Come Up Higher!


“That old law about ‘an eye for an eye’ leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing.” ~ Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The world we live in today is an angry world, not just a little miffed, but seething, boiling-over, raging ANGRY. It is, of course, perfectly natural to feel this way. Facebook, life’s microcosm, has seen many “Me Too” posts recently. For anyone who doesn’t know, this is a movement to bring awareness to the threat of gender-based violence and intimidation faced by the women and girls of the world in general, and to remind us that all around us, every day, there are women who feel unsafe. There is a global epidemic of forced labor and sex trafficking, for adults and children. What else are we faced with socially and personally on a daily basis but domestic violence, rising healthcare costs, greedy corporations, unethical treatment of employees, thieves, liars, cheaters, swindlers, pretenders, violence, hatred, anger, anger, anger!

I was angry as well when I started writing this post. Some things, after all, are just WRONG. However, “Me Too” should be the beginning of a discussion, not just an angry, raised fist.

An old Newsboys song says, “Everybody needs somebody to rely on….are you gonna lend a hand and assist? Everybody needs somebody’s shoulder to cry on…..are you gonna lend a hand, or a fist?” 

The real struggle, after all, is not men against women, black against white, rich against poor, cat people against dog people, left against right, not really. We all have much more in common than we sometimes care to remember. The ultimate puppet master and behind-the-scenes enemy of all of us is evil incarnate, or the devil, Satan, whatever you call him. He is a master manipulator and gold-star pot-stirrer, and we all fall for his games from time to time. For instance, when I’m angry after reading of a family devastated, or a crime committed, I am usually angry with people. This encourages me to have an “us versus them” or even “me versus everybody else” mentality. That kind of thinking is what feeds the mafia, gang warfare, and a Hatfield’s vs. McCoy’s ideology. When both sides are bleeding and wounded, who really wins? When the smoke clears, you may find yourself looking, not at an enemy, but at a mirror instead. We all get hurt, but we do not have to be the ones doing the hurting.

So, me too, I have been hurt by others, AND I have hurt others. The only hands I can control are on the end of my own arms. The words I have come out of my own mouth. SO, I can be angry with “them” or you, but if I look at MYSELF, I can make the changes that the world needs to be a better place, for “them”, you, and me too.

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. 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. Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” ~ Matthew 5:13-20 NIV
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Hot Coffee, and Meningitis


“Man could direct his ways by plain reason, and support his life by tasteless food, but God has given us wit, and flavor, and brightness, and laughter to enliven the days of man’s pilgrimage, and to charm his pained steps over the burning marble” ~ Sydney Smith

Today, my coffee is hot, strong, and soothing. Today, my husband told me there are 3 men out with meningitis at his work. Today, one of my daughters told me she is on the honor roll and getting props from the high school principal. Today, I am almost out of laundry detergent. Today, another daughter has an interview for a new job. Today, I need to write a letter of apology.

Life is a series of good and bad, joy and sadness, pleasure and pain. We all know this. In many ways, life may seem like a spinning roulette wheel. Where will the ball stop? What chance circumstance will come our way next? Better duck, the wheel is still spinning.

But are our lives’ experiences a matter of pure chance, or is there something more? Is there an unseen Hand behind it all, directing our steps, bringing us situations designed to shape our character, and above all else showing us, by and by, that even in the midst of our most dark and confusing seasons that we are LOVED?

“The poor and needy are seeking water when there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. I the Lord will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the acacia, the myrtle, and the wild olive; I will set the cypress in the desert, the plane [tree] and the pine [tree] together, That men may see and know and consider and understand together that the hand of the Lord has done this, that the Holy One of Israel has created it.” ~ Isaiah 41:17-20

So, after hearing more and more about our little rural area and the threat of meningitis getting closer and closer to my friends and loved ones, I warned my kids to be careful and not share food or drinks. I read that frankincense essential oil may help, and I decided to clean my house. (Little note for you, my readers, there are many nasty things going around, even without the threat of meningitis. Be safe, be careful, and love your loved ones.) I’m also going to be adding some frankincense oil to my homemade hand soap, just in case. 🙂

The Potter’s Dirty Little Secret


“The difference between ‘involvement’ and ‘commitment’ is like an eggs-and-ham breakfast: the chicken was ‘involved’ – the pig was ‘committed’.” – Unknown

Remember that famous scene from the movie “Ghost” where Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore are getting their hands dirty (briefly) at a pottery wheel? One moment they are sliding their fingers around on wet clay and the next moment they are clean and dry and moving off into another-scene-this-blog-is-not-getting-into, ahem? 😉 For many people the idea of a potter’s wheel is sort-of an iconic symbol that means something different to different people, such as a representation of our individuality, or the fact that we can be re-made even if we have been “marred”, or perhaps it is the basis of pithy yet trite sayings such as “God uses cracked pots”, etc.

Those ideas, if a bit shallow and incomplete, are all well and good, except for the glaring error present in all of these ideas: the focus is on the clay and not the Potter. Naturally, before I go any further, I want to be upfront and just say that in NO WAY do I consider myself an expert on pretty much anything, especially the nature of God; BUT I have been chewing on some new ideas lately and I’d like to share them with you.

