Even in the moment of utmost magnificence, the realities of life cast a cloud over it all. Have you noticed?
This is truth, the here–and–now is what we hold in our hand this moment. We savor the taste, the scent, the love, the sight, the feel.
The Japanese term “mono no aware” is often applied to flowers.
It means “they. . .won’t last forever.” For English speakers, it’s tough to translate, but it’s a relatable idea. ‘Mono no aware’ describes beautiful but perishable things. Mono no aware becomes a human anthem, our song of recognition: Every moment counts.
I choose to live in this moment, right here.
The exquisite beauty of the Japanese language describes “an empathy toward things”, evoking both a transient gentle sadness, a wistfulness at their passing, as well as an underlying poignancy about this state being, the reality of life’s ending in decline and death.
We’ve traveled a lot of road together, and this is so real, so true, it’s difficult to find the language to describe it.
Even as gardens, yours and mine, are carefully tended and watched over, the beauty of nature is fleeting. All nature. We, too, come with expiration dates. We are colorful and thriving and being woven into glorious patterns of symmetry and contrast.
We are carefully tended and watched over, many of us blooming far into the future.
Embellishing options, we keep planting new life, new blossoms in new seasons. When we face the ending of one season, we water new seeds, and graft or adopt or improvise in the faith of growing new sprouts for another season.
In drought, we include the defense of closing ranks with friends and allies. We help each other. We punt for each other. We dress each other in the coverings of costumes and smile at the future. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness are the friendship fertilizers. Doing good, being faithful, being gentle, and having self-control in the face of temptation. These are the ribbons of bouquets.
It’s an aspect of being created in the image of the Creator, that we thrive best in community, rubbing shoulders. Out of one garden, another is already blooming. That bloom of friendship. Bridges through passages become the colorful things that matter. Relationships can trump protocol, can trump rules, can trump law. Friendships can trump financial resources and other competition. Grow the garden of love, and you’ve grown the blossoms of a heavenly kingdom.
I choose to travel this road with other transients. It’s a bumpy road, filled with detours – but its ours and we’re on it together. The scenery right now is breathtaking.
Elisha was a man of God who returned to Gilgal during a time of famine in that region.
He was not intimidated about traveling to a place where there was a lack of food. In fact, he may have viewed the dire circumstances of this region as an opportunity to see the hand of God move in a miraculous way.
I believe that he returned to Gilgal knowing there was a famine in the land.
While the Guild of Prophets were having a meal with him, he instructed his attendant, ‘Put a large pot on the fire and boil some stew for the Guild of Prophets.’ Somebody went out into the fields to grab some herbs, found a wild vine, and gathered a lap full of wild gourds, which he came and sliced up into the stew pot, but nobody else knew. When they served the men, they began to eat the stew. But they cried out, ‘That pot of stew is deadly, you man of God!’ So they couldn’t eat the stew. But he replied, ‘Bring me some flour.’ He tossed it into the pot and said, ‘Serve the people so they can eat.’ Then there was nothing harmful in the pot.”
-2 Kings 4:38-41 (ISV)
The name “Gilgal” means rolling or moving. God wanted to move or do something amazing in a desolating place.
When people are desperate, they do desperate things. The servant, who was given the task of feeding the prophets, knowingly gathered gourds from a wild vine. The original Hebrew text indicates that this vine was prolific. It produced seemingly great bounty. I have read reports of people, because of extreme hunger, eating dirt, straw or grass.
My husband and I watched a documentary a couple of years ago about a young man struggling to survive through the winter in a remote part of Alaska. When spring arrived, due to extreme hunger and desperation, he ate poisonous berries. Judgment is often impaired when people are destitute.
Food was scarce in Gilgal. It is interesting that the company of prophets instantly recognized their plight and looked to Elisha for help. Divinely inspired, he added flour to the stew, making it fit for consumption.
I believe we shouldn’t be afraid to visit places where there is famine and where people may lack good judgment because of it. We need to remember that desperate people may not have good judgment. We need to sense when there is trouble or “death in the pot.” When called upon for help, we need to rely on God for wisdom and direction, and what other people see as “waste” might be in our hands of ministry a means of provision. We should view the lack as an opportunity for God to do something amazing because of His sovereignty over everything, and because of His love.
