Friday, November 13, 2015

Tending the Garden: a Parable (reprise)

There once was a woman who married, had children, worked hard to provide a pleasant home for her family and raise her children in a loving manner.  She worked in her church and did her best to serve her God in the ways she could.  After her children matured, this woman went to work and enjoyed meaningful labor.  In short, she was very typical:  She worked hard, enjoyed leisure time, and honored God.
But deep down inside her was a secret: nestled within the folds of her soul resided two tiny seeds:  seeds of doubt and faith.  Even she didn’t know those two seeds hid in her soul. 

She went to church every Sunday, and she said her prayers.  Her tiny seed of faith opened and grew miniscule hair-like roots.  She joined a bible study, and a small shoot emerged, opening tiny, green leaves.  Her faith grew.  But before long her life became so hectic she was unable to attend bible study, and she fell asleep before saying her prayers.  Life didn’t seem to be the way it should, for a normal woman.

Soon the little seedling of faith withered and drooped.  The seed of doubt opened and sent out strong roots.  The plant grew tall and sprouted many green leaves.  The woman grew restless and discontented.  Praying became difficult.  Doubt grew strong and vigorous, a flourishing weed.

A few weeks later, she tried to pray to God.  “God, where are you?  Why can’t I pray to you?”  Then God allowed her to see the weed of doubt and the tiny seedling of faith struggling in its shadow.

“Oh God!”  She cried out.  “Show me how to eradicate the weed of doubt!  How can I get rid of it?”

“Keep praying and spending time with Me,” a still, small voice seemed to say.  But the weed of doubt flourished and the tiny seedling of faith struggled to stay alive.

The next day she cried out to her God.  “Father, make that weed wither up and die!  Cause the seedling to grow and flourish.”

“Be patient, my child,” came the answer.  “Even though you do not feel my presence, I am here, and I love you.”  The tiny seedling of faith raised its leaves heavenward.

Father God, show me ways to nourish the seed of faith.

Proverbs 22:5 “In the paths of the wicked lie thorns and snares, but he who guards his soul stays far from them."

Saturday, November 8, 2014

A Woodland Sanctuary (reprise)

As I walked on the nature trails, I wandered off the beaten path.  Large toadstools nestled under a grove of blue spruce trees attracted my attention.
Pushing aside branches, I walked fifteen feet, entering a small clearing.  The ground, carpeted with years of accumulated needles, felt soft beneath my feet.  A chorus of crickets broke the silence.  In the distance a woodpecker drilled, searching for insects.  Inside my clearing, all was shadow, quiet and still; it became a sanctuary that soothed my soul. A smattering of bright red sumac leaves provided stained-glass windows.  I sat on this carpet, gazing at the beauty all around me, and I felt the presence of God.  Strains of “This Is Holy Ground” ran through my head. 
Looking out an opening between the horizontal branches, I observed the golden radiance of the late afternoon sun. Outside my sanctuary, the seed heads of the natural prairie grasses glowed transparently in the sun’s light, creating a stunning contrast to the shadowy grove.  The scene was breath-taking: I had to capture it on film.  When I put the camera to my eye, it was focused on the branches in the foreground.  They seemed large and dark, like horizontal prison bars, and the golden glow of the grasses in the background was barely noticeable. I refocused the camera. Then the tall, dried grass, shot through with light, became the focus of my picture; the branches in the foreground almost disappeared.
I took my picture, and I thought:  how many times in my life do I focus on the tree branches right in front of me that impede my spiritual way, and thus fail to see God’s light just beyond?  How many times do I allow myself to become discouraged over minor problems instead of focusing my thoughts on the brilliance of God’s majesty or the comforting glow of his love? It’s all a matter of focus.
Remembering the lesson of the camera’s focus enables me to thank God in all situations and focus on His spiritual light shining beyond my earthly troubles.
Father let my eyes see beyond the earthly; let me steadfastly watch your spiritual light.  May I always focus on the wonders you have created, on the wonder of you.
 Hebrews 12:2-3 “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.”

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

John's Vision

This morning I’ve been reading about John’s vision of heaven. I can’t imagine how amazingly beautiful it will be. The streets and buildings made of pure gold and precious gems: sapphire, emerald, ruby, turquoise and other gems I’ve never heard of, let alone seen. The thought is overwhelming.

Surrounded by all this beauty sits our God, with a voice like rumbling thunder. All the 24 elders fall down and worship the Almighty. Tens of thousands of angels and all the creatures in heaven and earth sing His praises. And it is glorious. And I want to be there, lifting my voice in praise to the King of kings.

Then comes the sobering part: each person was “judged according to what they had done” (Revelation 20:12b). What they had done. Not what they hadn’t done. Not by what sins they hadn’t done. No, they were judged by what they had done. And I think, “What have I done for God in my life? What more is there for me to do? Before I’m judged.”

Almighty God, show me what you want me to do.


Saturday, May 3, 2014

Returning soon...

My apologies for not posting in so long. Computer issues and life have both been throwing me a few curves of late. All is well, but the writing has been temporarily shelved. I will be back soon!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Down a Slippery Slope

Watching Olympic skiers and snowboarders fly down their slippery slopes has been so much fun. I’m amazed at how their strength, hours of practice, and natural athleticism enable these athletes to control their speed as they whiz down the mountain-side.

Occasionally, the unthinkable happens. The athlete loses control and careens down the mountain. The consequences are devastating. After all the years of hard work, the athlete is disqualified from the event. Even worse, an out-of-control fall sometimes results in a major injury.

This afternoon I had my own encounter with a slippery slope. No, it wasn’t in the mountains. My mid-western home state has only gentle hills that closely hug the earth. No, it wasn’t on snow. While it has been a bitterly cold winter with lots of snow and ice, the past few days have been warm. Temperatures in the 40s and even 50s have melted most of the snow, so I wandered out on the nature trails. Ice lingered in the shaded spots, and the trails were wet and muddy, but I stayed on the sides of the paths, allowing the dried grass to provide a secure foothold.

One misstep is all it took. Stepping with my left foot on the gently sloping right side of the path, I felt my foot slide out from under me, and bam! I found myself in the mud. Resting on my left knee, the shin side of my right leg, and my right hand, I hurt. I wondered for a moment how long it would take my husband to find me on these meandering paths. My right wrist and leg hurt, but I quickly realized I wasn’t injured. I was able to get to my feet and continue walking. The pain lingered for a while, and the jeans would have to be laundered, but I came out no worse for the fall.

I am thankful I wasn’t injured in my fall down the slippery slope. As I continued walking, I thought about spiritual slippery slopes. Some appear mountainous, like substance abuse or infidelity. Others seem like tiny little slopes, like gossip or criticism. We all have our own slippery slopes, don’t we? A fall down any of these, whether mountainous or tiny, can be deadly.

Unfortunately, we venture onto those slippery slopes of sin and we fall. Fortunately, our God is full of grace. He is willing to gently lift us up and dust us off. He whispers, "Go, and sin no more" and sets us back on level ground.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Through the Meadow (Reprise)

Walking the nature trails, I travel across the middle of a large, open meadow, at least ¼ mile long and just as wide. Everywhere I look across this open landscape, I see the dead, dry, dun-colored native grasses. Here and there a deciduous tree dots the landscape. Winter weather has shorn them of their green garments, and their barren branches stretch nakedly toward the wintry sky. A slight breeze blows, rustling the dried grasses. My view is dull and bare.

My soul feels as dried and barren as this meadow. The enemy has frosted the joy from my heart and I hear the rustling of negativity and loss of hope.

But then I think about the creator of the meadow, the grass, and the trees. I notice the graceful lines of the barren tree branches and the lovely contrast of those dark brown limbs against the pale blue sky. I look toward the light and notice the seed heads on the dried grasses shining in the winter’s low sun. In my heart I praise God for the stark beauty of this field. Without a whimper, the enemy slinks away. He is no match for my creator.

Once again, spring blooms in my soul.

Job 33:26 “He prays to God and finds favor with him, he sees God’s face and shouts for joy; he is restored by God to his righteous state.”

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Shattering the Ice

Half full? Or half empty? How we view our glass of life changes our perspectives. I tend to be a glass-half-full person. I keep a joyful attitude by focusing on what I have, rather than what I don’t have. When I view the glass as half empty, however, the results are disastrous.

When a winter storm battered my community, I tossed and turned all night, hearing the freezing rain and sleet drumming on the roof and windows. I worried about the slippery roads I’d have to maneuver on my commute to work at the local high school. Finally, unable to sleep, I got up in the pre-dawn dark to watch the weather on television. I hoped school would be cancelled so I could stay home safe, warm, and able to sleep. Watching, I learned an inch of ice and sleet had fallen. Travel was treacherous. When I looked out the window, I saw the street glistening from its icy coating. I saw danger and a half empty glass.

The alphabetized list of school closings appeared on the television. Anxiously, I watched it scroll across the bottom, waiting for “Wichita” to appear: Andover, Augusta, Derby, Goddard, Haysville, Maize, Pratt, Valley Center, Wellington…. No “Wichita”! Every school district was closed except one, mine! I huffed about, upset that I had to venture out in the dangerous weather. I couldn’t see one drop of joy in my glass.

Anger bubbled as I anticipated the icy drive. Why had our superintendent decided to keep school open? Along with anger, I worried: getting safely to school, students driving on ice, scraping a one-inch layer of ice off my car, and driving 15 miles home in rush hour traffic.

Driving on the slippery streets, I gripped the steering wheel and prayed my car would stay on the road. After a forty-five minute commute, instead of the usual 15, I walked gingerly across the ice-covered parking lot, grumbling to myself.

When the bell rang, only one third of my students were present. School was in session, but little was accomplished because so few attended. Not a drop covered the bottom of my glass. Frustrated and tired, I fretted and complained. After school, I left early to beat the afternoon traffic. Still grumbling and complaining, I scraped windows in the bitter cold. As I pulled out of the parking lot, however, my attitude changed. At last, I began to see my glass full.

The low winter, late afternoon sun shone through the ice-covered world, changing the landscape into a magical fairyland. The dried winter grasses sparkled in the sun. The squares of ice-coated wire on the roadside fences glimmered and gleamed. The trees sparkled like huge crystal sculptures. Everything danced with light. Finally, I focused on what filled my glass. I forgot my frustrations and complaints as I viewed this breathtakingly beautiful world! All I could do was thank God and marvel at His winter beauty.

My spirits lifted and I rejoiced in the crystal world. I thought how my glass-half-empty, whiny attitude had clouded the entire day. With the light dancing on the ice, I drove home, thankful for so much: a good job, a warm house, a reliable car, and a God who opens my eyes to see beauty in every situation. His light shone through my grumbling, complaining attitude, letting me rejoice in the half-full glass. Joy shattered my complaints like ice crystals breaking off the tree branches.