Make Like A Bee: Extract Some Good

Bee clinging to flower

Can what is effortful be graceful, too?

I would have thought them opposites. But after gazing at this bumblebee, I wonder.

Because exertion and elegance were together on display. And I think they often stay together in the way of faith.

Exertion And Elegance

A Taming Grace is the working title of “that meekness book” that’s still writing me. And I know that these two—exertion and elegance—go together in meekness, even as they did in the delicate, determined precise dance of the bumblebee.

Meekness is a fruit of grace and a work of faith. It is the freeing power that helps us to choose what we did not choose, and go through trials we meet, not just somehow but victoriously. It takes great grace and immense effort to yield to the hard and to seek the good.

The meek are always looking for the good. Their exertion is elegant. It’s graceful.

Meek Like A Bee

But what again does meekness have to do with bumblebees?

Well, we need meekness when unfair stings, for one. And meekness helps us call to mind that God is good and that it is good to be near God. Meekness helps us stay in our own lane. It reminds us God will provide all our needs and that if we don’t have it, we don’t need it.

To extract takes work. It takes work when we feel mistreated, misunderstood and hurt to pull out some good. To be sorrowful and always rejoicing (2 Corinthians 6:10) means we can extract some good.

For the record, I can only ever do that and work meekness out because God is working his sweet will in me (Philippians 2:12-13).

Bumble bee extracting nectar


How busy this bumblebee! How methodical and purposeful his movement, how tenacious and clinging his grip. He works so hard. Six legs tense, clasping tight before he thrusts that tongue down deep into each purple petal. Extracting.

We too have to work to extract the good. Granted, unless we’re talking about about teeth we seldom use the word extract. It means to remove or take out, especially by effort or force.

How hard the bumblebee works to extract that sweet nectar. Now I wonder, Do I? Do I work as hard to pull out the good in the hard in my house?

Spiritual Bees Extract Good

If I’m a spiritual bee I do. Proverbs 11:27 says, The one who diligently seeks good finds favor. The good is there to be found.

In his 400 year-old classic, The Quest for Meekness and Quietness of Spirit, Matthew Henry compared the meek to “spiritual bees.”

There is no provocation given us at any time but, if it be skillfully and graciously improved, good may be gotten by it. …[We may] gain some real benefit to our souls, by the injuries and offenses that are done to us: for even these are made to work together for good to them that love God. This is a holy and a happy way of…resisting evil. It is an ill weed indeed out of which the spiritual bee cannot extract something profitable…

So make like a bee. Exert to extract something good, something sweet. The effort itself might be a balm.

Susanne and me, just after the spicy-sweet sample

The Sweetness

Kudos before I close to my dear friend Susanne for introducing me to bee balm. If it wasn’t for her Swiss, herbalist-botanist flair I wouldn’t have even glanced at that plant in our meadow with the bumblebee buzzing round.

But as we ambled through the garden last Saturday, she pointed, “These are good to eat.” Then Susanne plucked a pink blossom and we savored the spicy-sweet treat. But Susanne had another secret up her sleeve.

Then she unveiled a Mason jar full of elegant amber—a bee balm infused simple syrup. A splash at the bottom of the glass mixed with seltzer fizz for joy on a hot July afternoon.

Exertion, elegance, meekness, sweetness. Fresh joy. Good.

The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the LORD, and the poor among mankind shall exult in the Holy One of Israel.

Isaiah 29:19

We know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!

Romans 5:3b-5, The Message

Reroute: Do you trust the GPS Girl more than God?

Google Map Re-route

We’re closing in on Sanibel. Of 1,408 miles from home, only 148 remain. Twenty hours down, two to go. Unless traffic suddenly comes to a dead stop on I-75 en route to Florida for spring break as it’s liable to do.

Unless that happens and I don’t take the reroute.


Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. That’s how the writer of the book of Hebrews describes faith in chapter 11. Faith means trusting God when we can’t see the road ahead.

It’s been two years since we walked these beaches and soaked in this island sun and two years since that little stop off the causeway got me wondering if others can see how much we’ve grown.

I don’t know if others can. But in this one way, I think I’ve grown: I’m learning to embrace life’s reroutes faster.

I’m getting better at accepting changes in my plans. I mean, I’m learning to accept them gratefully like the reroutes that suddenly pop up on my screen.

If you use GPS or Google Maps, you know just what I mean.


Just shy of Chattanooga last night, that calm female voice broke in to say, “There is a delay on I-24 two miles ahead. Exit on state road 11 and save 37 minutes. Press yes to accept this reroute.”

I did. In a heartbeat I did. I gladly accepted that reroute.

