Saturday, June 30, 2012

Land Hurricanes and "The One Who is Always Present"

On my journey toward being more wise I have learned that there are things I cannot control - many things, most things.   I was reminded of this earlier this week when we experienced a land hurricane (or durecho); winds to the east of us were clocked at 91 mph.  For any male readers who are asking, "Do they make these terms up as they go?"  I'm told that land hurricanes (or durechos) have been so named since 2010 but I have spent no time in verifying this fact.

Several years ago I wrote a devotional about The One who can control things.  I will share that a little later on.  Before that I would like to share what I was doing during the land hurricane and what my children were doing.  Imagine the thoughts and feelings of this mother's heart.

Grandma is staying with us.  She recently had a stroke and struggles to say what she wants to.   She needed to take care of some things at her doctor's office.  Initially I was planning to take the girls along and do some errands while "in town" (the larger town about 8 miles to the west where we do most of our business).  As the day progressed I realized their constant chatter was making it more difficult for Grandma to speak.  That combined with thoughts of the small waiting area at the doctor's office and deciding the nature of the visit wouldn't be appropriate for young ears, I decided to take Grandma to her doctor's office and leave the girls at home.

If I had been on my computer at all that morning, I would not have made that decision.  If I had watched any news that day I would not have made that decision.  But I worked around the house, fed my family, etc. oblivious to the building storm - totally ignorant of pending danger.

I headed toward the doctor's office and commented about the dark sky but still had no idea how serious the coming storm would be.    We continued driving, the sky continued darkening.  Our area is experiencing a drought, so I'm thinking of the coming refreshment still naive of any possible danger.  My first warning sign was when the wind blew my car significantly.  Shortly after that one of the traffic lights was out.  And then the rain started, blinding at times.  I told Grandma we should go to my sister-in-laws house (where Grandma normally lives) and wait out the storm.  She agreed and we headed that direction but were stopped by a downed tree.  Thanks to the new one way road near the hospital, the only way to get around the tree and get to my sister-in-law's house was to go back out to the highway and deal with panicked drivers, wind and darkened traffic lights.  I thought about taking Grandma to one of the many waiting rooms on "medical row" but realized we would have to fight the rain to get inside to safety.  Instead we decided to find a parking space (away from trees) and just wait.

We watched the storm.  I wondered how soon it would reach my children at home.  And then the call from home came.   But... wait for it... wait for it... the storm took out our cell connection!  I was ten miles away from my children with no way to call them or call anyone else to help them.  I could not drive to them without driving through the storm and putting myself and Grandma in further danger.  There was absolutely nothing I could do!  Nothing but pray!  And pray I did!  The storm subsided, we headed home and the girls were fine.  They weren't even scared, proving that yes, sometimes ignorance is bliss. 

This experience taught me that I am too independent, depending too much on my own wisdom and my own strength.  It also reminded me how dependent I have become on my cell phone.   And most of all I was reminded that God was not surprised by the storm and he was not weakened by it.  He wasn't operating without power, without cell connections and with any trees down in His way.  He still had "the whole world in His hands." 

May you be encouraged by this message from Isaiah.  

Isaiah 58:11

The LORD (LORD in capital letters is the personal name of Jehovah God. It probably means “The One Who is Always Present” (The Revell Concise Bible Dictionary) I picture large hands holding me.  Wherever I go I am in God’s hands.  If I fail and fall, I am still in God’s hands.  A hymn states, “While all that borrows life from Thee is ever in Thy care and everywhere that man can be, Thou, God, are present there.)

 Will Guide you ALWAYS; (God’s guidance isn’t hampered by power outages, software glitches or inaccurate human input.  It doesn’t have to be weakened or altered to go through prison walls, hospital walls or soldiers' barracks.  It doesn’t have to be turned off on airplanes or in waiting rooms.)

 He will SATISFY your needs in a sun-scorched land
 (Picture the driest desert.  God not only satisfies our every day needs, but also our intense deep needs that no other resource can satisfy.)

And will STRENGTHEN your frame.  (When I am tired, I sometimes feel like my bones are rubber.  God strengthens my frame and makes my bones firm for the task.)

 You will be like a well-watered garden, (A well-watered garden is beautiful, flourishing, vibrant and fruitful.  I can be all those things with my ever-present God.)

