Coming SOON – October 2022! Good Ground, Volume 2 – stay tuned for the link to order! Be sure and sign up to follow the blog so you don’t miss the book debut!

NOW AVAILABLE ON AMAZON – Good Ground, Volume 1 by Beth Madison from Northeastern Baptist Press – click on link below to order:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1953331173/ref=sr_1_1?crid=X52L9LK3YBPT&keywords=good+ground+beth+madison&qid=1651614655&s=books&sprefix=good+ground+beth+madison%2Cstripbooks%2C73&sr=1-1

9/11/22

Being vulnerable with you

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2 Timothy 2:4 No soldier when in service gets entangled in the enterprises of [civilian] life; his aim is to satisfy and please the one who enlisted him.

“It’s not about being popular. It’s about being faithful” (Journey, 2022)

Spoiler alert: today’s post is me being vulnerable. Please feel free to skip or move along if this isn’t something you’re interested in reading. But if it is, thank you for listening and I hope that it might be encouraging to you….

When I write, I leave part of my heart on the page with every word. Caretaking these ideas that our Good God entrusts me with is exhilarating, exhausting, and terrifying. Exhilarating in knowing that He is speaking. Exhausting in knowing that I must be ever careful in listening. Terrifying in that many times what I want to say isn’t what I’m supposed to say.

Writing can be war for me. Because arrogance wants all the attention all the time. And she doesn’t want to share any of it with anyone else, especially the One Who enlisted me to write. This soldier wants the medals of affirmation and acclaim in book sales and signings, speaking appointments and applause, blog followers and facebook posts, and the like. Thus, my mind and heart are a battleground between self and Savior.

I keep praying “Your Name be exalted and my name forgotten” while not really meaning it down to the soil of my soul. I keep saying “all that’s important is for His Message to be made known while longing for my face to be seen everywhere. And thus, the battle rages on…

The only salvo that has brought some salvation to this war for me is having 2 Timothy 2:4 written out and posted on my wall immediately above my computer. A tangible reminder of the vision of the message and the lack of value in marketing. Re-alignment isn’t just needed for tires on my car; it’s necessary for this tired soldier trying to keep from getting further and further entangled in the enterprises of civilian life.

Yet when arrogance and I finally wave that white flag of surrender, writing becomes worship. Writing as worship is the sweetest sitting there at my Savior’s feet that I’ve ever known. Pouring out my alabaster jar while washing His feet with my tears and hair in vulnerability far exceeds any adrenaline of acknowledgement by anyone wanting a book or signature. And hopefully, that fragrance of worship fills the house in unmistakable love and grace.

Thank you, dear Jesus, for welcoming the vulnerable just like me. Thank You that You know all of me, including the arrogance, and love me still. Thank You that You alone can quiet the war and speak peace to my heart and mind. Thank You for grace to be here and to stay here with You. Please help me to want nothing more (or less) than this moment with You.     

Written by and copyrighted to Beth Madison, Ph.D., 2022.

7/18/22

Stargazing

7/11/22

Wonderfully made

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podcast link below for this post:

https://anchor.fm/beth-madison/episodes/Wonderfully-made-e1l2vfi

Psalm 139:13-16 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit them together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! It is amazing to think about. Your workmanship is marvelous—and how well I know it. You were there while I was being formed in utter seclusion!You saw me before I was born and scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe. Every day was recorded in your book!

As a Christ-follower, I have wielded these verses gently and not-so-gently in many ways and at many times. As a biologist, I have yielded to these verses graciously and ungraciously in many ways and at many times. As a woman, I have needed these verses genuinely and gratefully in many ways and at many times.

And in the wielding, yielding, and needing, I became overly familiar (like a nosy neighbor) with these verses…or so I thought…

But yesterday, I found a new hidden treasure from yet another unwrapping of the words, wisdom, and wonder contained in them.

A birthing of beauty in another layer of depth inherent to them.

So now, please, lean in here with me now for this…

The application of these verses isn’t reserved only for us as people, as Adam’s children of dust. The original Hebrew text allows for the inclusion of all of God’s living creation to be described as wonderfully made. The living creation was to be known as the fullness of the all that which has breath praise the Lord living in a dusty world (Psalm 150:6).

All of the living creation is wonderfully complex with each one a marvelous workmanship of God made from the ground up. All of us who are alive are the we who are fearfully and wonderfully made with our days appointed and words known before they’re on our tongue(s). The all of us made by God is all of us people and plants, animal and microbe, and soil.

Each of us, all of us are those known before in the womb of a woman, animal, plant, microbe, or soil. We are those birthed from mothers – be they human or animal as babies; birds, turtles, reptiles, fish, insects, amphibians, echidna, and platypus as eggs; jellyfish and hydra as buds; microbe as daughter cells; plants as seeds; and rock as soil. Each of us, all of us brought forth by and for God in a love powerful enough to overcome death, grave, and hell. The love who is our Christ Who holds all things together, including us (see Colossians 1:15-20)..

All are planned with purpose, placement, and position. None random, none unexpected, none unloved.

All cherished, all known, all kept close in that amazing love. Love with depths yet unknown, unimagined, or understood. Not even’s sin’s curse could separate the Christ chosen and given for redemption, release, and return of one of us, of all of us to that beauty which was before and yet evermore shall be. We know Eden as creation’s womb while seeing Heaven as eternity’s womb.

All held fast by Love’s gift at Calvary reaching forward and back in new birth. And thus, transforming every seed, particle, cell, egg, and baby into a celebration of grace and mercy.

Every one loved and made by God. Every birth a party planned and attended by the King of glory.

Thank You, King Jesus, for being here with us in the dust and raising us from the dust in Your powerful new birth love once for all, once for ever!

Colossians 1:15-20 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

As always, dear ones, thank you for your grace and patience with my many lackings in conveying the rich and full beauty of ideas. So often, I wish there was another means of sharing with you the pictures in my heart and mind that have the so much more of beauty than what ends up on the page.

I’d LOVE for you to join me on this journey to Jesus, please click on the link below to sign up to follow this blog – thank YOU!

https://soulscientistblog.com/blog/

And if you’re looking for a Bible study book to encourage you in your quiet times and in your days, here’s a link where you can purchase Good Ground, Volume 1 directly from Northeastern Baptist Press:

https://www.nebpvermont.com/good-ground-volume-1

Good Ground, Volume 1 is also available from Amazon, Walmart, Barnes and Noble, Books A Million, and other book distributors. 

Stay tuned for Good Ground, Volume 2 coming Fall 2022, also from Northeastern Baptist Press! (and for something else new also coming soon from Northeastern Baptist Press…)

Written by and copyrighted to Beth Madison, Ph.D., 2022

4/28/22

Work

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click on the link below to listen to the podcast for this post:

https://anchor.fm/beth-madison/episodes/Work-e1hpomt

Colossians 3:23 In all the work you are doing, work the best you can. Work as if you were working for the Lord, not for men.

One of my fondest childhood memories is making paper dolls with my grandmother. When Grandpap went down for a nap after lunch, out came the supplies – cardboard, scissors, fabric scraps, glue, yarn, lace, buttons, ribbons, pens, and sewing box. Then, Grannie and I would sit next to each other, without an inch between us, on her spotless red couch in her dust-free living room.

After cutting the paper dolls from cardboard, we’d sort through the materials looking for the prettiest (and matching) fabrics, laces, and buttons to dress our dolls who were always wearing the biggest of smiles and pigtails made of yarn and ribbons.

We would each carefully cut out dresses, aprons, and all the accessories for our dolls. (Yes, dolls – Grannie would make her doll and help me make mine.) Of course, Grannie’s doll always came out picture-perfect and mine was lovable. But that was the most important part of this activity – love. No matter how droopy, lopsided, or crooked my doll was, I felt proud of it. Because I knew my Grannie was proud of me, no matter what my doll looked like.

All through our times of making paper dolls, reading, setting the table for dinner, cleaning bathrooms, or other chores, Grannie always told me “do your best, Beth, just do your best”. So I tried. I tried then; I’ve tried for nearly 50 years since; I’m trying now.

Colossians 3:23 was one of the first verses I learned as a child – In all the work you are doing, work the best you can. Work as if you were working for the Lord, not for men. My parents and grandparents taught me that principle in choices, actions, and words. This principle was cut into my life long ago as an essential, not just a pretty accessory.

Therefore, since the paper doll years, I’ve tried and worked hard at lots of things. I’ve succeeded at some, while failing at many more. Yet it wasn’t until the past two years, that I found where my trying and working hard made something even more satisfying than the prettiest of paper dolls.    

The crafting of ideas into thoughts and then words, both written and spoken.

Most days, I can’t wait until after breakfast, much less lunch, to get out my supplies for this work – Bible, laptop, scraps of paper with notes, and silenced phone. After cutting out the main idea, I love sorting through synonyms, phrases, and word pictures while sitting next to Jesus without an inch between us. All the while, He’s telling me, “do your best, Beth, just do your best”.  So I try. And try again and again. Until the ideas, words, and pictures line up in the most beautiful way I can fit them on the page.

Yes, the thoughts are still often lopsided or crooked like my childhood paper dolls. Yes, the ideas on the page aren’t as full as they are in pictures in my head and heart. But I know that I am loved, before, during, and long after the writing. And that’s what I want anyone reading these words to know – Jesus loves you, just like you are now. He’s always loved you and always will.

There’s no need to try and work hard for His love. He’s already given it to and for you in bright red blood at Calvary. And that picture is far more beautiful in reality than words on a page.

Yet that picture becomes life when I try and work hard for His glory, be it in choices, actions, or words. And this life yields joy. A deep joy that increases my love for my Jesus and for others to fall in love with Him. All the while hoping that they too might know the satisfaction of hearing Jesus tell them, “do your best, dear one, just do your best” at whatever work He has for them to do.

Ephesians 2:10 God has made us what we are. In Christ Jesus, God made us new people so that we would do good works. God had planned in advance those good works for us. He had planned for us to live our lives doing them

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Written by and copyrighted to Beth Madison, Ph.D., 2022.

4/8/22

A friend’s prayer

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Proverbs 18:10 The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are saved.

Dear God,

You know that I have friends living in hard places. Friends I know well and friends I haven’t even met yet. Thank You that You are there with them in the hard places. Thank You that You hurt even more with and for them than I do. Thank You that You can give them what they need right now and in days to come that might be even harder.

Please help them to know this truth in their hard places. That Your Name is that strong tower that cannot be overcome. Thank You that Your name won’t crumble or fall. Thank You that Your name is always there for them to run into.

Please help them to see Your truth in their hard places. That Your truth can and will set them free from all prisons of despair, defeat, or diagnosis. Thank You that Your truth will always prevail.

Please help them to hold fast to Your truth in their hard places. That You are always holding them close to Your heart of love for them. Thank You that You will never leave or turn away from them, no matter how hard or how long these places are.

Please help them to look to You for truth in their hard places. That You are trustworthy and faithful in all Your ways. Thank You that nothing can change You or Your love for them. Thank You that Your strength isn’t dependent on mine or theirs.

God, I cannot speak peace to them, but You can. God, they need You in ways I can’t help them.

God, I trust You now to tenderly care for my friends in their hard places.

So I say, Amen, in the strong tower Name of Jesus.

(I wrote this prayer after a conversation with a dear friend living in a very hard place. Even though it was written for this friend, I felt that I should share it with all of you. dear friends.

Please stop now and pray for your friends. Many are living in hard places where only prayers and Jesus can go. Jesus is listening to your prayers for them. Jesus is loving them today, and you too.)

