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Monday, September 7, 2020

Inspired by . . . Expect good from Me

Do you expect great things from God?

"The shaping of the way we choose to think and tend our heart may be the greatest act of cultivation that any of us ever perform. We choose how we think, we choose the framework for our emotions and our actions. That choosing is the elemental act of a Cultivator."
Whether or not you've considered yourself a "cultivator" this word from Lancia Smith is worthy of your consideration.

The more I read her words the more I realize what a radical statement it really is. In a world where everyone wants to blame someone else or something else for their circumstances the idea that "we choose" (and are therefore responsible!) runs counter to our culture.

The world, is a great influencer. Our families, and those in authority who we are taught to trust, can have a deep impact on the shaping of the way we think. That is why the framework is critical.

We choose the framework:

Our Feelings
Public Opinion
Peer Pressure
Authority Figure
God - The Bible

The framework we choose will also impact how we answer the question posed at the beginning of this post.

Do you expect great things from God?

I've been asking myself, really asking myself, this question ever since Lancia shared the Mueller quote in her introduction to Cultivating last month. I've struggled with the answer because I found that if I answered honestly, I could not unequivocally answer, "YES!" In other words, my "YES!" came with conditions.

I believe God can and does do great things. No issue there. No doubt! But experience has taught me that He often allows less than great things in our lives.

And if your response to that is that I'm missing the point, you're exactly right. And you're a lot farther along in this journey than I.

You see, experience is one of those things that shapes our thinking. Sadly, for many of us, experience has taught us not to expect great things from God. At least, not for ourselves.

Even when we have the right framework in place, i.e. The Bible, we can still get mixed up in our thinking.

The key is which side of the frame we choose to stand on.

Do we view our experiences through the Truths of the Bible or do we view the Bible through our experiences?

5Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
6In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.

Ironically, for someone who tends to see the glass have full, I can be very cynical at times. I have to constantly redirect my weight from leaning on my own wisdom (and sometimes that of others) to leaning on the Lord. To trust Him, wait on Him, believe His promises. To acknowledge His right-ness in all things. Even when they don't make sense.

Our experiences are vastly one-sided and can quickly skew our perception.

The truth is, God saved us and gave us a purpose [in Christ Jesus] before time began. (2Tim 1:9)

Before time began. Did you catch that?

This is not a God capable of doing less than great things!

My experiences have blinded me to reality. They have blinded me to the Truth!

Maybe some of your experiences have done the same. Maybe even now your circumstances are blinding you to the Truth about God.

It's imperative that we view our circumstances and experiences through the framework of God's word. Only God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Everything else changes. Everything. He alone remains steadfast and true.

He alone remains faithful to His promises.

From Him we can, and should, expect great things!


Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Inspired by . . . My cup runneth over

I know I wrote about this passage last week but I keep coming back to it.

David wasn't perfect but he was quick to acknowledge goodness and blessings from the Lord even when, on the surface, his life was anything but blessed. David spent more than a decade running from a Saul, who was intent on killing him. Chaos, uncertainty, and danger had become the new normal. A far cry from the peaceful life of a shepherd boy that David had once known.

Anyone else out there longing for a peaceful meadow dotted with lambs about now? 🙋‍♀️

Yet, in the midst of the chaos and danger, David was able to write this:

5You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord

David knew where his true dwelling place was and because of that he was able to be content, even call himself blessed, despite the reality of his circumstances. He didn't check out or pretend they weren't happening. Rather he trusted God at His word. He trusted God to redeem, restore, and protect him. And God did. In His time.

1The Lord is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the strength of my life;
Of whom shall I be afraid?

"Strength" in this passage is the Hebrew word mâ‛ôz. A fortified place, a rock, a stronghold. David was able to survive ten plus years on the run because God was the center of his life.

We serve the same God, friends. He will do the same for us that He did for David. He will redeem, restore, and protect us. In His time.

Perhaps the hunger for normal that you're feeling is really a hunger for Him.

Let's dive deep and abide long in His presence, putting Him at the center of our lives while we navigate this new normal.


