So Who Needs Crayons??

Here‘s the scenario: I’m in the back yard early in the morning trying to have some undistracted time with the Lord, but my attention is consistently drawn to the sensate beauty around me.  Albeit my patio garden couldn’t hold a citronella candle to some of the other gardens around in this area, yet the songs of the birds, the wind in the trees, the morning sunshine dappling through the leaves, the color and contours of the flowers and the cool of the morning air all combine to lure me away from exercising the discipline I had intended.  Adding to that, my imagination now wanders to various projects I would like to work on next to improve certain areas of my little spot: weeding, fertilizing, installing liners to prevent runoff when the summer rains make their appearance.  So, yeah, I’m definitely having some difficulty staying mentally on my original task this morning.

Then it hits me—wait a minute!  This is how God Almighty thinks of me!  Psalm 139 tells me that His thoughts are continually toward me, and that if I could count them, they would outnumber the sand!

He sees me as more beautiful than a garden’s beauty, more distracting (if that were possible for God) than the delights of my own current diversions.  His mind is consistently excited about the work He intends to accomplish in me next: shoring up the new plantings of faith and growth so that the inevitable rains of life will not wash the progress away, rooting up the weeds of shame and fear that cause damage to the mind and heart, watering and feeding for greater growth, and, yes, pruning, which is necessary for new branches to appear and for increased productivity.

But what is even more amazing is that this work of the Master Gardener is NOT due to any anger or frustration on His part.  It is, much to the surprise of many who would consider themselves “religious”, an expression of His joy, just as it is a joy for me to work in my garden!

  • I’m not angry at my garden because of the weeds and the poor soil, or the rocks in the wrong places. Of course, I don’t want it to stay that way. So also does God Almighty, in His wisdom and sovereignty, make decisions about what needs to be changed and rearranged in my life to fit His grand, overall design. Now, I can submit willingly to His decisions, or I can choose not to.  Have you ever had a weed that “fought back” when you tried to pull it?  When it didn’t just slide out with the first yank, what happens next?    When the weed refuses to be pulled, it gets uncomfortable for the weed, as well as all the ground around it, at least for a while.  Ouch.
  • I certainly don’t give up on my garden during the winter seasons of dormancy, but cover up the roots to keep them warm and alive until the inevitable return of spring. Neither does my Heavenly Father disown me in the winter seasons when it “appears” that nothing is happening, or it looks like all the former beauty of passion and enthusiasm has withered away and disappeared.
  • It is my pleasure to work in my garden heartily to spread the ashes of “recycled soil” from my burn pile to other areas for increased nutrition. Ashes are not pretty; and the burning process gets pretty hot, and then smolders for a long time creating even more ash. The pile itself isn’t much to look at, but the soil is some of the most fertile in my entire yard.  So also does my Father consider when He views the ash piles in my life—the heartaches, the disappointments, the bad decisions, even the sin and corresponding consequences— to give me “beauty for ashes”.  (Isaiah said that…)

Here’s to the beautifully distracting colors of spring!  And the reminder that we are even more beautiful to our Gardener.

Advertisements

Hey!! Where’d the #moon go??

I love the night sky.  I love sitting under a quiet canopy of stars in the early pre-dawn morning before the tree frogs have stopped their singing and the birds kick in with their own.  When I was a kid, I thought I wanted to be an astronaut.  I grew up with Captain Kirk, and the Starship Enterprise, and “live long and prosper” and all that.  Forget Barbie and Ken; that final frontier was what I was about!

That is, until I told my mom, to which she insightfully replied, “Oh, so you want to be an engineer?”  That’s all it took to crush my dilithium crystals to smithereens. 

Needless to say that I never pursued my dream—no, I should only refer to it as a fantasy—of galactic exploration.  Even so, as I said, I still love the night sky, that time of the earth’s rotation when we get a glimpse of spatial eternity.  As I look up, the moon is a mere sliver of reflected light in the sea of dark nothingness.  At first glance, it would seem like the moon has been disappearing.  Now, if someone had been enjoying the night skies for the first time over that past thirty days or so, this apparent lunar exit could cause several things in the uninitiated observer: disappointment, fear, frustration and confusion, to new a few.  How unfair for such a beautiful thing to only last but 30 days!  But to someone with even a very limited experience with astronomy, like me, this phase is, well, just that,..a phase… 

…which brings two thoughts to mind:

  • Although I can barely see it now, yet because of my history with the moon, I know that this illuminated piece of rock will come around again. Actually, it has never left; it’s still up there. In fact, it’s still up there in its entirety, just hidden, and only temporarily at that.
  • Secondly, the waning of the moon isn’t the end of the moon. It’s only the present completion of the moon’s natural progression. It’s not dying, not disintegrating.  On the contrary, this progression is an important part of its existence, its identity.  The moon is preparing for the next appointed phase.

