Plant a tender seed of Prayer in the Garden of your Heart
Cover it in the rich soil of the Word
Allow it to Rest there in the warm embrace of God’s Love and Sonshine
Water it Devotedly with the tears of Faith and Trust
Nurture the delicate Growth as it breaks through the Earth
Uproot weeds of worry and busyness
Protect it from the insects of doubt
Watch it expectantly as it Joyfully blooms in a Wealth of Color and Hope
Believe, even as the bloom fades, that Delicious Fruit is being formed
Wait patiently as the Promised Fruit ripens in the Son
Gather the Generous Harvest with a Song of Thanksgiving.
Sing Praise for the Display of His Glory!
“The Eternal One will never leave you; He will lead you in the way that you should go. When you feel dried up and worthless, God will nourish you and give you strength. And you will grow like a garden lovingly tended; you will be like a spring whose water never runs out.” Isaiah 58:11 The Voice
“He sent me to give them flowers in place of their sorrow, olive oil in place of tears, and joyous praise in place of broken hearts. They will be called “Trees of Justice,” planted by the Lord to honor his name.” Isaiah 61:3 NLT
Growing up as a Michigan girl and after living in other lush, green locations across the country, when we moved to the desert, it was quite a shock. At first I really missed all the green I had enjoyed my entire life, but after living in the desert for a while, I began to see that it had a very unique beauty and some incredible plant life. One plant in particular that continually amazed me was the Saguaro.
This classic desert symbol sprouts from the tiniest seed imaginable, grows an average of one inch per year, can live over 200 years, and has the amazing ability to bloom yearly in the spring even in the most severe drought. How can these sentries of the desert bloom in the driest and most barren conditions? I’ve witnessed a Saguaro literally growing out of a rock on a windswept mountain cliff and yet produce the most beautiful, glorious, flowers. Even when the flower fades, it becomes even more wondrous as it transforms into a deep red fruit that attracts and provides nourishment for hungry desert wildlife.
The Saguaro’s ability to bloom and produce fruit is directly related to its incredible capacity to store water: up to one ton at a time! The structure of the Saguaro is like a giant accordion that stores water during Monsoon Season, which then enables it to withstand severe drought and still create a crown of beautiful, fragrant, white blossoms every spring. The root system, which is actually rather shallow, crawls under the desert floor and wraps itself around large rocks to anchor the cactus against the high winds of the desert, while other roots go in search of life-giving water. Truly, it is a display of God’s incredible creativity.
There have been times when my life felt like an arid, sun scorched desert; possessing no apparent beauty or fruitfulness, or even the ability to survive a drought of the soul. I have been desperate, like a woman dying of thirst in the midst of gale force winds, searching frantically for life-giving water and something to anchor my fragmented life to. I have struggled in my wanderings through the parched haze but I also have had the privilege of personally observing an extraordinary desert flower who found the source of this water, tapped into its refreshing, living flow and burst into a bloom of such incredible beauty and sweet fragrance, that it could only be described as supernatural. That exquisite desert flower was my daughter, Jessica.
A number of years ago, in the midst of a busy and happy family life as the parents of two vibrant and fun-loving young children, my husband and I watched in the span of a few minutes, the rich and lovely landscape of our lives become a desert wasteland. We had just returned from a three week overseas mission trip and began to notice some physical and emotional changes in our 5 ½ year old daughter, Jessica. After a day filled with doctor appointments and tests, the words reluctantly and tearfully communicated to us by our daughter’s pediatrician made my blood run cold and my mind go numb. The diagnosis given to us explained our precious daughter’s physical and emotional changes, but did nothing to explain how we would be able to survive the next year.
The doctors discovered a tumor the size of a tennis ball growing in the center of Jessica’s brain.
They gave us no hope for her long term survival except by some miracle. For us, the miracle came in watching Jessica bring beauty and fruitfulness into the desert that became our lives the moment we heard the diagnosis. When we first tried to explain to Jessica that she had a brain tumor, we told her that she had something growing in her brain that wasn’t supposed to be there and she asked, “Do you mean growing like a flower?”
