Monday, March 25, 2019

Monday Eye-Opener: Decisions, Decisions

Decisions, decisions. What to do first? As you sip your coffee, do you find yourself running through your to-do list? Is there a deadline or decision that kept you awake Sunday night? Something about Monday morning makes those tasks and decisions loom larger than usual. 

Help sure would be welcome about now!

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” Psalm 119:105 (NIV)

God’s word indeed offers unsurpassed wisdom to help us cope with deadlines, decisions and uncertainty. I find that the more I read and meditate on Scripture, the more sure-footed I feel in stressful times. Memorizing verses gives me a ready supply of hope and peace at a moment’s notice.

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.” James 3:17 (NASB)

Where else can you find wisdom with all these attributes? And God’s wisdom and mercy are 100 percent reliable, “unwavering, without hypocrisy.” All we have to do is ask for God’s guidance — and most importantly, listen with a humble, teachable, and obedient heart.

Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” Jeremiah 33:3 (ESV)

So as the week begins, let’s remember that the wisest, most reliable ally we could ask for is with us always. He wants to hear your prayers and questions. He’s never too busy or stressed out. Bring your concerns to Him, whether they’re about work, a relationship, school, health or anything else that kept you awake last night. What are the “great and hidden things” that you can learn, if you only ask?

Have a blessed week!

Monday, March 18, 2019

Monday Eye-Opener: Chosen by Him

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.” Ephesians 1:3-5 (NASB)

Admittedly, this is a loaded Scripture passage for a Monday Eye-Opener. I’ve listened to wonderful sermons that focus on just one of these verses. But I wanted to share several phrases that stand out for me this morning — especially on the day of the week that usually seems the most daunting.

He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world” (v. 4) Now that’s enough right there. Even before He created the world, He wanted to bless us. The word “chose” has a wonderful, telling Greek meaning: “to pick out for myself. Even before He created the world, He wanted to create us (you!) for Himself. He already knew He loved us and wanted us.

In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.” (v. 4-5) In Christ, we are adopted as children of God. It was love that drove Him to call us His own. It was an act of His will or — according to the Greek origin — His desire.

So let that sink in as you pour that second cup of coffee.

You are wanted and loved. God knew this before there was a planet Earth, let alone before He met you. You are His precious child.

Keep that thought front and center as you start the week.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Walking In the “Not Yet”

To me, mid-March is a perfect times for Lent. Just as we walk through the wilderness with Jesus, we walk through the drab, brown and gray remains of winter. We know that the resurrection is coming, and we know that soon it will be time to break ground and plant seeds. We rejoice that it will be here soon, but we ache because we can’t see it today.

So what do we do as we walk through the “not yet?” I have wondered that very thing in recent mornings, as I walk our dog. I search for those first splashes of color among last November’s dried leaves and brown grass.

Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains.” James 5:7 (NASB)

Waiting — derived from the Greek word meaning “expectation” — is a common theme in the Bible as it is in life. I’ve seen spring every year before this year, yet something in me will not rest until I see that flower bud poking through the ground. Like the Psalmist says:

I wait for the LORD, my soul does wait, And in His word do I hope.” Psalm 139:5 (NASB)

Oh, how he waits. The repetition of the word “wait” in this verse highlights the intensity of this longing and expectation. Look at another translation of the same verse:

I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.” Psalm 139:5 (NIV)

With his whole being, he waits. We do the same. Will my health recover? Will my loved one recover from addiction? Will I get that job? Will someone love me? Our whole being waits.

And hopes!

You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.” Psalm 145:16 (NIV)

“And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” Romans 8:23 (ESV).

We know we can rely on Him. We anticipate that morning of resurrection. We go deeper into our faith as our “soul does wait.” And just as those first crocuses surprise us every spring, we will jump for joy at the news that “He is risen!” (Matthew 28:6, KJV)

Monday, March 11, 2019

Monday Eye-Opener: Is This a Calling?

This weekend, I felt prompted to return to one of my greatest joys — writing poetry. That prompting was followed by several confirmations,  including encouragement from my husband, who is also a poet. I especially like to write poems that encourage readers or that celebrate the beauty of God’s creation. The longer I write, the more it feels like a calling.

A calling does not necessarily have to be a job. But how do we discern a calling?

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” 1 Corinthians 12:7 (NRSV)

Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Colossians 3:17 (NRSV)

Sometimes a calling requires courage.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV)

Sometimes a need tugs at our heart.

Let people learn to devote themselves to good works in order to meet urgent needs, so that they may not be unproductive.” Titus 3:14 (NRSV)

We are all called to be the hands and feet of Jesus, according to our gifts.

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” Colossians 3:12 (NRSV)

Today, let our eye-opener be increased awareness of those promptings and tugs. Whether it’s creative writing, political activism, caregiving, or a new job, God may be trying to tell you something!

