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 Pexels.com

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 Pexels.com

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 Pexels.com

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 Pexels.com

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.

Reflected Sunlight

Photo by Heiner on Pexels.com

A narrow shaft of morning light streams across the table. Right in its path sits a water bottle. As I write in my journal and turn the pages of my Bible, the water in the bottle shakes ever so slightly. The sunlight reflecting off and through that water dances on the table, bright white and fluid. Off the surface of the plastic bottle the light reflects back to me. Tiny water droplets near the bottle’s opening shimmer in the light.

This is how I want to reflect God’s light—bright, white, shimmering and fluid with the Holy Spirit.

Photo by Sindre Stru00f8m on Pexels.com

II Corinthians 4:6 “For God who said, ‘Let light shine out of the darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”

In the midst of the difficulties and fear of the Covid 19 pandemic, how are you choosing to reflect God’s light? What are you doing to bring sunshine into the darkness? I’d love for you to post what you’re doing in the comments.

If My People

Photo by Luis Quintero on Pexels.com

Last night I woke up around 4:30. I spent some time in prayer before curling up, ready to fall back asleep. But God had other plans. He kept bringing II Chronicles 7:14 to my mind. “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” I spent some time in bed considering this verse.

IF is conditional. If one thing happens, then the other will also happen. The opposite is implied: if one thing doesn’t happen, then neither does the other.

MY PEOPLE since God is speaking in the passage, these would be God’s people, or believers.

WHO ARE CALLED BY MY NAME Today, I would say CHRISTians are called by His name.

WILL HUMBLE THEMSELVES ANDPRAY If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray….”I had already prayed, so I wondered what God had in mind in the wee hours of the morning. What else? In my mind, God had some questions for me:

WHAT ABOUT POLITICS? Politics?

HOW OFTEN DO YOU THINK YOU HAVE THE RIGHT ANSWER, POLITICALLY? Oh. Well, I guess that’s not too humble.

ARE YOU ALL KNOWING, ALL WISE? Uh, no. You are. Forgive me for thinking I am God-like.

HAVE YOU EVER THOUGHT OF A POLITICIAN AS FOOLISH? (insert any number of derogatory names here.) WHO MADE YOU THEIR JUDGE? That’s pretty prideful of me. Forgive me, Father.

HAVE YOU EVER THOUGHT OF PEOPLE WHO VOTED FOR A PARTICULAR POLITICIAN OR PARTY AS FOOLISH? (insert derogatory name of choice.) WHEN YOU DO THIS, YOU ARE JUDGING THEM. THAT’S MY JOB. Guilty. Father, forgive me.

I am truly sorry, and I’ll work on my attitude. Can I go back to sleep now? I yawned and curled on my side, ready for some sleep.

NOT YET. WE AREN’T FINISHED. What else?

OTHERS, WHO DISAGREE WITH YOU POLITICALLY, ARE BEHAVING JUST AS BADLY AS YOU. Uh, okay…. I waited and thought a while. Yes, I see. They are just like me. Father, forgive them. I forgive them too.

THAT’S BETTER. I FORGIVE YOU, DAUGHTER. NOW WILL YOU TRUST ME TO DO MY WORK? REMEMBER, I AM IN CONTROL.  Yes, Father, with your guidance I will stay humble and pray.

THEN I WILL HEAR YOUR PRAYER AND HEAL YOUR LAND. CONTINUE TRUSTING ME AND SLEEP WELL, MY BELOVED.