Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
While the rest of the world took little or no notice of the bright star that had suddenly appeared in the night sky, it did catch the eye of a few foreign fellows living in a country east of Jerusalem. Observing the spectacular star's return night-after-night sparked earnest curiosity in them. They gathered together in serious study, excitedly probing, researching, and investigating anything they could get their hands on concerning the meaning behind its arrival. When they discovered that it signaled the birth of Israel’s king, they packed up gifts to present to him and set off in high adventure, following not a well-marked-out roadmap, but, a star.
How it must have shocked them to find life carrying on normally in Israel instead of in lavish celebration of the babe’s arrival. No streamers. No horns hooting. No minstrels worshipping. Just the status quo.
We have nothing, but really we have everything.
1st Corinthians 6:10
Whatever abundance her nation had experienced in the past had long shriveled up due to the lack of rain. The old Arab saying, “All sunshine makes a desert,” proved painfully true as she looked out her window. The little garden she had once harvested fruit and vegetables from lay barren, the ground hard-baked and cracked.
A shadow clouded the widow’s eyes as she turned to open her flour jar lid once more and peer inside. It was in the same sorry state as her oil jug...nearly empty. She looked over at her son. Oh, how her heart filled with love for him. She went over to him, ruffled his hair, kissed his forehead softly and told him she was going out for a spell.
With a heavy heart, the widow made her way out the door. "Today will be the last day I'll gather sticks for a fire," she thought as tears swam in her eyes. "There is only enough flour and oil to make tonight’s meal."
Nearing the town gates, a stranger called out to her, startling her out of her dreary thoughts. He was in need of a drink of water and a piece of bread, he said. His request and pleading eyes served only to remind her once more of her own dire predicament.
She told him that as much as she’d like to help him, her own bread-making supplies were nearly depleted. "In fact," she mouthed...barely above a whisper, “All I have left is enough for one more loaf - then my son and I will die of starvation like all the rest.”
*With heartfelt thoughts and prayers for those who lost so much in the typhoon in the Philippines and the tornadoes in IL
Sometimes it’s hard to sense God’s presence in the cacophony and chaos of our lives. Tragedy, disappointment, heartache, unfulfilled longings, or unanswered prayers that seem to bounce off the heavens have a way of obscuring our ability to feel Him near.
The men on the road to Emmaus certainly experienced this. These disciples had just lost their dearest friend and leader in a horrifying manner, had left all they had to follow him, and now he was gone. So even though Jesus had risen from the dead and now walked along beside them, listening to their hearts ache and speaking truth into their confusion, their pain kept His presence...His identity...hidden.
It wasn’t until the quiet of the evening as Jesus broke bread with them that they finally recognized Him. And though He disappeared from sight, the assurance of His very near presence burned deeply in their hearts. Now they understood that He had never really left them alone. Because of the Cross they would experience His presence in a whole new way. He had been with them in Spirit through the upheaval and sorrow, and He would be with them until the end of the age.
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
I practically ran out the door in my pj’s this morning, but, I was afraid I might scare my neighbors. So, I pulled on my jeans, a sweatshirt, yanked my Pittsburgh Steelers stocking cap over my bedhead and grabbed my camera. I could hardly get dressed fast enough to get outside to capture photos of the glittering blanket of white that had fallen softly on my lawn and gardens overnight.
Once out on my deck, I stood stock still to drink it all in. Taking a deep breath of the deliously refreshing crisp morning air, I smiled up at the sun that was shining brightly in the clear blue sky. I felt like a giddy little school girl. How could I not? God had bequeathed this earth of ours with a gift of dazzling white diamonds set against the last remnants of fall color...and I was the benefactor of all that goodness!
You made the moon to mark the seasons, and the sun always knows when to set.
It's happening again. Just as it happens every autumn here in the Upper Midwest. We're losing daylight. Shadows are lengthening. The sun struggles to brighten the morning sky. And, before we've had much chance to relish it, it quickly slips away again into the dusk of evening.
Daylight Savings time comes to an end and we will be falling back...falling back into shorter days and longer nights. Why is it that most of us dread this change? Being a sun-lover myself, I know I do. I struggle when darkness comes calling at 5 o'clock, or earlier, each evening.
But this year, instead of bemoaning its inevitable approach, I am going to take a tip from God's creation...and meet this unavoidable change the way it does.
October is an in-between month. It hovers somewhere between warm autumn temps and chilly crisp breezes that whisper of winter's approach. It is a month that rose gardeners, like myself, dance with fate...trying to eek out that last rose of the year without getting caught unprepared by sudden freezes or snowfalls.
I have procrastinated in the past...holding out just one more day for that last bud to open. But, because of that, I've also lost a few shrub roses in the process. So, with that in mind, I decided to take some preventative measures this year. I started by trimming back all the late autumn growth, which just happened to include all those precious buds. Then I wrapped all of my rose's root systems with a tripled piece of burlap, making sure the base was covered snugly. Finally I wrapped the rose bush itself in burlap and twine and tucked my bushes inside tomato cages, for added protection against harsh winds and heavy snows.
