Gentle Rains

Another day of gentle rains! I want to publicly thank God for these wonderful rains, because I’ve been praying for them!

In the process of building an addition, our yard became a muddy mess! Alan carefully sowed grass seed everywhere, but every time we turned our backs, the geese would come and gobble up the profits! One of my daily tasks has become chasing the geese away so the grass has a chance to grow. (And then, I have to scatter more seed after they leave.) I feel like Disney’s little cocker spaniel, Lady!

A Tangle of Wild Grapes and Highbush Cranberry Blossoms

Our yard covers more than an acre, and to water the lawn with a hose and sprinkler would take more time, energy, and hose-length than we possess, so I’ve been asking the Lord to bless us with gentle rains to help the grass seed sprout and take root before it all gets washed away or eaten up.

Gray Dogwood, Cornus racemosa, growing wild along our Michigan woodland lane

God has been answering my prayers! We have had one of the most wonderfully cool springs I can ever remember, with the perfect blend of sunshine and soft showers!

The grass has taken root, and we’ve become hopeful that—short of a disastrous drought—the grass may flourish. Perhaps by next summer we will have enough soft grass to support both the grazing of geese and the romping of grand children!

Wild turkeys grazing in the meadow

Well, and enough for the wild turkeys too . . .

Doe and her young fawn grazing with the geese in our yard

And the deer, especially now that the herd
has a number of new fawns to feed!

Mock orange on a rainy morning

Working hard to plant and protect the grass, and praying for rain and sunshine—which only God can provide—reminds me of a greater task we’ve been given: that of sharing spiritual “seed” (the Word of God) with others. “My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass” (Dueteronomy 32:2).

Fragrant wild roses perfuming the misty morning air

God has been merciful and kind to me, and he will provide for you too if you’ll surrender your heart and will to Jesus. He calls each of us with a quiet, gentle voice that can only be heard in our hearts. “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).

White-tailed fawn in our woods

Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great” (Psalm 18:35).

Growing Pains

This pretty much sums up my natural sentiment toward change. I’m a resistor. The whole problem must be never getting a good dose of Thomas Edison’s bright idea: “Discontent is the first necessity of progress.” 🙂

In fact, had not our 30-year-old wooden walkway become so rotten that it was a slipping hazard during every rain . . . and the cedar siding so rotten that both the birds and the bees were nesting in it (no joke) . . . well, maybe I could have protested that the status quo was quite comfy and good enough for me. But, it was not, and even I knew something had to be done. So, Silvio (who has pretty much remade our home at this point) ripped off the front porch, and the Big Dig began.

After lots of lively debate (which I tend to lose), there was considerable “vision creep” (as my husband calls it), and instead of a new porch, Alan thought a new sun room would be even nicer.

I can’t explain all the reasoning behind the decisions, but apparently for structural soundness, it made sense to put a basement underneath the sun room, and Silvio thought it might be a good idea to have more room to store our junk anyway.

Now, even I wasn’t dumb enough to fall for that idea, but it did occur to me that I would love more space for our kids and grandchildren (who now number 29 and often come to visit), and so with the carrot of a little guest apartment somewhere down the road, I gave in. That was over a year ago.

Renovation is always full of surprises. One of the first was learning that the old foundation for the porch was not just made from posts but out of huge concrete abutments that had to be broken off.

Every day I marveled at the powerful machinery and massive amount of work that had to take place. There wasn’t one chance in a million I would have had the know-how or muscle to do all the work.

Thankfully, we have a great builder whom I pretty much trust with my life at this point, but I’m sure he had many a headache trying to figure out everything and coordinate all the men and machinery.

There were constant setbacks over the months, and lots of “oops” moments, like the time all the draping in the basement (hung to keep concrete mud spray from showering our music gear and library) fell down while the men were working. That day, the main room in our basement was filled with something that reminded me of the volcanic ash spewing from Mt. St. Helen when it erupted back in 1980. Close friends who lived in Portland, Oregon (70 miles from the eruption) said their rain gutters became clogged with volcanic ash that turned to concrete when it rained. That’s just about the way I felt!!

