“Do You Love Me That Much?” – Poem from 2009

View from the upper deck this morning.

God blessed our family with the home we own a little over 13 years ago. It’s a long story, but let’s just say we got our property that fit all our needs and then over and above through a bankruptcy auction at the price we could afford for much less than appraised value. It was our ticket out of a small earth contact home with no windows and a yard with no grass. The Earth Contact/ basement home was basically as 13 year old son at the time called it “a Hobbit hole” Thank you “Lord of the Rings”.

There are so many features of our home that fit all the things I had dreamed of that I won’t list right now, but let’s just say God truly Blessed us.
Probably the one feature that I did not realize I would love so much was the East facing upper deck and the West facing deck. I didn’t know as a busy mom of four how much I needed to slow down and watch the Sunrise and Sunset, but God did. Off and on through the years I’ve spent time in the early morning sitting on the Upper Deck with a cup of coffee watching the sunrise with Jesus, a practice I would do well to not get out of. However, as someone who occasionally loses focus on what’s important, I have been out of that practice for awhile.

This morning I was up bright and early, 5 am. As I sat in my recliner with my Bible, drinking a cup of coffee, I looked out the window at the darkness with a hint of light starting to appear. The only thing holding me back from taking advantage of the sunrise to come was my disdain for being cold, but I bundled up, took my coffee and a chair, and headed for the upper deck.
Phone in pocket, except for a couple of pictures that didn’t do it justice, me, Jesus, coffee, and the beautiful sensations of sunrise: the sounds, the smell, the sights. Wow! Have I missed it! And just praying, talking to God about how Blessed I am.

Years ago I was quite the poetry phenom. Ha ha. I wrote a lot of them. Not sure why that hasn’t been the case lately, Blogs seem to be the thing that bubbles up from the insides on the regular. I remembered a poem I wrote at least 12 years ago. Around the time we moved into this house with the perfectly placed decks. I wrote this thinking about how God cares about the smallest of details in our life to show His extravagant love. We sometimes miss it because we get so easily distracted by so many things. Like I tend to forget that God cared enough to meet the needs of my growing family, with an impossible deal, at the time we needed it most. He not only gave me a home I had dreamed about having, but blessed me with His daily display of his artistic expertise. He paints each sky I take the time to look at just to “Wow” me with His gifts to me to let me experience His love in small ways that I can understand if I take the time. I think He gets a kick out of it, and I on the other hand, can only sit there mind blown by how awesome He is and whisper to Him, “You’re Beautiful”.

Do You Love Me That Much?

Yes, I love you that much.
I delight in your joy.
I want to bless you with
Special gifts that you have longed for.

Yes, I love you that much.
I want to be close.
I want to hold you to my heart.
I long to feel you near.

Yes, I love you that much.
I've given you all that I have.
I've painted my heart for you in the sky.
My love song for you fills the air.

Yes, I love you that much.
I've created a dance.
Rest in my arms.
Follow my steps.

Yes, I love you that much.
I've held you in my heart.
I've wanted you throughout eternity.
I gave all of me so we would never part.

Yes, I love you that much.
I've given you sunrise in the morning
And sunset in the evening.
My love covers you.
You are my darling.

Yes, I love you that much.
I know it's hard for you to see.
How much my heart is for you.
How I long for you to be with me.

Wilderness Wandering

Several years ago me and God had this thing. That may sound a little strange at first, but hear me out. My house has an upstairs deck. It’s not very big, but it’s not easily accessible by my Great Pyrenees, and it faces East. It’s the perfect place to watch the sunrise without getting slobbered on on a beautiful Spring morning. Several years ago it was my spot that I went out on with a cup of coffee and my Bible, sometimes a blanket. I would pray and contemplate God and His goodness over my life. But I got busy… Busy homeschooling teens/ four kids, prepping for my volunteer work at church and in our homeschool community, keeping my house somewhat clean, the troups feed, etc… So even though I still maintained my quiet time or prayer and Bible reading in the morning, my moments of sunrise with Jesus went to the wayside.

