What’s Inside That Package?

My husband and I don’t watch much TV but the few shows we watch are, Jeopardy, Master Chef, and occasionally The Voice. What I like about The Voice, (a show where people try to win a singing competition) is that when people audition for the first time, none of the judges see the contestants. They are basing their perceptions of whether to choose that person solely on their vocal abilities. It has nothing to do with the way they look, what size they are, the way they act, the way they style their hair, how much makeup they wear, or what clothes they wear. It comes down to vocal talent. I like that concept and I know that even as open-minded as I think I am, I have found myself being surprised by people who try out at times. Once I was in the kitchen cooking, weeks after they had eliminated contestants and they were down to about six candidates and I heard one of them singing. Because I couldn’t see them, I didn’t recognize which one it was and I had my favorites. I was listening and trying to decide who was singing, but I couldn’t determine which one of ‘my favorites’ it was. I was enjoying this pure voice, but I couldn’t put a face to it. I had to walk into the living room and see who it was. I was shocked because I heard from this person, without seeing them, something I had never heard before, a quality I had never heard before. She was at the bottom of my top three and that night, she moved to my number one! (Incidentally, she went on to win the competition.) I thought right then. Wow! I had a preconceived notion about her. I was judging her based on her age and not her talent. I was letting my mind play tricks on me and not listening to what this gal has to offer! It wasn’t her looks, it wasn’t the way she dressed, it was her age! It made me wonder how many times have I done that with other people based on other things? Maybe it was something else about them that I let get in the way and I didn’t “listen” to what they had to offer. Maybe they had something amazing to share with me and some preconceived notion of mine blocked a tremendous blessing! I was saddened at myself and my reaction.

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Later I reflected on Jesus and how he was rejected in his home town. He was also rejected because he was a Jew. We can think of all kinds of things to reject people for. Sometimes we don’t receive from people because they are talented or because they aren’t talented. We can make up all kinds of excuses not to listen. There are many people who will listen to a person because they have so many degrees, like a doctorate or a master’s but I’ve met people with many degrees who don’t have a lick of common sense. Then there are people who have very little education but have all the wisdom in the world. While we do need to be careful who we receive from, we need to be equally careful who we reject. We may be rejecting the greatest treasure on earth.

I’m sure you’ve heard of people who have tossed out what they thought was garbage only to be found by another who found something of great value? When I had my first job at the age of nineteen, I rented a small two bedroom house off the college campus where I worked in Tulsa. The woman who owned the house, had left it, thirty years before, belongings and all, when her husband died because she couldn’t bear to stay with all the memories. It was quite a mess to clean up, but the structure was sound and the furnishings were very nice. It was like stepping into a time capsule of someone’s life. Imagine all the dust and grime that collected over those years! The vacuum’s electric cord had disintegrated into the carpet. When I went to move it, the cord just crumbled! She said to do whatever we wanted with everything in the house. There was a rather dull wall-hanging, in a plain off-white etched wooden frame, that I tossed into the open trash can. My mother came by as I was cleaning and saw it and asked if she could have it. Naturally, I said yes, wondering why she would want it. A couple of weeks later, I was in my mother’s house and there was a beautiful art piece hanging on her wall. I asked where she found that amazing ocean scene. She said, “Don’t you recognize it? It was in your trash can!” She had cleaned it and antiqued the frame to bring out the gold tones of the sun glistening on the water. It was a seascape of ocean waves crashing on the shore, spraying radiant droplets of water up, with reflections of a golden sunrise, but the dirt I saw had obscured the scene and the bland frame had muted the colors. Her skillful refurbishing had brought out what the original artist had seen and depicted. She asked if I wanted it back and I told her “No Mom, you deserve to have it, because you saw what I could not see, you brought it to life.” Over the years, every time I saw that painting, I admired it and reminded myself to look beneath the dirt and grime and see the potential, because I might be missing something of great beauty.

But isn’t that how life is? There is potential everywhere we look. There is potential in everyone, there is great beauty in everyone. God sees it, but sometimes we fail to see it. God sings over each of us, but we don’t all have the ears to hear his song. And God can use each one of us and speak through each of us. If he can speak through donkeys, he can speak through people. We just have to quit shutting our ears to the people around us and rejecting the packages. You never know when you might be missing a beautiful song or tossing out a beautiful art piece. Will you start receiving the packages God sends to you, no matter how they’re wrapped?

See these verses:

Luke 4:14-30 (Jesus rejection in Nazareth)

Numbers 22:28 (donkey speaking)

Zephaniah 3:17 (Lord sings over us!)

