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Archive for September, 2013

Autumn Morning

A cool morning when the darkness lingers, making the bed a warm haven and my dreams something to cling to just a bit longer.  My dad loved telling the stories of how I’ve always been a morning person, waking before dawn and singing lustily in my crib before I’d even had a birthday.  Morning has typically been a glorious invitation to me; an introduction to this next day of my life which is still a blank page as I lie in my bed listening to the stillness and breathing deeply of life itself.

In the summer sometimes after a particularly long day of gardening, morning comes too soon—before I’m quite rested and sometimes before I’m quite ready to embark on another day’s adventure.  But in the autumn, when the nights are long and the mornings are crisp I find those few moments of bed-lingering perfect for planning out my day.  It doesn’t take long before I’m hopping up, ready for my steaming cup and jotting down my list of musts for the day.

One of the things I look forward to most each fall is a trip to an apple orchard.  There’s just something exciting to me about see all those kinds of apples:  to see them hanging on the trees, to see the bins of picked P1010894apples—sweet, tart, soft, crunchy, juicy—so many varieties!  I love sipping a bit of cider (hot or cold, seasoned or plain—it’s all yummy to me), smelling the smells and choosing which apples will be used in our household this year.

I believe I was born loving apples!  I love the taste and the crunch, but I also love the color, the shape and the many creative things one can do with a simple little apple.  I’m known for eating at least one raw apple every day (it’s my favorite afternoon snack), but I eat them in lots of other ways also.  Rick loves applesauce, so I make lots of that—both to eat now and to freeze for the rest of the year.  We like pies and dumplings and I love apple butter.  My very favorite P1010896breakfast or bedtime snack is a thick slice of homemade bread toasted and piled high with homemade apple butter.  Yum!  So I make lots of apple butter and can it for the year’s use.  I make my apple butter in the oven, baking it slowly all day long, stirring it once an hour and breathing in the lovely fragrance of warm, spicy apples as I work around the house.

How God must smile as he watches me enjoy His glorious vitamin-rich gift of apples!  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if He laughs out loud.  How could you give a gift this delightful and not?  And speaking of gifts, autumn mornings rate way up there on my list of favorites!

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Rules

This summer I have been working my way through several Old Testament books and enjoying some fun new revelations.  This morning as I read in Jeremiah, I found a real head-thump truth—in fact, one that really made me do a double take.  And the funny thing is that it has been encroaching on my thinking through a number of books of the Old Testament, but I hadn’t seen it quite so clearly spelled out as I did this morning.

The truth is this:  God’s commandments were not given to us to restrict us, but to free us and to save us from ourselves!

The verse that really thumped my head this morning is found in Jeremiah 7:19.  “‘But am I the one they are provoking [by their disobedience]?’ declares the Lord.  Are they not rather harming themselves, to their own shame?”

When you think this through, every single commandment, rule, guideline—every direction the Lord has given to us is not to make life harder for us, but to actually make the good life easier to achieve.  No, I’m not talking about wealth and luxury, but about goodness and happiness and joy.  Any of His directives that we ignore and go against will end up bringing harm to us and disorder and chaos to the world around us.

While I pondered the Lord’s guidance this morning after reading this, I envision Him as he leads us along the path of life.  Before we started out together He gave us some rules or let’s say some guidelines to help us stay on the path—a path which is not there to make our walk harder, but easier after all!  Now, like any child, we may see a flower or a bush of berries or a bird or whatever along the trail and suddenly head off after it—sometimes quite without meaning to—and soon find ourselves entangled in the underbrush or covered in poison or falling over a cliff or many other dangers along the way.  Sometimes we look up and find that we’re totally lost in the underbrush of life and we cry out for Him, our leader and guide, and do you know what?  He will direct us right back onto the path.  Yes, we usually have to suffer the results of our waywardness—He won’t take away the blisters from the poison ivy or memories of the fright from a hard fall because He knows we can learn from them.  But He comforts us and never ever pokes fun at us once we’re back on the path.  In fact, He ‘pretends’ the very things that scared us never even happened because He has so totally forgiven us that He’ll never point out our failures.  Yes, we can’t help seeing the scars ourselves, but He has promised He has removed the memory of the error itself as far as the east is from the west.  And, if we’re smart we won’t make the same mistake twice.  But…do you know what?  Many of us do the same foolish things more than once before it finally gets through our thick heads that life is SO much easier just staying on the path!

Suddenly, after years and years of trying to stay on the path and stop wandering even along the edges, it hits us.  The path isn’t there to make our way restricted.  It’s there to make the hike easier and WAY more enjoyable!  And…when we stay on the path we enjoy the fellowship of our Leader and nothing comes between Him and us.

