Sep 24, 2011

excerpt from Streams In the Desert: "Lawn Care"

Beautiful devotion from Streams in the Desert
(for Sept. 20) by L.B. Cowman:

Lawn Care
"He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass" (Ps. 72:6).
Amos speaks of the king's mowings. Our King has many scythes, and is perpetually mowing His lawns. The musical tinkle of the whetstone on the scythe portends the cutting down of myriads of green blades, daisies and other flowers. Beautiful as they were in the morning, within an hour or two they lie in long, faded rows. Thus in human life we make a brave show, before the scythe of pain, the shears of disappointment, the sickle of death.
There is no method of obtaining a velvety lawn but by repeated mowings; and there is no way of developing tenderness, evenness, sympathy, but by the passing of God's scythes. How constantly the Word of God compares man to grass, and His glory to its flower! But when grass is mown, and all the tender shoots are bleeding, and desolation reigns where flowers were bursting, it is the most acceptable time for showers of rain falling soft and warm.
"O soul, thou hast been mown! Time after time the King has come to thee with His sharp scythe. Do not dread the scythe--it is sure to be followed by the shower."
--F. B. Meyer
When across the heart deep waves of sorrow
Break, as on a dry and barren shore;
When hope glistens with no bright tomorrow,
And the storm seems sweeping evermore;
When the cup of every earthly gladness
Bears no taste of the life-giving stream;
And high hopes, as though to mock our sadness,
Fade and die as in some fitful dream,
Who shall hush the weary spirit's chiding?
Who the aching void within shall fill?
Who shall whisper of a peace abiding,
And each surging billow calmly still?
Only He whose wounded heart was broken
With the bitter cross and thorny crown;
Whose dear love glad words of Joy had spoken,
Who His life for us laid meekly down.
Blessed Healer, all our burdens lighten;
Give us peace, Thine own sweet peace, we pray!
Keep us near Thee till the morn shall brighten,
And all the mists and shadows flee away!

"The Mowers", 1887 painting by Grigorii Miasoedov. 
The scythe was the one of the main instruments for harvesting hay in the Russian village.

Sep 13, 2011

an instrument.

Paganini, the great violinist, came out before his audience one day and made the discovery just as they ended her applause that there was something wrong with his violin. He looked at it a second and then saw that it was not his famous and valuable one.
He felt paralyzed for a moment, then turned to his audience and told them there had been some mistake and he did not have his own violin. He stepped back behind the curtain thinking it was still where he had left it, but discovered that some one had stolen his and left that old second-hand one in its place.
He remained at the back of the curtain for a moment, then came out before his audience and said: "Ladies and Gentlemen, I will show you that the music is not from the instrument, but in the soul." And he played as he had never played before; and out of that second-hand instrument the music poured forth until the audience was enraptured with enthusiasm and the applause almost lifted the ceiling and building, because the man had revealed to them that music was not in the machine, but in his own soul. [Streams in the Desert, 9/28]

I read this passage several days ago and it gave me goosebumps. What a violinist! But today while reading through the Set Apart Girl online magazine, I was reminded of this story for a different reason.

Leslie Ludy wrote a thought-provoking article about self-promotion and its ability to waste and steal your precious hours {Set-Apart Girl Online Magazine; pp 9-18}. It was a great reminder to lay aside desires of being noticed recognized or congratulated. Instead, an emphasis should be on giving all the glory, all the fame, all the recognition and notice to the only One who deserves it, Jesus Christ.

The Christian life can only be explained in terms of Jesus Christ, and if your life as a Christian can still be explained in terms of you -- ­ your personality, your willpower, your gift, your talent, your money, your courage, your scholarship, your dedication, your sacrifice, or your anything -- ­ then although you may have the Christian life, you are not yet living it! - Ian Thomas
"He [GOD] must increase and I must decrease" - John 3:30

 In the above passage about the reknown Paganini, it is doubtful that anyone else noticed that he was holding an old, second-hand violin. No one noticed the instrument because they were too busy noticing the master violinist passionately driving music out of that lowly instrument. It is highly doubtful that the violin got anything in return for being used by Paganini. No thank-you card, no gift card to a favorite restaurant, no trip to Hawaii. It merely did its job of being an instrument and yielding itself to the violinst; the violinist took care of the rest.

