Friday, January 31, 2014

Back Seat Driver - Part 2


Virginia Rose in her car seat

2 Timothy 3:16-17
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Like many young couples, my daughter, Sarah, and her husband, John, share one car.  When John lands a full-time position with a local children's hospital, Sarah depends on me to drive her to her part-time job, and babysit for granddaughter, Virginia Rose, until John gets of work and can come pick the little one up.  Do I mind?  Not in the least!  I'm just so happy to be able to help out.

When I arrive, Sarah and Virginia are ready to go.  We fasten Virginia securely into her car seat.

"Gammie's house?"  she asks.  That's where we had all headed the day before so Sarah could borrow my car to get to a doctor's appointment.

"No, Virginia, first we're going to take Mommy to work, and then we'll go to Gammie's and Papa's house."

I'm steering the car through the apartment complex maze to get to the main road.  As I approach it, my grandchild's litany begins:

"Right dere, right dere, right dere, right dere . . ."

I shoot Sarah a quizzical look.  "What's Virginia doing?"

"Giving you directions to the mall," she answers with a chuckle.  "She does it all the time."

"No kidding?"

"Right dere, right dere, right dere!"

I turn onto the main drag.  Virginia quiets down until we reach the first traffic light.  "Red means stop!  Stop, Gammie!"

"I am stopping, Virginia."

The light changes.  "Green means go!  Go, Gammie!  Careful dwiving!"

I press on the accelerator.  "Gammie, too fast for Ginna.  Swow down!"

"I'm going the speed limit, honey."

"'Kay," she says.

Another red light and the last conversation is instantly replayed.  As we get closer to our turn into the mall, Virginia's chant cranks up once again:  "Right dere, right dere, right dere . . ."

I turn left, then make a quick right onto the mall drive with my granddaughter boisterously teaching me the way as if I have no idea where I'm going.  This tickles Sarah and me, and we begin to giggle.

"Not even four, and already a back seat driver," I note.

"Can you imagine what she'll be like when she learns to drive?"  Sarah says.  "She probably won't want anyone telling her what to do."

"Right dere, right dere, right dere.  Ow, Gammie!  Stop!"

"Can't help it, Virginia.  We went over a speed bump."

As we close in upon the mall entrance Sarah always uses, Virginia's mantra intensifies.  I don't know how she is managing to breathe!

"Right dere, right dere, right dere, right dere . . ."

And, if either Sarah or I had any doubts that we reached our final destination, Virginia assures us of our journey's success.

"RIGHT DERE!!!"

~

While amusingly entertaining, Virginia Rose's directions were unsolicited and unnecessary.  Sometimes, when we are correcting, teaching, rebuking, or training a growing Christian, we may forget to stop, pray, and glean if what we are saying is something which will equip them for good works in the name of Christ.  And, if advice is not given in a loving spirit, we run the risk of offending the very people we wish to help.  Before we decide to back seat drive, let's make sure we know the way ourselves.  The best way to do that?  Read God's Word, go to Him in daily prayer, and ask the Holy Spirit for guidance.

Prayer:  Father, give us this day the gift of discernment when reading the Scripture, the guidance of Your Holy Spirit as we walk by faith, and the ability to train others in Your righteousness.  Fill our hearts, minds, and souls with Your love, grace, and peace that we might be thoroughly equipped to do every good work in Your name.  Amen.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Back Seat Driver - Part 1


2 Timothy 4:2
Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage - with great patience and careful instruction.

My husband, Danny, is head chef at our house.  I'm the chief bottle-washer, pot and pan scrubber, stove and counter cleaner-upper.  It's a great arrangement which works perfectly for us.

Most of the time . . .

Several weeks ago, I announce to Danny that I'm craving egg salad and will be making some that very afternoon.  Now, I must admit, I haven't made it in years; in the days when I worked outside the home, it was a staple in my lunches.  But, I do recall the ingredients I put in it.

"Let's try adding baking soda to the egg water," Danny suggests.  "It's supposed to make the eggs peel much better."  He places three eggs in a pot, covers them with water, and places the pot on the stove to boil.

He sees me methodically chopping onion and celery at a snail's pace.  "Here, let me help," he says.  "I'm so used to doing this, I can do it quicker for you and save you some time."

