Friday, July 31, 2015


My five point harness had me locked into a Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU) training chair. This piece of equipment is used by astronauts to train for work in a microgravity environment. I was excited to be part of this simulation, preparing to “fix” a broken part of the external components of the International Space Station (ISS) as a team member on a mock spacewalk. In a space simulation, I quickly learn that unwieldy space suits and simulated microgravity environment exercises can make me go swishing across the polished floor. Laughing, I felt myself going backwards until at 25 feet out, my safety tether snapped taught. My momentum was changed as I started to slowly move forward again towards the black and white structure. Still smiling, my hands and feet braced to gently catch myself coming back to the station wall. The tether, made of strong woven fibers and thick metal buckles, has to be able to withstand the simulated great temperature variances found in space, resist abrasions and still maintain flexibility. It didn’t take long to discover that more than a gentle movement would send me inadvertently moving away from the mock-up station; and be grateful for the safety tethers that keep me from careening off across the floor. 

A book titled The Untethered Soul caught my attention the other day. Let me put in my aside here, I have not read the book - it could be good, my reaction is purely to the title. An untethered soul, and all I could think of was simulations of fixing a mock-up of the ISS. My response to the title was thankfulness for the tethers in my life.

Sitting for a few quiet minutes today, I thought of who and what makes up my safety tether. Some of the fibers are short and others of inestimable yardage are woven in throughout. Buckles, forged from unbreakable love of Jesus are ones that do not fail. The webbed lengths are strong in family, friends, love, retain joy in abundance and resist abrasions with compassion. These cordage systems keep us from drifting away into space. They are our life lines that pull us back, reversing the backward momentum. And we in turn serve the same purpose for others.

At least until it’s time to take your MMU for a little spin, and go drifting slowly across the floor for the fun of it. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A Sparrow Falls

A small brown sparrow lay near the edge of the sidewalk, much too still. I thought of how a sparrow cannot fall to the ground apart from God’s will. As my feet continued down the sidewalk, my thoughts took two different paths as the complimentary roles of pragmatist and dreamer played thoughts through my head.

The pragmatist, my practical side, thought of an acquaintance once asking, “If God is so good, and knows about that little sparrow, then why let it die?” Thankfully, God is large enough for all of our questions. The answer is one I have muddled through at times, when confronted with the “whys” in life, especially when taking my own limited viewpoint into consideration. Why God did you let this tragedy occur? God, why didn’t you take care of this need the way I thought it should be taken care of? Why God have you not answered on my timeline? And, while we are on the subject God, why did you answer that other prayer in that manner? Like the curious child, I can catch a case of the incurable whys. My desire is for real answers – not a stuffy, “because I said so,” or interminable silence where my impatience causes me unfruitful exercise in jumping to incorrect conclusions. I want to understand and the question is worth consideration. I think it is in the searching itself that my mind and heart are forced to stretch; as if thought were a stiff muscle yielding to new directions and allowing me to consider my presupposed answers differently.

God allows tragedy and discord on earth, but does so with a complete picture in place, and a purpose that cannot be overridden by our life happenings. It is the sovereignty of God that I must first point to, and my assurance that his plan will not fail. Let me reiterate that as the ultimate authority, God is in complete control, with an understanding and perspective that is complete and whole; very different from my own. My choice in the matter is whether I will trust, if I will rest, in God’s sovereignty. Although I have already made the lifetime decision to trust in God as my Savior, there are many moments when a life turns a path in a direction I have not expected and I renew my decision to trust my Father to guide me along the correct path. It is with this restful trust I can hope, that I can keep faith, trust rooted in the solidity of love. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulations, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” This is not a trust made of tissue paper, easily torn and crumpled; but one of strength which breaks down walls, redesigns lives, and builds beautiful new creations. 