Written by and copyrighted to Beth Madison, Ph.D., 2022

3/17/22

Farmer’s daughter

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As a farmer’s daughter, I learned how to pick tomatoes as I learned how to walk. As a science professor’s daughter, I learned how to properly record data as I learned how to write. Most importantly, as a daughter of devoted Christ followers, I learned that Jesus loved me as I watched my parents love everyone in our little world and beyond. All of these lessons shaped my life and worldview then and continue to do so now as a wife, mother, science professor, and black-thumb destroyer of defenseless houseplants.

There was never a separation of science and faith in my childhood. Every Scripture verse and science fact was a treasure to be unwrapped in the beauty of their togetherness. A deep-seated awe of sunlight and the Light of the world was meticulously uncovered in Scripture and wavelengths, angles, and photosynthesis processes and equations. The colors of Noah’s rainbow weren’t just on the flannel graph board at church but were alive in the quantitative and qualitative data collected from colorimeters, light meters, and beautiful sunrises. The waters of the sea of Galilee weren’t just fishing grounds for the disciples. Those waters were millions of molecules brimming with the incomparable innate intricacies of hydrogen bonding, surface tension, capillary action, and density. The sands of Egypt were far more than where the Israelites wandered for 40 years. They were lands made of distinctly shaped and sized quartz grains as seen through specific soil science measurements. And all of these facts were direct influences on the size, shape, and amount of the tomatoes I had to hoe, harvest, count, and weigh (and then give to neighbors, friends, and strangers, put on the table for supper, or store in canning jars).

When I watched my father encounter questions he couldn’t answer with numbers or Scripture, I learned that not knowing definite solutions was okay in a steady solid faith growing in humility and trust. When I watched my parents encounter life circumstances they wouldn’t have chosen, I learned the importance of daily obedience, hope, and that mercy does triumph over judgment. Faith in our Good Creator God was (and still is) essential in all parts of their lives.

Taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34: 8) was both an abstract and a concrete concept for me as a child then and now as an adult. Abstract in the deliberate joy of daily asking, thanking, and trusting God for good soil, timely rains, and insect and disease control. Concrete in the visceral joy of the juices of just-picked peaches, blackberries, and watermelons running off of my chin corresponding to the sugar readings I recorded in line after line on the data sheets. Joy truly became delight in the tasting and seeing of God with multiple senses all the while knowing that my hard work contributed to this bounty but didn’t control or guarantee it. And the joy kept growing from the deep knowing that He gave me the opportunity to participate, both in the believing and being there in the growing season and harvest.

As the years passed, I was repeatedly surprised to find that most people didn’t learn about science and faith together. They only knew science versus faith and never the twain shall meet, as Kipling might’ve said. Many people I knew from church embraced faith and rejected science. Many people I knew from school embraced science and rejected faith.  Yet all of them consistently and often, vehemently argued the need for compartmentalized thinking in that only they could be right. And they did this, all the while refusing look each other in the eye, much less seeing the other through the eyes of their hearts, independent of whether they chose science over faith or vice versa.

For many years, I didn’t know that fear was the real source of their anger. Not just fear of what they didn’t know or understand in the science or of the faith, but the underlying fear that they weren’t in control, nor ever would be.

Herein lies the true issue – control is the heart of both science and faith.  And control is what can either divide us or unite us, depending on how we respond to it. Arrogance feeds fear’s growth while humility chokes it. Arrogance causes me to choke on my inadequacy and ignore my neighbor. In contrast, humility hungers for more of Jesus, the Only One Who is enough so that I can love my neighbor.

Lord Kelvin captured the idea of control in science with, “the scientific process has 2 motives – one is to understand the natural world; the other is to control it”.  In contrast, Paul said it well for the relationship of control and faith with, For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised (2 Corinthians 5:14-15 ESV).

So whether I’m researching Scripture, science, or both, I rest in the truth that only God is in control. He’s in control of every proton and promise, every process and proclamation, every system and every symbolism, and my story. Nothing is not under His control. And nothing includes every outcome or order, independent of whether or not I understand it. When I set aside my arrogance, He will take care of the fear, for not even it is beyond His power or plan.

And there in the rest of His control, I find strength, hope, courage, and faith far beyond what I can measure, much less what I can record in words or numbers.

Matthew 11:28-30 Come to me and I will give you rest—all of you who work so hard beneath a heavy yoke. Wear my yoke—for it fits perfectly—and let me teach you; for I am gentle and humble, and you shall find rest for your souls; for I give you only light burdens.

written by and copyrighted to Beth Madison, Ph.D., 2022

3/3/22

Done for

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podcast link for this post:

https://anchor.fm/beth-madison/episodes/Done-for-e1f6cvk

Psalm 66:5 Come and see what our God has done, what awesome miracles he performs for people!

Patient Advocacy Post 8

How appropriate that as I sit here writing this, I’m feeling like I’ve already used up the energy for today, tomorrow, the rest of this week, and the next.

At best, I am functionally propped up by my chair, hot tea with lots of sugar, and sheer determination. In other words, I’m “done for”. Meaning that I just can’t. I can’t do or be any more than this greasy spot on the carpet underneath my feet. I’m depleted in energy, ability, time, or whatever resource necessary for the task in front of me.

If you’ve ever been “done for”, you know well what I’m talking about. And you also know that being tired ain’t got nothing on being “done for”.

Before the onset of chronic illness ten years ago, “done for” was unfamiliar in that I used to always be the first in line for the next activity or challenge, excited by what was around the next corner without any need for caffeine. Since then, “done for” can be intimidating (and even scary) to me in that I sometimes don’t know when I’ll fall over the cliff into “done for”. For when I’m there, I can’t just reach deep in and dig up another gram of strength to grit my teeth and keep moving forward, no matter what or who needs me at the moment.

Because in “done for”, there’s nothing there that can be called out or conjured up for another activity. There’s only fragility, frailty, and futility in this place of weakness.

Yet now, I’m realizing that “done for” is a special place. That special place where I’m not reliant on myself and can revel in the freedom of faith knowing that if something is going to be done, God will be doing it, not me.

God is described as having “done for” His people countless times in Scripture when they couldn’t do for themselves. He didn’t just step into the situation on their behalf; He did whatever was needed to complete the task(s) for them. Think about parting the Red Sea, providing manna and water in the desert, shutting lions’ mouths, or protecting in fiery furnaces.

God met those people in their places of “done for” and strengthened them over and again.

He will do the same for us when we are in our places of “done for”.

And there in “done for”, not only does God give strength, He gives me a better awareness of Himself as Sovereign and as Love. For there in “done for” is where I can best see the beauty of Philippians 3:3b We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort. In “done for”, there is no confidence in human effort because there is only the empty shell of me with an emptied well of strength. Yet that’s the beauty of this place of “done for” – Jesus doesn’t love me more or less here than He did ten, thirty, or fifty years ago when I was an overcomer (or at least thought I was). And here in “done for”, I can know and rely on His love for the next ten, thirty, and fifty minutes in this battle with pain and disability.

Scripture clearly tells me the truth that God has, can, and will do for His people. Thus, I can rest in His provision. All that is needed to be done will be “done for” me by my Good God. There is no end to His power and might and love.

He will accomplish “done for” in all these tasks before or around me in this place of “done for”, without my help. Scripture reminds me of this with Nehemiah 9:8b And you have done what you promised, for you are always true to your word and Psalm 119:65 You have done many good things for me, Lord, just as You promised.

And Scripture also clearly tells me my task in this place of “done for” in 1 Samuel 12:7 Now stand here quietly before the Lord as I remind you of all the great things the Lord has done for you and your ancestors.

Patient Advocacy tip for “done for”:

If you are a friend to someone who lives in (or often visits) this special place of “done for”, consider this – you might be the one whom God wants to use to help your friend. Showing His love through providing for her needs in bringing a meal for her and her family, running errands for her, stopping by her home with a thoughtful little gift, sending a card, email, text, or call or whatever comes to mind can greatly strengthen her now. The place of “done for” can be long and lonely. Even the smallest recognition of someone’s need can bring much hope and help to her at that time and for days after. Trust me, your actions for your friend in her place of “done for” are eternally important and influential, both for your friend and you. Little is much in the kingdom of heaven.    

Reflection prayer:

Dear Father God,

Thank You, God, for all You have done for me. Thank You, God, that You are and will do for me what is needed at the right time and in the right way. Thank You, God, for how You have used your people to help me in previous times of being “done for”. Please help me to trust You more in this place of “done for”. Please help me to worship You in the place of “done for” for You alone are worthy!

In the strong Name of Jesus,

Amen.

Psalm 92:4 You thrill me, Lord, with all you have done for me! I sing for joy because of what you have done

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If you’d like to read other posts in this Patient Advocacy series, here’s a link to post 7:

https://soulscientistblog.com/2022/02/11/giving-grace-not-guilt/

Written by and copyrighted to Beth Madison, Ph.D., 2022.



2/24/22

the right time

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Isaiah 60:22b When the time is right, I, the Lord, will make it happen

Galatians 4:4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law

As a farm girl, I learned early on that there’s a best time to harvest a crop. This principle is especially true with fruits. For if you pick something too early, it’s not big, sweet, dark, or tender enough for that perfect first bite where the juices run down your chin and onto your shirt. The same principle holds true for too late, notably in having that sunny sweet tenderness without bad spots, mold, or worms.

That sweet spot of time in harvest corresponds to when there’s been enough sun, moisture, and development in maximum sugar and hormone production without growth of excessive fibrous material. In other words, there’s enough maturity there to hold things together well without interfering with those tender tissues and delicious sugars.

Now that’s not to say that fruits picked too early or too late are without use. The early ones are good for ripening on a kitchen windowsill or in a paper bag to save for later. The late ones are good for jams, jellies, or juices, or cobblers, crisps, or cakes.

But the very best fruits are those picked in the fullness of time and enjoyed immediately in the field, garden, orchard, or vineyard where it there’s always a good place to spit the seeds and it doesn’t matter if the juices drip off the chin or hands. That sunshine-on-my-tongue-taste earned from the hard work to bring this luscious bite of fruit does indeed signify that this is a good day. (Or a very good day if the fruit is that ever-elusive perfect hear-it-crack-open watermelon!)

The fruits taste even better on this good day of harvest because I’ve longed for it over many days of watching, waiting, praying, and hoping. None of these actions of watching, waiting, praying and hoping were passive. All were active, essential, and often hard.

They were hard. For if you’re anything like me, there’s (almost) nothing harder than watching, waiting, praying, and hoping. I like things done and done now. To check that task off the list and move to the next. To revel in a sense of satisfaction with completion and the adventure of the new in the next.

Yet, I’m learning that this satisfaction of something checked off or done began in the lie that I had control over it. The lie that my control of it will then be enough to conquer and control whatever is next on the list or in the day. And I’m learning that this delusion is actually my living in fear. The fear that I’m not enough for the next which can’t be silenced by the list of what’s done. The fear that I wasn’t even enough for the what’s done which could’ve been done better by someone else.

These lies can and will choke new life growing in me if I listen to them.

For I’m (slowly) learning that the watching, waiting, hoping, and praying for when the time is right, the Lord [does] make it happen. That the sweet spot of trusting Him in the now and the not-yet does bring joy that spills over my heart and drips out onto others in my life. That nothing is better than that first bite into my heart’s desires laid out in a feast He’s laid before me after the hard work of delighting myself in Him (see Psalm 23 and 37:4).

The delight of seeing the impossible and unimaginable in my dusty life bloom in the fullness of time after the long days and nights of seeing nothing but bare ground (see Ephesians 3:20-21). Now that’s even more delicious than the perfect watermelon on a hot August afternoon!

