The Last Days of Summer

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I love the lingering, last days of summer…

Cool dewy mornings

Gentle afternoon breeze

Long shadows

Shorter days

Distant dusty haze

Red sunsets

Patches of brown grass

Faint fall tint on the leaves

Sweet fuzzy peaches

Crisp apple pears

Crowded fruit stands

Dried blackberries on the vine

Fields of tall sunflowers

Stacks of fresh hay bales

Queen Anne’s lace by the roadside

Seed pods on the wild flowers

Last blooms of summer

Awaiting the arrival of autumn

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Where Do I Take the Next Step?

image.pngI remember walking so far one time my feet were numb. At first, they had been hurting…then throbbing…then no feeling at all! But in order to get to my destination, I had to keep walking! I would look down and see my feet moving. Surreal experience!

That’s what faith is to me. Sometimes I cannot feel what’s happening in life or I cannot understand it. But I take a look and realize I am still moving…and I’m doing it only because of the Lord’s strength.

What happens when a muscle is not used? The medical term is atrophy. The muscle degenerates and no longer can move.

Putting it in spiritual terms, I walk by faith even when the path seems impossible. I have no desire to experience spiritual atrophy.

I cannot see The Lord…but I keep walking.

I cannot see the path…but His Word lights it up.

I cannot walk by myself. It is then I realize the Holy Spirit is walking beside me.

And I continue the journey…one step after another…

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What If…?

My Acquaintance with Fear

We lived five houses away from a canal and a very busy two lane road. Often times past my bedtime, my dad would decide we needed something from the store. Almost as soon as he left, my mother would make the comment, “I hope he doesn’t get into an accident.” Ten minutes later, she would add, “I wonder where he is. I hope he’s ok.” The occasional comments would continue.

I would be gripped in fear and the sound of a distant siren would reduce me to silent tears. I would not close my eyes until I heard the car pull into our driveway. I had been consumed with “What if…?”

My dad’s tire company had four very large retread curing molds for the tire recapping. The steam temperature of each one was over 200 degrees. Often times my mother would say, “Those things could explode.” Again I was consumed with “What if…?”

During the Cuban Missile Crises, we never knew when the city sirens would sound. Everyone would go running for ‘safety’ under a school desk or in a closet or in the floorboard of the car. The whole Miami community was asking “What if…?

My mother missed the commencement ceremony for her university graduation. She couldn’t remember turning off the iron and she was sure it would burn the house down. “What if…?

My grandmother had grown up in hunger because her father thought they might run out of food. He constantly yelled at his children when they ate their meager bites. After he died, they found canning jars of gold coins under the rickety floor. At this point, I often wonder a big “What if…?”

What if my great grandfather had not been afraid of starvation? What if my grandmother had not grown up in fear of her father’s screams? What if my mother had not been held in fear’s grip during the depression? What if I had not been allowed to let the power of fear take hold over me?

We had a close family friend who lived in the grip of alcohol. When his wife would call for help in the middle of the night, all of us went. I sat huddled on the couch while my dad was driving…searching…trying to bring our friend home before he hurt himself or someone else. I sat lost in my thoughts of “What if…”

I recently found a box of old letters written by my mother during my college days. It took me a while to understand why she had signed all of them with D.W. I found the answer in one tiny paragraph. She had told me, “Don’t worry. It’s a sin. So I’ll be signing the letters to remind you ‘Don’t worry!'” Really? Kind of late! The pattern was set early in my childhood!

Today’s Fears

Yes, I am well acquainted with the Bible verses dealing with fear and the admonitions He gives us to trust Him.

Yes, I spend much time with the Lord asking for His strength in the middle of a storm where the winds of fear blow.

Yes, I believe what the God tells us will happen in the end times.

Yes, I know in the middle of our country’s political tension, I can trust that ultimately God is in control. He knows the outcome. He knows every one of our steps.

Yes, although a wave of fear may hit me, I choose not to live in its grip.

So…

What if illness or disease strike?
What if we suffer persecution?
What if the market drops?
What if terrorism increases?
What if…
What if…

What if I stop considering “What if?!”

“Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Matthew 6:27

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So How Did I Get Blindsided…Again?

The day dawns and all is well. The morning sunshine floods the room and warms my heart. I hear the music of a favorite song and I begin to sing along. Even the day’s crowded schedule does not discourage me.

Then it happens. I am completely caught off guard. I am blindsided.

I become a little girl again. I am the one on the playground who is bullied. I am the one in the cafeteria who is left alone at the table. I am the clumsy one who trips and is laughed at. I am the one who is ignored and whispered about behind my back.

So…how does it happen now?

How old do I need to be before I lose the sensitivity to hurt?
How do I, as a strong woman, keep from becoming my little girl self again?
How do I respond to women who still bully?

I want my most recent blindside to be my last. So, I spend time analyzing this experience. First, I study the definitions of the word or expression.

“Blindside: 1. The side on which one’s vision, especially the peripheral vision, is limited or obstructed. 2. The side away from which one is directing one’s attention. 3. To catch (someone) unprepared; attack from an unexpected position.”

I was in a car accident in high school. The car that hit us came out of nowhere! Our blindside became a serious broadside and I was injured. To this day, I am paranoid about constantly checking every side while driving. And I want no distractions on either side.

I find that my spiritual peripheral vision can be limited when I am distracted or not focused. Am I wearing blinders? This happens when I am physically tired and/or spiritually dehydrated. Have you experienced that, too? Is it an indication I need to be bathed more in prayer and immersed more in His Word? Sounds like a rhetorical question!!

So what happened this time? I continue my analysis. Saturday, I was hot, tired, in pain, and worried about several things. Yes. I would say those conditions caused me to have limited “vision.” But I still had a smile on my face. Nobody needed to hear complaints from me!

Several people arrived whom I had not seen in a very long time. I was excited…but very quickly I sensed they were uncomfortable in seeing me. You know the signs: Little or no eye contact. One word responses. Whispered conversations with each other.

I tried to be warm and friendly. But I have to confess, I felt the sting of tears and I experienced waves of nausea. I was caught unprepared.

My knee jerk reaction was to glare back, be rude, be curt. Instead, I found myself trying to figure out what I could have done to cause this. I assumed I was at fault…and like the little girl Ruth, I was ready to take the blame.

Long into the night, I replayed the whole scene in my memory…over and over and over again. I asked the Lord to help me forgive the actions of the women. I felt a wave of pity for them. Perhaps their own insecurities cause them to put others down. Perhaps they have never recognized the ungodliness of their actions.

And some time during the early morning hours I found an answer to my original questions. How am I blindsided? Why am I blindsided?

I will always be surrounded by women: some spiritually strong, some spiritually anemic; some healed from emotional injuries, some still suffering from emotional attacks; some physically radiant with health, some physically drained of energy and nourishment.

I need to do several things, in order to be prepared for another of Satan’s blindsides.
To be so focused on Jesus that He will handle my peripheral vision.
To make sure there is no obstruction in my own life, no “beam in my eye!”
To know His Word so that He always sheds light on my path.
To trust that He will heal any wound from an unexpected attack.
To prepare me for being able to forgive…because He first forgave me.

I am sure there will be many more long nights of conversations with Him! There will be many more lessons for me to learn along this spiritual journey! And there will be many more women who need someone to pray for them!

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Parched

I found this hard, dry, parched earth while doing some yard work. A thick plastic tarp had been put down to keep the weeds from growing in part of the garden. It worked. We had no weeds. But it also kept any rain from nourishing the ground. Now, in order for the soil to be of value, it will need to be tilled many times. New soil will need to be added to provide nutrients. The area will need to be flooded with water.

What a picture of our spiritual lives when we have not sought the One who provides Living Water!  We often become hardened and have to be broken before we receiving spiritual nourishment. It can be long and painful…but worth the work! Only then are we refreshed and ready to grow!

My desire is to always thirst for Jesus…for His Word…for His truth…for His return!

Parched

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Jerusalem

I’ve been thinking a lot about Jerusalem lately. Perhaps it’s because of the continued  terrorist violence the city is experiencing. Perhaps it’s because the world’s eyes will be intently watching Israel more and more during the end times.