 Of course, I must let the dreamer have a voice as well. It is what allows me to see the potentials, the possibilities and beautifully abstract ideas. My thoughts took a completely different path along this route, thinking of the sparrow as a metaphor. A little bird, small and in the amazing world of feathered creatures, rather unremarkably colored. They eat seeds and insects, living amongst flocks of like creatures and chattering away in cloud of song. How many little sparrows are in my world that can rise or fall on a given day? Little things make up much larger parts of my life, like bricks paving a walk. Remove a brick and the absence is noticed briefly; remove many and the absence is felt. Knowing God is aware of the feathered flying sparrows in life reminds me that he is also aware of my own sparrows. It is not a far away and distant stranger to whom I pray, but a friend who walks along with me.

Little sparrows in my life are often the things I find myself wanting to hang my mood on. If I feel I have been productive, receive an unexpected compliment or criticism, watch my plans go slightly awry or be improved; these are just a few of my sparrows. It’s when the car won’t start, windows need to be washed, too many good things force prioritizing of time, and a stranger brightens my day; those are all little sparrows. I remind myself that the car repair is cheaper than the car payment, I’m grateful to have windows and ways to clean them, what a blessing it is to have so many good things that prioritizing is necessary, and try to pass along that stranger’s brightness to someone else. These are all sparrows for me. Small happenings, but regardless are known by my Father. Just as nothing is too large to be taken to God, nothing is too small as well.

“Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.
Matthew 10:27-31

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Courageous Gifts of Roots

About four hundred years ago, a family left Wales for a newly founded Penn’s Colony. With a few older boys in tow, and one who made his appearance when crossing the Atlantic (aptly named Seaborn), they made the voyage successfully. Settling into the colony, the family became established in their community. Time passed, generations branched out and moved southwest into Kentucky. Deep into timbered hills, where shadows rest late in the morning and pull along evening’s approach early, families were established. Gardens were planted, homes were built and a few lone settlers became communities.

On a recent trip I was reminded of the gift of roots. It took courage to leave a home in Wales and travel across an ocean; to later say goodbye to the established colony and settle the frontier of the Appalachian hills. Generations continued, learning to lean on each other as they formed their own families, taking root and becoming communities.

I watched and listened as family surrounded me last week. Each unique in their gifts, each very special. This beautiful hilled place will be forever my family home, a holder of stories and songs that rise in the memory like the morning mist. Each generation has the opportunity to be a builder for the next, to give them another strong layer upon which to place their own structure. I also am part of the branching out, and in so doing found a new home.    

Monday, July 20, 2015

Scanning the Skies for a Covenant

Recent flash flooding has devastated portions of Eastern Kentucky. People have been left without homes, mourning tragic deaths, celebrating heroes, scrambling to meet needs and raising their eyes to scan the sky and river banks with every new thundercloud breaking into rain. When out driving, it is easy to find evidence of mud slides and a few sharply curved corners where the road has crumbled. After another gully washer two evenings ago, I watched impromptu waterfalls form to race down cliff faces. Those who have been impacted, either directly or through concern for loved ones, experience apprehension with each new rain storm.

Just two nights ago, sitting back on a deep porch and relaxing in a rocking chair, I watched one more storm break across the sky before going to bed. I admired the beauty of the lightning and watched the reflection of the porch lights in the light rain. Though for me that summer thunderstorm was quite enjoyable and relaxing; I could not help but think of those not very far away who must be looking at this storm with trepidation. 

The storm wasn’t the only thing in the sky that day to catch my attention; a rainbow had appeared as well. With subtle color, it was nearly lost to view after being disrupted by a cloud. Subtle or no, it reminded me of the covenant that it shows us. A covenant, a promise or commitment, is shown in that and every rainbow. This promise was made when the earth was very young and recovering from a terrible flood. Genesis 9 tells us that the rainbow was provided as a “sign of the covenant between (God) and the earth.”

We all have storms and floods that occur in our lives. Sometimes we can sit on the porch, enjoying rain cooled air and the lightning show. There are other times when we are buffeted about and swept down in the currents of the floods. But in each, I keep my eyes open to look for the covenant of hope, seen in a beautiful but quiet display of dispersed light across the sky. I love seeing God’s promises, quiet and beautiful, made for us to take notice and comfort.

