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Bloom Where You’re Planted

“Bloom where you’re planted” is one of my favorite sayings and a sentence I strive to live by. To bloom where you’re planted means to thrive and flourish in the life conditions God has placed you. Or, as Paul put it in his letter to the Philippians, to be “content whatever the circumstances.” (4:11)

While working on my blooming skills I’ve discovered that reciting the sentence is a whole lot easier than actually growing the blossoms. Thankfully, God is the faithful and patient Gardener who has not given up on tending to my flowers while teaching me how to grow more bountiful, beautiful blooms. Under the care of God’s cultivation I have learned that the following three principles are key to experiencing blooms right where you’re planted.

1.     Be content in the soil of your circumstances.

Different types of flowers flourish best in different soils. Some species need moist soil while others grow best in dry conditions. And so it is with people. We do not all thrive in the same circumstantial soil. One person is best planted in physical suffering while another person will flourish under the demands of a laborious job. One will thrive single while another will grow fuller and stronger as one of half of a pair. God knows what we need and He plants us in the right soil to produce the very best blooms.

To experience the blessing of a healthy, bountiful garden we must remain content in our soil. Transplanting to what we believe will be more favorable conditions could prove disastrous for our blooms. The best growing conditions will always be in the unique ground of God’s flawless choosing.

2.     Enjoy your ideal exposure.

Like soil, sun and shade conditions are not one-size-fits-all. Cacti thrive in the direct desert sun. In fact, they will die without the light. But Begonias prefer shade. Too much sun will cause them to shrivel up and die.

You and I function much the same. One person will flourish in the heat while another will need the cool of the shade. To wish we had a different exposure to the world and its elements won’t aid in our growth. Seeking the wrong exposure could actually prove fatal.

It is always best to enjoy the exposure God has determined is just right for your ideal growth. If He leaves you in the quiet, enjoy the silence. If He surrounds you with activity, embrace the commotion. God knows the exposure that will serve you best and bring the most glory to His great name.

3.     Be satisfied with your saturation.

Back to the cacti we go for a perfect picture of the dangers of over watering. If cacti have too much water they won’t survive. Cacti were created to stand strong in climates with little rainfall.

Like wise, God purposefully plants people in grounds that are destined to experience drought. You and I may look up to the sky and wonder when God will send down blessings like rainfall but if we are a flower created to flourish in a dry and barren land we need not fear the lack of water. God never withholds what we need. If He does not deem it best to send down blessings in showers He will cultivate His goodness from the root up.

God knows how best to water the soil of the soul. Resist the urge to grab the hose. Be satisfied with your saturation and leave the soaking up to Him.

 

There is one more secret to blooming right where you’re planted and it holds the other three principles together: trust.

“Trust the Lord your God with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5)

When we trust God, the master Gardener, to cultivate our garden and tend to our flowers He never disappoints. When we leave it up to Him, He always makes us bloom beautifully right where He plants us.

You need not have a green thumb to bloom where you’re planted. All you need is to know the Master Gardener and entrust the garden of your life to His care.

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Enjoy the Ride (and the view)

“NO SINGLE RIDERS.”

The rules were printed in big, bold red letters and displayed so prominently they couldn’t be missed. Solo rides were not allowed on the amusement park Ferris wheel…under any conditions.

A ride on the Ferris wheel was the sole reason I had entered the amusement park in the first place. It was a perfect summer evening to take in the view of the sun setting over the lake and I planned to enjoy it riding in a solo Ferris wheel car. In hand I had the four tickets needed for one person to enter the ride. I was all set for a single’s adventure until I saw the sign.

Despite the crystal clear no non-sense warning, I paused at the ride’s entrance and considered my options. I wondered if maybe, after waiting in line and putting on my sweetest (most pathetic) face, I could persuade the ride operator to make an exception. If that didn’t work out, maybe I could join a small group that had room to spare in their car. If I asked nicely, I might be able to snag the extra seat.

