Meditations of my Heart

Friday, February 27, 2015

Renovation!



2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:  The old has gone, the new is here!

My husband, Danny, and I have wanted to replace the carpeting in all three bedrooms with wood floors since we got married almost ten years ago (Our kitchen, dining area, living room, and hallway already enjoy this blessing).  But with two cats and a dog, not to mention Danny's boys just entering their teen years, we decide the time is not right.  There are other, more pressing issues with regards to our house.  Wood floors are a luxury.  We can live with the carpet for now.

Fast forward to 2014.  No more dog.  No more cats.  Only one son, now grown and, fortunately for us, a neat freak, we begin discussing this home improvement project in earnest.  The carpet is 23-years-nasty.  No amount of stain removal or cleaning can revive its weary nap.  To top things off, the carpet which was in our downstairs room had to be ripped up and discarded two years ago due to the lingering, tell-tale odor touting a history of our cats' territorial squabbles.  A concrete slab belongs in the garage, not in our home! 

Here are some "before" photos ~











We plan carefully for this huge renovation, doing things step by step, putting money aside every month until Danny feels we can comfortably handle the expense.  We are fortunate to find out about a flooring company managed by the son of one of Danny's co-workers.  As we've already checked with other companies in the business, we know, when we get the quote, that we've landed a true deal.


This is how our living room looked after we emptied all closets in preparation.

When the long-awaited day for installation finally arrives, we are beside ourselves with excitement.  We are so ready for this change, for the old to be gone and the new to be here!  In my mind's eye, I try to imagine the transformation about to take place.  But nothing prepares me for the beauty and elegance which greets me when the job is completed.











Danny and I are completely overwhelmed.  We both feel as though we've moved into a brand new home.  And I can't help but think that's exactly what it feels like the moment we invite Jesus into our lives.  He takes up all the soiled and sinful carpets in us, carries them out the door, and renovates us with resplendent hope and an abundant life through His gifts of love, grace and forgiveness.  Jesus changes us from the inside out so that we may become more and more like Him every day and constantly growing in faith.

Jesus wants to make us new.

Will you, have you, let Him?

Prayer:  Father, it is my prayer today that someone who does not yet know You will read this post and be moved to take one step closer to accepting Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  I pray also for those who have become new creations in Christ, that they would continue to grow in Your love and Your grace.  In the name of Jesus, I pray.  Amen.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Think About Such Things


Philippians 4:8
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is holy, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things.

The news in the media today, whether you get yours from television, newspapers, or the internet, gives rise to daily distress.  We are bombarded by unspeakable evils:  Incompetent, corrupt and dictatorial governments; random and plotted murders; the ongoing slave trade; the abuse of children and the elderly, the heinous persecution and beheading of persons because of their religious beliefs.

And the list goes on.

Seemingly forever and ever and ever . . .

With no end in sight.

You can, I'm sure, add your own personal angst and anguish to this frightening, mind-boggling aggregate of senseless tragedies.  But may I suggest, in our own sorrow and sadness at the state of the world, that we, as Christians, focus on something different.  Not in terms of forgetting the injustices by any means, but to render them ineffective through the power of prayer and through our own positive actions in this world on behalf of our Lord, Christ Jesus.

As Saint Paul says in the scripture above, we are to contemplate the goodness granted to us from God through Jesus.  We are to think about such things with heart, mind, soul, and strength.  We must remember, in the midst of chaos and uncertainty, the truth Jesus speaks:  "I have told you these things, so that you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)

No matter what troubles, trials, frights, or fears this world throws at us, we need, more than ever, to rest in Jesus' promise to us.  We need to trust that He has conquered the world, and there is no evil which can separate us from the love of God.  (R0mans 8:35)

With that knowledge in our hearts and minds and souls, let us go forth in hope and faith and strength.  Keeping ourselves focused upon all our Lord has taught us, and praying for those  who suffer at the wicked hand of oppression.

Knowing their stories will not end there.

For our God, our ever-loving and omnipresent Father, is there for them, in this life and in the next.  

~

What pain, what heartaches, are weighing upon your soul today?

