Psalm 63:4 Thus I will bless Thee while I live; I will lift my hands in Thy name!
With our recent move and purchase of a new (old) home, it was time to update our Living Trust. The whole process of updating the trust was very time-consuming, costly, and one of great frustration. There’s so much involved in updating a trust; for example, there’s the trust itself, the wills, the general powers of attorney, health care directives, community property agreement, assignment, certificate of trust, and last but not least, the actual funding of the trust and asset list. Grueling, to be sure.
One of the issues we had to discuss while updating the trust, was our last wishes. I’d always known that I would prefer to be cremated. The thought of rotting away in a coffin has never appealed to me. I’m sure the morbid song from my youth about being buried, “The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out, the worms play pinochle on your snout!” didn’t help. As well, my husband was part of an Urban Search and Rescue Team sent to New Orleans during Katrina, and the stories about the bodies and empty coffins floating away was pretty much the nail in the coffin (pun intended) for my decision to be cremated. Then there’s those TV shows like “Bones” or “NCIS” where they find skeletal remains or have to exhume someones body; all these things have made me pretty certain that I want to be cremated and have a clean and permanent end to my corpse. No floating away in a hurricane for my old bones! I’ve often thought I’d like to be recycled and have my ashes buried with seeds that will grow into something beautiful!
Our Estate Planning Attorney told us about these wonderful biodegradable urns in which family members can place the ashes of their loved ones. These urns can come with seeds of favorite trees or bushes! So, clearly, I opted for the biodegradable urn. My family can use the urn to recycle me!
The first choice of tree or bush I wanted to be recycled with was a lilac. The beautiful fragrant flower has been a long time favorite of mine. They are very hearty, and don’t need much attention, just a little sunshine and water, and they flourish pretty well. Sadly, they do not love to grow in Fallbrook.
Lilacs require a freeze, and Fallbrook doesn’t provide that. Fallbrook’s average temperature is 71. No freeze, no frost. Nada. An expert botanist at Myrtle Creek, the local botanical garden here in Fallbrook said that she too loves lilacs, and planted one. She tried to trick it into thinking it was getting a freeze by packing it in ice. The lilac was not fooled, and after struggling for a few months, it died. I do not want whatever plant is nourished by my ashes to die. That would be so . . . redundant . . . so lilacs are not an option.
I thought of being recycled as an apple tree, fig tree, passion fruit, or boysenberry bush, but felt it might be a little morbid to have my children and my grandchildren and great grands eating the fruit that grew from my ashes. Call me silly, but I want to be a non-fruit-bearing tree or plant. Non-fruit-bearing and beautiful!
Many years ago my boss gave me a live plant for some special occasion, it was a Cyclamen. It had a beautiful bright pink flower with leaves that had several different shades of green in them. What struck me about the Cyclamen, was that the stem grew up, straight up, as stems tend to do, but when it produced a blossom, the stem did a U-turn and grew straight down! When the blossom bloomed into a flower, it was pointing straight down to the ground, but somehow, the petals of the flower defied gravity and the direction of the stem, and grew straight up to the sky! Its beautiful petals reaching for the heavens!
I want to be recycled as a Cyclamen! The beautiful flower reminds me that when things are looking down, we need to raise our petals to the Lord on high!
Job 22:26 says “Surely then you will find delight in the Almighty and will lift up your face to God!” Psalm 3:3 says “But you, O Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high!” Isn’t that a beautiful fact? The Lord is a shield around us, He is our glory, He’s the one who lifts us!
This is fact, this is truth! And when we find ourselves face down in the mud of depression, addiction, anxiety, sadness, loneliness; when our grief over a prodigal child, barren womb, or seriously ill loved one overwhelms and overtakes us; when we find ourselves taking a sudden U-turn toward thoughts of self-harm, there is hope! He is your shield! He will lift your head and rescue you from hopelessness into hope!
Psalms 121:1-3 says “I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth! He will not let your foot slip. He who watches over you will not slumber!”
Against all odds, when we feel that everything is looking down, He will give us the strength to lift our faces and our hands and our very souls to the heavens and praise Him for His goodness and mercy which is ours all the days of our lives! Psalms 86:4 says “Rejoice in the soul of Thy servant! For unto Thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul!” God rejoices in my soul. God rejoices in your soul!
I know there have been times, and there will continue to be times when I make a spiritual U-turn away from God. But God is good, and He will redirect me every time! As the Cyclamen lifts its petals to the heavens so we can lift our hearts and hands unto God in the heavens! Lamentations 3:41 says “Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens!”
Yes! Let’s do! And in my case, I will continue, metaphorically, after death to lift up my face, hands, heart and soul to God in the heavens through the uplifted petals of the beautiful Cyclamen!
Lord, How you love to see us bloom! How you love to see your creation lifting our hands, hearts, heads and our very souls to You! In fact, You love it so much, that You intercede and lift us into Your presence when we are too down trodden to come to You on our own! You are a shield around us, protecting and deflecting and holding us close! Father God, when we do an abrupt U-turn away from You, find us, lift us, bring us home, into Your presence. Thank You for your faithfulness to us, Your humble creation!
Remington is 16 years old. He’s a German Shorthaired Pointer, and is a very healthy and happy senior dog! If you were to see him running though our vineyard and grove, you would probably think he was about 6 years old. There was a time when I didn’t think Remington would make it to the ripe old age of 16. His puppy years were full of death and destruction!
When Remington was a puppy he was into everything, and I mean everything! Thankfully, he outgrew that stage and is the best dog one could ever ask for! He had lots of friends in our yard; birds, rabbits, squirrels, mice, snakes and lizards, but those friendships never lasted long and Remington would be sad and bored.
“Remington!” I’d say to him, “If you would stop killing all your friends, you wouldn’t be so sad and bored!” But like any good puppy, he continued to kill his friends, old and new.
