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Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Embracing and Releasing the Seasons of Life


 



The cold slapped my face as I headed to the car this morning. By lunch time tiny flakes started to fall. It’s still October. Granted, it is the last day, but still October! Which begs the question, are these flakes a trick or treat? It depends on our perspective. I think it’s today’s treat ─ pretty, white, window dressing. Yet, I also hope tomorrow the trickster melts it away, banishing the overnight freezes. That’s what the weather guessers report, “Tomorrow’s high 60. Lows for the next five days in the 40’s and 77 for a high come Sunday.” I hope they’re right. I’m not ready for winter.



Eleven pots of French lavender sit by my sliding glass door waiting for autumn’s return. I hope tomorrow will be the day I settle them into their new bed, and their roots will have time to cozy under the downy dirt before the next freeze.



As a child I viewed seasons forming a pie chart, cut in quarters, each forth a different, distinct color. Now, I realize the changing of seasons is not like that at all.



I watch in wonder as snow crystals form white lace on top of my pink hollyhock. She put out her petticoats late this year. The seasons dance.

           Today Winter cut in. With his icy grip around Fall’s waist he tats a fringe of white lace on Autumn’s gown. His sharp wind blows her golden skirt off reveling the branches of her hooped slip. The last bit of Summer’s green slumps beneath the weight of Winter’s powdery step.



Indeed, the seasons twirl, and curtsy, swing, and bow. They embrace and release like four square dancers under the stars that direct their rhythm. How beautifully time flows, if I don’t panic at its passing. But I often do.



I linger too long, then rush to catch up. I give into the anxiousness of being behind, being too late. I long for a different season, failing to appreciate the one I’m in.

A recent season of busyness crowded out my writing. 

“When do I write, Lord? Will I ever get back to my book?”

Then His still small voice breaths a reminder to my soul, “Seasons.”

 And I am invited into the dance.



“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted. . .
 

What gain has the worker from his toil? 10 I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time.” Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 and 9-11.



I confess, I trip more than dance with the seasons of life. When I was young and single, I coveted the season of matrimony. Now, on rare occasions, I look back with fondness at of the simplicity of living alone. I remember the exhaustion of days with infants and toddler, and how I longed for older children who would be more self-sufficient. When my kids got older the challenge of teens made an empty nest look inviting. Most days I do enjoy my empty nest, but there are days I really miss the activity of kids in the house.  I need to teach my heart to embrace the season God puts me in, remembering it will change soon enough.

Today I write. In another season a book may emerge. Tomorrow I'll plant lavender. Come spring fragrant flowers will bloom. I will dance with these seasons, and God will make each beautiful in its time.

What season are you in? What season do you long for? How will you dance with the Lord of seasons? How is He teaching you to trust that He makes all things beautiful in their time?

Dear Father,
Please, teach us to embrace and release the seasons of our life with wisdom and grace. Let us enjoy the dance of time under the stars you set in place to direct it all. Teach us to exhale our anxieties and inhale deeply Your perfect peace.
Amen

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Reflections (based on 1Corinthians 13 and James 1:21-25)


“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest one of all?” How often have I gone to the mirror of God’s Word with the same intent as Snow White’s evil stepmother? I go not with honest intent to see the Fairest. I go looking for me. I want God to explain who I am. I want Him to tell me how wonderful I am. Then like the fool James tells me about, I look into that mirror, see my sin, and turn away unchanged, because that’s not what I came for. I didn’t want to be changed into a reflection of His love (dim as it may be) I just wanted to look good, feel good, be encouraged.


Mirrors may give us encouragement, but their purpose is to reveal truth. And in the case of God’s Word to reveal the Truth, the Way, the Life.
God created us to be His mirror, to reflect His image. We failed so He became the mirror. He reveals how ugly our sin is, how far we’ve fallen short of His glory. He shows us love has scars, it both gives and forgives.  In the Mirror we see His grace and mercy. But some wonderful day when time has ceased, we will see Him as He sees us, perfectly. We will be the perfect reflection of His perfect love. We will enjoy an intimate knowing as we are known. The reflection will be restored. And we will see the Fairest of us all, Jesus!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Wellspring Writers Midwifery

The birth of a baby fascinates me. Birth is miraculous, breath taking, and a whole lot of work. That's why we call it labor. I've often thought about becoming a midwife, but to be honest I like regular sleep. Midwifery hours stink. So I write instead.

This past few weeks I feel like a midwife, because one of our Wellspring Writers, Nancy Swihart, is having a book published! It's almost as exciting as when a friend has a baby. I've helped her labor through this whole delivery, and I have the privilege of hosting her launch party May 27th.
Seeing her ad on Amazon felt like watching the a baby's head crown.


I feel privileged to be part of Wellspring Writers. It's a small, multi generational group of talented, productive writers. Together we write for the glory of God, and sharpen each other as iron sharpens iron. Together we birth books. Our labors are longer (months verses hours), but the hours are way more manageable!



