Friday, November 16, 2018

Moving Mountains

Matthew 17:20
He replied, "Because you have so little faith.  Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move.  Nothing will be impossible for you.

I'm a big fan of oatmeal, especially in the fall and winter months when a constant chill is in the air.  There's nothing more comforting and filling than a steaming bowl of wholegrain goodness for breakfast.

So when I note we're running low on this staple, my husband, Danny, adds oatmeal to his grocery list before heading out to our neighborhood Aldi.  This is their brand, and I'm eager to try it.


I scan the side of the container for directions, expecting to find the usual Quaker Oats ratio for one serving of oatmeal - 1 cup water to half cup oats.  What's this?  One cup of water to a quarter cup of oats?  This can't possibly be right!  And it takes 30 minutes to cook instead of five???  Okay, now I have to investigate.

I open the lid, and this is what greets me.


Teeny tiny oat pellets in the husk!  I've never seen anything like this in my life.  The 30 minute cooking time now makes complete sense to me, but the amount of water called for leaves room for doubt.  How can just one cup of water adequately plump up these little guys?

Turns out, I'm right, and the directions are wrong.  After some experimentation, I discover it takes one and one-half cups of water when all is said and done.


So begins the 30 minutes of watching, stirring and waiting . . .



And the finished product?  Perfect, both in texture and in taste.


~

When I view these oats for the first time, they remind of of Jesus' story of the mustard seed.  Minuscule and insignificant, it seems impossible that they can ever be transformed into anything palatable.  Yet, add the right amount boiling water and time, and voila!

Yes, we may start out small in our faith, but we don't have to stay that way.

Because when we trust in Jesus, submitting our wills completely to Him, He can grow our faith exponentially, in ways we never could have imagined.

And one day, with the Lord's help, I believe we will move mountains.

Amen!

Friends, since next week is Thanksgiving break, I am taking a break from the blog.  May you all have a blessed Thanksgiving Day filled with food, fun and family, and I will see you in the following week!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is


Matthew 6:19-20
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal."

In many churches throughout the country, November is the month designated for the annual stewardship campaign.  Members are asked to prayerfully consider the amount of money they will contribute to the church in the coming year, and to sign up to use their gifts and talents in different ministries offered by the church to the community.

After long, interminable weeks of monetary solicitations from various political campaigns via email and texts, I have to admit that being asked, once again, for money is at the bottom of my priority list.  But Pastor Graham's excellent sermon this past Sunday puts everything in the correct perspective.

He begins by stating what we all feel - it's a relief to have the elections behind us (well, sort of, unless you live in Georgia or Florida, but don't get me started), and goes on to give us the exorbitant amounts raised by some of the campaigns.  As I hadn't paid too much attention to this, I am shocked when I hear of one candidate, who will remain nameless, raised over $70 million, and still lost the race.  And the two gubernatorial candidates, right here in our home state of Georgia, raised over $60 million between them.

Stunning, overwhelming, unimaginable amounts of cash.  Pastor Graham explains why:  People will give where their hope is.

Let that sink in for a moment . . .

We, as Christians, declare we place our hope in Jesus.  But do we?  How committed are we to the campaign for God's Kingdom?  How generously do we give of our financial resources, our time, our talents, to serve others in need?  Are we storing up treasures here on earth, or are our treasures found in heaven?

It's all too easy to be a Sunday Christian, sitting placidly each week in a pew, comfortably on the receiving end of the message.  It's much more difficult to take up the cross of Jesus, denying ourselves in order to follow Him.

So this time around, I've decided to put my money where my mouth is.  I'm not leaving our pledge up to my husband, Danny, as I have in the past, but will make a financial commitment of my own.  After all, if I proclaim Jesus as my Lord and Savior, my one true Hope, I have to follow through with some meaningful and make-a-difference fund-raising.

And proudly campaign for the spread of His Kingdom.

Amen!

Friday, November 9, 2018

I Will Raise Up For Them a Prophet


Deuteronomy 18:18
I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth.  He will tell them everything I command him.

It is always a deliciously refreshing experience to bury myself in a compelling, engaging story, where characters jump off the page to sit next to you like a best friend, and the plot thickens with unexpected twists and turns.  And that is precisely what happens when I have the privilege of reading Book Four in Glynn Young's Dancing Priest Series, Dancing Prophet.  Although Young masterfully crafts this novel as a stand-alone read, I can't urge you enough to order the first three that you can find at Young's blogger page, Faith, Fiction, Friends.

