Rose Petals

I was going through some boxes filled with old black and white photos and other items of long ago. I came across a Bible of mine that I used in high school and college. It was old and tattered, a reflection of how I loved it. Fondly I flipped through the pages, reading notes I had written in the margins, reading verses I had underlined. Just inside the back cover I had pasted a poem. I remember it being of great comfort to me. I never forgot the poem over the years, at times reciting it to myself in times of uncertainty along life’s journey. The author is unknown. I share it with you now:

It’s just a tiny rosebud
A flower of God’s design.
I can’t unfold its petals
With these clumsy hands of mine.

If I can’t unfold the petals of
This flower of God’s design,
Then why do I think I have wisdom
To unfold this life of mine?

“But once He has made His decision, who can change His mind? Whatever He wants to do, He does. So He will do to me whatever He has planned. He controls my destiny.”
Jeremiah 23: 13-14

Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer

It’s that time of year when the child in me starts dancing in excitement with the approach of Christmas.  One thing that still starts my anticipation engine is the story of Rudolph. Since I was a little kid, I have loved it, never tiring of it. My favorite Rudolph story is the one with Burl Ives narrating as the Snow man. I excitedly watched it last night!

Poor Rudolph was born with what everyone believed to be an unfortunate nose problem; it glowed like a neon light cutting through the storm.  Ooops, I’m getting ahead of myself.  He just wasn’t like the other young reindeer.  His nose brought on all sorts of name calling, creating  great sense of rejection within him. Rudolph ran away, but as he grew up he realized that running away did not solve anything.  He knew he had to embrace his difference and stand strong.  You know what happens, don’t you.

Rudolph’s nose turns out to be the saving factor of Christmas.  The worst storm in history threatens to cancel Santa’s arrival; but then, enter Rudolph and his unusual and now marvelous glowing nose!  I love that part best of all!  Rudolph ends up being the biggest winner of all, but it would not have happened if he hadn’t taken courage to face his fears.  The others who had first ridiculed Rudolph learned a lot, too.

I’m sure there’s a little bit of Rudolph in us all. We look in the mirror and we don’t like what we see: our nose is too big, our skin is not smooth, our weight is too much or too little, our hair is too curly or too straight.  The list of what we don’t like goes on and on.  Like Rudolph, we may be tempted to run away, hiding in attempt to keep ourselves from what we fear will be the rejection of others.

My mother used to tell my sister and me, “girls, it’s more important what’s on the inside than what’s on the outside.”  She explained once that the most pretty people on the outside could well be the most unattractive on the inside.  As I grew up I saw that very thing.  Attractive people could be ugly by their actions and attitudes, while the physically unattractive could appear beautiful because of an inward loveliness that burst forth for all to see, just like Rudolph’s nose.

Remember, we’re never alone in our endeavors to improve ourselves.  Our heavenly Father always has His potter’s wheel ready.  He sets us down and gently rubs away the rough edges, molding us into His very image — as long as we invite Him to do His work in us.  So, go ahead, shine your nose of difference for all to see. Concentrate on the beauty that can grow within, and walk through any storm with God’s own courage to light your way.

God said, “…as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand.”  Jeremiah 18:6b

Nana, Will You Hold My Cup?

It was a perfect Saturday afternoon for a kid’s birthday party in the park. The sky was cloudy but the air was warm. Children were running in abandon to their happiness, zigzagging through a maze of ladders and swings and slides. The adults were either perched on the tailgate of pickup trucks or sitting on lawn chairs. Others in the group were laying out buns and chips on a table while the barbecue was fired up to grill the burgers.

The atmosphere was one of great fun; adults catching up on the happenings of the week while the kids ran and ran and ran, laughing in their happy moods. At one point, the birthday girl, cheeks red from running and hair damp around the hairline, ran up holding a big styrofoam cup between her hands.

“Nana, will you hold my cup?” she asks while thrusting the cup to the hands of her nana. Nana, of course, took the cup, smiling all the while watching the happy child run back to her playmates. It was obvious there was no doubt that nana would hold her cup. The question was asked with the absolute belief that nana would indeed meet her needs, and furthermore, nana wouldn’t mind one bit.

