Sunday, December 18, 2016

Mid-Life Crisis?!

Mid-Life Crisis?

            “Is this a mid-life crisis?” She wondered to the blank wall behind the T.V. – the one that she left blank intentionally, not even a nail hole to hang a picture because even so much as a nail would be a commitment, a commitment to a life she was no longer certain she wanted.
            Fifteen years with the same man.  Eating the same food.  Sleeping in the same bed.  Having the same sex.  Many years, many towns, and many houses had passed through their lives as a couple.  Was she really ready for yet another one?
            Sure she still loved her husband.  But it’s the kind of love familiarity brings.  The passion and lust of the honeymoon are gone. They worked past the growing pains of underwear on the floor in front of the hamper and the toothpaste tube being squished in the middle instead of squeezed from the end.  They had been friends at first, then lovers, and then friends again, but most of Emma’s childhood friends were gone.  Now Jack was her life.

But now…she wondered…….

            Almost without thinking, she rubbed the soft microsuede fabric they had picked for the couch.  She liked the couch.  She remembered that Jack thought the store was asking too much for the it.  $2000 was too much for them to pay.  Emma  had insisted it would last a lifetime if they took care of it properly.  It’d be an investment, she insisted.  Like their marriage, the sofa had been through many incarnations, but it had withstood the test of time. She smoothed the afghan draped over the cushion with the back of her hand as she stood to go do the dishes. She could stay for the couch.
            The wide plank floor was smooth under her bare feet.  She had always wanted a floor like this.  Big, wide, slats of wood aged and weathered over time, looking like her daddy’s old barn.  She fell in love with it the first time she saw it.  She couldn’t leave this floor.
            Entering the kitchen through the arched doorway, she was nearly blinded by the sunlight flooding the room.  Of course, that had been planned too.  She had always loved the idea of working in the kitchens in the morning, bathed in sunlight, getting the family’s meals ready for the day.  There wasn’t anything about this kitchen she didn’t love, from the hanging pendant lights above the bar down to the terra cotta tile floors, warmed from underneath so she could go barefooted comfortably all year long. 

            They had worked so hard on this house.  Getting it to just the place they wanted it.  Really…how could she leave now? This house was the house of her dreams! Could she really stay for the house????

The Master Gardener and The Rose

            Nobody accuses the rose of being ugly simply because they get stuck by a thorn.
            The Rose does not apologize, explain, or make excuses for its thorns, or try to understand why God made it the way He did.
            The Rose does not stop being beautiful or smelling good because someone has mishandled it and gotten themselves hurt.
            God did not ask permission to make the Rose.  He did not consult other roses or people who had been pricked by other roses before He made more. 
            He doesn’t ask the Rose to understand.  He only asks the Rose to be a Rose, scent and thorns and all, without apology, trusting that He knew what He was doing when He made it.
            How a person responds to the Rose says more about that person than it does the Rose.  We may get mad about being stuck.  We may stomp the Rose, dig it up, burn it, or kill it by some other means, BUT the Rose is still a Rose.  It can’t not be a Rose.
            The Rose does not shrink away from sunlight because someone got hurt.  Day after day, the Rose turns its face to the sun and shares its beauty with the world.
Some appreciate the Rose for its beauty, others for its scent.  Most respect the fact that there are thorns.  They know they are looking at a Rose, and they look for the thorns so they know where they can and cannot touch.
Others don’t realize they are dealing with a Rose at all and are stuck before they do.

            Is this the fault of the Rose?

Some people might chide the Rose, asking it to apologize for being so offensive to the one it stuck.  They may even suggest the Rose cut off its thorns so as to avoid any future injuries to loved ones, stating that, losing the thorns won’t affect the flower’s face, its beauty, its fragrance, or its life.  Surely that would not be too big a price to pay for one’s friends.
And, those people are probably right.  Most likely the Rose would not be affected the loss of a thorn or two.  But for how many thorns will this hold true?  For how long?  Exactly how much of a plant can a person cut away before killing the plant?
How long must the Rose suffer at the hands of those that only wish for the beauty of the Rose but none of the care of the thing? 
How long would something so beautiful survive at the hands of such careless, ignorant, or thoughtless caretakers? 
After all, it was not the Rose was not the one who was careless.

