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Some things are just strange aren’t they? Just yesterday I received a message from a friend of mine thanking me for ministering to her the day before.

Day 232

Red Vines can help you minister to others.

As I sat looking at the message, I wondered what in the world she was talking about. I quickly went over the day before, and couldn’t see any way that I had ministered to her. So, I took stock of the day again, this time much more slowly, and still, I couldn’t come up with a thing. As far as I could see, it was just another Sunday.

I though about asking her, but then thought “no”, because really it feels like a stupid question. Someone tells you that you helped them a bit, ministered to them (which is a little step up from just helping) and then you don’t remember what you did? I mean really, aren’t we supposed to remember this sort of thing?

Finally, after a couple of hours of coming back to it and wondering about it, it dawned on me that I just had to know what on earth she was talking about. So, I contacted her and her answer was simple. Red Vines.

Red Vines. The red, tasty licorice candy that’s low in fat and high in sugar. And, because it seems to chew forever, makes it feel like you’re eating a lot of the sugary treat when in reality you’ve only had a twist or two. Okay, maybe three, but that’s not the point.

Her answer left me more confused than ever, I realized that I had given her a box of Red Vines, and they weren’t even mine. They were hers. I had bought them for her when we were at the store the day before. She left them at my house, and, I knew I would see her the next day. So, I took them to church with me to give to her, praying all the while that they wouldn’t melt into some weird red gob of gooeyness as they sat in my hot truck during the service.

When I gave them to her, as far as I was concerned that was the end of it. But, for her, it wasn’t. The act of my remembering to giver her the box of Red Vines reminded her that someone thought about her, remembered her and cared enough about her to make sure that she could enjoy something she liked.

Later, I got to thinking that that’s really what ministry is all about. Thinking about someone, remembering them and then caring about them enough to do something about it. It’s in this very way, in the small things of life, that we can show others how much God thinks about each one of us, remembers who and what we are, and loves us enough to want to be a part of our lives.

“As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.”

Psalm 103:13-14

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Because it’s been such a strange weather season in the Sierra Foothills where I live, the plants have had a difficult time knowing when to come out, but the weeds don’t seem to have that trouble at all. They are everywhere.

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Around my little cottage, A.K.A. my little shoebox, is a large area that I have to weed whack twice a year. Once when everything starts growing in the spring, then once just before summer when everything has turned a golden brown.

Usually this isn’t an issue. I just do the front yard in one day, and the back yard the next. Then a few weeks later, I do it all again. But, this year, I look at the whole expanse that needs to be done, and it just makes me tired.

I realized this after I dropped my son off at school and pulled the truck in the back of the house. The weeds – that look a little like wheat quite frankly, so they’re not unattractive, just tall – where way taller than they should be. As I sat scanning the yard, looking at them and how tall they are, I realized that I had only done one quadrant of one days work about two weeks ago.

That’s about 1/8 of the acre that needs to be done. In short, not a lot.

It felt like a heavy weight slowly oozed through me as I sat there trying to figure out when I would be able to squeeze in the time to get out the weed whacker and actually tackle them. Then it sunk in that not only did I not have time for another two weeks, but, I was just too tired to do it.

Sometime that’s just what happens in our live isn’t it? We have a task that we know needs to be done, something we’ve done without an issue for years, when all of a sudden it’s just overwhelming. We realize for whatever reason, we just are too tired to tackle it. Then on top of that comes the sense we’ve got such a long way to go to get it done, that doing it seems like an impossibility.

We can get to that spot in a lot of different ways, maybe your workload has become heavier, or there’s been a change in your lifestyle, or your child is transitioning to another level of life, or your parents are. No matter what the change may be, when added to the current load of life, it all of a sudden becomes more than we can handle.

It’s kind of like the old story about the straw that broke the camels back.

But, as children of the Great I Am, we are not called to handle these things on our own. He makes all things possible as we look at Him, not at our current impossibility. He will make a way for us, we just need to trust Him to do it. And, He’ll help us with that too.

“I am the LORD, the God of all the peoples of the world. Is anything too hard for me?”

Jeremiah 32:27

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Our memories are strange things. We get so caught up in our daily living, and our future lives, that a lot of us tend to either bury the past as if it never happened or just conveniently overlook it, treating it as if it didn’t exist because in the present it doesn’t.

Polski: Kamienie pamiątkowe przy grodzisku Bró...

We remember what the Lord has done when we make a memorial.

Although for some people I think this trying to escape the past by forgetting it is just that, escape, for others it’s because we’re just really bad at remembering. It’s like our brains can only hold so much information at one time and everything else past, present and future just falls out if it doesn’t fit with what’s going on right now.

Memories

The other day my son and I had a disagreement over a long past trip to Disneyland. He was only about 3½ years old when he first went and about 4½ years old the second time he went. Even though he has an amazing memory ( he actually remembers things from when  he was 1 and 2) he argued with me that the first time we went was when he was 4. I had to pull out the old photograph albums to show him that yes he had actually gone earlier than he thought.

