Soaking up the Rain for My Soul

Hebrews 6:7 Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful for those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God.

My reading this morning has caused me to consider my soul as the “soil” from which God’s grace is manifest on earth. My grandparents were farmers so I understand the need for rain. I understand that sunshine, rain, planting and harvest all take priority over plans and ideas. There were many times (still are many times) when the farmers in my family did not show up for an event because it was planting or harvest day. We all understand that; it’s the only way you can have a crop to share in the time of harvest. It’s harder to accept this with my soul.

With my soul this means accepting the days of tears with as much trust as I accept the days of celebration. I know the garden cannot grow without rain…but I have to remind myself that my tears have equal value to the moments of joy.

With my soul it means being patient in times of waiting so that everything has time to grow and mature as it needs to be. Yes, even when the waiting feels like a desert. Patience not only for myself, but for everyone else that is connected…because we’re all connected.

Harvest of flowers yesterday from The Giving Garden
Harvest of flowers yesterday from The Giving Garden
With my soul it means trusting that the long days of planting, weeding and tending will actually produce something that blesses in the end. There is some work involved in those activities. I wasn’t a big fan of weeding days in our family garden…which seemed like most days! And this part is not always graceful either. We often encountered a snake or two, and occasionally injured ourselves with our careless hoeing. I used to wonder why my parents found it necessary to have such a BIG garden! Limit the size, limit the weeds…right?

With my soul it means yielding to the plans of God’s bigger picture rather than what I want to see happen in one chapter of life. Every summer we would watch T.V. while we were breaking beans, shelling peas or shucking corn. This was normal…we did it every night during times of harvest. When I went to college I had never purchased a can of vegetables because we always had vegetables straight from the garden, freezer or from our own canning. It was then that I realized what it meant that we used that T.V. time to prepare for the days beyond what we could see. It is a little like yielding to God’s bigger picture even when the view is illusive.

What’s being offered to your soul today? Whatever it is – accept it and give thanks. For in due time, there is a harvest to come.

Prayer: Lord thank you for making it easy for us to see how you work in nature and how you work in our souls too. I love you. Amen.

God of the Morning Joy

This is a poem that was written this morning but not saved and did not post!

God of the morning Joy
God whose songs the birds employ
God of time and space
God of amazing Love and Grace
We offer ourselves to you this day..
Change our hearts and humble us
show us again…how to Love
we pray

Forget not those who hearts are broken
those whose hunger persists at night
And those who have too much and
long for more;
those who seek your healing Light.

God of the morning Joy
God whose songs the birds employ
God of time and space
Grant us today to live in your Grace.
Amen.

Dress Code of Heaven

My Life Journal musings for today….

Mark 16:5  As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

Observation:  Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of James, got a big surprise when they went to visit the tomb of Jesus. It had to be pretty spooky! It’s not everyday you go to the cemetery and meet a visitor from heaven.

Application:  We just passed Halloween in our cultural celebrations and All Saints Day (or “the day of the dead”) is this Sunday.  We celebrate the lives of those who have gone before us.  In preparation for Sunday, I’ve been reading in Revelation 7 this week…where it describes this great crowd of people from every nation, tribe, people and language..all wearing white robes.  There are other places in the Scriptures that describe visitors of heaven in white robes; it seems to be the dress code of heaven. (John 20:12; Matthew 28:2-3; Luke 24:4)

I wonder what it will feel like to be dressed in white? In our human context we think of a bride – pure – clean – carefully prepared.  Sometimes we even discuss silly questions like, “is it OK for a bride to wear white for a second marriage?”  We take those questions seriously; most often the answer is “no, it is not OK. She can wear off white or color, just not white.”   But that is not how God works.  God offers us something new to wear…something that does not bear the marks and wounds of life on earth.  And it is not a color that says, “not quite perfect”.  Dressed in white there is nothing to prevent us from feeling worthy to move forward…to walk straight into the holy space and take our place in heaven.  When he was struggling so hard with his mistakes, King David cried out in his prayer to God, “wash me and I will be whiter than snow..” (Ps 51:7).

