Cowboy Wisdom

20180515_175735“Talk low, talk slow, and don’t say too much.”

A Cowboy I knew and loved made that his motto in life.

And yet there were a couple hundred people at his funeral who had been influenced by his quiet ways.  The man didn’t  waste any words; they were few, and yet his life spoke volumes.

He was not a perfect man, but he was a man of integrity who stood tall not just in physical height, but in the measure of a real man of God. Branding calves, mending fences, or feeding cattle,  he knew how to work with his hands, and at his life’s end, we saw a glimpse of what beauty there is when a hard-working man, who walks with God, is welcomed Home.

Will we ever know how our lives impact others? Many people I talked with at his funeral said, “I want to live my life just the way he did,” and I know of several men who  became pastors because of the Cowboy’s influence in their lives.  I  have a feeling that someday when we see the big picture, we will be amazed when we see how God used an “ordinary life” to model His Son’s life, and advance His Kingdom here on earth.

When my time on earth is finished, I look forward to hugging the tall Cowboy again, and  thanking him for his influence in my own life.

Enough said.

 

 

 

 

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Love Note

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The moon has been exquisite these past few nights.

It looks like a huge china plate hung in the sky with one edge brilliantly highlighted in the whitest of whites.  One can see the craters and shadows on the rest of the moon as though it has been brought close enough to visualize without the aid of a telescope.  Dangling not far from the dish is a diamond, both suspended against a background of black velvet.

Driving home with a tight feeling in my chest, I was drawn to it.  I couldn’t keep my eyes from staring in awe and wonder at the exquisite perfection and beauty in the night sky.

All my anxious thoughts, angry feelings, and constant worries seemed small as long as I lifted my eyes to the heavens where God was shouting to me, “The heavens declare my glory–my goodness, my power, and I have blessed you with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ!”

Every spiritual blessing.

In the commentary of my Bible, it defines those blessings as “His righteousness, resources, privilege, position and power.”  MacArthur, J. (2006) pg. 1774

Wow.

I can skim over those words and forget in a heartbeat what I just read;

He “has blessed [me] with every spiritual blessing:”

“HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS

HIS RESOURCES,

HIS PRIVILEGE,

HIS POSITION,

HIS POWER.”

Knowing how quickly I forget, look down, and lose focus, The Giver of All Good Gifts sky-writes His love note to me.

 

 

“The Heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.”  Psalm 19:1 NASB

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.  In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.”  Ephesians 3:3-6 NASB

MacArthur, J. (2006).  The MacArthur Study Bible .  Lahabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

 

 

Ruthless Love

DSC_1934My daughter is ruthless.

Today I had gone upstairs to rifle through my closet and find something.   She followed me with baby Jack in tow.  Not wanting her to see the state of my  walk-in closet,  I hurriedly grabbed the item I was looking for, and attempted to shut the door before she could espy the contents of my little rat’s nest.

With high goals of eventually tackling that space, I had always told myself, “One of these days….”  Funny how that day never came, and I had trained my vision, and my mind to not see the accumulating mountains of stuff.

She saw it:  the sloppy stacks, and the  remaining 1’x1′ square that had gradually become my functional space.   Suddenly, when looking through her eyes, I saw it too.  I begged for mercy: “I’ll organize it this spring!”  (Today is the first day of spring.)  I tried diversion tactics: “Look at your daddy’s closet!” (Get the log out of your own eye.)  Failing in these first attempts, I tried to apply my favorite strategy: procrastination!  “Lets go have a cup of tea, and talk about it!” (Don’t put off till tomorrow what you can do today.)

She poked her head in over my guilty shoulder, and gently suggested that we” just take out a few things,” and make a trip to the thrift store.  She has a  Mary Poppins way of tackling enormous jobs, and after laying baby Jack on my bed, she began to remove the contents of my closet.  Leaving no pile unsorted, my daughter is ruthless.

I am not ruthless, and mid-way through the sorting, I was tired.  My brain doesn’t categorize things easily, and with my sentimental personality, I do have a hard time throwing away handwritten notes.   Jack had long since fallen asleep on my bed, and I needed a break from all the decision-making this job required.  I stood my ground.  I stubbornly declared that “I was done, and  sorting old Christmas ornaments was not what I had on my agenda for that day!”  Undaunted,  Sarah smiled sweetly, and suggested that I go “rest a bit,” and she would just “have a look” at what remained.

