Reflections from the early days…

Hi…I am not back from my hiatus.  I am still writing…still searching for a bit of direction…I have been reflecting lately…so I thought that I would reflect back on some “old” writing pieces…so I hope you enjoy these a second time or if you are newer to A Work of Heart…I hope you enjoy them as if they were brand new!

 

GOD’S SOUND BARRIER


I am an introvert by nature.  I love alone time…lately I crave time alone because it is scarce.  Sometimes I just want to putter around doing nothing in particular.  Other times I want to have an extended time with the Lover of my soul.  Carl feels that 15 minutes is enough time for him to refuel.  Perhaps I am a slow learner but I need time to marinate.

With three children and a dog, our house is anything but quiet.  Caleb’s normal speaking voice is a bellow and the girls do a pretty good job of adding to the decibel level as well. 

This past week I spent too much time hitting the snooze button which didn’t leave adequate time to have quiet times in the morning.  I would limp along until Caleb’s naptime, anxious to have some peace and quiet.

One such afternoon, I hightailed it to my favorite cozy spot ready to soak in the silence…I found anything but that.  If it wasn’t the crows cawing, the neighbor’s dogs barking, or my phone ringing, I found no relief.  I was just about ready to get up and do something else when it happened…it was amazing…it was perfectly silent.  I quickly shut my eyes, took a deep breath and felt my heart rate slow…now perhaps I could hear from God.  The moment was fleeting as by the next series of breaths, I heard a familiar noise of an airplane.  You know, that thunderous roaring boom of an plane breaking the sound barrier.  But in my case, God was breaking my sound barrier so that I could be taught to hear Him be it quiet or be it noisy.

Now for a quick physics lesson of which I am completely unqualified to give but I will try…be easy on me.

A sound barrier is defined as:

  •  the apparent physical boundary (caused by a sudden increase in drag) preventing objects becoming supersonic. 

  In simplest terms, when a plane breaks this barrier, it creates a sonic boom, because it is traveling faster than the speed of sound. 

Drag is defined in many ways and can be used as a noun and a verb.  Alright, we all have probably thought that someone was a bit of a drag…that would be one usage of the noun. 

Another definition is: 

  •  Hindrance, someone or something that slows down physical movement or progress in an area or activity.
    As related to aviation, resistance to motion. 

If I look at God as an airplane…being very mighty and powerful…I on the other hand could be described as the drag.  Being human and having a sin nature definitely is a hindrance, an obstacle.  Doing things my way instead God’s  way can also cause a huge resistance to motion and ultimately slows down my growth. My lack of belief or my fear can also become a physical boundary against what God desires to do in my life.

Is it possible that sometimes God must exert so much force against my resistance to get my attention?  When a plane breaks the sound barrier, the force (speed) is so great that the sound waves can’t get out of the way fast enough so they collect…causing the audible sound that we all recognize immediately.

I thought that the collection of sound in my life was too much to handle and definitely too much to be able to hear from the Lord.  I also found myself falling into the pattern of believing that if I couldn’t see evidence with my own eyes…nothing was happening and God was not moving.

“For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth to show Himself strong in behalf of those whose hearts are blameless toward Him.”
                                                          II Chronicles 16: 9

One does not have to look up to know that a plane is passing overhead.  I need to remember that God is with me and for me in the chaos of crazy days as well as silent nights. I need to relax my expectations and rest in Him regardless of my situation.  Resting in the truth that if God is for me, who or what can be against me! 

There will be days that I can’t hear anything be it quiet or loud.  There will be days that I can’t hold anything tangible in my hands.  And there definitely will be those days that I can’t see beyond my nose.  But…

God is there… breaking through the silence, crashing through any resistance I could thrust at Him, the sure and steady pulse amidst the cranked up volume and the invisible thread that is assembling my life together…piece by piece. 

Father, thank you for reminding me yet again that my vision is so obscured and my hearing needs to be tuned up.  Thank you that you are omnipresent in my days as well as my life.  Help me to trust You when life doesn’t seem to be as smooth and quiet as I would like…I stand in awe of this world that I live in and that not anything, not even a plane breaking the sound barrier can adequately describe the fullness of Who You Are and What You Have Done for me…words just don’t really come close…so all I can do is give You my life once again…because You know best.   And I can’t believe I am saying this but thank you for all the noises that allowed me to hear You!   

Amen! 

 

Beauty in the Waiting Revisited…

In honor of spring and all the new life I see pushing through the earth and by  request…I am pulling out a piece from the early archives (September 2006) of this blog…hope you enjoy it again or for the first time…

Chocolate…Flowers….sounds like standard Valentine’s Day fare.  But what would you say if I told you that there is actually a flower that emits the scent of chocolate?  I think you might agree that this a match made in heaven and completely calorie free!

