Monday, May 21, 2018

Ferns

Each will be like a hiding place from the wind,
a shelter from the storm,
like streams of water in a dry place,
like the shade of a great rock in a weary land.
—Isaiah 32:2 



Ferns are the "shut-ins" of God's flower kingdom,
Hidden in the mossy dwells and cool retreats
Their lace-like fronds uncurl in fresh, green beauty
Far from the busy world and dusty streets.

They bear no gorgeous flowers of gold or crimson,
No dainty blooms of blue or pearly white;
Their graceful leaves exhale no strong, sweet odor,
Their very seeds are hidden from our sight.

And yet, sometimes, to eyes that tire of brightness,
To senses sated with the rich perfume,
How grateful is the cool green of the fern-leaves
Set in the silence of some shaded room.

Can we not learn from them some blessed lesson,
We, who, like them, are growing in the shade?
Their lovely freshness is a constant beauty,
Dewy and sweet when summer blossoms fade.

When others come, who, dwelling in the sunshine,
Have grown a-weary of the toil and strife,
Can we not share with them our calm and quiet - 
Show them the beauty of a hidden life?

May we not give to them some tender message,
Some of the garnered peace we hold in store,
Some of the songs God giveth in the midnight,
When sleep flies from us and the pain is sore?

They walk with hurrying steps Life's busy highway,
Often the still, small voice they cannot hear;
But we can listen in the restful stillness
Its words of faith and hope and gladsome cheer.

We dwell in safety in our Lord's green pastures,
Our souls at rest the quiet waters by;
Willing to be since we may not be doing,
Living epistles, open to the eye.i

Our frail lives hidden in His strength eternal,
Guarded and shielded from the tempest's shock,
The wild winds pass us by - they cannot harm us
Where we are sheltered by our Fortress Rock.

Sometimes, perhaps, the ferns may long to blossom,
Even as we to see our work's reward;
Impatient of the stillness and the shadow,
Envy the roses on the sunny sward.

"Foolish!" we say, "the dust and heat would kill them,
That sweet, cool shadow is their very life,"
Yes - and, God knows, perhaps our spirit's beauty,
Might, like them, wither in the great world's strife.

So He doth keep us, set apart in shadow,
Far from the lovely garden's sunny sod;
And why He does it we shall know hereafter,
"Be still," He says, "and know that I am God!"

Can we not trust our loving heavenly Father
To do the very best that can be done,
Though one be planted in the glowing sunlight,
Set in the silence and the shadow - one?

Be we content to say our word in secret,
Content to wear our garb of sober green,
And, while the world is praising other workers,
Our tiny seeds cast out, though all unseen.

We may not show our love and zeal by labor,
Our hands are folded, though they tire of rest;
Fettered the feet that fain would run His errands,
Willing and swift. But yet, He knoweth best

Just the conditions which will suit our growing,
Just the environment we best may stand;
For the green ferns the cool depths of the forest,
And for our shade the "shadow of His hand."

—Annie Johnson Flint



Saturday, May 19, 2018

More, More

“What shall I render to the LORD for all his benefits? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD" (Psalm 116:12).

Carolyn and I had breakfast at Le Peep yesterday. Our waitress brought our dark roast in a little brown carafe and left it on the table. Later, when I wanted more I held up my cup and Carolyn filled it to the brim.

How can you repay the Lord for all he has given you? He delights to give (James 1:17). Just hold up your cup and ask for more.

David Roper

5.19.18

Friday, May 18, 2018

What Gets the Incense?

"(Idols) have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see; ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat" (Psalm 115:4–7).

Idolatry used to be direct—dancing around the Baalim and the Asherah poles. Present-day idolatry is more subtle and much harder to detect.

If we want to know our idols we need to think about what we think about, for our predominant thoughts revolve around the things that we treasure (Matthew 6:21). Our last thoughts before we go to sleep; our musings when we awaken; our reveries throughout the day—these images point to the gods that we love.

But therein lies a bitter irony: We were made for "steadfast love and faithfulness" and no matter how much we love our gods they cannot love us back (Psalm 115:1).

