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”.