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I believe in a thing called love – even when it’s running late.

The leaves were running late this year.

The leaves in Northern Pennsylvania typically begin changing color in early October. By October 13th the annual green leaf transformation is usually well underway and dazzling shades of red, yellow and orange are expected to display their finest glory on October 19th – give or take a day or two.

But not this year.

In early October the leaves didn’t begin their annual color change. When October 13th arrived most of the trees were still covered in green. Then the 19th came and went without even the slightest hint of a fall foliage display.

It was around that time that Northern nature lovers began questioning the absence of autumn’s seasonal tree transformation. Where are the colors of fall? They asked. When will the leaves change? People wondered. Where is the beauty of autumn we all expect to see this time of year? Was the question on everyone’s mind – mine included.

Fall is my favorite time of year and when the leaves didn’t change colors I missed the beautiful foliage scenes expected during the month of October. I become depressed, worrying that this year the leaves would never change color. I became sad when I imagined an October without nature’s autumn masterpieces painted across the Northern Pennsylvania landscape.

And then I saw it. I saw fall on full display in the mighty Maple tree.

On October 30 while driving down the road on a bright blue Tuesday morning I saw a gorgeous Maple tree draped in autumn leaves as stunning as spun gold. Swaying peacefully in the gentle wind stood flawless fall foliage on grand display. The sun hit the leave’s yellow hues and made them sparkle and shine. The Maple tree was seasonally picture-perfect, as if it had been cut from the cover of a fall foliage brochure.

Gazing upon the golden kissed Maple Tree all of my questions and concerns about the future of fall disappeared. I breathed a sigh of relief, reassured that the leaves were still destined to change color. The golden leaves on the Maple tree stood as irrefutable evidence that the seasons still shift the way they always have – just not according to my time.

The glorious vision of the Maple tree reassured me of God’s faithfulness to the seasons. Even when the green stayed on the trees weeks past what is considered “typical,” God’s forecast for fall was already predetermined and established. The transformation of the trees was always destined to arrive according to His perfect timing.

And so it is with love in my life.

God is as faithful to my love life as He is to the changing leaves on the trees. The dazzling, and slightly delayed, Maple tree reassured me that God has the love of my life predetermined and established, destined to arrive according to God’s perfect timing.

God has not abandoned me as a twenty-eight year old single. Although love appears to be running late, God has my future scheduled according to His perfect timing. I trust and believe that the very Author of love, the Ultimate Match-Maker, is writing my love story so that, when the time is just right, a love as glorious and golden as a Maple tree at the peak of fall foliage will be revealed upon the landscape of my life.

The love of my life is going to arrive just like the colors that transformed the Maple tree. Later than usually but as brilliant and beautiful as ever.

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A Stain is a Stain

The disposable paper cup was still quite full with steaming hot double-double when the coffee collision occurred. It was an innocent accident, the sort of mishap that can easily transpire while moving with haste in the presence of a hot beverage.

The spill happened so fast I had no time to react. One moment I was completely clean and coffeeless. The next I was covered in medium roast.

The moment the hot liquid hit I hopped up, hoping to minimize the damage but it was too late. The cup’s lid had popped off, releasing a flood of coffee rushing in my direction. By the time I stood up my lap was already thoroughly caffeinated along with my feet and brand new sneakers.

I quickly slipped off my shoes and ran them under cold water. Then, with the help of a damp paper towel, I went to work on cleaning my pants and was pleased when the coffee disappeared in a jiffy.

With my sneakers and pants cleaned and socks replaced I thought that all consequences of the coffee collision had been avoided until I caught a glimpse of my shirt. At the very top of my brand new blue t-shirt was one little round coffee stain. While I had been busy worrying about my shoes I had forgotten to look at my shirt. An hour post spill, when I finally thought to inspect it, the coffee spot on my new, once flawless shirt was completely dry and quite obvious.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “It’s just a shirt….It’s just a little spot…It’s not a big deal.” And you’re right. Shirts are just material possessions. They have no lasting value. A little stain on a shirt is nothing to cry over.

But what if that shirt were my soul?

You see, the trouble is not how I treat shirt stains; it’s treat soul stains.

When I sin do I check my entire being as well as I check my entire attire after a coffee spill? Do I throw off my sinful ways as quickly as I threw off my stained sneakers? Do I rush to God for cleansing and renewal as hastily as I rushed to the sink to clean up my pants and change my socks? Do I check my whole heart, mind and soul for wrong thoughts, motives and feelings? Or do I neglect to search my whole being like I neglected to check my whole wardrobe?

The moral of the coffee spill story is that a stain is a stain no matter how small.

Whether the sin comes rushing in like a flood or simply splatters a few droplets, the result is a stain. Once sin enters in the whole heart, soul and mind get stained meaning that the whole heart, soul and mind need cleansed. I cannot allow sin to be spilled in my life and address only the obvious stains. I must look everywhere, surrender everything and take my whole being before the throne of grace to get clean.

The longer a stain sits on a shirt the harder it is to get out and the same is true in the human heart. The longer I let sin go without the treatment of God’s correction, forgiveness and renewal, the more difficult it will be for me to come and allow Him to perform His work of washing in my life. I become more stubborn and less remorseful the longer sin sits in my heart. I become more tolerant and less troubled by the sin the more time spent with it tainting my life.

Thankfully, no matter how dry and troubling the stain of sin, God can thoroughly and completely clean it up. With the washing of regeneration that comes by way of Christ’s cross, God can remove every blemish, spot and stain. Even if the spill occurred decades ago, God can eliminate all evidence of the sin. When we give Him our whole selves and let Him have His will and way, God can and will wash every part of us and make us brand new for the glory of Jesus’ name.

