Friday, May 22, 2015

An End To the Unraveling

My poor quilt is in desperate need of being replaced.  Unlike many people I know, we do not have seasonal sheets and bedspreads.  In fact, we only have one bedspread, which is actually a quilt.  Neither of us like traditional bedspreads or comforters.  They're too fluffy and cumbersome.  No, we much prefer quilts.  The problem with quilts, though, is two-fold.  One, they're often more expensive than comforters.  Two, they're usually a bit on the flimsy side which means they don't hold up for very long.  Our existing quilt has been with us for probably seven years or more, so it's held up pretty well.  But I must admit, it is definitely starting to show its age.

A few months ago, I was browsing through one of my favorite thrift stores and came across a bolt of material that would be perfect for a quilt.  It was the right material and the perfect colors for our bedroom.  Not only that, but it was an excellent price.  Praise the Lord for thrift stores!

Unfortunately, that material has been sitting in my office until earlier this week when I determined I could not wait any longer to begin making our quilt.  I measured out the material, created a plan for how I wanted to design the quilt, cut out the necessary pieces then remembered that I needed to wash the material before I begin sewing.  One, washing the material will take care of any fading or discoloration before I go through all the effort of making a quilt with it.  Two, washing and drying the material will give me an idea of how much shrinkage I should expect, which is important when choosing a backing for the quilt.

I threw the material in the washing machine yesterday, and when I went back to transfer it to the dryer, I discovered quite a mess.  The material had not faded, I am happy to say.  From what I can tell, it didn't shrink much either.  It did, however, unravel. . . big time!  Yes, every edge was frayed, and long strands of material knotted itself into a tangled mess.  I guess I should have seen it coming.  After all, it was one of those types of materials.

As I thought about the material this morning, the Lord brought to my mind a verse that Jason preached on Wednesday night at church. James 1:21 says, Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.  Now, you're probably wondering what in the world that has to do with my material, right?  Well, it all boils down to that word "engrafted."

Engrafting is essentially the practice of adding something foreign to produce fruitfulness.  For example, engrafting is used in horticulture when parts of one plant are infused with another plant in hopes of creating a healthier, more productive product.  Skin graphs and bone marrow transplants are types of engrafting.  It is the process where something is added to the original product in order to make it better.

As I thought about this engrafting, I realized that this is essentially what I'll be doing when I put my quilt together.  The front material, while beautiful and tear resistant (think dog toenails), has a tendency to unravel at the edges.  The back material does not have that problem.  It's not the type of material that unravels.  So, once I sew the edges of the two together, I no longer have to worry about the quilt creating a tangled mess out of its frayed edges.  By engrafting the two pieces together, I am creating a better, more fruitful product:  a quilt that is strong and that doesn't unravel.

In the same way, when we engraft ourselves to the Lord and to His Word, we are much less likely to unravel.  Sure, we may still find ourselves tossed about in the dryer of life.  After all, living the Christian life is no guarantee of a pleasant walk or a lack of troubles.  It is actually quite the contrary. But the difference comes in the engrafting.  You see, when the lost start to unravel, they have nothing to hold them together.  We do!  The Lord will bind to our frayed edges and keep us from coming completely unraveled.  He will see us through whatever we may face, and He alone has the power to keep us from falling apart. . . if we are engrafted in Him.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Stiff-Necked People

I must admit that today I am one of those stiff-necked people the Bible talks about.  Well, sort of.  The stiff-necked people in the Bible were stubborn and set in their own ways.  While that does sometimes describe me, today's stiff neck is one of a different sort.  As many of you know, I have a lot of spinal issues, and it isn't uncommon for my back, neck or shoulders to be out of sorts.  However, some days, the pain and pinching seems magnified.  Today is one of those days.

