The Rescuing

O Lord, God of vengeance,
O God of vengeance, shine forth!
Rise up, O judge of the earth; repay the proud what they deserve!
O Lord, how long shall the wicked,
how long shall the wicked exult?
They pour out their arrogant words; all the evildoers boast.
They crush your people, O Lord, and afflict your heritage.  
They kill the widow and the sojourner, and murder the fatherless;
and they say, "The Lord does not see;
the God of Jacob does not perceive."
~ Psalm 94:1-7

Weariness crept into her bones like a ghost.  She couldn't see it coming but she felt the heaviness.  Her life was ebbing away little bits by little bits.   Pain, heartache and disease were all around her.  Honoria had always felt that she was in this place for a reason.  But of late deceiving whispers were creeping into her ears and placing dark doubts in her heart.  She got up, as if to defy the mortal flesh, to face another day of demands and scorn.   She wiped the fresh tears from her face and walked out to the fire pit only to be met by scores of people needing her help.  Momentarily, Honoria forgot her own hardship and suffering as she looked out on those gathered around the heat of the flames.  Sad and dirty faces, torn clothes on flesh and bones.  The enemy not only tried to destroy those of the Kingdom but also some of it's own people because that is what evil does.  Cancerous entities working from the inside out to harm and cripple so that the power over it is complete.

For the last number of months this was Honoria's world and where she engaged in most of her battles.  Here she would combat the hateful forces that would take a person's body so that it could consume the soul.  Was her own heart to be consumed as well?  Lately she wondered if she were here because of her own failure.  Maybe if she had been better.  If she had done her job with perfect precision she would be in a better place.  The thoughts that  raced through her mind were ones of inadequacy and down right lowliness.   She was not worthy to be a rider much less a daughter of the kingdom.

These were the thoughts that plagued her as she attended those around her.  Honoria stilled believed in the MC and loved Him.  But she wondered if she was loved, could be loved, because she was less than she should  be.  In all her efforts to be more there was this element of failure.  How could she get back to where she once had been?  Where was it that she could  feel the thrill of victory again?

"Understand, O dullest of the people!
Fools, when will you be wise?
He who planted the ear, does he not hear?
He who formed the eye, does he not see?
He who disciplines the nations, does he not rebuke?
He who teaches man knowledge 
The Lord knows the thoughts of man. 
That they are but a breath."
~ Psalm 94:8-11

All these long  months had given Honoria lots of time to think and reflect.  In her more rational moments she knew that the darts (evil thoughts) that were being hurled at her by the enemy were untrue.  Of course, there had been many mistakes and failures.  But in her clearest moments there were no doubts of being loved.  No, Honoria knew that the love of the Master Commander for her was great.  Not because of anything she had done but because of who the MC was.

It is so much harder in a place of darkness to feel any kind of victory.  So, consequently, Honoria was battling on more than one front.  To be sure, the physical battle was horrific.  Not only did she feel in her body the ravages of this place but it was all around her in the filth and pain of others.  The sun was not shining in this part of the world.  All was gray hued with no color.  And it seemed to suck the life out of everything.  This was not the fiercest of the battles.  No, in this place, the enemy's evil darts were the worst.  Daily, hourly, and moment by moment Honoria would have to repeat what is true instead of believing what the enemy was telling her.  This beating down of the spirit was a particular torment.

One of Honoria's delights in this terrible ordeal (and possibly the only delight) was the moments that she would be able to see her beloved horse, Abidon.   She would stroke his nose and hug his neck.  He would nicker and nuzzle back.  And, at rare times, she would actually jump onto his back and sit, then lay down and enjoy the warmth of this large steed.  Here she found some semblance of peace and tranquility.  It never lasted for long but there would be promises of return for not only the horse's benefit but mostly for her own.  There is always a goodness or blessing in the dark places.  These help us to remember God's mercies of the past while hoping for more mercies in the future.

And so the days passed as did the months.  Honoria was beginning to believe that she would never again be able to go home.  Instead of the beautiful colors of the Kingdom she would have to endure the drab of gray that surrounded her.  How was one to live and find joy in the midst of all this misery?  Patience is a virtue and sacrifice has integrity but how was she to find joy in her circumstances?

The next morning Honoria woke to the sun shining on her face.  She sat up with a start as she couldn't remember in all these months the sun shining before.  Something warm entered into her as if a new hope had emerged.  What was this?  It wasn't just the rays of the sun on her face although it was wonderful.  This was something more, as if a star had exploded inside of her.

"I have chosen you and not cast you off;
fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God'
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
. . . . And you shall rejoice in the Lord;
in the Holy One of Israel you shall glory."
 ~ Isaiah 41:9b-10; 16b

In all the long months Honoria had gone from confident rider of the King to doubts and even despairing of life.  She was beginning to understand that the MC breaks down in order to rebuild something even better.  This older woman had gone for many years on her own strength even though she understood in part what it means to lean on the Lord.  Now, after the breaking down of her spirit and body, she gained a new understanding of what this all means.  True strength comes when one is desperate and can no longer stand.

"O Lord,
I bless thee that the issue of the battle between thyself and Satan
has never been uncertain, and will end in victory. 
Calvary broke the dragon's head, and I contend with a vanquished foe,
who with all his subtlety and strength has already been overcome.
When I feel the serpent at my heel may I remember him whose heel was bruised,
but who, when bruised, broke the devil's head.
My soul with inward joy extols the mighty conqueror.
Heal me of any wounds received in the great conflict;
if I have gathered defilement, 
if my faith has suffered damage,
if my hope is less than bright, 
if my love is not fervent,
if some creature-comfort occupies my heart,
if my soul sinks under pressure of the fight.
O thou whose every promise is balm, 
every touch life,
draw near to the weary warrior, 
refresh me, that I might rise again to wage the strife,
and never tire until my enemy is trodden down.
Give me such fellowship with thee that I may defy Satan,
unbelief, the flesh, the world,
with delight that comes not from a creature, and which a creature cannot mar.
Give me draught of the eternal fountain 
that lieth in thy immutable, everlasting love and decree.
Then shall my hand never weaken, 
my feet never stumble,
my sword never rest, 
my shield never rust,
my helmet never shatter,
my breastplate never fall,
as my strength rests in the power of thy might."
~ Valley of Vision

It takes a lifetime to learn that the battle is truly the Lord's.  Here is where Honoria found the peace and joy that was so needed.  She no longer looked at her circumstances with bleakness because it wasn't what surrounded her that changed her.  No, it was what was in her that changed her circumstances.

Honoria was rescued long before help came.


My Father's Hands

"Ah, Lord God!
It is you who have made the heavens and the earth
by your great power and by your outstretched arm!
Nothing is too hard for you."
~ Jeremiah 32:17

My dad was a quiet man.  I think that a good portion of the Amundson men were/are quiet.  He was six feet, tall and skinny.   Dad worked hard, he was in the construction business, and believed in the integrity and honesty of a good days labor.

One of the many things that struck me about my father was his hands.  They seemed large to me and dark from the sun.  The blood veins on his hands stuck out to where I would, as a young kid, like to squish and move.  His fingernails were wide and worn.  Often there would be some kind of wound gotten from his trade.  Strong hands and capable hands.  Tender hands and kind hands.  My dad could make almost anything with his hands and often made things to benefit us.

George Vernon Amundson (my dad) has been gone for many years now and there are lots of things that I have forgotten.  But I do remember those hands.  When I was in high school I had a horse.  It was quite the unruly thing and often would try to  knock me off by going too close to a tree or fence post.  My dad was not a horse man.  I didn't even know that he could ride a horse.  But one day, probably from me getting knocked off, my dad got on the horse taking the reins in his hands and made that horse behave.  It was like a magic trick as the horse obeyed every command that my dad gave.  It was a beauty in motion and I realized that 1) I was not a good rider and 2) my dad was an amazing guy.  I really always knew the second reason but in that moment I had to add yet another thing to what my dad could do with his strong hands.

Of course the hands are only a member of the body.  The body is ruled by the heart and mind.  So what my dad could do with his hands came from what he, himself was made of.  God, family and country were the things that he cared most about.  This was true for a long as I can remember and yet when my dad became a Christian the attributes that came from within were magnified.  A powerful memory  I have of my father's hands were when he would lift them in worship.  He so loved the Savior and it was a particular delight for him to worship with the community of saints.  Those gnarly hands were quick to be raised as soon as the music started.  And if his hands weren't raised in worship they were clapping.  

"I have held many things in my hands,
and have lost them all;
but whatever I have placed in God's hands,
that I still possess."
~ Martin Luther

Although I trusted in my dad's hands to take care of me; they were only human hands.  He would have been the first one to tell you of the things he should have done and those things that he did and regrets doing with his hands.  But as I remember and think about my dad's hands I am struck by the hands of a heavenly Father who never fails.  His hands are strong and tender at the same time.  They are more than capable enough to carry my burdens and lighten my load.  They are most tender to heal the wounds and calm the fears of this little bird.  So when trouble comes to my heart and anxiety vies for control where should I go but to the mighty hand of God.