 

Although the coffee stain had already set and dried on my new shirt all hope was not lost. With a good, thorough spot cleaning, the coffee spot disappeared. Now I can look at the shirt from every angle and in every light and never see the slightest remnant of stain. If I never told anyone, no one would ever know my new shirt had ever encountered a hot coffee collision.

And so it with us.

Once God cleans us up it is as if the stain never happened. He removes our sin as far as the east is from the west. He restores us with grace and gives us a fresh start. He gives us new life through the power of the risen Jesus Christ.

It’s true that a stain is a stain no matter how small but the good news is that God is the One who can remove them all.

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God’s purpose for pain? Prayer.

God always has a purpose for my pain and its always prayer.

Until I’m in need of relief from physical pain my dialogue with God is half-hearted at best. It often takes bodily suffering to transform my pathetic, weak prayer life into an ongoing, intimate conversation with the Lord on High. Time and time again God has allowed the stress of physical distress to enter my life in order that I would be compelled to passionately and fervently converse with Him in prayer.

Why is it that I wait for pain to propel me to prayer? Talking with God is as fundamental to my spiritual well-being as breathing is to my physical well-being. Yet when I am physically well I am prone to neglect my prayer life and allow it my conversation with God to become feeble and infrequent and, before I know it, I become spiritually unwell.

In his New Testament letter, James wrote to the twelve tribes that if any of them were afflicted they should pray. If they were merry they should sing psalms and songs of praise. (James 5:13) James was echoing the instruction of Paul who wrote to the Ephesians to “… pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” (Ephesians 6:18)

Both Paul and James knew that the secret to living united with Christ is consistently and constantly talking to God through prayer. When communication suffers, faith fails. When intimate conversation with God goes silent, strength in His Spirit falters.

God desires that His children remain relentless in their prayerful condition regardless of their physical condition. In sickness and in health, God wants us to engage in and enjoy loyal, constant, consistent conversation with Him. God yearns to communicate with us in all circumstances – on easy days and hard days; painful days or days of ease. God desires to talk with us and walk with us so He can strengthen and guide us along paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

Pain has been the catalyst for many of my most heartfelt prayers but in order for my relationship with Christ to be healthy and fruitful, pain cannot be the only reason I pray. For the well-being of my faith, my prayer life cannot be pain dependent. Whether it be through tearful laments or tears of joy, I must continually to talk to God in all circumstances and on all occasions because God always wants to talk to me.

And He wants to talk to you, too.

Don’t wait for pain to pray. Speak to your Heavenly Father today. Right here. Right now.

And then get ready to listen because God is always eager to engage in a beautiful, fruitful, blessed, ENDLESS conversation with His beloved.

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Boils, Bubbles & Belief

I approached the mirror for the specific purpose of inspecting my nose (a relatively large sniffer to begin with) but not even I was prepared for the reality of my reflection. The moment my eyes caught a glimpse of my nose I recoiled, shocked by the face staring back at me.

The night before my nose inspection the outside of my right nostril had become tender and painful. Now it was morning and the pressure was even more intense. I felt the side of my nose and detected a large bump. Praying the protrusion was just a nasty pimple I hurried to the bathroom to take a closer look but my pimple hopes were dashed the moment I approached the mirror. What I witnessed in my reflection was worse – and bigger – than I’d imagined. It only took a second to diagnose that I had a gigantic, fire-red, inflamed boil growing on the side of my nose.

Confronted with the reality of my boil I immediately became discouraged. In the past few months many of my symptoms had been reducing – back pain, muscle spasms, visual disturbances, hot flashes. I had been flying high on revitalized health but now, when I looked at my nose, I couldn’t see a single physical gain. All I could see was a pussy, painful step backwards.

The boil was well on its way to defeating my spirit and hope for the future until I recalled my “bubble saga.”

The bubble that appeared on my left eyelid last December was an infectious cyst-like growth that disrupted my vision and held me hostage wearing glasses. The bubble remained on my eyelid for nearly half a year and grew to gargantuan, unsightly proportions before miraculously healing – praise God!

During my bubble saga the pussy protrusion often appeared as if it were about to burst but God never abandoned my eyelid. Although the bubble was tender and painful it never ruptured. Even when it grew so large I couldn’t open my eye fully, God never allowed that bubble to burst. He protected my vision and spared my eyelid so that, in His perfect time, it could heal by His perfect ways.

To this day I don’t know the science behind why my infection developed into a bubble on my eyelid but I do know why it healed. Because God intended for it to heal. Without medical intervention, surgery or prescriptions, God intended for the bubble to miraculously go away.

As I surveyed the boil on my nose discouragement and fear ceased at the memory of my bubble saga. Why should I worry about a boil when God has already proved He can sustain and heal my body? What power does an unsightly growth have over my hope and belief when I am in the hands of the Great Physician?

Because I believe God is able to do anything and know that nothing is impossible for Him, my boil cannot rob me of my peace or discourage me with the threat of defeat.

Because I am fully assured that God can perform any and every extraordinary miracle He so chooses I can look at any bubble, boil or infectious growth and continue to remain at rest.

Because God promises to always take care of me and has always been true to His word, I can be at peace regardless of my physical condition.

As I write this post my nose is still plagued by a boil that it is still causing me pain. For all I know this boil could stick around for six months just like its bubbly predecessor or longer if that be God’s will.

Although the future of my boil is still unknown the future of my hope and belief is secure because I know who is in control and who is working all things – boils and bubbles included – together for my good. The Lord God Almighty who upholds my life and oversees every fiber of my being has plans to make me boil-iful (I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist) for my good and His glory.

God is good.

God is faithful.

And He isn’t finished yet.