I go to the refrigerator to fetch mayo and mustard.  "You're not going to use plain mustard in the salad, are you?"  Danny asks.  "Why don't we try this new Dijon I just bought instead?"

By now, some of you ladies who are queens of the kitchen are probably wondering why I haven't yet bopped Danny with my rolling pin or served up some choice, possibly indelicate, words.  Three reasons:  1) I'm crazy about this guy; 2) I'm well aware that he's a much more capable cook than I am, and 3) Danny really knows how to season food perfectly.  This egg salad is bound to be a winner!

When Danny tastes the final product, he declares, "Best egg salad you've ever made!"

I give him the "look."  "And, just who made it?"  I ask.

He smiles sheepishly, "Well, they were your ingredients.  I just added one or two things."

"One or two things?"

"All right, I admit it.  I'm a back seat driver when it comes to cooking.  Just can't sit on the sidelines and watch."

I give Danny a big hug.  "And, I, for one, am so glad you got into the game today.  Thanks for all your help."

He hugs me back.  "Next time, I promise, I'll let you do all this on your own."

I'll believe that when I see it . . . :)

~

When Danny stepped in to help me, his intentions were good and his actions were meant to encourage and instruct me kindly, not tear me down.  When you feel the urge to be a back seat driver, do you correct and help with great patience, or do you give instructions brusquely before thinking about how your words might make the person feel?  Please share in the comment section.

Prayer:  Father, there are times when all of us need to be corrected, rebuked and encouraged in order to get the job done right.  May those who offer us help do so with great patience and careful instructions, and, most of all, with kindness of heart and gentleness of spirit.  Amen.

Friday, January 24, 2014

A Mighty Rushing Wind


John 3:8
"The wind blows wherever it pleases.  You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.  So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."

The best days for drying clothes outside are the ones which are both sunny and windy.  With towels and sheets overdue for a washing, I am gratified to see today as a promising one, at least where sunshine is concerned.  There is hardly a breeze stirring in the morning and no certainty of wind to come.

"I sure hope the wind picks up today," I tell my husband, Danny, as I lug the mountain of laundry down the stairs to the washroom.

"Stay hopeful," he says.  "I think we have a good chance of it."

When the wash cycle ends, I retrieve the towels and sheets, bundle up against the cold, brisk air, and proceed to hang them on the line.  That's when I feel it.  The first gust of significant wind, bringing with it the expectation of more to follow.  Sure enough!  By the time I finish pinning the last sheet in its place, blustery blasts begin to pummel the wash.

Hard!

So hard, in fact, even the heavy towels are whipped and snapped and, at times, turned horizontally by forceful gusts.  And, the sheets?  Well, if the towels are tightrope walkers, the sheets are "that daring young man on the flying trapeze."  The wind wallops them every which way but loose!  And, when a clothesline spacer gets tossed to the ground, the sheets spin out of control.  They wrap up over the line, again and again, twisting it unmercifully.

It is such a tangle, I can't believe my eyes.  I attempt to pull on the line to bring the sheets in.  It won't budge!  Momentarily panicked, I have visions of having to cut the rope in order to salvage the laundry.  But, the thought of seeing Danny up on that tall, rickety ladder to hang another clothesline is enough to make me determined to haul this load in one way or another.

It takes some elbow grease and some gritting of teeth, but I finally manage to inch the line toward me.  Closer and closer come the sheets.  The first clothespin is within reach.  Got it!  Then another and another, and all the while, I'm battling the line and the wind to bring my sheets and pillowcases to safety.

Whew!

Fortunately, once the trapeze artists are off the line, it happily unravels itself and is usable again.  What a relief!

And, what a reminder:  "The wind blows wherever it pleases."  The wind . . . powerful, unpredictable, capricious.  Its strength should never be underestimated.  And, although we cannot see it, we can readily see the effect it has on every object it breathes upon.

"So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."  The breath of God, like a mighty rushing wind, fills our hearts, minds, and souls with His Holy Spirit when we accept Christ Jesus as our Lord and Savior.  Others may not see the "wind," but they will certainly see the effect it has on our lives.  We are changed.  We are new creatures.

We are born again in God's love and enabled to share His love with everyone we meet.

~

Will you share God's love with others today?

Prayer:  Father, we thank You today for the gift of Your Holy Spirit.  We pray for those who have yet to become believers that we might, by our words and examples, lead them to new life in Your Son, our Lord, Christ Jesus.  Amen.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Feast is Prepared!