This story in 2 Kings is an unusual one. Reread it and write a summary of what happened in your own life.
“When people are desperate, they do desperate things” Think of a time when you were desperate, or someone you know or have heard of was desperate. What irrational or unusual thing did you – or that person – do?
God wants us to call on Him for provision. “When called upon for help, we need to rely on God for wisdom and direction.” This isn’t always our first thought in times of trouble. Consider a time when you were in need and called upon God for What happened?
How can this story in 2 Kings be applied to our daily life? Write a “proverb” to help you remember the main point of this story.fe
Tonya Jewel Blessing has written the Big Creek Appalachian series: The Whispering of the Willows and The Melody of the Mulberries as well the Bible study guide, Soothing Rain. Each of these books ask in their own way, “What makes females different to males?”
Sue Summer wrote the questions for application throughout the Soothing Rain study. She is the expert at mediasavvykids.org/.
You’re likely familiar with “Breaking Bad”, the TV series about a chemistry teacher desperate to secure his family’s financial future, after his devastating cancer diagnosis. Facing the reality of death does funny things to people.
Even if you’ve never watched Breaking Bad, apparently most of America has. The series quickly became a national sensation and rendered a new buzzword, “breaking bad” for when someone good suddenly changed character.
If “breaking bad” is slang for “defying expectations” then “breaking bud” is a crisp turn–of–phrase for “just kidding, the weather has a mind of its own”. Out of the brown and crinkled tan shades of left-over winter, buds are due. The milk of flowers is already rising through pale green rose stems.
Fine, with this springtime tease, we’ll don a warm jacket today, a light sweater tomorrow, carry a pair of boots in the car for just–in–case.
Spring waltzes in sideways, full of bluster and drizzle, followed by little sunny intervals of calm. Throw in a late snow squall for good measure, and you have springtime in Northwest Pennsylvania: Unpredictable, moody, playful, and perplexing. But we always tolerate the irregularities of spring because it holds promises: Birds returning, leaves unfurling, windows are thrown open to let in the breeze.
We’re starting to hear the spring peepers, those tiny chorus frogs that give usloud concerts every night for a fortnight. The early flowers are already pushing through soil, declaring forgiveness for winter’s icy grip. Something shifts in the air. There’s a mix of earthy smells, a giddy kick of anticipation.In spite of all the challenges we’ve endured, there is this one thing: Spring is “breaking bud”.
I had the honor of proofreading the book, BEING CREATIVE, by Laura Bartnick this spring. Her thoughts on creativity simply jibe with my feelings about springtime’s empowerment. I’m declaring new explorations this year. Did you know. . .
God calls all of His creation His servants, because He has a purpose for our existence. He is the Re-namer, and Redeemer, and Re-purposer. When we walk with the LORD, the possibilities are endless. We can search for Him—though He is not far from any of us. Coming closer to our Creator, we can accept His call to be cunning and skillful. We can even become His friend.
“Anything can become the next exploration. Even those creatives who want nothing to do with being a child of God often find their best material in Scripture and in the church. God can use the imagination of anyone to teach us.
“Your own skill is a learned thing. Wisdom takes time. You may not yet understand this when you begin to write about a tragedy causing a family to become displaced, all their treasures to be lost. What you are really going to discover and write about is the greater gift of creativity from loss, the value of new relationships, and community—finding other treasures in hidden places. This story may require much prayer, wrestling with God for the blessing, and many edits to test and strengthen the wings.”
Spring is going forward and gathering steam, hurtling headlong into backyard picnics, flip-flops, beach time and road trips.
There are ten little rules of creativity listed at the end of each chapter in BEING CREATIVE. There is also the suggestion to keep a journal nearby. I have practiced this invitation of capturing the wonder of my days, of God’s creative invitations to life in my own way. This is where the gift book series, BREATH OF JOY, was budded and flounced. SINGING SPRING announces this season of life burgeoning from death. It celebrates wonder with yellow daffodils, with purple lilacs, and with perfuming pink hyacinths.
