Kisses – Part Two

kissHave you ever hugged someone who is unresponsive? You throw your arms around them and it’s like hugging a board. It makes you wonder.

We’ve been created to be responders. I remember my husband being absorbed in a movie one time, I reached over to give him a kiss and … well, a peck without taking his eyes off the TV is not a kiss-kiss. He wasn’t interested in responding to me at the time.

If the Lord has kisses for us…is it possible for us to kiss the Lord?

Hold on to your hats and get ready for a joy explosion:

The Greek word for worship is proskuneo, from pros: toward, and kuneo: to kiss!  To worship is to kiss toward.   When we worship God… we are sending Him kisses!

The longer I knew my husband, the sweeter his kisses became, because I was growing in my knowledge of what a wonderful, trustworthy, man he was.  We have to know the Lord before our worship becomes sweet.

 It’s knowing who Jesus is that makes us want to worship.

But wait, there’s more…  A kiss is not one-sided.  It takes two. We are created to be responders to God.  So, if I want to respond with a kiss —  how?

Proverbs 24:26 says, “He who gives a right answer kisses the lips.” As I wrote in Kisses Part one,  God’s Word is the fruit of His lips. He has the right answer for us and when we return His words back to Him we are responding with a kiss.

When I respond to the circumstances in my life with the Word He has made alive in my heart — I’m sending Him my kisses.

When I worship Him with my whole heart — I’m sending Him my kisses.

Every time I vocalize my gratitude for His presence and blessings in my life —  I’m sending Him my kisses.

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is the fruit of  our lips that give thanks to His name. (Hebrews 13:15 NAS)

One of the first things my kids learned was how to blow a kiss.  It was so cute to see them try to blow a kiss hard enough to reach me across the room.  We were constantly blowing kisses to each other.

When I’m working around my house and I stop for a second and say, “Lord,  I love you,”  I like to think I’ve just blown Him a kiss.

IMG_0852I was meditating and praying His Word one day and suddenly a picture filled my thoughts. The Lord was sitting on a stump with His elbows resting on His knees, and He was devouring a great, big, juicy orange.

Then I saw the label on the orange…Sunkist!  Of course I thought Son-Kissed.

Just read Psalm 119, and every time you see words like:  law, statutes, precepts, commands, decrees, substitute it with “Word”.   For example:  “With my lips I recount all the law (Word) which come from your mouth.” (Psalm 119: 13)

Corny? No way. These kisses are just the thing we need to keep us going.

And an orange is the perfect image  to convey fresh-sweet-delicious-better than wine-fulfilling-drippy joy.

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Kisses – Part One

IMG_0847There are all sorts of kisses. Candy kisses. Butterfly kisses. Little kiss smudges left on the window after the kids come for a visit. Mom’s kisses. Hello kisses. Good-bye kisses. Family kisses. The kisses of a friend. Even little licks on your ankle from a pet.
Then there are the kind of kisses saved for your spouse. Unlike any other, they are lingering kisses of love and sweet commitment.

But did you know there is another kind of kiss as mentioned in the Song of Solomon? These are the kisses of the Heavenly Bridegroom saved for His Beloved Bride.

I looked up “kisses” in the Strong’s Concordance and discovered: KISS – (nasahaq) carries the meaning to fasten upon, to touch as a mode of attachment. It comes from the root, nasaq, meaning to kindle, burn, catch fire.

Are you ready to be blown away? It also means: to equip with weapons.

Think about it. Our weapons come from the fruit of His lips, His Words, tenderly spoken to our hearts. Not the casual kiss, like that of a friend, but going beyond that to deeper, undivided love. This is the relationship that sets our hearts ablaze.

My husband used to blow me a kiss over his shoulder. They were funny and lighthearted; but the kisses that cemented our relationship were when he’d stop what he was doing, sweep me into his embrace, look me in the eyes and kiss me. Face to face. Nothing distracting. Not in a hurry. Giving full attention.

“Kiss me with the kisses of your mouth for your love is more delightful than wine.” Sol.1:2 Wine symbolizes things we turn to other than Jesus. We have wonderful relationships and blessings in this world, but nothing is sweeter that the fruit of our relationship with Him.

The heat of battle is not the time to learn about our defenses. That is not the time to wonder if He’s there for you. It’s in the quiet time that weapons are planted in our heart. When trials come, those things God has made alive in us will rise to the surface and shield us.

Times alone – with no distractions. Times spent talking, learning who He is. Time spent contemplating and rehearsing His truth. I will always remember and cherish my husband’s kisses. I miss standing on my tippy toes to reach for him.

Each day, when I go to my comfy chair to be with the Lord, I anticipate His kisses. Heavenly kisses that can never be taken away.

