The Season is Changing

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The view out my windows this morning–puffy clouds, fragrant blooming lavender, a wild bunny nibbling at the edge of the lawn–announces, “Summer is here!”

Bunny 2

When seasons change, I’ve learned to appreciate the unexpected. As spring unfolded in 2013, we had unseasonable warm weather in April and record-breaking cold weather in May. While the Farmers’ Almanac predicted cool weather through June, we’ve had warm, sunny days, and signs of summer are everywhere.

The unexpected is evident in the garden as well as the weather. On the positive side, a clematis that I planted four or five years ago has finally decided to thrive. Grandkids have been excited to watch it inch up to the top of the fence, and now we’re looking for the first blossoms.

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On the negative side, the two peonies that flank my pale purple garden bench decided to pout this year. They sprouted on schedule, but stopped growing at about ten inches, and never set blooms. I enviously gaze at the fragrant, blowsy blooms on my neighbors’ peonies, and frown at my own. Would classical music help? Hymns? Maybe some Shakespeare?

The pace of my life has also changed with the seasons. Just a month ago, our household was expanded by five, including a day-old grandson. The easy access to cuddles and hugs from little ones more than makes up for scattered toys in the family room, random socks on the stairs, and soggy granola under the kitchen table. Now the move-out countdown has started, with renovation of their new place fully underway.

When seasons change, I often need to re-evaluate aspects of my life. As I look at the amount of time I spend on various relationships, tasks and responsibilities,  I’ve decided it’s time to take a sabbatical from blogging. While the  unexpected connections and responses from writing a blog have been enjoyable, at this season, it’s distracting me from higher priorities. I’m sure that there will be times I can’t keep quiet about what God is doing in our lives, but I’m releasing myself from the “have to” of blogging on a regular schedule. In order to focus on the best things, I need to set aside some good  things.

The words of Ephesians 1 in The Message confirm this to me, and I pray it for you also.

I ask (God) to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing (Christ) personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, (and) grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for Christians…

This summer, let’s all live gloriously!Front door 6 13

 

12 Months in the Blogosphere

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ImageTwelve months ago, I joined the online community known as the “blogosphere.” It’s been an interesting year, some of which I’ve written about. Here’s a snapshot of the year for “A Borrowed View.”

  • Total posts: 36
  • Total views: 3,022 as of 5/20/13.  (For those of you unfamiliar to this realm, that’s an infinitesimal number. There are blogs that get millions of hits each DAY.)
  • Viewership: Readers from more than 40 nations. How did people in Bahrain, Chile, Switzerland or Botswana find the blog?
  • Most-viewed post: “Hi, Jesus”
  • Post receiving the most comments: “Weeds, and other disorderly growing things”
  • Most popular topics: God, family
  • Pleasant surprises: unexpected connections with new friends/readers and people I’d lost touch with
  • Greatest challenges: a) taking life (and blogging) too seriously, b) balancing writing time between blogging, writing articles for actual cash, and my book project.
  • Unexpected bonus: A request to forward my recent post, “Welcome to the World” to a private school parents’ group in Uganda, for use as a starting point for discussions on sexuality

I recently re-read my “Welcome” page, which states the purpose for the blog. That purpose is still valid a year later, because God and His Word are the constant backdrop of my life, and my desire is to point to Him.

To all of you who have made comments, “liked” posts on Facebook, or sent me an email to tell me that a post was thought-provoking or encouraging, I give my heartfelt thanks. Your communication means more than you’ll ever know.

Here’s to another year of meeting in cyberspace!

Welcome to the World

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William Bruce Bowman, our thirteenth grandchild, entered the world at 7:58 pm, Saturday, May 4th. He joins two delighted big sisters, Ava, 2, and Emily, 5.Bowman kids

As I cuddled him recently, I breathed his sweet newborn scent and watched his sleeping face, with its fleeting frowns, smiles and grimaces. His smooth head, with its cap of brown hair, fit perfectly into my cupped hand. I stared into his face while I listened to his chirps, sighs and hums. His cries usually start with a squeak, but can accelerate in sixty seconds to a lusty bellow that impacts the entire household.

