Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Comfort’

I was having an especially fun moment on Facebook.  A friend had posted a video of the Christmas story as told by children.  Just as a wisp of Christmas spirit began to materialize inside of me, the very next status update in my feed stopped me cold.

Another friend posted that a local family lost several of their own.  A father, mother, their two young children and the family dog all perished in a single engine plane crash on a freeway in New Jersey.

I don’t know for sure if this Christmas is different than any other, but to me it feels… I don’t know… darker.  So many people I know are facing serious financial difficulties.  Others are experiencing their first Christmas without a loved one.  Still others are dealing with illness.  So much sadness…

I am left wondering how to reconcile this bittersweet dichotomy.  What am I supposed to feel?  I cannot steel myself to the pain of others.  Nor can I shut out the promise of Christmas. 

I sense that I am not alone in my emotional confusion.  Are you there, too?

At some point, we have to choose where we put our focus.  If I may make a sweeping generalization, I would say that most of us, given the choice, would prefer to relish the wonder of the season.  (Have you ever noticed how people thrill to the lights at Christmastime?  As beings created by the Light, we cannot help but be drawn to it.)

The darker the world gets, the more Christmas means. 

A savior is coming to pull us out of the mess of our own making, to wipe away every tear, to make right all that is wrong. 

In this promise, we can place our hope:

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned…  For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.  He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.”  (Isaiah 9:2-7, NIV)

 

 

Elsewhere on the blog: A last-minute gift idea for elementary school age children.

Read Full Post »

I admit it.  I don’t do change well.  This is something God and I are working on, and He has given me many beautiful opportunities to trust that change, though it may involve letting go, is not in and of itself a bad thing.

We had our first frost this week.  Sunday morning, I peeked outside to see if anything in our garden had survived.  My heart sank a little when I saw the leaves of our summer basil blackened and once robust squash leaves looking like limp dishrags on sticks.  How I loved our summer garden!  And now, it is gone.

But the first frost of the season also means harvest.  That same day, I plunged my gloved hands into the soft earth and pulled out the sweet potatoes that will soon be on our Thanksgiving table.  It was a delightful, subterranean treasure hunt.

sweet potatoes!             

This is only one example of the changes I have seen this fall.  Though the letting go always makes me wistful, I am trying harder to look ahead – to smile for what was, instead of crying that it is no longer.

There was a time in my life when change, especially the endings of things, would have sent me into all-out panic mode.  Not anymore.  I have learned to trust the hand that turns the seasons.  I have lived long enough to see that things have a way of working out.  I have grown in faith enough to know that there is treasure under the surface of whatever change I may be facing. 

I feel that I should pause here to offer a caveat.  I don’t mean to suggest that grieving is wrong.  Quite the contrary.  Grieving is normal, healthy and biblical.  I am referring here to day-to-day, season-to-season, year-to-year changes which may cause discomfort, but do not devastate.  In either case, a little faith goes a long way to soften the blow.

What changes are you facing this fall?  Do you welcome change, or do you fear it?  Do you see the loss or the harvest? Perhaps most importantly, do you believe that whatever change God allows you is ultimately for your good?  (It is, you know.)

There is a season for everything.

There is a reason for everything.

Trust now the hand that turns the seasons…

…and leave the reasons to Him who is for you. 

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, NIV)

Read Full Post »

I checked off another birthday this week.  This one was difficult to accept.  It wasn’t a milestone birthday.  It’s just that upon examination, my life isn’t what I thought it would be by this point.  I am not who I wanted to be.

I asked Hubs, “What’s so great about being this age?  Please tell me.  I need to focus on something positive.”

Sweet thing that he is, he tried to comfort me with talk of wisdom and depth.  Somehow, those perks seemed worth little when weighed against drawbacks like wrinkles, gray hair and sagging body parts.

So I had myself a good, long think.

I thought about how I spent my youth borrowing against the future.  I couldn’t wait to get to the next thing.  I always wanted to look older.  Never satisfied…

I thought about how that shifted.  Around age forty, I started looking back.  I missed the trappings of youth.  I wanted to look younger.  Never satisfied…

Like a giant light bulb illuminating my pity party, it hit me: 

Why not just be satisfied with this moment, this age, this life right now – just as it is? 

