This has been one of my favorite quotes for as long as I can remember. I suspect Albert Camus, like all of us, had all sorts of friends and acquaintances in his life, but had a strong desire in … Continue reading
Spikes, celosia, silver dust, and lobelia crowd in planters.
A kaleidoscope of perennials vies for the flower bed.
Pots of dichondra, australis, zinnias, and dragons head
tangle with caladiums, elephant ear and other enchanters.
Like a scented lady dressed in draping folds
the rose wafts her fragrance over the end of the day.
To weariness and discouragement she scolds
and sweetly kisses the stresses away.
“The rose speaks of love silently, in a language known only to the heart.” (Unknown)
“Won’t you come into my garden? I would like my roses to see you.” Richard Brinsley Sheridan
“The fragrance always stays in the hand that gives the rose.” George William Curtis
“I’d rather have roses on my table then diamonds on my neck.” Emma Goldman
“God gave us memories so that we might have roses in December.” J. M. Barrie
Take time to smell the roses. (Proverb)
“I come to the garden alone while the dew is still on the roses; and the voice I hear, falling on my ear, the Son of God discloses.” (Hymn)
Last fall I was well into a dark and difficult season of my life in which I needed to cling to every scrap of hope just to function. I longed for a time machine to jump in and travel to a few years from now and skip this season. Since that didn’t happen, I did the next best thing and purchased several bags of beautiful bulbs and crammed them in every available flower bed and pot around the house. Other then the times I was buoyed with the lifeline of empathy, encouragement and time out with family and friends (who are cemented in my personal hall of fame), my “recreation” centered on bulb catalogs and wondering what mile marker I would be passed when each variety bloomed. Bulbs symbolize what God, in His Divine Providence, is doing in the hidden realms that we don’t see. Yet for those who love Him, He is faithful to work all the intricate details out and use them for His glory and our good. He is a master weaver of our circumstances, even though we can’t see the finished tapestry yet.
Amaryllis gave me just what I needed during the dead of winter to hold me over until spring and outdoors. It was fun to buy several and share them with some family and a mentor who has stood staunchly on faith and determinedly propped me up a few times, as well. Our faith filled prayers for God’s glory to be evidenced in difficult circumstances are synchronized as we tend to our amaryllis bulbs and watch their beauty unfold.
His creation of the flowering bulb holds striking symbolism of my faith and trust in Him even when I can’t see what He’s doing. Even the bulb, itself, holds symbolism. While it is in the cold, dark, earth, it finds it’s sustenance from within to send forth the new growth. While I am in the dark trial, I must find strength from my inner most core; i.e. the Lord and His Spirit and the comfort, direction, and even sure promises that I can only get from time spent alone with Him
Fall is a time to slow down, renew and wait for, (if not invest in), the promises of spring. It is a time of digging deep, burrowing in, savoring fall aromas such as fresh cut wood and pumpkin candles, and feasting on the deep, glorious colors of autumn just before the stark nakedness of winter. It is a time to trust that what may seem bleak and obscure as winter descends will burst forth into its own “glory”, of sorts, in God’s time.
When my siblings and I were growing up, my dad would buy our winter wood supply in the fall and one of our chores was to stack it outside the basement door for use in the wood furnace that was in the basement. Though we sometimes grumbled about the job, knowing the wood was purchased and stacked was one of many comforts of fall.
“At no other time (than autumn) does the earth let itself be inhaled in one smell, the ripe earth; in a smell that is in no way inferior to the smell of the sea, bitter where it borders on taste, and more honeysweet where you feel it touching the first sounds. Containing depth within itself, darkness, something of the grave almost.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters on Cezanne
Jacob’s dog, Cyrus (below), and Hannah’s dog, Prim, have decided to “help” me dig a large hold for planting bulbs here. I just hope they will retire the job after the bulbs are planted!
In the cocoon is the promise of a butterfly,
At the dawn, night is set awry,
Storms become a memory in the arch of a rainbow,
and God’s presence rushes in when on our knees we say so.
Though tulip bulbs are humble for a season,
and with our prayers we wrestle and reason,
Victory burst from the cross and the tomb
and is safe in the hearts of the bride of the Groom.
Hymn written by Natalie Sleeth. © 1986 Hope Publishing Co., Carol Stream, IL 60188, http://www.hopepublishing.com.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.
I recently “liked” a blog post on facebook that talked about the grace God gives us when we need to step back momentarily from a church body and heal.. It sometimes appears God does give more grace in those situations then we give each other, even if we are partially or completely at fault. Like the blogger, I have felt God’s comfort and healing in short “time out” seasons, have experienced God deeply in private worship and devotions, have felt His presence in the “mundane”, have felt His love and healing in the sweetness of my family members, family events, and a few friends who are willing to fellowship on an intimate level, found deep fulfillment in seeking my husband’s approval in our home and family as his helpmate, and felt God’s guidance as I move back into corporate fellowship refilled with grace received and grace to extend.