One sunny day when Remington had no friends left to play with, he took interest in a new rosebush that I had recently planted. He dug that rosebush up, chewed it up, and left it lying on the cement walkway with its poor tender roots exposed to the High Desert sun. By the time I found the rosebush, it was all but dead. What few leaves were still on it were shriveled and dried, and I could see where Remington’s puppy teeth used the tender stem as a chew toy. I was sure the rosebush was beyond saving, but I decided to try.
Google told me that sugar-water will boost the plant’s metabolism so it can convert sunlight to energy and absorb water and nutrients, so I placed the rosebush in a bucket of sugar-water. The bucket of sugar-water was the hospital room for my poor rosebush for the next 48 hours. Carefully, I placed the broken rosebush in the bucket. Soon, all the dead leaves fell off, and new growth bumps began to show on the now leafless stems. When it was time to replant the rosebush, I prepared the hole, poured the sugar-water into it, and planted the rosebush. Unlike Remington’s other unfortunate friends, it looked like the rosebush was going to make it! It looked like Remington might live as well!
A week or two went by and the rosebush continued to mend and grow. I thoroughly enjoyed looking out my kitchen window and seeing the lovely rosebush thriving! One day however, I looked out the kitchen window to enjoy my rosebush, and it was gone! My rosebush was no where in sight! I ran out back and began searching, and finally found the rosebush near the wood pile, 1/4 acre away, partially covered in dirt, laying in the direct sun with what was left of the chewed up roots exposed! AGAIN!
I picked up the wilting rosebush and considered beating Remington with it, but decided that would be counterproductive, so I brought it back to the hospital bucket on the patio. I filled the bucket with sugar-water again, and carefully placed the rosebush inside. 48 hours later, the rosebush was not responding. The roots had been chewed down to practically nothing and the sugar-water was not enough to help it this time. But I wasn’t ready to give up on it yet.
After emptying the sugar-water from the bucket, I refilled it with a mixture of phosphorous for root development, and nitrogen for healthy growth of the leaves and stems. I placed the rosebush back in the bucket and waited another 48 hours. To my surprise, after another 48 hours the rosebush looked a little better and had some new growth bumps! It was amazing to me that this rosebush and been violently ripped from the ground, dragged around the yard, left naked in the hot sun, had its roots chewed up, not once but twice, and was still alive!
As before, I prepared the hole where I would replant the rosebush, and I poured the phosphorus and nitrogen water into the hole and gently replanted my little survivor rosebush into the ground. Again. The rosebush was not thriving, but it was trying. At least it wasn’t dying! I treated it with potassium to help it resist disease since it was in such a weak state. After a few days, I was again able to enjoy watching my little rosebush grow from my kitchen window. The rosebush had become a symbol of survival against all odds, and I loved to look out the window and see it!
One morning I poured my first cup of coffee and wandered to the window to see how my rosebush was doing, and you guessed it, it wasn’t there! It was nowhere to be seen! In my slippers and robe, I scoured the yard and found it. It had been ripped out of the ground again, and it was laying on the cement walkway! It had to have been there overnight, its roots exposed to the chilly night air! I had little hope for the rosebush this time, I mean, how much can this little rosebush take? It had been planted and uprooted too many times and this time it was out in the cold air all night! The little rosebush was a survivor, a fighter and I was not going to give up on it yet.
Back to the hospital bucket it went, this time with a mixture of calcium, magnesium, sulfur, boron, zinc, copper, manganese and iron, with a dash of sugar thrown in. That little rosebush sat in that hospital bucket for 72 hours before giving me any signs of life! But sure enough, by the end of day three, new little growth bumps appeared! Those bumps soon became tiny new stems and leaves. Once again, I prepared a hole for the rosebush, and carefully replanted it in the ground.
Have you ever felt like my little rosebush? Just when you find yourself in a comfortable place, firmly planted; whether planted in a new relationship, a new job, a new home or any other new season of life, you get viciously ripped out of the ground, chewed up and tossed about, eventually being left in a heap on the ground, a quarter of an acre away, with the heat of the sun scorching your tender roots?
It’s during those times that the Lord searches for you! He will leave the 99 and search for the 1! You! He will find you and tend to your broken heart, your anxiety, your loss, your fear; He will lovingly pick you up, and replant you. Your Father in heaven will place you in the bucket of His mercy and grace and get you through that broken relationship, that divorce, that betrayal, that financial crisis, that addiction, that illness or loss. And when He has begun the healing and mending of your heart, He will prepare a place to replant you, where you can grow, blossom and bloom!
My little rosebush was uprooted, chewed up and left for dead three times. Each time, I found it, tended to its needs and replanted it. We too may be uprooted numerous times. But our God is faithful! Consider Job who lost everything! In Job 18:16-19, Bildad describes Job’s roots as being dried or withered. Bildad basically says there is no hope for Job’s family tree because God is about to wipe the memory of Job from the earth, and has already removed his descendants.
But Job didn’t lose heart, in Job 19:9-10, We learn that Job’s hope, which had once sprouted up like a new tree from a stump (Job 14:7-9) had been totally uprooted. His children were all dead, his family tree all but annihilated. But Job knew, and we know, that God our Father, the lover of our soul, will continue to pursue us and bring us home.
Although Job had been dug up and spit out over and over again; many more times than my little rosebush, the Lord restored Job’s losses and gave him twice as much as he had before. (Job 42:10) And the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning. (Job 42:12) Job’s family tree took root again, and blossomed. Job 42:13-16 tells us that “Job had seven sons and three daughters. And in all the land were found no women so beautiful as the daughters of Job; and their father gave them an inheritance among their brothers. After this Job lived one hundred and forty years, and saw his children and grandchildren for four generations. So Job died, old and full of days”.