What if wishing to be somewhere else, or pining for my youth, or nursing my dissatisfaction is sapping my energy and joy? 

What if all this “wishing for different” is really me playing the victim?

Gasp.  Shudder.  Ew.  Gross. 

As folks say in the south, “I tell you what.”  (Contextual translation:  “I am so over that.”)  It is time for some changes. 

I don’t have God’s perspective, so I’m leaning on His.  I have laid out my every activity and attitude before Him and asked, “Is this what You would have for me?”  The answers have been surprising. 

He is renovating.  I am an observer, watching Him work.  As the drywall dust settles, I see glimpses of a new creation.

And what freedom!  I am no longer a powerless woman having a pathetic mid-life crisis.  I am His project, which means I am fully empowered to move forward – with boldness.  I can say “no, thank you” to things which might be burdensome, and give a resounding “yes!” to things which He has determined are right for me.

Birthdays need not be a funereal passing of another year. 

They can be the start of something wonderful – a birth-day, a cause for celebration.

Today can be a birth-day.  It’s all in the attitude.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:  The old has gone, the new is here!”  (2 Cor. 5:17, NIV)

Read Full Post »

I almost quit blogging.  I came face to face this weekend with what I thought was a disparity between being “Christian enough” to have a faith blog… and where I am.

I joined 649 other women from 44 states and 4 countries in Concord, NC for a conference of Christian women speakers, writers and ministry leaders.  It is a conference for those who are serious about spreading the gospel.

Then there is me.

I came away from the conference feeling totally inadequate to speak in His name.  Ill-equipped.  Not Christian enough.  If I tell you what reasons I thought others might find me unworthy to write a faith blog, you might laugh at me.  Or perhaps you’d be convinced to unsubscribe from this blog immediately.  Either way, here goes:

  • I do not raise my hand(s) in church during songs.  I like praise songs, but do you know what really sends me over the edge?  This music right here.  I am incapable of listening to this without being moved to a puddle of reverent, emotional, holy adoration.  A Bach fugue on a giant organ in the hands of a master organist sends me, too.  (I also like Alison Krauss, Sting, Ella Fitzgerald, Dianna Krall, Colbie Caillat, etc., etc., and I happen to think that Eminem is outrageously talented, even though he cusses too much.)
  • I am often confused about the man/God Jesus.  Sometimes I even doubt the whole trinity thing.  Yup.  Thomas and I would’ve been friends.
  • I love a good wine/food pairing.  I also like a margarita with Mexican food, and a good beer with a burger.
  • I have gay friends, some of whom are the godliest people I know.
  • Every so often, a colorful word will escape my lips.  (You can take the girl out of Montana…)
  • I do not read my Bible every day.

Well?  What do you think?  Are you ready to hit the unsubscribe button?  A few days ago, I would have if I were you, too.  But let me ask you this: what makes someone “Christian enough” to share their faith?  And does our imperfection make us unworthy to speak in His name, or does it make Jesus approachable?

If you unsubscribe, I’ll understand.  Really.  No hard feelings.

If you stick around to read my chicken scratches, please forgive the areas where I may be less faithful than you. 

I pledge to you that I will be authentic in what I write.  Otherwise, why would you believe me when I say that there is a God who loves you wildly, beyond all reason, beyond our puny human understanding, beyond what you can imagine?

Nobody has all the answers.  Nobody is without mark or blemish.  If you have ever felt that you are not “Christian enough” to go to church, to speak His name, to ask for His help, I would ask you – no, implore you – to think again.

Certainly, you are not perfect.

But most certainly, you are enough.

“Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’ Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!'”  (John 20:27-28, NIV)

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

If you happen to be taking a stroll through my neighborhood on any given summer morning, you will probably see me working in the garden.  (This Montana-grown, transplanted-to-the-south gal has to have her hands in the dirt!)  While I’m working, God often takes the opportunity to teach me.  This summer, I thought it might be fun to pass on some of what I’m learning, à la mini-Bible study, from the garden.  Grab a shovel or a cup of coffee and join me in my garden!

 —————————————————————————————-

 

Something isn’t right.  My zucchini plants should be churning out the fruit by now.  (Anyone who has ever grown these prolific veggies knows that one plant will supply more zucchini than one family can use.)  Out of three plants, I have one fruit.  One lonely zucchini.

The leaves haven’t looked right to me.  They are spotted and powdery.  I thought maybe I watered too much, or perhaps not enough.  I figured, like most things in the garden, the problem would eventually work itself out.

I was wrong.

Since I am somewhat of a novice gardener, I didn’t know about a disease called “powdery mildew.”  For cucurbits (squash, melons, cucumbers, etc.), it is serious.  It is a nasty fungus which can spread and decimate crops.  It is so bad, that one should not even compost the affected leaves.

According to the information I have gleaned on the internet, the prognosis is not good.  There are several methods I can try to save my plants from the disease, but my dreams of copious amounts of squash are dimming.

Boo.  😦

(Please allow me a moment of grief.)

No zucchini bread?  Zucchini muffins?  Chocolate-chocolate chip zucchini cake?  Zucchini cookies?  (Hey, don’t knock ‘em until you’ve tried ‘em.)  No zukes for our ratatouille and pasta? 

I am crestfallen.

Isn’t this just life, though?  With high hopes, you tend your dreams, invest your time or money in them and expend all your energy.  Maybe things are going well for a while, then without warning, BAM! 

Something happens. 

Your dreams are dashed. 

Your hope is lost.

What do you do then?

If we are talking about dreams and not zucchini (ok, maybe zucchini, too), for me, the plan is as follows:

1.)   Trust that God is good, and that even the smallest happening in my life is not without purpose. 

2.)   Search for what God might possibly be trying to teach me in the midst of my disappointment.

3.)   Focus on what is working.

Of course, saying these things and living them are two different things.  I’ll give you that.  But I’d rather strive to find some good in my disappointing moments than to become bitter from them.

Digging deeper:  Have you had any disappointments lately?  Read Isaiah 55.  Yup, the whole thing.  Read it slowly.  Savor each word as you would savor a chocolate truffle cheesecake.  What richness!  Let these words from the Lord wash over your disappointments and wrap you in comfort.

Let’s pray:  Dear God, how easy it is to trust your ways when things are going well – and how difficult it is when they’re not.  Show me what You have for me in my disappointment.  Teach me.  Comfort me while I learn the hard lessons.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

pathetic zuke

Read Full Post »

If you happen to be taking a stroll through my neighborhood on any given summer morning, you will probably see me working in the garden.  (This Montana-grown, transplanted-to-the-south gal has to have her hands in the dirt!)  While I’m working, God often takes the opportunity to teach me.  This summer, I thought it might be fun to pass on some of what I’m learning, à la mini-Bible study, from the garden.  Grab a shovel or a cup of coffee and join me in my garden!

 __________________________________________

 

Finally!  The garden has started to produce!  Every morning is a bit like Christmas.  I run out to the garden to see what gifts are there.  I peek under leaves.  I sidle up to stalks.  And look!

The blueberries are popping…

 blueberries

Cukes are almost ready…

 cukes

Look at this cute baby cantaloupe!

 baby cantaloupe

‘Maters!

 maters

Deep aubergine Japanese eggplant…

 eggplant

I can almost smell the zucchini bread!

 zucchini

And look!  We even have hairy ears!  (Of corn, that is…)

 corn

Oh, that nasty pride monster tries to convince me that I can take credit for all these wonders, but I don’t listen.  Nope.  Can’t do it.  Sure, I’ve planted, watered and weeded, but seriously… did I have one thing to do with the gorgeous color of that eggplant?  Or how the zucchini grew an inch overnight?  Or how that cantaloupe blossom turned into a baby fruit seemingly in an instant?

God does it, and I get to delight in it.  What gifts!

(Please excuse me for the gratuitous exclamation points.  I can’t help myself.  I get so excited about the subject of fruit. (!)  Anyway.)

