Tuesday, June 28, 2016

His Grace is Enough


Romans 6:14
For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

As my husband, Danny, and I put our heads together to plan out the meals for the coming week, we decide that a crock pot offering on my part, for at least one of those dinners, will greatly alleviate his stress from several 12-hour, downtown days at work.  Danny is in the mood for a Beef Bourguignon.  The recipe he finds?  Daunting!

Can we say this slow-to-chop-slow-to-prep cook is feeling a wee bit insecure?

I read through the recipe repeatedly the night before I'm going to use the crock pot, and I find myself questioning the logic and necessity of some of the steps involved.  Why do the onions have to be sauteed?  Carrots and celery, too?  Really?  And the mushrooms?  Why do they require any pre-cooking?

But when I finally set about to prepare the ingredients the next morning, I decide to play it safe and follow the recipe to the letter.  (Well, I confess I only estimated the amount of wine and totally forgot to add that last pinch of salt.)  Sure, it takes, to my mind, excessive preparation, but the end result?  As Danny declares that evening, "It's the best Beef Bourguignon I've ever tasted!"

~

My experience with this brand new recipe reminds me of God's laws set out in the Old Testament.  The Ten Commandments are clear and simple.  He gave them to us as a recipe we must follow to the letter in order to stay close to Him.

We may have every good intention in keeping these laws, but somewhere along the line, in our human weakness, we are bound to fail in our attempts.  We begin to question, as I did with the steps in the recipe, if God really meant what He said, or are we allowed some leeway for our own interpretations.

The Old Testament contains story after story recounting the numerous and egregious sins committed by the tribes of Israel and Judah.  No matter how many times the people repented and tried again, they simply could not follow God's commandments on their own.  They needed something more to stay the course of their relationship with Him.

Enter Christ Jesus, the Messiah, who declares in Matthew 5:17, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets, I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them."

How?  By grace!

Because when we ask Jesus to be our Lord and Savior, He works in us through the Holy Spirit.  Transforms us little by little to be more like Him.  Engraves God's laws not on tablets of stone, but in the soft, pliant flesh of our hearts.

And when we still mess up, for we will, Jesus forgives us if we turn to Him with repentance for our sins.

That's grace.

And it's enough for me.

Instead of sharing a prayer today, I invite you to listen to the song, Your Grace is Enough, by Chris Tomlin.  Enjoy and sing along!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Pool Party!


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

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

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

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





















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

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

Refreshed.

Renewed.

That's the pool party I choose.

What about you?


~
Prayer

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

Amen

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Uh-oh!


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

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

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






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

You get the picture.

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

But God reminds me:  It's not my job.

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

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

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

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

~

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

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


Friday, June 10, 2016

Catch a Wave!

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

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

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

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

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

She does.

Volunteers are still needed.  Would I reconsider?

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

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

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

My mind is made up.

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

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

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

~

Have you ever volunteered for a VBS at your church?

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

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Servant of All


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


~

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

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

Friday, June 3, 2016

Arrive Alive!


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

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

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

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

Not this time . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~

Have you every encountered any close calls while navigating expressways?

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

The Truth Will Set You Free

John 8:32 You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free. Peter is the disciple with whom I most readily relate.  Impetuou...