Remember when Jesus said to the adults He was once teaching, “unless you become as a child, you cannot enter the Kingdom of God?” Children are so completely trusting of the ones who love them. If a child believes a certain person loves him or her, that child will not hesitate to go to that person with any need, from, “will you hold my cup,” to “I’m scared, will you stay with me,” to “I’ve scraped my knee, will you kiss it better?”

If only we adults could retain that childlike trust in relationship to our Heavenly Father. If only, when we are hurting, we would trustingly hold out our troubles to God, believing that He would hold them on our behalf. If only, when grief overcomes us, we would lay our hearts bare for our Father to mend with His comfort. If only, when we are afraid of what tomorrow may bring, we would run to our Father with a call of, “will you catch me; I’m falling!” knowing that His arms are open, ready to pull us close to Himself.

What would our lives be like….if only we trusted that He would hold our cup?

Crumbs For Dinner?

I had just prepared dinner for Jack, our huge, goofy, but lovable giant puppy. He looked eagerly at his bowl, but suddenly, something on the floor gained his full attention. Crumbs! I could hardly believe it! A choice of a tasty dish — or crumbs — and he decides to lick away on the floor! I tried coaxing to no avail.  I pushed his head to the direction of his bowl. Nothing worked. He was content on the crumbs closest to him, rather than having to walk five feet to get his fresh dinner in his bowl!

I sat back and watched in dismay as Jack licked the floor of the very last crumb. I found it mind boggling that he would make such a choice when the best was his for the taking. That’s when a truth hit me: Does God also watch in dismay when He places a dish of His blessings so near, yet in our haste and desire for ease, we choose the crumbs of convenience instead?

You see, God has clearly shown us how to walk with joy, peace, and courage, even in the darkest of our moments.  He has written it all down in His love letter to us— we call it the Bible. It takes time to open His words, to read and meditate on the truths and instructions found there.  Much easier to simply draw a card from a verse holder, read it, and carry on through our day.  Now, please don’t think I’m criticizing the stacks of the “verse of the day” cards that one can purchase in the Bible book store; but I am suggesting, if that is all one does, then that one is settling for crumbs when a whole loaf of God’s goodness is available.

In the Old Testament book of Samuel, there is the story of Mephibosheth, the disabled grandson of the former King Saul. The current King David invited Mephibosheth to live in his home and to sit at his table for all his days. Mephibosheth did not feel worthy to feast at the king’s table.  He said this in II Samuel 9:8, “Who am I that you would show such kindness to a dog like me?”  Even so, he accepted the king’s invitation, sitting with him, enjoying both the king’s company and his food.

Isn’t that just how it is with us?  God invites us to dine at His table, to devour the truth of His words, to bask in the joy and peace of His company.  We are not worthy to do so; however, God’s love compels Him to invite us . He has prepared the best for us, to fill us up with His goodness.   We can feast at the King’s table everyday — or like Jack — we are free to settle for crumbs.

Reflections

Our television sits atop a cabinet with glass doors. Jack, our big puppy, was with us in the den when he began to bark and jump at the cabinet. It was quickly apparent that Jack didn’t like the looks of the dog looking back at him in the glass. He looked around the side of the cabinet to see if he could catch the culprit there. Unsuccessful at that, he went back to barking at the black dog that wouldn’t stop looking at him. Jack just couldn’t make any sense of what he was seeing. He is lacking in understanding.

It reminded me of the verse in I Corinthians 13:12, “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.” During the time when the Apostle Paul wrote this book, people did not have mirrors as we do today. Their mirrors were of polished bronze; therefore, the reflections were always a bit distorted.

Today, as we go through our lives, there are many situations that are distorted to us.  We lack in understanding.  We want to know why? We want to know when? We can’t know our tomorrows and we can’t always make sense of yesterday’s frustrations and disappointments. We may feel as exasperated as Jack trying to uncover the mystery of the dog hiding in the cabinet.

There is a daily comfort that comes to us as we remind ourselves that, while we may not understand why troubles come our way, we still know there is no calamity that puzzles our heavenly Father. We may feel the weight of our burdens, but we know that no difficulty is too big for God to handle. We may experience the anxiety of walking a path that we do not choose, but we know that our heavenly Father never leaves us alone; He walks with us and holds us up when the way is steep and rocky.

There are many things in our lives that we cannot comprehend, that we wish had never been, that we wish would go away, that we wish we could change. In all these things we can know of a certainly —  our Father does all things well. His promises are true; not sometimes, but all of the time. He takes the bad things and brings about good to bless and strengthen, to give peace and joy.

