It’s unseasonably hot in Pennsylvania, so we shift our walking and hiking to the cool evening hours. I discover the benefits of evening walking at dusk: the setting sun casts beautiful golden beams (and later, it leaves the most stunning dark blue sky); the animals come out (deer, owls, rabbits); the traffic and daytime sounds cease (it’s man-quiet but bug-loud); and you find you shed the weary burdens of the day as you walk.
We have enjoyed hiking around Colyer Lake, Lake Perez, Alan Seeger, Fisherman’s Paradise, and just around our own neighborhood. Central Pennsylvania offers so many wonderful trails to follow. In my gratitude journal this morning, I thanked the Lord for forests, streams, and trails.
Last night, my feet were so tired, so I put up a camping chair and soaked my feet in the cool of Colyer Lake as my husband and daughter walked the trail. I read a book and relaxed as the sun set. I celebrated with a nearby fisherman reeling in a big catch. I turned my head in the direction of loud bullfrogs. And then I packed up to go home.
While watering the garden this morning, I noticed that dill plants have sprouted up everywhere: in the pots, by the tomatoes, around the border of the vegetable garden. The dill was supposed to stay neatly within its raised boxed garden by the fence. Dill does not listen. Dill does not obey.
I didn’t account for wind dispersing all the seeds. I didn’t think dill seeds would float everywhere and take root.
It made me consider how we’re not supposed to be everywhere, go everywhere, do everything. Even though we can, we don’t have to (and perhaps we shouldn’t). God sets the boundaries of our lives and our callings, and just because our seeds could take root in all sorts of places—and even become exceedingly fruitful—it’s not always right. It’s not what God has ordained. I think about this. I want to listen. I want to obey and stay where I should.
Sometimes when you begin to move in the direction of your calling, you’ll feel the pressure to do more in more places. You’ll wonder if you should do this or that. People will even tell you to do more or become more. My best advice? Pray and listen to the Holy Spirit. Learn the Shepherd’s voice. Obey. The world will blow you around and scatter you on the alluring wind. All those seeds you’re sending out to the world might take root in unhealthy or wrong places for you. Jesus might keep you small and hidden yet powerful. He’ll plant you in your perfect spot.
I uprooted the misplaced dill and sent it back to its home. I will have the most beautiful and bountiful dill garden—safe and cozy in its home near the brown fence.
This morning, I noted some special instructions about entering the presence of the Lord. Now I know we can enter God’s presence with confidence–at any time and in any condition–because of Jesus. Consider Hebrews 10:9: “Therefore, brothers and sisters. . .we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus” and Ephesians 1:12 where we learn that, because of Jesus, and “in him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.”
So we know we approach God freely and confidently because of Jesus. But what else? In Psalm 95:2, I look carefully at this beautiful invitation: “Let us coming his presence with thanksgiving.” Thanksgiving! Often, I come into the presence of the Lord with worrying, complaining, or asking. But today I start with thanksgiving.
Then, I read the second invitation a few verses later to “come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!”
I think about bowing down and literally kneeling before the Lord. It’s such a posture of submission, dependency, and honor. But do we do it? Right now, we can kneel down and physically bow before God as we begin our thanksgiving.
I consider how these two invitations—to thanksgiving and to kneeling—add so much to our practice of entering God’s presence.
I talk to students often about starting a great morning routine. They agree that a morning routine makes all the difference in shaping a great day. Some students wake up 2 minutes before class, race across campus, and dive into their seats. They stay frazzled the rest of the day. Others wake up 2 hours before they need to arrive somewhere. And they love that time. (I’ve even had students write compelling opinion pieces on the power of a good morning routine.)
Here’s what they say:
I brew fresh coffee and sit on my porch to think.
I make a gourmet breakfast sandwich—eggs, bacon, avocado, and cheese— on an English muffin. I take my time with it. Then I go get coffee somewhere and enjoy walking around campus.
I love thinking, writing in a gratitude journal, and cleaning my room; I always make my bed and drink hot tea.
In the summer, my own morning routine changes. This change prompted this blog post because I realize how much I love a strong morning routine! In the summer, I brew coffee and empty the dishwasher as it brews. Then, I take my coffee into the garden to begin watering. I sip my coffee and enjoy the morning air and sounds of all the birds. Taking care of the garden could take 20 minutes or so because I also have to examine the plum trees and check for pests or infection. Then, I come back inside to read my Bible, journal, think, write, and pray. I love it when I have 1-2 hours for this kind of devotional time.
Normally, by 9:00 AM, the business work of the day begins and doesn’t stop till 5:00 PM, so that morning routine matters. It means I want to wake up by 6:30 AM or so. When I don’t have a morning routine, I’m that frazzled student who dives into the next thing and never feels settled.
Whatever your morning looks like–and whenever it begins–I recommend the morning routine.
In the winterberry bush, a robin built her nest right next to the sparrow nest. I suppose our attempts to woo birds to the backyard worked indeed! We provided nesting materials (twigs, hair, twine, grasses), a bird bath, and plenty of birdseed. We also have a fence that keeps out most wildlife. Perhaps best of all? Our garden cat Louie—while terrorizing these poor birds–also keeps the chipmunks, squirrels, and other predators away who might disturb the nests and even eat the eggs.
The sparrow eggs hatched yesterday, but the robin just laid her third beautiful egg. In 15 days or so, the baby sparrows will leave the nest, just in time for the robin eggs to hatch. What fun to watch!
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This morning, I considered Joseph and how, during famine, people came to him to provide grain. They knew he had nourishment for them; Joseph stored the grain and saved Egypt from famine. We read in Genesis 41 how “all the world came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe everywhere.”
As I think about the famine in the Bible, I suddenly remembered God’s words in Amos 8:11: “The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign Lord, “when I will send a famine through the land— not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.“
I think about this famine of hearing God’s words. I think about this famine of knowing, treasuring, and speaking words from the Bible. Souls are starving. There’s a famine indeed. But then I think of Joseph. He had the grain stored up, and people came to him. He had the nourishment in a time of scarcity. The thought feels like a call-to-action for us. We have the Bible; we know the word and we can bring people to the Living Word. And we recall Jesus’ words in Matthew 4: Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Whenever we can, we can talk about what we’re reading in the Bible. We can share from the scriptures like the families in Deuteronomy 6 as God says this: “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.”
We fill our hearts with God’s word. We impress these words on others. We talk about them. We think about them. We store the word up. We offer grain in famine.
As part of my gratitude ritual, I decided to write down a few “beautiful things” I love to observe. Robin eggs. Sunlight filtered through the trees. Lilacs. Water flowing in a creek. A sleeping cat all curled up. A person smiling.
I added this to my list as I walked into the kitchen this morning: Yellow tulips in a cobalt blue vase. Gazing at this color combination always brings joy to my heart. My daughters brought these tulips to me for Mother’s Day, and they haven’t yet bloomed.