Jul 03

FOR READERS: Faith, Hope & Love by Kimberly Rae Jordan

 

Faith hope loveThe last couple of books I’ve read “for fun” have been pretty heady stuff. Great reads, but I was ready for something light that I could read while on the treadmill, not worrying about having to take notes and keep track of intricate plot lines. I certainly did not want to read a book that I would not being able to put down before getting to “The End.”

So I picked up Faith, Hope and Love, described as an inspirational romance. A nice Christian chick lit, I thought. I had read a previous book by Jordan, Marrying Kate and it was just the kind of book I had in mind to read now. (Here’s my review of Marrying Kate from 2013.)

Faith, Hope & Love is the story of happily-married Cassie and Quinn, young missionaries in Columbia. The story begins dramatically with Quinn’s kidnapping, before Cassie has the chance to share the news of her pregnancy. The story then takes up with Cassie and their six-year old daughter learning of Quinn’s release. The book focuses on the reunion, happiness threatened by the emotional scars Quinn carries from his imprisonment, the anger he feels toward God and Cassie’s internal conflict over her desire to reunite her family or release Quinn, no longer the same man, from their marriage.

This book wasn’t just a light read. I dug into the Kleenex box more often than I expected and found myself thinking about this book even when I was forced to put it down and focus on other things, such as, well, life.

Jordan did a wonderful job fleshing out the characters and giving her readers insight into the emotional upheaval that involve people whose lives have been torn apart . She also did a good job exploring the way people of faith either lean into their faith for strength or abandon it entirely. The novel was well-structured and felt realistic in the setting, relationships and outcomes.

If you’re looking for a light read, this may not be it. If, however, you’re looking for a book to curl up with for a long night of sobbing into soggy Kleenex…enjoy. I did.

 

Jun 29

FOR FAITH: Wishes and Dreams

Carol with dandelion

Think back to your childhood. You would squeeze your eyes shut, blocking out the world. Then you would put your whole heart into your wish, open your eyes and blow at the fairy wand, sending your dreams and wishes out into the world.

When I spotted these dandelion fairy wands, I recalled my wee wishes from childhood. They were such little wishes—important at the time, but little in terms of eternity.

These mammoth dandelions—each one larger than a grapefruit—reminded me of Jesus.

 

Jesus wants us to live a big life for Him. But sometimes, our wee little dreams are grounded in fear and formed by the stability of a safe life filled with busyness and habit.

What if I dared to dream big dreams?

Moreover, what if I dared to dream of following Jesus’ plan for my life—taking me away from my little dreams and adopting His majestic and perfect dreams?

Although it’s not the size of the fairy wand that’s important, these delightful dandelions have reminded me that whatever God’s plan is, it is always better than whatever I might have in mind. Always.

And although what God has in mind may seem mammoth, if He is in charge and if I am obedient to His leading, I can be sure that the best thing is for His dreams to become my dreams.

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if he we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. (1 John 5:14-15)

WHAT ABOUT YOU? Is there a big dream you feel God is leading you to follow?

Jun 22

FOR FAITH: 1 Peter 2:25

1 Peter 2 25

 

We aren’t meant to be the lone wolf. Our natural desire is for the company of others. And no matter how much leadership skill we possess, we desire to follow others if they know better than we.

Scripture is filled with references to us as Jesus’ flock of much-loved sheep and to Him as the Good Shepherd. If we are astray, the Good Shepherd may come for us since He desires that none should be lost.

But before He comes for us—we’re likely to be frightened, hurt, broken, trapped amid sharp rocks, hungry, thirsty, dying. Better not to be lost in the first place.

Most of us are familiar with the kindly image of Jesus, the Good Shepherd and us, the happy sheep. But what of the Overseer?

Jesus, the Overseer watches over us. More importantly, He watches over our souls. Some Bible versions use the word Guardian rather than Overseer. Jesus guards our souls. Keeps them safe. Because He knows how easy it is for us to wander off—again.

Not only do sheep need to follow the Good Shepherd, sheep are naturally defenseless against predators. We too are defenseless against evil without Jesus, our Overseer, there to defend us.

I’m so grateful for Jesus who keeps me in His flock and guards my soul. Thank you, Jesus!

 

 

Jun 19

FOR FAITH: Joshua 3:5

Joshua 3 5 CP

 

Twelve words spoken by Joshua are recorded in this verse. They hold so much meaning:

1. We are to consecrate ourselves.

The word consecrate means to make or declare sacred; to set apart or dedicate to the service of God. Only God can make us holy. Without Him we are merely unworthy, lost, incomplete. But we can consecrate ourselves to Him. We can set ourselves apart (from society, from evil, from ourselves) and dedicate our lives to His service.

