Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Alleluia!

Matthew 28:6
He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.  Come and see the place where he lay.

Yes, my friends, I know I'm premature in my "Happy Easter" greeting as we've just entered Holy Week, but there is a method to my (March) madness.  We are planning some family activities over the next two weeks, which will preclude my posting on the blog.  And in all honesty, I need a breather.  (There's my word for the year again:  Breathe.)

That being said, most of those "off" days, I'll still be able to read your amazing blogs and comment as usual.  But when I travel with granddaughter, Virginia Rose, over spring break to visit my mother for several days, all bets are off.  To say her computer is outdated is the understatement of the century, and for some reason, I have a poor cellular connection at her house, too.  >Sigh!<

No doubt, the break will do me good, and I'll return raring to go again.  In the meantime, I wish each and every one of you a most blessed Holy Week and a glorious Eastertide!

Alleluia!
Christ is risen.
The Lord is risen indeed.
Alleluia!

Friday, March 23, 2018

Come to the Water

John 7:37-38
On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud verse, "Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them."

He who has God and everything else has no more than he who has God only. ~C. S. Lewis, Weight of Glory

Last week, my husband, Danny, notices a damp spot on our drop ceiling downstairs.  Sure enough, one of our pipes has sprung a small leak.  While it hasn't yet caused any irreparable damage, we all know how quickly the tides can turn.  So naturally, Danny wastes no time in contacting a plumber.

The plumber arrives bright and early the next morning, right on schedule.  It's one of those rare days when Danny rises before I do, so fortunately for me, he's showered, dressed and ready to deal with the situation.  I'm on my second cup of coffee (if you know what's good for you, never speak to me until I've finished the first), and am contemplating a warm, leisurely shower to usher me into full morning mode, when Danny breaks the news.

"The plumber has to turn the water off until he's finished the job."

"And how long is that supposed to take?"  I retort grumpily, shower hopes dashed.

"I have no idea," Danny responds.

This is definitely NOT the answer I want to hear.  It's not characteristic of me to mope or pout about anything, but this time, I give into temptation, and indulge in an all-out pity party.  Of all the mornings I opt to sleep later than usual, I had to choose this one.  Dang!  I feel so grungy and gross.  I can't even brush my teeth, for crying out loud!

Then in a flash, I'm convicted.  Running water is a luxury, not a given.  Grow up!

And immediately, I picture the millions of people living on this planet who don't have clean water to drink or the bathe with, people for whom a hot shower isn't even an option.  Ashamed of my former tantrum, I ask God's forgiveness, say a prayer for all those who struggle to find clean water, and give thanks for the indoor plumbing we all too often take for granted.

I realize, too, that whether we live in a country where fresh water is the norm, or is hard to come by, the Living Water, Christ Jesus, is available to all souls thirsting for His love, redemption and grace

Equally accessible to all.

So today, won't you come to the water, the Living Water, and drink your fill?

Jesus is waiting . . .

Amen!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

What a Wonderful World!


Psalm 104:24 (MSG)
What a wildly wonderful world, God!
You made it all, with Wisdom at your side,
made earth overflow with your wonderful creation.

My husband, Danny, is an avid, and I might add talented, photographer.  Those of you who have followed my blog for any length of time have no doubt viewed many of his photos here.  And it's been Danny's dream for quite a while to acquire a super-duper, hefty zoom lens, like the ones you see the National Geographic photographers toting around.  Thanks to an unexpected windfall recently, Danny takes the plunge!


This is a Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG.  No, I have no idea what all those numbers and letters mean, but does it matter?  No!  Not when he can take photos like these from an unimaginable distance.

It's that ravenous, rascally Racer!


Mrs. Prancer and her friends hanging out in our woods.




No, this is not Reverend, as he is a Great-horned owl in The Glade Series, but this Barred owl is a majestic bird nonetheless.





This mockingbird, either bravely or foolishly, perches close to the Barred owl, looking for an opportunity to harass him.


A Downy woodpecker in search of dinner.


And look who returns for a special photo-op:  Stumpy!


However, as he is frolicking near where Mr. Owl is stationed, we can't help but wonder if this poor little fellow will evade this predator.

Yes, God has generously made our forested yard overflow with His wonderful creations.

And we give thanks for His wildly wonderful world.

Amen!

Postscript:  Danny spied Stumpy again this past Sunday.  He lives!

Friday, March 16, 2018

Be Still

Psalm 46:10
He says, "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."

Solitude and silence are not self-indulgent exercises for times when an overcrowded soul needs a little time to itself.  Rather, they are concrete ways of opening to the presence of God beyond human effort and beyond the human constructs that cannot fully contain the Divine. ~Ruth Haley Barton, Invitation to Solitude and Silence

We are more than half way through this year's Lenten journey.  If you chose a particular practice to maintain during this time, is it still working for you?  Have you made any discoveries along the way?  Do you plan to continue a discipline or a new spiritual habit through Easter and beyond?

