Great Pumpkins?

But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed (James 1:14 NKJV).

When I was a kid and cartoons were scarce, I would watch the Charlie Brown televised specials. They were broadcast like clockwork, an indicator that the holidays were upon us.

The Halloween episode didn’t resonate with me as much as Thanksgiving and Christmas. I could relate a little too readily to Charlie Brown’s misplaced trust in Lucy, his failed attempt at a costume, and his receipt of rocks instead of candy. Still, the dominant theme around Linus’ obsession with the Great Pumpkin is even more significant now that I am decades older.

Linus placed all his hopes and dreams into one idea to the detriment of time spent with family and friends. I suspect we all have great pumpkins in our lives that steal more time and attention than they ever deserved.

Our pumpkins disguise themselves as the very things we desire. They tend to come packaged with a fear of missing out—erroneously magnified in our minds. In hindsight, I recognize situations in my life where I wasted time and worried when I should have trusted God. The fear of losing something—like a job or an opportunity—can loom so large in our lives, we fail to view things in their proper perspective.

The Great Pumpkin Linus sought didn’t exist. He dismissed correction from his harsh but well-intentioned sister, Lucy. Suggestions and questions directed at us when we are desperate aren’t usually well received either. That’s why it’s vital to keep our focus on what is true and everlasting.

In a world of continual news and notifications, it can be hard to hear God. But it is possible. God corrects us with prompts and whispers—it’s up to us to hear and obey. When we take the focus off of our pumpkins and center it on God, we can then discern that our pumpkins and their promises are far smaller than we imagined.

Is your faith in God or in an illusion?

Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning
(James 1:16-17 NKJV).

Keep Shining…


You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. Matthew 5: 14-15 NIV

This Is Only a Test…

When I was a kid, one of the most annoying frustrations was to be sitting in front of the television watching Saturday cartoons only to have the EBS break up my bliss and declare, “This is a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. This is only a test. In the event of a true emergency…”

That was probably one of the first tests of patience I had to overcome as a kid. Now that I’m an adult, the stakes are much higher. I have since learned there are always times of testing. Testing strengthens us for the trials ahead. Or, it can prepare us for promotion and greater responsibilities.

In this season of Lent, we observe the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness and His season of testing. If Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit to be tested, we should not become as alarmed as we do when we are tested as well.

The most rigorous tests I’ve endured have allowed me to put other things in perspective. What I once would have viewed as major disruptions, I can dismiss as minor annoyances.

We can be tempted to acquire the things we want out of God’s timing. Satan tempted Jesus, but our Savior refuted him with Scripture.

People test us. The people we love usually test our patience, endurance, faithfulness, and commitment. Yet, these are the same traits we wrestle with in our relationship with God.

Testing is most trying when God is silent. Though He may be silent, God is always present. He supports us through our trials in ways we may never recognize, and He always provides a way out of temptation. It is up to us to recognize it.

As many of us observe Lent and may soon struggle to keep the commitments we have made, be encouraged.

It is only a test.

But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold. My feet have closely followed his steps; I have kept to his way without turning aside.
Job 23: 10-11 NIV

Mother’s Day…

When I was a child, I thought Mother’s Day was the simplest of holidays. Get gifts for mom, eat good food, and enjoy.

Decades later, I realized that Mother’s Day is more complicated than that. For some, it is a day of celebration. For others like myself, it is a day of remembrance. And then there are those who face this holiday scarred by the loss of a child and faced with a range of emotions I can’t even imagine. The second Sunday in May can be a poignant reminder of both the good and the bad.

Still, many of us can readily recognize women who played a pivotal role in helping us grow through the years. I am very grateful to have women in my life—many lifelong friends of my mother—who continue to love me though she is gone. A host of godmothers, aunties, neighbors, play aunts, coworkers, and even customers have mothered me at times when I needed it most.

The best Mother’s Day gift I ever received was my second born son, delivered just two days prior. One of my favorite memories is a rare brunch with my mother when she came to visit nearly a decade ago. The worst was Mother’s Day 2017—two months after losing her.

Thankfully, I was blessed by friends and family who assured me that I was not alone. I felt alone, but I really wasn’t. God blessed me through loving people even as I was still angry with Him.

God understood my anger and He certainly understands the emotions this day may bring to you. Whatever your situation, I pray it is a good day—as good as it can possibly be.

In memory of Kay Frances Shinholster Finley, here are three pieces of advice my mother gave me:

Always treat everyone with dignity and respect.

Good manners and a good attitude can take you farther than skills and experience. If you are likeable enough, someone will teach you what you need to know.

Give from the heart. The reaction to your gift isn’t nearly as important as the intention and sincerity with which you give it.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Hidden Potential…

As posted on Green Garden Therapy.com where you can find Lilka in the garden.


For the twenty years I’ve lived in my home, I assumed the trees in my backyard are some variety of maple based on the shape of the leaves and their brilliant fall color. Only recently did I realize that they are instead American sweetgum. This is rather amusing considering my yard is scattered with their brown spiny seedpods.

I noticed birds picking at the seedpods a few days ago. Apparently, they provide quite the buffet. That’s when I realized the seedpods were hanging from my maple imposters. All these years, I thought those brown balls were just wandering over from my neighbor’s yard.

Curiosity got the better of me, so I did a bit of research. First, I was perplexed when I found that you can purchase these same seedpods online. Pinterest has several uses for them. There is quite a demand for something I consider yard trash.

More importantly, I learned that the seeds found in these pods contain shikimic acid—one ingredient in the prescription antiviral Tamilfu. As a pharmacist, I find that fascinating. What I consider a nuisance is loaded with healing potential. The sap from this same tree is thought to have antiseptic and antifungal properties as well.

