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From Death, Life

IMG_3589This is my backyard. Looks good, doesn’t it? If you look closely, though, you can spot the imperfections. You can see the tracks the dog has made as he madly chases his thrown ball. You can see the weeds that have gone unpulled. And if you look closer still, you can see where some plants have just not made it, despite our attention.

Recently, I noticed several examples of places where we thought we had taken out a plant that was dead only to find, months later, that it is thriving again. This comes as a surprise to me, but it really shouldn’t, because it’s so much like God. He reminded me of that this morning.

First, around our pool enclosure we have rows of a pretty flowering bush called Ixora. We had a bad frost several years ago, and all those bushes suffered. Over the years the other bushes made a good comeback, but this little one never recovered. So my husband pulled it out.

Or so we thought.

Second, next to our koi pond, we had a little variegated plant called Stromanthe (at least I think that’s what it is). It grew and blossomed and did really well. For awhile. Then the leaves started turning brown. Though it was large and seemingly happy, something was not right in its little world, and it started to decline. I tried pruning it back, cutting away the dried brown leaves and trying to shape it up a little. But it didn’t respond to my touch. Eventually, we made the decision to pull it out and once again my husband did the deed.

Or so we thought.IMG_2048

Third, we had a beautiful avocado tree in our backyard tragically eaten by beetles. I wrote about that several years ago. You can read that story here. When we found a gnawed-upon fruit that the squirrels had discarded sprouted in the corner of the yard, we thought, well, what could it hurt? So we transplanted that tiny seedling into our front yard, watered it daily, kept an eye on it and hoped. You can read about that part of the story here.

And then something miraculous happened in all 3 cases. New life.

IMG_8106Our pulled-up Ixora is small but blossoming.

The seemingly dead Stromanthe is tiny but growing.

And that little avocado seedling is now a nearly 20-foot tall tree and has fruit of its own.

Amazing.

And the lesson here? Other than caring for, watching and hoping, we did nothing to cause the new growth. It was only and always in the hands of the Creator. Sometimes it took mere months to see the growth; sometimes, as in the case of the avocado, it took IMG_8077years.

In the letter to the church in Corinth, the Apostle Paul wrote, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (1 Cor. 3:6-7 ESV).

Do you have a child who is straying? Pray, love, care for, encourage, don’t give up hope. God is at work, whether they want to acknowledge it or not.

Given up on your marriage? As long as there is breath in your body, pray, nurture, and don’t give up hope. Oh, please, don’t give up hope.

Do you see only death around you? Death of dreams, of chances, of families? Jesus came that we might have life and have it abundantly.

IMG_8102Make no mistake, we have had other plants over the years that have, simply put, died. The uprooting was complete and they never came back to life.

Sometimes children never come back to the Lord. Sometimes marriages fail, despite our best efforts.

But God.

He is still working. Sometimes the new life and growth is in our wandering child or our wounded marriage. And sometimes it’s simply and profoundly in us.

 

Fleeting Life

Last week, I nearly lost a dear friend.

A call from her husband at 11:45 p.m. went unanswered as my phone was on “do not disturb” and my husband let the call go to voicemail. When our son, friends of their eldest daughter, came in moments later and told us to check our messages, Julie had been in an accident, I didn’t even know what to expect.

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My husband pulled on clothes and rushed to get her husband and go to the accident site as the vehicle she was driving was their only multi-passenger vehicle and he needed a ride there and a way to get them all home.

The images here are what she shared with us that night and the next morning.

But for the grace of God, Julie and her twin daughters would have been impaled by a guardrail into which their minivan was pushed by a reckless driver trying to squeeze in between their van and another vehicle in the next lane. His selfish action nearly cost the lives of 2 beautiful teenagers and their mom, grieving a husband, 2 other kids and numerous friends and family members in the process.

