When Spirits are Bone-dry

This is my yard in the summer.

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And this is my yard.

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Both patches of earth are inches apart, and have access to the same water running beneath the ground. Why the difference?

Part of my yard is tapped into the underground irrigation system; the other is not.

Duh, tell me something, I don’t know, Karen.

Tell me what to do when my spirit is bone-dry.

  • How do I smile and pretend life is great when one dog-day somersaults into the next, and the horizon seems to flat line into nothingness?
  • How do I avoid feeling jaded when I strive to live right while the other guy reaps the rewards?
  • What if this is good as life gets?

Daunting questions when the spirit is dry on an August day.

By 8:00 a.m., the air is already thick as a wool blanket.

I’m parched as the squirrels that guzzle water from my birdbaths. Plants droop despite the drip lines that watered them a few hours earlier. My cat is stretched out on the warm grass, her lids half closed.

My motivation to pull weeds evaporates like the water drops clinging to my ivy. I plop on the bench swing. I need more than a glass of water or the hum of an air conditioner to chill my mood.

Stuck on Self, I need to tap into the Living Water. Lord, please evict the melancholy from the tenant.   

I know, same old Christian song and dance, right? But some things never change.

Meeting with the good Lord is the surest fix for a bone-dry spirit.

  • Not talking about flipping through Bible pages like I’m hunting for coupons.
  • Not talking about randomly pulling a verse out of context to choke down like a vitamin pill; hoping I’ll have a feel-good day.

I’m talking about camping on one passage. Laying down my burdens, and allowing God to to excavate my heart.      

Lord, you want me to become more like you and bring you praise? Then use even this…

Use my melancholy and the dog-days of life to teach me how to smile, and truly be glad in this day.

Rid me of spiritual indifference that blinds me to the Light or makes me lukewarm.

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Lift my chin heavenward like the ivy vines that stretch up my pine trees towards the sunlight.

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Jesus told the woman at Jacob’s well, “Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” (John 4)

  • Whenever the spirit is bone-dry: “Come and drink.”
  • Whenever life appears hopeless: “Come and drink.”
  • Whenever we’re sweating the small stuff: “Come and drink.”

Drink until your thirst is quenched, then drink some more.

Drink until the Living Water springs up and bubbles over into the lives around us. 

Have you come to Jesus?

Are you drinking regularly?

 

God’s Word Isn’t a Buffet

IMG_4770My feral cat waits for her breakfast. Depending on the “brand and flavor” of cat food that I serve, she sometimes sniffs the bowl of food and walks away. This morning, the finicky eater snubbed her food. I had to laugh….

Saturday night, I attended a Mystery Dinner Theater that included a dinner buffet. Like my cat, I walked beside the buffet table sniffing the food, to pick and choose what I like to eat.

Salivating, I held my plate to the server, “Yes, please!”

Wrinkling my nose, I shook my head, “No thank you.”

Do I have the same attitude towards the Bible?

Do I pick the verses I want to read, choose the promises I want to hear?

Do I hunger for more of God’s Word when I like what I’m reading. And snub the morsels that tell me to repent, love my enemy, obey?

GOD’S WORD ISN’T A BUFFET.

I’m not suppose to pick and choose the verses I want to believe and obey.

In Psalm 119, there are 176 verses; lots to pick and choose from depending on my spiritual appetite.

Some passages I devour:

“My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word” (vs. 28).

“May your unfailing love come to me, O Lord, your salvation according to your promise” (vs. 41).

“Turn to me and have mercy on me, as you always do to those who love your name” (vs. 132).

“Defend my cause and redeem me; preserve my life according to your promise” (vs.154).

Other passages I balk:

“Turn my heart toward your statues and not toward selfish gain” (vs.36).

“You are my portion, O Lord; I have promised to obey your words” (vs.57).

“Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long” (vs.97).

“Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws” (vs.164).

It’s easier to digest what the Lord does for me than think about my responsibility to trust and obey.

But if the following verse is true….

“YOUR WORD IS A LAMP TO MY FEET AND A LIGHT FOR MY PATH” (vs.105).

I can’t afford to be finicky. I must read God’s Word, hold out both hands willing to receive everything He puts on my plates, “Yes, please!”

Knowing His Truth is good for me.

“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth” (Psalm 119:103).

Remember the Last Time?

A new school year begins today. The beginning of the end of a season in my life.

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My son, a high school senior, is the youngest of three children. So this school year is filled with many last things….

·         Last first day of school with yours truly photographing my son on the front porch.

·         Last soccer season with yours truly shoving cleats next to the wall to keep from tripping over them.

·         Last time for Back-to-School Night, Homecoming, Spirit Week, Spring Formal.

I kept baby books for all my children, documenting the first time they ate solid food, took their first step, or lost a tooth.

I never realized when something happened in their lives for “the last time.”  

Like brushing one’s teeth, a bedtime story was a ritual for my children. Long after they could read on their own, we took turns reading pages from chapter books. But there’s still a bookmark in Eldest, where I closed the book and said goodnight to my youngest son years ago, not knowing it was the last time we’d read together.

Now I know, every date  that I scratch off my school calendar is one day closer to the last day of school, forever, and then what?

Who am I? If not, “my kid’s” mom?

What is my purpose if not running to the store at the last minute to buy poster board for a project? Why set the alarm clock, if no one needs breakfast or a peanut butter sandwich for a school lunch? Where do I go for entertainment if not a field trip, soccer game, or a choir concert?

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Long gone is the excitement of newly purchased school supplies: the smell of fresh crayons, plastic lunch boxes, glue sticks, and wide-lined paper.

A backpack laden with textbooks, a duffle bag for sports gear, and a smart phone are my son’s school accessories.