“And God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.’”  Genesis 9:12-16

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Celebrating Everything

I’m in Eastern Kentucky this morning, watching the fog roll off the hills like a thick blanket. The air is moist and there are sounds of people stirring below, as they set up for the Minnie Adkins Folk Art Day. The second annual holding of this day celebrates the woman who has made such an impact in the lives of folk artists here in Elliott County, and in many other places, Minnie Adkins. At 81, she is an active artist making many beautiful and fun pieces of art, inspiring others to share their art and creativity as well.

Last night was a cookout for those vendors coming to set up their tents and those who are staying here at the Little Sandy Lodge. For us, it was like a little family reunion as cousins came to visit. Such a sweet time to see dear people. But now, the quiet of the evening has been replaced with the occasional laugh, the sounds of tent poles tinging off of each other, Rubbermaid lids being unsnapped, cars driving in, and tables being unfolded. Soon, it will be the hum of voices and the timber of music that will echo off the hills behind me.

This is a day to celebrate. Celebrate the courage of following an idea and a dream, supporting it with hard work and determination, and sharing it with others. This is a day to celebrate the artists who are and are not in galleries and museums, both seeing something in their raw materials that has not been created yet. Family is celebrated today, getting to visit loved ones not seen often, but are dearly loved. As I watch vendors setting up, this is a day to celebrate partnerships and friendships, and the many hands that help these things work. It takes many hours of planning to carry this off; many hands working together. As our hostess said last night, today – we will celebrate everything.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Through the Lenses

Headed down the highway, I watched the hills grow taller as I draw nearer to them. Through a blue and white cloud speckled sky, the sun filtered down. Wearing my sunglasses, I can see shafts of light carved through the sky; faintly lighter than their surroundings. Flipping my sunglasses to rest on top of my head, the differentiated light beams disappear. Glasses on again, and the light beams show up again. The lenses serve as filters to let me see the world differently. It struck me how different lenses impact the way I interact with my world. Just by adding or removing my sunglasses, my entire perspective changed. I started to think, what lenses do I need to put on each day?

Do I put on a lens of love? Do I love my neighbors like I want to be loved? Do I give them the benefit-of-the-doubt? Do I seek out ways to encourage and support them? Love has so many meanings. I can love a thing, a person, a place, a choice, an action, etc… Even though the word is the same in the English language, it has many nuances to explain depth of feeling and commitment attached to each, and each are very different. Just to give two differing ends of the spectrum, I can love a song. It can encourage me, make housework a little more up-beat, or just help set a mood. But that song, as much as I love it, is normally a blip on the timeline of my life. It pops up here and there, but it’s not a constant choice to love. I can love people with a lifetime of love that is a binder through mountains and valleys. This is a constant choice to love. The words found in 1 Thessalonians 5:8 are strong, “But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation.”  A breastplate, worn by a Roman solider is an example of being covered to protect the chest and back. With two main pieces, this armor was shaped to the body. Hinged on one side, and then fastened by buckles, the breastplate was further connected with bands of metal or strips of leather, passing over the shoulders and tying in the front. Love is mentioned as armor; in battle faithfulness and love serve as needed protection; a strong word, both individually and within the body of Christ to create unity. Christ is the armor and the source of faith and love; I rely on him for the strength to love.

Do I put on a lens of joy? Joy is drawn from a deep well, one that is far greater than happiness. Do I depend on the strength which comes from reliance on the Lord? Do I let joy color my thoughts and actions as I go about my day? I have so many blessings, many more than I count; and I’m actually quite happy. This morning alone, I have laughed deep belly laughs with family, those that are so good for our bodies and spirits. Yet, I need to distinguish between happy and joy, as they tend to be used interchangeably at times – and yet are not the same. Joy is present when I am not happy. Joy is an unlikely load-bearer that supports so many other things. Joy brings strength and long-term perspective that sorrow and sin cannot take away, for they will pass away and joy remains! Joy has the unshakable tenacity of faith and the strength of love. That long-term joy is expressed in 1 Peter 1:8 as “inexpressible and glorious.” As I sit here in the morning sun, rocking on the porch swing, I try to think of how to describe joy. I think it is a little like trying to describe the sun. Imagine that you have never seen or felt the sun. I can give you a scientific and fact filled description that tells how our sun is a dwarf star. The facts will be true, but won’t start to explain the feel of the sun’s warmth, the power of its heat, or the brightness of its light. Joy is like these things; simple and complex. Joy’s long-term view makes me see that if joy is this great in a fallen world, how much greater will it be when I am one day with Jesus.

