Leaving Space for the Unexpected

I learned a long time ago that I have to leave white space on my calendar. No, this time I’m not going to write about all the reasons you need to take occasional time away from the daily grind for yourself. This time, I want to encourage you to be ready to spring into action.

Now and then, I look at my calendar and discover a day with (gasp!) nothing on it. Most of the time that turns out to mean I have a very busy day ahead. I just don’t know it yet. ‘Could be there’s a household repair or an unplanned errand calling my name. I might be needed by

            A sick child.

            A friend who is mourning.

            A new neighbor waiting to be welcomed.

            A lonely loved one, or one who is simply overwhelmed.

            Fill in the blank with the sort of calls you get…

In many cases, the unexpected that fills the “white space” in my life involves someone who needs me. That’s one of the reasons I need to remain vigilant about keeping my lifestyle and my calendar flexible and well-pruned. For me that means, when possible, staying prayed up and rested up. It means fighting the urge to procrastinate, so that there are seldom any “absolutely has to be done right now” items on my daily list. And it means, of course, intentionally leaving some unplanned time on my schedule.

I’m learning to expect the unexpected, because the unexpected is actually pretty common. You will almost certainly be needed in an unexpected way sometime soon. You may be summoned by a phone call, or an email, or maybe by that still small voice pointing you to a need you hadn’t noticed before. Today, I’m asking you to get ready to meet the need, to be prepared to answer with a cheerful, “Yes!”

The unexpected is coming, so leave a little space!

Photo by Eric Rothermel via Unsplash.com

Pink Fungus

I planted four tomato plants this year. In no time at all they grew thick and tall. Before long, the vines reached the top of their five foot cages. Tiny green spheres began to appear, although they were a little hard to see among the leaves. Then, sadly, the leaves began to sport pink spots, spots of a shade I would have considered quite lovely if they didn’t signal pending tomato plant doom.

A little research proved helpful—it’s most likely a fungus that thrives when there’s not enough light and air reaching the plant. (Read that as “too thick, too tall, and too many leaves.”) The solution? Start ripping off all the spotted leaves. Then take out any healthy leaves that make the plant look crowded. (Two weeks ago, I would have used the word “lush.”)

So, with some hesitation, I followed the rules. Now, while my plants have a better chance of survival and are actually bearing more red little tomatoes, they just aren’t a lot to look at. And next week I will probably have to take out more leaves. The pruning process is a bit painful, and the result, for the time being, is a bit ugly.

Light and air. We need that too. How’s your schedule looking these days, my friends? We need actual sunlight and fresh air. If you’re like me, you are tempted to look at time basking in the sun as an indulgence, one you are loathe to allow yourself if there’s work to be done. Wrong perspective! You need the vitamin D and all the other benefits the sun and a bit of a break provide. And you need to remember that taking care of yourself is part of your responsibility as a child of God.

We also need to be humble enough to prune. It’s so easy to be proud of all we fit into our days, all that we accomplish, the number of calls and emails we put out, the number of people we influence … But pride can go before a fall into exhaustion! (I’m warning myself even as I warn you.) Please, please, make sure you have the humility to prune, to take away some of those lush, beautiful things in your life that, despite your love for them, may lead to a lesser life both for you and for those you love. (More on that next week.)

Today, I hope you’ll get outside a bit, and that you’ll take a set aside some time to rid your schedule of any “pink fungus.” My love to you all, Brenda

Photo by Marcus Spiske via Unsplash.com

Resetting My Ring

Beware, oh you younger women who’ve only been married a mere decade or two!

Each year, say, on your anniversary, make it a habit to give your engagement ring a good looking over. I know of at least one woman whose diamond escaped its setting. Not long ago, I discovered a broken prong. In fact, I’ve had to add a bit of metal to my ring twice.

Once, I had gold added to strengthen a worn and thinning band. Another time I had to replace the weak setting that threatened to release its precious rock.

Each time, as an added bonus, my ring has been thoroughly polished and returned to me with new luster, as the light showed through with unimpeded brilliance.

And, each time, as I slipped that ring back on my finger, I recalled the joy of the first time I regarded it on my left hand.

What about your faith? Has it lost some of its luster? Has anything gone weak, or chipped, or broken? Sometimes our faith needs a good looking over. Perhaps it’s time to:

Add to our faith, strengthening it through worship, devotion, more time in the Bible, and more fellowship with those who love the Lord and are willing to share what God has done in their lives.  

Polish up our spiritual habits. What has slowly accumulated to dull your walk or cloud your joy? Are there places you might need to clean up your act, to make your faith clearer and more effective? Anything need to be given up?

Remember Jesus. Take time to recollect the gifts and blessings of your past and present life with God. Enjoy his presence!

In all these things, the first step is to go to the Lord in prayer and ask for his help.

I took time to make sure my ring was holding strong and shining its brightest. How very much more important is my faith, and yours!

I hope you will assess your walk this week and LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE!