In contrast, I’m learning that when I “help” my Good Gardener God with something I should’ve watched, waited, hoped, and prayed for, the joy is flat and dry. Sure there’s joy in that the something is done but it’s almost like eating a dull red outside, white inside, hard grocery store tomato in January while fighting back the memories of that luscious Better Boy beefsteak mater I had in July from daddy’s garden. There’s really no comparison; there’s only regrets that linger on the tongue and in the heart and mind.

I’m writing this from that place of watching, waiting, hoping, and praying which seems to get longer and harder with time. And I don’t think I’m alone here. Most likely, you’re either here or have been or will be here soon, too. So let’s read this verse from James 5:7 together Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waiting for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.

We can be good farmers and wait patiently in the strength our Good Gardener God provides for today. And then we can do the same again tomorrow in the strength given there. For when the time is right…[our] Lord, will make it happen. Nothing is impossible or even too hard for Him (see Luke 1:27 and Jeremiah 32:17).

And nothing includes an overflowing cornucopia harvest of fruit in our lives of His Spirit as seen in Galatians 5:22-23But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

Jesus tells me that this harvest is truly worth watching, waiting, hoping, and praying for in the dust of today and the dream of tomorrow. For this harvest is for eternity for far more people than I can ever feed with the little garden of my heart.

Reflection prayer:

Dear Father God,

Thank You that Your timing and way are always best. Thank You that You are always at work, whether or not I can see something happening. Please help me to watch, wait, hope, and pray for Your harvest. Please send the rains to refresh my dusty soul today and help me to dream of what You have planned for tomorrow.

In the strong Name of Jesus,

Amen.

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Written by and copyrighted to Beth Madison, Ph.D., 2022.

1/18/22

S.T.A.Y. in 2022

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Isaiah 26:3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

Luke 12:35  Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning”

S.T.A.Y.

Steadily.

Trusting.

Almighty.

Yahweh.

Stay – my word for this year. Doesn’t sound like much, does it? Not even stay close, stay strong, stay quiet, or stay true. Just stay. Yet for this hard to sit still, always something that needs doing soil scientist, stay can be one of the toughest words to obey.

To stay = to abide in this moment, this place trusting that this God will bring to completion the good work He has begun in me (without my help or suggestions) (see Philippians 1:6).

To stay = to know with confidence and a fullness of faith that with God nothing is impossible (even if I can’t understand or see an answer) (see Luke 1:37).

To stay = to carefully, consistently, consciously take every thought captive as unto Christ, the One Who holds all things together (while actively rejecting fears and doubts that I am not enough) (see 2 Corinthians 10:5 and Colossians 1:17).

Four little letters that can shape an entire life. One little word that can transform a day.

Stay seems simpler than it really is.

Yet, in reality, stay is simpler than it seems.

For when I stay, then His peace remains there with me.

Isaiah 26:3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

And in staying there with Him, I’m:

Not torn up or apart with the what-if’s. Not burdened or beaten by the what-are-they-thinking. Not constrained or restrained by the what’s next.

Stay.

Steadily.

Trusting.

Almighty.

Yahweh.

To stay is to trust.

Knowing He has all firmly in hand. For this moment and every one to come (and every one already passed).

Believing He has a plan. For the present, person, and path that lies before me (whether or not I can see the next step).

Stay.

For me, stay is the next step in a journey our Good God has been leading me these past few years.

Words for the past two years have been receive and remain, respectively. Where receive was “releasing every control everyday in victorious expectation” *.  And remain was “receiving every moment abiding in nearness” as a follow-up word in the year after receive.

Looking back, I now see that these two words were not just appropriate, but greatly needed. And I’m sure that I’ll see the same for stay in days to come. 

Stay.

Steadily.

Trusting.

Almighty.

Yahweh.

And to me, to stay also means this:

Stay.

Simply.

Taking.

Another.

Yes.

For when I stay, I am saying Yes to the now He has put before me.

And to stay means this – Yes, Lord, yes! I trust You that all of Your promises are made Yes and Amen in Jesus for this moment.

I choose to stay.

Please help me to choose to stay in the rest of today and then all over again, to choose to stay, tomorrow. You know that staying isn’t my first choice, logical, or reasonable for me. But I choose Your way.

I choose to stay.

2 Corinthians 1:20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.

If you’re interested in more on the ideas of receive and remain, see the following:

  1. “the receiving way”, https://soulscientistblog.com/2021/09/30/the-receiving-way/
  2. “part 2 of the receiving way”, https://soulscientistblog.com/2021/10/04/part-2-of-the-receiving-way/
  3. my other website, www.bethmadison.net.

written by and copyrighted to Beth Madison, Ph.D., 2022.

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1/4/22

Fields of joy

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podcast link below:

https://anchor.fm/beth-madison/episodes/Fields-of-joy-e1ch96o

1 Chronicles 16:32b let the fields and their crops burst with joy!

This soil scientist is just about to burst with joy after reading that verse because of what’s detailed in it. It’s not just the crops, their fruits, or the people harvesting and eating their yield bursting with joy like we can see in Psalm 4:7 You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. It’s the fields themselves called to burst with joy! Even the fullness and abundance of the crops and their yield is far beyond gratitude, but then for the fields themselves to burst with joy! Hallelujah, Jesus, hallelujah! You have refreshed this soil scientist with a new joy today with this verse!

Scripture tells us if we fail to praise, the rocks will cry out (see Luke 19:40). Yet this hidden rock-solid declaration in 1 Chronicles was said long before this truth was proclaimed in Luke. And the depth of that declaration is like a victory cry given to and then given out by the soil underneath our feet. In turn, this soil under our feet calls out to the soil in our souls to join it in praise to our Magnificent Creator God for the many wonders He did at the beginning of time and does even in this very moment…

on this thought, moving forward…here’s another version of 1 Chronicles 16:32b let the field be joyful and all that is in it.

Stop for a minute.

And hear that verse in your mind again.

Listen.

Focus.

Can you hear the soil humus humming in chorus with the soil microorganisms while the insects living in the soil chirp, buzz, jump, or roll along in harmony? As the earthworms wiggle along in their own complementary key of joy, all of the many soil clay minerals quiver in their crystal structures like a marching band in formation with the water molecules keeping time alongside. Joy bursts from the fields in the music of the tiniest electrons up to the biggest sand particles. Each participant playing a different role with all participants essential for the fields to burst with joy. Everyone in the field worshipping together in a song heard only by their Creator.  

For their Creator not only spoke the water, soil, rocks, microbes, and everything in between into being and into time long ago, but He sustains them now so the joy is bursting. He is keeping just the right harmonics of atomic vibrations in their crystal structures while commanding the rocks to separate into individual particles. Then He adds the organic matter teeming with life to them for new soil to be birthed. He knows each microbe and macrobe by name, not just by kingdom, genus, or family, but as specific individuals with purpose, placement, and position.

And if He does that with soil particles, sparrows, and their songs and sonnets, how much more does He do the same for me here and now?

Each soil particle, molecule, atom, and proton looks to Creator God for direction. And in the doing, they show me how to worship – to burst with joy here in the place my Good God has put me. Not looking past the now in the hope of a not-yet I’ve dreamed of or tried to design. But here now in this field.

And here I can find joy if I but stop to listen, focus, delight, and wonder in the beauty of the soil underneath my feet bursting up in joy and joining in worship with the soil of my soul now dusted off, plowed up, and ready to receive the waters of renewal and restoration from my Creator God Who has a plan for good for the now and the not-yet.

Deuteronomy 8: 7-10 For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.      

Idea for bringing joy today:

If you’re able, take some to wander and wonder in the fields, woods, or a park nearby. Leave your electronics at home (or silenced in your pocket, purse, or backpack). Try and put your tongue and mind on silent as well. Start your wandering with a short prayer and see what Scripture comes to mind as you walk, sit, or meander along. Then, intentionally meditate on the verse(s) in your mind and be on the lookout for joy to erupt from your soul as it joins with the joy bursting up from the soil underneath your feet.

Reflection prayer:

Dear Father God,

Thank You that You have carefully made and placed every single piece of creation. Thank You that You are always sustaining and giving joy in all circumstances. Thank You that You reveal wonder and delight from the tiniest to the biggest pieces of Your creation. Please help me to stop and to delight in Your Presence and in the place You have put me today. Please satisfy me with a fresh faith to keep trusting You that all of Your ways are always best.

In the strong Name of Jesus,

Amen.

Written by and copyrighted to Beth Madison, Ph.D., 2021.

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12/23/21

Unto us

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podcast link below:

https://anchor.fm/beth-madison/episodes/Unto-us-e1c3bij

Isaiah 9:6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

Unto us

Those two words reach in deep for me.

Every. Single. Time.

Unto us

Not just the creative or compassionate of us, the imaginative or intelligent of us, the good-looking or gracious of us, the talented or trustworthy of us, or the well-spoken or worthy of us.

But us.

All of us.

Unto us

So that all of us trapped and dead in our sin might be rescued into eternal life (see John 3:16). So that all of us hopelessly stained in our sin might become the righteousness of God (see 2 Corinthians 5:21).

Unto us

For those of us who still wander and withhold, He is patient with us (see 2 Peter 3:9). For those of us who continue to reject and refuse, He is loving with us (see 1 John 4: 8).

None overlooked or out-of-reach. None exempt or excluded.

All of us.

Unto us

Those two words reach past what I try and hold up as important and show me real kingdom treasures of little children, widows, and orphans. Those two words realign my thoughts into the right thinking of great gain in contentment, trust, and patience.

Unto us

Thank You, Jesus, for coming unto us over 2000 years ago as a baby. Thank You, Jesus, for staying with us as our Messiah.

Every. Single. Day.

Written by and copyrighted to Beth Madison, Ph.D., 2021

11/28/21

Gratitude-seeds

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podcast link below:

https://anchor.fm/beth-madison/episodes/Gratitude-seeds-e1aukcp

Jeremiah 30:19. Thanksgiving will come out of them, a sound of rejoicing. I will multiply them, and they will not decrease; I will honor them, and they will not be insignificant.

When abundance abounds in our lives, we are thankful for the all is well. And there in the fullness, thanksgiving seems to easily come out of [us]. Similarly, a sound of rejoicing readily comes to our lips as a spill-over from our hearts full of joy, hope, and faith. Gratitude is a normal and natural fruit borne there in our almost-Eden lives.

But when our lives more closely resemble the grief, pain, and loss of a now-lost Eden, our cornucopias of praise might be empty or abandoned in a desperate search for relief, restoration, or renewal. And the seeds of gratitude from a long-past harvest of joy lie dry and brittle in the soil of a dusty soul.   

To an unpracticed eye, these seeds of gratitude can seem beyond the ability to germinate, much less to thrive. Yet to the gardener’s eye, these seeds are now ready to be planted, prayed over, and watched in expectation. For the winter of grief, pain, and loss has prepared the seeds to receive the rains of mercy and in turn, to bloom in a new variety of grace not seen before.

A bloom of grace full and rich in new colors of appreciation and awe of the blessings received long-ago. A bloom of grace ripe and fragrant in thankfulness and trust of the blessings poured out in the now and the not-yet. Moreover, these grace-blooms are distinctive in their ability to thrive in our now-lost Eden lives and to reclaim the soil of our souls as fertile for a new planting of joy and faith.

And this new planting will bear a harvest of hope far beyond imagination or expectation and produce another generation of gratitude-seeds and grace-blooms. Yet these blooms and their seeds are not just to nourish us for the now of an Eden-lost and the not-yet of the garden to come in Revelation. But these gratitude-seeds are also to help the many in our lives who are walking to and fro in their deserts of grief, pain, and loss searching for hope…

For only Jesus, our hope of glory, is the One Who can change grief to gratitude, pain to promise, and loss to love. He is the One for Whom we are thankful and in Whom we rejoice. He is the One Who cares for us and the soil of our souls. He is the One Who plants the gratitude-seeds and nourishes us with their grace-blooms in a harvest far beyond our biggest hopes or dreams.