Surely the poor Beauty would begin to shrivel up and die.  Roses, thorny as they may be, require specific care.  The Master Gardener knows this and can provide just the ideal conditions.
The Master Gardener can look at the Rose, diagnose just exactly what is needed and set out a plan of care tailored to the roses specific needs that will cause the Rose to flourish and thrive.
Sometimes, this might mean that pruning and dead-heading are needed in order for the more established stems to grow stronger and sturdier.  Painful as it might be for the Rose, the end thereof for the plant, as a whole, is a hardier plant, capable of producing bigger and more fragrant blooms.
At other times, a complete uprooting and transplant is in order.  For a myriad of reasons, the Rose simply may not be thriving.  The Master Gardener alone knows the signs.
The Rose, upon being removed from the ground, may be certain it is about to die.  But the Rose is at the mercy of the Gardener.  He will place the traumatized Rose into a new place He has lovingly and knowingly prepared for the plant.  And the Master Gardener knows that the Rose will need some time to recover.  The Rose may even fail to produce blooms for a while, as the roots re-establish themselves.
A less-experienced gardener may mistakenly believe that he has killed the plant and proceed to yank it out of the ground and fill in the hole.  But the Master Gardener is patient, unwilling that His precious beauty should perish.  The Master Gardener gives the plant the time, love and care it needs (care for a sick Rose – not care for a thriving violet), and He waits. 
The Master Gardener does not belittle or berate the Rose for failing to thrive.  He does not accuse the Rose of being rebellious and unwilling to bloom, when He is the one who uprooted the Rose in the first place.
The Rose – His Rose – is at His mercy.

But…that is the safest place in the world for the Rose to be.  And the best thing for that precious Rose to do is to rest in the knowledge that the Master Gardener knows what He is doing. 
All the Rose must do is be the Rose it was created to be and bloom where it was planted.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

It's been FAR, FAR TOO LONG!!!

Hello everyone!

I know it's been a while since I've posted.  I've had so many things going on that I sat the blog on the back burner.  I'm changing things up a bit and thought I'd share this with you.

This was my original blog, the one that started it all.  I have since started up a Word Press page as well.  I had been duplicating my posts here and there.  I've decided that I am not going to do that anymore.  From now on, I am going to use this blog to publish my writing instead of my devotionals.  If you want to follow along with my devotionals, you can reach me at

With that, I am going to leave you.  For now.  I am currently working on getting some of my work typed into the computer so that I can upload it.  In the meantime, feel free to join me on my other site.  I will not leave you hanging. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Day Fifty-Eight: Zeal for Righteousness

READ:  Nehemiah 13:7-13

(7-9) I arrived in Jerusalem and learned of the wrong that Eliashib had done in turning over to him a room in the courts of The Temple of God.  I was angry, really angry, and threw everything in the room out into the street, all of Tobiah's stuff.  Then I ordered that they ceremonially cleanse the room.  Only then did I put back the worship vessels of The Temple of God, along with the Grain-Offerings and the incense.
(10-13) And then I learned that the Levites hadn't been given their regular food allotments.  So the Levites and singers who led the services of worship had all left and gone back to their farms.  I called the officials on the carpet, "Why has The Temple of God been abandoned?"  I got everyone back again and put them back on their jobs so that all Judah was again bringing in the tithe of grain, wine, and oil to the storerooms.  I put Shelemiah the priest, Zadok the scribe, and a Levite named Pedaiah in charge of the storerooms.  I made Hanan son of Zaccur, the son of Mattaniah, their right-hand man.  These men had a reputation for honesty and hardwork.  They were responsible for distributing the rations to their brothers.

THINK:  In these earlier days, what do you notice about the way of life God required his people to abide by?  Why do you think this was important to him?  What do you think their relationship with God was like?  How might it be different from your relationship with him?
Stuffy.  Stifled.  Strict.  Oppressive.  Distinct.  Sanctified.  Disciplined.  Conspicuous.  Maybe a bit peculiar.  Do any of these describe the way you feel when you think about how God has asked His people to conduct themselves?  It's not any wonder that so many people have a view of God as rule-driven and a relationship with Him as being no fun.  I know, in my own life, having had a hard time trusting the truth from the Bible about how God thinks about me, these words just amplified the thoughts and feelings that I would never measure up, that I would never be able to be good enough, or to do enough good to deserve what His Son did to save Creation from an eternity in Hell. 

Now I know the depths of the truth of those thoughts and feelings, but I also know that they are exactly the reason Christ had to come and die on the cross.  The truth is:  if any one person could ever be good enough to live this life and not need Jesus as a sacrifice, then God would not have had to send Him.  Because if one person could do it, then everyone would have to have within themselves the ability to save themselves.  And we simply do not.  We are not able to save ourselves.  Period.

But what does that have to do with the question asked above, about why God requires His people to abide by so many rules?  If we are going to call ourselves His people, should there not be something markedly different about our lives, so that others living around us can see that we are different.  Even if that difference just looks odd or peculiar or conspicuous, at first.  And wouldn't the fact that we do look odd, different, peculiar or conspicuous give us that many more opportunities to share the reason for our faith, to share the reason why we have chosen - on faith - to walk this absurd-looking path, that shouldn't logically work, but seems to anyway? 

We are called to be in the world, but not of the world.  What that means to me is that while we are here our lives should look different enough to make people wonder what in the world it is that makes us have so much peace and joy when the world is in a tailspin of chaos and agony and fear.  IN the world, but not OF the world. 

But beyond that, God is holy.  If we are going to call ourselves His children, if we hope for Him to call us His children, we have to live our lives by the rules that He has set.  Who are we to question God's "because I said so"?  If we know anything about God, it is that nothing happens without a reason.  Our inability to see the reason or to understand His motives shouldn't matter.  Just like with our own children, who do not always get to know the why, for a myriad of reasons, neither do we.  And just like with our own children, who sometimes eventually reach an age where they are mature enough to handle hearing the reasoning behind the instruction, we also SOMETIMES reach a maturity level where God will reveal to us His behind-the-scenes work.  Then, what was so confusing or frustrating, becomes so perfectly clear that we wonder at why we ever questioned Him in the first place.

PRAY:  Become aware of God's presence with you now.  Share your thoughts with him, including what you noticed about your own relationship with him.  Let this lead you into silent prayer, pondering what's happened in your life since you last talked with him and whether there is anything you need to clear up.  Listen for what he might be saying in response to you.  If you don't sense him saying anything directly, be open to other ways he might try to communicate with you (such as through other people or recent experiences).

Dear Lord, You are omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent.  You alone can claim this.  You alone know the beginning from the end, and You Alone will decide what and when I get to know the ins and outs of even my own life.  Forgive me when I have failed to trust your sovereignty.  Forgive me when I have smirked at your holiness.  Forgive me when I have abused your grace by sinning and then just asking for your forgiveness with no real desire to repent and turn away from the actions you consider abhorrent.  I thank you that you remember that I am just dust.  I thank you that you saw me in all my sinfulness, knowing that I would let you down over and over and over again, and still decided that there was something in me worth saving.  Thank you that you love your creation so very much and that you are not willing that any should perish. 

Abba Father, I do not know  why you have led my family to this fight we find ourselves in right now, but what I do know is you are leading us through it.  I know that every hard thing I have ever gone through has strengthened me for where I am right now.  And I know that all the hard things I am going through now are strengthening me for fights still to come. 

Lord, when I think of our situation now, I envision an arrow that has been shot at a target.  An arrow does not have to try to find the target on its own.  Never once have I seen an arrow, in the air, wondering where it was supposed to go.  Help me to remember that you are the perfect archer, and you hit all the targets you aim at, and you nail the target every time.  It is humbling that you would pick me to be an arrow.  I desperately want to hit the target at which you have aimed me. 

Some targets are closer and the path has been a straighter, faster shot.  Some targets are farther away, and you have had to aim higher to get a good trajectory and account for the wind, so the path takes longer than I want.  I can see the target.  I know where I am supposed to go.  I desperately want to get there, but I have to take the path that has been set for me.    Forgive me for doubting you in my frustration at how long the path is taking.  Help me to remember that I have hit every target you have selected for me, and for which I have allowed you to use me.  Your purposes will always be satisfied.  Some people will choose to be used by you.  Others will not.  Help me to remember, that when I am brave enough to allow myself to be used by you, Your Will is going to be accomplished.  Remind me of that when I start to feel like the path is taking too long.  I will arrive precisely on time for Your Agenda to be satisfied.  Never too soon.  Never too late. 

And Dear Lord, help me to remember, when I cannot see the target, that you do not shoot an arrow just to shoot an arrow. Your Word does not return to you void.  Therefore, if you have sent it out into the world, it will happen.  By the same token, if you have fired me as an arrow, you will hit your mark. 

All this I pray in Your Son's Precious and Holy Name, Amen.

LIVE:  Think about the passion Nehemiah demonstrates for honoring God.  What would your life look like with more passion?  How might you honor God with your lifestyle the way Nehemiah desires to honor God?  Jesus said, "Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence. …Love others as well as you love yourself"  (Matthew 22:37, 29).  With this command in mind, think of one small new habit you could cultivate that would honor God in a particular area of your life."

