Fear · Spirituality

Open Doors

One of the first projects Keith and I tackled after buying our old house thirty-four years ago was to tear out the 1960’s screened-in back porch. We replaced it with a large open porch but left the old aluminum storm door by the door which opened into our dining room.

Over the years, our dogs and cats had clawed the screen to pieces, and we simply patched it with a board and ignored it. The result was an embarrassing junky door that we seldom used.

A few months ago, we decided the time had come to fix the problem. We bought a beautiful all glass door with a screen built right into it (it’s amazing what has been invented in the last 50 years!) and our talented carpenter, Bo Norman, ripped out the horrible old storm door and installed the new one for us. Then I filled in the holes and scratches of the inside wooden door and gave it a coat of bright red paint so that it looks fresh and new.

The transformation to our living space created by the new storm door has been amazing! Now I can open the inside door and sunlight floods in through the glass. Unlike the old beat-up door, this new door easily opens and closes, so I use it all the time. I’ve rediscovered the back porch.

Our backyard is surrounded by pasture and soybean fields and has a whole different feel than the other side of the house, which is shaded by the magnolia tree. On the back porch I feel like I have moved into the birds’ space, and I take my lunch out there some days and watch them at work.

Our pretty new storm door!

I wish we had replaced the door years ago. For some reason we thought it would be too much trouble. We had made it too complicated.

How often have I made the figurative doors in my life too complicated?

Jesus said,

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8

I admit that I have never understood these verses, especially when the doors that I want opened seem padlocked. But I recently listened to a podcast by Kelly Minter on prayer and realized that I’ve made it too complicated. I need to simply take Jesus at His word. He is promising that if I come to Him with an open heart, He will answer me and, like a loving father, He wants to give me good things.

How often have I missed out on God’s blessings by not going through a door He has for me, just like I missed out on enjoying the back porch all these years? Too many times I’ve held back because I thought a door was going to be too much trouble, or that I didn’t have what I needed to walk through it. I let fear and doubt and, yes, laziness cripple me.

These verses tell me that if my understanding is blocked, Jesus will eventually clear up my confusion. The key is persistence. The verb tense here implies continuous action— we need to keep asking, keep seeking and keep knocking. The doors may not swing open in one big swoosh, but gradually, as we keep reading Scripture, going to God in prayer, and asking for clarity and understanding, our doors will open.

And we may find out that those doors do not open out to what we expected, but to something far better.

To listen to Kelly Minter’s Cultivate podcast on prayer, click here.


Little Things

Do you have something in your house that has been broken for years, but you’ve just gotten used to it?

That’s how we’ve been with the ceiling fans in several of the rooms in our house. Over the years they had quit working for one reason or another. The one in our bedroom still turned, but years ago the glass globe had fallen off and shattered on the blanket chest,  leaving  the bare bulb staring down at me each morning  during my devotional time on the bed. In the computer room, the fan rattled so much that it sounded like a helicopter taking off, so I seldom used it. And the one in our son’s room didn’t even come on and hadn’t in ten years or so.

I don’t tend to notice inconveniences like these. I have my mind on what I’m writing, when I’m going to work in a run, what we’re having for dinner, whether I have anything ironed to wear that day, or what’s going to happen next on Stranger Things. I had gotten used to the bare bulb in the bedroom and the lack of moving air in Adam’s room, which is my bedroom when Keith wakes me up snoring. And Keith could care less about any of this.

But we just had some work done (finally) on the outside of the house and Adam made a request. Would we please get the fan in his room fixed before he and Jess came home for Thanksgiving?  I work much better with a deadline, so Keith called the electrician and in about a week – voila – we now have working ceiling fans in all the rooms in our house!

I didn’t realize how much the bare bulb hanging down in our bedroom had bothered me until we got it replaced. Each time I looked up at that bulb, it would prick my subconscious. Need to get that fixed. Same when I went into Adam’s room and had to fumble for a lamp because the overhead switch didn’t work. Need to fix that.  I’ll get around to it, leave me alone, I would reply to my subconscious. But the anxiety  over those little things would be there, gnawing at me. 

I’ve thought this week about how the small things make a difference in my spiritual life also. That burst of  anger at some injustice to myself, real or perceived, that spills out in a catty remark. The impatience with the fumbling store clerk. The gossip and criticism I partake in of someone who is struggling. These seemingly small things gnaw at my conscience, pulling me away from where God wants me.

