Marching To The Beat Of A Different Reality

Monday, August 29, 2016

Heavy Heart Syndrome...

For the last several weeks I have been suffering from 'heavy heart' syndrome. 

A previously-healthy, sweet friend of mine is in the hospital struggling to regain her health, and her family and friends are concerned for her condition. I hear the prayer list at church and so many of our older members are struggling with health problems or dealing with spouses who have memory issues as well as those affecting their overall health, and they are tired and worn out. 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Storms Roll In

In place of a sunrise this morning, there was this. 

I thought maybe I wouldn't capture the scene, as it was significantly uglier than what I see so often in its place, but then I thought about how often our days mirror this sky and not the beautiful, untroubled skies I often see. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Importance of Evangelism

This morning as I was doing my farm chores, I chose to fertilize some of my berry bushes with water from the duck pond.

It's been very dry lately and as I gently poured the water over the roots, I noted that more water would run off than soak in to the roots. The more I watered, however, and the more damp the ground got, the more water soaked in.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

To Everything A Season

Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes 3:1 that: 
"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven." 
(The Byrds also told us that, when songs about Jesus used to be commonplace on the radio, but few of us remember that anymore...) 

This year I have 2 children (?!) who will start 9th grade, and one 6th. These are momentous years in the life of a child - and a student - as their success or failure this year can set the tone for future high school/middle school years. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Training Children Is Like Training Tomato Plants!

These are but two rows of my tomato plants. I grow about 12 different varieties. Some are the same from year to year, but others are new and I can't wait to see what the fruit will look and taste like. 

This year, my husband Dave suggested I grow them on a wire trellis system rather than trying to put cages around them because those take up so much room and we have so many plants. I gladly accepted his advice and assistance and we got the plants training along the wires, adding new ones above as the vines grew. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Stop Complaining, Start Counting Blessings

Solomon tells us [Ecclesiastes 3:1 (KJV)] 
"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven". 
He then goes on to enumerate all the things for which there are seasons. 

During some of my hard times people would hope to encourage me by reiterating Solomon's words. Sometimes this was comforting, but other times it felt like a slap in the face - like it was kind of a "pull up your big girl pants and quit whining" kind of a thing. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Nature Reflects The Glory Of God


I awoke this morning a bit before 5am. The windows are open, not only because the giant white puppies - Great Pyrenees and cattle dog mix - chewed the ignition wire on the air conditioner and we can't turn it on, but because there is nothing like the sounds of the country in the morning. 

With the rain last evening, every toad and frog for miles have come to sit around the pond, each one trilling its own specific song in its own specific timbre specifically to entice a mate. Some are shrill constant tones like crickets, others bleat like lambs, still others croak long, deep, raspy extended tones building to a crescendo that would make any maestro proud. Behind this cacophony come the haunting, questioning calls of the owls bouncing from tree to tree, the echos of which carry into my room on the breeze. Later still come the shrill, lonely cries of the nighthawks hunting down the last moths of the night. 

Beyond that, as the sky becomes colored with the first streaks of orange light, the roosters start to crow, begging the turkeys to chime in lest they become forgotten in the symphony. 

I hope never to witness the day I cease to be amazed at the unbelievable and amazing sounds of nature right outside my window. God's creation is truly wondrous and, to me, a reinforcement of who He is through his works. The compression of human beings into cities must be at least a portion of the reason we are losing our humanity. 

When one is separated from nature, one cannot but be separated from God. Humans are fallen; an imperfect, fallible shell only redeemable through the work and words of Jesus Christ. It's worthless to attempt to find God unadulterated in such creatures. 

Nature is God's perfect work and the truest reflection of our Father on earth. Go outside today. Enjoy and appreciate His handiwork all around you and praise Him for all that He is and has made which, in turn, entertain us through his provision.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Prayer For A New Day

It's 6am. I'm at the top of my driveway looking east after carting the garbage cans to the road. 

After depositing my charge at the blacktop, I stop to take in all that's going on around me. It's impossible not to notice because as the fire in the sky slowly grows, so do the sounds.

There are birds singing to one another all over the pastures around us in trills and cries - some singing as though for performance. It's so quiet I can hear a mosquito buzzing around my head. There's an owl not far off asking me Who? Who? I hear the choppy song of the crickets with the raspy saw of a few katydids still mixed in.  A low hissing and hum in the background reminds me that the tree frogs are still out in force.  One of the roosters bids the morning welcome while another young rooster crows a response in his hysterical kazoo-like voice. 

The breeze is not reminiscent of August. It's cool and calm and wet, and very pleasant. 

The sky is becoming lighter now tinged with more beautiful pinks and reds. Daylight happens all too quickly once the process has begun and the mere presence of the sun itself quiets nature from its earlier state because, once light, predators find the hiding places of those that call aloud. 

Morning is my favorite time of day. For me, God speaks on the breeze and through the call of his creatures, reminding me that I have yet another chance to right yesterday's wrongs.
Lord, thank you for your precious world. Thank you for all its sights and sounds and the way those draw me to you. Help me have listening ears, a tender heart and mind what's important and not the idle curiosities that steal my joy. Thank you for giving me a sound mind to make choices that please you and not the world. Thank you for being merciful and patient and loving, but also for whispering to my conscience when I need to change my thoughts and ways. Thank you for all you are and who you are. Amen.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Late Bloomer

I was a late bloomer. 

