No-See-Him

The past two weekends, I took advantage of this warm fall weather and repainted the lower level outside trim on our house. Apparently, I was not alone in the process. Insects called No-See-Ums became my constant companions. No matter which bug spray I used, these difficult-to-see sadistic creatures continued to gnaw on my skin. I’ve researched these insects and have learned that their bite hurts much worse than a mosquito bite due to their saw-like teeth. Um, yes! I am covered in such bites. I was also sorry to read that their bites can take up to two weeks to heal. Ugh!

At one point, I was high on a ladder, leaning over the edge of our roof while they were feasting on my legs. It was a scene from a bad sitcom. I’d worked so hard to secure my safety by getting that ladder stable before I’d climbed. Fortunately, I did not fall, but I was highly annoyed at having to descend prematurely!

Of course, here comes the spiritual application . . . I am thankful for the Holy Spirit, who nibbles on my heart to awaken me to danger. He doesn’t mind disturbing my self-guided efforts. He is the No-See-Him! I don’t see Him, but I feel Him warning me when I’m climbing a ladder I’ve positioned all by myself. He convicts me with bites of caution and encourages me back down the ladder so that I may reposition myself according to His will.

The Holy Spirit is not an annoying insect, but rather a loving leader who directs all of life. I am so grateful He’s willing to let me experience a sting now and then. How else would I grow?

I hope to never feel the teeth a No-See-Um again. I’m also motivated to be in step with the Spirit so I can avoid His painful nibbles as well.

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things . . . (John 14:26).

The Fall of Fall

Every September I feel the sting of dread. Life takes on a whole new groove. School begins, thus the homework. Ballet and orchestra begin, thus the chauffeuring. Seven choirs kick back in, thus the rehearsals. The air gets crisp, thus the sweaters. I’m holding up my palms in a stop-in-the-name-of-love position.

I truly don’t want to feel this way. Coming off an incredibly busy summer, it’s even worse. There’s some sense of entitlement happening in me where I think I deserve down time and freedom, as if life should be eternally lived at the beach. This is no metaphor, I really own this dream.

Today, in my vulnerability, I’m going to repent in front of anyone who chooses to read this blog. Here is my attempt to surrender to the Lord as the fall falls:

Father, create in me a clean heart and renew a steadfast spirit within me. You have given me a blessed summer. I’ve felt the sun on my face and the pavement under my feet repeatedly. You ordained each day and poured out Your blessings in ways I can’t even grasp. Wash my mouth of complaints. Purge my heart of dread. Make me pliable in Your hands for this task ahead.

Each turn of the season comes from Your hand. As the leaves fall, remind me of Your goodness, and the fact that YOU DO NOT CHANGE. Help me see the blessing of new work. Make me diligent and determined to do it all for Your kingdom’s cause. Then I will know Your joy and fruitfulness.

Forgive me, Lord. I do not deserve Your patience. Change my mind, shape my heart, and mold me into Christ’s likeness this fall. Only because of Him in me, I can conquer in His name.

What profit is there to the worker from that in which he toils? I have seen the task which God has given the sons of men with which to occupy themselves. He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end. I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in one’s lifetime; moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor—it is the gift of God (Ecclesiastes 3:9-13).

A Godsend

I have an editor extraordinaire
Through every season she is there

Delighting in the written word
Helping me not be absurd

We’re working hard on ministry
So this month I’m blogging poetry

The question is, as she reads this
Will she experience rhyming bliss?

Will she correct my wording today
Or simply blush at the things I say?

I want the world to hear my applause
For the one who’s given so much to my cause

Many times she’s saved my bacon
Though she’s busy, I’m never forsaken

She’s a wife, mother, and stellar grandmama
A believer in the Oxford comma

Her commitment to excellence amazes me
Her diligence is a thing of true beauty

She’s remained faithful through trial and drama
Though I have failed her in my trauma

You see, this editor is also my friend
A gift from above, a true God-send

With every stroke of the pen I think
I’m beyond grateful for Madame Link

My Frenchman

Every month I write a blog entry about some life lesson or spiritual thought that has recently inspired me. This month I’ve decided to write about my greatest inspiration, second only to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. His richest earthly blessing to me is my husband, Patrick.

We just celebrated our 23rd wedding anniversary. Each year as July 27 rolls around, we feel the same nostalgia. We ponder our lives thus far, then we dream into the future, all while deeply loving the present.