We watched in pain, but also in awe, as God carried our little girl through many painful surgeries and procedures and allowed her to grow more precious and Christ-like. She faced the surgeries, seizures, blood draws, MRIs, scans, IVs and long hospitals stays with a peace that spoke to my heart like nothing else ever had. She didn’t complain about the physical discomfort but always spoke about heaven. She used to say, “The happiest day in my life will be when I get to go up to heaven and see Jesus! When I see Him I’m going to give him a big hug!” She had such joyful anticipation and demonstrated incredible faith in the face of crippling fear. On one occasion when she was scheduled for an MRI to detect the status of the tumor, she was lying on a gurney afraid, but ready to go in for the procedure. All of a sudden she sat up with a determined look on her face, lifted her clenched fist into the air as if grasping something and said, “See Mom, I’ve got my shield of faith right here!” Her incredible attitude and the beauty of her spirit were clearly visible to those around her. After inviting and watching one of her X-ray technicians come to our church, Jessica said, “Just think Mom, if I never had this tumor, we never would have met Pat and she never would have come to our church!”
I learned such selflessness and focused purpose from Jessica. She tapped into the Living Water and spoke to God all the time. She was enduring her own personal desert but truly was a flower, one who bloomed with a lovliness and a vibrancy that brought glory to her Creator. She embraced the challenges that God allowed in her life and became an incredible blessing to everyone that came in contact with her.
After watching Jessica patiently walk the path laid out before her for eleven months, I held her as she went from my arms into the embrace of her Savior. God finally gave Jessica her heart’s desire and took her home to heaven.
I never knew my heart could endure so much grief and pain, but still experience a deep peace that was beyond my understanding. The first days and weeks seemed unbearable as I had to learn to live without Jessica. I was on auto-pilot, mechanically going through the motions. I had a 2 year-old son who needed his mom and a husband who needed his wife.
The lessons I learned as I witnessed Jessica’s life, encouraged me to tap into God’s living water and wrap my roots around the Rock that had sustained us all during her illness and her eventual death. There is no possible way I could have made it through that season without the peace and comfort of God. I remember, on many occasions, pouring my heart out to Him as tears streamed down my face. During that time, I learned to talk to God as my constant Companion as we walked through the valley of the shadow of death together. I experienced God’s abiding faithfulness and learned that He could handle any emotion or thought I might express to Him. He didn’t get mad at me for venting my honest emotions and I began to trust Him as my Comforter, even when I was certain I could never be comforted.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
I lived the truth of that verse in Psalm 34:18 and many others. His Word brought life back into a heart that felt dead.
We also relied on the prayers of our church, friends and family. During Jessica’s illness and for months after her death, I could sense when people were praying for us. It seemed like we were moving through our circumstances in a protective bubble of God’s presence. We still felt the harsh reality of our situation and had to deal with the daily disappointments and fears, but we sensed that a cushion of God’s peace surrounded us and at times, we even experienced joy. I know that sounds hard to believe, but it became more apparent as people let up on their prayers and we felt that bubble of protection begin to wane. As soon as I asked our prayer team to step up the prayer, the blanket of peace would return. I have never experienced anything like it before or since. God’s power to survive in the parched wilderness was poured into us through prayers being offered for us, the Living Word, and through the tender attention of The Comforter.
Close friends and family walked alongside us through that very dark time, allowing us to feel the grief and share our burden, not trying to fix it or give an answer for every question we posed to God. Since we were thinking about Jessica so much of the time, they permitted us to talk about her and didn’t try to change or avoid the subject. Not pretending to know how we felt, they quietly embraced us, loved us, prayed for us and trudged through that desert valley with us. Sometimes they cried with us, laughed with us, held our hands, and even carried us when we felt unable to go another step. I still thank God for those faithful desert sojourners.
Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months and I finally began to feel like I would be able to survive. The incredible pain and grief were still there, but I had hope for a time when my heart wouldn’t hurt quite so much. During that time I couldn’t imagine that eventually, God would completely restore my desire to live and fill me with joy.
