Friday, February 3, 2017

Consider the Woodpecker

Every morning, a red-headed woodpecker tries to drill a hole in the corner of my house, a house not made of wood.

For over a year I have watched him grow in boldness and diligence, drilling holes in each of our trees. He's beautiful, smart, unique, funny.

Lately, he is determined to change the unchangeable. He is consistent, but he is wrong. No matter how loud or angry he becomes, his efforts are wasted. No matter how much he wants to change his circumstances, his time is wasted.

"Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." -Matthew 5:16 

Consider your ways. Search your heart.

What hinders you from shining God's light in a dark world? Are you taking every thought captive, every attitude, every habit, and making it obedient to Christ?

Abide in Me and you will bear much fruit.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The God Who Burdens

"Sometimes I'm so afraid," Liza whispered. "I'm a Christian. I'm supposed to have faith and joy and peace. Well, I don't, so what does that mean? What am I supposed to do? Keep on pretending?"

I have seen the burden God has laid on men.  He has made everything beautiful in its time.  He has also set eternity in the hearts of men;  yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. (Ecclesiastes 3:10-11)

Who is this God who laid such burden on us? What is beautiful about God's people living bloody, broken, confused and afraid? Can we trust a merciful, loving God when we cannot fathom what in the world He is doing?

Like a jar of river water all shaken up, the burdens of our noisy, demanding circumstances swirl around us. The world is reeling out of control, a tornado of hopelessness and conflict. As the chaos and mud sling us about, the turmoil grows. Our vision is lost. Our voices add to the clutter.

A jar of shaken sediment settles only when it is still. So, also, God waits for us to be still before He whispers to us.

I must be still for the sediment in my life to settle and my mind to become clear. Good decisions come from stepping out of the whirlwind of clutter in our lives so we can hear the voice of truth. Only in quietness and trust will we find our strength.
Be still and know that I am God.


Thursday, July 14, 2016

A God for Emersyn

The ending of the story was already written. A carefully formed nest lay fallen from my redbud tree, beside it a shiny, turquoise egg. A frail, broken, newborn robin lay on the cold, rain-soaked ground, abandoned, apparently forgotten. Heartbeats pulsed visibly beneath translucent pink skin, slowing as the bird blindly twisted his body, hopelessly fighting for life. I held the bird in my hands, powerless to save it, yet comforted to know the truth as I placed it beneath the soft, green Lamb's Ear leaves. The God who created this bird sees every moment of its life. It is tenderly loved.
Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? - Matthew 6:2

A fragile, newborn Christian is entering a life of faith this week. I accidentally gave her a wrong phone number for my cell. I've been concerned because, while she can email me, I'm not as immediately available to her as I had hoped. She's a survivor of a cold, pain-soaked life and I feel powerless as I wait to hear from her. It comforts me as I realize she knows the truth. The God who created her sees every moment of her life. She is tenderly loved.

There is a God who sees and is available always. There is a God who is able to do more than we ask or imagine He can do. There is a God who loves with an everlasting love.

Emersyn was born into our family this week, and, after months of waiting, she has arrived wrapped in warmth, safe from the storms of life and cherished beyond measure. Her body was covered with prayer multiple times daily as God knit her together in my niece's womb. As her story unfolds, I know Emersyn will have disappointments, pain and losses. It comforts me as I realize she will know the truth. The God who created her sees every moment of her life. She is tenderly loved.

The ending of your story is not yet written. Pain and disappointment may have left you broken. You may feel abandoned, apparently forgotten. The God who sees you every moment of your life Is available to wrap you in warmth and hold you in His hands, safe from the storms of life. You are worth more than you realize, cherished beyond measure. You are tenderly loved.
I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have tenderly held you with compassion. -Jeremiah 31:3

Monday, February 29, 2016

Running Alongside Samantha

Her world seems small. Face down, giving total focus to each painful step, my neighbor inched her walker along the street.

