Meditations of my Heart

Friday, February 17, 2017

40 Voices


Matthew 4:1
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

In the liturgical church year, Lent is observed for the forty days preceding Easter.  It is a time of commemoration and remembrance of Jesus' forty days of fasting in the wilderness before He began His earthly ministry.

Lent, even today, is for many Christians a time of fasting and penitence in the desire to develop a deeper relationship with God.  But Lent can also be a time to adopt a new spiritual practice, one that will enrich and enliven our worship experience, and draw us closer to the Lord as a result.

Although I've been known to give up certain practices during Lent, ones which I feel distract me from my focus on God, I'm always on the lookout for a new devotional guide to use during this season of reflection and spiritual growth.  Imagine my surprise and delight when fellow Christian blogger, Jean Wise, at Healthy Spirituality, asked if I would read an advance copy of her latest book, 40 Voices - A Lenten Devotional, in exchange for an honest review.  I readily accepted, and have thanked myself ever since!

Jean's easy-going, down-to-earth writing style welcomes you like an old friend the moment you open her book.  Each of her devotional segments is consistently formatted, which lends an air of order and comfort as you explore the daily readings.  While Jean's words are deceptively accessible, the spiritual thoughts and challenges she offers readers are mature, seasoned, and invite an active engagement in the process.  What follows is one excerpt from 40 Voices, enough, I hope, to give you a taste of the inspiration awaiting you in this book.

John the Beloved

"Woman, here is your son . . . Here is your mother."
From that time on, this disciple took her
into his home.
John 19:26b, 27b

Who do you entrust with your most valuable possession? 
When we began having children, we cringed at the
thought of what would happen if we died?  Who
would care for our kids?  Who would raise them the way we wanted?

Sometimes, a family member is the best choice.  We
had to consider the factors of where do they live and
were they close to other family members?  Would that
couple love our children and foster the values and experiences we wanted?

Sometimes, a close friend is another option.  Someone
you know, trust and would represent you in that relationship without hesitation.

Jesus was dying.  He looked down and saw his good
friend, John.  Jesus trusted and loved John and gave
him a huge responsibility to care for someone Jesus also loved.

Woman, here is your son.  Here is your mother.

That exchange must have given Jesus comfort and
peace.  He knew his mother would be cared for and placed into good hands.

In these last moments of his life on earth, Jesus cared
for someone else.  In the midst of suffering and dying,
the needs of those he loved mattered.  This truth reveals
the depth and width of how much God loves each of us,
and will care for us even more now in the power of the resurrection.

Jesus called John, his beloved friend.  God calls us, his beloved children.
He protects us and provides for our future care.  God holds our
lives and the Holy Spirit guards our paths.

We are God's valuable possessions.

Image:  A set of legal papers representing an adoption.

Question:  What is your most valuable possession and how do you plan to protect it?

Prayer:  Loving Father, we are amazed at the depth of your love and protection.  To be called beloved children of God brings life and hope to our days.
Thank you!

Friends, I hope your impression of Jean's writing is as favorable as mine, and that you will be quick to add 40 Voices to your Lenten discipline this year.

May this season guide us all into a closer relationship with our God, who loves us endlessly, extravagantly and for eternity.

Amen!


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

We Shall Know Fully


1 Corinthians 13:12
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

Since Valentine's Day falls on a Tuesday this year, my husband, Danny, makes reservations far in advance for a restaurant on the Saturday before the big day arrives.  He loves to surprise me, and I must admit, I do like surprises, so all he will tell me is that we will be dining at an establishment neither one of us has ever visited.

In the two weeks preceding our date, Danny sends me tantalizing photos, daring me to figure out where we are going for our celebration.






How could I possibly glean anything from these?  Still, I know that Danny's goal is to make our evening special and memorable.  I harbor no doubt that he intends this meal to be the perfect Valentine's treat for both of us, and I'm waiting with growing anticipation for the real thing, which now I can only glimpse as a mirrored reflection.

The grand evening finally arrives!  Danny drives toward our destination for what seems to me, as I'm all aflutter with expectancy, an eternity.  When we turn down a particular road at long last, I have my first clue.  We will be dining in downtown Roswell, a town chock full of quaint, one-of-a-kind restaurants.  But which one will it be?