My Study Bible reminds us that at one time or another, almost everyone has felt like Job. While going through trials and times of suffering, we are often overwhelmed by self-pity. We want an explanation for why God allows trials to happen to us. The Book of Job records the troubling questions, the terrifying doubts, and the very real anguish of a sufferer. The Book of Job can help us in the time when we are surrounded with troubles by giving us a glimpse of God’s perspective on our suffering. God is the sovereign and benevolent Creator who continues to determine the course of the universe according to His own hidden plan. Just like Job, we must learn to submit to the Almighty God and accept by faith that He has a good plan for us.
I will never forget the day I looked out my kitchen window and saw beautiful pink roses blooming for the first time! Like Job, my rosebush thrived in the latter part of its life, having survived attack after attack on its roots during its early years.
Surprisingly, Remington survived as well . . . . .
(I was the guest chapel speaker at a private elementary school on the anniversary of 9/11. This was written for those elementary aged children.)
Some people say “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!” I have heard that saying many times but I don’t believe it at all! Sticks and stones hurt all right, but I believe words can hurt just as much or more! I’ve been hit with stones before, and I’ve been scratched with a stick too! I have a scar by my eye that reminds me of a day long ago at a bus stop when a mean boy hit me in the face with a stick! And someone threw a baseball at my back, and it HURT!
But one time, long ago, when I was about your age, I got hit with words, and those words hit me hard! Those words hurt way worse than any stick or stone! It happened at school, a small private school very much like this school! Sadly, like any school, private or otherwise, there were some mean kids who said hurtful words to me. Those words hurt so badly that I could barely breathe.
The halls at this school were outside and had cement floors. The halls were covered to protect us from weather, and there were big arches that supported the roof of the halls. These halls had great acoustics so words and sound resonated within their walls. Sounds that I can still hear today.
It was in those walls which were supposed to protect me, that the kids laughed at me. They called me horrible names and pointed at me. More than once, when no adult person was looking, this one mean kid would come up behind me and push me down. The sound of my body slamming on the cement and echoing throughout the entire hallway is recorded in my memory as if it happened yesterday. Kids stepped on my arms, legs and back as they stepped over me.
The most powerful muscle in the human body is the tongue! In Proverbs, the bible says that mean words are like a sword thrust! A sword can really hurt someone! A sword can kill someone! In James it says “For we all stumble in many ways, and if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also, though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the captain directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life.”
Your tongue can destroy someone like a sword, it can set a field on fire, although it is very small, it is very powerful!
If you put a bit in the mouth of a horse, so their tongue can’t move freely, you control the whole horse. If you control your tongue, it will help you control your whole life so that it is pleasing to God, and does not hurt other people, rather, enriches the lives of those you meet.
Psalm 141:3 gives us a “bit”, that we can put in our mouths to help us control our tongue. The verse says, “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!” We must remember every day to pray and ask the Lord to put a bit in our mouths, and to watch over the door of our lips so we don’t open that door in a way that will hurt others!
Although the tongue is the strongest muscle in our body, our heart is the source of the mean things we do and the things we say with our tongue. So before we can think of really taming our tongue, we must guard our heart.
The bible says “Guard your heart with all diligence, for from it flows the springs of life.” Well, if guarding our heart makes “springs of life” flow from it, then if we don’t guard our heart, springs of death and deceit will flow from it. The bible says “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, who can know it?”
This all sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it? Our hearts are “desperately wicked”, and our tongues destroy people! That sounds terrible! The truth is, that’s exactly right! That’s why we need Jesus! Jesus loves you so much, and He doesn’t want you to be sad, or hurt, and He certainly doesn’t want you to hurt others or make them sad! I bet most of you have been hurt very deeply by a friend or family member, and you know that it does NOT feel good! And I bet most of you have hurt someone with your words before too.
This month is the anniversary of 9/11, the terrible terrorist attack on America. On that day, some very bad people with desperately wicked hearts and destructive tongues came to America. They stole some planes and flew them right into two very, very tall buildings in New York called the Twin Towers. Thousand of people were killed because those people had ugly wicked hearts and they did not love Jesus. Those bad people did not control their tongues, and they did not guard their hearts, and they did the worst thing possible, the worst form of bullying I have ever heard of.
The bible says “From the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” If our heart is full of Jesus, and the love and joy and kindness He brings, the words of our mouth will be words of love and joy and kindness! But if our hearts are filled with wickedness, then wickedness will pour out of our mouths.
We have talked a bit about our tongue being the strongest muscle in our body, and our heart being the source of what our mouth says, now let’s talk a little about our brain!
The bible says “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, think on these things!” Think on these things, let them fill your heart so that from the abundance of your heart, your mouth will speak love and life to everyone you meet!
Dear Jesus, Thank You for giving us your Word so that we can learn what we need to do to control our tongue and speak kindness to those around us. Remind us every day to guard our hearts from anything that would cause us to have an untamed tongue and hurt others with our words. Hide Your Word in our hearts, so our words won’t hurt others, but will point them to You! We love you!
My husband and I moved to Fallbrook, California about a year and a half ago. Having moved from the desert, Fallbrook feels like the Garden of Eden! We love being able to graze through the yard from breakfast to dinner, enjoying the fruits of our little plot of land. We have learned much about farming and the individual requirements of each variety of fruit and nut that we grow. We have much more to learn.
Our avocado, so far, are the most problematic. Clearly, they had been neglected when we bought the property, but we did our research and gave them the TLC they needed, and they rewarded us with hundreds of big, delicious, sweet and meaty fruit.
We spend hours inspecting our trees, their leaves, buds, blossoms and fruit, and we fertilize and water exactly to the specifications of the local professional we consult with.
