So…. a nature photographer’s dream shot is to capture a bird in flight. I didn’t realize until I looked back through photos from this afternoon that I captured a single beautiful autumn leaf in flight on it’s journey to the ground! Just another beautiful reminder from our good Father that life is so much sweeter when you embrace seasons rather than fighting the newness they bring. 🍁
“To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, And a time to die; A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted; A time to kill, And a time to heal; A time to break down, And a time to build up; A time to weep, And a time to laugh; A time to mourn, And a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones; A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing; A time to gain, And a time to lose; A time to keep, And a time to throw away; A time to tear, And a time to sew; A time to keep silence, And a time to speak; A time to love, And a time to hate; A time of war, And a time of peace.”
God speaks and gives lessons in lots of ways. Cats even.
And it’s a good thing that although He ultimately speaks through His written word, the Bible – He uses a variety of methods to get through to our sometimes stubborn hearts.
You see, lately, even when I did read the Bible or hear teaching at church, it was filtered through a heart beginning to feel that God really didn’t give a dern about her. (And if you know me – that’s some strong language right there. My Momma taught me that even darn and dern are curse words not to be used by “proper” young ladies).
Anyway, all that to say – I’m recently coming out of a season where I had pretty much closed myself off from hearing God through what most would consider traditional methods (a.k.a. church and stuff). You see, I felt like those methods had failed me. So even even though I sat in church and listened to all the right words – even parroted back those words out of my own mouth – it was all being filtered through a dark screen of disappointment.
So my good, kind, and perfect Father (a.k.a. God) spoke to me through something right under my nose. Well, right under my feet actually (I trip over her in all of her large and glorious “fluffiness” sometimes) – one of our cats, Grace, who we affectionately call, Gracie-cat. (We call her “Grace” because she needed a great deal of it when we first adopted her. We quickly learned why her first adoptive “cat parents” returned her to the rescue when she was just a year old. You see, some “think outside the box”. Gracie did a whole lot of stuff outside the box. I think her motto was “litter is for losers”. I mean, why limit your going to a litter box when there is this whole big house?!…… But that is another blog for another day!).
Anyway…. Gracie-cat and her “BFF”, Mr. Medly, love to sit in the sunbeam that shines through the door to our back porch in the morning.
But what caught my attention and helped communicate something God has been trying to get through to me lately is this/. Even on mornings when it is overcast or the cats’ humans forget to open the blinds, they still sit in the position for the light to hit them. So in their little feline way, they are demonstrating a pure and persistent faith. Even when the light is not there , they sit there expectantly so as not to miss the healing warmth when it hits.
May I learn to trust like that, faithfully positioning myself to receive God’s blessing and presence – even when I don’t feel the warmth of it yet.
“I would have despaired had I not believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living. Wait for and confidently expect the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for and confidently expect the LORD.” – Psalm 27:13-14 (AMP – Amplified Translation)
No new drama or crisis hit. It was one of those weeks where I lost sight of the bigger picture – or, actually, of my good good Father who lovingly crafts the bigger picture. So I stopped trusting and pulled some “stuff” that has been coming on strong against me for a while out of God’s hands placing it squarely and only on my own shoulders – and it began to crush me.
And I allowed it all to almost push me to the edge…. Quite literally to the edge – actually. I’ve been open with my story and history of depression and thoughts of suicide. Let me just be real transparent and say there are moments in my life I need to stay away from large metro areas with really tall building. No worries. You don’t have to call 911 and put me on a watch or anything. When I crawled out of bed long enough to drive into the city earlier this week, my Good Father made certain that both buildings I had in mind had more secure access to their balconies than I had recalled. And I am well past the crisis point now. But – wow – was I ever a broken human! And trying to not to look broken in front of everyone I’m trying to be strong for shattered me even further.
But now…. even though I’m past the most broken point of the week – I was still struggling this morning with quite a bit of shame and remorse about how I acted within that moment – even lashing out at those trying to help.
And I felt that my broken moment somehow diminished God’s glory in my life and His ability to use me. But then, as I was walking through the master bathroom this morning, I knocked the beautiful little bottle of fragrant oil you see in the picture off the side of the tub. The neck of the pretty antique bottle broke and it’s “head” rolled to the floor. (Thankfully, I am rather skilled at Super Glue repairs so I think I can fix it).
But even if I can’t repair the bottle – the lesson is priceless. I heard Holy Spirit whisper to my heart, “Tracy, does the brokenness of the bottle change the fragrance of what’s inside it?”
I thought, “No, I actually can smell the fragrance now.”
The brokenness of the vessel doesn’t change or lessen the power of the fragrance inside. The brokenness releases the fragrance to anyone who is near the broken vessel.
This timely little object lesson was a much needed reminder that:
Our brokenness does not diminish God’s ability to use us. Once we release our brokenness to Him, it deepens His ability to use us and further spreads His healing presence to the other broken ones.
It’s really not about us anyway. It’s about WHO we carry.
So… because we spend so much time looking down with our faces buried in a smart phone, laptop, or such – I am purposing to be intentional about looking up. And I’m not just talking about looking up mentally as in a positive attitude (though that’s pretty dern important, too), but physicallyturning my face upward.
There have actually been studies that demonstrate a physical stance of upward turned eyes actually has physical benefits such as increasing endorphins to improve mood and stretching the neck to improve posture and spinal alignment. Designers of historic cathedrals had beautiful works of art crafted on ceiling on purpose to draw the gaze – and therefore the spirit – of the parishioners upward.
So I challenge you to look up today! It will do your soul, spirit, and body good… and you may see a blessing you may have missed if you just kept staring down at that device in your hand!