I'm looking right and left, admiring all the old homes transformed into eateries and businesses.  Suddenly, Danny flips the left turn signal, and I finally see the sign for the restaurant, which tells me nothing other than it is Italian.


Isn't this a quaint and cozy place?



And the inside is just as inviting.  Although the tables are somewhat close together, we really cannot hear conversations of those on either side of us, which preserves a sense of intimacy; just perfect for a romantic Valentines Day dinner!








So many epicurean delights from which to choose!

Here are some photos of what we do finally order.  Believe me, every morsel is duly savored!


Exquisite Cabernet!


Veal meatball appetizer - the fluffiest we ever put in our mouths!


Danny enjoys a short-rib stuffed ravioli dish.


Mine is a shrimp/lobster/lump crab with fresh mushroom pasta noodles.  Yum!


And what Italian meal would be complete without gelato and biscotti?


Not to mention espresso!

Wow!  Are we full and happy diners!  We depart Osteria Mattone, but pause together just long enough to capture another memory.



And on the drive home, I can't help but note how much shorter the ride seems now that the secret destination has become fully known to me.

As we travel life's road, we can't grasp the entirety of the journey.  We can only know, as Paul says, a part of it.  But the promise is this:  When we pass from this world and enter God's presence, the veil will be lifted, and we shall see face to face.

And we will be known fully, even as God fully knows us.

Amen!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Share the Love!


John 3:16
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Mark 12:30-31
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.  The second is this:  Love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no commandment greater than these.

This post first appeared on Meditations of My Heart around this time last year, and I thought it timely to revisit it as I have many new followers here.  Looking forward to hearing your thoughts and suggestions in the comment section!

Valentine's Day looms on the horizon, seducing us with all its red, pink, white, heart-shaped candy glory and regalia of romantic gifts.  For many, Valentine's Day is THE coveted celebration of ultimate, intimate love.  Roses, chocolates, candlelight dinners, personal gifts exchanged, and all shared with that special, irreplaceable person of our dreams who has chosen us as a beloved partner.

But for so many others, Valentine's Day heralds sadness, loss and loneliness.  A relationship on the rocks.  A spouse who succumbed to cancer.  Divorce tearing at the fabric of a once-whole heart.  People living alone and feeling the pain of isolation, so in need of a loving thought, a caring word.

A heartfelt prayer.

What can you and I do to ease those moments for others who struggle to view Valentine's Day in an optimistic, promising light?

Although this list is by no means exhaustive, here are a few suggestions to brighten someone's Valentine's Day.

  • Send e-cards or real cards to friends and family members who may be feeling down and alone.  Share your unique thoughts about why they are so special to you, and why you love them.
  • Bake cookies or other goodies, and deliver them to your neighbors.
  • Buy a pack of "kids' valentines," and pass them out to persons who serve you at your local bank, grocery store, or other retail outlet.
  • Surprise co-workers with a small box of candy and a note expressing your thankfulness for them
  • Buy a generous supply of carnations (any flower will do), and stand on a busy street corner to pass them out to those who pass by.  Might not hurt if you tag the stems with the message, "Jesus loves you!"
  • Check with your church to find out who in the congregation might be in need of an extra dose of comfort and encouragement, and follow through according to their needs.
These are just a handful of suggestions to get your creative juices flowing.  Yes, my friends, I can see your hearts and minds whirling as you envision ways to make someone's Valentine's Day a special one.

May God bless you in it all as you seek to shine His light and love into this hurting world.

Amen!

~

Did you find any of the suggestions above appealing?  Did you come up with more ideas to share God's love with others on this Valentine's Day?

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

On the Brink


Psalm 31:7
I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul.

Recently, I pen a post recounting my bouts with revolving door illnesses that don't seem to quit.  While these "thorns in the flesh" dissipate and lessen with each passing day, there is one, which returns.

With a vengeance!

It is the pressing, debilitating pain in my upper back and shoulders.  As I haven't done anything out-of-the-ordinary strenuous, I am confused as to the cause, and disheartened by its oppressive grip.

And after several days of suffering, making me wish I owned stock in Bayer, my husband, Danny, suggests, "Schedule a massage tomorrow (Monday).  Maybe that will soothe your symptoms.