May I be a mere instrument in the hands of my God -- even if it means going unnoticed, thanked, or recognized -- so that my God can get all the glory and honor. No one praises the violin, but they praise great musician who used that otherwise unknown instrument. May those who see me doing anything praiseworthy give all the praise to my Master Musician, who composes beautiful music in the keys of grace, mercy, and Truth.  May I live for the applause of heaven alone.

Moses, Deborah, Hannah, David ... All had songs that were recorded in the Old Testament that brought praise to this Master Musician. Their songs did not consist of self-promoted lines about their own abilities, dreams, and personalities. Instead, about the goodness, justice, providence, and love of their God.

Moses sang in Deut. 32 that God is the Rock, perfect, and all His ways are just [v.3]. Of all the people in the Bible, I think Moses would have been entitled to writing a little song about himself. After forty years of faithfully leading hundreds of thousands of wayward, complaining, forgetful Israelites towards the Promised Land, he could have penned a hit single about his achievements. But no. Instead, he allowed himself to be an instrument that was constantly used to proclaim the greatness of God. Now, that's a true leader!

David's songs are also testament to the deliverance, protection, and goodness of God. King David had every reason to want to sit down and write about his accomplishments, for he certainly had many. He could have sang angst-ridden, woe-is-me- songs of being chased by Saul that would have made everyone pity him. Yet, he chose to use all of his songs to bring fame to God and lead that same wayward, complaining, forgetful nation into truly worshipping the Lord.

The prayer of St. Francis sums it all up beautifully:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Sep 8, 2011

lessons of the blackberry {part two}

I had another walk down my favorite trail yesterday and felt like I learned a couple more lessons from the blackberry. Grab some tea and join me as we both learn of God's faithfulness in the natural beauty of the blackberry.

I tried to avoid getting poked and scratched by the thorny vines of the blackberry bramble this week [as I am typing, I see scratches on my arms and can say I was unsuccesful at this goal!], and remember an important thing: I need to be thankful for both the blackberry and the thorns, for they both come from the same plant. I want to re-vamp a quote I once heard by saying, you can complain that blackberry bushes have thorns, or you can rejoice that blackberry bushes have blackberries. Learn to have an attitude of gratitude, no matter the circumstances. Just like the age old hymn teaches us, we need to count our blessings, one by one. Start a journal where you write down all the blessings God has poured over you, and pretty soon you will see that you have lots to be thankful for! So many times we focus only on the thorns in our situation. We get discouraged, worry, and wonder if the hard work is worth it. We forget of God's goodness in the past and our faith weakens. But when we have a heart of thanksgiving, even in the hard and painful times [when it seems we are walking through miles of thorny vines], we remember His faithfulness and are encouraged by the hope that comes from our Redeemer.
Strength, rest, guidance, grace, help, sympathy, love - all from God to us! What a list of blessings! {E. Stenbock}

A grateful heart is one that finds the countless blessings of God in the seemingly mundane everyday life.

The optimist says, the cup is half full. The pessimist says, the cup is half empty. The child of God says; My cup runneth over.

Oh what a happy soul am I although I cannot see,
I am resolved that in this world contented I shall be.
How many blessings I enjoy that other people don't.
To weep and sigh, because I'm blind? I cannot and I won't.
{Fanny Crosby}

Keep your eyes on the prize. Stay focused. I may sound like a high school athletic coach, but bear with me. As I was filling my bucket with blackberries, I heard voices coming towards me and passing by on the trail. I couldn't help turning to look away for a moment... A moment was all it took. A mere glance away from my prize left me with deep pokes because my hand moved a few centimeters -- straight into a thorny vine. Ouch. I set about returning to my picking, when several minutes later [you'd think I learned my lesson!], I turn my head again to spot a bicyclist speed by. Ouch [again!]. Isn't that how life is? When we take our gaze off of Christ, we end up getting hurt. We end up veering off the path and ending up poked and scratched by thorny vines of discouragement, bitterness, self-pity. But oh, the joy when we keep our eyes on Jesus!

