Spring Will Prove

I went out this evening and sat for a few minutes in the quiet of the van, stuffing the shopping bags back into their little pouches and folding the ones that didn't stuff so they'd all fit into one bag. It was warm, and the quiet felt velvety in my ears.

Looking out over the yard, I watched the white pines sway in the breeze, gratefully soaked in the residual heat collected by the dark green metal during the brief sunshine today, and yet felt overwhelmed. There's so much to do, so much to do to finish the house in time to finalize the mortgage on schedule, in addition to the heavy load I carry as a wife, mother, homemaker and homeschooler, and the tears came back. I thought of the house, upstairs, of the clutter partying on every flat surface and the dust and dog hair that collects in the corners faster than I've ever seen, anywhere, in my entire life.  My gaze fell on my little Japanese maple, and I remembered planting iris rhizomes from my mother-in-law last spring. 

And God whispered to me, "Go look at it."

I left the soft warmth of the van and walked through the crisp breeze toward my tree. When I drew close, I could see them . . . the tiny beginnings of this year's iris that might (just might) bloom this year. Not all of them survived the transplanting, but there are quite a few new shoots coming up around the base of the tree.


While I stood, looking, I found a few roots that had been pulled up by deer, or cats, or frost heave. Most were mushy and empty, but one felt heavy when I touched it. Picking it up, I found it wasn't completely soft--one end was firm and smooth, with two tiny sprouts starting from it: one root-colored, and one leaf-colored.

I began pulling at the soil with my fingers, and made a shallow trench. Setting it in place, I thought to myself that while the odds weren't all that great, it now had a chance. Irises are tough critters.


I stood and looked at the ground under the tree, and saw the brambles and weeds that were beginning to take over the area we'd carefully cleared, and felt the immensity of the work before me begin to descend once again. I turned away, back towards the house, the discouragement pulling at every step.

Once again, my eyes fell on another gift: a hydrangea that Vern & the children gave me last Mother's Day. It has looked pretty sad all winter, and we wondered if it had made it. God said, "Go look at it."

I walked up to the wire enclosure we put around it to keep the chickens off, and looked down at the uninspiring rags of last year's growth, wondering what I'd see. 

And then, I saw.


Just barely, as they weren't that visible from the top. Little buds, pushing up from the base of the hydrangea amongst the old branches.


And then, looking closer, I saw that those old branches weren't all dead after all . . . some of them were showing green underneath the papery bark, for as the branches swelled and grew inside of it, the dried and brittle covering split. God whispered, "I will make it grow." And I knew it would be beautiful again . . . gloriously so.


As I looked at the rest of the plant, wondering how much had survived, God whispered again, this time in a complete thought without words, that we would need to let the plant grow and bud and leaf out a little, to see what was yet quick, and what was dead. We needed to let that new life prove itself by its growth.

And then would come the pruning.

I stood there, seeing the ravages of winter, and the damage the new growth had done to the protective but unyielding sheathing on what had survived. I saw the upper branches, gnarled and straw-like that would most likely fall under the shears in a few weeks, and God whispered that I was seeing myself.


I've been through a hard wintry season in  my life. A season of trying, and testing. A season that has threatened everything I have ever believed, ever trusted, everything I thought I knew. And now that Spring is returning, one lovely moment and one Spring rainstorm at a time, I'm seeing new growth budding from the parts of me proven through my circumstances . . . the very innermost heart where God lives.


Through that wintry season, He was the Master Gardener. And now, as Spring returns and His plans are coming to life in me, the pruning will come . . . once the dead and dying wreckage can clearly be distinguished from the vital, new, living creature in Christ that He has made me.

It's alternately nerve-wracking and exhilarating. Sometimes I'm pretty sure I know what is good, and what has survived . . . but I'm not always right.

When I came back with my camera, to better share this with you, He showed me the branches of my little Japanese maple, showing the same symbolic pattern as the hydrangea.



Sometimes it's proving to be the larger, more impressive branches that have died back, while the smaller, more tender branches survived.


It's kind of a tangle, really. But this I know: my God isn't just the Good Shepherd, He is the Master Gardener, and He knows a true branch when He sees one. I can trust Him, for even though He will ask for things I have long loved, or in which I have found temporary comfort, He will not ask me to relinquish anything that I truly need to make it back to Him. 


And in that, I rejoice. 


Cast shame far from you!

Give no more place to shame--it is the enemy of your soul! God doesn't CARE what we DO. He only cares what we ARE. What we are is connected to what we do, but our doing does not determine His inner climate. Our doing only matters to Him as it allows Him to direct and transform us further into inhabitants of His Kingdom. He keeps no checklist, no score sheet in this process. He burned the score sheets in the glorious fire of His atoning sacrifice and resurrection. He is not a mortal man, subject to wounding over and over by our actions. He has already suffered all, (ALL--nothing left out!), and has claim on all comfort in the Father for anything we do now. I firmly believe He sorrows with us now, because of that same love, but we have no power to hurt Him the way we would be hurt if we were as fully invested in/in love with another mortal as He is in and with us. Love heals all. God is Love. He is the healer, not the hurting.