I'm only too happy to comply, and am fortunate to nab an empty slot that very morning.  Oh, but it feels so good!  As the young woman's hands work their magic, I literally feel my body, and my back, easing, relaxing.  And when it's all over?  Relief at last!

For all of thirty minutes . . .

The smothering pain slithers right back into place as it had never left.  By Wednesday, I'm desperate; even with pain killers, I can barely sleep.  Danny makes not a suggestion this time, but a demand.  "Call a chiropractor tomorrow and get the first possible appointment.  I think that's the only option you have at this point."

I've never seen a chiropractor, though Danny has.  I know that treatment worked for him, and although I'm still a bit leery about whether it will work as well for me, I'm in too much excruciating discomfort to argue.  Happily, I connect on Thursday with a chiropractic practice not five minutes from our house, and I'm seen that very morning.

I find out my affliction is much worse than I could ever have imagined.  Without going into the anatomical details, suffice it to say, it will take months to right my spine's wrongs.

Do I care?  No!  Because just after my first treatment, I feel so much better, I quit taking aspirin right there and then.  And as I write this post after three days of back-to-back (pun intended) treatments, the results are miraculous!

Am I sore and stiff?  Yes!  But the sensation is more akin to muscles pulled from engaging in weekend warrior activities; ones I can count on to heal.

And as I reflect upon the sudden intensity and urgency of this pain, and recall the kind doctor's words, I am convinced that God's hand is all over this.  Had I decided to go the traditional route, doping my body, alleviating the pain without getting to its source, it may have been too late for chiropractic care of any type.

I was on the brink.

God pulled me back from it in a HUGE way by allowing me to feel such anguish, knowing all along that Danny's words would convince me to see a chiropractor.

Just in the nick of time.

Oh, how I am glad, rejoicing in the Lord's great love for me!

Thank You, precious Father!  Thank You!

~

Has there been an instance in your life when you knew God pulled you back from the brink?

Friday, February 3, 2017

Whom Shall I Follow?


1 Corinthians 3:1-4
Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly - mere infants in Christ.  I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it.  Indeed, you are still not ready.  You are still worldly.  For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly?  Are you not acting like mere humans?  For when one says, "I follow Paul," and another, "I follow Apollos," are you not mere human beings?

What follows is a statement I recently post on Facebook:

I made a big mistake.  I thought once the election was over, the inauguration was over, people in this country might finally come to their senses.  My bad!

So because of the continuing lack of civil dialogue, I plan to severely limit my time here except for posting my blog, updating The Glade Series. and visiting pages featuring Christian writers.  So if you don't see me around, and you've been a great friend, please don't think I've forgotten you.

I haven't forgotten you, dear friends, but I am tired.

Worn to a nub, tired.

And I am blown away by the flood of public, and private, responses I receive from so many of these treasured friends.  They are exhausted, too.  They are confused.  Over whelmed and discouraged by the vitriol spewed from those professing to be Christians.

How can this possibly happen?  How is this the way Christians are supposed to treat one another?  Or those of differing faiths, when it comes down to brass tacks?

As Paul states above, "You are still worldly."  Reacting and knee-jerking to anyone who opposes your world view, excommunicating them from your friend list because they don't share your world view?  Your self-proclaimed enlightenment?

Yes, we all have a perfect right to our opinions and visions of what this world should look like.  But we also have power over the words we choose to spew onto the social media airwaves.  So let's ask ourselves:  "Are we still quarreling?  Are we jealous?

How does this come anywhere near to fulfilling Jesus' commandment to love one another?

I'm wondering, as Paul did, "Are we not yet ready for solid food?"

"I follow Clinton!"

"I follow Trump!"

When we make such declarations, we are in and of this world, acting like mere human beings.

Shouldn't we, instead, be pronouncing with conviction, "I follow Christ!"

And mean those words with every ounce of our being?

I pray today that those angry, accusatory words once uttered will slowly, but surely, turn to peaceful prayers of love and thanksgiving to God and for this great nation He has blessed us with.

1 Corinthians 3:21-23
So then, no more boasting about human leaders.  All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world of life or death or the present or the future - all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.

Amen!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Three Sisters


Psalm 133:1
How good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity.

It's no secret to any of you who regularly follow Meditations of My Heart that I'm one proud Gammie of three beautiful girls:  Virginia Rose; Savannah Jane, and Alexandra Nancy.  But what pleases me as much, if not more than being their grandmother is how swimmingly the three sisters get along.

