Tuesday, April 30, 2013

What Would You Do for Jesus?


Acts 12:1
It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them.

Not long ago, a friend of mine sends me the photo above on Facebook.  Thoughtfully, he adds this tag:  "That woman over there, Martha . . . I saw her with Him . . . she's one of His disciples . . . yeah, she has a blog about it, too . . ."

Wow . . .

This is truly the greatest honor I could be given - recognized as a disciple of Jesus by others because this blog holds enough evidence to prove it.

But, what really makes me think is the word "arrested" on the marquis.  I am well aware that Christians in many parts of the world are arrested, persecuted, tortured, jailed, and even killed because of their faith.  I can't imagine the agony and fear, anguish and pain . . .

Yet, they refuse to renounce their belief in their Savior, Christ Jesus.

And, I wonder . . .

What if I found myself in such circumstances?  What would my reaction be?  Would I stand courageously for the Lord I espouse to love, or would I, as Peter did at Jesus' trial, deny Him in order to preserve my own life?

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.  ~Matthew 16:25

This verse comes immediately to mind.  And, I remember, with sadness and bitterness, how bleak and lonely my life was before I asked Jesus into my heart. Without Him, I am nothing.  I owe everything to Him.  I can never repay the sacrifice He made for me on the cross.

And, I realize in an instant what I would do for this Jesus I love.  Who loves me without measure.

I'd lay down my life . . .

~

What are you willing to do for Jesus?

Will you pray with me?
We pray today, Father, for all Christians in the world today who are being persecuted for their beliefs.  Help them to stay firm in the faith.  Let their witness of devotion to Christ Jesus convict and convert the hearts and minds of others.  Amen.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Baby Steps


1 Corinthians 3:2
I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it.  Indeed, you are still not ready.

Danny is so excited!  His new camera has arrived!!!



I'm so excited!  He's giving me his old one!!!



But, I'm also nervous and worried about using it.  All I've ever had is a point-and-shoot.  I love my tiny Canon Elph.  Though I know this more complex camera will enable me to do so much more, I have doubts about learning to use it with the kind of skill Danny has.

When Danny begins showing me how to use the camera, he forgets how little I understand photography terms.  He tells me too much, too fast.  The words swirl senselessly around in my head - in one ear, out the other.  I can't handle this solid food.  I need milk!

"Honey, you're going to have to slow down," I tell him kindly, because he really is trying to help.  "Just show me one step at a time, enough for me to be able to take some photos and see how they turn out."

"I'm sorry," Danny says.  "I guess it is too much information to remember all at once.  Let's start over.  Just the basics this time, I promise."

And, that's exactly what we do.  Baby steps.  When I know how to focus it, put the photo card in and out, change lenses and caps, I'm ready (I hope) for my first real photographic experience.

I set up a chair in our backyard not far from the bird feeder.  Of course, my initial arrival sees the birds and squirrels heading for the hills.  But, I sit quietly.  Patiently.  Hardly moving a muscle.

And, it isn't long before my feathered and furry friends make their entrance.  The siren call of the bird seed is simply too alluring.  Oh, I am thrilled!  I snap away with abandon, knowing I have to take many photos to get a few passable ones.  I dare not hope for anything great.  Not.  Just.  Yet.

When Danny comes home from work, we look at the images on his computer, deleting any which are out of focus.  Then, the next step - working a new program for raw pictures on Photo Shop.  Another call for milk!  But, Danny shows me the ropes and helps me out until I'm comfortable enough to work on my own.  Here are the results . . .











After viewing these, what do you think?  Am I ready to move on to solid food?

~

Where are you in your Christian walk?  Eating solid food, or still drinking milk?

Will you pray with me?
Father, we thank You for the many gifts and talents You give to each of us.  May we develop and use them to Your honor and glory.  Take us from baby steps to maturity in our Christian faith.  Amen.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Grey Makes the Day!


John 6:38
For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.

My puppet, Grey, pictured above, is named after my squirrel character in The Glade Series.  Since purchasing him in 2010, Grey has been my faithful mascot. His usual perch is atop our printer which sits next to my computer.  I love being able to look over at him from time to time while writing or browsing the web.  His cheerful, quirky expression never fails to amuse me.

Grey accompanies me to every book signing.  He makes for a unique, attractive prop and conversation starter, but that is the limit of his talent.

Until this past weekend . . .

I am invited to set up shop outside of a local coffee shop, Traders 22, in Kennesaw during the annual Big Shanty Festival, an event which attracts upwards of 70,000 people.  The business is not on the main drag of the festival, but there are plenty of folks passing by, so I have high hopes for my book sales.

