The Thistle Field

Most days as I journey, I move along quite oblivious to the enemy’s nefarious schemes and plans he has for me. I step forward confident, covered with the shield of faith. Other days I seem to misplace my shield altogether and wind up in some dark place of misshapen misadventures. Truth be told, my faith falls away at times and I’m more easily led to places I’d rather not be or see. Such a place is the thistle field.

Once upon a time my husband and I bought a couple of acres with a house on it. A portion of the property was covered with thistles which stretched over my 5’2” frame. The previous owners had horses to chew down or trample the thistles. We had no horse and therefore I set to work removing the thistles.

I geared up, meaning I put on a long sleeved shirt and rubber boots and two, yes two, pairs of gloves. Still, it was a dangerous, painful task. And always there were more thistles waiting to take the place of the ones I had pulled up. Eventually, I was able to clear the area. Mostly. Even several years later I could still find another thistle popping up.

Today, metaphorically, I found myself in the middle of a field of thistles. They all towered above my head and as I studied those surrounding me, I realized the plants had subtle differences yet remained mostly the same.

The problem was, of course, I didn’t have the proper gear with me to remove them, nor was I dressed appropriately for traipsing through a thistle field. (That would be a jumpsuit of Kevlar or a suit of armor, for those of you wondering.)

If I recall correctly, I’m pretty sure I stepped into the field unaware, the thistles springing up around me quicker than mice populating an abandoned house. (For those of you lucky enough to not have experienced said populating, trust me, it’s fast.)

So all of a sudden I’m completely surrounded. Using what I had, mainly my skirt, I began pulling up the thistles painfully one by one. I absolutely still got pricked and scratched even though my skirt was relatively thick. Spiny, prickly, troublesome thistles!

I’ll admit, I more than once lost my temper and used my feet to stomp some down, knowing full well that the thistles would survive any stomping. Nope, true thistle extermination and any weed annihilation, comes from yanking out the roots…which I did…time and again…for hours…for days…for months…for years.

I had cleared the field previously; at least I thought I had. But again, today I found myself in that very same field of thistles once more. Ugh!

Everyone knows when you clear out a huge area of weeds you have to keep returning to it to keep it free—at least people who garden learn this. Apparently I had forgotten this lesson. Having already cleared out the field a few times prior, I assumed I was good to go, to continue on my journey, never to return. The enemy knew this. I’m pretty sure he smirked and sneered my way as he sowed a few extra thistle seeds while I wasn’t looking.

Some of you might be wondering, “So, where’s God and Christ in your proverbial thistle field?” Oh, right. Whoops. There is a higher power above and beyond my puny human efforts.

I prayed, Lord, if it’s Your will, please remove these thistles from this field.

Most of them died on the spot. I made quick work of the remaining thistles and walked my scratched up, bleeding self to the edge of the field. Thanks, God.

I was about to continue on my journey when the Light of the World revealed Himself. I did what any God-fearing Christian would do and fell on my knees before Him.

He raised me up and placed a pouch in my hands. “Sow these here.” Kernels of Truth. Even as I sowed, thistles began to form again. The Light of the World taught me to plant many seeds, at least six for each growing thistle I pulled up.

Truth sown over the field where thistles lied for so long. Yes, lied. For this field of thistles has always been the enemy’s lies to my heart. Subtle differences in each thistle plant but always a thistle nonetheless.

I know this field will remain. I know I must return here often, if only to harvest more truths, and more than likely to remove the lies growing beside the truth. The thistles after all, must always be pulled up by their roots, else they will grow anew. And I for one am sick of living, lying thistles.

And just maybe, for extra measures, I should place a horse or two here too.

Photo by Mona Eendra on Unsplash

Ember Petals

I would like to tell you a story today. The following is my ember petal to you, reader.

(Photo by Andrey Grinkevich on Unsplash)

On the day I was born, both Darkness and Light lingered in the room, both hoping to claim me for their own. Darkness won that day as I was born into a broken world. As I released my first ear-piercing cry my parents beamed and the nurses swaddled me. Apparently every baby cries when they are born, except I understood what others in that room could not. At the moment of my birth, Darkness shot an arrow deep into my heart.

While the people present scrambled around to comfort and clean me, the unseen Light stepped forward and broke the shaft of the arrow, leaving the arrowhead in.

Even though Darkness marked me that day, I grew toward the Light, at times craving Light more than anything else. Still, Darkness had its hold on me, embedded deep within my heart. The arrowhead turned to seed and began to grow a thorny tree which caused me to prick others as I reached out to them. Even so, the Light remained close, providing comfort when the thorns pricked my heart as the tree grew in girth and height.

It wasn’t a pretty tree. Like a rose, it did have blooms but they were a red so dark they appeared as black and they gave off a rotting stench rather than a delightful fragrance.