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Carriers of His Presence

merry go round 1“Can we go on the merry-go-round, Mimmy?” I looked down at the little person at my side and groaned inside. I hate going round and round on those things. Everything in me wants to focus the world spinning around me – but it’s impossible. Instead, I end up staring down at my lap praying I don’t get sick.

“Maybe later,” I said crossing my fingers.

I quickly steered him away. Fortunately, there were many exciting things ahead of us at the Strong National Museum of Play. By the time we were ready to leave and passed by the merry-go-round again, my little grandson’s eyes were glazed over with exhaustion and he never even saw it. Thank you, Lord.

I sat on the porch this morning trying to find focus. My thoughts were spinning: this needs to get done, and that, and then there’s . . . Have you been there?

It seems like so many things in this world are at crisis level screaming for immediate attention. Pressure. Responsibilities. Expectations. Spin . . . spin . . . spin.

I tried focusing on the beauty of spring blooming all around me, but what I saw instead was: the garden’s a mess, I have to get the weeds while they’re small. . . the car needs repair . . . that tree limb should come down . . . I need to write the bills, and make those phone calls . . . and . . . spin . . . spin . . . spin.

Within moments I was in tears, wishing my husband was here to help me unravel the confusion and help me find my focus again. This continues to be the greatest challenge of widowhood – no one to help you process.

Then, I heard the Lord whisper . . . “Rest. . . My peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” ( John 14:27)

I think it happens to all of us. If we’re not careful we can end up worn thin by all the things contending for our attention.

merry go round 2

“… But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap.” (Luke 21:34)

This is what the devil is doing: he is trying to get us overwhelmed, and spread too thin.

The battle is in our minds, for our peace, all for the purpose of wearing us down so we become ineffective, dull, powerless Christians. That’s the devil’s plan.

A merry-go-round life? No thanks! God has not enlisted us to merely be chaos-monitors, but to be carriers of His Presence.

Father, thank you for encouraging me this morning. I pray for my friends, show us what we are to be choosing moment-by-moment. We want to follow YOU, not be pushed by the world, the flesh and the devil. Help us to be more sensitive to Your Holy Spirit. Thank you that we’re not left to find our way in life alone – we have You. We love you, Lord, in Your precious Son’s name, Amen.

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Are We Missing Something?

double rainbow

What a rainbow!  I wouldn’t want to miss seeing this.  I wonder how much we are missing in life because we don’t linger in God’s Presence.  There is such a spirit of hurry in the air.  I don’t remember a time in my life when waiting on the Lord was under such attack.

There seems to be so much opposition, a push to go-go, no time for silence, no time to listen, no time to read the Word.  Distractions are at every turn.

This morning I was drawn to Acts 1 . . . it’s after the resurrection . . .

“. . .He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.”

Wouldn’t you love to have been there?  Jesus never spoke mixture.  He message wasn’t adulterated by culture or pride.  What was His first instruction to the disciples?

“And being assembled together with them, He commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the Promise of the Father . . .”  

I’m wondering if Jesus could get us to do that today.  Wait.  Wait for the  Promise of the Father.  The word promise is capitalized–because the Promise of the Father is a Person.

I’m concerned we’re losing this edge in the current church culture.  We look for the next video,  whatever is captivating and entertaining.  Could we be missing the Promise of the Father?

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be witnesses . . .”  

Being “empowered” is a catch phrase these days.  Empowerment in Wikipedia means: to increase the degree of autonomy and self-determination in people in order to enable them to represent their interests.   Autonomy means “one who gives oneself one’s own law.”  Interesting.

This is not the power of the Bible.  Power is a characteristic of God.  Power is a person not merely power.  Powerful Christian living is the result of living in union with God.  It is never something we possess a part from Him.  It is not self-determination, or self-rule, it’s all about surrender and submission to God.

What if they didn’t wait like Jesus asked?  Could the disciples have done what they did without the Holy Spirit?  Can we?

I know we lead busy lives, but what if the disciples said to Jesus, “I can’t give you a full forty, but I can be there Tuesdays and Fridays, but I’ll have to leave early Friday . . .”

I’m not a good wait-er  . . . it’s a severe discipline for me to linger.  I didn’t  used to be like that, so I’m suspicious that it’s a sign of what’s going on in a lot of lives.  I’m not alone in this struggle.  So, what’s the answer?  Could it be we have to die to self?  That’s not a term I hear these days.  Could it be our lives are out-of-order if there is no time to wait upon God? Certainly, God isn’t behind that.

Do we hold on to our problems because we haven’t sat long enough with Him?  Do we rush in, dump our prayers, and leave?  What if He had something to say?

I’m writing this from a place of deep conviction, not scolding.  Believe me, I’m as busy as the next gal, but I hear Him saying to us that He wants to teach us “the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.”

Is it possible there is so much mixture, so much flesh in the church movements of today that we are missing His heart?  What do you say?

