Friday, March 29, 2013

Love One Another


John 12:34-35
"A new command I give you:  Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

On the first of January, in my blog found here, I declare 2013 to be the Year of Love.  I have high hopes and aspirations; after all, if I set out to give, acknowledge, and celebrate love in each and every day, how can I go wrong?  I can't.  This choice to consciously and purposefully love others has, in three short months, opened my eyes and my heart to see with more clarity and empathy than I imagined was possible.

I've trained myself to remember the word "love" within minutes of waking each morning.  Just thinking about it sets my day on the right track.  I look forward to the unfolding of each minute and hour, eager to see how the day progresses when love is at the forefront of my thoughts.

And, this is how the Year of Love is changing me:


  • Patience - I've never been a particularly impatient person, but I have my moments, especially when stuck in traffic or standing in a long line.  What I've noticed is how these things bother me less and less when I allow the word "love" to dwell in my mind.  Just recently, I am stuck at the grocery store check-out behind a woman redeeming a bazillion coupons.  It is taking forever!  But, instead of getting frustrated by the delay, I use the time for silent prayer.  What peace I have!  And, wow, how the time flies by!
  • Acceptance - Have you ever made a snap judgment about a stranger you see or a person to whom you have just been introduced?  I know I have.  I'll assess someone, fairly or unfairly, by his or her outward appearance, letting years of learned perceptions get in the way of simply seeing a fellow human being.  Now, when I catch myself on the verge of being judge and jury, I step back from those negative thoughts.  I remember that God made them and loves them.  I strive to see how God sees.  And, to see Christ in them.  I find it's easier than I thought to accept them just as they are.
  • Gratitude - I have experienced a heightened awareness of what it means to be thankful in all things.  Even the smallest of blessings become magnified beneath the lens of love.  Some days, my heart feels so full of gratefulness, it wants to burst!  That's when I catch myself smiling more and often, and laughing out loud for seemingly no reason.  But, there is, of course, a reason - it's love.
  • Generosity - Life is not about getting.  It's about giving.  Love cannot be contained within oneself or it ceases to be love.  It must be given away with extravagant generosity.  And, as it is shared with others, it multiplies exponentially.  It's catching!  Because, people who are showered with true, lavish, and overwhelming love are inspired to love others in the same way.
Best of all, by prioritizing love in my life, I constantly reflect upon the ways I can let the light of Jesus shine through me.  I am reminded that He commanded us to love one another just as He loves us.

Loves us so deeply, so intensely, so faithfully.  Loves us so much, He is willing to take our rightful place on the cross.  Loves us enough to die for our sins.

Loves us . . . that much . . .

~

On this Good Friday, will you remember Jesus' loving sacrifice made for you?

Will you pray with me?
Thank You, Father, for loving us so deeply, so intensely, so faithfully, that You sent Jesus, Your only beloved Son, to die for our sins.  Today, may we meditate upon the brutal price our Lord paid to free us, forgive us, and redeem us.  Amen.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Spring Cleaning


Psalm 51:10
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Winter has flown.  Spring has sprung.  And, with it, the deep and compelling call for that dreaded, but much needed, spring cleaning.

I'll be the first to confess.  I hate housecleaning!  But, I love a neat and tidy home, so I do what needs to get done.  Some chores, like wiping down the stove and counters after dinner, keeping up with dishes, pots and pans, making the bed, and sweeping the floors, I do daily.

Dusting?  Sadly, not until I actually see those infintesimal varmints coating the surface of furniture.

Vacuuming?  Always after I dust.  The two go hand-in-hand.

Bathrooms?  Once a week, with touch-ups in between.

Windows?  When I see a smudge.

It's cursory cleaning at best.  Spring cleaning means more.  Much more!

It's time to get down on hands and knees, wiping every baseboard, vanquishing every spot marring the wood floors.

It's time to haul everything out of closets.  Sort through the clothes and pack up for donations what is still in good shape, but needs to be purged.  Dust and vacuum closet shelves and floors.

