Vacuuming the Carpet

As I vacuum the carpet, the motion and humming of the machine soothes me. Hungrily, it picks up dirt and debris from the floor.  The bits of torn paper and the little clumps of dirt are whisked away by its wind.  With nothing on my mind but the cleaning, I ponder the hidden dirt the vacuum inhales.  Deep within my carpet’s fibers lay bits of unseen dirt.  Even though I cannot see these specks, the vacuum pulls them out of my rug.  By the time I finish, the carpet looks clean; it even looks newer through its transforming cleaning.

Now my rug is clean and the room looks beautiful.  I’m glad I’ll never have to vacuum again.  What?  You tell me I will have to vacuum again?

Isn’t this the way God cleanses our souls?  Sometimes we have surface dirt others can see—the pieces of paper, garden soil tracked in on our shoes.  But what about the tiny specks of dirt and soil deep within the soul? 

I don’t know about you, but I know there is dirt deep within my soul. Unkind words spoken, lack of trust in my Savior, slowness to love and respect those who think differently from me. What a mess! Fortunately, God is willing to cleanse all the grime. When I confess those sins dirtying my soul, He cleanses it, again and again. Thank you, God, for loving me just as I am, for cleaning my messes, and transforming my soul.

Oh God, much dirt has been tracked in on my soul.  Help me to plug in your spiritual vacuum for cleansing.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. I John 1:9 NKJ

Tapping Along

Photo by Brett Sayles on

After many years of participating in tap classes, I’m still loving them. For me, everything about the experience is positive. I meet new friends, get some exercise, and challenge myself to learn something new. At times, I must admit, I find my head spinning with so many new steps and terms: shuffle, flap, buffalo, brush, dig, riff, and many more. And then, when I add the arms, which are doing something entirely different from my feet, it’s like patting my head and rubbing my tummy at the same time. Whew! The mental work is more difficult than the physical. For me, it then becomes necessary to stop and think for a moment in order to learn a new series of steps or add arms. Once those brain connections are made, I can let my brain remind my muscles what to do and I can dance. Even though I’m sometimes frustrated when I struggle to learn a new combination of steps, I’m so glad I chose to take tap classes and challenge myself both physically and intellectually.

While I’m enjoying the challenges from my tap classes, I’m wondering about challenging myself in another area of life. What do I consciously do to challenge myself spiritually? Sometimes I’m so busy with life and getting physically and intellectually fit that I neglect my spiritual fitness. Just as with other types of fitness, I must challenge myself spiritually and not be content with the status quo. Just remembering past times of spiritual growth isn’t enough. I must look for ways to continually stretch my spirit by learning new steps: A new Bible study here, more quiet time there, a different viewpoint to ponder, and a challenging sermon. All these and more can stretch my spirit to learn new steps and new combinations of steps so my spirit can tap in time with my Creator. Once the brain connections are made, I’ve hidden His word in my heart and can allow God to be my life’s choreographer, guiding my every step.

Father God, help me to be more diligent in my spiritual growth than I am with physical and intellectual growth. Keep my spirit tapping Lord, keep it tapping.

A Woodland Sanctuary

As I walked the nature trails, I wandered off the beaten path.  Large toadstools nestled under a grove of blue spruce trees attracted my attention.

Pushing aside branches, I walked fifteen feet, entering a small clearing.  The ground, carpeted with years of accumulated needles, felt soft beneath my feet.  A chorus of crickets broke the silence.  In the distance a woodpecker drilled, searching for insects.  Inside my clearing, all was shadow, quiet and still; it became a sanctuary that soothed my soul. A smattering of bright red sumac leaves provided stained-glass windows.  I sat on this carpet, gazing at the beauty all around me, and I felt the presence of God.  Strains of “This Is Holy Ground” ran through my head. 

Looking out an opening between the horizontal branches, I observed the golden radiance of the late afternoon sun. Outside my sanctuary, the seed heads of the natural prairie grasses glowed transparently in the sun’s light, creating a stunning contrast to the shadowy grove.  I had to capture the breath-taking scene on film.  When I put the camera to my eye, I focused on the branches in the foreground.  They seemed large and dark, like horizontal prison bars, and the golden glow of the grasses in the background was barely noticeable. I refocused the camera. Then the tall, dried grass, shot through with light, became the focus of my picture; the branches in the foreground almost disappeared.

As I took my picture, I thought:  how often do I focus on the branches in front of me that impede my spiritual way, and thus fail to see God’s light just beyond?  How often do I become discouraged over minor problems instead of focusing my thoughts on the brilliance of God’s majesty or the comforting glow of his love? It’s all a matter of focus.

Remembering the lesson of the camera’s focus enables me to thank God in all situations, even during a pandemic, and focus on His spiritual light shining beyond my earthly troubles.

Father let my eyes see beyond the earthly; let me steadfastly watch your spiritual light.  May I always focus on the wonders you have created, on the wonder of you.

A Leafy Canopy

The nature trails near my city home meander through the woods. Beneath overarching branches of walnut, cottonwood, ash, and others, I walk in shade, the leafy canopy protecting me from the summer’s heat. Here I enjoy temperatures ten degrees cooler than the sunnier pathways.

As I walk, I listen for broken twigs, alerting me to look for deer. On this day, though, I heard a different sound, one I hadn’t heard before. At first, I couldn’t place it, but then reality dawned: raindrops pattered on the leaves. The summer shower was light and the leafy canopy caught all the rain. I didn’t feel a single drop. The green canopy over my head protected me from both heat and rain.

While I walked, listening to the pattering rain, I thought about God’s protection. He doesn’t always remove the storms, but like a leafy canopy, he deflects the heat of life’s difficult moments and shelters us from life’s storms. Just as I choose to walk in the shade on hot days, I have choices for my life’s path. I can seek God’s refuge when life gets hot or stormy, or I can walk in the open, on my own.

As we struggle with life’s difficulties, whether unemployment, fear of rioting or unequal treatment, health struggles and disease, or marital discord, we have choices. We can walk alone on unprotected paths, or we can choose to walk on the shady path, sheltered by God’s loving protection.

Which path will you choose?

O Lord, keep me walking on your path; keep me trusting in your protection.

“You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat.” Isaiah 25:4 (NIV)

Sermon Snippet

In the sermon snippets, I’ll share words of wisdom from a sermon of my pastor’s.

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” James 3:17 (NIV)

Photo by Trang Doan on

Here are a few take-aways from my pastor’s sermon over James 3:17.

“Wisdom from heaven is…full of mercy and good fruit.” If you want to know what you are full of, wait until the next crisis comes. What squeezes out under the pressure? The crisis squeezes out your “fruit juice.” Is it good fruit?

Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. If we want mercy to squeeze out, we must connect with God’s grace long before the crisis. Make deep, intentional decisions about what you want to fill your heart with, about what you want to squeeze out in the crisis.

I’d love to hear some take-aways from a sermon you’ve recently heard. Please feel free to share what you’ve learned in the comments.

Happy Fathers’ Day to all you dads!

Rivers of Peace

In a world torn by conflicts, disease, and war, people seek peace. Even in our homes, peace at times seems elusive.  Couples bicker and divorce, siblings argue and fight. 

The book of Isaiah sheds light on peace: “If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river” (48:18a NIV).  One prerequisite to personal peace is obeying God’s commands.  But what about peace…”likea river”?  To fully appreciate peace like a river, imagine a great river running through the land.

The broad river, a constant presence, flows despite obstacles.  Sometimes the river runs smoothly; at other times it runs headlong into a snag, separating and diverting its water to other paths.  The water flows peacefully on, until downstream it smashes full force against the rocks, shattering spray high in the air.  Flowing to the top of a sharp drop-off, the water rushes forward, falling… falling…rushing over the edge, churning and boiling at the bottom.  After a time the water collects in a still pool, resting, reveling in the quiet. 

During my mother’s last years, her mind ravaged by dementia, my river of peace constantly ran against snags of her lost memory.  My peace plummeted over a precipice, watching her mind lose rational thought and memory.  Constantly swirling and eddying, the waters rushed me from work to assist Dad with her care.  Emotional whirlpools threatened to spin out of control.  The only thing that kept my sanity during this difficult time was God’s peace.

How could I feel peaceful when my world spun upside down? Galatians 5:22, states that peace is a fruit of the Spirit.  Only the spirit of God can give us peace in the midst of the snags, rocks, waterfalls, and whirlpools of life. 

When life’s circumstances shatter against the rocks, placing trust in God’s perfect will keeps us at peace, despite trying circumstances.  Jesus tells us he leaves us peace, but “I do not give you[peace]as the world gives” (John 14:22 NIV).  The countries of the world may continue to fight, and we still experience personal difficulties and tragedies.  But when we obey God’s commands and trust Him, no matter how difficult our circumstances, we experience His peace, flowing like a river deep within our souls.

Isaiah 26:3 “You [God]will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.”

            What are you doing to maintain peace during difficult times?

Sharing the Light

“We draw people to Christ not by loudly discrediting what they believe or by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their heart to know the source of it.” Madeleine L’Engle

Photo by Nicole Avagliano on

Lord, divert my focus from sharing my opinion, but instead to lead others to the source of the light.

Our God Restores

Our God Restores

“Make me hear joy and gladness, that the bones You have broken may rejoice.” Psalm 51:8

My heart breaks for our country. It’s broken, divided along political lines, along racial lines. Angry hearts, pointing fingers, violence and divisiveness separate us. Broken bones. Broken hearts.

God of restoration, heal our land, knit together those broken bones, those broken hearts.

Heal our hands to do good works and comfort one another. Heal us, forgive us, restore us.

Heal our eyes, that they may see your beauty in every skin tone: black, white, brown, red, yellow. Heal our eyes to enable us to see the beauty in red and blue, colors of our political beliefs.

Heal our spirits; may we rejoice that only You save us, not our beliefs or our political heroes.

Heal our hearts, that they may bleed empathy for the poor, the oppressed, the downtrodden. Teach us to love those who don’t look like us, talk like us, vote like us, or pray like us.

Thank you, God of restoration, for shaking us up and putting us through difficult times so that our impurities will rise to the top and we can confess them to you and allow Your process of restoration to heal the broken bones of our hearts and heal our land.

The Caterpillar’s Change

Photo by Egor Kamelev on

Picture the caterpillar: its tiny legs work furiously, and its belly nearly drags the earth as it inches along, crawling from plant to plant, contentedly munching its leafy green diet. But one day the caterpillar changes. It stops eating and spins a cocoon where it stays, snug and secure. Eventually, it emerges, totally changed. Formerly confined to inching on its little legs, the caterpillar can now fly. It flits from flower to flower; its diet no longer leaves, but the flowers’ sweet nectar. No longer green, it sports beautiful colors on gossamer-thin wings. What was once a slow-moving, plain creature has become a free-flying work of art. The caterpillar has passed away; it has become a new creation.

Like the caterpillar, we can become new creations. Once “in Christ,” we no longer crawl with our bellies to the ground; we no longer see from an earthly perspective. Before, earthly concerns reigned in our lives: making money, driving fancy cars, wearing up-to-date fashions. When we crawled like a caterpillar, we saw others from an earthly perspective: how they looked, whether or not they were part of the “in-crowd.” We loved to gossip; we loved to tear others down to build ourselves up.

We who are “in Christ” become new creations; we fly on gossamer wings. Christ in us helps our thoughts soar heavenward, making our earthly concerns less important. We become concerned with gaining spiritual fruit. We view others from a different, higher perspective. Christ in us loves others through us. Instead of seeing other’s faults, we glimpse what Christ sees in them and see what they can become through His love. Instead of gossiping about others, we talk to God about them, lifting them in prayer.

Photo by Zaw Win Tun on

Look to the example of the caterpillar.  Remember, before the caterpillar could change, it needed time in the cocoon. As you shelter in place from the Covid-19 virus, what changes is God working in your life?

Father, wrap us in the cocoon of your love and wisdom and make us butterflies.  Work the miracle of change in our lives.  Recreate us as beautiful new creatures flying on the wings of your spirit.