Posted in Faith Nuggets, Thoughts from Creation

Visible or Real: Are They the Same?

Darkness had just descended over the DFW suburb. Standing in the middle of a dark parking lot, I looked up. What would I see?

Not much.

A blanket of dark gray greeted my eyes. It looked rather musty and dirty. Here and there, scattered widely across the expanse, a few lights dotted the gray. But they did not twinkle. They did not shine. They were just there, little specks that just barely stood out against the background.

Had I been home that night, the view would have been very different.

Rather than a dark, fuzzy gray, the blanket above me would have been a deep, solid black stretching as far as the eye could see. Liberally salted across the expanse would have been innumerable lights, twinkling merrily to the great pleasure of viewers on earth below. Some would even show off their colors. Reds, blues, yellows, and greens flickering in the night. Only a few stars would neglect to twinkle, their distance allowing them visibility but not personality.

What was the difference?

Not the sky. It was the same sky. Although it takes me a good six to seven hours to drive from my Arkansas home to the DFW area, it is not enough distance to put us under a different sky. The same constellations hover over us. The same planets rise and set with only slight adjustments in their potential visibility.

Yes, it was the same sky.

The difference was the earthly surroundings.

We live in the third largest county in Arkansas – geographically, that is. But the population density is only nineteen people per square mile. As you can well imagine, we do not produce much light pollution out here!

Being outside in the country at night is breath-taking. In the city, it is much more mundane. Airplanes are more visible than the stars. It can be hard to remember the beauty of God’s astronomical creation when the city sky is all we know.

Where do we live spiritually?

Do you see the spiritual application here? What we can see varies greatly depending on our position, our surroundings, and our circumstances.

But what is really there does not change.

Is it hard to see evidence of God’s power right now? Is His presence masked a bit by your location in life? I would ask you to keep two things in mind.

First and foremost, visible and real are not the same. Our spiritual eyes play tricks on us just as our physical eyes do sometimes. We have to rely on what we know to be true. The stars have not disappeared. They cannot be seen right now, but they are still there. They are still magnificent. And at some point we will be back in a place where we can see and enjoy them again!

Secondly, remember this: Just because you cannot see the stars does not mean you are in the wrong place! There are times in our spiritual lives when we live in both places. We have opportunities to see clearly, but we also have times when the view is obscured. Not by sin. Not by error. Just by the our current position in life. After all, infinitely more stars exist than can even be seen in the unpolluted country sky. There is always something we cannot see.

No, visible and real are not the same. Which do you trust today?

Posted in Thoughts from Creation

An Afternoon of Rain

We have been praying for rain for weeks. Our wet spring has turned into a dry, dry, dry summer. Every now and then a spot thundershower has hit here or there, but never enough to really nourish the crops. We do try to look on the positive side – we haven’t had to mow in several weeks!

We have watched the weather forecast and prayed. Watched and prayed. We’ve been asking for a day – or two – of nice, soaking rain, but nothing in the forecast has indicated such a thing would be coming.

I’ve been praying that God would prove the forecast wrong. But, I’ve still found myself watching that weather forecast, almost as if it would hold evidence that God has heard my prayers.

The answer came suddenly. Doug and I were sitting in his office yesterday, working on our separate tasks, when I looked out the window and saw something unexpected. The sun was shining, but it was raining! A nice, steady, pleasant rain.

I kept expecting it to stop. Instead, it clouded over completely and the rain continued to fall steadily for the next hour. Words cannot express how delightful it was! I could have stayed by the window and watched it the whole time. When the hour was done it stopped, and we expected the sun to come back out and the heat to return. But no. The rain continued off and on throughout the rest of the day.

I have yet to learn how it impacted the fields. One farmer had not received any of the rain that fell that first hour. By mid-afternoon he’d measured two-tenths of an inch.

I do know, though, that the rain did wonders for my soul. It was such a refreshing, rainy afternoon!

God’s blessing is like that. We pray and we pray and we pray, and when He answers it comes suddenly. Unexpectedly. Beautifully. Thoroughly.

God’s blessings refresh us. They draw us to Him. They remind us to thank and praise Him. And they remind us that He is the true giver of all good things.