I marveled that just hours before, he was safely cushioned in the warmth of his mother’s womb, rocked by her easy stride, comforted by the steady rhythm of her heartbeat. The 3D sonogram had confirmed his gender, but we hadn’t yet glimpsed his slender fingers with their tiny complete fingernails, or noticed the pale skin of his feet, extra dry from the additional week he spent in utero.

As I gazed at this brand new human being, I was awestruck by the whole process of Nana 13conception, pregnancy and birth. It’s intriguing enough that a random glance between a young man and a young woman sparked interest and led to romance, courtship, and marriage. But it also led to the arbitrary uniting of one sperm with an egg, and grew against huge odds into this warm little body, still reflexively contracted into his womb-shape, with all his potential for laughter, wit, passion, intelligence and influence in our world.

William’s birth is something of a miracle. Jennifer, his mom, was diagnosed with a brain tumor at age nineteen, and the hormone link with this tumor left her doctors questioning her ability to bear children. With God’s grace and intervention, he has blessed our family with three “miracle” children, and a healthy mom/daughter.

This little boy’s parents will bring him up to believe that God created him for a purpose—that his birth was no accident of passion, but part of the amazing eternal plan of the Creator. They will help him understand the truth of Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”

These timeless words are not only for baby William, but for any of us who are willing to believe the truth of God’s promise.

Hi, Jesus!

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Isabella EasterRecently our 4-year-old granddaughter started a conversation while riding in the back seat of the family vehicle:

“Hi, Jesus. It’s me, Isabella…”

She has a new awareness of prayer, and wants to pray about everything. When our daughter-in-law Candice posted this on Facebook, I thought, “How cute.” But in thinking about it, I’m reminded of the words of Jesus to his followers:

“…unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3

Little Cousins, Easter 2013

Little Cousins, Easter 2013

Isabella’s spontaneity  in talking to Jesus illustrates several insights that are important for “grown-ups” to consider:

  1. She can talk to Jesus any time, any place.
  2. She’s confident that He knows who she is.
  3. She can talk to Jesus as she would anyone who loves her.
  4. Jesus is ready to listen to her.
  5. He’s interested in everything that’s important in her world–her family, her friends, her daily activities.

Good things to remember!

What insights have you gained from children in your life?

One Orange Coat

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“Look at this one, it’s your color!” I held up a coat in a beautiful vibrant orange.

“And my size!” said our daughter Rebecca, looking at the label.

She had been looking for a raincoat that wasn’t black, brown, gray, or out of her price range. At the local warehouse store I’d seen some raincoats in blue as well as neutral colors, so we made a quick trip while she was visiting us from Baltimore.
Coats

She tried on a blue coat first, but it wasn’t quite right. Then we went to the other side of the table, and lying neatly on the top of all the stacks of other colors was one orange coat. When she put it on, it fit like it was tailored just for her. The classic lines and detachable hood clinched the deal.

We turned back to the piles, finding it hard to believe that this was truly the ONLY orange coat. There was no other orange coat anywhere on the table.

Rebecca's CoatRebecca and Ben live their lives constantly acknowledging God’s presence and His goodness, so there’s no doubt in our minds. The orange coat is one more example of our Heavenly Father opening the windows of heaven to pour out a blessing.

Spring Surprises

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One of the things I enjoy most about spring is finding surprises in my garden. Flowers bloom at times and in places that I don’t expect, lifting my heart as I drive into the driveway or look out the windows to our back yard.

Snowdrops (2)A few years ago I was puzzled when clumps of snowdrops bloomed in late January–I didn’t remember planting them. A few days later, as I stared out through late winter rain, I suddenly remembered my last visit to my parent’s property the day before new owners took possession. I’d put a shovel and some empty pots in the trunk of my car, hoping to get a few souvenirs from Dad’s garden. I filled the pots with violets and starts of lilac and flowering quince. At the last minute, I dug up some unidentified clumps of strappy green leaves. Now, nearly a year later, those green clumps produced the first flowers to bloom  in my own garden, pristine white bells nodding above early spring snow.