 

 

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A Table For Two

dark clouds1I sat on the porch swing on the edge of morning, bundled up against the cold.  A heavy bank of clouds, barely visible through the fog and dark, stretched across the horizon.  It looked as if I was surrounded by a dark mountain range.

It made me think of a time at Watson Homestead Retreat Center.  After the evening meetings, I walked outside and stood in the middle of the expansive valley behind the main buildings.  It was very late, and the only sound I could hear was the wind.  Suddenly, I had a vision of a table set in the middle of that valley with only two chairs.

I felt as if the Lord was giving me a promise of intimacy for the next season of my life, which has become this season of my life.  I was uncomfortable standing in the dark surrounded by woods, but Psalm 23:5 came to me.

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.”

Who wants to sit down and eat when you’re surrounded with enemies?  But the Lord showed me, He wants to prepare a table and let the enemy watch.

On my journey as a widow, there have been many times when I’ve stood in a dark place with only a promise of light to hold on to. Many times, it felt as if He’d left me alone to face an encroaching darkness.  But again and again, He proved my fears were wrong. He’d lead me to the table set for two.  There are places we have to go in life where we can’t bring others.  I needed my friends, but they could not help me with what I had to do on my own, with Jesus.

Our Shepherd will never-ever leave you to face the dark alone.   He’ll give you pastures of rest, and restore your soul.  Even through the valley of the shadow of death, He never leaves your side, never fails to lead.  His name is Comfort.  And when He asks you to sit in the presence of your enemies, it is because He wants to anoint your head with oil, to soothe your mind.

My swing was my table in the wilderness, He’d meet me there.  Even if I didn’t hear a word, or find any inspiration at all . . . I knew He was sitting with me.  

My husband didn’t like to talk while he ate, because it would trigger a spasm in his throat and he’d begin to choke. At first, I’d chatter at him, but then I learned to enjoy eating in silence and realized it really said a lot.  You know you have a deep friendship when you can sit quietly and not have to be talking.

In this season of my life,  my fellowship with the Lord is mostly in silence and worship.  I often have no words, no prayers,  just a knowing that we are sitting at the same table.

 

 

 

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Getting Away

ocean 2Getting away . . . for a few days, a week, two . . . is so healing.

I just got home from a week with my dear friend in Florida.  I haven’t been near the ocean in probably thirty years.  Besides being with my friend, the best part was walking along the beach with the ocean waves crashing at my feet.

The power of the ocean is so incomprehensible.  Several times waves almost pulled my feet out from under me, retreating with dizzying swirls.  I felt so small. Joyous. Humbled.  All I could say was: thank you . . . thank you.

You are so much more powerful than we can understand, Lord.

ocean 3Stepping free of the grey, damp weather – even for a couple days – was amazing. The sun felt so healing. I carefully clocked the time I was exposed, because I know how vulnerable I am.  Again, I hummed my gratitude: thank you, Lord . . . thank you.

Your healing power is terrifying, and without which I can not live. So freely given, so poorly understood. 

It felt good to be in my cozy home again – even with all the dog hair and muddy Oden prints everywhere.  Home, and I whisper: thank you, Lord . . . thanks you.

Sometimes you take all these blessings for granted until your surroundings change for a little while and you return, even to the stress of life . . . it’s the blessing of God.

Forgive me for taking anything, everything, for granted, Lord.

This morning, as I paused on my swing with my Bible, I opened to John 6:33.

“For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world . . . I am the bread of life.  He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.”

ocean 1My friend took me to a Goodwill store in West Palm Beach.  We past Mercedes, Jagquire, and even a car she said cost 500,000.  We were in the area where Billionaires live.  The wealth was unimaginable.  At the Goodwill she pointed out a pair of shoes that cost $5,000 brand new.  You could buy it there for only $800!  What a deal?

The clothes were beautiful, but probably only worn once.  It was interesting for about ten minutes and then I didn’t want to be there anymore.  Wealth is so deceiving.  The world says. “I’ll be happy when I have those shoes, that house, that dress in that size.”  We were wandering in Plastic Surgery heaven.   Skinny women, with big breasts, and dogs wearing collars that cost as much as my old car.

The wealth didn’t impress me.  It doesn’t make you happy, fill your soul, feed your spirit. I came home to my beautiful, tilting, old farmhouse, with my constantly shedding beast, and I laid down on my $300 couch as thought: Ahhhh . . . Home.

Sometimes the best part of getting away is coming home.

 

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Today’s Miracle

porch snow 1It was so quiet today on the swing.  Heavy snow blanketed everything providing an insulated feel to the world.  There was only a couple brave travelers on the road, and  the returning rumble of snowplows.

My world was at peace.  No where to go, nothing pressing, just a sweet silence.

The pipes have been frozen in my baseboard heating for the past three days, so I depended on the wood stove and a little blue space heater. Twice since yesterday, I emptied the wood-box my brother built for me.  There’s something so satisfying about a wood fire.  It makes me nostalgic.

