Wax Hearts

My husband and I have several hives of bees. For the past couple of years, we’ve been loosely mentored in bee keeping (as our interest and time allow) by my dad. This year, we decided it was time to commit and take on the care of our hives, calling for help when necessary. This season, we managed to harvest nearly 100 lbs. of honey, and try our hand at rendering the wax from the comb capping’s.

Rendering wax is a multi-step process. The wax is melted, filtered and cooled – twice – being poured into a final mold after the second filtering. From there, the wax is melted a third time and made into candles, lip balm, etc.

As the final stage of filtered wax was poured into the molds, I watched these freshly melted wax hearts begin to harden and cool – taking shape of the form around them. The wax had first been scraped with a hot knife from the comb. Then left to drip of all the sweetness within. Gathered up, the wax was set in the hot sun to melt. Filtered from the slum gum (yucky stuff), the first glimpses of purity were seen. But again came the sun, hot and unyielding. Once again poured out, filtered and drained. This wax rendering was work; requiring patience, and careful handling as to not get burned.

Throughout the old and new Testament, scripture mentions hearts that are melted and hearts that are refined by fire.

The Psalmist, David, wrote about feeling forsaken by God and scorned by mankind. “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast.” (Psalm 22:14, ESV)

The testing and trials of life can be like that hot honey-knife, slicing away and exposing past hurts and pains, insecurities, strong holds, addictions, idols. Or maybe it’s walking through a desert-like season with the sun beating down and melting us into a hopeless puddle, like the melted wax heart within David’s chest in Psalm 22.

Melted and filtered.

Testing and trials.

Each step can be used to refine our heart, it’s work, just like the removal of the slum gum from the wax. What would it be like to accept those trials and desert seasons of life, when our heart feel melted, with gratitude for the refining like gold? “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right (steadfast) spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10 (ESV) Would that change your perspective in times of trouble? Could you be brave and ask what is being refined?

I don’t believe that testing and trials are just for the fun of it. We live in a fallen world with hurts and heartaches…but Jesus. Take a look at these verses in 1 Peter.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

When the hot sun comes bearing down, and you feel like you’ve been thrown into a furnace, I want to challenge you to pick up your shield of faith (Eph. 6:16) and with a surrendered heart, trust the Refiner (God) through the fire. Ask Him to use the fire, refine your faith in Him. Through the flames, I want to challenge you to give God the glory with a heart of thanksgiving, accepting his abundant mercy and grace, allowing the ‘yuck’ to be worked through His filter. You and your faith are precious to the Lord.

IMG_5439Those refined wax hearts are ready to use. Ready to be transformed into something which can burn brightly or sooth chapped lips. Our refined hearts can burn brightly for the Lord and be used to offer a soothing balm to others who are hurting and chapped by this world.

Be encouraged, “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:10 (ESV)

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Tide Changer

For the last year and a half, I’ve been studying the book of Joshua and writing a Bible study while teaching the material in Connection Class on Sunday mornings. While reviewing Joshua 11 for class and the day’s lesson about the ebb and flow of the Israelites’ claiming their Promised Land it hit me. God is our Tide Changer.

fullsizeoutput_ef3.jpegThere’s no Hebrew name for God in this fashion (that I’m aware of), but I truly believe it. God, Creator of the universe – moon, stars, oceans, the whole shebang – also created the tides. The ebb and flow, their shifting all over this blue-green globe.

Life tends to have an ebb and flow to it too, shifting seasons of fall and winter rest followed by the full force of spring and summer. And within that, each day and week have an ebb and flow, a rhythmic pattern of coming and going. A Sabbath rest followed by busy work days, and back again.

My life right now is in the full-force “flow” mode. It’s abundantly full to the point I’m not sure I can keep up. But He amazes me with just enough rest to catch my breath before the next wave hits. (Like this moment right now!) At times, it feels the waves won’t let up, but I know it won’t last forever.

