Category Archive: Beauty

Like a Tree

As we drove home the other day I saw this striking live oak tree – arms and elbows all akimbo. It struck me as very beautiful.

How did those branches twist and turn as they did?

I read that oak trees don’t usually have a single, straight leader after branching begins, but spread out into several large branches. Given enough room, they tend to be as wide as they are tall, but growing conditions have a larger effect on this than species alone. An oak growing in the forest will be tall and thin like its neighbors, while oaks growing in large, even spacing along a planted row are short and wide.

The reason oak branches are not very straight is because the leading bud rarely grows. Instead, stems grow out around that leading bud in an alternate or spiral pattern, with no two branches coming from the same node. The result – a crooked shape.

Obstacles–those single buds that don’t grow into straight branches. But what those obstacles do is create a shape that is artistic, unique, and quite beautiful.

Isn’t that what God does in our lives? He desires that our roots go deep into the soil of his incomprehensible love; that we trust him in every circumstance of life; and that we continue to bear fruit for his kingdom.

Obstacles change us as we work through or go around them with God’s help. Most of us carry battle scars of one kind or another. But in His love, our God molds us more into His image. He promises that…

They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.

Jeremiah 17:8 NLT

Let’s encourage each other in this time of turmoil. Rather than worrying, let’s trust the God who will always be with us. Let’s continue to bathe our roots in the water of His love and care.

I encourage you to build connections with others who will encourage and strengthen you. Join a small group to study the Bible and pray together (even if on Zoom, as we’re doing!). Find a church with safe options where you can be fed with the rich abundance of God’s Word. These are some of the ways that help us not to be bothered by the heat or worried by drought, and to keep producing good fruit.

I just found a cute children’s song whose lyrics express this well.

I’m gonna be like a tree, planted by the water. Trusting in the Father to keep me strong. I’m gonna be like a tree, planted by the water. Trusting in the name of the Lord.

The deeper the roots grow. The better the fruits grow. The blessings bloom out for all to see. The deeper the roots grow. The more of my life shows That Jesus is the Lord of me, Lord of me.

Integrity Kids

How can I encourage you this week? Pray for you?

Moments

Undulating green hills rose and fell as far as we could see, a soft, lumpy carpet interspersed with jagged rocks thrusting up through the soil and grass at periodic intervals. Here were downed trees. There, moss-covered logs. Cattle and horses stood or laid in the fields. Boulders the size of a small house astounded. The Merced River rippled over rocks on its journey down the mountainside. Mountains that had been burned out now sported short bursts of new growth.

As we drove, granite glowed as sunlight shone on mountain peaks. Fluffy white clouds opened to reflect patches of blue peering through. And next to me was my husband, who loves me better than life.

The CD of a favorite male quartet filled our car and Don and I sang along. The view all around us was pastoral, peaceful. In that moment out on the road I was filled to overflowing with love and praise and worship. 

I looked at Don. “Stunning scenery, the two of us together, going to a place we love, singing along out of tune … it doesn’t get any better than this.

It was a moment.

Isn’t that life? We go along day by day, doing what’s needed, hanging with loved ones, laughing, crying, paying bills, doing dishes … just routine stuff. And suddenly there’s a moment, a precious, soul stirring moment that touches our spirits.

Those moments are priceless. Makes me wonder if some couples separate because they expect a life of continuous moments and don’t treasure the moments they do have. My brother Arnold made a comment in a different context that I think fits here … “Pray for the moments but don’t expect them regularly.”

So here’s to love and marriage, to appreciating the routine of the day to day and delighting in the moments.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

I Corinthians 13:4-7

What is Heaven Like?

“What is heaven like?” This, as well as “How is my Papa?” were questions some of my Kids’ Club third graders wanted to ask God.  

What great questions. And can we ask God without offending Him?

Yes! We have a Father who loves us and wants us to know Him better. Questions asked from a seeking heart are welcome.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

James 1:5

Heaven. What will it be like? What are those we love who have preceded us into glory experiencing in the presence of Christ?

I love these words from a popular praise song: “For He holds the keys to the grave and forever He will reign.” (From Praise the Invisible by Harvest)   

The hymnist Charles Hutchinson Gabriel (1856-1932) wrote

“When with the ransomed in glory His face I at last shall see,
’twill be my joy through the ages to sing of His love for me.”

I Stand Amazed in the Presence

My dear ninety-eight year old mother is eager to go to her heavenly home. She has walked with Jesus since she was a little girl, and helped me to know Him as well. She can hardly wait to worship her Lord face to face, and to meet her beloved husband, my father, who preceded her to glory eighteen years ago.

I too look forward to meeting the One who holds the keys to the grave, who will reign forever. To meet Jesus face to face, to be reunited with loved ones who have gone before, to meet Moses and the prophets and apostles.

Meanwhile I continue to thank God for leading me day by day, for the relationship we have now that will continue into eternity, for my husband and family and friends and life and the beauty of creation.

And I will work to help my third grade kids find answers to their questions.

How Beautiful Heaven will Be

Dad had just received the news that he was terminally ill with leukemia and had only a short time to live. I walked gingerly into his room to see him gazing out the window at the flowers outside.

One of my favorite photos of Dad and Mom. Dad’s been in heaven seventeen years already.

My father turned back to look at me. My eyes were wet with tears. “How beautiful heaven will be,” Dad said with his wonderful smile. I wept.

Don and I attended a wedding reception this weekend for a lovely couple. We saw friends we hadn’t seen in awhile. We met others we’d heard much about. As we spent time talking, we had some rich, meaningful conversations about how we were all connected through Karen and Jerry, parents of the groom, and about God’s work in our lives. Everyone has a story and it was a privilege to hear, and share those, from the widows to the divorced to those impacted by critical illness … but with confidence in the goodness of God.

We had a marvelous time, and hung out beyond the stated end time of the party. I thought, if it is such a joy to meet both old and new friends at a reception on a Saturday afternoon in Saratoga, California — what will our joy meter read in heaven when we meet Jesus face to face, and are reunited with those we love who have preceded us into glory?

Scripture promises that one day Jesus will return to take his followers to heaven for eternity. Some of us will be called home through death before he returns. But we have a choice. That choice is to take him at his word, to accept his forgiveness and acknowledge him as our Lord and Savior; or to reject the grace he offers and be separated from him for all eternity.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

John 3:16-17 ESV

If you have never committed your life to Jesus Christ, please consider his great sacrifice and his offer of forgiveness, hope, peace, and eternal life with him.

“How beautiful heaven will be!” I’m looking forward to it.

I’d love to talk about any questions you may have.

Sunshiny Sunday

It’s a lazy, sunshiny Sunday. After attending church this morning and enjoying a nap in the afternoon, I’m sitting with my feet up on our recliner couch, looking at the beauty of this day God knew about before the foundations of the earth were laid.

Warmth permeates. Sun shines. Clouds billow.

So I thought today I would share some of my favorite photos of churches, starting with this beauty in the Lexington/Concord area of our nation’s history.

Lexington/Concord

The Fall leaves, a mix of red, green and gold, gave a bright surround to the white steepled church.

And from the gallery below, left to right …

Top Left: One of the original Christian churches on Kauai, set beside the ocean, containing original hymnals, pews and pulpit. Don and I could almost feel the history housed in this building.

Top Center: Springtime blossoms blanket a cement table and benches outside the soda fountain at Mount Hermon in California’s Santa Cruz mountains. I love to retreat here to worship, learn and develop my craft at a marvelous Christian Writers’ Conference.

Top Right: This little, sagging pine green church greeted Don and me as we drove around the island of Maui. What voices has this church heard raised in praise to God over the years? And, since it was being rebuilt the last time we visited the island, what joy will once again raise its rafters in the future?

Lower Left: A replica of a slave church on a plantation in the Southern United States. Hearing about the faith of many of the slaves and enjoying some deep, heart-felt spirituals that gave strength under often horrific circumstances, was very meaningful to us.

Lower Right: To the beautiful words and melody of “The Holy City,” our tour bus entered Jerusalem a few years ago. Seeing the golden dome of the Temple while hearing “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, lift up your gates and sing … Hosannah in the highest, Hosannah to your King” was heart-stirring. Knowing our King walked these streets, carried his cross up the Via Dolorosa, died on Calvary and rose from the grave three days later raised chills as we entered the city where Jesus will one day return. And he will take all who confess with their mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in their heart that God raised him from the dead, to join him in glory.

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

Romans 10:9-10 NIV

May you be blessed this week in the love of Jesus Christ.