Isaiah 51:3 For the Lord comforts Zion; he comforts all her waste places and makes her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song

Reflection prayer:

Dear Father God,

Thank You that You gave us the ultimate hope in the death, burial, and resurrection of Your Son, Jesus. Thank You that You keep giving us grace and mercy in our time of need in the amount we could never buy or earn. Thank You that You keep planting, cultivating, and nourishing grace in our lives for today and times to come. Please help me to be thankful in all things as You command in Scripture. Please help me to see beyond myself into others’ lives and to be willing to lay down my plans so that Jesus, our Hope of glory, might be made known to so many more people each and every day.

In the strong Name of Jesus,

Amen.

written by and copyrighted to Beth Madison, Ph.D., 2021.

11/14/21

Patient Advocacy Post 5 – Learning to say No

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podcast link here:

https://anchor.fm/beth-madison/episodes/Patient-Advocacy-Post-5–Learning-to-say-no-e1a912l

Joshua 22:5 But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you: to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to keep his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.

If you’re anything like me, even though No was one of the first words I learned as a child, No is one of the hardest words for me to say as an adult. I like to say Yes.

Yes to helping and hoping. Yes to knowing or needing. Yes to giving and going. Yes to being or becoming. Saying yes keeps me moving in the right direction and (often) makes me look good in the process.

Or at least that’s what I want to think…  

A few years ago, Lysa Terkeurst, author of The Best Yes, captured my attention with the following concept:  my saying Yes to something requires me to say No to something else. Thus, if I’m not saying Yes to what is best, then I’m saying No to it because I’ve said Yes to something else in its place. Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest also expresses this concept powerfully with “the good is the enemy of the best”.

This seemingly simple concept of saying No to what isn’t best opens the door to the potential for huge improvements in the involvements in my life. Because if I claim this concept, saying Yes could be the very thing that keeps me from moving in the right direction and making Jesus known in the process. Conversely, saying No could be the very thing that reorients my life to seeking Christ above all else and in all ways.

Because saying Yes to much today means saying No to a lot more tomorrow and days to come. Too many Yes’s today requires today’s, tomorrow’s, and next week’s energy allotment.

Or as my doctors tell me “no matter what medicine I give you, if you don’t rest, it won’t work”.

Ouch! (pun fully intended here)

Because ouch or groan or not having enough energy to even say anything is usually where I end up when I’ve said Yes too many times and No not often enough…

Saying Yes to the best and No to the not requires me to listen closely to my Good God Who knows all of the opportunities and all of me, including my physical body, far better than me. He provides the resources needed for the Yes’s He has intended for me. (not the Yes’s I have added to my to-do list today that isn’t on His to-do list for me today).

My Good God is speaking, but it’s my choice to listen and to hear and to say Yes to Him and No to everyone else, including and especially the me who wants to look good…

Because many times, saying No requires more faith than a Yes.

For many times, saying No can point more to eternity than Yes.

Matthew 6:33 Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be provided for you.

Here’s some important and practical things I’ve learned about saying No:

  1. True friends understand a No because they know what that No cost me to say.
  2. True friends keep asking me to participate, even if I’ve had to say No the last ______ times.
  3. True friends help me to say No when they see that No is the best choice for me.
  4. True friends say Yes when it is the best choice.
  5. True friends fulfill their Yes even and especially when it’s hard.
  6. True friends know the true cost of a Yes and value that price of a Yes.

Proverbs 17:17 A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity

Speaking of friends, stay tuned for Patient Advocacy Part 6 on a new way of being a friend. And while you’re here, please invite friends to join us here on the journey of learning to listen to Jesus for His good and perfect plan for our lives together.

If you’re interested in reading Patient Advocacy Parts 1-4, they’re here on the blog – you can find them through the home page (latest musings and archives section).

As always, thank you so much, dear ones, for your faithfulness in encouragement and support – each and every one of you are treasures to me!

written by and copyrighted to Beth Madison, Ph.D., 2021

09/27/21

Broken and spilled out

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podcast link below:

https://anchor.fm/beth-madison/episodes/Broken-and-spilled-out-e17v722

Revelation 2 :17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it

Cacti and other succulents are marvelous – both in their beauty and function. They are uniquely suited to grow in environments where few others can live, much less thrive. Their unique form of photosynthesis (called Crassulacean acid metabolism) is just one of the mechanisms designed for desert environments. Another mechanism for desert life is their amazing water storage capabilities. They can store so much water that they themselves can serve as water sources for others, be it animals or us. Furthermore, their anatomy and physiology doesn’t just allow them to store water but to act as water purifiers.

If you break open a cactus and distill water through its mucilage (a spongy-like gelatinous interior), you can effectively clean and purify that which was before-undrinkable water. (Note: this is for emergency purposes, not for everyday use.) The cactus itself does supply some usable water but is even more effective at cleaning other sources of water. And the meat of the cactus is not only a good food source but a food source that is also nutritious and hydrating for our cells.

Yet the cactus must be broken open and spilled out to use it as a water filter. The hidden manna of the cactus must be revealed for it to help others. I think the same principle applies to us as Christians as seen in John 12:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

God has made us to thrive in potentially harsh environments. We are those strangers in a foreign land (see Hebrews 11:1). He doesn’t make us to thrive for ourselves alone. He does this in and for us to help others to seek and to find our Christ, the Living Water (see John 7:37). Only He is the Living Water that brings eternal life to those who drink of Him and never thirst again (see John 4:11). Only He can nourish and hydrate dry and weary souls like none other (see Matthew 11:28-30).

Yet we must be broken open and spilled out of ourselves for us to be of any help to others. We are to be like the woman and her alabaster vase broken to release the perfume that filled the entire house in worship of her Jesus (see John 12:3). Whatever has put a shell around Christ alive in us must be removed (see Galatians 2:2). Even good goals, agendas, or intentions can interfere with our ultimate purpose of bringing Jesus to others. Only the mucilage, that hidden manna reflecting a new heaven and earth to come growing deep in our souls given totally to Christ will be of use to another. What is inside must come out for Christ to be poured into and made alive in another’s life for today and for eternity. 

Cacti aren’t those showy fast-growing plants that draw and keep someone’s attention and make them say “wow!”. Rather, they are solid, steady, slow-growing survivors that hold fast as the heat grows and the wind blows. And that’s what our God calls us to be – steadfast and always there pointing towards Christ. For there will be months, years, even lifetimes of hard circumstances that will try and suck every last drop of hope, courage, and joy from us. But we keep on, we are steadfast. We can persevere because Christ keeps on filling us from the inside-out (see James 1:25). He does this not just to nourish us, but to be of nourishment to others, when we allow Him to break us and pour us out for His glory and the good of His people.     

Reflection prayer:

Dear Father,

Thank You for Your goodness poured out on my life today that is both refreshing and renewing. Thank You for the hidden manna yet to come in the new heaven and new earth. Thank You that You nor Your promises will ever fail. Please help me to keep seeking You for truth and to speak it to others in Your love. Please keep cultivating the garden of my heart to bear that Matthew 13 harvest You desire.

In the strong Name of Jesus,

Amen.

Please share in the comments section some Bible verses or inspiring quotes which help you to thrive in hard circumstances in your life. We can all benefit from a good word. Thanks!

Written by and copyrighted to Beth Madison, Ph.D., 2021

09/13/21

Dusty

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Genesis 2:7 then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature

podcast link: https://anchor.fm/beth-madison/episodes/Dusty-e17aqcr

I learned today that the term, living creature, has much more to it in the original Hebrew than we see today in English. Such thoughts as that the Hebrews didn’t separate the physical, spiritual, mental, or emotional parts of a person into separate categories. All were one working as one in making up that man of dust formed from the ground. As a Christian and as a soil scientist, that opens up whole new worlds of thought that I’m just beginning to explore…please stay tuned for more to come on this in the future…please like or comment on this post if you’re interested in knowing more. With these thoughts rolling around in my head and heart, I’m now seeing even more beauty, richness, and wonder in the soil under my feet. Sharing even a taste of that beauty with you is the main purpose of this blog…thank you so much for joining me in this journey. Trips are always better taken with friends! So if you know anyone else who might want to travel with us, please invite them along…

And while we’re talking and walking, let’s go down the road a bit with these thoughts…

Since much of our culture in the Western world is disconnected from agronomy, many don’t have a direct link to soil like Adam did. Less than three percent of the U.S. population is actively involved in agriculture while an alarmingly large of amount of our school-aged children (and daresay, adults) have no idea of where their food comes from before it is on their plates. Keeping this in mind, even if we might not consciously realize it, we could be yearning to connect with that from which we came.

Therefore, I propose that we yearn for intimacy with that from which we were created, like Adam could’ve known after Eden. Could that yearning be a call to greater intimacy with creation as a means of worshipping our Creator? Could that yearning be a call to making daily deliberate choices to make space for knowing more of our Creator and His creation? Could that yearning be a call to more intentional creation care in our daily lives as an offering to our Creator? If so, when we begin to reconnect with the natural world in pursuit of following God in the daily choices of spiritual disciplines emphasizing intimacy with Him and His creation, we can find joy. This joy can then spur us onwards to greater affection for our God, His creation, and the beauty of both. And as we unearth this beauty, we move closer in communion with Christ and embracing our role as caretakers of all of God’s creation, including the world underneath our feet.

Psalm 103:14 For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.

Dear Father,

Thank You that You remember that I am dust. Thank You that You want me to remember this too, especially on days like today when my dust is bone-dry and in need of Your refreshing. Please keep reminding me that You do restore and rebuild from dust that which I thought was lost.

In the strong Name of Jesus,

Amen.

Again and always, thank you dear friends, for being here with me – I am grateful for each and every one of you!

written by and copyrighted to Beth Madison, Ph.D., 2021

8/24/21

Patient Advocacy Series – Part 2 – Receiving Help

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1 Peter 5:7 Cast all your cares on Him because He cares for you.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been a good little helper.

Only recently, I am learning to become a better receiver of help.

Through the example of my parents and grandparents, I learned early on the joy of helping people. Be it: taking them fresh vegetables from the garden in the summer; anonymous donations of money; a meal, bread, or other treat; arriving early and staying late at an event to help set up and clean up; giving someone a ride; writing a card or making a call for encouragement; inviting someone for tea or dessert or a meal; babysitting; praying and….

All of these helps were given with joy. Even more joy was produced in their receiving. For a gift isn’t truly given unless it is received. And when the gift is received with joy, more joy is produced. Not just more joy at the moment, but future joy in the increased looking for ways to help more people in the future.

The smallest of gifts can bring the biggest of joy when given and received with joy. For when a gift is given and received with joy, strength is given to both the giver and receiver –  for the joy of the Lord is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10). And this strength is the real gift that brings life, hope, courage, and more joy that prompts more giving, receiving, and strengthening.

God calls all of us to be a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:6-7). God calls all of us to be cheerful receivers (see John 3:16). Not just of His salvation (the best gift ever!) but of His helps to us through others – Galatians 6:2 Carry each other’s burdens and in this way fulfill the law of Christ. I’m learning that both giving and receiving are acts of trusting obedience, humility, and worship to my God, Giver of all good gifts (see Matthew 7:9).

I grew up hearing Galatians 6:2 taught many times. And I would give more in response to the teaching. Yet I don’t remember the receiver being a vital part of the lessons. Most likely, it was my own arrogance that kept me from hearing and learning about receiving – I like the role of giver as it puts me in the driver’s seat of a task. Or so I thought…

As a chronic illness patient for nearly ten years now, I still won’t ask for help – yup, that ongoing battle with arrogance in the lie that I still think “I’m ok, I got this” (when it reality, pain has me by the throat). But I have learned to receive help and with joy. For when I joyfully receive help, I am giving. I give the giver fresh new joy with my response. And together, as help-giver and receiver, we worship in joy the God who created, equipped, and called all of us to participating in these good works of giving and receiving as in Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which He prepared in advance for us to do.

With all that in mind, here’s a few practical tips I’ve learned about giving and receiving help as a chronic illness patient:

Practical plan for giving & receiving help – Patient Advocacy Tool 2

For the givers:

  1. If you think someone needs help, he probably does.

And most likely, he won’t ask for it but will be blessed if you initiate the giving (if your offer of help isn’t received with relief or joy, then your gift might be embarrassing and thus, not helpful. Then your best gift is to pray and pray some more for God knows the what, how, when, and where of his needs.)

  • Look for practical ways that you would like to be helped – be creative and intentional.

meals, rides, calls to the person or on behalf of the person (see Patient Advocacy Part 1 blog post on 8/12/21 for a plan on how to accomplish this), cards, gift cards, errands, cleaning up or cleaning out, organizing, prayer, small thoughtful gifts, child care, and listening (well-intentioned advice might not be helpful as it can bring more helpless feelings).

  • Make sure your gift is helpful.

ask about allergies, diet restrictions, schedules, and on the day of, if the receiver has enough energy to talk or answer the door or… Be willing to change what you might think is a good gift to one that will be a good gift.

  • Set up a specific time and date to give a pre-specified help.

A well-intentioned “just call me if I can help” can put a burden on the receiver if she feels like she might be imposing at a certain time or date and can make her question if she really needs your help at that time.

  • Follow through on your commitment to help.

Even if she might be doing better, she will be even better with another shot of joy your help brings to her or she might just have learned to hide the pain and really isn’t better.

  • Calendar a time to check in later to see if you can repeat the help or do another help.

She might not need help at that time, but please know it’s a gift in and of itself, to be remembered by another.

For the receivers:

  1. Tell yourself that when I receive help from others I am giving them the gift of joy.

Don’t listen to the voice of guilt in your head saying “I got this, if I just push myself harder”. You have opportunity to give and receive strength in the form of joy.

  • Be genuinely delighted, grateful, and welcoming in whatever gift is given.

It might not be a gift you’d have chosen but this is the gift God chose for you and thus, is a good gift.

  • Follow through with gratitude.

Be it a text or card or call – say thank you over and again (unless the giver is embarrassed in this and if so, then doubly thank God for the giver and gift).

  • Look for ways you can be a giver – be creative and intentional.

The gift of listening and prayer alongside a text, card, call, or a gift card or something sent to his house from Amazon are beautiful gifts in seeing others as Jesus does. There’s something you’re uniquely equipped and called to do for someone. God will give the insight and other resources to complete what He has intended for you to do.

  • Calendar your commitments to give and do them.

Be willing to be flexible (without guilt) in having to move a call, card, text, or other gift to the next day if you are unable to complete it the day you’ve scheduled for it.

And as always, whether we are givers or receivers, we are called to be as Jesus, the One Who gave His life that we might receive the joy and freedom of eternal life for today and every day.

2 Corinthians 5:21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God

In the comments section below, please share with us a great way you’ve been helped or that you’ve helped someone else. We can all be helped by the encouragement and inspiration of you!

Written by and copyrighted to Beth Madison, Ph.D., 2021.

8/12/21

Patient Advocacy – Standing up for yourself – Part 1

Photo by Kilian M on Pexels.com

Galatians 6:9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up

Patient Advocate Tool 1: Persistence

As I sit here writing, my real focus is listening for the phone to ring.

Again.

After multiple: dropped calls, voicemail messages left, pacing around the house, notes taken, marked out, and retaken, being forwarded to yet another person in the company, unanswered questions, questions answered wrongly, frustration mixed with prayers for help and … I’m ready to give up, eat ice cream and chips, and watch TV.

Again.

But I don’t because patient advocacy demands persistence.

Persistence in making those calls. Again. And again. And again.

Persistence in asking those questions to people and again, to their supervisors and again, to their supervisors who finally can answer them.

Persistence in maintaining my cool in making those calls, asking those questions, and repeating the answers that I’ve said at least ten times before.

Yet even me, who’s been called tenacious and bulldog many times before, is weary of being persistent. But I know well that persistence is one of the most essential tools in my toolbox for moving forward to health as a patient and patient advocate for others.

Thankfully, I’ve been blessed with some incredible doctors and their staff who truly care. But I am not their only patient. They want the best for me but there are so many of us and so little time. Thus, I am my best advocate when it comes to my care or care for those I stand up for as advocate.

I have to ask the questions. Until I understand the problem, the answer(s), and the plan for help.

I have to make the calls. Until I know the problem, the answer(s), and the plan for help.

I have to keep standing up. Until I know the problem is fixed, the answers fulfilled, and the plan is helping.

There is no other way through this.   

How appropriate (or ironic?) that I am called a patient since patience is my greatest problem. And my greatest need, especially when I don’t want to admit it.

Persistence demands patience with God, others, and yourself.

Patience in persistence requires grace.

“You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar”.  This is both true and hard simultaneously. Persistence requires my energy, time, and attention. Grace requires my reliance, trust, and faith. I can make those calls, ask those questions, and do them again and again with persistence. Yet grace lets me see my needs while seeing the needs of those with whom I’m talking. Yes, I’m not being ignored or dismissed. Yes, they have unanswered questions and need answers just like I do. Yes, they are weary of all of this, just like me. Yes, they could be having a rough day as I am. Yes, Jesus loves them as much as He does me. And most importantly, they need grace for today and hope for tomorrow, just like me.

So here I am, wearily sitting at my computer in my pajamas with my phone, still waiting for that call while praying for strength, patience, and grace. I need all of these now so I can be persistent yet kind in asking and answering and waiting again, and praying without ceasing (see Philippians 4:6-7).   

A plan for practicing persistence in patient advocacy*:

  1. If you have a question about a medicine, you have to make All. The. Calls.
    1. Calls to your doctor’s office to ask how this medicine is supposed to work. Thank the person with whom you spoke. If you have been kind during the call, you can also say “may God bless you today”.  
    1. Calls to your pharmacist to ask how to take the medicine or side effects and what to do about them. Thank the person with whom you spoke. If you have been kind during the call, you can also say “may God bless you today”.
  • If you have a question about getting approval for a medicine (or a procedure), you have to make All. The. Calls.
    • a. Pray for patience and grace. For yourself and for whom you will be speaking.
    • b. Calls to your pharmacist (or specialist or hospital) to see if the medicine (or procedure) has been ordered. Write down the name of the person you spoke with, the date and time, and any information (phone or fax numbers, case or reference numbers). Thank the person with whom you spoke. If you have been kind during the call, you can also say “may God bless you today”. Remember, you might be the only kind person they work with today.
    • c. Repeat step a.
    • d. Calls to your insurance company to see if the medicine (or procedure) has been approved. If it has been denied, ask why and how to fix this. Write down the name of the person you spoke with, the date and time, and any information you received from the call (other phone or fax numbers, advice, case or reference numbers). Thank the person with whom you spoke. If you have been kind during the call, you can also say “may God bless you today”. Remember, you might be the only kind person they work with today.
    • e. Repeat step a.
    • f. Calls to your doctor’s office to follow-up to see if they have done what is needed by the insurance company for approval. Write down the name of the person you spoke with, the date and time, and any information you received from the call (other phone or fax numbers, advice, case or reference numbers). Thank the person with whom you spoke. If you have been kind during the call, you can also say “may God bless you today”. Remember, you might be the only kind person they work with today.
    • g. Repeat steps a. through f. as many times as it takes for the medicine (or procedure) to be approved.
      • Always have ready your notes of information that you’ve taken from the previous calls. If possible, ask to speak to the person you spoke to earlier and begin your conversation with him or her by thanking them for helping you again.
      • Be prepared to go through all the same information of name, insurance number, phone number, etc. that you did earlier. Reference your earlier calls by date, time, and person you have listed in your notes. They don’t forget you on purpose; you are not their only patient.
      • And yes, take those deep breaths of prayer in and out during the phone calls too…

*Many times this plan will need to be repeated again later today or tomorrow until approval is granted. Be sure and bookend your times on the phone with self-care in whatever way(s) that brings rest for you and your soul.

Please be sure and post helpful tips below in the comment section you’ve learned as a patient advocating for yourself or others so we can all be helped to stand together. Thank you!

Matthew 11:28-30

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

written by and copyrighted to Beth Madison, Ph.D., 2021

7/27/21

7/27/21

Show-and-tell

John 4:28-30 Then the woman left her water pot beside the well and went back to the village and told everyone, “Come and meet a man who told me everything I ever did! Can this be the Messiah?”So the people came streaming from the village to see him. 

Did you love show-and-tell at school as a child as much as I did? Show-and-tell made Fridays even better! I relished hearing all the stories about all the things that my classmates would bring in to show all of us. And when it was show-and-tell for pets – that was the BEST!

In fifth-grade, I found a box turtle in the woods and brought him (or her?) home. Henry’s new home of an old rusty bucket was perfect in being portable, washable, and inescapable for a box turtle. He seemed to enjoy his diet of fresh-picked lettuce and cabbage garnished with dandelions and other miscellaneous weeds. Henry was well-loved by my neighborhood friends and me, in spite of his pungent and lasting aroma which intensified with his intake of afore-mentioned greens.

So when the day for show-and-tell pets arrived, Henry and I rode the bus to school with much excitement. Even though Henry’s official presentation to the class didn’t come until after lunch, he was already well-known by most of the class earlier in the day since all of the windows weren’t open in our classroom. Needless to say, as the day warmed and Henry ate more of his greens, he was moved to his own special place next to the window in the corner awaiting his presentation at show-and-tell. Henry slept through show-and-tell, even when poked with a stick or fingers amidst the clamor of ooh’s and aah’s from my classmates. 

Now, over forty years later, I still remember the excitement and delight of showing and telling my classmates about what I’d learned about turtles, both from Henry and from reading in books I checked out from the library about turtles. There was something so satisfying and thrilling about sharing what I’d found so others could share in the gift of discovery.

As a Christ-follower, I have opportunity every day to share the gift of discovery with friends. Every day can be show-and-tell about my Jesus and His amazing work in my life. I don’t have to wait for Sunday School, small group, or Bible study to tell all the stories about all the things that God has done and is doing in my life to all who will listen. I can tell friends and family on social media, texts, emails, or snail (or turtle-speed) mail. I can go to my neighbor’s at home or at work with a story and something warm and good-smelling from my kitchen, carried in nice new clean bucket.

Every day, I can do what the Samaritan woman at the well did after she met Jesus in John 4:28-30. I can invite others to come-and-see my Jesus as I show-and-tell them all He has done for me. Just as Henry was walking-around proof of the wonder that is turtles, those overlooked joys of baby cuddles, beautiful sunrises, blooming gardens, and birthday cupcakes in my life can be walking-around proof of the wonder that is God at work in lives today. God can change my neighbors’, colleagues’, students’, friends’, and family’s lives in ways that I can’t even imagine. Only He can remove the lasting and pungent aroma of sin from our lives and release all of us from living in an unescapable old rusty bucket of hopelessness. Only He can wash us and our lives to be whiter than snow and far cleaner than box-turtle shells.

And then after my friends come-and-see to Jesus for themselves, they can show-and-tell their neighbors’, colleagues’, students’, friends’, and family’s about how our Jesus has changed their lives forever. For with Jesus, any day and every day is always a great day for show-and-tell – especially when it’s a show-and-tell about the BEST Friday ever and what Jesus did for all of us at Calvary!

Psalm 46:8a Come, see the glorious things that our God does

Dear Father,

Thank You that You do glorious things all the time. Thank You that You did the most glorious thing ever in giving Jesus to die for my sin and bring me back to You. Please help me to look for and see the glorious in today. Please help me to show-and-tell others about You and Your great love for all of us. Please help me to keep coming to You to see more of this great love.

In the strong Name of Jesus,

Amen.

written by and copyrighted to Beth Madison, Ph.D., 2021

7/21/21

Subsurface Compaction - Qld | Fact Sheets | soilquality.org.au

Exodus 3:7 Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings

Hardened

podcast link:

https://anchor.fm/beth-madison/episodes/Hardened-e14pp54

The soil under our feet is most vulnerable to compaction when it is wet. Similarly, the soil of our souls is most vulnerable to damage when it is wet with suffering.

When soil particles are wet, they are more susceptible to being crushed together and staying that way (compaction). And when soil particles are crushed together, there is destruction of the manner in which they naturally associate, which is also known as aggregation. When aggregation is destroyed, there is also the loss of naturally occurring air spaces (pores) between the particles. Soil pores are essential for water and air movement in the soil environment. If the pores are lost from soil through its being repeatedly walked on, driven over, or plowed when wet and thus vulnerable, then soil compaction occurs. And the resulting compacted soil is essentially a concrete driveway where plants struggle to germinate and grow, much less thrive.

Soil compaction is most easily seen in hardened flattened areas across the surface of a field or in hardpan layers usually 6-12” below the soil surface at the outer edge of plow penetration depth. These hardpan layers are essentially a horizontal layer of concrete in a soil profile. Hardpan layers can cause all kinds of problems for crop production such as: perching of water and flooding of fields; inhibition of root penetration into the soil; nutrient and water uptake by plant roots; and a host of other problems, including promoting weed growth and soil and plant disease outbreaks.

When agricultural soils are mismanaged, hardpan layer development is often one of the easiest and quickest problems to occur from the poor choices made. Hardpan layers are also one of the most expensive issues in soil management because of monies lost from crop productivity or monies required for their elimination of the hardpan layers. 

            Similarly, the soil of people’s souls is most fragile when wet with grief, tears and loss of suffering. When people are suffering, they are most vulnerable to further pain from careless words or actions of others, even if the words or actions are well-intended. For example, if I am careless with my actions or words with someone in suffering, I can easily trample the soil of her soul and leave a hardened path of selfishness or apathy right through the middle of her life. Worse yet, if I or others continue stomping through her life without love, tenderness, or concern for her grief and suffering, the pathways of rejection become broader, deeper, and more susceptible to becoming that hardened soil described in the parable of the seed, soils, and sower in Matthew 13.

If I don’t choose to tenderly care for the suffering person in front of me like Jesus does, I can destroy the soil of her soul through self-centered careless responses or reactions, instead of the proper response of mourning with her (see Romans 12:15). Damage to his soul can easily and quickly happen, even if that is not my intention. Mismanagement of my words, actions, responses, and timing with someone whose life is vulnerable and wet with pain can easily cause hardpan layers of anger or rejection to develop in her soul. These layers can then harden her soul against the God I claim to represent with a selfish, false, or disordered love (see Matthew 22:36-40).

 Preventing compaction of the soil under our feet and in our souls is much more effective than trying to fix it. Thus, it is my opportunity to help my friend in her suffering by extending God’s tender mercies and compassion to her soul flooded by pain and loss (see Lamentations 3:22-23). I also have opportunity to extend patience, kindness, and grace in many ways to my hurting friend, including the choice of just being there with her without words, expectations, or agendas. All too often, my words aren’t helpful to my friend in her suffering, but my presence in prayer, simple works, and quiet can be very precious (see Job chapters 3-26 vs. Job 2:11-13).

Yet, thankfully, just as the compacted ground under our feet can be softened and returned to health with careful management, resource allocation, and time, God’s grace can return trampled souls to being good ground rich with life and hope in His perfect timing. This soil scientist is evidence that God can and God does restore good ground in a soul that seemed lost forever from being trampled into dust by my and others’ sins, self-absorption, and carelessness during times of suffering.

Dear Father God,

Thank You that You can and do restore damaged soils and souls. Thank You that nothing is stronger than Your love nor more persistent in grace and in healing. Please help me to always come to You for restoration and to bring others with me. Please help me to be kind and caring to all in my world, especially those suffering pain and loss.

In the strong Name of Jesus,

Amen.

Psalm 23: 1-3 The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

7/7/21

Revisiting even-if

Daniel 3:17. the God whom we serve is able to save us from the blazing furnace and from your power, then he will. But even if he doesn’t, Your Majesty may be sure that we will not worship your god, and we will not bow down to the gold statue that you have set up.

podcast link:

https://anchor.fm/beth-madison/episodes/Revisiting-even-if-e142jga

Supposed to work and actually working are often not the same thing, unfortunately. Most any farmer or gardener knows well that he can only influence soil fertility, disease and insect or animal pressure, and seed quality without any hope of even trying to influence, much less control, the weather. If even one of these variables is awry, crop productivity and thus, harvest declines. Worse yet, in many instances, even one less-than-ideal variable can negatively influence one or more other variables and compound the decline in both quality and quantity of crop productivity. And when your entire paycheck is dependent on what comes from your garden, field, orchard, barn, stable, or vineyard, every dollar or plateful not gained at harvest is a dollar or plateful not available to feed your family, your animals, or yourself. Talk about trusting God as your only source of hope for this life and the next…

Habakkuk captured this concept in Habakkuk 3:17-18  Even if the fig tree does not bloom and the vines have no grapes, even if the olive tree fails to produce and the fields yield no food, even if the sheep pen is empty and the stalls have no cattle—even then, I will be happy with the Lord. I will truly find joy in God, who saves me. The “even if” worst case scenario of empty fields, barns, and vineyards was a very real possibility with the Israelites then, and for many today, be they farmers or not. Empty barns, fields, trees, vines, bank accounts, pantries, wombs, other side of the bed, days free from pain, email or voicemail boxes, or hours can rob one from a harvest of joy meant to satisfy her soul. For joy cannot be duplicated or replaced, it can only be planted, cultivated, and harvested from the fertile soil of an “even if” faith.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Daniel 3:17 also had this “even if” faith when confronted by Nebuchadnezzar –  the God whom we serve is able to save us from the blazing furnace and from your power, then he will. But even if he doesn’t, Your Majesty may be sure that we will not worship your god, and we will not bow down to the gold statue that you have set up. That’s the kind of faith this soil scientist yearns for – a solid and unyielding foundational faith, that remains fixed and firm, “even if” in the face of certain death from famine or furnace. As a Christ-follower, I’m supposed to have this kind of faith but in reality, all too many times fear wins in the all-consuming mindset of the “what-if’s”. “What-if” I lose my husband, children, job, home, freedom, or _______ and am left empty? Or “What-if” this doesn’t happen and my dreams, hopes, or desires are left empty?

“What-if’s” worries demand my attention and sour my stomach in stress while “even-if” acceptance gives release, rest, and hope. The constant exchanges of “what-if” doubts for “even-if” trust cultivates that deep-rooted faith of John 15. Only a deep-rooted “even-if” faith holds fixed and firm against stormy fears of failing finances, health, relationships, freedoms, or whatever the internet, TV, or email is hurling at me at the moment. The constant onslaught of fear constantly tries to overshadow my seeds of faith and decrease their potential harvest of joy and courage. I wish I was a Proverbs 31 woman who laughs at the time to come because she knows deep in the soil of her soul that only God is and will always be enough for whatever the future holds (see Proverbs 31:25b). Her life is set aside unto Christ.

Deep-rooted “even-if” faith grows strong in the good ground of a life set aside unto Christ. For the life set aside unto Christ is the life that is continually being restored by resting in His provision, peace, and power (see Matthew 11:28-30 and Nehemiah 8:10). The principle of finding rest and restoration in God’s provision can also be seen in soil science. Set-aside land or fallow ground was supposed to be a regular farming practice in Jesus’ day for one year in every seven years as commanded in Scripture (see Exodus 23:11). For when ground is allowed to fallow, it has a Sabbath rest for the natural renewal and restoration of depleted organic matter, water, earthworm and microbial populations, soil particle aggregation, and nutrients. Similarly, poor people in Israel would also be restored in food and hope as they alone could harvest that grain or fruit which sprang up from the fallow ground as prompted by Creator God.

Only Jesus can give this weary soil scientist a true set-aside rest and restoration for only His yoke is easy and His burden light. And there in the fallow of resting, only Jesus can cultivate the soil of my soul into being good ground for a rich harvest of an “even-if” faith. Only Jesus can plant seeds of an “even-if” faith deep into this soil He has prepared for this time for His purpose and plan.

Thank You, Jesus, for calling me to come to You. I’m exhausted of drowning in the “what-if’s” and yearn for the wide-open spaces of Your “even-if” abundance. Please help me to stay here and rest in the fullness of You. Please satisfy me this morning with Your love. 

If you’re interested in reading more on trading “what-if” for “even-if” thinking, go to: https://wordpress.com/post/soulscientistblog.com/393

6/25/21

Just along for the ride

1,624 Winding Country Roads Photos - Free & Royalty-Free Stock Photos from  Dreamstime

Sitting on the back of my husband, Andy’s motorcycle as he drives through the countryside on a beautiful day is one of my all-time favorite activities. It’s almost as good as riding in the back of an old farm truck, except that I can’t be eating something just-picked and juicy on the ride because the motorcycle helmet gets in the way.

My husband has the job of paying attention to the road and weather conditions as he’s simultaneously driving and bird-watching. I have the job of paying attention to not falling off the motorcycle while watching the trees, sky, wildflowers, and livestock. In other words, I’m just along for the ride.

I don’t have to worry with directions, traffic (not that there is much more than the occasional combine or oversized sprayer rig), speed, engine maintenance, time, or gas levels. Instead, I have the pure joy of reveling in the wind, landscape, and husband made glorious by freedom from cellphones, computers, and chores staring me in the face.

So last week while on such a ride in the country with Andy, I had this question which has haunted me ever since – “shouldn’t my life with Christ be like this motorcycle ride?”

(And before you think that more than my hair got tangled by the wind last week, please bear with me while I unpack this thought a bit.)

If I am living in full obedience as a Christ-follower, then I am tucked close in behind Him just along for the ride. He decides the directions, the roads, the speed, the destination, the landscapes, and the length of the ride. He is the One Who is in control with a plan, a vision, and a purpose for good (see Jeremiah 29:11). And when I am in the back paying attention to the beauty Christ has placed all along the days, I revel in the pure joy of discovering fresh courage, hope, and friends made glorious by freedom from comparison, conviction, and consequences staring me in the face. My job is just to hang on and delight in the now without worrying about what’s around the bend or the scarf that blew off my neck a few miles back.      

Andy delights in driving by streams and ponds because the both of us enjoy the beauty of the water. Similarly, I think Christ delights to place answered prayers in my life so that both of us can enjoy the beauty of His power at work.

Andy listens to when I need to stop and rest. I don’t have to scream, just touch his shoulders as he knows what that means. Similarly, Christ listens to when I need rest and care. I don’t have to scream; He feels the tears, the unspoken deep of my heart and what that means, even when I don’t understand it myself.

Andy always brings me home at the end of the ride. I don’t always know how we got there, much less how to get back to where we went. Similarly, Christ will bring me home at the end of the ride. I don’t know the what, when, where, or how of the ride He has planned for my life. And I don’t have to – that’s not my job. My job is to trust, enjoy the view, hold on, and pay attention to not falling off, especially when the road is curvy or bumpy.

