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Lamentations 3:22-23 on My Mind

NewOMM“Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
Lamentations 3:22-23

I got to go on my first flower hunt of the season yesterday afternoon. My husband and I went walking on our community’s workout trail. This trail stretches ten miles across the city, allowing people to walk, run, ride bikes, skateboard, and roller blade. Every city needs a trail like this! It’s one of our favorite places here so far.

Mike and I did not walk ten miles yesterday, but we enjoyed making use of part of the trail not far from our house. We hadn’t gone far when I saw the first group of flowers I wanted to photograph. Crossing the trail carefully to be certain I wouldn’t get hit by a bike, I slipped under the guard rail, knelt down, and started taking pictures. I thought Mike was simply waiting nearby. When I got up, however, he was laughing. In fact, it took him a few moments to compose himself enough to tell me why.

DSC01173eIt seems while I totally engrossed in taking the perfect picture, a lady on roller blades being pulled by a rather large dog on a leash started to pass by. But the dog found me interesting and turned to investigate, pulling the lady behind him straight toward the fence. Mike had to get between me and the dog and wave the animal back onto the trail in order to save the very grateful lady from a collision with the fence and me from being pushed down the hill.

Of course, I just have to take my husband’s word for it that all this craziness actually took place. All I saw were my flowers, then a dog in the distance, pulling a lady on roller blades on up the trail. But Mike was laughing, so I’m sure the story is true. My husband was faithful. He compassionately kept the helpless lady from injury and me from being consumed.

I am so thankful!

I’m also thankful that our faithful God loves each of us even more than Mike loves me. He may, for reasons we may not yet be able to understand, allow life to gnaw on us a bit or maybe even bite straight into our hearts. This may really confuse us, but, even so, we can know that God will never let us be consumed. He always sees what’s happening and handles it with compassion and mercy–even, in fact, especially when we do not understand. He’s waiting each morning to greet us with the wisdom and strength we’ll need for the upcoming day. He loves us and He’s faithful. No matter what comes, we can count on Him each day.

As always, I invite you to meditate on these verses with me today. Try to memorize them this week. As I’ve been considering them today, I find the hymn, Great Is Thy Faithfulness, playing in my head, and I realize it uses phrases from this passage. If you’re familiar with the song, use it for further reflection on Lamentations 3:22-23. If it’s new to you, click here to read the verses and hear the melody.

Father, thank You for Your love, Your protection, Your compassion, and Your faithful presence always. We need You every morning and all through each day. As we cling to Your faithfulness, please make us more like You. In Jesus’ name, we pray.

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When You Struggle to Find the Right Words

I don’t know how it is for you, but of all the elements of prayer, I struggle most with worship and praise. It’s not that I don’t feel worship and praise or believe that God deserves all worship and praise. All glory and honor and praise are His! I just sometimes struggle to find the words.

DSC01019eThat seems like kind of a strange comment for a writer to make.

Yet our almighty, all-knowing, ever-present God Who created the whole universe, Who exists in a realm we can only imagine for now, seems so far beyond any words I might be able to arrange as a loving offering to Him.

Thankfully, He doesn’t expect me to live up to my personal perception of what such an awesome God should expect. He gracefully accepts whatever I have to offer when I choose to offer Him my best.

Yet sometimes I still feel stumped. Prayer requests—I’ve got those. Confession—God’s Spirit lets me know what we need to discuss. Intercession—I’m aware of the needs of my friends and family, world, church, and community. Thanksgiving—This one is often mistaken for praise because it’s just so easy to slide from telling God how amazing He is into thanking Him for all He’s done. Thanksgiving is simply counting blessings and giving God due credit for each.

These elements of prayer (requests, confession, intercession, and thanksgiving) are essentially a matter of presenting the facts of each to God, anticipating His response when we have asked for one. Praise and worship, however, requires contemplation, creativity, even a touch of poetry. Praise and worship is a gift! God deserves to hear us express our deep love.

I wonder if David or Solomon or Asaph or any of the other psalmists ever struggled with this. Wouldn’t it be interesting to read some of their first psalm attempts? I wonder if they tried and tossed out some lines from first drafts, playing with the words until they sounded just right. I suspect they probably did!

We may not be able to read those first drafts, but God has given us a collection of their completed projects in the book of Psalms. When we struggle for words of our own, we can read these, pray along with them, and let them prompt words from us. Here’s an example, using the first four verses of Psalm 8 (The words in brackets are mine.):

“Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
in the heavens.
[People all over the world can see your glory, Lord, just by looking up into the sky!]

Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
[Your name alone is so powerful that even the most vulnerable find strength and courage when they praise You.]

When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
[I can’t even begin to imagine how big You are, Lord! You’ve held planets in Your hands.]

what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?”
[And yet You do care! You see each person You’ve created. You even know us intimately.]

DSC01029eWhen we pray this way, we’re agreeing with the psalmist’s words about God, offering extra praises as we think of them. We clarify the psalmist’s thoughts with our own words, cementing the understanding of our amazing God in our minds.

Since psalms are actually hymns or songs, we can also turn to the words in our hymnals for praise and worship words to agree with and expound upon, using the same technique:

“Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh what a foretaste of glory divine.” 
Blessed Assurance
[Jesus, Your Presence in my life gives me a taste of Heaven. I’m looking forward to living there with You someday!]

If you don’t own a hymnal of your own, you can Google the words to your favorite hymns and pray from your computer. Better yet, ask your pastor if there happen to be any retired hymnals hanging around in forgotten places at your church. As a pastor’s wife I know first-hand that most churches have some hiding somewhere where they aren’t doing anybody any good. Now that many churches have switched from traditional hymnals to overhead projectors there are even more! Your pastor may let you borrow one or have one to keep. (If your pastor lets you keep it, put a little extra in Sunday’s offering plate.)

[Dear churches that have no-longer-in-use hymnals lying around collecting dust in storage closets, please consider clearing out the clutter by giving them away to members of your congregation for personal worship and praise.]

I have one last praise and worship idea to share with you. This also comes from the Psalms. David wrote many of his psalms while sitting outside watching sheep. We may not have any sheep to watch, but perhaps we have children or pets we take outside from time to time. Or maybe we just like walking or running or sitting in the park and watching or flower hunting. If so, noticing the created world around us will fill our minds with words of worship and praise. If bowing your head and closing your eyes leaves you sitting in the dark with nothing to say, open your eyes and make note of all the wondrous sights around you that reveal the greatness of our amazing God.

Next thing you know, you’ll be writing psalms of your own. And God will be delighted to receive your worship and praise.

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Praying for Prior Occupants

Parachute PrayerDo you like my new Parachute Prayer header? New blog—new header for this regular feature. I’m excited about this!

In case you didn’t follow me here from Wildflower Thinking where I first launched Parachute Prayers, let me redefine them for you before I launch into today’s:

The parachute in a Parachute Prayer is like the parachute on a dandelion—the white fluffy thing that carries the seeds far and away, so the dandelion can procreate. Some people call these parachutes Dandelion Dust. And, though the process drives those who are obsessive/compulsive about their perfect lawns crazy, I think dandelion parachutes are a brilliant example of our Creator’s ingenuity. In my opinion, dandelions are wildflowers. They are not weeds.

So, when I see something that prompts me to pray—whether it’s for something general or specific, big, small, near or far—I whisper a prayer, or two or three, just as I’d gently blow the parachutes off a dandelion. Then I trust God to do with it what He will. That is the essence of Parachute Prayer.

Today’s Parachute Prayer prompt is for the prior occupants of our homes. Unless you happen to live in a brand new home, someone else inhabited your current space before you did. (And, even if you’re in a new home, someone, at some time, probably lived on your land, somehow.)

From time to time, you may come across evidence of your home’s prior occupant. For instance, my husband and I know that the man who lived in our home before we did enjoyed woodworking and considered himself to be something of a handy man. He left a beautiful bookcase that he’d built behind for us to enjoy. He also had a tendency to Mickey-Mouse things that needed to be repaired. Mickey-Mousing is a useful skill—until the something you Mickey-Moused has to be repaired again and someone else has to figure out what you did, so they can undo it, then Mickey-Mouse a new repair of their own. Mickey-Mousing reminds us of our homes prior occupant.

Does anybody know why we call it Mickey-Mousing? I’d really hate to think that we’re insulting the world’s favorite mouse.

Back to the Parachute Prayer: when you come across something that reminds you your current home had a previous occupant, pray for that person and his or her family. You may receive a piece of mail to return or find something left behind in the attic or on a high closet shelf. Maybe this person added a unique, yet permanent, personal touch. When you notice these, take a moment to pray.

You may not know the people who once lived in your home, but God does. He also knows their needs. A whispered prayer may make a difference in ways you’ll never know.

