Wednesday, September 27, 2023

The Little Violets


As a present on Mother’s Day, my youngest granddaughter, Evelyn, gave me some violets.  The tiny pink blossoms perfectly matched the pink container in which they grew.

At first, I put them in the room where I tend to write.  It wasn’t long before I realized they needed something I wasn’t giving them.  I researched violet care and found they preferred diffused eastern light.  I had them facing a western window with almost direct sun.  The only place I could find that perfectly matched what they liked best was my bathroom window.  So, I moved them to that window sill. 

Every morning they greet me with their pretty pink blossoms.  However, they did not do as well there as I expected.  Then I realized they were missing something.  They needed to be fed! 

I purchased some violet food and began to feed them every two weeks according to the package directions.  For my tiny violets, the violet food is 1/4 a teaspoon in a quart of water.  They get about a tablespoon in their container twice a month. That one bottle of violet food will last me forever!

But the tiny bit of food has made a tremendous difference in the violets. Before they would have one or two blooms, now they have an abundance of pink faces looking up at me each morning. 

Four-year-old girl

The simple sight brings me joy.  That joy is compounded when I think of my four-year-old granddaughter telling her mother that she wanted to give me these for Mother’s Day.

A tiny bit of food made a big difference. 

We all need food as well.  Not just physical food, but spiritual food.  I once heard a gentleman say, “Read the Bible every day, even if it is only one verse.”  Many may not feel they have the time or opportunity to read large passages of Scripture each day. But perhaps we can read one chapter or even one verse.

 If we cannot stop to read the Bible at this moment, let us think of the verses that are most likely stored away in our memory and recite them to ourselves.  That tiny bit of the Lord’s Word would be like the tiny bit of food my violets are thriving upon. The Scriptures have many themes of small things leading to big things, such as the tiny mustard seed, which the Lord described as "the least of all seeds," growing into "the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof," (Matthew 13:31, 32.)

Let us then set apart a few minutes each day to read and to think about God’s word, to remember it in our hearts, even if it is just a verse or two. And like my tiny violets, let us turn our faces to our Lord and Creator.

“When Thou saidst, Seek ye my face;
my heart said unto Thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek.”   
Psalm 27:8

Monday, September 18, 2023

Starry Night, or Morning, Rather

The other morning I was walking our dog, Ellie, before sunrise.*  As I glanced upward, I was surprised by the perfectly clear sky.  The moon, an orange sliver of a crescent, was just beginning to smile at us through the trees.  

I marveled at the beauty of the stars in the eastern sky and of Venus, shining like a diamond.  I counted seventeen stars that were visible to me.  I know by education and experience that what I saw was just a tiny, tiny fraction of the stars actually in the sky.  

Several years ago when we traveled to Arkansas to visit our friend, Jay, we saw the most beautiful display of stars I have ever seen in my life. (You can read about that trip here.)  The sky was so full it almost looked textural, like a knitted cap.

As Ellie sniffed around, I contemplated the magnitude of the creation in which our Lord has placed us.  Every time man thinks he has come to the "edge of the universe" some advanced telescope shows us there is so much more the be discovered and explored. It was then the thought came to me.  If our Lord's creation is so incredibly beautiful and vast, how much more so must He be! There is no end to His love, no limit to His grace, no expiration on His goodness, because He Himself is limitless.  

The Scriptures tell us this is true.

"Great is our Lord, and of great power: His understanding is infinite." Psalm 147:5

"Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of His understanding."  Isaiah 40:28

"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts."  Isaiah 55:8,9

"But who is able to build Him an house, seeing the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain Him? " 2 Chronicles 2:6

"Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is Thine; Thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and Thou art exalted as head above all." 1 Chronicles 29:11

The next time we think we know all there is to know about God, first, let us fall to our knees and ask forgiveness for our pride and audacity.  Then let us remind ourselves we will forever be learning more and more about our blessed Lord.  There will be no end to the glorious discoveries as there is no end to Him. 

Shoreless Ocean, who can sound Thee?
Thine own eternity is round Thee,
Majesty divine!
(Frederick W. Faber)

*It has been so hot along the Gulf Coast recently, that we must get up very early to walk so that we don't overheat Ellie, or ourselves!

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Wherewith We Ourselves Are Comforted

  "Blessed be God, even the Father of mercies, 
and the God of all comfort; 
Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, 
that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, 
by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God." 
2 Corinthians 1: 3,4.

As I write this, we are having a thunderstorm, and our little dog, Ellie is snuggled close beside me.  When the thunder and lightning frighten her, I love to have her climb up on my lap. I usually wrap a blanket around her so she will know she is safe and protected.  I love comforting her because I love her. How much more does our God, whom the Scriptures refer to as "the God of all comfort," love to comfort us? 

