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Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

Do you ever feel stretched to the limit? To the breaking point?

At our family property on the river is a limb that stretches out over the water.  I used to hear my mother say her father swore it would break  off in the next flood…over and over. Then she said it. All my life I have watched it survive flood after flood. But it keeps growing and stretching out over the water.

13895276_10153954462103759_8859009914868406550_nWhen my mother was a child, it came out to the second tuft of branches you see, the ones hanging down toward the water by the backdrop of the white cement of the “old dock”. When I was a child, it had grown to the length of the third tufts, right under where you see the blue raft perched on the dock.  When my son was a child, it had grown to the little notch before it bows up again. He is now in his thirties.

It seems floods give it even more gumption to grow! A tree expert once told us the branch’s strength is in the fact that it has kept stretching. It remains pliable and can bounce and dip with the waves when the flood waters rage.

It makes me think of our lives as believers. If we can keep stretching towards Christ (The Living Water) and still stay attached to Him (The Vine), even if our lives flood with stress and bad happenings, we can bounce back time and time again.

That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.  Psalm 1:3

Prosper as in grow.

Swimmers and canoers stop by our branch daily during the summer months and can’t help but grab onto it.  Fishermen dangle traut lines off of it hoping to catch dinner. Daring folk, young and old, try to tightrope walk it. Generations have grown up watching that limb, fascinated by it. Strangers point at it and marvel.

May my life be like that.

Lord, keep stretching me to reach out to You, knowing that You will be my strength despite the odds. Keep me pliable to Your will. Help me to stay anchored to You, the eternal vine- trunk, no matter what comes my way or what others say. In You alone can my hope be found. Let me branch out and draw others to you, fascinated by my growth. To You be the honor and glory. Amen.

 

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I strolled up the sidewalk to the church and noticed a grackle (Texas black bird and all around menace) pecking at side exit  door as if it wanted inside. It was the fellowship time between Sunday school and worship. That side door led into the room where people gathered for snacks and coffee.

grackle-591594_640Perhaps the grackle saw it’s reflection in the sunscreen-filmed glass, or maybe a juicy bug crawled up the door. I couldn’t be sure. But the bird pecked on the door then waddled back a few steps, cocked its head, and once again approached and pecked the glass.

What seemed odd is that there weren’t ten other grackles around. They usually flock together. This male seemed to be all alone. That’s when I noticed one wing dangling at a weird angle. It didn’t tuck in like the other one. My heart sank. The poor thing probably couldn’t fly. He’d been abandoned.

Then an unusual thing happened. One of the elderly men of our congregation wedged the door open. I watched as only his head and one arm peeked out. He crumbled part of a cookie onto the ground at the stoop. It took a half a second for the grackle to grab a piece.  Maybe I am personifying, but to me the bird’s demeanor did a 180. Crumb in beak, it held it’s head high and hopped under the safety of a parked car to gobble it’s meal. I couldn’t help but smile. Later I caught up with the man and thanked him. He seemed a touch embarrassed that someone had seen his gesture. He shrugged. “It looked hungry.”

324In our worship, right before we receive communion, there is a prayer in which we tell our Lord we know we are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under His table, but He always draws us near in mercy. It is in reference to the Canaanite woman who boldly told Jesus even dogs get crumbs from the master’s table. (Matthew 15:27) Jesus commended her for her faith and answered her prayer. It reminds us worshipers that we also are in need of mercy but must have the bold faith to ask for it.

I thought of that grackle. And I wondered about all the broken people out there who feel all alone and abandoned. Ones who are not as bold as this injured bird to beg for help. Ones who may feel hesitant to tap at our church door.

Lord, may we seek out the ones in our communities who also feel they are unworthy to eat the crumbs. May we show them mercy, tend to them, and then bring them into Your midst to Your table. Amen.

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From my dear sister – I found God today in her email to me, and this story she shared:

spider-web-with-water-beads-921039_640I read something this morning that reminded me so much of you I had just to let you know. The reading was about a woman who watched a spider build its web while she was sitting on the porch. The spider’s web  was reflected by the sunlight. The web had three strong anchors: one to the top of the railing and two attached to the side rails. As she rested and read, she watched the little spider spin its web.
Then one night a terrible wind storm hit. While others worried about the electricity going out or damage to the house, she worried about the little spider’s web. When the wind was over and the sun came out, she saw that the web had sustained damage to its center but that the strong anchor strands had held it fast and the little spider, who had held fast to the anchor strands, was back at work building a new center to his web.

A life storm hit me out of nowhere this past month. No warning. Wham. She knew about it. But like Peter, I have kept my eyes on Jesus and so far I am not sinking.  I’m clinging to His promises. Her postscript meant the world to me:
I thought of you  and how the strength of your faith gives you something to hold onto and keeps you steady even when life rips a big chunk out of your carefully woven web.  Never doubt that the way you live your life is a powerful testament to the faith that inspires and sustains you!
Although I so wish that storms would stay away from you, I know you will get through whatever comes.
Good luck with your new web! Can’t wait to see how it glitters in the sun.

My friend, may her words inspire you as well. In the web of your life, whatever patterns take shape and whatever storms hammer it, anchor it in faith, hope network-586177_640and love. Hunker down into God’s mighty grace and you, too, will glisten. And what a witness it will be.

God is our refuge and our strength. Our very present help in times of trouble. Psalm 46:1

Dearest sister- you are one of the anchors God has put in my life. Thanks.

