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Monday, August 31, 2015

Inspired by . . . a month in photos: August

I missed doing a look back at July last month. We were so busy getting our camper trailer ready for it’s maiden voyage, I didn’t have much writing/computer time. Unfortunately, we had car trouble and had to make some adjustments to our plans, which didn’t include the camper. {sigh}

All is not lost, however, as we did enjoy a few days away and the camper has become a quiet little retreat where I can sneak away to write.

August has been mainly just HOT. As south Texas is want to be this time of year. Heat indexes have been high, meaning you can’t really breath if you go outside.  A temp of 96=104, you get the idea.

I do feel we have been blessed this summer though, as the really hot weather didn’t arrive until early this month. And there is already a hint of fall in the air.

 

AUG_Collage

 

And then my nephew made an appearance five weeks early and stole everyone’s heart!

Favorite Quote of the month:

“Sometimes the smallest things

take up the most room in your heart.” ~Piglet

 

Sprinklings of God’s mercy and grace:

1. New life!

2. Travel mercies

3. Rest for weary souls

4. Hope for despair

5.Encouragement from His word

 

What about you, when you look

back at August, what do you see?

 

Blessings,

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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Inspired by . . . musings and an introduction

I wonder if all endings aren’t really beginnings in disguise?

The wildflower, Snow-on-the-Mountain {Euphorbia marginata}, which many Texans have affectionately renamed, Snow-on-the-Prairie, heralds the end of summer. These plants, which can easily grow to over 5ft in height, appear hardy and plentiful no matter what the yearly rainfall totals reflect.

 

Snow_on_the_Mountain

 

At the same time, many of summer’s flowers, as well as the trees seem to announce the beginning of fall.

 

MapleLeaf

 

So which is it? the end or the beginning?

Both, I suppose. Like most things in life, one thing ends and another begins.

We see this in both our physical and spiritual lives.

Nature bears this out in the changing of the seasons. The dying of winter and the rebirth of spring.

In our spiritual lives, the dying to sin and self, the living to Christ.

Simple and yet complex. From grief and despair to JOY and thanksgiving.

So goes life, and so it has gone in the life of our family this year.

Those of you who follow me, may remember we said goodbye to my dear dad earlier this year. We’re still processing that loss.

But we have now said “Hello!” to a new life!

And while this hello is somewhat bittersweet for me, he is all JOY for his parents {my brother and his wife}, and his grandma.

Born five weeks early, our miracle baby, sweet Liam Marco!

 

Liam_eyes_open

Welcome to the world, little one!

 

Blessings,

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Monday, August 24, 2015

Inspired by . . . Lessons from the Fig Tree: Fruit

 

On the following day, when they came from Bethany, He was hungry.

And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see if he could find anything on it.

When He came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs.

And He said to it, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again." And His disciples heard it.
Mar 11:12-14

 

Fig_Tree

 

Is anyone else bothered by this scripture, in which Jesus curses the fig tree for not having any fruit? It seems a bit unfair, doesn’t it? After all, the scripture tells us it was not the season for figs.

So what’s going on here? Is Jesus being arbitrary, or cynical?

No, He is not.

How do I know? because being arbitrary or cynical is contrary to His nature.

To figure out what is going on in this passage we first have to understand some principles of translation. Although the Word of God is without error, we humans are not. We can get into all sorts of trouble by asking irrelevant questions and coming up with irrelevant answers.

Here are a few things to remember:

Compare scripture with scripture. If a passage is incomplete or obscure, find a passage that is clear and complete with which to interpret it. Use scripture to check your interpretation. Use the OT as a guide to understanding the NT and read the OT in light of the NT. Work to understand the particular significance of each passage.

In the cursing of the fig tree we have a miracle of destruction, when every other miracle has been one of transformation or restoration. That fact alone should make us take notice, just as the disciples took notice.

As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots.

And Peter remembered and said to Him, "Rabbi, look! The fig tree that You cursed has withered."
Mar 11:20-21

 

The setting around which this passage is set begins with the cleansing of the temple {Mar 11:15}, and ends with the destruction of the temple {Mar 13:2}. The temple was central to the audience to whom Mark was writing.

Jesus is looking for fruit.

 

Fig_Tree_Figs

 

He came to Jerusalem looking for spiritual fruit and true worship and what does He find?

A tree with a promise {it was in full leaf} it can’t fulfill and a temple full of activity that incurs His wrath. From a distance the fig tree gave an impression of a fruit that wasn’t there. So too, the Jewish leaders of the day gave an appearance of being able to satisfy a hungry heart, but it wasn’t so. They worshipped God with their lips, but not their hearts.

Their worship was in vain.

The miracle of the fig tree was an acted parable. It symbolized the judgment that was about to fall on Jerusalem. Judgment because of their unbelief.

Now, you may be wondering how this has any relevance to those of us who are not Jewish.

It has great relevance.

When the Jews rejected the Truth the way was made for the Gentiles {non-Jews} to be saved. {Rom 11:11}

This is good news, however, Paul warns us not to become arrogant or proud.

