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Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

I hung up a bird feeder to see if I could attract birds, now that I no longer have cats. I poured in easy pickings especially blended for songbirds.

However, I am not sure I will attract any birds because the AC units are right outside of my apartment patio. One, in particular, services my neighbor upstairs. It is rather noisy. And he likes his place to be kept cool, so it kicks on all day and night.

This situation made me think about how many times the noise in my life keeps me from hearing the still, small voice of my loving Father as relayed through the Holy Spirit. How often do I miss out on His blessings because I am not intuned to His holy whispers?  When have I been so distracted seeking what I need that I have not seen what is right in front of me?

Will I fly by as I search for something else, or will I stop and perch in His presence, tasting that the Lord is good?

I hope little sparrows, cardinals, and finches find my feeder chock full of seeds. I’d even enjoy seeing a bushy-tailed squirrel precariously dangling on it trying to get the corn and sunflower husks. I hope they will find the good things and decide to partake, and not be distracted by the rattletraps humming below.

I also hope the same for you and me. May the noise of our world never drown out the wonderful, loving messages from our Lord.

My people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. Psalm 78:1

 

P.S. Four days later: Three sparrows and two finches have found my feeder!

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So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.  Colossians 2:6-7

Three years ago I posted the saga of my now 45-year-old corn plant. Back then, at about 3 1/2 feet tall, it had pretty much stagnated in growth. Today it has grown to 5 feet high.

Why am I telling you this?  First, in my new space, it has a more constant, diffused light. Southern exposure provides it a soft, strong source of continuous sunrays. And it has taken off.

I recently did something else to it. My son and I transplanted it into a much larger pot. It had become root-bound. Poor thing. One bag of enriched soil later, it was safely settled into its new surroundings and place back by in the southern exposure window it loves. NOw it has stretched its leaves to a full, luscious green canopy.

So, why am I telling you this??? Are we not the same? We all love our comfort zones, but we don’t grow well in familiarity. Life is about change. If change doesn’t occur, how will we grow? How will we expand our thoughts, stretch our imaginations, and flourish in our faith?

Sometimes I think God puts us in new situations for our own good. We have become root-bound, wound up in our own little world. We need to have fresh fertile soil and new boundaries to reach out.

One thing I know from experience is that God always makes good out of difficult situations. I see a lot of good coming out of this pandemic. People have reevaluated what is important. Many have turned back to God for answers, support, and comfort. Neighbors who barely knew each other are pitching in to help each other, even if it is at six feet distances. Folks are more “other conscious” and friendly. There is a bond that grows from shared experiences that strengthens cities, communities, and people. It is like the mortar joining bricks in a wall.

Maybe we’ve just been transplanted into a larger situation right now. It may feel uncomfortable to unwind from our tightly-balled comforts, but as we extend out, we will grow…stronger, better, and more beautiful as long as we dig our roots into the One who gave us life, and by His merciful grace extends it into eternity for those who believe.

And the more we bask in continuous soft and nourishing Light of The Word, we will grow in the right direction.  Standing tall in our faith, rooted in Christ.

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I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,  may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. Ephesians 3:16-18

Today in Bible study, my priest referred to unbelievers as cut flowers. They look like they are alive, but they have been cut off from the roots, so they can no longer grow. They are, in essence, dead and soon will show it. Christ brings life, but those cut off from God by sin will die, just as Adam and Eve did.

My mind wandered to the ivy cuttings I’ve had immersed in a vase of water in my windowsill for months. That water has kept them alive. I noticed a few days ago they were finally producing roots.

Jesus said He is the Living Water (John 7:38). Because of original sin, we have all been cut off from the root of Life, i.e. God.  In order to grow, we must produce new roots, and the best way to do that is to immerse ourselves in the presence of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the water who provides the Truth and the Life.

So all those “cut flowers” out there need exposure to the love of Christ. We need to help them see they want to be saturated with the Living Water through baptism in the Holy Spirit so they, too, can begin to grow roots and thrive.