Because I trust that the GPS Girl knows best. I trust Google’s eagle eye view of the roads. So I trust her completely with the way our van takes.

But sometimes I question whether God’s got my best route figured out. Sometimes I get thinking that interruptions in my time and deviations from my plans are beyond His view.

As if they could halt his plan. The Lord will perfect that which concerns me, Psalm 138:8 says. As if accidents and wrong turns and lost jobs ever catch God by surprise.

As if.


After 24 years with the same employer, my husband’s job ends next month. After giving thousands of eye exams, the optical is in bankruptcy and this job is over. Paycheck ends, insurance ends, this stability ends.

We don’t know what’s next. The road ahead is unknown.

We all like stability. We like to know the route, the plan. It’s the uncertainty that’s killing me, we say as we await a lab result or a call back. It’s this not knowing what’s ahead that’s hard.

[A]nd he will be the stability of your times, abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge, the fear of the Lord is Zion’s treasure. That’s the comfort the prophet Isaiah provides God’s afflicted children (33:6).

Here’s where my relationship the GPS Girl helps me trust God. When make a wrong turn or the road gets blocked ahead, the GPS Girl doesn’t get mad. She doesn’t yell at me or go silent. She provides stability.

If we have ears to hear, we’ll hear her say in that same calm, composed way: Recalculating.


In her steady, calm way, she reassures, It’ll take a little longer, but I’ll get you there. Wrong turn, missed exit, accident- no matter, I’ll still get you there.

But the analogy between the GPS Girl and God breaks down here, because God never has to recalculate. He knew your days before you were born.

Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. That’s where Asaph lands at the end of Psalm 73, after he envied the prosperity of the wicked. Like when I envied the drivers that zipped along on the right shoulder while we waited at a dead stop north of Nashville.

Nevertheless. I love that nevertheless. Because I make wrong turns and because other people’s accidents affect my travel. They change my plans and slow me down.

Nevertheless…I guide you. Like the GPS Girl. She doesn’t get mad at me when wrong turns and accidents happen. She doesn’t give up either. We hear her say,Re-calculating.

And we hear God say: Trust me. I’ll guide you. There is another way.

Re-route map

That’s why Corrie ten Boom’s words makes sense, Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.

Because He sees the road ahead. Because reroutes don’t come by chance, but from God’s loving and wise fatherly hand.


Faith is relying on God’s love and resting in him when we face reroutes. Faith is seeing God’s hand. Growing in faith is seeing his hand more and faster, more and more cheerfully

Author and theologian, Joel Beeke explains,

Faith sees God’s hand everywhere, unbelief sees God’s hand nowhere; not in big things or in small, everyday things.

If we see God’s hand we realize that we are dependent on him. This is maturity- to realize we need him.

I believe and help my unbelief. Because, truth be told, sometimes I trust the GPS Girl more than the Almighty God. I wonder about the route to Jim’s next job. But instantly I press accept and off we go on a scenic detour of Lookout Mountain outside Chattanooga.

I want to trust God like this, because he sees the road ahead better, and he’s got my best interest in heart. We cannot always trace God’s hand,Spurgeon said, but we can always trust God’s heart. I want to rest in that.

Because He knows the way I take. And he knows all the roads in front of me more than the GPS Girl.

So how could I trust him less?

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. 

Psalm 32:8

Held By God: 12 Joni Eareckson Tada Quotes on the 50th Anniversary of that Dive

He has chosen not to heal me, but to hold me. The more intense the pain, the closer His embrace.

Joni Eareckson Tada

When Abbi Met Joni

Mom had left her copy out.

So when I found The Unforgettable Story of a Young Woman’s Struggle Against Quadriplegia and Depression with that puzzling picture of a pretty young thing with a pointy paintbrush trailing out of her smiling mouth, this 13 year-old reader was intrigued. And I picked up Joni. I read about her carefree, Maryland life. I read until her paralyzing  dive the July when Joni was 17.

“How awful!” I shuddered and determined never to dive again.

Then I put Joni down.

We were to meet again five years later at an college missions conference in Urbana, Illinois. Joni was all the buzz in our dorm so I tagged along with my roommate to a breakout session featuring a middle-aged Joni. We stole in that classroom and as I staked my claim on a rare square foot of hardwood still vacant, I scanned the transfixed faces all around me. I remember thinking, I don’t know Joni like they do. My adolescent impression of Joni as  portent and victim still held sway.

But not for long.

If Joni can…I Can

As she sat strapped in her wheelchair, tenacious faith and God’s strong grace poured from Joni’s lips. By the end of that hour Joni had moved from tragic victim to epic hero of the faith. Joni’s dive changed my life.

