Peace for Your Thursday

Peace for Your Thursday

Peace

This Advent week, the candle of Peace has been lit.  Your heart and mind ache over recent decidedly unpeaceful world and national events. 

The Advent candle is burning in a cracked container…and yet it still shines forth into the darkness.

This world isn’t our home and right about now we need reminding exactly who and what true Peace is all about.

  • God’s Peace transcends all understanding.  see Philippians 4:7
  • Jesus is the Prince of Peace. see Isaiah 9:6
  • Jesus is our Peace.  see Ephesians 2:14
  • Jesus gives us His Peace. see John 14:27
  • Jesus’ Peace is not like the world’s temporary peace. see John 14:27
  • We are to let Jesus’ Peace rule in our hearts.  see Colossians 3:15

Light your Advent Peace candle, even if it’s broken and banged up.  Pray for Jesus’ Peace to reign in the unpeaceful corners of your life.  Pray to be be a part of the light of Christ to bring His Peace to others.  Pray for peace.  

    A Thankful List

    A Thankful List

    Happy Thanksgiving! 

    May you be filled with thanks for…

    …Salvation

    …Forgiveness

    ….Mercy

    ….Grace

    ….Love

    ….Faith

    ….Encouragement

    ….In dwelling Holy Spirit

    ….and the knowledge that the Lamb of God is presently working in your life!

    “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15: 57
    Thoughtful Thursdays | A Time to Prune

    Thoughtful Thursdays | A Time to Prune

      
    As a Southern girl, I first really fell in love with crepe myrtles after I moved to Atlanta. Besides the bright magenta floral blooms against dark green foliage,  I crushed on how Atlanta crepe myrtles didn’t grow willy nilly; instead, homeowners (or their yard guys) painstakingly pruned their crepe myrtles to be controlled, structured bases with blooms bursting atop.

    When we bought our present home five years ago, I was excited that we had a crepe myrtle in the front of the house.  Over the years , my excitement’s lessened as I witnessed my crepe myrtle would be seemingly OK and then, all of a sudden Out. Of. Control. I couldn’t just prune once, pruning had to happen every year. 

    So, today, just as our crepe myrtle begins to bloom, I couldn’t take it anymore and grabbed the pruning shears.  And I didn’t take any before pictures. But here’s the carnage…

      
    After an hour of pruning, it got me to thinking. 

    Dead Wood Exists Along with New Growth

      

    As I tackled dear ol’ crepe myrtle, I noticed how many dead branches were amongst the new growth.   Some dead branches were easy to cull while  others required the shears.   Up close, I couldn’t believe how much dead wood was in my tree!

    And so it is in my life. Dead wood exists along new growth and I have to really look closely to see where the dead wood is and get rid of it. Never easy and never fun, but so necessary to make room for new growth. 

    Not All New Growth is Beneficial

    New little shoots on the crepe myrtle take energy away from the main growth. Some new leaves were easier to get rid of than the new growth with blooms. But, stepping back to see the whole tree, I could tell that for the health of the tree certain blooming limbs had to be pruned. 

    This is the trickiest part of pruning in my own life because I love to see new growth blooming. But, if it’s taking energy away from the whole of my life, it’s time to prune back so what I do have energy to create can bloom even more!

    Pruning Triggers More Beauty and Growth

    Although time consuming, pruning the crepe myrtle provided a quick pay off of accomplishment and beauty.  

    So wish I’d taken a Before photo!

     In my own life pruning takes much longer and the payoff to see the resulting beauty and growth sometimes delayed but always more growth and beauty!
     

     

    An improved and more beautiful view to enjoy!
     

    So, what about you?  How did you spot and prune the dead wood, new growth in your life during your pruning season so new beauty and greater growth could happen? Comment to continue the conversation!

    Thoughtful Thursday|Unexpected Lessons from the Tomato Garden

      

    Some dads play golf, some dads go camping, while others live out their dreams through their son’s sports.  My father is a master gardener. 

    Growing up, his skill and expertise at producing bountiful produce was unappreciated and even maligned as the bountiful produce meant hours (it felt like it) of snapping beans, shelling peas and busting my nails over Lima beans and black eyed peas. For the love!  

