Home

I have a home.

It’s not made of brick or wood.

It’s not in town or in the country.

It’s in heaven, and this life is but a gentle journey toward that home.

As I write this entry, it was three weeks ago that my 94 year old mother took her last breath. Especially over the last year, she had been besieged with terrible pain and mental confusion, yet her last breath was gentle, slow, and soft. We loved her dearly, but it was a bittersweet blessing to know she was no longer in pain and was with Christ.

Since then, my husband and I have sifted through countless reams of paper in her home and made numerous decisions on her behalf. We’ve approached it with a One-Thing-at-a-Time mentality. And, when that One Thing became too daunting, I allowed myself to say, “That’s enough for now” and went outside to plant some perennials.

My mother always loved her yard. However, in recent years, the areas not visible from her windows had declined. So now there were several beds that required a “sprucing up” of sorts. And it was to one of those flower beds that I went.

The first order of work was to remove the weeds that had crept into the empty flower bed. I shoveled and shoveled, turning the soil and drawing out each weed along with its snarled roots. Then I selected a spot, watered the plant, dug a hole, and lifted the plant from the plastic container. There were its young roots, eager and waiting to nimbly stretch and grow. I placed the plant in the hole, moved the soil around it and gently patted the surface around the stems.

And then I stood up and OUCH! All that shovel activity (mainly from removing the weeds) used some muscles I’d forgotten about and–unlike those young plant roots–these muscles were neither nimble or eager!

An apt scripture came into my mind:

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16)

Yes, for certain, this outer man is wasting away! It’s not the cancer that was riddling my mother’s body, but I am subject to sore muscles, weak eyes, and sunburn. Even so, that’s not the part of me that really matters. All that pain and soreness is not The Real Me. I agree we need to be physically fit, to eat healthy food, and such–after all, our bodies are to be living sacrifices and are members of Christ. (Romans 12:1, 1 Corinthians 6:15) But The Real Me is the second half of 2 Corinthians 4:16–“our inner self”.

Going even farther down that road, the GREATEST need of our lives is NOT in the outer area of our lives; it’s that we are strengthened, rooted, and grounded and that we are able to comprehend the love of Christ and thereby be filled with the fullness of God. Paul puts it perfectly in Ephesians 3:14-19, saying

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

Now let’s dig into that verse. First, just what is Paul doing? Well, he’s praying–he’s bowing his knees “before the Father”. Wouldn’t we all love for someone to pray that prayer over us? What if we prayed that prayer over someone else?!

And what confidence does he have that he’ll be answered or even heard? Well, he makes this prayer, he asks for this granting, because he’s confident he can depend upon the riches of God’s glory–God’s vast, eternal, unending, infinite glory. That is a solid, foundational thing to depend upon!

And what does he pray?

Paul’s prayer is that we be strengthened.

Strengthening is good, right? Like strength-training maybe? We’ll be strengthened physically and all our physical ailments will disappear and we’ll have optimal health and never get sore doing yard work or even running triathlons…

Well, it’s not that kind of strengthening at all. It’s not about the outside self. Let’s consider the how, where, and why:

How are we strengthened: with power through His Spirit

Where are we strengthened: in our inner being

Why are we strengthened: SO THAT CHRIST MAY DWELL IN OUR HEARTS through faith

And that faith is evident in the “being rooted and grounded in love” and having “strength to comprehend…what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ”…and being “filled with all the fullness of God.”

WOW!

That’s not the strength of self that crows, “I can do it!” or even “I did it!” It’s a deeper, truer strength. It’s the strength I need to keep myself steady whether sadness or blessings come: the on-going strengthening and enabling power of the Holy Spirit leading me to an ever-deepening response to God.

Let’s let Paul finish out his prayer in verses 20 and 21:

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Amen!

Let’s crave renewal.

Let’s crave strengthening.

Let’s crave Jesus.

And let’s pray to keep that focus on our journey Home.

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The Blessing of Allergies

Today has me inside. I ventured outside this morning to pick the dandelion blooms and halt their full development. Across our bumpy, hillocky, rock-here-and-there yard I went–in search of those frowsy, bright yellow bursts. A slip on the mossy slope surely gave me a bruised knee, but I also collected a “bouquet” of blossoms. All of that proved more than enough to start me sneezing and making a bee-line back inside for a tissue.

Still, there were plants to be watered! I filled the watering can several times and, plant by plant, gave each one a cool drink (and each one a sneeze “blessing”).

The last watering can was for our bird bath. It sits beneath a maple tree and the birds love an afternoon splash. I’m not sure any bird would have wanted to splash around in that bird bath right then though. If there were a Water Purity Board for bird baths, ours would’ve been on the Hazardous-Zone list! The surface was a cloudy mass of pollen and a larger grid of maple seeds and small twigs. So, out went the old water in a waterfall onto the ivy and then went in the clean, clear water.

Of course, this brought on another bout of sneezing.

So–enough outside time!

Inside, I can still see the outside and still enjoy the shades of new green on the ivy, the new tree leaves quivering in the gentle breeze, the sifting of white pollen floating across the window… and wonder…

Just what is pollen?

The stuff of growth in plants.

The reason I carry a tissue in my back pocket.

The catalyst for sneezes and itchy eyes.

Funny–how growth and trials go together…and yet ~

Don’t growth and trials often coexist in our Christian walk?

It’s often steep and awkward.

It includes some hands-for-others work, some ego-bruises.

We need tissues from time to time.

Our eyes become red.

But that’s not all that’s happening! Consider Romans 5:1-5:

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” 

Justification. Peace. Access. Endurance. Character. Hope.

Wow! Since we’re talking horticulturally, don’t you know those are Best of Show-worthy blossoms! I certainly want those flowers in my garden, in my life. You, too?

Well, as any good gardener knows, beautiful gardens take work. There’s compost to add, soil to turn, weeds to pull, plants to stake.

But there’re also vegetables to pick, fruit to harvest, flowers to enjoy.

And there’s time to wonder.

Our God made the microscopic filament of pollen.

He made it not so light

that it floated on forever,

never landing,

but just light enough

to sail through the air,

falling into the open fertile soil

of a crack in a wall.

Everything grows with God.

He can use any thing, any one, any situation, any where.

He can even use sneezes and red eyes.

So, let’s keep our eyes on Him. Let’s keep our eyes, as Hebrews 12:2 encourages us ~

“…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Heaven ~ no pollen there!

Let’s rejoice in the hope of physical and spiritual blossoms to come and the even more brilliant hope of heaven!