Beautiful plants and flowers tend to grow under our avocado trees. They are not terribly interested in growing under our citrus or nut trees, but they love to volunteer under our avocados. Some of the volunteers include wild tobacco, with its lush pink flower, the forget-me-nots, evening primrose and, of course, the beautiful but invasive alyssum. l love the wild flowers, but my husband does NOT love having these volunteers under his avocado trees. He feels they are stealing the water and nutrients from the avocados. He wants to dig them up and replace them with mulch. One by one, my husband started ripping out the volunteers and replacing them with mulch. This is homegrown mulch, made here on the property from the branches of trees that we’ve trimmed.
One day, we noticed that 50-60 tiny avocados had fallen from one of our trees. More and more fruit dropped over the next few days. We were baffled, and began to research exactly what would cause such a dramatic fruit drop. We learned that avocado trees do not like it when you disturb the ground where the roots are, and they have many roots quite near the surface. We learned that an avocado tree whose roots have been disturbed frequently drop their fruit. I like to envision the tree throwing its fruit at the one who is disturbing it’s roots, but I think it is actually dropping its fruit in a desperate effort to cover and protect it’s roots from whatever is invading the precious, life-giving top soil.
In Pat’s Garden Forum, we read “If you ever cultivate under an avocado tree, it will drop all it’s fruit. If you have a hired gardener tell him never to rake up the leaves under the avocado, they look messy but must be left to lie on the ground under the tree. . . . . raking under, or digging, or cultivation is the usual cause of serious fruit drop.” In the same forum, we also read “Switching to drip, lack of water, or quick swings in temperatures can cause more than the usual numbers of fruit to drop off.”
As new farmers, we had unwittingly disturbed the ground where the surface roots were. We removed the blanket of wild flowers which had volunteered to protect the roots. This exposed them to weather, temperatures, and changes in the amount of water they were getting. Our intentions were good, we wanted to protect the roots with mulch and get rid of the volunteers that were taking both water and nutrients from our avocado trees; but we learned very quickly that nothing good comes from disturbing a healthy root system.
Ephesians 3:16-19 “That according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
Part of the fullness of God is to enjoy a life in Him which bears the fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 tells us that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. If we are rooted in Christ, and filled with all the fullness of God, others will be able to see the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. Others will benefit from our fruit, and grow from partaking of our fruit. If, however, others look at us and see our fruit dropping onto the ground, it indicates that we have allowed someone, or something to disrupt our spiritual roots.
How about you? Have your roots been disturbed? Has someone or something come along and cultivated the soil around your roots? Are you experiencing fruit drop and wondering why? If you are not experiencing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control in your life, I encourage you to consider these questions, and get to the . . . .wait for it . . . . root of the problem!
California avocado growers can prevent excessive avocado fruit drop through good cultural management. This means the farmers carefully and intentionally tend to the soil in an effort to produce fruit and protect the roots of the tree. They do not disturb the soil or the root system. They cultivate it in a manner that will enforce the roots, compel them to behave a certain way, make them stronger, and encourage them to produce beautiful fruit. Fruit that benefits anyone who tastes it.
Like the farmer, we can prevent spiritual fruit drop through good spiritual cultural management. We must carefully tend to the soil and remain fully rooted in Christ. Our roots need to be covered with the beautiful wildflowers who volunteer – the blood of Jesus. We need to nourish our roots with Living Water, feed our roots the Word of God and guard against anyone or anything who might try to cultivate the soil with something that does not honor God. Our roots must be deep and firm in order to be able to withstand the wiles of the devil and the winds of the world.
Just as the volunteer wild flowers were a protective covering for the roots of our avocado trees, so the blood of Jesus is a protective covering for the roots of our lives. Guard your heart against anyone or anything that would try to replace God’s covering over your life with mulch. That mulch could be drugs, alcohol, sex, pornography, whatever your personal “mulch” might be, don’t let it cover your roots. Jesus is the only covering you need. Let Him produce in you fruit that is delicious and beneficial to any and all partake of it!
Lord, help me to root more and more deeply into You. Help me to stay grounded in Your love. Cause my fruit to be beneficial to those around me. Reveal to my heart when something or someone attempts to tamper with my roots, and give me the strength and wisdom to recognize when my fruit drops. Lord, You are the vine and we are the branches, we can not survive if we are not securely attached to You. Prune me, cultivate the soil I am in, and renew a right spirit in me. I love you!
The bible is clear that we are called to be “in” the world, but not “of” the world. That’s pretty confusing. It’s like saying we are supposed to be in the pool, but not wet. We are supposed to go to school, but not be in class. It’s like we should be married to our spouse, but not committed. That seems to go against all other instruction in the bible!
In Romans 12:2, we are admonished to not conform to this world, yet here we are, living smack dab in the middle of it. We are encouraged to go against the flow, yet, in the world we live in, going against the flow can be very dangerous! I was recently approached and asked to place a political sign in my yard and I declined because I do not want to be targeted by the extremist who may not agree with or support the message on the sign. There are several neighbors who I believe would be offended or mad if I placed a sign in my yard opposing their political opinion. God speed to those who are willing to place political signs in their yard, when I grow up, I hope I can be more like them, but for now, I will stay out of the political spotlight as far as my neighborhood goes. My political views will be voiced on my ballot. But I digress . . .
1 John 2:15-17 says, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world; the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life; is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abides for ever.”
Clearly, anything that represents the world is not of God. Recently, someone said that if God doesn’t judge this world very harshly, He owes Sodom and Gomorrah an apology. Obviously, God owe’s no one an apology, but we can understand the thought process behind that statement. We are living in a felony world that makes Sodom and Gomorrah look like a misdemeanor. The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life is NOT of the Father, but is of the world – the world which is our primary residence. The world which we live in, but are commanded not to love.