Perhaps you’re in an “ebb” season, where drought and depression have engulfed you. No matter where you are, whether in the “ebb” or “flow” of life – trust that God is the Tide Changer. He can bring life rushing back with a fresh breath of the Holy Spirit, or shift the tide so that we can slow down and breathe.

What season are you in right now? No matter where you find yourself, God can and will always turn the tide for your good. Trust Him.

Jesus & the Road to Emmaus

I’ve been reading through the book of Luke since late April or early May. It’s been a little sporadic, but I finally finished today. To be completely honest, the last three chapters I had really been putting off – the betrayal and crucifixion of Jesus.

This morning, I asked God to help me finish the last two chapters of Luke. It would be more scripture than normally covered, but I wanted to finish. As I prayed, it occurred to me that this part is the greatest part of God’s love letter to us. It’s the greatest part of His love story. If my husband sacrificed his own life for that of someone else, it would be the talk of the town. A sacrificial love like no other. Why would I not want to read the greatest love story ever told?

With a fresh desire I made it through, and to the final chapter. I love the story of the two men on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24. Cleopas and Simon are walking to Emmaus and come across a stranger who joins them. They tell this stranger about what has just taken place in Jerusalem – the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus (Good News travels fast). Then the stranger begins to interpret to them all the Scriptures. (Luke 24:27) They are wowed by the stranger’s understanding and urge him to stay with them, come for supper.

But as they sit to eat, the stranger breaks the bread and blesses it. Immediately, the two men’s eyes are opened and they realize that this “stranger” is the resurrected Jesus himself. (Talk about a good story!) As their eyes are opened to who they had spent so much time with that day, Jesus vanishes. I’m sure their opened eyes got a little wider.

“When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. Their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.” (Luke 24:30-31, ESV)

That verse reminded me of when I first saw Jesus. It was in the telling of the story of his crucifixion and resurrection. It was his body – blessed, broken and given to each one of us – just like the bread with Cleopas and Simon. It was an August night in 1994 at Windy Gap, a Young Life camp. The story of Jesus was graphically told that night, just like I read in Luke 23 this morning. It was the realization of how much the Lord our God loves us, has forgiven us, desires relationship with us, and prepared a way for eternal life for us, with Him.

Whatever road you are on right now, I want to encourage you to take 20-30 minutes, and read the gospel of Luke 23-24. I promise you, time spent in God’s Word is not wasted time. Allow Him to meet you, right where you are. Its about relationship, not perfection. I’m asking that God would open our eyes, just like Cleopas and Simon, to see Jesus. I’m asking for a fresh reminder of what first brought us to believe God and Jesus’ sacrifice. And I’m asking that God’s love would wash over us, afresh. Amen.

Trip Home

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend my 20th high school reunion. (How is that possible?!) For the weeks leading up to the event, I had been so excited to make the trip. But as the hours inched closer, I questioned the decision. Our family’s u-pick berry farm was coming into the height of season, I was going to miss yet another Sunday teaching, and there was much to do. However, the plane ticket had been purchased and I wasn’t going to waste it.

As I walked up the ramp to the reunion that first night, thoughts of “what am I doing here?” played heavily. What had I gotten myself into? But as the woman at the top of the ramp turned around, all those thoughts melted away as I came face to face with one who did that awkward journey through high school so closely with me.

It was such a good weekend – filled with familiar faces, childhood friends, neighbors and class mates. Much of the next day was spent with those friends closest, swimming, grilling and watching our kids play together. That was worth the whole trip.

But Sunday morning rolled around, and I stood in the sanctuary of my first church family, with that same friend who greeted me at the top of the ramp that first night. A new sense of gratitude washed over me. Honestly, it was all I could do to hold back the ugly cry. Because I was standing in the place where it all started, my walk with Jesus.

The opportunity to come back, and remember, was such a gift from God. It was a good reminder and glimpse into what was such a big part of my life. A part of my life I had not given enough credit to.

