Welcome to Mountain Breeze Devotions

Mountain Breeze Devotions began in May of 2003. This ministry is an email ministry sending devotionals and meditations seven days a week by request.
It is the sister site of www.ChristianDevotions.US

This is the ministry of authors Cindy Sproles and Eddie Jones. Two friends brought together to serve the Father -- to spread the word to those who may not know and to promote the art and writers of Christian writing.

Welcome to Mountain Breeze Devotions --Cindy Sproles, author

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Magnifying Glass -- Guest Devotionlist, Cindy Rooy

“You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples.” Psalm 77:14(NIV)

As a kid, I thought magnifying glasses were great. They enlarged images so you could observe something in detail and gain a different perspective. As an adult, I still think they are great, but my use has changed from fun to need. I need them to read the shrinking print found on medicine bottles, frozen food cooking instructions, and restaurant menus.

Words can also be magnified verbally. It is humorous to hear children or fishermen magnify stories with exaggerations. However, exaggerations distort the truth and can lead to problems. This happened with the spies that Moses sent into Canaan. Ten of the twelve scouts reported the impossibility of Israel defeating the powerful giants living there. They claimed Israel was grasshopper-sized compared to the Canaanites. The two other spies had the right perspective. They magnified their God instead of the predicament. They argued that Israel had the Lord who would give them the victory.

How often do we magnify our problems and minimize God’s power? We tend to focus on the crisis instead of the One who can help us. We view our troubles with an attitude of defeat - a result of our limited perception. When we dwell on our difficulties, we become depressed or absorbed in self-pity, and the situation magnifies into hopelessness. This occurs because we forget how big our God is. We fail to remember that God does the impossible.

Christians who place their faith and trust in God and view their problems in light of God’s sovereignty are not easily overwhelmed. They acknowledge God is in control and can change any situation. He created our bodies so He can heal them. He knows our innermost thoughts and can give insight or guidance. He is aware of our physical and spiritual needs and can fill them. When a problem is compared to God, God is always bigger.

Those two spies, Caleb and Joshua, were rewarded for their faith. They were the only scouts who entered the Promised Land. The Israelites grumbled over the ten spies’ exaggerations instead of trusting in God’s power and promises. Choosing to ignore God’s miracles they previously witnessed, they focused on the magnified problem. Consequently, they were not allowed to enjoy that fertile land but died before experiencing Israel’s victory over the Canaanites.

Instead of becoming anxious when we encounter difficulty, let’s focus on our powerful and compassionate God. Remember past experiences of His love, faithfulness, and answered prayers. Trust Him. Magnify His power, not the problem; His sovereignty, not the situation; His trustworthiness, not the trouble. This attitude keeps the proper perspective that allows us to exercise our faith, which God rewards. Go ahead and tilt that magnifying glass upward.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Following the Rules.....

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.
- 1 Corinthians 11:1

As a writer there are guidelines, certain rules that are set in place to help us with crafting our stories perfectly. There are times those rules grate against what we know and do on a daily basis, making it hard for us to change our way of thinking - our way of writing. The easiest way to write is by putting down the things that flow naturally. However, these things rarely follow the rules, so we cheat. We jot it down, get the bad first draft off our chests, and then rewrite the work according to the guidelines. The finished piece is better because we've re-written it with the rules in place. Still it's hard to turn lose of what comes natural.

Sometimes I just need to be me. I play by the rules, study hard to write the way I'm taught, but sometimes I just need to be who I am. I'm a southern girl, born and raised in the Appalachian Mountains. Here the clichés are commonalities - part of who we are. I love to draw out my 'i's and cut off my 'ings, mix the southern dialect and the mountain slang into everything Appalachia. So let me bust all the rules, and tear up all the guidelines to tell you a story that is a very bad first draft.

My grandmother was a card (see, a cliché). She was hoot (oops, another cliché'). I recall goin' to her house one day and not findin' her . I run to the kitchen winder and yanked back the curtains. There she was, my grandmother, out in the garden tillin'. She never wore slacks - she always wore house dresses. She wore nylon hose pulled up above her knees, rolled over a wide band that secured them to her calf. She wuz out in the garden, tilling over them clumps of dirt that was bigger than a melon. That tiller was bumpin' and jumpin' over them clots like a young'un bouncing on a new mattress. There was a few times, I'd have sworn that tiller was airborne. So, there I stood watching her through the winder.

