Stormy Weather…

IMG_3212‘…when evening had come, He said to them, ‘Let us go to the other side of the sea.’ And leaving the throng, they took Him with them, just as He was, in the boat- and other boats were with Him. And a furious storm of wind ( of hurricane proportions) arose, the waves kept beating into the boat, so that it was already becoming filled. But He was in the stern of the boat asleep on a leather cushion; and they awoke Him and said to Him, ‘Master, do You not care that we are perishing?’ And He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Hush now! Be still!’ and the wind ceased, (that is, sank to rest as if exhausted by its beating) and there was immediately a great calm- a perfect peacefulness…’ Mark 4:35-41 KJV Amplified VersionIMG_3209

Please notice first- ‘other boats were with them’. When a storm comes- you will not be alone. Others are affected by the same storm; others will suffer and others injured by strong winds- and there are others who will be blessed by what He does during that storm – even though they are not ‘in the same boat’ with Jesus; the storms we endure affect others, right? …

The part of the Amplified passage which I love best- is how the ‘rebuked’ storm reacted to Jesus. ‘And the wind ceased- sank to rest, as if exhausted by its beating and there was a great calm- a perfect peacefulness’.

If you have ever been through a hurricane or a tornado or any ‘Act of God’ afterwards there is a great calm; an almost perfect peacefulness. As the damage is assessed… The weather may be peaceful, yet the path of destruction is astounding…IMG_3223

The cleanup work is ahead; the wreckage yields it’s own suffering. Keep in mind that though the Galilean storm stopped raging- the disciples had to bale the water out of the boat. Storms have aftermaths.  Excerpt from ‘Four Days- the Lazarus Principle’

As Hurricane Irma continues her destructive path, a devastating earthquake has damaged an area outside of Mexico City and cleanup efforts continue from Hurricane Harvey- we would remember those affected by these Acts of God- situations beyond human control, as the insurance folks call them- we know these are Natural Disasters of Epic Proportions. It is always appropriate to remember that God does care about us all.  May we each do what we can to ease the suffering aftermath these folks now face, here and around the globe.

Love y’all, Camellia

* These beautiful photographs were taken by Jeremy Miniard. Find more of his wonderful work at jeremy-miniard.fineartamerica.com  Four Days- the Lazarus Principle written by Brenda Wyatt can be found on Amazon.com, BN.com and other fine booksellers. More information about this book may be found on our ‘About Us’ page.

Gratitude…

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Have you ever gotten a line or two of a song in your head and just couldn’t stop thinking about it? That happens to me occasionally…for instance recently, I kept thinking about this line…‘I hope Life treats you kind..’ from Dolly Parton’s famous song, ‘I Will Always Love You’. Dolly wrote the song when she left the Porter Waggoner Show. Later, Whitney Houston elevated this same song to unbelievable heights and popularity. Country and Pop music fans loved that song! It’s a song about leaving, heartbreak, loss, bittersweet memories and to some extent betrayal.  A sad song really.IMG_0155

Often, when a line from a song or a portion of Scripture stops me in my tracks… I want to sit with it a while…contemplate it. With Dolly’s Song… I let the words run around in my head, moving on to that line about ‘Bittersweet memories…’ Ultimately, in the privacy of my own home- I broke out singin’ it- loud….no, I did not sound like Dolly or Whitney- more like a bad version of Willie Nelson, in case you’re wondering. Then, there was a Scripture, I was reading a devotional recently and a portion of a verse just hopped off the page and stopped me in my tracks-I wanted to sit with it awhile- here it is:

 ‘…the same night in which He was betrayed, He took bread; and when He gave thanks….’  First Corinthians 13:23-24.

 Jesus was betrayed…He shared a meal, He gave thanks. Think about it. Betrayal and Gratitude are puzzle pieces that rarely seem to fit. I wondered, what if it said-

  • ‘And after she lost her job…she gave thanks’  or
  • ‘And after he was put on hospice, he gave thanks…’ or
  • ‘After she was abandoned, she gave thanks…’
  • ‘After his father had beaten him, he gave thanks…’

