Hiding

Psalm 139:1-3–O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.

We went for a hike on Saturday at the watershed in Norris, TN. I approached a deeper part of the creek and this little guy leaped from the bank and splashed into the water. He frantically swam around looking for a hiding place and then tried to bury himself in the muddy bottom. This was as buried as he could get. He froze and never moved an inch while I got close and snapped a few photos. He thought he was well-hidden.

How many times am I guilty of trying to hide from God? Whether it is my sin I would like to keep from him or avoiding a job He gives me. Sometimes I forget (or would like to) that it is impossible. I can no better hide my every thought from Him than this little frog could hide from me. At times, it feels like a burden that God can read my innermost thoughts. They aren’t always pure and holy, that’s for sure. I do wish I could control my mind better than I do, and in the times when it wanders I wish I could erase the thoughts before they reach God’s ears.

The flip side of that coin is that God knows my every move and so He knows my every need. And, oh, what a comfort that is! He is familiar with all my ways, all my shortcomings, all my sins and imperfectness, and yet He chooses to still know me. What an amazing, compassionate God we serve! Thank you, Lord, for choosing to be acquainted with all my ways and guiding me to better serve you. Thank you, Lord, for loving me in my imperfection. Thank you, Lord, for reigning in my thoughts and forgiving me time and time again. Thank you, Lord, for watching over my every move and protecting me. Most of all, thank you, Lord, for finding me when I think I am hiding and gently reminding me you are still there.

Division=Desolation

Matthew 12:25–And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand.

Water molecules like to stay together. God designed them that way. If many drops or little puddles of water are near enough to each other, they gravitate together and form a large puddle–usually in the middle of my table from someone’s spilled cup. Alone, one little raindrop can’t do much, but put a whole ocean together and you get something entirely different.

Our physical bodies cannot stand divided. If your legs spread out away from each other, you’re doing the splits and you can’t stand. Something that is meant to be together simply cannot function in the way it was designed to function if it is divided. Four wheels on a car. Two halves of the letter A. A chainsaw without a chain. Pointless things without all the pieces.

When husband and wife fight and form a division neither is willing to cross, it equals divorce-desolation for the marriage. When church members argue and disagree, it equals a split-desolation for the church. When friends don’t see eye-to-eye and decide to stop talking to each other, it equals a break-up-desolation for the friendship. When a home is burned by fire or shaken by earthquake, it equals part of the structure falling-desolation for the building. When a country lets hatred take over, it equals war-desolation for the entire land. Nothing divided against itself can stand.

This includes our faith. Each of us is programmed to have a carnal self and a spiritual self. If the two sides are constantly at war, we can’t make decisions easily, follow a direct path to anywhere easily, or live fully and wholly easily. If we let the carnal side win, we may settle a dilemma, but for how long? Our spiritual side will point out right from wrong and let us know that it is longing to be heard. I claim that our spiritual side is much, much stronger than our carnal side. If we let our spiritual side win, it can keep the carnal side quieter and under submission better than the carnal can keep the spiritual side.

So, how do we mend the rifts? Let the spiritual side–God–guide. Arguments? God. Fear? God. Hurt feelings? God. Natural disasters? God. Facing a crossroads? God. God is the answer to every division-of mind, of heart, of physical being, of desire, of everything.

 

(Above picture taken by us at Norris Dam State Park Songbird Trail, 8-25-16)

Different Pathway

Ephesians 1:5–Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,

Adoption is a bit of a different pathway to welcoming a child into your home, but one that is every bit as directed by God as giving birth to a baby. I truly believe that each child born is molded by God in the womb, and that each is hand-picked for a certain set of parents. My biological children are sent to me straight from Heaven. My adopted children were made for me also. Their journey to arriving at my doorstep was just a bit more winding. They, too, were made for me and I am blessed that they did finally find their way home. I am thankful to their biological parents for bringing them into this world and being the channel through which we received them.

Adopting a child from foster care is filled with unique challenges. It’s not always glamorous or easy, but it is rewarding, and the need in this country alone is astounding. (over 415,000 children in foster care in September 2014 according to AFCARS report with over 100,000 waiting to be adopted at that time). People don’t always understand, but the ones who do are a never-ending support staff. Being an adoptive parent is a calling that must be entered into with sincerity, dedication, and resolve, and I am thankful God chose us. What a beautiful gift to give a child. But, more than that, what a beautiful gift they have given us!