Prayer:  Father, we thank You for the precious gift of Your Son, Jesus Christ, who came not only to save us from our sins, but to overcome the sins of the entire world.  In these times of uncertainty and fear, help us to focus upon Your promises, Your unchanging Word, to challenge in Your name, the injustices of this world in which we live and where we have the opportunity to do mighty works in Your name.  In Jesus' name, we pray, amen.


Friday, February 20, 2015

Conversations With God


Matthew 6:16-18
When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting.  Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.  But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

When I hear the word "fast," I immediately think of going without food for a specific length of time.  Many Christians will choose to fast as part of their Lenten discipline.  While I have no problem giving up certain foods during Lent, when it comes to skipping meals, my body refuses to cooperate.  I become cranky, irritable, and downright ugly if I'm forced to wait an inordinate amount of time to eat when my stomach is screaming, "Now!"  Take my word for it.  You do not want to be around me at those moments!

This past Sunday in her sermon, Conversations with God, our associate minister, Pastor Lindsey, speaks of fasting in an entirely different light, one which I can eagerly embrace.  She calls it "Media Fasting."  This involves limiting time spent with any techno-gadgetry or outside entertainment and using that time, instead, to talk with our Father.  Pastor Lindsey recounts a recent trip to a weekend retreat when she made the conscious decision not to listen to the radio as she drove the distance there and back.  In the silence, she was able to pray and listen for God's answers.  The experience was such a positive one, Lindsey tells us she plans to continue this practice whenever she's in her car.

I can vouch for that.  Years ago, when I was writing devotions daily, I could not afford distractions which interfered with hearing the inspirations which God was trying to give me.  I treasured every quiet moment when I could ponder the scripture chosen for that day and hear Him speaking to my heart.  That's when I, too, kept the radio at bay whenever I had errands to run.  There were even times while driving when more than one devotion would gel in my mind, ready to be penned the moment I reached home!

Of course, as the pressure of daily devotions changed to bi-weekly, I began flipping on that radio again.  So, this Lent, I'm giving it up, determined to use this time to converse with God.  Additionally, I'm switching up my morning routine which, up until now, has been to turn on my computer, hitting e-mails, Facebook, news, etc. before curling up with my Bible and settling into my Father's lap.  I've only been days into this practice, and already the blessings have been better than I could have ever imagined.

With regard to giving up a food for Lent?  Are you sitting down?

BACON!!!

Yep!  My all time if-it's-cooked-and-in-the-fridge-I'll-eat-it favorite!

I know.  Small sacrifice in the bigger scheme of things.

But every time during Lent when I find myself craving it, I'll run to the Lord with shiny hair and a clean face, thanking Him for all He, in His great love, sacrificed for me.


~

Do you fast during Lent?

Prayer:  Father, remind us that the most important conversation we will have all day will be the one we have with You.  You will always listen in love.  You will always answer in Your time.  You will never fail us nor forsake us.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Great Teacher


Psalm 46:10
He says, "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."

But I am slowing down and savoring quiet time and letting the Lord teach me and guide me through this guided quiet.  Silence is a great teacher. ~Sharon at Something to Think About 

Quiet time.

Silence.

When was the last time you experienced either one of these?  Are they desires you wish fulfilled?  Or situations best avoided?

I know of folks who maintain their televisions 24/7, even when they are not watching the shows.  The sound of voices in conversation and commentary keeps the quiet at bay, reassures them that they are not alone.

I know of folks, ear-plugged into a steady stream of music, who can't abide the silence.  Music sings to them that they are not alone.

Why cannot the same be found in silence?  As Sharon describes it most aptly, and I might add from experience, it is the "great teacher."

But do we believe it?  Do we trust it?

What happens to us when we give way and allow the silence to envelop us?  Embrace us?  Define us?

Will we finally realize that, in the silence, we are not alone?

As we stand on the brink of the Lenten Season, pondering our giving ups and our taking-ons to allow us to grow closer to the Lord, I encourage you, if you have never done so, to make a vow to welcome silence into your heart and mind.  Give yourself the room to simply be still.

To rest without the distractions of the outside world.  To allow God the freedom and opportunity to speak to you in the calm and the hush.

Tune the world down.  Tune God in.

I guarantee, you won't feel alone.

You won't be alone.

~

What disciplines are you planning to practice during Lent?

