We Fall Once More

Fall Once More

Yesterday marked the first day of fall. We had a humble, but much anticipated, celebration in our home all day which we lovingly termed our Fallibration. Nothing fancy, just simple fun. A fall sign made from repurposed brown packaging paper from an Amazon order, dollar store cups, plates, and a table cloth, and plenty of baking and books for all.

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Each year the turn of seasons is a good place to pause, praise, and perceive what the Savior is teaching us in our current season. Also, to identify what type of season we are in. It is easy for us, particularly women I believe, to assess our entire season of life on the last week alone. I know I do. My husband can ask me how I, we, our family is doing, and I will base my answer on the afternoon and not the week or season in its entirety.

We are back in the throws of toddlerhood and homeschooling as September is turning a brilliant red and bursting into October. I have failed in grace and fallen so many times in need of grace. Can you relate? In fact, this week, while apologizing to my oldest son, my daughter quipped with a knowing grin, We have to forgive you everyday mommy. It’s true, we fall once more and need to be forgiven daily. Maybe not by our children–as my daughter was partially teasing, or maybe we so– but certainly by our Heavenly Father. The maker and sustainer of our physical seasons and our life’s seasons knows our weaknesses and limitations. He remembers out of the dust we were formed. We fall once more and then turn and fall into the forgiving grace-filled arms of the Savior.

We repent and seek change in ourselves, our reactions, and reconciliation with God and man daily. God knows we will fall under self-sustained burdens. That is why we need to be in fellowship and friendship, with Him, with a local Body of Believers, and with the Church Universal. He assures us in His word:

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up.  (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)

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.… (Matthew 11:28-29)

As we fall once more, may we keep these and similar verses in mind so that we may fall forward in grace and sanctification; sustaining ourselves with God’s Word, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the fellowship of believers.

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Lessons Gleaned from the Sea

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They stoop low at the ocean’s edge inspecting a Florida horse conch. The sun has just begun to peak out from beneath the clouds and warm the day.

I snap their picture and think, this is what learning looks like from here.

Bent low, searching, seeking the knowledge and adventure that await in a moment of exploration. God’s sea creatures each tell a story, and the seemingly peaceful shore mocks the real truth that life in the sea is fierce and tumultuous even as the soothing, rhythmic sounds of the ocean lull me into a peaceful state.

There is always this tension just beneath the surface of life.

There is no escaping the forces of good and evil when we live on this side of eternity.

There is a constant need to bend low and search out the still, small voice of God that can also boom like approaching thunder.

Near the supposed age of Christ during his final year in earthly ministry, I feel what most people feel as they steadily grow older: wisdom comes with age and it is harder not to be blinded by the cares of this world nor the skepticism reality brings with each passing year. I am learning that I can no more hold on to the present than it becomes the past. I must enjoy each moment for what it is, for it only comes once and then a memory.

Is it any wonder that God asks us to approach Him with the faith of a child? The child that is oblivious to the cares and demands of life. The child that sees not distractions, but opportunities to explore and learn. The child that sees now even as she anticipates the future. The older they grow the faster they desire to grow up and shed the contentment of their age at present.

Life, like the tide, is in a constant state of give and take, come and go. With the passing of each year, birthday after birthday with our children and friends, we join with the throngs who utter, “Where did the time go?”.  But hidden with the jewels of the sea, there are lessons to be learned, discoveries to be made that utter even of the passing of time. Anne Morrow Lindbergh captures a few of these lessons in her book, Gift from the Sea:

One learns to accept the fact that no permanent return is possible to an old form of relationship; and, more deeply still, that there is no holding of a relationship to a single form. This is not tragedy but part of the ever-recurrent miracle of life and growth. All living relationships are in process of change, of expansion, and must perpetually be building themselves new forms.

~Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea

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The jewels of the sea grow larger with age–their age brings constant rebuilding of their present forms. So do we, don’t you agree? We shouldn’t look the same at fifty as we did at five, nor should we come to the same hobbies void of new knowledge and understanding.

I have always loved the shore. The splash of waves and the picking up of shells. However, now I enjoy it with specificity. That is, I see it more like God sees it. Crying forth its message of creation, fall, redemption, life, death, catastrophe, and rebuilding. I can name the shells I once only admired. Isn’t that grand, that learning from here continues, but looks different than nearly three decades ago?

I can only imagine the discoveries I will make and the view-point I will take in one, two, or perhaps three decades time. Then, maybe I will stoop with my grandchildren and ponder, So this is what learning looks like from here.

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Your Kids Slow You Down… and That’s a Good Thing

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We all know kids take time, but do you ever feel as if your kids are slowing you down? Maybe you long to shop alone without the help of little hands? Or perhaps you wrap all of your Christmas presents at bed time because you know you can do it faster without the assistance? You are not alone! Please join me over at iBelieve to see why it is a good thing that your kids are slowing you down and how this points to the Father. Read this slowly here.

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Of Mountain Grandeur Achieved with the Feet and in Faith

Mountain Grandeur

I grew up in a small Baptist church where hymn books were opened every Sunday morning and evening. When we were first dating, my husband often joked with me saying I knew every hymn by heart. Well, I may know the first and fourth stanzas, but the second and third ones are a little more of a reach.

Last year we went home to Alabama and attended my sister’s church. During the singing of one particular hymn, the second verse caught me by most pleasant surprise. The second verse to How Great Thou Art is probably one of the most skipped verses in all my hymn-singing upbringing.

When through the woods and forest glades I wander

And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees,

When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur,

And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee:

How great thou art! How great thou art!

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee:

How great thou art! How great thou art!

~How Great Thou Art, by Carl C. Boberg adapted by Stuart K. Hine

My soul feels most at peace when I am in awe of God’s creation.

I have sat at the base of a waterfall and heard the mighty rushing waters never ceasing. I’ve hiked in some of the most beautiful rock formations in America. I have paddled a kayak in the waters of the gulf and sat in observation of countless sunsets. In each of these settings the thoughts that are provoked are ones of worship of the Lord.

Ron Havasu Falls

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Ukraine Pictures (64)

The last pictured mountain is part of the Carpathian Mountain Range in Ukraine; the same mountains that the writer Carl C. Boberg crossed while penning this famous hymn. Ron and I traveled there in 2006.

Today, as I think on this song and contemplate its meaning, I am reminded that not every day is a beautiful hike through the woods, a moment at the base of a waterfall, or a well worn, familiar path. Additionally, not ever journey is one we take with our feet; often our most perilous and life changing journeys are of the heart. 

In all surroundings, and all life’s seasons of wonder, wandering, and waiting, we have choices to make. On what will we focus? Will we choose contentment? Will we choose to approach the Father with gratitude, or grumbling? Will we look at things as they are and see the good, or will we look at situations as we want them to be and see only what is missing?

When considering my hiking memories, by far the fondest memories for me are those in which my inner worship matched the outer grandeur. I revel in the ones in which my thoughts were pure, prayer was on my spirit’s lips, my worship was vibrant, I was enjoying my companions or my solitude, and my thoughts were set on things above.

Certainly, my more favorable memories were when I was acting in the will of God. Faithfully trusting in His timing and abiding in His will. This is true on scaling the mountaintops, in the day in and day out of life’s demands, and  days spent in anticipation of dreams yet unrealized.

The difference in our singing lies with the heart and mind with which we approach the song. And so too how we live our lives: the difference lies with the heart and mind with which we approach all situations.

For myself, in the words of Robert Frost, I have “miles to go before I sleep.” A right attitude concerning patience in the face of uncertainty and long journeys of the heart presents a constant battle for me.