"I have set the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, 
I shall not be shaken."
~ Psalm 16:8

Remember the hands.


Cloud of Witnesses

since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, 
let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which cling so closely,
and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, 
who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,
despising the shame, 
and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."
~  Hebrews 12:1-2

On New Year's Day of this year my mother went home to her eternal hope.  She is now in the presence of her Savior, and I have no doubt, that her heart is full.  We have grieved but in reality only for ourselves.  She no longer has a body that is decaying and falling apart.  And she is free.  Free from the trials of this momentary life.  Free from the worries and the heartaches that beset the human race.  Free from the opinions of others and how she had to stand strong in hers.  She is at rest and the most happy that she has ever been.  

My mother was a strong woman.  Of course, in her later years, her physical strength diminished.  But there was a determinedness in her character that never went away.  It probably was a mix of stubbornness and conviction.   Or maybe a steadfastness brought on by conviction.   Either way we all knew that she was a rock, unshakeable and solid.  My mother was someone who would get the job done even if it cost her.  We all depended on her and loved her (plus she was always the one to make the lefse).

However, mom would be the first one to tell you that she wasn't perfect.  She had her character faults and made mistakes along the way.  But the one thing that was unmovable in her life was the fact that she belonged to Jesus.  Times might change, political venues along with that, family could be in a state of flux and her own heart would wax and wane.  Here are a few words taken from her own testimony:
"God has been very good to us through all our life.
We were hard to teach and get attention from.
But I thank Him personally each time I think of it,
for sticking in there and having patience.
We certainly don't deserve much.
I thank you heavenly Father, 
through Thy Son,
that you remembered me."

And so, for as long as I can remember, my mother's life was guided by something outside of herself.  For she knew apart from the Lord she didn't deserve much.  It is this fact, I believe, that enabled her to go through life's ups and downs.  For if you know anything about my mother's life you will know that there were times that it wasn't easy.   

As I look at the book of Hebrews (specifically chapter 11) in the Bible there is a long list of names.  Ordinary people, who by faith, did extraordinary things and others who suffered much.  Some conquered kingdoms while others stopped the mouths of lions.  And what about those three men who would rather be thrown into the fire than bow down to the image that Nebuchadnezzar had made saying,

". . . . our God whom we serve is able to deliver us 
from the burning fiery furnace, 
and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.  
But if not, be it known to you, O king, 
that we will not serve your gods or 
worship the golden image that you have set up."

We even have more examples today.  Christians who would rather have their heads cut off than deny their Savior.  Many imprisoned and tortured for what they believe.  Godly saints who sacrifice for others and the glory of God.  These are the kinds of people who, because of faith, are willing to do hards things.  These are the "cloud of witness" who have gone before us.  It was not something that arose within themselves but it was a strength that came from the grace of God.  Those, before the coming of Christ, only saw a portion of what was promised.  Today we have a Savior, Jesus Christ, who "for the joy that was set before him endured the cross," for us.  

My mother has joined the "cloud of witnesses" who cheer us on.  They are like spectators, eagerly watching our lives, seeing the race that we are running.  By their example we can be encouraged to look to Jesus who is the perfecter of our faith.  These witnesses know and have experienced that it is Christ who strengthens us and calls us to endure.  So they urge us on, confident in the ever present help of the Lord that we will make it to the finish line.  

"Therefore lift your drooping hands 
and strengthen your weak knees,
and make straight paths for your feet, 
so that what is lame may not be put out of joint 
but rather healed."
Hebrews 12:12-13

There are days where life can seem easy.  And yet, there are other times that the care and worries of this life follow us like a plague.  How is one to endure to the end of this life?  Is it sheer man-power and the grit of our teeth to see us through?  I will tell you a resounding "no!".  Even though we are called to run the race with endurance it is never on our own strength.  The cloud of witnesses knew this and is why they can cheer for us.  They have seen the end result and know that our's will be like their's.

My mom understood and relied on the fact that it was Jesus Christ who kept her and sustained her.  She actually lived longer on this earth than she wanted to but knew that God's love was more important to her than her own desires.   So she lived to be 87.  Now she has joined the cloud of witness,  many whom she knew from here on this earth.  There are others that she didn't know but are now joined to because of faith.

We sang a song this last Sunday in church titled "He Will Hold Me Fast".  Beautiful lyrics with even more wonderful truth of the love of Christ for us.  Here is a link to a video to hear it:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=936BapRFHaQ

Christ holds the believer in His strong arms.  And though we often fumble in our efforts to glorify Him, He will not let go of us.  For

"He is nearer than our own soul,
closer than our most secret thoughts".
~ A. W. Tozer

Someday I hope to join the "cloud of witnesses" to cheer on those not yet in glory.  But until that time I will acknowledge that there are those who are cheering us on, maybe saddened by our failures, but yet hopeful and confident that the Savior will keep us and produce in us a trust in the One who causes us to endure to the end.  To Him be the glory!


The Juggler

"But the final answer to all feelings of inferiority
is to remind yourself that God
loves, redeems, pardons, restores, 
protects, keeps and uses
misfits, outsiders, and failures
no less than He does beautiful people
of the kind that keep crossing your path
and of whom you have been wishing you were one."
~ J. I. Packer

The children were laughing with delight as the juggler tripped and rolled to the hip hoppity music he played on his small instrument.  He made funny faces and pretended to be careless, dropping the balls he would juggle.  The little man so enjoyed to hear the laughter of his young crowd that he even performed beyond his own abilities, surprising himself along the way.   He always wore a funny sort of outfit to enhance his ridiculousness and to advance his appearance of hilarity.  The children, of course, loved it and him.  Even the simple minded enjoyed his show from time to time.  Others put up with the juggler and either pretended not to see or just ignored his show.  The parents of the children would have to stay, somewhat embarrassed, to be seen in close proximity to such foolishness.

The juggler knew this, of course, and in moments of solitude would rehearse over and over again the seeming rejection in his mind.  He never wanted to be silly or useless.  The little man, like most humans, wanted to be respected and well thought of.  In reality, he wanted more than that.  It was appreciation that he craved and the need to be useful.  Always, he felt like he was imposing himself on the crowd, forcing his way into acceptance.  It never really worked though and he would go to his home with the same feelings of rejection.

No one was out and out mean to him.  But it was as if he were invisible.  The juggler had tried other means of employment but he darned near starved to death.  At least being a juggler he had food on the table even though it wasn't much.  Day after day he would try and think of ways to be more than what he was but then at the end of the day he would come with nothing to show for it.  The little man was ashamed to admit that he wondered why God had made  him this way.  Perish the thought that anyone would know what was going on in his mind.  Better to play the happy juggler with appearances of not having a care in the world than for people to know how deeply he struggled with his feelings of inadequacy.  He really was quite miserable.

All that changed on the morning when the Master Commander came to see him.  The little man was getting ready for his daily show.  He was putting on the silly hat with a bell on it.  Every time he moved his head the bell would tinkle so there was constant noise.  It wasn't a terrible clang but just a small tinkle.  By the end of the day, though, he would have a headache from the ongoing tinkle, tinkle, tang, tinkle.  The juggler was thinking on this as there was a knock at the door.  He almost missed it as he was in such thoughts about the tinkle on his head.  But there it was, "knock, knock and then another knock-bang".  He jumped, not sure what to do.  Because, you see, no one ever knocked on his door.  His movements were such that he almost tripped over his own feet.  So by the time he actually got to the door he was out of breath.  When he opened the door the little bit of breath he did have was sucked inside his diaphragm so as not to be able to speak.

The MC smiled and one could feel the love and kindness ooze out of Him toward the juggler.  The most amazing words came out of the Lord's mouth.  The little man stood there with eyes wide open and mouth almost dropping to the floor.  "I need your help, my little friend.  Is it possible to take a moment of your time to hear what I have to say?".  Frozen, the juggler could hardly even move backward to let the Master Commander in.  With his mouth still open wide, he shook his head in agreement and opened the door farther as the MC came in and waited for the door to close.

"What did Jesus mean when He said that Christians are salt?
Notice that He said, "You are the salt of the earth."  
The mood of the verb is indicative (a statement of fact), 
not imperative (a command to be something).  
Jesus is not urging His disciples to become something they are not; 
He is telling them what they are as Kingdom people.  
The implication is that they are to be what God has thus made them."
~ Sinclair Ferguson

"Jesus' illustration of salt is an encouraging reminder 
that the apparently cheap and insignificant 
can influence its environment out of all proportion to our expectation."
~ Sinclair Ferguson

As the juggler listened to the MC's plan one could see the fear rise up in the little man's eyes.  Of course, the plan could work but it would mean sacrifice and danger.  Such of the likes that the juggler had never seen or experienced in his short and silly years.  It was to be a rescue plan for a much-loved daughter of the Kingdom.  The Master Commander was putting a team together and the juggler had no small part to play.  What would happen if he failed to do his part?  Friends, coworkers, teammates could be hurt or even killed because of him.  The risk was so great.  A full-blown panic attack was rising up in the little man's heart.  His breathing was labored and short.  His eyes began to blur as he put his head between his knees.  

And then . . . .  he felt the warm hand of the MC rest upon his back.  His eyes came back into focus and his breathing started to normalize.    "Do not worry, my little friend.  For I will be with you and uphold you with my right hand.  I will strengthen and help you.  You will not be alone."   The words of the Master Commander came to him in a whisper as if blowing on him and into him something akin to bravery.

The juggler rose then to stand in front of the MC.  He felt taller and stronger in that moment.  As his eyes rose to meet his Lord's the answer reflected from them.  With gladness the MC grinned as a chuckle arose deep in His throat.  It was reported later that there was uproarious laughter coming from the juggler's home.

"For consider your calling, brothers:
not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, 
not many were powerful,
not many were of noble birth.  
But God chose what is foolish in the world 
to shame the wise;
God chose what is weak in the world
to shame the strong;
God chose what is low and despised in the world,
even things that are not,
to bring to nothing things that are,
so that no human being might boast in the presence of God."
~ I Corinthians 1:26-29

Everyone has struggled with feelings of inferiority at one time or another.  There will always be someone who does it better, looks put together more and has that air of confidence we wished we had.  The truth is this:  we are foolish to think that we are strong in our self; full of pride to think one looks better than an other and mistaken to believe that any confidence comes from deep down in our inner core.  The human race is broken from the cradle to the grave.  This is why we need, desperately need, a Savior.  One that has taken our place and fulfilled all that is required to make us whole again.  If you need strength; go to the One who has conquered sin and death.  If you need confidence; rely on the One who is faithful and true.  If you need assurance that you are beautiful; go to the One who adorns you with the jewels of the Kingdom and sees you as no other can.   Outside of this is nothing more than a fantasy, a whisper of what it really means to live.  If you really want to be all that you can be give your life over to the Life-giver.  

He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, 
whom God made our wisdom 
and our righteousness 
and sanctification 
and redemption.
Therefore, as it is written,
Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord."
~ I Corinthians 1:30-31


At the End of It All

"Teach us to number our days
that we might get a heart of wisdom."
~ Psalm 90:12

At the end of July, for part of the week,  Lydia and I along with Esther and her 4 children went to the beach.  The Oregon coast is lovely and I happen to have friends who own a place in Seaside, OR.  These are the most gracious people I know.  They have offered their place to us at any time as a place of respite and relaxation.  This is what we did.

We went down on a Wednesday and the weather was the best.  The kind that is picture perfect with sun shining and warm sand to surround your feet.  It is a particular delight to watch my grandchildren dig and run and jump and get absolutely covered in sand to where you would think that most of the beach ends up in their shorts.

I do have to admit that I'm not so much of a beachy person.  I struggle with the feeling of salty skin and sandy toes.  But it was so worth it to be with those I love and watch their enjoyment.  It's like the tension of life just slips away with the wind that comes off of the ocean.  What I do find amazement in is the sheer majesty of the ocean and waves coming and going.  Such power and beauty all together in the roar of the tide.  It is astounding and fearful all at the same time.

There has always been a fear of the power of the ocean for me.  I have marveled at the beauty from a distance.  I'm afraid that I have taught this to my children telling them never, no never turn your back on the ocean.  Hopefully they aren't scarred but have a healthy regard for the power of the surf.  There isn't many remembrances of going to the ocean as a child.  In talking with my mother this week she mentioned that she was never a beachy person either.  We just always did the camping thing in the mountains with lakes and ski boats.  But I digress ~

A number of my children love the ocean/beach thing.  And, of course, it is beautiful.  Quite unlike anything else.  We, I suppose, tend to take it for granted as it is in such close proximity to where we live.  But there are others who travel long distances to experience the Oregon coast and the town of Seaside in particular.

In true Pacific NW style it rained on the next day (Thursday).  This wasn't a gully washer just some drizzle.  So when the others decided to go to the beach I decided to stay behind and have a power nap (this is what I call them as it sounds so much more impressive).  After waking up I gathered my things and headed down to the beach.  It it only a few blocks walk, no driving needed.  It wasn't cold, just a bit overcast with clouds and, of course, windy.

There was no expectation to see what was next or to witness for the next hour or so the drama that was happening.  As I plunked my folding lawn chair into the sand I could see farther to my right a line of people in the surf holding hands.  There were Search and Rescue vehicles with lights flashing and a jet ski in the surf.  Then the Coast Guard showed up in their helicopter going back and forth close to the shore line and finally dropping a swimmer into the water.

