Song of Solomon 8:10 Having discussed the bride’s declaration on the physical plane, let’s turn now to the challenge and comfort of considering her statement in spiritual terms. The bride of Christ understands that spiritually she is like a wall with beautiful towers. Wow! This sounds like her spirit is as strong and unyielding to sin as a wall, but that she is also so tender and intimate with the Holy Spirit that she is able to reproduce and nurture new believers. Did you know that one of the names for God—El Shaddai—means “the breasted one”? God is the one who creates and tenderly sustains all life, and we are to be like him. What a picture to hold up! I feel like the Scripture is a spiritual looking glass. I look into it and see what I should look like, then prayerfully visualize myself superimposed on the image in the mirror and ask God to transform me so that my life changes to become like that image, which is the reflection of true spiritual reality. Because, you see, Scripture really does visualize for us the spiritual realities that can be ours… and will be ours completely when we see him face to face. God wants us all to be transformed from inept, ungainly spiritual babes into beautiful, mature believers (walls and towers). I’m sure you know the story of the ugly duckling…the gangly little fellow who tried so hard to fit into a family of ducks. His brothers and sisters all thought he looked foolish and out of place, which was true, because he wasn’t truly a duck. He was a cygnet, and the day came when he grew into an elegant swan. This, beloved, is our story too. When we’re born again, it’s as if we’ve hatched out as a cygnet into a world of ducks. Life is very awkward and frustrating for us at times, but our destiny is to grow into a glorious “swan”…to become like the woman with breasts like towers…God’s spiritual masterpieces who bring many to rebirth and nurture many other spiritual babes with the milk of the Word. When I first wrote this, it was April again, and this is what I saw: As I write, I am filled afresh by the glory of God’s creation. Our home—though only five miles from the center of Michigan’s second largest city—is nestled next to a lake and surrounded by woods. By day we are serenaded with bird songs, and by night we are lulled to sleep by a great chorus of spring peepers. It’s like living in a wildlife refuge. Right now I am soaking in my view of the early morning. There are two cherry trees loaded with blossoms standing guard on either side of our little carpet of boggy grass dotted with violets and forget-me-nots. The perimeter of the woods is fringed with daffodils and accented by forsythia. Past the delicately greening pastels of woods and willows is the rich blue of our little lake. Wood ducks, mallards, Canadian geese, great blue herons, and even a pair of magnificent trumpeter swans are nesting on the lake this spring, and right now several single birds are floating lazily in the water while their mates are serving sentinel duty on the nests, which are well hidden among the reeds. The bursting spring life after winter’s bleakness is the perfect picture of God’s wonderful ability to transform barrenness into beauty. Could you imagine one of the swans’ eggs getting accidentally mixed in with the geese’s? I can’t get that far! My children are much too much the naturalists to canoe out and do such mischief, and the neighborhood thieves (the pair of muskrats who live beneath the willow, and Mr. and Mrs. Raccoon, who live in the big snag down by the water) would never rearrange the eggs; they are sadly and strictly on search and eat missions only… To be continued next week…because I’ve since learned that it does sometimes happen! For instance, if you have an extra 5 minutes, here is the link to a very sweet story about an unlikely adoption for some fuzzy little ducklings!
The joyous thing for each of us to remember is that God loves us, and if we will ask Him to save us, He will! He will give us new life in Christ and over time transform our spirits to reflect Him…his goodness, strength, and character.
“Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
Posted in Bible Commentary, Bird Photos, Commentary on the Song of Solomon, Meditations on the Song of Solomon, Rise Up My Love, Seasonal Pictures
Tagged Cat adopts ducks in Ireland, Commentary on the Song of Solomon 8:10, Do you ever feel like an ugly duckling?, Meaning of El Shaddai, Philippians 1:6, Photos of Michigan birds in spring, Springtime on a small lake in Michigan, The story of the Ugly Duckling
Have you been working on any poems for National Poetry Month? I’ve been agog with all the beauty swirling in the late April snows around Tanglewood Cottage, so I wanted to share a few of my favorite photos that inspired haiku:
“Still Beautiful” Cherry blossoms bloom, But not here in Michigan. Here snowflakes blossom!