Jeremiah 18:1-6 records an epiphany in the spiritual journal of the nation of Israel:

“THE WORD which came to Jeremiah from the Lord:
Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause you to hear My words.
Then I went down to the potter’s house, and behold, he was working at the wheel.
And the vessel that he was making from clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he made it over, reworking it into another vessel as it seemed good to the potter to make it.
Then the word of the Lord came to me:
O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does? says the Lord. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel.” – Jeremiah 18:1-6 AMP
There are so many gems we can discover as we delve in the Word of God. I am, embarrassingly, not as regular about this as I should be. Thankfully, God in his mercy manages to sneak me my spiritual veggies in many diverse ways. 🙂 I notice several things from this snippet of Scripture. First of all, God initiates relationships with us, every time, even with the seasoned “spiritual veggie eaters”. He also sometimes wants us to do something, go somewhere, say something, think something, out of the ordinary for us. If God wants to teach us something new, he will oftentimes change things up on us. Sometimes it is inconvenient or uncomfortable. Jeremiah was a prophet, which made it his JOB to have these kinds of encounters with God and be able to relate truth to the nation (in this case Israel) he was sent to reach. What if this was a bad time though? What if he lived in our time-frame and his favorite show had just come on TV, or he wasn’t feeling well, or had just gotten home from a stressful day at work, or had a fight with his spouse? What if Jeremiah had allowed the temporary to supersede the eternal as we so often do? (This is not really meant to be the focus on the post for today. I just want to give you a little extra bit of gristle to chew.)
None of the many distractions of life actually DID win out over God’s instructions this time, however; and we have a wonderful bit of treasure to dig up and examine and take home to our little spiritual hidey-holes. 🙂 Jeremiah obeyed God and went down to the potter’s house, where, lo and behold, the potter was just doing his thing. He was making pots, and urns, and pitchers, and all the various and sundry useful and beautiful things that can be made with clay.
There is a show that I used to watch when I was younger on PBS called, I think, “The Prairie Potter”. I could not find specific information on the show when I looked it up however. I have always been fascinated by the transformation wrought on raw, unattractive materials when a creative person goes to work. What a gift to us all is creativity! Anyway, let me tell you, getting back to my point, that pottery is messy! It involves attention to detail, timing, just the right combination of water and clay, steady pressure on the inside as well as the outside to shape the piece, and naturally is the heating time in the kiln and the glazing and finishing and maybe another firing in the kiln. I am not confident that I got all those steps in the right order, either. 😀 The point is that the potter is invested in the finished work, and the potter always signs his finished pieces. The potter gets his hands dirty. He gives each piece his time and attention. It’s not watching the evening news while he knits an afghan and talks to the dog attention, either. The clay on the wheel is of highest priority. The potter, you see, has a plan. With every piece there is a design in mind. If something happens to the clay, it doesn’t just get thrown out as he moves on to the next hunk of clay. No, the potter keeps working with the clay until it is fit to be used for his intended purpose.
Many people today think that God is like a cosmic toy maker. They suppose that he created the world and then turned the giant key to wind it all up and summarily washed his hands of us all. I do not believe this represents a Biblical viewpoint at all. With such great care that he used as he fashioned Creation, it would be foolish and careless for God, who is LOVE incarnate, to step back from the ones he took such care to create. God is intimately involved with us, from our very first joining of cells until the last earthly breath we take, and beyond. (Matthew 6:25-34) God has time for us. God has ALL the time we could ever need. God is not limited by time as we are and so he will never run out of time.
The picture of the potter’s wheel is a very good way to remember God’s care for us all throughout our lives. As so many things are, this picture is more than it appears to be at first glance; it is an encouragement, but it is also a caution. God is the Potter, and we are in his hands.

“And the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near Me with their mouth and honor Me with their lips but remove their hearts and minds far from Me, and their fear and reverence for Me are a commandment of men that is learned by repetition [without any thought as to the meaning], Therefore, behold! I will again do marvelous things with this people, marvelous and astonishing things; and the wisdom of their wise men will perish, and the understanding of their discerning men will vanish or be hidden. Woe to those who [seek to] hide deep from the Lord their counsel, whose deeds are in the dark, and who say, Who sees us? Who knows us? [Oh, your perversity!] You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be considered of no more account than the clay? Shall the thing that is made say of its maker, He did not make me; or the thing that is formed say of him who formed it, He has no understanding?” – ISAIAH 29:13-16 AMP

The Drawbacks of Being a Hippo


“Arrogance diminishes wisdom”
Arabian Proverb

When I was very young, my family used to visit a restaurant in San Francisco called The Hippopotamus, or Hippo. It was an amazing place, boasting a large array of hamburgers as well as a lit sparkler in the center of the bun and a whole crew of singing wait staff on your birthday. Awesome, right? Sadly, this restaurant no longer exists. (You can, however, read a bit more about it here: Remembering the Hippo)

As amazing as I thought going to The Hippo was when I was little, being called a hippo is not something I would put on my top ten goals, probably the same can be said of you as well. Why is this? Besides the common Western phobia of fat on the body, is the fact that in spite of cartoons and coloring book pages which suggest otherwise, hippos are really nasty, dangerous, territorial, lazy, gluttonous, and bad-tempered. As much as we might try to deny it, this does actually describe us all from time to time. It’s not anything we should aspire to be of course.

Another “character trait” of hippos I have observed (I am CRAZY over those nature shows) is their tendency toward arrogance. Now, hear me out before you start citing behavioral studies. If you are as big and mean as a hippo, you probably deserve a fairly wide berth. (What’s that joke about the 300 lb gorilla?) A hippo in the wild is large and in charge, no doubt. Not many other animals will tangle with them. Did you ever notice the HUGE mouth on a hippo?!? *CHOMP*

Unfortunately, if we will be brutally honest, many people, Christians at the top of the list a good majority of the time I’m afraid, could be characterized as hippos. Very full of ourselves and our “knowledge” of an un-knowable God and self-important, in spite of our actual status as the sinful, unworthy, ridiculous specks we are. (Don’t get me started on the inane amount of arguing we do among ourselves over silly doctrinal differences, while the world hurts, and suffers, and rages, and weeps all around us.)

