I live in citrus land. Did you know from the time you plant a little orange tree until it produces the first couple of oranges is at least three to four years?
A sweet lady recently told me she moved here thirty-six years ago. She never thought she would be here more than a couple years. She recalled wanting to plant an orange tree or two when they arrived but didn’t think it would have enough time to bear fruit before she moved on. She never got that tree planted. She asked “How many oranges could I have picked by now?”
It made me think how much we are like that. Is it that we lack faith to think things will turn out like we want? That we don’t want to start and not finish? What holds us back from small orange tree dreams and even those bigger?
“So do not worry, saying ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ “ (Matthew 6:31 NIV) Or ‘Should I plant an orange tree?’.
Just think of all the little things we worry or fret over. Which shirt, what purse? Which restaurant, what time? Not to mention the bigger things – move across country, go on a missions trip, sell a house? I love that just a couple verses later Jesus says: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34 NIV)
But why does He tell us not to worry? Because He has given us promise upon promise. Long before Jesus walked the earth – even as He set stars in place and breathed life into those first lungs – His promises were for sure and for always.
I like to think I keep my promises. To be a good friend, wife, mother. To get my work done. To help someone in their time of need. Truth is we all fall short on our promises at one time or another. But it’s not that way with our Promiser – “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23 NIV)
We have to ask ourselves how much time have we wasted with our worrying – how many oranges could we have picked? (Souls touched, love given, friendships forged – if only we had planted the tree.)
There’s a lot of voices shouting these days. If you’re loud enough, does that mean you win?
Reminds me why I love early morning. When dusty sky sparkles with a few last diamonds and all is quiet – everything seems brand new. Each soft dawn is a call to find His quiet voice. A chance for our soul to breathe a little peace – to stare in wonder as everything turns to pink and orange and a new day begins.
Wonder – it’s lost on us these days. Everything is ho-hum unless it’s sensational. A loud protest, a terror attack, another scandal – are these what amaze us now? “Light is sweet; how pleasant to see a new day dawning.” (Ecclesiastes 11:7 NLT)
This world wants to silence what is good – what truly amazes. The voices say God is non-existent, have your higher power but don’t tell us there is a Creator. Yet we spin through this universe with new dawns, rolling tides, and seasons delighting us in ways we forget to be delighted.
Oh yes, this world and the enemy of God wants to silence anything and anyone who would point to a creative God. One who made the tiniest celled life to the greatest wonders. And yet the very quiet of a bunny scooting to the trees and a fish skittering through the pond shout His love.
“It is wonderful each morning to tell about your love and at night to announce how faithful you are.” (Psalm 92:2 CEV)
Here’s the deal – someday the deceitfulness of man and the deceiver who chases us will be silenced – forever. But there will be a loud trumpet call and the one called Truth will touch us with eternity. Just when we think we are being silenced, not heard, making no difference – we will be noisier than ever.
For on that day we will be dancing, shouting praise, singing joyfully, calling to one another ‘I knew it, God has made a way! Jesus has returned, His Spirit in us has led us safely home!’ Now that’s a noisy new day I can’t wait for.
“It will happen suddenly, quicker than the blink of an eye. At the sound of the last trumpet the dead will be raised. We will all be changed, so we will never die again.” (1Corinthians 15:52 CEV)
There’s an unrest in my soul these days. Haven’t pinpointed it yet – but experience tells me it’s preparation. A feeling – things don’t stay the same, no matter how much I hate change.
I know because more than once a day I want to run away – to the wild and quiet Tennessee mountains or even a small town somewhere that nobody knows me. But I stay, firmly planted, knowing that running never makes it all better.
So where is faith in all this. That’s when I most know faith is His gift – and His faithfulness holds me steady. Whispering faith through words on His pages or songs sung by those who know Him or in creation reminders. “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23 NIV)
So much meaning in that dear word ‘faithful’. It’s a timeless promise and intertwined throughout the Bible. When our legs are most shaky or doubts surround He calls to us – just like He called to Joshua so long ago. First He said “Be strong and courageous…” (Deuteronomy 31:7a NIV)
How? When hurricanes wash away any normalcy, when politics continues its corruption, when hurt stabs deep, when the unjust of it all mounts up. How? “The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you” (Deuteronomy 31:8a NIV)
Be with us – oh yes, always with us. With us when running away seems to be so tempting – but another step of faith leads us on. One more step with Him until they lead right up to a lifetime of walking His brave and His courage.
