Categories
Reflections

One Unexpected Way the Beautiful Trees Exalt Our God

The forest in which I live is spectacular! It treats my senses every day. The elevated trails I wander put me where I can see the treetops and they go as far as my eyes can see in every direction.

The Beautiful Trees

It would not be unexpected for me to say that the trees exalt God. There are many aspects of them which signal His greatness. They are beautiful, strong, and useful, implying a powerful and creative, Intelligent Designer.

Standing among them, feeling small and in awe, the trees put me in my place. And the shapes of them, especially the pines near which I live, point directly up to their magnificent Creator. What a perspective they provide!

A forest of pine trees
I feel so small among the trees!

Yesterday, the beautiful trees exalted God for me in an unexpected way. My husband and I were in a different part of the forest than we usually walk. Many trees were marked with an orange stripe. My hubby had seen that when he was young, in another forest in another state. There, it meant the tree was marked for removal.

I looked around and could not even attempt to count the number of trees with orange stripes. It hurt my heart! I hoped the marks meant something else and wondered if it would make God sad if so many of His beautiful trees were, indeed, slated for removal.

The Unexpected Exaltation

I suddenly felt an overwhelming awe of God flush over me. He is aware of every tree. Not just the trees in the massive forest where I live, but every single one across the county, state, country, continent, and the world!

A dense forest of pines
God sees every tree on every hill, mountain, and valley, everywhere!

He knows how many trees are out there. And not just that! He is acquainted with every creature which makes its home in every leaf, needle, fruit, branch, trunk, and root of every single one. He is aware when one tree falls, and when another sprouts – across the entire planet!

“I will put in the desert the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive. I will set junipers in the wasteland, the fir and the cypress together, so that people may see and know, may consider and understand, that the hand of the Lord has done this, that the Holy One of Israel has created it.”

Isaiah 41:19, 20

“He gives food to every creature.
His love endures for ever.
Give thanks to the God of heaven.
His love endures for ever.

Psalm 136:25, 26

I was struggling to grasp the enormous number of trunks with orange marks. But God not only knows every one of those trees, He knows of every one He has ever made anywhere! That made my head spin.

My head – yes, that’s right! God knows the number of hairs on my head. And he is acquainted with every star in the sky. Of course He sees each and every tree.

“Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered.”

Luke 12:7a

“He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.”

Psalm 147:4,5

Next time you’re in a forest, I encourage you to stand at the trunk of a tree and look up. Then look around at how many trees there are. Maybe you can go there now in your imagination. What do you feel about God in that moment? What perspective does it put on your relationship with Him?

Perspective from the ground, looking up the trunks of a some very tall pines
Photo by Marco Trinidad on Pexels.com
How many branches, how many needles, how many animals, how many birds, how many insects…? How Great is our God!

“You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.”

Isaiah 55:12

Good on those trees! In that moment, they were exalting God. They were revealing His splendor to me.

“Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.”

Psalm 96:12

For me, it was an unexpected reminder of how marvelous, majestic, and mighty our God is. Those trees exalt Him every day just in their existence. Do I? Do you? We also were created to exalt Him. What do others see about Him when they look at us?

“Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.”

Psalm 148:13

I want to be a vessel of praise alongside the beautiful trees. They have certainly reminded me of His greatness. May we all exalt God in unexpected ways!

Praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths, lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his bidding, you mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars, wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds, kings of the earth and all nations, you princes and all rulers on earth, young men and women, old men and children.
Let them praise the name of the Lord.”

Psalm 148:1a, 7-13a, emphasis mine
Categories
Reflections

Three Ways Sappy Stuff Sticks and One Fantastic Challenge

Well, my granddaughter left. Who knew a whirlwind could be such fun? I did very few chores, while she was here, which weren’t related to her care. Since my daughter and grandson are about to arrive for a few days, I decided to tend to my tasks ahead of time.