Christ is faithful. Christ is here. Christ will bring me home.

Isaiah 58:14. then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.” For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

Written by and copyrighted to Beth Madison, Ph.D., 2021

6/2/21

Five smooth stones

podcast link for “Five smooth stones”

https://anchor.fm/beth-madison/episodes/Five-smooth-stones-e121ie6

1 Samuel 17:40 He took his shepherd’s stick and then picked up five smooth stones from the stream and put them in his bag. With his sling ready, he went out to meet Goliath.

Even as a child, I loved to find smooth stones for skipping across a stream or carrying in my pocket to rub on with my fingers. And now, I still love the look and feel of smooth stones in their solidness and placement in the nature, art, or architecture around me. Their smoothness seems to help smooth out those tangled emotions and thoughts trying to wash me away in their turbulence.

Most smooth stones in nature didn’t start out that way. Their smoothness is a result of many years of wearing away by water or wind on larger rocks already cracked from the pressure of weather, weight, or gravity. The smooth stones have been hewn out and polished by an external power not of their making or control. Yet if the composition of these stones had been any less strong and enduring, they would have quickly eroded into smaller and smaller particles which eventually disappeared altogether. Only stones made of strong stuff become smooth stones. Their smoothness indicates their innate strength and endurance over time.

I wonder if David knew this geologic principle when he was choosing five smooth stones to use in his confrontation with Goliath (1 Samuel 17:40). I wonder if the act of finding these stones and feeling the inherent strength of these stones in David’s hands helped him trust his strong God even more. Some commentators say that David chose five stones, not because he doubted God’s power for his aim with Goliath, but because Goliath had four brothers. David’s choices reflected his belief in his God. 

Many others in Scripture exhibited strong belief in their strong God, including Abraham, Noah, Joshua, Caleb, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, Esther, Ruth, Joseph, Mary, Stephen, Paul, and countless unnamed others in Hebrews 11. Scripture highlights their faith as strong, not the people themselves. Even as a child, I loved to hear of their brave and courageous deeds resulting from their deep and enduring faith. And now, the stories of their lives display an even greater solidness and placement in the past, present, and future of the world around me. Such stories of bravery help to smooth out my tangled emotions and thoughts into a more solid and lasting faith.

The composition of belief for those in Scripture with strong faith was that God was indeed Who He said He was – holy, strong, present, able, faithful, just, merciful, gracious, provider, sustainer, and countless other qualities that exist without change over time. Yet if the composition of their belief in their strong God had been any less strong or persevering, their bravery would have quickly eroded away into smaller and small particles in the face of trial, and eventually disappeared into the disobedience of not trusting God. Their strong God gave them a strong faith. God can and will do the same for us today, especially when we are weak (see 2 Corinthians 12:9).

Only people believing in a strong God can endure the storms of life that try to wash or blow them away over time. Their faith gives them a smooth bravery that can only be explained by their rightly believing that their God is Who He says He is and they are whom God says them to be as in 1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen people. You are the King’s priests. You are a holy nation. You are a nation that belongs to God alone. God chose you to tell about the wonderful things he has done. He called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

Brave people rely on God. Brave people trust in God. Brave people know their God. Brave people endure through God.

Brave people know that:

BELIEVING.

RIGHTLY.

ACTIVATES.

VALIANT.

ENDURANCE. 

Bravery can’t be duplicated; it can only be hewn out and polished by the power of our strong God at work in the lives of those 1 Peter 2:5 living stone people who trust Him with and from every molecule of their existence. Living stone people know that God has a purpose for good for them in this moment and those moments to come as in Jeremiah 29:11. Living stone people embrace being used as stones for the building of His kingdom to come as in Matthew 6:33. Living stone people trust God to give the strength to overcome this day and the next in expectation for the endurance to hold fast in faith and thus, to receive a white stone and a new name as promised in Revelation 2:17.

Bravery is seen in those: single mothers and fathers dependent on Him for feeding them and their children today; workers reliant on Him for control of their emotions and dreams in defeating and depressing work environments or marriages; chronic illness patients trusting Him for enough strength to keep moving forward in hope today and again, tomorrow; missionaries, pastors, and laypeople seeking Him for light in ever-darkening cities and countries; people hoping in Him for a full life without a spouse or children; parents clinging to Him while praying for rebellious children; and unnamed countless others just trying to hold fast to Him in the midst of wave after wave of trials threatening to wash them and their faith away.

Yet, those waves and wind that don’t wash or blow us away serve to smooth off more disbelief in anything other than our strong God and expose true faith in their wake. And this true faith, in time, unearths a buried bravery that thrives, endures, and inspires others to open their hearts in belief to our strong God. Only our strong God can give a faith strong enough to choose five smooth stones and to go out to meet our Goliaths today.      

Joshua 1:9This is My command: be strong and courageous. Never be afraid or discouraged because I am your God, the Eternal One, and I will remain with you wherever you go.

1 John 2:24 So keep on believing what you have been taught from the beginning. If you do, you will always be in close fellowship with both God the Father and his Son.

Dear Father God,

Thank You that You never change. Thank You that You are Who You say You are for now and for forever. Thank You that You alone give the faith to move mountains and to pick up five smooth stones You made from mountains of the past. Thank You that You can and will make me brave. Please help me to trust You with a strong faith. Please help me to endure and to overcome in expectation of Your plans and Your promises for today and for tomorrow and for forever. I want to run forward in faith against today’s Goliaths for only You are greater than any and all of them!

In the strong Name of Jesus,

Amen.

Written by and copyrighted to Beth Madison, Ph.D., 2021

4/28/21

A symphony in and of the woods

podcast link for “a symphony in and of the woods”:

https://anchor.fm/dashboard/episode/evrk5u

Luke 19:40. Jesus said to them, “I tell you that if these did not speak, the very stones would call out.”

The other morning I had the privilege of listening to and participating in the eleven-part symphony of the woods in the amphitheater of the woods themselves. The woods were full of praise for their Creator which in turn helped make my heart, mind, hands, and feet sing with them.

The croakers and spring peepers sang out loud and deep as these frogs chorused from the pond while the birds divided into their harmony as squawkers, singers, and chirpers in the trees, bushes, and air. On the ground with me, the snorters (deer) and the fussers (squirrels) belted out their best while the creakers (trees) swayed to and fro in their caroling with the direction of the wind. Not to be left out or overlooked, the bubblers and splashers of the waters of the stream and pond reminded me of the joyous melody swirling all around me as I, the cruncher, kept rhythm step by step along the way.

On this day the stones didn’t have to cry out because everyone else was quick to praise. My mouth kept silent with the stones because I wanted to hear my heart sing along with everyone in our individual voices, places, and tasks. All of us were busy with the work of eternity –  that singular task of praising the One who created us from nothing and called us to Himself in this moment of grace.

Yet this moment stands fixed in my mind and heart as a challenge. A challenge not just to seek out more such times with my Creator and His created in the symphony of the woods but to more often keep my mouth silent and let my heart sing in unbroken praise. For when my heart sings its silent song, the only One Who can hear this song is the Only One deserving of the praise in it.

Granted, there are many times my mouth needs to proclaim a song of truth for my Christ from my heart. But in these times, I struggle with the wanting to receive attention for the beauty of the words or ideas contained in the song as I forget I am only an instrument, not the Author.

And again, my Christ graciously, gently reminds me even there in the forgetting, He is always listening for and to the song of my heart and the song of the woods ringing out in an unmistakable chorus of His glory – Psalm 65:9-13 He waters the earth to make it fertile. The rivers of God will not run dry! He prepares the earth for his people and sends them rich harvests of grain. He waters the furrows with abundant rain. Showers soften the earth, melting the clods and causing seeds to sprout across the land. Then he crowns it all with green, lush pastures in the wilderness; hillsides blossom with joy. The pastures are filled with flocks of sheep, and the valleys are carpeted with grain. All the world shouts with joy and sings.

4/14/21

Humus and Humility

podcast link for “Humus and humility”

https://anchor.fm/dashboard/episode/eutfq3

Humus and humility

While reading “Suffering and God” by Alistair McGrath (an excellent book!) for another research project, I was both surprised and fascinated to learn that the root word for humility is humus. Needless to say, this soil scientist really perked up to hear what Dr. McGrath had to say next! And a little later while ruminating on this idea (because that’s what farm girls do), I thought of a quote something like humility is the root of all virtues while pride is the root of all evil and these thoughts came together in a brand new picture of the O horizon in a soil profile as seen in relation to Philippians 2:5-8 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient even to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Before digging deeper into these verses, let’s look at a few definitions from soil science. A soil profile is a vertical cross-section of soil from the top of the soil (or what we commonly call the ground) in a cut reaching down to the parent material from which the soil formed. This cross-section or soil profile is comprised of multiple soil horizons. These horizons are horizontal layers parallel to the soil’s surface which are distinctive from each other by physical differences in soil color, texture, structure, composition and other classifiers. Normally, the uppermost soil horizon in a soil profile is the O (organic) horizon also called the humus layer. Humus is Latin for earth or soil.1

The absence of an O horizon in a soil profile greatly affects the current and future productivity of a soil since the humus layer is composed of decaying organic matter, be it plant, animal, or microbial in origin, in association with the inorganic soil particles (sand, silt, clay) that have arisen from the parent material(s) at the site. Because of the organic matter, the humus layer is usually very dark in color, soft in texture, and fertile in nutrient supply and other characteristics promoting crop productivity, even though it’s normally only 3-6% of a soil’s total composition. This 3-6% can make all the difference in whether a soil can provide well for the needs of a crop in nearly every variable impacting overall crop growth and productivity.

The humus layer is also distinctive in being the only soil horizon we, as humans, can directly influence for current and future productivity via organic matter additions like manure and compost. Such inputs increase the organic matter levels in the humus layer and thus improve nutrient and water availability, drainage, rooting potentials, pH, buffering, and so many other crucial variables in crop growth. 

Having said all that, here’s the picture I’m seeing in this relationship of humility, Scripture, the O horizon, and the life of a Christian. Just as a soil with a deep O layer can support many different purposes, be it crop production, building and road foundations, water filtration, and/or wildlife habitat, a life rich in humility is fertile ground for whatever task or purpose God deems best. In contrast, without humility, the life of a Christian is poor soil for the growth of the fruit of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:22-23) much less for what is necessary for the 100-fold harvest of Matthew 13 as discussed previously. The absence of humility makes hearts hard from pride, dry in love, and weak in lacking the strength of joy – not the kind of soil receptive to seed germination and growth (see Matthew 13).

One of the most intriguing ideas about humus (or soil organic matter) is that the smaller and most indistinguishable portion of humus is the most active and usually the most influential on soil properties. As the soil organic matter decays into smaller and smaller pieces and looks less and less like the formerly living plant, animal, or microbe that it once was, the greater the amount of surface area it has for nutrient exchange, pH buffering, and water storage for crop productivity. And thus, the more important it is to the life-giving potential of a soil. This concept reminds me of John 3:30 He must increase but I must decrease. Just like the most active, most useful, most effective portion of soil organic matter is that which is the most decayed (or decreased), so am I as a Christian. The less that is present of me, the more that is seen of Christ which is as it should be in the life of a vibrant Christian. In the decreasing of me, that is, in the death of pride and the decay of discontent, humility grows and displays Jesus alive in me (see Colossians 3:12). And then true life can flourish as with Matthew 23:12 Whomever exalts himself will be humbled, but whomever humbles himself will be exalted as seen in the modelling of Christ’s example to us in the earlier reference from Philippians 2.

