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Persevering bookmarks

These days, we could all use a little more encouragement than usual, perhaps. So I’m revisiting our barnyard friend, Percy the Persevering Rooster. I’m working on a few more of the sculptures, which will be in the shop soon (so if you missed the last one, stay tuned). Percy was one of the most popular pieces I’ve made recently. You can read my original post here.

The sculptures take a little time, so I decided to make something that everyone can get immediately (who doesn’t like a little instant gratification every now and then?).

So… here are the totally free, downloadable, and printable Percy the Persevering Rooster bookmarks!

Grab your copy and print your own bookmarks. The printable has three bookmarks on a letter-sized PDF. Use them all yourself if you’re like me and have at least three books going at any given time, or pass some along to inspire your friends. Makes a great surprise to include in a notecard. Print as many as you like.

Download them using the button below and print them on any color paper. Regular printer paper will work fine, and thicker, card stock paper works especially well. 

Enjoy your next book with Percy!

Stuck in the belly

A first-series Jonah sculpture is currently available in the shop.

A fish story

I haven’t seen any statistics, but I believe there’s a lot of praying going on in our country—and the world—at the moment. And that’s a good thing. The microscopic coronavirus might do for us what the fish (or whale) did for Jonah in the Old Testament.

Jonah, of course, is famous for being swallowed by a large, unspecified sea creature and, after three days of intense social distancing, was heaved up and spewed out onto the shore, a changed, and no doubt rank-smelling man. For some folks, that’s about all of the story they remember.

It’s worth noting, though, that the reason Jonah ended up in the creature’s belly was that he was running away from God. The first few lines of the account explain it: “Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord. (Jonah 1:1-3 ESV)

It took being swallowed by a large sea creature to cause Jonah enough distress that he stopped running from God and calling his own shots. He finally acknowledged God and became obedient to his Creator.

Stuck in the creature’s belly for three days and three nights (sushi, anyone?), Jonah realized his error, humbled himself and prayed to The Lord. Jonah 2:1-2 records that God heard his cry: “I called out to The Lord, out of my distress, and He answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice.”

From massive to microscopic

Today, our society may be in a similar situation. Instead of facing a great sea creature, we’re finding our economy, societal structures, schedules, employment and in some cases, our lives, swallowed by a microscopic virus.

It would be easy to write a post that simply called out the many ways our modern culture has turned its collective back on God and run the other way. It certainly has. But better writers than I have already tackled that in numerous articles and commentaries.

What’s my decision?

Instead, today, I’m wondering about myself as an individual. And maybe you’ll take a moment and ask yourself the same questions: Will I learn the lesson that Jonah did—that I’m accountable to the Creator of the universe? Will I use this time isolated from others without my usual comforts and routines to reflect on my relationship with God? Will I decide to truly seek and follow His plan instead of my own? Will I decide to whole-heartedly serve Him and do what He calls me to do instead of chasing after my own enrichment, pleasure, and comfort?

I can’t make that decision for our whole society. I can only make it for myself. But after I make it (and, really, I have to make it anew every single day), I can model it for my family and friends. And that’s how communities and countries change—one person at a time, influencing another person. Read the rest of the short account of Jonah here to see how it played out in his day.

We may be in the belly of the virus for a while. And this may be a rough ride and we may not be smelling great by the end, but we can experience the closeness and blessings of God like never before if we choose to respond like Jonah.

Drop me a line in the comment box below to share how you’re using this season of isolation and social distancing.

Amazing Grace sculpture series update

Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
   That sav’d a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
   Was blind, but now I see.

John Newton, Olney Hymns, 1779

From the sketchbook

For a while now, I’ve been thinking about the lyrics to this hymn—one of the most venerable ever written. Former British slave trader, John Newton, penned the words in the late 18th century.

I decided to create a series of sculptures to illustrate each verse of the hymn. I began with the last stanza because its visuals struck me almost immediately. I was able to create three pieces based on that verse. You can see the latest one here.

