Three Trees

It was a simple dream.  As far as I recall it’s the first time I’ve dreamed my blog.  I went to sleep Thursday night without any thought of the next day’s blog.  I awoke having dreamed about three trees.  

This is my simple dream:  It had been raining hard in the night.  The sky was busy with thunder bursts and flashes of white lightening.  Then morning came.  First dim light, then bright as the sun peeked over treetops onto fields of grass.  At the edge of one field stood several trees, three were toppled over.  In my dream it was obvious that high winds had knocked the trees right over, uprooting them completely as they fell.  Upon closer look, the roots were short, almost as if the very tall trees had no roots at all.  In my dream, it was obvious to me that the trees could not withstand the force of the storm because it had no strong roots to hold them in the ground.  I woke up.

I lay in bed several minutes.  I thanked the Lord for giving me this dream.  I asked Him to help me, and all my brothers and sisters in the Lord all around the world. to keep our root system healthy.  Psalm 1 reminds us that we are like trees.  It tells us plainly that if we meditate on the things of the Lord then we, “are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season.”  When the Lord is clearly the One upon whom we seek strength, courage, guidance, and wisdom, then the storms of life can whisk our branches around, but they cannot knock us over.  When we are standing tall in the Lord, no matter the tempest, we will get through filled with a tranquility that passes all understanding.

Whatever your storm today, if you feel you’re about to be knocked over, check out your root system.  Water them with God’s Holy Word.  His words are the living truth.  They withstand all storms.

The Rest Of The Story

My body.  My choice.  My rights.  My way.  The whole world is looking out for their own selves to the detriment of kindness and respect for one another.  Everywhere we look the attitude is me, me, and more of me.  Selfishness has taken over.  In the meantime, mental illness is on the rise, broken and dysfunctional families have become the norm, and outright hatred for others who don’t believe as we do is rampant.  Violence is reported on every news channel.  People go missing, parents are murdering their children, children are lacking respect for their parents and authority figures.  What in the world is happening all around us?  Has our arch enemy won?  Is evil really going to triumph over all?   

It is so easy to become disheartened when we focus on the world around us.  Our joy can be zapped away if we keep our eyesight on this current darkness.  We can spiral down into a pit of lost hope.  Is there a way to maintain joy and peace in the midst of our present chaos?  Oh, yes!

It’s all a matter of our focal point.  It’s a matter of knowing the rest of the story.  Jesus regularly warned His disciples that in this world there would be tribulations, but He went on to say, we can be of good cheer because He has overcome the world.  He also assured them that He would give His peace.  How does that work?

Lately I have been dwelling on the Old Testament verse, Isaiah 26:3 which reads, “You (the Lord Himself)  will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on you.”  You see, when troubles swirl around us, it’s human nature to dwell on those problems.  We try to think of ways to solve them.  We want to be rid of them so we think and think and think.  That’s human nature.  The thing is, as Christians we have something available to us that is far better than our human nature.  It’s a supernatural nature.  It’s the nature of Jesus Christ, and it’s available to us.  How do we acquire this supernatural nature?

When we receive Jesus Christ into our lives, the Holy Spirit comes to reside within.  Therefore, we have available to us, His own peace and courage and wisdom and joy.  We can function in that peace by what we meditate upon.  If we have troubles and fix our thoughts on those things that disturb us, then naturally turmoil will reign in our hearts.  If, on the other hand, we fix our thoughts on the One who is able to do above all we can even imagine, then supernaturally, Holy joy and peace will sit on the throne of our hearts.  

To maintain such spiritual focus takes practice.  Begin now.  Ask the Lord to keep thoughts of all that’s possible in Him, to settle in your being and rule your minds.  Peace will come.   