I will never forget my first view of the City of David in 1968.

We had flown into Tel Aviv and traveled to Jerusalem by bus. Our trip was not too long after the Six Day War. The fields alongside the highway were peppered with tanks that had been bombed. As we rounded one last curve, I looked ahead and saw the city. Many tourists spontaneously began singing “We’re Marching to Zion…beautiful, beautiful Zion!” The next few days were filled with visiting markets and museums, and spending time within the Old City Walls.

We gathered for a photo in front of the Dome of the Rock, an iconic example of Islamic architecture. This is perhaps the most photographed site in Jerusalem. It is built on the Temple Mount in the old part of the city where the first and second Jewish Temples had  once stood. The temple had been destroyed in the Roman invasion in 70 A.D. Sometime  between 688 and 691, the present shrine was constructed. The entire Temple Mount is of great importance to Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

Both Christians and Jews share the belief of the prophetic rebuilding of the Temple in place of the Dome of the Rock. Be prepared for increased turmoil of epic proportion.

I often think about my journey to Jerusalem. To walk in the city where Jesus walked caused me to really focus on what it means to follow Jesus. The impact on my life was deeply profound…and every scene I experienced seems as though it happened yesterday!

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: May those who love you be secure.” Psalm 122:6

Jerusalem

I am seated first row, fourth from the left.

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A Quiet Place

It had taken longer than usual to corral a classroom of 4 year olds on to the rug for morning circle time. I had a schedule to keep! There was simply no more time for complaints about picking up toys. No time for extra bathroom breaks. And definitely no time for more squabbles about who was going to sit closest to the teacher.

Finally…we were ready. Or so I thought. I heard a very long sigh escape my lips as I got up…again! I went to the little girl who had turned her back toward the group. She had sulked during breakfast. She had thrown herself to the floor when asked to help put away toys. And now I found her buried in her coat.

So much for the schedule!

Kneeling down beside her, I whispered if there was something wrong.

I heard a little cry beneath the hood. And then she looked up at me and said, “I just want somewhere quiet.”

Suddenly, there was no age difference between that little four year old and that 64 year old. I, too, wanted to sulk, to throw myself to the floor, to bury my head, and desperately desire somewhere quiet.

Turns out that both student and teacher shared a common medical explanation for our distress. Here is a simplified explanation:

Researchers have found the part of the brain that regulates emotions, the amygdala, appears to take over the hearing part of the brain when people hear extremely annoying sounds. It’s a possible distress signal from the amygdala to the auditory cortex. When listeners heard an annoying sound, activity in the amygdala increased and took over regulation of the auditory part of the brain.” 1

No wonder we were a basketcase of emotions!

Like the never ending sounds of cicadas, I am often disturbed by the noise of a crowd, the noise of the world, the noise of life, the noise of my worries.

During those times, I am still learning to attune my listening ear to someone greater! The Lord offers us His words. He offers a calm voice. He offers strength when we are weak from the noise. He offers a quiet place.

Psalm 46:10-11 “Be still, and know that I am God!”

Psalm 107:28-29 “Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and He brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed.”

Psalm 46:1-7 “God is our refuge and strength, a great help in times of distress. Therefore, we will not be frightened when the earth roars, when the mountains shake in the depths of the seas, when its waters roar and rage, when the mountains tremble despite their pride.”

Psalm 37:7 “Be still in the presence of the LORD, and wait patiently for Him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes.”

Psalm 62:5-6 “Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken.”

Isaiah 40:31 “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

And because I have faith in the Lord’s ability to quiet the noise in my troubled world, I can claim with total assurance the words found in 1 Samuel 12:16. “Now then, stand still and see this great thing the LORD is about to do before your eyes!”

Will the political noise of the world still exist? Yes. Will there still be ethical clamors? Yes. Will I still be tempted to succumb to the noise of my own personal worries? Yes.

But this I firmly claim…

I have somewhere quiet…and it is in Him!

 
1 http://www.webmd.com/brain/news/20121012/10-most-annoying-sounds

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