Thursday, August 27, 2020

Inspired by . . . Life thru My Lens Revisited, Vol. V

A brief dip of overnight temperatures into the low 60's last week gave us a hint of the changes to come. Yet a scroll through the 10-day predicts September arriving in the triple digits. While other regions are enjoying the last of the sunflowers and the first of the pumpkins, summer shows no sign of lessening its grip on central Texas.

Since it's too hot for a walk, let's just sit here on the porch and enJOY the birds, blooms, and flying flowers.

It's hard not to be impressed by the Vermilion Flycatcher. We don't see him in the yard often, he prefers a copse of trees further on. A few times every summer he'll visit the birdbath and it's always a treat!

We had some rain last week which caused our Texas Sage to burst out in joyful bloom. This Pipevine Swallowtail took full advantage!

I just love these sweet little Inca Doves. They come to feed in the evening and are always together. As ground feeders, they are constantly moving and it is difficult to get a clear shot!

Finally, the female Summer Tanager! She has been alluding me all summer. 

Are you tired of seeing pictures of butterflies on zinnias? Sorry. Not sorry. I could chase this Painted Lady from bloom to bloom all day long.

I have so many Cardinals this year! Based on their behavior patterns I'm pretty sure one pair had two hatches. This immature female is from the second hatch. It is beyond entertaining to watch them feed. The younger males wait their turn while the older males feed. I think they may deserve a post all their own!

Thank you for stopping by and letting me share my porch view with you. I pray that you catch a glimpse of His majesty in these images and feel His love surround you as you go about your day.

Have a wonder-filled week, friends!

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Inspired by . . . I am the Lord

Have you ever heard the term task-saturated? Perhaps you've even experienced it yourself. Task-saturation is the perception or reality of having too much to do and not enough time or resources to get everything accomplished. For most, the worst thing that can happen is stress and low productivity. But in some occupations the results can be lethal.

Such as fighter pilots and Levitical Priests.

I've experienced the effects of task-saturation as I've struggled to run small businesses over the years and that feeling of being hopelessly overwhelmed was one of the things that kept coming to my mind as I read through the Old Testament book of Leviticus.

If you can get past the blood, the sheer number of required sacrifices is staggering, pay attention to the details; which animal for which offence, what to roast, or not roast, where to rub the blood and what finger to use, what can be eaten the next day, what can't be eaten the next day, and on and on. The Israelites didn't have a handy app to help them keep everything straight. They couldn't even write down all the rules! These traditions were given orally. From God to Moses, from Moses to Aaron and the Israelites.

These practices would have consumed their lives. Apart from eating and sleeping, their minds would have been focused on keeping God's laws.

Why would the Israelites subject themselves to such a consuming lifestyle? They had known bondage in Egypt; surely this wasn't much better.

We may find the answer in the closing chapters of Exodus. Because of the Israelites disobedience (remember the golden calf?) God had decided not to journey with them on their way to Canaan. He said He would send an angel ahead of them but other than that, they were on their own.

Despite their rebelliousness, this news caused the Israelites deep distress. They "put off their ornaments" and "went about like mourners." They could not stand the thought of being separated from God. Finally, after what appears to be an extended time of dedication and worship, Moses convinces God to go with them.
"I shall go Myself and set your mind at rest." Ex 33:14 RE
Once it is decided that God will travel with the Israelites, He then gives them the specific instructions for the temple design and sacrifices.

Forty-five times in Leviticus God says, "I am the Lord."

Friends, when God repeats something, we need to listen!

We are all guilty of forgetting the majesty, power, and holiness that surrounds the Lord our God.

Read >>>>Psalm 29

Reading through Leviticus may be tedious, but more importantly, it is a painful reminder of our sinful state before a holy God.

The Israelites could not have lived in His presence without offering again, and again the blood of bulls and goats. To disobey God's law meant death.

