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Archive for June, 2012

We purchased a home in Texas where four pear trees stood like sentinels between the sidewalk and the road. It was September and the trees had pears on them. Mmm, I could taste the soon-to-be pear preserves. There was not an abundant harvest that year, but the trees were young and there would always be next year.

The following spring there were few buds and the sprouting leaves unfurled to reveal withered, yellow-brown ones instead of the expected abundance of spring green.

Being city folks we checked with a neighbor. He suspected root knot and said the only choice was to cut them down and dig up the trunks and roots. Sure enough, his diagnosis was correct. The roots were knotted and dying.

Growing trees in Texas is a challenge. It takes a hardy tree to withstand our heat and long dry spells and the belligerent soil was certainly no help. The ground turns to mush after a good rain, then hard as rock the day after. And, then it dries up, cracks open, leaving bottomless craters in the landscape.

With this wild fluctuation, roots can’t form the necessary network to support the weight of the tree. Like our pear trees, if roots aren’t healthy, the tree will die.

But isn’t that true with of all of us? When my foundation isn’t strong and healthy in the Lord, my roots aren’t able to support and sustain me during the storms of life. I will be like a tree, twisted and broken, possibly uprooted when winds begin to blow.

Many of us travel through life with root-knotted hearts caused by unresolved abuse, injury or grief.  Pain of fear and loneliness that has pressed down on us, layer upon layer for years. Pain of guilt sequestered in dark corners of our hearts. Pain of anger left to fester and seep poison into every area of our lives and relationships.

Unlike root-knotted trees, root-knotted hearts can be healed. The Lord created our hearts for eternity. He alone can cure the diseases we bury deep inside. But we must expose each one of them to the brilliant light and healing balm of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Word of God will be the water, the fertilizer, and the stimulator that encourages new roots to develop and grow. God stimulated roots that will anchor us in the flowing river of His love. Strong roots that will carry His healing power to transform our hearts.

I know well the misery of famished roots, stunted growth, slow death. For much of my life there were gnarled layers of anger and anguish lurking in the dark chambers of my heart. Scarred roots entombed in my subconscious.

Until the moment of my daughter’s death.

My heart exploded like a shaken-up can of soda pop. Those acid strings of heartache and turmoil I had stifled so many years ago now resurrected the ghosts of injuries past—abuse by an uncle in my childhood, lies, unrealistic expectations, verbal and emotional abuse from a spouse, divorce, four deaths in three years—all beyond my ability to deal with. The abuses and sorrows trampled over me and I had no strength to shove them back into the crevices where I’d kept them hidden for more than forty years.

They had to be dug-up, one infected root at a time. Just like I had to dig up those pear trees. The good news for me—Jesus will not throw me on the trash heap like I threw those trees, nor does He play the three strikes—you’re out game. No. He tells me to bring my anguish and afflictions to Him, with open hands, and leave them there. On the altar. In the care of my loving and righteous and just God who will deal with the pain, with the cause, and with me in a loving, righteous, and just manner. Then He will wash me and fill me with His joy. His hope.

I encourage you to ask the Spirit of God to bring to your mind those debilitating wounds tucked into the hidden hide-outs of your heart so that you can surrender every heartache and shame to the One who created you, loves you, and longs to heal you.

            “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper” (Psalm 1:1-3 KJ).

                       

 

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I’m a product of the sixties. The I am woman. Hear me roar generation. While watching my mom bow and scrape to my father, I determined. Nope. Not me. I will not be a doormat. I’ve been liberated.

During the following tumultuous years, I attempted to walk that treacherous tightrope between what I knew God said and what the world offered.

The teacher of our young married Sunday School class often repeated, “Yes, my husband is the head of our home. But, I’m the neck that turns the head.”

Being immature and illiterate in the Word of God, I thought what a brilliant woman and I used her words as permission to hone my aggressive and manipulative behavioral skills.

Until a divorce and second marriage was in trouble. Then I read 1 Peter 3:16:

“Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of the wives. . . Do not let your adornment be merely outward— arranging the hair wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel—rather let it be   the hidden person of the heart, with incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. . .”

In my mind, submission conjured those doormat images. And a gentle and quiet spirit spoke of a mousy little woman who brought nothing into a relationship.

I needed truth.

I pulled my Strong’s Concordance off the shelf and began to dissect 1 Peter 3:4.

