Meditations of my Heart

Friday, June 24, 2016

Pool Party!


John 4:10
Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water."

It's summer here in the sunny and often sweltering South, and what better way to chill out on a hot afternoon than taking a dip in the local swimming hole?

I have glorious memories of afternoons spent at the pool of our most generous next-door neighbors, who welcomed us as long as Mom supervised.  What a refreshing, rejuvenating experience, especially when our home here in Georgia had no air-conditioning at the time (I really don't know how my transplanted Yankee parents survived!).  Our only relief from the oppressive heat was our immersion in the clear, cool water of that pool, or in the afternoon pop-up storms, which brought rain and sweeping down-drafts of chilled air to offset the summer doldrums.

Today, I'm so thankful that my daughter, Sarah, and her husband, John, treat their girls to a swim in their apartment pool every chance they get.  Here are some photos of their most recent pool party.





















As cool and revitalizing as a swim on a steamy summer day can be, its effect is only temporary.  If we desire everlasting refreshment, we must plunge our souls into the Living Water offered to us by Christ Jesus.

By drinking in deeply His Word and His love, we will not thirst.  We will be reinvigorated.

Refreshed.

Renewed.

That's the pool party I choose.

What about you?


~
Prayer

Living Water
Flow through me
Turn desert parched
To flowering tree
Quench the thirst
Of heart and soul
In Your mercy
Make me whole

Amen

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Uh-oh!


Romans 3:22-24
This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.  There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Recently, our youngest granddaughter, Alexandra Nancy, has learned to say, "Uh-oh!" when she drops a toy or sees one of her older sisters do the same.  Such a huge step in her development!  Although there is a part of this Gammie that longs for this baby to stay one, I ruefully accept that's not the way it works.

All three of our grand-girls are changing and growing each and every day.






As they do, their "uh-ohs" will change and grow right along with them.  A juice glass knocked over.  The forgotten homework.  A test not studied for.  A missed catch on the softball field.  The dance step taken right when it should have gone left.

You get the picture.

Call me Grandma Grizzly, but I want to protect my granddaughters from all the pitfalls and potholes they will encounter throughout their lives.  I desire to help them navigate those "Uh-oh!" moments that can all too easily turn into "Oh, no!" disasters.

But God reminds me:  It's not my job.

My grands will make mistakes.  They will, like all of us, sin and fall short of the glory of God.

And when they fall, our loving Lord will be right there to pick them up, brush them off and set them back on the road to righteousness.

So I pray that as each one of our precious grand-girls continues to grow, so will their faith in the redemptive power of God's grace.

And I'll do my part to place each of their tender, tiny hands into the strong, yet gentle, hands of Jesus, who will love them, "uh-ohs" and all.

~

Have you ever experienced an "uh-oh" moment that escalated into an "oh, no!" one?

Prayer:  Father, thank You for being with us through all the "uh-oh" and "oh, no!" times in our lives.  We all sin and fall short of Your glory.  When we stumble and fall, let us reach for Jesus' steady and loving hands to guide us back into the ways of truth and righteousness.  In the name of Jesus, we pray.  Amen.


Friday, June 10, 2016

Catch a Wave!

Proverbs 22:6
Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

Two months ago, I register our granddaughter, Virginia Rose, for Vacation Bible School at our church, which will be held this coming week.  I tell Lin, the intrepid organizer of this event, that I would love to volunteer to help, but am hesitant to commit; since Virginia will be staying with my husband, Danny, and me during that time, I'm afraid tending to children from morning to night will do me in.  

I can't say I feel comfortable about this decision.  And when a plea for a snack coordinator comes across our church prayer chain, I find myself praying that someone else will step forward to fill those shoes so I won't feel I have to.  To my huge relief, Lin announces in church that not one, but two folks have readily accepted that challenge.  Still, she insists, there remains a need for additional volunteers.

Now I feel the guilt seeping in.  Yes, I've done Vacation Bible School before, and have absolutely loved every moment of it.  But for the reasons already mentioned, I hang back.  I'm so accustomed to having quiet "me-time" every day, how will I manage a 24/7 stream of activity?

