Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Grateful in the Grayness

In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus toward you.
(1 Thessalonians 5:18 World English Bible)

In the darkness, an eagle squealed. A turkey bellowed. A blush of pink predicted a glorious sunrise. 

            But as light crept behind the trees, haze blurred the lake. The odor of smoke filled the air. My hope for a gorgeous display disappeared into a gray mist.

            Clouds blotted the sun. Muted flowers had no luster. But even in my disappointment, I knew God was there. 

            A bird sang a special melody. Healthy trees stood tall. A lizard scrambled up an oak tree. Dew dotted flowers gathered near my patio. 

            It is often easier to be grateful on sun-drenched days. But even during subdued, downcast times, ponder and be thankful especially for the small, often overlooked gifts. 

Heavenly Father, help me be thankful for all of my blessings during easy times and also  hard ones. Amen

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Withstanding the Storm

He stood at attention next to my neighbor’s sunroom. From my patio, I observed him staring at the dark lake. 

            Clouds dimmed the sky. Sheets of rain rushed across the water to the shore. Gusts of wind slung waves north, west, south and east. 

            Torrents of rain fell onto the solitary sandhill crane by my neighbor’s home. Water dripped from his gray body. Wind ruffled his feathers. Nevertheless, he stood like a statue for at least thirty minutes and braved the storm. 

            For a week, weather reports urged Floridians to prepare for a hurricane. Store shelves emptied. Long gas lines formed. Plywood covered windows. Some residents escaped. The rest of us waited.

            Each day new predictions changed plans. Hourly reports foretold disastrous weather. Weariness and uncertainty filled our minds. We waited and waited. 

            When and where would it hit. No one really knew. 

            As Dorian came through the Caribbean, it touched a few islands and then attacked the Bahamas with a vengeance. Destructive winds refused to let go and stayed for hours and then days. The unwanted guest wouldn’t leave and left a trail of desolation.  

            Thankfully, much of Florida will be spared a direct hit. But coastlines are being wrecked. Surges will flood homes and businesses. The nightmare isn’t over. 

            States further north are preparing for their own uninvited guest. Hopefully, the storm won’t be as bad as the predictions. 

            Rarely are sandhill cranes alone. What happened to his mate? Perhaps he faced more than one storm. He didn’t hide but endured it. The lone crane showed me that we can stand tall and endure the storms of life-not just the unpredictable hurricanes.

            Whether we face hurricanes, physical, emotional, financial, or relational storms, God provides strength, patience and endurance. 

            Even though Hurricane Dorian brought frustration, destruction and weariness, it also led neighbors and strangers to help each other locally, in other states and in the Bahamas. People became more important than possessions as residents slowed down, tried to stay safe and waited for the storm to pass. 

Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. (Isaiah 43: 1-2 NIV)

Heavenly Father, thank you for protecting us in the storms we face. Amen

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Rescued from the Clearance Rack

As dawn awakened my garden, an abundance of color welcomed me to a new day. 

            Blooms of purple, white, yellow, pink, and orange lifted their faces to the sun. I enjoyed the mixture of colors, shapes, sizes, and textures in my backyard garden. My front yard is traditional but the rear is more whimsical and fun. 

            Almost every plant was rescued from the clearance rack at Lowe’s. Some ended up there at the end of their growing season. Others were a surplus. A few appeared almost beyond hope. The bargain prices challenged me to provide a nurturing home and revive them. 

            At home, I snipped off dead leaves. Dug holes. Dropped in fertilizer and added water. Often roots had to be pulled apart or cut before planting. With care, I hoped they would thrive. 

            Dry stems revived. New blooms opened. Not only did most of them flourish, they grew and multiplied. Surprise flowers formed from dropped seeds. A few extended their roots to form a larger plant. 

            Small individual plants joined to form an enchanting mixture of color. Pink periwinkles, white daisies, yellow sunflowers, and purple Mexican petunias swayed in the breezes.  

            Bees jiggled blooms as pollen stuck to their bodies. Butterflies frolicked among the flowers. Dew glistened off leaves. 

            Each morning my garden reminds me of the majesty of God’s creation. He carefully fashioned each bloom, leaf and stem into a breathtaking variety of plants. I thank Him for my unique, stunning display. 

            Like my rescued plants, God saves and redeems broken, hurting, and discarded people. He prunes, nurtures and transforms them into healthy, fully alive ones. 

The true God who inhabits sacred space is a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows. He makes a home for those who are alone. He frees the prisoners and leads them to prosper. 
(Psalm 68: 5-6 The Voice)

Heavenly Father, thank you for creating my exquisite garden. Thank you for loving and restoring  your broken people. Amen 

Monday, August 12, 2019

Behind the Scenes

Fog obscured the lake. Haze wrapped a veil across the trees and flowers nearby. My normally cheery view was subdued. Even the bees stayed away from my flowers. 

            During my early morning devotional time, I kept searching for the hidden lake. The somber mood gave me time to relax and pray for several friends who were facing difficulties. 

            After going inside for breakfast, unexpected treasures greeted me when I returned to my patio. The lake and far shore appeared within the mist. Bees buzzed around my flowers. 

            The most unusual treasures were along the shore in the cana lilies. At least twenty large spider webs stretched across the foliage. Intricate designs in a multitude of sizes and patterns decorated the plants along the lake by my home. 

