Friday, February 26, 2016

Happy Every Day



Psalm 19:8
The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart.  The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.

Alexandra Nancy is our youngest granddaughter, who just turned seven months old on February 23rd.  While all our granddaughters are quick to smile when happy or amused, Alexandra exudes a constant aura of joy.  And one can't help but be captivated by that radiance whenever she is near.















Do you see the happy-every-day joy on her face?  The light in her eyes?

For me, to look at Alexandra is to see a glimpse of heaven.  Heaven here on earth.

The joy of the Lord manifest.

And here to stay.

~

When have you glimpsed heaven here on earth?

Prayer:  Father, we thank You for Your precepts, which give joy to our hearts, and for Your radiant commands, which give light to our eyes.  May Your love and grace ever shine through us and fill this sad and darkened world with Your glorious, incomparable light.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Shine Your Light!



Luke 11:33
No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl.  Instead they put it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light.

In my last two installments here at Meditations of My Heart, I reprise the sermon from Pastor Mike Russell, one of the main characters in my Adventures in The Glade series.  One would think this would be easiest of tasks, sharing with you words I've previously penned, and simply restating them here to share God's message through Mike's (my) eyes.

I find, to my chagrin, this is far from the truth.

The moment I begin typing from the novel onto my blog space, I see them.  Revisions!  They glare at me mockingly.  Why didn't you catch me in the first place?

Inwardly, I groan.  I catch myself many times in the task of retyping longing to change this word here or that word there.  Get a grip, Martha!  It's already in print.  Let it go!

This experience reminds of something I read about the beloved and esteemed author, J. R. R. Tolkien.  He wrote The Lord of the Rings, but hung onto it for twelve long years before even offering his masterpiece to a publisher.  And this happened only after constant and unflagging encouragement by his friends and fellow authors finally dissolved Tolkien's will.

Where would the literary world be without hobbits and elves, dwarfs and wizards?

What if Tolkien had decided to hide his light under a bowl until he deemed his work perfect?

While I'm hardly comparing myself to this illustrious author as Tolkien will never cease to inspire me from a lofty and well-deserved pedestal, the quandaries we face are the same.  Is it wise to hold back, to edit just that one more time, before allowing our words to have free reign in the world?  When is it enough to know God is leading us in our writing and assures us His light will shine through our words?

When is it time to let go and let God?

I'm not perfect.  Tolkien wasn't perfect.  And neither are you.

But that is no excuse not to shine the light God has given us into an imperfect world so in need of hearing words of comfort, hope, love, and grace.

So I take a deep breath, and I look at my writing with fresh perspective.  The message is there, present in spite of the few things I wish I could change.

The message is there.

Placed on a stand, bold and true, for all to see.

And I hear the Lord speak to my heart:  "My light is shining!"

Thanks be to God!

~

How are you shining God's light today?

Prayer:  Father, remind us always that in our weaknesses and imperfections, You can make us instruments of testimony to Your kingdom.  May we strive to follow Your will in all our endeavors, not hiding our light under a bowl, but shining it brightly into this darkened world so in need of Your love and grace.  It is in Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

Friday, February 19, 2016

For in Him All Things Were Created - Part 2


Colossians 1:16
For in him all things were created; things in heaven and earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.

The following is the completion of Pastor Mike's address to his congregation, now swelled beyond the church's modest confines, all because of the actions of one Grey (Racer), True Squirrel of the Old Ones, and his undying love for young Davy, their Chosen One.  This excerpt comes from my second novel, Redemption, in the Adventures in The Glade series.  To read the beginning of Pastor Mike's sermon, scroll down and click on "Older Post."

~

"So this past Sunday's incident with the squirrel who was visible one moment and invisible the next made me reflect upon this very question:  If, indeed, as Paul tells us, 'all things have been created through him and for him,' why can't this include creatures we cannot see unless they, as the angel, Gabriel, manifested to Mary, choose to be seen?  Every single person who was in attendance last Sunday witnessed the same event.  It wasn't a handful of you, but every one of you who saw the same scenario played out.  I am reminded of the initial descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples at Pentecost.  Thousands saw the invisible become visible in the leaping tongues of flames, heralding the arrival of the Comforter and the true beginning of the Christian movement throughout the entire known world.

"Perhaps, then, the appearance of this mysterious squirrel in our midst was no mistake.  Perhaps, there are some of us in this church who need a wake-up call, a reassurance that even when we can't see God working in our lives, He is there all along.  And sometimes it takes a mystical moment of revelation to wonder again at the incomprehensible creation God has made for us to dwell in.  To become, as Jesus said, like little children in order to inherit the kingdom, to believe with child-like faith in the miracles, great and small, which surround us every day of our lives.

