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.
Sunday, February 25, 2018
In my dream I am running the race - strides even and strong - going forward with strength and purpose. Then it happens; I stumble and fall taking myself out of the race to sit miserably on the sidelines.
I am not a literal runner. A brisk walk is much more my speed. I am, however, a runner in this race called life. I run not in my own strength, but in the grace and strength the Lord supplies. There are seasons when I run like the runner of my dreams - strong and steady. The path is straight and smooth, and I feel as though I can easily go the distance.
As long as I keep my eyes fixed on the goal I do well. It is when I begin to look over my shoulder at the places I have been that my gait begins to falter. I see the things of my past, the sin and failures, and wonder how I ever thought I could do anything of any value for the Lord. Before long, I am so consumed by past mistakes I have taken myself completely out of the race - and the enemy sits on the sidelines and sneers.
I have learned, ever so slowly, to stop looking back. I have taken Paul's words to heart:
"...I focus on this one thing. Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead. I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God ,
through Christ Jesus, is calling us."
Philippians 3: 13,14
Paul confessed that he was not perfect, but he pressed on. The lie the enemy whispers into my heart is that I have made so many mistakes I can never be of any use to the Lord. It is just that - a lie. My perfectionist, approval-seeking little heart is so easily seduced by that falsehood. The Father can take this cracked, flawed vessel and make of it something useful and beautiful in His eyes. The sins of my past, the sins of today, the sins of all my tomorrows are covered by the blood of Jesus. I belittle His sacrifice when I don't embrace that.
So with joy - I run.
"Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight.
Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of sin."
Romans 4: 7,8
Thursday, February 8, 2018
Waiting comes in different forms, and we don't tend to appreciate any of them. When we look ahead to a joyful outcome, the days seem to drag their little feet. However, when the outcome is fraught with possible suffering or sorrow even the minutes seem to stretch into eternity. We can easily fill them with all sorts of imagined outcomes - none of them good. We live a thousand sorrows before even one of them has come to be.
Waiting for the answer to, "What now?" tries our patience. We long to know when we get to stop standing still in place and move toward something we've either dreamed of or stands shrouded in dense fog just beyond our view.
A dear friend gave me a tiny yellow rose bush. I found a spot by the window where it could happily live and set it down on the window sill. I started to turn away, headed back into my busy day, when the wonder of it stopped me in my tracks. The color, the intricate design of petals gently unfurling from its tightly closed center, the sheer beauty of it.
If I take a moment, my head acknowledges what my heart knows well. The One who took the time to create such beauty, who delights in color, fragrance, variety and intricate design in the very least of things, is the One who holds all that I wait for.