Right Motive, Wrong Season

It was an unusually sunny November day, and I was cleaning out the garden boxes and tidying up some areas when I noticed this strawberry plant blooming. Because of the season I was in personally my immediate thoughts were Girlfriend (because who doesn’t talk to their plants in the garden?) what are you doing blooming this time of year? Can’t you see your buddy right there beside you with frostbite? 

I see you little strawberry flower. While I appreciate your effort, this is not the season for you. Winter is coming. 

Have you ever asked yourself, what was I thinking?  Or perhaps you got in the thick of it and simply knew this was the wrong time to be doing what you’re trying to do. You have the right motive but it’s the wrong season. 

That’s where I found myself that day, in the middle of the garden, talking to a strawberry plant.

Because God uses the simplicity of nature to teach us deeper lessons, here’s some he taught me during that season.  

Open Doors and Warning Signs

I don’t have to nor should I walk through every door opened for me or say yes to every opportunity presented. I had waited for a long time for this gate to swing wide and because of that, I ignored the warning signs, the quickening in my Spirit, and forged ahead with a Finally! attitude. 

I was like that strawberry bloom who trusted the rare sunshine on a November day but ignored the freeze warnings from the rest of the month. Ignored the dead leaves and fellow strawberry turned brown from cold temps. 

Surely, I can bear fruit in the off season, in a toxic environment, with all these warnings. It’s what I thought I was meant to do…even though winter was coming. 

Plans fail with no counsel, but with many counselors they succeed. (Proverbs 15:22CEB)

I didn’t seek wise counsel. 

Maybe it was because I was so sure this open door of opportunity was right for me because I wanted it for so long that I (arrogantly) didn’t feel I needed to ask anyone about it. 

Or maybe it was because I knew they would point out the freeze warnings and tell me to shut the door. Was this something I had put on such a pedestal, blizzard be damned, I’m moving forward? Be careful what you idolize. 

Seek counsel from someone who needs nothing from you but wants the best for you. Be thankful for open doors of opportunities but don’t ignore the warning signs or the wisdom of another. 

Waiting is Frustrating

And tiring. And discouraging. Anybody? 

You’ve prayed and waited. You’ve encouraged others and waited. You’ve watched others move forward and waited. You feel the weight of the wait and don’t know how much longer you can manage the load of it all. 

Sarah got tired of waiting and moved ahead of God. After decades of waiting for a child of her own, who can blame her really, what a mess it all became! She told her husband to sleep with her maid so her maid could get pregnant because God told them she, Sarah, would have a child so maybe this was the way because God certainly wasn’t doing anything….not fast anyhow. 

Esther understood the importance of waiting. After seeking wise counsel from her cousin Modecai, she fasted and prayed (now there’s a concept Kim) and devised a plan. She carried out said plan with patience and trusted the timing. As a result, God’s chosen people and Esther’s lineage was saved from decimation. 

Be still in the presence of the Lord and wait patiently for him to act. (Psalms 37:7 NLT) 

Whenever I want to help God out, stop praying and start doing or get tired of waiting, it’s because I want to control the situation, I want to call the shots, send in the signals for the next play and control the clock. Instead, I need to be still. With the Lord. And not just wait but wait patiently. Sigh. 

Trust God

I can trust God because he is trustworthy. He is for me (and you) like no one else is. He has a view of my situation (and yours) from an angle we never will. He is all knowing, all powerful, ever present. He is a Father who loves me (and you) like no one is able to love us. He wants what’s best for us and we can trust him to open doors we are to walk through and warn us of open doors we are to shut. We need only pay attention. 

We can trust: 

God’s plan for us. He has one. And it’s good because he is good!

God’s timing for us. There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven. (Ecclesiastes 3:1NIV) 

God’s ability to do what he says he will do. With his plan, not ours. In his time, not ours. 

He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. (Psalm 1:3NIV)

It took a strawberry bloom to show me that even though my motive was right, the season was wrong. She taught me to trust the warning signs and not just the whims of a sunny day. She taught me that though she got frost bit, she’s still meant to bloom. In the right season, she will bear fruit. 

kw

FACE LIFTS for Everyone! (How to Love Well)

Indeed, if you fulfill the royal law prescribed in the Scripture, Love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing well. (James 2:8 CSB)

Have you ever watched someone with low self-esteem or insecurities hang their heads? Or the cashier whose line is long and customers patience short? By the time you get ready to pay, he won’t even look you in the eye. Or how about the young Mom with one in the cart, one on the hip and one in the oven whose “free one” is throwing a tantrum in the cereal aisle? Do you roll your eyes? Judge? 

How do we love those with whom we disagree? Who are different than us? What about the playground bully? Or disgruntled colleague? Or online adversary? 

Love one another is a simple yet profound theology.  

When I was a little girl, my Grandfather would often lift my face to look at his just so I could see into the eyes of someone who cared, someone who loved me deeper than the oceans. 

We all have a Father who is a lifter of heads, One who lifts our faces to look at His so we can see someone who cares. (Psalm 3:3)

I want to love people well. I want to be a lifter of faces too. 

How do we do this? How do we love our neighbor? How do we love ourselves? How do we do it well? 

Using the acronym FACE LIFT, here’s how: 

Forgive. If we really want to love, we must learn how to forgive. (Mother Theresa)

I’m not asking you to move in, hang out, be friends, or associate with someone who has wronged you, hurt you, bullied you, or otherwise. I’m saying forgiveness is a decision you make that frees you from being connected to the person you are forgiving. Forgiving them is loving yourself well. 

Maybe it’s yourself you need to forgive. You cannot move forward in the fullness of who you are meant to be until you accept your own apology. 

Ask. Before you judge instead of love, ask yourself the what ifs. What if this were me? What if this were my child? What if this were my spouse? Coworker? Best friend? Young Mom? Cashier? Neighbor across the street? 

