“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” -2 Corinthians 4:18
Photographing flowers on a windy day can be a challenge. I’ll get the shot set up just right, then a breeze will blow the bloom to another place. There have been times when I’ve had to hold the flower in place in order to take its picture – camera in one hand, flower in the other, fingers not in the frame.
I can’t see the wind, but I notice it when I’m trying to take flower pictures or keep my hair in place. If I’m not on the way to an event, I love it when the wind plays with my hair – especially if I’m walking on the beach. Sand, sun, a breeze – the perfect combination to engulf me in God’s Creation and remind me He Is here.
The wind is an often used analogy for God’s Spirit for a reason. We can’t see it, but we know it’s there just as we know God is with us even though we can’t see Him. So let’s turn this word picture into a Parachute Prayer.
Whenever we notice the wind, let’s thank God for His Presence. Let’s remember that He Is with us and have a conversation with Him – just as we would have a conversation with a friend. God is our Friend! He Is with us because He loves us; He wants us to take notice of Him. Let’s let His gift of breezes, warm or cold, remind us to praise, thank, worship, and chat with Him.
Lord, we thank You for the reminder of Your Presence. Thank You for being with us always. Send Your Spirit to help us remember, to help us focus on the Eternal we can’t see. When winds disturb the flowers and mess up our hair, let us see it as a call to talk to You. Amen.
To learn more about Parachute Prayer and its blessings, order your copy of my book here.
“For there is hope for a tree, If it is cut down, that it will sprout again, And that its tender shoots will not cease. Though its root may grow old in the earth, And its stump may die in the ground, Yet at the scent of water it will bud And bring forth branches like a plant.” -Job 14:7-9, NKJV
About a year and a half ago, my husband planted a tree in our backyard near our house. We were hoping it would grow up to provide a little shade in that spot. Shade’s a valuable commodity in Texas on a hot, summer day.
A few months after we planted it, though, a child knocked it down. Its little trunk snapped close to the ground. We thought our tree was done for.
But then it grew back!
And then my husband accidentally ran over it with the lawn mower.
And then it grew back!
Then we had some construction done in our backyard, and the workermen dragged something heavy over the little tree and broke it again.
Guess what? It grew back.
When my husband accidentally ran over it with the lawn mower again, though, he decided that spot must be a bad one for a tree. He pulled up what was left of it, thinking that was the end of that.
But the little tree is back!
Perhaps we should give it a name. I think it’s here to stay. I’m going to call it Phoenix.
I asked God to give me the resilience of this little tree. But then I realized that’s a scary prayer! In order to develop resilience, we have to be cut down, broken, knocked over, pulled up by the roots. We have to have a reason to grow deep roots and fight for our lives. I’d rather read a book.
Yet I know that God is building resilience in me. He has been doing so all of my life. He does this for you, too! And not by accidentally knocking us over or cutting us off at the ground. He is quite intentional about allowing all-consuming challenges to come our way. I know this is not for our harm, though, but for our good and His glory.
If life knocks us down and we stay down, that doesn’t do anyone any good. But if we call on God for His strength, our roots in Him grow deep, making us more resilient. Eventually we overcome harsh circumstances and grow firmly into what God intended for us to be. People see and know that God brought us through and grew us strong. They may even seek shade from the harsh sun under our branches where we can tell them about the God Who loves them, died for them, and wants to grow them up strong, too.
I don’t like praying scary prayers. When I catch myself praying them, I sometimes stop and say, “What am I praying?!” I’m tempted to take the prayer back. The older I get, the stronger this temptation can be because prayer becomes more and more scary. I’m no longer praying naive. Yet I must keep praying. It’s what connects me to God. It’s how I surrender myself to His Will. It’s how my life roots grow deep, so my branches grow stronger still.
Sometimes I don’t much like the immediate results of scary prayers. But I love what God does with them when He is through! For that, for Him, I choose to trust as I pray.
Father, please give us the courage to pray scary prayers, so we can grow up in You. Remind us to focus on the work You are doing in us instead of on distressing or uncomfortable circumstances. You are worthy of our trust. You are doing something amazing. We believe in You. Amen.
Warning: This post contains spoilers of what I believe to be the best movie of this decade. If you haven’t seen The Greatest Showman, go watch it now. Then you can come back and read this post.
I watched this movie musical for the second time last night and enjoyed every moment again. It’s not Christian. It has its problems, though few. But it’s a powerful film with a beautiful message, a new favorite for me!
After watching the movie, though, I made the mistake of Googling “P.T. Barnum” to learn how much of the movie was real. (My mind just has to know these things!) I am feeling terribly disillusioned now. Though loosely based on the life of P.T. Barnum, the movie is historical fiction. And I like the fiction version better!