It's time to grab my step stool and scrub down every surface I can only reach when using it.  This includes emptying out the kitchen cabinets so I can 409 to my heart's content.

And, it's time . . . time to wipe down the blinds.  This wouldn't be so bad if we didn't have 14 sets of blinds in our house.  I'd rather take down 14 sets of curtains and wash them any day than have to face this painstaking and tedious chore.  But, face it, I must.

Because, just as the rigorous, sacrificial practices we take on during the Lenten season help create within us a clean heart, one prepared and pure to meet the risen Lord on Easter Sunday, the discipline of spring cleaning rejuvenates and enlivens the home I share with those I love.  A house which shines with peace and joy and comfort.  A house which says, "Welcome home."

So, I'll don my I-pod, crank up the tunes, gather my cleaning supplies, and plunge in.  With some stick-to-it-ness and elbow grease, my spring cleaning will be done by Easter.

~

Is spring cleaning a ritual you perform every year?

Will you pray with me?
Dear Father, as this Lenten season draws to a close, let us reflect upon how the practices and disciplines we have taken on have helped prepare our hearts and minds for the glory that is Easter.  Help us to examine ourselves prayerfully and honestly.  Renew a steadfast spirit within us.  Amen.

Friday, March 22, 2013

How Many Hats Do You Wear?


1 Corinthians 9:22-23
To the weak, I became weak to win the weak.  I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.  I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

My husband, Danny, and I so look forward to Sunday evenings when my daughter and son-in-law, Sarah and John, along with granddaughter, Virginia Rose, can join us for dinner.  We all enjoy the food and fellowship, and especially love being entertained by Virginia's growing vocabulary, interests, and good, old-fashioned hugs she freely shares.

While she still finds joy in playing with her rock collection, lining them up in rows and even learning to count, Virginia, it seems, is always looking for more ways to delight herself and us at the same time.  She loves to roar at us like a tiger, laughing heartily at our "frightened" response.  She grabs the broom, pretending to sweep, then lunges it at our feet to make us flee fearfully from the encroaching "monster."  Oh, how she giggles merrily each time the broom meets our retreating shoes!  How we rejoice in her blossoming ingenuity!

This past Sunday takes a different turn.  Virginia notices the hat which Giovanni, Danny's son, is wearing from work.

"Haa," she says, pointing at Giovanni's head.  "Haa!  Haa!"

"You want to play with Gammie's hats?"  I ask, scrambling to the closet where I keep a substantial collection.  I grab three.  Giovanni high-tails it to his closet, too, from whence he produces tons of caps for Virginia's enjoyment.

We all take turns trading off caps, but Virginia loves it best when we pile them on her head.  A veritable mountain of thoughts and wishes, desires and dreams . . .







These images bring back memories, too, of a beloved book I read as a child entitled Caps for Sale, which you can see and hear on YouTube.  If you have young children or grandchildren, by all means, share this story with them.  They will be enchanted!



At this point, you may be wondering, What does all this hat stuff have to do with today's reading from 1 Corinthians?  In my opinion?  Everything!

We all wear many hats in our daily lives, don't we?  Mother, father, son, daughter, caregiver, breadwinner, nurse, doctor, lawyer, Indian chief . . . You get the picture.  Without losing our sense of self, we serve others in a vast variety of ways, meeting their needs where they are.  We become, empathetically speaking, "all things to all people."

St. Paul knew that to attract as many as possible to the Good News of Christ Jesus, he had to wear many hats.  One size or type would not be a fit for everyone he met.  All those with whom he wished to share the Gospel.  He had to meet them where they were, wearing a hat with which they could identify.

And, seeing as Paul's letters are still with us after 2,000 years, I'd say he delivered the message perfectly.

~

What are some of the hats you wear every day?

Will you pray with me?
Thank You, Father, for St. Paul and all the many hats he wore in order to spread the Good News of salvation through Your Son, Jesus Christ.  As we spread Your Word to others, may we meet them where they are in love and understanding, that they will choose to follow You.  Amen.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

It Says It All, Doesn't It?