Lost and Found

Last week I got myself into a panic!  I own something that is very precious to me, which for a moment, I thought I had lost.  One item is a necklace that two people gave to me a few years ago.  Another item is a bracelet with matching earrings that another two people gave to me.  I have no idea the monetary value of these pieces of jewellery.  The cost is not what makes them precious; but rather, the value is in who gave them to me, and in why they gave them to me: because they love me, too!  The people who presented me with the gifts are treasures of my heart.  I love them dearly.  Hence, when I thought the items to be lost, deep disappointed weighed me down, and panic stirred in my emotions.  To tell the truth, I felt a bit sick!

Suddenly, an idea came to me.  I had been away for the weekend.  Knowing I wear these items every Sunday, I hoped that I had left them behind.  I sent a text to ask.  The minutes that passed seemed ages!  Suddenly a ding of the phone.  Oh, joy!  Ecstasy!  My precious necklace, bracelet and earrings, had been found!  No more words can adequately describe my relief.

I felt my face smiling all day long.  What had been lost was now found.  The joy stayed with me for days.  It was during these days that a thought came to me about how our Heavenly Father must feel when One of His children strays away.  He loves each of His children so very much.  He knows our frailties but loves us unconditionally anyway.  He plans for our future, daily gives us His own strength and peace, and shares in what gives us joy.  Then, sadly, one of His own turns away.  He or she loses sight of our Father’s perfect guidance, deciding instead, that they can make wiser choices.  To all intents and purposes, though still a child (once a child of God, always a child of God) that child is lost to Father’s perfect will for his or her life.

Can you imagine how Father must feel?  The child is so very precious to Him.  Valuable, not because of money, but because of the love-cost given by His own dear Son, Jesus, who died that every child of God could be adopted into His eternal family, with all its rights and privileges, never to be taken away.  We are created in God’s image; therefore, we know He feels sadness because we feel it.  Does He feel the weight of disappointment, like I did over my lost jewellery, when one of His sons or daughters drifts away?  Whatever the emotion of God, we know He speaks often of the love He has for His own.  Read Jeremiah 31:3, “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love.  With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.”

If anyone reading this happens to have drifted away, ask yourself right now, am I happier at this moment without Him, than I ever was with Him? Just go back.  You know He will always forgive.  You know He loves you immeasurably.  Just go back and experience great joy, together again.  

Parental Instructions

We will all remember parental instructions given to us as children.  Things like, “get away from that hot stove,” “stand up straight,” “always tell the truth,” “play nicely,” “study hard,” “always do your best,” “call me if you need anything.”  Some of those instructions we understood right away, but with other directions, we had to grow up a bit before comprehension sunk in.  Nonetheless, for those of us blessed with loving parents, we knew they had our best interests in their hearts.  They wanted to provide for us, keep us from harm, and train us to grow up into a person of good character with integrity..

Those thoughts came to me today as I was reading in Proverbs 4:10-13:  “My child, listen to me and do as I say, and you will have a long, good life.  I will teach you wisdom’s ways and lead you in straight paths.  When you walk, you won’t be held back; when you run, you won’t stumble.  Take hold of my instructions; don’t let them go.  Guard them, for they are the key to life.”

Isn’t that lovely parental advice from our heavenly Father?  Do you sense His care and desire to keep us safe?  Can you feel His yearning to provide for our needs and to lead us along the best paths for our lives?  Sometimes He says “yes” to our desires, while at other times He says “wait” or even “no.”  All His words to us, and everyone of His instructions, are designed to give us life and to give us life abundantly on earth, filled with peace, kept in love, and overflowing with joy that will go on and on and on.

Oh, to be a child of God, having such wonderful daily instructions for living.  What a wonderful, kind, wise, and loving Heavenly Father.

What I Did To My Mother

Many of you reading this will know that earlier this week my mother had a fall.  Her legs just quit working properly.  As it turned out, she was having a severe reaction to a medicinal drug she was taking.  It’s been 72 hours since she last took it and already her strength is returning.

