Surprise In The Sunrise

IMG_0210God is full of surprises.

The first thing I do when I walk downstairs every morning is take my dogs outside. They’re all over me. Whining. Jumping. Running to the door. If I’m not fully awake before they greet me, I quickly come to life, grab the leash and get their little doggie buns out the door before their bladders explode. Forget the coffee. Who needs a shot of caffeine when you have a burst of canine?

Lucky for me…or should I say, blessed am I…when the first thing I see as I open my front door is the sunrise. No two are ever the same. The horizon may not altar much, but every sunrise is a beautiful, glorious surprise. The tree line may have the same irregular bumps and ragged edges. The deserted country road may boast the same straight lines and winding turn. The fields may still spread their wide expanse with rows of crops across the landscape, but the sky? I can never count on the same blues, or the same pinks or oranges. I can never expect to see the same greens or yellows. I can never predict the presence of clouds or the color of the sun and, yet, somehow I think God enjoys stirring my heart by twirling the heavens with His watercolors. Even those who don’t acknowledge Him appreciate the wonder of an early morning sky beholden to the Beholder…He’s the only One who gets to decide how to paint each new dawn.

Oh, I know not all surprises are pleasant. Some are framed with painful horizons, marred by bumps and ragged edges, they seem to pierce the sun and repel the light. Some lead us down roads with one winding turn after another. Some have planted rows and rows of unwanted growth. Maybe that’s why God prepares such beautiful sunrises. He knows how much we need good surprises. The kind that stir our hearts to awaken a thankful response. The kind that brings color to our world and paints beautiful pictures on the great expanse of our memory. Reminders that He is good. He is faithful. He is true.

Every sunrise has a horizon. I have one, too. According to my online dictionary, my horizon is the limit of my mental perception, experience or interest. I can’t remember the last time I heard someone say, “I need to broaden my horizons,” but I’m thinking I might need to give it a shout out myself! It means it’s time to get out of my comfort zone. It’s time to expand my knowledge. It’s time to move on. It’s time to do something else. Sometimes I get stuck so God helps me out. He shakes me up a bit. He surprises me. He gives me a proper sunrise by pushing past the tree line, revealing what’s around the bend, or planting something new. Perspective is everything.

When I wake up in the morning I don’t know what the day is going to hold. Anything could happen. When I open the door every morning I don’t know what I’ll see. Anything could appear. If I don’t treat each day as a gift from God I risk missing out on the surprise in the sunrise. With my weathered eye on the horizon and a proper perspective, I see the tree line reaches to heaven, the road leads to grace, and the field produces a harvest. And I can’t tell you how glad I am that no two sunrises are the same.

Sometimes I need a little help in appreciating each new day. I need a reminder that some surprises are good for the soul. I need a burst of color, an explosion of light. I need God’s perspective. I need the brush of His fingers to paint pictures on the canvas of my heart and when He does…I become beholden to my Beholder. He’s the only One who gets to decide how to paint my dawns. He’s the only One who knows how to mix just the right amount of color to give my heart a proper twirl.

“I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True…” Revelation 19:11

 

The Sting of the Fire Ant

IMG_0987Some places God just doesn’t want me to go. Some things God just doesn’t want me to do.

Some. Things. Just. Aren’t. Good. For. Me.

Period.

Sigh.

I haven’t always listened to God. I wish I had. I wish I did. But, I don’t. Sometimes I just want to do things my way. My curiosity gets the best of me. Temptation knocks. I cave. I give in. I wish I didn’t.

Like the other day.

I stomped a fire ant mound. Oh, I’ve heard a few things about fire ants, but I didn’t take heed. I didn’t run. I didn’t turn away. Oh, no. Not me. Not this woman. No, I thought I could divide and conquer with my own two feet. Just bring the foot down and crush the enemy!

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Let me just say, some enemies need more than a foot stomping. I have never seen so many ants in my life. Thousands upon thousands swarming out of that clay-constructed fortress. Attaching themselves like glue to my two-inch-platform, open-toe sandal. Never was I so grateful for two inches of space between ground and foot. Picture me on the side of the road jumping up and down, shaking my leg, stomping my foot, removing my sandal and pounding it on the ground to rid it of the threat to my body and health. Never was I so grateful for the grace of God. I only got stung three times. Three times too many. Today I’m paying the price…itching, burning, my skin has a pulse. A painful reminder that I should have listened to what I’ve heard about fire ants. Take heed.

