Monday, November 16, 2020

Danger Beneath the Surface


 

Cars whizzed across the expressway over Lake Jessup. Sunlight lit tiny waves on the expansive lake like twinkling Christmas lights. A clear, blue sky and enchanting lake made me smile but also, reminded me of the dangers.  

 

            Occasionally, a fisherman throws out a line or a boater ventures onto the vast lake. But never do swimmers or skiers enjoy the lake unless they are newcomers.  

 

            But I know the history of the lake and reality of what lies beneath the surface of the sparkling lake. For years one of the largest lakes in Florida has declined. Because nuisance gators were released into the giant lake for years, almost thirteen thousand alligators were estimated to live in the once pristine lake. Runoff from around the lake sent pollutants into the water. The highway and berms disturbed the natural flow of the St. John’s River which had helped clean the lake. The combination of several problems created a mostly unusable lake for humans even though it still looks appealing. 

 

            Life is also filled with enticing people, places and activities which appear trustworthy, decent, and suitable. However, below the surface danger awaits. Thankfully, there is an answer. 

             

Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all. Run to God! Run from evil! (Proverbs 3:5-7 The Message)

 

Lord, help us learn to trust you in all we do. Listen and follow your instructions. Amen

 

Monday, November 9, 2020

Turbulent Times


God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we won’t be afraid, though the earth changes, though the mountains are shaken into the heart of the seas; though its waters roar and are troubled, though the mountains tremble with their swelling…“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth Yahweh of Armies is with us. The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah .(Psalm 46:1-3, 10-11 WEB)

A never ending barrage of angry waves bashed the beach. Dark clouds blocked the sun. Only a few brave souls ventured into the intense winds as the high tide pushed water farther and farther up the sand. 

            Winds died down that evening. Waves calmed. Water  receded and exposed more of the beach. Clumps of brown seaweed littered the white sand. I shook my head at the blight on the normally pristine sand. To avoid the ugly mess, I zigzagged through the disorder during my evening walk. 

            At the beginning of my vacation, I loved seeing the beauty of the endless beach. Then turbulent winds churned the water, pulled up unsightly seaweed, and spit it out as refuse.  After the storm, I wanted the tides to retrieve the rubbish and return it to the ocean. 

            Down the beach, I noticed hundreds of sand pipers. A few courageous birds scampered to the seaweed and stuck long beaks into the ugly masses for morsels of food. The birds weren’t afraid of what looked horrible. What appeared to me as only an unwelcome mess was actually beneficial to birds. 

 

            The year 2020 spit out one mess after another on the world. We can lament the shambles left behind or trust God and look for blessings within them. 

Loving Father, we don’t understand all of the chaos and upheaval, but You are not surprised. Help us trust You and show us the blessings in the midst of the messes. Amen 

Monday, October 19, 2020

Creatures in the Dark


 

But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. For surely, O Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as a shield. (Psalm 5:11-12 NIV)

 

A single light bulb illuminated my Bible and devotional books. Darkness wrapped my patio like an ebony cocoon. Unseen traffic from a nearby highway rumbled. 

 

            Eerie noises, like screeching voices, interrupted my devotional time. My eyes searched the shadows but saw nothing. 

 

            In my mind, possible hidden dangers lurked beyond my screen. The unusual commotion created dragons and menacing obstacles. 

 

            But as beams of light broke through the blackness, dawn revealed serenity. No ferocious creatures emerged from the forest or lake. Instead of hearing mysterious screeching, birds sang melodious songs.  

 

            In our chaotic world, constant voices shriek and bellow their agendas to cause fear and anxiety. Truth or lies about the virus, riots, injustice, jobs, politicians, health care…? Dangers lurk. Invisible dragons destroy order and harmony. 

 

            Answers won’t come from the government, politicians, the media or a friend’s post on Facebook. 

 

            God’s the answer. He removes fear and anxiety from our hearts and minds. He gives peace and joy in the midst of uncertainty and turbulence. His love endures forever. 