Well, I won’t bore you with all the details, but suffice it to say, it was a long,

long,

long,

long,

painstaking process!

I’ve had a lot of time over the months to think about the impossibility of my ever being able to do what this huge team of guys did, and to think about my own life, which needs renovation too.

I am thankful for God (the master builder in my life), and his huge team (the Church) who work together helping me with the renovations I need. In a million years, I wouldn’t have the know-how or spiritual power to perfect myself. Would you? Do you resist change the way I do? Although I trust God with my life, I still find myself fussing and disagreeing from time to time. I wonder if I give Jesus headaches the way Silvio has had headaches from trying to get everything “just right.” 😦 🙂

At any rate, we’re far from done, and the grass is just beginning to grow,

but the sun room is finally finished, just in time for Alan’s birthday (today), so he’ll be able to sit in his new room tonight!

(Which, BTW, is a whole lot bigger than our cozy little living room!)

I can’t exactly tell you what Tanglewood Cottage will look like when all the renovations are done, but I can tell you—by faith—that it will be wonderful . . . just like I will be when I’m all finished (in heaven).

“End of Construction—Thank you for your patience.”

Like Billy Graham’s wife, I have every confidence that someday all the rotten boards and siding in my life will be replaced, and all the renovations will be complete. I will be like Jesus! If you give God your life, He’ll do the same for you! You might not turn out exactly like you were planning, but the net effect will be better than you could have imagined!

Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 5:15).

Spring Beauty All Around!

This is the time of year when everything bursts
into glorious song and bloom!

Every day there is something new and splendid popping up.

The rebirth of life in springtime is both
majestic and mysterious!

It seems like just a few weeks ago the geese were waiting impatiently
for water to open up.

And now, there are fuzzy goslings and ducklings
coming ashore for breakfast every morning here at Tanglewood Cottage!

Robins are busy rearing their broods,

and a parade of exquisite song birds (like this rose-breasted grosbeak)
come to our feeder every day!

This sassy Baltimore oriole, for some reason, even seems determined
to figure out a way to get inside and keeps attacking my window pane!

Turtles of all sizes and stripes emerge and sunbathe in our swamp.

This phenomenon isn’t just local, either!

Our grandchildren in Belgium found their forests
dotted with tiny woodland anemones

and later covered with bright bluebells!

Our California grandchildren discovered southern hills
covered with bright orange poppies,

and alive with glowing colors from all kinds of beautiful wildflowers!

Some might say this all happened by chance, but I read recently (in a very technical but nevertheless awesome book called Signature in the Cell by Stephen C. Meyer) that there’s not one chance in something like 10 to the 40,000th power that a DNA cell would develop by chance. In other words, even if the world is billions and billions of years old, it’s less likely that the squirrel breaking into my bird feeder spontaneously evolved over eons of time than it is that the bird feeder itself spontaneously evolved!

How did all this incredibly brilliant and intricate beauty come to be? I believe it was by “intelligent design,” not chance, and that the Mastermind behind the intelligent design is none other than our Almighty God! “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1, ESV).

There is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist” (1 Corinthians 8:6, ESV).

Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created” (Revelation 4:11, ESV).

“For the Beauty of the Earth”
(—Folliott Sandfor Pierpoint, 1864, Public Domain)

1 For the beauty of the earth,
for the glory of the skies,
for the love which from our birth
over and around us lies.

Refrain:
Christ, our Lord, to you we raise
this, our hymn of grateful praise.

2 For the wonder of each hour
of the day and of the night,
hill and vale and tree and flower,
sun and moon and stars of light, [Refrain ]

3 For the joy of human love,
brother, sister, parent, child,
friends on earth, and friends above,
for all gentle thoughts and mild, [Refrain]

4 For yourself, best gift divine,
to the world so freely given,
agent of God’s grand design:
peace on earth and joy in heaven. [Refrain]

(All photos taken this spring by myself or my kids. Happy Spring to you!!)

