Thursday, July 28, 2011


It was a simple post on Facebook by a friend:

“Nothing like going out to dinner only to come home to
your 30 ft tall tree lying across the street.”

Just like that…unexpectedly, the tree fell over
and crashed to the ground.

Upon further investigation, they found that the tree – healthy looking with green leaves on the outside – had completely rotted inside.

There wasn’t enough IN it to sustain it.

I joked that there must be some kind of life lesson there. But is it a joke? What about us? Do we have enough IN us to keep us standing upright?

Or do we simply look good on the outside, while slowly – minute by minute – we are wasting away on the inside?

God tells us we have enough...

1 John 4:4 “…the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”

2 Corinthians 12:9 “…my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."

With our mouths we accept with a yes that seems sincere and heartfelt. On the outside we exhibit beautiful foliage…on the inside, we are dead.

We sink in the mire of our pasts…surely we can’t be forgiven of everything – especially “that” – but listen to what God says:

1 Jn. 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

We drown in the rapids of our present daily life, constantly worrying and we find ourselves making deals – “Lord, just get me through this and I promise…” – but read Matthew 6:25-34 and see what Jesus tells you.

We desperately grasp at the prospect of our future: will we ever *really* receive the desires of our heart?  Listen to these beautiful promises from God:

Jeremiah 29:11 - "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Psalm 37:4 – “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

It seems to me that we’ve made our Great God very small. Our mouths say that we believe, but our hearts remain hollow. We have become infested with lies and we have believed the “one in the world” over the promises of God.

As a result, we have come crashing down to the ground, much like my friend’s tree. People stare in wonderment, thinking “how could that happen? It (he/she) seemed just fine!” Ahh, but look there…it’s that little dark spot that starts in the center and slowly eats it’s way all the way through, until we can no longer stand on our own feet.

Unlike that tree, though, when we come crashing down (and most of us do at one time or another) we have the assurance of renewed life. It’s not a one-time deal either…it’s a forever deal. God is always there to help us, over and over and over, when we approach with sincere hearts.

…doesn’t leave us
…doesn’t forsake us
…goes with us every step of the way

We have to trust Him. We cannot try to understand his ways (Isaiah 55:8) and we most certainly cannot try to understand things from our very limited perspective (Prov. 3:5-6)

In my own life, things have not always been pretty, or easy, or good.  However, in retrospect I can see where God has had his hand on me through it all, protecting me, loving me, teaching me (oh, how tough love can hurt!). 

It is this knowledge that I now have, from those experiences when I was less mature, that encourage me to continue to move through this messy life; and when things get especially difficult, I know to lean all the harder into His wisdom, love and guidance.

So stand tall and beautiful, firmly rooted in His love. 2 Timothy 1:7 says “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of sound mind.” Those are not characteristics that correlate to being weak, empty, or hollow. YOU are filled solidly and stand firm because God’s Spirit lives in you. Reach your arms to Heaven and keep growing!

“Failure is not falling down but refusing to get up.”
--Chinese Proverb

Monday, July 25, 2011

Tea for Two & Two for Tea

“The spirit of tea is one of peace, comfort and refinement.”  --Arthur Gray

Did you know that tea is the 2nd most commonly consumed beverage in the world? (The first is water.)

Yes, I know at this writing that much of the United States is experiencing record high heat. But still…there is nothing more soothing and relaxing to me than a hot cup of tea. Unless it’s a hot cup of tea, a good book and a comfy couch! And it’s amazing how many teas there are out there…white, green, black, flavored, unflavored, and herbal teas (also known as tisanes – not a “true” tea). My favorite local tea shop carries over 200 teas (if you live in the Austin area, you should go visit - click the link)!!

My personal favorite is green tea. I enjoy it for its light taste, low caffeine (particularly in comparison to coffee) and health benefits. Among the various green teas available, I have two that are my all-time favorites:

Jasmine Pearls Tea – before you even drink this tea, just bringing it up to your nose to inhale the aroma is heavenly! I first came across this tea at a charity event, and I’ve been hooked ever since. (For you iced tea lovers out there, this makes a delicious and light summer drink.)

Walnut Green Tea - I believe there are slight variations on this blend depending on where you purchase it. The store where I purchase my tea locally serves up a delightful mixture of Chinese green tea, brittle bits, pineapple bits, coconut flakes, walnut bits, and almond bits. It’s like liquid candy!

There is something intimate about sharing tea with friends and loved ones. It evokes a sense of calm, brings the loud clanging of the world down a bit, allowing time to slow so that we can savor the moment.

