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Stacked to Stand

thanks to Peggy Sue Thompson for this photo

A friend posted this on Facebook and stated if it had been her, she’d have cut the tree down since so much of it was missing.   As I looked at that majestic tree the Holy Spirit whispered to me, “I have done this for many whom others have seen as a lost cause.”

I don’t know what happened to gouge out this tree.  But some kind soul saved it by pushing these stones inside the hollow trunk. It was a purposeful act, not a freak of nature.

Thanks to the stones stacked inside, the vulnerable core of the tree was protected from varmints, bugs, and weather. The stones strengthened it and encouraged it to grow straight and tall instead of toppling over. They, by their very nature, add substance and sturdiness to the trunk.

What a testimony of a Christ-filled life!

What are the stones in our lives? Are they our trials, lessons learned, or spiritual nudges when faced with a decision? With the Rock of Christ living in us, stone by stone He is building a testimony.  Each rock is stacked just so in order for us to keep standing, keep growing and keep digging our roots deeper into the faith. As a result, we are able to withstand what otherwise might topple us.

Jesus said in Luke 19:40, “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”  For me, these stones cried out today telling of the amazing work Christ can do in people we may consider lost causes.  They also tell of the work He continues to do in me.  What happens to me through this process is a purposeful act, not a freak of nature. 

May He continue to use whatever He needs in order to strengthen me from within. I pray the same for you.

Mixed Up

Maybe I am the only one who still uses an electric mixer instead of a bullet or processor, but the harvest gold one I got as a wedding present in 1976 still works just fine. I use it often in making crustless quiches, almond flour pancakes, and gluten-free, low carb cloud bread.

Anyway, I put the beaters in the dishwasher basket along with the rest of the silverware.  After the dishwasher had done its thing, I wanted to use the beaters again. But I thought I didn’t have time at the moment to empty the  rest of the things in the dishwasher. Wrong. Some of the forks and spoons had gotten mixed up (pun intended) in the loops of the beaters.  I tried to wiggle them free but to no avail. With a deep sigh, I decided I had to remove the utensils one by one in order to get to the beaters.

So, why am I telling you this? Once again I heard that holy whisper.  I found God today in a dishwasher basket.

Sometimes I think that I am ready to have God help me work on a fault.  Yes, I have them. Now you know.  For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me (Psalm 51:3).

Instead, He gently shows me another area of my life He decides to clean, remove, mold or polish first. Before we can get to the “beaters” we need to remove the other things I hadn’t noticed as an issue.  I don’t think I have the time or the gumption, but He, in His eternal wisdom, knows the order in which to tackle things even if I do not. I have learned that instead of struggling, it is easier to take them one by one and untangle them from my life.

And yes, this old gal is still working, too. Thank you, Lord, for still using me even if I do get things mixed up now and then.

A dear author friend of mine, DiAne Gates, has an eye for beauty that she readily captures in her photographs and her sketches.  She paints great word pictures in her stories, too.

She recently posted this picture of morning glories on Facebook. I can see why they call them glories. They are absolutely gorgeous. Look at how their centers reflect the light. It draws you in, right?

Morning glories are a vine that can tolerate wet rainy seasons or drought conditions. But they need a pole, fence, tree trunk, or something else sturdy to support their growth. Otherwise, they won’t flourish. When darkness blankets the earth, they shut tight. But come sunrise, they greet the new day by opening wide and soaking in the rays.

Describes Christians pretty well, too. Doesn’t it? Or it should.

We can tolerate any condition as long as we can cling to something sturdy, Jesus. He is the main vine, and we branch off of His strength. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing”  (John 15:5).

We repel darkness of this world and shut it out, but we are attracted to the Light of Son, Jesus Christ, which in turn attracts others to us, “…that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9).

May we all be morning glories, because His mercies are new every morning. (Lamentations 3:22-23).  May each of us today, and every day, turn to the Son the very first thing and give Him the glory as He shines into the center of our hearts, minds, and souls.  And, as we go about our day, may the Light of Christ deep inside us attract others to Him through our actions and conversations.

I read a devotional that said when the writer spotted a negative emotion she stopped and asked God to help her identify the cause so she could hand it over to Him.

SPOT. STOP.  Word aficionado that I am, seeing those two words utilizing the same letters got my creative juices whirring.

When worry, frustration or prejudice knock at the door of our minds we should do two things – spot it and then stop it.  This helps to objectify whatever “it” is and remove it from any misguided emotions churning inside of us and threatening to rise to the surface.

A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.  Proverbs 15:8

from lifehacker.com

Cooks know that in order to keep something from boiling over in a pot you can place a wooden spoon over the mouth of the pot. It acts as a barrier, popping the bubbles that rise, destabilizing them and making the rising boiling water retreat back into the pot.  By spotting the potential disaster, the cook knows how to stop it.

Prayer can be like a wooden spoon. Instead of stirring our emotions up, it can help keep things in control if we use it to cover the situation. Prayer stops fear, anxiety or negativity from bubbling up inside us.

Once our bubbling emotions are quelled, we must resist the urge to pick up the spoon and stir the pot, causing it to boil up again.  We need to be careful to not use prayer time only as a complaint session to revisit our angst and not get beyond it. Sure, God is a great sounding board, but at one point we need to stop and then give whatever it is to HIm. Then allow Him to deal with, heal, or reveal the purpose of the issue.