To that end, I was out sweeping my long driveway early this morning. We’ve had some incredible windstorms as well as the beautiful monsoons. This amazing weather makes a mess of whatever lies below the trees. Pine and oak particles almost completely hid the concrete from view.

About halfway through my job, I noticed that many sticks and leaves were stuck to the cement. I adjusted my sweeping motion to pry them loose, but some just wouldn’t budge. I leaned on my broom for a second and a little voice inside my head said, “the sappy stuff sticks”.

The sappy stuff sticks, while the dry and hard stuff brushes easily aside!

A pine tree with inner trunk and sap exposed
The sap in a pine tree is plenteous and sticky! I suspect our backyard porcupine ate the outer layer off this trunk, exposing the sap inside. Can you see it glistening?

Ah, I see! “The sappy stuff sticks, while the dry and hard stuff brushes easily aside”, I repeated to myself. Suddenly a thought process unfolded and I understood three ways this is true and one fantastic challenge!

Three ways the sticky sap stuff rings relevant:

1. This is why I’ve had a hard time with my devotions lately.

I’ve been reading in Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. I’m into Joshua now, but I’m still struggling. There is a lot of repetition, chronology, and law. I know it is important. God put it in His Word intentionally. Some of it is downright fascinating even! But my mind wanders in these passages.

I would rather read about Jesus healing people and loving on the least likely. My thoughts breeze ahead in the pages to valiant heroes and poems of praise. The sappy stuff sticks, while the dry and hard stuff easily brushes aside.

2. This is why so many clamor to this trend of following Jesus while rejecting God.

I’ve noticed that Jesus has become trendy. Have you seen it? He was accepting of everyone, humble, and full of compassion. Pretty much everybody can rally around a deity like that these days! Problem is, it is only half the story. Jesus accepted everyone as they were, but they couldn’t stay as they were. Their encounters with Him changed them. They either bowed in repentance and reverence or they ultimately rejected Him.

“‘Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

Jesus, Matthew 7:21

Jesus was humble and compassionate in his role as King of Heaven on Earth, but He is also part of the triune God. He was present in Genesis 1:1 and all the way through the Old Testament. We cannot honor Jesus and reject God. Jesus is God. But the sappy stuff sticks, while the dry and hard stuff easily brushes aside.

“I and the Father are one.”

Jesus, John 10:30

3. This is how social media, Hallmark, and advertisements choose their content.

Can you imagine a movie about real daily living? The part where dust accumulates, people battle cravings, and new shoes cause blisters? Or an ad about fainting in line at Disney or falling asleep at the museum?

This is real life! But no, the parts we see on the screen are the minutia – the moments people fall in love, are happily surprised, and overcome with joy. The sappy stuff sticks, while the dry and hard stuff easily brushes aside.

One fantastic challenge:

It was as if Jesus were out there sweeping with me and pointing out all these things. It was incredibly encouraging! You know why? Because, in this context, it was the dry and hard stuff that I appreciated the most. It was the satisfying part of my job. It brushed easily away while the wet and sappy stuff stuck.

I think Jesus wanted to challenge me to give credit where it is due. The dry and hard stuff has its merit. I need it. It provides fantastic balance.

And somehow, being reminded by Jesus to appreciate the dry and hard stuff was a sappy experience. It is just the way my heart feels when I talk to Him. I’m sure the lesson will stick with me for a good long time.

Hopefully this lesson is so sappy it sticks for you too! I know you’re dealing with dry and hard stuff. It is there for a reason. Lean in, my friend. Ask Jesus to meet you in it.

I want to challenge you – if you haven’t already, get to know Him for Who He truly is – Almighty God. It means everything to realize that the God of the Universe, of the Old Testament and New, wants a relationship with you. He desires to know you and be known by you. Please, let that sappy stuff stick!

Categories
Celebrations

How To Heal the World with a Few Forgotten Changes

Hi there! What country are you currently in? Would you say you live in a land that needs God’s intervention?

America, heading into her 246th birthday, needs Him like never before. She needs God to step in with forgiveness and miraculous healing! He will, if…

“…if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.”