We are told in James 4:4 that friendship with the world is enmity with God! “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”
Again, this is all very confusing and makes one question why God would place us in a world that hates Him. Isn’t that like placing our children on a busy highway during rush hour? There’s no escaping the horrible fact that being of this world results in enmity with, and separation from, our Father and ultimately, that means death and eternal separation from Him.
Eternal separation from God was not His intention when He created planet earth. That ending was not His plan. His plan was for us to love Him completely and enjoy Him eternally. Sadly, sin entered the world, and separated us from our loving Father who created a perfect world for us, a world that was well suited for our every need. Sin not only separated us from our Father, but it caused the world to be the arch-enemy of God. Yet here we are, stuck in a world that hates God, does not glorify Him, and with which we are forbidden to conform.
So, how are we supposed to exist in this world without conforming, without “passing away with the world”, rather living in a manner that is pleasing and acceptable to Him so we can abide in Him forever?
Have you seen the movie “Finding Nemo“? Think back to the scene where Nemo’s dad, Marlin, and Dory survive a very deadly encounter with a huge amount of poisonous jelly fish. Not only did they survive, but they found themselves travelling with the sea turtles through the East Australian Current. Remember that scene? Nemo’s dad, Marlin, wakes up on the back of Crush, a sea turtle, and they are in the East Australian Current, also known as the EAC. If you don’t remember the scene, here it is.
The EAC is IN the ocean, but not OF it. The EAC current goes in a completely different direction than the typical current of the ocean. It travels at a different rate of speed than the ocean’s current. The EAC is a different temperature, and even a different color than the surrounding ocean. The EAC is IN the ocean, but it enjoys its own current, and it exists and travels through the ocean, yet goes against the flow!
We need to find the EAC in our lives, we need to travel in a radically different direction than the world, we need to travel at a different rate of speed than the world. Our temperature must be drastically different from the current (pun intended) temperature of the world. We need to be light, not darkness in this world, thus a completely different color than the world.
As hard as it is to “take on the jellies” of the world we live in, we must take them on, and we must find our rest on the back of Jesus in a current that is starkly opposite to the current of the world. Existing on the back of Jesus is the only way to exist in this world and not be of it.
So, there ya have it. We are stuck in this world where we are misfits, where we are commanded not to fit in or be comfortable. But the good news is that God provides a current that leads us directly to Him. The current is Jesus. We have only to fight the jellies, and land on the back of the One whose current is different, better, and eternal.
Lord, please help me to go against the flow. Give me the clarity of mind to be able to distinguish between Your current and the current of the world that hates You. I love You and want to cling to your back on the heavenly current You lay before me. I know You know the plans You have for me, and I want to follow that plan. Lead me. Equip me to follow.
Tony was about 3 or 4 years old and laying on the living room couch enjoying his grape juice in a sippy cup. All was well in his world, and when his world was good, mine was good!
Gary and I moved into our first home the year before Tony was born. It was brand new, and we had the joy of picking out the carpet, tile, appliances, and even the color of the paint. My father-in-law once said that I was going to wear the carpet out with the constant vacuuming. It was a happy time for us, we loved our new home, and we loved being new parents and the joys that parenting Tony and Vinny brought us each day.
On this particular day, Tony was tuned in to the Ninja Turtles movie, dressed in his Ninja Turtle jammies. He was happy and content. Baby brother Vinny was napping in the other room, and Tony had full command of the house, TV, and me. It’s amazing how a peaceful scene such as this can go drastically south in a fraction of a second.
I asked Tony to sit up and drink his juice. He ignored me. I asked again. He turned his little shoulder so that his back would be completely to me. I reached down and picked him up and sat him on the couch in what I considered appropriate drinking posture. That sweet little boy turned his face to me and gave me a look that I will never forget. His
expression screamed of injustice, disbelief, and anger all in one little glance! Then he pulled the sippy cup full of grape juice from his lips, and threw it across the living room and into the wall!
While the sippy cup was flying and spiraling through the air, grape juice was spraying all over my new Gun Powder Blue carpet. Upon impact with the wall, the sippy cup lid came off and an explosion of purple juice covered my beautiful mauve colored wall. As I remember, this all happened in super-slow-motion followed by deafening silence.
I grabbed Tony under his little arms and picked him up. He started screaming bloody murder, but it didn’t faze me for one second. I hauled his little screaming self down the hall and into his room. I tossed him down on his bed and told him to stay there. I went back to the living room and began soaking up the grape juice from my carpet. Tony was
still screaming bloody murder, so I marched back in to his room, turned him over and swatted him on his little behind. I left again and continued cleaning, and he was still screaming, and I mean SCREAMING! I went back into Tony’s room and turned him over and swatted him again! I left him laying there on his bed and went to finish cleaning my walls and carpet.
As I was cleaning and thinking about what I could use to cover up the stain on the walls, the stain of my own sin suddenly came to my mind and I was overwhelmed with shame. I thought about all the times in my life when I threw my proverbial sippy cup and stained the walls and carpet of my life, and the walls and carpet of those around me. I
remembered hurtful things I had said and done over the years and marveled at the fact that when I deserved to be thrown down and swatted, my heavenly Father loved me and held me and covered the stain of my sin with His own blood. I realized how unlike my Father I am, and how I long to be more like Him.
By now, the screaming coming from Tony’s room had been replaced with quiet whimpering. I went down the hall and opened his door. He looked at me with the most defeated look I’d ever seen. He was expecting to be swatted again, and didn’t even care. I walked over to his bed, and sat down next to him. He sat up and snuggled into my
arms, still whimpering and hiccupping from his screaming and crying. I held him close and ran my fingers through his now sweaty hair and I said this to him: “I love you Tony! I’m so sorry I lost my temper with you! I’m so sorry I swatted you and threw you on your bed! I love you so much! I was wrong to behave that way! No matter what you did or do, I should never behave that way! Will you please forgive me?” Tony looked in my eyes and using his best big grown-up voice, he said this: “I forgive you, Mommy! I don’t love what you did . . . but I love you!!”
