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.

Advertisements

January: A Renewed Beginning

Here we are once again in January! Today, I’m snuggled up in flannel and wool, sipping cup after cup of hot tea (Earl Grey Supreme, my personal favorite). Be it a gray day with temperatures dropping hourly, I’m cozy inside, at rest, and with time to ponder Ephesians and my Savior.

My faithful companion snoozes on his little rug beside my desk. Sometimes his steps are not as quick as they once were. Sometimes his hearing and eye sight isn’t as sharp as it once was (unless a “cookie” treat slides across the floor). Still, he always loves his walks, and after this morning ‘s adventure, he is glad to be inside again, too. His gentle breathing reveals a heart at rest.

Is your heart at rest, too, beloved one? (more…)

Santa Claus, Christmas Trees, and Love

How would you describe Christmas in two words? It’s not easy! It’s a question to which there is no one correct answer, I think, but a question worth pondering all the same.

Our secular world might answer Santa Claus, but they may not know his true beginnings as an actual bishop some 250 years after Christ. Yes, St. Nicholas (which morphed into the name Santa Claus) loved Jesus and loved children. When he came into a significant inheritance from his deceased parents, he found his greatest joy in giving small bags of coins to the poor, often silently depositing them in stockings or shoes drying beside a fireside. And can you guess a bishop’s attire for those cold, old winters in present-day Turkey? You guessed it! A red robe and hat, both lined with warm, white fur.

Many might sum up Christmas with “Christmas tree”. We must thank St. Boniface, an Anglo-Saxon missionary called by his love of Christ to the northern Germanic people in the 4th century. When he came upon their “Holy Oak of Thor” which these people worshipped, he seized the moment, seized an axe, and chopped down that tree—all to make a visual point about the supremacy of Christ. And it worked; they came to faith in Christ. Boniface then pointed to an evergreen tree, instructing the new believers to see its triangular shape as a diagram of the Trinity and pointing to heaven. Even more applicable, its EVER green nature was a visual reminder that Christ was EVER with them. And so it remains.

Two different men. Two different centuries. But there is a commonality there. Did you happen to notice their mutual and beautiful inspiration? Both were prompted by their love of Christ.

And that brings us to the true answer for what Christmas means: Jesus Christ.

May our love of Christ be the inspiration and impetus for all of our actions and attitudes this Christmas~whether addressing Christmas cards, wrangling our way through the department store to buy gifts, or patiently queuing up in the long lines at the grocery or post office. (Yours truly definitely needs a reminder of that attitude when wrestling with Christmas lights!) Our love of Christ is only made possible because of God’s love for us, made reality in the most beautiful and merciful gift we have ever received~Jesus Christ.

With love at Christmas to you, dear reader!

Spell Check or Challenge?

Hello all fellow computer users! Today is rainy here. It’s a good day to settle in with a cup of hot tea and get some of those necessary computer tasks completed.

Sounds like a gratifying prospect, right?

Well, truth be told, it’s been a challenge. I’m not too savvy with computers, but I’ve learned some perseverance from the trial today! James had it right, even in the tech world:

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you meet trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything.” (James 1:2-4 NIV)

Now my problem today wasn’t a testing of faith as much as a testing of patience with a temptation to exasperation. All the same, what kind of witness to being “in Christ” would failing that test be?

Today the trial was with Spell Check. Spell Check is a wonderful program that helps catch most of our spelling errors. It’s a blessing really. My spelling is generally good. I get a little off when I type too quickly. But as I typed along today, I watched red lines appear under almost every single word that I typed.

Words like IS and MAKE.

The computer suggested IST and MACHEN.

The blessing had turned into a trial!

Blindly, I clicked on various categories in the tool bar and finally landed on the correct category to see Spell Check.

Bravely, I clicked on the Options button and would you know it?

My Spell Check had somehow switched to GERMAN!

I really don’t have a clue how this happened. Did the computer know that I’ve been reading a biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer lately? Had it searched my brain for any lingering, thin remnants of college German, (now limited to translations of “Open the door please” and “Where is the bathroom?”) Who knows? Computers! I had to laugh and, happily, I was able to change my Spell Check back to English.

Hmmm…that wasn’t really a James-worthy trial, was it? It was just a small hiccup, a pause and a smile. But even in that, fellow rainy day computer friends, we see the call to persevering in faith by maintaining a Godly attitude and perspective in our Christian walk.

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,” (Titus 2:1–13 ESV)

We are persevering, waiting for our blessed hope. The soft rain perseveres, composing a peaceful background song. My tea perseveres–my mug, full and steaming with a second brew from a bag of my favorite Earl Grey Supreme. And it’s back to persevering on the task at hand…

~ But I am overwhelmed with the faithfulness of God as we persevere:

Thank you, God, for this GOOD day.