Spreading darkness or light?

Isaiah 5:20–Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

What are you putting out into the world? Are you spreading darkness through negativity, criticism, gossiping, hopelessness? Or are you spreading light with sweetness, hope, and optimism?

Can you imagine how much sweeter this world would be if we all vowed to spread light instead of darkness? If we loved our brothers and sisters like we love ourselves? If we helped one another with a hand instead of turning our backs and walking away?

When you turn on a light in the middle of darkness, the darkness is pushed away and cannot overpower the light. If we follow in the light of God, darkness cannot creep in. Our hearts will be filled with light, our minds and thoughts, our mouths and words, our bodies and actions, our everything will radiate with His love and light. And to me, that sounds beautiful!

God is My Success Gauge

I Corinthians 12:11–But all these worketh that one and selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.

I have been called a few things in life that aren’t exactly nice. And, I have worried all my life about how others see me. Sometimes it may not seem like it from the outside looking in, but I am very self-conscious. It doesn’t take much from another person to make me doubt myself or my abilities. One inadvertent comment and I am questioning my self-worth. One not-so-nice name and I am questioning who I am. One wrong-worded criticism and I feel like a complete failure. I am hard on myself and easy on others, it seems. When I am alone, I know who I am, where I want to go, and how I am going to get there. But, throw in a criticism or two and it takes days to regain my equilibrium.

God made me exactly who I am, every part of me, every ability, every doubt and fear. He chose which talents to divide out into my make-up. He chose which strengths and weaknesses to instill, which things would bring me joy and which heartache.

I seem to live life in waves. When I am perched atop a tall one, I am confident. When I am riding the trough between, I am not. I don’t think I am alone. It seems that we all possess the fear that others will not like us, will not approve, will think we cannot succeed. But, in the end, the true measure of my success is whether or not I have made God proud today. Have I served Him? Have I spoken kindly? Have I prayed? Have I written the words He wanted me to write? No matter what others think, I need to remind myself (constantly) that my gauge isn’t around me, it’s above me, and it matters more than anything else.

 

(Photo taken by me at our house of Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly on Purple Thistle)

In This Together

Matthew 6:41–And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.

We are all in this walk of life together. We are one race, one humankind. We all have the same heart, the same brain, the same soul. God loves each and every one, whether they return His love or not. When I see others hurt, I hurt. When I see others grieve, I grieve. When I see others rejoice, I rejoice. We are all in this together. The ability to love is one of the greatest gifts God blessed us with. The ability to empathize, the ability to sympathize programmed into our brains. The ability to help others essential to our own wellbeing. We are all in this together. Killing each other out of anger, yelling out of pain, hurting because we hurt–none of it makes sense. We are all in this together.

Building each other up, holding out a helping hand, encouraging with kind words–these are the wonderful things we are all capable of. If someone needs me to walk a mile with them, I will walk two. If someone needs me to help them today, I will help them tomorrow, too. If someone needs a prayer, I will pray a dozen. We are all in this together. From the smallest of infants to the wisest of elders, from the poorest to the richest, from the remotest to the big city dweller, from the uneducated to the professor, from the weakest to the strong–we are all in this together.

 

(Photo taken by me at our house, Summer 2015)

Sincere Heart

Matthew 5:8–Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

There is nothing about my sinful flesh that is “pure,” but I am thankful that my heart has a pure spot in it that can never be taken away. Because I am saved, I will see God!

My Bible has a translation for pure to mean sincere. Blessed are the sincere in heart is much more attainable, for me anyway, this side of Heaven. I am a sincere kind of person. I sincerely care about others. And when I sincerely serve God, worship God, obey God, love God, listen to God, I see His presence in my life every single day. What a blessing to be able to “see” God in the here and now, in the middle of my crazy-busy daily life! He never fails to show up just when I need Him, and remind me that He is proud of my sincere heart.

Stay Close to the River

Jeremiah 17:8-For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.

