The Maple Leaf

There is a place near the seafront where I often take Jack to walk and run.  It’s a beautiful place with vast fields right next to the open sea.  Seagulls are flying, waves are rolling to shore.  Along one side of the fields are trees of varying types, shapes and sizes.  There is a maple tree that I have enjoyed in every season.

Recently I watched the presence of Autumn in its leaves, making brilliant colors of red and yellow and bronze.  All too soon the leaves began to drop to the ground but that held its own beauty.  Jack and I both loved walking through dry leaves, hearing them crunch beneath our feet.

Last week there were several days of rain.  On a walk during one of these rainy days, I noticed a rather large maple leaf laid flat on the cemented walkway, plastered there by the rain.  On every subsequent day of our visit the leaf was still there.  Because it was so large I couldn’t help but notice it every time I passed.

Today as Jack and I walked along I began to look for this very familiar leaf.  We neared the place where I knew it would be found; only it wasn’t there, or was it?  I stood and marveled at the place where the leaf had embedded itself the cement.  The leaf was indeed no longer there but its imprint was perfectly formed.  That imprint will now be seen for many seasons and perhaps even years to come.  When I see this imprint I will always be drawn back to the beauty of its yellow color that first caught my eye.

That’s when I began to contemplate that you and I have the same opportunity to leave an impression of the life we have lived even long after we pass from this earth.  We leave imprints on other people’s lives by the way we speak or react to one another in any given situation.  How we imprint can influence someone else for good or for bad.  It’s like Proverbs 25:11, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”  

It’s both a lovely and daunting thought that our words and actions are capable of encouraging or discouraging; of leaving a lovely memory or a nightmare in the mind of another.

May we all, with Father’s help, we careful of words and actions, that we may be lasting imprints of great beauty.

The Scary Washing Machine

My washing machine is one that fits under the counter in my kitchen.  The kitchen is also where Jack finds his food and water bowls.  Both bowls are kept clean and fresh to take care of his hunger and thirst needs.  Throughout the day he can be heard happily munching or slurping away.

The other evening I became aware of Jack whimpering.  I looked to see what was the matter.  He was standing at the kitchen door and peering into the room with a very sad look on his face.  “Jack,” I called out, “what’s the matter?”  He looked at me and whimpered again so I got up to investigate.  Immediately I realized the problem.

Jack doesn’t like noises.  I had forgotten that he doesn’t like going into the kitchen when the washing machine is operating. It whirs and spins and gurgles; not his favorite sounds.  As I came closer he looked up hopefully as if to say, “will you go with me, please?” I did.

In Jack’s eyes I was some kind of super hero, bravely facing the big, bad, noisy washing machine.  As I stood in front of the white atrocity, Jack walked over and began to eat from his bowl.  Once in a while he looked up.  “Im still here, boy,” I assured my furry companion. I smiled and felt good all over to know that just my presence, in the midst of what causes him fear, could be such a great comfort to him.

As I stood guard waiting for him to finish his dinner I began to thank Father that He does the exact same thing with us.  He doesn’t chide or become exasperated when we are fearful.  No, He lovingly whispers His words of love like, “I will never leave you or forsake you,”  (Hebrews 13:5) or “I the Lord your God will go before you,  I will neither fail you or abandon you.”  (Deuteronomy 31:6)  

I take great comfort in knowing that as this world spins chaos loudly like a washing machine cycle that seems to be endless, He is right there with me, smiling, comforting, loving, just like I do for my goofy but dear dog, Jack.

When All You Can Shout Is, “Help!”

3:00am.  The dark water was as black as the sky. Waves pitched the small fishing vessel up and down, back and forth.  The men tied down the canvas, secured everything that moved, and held on tight.  That’s when they saw it.  The ghost!  Only it wasn’t a ghost.  It was Jesus!  It was like he was floating in the black of night; but no, he wasn’t floating!  He was walking on water!

The frightened fishermen argued among themselves as to whether or not it was really Jesus.  Finally, Peter calls out, “If it’s you, call me to you!”  Peter obviously hadn’t thought through the possible outcome of that challenge because the recognizable voice of Jesus indeed  bid him to come.  What?  The others were watching open mouthed.  What would Peter do?

