Returning to the Corner Ponds

I’ve wanted to snap this bike lean photo for a while now. Today, I made it happen. What appears as a bicycle in the bushes to others is a portrait of sacred space for me. To those raised in my hometown of West Green, they know this spot as Corner Ponds off Joe Ellis Road. It was where we skipped rocks, fished, and even swam as kids. But to me, it will always be holy ground. Because about fifteen feet behind where my bike is leaning is where I surrendered to the call to preach.

My anxious mind had a way of jumbling my words, twisting my sentences into verbal pretzels that didn’t make sense to me, and especially anyone else.

It was on the banks of Corner Ponds I relented to God’s persistent pursuit. I fought. I argued with Him. There was no way I could stand in front of people and talk, let alone preach. My anxious mind had a way of jumbling my words, twisting my sentences into verbal pretzels that didn’t make sense to me, and especially anyone else. Lord, I will write, but don’t make me speak in front of people. But here, kneeling in the red Georgia clay, I stopped fighting. I told God, I’ll go anywhere and do whatever you want me to, even preach, I’m yours.

Don’t tell me God can’t use you because I know He will if you surrender.

From this spot, God has taken a young high school dropout, allowed him to return to school, graduate college with honors, sent him to share the gospel on two continents, pastor multiple churches, become a Christian educator (even be voted Teacher of the Year), and write articles read around the world. Don’t tell me God can’t use you because I know He will if you surrender.

Please understand me. This is not a look-at-me-aren’t-I-wonderful post. Honestly, I still see myself as the nervous kid when I look in the mirror. I never want to forget where God has brought me from. That’s why I returned to the Corner Ponds today.

Angst for Nothing

I silenced my alarm and crawled back into bed. My heartbeat echoed in my head. I didn’t want to wake up, but I needed to. I planned, the night before, to get many tasks finished. My agenda was full. I wondered if all my prioritizing and planning were in vain because I wasn’t sure if I could function. There was still work to be done.

I silenced my alarm and crawled back into bed. My heartbeat echoed in my head.

Throwing the covers back, I eased my feet to the bedroom floor and made my way to the coffeepot. Coffee would help. After sipping the smoothness of Folger’s Black Silk, my mind was still clouded, and a bit confused. My spirit was restless. What was happening? Why did I feel so blah? I assumed bacon would help, but it didn’t. It would be a long day.

As I opened my Psalms in 30 Days prayerbook, I didn’t want to pray. I fumbled through its pages, finding the passages for the day, and forced myself to pray. My spirit felt like saltine crackers, dry and bland. I questioned continuing, but I felt a need to keep pressing. I finished my morning devotional routine, and I didn’t feel any change in my soul. It would be a long day.

My spirit felt like saltine crackers, dry and bland.

Still feeling overwhelmed, I stopped and took a deep, cleansing breath. I jotted down some notes in my journal. Then it hit me. God, you are present. Despite all my angst, God is always present. I took another cleansing breath and stopped all attempts at my doing and settled into being, being in God’s presence. God, I’m here, and you’re here with me.

Then it hit me. God, you are present.

Immediately, Paul’s words to a young pastor entered my mind, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself” (2 Tim 2:13). No matter how I felt, God is faithful. It doesn’t matter if I check all the items off my to-do list, God remains steadfast. He’s with me. God is always with me, whether or not I feel his presence. As I considered this truth, Peter’s inspired words surfaced in my mind, “casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Pet 5:7). God is a very present help to his children (Ps 46:1). I pushed my agenda for the day aside and basked in this truth. The clouds of angst broke, allowing the light of God’s presence to fill me. Maybe the day wouldn’t be that long.