That was quite a few years ago and I recognize now, the things I learned during that time were preparing me for future desert journeys. What a privilege it was to be able to witness first hand, God at work in one of His precious loved children and to be invited to be a participant as He taught Jessica to embrace the plan He had for her life. I was watching and learning too. Jessica gracefully taught me about simple, child-like faith, joy in the midst of horrible circumstances, and how the life-giving water of God’s Son is truly the very source of life as we make our desert pilgrimages. When we embrace what God allows in our lives, cling to Him for our survival and make the choice to trust Him even though we don’t understand, we can bloom where we are planted – fulfilling His greatest purpose for our lives. This is true joy.
“I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:19
I always have the freedom to choose to look for beauty even when my life leads me through the desert. I’m never alone.
They will never again be hungry or thirsty; they will never be scorched by the heat of the sun. For the Lamb on the throne will be their Shepherd. He will lead them to springs of life-giving water. And God will wipe every tear from their eyes. Revelation 7:16 and 17.
Oh, the incredible depth of Christ’s love for us. He was fully God, yet He humbled Himself to be born in a stable, lived as a man among hateful people, and willingly yielded His life to be crucified, even though He’d done no wrong. The beauty of His life was displayed in the unconditional love He demonstrated to the broken, sinful, and vengeful people He came to redeem. He treated the adulterer, tax collector, leper, prostitute, insane, outcast, and forgotten with such compassion that they were irresistibly drawn to the love and new life He offered. Those closest to Him, He trusted fully and served unreservedly, even washing their feet on the very night He was betrayed with a kiss. He quietly retreated to a lonely garden to cry out to His Father about the brutal path that was before Him and His dearest friends fell asleep. He healed a soldier who had been sent to the garden to lead Him to His death and then faced a court of enraged religious leaders, haughty Romans, and a blood-thirsty mob convened to crucify Him. He was brutally beaten, spat upon and ridiculed, then carried His cross along the path of suffering, weeping over those He had come to save. He finally arrived at the place of His death where He allowed soldiers to force a crown of thorns on His head, gamble for His clothing, pull His beard, spit on Him and mock Him as they nailed His bruised and bloody body to the cross. Even as His life was ebbing away He reached out with forgiveness to a thief on the cross next to His, and pardoned a world that wasn’t asking to be forgiven. With His last breaths He cried out to His Heavenly Father asking why He’d been forsaken and finally declared, “It is finished” ripping apart the veil that had shrouded the entrance into God’s presence. With a final thrust of a sword, mankind stabbed the heart of the One who had died to rescue them. Broken hearted, pierced and bloodied, His body was laid in a borrowed grave as His spirit entered the gates of hell. The tomb was sealed and satan boldly boasted that death had won.
Three days of desperate darkness shrouded the earth; hopelessness and despair reigned, accompanied by the malevolent taunts of everything evil.
Until…In one earth shattering moment the Father spoke; forever crushing satan and his demonic legions with the glorious and triumphant resurrection of Love. Jesus Christ broke free from the chains of sin and death; the enemy was defeated and Love was victorious!
This Easter may you experience the love of God and the undeniable power of Christ’s resurrection. He Has Risen.
The angel (at the tomb) said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; He has risen, just as He said. Matthew 28:5-6
There are times in life when the path ahead is shrouded in darkness. Even the next baby step seems covered in grey mist. Or, we may be able to see the next step or next few steps on the path ahead but it offers little comfort when it appears that the path we’re on is leading us deep into the woods; a place that is even less certain than the dark place we are in right now.
Do you remember the scene in the movie, “The Wizard of Oz” where Dorothy and her companions “follow the yellow brick road” as it leads them into the Haunted Woods? They know they are on the right path that will eventually get them where they need to go, but as they step into the creepy forest, they see a sign that says, “I’d turn back if I were you!!!” Isn’t that exactly what we’d like to do when it looks as if the path God has us on is leading us into the dark unknown? As tempting as it is to heed the advice of that sign warning us to turn around and hide, God’s voice says something completely opposite.