Bill and our boys used to work all summer splitting and stacking wood.  We heated completely with wood back then.  And when the boys were really little, we’d give them a sponge bath in front of the wood stove because there was often ice on the bathroom wall.

I learned how to cook on top of the wood stove, too.  I’d simmer soup all day so it would be ready for supper.  Bill would come stomping in the kitchen door, kicking snow off his shoes, and then sit in front of the fire to unwind from teaching all day.

oden snow 1It’s tempting to say, “those were the days,” but that wouldn’t be true.  For Today is the day the Lord has given, and I’ve learned that to long for another time only blinds me to the miracle He has saved for today.

Do you know what today’s miracles are for you?

Perhaps my miracle today was watching Oden romp in the snow while I sat bundled on my swing.

oden 3Perhaps it was the abundance of peace, and absence of tears, as I wrote about the days leading up to Bill’s death.

Perhaps, it is realizing God’s peace is an insulating protection,  like the heavy snow that hushes the world around us.

God bless you as you look for today’s miracles.

 

 

 

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Loving Oden

oden in studioI used to start my day with coffee, my Bible and the Lord, but something has happened, an invasion of sorts.  I can’t blame this interruption on the devil.  It’s clearly my fault. I’m a sucker for big brown eyes.

Mega-pooch.  The prodigious pup.  105 lb., eight months old, still growing, Odie.  Sometimes his name is “Oh-ODEN!” depending upon his recent behavior.  He not only requires vast quantities of time, food, training and new things to shred, he requires a ton of patience.

oden at back door(take note how high the mud is smeared on the door!)

I’m not sure why I’ve been singled out for repeated lessons on  forbearance.  I thought I was patient. Considering how many times I’ve circled this mountain you’d think I’d have it by now.

I’ve done the mother-in-law forbearance piece.  The invasion of seven grandkids, plus their friends, all on the same day piece.  Then, there was the Shitzu, who had more clout in the family than I did, piece.

Now, my new assignment in forbearance  is living with the largest German Shepherd the vet has ever seen.  All pets need patience and understanding in the puppy stage,  but living with a horse in your house requires a whole new level of patience.

I can imagine what the neighbors think when they watch me being pulled across the back fields by an overgrown fur ball.  I’m sure they shake their heads and say, “What was she thinking getting such a big dog at her age.”  Then there was my friend who announced, “That dog is going to kill you!”

It’s not that I don’t like dogs, I just vowed to never have another one.  (Take note: God doesn’t like it when we make vows!)  My problem is that I love my son and I’ve never been very good at saying no, despite the number of books I’ve read on healthy boundaries.

The lesson for me is:  if you’re going to say “Yes” to something, you’d better be sure you don’t complain about it later. (note to wives) To quote my mother-in-law, “Marjorie, you made him love you.” That means: when the dog is naughty, it’s my fault.

Oden -chew chairOden has pushed the boundaries – he charges through them. And he doesn’t delicately nibble on things like my last dog. It’s not the typical sock and shoe,  he has a taste for furniture and wood molding.

All the molding in my studio, around the doors, and corners has been gnawed.  Entire shoes – left in the hallway by visitors.  Throw rugs, (later throw-up rugs).  I’ve bought “indestructible” toys – that aren’t,  and three dog beds – now consumed, making foam rubber flecked poop.  (oops, I said, “poop” if the youngest grand-boys heard me say that it would automatically trigger a round of  their famous Poop-Song.)

Oden - Play?I like to read in the morning – but he ate my last book.  So, instead of lounging over coffee with the Lord, I have coffee with Oden who’s waited all night to play ball.

I’m not neglecting my devotions, I’m more dependent on Him than ever.  As a matter of fact, I’m holding on white-knuckled to the grace of God to build the forbearance I need,  without complaining, while this “puppy?” continues growing.

Believe me, though I kid about him, he is fast becoming my next-to-best friend.

 

 

 

 

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Where Have You Been?

a monks life 100“Where have you been?” a faithful reader emailed.

Well, it’s time to give you an update from Grace Inspired World of Marji Stevens.

I’m buried in my office working on my book: Gifts From the Porch Swing. It has been a slow process, and harder than I expected,  but God keeps impressing me to keep going.

I can only work so long at the computer before my brain turns to mush.  Once I’m done working four or five hours on the book I’ve got nothing left to write a blog.  Plus, I’ve been finishing up the drawings for  Baby Moose in Blahville children’s book.

Speaking of  your brain being mush . . . how many times have you driven all the way to the store and realized you forgot your purse?  Today I got all the way to the grocery store, which I hate doing anyway, and left my purse home.  However, THIS time I remembered my list.  Argh!

I couldn’t rectify going all that distance and not getting something, so I found a dollar in change on the floor of the car and bought  a donut.  (Yes, I know I could have bought an apple.) At least I was happy for the ride home (I hope you appreciate my transparency).

I’m not making excuses,  BUT,  (which means I am)  between writing, grandkids, ministry obligations, and my 105 lb. German Shepherd PUPPY, Oden, (now only 10 months)  I haven’t had the time to do a lot of the things I normally do.  I’m trying to train the dog not to eat my shoes, or my furniture, or the wood molding etc.

Housework is NOT a priority when I’m in the middle of a project. One reason I invite a friend over once a week is to force myself to clean the bathroom.   I’ve successfully piled more dishes in the sink at one time than ever before in my life, and it hasn’t bothered me in the least! (that’s a God thing)  That’s not much to brag about, but the stacking part was rather clever.

oden 3 10:15Thanks to Oden, the dog hair floating around here is out-of-control.  So to save on vacuuming, I’ve decided to periodically spray the floor with adhesive and before you know it I’ll have a new rug.

I also didn’t bother switching the seasonal clothes in my closet.  I took most of it to the Goodwill (where it came from in the first place).  Who needs fashion when you’re an artist/writer.  I wear layers of thrift store flannel shirts because I freeze in my office since I switched to heating with wood.

That’s another thing . . .  My hippy, mother-earth streak, from the 70’s, never really left me.  It recently resurfaced with all the preper-talk,  so I bought a wood stove.  Then, I spent a good deal of the summer stacking wood.  I love the smell, the cozy heat, the wood piles.  But it is a process you have to get used to.

First, you order the wood and they drop it in a huge pile in your driveway, then you wheel barrow it to the woodpile,  from woodpile back into the wheelbarrow to stack on porch, porch to wagon, wagon to wood box next to stove, from wood box to stove, ashes to pail, then back behind the wood pile.

It’s been a very creative season for me.  I hope you don’t stop visiting my blog.  I’ll try to do better keeping in touch.  God bless, ya’ll.

 

 

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F-L-O-W!

flowing 72 dpiA dear friend, and awesome teacher of the Word, refers often to the importance of being able to  flow in the Spirit.  I totally agree, and I’ve spent years trying to perfect this aspect of my Christian life.  However, I think there is an interpretation issue when referring to  someone resembling a “reincarnated Lucille Ball,” (to quote my husband.)

With all the stress of the season, I decided to look up the definition of  flow to be sure it was fresh in my mind.

Flow:  to runglide, drift, trickle, pour, ooze, spill, derive, be brought about by, stream, gush , sweep, rush, surge. 

So, how does this widow flow through the holidays?  First, I invite 15 people to dinner the Sunday after Christmas.  This is not my gift, but I’m going to flow, right?  I can do this.

Two rather choppy nights of sleep follow as I run through my list of three or four things I cook well. My friend told me to figure one pound of meat per person. (gag) But, I only had an 8 lb. ham????  After swirling into a tizzy I received a revelation from God (I know it was Him because it was smarter than me)

“Buy another ham, stupid.”  (my emphasis added)

Then, of course, my friend calls back to say, “I made a mistake it’s 1/2 lb. so you’ll have enough.”

So what am I doing for Christmas eve?  Not wanting to sit home alone, I derive a plan. Rather than go to church, I decided to take my brother George, and his wife, out to dinner at Applebee’s (partially wanting to ease my guilt for ignoring him)

At the restaurant, I heard a chunky woman with blue glasses say, “I’ll have the cowboy size hamburger complete with barbecue sauce, crispy onions, bacon, and cheese,” The words spilled out of my mouth. “And, may I have those sweet potato fries extra crispy?”  (I skipped dessert because I’m health conscious.”

cowboy hanburger 72After gulping down a hand-full of Tums, I glided  home through the bumper-to-bumper traffic in Fairport, drifted past Mendon Ponds Park at thirty miles an hour because  the deer were out in hoards.

I rushed into my darkened house, and went to put my purse down but, “MY PURSE!”  Oh God, no!  I made a good sweep with the flashlight in and around my car then ran back in in the house to call Applebee’s.

“No ma’am, we’ve looked everywhere, it’s not here. Give us your number in case.”

MERRY CHRISTMAS, MARJ!  Someone is about to go to the mall with your credit card!

I rushed to the phone, drifted through endless recordings on the Visa hotline, finally found a human being, and cancelled my card.  Thankfully I was still flowing.

The phone rang . . . I swirled back to the phone . . . “We found your purse, Mrs. Stevens!”

By this time, my son’s 92 lb. PUPPY German shepherd was throughly disgusted that I’d been swirling around instead of giving him attention. Loud barking ensues. So, I went to fetch his ball . . .

When what to my wondering eyes should appear . . . but a lake of pee, big enough for kayaking!

FLOW WOMAN, FLOW!