For a few minutes I stood by the ride’s entrance as groups of teens, families with small kids and couples on dates went dashing up the walkway prepared to enjoy a ride on the Ferris wheel. I couldn’t bring myself to encroach on anyone’s evening nor was it proper to ask for a solo rider exception. So, with four unused tickets in hand, I turned and walked away from the Ferris wheel.

Dejected but not defeated, I decided I would use my tickets and find a different ride that welcomes singles. I heard the roller coaster off in the distance and, for a moment, thought that might be a fun adventure. But the roller coaster ride is over so quickly there would be no time to enjoy a view of the sunset.

To my right I could see single passenger swings flying high up in the air and decided that would be the right ride for me. I was about to walk in that direction until I heard yelling above my head. I looked up and was filled with joy when I saw the perfect attraction for a solo rider.

The Sky Ride.

Fifteen minutes and three tickets later, I was up in the air traveling slowly above the amusement park. The Sky ride didn’t ban singles from riding. In fact, the bench seats were filled with solo travelers enjoying a peaceful ride above the park while taking in a breathtaking sunset view.

On my solo amusement park adventure I was reminded that while traveling through life there are rides that aren’t suited for singles. There are particular adventures, events and occasions that only welcome couples and groups. Certain life experiences cannot be enjoyed alone. But that doesn’t mean that singles should leave the park of life dejected with perfectly good, unused tickets in hand. Attached isn’t the only way to ride through life while enjoying a beautiful view.

The park of life is full of rides that welcome single riders. If one ride in particular can’t be enjoyed alone you need not walk away dejected or throw away your opportunity to experience a full life. All you need to do is look up and out to discover that there are countless opportunities to use the ticket God has given you. In the park of life God has filled it with rides and attractions perfectly suited for singles to enjoy. And they boast beautiful views, too.

Whether single or attached, enter the park, buy the ticket, and live life to the fullest by enjoying the ride that’s just right for you.

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Re-Infected

Disbelief.

That’s the only word to describe how I felt when, six months after finally clearing my chronic case of Lyme disease, I found a tick embedded in my left leg.  I carefully extracted the blood-sucking bug but it was too late. His disease spreading deed was already done. Within days sickness and symptoms returned and my health deteriorated before my very eyes.

For the first two weeks post tick bite I attempted to deny the obvious decline and embraced the mantra “fake it till you make it.” I did my best to live a lie of health while, in reality, I was becoming sicker each day.

But by week three the pain was so intense I had to give up the act. The muscle spasms, head aches, itching and back pain had returned with such vengeance that they couldn’t be ignored. I had to get real with my doctor and voice my concerns.

When I heard the word “re-infected” I held back tears with a lump in my throat. It was one thing to know in my own gut that I was sick but having it confirmed was a different story. The doctor’s diagnosis made it a reality.

After eight years of waiting to be on the steady road to recovery and physical restoration the last news I wanted to hear was about re-infection. The last update I wanted to give to my friends and family was “I have Lyme…again.”

As I left the doctor’s office stunned and saddened by the return of Lyme, the words of Jesus came to mind…“You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)

Jesus made it clear that dealing in truth isn’t just a good idea. Truth isn’t a suggestion. Truth is a demand. Truth is an order for how I am to live my life. To be freed from the sadness and sorrow of sickness I have to be truthful about my condition. I cannot live a lie of health and be well in my soul. I cannot fake physical healing and experience spiritual recovery. I have to be honest about my re-infection to be free and whole in Christ.

 

The truth is that I have been re-infected with Lyme.

The truth is that I have encountered a set back, but not the end of my story.

The truth is I have been delayed, not given a death sentence.

The truth is I am still traveling on the long and winding road to physical recovery.

And, the most important truth is, I am still on the glorious road to spiritual recovery.

 

Speaking the truth of Lyme in my life has set me free to experience the spiritual growth God has planned on this part of my journey. By denying the presence of the disease I was denying God’s purpose for it. When I was busy pretending I wasn’t sick I missed the peace and joy of living in honesty and truth.