Down the first row she went, yankin' and pullin' on that tiller, fightin' it like she's after some wild animal. Grandmaw turned that tiller and started up the next row. Right before my eyes she hit a rock. It wasn't no clot, it was plain and simple, a rock. That tiller ground to a halt slanging her up and over the handlebars and landing her flat of her back in front of that machine. Well, needless to say, I went to roaring. So did my daddy. And while we laughed we watched her jump to her feet and straighten that dress, being more concerned if anybody saw her flip head over heels across that tiller.

Now the moral to this story is that the good Lord made us each one unique in our ways. He finds great joy in seeing us be the individuals we are, but when water boils out of the beans, He still expects us follow the rules, be the example.

That means I have to back up and re-write, putting all the rules in place - a second draft. Crafting and shaping the way I've been taught to put the words on the page. Spelling correctly, placing the commas appropriately, and making sure each sentence is concise and perfect. No cliché's and no bad grammar. Those same methods apply to our Christian lives. The Father gives us His Word to study and learn. This is what He expects of us. He sent His son, as the perfect sample of what we should be and He gave us every tool we need to produce quality work. We only have to follow the guidelines. Sure, we'll slip and fall upon occasion, but when we follow the rules He's put into place, we become the example He wants.

Friday, February 22, 2008

HE SAID -- SHE SAID - Devotionalists Eddie Jones and Cindy Sproles

Living with the Stain
By Eddie Jones

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empy way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect." - 1 Peter 1:18-19

Tide ran an ad during this past Super Bowl showing a young man interviewing for a job who had a stain on his shirt. As he spoke the spot on his shirt spoke too, only louder and in such an annoying way that it drowned out the young man's voice. The point of the commercial, I think, was to demonstrate how a single stain can interrupt a job interview, important sales call or Super Bowl potty break.

Sin is like that. Even the smallest blemish can destroy a reputation.

We download music illegally and then progress to burning copies of stolen software and DVDs. Men sneak a look down a woman's blouse, call it casual lust, and then slide into adultery. Women in the workplace gossip about the new secretary's character flaws, calling it constructive criticism, when really they're just complaining about how much time she spends on her phone cell and the way her bleached blonde hair doesn't match her naturally brown roots. Sin is never satisfied. It always wants more, craves a richer experience, because it ultimately wants all of you. There is no harmless sin, no victimless sin, because each offense destroys a little more of who we were meant to be. Sin is a smudge on our soul that separates us from God.
But there is another kind of stain and it speaks louder than all our combined sins. It is the blood stain of Christ.

As I watched that commercial I imagined myself standing before the throne of God as He asked; "Yo, Ed, what exactly did you think I meant by 'Thou Shalt Not?' and me running on with diarrhea of the mouth about how I didn't think what I was doing was really that bad while all the while that blood stain on my shirt would be shouting; "HEY DAD, DON'T WORRY ABOUT EDDIE. HE'S COOL, HE'S GOOD. I GOT HIM COVERED."

I don't know if I have my theology right on this but that's what I thought when I saw that commercial. And I pray to God that the blood stain of Christ on my dirty rags really means that the lamb without blemish was the perfect sacrifice.

Click here to watch the TIDE COMMERCIAL

VISIT US AT http://www.christiandevotions.us/

(aka Cover Your Backide)

By: Cindy Sproles

In my youth, I attended a Bible College. Things were different in those days (1970's). The college had strict rules that students were required to adhere to, such as you could hold hands with your boyfriend but there had to be a considerable gap between your hand and his body (several inches, in fact). If you walked to the river to sit and chat, the gal sat on the river bank, but the guy had to stand. Guys were not allowed to have hair over their collars and girls were required to wear long-tailed shirts or sweaters over their slacks to cover their backside.

That brought a whole new meaning to C.O.B. (cover your backside). In fact, it was a real joke to the students at the college. There have been a lot of things over the years that I've done to cover my backside but worrying about my shirt being long enough was not on the list of priorities.

I was always taught to document everything I do at work. Why? To cover myself, assure I would never be questioned about my intentions or work. As a teenager, I remember my mother telling me if I ever felt like I was going to lose my temper, always tell someone in authority. Let them intervene before I passed the point of no return. For the record, I only lost my temper once in high school and I did forewarn the principal. When I smacked a guy across the head I had to pay to repair my clarinet, but I didn't get in trouble at school because I had told someone this guy was pushing me to the point of no return. I covered my backside.