He loves you just as much as He always has. Our own growing awareness of our mortal failings changes nothing. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Isn't that such an awesome comfort and reassurance???) Your failings have already been atoned for--your debt already remitted in full: it is done! Cast shame far from you!

Jesus is Lord of ALL, even the least of all of us. He walks beside you, every moment, loving you steadily and lavishly, already having broken down ALL the walls sin could ever build, already having bridged the precipitous chasm of the Fall.

The only thing that keeps us separate from Him, despite His constant proximity, is our own reluctance to abandon our attachment to the idea that we are sinners, separated from God. And in claiming the identity of Redeemed, Reclaimed, Beloved of Jesus, we then change the way and magnitude in which He can work in our lives, and He begins to transform us into His own image. But we have to accept, claim without apology, what He holds out to us.

The gift is given. Praise be to God!!! :o)

He is OURS, now!
Here is HERE, now!!!

And He wants us to accept Him now, as we are, so He can help us, heal us, and make us His. :oD

(I need a Toyota jump smiley . . . )

Father in Heaven, reach out and touch Your children. Open our eyes, open our minds, open our hearts to Jesus, to His nearness, to His reality, to His earnest desire to engage with us. Work Your mighty work in us, Lord we pray . . . cast out the orphan spirit that keeps us separate from You, from Your love, from Your presence, and let us fully claim our place beside you as Yours! So be it in Jesus's holy and blessed Name. :o)

The Difference

Scripture: 

He did what was pleasing in the Lord ’s sight, just as his father, Amaziah, had done. But he did not destroy the pagan shrines, and the people still offered sacrifices and burned incense there.

But Menahem did what was evil in the Lord ’s sight. During his entire reign, he refused to turn from the sins that Jeroboam son of Nebat had led Israel to commit. (2 Kings 15:3, 4, 18 NLT)

Observation:

There definitely was a difference in kings, from utterly wicked to the few that did not do only that which was right in God's sight, but destroyed pagan worship out of the land. 

Application: 

I want to be like those righteous kings so devoted to their God they couldn't turn a blind eye to the evil around them. And definitely not like the kings that, while they themselves kept the law, tolerated all manner of wickedness in their kingdoms. There's a difference in their levels of devotion and motivation. 

I've seen a difference between those two types of people. And it's tectonic in nature. It's like the second group have, like the KJV says, the word written upon their inward parts, as opposed to keeping the word carefully contained in their phylacteries. 

Prayer:

God, lead me to You. Show me the way to deeper belief and a more convicted heart. Where You lead, I will follow. When You command, I will obey. You bless me so richly, and Your love literally has changed me into someone completely new . . . my life is fresh and my optimism has returned. And it's so, so good. Thank You for this rebirth--this wholly new life in Christ. I love You! :-) In Jesus' name, amen!

Pursuit and Sacrifice

Scripture: Jonah 2:8-9, 2 Timothy 2:9, 20-22 AMP

"Those who pay regard to false, useless, and worthless idols forsake their own [Source of] mercy and loving-kindness. But as for me, I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that which I have vowed. Salvation and deliverance belong to the Lord!"

"For that [Gospel] I am suffering affliction and even wearing chains like a criminal. But the Word of God is not chained or imprisoned!"

"But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also [utensils] of wood and earthenware, and some for honorable and noble [use] and some for menial and ignoble [use]. So whoever cleanses himself [from what is ignoble and unclean, who separates himself from contact with contaminating and corrupting influences] will [then himself] be a vessel set apart and useful for honorable and noble purposes, consecrated and profitable to the Master, fit and ready for any good work. Shun youthful lusts and flee from them, and aim at and pursue righteousness (all that is virtuous and good, right living, conformity to the will of God in thought, word and deed); [and aim at and pursue] faith, love, [and] peace (harmony and concord with others) in fellowship with all [Christians], who call upon the Lord out of a pure heart.

Observation: God is freedom. God is deliverance.  God is abundance and love and an endless future bright and shining. And He offers it to us, no matter how soiled our past, or humble our beginnings.

Application: Before I was saved, I gave my time and energy to stuff.  Temporal, mortal, physical, stuff.  I was a Hobby Queen.  And I hoarded all of my supplies and goodies so I could do whichever one I chose, whenever I chose.  And I compulsively shopped and watched sales flyers and emails so I could garner yet more against some unforseeable day ahead.  I was one who paid regard to fales, useless and worthless idols.  Mine were just fabric, beads, paper, and yarn.

And then everything changed.  God blasted into vapor the carefully and long-constructed fortress I had built 

And now, when God asks something of me, I rejoice! I sacrifice with a voice of thanksgiving both audible and in my heart, and count it as no sacrifice at all, for God's ROI is off the charts. ;o)  Not only do I have His sweet assurance that He has already made all provision for me for the rest of my life, (including crafting beautiful things) but His generous blessings continue to flow more and more as I open my heart and submit to the Holy Spirit.  This freedom in Christ fills the gaping hole I had been trying to fill with lovely colors & texture, shining beautiful things, with crafting and hoarding.  The dark corners are filling with light, and the love and joy that comes from that satisfies and motivates me more than anything else.  Who would have EVER guessed that something as intangible in nature as freedom could fill such a void?