Somehow, by God’s grace and the pouring out of God’s love in the life of Jesus Christ, God has made it clear: all of our mistakes, dysfunctions, failures, those “what was I thinking???” moments…none of it stands in the way of what we will become.  None of it causes Jesus to say, “Ummmm….sorry, your white robe was taken off the rack yesterday, it isn’t here”.   Love is stronger than death and God is love. Sometimes mistakes and sin feel like “death”.  They destroy our self-worth.  They distract us from the greater things God has for us.  They make us turn away from God because we think we are no longer “good enough” to ask for God’s help or God’s grace, much less God’s plan for our life!   That’s just not true.  There is a white robe with your name on it hanging on a rack in heaven.  And every now and then, in the ordinary days of life on earth, God is going to invite you to see a glimpse of how good it looks on you.  And if you are really interested in a relationship with God – you are likely to get invited to wear that robe in some very surprising ways while you are on earth! You will probably never know you have it on…but you will know something heavenly has taken up residence in you.  Enjoy the journey.

Prayer:  Gracious God, thank you for finding so many ways to get our attention and draw us into your love.  Thank you for coming to earth in the life of Jesus Christ and revealing yourself to us in a way that we could relate to as human beings.  I love you and I’m looking forward to someday wearing my white robe!  Please help me to live into its fitting while I’m here on earth.

Aunt Edna and The Jelly Jar

An early September sunset in southeast Williamson County, Tennessee.

On the Lester side of the family (my mom’s side) I have a Great Aunt…Aunt Edna.  She lived to be 106…and on her own until 102 or so.  Aunt Edna was a very wise woman and among the wisdom I remember most about her was her simple life. She made choices that kept her life simple.  I mean big choices. She lived next door to the church…no driving needed. She memorized scripture so when her eyes failed or she didn’t have her Bible, she would have the scripture available. I remember standing at her bedside in the nursing home when we she was 103 and hearing her recite scripture.  All you had to do was say one line and she would finish the rest…entirely.

Well, Aunt Edna was healthy and she loved jelly.  She also knew that too much jelly wasn’t a good thing for her body. So she strategically placed the jelly jar on the highest shelf in her kitchen. A shelf so high that to get it she had to climb up on a chair and reach to the tips of her toes just to get it.  You can imagine…it took a lot of “want” to make that climb just for a taste of jelly. And that seemed to balance out her love for jelly and her desire to be healthy.  Simple. Choices.

An early September sunset in "urban" Franklin, Tennessee

I recently made a committment to simplify.  It’s been a long time coming.  Spending the month in Guatemala was a good boost in the balancing department.  There in the land of colors and culture I faced my materialism, waste, ego, desires and all types of reality every day.  When you meet someone that owns 1 or 2 pairs of shoes total, it just makes coming home to 16 pairs of shoes a little odd.  Actually, it makes it a lot odd…it just doesn’t work.  The food I throw out is needed by someone who is hungry. The medicine I purchase and let expire could alleviate pain in another’s body. The coat I don’t wear anymore (but “might” for the right occasion) will keep someone warm this winter….unless, of course, it remains in my closet.

Sunflowers I discovered on a walk with Tiki yesterday; Lovely surprise!

Aunt Edna had the jelly jar and I have boxes. Boxes of my life. “Stuff”.  After having been gone a few weeks I’m not even sure what’s in those boxes anymore.  But this is my strategy for the next year:  I will open at least one box a week (I don’t have more than 52 boxes now). Whatever is in that box will be used by me, get sold, or be given to someone else who can use it.  I would like to be “box free” or “storage free” or just light enough to not feel the burden of my possessions.  Imagine… life where the weight of sunflowers in bloom is all you have to carry.  God is so faithful and I’m going to need God a lot for this adventure! Let it be.

Where is Your Tesoro? (Treasure)

Dogwoods are in bloom!

I am home in Tennessee. The dogwoods and honeysuckle are in bloom. The fields are green and the pine trees in our yard stand tall and strong.  While I was away my sister (whom I call “Pincho”) took care of my dog, Tiki, in addition to the home we share. 

