Driftwood and Criticism

Criticism is not fun even if it is constructive. I consider criticism a statement of failure and condemnation, being judged unfairly and not measuring up to someone’s standard. It kept me angry. Synonyms for criticism vary from censure to review, assessment to appraisal. There can be negative or positive results.

Can there be rewards for constructive criticism? Should I be open to grow and be transformed into a better version of myself while I am feeling chipped away? Is there any truth to the criticism? Is this a healthy relationship?

I pondered, should I allow myself to be whittled like a dry tree branch? I have always been fascinated by people who can take a piece of driftwood or an old part of a tree and create something one of a kind, beautiful. They are able to see the beauty underneath the surface. Think about it, our God sees us the same way!!!

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On the outside the scrap driftwood appears to be dry and useless as it holds no life. It has been broken away from the main tree trunk. There are no longer pathways of sap to provide sustenance and energy. Maybe it has been floating in a river or ocean quite a while becoming further withered.

Do you ever feel like driftwood? Floating along, perhaps feeling alone, lost, distracted? The Master Craftsman could be waiting for you to float onto the shore and be ready for new things. If we ponder, the tools needed for this transformation we may use: Stillness with God, the Bible and humbly allow the cutting away of sin, forgiving ourselves, repenting and asking God for a new beginning. We must choose to let him carve away the dry.

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A wood carvers tools of the trade may be straight chisel, wood carving gouge or whittling knives each serving a specific purpose. A knife cuts away at the unnecessary layers of dead wood. It digs away layers slowly from the outside in. Could that be a chronic sin such as telling little white lies so we don’t hurt someone’s feelings instead of being truthful?

Proverbs 27 :5  An open rebuke is better than hidden love!

The gouge may allow the craftsman to gather the dry parts quicker, yet with care and patience the carver is hopeful not to gather too quickly. The gouge may be the deep consequence of returning to angry outbursts instead of listening intentionally.

Proverbs 15:1  A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.

The chisel removes debris closer to the surface. It’s a skimmer of sorts. Perhaps an example of this in humans may be, the gentle rebuke from a parent, ” Hey, do you want to try that response again? Deep breath and we can talk more.” or ” Forgive me!”


Proverbs 26 :28 A person without self-control is like a city with broken-down walls.

Corrie ten Boom was such a humble example of Christ, she gained more self-control as she was in the trial. Her quotes from her time in a concentration camp are found on the internet and in her book, “The Hiding Place,” a biography from World War 2. She witnessed the oppression of Jewish community including her friends. She, along with her family, chose not to stick with the status quo and many lives were saved by not turning a blind eye to the atrocities on their fellow country man.

The world is better for women such as Corrie and their example of putting to practice the words of scripture. I do not know if I could have forgiven those who committed evil. I would pray that I would choose the wisdom of God were I in her shoes.

One of my favorite quotations from Corrie ten Boom: Our critics are the unpaid guardians of our souls. 

What a timeless quote for daily mediation. I think honest critical comments can help us grow into who the Lord already knows we can become. There is a difference between constructive, loving communication and criticism that is meant to devour another person. Loving communication must start with words of affirmation, truth and love.

James 3: 2   Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.



James3:6 And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.

The enemy wants us to switch gears in our minds and use our tongues to sear in fire those created in the image of God.

We must seek truth in Christ, be bold in speech and allow Him to grow our faith and bless our lives.

Ephesians 4:15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ.     

I need to allow the dry places in my soul to be touched and sharpened by those who can help me grow. However, I am not open to be devoured by another whose intention is destruction. I pray for discernment of the Holy Spirit.

Choose wisely who we trust with wisdom. God first, of course, then friends who want to reflect Him to the world, like Corrie. May be the unpaid guardians of our soul need to be given thanks. Let God, the Master Craftsman, cut away the dry places and bring out the beauty just as driftwood!

Proverbs 27 :17   As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.

Would you take a hike?

A hot, summer day in Colorado, my youngest daughter and I were running the usual errands for groceries, animal feed and spending quality time together. I was driving home on the interstate when out of the corner of my eye I saw a man dressed in Bible time costume dragging /carrying a wooden cross. I was traveling the usual 60 MPH, when the traffic slowed to a crawl. If this had not occurred, I would not have seen this man.

