Graceful Oaks – Jan Limiero

 

Jan Limiero is a church planter with her husband David in Bakersfield, California. She is also a Christian Spiritual Director and on the leadership team for Stadia Bloom, a ministry to church planter wives. She is the mother of two sons 20 and 14 and daughter 16 who all love and follow God. Jan loves the outdoors and especially rock climbing. If you can’t find her in a coffee shop talking to someone about God, you will probably find her on a rock somewhere.

 

The Lord has appointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to announce that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies. To all who mourn in Israel, he will give beauty for ashes, joy instead of mourning, praise instead of despair. For the Lord has planted them like strong and graceful oaks for his own glory. They will rebuild the ancient ruins, repairing cities long ago destroyed. Isaiah 61:1-4

As I read this verse, it strikes me that the people God is calling strong and graceful oaks here probably did not look that way to the world. They were not beautiful, happy or rich, and didn’t seem like they would be that way anytime soon.  They were poor, brokenhearted, despairing prisoners, enslaved to their enemies.

Do you have people like this in your church; people crushed by the weight of the world, brokenhearted from relationships that haven’t turned out the way they wanted, or enslaved to any number of bad habits, addictions or even their own busy lifestyles?

How amazing that God calls these people strong and graceful oaks!  I’m afraid we tend to discount people in these circumstances way too quickly as being weak and vulnerable (maybe even worthless), and in need of our help.  We often fail to see them for what they were intended – His glory!  You’ve may have seen the graceful oaks that grow in the California area.  They grow that way against many oppositions including extreme heat and drought.  Having grown up in east Tennessee, I know of oaks that look quite different.  There they grow straight, tall and unhindered, neat and “proper” as they feast on copious rainfall and mild weather surrounded by thousands of other oaks in the same haven.  Here, the harsh elements gnarl and stunt the few of them who survive.  Yet there is nothing quite as glorious as a spreading green oak in the middle of a hot dry golden field.  It brings peace, beauty and a shady sanctuary to the other life around it. What glory God must get for growing something so beautiful against all odds.

Let’s use our eyes of discernment to find the oaks in our churches who are growing that way against all odds.  Let’s bring good news and announce freedom to them.  Let’s show them God’s favor and stand with them against their enemies (not humans but spiritual forces).  Let’s find the beauty in them, rejoice over them and praise God for them.  These people who have been weathered by debilitating circumstances, who sometimes seem a little too rag-tag to us, are the very ones who God intends to use to restore things that have long been messed up in our world.  What an honor to be called to bring this Good News!

a little reminder to breathe-Janelle Ross

Janelle Ross lives in southern Saskatchewan with her husband and three sons. Homeschooling mom, avid reader, freelance writer and blogger (http://mymenandme.wordpress.com/. Life can be interesting as the only female in this (very) male household.

 

I’m finding myself a little breathless these days.

Rushing, planning, considering. It can feel sometimes like life is just about dodging obstacles.

But it’s not. I’ve been reminded, yet again, that it’s important from time to time to stop and take a breath. To slow my pace and step carefully and look around. To raise my head from whatever it is that I think is rushing toward me and to really see where I am. Right now.

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Today I am slowing my pace. I am taking my time as I travel this sunrise-to-sunset. I’m conscious of the words I’m writing and the clothes I’m washing and the food I’m cooking. Being present, as they like to say these days.

Today I am stepping carefully. I’m watching where I put my feet, trying to avoid damaging anything in my way. Carefully lavish with my words and my hugs, and cautious of what might bruise or hurt or crush.

Today I am looking around. My eyes are fresh to the view. These big/little people in my life. This home. This work. All these minutes of sacredness and love and joy. I’m overwhelmed by the scenery of my life. Truly.

This is my journey today. Not a breathless race. Not urgency or emergency or a great long list, but a renewing, restful walk.

God, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing. You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from. True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction.  Psalm 23: 1-3 (MSG)