I was caught slumping wearily in the lawn chair debating whether to go for a run. Was it too hot? Was I too tired? Did I do enough yesterday to give me a pass today?

Samantha. pausing to rest, looked up. Her face glowed from sweat, but she grinned and waved. I smiled and waved back, walking toward her for a short visit.

"Hi, neighbor," she greeted me. "I can't believe I walked this far today. Just had to enjoy the sunshine before I spend my day at rehab."

Freedom. Peace. Joy. We wrongly assume those depend on circumstances. If life looks the way we hoped, joy overflows. I'm so blessed, we say, overcome with a delightful peace. I got the job! I got past my sickness. Good news has come! God has answered my prayer the way I wanted! I'm so grateful!

That's living in a small world, a world where we can see and understand. We feel worthy because we are given what we value. We live gratitude because God offers a season of refreshing ease.

Walking by faith is also sweating from the hard work of inching our way along, face down, focused on each scary step. It's ignoring the excuses and drama and difficulties to view our circumstances through God's eyes. We try to squeeze a big God into our small world, our small, human minds because our life looks too hard.

"Do you have time to walk me home?" Samantha asked. "It would really be a gift to me. I'm tired. The road didn't look this far when I started out. I'm afraid I might not make it home without falling. It won't seem as far if you're encouraging me."

Walking by faith is knowing our life journey can be harder than expected. We may not make it home without falling. We may view our circumstances as failure, but it's in the brokenness that our world grows larger, our eyes see more clearly what God values.

The journey for someone else won't seem as far if we are alongside to encourage. We can proclaim freedom to those in prison. We can bring joy to those that mourn and peace to those who are afraid.

"Thanks!" Samantha yelled as I jogged away, looking forward to my run. "You got this!"

Commit your works to the King, soldier-princess, and your plans, will be established. Your God is bigger than you think.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Stuck at the Recital

Luke finished playing the theme to James Bond, then to the crowd's delight, he transitioned into the jazz rendition he had created. The crowd clapped, cheering him onward as he stood from the piano and returned to his chair.

I was thrilled for him. He had worked hard on his music, honed his gift over the months and seen the results of an excellent performance. A piano recital can be stressful for young pianists as well as a teacher. I was proud of Luke for his example of excellence. I knew his performance would inspire and encourage my younger students.

Later in the program, Luke returned to the piano for his final performance of the afternoon. He had learned to play the music from "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" through diligent work. I had heard him play it flawlessly several times during rehearsals, but midway through the music his mind went blank. His eyes widened with surprise and he glanced at me for help.

I smiled and gave an encouraging nod. My students know what to do when they stumble or feel lost. I knew Luke would hear my unspoken words.   "Go to where you know what to play. You can always start over."

For seconds in the silence, Luke's hands were still, paused over the piano keys. Then his trained fingers played the beautiful music he was able to remember, the last few measures. He grinned at me. It was only the ending, but it was played with excellence. He had remembered what to do when he gets stuck and he had finished by giving his best effort.

More important than the learning of music, I want my students to grasp hold of the life skills I am able to teach them along the way. Perhaps nothing I teach Luke will ever be as important as the lesson he has learned this week:

It doesn't matter what happened in the past, how you started out. You can always start over. It only matters that you finish well.

Well done, my good and faithful student.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Jigsaw Puzzle

A puzzle starts out a jumbled mess of pieces that don't make sense.You try the pieces one by one. Sometimes they fit together, but most of the choices in the beginning don't fit.You learn to work one section at a time. The picture unfolds slowly, painstakingly.

At least once a day you almost convince yourself this puzzle is simply too difficult to accomplish. If the puzzle goes back into the box and is returned to the shelf, a sense of failure and disappointment linger. You might decide to give up on puzzles altogether.

During winter my mother would dump a jigsaw puzzle on a card table. Every evening she worked on the puzzle.