“Artist” Great artists abound. But in all the world I know There is none like God.
“All Paupers Are Princes” Snows melt in the sun. The world gleams with jewels. Beauty is treasure.
“Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow?” (Job 38:22)
(P.S.—The photo of the cherry blossoms was taken by Elizabeth K. in Washington D.C.; they aren’t blooming at my house yet!)
Posted in Around home, Beauty Around the World, Haiku, Meditations and reflections, Michigan Beauty and Fun, Poetry, Seasonal Pictures
Tagged Haiku about snow, Job 38:22, Melting snow, Photo of cherry blossoms, Photographs of snowy woods, Swirling designs in ice
While my brothers are sending me photos of glorious spring weather
in California and New York City, I’m singing “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!” Because, here in Michigan there are still snowflakes sifting down from heaven! There were power outages over the weekend, and over 200 churches closed
(ours included) due to dangerous, “almost impossible” driving conditions. In Williamston, MI, east of Grand Rapids, my friend, John Bjorlie, posted these three photos from the ice storm that hit their area, with the following caption: “Excellent crop yield this year from our Ice harvest.
The Ice plants were full and fruitful.” 🙂 Yes, if ice were a cash crop, he’d be in the money! Last week our lake was reflecting dreamy blue sky eyes, and our cherry tree was beginning to bud. This morning all our hopes for spring have been put on hold. Our lives are like this sometimes, too, aren’t they? Stormy, fragile, and uncertain. And yet, I believe God cares for us and will continue to provide for us. If you feel like your life is on hold because of unexpected storms—
Be patient and hang tough! Spring will come again!
“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”
P.S.—A big thank you to John to sharing his photos with me. By the way, if you’re looking for an idyllic, rural setting for an event in the Lansing area, John and his wife have a new venue that is open for business. They’ve christened it Rosrmål Barn, after the Norwegian painting style of Rosemåling, so if you’re looking for a place to celebrate, let me know, and I can put you in contact with them!
Posted in A Patchwork of Little Thoughts, Activities in the Greater Grand Rapids Area, Around home, Bird Photos, Encouragements for Living, Meditations and reflections, Nature Studies, Seasonal Pictures, Weather
Tagged April 2018 Ice storm in Michigan, Cartoon of spring failing to Install, Photos of spring storms, Romans 12:12, Waiting for Spring
Happy Spring to you!! We celebrated spring and Cindi’s birthday yesterday, which was so much fun that I wanted to share right away in case any of you living in the GR area might be interested in going to the Sugarbush Festival at Blandford Nature Center tomorrow (March 24, 2018) where they’ll be making maple syrup, etc! Also, this coming week would be an ideal time to take your kids
to the Critter Barn in Zeeland, MI, during spring break because they have all sorts of babies being birthed, and if you show up at feeding time, they may even let you give the baby goats a bottle of warm milk! (This may depend on how many children come.) Of course, being our Birthday Club, we stopped at Sandy’s Donut House for some of their famous donuts, and we took a lunch break at El Aztecas Mexican Restaurant, where they spontaneously blessed us with some festive fried ice cream and sang “Happy Birthday” when they found out we were celebrating Cindi’s birthday. If you go to the Sugarbush Festival tomorrow, dress warmly, because it’s only supposed to be a high of 39°F, but there are lots of things to see outside and some lovely nature walks. Also, think about stopping at Sandy’s for a donut on your way, or maybe serving pancakes and syrup at home first, because there isn’t a pancake breakfast there. However, they did let us taste the syrup,
and you’ll be able to buy some yummy maple syrup cotton candy or other treats! If you decide to go the Critter House, I’d recommend going in the next few weeks while the mothers are birthing, and call ahead to see what time the next feeding will be. Be sure to wear clothes you don’t mind getting a little warm milk on,
because even kids will be kids…but it’s well worth the spilled milk! I’d never in all my years fed a baby goat before, and it was so much fun!One of the things I love best about our Birthday Club (and about life), is that we’re never too old to try new things, experience new joys and find new beauties. Are you trying new adventures? Keep exploring! The world is full of good things!