Yes. P.T. Barnum married Charity, but they had four daughters, not two. He did visit Queen Victoria. There was a fire. Phillip and Anne did not exist. (They did not exist!) Barnum did promote Jenny Lind for a time, but they parted ways not because he refused to have an affair with her, but either (sources disagree) because she wanted to give more money to charity and he wanted to keep their profits or because she was tired of Barnum’s relentless marketing. (The movie did at least allude to her interest in charity when it had the two meet, but that’s as noble as it let poor Jenny be.)
The saddest revelation to me was the belief that P.T. Barnum used his last words to ask about ticket sales for the day. Whether or not this is true, no one knows. But the fact that people believe it says something about his character. The real P.T. Barnum probably didn’t learn the beautiful lesson that his movie counterpart learned.
That kind of breaks my heart.
Then again, if the quote attributed to him at the end of the movie is true, he was motivated to make people happy as much as he was motivated by money, so there’s that. History has blurred the truth about P.T. Barnum, but God knew his heart. (And no matter what anyone else thinks of us, God knows all of our hearts. And He loves us anyway! In the movie, Charity told her husband that “You don’t need everyone to love you, Phin . . . just a few good people.” I would take that statement further: all we really need is the love of God – and we all have His love! Please pardon the rabbit trail. I just had to share that thought.)
Wouldn’t it be great if we could all rewrite our own stories in order to go down in history as people who learned all the right lessons and accomplished all the most important things of all the things we can possibly choose from? We can’t do that, of course. But thanks to Jesus Christ, we can entrust our lives to the Author and Finisher of our Faith. He is able to redeem all things – to reconcile all things to Himself! Every sin. Every misstep. Every wrong motivation. Every wrong choice. Every wound. Every broken heart. All we have to do is accept Jesus’ invitation to be our Savior and ask Him to help us live our lives according to His plan.
Best of all, once we do that, turn our lives over to Him, God’s work of redemption in our lives, this fixing of all broken things and making what’s wrong turn right, isn’t historical fiction. He works all things together for good. He makes all things new. He is writing the greatest story ever told ever – and He invites us all to take part. His story is real. And so is what He works in and through us for the glory of His name, for the good of all humankind.
The writers of The Greatest Showman did a beautiful job of polishing up P.T. Barnum’s life and presenting their own message to viewers through it. But God is doing a very real job of recreating our lives to present His message of love and redemption to the world.
That Truth boggles my mind.
Father, thank You. I try to live right, but I make mistakes. What a comfort to know that You’re still writing – the world’s story, my story. In the end, all Creation will be a master work authored and finished by You. Thank You for writing me in! Please draw many others in, too. I love You, Lord. Amen.
“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” -Genesis 2:13
Just like He did for Adam, God has intentionally placed each of His children—that is, each and every person He created—where they are, not only in location but also in time. And just like He did for Adam, God created each of us with purpose. He gives us meaningful work—a reason to live. He didn’t just create us to exist until our time to die.
But sometimes we struggle to understand what our purpose is. Genesis 2:13 gives us a hint. According to this verse, God put Adam in a specific place to do a specific thing. According to Acts 17:26, God placed each of us in a specific place. That place is where our search for purpose must begin.
In other words, the key to discovering God’s intention for our lives may be as simple as asking,
“Where has God put me?”
“What or whom has He given me the responsibility to tend, to take care of?”
“How can my life help something or someone around me to produce something good?”
The Hebrew word shamar, interpreted in Genesis 2:13 as take care of, literally means to guard and preserve. What has God given you to guard and preserve or to improve or to bring out its best? When we can answer that question here, where God has put us, we’ll begin to enjoy purpose-filled, productive lives that will continue to flourish anywhere He leads.
Father, as we stop and take in our surroundings today, help us to see what we can do. You put us here with purpose. Show us what we can do. And then help us to do it for You! In Jesus, we pray. Amen.
“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” –Genesis 3:15
When I read Genesis 3 last week, I had kind of a random thought about the story of the snake tempting Eve. The snake talked Eve into tasting the forbidden fruit. Eve shared it with Adam. Then, once caught, Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the snake. Everybody turned on everybody. The world’s first sin not only separated man from God, it destroyed the peace that had existed between people and animals up to that point. A peace that we’ll enjoy again someday thanks to Jesus Christ:
“The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest” –Isaiah 11:8.
(You can read all of Isaiah 11 to learn more of what this prophet said will come because of Christ.)