Two years ago, I went to a new nursery in my area.  I wanted something different to put in my perennial garden.  After endless circling and asking a lot of questions, I came home with three plants: a passion flower, nicotiana and a chocolate cosmos. 

The passion flower was designed to provide me with a plant that would climb around the brick archway of our house and display an exotic looking flower. To say that it grew was an understatement.  I didn’t realize that it was evergreen and it GREW until it was a jungle on the side of the porch.  The first year it produced just one bloom and the year after it was covered with Star Trekky looking flowers. 

The nicotiana although classified as an annual provided me with a fragrant scent as one entered our home.  It was a fast grower and was instant gratification personified.  I hadn’t expected to see it the next year, but there it was again, blooming profusely and seeming quite at home.

The chocolate cosmos, I was told was a very tender perennial.  I was instructed to plant it close to the house, protect it from the wind and to dig it up before the winter, replant it in a pot, then return it to its place in the garden once the ground warmed enough in the spring.  I planted the chocolate cosmos and it became an instant conversation piece for me and the kids.  People marveled at this velvety brown flower with the strong Hershey’s scent.  I would like to say that it cured my love affair with Turtles and Milk Duds but it did not…but it still made me smile whenever I would see it buds peeking out of its surroundings.

Cut to this year, the passion flower was flourishing alright but it was popping up everywhere…can you say invasive!  It needed a machete instead of pruning shears and it’s tendrils grabbed at every nearby stem in its path as if looking for dominance.  During the spring it was transplanted to an area with a sturdier trellis to support its Tarzan like swinging.  It is very happy although we have yet to see a flower…I am confident that next summer it will put the hurt feelings aside and bloom where it is now planted.

The nicotiana, the supposed annual, has just kept coming back as it drops seed after seed and populates the soil. It is quite the carefree flower that even does its own deadheading and then at night, the breeze reminds you of why you are pleased it is a permanent resident with its sweet lingering aroma.

Last summer, I scolded myself because I forgot the instructions of the wise gardener.  I didn’t dig up the chocolate cosmos.  I will admit that I can be a bit of a lazy gardener.  By summer’s end, I am a bit weary of the constant watering, fertilizing, weeding, pruning and dead heading.  The girls and I looked and looked and  could not find any sign of the chocolate cosmos.  We just shook our heads and let out a collective heavy sigh.

Last week, while pushing back some very heavy laden and bushy four ‘o clocks, I noticed a plant hidden beneath the foliage I was trying to support.  Then I saw a  couple of tall stems and buds…and what did I see but my chocolate cosmos had returned.  I just peeked outside and the first unfolded flower has arrived…standing proud and confident.

God has given all of us many gifts.  Some gifts are so obvious and natural that they just explode from within us.  The passion flower did what it was created to do…grow vigorously and invade.  Let your gifts flourish and grow…allow them to invade the lives of others and bless them.  But remember that we all have more than one gift and sometimes it is important to use that dominant gift in a new way, perhaps in a new surrounding or to let some of the less used gifts have a chance to be stretched.

Some people are like the nicotiana.  They are easy going wherever they are positioned.  They take in the necessary nutrients and just bloom.  They leave a pleasant trail of fragrance behind them and they also leave evidence of their presence…seeds.  Be an encourager, a comforter, smile at strangers, share laughter…leave a residue behind…changing your world can be as simple as embracing who God has created you to be and sharing the real you with others.

Just where did that Chocolate cosmos go last year?  Maybe it was hiding?  Maybe it needed more time?  Maybe the winds did get too harsh during the cold season. Perhaps it just needed deeper roots. It could have been easily overshadowed by more showy plants.

Perhaps today you feel like you are walking into a strong headwind.  Possibly your best hasn’t been perceived as good enough?  Or even the risks you are taking seem foreign and new. Maybe you look to the left or the right and think someone else could do it better.  Did you forget to look up and then look in the mirror?

Rest assured that whatever you have to offer the world and to God will produce fruit.  It may be a swift evident growth.  It could be a slow steady climb or it could be something that appears dormant only to finally be revealed as a thing of beauty…a work of perfection.

Live fully…take risks…dust off your gifts and sprinkle, scatter and sow them over the world…create a new landscape by being who God designed you to be.