Eventually the tree grew so big that I could sit under it and listen to the pain of my heart as I stared out at others, comparing and judging, always falling short and being critical. And the longer I sat under the tree, the more brittle and prickly it became. Some days I became so tangled in the thorns themselves I simply remained there, curled up in misery.

Light cannot help me here, I thought and I even pushed away the comfort Light offered. In those days I saw myself as one who would never be good enough, no matter what, until something happened that changed everything.

I was sitting under my tree one day feeling bitter regrets and dream disappointment when Light approached. I could sense Light coming, I somehow always knew, although I couldn’t really explain it. At times, it seemed as though I was connected to Light by some invisible way. That day, Light surrounded me and invited me to step out from under the dark, prickly tree.

I was hesitant at first, afraid to leave my place under the tree, for I had grown accustomed to it, it was familiar to me. Then I remembered how Light was always there for me, encouraging me and comforting me when I needed it most. I recalled how Light had broken the arrow at my birth.

I stood and stepped forward moving purposefully toward Light. As I did so, the thorns grew more aggressive but I was determined to get to Light. Light tossed me a blade and told me to strike at the tree even as it tried to pull me back.

When I finally hacked my way free, I fell before Light, exhausted, yet feeling lighter than I had felt in years, or maybe even ever. Light turned me back toward the tree and I spun around, surprised to find the tree transformed.

Its height and girth remained the same but the thorns were now tender shoots of rich green and the blooms were a vibrant peach with a fragrance so strong I could smell it permeating the air around me. “How is this possible?” I asked.

Light answered, “On the day of your birth as I broke the arrow shaft, I attached an invisible string to the arrowhead. You only needed to tire of Darkness and step toward Me willingly.”

I watched in amazement as several petals fell from the tree and gently drifted down at my feet. I reached for them and Light touched them at the same time. Immediately they began to glow like embers yet stayed cool enough to touch. Light placed them in a leather pouch and handed it to me.

“These are for you to take out into the world and share with others. They will bring comfort and joy to many and at times reveal My Light.”

I gladly accepted the pouch of ember petals and eagerly turned from the transformed tree to begin Light’s quest for me.

(Photo by Lukas Robertson on Unsplash)

Today, I’m ____________.

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Today, I’m writing. Today, on July 4, 2016, I’m declaring independence from the enemy and his ongoing attacks to frustrate, sabotage and keep me from doing what God has purposed me to do.

Today I am no longer willing to hide behind a glossy mask under which fear and pride as a writer cycle around like gnatty annoyances. Fear is going down in the name of Jesus.

I’ve been reading Romans in the Message these days. Parts of chapter 7 hit particularly harsh(16-25):

I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it… 

I need something more!

the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions…

I obviously need help!

I realize that I don’t have what it takes…

I can will it, but I can’t do it…

My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions…

Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time…

 It happens so regularly that it’s predictable…

The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up…

I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight…

Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge…

I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?

The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. 

Two weeks ago I went to a craft store and asked the Holy Spirit to speak to me whatever God wanted. I saw these two images, in this order.

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I was drawn to arrows right away. The enemy continually fires arrows at us. The ones he shoots at me say, “You will never be good enough.” God does speak in craft stores. He was telling me to be brave against the enemy’s arrows aimed right at my heart’s desire of writing. The scripture is Jeremiah 29:11.

The second photo was taken far away in the store from the first. Needless to say, it stopped me in my tracks. Can we say enemy attack?

I’ve been avoiding writing like the plague and viewing blogging as a leper colony, a place of isolation and disease.

But I’m back. I can only do this with God. Apart, on my own, I will continue to fail at it.

So today, I start. I write. I blog. I look up to the hills from where my help comes from.

What about you? What does your arrow say? What goes in your blank, Today, I’m ___________?

Subtle Attack

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The battle was today. Lena had prepared for it as best as she could, relying somewhat on instinct, intelligence gathered from allies and definitely from prior experience with the enemy. The enemy’s camp encircled hers, battle inevitable.

She was not afraid. She had prepared. She knew the war had already been won. She shifted her shield in front of her heart and raised her sword, waiting. The forest was still around her, full of rustling, russet beauty. The peace of the place brought praise from her lips. She belonged to Him. This skirmish was merely to test the strength of her armor. And He made her armor strong.

The enemy never stood a chance against Lena, armed to the max. Yet in a strange twist of fate, the enemy never engaged her at all. Before her very eyes, the enemy’s camp was slowly dissolving, disappearing. Lena sang for joy at their retreat.

She went on her way later, journeying across the open field on the way to her cabin. The joy of not entering battle that morning swelled her heart. She went about her day, working, completing menial tasks that must be done around home.

Slowly, things began to go south. Simple tasks of habit took on greater obstacles. A project she had been putting off for a week suddenly became impossible to complete due to forces out of her own control and knowledge. Frustration built, attitude embittered and before she knew it, Lena was lying on the floor feeling defeated, depressed and discouraged.