It was near 100 degrees with 50 percent humidity. I said to my daughter, “I don’t know who that is, but I am praying he completes the call God may have placed on his day”. I was especially concerned about the possibility of hyperthermia, dehydration and heat stroke.

You see, I used to be an Emergency Trauma Nurse. Once a nurse, always a nurse. Ask my daughter. I couldn’t get off the highway to hand him a bottle of water as there were no close exits.

I have often wondered what kind of person would take a walk carrying a wooden cross like Jesus? I assume a devout follower of Jesus on a pilgrimage or someone trying the spread the Gospel message of Jesus.

I was amazed when a few weeks later, a longtime friend, brother in Christ, who I hadn’t seen in over a year texted me. Chris texted, “I am thinking of you, Mary, and I want you to check out an interview I did at my church”. I responded “Sure, no problem, I will check it out”.

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I had been praying for my brother in Christ, Chris, even more frequently the past 18 months, since his wife Tracey passed away suddenly. This amazing couple served in church, in Bible study, prayer teams, on the worship team, in kids ministry and also on children’s plays with me. They are humble and use the gifts the Lord gave them for serving others. Many people have been blessed.

I am so excited to share his testimony with you. If you have the time, it is an amazing example of hearing the Lord ask you to action, like the Bible story of Jonah and his call to visit Ninevah. In that story, the whale swallowed Jonah and he had a testimony that is still shared today.

We never know whether that still small voice of God exists. In our human perspective, it is illogical. But God can do anything. Are we listening for his calling on our lives? Are there other people created in the Image of God that need to connect with you and see Jesus in your words and actions? It is convicting but amazing.

Would you take a hike? Chris made me ponder that question. I plan to listen with two ears not one, and to slow down for rest. Who knows, maybe I will hear the Lord speak. Onward and upward, one step at a time.

Run away Horse

Opie( Mr perfect Valentine), our free spirited palomino, had two adventures this month as a run away horse. Lessons in life were gained through this crazy country experience.

As we ( the hubby and I) took two days in 104 degree weather to harvest 235 hay bales, we became exhausted and sweaty. In the past our young adults were a part of our harvest team.

This year, our teen daughter was excited to drive the pickup as the ole parents grabbed the bales from the field and stacked them in the barn.

Opie, our 16 year old Palomino and his side kick, Loute, the brown and white goat tag teamed running through the back pasture.

I watched Opie nibble from the final rows of 40 different hay bales as he sauntered up the row. His eyes wandering to and fro. I distracted him by encouraging him to visit friends (fellow horses) in the back field. Temporarily my ruse worked. I went back to stacking hay on the trailer.

Suddenly, I looked behind me I yelled to my husband, “look out he’s making his way to the open gate”. My husband ran fast but Opie bolted whinnying happily as he snuck out the side gate to the street. I ran the opposite direction gathering halter and lead rope. I caught up with my husband breathing like a steaming tea pot, muttering and praying for safety.

Opie galloped to our neighbors gate trying to get into his friends’ pasture then reared and ran around the corner onto a busy country road. Loute, his buddy ran along with him, adding to the chaos as she made loud sounds, Loute, her German name fits perfect it means “loud”.

This crazy country comic relief reminds me it’s easy to be distracted by world or culture. Apparently the world outside the pasture was calling a rogue horse and goat to run!!!

Loute waddled alongside her buddy into trouble and all the way back to the corral and pasture. Her voice was louder than usual and obnoxious.

We must laugh at the craziness but stay the course. Find joy in the crazy! Life can be a sweaty hot mess. Don’t you agree?

Psalm 33:11 But the Lord’s plans stand firm forever; his intentions can never be shaken.  

Opie snuck out again three days ago, due to distractions of life, kids decisions, heat, hungry and tired, my husband left the gate to pasture open ;)!!!A stranger came to inform us by ringing our door bell, saying, “ do you have a palomino?” 😉 The kind man brought an apple, yet our stubborn horse knew mom and dad were coming with halter and lead rope to safely bring him back to his pasture, where sustenance, clear water, food and a fan was blowing away the summer heat. This is the place Opie could be refreshed and renewed.