    But now, with all the folk (warning …folk has been coopted by hipsters) clammering aboard the organic community farmers market bandwagon, my dad is the original, old school farmer. And I am blessed in this season of my life, to be learning from the master gardener.  

    Recently (always after Derby in Kentucky) I joined him in his garden to learn the proper way to plant tomatoes. It was a gorgeous day and I was a willing assistant, learning all the tricks of the trade to grow luscious tomatoes that will make it to picking time!

    As we began, it dawned on me that I wasn’t just learning about tomatoes, but that gardening skills provided insights into living. I shouldn’t be too surprised, the Master Gardener who created all has  flawless design principles that simple humans can grasp…so the law and order principles of a garden also applys equally to our lives; while now mostly lived out away from the soil can  still ease the toil of work in offices buildings. 

    You First Must Prepare The Soil


    For a plant to thrive, it must have proper soil.  Different plants require different soil preparations. Nevertheless, the soil must be prepared.  Jesus spoke that in order for listeners to hear God’s Truth, they must have the proper soil…rocky soil won’t do, soil not attended to where weeds will grow won’t work, and shallow soil where birds will take the plant seed away won’t produce either. 

    What soil are you rooted in? Each one of us requires different soil…I truly love God’s variety and diversity displayed throughout creation. Only you can answer the question about your soil. You must prepare your soil properly. No one else can or will. 

    Know Your Enemies; Prepare to Defend Against Them  

    My dad is smart. The first enemy of a tomato plant isn’t birds but the cut worm. If you plant tomatoes without the knowledge of this enemy or the proper protection, the cut worm will come along and cut the young tomato plant dead. Many gardeners are blindsided by this cut worm and their plants don’t even have a chance.  One of my dad’s gardening buddies was so perplexed by this worm he thought he should build a fence around his garden. 

    A fence will not keep out a cut worm. Can you imagine?!  No, to thwart the cut worm it takes an easy and cheap preparation…remove the lower leaves and then wrap strips of newspaper taped around the base of the plant. Then, when the tomato plant is in the ground, bring the soil up to the newspaper. The cut worm cannot cut through the newspaper!

    Often we’re a lot like my dad’s friend, we believe we protect ourselves best by creating a wide zone of fenced in safety.  

    Protection most often means to strip ourselves of unnecessary things and wrap ourselves closely for protection. 

    God’s Word instructs us to guard our hearts. Your heart must be wrapped in God’s Word! Paul encourages us to put on the full armor of God. Instead, we plunk our kids in Christian schools, find a safe social circle and only associate with people who think and live exactly like us. That is not protection!  Again, you are the only person who can protect your heart and mind against your enemies. No one else can do this for you. 

    More importantly you must wake up and realize you have enemies and must protect yourself from them. You must know your enemy. The schemes of the devil are to kill, steal, and destroy.

    Besides Satan, there are enemies in your work and private life (not to make you paranoid!).  You must identify and know how to protect yourself from that particular enemy who wishes to kill, steal and destroy.  

    For example, know your weakness (people pleaser, conflict avoider, etc) by knowing yourself and do not let those weaknesses be used against you by a manipulative enemy. A true friend would never exploit your weakness for their own agenda. 

    Also, most signs of aggression do not require an answer. Let your enemy say hateful things. So what? They want you in a fight to bring you down. Ignore the hatred and continue to live a life pleasing to God the Father who knows the Truth. 

    I could write so much more about this point, but will stop for now. I will write a separate post on guarding against enemies because it’s so prevalent in today’s social media world.  

    Moving on…

    You Must Choose The Proper Support  

    Most will recognize the tomato cages that offer some support for growing plants. However, the cages won’t mean anything if the cages aren’t tied to a stake.  

    You see,as the tomatoes grow on the plant, they become heavy.  So heavy that the cage itself will no longer be able to support the tomato and it will bend and touch the ground. 

    If a tomato touches the ground, it’s over. Rotten and inedible. So, the cages must be tied to a sturdy support. This stake will keep the cages upright and the tomatoes off the ground. 