She fell asleep there, a mere fragment of the warrior from earlier.

When she awoke, all the signs were visible. The enemy had attacked her, not on the battle field, as she had supposed, but in the subtle aftermath of her everyday life.

The Insignificance of . . .

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Yes, it’s been another six months since I last blogged. I’d like to say that there were a great many things, definitely important things, keeping me from blogging. But then I’d be lying. Yes, my mother passed away seven months ago, but that hasn’t been the reason I’ve not blogged.

Nope, essentially it all boils down to pride.

This weekend I got together with a wonderful group of Christian women writers for a retreat and several, if not all of us, struggled with the lack of recognition prevalent in the blogging world. We writers are crafters of words and like any artist, we like recognition. (Okay, maybe some there were better versed in humility than I.)

Quite honestly, my blog feels insignificant to me often. And of course the pride-y part of me will always think that.

As I was listening for God’s voice by a river this weekend, I looked down and saw a tiny, miniscule stream trickling into the greater river. So often I feel as though my words make no difference whatsoever, especially my blog which may or may not be read by a friend or two on facebook.

Seen through the eyes of God, the stream takes on a completely different meaning–I am contributing to the greater Kingdom River through my little blog stream. Mental note to self: remove self from the scene and write anyway.

Driving home on Sunday, I watched a single leaf or two float to the ground. At first glance, insignificant. Yet how many times have I picked up a single leaf and held it close as a treasure?

And so that is my hope as I return to the world of blogging. May someone, somewhere find a treasure in it.

Barn Exploration

Things have felt pretty busy and hectic lately. While driving home from work today I had an overwhelming desire to go for a long drive on a deserted country road. I’m longing for simplicity, but it seems the more I long for it, the more it eludes me. But I think it is nearby, whispering quietly.

Recently I entered a deserted barn on thirteen acres by itself. The contents of the barn were many:  a couple of old vehicles, some antique tractors, a really cool wagon, old farming equipment and loads and loads of garbage/trinkets/household items. I explored for a bit and returned home, wanting to know the story behind some of the items found.

How did these things come to be there? What was the story of the lives who used the items? Honestly, it made me curious and sad. It had the feel of tragedy to it. Why else would these things, some of value, come to be there? And have the owners completely forgotten them and the barn itself and its thirteen acres?

I want to think about this in spiritual terms. Do we have barns stuffed with stuff we don’t want to deal with? What sorts of interesting things are in my barn, in your barn? Barns should be places of bountiful harvests, not deserted places of valuable things forgotten.

I wonder what sorts of things spiritually I’ve forgotten. And what kinds of things have I thrown into the barn just to get it out of my face so I wouldn’t have to deal with it?

I don’t know. However I do know this, if I don’t sort through the barn and find the God-good, the enemy of my soul will not hesitate to break in and steal things of value.

I need to explore my barn. How about you?

 

Ziplining Faith

I went ziplining for my 42nd birthday. The first time I went was several years ago at a women’s retreat. What I remember most about that time was being terrified on the platform, utterly afraid and unable to step out into thin air. I finally made it off the platform after I sat down and ungracefully shuffled my way off.

This time was completely different. I stepped off right away, every single time–six ziplines in total.

In March I underwent a twenty-one day fast while God spoke to me on fear issues (you remember, the mouse invasion time). I’ve been going through “Believing God” a Beth Moore Bible study since July first. I know that the stepping right off the platform six times had everything to do with God moving in my life and speaking to me about fear and faith.

I was also keeping my eyes on the line this time and not looking down so much. This is where my faith is these days–not looking down but moving forward. This goes for my writing, as well as other areas where I’m longing.

The last two ziplines were longer and I stepped off no problem but my hand was gripping the device that controlled the steering so tightly that I had blisters. Still trying to keep some semblance of control. And all that brought was pain, not the glorious freedom I had felt on the other lines.

Ziplining and faith is an intense combination because in faith you can’t even see the cables, only the platform in the distance. And the platform is the place where God’s purposes and you heart’s desire meet.

And there’s only one way to get there:  Step off the ledge and believe God can get you there, that God has a hold of you and He will not let you go.

Regardless of the height from which you are stepping into the unknown, step. Trust God, the Author and Finisher of our faith. Only stop looking down and step.

In what ways have you experienced ziplining faith? Do you spend more time looking down or stepping forward into the unknown?

 

Hurdles

I have a memory from sixth grade about hurdles. That season of PE was focused on track and the gymnasium had various track activities set up of which I only remember the hurdles. We students were required to jump over, or at least give it everything we had in trying to.

I hated them. Time and time again I ran up to them and stopped, afraid of falling, getting hurt. And maybe at first they were set super low and perhaps I did make it over one or two of them. But what I remember most is the stopping when they got too high.

