Meditations of my Heart

Friday, April 29, 2016

Bubble-licious!


John 10:10
The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.  I have come that they may have life, and have it more abundantly.

One of the activities we have enjoyed doing with our granddaughter, Virginia Rose, over the ears has been blowing bubbles.  My husband, Danny, finds a recipe for homemade bubbles, and we sit out on our deck with the "magic" wand and take turns blowing bubbles for Virginia to chase, catch and pop.

When Danny is on Facebook recently, he notes a post from a fellow photographer, who is avidly promoting the fun and entertainment of a bubble-making machine for children and adults alike.  (Yes, Danny and I are both old enough to have memories of the Lawrence Welk Show, which we both watched with our grandparents . . .A one, and a two, and a . . .)  Danny is convinced that this is something he has to order for Virginia, knowing the other granddaughters will like it, too, as they get older.

But I'm surprised when he informs me of his decision as he never spends money frivolously.

"Isn't this a little over the top?"  I query.  "I mean, it's not Virginia's birthday yet; she's only just coming next Friday to spend the night."

"What better way to have fun with her," Danny responds.  "She loves bubbles, and we can use the machine for Savannah's upcoming birthday party, too, and all the birthdays after that!"

Seriously, how can I argue with such seamless reasoning?

Virginia is beside herself with excitement when her Papa tells her about the bubble machine.  He sets it up on a chair in our back yard, and it's celebration time!











After a while, Danny decides to place the bubble machine on our deck instead to the bubbles can cascade through the air like an enchanted waterfall.  Virginia's delights continue!









And as I watch my granddaughter eagerly embrace the endless streams of bubbles pouring over her, I can't help but think how passe and one-dimensional the old-fashioned way of blowing bubbles seems in light of this scintillating show.  Yes!  This is life lived large!

And that's how it is when we ask Jesus into our hearts.

Instead of slogging through our days, blowing slow bubble after slow bubble, the Lord showers innumerable blessings upon us.  Blessings that set us free.  Blessings as abundant as countless orbs generated by the bubble maker.

Because Jesus invites us to not just live, but to live abundantly in His grace, His truth and His love.

And have a bubble-licious time doing so!

~

Are you counting your blessings today and giving thanks to God?

Prayer:  Father, we thank You for this abundant life You have given us through Your Son, Christ Jesus.  May we recognize and give thanks for all the blessings we receive from You each day, and may our lives be a blessing to others.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

My Lamp, My Light


Psalm 119:105
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.

Okay.  I confess.

I've never read the Bible in its entirety.  Do I hear a startled gasp escaping your lips?  What???  Martha writes all these devotions, but she hasn't tackled every scripture and verse?

That's right.  But times, they are a'changing!

Since the first Sunday in Advent, 2015, I have employed the 52 Week Bible Reading Plan created by Michael Coley.  The plan does not go straight through the Bible from cover to cover.  Rather, it weaves through chapters in both Old and New Testaments during each week, giving the reader variety and the opportunity to see how all books of the Bible work together to form one love story from God to His people.

The manageable chapters to be read and studied each day also provide ample time for contemplation, journaling and/or prayer over a particular verse.  This is an exercise in which even the busiest of moms or CEOs can participate, no matter how hectic their schedules may appear to be.

Getting back to reading the entire Bible:  Before Coley's plan, I failed.  Twice.  Now I'm on Week 22 and haven't skipped a beat.

Wow!

On top of this, I read and reflect upon the wise words and scriptures shared by the many talented Christian bloggers I follow.  Oh, how the two combined can transform my day and inspire my heart!

Why did I begin this Bible-reading challenge on the first Sunday in Advent?  Pastor Wallace encouraged us to do so as the new church year began, to recommit ourselves to delving into God's eternal Word.  And it didn't hurt that he provided printouts for the daily readings!

But you don't have to wait until the next Advent rolls around to begin your pilgrimage.  Set any Sunday to start your Day One, and keep on reading.

For 52 weeks.

Just one year.

You can do it!

And you know what I plan to do when the first Sunday in Advent rolls around this year and the complete Bible is under my belt?  Start all over!

Because God's Word, no matter how much we read it, always offers fresh insights into the human experience of loving Him.  Insights that change as needs arise, but truths that are never failing.

I want God's truth for my life.

Do you?

~

Are you willing to start the 52 Week Bible Reading Plan, or do you have a different plan that works for you?  Please share!

Prayer:  Father, we need to be immersed in Your Word, especially in these times of travail and tribulation.  In the scriptures, You have given us lamps for our feet and a light upon our paths; the hope, the strength, and the confidence we need to live our lives to Your honor and glory.  May we read faithfully, discern with Your wisdom, and take the lessons learned to heart.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Stand Up!


Leviticus 19:32
Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God.  I am the Lord.