A Peaceful Heart (by Jane Anderson)

I once bought a greeting card that asked, “Ever have a day when everything went right?” Then inside, the answer: “Yea, me either.” So you’ll recognize my story. I was thinking about how this all happened a few years ago when everything started off on a smooth path then the switch flipped and things derailed. Surely you’ve had those days when life jumps off the track and you have to will yourself into a positive attitude to reclaim your joy. Are you with me here?

One morning I jumped out of bed with my “Yay! It’s going to be a great day!” eagerness. That lasted all of one hour when I remembered that I had to drive the truck. ERGH! (grumble) I don’t like driving the truck … but then I realized, “Hey! Get over it! At least you have an alternate vehicle.” Besides, as a reward I’ll treat myself to Starbucks before my appointment. Anticipation.  I was off and running again. OK I can handle this.

I drove up to Starbucks and checked the breadth of this Semi (exaggeration) I was driving and opted to park it and walk in rather than navigate the drive-thru.  Inside I got my latte, life is good. Outside, the truck has turned cranky on me and has now forgotten its role for today – to get me safely, and without incident, to my destination.  It won’t start. In fact, it won’t even try. Turn the key … nothing! Turn the key again … nothing! We could play this game all day, but I have an appointment. ERGH! (grumble) I can feel the joy needle slipping into the depleted zone.  Then I heard this voice in my head say, “Count it all joy”. Come on, Lord. You want me to find joy in this? Are you kidding me? I have to WALK a mile now.  Then God said, “Let’s try. Make it a game.  It’ll be fun. I challenge you to find 3 good things in this bad situation”.  Well alright, but I don’t really see what difference it makes. The stupid truck is still broken and I still have to walk a mile – on the busiest road in the area, and, oh look! The sprinklers, right on my path, are running full blast.  But OK.  Game on!

  1. As I was approaching the blasting sprinklers – they shut off. Really? Wow!
  2. I looked down and realized I had decided to wear flat shoes instead of dress-up heels. Huh. That was pretty cool.
  3. Instead of the normal oversized, overstuffed, spilling-out-of-the-top bag, all I had to carry was my purse and a folder.

I got to my appointment, all intact, not wet from sprinklers, no bumps, bruises, or wear and tear on my emotions. I even pulled out all the information I needed without needing to trek back to that cranky old truck. Relief! Thankful!

I enjoyed the latte on the trip past the now silent sprinklers, in my flat shoes, carrying only my purse in one hand and Starbucks in the other.  Balance is good, right? By the time I was at my destination (on time), joy was back. Did the game fix my truck? Not really, but it fixed me. I had to get the inside right, so the outside would come out right too.

Oh – and here’s the kicker. When my husband, said owner of cranky truck, went to pick it up later? It started right away! Really, God? Seriously? And to that, He reminded me that He has me in the palm of His hand and he teaches me what is best for me, when I need to learn it. (James 1:2 – Consider it pure joy ….)

That story is insignificant to the trauma in many lives, and I don’t pretend to minimize what you may be going through. Life is tough. I decided to tell that story because we all have to decide. Will what is happening now make me bitter or make me better? No matter what knocks you off track. No matter what your circumstances today. Seek joy. In this life, we have to look for the slivers of hope and glean as many positive fragments as we can so all those thoughts plant seeds of joy. Finding something good in our mess is the best survival mechanism. It isn’t easy. It’s worth it.

On days when nothing fits and life is broken, I read Philippians 4. Be joyful! Don’t be anxious about anything, but in every situation, with a thankful heart pray and ask God to take your burdens and your worries. The peace of God, which we humanly can’t understand, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Ask God to infuse your mind with thoughts of whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—thinking about such things will quiet your anxiety….. And the God of peace will be with you.

Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you” (Philippians 4:4-9).

This charming post was written by my friend Jane Anderson, who brings much joy and blessing into my life!  Jane is a Christ-follower who reads, writes, and lives encouragement as her ministry. If you’d like to read more of her writing, you can access her blog here:http://refininggrace.com

Casting Your Bread Upon the Waters

Over the years, I’ve felt led by the verse, “Freely ye have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8) when it comes to blogging and sharing photos, so whenever someone has asked my permission to use a picture, I’ve always given permission without charge. Of course, I appreciate it when they credit me (and give a link back to my blog if appropriate), but as long as they aren’t selling my work per se, I’m happy to share the gifts that God has given me—in this case the privilege and leisure to observe and record glimpses into God’s magnificent creation.

Over time, my photos have shown up in dozens of diverse venues. To name a few: posters for national parks, a book on Central Park, advertisements for state fairs and tourist sites, a video for carpet cleaner, the front cover for an Episcopalian magazine, a tee-shirt design, as part of a composer’s music video, to enlarge and print for use in various people’s private homes, as subject matter for a young artist’s painting, many times to illustrate the blogs of fellow writers, and most recently, to be used in a large-format sepia drawing to be displayed in a public building. I’ve even noticed (a bit to my dismay) that sometimes my photos are used without my permission. In particular, two have showed up as wall paper designs for sale in Greece! 🙂

I have also had many friends and family members who have allowed me to use their photos and other creative work on my blogs, and I am deeply grateful for each of these dear friends! Thank you, thank you, thank you!! However, I have recently been amazed and blessed by a gift from an extremely talented Korean artist, Yongsung Kim.

It all happened as I began diligently searching the internet for free images of the life of Christ to illustrate my new series (“Meditating on the Commands of Christ”) since I cannot go anywhere to take photographs of Jesus at this point and have no talent as an illustrator. I can find wonderful classical paintings of Jesus, but I was longing for some fresh, modern interpretations that might be more appealing to today’s generation and kept coming across paintings by Yongsung Kim that were so original and evocative that they’d take my breath away.

I found Yongsung Kim’s website but was reluctant to ask if I could use his pictures because his artistry is his living, but I also knew that I could never afford to pay him for the value of using of his paintings, since I am not generating any income.

However, I also knew that I have been happy to share what God has given me as a free blessing to others, and so I thought it might be worth asking him! Amazingly, he has given me permission to use his paintings on my blog as long as I credit him and don’t use them for commercial purposes.

So, a huge thank you to Yongsung Kim. I will be sure to credit him at the end of any blog where I use his paintings, and I’ll start right now with a link to his home page:https://www.foundationarts.com/yongsung-kim

“Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days” (Ecclesiastes 11:1).


Spring Break

To escape the cold
Spring breakers went south to find
Stiff winds and sand drifts.

I sure hope that isn’t what happened to any of you dear people who’ve been on spring break recently, but that was our experience in March when we went to Florida for a medical meeting. It was “Bikers’ Week” and the highways were jammed with college kids and motorcyclists, but we had the beach to ourselves due to the icy winds and blowing sand.

In Michigan where I live, it actually snowed again last night! 😦 Try as we may, we don’t always get what we hope for! Thankfully, when we were at Daytona Beach in March, we had our winter coats, so we just bundled up and hiked the beach anyway. (That’s Alan in the distance, who can outrun me any day!)

Like the Whos down in Whoville who refused to let the Grinch steal Christmas, may we find joy in our imperfect lives rather than dismay in our unfulfilled expectations! As Robert Louis Stevenson put it: “Make the most of the best and the least of the worst.”

Rejoice evermore.
17 Pray without ceasing.
18 In every thing give thanks.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)


Meditating on the Command of Christ (25): Show and Tell? No, Don’t Tell but Show!

