Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Neighborhood Winding Down

The days have been cooler than you would normally expect for the last days of June and the beginning of July. I know folks in Southeast Missouri are praying for rain while we in Northeast Missouri are just thankful it has stopped raining for a spell, nearly 12 inches in the month of June alone.

Cooler evenings give me a greater incentive to go for an evening walk...I know there are people who love to exercise but I'm not one of them. I hate to get hot, I don't like to sweat, I understand the benefits of exercise but it's not what I like to do, so this cooler weather has been a blessing as I make an effort to be more physically active.

It seems the whole neighborhood is releasing a huge sigh of relief that the evenings have been so mild, the rain has ceased and we are experiencing a respite from the humidity that usually hangs thick in the air.

Families are drawn outside after the evening meal to enjoy the last few hours of their day. Children play on the front yard in an extra large box that looked like it may have been for some power tool. Two small heads pop up through the folded down flaps, giggling, faces beaming as they neglect the swing set to play in a box. A mom keeps a watchful eye on the third child running around outside the box as he stops to fold down the flaps on his brother and sister who duck down with squeals of delight. Their dad is mowing the lawn so I breath in the smell of fresh cut grass and smile to myself.

The retired schoolteacher who lives in the yellow house on the corner is out walking her two yorkepoos. We fall into step with one another as she and I walk together for a short distance, getting to know each other. She and her dogs are a common sight so several of the children call out to her and the dogs bask in the attention of small hands. One little boy asks me where my dog is...I tell him I don't have a dog and he looks disappointed...he doesn't either but they have a cat. I can tell the cat is not nearly as interesting in his eyes as a dog would be.

The sights and sounds of evening are soothing...God is in His heaven; all's right with the world.  The croaking of the frogs blend with the hum of the lawn mower.  Fireflies make an appearance among the tall grasses and weeds, their neon yellow/green glow flashing off and on like signal lights.

I slow my steps as I arrive back on my own street.  It's been a relaxing evening.  I've enjoyed this walk, it didn't seem like exercise.  I draw nearer to my house and see the glow of light from my living room man waits inside.  I'm grateful for my life...for beautiful summer evenings...for the friendliness of neighbors in the Midwest...for the sense of community that rests among the people who live in this subdivision.  I look up and see the first star twinkling as evening submits to night. I realize the cares and concerns I've carried with me this day seem less daunting.  I feel peaceful. I breath a sigh of gratitude to the One who grants perfect peace to those who trust/rest in Him. 

At Holy Experience we’re talking about The Spiritual Practice of Rest. Would you please join us?

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Facing The Giants

If I had to name the giant that I face most often it's name would be fear. Oh there are other giants that make an appearance but I'm on a first name bases with fear.

Maybe you can relate:

Fear of losing a loved one
Fear of speaking in front of people
Fear of looking stupid...especially while speaking in front of people
Fear of rejection
Fear of spiders
Fear of forgetting something important
Fear of serious health issues
Fear of failure
Fear that my fears are keeping me from being all that I can be in Christ

I recently faced fear head on...again.
I was afraid to proceed...what if I'm rejected?
What if I proceed and have the best possible outcome? then what? what happens next? Can I meet expectations?

I struggled with indecisiveness for several days...I prayed for clarity and discernment. God answered my prayer through the words of a friend. She told me "Do I have to fly out there? Don't make me come out there!"

1 Samuel 17 tells the story of David And Goliath. Goliath was a champion for the enemy, a giant who stood 9 feet tall. For 40 days he shouted his challenge to the Israelites.

Verse 11 states that Saul and the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.

One day David arrives on the scene with provisions from his father. He witnesses Goliaths challenge and his countries army running in fear.
David tells the king "I'll go fight him".
"But you're just a kid"
"The Lord shall deliver me from the hand of this Philistine".
"Go ahead...God be with you".

David took his staff, five stones and a sling. The giant curses David. David speaks the words of faith that made all the difference. "The battle is the Lords". I like verse 48; the giant is closing in for the attack "David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him". David hit the giant right between the eyes with one of the stones and the battle was over.

For the most part my fears are imagined. What if... When I become bogged down in the valley of indecision I have allowed my fear to take my focus off God. The result is my faith becomes weak and I'm afraid to move. But what if...I kept my eyes on God...fear would lose it's strong hold in my life and faith would grow.

This clip from the movie "Facing The Giants" is one of my favorite scenes.

God wants us to trust Him with all we've got. He knows our fear...'fear not' is one of His favorite greetings!

My friend didn't have to come visit me...I pushed through the fear. Do you know what I found on the other side as I pushed past the fear? Faith. As for my crises of fear vs faith, God is in control of the outcome and I'm waiting on Him.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sunday Worship

Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,

Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt

Yonder on Calvary's mount outpoured,

There where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.

Grace, grace, God's grace,

Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;

Grace, grace, God's grace,

Grace that is greater than all our (my) sins.

Grace Greater Than All My Sin
Julia H. Johnston & Daniel B. Towner
Grace: that kindness...
by which God...
...perfect in power and wisdom and goodness...
bestows favors...
...conveys as a gift
even... extreme instance
upon the ill-deserving...
...without merit
and grants...
...allow, permit
to sinners...
...condemned, unworthy - me
the pardon...
of their offences...

Saturday, June 26, 2010

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. How do you read God's Word? One phrase at a time.

