Welcome to my blog...

Green trees, cool water, a gentle breeze...the perfect place to sit at the feet of the Master and learn. Jesus taught so often on the shoreline, and He's still speaking today.

This is where I share the lessons He teaches me, often during the time I spend on the shores of a local lake. I don't have all the answers...and some days I don't have any. But I go here when I need to draw near to Him in a tangible way. Come with me...

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Lessons Trees Teach

Today's walk began like any other.  I laced up my sneakers, put on a hooded sweatshirt to guard against the misty rain, pocketed my cars keys and cell phone and hit the trail.  I was a little disappointed there were no majestic birds or curious deer to see today.  All I came across were acres and acres of trees.  Every one the same stretching as far as the eye could see.

Or were they?  As I made my way through the woods I felt God speaking to my heart.  "The trees are representative of people.  Their personalities, attitudes, lives."  After that, I began noticing subtle differences and as I did, I saw the lessons in the trees.  As you look through these pictures, can you identify with any?  Which tree are you like?  Is God speaking to you through the stories the trees have to tell?

Some people try to stand alone.  They have pushed away the protective hedge of God's love and peace.  Why are you standing alone?  Anger?  Pride?  Insecurity?  You don't have to be in a solitary situation..  Unlike the tree rooted in one place, unable to move, you can choose to do as it says in James 4:8: Draw near to God...and He will draw near to you.

Some people are cliquish.  They surround themselves with like-minded people, but it's almost as bad as standing alone.  They tend to think of themselves as superior to others.  Psalm 1:1 says, "Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers."

Hebrews 12:1 cautions "Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Are you ensnared and entangled in sin?  Does it have such a grip on your life that it's becoming difficult to separate it from who you are?

It may be slowly, insidiously becoming part of your framework or the ugliness of what you think you're hiding in your soul may be obvious to everyone around you.  2 Peter 2:19b "For a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him."

Perhaps you're mired in circumstances.  Life is one big swamp, and the water's edge is creeping up.  You feel if one more thing goes wrong, you may just start drowning.  It's not anything you've done necessarily, it's just life.  Psalm 40:1 & 2 promises "I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire."

Or maybe, everyone around you seems to be enjoying life.  They seem renewed, blossoming, growing...it just doesn't seem fair.  You know they aren't living a godly life, and yet it appears that all is going well for them.  By contrast, you love God, you try to walk in His ways, but you're in a season where you feel dried up, dead, and you're barely hanging on.   Psalm 73 addresses this.  In verses 2 -4 it says "But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold.  For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.  They have no struggles, their bodies are healthy and strong."  Further on the psalmist laments in verse 13 "Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence."  But by verse 16-17 he sees the truth "When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me till I entered the sanctuary of God, then I understood their final destiny.  Surely you place them on slippery ground, you cast them down to ruin."  Finally in verses 27 & 28 it says this "Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.  But as for me, it is good to be near God.  I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds."

When you find yourself in an unpleasant situation like that, how do you react?  Are your words life affirming and sweet like honeysuckle despite how you're feeling?  Or harsh and critical?  Does your thorny demeanor make people run in the other direction?  Proverbs 15:1 says "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."

And when you see someone falling, do you come alongside and bear them up?  Proverbs 17:17 says "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity." 

When we are not rooted in the Word, and the full force of life's fury comes against us, it can be easy to get knocked off our feet.  We may be tempted to believe false teachings which  twist God's truth to try to form a new truth  But it leads nowhere and bears no fruit.  However, when we keep our focus heavenward, we become unshakable in our certainly of what and whose we are.  Single-minded in purpose, growing in His strength and power.  Psalm 1:3 says "He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields his fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither, whatever he does prospers."
When I listened to the simple prompting of the Spirit to look beyond the surface of sameness, I was blessed by what I came across.  I invite you to discover some insights for yourself - there's so much more than I've shared here.  The next time you walk in or past a grove of trees, look at them.  REALLY look.  Marvel at the variation in the shades of green and diverse shape of their leaves.  Notice the patterns of the bark, the health of the trunk.  Like the people in your life, they are all different, and yet, God created and loves each of them.  The trees have lessons to teach, but above all, they speak to the majesty, creativity and glory of God.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Changing Seasons

Last night I went for my usual walk around the lake.  Spring is definitely here!  All kinds of babies from fawns to goslings have their parents scrambling to feed, care and protect.  Under a foot bridge, the cacophony of cries from nests filled with tree swallow chicks was almost deafening.  Moms and dads darted back and forth, gathering insects for their young.  They seemed none to happy to be disturbed by the noise created as I walked across the wood and iron structure.