The first verse’s imagery has eluded me until recently. I was meditating on the words and was suddenly struck by the feeling of complete helplessness expressed by Newton in these opening lines: “That saved a wretch…”

The dictionary defines a “wretch” as someone in such a bad situation that a sense of pity typically goes along with the word. Thus, you’ll often see the terms “poor wretch” or “unfortunate wretch.” Digging a little deeper, we learn that “wretch” traces back to the Old English word “wrecca,” meaning “banished person.” This is very appropriate. As sinners, we, like Adam and Eve, have been banished from the presence of a pure and holy God. As a former slave trader, it’s little wonder the writer identified himself as a wretch.

Timeless truth

When I sing the hymn, I, too, identify myself as a wretch. Which I most certainly am without the grace of God. But that’s the power of this hymn. While we acknowledge and own our wretchedness, our sinfulness, our rebellion against God, the focus of this hymn is on the power and grace of God. Because, praise God, He does not leave us as wretches. In fact, we’re not even wretches for the duration of that first verse. Before it ends, Newton writes the comforting words that we’ve been found. What’s more, he tells us that while we were blind, now we see.

At the heart of this first verse is the idea that we are not in control, and we can do nothing to save ourselves. And that is true. All the saving is accomplished by God. We’re the lost and blind ones. He’s the one who finds us and gives us sight. God does all the work. We reap the benefits.

As the country and the world reels from the effects of the Coronavirus, we may all feel like things are out of control. Certainly, we can and should take all preventative measures. But if you’re like me, you may feel stressed and anxious. I created the sketch you see in this post weeks before the virus outbreak, but it seems especially appropriate now.

Choose your perspective

The sketch can be viewed in two ways. We can choose to focus on the darkness surrounding the figure. The darkness seems to overwhelm the figure, much as current events seem to overwhelm our nation, states, and communities.

However, we can also focus on the light. Although there is surrounding darkness, the figure in the sketch stands in the light. Light drives away darkness. It enables sight. It’s comforting. In John 8:12, we read, “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

In Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus tells all who follow Him, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Those who have experienced the amazing grace of God in their lives can choose to focus not on the darkness, but on the light. We have been equipped by a loving God to be lights for others, encouragers, even—especially—in these difficult days.

I’ll share more as this piece of art continues to develop. Stay tuned, stay well, and stay in The Light.

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We’ve been uniquely made and are loved by a caring, compassionate Creator

Peyto Lake is a glacier-fed lake in Banff National Park in the Canadian Rockies. During the summer, rock particles flow into the lake from a nearby glacier. The lightweight rock particles float suspended in the water for a long time, giving the lake its spectacular turquoise color.

I’m delighted to introduce you to our guest post writer and artist, Emily Schroeder. Aside from being a wonderful artist, she’s an aspiring photographer currently living in the beautiful state of Idaho. Emily loves traveling to new places and says, “Spending time in nature fills my cup, and I love noticing little details in God’s creation and experiencing the stillness and peace that being outside brings. I have had an interest in art for as long as I can remember, but only in the last few years have I found a passion for creating and sharing these impactful experiences and moments with others!
We’re glad she’s sharing with us here at Inspiring Handmade! For her first guest post, Emily reflects on where true peace can be found. If there are geographic locations that picture such deep peace, surely Peyto Lake in Banff, Canada is among them. I wrote about peaceful water recently in “Still waters.” I believe The Creator included something in His design of beautiful, serene water that somehow points us to The Prince of Peace. Enjoy the photography and writing of Emily Schroeder.

Letting go

When we finally let go of the safety and control we never really had in the first place, instead of sinking, we fall straight into our Heavenly Father’s loving arms. It is here, in surrender, that peace and rest can be found.

They’re not found in striving and working to be good enough, but in letting go of the heavy burdens we’ve been carrying for so long. And they’re not found in laziness, but in giving our fears and dreams to the One who created our hearts and greatly desires a relationship with us.

