{re}fresh

Tag: blessings

Focusing on first things

by kerriebutterfield

Focus by Kaila VanSumer
Flicker.photos/dioamato/5405697015/in/photolist-9eFBoF

Focus is defined by Merriam Webster’s dictionary  as, “directed attention.”  As I wracked my brain to write something meaningful about focus, ironically my brain went in all kinds of directions. Eventually, I felt God directing my attention to the creation story and focusing on what He focused on when He created Adam and Eve–blessings and co-reigning over the earth. 

In the record of  God creating , He focused on goodness. He created , stood back and declared what He created to be good. (With the exception of Adam himself, which He made complete by creating Eve and then declared it, “good”). God’s focus is on completeness/wholeness not perfection.  Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

Sabbath Rest

by Rob Dunne

Image by Bart Soverijns
Flickr.com_35732976723_507847d286
CC BY-ND 2.0

[B]ut in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a sabbath to the Lord. You shall neither sow your field nor prune your vineyard. Leviticus 25:4

When I was in high school, relatives from Ireland came to visit us. They spent a week with us, a week with my aunt and a week with my uncle. Then they enjoyed several weeks of sightseeing. All in all, they were on vacation for a whopping six weeks! Now that is what I call a vacation!

Here in the United States, we have forgotten the importance of downtime. Rather than taking weeks off for vacation, we take one week or a few days. Making matters worse, we bring work with us. That drive is not healthy for the body, mind or soul.

God understands the importance of rest.

Read the rest of this entry »

In Drought or Rain

by Dawn Aldrich

Let my teaching fall like rain, and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants… Deuteronomy 32:2 NIV

Leaving the January New England cold, we flew west to “sunny” California. In a land experiencing drought for almost five years, we looked forward to some spring-like weather—sunny skies and warm temps. But, shortly after we landed, overcast skies and cool, damp breezes became the norm. Eventually, heavy fog set in and monsoon down pours dampened our plans.

We tried not to complain because California was so parched. After a couple of tough traveling days, the rains slowed and the skies brightened long enough to reveal California’s need and all its glory.

We found the need driving north to Yosemite where hundreds of thousands of acres of blackened, fire damaged land and trees stood as evidence. This barren land lay parched and black, crying out for a deep drink of heaven’s rain.

California Drought 2 2015

Reservoirs that once ran high along the banks, sat shrunken as though a giant had taken too deep a sip from his oversized straw, leaving but the dregs at the bottom of his glass.

California drought 2015

But there was hope, as we traveled through Napa Valley and along the northern shore. California’s glory sang through glistening pruned vineyards, new green pastures, grazing herds, and crops harvested for market around every corner.

Cali Green Hills

 

NappaValleyRainbow_DawnAldrich2016

Such a drastic difference—these two experiences—it made me think how much like our lives this represented. Our souls may experience years of drought, thirsting after heaven’s rain, and yet none comes. But, through it all, we learn the importance of faith in God, community, and family—how being more dependent on God and one another is actually the better way to live. We become humbled during the drought years until our hearts are ready to drink in God’s blessings.

And when God’s blessings rain down upon a ready heart, God’s glory becomes evident because good fruit appears—fruit, that when harvested, with nourish many.

Preparing to cross over to the Promised Land, God gave Moses a song for Israel. Here it is in part from Deuteronomy 32:2, 37, 39 (NIV):

Let my teaching fall like rain, and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants…

They are not idle words for you—they are your life. By them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess…

See now that I myself am he! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life…

Where do you find yourself today? Drought or Rain? Do not curse either, as one prepares your heart to receive God’s teaching and the other prepares your heart for harvest. While in drought, ask God, “What is it that you want to teach me? What do you want to be for me during this time?” While it’s raining, give thanks, celebrate and humbly remember God as the source of the blessings.

God’s Blessings Are Going to Cost You

by Mike McKinniss

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field.  When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.  Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls.  When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.  Matthew 13:44-46

Among the many persistent promises that the Lord gives to his people throughout scripture is a pledge of an abundant life, which I do not take as simply a spiritual hope.  That is, I believe God’s intention all along was to provide for his people and, ultimately, all the people of the world all of the material blessings that make life possible.

But it’s taken me some time now to realize that these promised blessings rarely seem to fall out of the sky on a direct course for my lap.  (Alas!)  In fact, there is one particular lesson I’ve been confronted with lately, one that, if I’m honest, I haven’t been all that eager to learn.  The lesson is this: God’s blessings, even the material ones, are going to cost us everything.

During the last holiday season, as for so many others, my personal finances were particularly tight.  I had prepared a personal budget for the upcoming year and was freshly shocked at just how tight it was going to be.  At the same time, I was being challenged by the Lord to embrace a more generous lifestyle.  Funny how these things seem to coincide.

At one particular Sunday morning church service, as the offering was being called, a number flashed through my mind.  It was a large number for me and I had every reason to discount it.  I’m a tither; I give regularly from my monthly income.  And the dollar amount that entered my mind that morning was, frankly, a lot.  Technically, I had the money to give, but I also knew I couldn’t afford it.  I knew I would need it soon for one bill or another.

Nevertheless, I believe it was the Lord’s prompting and I decided to go for it.  While others marched forward to place their gifts in the plate, I pulled out my phone, called up my church’s website, and punched in my offering: a 21st century gift to the Lord.

Afterwards, I was equal parts joyful and terrified–happy, because I had quickly obeyed; fearful, because my budget had just gotten significantly tighter, possibly to the point of being unreachable.

This feeling lingered for the better part of a month, through the Christmas season, full as it is with gift buying for friends and family.  I took my time alternating between confidence (God, I’m counting on you to come through on this!) and trepidation (Goodness, how the cost of Christmas gifts escalates!).

Finally, the lesson hit home when, in the course of about ten days, I was given Christmas gifts of my own.  Twice I received, quite unexpectedly, financial gifts, each one equaling the exact amount I had given that morning several weeks earlier.  I had received twice what I had given, and all it took (as if it were so easy) was patience and trust.

And this is what I am learning: that God’s promises of abundance are real and they are for every aspect of our lives–spiritually, materially, and so on (as if we could really separate any of these, anyway).  But I am also learning that the Lord’s abundance, while far greater than what we already have, is still going to cost us everything we have.

To learn more about Mike McKinniss, please visit our contributor’s page.

She Helps Me Count

by Dawn Aldrich

2011-12-04 23.32.51“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Bubble-bath clean she looks up at me with her half-mooned baby blues spilling crocodile tears and my heart puddles on the bathroom floor. She pleads with pouted lips, “Grams, I’m too tired to go home. I’ve just GOT to sleep here at YOUR house, please? I’ve GOT to.”

What’s a Grams to do but say yes? For time and wisdom teaches: say yes and often –seize every memory-making day as though it is the last. Say yes! For through her, I see God’s little blessings and she helps me keep count.

Blessing 1: Snuggled together- (Grams, Pops, ‘Kota, and the two cats) – for one story, that inevitably means three.

Blessing 2: Quiet voices in prayer, the “Mr. Moon” song, distant trains and good-night kisses that she doesn’t rub off.

Blessing 3: Smiling baby blues and sweet morning whispers through the bedroom door.

Blessing 4: She draws the wind blue – because that’s how she sees it – and all God’s creatures in the red barn and yellow hay in the silo. Details far beyond her years.

Blessing 5: “Something beautiful is up there, Grams,” she notices as black crows caw high above us on our early morning walk-about.

Blessing 6: Giggles as twigs tickle her face walking past the “messy house.”

Blessing 7: Her mittened hand swallowed in mine.

Blessing 8: Sweet, red-ripened strawberries dipped in sugar.

Blessing 9: Eskimo kisses between cold pink noses.

Blessing 10: The sound of her breathing.

Through her eyes it is always thanksgiving and God is close. She slows me down and points out details I’d normally ignore – details that count blessings one-by-one.

In the hurried holiday season, won’t you take some time to count? Count the little blessings every day, little gifts God sends your way even in the midst of noise. Start now, if you’d like. What are you thankful for today?

A Simpler Time

by ivyjonah

cottageAll creatures look to you
    to give them their food at the proper time.
When you give it to them,
    they gather it up;
when you open your hand,
    they are satisfied with good things. Psalm 104:27-28

A friend found it hard to explain what made our getaway destination, The Little Stone Cottage, such a magical place and she was right.

It was a feast for the eyes taking in the everyday life in the Heart of the Pennsylvania Dutch Country—from watching farmers plowing, driving horse-drawn buggies,  or  a youngster speeding along on his bike sized scooter—we were catapulted back in time to simpler living that abound with God’s beauty.

Arriving at the cottage, rockers beckoned us to take a seat on the front porch framed by a cornucopia of vivid flowering plants. We inhaled the beauty, cognizant that loving hands prepared the display. Entering the living area soft music and an autumn tinged potpourri awakened our senses. It took a minute to take it all in, but by the time our eyes reunited we felt overwhelmingly welcomed.

Stretching his legs, my husband settled on the sofa, weary from the long drive, but I felt more adventurous.

A red rose petal path caught my eye. “Red rose petals?” I thought. “This certainly was not the Holiday Inn.” What seemed simultaneously romantic and silly I followed this velvety trail as it wound its way in a heart-shaped end atop our bedspread. The nuance of romance was palatable.

On the private deck was a hot tub for relaxation, overlooking an area with a small pond and a swing. With a light breeze on my face, I closed my eyes for a moment and I was again a young girl, swinging freely without a care in the world.

Everything from the décor, the library of books, the well thought out amenities made The Little Stone Cottage was a place that encapsulated the joys and celebration of our marriage covenant. We felt pampered and rejuvenated.

This is a holy place as it honors the marriage covenant for all couples, no matter what season of life their marriage finds them.  As a planting of the Lord set within the hearts of a Mennonite, it safely plants the seeds of recommitted love that hold the hope for a bountiful harvest of blessings for each couple.

Sometimes all married couples  need to return to a simpler time in their relationship—away from life’s distractions where they can relax, rejuvenate, and recommit themselves to one another and their relationship to the Lord—no matter what season they find themselves. The Little Stone Cottage was just one place we found to do just that–a place where we were reminded of the simpler ways–God’s ways.

Lord, thank you for planting the vision for such a lovely ministry to married couples within this couple. Bless the marriages represented in our readership, represented by The Little Stone Cottage and renew our covenants not only with one another, but with you as Lord of our marriages and family. May there be a great harvest and renewal within the families as we seek to honor you in our marriages. Amen.

To learn more about Linda, please visit our Contributors page.

%d bloggers like this: