Thursday, August 31, 2017

My new favorite Bible story

Back in the day, when I taught Bible study, I remember how my ladies used to laugh at me, because I was always saying, "This is my favorite Bible story!" or "This is my favorite scripture!"

Some of my favorites include:

  • Joseph (Genesis 37, 39-50)
  • Gideon (Judges 6-7)
  • David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17)
  • Elijah on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18)
  • How Jehosheba saved the line of David by saving baby Joash (2 Kings 11, 2 Chronicles 22:10-23:21)
  • Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace (Daniel 3)
  • Esther (book of Esther)
  • Jesus raises a widow's son (Luke 7:11-17)
  • Jesus heals a sick woman and raises Jairus' daughter (Matthew 9:18-26, Mark 5:21-43, Luke 8:40-56)
  • The risen Jesus appears to Mary in the garden (John 20:10-18)
  • Jesus cooks breakfast for his disciples, after rising from the dead (John 21:1-14)
  • Jesus explains the Old Testament, incognito (Luke 24:13-35)
  • Peter escapes from prison (Acts 12:1-19)
  • Paul and Silas triumphantly get out of prison (Acts 16:16-40)
  • Psalms 27, 33, 37, 46, 57, 63, 73, 84, 86, 90, 91, 92, 103, 104, 111, 115, 121, 131, 139, 145
  • Isaiah 40, 53, 55
  • Jeremiah 31
  • Ezekiel 36
  • Hosea 14
  • Romans 5, 8, 12
  • Ephesians 1:1-2:10
  • Philippians 4 (or really all of Philippians)
  • Revelation 21-22

Well, that's not exhaustive, but I'll just stop.  (Although I'd invite you to read through those!)

You get the idea.  I have a lot of favorite parts of the Bible.

One of the greatest things about the Bible is that you always find new things in it, no matter how many times you reread it.

In my last post, I wrote about new things I'd seen in the parable of the Sower, how the Lord continually plants and replants His seeds of truth and righteousness in the hearts of men.  When the seeds don't germinate, He reworks the soil of the heart, plowing, tilling, preparing, making ready.  He patiently persists, knowing that every part of His process is valuable and important.

Still carrying these thoughts in my mind, I forged ahead in the book of Mark, and came across my new "favorite" story:

     They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him.  He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village.  When he had spit on the man's eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, "Do you see anything?" He looked up and said, "I see people; they look like trees walking around." Once more, Jesus put his hands on the man's eyes.  Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.  Jesus sent him home saying, "Don't go into the village."   (Mark 8:22-26 NIV)

It is always beautiful and exciting when we read about Jesus doing a miracle of healing.  Jesus is our Healer, the Great Physician.  He knows how to fix the bodies He created.  I love to meditate on His healing power.

But I promised to tell you about the new things I saw today.  Here we go:

 . . . some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. . . (Mark 8:22 NIV)

Some people brought a blind man and begged.  This reminds me of a post I wrote some time ago, about some friends who carried a paralyzed man on a mat to Jesus for healing.  In both cases, we know nothing about the infirm person, except that he had a serious infirmity.  Was he willing and cooperative as his friends brought him to the healer?  Was he too lost in his malady to either cooperate or resist?  We don't know.  What we do know: People who loved him brought him to Jesus.  People who loved him begged Jesus to help.

Our intercessory prayers matter.  They make a difference.  This man did not ask for healing.  His friends asked for healing for him.  We can do the same for our friends.  We can ask for their physical healing, but we can also ask for their spiritual healing.  Our compassionate Lord heals people in every way.  He has special concern for those who are spiritually blind and cannot see or accept the saving truth that He offers.  We can bring these precious, blind souls into the presence of the Lord and beg for mercy and healing.

Additionally, these people begged Jesus to touch their blind friend.  Why did they want Jesus to touch him?  Jesus could heal with a word, or even a mere thought.  Jesus could even command a healing from a distance.  However, the people asked Jesus to touch the man.