David Roper

5.18.18

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Prattle

"Think about what I am saying, for the Lord will give you understanding in all things" (2Timothy 2:7)

What is it with those folks who talk all the time, who prate on but have nothing meaningful or memorable to say. It seems to me that they have no idea what they think until they hear themselves saying it, which, it occurs to me, is the answer to my own question: they don't think. 

The secret to understanding the issues of life is a rich interior life, cultivating a silence in which we work out the issues of life in our own minds and resolve them there before we talk about them.  

And especially should we think about the things that Jesus had to say, for in Him "are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Colossians 2:3).

David Roper

5.17.18

Sunday, May 13, 2018


A Wandering One

They felt good eyes upon them
and shrank within—undone;
good parents had good children
and they—a wandering one.

—Ruth Bell Graham

Manoah prayed: “Teach us how to bring up the boy who is to be born” (Judges 13:8). This is the earnest and often anxious prayer of every good parent.

“The boy” was Samson, Israel’s prankish Hercules, who “pillowed his great head upon the lap of sin” and squandered his God–given strength away. One wonders how often Manoah and his wife awakened in the dark, sleepless hours of the night and asked themselves, “Where did we go wrong?”

When our children make bad choices—when they abuse alcohol, do drugs, get pregnant, drop out of school, turn their backs on God and their family, we ask ourselves the same question. We blame ourselves and see our children as the tragic victims of our ineptitude.

There is, however, no absolute correlation between the way people parent and the way their children turn out. Good parenting makes a difference, but it does not guaranteethat the product will be good.

We’re all are acquainted with families where neglect, violence and substance abuse are the norm, yet the children turn out remarkably well. They have good friends; they do well in school; they hold good jobs; they end up in stable marriages and handle their parental responsibilities with wisdom and love.

On the other hand there are families where the parents are warm, nurturing, kind, firm, wise and giving and yet there’s at least one prodigal in the family and sometimes more than one.

It’s certainly better to be one kind of parent than the other, but the fact remains that despite our best efforts our children sometimes go wrong.

But, you say, what of the proverb: “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6)? It sounds like a guarantee.

Not exactly. Proverbs are not promises, but premises—general rules or axioms­—statements of broad truths much like the saying: “As the twig is bent so the tree is inclined.” A proverb sets forth a truth applicable in most cases, but not necessarilyso. There are exceptions to the rule.

The reason there are exceptions is that children are not mindless matter that can be shaped at will, but autonomous individuals who may, with the best of parenting, choose to go their own way. Even God, the perfect parent, has had trouble with his children—Adam and Eve to name two, and me, to name one more.

We cannot produce good children and if we believe that by the simple application of a few techniques and rules we can secure good behavior we may be in for bitter disillusionment and heartache. No one can determine nor can they predict what their offspring will do. (It was Joaquin Andujar, poet and pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, who said you can sum up baseball in one word: “You never know.” His word count was off, but he captured the essence of life as well as baseball.)

Given that uncertainty the question is not “How can I produce good children?” but rather, “How can I be a good parent?” The two questions appear to be the same, but they’re not. The first has to do with the product, over which we have no control, the second with process, over which we do, by God’s grace, have some measure of control.

If our focus is on process, then the questions are about me: “How can I deal with my impatience, temper and rage, my selfishness, my resentment, my stubbornness, my defensiveness, my pride, my laziness, my unwillingness to listen? How can I deal with my addictions? How can I strengthen my marriage? How can I develop my parenting skills? How can I build bridges of grace, forgiveness and acceptance that will make it possible for my prodigal to come home. These are the matters that must occupy me, and then I must leave the outcome to God.

Ruth Bell Graham has written again,

Lord, I will straighten all I can and You
take over what we mothers cannot do.

DHR

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Dear Friends, Beloved of God,

Most of us are keenly aware that this Sunday is Mother’s Day. For some of us this day will bring deep joy. For others of us there will be deep disappointments. Let’s face it. Often on days like this we hope in the wrong things.