He gritted his teeth, wiped the lashing water out of his eyes, and slung his feet over the boat.  Just look at Jesus, he told himself.  He felt something solid beneath his feet, but it wasn’t solid at all; it was all water and Peter was walking on it.  One step.  Two steps.  Gusts of wind hit him full body.  Sprays of hard water stung his face.  In fear he looked away from Jesus, concentrating more on the raging storm around him.  That’s the moment it happened.  The solid feel beneath his feet fell away and water sucked him down, down, down!

Did Peter flap about?  Did he try to swim?  We don’t exactly know.  What we are certain of is who Peter called for help.  “Lord, save me!”  Those three words were all that he had time to shout.  What did Jesus do?  Did he stand there in annoyance watching Peter drown in fear?  No, he did what He always does when any of us calls out to Him for help. He reached out, took hold of Peter, and together they got back in the boat.

Are you fearful about anything in your life?  Are you worried about the outcome of some situation?  Are the winds of life beating you down into despair?  Then do the only necessary thing.  Call out to Jesus for help.  There is no doubt that He will come.  He will come offering His own strength, and taking hold of you, He will put you back in the boat, guiding you to the shore.

The above story is told in Matthew 14.

“Call upon me and I will answer you and show you great and might things that you do not yet know.”  Jeremiah 33:3

 

Keeping The Boxes

Recently I’ve been unpacking boxes; some which haven’t been looked in for some time. I was not a little astonished at what I kept. I didn’t need the objects; some were not even wanted. Why did I keep this stuff! I further realized that having them in my sight was a bit stressful. I could feel a tugging thought in my brain telling me to deal with them later.

That’s when another, equally disturbing thought, grabbed my attention. It’s so easy for any of us to do this same thing in our spiritual worlds. Perhaps something about ourselves has come to light: a bad attitude, harboring unforgiveness, letting bitterness take root. The list could go on.

We realize one day that the above unpleasantries are being stored in the boxes of our minds. We don’t like them or want them, but it’s easier to simply ignore them. The trouble with that is they take root and grow down into our hearts. Like weeds in a garden they begin to choke out the beauty, killing the colorful flowers of our minds.

What can be done? Ruthless and truthful inventory followed by a trip to the dump! The Holy Spirit, when we invite Him, will gladly with expert precision, remove all the damaging boxes stored in our hearts and minds. He will sweep the area clean and fill the space with the very peace of God, the joy of His love, and the beauty of His forgiveness for ever having stored those dirty boxes in the first place.

“…let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up, and let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the Champion who initiates and perfects our faith…”. Hebrews 12:1-2

Happy unpacking everyone!

Gap Fillers

Have you ever seen a brick wall that has begun to crumble?  It’s worn and the mortar in between the bricks has begun to disintegrate.  When that happens; when a gap appears, fresh mortar must be applied to hold the bricks together.  It’s the same in our spiritual world.  God as our Father has made us family.  He has given us the privilege, when called upon, to be mortar in someone’s life.

We have all experienced situations when it seems our personal worlds are crumbling all around us.  The mortar of our resolve has begun to disintegrate.  We are weakened.  We have been hurt or disappointed.  We grieve.  We see no way out.  We need someone to come and  apply fresh mortar.  That’s why Father has made us family.  When one is wounded, another steps in to hold up weary arms, to wipe away a tear, to speak encouraging words of truth and of God’s love.

It is a need we all have for someone to come and lift up our tired arms.  It is a joy to let someone enter our hurting worlds, to speak words of kindness, to lend a practical helping hand.

It is a great sadness when offers of such help are refused.  Father wants us to be quick to bear a burden and to be equally quick to share a burden.  Crooked places are better made straight when help comes to mend the road.  Crumbling walls are made stronger when there are those who come with fresh mortar to fill in the gaps.

I have had precious gap fillers in my life.  For each one I remain truly thankful.

“Share each other’s burdens for this is what Christ asks of you and it pleases Him.”  Galations 6:2

It’s The Little Things

I know we all have big things in life that irritate us to the hilt and we have little things in life that irritate us just as much.  For me, for some reason, it seems to me more of the little things.  A dear friend said to me not long ago, “I can’t figure you out.  You go —  on purpose —  to countries where there are people who would gladly kill you but you get all upset about a store locking its doors before closing time.”  I laughed in the midst of my snort of frustration because he was so very right.