When I gave my heart in baptism to the Father, I remember the minister saying, that my baptism was an obedient step and one that Christ himself took. But more so, it was a symbolic washing in the blood, an opportunity for the blood of Christ to cover me - or in simpler terms - he made my shirt tail longer.

I was covered in the blood at age 11, and 39 years later I still carry the crimson stains. I can't wash them off. Isn't that amazing? When Jesus willingly shed his blood on the cross He stained me red to cover me, a sacrifice that is hard to absorb at times.

I can say that He documented all my sin, made notes and then freely covered them in His blood so that the notes could no longer be read - rather they were RED. Yep, he did the C.O.B. thing for me. He stained me with his blood so that no one can read my sin. Covered over by the Blood (C.O.B).

So tell me, is your shirt long enough?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Three o' Clock at a Gate called Beautiful - Guest devotionalist - Gary Frady

The day was hot as usual. There was not even the hint of a breeze that would bring refreshment to the crowd. Instead, the heat was heavy and the dust was choking. Nevertheless the people still came to the temple for the time of prayer though it meant discomfort and fighting the crowds.

Past the vast Court of the Gentiles there was a gate that led into the Court of the Women which was called the gate Beautiful. Today a great event would take place at this gate though no one was yet aware of it. Lying at the gate called Beautiful was a man who was familiar to the people. Day after day he was brought to this gate by family and friends to beg of those who would pass by. This man was crippled from birth and because of this was destined to spend his entire life at the mercy of those who would take pity on him and drop a coin in his beggar’s cup. Today was just like a thousand other days that the man had endured in an attempt to scratch out a living.

The time was three o’clock and the people were hurrying to the time of prayer. The man frequently lifted his voice and cried out, “Alms; Alms for the poor” in hopes that someone would hear his plea and respond with a coin. How often he had said those words; so often and for so long that he barely even lifted his eyes to look upon those who passed by. It was a humiliating way to survive, but he had no other option.

From afar the man saw two other men heading for the gate called Beautiful. As their shadows fell upon him the man cried out for alms though he would not look into the eyes of the men standing before him. Then he heard one of the men tell him to look at them. The voice sounded authoritative, yet compassionate; quite unlike the voices of exasperation and irritation he was so familiar with. Expecting a coin from them he obediently lifted his eyes to meet theirs. Unknowingly the beggar now looked into the faces of men who had walked with Israel’s messiah.

One of the men said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you”. Suddenly the beggar’s spirits were dashed at the prospect of getting nothing of value. It had been an especially long day, filled with disappointments, and here, yet again, the beggar’s hopes were to go unfulfilled. Why continue this pathetic existence any longer; why subject one’s self to continual disappointment and shame, thought the beggar. Maybe I would be better off dead.

Just then the stranger reached down and took the beggar by the right hand and as he pulled him upward to his feet he said, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk”. Suddenly the beggar felt a rush of strength gathering in his feet and ankles. How odd this feeling was to the beggar for no such feeling had ever come upon him before. What was happening to him? Of what manner were these powerful words that this stranger had uttered that were now causing such strange sensations in his feet and ankles? Who was this Jesus in whose name he was being lifted to his feet? How could that which was dead be made alive?

“I’m walking, I’m walking!!” cried the beggar and he began to leap with unbridled joy and to praise God for this miracle. He could not contain his emotions; he wanted everyone to know he was reborn, given new life! He clung to the strangers as they walked to Solomon’s Colonnade, unwilling to let go of them lest his miracle disappear. The people gathered in astonishment as they recognized this man as the beggar whom they routinely passed at the gate called Beautiful. Surely a great miracle has taken place before our very eyes!

Whatever happened to the beggar? The scriptures are silent. Were any of the people changed who witnessed the miracle? Again, the scriptures are silent. We are left to wonder how we would have reacted had we been present. And yet, in reality, a miracle has just as surely happened to all who have named Christ as their Lord and Savior. Will we, like the beggar, share the good news with others? Or will we be silent about our miracle and thereby deny others the benefit of our witness?? It’s three o’clock at the gate Beautiful for some poor, lost soul. Will you introduce them to the all powerful name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth?

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Meaning of Grace......