There is a difference between good judgment and living in judgment. 

Putting ourselves in the shoes of others often make us realize their journey is harder to walk than we thought.

Care. The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. (Elie Wiesel) 

Indifference: Lack of interest or concern. 

We’ve become a culture who has become so immune to the fact that we are all imago dei, made in the image of God that we miss many opportunities to love. 

We’re more interested in being heard (loudly)…can’t you just hear those keys tapping out a response to those we disagree with on FaceBook because everybody knows letting everyone know OUR opinion about what this idiot thinks is important. Hint: that’s not loving anybody well.  

We are concerned alright, about being right. And if you disagree, well, then, we obviously cannot care about each other. Sigh…

How did we get here? 

Loving others well, is caring, being interested, showing concern, no matter if someone disagrees with you, looks different than you, thinks different than you, all are made in God’s image. 

Engage in diverse, meaningful relationships. Nothing says love louder than striking up purposeful friendships with those who are not like you! Being able to ask questions, finding out the who’s, what’s and why’s of a different culture, seeing life through someone else’s lens is a beautiful way of walking a path different than your own. 

Love comes from understanding. Understanding comes from learning. Learning comes from engaging. 

Listen to learn not to give a defense or be ready with a response. I can’t hear you if my mind is articulating what it wants to say. 

Listen is such an ordinary little word that we pass by it pretty quickly as a way to love someone. But who hasn’t, at one time or another not felt heard? What did that feel like? Certainly not like being loved. 

Listening to someone’s story is a sacred space, a holy place that needs room to simply be heard. 

Want to love someone well? Shut your mouth, open your ears and listen. 

Identify your own blind spots. We all have them. Those areas with deep roots that pave the way for how you think, how you act, how you treat others. It may not be your hands that planted the seeds but it is your responsibility to dig out the weeds. 

We can’t love others well with roots of shame and hurt. 

We can’t love others well with roots of racism and bigotry. 

We can’t love others well with roots of silver spoons or a poverty mentality. 

We can’t love others well with roots of unforgiveness or anger. 

My view of others is skewed by my own weeds and roots. Your view of others is skewed by your own weed and roots. 

Have an honest conversation with yourself about your blind spots so you can see others as God see them. 

Free others to be themselves. This can be twofold: 

One: we need to be each other’s biggest cheerleaders and number one fans! Don’t hold someone back because of your own jealousy, fear or immaturity. Loving others well says, “Go for it!” “You can do this!” 

Two: sometimes we need to let go and walk away because no matter how hard you try, the leopard cannot change its spots. So, be free! Go be a leopard at someone else’s house. That’s loving yourself well. And that’s okay to need to do…for you. 

Tune in to your surroundings. We can’t love what we don’t notice. We don’t notice what we don’t pay attention to. 

Put your phone down (guilty over here!) and see the person in front of your face. That cashier who had his head down? Be kind instead of flustered. That young Mom with a cart full of kids and handful of groceries? Help her out to her car. 

How about that person who disagrees with you? What if you said, that’s an interesting view point. How did you come to that conclusion? Then zip your lip and listen. 

What about the people under your very own roof? How are you loving them well? What do they need? That surly teenager may have just bombed a big test. Can you tell him he is more than a grade in a gradebook? How about your spouse? Is her mood because of you or because she’s not been able to have one moments peace or pee by herself all day long? What can you do for her to love her well? (Hint: it probably has nothing to do with lingerie…) 

Tune in to ways you can lift someone else’s face.

Forgive. 

Ask.

Care. 

Engage.

Listen.

Identify. 

Free.

Tune. 

Give someone a Face Lift and love them well! 

kw

Simple Garden Theology

I sang about it before I’d really had a chance to truly understand it. I really just wanted to hit my part of the four-part harmony. It was an old hymn from 1912, written by a pharmacist in his New Jersey windowless, damp basement, no garden in sight. C. Austin Miles must have known the garden was nothing new to God. It was a place to walk and talk with Him, to tarry and listen to the sound of His voice. A voice so sweet that even the birds stop singing. (Read about Mr. Miles and get the full lyrics of “In the Garden” here.

God and gardens go way back. In fact, He was the pioneer planter of the very first one. (Genesis 2:8) It was a beautiful place with all kinds of trees growing out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. (Genesis 2:9Rivers ran through it. Lush and plush with green goodness all around. It was a slice of heaven here on earth. 

Until a slice of “apple” was more pleasing to the eye than the rest of the entire garden. Eden taught us all about the importance of listening to God’s boundaries and the consequence thereof. It taught us the wiliness of the enemy and the ease in which we can get caught in the did God really say scenario of that serpent of old. (Genesis 3)

Vineyards, grape gardens, were commonplace in Jerusalem. In John 15, the disciple recorded Jesus’ teaching about the importance of staying connected to the True Vine in order to be fruitful. Words like abide and love, obedience and joy are found in this garden. Pruning, while seemingly harsh, is necessary for new growth and even better fruit, assuring us there is a sweetness to the process of pruning. 

Groves of olive gardens are found in scripture with life lessons growing in each. Gethsemane is one such garden. It is a place that, in Hebrew, means oil press, i.e. a place for squeezing the oil from the olives. It is here that Jesus prayed so hard that His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. (Luke 22:44) While Jesus was leaning into His Father because of pressing matters at hand, the disciples were pressing into their pillows having fallen fast asleep. It was in this garden Jesus warns them to stay alert, to watch and pray so they aren’t tempted.  

God in the garden is nothing new. Garden theology 101 is still taught by the Gardener Himself…if we choose to pay attention. Take for instance…

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Weeds

You can be in the thick of them quickly if you aren’t careful.

