Harvest in a Land of Giants

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I relaxed in a chair on my daughter’s patio, enjoying the sighing wind in the locust and oak trees, the musical jingle of wind chimes, and the warmth of the sun on my face.  Then I became aware that I was being watched.  A striped chipmunk sat at the edge of the patio’s cement pad, less than a yard from my feet.  The chipmunk’s cheeks were bulging with small nuts, acorns, I surmised from the nearness of the oaks.  He was a creature on a mission, on his way to store the nuts for winter, and I seemed to be in his way.

Perhaps the chipmunk was wondering if I was a danger to him, if he dared risk it.  Certainly I was an obstacle.  He must have decided I was a harmless sort of giant, because he scampered under my chair and around the corner of the building.  He and another chipmunk (he and she?) returned in a few minutes, with empty cheeks.  The pair made several trips, coming from the east with cheeks full and returning from the west after caching their harvest. They continued to scurry unafraid and undeterred underneath or just behind my chair.


Not everyone is as courageous as the chipmunks.  In Number 13 we read the story of the spies whom Moses charged with scouting out the Promised Land.  It was the beginning of the season to harvest grapes, and the men brought proof that this was a land of plenty.

they cut off a branch bearing a single cluster of grapes. Two of them carried it on a pole between them   Numbers 13:23   NIV

The scouts all agreed that Canaan was a land of “milk and honey,” but full of powerful, strong people–the descendants of giants.  Only Joshua and Caleb had faith in God and believed that they could conquer the land.  The leaders pleaded with the people:

Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land . . . Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.  

Number 14:9   NIV

Do you remember how that story ended?  Instead of entering a land where harvest was underway, the children of Israel spent 40 more years in the desert.


Fear is not the only obstacle in harvest.  You must wait for the crops to be ready.  The soybean fields on our farm are now a rusty-brown, and the golden stalks of corn  have paled after being dried by a hard frost, but harvest may still be delayed.  Farmers can check a sample from a field for moisture content to see if the corn or beans are dry enough to combine.  If not, they may need to switch to another field that was planted with a different variety or to one that was planted earlier.


The harvest of souls is another matter.  It’s impossible to look at a person’s heart and “moisture test” their soul to know if they’re ripe for “harvest” into the kingdom of God.  Russell and Barbara Reed, American missionaries in the Philippines, must have thought that surely the time was right once they had overcome the obstacle of learning the language of the people.  They wanted to reach a tribal group on the island of Mindow.  For months they searched for the people, eventually found a village, and started learning their language.  Years passed and initial interest changed to rejection.

After nine years in the Philippines the Reeds, none of the tribal members had made a commitment to Christ.

That changed in May 1962.  Traveling to the east again, they found a group of people with hungry hearts.  Before long, seventy-five people were baptized, almost the entire adult population of three villages.  What had made the difference?  Centuries earlier a shaman had prophesied, ‘Someday white people will come here to teach us.  Big people.  And they will know our language.  When they come, we must follow their teaching.’  This prophecy was passed down for 16 generations.  When the leader in the east heard the Reeds speaking his language, he knew they were the ones for whom his tribe had waited more than 350 years.

from Telling the Gospel Through Story by Christine Dillon


Sometimes the obstacle to “harvest” for the kingdom of God isn’t time, it’s place.  A friend of mine moved and now teaches in a different state.  The leadership in her new community has brought in speakers with a positive message to talk in the schools.  Recently, a daytime presentation was followed by an evening meeting, where the gospel was presented.  This would not, could not have happened in her previous school, she explained.


The harvest in her small town was ripe.  When the speaker concluded the evening presentation with an invitation to accept Christ as Lord and Savior, over a hundred came forward, and my friend was privileged to pray with some of them.  She texted,

The fields are harvest-ripe here!  Glory to God!  We had many to pray with those that gave their lives to Christ, but not enough.


Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!  

John 4:35   NKJV


Then [Jesus] said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”  

Matthew 9:37,38

My “harvest” prayer for us all:

that we may be courageous when facing “giants,”

that we may be wise with our words (written and spoken),

that we may recognize the right time and place to share the good news,

and that we may remember that God is the Lord of the harvest.

