When Dreams Are Dashed

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As an author of a historical fiction novel set at the cusp of The Great Depression, I wondered if many contemporary youth could relate to it. Why? Not because historical fiction isn’t relevant, or even interesting to compare to current events, but because of our nation’s overall wealth and good fortune during their entire lifetime.

For many years now, America has prospered beyond anything my parents and grandparents could have imagined. The main character of my historical fiction, entitled His Gift, Molly White, has high expectations for her future. She believes she knows her life purpose. She has persevered and sacrificed to achieve her dreams. It seems clear God has prepared Molly for this destiny and her plans seem inevitable. Then, like a design of standing Dominoes, one by one her dreams crash to the ground. What will she do and how can she go on? Will she find hope for her tomorrows?

As many of us, I have reflected about how life has changed in this 2020 season of Covid-19. Suddenly, everything we knew as our plans and futures, came to a stop. I wondered how young people are coping with their milestone events cancelled. Adults have also had to reconfigure their life plans, but some life miletones are difficult to recapture, like high school and college graduations.

I asked some young adults and teens to weigh in. Where do you go for hope when everything you’ve expected to happen is CANCELLED? How do you reframe life when your lifetime dreams disappear? Some of these young people have written about their losses, their feelings, and how they are regrouping. Today I share the thoughts of one young lady named Emma, who would have experienced her senior year and high school graduation. I pray that as she considered the interview questions, she was blessed by the process of reflection.

Emma, like most seniors, expected her senior year to be the very best of all her high school experiences. She anticipated her senior prom and all the excitement it would bring. “I envisioned graduation, walking across the stage with my best friends,” she said. In the back of her mind, I imagine she also would have imagined some cheers from family and friends. Everyone would have congratulated her for academic accomplishments as she walked forward to accept her diploma. At first, Emma says, “I was extremely disappointed and heartbroken that my time in high school with my friends and teachers was cut short.” Opportunity lost.

Looking more introspectively, Emma also learned “not to take your stage in life for granted. … I wish I had cherished the season I was in before it was gone.” Such wisdom for such a young age. I affirm Emma’s principle for every single human, no matter what “stage” a person is in. Thank you for digging deep and realizing this truth now as you stand on tiptoes, peering into your future, Emma. I pray that you will never miss the importance of any season in life.

Emma shares how she cried out to God asking the universal question so common to all of us. “Why? Why me? Why at this time in my life?” Emma asked. Realizing she has not received a direct answer from God to all of her questions, she affirms these lessons. “I am beginning to understand part of the ‘why.’ God has allowed me to take this time for personal growth, physically, mentally, and spiritually. I have evaluated the properties in my life and grown so much closer to God. In a way, I am thankful for this quiet time of introspection.”

i encourage every reader to look for answers for themselves, to read, to pray, to seek the One who holds all of our futures. If you don’t have a relationship with God, I pray this bold interruption to your plans will cause you to question and perhaps wonder if there isn’t something more than your own plans as you live your days.

Thank you, Emma, for your wisdom and we pray your future will always be filled with a close relationship with the Lord Your God. I’m praying for a beautiful future as you walk into the “next season.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hopes, Dreams, Expectations

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So, here you are, looking into the future and wondering whatever in the world it will look like. At certain times in a young person’s life, the future seems wide open with opportunities. At other times, not so much. I know how excited I felt at being able to finally go after my childhood dreams and be “on my own.”

Each one of you have been blessed with a talent or maybe many, something unique to who you are. You may not know exactly what you want to do, but you are poised to leave childhood behind, and get into the adult sphere. Independence sounds so good, right?

Perhaps you’re an athlete. Or a musician. Maybe you worked hard to make good grades, and you were accepted into the university. Maybe you have in mind a certain kind of job, and you want to go out and earn a living for yourself. Maybe you have been accepted to the graduate school you want to attend. What about that sport you excel at, and want to play? What is that next step in your life?

Right now, at this time in history, the world shut down right in the middle of your school semester. No goodbye parties. No last formal dances. No graduations. How does all of this impact you personally? Do you feel like you’ve experienced a profound loss? Or does it feel okay to simply move forward when the time is right?