Think of any emotional damage that causes human suffering. Sit with loss, betrayal, abandonment, physical illness, abuse and heartache for a while. Think of them as Gunshots to the Soul. Now, insert those grave wounds into that same Scripture… Does hosting a meal and giving thanks follow heartache? It hardly seems possible. And yet…there is a deep truth in there. Suffering isn’t convenient- a gap opens up, right in the midst of Living. The Betrayal occurred right in the middle of the Last Supper that Jesus would have with his closest friends;  He continued living, He turned to what remained of His life; gave thanks and resumed the meal. I must be honest here, I am not a big fan of telling folks to count their blessings when they are in the midst of suffering– it seems to add an unnecessary burden onto an already wounded spirit. However, for myself…I have found when I am able to allow light to come into my suffering- turn to what remains- the good that life still offers- it takes the form of gratitude and the healing begins…IMG_0152

Life is hard; it never permanently gets easier. Bad things still happen to good people. Promises are broken and some dreams die.  You cannot go back and make Life different. If you look at the photograph, you will see Crepe Myrtles blooming at the back of our yard. There is a gap between the trees- where a clump of beloved dogwoods used to be- they died this year and were cut down.  I mourned the loss- this area is a Memory Garden. The loss of the dogwoods seemed to be a metaphor for what has already been a year of difficulties-among them, the loss of two sweet friends and my mother. As if to drive the heartache/ gratitude connection home, the crepe myrtles are blooming their heads off! Meanwhile I’ve been staring at the Gap- the Loss. These trees have never bloomed so profusely before this year, maybe the dogwoods were blocking our view! IMG_0156

I took photographs of the heavy blooms hanging down close enough to be at eye level- midst the most incredible blue sky with puffy white clouds- the fragrance was faint and lovely. I had stared so long and so hard at what I had lost, feeling the dogwoods had betrayed the Memory Garden… having bittersweet memories… I realized I was missing the near and present loveliness!  ‘Life was treating me kind…’ Thank you, Dolly. The day after the photographs were taken, to further emphasize the point of the Scripture from First Corinthians which I had been contemplating for days…one of the big crepe myrtle branches heavy with blooms broke.  ‘And the same night He was betrayed, He took bread, and after He had given thanks, He broke the bread…’ Wouldn’t you know? In the sun-filled blue skied day, the truth of Jesus’ actions broke through my mind…instead of dwelling on one more bad thing-I decided to cut the blooms from the broken branch and make something of it! I’m so thankful I did! IMG_3105

Just look at the planter shaped like a woman’s head! She’s surely grateful  for the glorious flower-dy hat she’s wearing! Turns out the broken branch isn’t a mortal wound… Life does go on, bright blue skies mingle among the cloudy days- enjoy what you can and when you think of it? Give thanks to God… He will always love you! Have a blessed Lord’s Day!

Love y’all, Camellia

p.s. Be honest now, you’re humming Dolly Parton’s tune aren’t you?

Thorns- a prayer…

IMG_2583Thorns, in Scripture symbolize troubles. Troublesome people, troublesome habits and troubled people.

  • And, being cast out of the lush Garden of Eden- God told them..’ Thorns and thistles shall the earth bring forth…’ Gen. 3: 18-19
  • ‘Other seed fell in the midst of thorns and the thorns grew up alongside and choked the good plant…The seed that fell among the thorns, these are the ones who- as they go their way are choked and suffocated with the anxieties, worries, cares and responsibilities of this life…’ Luke 8:7,14
  • ‘And you, son of man, be not afraid of their words; though briers and thorns are all around you…be not afraid of their words or dismayed by their looks…’ Ezekiel 2:6-7
  • Three times the Apostle Paul asked for his Thorn in the Flesh to be removed, ‘a thorn… a messenger of evil, sent to rack, buffet and harass me’ ..ultimately the thorn remained. Paul changed his mind: ‘I am quite happy about the thorn, and about the insults and hardships, persecutions and difficulties; for when I am weak, then He is strong…the less I have, the more I depend on Him’ 2 Cor. 12:10.
  • A blind and heartbroken George Mattheson wrote: ‘My God, I have never thanked Thee for my thorns, I have thanked Thee a thousand times for my Roses, but not once for my thorns…Teach me the value of my Thorn.’
  • ‘…and weaving together a Crown of Thorns, they began to mock him, struck His Head and spat on Him, making sport of Him…’ Mark 15:18-19

IMG_2591Lord Jesus, as daffodil trumpets herald the beginning of Spring and the Dogwood dares to bear blood tinged white blossoms centered with a Crown of Thorns- we know that it not right for so many of us to be wracked with mental agony, fearful of the future and plagued with anxious fretful minds. Too often we are tired, worried with the strains of life, burdened with responsibilities, splintered by hurtful words, choked out and suffocated by prickly concerns in lives too full and complicated. Thorns…stunt our growth, halt our progress and reduce our growth and productivity. So we pray with heavy hearts, bringing burdens we have tried to shoulder on our own- yet even as we lay them before You, plead for relief, recount the burdens once again…something strange inside of us begins to gather our troubles back up again-