Writing this very sentence, I am 53 years old.  (I just had a birthday this month, thankfully, as they say, considering the alternative.)  By this time in my tenure on the planet, I have learned a little about phases.  Some are inevitable, some are not, but one thing remains true of both—they pass.  We can learn to recognize and navigate through them by learning from experience (that of others or simply our own).  Or we can deny their existence and pretend nothing has changed.  Either way, similar to the “immutable changes” of the moon, phases will come and go, and will inevitably leave the marks of change in their wake.

This is where it gets sticky, this change thing, since we tend to cling to the emotional status quo, even if the status quo is toxic.  Change brings uncertainty, which in turn, if we allow it, can breed fear.  That is another reason why some things in our lives must be as immutable (and in this case, more so) than the moon itself:

  • With God, sometimes our “seeing” Him, sensing His involvement and His control over our circumstances, is eclipsed by other things. Whether our spiritual senses are dulled by physical/mental components such as fatigue, stress, (or even hormones), or whether the cause is more seditious, like sin, God is still Jehovah Shammah, the great “I Am Present”. (1) And He promises to never leave us or forsake us, as we continue to cling to Him. Period. (2)
  • Like the progressions of the moon, the God of the universe is always progressive. Not that God changes, as He is Himself unchangeable. (3) He doesn’t go through “phases”, but He knows that we have to.  It is a necessary component of who we are.  If a project or a ministry or a relationship has seemingly disintegrated before our eyes, it is wisdom to “fret not”, (it doesn’t do any good anyway), and to remain faithful and humble and, yes, maybe even courageously inquisitive as to what God is doing and going to do on our behalf.  This will allow God, in His loving sovereignty, to take us through the progression He has designed for us.

The unfortunate one viewing the waning of the moon for the first time is unfortunate only if he believes that what he sees happening if all there is and ever will be of the moon.  His perception, as is ours, is tainted with inexperience and impatience.  Giving in to our limited perception (and the emotional response that frequently accompanies it) is like turning my eyes from the night sky forever, since there will obviously never be another moon.  How silly!  No…how tragic.

Patient waiting, as for the return of the moon, is the mark of someone who understands the concept of phases.  Because God is always preparing, never retreating.

  • Ezekiel 48:35
  • Deuteronomy 31:6; Hebrew 13:5
  • Malachi 3:6

The #Grace of a Talking Ass, ….er, #Donkey

My good friend, Kelly, asked me to participate in a halftime show during a fundraiser donkey basketball game for her small Christian school.  I love big animals, having grown up in the ‘burbs with little access to the farm.  We were to “ride” donkeys while picking up money people threw on the floor.  Needless to say, it was riotous fun.  But I experienced firsthand why the donkey has a reputation for stubbornness.  Case in point:

Once upon a time long, long ago, there was this guy named Balaam.  Not a nice man.  Popular, but not someone you would want to escort your daughter to prom.  He was well known and respected as a person who could effectively “bless” or “curse” whole sections of the population.  Not curse, as in the ineffective and banal expletives that are thrown around today.  No, evidently this man had something unnatural about him, something powerful, and not altogether healthy.  However, to superficially read the account, it almost sounds like he was at least trying to wear a white hat, but as the story unfolds, it turns out that he was, well…not a nice man.

The Hebrew people were coming to the end of a very long road trip through an exceptionally trying desert.  They had learned a lot of important stuff, generally the hard way.  By now the other people whose lands the Israelites were coming upon, including that of a king named Balak, had heard the accounts of how God had miraculously extricated them from slavery in Egypt and provided for them throughout their time in the desert.  Understandably, it made King Balak a little unsettled that this massive group of wandering foreigners was heading straight for his territory, and naturally he assumed the worst.  Whatever was a pagan king to do?

Send for Balaam, of course.

When King Balak’s messengers arrived at Balaam’s doorstep to request a customized curse, the prophet made no bones about it that he could only say what this Hebrew God wanted him to say.  (At least he got that right.)  Initially God told not to go, but when Balaam was offered more money the second time, it was just too tempting and God relented.  (Asking God a second time after a clear answer the first time is not always a wise option.)  However, God knew what was below the surface in Balaam’s heart—greed and selfish ambition, and definitely not what God necessarily had in mind for His own people.

