Monday, May 30, 2011

Tilling the Soil of the Spirit

Digging in the gardenphoto © 2009 Fiona Shields | more info (via: Wylio)

Bent over in sun and determination, I raked and hoed and dug most of the day.

I’d left her alone far too long again; the forgiving friend who waits just beyond the garden gate. And, once again, it was I who would pay the price for neglect in righting the wrong of untilled soil, now deplete of nutrients, and the weeds left to roam on their own.

Trying to dig holes for new plants and amendment jarred my whole being as the shovel hit dirt like a fist to stone. It was nearly an impossible task. If the soil would just loosen a bit, I struggled through clenched teeth…but the heat burned and the beads of perspiration dripped down my neck and just when I considered closing the gate and waiting yet another day, I saw myself. There, like the compacted soil was my stubborn, defiant self, set firm and unyielding – and the shovel, the sharp-edged tool equally determined to break through to allow for the bloom of beauty and growth…For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (Hebrews 4:12) NIV.

Flower meadow in Llano, Texasphoto © 1972 The U.S. National Archives | more info (via: Wylio)

Oh, the abundance that awaits a hardened soul! If those twisted tight in pride and self could truly know the fragrance of the Holy Spirit once the soil has been tilled and the seeds of righteousness planted!

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Gal. 6:7-8) NIV

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

His Compassions Never Fail!

Demands and gotta dos rain down hard today. The dark clouds hover and guilt pounds loud at the door. The strain and pressures of life weave a chaotic pattern, pulling and scraping at me like rose thorns tugging at shirt sleeves as I struggle to reach the garden gate – searching for any possible exit. Then, just as I inch my way toward the latch, the words come slow…

“Why have you forgotten who you belong to?”

Gate Shadowphoto © 2009 tinyfroglet | more info (via: Wylio)

Such burdens and confusion are not handed down by the father, so why heap them onto your shoulders? Why do we attach ourselves to stress and all the things that drain us of our faith and our strength? If only we would remember the answer is lying right there in front of the tears we shed when it all gets too much…

I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”

(Lamentations 3:19-24) NIV

It’s a new day. His compassions never fail. They are new EVERY morning. Praise God today for His great faithfulness!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

In Your Moment

autumn_praise_verse2photo © 2008 Don & Tonya Christner | more info (via: Wylio)


Where will God find you today? When your thoughts run far off and distant, will you hear him when he speaks? Will the sound of his voice be heard and his direction taken? When you feel his very breath brush through your hair, will you pause…and know it’s of him? What will he find you doing with the time he’s freely given? Will he be pleased? Will your heart be intact when he finds you there in the middle of your busy day…the middle of your dreams at night? Will it bear ragged edges of deceit or malice, hurt or rejection? Will it be full of praise? What will he hear when he listens to your thoughts…your words?

Shouldn’t we live as if each day could be the end? As if each word spoken could be our defining moment, our last memory. As if living out our last “I love you”…

Where will God find you today?

“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the

angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the

days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.

(Matthew 24:36-37) NIV

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Contagious Joy?

After a recent conversation with a fellow Christian, I hung up the phone realizing one importantWaterfallphoto © 2011 Narin BI | more info (via: Wylio)
thing: joy is only contagious if you can somehow manage to maintain it when you’re around those who clearly aren’t joyful! Wouldn’t you agree?

The world may be falling down, crumbling all around us, but those who truly live in the light of the Lord don’t allow their faith to crumble along with it (of course, there are those exceptional circumstances, but I'm talking about the basic stuff of life). I have to think of all the time God has invested in me. He’s heard and answered my every prayer. He’s taken me by the hand and walked with me through the fire. He’s dried my tears, and he’s opened my eyes each morning to hope and opportunity. I owe it to him to live out what I profess, to stand defiantly against the enemy’s attempt to drag me down with those whose praise is mumbled, buried beneath layers of negativity. As a Christian, I’ve invested years strengthening my faith, my prayer life and my walk with the Lord. If I can’t even stand firm on that faith around other “Christians,” what kind of testimony am I to the non-believer? Pray it like you mean it, and then live it out. Don’t let the enemy steal your joy and the passion from within that you and the Lord have worked so hard together to create – use it for God’s glory!

