Rain, Rain ~ Come and Stay

Have you ever heard the children’s rhyme:

“Rain, Rain, Go Away. Little Tommy wants to play!”?

It was a fun one to sing, but I’ve always found myself mesmerized by raindrops. I loved watching their travels down a car window, and wondering which one would reach the bottom first as if they were racing against each other. I find something cozy and comforting in rain.

One of my favorite memories of a trip to England was turning This-Way-and-That-Way-and-This-Way-Again in the Hampton Court maze in the rain. (Of course, it was even better for I was nibbling on a slice of dreamy chocolate cake which we had purchased at a little tea shop across the way.)

Today, I looked at the week’s weather forecast for our city. It appears that we’re in for three straight days of rain. The actual forecast read:

Rain in the morning and continuing into the afternoon and starting again in the evening.

That seems pretty wet.

And, while I get my perfect rainy day Creamy Earl Grey tea out and think over a couple of movies I’d like to watch on Netflix, my thoughts also turn to rain in the Bible.

There’s Noah, of course, with A LOT of rain. (The details of Noah’s 150-day Animal Adventure Cruise can be found in Genesis 6-8.)

There’s Elijah first prayer for no rain (and God answered that prayer with no rain) and then his prayer for rain (and God answered that prayer with rain). Curious as to why? Check out 1 Kings 17-19.

It is a sign of blessing. (Leviticus 26:4 – “I will give you rains in their season, and the land shall yield its increase, and the trees of the field shall bear their fruit.”

It is a sign of God’s faithfulness. (Joel 2:22-23  – “Fear not, you beasts of the field, for the pastures of the wilderness are green; the tree bears its fruit; the fig tree and vine give their full yield. “Be glad, O children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God, for He has given the early rain for your vindication; He has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the latter rain, as before.”)

It is a sign of mercy. (Matthew 5:45 – “…For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”)

For a gardener like myself, rain is also a promise, if not a sign, of suppleness. Weeds pull so easily from soaked soil. Wilted branches stretch back out to their full height without breaking. Leaves on our deck–once brittle curls of yellow and brown–now lie flat and supple, glistening gold and amber on my deck.

And let blessing and mercy wash over me.

While I was in college, I had a mentor who said that when taking his morning shower, he often thought of the water pouring down over him as washing away his sins, his cares, his worries, and then filling him up to overflowing with God’s Spirit.

And let blessing and mercy wash over me, indoors as well.

I’d like to share with you the lyrics to the song “Wash Over Me” by Jamie Smith, a contemporary worship singer/songwriter:

Wash over me wash over me
Wash over me wash over me

Rain down Your favor on us
Lavish Your love upon us
Pour out Your presence on us
Let me taste Your mercy in the rain

Only You can take this heart
Only You can take this mind
Only You can take this life
And make it look like Jesus

Isn’t that last refrain a sober thought? Let’s feel the rain wash over us. Let’s become soaked and supple. May our faithful and merciful God bless us and work in us so we may more and more reflect Jesus to a thirsty world.

This will be my last post for a while. I’ve enjoyed walking with you, both of us beside Christ, our Savior. I hope and pray you’ve grown closer to Him or been intrigued to open the Bible. And it’s with the Bible that we both will continue to be–and with that in hand and written on our hearts, we are with Christ.

And lastly, consider Deuteronomy 32:1-3:

“Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak,
    and let the earth hear the words of my mouth.
  May my teaching drop as the rain,
    my speech distill as the dew,
like gentle rain upon the tender grass,
    and like showers upon the herb.
  For I will proclaim the name of the Lord;
    ascribe greatness to our God!

Grace and peace in Christ Jesus, our Savior, dear friend!

 

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Gardening in the Soil and in the Soul

Do you have questions for God? I seem to always have.

Simple young ones like, why didn’t I have any brothers or sisters?

Later, why didn’t So-&-So ask me out?

And, of late, are you hearing all my prayers?

So many times we know the answers to those questions, don’t we? We can read the Bible and know for certain that God loves us and is faithful. He moves according to His divine time and sovereignty. No one is wiser than God. No one loves us more, and He is patient with us because of that love. And where His love and mercy meet, is Christ.