Crops are going in this spring, and before we know it there will be rows and rows of sweet corn. That’s what I love about seasons. They simply show up. Regular as a heartbeat, as welcome as the friend you haven’t seen in quite a long time. Springtime is roguish, breaking bud and being mischievous in all the best ways.
I found one of my favorite quotes in chapter four of BEING CREATIVE:
Experience allows us to follow the dots into the unknown. We learn from intersecting paths along the way. We learn to improvise.”
I just love this! I want to lift it out, highlight it, then repeat it for emphasis!
Unconcerned about vaccines, politics or March Madness, the season is a joyful riot of mud puddles and sudden bursts of color, chasing away the landscape’s last edges of grays and browns.
By L. L. Larkins, author of the Psalm Hymns series
I’m one of those pray-without-thinking-too-much-about-it sort of people.
I pray about parking spaces. I walk around the lake near our home and just talk to God about the birds and turtles, the sunrise and sunset, about family struggles and many, many things. Often, the welling up of joy and surprises in nature and certain wonders of those who pass by me or walk near me make me cry in praises and gratitude.
I thank God for this and that. I wrestle with God in tears about people and issues, and my wants and needs. Sometimes beautiful poetry will come to me in that space. I wonder if walking with the Lord is simply talking to Him about everything and listening closely enough to follow as He talks back to us.
It’s the week of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the celebration of Jesus Christ’s resurrection.
When I was struggling in a really dark spot in my life, the Psalms became deep wells of teaching for me. Once, when I was apologizing to the Lord for dragging Him through the mud and cow patties with me, sorry for bringing down His holy name to such a low level, I saw an image of him sitting next to me in a mud puddle, cross-legged, and grinning at me with a missing tooth. Half naked, and smeared with something disgusting, he said so very gently, “I’ve been dragged through much worse. You think I’m afraid of sitting with you in this mess? There’s nothing you can do to me that hasn’t been done before.”
In meditation and prayer in the Psalms, I began to understand what people had prayed for years ago when they were betrayed or when they had experienced insufferable losses, or when they suffered in post-trauma over their sins or others sins against them. That was when I began setting the five books of biblical Psalms to music that I could sing and remember.
Many of the Psalm Hymns are praises as we know and understand them to be, with the power to lift our minds out of our circumstances and place them on the Lord. But, in addition to these types of Psalms, there are those that offer experiences of grief, pleas to God as to a doctor or a priest or a king, someone who has the power and credentials to save us.
Psalms also include some moments of pedantic teaching to engage our minds even more than our emotions. Each of these Psalms also offers some striking spiritual landmarks for life. A way to get up and go forward in trust and faith.
Psalm 78 starts out this way, sung to the tune: On Jordan’s Stormy Banks (Bound for the Promised Land)
My people, hear my words of teaching;
Listen to my words.
I begin with a parable of old
And will speak to the hidden yore, —
These are things our people have heard and known,
They are things ancestors told.
Should we try to hide them from our own
Descendants, who need to know?
Psalms can be specified as prayers to God.
But, because praying is also a communal form of conversation, the Psalms are definitely bright bits of meditation and self-talk. They were given to God’s people for the purpose of spiritual reasoning with one’s self, self-counsel. So, in that way, it is a means of God praying back to our hearts and minds and will. The Psalms are truly a two-way conversation with the Lord.
The words of this Psalm 78 informs me that there are hidden treasures and parables in the Psalms and in the stories of our spiritual ancestors that we need to know and we need to pass along to our littles and our teens asking those deep questions.
Moses wrote Psalm 91, which for all the seriousness of Moses’ reflection, I have aligned with the Doxology. Most of the Psalms were written by King David, or by someone, a scribe in his court maybe, so it was interesting to me to get a King’s take on God’s law when people where saying law makes no difference to a walk of faith. I really struggled, you know, with what I believed about law and whether following the ten commandments was legalism. Through the Psalm Hymns, an understanding about God’s heart for how the commandments offer healthy limits, and a healthy community was forged.
The law wasn’t a mode to salvation, but it was a mode to loving one’s neighbor, a mode to justice and mercy and self-restraint, a mode to honoring our Maker.
A verse of Psalm 119 about the value of the law sung to the tune: Blessed Assurance, Jesus is Mine
O, that I sought You in Your commands!