Lord Jesus,

Help me to hold on to the joy of knowing you. Help me to remember, as I interact with others, that I am yours and you are mine. Your promises, your Word and your Truth will never fade or weaken with time, but prove to only strengthen in your people. Help me to respond in love to those whose joy has been diluted and weakened by the struggles of life that they may draw closer to you with renewed faith and trust. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

“So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” (John 16:22) NIV

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Visiting "From Carol's Quill" today!

all's well that inks wellphoto © 2008 Chris Wightman | more info (via: Wylio)


I invite you to grab a cup of coffee and

join me today for a chat with Author, Carol Peterson

at her blog, "From Carol’s Quill."

Actually….Carol’s “chatting” with me – yep, a real, live interview.

Come on and join us!

http://fromcarolsquill.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Art of Living While You're Living

poodle skirt | the both and | shorts and longs | julie rybarczykphoto © 2011 Julie Rybarczyk | more info (via: Wylio)

The music starts and he reaches for her hand; the same gentle grasp she’s known for 52 years. The stand-up base strums a familiar melody and together they think back to days of poodle skirts, Saturday matinees, and malt shops. Innocence savored.

His eyes sparkle and she blushes the same school-girl grin that first captured his heart so long ago.

Together, they’ve known birth, death, children, friends, Thanksgiving dinners, wars, sacrifice, hard work, reward, sunsets and love.

They’ve known choices, made conscious decisions to run with the wind or to stand against it. They’ve learned lessons together, crossed the bridges together, prayed through the storms together…rejoiced in rainbows together.

They’ve spent their yesterdays looking forward to the tomorrows and the challenges that lie ahead knowing days are gifts to be opened and enjoyed...

Sunsetphoto © 2007 Rajeev Nair | more info (via: Wylio)

…but in the end, it’s not the number of days spent, it’s the dances danced. It’s the mountains climbed. It’s those on the receiving end of your giving, and those still within reach as you breathe your last.

"Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others."

(Phil. 2:1-4) NIV

Thursday, May 12, 2011

His Incredible Timing!

(Diverting from the normal blog-type post to share a quick praise…..)

Flowers of the Heartphoto © 2008 Bee Thalin | more info (via: Wylio)

I left work right on time yesterday, picked up kids, dropped off kids, ran to fill a prescription at the pharmacy, stopped to grab a pizza, then took one quick dash around the grocery store. I pulled up in front of the house, turned off the engine, and that’s when something went POOF underneath. I heard hissing and immediately thought “flat tire,” but the gush of water revealed that all was not well under the hood.

Really? Today? Right now, we gotta have car trouble??? Great! I immediately envisioned myself walking to and from work, how long would I be stranded, etc.

Why did I do that – give in to a frustrating moment? Why didn’t I realize, right then are there, that God had THAT moment all under control, too?

As His perfect timing would have it, not 10 minutes later my husband comes in through the back door…unusually early for a weekday. The plan was to come home, grab something quick that resembled dinner, then head over to the college for a jazz rehearsal with our son (and the rest of the band). Instead, the look on my face prompted an explanation, and about 3.5 seconds later, he was under the hood with engine grease up to his elbows.

I’ll spare you the dirty details, but I’ll tell you that within the hour, my husband had the broken part off, the new part purchased and installed, and away he went off to jazz rehearsal without missing a beat!

Flowersphoto © 2007 Jack Rydquist | more info (via: Wylio)

How amazing that God would allow me to run all over town, accomplish all I needed to and then when I’ve returned safely back home, He allows things to fall apart! Any other day, my husband could have been on a business trip or working late, but no…God chose THIS day at precisely THIS time, why? Because it was the perfect time!

Thank you, God, for taking such good care of us!

O Lord, you have searched me and you know me.

You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.

You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.

Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord.