Saddling up his long-trusted donkey, Balaam sets off for the palace, with visions of gold dancing in his head.  To his surprise, and consternation, however, his otherwise reliable transport decides he doesn’t want to go forward, (which, from personal experience now, I realize is not altogether unnatural for a donkey, except perhaps this one.)   First his old companion intentionally turned off the road, and Balaam beat him.  Then he squeezed up close to a wall for “no reason”, crushing the so-called prophet’s foot, and Balaam beat him.  A while later down the road, the poor creature just laid down.  You can guess Balaam’s response, but it’s the donkey’s that I find most interesting—he talked.

(Unfortunately, the Bible doesn’t record Balaam’s initial reaction to this event, so obviously it must not have been terribly important to the account.  But, oh, to be a fly on the sweet snout of that animal!)

Suddenly, the supernatural realm—that Balaam hypothetically operated in—was opened, and there stood a seriously intense and summarily displeased angelic messenger.  (Once again, Balaam’s first response is sadly omitted.)  The words of the angel are quite instructive, if not discouraging, and Balaam gets an attitude shift that speaks well for his limited knowledge of the God with whom he was dealing.

Here is one point, among many that could be made from Balaam’s experience which relates to our modern day dealings with life, and the God of that life.  There are times, more than we would care to admit, during which we think we are following God’s will, when in reality our own attitudes are expertly hidden from us.  The bricks of our piety are often mortared together with anger, offense, jealousy, greed, to name a few.  Because God loves His children, He knows how dangerous these attitudes are, and how necessary it is for our welfare that they be removed.  It may be that those around us clearly see the danger that is standing directly in the path, and our anger and frustration with them is not only uncalled for, but unwise.  Granted, it takes humility to allow God to show us the “error of our ways”, even if it comes through humble means, but it is imperative that we see. 

Moral of the story: it’s always a good idea to pray for the grace of a talking donkey while we walk the pathway of this life.   Otherwise, the sword’s gonna hurt.

#Wind –friend or foe?

(Excerpt from God Loves Birds, by Dawn Jones)

Rogers and Hammerstein, the famous composers of the old time musical, Oklahoma!, immortalized the words, “and watch a hawk making lazy circles in the sky.”  Sitting at my table outside I happened to look up into the blue above me and saw just that. Of course, it could have been a turkey vulture, a little challenging for me to tell at that distance, and naturally it wouldn’t have quite the same poetic ring to it as in the song. Regardless, the beauty of it was mesmerizing.  This bird was expressing part of her innate wiring, and doing it with seemingly effortlessness and grace. 

The other interesting observation in this scenario was that the cloud movement was indicating the wind was decidedly out of the northwest.  The bird, however, was completely unhampered by the direction or the velocity of the airflow, and in fact, when she was apparently done with that particular circumference, commenced heading into a direct headwind! 

Now, granted, I’m a Purdue Boilermaker, but decidedly not from their renown aeronautical engineering department.  Even so, I seem to know that this bird’s impressive flight pattern had something intrinsically to do with the set of her wings, rather than merely the direction and strength of the air current. She has no control over the wind, but full control of her feathers.  She understands and has mastered how to work with the wind, or better, to make the wind work for her.  It is her nature to do so.  And unlike us humans, she doesn’t even know how to complain if the wind seems to be going the wrong way, or how to whine if the wind seems too strong.

We humans, however, are of a higher order.  We are well versed and abundantly proficient in the art of complaining and whining.  And, unfortunately, it is not even an acquired art—it has been hard-wired into our code since, well…since we left the first Garden.  Our original two parents somehow couldn’t see fit to work within God’s set perimeter, even though back then there weren’t even ten commandments, only one: don’t eat from that tree, just that one, only one.  All the plethora of foliage and fruit were available and in abundance and could be enjoyed without restraint, but just not that one.  And we all know the rest.  (Not that I could have done any better.  I probably would have built a tree house up inside of it and invited my husband in for afternoon tea with forbidden-fruit turnovers.)

There’s just something about wanting what we are not supposed to have.  Or are warned against.  Or belongs to someone else.  Or are supposed to wait for in the future.  And we have a penchant for whining when we can’t get it…now.  Consider:

  • That certain house, or car, or job
  • Or maybe retirement!
  • Children, or grandchildren,
  • Or maybe getting the children out of the house!
  • Social reputation, positions and status
  • Or maybe solitude and quiet!
  • Friends and relationships, or even marriage,
  • Or a better, more satisfying, more stable marriage!

According to that same perspective, we complain when the “wind” of our expectations blows in a way that appears contrary to our desires:

  • Economic recession and financial loss
  • Health issues, both personal and with our loved ones
  • Unexpected bills and other un-planned-for responsibilities (children, aging parents, to name a few)
  • Even the so-called “Acts of God” (what a bum rap THAT is!) that leave untold pain and destruction in their wake.