When he saw the photographs he did remember some parts of that trip. And, it occurred to me that the photographs were a little like small memorials to the trip and every time we saw them we would remember.

Memorials to God

Every once in a while I hear of a book or a teaching about building memorials to God, which is entirely biblical and is a really cool thing, because it does help us to remember what He has done. After all, how many times does He say,  ‘don’t forget’ to His people in the Word? The short answer? A lot. This is because He knows how short our attention spans are, and how we need to remember what He has done or else we just forget about it and start walking around with the delusion that He hasn’t hardly done anything at all.

One of the issues I’ve always had with these memorials is that the people who are advocating them always seem to say they should be outside and usually made of rocks like the ones in scripture. But, I’m just not an outdoor person. The whole point of building a memorial is to remember, but what’s the point if you don’t even notice it? I mean, if I can drive over a blue can and eventually not see it, you can bet money that I’ll walk right past an outdoor memorial to something He’s done and eventually not see it either.

Being a writer, I write things down, but even that necessitates digging through notebooks to find something to remember and doesn’t have that instant impact that takes place when you see a simple thing and are reminded of what He’s done. So, my writing doesn’t actually add up to any sort of memorial either.

God remembers

Because I thought I was someone who didn’t make any sort of memorials, I settled back into the camp of when God wants me to remember something He’ll let me know. This seems to be working, but what I didn’t realize is that He had me building memorials to Himself so I would remember what He’s been doing without my even realizing that He was building them.

I mark my Bible, but not in a way that I’ve ever seen anyone else do it. I’ve tried highlighting scripture only to find that the colors irritated me and I’ve tried underlying scripture that I thought was meaningful but it got too messy for me. But, about 2 years ago I started drawing lines in the margin of my bible next to scripture that caught my eye. After that, I found myself, writing the date next to my line in the margin, but only if God had given me the verse either by making it go 3-D on me, speaking into my spirit or giving it to me through someone else.

This resulted in a combination of those little lines, some just plain and some with dates next to them. What I didn’t realize when I started doing this was that those with the dates are my memorials to the Lord, and just because they aren’t a pile of rocks or outside doesn’t make than any less than what they are, remembrances of Him and what He’s given me and in just the right way for me to remember what He has done.

“Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.”

Deuteronomy 4:9

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Cakes are amazing things really. We all have an idea in our heads of what a perfect cake looks like and always remember the taste of that perfect cake, where we were, who we were with and what type of cake it was.

Even if you don’t like cake, and are more of a pie or pudding person, some cakes are so beautifully created that they can be admired for just their aesthetic qualities.

I remember seeing a news program when I was small – a long, long time ago – about a woman in New York who made specialty cakes that she decorated like your favorite celebrity. She would take a regular sheet cake and “draw” on the cake any portrait that the customer wanted. Things have come a long way since the. Now, cake decorators can actually create 3-D renderings of anything you want, a person, place or thing.

When I happen upon them, I love to watch some of the shows on Food Network, like Ace of Cakes and the dessert making challenges, where they make incredible cakes that look beautiful on a table or resemble dinosaurs, castles and even Scooby-Doo.

Just the other night, I was watching a reality TV program where a woman made what looked to be a billion pink cupcakes for a party.  I was mesmerized by how beautiful the pink, white and silver creations looked when they were finished, sitting on tables and cupcake tiers waiting for the guests to arrive.

Since I do like to look at cakes, when I was looking around the internet I saw a blog about a rainbow cake (http://huckleberrystew.wordpress.com/2010/05/16/rainbow-birthday-cake/) and I just had to take a look.

The blog featured pictures of the creation of a, yes, rainbow cake. Every layer was a different color and flavor. When it was sliced, it was so amazing, it looked like something straight out of Alice in Wonderland. Layers of pink, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple were wrapped in a white robe of icing and garnished with fruit that looked like it should have sat on the table of the Mad Hatter.

The baker who found the overall cake recipe at  Rainbow Cake started out with a basic white cake recipe found at 1-2-3-4 white cake batter to which was added strawberries for the red layer, lemon to the yellow layer and grapes to the purple layer with other layers flowing suite with their colors matching the fruits they were made with, plus, a little food coloring to enhance the color.

Unlike so many other gorgeous cakes out there, this was also in the realm of the I-could-possibly-make-this for the average baker, like, well, myself. That only added to the charm of the colorful cake, that with some time, some ingredients, some cake pans and an oven, it was within reach of a regular person to create and enjoy.

And isn’t this so similar to the way the God works? Out of the blue, He shows us something amazing like the rainbow cake, then shows us that He has given us all we need to make it.

“He wanted a good life; you gave it to him, and then made it a long life as a bonus. You lifted him high and bright as a cumulus cloud, then dressed him in rainbow colors. You pile blessings on him; you make him glad when you smile. Is it any wonder the king loves God? That he’s sticking with the Best?” Psalm 21:1b-3 (The Message)

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English: Old Cottage

Image via Wikipedia

The other day I wanted to ask my almost 12-year old son a question.