"At times, it may seem to us that God, too, is invisible, yet nothing could be further from the truth.  God has made Himself known through His only Son, Christ Jesus, who took on flesh and blood in this world, sacrificed Himself for the forgiveness of our sins, and promised eternal life to all who believe in Him.  Are you walking with Jesus today?  Have you committed your life to follow Him?  If you haven't, I invite you to prayerfully consider approaching this altar today.  Jesus is waiting, visibly and readily, for you to knock on His door and let him into your lives.  Let us pray silently as those who feel so moved by the Spirit to answer Jesus' invitation come forward."

Pastor Mike descended from the pulpit to stand at the altar rail as Grace softly played the tried and true hymn, "Just as I Am," on the piano.  Davy realized that Mike was smiling directly at him.  The boy met Racer's loving gaze and heard, "It's your time, Davy.  It's your time."

~

If you haven't already committed your life to Jesus, is it your time?  And if you have made that commitment, feel free to share in the comments how you were moved to that life-changing decision.

Prayer:  Father, we pray for all those who have yet to invite Your precious Son, Christ Jesus, into their lives.  Open their eyes to the salvation Your grace has to offer to them.  Turn the eyes of their hearts to behold You in Jesus, and welcome Him with open arms.  It is in Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

For in Him All Things Were Created - Part 1


Colossians 1:16
For in him all things were created; things in heaven and earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.

In my second novel, Redemption, in the Adventures in The Glade series, Pastor Mike Russell delivers a sermon based upon the scripture quoted above.  I invite you to read Part 1 of his words as he attempts to explain the miracle now known to Nantahala United Methodist Church as "Mad Squirrel Sunday."  Part 2 will follow on the next installment of Meditations of My Heart.

~

"Once again, allow me to warmly welcome you all to Nantahala United Methodist Church.  As many of you in attendance today are new to our congregation, let me begin by saying I was not here last week as I had a family emergency.  Considering what happened to Pastor Williams, I must confess I'm glad I wasn't."

Hearty laughter filled the sanctuary.  When the noise subsided, Mike continued.

"However, I was apprised of the situation by a flood of phone calls and emails from our church members, something I sincerely appreciate, so thank you to all who contacted me.  So many of you asked what I thought about a 'mad,' larger-than-life squirrel appearing out of nowhere and vanishing before your eyes.  'What could it be?'  'Where could it have come from?'  'How could something like this creature even exist?'

"As I perused your questions, I admit I was just as mystified as you were.  I simply had no answer to give.  Then as I was reading the assigned scripture for today in order to prepare this sermon, my eyes fell on this verse from Colossans.  If you brought your Bible today, please turn with me to Colossians 1:16 and follow along as I read the passage aloud."

Pastor Mike paused until the rippling and rustling of turning pages ceased.  He cleared his throat, making Davy think of Reverend, and began:

"For in him all things were created; things in heaven and earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him."

Mike paused for a moment, allowing the words of scripture to sink into the congregation's heads before he spoke again.  

"God's creation is vast, and what we know about it, in our limited human capacity, is only the tip of the iceberg.  He has created not some things, but ALL things in heaven and on earth; the things we can see and the things we can't.  We needn't have much faith to believe in the things we are able to see, but it takes great faith to believe in the things hidden from our eyes.  Let me ask you all a questions.  Do you believe in angels?"

Nods and murmured "yeses" answered him.

"So do I, but I've never seen one.  How about the Holy Spirit?  Can I see Him?  No, but I believe in my heart of hearts He is guiding me, and I hope you, in your daily walk with the Lord."

~

How do you see the Holy Spirit guiding your walk with the Lord?

Prayer:  Father, thank You for your marvelous creation, for all those things, seen and unseen, that propel us toward a life lived in accordance with Your will.  When our faith wavers doubts enter in, wrap us in Your strong arms of certainty and assurance, that we might know the power and presence of Your love and, in turn, pass that love on to others.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Share the Love!


John 3:16
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Mark 12:30-31
"'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."

Valentine's Day looms on the horizon, seducing us with all its red, pink, white, heart-shaped candy glory and regalia of holiday promotions.  For many, Valentine's Day is THE coveted celebration of romantic love.  Roses, chocolates, candlelight dinners, personal gifts exchanged, and all shared with that special, irreplaceable person of our dreams who has chosen us as a beloved partner.

