Flowers for Friday: Purpose

There is none like you among the gods,
O Lord, nor are there any works like yours.
Psalm 86:8

During Covid Madness, I have to take more than occasional breaks from Facebook, lest I, too join the maddened crowds.

What is it about a crisis that seems to bring out the worst in some people? It’s heartbreaking to me. In the past when I would be upset, I’d turn to the Lord in prayer and then to exercise to work off some steam.

But now that CFS has effectively quashed my dreams of buffing the ol’ guns back into their former glory, I’m spending the time walking and obsessing over the local flora.

I love the local flora. And besides, I promised some photos of wildflowers quite a while back.

My apologies. I get distracted, you see…

So today, to commemorate my favorite field of flowers which was just sprayed before planting, I present to you two of my favorite April flowers. I think the Lord may have something to say to us through them, if we pay attention.

First, the humble crimson clover.

It isn’t particularly impressive on its own, I’ll grant you. But put it together with several of it’s mates, and you have an altogether appealing visual treat.

For you are great and do wondrous things; 
you alone are God. 
Teach me your way, O LORD,
that I may walk in your truth; 
unite my heart to fear your name. 
Psalm 86:10-11
I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, 
with my whole heart,
and I will glorify your name forever. 
For great is your steadfast love toward me; 
you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.
Psalm 86:12-13

Next, the Bachelor’s Button. I beg your forgiveness for any blurry photography. It has been very breezy here lately.

This little flower is quite decent enough by itself. However, I love most the blue haze of an entire field of them spread over the grass like a fuzzy blue blanket.

As a father shows compassion to his children, 
so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. 
For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. 
As for man, his days are like grass; 
he flourishes like a flower of the field; 
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, 
and its place knows it no more.
Psalm 103:13-16

And sometimes, these two very different flowers share the same field. The result is stunning, and my poor photos do not do it justice.

I almost feel as if they exist for no other reason than to offer glory, praise, and honor to their Creator.

We could learn from these flowers. Even as I write these words, the field is browned from herbicide and ready for tilling.

Lord may the fallow ground of our hearts be ready for the work You want to do in us!

But the steadfast love of the LORD is from 
everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, 
and his righteousness to children's children, 
to those who keep his covenant 
and remember to do his commandments. 
The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, 
and his kingdom rules over all.
Psalm 103:17-19
Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, 
and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. 
But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. 
Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.
Isaiah 8:12-13
Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, 
on those who hope in his steadfast love, 
that he may deliver their soul from death 
and keep them alive in famine. 
Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. 
For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. 
Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, 
even as we hope in you.
Psalm 33:18-22
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles 
to abstain from the passions of the flesh, 
which wage war against your soul. 
Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, 
so that when they speak against you as evildoers, 
they may see your good deeds 
and glorify God on the day of visitation.
1Peter 2:11-12

M.E. and Me

Come and hear, all you who fear God, 
and I will tell what he has done for my soul. 
I cried to him with my mouth, 
and high praise was on my tongue. 
If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, 
the Lord would not have listened. 
But truly God has listened; 
he has attended to the voice of my prayer.
(Psalm 66:16-19)

Ever get what you asked for but it looked so different from what you imagined that it took you some time to realize it? This is one of my answered prayers, albeit an answer I’ve tried to deny…

I’m starting to accumulate quite a number of letters beside my name. Heather Davis; IBS, ME/CFS… It’s too bad they are all diagnoses instead of degrees. C’est la vie!

The last one, ME/CFS, has actually been on my chart for several years now. It stands for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It’s also known as Systemic Exercise Intolerance Disease or Post-Viral Fatigue Syndrome, but most people just call it Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. CFS for short.

It’s a diagnosis I refused to submit to for years, mainly because it always seemed like a description rather than a diagnosis. I suppose that’s why some doctors are switching to the other, more medical-sounding names. But of course, once a thing has been around in the public consciousness for a time, it’s difficult to change it.

For me, it is a humbling diagnosis. However, now that my migraines have been under control for several months, it’s become extremely clear there’s another issue behind the insane bouts of fatigue that have plagued me for much of my adulthood.

A primary reason I’ve been refusing to accept this diagnosis is… well, if I’m honest, it’s pride. CFS hurts my pride.

You see, a hallmark of CFS is what the docs call Post-Exertional Malaise, which basically means if I work out too hard or even overextend what little grey matter migraine has left to me, I crash.