Still doubt? Still wonder? “He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:8b NIV) A promise we can plant deep in our hearts and it will grow. A promise that reminds life is hard, but His love is sure. A promise that ends with a forever of no more doubts and no more running away.
So for now let’s walk day by day holding tightly to our Hope. And when that inevitable change rocks our world for better or worse – we’ll know we’re not alone. At the end of his life, Joshua, who faced what seemed insurmountable obstacles, declared: “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15 NIV)
All guilty of saying: ‘that’s not fair’, raise your hand.
Seems like we start with that in our preschool years and keep on indefinitely. And often things aren’t fair. But how do we measure misdeeds to determine what is fair? Laws, politics, rules, ethics, morality, tradition? And what does Jesus say to ‘fair’?
“When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly.” (1Peter 2:23 NIV)
Ouch – that stings when I think of my actions in the face of unjust treatment. You? Even if I may not insult back I still want to make my case about the accusation, treatment, abuse, lie, threat, etc. So what does it look like to entrust ourselves to God?
Perhaps a lifelong pursuit – of triumphs and failures as we learn not to repay or make our case, but to let God’s wisdom and providence make things better than we ever could.
There’s an account of two women who gave birth and one of the women’s babies died. The grieving mother traded her dead child in the middle of the night for the other infant. The other mother realized what had happened. Upon taking their case to the king, he said ‘take a sword and divide the child and give each mother half’ – the real mother cried out ‘please, no give her the baby’ – and the thief said ‘go ahead’. The king knew who the baby belonged to. (2Kings 3:16-28)
Only God has the wisdom to see the big picture, knows what is very best for us, will right all wrongs – if not today, then in eternity. And that’s where trust comes in.
Do we trust God? Is the God we say we trust the One True God? Has He always been and will He always be? These are hard to wrap our heads around – that’s where faith comes in. Even faith is a gift from Him – there’s nothing He requires of us on our own. Why? Because He knows our weaknesses and He provides all we need – even our faith. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not of yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV)
Now that’s fair!
Want to make a difference?
To who, for who – what difference? We’re conditioned that life is all about making our mark, being remembered. That’s a lot of pressure. Remembered how long, and for what? More questions than answers when the questions are all about self.
What if the difference we could make wasn’t about anything we can do? What if the mark made didn’t have anything to do with our abilities? And what if it wasn’t us who was remembered? The pressure is no longer there. This is our true calling: The difference we can make in this life is making Jesus known. The mark left behind is that of a soul changed for eternity. And the One remembered is God.
I fail at this. I struggle with too much self. Do you? So while I have the answer – I don’t always live it. You and me, we are on a journey. The forks in the road we’ll face will lead to shining our light or holding out the true Light.
“Don’t let the world make you conform to its way of thinking when you can be transformed to God’s.” (Stormie Omartian) That is the beginning of a journey that leaves a legacy, but not ours, God’s. His legacy transcends time because it leads right into forever.
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2a NIV)
Notice God’s words: ‘any longer’. He knows us so well, He knows where we are right now, but He also knows where we could be. The pattern of this world will weigh us with anxiety, the renewing He can do in our minds will set us free. “Now the Lord is Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2Corinthians 3:17 NIV)
Free – to live without the burden of making our mark on the world. He will work through us if we ask. How? “All of us, then, reflect the glory of the Lord with uncovered faces; and that same glory, coming from the Lord, who is the Spirit, transforms us into His likeness in an ever greater degree of glory.” (2Corinthians 3:18 GNT)
Sometimes I find my keys in my hand when I’m tearing through my purse or the house for the tenth time.
We’re such a busy society that what is plainly in our hands is often missed. A good reminder of how oblivious we are to the oh so quick passing of time – and how we often miss the important. The important – what is it? It’s knowing the Jesus who holds the keys to life and death – and it’s also about the little things: tiny toes, windy walks, friend lunches, hand holding.
Must be a way to make days less about beating the traffic and making the dollar – and more about the Key Holder and moments held in hearts. “Take hold of My instructions; don’t let them go. Guard them, for they are the key to life.” (Proverbs 4:13 NLT)
Yay, there are instructions. All in one Book – and in our hearts if His Spirit resides there. And so many of them are about loving others – which takes us back to slowing down. One more hug, one more stroll, one more ice tea topped with laughter.