Notwithstanding our majesty and wonder as creations of intent and divine purpose, the wonder, majesty, intent, and purpose are not our own. With the limited, imperfect knowledge we have of an infinite, and perfect God, we sure pat ourselves on the back a whole lot. Why is that again? Maybe we are getting a little too big for our britches. Maybe our self-conceit needs to diminish a bit while we remember the reason we celebrate Easter Sunday is NOT so we can parade around like arrogant runway models in our pastel finery. Maybe, while we smile fondly at our amazing offspring as they club one another over the head for eggs, we might pause and reflect.

Jesus Christ came to earth as a squalling infant and grew up in this chaotic place only to die on a cross, horribly; because even in our Easter finery, we are wretched and lost souls in desperate need of sanctification. Pretending we are anything other than that is pointless. My continued walk as a Christian, and yours, depends on the continued realization of our need of Christ, not only for our initial salvation, but for our every day’s grace to think and act like a considerate, loving human beings. A hippo-like, prideful attitude tends to make us believe we are better than other people who are different than us and leads to gossip, exclusivism, cliques, bullying, and so forth; and, yes, I AM still mainly talking to Christians. This type of arrogance has no place in the body (aka the Bride) of Christ.

More than all of these reasons, God himself has warned us repeatedly against such full-of-ourselves attitudes, in His Word. (Proverbs 6:16-19; Proverbs 16:18; Proverbs 13:10, etc.) One of the most convicting (and by convicting, I mean reminding, encouraging, and exhorting) of these is the passage below:

“On that day when, as my Gospel proclaims, God by Jesus Christ will judge men in regard to the things which they conceal (their hidden thoughts). [Eccl. 12:14.]
 But if you bear the name of Jew and rely upon the Law and pride yourselves in God and your relationship to Him,
And know and understand His will and discerningly approve the better things and have a sense of what is vital, because you are instructed by the Law;
And if you are confident that you [yourself] are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, and [that
You are] a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the childish, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and truth–
Well then, you who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you teach against stealing, do you steal (take what does not really belong to you)?
You who say not to commit adultery, do you commit adultery [are you unchaste in action or in thought]? You who abhor and loathe idols, do you rob temples [do you appropriate to your own use what is consecrated to God, thus robbing the sanctuary and doing sacrilege]?
You who boast in the Law, do you dishonor God by breaking the Law [by stealthily infringing upon or carelessly neglecting or openly breaking it]?
For, as it is written, The name of God is maligned and blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you! [The words to this effect are from your own Scriptures.] [Isa. 52:5; Ezek. 36:20.]” Romans 2:16-24

Beloved, fellow, imperfect brothers and sisters in Christ, he has so much more in store for us in this life. In order to realize the ultimate goal of his bountiful richness and completeness flowing through us to bless others first, and ourselves as a byproduct, we must take our eyes off of ourselves and put them back on the ultimate prize, which is the fullness and richness and completeness of Christ Jesus himself.

“For God has not called us to impurity but to consecration [to dedicate ourselves to the most thorough purity].
Therefore whoever disregards (sets aside and rejects this) disregards not man but God, Whose [very] Spirit [Whom] He gives to you is holy (chaste, pure).
But concerning brotherly love [for all other Christians], you have no need to have anyone write you, for you yourselves have been [personally] taught by God to love one another.
And indeed you already are [extending and displaying your love] to all the brethren throughout Macedonia. But we beseech and earnestly exhort you, brethren, that you excel [in this matter] more and more,
To make it your ambition and definitely endeavor to live quietly and peacefully, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we charged you,
So that you may bear yourselves becomingly and be correct and honorable and command the respect of the outside world, being dependent on nobody [self-supporting] and having need of nothing.” 1 Thessalonians 4:7-12

Welcome to the Crucible


“Truth, like gold, is to be obtained not by its growth, but by washing away from it all that is not gold.” ~ Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy

Today’s blog post is brought to you by the letters A and U and also by the number 14 (carats, that is). Now think GOLD. The way that gold is refined, or purified is a process with many steps.

First of all, you obviously want to start with gold, if you want refined gold. You can’t start with dirt or tuna fish or koi ponds or strawberry Pop Tarts. Only gold can be used if you want refined gold. That’s Step 1. Step 2: Place in the crucible. The gold has to be in the right place, or environment, in order for the refining to take place. This involves location, materials and timing. Step 3: add heat………serious HEAT. First you will need to add some boric acid. Now heat, more acid, followed by more heat, and so on…Keep doing this until the gold is completely melted, however long that takes. Step 4: the gold will need to be handled very carefully as it is poured into the mold. It’s really hot. It can hurt anyone who gets too close. Step 5: the gold must cool completely before being taken from the mold so that it will hold its shape. (http://www.wikihow.com/Melt-Gold)

I think that in life, pain, like everything else, is all a matter of how you are willing to look at it, the perspective you choose, the lens you use when you consider things and situations and even people that come your way. Let me clarify, we all have a certain bent when it comes to the way we see things. I’m talking about pain, and you will need to use a little extra effort here.