Let’s keep encouraging each other to look up!
Oh, and check out the cool vintage light fixtures I got to see when I took the time to look up from my laptop in the cute little cafe (click here for more information on it) I’m writing from today!
So October is Pastor Appreciation Month and it has me thinking about why pastors and others in roles of spiritual leader and mentor (from hospital chaplains, to counselors, to that friend who always seems to become the nurturer, prayer warrior, and “spiritual mom” to everyone in her life) might need some extra appreciation and encouragement.
Ok…. so next time you’re around that person, watch how others interact with them. Yes there may be a person or two who walks up to the pastor and genuinely asks “How are you?” (pausing for an answer even). But much of the time, pastors are being approached with needs. “Pastor, can you pray for me about this”…. “Pastor, I just lost my job”…. “Pastor, my Dad’s in the hospital”…. and so on and on and on….
And even if someone doesn’t approach giving a spoken request, those in pastoral roles are strong in the areas of empathy and insight and may sense heaviness and a burden to pray for someone who – to the rest of us – seems to be just passing by Pastor to say hello. And even at times a need hasn’t been mentioned – there is the knowing that there are some people who will not even approach a pastor or darken the doorway of a church unless they are facing a crisis. So pastors are learning of and responding to spoken and unspoken needs during a good percentage of their waking hours. It makes my soul tired just imagining the weight of that!
Some of you may be asking “Well, I thought that was their job! Why should they get extra appreciation?? The rest of us don’t?” …. Well, your vehicle’s job is to drive but it’s not going to do that so well without gas and maintenance, is it? And if your vehicle encounters unique circumstances – like a big tough Jeep encountering extra rugged terrain and a lot of mud – it may need some extra care specific to its task. Like a good realignment and de-mudding. So since pastors are not just giving of their physical time and labor but giving up their very soul and spirit to nurture yours – it’s safe to say they are more than worthy of some extra support and appreciation. Like my “one-day” monster off-roading Jeep will, pastors tackle muddier areas of life than the rest of us. And sometimes it takes a little extra time and attention from the the rest of us to “get the mud off”.
And although there are the obvious forms of appreciation like financial gifts and support and maybe an extra note or kind word during Pastor Appreciation Month – I challenge us to take it a step further. Not just during this designated months or days – but all year long – let’s make a point to remember that “Pastors are people, too” and take time out to send that unexpected note, text, or say “Hello, how are you?” and actually take the time to listen without always adding our own prayer request or personal need to the conversation.
Oh, and let’s all just show up to our church’s events that our pastors work so hard to prepare. (For some of us this means when it’s not Easter, Christmas, a wedding, or a funeral). Believe me, the encouragement and necessary life-strengthening that comes from you attending church goes both ways – to the pulpit and back!
So, if you’re a pastor or spiritual leader, know that you are appreciated even when it’s not Pastor Appreciation Day (and sometimes feels like Pastor Depreciation Day) and those who have entrusted themselves to your spiritual care aren’t so great at showing it.
And if you’re blessed enough to have someone in your life who nurtured and leads you spiritually, don’t forget to care for the one who cares for your soul.
And if you don’t have someone like that in your life – be quick to ask your Good Father God to lead you to where you are to gather to worship. Because, I know I say this a lot – but only because it is so very true and has even been life-saving for me – Don’t do life alone ever!
Let’s continue to become who we already are…. together!
PS…. Of course I can’t end this post without a “shout out” of thanks and appreciation to the pastors and leaders who have poured so much into me. I love my home church, Amazing Church in McKinney, Texas!
The thoughts below from Names of God (a 14 Day Devotional Reading from Rose Publishing) on the YouVersion Bible App was a much needed perspective reset for me! May your soul also be uplifted today as you wrap yourself up in the “foreverness” of your Maker!
Alpha and Omega
The First and the Last
The Hebrew prophet Isaiah wrote that God was there in the beginning—“with the first”—and He will be here “with the last” (41:4). In other words, God serves as bookends for history. What a comforting thought in a world where nothing lasts and everything constantly changes! The One supervising when the world began will be the superintendent at the consummation of all things.
The Bible emphatically states that nothing happens outside the purview of God’s sovereignty and power. Nothing happens without His permission or without His authorization. Nothing can thwart His eternal plan to restore all things to perfection. Saying the Lord is the Alpha and Omega is essentially saying this: If human existence were a movie, and we got to watch the credits, God would be listed as creator, writer, producer, director, and star. As the author, He’s the ultimate authority.
In the final book of the Bible, at the conclusion of history, Jesus says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega . . . who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8). Alpha and omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. With that phrase, Jesus is essentially saying, “I am the whole story. I am the God of creation, the God of the Old Testament, the God that Isaiah wrote about, the God who has been here since the beginning and will be here evermore.”
Whatever is going on in your life today, here’s a fact you can cling to: The One who is the Alpha and Omega controls the outcome of this world as well as the details of your life. He knows where your story and His story are going, and nothing can alter His good intentions or perfect will.
The Alpha and Omega isn’t bothered by the past or worried about the future.
How does the idea of God having “the whole world in His hands” affect your mood and actions today?
God, You are before all things and You are the end of all things. You are found in the person of Jesus Christ, from the first verses of Genesis to the very last verse of Revelation. I praise You, for You are uncreated, infinite, and eternal! Amen.
“And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.” – Revelation 21:6
“Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.” -Isaiah 44:6
“Listen to me, O Jacob, and Israel, whom I called! I am He; I am the first, and I am the last.” –Isaiah 48:12
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”” -Revelation 22:13