Friday, January 29, 2016

Chopped! Or Not?


Joel 2:13
Rend your heart and not your garments.  Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.

My husband, Danny, and I enjoy watching cooking shows on Food Network, especially those involving competition.  One of  our favorites is Chopped.

For those of you unfamiliar with this program, four chefs compete against one another in three rounds - appetizer, entree and dessert - to see who will be declared the Chopped Champion.  The judges' criteria are taste, creativity and presentation of the completed meal.

Sounds pretty straightforward, right?  It's anything but!  As if the time constraints for preparing a dish aren't enough, each chef is given a mystery basket with identical, and always eclectic, ingredients, all of which must be incorporated into the recipe.  Some items are so far-fetched, they often leave Danny, a seasoned chef in his own right, shaking his head in disbelief.

It is downright miraculous to watch these chefs transform such incongruous food items into five-star wonders in a matter of minutes.  Each creation reflects the knowledge, skills and background of the chefs.  But no matter how fancy the presentation or savory the taste, one contestant will be chopped at the end of each round, until only the Chopped Champion is left standing.

For the losers, there are no do-overs.  No second chances.

They are simply chopped.

As we traverse this road called life, each new day presents its own mystery basket.  We may open it and be delighted by what we find inside:  love; laughter; a child's smile, a warm touch.  We know just what to do with these ingredients, and rarely fail to turn our day into a five-star one.

But what about those mystery baskets that, when opened, reveal less than palatable contents?  An ailing parent, a troubled child, problems with the boss, financial woes, and the list goes on and on.  What then?  How will we ever address the mess?

Sadly, when faced with tough situations, even we, as Christians, often plunge forward, declaring, "I've got this, God.  I can handle this."  But we delude ourselves.  If we leave God out of the equation, we are leaving the most important ingredient in our mystery basket out of the mix.  That should get us chopped, for sure!

But it doesn't.

We need to repent, gather up our rag-tag attempts to fix our problems, and surrender them to the the Lord, our God.  For He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in love, and He relents from sending calamity.

With God, none of us are losers.  He allows do-overs.  Repeatedly.

The Lord, our God, is a God of Second Chances.


~

Was there a time in your life when you thought you could handle your mystery boxes without God's help?

Prayer:  Father, help us to remember when we are facing overwhelming problems or situations in our lives to turn first to You for wisdom, strength and guidance.  Forgive us those times when we have taken matters into our own hands and taken You out of the mix.  Thank You for Your great, endless and abiding love for us, Your wayward children.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Bebe and the Girl


Psalm 21:2
You have granted him his heart's desire and have not withheld the request of his lips.

"If I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look further than my own back yard.  Because if it isn't there, I never really lost it to begin with." ~Frank L. Baum, The Wizard of Oz

When our granddaughter, Virginia Rose, wakes up Saturday morning after having spent the night with us, all she can think about (and talk about - nonstop) is our impending visit to Danny's mother's house.  She is excited at the prospect of spending time with her Nonna, visiting the modest bakery in town, which excels in delectable cookies, and seeing Nonna's cockatiel, Bebe.  (Baybay)

Every time Danny visits with his mother, he always lets Bebe out of her cage so she can stretch her wings and get some much-needed exercise.  It's Virginia's heart's desire to have the bird perch, and stay, on her shoulder.  Though Danny has tried this in the past, Bebe would have none of it.  But Virginia still holds out hope.

"Can you put Bebe on my shoulder again today, Papa?  Do you think she'll stay this time?"

"I can, but I can't promise you she will sit there for long.  We'll just have to see."

When the moment comes to release Bebe, Danny gently places her on Virginia's waiting shoulder.  And miracles of miracles, this time she stays!



And stays.




And stays.




Needless to say, Virginia is beside herself with delight.  Her wish has at long last been granted.  The desires of her heart have been met.

Then . . .

Bebe discovers Virginia's hair.  She begins to pluck at it, lightly at first so that it's no more than a tickle.  But suddenly, Bebe decides Virginia's ear is fair game, too.  Her sharp beak is too much to bear.  Tears spring to our granddaughter's eyes as her Papa hastily comes to the rescue, deftly scooping Bebe up in his hands, and tossing her into the air so she will take flight.

Virginia recovers quickly from this unexpected turn of events, but the honeymoon is over.  She doesn't ask to have Bebe on her shoulder again.  Can you blame her?

And I think back on times as a child when I wanted a toy or a game so badly, I dreamed about it, yearned for it, and mercilessly begged my parents to buy it for me.  But when the long-coveted gift was finally in my hands, it didn't hold the charm for me that I imagined it would.

My heart's desire was granted, but I was no better off than I was before I received it.

From time to time, God grants us our heart's desire, doesn't He?  Yet, if our heart isn't in the right place, in tune with God's will for us, that desire will not, cannot fulfill us.  It can even become an annoying, pecking Bebe that pricks at our pride and vanity for daring to place our wants before wanting God.