I am not able to get out to church now.  I miss the fellowship but don't understand why no one calls or comes by to see me after I taught 55 years, and worked with the youth, and ministered in different ways 50 years.  I don't understand.  I still consider myself a child of God and can minister from home as an encouragement by writing.  ~Winston Staples

When I read this post from Winston in a Christian writers' forum on Facebook, my heart breaks and my soul spirit plummets.  How can this possibly be?  What kind of church is this that turns its back on the aged, the infirm?  Where is the indignation in such abandonment of a brother who still has so much to give to his church community?

A child of God who simply wants to be included, but is resigned to the fact that his only venue now to reach out to others is through writing, hoping to save souls for the kingdom.

Yes, his efforts are noble.  His attitude?  Forgiving and full of grace.  I am humbled by Winston's acceptance of the way things are.

But what has happened to Winston reveals the cumbersome elephant in the room for too many churches.  The world is infiltrating, and we are succumbing to its influence. Falling for the fallacy that youth and wrinkle-free existences are all that matter.  Those persons who appear to be past their usefulness are left by the wayside, breathing the dust that younger, more vigorous church members throw as they stampede by them.  Quickly.  Blindly.  Too eager to pass them and pass up their seasoned experience.

Leaving them in the lurch.

Wisdom, and all . . .

Forsaken.

Forgotten.

In our haste for self-gratification in the here and now, we can too easily miss the hidden treasure the elder generation has to offer.  And we open the Pandora's box of misery instead.

Because history, not learned, is doomed to repeat itself.

And we have much to learn from Christian men like Winston and others of his generation.

The questions burn:  Will we welcome and embrace their presence in the fold?  Or will we continue to kick up the dust of ignorance?


~

How does your church minister to the elderly and shut-ins no longer able to attend services?

Prayer:  Father, let us always stand up for the aged and show respect to the elderly as You have commanded.  Let not one soul in Your kingdom be forgotten nor forsaken because of our agendas set in our own interests.  Revive us, dear Lord, that we might see the wealth of knowledge our elders can share with us.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Everlasting Covenant



Genesis 9:15-17
I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind.  Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.  Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.

My husband, Danny, and I can't get enough of our most recent cabin in the breathtaking Nantahala Mountains of North Carolina overlooking the majestic vistas of the Great Smokys.  The interior of the cabin offers all the comforts, and then some, of home.











The views from our windows are incomparable, ever changing, ever inspiring.









If you've followed Meditations of My Heart for any length of time, you already know that we are bi-annual visitors to these gracious, inviting mountains, which by their very presence, remind us of the God who created them and dwells among us.  We have witnessed, over the years, every imaginable cloud formation, stunning sunrises, and night skies that defy description.



But on this visit, we are graced with the one phenomenon we'd barely glimpsed before and never witnessed in full.  A rainbow!!!  And not just any rainbow; this one begins in the valley and arches onto the mountainside high above in a single, unbroken curve.



MAGNIFICENT!

We stand speechless, in awe yet again of the wonders in God's handiwork.  And we are gloriously reminded by this rainbow of His everlasting covenant.

~

Do you have a special memory of a rainbow?  Please share!

Prayer:  Father, we thank You for Your signs and wonders all around us that remind us of Your constant presence in our lives.  Help us to live humbly, giving You all the honor and the glory, each and every day.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Be Strong! Take Heart! And Wait . . .


Psalm 27:13-14
I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.

My resolve before my husband, Danny, and I go on vacation to the mountains is to go as "dark" as I possibly can on all things social media.  While at the cabin, I de-clutter my email and pay only fleeting visits to Facebook.  But I find it difficult to ignore the blogs of those whom I delight in following on a daily basis.  I know my friends will understand.

But still . . .

As I gaze upon the vista spread before me, a sumptuous feast for the eyes and the soul, a lone and distant cell tower pulses its piercing white light with regularity.


It reminds me unrelentingly that the possibility, the temptation of instant communication with the outside world is at my fingertips.  I only have to connect with it to have assured contact with family and friends.

I admonish myself:  This is supposed to be the time intentionally set aside to reconnect with Danny.  With God.

Communication with my husband comes easy, a natural give-and-take, a loving, spontaneous flow.  Conversations and interactions take place in the here and now.  As instantaneous and accessible as the internet, but thankfully, face-to-face.





With God?  Now that's another story.  I spend lots of time in His Word and in prayer while we are at the cabin, but there are no immediate messages coming over the heavenly wires.  Peace?  Yes!  Answers?  Hmm . . .

And there are so many I need.  So many I want right now.

Being accustomed to the instant gratification of the internet, I'm in danger of morphing into a petulant, pouting child, stomping her foot indignantly.  Where are Your answers, Lord?  I know You are there.  I know You are listening.  Why won't You answer me?

Silence.

I step back.  I breathe.  Relax.

And I hear . . . Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

Not the answer for which I seek.