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photos of grape vines by Barb Briggs
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Linking with

 Essential Fridays Linkup  Essential Thing Devotions     Jennifer Dukes Lee

  Holley Gerth  Laura BoggessLaura Boggess

  Winsome Wednesday  Barbie's Weekend Brew button  My Fresh Brewed Life

Jumping Tandem   Lisha Epperson

The Accidental Sunflower

Not planted, yet sown

by the birds’ careless, ravenous feasting,

buried by debris swept off the sidewalk,

a sunflower grew tight beside the white porch railing.

A seed sprouted and stretched tender leaves toward the sun,

turned its veiled face to the east,


unfurled golden flags of ray petals,


waved emerald leaves in the breeze,


welcomed the soaking rain,


opened its seedy heart wide

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and grinned a spiraled smile.


I joyfully watched the accidental sunflower grow and change from a castaway seed to a mature bloom.  I saw the bees’ pollen-laden visits, the spider’s trapeze web, and the grasshoppers’ hungry gnawing.


I saw the ray petals burn bright gold and then fade and wither as the seed hulls swelled fat and green.


I saw the color drain away, leaving silver and brown as the seeds ripened and the birds found the sunflower’s final gift.

From life to life.

I saw and witnessed the meaningfulness and beauty of the sunflower’s life, which existed despite its “accidental” beginning.

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Our Lord is the God who sees us . . . and cares for us, as He did for Hagar.  Hagar was a slave who fled Sarai’s abuse and ran into the desert, pregnant and alone.  Her life was not what she had planned, a life of disdain given and received, but

the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; . . . he said, ‘Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?’  Genesis 16:7,8   NIV

The Lord knew who she was and addressed her by name.  He instructed Hagar to return to Sarai and told her about the future of her son.  Hagar, an unseen servant, caught up in unplanned circumstance, called God el Roi.

 She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.’  Genesis 16:13   NIV


Perhaps your life has not gone as you planned, like Hagar, and difficult circumstances tangle your feet like briars on a path.  God sees.  God cares.  He knows your future and has a purpose for you.

Great are your purposes and mighty are your deeds.   Jeremiah 32:19   NIV

Perhaps you have known, perhaps you have been the child whose parents did not love you as they should have, did not protect you, didn’t provide for your needs, body and soul.  Maybe you are hurting as much as the woman whose mother hurled the words  “unwanted” and “accident” at her.  God sees.  God cares.

Even if my father and mother abandon me,
the Lord will hold me close.   Psalm 27:10  NLT

Maybe you feel rejected by the one who said, “I do” and then didn’t.  God sees.  God cares.

Don’t be afraid. For you are very precious to God.
Peace! Be encouraged! Be strong!

Daniel 10:19

Despite our bleak beginnings and pained past and fractured faith, God sees and has a purpose for us:  to love and be loved, to do what only you can do and be in the place that only you can be.

God knows where we have come from and where we are going.  He sees.  We can grow from an accidental and unplanned beginning to a beautiful, joyous, and meaningful life.

From life to Life.

But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.   Exodus 9:16   NIV

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Photo of sprouting sunflower seed from the National Sunflower Association.

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Linking with

  Jennifer Dukes Lee    Laura Boggess    Holley Gerth

Essential Fridays Linkup   Essential Thing Devotions

Mr. Monk, Indiana Jones, and the Aurora


The narrow, magenta ribbon of sunset faded over an hour ago, and the moon won’t rise for another hour.  The neighbor’s security lights and the red blinks on radio station antennae and cell phone towers are the only lights visible from my house.

I slide on chore boots, zip up a jacket, and press the switch on the palm-size flashlight as I step into the blackness of the back yard.  I walk down three steps and follow the familiar path across the lawn, between the apple and the fir trees, across the shop drive, around the diesel fuel barrel, and onto the gravel that leads to  the edge of the field.

I retreat to a dark spot away from the house because I hope to see the Aurora Borealis.  Although it’s rarely visible at my latitude, the chances are good tonight  because of a solar storm two days ago.  I click the flashlight off and scan the sky.  As my eyes adjust to the darkness, I begin to pick out single stars, then constellations, and finally the Milky Way stretched overhead.