Even so, we still have questions sometimes.

Yesterday, I went to a local garden center with a good friend who also loves gardening, so it started out on a high note even before setting off. I woke early, startled by happy anticipation. It was a cool, bright spring day and we were soon off, armed with jackets and our pruned lists of “must-haves.”

We made our way up a winding drive to the garden center. There, stretched out before us at the top, were row upon row of hoop houses, each brimming with plants. The garden center supervisor told us the layout and we quickly located some  oakleaf hydrangeas. We milled about in the “Shade Tolerant” section and “oohed and ahhed” over each bleeding heart blossom, the kaleidoscope colors of columbine, and the delicate, airy blossoms of several varieties of coral bells. A hoop house or two over, sun-loving bright flowers shouted, “Why can’t you take us home?”

Shade, shade, shade…

I have questions when I garden beyond the dividing line between “part shade” and “full shade” and where to plant a new hosta. Am I learning contentment? I wonder sometimes, just why must there be so many rocks in my soil? Is it partly to teach me patience? And, God, why did you create cockroaches and wasps? To give a job and income to our monthly exterminator?

I dig deeper…

Lord, root out those sinful weeds creeping into my heart:

Impatience

Discontent

I overturn another rock and pick it up, turning it over in the palm of my hand. It’s oddly shaped, roundish but with cuts and abrupt edges here and there. It’s color is mostly gray but, amid the mundane gray are little glints of black here and there. It really is beautiful. Ordinary yet unique. There is art even in my soil.

Patience

And the hosta and bleeding heart? They look beautiful, nestled into the cool, shady soil. They are in their perfect spot, what they’ve been made for, and where they should be.

Contentment

God is the artist and master-gardener. Shades and shades of color, flowers with perfectly whorled petals, leaves of a thousand shapes, design, and textures. He makes each little bit of green push through soil, drawn by warmth, to reach toward sunlight, to become what He has designed it to be. What a God!

And that same God who’s watching lilies in the field (and hostas and bleeding hearts in the shade), loves and watches over you and me! We have been made for Him. He longs for us, for our hearts. We’re drawn by the love of Christ and we reach toward Him–and when we find Him, that’s just where we should be. Not conformed, but transformed.

Psalm 139:1-16

“O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
    behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.

Where shall I go from your Spirit?
    Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
    If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
    and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
    and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
    and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
    the night is bright as the day,
    for darkness is as light with you.

For you formed my inward parts;

you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.[a]
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.

My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them.

God,

All praise and glory!

We thank You for rocks in our soil and shade in our yard.

We thank you for patience and contentment.

We thank you for drawing us to you, questions and sins and all.

We thank You for Your love, for Your mercy, for Your forgiveness, and for Christ!

Amen

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.

Too Much of a Good Thing?

I like chocolate chip cookies. (In fact, I tried to add a photo for you, but–enjoy a laugh–the computer somehow “ate” it!) I also like chocolate chip cookie dough. I even like chocolate chips straight out of the bag! Funny thing, though–after eating too many (or too much of the dough or too many warm just-out-of-the-oven cookies), I don’t feel too good.

Sound familiar?

Yes, there can be too much of a good thing–at least, when we’re talking about cookies and sugar.

But too much prayer?

Too much time in scripture?

Too much Bible study?

Too much Jesus?

Oh, that’s even sweeter, and I don’t think a day full of all that would be too much! Which makes me wonder…

…How might that look–to want more God, more Jesus, more Holy Spirit?

Well, for starters we could begin our morning with prayer–just open those eyes and praise God for His wonderful creations–our eyes, that sunbeam or raindrop, this day! “This is the day that the LORD has made; let us be glad and rejoice in it!” (Psalm 118:24)

Then we could shower with a sense of the flood of forgiveness secured in Christ’s atoning sacrifice. “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:11)

Are others in your day as in mine? We can greet family members and co-workers with the joy of the Lord and an appreciation for the gifts that they are in our lives. “For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at His coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy.” (1 Thessalonians 2:19, 20)

Hungry for more than cookies? We could eat our meals with the simple yet profound grace of “Thanks be to the LORD God who brings forth grain from the earth and living bread from heaven.” “Man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes out of the mouth of the LORD.” (Deuteronomy 8:3b)

You get the idea, don’t you? It’s a 24-hour opportunity! Hear the birds sing His praises. Watch the clouds paint the sky for His glory. Connect the stars he has numbered. All day, “taste and see that the LORD is good.” (Psalm 34:8) What a bountiful, full day.