“Every good gift and every perfect (free, large, full) gift is from above: it comes down from the Father of all (that gives) light, in (the shining of) Whom there can be no variation (rising or setting) or shadow cast by His turning (as in an eclipse.)”
                                James 1:17 (Amplified)

“Some seed fell into good soil, and grew up and yielded a crop a hundred times (as great). “
                           Luke 8: 8 (Amplified)

“But as for that (seed) in the good soil, these are the people who, hearing the Word, hold it fast in a just (noble, virtuous) and worthy heart, and steadily bring forth fruit with patience.”
                                          Luke 8: 15 (Amplified)

I want to be caught…


Today is the first day back to normalcy…spring break for us is over…the staying up too late…sleeping in…doing things other than chores…you know, having fun!  We had a nice break from routine and it was a perfect balance of leisure and accomplishing a few tasks as well.

But I am ready to be back on track…ready to get up earlier again…to tackle the laundry…the clutter…I need some order once again.

Today I also realized that in about 8 weeks…my oldest will graduate from high school…I can’t even put the multitude of feelings that slosh through my being…but it is happening…and I feel a bit overwhelmed by the mere thought.

If you have a moment…will you read what I read this morning…Luke 24: 13-16:

“Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.”

 The New King James and Amplified Versions translate the above verses like this:

“Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem.  And they talked together of all these things which had happened.  So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them.  But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him.”

“And behold, that very day two of [the disciples] were going to a village called Emmaus, [which is] about seven miles from Jerusalem.

    And they were talking with each other about all these things that had occurred.

    And while they were conversing and discussing together, Jesus Himself caught up with them and was already accompanying them.

    But their eyes were held, so that they did not recognize Him.”

This morning, I read the account of when Jesus walks with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus…how He teaches the twosome…He breaks bread with them…and finally they recognize Him…He appears to the other disciples…He declares peace to be with them…He allows them to feed Him…He opens their minds…they understand the Word…He is taken up from their view but not before blessing them…how they worship and are filled with great joy…they stay continually at the temple…praising God.

In fact, the Gospel of Luke ends with telling us that the disciples stayed continually at the temple, praising God…that’s what an encounter with the Risen Lord can do…it is accompanied by endless worship…JOY!

Imagine yourself today…burdened by many things…it could be high and lofty things…such as our world condition…so many that do not know our Lord…it could be things of earth…such as finances…disagreements…sin…fear…the future…a house of clutter…

Now picture that you are talking with your friend…maybe you are walking through a park…I hate to say in this day and age…you maybe driving and talking on your cell phone…you are discussing all that has happened…all that gives you pain…all that grieves your heart….and you don’t even realize that as you are talking and sharing the load…that Jesus has joined you…in the three versions it says…Jesus himself came up and walked along with them…Jesus Himself drew near and went with them…Jesus Himself caught up with them and was already accompanying them…

However…in each version, it also says that they did not know Him…recognize Him… or were kept from recognizing Him.  Why don’t we recognize or know Jesus when we see Him?  What can keep us from recognizing Him? 

I want to be caught! 

I want to know my Faithful Friend…I want to share all my cares and concerns with Him…I want to know Him and have eyes to really see Him…I want to allow Him to declare PEACE over my life…I want to be fed by Him…I want to use the gifts that are from Him to feed Him right back…I want Him to teach me…I want Him to open my eyes to His Word…I don’t want to miss His blessings…I don’t want to leave the temple…but remain…abide with complete joy…and full of worship.

I said at the beginning that I am overwhelmed by something that should only fill me with utter joy…I have not seen Jesus…I have been kept from recognizing Him by a multitude of stuff. 

Today I desire to lay down the stuff…that which keeps Jesus out of my line of sight…and ask Him what I am to pick up…what is straw…what is gold…

What keeps you from recognizing Jesus? Have you encountered Him today as you walked down your road?  Did His shoulder brush yours?  Did He lightly move the hair out of your face so you could fully take Him in?  Did your heart burn like the disciples?

Precious ones…He longs to draw near to you…let Him catch you today…won’t you?! 

It’s the ultimate game of tag…our job is to make the finding easy for Him!

 

What I learned from Stephen…


cover-to-cover

This week the cover to cover reading took us through the first 11 chapters of Acts and the first 3 chapters of James.  There is so much that happens in the book of Acts but in the interest of space and time…I wanted to share what stuck out to me this week.

The numbers of new believers was increasing each day, however, there arose a problem in the early church.  The Greek speaking believers felt that their widows were being overlooked in favor of the Hebrew speaking believers’ widows.  The Twelve gave immediate attention to this problem and appointed seven men who would take care of the needs of this group of widows.  The Twelve knew the importance of delegating so that they could keep preaching the Good News…their primary focus and calling.

