Friday, September 18, 2009

Dead Wood

"The life of the branch in the Vine is a life of never-ceasing growth. The abiding . . . is in our reach, for He lives to give it us. Let us be ready to count all things loss . . . ."

Andrew Murray

Dangling from our big shade tree in the side yard, the chunky branch hung, caught between live limbs and leaves. How long had it been there, showing its blatant death and causing our concern to seem slack? It looked sort of pitiful. All hollow and black, its bark chipped away, its texture worn, its life gone.

My husband and I concurred its final blow must have come with a passing storm several nights ago. Its ultimate demise was not to be avoided even with gentle winds and rain. Once Jeff and I discovered its spooky, lifeless form, he made his way to the tree, brought it down with little effort, and cast it onto the curb, where it awaited pick-up on Tuesday.

That was that. But that was not the first time we have had dead limbs about after a storm. At other times, after other storms, much of the dead wood was unseen by passersby. It could be neglected until our desire and time. Not now. Our little cottage, our now home, sits quaintly on a corner lot, where many pass each day. Which explains our prompt response.

Who wants to see dead wood? Its rotten presence is a often a turn-off. Its charred look and hollowness bring ideas of spiders and termites. Little pesky, unwanted creatures that use the useless piece to feed and nest.

A few years ago, Jeff and I thought we had found the perfect home. Driving down a quiet city street scattered with sweet old houses, we spotted a sign that read "For Sale." The little cottage on a hill looked so lovely. It was worn and sad. It needed TLC. But in its imperfection, we saw grace. We drove by it many days. . . and nights. We couldn't wait to see its inward promise.

Finally, our realtor took us through the home. As we expected, years of neglect proved obvious. Yet, we were still charmed by its possibilities. What potential we saw in its cozy little sunroom with a bay window, the lovely hall staircase made of hardwood, antique doors, living room fireplace, attic bedrooms, and open family room. I thought I had finally found my dream home.

But it was not to be. When we entered the backyard, a large stack of old fire logs warned us as if they had been ablaze with noisy heat. Creeping, crawling, moving amongst the dead wood, were dozens of termites. We returned to our car, disappointed by cold reality.

Our realtor shared stories of termites and their horrors with homes. Sometimes the little nasty creatures are easily seen, but often, they remain hidden and can destroy even the most beautifully presented houses.

So, when I think of dead wood, I remember the possibilities of its presence.

And I also think of the spiritual possibilities of its realities.

Admit or not, dear friends, we all have it or have had it. Somewhere. Stashed away in our own private temples, in our own secret walks with God, dead wood can exist. And its effects are just as destructive for us as termites are for our homes.

If not cast away, thrown to the curb, called out of hiding, the hollow, hopeless, useless branches will bring us misery. They may at first appear as nothing. They may at first seem so minor. They may at first be thought of as ridiculous concern. But their neglected states will draw destructive forces that feed off their lifelessness. And the nagging influences will spread like wind, even eating the good wood that clings to the live vine.

Listen to the words of the Savior as He reveals vine truth. His words were so tender, yet so sober, so filled with warning and love, as he spoke to his disciples on that Passover evening after they had left the Upper Room. You know the story well. Their walk toward Gethsemane led them through a vineyard.

"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples."

Praise God! Dear friends, God does not want us to have dead wood. He wants us to be fruitful. He wants us to bring Him glory. To be beings of light and life. To be free of the old dead things in our lives that drain our spiritual vitality.

Please do not be dismayed at our Father's pruning process. God is love. And he wants to keep us chaste and holy. His desire is that you prosper and live without the dead weight of lifeless limbs. Useless wood that is heavy and tiresome and is a harbor for destruction.

Such wood can be so many things. Some of these things are outright sin that must be dealt with; some are simply junk that needs to be thrown to the curb. And some are weights around our ankles. Unforgiveness, worry, fear, indulgence, neglect of God-time, jealousy, condemnation, regret, unbelief, ignoring God's word, poor self-esteem, pride, and on and on, but God gives more grace!!! Praise His name forever!

We can lose our dead wood. God can cast it to the curb and move us own to fruitful abiding. In His mighty hands are pruning shears. He lovingly takes them up and searches our hearts and removes what is death to us so that we can have abundant life in Christ.

I had quite another post in mind, but I have saved it in my heart for another time. God spoke this word to me, and with all my heart, I have felt its burden.

I love you all and have written with that love. My heart yearns that we all will grow into the likeness of Jesus. May the Lord bless you ever so richly, and may your abiding life in Him bring you great peace and contentment.

Do not forget. He is "able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us" (Ephesians 3:20). It does not matter what your dead wood is or what it is not; what does matter is God's power to work and remove its influence and weight from your life. What does matter is that He can set you free and make you fruitful! What does matter is His unfailing love for you! What does matter is His glory and His desire for your life.