Shame would release its hold of my hand.
I would have praised Your judgments in all;
I would have seen You, righteous for all.
You rule uprightly; this I discern!
Now I observe Your statutes and learn;
Oh, do not leave me, LORD, take my hand!
Do not forsake me! LORD, help me stand.
There are Psalms that recount how the waters were separated from parts of the earth and put into boundaries, like in Psalm 24, or Psalm 104. Here is a verse of Psalm 24 sung to the hymn, At Calvary (It starts out, “Years I spent in vanity and pride. . .” did you ever sing that one in church?)
All the fullness of the earth begun,
Land and spaciousness for everyone,
All of it including what may come:
It is the Lord’s!
For He founded it upon the seas, drawing limits,
Drawing floods and springs.
Who shall come to Him, ascend His hill?
It is the Lord’s!
A verse of Psalm 104 talks about this, too, sung to the great hymn by Isaac Watts, I Sing The Mighty Power of God.
You covered earth with waters deep
As with a garment drenched;
Above the mountain heights they stayed.
Rebuked, the seas retrench;
As voices of Your thunder played,
They hastened to their place!
Now, far away they rest in pools
And valleys where they stay.
These Psalms are wonderful teaching tools for a Bible study or a music ensemble because when the words of scripture are combined with music, our spirits soar to the heights in mysterious ways, and with the soaring of a spirit comes questions and mysteries to talk about and pray about.
One music group used the Caroling Through the Psalms book during Advent season.
They spent the summer arranging and building parts and solos, and in the season before Christmas, they sang on the mall, at retirement homes, and in churches in their community. It was a life-changing experience to anchor their modern holiday experiences in the past prayers and testimonies of others.
God as my judge, and our judge — so often prayed to in this capacity in the Psalms, reminds me to expect justice and mercy from Him, but there is more! Did you know there is a Psalm written specifically to judges who do not judge righteously? Here is the first verse of Psalm 82 sung to The Battle Hymn of the Republic (and it only gets better).
Standing in the great assembly,
God presides and takes His place;
He is rendering His judgment
To the gods of earth’s dismay.
His decree begins by reasoning:
“How long have you displaced
The weak and fatherless?”
God presides to judge the jurists;
Earth is trembling in her footsteps;
God inherits all the nations.
Our God is over all!
To bolster confidence in depression, Psalm 27 centers me every time I sing it and amazingly, I can sing it to several tunes! Immortal, Invisible works brilliantly. Any version of Away in a Manger works wonderfully, and I will reserve the best tune in a minor key as listed in Caroling Through the Psalms.
The Lord is my Light and my constant Estate!
Then whom shall I fear when His Stronghold is safe?
Though evil advances against me for ill
To slander, devour me all will be well.
My rivals and enemies stumble and fall.
Though armies besiege me, I fear none at all;
Though warriors may shake down a valiant defense,
Then yes, God alone is my sheer confidence.
This one thing I seek and I ask from the Lord,
To hold my insurance for life at the Source
To gaze on His beauty to seek His embrace
For here in my trouble He will keep me safe.
Another Psalm to reach into the core of my heart and pull out the dark secrets of worry and doubt is Psalm 139. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I praise God every time I sing Psalm 139, and I can sing it now to the tune Open My Eyes that I May See this way.
What if I ride the wings of dawn?
What if I move to seas beyond?
Yet, even there your power abides—
and there your hand will be my guide.
What if I isolate in gloom?
begging the night to be my womb—
Yet, even there Your Presence shines!
Where shall I hide?
You made the inward parts of me—
You know my body’s mysteries.
Knitted my limbs in my mother’s womb—
Wonders performed, there’s none like You!
Your workmanship is marvelous—
Deep in my soul, I know it is!
No-one knows how You wove my frame—
Physics of God!
I can also sing this Psalm to the rollicking favorite of old town Christians, Wonderful Grace of Jesus, which Psalm 139 is also arranged for in Book Five of the Psalm Hymns.
When you worry about the power and legacy of evil people who seem to cheat death, Psalm 49 explains the path of these financial estates and those who follow the words of evil counsel, there is a Psalm for that. Sing it to the tune, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.