Let's consider Jesus' response to this request.  Did He touch the man?  Well, first it says that Jesus "took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village."  There is the first touch: gentle leading, by the hand, to a new place.  Then, when they arrived at Jesus' chosen location, Jesus spit on the man's eyes.  How extraordinary.  Jesus actually bestowed some of His own bodily fluids on the man's eyes.  He did not need to do this; it was a strange grace.  I imagine that to the man, it felt something like eyedrops.  I imagine that the saliva of God is a holy, healing, soothing substance.  Jesus spit on the man's eyes, and the Bible also says that Jesus touched him.  In effect, we have three touches here: the leading by the hand, the soothing drops of saliva, and the deliberate laying on of hands.  Jesus responded by doing what the people asked of Him, and more.

Then a pause occurred.  Jesus asked the man if he could see anything.  The man gave an odd reply, indicating that he could see somewhat, but that his eyes were not completely right: "I see people, but they look like trees."

This reminds me of the post I recently wrote about a sunrise that sort of didn't happen.  Of course, it did happen; the sun always rises.  But that day, we didn't see the sun come up.  We waited and watched, but we didn't see it happen.  Nevertheless, daylight came, and we enjoyed a new day.  In my new favorite  Bible story, Jesus graciously administered abundant healing touches on the blind man, but the result was not immediately complete.

Here was a chance for faith to rally.  Sometimes God delays a result to keep us focused and dependant on Him.  Sometimes God chooses to display His persevering power, rather than His perfectly instant power.  Perhaps He wants us to see how He perseveres, so we will be encouraged to persevere as well.

Once more, Jesus put His hands on the man's eyes.  Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.  (Mark 8:25 NIV)

I find this incredibly encouraging, because Jesus kept on working with the man until his sight was restored.  Jesus didn't say, "Oh well, good enough.  You were blind, and now you can see some stuff.  What do you want, anyway?"  Instead, Jesus put His hands on the man's eyes yet one more time, patiently, persistently, lovingly, expectantly.  Jesus finished the job.

Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on until completion until the day of Christ Jesus.    (Philippians 1:6 NIV)

Jesus responds to intercessory prayers, our requests for the ones we love.  Jesus is not stingy in His responses: He goes above and beyond what we ask for, although it may come in a strange and unexpected form, like spit.  Above all, Jesus carries on until completion and gets the job done.

Jesus gets the job done.

Thank you, Jesus, 
that I can trust you because you are faithful and good.
Your will be done.
I look forward to seeing what wonderful things you will do.  
I thank you for the wonderful things you will do.
Thank you that you are totally faithful, good, wise and powerful.
You can and will get the job done perfectly.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Soil, rototillers, and hearts

Shawn and I have been trying to figure out how to tame the yard at this house, ever since we moved in four years ago.

The day we got to Illinois and, for the first time, laid eyes on the home that was destined to be ours, we arrived at our new address ahead of the realtor.  Thus, we were locked out.  So, we walked around the yard, and I held back tears.  The weeds in the landscaping towered over our heads.  The former owners had left two pots of red geraniums, and some white petunias planted by the front walk.  But beyond that, everything was overgrown and weedy, entirely unkempt.  We were looking at literally thousands of unforeseen dollars in landscape projects, were we to hire it done.

We've discovered that hiring a mowing service is more reasonable than hiring landscapers.  So this summer, we've been paying Luis to mow, and we use our evenings and weekends to landscape.

We also bought a rototiller.

We finally tamed the lower tier of this garden.  When we arrived in 2013, it boasted a solid, formidable crop of weeds, although the following spring a few peonies surfaced here and there.  This mystified me, as peonies need full sun, and this garden is in full shade.  We moved the peonies to slightly sunnier spots at the end of that season.

We have used the bed as a catching spot for all the leaves that continue to fall after the last leaf pick-up date each autumn.  Our soil is fairly heavy clay, so I figured any humus we could glean from decaying leaves would make it loamier.

Shawn turned the soil with a shovel a number of times.

At one point, we sprinkled a package of wildflower shade mix over the bed.  It came up in bursts of flowers and weeds, hopelessly entangled together.  At that point, there was no path through the bed, so pulling weeds was well nigh impossible.  Midsummer brought a lusty crop of volunteer maple trees, offspring from a profusion of maple seeds that had fallen in May.  At least it was green?

We piled more fall leaves, and turned the bed again the next spring.

This spring, we bought the aforementioned rototiller.  After turning the bed again, with a shovel, Shawn rototilled it two or three times.