Well, that's not quite accurate - I was an early starter, it just took me a really long time to capitalize on life. I was married at 19, had a baby by 20 and divorced when I was 27. I started college at 26 because, as with everything else in my life, I knew pretty much all there was to know, so what could college offer? 

Though I was raised in a Christian household, the concept never really 'took' for me. I flirted with church when my daughter was little, but that quickly went by the wayside and once into my college sojourn in the biological sciences, I was well and often assured of the fact that science was my only God. 

Beyond agnostic, I harshly shunned anyone who attempted to 'save my soul' and simply refused to darken the door of a church. 

One morning, I crawled out of my tent (I was often in the 'field' doing research), only to be captivated by the sunrise. As the sun peered over the horizon, it seemed to fill the entire sky with colors the likes of which I'd never seen before. At that moment, I experienced a feeling that told me I was wrong; science wasn't God, God was God and science was a result of his actions on and within the universe. Unfortunately, the feeling was brief, but that experience stayed with me as a kind of truth I couldn't confront, but couldn't dismiss either. 

Like a seed waiting in the ground for the right time to sprout, it lay dormant, it's mere presence constantly scratching at the edges of my consciousness. One day, several years after I graduated college and David and I settled down in our first little home, the seed began to grow. I began to really think on my place in the world, read devotionals and consider the merits of belief in sincerity. 

It wasn't until I became pregnant with our first son that we began to attend, and then become actively involved in, a church. Even then, it wasn't until the death of our second son (when I was 40) that I found a true relationship with, and understanding of, Jesus Christ and discovered how to order my life around my complete faith in Him as the Son of God. It's funny, but when I look back now, I see the hand of God over so many specific things in my life - even those from before I had any faith at all - that I can see that he called to me for decades before I answered. 

Is Jesus calling you? Don't wait any longer to answer His call!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Beauty of Nature Often Calls Us to God

A light coating of raindrops drip through the trees and cascade to the mat of dead leaves below making snapping sounds as though nature giving itself a round of applause for its effort. What can only be described as a cacophony of bird calls bounce off the canyon walls, amplifying their conversations to Heaven. Frequently, the haunting trill of a lone whippoorwill rises to distinction above the din. 

Very rarely, as though an unwilling participant in the concert, a frog in the river below me emits a noise best described by the sound of a spring in a technicolor cartoon. The rough, strident screams among a murder of nearby crows create discord in the soundtrack while the chilly breeze through the myriad forest branches comes behind to sweep them away. 

These descriptions do not originate as the result of a thoughtless accident, they paint a portrait of the artist Himself painstakingly recording each detail in high relief on a canvas that often defies description, all for the enjoyment and benefit of those human beings He placed into it. Do not ever be deceived by the thoughts of the world. His thoughts and His ways will always exist just out of reach, beyond the cognition afforded our three dimensionally confined brains. 

Just think, once we turn our lives over to the Son, we will live forever in a place that exceeds even the beauty of this earthy realm...who could not desire that?

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

We Are The "Fragrance" of Christ To Others

I read this morning's devotion with much conviction. First, it was Friday's study that I'd not made time to read Friday and, second, because it reminded me that it's not just the people we meet on the street to whom we are the Bible. Above all, we are the Bible to our family.
I've never been the projection of long suffering in any real capacity - unless the projector was broken! In fact, it was my father once, I think, who uttered the words, "Wow Jennifer you don't suffer fools, do you?"
Often, I'm scarce on time and long on activities and tend to live a real existence within my family more like that of Drill Sergeant, simply barking orders. Often, the bark has some bite to it and later, when the stress has past, I feel guilty I wasn't more kind in my speech.
Sometimes, the one and only thing someone needs in their day is a kind word kindly said. Oftentimes, the 'fragrance' of our words - our tone of voice - is not the perfume of Christ. I fear that's me way too often!
We often forget that it's not just the world for whom our light of Christ must shine. We must light and season our own homes with the glow and fragrance of Christ.
I'm gonna work on that today - a real test of this practice, as it's monthly shopping day with four kids! 
Lord God, please let me fragrance my speech with your kindness today and every day. Let me remember that you have called me to minister to those in my own home before, even, those of the outside world. Keep my mind on blessing and not cursing, loving and not frustrating. Help me spread the fragrance of your love to all I meet.
2 Corinthians 2:14-17 (NKJV)
14 Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.
15 For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.
16 To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things?
17 For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Miracles Do Happen - They've Happened To Me!

The other night, our family watched the movie "Miracles From Heaven" with Jennifer Garner. 

The editing and story were excellent and by the time the daughter experiences her miracle, you're either POSITIVE it was a miracle, or a bit more hardhearted and cynical than I think you probably aught to be - even today! 

It got me reviewing the miracles God has been gracious enough to bestow on my life so far - one really large no-getting-around-it-no-other-explanation type - and several others close enough in that same category so I remember every single solitary thing about them including colors and smells! 