Hear this, all nations of the world;
You great and small in heart,
You rich and poor together hear
My wisdom on the harp!
My meditation shall be clear as understanding prose:
The proverb and the riddle sing
As I explain them both:
Why should I fear when danger comes
Confounded enemies, — The ones who put their trust in wealth
And boast iniquities? For no one’s assets can redeem
The price of human life;
Each costly soul is ransomed by
Our God who sets its price.
What could we pay that God would trade
To let us out-live time?
Immortal like, enjoying life
In rich estates sublime? For one can see that wise ones die, And fools, they all pass away. They leave their wealth to other hands. Their homes become their graves.
Estates are named to flatter pride
Of pompous heirs below
But generations pass on by
Those silent wealthy bones.
Despite one’s wealth, the flesh won’t last; For humans die like herds;
There goes the path of the arrogant, And those who follow their words.
In Book Five, you will find the Pilgrim Psalms, the Psalms of Ascent for tours to the Holy Land. But in each and every book, you will find Psalms that are simple prayers and pleas to the Lord for help and rescue. Like Psalm 88. It can be sung to Lord, Plant My Feet On Higher Ground (I’m Pressing on the Upward Way.)
You are my Lord, the God Who saves;
You rescue when I cry in faith.
Oh, hear another prayer to You;
Oh, turn toward my anguished soul.
I’m overwhelmed with troubles, Lord;
See how my breath in whispers pours.
They’ve counted me among the dead;
And lacking strength, my friends have fled.
One of my favorite praise Psalms in Psalm 147, sung to the tune, Wonderful Love of Jesus! (When We All Get to Heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be!). If you have difficulties remembering these old hymn tunes, you can look them up on YouTube or in Hymnary.org. Here is a link for this song. https://hymnary.org/text/sing_the_wondrous_love_of_jesus_sing_his
Praise the LORD! O Praise the LORD from heaven!
Praise Him from the bluing atmosphere!
All His angels—hosts of armies—praise him!
Praise Him far and near!
Praise the LORD—sun and moon and all you
Twinkling starry crowns!
Praise the LORD! Every vapor—
Every particle, resound!
Let His creatures everywhere give praise—
For their bodies and their very lives.
His command is their existence—placing
Each where it survives!
His decrees are forever; they will never
Overturn or end.
Praise the LORD from the earth, and
From the ocean depths ascend!
Finally, I will leave you with one of our most beloved songs of victory and praise, Psalm 150.
It is sung to the old hymn, Love Lifted Me (I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore).
Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!
Celebrate God in might!
Praise Him for celestial power—
Praise Him for heaven’s gates!
In His sanctuary—praise—sounding the trumpet loud!
By Jenny Fulton, author of Princess Lillian and Grandpa’s Goodbye
Has God ever asked you to make a personal gifting or a private hobby public?
In many ways, this is a terrifying transition for a creative person. Before, creating something provided an inner joy; the only critic was yourself or the Gift Giver.
I have numerous journals, each of which are personal and private. How could I bridge the gap between my writing for private process and writing for what others wanted?
To share a talent with others is to expose yourself – to open your vulnerability to another’s criticism, to discover how much you still need to learn and grow in your abilities.
It’s far easier to hoard such giftings in isolation. Yet, more often than not, God won’t allow us to keep them shut away indefinitely.
I was teaching in China when God asked, urged, and encouraged me to start writing for more than myself. His first prodding came through a friend.
She speaks softly and listens loudly
Lara was another American teacher at the school. She possesses a quiet and gentle spirit, a trustworthy one, a daydreaming one. We formed an instant connection; I somehow knew she was a creative before she verified it with words. Our time together included playing our guitars, engaging in deep conversations, and talking about writing.
She was one of the first people with whom I shared the fulness of my passion for this art.
One day, we were sitting in her apartment, talking about our secret hobbies. “You know,” she said, “I was just reading this book, The Soul Tells a Story, by Vinita Hampton Wright. She talks about writing and creativity going hand-in-hand with spirituality and encourages people to say, ‘yes’ to their God-given gifts. You can read it when I’m finished.”
I did. As I read, a long-held dream crept from its world of silence and impossibility into the realm of light and reality.