Scholars have different opinions about that crafty reptile in Genesis 3. Some say he was Satan in disguise. Some think maybe animals could talk before the Fall and that Satan recruited the snake to help him out. Others think Satan possessed the snake. I don’t know which is true, but Eve didn’t seem surprised to find herself having a conversation with a snake. If my dog ever talks to me, I won’t remain so calm.
The way I see it, though, in Genesis 3:15, God says He’s going to put enmity between the snake and the woman, between its offspring and hers. Satan was already her enemy, already cursed. So I’m thinking God was actually referring to the snake. If so, perhaps the serpent is supposed to be an on-going, physical reminder to us of spiritual dangers we cannot see. Perhaps, somehow, snakes are meant to remind us that Satan is lurking where we least expect to find him. We need to be vigilant to avoid temptation.
As I’m writing this, I realize there are groups of reptile-loving people who work really hard to convince the general population, children in particular, that snakes don’t need to be feared so long as we respect them. I have pictures of all three of my boys in classroom or VBS (Vacation Bible School) settings where someone from the local zoo came to visit and speak, then had each child present pose for a picture with a snake around his neck. Two out of three of my kids were really reluctant to participate. And my middle son’s picture is priceless. His mouth is frozen in a forced smile with gritted teeth; his eyes say, “I’m smiling because you [zoo photographer] said I have to. Get this thing off my shoulders before I die!”
There was definitely some enmity there in spite of the reassuring zoo personnel.
To be clear: I don’t think there is anything inherently evil about snakes. And I have no problem with programs that teach children more about them. These can be fun, and, in a way, whether the snake professionals see it this way or not, these programs look toward that future day of peace with hope. They teach people that there are ways to safely handle some kinds of snakes, creatures our God created, but they always urge caution (I hope) and stress that some of these reptiles are extremely dangerous. Given the opportunity, they will bite. There’s no way to really make friends with a snake.
What a perfect analogy!
Satan wants us to believe he’s safe, so we’ll let down our guard and give in to temptation. But given the opportunity, he’ll always bite. Let’s not try to make peace with temptation. It’s better to heed God’s warning, keep our distance, and stay safe.
Father, make us aware of Satan’s schemes. Help us to recognize temptation for the danger that it is. Give us the courage and determination to step away. We don’t want to make friends with anything that will harm our relationship with You. Amen.
I got to flip The Book yesterday! That means I finished reading Revelation and got to start again in Genesis. I love the book of Genesis. Personally, I think it’s one of the most dramatic books in the whole Bible, full of amazing stories combined with great truths about our loving, Creator God, Who makes His intention to have a relationship with us, in spite of us, clear.
This time through, I’m reading the NIV Life Journey Bible with insights from Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. The NIV is the NIV regardless of whose thoughts we’re reading alongside the Bible words, but I enjoy reading those thoughts from authors I respect. If you haven’t heard of them, Cloud and Townsend are renowned Christian psychologists, authors, and radio personalities. Boundaries is their most popular work; it’s a book I recommend.
But that’s enough about them. Back to Genesis! When I read through the Bible, I keep a journal of new or revisited insights, verses I feel called to pray about or for others, and questions I want to think about more. Some of these find their way onto this blog, but many don’t. I want to share so many ideas with you but become overwhelmed at the idea of transforming them all into clearly-articulated blog posts.
Maybe I don’t have to take them so seriously, though! Maybe I don’t have to spell every thought out so completely. Maybe it’s enough to take what I’ve been thinking about and give you something to think about! Then maybe, you can tell me what you think of it, so together we can learn. I’m willing to give it a try.
This morning, I read Genesis 2. (I also read Genesis 1, but nothing jumped out at me this time through. That’s okay. God directs our thoughts as we read, leading us to think about what we most need to as we read.) As I read Genesis 2, an outline of sorts began to form about God’s work in our lives. Here is what I saw:
1. “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dustof the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” –Genesis 2:7
God gives us life. He breathes it right into us!
2. “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden . . .” –Genesis 2:15a
God places us where He wants us to be. He’d created this whole, big earth but chose to place Adam in Eden. We could probably even go so far as to say, God designed Eden especially for Adam (and Eve, but she isn’t in the picture just yet).
God gives us meaningful work to do. Note: This was before the Fall. Work gives people purpose; it allows us to participate in God’s Kingdom. Having to work wasn’t the curse that resulted from the Fall. The curse was that work became a drudgery, goals harder to reach, toil more painful after the Fall.
4. “And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.’” –Genesis 2:16-17
God tells us what He expects of us. He told Adam directly. He tells us through the Bible, His Word.
5. “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’” –Genesis 2:18
God gives us everything we need. In fact, He anticipates our needs and provides at just the right time. Verse 18 of this chapter is just one example. The whole chapter describes all that God provided for His new children in the brand new world.