Just before I left we had a big storm and several of our trees fell down so she has been busy taking care of everything from the storm damage.  This morning I was just thinking about all the people who went to Guatemala with me.  Maybe not “in person” but were still on the journey in spirit.  There are many!  Norris who was given a vision for Tennesse to be in relationship with Guatemala over 20 years ago; Sarah Mc Ginley who led the charge for our church to be involved in that mission; Debbie who covered my Bible study on Wednesday nights; John who covered my worship responsibilities on Sunday; Lynn who shouldered the care of the congregation; Pincho who kept our home in order; Fido Fitness who stepped into take care of Tiki when needed; and every person who offered a prayer or read the blog or had a conversation to tell a portion of the story.  So many people – too many to count or even know. 

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:21

 

My reading today is from Matthew 6. It is rich. It encourages us to store our treasure in the spiritual realm where NOTHING can take it away. Everything mentioned in this teaching is done in spirit – with the wisdom that wherever your treasure is – your heart will be also.  We do it by

1.  Praying (verse 6)

2.  Surrendering to God’s will (verse 10)

3.  Fasting (verse 17)

4.  Seeking kingdom righteousness (verse 33)

Those who have taken this journey “in spirit” by praying,  by hearing the story and by covering the gaps so I could go…every one is part of the treasure God revealed during this return to Guatemala. I am confident God will bless every one of you – those I know and those I don’t.  Because when we are engaging in the spiritual with our Creator, we are no longer limited by distance or ability or resource. I am thankful for this amazing power of God! What treasure are you storing up in your life today?

All things are possible…

Title:                     All Things are Possible

 Scripture           Mark 9:23

Jesus said to him, “If you are able! – All things can be done for the one who believes. 

Observation

Everything is possible with God. We can never limit His powere except for unbelief and not praying.  

Application

Yesterday the Lord blessed us with making the impossible, possible. Chester (the translator) and I went into the 4th grade classroom of the La Toma school to teach an eager group of youth.  We had been with them a few days before as Sarah led the VBS team in singing. But my heart was  burdened to return because we saw their great desire for more.  So Chester and I went in and we began.  We let their ideas and thoughts guide the conversation.  We asked them what they thought was needed for a “good life” (they have a moral values class so we began with this common ground” and they had a long list of about 10-12 things. From there the conversation grew in depth.  We taught from Romans 12, Psalm 61,  and Jeremiah 29:11 to meet them where they were.  I wrote on the white board in English while Chester wrote behind me in Spanish. We did it!! It was SO MUCH FUN and such a blessing to us.  I am still overwhelmed with God’s faithfulness. 

We had asked this same class to express their faith in art the first day we were with them so we retrieved that art and will bring it home with us. We can pray for these youth as they grow in their relationship with God; we will share their names and art with anyone at church who is willing to go to God in prayer on their behalf. I am so grateful.

Prayer

Father, I am completely confident in your abundant provision and your faithfulness to work miracles on earth. I love you. Thank you.

Yield

Trust. Trust. Trust.

The Iron Did Swim: A day for Prayers

This morning when I got on the bus I didn’t have my phone. I was running to jump on because I was late. I had my phone in my hand while I was running but when I got in my seat – no phone. It’s my camera and my clock while I am here..I don’t have my texts or emails or calls “on” to receive.  No panic – but we searched my backpack and no phone.  Guatemala is not the place to lose anything if you want it back – no matter where you happen to be.

So I prayed…”the iron did swim”.  I learned this prayer several years ago from a wise and faithful lady; I have used it many times.  In II Kings 6 there is a story about the band of prophets losing a borrowed axe head in the river. In much distress they called for Elisha to come. Elisha came and placed his staff on the water and requested the iron axe head to float to the top. It did, of course, and the prophets praised God for such faithfulness. They were so relieved.  And so..I prayed. Aldolfo was not hopeful … if you  dropped it you will not likely get it back. 