It turned out to be a vacation from hell for one family who lost a son that day.  As we watched the rescue efforts from a distance we couldn't help feel the anxiety and sorrow.  Trying to hold the tears in check while at the same time praying for a miracle.   One afternoon and all was changed for this family.  It was supposed to be a happy time at the beach, carefree with no worries.  Instead tragedy came with it's friends called heartache and despair.

We never know what tomorrow will bring.  Oh, we make plans and have goals but that can change in a moment.  For all the things that we think we have control over the reality is this: we really don't have much control over anything.  Most of our comings and goings belong to the Master of the universe, the God who is all wise, all knowing, and so much more.  We have only been given a certain number of days.  No one can add to it or take away from it.  No matter how hard we try to cheat death, it will come.  This is the hard reality of being human.

Life is precious.  Each day brings new mercies that I don't think I fully comprehend.  What we live for determines the quality of our lives.  Fame and fortune can be nice but at the end of it all is it enough?  Goals are good but once achieved, what then?  At the end of our lives what do you want said about you?  When this mortal body ceases to breathe what is your hope?

Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die." (John 11:25).  The Savior conquered death when he rose from the grave.  If we put our trust in the Christ we can ultimately triumph over death.  There is hope beyond the grave.

"Death is swallowed up in victory."
"O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?"
I Corinthians 15:55

Might I encourage you to think about the end of your life.  On that last day when you have that one last breath what will be your hope?  Living a good life will not be enough and no one can say that they have lived a perfect life.  I take that back.  There is One who has and He lived it for you.  So on that very last day of your life can you say, "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain."

There is an eternity coming.  Where do you hope to be?  

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
I Corinthians 15:57


The Thief

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.
I came that they may have life and have it abundantly."
John 10:10

We have blueberry bushes on our property.  They have been pampered with a watering system, fertilizer and fencing.  The fencing is to keep the four legged critters out (our dogs mostly).  Dan did most of the work putting the fencing in.  He  even put a couple of gates into the berry patch for easy access.  I suppose it wasn't necessary as the fence is only two feet tall and can be stepped over.  But it looks good nevertheless.  Because the gates look so good there is talk of putting in a picket fence some day.

The goal of keeping the dogs out has been accomplished only to be followed by the thieving birds. We have had an extraordinary spring.  Consequently, we are about a month ahead of gardening.  I have tomatoes plants that are 3 feet tall (daughter Hannah told me about this awesome fertilizers for tomatoes which, I'm sure, contributed) and my strawberries gave their best in May.  

My blueberry bushes have matured to the place that I should be getting around ten pounds of berries per bush, possibly even more.  I have gotten maybe one pound total.  The birds have found them and have been stripping the bushes of all the beautiful blue fruit.  So, on to the next quest of keeping critters out.  Honestly, how did the pioneers survive all the wildlife to get any fruit at all?  We have silvery streamers on stakes, netting and I've even looked at sonic wave instruments.  By the time we are successful, if that ever happens,  a pound of blueberries will be worth mucho dollars.

I am contemplating on putting birds in the same category as weeds.  You know, part of the fall of Adam.  Although I do understand that God created the birds on the fifth day and called it good.  Can I say that birds are good but that, at the moment, I don't like them?  They are so cute when they sit on our bird feeders eating bird seed.  Hummingbirds are really my favorite and they don't eat blueberries.  Why can't the other birds just eat bird seed?

We have plenty of bushes and I thought that if I had enough bushes we could share.  I really don't mind feeding the birds SOME of the blueberries but the little thieves are taking them ALL!  As I look on Pinterest for solutions I realize that I'm not the only one with this problem.  How is it that something that God calls good be such a problem?

"cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, 
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust, 
and to dust you shall return."
~ Genesis 3:17-19

The realization that this is not a global problem and there are much larger battles being fought is true. But at this moment feeling the angst of thieving birds I consider how the sweat on the face, the toiling to produce something good is also a battle.  Reminds me of another profound battle.  Since the fall of Adam we have been cursed.  The thief came and with a lie produced loss and suffering.  Humanity has been living with the results ever since.  And yet in my struggle against thieving birds I can be extremely thankful.  The God who created the world didn't leave us to wallow in the ultimate curse but sent Someone to take our place.  The first gospel pronounced (proto evangalem) right after the fall of Adam was given to the woman promising her offspring to bruise the serpents head.  God made a way!  
"but God shows his love for us
in that while we were still sinners
Christ died for us."
~ Romans 5:8

It's always good to put life into perspective.  I won't die if the blueberry crop is minuscule this year.  On the other hand, life without Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord is a death of the worst kind.  There is no hope without Him.  There is no point, no joy and certainly no eternal life to look forward to.

