Thursday, July 12, 2018
My sweet shamrock has lived with us for many years. Miraculous, considering my history with plants. Countless numbers have met an untimely end at my hands due either to neglect or cosseting. I have found it possible to love a plant to death.
My fussing resulted in a rather sickly looking shamrock. I decided, apart from basic necessities, to leave it alone.
It thrived - its clover-shaped leaves and delicate white flowers bursting with life.
I can't help but think about my own life - the way I try to control and manipulate circumstances to conform to my plan. It doesn't work. the results leave me frustrated and diminished. When I allow the Lord to care for me with His great wisdom and love and do the necessary work, I flourish.
Wednesday, July 11, 2018
Seasons of suffering, "they" say, don't last forever. They give us a gentle hug and speak in comforting tones assuring us that all will be well. We smile, walk away and wonder just how long seasons last because it seems our circumstances have gone from bad to worse - with no end in sight. We've prayed. We've done all we know to do. We wait.
Morning after morning the familiar weight of worry and fear presses us into the bed. We struggle to put our feet on the floor and step into the day when all we really want to do is pull the covers over our head. We long for the miracle. We long for the season to turn from sorrow to joy and wonder if the Lord has heard our cry for help. We wait.
He speaks into the silence. "I am your joy." Just a whisper. No roll of thunder or flashes of lightning. No simple answer to all the questions. Not the miracle we had envisioned (because we have this perfect plan that would solve all the problems).
Instead He offers Himself - to be with us
to love us
to help us
and, yes, to work all things together for our good - in His time
Right in the middle of the difficult season, He is there. Right in the middle of worry and fear He gives peace, and we can find joy right in the middle of sorrow.
He has promised to turn our sorrow into dancing. In the meantime, He gives us joy.
"The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." Deuteronomy 31:8
"Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior." Habakkuk 3:18
"Though the cherry trees don't blossom and the strawberries don't ripen, Though the apples are worm-eaten and the wheat fields stunted, Though the sheep pens are sheepless and the cattle barns empty, I'm singing joyful praise to God. I'm turning cartwheels of joy to my Savior God. Counting on God's rule to prevail, I take heart and gain strength. I run like a deer. I feel like I'm king of the mountain!" Habakkuk 3:17-19 MSG
Wednesday, June 27, 2018
I used to think I wasn't a worrier. Then I began listening to my own conversations and was astounded to hear how many times the words "worry" or "worried" came out of my mouth. I could almost excuse it as just a figure of speech until I heard my daughter teasingly refer to me as a "Worry Wort." That pretty much sealed the deal.
My name is Linda, and I'm a worrier.
I began to search for the source of all that angst. After all, I've been a believer since my childhood. I know all the verses about not worrying and about leaving my burdens with the Lord. I pray. How is it that I still fret about so many things?
I realized that all of those things had one common denominator - they were things that were out of my control. There is no question that I like to have everything under control. I'm a planner. I make lists. I want to know what to expect at every turn - anticipate every possible misstep. In my convoluted thinking process, I reasoned that if I had already thought about it then it wouldn't happen. Everything under control.
There came a day when none of those things worked for me. The Father allowed something to come into my well ordered life that was definitely not part of my plan. It was, in fact, my worst nightmare. I couldn't work this one out. It was completely out of my hands.
Everything went dark for me, and for a long time I could not even pray. I wondered about the point of prayer, since I had prayed so hard that this very thing would not happen. In essence, I walked away from faith for a little while. Walked until I came to the place where I had to make a choice. Would I choose to walk the path of faith, or would I turn my back on it for good.
In the end it became an easy choice, because I knew the path away from God led to despair. Hope lay in His direction, and oh how I needed hope. In order to find my way back, I had to come to a point of surrender - a letting go of what I desperately wanted to control . I was going to have to trust Him. No more questions about what if. I had to believe with all my heart that God is who He says He is and that He will do what He has said He would do.
When I finally surrendered to faith, something "mysterious" happened. It took me by surprise. My circumstances didn't change, but He changed something fundamental in me. For the first time, I fully trusted Him with all that is most precious to me - without holding on for dear life just in case He wasn't paying attention. Quietly, inexorably, peace settled into the depths of my soul.
There are days when worry and fear try to worm their way back into my heart, and I have to go through the process all over again. It is all right. I have a dear Father who understands and draws me close with grace and love.
"Do not fear for I am with you. Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand."
Wednesday, May 9, 2018
"God has a purpose for each one of us, a work for each one to do, a place for each one to fill, an influence for each one to exert, a likeness to His dear Son for each one to manifest, and then, a place for each one to fill in His holy temple."
Arthur C.A. Hall (b.1847)
Who of us hasn't painstakingly put together one of those intricate 1000 piece jigsaw puzzles only to find one critical piece is missing? Only one tiny piece - surely it couldn't make much difference. But it does. The beautiful picture we worked so hard to create disappoints. It isn't complete. It simply won't do. We begin the search - under chairs, in hidden corners, under the table - determined to find the one lost piece.