 Like a spring whose waters never fail. (Water has energy and life-giving abilities.  God can give me that energy in unending supplies.)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Vine plants and Life

Last fall we spread our compost out over our proposed garden space for this year.  It seems our plans never work out quite as we intend.  We had some set backs due to an uncooperative tiller.  Our schedules and the weather at times didn't jibe.  When we finally got into the garden to start planting, we discovered a mess of volunteer vine plants!  Volunteers are a welcome part of our gardening; they are plants that start growing on their own (from the compost or a previous planting).  We excitedly studied them trying to figure out what they were and how much we could afford to save.  Our best guess is that we have watermelon and pumpkin plants growing.

Determining how much we can afford to save is a more difficult assessment.  We all know that weeds are bad.  They interfere with the plant growth and must be removed.   But did you know that good plants can interfere with the growth of other good plants?
Take these plants for example, as they grow they may choke each other out.  There is a risk that neither plant will grow good fruit.  Therefore it is necessary to thin the plants out.  We had to pull out some plants so the other plants would be healthier, grow to maturity and produce the desired fruit - hopefully in large quantities :-)

But guess what... the job is not done.   This thinning is a continuous process.  Each day when we check the garden we find 6 -10 new volunteers.  We have to keep assessing which plants can truly grow into something productive.
This little guy on the right is trying to grow in between two bigger, more mature plants (one of which is shown on the left).  He will fight for food and water like my daughters fight over the biggest handful of Skittles.  It will get ugly and one or more of the plants will loose its nice healthy green color.  Though it is hard to pluck such a nice looking plant from the ground and end its life, doing so was necessary for the survival and maturity of the other plants.

Our lives are similar.  There are many good healthy things we could do to fill our time.  However, if we are not careful, we can try to do too many things - even too many good things.  Especially now in the summer time I feel this tension as I look at activities for the children.  We COULD attend swimming lessons, gymnastics classes, art classes, reading challenges, story times, Vacation Bible Schools, piano lessons, guitar lessons, drum lessons, cheer leading camps, etc., etc.   If we tried to do all of the good things that are available, we would end up so tired we would miss out on healthier family times and teaching opportunities at home.  Just like in the garden, the evaluation has to be constant.   When you get your schedule set, something else WILL grow up to tempt you. 

This doesn't just apply to the family, it applies to me personally as well.   As I anticipate the fall and having my youngest attend kindergarten, I consider what I might do.  I might work, I might volunteer, I might enjoy more lunches with friends, I might read, I might write, etc.  I will have to continue evaluating to consider what things will contribute to the best growth and maturity.

Just as too many volunteer vine plants can choke each other out in my garden, too many activities  (good and solid though they may be) can choke out productivity and quality in my life.

A friend challenged me not to do what is good, not to do what is better, but to do what is BEST.  I pass that challenge on to you.  Have you thought about things in your life that may be choking out better things?   Do you have a plan to put more time and energy into the BEST?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Wishes, Knowledge and Thanksgiving

My mother-in-law was in and out of the hospital at the end of May, so I didn't have the time, energy or creativity to post with any kind of regularity.  Here are a few thoughts that have been floating around in my mind:

* allergies, diabetes and heart conditions weren't such a part of daily life
* sickness and hospitalizations weren't necessary
* friends didn't have to hurt
* I didn't forget things, neglect things, waste things

* God loves me and you and those I love
1 John 3:1a, 2, 16, 4:10, 16, 19:  How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!  And that is what we are!  ...This is how we know what love is:  Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.  And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers...This is love:  not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins...And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.  God is love.  Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him... We love because he first loved us.

* God has a plan for salvation that shines above our earthly challenges
Ephesians 2:4&5 - But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions - it is by grace you have been saved.
John 14:6 - Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.
I Corinthians 15:3&4 - For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance:  That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.

* I can call to God:  He hears and cares
Psalm 34:4, 8, 15, 18 - I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears...Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him... The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry...The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

* celebrating 17 years of marriage
* finding a major counter top kitchen appliance, a clay roaster and a fondue pot for $26.75 and a husband who was equally excited about the finds and the money saved
* being more mature
* medical coverage, allergy meds, insulin, appropriate and kind medical care
* a smoke free hospital and the memories of an incident some seven years ago when one of my daughters asked, "Is that the smoker nurse?"  after hearing her parents complain about the overbearing smoke odor of the OB nurse
* a loving God who created and sustains me
* family fun and Mother's Day pampering
* a sister who lives near a lake and offered a few hours of escape
* close proximity to most grandparents
* beautiful summer weather

Happy June!  What are you thankful for?