“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21 NIV
Our challenge is to continue to listen for God’s voice in the midst of the uncertainty. This is challenging on so many levels.
We have to silence the clamor of all the other voices that in essence are telling us to “turn back” or “go this way”. Listening to these voices has a devastating effect; we become immobilized, unable to move forward or we start down a path that leads us away from God’s best. Instead, we have to be “tuned in” to hear God’s voice above the noise of our past, our fears, the doubting voices of others, and the deafening shrieks of the enemy.
We also have to put ourselves in a position to be able to recognize when God is speaking and where He is leading. There are no “shortcuts” in listening to God’s voice; it takes time and persistence. This is so contrary to what we’ve been taught living in the world. “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” No, we have to make time. Being able to discern where God is guiding requires that we carve out real time to spend in the Word and in prayer. The bible is the road map, showing where different paths lead and prayer (listening to God’s voice give direction) is the GPS. God is faithful to speak, but it’s according His time table. Our job is to be persistent; to quiet our hearts and go back to the Word and prayer, repeatedly. This takes real discipline and patience, but is never a waste of time. We may feel unproductive, but this isthe work of the journey. Sometimes He is asking us to work through a struggle deep in our heart or He may be weaning us away from the need for approval from others. Any time we spend in prayer or in the Word is preparing and equipping us to take the next step.
We also have to make the choice to walk in obedience. God tells us walk by faith not by sight.
“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7 ESV
It takes a sheer act of our will to obey and take that next step, even though we are CLUELESS! Sometimes that means just doing the “next right thing”. It may be that the next right thing is making a phone call, going to work, or just getting up in the morning and getting down on our knees to pray. We can’t know the whole plan but God is always faithful to show us just the next step, even if it’s a baby step. Wow! You talk about blowing the minds of control freaks! This can actually be physically painful but oh so necessary if we are to walk in obedience. We walk in step with God. He is faithful and we step out in faith. We can’t do everything but we can do the “next right thing.”
As we continue down the path, though it’s one tiny step, we can trust God even if it looks like He’s leading us into the unknown. God has already gone before us and has given us fellow trail trekkers as traveling companions and has given us songs to sing along the way. This community of worshippers remind us that we’re not alone and make the journey so much easier. Once you’ve been down the path of the great unknown you can be an encouragement to a hiker that is at the begininng of the trail head.
The unchanging, all-loving, all-knowing nature of God allows me to walk the path that He reveals step by step, in complete confidence, not because I see where the path is leading, but because I trust the Trail Blazer. Whether the path may turn to the right or to the left or appear that it is leading me deeper into the woods, I will listen for the voice of my Heavenly Father and keeping walking!
“He gives me new strength. He guides me in the right paths, as He has promised.” Psalm 23:3 GNT
What can you do to silence the distracting voices so you can hear God’s voice?
What “next step” is God asking you take today?
How are you practicing obedience in the baby steps so you will be ready to take a leap of faith?
Obviously there is no perfect marriage because it is a union of two imperfect people. But as I reflect on 35 years of marriage, I can confidently say that I could not have asked for a more “perfectly” suited partner. I’m so very thankful for a godly, loving man who is fully aware of all my faults but chooses to give grace instead of criticism and always encourages me to aspire to all that I can be. He is not threatened by acting as my cheerleader, as I have been his.
