Tuesday, February 28, 2017

On the "Fast" Track


Matthew 6:16-18
When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting.  Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.  But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

The Lenten season is upon us!  Tomorrow, Ash Wednesday, heralds the inception of forty days during which many Christians choose to fast from some habit or activity that they feel draws them away from developing a closer connection with God.  Their goal is to create a deeper relationship with God, the Father, Christ Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, as hearts and minds prepare for the glorious coming of Easter.

Before I plunge into what I'm fasting from this Lent, let me share with you what devotionals I've added to enhance my Lenten journey, which I know will enrich my faith and yours, too, if you so choose.  These books are 40 Voices - A Lenten Devotional, by Jean Wise, and Faith in God's Promises, by Michelle DeRusha, both authors/bloggers whom I've followed for years.  The prospect of reading and reflecting upon their daily devotions has me wanting to leap into Lent feet first!

So that being said, what is it I'm fasting from for the next forty days?  It is something that in Lenten seasons past, I could never dream of doing, let alone surviving the dry spell in the wilderness.  Yet the moment the thought hit me this year, it was as if a huge (there's my word for the year again), radiant light beamed down from the heavens.  I'm convicted!

God wants me to give up Facebook.

Yes, you heard me right, friends.

Give.  Up.  Facebook.

As much as I love staying in touch with family and friends, posting my blog and reading the blogs of others, and promoting my novels, Facebook has become a pitfall for me. There is so much negativity out there, which definitely tempts me to entertain uncharitable thoughts about others.  Not to mention the bout of hacking from which I just emerged.  These unhealthy distractions are not helping me to keep my focus where it should be.

On God.

Now some of you may be wondering:  Martha, how will we stay in touch?  How am I supposed to read Meditations of My Heart if not on Facebook?  What if I really need to send you a private message?

No worries!

Do you see the prompt "Follow by Email" in the right hand column of this post?  Simply enter your email address, and my blogs will be delivered directly to you whenever one is posted.  And leaving comments on the blog is a great way to stay in touch.

With regards to sending private messages?  If you go to my my website, there is a tab labeled "Contact."  Click on it, and you can send a direct message to my personal email.  Know I will be sure to respond!

And one more thing I must add here.  Since tomorrow, Ash Wednesday, falls on my birthday this year, I won't actually be signing off from Facebook until Friday or Saturday.  I want to be able to honor and thank all of you who will take the time to send Happy Birthday wishes.  They are near and dear to my heart, especially because they hail from such amazing friends like you!

So as you journey through this season of Lent, I wish you God's mercy, grace, joy, and love, that you may enter into a deeper relationship with Him.

Amen!

~

Are you planning to fast from any activity this Lent?  Please share in the comments!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Have-To or Get-To?


Mark 6:31
Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest."

Ah!  At long last, the weekend is here!  For many of us who work long hours outside the home during the week, or who juggle kids and schedules, cleaning and cooking, while the spouse brings home the bacon, the weekend looms like an oasis of rest in a desert of busyness.

Even though I'm no longer a nine-to-five breadwinner, I tend to be much more occupied by all the "have-tos" during the week than I am on the weekend.  There are trips to the grocery store and various appointments, the gym and endless errands, writing up blogs and reading so many lovely ones delivered to my email each day, and often times, babysitting my granddaughters.

Oh, and then there are those pesky, revolving-door house chores; the ones I make myself do because as much as I detest cleaning, I love a clean house.

Whew!  There are simply too many days when the "have-tos" win, and the "get-tos" lose.

So for me, it is crucial to carve out space on Saturday and Sunday to simply chill.

To slow down.

To rest.

Whether it be curling up with a good book, spending more time in prayer and Bible study, or just relaxing with my husband, Danny, these respites are a balm for my soul.

Even my emails seem to understand my need for a break, as they are few and far between on the weekends; and most of my blogging buddies never, ever post on Saturday or Sunday!

And as I reread Mark 6:31, I am struck by that life-strangling, chaotic stream of hectic demands, which preclude Jesus' disciples from even partaking in a meal.  How many of us are guilty of grabbing something "to-go," and stuffing it in our mouths in haste as we run from one meeting or appointment to another?  Or, how many times do we skip that necessary nourishment because our crammed schedule leaves no space to accommodate something as basic as eating?

Jesus tells His disciples, just as He is telling you and me, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest."  I don't think this is a suggestion.  It's an order.  A loving, caring, restorative order that our Lord gives because He knows what's best for us.

If today you find yourself wrapped up in a whirlwind of activity, will you stop and listen to Jesus' voice?  Inviting you to come away with Him?  Promising to give you quiet and rest?

Because all our "have-tos" don't matter in the long run.

But that we "get-to" spend time with Jesus, does.

Amen!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

How's Your Gratitude Attitude?


Psalm 100:4
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.
1 Thessalonians 5:18
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

Last November, my fellow Christian blogger, Deb Wolf, at Counting My Blessings, gives us this challenge:  To keep a gratitude journal, with seven entries per day, for the entire month.  I like the idea enormously, and readily take her up on it.

But as the month draws to a close, I realize this practice is one I do not wish to give up.  My decision?  To keep it going all the way into 2017 and beyond!

My gratitude journal is now an integral part of each and every day.  Customarily, I sit down with it around five o'clock each evening to recount my blessings for that day, and to, of course, give thanks.

Are some days harder than others when it comes to expressing a gratitude attitude?  You bet!  I think back in particular to the month of January, when I am either battling a constant cold or enduring the worst shoulder/neck pain one can imagine.  I recall writing this "thankful" phrase on several occasions:  I'm grateful the pain isn't worse than it is.

And sometimes, after a tough, hard, nasty, no-good day, that's the best we can come up with.

BUT . . .

It is still giving thanks.

When we visit my mother in Oxford last month, my granddaughter, Virginia Rose, is enamored with the idea of a gratitude journal.  "If I say what I'm thankful for, will you write it down, Gammie?"

"Of course," I say.  "You only have to come up with seven things."

"But I have more than that," Virginia insists.  "Can I say them all?"

"Go for it," I tell her, my pen hovering over the page.

And here's what Virginia comes up with:

  • God
  • Visiting Nana
  • Princess (the neighborhood kitty)
  • Food
  • I'm growing
  • Mom and Dad
  • Sisters
  • Henry (her cat)
  • Friends
  • Gammie and Papa (glad we made the list!)
  • God creating us
  • Gammie didn't stay lost in Lawrenceville (that is an entirely different story for another time)
  • God making the whole world
  • Jesus
  • Me!
That's some list, wouldn't you say?  I'm confident that Virginia has a full grasp of the concept of having a gratitude attitude about life.

How about you?  Do you give thanks and praise daily to God?  Are you thanking Him in all circumstances?

If not, prayerfully consider starting a gratitude journal.  You can begin small, if you wish, listing only three things per day.  And if your day is such that being thankful is the last thing on your mind, be gentle on yourself and keep it simple; the hot cup of coffee you had that morning, birds singing, sun shining, a hot shower, just to name an ordinary few.

You can do this, my friend.  And I will guarantee you it will add blessing upon blessing to your life.

Try it and see!

Amen!

Friday, February 17, 2017

40 Voices


Matthew 4:1
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

In the liturgical church year, Lent is observed for the forty days preceding Easter.  It is a time of commemoration and remembrance of Jesus' forty days of fasting in the wilderness before He began His earthly ministry.

Lent, even today, is for many Christians a time of fasting and penitence in the desire to develop a deeper relationship with God.  But Lent can also be a time to adopt a new spiritual practice, one that will enrich and enliven our worship experience, and draw us closer to the Lord as a result.

Although I've been known to give up certain practices during Lent, ones which I feel distract me from my focus on God, I'm always on the lookout for a new devotional guide to use during this season of reflection and spiritual growth.  Imagine my surprise and delight when fellow Christian blogger, Jean Wise, at Healthy Spirituality, asked if I would read an advance copy of her latest book, 40 Voices - A Lenten Devotional, in exchange for an honest review.  I readily accepted, and have thanked myself ever since!

Jean's easy-going, down-to-earth writing style welcomes you like an old friend the moment you open her book.  Each of her devotional segments is consistently formatted, which lends an air of order and comfort as you explore the daily readings.  While Jean's words are deceptively accessible, the spiritual thoughts and challenges she offers readers are mature, seasoned, and invite an active engagement in the process.  What follows is one excerpt from 40 Voices, enough, I hope, to give you a taste of the inspiration awaiting you in this book.

John the Beloved

"Woman, here is your son . . . Here is your mother."
From that time on, this disciple took her
into his home.
John 19:26b, 27b

Who do you entrust with your most valuable possession? 
When we began having children, we cringed at the
thought of what would happen if we died?  Who
would care for our kids?  Who would raise them the way we wanted?

Sometimes, a family member is the best choice.  We
had to consider the factors of where do they live and
were they close to other family members?  Would that
couple love our children and foster the values and experiences we wanted?

Sometimes, a close friend is another option.  Someone
you know, trust and would represent you in that relationship without hesitation.

Jesus was dying.  He looked down and saw his good
friend, John.  Jesus trusted and loved John and gave
him a huge responsibility to care for someone Jesus also loved.

Woman, here is your son.  Here is your mother.

That exchange must have given Jesus comfort and
peace.  He knew his mother would be cared for and placed into good hands.