Aside from the ability to calm the mind, tea has other health benefits as well:

Tea contains antioxidants that protect your body from the ravages of aging
and pollution

Tea has about ½ the caffeine that is found in coffee (high amounts of caffeine have been known to cause insomnia, jitters and headaches)

Tea protects your bones and teeth
(bet you didn’t know that tea contains fluoride, did you?)

More and more research is pointing toward tea being a cancer-fighting agent
and has been associated with reduced heart disease

Tea increases your metabolism

Now, for a yummy treat to go along with your tea, jump on over to The Pioneer Woman’s blog for this recipe for mini vanilla bean scones (I love the ones at Starbuck’s, and these look delightful to make!):

Call up a girlfriend (or two) and have some fun girl time over a cup of tea. It will do your heart (and mind, body and soul) a world of good, as you bond your friendship.

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: 
If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
~~Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

An Unfortunate Fortune

I love Chinese food, and my favorite part of the meal is the fortune cookie! There’s nothing like the anticipation of seeing what that little slip of paper will say! Now, I don’t really take those things to heart – I know it’s all in fun - but I did receive one recently that made me pause and think. Tiny red letters, neatly printed in all caps said:


Most people might give a little grin, maybe shrug their shoulders with a sigh, and then that little piece of paper would go directly into the trash and be forgotten. But the first thing that came into my mind was…

Is that what I want?

Ok, I know…I know. It was probably just saying that I would have a pleasant life and not have to work so hard all the time. A smooth road ahead. But something in my head associates the word comfortable with complacent.

After all, once we get comfortable, aren’t we tempted to stay right there? Don’t rock the boat. Don’t step outside our little zone where everything is nice and tidy.

And if I’m “comfortable”, am I truly living as a Christ-follower? The Bible is very clear that the life of a Christian is very often far from easy or trouble-free.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. 
~~John 16:33

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.
~~1 Peter 5:10

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.
~~1 Peter 4:12

I think I’m uncomfortable with being comfortable. If I’m comfortable I’m not moving anywhere. If I’m not moving, I’m not growing. If I’m not growing, I am becoming stagnant.

And God warns us in His word about that as well.

Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity
~~Heb 6:1

In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
~~James 2:17

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not wishing for one struggle after another just so that I’m always on my toes. Not at all – I don’t have any desire to always be climbing uphill. Life’s plateaus (and even the valleys) offer reprieve from the climb.

Growth comes out of God stretching me beyond my comfort zones. These are the times when I see His mighty hand at work. These are the times that I am most keenly aware of His presence.

Being uncomfortable causes me to stir…it causes me to seek a better place, a better way.

...but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance...
~~Romans 5:3

I’ve kept that little piece of paper in my purse, and I pull it out every now and then to remind myself of all of this.  I think maybe I’ll re-write this “unfortunate fortune” – I think I want it to say…


Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
~~Nehemiah 8:10

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Revisiting My One Word

In January of this year, I wrote a blog post about a new approach I am taking to the old “New Year’s Resolution” tradition (you can read about it here).

Since we are officially halfway through 2011, I think it’s a good time to check-in and evaluate how the “My One Word” concept is going.

The word I chose to represent what I wanted (and what I think God wants) for my life this year is RELEASE. I remember praying about it, and ever so softly hearing the word being spoken into my soul.

I also remember being excited about it, eager to “let go and let God”, anticipating freely and easily letting go of things that for so long have held me in bondage. I had visions of surrender, freedom, peace.

As time has passed, I have come to find that RELEASE is a hard word. It’s a scary word. And most of all, it’s a necessary word.

you have to let go of some things that you love,
because you know in your heart of hearts that they are not good for you

you have to trust that God knows what He’s doing,
even when things seem to be crashing down around you

And ultimately RELEASE means that WHEN you TRUST...
WHEN you LET GO...
You will see it all begin to unfold…

Right when you think your heart is breaking into a million pieces, He is beside you lovingly picking up all the pieces, holding them in His hands, patiently waiting for you to look up and surrender.

And when you look up, you will see Him do something amazing.

He will open His hands that have been holding those shattered pieces, and HE will RELEASE your mended, whole, beautiful heart…free of all those things that once held you back.

So, yes…RELEASE is HARD; RELEASE is SCARY; RELEASE is NECESSARY; and in every sense of the word RELEASE is FREEDOM!!

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
~~2 Corinthians 3:17

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