From the early days of being very young newlyweds to the birth of our 3 treasured children and the devastating diagnosis and eventual death of our precious Jessica, our marriage has grown stronger. He has remained steady as we have weathered cancer, chronic illness, multiple ministry challenges and moves, joblessness, and financial stresses. These are the normal trials of life and marriage but I am so grateful for a husband who has done his very best to look to God to fill him with wisdom, bountiful patience, faith, persistence and love, knowing that his own resources would never be enough to overcome those trials. I love his peaceful spirit, his gift of faith, and his incredible humility; something rarely seen in someone who is so very talented. I love that he uses that talent to glorify God and to share his faith. I love that he is a servant-leader and that he helps people accomplish things beyond their level of confidence because he instills his own confidence in their potential. I have witnessed this over and over again in our home life and in his ministry. I’m thankful that he has been diligent in balancing home and ministry life so that our family has never felt that the church took priority over our needs. I love that we can laugh together when one of us says or does something really stupid, feeling no judgment or embarrassment. Taking bike rides, watching football or movies, singing together or long trips in the car are ordinary things that become much more than ordinary because I’m doing them with my very best friend. As we celebrate 35 years together, I am the most thankful that God is the center strand in the cord of our marriage and has been a strong rope to hold on to as we’ve wrapped our lives around Him.
“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NLT)
It’s been wonderful. I’ve spent almost a week at the ocean and have been able to witness multiple sunrises. My soul has been refreshed and my heart renewed. It’s been such a joy to start the morning with God before my mind is cluttered with all the noise of the world. Before I’ve turned on the radio, the TV, or Spotify…before I’ve seen who has posted, tweeted, or instagrammed….before I’ve opened my mouth to say anything to anyone, I began my day with the Creator of the Universe. I sat quietly and watched with anticipation as the Master Artist would call up the sun from below the vanishing point; the breaking waves providing the soundtrack.
Some mornings He would decide to announce the day with a shout as the firey orb would break the horizon without a cloud in the sky to soften its arrival. The sun in all its red-orange radiance pushing over the edge of the world, ready to burst forth to proclaim to all creation that it was time to get up and jump into the day.
Other mornings I would notice a pinkish-yellow hue begin to spread a muted glow to the edge of the ocean. Resting behind pillow-soft clouds, the arms of the sun would turn peach-yellow and reach into the sky, gently stirring the world into awareness that a new day had dawned.
On some of my favorite mornings, the sunlight was completely blocked by a blanket of wooly-gray clouds. The sky began to lighten gradually, a pale gray in contrast to the gloomy clouds. I couldn’t actually see the sun but I sensed it was hidden just behind the dark barrier. Gradually a portion of the solid wall grudgingly transformed into a wispy veil and the sunlight would press forward through the mask to prove its presence. The somber clouds would then try to conceal the light once again and it became a playful game of back and forth; the dark clouds looming, the lacey puffs floating and the cheerful sun peeking out. The sun was persistent and claimed victory, finally announcing to the sleepy world that it was indeed the sunrise, opening another day.
Each morning the sky was a pristine canvas, waiting in expectation for the Artist to paint the sunrise. With an endless supply of nature’s color as His pallet, He daubed textures and brush strokes as all of Creation obeyed His voice. He adorned the expanse with breath-taking beauty, faithfully recreating the very First Day. I was overwhelmed with the authority and power of His creativity and would respond with all of creation in worship, right there on the beach. I would humbly ask if I could be a part of His design for that day and would quietly wait for His instructions. He was so faithful to speak and I was actually listening, knowing that He was guiding my days to have a balance of rest and productivity.
Because I was looking at multiple days stretching out before me in this blissful serenity, I was able to leave the frantic future in the future along with my lengthy “To Do List” …until the last morning.
On that particular morning as I was sitting on the beach witnessing the formation of His beautiful masterpiece, I asked Him. I knew with a painful awareness that I was about to transition back to real life and inquired, “What do you want me to take away from this place?” I heard the words, “Dial it back.” I thought what in the world does that mean? So I sat silently and observed, confident that God would show me. He directed my gaze at the crashing waves battering the shore, powerful and forceful; knocking down things in their way and stirring up sand from the ocean floor. I heard Him speak to my heart. “Don’t be like the waves when you leave here.” And I knew exactly what He meant. I was going back to a very busy schedule, with a lot to accomplish in a fairly short window of time. When under pressure to get things done, I have been known switch gears to what my family not so fondly refers to as, “production” mode. I get revved up: my tone of voice changes, I become extremely focused and I go into hyper-drive. Basically, I begin barking orders like the captain of a speed boat and throw people overboard if they don’t move fast enough… I knew precisely what God meant. “Okay, I got it,” I thought. I was humbled and vowed not to be a crashing wave.
I looked back out at the sunrise and God painted another picture for me to contemplate, even more penetrating than the first. He focused my view on the smooth glassy parts of the ocean that purely reflected the sun. It was dazzling and breathtakingly beautiful; a mirror image of the sun itself. The sun shining on the pounding waves was the polar opposite. The white caps were churning in the ocean and crashing against the shore, moving in such a frenzy of activity that the sun’s reflection was impossible to see. The image was distorted, misshapen and unable to reflect the true image of the sun at all. I heard God say, “I want you to be a reflection of Me.” Ouch!
When I get into “production” mode I am rarely a reflection of the Son. I may be productive and get the job done but I have crashed over people and left destruction in my wake. I am not reflecting anything except my own agenda. When I “dial it back” I am like the smooth, glassy sea, able to mirror the character and calmness and light of the Son.
As I left that beach paradise my heart was full and I had a renewed resolve to be like the smooth glassy sea, a pure reflection of the Son. An hour or so later as we were driving home, my resolve nearly capsized as we encountered a detour and vacationing motorists who acted like they had all the time in the world! Didn’t they know I had someone coming over to my house for a time of prayer that very morning and if they didn’t hurry up and at least go the speed limit, I was going to be late!!! For goodness sake, I was going to be praying!!! The roads become perilous waters to navigate in the pursuit of godliness.
Somehow the irony of the moment was lost on me and I felt justified in my impatience. It was probably a good thing that my husband was driving the car instead of me since I can become a bit “instructional” with the horn if I feel that other drivers on the road would benefit from my tutelage. I texted my friend and alerted her of our delay and finally zoomed into the driveway with only minutes to spare. I walked into the house and immediately detected an unpleasant odor! My resolve ran aground and I was shipwrecked.
I had asked my daughter who was home for the summer, to make sure she cleaned things up because of my “Prayer Appointment” that morning. My dear daughter, Emily had made the house spotless but there was a distinct “not spotless” odor hovering in the air. Without stopping to greet my daughter or thank her for cleaning up the house while I was lounging on the beach hearing from God, I grabbed the Bic lighter and began frantically lighting candles. As I hurriedly called out my thanks for cleaning up the house I tagged on the thoughtful question, “…but what is that smell??” I searched desperately for the Bath and Body Works Cinnamon Room Spray and immediately took the matter in hand. My daughter emerged from her room coughing and choked out, “Mom, what are you doing? You’re only supposed to use one spurt of that stuff! It’s too strong!” Well, I thought if one spurt was good, five must be great, and I continued my purification process. It was certainly the covering of God’s grace that kept our house from exploding as I sprayed that aerosol room freshener into a room full of lit candles. My daughter just shook her head and went back into her room. Suddenly, at that very moment, I knew I had been a crashing wave and had just knocked my daughter down into the sand. This would require an apology and hopefully she would see the humor and the irony as I shared what God had just revealed to me at the beach.
As I wandered through the cinnamon haze to the laundry room, I saw the culprit. There, perched against the door was a bag of trash, waiting to be taken out to the garbage bin in the garage. I grimaced as I lifted the offending bag and carried it out to be disposed of properly. It all made sense to me now. My daughter, who was home alone that evening before, had cleaned up the house and had remembered to empty the garbage. Taking the garbage out into the garage at night normally wouldn’t have posed a problem except that particular night was the Eve of the 4th of July. When we had spoken on the phone that evening my daughter declared that she felt like she was in a war zone. Our very patriotic neighborhood was filled with “celebrations” that repeatedly shook the house. Because there were multiple celebrants, setting off a variety of fireworks, the explosions were erratic and unpredictable. Knowing that she was alone in the house and feeling a bit on edge, she decided not to go out into our creepy garage; the trash bag could sit in the laundry room overnight. I laughed to myself and by the time my friend rang the doorbell, I was short of breath, but I put on a smile and answered the door.
