Seeds and The Rock Cut


Berries in Canadian Rockies


Our route to church includes a section we call “the rock cut”. It is a small stretch where the hillside was carved out to make the road. The result is a clear view of sedimentary rock. From time to time, road engineers will clear this area of fallen rocks, trees that have grown up on the hillsides, weeds, and even a stray wild flower or two. They scrape away the rocky sides so it is safer to drive through this area and all vegetation disappears.


IMG_0612This was done a year or so ago and “the rock cut” has been a clear rocky surface again. This year as spring has been in full bloom, I noticed that the rocky hillsides are once again covered with green. Weeds are abundant, small trees have taken root again, and the sandy color of rock is disappearing under the growth of green vegetation everywhere. It is a cycle that continues over and over again.


Recently on the way to church it reminded me of the parable of the sower in Mark 4. The seed in our rock cut has not grown up quickly. Last year there was barely a shadow of green here and there, but by the end of this summer hues of green will be nearly covering this area once again. Clearly, it is not a IMG_0611soil that is friendly to seeds and yet they persist.


As I look at the area and freshly consider the parable, I see how tenacious the weeds, trees, and flowers are. They keep on growing and pushing into the soft sedimentary rock to take hold.


We often hear sermons about this parable and consider the condition of the soil, but on our rock cut and on numerous trips to the Rocky Mountains I have observed things are growing and coming to life in tiny crevices. It reminds me of the power God has given to living things. They keep on trying to grow, to find a way to continue, to bloom.


Yes, many of the green plants I saw will not thrive, but I have watched this cycle for a long time and I know that road engineers will need to return again and again to undo what is growing and causing rocks to loosen and tumble toward the roadway.


Whatever may be happening in your life, whether it seems to be parched, nearly dead or flourishing with blooms abundant, know that when God called forth life on the earth there was great power in that call.


Whatever the difficulty may be, life will continue in cycles and seasons and seek to bloom again.


He is still calling forth life in His creation, in you, in me, in all of us.

Wild Rose, Alberta, Canada


What Cost Freedom?



Today in the United States we pause to celebrate Memorial Day. Most will celebrate it with picnics, boating, ball games, swimming, family, and friends. A few will pause for those remaining public celebrations to commemorate the day. Fewer still will visit the graves of those fallen for the sake of freedom or know when this commemoration began or the cost for those who gave us the freedom to celebrate it.


Originally it was called Decoration Day and that is the name I recall when I was a young child. It’s purpose? To provide a day of remembrance for those who have died in service of the United States of America.


It was born out of the Civil War and a desire to honor our dead. General John Logan, national commander of the grand Army of the Republic, proclaimed the day officially on May 5, 1868, and asked that the 30th of May 1868 be designated for the purpose of strewing the graves of those who had died in the defense of their country with flowers and flags.


Most of us would not recall that Memorial Day began with that bloodiest of all United States wars. The country would be torn in two with the Union of the North raising an army of 2,128,948 and the Confederacy of the South mustering a total of 1,082,119 troops. It was a war that would be fought in thousands of places from southern Pennsylvania to Texas, from New Mexico to Florida with the majority of the battles fought in Virginia and Tennessee.


Between April 12, 1861, when Fort Sumter, South Carolina, was fired upon until April 9, 1865, when General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, 620,000 would die for the cause they believed in. They would die from combat, accident, starvation, and disease. Of that number, the three-day battle on the fields around Gettysburg, PA, would see the largest number fall. A total of 51,000 would be dead by the end of the battle.


It can be easy to forget how significant the losses were during the Civil War. Yet, our love for freedom would stir the hearts of others to serve in battles far from our own coastline. In World War II 405,399 would give their lives following the brutal conditions faced during World War I when 116,516 would fall in battle.


Of course these would not be the only battles where men and women would give their lives for the cause of freedom. In Vietnam we would sacrifice 58,209 and Korea we would lose 36, 516.


To establish this nation, 25,000 would die in the Revolutionary War. Another 20,000 image001would die in the War of 1812 and 13,283 in the Mexican War. The Spanish-American War would result in a loss of 2,446.


More recently 6,626 would be lost in battle in Iraq and Afghanistan with another 258 falling during the Gulf War.


How much do we value this freedom? How much do we take it for granted or use it to serve our own ends rather than for the good of our brothers and sisters?


When we speak of a fight for freedom, men and women, despite their fear or condition, held the value for liberty and the release of tyranny so foremost among their beliefs that they were willing to leave those they loved most to serve those they had never met.


IMG_1762As I took time to visit a small country cemetery in Ohio near where I live, I was struck as I always am by the number of American flags that had been placed on the graves of our veterans. This cemetery is adjacent to a church founded in the 1840’s.


In the oldest part of the cemetery where the gravestones are often not readable, I found flags adorning the graves of two Civil War veterans. One had died in 1865 and another in 1866. I read their names: James Turner and James Shaw. I wondered what they had seen in their time on the battlefield and if their deaths shortly after the war came as a result of wounds that never healed.


We can never repay the debt we owe to so many.


We can also never repay the debt we owe to the One who came to give us grace and freedom from sin, the One who suffered for us at great expense to purchase what we could not gain without His payment.


In the midst of all the fun and celebrating we may do this day, let us not forget to be thankful, to sober our hearts, to give thanks for so many who gave all they had for our sakes. Let us also thank God for His love beyond measure in what He sacrificed for us.


Freedom is never free.


Others will always want to take it from us, to enslave us. Let us remember to cherish it, not abuse it for our own selfish ends, or fail to recognize the responsibility we have to uphold and guard it as a result of the great cost paid to grant it.












The Importance of a Good Grip




I recall so well the directive to my children when they were small about holding onto my hand as we were shopping, crossing a street, or parking lot. At that time, they were unaware of the potential dangers in such places if their little hands were not firmly in my grasp.


Children are curious and it can be easy to wander away and lose track of where a parent is.


I saw my children have the same rule for their children, my grandchildren. As with me, this was a non-negotiable rule. The risks were too great not to insist on it.


I recall once when my daughter was near me in a store and I did not hold her hand. It was one of those clothing stores with “rounder’s” here and there with clothes hanging on them as well as the usual shelves and racks along the wall. She was weary of my looking through the racks and plunked herself down on the floor. Suddenly, I realized she was not beside me and I could not immediately find her under the racks of clothing. The panic I felt was enormous.


That kind of environment is a bit like being in a cornfield. It seems simple enough when you walk into the cornfield, but soon you realize you have no orientation about where you are or which way to walk in which row to be able to get back to where you started. (Yes, I experienced that as a girl living on a farm. It’s amazing how easily it can happen!)


An even scarier memory was when we were visiting our son and his family one fall. We had all gone into their small town for a fall festival. The streets were filled with vendors celebrating the season as well as various stalls and tents with games for children of all ages to explore.


We were all having a great time and enjoying the music, food, and celebration when we suddenly realized our grandson was not with us. The streets had been closed to traffic and there were crowds of people everywhere. We had no idea where to look for him. Each of us fanned out, began looking and calling out his name.


I cannot recall how long it took us to locate him, but it felt like a lifetime. When we found him, he was perched on a set of risers that had been set up where a concert was going to take place. The musicians were warming up and he was sitting there calmly listening.


It reminded me of what Mary and Joseph must have felt when they realized Jesus was not with them as they were on their way home from Jerusalem.


A good grip is crucial many times to our safety, but what are you holding onto?


I have a vivid memory of walking down our basement steps a few years ago with a good IMG_3270grip on more hanging clothes than I should have been trying to carry. I am notorious for trying to carry a lot of things so I don’t need to make so many trips whether it is bringing things in from the car or something like this scene.



You know how steps in your house can be. You have a certain muscle memory for how far you step between each one so you don’t even have to think about it or even look (or so it seems).


So I wasn’t thinking or looking and could not see with the armful of clothing I had, I was not even afraid it was an unwise decision. On this day, however, I misjudged which step I was on and skipped the last step and landed on the floor crying out in pain from what was a very badly sprained ankle.


