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Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

“Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be just as full of light as when a lamp shines its light on you.”  Luke 11:36

 

The morning sun peeked through the slats in my window blinds and landed on one of my potted plants. The leaves became almost transparent. I could see the veins as if they were being x-rayed. Each vein not only provides nourishment and strength to the leaf but helps to define its shape.

Are we not the same when Christ, the Light of the World, lives inside us? His mercy and goodness shape us. His Word flows through us to strengthen us and nourish us. When Jesus’ light shines through our words, thoughts, and deeds, people see him. We almost become transparent. Or so it should be.

One thing else I’ve noticed. If I let any dust settle on the plant leaves, the sunlight does not filter through as well. That hurts the plant and can prevent its leaves from growing strong and green. It may droop, or wither.

If we let the dust and dirt of the world settle on us, it can dim Christ’s influence. We can droop under the weight and not receive the light we daily need. It can accumulate on us over time to where very little of Christ is shining through us.

It is important that we are regularly cleansed of our sins so we can shine brightly and attract others to his love. Then, what he is doing inside of us will not be in vain, but his veins of mercy, grace, and love will be easily seen by others.

 

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A friend of mine is an avid urban gardener. She and her family plant beautiful flowers and raise their own vegetables in the backyard. I noticed tall cylinder-shaped cages in the middle. She explained that was for training the flowering vines and tomato vines. The cages also protect them from critters who may wander into the yard looking for a juicy snack.

It made me think of how God’s Holy Spirit surrounds us. Psalm 5:12 says, Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.

Boundaries are a good thing. We all need them in our lives. They protect us and steer us just as my niece’s tomato seedlings need their cages to grow and produce large, ripe succulent fruit. (I remember in my biology class that tomatoes are actually classified as fruit though we call them vegetables.)

Sometimes we resist these boundaries. Our independent spirit wants us to break out so we can be free. Teenagers especially. But we adults are not immune to fudging the rules now and then. We go 68 in a 65-speed zone. We make excuses for not doing our household chores and laugh about it on social media. We have that tempting brownie when we have been placed on a medically recommended diet. Who will know?

Then there are those little white lies…

However, because we are way too human in nature, we need to be caged in just like tomatoes or flowering vines. Otherwise, we may grow in a willy-nilly direction. The Lord, once we let Him establish Himself in our hearts and our lives, provides the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5) to guide us in how we are to treat others. His laws and commandments structure our behavior. We know we are the branches, attached to His vine for survival (John 15). All of these things, for our own good, and for the benefit of others, cage us in. We should be thankful for these boundaries, not resist them.

My friend also puts benevolent crawly things in her garden to ward off the ones who might chomp on her vegetables before her family gets a chance to do so. These creepy-crawlies as much as the so-called destructive ones so, the good ones also make my skin crawl. Blechh. However, she is thankful for them because she knows they have a beneficial purpose.

This extra measure of care reminds me that sometimes God brings things into our lives we do not normally consider as good, but in His wisdom, they are exactly that. For example, I couldn’t understand why my two elderly cats, the stability in my widowhood, had to die a few months apart. It was devastating. My mourning ran deep.

Then I underwent testing for allergies at the suggestion of my doctor because I’d kept having sinus issues for the past several years. Sure enough. I had developed a whopping allergy to cats!  Plus, my apartment complex underwent new management and they wanted another 200 dollars for an animal damage deposit per pet upon renewal of the lease. I had no idea both of these events were in my near future at the time the second one passed away, but God did.

Who knew my loving Lord would use tomatoes and cats to teach me a valuable lesson about his care, protection, and boundary setting reasons? Well, He did. What an awesome act of love!

cropped-storm-clouds-2-134981298598261vgu1.jpgOftentimes, tragedy can have a silver lining. God will purpose good from the devil’s evil schemes, proving once again He is in control and has a use for us right up until the end.  Even in the midst of sorrow, there can be joy, like a single sun ray bursting through the storm clouds.

This blog, Where Did You Find God Today, explores the multitude of ways God reaches, teaches, and sometimes preaches to us in our everyday lives. I hope the examples in this short article encourages you to open your faith-eyes to His wondrous ways. His lessons are all around us.

I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw (Proverbs 24:32).

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You have probably seen them. Little sprigs of green eking through a concrete crack. Seeds were blown in the breeze, landed there, and somehow, despite the odds, grew into plants.

I saw these while stopped at a traffic light before entering the highway. Pretty blossoms decorating a Texas urban domain during the scorching summer heat. Amazing.

I am reminded of the lesson from Jesus’ story of the seeds. Some land on rocky ground, others in fertile soil. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root (Matthew 13:5-6).

However, these bunches of foliage are thriving and spreading and blooming. Perhaps the roots are short and so they exist all right in shallow soil. Maybe this flora used to the Texas sun. I think they are a wild variety of verbena.

Anyway, these plants were a “God whisper” to me that we should never predetermine the potential of the seeds we believers spread by our actions and words. Those we think may never take root may end up blossoming because at that time, the conditions we could not see where just right. The crack in their wall of doubt just wide enough. The questioning in their heart just deep enough.

Our job is to sow…kindness, love, justice, forbearance, mercy, and grace. The seeds of the fruit of the Spirit that have begun to ripen in us. Especially now when so much of people’s worlds are upturned and confused. Let the seeds fall where they may. The rest is up to the Creator, Savior, and Guide – our Triune Lord.

There is a saying on my fridge. “Anyone can count the seeds in an apple but only God can count the apples in a seed.” Remember that the next time you encounter a frustrated stressed person who has had a bit too much of the negative news absorbed into their brains.

Let us cast our seeds of God’s love far and wide. We might just see our land blossom in beauty and majesty again.

 

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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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