adventure.  I needed it.  My heart, my mind, and my soul needed the peace that a flowing river could bring.  And, it was good.  The water was cold, yet still manageable.  Though the three of us floated down the river together, we still had our own space some of the time.  I was able to soak in the sounds of the trickling water, the birds, the silence.... there were other people on the river too, but they weren't too noisy.  I was able to soak in some sun and enjoy letting the river carry my tube.  From time to time, the river carried my tube into the trees and I needed to use a little arm power (which is miraculous that I can even do that these days!) to move back into the middle. 

I would like to say that the floating down the river totally cleared my mind, filled my heart, and released my soul.  But that wasn't the case.  It partially did so.  I think I need to go back again. :)  The silence and solitude on the river was helpful, but I needed more. 

Do you ever feel that way?  You are soaking it in, you are in the moment, you KNOW that God is with you and you are with God and it is GOOD.  Yet, within moments (or hours), wham bam... the next thing hits.   Those rough spots don't negate those flowing moments.  In fact, what we've gathered during those flowing, floating moments will often dictate how we handle the rougher moments.  Will they get to us or merely be bumps in the journey, so to speak? 

I've had a week of flowing, floating moments.  But then, the rapids have hit hard.  The two rivers this week have been mixed.  The rapids that have hit have been rapids that are typical of the Ocoee, not the Toccoa.  So, I haven't been ready for them nor have I handled them well.  If I were mentally on the Ocoee, then that would be different, I would have been looking out for them.  But, instead, I have been on the floating river. :)

What I know is that I need some more soaking time with my Creator.  Time to soak in His presence.  Time in prayer.  Time just being.  Time listening.  Time letting go.  Time repenting for my moments this week in which I didn't react well.  Time praising my Creator. 

Whether your life's journey is more like a hiking trail, the Toccoa River or the Ocoee right now..... how is it going?  Where do you see God in the journey?  What can you learn from the moment?  What are you going to do about it?

Blessings on your journey,


Saturday, July 2, 2011

Reflections from the newspaper... part II... Beetle Bailey

In Friday's paper (July 1, 2011), what caught my attention was one of the comic strips, Beetle Bailey.  Comic strips often catch my attention.  And, as I've mentioned, I do have a collection of them, ready to use as devotional and/or sermon material..... one day.

Sarge and his girlfriend are going out to dinner in an upscale restaurant.  The waiter is dressed in a tux with tails, carrying the drink tray with obvious aptitude, and has his head cocked up into the air with his nose protruding upwards.  Sarge's girlfriend notes: "This place might be too ritzy for us."  Sarge replies: "Let me look around."  The next scene shows Sarge and his girlfriend peeking through the round windows of the kitchen doors.  Sarge says: "It's more revealing to check the kitchen."  What you see inside the kitchen is a grubby cook, broken plates, food on the floor, a mouse, smoke coming off the pan.

So, I don't know about you, but the very first thing that struck me was that this is so true.  Checking the INSIDE, in this case, the kitchen, is more revealing.  The kitchen represents the heart of the restaurant.  It pumps the lifeblood.  Without it, there would be no business. 

So it is with us, we need to check OUR "inside", our heart, to see what is really going on.  The outside may or may not tell the real story.  If we wear masks, the outside will be different.  Authenticity, integrity, honesty, transparency.  These words come to mind here.

What about with others?  We need to be careful to NOT judge by the outside, but seek to look into the inside.  Whatever the exterior is, we must have wisdom and discernment, with eyes of love, to see the inside, the heart.  So, when you are tempted to make an assessment about someone from their exterior appearance, remember to look into their "kitchen".  As Sarge says, "It's more revealing to check the kitchen."

Outside vs. inside.  How we live, how we look at and see others.  It's important to think about.

How do I portray myself?  Is my outside the same as my inside?  If not, how can I become more authentic?  What about you?  How do you portray yourself?  Is your outside the same as your inside? 

How do I see others?  Do I make my assessments based on the outside or do I take time to look into their "kitchen"?  What about you?

It takes time to walk to the kitchen.  It takes time and a willingness to not make a rush assessment.  It calls for intentional investment.... into our own lives and others.

I hope that you and I are willing to journey into the "kitchen".



Reflection from the newspaper... part I--Jesus, the kudzu vine

If you've been reading my blog, you've noticed that I write quite a bit about what books I'm reading and/or what songs I've been listening to.  I've even included children's books.  I don't know if I've shared from this next genre yet or not, but another area from which I gain much fodder for reflection is the newspaper.  It might be an article, or a commentary column, or even the comics.  Yes, the comics.  In fact, I have quite a few comics clipped and filed away with thoughts on devotional and/or sermon material, depending on what works out down the road.

Anyway, there are two things from this week that stood out to me.  I will talk about one here, and the other one in a separate blog (as I tend to be wordy).

The first one is a picture. It was in Thursday's paper (June 30, 2011).  An Associated Press pricture of a patch of kudzu vine that had grown up on a utility pole in Kinston, NC.  The people there in the area were saying they could see Christ's likeness on the cross in the kudzu.

Here's an article on it as well:

In my newspaper, it was a small picture with the caption "Jesus vine?" on page A4, sandwiched between two articles at the top of the page.  It caught my attention.

As I looked at it, I had several thoughts go through my head..... I chuckled.  After all, it was kudzu.  We had a family farm that had certain areas overrun with kudzu.  Kudzu is difficult to clean out and keep out.  We used mechanics and cows to keep the kudzu to a manageable level.  Knowing that kudzu is a vine that just grows voraciously and wherever at will brings humor in seeing it in the likeness as Jesus.  And, then, it brings a secondary thought.  Jesus is akin to kudzu..... Jesus can and will grow the kingdom of God wherever He pleases.  I'm not going to get too deep into an analogy here, but what all of this does make me think of is this:  we CAN see Jesus anywhere and everywhere we look, IF we are looking.  Did you notice that homeless person sitting on the street corner just the other day?  What about those internally displaced persons in Sudan?  Did you see into the eyes of the many children around the world that are hungry and thirsty?  Have you heard the lonely cry of the elderly or your neighbor?  In these situations and many more, we can see and hear Jesus.  The question is, what are we going to do about it?  Now, seeing Jesus in a kudzu vine, what does that do for us?  For me, it's mainly a reminder that I can see Jesus if my eyes are open.  Then, the question calls out:  "What am I going to do about it?"  Seeing Jesus is just the beginning.  Hopefully, from there, a relationship grows and I become the extended hands and feet of Jesus.  Now, that's a neat thought!  Cool, I can become part of the Jesus kudzu vine!

Where do you see Jesus along your journey?