Sunday, June 28, 2009

Waiting for the Harvest

I've wanted to have my very own garden for years. There's something about planting a seed and watching it grow into a harvest that stirs my soul. I got my wish this year. I've planted my very own vegetable garden here in the Blue Ridge mountains.

I've developed a ritual. Every morning and evening I walk out to evaluate my garden to see what's changed. It all started right after the seeds were planted. I eagerly watched to see if anything had taken root. It wasn’t long before tiny shoots of life emerged from underground. The seeds had germinated, life had begun. Blooms soon appeared as the plants continued to grow.

I've yet to water my garden. It’s been amazing to watch. Every time the garden needs to be watered, God takes care of it for me. We've had some pretty intense storms as of late. The deluge of rain accompanied by strong winds have given me cause to wonder how the plants would fare.

An assessment of my squash one day brought the first disturbance. The pods were dying. The hard rains accompanied by the swift climbing of the heat index had limited air circulation. Online gardeners advised pulling off the rotting fruit, allowing the plants to have a fresh start. After following their instructions, baby squash once again filled the plants. Balance had been restored.

Tomatoes have been on the vine for weeks now. Some days they don't even look like they've changed. Will they ever be ready to pick? Each day I look for signs of harvest. It does a soul good to reap.

I don't know why I am so amazed that things in life correlate with my spirit, but I am. This precious garden represents my heart. I watch and wait to see if the seeds planted inside me have germinated. Will they grow to serve a greater purpose? Will there be a harvest? Will things ever be ripe for the picking? I want things to hurry along. I want the plantings in my heart to bear life that will feed another soul. I grow weary in the waiting.

Sometimes I wonder if I will make it through the storms that come and go. At times I question whether fruit will ever appear out of this quiet season of my life.

How does one hang onto the dreams in their hearts while waiting for the ripening moment, I ask Jesus? Sometimes the dreams seem lost, hidden away. Sometimes I wonder if they were mine or His. Sometimes I lose heart in the waiting moments.

"Have you ever watched an oak tree grow?” He asks.

No, not really.

My curiosity is piqued.

I discovered something. It takes 50 years for an oak tree to birth acorns. Growing from an acorn to an oak that bears life is a process, much of which is not drastically noticeable. It doesn't diminish the facts, there is a seed growing into a tree that will reproduce life.

Waiting is hard. Sometimes it feels like an eternity. Sometimes the mundane tasks of life give the appearance that this is as good as it gets.

“Waiting has it’s purpose, Jewel.”

The story of Joseph speaks so tenderly to my heart and I consider; did he wonder if there was more to life? Did he see the mundane around him? Did he lose his dreams? Did he grow weary of waiting? Did he lose heart?

A ripening moment came for Joseph when he least expected it. One day he woke up to find the end of his confinement. He was released from prison to the 2nd most powerful position in the nation. It was time for the harvest. Waiting had had it’s work.

I see the tomatoes on the vine. I cannot wait to taste them. Yet I know, in the waiting the plant is left to finish it's process. To pick them too early is to lesson their flavor. Hanging on the vine they ripen into a fruit that tantalizes the senses. So I wait.

Life is like that, you know. Resting on the vine, allows the fruit to have it’s ripening moment in me too. One day the waiting will have it’s work. I will emerge an oak of righteousness that displays His splendor.

“Perseverance must finish it’s work so that you might be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:4

©copyrighted: 2009 Julie L. Todd

Monday, June 22, 2009

Meet Billy Coffey

I’ve found a wonderful blog. Billy Coffey is a gifted writer who watches as the story unfolds in his everyday world. I asked him if he would share a post with you, my friends. I hope you will go and visit Billy. I believe you will be inspired. I know I am each time I visit. Thank you Billy for sharing with us. (*Note, I tried 4 times to get this post spaced correctly, if it's still not right, please don't let the spacing deter you from reading this post. It's an amazing post.)

The One by Billy Coffey

I first wrote this for my children, who had grown tired of the usual fare of bedtime stories involving knights and princesses in distress. "Tell us a real story," they said.

So here it is. Written not just for them, but for you, too. And all I ask in return is that after your bedtime prayers tonight, you think about this and sleep well...

One day God sat upon His heavenly throne and looked down upon all He had made. All the galaxies of all the universes were in His sight. Some were spiral, some flat, some round, but each were wondrous in their size and beauty.

He saw comets whisking about, their tails long and shiny. Suns burst with incredible brilliance. Black holes churned. And He saw the secret places where no eyes but His own ever roamed. Everything turned in a silent celestial dance that many could ponder but only He could understand.