 

2. We have a future. 

The word tomorrow holds promise for our future. Even better, ours is a future based on God and His good plan. In our future, God will do for us, be for us, help us, strengthen us, direct us, love us and forgive us. And use us for His good purpose.

Scripture doesn’t promise us a certain number of days to live on this earth. But even if our earthly life ends today, because of Jesus’ salvation, we still have the promise of tomorrow and eternity with Him.

3. God will do amazing things.

God is still in the process of performing miracles. He is still alive and at work. Our job is to allow Him and, when appropriate, to assist in whatever He is doing. Our job is also to watch for what He is doing…and prepare to be amazed.

4. God is among us.

The word Emanuel means “God is with us.” Jesus left the glory of heaven, came to earth and became God with us, in human form. Even after Jesus returned to heaven, God has remained with us in the form of His Holy Spirit—the third part of the Trinity. He is with us. And among us. As promised.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14)

 I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people. (Leviticus 26:12)

Joshua spoke 12 words in chapter 3 verse 5. Those twelve words contain at least four lessons for us. The verse is one more example of the richness of Scripture. One more example of how—when we meditate on Scripture—we understand how rich it is and how it can enable us to have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ (Ephesians 3:18).

 

 

 

 

Jun 15

Awaiting Amber Waves

Foliage 467

Mature wheat fields ready for harvest.

 

When we moved to Idaho at the end of April, the fields of wheat were soft light green. And the shafts were about 6” tall.

Over the next month, we watched them grow so fast we were tempted to drive the country roads holding our eyelids open, worried that if we blinked we’d miss actually being able to see the stalks stretching upward.

Now, the same wheat fields are soft yellow in color and the shafts are two foot tall.

We understand the spring wheat will be harvested in the fall. So from now until then, the growing cycle slows while the color change continues as does the ripening of the wheat kernels.

Then one day, we’ll be driving along, the gentle breeze will be blowing and we’ll gasp, pull our car to the side of the road and see the fields looking just like the photo above. Then we’ll no doubt start singing about those

amber waves of grain 

Wednesday we will head over to our neighbor city of Emmett (population 6,500—which is big, compared to Middleton at 6,200) to check out the annual cherry festival. Being there will bring to mind another line from that song:

above the fruited plain 

…which is a great song to be singing today because as I write this post on Sunday, it is Flag Day. Out in our front yard and nearly every other yard in our little town of Middleton, proudly waves a flag.

Sing along with me, won’t you?

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea! 

(Katharine Lee Bates)

Jun 12

ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL

Creatures great and small

As we drive through the neighborhoods near our new country home, we see fields of horses, fields of cows, fields of sheep and fields of goats. There is one field I love best—the one above. It is home to a mama horse and her colt, a single cow and a happy goat. All of them live together in that one fenced-in area and usually they are all hanging out together.

Lately—because of these adorable critters—I have taken to singing a great old hymn:

 

All things bright and beautiful

All creatures great and small;

All things wise and wonderful

The Lord God made them all.

(Cecil Frances Alexander)

 

Yup. God made all of the critters in that photo and God made you and me. When I see those animals hanging out together, getting along and enjoying God’s world despite their differences, it reminds me that, as part of God’s creation—more than that—as part of God’s family, He wants all of His kids to get along.

Whatever differences we have, however differently He made us, those differences are part of the beautiful variety of His creation—meant to make the whole better; not keep us apart from each other and from the rest of the whole.

Thank you, Jesus for the gentle nudge. Thank you Cecil Frances Alexander for the great hymn to remember the main point of it all.

Jun 08

FOR FAITH: Being Sheep

IMG_0393

Nearly every evening, Jim and I lie in our reclining deck chairs and stare at the sky. Some evenings, we’re focused on the sun’s blaze of glory as it dips below the horizon. Some evenings we are startled by a clear sky, speckled with heavenly lights and punctuated by soaring satellites zooming across our field of vision. Some evenings, we are overcome by the majesty of clouds cushioning the dark sky.

But each evening’s viewing is also accompanied by sounds which are new to us, such as the deep moan of neighboring cows reminding us of our place in this the farming community we have come to love. Other evenings, we focus on the night-time chorus of the birds and frogs and crickets. But some evenings, we are blessed with the sound of sheep, their gentle bleating carried upon the evening breeze to our backyard patio retreat.

Which reminds me of Jesus.

We are His people and the sheep of His pasture (Psalm 100:3).

