Friday, May 31, 2013

Cup of Jo to Go

In December 2007 I came across the question, "If you look at your life 3 years down the road and nothing significant has changed, what do you least like about this picture?"  I immediately knew the answer to this question.  The scene that came to mind was stopping at the local gas station to pick up a cup of coffee before heading out to make afternoon visits on some of the elderly in our church.  These were dear sweet people that I truly came to care about, but I knew that I couldn't keep on grabbing that coffee to stay awake in 80 degree apartments to hear the same stories (in many cases) that I had been hearing the past 5 years.

It was a surprising realization for me.  It was a major part of my job description.  These people deserved so much more.  I had built good relationships with many of them, but I knew that it was time to quit. It was confirmation that God was calling me to something else, but what exactly would that look like?  And would I dare to leave the security of my "job" to explore my "calling."

Last week I shared this story with people going through the process of developing a mission statement for their "second adulthood."  I saw a look of surprise on one man's face.  Later as he shared his mission statement he talked about his joy in leading worship services at retirement homes, his love for hearing their stories, and his desire to move into that ministry in great depth as he nears retirement.  I understood his look of surprise.  What I had lost my passion for, he was discovering was his area of passion in his "second adulthood."

It reminded me that we have to stop, listen to the Spirit and explore what God is calling us to in different seasons of life.  God is continually creating us, reshaping us, transforming us into all God has created us to be.  This is quite a journey.  As soon as we figure we have learned all we need to know, and become all we need to be we are in dangerous territory.  God has so much more purpose and meaning for us.

Ecclesiastes 3:1  There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heaven.

What season are you in?  What is your passion?  And how is God calling you to live a life of greater purpose and joy?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Peaches and Pruning

Last week Al and I went down to Bangor to visit good friends Ron and Shirley Bush.  This is always a blessing.  Ron has been a significant part of our life's journey for 24 years, initially with his first wife Jo who died of cancer, and now with Shirley, his second wife.  Once again heartache looms as Shirley struggles with ALS.  Once again they demonstrate what love really looks like.

On this visit we were strolling through their orchard.  They have numerous cherry and apple trees of all varieties, and 9 peach trees.  As we checkout out the peach trees Ron showed us the buds where baby peaches were hatching.  Then he told us that in order to get a good crop of peaches you have to pick off most of the young peaches, because there is supposed to be about 6 inches between each peach for them to have the room and get the nutrients to grow to a good size.  "Last year," he said, "I picked off 6000 peaches.  It was so hard for me to do, and I probably didn't pick off enough."  I've been thinking about those peach trees all week.

Last night I was leading a small group working through developing a mission and vision statement for their "Second Adulthood."  The peaches came up again...  We talked about how a mission statement works as both a harness and a sword in our lives.  I learned this from Laurie Beth Jones' book, THE PATH.  It works as a harness to keep us focused and going in the right direction with our lives.  It works as a sword because it cuts away those things that hinder, distract, and don't fit us well, as we discern who God is creating us to be, and the purposes to which we are called.

Like the peach order for us to produce good fruit we need to cull out those things that hinder growth, that divert our energy and the nourishment we need.  They may be good things, but are they things for which God has created and called us?

A good mission statement means I can say "no" to those things that don't fit me well, because I am fully engaged in the things, people, causes, for which God has given me a passion and purpose.

I don't want to find myself complaining about being sooo busy I don't have time for the things God calls me to be invested in.  Some of the peaches have to go...even though it is hard and they look good.
What may I need to let go of, say no to, in order to be free to...............?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Bird Watching and Spotting God

It's May and this is the season to get out there and look for the birds that are heading north after our long winter and slow coming spring.

It was about 6 springs ago that my cousin Maria introduced me to the joy of birdwatching.  At the time Caleb was still in high school and loved to tease me about heading out with my binoculars and bird book to scour the forests and swamps in the area.  He considered it a "Senior" interest.  Maybe he's right and we finally have the wisdom to realize what we are missing by not noticing the beauty that surrounds us.

Anyway...birding has become a devotional exercise for me.  Especially on those first excursions I was amazed at how God spoke to me through the process of watching for the birds.  I hesitate to tell you what I learned because I want to you to try it and see what God says to you.  On the other hand, perhaps if I share a couple of things you can add to my learnings by sharing yours.

One of the first things I noticed as we walked through Horicon Marsh, outside Waupun, WI, was that there were so many birds who were not in the trees, or flying through the air.  Instead of looking up to the heavens I was scouring the grasses and branches of bushes, very close to the ground.  I sensed God saying, "Don't assume you have to look to the heavens for me either.  I am right here...on the ground... in the grass and ordinary places of life.

As I began watching for the birds I learned to "scan."  You don't start by using binoculars.  You scan the grass, the trees, the sky.  You look for movement, flashes of color, and you listen.  When you see the movement, see the color, or hear the song, then you zero in and use your binoculars.  It again seemed to me that God was saying, "Watch for me!  Scan the horizons.  Look for the movement in the grass.  Listen for my voice, and hear my song.  Look for flashes of the Spirit.  I am all around.  Don't miss me, and when you see me at work focus in.  See what I am up to.  Listen long enough to understand.  Take time to learn to spot me.  I desire to be found."