It is only when we realize that our true heart's delight is in loving the Lord that we will soar on the wings of eagles.

Or maybe, cockatiels.


~

What is your heart's desire today?

Prayer:  Father, You love us so much and want to give us what our hearts desire.  Even when what we ask for is wrong, as were the demands of the Prodigal Son, when we admit the error of our ways, You welcome us back to You with outstretched arms.  We are so grateful for Your infinite patience and wondrous grace.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

Friday, January 22, 2016

My Abba


Romans 8:15
The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.  And by him we cry, "Abba, Father."

As the evening winds down and our granddaughter, Virginia Rose's, bedtime draws near, I keep a close eye on the clock.  The last time Danny and I had her over to spend the night, we allowed her to stay up later than her parents would permit.  That made for one tired little girl in the morning, and we don't want a repeat performance as we have a busy Saturday planned.  (Details to come in next Tuesday's post!)

Dutifully, I make sure Virginia brushes her teeth and changes into her pajamas, and leave ample time for a bedtime story and prayers before declaring lights-out.  I retreat to our bedroom to do the same.  When I reemerge into the dining room, this is the scene that greets me.


Seeing Virginia, snuggled up with the Papa she adores, as they view a cooking show on the computer, melts my heart.  Bedtime or no bedtime, I decide I'm not going to be the one to break up these tender moments of warmth, security and love.

I close my eyes.  A tear escapes.  For when I am troubled, fearful, tired, or sad, I often picture myself as a little girl, crawling up into Jesus' lap, and being held in His strong, reassuring embrace.  I may be a Gammie on the outside, but on the inside is a child who longs for the love and comfort of my Father.

My Abba.

Every day, I give thanks to Him who adopted me and calls me His own.

And never says, "No," when I ask to climb up in His lap.

~
When you look at your reflection in the mirror, do you see the child of God that you are?

Prayer:  Abba, Father, we give thanks for Your Son, our Savior, Jesus, who reconciled us to You through His death on a cross, where He took our every sin away and made it possible for us to be Your sons and daughters.  May we ever remember that we are Your beloved children.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

"I Can Do It Myself, Gammie!"


Philippians 4:13
I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

My husband, Danny, and I have our granddaughter, Virginia Rose, over to spend a recent Friday night with us.  We wanted to have her in the worst way over the Christmas holidays, but because everyone in her household was sick, we couldn't risk it.  So it's been a while since we've spent any one-on-one time with our little angel, and we are looking forward to every minute together.

The biggest change I observe in Virginia is her self-assured demeanor.  It's not that she hasn't displayed confidence in the past; she is always willing to try new things, but now she firmly verbalizes her self-reliance.

"I can do it myself, Gammie."

I hear that phrase time and time again, whether it's breaking eggs into the cookie mixture, stirring in the M&Ms, placing teaspoons of dough on the baking sheets, lugging a board game upstairs from its storage space in the downstairs closet, readying the game for a round of fun, or changing into pajamas, the mantra repeats.

"I can do it myself, Gammie."

But where Virginia's declared confidence truly shines is when she insists she can clean up after having her way with flour play on the kitchen counter.  This Gammie is skeptical (and yes, I do help some), but I'm amazed at how much she is able to accomplish without a smidgen of help from me.













Not bad for a five-year-old!

While I understand how important it is for children to develop their abilities and skills, the "do-it-myself" mentality can become an obstacle, a stumbling block, to their spiritual and emotional growth down the road of life.  Children must also learn that asking for help when the task before them is daunting is not a sign of weakness or shame.  It is life-giving.

Life changing.

Because the moment we realize we can't do it all on our own is the moment we learn to lean, expectantly and unabashedly, upon the Lord.  We ask for His help.

And He is there to give it.

Faithfully and unfailingly.

And with Jesus' strength infusing our hearts and souls, we can overcome all the hindrances, set backs and shortfalls we encounter along our earthly journey.

We can truly, and confidently, do all things.

~

Are you telling God you can "do it yourself," or do you trust in Him to give you the strength you need for the task at hand?

Prayer:  Father, we understand that it is important for children to take pride in their accomplishments and capabilities.  But pride not tempered by humility is a recipe for disaster.  Help us to teach and guide our children and grandchildren to always thank You for all the good gifts and talents they have been given and to acknowledge that all these are blessings from You to them.  It is in Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Are You Judging?


Matthew 7:1-3
Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.  Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?

I never think this would be suited to me, but I'm actually enjoying and being inspired by monthly luncheons with a local Christian women's group.  A resolved introvert, I don't think I require this breach of practice, but these loving women help me, in large and small ways, to let my guard down and just be myself.

We too often hear/think of "the church" as being judgmental, demanding, and at its lowest, exclusive.  But in stark contrast, though I attend this luncheon as an "outsider," I'm quickly, unconditionally accepted as a friend.  These women do not judge me.  They don't care if I'm wearing enough make-up or upscale jewelry even though our luncheon venue is a country club.

They couldn't care less.