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

My niece presented me with a homemade cd and informed me I needed to listen to the song which was recorded there. I got into the car and popped the cd into the player. A mandolin began to strum, filling the car with a sweet mountain essence. Two sentences into the verse I found myself tearfully peering into the rearview mirror at my own special needs son. The words of the song talked about a young man – a special needs child. It spoke of his mother and father and the undying love and care they’d provided for their son. Unsung heroes of sorts.

My son, now 27 years old, sat looking out the car window, gently bending his fingers in a wave at a man walking along the street. His needs, though not huge, are still first and foremost in our lives.

I spoke at a conference last spring where a lady asked me afterwards, “Do you have any regrets with your disabled son?” I wasn’t sure what she meant by that question. There is nothing to regret. I would do for him again, and again, and again. I stand amazed to see the fine young man he has grown into. He is such a teacher, a refiner, a gleaner, and a searcher. Odd descriptive words but accurate if you knew him. I have occasionally mentioned my son or one of his quips but rarely do I fully write about him. Today was different. I wanted you to know about the full grace of God.

Raising a child with mental retardation is hard –even on a good day. There is frustration, pain, anger and impatience that fall into the mix of parenting these kids. I have times that I cry for my son – wish better for him. However, never once in my life have I wished that he was not my son.

I find myself overwhelmed by the shear wisdom God has given him. He teaches me from the innocence of his heart. He rebukes me from his simple understanding of the Word, and he proves to me daily what it means to be meek and gentle. He has a full grasp of what it is to be a servant. There are haunting questions that follow me concerning his future. How will he manage without me should I die? Will he be okay?

He and I were chatting and I reminded him of his necessary routine. “Mom,” he said with the wisdom of Solomon, “His grace is sufficient.” He’d heard me use that scripture in church on Sunday morning and it stuck.

I can’t tell you that he grasps the meaning of all the things he says. He’s very much like a parrot at times. However I can tell you that by the grace of God, he is my teacher. I wish you knew my son (we call his wisdom, Chase-isms). When you look at him, you are looking into the face of Christ and I promise he will humble you.

The clock ticked past 3:00 a.m. and I sneaked into his bedroom, leaned over him and gently kissed his forehead. He is still, in so many ways, a small child frozen in time when he sleeps. I realize he is right. God’s grace is sufficient.

So I asked God this question. “Why Chase? Why any child?”

The Father stood smiling, hands propped on his hips, head cocked to one side. “Why what?”

“Why the mental retardation?”

He replied, “Why not?”

I felt a bit angry for a moment before God nudged me and said, “Mental retardation has nothing to do with the man that he is, now does it?”

“No, I guess not.”

“The standard you set for him is your own. Not mine. And trust me, he far exceeds your standards. In fact, he’s far more blessed than the average person.”

I brushed a tear away with my forefinger. “He is?”

“He sees what you cannot. He understands what your mind’s expectations prohibit you for grasping. He is gentle, and he is adored by many. He gives of his heart, not of his possessions.”

“I know, he is blessed.”

“Blessed is an understatement. He is my loyal servant. Most will never grasp that. His disability is actually very enabling. So don’t morn for his mental capabilities for he is my child. Cared for 100%.”

“Really?” I asked. “But what if I die? Who’ll….what will…”

The Father pulled me close and kissed my forehead. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Walking into Doors

If the Lord delights in a man’s way he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand. – Psalm 37: 23 &24

Each morning I rise just minutes before the 5:00 a.m. alarms rings. There are days I can sleep a little past but for the most part my feet hit the floor before I am called by the clock. In our living room we keep a small light on through the night to light the hallway just incase one of us gets up– there is some level of light.

Since I am currently in the middle of working on my economics final paper, all my homework is strewn across the computer desk. When I went to bed, I closed the door to the computer room to keep the cats from reeking havoc on my papers. With Tim working day shift he was up before me. No need in running over each other for the same bathroom so I stay snuggled in the bed until he was on his way to work. I heard the front door close and the lock snap and I smiled to think that my sweet husband locked me in safe and sound as he left for work.

Sitting up, I grabbed my pink fuzzy socks and slipped them over my feet then headed down the hallway. No light. Hummm. Well that was okay, I’ve traveled this hallway for 22 years. I can do it with my eyes closed. So I did. I took hold of the railing and started toward the computer room. The first step I took landed on the cat’s tail. A blood curdling yeow rang through the house. My heart skipped a beat as I jumped back a step only to meet up with cat number two. Stepped on her, too. Obviously not my day or the cat’s day. “Well forever more, anyone else want stepped on?” I muttered.