Today, if the battle for you seems like an insurmountable mountain vista, remember, every moutain has a peak and “that which is above knows that which is below, but that which is below does not know that which is above.” Keep climbing and worship with every step. And upon the descent remember this:

You cannot stay on the summit forever; you have to come down again. So why bother in the first place? Just this: What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. When one can no longer see, one can at least still know.~ Rene Daumal

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Often a Smile and Acknowledgement Goes a Long Way

Seeking the Imago Dei

I was stopped at an intersection while driving home from church a few Sunday’s ago. There, crossing under the overpass, was a man and woman walking to the nearest shopping center. Many people walk this way to get to the nearest Publix, Target, or fast food restaurant. That’s not unusual, but this couple was different. Honestly, I can’t tell you if they were a mother-son pair or a couple because I didn’t look at them long enough to gather detailed information. You see, this man and woman were physically and, by appearances, mentally disabled. Their gait was severely labored and their outward demeanor, even at a glance, was that of people who have a tough time getting by.

Instinctively, I looked away and focused my attention on the red light in front of me. I didn’t want to stare at this man and woman in an attempt not to draw attention to their obvious physical weaknesses. Looking back, I wonder if that was the right response.

Often, when I see others with visible handicaps, my first reaction is to turn away after a quick smile in order to not embarrass them. By embarrass them, I mean draw more attention to them than any other person I pass in the super market or restaurant. I inwardly assume that they have faced the mocking of peers or ignorant jests of misguided people, and I do not want to even hint at drawing on their differences. Rather, I simply acknowledge them as fellow people worth treating with dignity, respect, and assistance if I can provide any. But I wonder if, by ignoring their differences, I am ignoring something special that God wants me to see.

Please join me over at iBelieve to read the rest of this post. Join me here.

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What Learning Looks Like From Here

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They stoop low at the ocean’s edge inspecting a Florida horse conch. The sun has just begun to peak out from beneath the clouds and warm the final January day in Florida.

I snap their picture and think, this is what learning looks like from here.

Bent low, searching, seeking the knowledge and adventure that await in a moment of exploration. God’s sea creatures each tell a story, and the seemingly peaceful shore mocks the real truth that life in the sea is fierce and tumultuous even as the soothing, rhythmic sounds of the ocean lull me into a peaceful state.

There is always this tension just beneath the surface of life.

There is no escaping the forces of good and evil when we live on this side of eternity.

There is a constant need to bend low and search out the still, small voice of God that can also boom like approaching thunder.

At the supposed age of Christ during his final year in earthly ministry, I feel what most people feel as they steadily grow older: wisdom comes with age and it is harder not to be blinded by the cares of this world nor the skepticism reality brings with each passing year. I am learning that I can no more hold on to the present than it becomes the past. I must enjoy each moment for what it is, for it only comes once and then a memory.

Is it any wonder that God asks us to approach Him with the faith of a child? The child that is oblivious to the cares and demands of life. The child that sees not distractions, but opportunities to explore and learn. The child that sees now even as she anticipates the future. The older they grow the faster they desire to grow up and shed the contentment of their age at present.

Life, like the tide, is in a constant state of give and take, come and go. Even this week, we celebrate the seventh birthday of our daughter and only three weeks ago the fifth of our son; we join with the throngs who utter, “Where did the time go?”.  But hidden with the jewels of the sea, there are lessons to be learned, discoveries to be made that utter even of the passing of time. Anne Morrow Lindbergh captures a few of these lessons in her book, Gift from the Sea:

One learns to accept the fact that no permanent return is possible to an old form of relationship; and, more deeply still, that there is no holding of a relationship to a single form. This is not tragedy but part of the ever-recurrent miracle of life and growth. All living relationships are in process of change, of expansion, and must perpetually be building themselves new forms.

~Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea

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The jewels of the sea grow larger with age–their age brings constant rebuilding of their present forms. So do we, don’t you agree? We shouldn’t look the same at fifty as we did at five, nor should we come to the same hobbies void of new knowledge and understanding.

I have always loved the shore. The splash of waves and the picking up of shells. However, now I enjoy it with specificity. That is, I see it more like God sees it. Crying forth its message of creation, fall, redemption, life, death, catastrophe, and rebuilding. I can name the shells I once only admired. Isn’t that grand, that learning from here continues, but looks different than nearly three decades ago?

