Meditations of my Heart

Friday, February 5, 2016

Too Blessed!


Colossians 2:6-8
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

I didn't win the powerball, but I feel like I've won life's lottery.  Someone to love me, a warm home, the love of my animal babies, a good job.  People and friends who truly care about me.  MUSIC!!!!!  Music, and the wonderful musical family of pros that have taken this amateur in.  Too blessed!  I hope to help someone, some people this year to make a difference in their lives, as so many have made in mine.  ~Barry Evan Russ

When I read high-school friend, Barry's, recent post on Facebook, I am overwhelmed by his glorious flood of words, encompassing and embracing an incomparable Gratitude Attitude.  It's not about what Barry hopes to have that makes life great, it's his knowledge and understanding of what he's been given, unconditionally, that not only makes him grateful, but inspires him to turn right around and do his best to give of himself to others.

A Gratitude Attitude.

Too Blessed!

Yes!  When we take time to stop in the midst of our busy lives, truly stop, and reflect upon all the amazing blessings God has given us, how can we not feel grateful for it all?  How can we not, in turn, give back to others?

Pay it forward.

As God, through Christ Jesus, did for us.

Loved us so much, in the face of our shortcomings, our failures, our hypocrisy.

Our sins.

God gave.  We received.

Or did we?

Are we, like Barry, taking a personal inventory of our blessings?  Are we giving thanks for the feast spread before us, or are we complaining and whining because our favorite dessert has been left off the menu?

Do we focus on the shortfalls in the present, or do we see God's promise in the eternal?

Friends, as St. Paul urges us, let us continue to live our lives in gratitude for the precious life Jesus sacrificed for us and for our sins.

May our lives ever testify to God's love and may our hearts, like Barry's, overflow with thankfulness.

That's the best lottery any of us could ever win.

~

Prayer:  Father, we pray to be overflowing with thankfulness for all the gifts and graces You pour upon our daily lives.  We are too blessed!  Let us, even in the dark days, choose to have faith that You are ever working all things for good for those who trust in You.  Strengthen us in our faith, and let us, with Your guidance, make all the difference in the lives of others.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

All My Senior Moments


Isaiah 46:9
Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.

Just last year, I turn the big "60."  I still have to pinch myself whenever I think about my chronological age; frankly, I don't feel a day over 40, and that's a good thing.  But another good thing is I now qualify for my senior discount in many retail outlets, including the Publix up the street where we do all our grocery shopping.

The drawback, however, is that the senior discount is only offered on Wednesdays, not my usual day to shop.  About two weeks ago, though, we have accumulated a list of grocery items required to complete the meals planned for the week.  And when I realize it's Wednesday, I'm pumped!

I remind myself during the entire drive to Publix to ask for my discount at checkout.  Yes, I know, it's only a 5% reduction in the sales total, but hey, a penny saved is a . . . you know the rest.

I cruise through the aisles with my cart and shopping list, eager to have this chore over and done with.  The store is inordinately populated by those of us who fit into the senior demographic.  I smile thinking I'm not the only one who wishes to take advantage of this bonus, no matter how small it is.

When I get in line to check out, I load my goodies on the conveyor belt, and am immediately distracted by the tabloid headlines screaming at me from the display rack.  They are a sad reminder of how many people out there celebrate the fall of the mighty as it makes them feel better about their own dreary or troublesome lives.

The friendly voice of the young clerk averts my attention.  She deftly rings up my purchases while a college-aged boy bags my groceries, all the while carrying on a lively conversation.  I swipe my debit card, take my receipt, and head out to my car.

It isn't until I get home and remove the receipt from my wallet that I realize with dismay:  I neglected to ask for my senior discount!!!

Talk about your classic senior moment.  This one takes the cake!

The whole cake . . .

And as many of you who follow me here may be aware, my father suffered for years from Alzheimer's before the Lord graciously took him home in March of 2014.  The fear that my future holds the same, especially when I forget such a simple thing as I do this day, at age 60, rears its ugly head.  I can't help but wonder if my dad, when he was my age, was beginning to forget what was obvious and on the front burner of his mind.

I'll never know for sure . . .

But I do know this:  God will be with me no matter what the future brings.  He will help me to remember the former things, those of long ago, even if and when my mind drifts away from the present.  I will ever be His child, and He will be my God.

The One like no other is the God in whom I trust.

He will see me through all my senior moments.

~

Do you ever have a senior moment?  Does it worry you, or do you take it in stride?

Prayer:  Father, many of us have valid reasons to fear the future as we age.  Let us rely on You to allay those fears, to set them aside, and focus upon Your eternal promise, that You will ever be with us.  God, may we praise You unceasingly all of our days.  It is in Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Chopped! Or Not?


Joel 2:13
Rend your heart and not your garments.  Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.

My husband, Danny, and I enjoy watching cooking shows on Food Network, especially those involving competition.  One of  our favorites is Chopped.

For those of you unfamiliar with this program, four chefs compete against one another in three rounds - appetizer, entree and dessert - to see who will be declared the Chopped Champion.  The judges' criteria are taste, creativity and presentation of the completed meal.