Then, just a day or two later, I woke to the sight of this season's first hard frost. I can't tell you how relieved and thankful I was that I had not delayed! Seeing my roses all snuggled up in their burlap blankets reminded me of the value of not putting off till tomorrow what I can do today.
Sméagol ceased to look up. He had ceased to look up at hilltops, leaves on tress and flowers opening in the air.
He became sharp-eyed and keen-eared for all that was hurtful.
He wandered in loneliness, weeping a little for the hardness of the world.
Shaking his fist at the sun...he journeyed by night, found a little cave, and wormed his way, like a maggot, into the heart of the hills and completely vanished out of all knowledge.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
I had been journaling my way through the book of 1st Samuel, when I came across a sentence that jumped right off the page, “None of you is concerned about me…” (1st Samuel 22:8).
Have you ever felt that way? I dare say, there is hardly a soul on the planet that hasn’t at one time or another had a fleeting thought similar to this brush through their mind. Though thoughts such as these may flit through our minds from time-to-time, it is what we do with those thoughts the moment they cross our mind, that for good or for ill, can change the trajectory of our lives for years to come.
Take for instance the man who uttered those words in 1st Samuel, King Saul, the first king of Israel. As a king accustomed to being waited on hand-and-foot, he had become the center of his world. When life didn’t go the way he thought it should, he began to stumble down the very slippery slope of self-pity. Jealousy and suspicion soon followed, worming their way into his thoughts. He focused on all the things that he didn't have, forgetting all the ways God had blessed him. Becoming more and more paranoid, he convinced himself that David, his most loyal, trustworthy armor-bearer, was out to usurp him.
Instead of bringing those things that plagued him to God in prayer, he continued to coddle his resentment and misery, allowing them to linger far too long in his mind, until they drove him into darker regions of his soul...into a cave much more fearsome than the caves he had driven his imagined nemesis, David, to run and hide in.
Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing!
1st Thessalonians 5:11
The weatherman predicted a rainy start to the Twin Cities Marathon. But, as if by divine decree, the clouds parted and the sun shone down just as the gun went off. As faithful fans lined the route to cheer on all the runners, our friends, the Otto’s, my hubby and I positioned ourselves at Mile 5, across from a breath-taking view of Lake Calhoun.
Then the first runners came around the bend and the crowds erupted with excitement. It didn’t matter to those of us on the sidelines if we recognized anyone in the mass of marathoners; we were there for one purpose only...to encourage the runners to keep on keeping-on!
The skies grow heavy. The clouds darken. And I pray for rain. But, time after time, the rain clouds move over us, sometimes teasingly weeping a drop or two before moving eastward. And each time that happens, I ache, knowing how desperately we need it.
I lift my face and hands heavenward in earnest petition...but, no rain falls. No downpour comes. And once more the ground, plants and trees on my little patch of the globe remain parched and thirsty.
The skies over this old world grow heavy. The clouds of war, hatred and pain darken. And I pray for rain. I pray for the sweet rain of the Holy Spirit to fall, to pour down peace into the turmoil and dispel the strife and hostility. But, day after day, news brings word of mankind's continued conflicts. And each time I hear it, I ache, knowing how desperately we need God's peace and saving grace.
I lift my face and hands heavenward in earnest petition...but, it seems no rain falls. No downpour comes.
“Those who trust in the Lord will be blessed...
They will be strong like trees planted near a stream
that send out roots to the water.
They have nothing to fear when the days get hot.
Their leaves are always green.
They never worry, even in a year that has no rain.
They always produce fruit.”
Here in my neck of the woods, it is apple harvest season. The local apple orchards are buzzing with business, packed with folks whose mouths have been watering to sink their teeth into one of those fresh-picked beauties. I know...because my hubby and I were one of the hundreds who milled through the orchard, waited for hayrides, got lost in the corn maze, or stood in line for warm apple donuts this weekend!! Yum!!!
As we meandered our way through the orchards, there were several times we just had to stop and shake our heads! The trees were so heavy-ladened with fruit we could hardly believe our eyes.
One especially foggy December morning, my friend Nanc’ and I boarded an Amtrak train for a little "girl" time and Christmas shopping in Chicago. There is something magical about lumbering through rolling countrysides and quaint little towns on a chugging locomotive.
There's no racing from one airport terminal to another in a hurried mass of folks to get to where one is going. No...time slows and peace seeps in. From our little nest up in the observation deck, we instead watched meandering creeks and the old Mississippi River trail past as the sun melted the misty morning away into skies of robin's egg blue.
My sister, Sherri, and I shared a bedroom until I left for college my freshman year. The word shared may not be the appropriate term. Because, you see, we had an invisible line that ran down the middle of our room. Her stuff was her stuff, and it was guarded carefully; and my stuff was my stuff, which stayed safely tucked away on my side of the room. Dare cross that invisible line and touch the other's stuff and things could get ugly...fast! I suppose that’s pretty normal for teenagers.
But, the reality is, we adults struggle with sharing, too. I don't mean in terms of generosity. Most of us are plenty generous. I think our struggle is much more subtle than that.