I picked blackberries last weekend. Expecting to find a surplus of big, sweet berries, I set out with a large colander into my parents’ field. Imagine my surprise when their multitude of bushes produced, for the most part, small, sour berries. Withered and brown leaves held on to the parched bushes. While I managed to collect enough (with lots of sugar added) to make a cobbler, the harvest was not nearly what I expected. It’s been too dry. Too hot. The berries didn’t have enough water to grow.

The blackberry bush still produced fruit, but it was smaller than normal and not as tasty. The plant had to limit the production of berries just to survive. If we are too far away from our water source, we will focus on other things (worry, fear, stress, etc.) and won’t be able to produce the full, bountiful fruit that God intends for us to produce.

A tree planted in the desert cannot stretch its roots far enough to reach water, no matter how it tries. Its roots will always seek water and be dependent upon whatever falls from the sky, whenever it falls. When we wander too far out into the desert, away from God, away from His supreme, never-ending water, our roots stretch out but can’t always reach back. They become dry and brittle.

But, a tree planted by the water (or blackberry bush), never needs worry. Fresh water is always available, even when it hasn’t rained, and the roots can reach deep into the moist ground. If we stay close to the water’s edge, we will never have to worry about running out of the life-giving flow. If we stay close to the river, where our spiritual needs are met, we won’t have to “scale back production” on the fruit that we are supposed to produce. We can live up to our potential and produce sweet, abundant fruit.

 

(Picture taken by me at our house)

My Own Land

Ezekiel 37:14–And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the Lord have spoken it, and performed it, saith the Lord.

I am so thankful that God placed me in my own land–the United States, Tennessee, East Tennessee. I love it here and would never trade the freedoms I am granted for anywhere else. I would love to travel and see the world, but, for me, I already live exactly where I dream of living. I am thankful that God gave me the exact heritage I have–my parents, my aunts and uncles, my cousins, my brother–and I am thankful that the decisions my ancestors made resulted in my being a US citizen.

But, more importantly than my physical location, I am thankful that I have the greatest freedom of all–the saving power of Jesus Christ, the guarantee that I will avoid Hell. My own land will be Heaven someday–and nothing could top that.

Prepare for New Seeds

Mark 4:20–And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred.

A guest preacher at our church, Bill Boggs, preached on the parable of the sower this morning. I have heard a message from this passage several times, each time different, each time good. For some reason, hearing it this morning struck me with a new mental image, and I want to try to get across the picture to you.

When you plant a garden desiring to have a harvest of vegetables to eat for your family and share with friends, it’s a lot of work. Some people plant huge gardens, some small. But, each plant with the intention of getting results–of getting good fruit. We have sown grass seed before and it’s a little different. With grass seed, we throw it out–lots of it–and hope some will grow. But, with a food garden, you must be much more careful. We have never tilled, but many do, or plow. But, we do prepare each hole for each seed. We dig down into the ground and put good, black soil in with the seed to give it a head start at surviving.

The seed of the word is no different. If it is tossed out, some seeds may grow, others may not. But if you personally prepare a place within your heart–you carve out a specific niche and fill it with good, black soil (love, openness, willingness, obedience)–then when you learn something new from the word, or when God gives you something new, you are ready for it.

If we leave our vegetable seeds uncovered, even though the seed is in the good, rich soil, some critter may come along and steal it. So, we make sure to cover the seed over, pat down the ground, and give it a good watering. That, too, we must do with the new seed of God’s word that we have been given. We’ve put it in the place prepared for the new seed and then cover it over with acceptance, graciousness, and gratefulness and we protect it, we guard it, we keep it from being stolen. Because if the new seeds aren’t protected, we will lose them, and lose whatever good may have come from them had we been able to hang on.

Once we have covered over our seeds, we water and diligently weed, and wait. We watch for the seeds to spring out sprouts and we cross our fingers that the result will be yummy squash and beans and peas. With the seeds God has given, we need to keep them weeded and watered too. Keep studying, keep praying, keep meditating until they sprout. When they do, don’t just cross your fingers and hope for good fruit. Put those little sproutlings to work and make sure they will bear good fruit by exercising your faith in God, in His plan for their fruit, and trust in Him that He has given you the type of seed you need–because, no doubt, He has, and He can’t wait to see what you do with them-relish them yourselves and then share them with others.

 

(Photo above taken by me at Cades Cove, Fall 2015)