Saturday is a bright, clear day, but oh, so cold and windy!  I struggle to keep my tablecloth in place even with two sets of books on the table.  I can't prop them for display because they are constantly buffeted by the strong breezes.  Even my sign doesn't want to stay put.  And, Grey?  Well, the poor fellow takes several tumbles to the ground before I realize I'm simply going to have to wear him on my hand if I don't want to keep picking him up.

Ah!  Now, my left hand, stuffed into the puppet, is toasty warm.  My right hand settles for my coat pocket which isn't nearly as comfortable.

That's when I get the idea.  Why not have Grey wave to all the people parading by on the side street?  Surely, it couldn't hurt.  After all, the only traffic I am getting so far is from those seeking a hot cup of coffee to stave off the chill.

So, Grey begins waving, especially at couples with children.  I am tickled to see their reactions, especially from the tiny tots, as the puzzled looks on their faces tell me they aren't sure if Grey is a real squirrel.  Oh, how cute it is when they wave back!

Even more surprising to me is how many teens and adults wave back cheerfully in response to Grey.  Seeing them smiling and laughing is such a joy.  Grey even coaxes particularly friendly grins and salutations from a group wearing their Harley-Davidson jackets!

And, does my traffic increase?  You bet, it does!  Grey gets hugged on, stroked, squeezed, pummeled, and loved on throughout the day as parents bring their little ones up to see him and to meet me.  Grey makes the day!











Such a good sport, is Grey.  Never complaining about all his hard work, never refusing to accept my will for him.  Always compliant.  Ever the bright smile on his whiskered face.

And, I think to myself, What if we were so in tune with the Father's will for us that, in all times and in all places, we could shine with the love of Christ?  That when we pray, "Thy will be done," we really and truly meant it?

No doubt, the world would be a better place.

And, maybe, just maybe, we would see, at long last, God's kingdom on earth.




~

Grey made the day for so many folks at the festival this weekend.  What do you do to try and make another person's day better?

Will you pray with me?
Teach us, Father, to discern Your will for our lives.  Lead and guide us in Your ways.  May we pray, "Thy will be done," and mean it from the bottom of our hearts.  Amen.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Good Amidst Evil


Luke 10:36-37
"Which of these three was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"
The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him."
Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers.  You will always find people who are helping."  To this day, especially in times of "disaster," I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in this world.  ~Fred Rogers

Still in shock, we reel from the heinous, infamous bombing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon just short days ago.  There is evil in this world.  It is ever present and living high off the hog.

The innocent are maimed.  Three are killed.

Murdered . . . in cold, unfeeling, violent blood.  Cain against Abel.

Thou shalt not kill, says the Lord.  But, mayhem, the child of Satan, begs to differ.  Is allowed to differ.

Free will . . .

And, in spite of the horror, we see those giving, selfless individuals, spent by already running a marathon, sprinting for the first hospital they can find.  Hearts racing, minds convicted, to give blood and comfort to the victims of this senseless attack.

Putting their own agendas on hold.  Answering the call of the moment.  Prepared and ready to assist in any way they can.

Free will . . .

Those good Samaritans bringing Jesus' stirring story to life in the present moment.  Loving God in the present moment.  Loving their neighbors as themselves.

Showing mercy . . .

Saving the day . . .

Fred Rogers' mom gave him the best advice any mother could give her child - to see the goodness, the mercy, the love in others who are willing to sacrifice their own interests in order to help those in need.  A worthwhile lesson.  Worth keeping close to our hearts at all times and in all places.

And, here, in the travesty of the Boston Marathon bombing, we have been blessed to witness up close the lesson of the good Samaritan in the very face of danger, tribulation, and evil.

The evil which wishes to pervade our very souls.  The evil which God has promised will be conquered . . .

~

Are you able to see good amidst evil in this world?

Will you pray with me?
Loving Father, we don't understand the violence.  We don't condone the senseless acts of hatred we humans inflict upon one another.  What we do understand is that Your love knows no bounds.  We pray that Your love and comfort surround each and every person affected by this recent tragedy.  May they feel Your presence and know You are there for them always.  Amen.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Where is Your Hope?


1 Timothy 6:17
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides with everything for our enjoyment.

When I resign from my job several years back, my husband, Danny, is understandably concerned.  We have enjoyed two incomes since we married and the extra perks which come with them.  In losing one of those incomes, we know we have to make some financial adjustments.

"And, if things start to get tight," I reassure him, "I'll look for a part-time job.  In fact, I'll begin looking this week if it makes you feel better."