    You Must Have Strong Support

    No one gets through this life alone. Support comes from somewhere…God, spouse, parents, friends and even strangers at times. Only you can identify who can provide strong support in your life…for your growth, for your heavy burdens, for everything.  

    The tomatoes are set and are beginning to grow.  If the plants receive the proper sunlight and rain, we will be enjoying those ‘maters later this summer!

    I will keep you updated on their progress!

    What about you? Are you thriving in your garden?!  Let me know in the comments!

    Thoughtful Thursday|Living with Discontent

      

      

    Tsh Oxenrider’s latest post on her blog The Art of Simple struck a deep chord within me; especially, her statement in which she actually wrote “Learn to sit with discontent.”   Tsh wrote beautifully about being passionate without being obnoxious here.

    But the truth she expressed to learn to sit (I internalized it as live) with discontent hit so deep within me I wrote it down (incorrectly) and then wrote it in calligraphy with watercolor for myself as a reminder. So please read her post and consider my post as a riff on the truth expressed. 

    Sometimes Life is easy.  No struggle, no conflict, no worries.  If you’re presently in this season of Life, congrats! (And give thanks to God!) But life’s journey will take you through struggles, conflicts and worries.  No one is immune.  And, if you possess a high sense of justice (which I do possess) then you might be feeling discontent over the injustices witnessed or experienced. Of course, many feel discontent in their marriages, family relationships, work life or their present station in life. 

     Discontent can be consuming and crippling. But most of all, the feelings that accompany discontent are unwelcomed. What I love about Tsh’s statement is that one’s discontent isn’t something to get over but instead to be a tool to motivate ourselves to do our part.  More importantly, if we follow Jesus, we will live our entire lives in discontent over the falleness of the world. 

    So today, face your discontent. Figure out what is behind your discontent and move toward becoming less discontent by taking positive steps in improving the situation. Talk to God about it, seek His wisdom and guidance through His Word and trusted followers of Jesus.  

    What are your thoughts on being discontent? Any strategies or times when discontent motivate you to make a situation better?  Share in the comments below!

    Thoughtful Thursday-Maundy Thursday

    During this day of Holy Week, churches everywhere  of every denomination, offer a footwashing service for members to wash each other’s feet. Some denominations even consider it an ordinance/sacrament for those who are its members.   And yet, these aren’t the services most members clammer to attend.  Why?

    Before I go any further, let’s get the “Maundy” question out of the way. What does “Maundy” mean any way?  The short version {I heard the long version from a minister years ago and you can read a similar lengthy version about it here} Maundy is either a Middle English or Old French derivation of the Latin word mandatum. Mandatum is the first word of the Latin phrase “Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos”  translated “A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another; as I have loved you.” (John 13:34).

    Jesus gave His Disciples this command after He washed their feet during their Passover supper. Before Jesus would be betrayed by Judas and arrested. Before his two trials, scourging and crucifixion.   And for most Christians, we focus on only those elements of Holy Week while not also considering this new command of Jesus and the timing of it.

    People don’t like to attend footwashing services because it makes them uncomfortable.  It made Jesus’ disciples uncomfortable. Footwashing isn’t something we like to do for others or have others do for us.  Many would feel more comfortable if Jesus commanded us to make each other feel good about ourselves by giving high fives or calling them “honey” or “sugar” and hugging them real hard. That’s all something we can support, right?  But that’s not what Jesus meant or did. Jesus cut through the facade and looked straight into our dark sinful nature. I thank God He didn’t call me “sugar” and give me a pat on the back.  He saw the ugliness I tried to hide and took it away. Thank You Jesus.

    Footwashing is an act of letting that person know you recognize their need for help in  taking care of their feet (or any other dirty part of their life) and the foot washer humbles herself enough to help that person.  When we humble ourselves to either receive or to give then Jesus’ love begins to break in that act of service. It’s a mystery only because it goes again every human instinct.

    It will take me a lifetime of following Jesus to understand His love. But if we truly humble ourselves to serve another in their need and also allow someone to serve us in our ugliness and brokenness then I think the world would begin to see Jesus’ love.  And, Jesus isn’t commanding me to understand His love, just to love.