Though I didn’t have my milestone events swept away in high school, or college, I know many Americans have encountered major storms in the midst of their best hopes and dreams. We don’t have to go back in history very far to remember all the young men and women who either postponed their dreams to go fight for our freedom, or perhaps lost their dreams altogether. During the Great Depression, Americans lost many of their comforts, their “normal” way of life, and of course, in some instances, even the daily blessings of food and housing.

We can go back to each dramatic period in history to see that we are not the first to face interruptions to our plans as we have during Covid-19. As you studied in history, the foundation of our nation was shaken to its core during the onset of the Civil War. States chose to withdraw from the Union, and families were sometimes split as to who they would fight for. It was not uncommon for cousins to be fighting cousins on the battlefield, or fathers and grandfathers fighting on the other side against their own flesh and blood. Everyone’s normal lives were changed and farmland became battleground. I can’t even imagine.

The Bible tells us that human life is brief. When a person is standing on tiptoes leaning into their individual future, life seems to be very long. To see life in a larger frame, even an eternal perspective, Psalm 102:15 says, “Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die. The wind blows, and we are gone–as though we had never been here.” (NLT) Yet, there is a much larger picture here, if you believe in God and His promise of eternal life through Jesus Christ.

Today may be brief compared to eternity, but that doesn’t eliminate God’s love or promises. In the same Psalm, we read, “But, the love of the Lord remains forever with those who fear (revere) him. His salvation extends to the children’s children of those who are faithful to his covenant, of those who obey his commandments!” (NLT)

What do we do when we find our hopes dashed? How do we go on? Where does our hope come from? Loss is painful, no matter the size of it. What are your thoughts?

 

Where do I find hope?

The Lifter of My Head

Where do I find hope?
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So many life changes have occurred since I last wrote, and by now pastors, singers, and people gifted to share faith have offered abundant advice, truths, and prayers to help us handle our catastrophe. When we first heard about Covid-19, fear ripped across our land. What untold millions would be impacted by this new and deadly disease? We listened to the news ad nauseum; enormous numbers of people would succumb, they said, calculated on little known reports coming from other countries.

We were vulnerable. As the curtailing of a “normal” American lifestyle became our status quo, I prayed and read my Bible. I found scriptures which calmed my own troubled heart, and wanted to share them. Yet, I felt scattered, and struggled to think I had anything of value to add to this conversation.

I was suddenly thrust into the quest for basic supplies: Sam’s Club in the wee hours of the morning, online shopping (forget the sales) requiring curbside pickup, discovering many items were limited for purchase, or there were none at all. Finding toilet paper became a central topic of conversation among friends and family, sometimes as a joke, sometimes as a serious point of desperate need.

I prayed for America and its leadership daily. I prayed and still pray for our nation to seek God’s will in this time of stopping our usual endeavors. Yet, in agreement with others, I don’t pray for us to return to “normal.” Why? Because as a whole, our culture has turned its back on God. The Biblical roots of our nation have been replaced by secular humanism and “tolerance” of most everything … but Christianity. Long held truths and foundational American beliefs have been challenged as wrong, outdated, or simply problematic.

So where are we in this limbo state? American life = busy. Everyone is busy. If we are busy, life is as it should be goes the mantra. Children are busy. Parents are scrambling to keep up with jobs and “busy children.” Even many seniors keep busy. Some are chasing all the to-do’s on their bucket lists or looking for ways to find comfort in their final years. The enemy of our souls wants to keep us busy. Then there is no time to ponder the deeper things, the things that truly matter when nothing else does.

When this life is over, will you have a relationship with the God of the universe? Are you grounded in a faith that assures you will live your eternal life in a heavenly place, a place where there are no more tears and sorrow? Your spirit will live eternally. But do you know where? In Psalm 46:10, God speaks his truth over us busy ones: “Be still, and know that I am God.” One day when you face your own mortality, this will be the only thing you need.