It still does.
"Wretched creature that I am, who is there to rescue me from this state of death? Who but God? Thanks be to Him through Jesus Christ our Lord!"
Why didn't God send Jesus into the world sooner? I don't know. But I do know this, God's timing is perfect.
"when the appointed time came, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to buy freedom for those who were under the law, in order that we might attain the status of sons." Gal 4:4
There is a reason why God subjected generations of His children to these ritualistic sacrifices and a reason why, by His grace, we are spared from them today.

The danger on this side of grace is forgetting what, "I am the Lord" really means. I'm not suggesting that God wants us cowering before Him like the Israelites did at Mount Sinai, but I do think He wants us to "fear" Him. As in, "to have a reverential awe of."

I'm ashamed to think of how it must hurt our Father's heart when I come to Him flippantly or with concern only for my own wants. Never acknowledging His majesty and power. Never acknowledging the sin that separates me but for the blood of His Son.

How much better to come to Him humble, and weeping, expecting nothing, and instead, hearing Him say, "Climb up here in My lap. Let Me show you everything I have created for you. Everything I have planned. My dear child, all that I have is yours. I am the Lord."


Thursday, August 6, 2020

Inspired by . . . Life thru My Lens Revisited: Vol. IV

Welcome back to Life thru My Lens!

Thirteen years and this summer promises to be the hottest yet. My plants are struggling in the heat. Their foliage is green and healthy but blooms are scarce. It takes a lot of energy to bloom. 

The plants aren't the only things struggling to bloom. 

Let's put our deep concerns aside for a moment. Take a breath and let me show you around the yard.

This salmon-colored zinnia is filling my spirit this week. Color and light are some of God's most profound languages. The Gulf Fritillary is just icing on the cake.

Water is life and where you offer it, life will show up. In abundance!

The hummingbirds especially enjoy the spray from the sprinkler. When the Greater Roadrunner isn't sipping from the birdbath he can usually be found teasing our German Shepherd. Their red, white, and blue eye patch reminds me of a Firecracker Popsicle!

The Woodhouse's Scrub-Jays are absolutely hilarious to watch when they're taking a bath! They are the grumps of the bird world.


"If I don't move she won't see me." 

And then there is Lady. Our rescue GSD. She is truly a gentle giant. Rock harvester and excavator extraordinaire! In this picture she is laying in a hole she dug under one of our cedar trees. If you know anything about this part of Texas you know you get about 4 inches of dirt and then it's all rock. This gal knows how to keep cool!

Well, it's gotten a bit warm. How about a glass of sweet tea?

Have a wonder-filled week, friends!

Monday, July 20, 2020

Inspired by . . . Life thru My Lens Revisited: Vol. III

Hello, friends!
Welcome to another Life thru My Lens post!

Despite the heat, the birds have been very active in my yard. There are a lot of babies around right now. They aren't as pretty as their parents but they are always entertaining to watch!

You always know when the Woodhouse's Scrub Jays are in the yard. They are loud! and even the squirrels keep a respectful distance.  They are really enjoying the peanut suet.

The Northern Cardinal youngsters can be pretty scraggly looking at times. At this age, the male and female look pretty much the same except for their beaks. The female has an orange beak. So big sis is shown here feeding her little brother.

This Mockingbird baby is already as big as his parents when he leaves the nest. This guy was hiding from me under one of my rose bushes. I suspect he had gotten his feathers wet in the sprinkler and was having trouble flying.

The Scissor-tail Flycatchers are such a fun bird! I have a soft-spot for flycatchers and this one is a favorite. We have at least one pair every year, sometimes more. This year one pair and they had two babies. Things can get pretty nosey when they're out feeding.

I included this shot of one of the parents so you can see how long their tails get when they are adults. The tail separates in flight, hence their name. They are impressive to watch.

On a non-avian note, I'm enjoying my Pioneer Roses very much!  

This is Joe Woodard. He has a spicy scent that I just love!

Have a wonder-filled week, friends!

Monday, July 13, 2020

Inspired by . . . Redeeming the time

Wasn't it only just yesterday (March) when we began grappling with this new normal of being confined to our homes? just a couple of hours ago that I said, "June, already?!" and now we find ourselves securely in July, at least for the next two nanoseconds.