Later that afternoon, this peopled-out introvert found some solitude at the beach I grew up on. I’m so grateful for that time, to worship God alone in thanks and joy; time to be in His creation, time to stand in His presence amongst the powerful Atlantic and allow the waves to crash and roll over my head. It was a time of personal testimony between me and Him, to listen and abide in Him.

IMG_5123When was the last time you got away with God? Just the two of you, to simply be in His presence. To sing praises to Him? I want to encourage you, sometime in the next few days, wipe the slate clean of distractions, pressures, requests and let God’s love and goodness and power wash over you.

“Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:10)

Waiting

One day last week, I stood in our field.  I was walking back to the house and just stopped.  That day had been full, once again I was trying to fit too much into a short period of time. I was tired, pushed to the edge, teetering on throwing in the towel. There were more balls in the air than I was capable of juggling. Having been inside all day, I decided it was time for a change of scenery and needed to get my chores done outside.

So, there I was, standing in the field, decked out in the full bee suit (I had just fed our new hives), when I just stopped dead in my tracks. I dropped what was in my hands and just stared at the field. “Waiting.” I thought. “Lord, in all this hustle and movement – I’m just waiting.” A desperate sense of surrender engulfed me, as the word seemed to blare in my mind, “Waiting.”

I seemed to be waiting for so many things, for so many people, in so many parts of my life. I stood there and stared at the little prairie we had been so patiently waiting on. One little patch of plants I had been watching, were finally in bloom. All the waiting had been worth it. Five years ago, I had spread seed. A year later I found little bitty seedlings, which seemed to grow ever so slowly. Not one bloom, for four years. I clung to a hope-filled patience of ‘maybe next year’.

IMG_4603
Baptisia alba (White Indigo)

It didn’t change the fact that I was still waiting, but those white spikes of flowers seemed to echo that the waiting is worth it. No matter what the outcome, the waiting allows me to trust in the Lord, abide in Him, and practice patience. So many things I seem to be waiting on, rely on God’s timing and strength, not my own. Somewhere in the midst of life, is a delicate balance between moving forward and waiting.

Psalm 27:14 “Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!” (ESV)

Lamentations 3:25 “The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.” (ESV)

Be encouraged, that God’s timing is perfect and good; He works things together for those who love him (Rom. 8:28). No matter what the outcome, patience in the waiting is fruit itself.

Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (ESV)

Our little prairie required us to work in the waiting. We’ve burned when necessary, and clipped noxious weeds. We didn’t sit idly by for five years. Just like that prairie, we too are called to both faithfully wait and work (pray, act when and where necessary, etc.)

What are you waiting for?

Can you trust God in the waiting? Can you trust He has your best interest in mind?

What do you need to do in the waiting?

My Whole Heart

Over the past week or two, there seems to be a theme between writing the Joshua study and my quiet times with the Lord.  It’s enough to grab my attention and pause for question.

First, in the study of Joshua :: In Joshua 14, Caleb recounts the events of Moses sending the twelve spies into Canaan and how 10 of the 12 come back with a negative report of how huge and mighty the people are.  Only Joshua and Caleb faithfully believe they should obediently go, and let God take care of things. Fast forward, Caleb and Joshua are finally in the Promised Land, and Caleb is requesting his portion of land.  It’s appropriate. He comes to Joshua, saying, “But my brothers who went up with me made the heart of the people melt; yet I wholly followed the Lord my God.”  (Joshua 14:8, ESV) In fact, ‘I wholly followed the Lord my God’ appears three times in this passage of Joshua.

And, in my quiet time :: I’m slowly reading and praying through the Psalms.  Today, it was Psalm 119 and how God’s Word is a lamp to our feet, guiding us along.  “Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart, …” (verse 2, ESV) “With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!” (verse 10, ESV)

That “whole heart” is an undivided heart.  It’s not seeking God with just my emotions, or the portion of my heart which doesn’t feel broken (or vice versa). We are not to portion off our heart for Sunday mornings, seeking Him for an hour or two. Or 15 minutes in the morning, checking off the “quiet time” box, then move on for the day. Not portioning off the pieces I want Him to help me with, but including the pieces of my life in which I think I can do things on my own.  We are made to be partners and, though God is the Creator, co-creators here on this earth.