Once more, we are ushered into the lives of a young King Michael of Britain, his American-born Queen Sarah (Was Glynn somehow predicting the recent wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle?), their two adopted boys, Jason and Jim, and their toddler son, Henry, as they adapt to their new lives of royalty.  In spite of all the routine demands that come with the territory of being a country's sovereign, King Michael, and ordained Church of England priest, finds himself facing some overwhelming and horrific odds, as being Head of the Church places him in an unexpected and heinous scandal that, if not properly addressed, could mean the complete destruction of Britain's religious institution.

It is the courage of one young man, Robert, emboldened by the compassion he feels from his school's prayer group, which starts the shocking ball rolling.  It's a confession no one wants to hear, nor do they want to believe.  But Jason, taken in off the streets by Michael and Sarah, knows all too well about Robert's heartbreaking situation, and stands up for him.

Robert has endured repeated sexual abuse at the hands of an Anglican priest.

The cat, a most evil and sinister one, is finally out of the bag.  Robert's admission, Jason's confiding at last in Michael and Sarah about his own abuse, and another young man, Elton, coming forward as having had been the victim of unwanted advances by his priest, reveal not only the rampant and willful exploitation of boys that exists in the world, but now focuses on the abhorrent activities going on within the church, a network that has thus far been successfully hushed up by the ecclesiastic powers that be.

When King Michael took the throne of Britain, one of his aims was to reform the Church of England.  This was not greeted warmly by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and others in his camp.  And as Dancing Prophet unfolds, their worst nightmares are about to come true.

A theme Young repeats in all his novels is that God puts people in places and situations where He knows they are exactly right for the task at hand.  King Michael is no exception.  Neither are those with whom he has surrounded himself.  No, I'm not going to tell you how the story ends because you absolutely must read it for yourself!

And on one more note regarding prophetic premonitions, Young wrote this manuscript long before the Catholic Church child abuse scandal became front page news.  Wow!  No doubt about it, God's Holy Spirit is alive and well in this most talented author.

My recommendation to you is to give yourself, and your loved ones, an early Christmas gift.  Order all four of Young's incredible novels today!

Amen!

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Mr. Lyft


1 Peter 3:15-16
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

Yes!  Here we are at long last - the much anticipated midterm elections have arrived!  And I do hope, if you haven't yet voted, that you will do so before the day is out.  As Christians, I believe we have a civic duty to cast ballots for those individuals who will best uphold our morals and values.

My husband, Danny, and I decide not to wait for this final opportunity, but choose to vote early, last Wednesday to be precise.  When we arrive at the early voting venue, we are surprised, in light of this being a midterm, at just how long the line is.  Should we stay and vote now?  Should we go home and wait until Tuesday?  We debate momentarily, but then determine to take the plunge.  After all, this is the one day of the week when my son, Daniel, is committed to look after MIL, and we know she is in good and trustworthy hands.

As often happens when one is "trapped" in a long line of people, someone adjacent to you is guaranteed to strike up a conversation, whether it's solicited or not.  And that's exactly what the man behind us does.  We hear more than we ever want to about his Lyft driving misadventures, his personal disabilities and financial woes.  All this punctuated all to frequently by salty language, which makes us think this guy's idea of appropriate boundaries is imaginary lines.

But we listen.  We respond as graciously as possible.  And we pray for patience.  It's one thing to have to endure an hour's wait before casting our vote, but this?  Dear Lord, help us!

Then out of the blue, the hammer drops.

"I visited a church a while back, and the first thing they wanted to know was, 'Are you a Christian?'  What kind of question is that?  I don't even know these people!"

Okay, Lord, what's going on here?  I have the opportunity to offer hope and promise, and I'm practically tongue-tied.  What can I say to convince this stranger that he shouldn't be put off by this, that Christianity is worth another try?

"When I describe my faith," he continues, "I'm more of a Taoist/Buddhist.  It's a tolerance thing, you know?  And I don't believe in Hell at all."

Still feeling ambushed, not at all prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks, I feel God nudging me to try, with His help.

