When people ask how I’m doing, I usually respond with, “I’m blessed.”
I am blessed, or at least I feel blessed, but perhaps I’m really trying to communicate that I’m blessed. Perhaps it’s a cover-up for trying to shift my mind to a humble/thankful perspective. I don’t do it intentionally or even pridefully, I just respond with “I’m blessed” because that’s how I feel. How am I blessed? I’m alive, have a job, have a roof over my head, transportation at my disposal, friends with whom I laugh, food in my belly, and a few extra dollars every now and then. That makes me “blessed,” right?
Nowhere in the Bible does God promise worldly comfort and ease as blessings.
If we take a look at Matthew chapter 5 we will see what actually makes us blessed.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven…”
I want to be “blessed” according to God, not according to this world.
Father let us be blessed according to your word, so that we might be a living testimony of your love and faithfulness. Help us be thankful for the worldly comforts we have and not take them for granted, but let us not get caught up in idolatry. We need you to help us renew our minds so that we can keep our focus on you. In your holy name, Amen.
Feeding the Hungry
Working in the food industry has surely given me an amplified perspective on people and hunger, as well as the necessity of food and nourishment in life.
It may be a surprise to some that even in 2014, people around the globe go to bed hungry at night. I’m grateful and blessed to work for a company that works ardently to feed people around the world and cut down on the problem of world hunger.
It’s not news that the word of God is considered “food” and that as we read the Bible, go to church, or listen to sermons we are nourished and fed.
So we do those things and check the box and our spiritual bellies are full, but what are we doing to feed others? If those in our circle of influence were to sit at a proverbial banquet table, would they, too, be fed? Or would they be starved?
Let’s invite them to have a seat with us at the banquet table of Christ.
We should be inviting, encouraging, uplifting, loving, and giving to others, feeding them with the everlasting nourishment of Jesus Christ.
“But whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14 NIV)
“Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38 NIV)
There is a solid appropriateness of “Nothing Gold Can Stay” in the echo of my heart.
“Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leafs a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.”
There aren’t many things I can tangibly feel these days.
The warmth of your skin has slipped away. The hum of your lips against mine has dissipated.
Even my breasts feel numb as I pull your t-shirt on before I crawl into my empty bed.
I sit cross-legged on the counter, staring at the fading flame in my hands.
Pursing my lips together I exhale, gently blowing the candle out. Smoke climbs with arthritis
up to my lips and taints me with suffocation.
I sit in my reading chair, my book balanced on the armrest, untouched.
Four pages from the end and I can’t concentrate; my thoughts wander to you.
In my hand is a stone I pulled from the river the day you taught me how to skip rocks.
I finger the stone, over and over, remembering the sun on our backs, your hand
on my face, the quiet stillness of “this is so right” that swooped in like a Pelican on the bank.
Almost 30 Years Ago
Two young sisters laid on the back deck of their upstate New York home. One had a pink sleeping bag, the other a glow-in-the-dark sleeping bag. Both were in their ruffled pajamas and were staring up at the big night sky. The younger sister closed her eyes, enjoying the tickling of her curls on her cheek, just as the older sister exclaimed, “Look! A shooting star!” The younger sister’s eyes popped open, darting back and forth along the dark canvas to see what her older sister saw. She missed seeing every shooting star that night.
But in her heart, she vowed to herself that someday she would love a man who would show her all the shooting stars in the world.
Our Third Date
I watched as you intensely stroked blue and black paint together, meticulously stirring to get precisely the color you wanted. You handed me the paintbrush and asked me to paint the hills in the background, in front of which you’d paint the most beautiful tree. I’d paint the town, you’d paint the church.
Together we painted the sky.
The Day I Wish We Could Take Back
I knew that I didn’t want to go another day without you playing a star role in my life. It took me longer to fall in love but I was willing to give love another chance. You were so worth the risk.
If there was one thing I wasn’t expecting, it was the last thing you did before the curtains closed. You looked at our painting hanging on my wall and said, pointing, “I never noticed this before, but those two lines right there look like shooting stars.”
Before you kissed me one last time
hugged me one last time
and walked away with my piece of the starry night sky in your pocket.