Re-infection is not an accident. I know that to be true because God doesn’t make mistakes. He always has a plan and a purpose. Not once has He ever allowed sickness to strike my body without using it to sanctify my ailing soul. Every pain has had a greater purpose. Every symptom has been employed to strengthen my need for Jesus and increase my dependence on the indwelling of His Holy Spirit.

The truth is that I was meant to be re-infected with Lyme because it is part of God’s perfect plan to purify my soul and unify my heart with my His Son, my Savior, Jesus Christ.

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Talking to the Birds

In the neighborhood I call home the houses are situated on quarter acre sized lots, only a few hundred feet apart. The homes are so close that, if you look just right, you can see in your neighbor’s window. Not that I’m peeking. It’s just a fact of residential suburban life.

In the summer months when the windows are open and my neighbors are out in full force I often hear their hearty laughter and boisterous conversation. In the comfort of my own home I’ve even listened to their rocking music. When they crank up the volume I can hear every word.

Living in close proximity to neighbors means you quickly become familiar with their habits, routines and preferences. You come to know, for example, what genre of music they enjoy and what time they leave for work. Or, as is the case with my newest next-door neighbor, you come to discover that they have a deep love and appreciation for birds.

To be honest, I haven’t officially met my new next-door neighbor. I’ve seen her car but couldn’t pick out her face in a grocery store line. But, even in spite of her anonymity, I am confident that my new neighbor love birds because she regularly talks and listens to them from her back deck.

Yes, you read that right. My new neighbors talk to birds. From inside my house I’ve heard her lively discussions with the feathered fowl in nearby trees. During their chats, my neighbor makes various bird-calls and practices a plethora of pitches. She even changes the tone and rhythm of her dialogue in response to her feathered friends.

The bird conversation begins with my neighbor making a few bird sounds of her own then pausing to listen as the birds respond. This back-and-forth dialogue goes on for quite some time, easily half an hour or so. Neither bird caller nor bird ever seems to tire of the discussion. From the energy in their voices there is no question that both neighbor and birds thoroughly enjoy their conversations.

When I first heard this chatter between my neighbor and the birds I’ll admit I thought it was a bit odd. Never before had I heard an individual have such a lengthy and enthusiastic conversation with birds. But the more I listened to the exchange the more beautiful it became. The back and forth soon became magical music to my ears.

 

The beautiful conversations taking place between my neighbor and the birds has taught me an important lesson: When you love someone – or some birds – you change your tune to speak their language.

Scripture says that my love for God is made manifest in my life when I speak His language and call out in His pitch of love and grace. When I turn to Him in prayer and seek His presence to not only speak but, more importantly, listen to His voice, Christ indwells my soul. When I surrender my selfish tune and earnestly endeavor to embody God’s calls the very Spirit of Christ transforms the song on my lips.

Every day of my life I am to be practicing God calls and engaging in the most magical, musical conversation man can ever experience: A holy and life changing conversation with God.

 

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

Colossians 3:1

 

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Squirrelly Behavior

Let’s talk about squirrels.

I love squirrels. They are a joy to watch as they scurry up trees and chase each other across branches. With their bushy tails and furry coats, squirrels appear so soft cuddly and cute.

But don’t be deceived by their sweet and friendly exterior. Squirrels can be dangerous, even capable of causing deadly disasters.

Squirrels are inherently erratic and their squirrelly behavior is well known for causing distracted driving. One moment the road way is clear and the next a crazed woodland creature is leaping from the shoulder right in front of oncoming traffic, leaving drivers little to no time to react. Squirrels are notorious for this behavior. They run across roads and pause in the middle of busy streets with absolutely no regard for traffic patterns or oncoming cars.

While distracted by squirrelly behavior drivers often disregard road rules and act on instinct. Often time’s well-intentioned, nature-loving drivers will slam on their brakes or swerve into oncoming traffic in an attempt to spare the fluffy rodent’s life. Although the animal might escape the scene unscathed, the driver is not always as fortunate. Squirrels on the road have been known to cause serious accidents and have even been to blame for fatal crashes involving pedestrians, bicyclists and other motorists.