  • re-packaged belongings,
  • re-purposed fears,
  • thick envelopes of worry,
  • bags of the same old anxieties

Believing our concerns are not worthy of Your Glorious attention or- worse without a mustard seed of Faith or the Patience to wait, we wonder if we ever really believed Your Divine Power would be exerted on our behalf.  Why is it Lord, we are caught in thickets of calendars crammed too full, bristling while we wait in a line, harassed in heavy traffic, suffocating from social obligations, drowning in debt or choked out expecting too much out of life? We are worn out trying to organize what we already have. Will we ever be free of the need for more when there’s no time to take care of the gifts You have already given?

We live in a briar patch of stress and strain, fretting foolishly, harboring broken promises, words spoken in haste, small slights or outright rejection- jeers of foolish beings who feel superior only when they’ve put others down; these are Thorns in our flesh, Splinters in our hearts-Dry parched lips from sweat filled nightmares- we’ve all felt them. How can we ever think our Cross-Slain Savior doesn’t know how it feels? Yet, our Divine Friend, You do, if Anyone ever has known, You know. IMG_2589

As the earth begins to thaw… as Easter draws near, we see the everlasting sign- the Crown of Thorns within Dogwood blooms. Let every sense available bring forth Golgotha- the odor of sweat mingled with fresh Blood, bitter gall, vinegar and dried spit, the agony of humiliation; loud boisterous gaming for a White Robe, heinous laughter and coarse jeers. The sky darkens, You know- if anyone knows, You know deserted loneliness when Heaven’s Angels turn their backs on You; You know rejection-even Your own Father has forsaken You; Yes You know. Let us remember anew, throughout all Eternity…You know exactly what humanity feels. Of all of the suffering wounds, perhaps the most worrisome encircles Your Head- A Crown of Thorns…

  • ‘John, take care of My Mother’
  • One thief accuses, ‘You saved others, You can’t save us!’
  • Another pleads- ‘I’m dying, Lord…don’t forget me..’

Even in the Sacrificial Dying- the constant strain, the needs of others were piercing Your Mind…In every way, You understand the human dilemma. We ask You then, to teach us how to live in the thicket of thorns, how to grow in expectant joy- right in the midst of stress and strain; and as we exist in this troubling human condition, help us to find ways to be gentle, affectionate toward one another and always thankful for our thorns. Give us strength to explore the depths of pain and find blessings there. Teach us the value of our thorns. Allow us not to be strangled by circumstances and suffocated by life. Provide ways, in quiet stillness, to find our peace in Thee. Fill us with the peace that passes all understanding in the midst of our chaotic thorny paths fraught with worrisome distractions. Help us to do our part to simplify our lives. Teach us the secret of serene living: Each day has potential to bring so much joy among life’s aggravations. May we know without question that You are an understanding Savior, in Whom we have:

  • unfailing Mercy,
  •  Divine Strength,
  • abundant Grace,
  • eternal Forgiveness-
  • Divine Love
  • perfect Peace

All of these gifts help us to live as kind, grateful Children of God. May our lives resemble the fleeting beauty of the Dogwood Blossom and the fresh renewal of Springtime. Take us in Your Loving Arms-

  • apply Your Healing Balm to every piercing, every scrape and every scar-
  • smooth out the life lined worry-wrinkles,
  • relieve our feverish anxieties,
  • lift our burdened hearts,
  •  heal our fear-filled, doubt-ridden minds,
  •  place Your cool Hand of Mercy on our wounded souls and
  •  be refreshed as we find our Rest in Thee.

To the One Crowned with Thorns on Calvary’s Cruel Cross, the One Who has overcome Tribulation and is now and forever The Living Water and Earth’s Divine Oasis. Amen. IMG_2591


Blessings from our briar patch to yours…Love y’all, Camellia

*photographs of waning Dogwood Blossoms are obviously mine.

A Prayer for Suffering and Sorrow…

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O Lord of Life, In these beautiful days approaching Spring- we are painfully aware of the human condition which cannot understand Your Divine Ways. Some of us bear the final grief of loss and loneliness standing by an open grave; and others bear a living grief which has no grave and sees no end to suffering and sorrow. We think of those-

  • whose eyes are glazed over by constant pain,
  • whose ears hear the deafening silence of inner rooms darkened by worry,
  • numbed by losses which came too soon,
  • who sit in speechless shock.