As I’ve alluded to before in my blog, I’m in a new season in my life. All the indicators of this new season have been popping up all over: three of my four kids have graduated our homeschool, my oldest is married, my next one is engaged, my third is in college, my fourth is a junior and has a drivers license- never around , I’ve got a grandbaby, and I turned 50. I’ve felt a little lost here recently, a little bit like I’ve been wandering in a wilderness.

Today as I was reading my Bible. I came a cross a few verses that stuck out to me. Jeremiah 31:2-3 “This is what the Lord says: “The people who survive the sword will find favor in the wilderness; I will come to give rest to Israel.” The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”” The Message version puts it this way, “They found grace out in the desert(wilderness)…Israel, out looking for a place to rest, met God out looking for them!” Finding grace in the wilderness sounds pretty good to a person that feels like they’ve been wandering around in one here lately, and for a person who has been looking around trying to figure out how to rest, the assurance that God is out looking for me and gives rest freely is awesome.

I think from time to time in my 36 years of walking with the Lord I get myself off track. I forget what I am really seeking and find myself chasing after other stuff. The “other stuff” may not be all that bad, like the busyness of life: Raising a family, feeding the aforementioned family, cleaning house, church committments, community committments… not all bad. Sometimes it takes me waking up in a wilderness to show me I may have gotten a little off track.

The book of Hosea in the Bible is the story of a prophet who marries a prostitute. He loves the prostitute and tries to get her to quit running after her other lovers. It was a living illustration of what Israel was like to God. God loved Israel, and they continually ran after their other lovers, idols. I can see myself in that story too. I find myself too busy chasing other lovers and lose my way to the upper deck for “A Sunrise with Jesus”. Hosea records these words, “Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her.” Hosea 2:14. There are times it takes God leading us out into a spiritual “wilderness” to show us that our other “lovers” are not what will fulfill. The truth of the matter is God is not after all the things I can do… He is after me. He wants my heart, my love, my worship, my time…He wants me.

It hit me today after reading these verses, how much I’ve missed my “Sunrises with Jesus”. I may let my neck of the woods warm up a bit more before I head out the upper deck door, but I need that time to resume. It is in that place I can experience the rest of Jeremiah 31:2-3 I quoted above. “I have loved you with an everlasting love. I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” God’s love and HIs kindness are revealed to us when we take the time to slow down and “rest” in His presence, when we’re quiet and calm enough to be able to receive what He’s been offering us all along, Himself.

Responding to the Signs of the Times

(WARNING…Big word usage for End Times theories ahead. Stick with me there is a point in it.)

Eschatology (end times theology)  has not been my forte… I was raised in a church that was amillennialistic, I’ve attended churches that were Post Millennialist, and I am currently going to a church that is Pre Millennialist.  If I sit there and give it some thought, I can see where each one of them is coming from and I can find things I agree on and disagree on.  So when it comes to End Times Theology, I land on this point. I believe Jesus is coming again.  I don’t know when that is or how it will all go down, but I know that I am ready and the last instruction Jesus gave to his disciples before He ascended was for them to receive the Holy Spirit and to be a witness of Him to their local home area, those areas around it, and then to the ends of the earth. Acts 1.   That is plenty for me to keep busy with in my area of the world and everywhere I may go.

Probably the one thing that really gets my goat when people start talking about Jesus coming is they approach it with this attitude that you feel like you should be hearing “Twilight Zone” music in the back ground and a spooky voice saying, “You know, Jesus is coming…”  It’s like they’ve got to scare you with the fact.  Major earthquake occurs, “Jesus is coming…”(scary tone applied to quote).  Giant tornado rips through a major city, “Jesus is coming…”(apocalyptic fear applied) And now the current news, a global pandemic… “Jesus is coming… BOO!”  To me the fact that Jesus is coming is not something to scare my neighbor with.  It is something I should eagerly anticipate. Something I should be so excited about that it leaks out on those around me.  He is coming, I am excited, time to prepare.