What deepest, unimaginable peace fills us to be completely seen and fully known, and yet to be loved so unconditionally beyond what our minds could ever understand. We are not loved for who we will be one day, but for who we are right now.

This long journey of life is not about reaching perfection. We will never get to the point where we have it all together, or understand what it was all about, until we stand before the Throne of God. But He is walking alongside us every day and night.

Letting God

How incredible is it to think that peering in the deepest parts of our hearts, God sees us for who we are. We’re not in this alone, and He wants us even when we turn away from Him. Our mighty God who created the galaxies, mountains, and oceans made us uniquely. He knows and understands our hurt and brokenness, sees our sin, and loves us still.

“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust. The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear Him, and His righteousness with their children’s children—with those who keep His covenant and remember to obey His precepts.”

Psalms‬ ‭103:11-18‬ ‭NIV

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A signature in the sky

Aug 21, 2017 brought a total solar eclipse to viewers across the United States. And sky watchers in other parts of North and South America could see at least a percentage of the sun blocked by the moon. Did you see it? If you were like a lot of folks, you got your glasses and hoped for clear skies.

Some folks made a road trip for the chance to watch the eclipse in the path of totality, where the moon completely blocked the sun. We watched with my wife’s parents at their Varina, Virginia farm where the sun was only about 80 percent eclipsed with the rest peeking from behind the moon. Still, it was spectacular.

Hoping to keep up with these glasses for the 2024 eclipse.

The television news teams were stationed all over the place covering the event, especially along the path of totality. As we watched the coverage, a reporter interviewed an eclipse observer. The subject said he thought it was amazing that mankind had become so advanced over the centuries that we could know with certainty where and when the eclipse would occur. To him, it showed the intelligence and power of man.

I agree that one of the most striking things was the fact that we did know the day, hour, and precise minute the eclipse would begin, how long it would last, and when it would end. And even more amazing to a math-challenged, right-brain thinker like me was the fact that we knew precisely where on the spinning globe we call home you’d need to be to see the sun completely blocked by the moon and we knew the percentage of totality other areas would experience.

But I think the man on television missed the larger lesson. Yes, it is impressive that in the course of human history, we’ve advanced our knowledge and developed the tools with which to make such accurate predictions. Even more impressive, however, is that we live in a universe that is so ordered that we are able to make those predictions at all. In spite of the chaos we often see around us today (and often of our own making), the design of our world is a beautiful thing.

As a designer, whenever I recognize design, I know someone has been there ahead of me and set things in specific places for some purpose. Whether I’m reading a newspaper, using my smartphone, or simply walking down the street, wherever I go I’m surrounded by design. At its heart, design is an attempt to provide structure and bring order to some part of our world. Whether it’s organizing the news we read, providing a network through which we can rapidly communicate, or creating efficient and safe corridors for transportation, good design adds value to our world and is a hallmark of intelligence and creativity.

Once design is discerned, patterns often become apparent. When you approach a traffic light that’s yellow, you know what the next light will be. It never goes from yellow to green, despite how some folks drive. It always changes from yellow to red because that’s the way it’s designed.

The natural world is no different. We see patterns and other evidence of design all round us. When the leaves explode in their autumn reds, yellows, and other hues, we know what’s next. Like the traffic light, they’re not going back to green. The eclipse is just one, albeit an impressive one, of the countless signatures of The Maker upon His creation. When an artist signs his work, he makes a claim on that work, saying, “I created this.” So the God of heaven and earth says with every pattern we can see, “Look! I created all this—everything you can see, and everything you cannot!”

Sketches of the progression of the solar eclipse of 2017.

The apostle Paul’s letter to the Colossians (verses1:16-17) says, “…for through Him [Jesus] God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through Him and for Him. He existed before anything else, and He holds all creation together.”