Will You enter those grief-filled rooms with the Comfort only You can bring, whispering Grace scented with Mercy and Great Love? Human sympathy and healing cannot mend broken hearts- cannot heal broken spirits. We ask You to reveal Yourself as the One Who has suffered, Who has felt forsaken and Whose Human Flesh gave up, as You exhaled Your Spirit into Your Father’s safekeeping. Fill us now, with Springtime Resurrection Reassurance, grant to us Faith which shines through our tears. We pray that we will do more than just endure- that we will seek our Rest in Your Loving Arms; lean into the full Divine Embrace You always offer. May our weary heartsick souls seek You often. And when we survey the Cross of Calvary, we are grateful for Your Divine Permission to cry out- ‘My God, why have You forsaken Me?’

  • Disease is the dull key,
  • Pain is a sharp chord,
  • Suffering is a sour note,
  • Death is the broken chords of the human experience.

We confess we have never been able to orchestrate more than somber funeral marches to the tune of human suffering. We do not understand it, we hate the sound of it- will You give us Comfort in knowing that farther along we’ll understand why- that one day when You have wiped away all of our tears and put an end to all human sorrow- we will finally hear how You added the Grace Notes, blended an Angelic Chorus and brought all of the unfinished songs, the bitter notes and broken chords of Life together into a Divinely Glorious Melody. Give to us now that Faith which continues to seek the twinkling stars through tear filled eyes. Grant to us a stubborn Hope when the darkest night holds forth. Fill us with an unshakeable conviction that You are the Eternal Embodiment of Springtime filled with Exceeding and Abundant Love beyond the confines of mere mortal existence. May we be forever sustained by Your Great Love, upheld by Your Immense Power and enabled to live in the steady Light of Your Eternal Peace.   In the Name of Life Eternal, we make our prayer. Amen.


IMG_2254 With sweet thoughts and prayers for those who suffer and sorrow now- On this blessed Lord’s Day, please know-

We love y’all, Camellia

Prayer for Hope and Healing…

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O Eternal Emmanuel, we are thankful You dwell among us. When we recall the masses of people who walked with You, the favored ones seem to have been the sick, the maimed, the infirm, the overwrought and always the children. As birds twitter and soft sunlit breezes blow open the first blossoms of spring- there are those who sit in waiting rooms with white knuckled strain waiting for diagnoses, eyes hollowed out from pain, are now glazed over with hopelessness, wheelchairs hold those weakened by injury and disease; weary and worn caregivers wrap the infirm in whispers of love, while wondering how much longer they can hold out, even as some loved ones fumble with that gauze curtain that separates this life from the next. Down hushed corridors and disinfected hallways, pleasant voices direct patients to labs, treatment rooms and sophisticated machines that hum, whoosh and beep. We confess it is in the dim rooms, the sweat soaked sheets, the twilight terrors that we cry out- ‘When God, when?’  Clinging to hopelessness like fretful children, who have been there so long, it feels like home. Before the break of dawn, whisper a gentle reminder of the time when You were pressed on every side, yet You felt a feeble feminine hand reach out and touch the Hem of Your Garment. She had spent all she had on all manner of treatments and physicians- with desperate hope her fingers touched the Healer in White Linen. Help us recall the one with useless limbs on his sick bed of pain, the one with congenital blindness, the one who was tortured with uncontrollable seizures, the many with decaying leprous sores, and the faithful woman who was bent double for 18 years! They were loosed from the grip of infirmity. We know You saw them, You heard their cries, for You have said- ‘Even if it were possible for a mother to forget her own child, I will not forget you- you are engraved on the Palms of My Hands’.  Even now, we hear the swish of angel wings ushering humanity to the Throne of Your Mercy, where heavy sacks of heartache are piled up, hope has burned into ashen heaps, broken dreams are puddled at Your Feet, prayers are murmured for weak hearts to be strengthened, for endless pain to be removed, for chronic illness to be relieved and for spirits to be lifted. Prayers are offered for those who serve the sick, for those who stand ready in surgical gowns, for those who monitor life supports- that they would be ever aware of Your unseen Presence and the support You give to the patients who depend on their skills. Grant to them all, unfailing certainty that prayers are heard and Grace is given. May we never forget that You are still guiding gifted hands, still granting healing wisdom and still performing miracles. For those recovering in hospital beds alongside the beeps and hums of mechanical companions, we pray You will enable these to hear the rustle of guardian angel wings, the whir of dancing cherubim, the exquisite light of Your Presence and above all these precious words- ‘I will bind up the wounds, heal the broken hearted, console and comfort the afflicted, give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for sadness, a garland of praise instead of a heavy burdened spirit. In the Valley of Achor, the vale of trouble will be found a Door of Hope… The Son of righteousness brings healing in His Wings. I will never leave or forsake you. Ask and receive that your joy may be full.’* To the One who explored the vast measures of pain and deepest treasures of human suffering on the Cross of Calvary and rose victorious- grant to the Infirm hope and healing in our Magnificent Savior.  Amen. img_2212  