When my husband and I were dating 28 years ago about this time of the year, he lived in a town about 1 1/2 hours from where I lived.  It was the dinosaur age of phones.  There was this thing called long distance, that if he called me or vice versa, we would have to pay large fees just to talk for 10 minutes each night.  In fact, we learned that one the hard way.  He had to sell his favorite guitar to pay a phone bill that we racked up talking each night.  We just wanted to be together.  So every weekend as soon as he could get free, he would hop in his car and drive to where I lived to see me.  I knew he was coming sometime that evening.  So I would try to be ready.  Hair fixed just so, make up on, the cutest outfit I could find.  I would watch and wait to see his little red car driving up.  I wasn’t scared in the least bit at his arrival. I anticipated it.  THAT is the kind of feeling I want to find in myself as I anticipate Jesus and His return.

I have been reading a weekly devotion this year, Secrets of the Secret Place  by Bob Sorge. This week I have been contemplating chapter 14 “The Secret of Watching”. Watching for Jesus… It’s just like me watching for my love 28 years ago.  Watching is not out of fear that at the last moment I get my ducks in a row because the past 49 years I have wanted to do my own thing and now the signs of Jesus coming has increased. I better get ready… Watching is “I am soooo in love with Jesus right now.  I want to be with Him.  Is that the possible sound of Him coming my way?”  Interpreting the signs of the times is for me to have a better perspective of how to show people this Jesus I am so enamored with.  in Luke 12:54-56 Jesus talked about how the people of his time were able to “see a cloud rising in the west, and immediately say ‘It’s going to rain’ and it does.” Or they could feel the “south wind blow and say its going to be hot.” and it was.  But they could not interpret “this present time”.

Global Pandemic, National unrest, International Terrorism, Natural disasters, etc.  That’s what preoccupies our news.  Going to the grocery store in my town, shows the fear and unrest that preoccupies my corner of the world.  I can look at the “clouds and the winds blowing” in a figurative speech.  It is time for me to interpret “this present time”.  My interpretation is that this is not the time to scare your neighbor to repentance.  Now is the time to be the light.  Now is the time to show the Hope, the Peace, the Love that has been inside of us ever since we encountered the Lover of our souls, Jesus.  “It’s the kindness of God that leads us to repentance.” Romans 2:4.  People are scared. Offer them the cure for the fear that is eating away at their broken hearts.  Let them know how you have found the One who not only holds peace for today, but who walks with you no matter where you go.  The power of sickness and death are conquered in Him.  We don’t have to fear. That is what the world needs to hear now.  Not “get right or get left.” “Turn or burn”.  But show them the love that conquered death on Resurrection Sunday so many years ago, and now He has given us GREAT Hope in a time when uncertainty and fear abounds.

Life on this Potter’s Wheel (April 2011)

Sunshine today!! Finally! I can’t express how happy that made me feel. I went out to my place of contemplation, my driveway. My drive is 1/8 of a mile long. I can’t tell you how many trips up and down my drive I’ve made in the 12 years we’ve lived here. It’s been a place of solace when I’ve faced some of my toughest challenges. I’ve walked, thought, and prayed a lot on that stretch of gravel.

Today I was reflecting on just that. As I prayed, I thought about all the things that I’ve prayed about as I’ve walked up and down that drive: sanity to survive head lice on my tween daughter’s heads, grief overwhelming in the days following my father in law and nephew’s deaths 14 days apart, struggles of my adult kids in recent years, my family, my mind…

I remembered a poem I wrote in 2011 during the height of my father in laws struggle with cancer. It was a reflection on how our world spins round and round day after day, and here I sit on it. I am like a lump of clay on a spinning wheel. The pressures of life, unpleasant as they are at times, are shaping me and making me to the very thing I am supposed to be.

This whole Covid-19 thing wears on me at times. I’m probably watching the news a little too much. I’m not a fan of the changes to my life and schedule. Honestly the changes I feel are mild compared to the others in our world and nation that are suffering much worse than my mere inconveniences. My prayers ended on this note: “I’m not sure what you’re doing, and I’m not sure I like it. What exactly are you doing to me?” And like I always seem to conclude I came up with, “I don’t understand You or Your ways, but I know You are good. I will trust You.”