My little guy heard those same words from me a time or two, and was now using my own words on me! If only I would learn to use God’s words rather than defaulting to my own sinful words and ways.
Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for loving me even when I disappoint you, thank you for forgiving me when I deserve a swat. Thank you, Lord, for covering the stain of my sin with your blood. Please help me to act and react more like you. I love you!
One of the loveliest places I have ever visited is a little town called Talkeetna. Talkeetna is in Alaska. My husband and I arrived in Talkeetna by bus along with many other tourists who, like us, were enjoying a week in Denali National Park. Our bus wasn’t one of the new ones with all the bells and whistles, it was just an old mediocre tour bus in a convoy of a dozen other buses. The ride on the bus was uneventful to be sure, but the destinations were filled with the wonder of God’s glorious creation and creatures. In Talkeetna, we even saw a triple rainbow, so bright and full of promise!
The buses dropped us off at a train station where they waited for us as we toured Talkeetna. The majority of the trains coming and going through the station were cargo trains. There was a passenger train or two, but the train that caught my eye, and the eye of a certain little 5-year-old boy was a big black steam locomotive! That locomotive came into the train station at a near crawl, chug-chug-chugging as the conductor steered it to a spot right in front of the crowd waiting to board the buses for the rest of the tour.
The crowd was silent, watching in awe as the huge coal eating train loudly spat black smoke and steam in every direction. With what seemed like a thunderous deep sigh, the huge train came to a halt right in front of us. All was quiet. That is until the little 5-year-old boy let out the loudest, shrillest, most terrifying scream I have ever heard!
All eyes turned immediately to the little boy who was frantically trying to get away from his mother! His heels were dug into the dirt in an effort to keep his mother from dragging him away from the huge locomotive to the buses. More than anything, that little boy wanted to ride on that monstrous locomotive! He had his little heart set on riding on the big black train, and nothing else would do!
My first thought was “Someone needs a time out!” Then I realized that maybe I was the one who needed a time out! How like that little boy am I, digging my heels in against God’s pull in my life, thinking that I know what I need better than God!
That little boy wanted a ride on the big black locomotive, yet his mother was taking him in a direction he didn’t understand and didn’t want to go. In his childish perspective, he thought he knew what was best for him. He thought he knew what he needed to be happy. He thought he knew better than his mom. Clearly, in his mind, a ride on the locomotive was what he needed to be happy!
Little did he know his mother had made marvelous plans for him at the other end of the bus ride! She was taking him on a steam boat cruise where he would see reindeer and a bush pilot taking off from, and landing on the river, right next to him! He’d see sled dogs and a real Athabascan Indian tribe village! He’d get to taste smoked salmon and touch the skins of wolves, bear and caribou! The bus was going to take him to a little boy’s dream! Yet he wanted to ride the train! The big, loud, coal burning, smoke spitting train, and the train was going nowhere.
The triple rainbow brightened as the child screamed louder and louder. “Trust me, my child, I know the thoughts that I think toward you, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jer 29:11)
Oswald Chambers said “It is not a question of right and wrong, but a question of God taking you by a way which in the meantime you do not understand, and it is only by going through the confusion that you will get at what God wants.”
Like the little boy in Talkeetna, we may dig our heels in for a time, and even scream and cry when God pulls us in a direction we don’t understand. But we must turn away from that which is luring us away from God’s plan for our lives! We need to let Him take us by the hand, get on the bus and trust Him to take us where He wants! Mile after mile, some easy, some difficult, the Lord will bring us closer and closer to where He wants us to be! And I promise, we will never regret the ride with the Lord!
Lord, Jesus, be the director of my steps, lead me and guide me in the way I should go. Help me to distinguish between my desires and Your will, and give me the strength and fortitude to always choose Your will! Help me to trust You even when the way is not clear to me, help me to remember that You have the best plan, and the best route for my life. Thank You for holding tightly to me when I dig my heels in and try to go in a direction that is not best for me. Thank you for being the best Father. I love you, Lord!
When my sons were 3 and 4, we moved to Apple Valley. It was a very hard move for the boys, and soon after, my youngest son, Vinny, developed a very bad stutter. Sometimes, he stuttered so badly that I couldn’t understand what he was trying to say. Sometimes, Tony would have to interpret for me. I don’t know how Tony could understand his brother, but he could, and he would let me know what Vinny was trying to say. Sometimes, especially if Tony wasn’t around to interpret, Vinny would get so frustrated with his stuttering that he’d dissolve into tears and stop trying. It wasn’t that I wasn’t listening to him, it was just that I couldn’t understand what he was saying to me. Vinny would cry and retreat to his room and clean it, he’d put everything in perfect order in his closet and on his shelves. Gary and I knew that since he couldn’t control how words came from his lips, he wanted to control something, anything, so he put other areas of his little life in perfect, controlled order.
One day, after I put the boys down for their naps, I began to weep with frustration over not being able to help Vinny. I had tried everything, including speech therapy and oral desensitization, but that little guy still could not stop stuttering, and spent much of his time silently cleaning and ordering his room. Gary and I were beside ourselves with worry and a deep sadness.
On that particular day, Vinny was exhausted from trying to tell me something. He started crying in frustration, and was now sleeping soundly. Desperate for help and support, I went next door to my friend’s house. I poured my broken heart out to her, and she said, “Have you prayed?” I said “Of course I’ve prayed, Gary and I have been praying about this for months!” She said “I know you’re ‘praying’, but have you really prayed? Have you been talking to God the way you are talking to me? Have you poured your heart out to Him and asked Him to help your son?” I thought about it and realized that, no, I hadn’t.