“The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord” (Psalm 33:5).
“He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord” (Psalm 40:3).
Posted in Activities in the Greater Grand Rapids Area, Adventures, Aging and Retirement Issues, Birthday Club, Critters, Friendship, Grandchildren, Local News, Nature Studies, Parks, Seasonal Pictures
Tagged Baby kids getting fed from milk bottles, Critter Barn in Zeeland MI, El Aztecas Mexican Restaurant of Allendale MI, Great ideas for spring break in Grand Rapids MI, Our birthday club having fun, Psalm 33:5, Psalm 40:3, Sandy's Donut Shop in Grand Rapids MI, Sugarbush at Blandford Nature Center in Allendale MI, You're never too old to learn and have fun!
Do you ever find it hard to throw out a perfectly good plant that has finished blooming but still looks hardy? I have this “thing” about letting anything die, and it sears my soul to throw out even diseased plants that I can’t seem to rehabilitate, although I eventually do get rid of them lest they infect the rest of the plants in our little garden room. What I’ve noticed is that, unless they are annuals, most flowering plants will bloom again the following year if I wait patiently enough. In particular, we have three Christmas cacti and two poinsettias, all of which were in full bloom during December when we first got them (more than a year ago), but all of which bloom more in January and February now that they are not being “forced.” I don’t know when they would bloom in their native soil, but I’ve grown to appreciate that our garden room is dotted with bright flashes of reds and pinks during the otherwise dreary, dark days of winter in January, February, and early March!
Do you ever think of yourself as a late bloomer? Or, maybe you think you’ll never bloom again. If you’ve got the Holy Spirit inside, then you’re a perennial, not an annual! Even if you look back and lament that you’ve lost the beauty and bloom of young faith, take heart. Be patient. If you want to, you can bloom again, and when you do, you’ll find unexpected joy that blesses not only you but everyone around you!“You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again” (Psalm 71:20).
(Photo with verse compliments of Robert Hardee. Thank you, Bob!)
Posted in A Patchwork of Little Thoughts, Around home, Flower Photos, Gardening, Inspiration, Meditations and reflections, Nature Studies, Seasonal Pictures
Tagged A late bloomer is better than not blooming!, Psalm 71:20, Psalms 118:5, The joys of a garden room in the winter, When do poinsettias bloom?
This devotional was written by a longtime friend who’s also in my writers’ group. On Valentine’s Day (when our Blue Water Writers’ Group last met), some of us were also able to share lunch together! If you enjoy writing, I hope you get together with other writers for encouragement. I also hope you enjoy this little meditation as much as I did! Yes, it’s still below freezing here in Michigan!
The tricky part about waking early in the morning in the winter is that it’s so dark outside! I’m struck by how differently things look: the streetlights highlight the trees in unfamiliar ways, making lacy patterns against the inky darkness. There’s a mysterious beauty to only seeing what’s illuminated as I wait for light of dawn, when trees look dark against the light of the sky. The same is true where I work out; I start in the dark, even though I flip on a light switch. There is a sensor a few feet into the room that activates the lights, so after I flip the switch, I must walk forward in the dark trusting the lights will turn fully on. This simply act of walking forward in the dark and trusting there will be light reminds me of my faith in God, who illumines our darkness. Though I may feel I’m walking in darkness of circumstances, understanding or emotion, I pray to walk faithfully, trusting that He will give the light of His love and truth. His word says that darkness is not dark to Him; He makes darkness flee. I trust He will illumine each step of the way as I continue walking by faith. “This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). “For You are my lamp, O LORD; And the LORD illumines my darkness” (2 Samuel 22:29, NASB). “Even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You” (Psalm 139:12, NASB). “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5, NIV). “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you” (Isaiah 60:1-2, NIV). “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness” made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). “Who among you fears the LORD, listening to the voice of His Servant? Who among you walks in darkness, and has no light? Let him trust in the name of Yahweh; let him lean on his God” (Isaiah 50:10).
(Written by Lisa Walkendorf; we shared the joy of working on illustrations. Thank you, Lisa!)
