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Hollyhock Gracelettes

by Wendy

Hollyhocks by Rakel Leah Mogg
Flickr.com_5927759987_d1279c9d8d CC BY-ND 2.0

She stopped by unannounced, unexpectedly showing up on my back porch. Who does that when you live in the middle of nowhere, off the beaten path?  Hikers frequenting the nearby mountain, perhaps, but no one else. Yet here she was, a friend I hadn’t seen in ages, one who lived far enough away to make the trip unlikely.

My heart leaped for joy to see my friend, but my brain groused that I had five hours of work to finish in the short time before our dinner on the porch.  My husband’s unexpected disability meant the outdoor tasks wouldn’t happen. Dead leaves and blossoms littered the deck alongside the deserted robin’s nest and sticky spider webs. Flowers drooped in the muggy, blistering heat. The daisy waited patiently for a new pot, but the hollyhocks…   I sighed, seeing the wilted, dying blooms in plastic tubs. Four weeks was three weeks too long for those plants.  Their new garden bed wasn’t going to happen either.

“I love digging in the ground,” my friend offered reassuringly.  Wait, what?  You’d plant the hollyhocks for me?  My grousing stopped as the Spirit nudged me to remember. Was it this morning I shook my head and prayed cynically, “Lord, what I really want is someone to walk in off the street and say, ‘Hi, I’m here to plant those hollyhocks.’” What I really thought was “Right, that’s not going to happen.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Something Bigger Than Ourselves

by Wendy

DSC_3389

photo by W Coy. Use with permission

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18 NIV

That afternoon I sang in a gorgeous, warm, intimate, wood-and-gilded 1891 hall named Carnegie. Not my first time there, but definitely my first time on stage. I listened and watched as the sound left our mouths and wafted high into the dome and the fifth balcony, swirling into patrons’ laps and dropping onto their faces with joy. We weren’t allowed to wear cologne, but someone’s shampoo smelled like orange blossoms. Resonance hung in the air with the scent. No one breathed. Perfect silence before the applause.

We were nobodies on that stage, but the hall and the composer/conductor wooed us into something bigger than ourselves.  The hall was like a living thing, a willing ally covering our mistakes; an unseen collaborator warming and shaping our sound and spinning it into gold as it danced between rounded walls. And we happily believed the sound and the audience’s warmth bouncing back to the stage.  We left the hall with that sparkling joy still glittering our hair and our faces.

Two mornings later it snowed, despite being more than a week after Easter and well into April.  Gloom and depression fell along with thick, foggy, slushy flakes which couldn’t stick because the ground was too warm.  Like the concert, the previous week’s hint of warmth was a tease of joy until reality crashed the party.

Read the rest of this entry »

Winding paths vs straight answers

by Wendy

Winding Paths by John Shortland Flickr-com_9062631866_ff25dab5b9

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or wher it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”   John 3:8

 

Frustrated? I was beyond frustrated, pleading with God, crying out, and interceding in every way possible. The spiritual roadblocks still stood like concrete as I smashed into them daily.  Or, worse yet, I watched my friends and loved ones crash nose-first into massive boulders thrown by the enemy.

In my mind I could see the solutions, the barrier-shattering breakthroughs that would set us all free, but I couldn’t reach them.  Nor could I force my way through the frustration. Staring out the car window, I stewed silently, wanting God to pulverize the obstacles and shoot laser-like sunlight into the haze as the residue dissipated.  I could barely articulate the avalanche of feelings.  Instead, my fingernails dug into my palms and tears crept closer to the surface.     Read the rest of this entry »

Givens

by Wendy

Words by Rich Mason
Flickr.com_43109486_3ed3e4866b_CC BY-ND 2.0

I am uncomfortable with “words for the year.”  Actually, I despise them.  This year I struggled with concepts Jesus is teaching me, trying to fit them into the “here’s my word for the year” box. I even adopted other writers’ and prophets’ words. It didn’t work.  Page after page of discarded blog posts dropped into the recycle bin.

Until now.  Read the rest of this entry »

What Good Is

by Wendy

Image by M42
Flickr.com_2537258043_306e52e206_CC BY-ND 2.0

Anxious and exhausted, I grabbed my journal and flopped on the bed. The room was quiet and neat, just what I needed before the harrowing week ahead.