This is my grasshopper friend. All summer long he has been living in the potted coreopsis that sits on our deck. Over the weekend I noticed him out sunning himself on a rock. So I grabbed my camera, slunk up as close as he would allow, and snapped his picture.
I wish he had given me some inkling of what he was planning to do that day; I would have stuck around awhile longer. But, he did not, and my gardens were calling, so I bid him "good day" and was off.
On my way back into the house to rinse the dirt off my hands, I stepped onto the deck and noticed what I thought was a piece of plastic wrap lying next to the pot. Bending over to pick it up, I gasped and stepped back in shock. That was no wad of plastic wrap! My grasshopper friend had just shed his skin...and while I was away, too! I was so bummed that I had missed it!
After the initial shock wore off, and more photos were taken, I decided to keep it. I know; it sounds a bit morbid, doesn't it? I was sort of afraid to pick it up at first, for fear it would be delicate and break. But, that skin was built like a suit of armor.
It seemed counter-intuitive to me to shed such a skin. As long as my grasshopper friend remained inside that protective coat of arms, how could anything possibly harm him? Why, then, would he shed it? Why would he make himself vulnerable without it?
On the first day of my French course I realized
that I was going to have to learn speech all over again –
word by word, one word at a time.
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
It was the first basketball practice of the season. My hubby, Rey, was the only American on an all-French team.
I decided to tag along to the practice. I was curious to see just how one plays basketball when you can't communicate. "Sign" language and dribbling...hmmm. I figured this might prove to be one entertaining evening.
The condo we rented was perched up on a hill overlooking the Blue River and the sweet little town of Breckenridge, Colorado. From our deck on the second floor, I could sit in the treetops with a bird's-eye view.
Every morning I'd grab a cup of hot tea and my Bible and make my way out onto the deck to quietly read and pray as the little town awakened. As the sun slowly rose over the sleepy little town I'd see shop owners, and the baker from a nearby french patisserie, flipping on lights and preparing for the day. The next folks to join the morning's beckoning were the dog-walkers who'd stand on river's edge as their pooches went for a morning dip. Then, little-by-little the streets would fill with hungry breakfast-seekers, mountain bike renters and die-hard shoppers.
As I sat watching all the comings and goings of people milling through Breckenridge, that old familiar feeling swept over me.
My strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.
It’s definitely summertime here in Minnesota! No doubt about it! The mosquitoes are out in full force and the humidity is...well, it’s back too, and then some!
Spend any amount of time out under this hot sun and it can literally sap you of every ounce of strength you have. The moisture that hangs heavy in the air is no respecter of one’s freshly showered self; it wraps you with a sticky film the minute you walk out the door.
When my sons were young boys they loved to play the “clue” game. Not the old Parker Brothers' version where clues might point to Colonel Mustard in the Ballroom with the Candlestick...although they played that a time or two, as well. No, our boys “clue” game was the brainstorm of their imaginative dad who would create funny riddles or word problems for them to solve.
What made this game spectacular fun was that the clues could be hidden anywhere. Some were scattered throughout the house, while others were hidden in the yard, or an obliging neighbor’s yard...to kick the game up a notch.
We gardeners keep a fairly fixed routine. Mine starts each day with deadheading, weeding, fertilizing and debugging when necessary, and ends in the evening with watering. Now, I have been known to miss a day or two now and again, but, if I begin to skip my routine on a regular basis, my garden pays for it and so do I.
The same goes for my exercise routine. I recently joined a group of folks on Facebook for a Planking Challenge. At the beginning of June we started by holding the plank position for 20 seconds. I thought, “This is going to be a piece of cake.” When the increments increased from seconds to minutes, however, I was singing a different tune. But, knowing I was accountable to my fellow plankers, I completed a five-minute plank by July 1st!
Still, now that I’m not accountable to anyone, I could easily quit that part of my exercise routine and no one would even know. But, my body would. Planks, push-ups, squats, jumping rope and the treadmill keep me in shape. When I become lackadaisical and sit it out for a day or two, it’s not only harder to get back in the routine, it gets easier to just give up altogether.
Did you get a chance to take a peek at the Super Moon the other night? I stood in the middle of my backyard in the pitch black, swatting mosquitoes, in an effort to capture the memory of it on film.
There is something comforting to me about the moon shining in the night sky. I suppose it's a little like a night light in a child's room. When darkness closes in and the sun has made its way halfway around the world and is long out of sight, the moon's reflection reminds me that though the sun is absent for a time, it isn't truly gone. It is still out there shining just as brilliantly as always...whether I can see it or not.
There once were three young trees that grew up together in the forest. Two of the trees grew straight and tall. The other developed a crook in his back. But, all three of them had one goal. To stretch their branches heavenward as best they could until their leaf top touched the sky.
As trees do, they loved when gentle breezes blew. Feeling the wind whisper through their leaves sent shivers up their trunks.
Birdsong frequently set the woods alive with praises and, if they were lucky, one might even perch in their limbs and sing a secret song just for them.
Squirrels gave chase, leaping and frolicking from one tree to the next, causing their branches to jiggle in laughter. And chipmunks would often scurry along their exposed roots tickling them sometimes.
Waking to sunshine on their shoulders, life seemed idyllic to the three young trees.