Beach Lessons

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

As I write this, you can tell where my thoughts are. By the time you receive it, I will be at the beach, one of my favorite places to be.

Whether we are enjoying the quiet pools of a still lake or the crashing waves of the ocean, there is something mesmerizing about bodies of water.

I remember the first time we took three of our grandkids to the beach. It was late in the afternoon when we first arrived. The kids were about 3, 4, and 5 years old.

As the waves washed over their feet, they were spellbound. Then came that drawing sensation of the tide pulling their feet deep into the sand. They laughed out loud and fell down, giggling all the way. Getting up, they stood waiting, laughing, amazed, falling, and up for more—a delight to Nana’s heart.

I love walking on the shore, sun on my back, breezes blowing, and the roaring sound of the waves. It always reminds me of the power of God and the fact that he is in control of this dynamic force as well as the world.

At times, the extension of the waves trickles over my toes, reminding me of God’s gentleness. Mighty yet tender, drawing me into him. What a God we serve.

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. Psalm 42:1-2

(One writer imagined the deer being pressed by hunters, then panting after the run and thirsty for the life-giving water.)

Massive blue sky above and pounding water below woo a beach walker into thirsting for thoughts of God.

Come to me, Lord Jesus. Help me long for you. Draw me into your presence. Speak words into my mind and heart that I need to hear. Give me knowledge and strength to follow your will. Help me not be so busy that I only get a glimpse of you, but instead that I have a long gaze at you.

[Jesus said,] “Remain in me and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” John 15:4

I have a circular orange float that I call my “orange doughnut.” I float with it in the pool, but sometimes launch out into the ocean. It’s fun to ride the gentle waves, but sometimes the waves gather more force and splash all over me. I think of it as God being playful.

Then getting into the shore can be quite a comedy as I try to get my unbalanced body to manage the bubbly undertow of shore waves.

These are my “beachy” thoughts this week. All told, it is pure delight to be here, especially my alone time, sitting in a beach chair with a book. 

I hope you have a fun diversion this summer, especially one that feeds your soul.

~ Joyce ~


Jesus Interrupts

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Now, for one last interruption.

One day, Jesus took the disciples for a boat ride. They all settled in and Jesus even fell asleep. The wind began picking up speed as the waves splashed against the boat. The men struggled with the wind and the waves as long as they could then shouted for Jesus to help them. The Son of God stood, rebuked the elements, and commanded them to “Be still!” 

Can you imagine their relief? But then, Jesus rebuked them. He said,

“Why are you so afraid ? Do you still have no faith?” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” Mark 4:40-41

Bad as the storm was, they were overwhelmed by Jesus’ power.

By this point they have heard lots of teaching and parables from their master; they have even seen miracles of healing. But this touched them personally, their own bodies, and they lived the miracle themselves.

He would bring radical changes in their thinking. Man-made rules on the outside is different from a nurturing spirit within. They must learn to be humble not proud. They must become servants, not expect to be served. Jesus will not only be a servant, but he will suffer, be tortured and crucified.

If they think controlling the wind and waves is powerful, they will discover that rising from the dead will come later. Jesus will not be a political king, he will be their redeemer.

This motley troupe of working Galileans will have their lives interrupted, their minds overwhelmed, and their paths directed far from home. They will be empowered by the Holy Spirit and will carry the message to many lands. Most will be martyred.

This may not be God’s plan nor expectation for us, but He does have ways of interrupting our lives as well. Interruptions are not necessarily bad as we have seen in these lessons. Often our life interruptions bring positive results, maybe growing, painful happenings, but potentially steps forward.

I pray I will remember my words when the storms come and interrupt by pleasant boat ride. I pray I will not hear him say, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” Even as I write this, I think of my moaning and groaning over the dread of the big bad word—marketing.

He gave me the vision for these three books I’ve written and he has seen me through so many steps, so many times of doubting. Surely I can trust him to sustain me through this part again. Can you tell? I’m preaching to myself. Oh dear, the tears are coming.

May we all see his interruptions as opportunities.


~ Joyce ~ 

Working Interruptions

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Are you becoming aware of the interruptions in your life? How was your prayer life this week? (See “Prayer Interruptions“)

What about interruptions at work? Oh, many of us can identify with that, can’t we? Whether we have or had a paying job or we look at our work at home, nothing is more frustrating than to be interrupted when you have your mind set on a task.

Jesus experienced a dramatic interruption like that. You remember the time when he was in a home in Capernaum doing his main work—preaching and teaching? A crowd had gathered inside and outside the home listening to his every word.

Some concerned friends tried their best to bring their paralytic friend to Jesus, but they couldn’t work their way in with the man on his pallet. Many homes had stairs going up the side of the house to the roof where they might go to get cooler in the evenings. One creative friend said, “Let’s take him up the steps and let him down through the roof.

. . . they made an opening and, after digging through it in the roof above Jesus, they lowered the mat with the paralyzed man lying on it. Mark 2;4

(I envision bits of straw and dirt floating down with the pallet.) Rather than seeing this as an interruption to his preaching, Jesus saw the faith of these friends.

When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Mark 2:5

Notice that Jesus didn’t acknowledge any faith on the part of the crippled man. Evidently the man had not been a believer in Christ. Jesus took the opportunity of this interruption to teach two things. First, that he can forgive sin. 

The second lesson—sprinkled in the crowd were some teachers of the law. Jesus knew what they were thinking. Forgiving sin is only something God can do. Who does he think he is that he can forgive sin? Blasphemy! Jesus also knew that to call himself the “Son of Man” means one who is entrusted by God with authority and sovereign power. So Jesus said,

“Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic: ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat, and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . .” Mark 2:8-9 

Jesus turns then to the paralytic and says, “I tell you, get up, take up your mat and go home.” Mark 2:11

Jesus used this interruption to teach, to heal, and to convey his divinity, both to the amazed crowd and the befuddled teachers of the law.

Can we find growth in those times of interruption?

One day our education minister shared an experience. She said, “I’m a list maker. I came home from church and with frustration told my husband that I did not get one thing done on my list today. He wisely responded, ‘So, you were interrupted with people and did ministry instead?'” Hmm.

~ Joyce ~ 




It’s Here!!

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

I’m “interrupting” my lessons on interruptions to announce my BIG NEWS. “Eyes to See”, the story of Matthew the tax collector, is finally in print!

Here’s the full back cover synopsis:

How could a tax collector become a disciple of Jesus?

No doubt Matthew endured a great struggle before Jesus said, “Follow Me.”

In first century Galilee, tax collectors faced the wrath of their fellow Jews. After all, these despised men had sold their souls to the Romans, not to mention becoming filthy rich. How could a good Jewish boy fall into such a trap?

Follow the author’s possible story that leads Matthew from one pitfall to another until he eventually becomes a tax collector along the trade route through Capernaum.

See how the location of his tax booth gives him opportunity to hear Jesus’ teachings and causes him to face his sinful condition, ready to repent and follow the Master.

Sit in on the dinner Matthew plans for his friends where he hopes they, too, will come to believe. Watch the Pharisees spoil it all by questioning why Jesus “eats with sinners.” Will Matthew have to overcome the tag “tax collector” even with his fellow disciples?

Follow Matthew as he matures with new eyes to see and meets the challenge of Jesus to “go into all the world.”

Click the link below and hopefully that will take you to the right Amazon page. Click on the picture and have a look.


~ Joyce ~

Prayer Interruptions

Searching His Word
  Seeking His Heart

Do you find that sometimes your prayer time is interrupted? You determine that you’re going to read your devotional material and then spend time in prayer. But your phone rings or you see the light flicker on your cell phone and you glance at the message and before you know it you’re also checking emails or texts. You wasted away the time you had set aside.

Jesus had a prayer interruption, but it wasn’t his negligence that caused it. It was his own disciples!

You remember last week, (“Ministry Interruptions“) we saw Jesus teaching in the synagogue on Sabbath morning. The people welcomed his amazing teaching and were overwhelmed when they witnessed the healing of a demon-possessed man right in their midst.

He ended up healing people who were brought to him all evening. While Jesus was God, God’s son, he was also human. The strain of one healing would take a lot out of him, but to do continual healings would leave him exhausted.

Jesus often pulled away from people to be renewed by his Heavenly Father. In order to have time alone in prayer, he felt he must rise early the next morning to do that very thing.

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Mark 1:35

Did you catch that? A solitary place. He could have prayed silently in his bed, and may have done that from time to time, but he felt the need to go off by himself where he could pray out loud in solitude to the Father.

Let’s pause here to talk about prayer habits. My self-determined time to pray is in the morning after my Bible reading/devotional book. I’m  afraid sometimes that prayer time is short. I think of my list of things to be done for the day.

I use a neck stretching thing called a “neck hammock.” It takes fifteen minutes, so I decided to pray during that time.

I also designate driving to an appointment or an activity as another time to pray. I find some of my best times is when I pray out loud. It helps me stay focused. Another time I use is during the ten-minute workout on the recumbent bike at the “Y”. 

While these are okay, the most effective prayer time I have is when I’m not doing double duty with something else. I think that’s where Jesus was that early morning. Though he was tired, he knew where his great strength could be found. I always ponder the fact that, if Jesus needed that time, I certainly do too.

Oh, but here come his well-meaning disciples. They’re looking all over for him, not realizing their interruption of course.

Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” Luke 1:36-37

That’s why he went early! 

Let’s focus on our prayer time this week. I’d love to hear your experiences.

~ Joyce ~


Ministry Interruptions

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

It’s Monday. I need to call a member in our Bible Study class to get an update on her recent problems. Today is my monthly appointment with the chiropractor and then off to the “Y” for water aerobics. Gotta keep that arthritis in check. 

My publisher wants a list of the corrections so I need to finish reading the manuscript and make my list. Then there’s the weekly blog to finish and this is my week to teach the Bible lesson at church, not to mention that company is coming and I have to clean the house. 

Do you ever have weeks like that when it seems like one thing interrupts another? Even ministry opportunities are interrupted?

We are in Capernaum this week with Jesus. He is ready to start his ministry and he begins inviting some fishermen to join him.

Jesus interrupts Simon Peter and Andrew when they shove back to shore after a no-show fish night. He tells them to throw their nets back out. Amazingly, they catch a boat load of fish. Simon is humbled and falls at Jesus’ feet in submission. Later, James and John give up their fishing as well to become fishers of men.

Jesus’ ministry has begun. One Sabbath day, Jesus goes to the synagogue and interrupts the humdrum, church-going people’s lives with “amazing” teaching, but then, Jesus is interrupted when a demon-possessed man suddenly cries out,

“What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” Mark 1:24

Jesus gives an immediate stern response to this interruption.

“Be quiet! Come out of him!” The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek. Mark 1:25-26

The people are not only amazed with his teaching, but also his authority. The ministry opportunities don’t end there. Jesus goes with James, John, and Andrew to Peter’s house and heals Peter’s mother-in-law. (If you watch this scene on “The Chosen,” it is a stirring and slightly humorous scene, given the mother-in-law’s temperament.)

This has already been a busy day for Jesus, but it doesn’t end there. Word spreads fast throughout the town.

That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon possessed. Mark 1:12

Into the night Jesus heals.

And my friends, God’s Holy Spirit continues to work in our lives and in our hearts and minds as well, to transform us, to heal our brokenness, and to give us strength for the next ministry task. Most importantly, he gives us joy in doing it! Especially when we minister with hope.

Sometimes ministry opportunities come in waves along with other duties. Help us Lord to remember Jesus’ forbearance even with all the interruptions he endured.

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:11-12 

~ Joyce ~

Tempting Interruptions

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

You have an assigned task to perform. Maybe it came from the committee you’re on. Maybe it’s a family task you promised to accomplished. Maybe it’s a self-appointed task you doled out.

You’re thinking, “Why did I ever agree to this? I have a million other things to do. I know I’m the one who should so it, but it’s so hard to stick with it.”

Who knows what Jesus was thinking that day as he walked into the desert. He had been on an elevated plane just yesterday—his baptism and the voice of God assuring him that he was the Son of God. All those years of his mother’s miraculous stories were coming to fruition.

He may have thought, “Why, then, has the Spirit led me into this desert?” 

I wonder, what did he do there for forty days and forty nights? Pray, recite Scripture? Meditate, trying to hear a word or a thought from God? Search out places to lay his head at night? Try to find a source of water?

Did God speak to him audibly? Did the Spirit move in his mind and soul to remind him of Godly attitudes? Did he realize this was going to be a fast to prepare him for things that lay ahead? 

Was he coming to realize his fulfillment in the Scriptures? Did God gradually prepare him for the cross? Was he sweating because of the desert heat or because of what he saw on the horizon?

 Jesus would be physically weak without food by now, his energy level at a low ebb. At just such a time, the tempter came to “interrupt” his time with God.

Scripture says the tempter came to him and said,

“If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to be made bread.” Matthew 4:3 

Jesus would not dilute this time with God even if his desire for food was at a peak. Just as the Israelites depended on God for the manna, Jesus would depend on God, not on his own supernatural power for his needs. Jesus said,

“It is written, man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:2

Then the devil took Jesus to a high point at the Temple with a 100-foot drop. “Jump off,” Satan said and then, he quoted Scripture—

“He will command his angels concerning you and they will lift you up in their hands . . .” Matthew 4:6

A dramatic fall and being caught in mid-air would certainly attract attention with the many gathered around the Temple. But that wasn’t Jesus’ mission.