Prayer:  Father, as we prepare to meet the joy of Your Son resurrected on that blessed first Easter, may our Lenten season be filled with Your presence and guidance.  May we find comfort in the sounds of silence where Your voice is clearly heard, and know with confidence that we are not alone, for You are always with us.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

Friday, February 13, 2015

I Love Lucy



John 15:15
I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business.  Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

When our granddaughter, Virginia Rose, visits us for the day, she always brings at least one stuffed animal, if not more, along with her.  I'm usually the one who picks Virginia up and takes her home, and I always remind her, if she doesn't have one at the ready, to fetch one of her beloved animals to bring with us.  Recently, however, my husband, Danny, has a work-related errand he needs to run in the neck of the woods where she lives with her parents and sister, so he volunteers to pick her up that morning.  In her excitement at seeing Papa, Virginia completely forgets to bring a stuffed toy along.




(Virginia, age three, with her favorite kitty)

"You didn't bring Tattie (Kitty) with you?"  I ask, surprised when Virginia comes flying over to hug me with no companion under her arm.

"I forgot, Gammie," she says despondently.  Although Grey is right in view, Virginia doesn't go for him as a substitute pal.  Maybe it's because he's been a constant fixture on our printer as my inspiration to keep working diligently on Adventures in The Glade that she overlooks him as a potential playmate.  To Virginia, poor Grey is just part of the furniture.  I can hear his protests right about now!


Suddenly, Virginia's face brightens.  "Horsey!"  she exclaims.  "Horsey in Papa's closet!  Can you get it for me, Papa?  I need a friend!"

"Yes, I'll get it," Papa says, "but remember, Virginia, it's very old and you must be extremely careful with it.  My great-grandfather made it, so it is special to me."

"Me be careful, Papa, I promise."  (Yes, we are struggling with teaching Virginia the difference between "I" and "me" when she's speaking.  And her Gammie, being a proud member of the grammar police, won't give up that fight!)

Virginia accepts Horsey gratefully, giving it a gentle hug, and wanting me to place it on the table so her new friend can watch as she plays with her Crazy Sand.  As I sit with them, I'm amazed at the conversation, albeit one-sided, that Virginia carries on with Horsey.  Patiently, she explains everything she is doing and why, asks Horsey some questions, and gives the answers, too, as she imagines the inanimate toy speaking for itself.





Then a thought strikes me.  "Virginia," I say, "have you decided on a name for your new friend?  Horsey is okay, but it's not a real name, one that a friend deserves.  Can you think about a name for Papa's horse?"

Virginia is immediately deep in thought in response to my question, half-heartedly diddling with her Crazy Sand as the wheels in her head are whirling round.  I'm thinking this process could take a while, but am pleasantly surprised when she quickly emerges from her reverie and announces, "She's Lucy."

"Lucy?  That's a marvelous name, Virginia," I say, fondly reminded of the beloved character in C. S. Lewis' Narnia Chronicles, stories so dear to my heart.  "So Horsey is a girl, right?"

"Yep!"

I'm curious.  "How did you know that 'Lucy' is a girl's name?"

"Me meet a little girl named Lucy the other day," Virginia informs me.  "Me like that name."

"I like it, too," I tell her.  "I'm sure Lucy is happy to have a child name her after all these years."

Virginia reaches for Lucy and gathers her close.  "I love Lucy, Gammie," she says.  "We'll be best friends."

"No doubt about that, sweetie.  You'll be the best of friends.


~

Isn't it awesome that Christ Jesus knows us by name and has called us not as servants, but as friends who grow closer to Him each and every day?  How has He, as your friend, made the Father's will known to you?

Prayer:  Father, we are infinitely blessed to have You, through Christ Jesus, as our friend.  Because of Your Son, we are not servants, but beloved sons and daughters, the children of Your light.  Through Your Word, we know Your business and Your promise, Your grace and Your love.  We thank You for calling each of us by name.  It is in Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.




Looks like Lucy has made another friend!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Frantic!


John 14:27
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Through all the worry and fear, though, God has been there, whispering peace to my frantic heart.  Over and over, He's reminded me that He's walking this road with me.  He whispers His promises - "I have a plan.  You're going to be fine. ~Amanda at Grace in Our Moments 

Though it's been years now since I've been compelled to rise and shine early on a daily basis to wake my children, and later, my step-sons, through elementary, middle and high school, and prepare myself for another day of teaching, I still have difficulty controlling and redirecting my frantic heart in morning's early hours.  Even though I've left the ogre of a 5:00 a.m. kick-me-out-of-bed in the distant past, I can't seem to the escape the sense of urgency I feel the minute I wake up.  It's akin to that panic I used to feel when I feared being late for work or realized I'd forgotten to bring something with me which was all-important to a successful lesson.

