Flourishing in Barrenness

During a powerful windstorm I was watching leaves fiercely being plucked from the tree in my front yard. The afternoon wind relentlessly yanked the amber leaves until at dusk; all that remained was the skeleton of the tree.

How beautiful that tree was at sunrise and by night fall it was vastly changed.

It made me think of Job. Job woke up one day on the top of the world and in a short period of time he was stripped of his wealth, his family, and friends.

How many times have I been stripped of something and temporarily my faith goes with it? As a writer, rejection is a huge part of my life. Sometimes I allow rejection to strip me of my confidence and belief that I am doing what God has called me to do.

I watched a documentary on Yellowstone. They were discussing forest fires. Looking at the the barrenness left behind by devastating forest fires, I was heartbroken at all the glorious green that was turned to rubble and stripped by the raging flames. The charred blackened earth looked desolate and barren, similar to the way my spirit feels sometimes.

I learned about a certain tree whose seeds can only regenerate after a fire. Yellowstone geologists showed tiny shoots that emerge amidst the black barrenness within days of the fire. They even mentioned that the burned out area is like a firewall of sorts that will protect the area from another fire for up to 100 years.

“After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before. All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house.” Job 42:10-11

Interesting that growth happened in the midst of what seemed to be desolation. Growth with roots! Job was restored, the forest regenerated. So the trial yields something beneficial?

“These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire test and purifies gold – though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So that when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” 1 Peter 1:7.

Point to Ponder: Are you in a season of barrenness or testing? Do you feel God allowing things to be stripped away? Look deep perhaps you will see the tiniest shoot of growth, it may be small but it has the potential to grow into a flourishing forest of faith. Enduring the stripping seems worth it when you know the outcome will be positive – that is His Promise!



Loved to Death

Have you ever really loved something or someone so much that it hurt? The other day I heard someone say excitedly, “Oh I just love that show to death”! It caused me to wonder where that expression came from. I love words, and as a writer, realize the power they have. Where did that phrase originate? Have you ever said it?

Photo by Linda Jackman Photography

Have you loved something or someone that you would die for? It prompted me to ponder what has that kind of value in my life? My spouse and my children, “some” of my family members, but that is about it. I’d love to have a house at the beach but I wouldn’t kill for it, nor would I die for it.

What would it be like to be loved to death – imagine it. Loved so well and so much that you couldn’t stand it, you couldn’t speak or breathe you just felt nothing but love 24-7?

We don’t have to imagine, because we all have been. Jesus loved us to death. Literally.

Jesus Loved us to Death. Can you feel the power in those words? He didn’t give up on us. He knew we were going to try and fail and some of us not try at all. He knew we would lie, cheat and steal. He didn’t give up on us. He gave it all up for us.

Sometimes I feel like quitting, giving in and throwing in the towel – on myself, and on my projects. Nurturing, growing, improving, maturing me; it seems like so much effort. Sometimes I feel worthless and undervalued mostly in my own eyes because of my shortcomings and my failures.

But Jesus loved me to death.

In light of those words, quitting or giving up seems like squandering or wasteful. If Jesus thought we were worth dying for, and he is all knowing and never wrong. Why is it so hard for us to see ourselves as worth that? Worth dying for.

Perhaps it is the lenses we use to view ourselves. The world’s lens tells us one story, while the spousal or kid lens gives us another image. Then there is the parent or work lens which can give us a totally different perspective. The view changes based on the lens we are looking through.

Since no one ever gave up more for us than Jesus, we need to look at ourselves through His lens. It isn’t easy and it isn’t natural. I have a dear friend who struggles to do this ever and she is miserable. I have other friends who are confident women and it seems easy for them to use the “JESUS” lens. Personally, I struggle with it and it hinders me.

I am going to try harder to see myself through the Lenses of the ONE that loved me to death. Join me!