In these last moments of his life on earth, Jesus cared
for someone else.  In the midst of suffering and dying,
the needs of those he loved mattered.  This truth reveals
the depth and width of how much God loves each of us,
and will care for us even more now in the power of the resurrection.

Jesus called John, his beloved friend.  God calls us, his beloved children.
He protects us and provides for our future care.  God holds our
lives and the Holy Spirit guards our paths.

We are God's valuable possessions.

Image:  A set of legal papers representing an adoption.

Question:  What is your most valuable possession and how do you plan to protect it?

Prayer:  Loving Father, we are amazed at the depth of your love and protection.  To be called beloved children of God brings life and hope to our days.
Thank you!

Friends, I hope your impression of Jean's writing is as favorable as mine, and that you will be quick to add 40 Voices to your Lenten discipline this year.

May this season guide us all into a closer relationship with our God, who loves us endlessly, extravagantly and for eternity.

Amen!


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

We Shall Know Fully


1 Corinthians 13:12
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

Since Valentine's Day falls on a Tuesday this year, my husband, Danny, makes reservations far in advance for a restaurant on the Saturday before the big day arrives.  He loves to surprise me, and I must admit, I do like surprises, so all he will tell me is that we will be dining at an establishment neither one of us has ever visited.

In the two weeks preceding our date, Danny sends me tantalizing photos, daring me to figure out where we are going for our celebration.






How could I possibly glean anything from these?  Still, I know that Danny's goal is to make our evening special and memorable.  I harbor no doubt that he intends this meal to be the perfect Valentine's treat for both of us, and I'm waiting with growing anticipation for the real thing, which now I can only glimpse as a mirrored reflection.

The grand evening finally arrives!  Danny drives toward our destination for what seems to me, as I'm all aflutter with expectancy, an eternity.  When we turn down a particular road at long last, I have my first clue.  We will be dining in downtown Roswell, a town chock full of quaint, one-of-a-kind restaurants.  But which one will it be?

I'm looking right and left, admiring all the old homes transformed into eateries and businesses.  Suddenly, Danny flips the left turn signal, and I finally see the sign for the restaurant, which tells me nothing other than it is Italian.


Isn't this a quaint and cozy place?



And the inside is just as inviting.  Although the tables are somewhat close together, we really cannot hear conversations of those on either side of us, which preserves a sense of intimacy; just perfect for a romantic Valentines Day dinner!








So many epicurean delights from which to choose!

Here are some photos of what we do finally order.  Believe me, every morsel is duly savored!


Exquisite Cabernet!


Veal meatball appetizer - the fluffiest we ever put in our mouths!


Danny enjoys a short-rib stuffed ravioli dish.


Mine is a shrimp/lobster/lump crab with fresh mushroom pasta noodles.  Yum!


And what Italian meal would be complete without gelato and biscotti?


Not to mention espresso!

Wow!  Are we full and happy diners!  We depart Osteria Mattone, but pause together just long enough to capture another memory.



And on the drive home, I can't help but note how much shorter the ride seems now that the secret destination has become fully known to me.

As we travel life's road, we can't grasp the entirety of the journey.  We can only know, as Paul says, a part of it.  But the promise is this:  When we pass from this world and enter God's presence, the veil will be lifted, and we shall see face to face.

And we will be known fully, even as God fully knows us.

Amen!

Friday, February 10, 2017

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.

This post first appeared on Meditations of My Heart around this time last year, and I thought it timely to revisit it as I have many new followers here.  Looking forward to hearing your thoughts and suggestions in the comment section!

Valentine's Day looms on the horizon, seducing us with all its red, pink, white, heart-shaped candy glory and regalia of romantic gifts.  For many, Valentine's Day is THE coveted celebration of ultimate, intimate 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.  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 struggle to view Valentine's Day in an optimistic, promising light?

Although this list is by no means exhaustive, 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 why they are so special to you, and why you love them.
  • Bake cookies or other goodies, and deliver them to your neighbors.
  • Buy a pack of "kids' valentines," and pass them out to persons who serve you at your local bank, grocery store, or other retail outlet.
  • Surprise co-workers with a small box of candy and a note expressing your thankfulness for them
  • Buy a generous supply of carnations (any flower will do), and stand on a busy street corner to pass them out to those who pass by.  Might not hurt if you tag the stems with the message, "Jesus loves you!"
  • Check with your church to find out who in the congregation might be in need of an extra dose of comfort and encouragement, and follow through according to their needs.
These are just a handful of suggestions to get your creative juices flowing.  Yes, my friends, I can see your hearts and minds whirling as you envision ways to make someone's Valentine's Day a special one.

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

Amen!