He has the ability to turn down the heat, or He may choose not to do so. Perhaps He will let things simmer in order to move us to act, hopefully through prayer. Or, He might remove the pot from the stove, so to speak.  Either way, we must allow Him to reveal to us how, once spotted,  we can stop it from getting out of control so He can use it for good.

 

 

A New Leaf

So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.  1 Corinthians 3:7

Back in March, I wrote a devotional about my sad, scrawny little plant I just could not throw out.  (See Barely Thriving). I’m pleased to announce the plant has grown a new, beautiful, dark green, healthy leaf! (It’s the one in the center.)

For the past few weeks, I have been watching it daily with anticipation.  Every morning I’d curl up on my couch, hugging my coffee cup, and determine how much it had “grown” overnight. It started as a small “bump” and when I saw it I caught my breath in my throat. Could it be? After almost a year, a new leaf?

Yes! Within another few days, it was confirmed. Then the stalk began to get longer and longer. Soon, a tightly-wound leaf began to stretch from the tip of the stem and slowly unfurl. It only took a few days before the newly-opened light green leaf darkened as the sun shined on it, spurring the chlorophyll to flow.

If I can root (no pun intended) for a little leaf growing, how much more does God get excited to see growth in me?  Understand that I mean spiritual growth, not my waistline and hips. I can almost envision Him smiling and encouraging me. It made me realize anew that any growth is celebrated. It means progress, no matter how slow.

That thought led to another. How impatient am I in watching for growth in others? Do I become frustrated with them, assuming they are on my timetable and are not putting out the effort they should in order to become more Christ-like? Do I scoff and judge their faith walk? Or do I celebrate whatever tiny revelation I detect in their thoughts or behavior?

If I can celebrate a new leaf growing on a scrawny plant, how much more should I acknowledge the work God is doing in those I know…and in me as well?

Play the Game

Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay

...because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do… Ephesians 6:8a

We all like little rewards, right?

We were raised on charts that showed how many stars we’d earned throughout the school year. Trophies sat on our bookcases and medallions hung from door knobs. Achievement certificates were slipped into the proverbial black “document” frame from the dollar store and hung on the wall. Now they probably sit in a box on the closet shelf or at the back of a filing cabinet.

I like to play word and solitaire games on my smartphone. They offer me coins and treasure chests, which in reality mean nothing. It’s not like I can cash in my 15,783 coins for real money or even a prize like a blender or an e-reader. Still, these little attaboys make my day start off well. I did something. I achieved a goal and I have something to show for it. Well, virtually that is.

At times I wish God worked that way. I know, He does bless me when I am obedient and follow His will. Yes, He forgives my sins. Yes, when I need something like a new desk, tires, or a cavity filled. the money appears just at the right time in the sale of books, a small honorarium for speaking, or a new work to edit.  Occasionally someone will write and tell me a devotional spoke to their needs that day. At the end of my life, I know I will kneel before the throne and Jesus will speak well of me because I proclaim Him as my Savior. I pray I will hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23).

But every now and then, I’d like to see something more tangible. A ding-ding and a few animated coins landing in my mental slot. I hope I am not sounding ungrateful or irreverent.

Perhaps I need to look more often for a rainbow, feel a soft breeze on my cheek like a celestial kiss, or notice a special white moon with the face smiling down at me.  And then continue to write about not only where I found God that day but how He found me and patted me on the head in the special way only He can. Better than virtual coins, right?

OK, Lord. Game on.

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, Hebrews 12:28

My pastor stated in our adult Sunday school class that many of us have forgotten what worship should be all about. We so used to sitting in an audience to be entertained, be it in a theatre, concert, or on the couch binging on Netflix that we have a tendency to treat church like that.  We “watch” what is going on near the altar. We may participate by saying amen or sing a hymn. maybe nod when the sermon has a rhetorical question in it. Perhaps we feel a stirring in our hearts over the words of the hymn or what the preacher said. But often times, conversations on the way our the doors is whether or not worship was “any good” that day.

But that is not what worship should be about. It should be us entertaining our Lord, telling Him how much we love Him, honoring Him and giving Him the glory. It’s not about how well the choir sang, or if the preacher got off track, or if the service went off without a hitch. We are not to be the critiques and whine that the church just doesn’t do it for us. If we do, perhaps our focus is on the wrong thing.

It’s not about us. It’s about Him.

Then we are to go into the world, filled with His Spirit, to be His hands and feet to a hurting, confused world filled with lost people. Instead, we crawl into our air-conditioned cars and go out to lunch to be served by a waiter (who didn’t get to go to church but had to work instead) or to the store to be served by a floor clerk and cashier. When we make it home, there is laundry, or the game on TV, or projects to be completed before we hit the ground running on Monday. And church became just another check mark on the to-do list. That’s not worship.

I’ve mulled over his message all week like a cow chewing on its cud.  Not only did it challenge me to check my motives in the pew, but my private worship time as well.  Do I judge my quiet time with God by how I feel at the end? Do I rush through it so I can get to my other errands? Is my time less about praising God for who He is and more about what He can do for me? Is my daily Bible and prayer time just another check mark on my things-to-do-today list?

Euginia Herlihy, an author and spiritual leader from Capetown says, “Praise and worship shouldn’t be a few hours of church service entertainment. It should be our heartbeat and should never depart our lips. ‘Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song’ (Psalms 95:2).” *

Lord, is my worship time all about me…and then You somewhere in the mix? Forgive me if I have slipped into that pattern.

 

 

*https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/praise-and-worship

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