Prayer: Father I pray that today you will help us each to receive the messages you send to us, no matter how they are wrapped. Help us to look beyond the package to the message. Help us all to realize that you are the message and it is you we are seeking. Help us to look for content and not be judgemental. Help us to see with your vision to the heart. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Seasons and Senses

Oh to be like…

A floating Autumn leaf…

Windswept with the breeze,

Gliding gracefully through the world.

A lacy wintry snowflake…

Softly caressing,

Touching everything with enchantment.

A Spring blossom…

Hued in pastels,

Delighting the eyes in love.

A cool Summer stream…

Gently babbling,

Quenching thirsts and refreshing souls.

Oh yes! I hope…

To whisper words of comfort,

So others might hear.

To touch with hands of healing,

So others might feel.

To imbue the colors of this world,

So others may see.

To provide water for the thirsty,

So others can taste.

But may I always be…

A gentle fragrance, an enticing aroma,

Of all the seasons and senses wrapped into one.

— Kimberly Alligood (8-2012)

Fragrance and Beauty

Hosea 14:4-9 “The Lord says, Then I will heal you of your faithlessness; my love will know no bounds, for my anger will be gone forever. I will be to Israel like a refreshing dew from heaven. Israel will blossom like the lily; it will send roots deep into the soil like the cedars in Lebanon. Its branches will spread out like beautiful olive trees, as fragrant as the cedars of Lebanon. My people will again live under my shade. They will flourish like grain and blossom like grapevines. They will be as fragrant as the wines of Lebanon. “O Israel, stay away from idols! I am the one who answers your prayers and cares for you. I am like a tree that is always green; all your fruit comes from me.” Let those who are wise understand these things. Let those with discernment listen carefully. The paths of the Lord are true and right, and righteous people live by walking in them. But in those paths sinners stumble and fall.

Thoughts on these verses:

God says he will be like the refreshing dew. = There is no end to the dew, it is new every morning, it is continually replenished. We should Look for Him, Expect Him, Feed on Him and His Word.

Then you will bloom like the lily. = The lily is compared to great beauty.

Your roots will go as deep as the cedars of Lebanon. = The cedars of Lebanon were more fruitful as they aged and their roots held firm, as we are to hold firm to our faith and in our relationship with God. (Also, the cedars were resistant to rot and decay and repelled insects. We should be resistant to sin and repel the enemy.)

Your branches will spread like a beautiful olive tree. = Branches will provide shade for others, to guard them, nurture them, teach them in the knowledge of God.

Flourish like grain. = Each stalk of grain produces many seeds and grain feeds others.

You will be fragrant like the oil of the cedars of Lebanon. = Fragrance attracts

You will Blossom like grapevines. = Constantly bearing fruit again and again, season after season and make new wine. Be an example of the true grapevine, Jesus Christ and our Father is the Gardener. (John 15:1)

Fragrant as the wines of Lebanon. = Again, fragrance attracts and wine quenches thirst.

The Lord answers our prayers, He cares for us. = We should have a prayer relationship with God. Not a ‘laundry list’ of our desires but prayers of thanksgiving and worship, we should care for him as He cares for us.

He is the tree that stays green. = The cedars of Lebanon are evergreen, we should not wither, but have life continuously.

Jeremiah 17:7-8 “But blessed are those who trust in the Lord  and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.”

He is the source of our fruit. = Our fruit can only ripen and be fully formed through Him. How can any bad fruit come from God?

Matthew 7:16-20 You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.

When we are wise in the Lord, we understand. = When our wisdom comes from God, we have understanding.

When we have discernment, we listen carefully. = When we perceive what is true and good, we will listen intently to the Word of God.

Proverbs 4:10-13 My child, listen to me and do as I say, and you will have a long, good life. I will teach you wisdom’s ways and lead you in straight paths.  When you walk, you won’t be held back; when you run, you won’t stumble. Take hold of my instructions; don’t let them go. Guard them, for they are the key to life.

Righteous walk in the true and right paths the Lord has prepared, however sinners will stumble and fall in the very same paths. In the NIV, it says the rebellious will stumble. If you are not following God, you are rebelling.

Prayer: Father, help me to seek you daily and worship you, to recognize your refreshing ways Every day. Help me be firm in my faith, to attract with the beauty that comes from inside of me, which is your light. Help me to guide others to you and show them the fruit which you have given me. Help me to be an instructor, an encourager, and a protector of those who are less mature in their faith. May I be fruitful and fragrant with your love. In Jesus’ name, Amen