And then, finally, we placed stones for a path.  This is the key.  You must be able to access your garden if you are going to be able to care for it.  After we got the stone path in, we planted a thoughtfully selected group of plants that should survive with minimal sun.  We dug, sprinkled bone marrow into the holes, placed the plants, patted them in with backfill, watered and mulched.
Voila!  A garden.

It's doing pretty well.

At the very back of our yard, bordering on an intermittent stream that runs through a culvert and down into our lake, this garden may not look impressive.  You have to understand what it was like before.  Layers of weeds, roots and rocks had stubbornly embedded themselves in layers of petrified landscape fabric.  I worried that Shawn might give himself a heart attack, pulling, yanking, tearing, slicing, digging and removing all the unsavory growth and debris.

Again, the rototiller saved the day.

Shawn rototilled numerous times, breaking up chunks of soil, sifting up roots and stems, chopping, lifting, filtering out detritus.  Our next door neighbor sauntered past and remarked, "Now that's work."

Eventually, we achieved hospitable soil, so we planted ajuga in the front row, daylilies in the middle, and black-eyed Susans along the back: tough, hardy, shade-tolerant plants.  We didn't mulch, so I go out and hoe every now and again.  Hoeing isn't so bad, if you don't wait too long between times.

I write about this because I came across the parable of The Sower in my Bible reading again the other day.  This time I was in Mark.

In case you are not familiar, the parable of the sower tells about a farmer who went out to plant his seed.  Some fell on the hard road, and birds came and ate it up.  Some fell among rocks, where there wasn't much soil--it grew quickly, but almost immediately withered under the scorching sun, lacking deep roots.  Some fell among weeds and thorns, and was choked out by the competition.  And some of the farmer's seed fell on good soil, where it grew to produce an abundant crop.

I've always read that parable and worried about what kinds of soil people might be, people with whom I try to share the truth about Jesus.  "Hard soil" that rejects out of hand?  "Rocky soil" that responds but quickly burns out, lacking deep commitment?  "Weedy soil" that produces some growth, but the growth is choked by competition, and fails to thrive or produce a crop?  What if I, myself, am rocky soil?  Will my faith fizzle under duress and be lost?

However, in working on our gardens this summer, I realized something:  Soil can be improved.  Farmers go out in their fields in the spring and pick rocks.  Laborers work hard, pulling weeds or chopping them with hoes.  Plows traverse the rows of a field, furrowing, disking the soil, breaking it up, preparing it to receive the seed.

In the case of our lower terraced garden, we planted it a number of times, reworking it between plantings, before we achieved a desirable result.  We kept at it, persevered.  Now we have pretty plants growing there, but we still have to go out regularly and weed.  We even installed a path so we can do this maintaining work!

Here's the transferable truth:  God doesn't only sow the seeds of His Truth one time.  The sowing goes on and on.  If the seed doesn't germinate, God may go back and do more work on the soil of a man's heart, preparing the ground for the next planting season.

This is what the Lord says to the people of Judah and Jerusalem: "Plow up the hard ground of your hearts!  Do not waste your good seed among thorns."      ~Jeremiah 4:3 (NLT)

I'm not entirely sure, but I think the idea of breaking up unplowed ground and pulling weeds, applied metaphorically to the human heart, could indicate a painful process.  I'm not talking about the exertion experienced by the one who plows.  I'm talking about the pain experienced by the heart that is plowed.  Perhaps this is one reason why we should rejoice in suffering.  It is the preparatory work before the planting of truth, truth that will grow into abundant spiritual fruit--love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control--beautiful characteristics that adorn the life of a believer.

I said, "Plant the good seeds of righteousness, and you will harvest a crop of love.  Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and shower righteousness upon you."     ~Hosea 10:12 (NLT)

Our merciful God desires to save.  Jesus did not come to condemn the world, but to save it (John 3:17).  The world was already condemned, but Jesus came, the great Rescuer, to bring life and hope.  The seeds of the Word are as infinite as Christ Himself; there is no end to God's supply of truth and life.  Jesus will not make one half-hearted effort to toss out the offer of salvation, and then abandon all those who were too damaged to receive it.  Jesus is zealous for the salvation of humanity.