As I face the Coronavirus head on, I know it has been a disrupter. On a lighter level it has stopped me from pursuing some of my present goals. I halted what had been pressing projects to sew masks for family and friends. It caused me to learn how to maintain relationships through technology. It forced me to learn new ways to gather food and supplies without entering a store. It has temporarily stripped our economy, and while the government prints money, we wonder how it will ever be repaid. And, most deeply, my heart aches as I grieve the loss of a sister-in-law who was struck down by this dreaded contagion. But, God. He has her in his care at this very moment. Because of her relationship with Jesus Christ, I can peacefully release her. 

Yes, I have hope. God is sovereign over all things. If you believe there is a Creator, He is a power we cannot fully grasp: omniscient, omnipotent, and eternal, for starters. But, we know a lot about Him, and His will is for our good. Will this pause in life be something God can use for good in my life? What will I do with this pause in life? He makes clear from the beginning of scripture to the last page, he desires a relationship with the people he created. He made us for relationship. He loves you. He loves me. It is God himself who is the “lifter of my head” when sorrows make me downcast. He is for me, not against me. He has a good plan for my life, and promises an eternal home filled with beauty and joy. He calls me to come near; he awaits patiently when I am lost in earthly “busyness.” He calls us to come now.

“So do not fear, for I am with you. Don’t be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 (NIV)

Green Pastures – Still Waters

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Are You Listening?

The other morning, I walked outside to the soothing sounds of a cooing dove. I looked up to find the little creature balancing on a power line. I smiled with gratitude. Flashbacks flooded my mind with the times God has comforted me with that same peaceful coo-coo … often when I needed it the most. I’m not superstitious about signs in nature, but I know how His magnificent creation often speaks to my heart. Many writers address how we can best get through the tough times. And, it’s true that we will experience trials. What about the times we feel the presence of God? What about the quiet, still moments when the “noise” of life doesn’t demand every inch of our attention? Do we take time to listen? Are we even aware of the Creator’s desire to have communion with us, His children?

Trials May Come

In 1 Peter 1:6 (NIV) we are told “though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” 1 Thessalonians 3:3 goes even further by telling us we are destined for them (these trials). That’s certainly not the kind of good news I relish, but it seems to be a natural flow of life … for me, my family, and my friends. Yet, I take courage in knowing this earthly dwelling is temporal, and for this short time, our spiritual enemy has domain. We can rejoice knowing there will be no more sorrow, no more tears in our eternal home, Heaven. We will forever enjoy a beautiful intimacy with Father God, our Creator.

Where Is God?

Recognizing this dichotomy, I have taken a deeper look at the 23rd Psalm. It reminds me again that God will be with me as I walk through the valleys on earth. He assures me He is present right in the middle of the mess of my life. It is my job to look for and listen for Him. In addition, Scripture says, God as my Shepherd “makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, (Psalm 23:2, NIV).”

Restoration

First of all, I love how God makes me lie down. I still remember as a little girl when my mom insisted I lie down, especially on a hot summer day. Didn’t she understand how busy I was? I had serious playing to do. Books to read. Friends to see. Skating. Biking. Yet my mom knew how I was made, and how much happier I would be if I rested. God knows when I need to have a “timeout” from my circumstances. What happens when He leads me to those still waters? Big stuff. He restores me. I become refreshed, and renewed from the chaffing of the rougher situations. I become stronger and more able to live victoriously even through the troubles.

As I take stock of my own testimony of faith, I stop to think about the times when God has intervened and set me in a quiet place. They may not have looked like still waters, but they were evident and restorative. A deep breath of peace. They are times when I sensed God’s presence. Sometimes, such experiences are as fleeting as the song of a dove, or a hug from a child. But regardless of the time, those memories linger as reminders of God’s care.

He is Speaking

Think for a minute about your own life. Everyone has ups and downs, mountaintops and valleys, joys and sorrows. I would encourage you to look for those precious times when you have been able to stop to breathe, even in the midst of chaos. I pray that you have felt reminders of God’s love and comfort. Look for Him to show up when you need Him most. He may want you to lie down in green pastures. Listen for Him speaking to your heart.

Does a Fetus Feel Pain?

