A Surprise Visitor

As a BSF CA (Bible Study Fellowship Class Administrator) I am responsible for the record keeping and material distribution for our class.  Our class is relatively small but it does take a good bit of time to organize and store.  For example, I will soon start receiving packages containing 150 lesson packets (each about 8 pages) for each week of class.  They ship the first 5 or 6 weeks before class begins in September.  So, to be ready, I needed to clean up the space where they are stored.  When our class finished up our last study in May, I completed year end reports but otherwise just dropped everything in the garage.  I haven’t looked at it since.  I’ve intended to do it for several weeks but kept putting it off.  Having a three day weekend helped and Saturday was the day!

I set up everything outside so that I could at least enjoy a little fresh air.  However, the noise level from the birds was ridiculous.  My husband had been trying to work outside for several days and this one particular robin was relentless. The robin’s chirp (or rather screech) was very loud and piercing.  Impossible to ignore.  As I sat down at the patio table and started looking around, I happened to glance up and I immediately knew what was causing all the commotion.  Perched on one of the deck support beams was a snake!    I’m so proud that I didn’t scream but I did immediately call my husband.  He came to the rescue with a big stick and ushered him into the woods.  Evidently the snake was digesting something he had consumed as was evidenced by the large bulge that was present.  Within 5 minutes of the snakes exit we witnessed two baby robins fly out of their nest.  We figure Mama robin was warning the babies about the snake.  When all was clear, they flew the coop, so to speak.  And then something magical happened…..it was quiet again!

Very few people like snakes.  Of course the non-poisonous ones are good to have around.  But when I think of snakes I think of Genesis and the serpent in the garden.  He was crafty and cunning and convinced Adam and Eve that they could be like God.  Nothing has been the same since.  As believers in Jesus, we look forward to His coming again.  But until then, we will struggle with all sorts of sin before we die.  Sometimes we are warned with loud screeches like Mama robin but most times it’s sneaky and subtle.  It slithers in quietly and before long we are consumed.   I’m reminded of this warning that God gave Cain just before he killed Abel.

“If you do well, will you not be accepted?  And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door.  Its desire is for you , but you must rule over it. ” Genesis 4:7 ESV

It is so easy to become discouraged when we sin.  It could be something we consider small like stretching the truth a little (aka a lie) or some huge issue that has plagued us for years.  We all have them.  And what I’m learning lately is that God will use even our sin for our good and for His glory.  God is not surprised and He won’t be undone when we cry out to Him to confess our sin and ask forgiveness.  Will the sin stop?   Maybe.  Unless God uses it to grow us and to teach us that we are utterly dependent on Him and His grace.

I will close with this verse from “Come Ye Sinners” because it gives me comfort and I hope it will comfort you as well:

“Come, ye weary, heavy laden; lost and ruined by the fall.  If you tarry till you’re better, you will never come at all.

Chorus:

I will arise and go to Jesus, He will embrace me in His arms.  In the arms of my dear Savior, O there are ten thousand charms.”

As a bonus, here is a YouTube version of the song:

Have a great day!

Too Much of a Good Thing

Too Much of a Good Thing

I’m disappointed to report that I’ve already had my first fail in my attempt at container gardening.   Last weekend when I bought 3 new herbs I also bought some “self-watering” pots at the local hardware store.  They were cheap and didn’t come with instructions.  About five days after planting them I noticed that my dill was basically dead.   Two days later I noticed my purple sage was shriveling up.  With a quick Google search my husband read that dill doesn’t like a lot of water.  I blamed all the rain we’d had.  But when the sage was also dying I decided something else must be up.

Upon closer inspection, I realized that my little herbs were swimming in water!  What I didn’t think about is that my self-watering containers had no hole in the bottom for drainage.  That would be great inside where you could control the amount of water they get but not great when rain happens!  Oh, and I should mention that when it didn’t rain I watered them.  I figured being in the sun all day they would need water.  Oops.  I’ve attempted to save them by dumping out the sopping soil, adding dry, punching a hole in the bottom of the containers and planting them again.  I don’t have high hopes.  I did learn from it, though.  Who knew that outside plants could get too much water in the summer heat!   My experience has always been the other way around…..plants drying up and dying.   While the water is good, there obviously can be too much of a good thing.

As humans we need water to survive.  I’ve discovered more recently how hydration is so important for our bodies to function properly.  If I don’t drink enough I get a headache and other unpleasant effects I won’t mention.  But as good as water is to our bodies, we can also get too much. You may have read a few years ago about a woman who died by drinking an excess of water in a radio contest.  She literally drowned.   It was called water intoxication.

It’s also possible to take the good things that God gives us and go too far with them.  Of course, the first thing I think of is food.  God intended it for our good.  We have to have it to survive but we often times take it too far.  Not only do we overeat but we make it into something it’s not.  Food becomes comfort, obsession, competition, and even entertainment.   There are whole networks devoted to it!

God gives us rest and sleep but he doesn’t intend for us to be lazy.  God gives us work but He doesn’t intend for us to work around the clock.  We can even take our ministries too far by having them become who we are or doing so many that we are burned out.

While food, sleep, work and ministries for the Lord are all good things, we get into trouble when they become the main thing.  When anything but God consumes our time, thoughts, and devotion, they have become our idols.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights and with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”  James 1:17 ESV

Are there gifts God has given you that are now a burden?  From the James passage you can see that His gifts are good and perfect.  Might I suggest that it’s us that make them burdensome?  Ask God to reveal to you areas you may need to either prioritize or put back into perspective.  May He also reveal to you the gifts that He has given.  Then take some time to thank Him and be grateful.

Have a great day!