He saw stars of all shapes and sizes—huge red ones, medium yellow ones, small white ones. And around the stars were worlds innumerable. Some hung peacefully in the blackness of space. Others teemed with strange and wondrous life. And God saw that it was all good and wonderful and perfect.

Then the eyes of the Lord settled upon one small galaxy among the millions, then upon one yellow star among the billions, to one pale, blue dot.

Of all the worlds God had created, the blue dot was the most beautiful in His eyes. It was a world of unsurpassed beauty, of churning oceans and majestic mountains, of soaring birds and graceful animals.

But there was something more there. Something far more valuable. For God had made oceans and mountains and creatures on many other worlds and in many other galaxies, but only in this one place, only upon this pale, blue dot, did God fashion beings who carried within them a part of Himself.

Man and Woman, the Lord called them. It was God’s love that gave them life, and it was God’s love that gave them the choice of whether to love Him back. But they chose unwisely. Now, the very ones God had created had forgotten Him. His children had lost their way. And more than that, they had lost their faith.

The pale, blue dot that was once so pure was now nearly ruined. There was war and bloodshed, hate and slavery, pain and suffering. And as the Lord listened, the cries of the people echoed throughout all of heaven. The smile that was upon God’s face began to fade. The cherubim who circled the throne in constant song stopped then, their wings lowered. Slowly they turned to face their Lord, astonished at the sight.

For God, Creator of all, had begun to cry.

Then with a powerful voice He called out, “Michael, come!”

The mighty doors of the throne room opened as Michael the archangel, commander of the armies of heaven, appeared. His clothing shone brighter than the brightest star, and a golden sword hung from his side. As he bowed before the Lord his wings stretched outward, so large and majestic that they seemed to touch the very corners of heaven.

“What is Thy wish, my Lord?” Michael asked.

“Michael,” God answered, “the time has come. Go forth and bring to me the soul unlike all others. Bring to me The One.”

At those words the cherubim again burst into joyful song, for they knew all of heaven had waited for this moment since time itself began. Michael’s smile was lit with the radiance of a hundred suns. “As you wish, my Lord,” he said, drawing his massive sword in salute.

Michael left the presence of God and searched throughout heaven. He walked along the golden streets and by the crystal sea until, finally, he had found whom God had requested, whom God had called The One. The two of them journeyed back to the throne and bowed before the Lord.

“My child,” God said, “do you see the pale, blue dot below you?”

“Yes, Father,” replied The One.

“No world is more precious to Me. And none of the souls I have ever created are more loved by My heart than those whom you see walking upon it. And yet they have forgotten how to live. They have forgotten that they share one Father, and so they quarrel and hate. Their words maim the heart and their actions destroy the soul. They think not of their neighbors, but only of themselves. Yet My love for them is such that I will not forsake them. They have cried out for My help, and I will answer them. I will send them you.

“You must go and take their form. You will grow to walk among them, and you are to help them remember how I would have them live. Teach them to love one another. Show them that they can have joy.

“And above all, tell them that the life I have given them is not a curse, but a blessing. Their lives upon the pale, blue dot are short and their days are few. Tell them that they must never take their days for granted, but use their time to ease the burdens of others. Tell them not to worry. Tell them not to fear. Tell them that the Lord watches over them, and that His love is great.

“Take care, My child, and be strong. You will be tempted to speak as they speak and live as they live. Resist those things. Remember instead that the pale, blue dot is not your true home. Your true home is here, with Me. Be gentle with others. See in them yourself. See in them Me. Grow in wisdom.

"Let the light I have put in you shine forth and do not forget your purpose, for you will suffer greatly. You will feel the pains of loss, and you will journey to the depths of sadness and despair. These things you must experience, for they are shared by all. Only turn to Me, your Father. I will comfort you in your anguish, I will laugh with you in your joy, and I will bless you abundantly.

“Go now, My child, and make haste, for you are the answer to their prayers. Do not forget Me. Remain strong and courageous, and remember that I look down upon you always.”

With that the precious soul rose up and stood upon the edge of heaven. All the angels gathered there in silence as Michael took The One by the hand and together descended to the tiny, blue dot...


How does the story end? I can't say. I don't know.

Because, you see, the story is still happening.

Because you are The One.

And right now, this minute, all the angels stand upon the edge of heaven, and watch…

Please visit Billy at His Blog: "What I Learned Today"

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Dear Daddy

Dear Daddy,
It's Father's Day. It's my first one without you. There is no card this year. I loved picking them out for you. I would read through each one until I found the one that truthfully expressed my heart. It was important, for words of the heart spoke to you as they do to me. You often mentioned how perfect the cards were. I loved that.