Micah 6:8
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Last Saturday, I have a book signing at Wellspring Treasures, a non-profit enterprise whose proceeds go toward helping rescue, restore, and renew women and girls victimized by sex-trafficking.  In return for allowing me to autograph and sell my books, I donate a portion of my proceeds to this most worthy Christian organization.  It's a win-win for everyone involved!

My husband, Danny, is my biggest fan.  He loads our car with the portable table and chair, books and accessories, then helps me unload and set everything up. Danny is also my official photographer (who else would it be?).  He not only snapped the photos shown below, but also took the one of the squirrel which made it to the front cover of Children in the Garden.  What would I do without him?













After shooting these photos, Danny decides to wander off to grab a bite to eat and do some shopping at the nearby Marshall's store.  That's when they enter the store . . .

A pleasant-looking young couple, casually attired, stroll into Wellspring Treasures.  When I see the man's T-shirt, I do a classic double-take.  On the front, as big as life, is the scripture reference:  Micah 6:8.

Micah 6:8???  That's the inscription I write beneath my signature on every book I sign!!!  How I wish Danny were here with his camera!  I simply must say something about it before they leave the store!

I can tell immediately that this couple is not in the market for a new book, but are here for some bargains.  They wander off to the opposite side of the store.  Other customers are curious, stopping at my table, asking what the books are about.  I cheerfully explain, and enjoy a positive response.  If they don't purchase right then, I hand them a bookmark which has the address to my website printed there.



I invite them to visit and learn more about the books and my upcoming signing events.

But, as busy as I am, I don't lose sight of the man in the Micah T-shirt.  I watch and wait for a chance to speak to him.  Ah!  They're moving in my direction.  Finally!

I speak up.  "I love your T-shirt!  It's my signature scripture verse I pen in every book I autograph."

"Really?"  the young man beams.  "It's always been one of favorites.  When I saw this shirt, I knew I had to have it."

"It says it all, doesn't it?"  I say, returning his smile.  I offer him a bookmark, explain the book briefly, and tell him I hope he will visit my website.  I don't push for a sale.  I sense his wife and he are on a tight budget.

But, I share a God-moment with a complete stranger.  A transcending moment because, in its brevity, we are strangers no longer.

We are transformed.

We are a brother and sister in Christ.

~

What are some moments you've experienced when you knew God's hand was at work in your life?

Will you pray with me?
Dear Father, open our eyes and humble our hearts to see and understand how You daily work in our lives.  Let us never hesitate to share Your miracles, large and small, with others.  Give us grace to look upon others we meet as Your beloved children, our brothers and sisters in Christ, and treat them as we would wish to be treated.  Amen.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Sunrise Waits for No Man


Deuteronomy 10:14
To the Lord your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it.

Recently, my husband, Danny, and I spend a much needed five days in the Nantahala Mountains of North Carolina.  It is unusual for us to spend our holiday in the same cabin twice, but the view from Time Flies is so spectacular, we wish to repeat the experience.  Although the weather predictions tell us we can't expect clear skies every day, we look forward to this time of rest and renewal, content to enjoy our vacation come what may.


On our first full day at the cabin, the rain sets in.  Clouds and mist envelope the mountains, rendering them invisible.  We are even subject to the occasional lightening flash and thunderclap.  

No matter!  We read, play backgammon, watch two movies, eat, drink, and stay merry.  Once the rain passes, the temperatures are supposed to plunge, welcoming a blanket of snow we are promised to see the next day.  We are so hoping!

As the rain diminishes and the sky clears, Danny takes some stunning shots of the fleeing cloud rolling east over the mountains.







The next morning, we are greeted by these beautiful sights!





It snows on and off the entire day.  And, my!  How the wind howls through the barren branches of the trees on the ridge.  We can't begin to imagine what it would sound like if it were summer and all the leaves were out!