Father, I know the man who built my bookshelves has gone on to eternity, yet his family lives on—and they were so proud of him. Help them to follow his example, leaving legacies of their own. And, if any among them don’t know You, please open their eyes and their hearts to You. Thank You, Lord. Amen.

This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays. Visit there to read many devotional thoughts published this weekend.

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Book Review: Stranger Things

Books!Stranger Things by Erin Healy is a suspense-thriller with just a touch of the supernatural. And though there aren’t any wild car chases, it reads like a great action-adventure movie with new plot twists around every curve, everyone seeking the truth and justice, and no one trusting anyone. Healy says the story was born of her pastor’s question, “If a stranger gave his life for you, how would that change your life?” In this book as stranger does give his life for Serena, the main character, who quickly discovers this stranger has been giving of his life for years to rescue one young woman after another from a vast human trafficking ring. Now Serena has the opportunity, even the obligation, to help at risk to her own life—or maybe to save it.

Aside from the suspense side of the story, I loved the themes Healy worked in. Christopher, the stranger, originally sets out to rescue his sister, yet comes to realize that every victim is his sister and slowly draws the people around him into his mission to rescue them all—one at a time, if necessary. His philosophy becomes: if everyone would just look out for one other person, everyone would be okay.

There is also a theme of calling represented by the Safe House and the Station Fire house, thin places where people get a supernatural sense of purpose for their lives. They just have to learn to pay attention to discover what their experiences mean. Healy doesn’t mention God, but His direction is clear.

Finally, there’s the theme of beauty growing out of destruction represented by the Fire Followers a variety of California Poppy which only grows after a fire has come through. This theme gives us hope for all the victims in the book and for life’s real victims, too.

I was totally drawn into this book and am happy to recommend it. Thank you Thomas Nelson Publishers for sending a complimentary copy for this honest review.

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A Place to Nurture Faith and Watch It Grow

Wildflower Collage2It all started in Texas.

I only lived in that state for one year, but that gave me just enough time to discover wildflowers and to learn how to hunt them.

That’s right. I hunt them down and shoot them—with my camera, of course.

The first flowers I noticed were the bright purple tuber vervain, the showy primroses, the bluebonnets, and the Indian blankets. They were everywhere—and so pretty.

One morning, after Mike had left for work and the boys had left for school, I grabbed my little camera and drove to a nearby park where I’d seen some of these flowers blooming. I took all kinds of pictures.

They didn’t come out very good.

But I kept taking pictures. And my husband bought me a better camera. And my son taught me how to use the settings on that camera. And my pictures improved.

My new hobby was born.

It became more than a hobby, though. I started to notice that whenever I would stop to take a picture of one flower, I’d notice others nearby. When I moved to take their pictures, I’d see more—then more. I would think I was stopping to photograph one simple flower, then end up taking pictures of a lot!

I realized that our thoughts about God work like that, too. God is all around us all the time, trying to get our attention, trying to get us to think about Him and to talk with Him, too. Sometimes we’re busy and ignore Him. We carry on right past the thought and miss the message from God.

IMG_3268When something simple from everyday life, though, like a wildflower, catches our attention and draws us to think about God in some new way, His Spirit will bring other thoughts to mind. As we consider these, we’ll remember Bible verses, sermons, and other words we’ve heard or read which reinforce the thought. When we know God’s Word supports the new thought, we’ll realize we’ve learned a new truth. About God. About the way He wants us to live life.

That’s how Wildflower Thinking, my first blog was born.

But this is Wildflower Faith! This is the next step.

You see, thoughts are just thoughts. Thoughts about God and His truths are good. Very good! When we learn to apply them to our daily lives in a practical way, though, that’s faith. That’s growing faith!

Shortly after our family moved to Georgia for the first time, the move that followed our year in Texas, my husband planted a few showy primroses in our front yard for me. He thought I might enjoy raising some wildflowers of my own, and he was right!Primroses

Winter came, though, and the flowers died. They do that in winter, you know.

But then came spring and with it came not just a few little showy primroses, but enough to stretch across the whole front of our house. Those primroses where everywhere!

Wildflower Faith is like that. When hard times come, it may struggle or seem to disappear. If we don’t give up on it, though, it’ll come back. Stronger. And it will bring friends!

I invite you to join me here in this place where, together with God’s Spirit and His Word, we can nurture Wildflower Thoughts into Wildflower Faith

And watch it grow!