Oh, the week.  I’d failed miserably two years ago, and I shuddered as images filled my head.  Forty international choral professionals. One world-renowned conductor. And me.  Five days, five opportunities dreaded assignments to conduct. I cloistered myself in my room, studied, skipped meals, and stayed up until 2am conducting.  Finally, with years of habit to unlearn and 2 nights to do it, my arms would not obey. Conducting patterns disappeared as I slipped and slopped my way through piece after piece.  Jangled, disoriented and dismayed, I cried myself to sleep. The next day, terrified, tears seeped out of my eyes in front of the professor, and soon the whole class knew. I was falling, with no net.

Now those same terrifying days would stare me down again in just… twelve hours. Read the rest of this entry »

The Lion Roared

by Wendy

Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. Luke 24:31, NRSV

 

Hours, days, weeks in the hospital blurred into one long anxiety. Pain. Fatigue. Helplessness. Abandonment. Despair. Negative emotions swam through my mind and curdled my thinking…what was left of it.  My brain had no more room.  Too many tests, too long before diagnosis, longer still until treatment. I. Was. Done.

Where was the peace that passes understanding?  Where was the intimacy I normally felt and practiced?  Where was my Advocate? Where was Immanuel, God WITH us?

I paused.

Read the rest of this entry »

Putting the Lie to Rest

by Wendy

 

 

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV)                  

I look at my journal, that precious place where God and I meet, and I see a great, big “SHOULD” button flashing in my brain.  I try to pick up my pen, but I can’t start to write.  Shaking my head, I drop the pen back on the desk and push away the journal.  “No,” my insides shout, “not now,” so I sigh and turn to face the lush green woods outside my office window.  Something tight, something heavy, blocks my wonder, my creativity, my productivity;  I can’t even finish the simplest of tasks.  I can almost feel a physical grip on my heart.

“Oh, just do it,” my earnest evangelical friend (whose voice resides firmly in my head) exhorts.  “Don’t think and introspect. Only start, and the rest will follow.”

Fair enough.  Plenty of times, my mountain is moved by small ant-sized accomplishments.   But this is not one of those times.  I know myself.  This lack of rest, driven busyness, and restless non-work are not driven by a lack of will.  Gutting it out may work as a short-term prod, but never as a long-term solution. Read the rest of this entry »

“He Would Have.”

by Wendy

by bp6316_93/365_Flickr.com_3410006685_3064e380a5_z.jpg_CC BY 2.0

by bp6316_93/365_Flickr.com_3410006685_3064e380a5_z.jpg_CC BY 2.0

 A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver. Prov 25:11, ESV

“He would have, you know.”

It was a soft comment, but I felt its weight.  As usual, Jesus’ voice  surprised me.

I was trying, hard, to burrow into the root of an issue.  Once again life’s daily tumbles had triggered me into shame, anger, worthlessness and ultimately, despair.  For weeks I’d skirted the problem but couldn’t make progress.  Now, finally, curled up on my bed, I found my voice – and His – and watched Him point the way.

As usual, the problem originated long ago in childhood.  “There was no one to protect me, no one to stand up for me or advocate FOR me,” I whispered to Jesus.  I could “see” His eyes; in my imagination they were warm and kind, encouraging me to continue.

looked far back and found a few places of victory – times when my kind father saved me from fears or taunts. He was so dear and I cherished those few memories. My mind ran over those crystal-smooth surfaces again and again, but I knew those times were rare. My feelings ran deep, but they stayed inside and he did not know them.

Warfare he understood, but emotions, not so much. I was a tender little girl, a being totally unfamiliar to him, and with very strange needs. Most times he backed away to let my mother and grandmother fight my battles.

Unfortunately, like so many other strong mothers of their generation, they fought me instead of my battles.  Intimidated, I gave up and became the victim of my peers.  Not once did I learn how to handle a bully, and there were many.

“I wanted him to protect me,” I admitted to Jesus and that’s when I heard His quiet response.

“He would have?”  My eyebrows pulled together as I tried to understand Jesus’ words.

“He would – he wanted to – but he didn’t know how,” Jesus replied.  Oh! My father would have protected me if he had the right tools and answers.  I imagined how he might look in heaven – strong, confident, able to teach me to stand even amid hurled threats and shoves that left my heart cringing and trembling in the corner.

“He WOULD have!” I thought with relief, and suddenly Jesus’ three words filled in holes I didn’t know were there.  The “he didn’t” pain was replaced with Jesus’ strong arms and impenetrable back, showing me what my father would have done. if he could have.

Three words and a lifetime of healing in three seconds.

He does that, you know, with just a few words.  He undoes time and pain and winds them backward, resetting who we are in the process and transforming us more and more into who He created us to be.  Prison doors drop open and we walk away, released.

What words do we need today from the One who would set us free?

Chipmunks and Angels of Light

by Wendy

Chipmunk by A. Delray --The Forest Vixen - www.forestvixen.com, licensed under CC by 2.0Chipmunk by A. Delray –The Forest Vixen – www.forestvixen.com, licensed under CC by 2.0

“Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom.” Song of Solomon 2:15

I saw him from the corner of my eye—a small something skittering toward the plants on the garage floor. Silly chipmunk. I was just six feet away and he didn’t particularly care. My idiotic arm-flapping “HEY!” as I moved closer didn’t scare him, either.  Silly me.

Too cute for his own good, I yelled louder and lunged toward the small, furry, brown and black invader.  It had been just a year since he dug into the house and invited two mouse-friends.  This was entirely too brazen.

I don’t know if it was my indignant hollering or my rapidly-approaching face that scared off the adorable demonic rodent.  I scurried to move the tender new plants back outside. Never mind late spring cold and rain (almost sleet).  The plants would survive but the garage door was NOT staying open any longer.

How like the Enemy is that little chipmunk?  He waits for the right moment and cutely, bold-facedly, struts into my back door when he thinks I’m not watching.  I virtually have to hop on top of him to make him leave.

Unfortunately, the “angel of light” knows he is enticing (“Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.” 2 Cor 11:14).

The enemy sneaks in softly under cover of beauty and subterfuge.  Our judgments seem wise and sure, but they do not lead to peace, and they are not true.  How quickly our thoughts captivate and control us, backing us into corners from which we can’t escape. Pains become judgments, then isolation.

No, this time the Chippy won’t take up residence.  My “make sense of this” thoughts, too, must be shut out with a thick door, chased back into the outside realms.

Know, Enemy, that even if you do find an entry hole, the way will be blocked and the door will not be re-opened.  Your creatures may be cute, but they are no longer welcome.

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Water in the Desert

by Wendy

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 Oasis by Awee_19 is licensed under  CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

He turned the desert into pools of water
    and the parched ground into flowing springs;
36 there he brought the hungry to live,
    and they founded a city where they could settle.   (Ps 107:35-36, NIV)

 

It’s amazing what a little water will do.

Years ago, a teacher told me a story about flying over Israel’s Negev desert. Below him, he saw a round plot of green in the midst of the dessert.  Apparently scientists decided to see what would happen if they watered that one circle and didn’t touch the surrounding landscape.

It bloomed.  Brilliantly, beautifully, it turned green and lush, an oasis of growth in the midst of dry, dusty, sandy desert.  And even more amazingly, scientists and farmers engineered crops to grow even in the Negev’s brackish water. That’s water which has a huge salt content, from aquifers deep below the Negev Desert. Desalinization costs too much, so scientists found ways to use what was unusable.

And it worked.

Apparently, in God’s economy, abundant, green, growing life does not depend on perfect circumstances.  It depends on water.  Fresh water, rain, leftover water, it matters not.  Water, in some form, breeds life. Incredibly, in the right circumstances, even brackish water will do.

For my parched spirit, that is good news.  I want to be like the Psalmist’s person, a tree planted by streams of [living] water, yielding fruit in season, and whose leaf does not wither. However, while my soul yearns desperately for God like the deer panting for streams, I look around and see no oasis.

Wait. Brackish water, he said. They bred plants to resist the salt and grow in brackish water.

Have I overlooked the brackish water in my life, thinking it unsuitable for growth?  Was this my answer while I waited for the spring rains>

How many times did I look for an oasis and overlook a tiny pond?  Or wait for the ‘perfect spring rain’ when there was a fine flowing river just around the corner, as yet unseen?  Did I look in vain for a clean spring when brackish water was bubbling forth from the ground nearby?

Brackish water.  With the Cleanser of Our Souls, our hearts are trained to absorb life even in brackish water – He turns the brackish to clean and the bitter to sweet. Somehow, with Him, my soul can glean enough moisture to live even in the driest of days.

Those small gratefulnesses I voice may lead to big exaltations down the road; at the least, bit by bit they turn my heart back to God.  Those scathing reaction-words, not spoken and blurted at Jesus’ feet, may turn to blessings instead of curses.  The impossible disappointments force rhythms of hope in the midst of failure that may teach me to thrive despite my surroundings.

In the world, brackish water breeds death.  But… but… in His life, it’s amazing what a bit of water can do!

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