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What words come to mind when you see this picture? What sort of emotions does it evoke within you?

When I look at this photograph it stirs a sweet sort of sadness. It is hope mingled with a tinge of heartache. The droplets of water still lingering from last night’s rain are teardrops; they trickle down blades of fresh green growth and quietly remind me that tears and trials often accompany new growth in my own life.

Rain is needed to bring about beauty; the same is true of pain. A life untouched by trials is rarely fruitful. Just as the rain softens the soil and allows the roots to stretch down deeper, so the hard things that happen in our lives allow us to sink our roots down deeply into the unwavering love of God. I have found this to be true in my own life.

So, when the sun is shining and all is bright in our worlds, let’s rejoice in the sweet times of refreshment that God supplies. But when the sun is hidden from view and our days are filled with constant drizzle, let’s labor to trust that God is at work and that we will one day see beauty spring forth from our barren places.

“He covers the heavens with clouds;
he prepares rain for the earth;
he makes grass grow on the hills.”
Psalm 147:8

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It’s a frigid day here in the Atlanta suburbs.  Some of my friends from up north might laugh, but the temperature is in the twenties, there are flurries in the air, and the schools are closed – that qualifies as near-blizzard like conditions around here!  Trust me – there is no toilet paper to be found on the grocery store shelves.

In the midst of the harsh weather (really, it’s brutal outside!) I have enjoyed watching my spoiled backyard birds.  Despite being blown about by the wind gusts, they have camped out at my feeders all morning, feasting on the seed and enjoying the fresh water from the heated water dish I got for Christmas.  There has been quite a frenzy going on – a constant flurry of feathers.  They need more nourishment when the weather is cold, and I am delighted to supply it.

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As I watch them shovel seed into their beaks (this blue jay was quite the glutton), I am reminded that when times feel harsh in my own life, I too am in need of extra nourishment.  When life gets a bit brutal, I need to feast on the life-giving Word of God.  Thankfully, just like I enjoy feeding my birds, my Father delights to feed me.  He says to me in Psalm 81, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.  Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.”

So as the birds continue to fill up at the backyard feeders, I will seek out some solitude and ask God to feed my soul.  There’s no such thing as gluttony when it comes to feasting on God’s Word!

Buried treasure…I found some the other day.

It was tucked away in the middle of an old and often neglected book written by a man named Amos, who was a shepherd by trade, but a prophet by the call of God.  He wrote – “He who forms the mountains, creates the wind, and reveals his thoughts to man, he who turns dawn to darkness, and treads the high places of the earth – the Lord God Almighty is his name.” (Amos 4:13)

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Amazing!  Our God is more powerful than our minds can grasp, but more personal than our hearts can imagine.

He is the maker of the mountains and the One who brings the wind into being.  He commands the sun to run its course and holds each star in place.  He treads the high places of the earth and nothing can thwart His sovereign rule.

And yet…this all-mighty God “reveals His thoughts to man.”

The One who designed the universe desires relationship with you and me.  He wants us to know Him and reveals Himself to us through the world that He has created and the Word that He has inspired.

Oh, may we not lose sight of this – especially as Christmas approaches and we celebrate the birth of Jesus, God’s full and final revelation of Himself.

Infinitely powerful…intimately personal…may God give us eyes to see the treasure of this truth.

A Lion On A Leash

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Meet Moses – a six month old lion cub my daughter and I fell in love with when we visited the Chestatee Wildlife Preserve in the North Georgia Mountains.  We happened to be there the day he was being moved to his new habitat.

And just how do you move a lion from one location to another?  Why, on a leash, of course!

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I have to confess, it was a comical scene to behold as Moses was not inclined to cooperate. Not knowing where he was headed, he had no desire to be led away from his familiar surroundings.  The workers pushed, pulled and prodded while the stubborn cub resisted their every effort.  One minute he would stretch himself out on the ground and refuse to budge, and then the next minute he would try to dart off into the hedge of bamboo.

When they finally corralled him into his new enclosure, he stretched out in the grass, utterly content.  Isn’t he a cutie?

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Scripture speaks of another lion, only this one isn’t cute at all.  1 Peter 5:8 says, “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

There is a lot I don’t understand about spiritual forces and unseen realities, but I know that Satan is real and that he hates God and despises those who worship Him.  His aim is to bring destruction and his goal is to cause harm; and yet, he is only allowed to act with God’s permission.  When Satan sends things our way that he hopes will batter and break us, God takes those very things and uses them to build us and bless us.  And one day, when our adversary reaches his final destination (for he too is being led somewhere he would rather not go) he will look back and see that all of his evil schemes unwittingly served the high and holy purposes of a sovereign God.