Life on this Potter’s Wheel – originally written April 2011

Life on the Potter’s Wheel

Is sometimes not fun at all

The tools You use to shape me

Dig deep as unholy falls.

You mold me and shape me

As I am sitting very still

My world seems unsettled

As I am turning on this Potter’s Wheel

Trusting and accepting

What You are making me to be

Is the crux of the battle

As I sit here while You’re molding me.

In the Hands of the Potter

Is the safest place I can be

He knows what He’s doing

Even when I can barely see.

Your strength and Your wisdom

Is making me what I should be.

I am thankful and comforted

As Your hands are molding me.

The Unchanging God in Uncertain Times

I’m not a fan of change big or small. I’m the kind of person that would happily leave my furniture in the same arrangement for 12 years. I’m a big fan of stability and consistency, and for the past couple of years, especially the recent week, my life has been anything but that. My plans, my schedule, my daily routine: all up in smoke… I’ve been left sitting here this morning talking to God about it all.

I would probably say the biggest upheaval in my life, until the past 2 weeks, had been 9/11. It all occurred at a time when I had three kids ages 1, 3, and 6. The uncertainty of war, terrorist attacks, the presence of evil in my world, etc. Left a young mother of three afraid, but trying to hold it together and not let it show. I knew I had a job at hand, raising my kids, and I would need to carry on no matter what was my adversity that had arisen.

The upheaval since the corona virus has rivaled, if not surpassed that. Except now I am a mother of three young adults and a sixteen year old. We are all old enough to hear the news, talk to our peers, and observe our world. It’s easy to see and feel the uncertainty of this hour. Three of those kids are at home riding out the initial storm for the next 3 weeks or more. It’s an adjustment. We’ve probably not seen this kind of together time since the head lice outbreak when they were young. Ha ha. So this leads me back to my current situation of uncertainty, instability, and change. Pressure…

Last night as I scrolled through Facebook, I noticed a post of a young mother about the age I was when 9/11 happened. She said, “I was surprisingly doing a really great job of holding it together. Now, however, I am panicking. What are we to do?” It brought me back to that Tuesday night almost 19 years ago. How I felt the weight of taking care of my family, protecting my kids, and trying to survive. If I am truthful, I feel the same weight again today. I spent a lot of time crying and praying back then, it would probably do me some good to spend time doing the same now.

When everything is good, and I am enjoying the wealth and prosperity of the country I love, It’s easy to get up and show up. When everything is uncertain, not so much. That’s where God comes in. It is good to remember that He is the God who sees me. He sees me where I am, and no storm whether it be physical, emotional, or spiritual can cloud His ability to see me, His child. He has not “left the building” so to speak. He is very present. He is very near.

My social life may be limited, my schedule turned upside down, my future uncertain, and my current living situation totally rearranged: God, however, has never changed. He has never left me. He has not abandoned His plans for me. These plans include a “future and a hope”. So I can trust all this to Him, and get to the business at hand: Finding His joy in my new set of circumstances, and shining His light in the clouds of uncertainty.

Which is why I wrote this Blog today. It’s probably very natural to feel fear in the face of the turbulence we are in. But our God is supernatural. He is above the storm. I want to let you know I’ve found peace in our current troubles. It is in knowing an Unchanging God, who sent Jesus to give us life beyond the temporary life here. The Holy Spirit in us provides the friendship that no quarantine can challenge. It is this God that gives the certainty of His love in uncertain times, and I am sure that 19 years from now, just as it is almost 19 years ago when 9/11 happened. We will look back at these times and be able to speak of His faithfulness to the younger generations that did not walk through the Covid-19 pandemic just as I can speak of God’s faithfulness during the uncertainty of the days after 9/11. Because God’s friendship is truly closer than a brother, and He will see us through it all. Trust in Him.