And for this one-time fitness nut, that’s a bit hard to swallow.

Before I had children, I was a gym rat. When children came, I found other ways to work out at home with freeweights, video workouts, you name it. In my thirties, I hit a personal fitness best after going through the P90-X program.

Ever since migraines came in and stole the body I worked so hard to attain, I’ve planned on regaining it; especially after a friend celebrated her 50th by sporting a STUNNING physique! I wanted to rise to the challenge she offered.

A few years ago, I set my mind to accomplish this. I’m in my forties, so I stared slow. After walking for a bit, maybe a few days of light weights, I decided the time had come to ramp things up. In the past, increased intensity brought increased energy.

Not anymore. Instead, I couldn’t wake up the next day. I crashed, not for a day but more like a week.

Thinking it was a fluke, I tried again. And again. And a sad number of “agains” until I had to realize something wasn’t right.

It just isn’t normal to feel like you have a case of the flu that comes and goes, getting worse every time you exercise vigorously! But it is normal for CFS. Hurrah.

So, friends, there’s a bit of an update. It keeps me from ever catching up, but I’m trying to learn to live within new limits. Unfortunately for me, I’m a slow learner AND a terrible patient (according to my husband – pray for him!).

And I can’t complain. Honestly. After all, this is an answer to my own prayer.

Admittedly, God’s answer isn’t playing out as I imagined, but years ago I did ask Him to strip away every single thing that distracted me from Him.

Apparently being uber-fit was one of those things.

So today, I give thanks to God who truly does answer all our prayers and give us everything we need. Which is Himself, by the way. He is all I really need. And anything I need to endure to get closer to Him is worth it.

Even pain. Even CFS.

Whom have I in heaven but you? 
And there is nothing on earth that I desire 
besides you. 
My flesh and my heart may fail, 
but God is the strength of my heart 
and my portion forever.
(Psalms 73:25-26)

TBT: #Blessed

Last Sunday, our pastor discussed the Beatitudes, pointing out the differences between our culture’s idea of blessing and the statements of blessing our Lord spoke on so many years ago.

A portion of the sermon reminded me of an Advent article I wrote a few years back. While chronologically speaking, this is not the Advent season, I firmly believe for the Christian, every day is Christmas and every day is Easter.

Besides, who knows when the second Advent will be? Thus but also for fun, this link will take you to some throwback thoughts on the word Blessed followed by a prayer similar to the one the Lord has compelled me to pray for my family since Sunday.

Gracious Redeemer, You are the Blessed One and the source of all blessing. Thank You for the privilege of sharing in Your blessings through the sacrifice of Your only Son!

Today I pray for Your Church as I’ve prayed for my family this week; that we will have the blessing of being poor in spirit so we may understand the depth of our need of You.

Teach our hearts to mourn for sin over the darkness in this world as well as to share in the grief of our brothers and sisters. Destroy our arrogance and pride and replace it with profound humility.

Change our desires and appetites so that we hunger and thirst after righteousness and not after worthless pursuits. Guide us in being merciful to others as You have been merciful to us.

Purify our hearts so our desires and the overflow of our hearts are pure before You as well as demonstrating Your purity to others. Show us how to be peacemakers and not contribute to the turmoil and chaos of the global conversation.

And when persecution comes to us, Lord, let us be found faithful to You. Teach us to rejoice over everything that drives us closer to You, even thought it may be exquisitely painful at the time. You are worthy, Lord, and we are Your humble servants, amen.

Blessing

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; 
my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. 
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.
(Psalm 63:1-4)

So how are you holding up during COVID Madness? I’m still enjoying having all my family around for the most part. But I won’t lie: I miss my friends. I miss seeing one daughter play tennis, and this weekend, I’ll miss seeing my other daughter’s now-cancelled spring play.

Finances are a bit tight, too. I’d hoped for more chances to substitute at the school while working on this silly book and help out with our expenses -which have increased. And in truth, I’m a bit sick of never being able to keep the house clean.

Even still, I count myself very blessed.

Wild Violet

I am blessed not because life is perfect and my kids have all the opportunities we’ve sacrificed to give them. I’m blessed because I know the Creator of the universe. Because my Lord died to give me access to the Throne of Grace. Because in Christ, I have the astonishing privilege of meeting with the Almighty, of reading His word and talking to Him, every single day.

Each day, I also love to walk in my neighborhood and marvel at the beauty He’s placed all around me. Even the weeds here are pretty.