The lists of things we choose to be discontent about are as long as they are differently perceived by each person.  And just when we think we may have conquered one, there are plenty more in the queue waiting to pop up on our emotional screen.  Despite this challenge, God calls us to contentedness, and promises that such a discipline brings great gain. (1)  Linda Dillow, in her wonderful book entitled Be Still My Anxious Heart, writes about acquiring this skill of contentedness in all areas of life, such as employment, relationships, even in our own physical uniqueness.  It takes time, and it takes effort to surrender our “wannabes” to God’s, but both the time and the effort are well worth the end product of contentedness.

However, lest we misunderstand, contentedness and surrender are not equal to resignation.  True heart surrender to our heavenly Father’s plan and purpose—however strange and nonconforming it may be to our own—brings a peace that He really has everything under control, things are progressing according to His design, and since I don’t have to figure it all out (I’ve tried, and it’s painful), I can trust Him to tell me where to step next.  Resignation, on the other hand, is giving up.  Quitting.  Taking my ball and going home.  Instead of peace, I open myself up to bitterness, jealousy, and unforgiveness.  And these guys are very, very dangerous playmates indeed.  They tend to bring more unwanted guests into our lives, and sometimes we might not even be aware of them! (2)

One of these all too familiar hangers-on is stress.  My husband tells me that stress is caused by unmet expectations.  And everything in our modern psychology tells us that we need to decrease our stress.  Logically, then, it would seem to follow that we need to modify our expectations, and learn to use our emotional and mental energy to harness the unexpected, the disappointing, the uncomfortable and downright painful things that life occasions for us.  Thankfully, we have the very best Teacher to help us do just that.  God’s Holy Spirit residing in each believing Christian is available for immediate access. (3) It is in learning to listen for His voice that we can release ourselves from the grip of gripe and the power of self-pity.

In this we place life’s uncontrol-ables, all of them and without reservation, into the capable hands of the One Who controls both the direction and the velocity of the winds of life.  For in truth, only He can teach us to spread our wings… and fly. (4)

  • 1 Timothy 6:6
  • James 3:16
  • Ephesians 3:16; John 14:26
  • Isaiah 41:10

Fire Up the Christmas Tree…in #March

(Excerpt from God Loves Gardens, by Dawn Jones)                                     I let the dog out on this beautiful Sunday morning as the sun was coming up, the birds were waking up, and the new flowers are starting to push their way up.  I look across my yard to the unsightly large black spot next to the fence where I finally got to burn the annual Spring cleaning—leftover leaves, twigs and branches, and, yes, even the old Christmas tree. But I don’t have to see the blackened area to remember my efforts from the day before.  My 50+ year old frame is reminding me enough!   Initially, the left over burn pile looks like an ugly scar on my landscape, until I realize what it represents.  This spot will be where I plant my tomato starts again this year.  And they will become monster bushes due to the wonderfully fertile soil provided by the after effects of my efforts from yesterday’s hard work.

We know that burning adds the nutrients into the soil, and this can be likened to the process of consecration, A.K.A. dedication, of ourselves to God. (I like the word “consecration”.  It’s a good old-fashioned churchy sounding word that’s packed with meaning.)  It’s only when we are truly consecrated to God that we become pretty useless TO the world; that is, the world cannot use us for its own purposes, and we become liberated from the shackles of their devices, such as the need for popularity, status, wealth…fill in the blank. Not that these things are intrinsically evil, but the “need” for them sure is!   Likewise, it’s when we are completely devoted to God—His honor, His plan and purpose, His timing—that we are, in a very real and spiritual sense, burned up to Him in a way that we become “the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place” described by Paul, and we become useful FOR the world in the way God intends.  And lastly, if we neglect this consecration process, this burning sacrifice of our lives to God, then we can be assured that we will, indeed, be burned out by the world and its effects upon us.

Having said that, as I contemplate the black spot in my garden, several things come to mind:

Leaves: (many of which have been sheltering the gardens to keep the roots warmer over the somewhat brutal winter we just had)  We also can tend to hide under some of our past comforts for fear of the winter storms in our lives  Life is cold at times, bitterly so.  We naturally seek to protect our inner selves.  But I also knew it was time to rake away the leaves, because they were now preventing the full warming rays of the sun to nourish the new plants.  Same with our souls.

Twigs and branches blown down by the storms which are no longer able to produce life:  Left to clutter the yard, they will make it easier to trip and fall, and more difficult to mow, to play with the dog, and do the things that a yard is for.  Like the personal offenses held onto and residual guilt feelings of my own past offenses forgiven, yard waste is simply in the way of progress.

Muscle aches from the effort:  I can’t sit inside and expect it to just happen on its own.  Similarly my personal cleansing is a cooperative effort with God.  The word effort is important here.