God has a special plan for you. He has designed a beautiful vineyard with you in mind. He has walked the path toward you today, and now, the Gardener waits at your door.

*All scripture is from the NIV translation.

Friday, September 11, 2009


Our misery is that we thirst so little for these sublime things, and so much for the mocking trifles of time and space.

Charles H. Spurgeon
A recent sinus infection required antibiotics. I had developed a cold that performed its usual cruelty. Lingering congestion that sent me to the doctor.

After a few days of medicine, I felt better, but was parched and never seemed satisfied, regardless of forced fluids. I drank water, juice, decaf tea, even ate ice; still, my lips chapped, and my throat felt like I had swallowed a piece of sharp tin. It seemed I had reached into my cotton jar, grabbed a dozen white balls, and stuffed them in my mouth.

How relieved I was when I was well and no longer had to take the Keflex. I was happy to breathe fully, and I welcomed a full night's sleep. My severe thirst, too, was gone. My parched throat, mouth, and lips soothed, healed. The hapless cold was over and soon forgotten.

Today, however, I am reminded of the dry agony. I again feel great thirst. It is unquenchable, almost unbearable. Yet, no tap water will satisfy. No bottled water helps. No juice or other liquid relieves. For I speak of a need of unearthly water. A fountain that only flows from Jesus Christ.

I relate to the writer of Psalm 42, who spoke of his own deep need for real experience with God. "My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?" He cried. He plead. His soul panted with thirst and need. Just as a deer desires a water brook, the psalmist craved God's presence. Weeping, yearning, his voice must have grown faint. "Oh, Lord, just let me feel you. I long to see your face, to know you are near me. With me."

But, the season was dry. The psalmist looked up to the heavens for rain, and his eyes filled with dust. His pain drove him to seek, to search, to survey his own soul, to suffer the sting of emptiness of heart and distance from his Creator. How he wanted the cleansing water of One so holy to wash the sifted, sandy soil from his life and fill his thirsty self with joyful relief.

He strained to see, to be filled, to be holy, to behold the living God. And with faith, the psalmist bore the affliction of his enemies and his separation from God's presence. And through faith, the psalmist proclaimed future outpouring that would be his. "Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God" (v.11).

Little is known of this thirsty one who penned Psalm 42. But it does not matter that we do not know. What matters is what his words teach us about our walk with God. What matter is our ability to be one with him. What matters is our remembering Jesus' words that everyone who has deep longing for righteousness will be satisfied (Matthew 5:6). What matters is that each one of us knows God actually creates thirst and hunger in our souls.

For, how can we pour out our hearts to Him if we blindly think we are full? And how can Jesus increase in us if we do not desire more of Him?

I have not always felt thirst for Him or desired more of Him as I should. There was a time in my life when I looked to a career, education, things, even ministry to fill my empty soul. I could not experience deep hunger and thirst for righteousness because I was already full of material, worldly stuff. Not evil things, not necessarily sinful things, but earthly things.

Yet, just like my failing attempts to quench my parched, antibiotic-filled body, I failed at filling my soul with ambition, impression, accomplishment, and knowledge.

Dear, dear friends, only Jesus can truly meet our needs for security, for peace, for wholeness, for identity, for acceptance, for longing to be loved. Only He who so completely understands the designs of our hearts can heal them and fill them.

Looking backward, I wonder at my silly strivings to find peace, joy, fulfillment with my own designs.

Looking inward, I now welcome the hunger and thirst that sends me to my knees and makes me cry, "Holy, holy, holy are you Lord. Do with me as you will. I am your servant. Yours alone, dear Jesus."

Looking forward, I long to open my heart, mind, soul, body, and spirit to the voice of Christ. To hear Him. To know Him. To obey Him. To do His will. To please Him. To honor and glorify Jesus' name!

Looking clearly and definitely, a closer look at physical thirst reveals its relation to spiritual need. Thirst is a God-created desire. It is a warning of a body's need. Thirst is an insistent drive, a yearning, a craving; an intense need for drink. Thirst is a God-given sign for fluid balance in our bodies. God designed our brains to detect our needs for fluid to protect us from dehydration, which left unchecked, leads to organ damage and, eventually, death.

How blessed we are to have a heavenly Father Who is so good! And this same, awesome God Who so miraculously designed our earthly bodies also designed our spiritual needs. Our thirst for Him, an intense desire to seek God's face, is our soul's way of crying out for His touch. It is the human spirit's cry and confession of the vanity of self-preservation.