I take a bucket out to the garden with me each morning and fill it with weeds in the hopes of keeping on top of them. They multiply to the Nth degree. Or so it seems. If I’ve missed a few days, the weeds take over the rows where we walk as well as around the actual plants themselves. 

Sometimes it takes the drastic measures of the rototiller to root out the masses. While that “gets ‘er done” on a large scale and is necessary sometimes, it’s the gentler approach, on your knees, carefully removing those that are closest to the plant that takes determination and patience. 

Jesus had something to say about weeds when He was telling the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13. He explained to the disciples that the seed sown among the weeds represents the person who receives the message, but all of life’s busy distractions, his divided heart and his ambition for wealth result in suffocating the kingdom message and prevent him from bearing spiritual fruit. (v22TPT bold is mine)

Who reading this hasn’t felt suffocated by one of these? Before you know it, you’re knee deep and can’t even see the Seed that helps you grow. Start tilling in some confession, repentance, obedience to get the soil of your heart back in shape and weed free. Get on your knees and pluck gently around the more tender parts and places, listening for the sound of the Gardener’s voice that is so sweet the birds stop singing to listen. 

Water

It’s essential to a garden if you want your plants to live (duh) otherwise the plants shrivel up and die. Lately, here in the Midwest the weather has been extra hot which means morning and evening watering. 

I go out each morning and give a thorough soaking and even then, in this heat, by evening things are looking droopy and in need of an extra drink. 

Jesus had something to say to people dying (rather they knew it or not) for a drink of water. 

His first encounter is found in John 4 and is with a woman who goes to a well for water and sees Jesus sitting, waiting, as if for her. Little did she know she was about to meet a Man like no other man and boy had she met plenty of them. 

He asks her for a drink. She’s confused because He, a Jew, is supposed to hate her, a Samaritan and a woman, and yet here He is asking her for a drink. She tells Him this to which He replies, If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink and I would give you fresh, living water. (John 4:10MSG)

Again, she’s confused because Jesus doesn’t have a dipper or bucket or anything to draw water from the well, so she asks Him about it and lets Him know that she knows of spiritual things so don’t pull a fast one on her Jesus! 

Jesus then tells her, Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. (my droopy plants can testify here) Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life. (John 4:13-14MSG)

Life can often feel like a trial by fire with one thing after another coming at you. Douse yourself in Living Water morning, noon and night when it feels extra hot. 

Experiments

Every year we do some experiments in the garden. This year I grew okra for the first time which blooms these gorgeous blooms before the fruit sets on! Who knew?

I also grew my tomatoes and jalapenos from seeds. It took time and patience to baby first the seeds then the seedlings then the bigger plants that could go outside under a covered area then to the actual big plant being put in the garden, in real soil. Lots of care. Lots of learning. Lots of YouTubing “how to” videos from some fellow hippies who are much wiser than I when it comes to gardening. 

Everything is doing beautifully! I would never have known just how I could grow things if I hadn’t ventured out and taken a risk. 

Sometimes we have to trust the Lord and venture onto a new path He has set before us. In Isaiah God says, Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43:18-19NIV)

I don’t want to think about past experiments that failed, making me afraid to try again. I want to see what new thing God has for me! Springs in the desert and streams in the wasteland? Yes please! 

Maybe you’re stuck in a perpetual rut. Will you try a new thing? Who knows what flower will bloom if you do! 

Pests/Suckers/Nemesis

I walked out back a few days ago and watched a squirrel jump off the bird feeder, a chipmunk jump out of the oregano and a bunny be very, very still by the chamomile. Apparently, the JackRabbit family was in need of a soothing cuppa before bed. 

A little stroll further out into the garden and I notice the zucchini leaves turning yellow, a sure sign of the squash bug. A giant maggot looking beastly thing that worms its way into the base of the stems, hollowing them out so they can’t get the nutrients or water the plant needs to survive. A half-eaten strawberry lies just outside the box, a sure sign of the dastardly chipmunk. Doesn’t he know you don’t season strawberries with oregano? Maybe that’s why he only ate half. 

The tomatoes grow all manner of shoots off the main stem. If you don’t pinch off some of these, you’ll have lots of green leaves but very little actual tomatoes because all the nutrients and water goes to keeping those little suckers alive and well. Anybody have the life sucked out them from time to time? Pinch those suckers off! 

We have an enemy whose sole (soul?) mission is to steal, kill and destroy the abundant life Jesus came to give us. (John 10:10NIV)

We have to learn how to stop him from achieving what he sets out to do. We do this by learning his tactics and how to look for signs that he’s there. I learned that a mix of hydrogen peroxide and water sprayed on the leaves of the zucchini kill the bug (and its eggs) that burrowed its way into the heart of the plant leaving it without life sustaining water and nutrients. 

Paul talks about the armor we’re to put on every day in Ephesians 6. Remember the Vine from the intro above? Stay connected. How? Study His word. Listen to His voice. Pray. Obey. Believe. Trust. Nothing squashes the plans of the enemy like a daughter who lives like she knows who her Daddy is! 

Inspection Inspection Inspection

Every single day, I walk in the garden, looking, watching, waiting for something to happen. In fact, I do it so many times a day my family pokes a bit of fun at me. Not only am I looking for pests, suckers and my nemesis (that dastardly chipmunk!) but also new growth. 

Just when you think nothing is happening, you’ll look closely and see a bloom on the tomatoes or the tiniest green bean or a zucchini ready for picking under one of the giant leaves. 

The next day you go out and there’s a tomato where the flower used to be, a handful of green beans ready for picking and the vine of the cucumbers has somehow reached the top of the fence! How did that happen? 

It may seem “just like that” but really, I’ve worked hard tending, caring, weeding, watering, inspecting multiple times a day. 

Growth happens over time. It takes hard work and doing what we need to each day. Then “just like that” you’ll find yourself…

~ Remaining calm in a situation that would have caused you to blow your lid a few weeks ago. 