There was a man who pulled two pieces right out of the sky, clenching them in his hand. One for him, and one for me.
They say there’s also a man in the moon. I think that means a man will give his woman the moon right out of the sky, regardless of the cost.
- – -
The flowers rot in a wide-mouth mason jar. They were vibrant, fresh, and sturdy. Now they drip their stink, drooling onto the counter.
There’s dust on the frames I can’t bring myself to take down. As I exhale to uncover the life we used to share, I see your heart, right on your sleeve where you left it. I see my comfort, your confidence, my ease, our love.
There’s a shirt hanging in my closet. Its arms once longed for me, offering strength, protection, and unending love. Now it droops, lifeless, a wavered longing.
What was extravagant is now dull. What sounded of music now sounds of noise. When I walk, my steps only sync with my shadow.
Your pillow is cold,
Your toothbrush is dry,
The sunshine you offered hides in the sky.
- – -
There was a man who pulled two pieces right out of the sky, clenching them in his hand. One for him and one for me.
I was scared he might take mine back, so I stole his from him.
Mine for him and his for me.
They belong together.
As I rolled over and looked at the clock I saw that it was early, far too early, to arise for the day. I used one hand to half-fluff my pillow and I laid my head back down. It was then that I noticed I had a dull headache, and thought to myself, “I really need some coffee.”
I fell back asleep for an hour or so, and awoke with the same dull headache. Again I thought, “I’ve got to get some coffee started.”
When I stirred that morning I practically made a bee-line to the kitchen to turn on my Keurig and warm up some almond milk to add as creamer. As I took the first sip of the morning, the luscious flavor enveloped me and spread to the very edges of my headache promising to make it subside.
It was then that I realized I had been craving coffee all morning, when what I should have craved was my Savior.
Instead of coffee being the first thought on my mind, it should have been thoughts of the great God who gifted to me another day. Instead of my first words being dedicated to searching for my favorite mug, I should have had praises on my lips for my Father.
- - -
“Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops.” Proverbs 3:9 NIV
We should strive to give God our firsts; first thoughts, first words, the first check after payday (tithes), the first piece of our time each day.
“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 NIV
It is He who we need first thing in the morning; it is He who we need to quench our thirst, to meet every need.
Two hundred fifty million years ago the area surrounding Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico was a coastline for an inland sea. Eventually the water receded and the reef eroded, leaving behind 118 underground caves full of beautiful stalagmites and stalactites. Of the 118, Carlsbad Caverns is one of the largest, and one of three open to the public.
Carlsbad Caverns is fully developed for tours with paved trails, electricity (lit walking paths) and even emergency elevators. On the tour is a room called the “Big Room,” which is literally a natural limestone chamber almost 4,000 feet long, 625 feet wide, and 225 feet high. It is the fifth largest natural chamber in North America.
As a young girl my parents took me on a trip to see the caves. We lowered ourselves into the cave on a steep trail full of switchbacks. As we entered the cave, I was overwhelmed by the feeling of darkness closing in, and by the pressure and weight of millions of tons of rock and ground above my head.
We took the guided tour that led us into the Big Room. After we oohed and ahhed for a bit the guide said that he was going to turn off the lights so we could experience just how dark it really was in the caves. On either side of the man-made path there were stalagmites and stalactites reaching up and down for what seemed like days, their sharp sword-like points gleaming in the dim light, bumps in the ground, things to trip over, ledges to fall off of, etc. I was worried that if the lights were turned out that someone would get seriously hurt!
The lights went out, and IT. WAS. DARK. So dark, I very literally could not see my hand before my face. I could not see my parents, or even the guide, but I could hear his voice.
There are several spiritual lessons here, but I’d like to highlight these two:
-Being in the midst of darkness but listening to- and following- the voice of God will keep us on the right path. “Your word is a lamp for my feet and the light unto my path.” Psalm 119:105
“But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:14
Once the guide turned on his flashlight to point at different objects around the room I started inching closer to him. He was the guide, he had the light, and I wanted to be close to the light! “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12
Stay close to the light. Be the light for others. Listen closely to God’s whispering voice, even amidst the darkness.