It is not just when we are young that we need a good grip. It happens also when we are older and perhaps less steady on our feet or not as strong to maintain a good balance.


There is something else we must hold fast to as well that is no less crucial than a parent’s hand or a handrail. Failing to do so can be no less deadly.


The writer of Hebrews reminds us in the second chapter that we are to be careful about what we have heard regarding our salvation so we don’t drift away from it.


You see, when we have received gospel truths into our minds, we can let them slip away from us. Our minds can be like a leaky vessel. The entanglements with the world, snares of the enemy, and neglect can allow the good things of the gospel to slip from our minds, our practices, our choices, and our behaviors.


As I checked out the Message version of Hebrews 2:1, I was reminded of the many examples I have already listed above:


“It’s crucial that we keep a firm grip on what we’ve heard so that we don’t drift off.” Heb. 2:1 The Message


Life is busy!


We can get distracted.


We can let go of our Father’s hand, drift away, and not realize where we are.


 How is your grip?





Habits Show

This month has been a busy time of celebrating grandchildren (of course any time is a good time to do that). We are enjoying two graduations, the first grandchild to graduate from college and the third to graduate from high school. But we are also celebrating our youngest granddaughter who will be baptized and share her testimony as well as other milestones and events for each of our six. In the midst of these, I am not losing sight of the less tangible reasons to celebrate, those that do not involve certificates or diplomas.


I am especially celebrating the evidences of the habits our children have been diligently seeking to develop, prune, and grow in each of our grandchildren. Chief among them is the ongoing development of their relationship with the Lord. They are all beyond the age and seasons of sitting on our laps listening to Bible stories. Three of them are officially adults. Each of the six has made a profession of their faith and trust in Jesus and have begun to walk out what it means to trust Him in daily life when things are hard, disappointing or depressing.


thursday_quoteIt is now that those foundational truths are developing into habits and evidences of seed sown long ago along with seed sown just a day ago. Will that truth and trust kick in when you don’t get the grade you want or need? Will that truth and trust kick in when someone makes a cruel remark about you? Will that truth and trust kick in when you feel rejected by friends? Will truth and trust kick in when you feel unsure of yourself, not equal to what lays ahead?


We read Proverbs 22: 6 and often have it memorized about the importance of training up a child. The ESV reads:

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”


The NIV reads:

“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”


It means investing a lot of time not just teaching and training a child, but living with and out a Christ like life in the midst of daily living. It means teaching and modeling responsibility for so many things as well as teaching and modeling respect for others even when they do not agree with us. Parenting, good parenting, is not for cowards, the faint of heart, or those caught up in self-devotion. If we miss this opportunity when they are young because we are too busy, too lazy, or even too consumed with religious activities, we will have failed in our stewardship of these precious gifts entrusted to us by the Lord.


I hope I live long enough to see how the habits I see developing now in my grandchildren grow and expand into their adulthood. I love seeing some of those habits in our adult children. I feel deeply grateful that despite our failings as parents many times that both 15969-Jim-Rohn-Quote-Motivation-is-what-gets-you-started-Habit-is-whatof our children are mature in their faith. I smile when we are visiting in their homes when I see our daughter on the end of her couch with a cup of coffee nearby as she studies the Word or see our son sitting on his front porch with coffee and golden retriever, Sam, while he too studies the Word. I also whisper, “Thank you, Lord!”


Habits that we develop over a lifetime stand out when we face extreme or difficult circumstances. A great Biblical example can be seen in David’s life as compared to Saul’s. At an early age David was convinced that a giant was no match for his big God. His friend, Jonathan, also encouraged him. Over and over again we see in his life the growing habit of trusting the Lord that had begun as a child when circumstances were not as large as a giant or the armies of Saul chasing him.


Look at the contrast with Saul. I don’t know a lot about his early life, but if early life shapes our habits then I might guess what it may have been like. We know he was tall and apparently handsome. Did he trust in his own prowess? His recorded story might suggest that. In contrast to David, he does not show evidence of thinking much about God and when push came to shove he gave more weight to the circumstances he was facing than to God. As a result of those habits, he succumbed to overwhelming fear, overwhelming pride, and dependence on circumstances. In the end those very things caused him to fall on his sword and take his own life.