 John 8:12 Jesus said to the people, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”

As I was trying to catch my breath the second time, I pondered how much each of us are like a horse, we need a halter and our Wise Creator to hold the lead line. Just like his owners, Opie must let us keep him safe and alive :). We must be willing to be lead to good holy places. So blessed Jesus wants us to seek Him and He will guide us.

Garden Gate

When I look at this photograph from a family trip to Victoria, B.C., I recall a heavenly Butchart botanic gardens with amazing beauty. Heaven will make this look simple.

Isaiah 32:18 NIV

My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes,
in undisturbed places of rest.

Our home is not here, it is in heaven. Someday, I will see it for myself and be in the Presence of Jesus. I hope to meet you there.

Poppies

An addition to my “Weeds” post, our hard effort in digging up weeds can be rewarded. You see there are good things under the surface. Dirt and weeds need to be tended and a personal circumstance needs our attention. Good things are possible for those willing to do the work. We can lean into another, the One who created us.

Psalm 139::14 
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.

Jesus made you wonderfully and for a grand purpose. Maybe there are times when you don’t feel His love but He awaits your communication. Just as these beautiful poppies took time to form and explode into their orangy-red glory, every year they bless my garden with their brilliance. They needed water, soil adjustment and weed removal.

You are a beautiful poppy in the making. It is said that sometimes we have to call something what it is until we believe it for ourselves. Friend, You are a beautiful poppy may your face look up to the heavens. There is a God who made you marvelous. Call out to Him.

“Jesus, I am here, show me how to shine and help me to feel Your love”. All it takes is one step at a time.

Next time you see a poppy remember it is a little touch of heaven just like you.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Springtime into Summer

I was so moved by this song from Chris Renzema, “Springtime”. It lifted my soul, I felt as if I was floating in the freedom of Christ. My previous post, “Weeds” reflects on many of the lyrics. Sing a new song. It doesn’t need to be Springtime, move into summer and feel the peace.

Sometimes, I have to just pause and listen to the music of the winds and sounds of nature. I even shared this with my Millenial child who reminded me, “It’s summer, Mom!! but thanks for sharing it.” 🙂

I hope you feel blessed. Thank you Chris for sharing your vocal gifts and the great message.

Hummingbird

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Hummingbirds are amazing creatures. Did you know they eat small insects, larvae and spiders in addition to their main source of energy nectar? They come in many colors and live 3 – 5 years. Did you know that their heartbeats at 1,260 / min? Amazing!!

They fly at a speed of 61 mph. They are quick to retreat when startled. They are 7.5 to 13 cm in length, tiny but mighty. I watched a few bathe in a stone fountain on a trip to Glen Eyrie Castle, Colorado Springs.

Seeing the freshly bathed beauties, I was reminded of my first interaction and a lesson from the past.

On a sunny, summer afternoon, I attempted to share the act of repentance to my child. I was blessed with a visit from a beautiful hummingbird as I shared God’s goodness and mercy. It had been a difficult day with conflicts and harsh words spoken. I needed to use a teaching lesson.

I started off explaining, Its hard to ask people we hurt and the Lord to forgive us because our sin nature fights within us. We have to admit our mistakes and humble ourselves.

I shared with my child a time when I didn’t want to admit my sin and how “it bunched up in my heart and made me feel more bitter and less forgiving of another”. “It’s a trap”, I relayed, “set by the enemy to keep your heart bound with chains”. I encouraged my child saying, “Let Him help you with the sin ( mistake), He really will warm your heart and guide you if you ask Him”.

There was pride, tears, anger in her eyes and yet I pursued the heart of my child. We sat on the green metal tandem swing, I said softly, “I will be here as long as it will take. God is here waiting for you to talk to Him. Admitting we made a mistake lets Jesus know that we want to start over and be made new again. When we accept Him into our heart, Jesus, wants us to let Him be the lead spokesperson. He has more wisdom and will guide us if we let him, even big people need to ask for help”.

We want to hide or fly away maybe at the speed of a hummingbird, instead of admit our human weakness. Our hearts hurt deeply as we struggle between seeking the peace of Jesus and the forgiveness from our Savior. Grace and mercy await us. The alternative is a feeling of brokenness and feeling a huge wall between us and Jesus. The enemy hopes we will choose our fleshy nature and stay disconnected from our Creator God.