I wiped my eyes and started down the hallway a second time. Three or four steps later and I catch my toe on the edge of the bookcase. There’s no need to describe that pain, you’ve been there I’m sure. The ache starts out in your toe and then continually radiates becoming more severe as the moments pass. “I just want to get to the computer room!” I hear Chase snickering in his bedroom which only adds insult to injury.

At last I make the turn to the computer room and wham! Ran face first into the door I had closed the night before (now Chase is really laughing). In fact, so was I by this point. I had met obstacle after obstacle this morning. One thing after another and as humorous as it seemed it was like Satan was messing with me to see if he could put me in bad mood.

Once in the computer room I sat down at my desk and pulled open my Bible. It flipped open to Psalm 37. Perhaps God’s encouragement to me for the day since that particular Psalm covers everything from commitment to the Lord, to refraining from anger, and learning to wait on God. Obviously all things I needed to read. However, wedged between “the wicked will perish” and “turn from evil” was this one simple verse. “If the Lord delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall for the Lord upholds him with his hand.”

In light of the stress of work, school, writing and outside activities, I’ve found myself floundering somewhat. I feel my self confidence weaken and self-doubt inch its way into my mind. I watch aimlessly as my friends experience difficulties in their own lives between health issues and personal matters of the heart and I feel helpless. My heart becomes heavy and my mind gets a little fuzzy causing me to trip over my own insecurities, run into a few doors face first. So this morning I sat down at my computer desk and looked around expecting fully to see the Father. He wasn’t in the extra computer chair sitting with His feet resting on the bookshelf, and he wasn’t sitting at the piano. He wasn’t resting leaned against the corner wall. And I suddenly felt alone.

The pain in my toe grew but worse – the fear in my heart became evident as I wondered if God, who meets me faithfully every morning, had deserted me. That’s when I flipped open my Bible to Psalm 37. I read the entire Psalm.” Trust in the Lord and do good…. Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart….be still before the Lord and wait….though he stumble, he will not fall….” Even though my minds eye could not see the Father sitting next to me, my heart felt His presence.

We often expect God to be standing in front of us, just waiting on the edge to lean forward and prevent us from making mistakes, or falling. The fact of the matter is, sometimes we must realize that the stumble is what makes us grow. When things don’t go the way we expect or demand, when the obvious result doesn’t happen, God doesn’t automatically throw a couple of knee pads down for us to fall onto. Instead, He asks for us to seek Him and we will find Him. Sometimes we have to run into a door face first to jolt us into His line of thinking.

I sat there rubbing my foot and the pain slowly eased. A smile crossed my face as I suddenly came into the understanding that God is a faithful God and a God who is in control, even when I am not. It took two cats, a stumped toe and smashing into the door for me to wake up this morning. Still, through it all, God did not let me fall.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Stepping in the Mud

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
1 Peter 5: 7 & 8

Occasionally, as I drive from here to there, I see spots that scream for me to come back and them check out (I suppose it’s the left over Girl Scout in me). I recently went for a walk in a beautiful off-the -road spot I’d seen while my son and I were out taking photos. I pulled my Vue up to the edge of the dirt road and parked. Grabbing the camera, a pad and a pencil and I dumped them in my shoulder pack. To my left a rusted rail gate lay broken and shoved to its side. Dead vines wrapped the gate post like ribbon on a May pole.

Tire tracks down the shaded pathway dipped into puddles of standing water , and the black dirt appeared blacker because of the dampness. Shreds of green were beginning to sprout through the dead of winter’s aftermath. This would be a neat place to walk. I stood at the edge of the dirt road and stared down the pathway pondering the best route to avoid the muck that lay in front of me.

Glancing down at my new tennis shoes I took one last look at their luster. I stepped to the left of the tracks onto a slight incline. It only took one step and my feet began to slide. In seconds I stood ankle deep in coal black mud. I tugged at my foot to lift it from the mess. The shoe grumbled with a popping and sucking noise as I worked to free myself from the mire. As if one step wasn’t enough, I took a second step sinking again into the mud. Obviously, I don’t learn from consequence. Now instead of one ruined shoe, I had two.

I did manage to worm my way free of the ick and have a pleasant walk, despite the heaviness of mud attached to me. After my walk I sat down at the car pulling my shoes off and slapping them together to beat the crud from the tread. With each hit I flung mud in an assortment of directions, most of which ended up on my face.