He desires relationship and our whole, altogether heart.  That doesn’t mean we have to have it all together.  And we don’t have to do things perfect, in fact – it won’t be. But I don’t believe God is asking for perfection, rather to love him with all of what we have to offer.  He made us, and we are perfectly made to be more than enough.

Am I seeking God with my whole heart? Am I waiting for perfection (in my own strength), before presenting my gifts before his throne? We don’t know much about Caleb, but I’m sure he wasn’t perfect.  And yet he followed the Lord his God, with his whole heart – and received a beautiful inheritance.  His heart did not melt, but remained steadfast. Oh, to have a courageous faith that wholly seeks God.

IMG_4546Take some time to stop and smell the roses, praise and thank Him for the opportunity to, and ask the question (I’m doing the same) – Am I seeking God with my whole heart? Praying and being still before God, reading His Word, allowing his Spirit to guide me with a heart steadfast on Him? We already have a beautiful inheritance, Jesus.

And, He is so worth it.

 

Treasured Up

Our son, Isiah, turned 11 this week.  Sometimes it’s hard to believe that I’m old enough to have a kid that’s 11 years old, the time goes by so quickly.  One of the things I remember people saying to us before having our first was, “They grow up so quickly, enjoy every moment.”  I just shook my head in agreement, not fully aware of how mind bogglingly correct that statement would be. Those words of wisdom people depart to new parents, but they can’t appreciate them until it’s happening.

Anyways, we enjoyed having some of his friends over for some outdoor shenanigans and a hotdog roast Friday after school.  They had a fabulous time, and barely stopped long enough to eat…I don’t think they even roasted their hotdogs long enough to be luke-warm!  They played hard, and giggled (yes, our 11-year-old boy giggles) until parents retrieved them.  The time went so fast, and they made the most out of every second.

I watched as they ran from the whiffle ball field to the basketball court (aka, gravel driveway) then on to the hay bales.  As they ran and played on the hay bales, I remembered Mary and the events surrounding her son, Jesus’s birth.

“But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” Luke 2:19 (ESV)

This scripture about Mary treasuring up all these special things about her son struck me a few weeks back when I began reading the book of Luke.  There are two places in Luke 2 where Mary “treasured up” moments.  As a mom, I wish we could bottle up all the special moments with our children.  A bottle that could be opened and re-lived at any moment.  We may not have a magic bottle, but we do have the ability to treasure them up in our heart.

Our heart is that magical place with infinite space.  A treasure trove, waiting to be filled, placed within us by our Creator.  For the keeping and pondering of special moments.  I want to encourage you to go and read one of these special moments for Mary, with the short story in Luke 2:41-52 about Jesus as a young boy.  He gets left behind, only to be found teaching in the temple.

fullsizeoutput_cf5.jpegI watched those young men running on the hay bales and prayed that God would help me to treasure up that moment in time, deep within my heart.  Much like Mary and Joseph, who were astonished to find Jesus teaching, I am astonished to witness our son growing into an amazing young man.  It’s an honor to be entrusted with him, from the Father, to love and raise him.

Along with reading Luke 2:41-52, I want to challenge you to take a moment to ponder what that would have been like for Mary.  What moments are you needing to keep safe in that treasure trove of your heart?  And treasure up that time with the Lord, put it deep into your heart, it will not return void. I pray that you too, treasure up the precious and holy moments of this life.  What a gift.

Small Things.

“Small things”; this is the phrase that God has been giving to me lately.  It first came up at church a few weeks ago during class.  And then, a week later.  After that, nearly every day for the past three weeks.  I’m seeing it in the world around me, scripture, and in conversation.  Small things.