Truth doesn't change, but hearts change.  Soil can be turned, crumbled, refined, enriched.  Praise God, even the rockiest of hearts can be plowed up and replanted!

Pray that the Lord will work miraculously in the hearts of those who need to receive His seed of truth.  Pray that God will supernaturally enable these souls to undergo productive heart-plowing, surrendering to the holy work of His perfect hands.  Pray that we who believe will be brave when our own hearts are plowed, and full of compassion and wisdom when others experience deep work in their hearts.

"And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you.  I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart."  ~Ezekiel 36:26 (NLT)

We've lived here for four years, but we never made much progress on the landscaping, until we bought a rototiller.

(End note:  I never explored the significance of the metaphors of paths and hoes, but these are also very important.  I invite you to think it through on your own.)

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Parenting with no guarantees

Recently I watched an online video called, "Gospel Parenting," by one of the Tripp brothers. (Confession: I don't know the difference between the Tripp brothers.)  It was really good.  Really good.  I agree with him 100%. (Confession: I only watched half, because it was incredibly painful.)

Why would a person watch parenting videos, after it's over, after it's too late?

Oh, the guilt.

Oh, the regrets.

I tried, I really did.  I loved my children wholeheartedly, and still do.  More than anything, I wanted them to grow up loving and serving Jesus.  I also wanted to get some sleep sometimes, and to have a reasonably clean, organized home.  I also wanted peace within family relationships: obedience, and siblings who did not fight with each other.  Wanting these things--rest, order, peace--sometimes resulted in selfish parenting, parenting from a heart that was personally unhappy with the way things were, rather than because I was trying to teach my children about the grace of God through Christ.

Mr. Tripp speaks about this other kind of parenting: parenting the heart, intentionally, with an emphasis on grace and redemption.  I actually tried to do this.  I read some Tripp books before it was "too late."  I tried to learn and implement grace in the way I related to my children, but I wasn't very good at it.

I messed up.  A lot.

And yet, I still hold out hope.

Because it isn't about me.  Even if I had been a perfect parent, which is an unfeasible goal, there would be no guarantee.  Because we do not save our children.  Jesus saves our children.  We can try to parent a heart ("Shepherd your child's heart," Mr. Tripp teaches) -- but it is only God who can change hearts.  Only the Father can draw a soul into His eternal kingdom.  Praise God, it depends on Him and not on me.

This is not to excuse mistakes and failures, but it is to hold out hope.  We have an almighty, sovereign God who loves the world (John 3:16) and desires that everyone would understand the truth and be saved (1 Timothy 2:3-4).  If God is for us, who can stand against us (Romans 8:31). . . or against the children we love?

There is a thing.  I'm sure I used to fall into it myself.  It's this thing where we look around at the people with the prodigal sons and daughters, and we analyze what they did wrong, so we can be sure we don't do that.

We bring all these charges:
They let their kids eat too much sugar.
They let their kids watch too much TV.
They don't monitor what their kids are doing on the computer.
They don't let their kids get dirty.
They hover over their kids.
They don't pay enough attention to their kids.
They put their kids into too many extracurricular activities.
They work all the time, and don't do anything with their kids.
They don't have family devotions.
They make family devotions long and boring.
They spank.
They don't spank.
They punish for irrational things.
They are angry all the time.
They don't explain consequences clearly.
They think their kids are always right.
They don't follow through with what they say they will do.
They skip church.
They buy their kids everything they want.
They get their kids out of trouble when they should let them learn a lesson.
They let their kids take their phones to bed.
--And on and on and on--

It's a litany of explanations for parental failure.  We analyze and evaluate, and then we determine that we will not fall into any of those errors, so we will be assured that our children will grow up to be smart, beautiful, God-fearing, productive citizens with good jobs, who will always have the best of relationships with us, because we have parented so effectively.

But there is no guarantee.  No guarantee.

I've been on both sides: the side of self-righteous judgment of other parents, and the side of spectacular failure of my own.  (I am sure, under the sovereign rule of God, that this is no accident.)

It's the sin of Job's friends.  Job's friends looked at Job's suffering, and they were horrified to see his pain.  This is how their minds processed it:  "Job is suffering terribly.  I am not suffering the way Job is suffering.  I do not want to suffer the way Job is suffering.  Clearly, Job is being punished for a grievous sin.  I will not commit a grievous sin, because I do not want to experience such horrible suffering.  I will exhort Job to confess his sin and repent of it, so that God can end his suffering."

Do you see?  Do you see the parallel?

We want to know how we can control outcomes, so we look at other people's misfortunes, and we determine that we will not make the mistakes they made that got them there.  Like Job's friends, we want to consider the parents of rebellious children and assure ourselves that we have not made the mistakes that landed them in their predicament.

Job said again and again that he was blameless, that he had not sinned.  We know absolutely that he was not a sinless man, because all men are sinful.  There is no-one who is righteous apart from the grace of God.  Job was not implying that he was a perfect person.  What he meant was, "I've not done anything in particular that God is trying to teach me not to do.  I've not sinned more--and, in fact, I've possibly sinned less--than you, my friends."

This made his friends crazy.  Why?  Because they wanted to be able to know that they were exempt from the risk of going through what Job was going through.

As parents, we want to know that we have done all the things to make us exempt from going through what the parents of prodigals go through.

But there are no guarantees.  It isn't about our performance as parents.  There is no legalistic formula that parents can follow to get perfect kids.

Now, there is value in learning from other people's mistakes.  Certainly.  Similarly, we cannot take the truth that, "There are no guarantees," and use it as justification for not trying to do our best.  We have to try to teach and influence to the best of our ability, by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.  Sometimes we will do well, and sometimes we will falter, and regardless of our performance, outcomes will vary.  But we have to strive--with God's help--to discern a good path and walk it, because our actions are what we, personally, are accountable to God for.  We are accountable for our actions, not the outcomes of our actions.

If we love our children and faithfully do our best to shepherd them, repenting of our errors and asking for forgiveness, God will be glorified in our efforts, regardless of how our children turn out.

If we parent selfishly and badly, and are unrepentant about our shortfallings, then that is on us.  Even if our children turn out well, growing up to love and serve the Lord, their success does not vindicate us.

I don't know anything.  What I thought I knew, I suspect was not right--at least, not entirely.  I know I was sometimes harsh when I should have been gentle, and I sometimes caved in when I should have stood fast.  At times, I cried when I should have laughed, and I despaired when I should have trusted in the Lord.  I also loved my children deeply, worked hard, poured out as much as I could, and seriously prioritized their needs.  I made intentional efforts to teach them about Jesus and to get them involved in places where they would be encouraged in the faith by others.  I prayed without ceasing.  I tried hard, and sometimes I still fell flat on my face.

All the advice I have at this point is based on what I wish I had done better:

  • Be gentle and kind.  Encourage.
  • Learn and model humility.  
  • Remember how much Jesus has forgiven me, and extend that same grace.  
  • Always hope, because God is faithful and good.  
  • Be thankful, and let thankfulness overflow in observable joy.  
  • Thank God for the future.
  • Trust God, because everything is in His hands.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

What's the matter?

People are hurting.

This world is a savage place, ripping souls and sending them forth to hemorrhage all over other broken hearts.

Children are cruel.  Youths are ruthless.

Adults may be better at hiding their daggers, while still using them.

Sometimes I just want to scream, "What is wrong with people?"  Why do families prey on their own offspring?  Why do children turn on their own parents?

We see it, you know, when a father pimps out his daughter, or a mother steals her child's psych medicine for her own recreation.  The gross selfishness is repulsive, nauseating.  The perverted personal indulgences make us cringe and gag.  We see it so clearly in the microcosm of a small family system.  We are horrified when a 20-year-old college student, whose father died in a tragic accident years earlier, goes home from school one day and kills his mother with a knife.

But on the larger scale, we all belong to the family of humanity, yet we prey on one another in ways we never even consider, those of us who think we are good, who still live selfishly: grabbing, hoarding, amassing, gloating, flaunting, rationalizing.

It isn't safe to live unselfishly.  It is reckless to give away our treasure to those who will not treasure it, who will use it for a short time, and then cast it on the rubbish heap.  Us and them, and we're all so flawed, so wounded, so selfish and afraid.

Yet, there is beauty.  God does not leave us without a remnant of His beauty.