And when we thrist for God, all we must do is yield. Like the hart, follow the sound of the waters. Drink in and be filled. Offer ourselves as a sacrifice of praise. Believe. Know. Lavish the satisfaction of a quenched soul..

We may not always understand the needs of our own hearts. But God does. And so, when He stirs our spirits with thirsts, our yielding is in faith and results in His satisfying presence. As we find contentment in Christ, our faith grows. As our faith grows, we please God. When God is pleased, we are blessed by Him and remembered by Him. We find life. Abundant life. And with author John Piper, we may proclaim, "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him."

Praise God for His holy presence! Praise Him for caring and meeting our needs!

May we all continue to seek the Lord and call upon Him! He is true salvation and true liberty! Jesus Christ is my security, my peace, my hope, my identity, my acceptance, my everything.

He offered living water to a Samaritan woman over 2000 years ago. And Jesus has not changed. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. And He wants to give us all His fountain of life and everlasting, abundant, life-changing joy.

If you are thirsty, seek Christ's face. You will find His heart and your own heart's desire.


All scripture references are from the NIV Bible.

Thursday, September 03, 2009


When summer gathers up her robes of glory,And, like a dream, glides away.

Sarah Helen Whitman

Some quaint streets of my city awaited me yesterday. Their beauty held me captive, as my dear husband, sweet aunt, and I nestled into our old Mazda 626 and headed for drives filled with old cottage homes, southern charm, overhanging elms, oaks, and maples, and the lasting blooms of summer.

Driving slowly, we nearly strained our necks as we soaked in storybook views. We absorbed sights of old architecture. Were amazed at abundant ivy growing up old fireplaces. Even stopped to peek in windows of a neglected English cottage, starved for new owners. Then, witnessed the care of late summer gardens that were at once stunning and intimidating.

Our awe was eclipsed again and again. The rare grace of Jackson Vine moved me to follow where I could not go. Colorful lawns filled with lasting impatiens, lingering lilies, and other lovelies brought pause.

But, we did not see many roses. Scattered sweetly, yet scarcely about, we observed only a few.

Not many are now left to warm our hearts and fill our eyes with season's beauty. Once symbols of a new beginning, of long, lazy, hot days, and sultry nights with air full of lightening bugs and sounds of children, their beauty now begs one last look at a time past.

I do not see sadness in their meager disposition. Only forward joy. For what was once will again be, and the future, crisp fall will bring its own beauty and color and vision and promise. The last roses of summer are reminders of God's goodness and hope. The final blooms of this season are simply telling us to walk through our fall and winter with promise, to find treasure in chilly days, falling leaves, freezing nights, plains of snow, and trees of ice.

Seeing the final blooms of summer is remembrance for me. The few summer roses now left make me think of my favorites from spring. They were an anniversary surprise. Twelve long stems and lovely flowers. They were much more than material. Those precious roses were love. Real. Lasting. Love.

Their soft, ruby red petals begged my stooping over to whiff about ninety times each day. When they finally began to droop and fade, I separated them into two bunches, placed rubber bands around the stems, slipped the bands over a wire coat hanger, and hung them upside down in the tiny little closet in our guest room.
To me, the perfect dozen still lives. Now dried, their crinkly petals can fill a crystal vase and whisper, "You will never forget."
Perhaps you think me a sappy sentimentalist, but please remember I'm thinking good and thanking God for good. For roses, for a wonderful husband, for family, for friends, for a full season. For you. Because "every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows" (James 1:17, NIV).
This Labor Day weekend, as we realize another summer past, let's treat God's wonder with amazement. Let's stand in awe of His beauty and truth. Let's beckon His deep workings of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Let's prepare ourselves for a special season of autumn and winter. Let's look forward to new days of Bible study, prayer, sharing, and giving. Let's determine to fall on our faces and confess our unworthiness and our need for Him.
God bless each of you mightily! Through the power of His Holy Spirit may He give you exactly what you need today! And why not allow this Labor Day weekend to be unforgettable? Somehow, somewhere, get alone with Jesus. Pour your heart out to Him and ask Him to whisper His voice to you. To prepare your heart for His special blessing. To open your life to new abundance. New harvest. New joy.
You will be pleasantly surprised at His loving answer. Oh, how he longs to hear you! Oh, how He will answer!
In His Grace,

Thank you, Lidj, my dear friend, who loves the Lord so fully, for graciously passing the following awards on to me. I am very grateful and humbled, and I appreciate her kindness. Please visit her at You will be uplifted and inspired by her testimony and passion for Jesus Christ.

In kind, I want to extend these awards to all my followers. Your faithfulness and friendship are invaluable to me. Your lives, your love for God, and love for one another, and sincerity are testimonies of grace and truth.

Please accept these awards and unhesitatingly post them. I love and appreciate you all!