Rain Makes the People Grow

A blue sky and the chatter of yellow finches clinging to the tube feeder beneath my Oak tree beckons me. Come out and play.

However, blue skies can be deceiving in the winter. I open the front door and poke my head outside to test the temperature. The weatherman’s forecast was right. It’s unseasonably warm. I roll up my long sleeves. Grab a rake. But first, I stand still like the Tin Man from Oz and soak up the sunshine as though it were oil lubricating my stiff joints.

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Then I rake the blanket of dry, brown pine needles off my Vinca plants. As sunlight touches the Vinca’s trailing stems, they seem to yawn and stretch skyward. Their miniature buds ready to burst into purple flowers.

Can this really be January?

Some folks may be envious especially if they’re shoveling snow. But as much as I love the sunshine, I’m praying for rain. Plants droop, waiting for a heavenly drink. Without rain, or snow in the mountains, the cost won’t be worth this week’s winter warmth.

I rake sharp needles into piles and look for a God lesson even in this glorious Spring-like day. And He shows me how often I pray for perfect days.

No problems to solve, nothing to fix. Health, wealth, and happiness. Isn’t that what people long for? Heaven on earth?

But I’m no different than trees and grass. I need grey, wet days to grow and thrive. Left to my own self-protection, and idea of perfection, my character stagnates. As a believer, how can I grow more into the likeness of Christ if I cling to the sunshine and avoid the storms?

“Rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that pressure and affliction and hardship produce patient and unswerving endurance. And endurance develops maturity of character.” (Romans 5:3, 4)

A pastor said, “When I pray for a good day, am I asking for a day that’s problem-free so I don’t need to rely on the Lord?”

I don’t have to be a weatherman to forecast my actions. I know I don’t pray as fervently when I’m on a vacation from my problems. I’m content to sail my own ship. Be captain of my soul.

Do I want to grow in Christ, and have my character be more like Him? Then I must stop being a fair-weather friend.

And rejoice even in the rain.

Ants and Application

Ants love sugar water, but they hate chalk.

For years, I fought an army of ants crawling down the chain that holds my hummingbird feeder. Drowned ants floated in the sweet liquid, clogged up the tiny drinking holes.

When I read that ants won’t walk over chalk, I decided to draw a line of chalk around the nail that holds my hummingbird feeder.

Sure enough, the chalk acts like a barricade. I also outline the area around my cat bowl with chalk….no more ants crawling in the leftover food.

Here’s my point.

Last weekend, I allowed disappointing circumstances to put me in a melancholy mood. My emotions took precedent over rational thoughts.

I cried. I vented. I wallowed in self-pity.

And when I’d had enough of ME, I applied what always works for me.

I rejoiced in the Lord, and asked Him to use my circumstances to teach me.

And because God draws near to those who seek Him, the Holy Spirit showed me 2 Samuel 18 & 19.

King David’s son Absalom leads a revolt against his father in order to seize the throne for himself. As civil war breaks out, David and his family must flee Jerusalem. In the ensuing battle, King David’s men win and Absalom is killed.

Despite Absalom’s treasonous act, David is overcome with grief. He mourns the death of his son instead of rejoicing in victory. But Joab, David’s military commander, holds him accountable. He tells David to “snap out of it” and recognize the people who fought for him.

 These events happened centuries ago, but “scripture is alive and active, sharper than any double-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12)

Rather than read the Bible for content….I search for personal application.

One brings head knowledge.

The latter brings heart change.

In this case, I had two options.

Allow my emotions to become a stronghold which leaves me like King David …. in a funk which robs me of joy.

Apply Biblical knowledge to my circumstances and achieve victory over self.

Like drawing a chalk line, I chose to apply what the Bible says.

I took “captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5)

Because thoughts precede emotions which determine my mood.

And in the process, I was changed for the better.

Walking in Fear

20131109_112324I arrived at Sisters of Mercy for a day of solitude to embrace God’s presence. There was no agenda. I was there to meditate on His Word, listen for His voice.

My mind was expectant, at bliss, as I ventured down a path towards the Ten Stations of the Cross.

I didn’t expect to meet FEAR.

Crossing a small wooden bridge, I walked down a narrow path surrounded by wild vegetation, covered by a canopy of trees. Intermittently, there were small white statues depicting Jesus’ journey to the cross.

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I prayed God would manifest His presence; give me a sign.

Eyes wide-open, I saw a downy feather clinging to a branch….Abide in Me.

Ears alert, I listened to squirrels playing tag among the trees…Rejoice.

Then a brown tiger-striped cat walked by me like a returning conqueror. The words “Sweet Kitty” stuck in my throat, my stomach lurched. A deflated mouse with a tail limp as a spaghetti noodle dangled from the feline’s lips.

My eyes scanned the sun-dappled path for scurrying mice.