The call comes while I'm working on a blog post.  I don't recognize the number, so don't answer.  I always figure if it's important, the person calling will leave a message.

She does.

Volunteers are still needed.  Would I reconsider?

I close my eyes and heave a sigh.  I walk out on our deck, my favorite spot to commune with God, and pray to know His will in all this before I return the phone call.  His answer, to my utter amazement, is instantaneous.  Bonding experience!

Bonding experience?  What?  Virginia and I are joined at the hip, Lord.  What do You mean?

God's bolt from the blue, and the pieces fall into place.  Virginia Rose will bond with me if her Gammie is there to reinforce the lessons learned, my promises, never-ending, given.

My mind is made up.

I dial the number with God-given confidence.  And guess what?  There is a position open for an assistant in Virginia's rising first-grade class!

So, friends, I'm catching the wave of God's amazing love, and headed for the Surf Shack come Monday morning.  That being said, I won't be posting any blogs this week; I will try my best to read yours and comment, but please don't think my silence means I don't care for each and every one of you.  I do, and always will!

And if you would be so kind, would you pray for me and all those helping with and attending Kennesaw United Methodist Church's Vacation Bible School?  We have high hopes that we will, with God's help, start children off on the way they should go and reach young hearts for His kingdom.  

~

Have you ever volunteered for a VBS at your church?

Prayer:  Father, we pray that You will bless all those who attend and volunteer for VBS events throughout this land.  May Your love and glory be revealed to hearts and minds that have yet to know You; and may these children always catch the wave of Your amazing, infinite love.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Servant of All


Mark 9:35
Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, "Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all."
1 Peter 4:10
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms.

Yes!  I have surrendered this day to God.  I will follow where He guides and I will do His will as He reveals it to me.  Amen.  ~Tilden

In a recent post by my Christian blogging friend, Deb Wolf, she elaborates on how a couple in her church influenced and strengthened her walk with the Lord.  Tilden and Loretta.  Always cheerfully serving, never seeking accolades, and ever giving, with loving hearts, to those in need.

Isn't this what we, as Christians, should be about?

Yes!  But is this happening in our daily lives?  Are we selflessly serving in our church, or are we seeking praise and affirmation for ourselves?  Are we demonstrating God's amazing love in the world outside the church, and modeling the servant attitude that Jesus commanded us to have?  Or are we wearing a pious mask, all the while judging the people we meet day to day?

I recall memories of my own experience with the Tildens and Lorettas of this world.  Their names were Price and Esther.  Every time, and I mean every time, there was an event at my former church that involved food preparation, we could count on Price and Esther to man and woman the front lines.

Esther was a marvelous cook.  Concocting dishes that would feed and delight hundreds of hungry mouths was her forte.  Because of her unassuming, encouraging manner, she had no trouble recruiting volunteers to assist her in the kitchen.  I can attest to having been under her tutelage numerous times.  Esther always made each one of us feel capable and competent as we diligently engaged in the tasks she assigned to us.

While Esther was the master chef, her husband, Price, was the chief bottle-washer, dutifully cleaning up soiled bowls, utensils, pots, and pans.  He collected and rinsed dirty plates and glassware, supervised the loading and unloading of the industrial-strength dishwasher, always with a smile on his face.  If Price spied you coming through the serving line, you could expect a hearty and sincere greeting that made you feel as though he was reconnecting with a long lost friend.

I'm sure that Price and Esther enjoyed the many compliments given them by the satisfied diners, but that certainly was not what compelled them to serve.  Their motivation came from their deep, abiding love for the Lord, and their commitment to serving others.  They used fully the gifts God had given them, living and giving in a way that made His light shine into the hearts (and stomachs) of so many.

Just as Tilden and Loretta inspired my friend, Deb, so Price and Esther inspired me.  They have all long since gone to be with the Lord, but their smiles, their warmth and their genuine love for others will ever be etched into the fabric of my soul.

May we all serve others well in this lifetime as these blessed Christian men and women did in theirs.


~

Can you point to a Tilden or Loretta, a Price or an Esther, as having had a positive impact on your faith walk?

