Monday, May 19, 2008

Fruits of labor

You can get away with things when it’s your birthday. You can even make phone calls to your deeply-sleeping college-aged children at nine-thirty on a Saturday morning to ask them if they want to go strawberry picking even when it’s something neither they nor you have ever done.

Here I am, “halfway to ninety” (as my “halfway to forty” son sweetly pointed out) and I’ve never picked strawberries- blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, yes; but never strawberries. So I thought: what better thing to do on your birthday than something you’ve never done?

The three children acquiesced, as one might humor a little old lady. They showed not even a hint of insincerity. (Have they been taking acting lessons alongside Algebra and Physics?) I picked them up at the apartment they share just off campus, and off we went. The four of us aren’t often in the same place at the same time, so that in itself was a little treat for me.

Saturday was a beautiful day, a take-your-sweater-on-and-off kind of day; warm but not too hot, stirred with an occasional, casual breeze. The strawberry fields were amazing, stretching to the edge of vision, bountiful and fragrant. Oh, and muddy. And populated with young families trying to artificially manufacture sweet memories.

To my left I could hear a father chiding his daughter for not moving fast enough and berating his son for playing in the mud. The mother complained about wearing the wrong shoes. Grandma worked ahead, gathering quietly. I wondered if she was thinking the same thing I was. I wanted to go tell them to relax and enjoy each other. They were too close to the mundane, too preoccupied with regulation to see that childhood is fleeting. They were missing the joy. Been there, done that, I’m afraid.

I’d had my head down, busily investigating the plants and the raised beds and the watering system, as is my horticultural nature. My two daughters and son had moved to “greener pastures”, to the more distant, less-picked rows in search of the prime of all berries. I stood up and caught sight of all three of my children a few rows over. It was one of those sudden, poignant, observant moments, when God pulls back the curtain and blesses us by allowing us to see the fruits of parenting labor.

There they were, working and talking, just beyond my hearing. They moved without hurry or worry, intent on finding the best. I could detect no arguments, no strife. I realized they were happy. Their baskets and mine were full. As was my heart. Such sweet fruit!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


I have a piece of jewelry that my husband bought for me as a gift last August when our four-year separation was over. It’s a slide that goes on a necklace chain, a silver tree and stream on a background of abalone. I loved it immediately because it reminded me of one of the scriptures I clung to during those difficult, wilderness years:

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes: its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8

The necklace is a beautiful aide memoire to me of God’s faithfulness amid our human-ness. It is physically symbolic of Solomon’s plea (Proverbs 3:3) to bind love and faithfulness around our necks. It bespeaks a stunning and poignant testimony.

The unusual beauty and artistry of the necklace never fails to garner attention. It has become a means of witness for me because I am able to share the story and scripture behind it. Just last week, it opened the door for a waitress to share that she was separated from her husband. It gave my husband and me the opportunity to pray for her. It blessed her to literally see and hear evidence that God can work miracles, that He also hears her cries. It completely blessed me to be used by God to give her hope.

All that from silver on a piece of abalone.

Silver? The word comes from a root that means “to refine”. As in, removing impurities through the application of heat. My husband and I spent four years in the very center of the Refiner’s fire. Spiritual refining is no easy thing to undergo; I still must constantly have to remember that the tree in Jeremiah does not fear when heat comes!

Abalone is a shell. Webster’s says it is found “clinging to the rock” on the coastlines. How appropriate is that? I spent those four years clinging to the Rock, listening for God’s instruction. Abalone’s other name? Sea ear. As in “listen”.

How involved and interwoven God is in our lives, even into the meanings of random words! What amazing power He has! He can use a husband’s present to his wife to demonstrate and illustrate that He is real and active. That He is present. Indeed, He is The Present.

The Unpredictable

It is cold again this morning. Are we having another blackberry winter? Does that mean double the blackberries this summer?

Weather is just unpredictable! Just when you think you have it figured out, it changes!

One of life’s mysteries to me is that God never changes, yet He is not predictable. He is faithful, He is steadfast, He is unwavering, unstoppable, and unfaltering; yet He is still unpredictable.

I do not know where I will see Him next. I do not know when He will whisper in my ear. I do not know what He has in store for me next year or next month or this afternoon. He is full of the best kinds of surprises!

But I do know that He is near, always, whether watching me discover a hidden treasure or whether standing behind me to catch me should I stumble over a hidden land mine. There is a comforting feeling of His presence through it all that gives me confidence to step out even when I cannot see where my foot will land. Not that I have this trust issue down perfectly, because I don’t. But He is patient with me.

“Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.” Those words were written by Daniel Towner after hearing a young man share his testimony. It was said that the young man obviously knew little doctrine, but knew enough that he was going to just trust and obey.

That’s stepping out in faith. That’s understanding that God’s ways are higher than ours (see Isaiah 55:8-9). That’s obedience. That’s what we are called to, regardless of what our short-sighted eyes tell us, or our culturally-tuned ears hear or our self-preserving flesh fears. It is remembering that, even though we have no trail map, even though we cannot predict what lies ahead, we are being led by the One who laid the path down and has traversed it already.

Lead on, Lord!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Wind advisory

I love wind chimes, especially the capiz shell ones found at all the little shops at the beach. I have a set that hangs from the corner of our carport. There’s something calming about their tinkling sound. A gentle breeze sets the strings of translucent shell-circles in motion, sweetly touching them together. They whisper with a delicate chatter. It is one of my favorite sounds, something reminiscent of childhood and lazy summer days, before life stormed in with all its troubles.