My burn pile is ringed with stones and brick to contain the burning process:  I also watch over it carefully, spraying outside the stones as need should the fire jump into the grass and spread where it is not appointed to go.  Personal boundaries are important.

The ongoing process – just as each new season here in southern Missouri brings more leaves and twigs to be processed, so our lives are a continual cleanup project.  Pull out the rake!

Between the #wax and the #web

(Excerpt from God Loves Gardens, by Dawn Jones)

As I sat in the early morning darkness, I had lighted a citronella candle—one of my several strategies to prevent mosquito bites from occurring—when I observed a common moth drawn to the light of the flame.  Moths are so fragile and beautiful, and are so unaware of both their fragility and their beauty that they are vulnerable to flying too close to the flame…as this one did.  I looked down into the pot, and there he was, overpowered by the flame he was inexorably drawn to, and now I have a moth carcass stuck in the wax!

Again, I observed another moth flying playfully around the patio light.  Granted, there was no live flame to endanger him on this occasion, but I could see what he could not—a craftily woven spider web all but hidden and well within the range of the carelessly ignorant moth.  He was potential breakfast for this spider, and he had no idea.

We are quite credibly akin to moths; that is, our generation, our culture, and certainly all generations prior to us:

  • We are beautiful, even if we are considered “common” by others or in our own estimation. So called “common” moths, though they may not be as popular as their Monarch cousins, are certainly elegant and a marvel of delicacy and intricacy in their own right. As the moth was unaware of his beauty, so are we often lacking in our own self-awareness.  Frequently we esteem ourselves as merely common, not much to look at, especially when compared to our older sister, or best friend, or the prom queen, or….most of us are painfully familiar with the mantra. This common deception, however, is decidedly contradicted by God Himself when He prompted King David to pen that fabulous Psalm 139, which tells of how we are each “fearfully and wonderfully made”.  (1) King David continues to expound on the wonders of birth and life and God’s overarching plan for each of our lives.  It’s a good read, especially when looking in the mirror first thing on a Monday morning!
  • We are as fragile as we are beautiful, and more than we care to admit. In today’s American culture, teenagers are typically pegged as being risk-takers. While this may certainly be an honestly acquired reputation, it behooves us all to reflect on our very mortal frame.  And of greater significance, I must remind myself that there are areas which are more tender to the flame and fire of life than just my skin.  The heart, the mind, the personality, the spirit, the intellect—all of these are not as resilient as we would hope, as is sorely personified in the lives of young people struggling with eating disorders, addictions,  and the various pitfalls of 21st century survival.  (2)
  • Despite our own beauty, and in ignorant disregard for our wound-able condition, we are compellingly drawn toward the things in life that seem to sparkle and shine. And most of these bring a promise that, somehow in owning them, will supposedly cause us also to sparkle and shine. We crave “bling” for our relationships, our reputation, as well as in our possessions.  Jesus spoke directly to this hedonistic mindset, when He said that a person’s life is more that those things which he possesses, and this includes all the bling and sparkle and shine that the world has to offer. (3)

Something very calculated and sinister occurs when we are unable to get a grip on how God sees us in our very own uniqueness.  Likewise, we can predict a common response when we underestimate our weaknesses.  It is that we will eventually tend to give our attention, and indeed ourselves, to the world’s definitions and promises of success. In so doing, we fly perilously close to the web of deception and compromise, and to the flaming wax of consequence. 

And invariably, we get stuck.

  • Psalm 139 (the whole chapter!)
  • Job 4:19; Psalm 143:4,5
  • Luke 12:15

Birds, bats, and…. #angels ?

 

(excerpt from God Loves Birds, by Dawn Jones)

Martins abound in this place we are visiting, which presumably must be due in part to the martin houses nearby.  I’m not an Audubon, but that would seem to make some sense.  I am also not at home, and boy how I wish I had one of these special bird attractions in my yard, (or in my neighbor’s yard.)  Martins are really neat birds, not the least of which is due to their diet of mosquitoes, one of my arch-enemies.  My skin seems to have a natural affinity for mosquito tastebuds.  My husband says that he doesn’t need insect repellant when he is outside with me since I seem to hog all of these little stinging dive-bombers to myself.  So, naturally I love to see the martins swooping about, feasting themselves on my tormentors. (I like bats for the same reason, although I am less confident that my neighbors would appreciate a bat-house.) 

I have recently learned, however, (and to my disappointment), that mosquitoes actually do not make up a significant portion of the martins’ diet.  Interesting, these urban legends. 