I realized that, like my ivy, I need to have more patience with those believers who are not yet leading fruitful lives. We all grow at our own pace, and I need to do what I can to help make sure they stay doused in the Living Water. I, too, need to grow, so I also must stay in the Living Water…daily immersed in His Word, His Truth, and His love. We all do.

Don’t ever let the devil yank you out! But if he does, my friend, trust me. There will be people praying you back into the Living Water where you can grow again. If you ever asked Jesus into your heart, you are rooted in Christ.

 

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He shall come down like rain upon the mown field, like showers that water the earth.  Psalm 72:6

Dad would always rush to mow the grass when he heard a rainstorm was headed our way. He said that the newly-cut grass would better absorb the water. It would grow more lush and thick. The mowing scattered the bugs that like to gnaw on the blades of grass, too. (It’s also easier to clean the lawnmower blades, but that’s not the point.) So he prepared the lawn for the blessing on the horizon.

I recall opening my bedroom window and smelling the freshly cut grass mixed with the rain in the air as it began dampening the soil. Now if Glade could capture that aroma in an air freshening spray…

So, when we read Psalm 72 in church, that verse made me smile as warmth spread over my heart. The psalmist also knew that aroma. He understood the importance of rain on a freshly mowed field.

I think God mows us down a bit in order to prepare us for the blessings on the horizon, too. He trims us so we can better receive His mercy and grace. We become more aware of His presence as He cuts a bit into our lives. And it scatters the negativity gnawing at our hearts. We grow better in His ways when we are trimmed back and are then more apt to soak in His blessings when they pour down upon us.

So during the next dry spell in your life,  when you are not sure where God is in it all, listen for the sound of the heavenly lawnmower getting ready to prepare you for the blessings to follow. We all need a good trim now and then.  Can you smell the sweetness of His mercy?

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A friend shared this on Facebook:

Amazing Things @AmazingThing Official Education Website July, 2018

Fascinating, right?  So I had to ask, am I an oyster or a clam?

We live in a dirty-water world today. Everything is murky. Rules of society are not clear anymore. And it seems people like to stir up muck whenever they can.

Like oysters, believers in the Way are called to not only clean up their own act by filtering out all the negative and immoral influences that cloud our thinking but by doing so, we can bring clarity to those around us.  And in groups, we can do a lot of good.

Often times,  I want to clam up instead. Shut myself off from the world and surround myself with my Christian music, Christian friends, and Christian literature. Blindfold my eyes, stuff my ears, and hold my nose as I walk through this life.

But Jesus didn’t do that. Jesus was an oyster.  He met people in the middle of their messes and made them clean again, from the inside out. He immersed himself in the filth of the world but didn’t let it taint Him. Instead, He changed it and encouraged others to follow Him in His clean-up efforts. Scripture says He is still filtering and will until the end of time.  All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. (Matthew 25:32)

I think filtering all that stuff must be a bit painful for the oyster. Talk about getting down to the nitty-gritty!  The sand particles must be abrasive. But the reward for all this uncomfortable task? A pearl. The more filtering the oyster does, the larger and more precious the pearl.

Jesus said in one of his parables, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls” (Matthew 13:45).

When God looks for fine pearls, will He find one growing inside of me?

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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.

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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.

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Therefore a lion from the forest will attack them, a wolf from the desert will ravage them, a leopard will lie in wait near their towns to tear to pieces any who venture out, for their rebellion is great and their backslidings many. Jeremiah 5:6

Words fascinate me. So God uses them often to get my attention. Today I saw the same letters in two different ways.

W-O-L-F.

What comes to mind when you think of a wolf? For me, it is something wild, snarling, attacking, hunting prey.  Beautiful animals, from a distance. But don’t get too close.

Scripture talks of wolves in this manner. Where I live we don’t have wolves, but we have plenty of their cousins, the coyote.  I lost a kitten to one several years ago. It ventured underneath the fence and the coyote, lurking in the tall grass of the vacant lot,  snatched it in its mouth.  They are stealth in their prowess.

Spiritually, there are a lot of wolves out there. There are ideas that seem beautiful at the time. The lure to run free is tempting. And just when you think all is okay, snatch. The consequences are lethal to the soul.