Instead, I encountered a large, black dog. He stood at attention on the other side of the dry creek bed, watched me with steel eyes. There was a field fence dividing the retreat property from nearby homes, but with the thick vegetation, I wasn’t sure which side of the fence he stood.

I hurried pass Christ being nailed to a cross, and glanced back to see if “danger” followed.

When the gravel path curved, I came face to face with Jesus hanging on a cross.

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But my eyes were diverted by the same dog standing a few feet away. He was behind the fence, but when the dog barked, I left.

Retracing my steps to the bridge, the cool, green sanctuary took on a Gothic appearance. Branches rustled, dead limbs pointed knobby fingers at me. Winged creatures stared at me.

As I emerged from the trees, the sun’s warmth washed away my goose bumps.

And that still small voice of God spoke:  This is a metaphor of your life.

 Do you realize you spent more time looking at the things that scare you than the images of Christ?

 It’s time you let go of  fear, and learned to walk with your eyes on Me.

How could I argue after that surreal experience?

The rest of the day, I asked God to vanquish fear and show me how to trust Him more.

Even when scary, awful, bad things happen.

 “For God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

What Would Jesus Do?

DSCN2544Alone, I go to a secluded area. I want to talk with the Lord. There are so many people in my life who ask for prayer, who have deep needs.

How do I pray for them? Does my perceived needs for them line up with God’s will for their lives?

I think of my own prayer requests, wisdom needed so decisions can be made.

What would Jesus do?

Those words have become a catch phrase on bracelets and T-shirts, but this truly is my desire “to do the right thing” so I pray,

What would Jesus do?

A thought stirs my heart like the wind blowing through the pine trees on the hill.

Jesus would pray.

“But He would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.” (Luke 5:16)

He made communion with God, the Father, a daily priority.

o   Before he chose the twelve men who would be his apostles,

o   Before Jesus spoke to the multitude, and afterwards,

o   Before he healed the leper and the blind man,

o   Before he was arrested,

 Jesus would pray.

American culture has programmed me to be productive rather than be still.

Consequently, my Christian walk also gets caught up in a blur of activity:

Follow Christ, serve Him, live a life that is worthy, please Him, bring Him honor.…

I forget to be still….

And do what Jesus did every day of his life on earth…PRAY!

The Lord’s Prayer (Luke 11:1-4) are the words Jesus shared when the disciples asked Him to teach them to pray. John Chapter 17 also shows what Jesus prayed for when He knew His hour had come.

He prayed:

Ø  His name would be glorified, and that believers would see His glory.

Ø  God would keep believers safe from the evil one, and care for them.

Ø  Believers would be filled with His joy.

Ø  Believers would be sanctified in the truth; God’s Word is truth.

Ø  Believers would be unified so the world would know that He was sent by God who loves them even as He loves the Son.

Ø  God’s love would dwell in His people’s hearts, and He in them.

Alone in the wilderness, I know what to do.

I pray likewise knowing these are the best things I can pray for myself and others because

This is what Jesus would do.

Comes Out Sideways

There’s a giant hole in my basement ceiling, situated below my kitchen. A plumber ripped out the drywall ceiling in search of a leaking pipe. Sure enough there was a plastic vent pipe with three holes, compliments of a rat we’d caught in the crawl space two years earlier.  

DSCN3014The plumber said we wouldn’t have known there were holes in the vent pipe, if it hadn’t been for a blockage in a different pipe.

Instead of the water backing up into the kitchen sink, it found the holes of least resistance and flooded the ceiling.

What does that scenario have to do with eternal significance?

Because the image of those exposed pipes in the ceiling flooded my heart, reminding me….

When I don’t deal with hidden sin in my heart, especially a grievance against someone, foul words will eventually pour out of my mouth.

The problem isn’t my lips or mouth, it’s my heart.

“But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.” (Matthew 15:18)

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23)

Un-confessed sin towards others creates the perfect environment for bitterness to take root. Like the blockage in my water pipe, my thoughts and attitudes fester, clog my arteries. I may not be aware of my heart’s condition until, BAM!

Someone triggers my emotions.

Releasing a barrage of unkind words, or a barb.

Exposing my unhealed wounds like the holes in a pipe, and all because I had a blockage in my heart called un-forgiveness.

Once spoken, hateful words are like releasing a bag of feathers into the wind. There is no getting them back.

But sometimes, unkind words are subtle. People have to read between the lines.

 “Sideways,” a friend told me. “When we’re not forthright, everything comes out sideways.”

Like a verbal slap that comes from left field, but aimed to hit home.

Grumbling or murmuring behind someone’s back.

An “innocent” intentional action to make a point.

Passive aggressive is another label for not dealing honestly with others when we’re offended, or upset.

Fortunately, my heart was exposed last week along with my kitchen pipes. Now, everything is cleared, clean, in working order.

And the drywall man is here to repair the gutted ceiling.

Should I tell him what I learned, even in this?