~ Feeling peace in the middle of some heavy hard stuff. 

~ Praying instead of worrying. 

~ Reaching for your Bible instead of the bottle or food or shopping or Neflix or…

~  Finding joy in a less than joyous season. 

~ Being the bigger person. 

~ Forgiving even though they didn’t apologize.

~ Practicing self-control…and succeeding.

~ Listening when you really want to react. 

~ Apologizing. 

Man. It’s so fun when you notice growth because you’ve kept the weeds at bay, when you notice you’re thirsty and go drink from the well of Living water (often), when you see a flower bloom because you weren’t afraid to try a new thing, when you’re prepared for a battle with your nemesis. 

I think C. Austin Miles was on to something…even if I can no longer carry my part in a four-part harmony. God walks with me and He talks with me and He teaches me simple theology in the garden using weeds and chipmunks. His voice is so sweet that I stand in awed silence, listening, loving, and learning. 

kw

Beauty in Every Part

Life often sings in a four-part harmony with nature as its guide. Each part has its place. Each place has its purpose. Each purpose has its polish.

There is beauty in every part. 

Take the clematis for example. 

Its flower grabs the attention and draws the eye towards its boldness and daring. 

Sometimes life is lived like a full bloom flower that leaves you feeling fantastic and on fire! The sun is out. The sky is blue. Life is great. And so are you! 

The beauty in this season comes from knowing what you want and going for it! Success is your middle name. School is good. Marriage is good. Kids are good. Single life is good. Work? What work! I love what I’m doing. There’s no mountain too high. No challenge too hard. No river too wide. Bring. It. On!  

I wish I could tell you I have it all together all the time. That my flowers are in full bloom forever, but I cannot. Nobody can keep that pace up; that boom of the full bloom. We were never meant to. 

Full bloom is a season and I’ve had seasons like that. But seasons are just that, seasons. They don’t last forever.

We can learn a lot from the way nature sings. (Kim Wright 🙂

I look out my back window and notice the same clematis climbing but with a very different “flower”. What was once bold and beautiful now looks like a Truffula tree from a Dr. Seuss book. 

What were once feelings that left you spunky now leave you feeling funky and a little bit afraid. Mr. Lorax has his ax and is doing his best to take a whack at your back. 

This season takes some stamina because it’s not all glitz and glam. School is over and the real J-O-B begins. Did I choose wisely? Will I like it? Your marriage takes work. You discover your man snores and he realizes you grind your teeth. He chews loud. You chew your nails. And kids? Who had all these kids? Will we ever stop running? Do boys always pee on the bathroom floor? Are girls always this moody? Will we ever go out on a date again that isn’t in a van that smells like stinky knee pads?… The kids are all gone…who are you anyhow? 

The beauty in this season is the world of discovery! No, it may not look like what you thought it would but what if you let go of that idea and grabbed hold of something even better? What if you made a bouquet out of those different looking flowers and decided to go with the flow and put some spunk in the funk?  

Funky is a season and I’ve had seasons like that. But seasons are just that, seasons. They don’t last forever. 

The earth has music for those who will listen. (William Shakespeare) 

Someone picked the funky flower and put it on the patio table. Who would have thought that this: 

was once this:

Sometimes life can look fuzzy and unsure. We may not know what the future looks like, where we’ll be next week, what will happen tomorrow. Fuzzy can feel isolated and lonely. Ignored and left out. 

Fuzzy often happens when we remove ourselves from the Vine and distance ourselves on a patio table. We lose our sense of purpose and forget who we are at the very root of our existence. 

Fuzzy often happens when we walk away from community and connection to strike out on our own because we think we know best. 

Fuzzy often happens when we tell ourselves no one will understand, no one knows how I feel, no one cares so we don’t reach out, we sit alone on the back patio.

The beauty in this season is you can reach up and reconnect to the Vine. Be still and know that you are known. You can reach in and reconnect with the vulnerable parts of what make you you. You can reach out and reconnect with others who feel fuzzy too. 

Fuzzy is a season and I’ve had seasons like that. But seasons are just that, seasons. They don’t last forever. 

The last part of nature’s harmony is a period of dormancy, silence, rest and one that we often leave out, leaving the four parts lacking, off key, out of tune. 

Because sometimes you just need some down time. Time to breathe. Time to think or not think. Time to settle. Time to do nothing. Time to nap. Time to disconnect so you reconnect. Time.  

If you think you don’t and can go on forever being full bloom or funky or fuzzy, well, at some point rest will be required because Mr. Lorax is lurking, ax in hand! 

We are stubborn creatures, aren’t we? God had to make rest a command (Exodus 20:8).  He makes us lie down in green pastures and He leads us beside quiet waters (Psalm 23:2) because we don’t have the sense to do it on our own. But it’s the very thing that restores our souls. Go figure why we sing out of tune, eh. 

For everything that happens in life—there is a season, a right time for everything under heaven. (Ecclesiastes 3:1 The Voice) 

Seasons don’t last forever but there is beauty in every part if you look hard enough. 

kw 

I Love a Good Syllabus!

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I walked into room 204, the smell of fresh paint and newly waxed floors lingered from the hard work of the janitors over summer break. Mixed with it was the sense of excitement, a pinch of dread and a tinge of nervous sweat. Some students looked bored. Some apprehensive. Some sat as close to the teacher as they possibly could. Others sat as close to the exit for a quick get-away. 

With my new books, a new backpack, fresh hair and the perfect first-day-of-school outfit, I was the nerd in the front row, ready to absorb all the professor had for me that day. I still am that person. I love to learn! 

It had been a long time since I’d sat at a desk in a classroom ready to learn. Five years to be exact. In those years, I’d graduated from high school, gotten married, moved hundreds of miles from home and back again and had a baby who was now in kindergarten experiencing his own classroom for the first time. 

My brain felt rusty and I wondered how in the world I would keep my 18-credit hour load figured out. Would I be able to keep up? Would I remember what was due when? Would I miss assignments? It was all a bit overwhelming. 

Enter the syllabus. 

Each professor handed one out. On it were things like professor information, course description, goals and objectives, required materials, grade breakdown, course policies, helpful resources and the mother of it all: the daily schedule. I knew exactly what was due and when it was due. There was no mistaking the expectations of what was required of us for the entire semester. It was all laid out in a neat and tidy word document. Thank you, Ms. Professor!

Wouldn’t it be nice if someone would hand us a syllabus for the semester of life we’re in? 

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I’ve been reading a Psalm each morning and ran across this one that says, I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go…(32:8NKJV)

I’ve already told you I love to learn so I say YES! instruct and teach away! I’m also a planner and would love it if God would lay out the syllabus, listing the course description, goals and objectives, grade breakdown, and of course, the daily schedule. Line by line, look ahead, get ahead, know the precise way I should go because it’s all laid out in a neat word document. 

But God doesn’t use a word document with tidy dates, rows and columns spotlighting what you need to do next. He uses His Word which is more like lamplight than spotlight. (Psalm 119:105) He likes to give us just enough light to see the step we’re on. Anybody else out there wishing He would ditch the lamp and shine a spotlight down the way you should go so you would know how to plan your life? (Should I take a parka or a bathing suit? Right?) Heck, I would even settle for the next semester! 

That’s not how this Teacher conducts class. Sigh…

Psalm 32:8 goes on to say, I will guide you with My eye. (NKJV) 

His eye. It sees from a different angle, through a different lens. He can see ahead and know exactly how and when to answer my prayers. Like a blind person I have to learn to trust the Guide, hanging on to His arm as He leads me step by step down the path He has for me. 

That’s not easy for a syllabus loving, learner like me. I want to know what’s ahead, what’s expected, what to expect, every step of the way. Bottom line is, do I trust Him to teach me, to instruct me, to guide me, to show me the next step and not the entire year? Using a dang lamp for a light. 

That in itself is a lesson to be learned. It takes a lifetime of practice because like the real classroom, each semester is different. 

In the meantime…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

What can I do? What can I do while I wait for the next step to be revealed? For my prayer to be answered? While I wait for instructions? 

During a time of persecution and facing the unknown, Paul tells what the will of God is (the syllabus, if you will) for the people of Thessalonica. It’s found in 1Thessalonians 5:16-18…

Be joyful always; 

Pray continually;

Give thanks in all circumstances, 

For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 

Really? I know what you’re thinking, I want to know what direction I’m headed, what my future is. I need to know what I’m supposed to be doing and you tell be to smile, pray and be grateful. Are you serious? 

Yes. Yes I am. 

Be joyful always. We aren’t talking about plaster-a-smile-while-I’m-hanging-on-for-dear-life but rather a deep sense of peace knowing my Father’s got this and He will show me the next step, open the next door, light the path brighter when it’s time. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. If I can be joyful always, maybe it will ripen the fruit and will help in the maturity of my faith. It’s not joy in my circumstance but in the Lord that gives me the strength to carry on. (Nehemiah 8:10)

Be prayerful continually. Keep talking to God, even when. Be persistent like the woman in Luke 18 who drove the judge crazy until he answered her. Let your voice be heard then listen. Trust that He hears you and is working things out on your behalf. But keep having conversations. I’ve prayed for things that have happened almost immediately and I have things that I’ve prayed and am still praying about for years. Don’t stop. 

Be grateful. Gratitude is the thing that allows me to receive the gift of God’s blessings every single day. Even when. It’s what opens my eyes to see through a God lens and not my own. It’s what lets me know He’s here. He’s in the sunrise each morning and the flowers that are blooming. He’s in the shadows that are cast by the sunlight coming in the back windows. He’s in the smell of jasmine as I swing on the front porch. I’m with you. I’ve got this. Do you trust me? 

It’s not always easy. Sometimes the last thing you want to do is be joyful, prayerful and grateful in the midst of being lost and not knowing what to do. But if those three things put you in the middle of God’s will, then you’re not really lost at all, are you?

It’s a simple syllabus. Perhaps too simple and I’ve filed it away as silly. But what if it works? What if it helps light up the next step. Are you willing to try?  

This was a great reminder for me. I hope it was for you too. 

kw 

A Simple Principle

Peas. Luffa. Corn

I sat a small jar of various types of seeds in the middle of each table. None were labeled. Some were obvious. Others, not so much. The ladies began to arrive, laughter and catching up filled the air as they grabbed their coffee and snacks and sat down. 

If I were to ask you what type of seed is in the jar on your table what would you say? 

This is definitely corn. One table replied. 

Peas. Said another. 

I think these are lima beans, but they have purple stripes on them! 

So, what do you think your harvest will be when you plant them? If you plant corn what do you expect to get in return? 

Ummm, corn?, someone answered as if the teacher were trying to trick the student. 

And the peas. What about the peas? 

Peas of course! 

Exactly! In farming or gardening this is an absolute principle. Whatever seed you sow, is exactly what’ll you’ll grow. It doesn’t surprise us when we sow or plant a lima bean seed and get lima beans. Or a piece of corn and get an ear of corn. 

Tim Keller says, whatever you sow, you will reap. Though the seed may lie in the ground to no apparent effect for a long time, it will come up. It is not the reaping that determines the harvest, but the sowing. (Galatians for You p.175)

It’s a simple principle for the farmer but it’s not just for the agricultural community. You don’t have to get your hands in the dirt to understand this is a how-to-live-life lesson as well. But what is simple for the farmer seems to be more complex when it comes to applying it to our daily lives. Or so it seems.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

In chapter six of Galatians, Paul uses this simple principle of sowing and reaping in the spiritual realm as well. It’s just as absolute, just as unstoppable. 

Earlier in his letter Paul addresses the sarx or sinful heart and lists those things we do to satisfy the darker side of ourselves. Things like repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfying wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on. (Galatians 5:21 MSG)

Paul warns the Galatian people to not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. He cannot be treated lightly. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature from that nature will reap destruction…(Galatians 6:7-8 NIV)

Notice that the “acts of the sinful nature” aren’t all actions; attitudes are just as much over-desires of our sarx.

Before we despair, there is another seed we can sow and grow; that being the fruit of the spirit. Things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. 

Notice all of these are one fruit, not multiple fruits. John says: “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar.” (1John 4:20 NIV) Notice that he does not say: If a man loves God but doesn’t love his brother, he is unbalanced. No, he says he is a liar. True love to God (love) is always accompanied by love to others (kindness). If they are not both there, neither are there at all. (Galatians to You by Tim Keller p153)

We can sow the seeds of the sarx and reap the ravage. Or we can sow the fruit of the Spirit and reap the reward. But we can’t do both. At least not at the same time. 

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We’ve been planting the garden the past few days. It’s reassuring to know that an okra seed will become okra that I will roll in cornmeal and fry on both sides, a lima seed will become a lima bean. Tomato plants will produce, you guessed it, tomatoes.  Green bean seeds in the dirt, green beans off the plants and in my quart jars for winter feasting. 

Such a simple principle this sowing and reaping. 

So why are we surprised when we…

Sow seeds of hatred and receive hostility. 

Sow seeds of blindness and not be able to see. 

Sow seeds of deafness and not be able to hear. 

Sow seeds of silence and end up with no voice. 

Sow seeds of ignorance and refuse to learn. 

Sow seeds of hurt and end up with blood on our own hands.

Sow seeds of word spewing and end up with no friends. 

Like Paul, I could go on. 

Why do we make it so hard? 

I find it interesting that the first fruit of the Spirit is love and the opposite of love is not hate as one might expect but rather fear. 

But what are we afraid of? Each other? Of getting hurt? Our different skin tones? Our different cultures? Our different opinions? Of being wrong? Of being right? Of having to say we’re sorry? Of getting sick? 

The Bible tells us that there is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear. (1John 4:18 NIV)

Martin Luther King Jr. said it this way, Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

Maybe perfect love looks like driving different seeds in the ground. What if we…

Sow seeds of kindness and reap kinship. 

Sow seeds of eyes that see and witness the world in high definition color. 

Sow seeds of ears that listen and learn that every single one of us has a story. 

Sow seeds of conversations and begin to understand.

Sow seeds of wisdom and cultivate knowledge. 

Sow seeds of healing and reap reconciliation. 

Sow seeds of encouragement and watch people grow. 

It’s a simple principle, an absolute principle. I realize it sure seems more complex than this. But we have to start somewhere, right? Casting out fear so we can love begins with casting the right seeds. We are all farmers in this. Whatever seed you sow is exactly what you’ll grow. 

Open the eyes of our hearts, Lord and let the light of Your Truth flood in. Shine Your light on the hope You are calling us to embrace. (Ephesians 1:18 The Voice)

kw

Let Nothing Be Wasted

My Granny was a frugal woman. We would recycle our Cocoa Cola bottles, carefully placing them back in the carton for their return trip to the store. Once there, we would put them in the big basket to the left as you walked in and let the cashier know as she rang up our purchases how many cartons we brought back. We got a little credit towards our grocery bill. Granny recycled out of necessity, not to be green but because we needed the green. 

She would do things like rinse out our sandwich bags and reuse them in our lunches. She sewed most of my clothes, saving the scraps to make what was called “rag rugs.” She grew a huge garden and canned most of our food, so we were always “clean-platers” because she worked hard for what was on the table. 

She would keep the slivers of soap and put them all together so at some point you had a “new” bar of soap to use. That made for an interesting bath time. There would be a bouquet of feeling Zestfully clean with an underlying hint of Irish Spring, the real beauty that Dove promised with an occasional grit of exfoliation from a sliver of Lava that surfaced to the top. 

We lived on my Gramps’ one income, a blue-collar factory working man with an eighth-grade education who didn’t really bring in a lot of dough. But Granny could take that dough and make some really good stuff out of it! Nothing was wasted when I was a little girl. 

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I was listening to a talk by Jo Saxton from the 2019 IF conference recently. Her message was on a story as familiar as “the quiet old lady who was whispering hush” in the book Good Night Moon. 

We find ourselves on a mountainside with 5000 or so of our closest friends, hiking our hardest after an acclaimed Miracle Maker, wanting to see what the hubbub is all about. We aren’t disappointed as lunch is served, bellies are filled and not one person goes hungry all because one boy’s Momma remembers to pack his lunch box with some fish and bread. 

And Jesus gives thanks for what He has.  

There’s no discounting the freakish amount of folks fed with such frugal findings nor the fact that the twelve disciples gathered twelve baskets so they, too, could have full bellies. It’s this line that Jesus says that’s got me thinking: 

Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted. (John 6:12NIV)

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Gather the pieces…

The pieces, that which is broken, gathered was the bread, something the Jewish culture considered to be a gift from God. It was required that scraps that fell on the ground during a meal be picked up. Think about their time in the dessert when manna, bread like wafers, fell from heaven as a provision when food was a luxury. I can imagine every morsel melting in their mouths, not in the mud.

Broken pieces. On the ground. Squandered away? No.

They were gathered up, put into baskets, enough to feed others. 

The leftovers. The left behinds. The last of the least. 

Gathered up and used to feed. 

What if God can take our broken pieces and use them? What if He can take those parts that feel torn off like the crust that no one wants, the cast down, thrown away, torn apart, and useless and use them to feed those around us? What if we could have the courage to see those things that God breaks in us and around us as gifts from Him? Trusting Him, that He will, like He did so long ago, gather the pieces, and feed those that need fed from the basket of our own stories.

Let nothing be wasted. 

Wasted, in the original language, is to be lost to the owner, anything that perishes. 

What if we trusted that Jesus means what He says? He will let nothing be wasted. Not one single thing. 

Not one tear shed.

Not one pain felt. 

Not one loss grieved. 

Not one diagnosis given.

Not one dream dashed.

Not one (more) diaper changed. 

Not one career move made.

Not one failure flop.

Not one guilt trip taken. 

Not one misery met.

Not one stormy season. 

Not one prodigal person.

Not one dry dessert.

Not one single thing is lost to the Owner of us who claim Christ as our Savior. 

He will gather up our pieces, just like He did on that mountainside so many years ago and feed the people from our baskets of broken if we’re brave enough to let Him. If we’ll trust Him with the story we’re walking right now. If we’re still enough to be allow Him to work through us and use us as only He can do. 

He sees us. You and me. Waiting to be gathered. Feeling like the crust no one wants. Waiting to see how He’ll use this season we’re in. Will you trust Him to do what He says He will do? 

That one line: Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted. 

May it be so. 

I am undone.  

kw

In a Little Country Church (Day 30 Memory)

The church I grew up in.

I first heard of Jesus here, in this little country church, tucked away in small town Tarleton, Ohio. My Granny would drive us, my older brother and me, every Sunday come hell or highwater, snowstorm or sleet. There were a handful of times I thought for sure we would meet Jesus face to face as Granny white knuckled her way through, wipers on high, barely able to see and thankful it was a straight shot down highway 159. 

The familiar smell of musty wooden pews and old people welcomed you as you walked into the vestibule, that space where you could hang your coat and ring the bell. We always entered the sanctuary by the left door and sat in the third pew from the front on the right side. Esther Miller sat directly behind us and was the volunteer janitor. Virginia (Ginny) Green sat at the far end of our row and ran the VBS every summer which hosted an average of 15 kids. Her husband Pearl was my bus driver when I was in high school. 

I found this list of “inactive members” and handwritten note tucked inside Granny’s Bible.

There would be announcements of bake sales and fundraisers and if it was your birthday you got to go up front, put a penny in the bucket, get a pencil that said Happy Birthday and the congregation would sing to you. Those pencils had the best erasers. 

We would open our hymnals and sing the first and last verse of a couple familiar songs. Unless we were feeling extra festive then we would sing all four verses though the middle two were sung with less spirit as people weren’t as familiar with the words. Diane Miller (Esther’s daughter) played the piano and never missed a beat when a key was stuck or out of tune. 

The preacher would make his way from the front row to the pulpit. Since we were a small country church, we would get the retirees who weren’t quite ready to give up sharing the good news. My favorite was an older gentleman with soft grey/white fluffy hair, kind eyes and a gentle voice. He would talk about Jesus as if he were his best friend and he invited us to make him our friend too. 

This small band of believers made sure the sick was visited, the hungry were fed and if there was a need and someone could meet it then it was met. This community wasn’t rich by any means but had huge hearts and willing spirits.

It was the first place I met Jesus. Right there. In Nowhere, Ohio. But then again, he often meets us in the strangest of places. 

***

In John 4 we see Jesus waiting for a woman, not in a sanctuary, but beside a well. He knew her need and met her where she would be.

In Luke 10 we see Jesus meeting in the home of a couple of sisters by the name of Mary and Martha. He gives Mary her first taste of theology by allowing her to sit at his feet and soak up his teaching. 

In Luke 8 Jesus meets a demoniac by the name of Legion, not in a church service but on the shore of the sea of Galilee. 

In Luke 13 we find Jesus is teaching in the synagogue and notices a crippled woman. She gets to go forward and meet Jesus who then met her need…even on a Sabbath day of rest! 

He meets Mary Magdalene in a garden outside of his very own tomb. He meets her in her grief and shares the good news of His Good News and tells her to tell the others.  

He met with people on mountainsides and muddy pig sties. Offshore in a boat and places remote. He saw people no one else sees….the blind, the wounded and the least of these. 

***

There is no place that Jesus doesn’t see us or want to meet with us. Sometimes I think we make it too hard. Like we have to live loud and be mega for Jesus to notice. 

He meets you. Right where you are. 

Whether it’s in a pew or a fancy chair. Whether your congregation is 10 or 10,000. Whether you’re a big city church or a country congregation. 

He meets you and will use you. Right where you are. 

I first met Jesus in that little country church. I got to see him in action long after I moved away when Esther and Ginny visited my Granny in the nursing home every Sunday until she passed. I can just hear them say “I will” when the old man with white/grey hair asked who could visit Alice in the nursing home. 

Jesus met with my Granny all the way to the end through two friends.

Where has Jesus met you?

kw

Sticky Notes of Goodness

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You are good and the source of good; train me in your goodness. (Psalm 119:68MSG)

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect as I walked into the home of a couple that had been given dire news. He had recently been diagnosed with a brain tumor and given a poor prognosis. We were all reeling from the shock of it ourselves as just a few weeks prior he was teaching our Sunday school class with the depth of a scholar and the passion of one who knew what it was to be forgiven.

His study desk had been replaced with a hospital bed, an IV pole stood where his lampstand once did, medicine bottles lined a side table and there he lay. She told me he wanted to be in the same room where he met the Lord each morning to read, pray and study, knowing he would soon meet him face to face.