When I see the damage done to their van, I know that it is only by God’s hand that they survived with barely a scratch. They are sore, and Julie thinks the rail must have skimmed her head because she has bruises in a couple of places. But they walked away, glass encrusted hair bearing witness to the horrendous mess made of their vehicle.

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One of the girls was sitting in the back on this side of the van.

When they awoke the next morning, Julie was glad just to be alive. When one of her kids noted that they were out of coffee creamer, her response was, “Isn’t it nice to be out of creamer?”

In texts between a group of friends, she noted, “I cannot begin to convey how thankful I am to God and that waking up this morning, it was a very ordinary day when it could have so easily not been ordinary. We three are pretty sore understandably. But so thankful for so much. I told the girls that we will never have a bad day again, they’re all good days from here on out!”

Later she texted, “My words are too few and not nearly as adequate as I would like. It’s been very humbling that God would choose to save us in this way.”

Another in our text group said, “I’m so glad we are texting rather than crying over caskets!” Wow. That hit me hard and I just wept. What caused one daughter to duck when her sister in the front screamed, thus causing the deadly missile to miss her by inches? How was Julie not decapitated by the force of the pole through their windshield so close to her head?

IMG_55181How fleeting life is. Sometimes we don’t think about it. We just go about our business assuming we’re going to see our loved ones later. But sometimes they don’t come home.

But God is still good. Circumstances don’t change that. I am thankful for the lives that were saved last Friday night. Had things been different, I can’t even imagine what this next week would look like. Mother’s Day would have felt very different. Graduation just days away would be a wrenching event instead of a celebration for the senior daughter. Every “last” for that senior is more precious when Julie thinks how differently things could have turned out.

For this time we can breathe a sigh of relief and thank God that He spared them. But we know that not everyone can do that. Lives are lost every single day in tragic accidents caused by foolish people.

Take nothing for granted, except that God is good.

Seasons of the Soul: A Guest Poem

Again, my 18-year-old son, Nathan, has composed a poem that I wanted to share with you here. Enjoy!

Seasons of the Soul

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It’s Summer in my soul.

My smile reflects the vibrant sun that always seems to shine,
My heart is light just like the days, and everything is fine.
The warmth I feel in summer is a constant source of peace,
And I hope this optimistic Me will never start to cease.
Even in the dark of night my hope just can’t be quelled,
Firefly thoughts dance through my head, their light won’t be dispelled.

But nothing lasts forever, this truth we cannot bend,
This Season of the Soul will pass, for all things must surely end.

It’s Autumn in my soul.

A chilly wind sweeps through my mind and leaves: a reddish hue,
All my dreams begin to Fall, as dreams so often do.
No vibrant smile shines from my face, no happy thoughts glow bright,
The setting of the sun preceeds some dark and endless night.
Crimson trees bathed in blood from hopes too soon destroyed,
My spirit sinks lower as the dark takes over and fear is now employed.

No, nothing lasts forever, this truth we cannot bend,
This Season of the Soul will pass, for all things must surely end.

It’s Winter in my soul.

The darkness that surrounds me is as frigid as my heart,
The blizzard raging within me wants to tear my soul apart.
Buried under the weight of all my fears that pile like snow,
I’m trapped, my body’s numb, and now there’s nowhere left to go.
There’s a barren winter wasteland where the sun no longer shines,
And though my soul looks like it, there’s still hope for better times.

Nothing lasts forever, this truth we cannot bend,
This Season of the Soul will pass, for all things must surely end.

It’s Springtime in my soul.

From this barren wasteland Springs life that blooms anew,
The tender light of daybreak mingles with the morning dew.
Fresh thoughts of hope grow like flowers in my mind,
There’s life again inside my soul! I’ll never look behind!
For even in the coldest winter when everything seems lost,
Never stop hoping that things will get better, no matter what the cost.