Earlier this year I was conversing with God about things in my life I wanted to accomplish–okay, specifically publishing a book, which has been an ongoing, difficult process. In a very direct way, as God’s voice always is to me, He said, “You are your biggest hurdle.”

In this season of my life I’m going through Beth Moore’s Believing God Bible study. A key component to it is the statement, “I’m believing God”, said for those things in our lives in which only God can bring about and fulfill.

Yesterday I was again talking with God. The conversation went as follows:

Me:  “Lord, I’m believing You.”   God:  “Great. Now move out of My way.”

This may sound harsh or un-God like to some, but if I am my biggest hurdle then yes, I do need to get out of God’s way. I need to get over myself and let God lead me to my promised land. I need to follow in obedience, and quite frankly I’ve been slacking off a bit there lately.

So how do you take down a hurdle, when you are the hurdle?

Prayer, lots of prayer, followed up with obedience. God-directed steps always lead to victory, even though sometimes victories are delayed. Still, every small step in God’s direction is a victory, ground gained.

And you, are you your biggest hurdle over something good God wants to achieve in or through you? What are you gaining by remaining hurdled in place? More so, what are you missing out on?

May all of us make it over a hurdle  today.

 

 

The Waiting Things

All of us are waiting for something. We all have at least one desire of our heart awaiting fulfillment. I happen to have two currently.

These are the barren areas of our life. They are empty, devoid, not bringing useful results–well at least according to worldly standards; from a spiritual perspective, barren areas can be quite useful and productive. If we allow it.

It just so happens that one of my areas is actual barrenness. The other night I shared this with several people whom I do not really know and vice versa. I walked away feeling as though I’d dropped a conversational bomb.

I know our culture says, “Hey, it’s okay. Everybody’s different.” However I felt as though my sharing produced a different result.

My tendency to over analyze and read way too much into things probably did not help me out at all. However, the experience, accompanied by the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, brought the following perspective.

Am I wearing my barrenness, my waiting thing, as a mantle of sorrow? Mantle in the verb form can mean “to be or become covered, as a surface with scum or froth,” mantle itself is to cloak, to cover, to hood (Webster’s dictionary). And is the mantle of sorrow like an old bandaid, merely covering up a scabby, crusty wound?

What is the alternative? A badge of faith, because I am believing God to work seemingly impossible things for my waiting things.

How do I make the switch? It will take time and prayer and Scripture and faith, but the end results will glorify God instead of focusing on myself. And it will change the impact in conversation.

What is your waiting thing? And how are you wearing it, as a mantle of sorrow or a badge of faith?

May God be glorified in our waiting things. Yes, Lord, yes.

Catty Thoughts

I am afraid of mice. And I mean in a screaming-like-a-little-girl-run-to-the-highest-bit-o-furniture kind of way. This past spring we had a mouse invasion at our house.

Since adulthood I’ve been mainly a dog person. I had nothing against cats per say, but let’s just say as a teenager, and later a nanny, I had too many incidents of spoiled cats with litter box issues. As a child I loved cats to pieces, even wrote my first book in second grade about cats.

After getting two dogs, I thought all was well and good, that is until the mouse invasion of 2014. Emptying mouse traps 20+ times in a month and a half brought a fresh perspective. (Yes, my husband emptied most of them.)

Desperate, we immediately called to surrounding shelters to find cats that could be garage/outside cats only. We were put in touch with organizations working with barn cats and feral cats. They came in colonies of 4. We didn’t want 4, we wanted 2. We contacted 4 organizations total and finally by mid-April we had a placement of a mother-daughter team. Perfect. We didn’t need them to be cozy in our lap cats, we needed them to be mouse assassins.

The cats were released into the original one car garage attached to our laundry room. They bolted to opposite walls, put Superman to shame with their ability to leap tall in a single bound, and dropped into the house soffit, thus accessing our attic where they stayed for a week until we live trapped them.

We next kenneled them while husband made soffit inaccessible. We released them from the kennel and the two feral cats went everywhere they could to be out of our reach, including behind a placed sheet of dry wall. At the end of the recommended confinement period they bolted, only to be seen a few times since.

Feral cats didn’t work. We left food out but didn’t know what exactly was eating it and neither of us wanted to be feeding raccoons, opossums or rodents.

A month ago we got kittens. We can handle them, we watch them play, eat, they come over to us–in short, they let us love them.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the contrast between the feral cats and the kittens and people’s reactions to God. Many people in our world are God-feral. They want nothing to do with Him whatsoever no matter how much He simply wants to love on them and care for them.

I’ve got a couple of God-feral people in my life. You too? I think I will continue putting out food consistently; who knows, perhaps they may yet come around. In the meantime, I will continue being the God-fearing kitten that I am, happy to have any contact with God.