Wolves run in packs. It is the same with temptations. One rebellious act leads to another. One little backslide sends a person teetering on a slippery slope, ready to tumble.

Now flip the letters around. F-L-O-W.

Eden had a stream flowing through it to bring water to the lush vegetation as well as Adam and Eve. The promised land was described as flowing with milk and honey.  Jesus said He was the living water and no one who came to Him would thirst.  In other words, to the obedient, God provides abundantly.

Instead of rebelling and heading off on our own where dangers lurk, we can choose to “go with the flow”, as the 1970’s adage states.  Not only can we float in the boundaries of God’s will, but we can be an example to others who either don’t realize that is an option or have considered it too stifling.

Jesus said in John 7:38, “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” 

So, it’s our choice. Be a lure in the right way to a thirsty world by letting His love flow, or go off on our own and be lured by the wolf called self who crouches waiting to devour our souls.

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I talented photographer friend of mine, Debbie Hainey, took this photo:

Gorgeous, right? But also meaningful. Take another look.

Let’s say the sunrise represents the Light of Christ.

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. John 1:4

We are the window blinds. We have a choice. We can turn toward Him or away. Let Him in or block Him out.

Notice the blind turned closest to the sunrise reflects the most while the ones further away reflect less and less? It is the same with us. The more we turn toward Him, the stronger we reflect Him.

 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.  Matthew 5:16

Which blind are you right now? The good new is this: each of us can reflect Christ no matter where we are in our faith-walk. You don’t have to be a perfect Christian. Frankly, there is no such thing this side of Heaven. Even if you think you are only shining a little bit, that can be an effective lure.

When one is used to the dark, it takes a while for his or her eyes to become accustomed to the light. Often, people cannot handle the brightness of the Truth. They need to adjust, just as we adjust the blinds from the full blast of the sun’s rays.

We call these window slats “blinds” for a reason. Perhaps they should be dubbed anti-blinds instead. Just a side-thought. Back to the point.

Even if you feel far away from Him you are reflecting more than you think and can draw others to His Truth a bit at a time. Eventually they will be able to face Him full on, and so will you.

Does His light ever blind you? Is your reaction to turn away or to face Him and absorb it knowing it will expose any darkness inside you? We serve a patient God who lets us adjust to His will. One day, in eternity, we will all reflect Him equally.

But in the meantime, let us strive to turn more toward Him than we are. It will reflect in how we act.

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But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.  Ephesians 5:13

At a women’s retreat about a year ago I won the door prize of an African violet. It bloomed for a while, then stopped. For months it kept putting out leaves but it never bloomed again. I figured maybe it was out of season. But this spring, though it still thrived, was pushing out new leaves…no blooms.

So I went on line and asked, “Why won’t my African Violet bloom?” The top three articles said the same thing– it needs more light. Oh. Okay.  I opened my blind slats a bit more. Within in a few weeks tiny buds appeared.

I realized, that’s me. I can read the Bible, I can pray, I can attend church. I will thrive and continue to grow, but will I blossom? No. Not unless I expose myself to His light regularly, daily.

Wait, you may say. Doesn’t all of that you said accomplish the purpose? Yes, if I don’t filter it out. If I don’t review my grocery list while I am reading about wheat in the Bible, or if my mind doesn’t wander when I pray, or if I concentrate less on the pew in front of me — the man with a cough, the wiggly child, or the woman whose clothes tag is dangling on the outside of her blouse– and more on worship.

We can be exposed to God and yet not bask in His light. We may think enough filters in, and yet we are not blooming the way we should. His power lies dormant inside of us, waiting to burst forth because something is in the way of the rays. Life-stress, anger, jealousy, an unforgiving attitude.

In order to reflect the Son, we need Him shining in our lives daily, unhindered by the blinds of world. If you are not blooming, maybe it is time you opened the blind slats a bit more. You may find what you really need is more exposure in order to bask more in His warm love and soak in His grace. Figure out what is blocking the light and how to adjust your focus. Soon, people will notice a difference in your face and attitude. You will be blossoming.

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