What's in a Name?

"No eye has seen, 
no ear has heard, 
no mind has conceived 
what God has prepared for those who love him." -- 1 Corinthians 2:9

"God is in the Compost Pile." That's a strange name for a Christian blog, isn't it? Why would someone connect the wonderful name of Almighty God with a stinking pile of rotting plants and kitchen waste? I was asked that question recently, and if you've been reading my blog for a while, you know that I wrote a post about it last April. God takes the things in our lives that are dying, dead and decaying, and He recycles them to nourish new life. Look around and you'll see countless examples. Here's the best one of all: Jesus Christ gave up his life, with great suffering, so that our destinies could be recycled from certain hell to eternal life. We all go through times of personal hell, but if we can look beyond those bad times, the times that stink, it is possible to see Heaven.

In August, thousands of people prayed fervently for an 18-year-old kid named Josiah Berger who was injured in a one-car accident near Franklin, Tennessee. Twitter was alive with prayer requests and updates during the four days that Josiah lay in a coma on life-support at Vanderbilt Medical Center. Many of those praying were strangers. They'd never met Josiah Berger or his family, yet they were compelled to pray for this young man who lay near death in a hospital room in Tennessee. Hundreds of believers crowded the hospital and prayed for a miracle. So many people showed up at Vanderbilt that they had to be moved from the hospital lobby to an auditorium big enough to hold them all. Updates about Josiah's condition were posted by the minute on Facebook and Twitter, and people all over the country, and perhaps all over the world, prayed asking God to spare this young man's life. There was was hope, and even belief, that God was going to work a miracle. Josiah Berger would live! Everyone waited and watched for it to happen.

In spite of all the prayers, Josiah died of irreparable brain damage. And to make that even worse, he died on his 19th birthday, the day before he was set to leave for his freshman year in college. That stinks, doesn't it? It smells just as bad as vegetation decaying in the compost heap. But the story doesn't end there.

Josiah's dad is Steve Berger, the senior pastor at Grace Chapel Church in Leiper's Fork, Tennessee. At Josiah's "home going celebration," Pastor Steve announced that his son's decision to be an organ donor saved or improved the lives of 77 people. At the end of the forward-looking, music-filled service, Steve Berger did something very unconventional for a funeral. He offered an alter call. He asked mourners who wanted to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior to stand up. One hundred people did, many of them teenagers. One hundred more lives were saved that day because of Josiah Berger's death. More than six-thousand people attended the funeral, 2000 in person and another nearly 5000 via a live stream on the Internet. One can only imagine how many silently bowed their heads and accepted Christ, or how many believers were motivated by Josiah' story to lead others to the Lord.

After the service, Josiah's dad said this: "I want people to know Jesus, and if somehow my son's going to heaven can help them know Christ, then it's all worth it. It's all worth it. My son would bear the pain and I will bear the pain if just a regular old dad who loved his boy can see someone come to Christ because of his death. That means everything to me." (Read more about it or watch the video below.)

[Note: This short video takes 10 seconds to load.]

So you see, God is in the compost pile. He's not only in the good things, but also in everything that stinks in this world. The promise lies in His name and in that familiar scripture verse Romans 8:28: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

Yes, God is in the compost pile and other ordinary places. I hope that through my blog (with its strange name) you'll see God where you least expect Him. We travel difficult roads in our lives, but if we just trust Him, all those roads will lead to the one road where death is recycled to nourish new life. Take time this week to think about that....

Dear Heavenly Father, As I walk down lonely, difficult roads, help me to find the one that leads to you.


Josiah Berger Memorial video from: www.tennessean.com
"So Many Roads' video from: www.mrbrecords.com

Adventures in Contentment

This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
-- Psalm 118:24

Do you have an unquiet spirit? Are you discontent with where you are in life, wishing merely to live life to the fullest? Then you share the feelings of one of my favorite authors, Ray Stannard Baker.

Baker was born in Lansing, Michigan in 1870. While not known as a Christian author, he wrote wonderful philosophical essays on various aspects of nature from the point of view of a farmer. For these, he used the pen name David Grayson.

Here is an excerpt from one of his books, Adventures in Contentment:

I did not want to feel or to think: I merely wanted to live. In the sun or the rain I wanted to go out and come in, and never again know the pain of the unquiet spirit. I looked forward to an awakening not without dread for we are as helpless before birth as in the presence of death.