Sounds pretty straightforward, right?  It's anything but!  As if the time constraints for preparing a dish aren't enough, each chef is given a mystery basket with identical, and always eclectic, ingredients, all of which must be incorporated into the recipe.  Some items are so far-fetched, they often leave Danny, a seasoned chef in his own right, shaking his head in disbelief.

It is downright miraculous to watch these chefs transform such incongruous food items into five-star wonders in a matter of minutes.  Each creation reflects the knowledge, skills and background of the chefs.  But no matter how fancy the presentation or savory the taste, one contestant will be chopped at the end of each round, until only the Chopped Champion is left standing.

For the losers, there are no do-overs.  No second chances.

They are simply chopped.

As we traverse this road called life, each new day presents its own mystery basket.  We may open it and be delighted by what we find inside:  love; laughter; a child's smile, a warm touch.  We know just what to do with these ingredients, and rarely fail to turn our day into a five-star one.

But what about those mystery baskets that, when opened, reveal less than palatable contents?  An ailing parent, a troubled child, problems with the boss, financial woes, and the list goes on and on.  What then?  How will we ever address the mess?

Sadly, when faced with tough situations, even we, as Christians, often plunge forward, declaring, "I've got this, God.  I can handle this."  But we delude ourselves.  If we leave God out of the equation, we are leaving the most important ingredient in our mystery basket out of the mix.  That should get us chopped, for sure!

But it doesn't.

We need to repent, gather up our rag-tag attempts to fix our problems, and surrender them to the the Lord, our God.  For He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in love, and He relents from sending calamity.

With God, none of us are losers.  He allows do-overs.  Repeatedly.

The Lord, our God, is a God of Second Chances.


~

Was there a time in your life when you thought you could handle your mystery boxes without God's help?

Prayer:  Father, help us to remember when we are facing overwhelming problems or situations in our lives to turn first to You for wisdom, strength and guidance.  Forgive us those times when we have taken matters into our own hands and taken You out of the mix.  Thank You for Your great, endless and abiding love for us, Your wayward children.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Bebe and the Girl


Psalm 21:2
You have granted him his heart's desire and have not withheld the request of his lips.

"If I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look further than my own back yard.  Because if it isn't there, I never really lost it to begin with." ~Frank L. Baum, The Wizard of Oz

When our granddaughter, Virginia Rose, wakes up Saturday morning after having spent the night with us, all she can think about (and talk about - nonstop) is our impending visit to Danny's mother's house.  She is excited at the prospect of spending time with her Nonna, visiting the modest bakery in town, which excels in delectable cookies, and seeing Nonna's cockatiel, Bebe.  (Baybay)

Every time Danny visits with his mother, he always lets Bebe out of her cage so she can stretch her wings and get some much-needed exercise.  It's Virginia's heart's desire to have the bird perch, and stay, on her shoulder.  Though Danny has tried this in the past, Bebe would have none of it.  But Virginia still holds out hope.

"Can you put Bebe on my shoulder again today, Papa?  Do you think she'll stay this time?"

"I can, but I can't promise you she will sit there for long.  We'll just have to see."

When the moment comes to release Bebe, Danny gently places her on Virginia's waiting shoulder.  And miracles of miracles, this time she stays!



And stays.




And stays.




Needless to say, Virginia is beside herself with delight.  Her wish has at long last been granted.  The desires of her heart have been met.

Then . . .

Bebe discovers Virginia's hair.  She begins to pluck at it, lightly at first so that it's no more than a tickle.  But suddenly, Bebe decides Virginia's ear is fair game, too.  Her sharp beak is too much to bear.  Tears spring to our granddaughter's eyes as her Papa hastily comes to the rescue, deftly scooping Bebe up in his hands, and tossing her into the air so she will take flight.

Virginia recovers quickly from this unexpected turn of events, but the honeymoon is over.  She doesn't ask to have Bebe on her shoulder again.  Can you blame her?

And I think back on times as a child when I wanted a toy or a game so badly, I dreamed about it, yearned for it, and mercilessly begged my parents to buy it for me.  But when the long-coveted gift was finally in my hands, it didn't hold the charm for me that I imagined it would.

My heart's desire was granted, but I was no better off than I was before I received it.

From time to time, God grants us our heart's desire, doesn't He?  Yet, if our heart isn't in the right place, in tune with God's will for us, that desire will not, cannot fulfill us.  It can even become an annoying, pecking Bebe that pricks at our pride and vanity for daring to place our wants before wanting God.

It is only when we realize that our true heart's delight is in loving the Lord that we will soar on the wings of eagles.

Or maybe, cockatiels.


~

What is your heart's desire today?

Prayer:  Father, You love us so much and want to give us what our hearts desire.  Even when what we ask for is wrong, as were the demands of the Prodigal Son, when we admit the error of our ways, You welcome us back to You with outstretched arms.  We are so grateful for Your infinite patience and wondrous grace.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

Friday, January 22, 2016

My Abba


Romans 8:15
The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.  And by him we cry, "Abba, Father."