My neck was a bit stiff when I awoke this morning, but again, that's not unusual.  After a round of Pilates, my joints felt loosened, and my neck seemed to move easier.  Jason spent a few minutes rubbing my neck and shoulders before he left for work, and when he was finished, I was convinced that my neck was better (or as good as it gets).  However, within just a few minutes, an entirely new stiffness grabbed hold of my neck and has refused to let go since.  The only relief I have found is to lie back on a pillow, but I can't exactly get much work accomplished that way, now can I?

So, I've had to rearrange my schedule a bit to allow for periods of resting my neck and doing various neck stretches.  It's not exactly been fun, but the way I see it, it wouldn't be any more fun if I was experiencing the stiff neck of which the Bible speaks.  While I wouldn't necessarily be in physical discomfort, my spirit would certainly be in pain.

Stiff-necked people are stubborn and hard to get along with.  They are only content when they're getting their own way, and even then, they are fussy and moody.  Ultimately, they are unhappy.  Nothing is good enough.  Nothing satisfies.  They are a miserable lot, even more miserable than those of us with spinal issues.  In short, we don't want to be like that.

We can't exactly help it when our spinal alignment goes wonky, but we can prevent our hearts from doing the same.  Relax!  Let it go!  God has everything under control, so there's no reason for us to stress about it.  Let's keep our hearts open to the Word of God and tender to His loving touch.  After all, it's bad enough to have a pain in the neck, but it's much worse to be one!

Now be ye not stiffnecked, as your fathers were, but yield yourselves unto the Lord, and enter into his sanctuary, which he hath sanctified for ever: and serve the Lord your God, that the fierceness of his wrath may turn away from you. - II Chronicles 30:8

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Standing At a Crossroads

Living the Christian life is rarely easy.  Take, for example, when we're standing at a crossroads of decision.  Do we turn left or right?  Which way is the Lord leading?  Sometimes it's obvious, but most times, it's really not.  And often, despite a multitude of prayers for direction, it seems that God is silent.  And so, we stand at the crossroads and deliberate.  Right or left?  Stay or go?

Jason and I are there.  In fact we've been there for a while now, but recent events have led us to seek the Lord's will with increasing fervor (and no, this isn't about moving).  The way I see it, we have two choices:  wait for God to miraculously place an opportunity in front of us or take action and seek out opportunities that may be awaiting us.  Wait or act?  The problem is that we don't know which of those choices is the right one. After all, the Bible teaches that there is a time to wait but also that there is a time to act.  So, which is this?

On the one hand, I hate to think that we're sitting here praying and waiting, and all the while missing out on a blessing that is just around the corner.  Could our frustration and unsettling feelings be the Lord prompting us to take action?  It could.  I've seen it before in my own life, and unfortunately, by the time I recognized it for what it was, I had spent nearly a year and a half in total misery.  I don't want to do that again.

However, I don't want us to make the same mistake Abraham made.  In Genesis 12, God told Abraham (or Abram, at the time) to go to the land that He would show him.  God led Abraham to Canaan and promised him that he and his children would inherit the land.  In short, God said, "Abraham, you're home now."  Yet, only a couple of verses later, we find that a famine came to the land, and Abraham packed up his bags and headed down to Egypt.  It was there that he and Sarai lied to the Pharaoh and brought trouble to the land because of their deception.  Trouble that could have been avoided if Abraham had stayed where God had put him.  After all, there is no evidence that God told Abraham to leave.  He could have wanted Abraham to stay put, despite the human logic that said, "Hey, there's a famine.  We've got to get out of here."  You know?  In fact, when Abraham left Egypt, guess where he went?  Yep, right back where God had told him to go to begin with.

A famine of sorts has reached our household, and we have a decision to make.  Wait or act?  I just don't know, so dear friend, I am asking for your prayers.  This is a situation that is very dear to my heart and one that needs to be resolved one way or another.  Jason and I want, more than anything, to be in God's will.  If He wants us to wait, we will wait.  On the other hand, if He's waiting on us to make the first move, we need to know that.  Please, friends, help me pray that the Lord will make His will clear to us and that He will grant us the grace and peace to accept whatever He commands of us.

I realize that today's post was more of a prayer request than a devotion, but I truly feel it is where the Lord was leading.  I, personally, had another post in mind, but the Lord kept leading me back to this.  So, it is what it is, and I thank you in advance for your earnest prayers on my behalf.  God bless you!

The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. - James 5:16b

Monday, May 18, 2015

This Too Shall Pass

Last Friday, since Jason only had one small morning job, we decided to take the dogs out for a long hike.  The weather was beautiful.  The dogs were hyper.  I was stiff from spending too many hours at the computer.  Yes, a hike was definitely what we needed.  However, one never knows exactly what to expect from any given hike.

For example, we didn't expect to see a rather large rattlesnake stretched out across the road as we made our way down the gravel trail.  He was big, and he looked mean.  In one way, I was fascinated.  I had never seen a rattlesnake that wasn't on television or behind the protective glass of a zoo exhibit. To see him out on the trail, slithering his way around, coiling up and looking ready to strike at anything that made it angry, was all a bit exciting.  It was also terrifying.  I hate snakes!

Neither did we expect to see a brutal murder.  Mitch, as usual, was leading the way, bounding off into the woods on either side of the trail anytime he felt there was something which needed to be explored.  On one such exploration, he came across a giant turkey.  His enormous presence in the turkey's space sent the poor bird flying.  At first, I laughed.  After all, it was a comical sight (and sound) to see this turkey try to fly out of the woods away from Mitch.  I stopped laughing, however, when I realized that Mitch wasn't watching the turkey. He was watching the myriad of scurrying poults (baby turkeys).  Jason and I both screamed at once, "Mitch, no!" but it was too late.  He had already chomped down on one of the poor things.

As Jason pulled Mitch away from the writhing body and the other scattering birds, I marched over to the side of the trail and turned my back, tears filling my eyes.  Unfortunately, even with my back turned, I could hear the pitiful cries of the injured poult.  I felt sick, and I didn't know what to do.  I had no idea how badly the bird was injured, so I felt it was best to just keep going and let the mama bird come back to take care of it.

Mitch continued on down the trail as if nothing had happened.  I can't blame him for that.  Unfortunately, since the curse, that type of behavior is only natural.  Kill or be killed.  Dog eat dog (or turkey).  This being the case, I couldn't bring myself to reprimand him.  After all, he had dropped the bird once we called him down.  He had obeyed.  The problem was that our command was a bit too late.

It took quite a while for me to get the image of that horrible event out of my head and to finally stop the ebb of tears that flowed down my cheeks.  But, as I mourned for that poor family of turkeys (whom we discovered on the way back had actually lost one of their own that morning), I was reminded of a few things for which I am supremely thankful.

1) Though we, as Christians, sorrow when we lose a loved one, we do not sorrow as those who have no hope.  Because of Christ and His supreme sacrifice on the cross, we can rest in the knowledge that we will see our saved loved ones again.  We can have peace in knowing that they are not suffering any longer, which brings me to the second thing for which I am thankful.

2) There will be a day when there will be no more pain and no more tears.  In that day, the lion will lie down with the lamb and the dog with the turkey.  There will be no more death, no more senseless brutality.  The world will, once again, be as God intended for it to be.

3) When Mitch startled the mama turkey, she fled.  She flew toward the skies, leaving her little ones to care for themselves.  I am so thankful that my heavenly Father never leaves me to fight the enemy alone.  He is always by my side, fighting for me, with me and even through me.  He adds His strength to my own, ensuring victory, or at the very least, escape.  No, never alone!

As we walked back to the car on Friday, I wiped one last tear from my eye and commented, "Nature is cruel."  Yes, it is now, but it won't always be this way.  As the Bible says, this too shall pass.  And what a day that will be!

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. - Revelation 21:4