Do I put on a lens of peace? Peace, as a gift that the world cannot give, is a reliance on something much greater than my own abilities. Anytime people come together, each carries their own thoughts, preconceptions, ambitions, opinions, perspectives, and varying degrees of skill on how to express them. It can lead to a fragmented nightmare or a harmonious body working in concert. Working with all of the other lenses that have been mentioned before, and will be mentioned after, peace calls to rule my heart and mind every day. I get up, get dressed, let out the dogs, get coffee (a necessity for my brain to work), and start my day. I will have many minute and a few large choices throughout the day, where I can choose to be ruled in peace or not. I know what it feels like to have anxiety swelling in my ribs, restricting breathing and making thinking difficult. I recognize this feeling, this is not the peace of Christ I have been given. Actively taking hold of that gift, I reclaim the peace which “transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” This peace, described in Philippians 4:7 is a jewel that has such worth that the price can never be met, it is truly a gift. The peace of God is a clarifying light. It brings order to the soul and shows that fear is a mere shadow. Peace is the result of time with Jesus. Not only as my Heavenly Savior, but as one who has walked this earth, laughed and cried, made friends and enemies, loved, healed, fed, and gave His love to us as a faithful gift of life upon the cross with His death. His peace is truly unique, it is not dependent upon circumstances, people, or places. It only depends upon Him.

Do I put on a lens of kindness? Kindness seems to be a word that can be easily diluted, making it into something lesser than intended. Ephesians 2 tells me that it was a kindness of Jesus in bringing grace; a point I certainly won’t argue with. But this perspective deepens the meaning of kindness for me; kindness being sacrificial and selfless giving. Am I kind when asked to give of myself, my time, my talents, or my resources? Not to be pushed into unhealthy extremes, where I am left empty and unable to give; but in a manner to put my neighbors first. Do I seek to show them kindness in the little daily things and the big sacrificial things? My calendar seems to be ever-filling, my to-do list ever-growing. It is easy for me to become caught in the busy aspects of the day, and simply overlook how a few sentences in a conversation, a quick text, a phone call, a letter, a card, or just being there can change someone else’s day completely. We need these kindnesses, I need these kindnesses. A kindness I think of is a return from a very hard trip a few months ago. When I got home, a friend had not only taken care of the house and the dogs, she had given of herself and gone above and beyond. After the luggage was in and I collapsed on the couch, I noticed that floor had been swept, the windows washed, and food was waiting in the refrigerator. Little things are enormously impactful, when done in kindness. Grace can never be repaid, and it was a gift of kindness; a powerful lens indeed. 

Do I put on a lens of goodness? A missionary visited and spoke on that very subject, using Galatians 6:1-10 as his text. Goodness, like kindness, can be used in ways to make it less than its intended meaning. Doing good, do good, and share good; actions are paired with this word goodness. Printed hand in hand, moving me forward in action, goodness inspires change. This is not come-uppance piety. Goodness is truth, the light of Christ, and the salvation of grace. The lens of goodness propels me to action as I encounter people either in physical proximity or virtually across the globe in need of the Truth of Christ. Goodness is sharing what we have learned with each other, not making each one go-it-alone; how lonely would our world be. Goodness is sown for a rich harvest. When I work in my flower bed, I admit that as much as I enjoy planting and picking, I don’t love to weed. I firmly believe that one weeding a year should be sufficient for the entire growing season. Invariably, it takes quite a bit more sweat equity as those weeds keep coming back and the plants need tended. As we give goodness to others, the harvest can be slow in coming. It can be a discouraging process as the weeds try to choke out the fruit, the deer nibble on the stems, and the weather doesn’t cooperate. Just like in my flower bed, I cannot simply give up and walk away. Instead, I pull weeds again. I stake the plants, water the flowers, and put out something to discourage the deer. The effort is worth the work as I pause to enjoy the beauty of the blooms, the structure of the leaves, and the fragrance that perfumes the air. Over and over, this long-term view of goodness is needed as we invest in each other for the glory of God and their gain.  