As the evening winds down and our granddaughter, Virginia Rose's, bedtime draws near, I keep a close eye on the clock.  The last time Danny and I had her over to spend the night, we allowed her to stay up later than her parents would permit.  That made for one tired little girl in the morning, and we don't want a repeat performance as we have a busy Saturday planned.  (Details to come in next Tuesday's post!)

Dutifully, I make sure Virginia brushes her teeth and changes into her pajamas, and leave ample time for a bedtime story and prayers before declaring lights-out.  I retreat to our bedroom to do the same.  When I reemerge into the dining room, this is the scene that greets me.


Seeing Virginia, snuggled up with the Papa she adores, as they view a cooking show on the computer, melts my heart.  Bedtime or no bedtime, I decide I'm not going to be the one to break up these tender moments of warmth, security and love.

I close my eyes.  A tear escapes.  For when I am troubled, fearful, tired, or sad, I often picture myself as a little girl, crawling up into Jesus' lap, and being held in His strong, reassuring embrace.  I may be a Gammie on the outside, but on the inside is a child who longs for the love and comfort of my Father.

My Abba.

Every day, I give thanks to Him who adopted me and calls me His own.

And never says, "No," when I ask to climb up in His lap.

~
When you look at your reflection in the mirror, do you see the child of God that you are?

Prayer:  Abba, Father, we give thanks for Your Son, our Savior, Jesus, who reconciled us to You through His death on a cross, where He took our every sin away and made it possible for us to be Your sons and daughters.  May we ever remember that we are Your beloved children.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

"I Can Do It Myself, Gammie!"


Philippians 4:13
I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

My husband, Danny, and I have our granddaughter, Virginia Rose, over to spend a recent Friday night with us.  We wanted to have her in the worst way over the Christmas holidays, but because everyone in her household was sick, we couldn't risk it.  So it's been a while since we've spent any one-on-one time with our little angel, and we are looking forward to every minute together.

The biggest change I observe in Virginia is her self-assured demeanor.  It's not that she hasn't displayed confidence in the past; she is always willing to try new things, but now she firmly verbalizes her self-reliance.

"I can do it myself, Gammie."

I hear that phrase time and time again, whether it's breaking eggs into the cookie mixture, stirring in the M&Ms, placing teaspoons of dough on the baking sheets, lugging a board game upstairs from its storage space in the downstairs closet, readying the game for a round of fun, or changing into pajamas, the mantra repeats.

"I can do it myself, Gammie."

But where Virginia's declared confidence truly shines is when she insists she can clean up after having her way with flour play on the kitchen counter.  This Gammie is skeptical (and yes, I do help some), but I'm amazed at how much she is able to accomplish without a smidgen of help from me.













Not bad for a five-year-old!

While I understand how important it is for children to develop their abilities and skills, the "do-it-myself" mentality can become an obstacle, a stumbling block, to their spiritual and emotional growth down the road of life.  Children must also learn that asking for help when the task before them is daunting is not a sign of weakness or shame.  It is life-giving.

Life changing.

Because the moment we realize we can't do it all on our own is the moment we learn to lean, expectantly and unabashedly, upon the Lord.  We ask for His help.

And He is there to give it.

Faithfully and unfailingly.

And with Jesus' strength infusing our hearts and souls, we can overcome all the hindrances, set backs and shortfalls we encounter along our earthly journey.

We can truly, and confidently, do all things.

~

Are you telling God you can "do it yourself," or do you trust in Him to give you the strength you need for the task at hand?

Prayer:  Father, we understand that it is important for children to take pride in their accomplishments and capabilities.  But pride not tempered by humility is a recipe for disaster.  Help us to teach and guide our children and grandchildren to always thank You for all the good gifts and talents they have been given and to acknowledge that all these are blessings from You to them.  It is in Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Are You Judging?


Matthew 7:1-3
Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.  Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?

I never think this would be suited to me, but I'm actually enjoying and being inspired by monthly luncheons with a local Christian women's group.  A resolved introvert, I don't think I require this breach of practice, but these loving women help me, in large and small ways, to let my guard down and just be myself.

We too often hear/think of "the church" as being judgmental, demanding, and at its lowest, exclusive.  But in stark contrast, though I attend this luncheon as an "outsider," I'm quickly, unconditionally accepted as a friend.  These women do not judge me.  They don't care if I'm wearing enough make-up or upscale jewelry even though our luncheon venue is a country club.

They couldn't care less.

I sit at a table with unknown faces who are quick to make themselves known.

They embrace each other.

They embrace me.

And though I mistakenly think in attending this gathering I will be outside my comfort zone, I can't be further from the truth.

I am accepted as a child of God.

I stand corrected.

I stand amazed.

And I know, beyond any shadow of doubt, that God works in mysterious and wondrous ways.

I am not judged.

I am loved.

And I can love in return.

~

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you feared you might be judged?  What was the outcome?

Prayer:  Father, thank You for the opportunity opened to me to be a part of the lives of these precious Christian women.  As one who would rather sit at her computer and write, I hadn't realized how important it is to touch and be touched by the lives of others on this Christian journey.  I thank You for this open door, and I pray that all who are reading this and seeking, even though reluctantly at times, will find Your love and grace in the hearts of those around them, and be able to give love in return.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.