Despite the deep darkness of the night, regardless of the shadows moving toward me (our black cats had followed me), and even though I’m alone, I’m not afraid.  I remember Psalm 8 and am comforted by God’s presence when I gaze at the “glory in the heavens.”


Although I wasn’t frightened of being alone in the dark, others in the same surroundings might be.  Years ago a group of inner-city youth visited a neighboring farm.  In the same inky night where I found comfort and closeness to God, those children were terrified.  They were afraid of the open spaces, the black night  devoid of street lights, and the startling appearance of previously unseen stars.

What petrifies you may not scare me.  What unhinges me may not scare you, but even the bravest will have something that makes their heart beat fast or twists knots in their stomach.  David wrote of faith and fear in the Psalms.  Remember Indiana Jones’ terror in the pit of vipers?  “Snakes. Why’d it have to be snakes?”

I know the kind of fear that grabs you by the throat and doesn’t want to let go.  I recently watched my new-born grandson being prepped for an ambulance ride to a NICU.  Seeing the wires and  sensors, the supplemental oxygen, and the IV in his tiny, splinted arm increased my anxiety.

Guilt followed the fear and led to dark whispers of self-accusation and additional fears of inadequacy.  How can you write about faith when you’re so afraid?  How can you lead a prayer group when you can’t think of a word to pray?

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I need to ignore those dark whispers and listen to the “still, small voice.”  The verse I repeat to myself is

When I am afraid, I will trust in you.   Psalm 56:3   NIV

Not “if” but “when.”  I’m grateful that God knows all about our fears and has compassion on us.  Many of the verses in the Bible that command us not to be afraid have this same formula.  Fearful?  Look to God.  His presence will comfort you.  He will help you.

For I am the Lord your God
    who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you, Do not fear;
    I will help you.

Isaiah 41:13   NIV

What frightens you?  Is it a metaphorical snake pit or a real-life hospital room?

Are you afraid when the road ahead is risky?


Are you scared of being alone?


Are you frightened when death stalks your family or


when illness is eating the heart out of you?


Are you scared when you compare yourself to others and think that you don’t “measure up?”


If I’m honest,  I’d have to raise my hand and say “yes, I’m afraid of all those  things . . . and more.”  My list of fears may not be as long as Mr. Monk’s (the fictional, phobic detective), but it’s there and includes public speaking and crowded elevators.

I’ll try to remember the next time fear threatens to overwhelm:

trust in Jesus,

listen to His voice,

hold His hand,

and try not to let fear push me around.

Bravery isn’t about being fearless. It’s about being less controlled by your fear.

Jennifer Dukes Lee

What are you afraid of, and how do you deal with your fear?

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  • I write today about garden-variety fear.  I do not intend to demean or diminish the crippling anxiety or phobias some may endure.  Medical and psychological treatment may be necessary in the healing process.
  • My grandson is home and doing well now
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Milky Way photo forestwander.com
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linking with

Some Pig


In the opening chapter of Charlotte’s Web, eight-year-old Fern saves the runty pig from death.  She cries over him and tenderly feeds him from a bottle.  She loves him.

By the time the bus reached school, Fern had named her pet, selecting the most beautiful name she could think of.

‘Its name is Wilbur,’ she whispered to herself.

The spider Charlotte befriends Wilbur and saves him from death again,
by spinning the words “SOME PIG” and “TERRIFIC” in her web.


I am the runty, little pig, fit only for the ax, but beloved, befriended, and saved from death by our Savior’s love, by Jesus’ perfect friendship.
The Lord your God is with you,
    the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
    in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
    but will rejoice over you with singing.
Zephaniah 3:17   NIV
God delights in us and sings over us, “Some pig!”


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Linking with

Five Minute Friday - 4  Kate Motaung    Jennifer Dukes Lee

  Holley Gerth    Essential Fridays Linkup  Essential Things Devotions

Five Minute Friday:  Write for five minutes with the prompt “whisper.”