First of all, for the purposes of our discussion, you and I are the gold. In order to be refined, we must first have some intrinsic value already. You can’t clean dirt, or rot. You just get rid of it. Refining is a process that takes time, attention, and care. The goal at the end is to have the thing of value be of even greater value. In order to be refined, there must already be value of some kind, there must be some redeemable qualities in order for something to be redeemed. Redemption comes when we are found, refining happens when we are perfected. It is always unpleasant. We feel unsure, unsteady, unclear why this is happening now, this way, for this length of time. We often feel misused, misunderstood, and we see no end in sight. Sometimes we break down under the strain of what is happening to us…like when we lose our tempers and yell at our kids, our spouses, say things we don’t mean, quit our jobs without notice, give up on the dream, drop out of school, tell someone off….like in traffic, using technicolor language that would make grandma yank our ears.

I often feel that parenting is a kind of crucible. Multiple times a day you are faced with the choice of acting selfishly….or even out of self-preservation, and you are given the choice, me or them, now or the future, pay now or pay later. Sometimes, either way you choose it feels like you lose. There are so many of these knuckle-baring, teeth-gritting moments along the way as we raise our kids it sometimes makes us very poor company for anyone else, like our co-workers, friends, church family, spouses, or basically anyone who doesn’t want to hear the run-down on Little Miss or Misters’s last bowel movement. (I love a good pun, and that sentence had to awful ones. 🙂 )

I have wondered many times over the years about the much debated and hotly refuted portions of the Bible that talk about women, some of them more than others, like the submission to your husband part and the part about childbearing as in the increased pain (thanks a lot Eve), and about how women will be saved through childbearing (1 Timothy 2:15) HUH????? Are you kidding me? This on top of submission? God, you ask too much.

But, wanting to actually understand, I thought about it in the context of what the passage talks about, which was a situation in which families were fragmented and the child rearing was not being carried out by loving parents at home. Similar to today, women and men were sold out to the idea of “finding themselves” and such. As is the case today, as the parents “found themselves” the children got lost in the shuffle. This passage is calling Christian women to lay down their selfish desires and give themselves to their children, their tender little babies, who really needed them. Babies aren’t babies forever, of course. This is not an admonishment for Christian women to stay barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen and never learn to read. Kids need their parents. Period. That made sense to me. I do tend to get my back up a little when someone tells me to do something (which, at 37, my mom is still doing). Even when someone tells me to do something sensible or gives good advice, I tend to bristle a little bit. People with knowledge don’t like to be taught, and yet it is against reason as well as wisdom to be this way. So there is a little insight into a long-time struggle for me today. 🙂 Love you Mom. 🙂

Of course as I am now actually in the middle of parenting, another thought occurs to me: childbearing and rearing works out something else in us. I have long held the belief that no one, simply no one, can make me more red haze, can’t-speak-correctly, vein-I-didn’t-know-I-had-pulsing, calling-my-kids-everyone’s-name-but-theirs angry, NO ONE but kids. Thankfully, I love my kids, I mostly love kids in general, it’s just when I get out in specific situations with specific kids…again…that I find my “nice lady” seams tearing a bit. Childrearing holds your feet to the fire. It’s easy enough to say you love children when you have none of your own, and of course know better than all those sleep-deprived, cranky individuals who, unbeknownst to you, are telling their child “no” not for the 5th time as they ask for a treat, but the 56th, in less than 5 minutes, and you just let that comment about “controlling your children” slip only slightly loud enough as you passed their shopping cart containing a car seat, and the entire wardrobe of the child who has been screaming. ALL. THE. WAY. THOUGH. THE.  STORE. That poor soul is just trying to make it to the checkout with a couple of gallons of milk and some semblance of dignity and self-control and is being fought every step of the way. There are the times when the fun money you had set aside is used instead on shoes for Little Miss or Mister who you realized with a guilty pang was wearing shoes 3 sizes too small. No, you will not be buying new shoes for work or lunch with the gang this week. You can kiss that concert goodbye because you had to stay home with a kid (or kids) who all got head lice, so of course you are now a pariah anyway and now you couldn’t afford to go even if the darn little buggers didn’t keep showing up on head after head. (Calgon take me away!) *pause for psychosomatic head itching, sorry*

Another hard thing about parenting these sweet babies is that you have to tell them many many times to do something, or not too. I have had crayon on my walls for years, or pencil or pen, or (GASP) even marker. I have made rules and punished and explained and taken things away, and yelled and screamed and panicked, and yet, I still have crayon, etc. on my walls. Discipline is not a popular thing in our country currently. We do not like to tell ourselves no and we do not like to say it to our kids. It’s uncomfortable to wait or do without, so instead of earning good behavior or a well-deserved reward, we cave to the pressure of a tantrum or whining and find peace for a time…..until the next time, and the next, and the next. Discipline is hard work and you actually have to remember what the point was in the first place. I’m not really a fan of the strict cry it out philosophy of sleep training. However, I have never been a fan of being held hostage in my own bed by a baby, either. Nor am I a fan of Cruella DeVille in my house the next day screeching at my kids and husband. There has to be a balance in everything we do. (1 Peter 5:8)

So, as far as a crucible is concerned, there are times when I think I must be in the fire with the acid being added. Being a parent is an overwhelming undertaking, both for the good, sweet, tender, and joyous moments it brings as well as for all the pain and tears and frustration and heartache. I think, though, that as with anything else, God works in seasons in our lives. There are times when I have been put through life’s ringer whether it be a difficult relationship in my extended family, or drama at work, or health issues I worry about for my loved ones, or the tires that keep going flat on my minivan at the most aggravating and inconvenient times, naturally.