~

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

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

On the Brink


Psalm 31:7
I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul.

Recently, I pen a post recounting my bouts with revolving door illnesses that don't seem to quit.  While these "thorns in the flesh" dissipate and lessen with each passing day, there is one, which returns.

With a vengeance!

It is the pressing, debilitating pain in my upper back and shoulders.  As I haven't done anything out-of-the-ordinary strenuous, I am confused as to the cause, and disheartened by its oppressive grip.

And after several days of suffering, making me wish I owned stock in Bayer, my husband, Danny, suggests, "Schedule a massage tomorrow (Monday).  Maybe that will soothe your symptoms.

I'm only too happy to comply, and am fortunate to nab an empty slot that very morning.  Oh, but it feels so good!  As the young woman's hands work their magic, I literally feel my body, and my back, easing, relaxing.  And when it's all over?  Relief at last!

For all of thirty minutes . . .

The smothering pain slithers right back into place as it had never left.  By Wednesday, I'm desperate; even with pain killers, I can barely sleep.  Danny makes not a suggestion this time, but a demand.  "Call a chiropractor tomorrow and get the first possible appointment.  I think that's the only option you have at this point."

I've never seen a chiropractor, though Danny has.  I know that treatment worked for him, and although I'm still a bit leery about whether it will work as well for me, I'm in too much excruciating discomfort to argue.  Happily, I connect on Thursday with a chiropractic practice not five minutes from our house, and I'm seen that very morning.

I find out my affliction is much worse than I could ever have imagined.  Without going into the anatomical details, suffice it to say, it will take months to right my spine's wrongs.

Do I care?  No!  Because just after my first treatment, I feel so much better, I quit taking aspirin right there and then.  And as I write this post after three days of back-to-back (pun intended) treatments, the results are miraculous!

Am I sore and stiff?  Yes!  But the sensation is more akin to muscles pulled from engaging in weekend warrior activities; ones I can count on to heal.

And as I reflect upon the sudden intensity and urgency of this pain, and recall the kind doctor's words, I am convinced that God's hand is all over this.  Had I decided to go the traditional route, doping my body, alleviating the pain without getting to its source, it may have been too late for chiropractic care of any type.

I was on the brink.

God pulled me back from it in a HUGE way by allowing me to feel such anguish, knowing all along that Danny's words would convince me to see a chiropractor.

Just in the nick of time.

Oh, how I am glad, rejoicing in the Lord's great love for me!

Thank You, precious Father!  Thank You!

~

Has there been an instance in your life when you knew God pulled you back from the brink?

Friday, February 3, 2017

Whom Shall I Follow?


1 Corinthians 3:1-4
Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly - mere infants in Christ.  I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it.  Indeed, you are still not ready.  You are still worldly.  For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly?  Are you not acting like mere humans?  For when one says, "I follow Paul," and another, "I follow Apollos," are you not mere human beings?

What follows is a statement I recently post on Facebook:

I made a big mistake.  I thought once the election was over, the inauguration was over, people in this country might finally come to their senses.  My bad!

So because of the continuing lack of civil dialogue, I plan to severely limit my time here except for posting my blog, updating The Glade Series. and visiting pages featuring Christian writers.  So if you don't see me around, and you've been a great friend, please don't think I've forgotten you.

I haven't forgotten you, dear friends, but I am tired.

Worn to a nub, tired.

And I am blown away by the flood of public, and private, responses I receive from so many of these treasured friends.  They are exhausted, too.  They are confused.  Over whelmed and discouraged by the vitriol spewed from those professing to be Christians.

How can this possibly happen?  How is this the way Christians are supposed to treat one another?  Or those of differing faiths, when it comes down to brass tacks?

As Paul states above, "You are still worldly."  Reacting and knee-jerking to anyone who opposes your world view, excommunicating them from your friend list because they don't share your world view?  Your self-proclaimed enlightenment?

Yes, we all have a perfect right to our opinions and visions of what this world should look like.  But we also have power over the words we choose to spew onto the social media airwaves.  So let's ask ourselves:  "Are we still quarreling?  Are we jealous?

How does this come anywhere near to fulfilling Jesus' commandment to love one another?

I'm wondering, as Paul did, "Are we not yet ready for solid food?"

"I follow Clinton!"

"I follow Trump!"

When we make such declarations, we are in and of this world, acting like mere human beings.

Shouldn't we, instead, be pronouncing with conviction, "I follow Christ!"

And mean those words with every ounce of our being?

I pray today that those angry, accusatory words once uttered will slowly, but surely, turn to peaceful prayers of love and thanksgiving to God and for this great nation He has blessed us with.

1 Corinthians 3:21-23
So then, no more boasting about human leaders.  All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world of life or death or the present or the future - all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.

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...