But even if we’ve never read a single word of the Bible, we know in our hearts that God is real and that He has made the world we live in. We know because we live in the middle of the evidence of His existence.

The New Testament book of Romans says this very thing in its first chapter, verse 20: “For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see His invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.

Nine hundred years before Paul wrote those words, King David expressed a similar idea in Psalm 19: “The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display His craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make Him known. They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard. Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world. God has made a home in the heavens for the sun. It bursts forth like a radiant bridegroom after his wedding. It rejoices like a great athlete eager to run the race. The sun rises at one end of the heavens and follows its course to the other end. Nothing can hide from its heat.”

Poetic language describing the works of a massively creative God. An eclipse is one of His grand signatures across His creation. And for a few hours on August 21, 2017, that signature stretched across our country for all to see.

This week in the shop, I’ve got a new print (shown above) created from sketches I made during the 2017 eclipse. The image reminds me to stay open to seeing the fingerprints and signature of God all around me, and to remember Him not only as my creator, but as my sustainer and provider, too. You can visit the shop here and order your own copy today.

A true friend

Photo booth picture from 1971

“Wilbur never forgot Charlotte. Although he loved her children and grandchildren dearly, none of the new spiders ever quite took her place in his heart. She was in a class by herself. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.”

E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web

There are few things more inspiring than true friendship. Who’s your true friend? If you’re immediately thinking of someone specific instead of searching your mental rolodex, consider yourself blessed. If you’re thinking of more than one person, know that you have been blessed from full to overflowing.

Today is my sister, Pam’s 50th birthday. I don’t think she’d mind me sharing that with you. Some of you reading this know her. Others do not. But what I want you all to know about her today is that she is, always has been, and always will be my true friend.

Born 21 months apart, we have grown up and grown older together.
I have a lifetime of good memories, but want to share a few snapshots.

Early years

Pam and I shared a childhood in a home in the woods on a dirt road with parents who loved us and loved The Lord. Our father enjoyed gardening and our mother froze and canned what he grew. And in addition to enjoying the fruits of his labor, we were especially fond of the moist dirt clods he’d turn up with the first tilling of each new season. More than a few evenings were spent in friendly combat as we battled with the clods, hurling them at each other in the twilight before being called in for baths.

Even as kids, she cared enough to help me invest in the creative process. When I needed a model to draw a comic book character I had dreamed up, Pam was there, donning a ridiculous outfit and posing for my reference photos.

For years, Pam took piano lessons from Mrs. Ruby Bosher, who taught scores of students throughout the Hanover countryside. She was the best and Pam is part of her legacy. Pam’s gone on to be a wonderful music teacher herself, as well as a pianist, accompanist, arranger, composer, singer, and church music and choir director for adults and children. When we were kids, Pam tried to teach me piano, but I only lasted for one lesson. I should have stuck with it.

With Bonnie, a neighborhood friend, we started a detective agency. Inspired by more than a few Encyclopedia Brown mysteries, we had plenty of cases fueled by our imaginations, but only one paying case—from a neighbor, who’d lost the gas cap to his tractor and offered us a dollar to track it down. Our detective mettle was tested, but failed and the mystery has long since been filed under our “cold cases.”

Our dad built us a treehouse and later, a log cabin at the edge of the woods. We added on to both of them with bamboo and scrap wood. The creative process can take varied forms with infinite outcomes—in our case at that time, what emerged was a bamboo veranda off the side of our log cabin.

Archive notes are sparse, but this is no doubt an important meeting of the SPB Detective Agency held on the bamboo veranda of the log cabin. Pam looks like she’s just figured out the solution to our toughest case, but she hasn’t; we never solved any. The design drawings for the veranda have, sadly, been lost to the ages. This was well before the advent of selfies, so the photo is by Mama Rountree, the official detective agency photographer.
Growing up, moving out

After high school, Pam and I both attended James Madison University. She majored in music. I studied communications and journalism with a side of graphic design. We shared some friends and also had our own circles. We also shared a wonderful little green, 1973 Volkswagen Super Beetle. The license plate read, “2TREES,” which was all of “Rountree” we could fit.
When I moved to California to work for a newspaper, Pam was one of a small handful of people who made the trip out to visit me—twice.

