Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Forced Bloom

A few months ago I received a "gift".
It was a flower bulb, a terracotta pot, some soil and a paper with instructions.
The gift giver said that by following the instructions and doing it soon
that the bulb would be "forced" to bloom,
and that by Thanksgiving I would have a beautiful flower.

I was curious...
I asked the gift giver why it was considered "forced".
(my Arizona roots were showing)
The answer went something like this:
Bulb flowers naturally bloom in the spring 
after being left dormant in the ground over the winter months.
But, when you plant a bulb indoors, 
It can't help itself, 
even though it appears to be growing out of the natural order of things.
The combination of good soil, water and a warm environment
forces the bulb to grow and bloom.

So, I decided to give it a try
Could I make it grow?
I had my doubts, but followed the instructions anyway...

And I wait 
And I water
And I watch
And I see green popping out from the soil

Just the other day, a far-away friend asked me how I was doing.
The words that came to mind were "reluctantly moving forward".

I am struggling
not all the time
not everyday

I even looked up the word reluctant, just for clarity
I found words like

Yep....that's it

I am not proud of it
I would prefer to be strong all the time
I would prefer to have all the answers
I would prefer to not feel "forced" to learn something new
I would prefer...

the gift givers pot, soil and sprouting bulb stare up at me
I can not wait to see what color this flower will be
once it is in full bloom

As I too have been re-planted 
in unfamiliar soil
out of cycle 
of what my natural growth pattern was
being watered and nourished
being "forced" to grow
being "forced" to bloom

I can't help myself
even in my reluctance

For the soil here is nutritious 
the water is cool and clean
the environment is warm

I find myself fighting with the grace that God has given me
How crazy is that!

He pulled me out of the caliche earth that I was growing in just fine

and has gently planted me in different soil
"forcing" me to grow
watching over me 
watering me
feeding me
providing me a fertile place
although not my original flower bed
a place worth blooming all the same

And so
I grow
some days reluctantly
some days joyfully
but always growing

I am going to bloom

For that is how it is with God
there is no staying still
no staying dormant
no waiting

just growing
"forced" to bloom
I wonder what I will look like...

Psalm 92:12-15
(The Voice)
Those who are devoted to God
will flourish like budding date-palm trees;
they will grow 
strong and tall
like cedars in Lebanon.
Those planted in the house of the Eternal
will thrive in the courts of our God.
They will bear fruit into old age;
even in winter,
they will be green and full of sap
To display that the Eternal is righteous.
He is my rock,
and there is no shadow of evil in Him.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Team building

Picture this....
elementary school
kick ball game

two teams
two captains..... always the most popular and athletic of the bunch
all the kids line up against the backstop
the captains are standing together on the field
and the picking of teams begins

no one wants to be the last one picked
everyone wants to play
this is a kids game
no adult referees
no adults to make sure things are fair or that no feelings get hurt
I know that I am not going to be one of the first picked
that honor goes to the bigger kids
the ones who are already on a team outside of school
the fast ones
the ones that are friends with the captain
the ones with the new shoes and nice lunch boxes

I am part of the rag tag group at the end of the picking
this is where the captains, with the teams already selected
begin to figure out...
Who can I pick from this "left-over" group?
Who will do the least amount of damage to my team?

All I can hope for is not to be picked last
or worse, be the odd one out and become the score keeper
or even worse, stand on the side lines and watch
because no one wanted me

You see,
I had no kick ball skills, I could do a mean cartwheel
I was small, which came in handy for hide and seek
I had nothing to prove that I was up for the task

There was always a grateful relief once I was picked
I was willing to do whatever the captain asked
because he picked me

You with me?

Now picture this...
same scenario....
two captains getting ready to make their selections
all the rest of us lined up against the back stop
the first captain picks the fastest kid on the playground
the second captain's first pick is me
the first captain's second pick is his best friend
the second captain's pick is a kindergartner in flip flops
the first captain picks the smartest kid in school for his third pick
the second captain picks a kid who limps
the first captain picks the kid who plays little league baseball
the second captain picks the kid who makes odd noises in class

at this point, no one understands what is going on
has the second captain gone crazy?
doesn't he know what game we are playing?
even the kids he has picked, although grateful, don't understand
he picked a loser team
there is no way we can win
we have no skills
what is he up to?

I am a visual person
when I read the Bible, I try to imagine myself there
I use pictures in my mind to help me understand how it might apply to me

I have been studying the book of Matthew with some of my girlfriends
one thing that struck all of us is how Jesus picked his team
the men that would make up his disciples

Odd by mans standards
certainly not the way we or anyone we know would have picked a team

It made no earthly sense
a tax collector
an accountant

no apparent "gifting" to help the team with their goals
balance of personalities?
skill set?