Venus, the morning star, shining radiantly before
crescendoing birdsong,
dewy grass,
newly opened flowers,
blue sky,
cumulus clouds (glorious creamy dollops),
clean air,
shadows and dappled light,
forests of grand, quiet trees,
river stones,
the warmth of a young dog,
tiny eggs in a nest,
golden honey,
ripe fruit,
refreshing waterfalls,
snowy mountains,
vast oceans,
solar eclipses.

No wonder it's healing to escape into nature.  Immerse yourself in God's creation. He will heal you there, away from humanity and its byproducts, be they factories, fast food wrappers blowing down the street, or fractured bones from a domestic dispute.

Watch a butterfly on a coneflower and let the Lord restore your soul.

There is no answer in fretting, in anger, in taking offense, in being offended.

The most egregious aggressors harbor the most deeply damaged souls.

The only answer is to hold out grace, to give at great cost, to make ridiculous sacrifices.

The only answer is to do what Jesus did for us, and lay down our lives for others.

But it's terrifying, full of risk.  It will hurt.  They might not appreciate our gifts.

No.  They might not appreciate us.  In fact, they probably won't.

But they might, and if they do, it will make the world a different, better place.  A place of grace, which is the only way.

They might not appreciate us, but Jesus appreciates every cup of cold water offered in His name.  He is the one we serve.

We serve the gracious one.  He sees, and He loves us.

If God is for us, who can stand against us?

Dear Lord, please pour your Holy Spirit into us so we can spread your grace throughout the world.  Fill us.  Overflow from us.  Teach us how to heal by the power of your love.

Your kingdom come, your will be done.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Give us this day our daily bread

Being gluten free, I struggle to find affordable bread that I like.
Gluten free cornbread is more like normal cornbread
than most gluten free bread is like normal bread.

Bread nourishes.
It fills our mouths and our bellies.
"Filler," I've heard it called.
Bread lacks the protein of meat
and the vitamins of fruits and vegetables,
but it is packed with consolation.

Indeed, what is better
than a hunk of crusty fresh bread,
hot, tender in the middle and crisp of crust,
slathered with butter, melting--
or dipped into savory soup broth--
or sopping up a delicious marinara sauce
from the bottom of the plate?

Bread fills us, comforts us, and keeps us going.
It is gentle, settling to the stomach,
a buffer for acidic foods.
Toasted, with tea,
bread can be almost medicinal.

Jesus says that He is the Bread of Life.
He fills us, comforts us, sustains us.
He heals and feeds.
In love, He offered Himself for our benefit,
--a baby in a feeding trough--
that through the consumption of Christ
we would find life and fullness of joy.
(John 6:32-58)

Jesus promised that He would not leave us as orphans,
but that He would come to us,
that we would be in Him,
as He is in His Father,
and He would be in us.
(John 14:18-20)

Jesus is in us.
Like a lovely, thick slice of bread filling a formerly hungry stomach.

Give us this day our daily bread.

He fills us by His Spirit.

"I am the Lord your God
who brought you out of Egypt," He says,
"Open wide your mouth and I will fill it."
(Psalm 81:10)

"If you know how to give good gifts of fish and eggs to your children,
how much more will I give the Holy Spirit to those who ask,"
He says.
(Luke 11:11-13)

The Holy Spirit is Christ in us, the hope of glory.
(Colossians 1:27)

Something about this temporal life
forces the need for constant refilling.
Physically, we need to eat every day.
Spiritually, we need the Holy Spirit every day.
I do not exactly understand this.
Faith brings believers into the new birth of spiritual life
just as birth brings a baby into physical life.
But as a baby needs food to live and grow,
so we need the Holy Spirit, daily,
for our spiritual life and development.

Daily, we need to come into His presence,
feast on the scripture He illuminates for us,
remember the gospel story, remember hope.
In remembering hope, we grow in gratitude--
for life, for love, for forgiveness,
for His great salvation and His gentle compassion.
Hope leads to gratitude which leads to joy
which leads to confidence and power.
The power of the Holy Spirit.
The fuel of the Bread of Life.

Daily, we pray that God, our source of hope,
will fill us with His peace and joy
because we trust in Him--
and then we begin to overflow with confident hope
by the power of the Holy Spirit.
(Romans 15:13)

Jesus, the Bread of Life,
in us by His Holy Spirit
which He pours out on us,
filling us.