Father, we thank You for thinking everything out so carefully on our behalf. Please forgive us for going our own way, failing You and Your creation. Please help us to live according to Your plan, for the good of Your Kingdom and the glory of Your name. Amen.
The next time you see a work of art—a painting, a sculpture, or some such masterpiece—pause to consider the work the artist put into it. Each brushstroke, each cut into stone, each smooth curve—the artist puts serious thought into every detail of a creation. (“Just as a writer deliberates over every word,” she realized as she rewrote that last sentence four times.)
When I pause to reflect on the artist at work, my thoughts naturally turn to my Creator and His work and all we take for granted. He plans. He designs. He configures. He molds. Sunsets. Flowers. Creatures that fly and crawl and run and climb. People—every one as unique as the legendary snowflake.
Today’s Parachute Prayer is to let the works of art you see draw you from appreciation of the piece to thoughts about its creator to worship of Your Creator, the greatest artist of all.
Father, Your works are wonderful. We know that full well.* Thank You for giving us all things to enjoy* and for using this enjoyment to draw us closer to You. We love You, Lord! Amen.
“O God, creator of all humankind, I bring to you the cares and concerns of all your creatures. Look now to those who cry for help from every corner of the earth, for you alone are able to satisfy our deepest desires. Amen.” –from A Guide to Prayer for All God’s People by Reuben P. Job and Norman Shawchuck
My first thought when I read this prayer was, “Am I allowed to pray for such a thing?! That’s huge!”
Think about it: the cares and concerns of ALL God’s creatures—every person, every giraffe, every amoeba, every big and little, created thing! This has to be the biggest of all blanket prayers ever prayed.
But God knows the cares and concerns of every person, every giraffe, every amoeba—if amoebas are able to have cares and concerns. He even knows the cares and concerns of His creatures we haven’t discovered yet! And God, alone, is able to satisfy.
So when I pray that God will comfort, touch, encourage, and heal and family member with cancer, I pray He’ll do the same for all people who are suffering from the ravages of that disease and its treatment.
When I ask Him to protect my adult child who is traveling, I pray for all travelers everywhere.
When I pray for the homeless man holding a sign at the end of the freeway exit ramp, asking for work, food, or money, I pray for others like him, for anyone who is unemployed, hungry, or otherwise in need.
And when I ask God to help me follow Him carefully, discovering His purpose for my life each day, I ask Him to do this for my siblings in faith, too.
When we see a specific need, we can stop and pray for it right away. (In fact, we don’t even have to stop. We can pray as we go about our business.) Then we can follow that targeted prayer with general petition, knowing that God knows all the needs of all His creatures. He alone is able to provide.
Lord, thank You for hearing our prayers, big and small. Call us to pray often, to be in constant communication with You. We love You, and we know You love us, too. In confidence we bring our cares and concerns, along with the cares and concerns of all your creatures before You. Please satisfy those deep desires as only You can. Amen.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” –Ephesians 2:8-9, NIV
My father-in-law sent me roses for Mother’s Day this year. He knows that without me, he’d have no grandkids. And that man loves those boys!
The blooms on the roses lasted about a week. As they started to droop, I removed them from the vase, a few at a time, leaving the strongest roses for last. As I was getting ready to toss the final three roses, however, I noticed that their stems had developed new growth! Curious to see what they would do, I decided to leave them alone. By the next day, though, the new growth had expanded considerably. I wondered what would happen if we planted them in the yard.
My youngest son was home from college and my oldest and his wife were visiting at the time. They got excited about the experiment, too. (Once a homeschool family—always a homeschool family, I suppose.) I clipped the dead blooms from the stems. Seth planted them in the yard. Justin arranged shelters of landscaping pine needles to protect them from the heat. My husband used the experiment as a sermon illustration on hope.
Yes. We were hoping new roses would grow. But we were skeptical. And the heat, up to 90 degrees that week, was discouraging. We’d moved the plants from a bowl of water in an air-conditioned house to dry ground under a hot sun.
And, technically, since they’d been removed from their original bush, weren’t they already dead?
A week later, two of three were gone. But one continues to grow! It’s even sprouted a new branchlet! My father-in-law may have sent me a rose bush for Mother’s Day. Thank you, Dad! This has been fun.
Now you have to understand, I do not have a talent for making things grow. My grandfather had the greenest thumb I’ve ever seen, but so far, as far as I know, none of his descendants have inherited his gift. I let other people grow flowers, then I take pictures of them and console myself with the joy of preserving their beauty that way.