Here’s how this all played out recently at our house…

Appreciating and desiring “more Jesus,” I mulled over an idea in my mind and started looking into pursuing a master’s degree in Biblical Theology.

Ouch!

As AWESOME as that would be, it had an understandably HIGH price tag! My husband and I talked it over and agreed that our walls had enough diplomas and that any money allotted for education would be better spent going toward our son, who’s currently working toward his first diploma.

That said, there was still that hunger to know more, to go deeper in God’s Word. So…

(here’s where the wanna-be-student gets creative…)

I looked at several seminaries online and wrote down the class topics included in their Biblical Theology degrees. Then, I assigned each of the top 12 topics to a month on my calendar and added an accompanying list of books, (a.k.a. ‘MUST READS”).

The result?

My husband (such a sport–and a voracious reader to boot!) and I have started a year long study in scripture and theological books to dive deeper into the wonder and glory of God! I know we won’t come close to the depth and breadth of a full seminary degree by miles, but won’t we have a bountiful year all the same, exploring scripture and drawing closer to God?!

And so, in late January, we made a gentle start with a number of definitions, fleshing out 15 or so words like “justification,” “sanctification,”, “Trinity,” “fellowship,” etc. In my head, I allocated it all to 20-30 minutes, but I didn’t take into account another person’s input–especially if that person is a deep Christian thinker and a lawyer!

AN HOUR AND A HALF LATER,

we finished ~

and we both were blessed with a really good beginning understanding.

Now it’s on to February and a month contemplating and reading about God! That’s what I’ll be doing a lot of this month, and that should be amazing!

(If you want to join along, I’m reading Knowing God by J. I. Packer right now! You may not want to take on a year long plan, but let me encourage you to read more scripture this year. Maybe read a Psalm at the day’s beginning and then read it again at the day’s end. Or consider reading those “little books”–1st and 2nd Peter; 1st, 2nd, and 3rd John; Jude; Titus–and really come to know each one. Do you like action? Try Acts! Whatever you decide, I do thank you for reading ChristBesideMe and pray it points you to Christ.)

Now let’s grab a couple chocolate chip cookies (two–not too many!) and get reading and get to know our God even better!

A Time for Thanks

IMG_3615Look what came to see me this morning!

I had planned to energetically rake the thousands of leaves lying in golden drifts on our back yard, but God had something else in mind. Such is His way so many times, and yet I’m always surprised. Does God shake His head with a gentle, understanding smile? I pray again the Quaker refrain: What You Will, When You Will, As You Will. Yes, let my day be His day for His glory.

So the rake stands still, leaning lonely and wistful against the mud room shelves. And I sit here at my desk, looking out on a yard showered with leaves and glistening raindrops. This is a time, Ecclesiastes style, not for outdoor yard work but rather for resting, thinking, and indoor projects.

Ah, November. Time of Thanks. Time of Gratefulness. And I am grateful for those beautiful leaves. In fact, I’d just mentioned to my husband the other night how I hated to rake them as they’re so beautiful to see out the window. He laughed and, eyeing the branches above, replied there would be plenty more.

All those leaves… Each one, like snowflakes, is unlike its neighbor. This one’s mottled yellow with brown spots and just a tinge of soft red. And the yellow ones! Yellow seems too simple a word to describe their color. They are golden, honey, caramel, and topaz. I pick one up; it has only six small, round dots of brown, and the faintest memory of lingering green in one lobe and an early blush of the faintest red on another. Then there are the red ones–ruby, burnt and brick red. Red has spattered all over the leaves in varying intensities as if sprayed by a sputtering air brush. They cling together in this rain, fast friends in their last days.