I can only imagine the discoveries I will make and the view-point I will take in one, two, or perhaps three decades time. Then, maybe I will stoop with my grandchildren and ponder, So this is what learning looks like from here.

beach 2015

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Same Song, Second Verse

I grew up in a small Baptist church where hymn books were opened every Sunday morning and evening. When we were first dating, my husband often joked with me saying I knew every hymn by heart. Well, I may know the first and fourth stanzas, but the second and third ones are a little more of a reach.

Over the Christmas break, Ron and I attended my sister and brother-in-law’s church. During the singing of one particular hymn, the second verse caught me by most pleasant surprise. The second verse to How Great Thou Art is probably one of the most skipped verses in all my hymn-singing upbringing.

When through the woods and forest glades I wander

And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees,

When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur,

And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee:

How great thou art! How great thou art!

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee:

How great thou art! How great thou art!

~How Great Thou Art, by Carl C. Boberg adapted by Stuart K. Hine

My soul feels most at peace when I am in awe of God’s creation.

I have sat at the base of a waterfall and heard the mighty rushing waters never ceasing. I’ve hiked in some of the most beautiful rock formations in America. I have paddled a kayak in the waters of the gulf and sat in observation of countless sunsets. In each of these settings the thoughts that are provoked are ones of worship of the Lord.

Ron Havasu Falls

341

Family Hike

Ukraine Pictures (64)

The last pictured mountain is part of the Carpathian Mountain Range in Ukraine; the same mountains that the writer Carl C. Boberg crossed while penning this famous hymn. Ron and I traveled there in 2006.

Rediscovering this second verse of the beloved hymn, How Great Thou Art, is important to me for two reasons. First, this is a song–in particular a verse–which resonates with the Holy Spirit within me. This reflects the sentiments of many Christ followers; we feel closest to God when we are divulged in creation. Secondly, the memories that this verse provokes remind me of the thoughts I was thinking during each adventure. Some thoughts were pure, peaceful, and filled with worship. Others were full of discontent, complaining, or comparison.

It is clear, even in the most ideal surroundings we have choices to make. On what will we focus? Will we choose contentment? Will we choose to approach the Father with gratitude, or grumbling? Will we look at things as they are and see the good, or will we look at situations as we want them to be and see only what is missing?

By far, the fondest memories for me are those in which my inner worship matched the outer grandeur. I revel in the ones in which my thoughts were pure, prayer was on my spirit’s lips, my worship was vibrant, I was enjoying my companions or my solitude, and my thoughts were set on things above.

Certainly, my more favorable memories were when I was acting in the will of God.

This year, we will sing many of the same verses we have sung in years past. The difference in our singing lies with the heart and mind with which we approach the song. There are lessons to be learned and paths to be traveled. May we worship God in His greatness in the forests, by the brook, and in mountain grandeur.

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Homeland: Evidence of Things Unseen

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Sometimes we are called to step out in faith into uncharted territory–into places or platforms that are novel and, most likely, nerve-wracking. Often we go with faith in God’s calling, or, occasionally, with great evidence of His will. Still other moments beckon with more subtle assurance in the still, small voice of God guiding us.

The shepherds were overwhelmed with immediate, miraculous indications that they had a short journey to make and an ultimate treasure to find. The wise men followed the star without the certainty of visible angels guiding their steps. How did the wise men know to look for and follow the star? Why would they pack up and leave their home in search of a King? 

The wise men were Magi, or Magio in the Greek. This is where the English word, magic, is derived from. The Magi were men of great knowledge and study, particularly in the field of astronomy. The Magi originated in Media and later Babylonia, Persia, Arabia, and India. They were considered a priestly caste of advisers to the nobles and rulers of those lands.

According to this article from the Institute for Creation Research (ICR, see here), there is an ancient tradition that Balaam, the prophet from Mesopotamia was an early member of the Magi. Perhaps you are most familiar with Balaam as the prophet reprimanded and spared by a talking donkey. (See Numbers 22:22-30) Well, Balaam also prophesied the coming Messiah would be accompanied in this way:

 a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel. (Numbers 24:17)

Add to Balaam, the influence of Daniel, Mordecai, and Esther, to name a few, in the provinces of Babylonia and Persia and you have both Jews and Magi who took as their own, the God of the Jews, looking for a coming Messiah as foretold by His star rising in the sky.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1, KJV)

The Magi set out to find the Christ-child with as much evidence as the shepherds who heard the angels singing. They studied the patterns of the stars spoken into being. Their study and understanding of astronomy pointed them to the newborn-king when, as foretold, His star arose in the heavens. The evidence of things hoped for was at last present and the Magi were prepared to recognize the evidence and obey.