Do I put on a lens of faithfulness? I have always been interested in medieval history, read the stories of chivalry and honor. But, faithfulness is more than being honor bound to a feudal lord for battle service. Faithfulness is choosing to lead the life Christ led me to lead, even when it is not the life I planned. Am I faithful to honor promises I have made? Am I faithful to continuously seek after Christ, to put him first in my whole life? This word faithful is a mountain of a word, it is so large that to scale it can be a worthy, but daunting, challenge. Faithfulness makes me careful what I attach promises or a handshake agreement to, whether it is of small or large consequence. The lack of faithfulness, the breaking of trust in a relationship, creates cracks that require immediate attention and repair. Without that, they will continue to grow, ever wide and deeper, causing severe damage. And yet, what an example is Jesus to me of faithfulness, as I have certainly broken his trust before. As the Master Builder, he not only rebuilds, but moves to restore; many times making that relationship better and stronger than it was previously. To me, one of the very best definitions of faithfulness is in 1 Thessalonians 5:24, where the word “will” is used. This is a definitive word. The verse states that not only is Jesus keeping faith, and can be trusted – but he will fulfill his promises. He is faithful when I am not, and continues to draw me back to a solid rock upon which the foundation of trust is built and is strong. 

Do I put on a lens of gentleness? I love this word, gentle. It is a soft word, and many have mistakenly perceived it as weak. Yet, a gentle touch can restore, a gentle word can change the tide of a life, and a gentle moment can create a safe harbor amidst the storms. Gentleness can sting, words spoken in love can still hurt. But the intent behind them is to build, encourage and restore; not to destroy and tear apart. Gentleness paired with a quiet spirit is described as something of unfading beauty in 1 Peter 3. In this particular case, it is a woman's attributes being described. Though this week I am happily skipping the make-up, as it would just melt off anyway, I certainly understand the desire being spoken of in 1 Peter to be thought of as beautiful and think every woman does. We choose clothing, our hair styles, shoes, jewelry and many accessories to accentuate our best features. Though I may wish on Monday morning I could go to work dressed in my sweat pants and a comfortable t-shirt, that is not how I want to be seen there. As Shakespeare says, “Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks within his bending sickle’s compass come.” The sickle of time happens to us all as we continue our lives. The beauty of photo edits and editorials in the magazines changes as we age. Life and laugh lines are something to be proud of, but rarely touted as such. White hair, earned through a life well lived is not a disgrace. Yet, here is this unfading beauty, a gentle and quiet spirited woman. 

Do I put on a lens of self-control? Not controlling, or attempting to control others; but control over myself is the focus of this lens. Author Evelyn Christenson wrote a series of books to women focused on strengthening their prayer lives, one of which is called Lord, Change Me. Realizing that it is only herself that she could work to change, the focus of her prayers became those things that Christ wanted to change in her own life. Titus 1 and 2 covers quite a bit on the value of the older generation teaching the younger a variety of things, including self-control. To teach how to self-monitor and change actions, thoughts, and how we act on our emotions can be a valuable lesson. Ironically, by letting Christ change me, it can be an example and a change agent for someone else. My thoughts land on two-women, one who did not not display self-control and one who did. They both faced the same task, they both felt stressors at about the same point. One unleashed her stress in a torrent of angry words and general unpleasantness at whomever happened to be standing by at the time. People tended to either pull back and avoid being the object of misplaced wrath; or rather meanly, provoke the outburst just to watch and laugh. She appeared a fool. The other woman displayed self-control, choosing her words and reactions. She chose to be gently strong, handling issues with a measure of graceful leadership that both moved the project forward and cared for the people involved. She created an atmosphere of openness, where ideas were shared, and was very productive. Needless to say people love to work with her. We all face challenges and difficulties. I am not perfect and in a moment of stress or fatigue, I can lose control of my tongue, temper, or the moment in general. Relying on the self-control of Christ can provide me with the strength to make wise choices, keep good habits going, and extend grace to others when needed (especially because I will need it myself).  