Vicky Beeching has a beautiful song called "Captivated"  that led me to daily praying that I may have an unbroken gaze that is fixed upon the beauty of Christ's face.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of old
Will become strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. {Heb. 12:2 NIV}

With my eyes fixed on the goal I push on to secure the prize of God's heavenward call in Christ Jesus. {Phil. 3:14 WNT}
When we gaze upon Jesues, our hearts can be captivated by love. Desire for Him will eclipse our problems and trust in His mercy will overcome our guilt.
Lastly, I want to leave on this note: God is faithful. We may not always understand the hows or the whys, but we can put our trust in the One who does. It amazed me yesterday that while some of the blackberries where plump and ready to be picked, others where still green. How could that be, though they were both right next to each other, exposed to the same amount of sun and watered by the same rain? I don't know. But I do know that God knows the perfect timing. For one person, the perfect timing for a blessing may be today, while for another, in five years. Is it my place to judge or complain? No. It is my place [and may I always remember!] to remain where I am at, trusting that when it rains, it pours ... And I'm not talking about Seattle's weather. God is faithful, and in due time, you'll need buckets to store up all the blessings He pours on those He loves. So, just as a blackberry picker as myself has learned to bring along a bucket in my car in case I find a jackpot of blackberries somewhere, you also can learn to "bring along a bucket" just in case you get a downpour of blessings that you cannot hold in your two hands!
O LORD, You are my God; I will exalt You and praise Your name, for in perfect faithfulness You have done marvelous things, things planned long ago. {Isaiah 25:1}

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. {Hebrews 10:23}

When circumstances seem impossible, when all signs of grace in you seem at their lowest ebb, when temptation is fiercest, when love and joy and hope seem well-nigh extinguished in your heart, then rest, without feeling and without emotion, in the Father's faithfulness. {D. Tryon}
May you have a day blessed with God's best for your life. And may you remember what the blackberry, a seemingly worthless "weed" that grows along highways and trails, declares of God's faithfulness over your life.

Sep 1, 2011

lessons of the blackberry {part one}

I was picking fresh blackberries on the Soos Creek trail as I was taking a relaxing walk after work, and thought about two life lessons that can be gained from the simply act of picking blackberries.


The most plump, delicious blackberries are the ones hidden and protected amidst a thorny collection of brambles. Reach for them and you're sure to experience at least one or two scratches in return. It is usually the most beautiful blessings that are surrounded, just as these delicious berries, by painful thorns that try to keep us from joy. Keep persevering, even if you need to get poked every once in awhile. The reward is worth the pain.

Let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. {Galations 6:9}

Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can. {Charles Wesley}

I am prepared to go anywhere, provided it be forward. I determined never to stop until I had come to the end and achieved my purpose. {David Livingstone}

There is a season for everything, including ripe, sweet blackberries. Try to pick them too early, however, and you'll get a rather sour surprise. Wait. Be patient. For it is usually after days of uneventful, "boring" weather (not too hot and not to rainy) that the best blackberries ripen. Don't underestimate the days of seemingly uneventful waiting. God is behind the scenes working all things for the good of those who obey Him.

Ripe, plump blackberries gently fall off the branch into eager hands without any tugging or forcing. Trust in God's perfect timing. Don't force things, pulling with all your might to get your "blackberry" off of that branch. When the time is right, blessings will overflow your hands without a tug or pull.

There are some prayers that are followed by a Divine silence because we are not yet ripe for all we have asked; there are others which are so followed because we are ripe for more. We do not always know the full strength of our own capacity; we have to be prepared for receiving greater blessings than we have ever dreamed of. {George Matheson}
But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up their wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not be faint. {Isaiah 40:31}

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. {Romans 12:12}
Learn to say 'no' to the good so you can say 'yes' to the best. {John C Maxwell}
Be blessed! And go for a walk... You might stumble upon this yummy and thought-provoking fruit.

[my delicious reward]