Frantic.  Rush to brew the coffee.  Race to turn on the computer.  Quickly, quickly peruse the e-mails, then off to Facebook, responding to blog comments, reading others' blogs, sharing, commenting, tweeting . . .

Frantic!

Stop!!!

What on earth, or in heaven, am I thinking?  Can't the demands of the world wait when the most important conversation I'll have all day is with God?

As Amanda writes:  He whispers His promises - "I have a plan.  You're going to be fine."  

God doesn't want me to rush; He wants me to slow down.  To catch my breath.  To not gulp down my coffee when I should savor each sip.

The Lord, in love with us, His fragile creatures, desires us to treasure and revel in every precious moment He gives.  God wants us to know it will be fine because it's not about racing around heedlessly.  It's not about immediately meeting the expectations of others, real or imagined.

It's about resting in Him.  Trusting in His presence and His timing.  If we consciously turn over the day to God the moment our feet hit the floor, He will be faithful to steer us true and calm our hearts even when the storms rage.

So now, the second I feel that old, all-too-familiar frantic sensation creeping into my heart, I pray for God's peace.

And it always comes . . .


~

Are you starting off your day with the Lord?

Prayer:  Father, when our lives seem to be whirling out of control and our hearts grow frantic, fill us with Your peace that we might know living in Your presence is all that matters.  In Jesus' name, amen.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Did I Forget to Thank You?



Acts 14:17
Yet he has not left himself without testimony:  He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their season; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.

For years now, my husband, Danny, and I have fed both birds and squirrels in our back yard.  Though the squirrels cannot raid the actual bird feeders, we spread sunflower seeds on the ground for them and entice them, too, with corn-cob looking treats especially for our furry mischief makers.  We never tire of watching the squirrels' playful and often comical antics as they forage for food and chase one another up and down trees or across the yard.

And one would think that after the countless times I've reloaded the feeders and leave a generous offering of seeds for the squirrels, they would know I'm not a human to be feared.  Oh, mind you, I've crept up pretty close to them, especially if they are absorbed in gorging themselves and seemingly oblivious to what's happening in their environs.




Yet the moment they catch a glimpse of me, it's as if they've seen the Boogieman.  Off they scamper in a mad frenzy to escape my imagined clutches.

I know the squirrels are keeping their eyes on me from a safe distance, though, because in the short time it takes me to enter the garage, go upstairs and into the kitchen, I can see from my windows that they have already returned to the feasting site.  Eating contentedly, they act as if I have never been there.  And most certainly, in their little minds, I have little or nothing to do with the reappearance of plenteous offering on their dirt floor of a table.

As I observe their back-to-normal activities from the height and distance or our deck, I can't help but feel a bit wistful.  Maybe I've spent too many hours in The Glade, but there's something in me which yearns for a thank you.  Not in the spoken word, mind you, for only Grey aka Racer can do that :), but in the hanging-around-at-a-not-so-safe distance, making eye contact, knowing without a doubt from whom the seeds have come.  I long for the squirrels to acknowledge me, their benefactor, in some small, yet meaningful, way.

And I find myself wondering, is this the way God feels when we fail to acknowledge Him as the One who "provides [us] with plenty of food and fills [our] hearts with joy?"  Like the squirrels, do we scurry away from the Source of Every Blessing mistakenly thinking we can provide for ourselves without God's help?  Are we avoiding eye contact with our Lord in order to follow our own wills and pursue our own wants?

I pray, for the sake of us all, that this is not the case.  

For the Lord, our God, has given us His true and faithful testimony.  He alone provides.  He alone forgives.

He alone saves us from our sins.

And He loves us.

Even when we forget to say, "Thank you."

~

Have you thanked the Lord today?

Prayer:  Father, every good gift comes, most generously, from You.  May we always acknowledge that and give You the honor, the glory and the thanks You so richly deserve.  In Jesus' name, amen.