Job Description:  Daily distribution of food to the Greek widows. (Acts 6: 1)

Qualifications: Seven men who are known  to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. (Acts 6:2)

The Seven:  Stephen, Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas.  (Acts 6:6)

About Stephen:  Stephen is described in these terms…”a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit”…”a man full of God’s grace and power”…”full of the Holy Spirit”.

Released:  The seven were presented to the apostles who laid hands on them and prayed over them.
                    (Acts 6: 6)

Initial Results:  The word of God spread…the number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly and a large number of priest became obedient to the faith.  (Acts 6: 7)

More about Stephen:  Stephen did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.  He was opposed but they could not stand up to his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke.  The only way they could attempt to stop him was to spread lies against him.  He was brought before the same Sanhedrin as Jesus faced…and when they looked upon Stephen to speak they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.  When asked to answer  the bogus charges, he spoke boldly of Israel’s rocky relationship with God.  When he finished, his accusers were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen being full of the Holy Spirit looked up to heaven and saw the glory of the God and Jesus standing at His right hand.  The people began to cover their ears and yelled at the top of their voices, they rushed at him and dragged him out of the city and began to stone him.  They must have tore his clothes off him because they were laid at Saul’s feet.  During this horrible stoning, Stephen prayed for the Lord to receive his spirit…he then collapsed to his knees and cried out for the Lord not to hold this sin against them…then he fell asleep.  Saul was there…giving his approval to Stephen’s death.  On that very day, a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.  We are told that godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him.  The intensity of Saul’s destruction against the church went full throttle.  (Acts 6: 8-8:3)

Thoughts:  There are no menial jobs in the kingdom. There are not big jobs and little jobs…important and trivial ones.  The seven men that were chosen to “wait tables” were not chosen because they had strong arms to carry trays or possessed gourmet expertise…they were chosen because their lives showed that they were men that were wise and Holy Spirit filled.  The physical needs of others is just as important as the spiritual needs of others.

Stephen was asked to fill a role and he submitted to this position.  On his “off time” he performed wonders and miraculous signs…when you are filled with the Spirit…it will show in your life…it can’t be hidden.  He didn’t feel that he was burdened by taking care of widows that he needed some down time…he used what he had received from the Lord.  When he spoke, he spoke as a man of faith and wisdom…words that could not be refuted by others.  He knew the Word.  He was prepared in and out of season to give testimony to the hope that he had.  He pointed others to God but they only wanted to cover their own waywardness.  The truth hurts as it is said…so much so that the people could not bear to hear his voice.  Stephen’s viewpoint was in heaven even before the heavens opened up…in living or dying he would be a sacrifice…a sacrifice that caused believers to be scattered and preach the word wherever they went…perhaps Philip who served with Stephen became more courageous in his faith walk as he also performed miraculous signs and healed many…he opened up the scriptures to an Ethopian and baptized him…this sacrifice was witnessed by Saul and despite his threats to the early church, it ultimately would impact his life.  Saul, who would become Paul  would lose and regain his sight as he came face to face with the One in whom Stephen’s life was committed.  Although I do not read this section until Monday,  Acts 11: 19 tells how far the gospel spread as a result of the persecution in connection with Stephen…to Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch.  Barnabas took Paul to Antioch and for a whole year they met with the church there and it was here where the disciples were first called Christians. (11:25-26)

How fitting to read these verses in James today!

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” 

James 1: 2-4

“The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position.”

James 1: 9

“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” 

James 1: 12

“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
      Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.”

James 2:14-18

“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 

 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.”

James 3: 13, 17-18

I learned a lot from Stephen this week.  His life displayed what being completely surrendered to the Lord can look like…

I have struggled the past few weeks with that age old question of “what is my purpose?”  You see, I make lists…I can tend towards looking at the checked boxes as a direct relationship to my worth.  But today, I am a bit ashamed by my superficial and me-centered question.  I want to be like Stephen…I want to be known not by my supposed position in life or the roles that I fill but that I am a person of faith, wisdom, grace and most importantly filled with the Holy Spirit.  So that wherever I go, whoever I encounter will know that they have seen Jesus…whether I am washing dishes, preparing a meal or praying over someone who is in need of healing.  I want my life in Christ to splash onto the toes of those around me and in turn the Word spread in their footsteps to the next…to the next…to His Name be praised.

 

Okay…that’s enough reading for one post…I think I will do this again!

This last post was during the time that I was reading the Bible cover to cover chronologically with a group of bloggers.  Bev Brandon was the fearless leader and such a lover of God…she was recently diagnosed with breast cancer.  Please pray for her as she walks this journey.

Much love,

Helen

 

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