You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

Psalm 139:1-6 NIV

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Invest in Moments

Meadowphoto © 2010 11950mike | more info (via: Wylio)
It wasn’t just a fishing pole. It wasn’t just a camping trip. It wasn’t just bubbles and a wand or a kite soaring above ocean waves with tiny hands gripping a spool of string. It wasn’t just simple ingredients mixed together on a rainy morning where giggles and aroma of chocolate chip cookies mingled in a grandmother’s kitchen. It wasn’t just a trumpet picked up at a yard sale. It wasn’t just a barn. It wasn’t just a picnic in the back yard.

Easter Egg Hunt?photo © 2008 Mallory Odam | more info (via: Wylio)

She wasn't just any old woman who boiled a pot of eggs on a hot July afternoon and hid them all around the garden for the joy of watching her grandchildren hunt for them because “Why should we only hunt for eggs just one day out of the year?”

Sometimes, it’s not about the cost, however great or small – it’s about the investment we make in the moments captured and embraced with the heart.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

(Matthew 6:19-21) NIV

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Having it All (Repost)

In honor of Mother’s Day, I’d like to share a little something I wrote about 15 years ago, knee-deep in motherhood and writing was just a dream with no direction.

Jogging with the kids...photo © 2008 Ed Yourdon | more info (via: Wylio)

The snooze alarm sounds off for the third time, and my 4-year-old stumbles into the bedroom. Through dim sunlight, I awaken to Mickey Mouse pajamas and a Pound Puppy (a.k.a. “Baby Dog”) in my face as he tries to climb up to my side of the bed. After two, three, four attempts, he settles for a space on the floor and covers himself with my robe.

“Time to get up, Mom. Rugrats is on,” mumbles the voice on the floor.

“In a minute, Sweetie.”

Reluctantly, I pull myself from bed and amble downstairs toward the coffee pot, Mickey Mouse pajamas and Baby Dog in toe.

Soon, I hear the littlest pair of feet in the family hop to the floor. And in a moment, my daughter appears around the corner, one hand rubbing sleepy eyes, and the other grasping her beloved “Pink Baby.”

After morning hugs and kisses, I pour a cup of coffee, but before the first drop hits my lips, twoCoffee Mug photo © 2010 Alejandra Owens | more info (via: Wylio)
tiny voices request, rather firmly, apple juice, milk, cookies and “masha-tatos”.

“I want cheese puffs!” my 4-year-old stomps, shaking the silence from the morning.

“Yeah, cheese pups! I want cheese pups, too,” my daughter joins in.

“I’m sorry. We don’t eat cheese puffs at 6:30 in the morning,” I rationalize, still inching the coffee cup closer to my lips.

“Hey Babe, are we out of soap?” my husband calls from the shower upstairs.

I hand my son a bar of soap and send him on his way. Surely, he won’t remember wanting cheese puffs when he returns.

Wrong!

In a moment, he’s back wiping shaving cream from his nose.

“Dad says I can have cheese puffs,” he smiles.

At 10am, we venture down the front steps and up the sidewalk. We’re off to the park. From the stroller, my daughter serenades the neighborhood with her rendition of the Barney theme song.

My pace quickens. With white knuckles, we’re practically a blur as we speed past houses toward the local play land. Afterall, if I hear one more verse, I’ll lose it!

Finally, with her settled on the swings, and my son busy trying to climb his way up the “big” slide, I can enjoy my first real moment of relaxation.

I watch them from beneath the shade tree, finding it hard to imagine life before they came along.

My moment of awe and motherly wonderment is short lived, however when suddenly someone pulls up in the parking lot behind me. I’m hoping it’s someone I know, or better yet, a new friendly face. Gosh, I don’t care – I’d welcome anyone over three feet tall who didn’t demand apple juice every ten minutes or need help wiping their bottom.

I turn to see mothers in Ralph Lauren jogging suits and short, perky hair cuts piling out of SUVs. They all jog over to the jungle gym with their kids in a very determined, almost military fashion. That’s fine, I maintain, having walked my children to the park (not by choice, mind you, but because the old charmer in my driveway may or may not have started, depending on her mood). Besides, everyone needs exercise anyway, right?

They must work part time, I wonder. Maybe this is their day off, or maybe their lunch hour.