So my “like” was definitely one of acknowledgment and understanding that sometimes God leads us to a change. But the deepest spiritual blessings in my own life have so far come about by trusting Him within the hard places, knowing we’re all just a bunch of messed up folks in equal need of grace. As a dear friend and mentor said, ‘Why add the problems of others into the mix we each already have going on inside us?’ Because I serve Christ, I am not free to do anything but follow Him. I am His bondslave trying to follow where He is leading me. It is sometimes through fiery trials which He uses to refine. It is often in places where I have absolutely no choice but to trust in Him and His promises. It might be in places of loneliness, humility or misunderstanding, especially if my focus is on myself. It is often in places where He would have me be bold for Him without knowing the response. It definitely includes places that are tender and broken. Where He leads me is never just about me!
Oswald Chambers said in ‘My Utmost for His Highest’, July 12 devotional, “Am I building up the Body of Christ or am I looking for my own personal development only?…To fulfill God’s design means entire abandonment to Him….My goal is God Himself, not joy nor peace, Not even blessing, but Himself, my God” and in the July 15 devotional, “I am a debtor to everyone on the face of the earth because of the Gospel of Jesus; I am free to be an absolute slave only….Quit praying about yourself and be spent for others as the bondslave of Jesus. That is the meaning of being made broken bread and poured-out wine in reality.”
What a revival we would have if we really lived like this. A portion of Matt Redman’s, “We Could Change the World” lyrics say it well, ‘Could we live like Your grace is stronger Than all our faults and failures?… Could we live like Your ways Are wiser than our understanding? Could we live like this? Could we live like this?…..We’re saying, “yes, Lord, yes, Lord!”…What else could we say, what else could we say?’
We are all debtors to something. What are you a debtor to? I want to hold onto God’s Word and the promises He has confirmed in my heart. My feelings and others’ opinions may or may not align with those Truths, but I am a debtor to God and His truths!
There are days…no seasons…when I have to seek a higher Rock. Those times can feel like I’m between a rock and a hard place. But when I recognize Who truly is my Rock and Redeemer, I’m no longer in that hard place, I’m both set upon the Rock and sheltered by Him; i.e. The Rock of Ages. My circumstances may not feel better, but my focus changes and they no longer are the big issue I thought they were. Not that God has forgotten about them, nor asks me to. He just grows my faith in His sweet and personal love that He will shine through it for those who have eyes to see and cause joy even in pain. He gives beauty for ashes. Everything is transformed in the light of His grace into something with His beauty stamped all over it even in our weakness.
Just as flowers are more prolific on the plant that has been through a season of winter. drought or stress then on a plant that has been over indulged with rich nitrogen, so we are more fruitful for Christ when our roots have been forced to reach deeper, then when we aren’t stretched by our circumstances.
Oswald Chambers puts it well in the May 14 devotional, “My Utmost for His Highest”, ‘The only thing that will enable me to enjoy the disagreeable is the keen enthusiasm of letting the life of the Son of God manifest itself in me….If God puts you there, He is amply sufficient.”
When I think I’m being pressed beyond what I can do, I remember 2 Cor. 12:9, “’My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.”
How do you socially connect with those around you? Beginning with the Trinity, and thereafter with Adam, then Eve, and on down through time, God designed and modeled social connections. From invading Adam’s personal space when He breathed life into his nostrils to sharing friendship in the first garden with Adam and Eve, God showed Himself to be social and still does in your life, too.
While there are times when a silent retreat is needed and good, as in Jesus example of getting away to pray alone or with a few followers, most of His adult life was spent in connecting and engaging with individuals and crowds. He had a mission both with the lost and with His followers. Social pretense was and is a waste of time with Him since He can see right into heart motives.
As Brandon Cox said in his book, “Rewired”, ‘boundaries, in their proper place can be a good thing…What I am saying, however, is that keeping people away usually makes us feel safe, and not in a good way. We live in the most connected yet disconnected age since the Garden of Eden..we are lonelier than ever, and our isolationist ways have left millions struggling through life…honesty and intimacy are far more difficult than silence…’
While appropriate boundaries are occasionally needed, in our society walls are too conveniently erected and fortified, and silence magnified in our relationships.
In our day and age, it is not the lack of connections that breeds loneliness and worse maladies. It is the silence we allow in those connections. Overcoming silence with friendly and encouraging words may very well be that “cup of cold water” that is needed today, both inside and outside the church. “And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded.” (Matt. 10:42) And what better way to display to the world the love God has given, then to start within the church and go out.
Typical modern day lifestyles are often missing healthy margins and can be the death knell for maintaining social relationships, therefore it is becoming a trend to seek out receptive places to listen, speak and connect. Socializing is sprawling into constantly changing networks; i.e. facebook, twitter, blogging, linkedin, pinterest, instagram, google, tumblr and more. Some are surface skimming social avenues, but many have the means to go deeper. Churches who encourage and support small groups and small group atmospheres are onto the modern day needs of all ages within their membership. The kinds of relationships that result are an attraction to a lonely world. Online social groups, such as (in)courage offer places where friendships can be made and enjoyed to whatever depth and extent you desire and even encourage real life meetups by sponsoring annual simulcasts and other supports for such gatherings. The example of those engaging in social networking and small group fellowships may just be the winning ticket to stamp out the societal ill of problem-breeding relational silence and loneliness.