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I’m like a plant. Bet you are, too.

Our Bible Study Fellowship lesson on the Gospel of John made a great analogy: plants naturally gravitate to the light because they need it to thrive.

green-19817_1280I have to turn my house plants ever so often or they will grow crookedly. They will repeatedly bend towards the source of light coming into my apartment from the window. Pretty soon, if I don’t rotate them, one half of the plants will be bare. Those leaves on the dark side will shrivel and die.  The side aimed toward  the light will flourish and grow. However, it will be at a skewed angle, and some of the leaves may be crowded out. It won’t look very healthy because the whole plant hasn’t been exposed the same amount to light.

That made me realize I am like that plant. Plants are wise. They know they need light to grow. Shouldn’t we humans do the same?  Yet so often we don’t. We would prefer Christ’s light not expose certain areas of our hearts, minds and souls. “Let’s keep that one hidden, God, okay? Not ready to reveal that to myself yet.”  I have heard people state they are afraid to expose certain things they have buried ( in darkness) for fear of what might ooze up.

 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  John 1:4-5

burning candle isolated on black background

burning candle isolated on black background

But if we only let Christ shine into parts of our lives–you know, the good sides of us we want emphasized–we will not grow correctly. We will be skewed. Part of us will flourish, but another part will wither. We will be spiritually deformed. People will notice.

It’s time I turned some parts of myself to God’s gracious light full on, and allow Him to lovingly expose some leaves in me that need to grow.  After all, as a new creation in Christ, it is my instinct to turn to the Son, just as a plant’s is to turn its leaves to the sun.

How about you? Has my house plant example helped “plant” the same idea in your heart?

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Noel Coward once sang, “Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun. ” Any Texan can relate to that, especially July-September.  Shade is a rare and precious commodity. So, when I looked out the window after church and saw these grackles huddled under my car, I laughed. Then I paused and thought…hmmm? Am I that smart?

IMAG0514Four years ago when I felt called to start this blog, I told the Lord that He’d have to show me obvious evidences of Him in my day so I could relay it to others. He has been faithful to do that, and this day was no different. Those birds taught me a deep truth.

If I was a grackle, more than likely I’d be worried that small water puddle might dry up and I couldn’t get a drink. What if no juicy bugs crawled by for hours on end.  Shouldn’t I be out there pecking around for them? What if the car moved? Well, I might doze off and get caught under it’s wheel.

But you see, I think the birds live in the moment, and then the next, confident God will take care of them. Instinctively they seek shelter.

In Matthew 6:26-27, Jesus states:  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[?

Now I’m not saying we shouldn’t plan for the future. That is being a good steward of our finances. However, there are times we all need to know when to just seek the shelter of the shade, that is God’s protection and love, and trust. Agreed?

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An author friend of mine, Anita Klumper, *took this photo.

anita klumper's hoolyhocks

I saw a godly message in it. If we stay within the boundaries God sets, we can grow high and bloom.

Decades ago, another author, a minister’s wife, wrote a little devotional book called Bloom Where You Are Planted. Hard to do. Our human nature wants us to sprawl, to go beyond the fence. But if we do, we will not grow correctly, will we? Like a tomato vine that needs training, we humans need boundaries. Today, free spirits of society whisper to  be self-orientated, follow your own path, dare to be different.

But, as Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes, this is nothing new under the sun.  How much better to be under the boundaries of the Son! Our loving God wants us to grow correctly and safely, so His Word provides a fence for us. What is His fence?

Love the Lord your God and keep his requirements, his decrees, his laws and his commands always. Deuteronomy 11:1.

Or as our Lord stated, Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. Matthew 22:37-39

So, unlike the old cowboy song sung by Roy Rogers, Don’t Fence Me In, I pray the opposite. How about you?

 

 

* check out Anita's faith-based fiction on Amazon.com

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Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise.  Proverbs 6:6

ant-44588_1280I watched in wonder at the scene laying out a few inches from my feet. As some ants scurried in a line over the sidewalk to carry minute morsels back to their mound, one little ant dragged a piece of straw three times his length. At first the others skirted around him coming and going. I could almost hear their grumbling. “Look at that guy?” “Leave it to Joe to drag a stupid twig.” “Please, can’t he fall in line?”

On he trudged with his prize, not wavering in his quest. (I guess it was a “he”.) What tenacity. Finally, when he got to the entrance he stopped. How to get a stiff, horizontal piece of straw to bend and fit perpendicularly down that hole? He tried. Failed.Tried. Failed.

I held my breath. I almost reached down to help, then thought better of that idea. I might get stung!

Soon, three more ants came to his aid. Then a few others. The small stick  became covered with insects, each lending their strength to the task. At last, enough of them tugged, lifted and dragged the straw into their nest.

I cheered. People stared. Shrugging, I continued my walk.

But I saw a God-lesson in it. If we don’t give up, if we keep trying our hardest, eventually we will be able to proclaim, as Paul says: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7  Yet, Paul admitted he couldn’t do it alone. He had help from God, and from his followers.

There will be times we may have to accept help—just like that ant. If you are faced with a task and it is harder than you thought it might be, will you accept assistance, or stubbornly hiss between your teeth that you are bound and determine to do it yourself? I think sometimes God sends others to help us not only to benefit us, but them as well.

I wonder if the ants celebrated and patted each other on the back? Who knows? But, I bet like me, God cheered.

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