Nothing But Blue Sky Above the Storm

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Colossians 3:1-2 NIV

Wow! What a week! At the beginning of the week, I was scrolling through Facebook and saw a meme that said, “Time change, a full moon, Friday the 13th…What could possibly go wrong?” I laughed at the pile of superstitions heaped onto one week, and scrolled on. I don’t believe that any of that had any weight to bear on where we are after this week of frightening announcements and unprecedented actions of our leaders. Gazing at the “natural realm” after the past week could make it quite possible for a person to be left shaking in their boots. But I can assure you that when I laid my head on my pillow last night I slept with perfect peace. Because I am assured that my God is in absolute control, and I know He cares for me.

I’ve openly shared in this blog that I struggle with the thoughts in my mind.  I think that’s pretty common for the human condition. It’s a struggle that I have, at times, felt very defeated in. I have tried so many different techniques to try to conquer the fears, anxiety, and at times torments that have existed in my mind. Some successful, some not so much… Recently, I have been approaching the fight with an all weapons out approach. Everything from uplifting music, self-care, and exercise, to Bible meditation, Bible study, prayer, counseling, etc. It really seems to help. One of the videos I watched recently on focusing our thoughts has had a profound impact on me.  Especially after taking the little gem of information it held and combining it with what the Word of God says.  

The video pointed out how our minds are like the blue sky. Occasionally we see a peaceful little cloud float by and that doesn’t bother us so bad because we can still see the blue.  However, there are times that storms rage and it seems the blue sky has disappeared, but just like an airplane can rise above the storms and see the blue again we know the blue is always there.  

I like this illustration better when I put God into the equation.  My mind focused on Christ is like the blue sky.  It’s the mind “set on Christ, Things above.” Occasionally cute little white clouds float by and get my attention.  They may be daily interactions with loved ones that are seemingly unspiritual, enjoying a cookie, laughing at a funny meme on Facebook etc.  I notice them, but over all the blue sky (Jesus) is the main focus of my mind.  Occasionally a storm starts to blow.  As it comes in, I find myself unable to see the blue sky (Jesus) and focus on it.  I know deep in my heart He is there somewhere.  But the Holy Spirit has given me the power to rise above the storm of my mind. He is the airplane that can help me to fly above the clouds and once again see the blue sky, Jesus, having confidence that the storm will pass in time.  But HE, Jesus, the blue sky will never leave me. 

I went grocery shopping Thursday morning, as the fears of COVID 19 were starting to ramp up in my area of the Nation. I was amazed at the similarities in the over all moods of my co-shoppers that were with me and the moods of the co-shoppers I felt the evening of 9/11/2001 when I went to Walmart, the somberness, anxiousness, etc. It seems that the over all feelings of uncertainty, panic, and being out of control had hit everyone. As I was checking out, I heard an older gentleman talking to his checker and discussing the current situation. After a few words, he said, “We don’t have to fear. God is in control.” He had his mind set on the “Blue sky- Jesus” that reigns above the storm. That impressed upon me the importance of this moment we live in. While talking to my kids that remain at home, trying to give them a sense of stability in a tumultuous week, where their social lives and school lives have been wrought with changes, not to mention, dad coming home to work for several weeks (something they have never seen), I quoted a Bible verse. “Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14 NKJV

This is our time to shine! It is the time I can point out how I have found peace in a mind that struggles. It is a time that I can speak peace to my neighbors, friends, and family that surround me. Jesus is the blue sky above the storm, whether it be anxious thoughts in my mind, or a global pandemic. I can rest in Him. Could I or someone I love suffer in the upcoming weeks? Yes, that is a possibility, but I know that Jesus is the healer. Whether HE steps in a physically heals our afflictions, or I stand face to face with Him in the time of my death. (Not that I’m afraid I’ll get sick and die). I am with Him. I can be at peace. I can let my mind rise above the clouds that try to keep it constrained, and fly high in the blue sky of God’s love knowing that He cares for me. I can be free from fear.

Peace Flowers Sprouting in My Mind

“It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” I’m pretty sure that quote was about the weather in Missouri. Monday this week was almost 70 degrees, by Wednesday we had 4 inches of snow.