We look at life and see reflections of things that are puzzling and incomplete. Father looks at our lives and sees all that He is molding coming together just as He has planned, “to give us hope and a future.”

 

Pearl Drops And A Tablespoon

I don’t suppose I’ll ever forget a time, many years ago now, when my oldest niece was five years old. We were all getting ready for bed. I was standing before my mirror dabbing pearl size drops of my night cream onto my face and rubbing it into my skin. My niece had her eyes glued to this procedure when she asked me, “what are you doing?” I replied, “I’m putting on my night cream which helps get rid of wrinkles.” Without a pause she asked, “when does it start working?”

Wow!  Reality check! Even so, I have never stopped my daily routine of massaging day and night cream onto my face. I like to tell myself that, although obviously aging, things could be a lot worse if I didn’t use my cream.  Last night I realized something. Although my nightly routine hasn’t changed, the frequency of purchasing my daily creams has increased. I began following the directions which instructed me to use “pearl size drops.” As the years passed I adjusted the amount to a few extra and larger pearl size drops.  Now, I’m digging out my night cream with a tablespoon! Well, it makes me feel good, like possibly I’m doing something that helps!

I was still chuckling at myself as I lay me down to sleep. That’s when my thoughts took a more serious turn and I thought about how it is when we come to Jesus.  No matter what we have ever done in life; no matter how many times we have totally blown it, He loves us and invites us to come to Him, allowing Him to give us the only bath that will ever make us clean.

Like my daily cream, we can attempt to change our situation for the good.  We can tell ourselves that we can become a good person by being kind to others or giving more to charity, or work on not losing our tempers so often, etc. We can try so many things to make ourselves good, but no matter how great our attempts, we are still an imperfect people. We can heap tablespoons full of good works into our lives, but at the end of each day, the wrinkles of imperfection are still there.

Jesus provides the only way to be made totally clean and whole. He said this in Isaiah 1:18, “‘Come now, let’s settle this,’ says the Lord. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.’” You see, to rid ourselves of sin, we need a sinless Savior who says that He will pay the penalty for us. With the penalty paid, God the Father looks at our record and sees the charges against us have all been dismissed.  He then welcomes us into His family, and it’s all because of Jesus.  It’s not any good works on our part, but because of the depth of His love taking our place, paying our penalty, setting us free.

Forget the tablespoons of good works to erase the wrinkles of our imperfections and wrongdoings; only Jesus can cleanse, make whole, and make us into a new creation — counted as wrinkle free!

What The Boy Did

The boy’s father once saw him sitting close to a fire.  “Don’t sit too near the fire, son, you could get hurt.”  The little boy looked at his father and moved closer.  The fire burned his fingers and scorched his arms.  “Why did you let this happen?” The boy angrily shouted at his father.  Another time the father noticed his son climbing higher and higher up the trunk of a tall tree.  “Don’t go so high, son,” his father called, “you could get hurt.”  The boy looked at his father and climbed higher.  He lost his grip and fell to the ground breaking his arm.  “Why did you let this happen?” The boy angrily shouted at his father.  The boy began to spend time with other boys who constantly got into trouble.  His father noticed and said, “Be careful who you choose for friends, son, you could get hurt.”   The boy laughed at his father and spent even more time with these friends.  In time the boy was caught breaking into a store.  He was arrested and ended up in jail.  “Why did you let this happen?”  The boy angrily shouted at his father.

As an American I relate this story to this country of my birth, but it can be attributed to many situations and places.  Our Father God, upon whose concepts America was founded gives us many warnings, urging us to take care or we could get hurt.  Instead of honoring His instructions, we have ignored them.  We have taken prayer out of school, insisted the ten commandments be taken out of our court rooms, refuse prayer at football games and other community events, and attempt to close the mouths of those who want to speak His words.

Then, when shootings take place in our schools where we told God He was no longer allowed, we shout angrily, “why God did you let this happen?  When the numbers of prisoners increase when we have taken down the laws of God in society, we angrily shout, “Why God did you let this happen?”  When violence erupts in public places where we have attempted to shut the mouths of everyone who would pray or speak in the name of God, we shout in great anger, “Why, God, did you let this happen?”