I miss you terribly. I know you are where you were meant to be. I know you are finally fulfilled, completely and totally fulfilled. That comforts me today. I'm trusting that somehow you might see this letter. I've asked God to give you a hug from me today and tell you that I love you.. I asked Him to tell you Happy Father's Day for me..

I wish I could see where you are. I wish I could see heaven. I know it's a beautiful place. I wish I had a snapshot of you there. Sometimes I wonder if you can see me. I think of you all the time. Sometimes it hurts too much to think about you being gone. The finality of it is hard for the mind to grasp. I try to imagine you where you are. It's the only thing that brings me comfort. I heard a teaching on heaven the other day and I thought of you. It was a happy/sad moment. I was sad to be reminded that you weren't with me, but happy at the thought of you waiting there for me.

Sometimes I wish I could have one more conversation. The other night I dreamed I was given another chance to talk to you. I believe God will give you the messages I ask Him to deliver.

When I think of one word to describe you, Daddy, I think of the word, "champion". Mom spoke that over you the day you met Jesus face to face. It fits you perfectly. You are the champion of my heart. I am still your girl.

I always will be......

Happy Father's Day!
I love you,

Monday, June 15, 2009

I'm Still Hanging In There, How About You?

It’s been a hard year. Menopause; the deaths of my aunt and father a month apart; conflicts in our marriage which have been used to expose more dead flesh; and battlefronts between children, have all had an affect on me. It wasn’t until I had a conversation with my husband that I realized something was lost inside me. I needed clarity so I went to sit with Jesus. He had two words for me, “Navy Seals.” My search began.

Of all the battles that a Seal must fight, none is more important then the battle of mind over body. One web site had this quote: “The voice was back. That small, self-doubting messenger returned to pitch its familiar monologue, “ Why are you putting yourself through this? You are never gonna make it all the way, so quit now and call it a day!” The trainees can drop on request any time by simply ringing a shiny brass bell that hangs prominently within the camp for all to see.

The toughest week in Seal training is “hell week”. Trainees are constantly in motion; continually cold, hungry and wet. It’s not the physical trials that are difficult as much as their duration. Many don’t make it. Many succumb to what the body is telling the mind. It’s too hard, just give up and go home. It’s not their bodies that give up, it’s their minds. It becomes a battle of perseverance. They cannot give in to the weariness. They have to see the goal set before them.

Through the long days and nights of Hell Week, candidates learn to rely on one another to keep awake and stay motivated. They tap one another on the shoulder and say, “I’m still hanging in there, how about you?”

I know I need that.

I’ve been in a battle, there’s no doubt about it. It’s not the trials as much as the duration. In some areas I rang that shiny, brass bell. In some ways I gave up and resigned in my spirit. I allowed the elements around me to get to me. I quit hoping. I gave in to the weariness. It became easier to give up than to press on. The thing is, I didn’t even see it.

That inner voice of the "messenger" penetrated my thoughts. “I can’t do this anymore.” “Life is too hard.” “I can’t bear the weariness any longer.” “This is as good as it gets.” “You’re not going to make it.” “I’m so tired.” “Quit now and call it a day.”

And I did. I lost sight of things. I made an agreement with resignation. I turned on the autopilot mode and something inside got terribly lost.

He speaks so tenderly to me at times that I can hardly take it in. “It’s OK, Jewel. I come after the lost sheep.” “You’ve not been lost from Me.” “I’ve known where you were all along.” “I’ve never left your side.” “I’ve been here the whole time.”

I don’t know how to walk in hope when things seems so relentless.

“I know.” “Put your hope in me, Jewel, not what you see going on around you.” “Don’t hope for tomorrow.” “Don’t hope for a better day, or for things to change. Hope in Me.” “I am in every situation that surrounds your life.” “If you will put your hope in me, you will find the breath of life.”

Breathe Your breath of life into my being, like bellows on a fire. Fan the flames to burn brightly. I break the agreement with resignation. I close the door. Awaken me once again to those things I have given up on. It’s mind over the body. I choose to press on. I won’t ring the bell.

“Jewel, I’m there with you. You are not alone. Not now. Not ever. I’m still hanging with you.” “I’ll never stop.” “Don’t ever forget that.”

Never will leave you; never will I forsake you.”