And, of course, no view of the mountains.  Who cares?  This is the first and only snow we've seen all winter, and we welcome it with joy!

Day three dawns, but the sunrise is obscured by thick fog.


Fortunately, this clears up later in the day.  The sun shines.  The snow begins to melt.  And, the stars that night?  Their glory and grandeur defies description . . .

It is day four.  Knowing that the day should be clear with the promise of a brilliant sunrise, Danny wakes early.  He starts the coffee and readies his camera equipment.  Hearing him stirring, I rouse myself, too.  I don't want to miss this sunrise, either!

Then, just moments before the sun is to debut above the mountainous horizon, this -


A pea-soup, impenetrable fog emerges out of nowhere.  No clear sunrise photos today.  But, God gives us a consolation prize . . .




Hoarfrost covers the deck and bushes with delicate, fairy-like crystals.  Oh, how God's hand is at work even in the smallest of things!

Day five.  The day of departure.  Danny's last chance to capture a sunrise.

Once again, we both wake up early.  I brew the coffee while Danny struggles with replacing a camera battery and battling the tripod onto which the camera has mysteriously chosen to cement itself.  Frustrated?  You bet!  Time flies, and the sunrise waits for no man!

After what seems like an eternity, Danny manages to dislodge the camera and exit with it to the deck to watch and wait.  Hands freezing, warmed only by the occasional cradling of the steaming coffee cup or brief visits to his coat pockets, he watches.  Waits patiently, gratefully, for the show to begin . . .

No disappointments here.  We are overwhelmed by the glory which is God's.











Where have you been when God's glory overwhelmed you?

Will you pray with me?
How majestic, Father, is Your name in all the earth!  Your creation testifies to Your glory, Your power, and Your grace.  May we each take time today to meditate upon Your works and give You thanks and praise.  Amen.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Husband Project


Ephesians 5:24-26
Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.  Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word.

If you've followed my blog for any length of time, you probably know two things:  My husband, Danny, and I share a solid, loving relationship, and I never write book reviews.  But, when fellow blogger/Christian writer, Kathi Lipp, issued a challenge to her followers to review her book, The Husband Project, 21 Days of Loving Your Man - on Purpose and with a Plan, I jumped at the opportunity.

After all, even the best marriages can use a tweak and a perk here and there, can't they?  And, I am so excited to read Kathi's The Husband Project which you can order here, so I can share my thoughts with all you married ladies who regularly visit Meditations of My Heart.

Oh, and if you are a married guy reading this, do yourself a favor.  STOP!  Go get your wife, let her read this, and pray she wants to get this book.  You won't regret it, I promise!

Okay, that being said, ladies, we can continue.

Whether you are a head-over-heels newlywed with stars in your eyes every time your man steps into the room, or a seasoned matron wondering why you married this guy 40 years ago, The Husband Project is for you.  Why?  As Kathi states, "(it is) as much about changing our attitudes as it is about blessing our husbands."  The man in your life needs to be encouraged, respected, loved, and recognized for his good qualities.  When you stop thinking about what he didn't do, say, etc., and focus instead upon his strengths, i.e. he's a great dad, a terrific provider, you can build and sustain a better, more loving relationship with your husband.

Why 21 days?  Kathi explains through a humorous anecdote about her over-zealous gym instructor who, when Kathi balks at the strenuous daily exercise, declares, "It takes . . . 21 days to build or thoroughly break a habit."  The 21 creative and flexible projects Kathi offers in her book will help you intentionally and methodically acknowledge and uplift your husband in positive ways each day.  Kathi also recommends that you choose two accountability partners who are willing to participate in The Husband Project with you.  These women can be invaluable sources of praise when things are going well and of comfort and encouragement should you hit a road block in your 21 day journey.

But, this book is so much more than 21 projects.  It is about us learning ". . . to train our minds to think about our man and consider his needs every day."  It is learning to see our husbands as Christ sees them, loving them as He loves them.  