Point to Ponder:

What lenses are you using to view yourself? How would your life be different if you saw yourself as Jesus sees you – worth dying for?

Can You Hear Me Now? PART TWO

Last week we explored asking God the question, “Can you hear me now?” when we feel our prayers are bouncing off the ceiling. This week let’s take a look at it from God’s perspective.

Hey! You down there – beating your head against the wall… ”can you hear Me now?”

Sometimes I can picture God with a megaphone trying to get my attention. My life is loud. I’ve got the stuff most people have plus junk that is my own stuff. Junk and stuff they can clutter our lives when there is no outlet. Think Hoarding…insert mental visual here.

Recently I was reading about Devil’s Lake in North Dakota. An Associated Press story reported:

It’s been called a slow-growing monster: a huge lake that has steadily expanded over the last 20 years, swallowing up thousands of acres, hundreds of buildings and at least two towns in its rising waters. Devils Lake keeps getting larger because it has no natural river or stream to carry away excess rain and snowmelt. Now it has climbed within 6 feet of overflowing, raising fears that some downstream communities could be washed away if the water level isn’t reduced.

Towns, homes, and acres of land have been consumed by this lake. I think about my sanity and my quiet time being consumed by my junk and my stuff. With a life so loud, it can be hard for God’s answers or his directions to get through. Perhaps prompting him to wonder “Can you hear Me now?”.

When my stuff builds up and my junk begins to overtake my life because it has no outlet, the noise level rises and that “still small voice” is reduced to negative decibels.

It seems that my trials come in the wake of such noise. I often wonder if it is a lack of spiritual discipline on my part that allows the negative stuff to assail me because I’ve been wrong. But sometimes I wonder if God just misses me. He knows at the first hint of trouble I come a runnin’ and praying to him, so perhaps these issues are “allowed into my life” because God misses my conversations, my praise, my worship, and simply my NEEDING him. See, he is a jealous God and my junk, stuff and noise, take my time and focus from Him.

“In repentance and rest is your salvation; in quietness and trust is your strength…”    Isaiah 30:15

He created us with a desire for Him. We are created in His image. He desires and longs for a relationship with us. When our stuff gets in the way, we are weaker. God himself rested on the seventh day. Give your spirit a rest.

Can you hear Him now?

Point to Ponder: What can you tune down in your life so that you can hear Him now?

Can you hear me now?

Do you remember the Verizon Commercials where a guy went all over the place to test that his network was working and his message getting through? How often does our prayer life seem that way?

Have you asked this of God? Can you hear me now? How often have we come to the end of ourselves and felt our prayers were bouncing off of the ceiling? One pastor said that God answers all prayers in His time. He said when we get a NO. It is still an answer. So is a NOT YET. But the answer we are looking for is usually a YES!

Talking to someone this morning reminded me of walking in those shoes. Praying fervently and feeling like I wasn’t getting anywhere. Remembering and having those feelings well back up reminded me that GOD did answer… eventually in my situation. But it was after I had come to the end of myself.

How can we have unshakeable faith. I’ve known people who’ve had it. Horatio G. Spafford penned the hymn “It is well with my soul” near the very spot where his four daughters drowned in a shipwreck in 1871.

“When peace like a river attendeth my way.
When Sorrows like sea-billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say.
It is well, it is well with my soul.”

How does a man have that kind of peace amidst the indescribable pain of losing his family?

Romans 5: 3-4 says, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.”

My journal reads: But God, I want to be a sprinter. I don’t want to be an endurance athlete.

Perhaps when I lose that mind set, my endurance training will be over. Maybe it won’t end, it just won’t seem like training anymore. It will be part of my character like it was Horatio’s. Horatio didn’t ask if God could hear him. He knew God was listening. He was reassuring God when he said, “It is well with my soul”. I pray today for that kind of faith for me and for the person on the other end of my conversation this morning.