God gives me warnings. He’s gracious like that. He wants what’s best for me. A loving Father who cares so much for me that He tells me to take heed.

“A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, but a mocker does not listen to rebuke.” Proverbs 13:1

I honestly, truthfully, and painfully admit…I am not always very wise. I attacked a fire ant hill. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to rid the earth of  dangerous pests, but there are much safer ways I could have done it. I could have planned. I could have worn proper clothing, used another means, and prepared a more strategic attack. When messing with the enemy I need to heed God’s advice. I need to seek His counsel. I need to remember that when I’m unprepared I could very well be setting myself up for failure.

Who wants to fail? It hurts. It stings. It can leave some nasty scars.

Believe me, every time I want to scratch off the top layer of my epidermis where those ants left their mark, I remember I should have listened to what I’ve heard about fire ants. I won’t be stomping any more ant hills with a two-inch platform sandal, leaving my skin exposed and my pride unchecked. The ants may have won this battle, but I left my shoe print on their mound. Next time, I’ll be attacking with a potent concoction of vinegar and baking soda.

See, I’m wiser now. Those ant stings left their imprint, too, and I don’t want a repeat. Once is enough for me.

“A fool spurned his father’s discipline, but whoever heeds correction shows prudence.” Proverbs 15:5

I wish I was always so teachable. I wish I was always so quick to learn a lesson. I wish I was always so easily molded and refined. Some lessons I’ve had to learn over and over again in the school of life, but one thing I know…God never gives up on me. It scares me to think of what I would be like without Jesus. It scares me to think of where I’d be or what I’d be doing.

It scares me to think because I know there are many times when I do listen to God. Like when His Word washes such a holy truth over me it’s like a hammer and the stubborn rock of my will is broken into tiny little pieces, “Is not My Word like fire”–the Lord’s declaration–“and like a sledgehammer that pulverizes rock?” Jeremiah 23:29  Or when His Word pierces my soul and spirit in such a way as to change my hardened heart, “For the Word of God is living and effective and sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as to divide soul, spirit, joints, and marrow; it is a judge of the ideas and thoughts of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12

The enemy may leave a few marks on me from time to time, but God leaves an imprint that’s far greater, far more powerful, far above the intentions of the enemy to leave me helpless, hopeless, or hapless. I’m definitely wiser now than I was ten years ago, ten months ago, ten days ago…three days ago?!? Amen to that!

Yeah. So, I’ve heard about the fire ants. But, now I’ve seen them for myself! And I’m not ignorant any longer to what they can do. They aren’t good for me. Period. I’m wiser now.

I’ve also heard about my God. But, I’ve seen Him for myself!! He is so-o-o-o good for me. And I’m not ignorant to what He can do. He’s proved Himself over and over again in my life. Even when I’ve not listened to Him. Even when I’ve done things my own way. Even when curiosity has gotten the best of me. Even when I’ve caved. Even when I’ve had to suffer the consequences of my actions. He has been ever gracious. Ever merciful. Ever the loving Father.

I will not forget the sting of the fire ant. But!! I will not forget the mercies of my God, either. I don’t want to forget that He has an abundance of wisdom, an abundance of grace, an abundance of pulverizing, penetrating truth to slay the sting of any enemy, any time, anywhere. From now on, when I want to do some foot-stomping in enemy territory, I will do it God’s way. You can take that to the ants and pour it down their stinkin’ clay-constructed fortress.

So there.

“Lord, I have heard of Your fame; I stand in awe of Your deeds, O Lord.” Habakkuk 3:2

 

 

 

 

Morning Has Broken…

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Morning has broken Like the first morning,

Blackbird has spoken Like the first bird

Praise for the singing! Praise for the morning!

Praise for them springing Fresh from the Word. (Morning Has Broken, Eleanor Farjeon 1881-1965)

 

Praise…it’s really such a simple thing to give God His worth, to open the mouth and speak words that confirm how wonderful He is. And He really is! But, praise is such a difficult thing when the heart doesn’t feel it. I know from personal experience that I don’t always have a song of praise for God in my heart. When I’m weighed down by many cares I’d rather cry than sing. When my soul is burdened and my spirit crushed I’d rather withdraw in solitude than face the world. When tears flow more freely than the fruit of my lips I find myself entering a very dark night.

I’ve had seasons when God seemed far away, seasons when He has been so silent I’ve found myself begging Him for a word, “God! Please talk to me because I can’t stand it when You don’t talk to me!”

I’ve had seasons when God seemed absent, seasons when I’ve faced one trial after another and found myself begging Him for relief, “God! Do you care? Please, help me because I can’t stand another minute of this!”

I’ve had seasons of wandering, when I seemed to be floundering with no direction, no vision, no map for my life.  Wandering along purposeless. Feeling useless.

I’ve had seasons of desertion, when I seemed to be stuck in the desert with no rain to quench my thirsty soul, no manna to feed my hungry heart, no trees to shade my shriveled spirit. Prodding along hopeless. Feeling helpless.

Praise…are you kidding me? When the clouds don’t pass, the storms don’t cease, the darkness won’t lift? Yes. Praise. Even when I don’t feel it. Even when I don’t want it. Even when I may not mean it. Because deep down, where God’s Spirit lives and breathes in me, I know He’s there. In that awful place where I know how very much I need Him, where I understand how desperate I am for Him. Like an early morning riser caffeine-driven because of poor, fitful sleep, I crave the presence of my God because I know He’s the only One who can break through the clouds.

Morning has broken…

“You are my Lamp, O Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light..” 2 Samuel 22:29

Whatever the dark night of the soul really is, I know that God can open prison doors. I know that He breaks through walls of bronze and gates of iron. I know He lifts burdens from weary souls and heals those who are crushed in spirit. I know He can speak to me in the silence and He can walk with me through the trials. I know that if I press on through the darkness there’s a beautiful dawn waiting for me. Because just as I need the darkness to remind me of how much I need Him, I know He will give me seasons of refreshment, too. Where fellowship with Him is so sweet that I soak in His Presence, feed on His Word, and drink from His River of delight. I call them garden seasons, where God walks with me on dew-drenched grass in the cool of the day.

 

Sweet the rain’s new fall Sunlit from heaven

Like the first dew fall On the first grass.

Praise for the sweetness Of the wet garden,

Sprung in completeness Where His feet pass. (Morning Has Broken, Eleanor Farjeon 1881-1965)

 

God is ever passing my way. It doesn’t matter what season I’m in. His feet never pass me by. He never takes His eyes off of me. He never abandons me. He never misplaces me. His Word tells me so. This is my hope. This is my help. This is my song of praise.

Praise…I’m not kidding. In all seasons. Because dark seasons do not last forever and God is faithful in season and out of season.

“He has put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.” Psalm 40:3

How easy it is to praise God when things are good, but when I can say, “I will still trust You, I will still praise You, I will still love You,”  when things seem bad I believe I’m giving Him one of the greatest gifts I can give…the sacrifice of praise.

When the clouds have rolled away and the rains have ceased and I’m blinded by the light of His glory I know every trial, every burden, every tear I’ve shed has not been in vain. I want my faith to be so real that it clings to the presence of God even when He seems far away. I want my faith to be so pure that it waits in expectation for God to speak when He seems silent. I want Him to find me faithful. I want Him to find me trustworthy. I want Him to find me in praise because one day the dark night gives way to dawn and morning will break…it’s there that He greets me. He revives my heart, refreshes my soul and renews my spirit. I open my mouth and confirm how wonderful He is. And, I realize…that all along…when I praised Him even when I didn’t feel it, I really did mean it.

“…weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” Psalm 103:5b

 

Mine is the sunlight! Mine is the morning

Born of the one light Eden saw play!