I didn’t make my roses grow either. I received the roses as a gift. I watched them sprout. I told my son, and he planted them. I watched, watered and pruned. Someday, hopefully, I’ll have a new picture of a home-grown flower to show.
This is how our spiritual lives grow!
We start out dead in our sins and cut off from God.
We open the door to receive God’s gift of salvation through Christ.
Our spirits take root in the soil of God’s love and begin to grow.
God’s Spirit nurtures them, allowing us to help through Spiritual disciplines such as Bible reading, prayer, worship, and fellowship.
Our lives begin to bear fruit, showing others what God can do which builds His Kingdom and glorifies His name!
If my family and I are having so much fun watching a little rose clipping grow, imagine the joy of our Savior as we grow in Him each day. His Spirit does all the work, but let’s nurture it as He directs and watch blooms develop, open, and show.
Thank You, Lord, for bringing life from death, for salvation from sin and the opportunity to glorify and praise Your name. Keep nurturing these little plants as we stay firmly rooted in You. May our lives display Your work and bring honor to Your name. We love You, Lord! Amen.
I love finding surprise flowers growing in my yard. I have no idea where these came from, but I’m treasuring the gift.
I’m getting impatient, though! I’ve been waiting three days for them to fully open up, to show their glory in the bright sunlight. Earlier this year, two different bunches of daffodils started to open just before the weather changed. One bloomed beautifully just in time to be destroyed by a sudden downpour. The other was buried in snow before it ever had a chance to show its splendor. I’m hoping the weather doesn’t turn ugly on these. Even now, I can see their potential. These are going to be gorgeous!
These flower thoughts are leading me to think of people I know today. God inspired several authors in the Bible to compare people’s lives to flowers: Isaiah, Job, David, Solomon, James, and Peter–to name a few. Even Jesus used the analogy. I’m thinking of Peter’s (which quotes one of Isaiah’s) today:
“For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, ‘All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.'” –1 Peter 1:23-24
In light of eternity, our lives are as brief and as fragile as the flowers in my yard. Some people live very short lives. It seems they move on into eternity before their lives bloom fully. Others live a long time but refuse to bloom at all. I have several like this in my yard right now. The green part of the plant came up, but the flowers have yet to show. For whatever reason, they probably won’t this year. That is just as tragic as being squashed before the bloom. And then, of course, there are the ones whose flowers reach their full potential, so we can enjoy them for a little while before they die.
People don’t get to choose the length of their life. They don’t really get to choose what their flower looks like either; God gives people their appearance, personality traits, abilities, interests, and such, then they work with what they have. But people do get to choose whether or not they will reach for the sun (be saved through Christ), drink in the rain (listen to God’s Spirit by reading God Word, praying continually, and worshiping with God’s people), and do all they can to become what God created them to be (practice spiritual disciplines, so they can know God and live in tune with His will).
All people alive on earth right now are somewhere in the process of that choice! And God, their Creator, is waiting in anticipation, along with all the hosts of Heaven, I’m sure, to see each person bloom!
Just stop for a moment and try to imagine that. I’ll wait. Close your eyes and picture it right now: God watching in earnest anticipation to see you reach your potential in Him.
I’m thankful that God is patient. He “wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). “He is patient . . . not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
After we are born again, God wants us to continue to grow and mature. He wants us to grow in grace, in righteousness, in knowledge, in wisdom, in unity, in love, in Christ! All of these add to the beauty of our bloom, but salvation, as Peter explains in 1 Peter 1:23-24 is the most important thing. Our lives are short. If we bloom gloriously on earth without Christ as our Savior, then it’s all for nothing when we die. But if we’re born again, of imperishable seed (Jesus Christ), then we’ll share God’s glory forever whether or not our petals have a chance to bloom in this world.
The ideal progression:
We’re born again in Christ and start to grow in Him now.
We reach for the sun, drink in the rain, and do all we can to become whatever God has created us to be while we’re on earth.
God takes us to Heaven where we share in His glory by His grace throughout eternity.
Let’s pray for all people as God waits patiently. He won’t wait forever. Let’s pray for God’s flowers to bloom!
Father, remind us to pray regularly for all the people we know. Some are striving to bloom on earth without Your Son. Thank You for Your patience with them. Please make Yourself known and open their hearts to Your truth. Others know You and are growing. Help these to reach their potential. Help their lives to bloom brightly and glorify Your name. Still others feel they have done all they can and are waiting to go home. As they linger, according to Your timing, will, and perfect plan, draw them ever closer to You. As long as we’re breathing, that’s the ultimate reason why. We long to know You better as we wait to meet You face to face in eternity someday. In Jesus’ name, amen.