So I looked to the far side of the car and saw the Father leaned against a fence post shaking His head and somewhat bewildered.

“What?” I asked.

“You look pretty silly. I was almost sure I had given you common sense at birth.”

“Aren’t you Mr. Funny.” I mused.

“It’s a gift. It’s a curse. What can I say?” The Father returned the banter. “Wanna tell me why you opted to walk that dirt road when the mud was so obvious? Keep in mind I already know why, I just want to hear your version.”

“Well, I thought I could step over the mud.”

He grinned and asked, “How’d that work for you?”

“Okay, so I thought I could get past without getting dirty. I thought I had it planned out – you know, where to step.”

“I’ve found that’s the problem with so many of my children. They stand and stare head-on at the mud and still step right in the middle. They never seem heed the warnings and they think they can manage by themselves.”

“Well, I thought…..”

“I know, you thought. Why can’t you ask? What’s so hard about asking for help?”

I hung my head. “Uh, well. I…I….I thought I could manage.”

“You did. You managed to ruin a perfectly good pair of tennis shoes. But more than that, I could have helped guide you. Keep you out of the muck and on dry land. It could have been so much easier.” He patted me on the head as He started His walk down the country road, then threw me a backwards wave, chuckling as He stepped over the mud.

When life’s issues stand in our way we do tend to straddle the mud alone. I suppose it’s the prideful part of us that thinks we need little help. We plot and plan and then slip and slide, ending up ankle deep in mud. We end up ruining an awful lot of good shoes in the process.
Learning to cast our anxiety on Him and allowing Christ to take hold and guide us through is hard. We hate to admit we need assistance. But we do, more often than not. Casting our cares onto Him, taking a deep breath and trusting -- believing that He will pull us through is so much easier. God does care for us. He does provide for us. We only have to take the time to ask.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Taking Photos.....

But as for you, be strong, and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.

– 2nd Chronicles 15:7

In recent weeks I’ve begun to take up photography. I started because I needed to learn to write descriptions with my eyes and not my heart. I needed to see deeper into things we inadvertently overlook – understand them better. I’d taken a number of photos in the Smoky Mountains and from there the urge to continue has forced me into keeping my camera with me everywhere I go.

I find myself driving along the highway and noticing a thumbnail moon in the late afternoon sky, or a bird soaring along side a sleepy cloud. I’ve taken pictures of water, ice, fog, barns, and trains. It’s exciting to come home and pop the pictures onto my computer and stare at them. The colors are amazingly beautifully, the contrast is something else, and my minds’ eye is developing – learning to look deeper into the things around me has actually turned out some pretty decent photos.

My friend, Aaron sent me some pictures of the California shore line. Silhouetted palm trees bending over the edge of the ocean calling a final goodnight to the sun. The pacific is beautiful and completely different from the Atlantic. I gaze at the photos squinting, looking for things I might normally overlook and wishing I could produce pictures like his – photographs that tell a story.

I stopped along the highway and snapped a few shots convinced I’d found a great story to show but when I got them home and looked at the end result they were just pictures – nothing special or unique. But I kept trying. Tim and I were traveling home from Virginia on Saturday and we took a small two-lane road that ran adjacent to the interstate. It wound us through tiny towns and hillsides filled with cattle. I was a little sad as I starred out of the car window, feeling a bit frustrated that none of my pictures told the story I saw in them. We turned a bend in the road and a tiny country farm lay on the hillside, so as we drove past (we didn’t stop) I held up the camera and snapped.

At home I slipped the photo card into my printer and popped up the shots. Okay. Alright. Nothing special. Blurry. Stinks. Nothing. Humm, thought that would be decent. And then suddenly the photo of the farm flashed to the screen. Hey oh! A story. Amazingly enough the story wasn’t in pictures I’ve slaved over – it was in the picture I simply snapped. So I asked God this question.

“How do you do it every day? How do you frame such gorgeous sunrises or unique river shots?”

The Father smiled and answered, “I feeling a bit humorous today. Do you want the answer or joke I feel coming on?” I furrowed my brow.

“I find the moments I create on a whim tend to be my most accomplished work. They aren’t over done, over thought or over painted. They are simply my heart at its best.” He punched the enter button on my keyboard changing the picture on the screen.

“So you’re saying planning the shot is not wise.”

“No. Sometimes planned shots are amazing. Details are perfect. But I’m saying, when I plan the sunsets, I fret over them making sure every cloud is perfectly placed so that the sun seeps through in just the right manner for the absolute ‘right’ color to form.”

“So you think I should just shoot pictures by the seat of my pants?”

“No, I don’t. I’m saying, be flexible. Take the pictures you see and then see what turns out. You work hard on projects – so hard that you never tend to complete them. And what I want you to do, is work, finish and enjoy the completion – move to on to something else. Don’t toss out the pictures because the rewards are there. Sometimes you simply have to step away and let them materialize in your mind.”

“Kinda like the old Polaroid pictures, huh? Take the shot and lay the picture down while it develops.”

“Kinda. The reward is there. Don’t be so hard on yourself. I find you spend a lot of time trying to do my job.”

I did a double take. “How do you figure that?” I asked.

“You take the talents I give you, use them, but then work them to death. You throw out the pictures that can be something unique because you think you’ve done a bad job. Not so. The job is good. But the timing is not right. Rather than shooting the pictures and waiting for them to develop correctly, you keep trying to fix it. Just stop. Finish it and let me do the rest. Let me develop it into my plan.”

“Ah, I see.” I said as I glanced at the photo on the screen.

“You will. The reward will come when the picture is complete.”

Once again, the Father makes good sense. I assume too much on my part. Drive myself nutty trying to fix what isn’t really broken when I need to step back and look at the picture – see how God develops it. That’s how He works in our lives --slowly developing us, adding the details a little at a time. So today, I’ll take another picture or two and if they aren’t quite up to snuff by my standards, I’ll print them and wait. Wait for the reward.

Monday, February 4, 2008

This Season of Life.....

All this I saw, as I applied my mind to everything done under the sun. There is a time when a man lords it over others to his own hurt….There us something else meaningless that occurs on earth: righteous men who get what the wicked deserve and wicked men who get what the righteous deserve. This too, I say, is meaningless….then I saw all that God has done. Now one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all his efforts to search it out, man cannot discover its meaning. Even if a wise man claims he knows, he cannot really comprehend it. – Ecclesiastes 8: 9,14, 17

What do we do when the people we love are suffering? What do we do when they are struggling with indecision and frustration, unhappiness and discontentment? There is a feeling of complete helplessness that washes over us – a feeling that shouts, “help them” but then, there’s the reality of being unable to do so. We sit helplessly, painfully, watching as those friends or family members shut the doors of their hearts to us. We’re left standing in the rain, locked away from the warmth and dryness of usefulness.

Perhaps distance separates us from them. Perhaps only a bedroom wall, but one way or the other our hearts groan with agony because they will not allow us access. The majority of the time there are few words we can offer that will repair their hurt. Still we want to say something, do something….be there. Helpless is a horrid feeling.

The writer of Ecclesiastes (Solomon, most believe), has approached a season in his life where he searches for real understanding. The place he seeks and realizes he cannot find, is a true understanding of God and why God allows the world to spin in the method it spins. As youth, we simply live for the moment, never taking a second thought at what lies ahead for us – what trials and frustrations we may come upon. When we enter our thirties, we begin to realize that we are too old for real youth, and too young for complete adulthood – we’re inexperienced. Problems arise and they become the weight of the world because we’ve not yet lived long enough to grasp well thought out solutions which only come with age. I recently told a good friend, when I was in my thirties I equated it to the “terrible twos”. I was staring at everyone’s knee caps and grasping for the table top that was still out of reach, even if I stood on my tiptoes. In other words – inexperienced, frustrated, and just not tall enough to reach the answers.

Life smoothed out in my forties simply because I had enough of life’s experiences to reflect on – we call that hindsight or learning from consequence. And now, as I knock at the door of my fifties I find myself in the same season as Solomon. There is experience, lessons learned, wisdom gained, yet I cannot understand why things work they way they do. Why do bad people get great things and good people get lost in the shuffle? Why can we not grasp the answers to the questions we need – stop the pain and suffering, the frustration and irritation? Enjoy peace.

The fact is, the best we answer we will derive is that there is no real answer, because through it all, God is still God. We simply cannot comprehend Him, understand Him, grasp Him. So all we can do is stand on our tiptoes and reach. We can trust that a time will come when the Father levels the playing field for the just and the unjust. Until that day comes, we suffer through what life flings at us, and we watch aimlessly as those same things cut into the hearts of those we cherish. Such is life.