But it's the only one that matters.

~

How do you react when you feel God is not answering your prayers?

Prayer:  Father, so often we grow impatient when our prayers are not answered in the time and place we feel they should.  Grant us the strength to wait upon Your timing, knowing it is always perfect.  Let us see Your goodness in the land of the living.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

When It's Safe to Bloom Again


1 Peter 1:13-16
Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.  As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.  But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written:  "Be holy, because I am holy."

Early spring weather in the Nantahala Mountains of North Carolina is unpredictable at best.  It is a warm, balmy day when my husband, Danny, and I arrive at the cabin in which we will spend the week.  The daffodils planted nearby are past their peak, but a lone tulip bravely blossoms, spreading its velvety petals wide to embrace the sunshine.

The next morning, the temperatures plunge, and stay cold to chilly for the remainder of our vacation.  Howling gusts of wind and the occasional rain shower encourage us to hunker down in the comfort of our cabin and admire our view behind the protection of plate glass windows.



I notice that the tulip responds in kind.  It retracts its showy petals, closes itself into a tight, insular bud as if it had never bloomed at all.  Instinctively, the tulip knows how to protect itself from inclement weather so that it will be able to blossom again once conditions improve.

~

In his sermon this past Sunday, Pastor Wallace illustrates what Peter is warning against in the scripture cited above.  He describes arriving years ago at a small church he is to serve and asking the lay leader how he perceives the spiritual temperature of the congregation.

"I'll show you," he tells Wallace, and leads him to the doors of the narthex.  Opening one, he plants a foot outside the church and the other inside it.

Wallace is confused.  "I don't get it," he admits.  "What are you telling me?"

The lay leader answers, "They have one foot in the church in case it's the truth, and the other foot in the world just in case it's not."

Luke-warm.  Not on fire for the Lord.  Hanging onto the evil desires they had when living in ignorance.  Wallace is crestfallen.  This is a tiny, but mature congregation; few are below the age of sixty.  Wallace wonders how, after all those years as Christians, they cannot bring themselves to fully trust in God, cannot will themselves to be holy for Him because He is holy for them.

Wallace reminds us that the things of this world tug mightily at us, seeking to distract us from our focus on Jesus.  We must, as Peter admonishes, keep our minds alert and sober, setting our hope fully on God's grace.  When we are "all in" for Him, the storms and tempests with which the world threatens us cannot shake us loose from His firm foundation.

We can, like the tulip, hide our vulnerabilities in the safety and comfort of our Father's arms, believing with all our hearts that He will shield and protect us.

Secure in the knowledge that He will let us know when it's safe to bloom again.

~

Is your hope set on the grace of God?

Prayer:  Father, help us to be Your obedient children, setting our hope on the grace You give us through Christ Jesus, and being holy in all we do.  Defend us from the perils of this world, and let us grow and blossom in our faith and trust in You.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Holy Ground



Psalm 24:3
Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?  Who may stand in his holy place?

Such a long time in coming!  My husband, Danny, and I have been literally counting down the days until we can once again return to the mountains we love and reconnect with God and one another.

We try to stay in different cabins each time we visit the Nantahala Mountains of North Carolina, and we are fortunate to book a new one dubbed Eagle's Nest Hideaway.  Judging by the photos accompanying the cabin's advertisement, our accommodations should prove nothing less than luxurious and our views, incomparable.  Here are some photos of past vistas we have been graciously invited to view.











For both of us, there is something indescribably holy about these ancient, towering mounds of rock that lift us closer to the heavens.  I've read where geologists believe these now tree-covered domes once rose higher than today's Himalayan peaks.  It is an idea hard to fathom in the short-sight of human vision, but a most welcomed reminder that with God, nothing is impossible.

God's majestic mountains help me remember that it is a gift to ascend, to stand beside Him.  They inspire me to sing and praise Him for His glory and His gifts that wrap us in His loving arms.  He assures me that my mountaintop experiences will make the valleys of my life both endurable and doable.

So may this time of ascending the mountain, both for Danny an me, be blessed.  May we realize with every breath that we stand in a sacred place.

Feet firmly planted on Holy Ground.

~

Where do you find your feet planted on God's Holy Ground?

~

Prayer:   Father, we are not worthy to climb the mountains nor stand in Your holy presence.  Yet You have paved the way through Your Son, Christ Jesus, to make a path for us, that we might ascend into the holiest of places and know we are welcome.  To know we are loved infinitely by You.  May we honor Your love for us each day by showing love to others.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.


Meditations of My Heart will be on hiatus next week.  The mountains beckon, and I'm longing for that special time to reconnect with Danny and with the God we love.  I will be keeping all social media to a minimum from Monday, April 4th, until Saturday, April 9th.  If I miss a birthday, a blog, or a blessing in the interim, don't take it personally.  Know my prayers and heart are with you!