That summer, I signed up for the most grueling job of life. My campers were eternal souls living in disabled bodies and with damaged minds attending a Joni And Friends affiliated camp. And while I did it out of love for God, I also took it on for Joni.

A few years later, now married, degreed and employed, I began a ladies’ book club. Our first pick? Joni’s own, When God Weeps, subtitled, “Why Our Sufferings Matter to the Almighty.” Then it was Holiness in Hidden Places and A Place Of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain and God’s Sovereignty. Beside my bed now? A Spectacle of Glory.

And if you happen to live nearby and want to borrow a Joni book- please, just drop a line.

If Joni can give thanks, I can too. If Joni can trust God, I can too. If Joni cares for them, I can too. If Joni loves Jesus that much, I can too. 

The Dive That Drives Us To God

Yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of the dive that paralyzed Joni and brought hope and courage to so many, countless lives, If Joni can give thanks and trust God’s love from her wheelchair, with her cancer and chronic pain, surely, by God’s grace, I can too. 

We all struggle in various ways. We all suffer and have heartaches and backaches and pain . Some of us grumble and turn against God or reject His power or refuse to believe He is love.  Some of us wrestle with the mysteries of suffering, pain and God’s sovereignty. All of us want to know our suffering matters to the Almighty.  Joni has suffered and still suffers,  with chronic, sometimes excruciating pain.

But Joni trusts that God is weeping with her, suffered for her, and she joyfully presses on. Joni  speaks and writes and breathes for the glory of God.

So even though I’ve already posted about my heroes and quoted Joni before, this post is all of gratitude to God for my hero in the faith, Joni Eareckson Tada.

These dozen quotes from Joni might help explain why.

  1. “Heartache forces us to embrace God out of desperate, urgent need. God is never closer than when your heart is aching.”
  2. “Like a black, velvety cloth set against diamonds, your disability provides a remarkable backdrop that magnifies patience, perseverance, endurance, and an uncomplaining spirit. These Christlike qualities that God longs to cultivate in your life are amplified against your obvious hardships. Your chronic condition is obvious to others—but what God wants to make your perseverance and lack of complaint.”
  3. Sometimes God allows what he hates to accomplish what he loves.”
  4. Contentment is realizing that God has already given us everything we need for our present happiness. It is the wise person who doesn’t grieve for the things he doesn’t have, but rejoices over the things he does have.”
  5. “Suffering provides the gym equipment on which my faith can be exercised.”
  6. God’s children are never victims. Everything that touches their lives, he permits. The irony is, you can’t imagine a more victimized person than Jesus. Yet when he died, he didn’t say, “I am finished” but “It is finished.” He did not play the victim, and thus he emerged the victor. Forget the self-pity…victory is ours in Christ. His grace is sufficient. Know this truth and it will set you free.”
  7. Only God is capable of telling us what our rights and needs are. You have to surrender that right to Him.”
  8. “God uses chronic pain and weakness…as his chisel for sculpting our lives. Felt weakness deepens dependency on Christ for strength each day. The weaker we feel, the harder we lean. And the harder we lean, the stronger we grow spiritually, even while our bodies waste away.”
  9. True wisdom is found in trusting God when you can’t figure things out.”
  10. “I’d learned that you can’t wear a crown unless you bear a cross – that if our Savior had learned obedience through suffering, we should expect the same.”
  11. “You don’t hear any cheers or applause. The days run together―and so do the weeks. Your commitment to keep putting one foot in front of the other is starting to falter…Perseverance. Determination. Fortitude. Patience…Your life is not a boring stretch of highway. It’s a straight line to heaven. Look at the fields ripening along the way. Look at the tenacity and endurance. Look at the grains of righteousness. You’ll have quite a crop at harvest . . . so don’t give up!”
  12. “Let affliction have its perfect work. The result? Nothing short of the unspeakable splendor of Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

“Heaven is just around the corner.”

That’s a quote from the last page of A Place Of Healing, But it’s not the last word. Joni follows it up, faithful, friendly and forthright as ever, with a favor- for us:

Would you do what so many of us who are paralyzed or too lame or too old or disabled can’t do? Would you open your Bible to Psalm 95:6, read it aloud, and then do what it says?

I can’t kneel, but if you can, do.

Kneel before the Lord God, your Maker and mine. And while you’re down there, if you fell so inclined, thank Him for being so good to a paralyzed woman named Joni.”

Yes, Lord. Yes- thank you for being so good to us by being so good to a paralyzed woman named Joni. 

Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the sheep of his hand.

Psalm 95:6-7