As I was walking from the study, down the hall, through the living room to the kitchen to put away the food I had brought, I noticed something…sticky notes….on the walls, the furniture, the countertops, the cabinets, in the bathroom…they were everywhere. Some had just a word or two; others were completely filled.

She and I sat down to have some coffee and conversation and I asked her about the sticky notes. She shared with me that this had been the hardest thing she had ever had to face and yet God was showing his goodness in all sorts of ways. She started writing them down on sticky notes as reminders when she was feeling extra sad or overwhelmed.

I walked out of there having learned something that would remain with me through some of my own difficulties and disasters, headaches and heartbreaks, faults and fears, turbulence and tears.

The goodness of God is immutable which is a fancy pants word meaning unchanging over time.

God is good even when…

I am not. I used to think God was only good to me when I was good. That somehow my behavior determined his goodness towards me. And yet, while I was still a sinner, Christ died for me. (Romans 5:8)

God is good even when…

Others are not. People can be mean. We can feel unwelcome, uninvited and unseen. God doesn’t pick sides. In his goodness, he welcomes, invites and sees each one of us. Look for the goodness. It’s there. He’s there.

God is good even when…

Our prayers aren’t answered the way we think they should be or in the time frame we wish they were. God is good. And God is good at being God. I am a work in progress but I’m learning to sticky note his goodness along the way of waiting.

God is good even when…

Life is not. There have been so many things that have happened since that day in Shirl’s living room 20 some years ago. Hard things. Long periods of time where I wasn’t sure what the outcome would be. Loss, sickness, devastation, marriage stuff, kid stuff, family stuff, health scares, you name it.

God’s goodness remains steadfast through it all. We can experience peace and joy no matter what, not because life is always good but because God is.

I’m not sure what made me think about this time with Shirl and Bud. Maybe I need to get my sticky notes back out. Maybe you’re going through some stuff right now and need to get some sticky notes of your own.

God is good.

Always.

kw

 

Girl in the White Bell-Bottom Jeans

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Not normally one to seek out adventure, I threw caution to the wind, got out from the safety of the middle and decided to try my hand with the faster, more experienced kids.

I should have known better.

But I’m getting ahead of myself so let me back up a bit.

My brother and I were the second set of kids my grandparents raised. Money was tight on Grandpa’s swing shift job working the burn off at Anchor Hocking. My Granny helped in all the ways she could cooking, keeping house, and sewing. She sewed most all of my clothes.

My younger self didn’t begin to understand things like single incomes, budgets and frugality. I just knew that nothing screamed poor like matching gingham shirts and pants. All I wanted to do was fit in. I wanted someone to notice my clothes, not because they were making fun of the homespun, but because I was setting a fashion trend. For once I wanted to hear the girls ask me where I shopped for such a cute outfit.

Much to my delight (and seven day work weeks for my Grandpa) I got to get a store bought outfit in the spring of my third grade year. I was the shizzle getting off the bus and walking in to class that day. I had the cutest little solid red top that fit perfectly. The pants? Oh my word!  White bell-bottom jeans trimmed with a red cuff and white polka dots. And not just any bell-bottoms. No. These were elephant bell-bottoms! Bell-bottoms that had bell-bottoms. Throw on some new white Keds and I was ready for the runway, setting trends and blazing fashion trails that left all things gingham-checked in my dust…

I was having the best day.

That is until I decided to get adventurous and push the (now banned death trap) merry-go-round on the playground. As you might have guessed, it didn’t go well. It got going faster than my little girl legs could go and since I wasn’t used to jeans with flared bottoms, well, I took a pretty good tumble. On a side note: It’s important to let go once you fall down, otherwise you keep going but not on your feet.

The boys laughed and the girls gasped and I got all kinds of attention I hadn’t bargained for nor wanted. My hands had rocks embedded in them and both of my knees and one hip were bloodied. That wasn’t even the worst of it. The school nurse could clean and cover those with ointment and Band-Aids. But what of my pants?

I felt a little like Ralphie from The Christmas Story who thought his mom wouldn’t notice his busted up glasses. My pants were shredded at both knees and down one thigh (remember to let go…) with so much dirt and blood you couldn’t tell there was a red cuff let alone white polka dots.

What was I going to tell my Granny? She asked all manner of questions: What was I thinking? Why didn’t I stay in the middle where it was safer? Better yet, why get on that thing at all?  Your Grandpa worked hard so you could have those jeans and you ruined them because you were goofing off  and being full of yourself.

I don’t know if these were the exact questions but it was the gist of what I walked away with. Somewhere along the way, that day translated into: being adventurous and carefree equals getting hurt and disappointing people. It equals falling and failing.

Unknowingly, that day followed me around well into my adult years.  Afraid to draw attention. Afraid to be brave. Afraid to get out of the middle.  Afraid to be carefree.  Afraid to let loose and go fast. Afraid to disappoint. Afraid to fall. Afraid to fail. Always playing it safe for fear of busting up my best bell-bottoms.

Oh, this memory wasn’t like a cash transaction where I purposely handed over money in exchange for fear. It’s more like an auto-pay where you don’t even think about it until you see the withdrawal on your bank statement. I simply kept forgetting to cancel the auto-ship on a package I no longer wanted.

I began to recognize that little girl in the torn and now bloodied bell-bottomed jeans was embedded in my thoughts like those rocks in my hands. Always reminding me. Silently berating, shaming. Once I understood it was her that was whispering like the wind… don’t venture too far too fast, you’ll fall down, people will laugh, better play it safe, you don’t want to disappoint… I began the process of picking out the lies, of healing the hurt, of mending the tears, of telling her it’s alright. Ever so slowly I began to inch my way out of the middle, to put myself out there, to know I could fall and fail but also get up and try again. I could have fun and go on adventures. And it was okay.

The girl in the white bell-bottom jeans?

She is me. Only better. Maybe she is you too?

kw