As a small child, I remember seeing the picture of Jesus standing at a wooden door and knocking, and that is how the concept of Jesus coming to live in my heart and life came to be part of who I am.  I prayed  to “receive” Christ, and I believed the verse in the book of John that told me, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.” (John 14:23)

I like to think my abode is a cozy place to be.  At least that is the picture I’d like to present to you.  Come into my kitchen, I’ll share my home-made bread with you, and smile as we engage in conversation, but heaven forbid that you should see my basement. ( I’m still waiting for Sarah to tackle that scary place with me. )

When I “invited Jesus into my heart” as a trusting 5-year-old,  He lovingly stepped inside the small space, and has been hard at work ever since.  Looking back, I had no idea that instead of being just a guest, He really wanted to live with me.  I mean really live with me–not ignoring the messes that can creep into my heart.  He goes with me into the dark places, even the basement corners, and smiles as He rolls up His sleeves, and gently asks if He can help me clear some space.

Amazing.

Hmm.   The God of the Universe cares enough about me to want to move into my heart, and clear out the junk– the bits of rubbish I think are harmless, and “make His abode with me.”   Along with the bits and pieces, there are also huge, rotting messes– attitudes lurking–(the ones I think no one notices,)  but are actually quite toxic, and in His great love for me, He ruthlessly nailed them to a tree.

Humbling.

Feeling sheepish,  I later returned to my bedroom as my daughter was just finishing vacuuming my tidy, much more spacious closet; the piles I had been tripping over, which had weighed heavy on my heart, were gone. As  I stood in the doorway of my little closet, I just cried,  overwhelmed with her  ruthless love. Instead of giving up on her disorganized mother, she did above and beyond what I could have imagined, and that made my undeserving heart feel light. She put her arm around my shoulders, and we laughed together through the tears.

Jack awoke and smiled too.

 

“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 2:21)

“Wishing to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas for them, and after having Jesus scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified.” ( Mark 15:15)

“But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities;  the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever.  Amen. ” (Ephesians 3:20)

 

 

Songs in the Night

DSC_1906.JPGStanding at the top of the stairs that descend into my parent’s basement, I panicked. Suddenly, I couldn’t take anymore.  I couldn’t bear to see the stairwell walls, much like the  ones described by Dr. Suess in his book, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” stripped of all traces of familiarity, leaving only “some hooks and some wires.” My heart broke as I debated the task before me: sorting the storage area, under their steps, where years of precious Christmas memories were kept.

A decision had been made for my aging parents to move out of their home, and suddenly our entire family was hit with an avalanche of emotions.  How can 180 years of combined memories be suddenly sorted, stacked, and shoved into trucks.  It was as if we were helping to uproot a huge cottonwood tree, and all the roots were stubbornly clinging to the earth into which they had grown. Theses roots, these  assorted messy, moments that made 2 lifetimes of memories dig deep into the earth, were not easy to dislodge, and the sounds and sights were becoming more than I could take.

As their home in a small Nebraska town was dismantled, the tree uprooted, the sickening sound in my head was one of ripping, tearing and subsequent sobbing.

Much to our amazement and shock, as the massive, twisted roots were finally pried loose, exposed and still trembling, and the dusty dirt clods were still hitting the ground,  my step-father needed to be placed on hospice care in his new home.  Being a nurse, I was privileged to care for him in the wee hours of the morning, and as I would help turn him and empty his catheter bag, I would wonder if the next breath he took would be his last. After being up with him for a few nights, and helping with the big move during the days,  I wondered how much more I could take.  Exhausted emotionally and physically, I  was beginning to wonder where God was in all of this.

For some reason, no one was available to help pack boxes on the day I found myself alone, teetering on the top step in my parents deserted, former home.  The darkness at the bottom of the stairs frightened me, and I told myself, “Go ahead.  Have a meltdown.  This is horrible. Just sit here and cry.”  And,  I could almost hear the demons taunting, “Where is your God now?”

I didn’t even have the strength to cry out to my Daddy.

But He saw me–His little girl– struggling to carry a burden much to big for her little arms to carry, and before I could even begin my pity party,  He put a song in my mind.  I began to sing it softly at first, and then with tears streaming down my face, I sang it all my might.

“There’s within my heart a melody, Jesus whispers sweet and low,

Fear not,  I am with thee, peace, be still, In all of life’s ebb and flow.

Jesus,  Jesus, Jesus,  Sweetest name I know.

Fills my every longing, Keeps me singing as I go.”

Realizing how much He cared for me, to give me that particular song at that particular moment in time, I was suddenly strengthened.  Instead of wilting as I thought I would do, I held up my head, marched down the stairs, and I sang.

I sang, and I sang, and I sang.

Peering into the darkness under the steps where years of family memories were stored, I sang.

Holding to my aching heart the little, worn, red felt Christmas stocking my mother had made for me so long ago, I sang.