Have you ever wondered why Jesus so often instructed people that he had healed not to tell anyone? It wasn’t just reverse psychology to up his political ratings. Jesus was intentionally avoiding popularity and fame, because his mission wasn’t to become the Messianic King they were expecting. The Jewish people wanted someone who would throw off the rule of the Roman Empire, Jesus came to earth in year “0” (the beginning of time as we reckon it in the Western world) in order to die for us.

Have you thought about the universal statement we are making every time we write out the date? Although some are trying to change our dating system, “BC” stands for “before Christ,” and “AD” stands for anno domini, a Latin phrase which means “in the year of our Lord.” To say that today is April 8, 2019 is to say that 2019 years ago, Christ was born. The life of Jesus divides our history! Although some are trying to change the dates to “BCE” (“before common era”) and “CE” (“common era”) to keep from offending those who don’t believe in Christ, it is—nevertheless—a statement that “the common era” began with the birth of Jesus! This is just one foreshadowing “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11).

Jesus was a man on a mission. He was THE man on THE mission of dying in our place, for our sins, so that we can be reconciled to God. Everything else he did—his exemplary life, his teaching and miraculous healing ministry—were all subsumed under his ultimate purpose. Therefore, it was crucial that He not attract so much attention that the nation wouldn’t let him die when the time came. After all, it was the will of the mob (stirred up by the religious leaders) that demanded his death. If they had been just as adamant that he be rescued, they would have rioted to keep him from dying, which was exactly the opposite of what Jesus knew was God’s will!

In this account of Jesus healing the leper, he instructed the leper to “See thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them” (Matthew 8:1-4). In classes for public school children, there are “Show and Tell” times, when children bring prized possessions to share with their classmates. In a simple way, this teaches the children how to verbalize what’s special in their lives and share with their friends.

Despite Jesus’ clear command to the contrary, this is exactly what happened with the leper. Instead of keeping quiet, he went out, and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter, insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in desert places: and they came to him from every quarter” (Mark 1:39-45). The cleansed leper was so thrilled with his healing that he told everybody all about it with such passion that people pursued Jesus out into the wilderness!

I am often tempted to shake my head and wonder why the leper didn’t obey such a simple command, but keeping quiet isn’t always easy for me either. Do you have trouble keeping quiet when something wonderful happens? Here’s the amazing thing to me: Back in the time of Christ, people couldn’t keep their mouths shut, but now people often have trouble opening their mouths. We want to “show but not tell.” Have we adopted the Mother Teresa attitude: “Spread the love of God through your life but only use words when necessary.”

Really? Is that what Jesus taught? Looking back, I’m convinced my closest friend in fourth grade was probably a true Christian, based on her character and certain things she said, but I didn’t have a clue what made her different (and very attractive to me). If she had been willing to “show and tell” me about Jesus, I might have gotten saved several years sooner. As it was, I never heard the gospel until I was twelve.

Now that Jesus has accomplished his mission and has risen from the grave, he does not want us to “Show but don’t tell.” He has the opposite command for us: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). Let’s show and tell what marvelous things Jesus has done for us—and wants to do for everyone!

Texts for this lesson:

When he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him. And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them (Matthew 8:1-4).

39 And he preached in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and cast out devils. 40 And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. 41 And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean. 42 And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed. 43 And he straitly charged him, and forthwith sent him away; 44 And saith unto him, See thou say nothing to any man: but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them. 45 But he went out, and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter, insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in desert places: and they came to him from every quarter (Mark 1:39-45).

“12 And it came to pass, when he was in a certain city, behold a man full of leprosy: who seeing Jesus fell on his face, and besought him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. 13 And he put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will: be thou clean. And immediately the leprosy departed from him. 14 And he charged him to tell no man: but go, and shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing, according as Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them. 15 But so much the more went there a fame abroad of him: and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by him of their infirmities. 16 And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed (Luke 5:12-16).