©copyrighted: 2009 Julie L. Todd

Monday, June 8, 2009

A Thief in the Neighborhood

In 1968 “It Takes a Thief" made is TV debut. It featured a cat burglar, pickpocket who stole to support his playboy lifestyle. The show opens with him kissing a woman’s hand while slipping a ring off her finger. He knew how to get past the alarm systems. He was a cunning, smooth operator. Whatever the situation, he blended in. No one had a clue that a thief was in their midst.

What if my neighborhood was one of his targets? Wouldn't I lock the doors and windows; send out the alert; beef up the neighborhood watch; maybe even buy a security system? Wouldn't I be more attentive to what's going on around me?

In John 10:10 Jesus says, “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy.” But do I really get that?. I mean I know he’s out there, but do I realize he's in my neighborhood?

Jesus finished the verse saying, "I came to give you life more abundant, life to the full." He came to give us a life like His, an extraordinary life. He even said that we would do greater things than He has done? How is life lived out? Are we doing “greater things”?

Life is definitely full, but what is it full of; busyness or extraordinary living? I mean how many of us even have time for authentic relationship? Doesn’t life’s demands take up most of our time? Who’s behind this?

Jesus came to give us the extraordinary life of oneness with the Creator of the universe. His death brought us our inheritance. I don't think many of us get that. We've already received the inheritance. It's not waiting for us in heaven. It's in the here and now. We have been given all the spiritual blessings in the heavenlies. The treasures of the kingdom are in our midst.

Do we even really get a clue how dangerous we are as children of light? The enemy wants to steal, kill and destroy. But Jesus has the last word. The enemy cannot steal from us. It comes down to our choice. Will we squander our life away.

I see how easily distractions come into our home. Those things that breathe life disappear like a thin vapor. The emptiness creeps in revealing that something is out of balance.

Sweet intimate moments between two lovers are quickly replaced by intense jobs or parenting demands. Opportunities for heart connections are replaced by places of escape. Life takes over, things get lost. Emptiness replaces fullness, sadness replaces bliss. Dullness replaces excitement. We move on alone as individuals not having the time for living in our inheritance. Two are stronger than one. How is it we get separated in our own worlds?

What goes on in the day to day living? Are we even paying attention? Where and how our time is spent reveals our reality. There are 168 hours in a week, normally 45- 50 of those are given to a job & commuting. An average night’s sleep takes another 56. That leaves 62 hours left each week. Does that shock you like it does me? Doesn’t it seem like there’s just not enough time? Who’s behind that?

Our senses have been dulled. It’s much easier to escape the monotony of life. Hours spent on the computer or TV take us to another dimension, one where we don't have to think, engage or offer. Time seems to stand still and before you know it, time’s been given away. I know, I go there.

We live busy lives, working hard to make money. We give our hours away to things that will never last. Things that matter for eternity’s purpose get lost... so very, very lost. We turn to places of escape to relax and sedate us.

We’ve lost sight of our inheritance. It's being stolen right from underneath our eyes. We've left our doors and windows unlocked. We’re not even paying attention.

Sound the alert. Head’s up. There’s a thief in the neighborhood. We’re being robbed. We were made for so much more. We were made for an extraordinary life of even greater things.

I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. John 14:12

©copyright 2009 Julie L. Todd

Thursday, June 4, 2009

My Father's Eyes

My son has an eye malady. It was discovered when he was about 4 years old. His right eye has trouble focusing, causing it to turn inward. He was prescribed glasses along with a regiment of patching the left eye. The plan was to redirect the right eye.

Each year he had eye exams. Every time we were given the news that everything was working well. But the doctors didn’t see everything. The routine eye exams didn’t tell the full story. Things weren’t completely restored.

When he was 13 years old my son began to complain of his vision being blurred. We visited a doctor who specialized in vision therapy. His tests revealed the problem. The brain was still telling the muscles of the right eye to focus the wrong way, throwing his vision off.

He was prescribed bifocals. The thought was that the bifocals would help his eyes focus as they were intended and as a result the brain would be reprogrammed.

The similarities to my spiritual world astound me. My eyes often turn inward, and in the process I lose focus of what’s really going on. Things get out of balance and my programming gets all screwed up.

I wonder how often that happens without us knowing it. We’ve been given a unique display of God in our lives. He gifts us and calls us out. But without our knowledge, the enemy sneaks in with a twist. His plan is to distort, discourage and diminish.

As I sat with Papa God, He began to speak to me. “Jewel, you see based on what you see in the natural world.” “You’re not seeing with the eyes of the Spirit.” “Your focus is out of balance.”

“Oh Jesus, I want to see through my Father’s eyes.”