It sounds as if I need multiple lenses to look through each day. I choose to look through the lenses of love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. “Against such things there is no law.” These lenses color my world in a unique way, and change the way I interact with it.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Being Bold

Boldness in times of growth.
I read a devotional today about how we often answer our own prayers. The example given was for food. I may pray for my daily bread, but will also be happy to run down to the local grocery store and pick out the items to make the meal I have planned. In someone else’s life, the daily bread may be a true miracle, because the pantry is empty and there is no funding or grocery store available. I give thanks for being able to afford and access foods and to meet other needs. But, this was a great reminder to pray boldly in all seasons.

I will praise You with my whole heart; 
Before the gods I will sing praises to You.
I will worship toward Your holy temple,
And praise Your name
For Your lovingkindness and Your truth;
For You have magnified Your word above all Your name.
In the day when I cried out, You answered me,
And made me bold with strength in my soul.
Palms 138: 1-3

A bold prayer is one I cannot answer on my own. It requires me to maintain my focus on Christ, or I will feel my feet become weak and knees wobbly beneath me. My mind asks, “What if this really can’t happen? What if that doesn’t happen?” I start trying out the “what-if” game, telling myself that if the outcomes need to be adjusted or corrected, this will allow me to be in a position to; even as this is a cry out to God and I have no answer on my own.

Boldness in times of storm.

These bold prayers go to the heart of my confidence in Christ and demand that I keep my eyes fixed upon Him, as this is something I cannot answer myself. Taking my eyes from my own abilities to focus on the one who created me in the first place is actually quite liberating. I can remove the what-ifs, and replace them with the conviction-of an assured belief that God is in charge of this situation and can be trusted.

Boldness in moments of autumn peace.

In particular, the final bit in this first part of Psalm 138 strikes me as a beautiful act of confidence. It is always a comfort when stepping out on faith that it doesn’t require a processing time before God can see, hear, and respond. And respond He does! Not only are prayers known, but answered. This can take many forms, but specifically includes being made bold with strength when the soul cries out. For me, when I am in such a place as to need that element of faith, it is generally something looming on the horizon. I may even know the answer in my heart, and need that boldness to carry it through.

Let me continue to pray boldly, asking for that which I cannot do on my own. For I know my God can do so much more than me.   
Boldness in cold and dark moments, waiting on the sun.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


Some life lessons are specifically addressed and others are woven into a persons’ nature with subtle shaping, until it is a normal reaction and not seen as unique. One of these valuable learned attributes is to always be looking for how you and I can better something for someone else. It was mentioned by journalist Marja Mills when she wrote about learning to wipe the bathroom sink off at a public restroom, just to leave it better for someone else. A simple act that only takes a few seconds led her to rethink this concept in a much bigger way and incorporate it more fully into her life.

Yesterday, I saw that lesson being taught to a young girl, from someone I am supposing is her mother. Coming out of a gas station/ Arby’s on a road trip, the girl tossed her napkin towards the trash can. It bounced across the top and landed on the ground on the other side. The little girl kept going, until she was pointed back towards the trash can and instructed to pick it up and throw it away. The lesson at the forefront seemed to be to pick up after yourself. But, it was also this bigger concept of making something better for someone else.

It really is a simple, but rather inspired, concept to be actively looking for how to better something for someone else. As I go about my day, I will be challenging myself to keep my eyes and ears open to what possibilities there might be to better something for someone else. I hope you join me. 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Sky High Love

Taking the dogs out once more before going to bed, my eyes turned to the sky and I felt my feet come to a standstill on the driveway. Over and around me, the sky stretched out; immense and painted with color, patterns and textures that more than rivaled the master painters. Because I have the habit to sing, well – anywhere; a song came out, "His Eye is on the Sparrow.” All I could do was stand, stare and sing; and of course keep an eye on the dogs who might go wandering.   

“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him” Psalm 103:11

Just thinking of the space between where my toes met the ground below and the reach of the heavens above, the immensity of the love described was breathtaking. I stretched out my arms, filled up my lungs with air, and took up only a tiny fraction of that space. 