Prayer:  Father, we give thanks today for all those who selflessly serve others and shine the light of Your love and grace into a world so in need of You.  May we learn from their examples, and be faithful stewards of Your gifts in all their many forms.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Arrive Alive!


Proverbs 3:5-7
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

Over the years, my husband, Danny, and I have paid many visits to my parents (now just my mother since Dad passed); it takes us well over an hour to travel from our home in Kennesaw to theirs in Oxford.  And that's using the most straight and expedient route:  Interstate 75-South, through Atlanta, and on to Interstate 20-East.

Danny is an extremely competent and defensive driver when it comes to tackling the expressways.  Me?  Not on your life!  Though I trust Danny completely when he is behind the wheel, rarely can I sit back and enjoy the ride.  Yes, I've tried reading while he's driving.  It doesn't work.  Some morbid attraction to all the traffic whizzing around us diverts my attention from the book every time.

Our most recent sojourn to Mom's house happens two Saturdays ago.  Usually, the traffic volume is lighter on the weekends and therefore, less stressful.

Not this time . . .

The drive from Kennesaw all the way through the downtown connector is tight.  Jammed.  To make things worse, the Indy 500 wannabees are out in full and reckless force.  It's a lane-changing, dodge-em car nightmare!  Even though the speed limit says "55," if you're not doing at least 70, you're guaranteed to get run over.

As if that's not enough, a motorcycle hurtling at an estimated 80+ passes us and then proceeds to weave hazardously through traffic up ahead.  The rider might as well have the words "Organ Donor" emblazoned on the back of his black-leather jacket.

Then there's "Tailgating Tammy."  Creeping dangerously up on back bumpers, following so closely that the slightest change-up in traffic flow assures a ten-car pile-up.

And the careless trucker, probably sleep-deprived, swaying disconcertingly from side to side.

Add the I-can't-put-my-cellphone-down crazies in the crowd, and you have a recipe for disaster.

The only good thing about all this mayhem is I'm praying.  Constantly.  Persistently.  Travel mercies, Lord, travel mercies!!!  Please, Lord, let us arrive alive!

God, thankfully, grants my prayers.  Danny and I get to Mom's and back home safely, though our nerves are sorely frazzled.  So frayed, that we decide it's high time we travel the back roads to Oxford in the future.

While the drive (I've done it several times) takes almost three hours, the route is much more scenic and definitely less chaotic.  It also means that we would travel to Mom's on one day, spend the night, and return home the next.  Makes for more time spent with her, and that's definitely a good thing.

And I think, maybe, just maybe, we encounter all those close calls on the highway for that very reason.  God is telling us to not lean on our own understanding when choosing the path, but trust in and submit to His will in all things.

What to our eyes seems the most circuitous routes, those two-lane back roads, are the paths the Lord has now made straight and safe and welcoming.

Paths to give us the confident knowledge that we will arrive alive.

~

Have you every encountered any close calls while navigating expressways?

Prayer:  Father, so many times, the routes we see as the most expedient and time-saving aren't at all the paths You make straight for us.  Let us listen for Your still, small voice, sending us in the right direction, and trust in You with all our hearts.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

You Can Take The Pastor Out Of The Church, But . . .



Hebrews 6:10
God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.

Our church is preparing to say good-by to Pastor Wallace as he is retiring in a matter of weeks.  I am privileged to attend, along with my husband, Danny, a church staff luncheon to share our best memories, with Wallace present, that mark his outstanding twelve years of ministry to us all.

I can honestly say that as many Sundays as I've planted my body in a variety of church pews, I've never been more informed about nor convicted by any minister in God's truth than I have been by Pastor Wallace's words.  He has the amazing ability to preach the Gospel through stories that turn your heart toward God's will.

Just as our Lord spoke in parables his hearers would not soon forget, Wallace's are tales to take home with you on a Sunday morning and ponder in your heart throughout the week.  To ingest in a welcoming gulp, and digest in a slow, methodical process.

But Pastor Wallace is so much more than his Sunday sermons.