In His eternal love and patience, God says to us in Joel 2:13, “Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead. Return to the Lord your God for He is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.  He is eager to relent and not punish.”

There is always hope — when we invite our Father to come into the situation.

 

Sobbing, they shouted, “Murdered?”

The young parents couldn’t speak.  Tears choked their words.  The nausea of shock rippled through their body.  Clinging to each other, the distraught mother and father trembled in a sorrow they had never known.  They cried together until numbness finally dulled their senses.

A true story.  A child was murdered.  Where was God when this tragedy took place?  Why doesn’t He stop the horrors of the world?

God created the world without evil.  Mankind chose, of their own free will, to walk a path that led to darkness.  Hence, today we suffer the consequences of a fallen world.  To all of God’s children, He promises His own hope, strength, and peace to get them through the tough and horrific times.

Children are always in God’s special care.  We know that because of something Jesus said in Matthew 18:10,  “Beware that you don’t look down on any of these little ones.  For I tell you that in heaven their angels are always in the presence of my heavenly Father.”  So here we have it: proof of guardian angels.  In the case of the devastating tragedy above, during those moments of approaching death to that little one, God’s angel was already wrapping arms around the child, whispering assurance, delivering the peace of God.  In a moment when the deed was done, the angel carried the little one straight to the arms of Jesus where the terror would not ever be thought of again, and only perfect heavenly joy would reign in that child’s heart for eternity.

Angels of help are God’s promise to us.  His Word tells us they are sent to “minister to us.”  They are not to be worshipped but appreciated before God.  They work according to the will of God.  We cannot see them but they are here among us, bringing God’s hope in this fallen, dark world.

 

The Landlord’s Responsibilities

Most people have had the experience of renting a home before they could purchase one. The renter is expected to make good decisions about keeping up the home. They are not to destroy it. They are to take good care of it. If something goes wrong, like the roof needs repairing or the plumbing needs fixing, the owner of the home is responsible to take care of those needs. The renter is like a steward, keeping the home in good condition; the owner is the one who makes the ultimate decisions for the upkeep of the home.

It’s the same with our spiritual lives. When we accept Jesus Christ into our lives, we are acknowledging that God has now purchased us with the blood of His Son. We now belong to Him and it is His responsibility to make the ultimate decisions for our lives. We who belong to Him have the responsibility of being good stewards. We learn what the owner wants and we take steps to stay within what He wills for us.

If major repairs need to be made, like the roof of our understanding gets blown away by a tornado of unprecedented problems in our lives, it’s up to God, as our owner, to repair the damage with His love, restoring peace while easing away frustrations. Isn’t that wonderful news? We are not responsible for cleaning up the debris of pain and confusion that blows across our paths by any storms of life. Our Father has promised to repair all the damage and to clean up the hurt, mopping up all the pain that floods our hearts.

He has made a promise to all His stewards. It’s found in Jeremiah 29:11, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’” Is that not the most amazing promise by the most amazing Landlord of our lives? Why would we even attempt to repair our own pain or clean up our own confusion? Why would we dare to draw up architectural plans for all our tomorrows when the Master Builder has already logged in the blueprints to give us a hope and a future?

When we try to take on responsibilities of the owner of our lives, we are destined for certain disaster, but when we look to the Master Landlord to take care of all repair and remodeling, we are then destined to be made into something more beautiful than our dreams could imagine and much stronger than any storm that bursts into our days.

 

One Of Those Days

So, I typed my blog yesterday ready to go but – it has disappeared. Other things on my computer have also vanished. Computers are great – as long as they work. They are technical monsters when they get a mind of their own.

I started to type another one but wifi connection is down. So now I’m sitting in McDonalds,  a cup of coffee nearby, writing my thoughts.  

My mother is understandably a little tense because another possible hurricane is headed our way. Irma tore up our roof and a tornado tore it a second time along with two trees and the garden shed. 

I feel a headache starting in my right eye. Yes, it’s one of those days but – I choose to dwell, not on my wayward computer, or the hurricane, or the headache. I choose to count my blessings: my health is good, I have a home, a car, family and friends. There are many sick and dying, homeless and hungry.

It’s one of those days of frustrations but also of continued blessing.  Signing off now. My coffee awaits – and a headache pill. I’m thankful I have one of those, too, to help ease away the tension.

It’s one of those days but Jesus is in the midst bringing peace in the storm.