Thank you for unexpected trials that give us pause and opportunities

to persevere and realign our definition of trials.

Thank you for rain.

Thank you for tea.

Thank you for computers and Spell Check.

Thank you for developing perseverance in each of us.

Thank you for our blessed hope–for Christ.

Dear friend, I pray your time today goes more smoothly than mine. Yet, if you are beset with a trial, may you persevere, knowing God is refining your spirit, and that we

“…count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus [our] Lord.” (Philippians 3:8 ESV)

 

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!

 

Squeaks, Creaks, and Clicks and Other Unusual Sounds

The view from my desk looks out onto the deck and across our back yard. I love the natural light, the birds, the trees–even all the fallen leaves like reminders of blessings at this time of year. Today, I was happily typing along on another project (an inexorable book submission proposal) and I kept hearing the oddest clicking sound.

Does your house make funny sounds? Our house is an older one, so funny sounds do echo about now and then. Certain floorboards creak an achy “Hello” when I walk over them. One light switch in particular makes a loud, grouchy CLAP when I switch it on like it would much rather continue sleeping in darkness. Even our newer washer and dryer call out their own version of a Revolutionary War song each time a cycle ends. It’s a rollicking time!

But this was a new sound. Of course, at first I thought it was a drip in the sink. Nothing stirring there–not even a soap bubble. Was our family’s furry friend chewing on squeaky toy or a crinkly Hershey bar wrapper? No, he was dozing in the sun on the hall rug.

Still the clicking continued–and so the plot thickened.

Into the kitchen, I went. Yes, I’d completely turned off the gas on the stove after heating my lunch. (It was vegetable soup–wish you could’ve joined me!) The clock on the shelf was quietly ticking, definitely not clicking.

I headed back to my little desk, flustered and out-of-ideas, and sat down in the chair. My eyes drifted out across the narrow deck, to the ivy,

AND THERE HE WAS!  (And then he wasn’t.)

img_3248The cutest little chipmunk ever. (Aren’t they really all cute and little!) I’m afraid you’ll have to imagine the little imp, just to the right of the fern, nestled in the leaves, and looking straight at me, for he turned and dashed right into the ivy in a blink. Guess he had been carrying on an in-depth conversation and telling tales of the best nut storage spots and the latest news from the acorn beds–all with no one attentively listening. That’s rather sad really.

There’s a listening time that could be even sadder though–for each of us. There have been times I’ve missed “the still small voice” of God, as I busily made my own decisions, pursued my own designs. Ever found yourself in that same position?

Now I’m not equating God or Jesus with a chipmunk, even though the Maker did create them. It’s just that finally locating that click-happy, verbose chipmunk made my ears perk up.  It made me remember that sometimes I need to look and listen–

to REALLY LOOK–at God’s Word and

to REALLY LISTEN–to the words of Jesus Christ.

“Come to me…” (Matthew 11:28)

“Abide in me…” (John 15:4)

And that brings us to a beautiful promise: “…rest unto your souls.” Matthew 11:29)

I don’t know about you, but I could really use some rest for my soul!

Every concern. Every worry.

Every dream. Every desire.

Every minute. Every hour.

Every day. Every night.

Come to Jesus and receive His promise.

Abide in Him and know His rest, His peace.

Thank you, Lord!

(And thank you also, Lord, for intriguing sounds and bashful chipmunks that bring out thoughts back to You.)

The Last Day of Summer

I am at a loss. Why? The end of summer is upon us! The month has dwindled down to a drop–

a day.

img_3186

Today, Wednesday, September 21, is THE LAST FULL DAY of summer.

More precisely,

(with a little help from “ye” Old Farmer’s Almanac)
Old Farmer's Almanac

tomorrow–Thursday, at 10:20 AM–is the last moment of this summer.

Gone are the days of. . .

ice cream Image result for ice cream cone

Image result for lazy summer morning lazy mornings

being poolside, dockside, or beachside Image result for public domain lake with dock and chair

Image result for chasing fireflies public domain  chasing lightning bugs

overflowing gardens  Image result for bountiful flower bed public domain

Image result for jumping through sprinklers public domain  jumping through sprinklers

barefoot walks in soft green grass  Image result for public domain feet walking in grass

Image result for watermelon slice public domain  watermelon

fresh tomatoes   Image result for beefsteak tomatoes public domain

But weren’t they wonderful? (And who says ice cream is only for the summer? I have a dear aunt who would strongly concur!)