We are still battling against thieving birds.   But I am seeing a glimmer of hope.  Dan did some more research (probably not on Pinterest) and bought some plastic snakes and beach ball hanging things with big eyes.   Our blueberry patch looks a bit like a circus but I am happy to report that Dan and I actually picked some blueberries tonight.  However, I couldn't help think of how many of the little blue wonders escaped our picking and ended up in a bird's belly.

I had had visions of lots of blueberries so that I could invite family and friends over to pick and enjoy.  I'm still going to hope for that and we will just have to see what happens.  So the battle continues!

I wish it was as easy to do battle with the father of lies.  At any given moment he whispers in our ear lies to confuse, disappoint and bring us down.  This is what he did in the Garden.  He lied about God.  He lied to Eve and to Adam.  His goal is to bring division between peoples but especially between you and God.  As Christians we have to remember, always remember, that Jesus is bigger and stronger.  He has solved our biggest problem which is life apart from God.  God's promise way back in Genesis to the woman has been fulfilled in Jesus and I am a glad recipient of His kindness.

As Jesus has solved our biggest problem it is imperative that we always go to him when we hear the ugly whispers of the devil.  We need to be alert and vigilant because the liar is always looking for opportunities to cause damage to the Christian.  

"Be sober minded; be watchful. 
Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, 
seeking someone to devour.  
Resist him, firm in your faith, 
knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced 
by your brotherhood throughout the world.
~ 1 Peter 5:8

Just as we have tools and weaponry to keep the thieving birds out of the blueberry patch so also has the Lord given us tools the guard against the thief of our souls.  I don't want to give up.  I hope you don't either.

*I wrote this a couple of weeks ago.  The reason that I haven't posted until today was because, as always, I needed help putting pictures on.  My trusty computer person (Lydia) did her magic so that you could see our circus blueberry patch.   And I am happy to report that we are getting more blueberries.  Yippee!


Pain in the Valley

"I have fought the good fight, 
I have finished the race, 
I have kept the faith."
~ I Timothy 4:7

There was an eery stillness in the valley now.  One could hear very little compared to the roaring of hours before.  A young woman could be heard quietly weeping over the much loved one who had ceased breathing, gone to another world altogether.  Horses were wandering free, waiting for the strong command of their masters, also gone.  The scene was ugly as devastation was evident.  This is where Bravadin  found himself as he slowly came to.  He had been left for dead which was partly true.  The young soldier was bleeding from his shoulder and his head hurt from the massive blow of the enemy. So the scene that was before him did not register to his mind.  It took quite a bit before he understood what his eyes were seeing and then he felt sick to his stomach.  The cry that came from him echoed in the valley and summed up the agony of his soul.

A battlefield is never glorious but a scenario of the struggle against evil.  There might be a victory but always at a cost.  Sometimes the cost is almost too much to bear and the wounds go so deep that one never really heals properly.  At this particular moment for Bravadian he hoped he would succumb to his wounds and quietly go to that wonderful place of rest.  As he slumped over he could hear someone approach but was too weak and heartsick to even look up.  Fresh blood dripped from his forehead and he could taste the grime and sweat on his lips.  "God, help me" he thought as he didn't even have the strength to push the words past his lips.   Gloom, despair and agony were swirling around him like a tornado.  Then he slipped back into realm of blackness again.

Kabed had received the message from his niece, Frailian.  He had hurried as fast as he could, meeting his younger brother along the way.  These three were banning together on a rescue mission.  Frailian had quickly sought out her father after the dreadful night of her mother (Honoria's) abduction.  They were making their plans in route when news of the battle and the devastation of the battlefield reached them.  Hence, their previous plans had to wait as they made their way to where the battle had been fought.  All three had been searching all night for the brother/son/nephew in hopes that he was still alive.  Both for the Old Man Warrior and his younger warrior brother the scene before them was not a new experience.  It didn't lessen the gut wrenching that they both felt as memories came back in a rush, flooding their minds with the heartache of battle.

The Warrior, Frailian and the OMW had been praying all night amongst themselves to find Bravadin.  Now they stopped and in unison joined hands to petition the Holy Spirit for guidance.  Time was always of the essence.  They knew this when they had first started out the day before towards a totally different goal.  But it was a well known fact that time was held in the Maker's hand.  And though their actions were swift they counted on the divine will of the Master Commander.  There was no question of submission to this will even though the outcome could possibly be something other than what they hoped for.   Sometimes our prayers are not always answered in the way we want but are subject to the All Knowing One.  So, consequently, it took a good remainder of the day to find what the group had been looking for.  Bravadin had succumbed to unconsciousness again.  When Frailian found him he was hardly recognizable and she had to wash his face to make sure it was him.  She cried.  When her father heard her he came running, falling to his knees to hold his son.

"Though I walk in the midst of trouble, 
you preserve my life;
you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies,
and your right hand delivers me."
~ Psalm 138:7

Bravadin was a good and faithful soldier.  He was true to his men and cared for them deeply.  His concern for them always superseded his own wants and desires.   So, consequently, he was much loved.  This love not only came from his family but almost everyone that knew him.  There wasn't a soldier that wouldn't follow him into battle and most wanted to be in his squadron.  Now, many of those that had followed him lay on the battlefield floor.  The fortunate ones were still alive but barely.  Many were gone, never to return to their families and the ones that loved them.  This would prove to be a heavy burden for Bravadin to bear ~ so many of his brothers-in-arms fallen on the battlefield.  He had followed the MC's orders never imagining that it would cost so much.  This, too, would be something that the young soldier would have to reconcile to himself.

The Kingdom fighters had held fast that day.  It didn't seem like a victory but the enemy was held back from advancing.  This is what had been hoped for.  Of course, the soldiers were hoping for a massive victory.  But it was not to be.  The cost for this semi-victory was much and there were those who doubted the wisdom of such a battle.  But seasoned soldiers know that victory isn't necessarily seen with the naked eye.  One has to believe though not seeing.  It takes a measure of trust in the One sending you forward to believe in victory.  If you were to ask the now fallen soldiers there would be no hesitation to do it all over again.  Such were the heroes.  The memory of them would be what stories are made of.

As the OMW and his brother lifted Bravidan into the cart they could hear a quiet moan.  However, the young warrior did not regain consciousness and wouldn't for some time.   His physical wounds, though many, would heal.  But no one knew of the mental toll this battle would have on Bravadin and of the monsters that were gleefully planning their reunion.  However, this time it would be with the brother of their old captive.

The sister could feel the ominous, cold presence of her old foe.  She knew a battle was brewing for the mind her brother.  But this time she would be the one to help instead of her mother.  She was unafraid and ready.  The Master Commander would help her and guide her to his restoration. Frailian knew that her brother was strong and that his love for the MC was great.   "The monsters are fools." she thought if they think they can gain a foot hold on Bravadin.

As the four members of this warrior family headed back to the castle the OMW was already  formulating a plan for the next venture.  Bravadin would be in the care of the healers for some time.   The Warrior remembered the time that he had barely made it to the castle to be restored.  He remembers the caring hands and the tender words.  He remembered how his body, though beaten and sore, had responded to their treatment.  He was confident that Bravadin would be in good hands.  Therefore his resolve was to go after his wife.  Although he was tired and worn out he could not lay his sword down now.  Would this battle ever end?  How he longed for the peace of the city and rest for the soul.

Kavidan was thinking the same thing.  As the two brothers left the healing wing of the castle they gave each other a knowing look.  With quick and long strides they headed to war room to plan and make preparations for Honoria's rescue.  The Master Commander was waiting for them.  His kind eyes and gentle voice beckoned them in.  As He sat down with the two brothers they realized without a word that what they desired was not going to happen.  The MC's plan for the much loved Honoria was to leave her for a time in the belly of the beast.

"Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
and your justice as the noonday.
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
over the man who carries out evil devices!"
~ Psalm 37:5-7

Not always do we feel victory on the battlefield.  Often we come away broken and wounded.  We question our endeavors to fight for the right and wonder if we heard God's voice at all.  This is the way of the soldier of Christ.   We do, what we think, is our best trying to be true to what the scriptures say.  Our semi-victories bring us to our knees as we were fully expecting total conquest.  But, oh dear friend, how sweet the surrender of knowing that the battle is the Lord's.  Yes, we are called to the struggle against evil but amidst the struggle is the assurance that He leads the way and secures the final outcome.  This never is a one-time lesson as we are thick in the skull.  Yet, the Lord allows breaking in us so that He can tenderly mend us.  The wounds that come often, He will heal.  And the disillusionment that is so prevalent can turn into confidence in a loving Savior.  All is never lost.  All is gained when we look to Him.

"When I am afraid of evils to come, comfort me by showing me
that in myself I am a dying, condemned wretch,
but that in Christ I am reconciled, made alive and satisfied;
that I am feeble and unable to do any good,
but that in him I can do all things;
that what I now have in Christ is mine in part,
but shortly I shall have it perfectly in heaven."
~ Valley of Vision