Monday, August 24, 2009

essential living

Yesterday I took a long ride across much of our lovely state, from our area to Harrisonburg.  I wanted to approach the mountains from the backroads, rather than from the highway, a route I had taken many times before.  It was a beautiful experience to take in so much country and to wind through a number of villages with interesting names like Mineral and Bumpass.  Along the way I passed some very old houses and I noticed that one design must have been pretty popular because I saw quite a few dwellings with an identical appearance.  This home style was a very basic two story frame home with a tin roof and a porch off the front.  Over the years some had added a wing coming straight off the back of the original house.  You could almost picture the layout without seeing it.  Two rooms downstairs with kitchen and two, or perhaps three, bedrooms upstairs above the three below.  I thought about the many generations of families that had been raised in these homes.  Although these places were basic they met the needs for shelter required by a family to grow, be nurtured, and to provide a gathering place at the end of a long day working the fields.  I thought about how these were simple homes, but adequate for complex lives.  We may have much fancier homes today, with many more comforts and features, but we haven't reduced the complexities of life or the essential needs for shelter, nurture and gathering.  I thought about the essence of living and remembered that its fabric was truly formed from the strong cords of loving relationship far more than by any form of wood, glass, metal and steel that we surround ourselves with.  I saw many basic homes yesterday in out of the way places.  They didn't command attention and they were certainly humble.  But just imagine the many lives that were launched from these homes.  I remembered that it is the "essence" of life that is most important rather than the "appearance" of living.
Psalm 91:9 Because you have made the LORD, who is my refuge,
         Even the Most High, your dwelling place,
Rob Smith

Thursday, August 20, 2009

the greatest value

I spotted the following quote in a news story today:
"Some of them were waiting for this moment for 20 or 30 years," Nagy said. "They left behind everything ... because freedom has the greatest value."
This quote is referring to East Germans who boldly walked across the border into Austria 29 years ago, passing right in front of a border guard (the speaker quoted above) and into the arms of loved ones who already were in Austria.  I thought about what it had been like to live for 30 years without freedom...without even the ability to move about freely or to stay in direct contact with family.  I am struck especially by the speaker's final statement: "because freedom has the greatest value".  At some point, when the reality of God's love for us "clicks" inside and we realize that He died on the Cross for each of us...that we might be free...we are willing to walk away from all the things that seemed so important and towards the One who loves us so completely...and who has given us our first true taste of Freedom.   Because of His love we can walk past the border guard just like the folks from East Germany, leave the past behind and run into the arms of the One who loves us completely and forever.
Psalm 34:22 God pays for each slave's freedom;
   no one who runs to him loses out.
Rob Smith

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Where weeds grow

We have enjoyed the new home we moved into about two years ago.  One of the enjoyable features was the sodded yard and irrigation system that came with it.  I felt like we'd finally have a consistently attractive lawn.  However, summers in Virginia can be brutal and challenging for any grass and I found that one area of our yard has suffered.  Unfortunately this area is very visible right in the front part of our front yard and although it has received as much watering as the rest of the lawn, weeds still found a way to rear their ugly heads.  This part of the yard gets the full brunt of the sun.  I have realized that where the grass doesn't flourish, the weeds will do best.  This made me think about the tendency of sin to take root when my heart is not properly nourished in a healthy relationship with the Lord.  Just as a yard will fail without proper watering and nutrients so my life needs tending, or the weeds will surely take over.
Galatians 67-8 Don't be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!—harvests a crop of weeds. All he'll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God's Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life.
blessings from the garden,
Rob Smith

Saturday, August 15, 2009

the ultimate you

The other day I came to 1 Corinthians chapter 15 on my reading plan through the Bible.  I am kind of strolling through the Bible rather than walking through it and I seem to sit down on a park bench frequently during my stroll.  But this chapter resounded loudly in my heart as it gave a clear presentation of the Gospel message based on the facts: the fact of Jesus death and His resurrection.  The chapter went on to talk about the hope of heaven and how we have to die like a seed dies in the ground so a plant can grow into a much more glorious form than the seed.  I considered this and decided that the one thing that I will recognize and be most familiar with when I cross into Heaven will be my own personality.  My body will have changed but my inner person...heart, soul, mind will carry on.  If we didn't recogize our familiar personality in Heaven I don't believe we'd know that we had been somewhere else for a lifetime and now were in a new place.  I don't think we would appreciate our heavenly home if we didn't somehow remember the earthly dimension.  Then I thought about whether I was ready to take this personality...this heart, soul, and mind to Heaven yet.  I realized that the Lord is developing much of this eternal dimension of my life even now and I am grateful for the growth that is taking form here and that can continue in the next dimension.  Of course death can occur at any step along our earthly journey, but I hope to remember that each step can be a growth step that is forming the inner person for an eternity in God's presence.  He is not changing but we are!
1 Corinthians 15:35 But someone will say, "How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?" 36 Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies. 37 And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be, but mere grain—perhaps wheat or some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body.
Rob Smith