Just as Adam was formed from the dust of the earth (Genesis 2:7) and named in reflection of soil (adamah, Hebrew for “fertile earth”), the presence (or absence) of humility reflects my relationship to Christ (the second Adam as in Romans 5:14 and 1 Corinthians 15:22).2 My heart’s soil is a “fertile earth” only if it is rich in humility which makes me receptive and obedient to the work of Christ in my life for His glory and the good of His people. A good soil is rich in humus just as a good heart is abundant in humility. Hearts rich in humility respond to the leading of Christ as the adamah seen in Hebrews 6:7 Land that drinks in the rain often falling upon it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God and Mark 4:20 Others like seed sown on good soil, receive the word, accept it, and produce a crop – some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.

I want to be a good soil scientist who yearns for fertile soil in my yard and most importantly, in my heart and life. I want a humble heart that will truly be adamah for bearing that one hundred-fold harvest sown by the Master. And in that harvest, may more people know the Gospel and likewise bear fruit in their own lives so even more can know the truth of Psalm 34:8 Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.

1. Online Etymology Dictionary

2. Davis, Ellen. 2005. Ecology and Theology. Duke University.

Written by and copyrighted to Beth Madison, Ph.D., 2021

“Humus and Humility” is also currently published in the American Scientific Affiliation’s God and Nature Spring 2021 Publication – great publication with some wonderful essays by some neat people – check it out at the link below

https://godandnature.asa3.org/

4/8/21

Broken but Jesus (still) loves me

click on this link to hear the podcast for this post:

https://anchor.fm/dashboard/episode/eug4mn

Broken but Jesus (still) loves me

Romans 8:38-39 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord

My mother made this little “Jesus loves you” cross-stitch picture for me when I was very little myself. In fact, I don’t remember a time of it not being in my childhood bedroom, my dorm rooms at college and grad school, or any of my homes or offices. This picture represents the most basic and foundational truth my parents taught me – Jesus loves me, all the time, in all the places, and in all the ways, no matter what.

This little picture has always been very special to me because of who made it long ago (my mother) and Who means it every single day (Jesus). Yet recently after I accidentally knocked it off of my desk, broke the glass, chipped the frame, and then, “repaired’ it with a rubber band, this picture took on a whole new meaning for me…

Jesus does love me when I’m broken and my life feels like it’s held together by nothing more than a rubber band recycled from grocery vegetables. Jesus does love me when I’m wearing the scars of having fallen and trying to keep everything together on my own. Jesus does love me when I’m showing signs of rust, age, and decay that tries to make me believe I’m of no use.

Now, I hope to think that my brokenness draws more attention to Jesus’ love just like the rubber band draws the eye to take a closer look at the words it is literally holding together. And the broken glass and chipped frame makes me stop, take a closer look at what is behind the glass, and reflect that Jesus (does still) love you. There is no bigger, deeper, stronger, finer truth than this – Jesus loves me – broken glass, rubber band, rusty frame, and all.

written by and copyrighted to Beth Madison, Ph.D., 2021

3/31/21

Souls, soils, and me

Soil and grass under tree. Environment concept with a grassy area and the words soil to reveal the ground beneath the tree royalty free stock image

click on link below to listen to the podcast:

https://anchor.fm/beth-madison/episodes/Souls–soils–and-me-etvu5p

Matthew 13:44 ESV The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field. One day a man found the treasure, and then he hid it in the field again. The man was very happy to find the treasure. He went and sold everything that he owned to buy that field

            When I started teaching, I had such a strong Appalachian accent that when I would say “soil”, it could easily be mistaken for “soul” or vice versa, even to my own ears. (Hence, it was only appropriate that I would title my blog, “soul scientist”). Thus, to be understood by my colleagues and students, I had to slow down and purposely say soil or soul depending on which one I wanted to use at the moment. This deliberate action to distinguish between the two words also made me slow down and think closer about what I wanted to say. The need for slowing in thought and in speech then was a very good thing and still is now over twenty years later.

            As a soil scientist, I use the word “soil” a lot nearly every single day. As a Christian, I need to be using the word “soul” a lot more often every single day. And I need to be paying even more careful attention to the condition of my soul than the condition of the soil samples for my research or classes. I need to slow down my thoughts, and especially my words, to focus on Christ, the One who has a beautiful plan for today for both the soil and the souls of my colleagues, students, and me. For when I slow in both thoughts and words, then I can hear Christ speaking to the soil of my soul in the truth that will forever change me and my thoughts, words, and actions in good and beautiful ways.  

I’ve heard many lessons and sermons on the parable of the seed, sower, and soils in Matthew 13:1-9. These sermons and lessons have expounded on the importance of having our souls to be good soil for our Savior and Sower. Some of these sermons/lessons even included some information about the soil itself which made this soil scientist very happy!

These lessons and sermons made me want to dig for more wisdom and instruction in Scripture, both as a soil scientist and as a Christian. In return, God has been so gracious with the gift of the joy of finding hidden treasures of such truths in fields other than in Matthew 13. (Yes, I absolutely did go there with the pun about Matthew 13:44 ESV The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field. One day a man found the treasure, and then he hid it in the field again. The man was very happy to find the treasure. He went and sold everything that he owned to buy that field).

So many times I am writing about the interactions of soil science and Jesus, my soul’s desire, I am convicted about the poor condition of the soil of my heart and the need for repentance of pride. And this conviction reminds me of what I usually tell my students before we venture out on a soils field trip, “it’s not a good soils field trip if you come home with clean hands and clothes”. Similarly, if I leave the reading of Scripture before seeing, being convicted by, and changing in response to the sacrifice of Christ in covering the dirt of my sins with His blood, then I haven’t really listened, much less learned in the doing. Jesus desires that my soul and life be good soil for the work of the Master for His glory and the good of His people. Thus, I am praying for change in the soil of my soul for the 100-fold harvest of the Word to be produced in my life as seen in Matthew 13:9. Only Christ can bring the change. Only Christ can bring the harvest.

 

 

 

3/24/21

click on link below to listen to this podcast episode

ttps://anchor.fm/beth-madison/episodes/Not-what-Id-planned-ete6a9

My flesh and my heart may fail but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. – Psalm 73:26

Not what I’d planned

Reflection

Chronic illness is not what I’d planned. Chronic illness is not the path I would’ve chosen. Yet chronic illness is the laboratory where I’m learning to be a better wife, mother, daughter, professor, and friend.

Chronic illness occurs in nearly 45% of the U.S. population and causes 7 out of every 10 deaths annually in the U.S. Such conditions include diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and rheumatoid arthritis. These conditions can range from being a nuisance to debilitating in their severity. Wherever someone falls on the severity spectrum, chronic illness is life-changing.

For me, the life changes in the last 9 years since diagnosis have been key to changing my choices for life every day – be it: using a cane, walker, or electric scooter versus running 7 miles a day; teaching online versus all-day field trips in the woods; regimented pills, diet, and injections versus the occasional multivitamin; etc.

But the greatest life changes for me have been attitude changes (and hopefully these changes in my life are as visible to others as the cane, walker, and scooter).

1. Trusting God

“Tenacious”; “highly determined”; “fiercely independent” – all of these and more have been used to describe me in the past. I used to regard these statements as great compliments but now I see them for what they were – trusting myself and my abilities rather than trusting God. Life now requires dependence on God to provide another gram of strength to make it through the next task without complaining or giving in to the pain. Every hour centers on trusting Him that this next task won’t be impossible or if it is, that He will bring someone along to help.

2. Accepting help

“Thanks but I’ve got it” used to be my catch-phrase because really, I could do it on my own. Yet “thank you so much for your help” has become so sweet to me every single day because when someone helps me, they give me the gift of caring – be it: opening a door; carrying my bag; bringing a meal for my family; running an errand; praying for us; etc. And more importantly, my accepting of help allows another person to receive the gift of the joy of worshipping God through loving people in serving them.

3. Being grateful

“Move along people, we’ve got a long ways to go” was what my students and/or family used to hear from me when we were out hiking before 4 years ago. I had my sights set on the end game of getting there, teaching a lesson, and getting home before sunset. But now, a day looks very different in perspective for me. I find delight in the many little things I once overlooked – a view outside my bedroom window of the wind in the trees; sending a note or text to a friend for whom I’m praying; the lyrics of a song on the radio; etc. Meditating and praying a single verse of Scripture has become so very precious and rich – especially the songs of David in the Psalms (as with Psalm 73:26 listed above). Yes, much has been lost, but the realization that so much more has been given – this is a grace which floods my life daily in the incredible ways of finding beauty in the small things.

4. Giving grace

“Where do I sign up?” used to be the normal for me in always being quick to volunteer for some project or activity. I just couldn’t understand why others would refrain from the task at hand and judged them for their holding back. But now, I see things differently and hopefully, extend grace to their potential invisible illnesses of depression, difficult finances, family issues, past rejection or abuse, etc. So many of us carry around burdens which are not readily apparent but are so demanding that we cannot stand up under them outside of the grace given to us by others in the love of Christ. Yes, I still am “hard-nosed” on my syllabi at the beginning of the semester but far more grace is available from me (both to students and colleagues) throughout the term than ever before. And many times, grace is manifested in the giving of my time and energy through calls, visits, emails, and texts which can be exactly what that person needed at that time to give him the strength to give grace to another in his life.

When I encounter people I don’t see every day, they usually ask me “are you still teaching?” and seem surprised when I say “yes.” And with every “yes,” I am grateful. Very grateful. Grateful not just to be a professor in a university setting but a student learning trust, acceptance, gratitude, and grace in the often hard lessons of daily struggles. I surely don’t want to miss any lessons by not showing up for class but I especially don’t want to fail the lessons God has for me to learn. He is the patient faithful teacher who is “the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Questions

What areas of your life are not going as planned right now? How is God making His presence known to you in those areas?

Prayer

Dear Father,

Thank You for how You never leave or turn away (even when I do). Thank You for Your strong love which holds me together and together with You when everything around me is coming apart. Thank You that You are the strong Rock to whom I can run when I am afraid. Thank You that nothing happens to me apart from Your plan for what is good. Thank You for always providing what is needed at the right time.

I confess my fears and lack of trust. Father, please forgive me and help me to be brave. And Father, please help me now to keep going on to the next task. Please help me  to choose what is best for Your love to be shown to those around me – please place a guard on my heart and my tongue so that I might honor You in all things. I want to trust You for the strength and the courage and the help for now and for later today.

In Jesus’ Name, Amen

written by and copyrighted to Beth Madison, Ph.D., 2016, and updated version, 2021

originally posted by Scholar’s Compass by InterVarsity Press, Emerging Scholar’s Network on 3/4/16

Not What I’d Planned (Scholar’s Compass)

If the videos don’t automatically open for you here, please copy and paste the URL address into your browser and watch from there – my apologies for your inconvenience…

I will be posting more of these series in days to come, so please sign up to receive emails for new postings so you can see more of these…thanks

Humus and humility” (Beth Madison, Ph.D., 2021) 02/12/21

https://unionu.instructuremedia.com/embed/15826734-22d9-438e-85fc-761900b35e11

“Nevertheless: Finding hope in suffering” Part 1 (Beth Madison, Ph.D., 2021) 02/12/21

https://unionu.instructuremedia.com/embed/e297425e-7a2b-414d-8a9f-b71600518cd6

“Nevertheless: Finding hope in suffering” Part 2 (Beth Madison, Ph.D., 2021) 02/18/21

https://unionu.instructuremedia.com/embed/be8261f9-4266-426b-b5a4-1ae32b3e8d90

“Nevertheless: Finding hope in suffering” Part 3 (Beth Madison, Ph.D., 2021) 03/15/21

https://unionu.instructuremedia.com/embed/41c13d93-a75c-47a2-98f5-6a573e6243f8

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