 

Loving Father, calm our hearts with your wisdom, faithfulness and compassion. Overtake our fears and give us peace. Amen

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Visiting Cardinals


 

Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105 NKJV)

Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxieties and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 140:23-24 NKJV)

 

Anxiety crept into my bed and stole sleep. Disturbing news stories and conversations with friends distressed about the condition of our world added fear and uncertainty. 

 

            Praying and trying to ignore the turmoil didn’t work. A collection of tragic situations friends experienced added weight and squeezed hope from my heart. 

 

            Instead of praying to God, I had taken on the problems of my friends and the horrors of the world. No matter how many times the troubles swirled in my brain and disturbed my sleep, no solutions came from my little brain. Worry kept me from listening for His answers and didn’t provide any solutions. 

 

            Before dawn, I stumbled outside with my cup of tea. A spot of lamplight shined on my books. One reading after another spoke of peace, gratitude and trust in Jesus. As my focus turned to Him, anxiety started to melt away. 

 

 

            In my special haven, a vibrant sunrise displaced darkness and covered the sky. Dew drenched blooms bordered my patio and sparkled in sunlight. Songbirds welcomed the dawn with delightful melodies. 

 

            A pair of cardinals perched among yellow flowers in a bush a few feet from me. Their beaks nipped at leaves which also hid them from sight. They tweeted to each other and flew away. God adorned them in lovely feathers and provided just what they needed. 

 

            My serene retreat refreshed me as I pushed the world away and enjoyed creation around me. God’s Word, prayer and my daily devotionals calmed my heart. 

 

            In the distance, I heard rumbling traffic on the highway but could not see it. Nor could it join me in my sanctuary. 

 

            Reading the Bible and praying every morning before venturing out fortifies me and helps me avoid pitfalls of negativity consuming the world. I am protected and encircled in His love, wisdom and peace.  Trusting Him provides armor for whatever the world slams at me.

            If He cares for the cardinals, how much more He cares for you and me.  

 

Loving Father, protect us as we venture into the world. The Bible provides words of strength, comfort, and peace. Help us to focus on You and not unending troubles of this world. Amen

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Stabs of Pain


 

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him. (James 1:12 NIV)

 

Light poked through the trees as dawn awoke the lake. With my Bible, devotional books, and journals, I settled down in my wicker chair on the patio. While immersed in my reading, a tiny stab of pain distracted me. I examined my leg but saw nothing unusual. 

 

            As I resumed reading my devotional, another prick startled me. Once again, I searched for the cause without success. 

 

            Even though I returned to my reading, my mind wandered away from the page and to my stinging leg. 

 

            For the third time, a needle like jab stung my leg. There had to be a reason my leg continued to hurt. Finally, I saw a red welt and the culprit that caused it. I immediately squashed the critter.

 

            A tiny ant had crawled up my leg and released its venom. Thankfully, it was not a fire ant so it was not dangerous but distracting. Because of the pain, I couldn’t fully engage in my morning devotions until I found the cause. But even after finding the ant, the effects of the bite diverted my attention. 

 

            Days later, the red spot remained as a reminder. Pain and trials can distract from what is truly important. Instead of searching for the offender and worrying about consequences, focus on what is significant. 

 

Loving Father, show me what is important and what is not. Guide me in ignoring things which pull me away from your best for me. Amen

 

  

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Toppled Bush


 

 After all, it is I, the Eternal One your God, who has hold of your right hand, Who whispers in your ear, “Don’t be afraid. I will help you.” (Isaiah 41:13 The Voice)

 

Wind battered cypress and oak trees in my yard. Limbs thrashed in every direction during the raging, summer storm. Torrents of rain pelted the lake. Bits of hail hit my windows. 

 

            Thunder and lightning produced a frightening fireworks display as I watched the power of the storm from one window after another. 

 

            Gradually, rain only dimpled the lake. Weary limbs stilled. Thunder rumbled in the distance. Only then did I venture outside to check for damage. 

 

            Pink periwinkles reached for the ground. I trimmed heavy stems. When remaining leaves dried off, most of the flowers stood upright. But no bees buzzed around red and white frazzled blooms on neighboring plants.