There are frequent verses in the Bible referring to God's comfort to His children.  The Lord Jesus comforted so many.  He comforted the woman who had a blood disease for twelve years as He healed her (Matthew 9:22). He comforted the blind man as He gave him sight, (Mark 10:49, 50). He comforted Mary and Martha before He brought their brother Lazarus forth from the grave, (John 11:19).  How many more examples of His great comfort were there that were not recorded in Scripture? 

If we have an earnest desire to comfort our children, even our dogs, how much more does our Lord desire to comfort us?  He so wants us to know His peace, His provision, His joy, His comfort, His love, His understanding.  Mainly, He wants us to know Him. 

In our moments of pain and sorrow, perplexity and trouble, let us look first to the "God of all comfort" that we may know Him as the source of all we need.  If and when the solution for the things that trouble us becomes evident, let us then look to our Lord as the hand that provided, that healed, that protected, that was all we needed Him to be in every situation. Then, our Lord desires us to take that comfort, "wherewith we ourselves are comforted," and share it with others.  He wants us to be the human vehicle of His heavenly and eternal comfort to our world.  We can comfort others because we have been comforted by Him.  

Let us choose to take every opportunity to spread His comfort throughout our world and to be the hands and feet of His abundant supply to His children.

"Sing, O heavens; and be joyful O earth; 
and break forth into singing, O mountains: 
for the Lord hath comforted His people, 
and will have mercy upon His afflicted." 
Isaiah 49:13

"...Christ is all, and in all." 
Colossians 3:11

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Stormy Winds

The events of this date in 1979 are etched on my memory and emotions.  

 Glen and I had only been married nine months and had no television then.  While I worked the night before I first heard of the Category 4 hurricane heading for Mobile, Alabama.  Hurricane Frederic.  I will never forget that name.  

Leaving work that morning, I headed east toward our tiny apartment.  The sun was just coming up and the sky was bright red.  Immediately, I thought of the poem, 

"Red sky at morning, sailor take warning.  Red sky at night, sailor's delight."  

I am sure I had heard this from my father who had worked at sea since he was 14.  But it is also in Scripture: 

 "He answered and said unto them, 'When it is evening, ye say, it will be fair weather for the sky is red.  And in the morning, it will be foul weather today: for the sky is red and lowring," (Matthew 16:2,3)

When I arrived home I told Glen about the hurricane.  Both of us, living apart from our parents for the first time, knew little of hurricane preparedness as we do now.  Glen, still in college, went off to his classes and I laid down for a nap.  When he came home we did what little we could do to prepare in our tiny apartment. (It was actually the back  rooms of a house and about 400 square feet.)  We put things that were most special to us up high, had dinner, and went to stay with family to weather out the storm.

Before that night, I had always enjoyed the sound of the wind.  But this wind was different. It was a relentless, howling, screeching sound.  The darkness compounded the frightening aspect of the wind, as it is the usual practice for the power company to turn off power so downed power lines did not cause fires or danger to anyone encountering them.

We had a small battery radio and listened to the newscasters during the storm.  They were reporting that common landmarks near us "no longer existed."  One of these was about a half mile from my parent's house where we were.  I felt certain we were going to die.  I'm pretty sure I wasn't the only one praying a lot that night.

But morning came and the storm had gone.  Trees were down everywhere.  The apartment building behind my parent's house lost part of its tar and pebble roof in the storm.  All the windshields on our cars looked like they had been in machine-gun fire.  The eastern-facing windows of my parent's home fared the same.

We walked to our apartment and it was as if the storm had totally passed that house by.  Nothing was moved, nothing out of place.  Then we walked to the church where Glen and my mother worked,  Along the way we passed multiple huge old oak trees upended, and houses crushed under fallen trees.  All the tall pine trees on a lot near my parent's house were broken in half like matchsticks.  The devastation was everywhere.

Then the community came together.  Everyone with freezers began cooking the food they had stored and sharing it with their neighbors.  Those with chainsaws, and the skill to use them, cut trees off the properties of others.  Trucks of ice and water came from other areas of the country, from people who could not be thanked because we did not know who they were.

The most welcomed sight was the orange trucks of the tree companies who came from every direction to help remove the massive downed oaks and the white trucks of power companies from other states who came to restore our power.  Two weeks after Frederic hit, we were outside with our neighbors when the power came on - thanks to these wonderful people- and we all clapped and cheered.  

Eventually, fallen trees were removed, windshields replaced, and homes rebuilt.  The important thing was we did not die.  