The evil one is fierce, but we need not fear his roaring for he is a lion on a leash.

My Favorite Place

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Every Tuesday night, I head to the Foxtale Book Shoppe (think Cheers in bookstore form) where I am taking a class called “The Artist’s Way.”  I treasure the time that I get to spend with this quirky, creative group whom God consistently uses to encourage, inspire, and stretch me out of my comfort zone.  I am out of my league in their midst, but my secret hope is that their creativity is contagious and that their skills will somehow rub off on me.  During our time together, we study the craft of writing and then, well, we write. One of our prompts this week was to describe our favorite place.

 

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My favorite place is a large boulder in my own backyard.  Each day, I fill the feeders, pick up my camera and head outside.  I sit quietly on this solid surface, and try my best to blend in with the environment.  I often wear earth tones and stillness comes easily to me, so it usually isn’t long before I am greeted with the flutter of wings and a chorus of whistles and squawks.

 

I love the crispness of the autumn air and the  canopy of leaves that covers me.  The gold and amber hues stir a sweet sort of melancholy, while the bright feathers and cheerful chirps fan the flames of a hope grown fragile and dim amidst the demands of everyday life.  A few feet away, a small waterfall card2cascades down the hill, calling to the birds to come and quench their thirst.  As it races over the rocks in its path, it sings a soothing song and speaks peace to my soul.  There is a reason that the voice of God is said to be like the sound of many waters.

This place, at this time, is a gift to me.  It is my sanctuary – a place where I can slow down, quiet my spirit, and savor the presence of God.  It is a time when I can take a deep breath and be reminded that God is real, that He is good, and that His hand sustains all things. Surrounded by the beauty of a well cared for creation, I am assured that I too am well cared for.

I read these words by Madeleine L’Engle this morning, which made me smile and seemed a fitting ending for this post.  She wrote:

“I sit on my favourite rock, looking over the brook, to take time away
from the busy-ness, time to be.  I’ve long since stopped feeling guilty
about taking being time; it’s something we all need for our spiritual health,
and often we don’t take enough of it.”  (Walking on Water, p12)

My sentiments exactly, Madeleine.

I spent some time at the Chattahoochee Nature Center the other day.  It was a crisp morning with the leaves beginning to boast their autumn colors.  It does my soul good to carve out times of stillness and to immerse myself in such beauty; it is one way that God renews and refreshes me.  I slow down, and breathe, and marvel at His handiwork.

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While I was there I visited with a pair of Mallard Ducks, who graciously allowed me to take their picture a couple of times.  Okay…so it was more like a couple of hundred times…but they didn’t seem to mind. In fact, I’m pretty sure they enjoyed the whole photo shoot.

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Aren’t they delightful?

This picture of the female is one of my favorites.  I love the design of her feathers and the expression in her eye.  I especially love how the surface of the water captures her reflection so clearly, even showing the water dripping from her beak.

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When I look at this picture it reminds me of the words of Proverbs 27:19 – “As water reflects a face, so a man’s heart reflects the man.”

Who we are on the surface is not our truest reflection; what’s in our hearts reveals who we really are. This is where I would love to claim that my heart holds only what is pure, lovely, and admirable…but that is clearly not the case.  A lot of yukky stuff has taken up residence in my heart, and it is reluctant to move out.  Yes, God has planted some seeds of glory in me, but they dwell side by side with such grossness.  I do love Jesus, but I am one sinful saint.

Here is what gives me hope – God will finish what He starts in the lives of His children.  He will faithfully use both the burdens and the blessings of life (especially the burdens though, right?) to skim off the scum that mars the reflection of our hearts.  The One who calls us will be faithful to cleanse us, and He will not quit until His own image shines forth in our lives.  So let’s give each other grace while God is at work, and trust that He is doing something beautiful in us.

And thanks for bearing with my camera craze…I think I have become a bit obsessed…

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Watch out for spider webs…not the literal ones, the metaphorical ones…those things that we are tempted to place our trust in other than God.  They will always let us down.

Job 8: 14-15 says: “What he trusts in is fragile; what he relies on is a spider’s web.  He leans on his web, but it gives way; he clings to it, but it does not hold.”

Only God is able to bear the weight of our trust.  He is strong; He is wise; He is good; and He is unchanging.  He knows us completely and loves us with a love that is immense and unwavering. He promises that He will never let us down.

So, when life gets hard – and it will – let’s turn to God and not away from Him.  Let’s strive to place our trust in a faithful God and not in a fragile web that was never meant to bear our weight.

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