So often, we tend to think life is made up of “big things”.  (And in many ways, it is.) When we run into a friend who we haven’t seen for a while, or go to a family reunion, we want to hear all the “big things”.  The big career shift, the babies born, loved ones who have left this earth, leaving a big gap in our life. And we tend to look for the big things, the big thunder clouds in the sky for rain, the big oak trees for shelter, perhaps a bigger car or house?  It’s so easy to get caught up, and desire to know about or have the big things.

IMG_4330I believe God’s economy is a little different.  It’s the small things. In reality, that’s where all the big things begin.  Dreams are created with the smallest of thoughts.  Addictions are broken, one day or one moment at a time.  Forgiveness is fostered with the slightest change of heart. Majestic oak trees begin to grow out the small beginnings of an acorn.  That huge thunder cloud, pouring out rain, began somewhere with the slightest wisp of moisture.  Our berry farm (Danamay Farm, shameless plug) relies on the smallest of blooms to bring in an estimated harvest of 1 ton of blackberries this year.  It all starts with one little flower bud.

It’s the small moments of being present, or snuggling up to watch my kids’ favorite show and talk about it.  Yesterday afternoon, we had egg hunts around the house…it all started with one little plastic egg from Sunday.  That little act of fun between us, spilled over to today, and probably tomorrow too.

It’s the small things, that make up the big things.  One tiny moment, attached to another tiny moment, to create memories which last a lifetime.

We had the opportunity to celebrate something huge this weekend, the Resurrection of Jesus.  That, is huge.  But it started small – with a little baby.  That little baby, small in Mary’s arms, grew in small ways just like you and me. But that small baby, would knit together small acts of love and forgiveness in such a way that He, Jesus, would save the whole world in a very big way.  (Alright, some acts were pretty big…but you get the idea.)

There’s a story in the gospel of John about a boy’s lunch, his mom has packed up five barley loaves and a two fish. (I think he must have been a teen or pre-teen to eat that much food!  I have an almost 11 year old boy.) But with that seemingly small lunch, John 6:1-15 tells us that Jesus fed over five thousand people.  That’s young man’s lunch, probably big to him, seemed small and inadequate to the disciples. They were looking for something huge.

It’s the small moments of choice throughout our day, that bring change.  The smallest “hello” to the cashier in the gas station.  The slightest smile as you pass someone on the street.  The small gestures that let our family know that they are loved and wanted, cherished and desired.  It’s washing my daughter’s baseball cap, that lets her know I care about her.  Small time away from the world, with the Lord, brings us into unity with our Creator.

I don’t know about you, but it’s almost like a treasure hunt now.  A hunt to find, do, and enjoy the small things.  What’s one small thing you can do, enjoy or acknowledge today?

The Vinedresser

My husband and I started a berry farm in 2012.  Actually, it began long before that—first as a dream, then a canvas planted in wheat and finally, bare earth formed into rows by the toil of our endeavors. A berry farm wasn’t something we envisioned for years upon years, but the dream manifested in the five years leading up to our first fruits.

Recently, I read the parable of the barren fig tree in Luke 9:6-9. Sometimes I read parables in the Bible and shake my head in confusion, but that day I read the scripture with clarity and application, particularly the vinedresser’s response to the owner of the fig tree.

“And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure.” (Luke 13:8, ESV)

It made me think of our dear little farm.  Like the man in the parable, we waited for three years without yielding fruit. It seemed like the years of hard work might never pay off. There were numerous time I wanted to rip some blueberry varieties out of the ground and start over. It seemed my time and finances were being wasted , not growing one inch.  But my patient husband, much like the vinedresser in Luke 9, encouraged us both to wait. Just one more year, and see what happens.  He labored over those three rows, weeding and caring for them just like the others.  One more year, turned again into, “Just one more year.”  Four years later, they bare some of the sweetest fruit in the entire field.