But for so many others, Valentine's Day heralds sadness, loss and loneliness.  A relationship on the rocks.  A spouse who succumbed to cancer.  Divorce tearing at the fabric of a once-whole heart shared.  People living alone and feeling the pain of isolation, so in need of a loving thought, a caring word.

A heartfelt prayer.

What can you and I do to ease those moments for others who are not in a position to view Valentine's Day in an optimistic, promising light?

Although the list could be endless, here are a few suggestions to brighten someone's Valentine's Day:

  • Send e-cards or real cards to friends and family members who may be feeling down and alone.  Share your unique thoughts about how much they are loved and appreciated by you.
  • Bake cookies or other specialties and have your children or grandchildren deliver to the neighbors.
  • Buy a pack of "kids' valentines," and pass them out to persons who serve you in your local bank, grocery or other retail store.
  • Surprise co-workers with a small box of candy and a note expressing your thankfulness for them.
  • Buy a bouquet of roses (any flower will do) and stand on a busy street corner to pass them out one at a time.  Might not hurt if you have place a tag that reads "Jesus loves you" on each one!
  • Check with your church to find out who in the congregation might be in need of an extra dose of comfort or encouragement, and follow through according to their needs.
These are just some suggestions to get your creative juices flowing.  Yes, I can almost see your minds and hearts whirling imaginatively as you envision how to make someone's Valentine's Day a special one. 

May God bless you in it all as you seek to shine His love into this hurting world.

~

Did you find any of the suggestions above appealing to you?  Did you come up with more ideas to share God's love?

Prayer:  Father, it is because You first loved us that we are able to love others.  Let us demonstrate Your gift of love on this Valentine's Day to the lonely and the brokenhearted.  May they see the light of Your gracious, eternal love through our words and deeds.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Orient(al) Express



Revelation 4:11
"You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being."

For those of you who are new to Meditations of My Heart, you may not be aware that my husband, Danny, is the chief chef here at what we like to call The Orlando Cafe.  It's not that I don't or can't cook - I've pitched in plenty of times - but unlike me, Danny absolutely loves to cook.  It is as creative a task for him as writing is for me.

Last week, I glance over from my computer to observe Danny intently perusing his own screen.  He is so absorbed in what he is viewing, it piques my curiosity.

"What are you looking at, honey?"  I ask.

"Recipes," he answers.

"Recipes?  But you have a whole notebook full of them," I protest.  "Why do you need more?"

"Because I feel like I'm in a rut," Danny confesses.  "If I don't try something new, I'm afraid my creative juices will dry up.  I need some fresh inspiration.  What do you say we go Oriental this week?"

"Sure, that's fine," I say, knowing that in times past, when Danny has attempted an Asian dish, it has never quite turned out in a way that met his high standards.  I'm glad he's thrown down the gauntlet and is willing to strengthen his skills in this culinary zone that, thus far, has eluded him.

But the entire week?  I have my doubts at first, but there's no stopping Danny.  He's on an egg roll!







P. F. Chang's Chicken Lettuce Wraps




Pan Fried Dumplings 


Asian Garlic Noodles


Beef Noodle Stir Fry

And yes, every single meal in this Oriental Express is not only appealing to the eyes, but is bursting with mouth-watering flavors.  Danny's determination to change things up and embrace new challenges truly pays off.  It has certainly brought out the best in him!

~

Even in our spiritual lives, we can fall into a rut.  Maybe we only read scripture from one Bible instead of trying different versions now and then.  Perhaps our prayers have become a perfunctory performance instead of the priceless opportunity to converse with God.  Even worse, in our busy, hectic and harried lives, have we pushed the Lord to the back burner, made Him, who should be our first focus, just an afterthought?

The season of Lent begins tomorrow on Ash Wednesday.  This is the perfect time for us to change things up in our Christian walk as we prepare our hearts for the coming of Easter and the celebration of Jesus' glorious resurrection.

I hope you will take a hard, honest look at where you are in your faith journey.  If you're feeling stale or uninspired, pray that the Holy Spirit will give you a new perspective, and lead you to challenges that will draw you closer to the Lord.

And bring out the best in you.

~

Do you observe the season of Lent?

Prayer:  Father, You are worthy to receive glory and honor and power, always and everywhere.  Turn our hearts to Yours so that we may worship and praise You in the way You deserve.  Refresh our relationship with You and inspire us to do Your will.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.


Friday, February 5, 2016

Too Blessed!