Posted in A Patchwork of Little Thoughts, Encouragements for Living, Meditations and reflections, Seasonal Pictures, Visual Illustrations for Bible Verses, Weather
Tagged 1 John 1:5, 2 Corinthians 4:6, 2 Samuel 22:29, Isaiah 50:10, Isaiah 60:1-2, Photos of Winter nights, Psalm 139:12, Trusting God to provide light for us, Walking in the dark in winter
Here is a meditation and some beautiful photos that my friend Charylene Powers shared with me, with a spiritual analogy that the Lord gave her during her morning prayer time recently. As the end of 2017 approaches and we consider where we’ve been and where we’d like to go next year, perhaps this will encourage us.
From the side of the therapy pool my Back Splash instructor looks down at me with compassion and understanding in her eyes and says, “You MUST strengthen your core.” It is a bone chilling January morning. As I back out of my driveway, the snow crunches under the weight of my car tires. I’m leaving for the MVP therapy pool in the darkness of early morning. My back pain has pretty much put a halt to life as I have known it. Immersing myself in the warmth of the therapy pool every morning is about all I can do. One morning a week, I am attending a Back Splash class offered at MVP. There are usually ten ladies in attendance; all of us with muscle and joint problems. Our instructor directs us to the deep end of the pool, which prevents us from touching the bottom of the pool. She continues to instruct us saying, “place the swim noodle under your arms and hang straight down, straight as a pencil, back straight, legs together. Look straight ahead; your head is the eraser.” These instructions sound easy enough. However, as I try to follow her directions, my legs float off to the right. I struggle in the water trying to control my body, and I attempt the pencil formation once again. This time my legs float off to the left….and this is when I hear, “You MUST strengthen your core!” After weeks of daily trips to MVP and attending my Back Splash class, faithfully practicing all the exercises that I am being taught, I am finally able to hold a perfect pencil formation as my instructor counts off the seconds. Spring is approaching, I am back on my bike….riding down the bike path, enjoying a strengthened core and the freedom that brings. I have another core: My spiritual core. How do I strengthen my spiritual core? The same way that I strengthen my physical core. Daily, I must practice the spiritual disciplines that keep me on the path that God has asked me to walk. “Not turning aside to the right or to the left.” In Celebration of Discipline, R.J. Foster tells us “God has given us the Disciplines of the spiritual life as a means of receiving His grace. The Disciplines allow us to place ourselves before God so that He can transform us.” ……hence as I practice spiritual disciplines, it is God who strengthens my spiritual core. As I read and mediate on God’s Word, the Psalmist tells me, “His Word is a lamp to my feet, a light to my path.” The path God has chosen for me. “The Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” This is my powerful promise from God. Prayer is how I communicate with God. I hear His “gentle whisper” and feel His “Divine nudging.” In Luke one of the disciples asks, “Lord teach us to pray.” The Lord will teach me to pray as He taught His disciples. When I do not know what to pray the Holy Spirit directs my thoughts. The more I pray the more, I long to pray and “praying without ceasing” becomes a reality in my life not just a desire. Fasting has been a part of the Christian tradition for centuries. It is a discipline that Christ talks about in Matthew… “when you fast.” Why am I not pursuing this discipline like I do the other disciplines? Probably because I think it sounds like too much work and sacrifice. Maybe this is the discipline that would bring me closer to God ….. The key to my success in strengthening my physical core has been my daily trips to our health club and practicing all the exercises my caring instructor has given me….hence leading to the healing of my body and the freedom that brings.
The key to my success in strengthening my spiritual core is the same: Daily coming to my heavenly instructor and embracing the spiritual disciplines that He is teaching me….hence leading to the healing of my soul and the freedom that brings.
“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice
behind you saying ‘this is the way; walk in it’.” (Isaiah 30:21).
Posted in Encouragements for Living, Health Issues, Making choices, Meditations and reflections, Prayer, Seasonal Pictures, Sports and Sporting Events
Tagged Back Splash class at MVP in Grand Rapids, Celebration of Disciple by R.J. Foster, Help for back pain, Isaiah 30:21, Learning to strengthen your core, MVP therapy pool, Photos of spring flowers, Photos of winter scenes in Michigan