Two rolls of paper towel later, one urine soaked ball in the trash, I finally settled down for a long winter’s nap . . . but first, I must hang up my coat.  Hmmm, what’s that stiff thing in my pocket?

MY CREDIT CARD!

Flow?

Frankly, ice cream sounded better.

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The Square Christmas Tree

Square Tree 3 72As the sky turned black, winds swirled with billowing gusts. The poor visibility concerned me because my boys were still on the four-wheeler in the field, looking for a Christmas tree.

Finally, I heard the welcome sound of the engine come roaring over the hill from behind the barn. Relieved, I grabbed by coat and went out to greet them.

“We got the perfect tree!” They yelled against the wind. “It’s a huge one.”

The only thing I could only see was a huge snowy heap dragging behind their vehicle. When they hoisted it up for my inspection, my heart sank. It was a huge one all right. It towered over us, at least eleven feet tall, and defying all pine tree logic was absolutely square!

Square Christmas tree 72 flat“Don’t you like it, mom?”

“Ohhh, guys – uhhh – sure – it’s, uh – square – it’s uh…”

“It’s a SNOOPY TREE, Mom. It needs a home.”

It needed a home alright, but did it have to be mine? This was, by far, the ugliest Christmas tree I’d ever seen. The pine needles scantily fringed the end of the branches. Pruning the shape would leave us with sticks. Then, if we hack a foot off the top and bottom to fit our ceilings, it will be even more square!

My reaction was a bit deflating, I could see it in their faces. “We’ll fix it up – uh – good job, guys.” They weren’t fooled.

This was MY year for a perfect country Christmas tree. I’d spent hours crafting one-of-a-kind primitive ornaments. MY tree was going to rival anything Country Living Magazine had to offer. Now a gargantuan, dysfunctional pine growth was about to dominate the entire corner of my living room. I was heart broken.

It left a hefty trail of pine needles as we dragged it through the house. We had to rearrange every piece of furniture in the living room so IT would fit. Trying to anchor it into our old, rusty metal tree stand was a job. (We lost a lamp during that process) Next came the musty ornament boxes from the crawl space.

box ornaments 72 flatThe one job I loathe, and swear every year to never do again, is untangle the bird nest of twinkle lights. No matter how carefully I package them up, I’m convinced there is a twinkle light demon assigned to sabotage your decorating experience.

I tried hanging the lights in a triangular pattern, in hopes that at night – if you squint – it would look like a pine tree. My grumbling went into high gear as I hung my ornaments over the cords and bald spots. The boys were long gone.

“DAD’s HOME!” they yelled as they thundered to the door to greet him.

“What’s all the excitement?” He said dropping his book bag on the floor.

“We have a surprise, Dad. Come see. Mom hates it.” They were pulling him toward the livingroom when he saw my face.

“How was your day?” I just rolled my eyes. Then I heard: “Wow! Look at that. I love it. Great tree, guys. You did an awesome job.” I was sure he meant to say: great, now I won’t have to do it.

Before I could grab his attention, he disappeared upstairs to lie down for his usual nap before dinner. I just sat and stewed. All that work and it’s still ugly. I couldn’t stand it another minute. I had to hear what Bill really thought. So, I tip-toed upstairs to our bedroom.

square tree 2 72 flat“Huh-neee, are you asleep?” A low grunt emanated from beneath the covers.

“I have to know what you really think about the tree?” Without a breath I added, “Isn’t it the ugliest tree you’ve ever seen? I just hate it… and with all the work I did on those…”

The blankets rolled again, and I heard him mumble, “It’s only a tree.” Silence. End of discussion.

Just a tree? JUST A TREE? I was incensed. Making no attempt to be quiet, I retreated down the stairs. I took a giant step over our 95 lb. Coon dog sprawling across the doorway to the kitchen. “Us girls are outnumbered around here, Babe. The only way to get them more interested in the tree is if we hung Hostess Twinkies and shotgun shells all over it.”

Later in the evening when everyone was asleep, I went into the living room to have a quiet time. There in the corner sat the square tree. I hated to admit it did look pretty in the dark with all the twinkle lights. I pulled my chair in front of the tree and picked up my guitar.

Snow was still falling in giant flakes outside leaving delicate arches on each window pane. The house was silent and peaceful. As I softly worshiped the Lord, a question crossed my mind:

“What’s the difference between this tree and a tree you would find in a king’s palace?”

“Certainly the shape.” I sighed.

He continued. “The difference between this tree and a tree you would find in a King’s palace is that this tree never had a Tender. It had to grow up in the fields where harsh winds and winters scarred its shape. This little tree never felt the skillful hands of a gardener. Just like you. But, you are no longer growing on your own. You have been uprooted from the field, adopted and planted in the King’s personal garden. Now, the skillful Gardener will prune away every wounded branch, and lovingly tend and shape every new branch that grows. He will ornament and adorn your heart with His fruitfulness.”