Even more, though, I marvel that the same God who put such detail in the tiniest of flowers has put the same amount of attention into the details of my life.

Every single thing – from chronic pain and fatigue to the challenges and joys of motherhood; from a childhood of sorrows to a roller-coaster adult life; from the roof over my head to the dirty floor under my feet – all of it, He has used for my good. Preparing me. Changing me. Growing me.

Because He is a good Father, my God has not kept me from hard things in life. Instead, He has used the hard things to teach me more about Himself. To expose my need of Him and to shred my awful pride.

I am blessed not because of what He gives me, but because of who He is. He is my God, my King, my Savior, and my Rock. He is my Reason for doing everything I do. And He is worth it, not because He is the Giver of good gifts. He is the Good Gift.

Whom have I in heaven but you? 
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. 
My flesh and my heart may fail, 
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
(Psalm 73:25-26)

Y’all, I am totally in love with the Lord my God. Even now when life isn’t easy and the future is unknown. Truth be told, the future has always been unknown to me. But not to God.

Dwarf Larkspur along a trail

In Christ alone, I have peace. Apart from Him, I not only have nothing, I am nothing. But in His love, knowing that He is my future and my hope, I have Shalom. Peace.

Because His steadfast love is better than life, I will praise Him. No matter what.

Friends, I pray that You will seek Him with all your heart and find Shalom beneath the sheltering wings of the Most High. Even now. Especially now.

Words of Truth

For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God. 
Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; 
unite my heart to fear your name. 
I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, 
and I will glorify your name forever.
(Psalm, 86:10-12)
Miami mist
Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. 
Lead me in your truth and teach me, 
for you are the God of my salvation; 
for you I wait all the day long.
(Psalm 25:4-5)
Daisy Fleabane, pink variety
For you are the God in whom I take refuge; 
why have you rejected me? 
Why do I go about mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; 
let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!
(Psalm 43:2-3)
White Daisy Fleabane
And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, for my hope is in your rules....
The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.
(Psalm 119:143, 160)
Dutchman’s Breeches
Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 
As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 
And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.
(John 17:17-19)
Persian Speedwell
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
(John 8:31-32)
Carolina Geranium with Blue Fieldmadder

Father, let those of us who are in Christ be diligent in handling the truth. Let us walk in truth and spread truth. Above all, in a worldwide flood of information where people are needing truth, prompt us to spread Your Truth – the truth of the Gospel and of Yeshua who IS the Way, the Truth, and the Life, amen.

In the Weeds

Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud; 
be gracious to me and answer me! 
You have said, “Seek my face.” 
My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.”
(Psalm 27:7-8)

I’ve become obsessed with weeds.

Well, technically, it’s the flowers I’m obsessed with, not the weeds themselves. I’m very blessed to live in an area where social distancing and shelter in place orders are balanced by large yards and plenty of growing things.

Not all of my pals in the blogosphere are so fortunate.

So I thought I’d take a break from my typical Scripture meditations and share some of my favorite bits of Psalms and photos of my recent neighborhood wanderings to brighten things up.

I know a lot of us could use some color in our days. My God must be a fan of color, too. He’s decorated the entire natural world with it. And if He lavishes such detail on the weeds of the field, He will certainly have attention for you.

Seek His face; it is more beautiful even than these…

Closeup of purple dead nettle in flower

Purple Deadnettle is a common front yard weed in my region. It typically blooms in late winter or early spring, often gracing our Middle Tennessee yards in March.

My front yard in mid-March
Field of purple dead nettle near the pond

I’ve seen this weed bloom every spring for the last four decades, but this year I decided to find out more. Besides learning the name, I also learned it is edible! Do a Google search and you’ll find tons of recipes with purple dead nettle as an ingredient.

Apparently it even has nutritional and medicinal properties. I failed to try it out this year, but you can bet I’ll be tossing some in a smoothie or salad next spring. I’m curious about the taste, but alas, my husband mowed before I’d done my research.

The bees seemed to enjoy it, though.

I’ll feature just one more, very similar, early spring weed today. To be honest, before this year, I never noticed there were two lookalikes vying for space. The flowers of henbit are remarkably similar to the dead nettle, but the shape of the plant is very different.

You can see the difference in the leaf structure, though the flowers are remarkably similar. But never fear! Both henbit and dead nettle are edible plants, so just be careful they haven’t been sprayed with herbicide.