But like all birth, it came, at last, suddenly. All that summer I had worked in a sort of animal content. Autumn had now come, late autumn, with coolness in the evening air. I was plowing in my upper field—not then mine in fact—and it was a soft afternoon with the earth turning up moist and fragrant. I had been walking the furrows all day long. I had taken note, as though my life depended upon it, of the occasional stones or roots in my field, I made sure of the adjustment of the harness, I drove with peculiar care to save the horses. With such simple details of the work in hand I had found it my joy to occupy my mind. Up to that moment the most important things in the world had seemed a straight furrow and well-turned corners—to me, then, a profound accomplishment.

I cannot well describe it, save by the analogy of an opening door somewhere within the house of my consciousness. I had been in the dark: I seemed to emerge. I had been bound down: I seemed to leap up—and with a marvelous sudden sense of freedom and joy.

I stopped there in my field and looked up. And it was as if I had never looked up before. I discovered another world. It had been there before, for long and long, but I had never seen nor felt it. All discoveries are made in that way: a man finds the new thing, not in nature but in himself.

It was as though, concerned with plow and harness and furrow, I had never known that the world had height or color or sweet sounds, or that there was feeling in a hillside. I forgot myself, or where I was. I stood a long time motionless. My dominant feeling, if I can at all express it, was of a strange new friendliness, a warmth, as though these hills, this field about me, the woods, had suddenly spoken to me and caressed me. It was as though I had been accepted in membership, as though I was now recognized, after long trial, as belonging here.

Across the town road which separates my farm from my nearest neighbor's, I saw a field, familiar, yet strangely new and unfamiliar, lying up to the setting sun, all red with autumn, above it the incalculable heights of the sky, blue, but not quite clear, owing to the Indian summer haze. I cannot convey the sweetness and softness of that landscape, the airiness of it, the mystery of it, as it came to me at that moment. It was as though, looking at an acquaintance long known, I should discover that I loved him. As I stood there I was conscious of the cool tang of burning leaves and brush heaps, the lazy smoke of which floated down the long valley and found me in my field, and finally I heard, as though the sounds were then made for the first time, all the vague murmurs of the country side—a cow-bell somewhere in the distance, the creak of a wagon, the blurred evening hum of birds, insects, frogs. So much it means for a man to stop and look up from his task. So I stood, and I looked up and down with a glow and a thrill which I cannot now look back upon without some envy and a little amusement at the very grandness and seriousness of it all. And I said aloud to myself: "I will be as broad as the earth. I will not be limited."

Jesus said: "I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." -- John 10:10. When was the last time that you looked up from your work and noticed God? Autumn is the perfect time to look around you and soak up all the wonderful things that the Lord has made for your enjoyment.

I invite you to make David Grayson's book Adventures in Contentment your autumn read. It is available here online to read for free.

Take some time to find a quiet place in the autumn sun. Put your feet up, and read Grayson's words. Perhaps you will find your own field, "familiar, yet strangely new and unfamiliar, lying up to the setting sun, all red with autumn." Perhaps it will be as though you are looking at an acquaintance long known and discover that you love Him.

Father God. During this beautiful season of autumn, remind me to take time to appreciate your wondrous works.

If you liked Adventures in Contentment, you'll also enjoy these other country-life books by David Grayson:

Under My Elm

Adventures in Friendship

The Friendly Road

Adventures in Understanding

Adventures in Solitude

The Countryman's Year

The Butterfly Tree -- Monarch Migration

He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted. --Job 5:9

[This week I'd like to share with you a short story that I wrote several years ago. It's a good September "song."]

I wandered aimlessly through the big, grassy field. It was a foggy Saturday early in September. I felt as I did on Christmas Day when I opened a gift I thought was a toy and it turned out to be soap, school clothes or a new pair of shoes. The field stretched along the lakeshore. The locals called it the Arm of God because it was long and open, and ever-changing. As I walked that day, anglers stood on wooden piers. I heard one of them say that perch bite best on foggy mornings, especially when there's a breeze from the south.