Square tree 4 72 flatThe little square Christmas tree suddenly began to twinkle and shimmer more radiantly. The reflections danced around room – as if filled with joy. Though the tree itself was still imperfect, the light shining in the tree made it beautiful. And all those ornaments, that I didn’t think the tree deserved – are just like the ornaments of His fruitfulness – worn only because of His grace.

I could see that this homely, square tree was no mistake. It was a gift from God.

While the snow drifted higher, and the tree shown brighter, there was nothing more for me to do but give thanks for this most beautiful Christmas tree. Thankful. He welcomes us, square branches and all, to be tended by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

This story is true. It is my gift to you this Christmas. Feel free to read it to your families and share it with your friends. Thank you for all the wonderful comments and encouragements this year. I pray that your holidays will be happy and your joy will be full. God bless you… Love Marji

Posted in Humorous | 4 Comments

Hidden Mysteries – Six, Twenty, Thirty


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She could see from across the room the embarrassment on her father’s face.  The unthinkable had just happened.  Even with all their careful preparations, they’d  run short.  Not wanting to draw attention to the problem, the bride turned to her husband and let her father, and the master of the banquet, handle the embarrassment.

Mary tapped Jesus on the shoulder and drew her mouth close to his ear, “The wine is gone.”

They talked privately and then Mary said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you to do.”

Then Jesus said, “Fill the ceremonial washing jars with water.”

I can only imagine the servant’s conversation as they moved all six water jugs to the well.

“Who is that guy?” said one servant to the other.

“That’s Joseph’s son.”  The servant lifted the first stone jar to the edge of the well.

“I thought they were out of wine?  Why do they need more water?

It was no easy task filling the already heavy stone pots with twenty to thirty gallons of water each.  “Fill them to the brim.  We don’t want to have to do this again.”

The guests  stepped aside as the servants carried all six pots back into the crowded banquet room.   “Please pour some and take it to the master of the banquet to taste,” Jesus said.

Still confused, the servants did exactly what he said.

The master of the banquet was shocked that the best wine was being served now. “This is the best wine I’ve ever tasted. Where did this come from?”  The servant knew as they watched Jesus returned to his seat next to his mother.

Amazingly, the first miracle Jesus performed was at a party, to save a Bride’s family social embarrassment.  Isn’t that just like Jesus?  Too often religion teaches that when we run short it’s only because God wants us to come to the end of ourselves so we’ll learn humility.

Jesus didn’t model that in this story.  The hosts had prepared, they did all they knew to do to give the best wedding possible.  Jesus didn’t scold them, he quietly covered their shortage.

There are more wonderful lessons in this story than what can be covered in a short blog. Let’s look at just a few nuggets.

Our best is not enough.

Number six (the number of stone pots) represents the number of man . . . It represents the very best human system of governance that mankind can produce without God.

Twenty (gallons) represents the anticipation of divine completion.  

Thirty (gallons) represents the manifestation of divine completion.  It can also represent the sacrificial blood of Jesus. (for more study on numbers)

We all know how far short we come.  But the good news is that, by faith, we can know divine completion through the shed blood of Christ Jesus.

How wonderful that God planned his first miracle to happen in the midst of celebration, and left us with a marvelous weavings of truth concealed in every number, color, name and event of scripture.

The best Christmas blessing of all is that we have a loving Father who doesn’t want us to settle for lack, but instead gives us the best solution of all . . . himself.

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Barley Bread and Broken Pieces

barley-bread

We can learn a lesson from Barley bread and a little boy with a big lunch.

I love the Bible story of the little boy with the lunch.  He was happily on his way to have a picnic – five loaves of barley bread and two fish.  We’re not told why his mom gave him five loaves, that’s a lot for one small lad.  But the Holy Spirit knew the mentioning of five was important because it’s the number of grace.

Broken plans and a miraculous act of grace . . .

Little did that boy know that he would be a part of a miraculous act of grace that would go down in history.  I’m sure he had big plans for his lunch. His very own picnic under a shady tree.  A feast he didn’t have to share with his brothers or sisters.  It was special, his alone . . . until a grown-up, a discipline of a man called, Jesus, came along and took it from his hands. I’m not convinced the little boy knew who Jesus was.  Maybe he’d heard rumors, or his parents talking.  I question if he had a single generous thought when he watched that lunch walk away.

Hey . . . that’s MY lunch!

Make the people sit down,” said the Man called Jesus.

What for?  That’s MY lunch!

The little boy watched with apprehensive curiosity.

Then Jesus took the barley bread, gave thanks, and started to break it into pieces.

I’m sure the boy’s eyes were wide as more and more bread came tumbling from Jesus’ hands. Did he respond with spiritual accolades, or did he say:

My mother is amazing!  How did she get all that in my bag?