I’ll be back soon with another favorite Scripture nugget and some more photos from my suburban adventures. Until then, stay safe and stay sane in the middle of COVID madness!

Teach me your way, O LORD, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies. 
Give me not up to the will of my adversaries; 
for false witnesses have risen against me, and they breathe out violence.
I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! 
Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!
(Psaalm 27:11-14)

A Pandemic Invitation

But I trust in you, O Lord;
I say, "You are my God,"
My times are in Your hand...
Psalm 31:14-15a

How is everyone holding up through this COVID-19 pandemic?

We are doing well here in my corner of the world. Huddled at home but not in fear, enjoying one another and leaning in to God.

This same God, by the way, has faithfully met our needs thus far. Not all of our wants – we are all being required to let go of those these days, huh? But we do not lack anything we need. We have food, water, clothing, and yes, even toilet paper.

He has also supplied joy, peace, and patience as we are compelled to be together almost constantly under one roof, living a different life in April than we could have guessed at in our wildest imaginings at the beginning of March.

Yes, life is uncertain these days; yes, there are shortages; yes, there is a great deal of misinformation and disinformation circulating; and yes, there is a staggering amount we do not know about what will happen.

But allow me to ask a question: How is this different than any other day? Only in our awareness of it. We feel out of control, reeling with uncertainty about what tomorrow may bring.

The truth its, all that’s really been lost is the illusion of control.

Just because a new virus stalks the world does not change this fact, though it has enhanced it. You and I, we never had control over our lives. We simply were surrounded by so much routine, so much accessibility, and so many things obtainable that we weren’t aware of it.

Yet even a month ago when we could pick up toilet paper any day on our way home from work or school, we had no guarantees of arriving home. On any given day, a vehicle accident could rob us of life. Or our hearts could cease to function. Or we could break our necks tripping over stairs as we bring the toilet paper into the house. Or one of dozens of other “what ifs” could happen.

Over sixteen years ago, my life was altered by a virus. Not COVID-19 but viral meningitis landed me in the hospital and triggered a chronic headache condition accompanied by chronic fatigue. And yet, I still do not fear this new threat.

Why? Because I trust in the One who holds my times in His hands. The illusion of control had already been stripped from me only to be replaced by an experience of חֶסֶד (chesed); of the steadfast and unwavering love of the Lord God.

For over sixteen years, He has continually been showing me how good He is, how He can provide, how He does wonders even in the midst of unrelenting pain, how His strength is truly perfect in my overwhelming mental, physical, and emotional weakness.

I not only believe these things to be true, I have lived their truth. I know them like I know my way around my house.

Friend, if you are anxious or afraid, if you feel trapped in uncertainty or by addiction or sin, you don’t have to be. I invite you today to turn it all over to the One who holds our times in His powerful and unchanging hands.

He isn’t asking you to give up control but telling you He is the one who has control, not you.

He isn’t asking you to give up fun but ready to show you true joy and fun are not found in the sin which promises so much and yet produces only temporary pleasure at best, a permanent prison at worst.

He is here in this pandemic, waiting for You to accept the gift of salvation in the mighty Name of Jesus Christ who died to set you free from sin’s clutches.

In Him alone can you find freedom from fear, joy in His presence, pleasure forevermore.

You are invited, friend, but you have to decide: Cling to your illusions? Or trust in the One who made all things and in Whom all things hold together?

Walking With the Lord

How are you doing during this COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine?

I won’t lie – I’m enjoying it. We have all our teens here under one roof, I’m starting to finally catch up on a decades-long sleep deficit, and we are blessed with a large neighborhood to walk in full of all that is blooming and green.

But I know this isn’t easy for everyone. Not all of you are introverts or ambiverts content to have alone time. Not everyone enjoys their family. And many are stuck in apartments and flats far away from anything naturally green.

So let me know how you’re doing. Seriously.

As for me, I’m enjoying another chronological trip through the Word. I’ve been in 1 Samuel the last couple of days. Today what grabbed me was Samuel’s apparent integrity.

At the very beginning of his call to speak for the Lord, God called out to the boy in the quiet of the night and Samuel answered Him.

And the LORD came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.”

1 Samuel 3:10

It’s interesting to note in ancient Hebrew, the word translated “hears” could also be translated “one who hears,” making his reply, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is one who hears.”

The root of this Hebrew word is the same root in the beginning of the Shema where it is translated, “Hear!”