 

            Another clearance plant from Lowe’s grew from bedraggled to vibrant and beautiful until the thunderstorm hit. Then the five-foot tall bush leaned almost to the grass but the mass of yellow blooms clung tightly to the toppled plant. The rain soaked ground loosened the sturdy trunk and tipped the healthy plant. 

 

            

            With lower branches removed and less weight on the tilting trunk, I hoped the bush would right itself. That didn’t happen and days of more storms pushed it lower and lower. 

 

            A decision had to be made about the unsightly bush before it fell completely from another storm. Should I cut off more limbs and hope it would stand up? Should I just dig it up and replant?  

 

             First, I cut more branches off as I tried to decide its fate. Before I could put the trimmings in a garbage bag, bees returned to the plant. They stuck furry heads into smiling blooms and collected nectar from the lopsided plant. I stopped working and watched the busy insects.

 

            Although I am allergic to bees, I knew they were too busy to notice me. When I reached down to dispose of the remains, bees flew to the blooms on the ground and sipped nectar. They noticed something worthwhile in the waste. 

 

            I realized trimming didn’t help, but I couldn’t dig up the once beautiful plant. It needed a second chance so I rummaged in my garage for some type of support. I found two short wooden stakes connected with yellow construction tape. Although they were much shorter than the bush, I decided to try. 

 

            At once, I realized a single stake wouldn’t hold the leaning bush. After jamming both stakes into the ground, I struggled to enclose the errant branches in tape. More hands would have made the job much easier. However, I finally surrounded the entire plant and pulled and pulled until it stood as tall as I did. Knots held. I waited for another storm.

 

             In the meantime, roots had a chance to push deeper and hold steady. Bees visited daily. Yellow sunshine blooms made me smile. Although it leaned slightly, the small stakes gave needed support to the crooked bush.    

 

            Months of multiple disasters have caused uneasiness, anger and depression. Difficult circumstances extinguished hope and brought despair. Like the small stakes, our limited strength can help prop up others temporarily. 

 

            Lasting strength, peace and comfort comes from God. 

 

Father, thank you for the strength you give us when we have none of our own. Show us how we can support others and help them know You. Amen

 

                        

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Hummingbirds, Bees...


 

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV)

 

Spires of flowering plants lined the back of my patio. Bell shaped blooms of red orange and white decorated green stems. Both kinds of flowers came from the clearance rack at Lowe’s. 

 

            A couple of years ago, I dug holes and dropped withered plants into the ground. With plenty of water and sunshine they flourished. Occasionally, I trimmed dead and out of bounds foliage but mostly let them grow on their own.  

 

            Tiny plants grew to be over four feet tall and formed a lovely addition to my garden. They attracted a variety of winged creatures. Monarch butterflies swooped down for a visit. Lizards climbed part way up until the stems swayed with their weight.

 

            Fuzzy bumblebees zoomed from one flower to another. They grabbed onto the flowers and stuck their heads into white and red orange blooms almost every day. 

 

            Although I enjoyed watching all of the visitors, hummingbirds were my favorites. Whirling wings allowed them to hover as their slender beaks dipped into the red orange flowers for delectable treats but they always bypassed the white ones. 

 

            Some days they drank briefly and disappeared. At other times, the pair of teeny birds hung in the air as if by magic above one plant and another before drinking from flower cups. Then they whizzed away. 

 

            At our previous home, Alan put up a hummingbird feeder and meticulously cleaned and filled it with red hummingbird food. Because it was away from the house, we didn’t see many birds come to eat.

 

            After we moved, the feeder remained in the garage. When Alan passed away, I didn’t want another thing to take care of so I gave the feeder away. 

 

            During isolation, I have had more time to appreciate the things around me. I had no idea my clearance rack plants would bring such joy to my garden. Hummingbirds come more frequently or perhaps, I have slowed down and noticed them more. I have also observed other wildlife and plants more closely. 

 

            In addition to increasing gratitude for my retreat on the lake, cherished family and friends have become even more precious. As my world opens up again, I don’t want busyness to overshadow thankfulness of all God has given me. 

 

Heavenly Father, I am so grateful for all you have put into my life. Show me daily how to live for You in the midst of a busy and chaotic world. Amen