And that brings me to the last bit . . . Paul's urging to pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace so I can be a vessel set apart and useful for God's own purposes--a vessel overflowing with freedom, yet still empty and waiting for God to fill it. The knowledge that God is working in me, and both using me every moment I let Him as well as preparing me for future purposes He has for me, is more exciting than I can ever say. :o)  And how do I know this? By the fruits of the Spirit in my life.  They are sweet; so, so sweet.

Prayer: Father in Heaven, I praise and glorify You and the high and holy purposes You have for Your children, and that I get to step into the walk You have prepared for me.  I'm ready to burst with excitement as soon as I really stop and think about that . . . so please, remind me and help me to stop and think about it often!  You have taken such good care of me--and I can see Your hand in even the darkest times of my life, now that I look back . . . and I pray I'll NEVER be blind to it again.  Take the rest of this life, Father; take this heart; take the fruit of Your teachings and word and love and keep on using them up for Your glorious purposes.  There is nothing that brings joy and love and happiness and laughter into my heart (and my home!!!!) the way You do when I give everything to You.  Please, don't stop.  Don't let me stop.  I don't ever want to forget the contrast between the night of the life of my own making and the brilliance of the light of Your life for me. Show me where I can sacrifice.  Show me where I can give.  And let me continue to learn of You, and walk in the meekness of Your Spirit, so Your love might pour out of my life and into the lives of those around me, that others might feel this same miracle, this same mind-blowing freedom, this same joy.  In the name of Him whom I praise daily for His miraculous intercession, even Jesus Christ. Amen. 

Life in Christ: So, so good.

The Lord is teaching me, very methodically, through the pattern of my journal entries.  I'm learning to watch for lessons and patterns on a larger scale than before--not just gems in individual verses, but the flow of my entries over the last few days has been very instructive to me.  1) The wages of sin are death & destruction, but in Christ we are saved. 2) The Lord warns His people before destruction comes. 3) How seriously am I taking my spirituality? 4) Destructions are coming, but the Lord will warn me.  5) The Lord is faithful, and He will restore all that ever seems lost as a result of the destructions He sends.

Pretty cool, eh?

And now, onto my LJ entry (which is part of that pattern previously mentioned.)

Scripture: Joel 1:2-5, Joel 2:25-27 NLT

"Hear this, you leaders of the people.
Listen, all who live in the land.
In all your history,
has anything like this happened before?
Tell your children about it in the years to come,
and let your children tell their children.
ass the story down from generation to generation.'After the cutting locusts finished eating the crops,
the swarming locusts took what was let!
After them came the hopping locusts,
and then the stripping locusts, too!
Wake up, you drunkards, and weep!
Wail, all you wine-drinkers?
All the grapes are ruined,
and all your sweet wine is gone."

The LORD says, "I will give you back what you lost
to the swarming locusts, the hopping locusts,
the stripping locusts, and the cutting locusts.
It was I who sent this great destroying army against you.
Once again you will have all the food you want,
and you will praise the LORD your God,
who does these miracles for you.
Never again will my people be disgraced.
Then you will know that I am among my people Israel,
that I am the LORD your God, and there is no other.
Never again will my people be disgraced.

Observation: The sharp contrast between these sets of verses reinforces what I last posted about--that life in Christ is so preferable to life in sin!

Application: This feels like a benediction straight from the Lord to me.  When I fired up my Bible app this morning, I was a little apprehensive, expecting more death and dismemberment.  But instead, I read this beautiful song in Joel 1-3, and finished with words of comfort and prophecy . . . and an even more awesome bonus: that women are specifically mentioned alongside men as recipients of the spiritual gifts to be poured out upon Yahweh's people:

"Then, after doing all those things,
I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
Your old men will dream dreams,
and your young men will see visions.
In those days I will pour out my Spirit
even on servants--men and women alike."  --Joel 2:28-29

(You know, I haven't yet found a place where the Lord himself ever says women are not to be treated exactly as men are--He doesn't seem to make a distinction.  The only verses I've found that proscribe women's behavior have been Paul's own opinion & practice; not "thus saith the Lord". Yes, the Lord has nearly always called men to lead & be the front-line people for His work . . . but I have a personal belief that has more to do with violent times and the fact that in most of the past, women have been overwhelmed with childbearing and childcare.  That's not always true anymore. We have the blessing of being able to spiritually & prayerfully determine our family size, and our times aren't as violent or physically dangerous for spiritual leaders.)

Prayer: Yahweh, I thank you so, so much for the promise of the rich comfort of Your Spirit in generous abundance.  I praise You that You not only extend these prophecies and blessings to nations and groups of people, but on an individual scale . . . that I can lay hold of these promises at any time in my life as I yield to Your Spirit and Your Will.  I glorify Your Name and feel Your Love through the miracle of Your Grace, and do so in Jesus' name! Amen.