Ghost stories at midnight

By Erika Rizkallah

It’s one o’clock in the morning and I’m sitting in my living room surrounded by very loud teenage boys. We started telling ghost stories a half an hour ago and now everyone’s afraid to go to bed.

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Except me. I’d love to go to bed, but I can’t until I know everyone’s safely “tucked in” for the night.

Things have changed a lot for me over the past couple of years. When my oldest daughter was that age I came to the realization that our best conversations happen at night.

I’m not sure what it is. Maybe they’re a little more open and vulnerable – or I’m more approachable somehow. Maybe it’s because their circadian rhythm is the exact opposite of mine. At any rate, I learned that if I made myself available and sat quietly doing my own thing, they’d mosey on over and start telling me stories.

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I bet Jesus was that kind of guy. We know people were drawn to him. Great crowds would follow him and he would sit down on some mountainside or take a walk at the water’s edge. We know that he taught, preached and spoke in parables.

But I bet he was a great listener and a compassionate friend.

As a parent I strive to be like him. I wish I knew what was in my children’s hearts (most of the time). I wish I could get my message across in a way they’d be more open to hearing – in the daytime as well as the night.

If you’re a parent of teens and young adults, never underestimate how important your availability is to them. Always remember that they need you now just as much as they did in the early years. Make it a point to stay up late with them, tell them ghost stories and God stories and occasionally have cookies and milk at midnight.

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The payoff is well worth the next day’s tiredness.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.                                      Galatians 6:9

 

 

Bloom: living and thriving in God’s great garden

Pressure. We all feel it at one time or another. It’s the feeling of being squeezed, suffocated and ultimately stagnating.

Stagnating is a fancy word for being stuck.

I almost wrote that I’m not sure why I’ve felt this way lately but that’s a lie. As women we can inadvertently become potbound. Being potbound looks like this . . .

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I hate when I see this in one of my plants because it means that as the gardener, I’m not paying attention. I’m not giving this girl room to grow (all my plants are girls).

If I’d taken better care of her she wouldn’t be in this mess, so now I have to tease her roots a little – I call it tickling. Then I have to move her into a different pot.

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When I do this she will thrive and bloom.

It’s important to note that as a human, I’m a flawed gardener. But God is never flawed. He never forgets to water, prune and tickle the roots of his precious children. Sometimes he keeps us in one season as preparation for another.

Now I realize that God’s been doing this for me. After living potbound for a season he’s moving me into a new place where I’ll blossom, bloom and flower – and ultimately produce fruit for his kingdom.

Oh how I love spring and the changes it brings!

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Your turn: Do you recognize the season God has you in? Are you potbound, growing or blooming?

“But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my father.” Jesus (John 15:7-8)

Outdoor Jesus

By Erika Rizkallah

For the last twenty years, I’ve been on a spiritual journey as a follower of Jesus Christ. Living as a Christian woman in the 21st century can be confusing and conflicting. We’re taught to live and love like Jesus in a world filled with sin, danger and hatred. It sounds kind of crazy to think that we can have a relationship with a man who walked the earth over two thousand years ago.

Jesus knew it would be hard and that we’d need strength to help us remain faithful to his calling. But he promised to be with us and sent the Holy Spirit to help. He knows the trials we face and the difficulties we have to overcome.

One time, when he was alone with twelve of his followers, he cautioned them by saying, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore, be as shrewd (wise, wary) as snakes and as innocent (harmless) as doves.”  (emphasis mine)

He was a storyteller and often spoke in parables using common language and word pictures for the ordinary folks living in the Ancient Near East. Luke 8:10 explains why, but I won’t go into that right now. Just trust me when I tell you that his stories had purpose; they were his way of weeding out those who believed what he was saying, and those who didn’t.

And speaking of weeding, Jesus also loved nature.

He taught on the side of a mountain near Jerusalem and prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. Gethsemane means “oil press” and though I didn’t see it during my trip to Jerusalem, I had an Arabic taxi driver take me to an olive grove when we were in the West Bank. It looks familiar because it’s my blog header. This was such a peaceful place and I wish I’d spent more time roaming around.

Olive grove in Ramallah, Palestine

Olive grove in Ramallah, Palestine

Our Lord enjoyed spending time with people outdoors and I connect with that aspect of him. I adore being outside and am most at home when my hands are gritty with soil. I’m an avid gardener and I hope to share my passion for flowers and gardening with you. Since we’re not ancient farmers, I’d also like to clarify some of those tricky agricultural scriptures for us.

This is going to be fun!

Peace to you, Erika