After really difficult seasons, I feel a little worn and tender. I’m a bit more sensitive and easily hurt. I need some time to process and heal. Those times are like the cooling process of gold. I want to come out of these times bearing the form of my Savior. I fail though at other times, and I know that it’s only so long before I am yet again being put through the crucible again.  BUT, as we are to find our balanced stances in life, so God has things well in hand. When we go through these sanctifying seasons, He knows when to ease things and we will never go through alone. 🙂

“PETER, AN apostle (a special messenger) of Jesus Christ, [writing] to the elect exiles of the dispersion scattered (sowed) abroad in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, [aka YOU] Who were chosen and foreknown by God the Father and consecrated (sanctified, made holy) by the Spirit to be obedient to Jesus Christ (the Messiah) and to be sprinkled with [His] blood: May grace (spiritual blessing) and peace be given you in increasing abundance [that spiritual peace to be realized in and through Christ, freedom from fears, agitating passions, and moral conflicts]. Praised (honored, blessed) be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah)! By His boundless mercy we have been born again to an ever-living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, [Born anew] into an inheritance which is beyond the reach of change and decay [imperishable], unsullied and unfading, reserved in heaven for you, Who are being guarded (garrisoned) by God’s power through [your] faith [till you fully inherit that final] salvation that is ready to be revealed [for you] in the last time. [You should] be exceedingly glad on this account, though now for a little while you may be distressed by trials and suffer temptations, So that [the genuineness] of your faith may be tested, [your faith] which is infinitely more precious than the perishable gold which is tested and purified by fire. [This proving of your faith is intended] to redound to [your] praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) is revealed. Without having seen Him, you love Him; though you do not [even] now see Him, you believe in Him and exult and thrill with inexpressible and glorious (triumphant, heavenly) joy. [At the same time] you receive the result (outcome, consummation) of your faith, the salvation of your souls. The prophets, who prophesied of the grace (divine blessing) which was intended for you, searched and inquired earnestly about this salvation. They sought [to find out] to whom or when this was to come which the Spirit of Christ working within them was indicating when He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that should follow [them]. It was then disclosed to them that the services they were rendering were not meant for themselves and their period of time, but for you. [It is these very] things which have now already been made known plainly to you by those who preached the good news (the Gospel) to you by the [same] Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Into these things [the very] angels long to look! So brace up your minds; be sober (circumspect, morally alert); set your hope wholly and unchangeably on the grace (divine favor) that is coming to you when Jesus Christ (the Messiah) is revealed. [Live] as children of obedience [to God]; do not conform yourselves to the evil desires [that governed you] in your former ignorance [when you did not know the requirements of the Gospel]. But as the One Who called you is holy, you yourselves also be holy in all your conduct and manner of living. For it is written, You shall be holy, for I am holy. [Lev. 11:44, 45.] And if you call upon Him as [your] Father Who judges each one impartially according to what he does, [then] you should conduct yourselves with true reverence throughout the time of your temporary residence [on the earth, whether long or short]. You must know (recognize) that you were redeemed (ransomed) from the useless (fruitless) way of living inherited by tradition from [your] forefathers, not with corruptible things [such as] silver and gold, But [you were purchased] with the precious blood of Christ (the Messiah), like that of a [sacrificial] lamb without blemish or spot. It is true that He was chosen and foreordained (destined and foreknown for it) before the foundation of the world, but He was brought out to public view (made manifest) in these last days (at the end of the times) for the sake of you. Through Him you believe in (adhere to, rely on) God, Who raised Him up from the dead and gave Him honor and glory, so that your faith and hope are [centered and rest] in God. Since by your obedience to the Truth through the [Holy ] Spirit you have purified your hearts for the sincere affection of the brethren, [see that you] love one another fervently from a pure heart. You have been regenerated (born again), not from a mortal origin (seed, sperm), but from one that is immortal by the ever living and lasting Word of God. For all flesh (mankind) is like grass, and all its glory (honor) like [the] flower of grass. The grass withers and the flower drops off, But the Word of the Lord (divine instruction, the Gospel) endures forever. And this Word is the good news which was preached to you. [Isa. 40:6-9.]” 1Peter 1 Entire Chapter, Amplified

It’s a Great Day to Be New!


“If we’re growing, we’re always going to be out of our comfort zone.” John Maxwell

Right now I have a packet of seeds, several packets in fact, sitting in front of me on my desk. Have you ever looked at a seed, to simply marvel at the size of it? Even a very large seed, like from an avocado, is small when you take the time to consider the possibility and potential that lies inside. A seed on its own doesn’t usually give much of an indication of the eventual fruit of the tree or plant it will become. The majority of seeds are dry, sometimes withered, unattractive, and easy to discount, easy to overlook. I have never once felt hungry when looking at the seed of a watermelon or tomato or orange. I have never looked at an acorn or maple seed and thought, “Now that is some lovely shade.” There is a lot of time and work required to get anything of value out of a seed of any kind. Time……Work…..Time and work…….Hmmmmmmm…….. Did I lose anyone? 🙂

A funny thing about these seed packets is that they all look the same. They’re all about the same size and color. Some are slightly heavier or thicker, but for the most part, they are all the same: packets of potential. On the paper is printed the seed names, instructions for best results, and a hand-drawn picture of the expected plants lying dormant inside each one of them. (I love botanical prints, but that doesn’t really come into this post much. 😉 )

Each one of us, living on this Earth, is like a seed packet. Some of us contain the seed for great works, or beauty, or development, or discovery. Some of us contain the seeds to nurture and care for those around us, or lead, or inspire, or protect. Each of us, no matter what out outsides may look like, where we may live, what we believe, or who we love, or fear, or mistrust, have inside of us the seeds of who we were meant to be. Not all of those seeds will grow. Many will be poisoned by life and sin and choices of our own and others until we stop believing that there was ever anything good or helpful or wholesome or even worthwhile inside of us. Some of us will grow weary with the strange and capricious weather of the world and opt to not plant our seeds. Why risk the heartache and the long years of work and waiting to see if one or two of our dreams may come to pass? It’s too much to hope for. It’s too hard. Its too…..I’m not….They don’t care anyway. Who needs ________________ really?