I wonder if He delights in the fruits He produces in our lives as much as I delight in what He produces every morning in my garden.  Does He get giddy when we show generosity, or exhibit patience, or control our impulses?  Does He laugh with us in our joy?  Or smile when we are kind?

As much as I would like to take credit for these glimmers of fruit in my life, I can’t.  He is doing the work in me, as surely as He is coloring the eggplant in my garden.  My part is to create the best conditions possible by reading His word and keeping Him close company.

Do you see any fruit growing in your life?  Look closely.  Don’t you see His handiwork in your life?  Have you seen His work in someone else’s life?

Digging deeper: Our lives are meant to bear fruit.  You’ve probably read this before, but take a close look at Galatians 5:13-26.  This is a brief explanation of what it means for us to bear fruit.  Are there any fruits missing in your life?  Where does your garden need some tending?

Let’s pray: Dear God, I want to delight You with the fruit of my life.  Do Your good work in me.  Tend all the dry and fruitless places in my heart so that my life may be pleasing to You.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

Read Full Post »

If you happen to be taking a stroll through my neighborhood on any given summer morning, you will probably see me working in the garden.  (This Montana-grown, transplanted-to-the-south gal has to have her hands in the dirt!)  While I’m working, God often takes the opportunity to teach me.  This summer, I thought it might be fun to pass on some of what I’m learning, à la mini-Bible study, from the garden.  Grab a shovel or a cup of coffee and join me in my garden!

 

___________________________________

 

Sometimes I wonder if I have any faith at all.  But I am a gardener.  Anyone who plunges seeds into a patch of dirt and expects them to magically turn into food has to have some measure of faith. 

I know that if I put these into the ground…

 sunflower seeds

… they will turn into sunflowers.

 

I believe that when I see these bright, orange-yellow blossoms…

 squash blossom

…I’ll see a squash in the near future.

 

But how do I know this?  And how can I be sure that these will turn into tomatoes?

 tomato blossoms

I mean, what if instead of tomatoes, I got beets (which everyone knows are yucky, unless raw)?

Gardeners believe in what we can’t see. 

Hmm…  I guess that’s called faith.

We believe in the promise of seeds and squash blossoms and green tomatoes and sweet potato vine.  We have faith in the promise that sunflowers, zucchini, tomatoes and sweet potatoes will indeed arrive.

What if we could believe the promises of God as much as we believe the promises of the garden?  Fellow gardeners and non-gardeners, we can! 

There has not been even one time that tennis balls or lemons grew from the cucumber seedlings I have planted.  If God is faithful to bring forth cucumbers from the vine, won’t He be much more faithful when He says, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)?  This is a promise we can believe!

I believe God is working His magic in the dirt, and even though I can’t see sweet potatoes growing under the ground, I believe that this fall, we will have them coming out our ears.  I also believe that “He who began a good work in [me] will carry it on to completion…” (Phillippians 1:6).  What He began in my garden and in you and me, He will finish, just like sweet potatoes.

If you have ever felt like an epic failure, a mess-up or a mistake, grab this promise for yourself.  He is working on you even now. 

If you feel alone, grab the promise that He will never leave you.  Never.

If you feel unloved, grab the promise that “His love endures forever!”  (Ps. 100:5 – one time of 44 that these words appear in the Bible, NIV)

These promises are yours to keep.

 

Digging deeper: Make sure you are not within earshot of someone who might think you are crazy for muttering under your breath.  Now slowly repeat these words three times: “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good.  His steadfast love endures forever.”  Go ahead.  I’ll wait.  Done?  OK.  How did you feel saying these words?  Did they fill you with joy because you believe them?  Did you feel like a fraud because you don’t?  (No judgment here.  Just notice how you feel.)

Let’s pray:  Dear God, there have been many hurts in my life – so many that it is hard sometimes to trust even You.  Please show me that my faith in what I cannot see is not misplaced.  Help me to believe your promises, claim them as mine and hold them tightly.  Thank you for never giving up on me.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

One more thing:  How are you doing on those weeds?  😉

 

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: