Beauty in the Fire-Pit

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Our warm summer sun continues to march forward toward fall as its rays have allowed sunflowers to flourish in my yard this year, like no year previously. Its rays have also limited our ability to burn our fire-pit – it sits unused, filled with scraps of yard wood, weeds etc. To my great surprise my fire-pit now boasts of a single beauty – yep – a sunflower. Right there in the midst of all the debris – right there where no water has been provided – right there where only rock supports its roots – there erupts a single beauty, her head held high – a single sunflower.

 As I contemplated this flowers unusual bedding choice I began to see a spiritual abstract. Beauty can come out of the midst of chaos, out of the midst of barren dryness, out of the difficult places we live in. From the depths of our pain and loss beauty can emerge.

     How does that happen in our lives?

It comes from the exceptional quality of seed that the cross of Jesus provides us, as well as a choice of our heart. Being willing to allow the Spirit of God to heal, strengthen and mature the seed of faith that’s been dropped into our mess is a decision. If we look to Him right there in the midst of the chaos, right there where all is barren and dry, right there where all is hard and difficult – suddenly there will erupt a single beauty, her head held high. A victorious example of who He has created you to be will proudly stand in the middle of your fire-pit.

Your God is faithful to bring beauty out of the most unexpected difficult situations in your life. He has lovingly offered you the seed of His son, it’s been placed within your heart – you only need chose to receive it, believe it and wait. Trust Him to complete the work – His time is perfect – His time produces the beauty hidden in that dark barren place.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6 (ESV)

Who’s In Your Boat?

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The darkening clouds began to swiftly swirl around them as the waves surged. The sea had been tame as the short journey began but now waves crashed over the bow and threatened to take their lives. They had seen His hands do many miracles – how and why was He sleeping as they struggled in the midst of this aggressive storm? Waking him from his slumber brought rebuke – first for their lack of faith but then of the very wind and waves that threatened their lives. Quickly the tumultuous sea became still as they stood astonished at His authority.

As we walk through life’s journey we are also surprised by storms that threaten our lives – some mild, some crashing the bow and some that have begun to sink our boats. How we respond – How we get through it depends on WHO is in our boat.

     All of us – in the midst of the storm begin to falter, question and grow weary. However, if we know Jesus is our rock – our salvation – our hope; we know He is in our boat. He is always there for us and has our back! Going down with the boat is NOT His plan! We need to wake up – look up – and with faith reach out for His hand.

     It’s not in our ability to silence the storm. We only need to look to Him and He steps in. He rebukes the winds and waves – He calms the storm.

Matthew 8:26 And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.

Stronger & Higher Together

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With a 6ft wooden fence between them my 20ft majestic Purple Robe tree stands beside my neighbor’s spectacular Wisteria vine – both prolific in growth and multiplication. Shoots abound underground – both ways – between the fence line. Each spring to early summer both flower with intoxicating floral blooms that are glorious to behold. This summer, however, I have noticed an exciting merging of the two. The Wisteria, now strong and flourishing, has “jumped the fence” and has begun intertwining with the strength and height of the Purple Robe, reaching its tendrils higher then it previously could. OH, MY – anticipation waits for next springs glorious sight as they erupt – stronger together – each increasing the others beauty – transforming from glory to glory.

Spiritually, we too are meant periodically to “jump the fence”. Those who believe in Christ are many – many different individuals in many different buildings – each prolific and multiplying in their own sphere. As one body through Christ – it’s ok – to “jump the fence”: to intertwine and to bring the beauty of one into many.

We, individually plant our roots into a single place of growth. There we are safe, nurtured, grow, and produce; reaching the top of that 6ft fence, our strength then can be shared, expanded, enlarged into the body of Christ around us.

We as a body require and thrive in unity and connection to each member – whether that is individually or as complete groups of believers. We are all one in Christ!

Just as the strength of the Purple Robe will support the continued expansion of the Wisteria vine (even over the fence) so should we strengthen and support our sisters and brothers in faith. Together we will produce the glorious sight of growing from Glory to Glory. We will grow stronger and higher as we become one body – loving and walking together.

I Corinthians 12: 12-13As the human body, which has many parts, is a unity, and those parts, despite their multiplicity, constitute one single body, so it is with the body of Christ. For we were all baptised by the Spirit into one body, whether we were Jews, Gentiles, slaves or free men, and we have all had experience of the same Spirit. (Phillips)

Keep Out the Weeds

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Weeds, Weeds, Weeds! If I desired to grow only weeds, I would have a garden paradise with no effort. I could choose to let those weeds go, flourish in their own right – many even are pretty as they bloom. But I love flowers, so spring through fall requires a continual effort of picking, pulling, and digging. Keeping my flowerbeds happy and productive proves often to be back and knee breaking work. The effort has it’s own reward though, as my plants and flowers are freed from the weeds that steal their nutrients and space – they begin to flourish and grow into what they were created to be.

Awe…..just like us! Weeds crop up, often unbeknownst to us. We can indulge them, allow them to grow – it’s easier – maybe no one will notice – it is our choice right? Or, we can grab the garden implements and get them out.

Your choices each day can allow the seeds of many types of weeds to be distributed all around you and suddenly you will find those weeds chocking out your life nutrients and crowding out what is important. Many of those choices are good, they don’t look bad, won’t hurt you; but deep down in the roots they are determining how and if you will grow to be all you were created to be.

Pulling, picking and digging those weeds out of your life will take effort – back and knee breaking effort. In fact, to keep the weeds out requires a daily diligence of looking to and listening to the Holy Spirit as He enlightens exactly where the weed needs to be attended.

Thankfully, cleaning out the weeds of wrong choices is well worth the effort and really rather simple. Begin making all your life choices as you abide in His love, choices that speak loudly of your desire to serve Christ and not your own desires. These types of choices will allow the weeding process to become easier. The reward will become apparent as your life begins to flourish and grow – showing forth the beauty of whom you were created to be.

Choose today to keep those weeds out and become His Kingdom garden.

John 15:8-9 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. (ESV)

Joshua 24:15 If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”(NASB)

Short-term Life in a Bud Vase

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     I love flowers, pretty much ALL of them, but my favorites are those with lingering intoxicating scent. In the NW, roses are rather temperamental due to our abundance of rain and most of mine end up bedraggled.  However, this year I decided to find the perfect one, pot it and plan to carefully tend it. The first two buds appeared and expectantly I watched as they began their slow burst into bloom. OH, what reward! They unfurled with glorious swirls of yellows, oranges and crimson with a smell that was heavenly. They spent several days on the stems before a torrential downpour came. As the rain began pelting down I darted out to protect them from destruction; the only way, was to cut them off and bring them inside. The scent that filled my living area was quickly released as they accepted a short-term life in a bud vase. They quickly opened continuing to show off their splendor of colors while their scent seemed to grow stronger.

     Each day I have sat writing in front of these beauties and I am blessed to breath in a scent that makes me smile – one that continues to grow as the petals start to fade. Now, the petals have begun to drop to the table, but the scent is still my writing companion. Now residing in a small crystal dish – their scent lingering as a little reminder that they aren’t gone.

II Corinthians 2:14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.(ESV)

     We, like my roses, live a short-term life in a bud vase. We show forth our colors (our gifts and talents) throughout that time, but do we leave a continual aroma? Is ours one of sweet enjoyment or do we carry an uninviting one? What is our life changing fragrance that lingers and intoxicates? With Christ as your eternal life source you become that sweet intoxicating aroma that draws life and invites others to partake. Without the presence of Christ as your focus, your flower is beautiful but the scent, like my Daisy’ is not one that others desire.

     Our time is fleeting, limited and fading but when you walk this life journey spreading the fragrance of Christ, you will be as my fading roses – a scent that will linger as a reminder that through Christ, you are present – now and forever.

     Step into a new life with Christ and allow your fragrance to become a sweet intoxicating aroma as you walk out your journey of short-term life in a bud vase.

Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (ESV)

Out of the Box Proposal

My Jesus likes to surprise us, to step out of the box and present us with new life options, outrageous abundance, and all things unexpected – His box is so much better then what we could ever expect.

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Recently my son set up a marriage proposal – his girlfriend unsuspectingly participating. A front row seat was acquired at a well known magicians show and the stage – literally – was set as the magician stepped down to take her hand, to be his assistant for a particular illusion. A huge box was seen to be empty as she checked inside and all around it – it was closed up tight and turned completely around. As the box was re-opened to her utter amazement, out stepped my son. Ring box in hand and with one knee pose he presented to her his request to be his wife. Her expectations of this night where totally blown out of the water. That box held a new life – a new abundance that was not expected.

Our expectations of life, of dreams, and even of God are mostly pre-packaged and boxed into our personal paradigm of tidy thinking. But, I have found that the older I get the less “boxed” those expectations seem to be. Over the years, most of those boxes have come up empty. Trusting God with all that was previously stuffed in them I have chosen to do the best thing. And that “best” thing is to take the empty boxes and close them up – better yet – get rid of them all together.

Ephesians 3:20 Now glory be to God, who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of—infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes. (TLB)

Funny thing is, our God never seems to work within our exceptions’ or on our timetables. His plans and purposes for our lives can never fit in our small thinking, pre-packed boxes.

My Jesus likes to surprise us, to step out of the box and present us with new life options, outrageous abundance, and all things unexpected – His box is so much better then what we could ever expect. When we step out, say YES, accept the request for participation – watch out – we have just been given access to more then we can think or imagine. That’s just how good HE is!

Join me on stage to accept His proposal and allow your boxes to be blown away.

 

His Perfect Wave

His desire is to allow a spectacular ride – one where you wait, you listen, you stand and HE takes it from there.

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The warmth of the sun and the sand, along with the rhythmic movement of the ocean’s waves – just feet away – will easily lull the senses into a peace and calm not found many places. But as you lift your eyes and look out into the ocean you perceive a different story, one of tension and expansive movement.

Previously unnoticed a lone surfer has passed that calm warm sandy beach and persistently slogged through the shallow waves, reaching deeper and deeper. Soon, the only way to go further and deeper was to climb onto his surfboard and push against the pressures of the current. He continued his arduous outward endeavor, going further and further from shore. Seeming to either find the right place or just tiring out; he settles on the board – now sitting and surveying his newly acquired territory. Expecting him to stand and take each incoming wave, it is a wonder that he allows them, one by one to pass by as he waits. What is he waiting for? What is it he sees? How will he know the right one? When will he move forward?

These questions may never get answered for as if on queue, he slowly stands as a single – not so big – swell begins to form. He slowly lifts as the wave takes on a life of its own – growing in height and power. The sound of its approach is exhilarating. The waves upward movement, the slide forward and the beautiful delivery down to the waiting warm sand is exquisite. The surfer, like a dancer on a ballroom floor, sways with each move and sound that this incredible wave produces. This was the wave worth waiting for and this patient surfer reaped the joy found within her – riding this wave upward, forward and through the completion as he is delivered right out onto the warm sand. What a spectacular ride!

This picture of a very experienced surfer is played out differently as new surfers make many unsuccessful attempts to catch the perfect wave – getting dumped before they reach the top, being pulled under, and even eating and drinking both sand and salt water in the process. Learning the part that patience plays in this sport is what makes it worth the ride.

As we walk in our own life journey, it is much the same – learning to hear His voice, stepping out, moving forward and sometimes actually catching the “perfect” wave. His desire is to allow a spectacular ride – one where you wait, you listen, you stand and HE takes it from there. You ride with HIM as the wave moves up, slides forward and beautifully delivers you onto the waiting sand. When we find that rhythm – we can’t wait to slog back out, arduously paddle deeper, push further and further out, for we know as we wait patiently – His perfect wave of HIS plan, HIS direction, HIS purpose – for this ride – will come. And when it comes – WOW – it will be one spectacular ride.

Philippians 3: 13b-14 But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Photography courtesy of J.K.Sanchez Photography