He was witnessing a miracle, but did he completely understand? One thing is clear to me,  his big plans were being broken right before his eyes.

I can imagine the conversation that might have ensued between Jesus and the boy.  “Son, that sure was a fine lunch.  You must have had big plans for your lunch.  Thank you for letting it go when you didn’t understand.  You see, when you trust Me,  I can take those broken pieces and shape a miracle that will bless multitudes.”

Broken pieces.  We all have them.  A job you didn’t get, or lost.  A relationship that left you wounded and alone.  A loved one dies, and all the plans and dreams you shared disappear.  We all have broken pieces.

What can we do with all the broken pieces in our lives?

Perhaps we can learn a lesson from this little boy.

Perhaps we can trust our broken pieces to God, even when what we’ve lost seems like the greater reality.  Can we dare let go of every crumb and believe His grace will follow?

DSC03948A final thought:

From now until Christmas we can be sure that stress and conflict will increase.  Family dynamics, extra expense, all the preparations. Even though Christmas is all about Jesus, this is the one time of year it’s easy to get so busy we forget Him.  He’s well aware of the stressfulness.  I believe He wants to change this broken tradition into a miraculous feast of grace with Him right in the center.

Father, help us put all the broken pieces of our lives in Your loving hands. May you turn this season into a miraculous display of Your love and grace.  In Jesus name, amen.

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The Glorious One

streamThis was a post from a friend.  It is the prayer on my prayer this morning, too, so I wanted to share it with you.

Praying from Ephesians 1:17-19

asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. 18 I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.19 I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him.

We honor you as the Lord of our lives. We align our hearts with your heart. We love partnering with you. We look forward to partnering with You and being with you today.

We are confident that all the wisdom we need today is found in you. We lean into you today inviting that spirit of wisdom and revelation into our hearts.

Would you help us serve people and see people the way you do? Our own wisdom and strength is not enough.

Thank you that you share your thoughts with us. When we are wavering or uncertain, you shine your light on our path. You show us which way to go. We expect to hear your voice today. We expect to know which choice to make today. Show us that we might declare truth and speak a word that puts you on display today.

We are your glory bearers. We are your sons and daughters. Lead us with absolute certainty.

It is our delight to honor you today. It is our delight to serve our clients and customers with joy. Make us strong in the strength of your might. It’s You! It’s all for You!

We pray that righteousness and truth would come to bear today on wickedness and perversion. We believe you.

We look to the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.
You have not left us alone. We are not on our own. You are with us.

I am yours and You are mine.

​From the prayer room, a friend.

Posted in Quiet Time Prayers | 1 Comment

Do You Know God’s Greatest Gift?

sunrise 11:15It was a glorious morning on the swing.  Usually, I’m at the computer writing when the sun comes up, but today the Lord wooed me outside on the swing.

Ribbons of majesty streaked the early sky bringing instant tears of gratitude. How can my words, even of my grandest praise, be sufficient, Lord.

We understand the Lord is with us, a concept taught since we began our walk of faith.  But, rarely do I feel His presence like a guest sitting beside me on the swing. Today was different.

Beside our salvation, the greatest gift the Father has given us is His blessed Holy Spirit.  I knew He was there, as real as an indentation on the cushion beside me,  like an emanating warmth of a body close enough to rest your head.

sunrise 2- 11:15I realized how often I forget He is with me – as if I must search through disciplines of faith to earn His presence, or climb to where He is.  Sad.  And so untrue. The Holy Spirit is with us because Jesus promised  if He went away, He would send the Holy Spirit to each believer.

 “. . . do you not know  that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”  (1 Cor. 3;16)

We may nod our heads in agreement,  but do we really know this is true?  Does it change how we live, what we hope for?  Do we walk with reverence, not wanting to insult the Spirit of Grace?

He is our closest friend, and constant companion, our comforter. The resurrection life of Christ, living with, and IN us.

Too often the topic of the Holy Spirit divides us.  We argue if His gifts are for today, but how can we extract a gift from the One who owns it?  If He has come, then all that He is has also come.

sunrise 3 -11:15He is our gift.  The reason we can say, we are not alone.

I felt Him next to me today, and without any effort on my part, my heart ripped open at the possibility that I  would ever grieve, or insult Him, or take Him for granted.  An earnest prayer formed instantly on my lips: “I want to know You, Holy Spirit, like never before.  I want to be more sensitive to Your leading, to Your whispers, and respond to the slightest touch.”

” . . . if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” (Romans 8:11)

“But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.”  (John 16:13)

“However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you.  But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” (Romans 8:15)

We need to eat, drink, talk about, study, memorize these verses.  For the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives is our hope in these days of darkness.

You are with us, in us, blessed Holy Spirit.  Open our eyes to see You with greater clarity.  

 

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