Monday, September 22, 2014

Day Fifty-Seven: Burden for the Poor

LIVE:  In preparation for this lesson, fast from one meal.  (Use discernment regarding fasting; check with your doctor before doing it.  If you can't do it for whatever reason, that's okay.)  When you feel the pangs of hunger, use that discomfort as a catalyst for this devotion.

READ:  Nehemiah 5:6-11  -  Read this slowly.
(6-7) I got really angry when I heard their protest and complaints.  After thinking it over, I called the nobles and officials on the carpet.  I said, "Each one of you is gouging his brother."
(7-8) Then I called a big meeting to deal with them.  I told them, "We did everything we could to buy back our Jewish brothers who had to sell themselves as slaves to foreigners.  And now you're selling these same brothers back into debt slavery!  Does that mean that we have to buy them back again?"
          They said nothing.  What could they say?
(9) "What you're doing is wrong.  Is there no fear of God left in you?  Don't you care what the nations around here, our enemies, think of you?
(10-11) "I and my brothers and the people working for me have also loaned them money.  But this gouging them with interest has to stop.  Give them back their foreclosed fields, vineyards, olive groves, and homes right now.  And forgive your claims on their money, grain, new wine, and olive oil."

THINK:  While in Babylonian exile as a cupbearer to a foreign king, Nehemiah has a God-given burden:  to rebuild the ransacked walls of the forgotten city of Jerusalem and, in the process, to restore the hope of his people.  But in the midst of this massive architectural restoration project, the people are being abused by their own countrymen.
          Nehemiah's burden grows larger.  His burden now includes poverty and injustice.  Imagine yourself in Nehemiah's shoes today.  What does this burden feel like?  Consider your empty stomach and write down how you feel.

PRAY:  Begin praying by listening for God's heart regarding justice.  Ask him to show you people who need your prayers.  Then ask him to point out when you need to speak up on their behalf, and ask for the courage to actually follow through with it.

One thing I've discovered about justice over the course of our situation is that it is seldom swift.  Maybe as swift as possible, but never as swift as we'd like.  Think about it.  Whenever someone has done you wrong, is it ever remedied fast enough?  When the courts get involved, things slow down to a snail's pace.  Then, evidence or no, the case goes the way the people trying it think it ought to go, or whichever way is going to make the appropriate people look as good as possible, or prevent them from looking horrible.  I don't mean to sound cynical, but the truth of the matter is:  the truth rarely counts for much.  Except with God. 

God commands us to seek justice, to love mercy, to take care of the widows and orphans.  Seems like those commands match up with the burdens of poverty and injustice Nehemiah was feeling.  Sad to think so little has changed over the years.  Jesus talks about how, when we visit the people in prison, or feed people without food, or clothe the naked, we are doing the same to him.  The book of James warns against seeing someone cold and telling them to "Go, in peace, and be filled" without offering them what they need to actually be filled because judgment is without mercy to those who've shown no mercy.

As I sit in my hotel room, waiting to leave to go visit my husband who sits in jail, this verse hits home.  I am getting to visit my husband because of the people around me who've fed and clothed a widow and her orphaned children.  This is a bit of a stretch, I realize.  My husband is not dead.  My children still have both of their parents.  But considering our source of support has been taken away from us, we resemble a widow and orphans.  I do not wish this position on anyone, really; but the lessons it is teaching are invaluable.  And humbling. 

Today, I don't really need to pray for God to show me who needs my prayers.  I'm about to go to a place full of people I may never know that need prayers, who have families that need prayers.  Though I am not personally in a position to be able to physically or financially help these people, my husband has been doing all he can to help those around him who've not received justice from one of the only systems in the world that - supposedly - prides itself on preferring that 100 guilty men would go free than one innocent man would go to prison. 

Even so…Dear Heavenly Father, You alone know for what purposes you have placed each one of us here.  If there are people around us that need what we have to offer, please show us.  If "all we can do" is pray for them, let their names be on our lips in prayer as often as we pray.  If you have given us the financial wherewithal to help those folks, give us an urge to do so that we cannot ignore.  If they merely need a listening ear, may we be willing to be inconvenienced enough to give them the time they need.  Relationships are messy and dirty, Lord.  Help us to be willing to get dirty and messy with the people who need it the most, and let us do so without reservation when that's what you require.       In Jesus Name, I pray, AMEN.