Because nothing lasts forever, this truth we cannot bend,
These Seasons of the Soul will pass, for all things must surely end.

image from 123RF.com

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Nathan Reeves is a senior at Colonial High School in Orlando, Fla., graduating on May 22nd. In the fall he will be attending the University of Central Florida’s Burnett Honors College, majoring in Interdisciplinary Studies with an Environmental Science track. Nathan hopes to be a park ranger in one of America’s beautiful National Parks after he graduates from college. Though he claims to not like to write, he has a poetic gift that makes his writer mama proud. He is an enthusiastic collector of swords and knives.

The Ancient Hill: A Good Friday Contemplation

golgotha-david-snyder

What is that there on yonder hill

Awash with red so deep?

What does it have that draws me near?

What secrets does it keep?

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My heart is caught, my eyes are set

Up to that hill I tred

There’s something there, I know not what

But oh, that deep, deep red

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I hear the story, I know it’s true

but I do not know the why

A man, they say, but more than a man

went to that hill to die

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For me? I ask, but why for me?

What did I e’re do wrong?

And then I heard a still, small voice

Sing out an ancient song

 

There was no answer I could give

upon that old, old hill

I saw the red, I heard the cries

I know I always will

 

For me, for me, I hear the song

I weep because it’s true

He came, He loved, He gave his life

For me, and friend, for you.

 

Upon that hill, that ancient hill

I always want to stay

For there I know my Savior bled

and set me free that day

 

image from: images.fineartamerica.com

In Need Of Rescuing

scaffolding collapseMy attention was captured today by the story of a painter on a high-rise building who was literally left hanging when his scaffolding collapsed underneath him. When I entered the scene via live video, a firefighter from Key Biscayne Fire Rescue was on his way down to the dangling man.

Hanging by a white strap, yellow buckets of paint visible on the askew scaffolding below, the man appeared calm, but I could only imagine the panic he was feeling. He couldn’t see his rescuer above him. Green shutters framing him, other firefighters watching and calling directions from balconies nearby, the man was in good hands, but he probably didn’t feel that way.

I said to him, as if he could hear me, “Hang in there buddy. Help is on the way. He’s almost there.”

As I watched the competency of the firefighter, though he moved ever so slowly, I imagined how the day had started for the dangling man. He just thought he was going to work. He put on his white painters clothes, shoved his feet in his work boots, maybe told his family goodbye, and drove to the job site. Little did he know that some hours later he’d have his feet knocked out from beneath him.

How glad was he that he followed the rules and was wearing his harness? high rise rescue

Soon, another firefighter appeared from above, talking to the man, putting a calming hand on him. I could almost hear what he was saying: It’s gonna be OK. We’ll get you down. We’ve done this lots of times. Trust us.

Trust. Easy to say when you’ve got 2 feet on the ground. Not so easy 7 stories up. What will work be like tomorrow? Will he get the day off to recuperate? What about when Monday comes? How much bravery will it take to step out on that scaffolding again?

Slowly, slowly, the firefighters secured him and began to lower him down, both constantly attached to him, one above, one to the side. When the cords that had bound him before became entangled with the rescue lines, the first firefighter quickly cut them away.

The 7-story descent to solid ground went off without a hitch. The stretcher was there waiting, along with a bottle of water.

He was safe. He was going to be fine.

But how uncomfortable was that rescue? How much did it hurt to hang there for more than an hour? But would he have chosen to stay there, wanting to avoid the pain and the pull of the rescue lines?

Certainly not. He wanted someone to save him.

lone man hangingThis lone painter knew he was in trouble the minute that scaffolding failed. Who saw him? Who called for help? Other white-clothed men talked to the rescue crew after the painter was safely on the ground. Were they co-workers? Comrades in color? Did they know his distress and call 9-1-1? What would have happened had they ignored his distress?

Luckily, we won’t ever know. Someone called. Someone got help. Someone got involved.

And this man lived to go home to his family.

How many captured, enslaved, trafficked souls in need of rescuing aren’t going to have that option today?