Isn’t that what the Lord does with us?  His grace of “one more year” can show up with a second chance at any moment, and with His new mercy each morning.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23, ESV)

How many times do we share our hearts and desires with God, and wait for years to see the fruit (answers) of those prayers?  It may not come in the form we desire, but we can trust God and know that He hears us. (1 John 5:14)  Are you willing to be patient along with Him?  Trusting His timing?  Trusting in His steadfast love that never ceases, for you?

Waiting those three long years, in some ways, seemed like three (or more!) long months of winter.  Barren, cold and unfruitful.  Much like the vinedresser in Luke 13:8, we pruned and dug the earth, fertilized with manure and provided nutrients.  Eventually, with faithful work and patience, came the fruit.  Sweet abundance. Miracles in the faithful waiting and abiding in the Lord, the working and patience.

Winter months can seem to last forever, but we can always trust that spring will arrive and bring forth fruit.  Spring also can bring the pruning of life, it can be painful.  There have been seasons of my life where the pruning seemed to be more than I could take.  How about you?  In John 15, Jesus reminds us to abide, rest and tarry with Him.  He is the vine, we are the branches, our Father is the vinedresser.

For me, some of the richest “fruit” has sprouted from the “manure” of a winter-like season, filled with harsh pruning and an aching heart.  How about you?

This spring, let’s choose an attitude of gratefulness towards the pruning as we abide in Him.  What would happen if we embraced and gave Him permission to dig around us, pruning the hinderances or diseased parts from our life?  Nourishing our minds with the richness of His word?  Maybe we would flourish in the Son of spring, and warmth of His steadfast love.  What fruit would come if we chose to abide in Him, the Gardener of our soul?

 

Growth in the Wilderness

I’ve been writing and studying on the Israelites in the book of Joshua over the past year, how they came out of the wilderness and into claiming their Promised Land.  But the other day, as I read the story surrounding John the baptizer’s birth and childhood, his growth in the wilderness captivated me.

“And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.” (Luke 1:80, ESV)

Both the children of Israel and John spent time in the wilderness, but I get the sense there were two completely different experiences.  The Israelites complained a good bit; they complained about not enough food or water.  Understandably so, those are two essential elements to our human existence.  In Egypt as slaves, their creature comforts were met but their spirits were crushed.  And in the wilderness where they could be free, it was not comfortable (Exodus 12-15).  They were so distraught, slavery seemed to be a better option.

I realize that in many ways, the two stories (the Israelite wilderness & John the Baptizer’s wilderness) are not comparable.  But both experienced growth.  The Israelites grew, they grew in number!  Some of them, like Joshua and Caleb (Numbers 14:16-12), grew in spirit and trust in the Lord.  John the baptizer grew in both stature, from a child into a man, and in the spirit of the Lord.

As Luke 1 tells the story about John’s birth and childhood, it also sheds light on another response to the wilderness.  I believe this shows us that we have a choice in how we encounter the wilderness.  We tend to talk about it so often, those hard seasons of life where we feel parched or alone.  I’m sure you can think of a “wilderness” time in your life, I can.

I have wandered through dry and desolate places.  At one point in my life, the dry parched land seemed to stretch on for miles.  Choosing to be thankful, with a heart of gratitude, led me to the streams in the desert.  Choosing to use that time as a rich classroom, presented an entirely different experience of that parched land.

SONY DSCThose wilderness experiences can be our greatest classroom and opportunities for growth.  I have a choice as to how I will respond in that classroom; I can choose to wallow and grow weary with ‘woe is me’; or I can choose to play in the sand, with gratitude, and grow in the spirit.  There are rivers and springs available through Jesus; steeped in His Word, through praises to Him, within our brothers and sisters, and amongst all of creation!  I want to challenge you to choose gratitude in your wilderness encounters; stepping into each rich classroom provided, growing in spirit and stature.

“Remember not the former things,

nor consider the things of old.

Behold, I am doing a new thing;

now it springs forth, do you perceive it?

I will make a way in the wilderness

and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:18-19, ESV)