Pam and Stephen in San Fransisco, 1991
Twenty years after the photo booth picture, we’re vacationing in San Fransisco with our parents in 1991. She had just graduated from JMU that May and would soon start teaching. I was already working for a newspaper in Southern California.

Later, when I worked as a news artist for U.S. News & World Report in Washington, D.C., I lived with Pam and her husband, Stuart for more than 10 years, renting a basement room. My schedule allowed me to be in Washington for just three nights a week, so I split my time between there and my home in Hanover. I got to watch my sister as a young mother and enjoy the time with my oldest niece and nephew as toddlers on through elementary school.

In some seasons of life we and our families have seen each other frequently. In others, circumstances have made visits more sporadic. And of course, we’ve exchanged many gifts over the years, but Pam has given me two gifts that I will always treasure. The first arrived on the day of the first performance of a small play I wrote a few years ago. It wasn’t a big production (she’s produced far bigger ones), but Pam sent me flowers. Men don’t typically get a lot of flowers. But she cared enough about what I was doing to send them. Whenever I remember that production, I think of those flowers, and my sister.

She gave me the second gift when I turned 50—a collection of thoughts and wishes from some of my close friends. It was such an encouragement to read and I appreciated her not waiting for my funeral to put together such a nice compilation.

True passion inspires

Pam and I haven’t always done the same things, but we’ve shared a consistent and deep commitment to faith, family, and the arts. Her passion for all three inspires me to this day. Since our early years, Pam has always been there for me—as a listening ear, a cheerleader, a speaker of challenging truth, and an advocate. That’s what good sisters—and true friends—do.

I began this post with a quote from the closing lines of E.B. White’s classic, Charlotte’s Web. It’s fitting to end with an adaptation of his very last line, certainly one of the most satisfying of any closing line written in modern literature. So of Pam, I’ll say, “It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good sister. Pam is both.”

A gift for Pam on her 50th (shhh—don’t spoil the surprise!). Good Sister is a sculpture of salvaged wood (finished with white pickling stain) and wire with hand-transferred lettering. It’s created with wood from the barn where Pam and I played as kids with our Southwest Virginia cousins on our Aunt’s and Uncle’s farm. Apologies to E.B. White.

Now it’s your turn! Whether it’s their birthday or not, what inspires you about your true friend? Share your thoughts with us here at Inspiring Handmade using the quick comment box below. Just leave us your name and email and a comment about your friend. If you’re in a sharing mood, let us know that it’s okay to use your quote in an upcoming post and specify if you want your name included in the posted article or not. We’re not out to embarrass anyone—only to encourage ourselves and you to think on all things good, right, noble, praiseworthy, excellent, and true—including true friends!

Lifelong melody

“Where words fail, music speaks.”

Hans Christian Andersen

The music in my life started at a very young age. My mom sang “Jesus Loves Me;” my great aunts taught me “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” and I loved to bang on the old upright piano in what we called the “front” room. I guess my mom got tired of the banging and my begging to learn piano, so lessons started when I was about nine. Once a week, I was allowed to leave class and go to a special room at my school where Mrs. Turpin turned the banging into music. That continued until middle school, when I decided I wanted to join the band and play the flute. Being in the band was wonderful! Trips, competitions, and friendships have weathered the test of time. Little did I know then that there was a special trumpet player who I would marry 16 years later! But that is another story for another time.
Sadly, like many things, what you don’t use you lose, and I am back to picking out notes that might resemble a familiar tune. I regret that I did not continue to play. But I still love music and will always have the foundation that my mother and Mrs. Turpin built into my life many years ago.

