Monday, August 29, 2011

Feeling Spiritually Barren?

"Sing, O barren." Isaiah 54:1

Sunday morning arrived way too early. After an eventful Saturday, a few more minutes (or hours!) of sleep would have been welcome. But, as usual, God knew exactly what I needed to hear at exactly the right time.

When we arrived at church a few minutes before starting time, a copy of a devotional from Charles Spurgeon's Morning and Evening was placed in our hands at the door. Normally, the call to worship is a Scripture passage, but this day was different. As we read along with our worship leader, it was as if God was speaking directly to me.

Although penned in the mid-1800s, Spurgeon's words wafted timelessly through the church to my soul. Disappointment and spiritual apathy had been plaguing me for a few weeks (maybe months), and this message from heaven was like an arrow piercing the depths of my heart.  

If you're feeling spiritually barren today, read the following words as a love letter from God to you:

Though we have brought forth some fruit unto Christ, and have a joyful hope that we are "plants of His own right hand planting," yet there are times when we feel very barren. Prayer is lifeless, love is cold, faith is weak, each grace in the garden of our heart languishes and droops. We are like flowers in the hot sun, requiring the refreshing shower. In such a condition what are we to do? The text is addressed to us in just such a state. "Sing, O barren, break forth and cry aloud." But what can I sing about? I cannot talk about the present, and even the past looks full of barrenness. Ah! I can sing of Jesus Christ. I can talk of visits which the Redeemer has aforetimes paid to me; or if not of these, I can magnify the great love wherewith He loved His people when He came from the heights of heaven for their redemption. I will go to the cross again. Come, my soul, heavy laden thou wast once, and thou didst lose thy burden there. Go to Calvary again. Perhaps that very cross which gave thee life may give thee fruitfulness. What is my barrenness? It is the platform for His fruit-creating power. What is my desolation? It is the black setting for the sapphire of His everlasting love. I will go in poverty, I will go in helplessness, I will go in all my shame and backsliding, I will tell Him that I am still His child, and in confidence in His faithful heart, even I, the barren one, will sing and cry aloud.

Sing, believer, for it will cheer thine own heart, and the hearts of other desolate ones. Sing on, for now that thou art really ashamed of being barren, thou wilt be fruitful soon; now that God makes thee loath to be without fruit He will soon cover thee with clusters. The experience of our barrenness is painful, but the Lord's visitations are delightful. A sense of our own poverty drives us to Christ, and that is where we need to be, for in Him is our fruit found.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Summer Bucket List

"I pray that the life of this spring and summer may ever lie fair in my memory." Thoreau

I'm afraid I have some bad news. Summer is fading fast. Pool toys and picnic basket displays have been replaced with back-to-school supplies and Halloween decorations, nights are getting shorter, and temperatures are getting cooler (at least this week). But wait! I still have so many things to check off my "Summer Bucket List" before we start school! This is the time of year when I long to have a PAUSE or REWIND button for life. Wouldn't that be handy?

At the beginning of the summer, I decided to make a Summer Bucket List. The list was full of things I wanted to do last summer and never got around to doing. And while 11 items on my list sit patiently waiting, at least 5 of the activities sport nice, fat check marks! Of course, summer isn't OFFICIALLY over until September 22, so there's plenty of time to chip away at the list, right? Yeah, we’ll see about that!
Here are the five Summer Bucket List items we completed:

#1 Trip to the Ocean

Ahhhh, Cocoa Beach! Nothing quite compares to the beauty of God’s creation and the expanse of the clear blue ocean blending into an endless azure sky. One of my favorite sights in the universe!

#2 Sea World

After two days at this amazing theme park, our family decided it was part zoo, part dolphin/whale/aquatic animal show, part acrobatic spectacle, part amusement park, and part musical concert. We love Sea World! We were dazzled and amazed by the dolphins, whales, manta rays, polar bears, penguins, sea turtles, manatees, sharks, sea lions, walruses, otters, and more. Plus, we learned so much about the animals that live in the park. Educational AND fun equals a gold star in this homeschool mom’s book!  

#3 Ivanhoes

Ahhh, Ivanhoes! I've been wanting to visit this ice-cream-shop-turned-legend for some time now, and finally did so in early August. What an amazing place! The menu boasts 100 different sundaes and 100 different shakes in mini, regular and super sizes. (A mini was the perfect size for me, and was FAR from "mini," in my opinion).

I had the #80, Rocky Road, which the menu describes as "hand-dipped chocolate ice cream, mini marshmallows, pecans, hot fudge, whipped topping and a maraschino cherry." My one-word description: "heavenly"! One daughter opted for #93, Toffee Coffee, which consisted of crushed Heath bar and hot fudge over hand dipped coffee ice cream. My son tried the Reese's Cup, #79, which as you'll probably guess, featured soft vanilla ice cream with chopped Reese's cup and peanut butter topping. Yum! Daughter #2 tried a Superman ice cream cone while my husband ordered a basic Chocolate Malt. All of us gave Ivanhoes a big thumbs up and hope to visit again very, very soon!

#4 Picnic at Mounds State Park

We visit this park frequently to hike the trails, but something was missing each time. A picnic! The girls made a yummy chicken salad, and we invited our good friend, Steph (who just happens to be an expert on the trails there). Good times!
#5 Dor-Tees Drive In

This hidden gem is locally famous for its Toasty Cheeseburgers, Chili Cheese Fries, and Blue Moon ice cream. Unfortunately, the night we went, the Blue Moon ice cream was not on the menu. But we DID indulge in their equally delicious Cake Batter and Lemon twist cones. Yum!

#6 The Levi Coffin House

Wait! If you thought I said we only marked off FIVE bucket list items – you were right! But don't good intentions count? My dear friend Christa and I (along with our children) made a valiant attempt to visit this legendary stop on the Underground Railroad. The day was sweltering hot, nearly 100 degrees, and this is what we saw posted on the door of this historic landmark after our 1 1/2 hour drive:

LOL! The kids took it in stride, and we were able to spend more time at a great antique mall in the next town. But this historic house is definitely on our Fall Bucket List!
So how about you? Did you have a Summer Bucket List? What fun things did you do with your family this summer?