I value my sunshine. I probably have a touch of S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder) if I’m honest about it. I’m a warm weather, sunny day, good mood kind of person, which might necessitate a move down South when my husband retires, or at least a yearly Caribbean cruise in February. (hint, hint if you’re reading this Rich)

Anyway, during my one warm day I took a walk around and looked at my different flower beds which I discovered last year that I actually like working in and that I might possibly have a green thumb. (Long story). I noticed that I had some plants coming up. Plants from some Amaryllis belladonna “Naked Ladies” bulbs my son and I planted last spring. I was surprised to see them because the situation for that particular area I planted wasn’t the greatest, it didn’t drain well and was overrun with weeds at the end of summer. So, I chalked it up to a flower gardening fail. When I looked down and saw the small green plants poking through the soil, I thought of the verses in Galatians 6:7-9 “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. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” What I planted really did come up even if I gave up.

I’ve been contemplating these verses a lot this week.  Mainly because it’s a part of a devotion book I’m reading Secrets of the Secret Place by Bob Sorge.  He was talking about how our time spent with God was like planting seeds.  If we are faithful to plant them, God is faithful to grow His character in us.  As he puts it, “This kind of sowing will produce a harvest in your walk with Him. It will change you and, in turn, begin to affect everything around you.” 

That’s exactly what I need. I’ve been looking at the things I struggle with mainly anxiety and depression, and how I long for God to bring out His fruit in my life: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Gentleness, Goodness, and Self-Control. So, I began to think about what kind of Seed I need to plant into my heart and mind to take the place of the weeds of anxiety and depression the enemy has sown. Where do I need to fix my mind when it tries to spiral down that path? I was reminded of another verse.
Isaiah 26:3 “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you.” Back when I was in high school, I stumbled across this verse and committed it to memory. I remember it being a source of comfort when I struggled then with the fears of What will I become? Where will I go? Etc. Typical teen stuff. It was what I needed then, but it is also what I need now.

Joyce Meyer wrote a book called, The Battlefield of the Mind. There’s a lot of truth conveyed in that title. My mind is a battlefield, and it’s not a war that will stop after a few good fights.  I will have to fight for my peace and my freedom within my mind until I stand face to face with Jesus.  I’ve got to decide if my happiness and joy is worth the effort to fight for it.  If so, how will I wage war? There are some victories that God gives us as we stand by and watch Him work with His power and glory.  But there are others that He wants us to take a stand in and rely on Him to arm us for battle.  

A few years ago, I began seeing a Christian Counselor for the struggles I have had within my mind. She’s given me a lot of practical ideas that help with my mood and attitude like exercise, sunshine, and gardening. But one thing she told me was how true Philippians 4:8 really is. “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things… And the God of peace will be with you.” She told me “It’s a matter of replacing the negative thoughts with the positive thoughts of God.”

I’m seeing a pattern here. If I am wanting to reap a harvest of peace, or see “peace flowers” come up in my mind, I need to keep my mind on the Prince of Peace, Jesus and think of all the qualities He has that are listed Philippians 4:8, and also because I am His, He has put these qualities within me. It might take a while, I may not see immediate result, and I can guarantee you that I’ve felt like many times that my mind was as ill prepared as the small flower garden area I planted the Naked Ladies Bulbs. But God assures me, What I plant I will get back. I can trust in Him to do just that. Keep looking. The green sprouts will eventually press their way through.

What’s Left After the Fire?

My grandparent’s house burnt when I was in fifth grade.  It was a total loss. It literally burnt to the ground.  They lived out in the country before the rural fire district covered their area.  No fire trucks came.  They stood out in the ice-cold December weather watching all they had worked for go up in flames. There was no home insurance on the property so they literally had to start from scratch and rebuild their lives. The generosity of neighbors and friends helped them to start the process, and within a few years they had regained much of what they lost.  

I can remember, as a kid being amazed at how everything was gone.  Grandpa and Grandma did manage to escape their house with a few belongings: a tv, a few of my Grandma’s paintings she had made, and a sewing machine. But all the things that made their house, their house was only ashes.  I would walk around, dig in the ashes, and think that maybe I would find something of significance in the rubble, but I only found melted metal and glass.  It impacted me deeply to think about how quickly ever thing can be gone. Every thing with the exception of a stone wall that was part of the front of the house. It stood.