Such love can feel too large and powerful for me to comprehend; beautifully overwhelming to the touch and sight. I think this is why the thought of the sparrow is the one that first came to me.

“And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”  Luke 12:6b-7

The tiny bird that many would deem to be insignificant is not forgotten by the Creator. The knower of the large and small, is in the magnificence of the heavens and in the infinite subtlety of a tiny creature of flight. As I continue to view the sky, my heart was full to overflowing. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

To Know and Be Filled

A red winged blackbird is perched on the top of the pine tree. Small feet, created to be able to grasp the flexing top branch, are strong and steady as the chest fills with air, and a song emerges. I listen to the birds, this one soloist and others, seeming to show me a flying choir. The sky is reflecting the sunset sky and slowly the blue of the day is put away again, as shimmers of gray clouds reflect the remaining orange warmth of the sun. It is a moment to reflect, to think and be quiet.

It always seems to take me a while to quiet my mind enough to listen to the “still, small voice,” that I so love to hear. But, as the day fades away, my thoughts slow just a breadth of a pace and I am better able to listen instead. These words, from Ephesians 3 were on my mind tonight.   

For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love,  may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Oh how these rich words fill my heart; I let them sink in, just like that bird’s song. These words in particular, “to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God,” these stand out in my mind. Know and be filled. To know of something that passes knowledge, to take it on faith. Well, that is an adventure isn’t it! Sort of like landing on that small branch, trusting it to hold you securely and serve as a stage for the song. This is an inner core of knowing, the kind of knowing that expects seasons in their turn to bring warmth and cool. It is a knowing that is so deep that I can stand and walk on it, using it daily as a road to move about on, a coat to be warmed by, reaching out for a hand that I know will be there. I can, we all can, take this on faith because He is indeed secure.

And be filled, the second portion, and not only filled with some random thing – but with all the fullness of God! The fullness of God, the one who is truly complete in all things, perfect in all things, always faithful, always present, and forever loving of His children. What a beautiful thing to be filled with, like a cool glass of water on a hot summer day, you can feel the temperature within your core dropping as the water moves down with the swallow. I am filled with the fullness of God, the fullness – the completeness of what He is. I am sure I cannot truly comprehend what that means, it is a completion that is beyond this world.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Story Tree

Walking this evening, I took notice of the giant old tree which stands like a sentinel over the walking path. A home for generations of squirrels and birds; I wonder what stories that tree could tell. 

I’m sure it could tell of children learning to ride their bicycles along the walking path, going from wobbly and hesitant riders to pint sized dare devils. Dogs walking closely to their owner’s legs and obeying so nicely, as well as those who don’t walk so close and are “helping” to move their person down the path at a greater speed. People walking together, talking and laughing. Friends meet each other coming in opposite ways and pause to catch up. Sweethearts catching quiet moments, grey haired and still holding hands. 

But, this could have all happened today; if we could know the stories this tree knows, it would go back much further than this park. It would be overseeing rich farmland, and maybe prior prarie prior to the creation of this park. I imagine how an active farm was worked around this tree. Perhaps providing shade for the workers along the way.  

A small stream runs just down the hill below. Before the branches were so high, they would have been a great spot to hang wet things after playing in the creek, providing a place to dry off after cooling down on a hot day.

A very young tree could have been a marker on the horizon as transportation changed slowly from wagons to newly introduced automobiles, causing horses to start and chickens to jump. 

So many days of sunshine and rain, nights of star filled skies and flashes of cloud highlighting lightening; this tree has stood tall and seen it all. If we could know the stories, it could be a rich treasure of the beautiful memories of daily life.

I hope that tree is there for many more years, as a silent witness to the celebration of each day.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Pause, Stop, Recess, Suspend, Breathe and Listen

 Mondays seem to be synonymous with busy; emails, phone calls and deadlines approach and I start to tackle my to-do list. In the midst of the hectic schedules, it can be so easy to forget to take a moment to appreciate the beauty in the moment.

So… I stopped to smell a rose. It only takes a moment to pause and smell this beautiful little bloom, breathing deeply to take in the sweet scent. Small lines of pink need to be appreciated in the midst of the swirl of yellow. Beauty of glossy leaves made me pause to admire their deep green color.