Carmen from yesterday. She is with us everyday...very sweet

During the first session of VBS we got the call. A man that works at our hotel found my phone in the grass and turned it in! The iron did swim!! So I thank God for the opportunity to tell the story AND for the return of my phone!   Aldolfo said this was a big move of faithfulness for the hotel staff.  I look forward to meeting the man tomorrow (hopefully) that got involved in God’s answer to the prayer:)

And then..we had more opportunities for prayer when a board slipped off the roof and hit Howard on the head. It was hard enough to cause him to fall to the ground and the “Paramedic” in me to go into 911 mode.   He didn’t have a chance to do anything but be “OK” after we prayed, iced, and wiped sweat and dirt from his face. He was surrounded!  Thankfully, Robin (our team dentist) has many skills. He took a break from pulling teeth and put a few beautiful stitches in Howard fine head!  We are very very thankful.

Russell is cooking for Week 2 and we enjoyed supper tonight.  We are grateful and tired. But exceedingly happy and full of Joy.  Thanks to Jeanne for beginning our day with a wonderful devotion.

Changed Perspectives

Date:                     February 19, 2011

Title:                     Changed Perspectives

 Scripture             Acts 26:6-7

And now I stand here on trial on account of my hope in the promise made by God to our ancestors, a promise that our twelve tribes hope to attain as they earnestly worship day and night. It is for this hope your Excellency, that I am being accused by the Jews.

 Observation

Paul is persecuting Christians one day and standing before Agrippa defending his hope in Christ on another day. God changes our perspectives.

 Application

Something about Paul’s story of conversion gnaws at me today.  Confident, secure and determined be knew what was “right”, he acted out of rage (26:11) to condemn others. It reminds me how easy it is to draw conclusions about others as if what we see is all there is to see.  And it so humbling to see how dramatically our perspectives change once we have an encounter with Christ.  On any given day, the Spirit may show me something that completely changes my heart, my actions and my life.  I’m at the airport with a team of people on our way to Guatemala.  Seems like a good lesson to begin the journey.

 Prayer

Father, thank you for reminding me not to hold so tightly to my perspectives or expectations.  Help me to just hold on to you and enjoy the adventure of following. Thank you for the gift of other cultures and perspectives.  It shows me so much more of You.

Yield

The days ahead in Guatemala will reveal God’s purposes, not mine.

The Deep End

I was full of fears as a girl and the deep end of the pool was one of my weekly disasters.  To me the deep end of the pool was dark and scary.  You couldn’t see the bottom so anything could be lurking below.  The diving boards towered above leaving dark shadows hovering on the pool surface. I could see others out there but I could never imagine me being out there…not in “the deep end”.  In fact, sometimes watching others in the deep end made my fear increase.  They were confident and strong – I was weak and afraid.  How could I ever learn to play in the deep?  I stood in the shallow water and watched their joy from a distance.

The fact that I was a brand new swimmer didn’t help matters much.  Once during a day at the pool my mom told me swim “out to the rope” where an older and more confident swimmer waited to catch me. I was terrified but I did it, not really having much choice since Mom was encouraging/requiring me to move past my fears. (Where would we be without great Moms to encourage us?) I swam to the girl and she didn’t catch me!  She was sitting on the rope and lost her balance.  She tumbled over and left me gasping for air.   I was drowning!  The lifeguard, who also happened to be my swimming teacher, had to dive in and save me.  This experience solidified my fears and gave me a good excuse to stay out of the deep end as long as I could and most especially to never trust anyone to “catch me” again.

The deep end of the pool is a bit like being in the deep with Christ.  Our spiritual journeys can be scary, unknown and unpredictable.  It seems irresponsible to surrender all and trust God to “catch us” when we take risks and swim beyond our comfort zones.  Thankfully, the Lord has not allowed me to stay in the shallow end of the pool or of life.  I live in the deep end now…physically and spiritually. I no longer panic when I’m swimming in water above my head because I’ve learned how to float.  When I’m not sure what is going to happen next in life, I may get scared but I don’t lose hope.  I’ve learned that if I stay in the deep some amazing things are going to happen and this adventure with Christ is far greater than all my fears.  I’ve learned that I can trust Jesus to “catch me” and I continue to have a lot of practice in that area! This blog is about life in the deep end. It’s about fear, failure, redemption and hope. It’s about finding grace in the moment and living a life of Joy! Feel free to jump in and join me anytime.

Vona