Is it well with your soul? Is there a race that you are tired of running? Are you wondering if God is hearing you? Start believing regardless of the outcome, “It is well with my soul” and perhaps your victory will be in a most unexpected place.  (Watch for Can You Hear Me Now Part II next week)

Point to Ponder: How would your life be different if you declared victory today?

Writer Possessed or Enthusiastic?

I love Greek food. Hummus, tabouli, stuffed grape leaves, olive oil anything yummo! And I think the language is pretty cool too. I know the alphabet because I had to learn it while pledging in college. Yeah Sigma Delta Phi!

I just came across the definition of ENTHUSIASM according to the Greek…

The word enthusiasm comes from the ancient Greek word eufousiasmz EN +THEOS meaning “inspired by or possessed by God”.

The word comes from the ancient Orphic (Orpheus) religious belief system as well as the writings of Plato. The two key meanings in English of the word are:

1. Possession by a god, supernatural inspiration, prophetic or poetic ecstasy; and

2. Rapturous intensity of feeling on behalf of a person, cause, etc: passionate eagerness in any pursuit.

One word that people use to describe me other than loud is “enthusiastic” about whatever I am doing. They usually say it while shaking their heads and rolling their eyes like its negative, now I know better! I tend to have a sort of zest that folks notice. If you are going to do anything, especially mundane and boring tasks, I am all about making them fun.

Recently we sat in traffic. My three kids 16,14 and 9 on a hot black stretch of road called Interstate 80W which we dubbed the “slow road to nowhere” during our recent trip across PA. We sang, we shouted, we waved, we rocked the truck, we did Chinese fire drills – we had a blast! No gloominess, just hilarious! We made a fun memory out of a yucky situation. We relieved stress and arrived home with stories!

When I think of getting “Beside the Sea with Thee” published. I work with enthusiasm. Not only to get it out and on to the next one, but because I enthusiastically want people to experience God through his creation. Sometimes I picture God creating stuff like actually breathing things into existence. He is the author of enthusiasm. He could have stopped at one kind of fish, or one kind of crab…but NO! He created a plethora of species of everything. What was he thinking when he created the penguin? Really can you look at one and not smile? What about that nasty evil looking angler fish..yikes!

When I put words together without praying first, it is all drab and uninspired but after seeking the Creator, it seems I can tackle CREATING with enthusiasm. Now thanks to the Greek dictionary…I know why…EN THEOS…

Now it is your turn! Point to Ponder:

What are you enthusiastic about and why. And how long has it been since you enjoyed it? Why?

Creating something out of Nothing…literally

The week after being tremendously blessed at a Writer’s Conference I am tool-LESS. Is this a word? Nope. It is my reality however. Shortly after being inspired, energized and equipped to pursue my craft and the progress of publishing my book, it happened.

The first “it” was a power surge that fried the surge protector in my office. No Modem, No Router, No Cordless Phone for awhile. I felt adrift. Full of words but no way to share them. But, I did have my cell phone as a link to the outside world. I had it that is until Saturday Morning. The next “it” was when a ride on the Phantom’s Revenge Roller Coaster went horribly wrong according to my cell phone which at some point during the 92 MPH twisty and turny ride was liberated from my pocket. Daughter Hannah made a valiant attempt at retrieval, but alas in the blink of an eye it bounced off the car behind us and fell into that great abyss under the coaster.

So, my contacts, calendar, texts, photos and yes my lifeline remain at Kennywood.

Determined to think positively of being reunited with my phone, I filled out the proper paperwork to have it sent to my house when found. In the meantime, it is quiet. I am undisturbed. No buzzing or ringing.

The lesson? I think I am being forced to spend more time Communicating with my CREATOR than actually Creating. I am not complaining. During this time of cyber solitude and being UNnetworked, I am reading more and searching more. I am enjoying the change. I actually enjoy being unwired and unteathered.

My new office is Panera, where I have been able to enjoy a cup of coffee and a REAL conversation or two with people I bump into daily. Face to Face Chatting has its benefits especially when they are buying .

I am getting out of the house more regularly but am MORE productive house wise when I am there.

This is forcing me to be organized about what is a priority and what is not when I do get my computer time.

So life has seemingly handed me lemons. I choose to make Lemonade from them. The pondering point for the day?

What negative situation have you been in that you turned around to make it a positive experience?

Now it is your turn to write if you have time. I promise I’ll read it. Better yet, meet me at Panera for coffee and oh, bring your wallet!

Blessings,

Connie

Pondering St. Patrick of Ireland and Nature

I’ve been writing and speaking for more than 20 years. I’ve always enjoyed pondering about and crafting a talk. I love weaving imagery into whatever I am trying to communicate to the audience.

Pondering is the bud of my writing. I love to ponder things I see, hear, smell and read. Quotes like “The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn,” by Ralph Waldo Emerson can roll around for days in my mind. Images of nature seem to stick with me.

St. Patrick of Ireland used a shamrock to explain the Trinity. He knew that we could see something and learn something about God by reflection on His creation.

I believe, like St. Patrick, that nature—created by God—reflects His glory.

Through this blog and my book series “Kissed by the Creator” I convey to readers the awesomeness of God through his magnificent creations.

When speaking to people about the sea, heads nod – not to sleep! – they nod in kinship. The sea seems to universally speak to us. In my book, “Beside the Sea with Thee” I take the reader on a vacation for their soul. It is a reflective book that offers hope, encouragement and a respite from the noisy world. (book is in editing currently)

From the book… “

Before you can see it, you can smell it. The aroma of life-giving water combined with the aroma of the gifts of the sea – the shells, fish, plants and creatures that combine to form one of the most fascinating ecosystems on the planet.


With reckless abandon you grab those who love you best and run to the sea as if called by some strange force of nature. You mount the top of the dune or boardwalk and drink it in – the smells, the sight of water that stretches beyond your imagination and you feel the rhythm of the sea. That life-giving sea …

Speaking topics and retreats spawned from the book include: “Buried Treasure”, “Surviving the Sea of ….”, and “Rx 4 H2O”. For more information please contact me, Connie Pilston Shoemaker at kissedbythecreator@gmail.com

I welcome your comments and hope you will participate in the pondering here when you have time or when the spirit moves you to contribute.

Today’s point to ponder, please feel free to comment below.

“What aspect of nature stirs your soul?

Is it a sunrise? A flower? A majestic 10 point buck with symmetrical rack? A hummingbird nest? What causes you to stop in your tracks, breathe deeply and just Know…’this is something special’ ?

Your turn to write!

For the Beauty of the Earth

Ok, so this is blogging?  I just returned from a writer’s conference and was told that blogging is crucial to build your platform as an author…so here goes.

This is my introduction to blogging and my introduction to you.

I have always been profoundly impacted by the world around me.  Sights, smells and sounds of nature have always resonated deep within me.  Hiking in the woods with leaves and sticks crunching at my feet has always brought me a sense of peace.  Digging toes into cold wet sand and listening to the symphony of the sea has given me a center or a calmness I was seeking.  Working on my knees in the cool dirt in the morning as the dew glistens like starlight on my plants has made me feel closer to the Creator.

Personally I think standing on the top of a mountain, at the edge of the sea or in a forest with trees so tall they kiss the sky, makes both me and my problems seem small.  Like a God who created all this big and beautiful stuff, can surely tend to my small needs.  He is a Creator of beauty of big things and small things.  Surely he has created my heart so he knows how to fix it.  This gives me hope.

It is that closeness to the Creator that inspires me to write and to create.  And so a book was conceived about the sea, but not yet born.  It is still in the fetus stages of development and is being shaped and formed as ideas and possibilities are nurtured.

Thus the beginning of the blog.  Hopefully you will enjoy what you read here, tell your friends and comeback and visit soon.