According to Strong’s, “Quiet indicates tranquility arising from within, causing no disturbance to others.”

Tranquil would not have been the adjective of choice to describe me. A porcupine with quills aimed and ready to fire would.

Strong’s said gentle or meek is, “the opposite of self-assertiveness and self-interest.”

I didn’t qualify in that category either.

The book continued. “A gentle or meek disposition trusts in God’s goodness and control over every situation. This is a work of the Holy Spirit, not human will.”

I had missed the mark of understanding so many years ago, but knew if I didn’t find it, this second marriage would also be doomed. I prayed—Please God, let me understand what your Word says and what that teacher meant.

I understood the neck is a column of tissue, muscles and vessels that support and allow the head to pivot. It connects the head to the rest of the body. To be functional it must be perfectly aligned, strong, and able to bear and bolster the head.

The Word tells me He appointed my husband as the overseer of our family and that the man I married remains accountable to God—whether I agree or whether my husband accepts the job God gave him. Because, “His word is forever settled in heaven” (Psalm 119:89).

In order to make wise decisions for our family, my husband must be able to survey every situation with unrestricted vision. Now a pain in my neck inhibits my range of motion and my ability to see without restraint.

The Spirit spoke to my heart.

Had I placed limitations on my husband’s ability to see because of my stiff and prideful neck? Had I prevented him from following God’s instructions? Had I inserted my words in place of God’s Word?

My answer had to be yes. More times than I dare admit, I colored his judgment with my coarse words, distracted him by my ungodly actions, and diverted him with my perverted understanding.

But our Lord is a God of second chances and has forgiven me and given me a formidable assignment. I am accountable to be that stable support for my husband. If my spiritual life is ramshackle and out-of-plumb, my husband and children, will suffer the pain of costly repairs or perhaps even life-altering consequences.

My spirit needs to function in serene quietness and that’s not my nature. Only God’s Spirit can accomplish that in me as I allow Him to transform my deceptive heart.

How about you, precious wife? We have only to look at the family unit in America today to know that something is very wrong. Our God is a God of order. Look at the universe and contemplate its order. Could it be we’ve been deceived about our marriages? Our homes? Our mission?

God did not call us to be weak, mousy, doormats. Nor did He call us to be obnoxious, roaring lionesses, but women filled with His grace and strength.  Will you let God give you the ability to be that tranquil, gentle, and courageous neck that supports and turns the head of your family?

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The phone call instructed I must come quick. Daddy’s hours on earth were coming to an end. I pressed the accelerator to the floor and headed for the convalescent center. “Lord, please give me a word, a sign, something to know my dad belongs to You and we’ll be together again in heaven.”

Daddy came to live with us after Mama died, bringing his impatience and ill temper as roommates. I was desperate for assurance that he was heaven bound.

Daddy had long since quit going to church. I never saw him open his Bible or pray, other than grace over a meal. Yet, “Amazing Grace” had been his life’s song. He taught the lyrics to his first grandchild. And to Daddy’s delight this toddler ran up and down in his crib at dawn each morning  singing “’mazing grace, sweet da sound, ‘mazing grace, sweet da sound.”

A few days before his death I found the courage to ask, “Daddy, are you afraid to die?”

He retorted with his usual impatience. “Of course not.”

I pressed the issue. “Daddy, when God calls a believer home, He sends His angels to bring them to the other side.”

“Well, I’m just standin’ here waitin’ and a wavin’,” he said,  then refused to listen to another word on the subject.

Two days later that dreaded call came and I sped toward the nursing facility.

“Not yet, Lord please—not yet.”

I crept into his room and sat rigid and motionless in that universal plastic covered hospital chair. My eyes shifted from his frail form to those troublesome monitors beeping irreverent sounds.

Daddy lapsed into unconsciousness before I arrived so there were no goodbyes. My mind swirled from loneliness to fear as I sat helpless—watching him slip from this life—nothing to do but wait in that place where time becomes meaningless and death is a breath away.

A slight rustling brought me back to reality. Daddy rolled from his side to his back. His arm shot from beneath the covers.  With eyes still closed, an ear-to-ear grin enveloped his face. He waved and waved—then he was gone.