Photo of Patti's Kalimba instrument
Patti’s Kalimba is ready to make musical memories with some special grandchildren.

Now I want to play songs for my grandchildren to sing along with, so for Valentine’s Day, I asked my husband, Gene, for a Kalimba, which is an African hand harp (Learn a little more about the Kalimba from this video). It’s a beautiful instrument—a handmade work of art all by itself. I play it most every day. The “Wheels on the Bus” never sounded so good!

The key to answered prayers

Image of a hand-woven pine straw basket by Patti Jones featuring a hand-made base with writing by Stephen Rountree and a Scripture from John 15:7

If you have a red letter Bible, you’ll see that every single word in chapter 15 of the Gospel of John is in red. Certainly, as the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…,” but the entirety of John 15 is direct teaching by Jesus and He’s sharing the secret of how to pray prayers that get answered. This is important to know whatever the color of the text!

The chapter begins with Jesus, God the Son, explaining His relationship to God the Father and to us, using the metaphor of a grapevine. John 15:1-4 says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” (English Standard Version).

Jesus then reaffirms that He, himself is the vine and we are represented in the metaphor by the branches of the vine. God the Father wants us to live fruitful lives. John 15:5: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

That’s a pretty strong statement, but then Jesus explains in John 15:7 what this really looks like in practice: “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”

That’s an even stronger—and more amazing—statement! Jesus Christ Himself promises that if we remain, or abide—live, dwell, rest in—Him, and if we allow His words to remain, abide, live or dwell in us, then we can pray prayers that will be answered. But before we start picking out the new car or boat we’ve had our eye on, we should understand exactly what Jesus is teaching.

There is a two-part condition, two big “ifs” followed by a result of meeting those conditions. If we consistently live a life in relationship with Jesus and consistently meditate on His word, depending on it to genuinely guide our decisions and everything about our lives, then we’ll see our prayers answered.

John 15:8 adds that a fruitful life, including answered prayers, is a hallmark of being a true follower of Jesus: “When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.” The last part of that verse explains why all of this is the way it is: To bring glory to God, which is one of our primary reasons for being created in the first place.

A mid-17th century teaching from English and Scottish theologians and church leaders known as the Westminster Shorter Catechism comprises 107 questions and answers about God and His word. Our Presbyterian friends know well the answer to the first and most famous question of the catechism: What is the chief end of man? The answer: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

Both parts of that answer, glorifying and enjoying, are addressed by Jesus in John 15. In verse eight, Jesus explains that when we produce a lot of fruit, through a life full of answered prayers, among other things, God is glorified.

And when we see our prayers answered by God, we cannot help but enjoy Him all the more. Just consider the Facebook feeds of friends who you know post not only their prayer requests, but also the results of those requests. More times than not, prayers that come from a heart that meditates on the things of God and is therefore aligned with God and in step with His Spirit, will see answers according to His timing. And a funny thing happens when we abide in Christ and allow His words to abide in us—we’re less likely to be concerned with getting that new car or boat. As John Piper wrote at his blog, Desiring God, “The words of Jesus abiding in us make us the kind of persons who are not dominated by natural desires, but are devoted to fruit-bearing for God’s glory.”

Don’t we love to focus on the second half of John 15:7? “…ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” But if we do that, we risk missing the real joy of a relationship with God through Christ, and we forfeit the key to answered prayers. The true secret and power of prayer is found in the big “if” conditions: “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you…” (emphases are mine). Only when these two conditions are true in our lives will we see evidence of the second part of Jesus’ statement: “ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”

It all comes down to abiding. If we stay close to the One who can answer our prayers, we’ll not only be in tune with Him enough to ask for the things He’ll be delighted to give us, but there will be no wall between us to make it awkward when we do need to ask for something.

Instead of asking ourselves why God won’t answer some of our prayers, should we be asking different questions? Like, “where am I abiding these days?” “What am I meditating on lately?” “Am I as close to the Answerer of Prayers as I would like to be?” If you are, how do you keep close? This post has just scratched the surface of this topic. We’d love to hear your thoughts on what abiding looks like in real life. Drop us a note using the box below.