Even as adults,
the things that we look to most when planning to implement something
does not line up with the model Jesus used to spread the gospel.

for those of us who feel less than skilled
who are not sure that we have anything to offer

Jesus sees us differently
the ones the world picks last
the "left-overs"

He does not want or need us for what skills or natural abilities we can bring
He does not want or need us to beef up his team
He does not want or need us to make Him stronger

He just wants us
He just wants us to trust Him
He just wants us to trust that He knows what He is doing

like those He originally called to join His team
Matthew 4:20
immediately leave what occupies our hands and follow Him

This is a huge lesson for me right now
for, I feel more comfortable doing things within my natural skill set

but that is not what Jesus is asking of me
He is going to give me what I need to accomplish what He has for me to do.
Matthew 10:19 is a great encouragement
" not be anxious about how or what you will speak; 
for it shall be given you in that hour what you are to speak."

In context Jesus is talking about when the disciples will find themselves 
in situations where they are being persecuted and need to testify. 
But later on in the passage is where we get the verses that talk about 
how aware He is of who they are (10:29-31)
and what they are up against. 
He encourages by reminding that He is there 
and has all the details worked out as they go about sharing the Good News.

Don't you want to be on His team?
I do
to know that my captain is going to give me all I need, after I am on the team!
He has a plan to mold me and enable me
He does not need me, but He wants me
He wants to make me better

Who wouldn't want that?

Matthew 4:9, 8:22, 9:9, 10:38, 16:24, 19:21, 19:28
Mark 1:17, 2:14, 8:34, 10:21
Luke 5:27, 9:23, 9:59, 18:22
John 1:43, 8:12, 10:27, 12:26, 21:19, 21:22

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Year on the edge

Where to begin....
Just one year ago life was very different

I am not saying it was perfect
we were transitioning from job loss to self-employment
common family drama
busy days
ministry ups and downs

it was what we knew
a type of comfort because it was the known reality

Then...October hit like an earthquake
on the scale it felt like a 6 or 7 

Not literally, but to my family, who was at the epicenter
It was definitely a 7

You see.........
things quickly went from routine life to
a loved one with a cancer diagnosis
a possible job on the other side of the U.S.
a loved one struggling with depression
a loved one seeking a job
and the list could go on

Everything that looked familiar was now unrecognizable
when the earth quaked beneath my feet
I had a hard time staying upright
I had to be reminded to breath

Even now, one year later
I find myself holding my breath

The thing about earthquakes....
things are never the same afterwards
you can rebuild
you can move forward
but, things are never the same
the landscape has changed permanently

the other thing about earthquakes...
they cause those affected to 
pick up the pieces
repair the things that can be repaired
throw out that which is beyond repair
appreciate what really matters
let go of the rest

It is hard riding out an earthquake
without something solid to hold onto

This past year has probably been the most unrest I have ever experienced
I can not imagine what I would have done without my Savior beside me
He was so creative in how He cared for me and those I hold in my heart
He brought Holy Spirit strength
to allow me to care for my sweet sister and her family
He brought His Word to mind
allowing me to comfort other hurting loved ones
He gave God confidence 
allowing me to finish well so I could move on
He used the hands of others 
to hold the hands of this exhausted, unsteady girl, as I packed up my life
He gave unexpected blessings of friends
waiting for me, 
as if I were expected...
helping to heal wounds from the quake
with love and laughter

It took an earthquake to move this turtle girl
to move out of the routine of a good life
to a new routine and a new life

I have survived this year of living on the edge
but I have to admit
I long for meadows instead of cliffs

I long for beaches instead of volcanoes

I long for swinging on a porch swing instead of an earthquake

As I continue to embrace today and reflect on where I was a year ago
All I can say is
Thank you Jesus
as always
you have taken care of this turtle girl
in ways grander than I could ever imagine

Ephesians 3:16-21
My response is to get down on my knees before the Father,
this magnificent Father
who parcels out all heaven and earth.
I ask Him to strengthen you by His Spirit--
not a brute strength 
but a glorious inner strength--
that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite Him in.
And I ask Him that with both feet planted firmly on love,
you'll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus
the extravagant dimensions of Christ's love.
Reach out and experience the breadth!
Test its length!
Plumb the depths!
Rise to the heights!
Live full lives,
full in the fullness of God.
God can do anything,
you know--
far more than you could ever imagine
or guess
or request in your wildest dreams!
He does it not by pushing us around
but by working within us,
His Spirit
within us.

Glory to God in the church!
Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus!
Glory down all the generations!
Glory through all millennia!
Oh yes!!