Being only fifteen months apart, Savannah and Alexandra are practically joined at the hip.  They play flawlessly together, keeping each other entertained and happy, sharing their toys, and allowing their mother, my daughter, Sarah, the opportunity to take care of daily chores.  They even share the same gifts at Christmas without a shred of jealousy!


As much as they love playing together, Savannah and Alexandra really look forward to that time each day when Virginia comes home from school.  They adore their big sister, and Virginia is so patient and loving with them.  Sarah tells me she is such a dependable and willing helper when it comes to looking after her siblings.









Such good and pleasant times!

At least for now.

Because I can already envision those emotionally tumultuous tween and teen years for Virginia, when those little sisters, now all sweetness and light, morph into pesky pests.  Sneaking into her room to read her diary.  Teasing her unmercifully about a boyfriend.  Pilfering her make up.  I wonder how patient Virginia will be with them then?

But those days are in the distant future.  So for now, I choose to enjoy each moment of their loving camaraderie and sisterly unity.

Such a joy!

Such a blessing!

Amen!

~

When you were a child, did you get along with your siblings?  How about your children or grandchildren?

Friday, January 27, 2017

"HUGE" Revisited


2 Corinthians 12:7-9
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.  Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away form me.  But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.

I write this post you are reading today on January 25th, one month since Christmas.  What strikes me hard is not how fast the days have flown by, but the variety of ailments I've endured during this time.

It starts on Christmas Eve day.  I wake with one ear stuffed up.  No amount of coaxing with wax softeners alleviates my condition.  Being partially deaf at Christmas makes it rough, let me tell you!

As soon as the holiday is over, I head out to our local Urgent Care with high hopes the doctor can clear up the ear.  But he can't!!!  This has never happened before!  He suggests I go home, now that my ear is washed out as well as it can be for now, and use a wax softener overnight to see if it works.

I follow the doctor's orders to the letter.  Next morning?  Clear as a bell!  What a blessed relief!

But not one meant to last . . .

Because within two days, here come the cold, and the cough, and the sneezing, and the ravaging of tissue boxes.  No fever, but I'm miserable, and definitely moving around in a slow-motion fog.

I try a generic allergy reliever, as that has helped my colds in the past, yet it's a weak substitute for the Day-Quil I finally end up taking.  But after three days, I quit, sniffles or no sniffles.  The drug is suppressing my appetite - not a good thing for a person who should be gaining weight, not losing it!

Back to the allergy pills I go.  I continue to suffer like this until the third week of January, when I take granddaughter, Virginia Rose, to my mother's for the weekend.  Thankfully, after these horrendous weeks, the cold has definitely subsided, and is manageable at long last.

Just when I feel I've turned the corner and outrun the creeping crud, I am inexplicably hit with a severe pain in my shoulders and upper back.  These not only make it almost impossible to stand straight, but alarmingly, affect each breath inhaled, infusing it with the harsh reminder of this burden.  Don't ask me how many aspirins I go through, because I don't recall.

What I do recall, though, is praying fervently to God.  Not that I hadn't prayed about the other illnesses I'd been saddled with, but this time, I ask specifically:  It it's Your will, Lord, please ease the pain in my back and chest.  I just don't know how much more of this I can take.

My prayer is answered!  Within twenty-four hours, the aches and tightness are gone!  For the first time in a month, I think, I can finally, finally get back to the gym.

And that's precisely what I do.  Only to wake up the next morning with my right hip joint so stiff and sore, I can hardly walk, let alone going up and down stairs.  Okay, Lord, is this some kind of joke?  You relieve me in one area of my body only to torment me in another?

Then Paul's words from 2 Corinthians hit me as brightly as a lone shaft of sunlight pierces an ominous bank of clouds.  "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."

And I see in a flash that during these trying times, I have prayed more to God, talked more with Him, and relied upon His mercy and strength like never before.  God's intention was never to punish me, but to set me straight.

He knows my word for the year is "huge."  And while I morosely think that all these infirmities are a HUGE inconvenience, He sees it as a HUGE opportunity for me to draw closer to Him.

Thank you, Father!  It's worked in a HUGE way!

Amen!

~

Have you ever struggled with a thorn in your flesh?