One morning back in August of 1984, when I was 21 and my daughter Bryna just 9-months-old, I put her in her high chair while I cleaned the kitchen. 

To keep her occupied, I gave her a vanilla wafer.  Poor B had no hair or teeth until she was almost a full year old and I never knew what to give her to teethe on, but my Aunt assured me vanilla wafers were the thing.

Quickly she grabbed it and began gumming happily away, so I returned to the task of de-greasing my range top. 

I have no idea how long I'd been working, but when I turned around to check on her, I saw a wide-eyed child with a thin line of blue set out starkly from around dusky lips. At that time, I had only a high school education and, unlike many parents today, no basic training in aiding a choking child. 

Time completely stopped.  I couldn't think.  I'd never had such fear in my entire life.  In sheer panic, I ran back and forth from her high chair to the phone to call for an ambulance nearly four times. 

I remember thinking, “I have to call the ambulance”, but then somehow knowing they would never make it in time I'd run back to her high chair, though I had NO earthly idea what to do. 

After what seemed like hours - but must have only been a minute or so - I stopped in mid panic and, standing in the middle of my kitchen, I screamed, “God, please help me. What do I do?” 

As though in a scene from the Matrix, instructions downloaded into my head.

In an instant, I knew.

I yanked B out of her high chair and threw myself into a kitchen chair.  Thrusting her face down between my knees I thumped her between the shoulder blades as hard as I possibly dared and immediately a half-gummed vanilla wafer flew out of her mouth with such force it hit the kitchen wall 2 feet in front of me. 

I jerked the baby up off my lap to study her face just as she took a huge, startled breath, followed by a MAJOR scream! 

For several minutes we both sat there in the kitchen chair just crying and breathing, with me thanking God with every breath. 

How could a person who knew NOTHING about resuscitating a choking child suddenly not only have the directions, but have the presence of mind to USE them on her own choking child? 

Not only that, but I wasn't even a practicing Christian at that time and I had no real relationship with Jesus Christ!
Psalm 116:4-6 (KJV) says;Then called I upon the name of the Lord; O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul.  Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful.  The Lord preserveth the simple: I was brought low and he helped me.
Were there ever more truthful words?

Miracles are true.  Miracles are real.  Miracles happen all around us even when we don't see their effects.  

There are at least FIVE verses I could find in the Bible quickly that refer to seeking and finding the Lord; Jeremiah 29:13, Matthew 7:7, Luke 11:9, John 7:34 and John 7:36.
Jeremiah 29:13 says,And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.
I certainly used my whole heart to seek an answer and if I can do it, so can you. That's a promise from our Father, not just me!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Hear With Your Heart

I was an atheist while pursuing my degrees in Biology. 

Because I was studying field Biology and not applied Biology, I had lots and lots of courses with 'field' components - meaning a part of the course included trips into nature to study. I remember one trip west of Altus to study Hispid cotton rats (you know them as 'pack' rats). We literally camped in a cow pasture with cows milling around just outside the perimeter in which we had set up our tents. 

One morning I rose before everyone else and left my tiny one man tent (I still have it! I once weathered a tropical storm in it!) only to discover THE MOST amazing sunrise I had ever witnessed. There were more colors present than a rainbow it seemed and I stood there mesmerized by its glory. To this day I still remember the conversation I had in my head that began with, "This can't be an accident..." Unfortunately, it still took a decade or so beyond that before I became a believer but the first line of Psalm 19:1 describes my reaction fully. 
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. 
As I was striving to hear God's voice over the years, this was an experience that never left my heart. God's handiwork IS a reflection of his glory and even the unsaved know this - He uses nature to help call us - we only need to open our heart and hear with more than our ears.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

A Band-Aid For the Soul

My husband and I are early risers. We've never gotten up past 7am - unless we're sick - and we're rarely to bed past 10. Weekday mornings Dave is up at 4:30am and I'm up at 5:30. Even on Sunday mornings when we'll be off to church by 9, we're still up at 6, preparing to go out and plant a few things that didn't get in the garden, taking care of animals, fence lines or other chores, before coming in to get ready for church.

As I was making the bed this morning, Matthew 11:28 popped into my head:  

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." 
Every so often it seems like it might be fun to sleep in (of course when I do, I end up feeling like I've wasted my whole day and it's no fun in the end!). At any rate, I was recalling this verse wryly, thinking about the concept of sleeping in instead of getting up and working in the garden. This verse isn't about physical rest, though.

In this verse, Jesus is telling us that though our emotional burdens may be heavy, leaning on him - on the faith that there is more to life than physical labor and emotional turmoil - will give our souls rest; calm, peace.

In fact, the next verses say exactly that:
Matthew 11:29-30: Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
When we feel burdened - when friends have let us down, when we're running out of money before month, when we're caring for an ailing family member, when our children are hurting or far from us - there's rest from the mental weariness emotions can cause. We have only but to call on the name of Jesus and ask him to take our burden away. Just like it helps to talk to an old friend, talking to the one who knows everything about you and your feelings - knowing he's shared the same state of mind while here on earth - is like a bandaid for the soul.