How are we preparing for our homeland of Heaven this season of our lives?

In what way are we prepared to see the evidence of Jesus and His return and react in obedience as disciple-makers?

How are we prepared to defend the evidence of the Creator God in a world full of agnostic and atheistic teachings heralded as the truth of intellectually inclined individuals?

The Magi who celebrated the Messiah were acting on the evidence of their faith. Indeed, they were acting in faith with the understanding of the stars in the sky. Those same stars which God had promised Abraham that his decedents would be more numerous than. The same starry sky that continues to proclaim evidence of a Creator.

By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. (Hebrews 11:3, ESV)

The shepherds went in search of the King on the testimony of angels; the wise men on the fulfillment of prophecy. For us there is both. We must press on to live for the Homeland and point others to the King.

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The Changing of Seasons and Our Faith

 

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Autumn has always been my favorite season. The burnt oranges and reds of changing leaves paint the horizons with blazing new brushstrokes year after year as the weather turns cooler and the crunch of fallen leaves are heard underground. I welcome steady change and the faithful return of fall, skies blazing. The return for man’s work is a comfort and a constant echoed in this season.

Just mention the word fall and dozens of memories flood my mind:

A tall glass of sweet tea, the smell of fresh cut grass and the voices of football announcers on TV—these sights, sounds and smells trigger Saturday memories from my childhood autumns past. My dad worked full days in the hot Alabama sun and still managed to cut the grass just in time each Saturday. He would settle into his recliner with a large glass of sweet tea and enjoy a day full of college football. We talked about anything and then sometimes nothing at all, but it was the time we spent together that was important.

I also remember the smell and rich taste of homemade oatmeal chocolate-chip cookies my mom would bake and place in her handmade, hand-painted pumpkin cookie jar. She was called nearly every Friday to make her signature cookies, either for the football players or for some of my friends.

Read the rest of the post at iBelieve. (Click here.)

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Getting Ready as in the Days of Noah

Getting Ready Noah

The Bible tells us–even more specifically Jesus tells us–that in the last days it will be as in the time of Noah:

Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all— so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. (Luke 17:26-33, ESV)

God determined to destroy His creation and created because of the rampant sin on the earth.

The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD. (Genesis 6:5-8)

The sins of our day are not unlike the sins of Noah’s day; in fact, sin has been the same since the days of Adam and Eve after the fall. Murder, lying, adultery, covetousness, sexual immorality, and idolatry to name a few. The sins of our times are not unique to our times; they are, however, more rampant and championed–like the days of Noah.

Once God gave Noah the command to build the Ark, Noah knew that the time men had to repent and turn to God was limited. Scripture leads me to believe that Noah preached repentance and faith in God to save those who would listen. The people of his day decided they would mock Noah and his God and not heed the warning of impending doom.

God protected and preserved human life and animal life on the Ark in his abundant grace. God provided a way out–a wooden ark. Today, God continues to provide a way out of damnation and judgment: Jesus Christ. Just as the Ark provided the only way to survive God’s judgment of sin by water, Jesus provides the only way to salvation when we face God’s  judgment of fire. (See 1 Corinthians 3:13 for the believers, and 2 Peter 3:10 for the destruction of the earth by fire.)

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:3-5)

I believe we are living once again in the days of Noah. I believe that everything we are seeing on a national and international stage is preparing the way of the Lord as in the days of John the Baptist. That is why it is so very important for us to know the Scriptures so that we are wise unto salvation and prepared to heed the coming of the Lord Jesus. Noah’s Ark may seem archaic, or like a children’s story, but in reality it is a pivotal picture of what is to come.

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