Get involved. Make the call.

images from wptv.com (1), fox13news (2) and wpec (3)

Drink Like A Deer

img_1701-1In my front yard I have a grapevine doe. She used to be a Christmas decoration, but eventually the light bulbs burned out. So I moved her over to my koi pond, which sits right in front of my dining-room window. And now I can watch her all year long.

Every once in awhile I see a lizard skittering inside her belly.

What struck me today, though, was that she’s ever so close to drinking that water, but never quite getting there. If she could just stretch a little further; if the water would just come a little closer, she could be fulfilled.

It reminded me of the verse, “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God” (Ps. 42:1b).

Do I long for God? Do I literally feel as if I will die if I’m not with Him?

This winter has been rough—I know, I know, how can a Version 2Florida winter be rough?—but though the sun has been shining and the weather has been warm, the storms of life have almost undone me.

From emotional crises to a nagging health issue to an accident that’s causing me to take on a role that doesn’t come naturally to me, the blizzards hit one after another, just as if I’m New England in this winter of ’17.

Oh, how I long for the flowing streams of God’s grace. I don’t want to sip, I want to plunge in, head over heels, and feel Him surround me and take me under so that I’m no longer breathing air, I’m breathing Jesus. Every breath I take.

Sometimes the life-giving water seems far away. I just can’t reach that far. There is too
much fear, like lizards crawling around in my belly. Do I trust Him, even though He’s choosing to keep me in this season?
img_9130Do I believe He’s a good Father who is doing the best for me? Working all things together for good. Because I do love Him. I am called according to His purpose.

As the hymn writer Horatio Spafford said, “When peace like a river attendeth my way . . .”

So many water images in the Bible, Jesus Himself being the epitome of that. Living Water.

“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” Ps. 34:8.

The water is fine, I tell that doe. And myself. Dive right in.

Oh, What A Tangled Web We Weave

img_7457I hate being lied to. As a parent, I’ve had it happen more than once.

It never gets easier to hear.

I am naturally one who likes to trust people. I want to believe that what you’re telling me is true. When I find out it’s not, something deep inside me dies just a little bit.

I think it’s my innocence. And after 55 years on this planet, I just don’t have much of that left.

I can’t trust commercials on TV. They’re just trying to sell me something.

I can’t trust politicians. They’re just trying to sell me something, too.

And lately, I can’t trust the media either. They have an agenda they’re wanting to promote.

Why is it that lies bother people so much? For me, it’s because it’s so opposite of who Jesus is. He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” If we love and follow Jesus, we speak the truth. But the tangled web that deceptions demand dangle ever before us—ours and those of others—and they hide spiders ready to devour us if we let them.

img_7459When I was in 6th grade, I remember getting a piece of jewelry I already owned and telling my friends that a certain boy had given it to me. They were so impressed! I told that lie because I wanted to prove that some boy could love me. I was that desperate.

The lies I’ve heard from my children many times have to do with school. In these cases, it’s more often a lie of omission. They just happen to not tell me that they haven’t been doing their homework or turning in assignments or passing classes.

Other times, what it seems to boil down to is that my kids lie to me because they don’t want me to know that they’ve done something that goes against what they’ve been brought up to believe is wrong. They still want to do it, so they do it and don’t tell me because they don’t want to disappoint me.img_7457-1

But somehow, I always seem to find out. And the web begins to unravel.

I know the decisions are theirs, but I can’t help but wonder what kind of environment I’ve promoted that causes them to not want to tell me the truth. Have I put too many expectations on them? Do they feel pressure to be a certain way to please me?

I’ve done some pretty intense self-examination and can’t find where I’ve ever said to them, “I won’t love you unless you act this way.”

All I can do at this point is pray that the Holy Spirit convicts them of their sin. And I can keep asking the Lord to show me where I am in the wrong.

I only wish discovering the lies of our politicians was that straightforward. I’ll keep praying for them as well.