I was ten years old then. My neighborhood was just to the west of the Arm of God. It had no playmates and I had no siblings. It was a lonely place for a kid like me, a place where no one stopped to listen to birds sing or to smell the lake breeze or to look up in the night sky and see the stars.

The field was my refuge. I went there when I wanted to escape from my parents' world of work, hurry and responsibilities. On the Arm of God there were miracles, but you only found them if you looked hard enough, if you were quiet enough and if you knew in your heart that they were there to be found. I went there each day looking for miracles.

As I watched the anglers, I wished that the sun would break through the clouds. I thought it might. The sky had a hazy, golden glow. A butterfly -- a monarch butterfly -- surprised me as it flew past my head. It hovered, fluttering next to my face. Another came and then another. Before long, butterflies were all around me. Hundreds of monarchs flew through the field. Against the bleached sky, they looked like orange marmalade spread thick on light toast.

I offered my hand as they fluttered around me. Boldly, one took it. She climbed onto my fingertips, and she stayed there a while. I named her Queen. That's who she was -- Queen of the Butterflies. She was bigger and brighter than the rest. Her thin, black legs were long and strong, and they tickled when she climbed to the back of my hand. She rested there. Then she spread her wings, waiting patiently for the sun to come out. I sat perfectly still until the sun broke through the clouds. Queen thanked God by opening and closing her wings.

All day long I played with the butterflies. I pretended I was a scarecrow, and they settled on my outstretched arms. I raced with them. I lay on my back and tried to count them until I grew tired, and I fell asleep in the grass. The butterflies watched over me.

I awoke to the sound of my mother's voice calling across the field, "It's time to come home for supper."

I hesitated.

"Come home right now!"

Reluctantly, I left the field and my butterflies behind.

At home, we sat in the kitchen and ate fried fish, applesauce and ripe tomatoes fresh from the garden. Mother talked about new bedroom curtains and Dad chatted about meetings, sales trips and making money. Outside, the monarchs danced like orange flames as they flew past the window.

"Look!" I said. "Look at the butterflies!" They did for a minute -- but that was all.

The butterflies landed, one by one, in the crab apple tree in our big front yard. Hundreds of monarchs neatly folded hung there like bats covering the branches. They'd followed me to my house from the Arm of God.

I watched from our sun porch. Mother and Dad watched too for a while, until something more important called them away. I stayed and guarded my butterflies, just like they had watched over me when I slept in the field.

The sun turned to smoky twilight. Inside, the television blared, and I heard my dad ask where I was. Mother told him I was still on the porch watching the butterflies hang from the tree.

"Come in now," Dad called to me.

"Please," I begged, "Let me stay. I want to make sure they're all right."

"What could possibly happen?" Dad asked.

"Something could get them," I said. "a cat, a dog, or even a possum!" My voice climbed three octaves as I begged my parents to give me my way. Surprisingly, they agreed.

I stayed on the sun porch, cozy and locked in, not far from the crab apple tree, I was a sentry keeping good watch all through the night -- wide eyed, eager, alert, and ready to chase off predators -- until I fell asleep on the old horsehair couch.

It was dawn when I woke up. The thinnest tree branches bent toward the ground, heavy with butterflies dampened by dew. Something was happening! The tree was alive with the rhythm of wings. One after another, little orange fireballs shot into the sky.

"Get up!" I shouted. "Hurry! They're leaving!" But Mother and Dad stayed in their bed.

Miracles exist, but you have to go look for them. I saw a miracle that day.

The butterflies left as fast as they'd come. I stood on the porch in my pajamas watching them fly away. How many miles would they travel that day? Where would they rest that night? I wondered: Would anyone care that they came from the Arm of God?

Dear God. Help us to look for the miracles that exist all around us.

A Time to Every Purpose

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. – John 10:10

Labor day is over. Children are back in school, and summer vacations are scrapbook memories. These are the days when I like to write at the beach. I sit in my car, roll down the windows and thank God for my laptop.