Showers of Blessing

“The crops look good.” Farmers agree and nod to each other over coffee or after worship in the church foyer.  The fields do look good.


We’ve had rain, blessed rain at critical times in crop development:

when the corn germinated,

as dark green, leafy fingers reached high,

when ears were pollinating,

and the kernels were forming,

and as the soybeans plumped fat in their pods.


The grain bins in our part of the Midwest will probably be full to overflowing this fall. The saying in agricultural circles is “Rain makes grain.”


The rain falling on our corn and soybean fields is part of the great water cycle on earth.  Water evaporates from the oceans and is blown inland.  Then the moisture condenses into clouds, falls as rain or snow, and tumbles downhill into streams and rivers and back to the sea.

As I walked around the yard and farmstead after a storm, while the grass and flowers were still studded with raindrop jewels and the sky painted with God’s palette, I remembered an old hymn, “Showers of Blessing.”  Perhaps you still sing it during your worship service, but  I hadn’t heard it for a while and could only remember the refrain:

Showers of blessing,
Showers of blessing we need:
Mercy-drops round us are falling,
But for the showers we plead.

I had to check the internet for the verses, and I found the lyrics had been written in 1883 by D.W. Little.  He wrote the words to about two hundred hymns and was an evangelist and Bible teacher.  He described his war-time conversion:

     When the Civil War broke out, I left my home in New England and came to Virginia as lieutenant of a company in a Massachusetts regiment. My dear mother was a devout Christian, and parted from me with many a tear, and followed me with many a prayer. She had placed a New Testament in a pocket of the haversack that she arranged for me.

. . . in one of the battles I was knocked out, and that night my arm was amputated above the elbow. As I grew better, having a desire for something to read, I felt in my haversack, . . . and found the little Testament my mother had placed there.

I read right through the book—Matthew, Mark, Luke, to Revelation. Every part was interesting to me; and I found to my surprise that I could understand it in a way that I never had before.  . . .  And so for days I continued reading, and with continued interest; and still with no thought of becoming a Christian, I saw clearly from what I read the way of salvation through Christ.

While in this state of mind, yet still with no purpose or plan to repent and accept the Saviour, I was awakened one midnight by the nurse, who said: ‘There is a boy in the other end of the ward, one of your men, who is dying. He has been begging me for the past hour to pray for him, or to get someone to pray for him, and I can’t stand it. I am a wicked man, and can’t pray, and I have come to get you.’

‘Why,’ said I, ‘I can’t pray. I never prayed in my life. I am just as wicked as you are.’ ‘Can’t pray!’ said the nurse; ‘why, I thought sure from seeing you read the Testament that you were a praying man.  . . .  I can’t go back there alone. Won’t you get up and come and see him at any rate?’

Moved by his appeal, I arose from my cot, and went with him to the far comer of the room. A fair-haired boy of seventeen or eighteen lay there dying. There was a look of intense agony upon his face, as he fastened his eyes upon me and said:

‘Oh, pray for me! Pray for me! I am dying. I was a good boy at home  . . . But since I became a soldier I have learned to be wicked.  . . .  And now I am dying, and I am not fit to die! Oh, ask God to forgive me! Pray for me. Ask Christ to save me!’

As I stood there and heard these pleadings, God said to my soul by His Spirit, just as plainly as if He had spoken in audible tones, ‘You know the way of salvation. Get right down on your knees and accept Christ, and pray for this boy.’

I dropped upon my knees and held the boy’s hand in mine, as in a few broken words I confessed my sins, and asked God for Christ’s sake to forgive me. I believed right there that He did forgive me, and that I was Christ’s child; I then prayed earnestly for the boy. He became quiet, and pressed my hand as I pleaded the promises. When I arose from my knees he was dead. A look of peace was upon his face, and I can but believe that God, who used him to bring me to my Saviour, used me to get his attention fixed upon Christ and to lead him to trust in His precious blood. I hope to meet him in Heaven.

Many years have passed since that night in the Richmond Hospital, and I am still trusting and confessing the Lord Jesus Christ, and purpose by God’s grace to continue doing so until He calls me Home.