We hug goodbye, and he leaves for school, his mind elsewhere.

I wipe wet eyes, envisioning him in a blue, graduation cap and gown.

Wasn’t it yesterday when his name was printed in bold letters on an apple name tag, and hung with yarn around his neck?

Like the other moms in the classroom, I had hovered over my kindergarten child,  hesitant to say goodbye when he looked up at me and spoke matter-of-fact, “You can go now.”

Fast forward to his senior year, and I’m still trying to go…

And I’m missing him, because today is the “last” first day of school, the end of a season in my life.

 

“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under the heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

Satisfaction Guaranteed

IMG_4473After two days of summer rain, the morning sun reappeared, chasing away the grey.

Birds came out of hiding. I watch them soar and dip through the clean air, chasing one another like children playing tag before landing on the bird feeder to holler, “Safe!”

Raindrops, glistening in the sun, cling to the emerald blades’ of grass and evergreen bushes. And the colors in my yard—green, fuchsia, and coral—are more brilliant after the cleansing rain.

On this blessed morn, I saturate my senses. And praise God for the drenched earth that was parched a few days earlier.  For it is the Lord who “brings the rain on the just and the unjust.”

 With a full heart, I open my Bible and turn its dog-eared pages until I find this scripture:

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth, And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and breads to the eater;

 So shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:9-11)

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Like Moses, I  too have longed to see God’s glory.

But on this summer morning, His glory surrounds me, reflected in His creation.

How I long to linger in God’s presence, soak in His Word, but I have an appointment. At the risk of being late, I grab another morsel of scripture and trust God to accomplish what He desires.

“Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And delight yourself in abundance.” (Is 55:2)

I listen.

I eat.

I delight myself in abundance.

Until I have no choice, but to rush out the door with dishes in the sink, towels that need folding. Chores left unfinished goes against my grain, my task-oriented brain. But the dishes and towels can wait.

I chose what is better, and it will not be taken away from me.

I am satisfied.

And I am ready to face the day.

“For you will go out with joy, And be lead forth with peace” (Is. 55:12).

Must I Go to Church?

DSCN2047Must I go to church today?

As I rolled over in bed, every muscle in my body ached. I’d spent the previous day pulling weeds from my garden.  I don’t feel like going anywhere.

Excuses whined in my head:

I need the rest.

I had to go somewhere every day last week, I deserve a break.

I can listen to praise music and worship God in my home.

I can read my Bible and pray in my recliner.

I won’t be missed.

Notice the word “I” stood center stage.

 

Rolling out of bed, I stumbled to the bathroom sink and splashed lukewarm water on my face.

Am I behaving like a lukewarm Christian?

So what if I’d had a busy week. Should church be less of a priority than the multitude of other activities on my agenda?

 Is church attendance an option?

 Guilt squeezed my chest, dragged me to church where I purposely sat by myself in the last pew.

  The worship band played. I sang, but there was no song in my heart.

 Someone prayed. I bowed my head, but my mind wandered.

“See!” An inner voiced mocked. “You should have stayed home.  Coming to church out of obligation is legalism. You can go through the motions, but God sees your heart!”

I turned to Psalm 19 and followed dutifully along in my Bible as the Pastor read:

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“The heavens are telling of the glory of God. And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.”

As he continued reading verses 7-11, my dutiful heart became deliriously devoted.

“The law of the Lord is perfect…”

“The testimony of the Lord is sure….”

 “The precepts of the Lord are right….”

“The commandment of the Lord is pure…”

“The fear of the Lord is clean…”

“The judgments of the Lord are true….”

Notice GOD’S NAME stands center stage.

Focused on God and His Word rather than my feelings, excuses, or moods….

My soul was restored…and my mind made wise. (Verse 7)

My heart rejoiced…and my eyes enlightened. (Verse 8)

And that is why I must go to church.

For I know I’ll hear God’s Word and meditate on the ONE whose glory is revealed in the heavens. And I’ll worship the only ONE who is able to keep me from sins and forgive my transgressions because ….

The Lord truly is “my rock and my Redeemer.” (Verse 14)

There are no other options.

What Happens to Good Intentions?

248Easter weekend arrived, along with our extended family.

We gathered to celebrate the Risen Christ. Celebrate our family–four generations.

Great grandpa said grace and sliced the ham that Great Grandma baked. Aunts and uncles squeezed next to grown children around the dinner table.

Passed hot platters of meat and steaming bowls of vegetables. Piled potato salad on our plates. Poured tea. Passed the rolls.

As the one-year-old great grandchild munched on deviled eggs, the grown “kids” listened to reminisces: “Remember when?” “Back in my day….”

That weekend, old hearts reconnected, new spouses welcomed. Torches passed to the next generation. “Raise up your children in the way they should go.”

When we hugged goodbye, we left with good intentions.

“Let’s get together this summer.”

“I promise to email more often.”

“Call me!”

But I know as life returns to normal, busyness erases our good intentions.

Same thing happens after a spiritual retreat.

Fellowship with other believers. Allow God to speak through His Word. Worship Him through songs. Remember His faithfulness and love.

I can’t get enough of God. I return home with good intentions.

“I promise to pray more.”

“I’ll seek the Lord before I start each day.”

“I’m going to  ____Fill in the blank___”Read my Bible, join a Bible study, witness, Love God more….”

But as life returns to normal, busyness erases my good intentions.

Consequently, I become a slave to worry, fear, anger, malice. Find it difficult to trust God in my circumstances. Struggle to love. Wrestle with God’s will.

Need I say more?

But what a blessing to know when I fail to live up to my good intentions,

I can pray for the good things that God intends for us.

“I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.

 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 1:16-20