And I’ve discovered one more thing about this hike we’re on!  I’m not alone!  There are lots of others headed the same direction and they’re fun people to be hiking with!  Yes, there are some that scorn when we’ve wandered off the path, but it’s only because they want us to think they haven’t wandered off themselves.  Yeah, maybe they didn’t get into the same poison ivy we did, but they don’t have those scars and worry lines for nothing!  The truth is, there isn’t one on the path that hasn’t been off at sometime in their lives.  Some more than others, granted, but still and all we’re all in the same condition of needing the guidance and forgiveness of our leader.

And I’ve also discovered that I’d much rather walk the path of life with the ones that love me in spite of my scars than the ones that pretend they don’t have any.  I find they are a lot quicker to laugh and enjoy the journey and that’s where I want to be!

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Church Signs

Have you ever driven down the road and seen a church with a sign out front that has more than just the time of the services and the preacher’s name and contact information?  I’m sure you have.  Occasionally the little sayings are clever and maybe enlightening, but I find those really rare.  Typically they are really stupid and far too often theologically incorrect.  I usually blush when I see them, because, like it or not, that kind of stupidity represents all of us as believers to some folks that just don’t know the difference.

There’s one that’s been showing in a neighborhood not too far from here for quite some time now, and it really makes me boil.  Obviously whoever put it up does not have or read a Bible and has no concept of what being a follower of Christ is all about.  The saying in question?  “Pray now or pay later.”  They obviously believe that Christianity (or at least their concept of praying) is all about avoiding hell.  The truth is that those that love and follow Christ don’t have to worry about hell being part of their future, but the sad truth is that if they go through the motions only to escape hell, that’s exactly where they’ll end up!  They will be the ones knocking on Christ’s door saying, “Look, I went to church.  I put money in the offering.  I bought a gift for angel tree every Christmas.  Let me in!”  And He’ll have to say, “Go away.  I don’t know you.”  Folks!  That’s not what it’s all about at all!  True Christianity is NOT simply a fire escape!

Loving and following the Lord is about exactly that:  Loving and following the Lord!  Not for what we’ll get out of it (or what we can escape), but because He is Creator of the universe and Lord of our lives, because He is Good and worthy of ALL worship!  Because He loved us SO much that He prepared a way for us to be with Him.  And the exciting part is that when we totally give ourselves in obedience to Him, He not only forgives all our sin (past, present and future sin), but He gives us lots and lots of gifts!  He fills us with joy and peace and helps us have patience and understanding and grace.  Our lives are SO very rich and sweet and good.  Yes, we still have troubles, but we don’t have to go it alone. He’s with us through them all and gives us strength and helps us and guides us.  He empowers us to do amazing things.

Yes, heaven is part of our future.  It is promised and it will be sweet for all those who follow Him completely.  But the good news is that the reward of following the Lord doesn’t have to wait until we die.  It starts right now!  As soon as we submit to Him, He fills us with amazing peace and joy!  And he gives us access to all Truth and to His own wisdom.

And living as His child is SO much fun!  He loves to guide us and bless us, but He also has an amazing sense of humor.  And His love cradles us when we feel so very alone and lost.  So many, many times I do dumb stuff and feel rejected by those around me, but do you know what?  God never makes me feel stupid!  He has such amazing patience and always encourages me with that quiet little voice in my heart saying, “Hey, everyone does dumb stuff.  Just learn from it and let it go.  If those that are laughing or rolling their eyes think they never make mistakes, well, I’ll be sure to remind them of a few!  But you, just trust me and keep pressing on…” and soon I’m feeling completely loved again.

I once knew a lady that said she wanted to be a Christian.  So I tried to explain salvation and confession and submission to her.  She supposedly prayed to confess her unworthiness and to receive Christ and then she asked if she could go to church with us.  I thought she really wanted to learn and worship and start growing in Christ.  However, six months later she said she didn’t want to go to church anymore.  When I asked why, she said she’d had enough.  She’d ‘tried Christ’ and nothing had changed in her life at all!  Oh, folks!  How stupid do we think God is?  You can’t ‘try’ Him!  You either submit sincerely or you don’t.  Period.

Yes, my walk with Christ has pretty much nothing whatsoever to do with avoiding hell.  That’s a fringe benefit for sure, but the truth is that it’s all about not worrying about me and my future at all, but giving it all over to Christ.  And trust me, the benefits are NOW and are so, SO sweet!  But if there were no benefits at all other than knowing Christ intimately, it still would be worth it all.  And that alone, my friend, is priceless!

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