I can’t help but think that the trip down from the tall maple must have been fun. They don’t just drop, like I did long ago off a medium-high branch from a live oak tree. They twirl and dance and lilt through the air, then softly and gently join their companions.

Earlier this morning I caught a quick glimpse of a squirrel, a hickory nut clenched between his sharp teeth. He jumped from one tree to another and barely caught onto a thin branch of the second tree. There he swung, back and forth, back and forth as if on a whiplash! But he hung on and he held on to that hickory nut. In a moment, he regained his composure and scampered along toward the tree trunk.

So for a moment more, I will pause and embrace the lessons in those leaves, that squirrel. I’ll fall, let go of my plans, and exult in God’s hand. I’ll swing and hold fast to the Lord. Let the rains come; I am not alone.

“I will be your God through all your lifetime, yes, even when your hair is white with age. I made you and I will care for you. I will carry you along and be your Savior.” Isaiah 46:4

Thank you, heavenly Father.

Bible Study

img_3182What comes to mind when you hear the words

BIBLE  STUDY ?

Do you get a little antsy? Do you think of all the other things you have to do? Do you suddenly have to check something in the oven or get the ironing done or rake the leaves or…You get the idea, right? But are you up for a challenge? (more…)

Smoke and Fire in the Smoky Mountains

No photo needs to adorn this loss. It’s been in the news so frequently:

Out of Control fires in the Smoky Mountains and Surrounding Areas and Towns

And it raged on for days. While a good breeze and strong winds are sometimes a good and welcome turn in the weather, their timing in this area ended up having a disastrous influence on the fires. The winds exacerbated the flames and destruction spread with reckless speed.

Sadly, many of the homes in the areas were fully consumed down to their foundations, leaving only a lonely fireplace/chimney standing amidst the smoking dust. My cousin’s beloved green cabin was one of the casualties. In it mementoes and treasures were also consumed.

Then at last rains came. What a welcome they were, helping turn the tide of the remaining fires.

The fires have taken such a toll–both physically and mentally. When I first heard of the fires, my heart went out to all who were in the affected areas–the homeowners, the native animals, the firefighters. My prayers went up like the smoke with a request for rain and peace.

Then I remembered a favorite poem from years ago. I’ll share it here in hope that the perspective of this wise and historic Puritan poet might be a comfort to those who have suffered such a loss.

The poem is entitled “Verses upon the Burning of our House, July 10th, 1666.” Its author is Anne Bradstreet, one of the first female poets on what would years later become American soil. She was born in England in 1612 and immigrated with her husband and parents to the American colonies with the Winthrop Puritan group, settling in Massachusetts. There, she and her husband raised eight children and moved four times finally making a home in North Andover, Massachusetts. By then, many of her relatives (both older and younger than she) had passed and Anne herself was suffering from failing health, most probably tuberculosis.

It is this fourth house that burned to the ground. In the poem, she speaks of her loss and her memories, and she honestly recounts her regret. Even so, at the poem’s close, her pain and loss are overwhelmed by her faith in God and reliance on Christ. May God strengthen us to face loss with a similar perspective.

Be encouraged (and kindly be understanding of the 17th century speech and spelling):

“Verses upon the Burning of our House, July 10th, 1666”
 