STOP. Just stop and listen to yourself! What would have happened if the greats had said this and taken no and wait for answers to their burning questions?? Our world is a hard place to live now. Think about how much harder it would have been without the brave souls who paid the price necessary to plant their seeds! Do you think there’s no cost when you plant a seed? You just dig a hole, put the seed in the hole, cover it up with soil, and walk away?

What about the seed, leaving a safe place for the dark unknown, where there is mess and regular dealings with garbage, manure (to put it nicely), and all manner of threat from above and below? AFTER a lot of watering and sheltering, this most fragile living thing finally emerges weak, twisted, and STILL not anything like it’s potential promises. One seedling looks pretty much like any other. They are all delicate, sensitive, and easily discouraged or even killed. This is the fate of embryonic dreams. When we finally have the courage to go ahead and plant them, very often they seem to disappear and we wait an interminable amount of time for them to finally show some signs of hey-I’m-not-crazy-after-all! Patience is hard. We want what we want and we want it NOW!! There was no waiting involved in your imagination when the dream first come to you. There was no hard work or try, try, trying again. What gives? Now in the sick and weary world our dreams are held up for scrutiny and ridicule even by those we most love and that hurts very much. There are even times when we may forget what we even planted. (Wait, is this row radishes or rutabagas? *Author’s note: I will NEVER, EVER plant rutabagas in my garden. Also why is it spelled rutabagas when you pronounce it root-a-beggas? Anyway, moving on.*)

Some people would tell you that labeling your rows is just plain old common sense. I expect most serious gardeners would. I often forget to mark my seeds, or the kids move them, or play with them, or for Heaven’s sake eat them (who knows?)! I find this to be true quite a lot, and not only when it comes to the garden. I find myself distracted by life and the turmoil that comes with raising a big family, let alone dealing with my own inner turmoil and fears and sense of inadequacy as a woman, mom, and wife? I mislay my dreams and hopes and goals. Sometimes I mislabel them, like when I was still a single mom waiting for Mr. Wonderful. I labeled my hopes “Mr. Right”. I should have labeled them “Mr. Right-for-ME”. Alongside that goal, I should have also placed a marker for “Healthier, Happier, Self”.  That crop had to mature a bit first. (Take note, lonely single people.)

Set goals for your dreams. Measure their growth in benchmarks. Keep track of your hopes and dreams. Never forget how far you’ve already come! You are a packet of potential! It’s up to you to show the world what you have inside!

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but [only] one receives the prize? So run [your race] that you may lay hold [of the prize] and make it yours. Now every athlete who goes into training conducts himself temperately and restricts himself in all things. They do it to win a wreath that will soon wither, but we [do it to receive a crown of eternal blessedness] that cannot wither. Therefore I do not run uncertainly (without definite aim). I do not box like one beating the air and striking without an adversary. But [like a boxer] I buffet my body [handle it roughly, discipline it by hardships] and subdue it, for fear that after proclaiming to others the Gospel and things pertaining to it, I myself should become unfit [not stand the test, be unapproved and rejected as a counterfeit].”  1 Corinthians 9:24-27 Amplified 

Fortune Favors the Prepared


You had better live your best and act your best and think your best today; for today is the sure preparation for tomorrow and all the other tomorrows that follow.  Harriet Martineau

Remember the story of the Ants and the Grasshopper? It’s one of my favorites. The foolish grasshopper only wants to play and laughs at the ants as they “waste their time preparing for winter during the warm summer months. They don’t get to enjoy themselves. They don’t have any fun. Soon enough the snow falls and the ants are inside their well-stocked homes, warm and well fed, as the storms rage outside. The grasshopper, poor thing, soon enough comes to realize that his playing has sealed his fate, and sadly freezes to death.

I am always reminded of this fable whenever the weather starts to change in preparation for fall. It is almost time for the kids to return to school. It is almost time to dust off all the soups and stews and cold weather recipes. It is time to start the yearly battening down of the hatches. Time to take stock of our food and the condition of our homes and automobiles and wardrobes has come. We still have the last little bit of summer in some places. We still have a little more time. There is still something to be said for hard work and the payments we receive for our investment in it.

This was brought on, in part, by a certain smell in the air and feel of the wind…..not to mention the fact that there was wind at all. Fall is on it’s way, and change is in the air, again.  A friend and neighbor posted something about her apple trees and tomato plants and preparing for their harvests. We used to live in a house with more apples and pears in the fall than we knew what to do with them. We miss them dreadfully now, of course. It would be wonderful to enjoy the same kind of bounty again.  (Hey, I’m always up for sharing.)