When Danny is in the hospital for a pacemaker operation, Wallace arrives to offer prayers with both of us before the surgery.  It doesn't stop there.  Wallace stays with me until the moment the doctor informs us Danny is in the clear.  His give and take conversation works wonders to alleviate my worry and concern during this two-hour plus procedure.  Wallace's sincere presence provides an indescribable comfort that made what could have been a trying time fly by for me.

And I am just a wee fraction of the countless others who have benefited from Wallace's kindness and patience.  Hundreds in our church can testify to the same level of care when it comes to tending his flock.  It's who he is and what he does.

It's what he does best.

Offering his time and companionship when there is anyone in need.  No questions.  No hesitation.

Wallace is just there.

Present.

Loving.

And always, always, Wallace stresses to us, the laity:  This is your calling, too!  Go into the world and make disciples for Jesus.  Use your gifts to God's glory.  Make a difference for the kingdom.

Wallace assures us that we can do this.  He encourages us to visualize this thing that to us, right now, might seem impossible, insurmountable, or tenuous at best.  Because the good news is and was and always will be, God can use each and every one of us.

I choose to take Wallace at his word.  His inspiration is one of the reasons I begin this devotional blog.  The reason I am open to the voice of the Lord when He asks me to embark on this journey.  Wallace has prepared the soil of my heart to expect the harvest.

And now we stand at the parting of ways.

But I know in my heart of hearts, we can take the pastor out of the church, but no one can take the church out of the pastor.

Wallace is in it for the long haul.

Because there are always sheep in need of a shepherd.

~

Will you take up Pastor Wallace's challenge and vow to serve Christ in this world?

Prayer:  Father, we give thanks today for dedicated pastors like Wallace, who are truly committed to lead Your flock and tend Your sheep.  Let us remember that this is a calling not just for pastors, but for believers, too.  May we step up to the challenge and trust that You will see us through, all to Your honor and glory.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.


Friday, May 27, 2016

Sandwiched!


Leviticus 19:3
Each of you must respect your mother and father, and you must observe my Sabbaths.  I am the Lord your God.

Ever since my father passes in March of 2014, I call my mother daily.  Five-thirty in the evening is our set time to reconnect, to share news, even though her new hearing aids don't always function the way they should.  It's often me listening to her than she listening to me, but it's all good.

My brother, Bill, calls her later in the evening of each day, too.  So the good news is Mom knows we are faithfully there for her.

Bill and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Can this repetitious, daily routine ever be an inconvenience?  Honestly, yes.  Especially when my husband, Danny, and I are out of town, on vacation, trying our best to leave the cares and concerns of this world behind us if only momentarily.  The call back to reality places that fantasy in check.

Checkmate.

In our sixties, with grown children, grandchildren and aging mothers, Danny and I find ourselves in the proverbial cross-hairs of being there for everybody whenever a need arises.  Following the teachings of God, we're not about to let anyone down, but it can sure wear and tear at the fabric of our souls.

Frankly, not a day goes by when I don't need the reassurance of the Lord that I'm, that we're, doing the right thing in His eyes.  In His Spirit.  In His truth.

There is nothing I would deny my mother, my mother-in-law, my children, my stepsons, my granddaughters.  I am willing to move heaven and earth for their sake at any given moment.

But I have to admit this.  Sometimes it's difficult, not to mention uncomfortable, to be the meat squished between two slices of generational bread.  Could I have mustard, please?  Mayonnaise?  Maybe a pickle?  Anything to make this place in life a bit more palatable?

It's a tough scenario.

One many of us have faced or will face in the future.

We will wish for mayonnaise when we are given mustard.  We will long for white bread when given rye.

But we know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, no matter how our meat is dressed, God is in it all.  And because of that knowledge, we will continue to freely offer our sandwich selves up to those whom we love, respect and value beyond measure.

~

Where are you feeling "sandwiched" in your life?

Prayer:  Father, when it comes to helping family, may we never feel the emotion of inconvenience.  Yes, it will be hard at times, but let us recall Your undying love for us, a love that knows neither limits nor bounds.  May we never cease to treasure that love and be quick to offer it to others.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.