So, when he forgets those flowers on Valentine's, or neglects to take out the trash for the umpteenth time, will you be upset?  More than likely!  But, take heart!  Here's how Kathi handles similar situations:  "When I've been the most angry or frustrated with my husband, I've had to picture Jesus standing on the other side of him.  I focus on loving Christ, and my husband is just standing in the way, receiving all that love."

So, ladies, how about it?  Will you pledge to try The Husband Project?  I can't wait to see my Danny's reactions to these 21 days of intentional, thoughtful encouragements from me!

God bless you, Kathi Lipp!!!

Will you join me in prayer?
We pray today, Father, that Kathi's amazing book will be a blessing to married couples everywhere.  Let us all choose to find the good in our husbands and love them unconditionally as your precious Son, Jesus, loves us.  Amen.


Friday, March 8, 2013

Waste Not, Want Not


Danny and I on our honeymoon, April 2005

Matthew 6:25
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?"

I'm a pretty frugal person.  Even when I worked outside the home and had my own steady stream of income, I was always careful as to how and why I spent my money.  And, when I did spend it, more than likely it was to buy something for my husband, Danny, or for my children.

The natural fallout from my thriftiness is I rarely buy clothes or shoes.  I'll wear something until it wears out.  I hate to admit it, but I cling to some favorite turtleneck sweaters, even when they grow holes in the neckline, because these are concealed by the rim of the turned-down neck.  See the sweater in the photo above?  I still have it!!!

I have six pairs of jeans.  Two I call my "church jeans" because they're spiffy enough to wear to the contemporary praise service where dressing casually is encouraged.  Another two are my "whatever jeans" as they are getting worn, but are still presentable.  The last two pairs are so riddled with tears in the seat and pockets that I no longer dare to go public with them.  I should just heave them, shouldn't I?

And, shoes?  Well, I have a closet full, but since I rarely have cause to dress up these days, I favor a pair of clogs and my sneakers.  The clogs are new, a surprise gift from Danny when he notes my old ones have a gaping hole just above my right big toe.  And, my sneakers?  The ones I work out in?  I realize just the other day that I've had these babies for a whopping four years.  Ridiculous, right?

So, when Danny and I are at Costco last week, purchasing some provisions for our upcoming trip to the mountains, a huge display of woman's running shoes catches our attention.

"Didn't you tell me weeks ago you needed new shoes for the gym?"  Danny asks.

"Yes, I did," I answer hesitantly.  I am momentarily put off by the shoe color - black with screaming turquoise trim.

But it's the price which wins me over.  FILA shoes for only $19.95???  Am I dreaming???

We find my size and remove the shoes from their box so I can try them on.  They are practically weightless!  And, when my feet slip inside, I've never felt such comfort outside of being barefoot.

So, the heck with the funky colors.  I have to have them!


Because, I know my life is so much more than what I wear . . .

~

Do you wear your clothes until they wear out, or do you wear them gently and donate them to charity?

Will you join me in prayer?
Thank You, Father, for Jesus' reminder that we are not defined by the clothes we wear or the food we eat.  Whether in rags or finery, we are Your beloved children.  And, for that, dear Lord, we are eternally grateful.  Amen.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

You Fit Right In!


Hebrews 12:1-2a
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.

I have belonged to the LA Fitness gym since 2004.  The encouragements from my daughter, Sarah, and my husband, Danny, convinced me to join.  I've never regretted this healthy decision and have never looked back.

Until now . . .

With the blessing of his boss, Danny now works two days a week at home, and continues to have every other Friday off because he works nine-hour days.  He has a gym at work which he utilizes, but with the two days at home, his missing the work-outs at the office during his lunch break.  Something has to give here.

"Martha, will you check at LA Fitness when you go tomorrow and find out what it would cost to add me?  They should be able to offer us a deal since your membership has been there for so long."

"I'll do that."