I’m grateful for a forgiving daughter with a sense of humor. I am so very thankful for a God with those same qualities in lavish measure. He knows that the desire of my heart is to be a smooth glassy sea that reflects the beauty of the sun. He also knows me so perfectly that it comes as no surprise to Him when I become a crashing wave instead, even mere hours after I pledge to be a mirror image of His Son. I can humbly go to Him, ask Him to brush off the irritating sand of my failures and wash me clean in His sea of forgiveness. Each sunrise is a new promise of grace and power to become a reflection of His Son.
“But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like Him as we are changed into His glorious image.” 2 Corinthians 3:16-18 (NLT)
Are you a crashing wave or a peaceful reflection of the Son?
I’m at the beach this week. I’m here to work on my writing; awaiting the flow of creativity and instead I find myself drowning in reality. My mind is filled and fuzzy with all the uncertainties in life right now…which I have no business thinking about because I’ve got to hurry up and get busy and be creative….Then it dawned on me….
The intriguing beauty of this scene can’t be fully experienced unless you step back and view it from a distance. So it is also true in my life. When I am in the turbulent spray of the waves, my eyes stinging with salty tears, watching with dread as the storm clouds gather overhead, I fail to recognize the artistry of contrast. It is the sun shining behind the clouds that give depth and radiance, far more glorious than the clouds or the sunshine alone. The display becomes even more remarkable as the shadows of the clouds obstruct a measure of the sunshine as it is reflected on the choppy gray sea peppered with frothy whitecaps. When I’m in the deep, I hyper focus on the dark clouds overhead or the churning waves that pull at me. I worry about what might happen next…”How can I endure another storm? Will I be pulled under?” and I completely miss the potential delight of the moment. The sun is happily dancing on the waves, the drifting clouds a partner in the pas de deux and I could have missed it.
On this particular day there was no storm or danger; just puffy white/gray clouds filtering the frolic of the sun, shimmering on playful waves…and I saw it…the grace and the truth of it. When I stepped back and looked at the bigger picture it was incredibly beautiful and peaceful and hopeful and joyful and made me smile. It was the radiance of God’s glory unveiled in the midst of the uncertain. “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being…” Hebrews 1:3
My prayer: Father let me rest and rely on Your grace in the depths of the uncertain. Open my eyes to the disguised splendor of the unknown. Remind me that You are the Master Artist, All-Powerful, All-Knowing, Ever-Present, Lord over all the earth…and my Abba Father. When I am over-whelmed, weary or worried, remind me that You love me and I can rest in the shadow of Your wings.
Honor the Lord you sons (and daughters) of God; honor the Lord for His glory and strength. Honor the Lord for the Glory of His name. Worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness. The Voice of the Lord echoes above the sea. The God of Glory thunders. The Lord thunders over the mighty sea. The voice of the Lord is Powerful; the voice of the Lord is Majestic. Psalm 29:1-4 NLT
How precious, Oh God, is your constant love! We find protection under the shadow of your wings. Psalm 36:7 GNT
Late one cold, rainy Sunday afternoon I made a cup of hot chocolate to enjoy while I snuggled up with a book and a blanket in our sunroom. After I drank about half the cup, I got sidetracked and left my book and beverage on a table while I attended to the laundry. A few hours later, I remembered my abandoned chocolaty goodness and knew it would have grown cold, but after all it was chocolate and I’ve never been one to waste something so precious. I walked through the now darkened sunroom, reached for my cup of chocolate deliciousness and took a big drink. Immediately I knew something was terribly wrong. Chocolate milk was supposed to have a smooth, creamy texture and what I had in my mouth was anything but smooth and creamy. My concern grew as I walked toward the light of the kitchen and peered down into the cup. To my complete and absolute horror the cup was FILLED with tiny sugar ants. I let out a blood curdling scream as I ran in to the kitchen and spewed the chocolate-milk-covered ants into the sink. Throwing down the cup, I screamed again as I re-lived the sensation of those horrid little creatures swimming around in my mouth. I shuddered and spit into the sink once again, even though my mouth was completely empty. I finally summoned the courage to get a better look into the contents of the cup and sure enough, it was still SWARMING with tiny sugar ants. Not a “couple of” not a “few” but an entire “army” of sugar ants!