Instead of just doing the thing that the experts tell you that you should do, which would be to try to find him and look at him full in the face in order to communicate with him more effectively, I did what most parents do. I yelled my question from where I was in the office to wherever he was in the house thinking he would hear me.

“Here I am,” yelled my son from the other room after I’d called him for the umpteenth millionth time. In exasperation after there was no response to my question, I needed to know if he was even within earshot. I needed to know if he was there. So, I said, very loudly mind you, “Where are you?”

Now I don’t want to give you the wrong idea that we live in a large house where it is easy to not hear someone. No, my son and I live in a two bedroom, two bath home that is very small. In fact, I often refer to it affectionately as my little shoebox. So, the fact that I had to find out where he was in it was somewhat comical considering I usually know where my cat is at all times.

But my son, he’s a different story altogether. He’s always moving around, seemingly never in the same place for more than a second or two. In my mind, he never seems close by at all, but whenever he yells back “Here I am”(this little scenario happens more frequently than I would like to admit) inevitably he is much closer than I ever expect. Usually just around the corner.

Isn’t this usually how it feels with God? He always seems like He’s moving around, and fast too, like we just can’t get a grip on where He is only to find that He’s been right in the mix, next to us the whole time saying “Here I Am”.

“Therefore My people will know My name; therefore they will know on that day that I am He who says: Here I am.”     Isaiah 52:6

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Tree

Image by Adnan Yahya via Flickr

 

Trees, what a wonderful part of God’s creation. Now, I’m normally not really a tree aficionado, I have a hard time distinguishing between an oak and a maple, but I do think they are amazing creations.

The fact that some of them are really quite spectacular to look at is only enhanced by the reality that they are an integral part of the oxygen-carbon dioxide exchange chain that allows those of us with oxygen grabbing lungs to, well, actually have something to grab onto.

Recently, I took a drive over the Carson Pass in Northern California. It, like many of the passes in the northern part of the state, is laden with a multitude of trees with some short and others so tall that you can’t see the tops of them from the ground, that stand along the ridges and slopes of the Sierra Nevada.

Because of the amount of rain we’ve gotten this year, the trees look a little bit more green and well watered even late in the season. But, even I, who isn’t a knowledgeable tree person, could see that the trees in the higher elevations were very different from their down the hill counterparts.

Lush green pine trees lined Silver and Caples lakes at an elevation level of over 7,000 feet above sea level, while down in the hotter regions of the foothills that run into the Central Valley, blackish scrub oak’s with their green leaves dominate the landscape, making it feel like you’ve somehow driven into regions of Africa when you take that trip.

A friend of mine, who is much more horticulturaly aware than I, always says, “you need to grow where you’re planted” a phrase I have often repeated to myself and my son at various times.

There is nothing that illustrates it more than driving down from a pass like Carson Pass and seeing so many pine trees and aspens into the foothills and Central Valley where the Valley Oak – able to get water that it 70 feet away from its main trunk – dominate the landscape.

Yet, no matter what the tree, or where it’s planted it, it still participates in that universal tree job as an oxygen factory. And, the same can be said of trees all over the world, no matter where they are, what they look like or what their other functions are, they all still participate in making this an oxygen rich world.

Sort of like us, no matter who we are, what we look like or where we’re planted, if we belong to Him we should be glorifying Him in and with all of our being.

“And they will be called righteous trees, planted by the LORD to glorify Him.”

Isaiah 61:3b

 

 

 

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At this time I’m casually looking at a calendar I bought at the Galleria Borghese when I was there a while ago. It is a very small thing, maybe 2 inches by 2 inches. Every month – the month and days written in Italian, go figure:) – features a small picture of a sculpture by one of the greats, Bernini.

The January picture is one of David as he is in the action of slinging the pebble, or rock, that brought down Goliath. The thing that really strikes me is the moment in the piece. The muscles tensing before the throw underneath the smooth white marble skin. The stance of his body that is twisted, tensing, winding up for the throw because he only had one chance to get it right.

This was before David became king, when he was the youngest son of a family whose business was agriculture. A time when most of his days and nights had been spent in the field with his sheep, mastering the slingshot, singing to God. Little did he know that mastering the slingshot was going to bring down the most feared enemy of the Israelites, little did he know that he literally would have only one shot to bring down the giant. A bulls-eye of a space to hit, just a small space in Goliaths armor that bookies on the sidelines were probably giving a billion and one chance to hit its mark.

But hit he did, right out of the park, which just goes to show you that sometimes the mundane everyday life we all seem to live may be preparing us for that opportunity that God wants us to have, that one in a billion chance that God is preparing us to accomplish.

After all, in God’s world, where we live and breathe and have our being, one in a billion happens all the time.

“LORD, You are my portion and my cup of blessing, You hold my future.”

Psalm 16:5

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