We’re heading into autumn – a changing of seasons signaling growth slowing down. Life has seasons as well and sometimes the autumn of life trumpets to our hearts: ‘slow down, you’re missing so much.’ Hearts may feel it, but souls have to live it. The faithfulness of God shows us the way: He’s never too busy for us – can’t wrap our head around His ever constant presence, but that doesn’t diminish it any.
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1 NIV)
God not only holds the key to life, but also to death. But death will not always be. For now, it comes to those on earth – for some an instant passage into the presence of Jesus. For some a fearsome journey of utter darkness. But now isn’t always – and someday, for God’s children, death is done away with. There will be no more separation of loved ones – no more languishing in hospitals, no more dread.
“I am the living one. I died, but look–I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave.” (Revelation 1:18 NLT) Time for us to slow down and love others into His forever.
Ever go to bed one night thinking: ‘I can do this’, and wake up the next morning doubting…everything?
Those mornings when what you least expected was a melt down – but there you are right in the middle of it? And all I could do as I tried to spread peanut butter on toast through the blur of tears was just tell God ‘This stinks’. This whole hard mess of life and the briefness of it – and the no do overs.
Later, as I watered violets that seemed to lift up arms and beauty to the sky, it reminded me: we are frail. But in all the trying and failing, He sees beauty in our soul redeemed by His Son.
“In His great mercy He has given us new birth, into a living hope…” (1Peter 1:3a NIV)
Oh and mercy is what we need when we slam into the face of all our failures. New birth – a new start. Living hope – not empty, not static, not one time. Hope that swirls and encompasses us – wells up when we are flat out spent.
Creation itself shows how it works. Drenching rains bring forth green – but swallowing fires dry up and leave only dust. Feed on our what ifs and let guilt or worries be the focus and we are ashes. Turn to God again – and again – listen for, read deep, seek out the drenching power of His promises, and we can make it one more day.
“through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you…” (1Peter 3:4 NIV)
And here it is again – H O P E. Those regrets don’t define us, Jesus does. Those failures may break our hearts, but they can’t break His promises. There is an inheritance waiting for us that will wipe away every tear. Nobody will be able to steal it. It won’t run out – ever. And far from fading, it will shine brighter – for always.
And so, hope grows. Because God is real – His promises are absolute – and when we can’t do ‘this’, He will. “who through faith are shielded by God’s power…” (1Peter 3:5a NIV)
Any given day the headlines are scary reading – suicide, shooting, missing. And hope seems lost.
And yet…the widow clings, the terrified students grasp, the mother and father print posters. It’s a soul thing – we know hope is real. We know, but how? Is it because the alternative isn’t acceptable? Because our money, influence, wishful thinking will make it so? Or is there something more sure, a true anchor in the storm?
“This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.” (Hebrews 6:19 NLT)
If not today, there will be days where we are going to need strong, need trustworthy. We’re going to need something to hold us firmly, like an anchor. That is life in a world turned upside down and controlled by the selfish nature of mankind. Strong is Jesus. Trustworthy is Jesus. Able to keep us secure, only Jesus.
Put yourself here: your son has been wrongly accused and found guilty of crime. The judge has said execution. You are now watching as life drains out of him. That was Mary a little over two thousand years ago. And this wasn’t quick and painless, this was brutal and ugly and agonizing. But Mary had in her very soul the promises of God. The prophets words hundreds of years before had promised Jesus and also foretold His death. But Jesus had told her and all His followers: ‘this isn’t it’!
“And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.” (1John 2:25 ESV)
This is why we have the Bible. Reminding us we’re not the only ones who’ve had to keep our head above the waves. The truths of God’s Word buried deep in us – so familiar but always new – will remind us.
Love Keith Bjorklund’s prayer: “Lord, I ask for the confidence to cease worrying and enjoy the journey. I ask for enjoyment to dispel the weariness I sometimes feel. Remind me that much of what I worry about will cease to matter. Remind me that You are my hope! Amen.”
And He reminds us with His faithfulness, with His Word, and with His Holy Spirit speaking to our soul. This is how hope happens.
PLaY CReaTivEly WitH YoUr LiTtLe OnE
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