That old farm house had wiring issues that started the blaze in the attic.  It’s really no surprise that it smoldered and then burnt so quickly.  When it was built no fire-retardant materials were a consideration.  Sprinkler systems weren’t even an option.  In fact, the stories I recall of my grandparents standing outside the house thinking of their brand-new smoke detector (the first they had ever owned) still in the box, and how they made it out alive by “chance” that Grandpa happened to look up in a certain area of the house and see flames leaping, was kind of amazing in my child like mind.  After all, it was the early 80’s technology, as we know it, was just in it’s beginning stages and home fire protection was a new thing so smoke detectors weren’t as common. 

This morning I have been reflecting on 1 Corinthians 3:11-15. TPT and how it applies to my life.  “For no one is empowered to lay an alternative foundation other than the good foundation that exists, which is Jesus Christ! The quality of materials used by anyone building on this foundation will soon be made apparent, whether it has been built with gold, silver, and costly stones, or wood, hay, and straw. Their work will soon become evident, for the Day will make it clear, because it will be revealed by blazing fire! And the fire will test and prove the workmanship of each builder. If his work stands the test of fire, he will be rewarded.  If his work is consumed by the fire, he will suffer great loss. Yet he himself will barely escape destruction, like one being rescued out of a burning house.” My grandparents made it out, but had they not seen the coming danger that night as they went to bed, they very easily could have not. So many of us live our lives this way.  We carelessly allow the things that are not profitable to build our lives. Things that won’t stand the test of the fire of time.  We go along with our warning signals to impending danger, disconnected and laying away in a box.  We are content with the possibility of “barely escaping destruction” because we would rather build our houses our way than to spend our time consulting “The Master Builder” and asking Him for the eternal material to build our lives with. 

Our Master Builder, Jesus, wants us to prosper and to be built magnificently containing all the best of His life building materials he has available to us. The materials that withstands the hurricane force winds of life that will try to reduce us to a pile of rubble, or the flame retardant strong materials that deflects the leaping flames of trials and temptations that if allowed to catch fire to anything in our lives would quickly leave us with ashes, emptiness and smoldering smoke or a life in ruin. 

The choice is ours of whom we will have as the chief contractor of our lives: Jesus, the eternal builder, or ourselves, short sighted and ill equipped. 

The reality of the situation is that we will face the fire in some fashion or form.  The question is will what I have built be able to stand? Will I, at the end of my life, be able to look upon a building of fine materials that God placed within my walls? Or will I watch the hay and stubble of carelessness go up in flames and hope to escape with my shirt on my back?  The only way to be assured of these answers is to stay close to our Master Builder and watch diligently what I allow to build my life.  Because what He gives me to build with is very good, and because of His great love, His design for my life is perfect. 

 

Grandpa’s Radio and Lessons in Listening


My Grandpa was a welder and a machinist. He worked out of a shop on his farm in a small rural community. He loved to be in his shop. When I was little I always found it intriguing to go out to his shop and watch him weld. He would give me a mask and the sparks would fly. There was a distinct hum of busyness in his shop when he was in it. It would drown out the one constant noise that was always present whether Grandpa was there or not, a radio. Grandpa had the same old radio on day and night 24/7 in the room, on a shelf, next to his lathe. I guess it kept him company as he worked long hours. He loved to listen to the local news, the swap shop, and the local personalities as they broadcasted daily.

I’ve been reflecting this week on listening to God and hearing His voice. As I contemplated how much I need to listen for God to speak to me, I thought about Grandpa’s radio. So many times I would go to his shop and it was always playing. For decades it played, with exception of the occasional power outage. Sometimes I would hear it distinctly. But other times I would not hear it over the humming of Grandpa’s lathe or the banging of a hammer. However it was always there. I would hear it if I chose to listen.