Wayne Oates, one of my spiritual heroes, wrote a sermon on “The Struggle for Maturity”, reprinted in A Pastoral Prophet, a book of his sermons edited by William Tuck. He concludes a wonderful explanation of 1st Corinthians 13 with this line:

Mature Christians are always searching their relationships to others and testing their knowledge of God with others….Their speaking, their prophecy, their understanding, and their faith and works are all set into a new contextual meaning of the love of God. (p. 74)

Notice Dr. Oates says we as mature Christians should always be examining our relationships. Just as my house needs constant work to stay clean and comfortable, my spiritual house needs vigilance. I need to strive each day for the ways in which I am not living in love. I need to be coming before the Lord and asking Him to show me where I’m slipping. Like the broken ceiling fans in my house, I get so used to acting in unloving ways that I don’t even notice it anymore. It gets hidden under the clutter of my life.

The Psalmist prays:

God, see what is in my heart.
   Know what is there.
Test me.
   Know what I’m thinking.
 See if there’s anything in my life you don’t like.
   Help me live in the way that is always right.
(Psalm 139:23-24, NRIV)

The beauty of saying this prayer every day is that God starts showing me people from His point of view. Instead of an inept store clerk, I see a young woman who has been on her feet for twelve hours. Instead of getting angry at the coworker who asks for something at the last minute, I see someone who is working hard and juggling too many responsibilities. Instead of gossiping and tearing others down behind their backs, I begin praying for them and doing what I can to build them up.

Just like the satisfaction of knowing that my ceiling fans are all functioning, I feel less anxious when I let go of the little irritations that build up. As I turn these over to God, I feel His love flowing through me toward those around me. And my conscience is a little quieter.


Christianity · cross country · Gardening · prayer · Spirituality · Uncategorized

Just Like Moses

God spoke to Moses through a burning bush and this week He spoke to me  through a gaura plant.

I bought the gaura last spring when I went to the plant sale at Northwest High. I had bought some pepper and tomato plants and a few flowers and then picked up a cup with a little mound of purplish spikes. “I’m not going to charge you for that,” said the AG teacher. “We’re experimenting with it and I’m not sure how it is going to do.” Since I love to experiment in my garden, I took it home and planted it by my rock wall.  Over the summer it grew into a little bush with green leaves and was okay, but nothing great. As August dragged on I started thinking that it was getting kind of dull looking and maybe I needed to cut it back. It wasn’t speaking to me yet.

The gaura early in the summer, on the left.

So last Sunday I felt heavy – not physically, but emotionally, spiritually. It was one of those mornings when I would have liked to go back to bed and pull the covers over my head. I was feeling the weight of too much to do, trying to finish up some painting at home, planning for my first cross country meet, behind on things at school, but it was more than that, a deep tiredness in my soul.

Little wonder that instead of taking time to pray and read my Bible that morning I had balanced my checkbook and paid bills. When I get busy, God often gets pushed to the side. So when the sermon was on prayer I knew that I was tired in my soul because I had been cutting myself off from my power supply.

Monday morning I got up early and for the first time in a while spent a good long time with The Lord. I read my devotional and tried to be still and listen. I apologized for putting Him to the side and prayed to see Him, to be reassured that He was there and that I was walking in the path I needed to. Then I prayed individually for each of the 48 middle schoolers on my cross country team. 

The heaviness left me and I felt calm and at peace that day. 

All week I kept looking for God to show Himself and He did, in little ways. This will sound silly, but I found  a pair of earrings I had lost a week ago during practice. I had prayed about those earrings, a favorite pair given to me as a gift, and they turned up on the cement picnic table at our walking trail at school, having survived monsoonal rains for a week. I felt God was saying, “Here I am.”

Then one day as I was coming in from a long day at school and practice, I noticed something different in my flower garden – little pink flowers were coming out on the tips of the gaura. When I looked closer, I saw that the shriveled up ends that I thought needed to be chopped off were actually holding flower buds just waiting to open! As the week has gone on, more and more have opened up so that now the gaura is beautiful and full of pink flowers waving in the breeze.

That”s when I heard God speak and He told me to not give up, but to wait for the prize. I coach the cross country team because I want to instill a love of running in these kids and I want to hopefully make a difference in their lives in some small way. But the nitty gritty of it is I spend lots of time doing paperwork, then go to practice and try to reign in middle school boys with lots of energy and I come home feeling inadequate  and defeated. Seeing those pink flowers reminded me that these children are like those flowers wrapped up on the stalk of the gaura plant – ready to bloom but not yet! That’s one of the things I love about middle school kids – they are literally bursting at the seams with excitement for life, but need that encouragement to move forward, to embrace who they are becoming.

When Moses heard God calling him through the burning bush, he offered excuses and questioned God on why He was calling him. I feel the same way – couldn’t someone else do this better, God? Don’t you need someone younger, maybe someone who is a real coach? God’s answer to Moses was “I will be with you” (Ex. 3:12) and that is His promise to me as well. This is the place He has put me for now, and every time I go out my door and see those pink flowers dancing in the wind, I know He will give me what I need to keep going.