How many times do we say “I’m praying about this or that” or “I’m praying for you!” to someone, but really, we just have positive or sympathetic thoughts for them, or about their situation. Then when we wonder why God didn’t answer our prayer, He wonders, “What prayer?”
I love to pray. That’s not to say I’m good at it or do it enough. It’s a discipline; it has to be something we decide to do, then do it. I often fall asleep praying, and I used to think that was terrible. Then I remembered that God is my Father, and He loves it when I fall asleep in His arms, and that’s OK. I certainly would not be offended if my child fell asleep in my arms while telling me about his joys and sorrows!
When I realized that I had not actually really prayed about Vinny’s stuttering problem, I was so surprised! I thought I had been praying for months! What I had been doing, though, was thinking, emoting, sharing my feelings, wringing my hands, and saying that I was praying. I would venture to say that most of my friends and family were doing the same, sincerely worrying about Vinny, and sincerely offering me their love and compassion and promises to pray. But did it end there? Too often, I think it does end there.
Not long ago, I was discouraged to the point of not wanting to share my prayer requests with my friends and family because I felt it went nowhere. It began with me sharing my heartfelt concern, followed by a heartfelt response and promise to pray, and then, sadly, that was the end.
Back at my neighbors, I confessed that I had not been praying as I should. I had been complaining, and worrying and carrying the burden of this problem without ever really seeking help from God! I’d been running around saying “Oh my burden’s so heavy, it’s so heavy, I can’t take it! My poor aching back carrying this heavy weight!” I was announcing to the world my heartfelt concern, but never actually took it to the Throne! I just talked about it!
I thanked my friend and told her that I needed to leave. It was time for me to pray, to make an appointment at the feet of Jesus and seek His help. That’s exactly what I did. I went home and checked on the boys, and they were still sleeping soundly. I got on my knees in my bedroom and I prayed like I had never prayed before!
God met me there, and I felt His presence, I felt Him wrap His arms around me and say “I’ve been wondering when you were going to talk to me about this! It blesses me when you trust me with your concerns! What concerns you, concerns me. What breaks your heart, breaks mine. What brings you joy, brings me joy! You underestimate my great love for you, and for Vinny.”
After that wonderful time with Jesus, I called Gary and told him what had happened, I told him about the terrible morning Vinny had and how he cried himself to sleep. I told him how I went next door and faced the truth of my “faux faith”, and how I thought I’d been praying, but in reality I’d only been thinking and worrying and wringing my hands. I told him how I came home and prayed for Vinny.
On the other end of the phone, I could hear Gary was emotional, and struggling to speak, he cleared his throat and said “I was sitting at my desk wringing my hands and worrying about Vinny this morning when God very clearly spoke to me and said “Why are you carrying this alone? Why have you not asked Me to help? Don’t you know I love Vinny even more than you do? Why are you leaving Me out of this? Ask Me.”
Gary locked his office door and got on his knees and starting praying to God at precisely the same moment that I was on my knees praying! Here we were, two broken-hearted parents in two different cities, on our knees separately together enjoying the full attention of the Maker of the Universe on behalf of our sleeping son.
I felt like I was floating around the kitchen as I baked cookies in preparation of Tony and Vinny waking up from their nap. A few minutes later, the dogs trotted through the kitchen – this meant their boys couldn’t be far behind them. Sure enough, there came Tony and Vinny, smiling and rubbing their sleepy eyes, each trying to be the first one to get a hug and a cookie from me. They sat at the counter with their milk and warm cookies, and my sweet Vinny looked at me, and without even a hint of a stutter, said “Mom, I had the best dream ever!”
I marveled as he, stutter free, told me his dream. He dreamed of jumping on the trampoline all the way up to heaven and there were angels and angel dogs and he was soaring through the clouds with them! Then mid story, he realized he wasn’t stuttering! He stopped telling me about his dream, and looked at me with his big blue surprised eyes open wide and said “Hear me? Hear me?”
So my friends, don’t just talk about praying, don’t just tell your friends and family that you will be praying for them.
JUST DO IT!
Spring cleaning started early this year at my house. When I pulled out a box of old photos (and by “old photos” I mean “slides”) from the attic, I found an old picture of me. I was at the top of a black diamond ski run at Badger Pass in Yosemite posing for a selfie with a sign that said “DANGER! DO NOT GO BEYOND THIS POINT!” Finding that picture sure brought back some memories. . . . .
Standing on that mountaintop, I felt like I could conquer the world! I decided to disregard the sign, and go my own way. I skied beyond the sign with a grand plan of skiing down the backside of the mountain, then back around to the front. It didn’t quite turn out as I had planned.
The terrain was rugged. There were no carefully cleared and maintained runs on the backside of Badger Pass. It was wild — wild and scary and steep. About halfway down the mountain (head over heels half the time), I realized that it was a bad idea. I took off my skis and tried to hike back up. The snow was too deep and, without my skis on, I sunk nearly to my waist with every step. I had no choice but to put my skis back on and go down.
It began to snow. Soon it was a blizzard. The blizzard turned into a white-out. A white-out is when the ground and sky and everything in between are white. This terrible blizzard dropped 9 feet of snow. There was no shelter, nowhere to go, no “sign” to follow, no way out.
“A SIGN!” I said to myself, “Yes, that’s the answer; leave a sign for rescuers to see!” Laying my skis on the snow in the shape of an “X,” I hoped a rescue helicopter would see them and come help me. Within 2 minutes, my skis were buried. I stuck them in the snow so they formed a big standing “X,” but that too was overcome with snow and of no use. There was nothing more to do. Tired and freezing, I just wanted to sit down and go to sleep. I didn’t care if I died out there, I couldn’t go on, and it was getting dark fast. The white-out was turning into a black-out.