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Whether we have a bin-buster crop or lose it all, “the shower of blessing” that we desperately need is the rain of God’s love, the mercy drops of His grace.  The tender kindness that began in the great ocean of His love lifts up over the dry earth of our lives and falls down, pure and refreshing on our hearts.  There is more than enough rain for us, the rest slides off, and runs to the creek.  We love others, and they extend God’s loving kindness to even more people. We are part of the “water cycle” of God’s love.

 We love because he first loved us.    1 John 4:19   NIV

Liquid love flooded out of a mother’s breaking heart.

She placed a New Testament in her son’s bag and sent him off to fight in the Civil War, not knowing if she would ever see him again.

Love steamed off the furnace-hot events of war.

A young man’s arm was amputated, and he read the books:  Matthew through Revelation.

Love pelted down hard and fast on unbelieving souls, and

two soldier hearts were softened and healed.

Love-washed lyrics poured out of a redeemed life,

words that echoed in church rafters.

Love-wrapped rain gently trickled down the years

and streamed into a grateful pool that is my heart,

which now overflows in a shower of blessing

from me to you.

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 Showers of Blessing

There shall be showers of blessing:
This is the promise of love;
There shall be seasons refreshing,
Sent from the Savior above.

Showers of blessing,
Showers of blessing we need:
Mercy-drops round us are falling,
But for the showers we plead.

2 There shall be showers of blessing,
Precious reviving again;
Over the hills and the valleys,
Sound of abundance of rain. [Refrain]

3 There shall be showers of blessing;
Send them upon us, O Lord;
Grant to us now a refreshing,
Come, and now honor Thy Word. [Refrain]

4 There shall be showers of blessing:
Oh, that today they might fall,
Now as to God we’re confessing,
Now as on Jesus we call! [Refrain]

5 There shall be showers of blessing,
If we but trust and obey;
There shall be seasons refreshing,
If we let God have His way. [Refrain]


I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing.   Ezekiel 34:26

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Linking with

PhotoFridayButton_MG_7389-Edit.jpg http://www.dianewbailey.net Jennifer Dukes Lee Laura Boggess

Revisiting: “Gone to Seed” or “Perfection”

Summer reruns on TV can be pretty boring, unless they’re showing the episode you missed last fall.  (So that’s what Lady Violet meant by her most recent zinger.)

In case you didn’t see it the first time, here’s an updated version of a post from last October.  

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This is a perfect sunflower.


Even if a few of the ray petals have been nibbled, the next one is still perfect.


And this ragged, windblown flower, eaten by root worm beetles?

Perfect again.


The beautiful, golden ray petals are gone.  The leaves have shriveled in hot, dry winds.

Still perfect.


This sunflower head is frostbitten, not a trace of green leaf or sunny yellow left.

It is absolutely perfect!


Not your idea of perfection?  It depends on what language you’re speaking.  We English speakers most often think of this definition of the word “perfect:”

entirely without any flaws, defects, or shortcomings; correct in every detail

Some of us have carried over this idea of flawlessness to our Christian walk, thinking a character and life without defects was required of us.  We have heard bits of verses  taken out of the whole of Scripture, and they made living the Christian life seem like a Herculean task.

For every honest heart knows they are bug-eaten, wind-blown, and drought-stunted.  There are days the hard freezes of life stop us in our tracks, and we feel like dried-out husks without a tinge of green life left in us.  We make the choices and say the words and think the thoughts that take us a universe away from perfection.

There is good news, friends!  We need to reclaim the older meanings of the word-perfect.”  The old Latin word from which our English comes  is

“perfectus:” to finish, bring to completion.

We are not responsible for or even capable of finishing or completing the story that is our life.  God is.  Like the sunflower, we just turn to face the sun and grow.

And I am sure that God who began the good work within you will keep right on helping you grow in his grace until his task within you is finally finished on that day when Jesus Christ returns.   Philippians 1:6   TLB

being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.   Philippians 1:6   NIV

In the Greek of the New Testament the word for “perfect” is teleios which means

a thing meeting its intended, end purpose.

What is the designed, end purpose of the sunflower?  In general, all of creation testifies to God’s glory and His character.

Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made.  Romans 1:20 RSV

However, what can the sunflower do that nothing else can?  It produces sunflower seeds–enough seeds to ensure reproduction and to feed birds and other animals.

goldfinch on sunflower flickr

We live in a broken world , but the good news is “the Good News.”  Jesus provided a way for us to be forgiven, and now we can live out our intended end purpose.  Jesus taught that the first and second greatest commandments were to love God and love our neighbor as our self.

We can love and glorify God.  We can love our neighbors by sharing the gospel seeds with a world that is spiritually (and literally) hungry.   Be a perfect sunflower–face the warm sun and “go to seed.”



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Sunflower photo 1 and 2 by Barb Briggs

Sunflower with goldfinch photo by Audreyjm529

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linking with

Jennifer Dukes Lee Laura Boggess

  Holley Gerth PhotoFridayButton_MG_7389-Edit.jpg  Diane W. Bailey


Revisiting: Ah! Sunflower or The Forbidden City (part 2)

I never mind having leftovers from supper.  I try to serve them later with a new item or in a new combination.  For example,  Monday’s extra rice from a stir-fry and Tuesday’s roast chicken become Wednesday’s chicken and rice.  

An updated version of a post from last August (when I began blogging) is on the menu today.  Enjoy the new photos by Barb Briggs!  Leftovers aren’t so bad after all, are they?

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Ah! Sunflower Part 1


Imagine that you’re shopping, and you see a sweater that you like very much in a nice shade of sunflower yellow .  It fits you (and your budget), so you place it on the counter near the cash register and announce, “I’ll take it.”

The clerk replies, “I’m sorry.  Only members of the Royal Family can buy that color.  May I interest you in the blue sweater instead?”

Flickr_free_The_Forbidden_City_By Pete Stewart from Perth, Australia

Sound implausible?  The color yellow was so identified with the Chinese imperial family (a symbol of their “celestial nature”), that only they could wear it.  Even the roofs of nearly all the buildings in the imperial palace complex were constructed of yellow, glazed tiles. This complex of religious, political, and residential buildings, called the Forbidden City, was surrounded by a 26′ high wall and a 20′ deep moat.  Commoners and royalty  were forbidden to enter without permission of the Emperor.

Thankfully, there are no walls or moats between us and God.  We have access to him because of Jesus’ self-sacrifice on the cross.

By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us—set us right with him, make us fit for him—we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that’s not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us.

Romans 5:1 The Message

We can return to the metaphor of God as sun and believers as sunflowers in the next verse in Romans 5.  Now that we have access to God, we can be in His presence and worship Him.

We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.

Romans 5:2 The Message


 Whenever, though, they turn to face God as Moses did, God removes the veil and there they are—face-to-face! . . .Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.

2 Corinthians 3:16-18 (The Message)

IMG_6329 lomo 7-23-2013 4-40-12 PM 7-23-2013 4-40-12 PM

If we are like sunflowers facing the east, toward God, we are becoming “brighter and more beautiful”  because He  is not only sharing his presence with us, but his  “celestial nature.”  The restrictions of imperial China are long gone. We common sunflowers are allowed to wear yellow, but our color is a gift of the sun (not a sweater we buy in a store).  When the sun shines on a sunflower, the flower absorbs all the other color wavelengths (think rainbow) and reflects yellow.  So we see golden, yellow flowers.


“We were created to reflect God’s glory, born to bear his image, and he ransomed us to reflect that glory again. “

from Waking the Dead by John Eldredge

God loved us enough to send his Son

  • to reestablish access to Him,
  • to restore relationship with us,
  • so we might reflect his glory.

The Lord delights in seeing us become more like Him and therefore a better version of ourselves–a more wonderful sunflower.