My newfound discovery makes me wonder what other things in life are right in front of me that I’ve underestimated and underappreciated. As creatures with our own prejudices, I think we often fail to see the hidden potential in things (and people) unless we are forced to. Some people readily see the positive in everything. Still, for most of us, it takes a bit of work.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is let-it-go-b-is-for-blessed-devotional-12-31-2017.jpg

Gardening has taught me that there is usually far more to everything than I can physically see. In these challenging times, let us seek to find the hidden potential in all of us.

Devotional prompt:  The Lord opens the eyes of the blind; The Lord raises those who are bowed down; The Lord loves the righteous. Psalms 146:8 NKJV

God is Calling…

Go up to Gilead and take balm, O virgin, the daughter of Egypt; In vain you will use many medicines; You shall not be cured. The nations have heard of your shame, And your cry has filled the land; For the mighty man has stumbled against the mighty; They both have fallen together.
Jeremiah 46:11-12 NKJV

Pandemics.
Protests.
God is calling…

Workers are worried, concerned about dying
Big money don’t care, the stock market is climbing

Liberty stands there with tears in her eyes
Acknowledging Justice has never been blind

This land that once welcomed has shuttered her door
Tariffs leave farmers desperate for more

Big Brother is watching us up from the Cloud
Systemic injustice, dead man on the ground

Stuck at crossroads, a wasted way station
In need of a Healer, our weak wounded nation

 

“…one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

 

God is calling us to Him.

God is calling us to Pray.

God is calling us to love one another.

    Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:21 NKJV

Time…

Fall back, spring forward.

More than a reminder for my clock each year, these words describe the cycles of life.

Falling back hurts.

Failed relationships, financial ruin, illnesses, and disappointments are painful. Setbacks can leave us so scarred and scared that we fail to notice God’s restoration.

It is difficult to see the beauty in front of us if we constantly dwell on our pain. Moreover, a preoccupation with our wounds makes them impossible to heal. When you pick a wound, you irritate it and can cause an infection. Worst case scenario, that infection becomes systemic and deadly.

Some of the deadliest wounds don’t affect the physical body at all, but rather they kill the spirit. They kill hope and faith; they destroy all prospects for a fruitful future.

God can heal those painful situations in our lives, but we must allow Him to heal them.

Ecclesiastes teaches us that there is a time for everything:

A time to weep,
And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn,
And a time to dance;

We must be willing to move in God’s timing.

Merriam-Webster defines spring as to dart or shoot, to issue with speed or force, to grow, arise, to leap or jump suddenly. As suddenly as we fall, God can deliver blessings that numb our pain and propel us beyond our wildest expectations. In an instant, God can restore our faith and give us new hope!

The apostle Paul, once notorious for persecuting Christians, sprang forward to spread the Gospel. Arguably the least worthy and least likely of the apostles, Paul made the greatest impact for Christ by writing much of the New Testament.

When we have faith enough to walk the path God prepares for us, it doesn’t matter how many times we fall.

What matters is that we get up and get moving.

Trust God to propel you forward…

Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead
Philippians 3:13 NKJV

Love…

The greatest of the commandments instruct us to love God and each other. The Bible defines love in many ways; however, love is never defined as is easy.

Love never fails. God never fails.

Love suffers long and is kind. God suffers long and is kind.    

It is difficult to suffer long and be kind simultaneously. It can be trying to bear all things and always give those things required of love—generosity and sacrifice.

Love rejoices in truth. God rejoices in truth.

Love does not rejoice in iniquity. God does not rejoice in iniquity.

The truth about ourselves and the people we love is sometimes painful. Even ugly. We fall and we fail. Yet, God continues to love us, pick us up, and grant new mercies each day.

Love bears all things, such as a cross.

Love endures all things—even the crucifixion.

We can never replicate God’s love for us. Still, what if we allowed His Spirit to continually manifest even a fraction of that love in us?

Collectively, we could change the world.

And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13 NKJV

God is love…

Clarity…

This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart;
Ephesians 4:17-18 NKJV

 

The ice pictured here was photographed a few years ago in Alaska. It was so clean and clear because it lacked the impurities found elsewhere. Likewise, we need to get away to obtain that same sense of clarity in our mind and spirit. The chatter of people, things, and social media can cause us to forget our purpose and pull us away from the very things God tasks us to do.

There are several references in the Bible where Jesus left the crowds (and his disciples) to be alone and pray. In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus stepped away from those closest to him to be alone. What’s interesting is that the disciples Jesus asked to stay up with him failed him three times that night.

Those closest to us can fail to meet our expectations as well. When we face trials, we may instinctively call other people to draw them into our troubles.

Yet, what if we choose not to solicit the sympathy and opinions of others in trying times and, instead, seek the God who sees the end from the beginning? What would change if we habitually went away—accessible to God’s ministering angels— to be strengthened for the crosses we must bear?

If Jesus had to be alone to gain peace and perspective, how much more necessary is it for us to remove ourselves and eliminate the noise of doubt and fear?

It doesn’t require a grand vacation to gain the clarity we need. Sitting alone and embracing the silence a few moments a day may be all it takes to organize our priorities. Praying in a closet or the solitude of a car can produce calm over chaos.

What could be more important than the ability to hear God and visualize His plans for our lives? What opportunities can we unlock by learning to shut out the things (or people) that steal our time and energy?

I challenge you to break away and create new routines in 2020. Put yourself in positions and places where you can abide with God. Do whatever it takes to gain the peace and perspective that will give you confidence to walk the path He has for you.

We receive salvation by grace. Yet, I’ve learned that peace of mind and clarity of purpose require effort on my part. Solitude renews my mind. Silence allows me to hear God. I’ve finally learned to sit down and be still which generates a fruitfulness that running around like crazy never produced.

Seek and hear God like never before.

What you focus on will inevitably determine what you see…

 

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