He Wants Me as a Sunbeam

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There’s a song from my childhood that has become a big part of who I am:

Jesus wants me for a sunbeam,
To shine for Him each day;
In every way try to please Him,
At home, at school, at play.

Chorus: A sunbeam, a sunbeam,
Jesus wants me for a sunbeam;
A sunbeam, a sunbeam,
I’ll be a sunbeam for Him.

The lyrics to “I’ll Be a Sunbeam” were written by Nellie Talbot in the late 1800s. There’s not a lot of information out there on Nellie, but there is some speculation that she was inspired by the words of Judges 5:31 where it says, “…may all who love you be like the sun when it rises in its strength.” Her lyrics were then set to music composed by Edwin O. Excell in the early 1900s before being put in church hymnals. It’s a classic among children’s hymns.

I have only ever known and sung the first verse and the chorus. I recently looked up the lyrics and found simple-yet-deep meaning in the rest of the verses of the song:

Jesus wants me to be loving,
And kind to all I see;
Showing how pleasant and happy,
His little one can be.

 I will ask Jesus to help me
To keep my heart from sin;
Ever reflecting His goodness,
And always shine for Him.

 I’ll be a sunbeam for Jesus,
I can if I but try;
Serving Him moment by moment,
Then live for Him on high.

As a child, I loved the first verse and chorus of this song. I remember trying often to “see” God in my playtime. I remember talking to Him, but I also remember a strong desire to see Him…really see Him.

Sunbeams became my way of seeing Him. I was in awe of them. I, like you–I am sure, was told never to stare at the sun, so I stared at the sunbeams that came from it. Sunbeams came aaall the way from that big ball of light we weren’t allowed to stare at, and they made their way aaall the way down to Earth. This fascinated the little-girl me. They came from the sun — in outer space (the second Heaven) — shot through our atmosphere and bolted through the clouds in layers and seemed to illuminate in such a glorious and beautiful way. This mesmerized me. To me, sunbeams were my childhood way of “seeing” God.

Somewhere along the way, I got the notion that whenever I’d see sunbeams, I was actually seeing a manifestation of God. The rays became His way of trying to tell me something, so I’d stop, pray and try to discover what He was telling me in that moment. Suspiciously, the sunbeams often appeared in times of struggle, sadness or deep thought. They provided a comfort, a hope and a way of Him telling me that all would be okay.

Even as an adult, I still stop and pray when I see sunbeams. Suspiciously, they still seem to often present themselves when I’m deep in thought or wrestling with how I think He’d lead me in a circumstance or situation.

These days I see God in so much of His Creation, in my children, in my marriage, in coincidences that are never coincidences, in healing, in heartache, in the Word, in messages from others, and in living a hope-filled life always challenged by circumstances.

These days, I always say a prayer when I see the light and the layers of sunbeams. It’s still one of my ways of seeing God. I am pretty sure He knows that when He needs to get into my head and my heart, He will when He sends those sunbeams.

Sunbeams are one of the ways in which I find HOPE. The Gravatar behind Hope Surrendered was chosen for this reason. It’s a photo I took a few years ago, and it’s a photo that reminds me of His constant presence in our lives. No matter what darkness rolls in and what storms are happening in the present, He is always above it all and is doing His thing to work it all for good for those who love Him.

In my daily walk, I try to be a sunbeam for Him, and it is my hope that you can see Him through me and through Hope Surrendered.

Monday’s Musings — Fast-food Evil?

Fast Food

I went through the drive-thru of a fast-food restaurant the other day. I was on the road and feeling a little hungry, so when I stopped for gas, I also decided to grab a bit to eat at the place next to the gas station.

I ordered a food item and a drink. My total was $6.66.

My first reaction was to remove something from my order. I had only ordered two things, so my next reaction was to add something to my order. As I was pulling up to the pay window, I needed to make a decision. Was I going to order something else so that my total wasn’t THAT number? Or, would I pay for my order, paying THAT number?

The attendant wasn’t at the window when I got there, so it gave me a few extra moments to think.

“No,” I said to myself, “It’s a number. I know it’s associated with Satan and evil, but my God is so much bigger than a number.”

I liked that. “My God is so much bigger than a number.”

The attendant opened the drive-thru window, repeated my total without batting an eyelash, held out her hand for my money, and I paid her $6.76 and waited for my dime. I wondered if she was a Christian; I wondered if she wondered about the number in my order’s total.

As I drove off eating my meal, my mind went through these thoughts again.

There are NO coincidences. (I tell myself that all the time)

Perhaps it was a sign from God that I shouldn’t be eating fast food?

Perhaps it was Satan’s way of telling me that I’m still on his radar, even though he and I have done battle plenty of times over the last few years? (I’m sure he’s still a little miffed about God stepping in to help me)

Or, perhaps this was just a reminder to me to remember that, no matter what, my God IS bigger than anything else I will encounter. Anything.

I stuck with that last one:  My God is bigger than anything else I will encounter. Anything.

He is.

Finding Hope in the Weeds

The tomatoes in the garden are coming in. We’ve had a steady supply of these fresh, juicy fruits to eat in our household.

Although our snacking and salad harvest has been good, overall, it was not a good year for tomatoes in this part of the country. Much of the country suffers from summertime droughts, but that was not the case here. It was a cool and wet summer — not what tomato gardeners like. While we’ll still have plenty of tomatoes to eat, the harvest won’t be bountiful enough to freeze and can enough tomato soup, juice, fruit and sauces to get us through the winter.

In mid summer, I found a surprise in my tomato garden. After nearly two weeks of cool, wet weather, I spent a few hours weeding. Weeds love the wet weather, and my garden was full of them! In any case, my surprise was five tomato plants that I hadn’t planted. Fruit that had dropped last year, was tilled into the garden at the end of the season, survived a long winter of snow, made it through the soil being turned numerous times in the early spring, and had missed the May planting, was just starting to spring forth here in July.

I debated on whether or not to pull the plants with the other weeds. I knew it would be tough for them to bear fruit before the fall cold snap since they were so far behind, but I couldn’t bear to pull them out since they had, obviously, worked so hard on their own to survive.

I decided to give them a fighting chance.

Those five tomato plants have done pretty well. The fruit on their vines hasn’t ripened yet (it’s getting late), but there is fruit there waiting and hoping for a late-August heat wave to liven them up. I don’t know if it’ll happen (it might during the day, but it’s our nights that are too cool), but I still can’t bear to give up on them.

How many of us are like that? How many of us have been caught among the weeds with our possibilities going unnoticed? How many of us have survived through a dark season, been tossed and turned about, not been nurtured and cared for, yet we’re still able to bear fruit…good fruit? How many of us bear that fruit hoping that “they” won’t give up on us? How many of us just want a chance?

I know I do.

I’ve gone through seasons — just like you — I’d rather not talk about or share with others…seasons of ugliness I’d rather not remember.

But I’m still here. I’ve fought the weeds around me, and I’m still here.

Those five little tomato plants are still out there in my garden, too, trying to bear ripe fruit.

I’m thankful to those who have given me hope to hold on to along the way; those who have noticed that I’ve got something to offer despite the issues, flaws and imperfections; those who have helped me turn the problems and challenges into possibilities.

I’m going to give those five plants some more time. If their fruit doesn’t get around to ripening, there is always the fried-green-tomato option, right?

The challenges can always be possibilities.

Monday’s Musings — Understanding the Green Thumb

Green Thumb

Harvesting veggies from the garden is so much more fun than planting, weeding, watering and waiting for them to grow. There are rewards at each stage, but harvesting is the ultimate reward.

Without looking into the folklore, I now KNOW from where the idea of having a green thumb comes.

It comes from harvesting veggies.

When I harvested my peas, my left thumbnail turned green from popping open the pods and scraping them into a bowl.

When I harvested my Chinese pea pods, my left thumbnail turned green from snapping off the top and destringing them.

When I harvested my green beans, my left thumbnail turned green from pinching them off the vine and then using my nail to break away the top.

When harvesting my cucumbers, my left thumbnail turns green from piercing the vine before pulling the cuke from it.

When harvesting my cherry tomatoes, my left thumbnail turns green from snipping the fruits from the vine WITH my nail.

When harvesting my apples, my left thumbnail turns green from pushing the waste through the apple corer.

Harvesting has been going on for a few weeks, therefore, I’ve had a green thumbnail for a while.

The only thing that might completely remove the green hue from my thumbnail would be a manicure. However, other than an occasional buff and file, I’m not really a manicure kind-of-gal, and I still have some harvesting left to do.

I’m pretty sure that the folklore surrounding having a green thumb DOES involve the ability to grow plants well. So, hey! I will consider my green thumb an accomplishment and as a sign of the successful harvest!

Monday’s Musings — Caffeinated Chocolate

Caff Chocolate

I’ve been out of the country on a business trip with plenty of time in the schedule for some personal time. It’s been a relaxing one.

The other day, I pulled into a convenience store to fill up the rental car with gas, and I decided to go into the store to grab a coffee. I’m not usually much for convenience-store coffee, but I needed a jolt to finish my day. I was pleasantly surprised to see a dark roast. The clerk, who had greeted me with a happy, smiling face upon walking into the store, told me it had just been brewed. He also said I was welcome to try a taste before buying (does that ever happen in the United States?). It was pretty good!

So, I grabbed a cup, added a creamer and was putting on my lid, when I noticed these chocolate bars in a display box on the counter right near the coffee. Caffeinated chocolate? I had never heard of it! Granted, I know that chocolate does naturally contain some caffeine and stimulants, but this was totally different. One of these bars had the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee.

I snatched one of each — a milk chocolate and a caramel — and paid for them with my coffee. I decided to tuck them into my bag for later as I settled into the car to enjoy my coffee and head to my next destination.

The following morning, I had to jump on a very early flight. At the airport, I had time to pick up an omelet bagel and some water, but didn’t get a coffee. When the flight attendant asked about beverages, I asked for a coffee (another place that doesn’t usually serve good coffee), and while drinking it, I remembered the bars in my bag.

I went for the caramel. It was great! I usually prefer a dark chocolate (hint-hint to the company), but I like anything that has caramel with it or on it. It tasted just like a regular chocolate bar, but soon I knew that it was an extraordinary chocolate bar when the caffeine jolt kicked in.

WHY do we not have these in America? I was wishing I had bought the whole display box at this point.

I’ve since found out that they are available on a very limited basis in the U.S. The chocolate bar’s website (Awake Chocolate) tells me that the chain-brand convenience store in the next town over from mine might have them. I WILL be looking when I get home!