“Here Follows Some Verses Upon the Burning
of Our house, July 10th. 1666. Copied Out of
a Loose Paper.
In silent night when rest I took,
For sorrow near I did not look,
I wakened was with thund’ring noise
And piteous shrieks of dreadful voice.
That fearful sound of “fire” and “fire,”
Let no man know is my Desire.
I, starting up, the light did spy,
And to my God my heart did cry
To straighten me in my Distress
And not to leave me succourless.
Then, coming out, behold a space
The flame consume my dwelling place.
And when I could no longer look,
I blest His name that gave and took,
That laid my goods now in the dust.
Yea, so it was, and so ‘twas just.
It was his own, it was not mine,
Far be it that I should repine;
He might of all justly bereft
But yet sufficient for us left.
When by the ruins oft I past
My sorrowing eyes aside did cast
And here and there the places spy
Where oft I sate [sat] and long did lie.
Here stood that trunk, and there that chest,
There lay that store I counted best.
My pleasant things in ashes lie
And them behold no more shall I.
Under thy roof no guest shall sit,
Nor at thy Table eat a bit.
No pleasant talk shall ‘ere be told
Nor things recounted done of old.
No Candle e’er shall shine in Thee,
Nor bridegroom‘s voice e’er heard shall be.
In silence ever shalt thou lie,
Adieu, Adieu, all’s vanity.
Then straight I ‘gin [again] my heart to chide,
And did thy wealth on earth abide?
Didst fix thy hope on mould’ring dust?
The arm of flesh didst make thy trust?
Raise up thy thoughts above the sky
That dunghill mists away may fly.
Thou hast a house on high erect
Frameed by that mighty Architect,
With glory richly furnished,
Stands permanent though this be fled.
It‘s purchased and paid for too
By Him who hath enough to do.
A price so vast as is unknown,
Yet by His gift is made thine own;
There‘s wealth enough, I need no more,
Farewell, my pelf [money], farewell, my store [possessions].
The world no longer let me love,
My hope and treasure lies above.
Source: The Columbia Anthology of American Poetry (Columbia University Press, 1995)

“He Restores My Soul”

IMG_3198.jpgOur home has a small but lovely back yard and a wooden deck. I love the sound made when I walk across that wooden deck. Don’t know why! There are big maple trees towering overhead that offer bounteous shade and a sprinkling of autumn’s fall leaves. There’s a little table and two chairs, perfect for a quiet conversation. (We could enjoy some time together there, couldn’t we?) There’s a bench where I like to spread out my tea, my Bible, and my laptop. Here and there, flowers bloom in large pots. A rosemary bush scents the air. It’s beautiful to me. 

There’s just one problem:

When on the deck, there is NO internet connection!

(Cue thunder and threatening music.)

This might not seem like a terrible turn of events, and—in the big picture—it really isn’t. But at the moment, it was.

First, I grumbled, but of course, that didn’t do any good!

Then I decided to be pro-active and tried to s-t-r-e-t-c-h the internet booster out onto the deck. Sadly, the connection lines weren’t long enough. Technologically foiled!

So I took the only option there seemed to be. I closed the laptop and just sat there–on the bench, sipping my mug of hot tea.

img_3199

Have you ever felt like God just lit up His will in neon lights right in front of you?

Well, there weren’t any neon lights on the deck, and there was no special message in the Cape Cod towns written on my mug. It was Psalm 23, the Lord’s Prayer; it flooded my mind, especially verses 1-3:

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.”

Last week was close to overwhelming (although I’m sure it wasn’t the “valley of the shadow of death” David writes of in verse 4 of Psalm 23). I did, however, feel like I was barely keeping my head above water. Have you had weeks like that? Not that I wish that for you, of course, but I hope you can empathize! The activities were mostly good ones, but they were numerous:

  • Work
  • Grocery shopping
  • Meal prep
  • Bible study
  • Walk the dog
  • Run errands
  • Clean bathroom
  • Paint upstairs trim
  • Purchase fall plants
  • Plant fall plants
  • Pick up ordered items
  • Help a friend
  • Tutor students
  • Do laundry
  • Entertain friends
  • Write letters
  • Make phone calls
  • Do Sunday school preparation and
  • Clean rug (Our dog got sick on our family room rug—bring on the baking soda.)

There were some hard decisions in there, too. Throughout the week, I had prayed and prayed for direction and for peace, and I prayed that wordless cry of the soul that wells up from deep inside you, accompanied only by tears.

But this was different. There were no tears now.

I sat.

I took a deep breath of fresh air.

I watched a small nuthatch at the bird feeder.

I watched a hummingbird seek out one of our last geranium blossoms.

I felt the soft breeze drift over me, gentler than cashmere,

I heard the rustling tree branches overhead.

I heard the plunk of hickory nuts falling on and rolling down our neighbor’s roof.

I smelled the sweet, complex scent of my tea. (Sloane Tea’s “Heavenly Cream”—seriously!)

I released the worry and stress I had worn like accessories, increasingly added throughout the week.

I loosened my grip on my list of self-imposed “to-do’s” and thought about what was really most important—to love the Lord my God with all my heart, with all my mind, and with all my soul and to love my neighbor as myself. (Matthew 22: 34-40)

Now this isn’t brain surgery, but once I took my eyes off that list of self-determined to-do’s, I could sense the complete sufficiency of Jesus which superseded the whole list. Decisions and priorities became clear.

The Lord restored my soul.

Only then, did I come back inside, jot down some notes, and then pop back out and snap a couple photos.

Now it’s time to give my Mom a call and text a couple of college students. Then, I’ll make a second attempt at rug cleaning! The laundry, painting, and planting can wait for another time.

May the Lord restore you, too, dear friend!

For Deeper Insight. . .

A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, Mass Market Edition - By: W. Phillip Keller I heartily encourage you to check out A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, by W. Phillip Keller.

It’s an eye-opening book that unpacks the 23rd Psalm in an accurate, contextual, and most meaningful way. (It is also undoubtedly one of my favorites!) It makes a wonderful gift at Easter or anytime.

It’s available in many formats. Here’s the link to read more about it and purchase it at Christian Book Distributors: A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by W. Phillip Keller 

In Hot Water?

Have you ever felt like you’re about to be in hot water? You know that feeling: Your name’s about to be called or all eyes are on you or you’re plunging headfirst into img_3174uncharted territory. There’s a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach. Your breathing repetitions increase. A seemingly logical dread swamps your thinking.

And then nothing bad happens.

Or maybe something bad does happen.

Whichever outcome, there’s hope in Psalm 51, verses 11 and 12.

In this deeply repentant song, we see David’s heart–repentant, sorrowful, honest. And talk about deep water. David’s deep water incident had just become known to the prophet, Nathan, and Nathan had just confronted David with his sin with Bathsheba. David felt very humbled and very convicted that he had sinned against God. Click on the blue link and you can read the whole tragic story narrated in 2 Samuel 11 and 12.

Now let’s look back at Psalm 51. In verse 1, David opens with a searing cry for mercy based on the steadfast love of God.

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin!”

Have you ever cried out for mercy in the middle of that hot water moment? I certainly have. Sometimes it’s been through tears. Sometimes it’s been with eyes wide open. Mercy. Lord, have mercy on me.

Now let’s look further down the chapter at verse 12.

“Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.”

Isn’t our greatest plea for mercy answered most wholly with restoration? And the most wonderful restoration of all, which is the restoration of the joy from God’s salvation. We see that joy of God’s salvation in Jesus Christ. Acts 4:12 and numerous other  New Testament verses attest to that. The latter half of the verse asks God to grant us a willing spirit to bolster us on. How can we be assured of that?

We just have to read verse 17. Here, David illustrates the sacrifice that pleases God, and shows his heart of hope:

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

When we have those moments  when we’re about to fall into that pot of boiling water, so to speak, or even trials of more temperate natures, a broken and contrite heart and a sincere prayer to be upheld and given a willing spirit, is heard by the God of lovingkindness and steadfast love. Our broken spirit, our broken and contrite, sorrowful heart is the evidence of and the reason for our cry for mercy. And it is answered in the restoration of forgiveness and the assurance of joy that comes from knowing Christ, our salvation.

Then, we might just realize anew that God can bring something good even out of boiling water trials. (img_3175Remember James 1 and Romans 8:28?) Sure, our dinner was tasty, but I mean something more. Deeper faith. Wisdom. Remembering God is good and faithful even in hot water times. Remembering Jesus Christ is our deepest, truest joy in all times.

 

Hitting the Nail on the Head, so to speak

Each morning–or honestly I should say, most mornings or at night!–I read a short devotional from Life-Changing Moments with God: Praying Scripture Every Day by David Jeremiah. Each day’s reading begins with a succinct summation IMG_3161followed by a compilation of verses from the Bible and closes with a short prayer and then the verse references.

This morning? Do you see that hammer? Well, the reading today left me amazed and humbled at yet another time when God’s Word makes a direct hit on the tenuous, weak spot in my heart. I won’t go into all the details; the details aren’t really what’s important. What’s important is. . .

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