"Jesus speaks about Hell in the Bible," I begin.  "It's a real place that we choose when we choose to live separated from God.  He's given you free will to embrace Him or ignore Him.  And as far as tolerance goes, Christianity hinges on these two commandments:  Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.  What's intolerant about that?"

For once, "Mr. Lyft," as I've begun to think of him, has no rejoinder.

And in retrospect, I should have followed up my commentary with a simple, "God made you, and He loves you."

I didn't.

I regret that.

But now I find myself praying for Mr. Lyft, and so many lost souls like him in this world.  Maybe, just maybe, I did plant a small seed of hope in his heart.  And maybe the Lord will choose to water that tiny seed, and new life will spring forth.

Praying.

And I wonder . . .

Who did Mr. Lyft vote for?

Amen!


Friday, November 2, 2018

Tie One On!


James 1:4
Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

When our oldest granddaughter, Virginia Rose, spends this past weekend with us, I've promised to take her shopping for long-sleeve shirts (she is growing like a weed!) and a new pair of shoes.  There is a Payless Shoe Source en route from her home to ours, so I swing into the parking lot on Friday afternoon, and we hit the store.

The helpful and friendly clerk measures Virginia's foot, as I'm sure that has grown at least a half size since our previous purchase.  Sure enough!  She's gone from a 12 and a half to a 13.  The clerk's recommendation is to buy a shoe a half size larger, so that's the section we focus on.

But there is one problem.

Up until this point, Virginia has been able to get away with wearing shoes with Velcro straps.  Not anymore!  The only pairs available in the "big girl" category have shoelaces.  And Virginia has never learned to tie a shoe!

"Well, Virginia," I say, "it looks like Gammie and Papa will be giving you some lessons in how to tie a bow this weekend, won't we?"

"I want to learn, Gammie," she says happily, as her hands reach for the turquoise sneakers pictured above.  "All the the kids in my class wear tie shoes."

That doesn't surprise me.  You see, although Virginia is in third grade, she is a very young eight, having a birthday on July 21st, and beginning school the first of August.  So naturally, she is smaller than most of her peers, who would have had to submit to lace-up shoes months, and possibly a year, before.

When we arrive at our house, Virginia can't wait to show off her new footwear to Papa and MIL, and it isn't long before she makes the first struggling attempts to tie her shoes as we've demonstrated to her.




We encourage her to keep at it, acknowledging that it takes patience and practice to get the hang of this task that so many of us have done for so long, we take it for granted.

On Saturday, Danny aka Papa, and I decide she needs a further tutorial, hoping that this repetitive exercise will boost her confidence.






And after many failed attempts, at long last, her first bow!  Virginia's perseverance pays off big time!

She is all smiles at her accomplishment, as well she should be.  Virginia no longer has to feel like the odd-kid-out at school.  She has finally attained a maturity appropriate for her age, and as far as she is concerned, she isn't lacking a single thing.

May we all continue to persevere faithfully until we attain the goals God has set before us.

Amen!

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Trunks, Treats and Thank Yous!


1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

As you can tell from the photo above, our oldest granddaughter, Virginia Rose, is all set for the Trunk or Treat held this past Sunday at our church.  She has worn her kitty cat mask off and on all weekend that she has spent with us, but now, with her costume donned, replete with tail, she is raring to go.  We are looking forward to meeting up with her little sisters, Savannah Jane and Alexandra Nancy, and her mom and dad at the event.

We are blessed with a bright, sunny, balmy October afternoon.  The Trunk or Treat is not just about getting candy, but also participating in lots of games and activities.  Alexandra falls in love with the inflated slide.  After Virginia helps her climb to the top several times,



she has it down pat.  Can you glimpse her at the top of this photo?



Here is the happy firefighter at the bottom!



Yes, both Savannah and Alexandra wanted identical costumes for Halloween.  Fireman Savannah and her daddy show off the book she wins in a Book Walk (think cake walk).



Here is Alexandra hoping to win a book for herself, but it was not to be.  Doesn't dampen her spirits, though!





Now it's time to visit the smartly decorated car trunks for more fun games and, of course, the ultimate prize:  candy!




















Bean bag toss with the one and only Spiderman!





As the girls make their rounds, and fill their trick-or-treat bags with coveted sweets, my daughter, Sarah, and I repeatedly voice identical admonitions when each little hand grabs a goody:  "What do you say?"