I hesitated, certain that I’d seen enough, but a warped sense of curiosity compelled me to get an even closer look. There in the middle of the teeming ants was the remnant of a puffy, white marshmallow and a company of ants efficiently using it for a dual purpose: as a snack and a raft, nibbling and floating peacefully in a sea of chocolate.
Of course I screamed again, unable to erase the grotesque image from my mind and the harsh reality that I had actually swallowed some of the vile creatures.
As I approached my unflustered husband who was calmly sitting in the family room trying to watch a basketball game on TV, I began to wonder at his unresponsiveness to my noisy ordeal. Admittedly, it wasn’t the first time in our many years together that he’d heard me scream, and I finally decided that he had probably assessed the intensity of my outburst and reasoned that once again, I was overreacting. Eventually, I was able to compose myself enough to tell him what happened and because I was already laughing, it gave him permission to laugh with me as he said, “Oh no!” It was actually quite a significant response coming from my unflappable husband.
I enlisted my dear hubby’s assistance to determine how those annoying creepy-crawlies entered our peaceful abode. We were shaking our heads in disbelief (and denial for me) as we traced the trail of ants from the side table where my hot chocolate had been desecrated, to the nearby door that led outside. Sure enough, those ingenious insects had devised an ant chain leading all their friends, neighbors and relatives to the free beverage and swim inside the Yancey home. I didn’t feel one ounce of guilt or remorse as we sprayed down the besieged area with bug spray and wiped out the entire population in addition to spoiling the fun of future un-invited pest-guests.
I was still chuckling to myself an hour later, mostly recovered from my ordeal and looking forward to my daughter’s return that evening so I could tell her the tale of her crazy mother’s latest “antics”. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist)
Have you ever had an experience like that? Not drinking a cup full of ants exactly, but anticipating something pleasurable and been disheartened when it turned out to be really unpleasant instead? Repeated disappointment can cause disillusionment and even cynicism and sometimes it just seems easier to set expectations so low, there is little danger of being disappointed. I have to be honest, I can’t drink a cup of hot chocolate without thinking about those stupid ants. But I don’t want my enjoyment of a tasty cup of hot chocolate to be forever-clouded by my distasteful experience.
During the course of life, I’ve had to repeatedly ask God to take my cup that is filled with the disappointment of unmet expectations, betrayal, hurt and fear, and pour the spoiled contents down the drain. Then I’ve had to humbly ask Him to rinse out my cup and make it completely clean; I don’t want a single drop of residue to be left behind which might taint the good things that God desires to pour in. The key is to ask God to empty the cup as soon as I’m aware of the negative things beginning to ferment within. How can blessing be poured into a cup that is filled with toxic waste?
It’s true, every once in a while life may serve me up a “cup of ants.” I still always have a choice: I can respond to disappointment by becoming pessimistic and skeptical, refusing to hope for something better, or I can ask God to help me dump my disappointment down the drain, present my cup to Him for a good scrub, and have faith that He will eventually fill it with His very best for me.
After all, I’ve enjoyed many cups of hot chocolate in my lifetime and have been served up only one cup of ants.
What disappointment or hurt have you allowed to ferment in your heart? What blessings could you be missing out on because the cup of your heart is already filled to the brim with those toxic, fermenting attitudes? Are you willing to present your heart to God so that He can cleanse it and fill it with His very best for you?
You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Psalm 23:5 NLT
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 NIV
The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust Him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving. Psalm 28:7 NLT
You will show me the way of life. Being with You is to be full of joy. In Your right hand there is happiness forever. Psalm 16:11 NLT