You can imagine my own fright when I heard a crash and ran to find my mother lying on the bathroom floor.  My mind was racing with all sorts of scenarios.  Did she trip, slip, faint?  Her speech was slightly slurred.  She was confused.  Was she having a stroke or was this a reaction to shock?  Was it her heart?  

I put a towel under her head and encouraged her to be still.  Then, slowly, together we managed to get her up.  Holding onto me we got to the couch where she could sit and then lie down.  I talked to her doctor.  It seemed that indeed it was a drug reaction.  For the rest of the day she rested, holding onto me to guide her when she needed to get up for anything.

In the midst of this scary situation, we both ended up in giggles more than once.  There was the moment when I first got her to the couch.  I went to her bedroom to retrieve some pillows.  As I came near she let out a yelp!  I had stepped on her bare foot.  Declaring how sorry I was, I turned to put her pillows down, and knocked her on the side of her head with my elbow!  Once again, uttering my apologies, I pulled on her robe that was wadded up behind her, and nearly sent her flipping over!  I stepped back and said, “Mom, obviously I’m better with animals.”  She replied, “If I moo, neigh, or bark, will that help?”  Hysterical laughter broke out.  I was doubled over and Mom was laughing till her eyes watered.

I can honestly report that since then, taking extreme caution, I have managed NOT to step on, bash into, or flip my mother over.  She is recovering well — in spite of my help! 

I love the Bible teaching that God created us in His image.  That means that God laughs, too. I have often imagined Jesus laughing with His disciples over some exaggerated fishing tale.  It’s been proven by psychologists that laughter is physically and emotionally good for us. Of course, that discovery is no surprise.  God Himself recorded that fact for us over 2000 years ago in Proverbs 17:22: “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”

Whatever is happening in your world today.  Whether you are in fright, or time of worry, or tears come; somewhere in the midst — I hope you laugh.  

The Pecking Chicken

I have been laughing all week every time I think of something a friend sent to me.  Some of you will have seen it on Facebook.  It’s a cartoon picture of a hen. The caption reads, “I may look calm, but in my head I’ve already pecked you three times.”  I can so identify with this chicken!  Probably, we have all had our moments of putting on what I call, the plastic smile.  This particular frozen face fixture shows itself as a cover for what one is really feeling; something like, an arched eyebrow with lips parted which would properly communicate, “were you born a moron or did you acquire this trait at a later time in life?”  To actually say this would not be nice; hence, the calm hen look.

We have all learned how to be socially acceptable, to be polite, to be nice, to certainly not reveal, at times, the thoughts that are really going through our minds.  In most instances, we can acknowledge a simple clash of personality and just move on, but at other times, the desire to actually peck the irritating someone becomes overwhelming.  Sometimes, the irritation can grow into a bitterness that zaps away our inner peace and our ability to function as we should in other areas of our lives because our minds are too busy pecking!  What to do?!?!?

I’ll share something that I have watched my mother do my entire life.  She, like all of us, has had her share of dealing with irritating people.  Many times these people have been unkind to her.  When her own desires to go pecking would turn into an uncharitable yearning, she would say, “time to heap some coals.”  As a child I didn’t quite know what that meant.  As I grew older I understood.  She was quoting from Romans 12:17-21: “Repay no one evil for evil.  Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.  If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.  Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give righteous place to wrath, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine.  I will repay,’ says the Lord.  Therefore, if your enemy is hungry, feed him.  If he is thirsty, give him a drink.  For in so doing, you will heap coals of fire on his head.  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  

As the years passed by I gained a deeper understanding.  This “heaping coals” through showing kindness, wasn’t just something good for the offending person, but it was wonderful for anyone exercising this attitude.  I discovered myself, that instead of deliciously picturing a pecking episode in my mind, if I alternatively pictured some kind word or action, the irritation that had taken hold of me would ease away.  