Perhaps it is the modern day come back to front porch chats among neighbors back when the word “neighbors” meant something more personal. What ways do you think socializing has changed, for better or worse, in recent years? What ways can you socially give “a cup of cold water” to someone? What ways might you be denying one by your silence?
Have you ever stopped to think about what brings you joy? My greatest joy comes from being in a relationship with a God who will never let me go, who is my Savior, and my constant friend, counselor and comforter. He rewards me as I grow in faith and trust. His joy in me empowers me to find joy in life whether or not life is going the way I would want it to. Even as I write, He is thinking of me (and you) and preparing that place in eternity for those who love and obey Him.
My number one people relationship joy giver is my husband. He is faithful, dependable, hard working, courageous, lives wisely and Godly, a great listener, has my best interests at heart and makes my life more fun.
An awesome source of happiness and fun times is family. I have entrusted them to God and am thankful that He woos, guides, disciplines, keeps and sanctifies them (just as He does me and all who are His). My deep joy for my children is not about the circumstances they are in or where they are at. It is about the state of their hearts. I want them in eternity with me, more than I care about their “success” in this life. “I have no greater joy than this: to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (3 John 1:4)
Friendship is a huge source of pleasure and joy, whether in my church, online or in my community. C. S. Lewis says, “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.” That pretty much sums it up.
Maintaining good habits can foster joy. Starting my day with a workout and spending a few minutes or more in Bible readings and a devotional get my day off to the best start. Expressing love and art to my family via a scent, a meal, a craft, or home making effort brings joy to home life. Ministering to others outside the family on occasion also brings me joy.
What about you? What brings you joy?
When you feel alone it can distort perception leaving you in the dumps, but the truth is you’re never really alone. Being by yourself or in a crowd is irrelevant to this feeling. It is often the result of seeming to have been left “alone” emotionally in relationships, especially ones that went from warm to lukewarm or cool; or the result of standing alone in certain viewpoints whether or not you arrived there with a friend who since deserted you to them.
But in all these trials and more, you really aren’t alone. Your Heavenly Father, who knit you together fearfully and wonderfully and knows the number of hairs on your head (Luke 12:7), is there for you. He says that if you are walking in obedience to Him, you are His friend and that He actually calls you “Friend“. There cannot be a truer friend. He delights in you and will keep you as the apple of His eye. As you worship Him, He lifts you up. He will never tire of pursuing you, guiding you and working all things out for good for you. He promises to be with you always, that He will never leave or forsake you, and that when your heart is broken He will be close to you and heal you (Matt. 28:20, Ps. 27:10, Josh. 1:5, Ps. 147:3, Ps. 34:17-18). I love the old hymn “What a Friend we Have in Jesus”. Here’s just a snippet of those lyrics:
Do your friends despise, forsake you?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield you;
you will find a solace there.
Because God knows you also need friends “with skin on them”, and sometimes need friends outside your family, He will guide you into friendships that will be mutually good for comfort, empathy and sharpening. And when you know the blessing of friendship, then by all means love earnestly, humbly and selflessly because this will cover for many mistakes. (1 Pet. 4:8-10, Phil 2:3-4) A wonderful place for Christian women to connect with like minded friends is the (In)Courage online groups. Registration for new group sessions happens to be going on this week. If you’re interested check out the link and find the custom fit group for you from over fifty choices.
In his book “The Four Loves”, C.S. Lewis says, ‘Alone among unsympathetic companions, I hold certain views and standards timidly, half ashamed to avow them and half doubtful if they can after all be right. Put me back among my Friends and in half an hour – in ten minutes – these same views and standards become once more indisputable. The opinion of this little circle, while I am in it, outweighs that of a thousand outsiders; as Friendship strengthens. It will do this even when my Friends are far away.’
Remember the childhood song, “Make new friends but keep the old. One is silver and the other is gold.”? So first revel in the faithful, ironclad friendship of the Lover of Your Soul. Then, do that gutsy thing and step out in fresh friendship with both the silver and the gold. You are loved with a devoted, victorious love that went all the way to the cross for you, and you are never alone.
Today marks a fresh start for friendships as registration begins for a new session of (In)courage groups for Christian women. In these groups you will find amazing camaraderie, heartfelt prayer support, cheering you on type encouragement, humble empathy and more. There is an empty spot needing what only you can pour into it among like minded friends.
As C.S. Lewis said in his book “The Four Loves”, ‘Friendship arises out of mere companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden)..It is when…they share their vision – it is then that friendship is born….The opinion of this little circle, while I am in it, outweighs that of a thousand outsiders, as friendship strengthens. It will do this even when my friends are far away.’
I can attest to this in the (In)Courage groups I have been in for near empty nesters in the last couple years. Even though I have been involved in different groups during different sessions, the friendships formed have been tenacious. If you are approaching an empty nest or already knee deep in finding your way through that season, there are several groups just in that category alone for you to choose from. But the mind-blowing thing is that there are over fifty groups covering a a large variety of interests you can choose from to connect with friends who will cheer you on shoulder to shoulder while pointing you to Christ in a closed group setting. Check out this (In)Courage link and find a group for you this week. You will not regret it.