Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Gentle Shepherd



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

Blessings,
Linda

Monday, March 26, 2018

The Journey Through Suffering


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,
Linda

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Seasons


"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.

Blessings,
Linda

Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Joy of Forgiveness



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


Blessings,
Linda

Photo by Arek Adeoye on Unsplash

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Love

Valentine’s Day – the day we set aside to celebrate the love we hold in our hearts for those most precious to us. We choose gifts we hope will convey the deepest feelings of our hearts. We search for the right words to express a love that goes beyond our ability to convey.
A few years ago I wrote a “Valentine” to the Lord – a humble attempt to say thank you to the One who loves us with perfect love:
I open my eyes to morning light
and You are already there
waiting, listening –
I have only to whisper
within the stillness of my heart.
I give you the day,
the one You
penned before I was born,
And You stand
with outstretched hand.

I sometimes walk with heavy heart,
discouraged and confused.
You listen, with infinite patience
to the words You’ve
heard so many times before,

and send the answer once again.
No well-deserved condemnation
or  reproach,
simple grace that embraces
this troublesome child,
and gathers up the tears.

How to say, with simple words,
what such love means.
The heart cannot speak
clever lines and perfect prose;
it’s language is the
giving of itself to the One
who gave everything.
“Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in You. Show me the way I should go for to You I entrust my life.” Psalm 143:8
Happy Valentine’s Day dear ones,


Linda

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Waiting


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.

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? 27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?
28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?"
Matthew 6:25-30
Blessings,
Linda



Thursday, January 25, 2018

Rewiring My Brain



"We're going to rewire your brain." I smiled at my physical therapist - hoping to hide my skepticism. All the hard work of the past few weeks seemed lost. The pain in my upper back continued to worsen, and I feared we wouldn't be able to continue my exercise plan.

Apparently the scoliosis surgery I had twenty years before had somehow short-circuited the wiring between my brain and the nerves in my back. Now that we were working that area the weakness had surfaced.

One of the exercises she gave me seemed almost too silly to try. For one minute I thumbed through a magazine circling the right side of all the backs I could find pictured in the pages. Rest for a minute, and then circle the left side of all the backs I could find in the next minute.

I am nothing if not obedient - so I did exactly as told. Unbelievably after completing the exercise the pain in my back had lessened. The expression on the therapist's face was a mixture of delight and surprise. The connection between my brain and the nerves in my upper back had responded. I continued to circle backs for several days, marveling at God's intricate design...

To read about some additional rewiring that needed to be done please join me at Laced With Grace.

Blessings,
Linda