Today, it was a different sound, still dainty but unnerving, like a thousand little crystal glasses crashing to the floor. It was not calming. The chimes were clamorous, twisting wildly in a strong wind. Young trees were tossing about. My newly-bloomed peonies bowed and the delphinium tilted.

There are many scriptures that speak of wind. Sometimes the reference is to cleansing, to the blowing away of chaff and rubble. Sometimes the wind is a reminder of God’s power. Sometimes it is an example of things that cannot be grasped or understood. But my thoughts today centered on Ephesians 4:14, which teaches us that maturity in Christ will give us the strength to not be tossed about by the wind, which here represents false and wayward teachings.

Our culture today is full of false teaching and secret formulas. I cannot even watch Oprah anymore. I think of all the twisting around that’s going on, and how those who are not fully rooted in Christ can be swayed by the popular. The thought deeply distresses me. And I think of my wind chime.

There was an urgency to its clamor, as if to forewarn. And I wonder: is that what I am to do as well? Stand, secure in Jesus, in the face of the wind and sound the alarm? Will I be heard over the noise of the TV?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

For the birds

I’ve been thinking today about God’s provision.

The thought started with Elijah and those ravens. I think I would have to be extremely hungry (ravenous!) to accept food from birds, even if God told me that’s how He was going to take care of me. Carrion? Worms? Garbage? Left-overs? (Well, maybe left-overs.) I can hear me now: “The Raven Ravine diet? Sorry, God, I’m just not into extreme fad dieting.”

Maybe it’s because ravens are just not my favorite bird.

Ravens and crows are in the same family. They are big bullies. They sometimes eat the eggs and young of other birds. I think they are… well… ugly: clothed in black and greasy looking. Like the mafia of the avian world. Sorry, but I like my pretty little songbirds. I like to watch the cardinals and finches in my birdbath. I like to throw out breadcrumbs for them.

Inevitably, the black birds come. They swoop in and greedily devour the breadcrumbs on the sidewalk. They invade and splash in the birdbath with glee, claiming it as their own. Just yesterday, as I sat in my sunroom looking out the window, I saw one in action, tossing water around like there’s no drought. I started to go out to shoo it away. It looked me square in the eye. And then I remembered Elijah.

God provided for Elijah through ravens. God reminds us that He provides even for the birds. Even for ravens, dirty and mean as they are. He provided for me, dirty and mean as I was before Christ. And He shows me that He is using me to provide for the ravens. After all, He teases, “Wouldn’t you rather have it that way? I could always have the ravens provide for you instead!”

Thanks, God, but no. Let me go grab some bread crumbs and refill that birdbath!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Under R in the Dictionary

Musings of a Word Geek

I’ve been reading about Elijah. He just shows up suddenly in I Kings 17, telling old King Ahab that there’s going to be a drought. Then he has to run and hide. Literally.

God tells him to go hide out in a ravine and He will send ravens to feed him. Does anyone else see how those two “r” words seem strangely related?

OK, Lisa, so what?

So, God is beautiful and lyrical and linguistically profound. How special! He thinks so thoroughly that He builds puzzles and connections into our language as it develops!

Ravine/raven. Their common Latin root means “devour”. There is a secondary theme of violence, of rushing. Further digging into the roots and other (less used) words they have spawned (such as ravin) turns up phrases such as, “greedily searching for prey” and “anything captured; prey or plunder”.

Ahab was coming after Elijah. Hide and seek. Hunter and prey. God provided a hiding place, one carved out of the hills by violent rushing water: a ravine. He provided food, brought by “unclean” birds of prey: ravens. Elijah would be hungry. Perhaps he was ravenous.

OK, so I am a word geek. I’ll admit it.

But isn’t it fun to chase down a word and find out that it connects like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle? Or is it just me? You do not have to answer that!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Fruit and cake

It’s been a hard morning. I’ve had a relapse of some of the neurological symptoms that I was healing from. It is frustrating, to say the least. I react with tears.

I will say, though, that God got me smiling this morning anyway.

I had been crying, reclining on the wicker love seat in my sunroom, looking up at the overhanging branches of my Ficus Benjamina, when I started thinking of Sir Isaac Newton and how the apple fell from the tree he was sitting under, leading him to develop the idea of gravity. (Physics, at eight o’ clock in the morning. Mercy!) I lay there and wondered about what idea God might give me, lying under my tree, and thought about how no apples would be falling on my head. If anything, it would be a fig, because this ficus is also called “Weeping Fig”. Quite appropriate, since I was crying.

Then of course my strange brain put two and two together and came up with Fig Newton. Oh, I laughed. You might not think it was funny, but God and I did. He really has to work on me sometimes and develops these special little moments just for me. He’s good.

But wait, there’s more. He didn’t stop there.

Remember the old commercial where the little British boy is sitting in bed, eating a Fig Newton? His mum comes in and sees him and says something like, “What have I told you about eating cookies in bed?” And he says, “But mummy, this isn’t a cookie. It’s fruit and cake!”

Fruit and cake. Fruit and bread. Bethlehem. (If you’re lost, look a few posts ago! House of Bread, Name It)

How great is our God that He can bring a brain like mine full circle and focus me again on Jesus?

I have to go now. I need to put Fig Newtons on the grocery list.

Thursday, May 1, 2008


It's May 1st!

One third of the year is officially past.

I look back and think about how I spent that third of a year. Was I productive? Did I grow? Is the world any better because of any action I might have taken?

One action I don't take often enough is prayer. Today is the National Day of Prayer, a day of great opportunity for Christians to be visible, a day for us to come together in unity- a trait for which we are, unfortunately, not too famous.

So that's what I'm thinking about and praying for today: that the "world" see a body of believers unified and visible, seeking the will and mind and power of God.