Alone, under the steps, lifting, sifting, sorting, and stacking, I sang.

I sang loudly, as if by doing so I could keep the mocking demons of doubt at bay. I  felt invincible; my way brighter, and my heart lighter.  Even my tired muscles revived, and I finished the painful job as if He was right beside me, making what could have been drudgery, a delight.

While caring for my step-father in the darkness of that next night,  I had my arm around his shoulders, and my face was inches from his as I helped him to a sitting position on the edge of his hospital bed in his living room.  I smiled and asked him, “What song do you have in your heart tonight, Cal?”  He gave me a funny look, and I suggested this one:

“There’s within my heart a melody, Jesus whispers sweet and low……

Through all of life’s ebb and flow.”

And we sang together in the night.

 

Bridgers, Luther B. He Keeps Me Singing, 1909

 

 

Confusion

 

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With temperatures being so low, I do not care to venture outside much, and I am drawn to books to transport me to warmer places and other worlds.  Narnia is always calling me, and I see reflections of it all the time in my world.  (Once again, Mr. Lewis, thank you for creating those images that shed so much light on life in such a kid friendly way.)

I am Mrs. Beaver.

I look out on a frozen world that is “a pretty enough scene to look at it through a window from a comfortable armchair,” (C.S.Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) but one that is really vicious when I have to go feed our horses. It has been below zero these weeks following Christmas, but I have hope; the days are getting longer,  Aslan is on the move, and spring is around the corner.

Unlike Mrs Beaver, I am not much of a seamstress, but I have been doing quite a bit of knitting and crocheting; the tea kettle is always on, and I am always busy, preparing  meals for my husband, and any visitor who comes along.

More than once, the visitors that come along have barely made it to my door. They drag themselves across my threshold, and lie in a heap.  After having  been so wounded and so frightened, they can hardly speak. Their anguish is usually beyond words, beyond voice, beyond sound, and their heaving shoulders tell of  burdens too great for them to bear alone.

Their tales begin to unwind as they unwind their wintry scarves from around their necks. When I see their gaping wounds,  I am made painfully aware of the ugly battleground around me.  While the rampage rages on outside my door, my small home becomes a respite, a place where fallen soldiers come and find some quiet.  Often, a listening ear, a bit of sustenance, and balm for their wounds is all they find here, but  I hope they have left feeling refreshed and reoriented, for the battle is great and the great deceiver is at work.

As these dear ones bleed, I listen, and try to keep a clear head to make out what is really happening.

Frequently, there is a common thread to their stories; they have not been directly hit by the enemy of their souls, but rather by fellow soldiers of the cross.  Apparently, there is confusion in the field and some soldiers have forgotten who the enemy truly is.

There are  those wounded warriors out there slashing away, wounding their comrades because they are confused in their delirium.  Some have fallen prey to the enemy’s lies, and inflict emotional pain on others in their deception, while still others, due to poor training are just bumbling their way around the battlefield,  inflicting injuries left and right.

I can empathize with the stories of inflicted pain.  In the past,  I have been injured by words or actions of others, who claim to be comrades, and in my pain, frustration , and anger, I have been tempted to retaliate.  After one such incident, while I was still in the heat of the moment, a seasoned  veteran of the wars spoke these words of wisdom to me:  “Remember who our enemy really is.”

Pandemonium could break out if we don’t keep our heads and our wits about us. I have to remind myself frequently that hurt people often hurt people, and I had better remember who my enemy is.  Remember who my enemy is.  Remember who my enemy is.

My enemy is not that Christian with a lack of kindness.  My enemy is not my husband, not my child, not my friend, or even people with whom I strongly disagree.   My enemy is not even the one who can destroy my body.  My enemy is none other than the destroyer of my soul, the one who, like the White Witch of Narnia would like to turn me to stone.

Yes, I may appear to be a docile, little home-maker, a small “she- Beaver,” with a large stash of tea,  but know this:  I take my job very seriously.  I know I live in “enemy occupied territory,” but “the rightful king has landed.”   He will someday “put all to rights” again, so in the meantime,  I study  His Battle-plan, and listen for my orders.  I can see that part of my current job description is that of “Medic,”  so  I pray for wisdom and discernment, and am glad to bandage and encourage those who come my way.

I am thinking of you today,  Dear Friends.  I am so glad we have this little place to meet.  I pray for you all,  and hope the Lord will use my words to encourage you along The Way. I know most of you are my family members or acquaintances, but if you stumbled across this page by accident, and I do not know you,  know I will be praying for you also.  If I could, I would invite you into my home for a cup of tea, and we could talk of Narnia.

“Enemy-occupied territory—that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.”  (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)

“He’ll put all to rights as it says in an old rhyme in theses parts:

               Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight,

               At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,

               When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death,

               And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.” 

              (C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe)

Heavenly Vision

20171215_175831.jpgIt is so easy to rush through this Christmas season.

We race around malls and on-line, spending extra money, trying to find the perfect gifts for our loved ones. We share extra time together, talking, singing, laughing, and we share flu bugs that quickly become epidemics.

We set extra high expectations for ourselves, children, spouses, friends or co-workers, wanting to pull off the perfect Christmas program, the perfect Christmas meal, or the perfect work party.

Indulging in all the Christmas treats, we may eat too much sugar, and drink so much coffee that our heads begin to throb,  our hearts begin to pound, and our bodies begin to drag.

Maybe for you, the holidays just renew the ache in your heart as you grieve the loss of a loved one, or you remember the days  gone by.

At times, we can look like ants scurrying around our ant-hills, carrying burdens that are much too heavy, never looking up, and over the course of the season, we begin to feel tired and disappointed.  We may even become depressed or angry,  wondering, “Where is the joy of Christmas?”

Then, in January, the crushing weight of reality closes in,   The credit card bill arrives and we are broke. We step on the scale and feel miserable.  We can hardly stand our spouse, children or coworkers, because they were so, well–human,  over the holidays, and they didn’t match up to our expectations of perfection…  The illusion of the perfect Christmas has left us disillusioned.

 Oh Soul, are you weary and troubled,

No light in the darkness you see?

There’s light  for a look at the Savior,

And  life more abundant and free…

 

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,

Look full in His wonderful  face

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,

In the light of His glory and grace. 

The Heavens declare His glory, and we can see it everyday.  Every morning when the morning star shines brightly in the east, we are reminded of His glory.  And every time we hold a newborn babe, we are reminded of His grace.

Take time from your hurrying and worrying and look up!  Look to the Great I Am, and know He is everything we need Him to be. He is our peace. He is our hope.  He is our life.

And in the darkness of winter in your soul,  come to the manger and see the light of His face.

Look full in His wonderful face. 

 

The hymn, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” was originally published in 1918 by Helen Lemmel.  It was also known as “The Heavenly Vision.”

 

Lessons from the Orchard

dsc_1008-1.jpgEarlier this summer we had a storm blow through and level one of our apple trees.  It had already blossomed and was covered with little green fruits; it looked to be a bumper crop, before it was decimated.   It was a sad day when we threw its lovely branches on  the burn pile, and watched the flames devour them.

When we looked at the shard of a stump that was left, we saw that only half of the tree was living.  By all outside appearances it was thriving, but when the storm hit  it could not stand; the trunk was weakened by the worthless, decaying portion that was dead.

What a perfect picture of sin in my own life.

I am so capable of appearing  one way on the outside, but when God looks at my heart, He sees the sins I allow to remain in my life….the hidden ones I may even call innocuous.  They aren’t hurting anyone, or so I think.

I keep them hidden well, and even allow them to become part of my personality.   I let them callous my heart, gradually hardening it to the Holy Spirit’s gentle guidance.

Those sunny days, where everything is blissful may not reveal my heart, but when the sky turns a formidable green and the winds mount,  the strength of my character will be revealed.  Will it stand in the hurricane force gales that can sometimes swirl around me?

As a wife, mother, and now grandma (!) I want to be healthy and strong, so my family can seek shelter under my branches when the storms of life blow.   Not only do I want to provide shelter, I want the fruit of God’s Spirit to provide a luxurious feast for my loved ones.  If their hearts are ever starved for a loving word, a patient response, or joyful encouragement, let them find an abundance of fruit in my life.

King David probably owned beautiful orchards and spoke from experience when he wrote the words:

 How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked ,

     nor stands in the way of the sinner,

           nor sits in the seat of the scoffer,

              but his delight is in the law of the Lord.

                  And in His law, he meditates day and night. 

     He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of living water,

          which yields its fruit in its season,

               and whatever he does prospers.

      Not so the wicked. 

             They are  like chaff that the wind blows away.  

                  They will not stand in the day of judgement.  (Psalm 1:1-5)

I want to be blessed. And even more so, I want those around me to be blessed, so I savor a few verses from God’s Word everyday.  They show me the deadening effects of sin in my life, and by simply asking Him to forgive me when my heart doesn’t line up with His standards, He is faithful to remove the decaying portion, and create in me that same strong heart that King David was famous for; the one that was like God’s own.

How thankful I am that The Tree Surgeon tends me so carefully.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”  Psalm 51:10

And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.”  Ezekiel 36:26