This year, one of the surprises was the unexpected blossoming of a clump of Bear’s Foot Hellebore. Its bright chartreuse is a nice contrast to darker green ferns and the brown back fence. While I vaguely remember planting it sometime in the past, this was its “ta-da” appearance.IMG_1374

Unfortunately, not all the surprises are welcome. Major surgery two years ago prevented normal garden maintenance, allowing weeds to successfully mount a distressing coup d’etat. I’m reluctantly considering retaliating with weapons of mass destruction.

Considering both pleasant and unpleasant revelations as spring progresses, I think about unexpected surprises when life’s seasons change. Sometimes in the busyness of daily living, I forget the work that God has done in a particular area of my life. When there’s a change of seasons, and I find myself flourishing in unexpected places. Alternatively, if I neglected a particular area in a previous season, I may find negative thoughts or attitudes sprouting in unexpected places.

What surprises are you finding in this season of your life?

“Speaking of Jesus”

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Have you ever felt defensive when someone challenges your beliefs about religion or Christianity? If that’s been true for you, Speaking of Jesus could change your perspective. Author Carl Medearis, a long-term resident and expert on the Middle East, urges us to go back to the core, to Jesus, the Center of it all.

S of JPeople react to Christianity for a variety of reasons: their own negative experience, misinformation, the influence of others. But the game changes totally when we point them away from the superstructure of religion and the catastrophes of “Christian” history to look at Jesus. The subtitle of the book, “the art of not evangelism,” gives a hint that this is not a book to provide you with a canned outline or method for a sweaty-handed conversation with the person in the next cubicle.

If we are to “live like Jesus and share His love,” we need to remember that Jesus went out of his way to spend time with non-religious people. And he generally challenged their thinking, not their behavior.

I was touched by the amazing stories Medearis relates of people from a variety of cultures responding to the good news of Jesus. The humor and insight in the book are disarming; the truths he shares are like a gut-punch.

Larry and I found this book extremely provocative. Some of Medearis’s statements are startling, some you may disagree with. But in the end, I believe you will have a renewed appreciation of the ministry of Jesus as portrayed in the Gospels, and a refreshed enthusiasm for introducing people in your circle of influence to the One who can transform their lives.

More Beyond

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“Daddy,” gasped 5-year-old Emily, saltwater dripping from her blonde hair, “I didn’t know there was so much in the ocean!”

Em hawaii

 After several days of persistent badgering, she had convinced her parents to rent snorkel gear for her. Only a few months before, she had consistently refused to put her face in the water during swim lessons. But on a Hawaiian vacation, in the warm ocean, Emily put aside her fears. And once she saw the wonders beneath the surface of the blue water, there was no stopping her.

When they returned home, she tugged at my arm with a shy grin. When I bent down listen, she said with great pride and delight, “Nana, I snorkeled!”

How much of life do we miss because we don’t look below the surface, or beyond today’s horizon? What wonders have we not seen because we’re afraid to go around the next bend in the road, or believe that there might be something wonderful that we haven’t yet experienced?

Philip_V_Coin (2)Recently I became aware of the motto of Spain in the era following the discovery of the Americas. The Latin words, Plus Ultra¸ “More Beyond” were included on both the Spanish coat of arms and Spanish coins. Combined with the words is a representation of the Pillars of Hercules, gateway to the Mediterranean Sea, considered for ages as the limit of the known world.

When we see satellite photos on Google Earth, it’s hard to comprehend the geographic boundaries of past centuries. To imagine what might be “beyond,” stretched the limits of comprehension. Yet our minds have their own limiting “Pillars of Hercules,” beyond which we hare fearful to venture. Like Emily, we have no idea what awesome wonders we might encounter.

Are you willing to believe for “More Beyond?”

Perfect Conditions

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Several mornings ago, we awoke to a transformed world. Glittering white crystals coated every leaf, twig and branch. The grass was a crunchy shag carpet, and solid ice captured the feet of the bronze cupid sitting on the edge of the birdbath. I wanted to wrap a towel around her shoulders.IMG_1326

My shearling slippers and fleece jacket barely kept out the 26 degree chill as I wandered around the back yard with my camera, hoping to capture just a hint of the magical scene. The branches of the tall firs drooped with heavy white icing. Sparkling shards of frozen fog accented each thread of spider webs. Verse 38:29 from the Book of Job came to my mind: “From whose womb did the ice come forth, and who has given birth to the hoarfrost of heaven?”

We’d had cold nights that gradually turned into dull, overcast mornings. Some mornings frost glittered on the lawn and rimmed the rail of the deck. We’d awakened to cold, foggy mornings when we could see nothing past the top of our back fence. But that morning, the perfect combination of cold air, clear skies, and fog combined for a very different result, one that made our breath catch in wonder.

The right combination of conditions can transform our world.

Often we see only the fog, or shiver with anxiety when circumstances drain the warmth out of life. We look for good in a tough situation, try to see our way through confusion, or attempt to bring order into a situation.

birdhouse

But as the ancient author of Job implies, it’s God the Creator who knows the formulas to create wonders. He is the one who arranged the perfect combination of fog, clear skies and cold air to create a glistening wonderland. His finger pushed the mercury on the thermometer down one degree, his hand whisked the clouds away, he blew his moist breath on our hillside, and the world changed.

I have frequently seen God orchestrate perfect conditions for his children, with their knowing or unknowing cooperation. A long-unemployed man strikes up a random conversation with someone in a checkout line, and ends up getting a job offer. A missionary abruptly moves his family to another part of their island, leaving a comfortable home, and only a few weeks later the home they left is swept away by a tsunami.

While we have our part to seizing the best opportunities to make our lives productive and fulfilled, for those of us who trust Him, God’s in charge. He’s the One who creates the perfect combination of conditions to transform our world into beauty.

How’s your spiritual equity?

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Are you “upside-down”?

Current financial news frequently refers to the unfortunate situation of homeowners being “upside-down.”  When someone’s home is worth less in the current housing market than they owe to the bank, it’s a distressing situation.

Unfortunately, we can be upside-down in our spiritual lives as well. When our ability to trust God with the difficulties of life falls short of our ability to trust, we can experience insecurity and panic. Worry and fear drains our equity, and we may feel that our spiritual resources are lacking.

How do we gain spiritual equity?

In natural terms, we build equity by making regular payments on the mortgage, or by external forces raising the value of housing. The ideal scenario occurs when these forces work simultaneously.

We can build spiritual equity by affirming our trust God in the everyday circumstances of our life. Situations often arise that are beyond our strength, ability, or understanding. When we confess our trust in God, we increase the value in our spiritual account. Time spent in worry or doubt drains our account. Time spent in thanksgiving and prayer adds divine dividends and spiritual equity.

Later we look back and see that God worked in the situation. As we acknowledge his work and thank him for it, he adds supernatural dividends.  Our balance grows, sometimes in unexpected ways. When the next difficult situation comes along, we have greater resources to trust and see his hand at work.

Verifying balance sheet

Facing tough times

Over the years, life has brought us many unexpected challenges: a 9-month-old baby with pneumonia, lengthy unemployment, a daughter’s brain tumor diagnosis. As I made “trust deposits,” acknowledging God’s sovereignty and power in each situation, my spiritual equity grew over the years. When faced with my own cancer diagnosis nearly two years ago, I found I had an ample account to draw on. Doctor’s reports caused minor “withdrawals” as I dealt with bouts of worry and anxiety. But there were abundant resources to face surgery and recovery with faith, confident in the ultimate good that God would bring in my life.

What’s the bottom line?

As with our natural finances, it’s helpful to look at the statements periodically. In the daily challenges of life, is the trust account growing? Are we making the daily small deposits that gain interest and dividends for the future? When difficulties arise, is our first response panic or prayer? Do we look for advice in our favorite blog, or God’s Word?

Life is uncertain, and we never know when we’ll need resources. When we put our trust in God, the compound interest of his faithfulness will insure that we have an ample supply when we need it.