What habits were sown into your life?


What habits are you sowing into someone else’s so when trials come, they can stand?







When Enemies Thunder

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A few days ago I wrote a post entitled Cease Striving…Stand as I reflected on how we respond when our lives feel as if they are being upended. I took a brief look back at Watchman Nee’s classic work, Sit, Walk, Stand, focusing on the book of Ephesians. Since then I have heard more than one or two messages or reminders of how key it is for us to rest when all around us are faltering. The sources have been broad and varied and it occurred to me that I think the Lord is speaking to His body on this issue. I don’t think He is asking us to be passive when He says we are to rest, but rather to actively trust Him.


I can recall more than a few seasons where my world was being upended and I was being pulled in every direction. I was exhausted and easily caught up in all the things I absolutely had to do. One of those was the season over a number of months where both of my parents died. In February of that year, my father suddenly became ill after always being healthy and five and a half weeks later, he went home to be with the Lord. During that same time my mother (who had congestive heart failure) was hospitalized several times and then died in June three months to the day of my father. Additionally, my only living sibling who was developmentally handicapped, had other mental problems, and lived with my parents became my responsibility.


Those months tested my limits in every area of my life. Their deaths were hard enough, but dealing with their estates simultaneously while seeking guardianship of my brother, and petitioning to find placement for him in a group home, left me fully depleted.


I had no choice except to fall into the Lord’s arms knowing all that I faced was too much for me to handle. Did it feel like the enemy was about to do me in? Absolutely, yes!


PPP 024It is easy during such times as believers to know what we should do and can do, but fall prey to old demanding voices assailing our hearts, minds, and spirits. Ultimately what I was facing was so “over the top” that I could not help but relent and fall into His arms. It wasn’t that I immediately went there first.


When I read Old Testament passages or histories of the faith it can sometimes be easy to deride the persons in those stories for their lack of faith, their flaws, and more. Then when a trial of my own comes along, I discover I am not always so much different than they are. I also discover those who stood when everyone around was faltering.


I look at David when he was considered to have nothing to offer by his brothers or much of anyone. He gives me a glimpse of the model I seek to emulate. The enemies surrounded Saul’s army and Goliath was bellowing and demeaning these chosen people of God as well as God Himself. When David arrived on the scene, he appears to have been shocked that no one had responded to Goliath and everyone seemed to be cowering in fear.


It can be easy to revere David and look at his courage, his skill with a sling, or even his Indian Paintbrush Wildfloweryouthful risk-taking as he called out Goliath to meet him on the field of battle. If we do, then we are failing to recognize the headline that day. I think it might have read something like this: “David Trusts God and Defeats His Enemies” or “Young Boy’s Trust Wins the Day”.


The story behind the headlines was even more important. David could only have trusted God in that moment if He truly knew Him. Knowing Him allowed David to trust Him. David had been the shepherd boy who had been tested before while caring for the sheep and looked up at the stars in the heavens and felt a certainty of God’s greatness and power. He had learned trust in other challenges. When it was time to choose how he would respond to the taunts of Goliath, the answer was clear to him.


I like to think God stood up that day as he heard young David when he reminded the faltering men of Saul’s armies that Goliath was defying the armies of the living God and pronounced his unwavering trust that God would deliver him. His earlier experiences had helped David to know God with a certainty that allowed him to rest in the trust that God would be with him. He even reviewed his history (his testimony) with God for the army around him as the source of his faith.


My response and yours when those days of upending and shaking come will likely be determined by my or your history with Him and if we have learned to rest or trust in Him. In the moment when we must choose, we cannot then summon up something that is not there.


If we have come to know Him, really know Him, then we will find it easier to fall into His arms and rest, trust that He has us in that moment and for eternity.


Why do we need to be desperate until we trust Him? Has He not given us enough evidence long before those life-altering experiences?


Psalm 121 is often attributed to David. The psalmist’s words give evidence that he knew the Lord well. Do we?


“I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.

 He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
 Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.

 The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.”

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