Time Enough

Salvaged barn wood, wire, textile, acrylic paint and hand-stamped sculpture of a butterfly and a chrysalis on a twig.

The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.

— Rabindranath Tagore, Indian writer (1861-1941)

Several years ago, when our girls were younger, we put a caterpillar in one of those mesh net terrariums. The girls decided it was a she-pillar and named her Cookie. We fed her with milkweed and watched as she formed her chrysalis and then, finally, hatched out completely transformed into a stunning butterfly. We said our goodbyes on the front porch as Cookie tentatively spread her beautiful wings and soon was flying, first around the porch and then out into the yard and the woods beyond. We were so proud. Raising Cookie was a lot easier than raising girls! But it all happened so fast (I know I’ll say the same thing about raising girls—they’ll be grown in the blink an eye). And Cookie has long ago lived her life and passed on.

Remembering her brief stay with our family got me thinking about time.
The quote above, from Indian writer Rabindranath Tagore, is insightful. Butterflies truly do live in the moment, don’t they? And yet they are among the most beautiful and elegant of God’s creatures. Ecclesiastes 3:11 begins with this declaration: “He [God] has made everything beautiful in its time.” From an easy-to-overlook chrysalis to the impossible-to-miss flitting butterfly, the Creator has His own designs and timetables for His world.

And as I’ve developed this piece I call “Time Enough,” a truth has begun to dawn on me: As short-lived as the butterfly’s life may be, it does, indeed, have “time enough.” It has time enough to simply be what God created it to be—in Cookie’s case, a beautiful butterfly. That’s all it has to do—and be—and there is enough time for that.

I’m old enough now to realize that I’ll not live long enough to read all the books I want to read. Or create all the art for which I have ideas. Or spend the time I want to spend with the people I love. But that’s my agenda. God has made me for a purpose—to glorify Him, enjoy a deep relationship with Him and serve Him by serving others. And if I’m attending to those things, like the butterfly, I’ll have time enough.

Jesus had just 33 short years on earth and only three years of actual formal recorded ministry, yet He didn’t spend time regretting yesterday or worrying about tomorrow. He lived in the moments and had time enough—to love, to pray and worship, to teach, to heal, to meet a meet a need, to be a friend. My life, and yours, may last for many more years or may soon come to an end. But even so, there’s time enough—in God’s time—to be who we were created to be.

Arc of the Summer Moon

The Arc of the Summer Moon door topper is an original sculpture from salvaged 19th century oak barn wood. Acrylic paint, salvaged wood, cut wood.

In ancient times, the Israelite king, David, wrote, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.” Created from salvaged 19th century oak barn wood and hardwood cut from the woods near the artist’s studio, The Arc of the Summer Moon door topper is an original sculpture capturing the peaceful twilight of a summer evening. The moon’s low, lazy arc across the sky is a reminder of the arc of our lives. As it appears to rise up out of the earth, so we were created from the soil of earth, formed by the hand of God Himself, made in His own image, and filled with life from His own breath. And as the moon sets, it looks to us as if it returns to the earth, just as we will—dust to dust.
But in between its rising and setting, it does one thing superbly well—it reflects the light of the sun, and in doing that, it brightens our evenings and nights, spilling its light into the darker places, inspiring, and freely sharing its beauty with any who will glance its way. And isn’t that a picture of what God has designed each of us to do?

This piece by Stephen Rountree is created with acrylic paint, salvaged wood, cut wood and hand stamped with the opening words of David’s Psalm 19, “The heavens declare the glory of God.” Wherever it’s displayed, it is a uniquely beautiful reminder of this timeless truth: We get one arc across the sky—one life. And it’s not how, or when, we rise or set, but how well we’ve reflected the light of Son along our way.