Numerous journal entries through the years attest that this phenomenon is nothing new, many beginning with, "I can't believe it's [insert current month here] already." Some say that whether time seems to go fast or slow depends upon your level of activity, your attention to being in the moment. But if that is true, shouldn't the intense slow down of the past four months have translated in a slowing of time as well? or at lease our sense of it? Instead, 2020 seems to be hurtling into the past at a much more alarming rate than usual.

Or is it just me?

Personally, I hold to the (possibly romantic) notion that since God is the Author of Time, He can speed it up or slow it down at His will. I mentioned this to a friend the other day and she was amused but gently dismissive of the idea.

One of my favorite lines in a fiction novel reads:
", but it was a day in which forever after James would say that time stood still; minutes had stretched into hours and hours felt like days."

Have you experienced this? I very much hope that you have, because days like that are a rare gift.

If God extends the day for our pleasure, might-en He also shorten the day to avoid pain and suffering? I believe there is evidence in scripture that suggests both:

In Joshua 10, the Lord answers Joshua's prayer: "So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day."

Matthew 24, speaking about the days of tribulation: "And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened."

Regardless of my theology, one thing is certain, God expects us to be wise about how we spend our time.

15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil. (Eph 5:16)
5 Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. 6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. (Col 4:5)

Redeeming the time. 

I come back and ponder this phrase at least once a year. What does it mean, anyway? to redeem time. Buy back, pay off, exchange for something more valuable, offset a shortcoming, fulfill a promise.

If time is a commodity and God is the banker, what am I doing with the time He is giving me that I can ultimately give back to Him? When God opens the ledger book with my name on it and compares the columns, well, let's just say that I'm thankful for the nail-scarred hand that will reach out and mark my account paid in full.

1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. (Rom 8:1)

Still, that doesn't mean that I shouldn't be any less wise about how I redeem the time. And the faster time seems to pass (real or imagined) the more diligent I need to be in this area. Beloved, the sand is running through the hourglass and when it's gone . . . we don't get to flip the glass.

Let me encourage you to check your lamps for oil. Trim the wick. 

May we all be mindful of how we redeem the time we have been given.


Sunday, July 5, 2020

Inspired by . . . Life thru My Lens Revisited: Vol. II

"They don't smell."

It's true. The beautiful roses my husband buys for me from the local grocery store don't smell. Nor do they last for more than a few days. I enjoy their fleeting beauty and his thoughtfulness but long for something more. Several years ago we bought "knock-out roses" (found in nearly every landscaped area of South Texas) for our front flower beds. They don't smell either, my husband recently reminded me. Lamenting, "Why don't the roses smell anymore?"

I assured him that they do, you just have to smell the right roses. Soon after this exchange, I scheduled a road-trip to the Antique Rose Emporium near Brenham, Texas. The purpose was three-fold:
  • to prove that roses smell, when you smell the right rose
  • to celebrate my and my mother's June birthdays, and
  • to enjoy a safe activity away from home!

I have always loved roses. Iris' tickle my fancy and peonies take my breath away, but roses... roses speak to my soul.

I had always wondered about this affinity I had for roses which seemed to me deeper than my love for flowers in general. As Mom and I strolled through the gardens she reminded me of something that I had altogether forgotten: Every year on my birthday, my Nana would cut for me, off some wild or cultivated bush, the number of rose blooms that matched my age. 

I have a random memory of an untamed, sprawling wild rose bush at her apartment in Newbury, but no real memory of these delightful gifts she gave me each year. I wonder why?

I like to think that it is because her act of love and the roses became so much a part of who I am that my mind no longer separates them into memories.

Too romantic? Maybe. But isn't that was roses are all about?

After all, romance is about much more than the feelings between a man and a woman. It's about life, this wonder-filled world! It's about pageantry and heroic and marvelous deeds! It's what draws us into the story, to our story, and, ultimately, to His story.

It's about love in its purest form.

The slow, often painful, unfolding of our hearts to give,

and receive,


I'll leave you here. But I encourage you to keep scrolling for more views of these beautiful gardens.