The pictures in magazines, television commercials or Facebook posts can inform our views of what Mother’s Day looks like: a happy family with all sending or bringing cards or gifts or expressions of gratitude and love to us as mothers. (I’ve yet to see a FB picture of a mother with tears running down her face because there was an empty place at the table.) Of course the truth is that we live in a broken world, not a perfect world. Heaven is later. Some of us do not have children. Some of us do not have children who respond in generous or gracious ways. Some have children who “rise up and call [us] blessed” and some have children who just rise up and call us! And some receive no calls at all, nor the love that should motivate such a call.

At times, days like this can bring regret about former days of parenting. Or regret in how well we loved our own mothers who may no longer be with us. Or that we did not get the love from our mothers we longed for. Too, the difficulties our children struggle with can be highlighted in our hearts by such Hallmark days.  Some of us will deeply miss those who are not with us, spatially or emotionally. And we grieve. God gave us tears for such occasions. He understands.

Some of our families will have joyous celebrations and for that we can all rejoice. God rejoices with us. He loves a good party. (Think about the Father in the account of the Prodigal coming home.) Joy is the serious business of Heaven, as someone has said.) We can also give thanks for the gift of family love.

This morning, I have been thinking of other reasons we can all rejoice.  I have been thinking and most thankful for some glimpses into how God relates to us with perfect mother love.

“Can a mother forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.  Behold, I have you inscribed on the palms of my hands; your wants are continually before me”
(Isaiah 49:15).

Your name is imprinted on His nail-pierced hands and He will never, even this Sunday, forget you. He understands your heart, He forgives the things you regret as you turn to Him in humility and repentance. He is a constant and loving parent to YOU. And to me. Plus, we know He can transform the brokenness in us or in others into something beautiful in His time— the beauty of Jesus. Let us lay those regrets and hurts, sometimes caused by neglect and disrespect, down at the foot of His cross and sail on, learning to forgive just as He has forgiven us. Not always a one time thing, this laying down of hurts and regrets. Not always easy. But doable with His help. And God longs to help.

Next, I saw God’s heart in the words of Jesus when He said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem (dear Jerusalem)....How often I wanted to gather your children together under my wings the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings....” God longs to have us close to Him. He longs to have our children, who are His children too, close to Him. He desires to protect and provide safety. This is God’s longing, loving heart. How thankful I am for this picture of His love.

Of course the verse finishes with the sad words “but you were unwilling” (Matthew 23:37). Is this not how some of us feel about some of our children at times? There is great encouragement here in the way God both longs for us and also understands when we long for our children in the same way. If you or I are in this place today as far as our children or grandchildren go, now is the time to pray, to draw close to a loving God. To tell Him all. To hear Him.

For He is the One we can hope in as He is continually working to bring His children home. He is ready to stay close to us in the waiting, to hold us steady even in grief, to bring us peace beyond understanding. Remember we can pray in both our “anguish and our adoration.” He is not put off by our weakness.

Psalm 131 assures me that God welcomes me in times of unrest, as good mother love would. “Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; like a weaned child rests upon his mother, my soul is like a weaned child within me. O Israel, hope in the Lord!” David, the psalmist, knew there was always a welcome in God’s heart. Otherwise why would he draw near and rest in quietness? When we lean on God, under His wings as it were, there is comfort and strength and manna for the day. Even for Mother’s Day. He will never forget us. Our hope is in Him.

May each of us be supremely thankful and joyful this Mother’s Day, knowing we are blessed as our hope is in Him.

Loved and sending love your way,
Carolyn

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Verbatim

"Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he repeated them (their words) in the ears of the Lord" (1Samuel 8:21).

Samuel’s congregants said he was too old to serve and, in other ways, was unfit for leadership (1Samuel 8:5). When he heard their words, he repeated them word for word to the Lord. 

When people say unkind things about you and you hear their words, take them one by one to the Lord and leave them there. He’s the only one who can do very much about them. 

David Roper
5.9.18

Ferns Each will be like a hiding place from the wind, a shelter from the storm, like streams of water in a dry place, like the sh...