The push and pull of this struggle reminds me of a tug of war rope. Who will win? Two choices: Confess our sin, seek forgiveness for sins, repent or stay disconnected?

We must make the choice independent of a parent or any other person.

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My child confessed her sin, asked forgiveness, and we hugged as the swing continued to move to and fro. At that moment, a wonderful multicolored hummingbird flew directly in front of our faces. It peered at each one of us as it suspended in midair. It seemed to nod at each of us, then flew through the trees. I truly felt like that was a blessing from above. You see, we live in an area that is pretty dry and I hadn’t seen a hummingbird before. I have been fascinated with this amazing graceful messenger from heaven ever since.

Matthew 6:26 NLT
[26] Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?

The grace and mercy of Jesus is attainable. Moments like this one, remind me to look for His hand in every day experiences. Being able to share the experience with my child was breathtaking.

Psalm 62:2 He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will never be shaken.

He will show glimpses of His Creation in new ways. The God who made each beautiful creature wants to know you. He uses even a hummingbird to teach a Mom and Child. Let Him be your Rock, take the risk and let your heart beat to the rhythm of Jesus.

Internet Down?

In this day of internet access, ever had a time when your internet dropped and reconnected so many times your head was spinning? Living in the country has its disadvantages. Another spring thunderstorm with pelting rain and thick clouds can block the satellite dishes. Or is it the Covid remote school and work phenomenon of overworked internet access?

We have become so reliant on our computers and the internet connection. Maybe I just overstepped in my assumption…… am I the only person overly reliant on the internet?

Chloe the Chocolate Labrador

The day can be joyful or sullen depending on whether I communicate with family or friends. The past couple weeks, I have started and stopped many phone calls and internet connections. Thanks to a firmware update and our rural internet service, time stood still.

Ok, that was an impulsive comment, forgive me, I sound like my teenager.

Time didn’t really stand still, but disconnection gave me time to ponder other more important things, such as, playing basketball with my teen, walking the dog (yes, the labrador benefitted) and spending quality time with my husband, no interruptions.

I spent time in the Bible in the book of Galatians gaining wisdom from above.

The past month, my husband working remote has been a frustrating experience. As he would attempt to lead meetings, I would hear from his study, “oops, dropped again!?” My husband and I would find ourselves, yelling, “Well, did it work… did your computer connect to the internet?” as we attempted to reconnect by resetting the router, checking the cables, connection points, and rebooting computers. As we frowned at each other daily, “Nope, hear we go again. Got to call the service carrier and wait over the weekend to be given an answer”.

What a life. The ebb and flow of emotions so conjoined with a source outside our body; the internet. It gave me pause, have I gotten so interconnected with the web? Do I need to reboot? Reexamine and Recommit elsewhere?

Is it healthy to let my emotions be effected by the internet? What would the real source of connection: Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Son of God, want for my day? Spending time distracted by outside influence and not the internal is probably a recipe for disaster. Being pelted by hail stones can leave a mark, just as a worldly perspective can block the sun ( or is it, the Son?)

Plug into the Source of Light, Jesus! The source of hope and peace can bring an eternal connection.

Galatians 5:22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

No matter where you have been, what your past choices, or times in your life when wires got crossed. He waits to give you a direct connection. Take the steps to learn more about Jesus. He wants all to seek Him.

Paul reminds us in Galatians that Jesus Christ is available and wants to know us and guide our lives.

Galatians 1: 12
I received my message from no human source, and no one taught me. Instead, I received it by direct revelation from Jesus Christ.

Jesus doesn’t drop the customer just because the wires get crossed or frayed. He is a trustworthy source were weather such as thunderstorms or hail can’t interrupt the flow. Get to know Him. There are many Bible believing sisters and brothers in Christ who want to be a mentor. It can be life changing. Connection to Him is necessary for survival, peace and joy even if a few thunder clouds may threaten the day. You don’t have to walk alone.

Spring Sunset

Connection with Jesus can help you navigate the weather patterns. It is reliable, it is like a sun shower, warm rain drops mixed with the rays of the Son.

Take the time to reboot and see how your day just may glow.