At ten o'clock, my writing is interrupted when the young man with the clipboard pulls into the parking lot. He always parks in the same spot, the one next to mine. I've seen him here more than a few times. His routine is the same. He opens the trunk of his blue Ford Focus, extracts a red backpack, and straps it on over his shoulders. He tosses his Birkenstocks into the trunk and slams the lid. Then he checks that his paper is firmly clipped to the clipboard. After stretching his bulging biceps and calf muscles, he jogs across the sand toward the surf. At the water's edge, the man turns, walks north, then stops to look at the lake. He jots something down. I watch him walk, stop, write until he becomes a distant speck on the shore. His clipboard and backpack are as much a mystery to me as the origin of the Great Pyramids. About an hour later, he returns with sand-caked feet and the legs of his cargo shorts soaking wet. I notice that the paper on his clipboard is cluttered with sketches and scribbles. He dries his feet with a striped towel and puts on his sandals. Then he gives the lake a long, wistful look and drives away.

A boy plays on the edge of the beach, a toddler, two maybe three years old. His mother calls him Jonah. A fitting name, I think, for a small boy playing near such a large body of water. To Jonah Lake Michigan must seem like the sea. Barefoot, he trudges through the sand carrying a yellow plastic pail. His mother waits while Jonah crouches to inspect a seagull feather. A white baseball cap covers his shaggy, blond hair. His preppy, green polo shirt and khaki beachcombers are damp and encrusted with sand. The rumble of a tractor pulling a beach rake catches Jonah's attention. He stands on chubby legs, watching, mesmerized, as seagulls scatter in all directions to escape the angry blades. Jonah's mother seizes the chance to brush the sand from the seat of his pants.

Near where I'm parked, an older couple, likely retired, unloads two folded beach chairs from their silver Malibu. She wears a floppy, pink hat. His bald head is bare. He carries both chairs under one arm and links his other arm with hers. Her gait is slow, almost a shuffle. They plod through the sand to a spot midway between the parking lot and the shoreline. He sets up the chairs. Then they sit, holding hands, watching a speedboat make waves that rhythmically wash up on the shore.

Today, there is a hint of autumn in the air. I roll my window up halfway as a rogue northeast wind whips across the lake and over the sandy beach. Whitecaps form on the quiet water, and the gulls move away from the surf.

The older couple came prepared. They cover up with blankets in their chairs. Jonah's mother drags him from the sand. "No!" he protests, pulling hard against her grip. He points toward the water. "No!" he cries. "Again! Again!"

I hear you, Jonah. Just like you, I want to soak up all the sunshine, surf, and fresh air that I can. Fall will come soon, followed by winter. You sense it in the wind, and so do I. But, it must happen, Jonah. It says so in the Word of God:

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
(Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8)

…and, yes, Jonah, a time to leave the beach for a season or two.

But don't worry. The wind doesn't come like a thief to steal the promise that you will once again play in the sand and splash in the water. How do I know? Because God says so: As long as the earth remains, there will be planting and harvest, cold and heat; winter and summer, day and night.
(Genesis 8:22)

So, mind your mother, and put away your pail. Think about pumpkins and snowmen and hot-chocolate bedtime stories. To everything, Jonah, there is a season. Summer will come again.

Dear Heavenly Father, Instead of mourning the passing of a season, help us to laugh and dance to celebrate the next.


I'm proud to be a contributing author to the following series of humorous devotionals.
And check out my "Kid's Bible Dictionary" and pre-teen mysteries, also from Barbour.

See all the books in the Camp Club Girls series.

See all the books in the Camp Club Girls series.
Click on the picture.
I am the author of these books, but I have not been compensated for mentioning them on this blog or linking them to the seller's website. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

By Max Lucado, Published by Thomas Nelson
Max Lucado has a unique way with words, and his children's book Hermie A Common Caterpillar is no exception. With simple text and bright, watercolor illustrations, the story of Hermie unfolds.

Hermie wonders why he looks and feels so common. Whenever he asks God why, God simply answers, "I'm not finished with you yet." Then, one day, Hermie feels very tired. He gets into his cozy, leafy bed, and he sleeps. And while Hermie sleeps a transformation takes place. When he wakes up, Hermie discovers that God has done something grand. You can guess what it is. Every caterpillar that lives to adulthood knows the end of the story.

Parents, please share this book and its powerful message with your children. We are all special because God loves us, and He has a unique purpose for our lives. Whenever we slump into feeling ordinary, we know that we have hope because . . .God isn't finished with us yet!

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

©text on this blog copyrighted 2012 by Jean Fischer unless otherwise credited. You may link to the blog, but please don't reprint the text without my permission.

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