I have made a mental note to be aware of this and while doing so something else has taken place.  I have been thanking Father in a fresh way..  He has been helping me, not only to be aware of the little things that cause frustration, with hopes to overcome that habit, but He has also made me aware of the little things that point to His own goodness: a stranger let me into a busy line of traffic, a young moorhen took flight for the first time right before my eyes.  I watched this little bird grow up.  The first flight brought a tear to my eye.  I parted my curtains and stood frozen as a pink sky greeted me.  Two little dogs that I walk in the mornings leapt into my lap just because they wanted to; their shining eyes touched my own heart with the love I saw there.

Today I did a clean out of stuff not needed.  Old bits of boxes needed to be taken to the dump.  I loaded up only to find out upon arrival that it was closed!  Grrrrr an imitation began but then I glanced at the friend sitting beside me in the car and a smile of warm thankfulness filled me for her treasured friendship of many years.

I love God’s creation and often gaze at it, but this week I have been scrutinizing with fresh eyes.  Every time an irritation has sought my attention, another thought has quickly interfered, leading me to something for which I can be thankful.  The kindness of strangers, the love of a friend, and the handiwork of God.   It has all been fresh air to an otherwise frustrated heart.

Little things can be so exasperating, but the little things can also be the biggest blessings.

Father, help our eyesight to see what’s important and what really isn’t.

“The Lord is my Shepherd.  He gives me everything I need.  He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside quiet waters.  He refreshes my soul.”  Psalm 23:1-3a

Washing Duvets

Our dog, Jack, if I do say so myself, has truly landed on his feet by coming to live with my mother and me.  From dismal beginnings as a homeless puppy in a ditch, to a life of morning peanut butter sticks, daily nutritional food, an assortment of toys, and even his own duvet’ to sleep on.  He loves his duvet so fluffy and soft.  It’s not unusual to suddenly notice it’s gone quiet in the house and he has seemingly disappeared; but no, he’s napping on his billowy duvet.

It was time this week to wash it.  I pulled it out of his bed and wadded it up into a huge ball for easy carrying to the dryer.  This got Jack’s immediate attention.  He came over and took a mouth full of duvet, trying to pull it away from me.  “Jack,” I said, “I need to wash your duvet.”  He looked at me with great astonishment as I pulled the duvet out of his hopeful jaws and stuffed it into the washing machine.  The timer being set, I glanced at Jack and couldn’t help but laugh.  There he was doing a vulture imitation with his head hung low to the floor.  The loss of his duvet obviously weighed heavy upon him.

I thought to myself, if only he could understand I’m making his treasured duvet even better.  That’s when a truth hit me.  I didn’t want to think about it but I had to stop and consider my own behavior before my Heavenly Father.  Hadn’t Jack’s lack of understanding and pouting, at times over the years, been mine, too?

My thoughts quickly darted to yesteryears, remembering times when Father had given me a wonderful blessing of some sort.  I was so happy!  Then, with the passing of time, something happened that I could not understand.  It seemed the blessing had turned sour.  Why would God let such a thing come to pass?  What was happening?  I cringed as I recalled that, like Jack, I too had hung my head like a vulture, disappointed in what I did not understand about God.  Was there some lesson God was teaching me?  Was this a molding time?  Had I done something wrong?

All those serious thoughts swirled in my brain.  I made myself believe God must have been disappointed in me; when actually, all He was doing was making my blessing even better.  I’m sure I’m not alone in sometimes being a bit befuddled concerning methods of God.  While no one can understand God’s ways fully, we do know that His ways are always, without exception, for our good.  He tells us so in Romans 8:28.  God loves us without measure.  Therefore, when something goes wrong  — it doesn’t necessarily mean that God is displeased with us.  He might just be washing duvets.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.”  Proverbs 3:5

 

 

A Sliver Of Light

I’ve often been amazed at stories told by those who have been prisoners of war.  One such story stays in my memory about a man who had been captured in the Pacific during WWII.  As a punishment in the camp he was forced into a wooden box and kept there for days.  He couldn’t stand up or move around.  He was in a sitting position.  To sleep he could only lean his head against one side of his squared cell.  It was hot and often he felt as if he might suffocate.  He was given no water or food during this time.  He sat in his urine soaked pants.