Friday, August 7, 2009

a crop of faith

This time of year we enjoy the summer's yield of peaches, corn, melons, berries and all manner of vegetables.  Recently my wife and I have enjoyed shopping at a local farmers market on Saturday mornings.  You feel like you get a bonus by meeting the farmers who raised the produce and you find that their tomatoes and watermelons have personality and unique qualities that only the one who raised the crop know of.  It occurs to me that each of us can be a farmer even if we don't have a field.  Our faith is our richest resource.  It is the living link between us and our wonderful Lord.  For many, the Lord is a distant figure whom we can know about or... speculate about ...or discuss... or try to please...or ignore...But to those of us who have met Him personally when our eyes were opened to the personal purpose attached to the Cross and the Tomb, He is life itself.  We sow faith when our lives are saturated with His presence, our actions are the natural outcome of our rest in Him and our manner reflects the peace that only He can bring.  When others see the reality of our Faith they see the reality of God and they may also turn toward Him and find the greatest crop...the finest fruit...the sweetest produce of all.  More than that, they meet the greatest Farmer of them all who stands behind this crop of faith and offers it to all, with the price already paid.
Luke 10:2 Then He said to them, "The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.
Rob Smith

Thursday, August 6, 2009


Have you noticed the great variety of flying styles that birds exhibit.  Just this morning I spied sparrows flitting, with short bursts of flapping wings interspersed with brief coasting.  I watched a gaggle of geese noisily circle overhead with continual long beats of their wings until they held them outstretched and came in, like large cargo planes, to land and feed on cornstalks.  I saw crows thrust rapidly out of a tree with powerful athletic surges into the air.  Recently I watched the combination of grace and awkwardness that accompanied a large gray heron as it transformed from a statue-like form on the water's edge to a flying creature with long slow wingbeats that caressed the air.  We, too, were designed for flight.  We rise from the earth on spirit wings even when still living as men.  The Lord raises us up and out of ourselves to view life from His perspective that we might also rise above the problems that tangle us and see them from a higher point of view.  We have different styles of flight, as well.  But whether we pump rapidly or wing gently into His heavenly air we can be sure that He will lift us up!
Psalm 55:6 So I said, "Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest."
Isaiah 40:31 But those who wait on the LORD
      Shall renew their strength;
      They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
      They shall run and not be weary,
      They shall walk and not faint.
blessings with wings,
Rob Smith

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


A friend shared a touching story with me recently of how she had been moved years ago to invite a homeless woman she'd seen on the streets of a major city into her home.  She offered a shower, food and clothing.  She even gave this woman a pedicure!  What a wonderful demonstration of love!  I thought about the reaction I have when I see a homeless person...often wandering in filthy clothes with a small bag of possessions. It is not nearly as noble as my friend's response.  I may feel sadness but rarely am I moved to action.  This morning it struck me that all those around us who do not yet know Jesus as their Lord are homeless for eternity.  I have a home in Heaven and am confident it awaits me for an eternal dwelling.  But how many around me do not have this hope!  In a sense millions of folks all around us, rich and poor, are Homeless!  May the Lord help us to care for these people, like my friend, in such a way that they might see the reality of God in our hearts and find His invitation to the eternal Home.
John 14:23 Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.
2 Corinthians 5:1 For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 6 So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord.
Rob Smith

Monday, August 3, 2009

strong and flexible

Two qualities we admire a great deal in a person's character are strength and flexibility.  These two traits seem to rarely coexist.  Materials that are strong are usually very hard and resistant to bending.  Materials that are flexible are usually more pliable and prone to bend with pressure.  Ideally, strength with flexibility is the ideal mix.  This morning I spied a spider working on his web in the branches of a tree overhead.  I considered the amazing silk used by the spider to build his web.  Research shows that the spider's silk is a complex protein substance that is both strong and flexible.  This material has a greater tensile strength than high grade steel.  Yet it can be stretched 40% beyond its original length without breaking.  It is also very light.  A strand of spider's silk long enough to circle the earth would weigh less than 16 ounces.  Researchers have tried, in vain, to manufacture spider's silk for commercial purposes.  They are only just beginning to crack the DNA code that provides the blueprint for its composition.  Only the humble spider can produce this substance.  Our amazing Creator provided the spider with material that is nearly invisible, yet extremely strong and flexible.  It occurs to me that He wants to build the same qualities into our lives.  His presence in our hearts spins a silk of strength and flexibility with lightness that man cannot replicate, or easily explain.  I suppose that is because the strength is wrapped up in His holiness and the flexibility defined by His grace. 
Proverbs 30:28 The spider skillfully grasps with its hands,
      And it is in kings' palaces.
Rob Smith

Saturday, August 1, 2009

7 bucks

The other morning I ran into some rare luck.  I was pleasantly surprised to find 7 bucks on the road.  The bucks had antlers.  As I walked down the road the young bucks pranced up about 100 yards ahead.  I froze and watched as the leader, with the biggest rack of antlers, led the group in a quick leap across the road.  I watched as they bounded across an open field.  They were obviously having a good time together.  I was struck with the grace and lightness in their movement and their surprising quickness.  Here are a few facts that stood out to me on a quick internet search about deer:
  The antlers of deer are the fastest growing living tissue on earth. Deer have a great sense of hearing and can even move their ears in any direction, without moving the head. The eyes of deer, being situated on the sides of their head, afford them a 310 degree view. Deer have an excellent sense of smell and can detect predators from a long distance away. A newborn deer starts walking about 20 minutes after birth.
It was a rare treat to see that large group of bucks the other day.  I am grateful for the amazing creatures God has placed here.  He is glorified in unique ways by every creature.
Psalm 29:9 The voice of the LORD makes the deer give birth,
         And strips the forests bare;
         And in His temple everyone says, "Glory!"
Rob Smith