Luke 13:29
People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.

My husband, Danny, and I enjoy feeding our backyard birds and, indirectly, the many squirrels which inhabit our forest.  Our squirrel-buster bird feeder pictured above and featured in a previous post regrettably gave up the ghost several weeks back.  Danny wastes no time acquiring another one from our local big box store.



What a beauty!  We hang it exactly where the old feeder was, and soon, the birds resume their feasting, and the squirrels gather beneath the feeder to snatch up any seeds which fall to the ground.

There is only one problem.  The perches on this new feeder are smaller than what we had on the older model.  While small birds, like chickadees, nuthatches and wrens, are having the time of their lives, the larger birds, cardinals in particular, are finding this new arrangement awkward and prohibitive.  Within a day of installing this new feeder, they quit coming altogether!

We are distraught.  The weather is frigid and we are worried that our cardinal friends who have become so dependent upon this food source could suffer.

"I know what we can do," says Danny.  "I'll just go back to the store and get a second feeder, one with a bigger place to perch."

And, so, he does.  Isn't this the cutest thing ever?



We hang it on a pole not far from the bustling feeder, confident that it will soon get noticed as an alternative, and attractive, feasting place.  An entire day passes with no takers.  We even rake away leaves and spread birdseed on the ground beneath it to attract the squirrels which, in turn, we hope will capture the birds' attention.

But, it doesn't . . .

"Here's an idea," Danny says.  "Let's put the feeder the birds like on the pole and hang the red one in the familiar location.  Maybe, that will do the trick."

But, it doesn't . . .

All right, to be fair, a few brave, bold birds do perch briefly on the little red house, but the chickadees still swarm the elongated feeder which looks more like the one they've been used to.  And, the cardinal?  He sits on a nearby branch looking forlorn and confused.  We feel sorry for him, but realize, of course, that he will have to somehow figure out this new feeding arrangement on his own.

In the end, it isn't until we allow the preferred feeder to run out of seed that the little red house sees substantial traffic.  At long last, our backyard birds discover a sumptuous feast which was ready and waiting for them all this time.



We finally decide to hang both feeders on the same line.  Working!

~

Just like the birds, we can be such creatures of habit, so used to looking at things one way that we miss God's call to see with His eyes.  When we are too busy gathering up the crumbs under the Master's table, we forget that, just above our heads, a feast has been spread, one to which we have been lovingly invited.  Because, the Lord doesn't want us to settle for crumbs; He wants us to have life and live it abundantly.

~

The feast is prepared!  You are invited!  Will you attend?

Prayer:  Loving Father, You have called us through Your Son, Christ Jesus, and Your Holy Spirit to feast on Your Word and rejoice in Your grace and salvation.  May we always seek Your kingdom first, knowing You will provide for our needs and help us to live the abundant life You have planned for us.  Amen.

Friday, January 17, 2014

It's Working!


Ephesians 4:15-17
From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

My granddaughter, Virginia Rose, always wants to know, if family members are not around, where they are and what they are doing.  After dropping her mother at work the other day, we are driving back to my house when Virginia begins:

"Papa?"

"Papa's at work today."

"Debanni?"

"Giovanni's at work, too."

"Mommy?"

"We just dropped Mommy off at work, and your Daddy is working, too."

Virginia pauses for a moment.  I wonder what she is pondering.  Finally, she blurts out what should be the next obvious inquiry, but one I least expect:  "Gammie?  Work?"

Oh, how I want to explode with volcanic blasts of laughter!  Do I work?  Oh, yes, baby, and you can't begin to understand how hard I work.  Taking care of the home, taking care of you, seeing my hopes of 500 words per day only simmering on the back burner because of precious time spent with you, dear one.  And, loving every moment because God has graced me with your irreplaceable presence.  So, I answer:

"Yes, Gammie works.  I'm a writer."

"OhhHHhh."  Virginia's sing song response assures this Gammie that she understands nothing of the process of writing, but that she is gratified in knowing her grandmother actually does something each and every day.

Makes something of her life .  .  .

Works.  At.  Something.

And, it's working!

Saint Paul reminds us of the human need to work and the power inherent within those tasks.  God gives us gifts which must be recognized, embraced, and practiced.  If we are to build God's kingdom in this world, it takes willing and hard-working hearts, minds, souls, and hands.