Nevertheless, there is accurate information that purple martins are legitimately drawn to a housing/living environment with certain criteria to meet their specific needs:

  • The martins’ bird house must be high and away from trees and other structures.
  • They eat only flying insects, and they hunt for them at night.
  • Allowing uninvited guests to set up housekeeping will significantly discourage martins from taking up abode.
  • Painting housing white seems to attract martins the best.
  • Due to predators such as squirrels and raccoons, installing a pole guard helps to protect the martins’ nests and the on-going work of, well, being a martin.
  • The martin bride and groom are monogamous, faithful throughout the family process.

So here’s a thought—these beautiful creatures help me to imagine the ongoing relationship between God’s angels and Satan’s demonic forces. The angels are described as those beings which God sends to assist His people.  Demons, we are informed, are angelic unfortunates that lost their foothold in heaven by choosing a leader other than the One Who created them.  Most probably, this is an over-simplification of a deep theological event, but since I am not a trained theologian, it suits me just fine.  I’m not terribly concerned with the particulars, just the consequence and my response to it.

There has been a plethora of creative thinking about angels in the past decade or so, as well as what appears to be an upsurge of interest, secular and otherwise, in the spiritual dimension of our earthbound existence.  However, even our Anglo-ancestors had ideas that did not exactly jive with what the Bible describes as God’s messengers.  C.S. Lewis makes an astute observation in his book, Mere Christianity, that angels have been historically portrayed as nude, fat-bellied rosy-cheeked cherubs that one would want to pat on the head and say “there, there”, rather than the warriors that generally need to start their conversation with humans by saying “fear not!”

And yet angels are just as much an important part of our daily lives as is breathing air; that is, we are not generally aware of their presence, but would most certainly be the worse off without it.  So here’s my take on these wonderful creatures:

  • Angels have their true home on high, away from worldly (and underworldly) structures. They don’t reside here, no more than I live at my jobsite. They “present” themselves before their Creator, and are “presented” to us as a heavenly host, praising God when Jesus made His first appearance.  (1)
  • Since Satan is described as the “prince of the power of the air” (2), which, to a lesser degree, would also indicate the faculties of his evil emissaries, angels must have no gravitational limitations. What we consider flight in our world is merely movement in theirs. And in another and more comforting sense, God’s angels are on the hunt and can see just fine, even in our darkest moments when we cannot see anything clearly at all.  They are described as “encamping around those who revere God”, and as “ministering spirits sent out in the service of those who are to inherit salvation.”(3)
  • Despite their heavenly power, they are not omnipotent like their Creator, and their work can be thwarted and/or delayed when we allow “unsanctified visitors” to take up residence in our lives. (4) The demonic is drawn to our affirmative embraces of jealousy, bitterness, unforgiveness and offense. In his book, Victory Over Darkness, author Neil Anderson refers to decisions like these as “sin handles” that give Satan an opportunity to hang on. And Satan does not give up his territory without a struggle.
  • On the positive side, we can make the angels’ job a bit easier with the washing, cleaning process of the Holy Spirit in our lives, and the accompanying behavioral decisions. Like the unwelcomed birds that make it harder for the martins to nest, so the unwelcomed attitudes and habits can be scrubbed out and my “house” swept clean. My sanctification is a joint project between myself and God, and I need all the help I can get!  So why make the angels’ job to help me any harder than it already is?  A large part of this washing is available in the form of God Word being continually poured into my life, which means I need to physically pick up the book (or whatever media device is available), and start reading. (5)
  • To follow this idea, I can set up “pole protectors” in my daily life. These come in the form of personal boundaries, such as Dr. Henry Cloud suggests in his book, Changes that Heal. These boundaries help define the use of my time, my relationships, and all of the other resources that Satan would love to define for me.  When I allow my arch enemy to do this, he will undoubtedly try to cheat, steal and destroy the work that God’s holy angels are trying to accomplish for me. (6) Therefore, I am wise to erect the proper “protectors”.
  • By whatever process and historical events, God’s glorious and “chosen” angels are no longer tempted to be unfaithful to Him. (7) Augustine, living and thinking and praying in the 4th and 5th centuries, tried to tackle this issue in one of his many tomes. The practical, bring-it-home-to-me point is that the angels watching and warring over me are faithful to God, without exception, without coercion, and interact with no one’s plan but that of their Creator. I need their faithfulness.

So, as I said, since our out of town visit and my encounter with the purple martins, I have learned that mosquitoes are not necessarily a main staple of their buggie-diet.  No matter.  To me, bugs are bugs, and with the considerable exception of butterflies, I am happy to share my entomological population with ANY avian neighbors lodging nearby. 

And as it is with this wonderful species of bird, so it is with God’s beautiful angels, in that there exists a certain unfounded mythology concerning who they are and what they do.  The evidence about angels that is noteworthy does not have its foundation on anecdotes, Hollywood, novels, or even personal experience.  Our only reliable source of information concerning them and their mission is found in the source document of the Christian faith, the Bible, and where it is silent, we must content ourselves to be likewise.  We are prudent, therefore, to beware of “urban legends” that would try to excite us, causing us to pursue erroneous ends, like buying a martin house, then sitting on my patio without mosquito repellant.  I fancy I would be most uncomfortable the next day.

Maybe I could somehow interest the martin family in a new taste treat…?

 

  • Job 1:6 (Amplified); Luke 2:13-15
  • Ephesians 2:2
  • Psalm 34:7; Hebrews 1:14 (Amplified)
  • Daniel 10:11-13
  • 2 Corinthians 7:1; 2 Timothy 3:16
  • 1 Peter 5:8
  • 1 Timothy 5:21

 

 

For the #educators in your life!

wood-695117_1280

Many years ago while traveling in the backcountry of Baja I learned an important lesson that I have carried with me ever since.

Several of us were on a fishing adventure slowly making our way down the old Mexican 1 which serpentines it’s way along the backbone of this wild peninsula. We were in the middle of one of the loneness and driest places on earth, the Vizcaino Desert, when I felt a hard jolt followed by a loud clanging. My jeep coasted to a halt next to a large Boogun tree, engine still running. My son, Sam, ran up the dusty road and retrieved the driveshaft. It is amazing at how quiet and empty the desert can feel when you are broken down in the middle of it.

After a little trouble-shooting we figured that we could limp back to the village of Catavina some miles away by engaging the 4WD, which still transferred power to the front wheels. And so we began a long and tedious trek back to that little pueblo.

Upon arriving, we searched for a mechanic to help us. Actually, this place had more abandoned dwellings than occupied. But as luck would have it we found a guy who had ran out of money and was stranded there waiting for an opportunity to continue his journey North and he was a mechanic—only in Mexico.

Julio examined the shaft by rolling it on the crumbling pavement of an old abandoned gas station to check its trueness. I remember looking at a peeling mural of a map of the peninsula with a star marking our location. We were a long ways from home. The station had shut down years before for lack of traffic. Since its closure, the only fuel available was gotten from fifty-gallon drums strained through a chamois. My attention went back to Julio, who was shaking his head while examining the broken strap. We would not be traveling far without a new one.

I began to worry when he shaded his eyes from the intense Baja sun and scanned the surrounding desert. Without a word, he abruptly left us and carefully picked his way through the cacti toward a line of wrecked vehicles. I watched him disappear underneath a rusting Chevy pickup with a cholla growing up through its missing hood.

MVC-006F

Upon returning, he told me he needed 80 pesos to pay the man who “owned” it. Sensing I did not understand, he explained that he would have to salvage the pin bearings from it and further he would need to buy a strap from another “owner” of an old Ford rusting on the other side of the road. He smiled sweeping his arms across the desert encompassing at least thirty old, rusting vehicles and said, “This is my parts department.” The parts he needed he would savage off these abandoned wrecks.

Without any further discussion, he began to work. Using the tools we always carried on these adventures and an old rickety jack, he worked for a couple hours in the sweltering heat. First he replaced each pin bearing one by one and than slowly jacked the shaft back up in place using a cradle he had made from pieces of wood he had sent the village children out to gather from along side the road.

By now we had attracted most of the villagers: us being the best entertainment in town. I remember my friend, Fritz, teaching the game of chess from the tailgate of his pickup.

I asked Julio at one point how he was going to balance the shaft so it would spin true when reconnected to the engine. He smiled as he propped one end on a rock and took a small hand sledge and carefully lifted it a few inches above and struck it. He did this a couple of times more with care and precision. When he finished, he proudly said, “Hecho en Mexico!” Made in Mexico!

I paid Julio less than a hundred dollars for the whole job, which got him on his way and us as well. We continued our journey south to explore many bays and beaches without names that fueled countless campfire stories to this day. Years later, I passed that jeep on to my son and it still runs and has never needed any modifications to Julio’s repairs.

When you leave the frontiers and venture down the back roads of Baja there is no Auto Club to call, no machine shops, no dealerships, or Auto Zones to stop at. You only have yourself and the kindness of strangers. These strangers, the locals, are geniuses at making do with what they have. They live by the adage that necessity is the mother of all invention. It is what surely attracts me to these lonely places over and over.

Being an educational leader in these times is not much different. We are bombarded with an endless stream of regulations and directives from the state and federal government that cost large sums of money to implement while we are asked to do it with less.