Sometimes people don’t relate easily to Patrick because he’s from a different culture. Perhaps they judge him because they’re politically minded and don’t care for France. Or perhaps they’re mystified by his debonair demeanor or his soft-spoken nature or his brilliant brain or incredible pianistic skills. Perhaps they think he’s too serious because he’s reserved and quiet. Regardless, no one can come close to comprehending the depth of his true character. Even after a quarter of a century I feel I’ve only scratched the surface of his kindness and generosity of soul. I dare say he is the most selfless person I know, a physical representation of Christ to me daily.

I could wax eloquent about his musical skills, his scientific mind, his surprising humor, his passion for food and cooking, his ability to be present with our daughters even when pressed by life’s demands, and his careful attention to pleasing me, etc.

But most importantly, Patrick is what a husband should be. He cherishes me abundantly. He challenges me sufficiently. He supports me fully. And He forgives me completely. However, what I want to clearly express is that he loves me wholeheartedly.

My purpose for this blog entry is twofold. Not only do I desire to honor this man and declare my gratitude for him publicly, but I am hoping his life is an encouragement to you.

If you’re a husband reading this, do you see yourself here? Can your wife boast in you?

If you’re a wife reading this, may you not compare your husband to mine, but look with gratitude for the specific ways he lights your life.

And if you’re single and hoping to marry, may you be willing to wait for the most Christ-like person you’ve ever met.

I don’t know how many years the Lord will give me in marriage to my Prince. I just know one day together was far more than I ever deserved.

Sunrise from on High

When Zacharias’ speech was restored to him on the eighth day following the birth of his son, John, he prophesied about another Child that would soon be born.

Because of the tender mercy of our God,
With which the Sunrise from on high will visit us . . . (Luke 1:78).

Jesus Christ would shine upon those who sat in darkness and guide their feet toward peace. He would bring a light of life, calling His own out of spiritual death.

We’ve had so much rain this spring that we are all longing to feel a sunrise. People complain about how the cloudy weather makes them physically blue. I agree it is unfulfilling to take a walk under the clouds, whereas blue skies and the glow of sunshine always quicken my step!

When the clouds prevent the warmth of sunshine on our skin, it doesn’t mean the sun has left us. It’s still burning as brightly as ever. We just can’t see it.

It’s a beautiful comparison to make between our sun and the Sunrise Zacharias mentions. Christ is always there, never absent, even on cloudy days when we can’t feel Him. When our emotions deceive our hearts stating we are alone, our minds must then speak truth. Jesus Christ is the eternal Sunshine that will never stop shining on His people. He hides behind no cloud.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

It was because of God’s tender mercy that Jesus came. It is because of God’s tender mercy that Jesus reigns. Let us not forget this on the cloudy days. He has not left us. He does not change. He shines as brightly as ever, guiding us toward peace. We simply must believe.

Look Up!

I like to take my daily walk through a secluded new neighborhood that is under construction. I was recently moving swiftly up one of the empty streets as I was looking down and typing into my phone. All of a sudden the massive metal arm of a parked excavator was inches from the right side of my face. I jumped back alarmed and extremely thankful. Had I been a half foot to the right I would’ve slammed into it with my forehead and face.

I instantly began weeping because of God’s mercy to me with what He had just physically spared me of in my already fragile emotional place. Tears of gratitude and conviction simultaneously fell. I’d spent the last couple of weeks trying to pull out of myself and look to the One who deserves all my exaltation, only to find my nose buried in my own belly button over and over again.

I quickly grasped this illustration for the believer. Look what can happen if we choose to trek this treacherous path of life without looking up at our Travel Guide! May the beauty and perfect wisdom of our Savior wholly captivate our sight that we may avoid the dangers on the road.

Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.
Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure (Proverbs 4:25-26).

Time to Climb

Sometimes I feel like I’m standing in front of a mountain. I know I have to climb it but I’m only wearing flip flops! I am utterly underprepared and totally inadequate!

There is nothing I accomplish aside from God’s will, His strength, or His power in me. And yet, I still feel the need to run to the nearest sporting goods store for climbing boots. Somehow, my heart convinces me that the success of this journey is on me. Ugh!

Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God . . . (2 Corinthians 3:5).

I love this verse! It is overwhelmingly reassuring that I do not climb alone. All I can do without Him is nothing!

For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself (Galatians 6:3).

There is no strength in me to climb even the basic hill, let alone the mountain. I am thankful for this truth! My job? Keep my eyes on the One holding the ropes. Focus on His truths. Obey. Climb!

Praying the Proverbs

Today I woke up with a new spiritual vim and vigor. Don’t be too impressed. It has happened before and always seems to fade. But I am hopeful to make this one last, at least for this next season of spiritual growth.