We, each of us, are tiny pieces of a beautiful whole planned by the Father before the beginning of time. Some may appear more significant than others - that corner piece perhaps - but, truthfully, not one is of more value to the heart of the Creator than the other. No two are alike. We are a glorious variety of shapes, sizes and colors made to fit together. When all goes well, a beautiful picture emerges.
The Father knew full well that we "tiny pieces" are frail and prone to sinning. We sometimes wander, getting lost in a plan of our own choosing. He could decide to leave the picture as it has become - rather incomplete but almost good enough. He never does. He relentlessly seeks the lost ones, never giving up until they are safely tucked into place.
Some "tiny pieces" feel as though they are not important. They compare themselves to the larger more "important" pieces and think they don't measure up. Surely, they think, no one will miss me. I'm not as talented or gifted or beautiful or outgoing or smart ... as all the others.
"Not so," says the One who created them. "Every single one is loved and precious in my sight. I would not wish to lose a single one of you. You are of infinite value to me - each of you a unique and perfect design. In my eyes you are my beloved and cherished child."
Tuesday, April 10, 2018
I call this little country road my "Happy Place." I love the aging live oaks and the green pastures stretching to the horizon. When this little flock wanders into view, I feel an inexplicable peace fill my heart.
They graze, heads bent to the rich sod, without worry or fear. They know they have a shepherd who cares for them - who has brought them to this place of provision and safety. They don't anxiously look around, anticipating trouble. They don't race all over the fields trying to find a better place.
Content to be in this place, they leave the rest to the one in whom they trust. They know him and he knows them. They are his own. He only needs to speak and, knowing his voice, they follow. One day flows into another in peaceful trust. If trouble comes, their shepherd will protect them. - from the storms, from anything that would seek to do them harm.
We have a good, gentle Shepherd. Daily He leads us to the place of provision and safety. He watches over us. We have nothing to fear. He knows us by name, and we know His voice. We can rest in the sure knowledge that He is good, and we are precious to Him.
"I am the good Shepherd; the good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep." John 10:11
"The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake."
Psalm 23: 1-3
Monday, March 26, 2018
Today marks the beginning of Holy Week - walking, in remembrance, with Jesus as He journeyed to the cross and redemption. We know the way. It will take us, with Him, through deep sorrow and unimaginable suffering. We cannot help but long to rush ahead to the part where unspeakable joy takes the place of mourning, healing overshadows broken and hurting hearts, and death is swallowed up in glorious, victorious life. However we must take the path before us. There is no detour around the hard places. We only get to the miracle by pressing through.
We, each of us, are on a journey of our own. We don't have to travel very far before we know it doesn't always go the way we would like it to. We step into our ordinary Mondays with our plans tucked neatly into our hearts only to be met by Thursdays and Fridays filled with unexpected pain. The darkness closes in. We long for a way around, reminding God He has promised to be with us, to make all things work together for good.
We feel forsaken. With outstretched hands we take one faltering step into the darkness and are startled when His hands take hold of ours. Jesus is with us - always with us. He knows the way of suffering - the way His Father takes what was meant for evil and turns it into good. He whispers hope and peace into fear-filled hearts and promises all will be well.
All will be well. Jesus walked through the deep darkness of Holy Week for the joy set before Him. To those who stood at the foot of His cross, it looked as though evil had won. Daylight turned to darkness, the earth trembled under their feet and Jesus' life slipped away.
But Sunday morning dawned and everything was made new.
"Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in. Study how He did it. Because He never lost sight of where He was headed - that exhilarating finish in and with God - He could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now He's there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourself flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility He plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls." Hebrews 12:2 The Message
Blessed Easter Friends,
Wednesday, March 14, 2018
"To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven." Ecclesiastes 3:1
All through the winter months, through wind and cold and a rare snow storm, the Live Oaks stood strong. While others trees around them rose stark and bare against the winter sky, they flourished - their branches full and rich with shiny green leaves.
The seasons fold one into another. Winter wanes; spring, capricious and delightful, makes her entrance - bringing change.
Barren trees burst into life - crowned with vibrant blossoms and tender green leaves. They hold the promise of long, sunny days.
However, not all of the trees undergo this wonderful transformation. The Live Oaks are undergoing a transformation of another kind. While new life explodes all around them, their leaves begin to fade and fall to the ground. In the midst of spring's glorious display, they stand seemingly diminished.
To everything there is a season. For all of us there are seasons - sometimes predictable; sometimes taking us unaware. There will be times of productivity and times of barrenness, times of joy and times of sorrow.
All will be well. The Live Oaks won't stay bare for long. In just a few short weeks they will join the other trees - pushing out little tassels that will soon give way to leaves. They will flourish again.
You may be in a season of waiting or one where life just feels empty and dry. Be encouraged. Don't look around at what others are doing. Just below the surface something new waits to be born in you - in its time and in His purpose.