Colossians 2:6-8
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

I didn't win the powerball, but I feel like I've won life's lottery.  Someone to love me, a warm home, the love of my animal babies, a good job.  People and friends who truly care about me.  MUSIC!!!!!  Music, and the wonderful musical family of pros that have taken this amateur in.  Too blessed!  I hope to help someone, some people this year to make a difference in their lives, as so many have made in mine.  ~Barry Evan Russ

When I read high-school friend, Barry's, recent post on Facebook, I am overwhelmed by his glorious flood of words, encompassing and embracing an incomparable Gratitude Attitude.  It's not about what Barry hopes to have that makes life great, it's his knowledge and understanding of what he's been given, unconditionally, that not only makes him grateful, but inspires him to turn right around and do his best to give of himself to others.

A Gratitude Attitude.

Too Blessed!

Yes!  When we take time to stop in the midst of our busy lives, truly stop, and reflect upon all the amazing blessings God has given us, how can we not feel grateful for it all?  How can we not, in turn, give back to others?

Pay it forward.

As God, through Christ Jesus, did for us.

Loved us so much, in the face of our shortcomings, our failures, our hypocrisy.

Our sins.

God gave.  We received.

Or did we?

Are we, like Barry, taking a personal inventory of our blessings?  Are we giving thanks for the feast spread before us, or are we complaining and whining because our favorite dessert has been left off the menu?

Do we focus on the shortfalls in the present, or do we see God's promise in the eternal?

Friends, as St. Paul urges us, let us continue to live our lives in gratitude for the precious life Jesus sacrificed for us and for our sins.

May our lives ever testify to God's love and may our hearts, like Barry's, overflow with thankfulness.

That's the best lottery any of us could ever win.

~

Prayer:  Father, we pray to be overflowing with thankfulness for all the gifts and graces You pour upon our daily lives.  We are too blessed!  Let us, even in the dark days, choose to have faith that You are ever working all things for good for those who trust in You.  Strengthen us in our faith, and let us, with Your guidance, make all the difference in the lives of others.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

All My Senior Moments


Isaiah 46:9
Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.

Just last year, I turn the big "60."  I still have to pinch myself whenever I think about my chronological age; frankly, I don't feel a day over 40, and that's a good thing.  But another good thing is I now qualify for my senior discount in many retail outlets, including the Publix up the street where we do all our grocery shopping.

The drawback, however, is that the senior discount is only offered on Wednesdays, not my usual day to shop.  About two weeks ago, though, we have accumulated a list of grocery items required to complete the meals planned for the week.  And when I realize it's Wednesday, I'm pumped!

I remind myself during the entire drive to Publix to ask for my discount at checkout.  Yes, I know, it's only a 5% reduction in the sales total, but hey, a penny saved is a . . . you know the rest.

I cruise through the aisles with my cart and shopping list, eager to have this chore over and done with.  The store is inordinately populated by those of us who fit into the senior demographic.  I smile thinking I'm not the only one who wishes to take advantage of this bonus, no matter how small it is.

When I get in line to check out, I load my goodies on the conveyor belt, and am immediately distracted by the tabloid headlines screaming at me from the display rack.  They are a sad reminder of how many people out there celebrate the fall of the mighty as it makes them feel better about their own dreary or troublesome lives.

The friendly voice of the young clerk averts my attention.  She deftly rings up my purchases while a college-aged boy bags my groceries, all the while carrying on a lively conversation.  I swipe my debit card, take my receipt, and head out to my car.

It isn't until I get home and remove the receipt from my wallet that I realize with dismay:  I neglected to ask for my senior discount!!!

Talk about your classic senior moment.  This one takes the cake!

The whole cake . . .

And as many of you who follow me here may be aware, my father suffered for years from Alzheimer's before the Lord graciously took him home in March of 2014.  The fear that my future holds the same, especially when I forget such a simple thing as I do this day, at age 60, rears its ugly head.  I can't help but wonder if my dad, when he was my age, was beginning to forget what was obvious and on the front burner of his mind.

I'll never know for sure . . .

But I do know this:  God will be with me no matter what the future brings.  He will help me to remember the former things, those of long ago, even if and when my mind drifts away from the present.  I will ever be His child, and He will be my God.

The One like no other is the God in whom I trust.

He will see me through all my senior moments.

~

Do you ever have a senior moment?  Does it worry you, or do you take it in stride?

Prayer:  Father, many of us have valid reasons to fear the future as we age.  Let us rely on You to allay those fears, to set them aside, and focus upon Your eternal promise, that You will ever be with us.  God, may we praise You unceasingly all of our days.  It is in Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

The Good and Perfect Gift

James 1:17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shift...