Praise with elation, Praise every morning,

God’s recreation Of the new day! (Morning Has Broken, Eleanor Farjeon 1881-1965)

 

 

 

Come…An Invitation

IMG_0977I remember as a young girl the pure joy I felt whenever I received an invitation to a friend’s birthday party. To know that I had been specially selected, uniquely chosen, personally invited to be part of a celebration. Just the thought of party dresses, cake and ice cream, and simple games like pin-the-tale-on-the-donkey (yes, it sounds lame, my friends, but it was fun back “in the day.” Honest-to-goodness, it was!) made my heart flutter with excitement and expectation. Oh, yes, and picking out the birthday present was almost just as much fun as the party itself. I could hardly wait to see my gift unwrapped and the happy look on my friend’s face.

My little party invitation always found a resting place in a prominent spot in our home. Heaven forbid if I let my mother forget that important date. She got no rest until she called in my RSVP. In my mind, to be invited anywhere meant someone, somewhere liked me enough to include me. Me, the little girl with the fake eye who was sometimes very insecure and unsure of herself.

I’ve been pondering a lot lately on the word, “Come…” as seen in Scripture.

Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to Me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.” Isaiah 55:1-2

God is such a gentleman. I’m convinced that if there’s a deep south in heaven God lives there with sunflowers and magnolia blossoms growing in His backyard. In spite of all my crazy, mixed-up, chaotic ways He comes to me. Me, the big girl with the fake eye who is still unsure of herself sometimes. Come. Come to Me. He doesn’t come barging in on a John Deere tractor. He doesn’t come riding in on a bull. He doesn’t yell or scream or order my naughty self to sit down. He knocks gently on my heart’s door. When I look through clouded window panes of muscle and tissue there He stands and my heart melts. I can picture it in my mind’s eye. Always there. Always knocking. Always waiting. Patiently. For little-ol’-me to get tired of my busyness, tired of my craziness, tired of my selfishness and just visit with Him. I can even hear His voice in a deep southern drawl…Let’s have us a visit.

Oh dear. My cheeks are getting a salty-tear-washing at this very moment because sometimes I just cannot fathom that the Omniscient, Omnipresent, Omnipotent One wants to spend time with me. When I think of what Jesus did to make a way for me to the Father, pouring forth, bleeding out, giving His very life…how can I cast aside His invitation? How can I stick it in a drawer and forget about it? How can I allow it to gather dust or pile my indifference on top of it?

Come to Me. Do you get this? ‘Cause I don’t. But I don’t think I’m supposed to get it. I’m just supposed to accept it. I’m supposed to put Jesus’ invitation in a visible place in my home and never forget it’s there. This beautiful, open invitation with my name on it. I don’t have to wait until I’ve got it all together. I don’t even have to put on a party dress. I don’t have to serve cake. I don’t have to play games. I don’t have to spend any money on gifts.

I can’t put a price tag on anything Jesus offers. Things like rest. Contentment. Satisfaction. Soul food. Thirst-quenching Water. Priceless.

I love to start my day with Jesus. He doesn’t just like me. He loves me. He includes me in His family. When He says to me, Come and have breakfast,” (John 21:12) I want my heart to be so open to His presence that I don’t even hesitate to set a place for Him at my table. I don’t want to hesitate to pour Him some tea and pour out my heart. I don’t want to hesitate to share my life and share sweet fellowship. I don’t want to hesitate to soak in His presence and soak in His Word.

I don’t want to hesitate when Jesus comes calling because really this is the perfect gift. His gift to me. My gift to Him. The gift of time. Of presence. Precious.

Wow. What a way to start the day.

Come. What an invitation to ponder.

Here’s another thought to ponder…there’s an invitation that still sits in visible places. Jesus is still knocking on heart’s doors. The Perfect Gentleman. He stands. He waits. He freely gives.

One day there will be a celebration above all celebrations. Plans are already underway. Preparations are already being made. There’s a place card at this table with my name on it because I’ve already sent in my RSVP.  I’ve accepted this free gift. I’ll be among those who’ll rejoice forever knowing I’ve been specially selected, uniquely chosen and personally invited to attend THE party of a lifetime. Oh happy day! It makes my heart flutter with excitement and expectation.  I can hardly wait to see the happy look on my Friend’s face.

Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.” Revelation 22:17