What if my desire to write wasn’t temporary?
What if it wasn’t meant to remain a side-hobby or a means by which to communicate newsletters, but was given to me by God to be used for Him to His glory?
What if my dreams to write and be published didn’t just belong to me, but were a reflection of His dreams for me?
Soon after this conversation, Lara introduced me to Faithwriters.com, an online writing site for Christians. For the first time, I put my heart and stories on display to be read and critiqued by strangers who had no knowledge or context for the person behind the words. I didn’t know where it would lead or how God would use it; I only knew I must obey – I could no longer ignore the desperate call within me.
In 2008, I submitted my first fictional story, Chang Chang’s Hope, to the lowest level of the Faithwriters weekly writing challenge. Then I waited in terrified expectation for people to post their comments.
People really liked it! The judges liked it and gave it a 2nd place ranking in its level.
My next entry, More Than a Yearly Journey, was an autobiographical one. It caught the attention of the site managers who featured it on the Front-Page Showcase.
While I certainly seemed to be off to a good start, I knew my skills needed to develop. But maybe, with time, instruction, and practice, I could really do this writing thing.
These initial successes persuaded me to be more intentional about learning the craft. To this end, I read the highest-ranked stories and tried to pinpoint what made them so good. I studied writing lessons on the site and tried to incorporate those skills into my entries.
Sometimes my pieces connected well with the readers. Other times they didn’t
Regardless of whether my writing connected well with others, I was learning, improving, and gaining insight into where my strengths and weaknesses lay.
After several months of sharing online, I gathered my courage and tentatively offered to write the devotionals for an upcoming youth retreat. Offering, writing, and sharing God’s gifting to me in this form was far scarier than posting online. Exposing my heart to strangers was one thing; revealing it to those I knew was another.
Although the devotionals were presented as anonymous, I was able to gain some encouraging feedback.
These occasions to share made a few things very clear.
My desire to write wasn’t temporary.
The enjoyment and ability to write had been given to me by God to be used for Him to His glory.
My dreams to write and be published were a reflection of God’s dreams for me.
“Lord,” I prayed. “I entrust this writing, this interest and ability, to You as something You want me to continue to develop and use for Your glory. I’m not sure to what extent, but I do know that I will follow Your lead in this and seek any opportunities You may have for me. For whatever reason, and to whatever extent, You have, among other things, made me a writer. To You belong the details.”
Life Happens in The Details
I continued posting short stories online for the next five years. Life changed drastically in that time, but the commitment to write held steady. In 2010, I moved back to the U. S. Two years later, I was married, and a year after that, I gave birth to my first daughter.
In 2014, when my daughter was a year old, I left teaching to become a stay-at-home mom.
The dream and dedication to writing continued. With my husband’s encouragement, I pursued a few freelance writing jobs. One of them landed me a contact as a ghostwriter for a young adult fantasy novel. That book was published in 2016.
This past year, in July 2020, I came across Laura Bartnick with Capture Books. After a few months of communicating back and forth about a couple of writing projects, she offered me a contract to publish my first picture book. Princess Lillian and Grandpa’s Goodbye was released on March 10, 2021, with paperback and hardback versions as well as ebook versions.
Timing for this release thrills me because the book is now available for comfort and hope around the Easter holiday because the theme of Princess Lillian and Grandpa’s Goodbye is eternal life after death.
Encouragement from the Word
In 1 Corinthians, Paul speaks much about the giftings of the Holy Spirit. Although writing or other artistic endeavors aren’t specifically mentioned, the manifestation of the Spirit is. “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” The expression of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives is meant for the common good.
Many times, God’s gifts aren’t given for the benefit of the receiver alone and aren’t meant solely for personal use and gratification. Instead, He often grants us skills and abilities so that we may use them to help others.
Matthew 5:16 (NASB) says, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” God’s light is expressed through how we live our lives, in our physical work, in what we say and do. This includes artistic endeavors.
May the dreams, skill, and abilities God has given us shine before others in such a way that they might glorify our Father who is in heaven.
Although it’s scary to publicly share our gifts, I’ve discovered the value of opening my heart in creative writing. It’s definitely worth it.