Dis—couraged. I purposely broke that word apart. The word means to deprive of courage or confidence. To DISHEARTEN. To hinder by disfavoring. To DETER. To attempt to dissuade.
Dis—courage. Dis—hearten. Dis—favoring. Sounds like hellishness to me.
But I feel it deep inside. I can FEEL courage and heart and favor being sucked right out of every cell. I can FEEL the withering and shaking on the inside—the wanting to run fast and seek shelter. From what?
There is an ominous cloud rolling in, hovering, descending upon body and soul. I felt it yesterday. Praying hard for my family and for a few others struggling, I prayed in the name of Jesus against the power of hell. And hell fought back. Hell never rolls over and plays dead. Hell is vicious and cunning and has no mercy. It’s furious.
Some don’t believe in hell. But Jesus taught a lot about hell and he dealt seriously and swiftly with demons. Jesus knew well the power of hell and He actually went there. That’s why He came to earth and died a hellish death—for us—so we wouldn’t have to go there and live there bound eternally in hellishness. Jesus broke the power of hell when he died on the cross and broke out of the tomb.
When Jesus rose from the dead, he told all who witnessed that we would have trials and tribulations here on earth until He comes back again. Jesus told us we now have power over hell. It’s in His blood. By the shed blood of Jesus, we who are in Christ have power over hell and we can pray as Jesus prayed to break that power, right here on earth. Jesus gives those with faith in Him the power to break the bonds of hell, to replace and transplant.
Replace and transplant dis-courage-ment with en-courage-ment. We are meant to have courage!
We can give heart transplants to the dis-heartened. We are meant to have full and healthy hearts!
We are meant to give favor, to receive favor—for others, for ourselves!
We are meant not to DETER people from coming to God but to GUIDE people to God, our source of true life.
We are meant not to DISSUADE, but to PERSUADE—to persuade people to turn to God and be HEALED in body, mind, and soul. Jesus doesn’t just save. Jesus HEALS. He is healer of all—all people, all creation.
So with these thoughts in mind, I went for a walk on our 44 acres of trails yesterday. And I prayed for refreshing. All that was in me was tired and worn and I had a headache and I just wanted to be alone with God for a few minutes.
I started singing my mother’s favorite hymn, the one I haven’t sung in eleven years since her funeral . . .
I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses.
And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.
Jesus and I—and my camera—we went for a stroll. First thing I did was lay down on my belly. I started praying right there on a path in a field. I told God I was weary and battle-worn and I really would like some refreshing, some en-courage-ment. When I opened my eyes, this is what I saw . . .
Sometimes our paths are just plain full of weeds ready to blow and spread and seed new weeds. How discouraging! Almost made me want to just go to sleep, right there in the field and call it a life, not just a day.
But I got up and kept walking with God, by God’s grace. That’s what we need to do every day isn’t it? Get up and keep walking with God, by God’s grace, no matter how horrid the path might look.
Get up. Keep walking with God. All by God’s grace.
He walks with me and He talks with me and He tells me I am his own . . .
The lyric sounds sweet in my head and I begin to smell some other sweetness. There—off to my right—a grove of wild apple trees in full bloom. Go over there, step in, come close . . .
A ladder the boys dragged out from the barn to build a tree fort in the wild apple tree grove, it drew me in. Beautiful, rustic rungs climbing up, up, up into sweet fragrance—delicate and abundant blossoming—so many, one could probably never count correctly.
Isn’t this the kingdom of God? Full of sweet and much? The apple tree grove made me forget all about the weeds I had just seen—that looked so discouraging. In a moment, the plentiful apple blossoms overcame dis-courage-ment and I was en-couraged, again. How often do I focus on the few weeds, when I’m surrounded with abundant blessing? And the biggest blessing?
The ladder . . .
The ladder reminded me of God’s amazing grace. We don’t have to climb up to heaven. Heaven came down to us. Jesus came to us, stuck in the weeds, full of weeds, not just looking hope-less. We really were hopeless, if not for Jesus. We don’t climb up to God with good works. The God-Man Jesus came down. And He still reaches out to grab hold of any hand reaching up. We don’t have to climb to Him. In fact, we can’t. All we need do is reach out and He will pull us up!
Oh, thank you God, for your amazing grace!
I say it outloud, more than once.
As I step out of the apple tree grove, I spot an imprint in the soft earth. A friend and I rode our horses along this path earlier. A print of a hoof remained, gently sprinkled with apple blossoms.
Imprint my heart, oh God!
He did. The day I first believed. He imprinted my heart and claimed me as His own, forever and ever. No one and no thing can ever pull me from Him because He has sprinkled me with His own righteousness like sweet-smelling blossoms of apple.
The apple that started the curse—Jesus reversed the curse and has marked me as His own! Is this not en-couraging? Does this not heart-en me? Is His shed blood not enough to persuade me to follow Him forever, despite what the path looks like temporarily? Weeds or blossoms. What will my eyes fix upon?
And then, I see some different blossoms—wild geranium—my FAVORITE wildflower! What a TREAT! I step into the brush to get closer and
I get tangled—tangled in a thorny thicket. I can feel the sharp thorns through my jeans and my hair is caught and pulled hard. I try to disengage with my hands and a finger is pierced and bleeds.
Do I do this in life? Sadly, too often. Too often my eyes get set on something I think I love more than Jesus and I go in for it, not looking. Impulse drives me into thorny thickets where I get caught and bleed and it hurts and the pain lingers.
Jesus, please help me learn to survey surroundings before I head into prickly places that harm!
But there’s another way of looking at this thicket.
Maybe we’re called into prickly places sometimes. Maybe we’re called to bleed a bit—to go through thickets of thorns in search of one lost blossom who needs a look, a loving touch. Didn’t Jesus come not just for everyone, but for just one? If I were the only one caught in a thicket who needed saved, would He have come and bled and hurt and died—just for me? Yes. Oh yes, He would. And He would come—He will come into ANY thicket of thorns in which you find yourself this day and clear the way back to His path. He will do this—just for you—just for me. And we can carry this message through any thicket of hell that has entangled any beloved of God. Will we?
Yes, Jesus—I will! By your grace, I will!
Because each one of us is His favorite wild flower.
Coming out of the thicket with geranium photographed, I keep on the path. As I continue, I snap off a few branches and head back toward the house. I will fill our home with the fragrance of new life blossoming!
Another horse riding friend greets me on the driveway and holds the bouquet to her nose, her face as sweet and fresh as the flowers. We go inside and she wonders why I pound the woody stems. I pound to reveal the soft underneath because this helps branches absorb water and remain fresher longer.
What about our hardened exteriors? We try to pound ourselves soft with harsh inner words. I suppose it keeps us going for a bit.
But blossoming branches will last only a day, even with pounding, because they have been snapped away from their source. Same for us. We can’t survive and thrive long on our own. We can’t feed ourselves indefinitely. Sooner or later, we run dry and the withering begins. Jesus told us so.
I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers . . . Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. John15:5-11
I will enjoy these fragrant blooming branches for a day and remember, as they wither, Jesus’ words. I want His complete joy. Do you? He tells us the way in His words—with His life. And I am . . .
I’ll keep praying.
Thank you God, that You are always faithful, even when I’m not.