Though many do not even inquire, perhaps this is a question that deserves an answer. Many voices in our culture believe women’s rights prevail in choosing to carry a pregnancy to its conclusion, or abort its development. A parallel mindset is the importance of protecting animals from pain. I agree that we should provide humane treatment for all of God’s creation. However, I have to ask why human life shouldn’t at least hold the same value as the animals.

Let’s turn to the research to see if there is any evidence of fetal pain and when it is observed. Since pain is subjective, even for fully formed adult humans, it would be helpful for to look at how doctors determine pain in infants. Young babies cannot communicate verbally or even point to a pain scale to tell how badly something hurts. However, babies are wired to let people know things are not “A-OK.” They grimace, cry, writhe, and withdraw from any perceived painful object.

Prenatal surgeries have been helpful in providing information about fetal sensitivity to pain. Scientists use several clues to rate the ability of a developing fetus to feel pain. Similar to more mature human life, the fetus shows signs of pain through facial grimaces as well as the reflexive response to pull away from objects they sense threaten them.

To determine the degree of pain felt in utero, neuroscientists have measured the activity of pain receptors and stress hormones. The receptors are found throughout the body and quickly respond to potentially damaging events like high heat, extreme cold, injury, and inflammation. Pain receptors and stress hormones can be monitored and measured long before a fetus or infant can rate his pain sensation.

Some proponents of abortion say that the brain must have complex connections between the thalamus and cortex to feel pain, which occurs around twenty-four weeks after conception. However, recent studies have shown that adults without a cortex can feel pain, invalidating this argument.

As early as six weeks after conception, the tiny fetus, measuring only 1.5 inches long, will spontaneously move away from anything that touches its mouth where pain receptor cells first develop. By eighteen weeks after conception, the entire body is covered by pain receptor cells.

By measuring stress hormones in the bloodstream, scientists have noted a stress response to a painful procedure as early as eighteen weeks after conception. For this reason, since the 1980s, doctors have advised using anesthesia and pain management for fetal surgeries. Why would doctors use anesthesia if there was no evidence that a fetus feels pain? Doctors have observed that pain management promotes faster recovery post surgery. And, then there is the ethical reason.

I must ask everyone who reads this, regardless of your views on abortion, to consider the ethics involved in suctioning or dismembering a fetus without any anesthesia. Since we have powerful campaigns to apply ethics to protecting animals, which have much less complex nervous systems and brain capacity than a human life, should we not at least protect these young ones from such a destructive end without any intervention? Even if you staunchly stand for a woman’s right to “choose,” should not a young one in utero be given the respect animals are?

For those of us who believe human life is made in the image of a Creator God, we need to be informed and able to provide scientific answers to those who believe a fetus is a mere glob of cells. The Bible tells us human beings are privileged with a spirit life, unlike the animals in our creation. We may not persuade others of this understanding without an opening of their spiritual “eyes.” However, we can at least argue for humane treatment in the same way pro-choice advocates stand for the ethics of animal treatment.

For more information, check out my source:

Katrina Furth, Ph.D.

Where Are You Going?

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I am a self-admitted “planner.” I like to know where I’m going, literally, figuratively, and spiritually. When I don’t understand the course ahead, I feel the tension of the limbo state, or as I call it, the Great Unknown. As one who likes to see where she’s going, I realize that some would castigate my desire with the label “Control Freak!” I don’t personally recognize this trait in my everyday life, but regardless, I will accept the label in stride and realize there are consequences. What I do know, as one who yearns for God’s way, I must relinquish my desires to His. He knows best, not me, and in this, I am certain.

I take great comfort from the often quoted Scripture in Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to give you hope and a future,” (NIV). So, aha! My heart leaps with joy. God has plans too, and they are good plans for me. Why would I insist on doing my own thing when the God of the Universe wants to show me His way? His wisdom is superior, so shouldn’t I look, listen, and walk in it? Sounds like an unbeatable plan, right?