As we think about being prepared, working toward it, planning for it, we must eventually realize that there is more to our lives than our homes and cars and wardrobes and pantries. In the same way, there is more to a person’s life than their day in day out sleeping, eating, working, playing cycle. We are more than we are on the outside, and our insides could do with a bit of preparing as well. This doesn’t have to be the mule at the flour mill daily trudge many of us picture. Our soul and spirit’s preparing can be a wondrous journey full of adventure, discovery, and yes, challenging ourselves to stretch, stretch, stretch! Think of it as the beautification of the inside of yourself, which will eventually be so radiant as to shine out through the windows and give light to those around you.

In your relationships, your personal feelings about yourself and your ultimate worth, your willingness to forgive and be forgiven, and your views of God and the universe around you, your investments of time and study and working things through for yourself (or lack thereof) will bring fruit of their own. You may not ever learn the exact answers or gain perfect understanding in this life, but you can make a good start. Don’t leave the preparation of your inner self on the back burner until it’s too late!

And He said to all, If any person wills to come after Me, let him deny himself [disown himself, forget, lose sight of himself and his own interests, refuse and give up himself] and take up his cross daily and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying also].For whoever would preserve his life and save it will lose and destroy it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he will preserve and save it [from the penalty of eternal death].For what does it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and ruins or forfeits (loses) himself?Because whoever is ashamed of Me and of My teachings, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in the [threefold] glory (the splendor and majesty) of Himself and of the Father and of the holy angels. ” Luke 9:23-26

 

Echos of Eden


Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf,
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day
Nothing gold can stay.

– Nothing Gold Can Stay, by Robert Frost

When spring rolls around every year, I find myself wanting a garden. Not just any garden will do, either. I want a magnificent Eden, full of the vast array and color spectrum contained in nature. I want plants to look at and plants to eat, preferably all of them beautifully arranged and accessible.  I can definitely relate to Tolkien’s Hobbits when they are described as loving all things that grow. There is just something so satisfying in watching things that you have planted grow from seeds into full maturity as plants or various kinds. My son once grew a single tomato plant from seed that was still growing,  producing and flowering at our 3500 ft elevation when we first started getting frost. (It was a Pompeii tomato, in case you were interested.) Gardening is interesting for all ages. Is it maybe because we began that way?

There are a lot of folksy sayings about when to plant this or that, how to tell if your garden is doing well, when to harvest, etc. Growing food, flowers, or any kind of plant really, just seems to be party of our basic nature. There is such a huge movement toward going green, getting back to nature, organic self-sustaining living, and on and on. At the same time that we are moving away from older ways of doing things and modernizing, it seems many people are realizing the wisdom of looking back to former generations’ wisdom and ways.

It seems to me that if we are realizing the wisdom of doing certain things for ourselves again because it worked well once and still works now, we might want to consider many of the other things that were once standard operating procedure. Things like loyalty, honesty, fairness, justice, and unselfishness might seem outdated or passe, but these values were once just the way things were. It was just the way people behaved. You could count on it like the sun rising in the morning. Perhaps, instead of bemoaning the cruelty and insane selfishness that seems to be the daily diet served up by the evening news, you can be someone who makes a difference for the better. Maybe, if we all lived our lives in parallel to another old-fashioned concept known as the Golden Rule, no matter what the color or preferences or beliefs of the people you encounter everyday whether in person or online (those online avatars represent actual people just like you and me, after all); maybe if we remembered that our ears were made to always be open, but our mouths can actually close from time to time (and should); maybe if we listened to our grandmothers and Thumper’s father “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all”; if we all acted the way we say we want everyone else to…..we would all live in a much happier world overall.

The next time you are tempted to think of something as “old-fashioned” and therefore no longer valid, remember that many of the things we are missing in this world were voted out, modernized, or made unpopular a little bit at a time, until we all learned the bittersweet lesson to be careful what we wish for. Sometimes we get it, and it is a good thing, true. Hand-in-hand with getting our way are the consequences of getting our way, however; and all the political filibustering and campaigning and white-washing and spin-doctoring in the world cannot make things different (in reality) than they actually are. Until we reach a day when “the former things are passed away”, we might just take a look backward from time to time at some of the tried-and-true and see what we’ve been missing.

At any rate, I went online and ordered more seed and plant catalogs than I can possibly use this season. We are in our own home at last, only renting, but nonetheless I want to be able to dream my Hobbity dreams and plan and imagine my perfect garden. I always daydream about a space MUCH bigger than the one I am actually able to use. I don’t ever accomplish the things I imagine, but I go on imagining all the same. Maybe a lot of us just need to find a place like Eden inside of our imaginations where we can go and walk when things get a little too modern and impersonal for comfort.

Thus says the Lord God: In the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities I will [also] cause [Israel’s] cities to be inhabited, and the waste places shall be rebuilt. And the desolate land shall be tilled, that which had lain desolate in the sight of all who passed by. And they shall say, This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden, and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are fortified and inhabited. Then the nations that are left round about you shall know that I the Lord have rebuilt the ruined places and replanted that which was desolate. I the Lord have spoken it, and I will do it. – Ezekiel 36:33-36

 

 

Nature’s first green is gold, Her hardest hue to hold. Her early leaf’s a flower; But only so an hour. Then leaf subsides to leaf. So Eden sank to grief, So dawn goes down to day. Nothing gold can stay. – See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/19977#sthash.Wt06AMf6.dpuf

Hidden Surprises Along the Way


“When science finally locates the center of the universe, some people will be surprised to learn they’re not it.”- Bernard Bailey

Surprise can be a funny thing. People often say that they like surprises, love them even. The truth is, there is really no way to know what “it” is, until it’s too late. A wrapped present is intriguing to us. It represents possibilities, hopes, dreams, things longed for. Not all surprise packages contain things we enjoy, however. Who hasn’t received a gift from someone that didn’t quite “get” you?