The glory of God is man fully alive.   St. Irenaeus

I can imagine the Lord shining on us, saying “Ah!  Sunflower!”

photo by Barb Briggs

Sunflower photos by Barb Briggs

Forbidden City photo by Pete Stewart

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   linking with Jennifer Dukes Lee

  linking with Holley Gerth

Essential Fridays Linkuplinking with Essential Thing Devotions

PhotoFridayButton_MG_7389-Edit.jpg  linking with Diane Bailey

Revisiting: Ah! Sunflower or Heliotropism (part 1)

Today’s offering is an updated version of a post from last August, when I began blogging.  I’m revisiting a topic that interests many some a few people.  Honest!  Someone besides me googled “sunflowers and heliotropism” and ended up here.

Enjoy the new photos by Barb Briggs!

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Sunflowers have inspired


Van_Gogh_Sunflowers wiki CC

Sunflowers by Vincent Van Gogh


Blake Ah sunflower

“Ah! Sunflower” by William Blake

and worship.

The ancient Aztecs and Incas used sunflowers in ceremonies honoring their sun-god–a natural connection, since the color and shape of the flower echoes the sun.


The sunflower, however, is more than a pretty, golden face, reminding us of the sun. The flower seems to “worship” the sun because of the way the buds and leaves of sunflowers orient themselves to face the sun, following its movement from east to west across the sky.  (This is called heliotropism.)

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By the time the sunflower matures and is in full bloom, the flowers permanently face east.

This video (from Indiana University, Department of Biology) shows a young sunflower plant tracking the sun over a 24-hour period.

The dance of the sunflowers and the sun is a wonderful (full of wonder) picture of the relationship between believer and God.  Sunflowers, like any plant, need the sun to survive.  This is the process of photosynthesis where light energy is converted into chemical energy that the plant can use.


For in him we live and move and have our being.  Acts 17:28   NIV

English-speaking Christians have often taken advantage of the happy coincidence of the homonym of sun/son, but there is some Biblical basis for idea of God as the “sun.”

For the Lord God is a sun and shield; . . .  Psalm 84:11   NIV

The Lord is God, and he has made his light shine upon us.   Psalm 118:27   NIV

His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.   Revelation 1:16   NIV

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We “sunflowers” turn our faces toward the Lord.

if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.   2 Chronicles 7:13-15   NIV

Your face, Lord, I will seek.  Psalm 27:8   NIV

Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.   Psalm 105:4    NIV


Too much information?  Is it all Greek to you?  Just remember God shines his light on us, and we seek his face like the sunflower. “Shine” and “seek.”


photos by Barb Briggs

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Essential Fridays Linkup  linking with Essential Devotions

PhotoFridayButton_MG_7389-Edit.jpg  linking with Diane Bailey

Sandra Heska King - Still Saturday  linking with Sandra Heska King

The Center of the Universe

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I sat on the gray, wooden steps of the porch and pointed my camera up at the brilliant yellow of a bird-planted sunflower.  I sat because I couldn’t trust my balance to keep me steady while standing and holding the camera with both hands.

Just a few days earlier, the world had spun around me like a carousel out of control, and when it stopped, it left me reeling and nauseous.

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At the doctor’s office, the nurse noticed my eyes scanning the floor in front of my feet and my hand reaching for the wall to steady myself.

Don’t look down, she cautioned.  Look up.  Look ahead.


The doctor wrote “vertigo” in a space on the yellow form left blank for a diagnosis.

Inner ear . . . possibly a virus . . . medication three times a day . . . keep your head steady

All this would help control the dizziness, to keep the world from spinning.


But the world really is spinning, rotating on its axis at about 1,000 miles per hour (at the equator).


The earth is orbiting the sun at 67,000 miles per hour, and our sun is speeding around the center of our Milk Way galaxy at 490,000 miles per hour.

Spiral Galaxy M74

Even though we are spinning and circling and hurtling through the galaxy, we can’t sense that enormous velocity.  There is no galactic motion sickness. “Dizzying” speeds produce no dizziness.

Despite the unimaginable and yet undetectable speeds, my world can be still.  When the eternal God is the center of my universe, there is peace and calm.

But when I put myself at the center of all things, and my life spins on the axis of my self-centeredness, there is no tranquility.  There is dis-ease–vertigo of the soul.  I was never meant to be the center of the universe.  Only God is.

The nurse’s words echo.

Don’t look down.  Look up.  Look ahead.