He tells that he never lost hope that he would survive because he could always see a sliver of light through a crack in his wooden prison.  Light shone through in the day and also in the night from lanterns hung around the camp.  He was uncomfortable, hungry and thirsty, and in great pain, but hope stayed alive because he could see that sliver of light.  That light represented life that was going on all around him.  It gave him hope that he would be returned to his fellow inmates and together they would press on.

I thought that this is how situations are in our physical and emotional worlds.  We have a dream that is dashed.  We are betrayed by a trusted friend.  We are unfairly treated at work.  We suffer poor health or watch someone we love grow weaker from illness.  The list goes on of unpleasant circumstances which, at no fault of our own, imprisons us in a dark world of the unknown.

We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but we can always see a sliver of light from the One who is the Light of this world.  He alone is our greatest hope.  Martin Luther once said, “I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that, I still possess.”

The Apostle Paul was imprisoned unfairly.  He wrote to Timothy in I Timothy 1:12, “I am suffering here in prison, but I am not ashamed of it, for I know the One in whom I trust, and I am sure that He is able to guard all that I have entrusted to Him, until the day of His return.”

The darkness of this world can seemingly suffocate all joy and hope away, but anticipation for deliverance need never fade.  The key is — stay  focused on the Light even when it seems but a sliver.

 

An Encouraging Challenge

I read something this morning written by a friend named Starla Shattler.  Starla is an excellent writer with wonderful insights into God’s Word.  I was greatly encouraged after reading the following.  I hope you will be also.  She titles it:

REGARDLESS

“The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the King of Egypt told them to do.”  Exodus 1:17

“Joseph, the slave-turned-savior of Egypt, was dead, and so were all who remembered his good work during the great famine.  A Pharaoh who had forgotten his history came to power, and all he knew was that a foreign people, “many and mighty,” lived within his borders.  His fear was national security for if an enemy marched in, the Israelites might help them out.

His solution to the situation?  Slavery—ruthless, forced labor with harsh demands and long, hot days, but his plan backfired because the more bricks the slaves built, the more babies were born. “The more the Israelites were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread”(Ex 1:12).

Pharaoh’s next option? Infanticide.  He didn’t want to lose his labor force—just limit it, so he instructed the Jewish midwives to murder all baby boys at birth.  What would Shiphrah and Puah do?  The most powerful man in the world had issued an order, but the choice to comply was their own. Should they carry out Pharaoh’s command to take the babies’ lives or let them live and risk their own?
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They never even hesitated.  “The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do”(Ex 1:17).  Pharaoh was unhappy and asked for an explanation. God was pleased and blessed beyond expectation. “God was kind to the midwives…and because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own”(Ex 20-21).

Life is full of choices, and our days are determined by our decisions—not so much how long we live but how well we live.  And how much of our lives will last.  Often it’s wise to weigh the options, but when God has spoken on a matter, don’t debate. Do the right thing, and know that obedience always brings blessing.  Some rewards appear on earth; the rest will arrive in eternity, but they will come because God is kind.

As you decide how to live today, remember that it matters not who in this world is offering opinions, proclaiming policies, or demanding the latest version of morality.  The King of Heaven has spoken in His Word, and His commands are the ones we should keep.

Regardless.”

 

The Dance Of Nature

It was 6:00am when Jack (our dog) and I set out for our early morning walk.  While the night was quietly slipping away, the sky was awash with a wide streak of pink clouds.  I froze in place for several moments just gazing at this beautiful sight.

Later in the afternoon I took Jack for a walk along the beach.  The pale green water sent high waves capped with white, racing and crashing to the shore in magnificent splendor. What amazing strength to behold.

The wind sailed across the water grabbing trees, dancing with limb and leaves, dipping to the ground and twirling tall blades of grass into a jitterbug of delight.  Birds stretched their wings, gliding in perfect rhythm with its breezy partner.  Everywhere I looked, nature was either in a tango or a chacha of wild pleasure.

“When I look at the night sky and see the work of Your fingers – the moon and the stars You set in place – what are mere mortals that You should think of them, human beings that You should care for them?  Yet You made them only a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honor.  You gave them charge of everything You made, putting all things under their authority-the flocks and the herds and all the wild animals, the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea, and everything that swims the ocean currents.  O Lord our Lord, Your majestic name fills the earth!”  Psalm 8:3-9