We have rain possibilities in the forecast for the next week. But I’m not trusting the forecast. I’m trusting the One who brought an afternoon full of rain when only scattered thundershowers seemed even remotely possible. I’m not relaxing just because the weather people say there’s a 40% chance. I’m continuing to pray and ask the Lord to keep the rain coming as it is needed.

And I’m trusting Him with all of the other things I’ve been praying over. His responses will come. Not when I think they should, but when He knows they should. Not when I expect, but when He desires. Not in the way I anticipate, but in the way He knows will fulfill His perfect will.

And for today, I’ll still smile in thanksgiving for an afternoon of rain.

Posted in Thoughts from Creation

Oh, the Beauty!

Every week I write a post called “Not Quite Ordinary Observations” for my family blog. It’s a post of sentence starters that make me stop and really ponder my day and events of the week before. I love writing that post, and I love the way it has made me pay closer attention to the little details of each day.

The first thought starter is In the great outdoors… As I pondered that thought this week, I couldn’t help but contemplate how overwhelmed I am by the beauty of the prairie.

You see, I’m a mountain girl. I was raised in the mountains of north Jordan – okay, so relatively speaking, they are rolling hills. But, oh how beautiful they are! There is contrast and texture. There is no monotony in those hills.

Then there are the hills in Georgia where I lived for a couple of years. Oh my! Such beauty!

But for the past eleven years I have lived in the plains, and I have struggled greatly to see the beauty of such terrain. First we moved to Northwest Mississippi, where the terrain is flat with few trees and little break in the monotony. Cities. Fields. Cities. Fields. A few small towns here and there. Flatness. Ugh.

Then we moved to Arkansas. The greatest blessing was moving to an area where forestry is prominent, because I at least had trees.

Finally, nearly three years ago we moved to a town parked smack dab in the middle of farmland. Natural prairie cultivated to grow crops. Flat. Monotonous—or so I thought. I was convinced that I might love the church and love the people. But when people talked about the beauty of the prairie, they were speaking a foreign language. I never imagined I would find beauty in the flat monotony. I missed my mountains.

Harvest was in full swing when we moved, and I was captivated by the golden fields. I began to glimpse just a small smidgen of prairie beauty that fall, but I just knew it would disappear when the fields were harvested and bare and winter set in.

I was wrong.

Over the winter, fields were flooded and the ducks and geese arrived. Life was everywhere, even in the growing cold. Nothing was monotonous, and I was mesmerized.

Field prep followed as winter meandered toward spring. Freshly turned earth stretched in glorious deep brown across one field, while the next field began to sprout early spring grass or wildflowers.

As the planting rotation began, one field would be sprouting small green plants while the next was being turned and the next still grew wild and untamed. The landscape changed almost daily as crop after crop was planted. By the time rice went into the ground, the corn was heartily reaching for the sky. By the time the rice turned fields into a lush green carpet, the corn was tall and the beans were beginning to show pop up in their neat rows.

All summer long, the terrain changed constantly. Daily. It was mesmerizing. Captivating. Powerful.

Then came harvest again. The corn began to dry out and turn golden as the rice formed heads and the beans continued to mature. Each crop in turn dried out in preparation for harvest, and then the fields were cut. Pure beauty.

Three years in, and I’m more fully and completely enthralled by the beauty of the prairie than ever before. Don’t get me wrong, I still love my mountains. But, oh the beauty right here!

What if I were to view all of life that way? God shines beauty into every circumstance of life. It might not be what I prefer. It might not be happy and delightful. But there is still beauty. Oh such tremendous beauty!

He has opened my eyes to the power of His creation right here in the prairie. Were He to tell me that I could move back to my beloved mountains tomorrow, I would struggle because I know now what I would be leaving. I desire to choose to view the circumstances of this life that way as well. He is in them, therefore there is beauty in them. Will I see it?

Posted in Thoughts from Creation, Thoughts from Kids, Thoughts from Life, Thoughts from Scripture

All Around Us

I love the hymn “How Great Thou Art.” I used to sing it to my children at bedtime. We would sing together through all of the silly little toddler songs, and then it would be time to really settle down. That is when the longer songs, typically hymns, would begin.