I love to read! I have books all over my house. I have a bag full of library books. I have books I've borrowed from other people. But there are days I have to repent of allowing other interests to crowd out time I need to spend in the Word.

Right now I'm about 20 days behind in my "Reading through the Bible in a Year" plan. I'm reading one that is in chronological order and I am enjoying seeing the history of God's plan unfold. Stories about David have the Psalms he penned interspersed through out. Solomon's story includes The Song of Solomon and the Proverbs along side the descriptions of the building of the temple.

Spiritual disciplines like reading the Bible and spending time in prayer are worthy of my time and attention. Time spent in both these areas draws me closer to my Father, teaches me more about His character, fills me with a deeper understanding of who I am as His child and shines the light of Truth on those areas of sin that need to be faced.

When I allow other things to distract me I rob myself of the intimate relationship with the One who knows me better than I know myself. The enemy wins and I lose. But God, my Redeemer and Friend, waits patiently for me, calling to me through Holy Spirit who is alive within me, drawing me back to His side.

I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.
Psalm 119:11

Time is wasting...I have some "hiding" to catch up on.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Counting Graces

Today is the day our crunched Camry gets to have some cosmetic surgery done on her battered rear end / trunk area. We removed all the junk from her trunk, drove to the car rental place to borrow a Ford Focus for the week, then left Camry in the capable hands of the repair shop.

My man and I were able to go eat breakfast together at the local Pancake House...eggs bacon and hash browns. He has left for work and I will be going to work for a few hours this afternoon.

As I sat across from the man I've known for 34 years watching him enjoy a manly size breakfast, it struck me again that the distinguished graying hair as well as the laugh lines around his eyes look good on him. His blue eyes with the long eyelashes that I have been envious of since I met him are still the feature that draw my attention. We hold hands as he asks God to bless our morning meal and I silently thank Him for my husband and the life we share. It hits me that it's taken 3 years but we are settling into our life here in this rural area of Missouri. The empty nest is beginning to feel more spacious than empty. Sharing this morning with my husband, dealing with the details of cars and repairs and then having the time to enjoy breakfast together is truly a blessing that I'm thankful for.

By Friday we should be able to write a check, pick up Camry, return the rental car and the accident we were in over Fathers Day weekend will be a memory on my journal page.

What a blessing that insurance has covered the cost of repairs and car rental. How gracious of God to protect everyone involved in the accident from physical harm. It's Monday and the everyday-ness of life has begun for the week. Thank you Father!

Multitude Monday
Ten things I'm thankful for this week...

1. God's abundant, drenching, extravagant Grace

2. Prayer meeting and the sharing of hearts

3. Writing...letters, cards, Facebook posts, journal entry, blog

4. Air conditioning at home and while driving

5. Peanut Buster Parfait on Sunday evenings

6. Clear nights with a full moon

7. Brokenness

8. God's healing touch that reaches into the hidden places

9. My daughters voice over the phone

10. The smell of fresh cut grass

Join the Gratitude Community...

holy experience

Dandelions and Clover

Our home is in a new subdivision that used to be a farmers field. When we moved in there was a home on the corner as you turned onto our street, two homes at the very far end, and our home about half way between. More homes have been built since then, but the lots on either side of ours remain empty. The empty lots are wild with weeds and tall grass; kept from taking over the neighborhood by the occasional John Deere tractor/mower dispatched by someone in charge of such things.

The builder planted grass seed in our yard as well as a few skinny, twig like trees. In the 3 years we have lived here the clover has crept in from both empty lots, overwhelming the grass that pretends to be our yard. The white heads of the clover and the sunny yellow faces of the dandelions bob and sway in the breeze. The grass is yielding ground daily to the encroaching clover.

I recall as a child I would pick the dandelions and present them to my mom...a free bouquet found in our very own yard. I remember my own children presenting me with similar bouquets grasped tightly in their chubby, grimy little fists. I had a small glass vase I put them in on my kitchen window sill.

I remember sitting in the grass with my sister when we were children, picking the flowers from the clover, stringing them together to form a chain and wearing them as crowns and necklaces.

Funny how my perspective has changed over the years...the blooms that grew in the yard when I was a child were flowers to collect and give as offerings to mom or wear as jewelry. As an adult, the blooms just remind me of the weeds that are winning the war against the grass.

My man tells me he doesn't mind the doesn't grow tall and stays green.

I started thinking about the dandelions and clover and the fact the weeds require no effort on my part to grow, while gardens and flowers can be very labor intensive. Kind of like sin in my life. Sin is's my first inclination. When someone makes me angry or hurts my feelings my first thoughts usually are not "Bless you". Selfishness and pride are upon me without much effort. Sin is easy. Living a holy life takes work, persistence, effort, prayer, repentence. God wants to weed out bitterness, hard heartedness, gossip, unforgiveness and cutting remarks. When I look at my life through the filter of God's Word I allow God's truths to dig deep into my heart and unearth the roots of the sin that tries to hide there. God is the Master Gardener. He is planting seeds of compassion, gentleness, humilty, kindness, and forgiveness; watering them with His Spirit; pruning and weeding with His Word.

Until the weeds in the empty lots are under control we are fighting a losing battle. I've decided not to fight the battle for now and enjoy their simple flowers...reminders of days gone by. I will continue to seek out the Master Gardener when it comes to the weeds trying to get a foothold in my heart. I want my heart to be a beautiful garden.