[Disclaimer: Dear Person, you will know who you are. Please don’t be offended. I know your heart is as big as all outdoors. I am sure I have given my share of unexpected gifts as well. I still love you. :)]  I once received a Pepto-Bismol pink Snuggie. It looked for all the world like a thneed, straight out of the pages of Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax. At the time, I thought it was an odd gift. However, I know the individual who gave it intended it like a warm hug which would enable me to watch movies and snuggle my kids in greater comfort. (A very thoughtful thing indeed.) The appearance of the gift may have been unexpected. The thought behind it, however, was full of love.

Many of the “surprise packages” we receive during our lives can be mixed blessings; confusing, bewildering, frightening, and unexpected in the extreme. We may look at these surprises and wonder why this particular situation came our way. We may feel angry, jealous, rejected, abandoned and hurt. If we aren’t careful, however, we can miss the message behind the gift. Long periods of waiting can make us feel forgotten or unloved. Perhaps we should try to look past the details of the season we face and realize that patience can be a great ally, especially as we work toward our goals and dreams, many of which will require much patience, forbearance and tenacity on our parts. If we cannot learn to exercise patience while we wait for basic things, how will we ever be able to withstand the more difficult trials of life? Patience has a lot in common with hard work, which is another necessary thing for us to exercise as we grow in order to be able to handle the manifestation of our hopes and dreams. The easy-peasy, sit-back-and-watch-the-clouds-roll-by life does not accomplish anything. Sooner or later, you have to get up and do something, or you will see opportunities pass you by, along with the clouds.

Like Bilbo Baggins, we can use our fear of the unknown and distaste for anything that interrupts our status-quo, predictable comforts as an excuse to stay safe, and the same (which is the same thing as stunted), forever. We might daydream of things being new and different and exciting, but the reality is just too much work. Enter: Surprise Package A! As we open it, we find a CHALLENGE to our character and a BIG QUESTION MARK. What will become of our dashing hero now? Will they rise to the occasion, or turn tail and run? Will they fall in the trap, or skillfully avoid it? We know them now, but who will they become when it’s all said and done? Who will ANY of us become?? It all depends on how we handle surprises.

“So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses. When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.”  Galatians 5:16-26

Hope Deferred, and Deferred, and Deferred…


“Disappointment to a noble soul is what cold water is to burning metal; it strengthens, tempers, intensifies, but never destroys it.” Eliza Tabor

Where I live, there is a common saying that Spring has not arrived until the snow flattens the daffodils.  Let me tell you, it is as true as it is disappointing.  The lovely, cheerful yellows, oranges, and whites under a blanket of snow is a bittersweet beginning to the end of winter’s long, slow sleep. Winter can seem so long and drear, it is sometimes hard to remember that it lasts only for a time. Winter, however, is only a season, even in the mountains. Everything in nature tells us that nothing lasts forever. Winter eventually turns to spring, every time. The seeds that go into the ground eventually sprout and rise from the soil as young seedlings, already well on their way to become the dreamed-of plants we originally intended to plant in our gardens.

Life, like the natural seasons, has its times of growth, blooming, death, recovery, and most of all, waiting. Sometimes it seems we wait forever, until the day at last arrives when we see the fruit of our labor, tears, prayers, and long, sleepless nights. Our hopes and dreams usually follow a wait, as well as a lot of hard work and planning. We often have to implement a lot of changes and innovations to our old ways of thinking and doing and talking. We make new contacts, buy new things: clothes, tools, buildings, etc.  (Dreams are many and as varied as the people who dream them.) We also often lose weight, start exercising, add rooms on to our homes, build, begin, become.

Days, weeks, and sometimes years pass before we are able to see our dreams come true. Most likely, more time passes than we anticipate. More money is spent than was in our original budget. More work was necessary than our original estimate. Our plans alter as we prioritize and fix our sights on the future and the realization of our hopes and dreams. We do a lot of waiting… “One day”, we think.  “Someday”, we hope. “But when? But how? But how long??” we cry.

“And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, which had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any, came behind him, and touched the border of his garment: and immediately her issue of blood stanched. And Jesus said, Who touched me? When all denied, Peter and they that were with him said, Master, the multitude throng thee and press thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me? And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me. And when the woman saw that she was not hid, she came trembling, and falling down before him, she declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately. And he said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.” Luke 8:43-48
Twelve years is a long time to wait, especially when an unpleasant situation continues to take its toll. Scorn, ridicule, shame, and more were this woman’s food for thought for twelve long, and exhausting years. Outcast and broken both physically and financially, she encountered Jesus, and followed in his wake until she was able, perhaps during a pause in his gait, to grab hold of just the smallest part of his clothing. She believed that even a brief encounter could change her life and make her whole. She was at first afraid of what she had done, but hoped on in spite of her boldness and the social impropriety of what she had done. Her shocking presumption to touch a man who was not her husband was met, not with a frown or yet more derision, but with the love of a Savior, whose purpose was to seek and save what was lost. (Luke 19:10)
You are probably waiting for something today. You may have been waiting for a really long time. The continued waiting is probably frustrating, wearing, and discouraging to you and the people who wait with you.
Be encouraged. The snow WILL melt. Spring WILL come. One day will eventually be TO-DAY. Your waiting will not last forever.