Monthly Archives: August 2014

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 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.)

IMG_6330 - Copy (2)

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

DSC_4728 (2)

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.

DSC_4739 (2)

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

galaxy photo from

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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

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