In the beginning, she would put in lots of time on the puzzle, working long and diligently on it. As the picture began to unfold, she didn't have to work as hard. The pleasure grew and the puzzle became more fun, more rewarding.

Frequency increased her productivity. The more she'd get sidetracked and pulled away from the puzzle, the more times she had to begin again and refocus on the pile of pieces. It wasn't as fun. It wasn't as fruitful. But she stuck with it, and little bit by little bit the puzzle picture unfolded, each piece adding to what would be the completed work.

By the last pieces of the puzzle, she could see where she was going, see to the end of the challenge. She worked faster, joy building toward victory.

When the puzzle was almost finished, the last pieces were put in place by her children. I remember seeing her sitting there smiling, knowing it was almost finished as she watched us complete her work, sometimes guiding our hands so we would find success.

Frequency increases productivity. Consistency, diligence, will reap victory.

Consider that One Thing Resolution you're working to change in 2015. Did you decide it was too difficult and stick it back on the shelf? Did you become sidetracked and forget about the project until hope was gone and frustration with your same old problem took its place?

Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things. Diligently, daily, show up to focus on your goal, to piece together, however painstakingly those changes that need to be made in your life.  Little bit by little bit you'll see a picture unfold that will bring you pleasure and victory at the end of your challenge. As momentum builds, you'll see results more quickly and joy will build.

You may feel like a jumbled mess of pieces that don't seem to make sense, don't seem to fit with purpose. Remember you are wondrously and lovingly made by God, the Author and Finisher of your faith.  Frequency increases productivity. Consistency will reap victory.

As the picture begins to unfold,  the pleasure for both you and your Creator will grow. Your life will become more fun, more rewarding as the picture of your life unfolds. The Father has already done the hard part of putting the pieces of your life together to make sense. Know that He sees the final picture and can guide your hands.

When the puzzle is almost finished, the last pieces are put in place by His child. Can't you see Him sitting there, smiling with pride and joy as the finished work is revealed?

Well done, Soldier-Princess. Well done.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

5 Things Soldier-Princesses Forget

Moving into action moves us into change. Rouse, then, Soldier-Princess. Remember who called you into battle.

Soldier Up.  We are ready to get up in the mornings if we have enough rest. Preparation for a new day begins the night before. Good decisions come from good rest. A soldier who has dressed for work and fueled her body for strength moves into action efficiently and quickly. She has a clear mind that will take every thought captive and make godly decisions. 

Power Up.  Meetings for the colonial Minutemen with their commanders was imperative.  So is our meeting with God.  Schedule time with Him as if your life depends on it.  It does. Choosing to neglect time with Him will deprive you of knowing changes in your marching orders. Strategy planning prepares you for unexpected battles in your day. Be tuned into His will so you are ready to act with a "minutes notice."

Regroup. The Minutemen knew their lives and honor depended on their comrades as well as themselves. The soldier-princesses who encourage you, mentor you and pray for you are your first line of defense. You must be transparent and honest with them about your struggles, failures and concerns. When you battle and when you train in the trenches, your life and honor depend on the soldier-princesses who know you intimately and stand the gap with you.

Reload.  Frequently through your day step back from earthly things to reset your focus on things above. Remind yourself of that Bible verse you're memorizing, say a prayer to reconnect with God, welcome an interruption to love someone.  Exchange a quick email or text with a comrade to encourage one another. Recharge your energy. Refocus your mind and heart so that you keep in step with the Spirit rather than running ahead of Him.

Refresh.  Life is hard. It's full of battles with people, circumstances, negativity and temptations. A soldier-princess knows her marching orders include time for the rest of God. Schedule time to relax, not to vacate your life, but to enjoy it and rest in green pastures by still waters. Joy comes when we take the time to seek peace so it can rule our hearts. God invites you to Sabbath rest, not because your work is done, but because His work is done.

You may also want to read:  The King Who Never Quits