Cloudy Lessons

Clouds have fascinated me for as long as I can remember. As a daydreamer, I often look up at the sky and imagine all sorts of creatures and objects forming in them. I especially love to watch sunsets. I’m not sure what images you will see in the view from my little porch, but I’m sure they will not be the same as the ones I see. I love that about clouds, and I love that about people.

We see ourselves and others in various ways depending upon the circumstances in our lives and in theirs. Like clouds, people can be stormy, calm, or playful. Love allows us to see others in all phases of their lives and love them all the more¬†ūüíú

I see faces, angels, hearts, clouds, eagles, and even a little wolf in the images below. They are all the same view from my porch in the evening, but all are very different. I hope you will take a moment out of your busy day and let clouds carry your imagination away. It really is good for the soul ūü¶č

Desires

The truth be told,

A heart on hold

Is not what God desires.

 

He knows that love

Like that above

Is all my heart requires.

 

My will persists.

My soul insists.

So what I want transpires.

 

I get my way!

I have my say!

His voice gently retires.

 

I find myself

Upon the shelf

In a world that admires.

 

Beautiful stone

Cold and alone

Warmed by the glowing fires.

 

Suddenly real

Loving the feel

Of all my heart’s desires.

 

I start to cry

But don’t know why.

My aching heart inquires.

 

God hears my plea

And rescues me.

Beautiful change transpires.

 

Love chases fear

As He draws near

Giving me His desires.

Who Are My Gentiles?

In Ephesians 3, Paul addresses Gentiles in a manner they are not accustomed to being addressed. A man who persecuted Christians before his conversion and had great disdain for Gentiles is now calling them fellow heirs, fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise of Christ Jesus.¬†His passion for Christ and his desire to bring the message of salvation to all is proof of God’s transforming love. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the same could be said of all who claim to know Christ. Unfortunately, His simple message of love isn’t always absorbed deeply enough to allow us to love as He desires.

Christ’s precious love breaks down the barriers which divide my ¬†heart. But before that can happen, I must admit there is division and ask myself, “Who are my Gentiles?” God knows the answer but knows I must¬†come to that truth on my own. Neighbors, enemies, and those who aren’t “like me” are included in God’s kingdom. Knowing my neighbors and recognizing my enemies is easy, but identifying my Gentiles is more difficult because it reveals my judgment of others and exposes my prejudice.

Searching for truth is a tricky business that seldom leads to answers I want to hear, but with the help of the Holy Spirit, I can handle the truth.¬†Division comes from many sources, but only love can make unity possible.¬†Paul’s plea in Ephesians 3 is for such unity.

“For this reason I, Paul,¬†the prisoner of¬†Christ Jesus¬†for the sake of you¬†Gentiles‚ÄĒ¬†if indeed you have heard of the¬†stewardship of God‚Äôs grace which was given to me for you;¬†that¬†by revelation there was¬†made known to me¬†the mystery,¬†as I wrote before in brief.¬†By referring to this, when you read you can understand¬†my insight¬†into the¬†mystery of Christ,¬†which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy¬†apostles and prophets¬†in the Spirit;¬†to be specific, that the Gentiles are¬†fellow heirs and¬†fellow members of the body, and¬†fellow partakers of the promise in¬†Christ Jesus through the gospel,¬†of which I was made a¬†minister, according to the gift of¬†God‚Äôs grace which was given to me¬†according to the working of His power.¬†To me,¬†the very least of all¬†saints, this grace was given, to¬†preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable¬†riches of Christ¬†and to¬†bring to light what is the administration of the¬†mystery which for ages has been¬†hidden in God¬†who created all things;¬†so that the manifold¬†wisdom of God might now be¬†made known through the church to the¬†rulers and the authorities in¬†the heavenly¬†places.¬†This was¬†in¬†accordance with the¬†eternal purpose which He¬†carried out in¬†Christ Jesus our Lord,¬†in whom we have boldness and¬†confident¬†access through faith¬†in Him.¬†Therefore I ask¬†you not¬†to lose heart at my tribulations¬†on your behalf,¬†for they are your glory.”