I’ve decided not to start my day until I have prayed through a proverb. I read it slowly and turn it into a personal prayer. I fell under conviction last night in a Bible class as we discussed the enemy and all that he is and seeks to accomplish. I deeply desire to avoid the pitfalls of pride and self-worship that led to Lucifer’s evil downfall. Of course, I can’t accomplish this on my own, but through the power of Christ in me. To be aware of Him and His power and to clearly see the enemy, I must arm myself better with the Word. So Proverbs, here I come!

In Proverbs 1, Solomon is setting up the stage for the entire book. In the first seven verses, he reveals his goals to the reader.

The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel:
2  To know wisdom and instruction,
To discern the sayings of understanding,
3  To receive instruction in wise behavior,
Righteousness, justice and equity;
4  To give prudence to the naive,

To the youth knowledge and discretion,
5  A wise man will hear and increase in learning,
And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel,
6  To understand a proverb and a figure,
The words of the wise and their riddles.

7  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
Fools despise wisdom and instruction.

My prayer went something like this:

Father, let me know Your wisdom and forsake worldly wisdom. Meet my desire for wise behavior, righteousness, justice and equity. Cover me with prudence, knowledge and discretion. Forgive my naivety and self-centered mindset. Let me be wise! Increase my learning! Shelter me with wise counsel and help me heed godly advice with a willing heart. Give me the necessary understanding to interpret Your Word accurately. I fear You. I honor You. I exalt You. Don’t let me be a fool! Plant your wisdom deep within me and use me even today . . .

There is no perfect way to pray. If there were, I’d be in real trouble. Sometimes my prayers are messy and filled with whining. Sometimes they are more clear-headed and focused on Truth. Praying the Word helps the latter to be true.

What about you? How do you pray? Why not use the Word as your source of prayer and join me in a season of Word-centered praying? Once again, I’m ready for less of me and more of Him.

We Remember the Cross

This worship song isn’t one I’ve sung very often, but maybe I should. The cross stands before us as the ultimate symbol of hope and grace. We can rest in its shadow through every trial, knowing they are producing endurance and steadfastness. When the storm begins to blow, may we count it joy as we remember the cross.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4).

WE REMEMBER THE CROSS
Amy Branson Fata
© 2011 Portion Music (ASCAP)

Bearing it on His shoulder
Falling beneath its weight
The cross, a cruel companion
Ushered the Lamb to His fate
Willing to take this journey
Willing to drink this cup
Willing to suffer greatly
Willing to be lifted up

Chorus
May we count it joy
When we suffer loss
Jesus, Lamb of God
We remember the cross

The Father’s plan accomplished
The Son obeyed His will
My sin, my hate, my sorrow
He bore it all on that hill
A Priest who sympathizes
A King who understands
A Lord who has provided
A Friend with wounds in His hands

In every trying moment
In every painful sigh
In every teardrop forming
We have a hope in this life
Through Christ we claim our blessing
For Him we run the race
Let us be found professing
There is a balm full of grace

We remember the cross
We remember the cross

The Hatter

“What’s the matter?” said the Hatter. “I think I hear somber chatter.” His customer looked forlorn. She then revealed her hat was torn. “Oh, you’ve come to the right place, my dear. I have all that you need right here.”

The Hatter was known around the world for His gentle ways and skillful hands. The hats He made were worn by people from faraway distant lands. All sizes and shapes and purposes had they. His hats never shown wear or fray. But what made His creations so special to own was the love He poured into each from His home.

When you left His house, the Hatter would say, “Wear my hat each and every day.” Some chose to wear it only when it rained. The hat was a comfort if there was pain. Others hardly wore theirs at all, taking it out for the occasional ball.

But here stood this woman, a torn hat to present. The Hatter knew its maker was one who charged rent. You see, some sell hats that promise protection, but the Hatter’s keen eye of detection knows instead what each head needs, depending on their thoughts or even their deeds.

“I believe I can make you a hat of perfect fit. Come into my house for a while and sit.” The customer meekly entered the door, her daughter was with her, around age four. “Can you fix my mama’s hat?”

“Oh no,” said the Hatter, “I’ll do better than that. You see, this hat must be thrown out. It only brings confusion and doubt. It doesn’t match the rest of her clothes, or even cover her forehead and nose, but I will give your mother exactly what’s best. It will be my joy to see her find rest.”

The little girl seemed delighted yet confused. For how does a hat do all of that, she mused.

Then her mother stood tall, her new hat in position. She seemed relieved, well past contrition. Life looked suddenly clean and bright, it’s as if the Hatter had turned on a light.

The little girl took His hand and looked up at Him, “This hat is different. It comes from a friend.” “Indeed it does.” His smile was clever, “You can depend on it forever.”

As they entered the street, they heard Him say, “Wear my hat each and every day.”