I hope you were able to enjoy some special times this past summer, dear friend. Did your garden bloom beautifully? Did your friends rejoice with you? Did you share sparkling morning sunlight and evening starlight with someone special? Did you walk increasingly more closely with Jesus?

Among His many characteristics, God is a god of relationship. Look at the friendships of David and Jonathan, of Paul and Barnabas and Timothy. Look at the marriages of Adam and Eve, of Abraham and Sarah, and of Joseph and Mary. Look at the kinship of Jesus and His cousin, John. Look at the bonds between Jesus and the apostles–and Jesus and you.

Relationships span time and seasons. They are important, in every season. So, let’s be thankful for the summer days we enjoyed and praise God for those moments and memories.

But what about difficult days? Have the hottest summer days been accompanied by trying and soul-strengthening trials? Have you been through a personal summer thunderstorm?

If in this past summer you experienced some bitter or difficult times, remember God does not leave us without comfort. We have His Word. We have His ear. We have His Spirit. We have those relationships. Like that gangly last tomato plant, continue to lean on the firm support that only Jesus Christ is. He came and died and rose making that relationship possible–all for you!

Remember

  • how very much He loves you,
  • that He is in control, (and that He is in control), and
  • to humble yourself and concede, “Thy will be done.”

With that attitude, we can be thankful for the summer days and for the fall days just around the corner. We can look forward with great expectation to see the unfolding of His good and perfect plan for our lives. We can be encouraged to walk even more closely with Jesus as we enjoy. . .

Image result for fall leaves public domain Colorful leaves (and leaf piles to jump in!)

Uniquely shaped gourds and pumpkins Image result for pumpkins gourds public domain

Image result for public domain thanksgiving dinner Thanksgiving dinner

Hot mulled cider Image result for public domain mulled cider

Image result for public domain pumpkin pie Pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin butter, (pumpkin ice cream?)

Crisp air  Image result for public domain fall in the blue ridge

And when we don’t know what will happen or when we pray and pray and PRAY for something or someone–let’s commit to wait with expectant eyes to see the realization of the wonder that is God’s will.

Let’s be awed and amazed with. . .Image result for public domain fall heart leaf

each uniquely colored fall leaf,

Image result for public domain breath of mountain hiker  each breath of crisp air

Image result for public domain hands making heart shape

each day He gives us.

This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

To-Do or Done?

OK. This is a confession. I’m running in circles and not getting anything done! It feels like I am the Road Runner from that old cartoon–and I keep stopping to look at the coyote! Sometimes, in spite of my best intentions, I just don’t get everything done that I intend to.

Here is my kitchen counter (which I snapped when I should have been dealing with each of the items photographed):

counter 1. Lamp shade to be painted.

2. Mug to be washed.

3. Light bulb to be put away.

4. Printer ink cartridges to be refilled.

5. Paint and paint thinner for a furniture project.

6. A paint roller for a room that will be painted.

7. Cilantro that must be used tonight or be tossed.

 Is it any wonder all that sent me outside, to sit on the bench on our deck?!

But from the deck, I saw the car. Sigh… Call it more red lights or longer to-do lists, but in spite of running errands for over FOUR hours, I still have four things left in the car to return or drop off.

Between that lingering thought and the mosquitoes buzzing about my ears, the deck was not the sanctuary I’d hoped it would be. Plus, I started sneezing.

Retreating inside, I plopped the laptop on the counter–bravely right next to those misplaced items. I grabbed a tissue to soften the sneezes and thought–how great to have tissues! (We’d been out for a week or so.)

Then it hit me.

Instead of being overcome by the myriad things left to do, what if I think about the number of things I have done!

Weight off my shoulders! Peace and joy!

And as I named each thing (Luke 5 study, a friend’s encouraging text, our son’s handy help, my husband’s smile, pick up this, drop off that, hardware store, fabric store, outlet store, and lunch with our daughter), I put those pesky items in their rightful places. Ah…a smile with each thought AND a cleared counter.

As I think about it, it occurs to me that that’s kind of how God looks at me–not as a long list of sins or even as a check list of good deeds, but as His forgiven and redeemed child because of Jesus Christ. I hope and pray you feel the same way!

Just consider John 1:12:

“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

and Colossians 1:11-14:

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

Now that is a weight off our shoulders. That is the truest peace and joy.

And now it’s time to start dinner–using that cilantro that’s waiting on the cutting board. I will be thankful and appreciative and enjoy time with family this evening. In fact, I may not even post this for a few days–giving you time to enjoy your family and friends as well.

I hope you do. Treasure all the moments our heavenly Father grants us–trials for the refining of our souls and triumphs for His glory, remembering all along that we are His, cleared of sin like a clean counter top.

Peace and joy!