2 Chronicles 7:14, 15

God didn’t tell me just to hope and pray for America to change. He told me to humble myself, pray and seek His face, and turn from my sin. I don’t need to bring revival to the country, only to me. If each of God’s people would change only themselves, God would change the World.

Will I? Will you?

Categories
Emotions

A Gift of Love from God’s Heart is Special Anytime!

Hello everyone! I hope you’re feeling loved today! Because, you know what? You are! Think about this for a minute…

Jesus, Creator of the whole universe, loves you so much that even if you were the only person on earth, He would have willingly died on the cross to make a way to spend eternity with you.

“He himself bore our sins’ in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; ‘by his wounds you have been healed. For ‘you were like sheep going astray,’ but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”

1 Peter 2:24, 25

I really believe that! I don’t understand it… but I believe it! I was telling my husband the other day that it makes no sense to me that God is so enamored with His human creation. We are ridiculous, are we not? And yet, we cannot even fathom the depth of His love for us!

“How deep the Father’s love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure”

Stuart Townend

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8:38, 39

At the end of January, I proposed a photo challenge related to Valentines from God. Click here to see that original post. Since then, I’ve been finding hearts in all kinds of places.

Let’s be honest, all of nature is a gift from our Creator. He didn’t have to make it so pleasing to our senses, but He did! It is spectacular in every way. But when it comes shaped like a heart, I can’t help but feel the love. Here’s one of my recent favorites:

A heart shaped tuft of grass
A little “Psst, I love you!” note from God as I walked past the medical office the other day.

It’s just a little tuft of grass, but God designed it, gave it life, made it grow, directed my eyes toward it, and touched my heart with it. I’m hoping He uses it to encourage you today too! Don’t think for a minute that God doesn’t care that much about grass or about you…

“Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you – you of little faith!”

Luke 12:27, 28

A gift of love from God’s heart is special anytime, right? Tokens of His affection feel good all year round. So, I decided to gather the hearts I’ve been finding and restart the photo challenge. Stay tuned for more!

In the meantime, don’t forget to keep your eyes open for tokens of affection that God has placed around you. Please share them! Tag this original post, Sunning Valentines from God Photo Challenge, when you do, so we can compile them all in one place. Awesome, thanks! I can’t wait to see what you find!

Categories
Recommendations

The Powerful Gift of People in Battle-Worn Armor

The final whistle blows at the end of a high school football game. The coaches call the players into a brief huddle, then dismiss them to the locker room. They don’t make it too far in that direction before the sea of proud parents, close friends, and maybe a reporter or two, flood onto the field and block their way.

Proud words are exchanged and photos are taken. Some of the athletes look and smell great, and their families gather in close. But others look tired, smell like they need a shower, and their loved ones may be reticent to touch their dirty, sweaty, and sometimes even blood-stained uniforms.

The truth is those people who are battle-worn have been a powerful gift to the game, their teammates, and the fans. They’ve dug deep, fought hard, and look and smell worse for wear. Grime on a player is an indicator of hard work. It shows diligence in the off season, extra effort at practice, proven skills, and a willingness to do whatever was needed to excel in the game.

Football players in the mud
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
Grime indicates grit.

Spiritually, we need to perceive people the same way. Sometimes, we seek out the appealing scent of those fresh from the sidelines. Don’t get me wrong, we can find friends there. But we must recognize the powerful gift of people in battle-worn armor. When push comes to shove, and the enemy comes hunting, we need those who can, and will, put it all on the line to battle with us and for us.

We should seek out prayer warriors, soldiers of the cross of Christ, people decked out in worn-out Ephesians 6 armor. We need those who diligently train for spiritual warfare, fight hard, and emerge victorious in Jesus’ name.

People who are equipped and ready to speak the words of God over us are an invaluable gift. We want friends with battle-worn armor, because those are the ones with experience. They have expertise to lend.

The words "Find friends with battle-worn armor" against a cloudy sky.
Pristine armor probably indicates someone who is ill-equipped or reluctant to join the battle.