    Many times I confess the easier thing to do would be to tell someone they’re “awesome” and tell them they’re “perfect” so I’m the hero instead of humbly serving them by loving them in their ugliness. No one can save another human, but we who follow Jesus can point them to the Savior when we show His love.

    And so this Maundy Thursday forces me to see how far away I am from Jesus’ command and again see how much He loves me still.  And He loves you too. Jesus loves. Let’s follow His command.

    Thoughtful Thursday: When Spring Feels Far Away

    Thoughtful Thursday: When Spring Feels Far Away

    I know the calendar says March, but one glance outside this morning tells me we are in the midst of winter still. Thanks, Thor. And though Spring begins in a mere 15 days away, the promise and knowledge that Spring will arrive does not bring comfort in this present situation. 

    So many abhor  Winter. I confess I’m not a big fan myself. The short daylight hours, the cold weather encouraging me to stay inside, lounging fireside, instead of enjoying the outdoors and walks down our country lane. And, this Winter of 2015 has been brutal…snow upon snowfall, car eating drifts and freezing rain to boot!

    And sometimes, our physical landscape reflects an inner landscape as well.  Right now, parts of my life feel frozen, buried under a thick blanket of God’s grace, but where I still can’t see the landscape yet. I know that growth is occurring underneath all that, even if it’s indiscernible to the naked eye. I feel protected, cozy by the fire, all tucked in. 

    Even though God promises me a hope and a future and the knowledge I have that He is girding my present situation, I still want the comfort of knowing exactly what He wants me to do.  And that’s where faith comes in to continue forward when I don’t know, but trusting God anyway. 

    So even when I can’t see God moving, I know He is…underneath it all, in ways I will never see or know this side of Heaven. And I have that knowledge because what He’s done in my life already and in the lives of my friends. 

    So as I look out over this fresh blanket of Winter snow, I can choose to see a harsh environment with many obstacles, or I can see the beauty of God’s mercy and grace,  showing me that He’s in the business of making all things new in His way, His time.  And, I continue to choose God, because He is always faithful.  I have experienced His faithfulness in obstacles, in painful moments, in the darkest days of my life and those moments carry me through this season of my life.

    Where has God met you in the frozen parts of your life?  Do you feel He is able?  Where does your faith need encouragement?   

    Thoughtful Thursdays

    The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His Hands. -Psalm 19:1

     

    I captured this sunset at the top of our driveway on my iPhone about a month ago, because it’s beauty literally stopped me in my tracks.  And I am grateful for capturing the sunset image because it reminds me how God’s glory will break into your day, if you stop and pay attention.

    Many times I have missed God’s glory because of my own agenda, choosing to focus on myself instead.  And every time I look at this image, I now wonder, “How many times have I missed experiencing God’s glory?”  And the answer is troubling.  Too many times.

    During these 40 days of Lent, I am challenging myself to see God’s glory every day, as much as possible. This challenge doesn’t mean just watching sunrises and sunsets, but watching for glimpses of God’s redemption in the stories of my friends.  And the more I look for God’s glory in my friend’s stories, the more I see His glory.

    Earlier this week I had a divine appointment with a friend whom when I first met her several years ago, was in serious danger of losing custody of her child.  Today she regained custody of her child, is married, working a full time job where she was recently promoted, and completing her college degree!  God’s glory from ashes is truly beautiful to see in others’ lives.

    And when I witness God’s glory in others’ lives, it strengthens my faith that He too will reveal His glory in my own life in His time.  So, the more I look for God’s glory, the more my own faith is strengthened.  And I shudder to think what would happen if I do not declare God’s glory when I see it.

    God’s beauty demands our attention.  Jaw dropping attention.  Even when His people do not declare His glory, the skies will.  Fiercely.

    Don’t miss God’s glory.  Challenge yourself this week and throughout Lent to watch and be on the lookout for God’s glory in your life and the lives of others.  Report back here.  It will be our own sunrise/sunset celebrations of God’s beauty!