And… I listened to the rain, watching it land drop by drop on the branches of a small tree. Leaves danced with the landing of the drops; shimmering in the late afternoon light.  Small drops held by surface tension cling to the edges of leaves.

Busy moments are all well and good; I really don’t care to be bored. I simply work to remain the balance in the small moments to breathe in the scents, listen to the rain, and enjoy the pause. Giving myself that pause not only makes the day a bit more enjoyable, but lets me appreciate the beauty created around me.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Big Questions from Little Seeds

Tiny seeds slowly drift down from Cottonwood trees, riding white threaded parachutes. Some seeds landed on the grass, others landed on the track where I was walking yesterday. Just drifting at the mercy of the wind, some seedlings continued to an area where they will start the cycle of life to become new trees. Others remained in areas where trees will not grow.

This summer I have had many seedlings start to become beautiful little trees; many of which seem determined to come up in the wrong places. Green and beautifully growing, sprouts are found in potted plants, cozied up right next to the house and in flower beds. While some can be transplanted, others have to be pulled up or cut down. Holding these tiny seeds in my hand made me think about seeds in my life. Walking along, I was considering a two part question: what seeds are being sown by me and what seedlings are coming up in my life? 

What seeds are being sown by me? Are my words full of truth, grace, mercy and seasoned with salt? Are my actions demonstrating values of love that is bearing, believing, hoping and enduring? What about the heart behind these things; is it self-focused or as a servant heart? Continuing to walk around the track, I used the time to focusing on these questions and know that if I answer honestly, my best answer would have to be - sometimes. I can have seeds in my hand, ready to plant when fatigue, fear, or simple distractions in my everyday life causes poor planting. Seeds land in shallow soil or on rocks where the roots cannot grow as needed. I am glad that God gave me the ability to learn from my lessons (and even laugh at myself through some of them) as I continue to work on this.

What about the seedlings coming up in my life? Weeds are persistent; I wish every year as I work in the yard that once the garden was weeded, it stayed that way! But, they seem to tirelessly spring up again and again. So, I consider what I need to root out and what do I need to continue to root out? This last month and a half, I have felt vulnerable walking through a season of grief, did I seek out the extra stability needed from God’s word and spending time with Him? Am I seeking out the nourishment and water that seeds need to grow strong? Again, I thank God that in these questions that He is the Master Creator that ultimately makes good plants grow and will plan and work with me in my garden.  

Many questions, all good to pursue. Not out of guilt or fear; but with joy in sitting and enjoying a worthy labor, and knowing that my dirty hands have helped to make a garden grow well. 

“Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: ‘Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!’” ~ Matthew 13:3-9  

Thursday, July 2, 2015

A Small Town Fourth of July

The neighbor has a bonfire going in his backyard and the wood-smoke is drifting my direction; it smells wonderful. American flags have been put out for display on street light poles, added to porches in the forms of pennants and bunting, and soon will be in the hands of gatherers coming to watch local parades and catch candy. Planners are putting last minute touches on firework displays, community parties and ensuring all of their supplies are in place. The orchestras and bands polishing the cymbals can be heard practicing the last phrases found in the Overture of 1812, the Star Spangled Banner and local alma maters. Across the country, menus for barbeques and watermelon picnics are being shopped for. People will gather to hear the Declaration of Independence read, refreshing the memory of the richly worded document. Sparklers will illuminate faces of many ages, creating a charming glow that reflects in their eyes. Veterans will be honored, as most definitely is their due; and somewhere future veterans will become inspired in the idea of service to their nation. These festive moments can be so special where people gather to celebrate the birth of an idea, especially when it takes on their own local flavor. I do love a small town Independence Day celebration; full of great hearted efforts and determined plans.
Happy birthday America. Your first Independence Day celebrations consisted of reading of the Declaration of Independence, a toast and a cannon salute to mark the start of a new idea. As we approach our next Fourth of July, let us continue to examine what our freedoms mean, to offer a heartfelt thank you to those who have served, and taking time to break bread with our neighbors - kick back and watch the fireworks.