God’s voice is similar to Grandpa’s radio. The humming of life drowns out His still small whisper. Not because the humming is more powerful, but because I choose to focus on it. Sometimes the banging and clatter of life’s messy circumstances try to drown out His voice as well. They try to distract me from turning my ear towards God. It’s easy to get distracted.

The point of all this is God definitely speaks. He promises me in no uncertain terms that it is possible to hear Him. In John 10:27, Jesus promises that “My sheep hear my voice…”. It’s the way He has designed this relationship. He is the good Shepherd who calls to me and I am the sheep who hears. In fact, He encourages “Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear.” He wants us to listen to Him because what He speaks are words of life. I am the one who must pause and listen to hear what He has to say.

One of the voices that tends to shut out His words of life and peace is the voice of anxiety that tends to bang and clamor louder than Grandpa’s hammer on a busy work day. It not only shouts, but it consistently nags from inside distracting from the joy and peace that Jesus died and rose again to give. The thing about it is it can take willful practice to learn how to tune it out and switch the channel in your mind and heart to listen to the good voice of the Prince of Peace. For me, it takes a daily time sitting in the still of my house before everyone wakes up and my day hums at a volume louder than the constant quiet sounds of the gentle ticking of my wall clock or the air quietly blowing through our heat ducts. I sit in that quiet place and read a scripture and listen. Pretty soon I can focus in on His voice that has always been there. That same beautiful voice has the power to silence the storms inside and outside of me. The Gentle voice of Peace, Love, Joy, and Goodness has never stopped speaking to me. It was that He was only waiting for me to focus in and listen. Like I did many times as I stood in the open door of Grandpa’s shop wondering if what turned into a legend among us grandkids was true. “Does Grandpa’s radio always play?” Yes it does. It is a constant. His radio never was shut off. “Does God have something to say?” Yes He does. He never left me alone. I just need to listen.

Just Come

I tend to complicate things, and sometimes the image I present to you may become more important than the content of my heart. I want you to see the good things about me. Especially when I present it on social media. You would know I am having the worst possible day of my life if I posted a status of “having a horrible day, my life really stinks”. I reserve that kind of feeling and show for those closest to me, my inner circle. I want to put on a good show.

I believe that is how a lot of us approach God. We tend to base our relationship with Him on our external display of our piety. “Look at me God, I gave some money.” “Look at me God, I did a good deed. ” “Look at me God, I am sacrificing my time, talents, and abilities in Church programs to prove my devotion to you.”

Our displays of devotion are microcosms of displays that other “devotees” around the world put forward to try to “pay” the price to somehow make themselves right.

Years ago I was struck by images I saw of a group of Filipinos on Good Friday. They tried to show their devotion to God by literal self flagellation and ultimately crucifying each other. I was shocked at how the report said these poor people would crawl on hands and knees for miles to a church to offer their acts of penance to God in hopes of His acceptance of them. “Here I am God. Look how much devotions I have. I have beaten myself, crawled for miles and allowed those around me to drive literal nails in my hands to display my devotion.”

So sad!

This morning I have been reflecting on Matthew 6:5-6 NIV in my time with God.

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Jesus spelled out in very plain words the way to approach Him: intimately as a child with their father in a private place, secretly. One on one.

There’s no set of rules, requirements, and expectations to be met. Simply come.

Come as you are afraid, doubting, and heartbroken. Trade these in, in the secret place for faith, boldness, and peace as you pour out your heart to Him. Nothing complicated or impossible. Simple humbleness before the One who desires to mold us and fashion us there in that secret place to be what He always intended for us to be.

I’m always awed by the size of a mustard seed. It is smaller than the font I have chosen to write this blog. Yet that is the size of what Jesus said our Faith could be and still move mountains. We are the ones who tend to complicate. We do so, so much that it sometimes paralyzes us to inaction. “I can never be enough for God so why try?” All the while He is waiting for us to Just come. Come with what little we have to that secret place with Him. Open our hearts to Him so that we find there the intimacy He literally died to give us.

No need to complicate things. No need to present an image to Him. He already knows. “Just come”.