However, on a long road trip recently, I was reminded of how easily I can be redirected. The “voices” that call to us, distract us, and deter us are everywhere. So many daily distractions, even the normal life routines, can carry us off course to prevent us from obtaining our God-inspired purpose. I was driving and listening to our GPS for directions to our destination. My husband was sitting behind me in the backseat, keeping our pets content.

Here’s how it went. “Siri,” our voice on the GPS, kept issuing orders to me: “Take a left at the next ….” My husband, with a calm, but authoritative tone, said, “Ignore her, and keep going straight ahead.” It happened three times just like that.

As I drove along, trying to ignore the GPS and trust in my husband’s judgment, I thought how similar this is to our spiritual journey. The Lord has good plans, straight ahead, but something makes me turn from that course. Distractions come at me daily, and some are very winsome and attractive.

Where the GPS wanted me to go, I don’t know, nor probably ever will. She was so insistent. I paid attention to the clear directions from the voice behind me. I had reason to trust the man saying, “Stay the course.” I know his character. I know from experience how much better his internal navigation is than my own. (I can get turned around in a heartbeat.) We had no problems when I followed his directions, and we soon arrived safely at our planned destination.

If this metaphorical analysis works for you as it did me, perhaps we can become better “followers” and learn to stay on task. When I come face to face with my Lord in Heaven, I want Him to know I tried to follow as the Psalmist writes: “My steps have held to your paths; my feet have not stumbled,” (Psalm 17:5, NIV). I know I will not do this perfectly, but He also knows I am mortal. Grace, mercy, and forgiveness are mine in salvation through Christ.

Christmas Presence

Christmas in much of America overflows with celebration: gatherings of friends and family, decorations, lights, music, food, gifts to give and receive, and special programs at church. In the midst of all the gala events, those of us who celebrate the birth of Christ also diligently try to prepare our hearts for the meaning of Christmas. We don’t want the priceless “reason for the season” to get buried in an avalanche of gift wrap, bows, and parties. Sometimes we become desperate for a moment of quiet reflection while busily completing our to-do lists. Cards? Check. Gifts? Check. Food prep? Check. Gifts wrapped … well, maybe by midnight Christmas Eve if all the toys and bikes are properly assembled?

I will never forget an unusual Christmas I experienced eight years ago. I learned more spiritual truth in that unique celebration than any other in my lifetime. It was Christmas Eve. I was all alone … well almost. I was with my eighteen-month-old grandbaby, but she was barely talking, and her bedtime was at seven p.m.

I can still hear my daughter’s voice on the phone  just a few days before Christmas. Sadly, we were across the continent from each other, from the east to the west coast. Her baby boy had been admitted to Children’s Hospital with congestive heart failure. He was born with a sizable hole in his heart, but the cardiologist was hoping he could grow a little more before surgery. “Mom, I need you. NOW,” she said breathlessly. Our eighteen-month-old granddaughter needed care. Her parents needed to be with our six-week-old grandson who was now immediately scheduled for open heart surgery.

I hopped the next flight out while my husband stayed home to welcome another daughter and her family who were driving from out of state to spend Christmas with us. It was hectic. It wasn’t planned. It was scary. So much was at stake, and naturally, our attention was diverted from the usual Christmas traditions. We fervently prayed Psalm 91 prayers for our baby whose life was on the line. We asked everyone we knew to pray for this tiny one, his mommy and daddy, and the medical team into whose hands his life was entrusted.

Christmas Eve arrived, and my adorable little toddler’s scheduled naps, meals, and bedtime negated a church service. At dusk, I loaded my little blonde bundle in her wagon, and we began a Christmas Eve walk through the neighborhood. In the simple expression of the Whos of Whoville (from The Grinch) when Christmas was stripped of its busyiness and trappings, I still had worship for the One it was all about. In simplicity. I sang every Christmas Carol I had ever learned — one baby girl, me, and songs of worship from ages past. My heart was full, and I felt the peace that passes all understanding. Not my peace as my heart was anxious. His peace.

Why did I have peace when our circumstances were filled with such scary possibilities? Just as Mary sang, the young mother of Jesus, my heart was filled with praise for the Mighty One, my God, my Savior. “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant” (Luke 1:46-47 NIV). Christ’s coming so I could have a relationship with Holy God was the greatest gift ever. What we were celebrating wasn’t dependent on traditions.

As one with family scattered across the country, it’s easy to reminisce. There were once hectic holidays with large family gatherings with our own little ones, their grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. I remember the chaos and fun with fondness. Yet, sometimes it takes having all of our usual customs stripped away to see the greater treasure.

I will never forget the love and quiet reflection I felt on that unusual Christmas Eve. It helps me step back into time, and imagine the fear mixed with blessing that the young Mary experienced. “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14 NIV). May you also know His peace and presence this Christmas.

 

 

 

Open the Eyes of My Heart, Lord

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Did you ever “find” animals and shapes in the clouds when you were a child? My father and I used to have such fun doing that. Later in life, I tried identifying optical illusions, searching for images that were not immediately recognizable. I confess, I don’t always discover the hidden objects as quickly as others. I have read that “seeing” what is hidden within the “visible” is a function of our perception, our ability to respond and interpret sensory information.

In Scripture, we learn that God performed miraculous healing of physical eyes on a number of occasions so people could see. But, He also opened the eyes of humans to perceive things which were, at first, unseen in the natural. In one instance in 2 Kings, God encouraged the Israelites of the spiritual armaments He had prepared to protect them.

In 2 Kings 6:16, the Lord encouraged the servant of Elisha in this way. The king of Syria was making war against Israel, and had sent a great army specifically to capture Elisha. “And Elisha prayed and said, “Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see,” (2 Kings 6:17 KJV). The servant had seen the physical presence of the enormous threat against them … with his own eyes. He was afraid of what seemed to be Elisha’s certain death. But God intervened and opened the servant’s eyes. He suddenly saw God’s army, horses, and chariots of fire all around Elisha, a compelling counterforce.

God allowed the vision, the spiritual revelation, so they would regain courage in face of a seemingly insurmountable Enemy. At first, they had only seen with their physical eyes, and the threat was real. Yet, there was more provision behind the scenes. God had His invisible army, even more powerful than the Syrian forces prepared to defend His children.

We live in a physical world, yet as humans with a mind, body, and spirit nature, why should we be surprised that there might be more to “see” in any given circumstance? Are we looking for God’s spiritual viewpoint when we face our trials and “insurmountables”? We often cannot see more than the present circumstances, and when those are painfully difficult, we lose heart.

King David prayed to the Lord: “Open my eyes that I may see wondrous things from Your law,” (Psalm 119:18 KJV). Maybe we would be wise to pray the Lord open our eyes so we can see things in a dimension that God sees. What might we be missing by not praying that prayer? Maybe we need courage in times of attack. Perhaps, we don’t see the invisible forces He has already provided for us when we think we are alone.

God made it clear that He wants a relationship with us. He loved us while we were yet far from Him, out doing our own thing, apart from His will. How do we know this?  He sent Jesus, His Son, to take the penalty of our sins so our most perfect, loving God could once again walk with us and talk with us as He had originally planned. After that, it was left to us to choose to align our lives by asking forgiveness, and accepting His free gift of relationship. We can be confident in our prayers that God is for us. He chose not to stay apart from us, and made a way for us to have relationship again after sin had, by its very nature, separated us from His Perfect Love.

As the worship song lyrics by Michael W. Smith affirms, “Open the eyes of my heart, Lord, Open the eyes of my heart, I want to see You, I want to see You …” Let Him show you the spiritual dimension of life, tearing back the curtain of our physical and mental limitations. “I want to see You, Lord.”

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Where is the Son?

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While visiting our seven-year-old Kansas grandson recently, Max excitedly burst into the house carrying a bouquet of sunflowers … for me! He had convinced his mama to buy them for me when they were shopping. The uniqueness of this spray of flowers was that each large flower head was drooping, bowing down from its stem, rather than standing upright.

Maxwell explained with confidence that they were simply being sunflowers which are always looking for the sun. Of course, I graciously accepted his gift with an exclamation of his thoughtfulness. His daddy brought some filler plants in from the yard, which somewhat improved their countenance.