An old song pops into my head. It’s one of Amy Grant’s oldies but goodies. One verse in particular sticks out to me. “Eyes that find the good in things when good is not around.”

I don’t often see the good in things when good is not around. I see with blurred vision. I forget to ask Papa God what He sees. I know what I see. But what does He see? That’s the question. That’s where I lose touch.

My eyes are the lamp to my body. When my eyes are focused on what they should be focused on, my whole body is full of light. But when they turn inward, things will get distorted.

I see but through a mirror dimly, but what if I were to see face to face? What if the eyes I looked through were Spirit eyes? What if in every situation, every day I asked God what He saw? The darkness would be exposed for what it was. For when light enters a room, darkness disappears. As the dawn announces the day, the dark of night is laid to rest.

There is never a time where God is not doing good in each and every situation. There is never a time that God does not see good in me and in everyone else. He sees me as He created me to be. He sees from another spectrum. One that is right and good. I want to see what He sees. I want my Father’s eyes.

Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are good, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are bad, your body also is full of darkness. Luke 11:34

©copyright: 2009 Julie L. Todd

Monday, June 1, 2009

Rouse the Warriors

    As he walked through the church he was greeted and hugged by people mom knew and trusted.  He talked of having a new job, but not having transportation.   He’d had a tough break and now he was getting a second chance. Recently widowed, she considered it a blessing to help someone get a fresh, new start.  She offered him the use of my dad’s old truck.

      It wasn’t long after he picked it up that things began to unfold.  This guy was bad news.   There was a warrant out for his arrest.  He was a con artist.  Friends got wind of the situation and began to get the authorities involved.  Two days later he was arrested and the truck was returned to her.  Mom felt a range of emotions after it was all over.  How did she get into this mess?  How was she so deceived?

     It’s a great picture of life in the world.  The enemy is a con artist.  He paints his picture, tells his story and unbeknownst to us we get sucked in.  Before you know it we are spiraling down feeling the weight of life being sucked out.  We think it’s us.

      I know, it happened to me this past week.

      It all started with something that appeared to be true.  From all indicators it was true.  I was oblivious that I was being conned, until things began to unfold.  The voices in my head kept convincing me that this was just how life was.  There was nothing I could do about it.  There must be some reason that God was withholding something good that I longed for.  Or maybe it was me.  Maybe I was holding myself back.

     Before you knew it I was finding things wrong everywhere.  If people just spoke differently to me I wouldn’t feel the way I felt.  By the end of the day I wanted to give up.  It was then my words showed what was really going on in my head.  I was being conned. 

      In the movie The Lord of the Rings, King Theoden has Wormtongue working alongside him.  He has no idea that he is evil.  Little by little Wormtongue whispers his lies into Theoden.  With each con Theoden goes deeper into an avalanche of deception.  He becomes brainwashed and immobilized.  His kingdom lies in chaos and confusion.

     Gandolf comes in sees what’s at play and immediately delivers Theoden.  Theoden awakens dazed and confused.  What’s going on here?  Gandolf tells Theoden that he will remember his strength if he grasps his sword.  Theoden then asks for his sword, grabs hold, rises up and casts Wormtongue out of his kingdom.  He's now prepared to battle for the kingdom.

     I don’t always see the con of the enemy.   He sneaks in with his story, which filters into what’s going on around me.  He’s realized that the blatant lies don’t work for me anymore.  He’s become cunning and subtle.  Sometimes it’s hard to see because what seems truest in that moment is being played out all around me.

      Scriptures tell me to be wise and sharp, to guard my heart.  Head’s up, be on the alert, the devil prowls around seeking who he may destroy.  The truth is many of us know more about how much money is in our bank account that we do about the condition of our hearts.  Many of us don’t even live as if there is an enemy.  We believe it’s just us and our mess, or life around us.  We even believe it’s God.   We lose sight of our sword, the truth of His Word, spoken and written that sets us free.

      The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy.  Jesus came that we might have life and have it to the full.

      As with Theoden I came out of this past week dazed and confused.  How did I get there?   I stayed isolated and alone.  When I could have called a friend, I didn’t.   For you see, at the time, I didn’t believe I had any.

      The days are drawing nigh.  Time is short.  Evil lurks about.  Our hearts are at stake.  We must stand guard.  It’s time to prepare for war.  It’s time to rouse the warriors.  We are the Bride of Christ.

     Proclaim this among the nations:  Prepare for war!  Rouse the warriors!  Let all the fighting men draw near and attack.  Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears.  Let the weakling say I am strong!”  Joel 3:9-10   

©copyright:  2009  Julie L. Todd