Numbness shrouded my heart and mind.  Nurses and medical personnel rushed in and out of the room, asking questions, giving instructions.  It was over. And it took every ounce of strength to finally walk out of that room, to my car, and drive out of the parking lot. God had given me no answer. Dark waves of anguish and grief swelled then crashed over my conflicted soul.

A traffic light ahead changed to red and I slammed on brakes with Daddy’s words echoing in my ears, “I’m just standin’ here, waitin’ and a wavin’.”

God had answered my prayerI hadn’t been listening! Sweet peace and joy flooded my soul. Tears of relief and release washed away the anguish and God’s understanding comforted my grieving heart. His angels came. At their appointed time. Daddy’s waitin’ over, they carried him smilin’ and wavin’ into the presence of  his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

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I decided to grow tomatoes this summer. So I visited the nursery, picked out six different varieties of tomatoes, and took them home to plant in their assigned pots. I gave them a drink of water, and dreamed of eating the fruit of my labor in fifty to sixty days.

At the first light of dawn each day I gave them another drink and inspected the amazing new growth that appeared overnight.

Until the morning the first worm appeared.

I plucked the yucky creature from the plant, squashed it, and mourned over the sculpted bite marks the varmint chiseled in the leaf.

My routine continued ‘til tiny green lumps replaced the yellow blossoms. Now the wait for my soon-to-be yummy tomatoes. I licked my lips, anticipating the taste of those home-grown delights.

Sunny days transformed the spheres from small to large and pale green. They hung heavy on their stalks and began to change color as they ripened. I counted the days and envisioned salads garnished with tomato wedges or sliced tomatoes sprinkled with fresh basil and goat cheese. My taste buds danced a jig of anticipation.

Then, the day before yesterday, Memorial Day, with a cup-of-coffee in hand, I walked into the garden just as the sun cleared the tree tops to give my treasures another drink and see to if this was the day.

I gasped. Horrified.

One enormous, lovely tomato hung sideways on its stem, half of it gaped open, the other half dripped its juice on the leaf below where hungry ants gobbled their breakfast. The villain—a mockingbird—sat in the tree above my head screeching at me for interrupting its breakfast, eyeing the labor of my days—intent on stealing what was mine.

I’d show him.

I plucked the maimed fruit and tossed it far away from the pots. That bird swooped in like it was the last particle of food on the planet. Through the day I peered from every window to be sure he contained himself to the cast-away fruit. But yesterday morning, he returned  before the sun rose and pecked at three more of my soon-to-be-delicious-darlings. This was war.

I ran—yes, ran—to the closet where the Christmas ornaments waited for next season, grabbed a box of shiny red balls, dug a roll of wire out of the drawer, and cut pieces to thread each scarlet sphere. With arms full of Christmas cheer, I made haste back to the garden and tied them onto the tomato cages, hoping to fool the bird with fake red circular objects.

And while I was gone, that bird pecked holes in the top of yet another ripening tomato.

These tomatoes would never make it to a salad. But the aroma of fried green tomatoes wafted through my senses. Ah ha! Even though the fruit was mangled, I could salvage the good portions and repurpose them into a delectable delight.

Just like my plan changed those damaged tomatoes into a scrumptious meal, God uses broken, battered, blemished people to accomplish His magnificent plan. He created us in His image and we are His treasures. Though we all bear the bruises of sin, He loves us and knows the plan He purposed for our lives.

But like that rascal mockingbird bent on gobbling up my tomatoes, Satan eyes us, lurking, waiting to subvert God’s plan and destroy the object of our Lord’s affection.

Jesus stands ready to answer our cries for help. He will rescue us, clean us up, and set us back on solid ground. We are the object of God’s love and He will transform us into the image of His Son. God’s love is wide and deep. No attack or scar of sin is beyond His mercy and grace to forgive and heal.

My Mama used to say, “You can’t stop the birds from flying over your head, but you can sure keep them from making a nest there.” My tomatoes had no defense in a battle against the birds—but we have a defense against Satan by placing our faith and trust in The Lord Jesus Christ.

It’s your choice. Run to Jesus when Satan lobs those flaming arrows or you can allow this enemy to build a nest in your mind, deceive your heart, and destroy your eternal soul.

I’m on my way to the garden again this morning to see if those red Christmas balls solved my bird problem. But first, I must spend time with my Lord for an attitude adjustment, in the event more fried green tomatoes are on the menu.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope” (NAS Jeremiah 29:11).  

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