Wild Playground Toyphoto © 2009 Glenn Fleishman | more info (via: Wylio)
I used to be one of them; buying panty hose in bulk, and clicking down corporate hallways in high heels and an up-to-date wardrobe.

But now, I’m sitting on this park bench watching my children play. What’s wrong with that? I argue with myself. We all make choices in life, and this is mine.

One of the moms crosses over to me, slurping from a sports bottle.

“Is that the ‘Times’?” she barks.

“The time? It’s a little after-“

“No, no. Is that the ‘Times’?” she repeats.

In a moment I realize she’s referring to the heap of newspaper beside me on the bench.

Just then, we’re interrupted by a piercing squeal as a set of red-headed twin boys fight over a sand bucket. So, the woman grabs the newspaper from the bench and hurries over to break up the squabble.

I rest my chin in my hands, and my eyes drift back over to my children. With a smile, I realize how my life and priorities have changed over the years. Now, potty training, kindergarten and “quality time” have taken the place of working luncheons, emails and action items.

I watch my daughter, the sunlight drifting through her honey-colored curls and my son with the missing front tooth and a tiny pair of glasses on his nose, and I know the choice I made to stay home and make them my full-time priority was absolutely the right one for me.

And each night as we kneel beside their toddler beds to say “Dear God” in the soothing glow of the Barney night light I realize, with great satisfaction, I do indeed have it all.

Happy Mother's Day!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

When a Heart Surrenders

hot chocl-artphoto © 2006 hobvias sudoneighm | more info (via: Wylio)

I hear the words, see the tears and feel that pull…again, and they stir unsettling shards through my spirit. Another heart in pain. Another defeated, “giving-her-all” kind of woman who’s dragging her self esteem around these days like broken shoelaces through mud puddles.

She trembles words of sadness, a hurting soul waving the white flag of surrender, tearing at my emotions. I listen through tears as my heart wants to reach through to hers to embrace and comfort, to remind her that it’s our God who gives rest to the weary, strengthens the weak. Only the armor of God can pierce through layers of rejection, denial, self doubt and depression.

My words meet hers in mid flight.

My hope battles her reality.

My God over her questioning of Him.

Something gives way from within when desperation wipes away a woman’s spark. That certain something special gifted to each one of us seems a fragile butterfly at times, especially when life finds us on our knees sifting through the rubble in search of purpose and reason.

But they’re there – His purpose and His reason, though sometimes hidden behind demands and the things that break us down. Seems all too often it’s the sweetest, gentlest of spirits expected to endure the ugly wringing out of the soul. Perhaps, it’s because they’re the biggest threat; capable of bringing the most glory to the darkest day – a vessel through which the light of the Lord shines the brightest.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

(Matthew 5:14-16) NIV

Monday, May 2, 2011

Garden of the Heart

There is no spot of ground, however arid, bare or ugly, that cannot be tamed into such a state as may give an impression of beauty and delight.
Gertrude Jekyll

a special rose for a special dayphoto © 2008 Marialuisa Wittlin | more info (via: Wylio)

I look forward to our local garden tour every year. I stroll along stone walkways among visible evidence of heart and soul displayed in plantings; take note of their color combinations, structure and presentation. I love how no two gardens are the same. Just as no two gardeners are the same, as one’s vision of loveliness strums a melody uniquely one’s own.

I love the gardens that draw me in to intimate settings, peaceful pathways that meander and lead the way to unexpected sanctuaries carved into quiet, shaded corners. I love venturing beneath rose-laden arbors and exploring hidden garden rooms breathing in both the fragrance and beauty offered.

I find that each garden bears the heart of the gardener; whether in whimsical fashion ormorning in the garden . . .photo © 2009 Seán A. O'Hara | more info (via: Wylio)
restricted to the confines of a well thought out design. She who creates such a space scatters bits and pieces of her heart throughout. Otherwise…why put forth the effort if the heart hasn’t been planted?

In the garden, it’s the overall ambiance and the feelings evoked that resonate well after the garden gate closes. I have to consider the same in everyday life…what resonates from me if I haven’t applied my heart?

What is the garden of your heart speaking to others today?

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

(2 Corinthians 9:6-7) NIV

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