God is so good.  God wants to be found by all of us.  I wonder why I forget that sometimes.  Why do I rush around, refusing to BE STILL AND KNOW that God is God, and God loves to spend time with us.  For me it is time to get the binoculars out and go for a walk with God.  That works for me.  But I am really curious...what works best for you?  I would love to hear how you best spend time with God.  Where do you find and hear him?

A Fuzzy and a Cup

Delight of delights...we spent last week with our Wisconsin grandchildren, celebrating Annika's birthday.  Of course there are many stories to tell, but I will spare you most of the grandma bragging.
However, there was one of those silly but powerful comments in which God seemed to laugh with us.

On Saturday morning, before the big party, Annika was taking her bath, when she announced to Acacia, "I don't have anything to play with."  Acacia asked her if she wanted some of the tub toys, but Annika responded, "No I just need a fuzzy and a cup."  I asked Acacia what in the world that was about, and she proceeded to tell me about the previous bath when there was a fuzzy in the water and Annika spent ages chasing and scooping the elusive fuzzy.  "That pretty much explains why it is so hard to buy her presents.  She would just as soon play with a fuzzy and a cup."

I've been thinking about that a lot the past few days.  It reminds me of the pure fun that kids in Haiti and Uganda have playing with the littlest things.  It also makes me wonder about "Fuzzy in a cup Lifestyle." God in that simple story seemed to be telling me to relish the simple things in find joy in the be happy with the real blessings that surround us every day, and NOT to fall for the lies of this world that tell us that we will be so much happier...:"IF ONLY..."  "If only" rarely carries the weight we expect of it.  The lies of the world simply keep us in a world of whining and comparing, and wondering why we don't have what the Joneses have.

Freedom in Christ on the other hand, not only sets us free from our sins, but sets us free to believe the promises of God.  God is our source. God will provide.  God knows the plans God has for us, and he is faithful!

We are in that waiting time to see what God has in store next, and it is easy to "Fret" as Al's mom used to say.  But I was once again reminded that God knows our needs, and maybe all we need right now is a fuzzy and a cup.  God loves to bring us joy, has a plan, and wants us to live into it with peace and patience.

By the way, Annika loved her 2 goldfish and a bowl.  It will give her hours of delight as long as the cup stays in the bathtub.

Friday, May 3, 2013


What memories come to mind when you think of dandelions?  I know...strange question.  Here are a few that come to me:

1.  The huge field of dandelions that announced spring every year when I was in high school.  It was just west of CWC and was a solid field of yellow, until of course it turned ungly as it seeded out.

2.  All the dandelion bouquets that our kids brought into the house, with such excitement each spring.

3.  The constant work of dealing with yards filled with those yellow heads.

4.  Blowing the seed heads not realizing you were sowing bad seeds :(

Last week I was babysitting Lorena and Miriam on a beautiful spring day.  We decided to go out in the back yard to "work" on the yard.  The girls are 3 and 5 and more than willing to help.  We had just had several of the rainy days that caused flooding in so many areas, including our basement.  The ground was well saturated, and in my raised flowerbed I decided to tackle the dandelions.

Miriam would help by standing on the spade and then tipping it back so I could grab the dandelion and pull it out by the roots.  Oh my goodness...some of these dandelions must have been grandpa and grandma dandelions.  They had roots that went done for over a foot.  Others would have about 6 long roots that looked like skinny carrots.  Because the ground was so wet they would pull out without breaking off.  I felt victorious!!  I was rooting these things out!!  If one broke off I would attack it again, looking for the remaining tips.

I got to thinking about those dandelions.  They are deeply rooted...and frustrating!  I have to admire them.  Mowing the tops off means nothing...they will return.  Drought doesn't seem to phase them.  You won't drown them out.  They can be amazingly pretty in their fresh spring state.  They seem to grow anywhere.  They are very low maintenance.

I've wondered why God thinks we need so many dandelions.  Come to think of it, that was one of the questions that really got me thinking about what God wants me to do with my life in this season and beyond.  Someone once asked, "Why does God want so many old people around?"  Statistics say we will be a very large portion of the population.  God is the one who numbers our days, so I am determined to figure out what he wants me to be doing during those days.

I wonder how my roots are doing?  Do I have grandma roots yet?  Roots that go down deep, that spread out wide?  Roots that reach down to what nourishes me?

Like dandelions, do I delight children?  I hope so;  I think that is a good sign.  Do I frustrate adults?  You know, I guess I do that too sometimes.  Maybe that is okay.  Maybe I don't do it enough!   Jesus frustrated a lot of adults!  The more the adults thought they were right the more Jesus frustrated them.  The harder they tried to get rid of him, even killing him on a cross the wider he spread his seeds, his fields.

The girls told their mom how hard we had all worked, and how long it would have taken me if I didn't have their help.  We got those dandelions!

This morning I went back out to the flowerbed.  Wait a minute!! Where did all these come from???  Lord, give me dandelion tenacity when it comes to Kingdom living and Kingdom loving.