            At night, the tiny artists created beguiling webs. Fog shrouded their work at dawn. Only when the mist lifted and the sun shone, could I see their work. 

            Often God surprises us by working in the background. We think He is doing nothing to help us. Then we are surprised by how He weaves the situations of our lives into a lovely treasure. 

You made me so happy, God. I saw your work and shouted for joy. How magnificent your work, God! How profound your thoughts! (Psalm 92: 4-5 The Message)

Creator, even when we can’t see it, You are carefully taking the pieces of our broken lives and weaving them into a masterpiece. Amen

Monday, July 15, 2019

Unwelcome Weeds

 Wash yourselves, clean up your lives; remove every speck of evil in what you do before Me. Put an end to all your evil.
Learn to do good; commit yourselvesto seeking justice. Make right for the world’s most vulnerable—the oppressed, the orphaned, the widow. (Isaiah 1: 16-17 The Voice)

Tall weeds protruded from delicate pink blooms. The annoying intruders blemished the landscape in front of my home. 

            When I set down containers of new plants, more pesky weeds caught my attention. Their roots spread out across the mulch and some intertwined with flower stems. 

            As I dug holes for my fresh flowers, I also yanked weed after weed from the ground. 

            Sweat dripped down my face. Dirt clung to my knees as I knelt down to fill each hole with flourishing pink blooms. 

            After the new flowers were positioned, I focused on weeds woven into my existing flowers. My small shovel dug down to get their roots. With a sense of satisfaction, I looked at the long weeds dangling from my hands.  

            Satisfaction turned to alarm when I noticed broken foliage laying on the ground. Even though I tried to extract the weeds carefully, they refused to let go.  Unfortunately, my zeal in removing the weeds also broke off my flowers. 

            Blood dripped down my arm after broken stems punctured my thin skin. Another consequence of unwelcome invaders who preyed on my garden.  

                        While weeds grew within the flowers, they hampered healthy growth. But removal inflicted even more damage.  

            Flowers will grow new shoots and eventually produce healthy vegetation. Over time, my battered arm will heal. 

            Like weeds, bad habits, addictions, unhealthy relationships, unforgiveness, greed… strangle and damage lives. Elimination doesn’t come easily and more damage may occur.

            Pruning and untangling the intruders will eventually allow lives to heal and flourish despite the times of pain and sadness. 

Creator, thank you for pruning the unhealthy parts of our lives so we can be fruitful and follow your path. Amen

Thursday, June 20, 2019

A Spectacular Rainbow

Hours before dawn, I awoke. My clock taunted me for an hour before I gave up and slipped from bed.

            Blackness obscured the lake while I read my Bible on the patio. Finally, light broke through as I continued reading daily devotionals.

            Rain dimpled the lake for a while. Days and days of rain had filled the lake. Scraggly, green grass surrounded my home. Light clouds veiled the sky and cast a gloomy ambiance. The morning view matched my tired body and subdued mood. 

            Movement through the screen caught my eye. My neighbor surprised me and said, “Come and look.”

            I closed the patio door soundlessly to not disturb the wildlife. Had she see a bear, bobcat or deer? 

            When I joined her between our homes, my eyes followed her gaze. A complete rainbow spread before us like a proud peacock. Vibrant colors embellished the sky. An arc, with a faint twin beside it, rose from behind a neighbors’ roof and dipped into a stand of trees. 

            We stared and marveled at the perfect rainbow. As I stood in the wet grass, I didn’t want to leave the special gift. 

            Both of us wanted to share the beauty, but her husband was the only one close to us. 

             “We could go knock on doors,” I said. 

            We laughed. Sleeping neighbors would probably not be delighted with our early morning visit.

            After I returned to my patio, I remembered looking at the sunless lake view. Each day I enjoy watching the changing flowers and lake as wildlife drop by. There hadn’t been anything unusual.

            Only when my friend summoned me, did I move from my comfortable chair and see the masterpiece in front of my house. I concentrated on the routine and didn’t see the spectacular. 

            I can become so secure in my safe, little world that I neglect to see what adventure God has for me. 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3: 5-6 NIV)

Loving Father, help me to move from my comfort zone to explore your path for me. Amen 

Friday, June 7, 2019

The Scary Snake

In the dim light before going to bed, I noticed an unwelcome visitor as I walked to the kitchen for a last minute drink of water. 

            At my feet, a small, brown snake formed an S on my wooden floor. I jumped back and tried to catch my breath.

            Was it dead? Was it waiting to strike? How did it get into my house? How would I get rid of it? I certainly couldn’t sleep with the intruder inside.

            Thoughts swirled in my mind as I tried to think of a plan. From afar, I studied the motionless creature. 

            Realizing that I had to figure out what to do, I inched closer and closer to the scary creature. Then I bent down near the unmoving snake. With trepidation, I reached out and touched the end of his body. 

            His softness surprised me. Laughter overtook me. I was thankful no one was watching or making a video.   

            The “snake” was actually a length of brown yarn. I had no idea how it ended up in the middle of my floor. My yarn bag was not even in that room, and I had not crocheted in several days. 

            The snake incident made me giggle at myself. But that wasn’t the first time I have been afraid and concerned about something that was harmless and not what it seemed to be. What a waste of time and energy!

When anxiety overtakes me and worries are many, Your comfort lightens my soul.
 (Psalm 94:19 The Voice)

Heavenly Father, thank you for being with me in the difficult times and even when I concoct my own troubles. Amen