It takes determination and drive, with God's help, to build up The Body.

Can we be the supporting ligaments for the Body of Christ?  Can we be joined together, building up ourselves and others in His great love?

Can we cling to God's promise, even when we feel that our contribution is small or insignificant?

Can we keep on keeping on, even when our work seems, at first take, not to be working?

Yes, we can, when we take the Lord at His word, trusting that He will see us through

"Gammie?  Work?"

Working for His kingdom, dear Virginia, working for His kingdom . . .

~

Do you feel that the work you do on a daily basis is satisfying or unsatisfying?  Please share in the comment section.

Will you join me in prayer?
Dearest Father, may we all know and realize in our hearts, minds, and souls, that You are always with us, no matter where we find ourselves  Build us up with Your love through Your grace, and help us to always do the works you have planned for us to do to build up others for the sake of Your kingdom.  Amen.





Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Keep Calm and Carry On


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."

It happens to the best of us, doesn't it?  We are in the midst of what we perceive to be the right direction, the correct route, when, suddenly, we are detoured from the well-worn path.  Left to machete our way through the intimidatingly overgrown road less traveled.

Not pleasant.  Not fun.  But, as believers, we know we don't have to demolish that imposing jungle on our own.

We have His help.

It's rare, but it happens.  I will write a blog post, smugly thinking I'm ahead of the game.  Then, obstacles loom, in this case a missed photo opportunity, which derail my goal.  Negate my finished product.  There is nothing left for it but to pick myself up, brush myself off, and trust that God is pointing me in another direction.

The one He wants for me.

I have His help.

If I've learned anything over these past few years, it's been to realize He has hopes and plans for my future.  I no longer get frustrated when those last 500 words I wrote are no longer viable.  When a post I planned to publish falls flat.  In the long run, in the eyes of my Lord who has "plans to prosper" me, I find the courage and determination, as the popular saying goes, to "keep calm and carry on."

I have His help . . .

His help is all that matters.

His help is all that is real and true and full of grace.

His help . . .

His plans . . .

My future . . .

Thank You, my Lord and my God!

~

When you feel God moving you in a different direction, do you keep calm and carry on, trusting in Him?

Will you pray with me?
Dear Father, we make the mistake of doing and creating before we've stopped to ask for Your presence and Your guidance.  Forgive us, Lord, and help us to follow the path You are more than willing to carve out for Your name's sake.  Let our journeys be a testament to Your great love for us.  Amen.


Friday, January 10, 2014

500!


Psalm 19:14
May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Did you make any resolutions for 2014?  If so, how are they progressing?  Are you sticking with them, or have you already joined ranks with those who backslide before the month of January is out?

Personally, I haven't made a New Year's resolution for the last decade.  Why?  Because I was never successful in keeping them as I planned.  Looking back, I can see that some of my resolutions were either too ambitious, or were about things which didn't speak to my passion.  Neither is cut out to go the long haul.

The worst part about failing to keep them for me, though, was those pangs of guilt and pains of failure.  I'd beat myself up about my lack of determination until I was emotionally black and blue.

Not worth it . . .

But, this year, I've made a resolution of sorts.  It's based on a goal I'd seen several fellow bloggers/writers set for themselves.  When I simply could not get this idea out of my mind, I decided to give it a whirl.

What is this goal?  To write 500 words a day.  Does that sound intimidating?  Unreasonable?  I don't think so.  Then again, I'm used to writing and it is my passion.  On top of that, I needed a prod, or, better yet, a swift kick in the backside, to get moving on my next novel series, Adventures in the Glade.  What I consider to be the first book of this new trilogy is completed and has undergone a first go-round edit.  It is the second book which begs attention now; attention I allowed to wander far to long before recommitting myself to this work.

So, the goal of 500 words a day is helping.  Really helping!  But, am I going to knock myself up side of the head if I miss a day?  Nope!  It's inevitable that unexpected situations will arise and days will be missed.  When that happens, what will I do?  Strive to reach 1,000 words the following day!

The best part about the goal, however, is not just the amount of words on the page.  It's what I feel strongest when I am creating:  God's presence.  I find God in so many things, but I feel Him holding me close when I write.  I am assured that He is guiding the words of my mouth and that they are pleasing in His sight.  There is nothing better than that.