There was a huge fallen tree nearby that I thought could provide shelter. With frozen hands, I placed pine branches over the fallen tree to form a cave like lean-to and covered the branches with packed snow to make a solid shelter. I stood my skis up against the fallen tree in case someone was looking for me, and went inside my little shelter. Never had I felt so tired and lethargic, and my arms and legs felt like limbs of lead. Now settled in my snow cave, I became very warm and comfortable – too comfortable. I took off my jacket, my beanie, boots and gloves, and ate some snow. “Someone will find me,” I thought. “I just have to stay awake and listen for the search party.” Exhaustion, dehydration, and hypothermia set in, and soon I fell into a very deep and dangerous sleep.
“Was someone calling my name?” I tried to get up, but I couldn’t move my arms or legs. I heard it again — someone was calling my name! I tried to answer but my throat was too dry and I was so weak that I couldn’t produce much more than a croak. I kept trying to respond, croaking and coughing, and finally I heard the words I’ll never forget, “We hear you! Keep calling! We’re coming!”
Before long, I heard the rescue party digging and they pulled me out of the snow cave, which was now buried beneath nine feet of fresh snow. They wrapped me in blankets and gave me water and a Snickers Bar. They found me! They rescued me! When I came out of the snow cave I was surprised that the sky was full of bright shining stars and a full moon, and the snow had stopped falling! “Of course it stopped snowing,” I thought to myself. “All the snow in heaven’s store-house fell last night!”
“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:1-4
How often I ask God to give me a sign, to direct my path and give me wisdom and guidance — a spiritual road map to help me find the way through a storm. How often I accuse God of not showing up when I need Him, of not answering my prayers, or not giving me a sign when I need it. Then I remember my night on Badger Pass, and the sign that I ignored. Then humbly I ask God to guide my steps, guard my heart, and lead me in the way He desires for me to go. In His loving way, He reminds me (again) that the roadblocks, signs, and detours are for my own good, and I need to trust Him, and obey Him. Those times when I think God didn’t show up, the reality is, I walked on without Him. I need to heed the signs, not take selfies with them!
Have you ever felt like you needed a sign from God? Have you ever pushed your way beyond the sign to go your own way? Have you ever taken a selfie as you walk right past God’s instruction? If so, you’re in good company, and we have a loving Shepherd who will pursue us when we fail to hear His voice. He will recognize our croaking voice when we call His name, and He will say, “I hear you! Keep calling! I’m coming!”
“But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand . . . ” John 10:26-28
Lord, forgive me for too often asking You to guide me and then going my own way. Thank you Father, for pursuing me even in my disobedience and disregard for You. Thank You for finding me! Thank You for rescuing me!
I used to raise peacocks. And, well, when you have peacocks, you have peacock poop. And when you have peacock poop, you have to clean up the peacock coop. And on this particular day, the poopy coop duty was mine. So I got my brand new big green rake, and went into the peacock coop to scoop the poop.
The coop was very large, about 900 square feet. There were a couple of nice creosote trees in there, some big rocks the birds liked to stand on, and a little pool for the peacocks to enjoy. There were 8 peacocks in there, including two who we named He-Pea and She-Pea who were the mommy and daddy of all the others. He-Pea ruled the roost, and She-Pea loved him and always stayed as close to him as she could. They were a match made in heaven. Until . . . . . the green rake came along.
My green rake was made of plastic, with a wooden handle. It was a very bright green and very wide at the bottom. When I raked with it, I could rake a large area. I was raking away, gathering the peacock poop into a pile when I noticed He-Pea was acting peculiar. He left She-Pea, and was walking very near my rake, even prancing a little. His little head was bobbing up and down and he was making a strange sound. He would square off toward the green rake and puff his chest out. Then suddenly, with a loud swoooooooosh he threw open his big tail into a beautiful, giant, colorful fan! His fanned tail was about 6 feet across at the widest point, and boasted of some of the most brilliant colors God created! Once He-Pea’s tail was up and fanned, he brought it down over his head almost like a hood, and then he began to shake it. The sound of his shaking tail was like the sound of the wind blowing through crisp, dead leaves in the trees, rattling until they find their way to the ground below. It was impressive to be sure, but why in the world was he acting this way toward my green rake? I’d only seen him behave that way toward his beloved She-Pea!
I glanced over to where She-Pea was, near the rocks. She looked unimpressed, even disgusted. I looked back at He-Pea, and saw him again puffing out his chest and, wait, was he flirting with my rake? He was! He-Pea was putting on a show trying to impress my green rake! He-Pea mistook the color and shape of the rake for another peacock, and he was doing his best to impress the new arrival!
I used my rake to try to push him away, but he just kept it up, dancing and prancing and showing off his grand tail! I have been known to talk to myself now and then, and I often talk to my pets, so I said to He-Pea, “What in the world do you think you’re doing? This rake has nothing for you! Do you really think this rake can make you happy? Do you think this rake can make you feel good? Do you think this rake will snuggle with you in your nest and take care of your babies? Are you out of your pea-brain?” Then I continued and told him, “Look at your beloved She-Pea watching you act like a bird-brain! With She-Pea you have the real deal, the love of your life, your beloved, your soul-pea, how foolish of you to take your eyes off of your beloved for even a moment to look at this green rake!”
Then it hit me. How often am I distracted by something appealing or tempting to me? How easily are my eyes drawn away from my beloved Jesus and focused on a green rake? Anything, and I mean anything, that takes your eyes off of Jesus is a lie! It cannot make you happy or fulfill you. Anything that takes your eyes of Jesus is nothing but a green rake. And we all know what my green rake was used for . . . . .
Lord Jesus, Thank you for making me your beloved! Help me to keep my eyes on You and You alone!