Photo credit: _drz_ via Unsplash.com

“What If?” to “Even if!”

Even if I don’t get well…  Even if I fail…  Even if someone hurts me… Even if…

Recognition of all the hard things life brings can be enveloped in the realization that we’ll never face any of those things without the surrounding love of our Lord. My fear of what might happen has been overcome by the assurance that, while most of the things my imagination drums up will never occur, even those that do will be managed by my King.

Last week I wrote to encourage you to trust in the face of tragedy. Today, I want to back those words up with the Bible.

  • Daniel 3:16-18 tells us, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.’”
  • Esther 4:15-16 says, “Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: ‘Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.’”
  • And in Matthew 26: 39-42, you can read this about Jesus: “Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will’…He went away a second time and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.’”

We’ve all been plagued by imaginary horrors, by the “What if?” that marches across the brain, pushing out peace. Fearlessness is not a matter of mental determination. It’s a matter of prayer first and obedience second. First, we make every worry a topic of our prayers because Philippians 4 tells us to. Then we begin to change the thought patterns that cultivate fear. I hope you’ll take up the weapon of “Even if!” to join Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, Esther, and our Lord in defeating the enemy in his fearful ploys, finding the peace that passes understanding once again.

Photo credit: Adam Wilson @fourcolourblack via Unsplash.com

So, What’s the Secret?

For years, every time I heard a siren, I wondered if someone I loved had just died. “Wondered” doesn’t really cover it, either. Often, regardless of what was right in front of me—a laughing child, perhaps, or a beautiful view, or a friend who needed my attention—I dove unwittingly into an imaginary tragedy, my consciousness hijacked and sent on a wild mental goose chase. What if my husband was injured or dead? How would I ever be happy without him? Could our children cope with such a loss?

A new spot on my face distracted me for long moments as I pictured battling the same cancer that nearly took my father’s life. What if I had to face radiation, or chemo, or a surgery that left me disfigured? And as for things that go bump in the night, I couldn’t climb into bed alone without wondering if an intruder might creep into my room.

What if? What if? Those questions dropped into my mind and planted themselves there, growing into long, sad stories. They pulled me into a false world filled with heartache and trouble. Fear of the unknown and the unreal robbed me of joy in the present moment. I began to pray that God would make me fearless—and now, for the most part, I am.

What happened?

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Stirring Spoons by Beth Smith (My Mom)

When you simmer stew, if you don’t stir the pot, food can stick to the bottom and ruin the dish. Stirring also lets you check on what’s in the pot, culling anything that doesn’t belong.

  • Oops! That carrot got too brown. It must have stuck to the bottom.
  • Too much flour. Look at those lumps! Out they come.
  • My goodness! What’s that tomato stem doing in there?

God often stirs us to keep us from sinking down to, and sticking at, our lowest level. Or he may allow us to be stirred in order to remove what doesn’t belong.

What does God uses as stirring spoons? People and circumstances. A stirring may go like this, in your head, that is:

  • “If she asks me one more time to clean the garage, I’m going to throw something.” What’s in that pot? Anger?
  • “If he doesn’t clean that garage, I’m not going to cook for a week. He’ll starve.” (Hmmm, is that a little revenge floating to the top?)

Try to find what’s being stirred to the surface in the life of this fictional lady:   

“I’m never early, never late. Jane always admires my perfect timing when I pick her up. Ugh! I told those kids to bring in their bikes. I’ll be late now because I have to do it. I’m going to ground them for a week.

“Hi, Jane. Get in the car. No, I’m not late. You must have come out early. Well, good grief! Look at that stupid, careless driver! He didn’t stop at that stop sign, and look at him on his cell phone, thinks he’s so important. Humph! Where’s a cop when you need one? Well, if we just had a good governor, things would be different. Man! Politicians! Lazy bunch of no good…I hate that guy on the City Council, you know the one who…”

Stir. Stir. Stir! What came to the surface, provoked by nearby people and circumstances? Impatience, judgmental attitude, meanness, self-righteousness, pride, covetousness, anger?  We surely don’t want those stuck in us. So…

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV) says, “Give thanks in all circumstances.”

Romans 8:28-29 (NIV) tells us, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” God uses stirring spoons, often those irritating people and circumstances to show us our weaknesses and to help us become more like him.

What do we do? Here’s a hefty starter list:

  • Thank God for whoever or whatever brought a sinful reaction to the surface. (We have to see it before we can get rid of it.)
  • Ask God to bless the person he used.
  • Give the reaction to Jesus with open honesty. Hatred, self-righteousness, pride…there’s no need to disguise it or analyze it. Just acknowledge that Jesus died for that sin.
  • Repent, be truly sorry, and desire to change.
  • Ask God to replace what the stirring spoon revealed with the fruit of his Holy Spirit.

This week when a stirring spoon comes along, let’s all follow those steps and rejoice that we aren’t sticking to the bottom of the pot. We’re getting rid of a lot of junk. God is working on us for our good, and that’s worth the stirring.

Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash