BELIEVE. EMBRACE. APPLY.

Beauty captured.

God wants us to know Him and listen to His voice; not the voices of the world that seek to mislead us.   Those world ‘voices’ are demanding and incessant.  How is it possible to  tone those out and focus on Him?  This is not something that we are able to do by ourselves! It’s only when we are able to rest in His grace that we can do this!

 

The Feather Touch of His Grace

Sighted by wondering, expectant eyes

The sign read Harbor Island.  An immediate picture came to mind: a jewel of land carved away from the shore by the sea, white sand beaches fringed with impossibly blue water.

The girls and I were headed back to our hotel after a day of exploring the shores of Lake Michigan.  My husband and his K-9 partner had to be in Grand Rapids, MI, for a yearly certification process. We were able to tag along.  They worked, we played.

We had already toured the oldest working windmill in the United States.  We’d stood, spellbound, as we watched Friesian horses gallop across the pasture behind it, black manes flowing in the wind.  We spent time on a quiet beach with a lovely view of a quaint red light house.  We were mesmerized by the azure waters of Lake Michigan and had felt the soft white sand of its beaches under our feet.  We’d eaten thick, juicy burgers, crispy fries and creamy milkshakes at an adorable beach café.  We’d climbed a sand dune and raced through the tunnel beneath it.  It had been an extraordinary day.

“Let’s take a detour,” I said.  “That island may be something we don’t want to miss.”

“Mommmm, can’t we skip it?” the girls pleaded.  “We’re so tired…all we want to do is get back to the hotel.”

“It won’t take long,”  I replied.  “Besides, it may be worthwhile! Sometimes the best part of a vacation is when you go off the path.”

Both girls moaned.  My tendency to go off the beaten track was well known and sometimes not appreciated.

Still, I couldn’t resist.

We turned onto Harbor Road and followed the signs.  I stopped on a patch of gravel, mostly overtaken by weeds.  In front of us rested a derelict pop up trailer.  An old metal building stood behind us, housing several boats covered in plastic shrink wrap.  Trash littered the ground.

Morgan took one look out the window and said, ”I’m staying in the car.”

“Well, I have to walk Frosty.  Just come out for a minute.”

Olivia came with me.   Morgan remained, determined to sit it out.

We walked Frosty along the edge of land.  Weeds and grass grew down to and into the water.  No white sand to be seen.  Trash and debris bobbed along the shore.  Colonies of algae and scum rocked on the gentle waves.

Olivia spied a paddle, washed up on the shore.  She immediately wanted to enact the law of “finder’s keepers.”  To her, the paddle had great potential, especially since she and her daddy were engaged in a  boat building project back home.

Though I appreciate her resourcefulness, I had to say no.

Her attention was next attracted to something white moving in the distance.  “What’s that?” she asked.

I glanced over quickly.  “Probably just another trash bag.”

“No, no, it’s not,” she said.

“Well, run over and see,” I told her.

A moment later, she came racing back.

“It’s a swan, Mom. A SWAN! Not a trash bag!  A SWAN! I have to get Morgan.!”

After hearing this exciting news, Morgan jumped out of the car with her camera and hurried away with her sister.

It was, indeed, a beautiful swan, gracefully preening itself close to the shore. Debris littered the edge of the water.  The girls watched quietly as it stretched a wing and set sail.  We stood there until it became a dot of brilliant white against the horizon.

The beauty of it stood out in the less than perfect surroundings. Perhaps, for that reason, it was even more beautiful  than if we had seen it along a bank, graced by willows and white sand.  The unexpectedness of it added to our appreciation.

As we turned to leave, we saw one lovely feather marking the swan’s presence on the shore.

Beauty recognized.

The girls talked about the swan for the next fifteen minutes, getting great pleasure out of the fact that I had mistaken it for a trash bag.  That’s o.k., it was a good, unspoken lesson about not taking things at face value.

Initially, I was caught up in disappointment, because the island was not what I expected.  If it had not been for the expectant, wondering eyes of my child, I would have missed the swan; passing it off as just trash blown there by a careless wind.

My youngest one, however, saw possibility.  My oldest girl saw beauty in what was left behind.

How often do we get caught up in the disappointments of life, eyes fixed on the broken things, on the debris, on the damage; mourning because what we are experiencing is not what we expected?  When we are too much in the moment, focused on the here and now; caught up in everything we perceive as wrong, we can easily mistake what God is in the process of doing.  We forget that He holds the ability to create and recreate. We may  miss the beauty of  His hand in the moment, and be in the wrong mind set to see the beautiful things His grace  will yet reveal  in the wake of the storm.

If you are in the midst of brokenness, with the debris of ‘what could have been,’ piled at your feet, be encouraged to look with eyes of possibility and wonder.  If you are a believer, God has placed His Spirit in you.  That Spirit is the Spirit of creation, and God is in the business of using brokenness to create beautiful.  Only He can work during  the storms to make and leave behind things of real beauty.

Character refinement, deeper trust in Him, the ability to empathize with others and bring them comfort, or the grace to find peace that is not dependent on circumstance, are all beautiful “feathers” that show His presence. Usually, these are blessings left behind only because of hardship; and in the contrast to the debris of the world, they shine with more startling beauty.

Brokeness gives us opportunities to draw close to God and rely on His strength and grace because we realize our complete inability to be successful on our own.  Believe that He can work in every situation!  Believe that His Spirit lives within you, enabling you to overcome.  Embrace and apply that concept! It is real.  It is truth. Ask Him to give you wondering, expectant  eyes that see possibility and beauty instead of debris.

Romans 4:25-5:5 NIV      

(Italics, Mine)

 “He (Jesus) was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,  through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we[b] boast in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

PHOTO CREDITS: Morgan

An Artist’s Touch: Sifted and Cherished

Scroll down to April 9th to catch the beginning of the Sifted and Cherished Series.

Scroll down to April 9th: the beginning of the Sifted and Cherished Series.

Although God may sift you in the trials of life, you are cherished beyond measure by Him.  Believing the truth of His love is critically important.  Knowing this truth leads to an understanding of His perfect grace and the salvation which results from it.  The knowledge of grace is intended to make us feel free, loved and saved by Him.

Free, because we see that a relationship with Him and eternity beside Him is guaranteed, based on His promise alone, not on anything we do.  Once saved, there is nothing we can do or undo to change His gift of grace.   Nothing else is needed except faith in Him.  We are not even saved by the strength of our faith, but by the grace of Him in whom we are faithful.

Recognizing that, then, makes it easier to endure the trials of this world.  The fall from perfection created the troubles we live through, but the God who loves us and has redeemed us through His Son can use those trials to draw us closer to His side and deeper into the shelter of His wings, refining us in the process.

It all has to do with perspective.  To an artist, perspective is the concept of making three dimensional objects appear three dimensional on a two-dimensional surface, such as paper or canvas.  Perhaps you can imagine a painting of a trail through the forests that is rendered with such depth that you feel as if you could step into the picture and travel where it takes you.

There are various techniques artists use to add depth and reality to their pictures, making two dimensions seem like three.

I believe we often see spiritual things in just two dimensions: the here and the now.  God, the Master Artist, sees things in multiple dimensions. His perspective is complete, ours is not.

God is a master of technique, with an eye for the perfect perspective.  He sketches with broad strokes, light touches, working with shadow and light, creating, erasing, adding in depth and character as we walk with Him.

He sees our future, individually and how it relates to others whose stories we will enter. He sees into the depths of our spirits and the hidden hurts of our hearts. He perceives the inner workings of our thoughts and knows the words of our lips and movements of our hands before they become reality.  He knows how He wants to render the picture of our lives and how each moment blends with the lives around us.

His perspective is the most excellent.  To maintain a right perspective for our lives,  we must focus on Him, trusting His great vision and the kindness of His love.

Several years ago, my daughter’s cat, Chloe, jumped onto the kitchen windowsill and knocked off a little vase which sat there.  Part of the edge broke away when it hit the sink.  The fragments were too small to glue back in place, so I intended to throw it away.  As I walked to the trash can, I re-read the words on its surface:  Live   Love   Laugh. 

A friend had given the vase to me years ago while I was in the hospital recovering from a serious infection.  At that time, I didn’t feel like living, loving or laughing, but I kept the vase.  I now know that God used that time of sickness in my life to teach me about Himself, to grow my trust in Him and to move me forward along the path He had for me.  I’m so thankful for that trial, although it was very difficult for me and my family.

Slowly, I replaced the vase on my windowsill, turning it so that I could see the brokenness.  It became more beautiful to me as it took on a deeper meaning: Our promise of life eternal with Him cannot be taken away by the brokenness of our world or our lives, because we live  with His Holy Spirit in us.

We have God’s love and presence with us always, through the sifting of trials, and we can laugh (rejoice) through those trials, because in Him and by His grace we are free from sin and cherished by His heart.  Through it all, we can trust that He is in the process of making us like His Son.

My prayer for you: that you will live in Him, love Him because He first loved you and laugh with joy in your spirit because He is with you always, even to the end of the age.

If you are not yet God’s child, have faith that He sent His Son to die for you.  Confess your sin and accept His grace.  Pray in your heart and believe in your mind.

1 John 1:8-9 (NIV)

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Hidden Within: Sifted and Cherished Part 5

The wheat that grows in the Southeast where I live is different than the type that is planted in America's Breadbasket, but it is still beautiful!

The wheat that grows in the Southeast where I live is different from the type that is planted in America’s Breadbasket, but it is still beautiful!

Scroll down to April 9 to catch the beginning of the series.

Golden wheat stretched into the Kansas horizon.  Wind rippled through the stalks, like waves on the open sea.  The field beckoned to me like a field of poppies.  I wanted to stop my truck and get lost in that sea of gold, but I drove on.  The Rockies called me forward.  There was purpose in my journey.  Although I didn’t acknowledge it at the time, I was trying to run away from a world of hurt, trying to go to a place where I could find myself and forget myself.  Little did I know that the place I sought would hold no answers, but that the One who had allowed brokenness to enter my life did.

The mountains did not give me answers, but I know now that God gives us mountains in life to climb to bring us closer to Him, and to make us more like His Son.  He can use the trials, heartaches and mistakes we make to craft us into vessels He can use.

Difficulties (either ones we can’t control or ones we bring on ourselves), can become tools in God’s hand to refine our spiritual character and develop our trust in Him, to change things about us  that aren’t in alignment with the pattern Jesus has set for us, craft empathy within us so that we can sincerely comfort others, and through it all, give us opportunities to glorify Him.  The latter one is not because He needs the glory, although He deserves it, but so others can see the light of His truth and existence in our changed lives or in our belief, held steadfast despite life trauma and difficulty.

In Matthew, Chapter 13:24-30 Jesus tells the Parable of the Tares (weeds).  He explains in verses 36-43 that the parable speaks about God’s coming judgement.  In that instance, wheat symbolized true believers, and tares were symbolic of those who were counterfeit.

Jesus was a master at using tangible, familiar things to help people relate to the abstract spiritual concepts He taught.

While researching material for the Sifted and Cherished series, I was drawn to study tares and uncovered another spiritual analogy that seems applicable to the life of believers.

In the Holy land, tares refers to a weed that is called wild wheat.  The plant and seed heads look like cultured wheat, but the seeds are black.  They have a bitter taste, and, if eaten can cause dizziness, vomiting and if consumed in quantity, can become a sleep-inducing poison.

Women took the winnowed grain and painstakingly removed the tares by hand.  If the tares were left in the grain and ground into flour, the women knew that the bread they made from it would poison those they loved.

Although farmers of the day tried diligently to remove the tares from their fields, it proved nearly impossible, because the tares were hardy and prolific.

God painstakingly uses trials to remove the tares from within us, where their hardy roots anchor deeply into our sinful nature.  This is something only His knowing hand can do; and He does it because He loves us too much to leave us the way we are.  He knows the tares of our flesh can strip joy from life, cause anxiety over things we can’t control, bring sickness to relationships, cause damage to His character, (because we represent Him on this earth), and ultimately, remove us from the blessings He wants to bestow on us.  Salvation, not earned, but given, can never be taken away, but a life lived in the flesh of human desire, willfullness, self-reliance or weakness of faith, keeps us away from God’s peace, blessing,  and perfect will for our lives.

The miles I climbed in the Colorado Rockies years ago and the beauty I saw impacted me greatly, but nowhere near the way God has impacted me in the life I have traveled since then. I had so much to learn.  In hindsight, I realize my greatest spiritual development came at the expense of hurt, tears and trouble.  I had many tares God needed to remove and I know there are more He will yet search out. He knew exactly which trial or consequence I needed to go through to handpick a specific tare from my character or spirit.  Some tares, I hate to say, He had to pick out more than once.

My prayer is that now I will be more willing and open to His hand, quicker to trust Him, more able to find peace in Him, more likely to be teachable, more likely to ask “what can I learn, Lord or what do I need to change?”

As you approach this new year, I pray that you too will be willing to open your heart to God’s discerning eye and master-hand.  He sees all, anyway; He desires us to be willing. Let’s ask Him to remove the tares that prevent us from knowing Him deeply, steal our joy, retard our spiritual growth or poison us into a spiritual sleep.  All of those move us away from God’s blessing, perfect will and purpose for our lives.

James 1:2-4 (NIV)

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Romans 8:28-29 (NIV)

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose.  For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that He might be the firstborn of many brothers.”

CATHEDRAL MOMENTS

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I can be very hard headed about some things.  Ask my husband.

Running is a good example.  Once I start a run, I don’t stop until I’ve reached my goal, even if my feet or knees tell me I should.

A few days ago, however, I couldn’t keep from stopping.

One tall tree on the far side of the road was ablaze with color.  The early morning sun turned the leaves to gold and burnished bronze. I stared at it for a moment, but the stare was not enough.  I crossed the road, climbed up the bank and worked my way under the branches.  They arched over and around me.  The finest cathedral, made by the hands of man, could not have been more beautiful.

Leaves floated softly to the ground, making a gilded path for my eyes to follow.  I was surrounded completely by glowing color.  It was easy for my heart to leap from the wonder of the leaves to the wonder of He who created them.  My hands lifted to praise Him.

In that moment, I felt stresses and frustrations snap away.  Major storms had not recently plagued me, but many small ones had: tiredness, low energy, to-do lists too long, never enough time to write, people I love going through stresses and heartache, girl drama, dog drama, daily frustrations, every-day failures, the list could go on.  I’m sure you have your own list, as well.

My hands stayed up until all my stresses came down.

As I made my way back to the road and finished my run, the golden moment lingered and helped me see with a different light.  Big storms can make big chains that topple us and drag us off course, but many small chains often do the same.  In some regard, they are more dangerous.  Ferocious storms strike us  dramatically, causing great fear which makes us run to the Father.  Small ones, that come as ordinary stresses and frustrations, land on us with less velocity, making us feel as if we can manage them ourselves; the mind-set satan wants us to have.

He wants frustrated, tired, annoyed and stressed out people.  I admit I’ve fallen headfirst into his trap, tangled up by Lilliputian chains.  God orchestrated my cathedral moment beneath the tree because He knew something I needed to be reminded of.   Praising Him breaks the chains.  Satan cannot stand in the presence of real worship.

That morning was also a reminder that the world is not our home, no matter how much we try to make it be.  My quest for life to be smooth and unrealistically trouble free creates frustration. I should instead look at the glitches with different eyes: ones that seek Him in even the smallest of things, ones that consistently see beauty and goodness even in the mess, ones that are willing to see that it’s ok for me to rest and take time for things (like writing) that nurture me and satisfy my spirit.

As believers, we have a perfect place in eternity to look forward to, filled with unending golden moments.  This truth, if gripped tightly, can give us joy in the chaos; and, while we’re here; in this beautiful but often crazy life, we have a Savior willing and able to give us rest, and teach us as we stumble.

I’m challenging myself to look for moments to praise and rejoice in Him, to thank Him, to focus on His face, and to allow myself time to use the gifts He’s given me. I hope you will challenge yourself to do this as well, and I pray that God will bring you your own cathedral moments.

Hey, Vicky, this one is for you.  Thanks for your prayers.

Philippians 4:4-8  (NIV)

“Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all, the Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,  present your requests to God, and the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”

 

CAT WHISPERER: Part 4, Sifted and Cherished

Chloe loved to sleep amid our tangle of flowers.

Chloe loved to sleep amid our tangle of flowers.

Although our trusted vet did everything he could, Chloe, my daughter’s beloved cat, could not be saved.  We had rushed her to his office after she was found, face down in the grass.  Four hours and multiple tests later, he sent her home, unsure about what was wrong.  She died 30 minutes later.

For the last two years, she had lived the life she always wanted to live.  After it became apparent that she no longer wanted to be an indoor cat, (see Confession, blog post 7/20/2014) I gave her the freedom of the outdoors.  She learned to love the outside world that she had seen before only through the window.

She adorned our flower garden as she watched the birds come and go to the feeder.  She slept in the sunshine and rested in the shade.  Her demeanor softened.  She became the cat she was intended to be.

Her passing added to the sadness that had already made a hollow place in my daughter’s young life.  Losing two grandmas within 6 months and a cherished pet is a lot of grief for one young girl to bear.

The sadness in her rose to the surface.  Tears that had been suppressed for the grandmas flowed freely for Chloe.  She was the gate that released the sorrow.

It is one thing to feel grief yourself and quite another to see someone you love trying to deal with it. I prayed that God would ease her pain.

He did so, in a way only He can, by softening a wild and hardened heart.  He did so by changing the heart of a feral cat.

After we moved Chloe outside and adopted Oscar as a companion for her, we were visited frequently by a strange cat. We saw it only as a streak of orange and white as it shot through the cat door in the garden shed on its raids for food.

The girls were intrigued and tried  to tame it, without success.  Even though not officially part of our family, they named her Orange Blossom.

We never saw Oscar or Chloe try to fend her off.  In fact, on one cold winter’s evening, I saw them all, resting together in the shed.  Orange Blossom quickly rushed through my legs and out into the night.

She darted in and out of our picture for two years.  She wouldn’t linger for a long look or a slow touch.

Yet, the day after Chloe died, something changed.

The cat was stretched out on our carport when we came back from walking the dogs.  She eyed the dogs casually and slowly moved into the yard, where she sat by the bird feeder, watching.

The girls couldn’t believe their eyes.  They watched as Orange Blossom slowly walked into the woods.  That evening, while my husband was grilling out, I swept the carport and saw the cat again.  This time, she sat by our truck in the driveway.  I stopped mid-sweep and stared at her.

A thought beckoned me and I knew it was of the Lord.

I called my daughter to the door.  “Look who’s here,” I said.  “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Orange Blossom is hanging around.”  “I think God knows you need that cat, and the cat needs you.”  “If you tame her, we’ll schedule a vet appointment, and she can be yours.”

“Really?” she exclaimed.  The clouds broke, her grieving heart filled with purpose.  Compassion flooded in.  Before the weekend was over, the cat was eating out of her hand and she had officially earned the title “Cat Whisperer.”

The cat now has a new identity.  She is no longer Orange Blossom, the feral cat. HE is Chief, new alpha male of our entire pack.

The dogs quickly learned to respect the speed and accuracy of his scimitar like claws.  They can calculate his striking distance to the millimeter.  Pearl, my husband’s K9 partner, the bravest and strongest of our crew, often hurtles across the yard at Chief, in a pulse-quickening game of chicken.  He stares at her, unblinking, as she races towards him at break-neck speed.  He maintains complete composure, confident in his position and ability.  At the last second, Pearl veers sharply off, and Chief remains, unshaken.

In the morning when I take the dogs out, they stand at the threshold, looking at Chief, who views the step as his throne, whereupon he waits for my daughter to wake up. The dogs need desperately to go out, but it’s obvious they can see the line Chief has drawn in the sand.  They wait until I respectfully nudge him off the step.

When it was clear that Chief had decided to leave his wayward life and become part of the family, we scheduled a vet appointment.

“How are we ever going to get him into a carrier?” my daughter asked.

“Don’t worry, honey.  Daddy and I can do it.  We’ve handled cats before.”

Yeah, right.

What followed wasn’t pretty.  Chief wrote the story of that mistake on our forearms.

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble,” came to mind, especially after my girl quietly whispered Chief into the cat carrier.

Chief's scars tell the story of a hard life.

Chief’s scars tell the story of a hard life.

Chief’s nose is crisscrossed with battle scars and I suspect his coat hides more than a few evidences of conflict.  He is mostly toothless, caused by malnourishment, according to our vet. My daughter is clearly his favorite, although he tolerates touches from the rest of us.  He is bold, fearless and completely enjoys his new place in our family.  He is now secure, loved, fed.  Our yard is his kingdom. He patrols the borders and defends against the occasional stray cat who wanders in.  All three of our dogs sometimes crowd around him, but he bravely stands his ground.  Fierce, yet with my daughter, he’s tender and loving.

“You realize,” I said to my girl, “God used Chief to bless you and prove that He is in the detail of your life. He saw your grief.  He knew what you needed. ”  “Thank Him for that.”

“I already have,” she said.

I praised Him for seeing the hurt in my daughter’s young life and touching her in such a creative way.

You may think it is coincidence.  You may attribute it to mysterious cat dynamics.  You may think it is silly.  I choose to see God’s hand.  I choose to believe that all good and perfect gifts are from Him. I choose to believe that God, who created all things, is Master of all creatures, great and small. I choose to believe that God is in the detail.

I choose to believe that He is the giver of new identity.

What do you choose?

Colossians 1:13-14 says:

“He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves.  We have ‘redemption,’ the forgiveness of sins, in Him.”

If you have chosen Jesus, then God has rescued you from darkness and transferred you into His family. You have a new name: Child of God.  You have a new identity: Jesus in you. You have His presence, in the form of the Holy Spirit, at work in you, transforming your life from the inside out.  The Spirit is not a nebulous, romantic notion, but an active force that enables you to think new thoughts, create new habits and adopt ways of life that are contrary to the ways of the world.

Colossians 3:2-3:

“Set your minds on what is above, not on what is on the earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with the Messiah in God.”

Hidden indicates that God completely fulfilled the action of forgiveness with eternal results, guaranteed by the Holy Spirit living in us.   He enables us to exchange worldly characteristics  for Godly ones.

That happens when we we study the character of Jesus, as recorded in the Word, and imitate His characteristics, as if we are taking on His identity. If we consistently  choose His ways instead of our own, then His character becomes part of our moral fiber, woven into who we are by the power of His Holy Spirit working in us.

By doing this, we model to the world who Jesus is.   We show the identity of Christ. In Jesus, we can stand brave and unshaken.  We can boldly say His name and in Him, we can walk with confidence that our salvation is secure, untouchable by anyone of this world.  With His identity we can love, with Him in us, we can forgive.

If we do not, who will?

On your own: Read the whole book of Colossians.  It’s only four chapters!

There is another spiritual analogy this story begs to tell:  Does someone you love have a heart turned away from God? Keep loving, praying, trusting.  Believe that God will send His Holy Spirit (Soul Whisperer) into that person’s life at just the right moment.  God’s timing is impeccable!

CRADLED: Part 3 of Sifted and Cherished

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The thump was unmistakable.  We’d heard that sound against our window many times before.  Songbirds sometimes come face to face with the harsh reality that all is not as it seems. What appears to be a clear flight path often results in a deadly roadblock.

My girls, just in from playing outside, heard the sound and immediately went into rescue mode.  They raced back out of the house.

“Mommmmm, hurry!”  They called.  “We think it’s still alive!”  “Oscar was stalking it, but we chased him off and scooped it up!”  Our loving and adorable cat suddenly became a predator.  Apparently the girls reached the unconscious bird just in time.

Stepping out of the kitchen door, I saw them,  grubby hands cradling a small, tufted titmouse.  Eyes full of compassion, they asked if it would live.  They were beautiful in the truest sense of the word.

I carefully took the little bird and examined it.   It opened its eyes, but stayed very still as the girls stroked it with butterfly-gentle fingertips.  After a few seconds, the bird moved from its side and crouched into my hand, clearly disoriented.