Jesus, let us find joy in each new day.
Fill us with your Spirit, fill us with the bread of life.
Sustain us with your joy, which gives us strength.
Let us walk in step with your Spirit today, strong and confident.

Give us this day our daily bread.

This post is a sequel to this post.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Welcome to my August

It is a fantasy, to imagine someone I love appearing, unannounced, on the doorstep for cake and tea.  Of course, if it were unannounced, the cake would not yet be made, but we could nip on chocolate while we waited for it; there's always a store of chocolate.  Or we could have a bonfire in the backyard, with hotdogs roasted over open flames.  And long, sweet conversation with lots of laughter.

I keep the beds made up with clean sheets, and I stock the guest bathroom with my favorite soap, moisturizer and shampoo.  There is even a stash of new toothbrushes in the bottom drawer!

Oh, the dream of a balm for loneliness.

August is so pretty, when the flowers finally reach their full bloom.

This is the walk to my front porch, crossing in front of my wild tangle of growing things.  Do you see the magnificent rosebush from our 30th anniversary?  There's another on the other side of the garage, but that one only has five or six blooms.  They make my heart overflow with gratitude.

Here is a closer shot of this fabulous bush in its prime.

And a close up of a gorgeous rose.

And another!

This is the bush as it stands today.  Each day, I tell myself, "Today I must deadhead it so it can go again."  And each day, I decide to wait one more day.

Just around the corner, my hummingbird feeder hangs nestled among red four o' clocks.  
The hummingbirds like the four o' clocks even better than the syrup. 
(1 cup boiled water plus 1/4 cup white sugar)

The cosmos are always slow, but hope springs eternal for these lovely blooms.

Further down the line, mini zinnias.  
Last year's zinnias were supposed to top out at 48 inches, 
but they surpassed 7 feet!  
Shawn doesn't like really tall flowers, so I got these minis.  
They offer me a precious surprise each day, 
tucked between four o' clocks and marigolds.

My front door in early morning light, 
while the four o' clocks are still mostly open.  
These flowers are at their best between 8 pm and 8 am. 
and they smell divine all night long.

A riot of four o' clocks

More four o' clocks

Pink four o' clocks at about 8:30 or 8:45 a.m. as they are closing up for the day.

This is how my front door looks most of the day, without early morning light or open flowers.

My front yard lamp-post island garden. Oy, have we worked to remake this!
We'll take a tour around the circle:

Luscious cleome winding in and out of pink coneflowers.  Coneflowers are perennials, and cleome self-seeds, so this is some low-maintenance joy for me.

Coneflowers are so photogenic, I can't stop myself photographing them.

Here we have coneflowers in front of purple salvia.  
I bought the salvia for super cheap this spring, because it had been frostbitten.  
I cut it back and planted it.  It's grown and bloomed like a champ ever since.  
Makes my heart swell a little.

More of my survivor salvia.

And a close up, just because I love this plant.

Here it is in context, between a lily and a daylily (which are both done), 
and in front of sedum (yet to bloom), yellow four o' clocks, and coneflowers.

Beyond the sedum, an obedient plant 
(the one with white flowers--it's also called false snapdragon) 
which I was thrilled to find at the nursery.  
I had one of these in NY and loved it.  
This time, I bought three!

Another view of the obedient plant.

Apricot coreopsis.  I also had coreopsis in NY, and it was a favorite.  
I always seem to plant this guy on the side of the bed 
that I have to walk around to see, but in this case it is also the street side, 
so I hope it does well and gets appreciated.

I adore these pink asters, and they are adding to the butterfly appeal of this garden.  
(This bed holds a collection of plants that attract butterflies, 
and the monarchs have already been visiting!) . 
Unfortunately, I am allergic to these beauties, 
and had a bit of a reaction after deadheading today.

 This is a new plant that I have no experience with.  Malva zebrina.  The literature says it is tough and easy to grow.  Almost invasive, says one source.  
I can only hope that such a pretty (and butterfly attracting) plant will be invasive!!

That's my front yard, my August joy.

When I'm lonely, I can putter in the dirt.
I suppose it is not a strange thing that older women 
turn to plants and pets 
when their children leave home.  
Something to fuss over and care for.