I remember using “How Great Thou Art” to try to help my sweet son settle down during a storm. He has an extra sensitivity to loud noises and lights, and storms overwhelmed him. He would freeze up, every muscle in his body so tense that I could not help him relax. If he had a grip on me, there was no loosening it. The only thing moving would be the tears streaming down his face as he suffered through the noise.

So, I would talk to him about the amazing God who loved him, protected him, and was more powerful than any storm.

I see the stars

I hear the rolling thunder

Thy power throughout the universe displayed

This hymn reflects a mentality spread all throughout the Psalms. God is in the mighty. He is in the powerful. He is in the overwhelming. And He is so much greater than all of those things put together!

Yet, in the Psalms we also see how He is in the small. The simple. The almost unnoticeable.

He is in so much, yet I so frequently miss Him. Oh so frequently.

This week I’ve seen His hand in so many ways. I want to see more. I want my eyes to be opened to the incredible ways in which God’s presence is everywhere! He gives us such an amazing gift, a gift that goes far beyond just sending one of our representatives into His presence once a year for the purpose of atonement. We have the gift of standing in His presence every single moment of every day! Yet, we take it for granted, ignoring Him in all the ways He reveals Himself all around us.

I cannot hear thunder and see lightning without thinking of the amazing presence and power of God. And now even my son can do the same. I’ll never forget the stormy night I went to check on him and he calmly and groggily said, “The thunder woke me up, but I went right back to sleep, Mommy.” He almost did not stay awake long enough to finish his sentence! Sounds and lights still overwhelm his senses, and sometimes storms still cause stress. But, his little six-year-old heart now serves as a temple for his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and oh what a difference that makes as he deals with overloaded senses or any other stress! He sees God all around him!

Lord God, may I see you! In the big, in the little, and in everything in between!

Posted in Thoughts from Creation, Thoughts from Life

Pecan Trees

I love pecans. Until a few years ago, the best pecan producer I have ever encountered grew in my parents’ yard. With the exception of a few rough years, that tree produced a huge crop every year. In fact, I heard rumblings indicating those were the best pecans in town! When the tree’s roots finally grew to the point that they were threatening to destroy my parents’ house, the tree had to come down. It was a sad, sad day for the whole family, but we had no idea the far-reaching effect felling that one tree would have. Apparently, that tree not only grew its own bumper crop, but it also effectively cross-pollinated the other pecan trees in the yard. After it was cut down, none of the other pecan trees produced like they once had.

There is a pecan tree in our yard as well. Each year we see it begin to produce fruit and we are hopeful. But, by the time fall rolls around, nothing is left. None of the nuts reach maturity. Perhaps the neighborhood lacks enough pecan trees for the desperately needed cross-pollination. Maybe the drift from spraying the fields across the highway prevents the tree from bearing fruit. Whatever the case, that pecan tree simply cannot bring fruit to maturity. It tries, but we have seen three autumns without harvest.

Christians are like these trees.

  • Some believers, when they have reached maturity, produce a huge crop in their season. They grow spiritually, their growth highly visible to all with eyes to see. They disciple, helping others grow and become fruitful themselves. They point the way to Christ. When they finally leave this world, their departure is felt keenly not only by their loved ones but also among the ranks of God’s army left behind.

  • Other believers resemble the other trees in my parents’ yard. They gladly yield fruit as long as they rest in the shade of their spiritual heroes. When their heroes are gone, however, they struggle. They stand at a crossroads and have a choice to make. Will they step up and fill the gap, determined to continue the work of their heroes? Or, will they wither away, convinced that their growth and effectiveness has ended because their heroes are gone?

  • Finally, some believers mature as people and bear the mark of Christ, but produce little. They provide care and they work, just as the pecan tree in our yard offers shade and limbs for climbing. They might even begin to bear fruit, putting their heart and energy into seeing new life bud and grow in others, but they tire before seeing that life grow to maturity. If other believers do not pick up where they left off, the fruit never reaches harvest.

My heart desires to be the great pecan tree from my parents’ yard, but all too often I hover between being the other trees in their yard and the unproductive tree in our own yard. What about you? Where do you stand? Today I hunger to be the great, productive tree. Will you join me?