Category Archives: being

the harvest is coming…

corn harvest

it was a rough spring in this area. the month of May saw well over a foot of snow. and rain that would not end. flood warnings were unending and getting into the fields for planting was next to impossible for many. some were able to plant. some found a different crop with a shorter growth season. a few resorted to flinging seed from crop dusters, hoping for a good result. and others let their fields go fallow for the year, allowing whatever may to grow.

the harvest is approaching and results of the season are evident everywhere. some are lush with corn and beans. others have ground-cover crops to help hold the soil in place. and then there are the untended fields with weeds rampant across their acres. there is no order, no hope for redemption until next year’s planting.

Jesus used many agricultural illustrations and parables. through the centuries others have used garden analogies as well. I have thought through many of them as I drive out of town and pass the various nearby fields.

  • weeds grew quickly, even on previously treated fields. untended fields quickly lose their order, despite the labor poured into them. the field does not remember the crops, the tilling, the harvest, the careful watch for pests. how like my heart that forgets God’s goodness, mercy, and grace so lovingly given!
  • those who flung seed from an aircraft have lost more than their nice neat rows. weeds grow among the crops. and I have no idea how they are going to manage the harvest when machinery is set for the usual rows. the heart harvest is also coming. Jesus will soon separate the wheat from the tares. yet they must grow together or the crop will be lost altogether. do I trust Him with the tares? or am I trying to rip them out on my own and damaging something fragile He knows is there and is nurturing alongside what I see as a weed?
  • Jesus parable of the sower routinely comes to mind, especially when I pass the untidy fields.
  • there is little to no doubt which course of action each farmer decided earlier in the year. just as that decision is plain for everyone to see at the end of the growing season, so should the decisions of my heart and faith be evident in my life and journey. a field of corn is not mistaken for one of wheat or beans. oh, that I am so easily identified as Christ’s own!
  • sometimes Plan B is just fine. when it is God’s plan, it is better than fine! after long delays, some farmers were able to plant. their crops are looking nice. other farmers planted a different crop. again, the crop is not the one originally intended, but there will be a crop. and to the untrained eye, the crops are looking good. even for those who chose not to plant, a year of rest for the fields can be a great thing. I have no idea what they will deal with next spring and the weeds that have taken up residence on their acres, but rest for the land seems a good thing. I had a prof in college who talked about trying to convince his farmer father to not plant a portion of his land and how good that would be all around. there was a lot of stress back in May when crop decisions were being made and what each farmer would choose to do. and while Plan B may not seem the ideal for many, for some it might have ended up better than their Plan A. I wonder how often God’s perfect Plan A seemed Plan B to me and I fought Him on it, kicking and screaming in my heart, throwing a tantrum because I could not understand what was going on. pouting to friends. begging Him to change His mind and let me have whatever it was I asked for. how I wish true rest in His love, care, and plans were easier.

having lived most of life in major metro areas, I find a smaller rural city refreshing on many levels. snippets of farm life come my way from here and there and I find God often whispering, “pay attention here” as we live the life He has given in this beautiful agricultural patchwork. and I pray that I would rest in and trust His way more each day and less my own!

Leave a comment

Filed under abiding, being, spiritual formation

the artistry of God

the artistry of God

she loves waving out the front window when someone leaves our home. and she loves it when we wave as she departs for school.

as she ran to her friend’s car, and buckled into the seat belt, I gathered the puppy so we could wave from the front window and blow kisses. imagine my surprise and delight to find deeply intricate frost patterns gracing the glass. multiple patterns, different and overlapping, added to the beauty. the camera was quickly found to capture the rare moment.

over the weekend, as part of a group study, I had been challenged to look for God and His hand in the details of life. a beautiful sunrise or sunset, the sparkle of the snow, some kind intervention to a bump in life’s road, or some such detail was anticipated. the miniature masterpiece gracing the front window took my breath away. it had me wondering how such different frost flakes could form on the same piece of glass, and in the same place.

God IS in the details. having been challenged to look for His hand in them is meant to keep us focused and look at His varied work in the world and our lives. some days He feels far away, silent, and seemingly uninterested. but He is close, perhaps offering a new challenge, a deeper lesson. and if He cares about details as small as the frost across a window pane, how much more about us, His made-in-Our-image creation?

the season for frost is nearly over. but there will be new masterpieces, new details, as the breath of spring begins to blow. and I pray my heart and eyes are open to see Him and His handiwork, to let Him do the careful detail work my soul needs, to allow Him the intricate steps that lead me to deeper Christ-likeness.

if He can create a fairy-dance across glass with such beauty, what can He do with a willing heart in His hand?

may I be willing enough to find out!

Leave a comment

Filed under abiding, being, blessing, simple, spiritual formation

purpose…

refreshing frost

it has been some time since this little blog has found voice, and much internal dialogue about the reasons behind it and if it should remain open or be shuttered and forgotten.

is it processing the spiritual journey of a life (or parts of it, anyway)? in part.

opening conversation on some random thoughts and musings? sure.

some secret hope to be “discovered” and actually become a writer (and not a writer wannabe)? I’d lie if I said no.

a somewhat public journal, sanitized enough to not be embarrassing for anyone, including me? kind of. but that feels rather narcissistic. and much more extroverted than I am!

after a year of not posting, I’ve decided to just let this place be what it is, with the rambles and thoughts and lessons that come along. writing is a closet hobby, something I enjoy and helps in processing certain pieces of life. and it helps me, often, to see where and how God moves in the seemingly everyday lives we live. for He is here with us, walking alongside and joining us on the journey. truth be told, there are stacks of drafts, waiting for complete thought to finish them instead of the snippets residing on dusty pages. there were goals once, of weekly posts, maybe even twice weekly. and while those goals have flown out the window (for good reasons!) I miss the discipline of watching life through a lens, being aware on purpose. I miss the discipline of processing what lessons, large and small, come along and how God uses them to sharpen me and hopefully mold my heart after His.

so here’s to refreshed discipline, jumping in again, and hopefully to listening to and learning from Him, when and how He speaks…

Leave a comment

Filed under abiding, being, dreams

of young and old…

I am trained to listen for themes in the lives of others, places God may be working, pockets of the heart they may be unaware of.

when themes start occurring in my own life, I try to pay attention, to ask God if He is doing a work, teaching a lesson, preparing my heart for something.

so when a number of conversations lately have included a Titus 2 thread, I have been listening and pondering. several friends from different parts of life and not known to each other, have been processing lessons learned from the older women in their lives. some lessons good and godly. some showing a lack of biblical response to life. others reflecting on lives well-lived for Christ, providing inspiration and encouragement to those coming behind. a few wistful for what they’d hoped would be a Christ-like attitude and example, only to have that hope dashed and the opposite be reality.

come, let us walk together as we walk with Jesus…

is this not to what Paul aspired?

put away anger

wrath

malice

gossip

speculation

roots of bitterness

and instead walk in compassion

kindness

patience

humility

forgiveness

when we walk this way, Christ is honored and allowed to do His work in our lives.

as we learn to walk in these new attitudes, looking at the example of others is only natural. there are innate questions of how to work out a new life while still living in our sin-bound bodies of earth.

there is an assumption, an expectation, really, that those older than us should be that example. it is a biblical idea and ideal. but it is not always reality.

those older than us may not necessarily be “older” in faith. each of us have our own faith walk, a journey and relationship with Christ that is uniquely our own. that others might learn anything from us is sobering and an amazing testimony to God’s great grace. calendar age may have little to do with faith age. some people get stuck somewhere in life have a texture of immaturity to them. those of older faith age might be younger than us, the rare spiritual “old soul” who lives in deep relationship with Christ. we can learn from all walks, learn about the working out of Christlikeness, and what is does not look like, of what is an attractive faith and what is not.

these thoughts, as they run through my head and seek expression, turn me again, as so often happens, to the Breastplate of St. Patrick, the prayer of St. Francis, and essentially to the root of Christianity: let me be in such deep relationship with Christ that when others see me, they see Him.

we are all older than another. and we are all younger. brought full circle, this begs that we never stop learning and learn to live in harmony with Christ, aware of the footprints we leave. that awareness should not be a burden, but instead a mirror to our lives and hearts. are we pointing others to Him? do they see Him when they look at us?

let us walk together and live in community centered around Him.

1 Comment

Filed under abiding, being, John 15, life lesson, spiritual formation

of saints and vegetables…

(photo credit: the St. Nicholas Center)

she is three years old, this daughter-gift of ours.

old enough to start understanding what is going on around her, the bits and pieces of Christmas and Advent and all the hype and even the character set.

Jesus. Santa. Mary. Joseph. Frosty. wisemen and shepherds. elves. bell-ringers.

all mix together in a tapestry of fact and fiction, of reality and story.

sorting it is difficult. being a parent sorting it and shaping your child’s understanding of a most important day and season can be daunting. allow some childhood fantasy? or burst the bubble from the beginning, telling her there is no Santa Claus, knowing that her honest little heart will inadvertently burst another child’s fantasy?

the Christ-child is real, of that there is no question. bringing the season together, sifting the spiritual and commercial, was overwhelming.

until we stumbled on a simple tale told by vegetables. it is no unusual thing to find a Veggie Tales show or movie playing any given day in our home. but I was not expecting this particular tale to grab my attention and heart, shifting the focus of Christmas squarely back to Christ.

Nicholas was a Christian man of some means, orphaned early, and raised by his uncle. he shared his wealth and resources with others in Christ’s name, resting firmly in the knowledge that all he had came from, and subsequently was, God’s. along the way he became the Bishop of Myra, and eventually a saint and pop culture icon.

cuddling our daughter-gift through this story, Christ began a new, or refreshed an old, work in my heart. what if my own giving was influenced by an overflow of gratitude for what God has given? what if I gave because He had?

the shift was almost palpable. the frenetic schedule of the season slowed. the pressure released. what if?

the gift lists changed. the reasoning was different. additional gifts were added. others removed. where might encouragement lie? where might He be asking me to give, to give beyond my list on paper?

a handmade gift or two found its way under the tree, bits that would be treasured for memories evoked and new ones made.

the grace of Christ, His compassion and mercy, to me and each person I come into contact with, was overwhelming.

Nicholas gave because he could not ignore the source of his resource. He gave out of gratitude and love.

the grip of commercialism slipped a bit this year. and I am glad. praying it continues, really.

as for our daughter-gift, there is no longer a discussion of allowing a few years of childhood fantasy with Santa Claus. that also shifted as we watched the vegetable telling of this biography. her earliest teachings about Santa are steeped in reality. and they are taking hold in beautiful ways.

she asks for money to drop into red kettles. toy boxes are culled for bits others might enjoy. a goose figure for a friend with a farm set. a teapot for daddy because he has none of his own. an elf doll for me, its silly smile meant to bring cheer and make me laugh. simple gifts, given from her own bounty. because Jesus and mommy and daddy love her.

there are smiles and waves as she spies the mall Santa or a yard decoration. it makes sense in her world that Baby Jesus and Santa reside on the same lawn. and in a way, she is right. strip the commercial Santa away and Nicholas remains, a man who continually pointed others to the Christ-child and His ultimate Gift.

may we do the same.

2 Comments

Filed under abiding, being, daughter-gift, gratitude, John 15, life lesson, simple, spiritual formation

listening to the soul…

it ended with molasses.

first came a week-and-a-half of stress on stress. work (both ministries, no less). family. a sick daughter-gift. more questions and paperwork on our house closing. one thing after another. it felt like each day added to the day before.

then came a day of running around, getting ready for Thanksgiving. the to-do list seemed reasonable at the start. a trip to the grocery store. make a salad for Thanksgiving dinner. pack for the mini-retreat/vacation we had planned for the weekend. make the pepparkakor cookie dough so we can make and decorate cookies on said retreat/vacation. a full day, but not unreasonable. but I could the soul-zapping pressures of the last weeks draining me further away from the spirit of Thanksgiving and into the vortex of commercialism and priorities of the world.

an email invitation came, reminding me of a community Thanksgiving service. shared desire to attend as a family, but the reality of two days gone awry.

progress was being made on the to-do list. cookie dough, laundry, and packing remained.

despite the careful grocery run earlier, the molasses was missed. the anticipated vacation highlight of Christmas cookie baking together could not happen without it.

back to the store. a moment alone in the car with my heart and soul. the clock ticking down to the Thanksgiving service. and much still to accomplish before days end.

as I exited one store with its Christmas craziness already in full swing, it hit me that an hour of sleep was less important than thanking God for His bounty. before entering the second store in search of the elusive molasses, I called home, saying my soul needed the service and could survive without the sacrificed sleep.

a terribly hurried run through the grocery store (and an exit with the molasses!), a quick dinner, and we were off.

we’ve not been to this church before. tradition washed over us before we even reached the building and continued for the next hour. the booming pipe organ. stained glass windows. a joyous choir. hymns of gratitude to the Father. familiar and not. healing to a weary and stressed soul. reminders of how deeply thankful every day can and should be.

the troubles and worries of the last few weeks melted as we soaked in the words of hymn and prayer. His goodness pervades our lives in so many seen and unseen ways. in the middle of tough decisions. among the myriad details each day brings. in quiet moments and loud clash of the season. woven throughout are His graces and provisions. painted across our days are His fingerprints, often the mark of which we cannot trace until later. the gentle and heart-wrenching lessons run together in the tapestry of our faith journey. and our souls are better for the time spent acknowledging His hand.

the forgotten molasses afforded me the quiet moment to hear the cry of my soul to rest and intentionally join with others in thanks. what seemed another stress became a beautiful evening together with our little family and the community. the cookie dough was accomplished. the bags and car were packed. the Thanksgiving holiday enjoyed.

and after all was said and done, the cookie dough was left behind!

(sugar cookies to the rescue! the pepparkakor will wait for us to get home…)

Leave a comment

Filed under abiding, being, gratitude, spiritual formation

strength and perseverance

it has been a windy season. most days our daughter-gift wakes up and asks if it is another windy day. or more likely, she makes a statement of it.

when we lived in southern California, it was news when the winds blew. sometimes Santa Ana winds, and other times from storms coming through the area. it always puzzled us how often downed trees made the news, downed by strong, but not devastating winds. I remember a co-worker once stating that her son had not slept all night because he was afraid of the wind.

in this land of four very distinct seasons the wind is not a headline-grabber by any stretch of the imagination. tornadoes, blizzards, thunderstorms, and severe weather in general, are part of life. we do talk about the weather here, and for good reason. it shapes us in ways we do not expect. a beautiful day, no matter the season, is cause to stop and enjoy, if only for a moment. a windy day, in our understated manner, will be called gusty. bitingly cold wind might be described as blustery. rarely do we consider our trees and worry about them toppling.

this difference between the stalwart northern trees and those of our California friends is striking. many of the trees making their way into the news were the same as the sturdy ones “back home.” so we researched. and talked to some who might understand our confusion. what we found was fascinating. and has implications on our spiritual lives.

for a tree, life in California is easy. lots of sun. a relatively temperate climate. few storms. it seems trees have little reason to work at sending their roots deep, so they spread wide. and trees topple in seemingly innocuous winds. the root system cannot tolerate much abuse and a strong gust will take a large tree down.

to survive the extreme seasons of the north, a tree must send its roots deep and wide. they must be strong. and they must persevere through the ever-changing weather. their wood is different, stronger, than an untested tree. a northern forest gives a wonderful picture of this strength and tenacity. the outer rim of a forest boasts the strongest trees, standing strong and mighty, facing the storms and protecting those in deeper. those inside, the protected ones, are not as strong. they will topple, much like those in California. their fortress of protection, when removed, leaves them vulnerable to the elements.

how like the trees we can be! how we often long for the easy California tree life! we pray God saves us from trial and testing, grateful for uneventful days, and breathing relief when tragedy is averted.

but in the trials, the windy, stormy times, He grows us. our roots in Him go deeper.

it is easy to feel abandoned to the storm. to wonder if He is punishing us or has forgotten our suffering.

maybe the better thought, the better question, is to ask which roots He is wanting to grow, where He might be strengthening our faith.

He does not send the storm to punish, but instead to protect. in those times we are not forgotten, as we might feel, but instead remembered, cared for, and nurtured.

even, and especially, in the storm.

Leave a comment

Filed under abiding, aches and lessons, being, life lesson, simple, spiritual formation