If you're anywhere near me I hope you'll join us for this special delivery, Saturday, May 27th, at the Swihart's barn 3681 Kitten Creek Road, Keats, Kansas. 2-pm-5pm Nancy will be selling and signing copies of her baby. Weather permitting, you'll be blessed with the opportunity to stroll along the same paths around the farm that inspired Nancy's story. You can get her book here.

Buy it! Read it! I loved hearing this story, and I think you will too!


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Communication? I Give Up!



Are you familiar with this old Hymn? “I surrender all, I surrender all. All to Thee my blessed savior, I surrender all.” I’m surrendering again.



I give up!

I give up any right I thought I had of being understood. God understands me. He understands my motives and meaning better than I ever could. I’m just going to rest in that. No matter what I say or how carefully I choose my words someone will misunderstand.

Someone will hear something I did not mean to imply. Someone will choose to feel hurt by words that were not hurtful. I can’t help that. I can’t take responsibility for someone’s hurt feelings. I can only take responsibility for my words and motives. If my words and motives are pure, and someone feels hurt anyway, that is not my fault.

I can't help it if someone hears what I did not say. I can try to clarify myself, but the reality is that individual just may not get it. And I’m okay with that.

 I don’t want to argue and defend myself. I want to lay down my life for that person and pray for wisdom to love them no matter how angry and ugly their response may be. If I think I’m  always right, and have a right to be understood, I won’t have the freedom to love.

 Now, I know I miss speak, and don’t always communicate as accurately as I’d like. I am sorry. I am a sinner. I’m happy to clarify and take responsibility for my words. I just don’t have the power or ability to control how others feel about what I say.




Teri B.C. owned a sharp tongue that could decapitate her victim in one swift stroke. I know how to use hurtful words. But that Teri died. This new Teri has no desire to kill anyone, especially not verbally. Yet, despite my best intentions people still misunderstand me.

Oh well, all I can say is “I’m sorry, you’re hurting,” or “I’m sorry you took offense.” I am not wrong and they are not wrong to hurt or be angry. We simply can’t understand each other perfectly because we are not perfect.

In laying down my “right” to be understood I also lay down my “right” to be easily hurt or angered by the words of others. As a child, I felt the verbal blows of many bullies. It comes with the territory of being the new kid on the block. My mom taught me the little poem, “Sticks and stones may break my bones…”



Now, I know words can be hurtful, but I also know I am responsible for choosing how I react. I can choose to feel hurt or I can choose to feel compassion. I can choose anger or patience. How I respond is up to me. If I choose to not be provoked things go so much better.

America is a thin skinned culture. So much for the tolerance movement! I hear more hate and anger now than I ever have before. Once upon a time bullies were people who beat you up and stole from you. Now anyone who says something we perceive as wrong is a bully, and we bully back. I will not be like that. In surrendering to God I choose to go against that flow.

“Love thinks no evil.” I refuse to believe that others want to hurt me with their words. If my feathers get ruffled I will look in my own heart and ask myself, “Why did that hurt?” or “Am I angry because my toes are too long and didn’t need to get stepped on?” I may just need to pluck my ruffled feathers out.




I know people who hurt, hurt others. And hurting people can be overly sensitive. I will do my best to speak carefully, but let’s face it, I will fail at times. I’m just glad God never fails. He understands all of us. And He is the Healer Who makes all thing work for good. And to this compassionate Father, I surrender all!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A New Perspective: Part 10 The END



As a young homemaker catalogs (my generations equivalent of internet shopping) opened a world of decorating possibilities to me. I spent hours perusing those pages, longing for more stuff, nicer stuff. It didn’t take long for me to realize I had a problem, not a house problem, but a heart problem. At that point of confession I coined the term covetlogs.

Wanting fills the human heart. God made us creatures of desire. Wanting, in and of itself, is not a sin. The factors that determine sinfulness are the objects of our desires.

Eastern thought unlike, western, is not linear. Eastern thinking cycles around, and creates growing layers of explanation. We see it here in the last command. The Apostle Paul defines covetousness as idolatry in Colossians 3:5. Remember where we started, the first commandment?
 “‘You shall have no other gods before me.”

This reveals what we ought to want. We ought to want God. God alone is enough to fill the longings of our heart. Longing after things God has entrusted to another robs us of the blessings He’s placed in our own hands.

10.     21 “‘And you shall not covet your neighbor's wife. And you shall not desire your neighbor's house, his field, or his male servant, or his female servant, his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's.’



What then does this show us about God’s character? First, I see Him as the appointer of portions. God designates our relationships, our properties, and every other resource we have including our appearance and abilities. Secondly, because He created our wanting hearts to want Him, we know He wants us. He does not covet what belongs to another. He made us, and His desire for us is a good thing.