The next day after my workout, I sit down with an enrollment representative to see what kind of special the gym can offer us.  Not very.  Special, that is.  Danny would be required to pay a first month/last month fee and, although his monthly membership would be about five dollars less than what I now pay, together our bill per month would be about $65.

Danny is ticked.  "Is that the best they can do?  We're just going to have to find another gym.  One that's more affordable."

"But, where?"  I ask.

"I don't know at the moment, but I'll do some research on line."

Then, the miraculous happens . . .

A sign goes up by the road which passes our neighborhood shopping center:  "You Fit - Coming Soon!"  It's a brand new gym!  Danny checks them out on the internet.  Sure enough, these folks are the real deal!  One dollar per person to join, and only $10 a month for each of us to maintain membership.  And, no contract!

Needless to say, Danny signs us up at the first opportunity.  But now, I have to give notice to LA Fitness.  I'm dreading it.  I've heard all the horror stories of how gyms try to pressure you into staying, offering (finally) deal after deal.  Badgering you.  Inviting you on a guilt trip.

So, I manage to put this task off until the last minute, but in time to allow my upfront payment made so many years ago be applied to the month of March.  As I approach the manager's desk, I take a deep breath and pray silently that this interaction will be the opposite of what I've anticipated.

God is so good!  The manager is pleasant when I explain my reason for cancelling.  He simply asks for my membership key, punches my code into his computer, and says, "You're good through the end of March."

No pleading.  No begging.  No inquisition.

Whew!

And now, I can look forward to enjoying workout sessions with my husband and best friend, Danny.  Being with him will give me that much more perseverance and determination to run the race set before me.  Before us.

Together.

Now, if I can just get past the colors at the You Fit gyms!  Sunglasses, anyone?



~

What exercise routines do you engage in which help you stay in shape?

Will you pray with me?
Let us run the race of our lives, Father, with perseverance, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, our Lord, the One who perfects our faith.  May we seek health and wellness not just in our bodies, but in our minds and spirits.  Let us join with the clouds of witnesses in proclaiming the Good News of Your Kingdom.  Amen.

Friday, March 1, 2013

How Perfect in Wisdom . . .


1 Corinthians 1:25
For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

For any first-time author, being reviewed on that media-megalith, Amazon, is imperative.  Of course, one takes the chance that those posted reviews might be less than stellar, but that is a risk I am more than willing to take.  How else will A Trip, a Tryst, and a Terror be known outside of Facebook or my local community?

To encourage friends to write reviews, I announce a contest on The Glade Series Facebook page which you can access here.  The rules are simple:  Write a review on Amazon and be entered in a drawing to win a free copy of the second book in the trilogy, Children in the Garden.

The results?  Twenty-one amazing 5-Star reviews!!! I am beside myself, and my heart does the happy dance for days.  What incredible friends and fans I have!

When Book 2 finally arrives on my doorstep, the time for the drawing does, too.  I write the names of all these wonderful folks on slips of paper and place them face down in the hat.


And, as I do so, I find myself wishing I could afford to give each and every one of them a free novel.  There isn't a person who doesn't deserve it.

I close my eyes and pray before my hand hits the hat . . . Father, in Your wisdom, You know which one of these people truly needs this book right now.  Please let me choose whom You wish me to choose . . .


I pull out a strip of paper with this name:


Mary is a cousin of my husband, Danny.  Come to find out, she has just undergone neck surgery and will be spending a lengthy time in recovery.  Having a new book to read during her convalescence is absolutely perfect!

And, I smile to myself and think - How perfect in wisdom is our God . . .

~

Were there times in your life when you knew that a choice you made was really God choosing for you?

Will you pray with me?
May we always trust in Your wisdom, Father, and go to You in prayer before we make important choices or decisions in our lives.  Bless all the kind and caring folks who took time from their busy schedules to contribute reviews for my book.  May we be guided by Your wisdom in all that we do to Your honor and Your glory.  Amen.

Surprise!

Romans 8:26 The Spirit helps us with our weakness.  We do not know how to pray as we should.  But the Spirit himself speaks to God for u...