Like it or not, we are called to Spiritual Warfare. Don’t look first to keep company with someone whose armor is shiny and neat. Seek out the sword that is tattered, the helmet that is worn, and the shield that is scarred. The bearer of those arms is a true warrior who will battle for and alongside you with determination and valor. Never underestimate the powerful gift of people in battle-worn armor.

Mama Lava

“A Bible that’s falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn’t.”

Charles H. Spurgeon

This is a good time for self reflection as well. What kind of friend are you? Is your armor in used condition? Do people find you to be a powerful and prepared, battle-worn gift when they need one most?

Is your Belt of Truth securely buckled? Is your Breastplate of Righteousness in place? Are your Feet Fitted with Readiness to share the Gospel? Have you taken up your Shield of Faith? Have you accepted your Helmet of Salvation? Do you have the Sword of the Spirit ready in hand? Have you assumed a Posture of Prayer? Are you resting on an Attitude which has been grounded and founded upon Christ Jesus? Is your outfit appropriate for a dress code which requires full armor? And most importantly, is your armor tested and battle worn?

Categories
Reflections

A Complete Reset To The Factory Settings Of Life

I had an outlandish dream last night where something was going terribly wrong. I don’t remember the specifics, only that I was on a high balcony, of sorts, looking down on a skirmish.

skir·mish /ˈskərmiSH/ noun
an episode of irregular or unpremeditated fighting
(definition from Oxford Languages Dictionary)

The right side of the rectangular space, onto which I peered, was elevated above the left side. People from both sides were yelling at each other. The tension mounted quickly.

Someone from the higher side picked up a huge, stone statue from the corner, and hurled it down on the lower side. Just as it was about to crush the people below. I yelled “RESET TO FACTORY SETTINGS” and everything immediately returned to normal. The statue stood in the corner, and the people – all minding their own business, were eating, dancing, and chatting quietly amongst each other. Whew, that was close!

Dreams are often unrealistic like that. And sometimes, they are meaningful. Those words “reset to factory settings” have been reverberating in my mind all morning.

Girl biting her pencil, looking at computer
Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash
If you choose a complete reset to a device’s factory settings, your customizations will be erased, whether you like it or not!

I accidentally reset a device to factory settings once. I lost everything I had worked hard to customize and save. That was devastating!

I have also intentionally reset devices to factory settings. It creates a clean slate – a new blank canvas, so to speak. It can’t be done to reverse a skirmish. But I do believe God used my dream to teach me about what He’s done and what you and I can do.

What has He done?

In essence, when I accepted Christ, I was reset to factory settings. He threw my sin as far as the east is from the west, making me – in His eyes – as fresh as the day He created Adam. And every time I make a mistake, I can repent, and He will completely forgive me, taking me back to that setting of life.

“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

Psalm 103:11, 12

I have an advantage in that I retain memory of my experiences when I am reset to factory settings. I have a clean slate AND the wisdom of lessons learned. That is the best of both worlds! What a smart program Jesus has built!

What can I do?

I can reset my relationships to factory settings. I don’t mean that I can maneuver other people’s lives before their creator, but I can wipe their slates clean, as far as it applies to me. I can offer complete forgiveness. I can give new chances and fresh starts to my people connections which have gone awry.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

Romans 12:18
An iPhone with the introductory Hello screen
Photo by Tyler Lastovich on Unsplash
Taking it all the way back to Hello!

What can you do?

We don’t have the power to catch people getting out of control and simply reset them to factory settings, like I did in my dream. But God does. We must buy in to it, of course, but the offer stands.

Oh, what the skirmish must look like from His perspective! The statues have been thrown, so to speak. The idols of this world are heavy and we are sure to be crushed by the weight of them. But God.

Does your life need a complete reset to factory settings? Talk to God about it. He is faithful. He wants to wipe your slate clean. He will renew your right standing if you ask.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

1 John 1:9

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”

Psalm 51:10