Excited that the bird had survived a head on collision with the windowpane, the girls recounted how  they had  zoomed in and whisked the bird’s unconscious body from the maw of their beloved Oscar, saving it from certain death.

My children’s animal rescue history is made of many stories; ranging from that of a baby bunny trapped in a bucket to that of a lizard, the size of a fingernail, snared in a spider’s web.

The principles of rest, healing and release became an established pattern for all creatures saved by their caring hands.  The unfortunate animals that didn’t survive, or were found already in a state of demise, were carefully and properly buried.  Prayers were said, flowers brought to the grave, and in some cases, tiny tombstones erected.

Once, after discovering a frog who had met his end, they debated about the appropriate way to lay a water creature to rest.  My youngest suggested a Viking theme.  In short order, the frog was laid in state on a barge made of bark with a leafy sail and set afloat in the creek.  They thought it would be authentic to ignite the barge, but that’s where I drew the line.

The titmouse stirred in my hand, perhaps still confused, but seemingly unafraid.

“Can we keep it?” they asked.  Even before they shaped the words, I knew they knew that wild things needed to be free, and this time, the pattern was the same as it always was. But truths, no matter how well learned, are sometimes questioned.

“When she’s ready, you know we need to set her free,” I said.

She stayed in our hands long enough to get her bearings and allow us to get a few pictures.  Gently taking the bird, my youngest placed her on a finger and held her aloft.  “Fly!” she said. “Fly freeee!”  With a new lease on life, the bird spread its wings and flew into the sunshine.

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I like to think the next song she sang was one of rejoicing.

If you are a believer, then at one time in your life, you came face to face with the harsh reality that a roadblock of sin stood between you and God.  Maybe it sent you reeling.  You knew that you were helpless to save yourself.  At that point of humble awareness and confession, God scooped you up and brought you to the cross, where the grubby, compassionate hands of His Son, a carpenter, held onto that cross for you.  An exchange was made; your sin became His, His life became yours.

In that salvation moment, you got a new lease on life.  Your spirit became alive in Christ and Christ became alive in you. God stopped defining you by your sinful nature and started defining you as His child, cradled in His hand, cherished by His heart.

2 Corinthians 5:14-17 says:

“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.  And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.  So from now on, we regard no one from a worldly point of view.  Though we once regarded Christ this way, we do so no longer.  THEREFORE IF ANYONE IS IN CHRIST, THE NEW CREATION HAS COME.  THE OLD HAS GONE, THE NEW IS HERE!”

When you claim Jesus as your Savior, personal creation happens.  God makes you a new creation.  The word creation in that verse has the same meaning as the word used when the Bible speaks of God creating the world in Genesis.  John Wesley (British theologian, 1703-1791) says this:

“Only the power that makes the world can make a Christian.  The Christian has new life, new senses, new faculties, new affections, new appetites, new ideas, new conceptions.”

That means we stop seeing ourselves as the world suggests we should.  We quit defining our success and our self-worth by worldly standards.  We refuse to  base our sense of self on our careers, our performance, our wardrobes, our appearance, our size or our weight, because those are all worldly things.  We don’t allow our past and our failures to guilt us, because, in Christ, we are forgiven.  We are made new.

Thinking like that is a tall order.

I wonder if the bird questioned, as she nestled in my hand, her ability to fly. Did she agonize over the possibility of colliding with yet another window?  I doubt it.   Life pulsed through her wings. She was saved from death by grubby hands and compassionate love.  She looked beyond the shadow of the carport and saw the light of open spaces. Freedom called.  She took the chance that she could fly, and she did.

Believe that you are a new creation, in Jesus.  Look beyond worldly ideas that stalk you, and know the light of truth that shines from the Word of God is the same, always.  Focus on the character of Jesus to learn what God’s standards are.  Count on the Holy Spirit who lives in you and enables you to be free of worldly snares.

John 8:34-36

“I tell you the truth everyone who sins is a slave to sin.  Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.  So, if the Son sets you free, YOU ARE FREE INDEED.”

Believer, fly free.