Being overcome with thoughts of pecking never turns into anything wonderful.  Being overcome with determination to show simple kindness, amazingly, does a world of goodness to both sides.  As the above instruction tells us: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

On Coyote Patrol

I know I keep talking about cows – “our” cows.  We love watching them munching in the pastures surrounding our cabin and taking their dips to cool themselves in the water.  Every morning we sit on the porch, rocking in our chairs, and peering out beyond the dock to the banks watching our cows ease in and out of the water.  We have given some of them names and we have come to know which calf belongs to which mother.

Yesterday we had a fright!  Several cows were in the water while others in the herd, having finished their dips, were wandering away.  Suddenly I sat upright, alert, narrowing my eyes to make certain I was seeing what I thought I was seeing.  Yes.  I was right.  “Mom!” I called, “coyotes!”  There, peeking from a clump of trees was the white colored neck of, first one, and then another, and then five coyotes, tan in color, stepping into full view.  One of the smaller calves was strolling right to them, seemingly unaware of the coyotes presence.  

I whispered to my mother that I would slip inside, grab a pistol, and return to shoot in the air. That would scare the coyotes away and keep our cows safe.  I had no intention to harm the coyotes, just to protect our herd.  I stood, but my movement did not go unnoticed by the coyotes.  Just as quickly as they had appeared, they ducked back into the trees and we never saw them again.  The small calf finally returned to the herd causing my mother and me to exhale with sweet relief.

These are not our cows. They belong to the friends who have loaned us their cabin for our stay in the States.  Even so, in our hearts, we have adopted this herd.  Therefore, we feel a protectiveness toward them.  We love loving our cows.  We want to do anything we can to care for them and just to enjoy them.

I am warmed in my heart to think that when each one of us becomes a child of God, that He, too, like a good Father to His children, keeps a watchful eye upon us. We are told in Scripture that when we receive Jesus as our Savior, that we are then adopted into His family.  We are His.  We belong to Him forever.  In Luke 13:34, as Jesus was thinking about Jerusalem, longing that its people would receive Him, He said, “…How often I wanted to gather you together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.”  

Oh, how sad if our cows were in any danger, but ran from us when we came to help.  It’s the same when we refuse the love of Jesus, to accept Him as Lord in our lives, as the One who gives hope to each new day and promise of an eternity where there are no more tears or death.  There are many coyotes in this world, taking on various forms, seeking to destroy us.  How easy to run to the One who always has His arms open wide.

 

A Cow’s Life

My mother and I are so enjoying our visit to Alabama where we are staying in a friend’s cabin.  To reach the cabin you have to drive through a cow pasture, go over a small hill, and then, there it is, built on a large pond with a deck and dock over the water.  This place of quiet is serene bliss!

We love watching the cows take morning and late afternoon dips, actually gliding through the water with the grace of a swan!  Amazing how they ease in an out, barely making a ripple in the water.  There is one cow in particular that has grabbed our attention.  We call her Miss Independence.

Miss Independence will often be found in the water or in the fields when no other cow is around.  One evening last week we came in late.  It was jet black as our car gently bumped along through the pasture.  Suddenly, in the light of the headlights, an image appeared.  It was Miss Independence.  The rest of the herd was nowhere to be seen.  They often disappear into the wooded areas along the outskirts of the property.  

As we drove by, Miss Independence raised her head for a moment to peer at us; then just as quickly, she went back to her private munching.  We can tell she enjoys times when she is in the middle of the herd, but she definitely craves her alone moments of munching and dipping by herself.

I thought to myself, how like Miss Independence we should all aim to be — loving times with friends and family, but understanding the beauty of alone time.  It is necessary to our spiritual development to have alone time with our heavenly Father when we glide through the waters of His refreshment, recharging tired hearts and minds, and to munch on the holy words of truth and guidance in His Word, so needed to get through each day of our busy lives.

We can get so very busy, even doing good things, that we can easily miss the very best — intimate fellowship with the One who loves us and sustains us, who guides us along the best paths, and feeds us with the best of spiritual food for our journey.  So, today my prayer is, “Lord, help me to be more like this adorable cow, this Miss Independence who understand the beauty and value of alone time.”

“Then Jesus said, ‘Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.’  He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and His apostles didn’t even have time to eat.”  Mark 6:31

With My Eyes Closed

This past week my mother and I enjoyed spending a few days driving through the Smokey Mountains.  At one point we parked the car and walked along a path next to one of the mountain’s beautiful streams.  My mother sat on a bench to enjoy the view while I walked on.  When I was all alone I stood close to the water on the stream’s bank.  Then I closed my eyes.  I kept them shut for several minutes.  At first I was only aware of the sounds of water rushing over rocks, but then, I heard a bird’s song that I had not noticed before.  Then, gentle whispers above as wind danced with leaves on branches. The longer I kept my eyes closed, the more acute were my ears to nature’s music.  The beauty of peace filled my senses.

As the day passed, my thoughts kept returning to those few special moments.  My eyes had been closed.  Therefore, my ears took the lead in drawing me to my surroundings in a way I had not known with sight.

I began to contemplate the eyes and ears of my own spiritual heart.  If only I would take more time to close my eyes to the things of this world, allowing my ears to sharpen its hearing to the still, small voice that speaks love, truth, peace, and guidance into my being.   I recalled the words of John in I John 2:15-17, “Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world.  And the world is passing away, and the lust of it: but he who does the will of God abides forever.”  This verse is not about the physical world but about the evil in this world.  It’s about all the things that can lure us away from the beauty of God’s love.  It’s about all those things that can hurt us and deceive us into thinking we have peace when really we have only a temporary pleasure that seeks to destroy us in the end.

If only we would take time to close our eyes to the world and listen to the sweet voice of the Holy Spirit.  What joy would replace troubled thoughts.  True peace would soothe away our worries.  Pure love would wash away all that stains, and would cleanse our hearts, filling us with divine tranquillity instead.

May we all take time to close our eyes.

A Calm On The High Seas

I’ve recently had an experience of high winds and waves while travelling on a ship.  Wonderfully and thankfully, there were no sea sick feelings.  I even managed to have sailor legs and keep my balance, although at times, the slight rocking and tilting from one side to the other caused me to reach my hand to the wall to steady myself.  

I am not in the least a sailor.  I love to look at the sea and occasionally swim the edges but I have never thrilled at the thought of taking to the high seas.  Nonetheless, I determined to make the best of this experience. I was taking mental note of all my surroundings.  One thing in particular captured my attention.  I noticed that when I was at either side of the vessel, I could feel the tilting with greater swaying back and forth.  However, I also took note that when in the centre of the ship, the feel of the sway was at a minimum.  It was still there, but my balance was unaffected and I could carry on and walk straight without the occasional aid of the wall to hold me up.

You may have guessed at this point exactly what I am going to say:  it’s the same in our spiritual world.  Life has its ups and downs, its challenges and difficulties.  None of us can escape times of turmoil that, like high waves and wind on the sea, may send us grabbing for something to hold us up.  We may look for a handrail of mental escape where we just don’t have to think about it for a time.  We may hug a wall of anything that gives us hope so we keep standing in the storm of our difficulty.  

While any of the above may help for a time, it’s only when we go to the source of all calm, the One who is the centre of all we are, Jesus who is our peace of mind and heart, when all around us there is tilting and swaying of confusion, depression, and fear.  If only we could remember, when all around the edges of our world, troubles abound, in the centre of our own hearts and minds, there is Jesus with us in the storm, speaking to the wind and wavs of our dilemmas to be calm again.

“Then Jesus got into the boat and started across the lake with His disciples.  Suddenly a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat.  But Jesus was sleeping.  The disciples went and woke Him up shouting, ‘Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!’  Jesus responded, ‘Why are you afraid? You have so little faith.’  Then He got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm.”   Matthew 8: 23-26