 

But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot,

were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree,

do not be arrogant toward the branches.

If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you.

Then you will say, "Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in."

That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief,

but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear.
Rom 11:17-20

 

We can all learn a lesson from the fig tree.

Each one of us should ask ourselves, “Is this, in any sense, a picture of me? When Jesus looks at me, is He finding in my life fruitfulness and faith?

Take time this week to prayerfully consider this question. Open up the scriptures, and let God speak and minister to your heart.

 

Blessings,

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Note: if you want to dig a little deeper, you can read Hosea 9, Micah 7 and Jotham's parable in Judges 9:11 and see how the fig tree is a metaphor of the status of the people of Israel.

Words and reflections inspired by a sermon series by Alistair Begg, Truth for Life Ministries

 

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Holly Barrett Barbie Swihart

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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Inspired by . . . Life thru My Lens 34:52

Looking back I was surprised to see that it’s been nearly a month since I’ve shared on any nature/bird memes.  August has been a busy month for us. We took a short trip to cooler climes and, as sometimes happens with time away, the before and after was a bit hectic.

I’m looking forward to sharing some of our mini-adventure with you, but for now, here is what’s been happening around the cottage.

I’m not at all happy with the abundance of Bambis this year due to the havoc they are wreaking on my flower beds. They have a particular appetite for blossoms and tend to pull things up roots and all. . . but still, it is hard not to find them endearing.

 

Bambi_Birdbath

 

Whitetail_Fawn

 

I shared previously how much fun I’ve been having watching the juveniles at the bird feeders. Here is an immature male cardinal in the beautiful bird feeder our daughter gave us for Christmas last year.

 

ImmatureMale_Cardinal

 

I don’t see the {Western} scrub jays around often. But when they are in the yard, you definitely know about it! These two made such a commotion, I had to grab my camera and see what the fuss was about. Nothing out of the ordinary, but they look like juveniles to me, so I suppose they were just finding their voice.

 

Western_ScrubJay

 

Immature_Western_Scrubjay

 

It’s been a banner year for butterflies. I planted butterfly weed in my flower beds this year and it is growing like crazy! I’m planning to plant even more milkweed next year. The Pipevine Swallowtails seem to be partial to the red butterfly weed.

 

PipevineSwallowtail_ButterflyWeed

 

I’m not often up for the sunrise {in the summer months} but we put in some long days getting ready for our trip and I happened to catch this jewel in the morning light.

 

Black-chinned_Hummingbird_Female

 

The twins paid us a visit this afternoon. They look so skinny, I can almost forgive them for eating all the blooms off my flowers.

Almost.

Whitetail_Twins

 

Whitetail_FawnClose

 

And, if you’re still with me, I finally got some decent shots of the elusive Carolina Chickadee. They are the energizer bunnies of the bird world! Constantly moving!

 

Carolina_Chickadee

 

The lighting wasn’t the best, no sun today for a change, so the greens are a bit dull. But I’m pleased enough to share them with you.

 

Carolina_Chickadee2

 

I saw this quote by Charles Lingbergh recently and wondered what the context might have been. Quite a fascinating conversation, I would think!

 

I realized that if I had to choose,

I would rather have birds than airplanes. ~Charles Lindbergh

  ***

What are you seeing through your lens this week?

 

Have a wonder-filled day!

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Inspired by . . . ridin’ the rails {of life}

The sweetest man in the world and I recently took a ride on the Austin Steam Train.

 

EngineBW

 

Reflecting back on our little adventure, it occurred to me that ridin’ the rails is a lot like journeying through life.

 

Engine

 

We’re all assigned a seat {place}. We can choose to ignore those who have been placed in the same car {neighborhood/world} with us, or we can engage and inspire them.

 

Train_Interior      Train_Outside_FatherSon

 

Most of the time we can’t see where we are going, or what’s up ahead. Things past are quickly forgotten as we delight in what’s happening outside our window at that moment.

Those riding backwards, always looking to the past, have a different perspective of the journey. They seem to lack the anticipation and delight of those looking forward. They express regret over things missed, or sit quietly in contemplation.

 

Caboose

 

Those not seated by windows, focus inward, chatting quietly amongst themselves, missing the wonders of the outside world altogether.

Except for times when there is a severe bend in the track, we can’t see the engine that pulls us along, determining our course.

 

Train_Bend

 

Leaving our seat {place} often results in a wobbly experience. At worst, we crash into walls {or people!}. At best, we jerk along, unsure of each new step.

Life is a big, complicated machine. We rely on the engineer to keep the train on the tracks and maintain our course, the conductor to keep the train functioning properly, and the volunteers in the cars to instruct us about life on the rails and trains in general.

 

Train_me

 

Of course, mine is not a perfect analogy, but it was a fun way to share our adventure with you. Hopefully, it has inspired you to ponder every day moments and look for ways God may be revealing Himself and His perfect plan for your life!

 

 

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you,

always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy,

because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.

And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you

will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, Php 1:3-7

 

Blessings,

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