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. (NASB)

Paul’s love for God enabled him to admit and forget about divisions so he could reach out to those he once hated. God will enable the same in me when I stop seeing others as other than and start seeing them as part of God’s kingdom. At a time when hearts have never been more polarized, it is vital to God’s kingdom to let Paul’s plea change our hearts.

Love is a beautiful mystery not meant to be understood. It must simply be embraced, but I cannot embrace it until I identify and love the Gentiles in my life. Then, like Paul, I can reach beyond my judgments and let God have His way with my heart. Ghandi encouraged us to be the change we wish to see in the world. I can think of no better way to do that than identifying my Gentiles and letting the Holy Spirit tear down the walls of division in my own heart.

Holy, Holy, Holy

The word holy may evoke images of Mary and Moses, but it¬†simply means readiness, ripeness, or maturity. Ripening is never an easy process, but the result is love that doesn’t depend upon circumstances for its sweetness. My son and daughter-in-law were raving about some peaches a friend had given them. They were from Georgia and tasted the way a peach should taste. The image reminded me of Christians who reflect Christ’s precious love. Like that Georgia peach, they are who God created them to be and delight those around them.

The world is filled with people and produce that are poor imitations of what they should be. Nothing is more bitter than an unripe persimmon, and sour grapes contort the countenance and the stomach. I hate buying beautiful fruit that tastes horrible when I take a bite.

Immature fruit and immature believers require time and love to ripen, but God knows holiness is worth the wait. Anyone who has eaten a peach picked in a Georgia orchard knows what a peach truly is. Those who come to the mountains of North Carolina in the fall for juicy, ripe apples understand what an apple should be. Watermelons from a field in South Carolina defy description. As a Christian, I am called to be holy; but I shy away from that call because I think it means I must be perfect. 2 Timothy 1:9 makes it clear that holiness isn’t about works or perfection. It is about God’s grace.

“who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity,” (NASB)

No one ever grew a tomato as delicious as the ones my father grew in the little garden behind our house. ¬†The taste of that first tomato sandwich in July was well worth the long wait, but daddy ruined me when it came to tomatoes because none meet his high standards. He saved the seeds from his tomatoes and planted them in the spring. They were seeds from his father’s farm and probably from his grandfather’s before that. Heirloom is the term used to describe such tomatoes, and that is precisely what they were. I knew my granddaddy’s tomatoes because I knew my daddy’s tomatoes, and I know God’s love because I know His Son’s precious love.

I fall short when it comes to being the Christian I should be, but I do try to love as Christ loved. I’ve stopped trying to be perfect because I know God wants me to be ready, not perfect. Perfection will only come when I am in His presence. I think the world is excessively hard on Christians, and no one bashes Christians more than those who call themselves Christians or use some other term that means the same thing. I imagine a bad experience caused the disdain, but I do wish they would stop bashing and start loving.

I’ve stopped expecting tomatoes to taste like daddy’s, but I do have a glimmer of hope each time I find an heirloom tomato that resembles one of daddy’s. I plan to keep on looking for that elusive tomato because the alternative is to stop eating tomatoes and go around talking about how much I miss the good old tomatoes of the past. I’m sure others would soon tire of my tirades just as I tire of the tirades against Christians. Watching those little seeds grow and waiting anxiously for them to ripen was a lot of what made them so special. I was invested in those tomatoes, and I knew them personally. The love daddy had for those tomatoes was a bigger part. Anyone who knew Foy Holden, knew how much he loved his tomatoes. I pray I will have the same love for God’s children, especially those who are not yet ripe.

I haven’t found a perfect Christian, and I’m not looking for one because I know God isn’t looking for one either.

Jesus Smiling