The one practice I find that I intend to foster daily is contemplative prayer.  When I begin Lent, this concept is nowhere on my radar.  But the influence of Ruth Haley Barton's Invitation to Solitude and Silence, not a book I initially intend to read during Lent, and the planned study of Whispers of Rest by Bonnie Grey, encourage compel me to give it a go.  These two guiding lights, coupled with my need to practice intentional breathing ('breathe' being my word for the year), and there you have it!

For those of you not acquainted with contemplative prayer, Bonnie Grey describes it as a time when:  We use our hearts to enter into silence, to listen and experience the presence of God.  It's like leaning into a quiet embrace.  Words aren't needed.  But she also suggests the use of one word during this time of prayer, especially if you are someone like me who tends to have difficulty quieting the mind.  When your thoughts wander, gently return to your One Word.  You may or may not hear God speak, or feel anything.  That's okay.  Just be with God.

In my case, however, I need more than one word to accompany my measured breathing, in and out from the diaphragm.  Examples of this are:  "Jesus" (inhale), "thank You" (exhale); or "Lord" (inhale), "I love You" (exhale).  When I feel my mind spiraling away into thought land, the repetitive phrases bring me back to focusing on the silence, open to hear God's still small voice instead of my own internal chatter.

How is this working out so far, you ask?  Honestly, with the clearing of the mind aspect, I have a long way to go.  But the breathing part?  Stellar!  It is training me to breathe this way naturally.  I catch myself multiple times a day engaged in diaphragm breathing instead of the shallow lung breaths I used to take.

But the biggest takeaway to date is the overwhelming peace and serenity I experience whenever I engage in this process.  I feel refreshed, re-energized, and prepared to face the demands of the day before me.  That's what intentionally basking in the Lord's presence does for me.

And can for you.

So be still.

Know.

He is God.

Amen!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Risking It All

Isaiah 55:9
As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Since being hospitalized for a week this past January, my MIL (and as she doesn't wish for her real name to appear here, I'll just reference her with these initials) has been staying with us.  My husband, Danny, and I have successfully lived without "live" television for years now, but to accommodate MIL, we subscribe to YouTube TV so she can catch all her favorite shows.  It's been quite the adjustment for us, as we're not accustomed to background noise of any kind in the house, but it does make MIL happy, and that's what counts.

While neither Danny nor I could give a care about the daytime shows, MIL has successfully hooked us on her favorite evening program:  Jeopardy!  We gather eagerly around the television as 7:30 rolls around, and remain fixated on the game from start to finish.  I even keep "score" as we blurt out answers, sometimes all at once, if one of us happens to respond correctly, especially if it's a Daily Double.  Woo-hoo!

More often than not, though, that's not the case.  There are a total of 60 questions on the Jeopardy board any given night, plus the Final Jeopardy round.  If any of us manage to answer 15 out of the 60, we consider ourselves fortunate.  So with such low odds, what's the deal with our attraction to it?

It's the challenge of having to pit our knowledge, such as it is, against the highly qualified contestants; thinking quickly and responding in a flash.  What a great mental exercise this is, even when we fail or falter.

But it's humbling, too.  So often, we strut around thinking we know so much; proud of our education and life experience.  Playing Jeopardy blows that fallible presumption out of the water.

And I'm reminded of the too many times I've chosen my way over God's ways, my thoughts over His, foolishly assuming that I can do whatever task or challenge before me all on my own.

WRONG!!!

It takes heartfelt humility to admit that, but isn't that exactly what God wants from us?  A humble, contrite heart, dependent upon Him for everything?

YES!!!

Or to put that in Jeopardy speak, "What is 'yes?'"

And if answering God with a 'yes' is the Daily Double, you can bet I'm risking it all.

Every time . . .

Amen!

Friday, March 9, 2018

It's What Matters the Most


1 Corinthians 13:13
And now these three remain:  faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love.

Granddaughter, Virginia Rose, and I are playing magnetic darts in the playroom downstairs.  Everyone else is upstairs, so it's just the two of us.  Out of the blue, she stops the game and meets my gaze in earnest.

"Can I sing you a song I made up, Gammie?"  she asks tentatively.  The uncertainty in her voice gives me pause.  And I wonder, fleetingly, why Virginia thinks that I wouldn't want to hear her song; savor the sweet, lilting tones of her voice.

"Of course, you can, honey.  I'd love to hear it," I tell her.

"Are you sure?"  Virginia is rocking side to side on her feet, a sure sign she is struggling with her confidence.

"I'm more that sure!" I declare, sending a warm smile her way.

"Okay," Virginia responds, her assurance restored.  She takes a deep breath and plunges in.

Who cares if we got no shelter
We will always have each other
People can take away our houses
And they can take away all our stuff
But they can't take away our love
And our strong faith and hope
'Cause we will always have each other

I'm blown away.  Like chaff in the wind and dust in the storm.  How do these incomparable words of wisdom emerge from a seven-year-old???  Due to work schedules, Virginia's parents cannot take her to church.  When she visits with us, we often talk about God, we pray together, and she remembers Vacation Bible School like it was yesterday.  These experiences, as limited as they may be, have provided exposure to God, to Jesus, and to His great love for us.  She has welcomed Him with open arms.  And He, it seems, has taken up permanent residence in her heart.