Today on my early morning walk, I brought this up to the Father.

“Okay, Father, I don’t get it. My good friend is suffering and I can’t do anything to help him. The door is shut.” I kicked a stone and it bounced and tumbled across the grass.

“I see that friend of yours. I know what’s going on.”

“So why let him suffer?”

“It’s growth. He knows I’m there.” The Father skipped and then toe-kicked the same stone sending it sailing further across the yard.

“But he’s a good person. He’s kind and generous. He loves you with his whole heart. Why does he have to struggle with indecision and frustration?”

“Sometimes we choose our own way of growth. Purely unintentional yet, appropriate. Sometimes we know ourselves better and anyone and the way to our success is through the methods we love the most. Does that make sense? The Father asked.

“Yes and no.”

“See. You can’t grasp the why’s of the world. That’s my job. Yours is to grow in wisdom and ability. And you will grow through the things that you love and by the same token what you hate. But you will grow.”

“So what about those who do not deserve good things yet they reap joy and wealth?”

“What about them? Their deeds will catch up to them. Their reward is guaranteed.” He picked up a stick and cracked it across His knee handing me half.

“So, what about those who do good, but get nothing?” I drew back and flung the stick sending it spinning across the rail fence.

“Same thing, child. Their deeds will catch up to them and their reward is guaranteed. Until that time, we use these things to grow.”

“But my friend is hurting and torn, unsure what lies ahead.”

“I know the needs and I will provide. But in my time.”

I still have no answers in this season of my life. I only have my faith and trust that the Father in His infinite wisdom will manage His world without my assistance. In the meantime, I will be available for those in my life who struggle and I will trust the rest to the God. We’re simply not meant to understand, only to trust.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Can We Define Prune? -- She Said

This devotion is part of the He Said - She Said series posted on


“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. – John 15: 1-6

Prune: a fruit (noun). Prune: cut (verb). Prune: shorten (verb). Prune: clean, neat and tidy (adverb). To prune: hurts (no fun). Can we define prune? As I see it we can look at a prune from two angles – the fruit or the cut.

When I read this scripture,
the word prune jumps out at me for a montage of reasons, The two primary thoughts are fruit and pain. In its own right, the words of John 15 are the perfect example of what are lives are to be as Christians. However, to me I can’t get the object of a prune out of my mind. You know what I mean – the cleansing process of the fruit when eaten. Regardless of how we look at pruning, it’s not a source of fun.

The method is a way of cleansing, growth, and discipline. Do any of those things sound like a party you and your friends would like to attend? Well of course not. No body likes to suffer, but that’s what the trimming process does. It invokes pain and suffering.

As much as we’d like to believe that we’re a good and perfect species, we are far from it. Our intentions are good. If we look at ourselves as a literal vine, then we can say that as a new Christian our tiny roots take hold and burrow deep into the ground producing a tender vine. As we grow our stem stretches upward and the taller we become the heavier our leaves and branches weigh until we fall to our side and crawl across the ground (that's our sin). We search for something to wrap around and lift ourselves upward once again (that's our repentance). Crawling on our sides makes us dirty, damages our leaves and limbs. Breaks us in places. That’s when the gardener decides to prune us (that's our forgiveness), and that’s when the pain begins (that's our growth).

If we look at pruning in the positive light, it’s time to begin again – a renewal. Unfortunately, we are a people who demands to learn from consequence. So when God lifts us from our hardships and begins to reshape us, we tend to squirm. The feeling is uncomfortable, painful, and not what we had in mind for a good time. However, once the realization of what can come from the ashes strikes us, we furrow our brow and say, “Ohhhh.” There are times we become so damaged that God nearly cuts us to the ground. But the result – ah, the result is astounding.

Regardless of the method of pruning (there’s that picture of a prune again). Whether by a bag of prunes or by the shears, we still end up stripped and cleaned, tossed and burned. Believe it or not, we’re the better for it because after the pain is gone we reach to the next level. We’re stronger than before, wiser, more equipped to handle the worries of life – more willing to serve.

So, I bite into a prune. Not my idea of a tasty fruit, though some love them. I still see them as wrinkled and filled with a huge pit. God however, regardless of whether it’s the fruit or the cut –sees them as a cleansing tool.