I sit at a table with unknown faces who are quick to make themselves known.

They embrace each other.

They embrace me.

And though I mistakenly think in attending this gathering I will be outside my comfort zone, I can't be further from the truth.

I am accepted as a child of God.

I stand corrected.

I stand amazed.

And I know, beyond any shadow of doubt, that God works in mysterious and wondrous ways.

I am not judged.

I am loved.

And I can love in return.

~

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you feared you might be judged?  What was the outcome?

Prayer:  Father, thank You for the opportunity opened to me to be a part of the lives of these precious Christian women.  As one who would rather sit at her computer and write, I hadn't realized how important it is to touch and be touched by the lives of others on this Christian journey.  I thank You for this open door, and I pray that all who are reading this and seeking, even though reluctantly at times, will find Your love and grace in the hearts of those around them, and be able to give love in return.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Growing Up



1 Peter 2:1-3
Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.  Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.

On the last day of 2015, our granddaughter, Virginia Rose, loses her first baby tooth!  This Gammie's heart realizes in one beat that our precious darling is growing up too fast.  Can i place a brick on her head to slow her down?  Please?

Why, it seems like only yesterday that she was just a baby.





My, how she has changed in her five short years here on earth.


















And although we, as adults, are no longer physically growing like Virginia, we continue, as Christians, to grow daily in our faith.  Some of you reading this may be new Christians, those desiring spiritual milk, but not yet ready for solid food.  Others of you are seasoned in your walk with the Lord, sitting down to three squares a day and topping them off with a delectable dessert.

No matter where you are on your Christian journey, each of you has tasted the goodness and grace of our God through Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

And every day, you crave more and more of God's presence in your life.

And that is a good thing.

A great thing.

The best thing.

For it means you are growing up in your salvation.

May you never cease to grow in the Lord!

~

Where are you in your Christian walk?

Prayer:  Father, we give thanks today for Your gift of salvation through Christ Jesus and for Your continual presence in our lives as we continue to mature in our faith.  When it comes to knowing You more, may our cravings never cease.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Heavenly View



Matthew 11:28
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

My husband, Danny, and I love our twice a year getaways to the Nantahala Mountains of North Carolina.  Our most recent trip, taken in mid-December, is long overdue.  We have endured our share of stress over the preceding months.  Especially in the season of Advent, when we are called to slow down and reflect, and not succumb to the world's interpretation of the days leading up to Christmas, our rest and relaxation comes at the perfect time.

Our cabin, appropriately named Heavenly View, is a haven of peace and serenity.




















But it is the panorama of God's glory spread before us that brings the most comfort as He invites us to truly rest in His creation.






















The only thing to remind us of Christmas' coming is a humble one, a nostalgic one, placed thoughtfully in the cabin by its owners.




And we thankfully recall who we are in the eyes of the Lord.

We remember what Christmas is all about . . .


~

As this New Year unfolds, with all its promises and uncertainties, will you trust and rest in the Lord?

Prayer:  Father, may we never get so busy and distracted in our lives that we allow our focus to be on anything but You and Your heavenly view.  We thank You for Your peace that passes all understanding.  May we bring our burdens to You, through Christ Jesus, knowing our rest will be complete.  It is in His precious name, we pray.  Amen.


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Whatever!


Philippians 4:8
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things.

I think I have it.  I really do!

My word for the year?  Gratitude.  I even share with blogging friends, perhaps too smugly, that this is the obvious, God-declared choice.

But as the days of 2015 dwindle, and I begin to reflect upon what I need to learn in 2016, I realize I may have been too hasty in my selection.  For gratefulness is something I already practice on a daily basis.  It's already a lesson learned, a habit formed.

I long for a new challenge from the Lord.

But what word will embody that welcomed provocation?

Many offerings roll like waves through my thoughts:  Listen; hope; courage, seek.  But none stick.  I'm disappointed, but not to the point where frustration leads to the end of the rope.  I trust God will steer me in the right direction.

And He does.  In the most unexpected (isn't that just how He works?) way.

My husband, Danny, and I are sharing a conversation, and he mentions to me a word frequently invoked by David, our former drummer in the praise band, who now lives in Texas.  When something went awry unexpectedly, David's response was unilaterally, "Whatever."  In other words, we'll make the best of it, no matter the unforeseen obstacle.

Whatever!

And in a breath, in a throw away thought, there appears my word for the year.

WHATEVER!

Because I know that, whatever happens, our Father is in control.  I need not worry.  I need not fret.

Not for one blessed moment.

For God is in all the "whatevers" of our lives.  Making them right and turning them to His good.

And I will hinge my "whatevers" on Paul's encouraging words, and think about these things, pondering them in my heart, and living them out in my life with God's faithful guidance.

Happy New Year!

~

Have you chosen a guiding word for 2016?

Prayer:  Father, may our whatevers turn into Your best-evers in our lives.  Let us heed the words of Your servant, Paul, and think always upon those things that are true, noble, pure, lovely, and admirable.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  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. ...