Dependence on Another

Dependence on Another

I decided that I should give container gardening a try this year. I’ve had many failed attempts at having plants in the yard so I’m giving the deck a shot.  Between the deer, groundhogs and rabbits very few things have survived. Sometimes you want something other than petunias and marigolds (which none of the local vermin seem to like….go figure!).

I had several self-watering containers that needed to be filled with soil before hefting them up to the deck.  I wasn’t at it long before I realized that I needed help.  One container was new and had some hard plastic tips that needed to be punched out or cut off since it would be used outside.  I tried a hammer and nail first, then tried to put a bit in a drill but both attempts failed.  Then a minor meltdown ensued that was along the lines of “Why can’t anything ever just be fun?” and some huffing.  Drama much?  Anyway, I decided that I would work on the other containers first.  But then the bags of soil were too heavy for me to lift!   So I proceeded to fill the containers with a teaspoon (just kidding….I had a pretty nice scoop).   The moral to the story is that I wasn’t strong enough to do this task myself and it required me to ask for help.  I needed the strength of another if I was going to succeed.  Thankfully my sweet husband was available and eager to help.  In fact, he loves it when he can “rescue” me.   And I had calmed down by the time I needed his help so he didn’t have to add talking me down to his tasks.

This little scene caused me to reflect on why I got so angry over such a little thing.  It really boils down to my stubborn independence (which is likely rooted in my pride).   I wanted to do it in my own strength and not depend on another.

The following day I was reminded of this in church.  One of the elders talked about how we like to tell God the answer rather than depending on Him for the answer.   A couple of the songs we sang spoke of strength.

The chorus from Cornerstone:

Christ alone, Cornerstone, weak made strong, in the Savior’s love, through the storm, He is Lord, Lord of all.

And from my favorite hymn, Great is Thy Faithfulness:

Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow

To top if off my pastor said something like this, “When we pray we are saying we are not able {in our own strength}.  Lack of prayer is a lack of belief and a reliance on our own strength.”

The following verse is taken from Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth.  The disciples had endured much suffering for the sake of sharing Jesus with the people in Asia.  He writes:

“For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia.  For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.  Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death.  But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” 2Corinthians 1:8-9 ESV {emphasis mine}

Where are you feeling weak right now?  Is it because you are relying on your own strength?  Maybe it’s time for you (and me) to depend on Another.

Have a great day!

An Unfinished Puzzle

While on vacation I sometimes like to put together a jigsaw puzzle.  On a recent vacation I took along a 1000 piece puzzle that was a gift from my sister.  I knew when I packed it that it was probably a bit overzealous to think I could complete it in a week. However, I told myself that it was the process that I enjoy rather than the completion itself.  I was mistaken.  As the week dwindled away I had very little to show for my efforts.  I think it had something to do with knowing that I couldn’t finish it.  I had little motivation to try.

But shouldn’t our lives be more about the trying than the end result?  No matter what we do we can’t guarantee how things will necessarily turn out.  There is some certainty to the puzzle.  Unless you are missing pieces, with enough time and effort the end result should look like the box lid.  If only life were that certain!  I will bet that very few people reading this have lives right now that they pictured when they are younger.  It reminds me of a funny saying I’ve heard…..if you want to make God laugh tell Him your plans. We don’t set out to fail, we don’t plan to get sick, we don’t plan to be single or barren, we don’t plan to get divorced as we walk down the aisle.  But that may be where you are, one or all of them. Maybe you are aksing God “Why?” this very minute.

Could it be that He has something better in mind for you?  Could there be something in your future that you could not even percieve, something far better than whatever plan you had in mind?  Maybe.  And maybe what you are  going through is simply to draw you closer to God.  I know for me personally that if things are going along well I tend to rely on myself and not my Savior.   But when things fall apart I am on my knees and seeking Jesus for every single thing because I know there is no way I can make it better!    Just like that puzzle, I can’t make the pieces fit.  God is the only one that has the box lid of my life and knows how it will turn out.  Likely it won’t be until I get to heaven that it all makes sense.

Sometimes I have to go along with Job when he said this about the Lord:

“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”  Job 42:2 ESV

Do you believe that as well?  If not, you may need to cry out to God and ask Him to help you believe this truth about Him.

Have a great day!

Finding Shelter in the Meadow

As we were driving along the highway I noticed a very peaceful scene.  It was what I will call a meadow with old, established trees, green grass and cows.  It took me back to a childhood memory of my great aunts home.  She had a modest piece of land but I have a vivid memory of the meadow.  You can picture it; lucious green grass, gently rolling hills and huge shade trees.  She also had a few cows as I recall.  For the scene to be complete there must have been a babbling brook and a tire swing nearby as well.  When I think of that now I think of sitting under the tree with a good book or my journal, enjoying the quiet and solitude.

How wonderful it must feel for those cows to escape the heat of the sun by resting under a shade tree.  The sun provides warmth and allows things to grow.  But it can also be harsh, hot and burning.  Having just gone through a round of skin cancer surgery, the shade is even more appealing.  The shade provides protection from the harsh rays of the sun at mid-day.

The shade reminds me of God’s protection.  Just like the sun is both beneficial and harmful, so is the world around us.  We have loving relationships, health, plenty of food and, for some, the whole Norman Rockwell life at times. But we also have broken relationships,  illnesses, financial struggles and times in our lives when we are tempted to despair.   It is at those times that we can take shelter in the loving arms of our Father.

“How precious is your steadfast love, O God!  The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.  They feast on the abudance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.  For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.”  Psalm 36:7-9 ESV

If your life right now is anything but peaceful and tranquil, will you take refuge in the shadow of God’s wings?  For it is only there that we can find true peace.

Have a great day!