Throughout Scripture, God refers to His people as His sheep. We are to follow Him. We are to be gentle. We are to trust Him. And throughout Scripture, we are reminded that Jesus is the Good Shepherd who wants what is best for us; claims us as His own; and desires that none should be lost.

Just as Jim and I need to be still in the evenings and listen to the sound of those sheep, we also need to be still and know that God is with us; that He is who He says He is; that He is our eternally Good Shepherd.

Thank you, sheep for the reminder. Thank you, Jesus for the promises and for the truth that those promises hold.

May 29

FOR FAITH: Patience for the Harvest

19878418_s

Recently, I have posted about my observations in my new Idaho home and how they relate to Jesus. I wanted my Friday post to be different; not because I’ve run out of observations but because I am overcome by them so often that I forget my readers aren’t physically here to share my joy in them.

As I prayed about what to write, Jesus’ parable of the seed tossed onto the good soil sprang into my mind:

 And as for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bring forth fruit with patience. (Luke 8:15, RSV)

Some Bible versions use the words, perseverance or steadfastness rather than patience. Yes, we’re to have patience with other people, but here the focus is on having patience to persevere while moving steadily forward in our Christian lives. It’s about patience with our own faith; our own slow and steady spiritual growth; the ongoing strengthening of our relationship with Jesus.

Part of the parable of the good soil is that we must cultivate the soil in order to receive the seed (the Gospel). We must prepare ourselves to receive the seed with an open, willing (honest and good) heart. We must water it with Living Water. We must grow it in fellowship with other Christians. And we must develop our personal relationship with Jesus through prayer.

Just as we must cultivate the soil, so also must we be at work to allow the seed itself to grow. A farmer can have rich soil and fertile seed, but if he does not water and care for it, it will die. So, too God’s truth must be nourished through teaching, reading and meditation and we must allow the Son to shine on it fully. All of this takes time and effort on our part. It takes perseverance, steadfastness and patience.

If not, the soil is no better than the soil where the seed fell on rocks, sprang up and then quickly withered or where it fell into thorns and was choked.

I have only lived in Idaho one month and one day, but I have loved watching the varied crops in this farming community change from tiny buds to tall waves of deep green grain. It is a reminder that there is good soil here. The farmers have patiently cultivated the soil and are tending the seed with patience, perseverance and steadfastness.

I will look forward to watching the harvest with enthusiasm and joy. Jesus also must be watching with enthusiasm and joy as the seed He planted in our hearts is being held until we are able to bring forth good fruit.

What do you know? I ended up with another Idaho/Jesus observation, after all.

 

 

May 25

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT IDAHO: The Sky

Psalm 19 1

 

 

Every evening since we moved here four weeks ago, my husband and I have sat outside on our patio and watched the sky. The clouds create a glorious sunset at about 9 pm each night.

On evenings when those clouds then blow away, out come the stars. God has rearranged them in our sky here from their positions over California. It’s fun to find the constellations again. But mostly it has been amazing that God seems to have created a thousand more new stars to shine above our Idaho back yard.

Some of the stars streak across the heavens. Some twinkle brightly. But mostly we just sit and stare; emotionally and spiritually understanding the words of Psalm 19:1.

 

 

May 22

MORE OF WHAT I LOVE ABOUT IDAHO

Pigs

 

I love the “hog barn Bible study.”

Yup. You read that right.

About 25 of us meet on Tuesday evening in an old hog barn; spruced up with mismatched carpets, photos from last year’s horse calendar and tables stretching from one end of the room to the other. We meet at 6:30 for a “light snack” which in Idaho means a hearty potluck dinner with 3 hot dishes, a couple of salads and at least 4 desserts—chocolate required.

Then we have a few quick prayer requests and rotate around the room reading a chapter of the book of Scripture we’re studying. We talk about what it means and how to apply it. Then after holding hands and praying the Lord’s Prayer together, we’re out the door by 8 pm.

All in a hog barn spruced up.

Which reminds me that no matter how I might try to spruce myself up spiritually, I started out as one of those pigs Jesus cautioned his followers not to throw the pearl of the Gospel at.

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls [the Gospel] to pigs.”

(Matthew 7:6, interpretation added) 

 Fortunately someone did toss the Gospel in my direction, I caught the pearl and I can now celebrate being part of God’s eternal family.  

Presently we and our Idaho friends are fellowshipping in an earthly hog barn. One day we’ll fellowship at a heavenly banquet where all us former piggies can celebrate our family status as children of the Most High.

Thank you Jesus for desiring that none should be lost and for finding new and wonderful ways to remind us that we do not deserve the grace, mercy and salvation you gave us freely but which cost you dearly.

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