In reflecting on the downcast sunflowers, I was taken back by the image above of the girl gazing in the opposite direction. If the flowers symbolically seek the Sun, shouldn’t we also seek the Son, Jesus, for our Source? Yes, of course. There are times and seasons when we may be tempted to think we’re capable of handling life all on our own. All is well, finances are secure, health is good, and we have done it all ourselves. We may pat ourselves on the back and expect our fans to applaud because we’re successfully sailing along in our strength. Who needs God anyway, one might ask?

But, often that isn’t the way life works. You know that. I know that. Sometimes, nothing seems to go our way. So in those times we can misguidedly plunder through our days, lacking the Son in the messiness of life, lacking His strength, peace, and His Omnipotent wisdom for guidance. Scripture is replete with advice for living a complete and satisfying life, in the good times and bad.

In Hebrews 12:1-2 we are reminded to “… fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter or 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.” Yes, indeed, as the sunflowers seek the sun, we are advised to “fix our eyes ….” Where? On the Son.

Psalm 34:5-6 tells us that “Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles.” More evidence that when we don’t look to ourselves, in our good old American independence, we will become radiant. We will be the sunflowers of humanity, with faces tilted upward with dignity, grace, and assurance. If you are feeling downcast today, pick up the Bible, and look to God’s Word to you. He will be your strength and radiance.

I don’t know about you, but I need to seek the light of Christ … daily. Whenever I try to go it alone, I quickly become the wilty-headed sunflower, looking at the problems at my feet, instead of the Son’s LIGHT as my Source. I encourage all of us to not lose sight of God’s amazing gift, even in the hard times. When we “look up,” we will find the resources necessary to finish the race victoriously. Not because of our own tremendous capabilities, but because of our loving God and Provider. Look up to the Son, beloved children of God, and become all you are meant to be.

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin,” 1 John 1:7. 

 

 

For You Are WITH Me

Have you ever felt like you were alone? SO alone that nobody cared what was going on in your life? No one understood what you were going through? No one was WITH you to help give you strength, encouragement, or even just a bit of compassion. Most of us have been there at one time or another. There are so many instances when I have witnessed people in need of “withness.”

When I was a busy teacher and working mom, if I didn’t tune in to the running discourse of my then-kindergartener, she would reach up to my face with her little hands. She would place one hand on each cheek and turn my head to face her. Although I was answering (likely “um, uh-huh, sure, nice”), she knew when my mind and spirit were not WITH her. Those beautiful blue eyes spoke to mine, as she said, “Mama …” I knew I had not tuned in, and she needed me to do so. We all need someone to hear our hearts. Even if they don’t, or can’t, offer advice or change our circumstances, we desire someone to know us, and even share the joys in our journey.

A few years ago, a friend told me that the word WITH had become her prayer to God. I didn’t get it. She didn’t feel a close togetherness, an emotional intimacy, with her church friends or even her husband. There was something missing — that key ingredient of a listening heart and truly concerned soul. Someone who cared enough to pray with her and to share the ups and downs of daily living. Her heart ached to be “known” and understood as well as the opportunity to know and understand others, if they would let her.

Upon rereading the Twenty-third Psalm, my eyes were suddenly opened the other day. I knew that sweet and wonderful passage from childhood, but it had never spoken so clearly as it did that day. Being a timid flight passenger, and wary of all things weather-related to air travel, I pray for God’s peace upon boarding any flight. That day, I read, “I will fear no evil, for YOU ARE WITH ME.” Simple truth was illuminated. If there are fires, floods, storms, losses of any kind, God has promised to be WITH me. I need not fear. Just based on His presence with me “in the valley of the shadow of death,” I need not fear that thing, whatever it is. God promises a new dimension of reality that should replace fear with PRESENCE. I was nearly dancing in my seat-belted state! He was with me. God was really with me!

I pray that you have others in your life who are intimately with you, but even if not, remember that promise. HE. IS. WITH. YOU. Let Him show His presence. Look for Him. HE. IS. WITH. YOU.