I need to turn my gaze away from my own stumbling feet and toward the God who created

the star-studded, spiraled arms of galaxies,

the intersecting spirals at the center of a sunflower,

and tiny, perfect spiral of the cochlea of the inner ear.

Then my world will cease its frantic, dizzying spin.  It will quiet and be still.

Be still before the Lord
    and wait patiently for him;   Psalm 37:7   NIV

 Be still, and know that I am God   Psalm 46:10   NIV

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earth photo from visibleearth.nasa.gov

galaxy photo from Hubblesite.org

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Diane W. Bailey  linking with Diane W. Bailey 

Sandra Heska King - Still Saturday  linking with Sandra Heska King

Essential Fridays Linkup   linking with Essential Thing Devotions

  linking with Jennifer Dukes Lee

  linking with Holley Gerth

My Nephew

Filtered, morning sun from a single window softly lit the small, rectangular room where upholstered and folding chairs lined three walls.  The members of two extended families, ranging from a toddler to those in their eighties, filled the seats.  All sounds were muffled:  sobs and sniffling, the rip of tissues torn from their cardboard box, subdued conversations in an adjoining room, and the chime of a grandfather clock down the carpeted hallway.

An open casket was centered against the fourth wall.  We had come to see him one last time, to “pay our respects,” to say good-bye.  As the time for the small, family-only burial service neared, everyone left the viewing room and gathered in the main entry area, discussing directions to the cemetery.  I stepped back in and looked at my nephew’s still face a final time.  Oh, Nathan, Nathan, what have you done?

bleeding heart by heather johnson

Our hearts are broken:  every mother, father, brother, and sister heart, each grandparent, every aunt and uncle, each cousin and friend.  We have all fallen with the weight of this loss, and we are scraped and bruised, bleeding raw emotions.

To lose a young man we loved–who was only twenty years old and had such potential and such a gentle soul–is difficult enough,  but in this way . . .


We are left with nagging questions and regrets:  the should haves and could haves and would anything have?  I can’t imagine the pain and despair and hopelessness that led you to this choice.  I can’t imagine how your mind was painted with the wide, black strokes of depression.  I answer my own question (Nathan, what have you done?):  you became ill.

At the cemetery family members carried the casket from the hearse to the graveside, walking across the green grass sprinkled with sweet clover.  Some sat in chairs, and some stood in the shade of a small, blue awning under the vault of a bright, blue sky.

We commended Nathan to God’s care and final healing.  We listened to the reminder that Nathan’s name meant “gift of God.”  He was.  He is.  We read his favorite scripture and sang his favorite hymn.  Those who wished to share spoke of his life, his character, what he was like as a child, and how we remembered him best.   After a season of dark illness, Nathan now rests in the Light of Jesus.

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If I could have choked out the words at the graveside service, I would have shared this verse.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:13

If faith falters, and hope slips away, love remains.  Nathan may not have had a life “full of years,”  but his life was full of love–his love for his family and friends and their great love for him.

And over all, covering all, forgiving all, healing all is the boundless love of God.

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Nathan, age 10

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If you are depressed and feeling hopeless, please, please, talk to someone.  I am not a counselor or mental health professional, but I know you need to get help.  Talk to your friends, your family, your pastor.  Find a doctor or a counselor.  You may need to call your local mental health center and schedule an emergency appointment.

If you know someone who is despairing, reach out.  You may need to direct them to professional help.  Offer to go with them to an appointment.  If you have serious concerns,  you may call the police who can go to the person’s residence to do a welfare check.

If someone you love has taken their own life,  you may experience a range of emotions: from anger to sorrow.  You may benefit from support groups and counseling .

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.   Galatians 6:2   NIV

. . . weep with those who weep.   Romans 12:15   RSV

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More information:

When suicide strikes in the body of Christ  — Please continue reading to the end of this article for links to suicide hotlines, prevention and awareness sites, and grief support for survivors.

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bleeding heart photo by Heather Johnson of truelifewithgod.com

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  linking with Jennifer Dukes Lee

  linking with Holley Gerth

Essential Fridays Linkup  linking with Essential Thing Devotions


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