Knowing He appoints my portion, and wants me, frees me to learn contentment. Covetlogs no longer control my heart, and steal my time and joy. I’m released from the dissatisfaction of things that were never meant to satisfy. Yet more than the freedom of coveting, His desire for me charms my soul. Love’s perfect consummation results from mutual delight. “He delivered me because He delighted in me.” Psalm18:19.

Jesus bound in earthly flesh found contentment in His Father. Remember His warning to those who would follow Him, “The Son of man has nowhere to lay His head,” Matthew 8:20. The King of Kings, poor by this world’s standards, had everything because He had a relationship of mutual delight with the Father.


Father, giver of every good and perfect gift,

Free us to be content in You and portion you appoint for us. We pray with Agur (author of Proverb 30), “Two things I request of You (deprive me not before I die): Remove falsehood and lies from me; Give me neither poverty nor riches ─ Feed me the food allotted to me: Lest I be full and deny You, and say, “Who is the Lord?” Or lest I be poor and steal, And profane the name of my God.” Proverb 30:7-9.

Amen

I pray this series helped you understand the Ten Commandments are not an oppressive list of rules handed down by a Cosmic Kill Joy. Rather, God invites His image bearers to be like Him. “Be holy for I AM holy,” He pleads with His people, because He knows from experience holiness generates eternal happiness.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A New Perspective: Part 9


I watched tears well up in the young woman’s eyes. She recounted the stares of other customers, the humiliation she felt, as two security guards escorted her to the store’s office. She had been falsely accused of shoplifting. Nothing derails justice more than a false witness. Liars rob the innocent of justice.



The ninth commandment does not condemn lying in general, though other commands in Scripture do. It condemns the character assignation of slander. Why does God value a truthful assessment of people?

9.     20 “‘And you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

Simple, He is Truth, and He is just. He speaks honestly and openly about who we are. He tells us we are made in His likeness, made for His glory. But He also reminds us we are hopelessly sinful, completely depraved. As the Judge of all the earth He determines the penalty justice requires. That penalty is death. He tells us the truth of who we are so we can ask His forgiveness.

Truth may offend, but slander is just plain offensive. The Bible calls Satan the Slander. He first slandered God, then God’s people. To slander people made in God’s image makes us, like Satan, a slanderer of God.

Satan takes pleasure in the truth offending. Being told we deserve death, that we sin, and offend a Holy God, stabs our egos. And the Devil likes twisting the knife. “How dare you call me a sinner, you don’t even know me!” I’ve heard this response to the Gospel before. Yet, failing to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth concerning God’s good news would be bearing false witness against God and my neighbor.



Hearing His true account of my situation frees me to give an accurate account to others. It is not judging to point out another’s sin to them privately. It is not slander to show a person their own depravity so that they can be rescued.

“I am the way, the truth, and the life, No man comes to the Father but by me.” In this one statement Jesus bore a true witness of both Himself and the Father, but Jesus also told us the truth about our own condition. We needed a way back, a road to the Father, an escape route from death. We need to know the Truth, so we can know the way. We need to know the Way so we can have life, His life, eternal life.

True Father,

We praise You for your honesty with us. We thank You that You see fit to bruise us with truth that we may be spared the death blow of lies. Please, teach our tongues to communicate truth in love. Convince us of the reality that the truth may hurt, but withholding truth, and twisting truth causes death.  May we love our neighbors by speaking honestly with them and well of them.

Amen

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A new Perspective: Part 8


Have you ever stolen something? I have. I once shoplifted a decorative box I thought was overpriced. After becoming a Christ follower, I mailed a check for the purchase price to the store I stole from. This commandment is straight forward in what it means to us, but what does it say about the nature of God?




1.     19 “And you shall not steal.

Since God owns everything He cannot steal, nor is he required to give. Yet, He gives. Abraham knew Him as Jehovah Jireh, God Provides. As our Creator and Sustainer, the responsibility of meeting our needs falls on His shoulders. The responsibility of being content with His provision falls on ours.

God not only gives, He gives extravagantly. His generosity remains unrivaled. We cannot out give God. “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” Romans 8:32

Why should I ever want to steal when He’s given me so much? This reality frees me to learn contentment. It frees me to learn generosity. It frees me to be thankful for all material things I’ve been entrusted with as His steward. It reminds me to praise Him and never steal His glory.



Our disposition to crave, and crave control especially, gets smack upside the head by Jesus’ fulfillment of the eighth command. The devil robbed Him of our souls. By right He should have stolen us all back, but no He paid for us again. Then even more audacious, He leaves us with an invitation to come. Not a demand, but a request. God is no Indian giver. He gave you a will then asked, “Are you willing to follow Me?”

Generous Father, Giver of all good things,

Thank You for your generosity in giving us your Son. Thank You for freeing those of us who stole to steal no more, but work willingly that we may learn to give, and be generous like You.
Amen