One of the most beautiful sights I witnessed was this gorgeous creature perched as happy as you please on a rock.  Pretty sure it's a Great Blue Heron.

I slowly, quietly, made my way to the waters edge, carefully testing one of the larger stones to see if I could get a footing.  I lifted my camera phone and voila! A picture worthy of a postcard.  Within seconds, he was off, and I quickly snapped a few more.

As I rounded corner away from the lake and into the wood, I was suddenly struck by how lush everything was becoming.  It had rained the previous two days and everything had a more intense color.

The brown tree trunks appeared almost black, and the leaves were a deep, rich green.  Everything smelled clean and fresh.  I remembered coming this way not much more than two months before when the trees were barren and the only leaves were brown and crisp and strewn across the forest floor.  How very different it looked today. And I know in another two months time it will appear different still. The vegetation will be even more thick, filling out the gaps and totally blocking the view to the lake just beyond.

As I pondered all the changes, I thought back to a conversation I'd had a few days before with a young woman interning in my office. She knows my penchant for baking and to a lesser extent, cooking. She asked me if I'd always been so passionate about it. "No" I laughed. "I HATED to cook when I was younger." She seemed shocked. "It was a different season of my life" I explained. "The kids were young, I was working several jobs to make ends meet. The last thing I wanted to do was spend time in the kitchen when I got home." I went on to explain that I'm a very different person these days.
I love spending a Sunday afternoon cooking and baking for the week.  I get tremendous joy from creating yummy treats to give to family and friends.  Tangible evidence that I've spent time creating something just for them, to make them feel special.
I've discovered a new found joy in being outdoors experiencing nature.  I've taken to having my camera with me on my walks to capture simple and amazing beauty right in the local park. (Okay, it's just a camera phone, but you can't deny I've gotten some amazing shots with it!)  I feel like I'm beginning to develop a bit of an eye for capturing God's incredible beauty in nature which is a totally new interest for me.

I've become an even greater lover of sunsets...reveling in the rich golds, pinks, and purples painted across the sky and the shimmering glow dancing across the face of the water as the sun slowly slips down behind the edge of the lake to ultimately be swallowed up by the trees.  I have always led a busy life, and my calendar is still very full, but I have learned the benefit - the absolute necessity - of slowing down to enjoy life.  Of experiencing it with all my senses.  Of being quiet before God to hear what He is whispering to my soul.  It is an exercise I wish I had learned many years ago.
I've also discovered the importance of friends.  True friends who will laugh and cry with you.  Who don't care if your house is a mess - they come running when you tell them YOU'RE a mess at that moment.  Who when they say they will pray for you, actually do...and you know it because you feel the peace, the calm, the presence of God when you can't utter a word in prayer.  I now say "I love you" unashamedly and often to those friends because I truly do. 

Yes, I'm in a different season in my life.  It is rich, and full, and beautiful - much like spring.  But it wasn't all that long ago that I went through the winter.  Things were barren and often looked bleak.  However, I've learned to see the pockets of beauty that still existed during that time.  And I now appreciate spring all the more because of it.

Author and speaker Priscilla Shirer (daughter of preacher Tony Evans) shared in one of her studies something that stayed with me.  She said her entire single life she had longed to be married.  And when the day came that her now husband proposed, she was elated...for a few minutes.  Then she looked at the ring on her finger and realized that for all intents and purposes, her single life was now over.  And suddenly, she wondered what she had done with all those single years.  Now that she's the mother of young children she sees it happening again.  The temptation is to wish away the time - waiting for the day your baby can crawl, then walk and talk, then head off to school and before you know it, they are married and you wonder where?  Where did the time go?  Each season of life is to be lived to the full and appreciated for what it teaches us.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 are the well known "a time for" verses.  "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven."  Verse 11 goes on to say "He has made everything beautiful in its time.  He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end."

The devotional Jesus Calling put it this way a few days ago..."Here and Now comprise the coordinates of your daily life.  Most people let their moments slip through their fingers, half-lived.  They avoid the present by worrying about the future or longing for a better time and place.  They forget that they are creatures who are subject to the limitations of time and space.  They forget their Creator, who walks with them only in the present."

Don't let another moment slip away.  Begin today walking with Him in the present.  He has made everything beautiful in its time, so live the time you're in right now to the full...the seasons will most assuredly change down the road - don't miss a second of the one you're in.