Friday, March 8, 2019

Getting Out of God’s Way

Can you solve the mysteries of God? Can you discover everything about the Almighty?” Job 11:7 NLT

One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn as a believer is to remember that God is in control. I am embarrassed when I realize how often I forget that I am not God. I know that I should leave my worries and overwhelm at the cross.

As a caregiver, I am especially likely to worry and hover. What will the lab results show? Is he sleeping enough? How many grams of sugar are in the meal? Is that a heart failure cough or a hay fever cough?

So many times I have prayed, “Father, I know You’ve got this” and a few seconds later, “but I’d better take it back in case You’re too busy!”

How about you? Do you find yourself taking up what you left at His feet, “just in case?” Let’s look at God’s word for help.

Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me Isaiah” 46:9 ESV

All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” John 1:3 ESV

As the only Uncreated One, God is unique in His eternal wisdom, perspective and power. We already completely depend on Him. When we acknowledge our dependence, we step aside and let Him work in our lives without our interference.

yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.” 1 Cor 8:6 NASB

We are created by God and exist for God, for His purpose. When we surrender to His power and purpose, we acknowledge that He alone is God. We cannot know the things He knows. It is probably best that we cannot know these things. But we know that His purpose has our best interests in mind.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

There’s a peace that comes when we humble ourselves and remember that God existed before the world and before its people. We don’t have to know all these because we can’t. Only God can do that. Jesus reminds us of His eternal nature:

Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.’” John 8:58 NASB.

The good news is, we have a God of hope. A God who not only is in control, but who sent His Son as our Savior.

Waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” Titus 2:13 ESV

In this verse from Titus, the Greek word for hope also means “trust” and “expectation.” And let’s face it — trust is a tricky word here on earth. But we’re talking about a different kind of trust and hope. This is not a hope that says, “gee, wouldn’t it be nice if…” This is a hope that we can rely on, that only God provides.

And when I remember this hope, I remember why God is God alone. I remember why it’s a good idea to leave my worries and sleepless nights in His hands.

I pray that as you end your week, you will find rest as God takes your burdens as only He can.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Every Green Herb: Violet

And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.
And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.” Genesis 1:29-30 (KJV)

Spring: so near, yet so far in early March. I scan the garden for flower buds and new green shoots, as I watch the weather reports for yet another snow storm. I’ve always felt closest to the Creator in the garden, with its yearly rhythms of life, death and resurrection. During the Lenten season, as we walk with the Lord through the desert, these rhythms are keenly felt.

Every now and then, this blog will include posts about some of my favorite plants, especially herbs. Know as “useful plants,” herbs have a special place in my heart because of their nourishing and healing properties — gifts from God, indeed. I will begin with violet (Viola spp.), which I will be studying in-depth this year.

There are many species and varieties of violet, including sweet violet (V. odorata), white violet (V. alba), and wild pansy or Johnny jump-up (V. tricolor). You’ll see them growing low in moist, cool, shaded areas — if you look carefully. A patch of violets grows in a corner of our garden, shaded by a towering black walnut tree.

Herbalists value violets for their sweet fragrance and healing properties. Traditional uses for the leaves, roots and flowers include perfumes, food flavorings, cough syrups and salads.*

As a bonus, the colorful violet “flowers” aren’t really flowers at all. The true flowers are light green and hidden, so you can pick the colorful blooms to your heart’s content without disturbing the plant’s life cycle. More will appear soon enough, and you can enjoy them again!

Violets have even inspired sermons! H.J. Wilmot-Buxton (1843-1911) praised them in his sermon The Preaching of Nature:

But, my brothers, the sweetest spot is where the violet blooms, and it is better to be sweet than to be grand.”

“God put you there as He puts a violet in a lonely nook, that you might make your corner sweet.”

Violets make early spring sweet, with their unassuming beauty and fragrance. It’s hard to believe that they are considered undesirable weeds by some.

I hope you’ll look for violets in otherwise overlooked places. You’ll be glad you did!


*This post is for information only, and does not provide medical advice. Talk to your doctor before trying medicinal herbs.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Follow Him

When I was growing up, I would hear other kids talking about the things they planned to give up for Lent.  Chocolate invariably topped many lists, which also included TV, movies, and other fun things. I did not really understand what Lent was at the time, so for years I pictured it a dreary time of doing without.

But what if we focus on the treasures that we receive during this 40-day season? Now that I have had time to mature in my faith, I love the Lenten season as a time of closeness with Jesus. A time to press in and walk with Him.

The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.” John 1:43 (NIV)

In our garden, green shoots push through dead and decaying leaves, stems and black walnut shells left by feasting squirrels. Buds appear on the plum and apple trees. Like our 40-day walk with Jesus in the desert, this gray, damp, cold time of year brings beauty and hope if we look closely enough.

Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” John 1:39 (NIV)

We can recognize His presence more often during Lent, as we commit to deeper prayer time and closer study of God’s word. We push through the remains of a barren season, grateful for patches of green.

So this is day one of a yearly journey that many will choose. I pray that your week is going well with unexpected blessings.