And I learned a great lesson.  God takes care of His children.  He may lead us to go through some difficult things and to walk some very hard paths, but we will not walk alone.  He will be with us every step of the way giving us guidance, strength, comfort, encouragement, and mostly, His love.

"The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; 
my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; 
my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower."
Psalm 18:2

"For thou hast been a shelter for me, 
and a strong tower from the enemy."
Psalm 61:3

"Fire, and hail; snow, and vapour; 
stormy wind fulfilling His word,"
Psalm 148:8

Sunday, September 3, 2023

The Lord is With Us

 God promised Moses that He would deliver the children of Israel from the hand of the Eyptians and bring them unto a "land flowing with milk and honey." 

When children of Israel came to that land, twelve representatives of Israel were sent to spy in the promised land.   They found a land which was "exceeding good land."  And indeed it was a land in which "floweth with milk and honey."  

Two of the twelve were ready to possess the land, Caleb and Joshua, even though the inhabitants of the land  appeared stronger than the Israelites.  Ten of the men only saw "the giants" as they described them.

The ten were able to cause the hearts of the children of Israel to despair and to murmur against the Lord for bringing them to that place.  According to the Scriptures, they cried and wept that night.

Then Caleb spoke to the people:

"If the Lord delight in us, then He will bring us into this land, and give it us; 
a land which floweth with milk and honey.  
Only rebel not ye against the Lord, neither fear ye the people of the land; 
for they are bread for us:  their defence is departed from them, 
(emphasis added) Numbers 14:9

"The Lord is with us: fear them not."  This is all we need to say.  Even more for us, than for Caleb, the Lord is in us.  What have we to fear?  There is nothing we can gaze upon, no giants in our land, that is greater than our Lord.  Our Lord loves to protect, to provide for and to commune with His children.

We would do anything to protect our children.  Even after they become adults, we still have that desire, that urge to protect them and keep them from harm.  Why do we doubt our Lord's desire to protect His children?  Especially when we consider the price to purchase His "dear children" (Ephesians 5:1) was His Son's life.

"For it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings."  Hebrews 2:10

So any time, every time, we are tempted to fear let choose instead to look to the "Captain" of our salvation and say with Caleb, "The Lord is with us: fear them not."

Friday, September 1, 2023

Looking in the Wrong Place

Bryan, Me and Glen
 Last week we visited our dear friends in Georgia, Bryan and Peggy.  

As is our habit when we are with them, we went on a hike.  Going with us was our beagle, Ellie, and Bryan and Peggy's labrador retriever, Remi.  

It was a pleasant hike, winding around a lake.  While it was not a difficult hike, there were a couple places with some slight elevation changes.  Peggy and Remi were first along the trail and then me and Ellie, while Bryan and Glen brought up the rear.  All the time Ellie was straining at her leash to catch up with her friend, Remi.

This is when it happened. More quickly than I could even realize my feet were pulled out from under me.  One leg bent backward, one foot slid forward and I fell hard on my hip and arm.  Apart from some loss of skin, nothing was hurt, except for my pride, of course.  It seems it has become customary for me to fall at some point during a visit to Bryan and Peggy's.  Sometimes I just want to demonstrate to them that I do have excellent balance!

I fell because of two things.  First, Ellie was pulling hard against me.  But mostly, my eyes were on Ellie instead of on the trail.  I have been a hiker long enough to know where I should be looking.

The incident made me think, though, that I fell because my eyes were on the wrong thing.  How many times in my Christian life has it been like that?  I had a fall because I was my eyes were on something, anything, other than the Lord Jesus.  How easy it is in the world today to let other influences take our gaze away from Him.  The news blares at us, "Be afraid!  Be very afraid!"  It seems like wherever we turn our attention apart from the Lord, we are cautioned, warned, and admonished that our life is going to be miserable.

If we did not know and trust the Lord, that may well be the life we experience.  But if we know and trust the Lord, we can know peace and joy and love and contentment in any - in every- situation.  

While in Philippi, Paul and Silas were whipped, thrown into the innermost part of a prison, and their feet secured in stocks.  Beaten, bruised, and wrongly accused, the Scriptures tell us this about Paul and Silas:

"And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: 
and the prisoners heard them," Acts 16:25.

The praying I totally understand.  But they "sang praises unto God" as well.  Singing praises comes from a heart of love and joy.  They did not have this in and of themselves, it was the Spirit of God who lived inside of them that gave them a song.  And He will give one to us as well.  We just need to keep our eye on the right thing.  

As we look beyond our circumstances, beyond our world, beyond the enemy who seeks to destroy us, to the One who loved us enough to die for us, our hearts will be kept in peace.

"Looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith; 
who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, 
despising the shame, 
and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
For consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, 
lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds."
Hebrews 12: 2,3