We find ourselves spending more and more time out of classrooms meeting the needs of outside bureaucrats who claim to have all of the answers. But when all is said and done, the solutions are in the talent we have all around us. The secret to our success is the same as Julio’s; use our own talent and ingenuity to solve the problem.

We need to invest in ourselves for a change. This of course, will not make the test making companies, “consultants,” textbook publishers, software designers and outside trainers very happy in their quest for billions of our tax dollars.

But in my experience, a good teacher who makes positive connections with children will out perform any program, any time. That is were I would put my money because I am used to betting on winners.

I already have what I need to continue to move MPH forward. I am proud to say I work with a cadre of world-class, talented and willing teachers and staff. We should never forget that our greatest resource is all around us—It is, us. “Hecho en Rim of the World!”

#Mom For Hire

photo 2

Posted: MOM FOR HIRE, used but in acceptable condition.  Still capable of giving unwanted advice, making you wear a hat in the cold, and generally being an embarrassment in public. Does not do windows.  Inquire below–

That title is almost as pretentious as tagging myself as a “writer”.  But if so, it’s probably of little consequence, due to the nature of the blogosphere.  It’s not like being in high school when you had to read something and do a book report (I wonder if they still do that??)  And I know that this post is mere nano-particle in a galaxy of worm holes and flashy comets (yes, I was a Star Trek fan back in the day–the original version, to be clear.)

And yet, there is something to be said about starting my twenties by having three babies and ending that decade with selling Girl Scout cookies while putting their father through grad school.  (I.U.-Bloomington, go big red!)  My thirties were filled with prepubescence and flaming adolescence, braces, sporting events, and the task of helping the girls “find themselves”, despite the unfortunate fact that I didn’t even know myself that well yet.  That’s right, we have no sons, and I was informed that our house rules were “strict” by their friends’ parents’ standards.  My home became know as “the Convent” and I was nicknamed (affectionately, I hope) “Mother Superior”.  

Forty-something was the transitioning from a full house to my little goslings flying off to college one at a time.  I remember the night of my actual “empty nest” experience.  Our baby girl, Heather, was on her way out the door for her first night in her new dorm room.  Now granted, all the girls spent their first two years of collegiate existance at the small college where their dad is a prof.  Basically, down the street and around the corner.  But still, this was a bit of a milestone…at least for me!  Goodbye hugs, etc. No more boom boxes competing on different levels of the house.  No more choir concerts, band concerts, and various awards ceremonies at the high school. No more prom dresses, monthly allowances, or staying up waiting from someone to make it home by curfew.  Wow.

The college starts their year like most, in August.  Here in southern Missouri, August is not the most pleasant month, unless you’re a tropical iguana.  Naturally, Heather’s dorm room was hot and sweaty since she was living on one of the upper floors.  It wasn’t long (a few hours, max) before I picked up the phone hearing a request to bring herself and two or three of her new friends “home” to spend that night in the cool air-conditioning. 

The empty nest can be a bit overrated anyway…

People tend to refer to life stages as “seasons.”  My life is better described as “spasms”.  I am now in my mid-fifties, gray-er, somewhat more experienced.  I have grown to appreciate my parents, who are now in their 80’s, and the humor through which they process life.  I have grown to value my past struggles and mistakes, and embrace whatever God has for me (and my family) for the future.  

So there.  If you are over-heating in life, or even if not, I invite you to join my blog-nest, thoughts (and responses) from a well-used mother, from my home to yours.    —-    dawnlizjones

Dirty Hands… Happy Heart

First, let me just say that…

…my father-in-law is a Master Gardener and I have turned to him more than once for advice and assistance.  George does things correctly…the first time.  He has patience and experience; he is a builder of things.  He designed a special birdfeeder for my garden, and not only explained, but also got his hands dirty helping me “re-do” some potted plants that desperately needed to be, well….re-done.  In spite of my obvious inexperience, there was no chiding, only gentle and joyful condescension like a father to a child.

Our lives, our relationships, our families, and our own hearts are so much the same as my innocent garden with all its mess in the midst of beauty.  Who saw the divorce coming?  How could anyone have prepared for the accident?  Lost the house, what now?  Why does life have to be so hard?!

Master Gardener or invested amateur, navigating through life’s gardens takes more than the basics, even more than the best planning.  We, all of us, none excluded, need help, and usually more than a little.  We need the original Master Gardener Himself to walk through the garden of our lives, tending the soil, rearranging the environment, mulching, weeding and nurturing us.  And along the way, He makes us flexible, creative, patient, and attentive to what He supplies for our needs.

This is my offering.  A few seeds and grains of dirt from my life’s garden to yours. 

I hope it helps good things to grow on your side of the fence!

—-dawnlizjones