"No, don't look right away," Danny says.  "You are burned out from working, and I'm more concerned about your health than our wealth.  We'll get by.  If there's one thing I know how to do, it's sticking to a budget.

That's the understatement of the year.  Danny keeps monthly budgets on Excel spreadsheets.  It's serious business!

"Well, if you're sure . . ."

"Positive."

But, I note a trace of apprehension in Danny's voice.  I reach out and take his hand.

"Don't worry, honey.  God is all over this.  I can feel it!  He will provide."

~

Now, as I reflect upon where we were then and where God has brought us today, I stand in awe and wonder . . .

That part-time job?  I applied for several, but got nowhere.  God closed those doors.  Tight!

Did we scale back our expenditures?  Yes, we did, but to this day, we haven't felt economically pinched or deprived in any way.

Did we worry?  I would be lying if I said, "no."  But, we kept returning to the Lord in prayer for wisdom, guidance and peace of mind.

And, if God hadn't insisted that I stay at home,  you would not be reading this.  I wouldn't have started a blog.  I wouldn't have a total of 460 devotions under my belt.

Most importantly, I wouldn't have published novels.  For it was my story synopsis coupled with the link to my blog which convinced my publisher to take me on.

And, if that weren't enough, just recently, we are incredibly blessed both by some long-expected and unexpected windfalls.  Wow!

We are overwhelmed.  We are thankful.

We are blessed . . .

~
Where is your hope?

Will you join me in prayer?
Especially in these troubling economic times, Father, it is difficult for many to place their hope in You when worries and fears in the present moment surround them.  I pray today for all who need a job, food on the table, and a place to call home.  Comfort them with Your presence, dear Lord, and lead them to have hope in You.  Amen.

For another look at God's provision for us, I invite you to visit my friend, Andy Wood, at his blog entitled Lifevesting.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Going the Extra Mile


2 Corinthians 13:11
Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice!  Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace.  And the God of love and peace will be with you.

At long last!  The new gym, You Fit, which my husband, Danny, and I join back in February, is finally open this week!  Four weeks later than first projected, so it's been a while since I've had a decent work out.

Though I am looking forward to going, especially because Danny will be with me, there's also a part of me which dreads it.  I'm feeling soft.  Out of shape.  Worried about stiff, sore muscles the day after.

But, I forge ahead anyway.

And, with Danny there to offer encouragement and support, I actually experience a longer, harder, more satisfying work out than I've had in months! His tenacity and drive inspire me.  I find that I'm not looking at the clock and thinking:  Have I been long enough on the treadmill?  Can I skip those crunches today?  Do my arms really need to lift any more weights?

No!  I stick with it, enjoying the whole routine, particularly when Danny shows me how to use equipment I've never tried before.  Like the Energizer Bunny, I keep going and going and going . . .

Whew!  Fun!  And, am I sore the next day?  Not nearly as much as I feared.  I'm raring to get back to the gym, all because I have a partner with whom I can share exercise.  Who will encourage me.  Hold me accountable.

Thank you, Danny, for making me go the extra mile!

~

Just as our bodies need exercise to stay healthy, so do our souls.  The Christian walk is never without its snares, pitfalls and temptations.  We can nourish and nurture our spiritual lives by faithfully reading scripture, praying, and participating in worship services and Bible studies.

But, that's just the first mile . . .

As Christians, St. Paul reminds us, we are called to encourage one another in the faith.  To hold ourselves accountable to our brothers and sisters in Christ.  To inspire and uplift each other.

To make going the extra mile a cause for rejoicing.

~

How are you keeping your spiritual life fit?

Will you pray with me?
Father, we all need encouragement to go that extra mile for Jesus every day.  Help us to uplift our brothers and sisters in the faith.  Let us seek out and find encouragement when we need it to keep our spirits strong in You.  Amen.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Wake Up and Smell the Coffee!


Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Six-thirty Sunday morning.  In a sleepy stupor, I roll out of bed, shove my feet into my slippers, and shuffle down the hallway to the kitchen.  Gotta make the coffee . . .

As I filled the coffee maker with water the night before, all I have to do is insert the filter, add the coffee, and press the "on" switch.  Good thing.  Because, my mind is still somewhere back in dreamland.  I'm barely conscious.

No light appears when I press "on."  What???  In a fog, I push it again.  Nothing!  I unplug and re-plug the machine.  Still, nothing!!!

I can't believe this!  Of all times for the coffee pot to go south, it would have to be on Sunday when we are hustling to get ready for church and have no time to stop at Starbucks.

With my face reflecting the expression of Grumpy Cat and my temper soaring, I yank a pot from the rack, fill it with water, and set it to boil on the stove.  It seems like an eternity before the water is bubbling and I can try to pour it through the filter, hoping that this will produce a semblance of the rich beverage I'm used to.  Spoiled by.