"Thank you," the girls say politely.

And I recall, as though it were yesterday, the countless times I had to remind Sarah, and her brother, Daniel, to say thank you when offered any gift, no matter how small or insignificant.  I have to admit, I always wondered when an automatic show of gratitude would permanently kick in.

But in observing Sarah with her girls, she clearly values that lesson learned long ago, and is committed to instilling the same gratitude attitude in her children.

And this begs the question:  How many times a day do we say, "Thank you" to God, for all His continual blessings in the past, and in the here and now?  Even in the lowest of circumstances, can we still utter those two simple words of gratitude, knowing that our Lord has everything in His loving hands?  I'm not saying this is easy, but it's necessary.  Choosing to be thankful, even in the tough moments, can work to amazingly restore our hope, our faith and our trust in the One who deserves all our thanks and praise, all the time.

I don't know if you, who are reading this post right now, have children or grandchildren who are still learning this lesson, but when my kids were young, I made up this jingle to the tune, "Love and Marriage."

Please and thank you
Please and thank you
Three little magic words are
Please and thank you
Any time or weather
Please and thank you go together

"Please"when we are praying to God.  "Thank you" because we know He hears our prayers.

Three magic words can, and do, work wonders!

Amen!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Friday, October 26, 2018

We Are One in the Spirit, We Are One in the Lord


John 17:20-23
My prayer is not for them alone.  I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.  May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one - I in them and you in me - so that they may be brought to complete unity.  Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

Laity Sunday was last week, and our lay leader, Jerry N., delivered a most inspirational message based on the Scripture above.  This post reflects my takeaways from the powerful words he shared with us.  Thank you, Jerry, for serving us so well, and especially for your unflagging service to the Lord!

No doubt about it, our country is going through one of the most divisive times in its history.  Heated rhetoric and incivility toward others of differing opinions has reached an unprecedented high, due largely, I believe, to the rapid rise of social media.  Anonymity allows for insults to be hurled and ideas to be unjustly shredded just because a person does not hold our particular beliefs.

What alarms me most, as the mid-terms are fast approaching, is the ratcheting up of volatility.  More and more masks are coming off.  The relative safety of the internet has been tossed aside as mob behavior is unabashedly encouraged by some, and conveniently ignored by others.  Dialogue is reduced to seeing who can out shout the other.

It's an us versus them mentality.

We've lost our middle ground, if there ever was any to begin with.  I'm beginning to wonder . . .

But as tragic as the division and discord is in society at large, it is especially heartbreaking when the church falls prey to secular vagaries, forgetting in the heat of the moment that their fellow worshipers are children of God.  We are overcome by the desire to be right instead of righteous.  Instead of actively listening to the opinions of others, we shut them up and shut them down over disagreements that are, in the eternal perspective, truly insignificant.

Let me share an incident that took place recently at our church.  For years, there was discussion about moving the contemporary service from the sanctuary to the CAC - Community Activities Center, which is basically a gym with a stage.  Was there an outcry of horror by some?  Of course!  Were there others who had a vision of what it could look like, who favored the move?  Of course, again!  Serious dialogue on this issue was initiated by the clergy and staff, and all opinions were respectfully listened to and considered.  When the decision was finally made to move the service, some folks were so outraged, they actually left the church.

You heard me right.

They left the church because they didn't get their way.  That is sadder than sad in my book.

As the Body of Christ, we are bound to have different outlooks and ideas for how things should be, but we also have a higher calling that is not of this world.  Jesus prays for our unity in worshiping God, that the Father may be one with us as He and the Father are one.  If we are to embrace Christianity fully, shouldn't we make this unity our greatest priority?  After all, God loves us all equally, no matter our race, social status or political affiliation.

Satan is reveling in the chaos which is now wreaking havoc on our country.  Let us not invite him into our houses of worship by refusing to love one another as Christ commanded.  May we, instead, be a beckoning light to this hurting, discordant world, demonstrating the powerful, restorative love of God to transform lives and heal divisions that threaten to keep us in denial of the love of the One who can, and will, always unite.

Let us strive, then, to be one in the Spirit and one in the Lord.  Ever praying that all unity will one day be restored.

And they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love.

They will know we are Christians by our love . . .

Amen!

Moving Mountains

Matthew 17:20 He replied, "Because you have so little faith.  Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you ca...