Nothing . . .

~

When and where do you most intensely feel God's presence?

Prayer:  We that You, Father, for those blessed times when we so intensely feel Your presence.  Thank You for the creative gifts You have bestowed upon us.  May we always use them to Your honor and glory.  Amen.

(The number of words in this post counting the ones here?  Five hundred!)

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Focus!


Mark 12:29-31
"The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this:  'Hear, O Israel:  The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.'  The second is this:  'Love your neighbor as yourself.'  There is no commandment greater than these."

My husband, Danny, and I do not have a pool table in our home.  So, when we visit a mountain cabin which provides one, we take full advantage of the fun, the game, the competition.

The concentration . . .

It certainly takes that for me, in so many ways, both obvious and subtle.  A wobble of the elbow, the cue stick braced incorrectly upon my left hand, a too easy or too hard delivery against the side or forefront of the desired ball . . . All are recipes for disaster when it comes to dunking  a ball successfully in the corner pocket.

Any pocket . . . .

Game after game, I lose to Danny's precise, disciplined approach.  Gently, he notes where I need to tighten up, to focus, to control the thrust of the pool cue, and take time to measure the shot.  His advice falls upon ears wishing to hear and understand:  How can I improve my game?

And, mercifully, I find that when I am fully engaged and aware of previous shortcomings, my focus increases by leaps and bounds.  I actually end up winning so of our matches!

But, only when I am mindfully attentive and aware of each facet where I miss the mark do I realize success.

It takes effort.  Multi-tasking effort.

Not at all unlike what our Lord, Christ Jesus, ask of us in Mark 12:29-31.

With every fiber of our being, we are called to focus upon the Lord, our God.  To hear, O Israel, that our Lord is one.

Can we steady our hearts?  Center our souls?  Keep our minds alert?  Ready our strength to love and serve the Lord as Jesus requires?

And, then, with the precision of landing that pool ball in the corner pocket, can we love our neighbors as we love ourselves?  Perfectly?  Without a moment's hesitation?

Staying focused?  No wobbles?  No indelicate delivery?

To accomplish anything in this life, we need to call up the Lord's help and presence to guide us.  For with Him, all things are possible.

And, in knowing this, perhaps, one day, I might beat Danny at pool more than he defeats me!




~

Are you loving the Lord, your God, with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength today?  Please share in the comment section!

Will you pray with me?
Dear Father in Heaven, thank You for showing us even in times of recreation and fun how we can relate to and be in relationship with You.  Help us to continue to focus upon You and Your commandments, and to love others as you would have us do.  Amen.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Watch!


Mark 13:32-33
"But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.  Be on guard!  Be alert!  You do not know when that time will come."

The word I chose to guide me in the year 2013 was "love."  It served me better than well, and opened up new opportunities to realize more fully God's love for me, the love He has for all of us, and to share this love with those I encountered each and every day.  I have many treasured memories of lives sincerely touched.

As December approached, and the New Year encroached, I struggled with which word to pin on 2014.  What could it possibly be?  Love is so powerful, how can any other word match it?  Outdo it?  Most importantly, how is God speaking to me in this year about to unfold?

How is God calling me to live out my life in the next 365 days?

The word comes to me while my husband, Danny, and I are on vacation in the Nantahala Mountains of North Carolina.  God beckons me to the windows of our cabin.

"Watch!"  He says, revealing His glory . . .














Though convicted in that moment, I am not absolutely certain that the word "watch" is my "watch word" for the coming year.  I question.  I pray.  I play with other words which, at the time, seem appealing.

Yet, faithfully, relentlessly, and ever gently, God steers me back to the one word He planted firmly in my wavering, wandering mind.

WATCH!

And, so, I shall.

I will watch.

I will stand guard.

I will be open to all that He spreads before me.

I will be ready to receive His gifts, ready to give in turn to others.

Aware.  Awake.  Alert.

I will watch . . .

~

Do you choose a special word for your life each New Year?  If so, please share in the comment section!

Will you pray with me?
Father, help us all in the New Year to draw closer to You and invite Your Presence into our lives every day.  Let us be awake, aware, and alert to Your signs and wonders.  Prepare us to receive Your Son anew when He returns in glory to rule the nations.  Amen.

Big Plans for Big Play

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 gi...