Because, at the Orlando house, coffee is not a casual, pick-me-up drink.  It's a major food group!

Awakened by my mumbling and grumbling and rumbling around the kitchen, Danny appears around the corner.

"What's this about the coffee maker?"  he asks.

"It's broken!"  I lament as I watch the hot water seep slowly through the grounds.  "I'm trying to make some this way."

Danny reaches up into a cabinet.  "Didn't you know we have this?"


I stare in disbelief.  It's a one-cup brewing system!  How I didn't know we had it on hand is beyond me, but the day is saved!

That very afternoon, Danny goes out to purchase a new coffee maker.  When he brings it home, I can't help but worry that the coffee won't be as good as what we had with the old one.  But, when we brew an afternoon pot, I am pleasantly surprised.


Not only is the coffee as good, if not better, but also, this coffee maker brews faster than the other, is quiet as a whisper, and only beeps once, not five irritating times, to let you know it's ready.

And, I find myself reflecting upon how the morning of adversity has been turned on its ear.  That good things and opportunities often arise when the plans we've made fall through.  Because, when we can face those times of struggles or setbacks, knowing God has the real future plan for us, we can have hope.  We can bounce back.

We can wake up and smell the coffee!

~
Is coffee one of your "must-haves" in the morning?

Will you pray with me?
When the going gets tough, Father, help us to have hope and to trust in Your plan for our lives.  Assure us that You are right there with us, to lead and guide us into the future, and to give us the confidence to face each day with joy.  Amen.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Seek, and Ye Shall Find . . .


Deuteronomy 4:29
But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.

I don't think there's anything more delightful than watching a young child hunting for Easter eggs, especially when that child is our granddaughter, Virginia Rose.  Last year, when she was 21-months-old, we initiate Virginia into this Easter tradition by "hiding" the brightly-colored, plastic eggs in our living room and dining room.  With assistance from her mom and dad, she manages to locate all of them, putting each one carefully in her basket.








Virginia understands it's a game of sorts with the goal being to find the eggs, but she is not aware that her Gammie has placed a sweet treat inside each of them.  She doesn't even attempt to pull them apart.

This Easter takes a completely different turn.  We decide that an outdoor Easter egg hunt would be much more exciting and challenging for Virginia as she will be turning three in a matter of months.  Oh, what fun my husband, Danny, and I have finding nesting places for the twelve eggs!

When Virginia arrives with her parents for the big event, she eagerly takes the basket I hand her.  Her mom, Sarah, has shown her pictures of Easter eggs, so Virginia is somewhat prepared for what she is seeking once she comes outside.

Still, she doesn't see them right away.  She still needs a little guidance.  Needs to be pointed in the right direction.








Once Virginia puts her heart and soul into the task at hand, it's off to the races!












And, this time, when we bring her with her stash of eggs into the house, Virginia wastes no time in opening each one and lining up the candies on our table.  She even tries to count them!





What a joy it is to see how far Virginia has come and how much she has grown in just one short year!

~

In learning to seek God, maybe we all feel, at first, like a young child embarking on a first Easter egg hunt.  We are confused as to where to look or where to go.  But, with the right guidance and encouragement, we begin to see God's presence, active and alive in the world around us.

And, when we seek the Lord diligently, through prayer and scripture, with all our heart and soul, Deuteronomy 4:29 assures us:  We shall find Him!

~

Where are you finding God in your life today?

Will you pray with me?
May we always and earnestly seek You, Father, with all our hearts and souls.  Reveal Yourself to us.  Reveal Your will for our lives.  Let us do Your will and walk in Your ways to the honor and glory of Your name.  Amen.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

"When Love Takes You In . . ."


Matthew 19:4-6
He answered, "Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'?  So they are no longer two, but on flesh.  Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate."

Eight years ago today, Danny and I were married.  It was one of the happiest days of my life, and these years spent with my love and best friend have been full of joys and blessings.  Allow me to share with you some wonderful memories from that beautiful day, April 2, 2005.























Happy Anniversary, Danny!!!
Know I love you more and more with each passing day . . .
Yours forever,
MJ

~

Do you have a love story to tell?  Please share it in the comments section.


Will you pray with me?
Heavenly Father, please bless and sanctify husbands and wives this day.  Help them grow in their love together.  Fill them with your strength and peace.  Comfort them in times of trial.  Keep them in Your loving care.  Amen.

We're Going Home

Luke 6:37 Do not judge, and you will not be judged.  Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.  Forgive, and you will be forgiven. ...