In both the Shema command for Israel to hear and Samuel’s reply that he hears, the word does not merely refer to the physical action of soundwaves starting a chain vibration through the eardrum, malleus, incus, and stapes into the cochlea and then to the vestibulocochlear nerve.

In both cases, there is an implication of hearing with an attitude of readiness for action to what was heard. So when Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears,” he meant something like, “I hear and obey.”

It’s my prayer that if God calls out to us during the relative quiet of quarantine, we will answer Him with ears to hear as well.

Fast forward to the time Samuel appointed Saul king over Israel.

“Here I am; testify against me before the LORD and before his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Or whose donkey have I taken? Or whom have I defrauded? Whom have I oppressed? Or from whose hand have I taken a bribe to blind my eyes with it? Testify against me and I will restore it to you.”

They said, “You have not defrauded us or oppressed us or taken anything from any man’s hand.”

1 Samuel 12:3-4

In this passage, Samuel is virtually handing off the government of the people to the newly appointed king. By her own request Israel is making the transition from theocracy to monarchy, and Samuel’s role is changing, too. Until this point, he had spoken for God directly to the people. He will now speak for God mostly to the king.

Wouldn’t it be something to be able to stand before a nation and ask them Samuel’s question only to have them answer with a testament to your faithfulness?

Again, I pray that the Lord will make us faithful in our integrity to others as Samuel was in his integrity before the people of Israel in the days before the first king.

Now if only the people of God kept a familiarity with the Scriptures, they would’ve known the standard their new king should be held to (see Deuteronomy 17:14-20). Hmm… seems there may be a lesson and a prayer for us in there, too…

Overwhelmed

TBT: I won’t normally post this many times in a week, but a teaching in my Wednesday night Bible study (now meeting virtually) reminded me of this…

Running the Race

And Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O LORD who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your kindred, that I may do you good,’ I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps.
Genesis 32:9-10

Reading through the Old Testament as a new Christian, I remember being overwhelmed by sheer frequency of  slaughter documented in its pages. I knew then that God is good and that His purposes are just, but in those early years I really struggled with the annihilation of peoples and nations that are recounted in the Book.

In more recent years, God has brought me to an even more acute understanding of my sin and His sovereignty than ever before — and that’s…

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Foreign Gods

The people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth, the gods of Syria, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammonites, and the gods of the Philistines. And they forsook the LORD and did not serve him.

Judges 10:6

As I read through Joshua and now Judges, I can’t ignore the similarities between ancient Israel and the Christian church of today. Despite repeated promises and emotional swearing of fealty prompted by displays of glory or power, the Nation also repeatedly forgot the Lord.

In Numbers and Deuteronomy, God commanded Israel to drive out all the people in the Land He would give them. However, He also let them know they would fail to do it and that the gods of those nations would become a snare to them.

Then in Joshua, we read here and there of groups of people Israel didn’t quite dislodge. The idea behind today’s verse from Judges 10 is repeated multiple times throughout this book. Basically, the people turned from serving the Lord to serving the gods of the people they had failed to drive out of their land.

Of course, we don’t serve those gods today. We’re far more advanced.

Today, we serve the gods of career and of Netflix, the gods of entertainment and of comfort, and the gods of the people around us – the gods of culturally-defined morality and worldly sexual ethics which have nothing to do with the Lord. Today, we serve the bloated and demanding god of self most of all.

Even the church, though she bears the name of Christ in her Christianity, serves these gods. As Christians, we fail to drive the world out of our sacred places and so we let the world’s gods take over.

We’re afraid to stand out, so we don’t. We don’t really believe that a focus on Scripture alone is enough, so we add entertainment. I have to wonder if those ancient Caananite gods were more entertaining than the scrolls of Moses…

Israel was proud of being a free people, set free from bondage to Egypt. Yet they quickly bound themselves up in sin, ignoring the One who set them free for the pop-culture statues and rituals around them.

We say we believe in Jesus and are thankful for what He did for us, dying to save us from sin. Yet we do not behave like thankful people who have been set free. We continue to act like slaves to sin; saying one thing but doing another.

Oh people, we are no different than our ancient fathers.

Lord, forgive us! Lord save us from our weak wills and from our compromises with sin! Turn our hearts fully to You today. May we be repulsed by the very sins we now embrace, ashamed of the things we once did as we choose to obey, to read Your Word and know You more. Help us to walk in Your ways and enjoy the joy of Your presence now and forevermore, amen.