As much as I love squirrels, I cannot deny that they are a deadly distraction to drivers. Squirrels are not just harmless woodland creatures; they are enemies on the road.

 

Drivers should be on their guard against squirrels – and not just those with bushy tails and furry coats. Drivers on the road of life must be on their guard against the enemy’s squirrels.

The enemy sends squirrels running into our lives disgusted in “harmless” exteriors. He is famous for sending seemingly cute and cuddly “squirrels” that scurry in front of our tires to distract us from traveling safely on Christ’s road of righteousness. Health, marriage, money, purpose, careers, and “fun” can all become distractions when they come darting out of their natural habitat. When they run in front of our unity with Christ they cause us to pull our attention and hearts away from the straight and narrow road of God.

Distracted by the squirrels of life, God’s rules for safe driving are often disregarded. Sinful and destructive moves are often made while our eyes are on the squirrels, resulting in a deadly crash of wills. Brakes are slammed and wheels swerve, sending us into a guardrail, pothole… or worse.

Remaining steadfastly fixated on Jesus is the only one way to avoid the dangers of driving distracted by the squirrels of life. Keeping our eyes on the way, true and life of Christ is the only sure way to travel safely. The enemy will still try to hinder our travel but with when we stay faithful to the Lord we will not be distracted, deceived or destroyed.

In the midst of the world’s squirrelly distractions, keep your eyes on the Savior. Under His care and protection you will be kept safe as you maneuver the roads that lead home to Heaven’s gates.

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Turtle Rescue {because God cares about reptiles too}

Why did the turtle cross the road?

To get rescued before he made it to the other side.

In the past two weeks I’ve witnessed two extraordinary turtle rescues and heard of a third.

The first turtle in distress was standing stock still in the middle of a busy two lane road. A daring member of the military stopped his car in the midst of the traffic, hopped out and alerted oncoming cars to halt. Then, in full Navy uniform, he kindly guided the confused turtle off the pavement, over the shoulder and into the abutting woods where he slipped into the protection of a pond.

Turtle rescue two occurred in the same location, minus the military uniform. This time the citizen rescuer came prepared with experience. He had saved turtles in that precise location a time or two before and knew just how to guide the turtle off of the street and back into wooded safety. With the help of the reptile rescuer it only took a moment for the lost turtle to find his way back to the pond again.

Turtle rescue three took place on a two-lane street where there was no pond in sight. This time an SUV stopped in the middle of the road and two men hopped out of the back seat. From afar I could see one of the men carefully lift something large and round from the middle of the road. Sure enough, it was yet another turtle rescued from a devastating, crushing fate.

After each turtle rescue I drive away in awe. The fact that the turtles survive on the street amazes me. How the turtles end up in the middle of the road without being crushed by a passing car is a miracle in and of itself.

Next is the miracle of being spotted by drivers passing by. The turtles could easily be missed. The tortoise’s shell blends in so well to the dark pavement. If not missed entirely, the turtles could easily be mistaken for a stray piece of trash or left over rubber from a tire. But the turtles were not missed. They were spotted, recognized and saved by heroic men who willingly stopped and saved the stranded turtles. They risked their own safety and stepped into harms way to protect the turtles. They delayed their own journeys to ensure that the turtles in these stories had a happy ending to theirs.

In the turtle rescues I see the wonder of my own salvation and am struck by the awe and wonder of my Hero, my Savior, my Rescuer, Jesus Christ.

 

From up on high God saw me in distress. I had wandered away from safety, standing bewildered and in harms away. I could have so easily been crushed at any moment. I was completely oblivious to the dangers whizzing all around me. I was trapped in sin, blending in so well with the rest of the world and yet God spotted me. While I was a lost sinner God recognized me as one of His own and sent His Son to rescue me. By the power of the cross, Jesus defeated death and guided me into the glory of His eternal safety.

I am in awe of Jesus, my rescuer.

 

So why do the turtles cross the road?

So God can rescue them.