"Our strong faith and hope . . ."  Virginia knows these matter.

And she "gets" what so many adults, even devout Christians, don't:  stuff doesn't matter!!!

Love does.

Always.

It's what matters the most.

Amen!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Looks Aren't Everything

1 Samuel 16:7
But God told Samuel, "Looks aren't everything.  Don't be impressed with his looks and stature.  I've already eliminated him.  God judges persons differently than humans do.  Men and women look at the face; God looks into the heart."

We are accustomed to seeing fat, sleek squirrels in our forested back yard.  Their health and energy, I believe, is directly related to the sunflower seed offerings we generously provide for them beneath the squirrel-buster bird feeders.  Witnessing their frolicking through the trees, chasing one another about on the ground, and devouring the seeds grant us endless hours of amusement and joy at the wonder of God's creation.

Several weeks ago, however, as I observe the squirrels' give and take beneath the bird feeders, I notice something completely out of the norm.  I can't believe my eyes!  Can it possibly be?  Do I need the binoculars to confirm?  No!  There it is!  A squirrel with only half a tail!!!

I'm too confounded at the moment to grab my camera.  But I watch how the other squirrels break from their feasting to chase this 'different' squirrel away from their table.  They show no mercy, whatsoever.  And as if this little guy, who is given the accurate, if politically incorrect moniker, "Stumpy," by my husband, Danny, has done anything to deserve such treatment.

Born with an incomplete tail, it seems, Stumpy is doomed to be ostracized by his fellow squirrels, and excluded from their squirrel games.  I don't think Racer would approve of this shameful shunning one bit!

Amazingly, Stumpy makes a courageous dash for the squirrel table a few days ago, and God gives me the opportunity to snap these photos using my zoom lens.  How grateful I am for this!




Even without a proper tail, Stumpy is a handsome fellow, wouldn't you agree?

God tells us plainly that He doesn't look at the face, or in this case, the tail.  He looks into the heart.

Too often, we are put off by those who appear different; they don't look like us, dress like us, talk like us, and they certainly don't meet our expectations.  What an easy excuse this is to not regard them with respect, to show them love and kindness, to give them the honor due them as God's beloved children.

Let us resolve then, brothers and sisters, not to be impressed by a person's looks or status or stature, but with spiritual binoculars, see him or her as God sees.

God helped Samuel to choose David, the "least" of his brothers, as King of Israel.  In light of this, I choose to rename Stumpy, "David."

Could this little squirrel have a better name?  I think not.

Because looks aren't everything.

Amen!

Friday, March 2, 2018

The Secret is Out!


Ephesians 6:12
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

One of the joys of being a Christian writer/blogger is meeting other talented Christians who share the same goal:  To spread the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world.  I can't pinpoint the moment when I begin to follow Beckie Lindsey at her amazing blog God in Real Life . . .Also Coffee, but her writing style and messages of hope and faith never fail to inspire me.  So it comes as no surprise to me that Beckie's first novel, Secrets, in her Beauties from Ashes series, is a can't-put-it-down delight from start to finish.

Mackenzie, Krystal, Tammi, and Sadie are four troubled teenage girls, all as different from one another as east is from west, yet all have something in common:  The secrets they harbor, and their struggles to keep those shameful, hurtful emotions and memories under wraps.  But hiding these secrets makes each girl vulnerable to a battle in the spiritual realm between the demons, who wish to keep them chained to the past, and the angels of light, who are determined to set them free.

Beckie has adroitly and engagingly developed the unique personality of each girl, and is refreshingly frank about the real-life problems they face.  When their paths do cross, the reader, buoyed on the wave of a perfectly crafted plot, is not surprised in the least.  And it isn't easy for any writer to weave between the heavenly realms and the day-to-day events on earth, yet Beckie succeeds at this seamlessly and masterfully.

While the novel is obviously aimed at the young adult audience, a population which a wise writer I know called, "the toughest market out there," it is one that transcends that limitation.  Admittedly, I'm no spring chicken, but Secrets aroused so many memories, good and not-so-good, of my teenage years.  How I wish I had had someone like Beckie in my life then, a caring person who truly has a heart for and empathy with teens and the insecurities and challenges they encounter as they reach toward adulthood.

My friend, now that the "secret" is out, I do hope you will order Secrets for yourself, or for that special teen in your life.  I guarantee, you will be inspired and uplifted, enriched and blessed by Beckie's incomparable ability to tell a memorable story.

~
MEET BECKIE LINDSEY:

Beckie is a wife and mother of three adult children and two adorable cats.  She is thoroughly content with a piece of dark chocolate, a cup of coffee, and a great book.  She loves to encourage others to not only know the truths of the Bible, but to experience them personally and practically in everyday life.  Beckie is the editor of SoCal Christian Voice, an author and blogger.  Her first book in the Beauties from Ashes series, Secrets, can be ordered at Amazon
You can connect with Beckie on:

Happy Birthday, Mom!

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