Love y’all, Camellia

*Scriptures are derived from Isaiah 49:15, Isaiah 61, Hosea 2:15, Malachi 4:2, Hebrews 13:5, John 16:24  Photographs of Camellia’s Cottage white daffodils are mine.

A Prayer for our Country…

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O Ancient of Days, our Great and Glorious God, we pray that You will grant to us the same strong conviction of Patriot Dreamers, the firm will forged on the Anvil of Freedom, the moral character of a people willing to humble ourselves before Thee on bended knee with the same sweet spirit of Abraham Lincoln who was more concerned that our country unite on the Side of Almighty God rather than expect You to stoop down and take sides in a divided nation. Enable us to take up the heart of Lincoln- ‘with malice toward none and charity for all’. We beseech You to mend the cracks along unseen fault lines, strengthen fearful minds and heal broken hearts. We dare not get ahead of ourselves by venturing into an uncertain Future when Thou Alone knows our Destiny.

O Lord our God, give rise to Hope in our hearts. Keep melancholy and apathy far from us. Help us to remain calm and unruffled in any and all circumstances. Hope is a glorious gift from the Throne of Heaven. What has kept mankind going is the refusal to stop hoping in the face of great odds, so we pray that Your Strong Hands will continue to fan the flickering flame of Hope when we are worried, tired and weary.. May we be united in prayer, united in seeking Thy Will and united in our desire to hear what You are saying. Enable us to govern ourselves so that we prize hard work and duty above rank and privilege.

Help us recognize the deep concerns and needs of our fellow citizenry and do what we can to lift them up; cherishing our obligation to love one another as You have so graciously loved us. May we abide with You and be completely convinced that You are mindful when one tiny sparrow falls and You also take notice of the fluttering hearts and the furrowed brows of Your Children and are even now, lending Your Divine Ear to our prayers for this Nation wherein we are blessed by Thee to dwell.

To our Savior, the Hope of Mankind and Lover of our souls, we make our prayer with a mighty Trust in Thee. Amen.


Have a Blessed Lord’s Day.

Love y’all, Camellia

*wonderful opening photograph of the Porches of Alabama by Jeremy Miniard @ http://www.jeremy.miniard.fineartsamerica.com

Redbirds…

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When a streak of red passes my window in the gray days of winter, I know the Redbirds have returned. In the South, we call these stunning Cardinals-Redbirds. Their cheerful ways and bright feathers always make me happy and remind me of a beautiful poem called ‘At the Winter Feeder’ by John Leax. Winter Holidays can be difficult- may we never forget those who are broken. The Winter Season falls hard on some. These are the special ones- the ones whom God has sent to us as Messengers of Need. Look for them, offer them relief if you can- a kind word, a gentle embrace, a seed of hope at the Winter Feeder.

At the Winter Feeder

His feather flame doused dull by icy cold,  the Cardinal hunched into the rough green feeder but ate no seed. Through binoculars I saw festered and useless his beak, broken at the root. Then two, one blazing, one gray, rode the swirling weather into my vision and lighted at his side. Unhurried, as if possessing the patience of God, they cracked sunflowers and fed him beak to wounded beak, choice meats. Each morning and afternoon the winter long, that odd triumvirate, that trinity of need, returned and ate their sacrament of broken seed.image

An ‘odd triumvirate that trinity of need…a sacrament of broken seed…’ We would do well to watch for Messengers of Need throughout the Winter Season.image

Love y’all, Camellia

These Amazing Photographs were taken by my friend Sally Smith of http://www.CampCreekCreations.com and are used with permission.

John Leax is a retired English Professor and Poet in Residence of Houghton College. His author page and wonderful books may be found on Amazon.com and other major book retailers. All material may be subject to copyright