“It is also written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'” Matthew 4:7

Satan took Jesus to a high mountain and declared, “All this I will give you if you bow down and worship me.” Jesus had had enough.

“Away from me Satan! For it is written ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'” Matthew 4:10

May we remember Jesus’ example when we are tempted to take short cuts.

~ Joyce ~

Divine Interruptions

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Think of some interruptions in your life. You’re about to sit down with a refreshing iced tea in hand and a child calls from outside, “Mommy, sissy got caught in the dog’s leash and I can’t get her out!” You sigh, set your drink down, and walk out to take care of the catastrophe.

You’re writing your final notes to finish a Bible study lesson and the timer goes off on the oven. Phooey!

You’re about to take a walk in the sunshine. You’ve been looking forward to this all day. Then, you suddenly remember you have a dental appointment.

You’re busy at work, trying to finish a report that is due in the next hour, but your co-workers keep a steady flow of very audible conversations that distract you.

Interruptions! Life is full of them.

Sometimes, they are happy interruptions—a call from a long-time friend, an award you weren’t expecting, a kiss on the back of your neck, a helpful hand with a laborious task. But most of the time we think of interruptions in negative terms. 

And then there are those interruptions that teach us a new thing.

We will follow the book of Mark this month and look at the results of interesting interruptions.

John the Baptist tromped out of the desert claiming to be the forerunner of the promised Messiah. He certainly interrupted the people’s mundane lives.

John  came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin. Mark 1:4

This was new and strange, but insightful and needed, productive as well.

The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. Mark 1:5

We see the results of this interruption caused the people to face their sin and confess it. The key point is that an interruption in our lives may turn us in a new direction.

At one point, Jesus came to John asking to be baptized. John protested because he knew the Promised One stood before him. Who was he to baptize the Messiah? 

God himself interrupts the scene. When Jesus comes up out of the water,

. . . he saw heaven torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Mark 1:10-11

How this must have warmed the heart of Jesus. He, the Son, felt the presence of the Spirit, and heard the voice of God himself. It was as though God marked His stamp of approval on Jesus. What a powerful affirmation—a glorious interruption .

Perhaps a new way of thinking can turn us in right directions like those who listened to John’s message. Or maybe we will experience affirmation from God in needed areas of our lives. Be ready. Be pliable. Listen with a trusting heart.

~ Joyce ~  



Pen Pals and Posts

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

Have you ever had a phrase you just couldn’t get out of your mind?

A few months ago, I noticed that every time I tired to register for a writing conference or pay for other things, the vendors kept asking for Pay Pal. So, I decided it was time to sign up. However, every time I mentioned it to my husband, I kept saying “Pen Pal” instead of “Pay Pal.”

I guess I had a pen pal somewhere in the past or “pen pal” just seemed to go together in my head. Every time we talked about it, I still said “pen pal” instead of Pay Pal. It just rolled off the tongue before I knew it. What was worse he had to correct me over and over. He would just say, “Pen Pal.”

Okay, hold that little story in your head for a moment. Here’s another story.

For years, our family had a breakfast item that we enjoyed from time to time. We called it “eggs in toast holes.” Here’s how it goes. Butter a piece of bread on both sides, then cut about a two inch circle in the bread to form a hole. Lay the bread and the circle in the skillet, put a dab of butter in the hole, and when it melts, break an egg in the hole. After it cooks a bit, put another dab of butter down and flip the bread and egg over.

It’s kind of like a fried egg in the toast hole. Plus you have the circle (the hole) to flip, too. We put jelly on the “circle.”

Well, the other morning my husband rolled over in bed and said, “Let’s have eggs in toast posts.” I blinked awake and said, “You mean toast holes?” Not to be undone by this correction, he said, “Pen pals.” I chuckled, but got the point. Don’t dole out criticism when you make mistakes too!

It was a subtle way, a humorous way, a gentle way to say “I’m not the only one who makes mistakes.”

It reminds me of some of Solomon’s proverbs.

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1

A man finds joy in an apt reply— and how good is a timely word! Proverbs 15:23

When a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord, he makes even his enemies live at peace with him. Proverbs 16:7

A wise man’s heart guides his mouth, and his lips promote instruction. Proverbs 16:23

Pleasing words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. Proverbs 16:24 (The funny bones, too!)

My husband majors on happy words. People are set at ease with his good, spontaneous humor. Thank you, sweetheart, for prompting these thoughts that led me to search out these wonderful proverbs in Scripture.

Hope you enjoyed the lighter touch this week.

~ Joyce ~