Ann and Darrell in the Smokies. “My sweatshirt always makes people smile.”
You Have To Look At The Map
When we go on vacation, one of the things I enjoy most is finding a nature trail to walk. My husband, not a hiker by nature, generally follows along because he’s too much of gentleman to let me face the “bears in the woods” by myself. We usually get a map of the available trails at the tourist information center before we strike out into the wild. While we invariably check the distance and difficulty level before we pick a trail, we often then stuff the map in a pocket and forget about it. After all, the path is there before us, well marked by countless other feet that have traversed it on other days. We’ll step along enjoying the beauty of the day, noticing the different types of trees or flowers, searching the shadows for a glimpse of the animals that surely hide there waiting for these worrisome intruders to pass on by. Then sometimes we will get far into the woods and suddenly the path is not so plain. The trees no longer sport blazes of red or blue to point the right direction. We wander along a bit farther searching for a slash of color on one of the trees.
Then about when we start thinking we might have to set up camp in the woods, we remember the map stuffed in a pocket. My husband will unfold it and study its curves and creeks and point the way. I follow along even when I’m sure he’s got it totally backwards. That’s wisdom on my part because if I don’t keep in mind whether I entered a mall store by the shoes or the men’s clothes, I’d be forever wandering the parking lots in search of my car. But with my husband’s surer sense of direction before long we emerge from the woods and there, wonder of wonders, will sit our car waiting for us. But why do we wait so long to look at the map?
That’s the way we can be with God’s map for our lives the Bible. We stride forward sure we know the way. What do we need with a map? But then we head down the wrong path or the trail disappears and there’s nothing but weeds and briar bushes in front of us. We’re lost. God’s map has been there the whole time to show us the way, but a map doesn’t do you much good if you never unfold it. God wants us to unfold His map and read His word. God wants us to follow the path He has marked for us.
In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Proverbs 3:6 (NKJ)
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105 (NKJ)
I’m a wildflower nut, even when wildflower is a polite word for a weed that just happens to have some kind of bloom. Even a tiny blossom in the grass that hardly looks important enough to have a name can stop me in my tracks for a closer look. One day as I walked across the fresh spring grass in the pasture, I spotted a tiny blue bloom I hadn’t noticed before. The flower was not as big around as a pencil eraser, and the four little petals were a delicate blue. The flower seemed to be lifting its head bravely out of the grass to reach for the sun. Yet because it was so small, its color was almost drowned out by the green of the grass blades. Then when I stood up, I noticed there wasn’t just one of these little flowers. There were hundreds of them. So many that when I looked across the field, the ground turned a hazy blue.
As Christians we can sometimes feel like that small, insignificant flower thinking that we can’t make a difference in the world of grass blades around us. Yet if we open our lives to the “Son” we can make a difference no matter how small, and when we join together with all the other Christians in the world around us we can change the color of the world.
Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done with love. I Corinthians 16:12-14 (NKJ)
The Lesson of the Dandelion
God made the dandelion and said, “It is good. This plant is tough but has a bloom like a spot of sun to make my children smile. It is plentiful so they can eat the leaves and still never lack for flowers.” He smiled when the seed ball popped up. “Yes, my little children will have fun with that, and look at all the fresh seeds for my songbirds weary from the winter. Yes, it is good.”
Ah, the dandelion, that common yellow flower that blooms from spring to fall and even sometimes in the dead of winter after a few days of sunshine. This spring was a particularly good dandelion season. For a while all the lawns and fields were dotted with their sunspots. The roar of lawnmowers soon followed, but dandelions know when to duck their heads so that the next day they can push their white fluffy seed balls high into the air to cover the lawns like snow. It’s not hard to imagine God smiling as children run out to free the seeds to the wind and the birds enjoy the springtime feast and mothers receive wilted bouquets of the blooms from small warm fists, love in its purest form. Yet has there ever been any other flower that more money or labor has been spent attempting to eradicate? We poison it, chop it, dig it out by the roots, and still the dandelion not only survives, but flourishes.
The early Christians had that same staying power as the world tried to destroy them, but they put their trust in Jesus and would not be conquered. Today Christians have spread all over the world. Are we sunspots of God’s love in whatever place we’re planted? Do we share the seeds of our faith with those who need nourishment after a hard winter? Do we remember the children to be sure the message is always carried on? Does God look down at what we’re doing and say, “Yes, it is good?”
And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. Genesis 1:12 (NKJ)
Letting the Lord Guide Our Steps Out of Trouble
Sharing hiking space with a herd of cattle means that you have to watch where you’re stepping when you venture out in the pasture for a walk. After many years of walking where cows are constantly leaving their calling cards, you get accustomed to changing stride to dodge cow pies in your path, or if you get distracted, cleaning your hiking shoes.
Once the young daughter of a preacher was visiting and wanted to walk to the pond to look for frogs. Full of the independence five years of living had given her, she naturally enough didn’t want my hand on her shoulder guiding her through the field. She liked being out in the open. She liked being free of restraints. She was ready to have fun until she stepped in the middle of a cow pie. Being an especially ladylike little girl, she was horrified as her shoe sank into the muck. I rushed to her rescue but before I could guide her out of the mess, she quite deliberately planted both feet in another cow pie.
For those of you who aren’t cow pie experts, let me give you a lesson. There is a stage of cow pie fertilization where the top of the cow pie becomes a hard grayish brown crust while underneath the yucky mess is still quite solvent. This is the type of cow pie my little friend stepped on. Now with both her shoes completely mucked up and afraid to step anywhere, she dissolved into tears as she wailed, “I thought it was a rock.”
Hugs and a little soap and water took care of my young friend’s troubles. But it made me think that sometimes we’re like my little friend in that we don’t look for guidance when we’ve made a bad step. We just plunge ahead looking for our own way out and end up in a bigger mess. Jesus wants us to stop and look to him when we make a bad step. With his hand on our shoulder to guide us, our steps out of trouble will be sure and safe.
The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the Lord upholds him with His hand. Psalm 37:23-24 (NKJ)