Friday, January 18, 2019

Martha or Mary?

Luke 10:38-42
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.  She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said.  But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.  She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?  Tell her to help me!"
"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed - or indeed only one.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."

If someone asked you to define who you are, how would you respond?  Would you even have a ready answer?

In her latest book, True YouMichelle DeRusha shares her own "dark night of the soul" quest to uncover the person God created her to be.  A self-described triple type A personality, Michelle confesses to being caught of in a perpetual whirlwind of activity, busyness and the drive to achieve.  There was ever the next rung on the ladder of success to climb.  Her life's mantra, inspired by her father's words as she was growing up, was "make it happen!"

And let's face it.  Our culture has always celebrated the doers, the go-getters.  Those folks who can boast of a trophy room full of awards and accolades.  Given her penchant for attaining one goal after another, it's not surprising that Michelle fell into that trap, defining herself by what she did, not by who she really was in the eyes of God.  She explains it so succinctly in this sentence:  "Part of our need to be busy and productive comes from our desire to be valued and known.  If we are busy, we must be needed, and if we're needed, we must be important."  (Pg. 33)

But something dramatic and life-changing shifted in Michelle the day she decided out of the blue (or was it a God nudge?) to sit for five minutes in silence on a park bench while out for a walk with the family dog.  No checking her phone.  No listening to podcasts.  

Silence, stillness.  For.  Just.  Five.  Minutes.  Turns out, this proved a great deal more difficult than Michelle had imagined.  But as she continued this routine faithfully, she found herself opening up more and more to God's gentle voice, beckoning her to join Him in the "far side of the wilderness," to rest in His presence.

Thus began a long, sometimes wrenching and painful journey toward revealing the woman God intended her to be.  As you read True You, you share intimately in all Michelle's struggles to open her heart and her soul fully to God.  And it is in her honest disclosure of her own vulnerabilities that we begin to see our own.

Michelle's flowing and descriptive prose is in and of itself reason enough to read True You.  But I know when you read the book, the real-life lessons she candidly offers will infuse you with inspiration and encouragement in your spiritual journey.

Because when all is said and done, who do you want to be?  A "Martha?"  Always busy, busy, busy?  Or a "Mary?"  Content to sit at the feet of Jesus, and simply be His beloved child.

I know which one I would choose . . . Thank you, Michelle!


Tuesday, January 15, 2019

I Love to Laugh!

Job 8:20-21
God does not support evil people;
and he does not abandon the innocent.
So perhaps you might laugh again.
Maybe shouts of joy will come from your lips.

Remember me with smiles and laughter, for that is how I will remember you all.  If you can only remember me with tears, then don't remember me at all. ~Laura Ingalls Wilder

Hearty laughter is a good way to jog internally without having to go outdoors. ~Norman Cousins

I can't tell you when I first see this portrait entitled "Jesus Laughing," but I do recall falling in love with it on the spot.  I must have it!  And as you can see from the photo above, I do just that.  Whenever I gaze at Jesus' joyous expression, I am compelled to smile, chuckle even, blessedly assured that the Son of God experienced all the emotions we encounter in our day-to-day lives, while dwelling among us.

Laughter, it is said, is the best medicine.  And I would venture, in the trying, divisive and angry atmosphere of our current culture, that laughter is the best antidote to this pervasive malaise.

Lately, my husband, Danny, has been exploring "Dry Bar Comedy" on YouTube.  This venue features profanity-free, up and coming comics, who are looking for their big break into the mainstream.  Some of these rising stars are great, and some just so-so, but nonetheless, we reap great benefits when the jokes evoke a chorus of belly laughs from us.  As Norman Cousins says above, we are jogging internally without having to brave the outdoors.  What a great way to "exercise!"

If you haven't made any New Year resolutions, perhaps this should be one of them:  To purposefully seek out something every day that tickles your funny bone.  It could be as easy as looking in the mirror!

Because when we are in the throes of hearty laughter, we are re-energizing our minds, our bodies, and yes, our very souls.  Those grand belly busters that release all the calming endorphins, which God, in His infinite wisdom, has placed into our beings, knowing how life-saving, life-transforming they are, are of invaluable importance to our health and well-being.

God, after all, is the Master Humorist!  How do I know?  For starters, He created us, didn't He?



Friday, January 11, 2019

An Offer You Can't Refuse

Luke 6:38
Give, and you will receive.  Your gift will return to you in full - pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap.  The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.

As I lean more and more into God and His will for my life this year, I have a recurring idea, on which I happily share with you here.  My six novels in The Glade Series and Adventures in The Glade have sold relatively well over the years, but with the current situation here at home, it's been impossible for me to physically reach out to churches in my community to peddle my wares, so to speak.

But I'm not peddling here . . . I'm offering.

You see, when I first publish my novels, my husband, Danny, generously lays out some hefty bucks for us to see my dreams become a reality.  I'm so grateful for this, and so desirous to repay his gift, that I can't see past charging money for my books.  And truth be told, I become too intent upon the allure of fame and fortune, taking on the glory for my achievements, when it is God alone who should be given every ounce of the glory I so sinfully call my own.

It is the Lord who gives me the gift of writing.  It is God, and only God, who deserves all the gratitude and praise.

So, my friends, here is the offer you can't refuse.  If your church has a lending library, I would like to donate two autographed sets of my novels for other Christians to read and enjoy.  I mean, seriously, who among us has met Racer, Davy, and the entire gang at The Glade, and not fallen madly in love with them?  I want to share that love!

Here's how it works:

  • On the right side of this blog page, click on Author's Website.
  • Click on "contact" to send me a private email with your name and home address.
  • Books will be mailed to you with no shipping charge.
  • Hurry!  This offer ends on February 1st!
Giving, in the name of the Lord, for His glory, feels right and good and freeing beyond words.  I know I've already received.  And if you do take me up on my offer, I know the gifts I give have returned to me in full.


Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Lean on Me

Proverbs 3:5-6
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.

First God calls us to Himself, to follow and know Him, and also to a particular life purpose, a reason for being.  Included in this life purpose will not only be our giftedness, but also our weaknesses and day-to-day decisions.
If you prayed the Lord's will, it doesn't matter what it looks like on the outside.  You are placed there to make a difference.  God's anointing rests on those that walk in Divine purpose.  Often your passion is linked with your purpose. ~Valerie Carraotta

Honestly, my friends, I struggle in the last weeks of 2018 with my word for the coming year.  When my husband, Danny, and I retreat gratefully to a mountain cabin in the first week of December, I am literally pummeled by possible selections, which I dutifully record in my journal.

What's wrong?  Even though I dart here and there, as a word displays its allure, nothing seems to stick beyond a fleeting moment.  I do take time to reflect upon a word or two that seems to speak to the present, writing down its application and implementation for the year ahead, yet when I wake the next morning and reread what I wrote, my soul comes up empty.

There's got to be something more . . .

I can't put my finger on God's intended word for me, so I surrender, and simply let it be.  For the last four years, God has faithfully granted to me the word that fits exactly who and where I am on my spiritual journey with Him.  I know I must be patient, and wait for His timing, but restlessness sets in.  Why can't I, as Valerie so aptly states above, receive the word God has, linking my passion with His purpose for me?

As most of you know, 2018 is a particularly trying and challenging year for our family.  I continue to pray, to stay in the Word, to compose my blog posts, but I discover, to my chagrin, that I am beginning to experience unhealthy bouts of anxiety and irritation, much more than I care to admit.  These feelings lead me to ask forgiveness from God more and more, as the last thing I want is to allow the negativity brewing within to erupt, and end up hurting those I love.

But in all of this turmoil, I am drawing closer to the Lord in my weakness; much more than I realize.  God is calling me to Himself in a deeper, more intimate way through the trials.  Then suddenly, just days before the advent of 2019, "the word" arrives, the one God's been inviting me to discover all along.


And immediately, these lyrics appear in my head and in my heart, as I envision the Lord singing over me:

Lean on me
When you're not strong
And I'll be your friend;
I'll help you carry on.

Yes!  That's exactly what He has been trying to tell me all these long, turbulent months.

Lean!  On Him, not my own understanding.

  • L - Listen - to God's still, small voice, beckoning me to be with Him in quiet and solitude.
  • E - Embrace - the calling God is giving me.
  • A - Adore - worship Him in humility and gratefulness for all His blessings and promises.
  • N - Nourish - feed my soul with His Word, that I might, in turn, nourish others.

So this year, when the going gets tough, and I'm not tough enough to get going, I will lean on the Lord, my God, to see me through.  To be my strength.  My rock.  My shield.

My friend.

Knowing He is ever present to help me carry on.


Friday, December 28, 2018

Love and Blessings!

I am the Lord, and there is no other;
apart from me there is no God.
I will strengthen you,
though you have not acknowledged me,
so that from the rising of the sun
to the place of its setting
people may know there is none besides me.
I am the Lord and there is no other.

~Isaiah 45:5-6

As the sun sets on the year 2018, and prepares to rise in 2019, I am also going to disappear for a while here at Meditations of My Heart.  It isn't that I need a rest from blogging.  I simply want to spend as many days with granddaughter, Virginia Rose, while she is on her Christmas break.  We might even travel down to Oxford to see my mother for a few days.

That being said, I will be back here, raring to go, on Tuesday, January 8th, and will reveal my word for 2019 at that time.  It's a good one, I promise!

May the joy and peace of the Christmas season linger long into your New Year, my friends, and may the Lord always be your strength.

Love and Blessings to all!

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus!

Matthew 19:14
Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."

When Virginia Rose, our oldest granddaughter, spends the weekend with us recently, she overhears a segment on CBS' Sunday Morning, which MIL enjoys watching.  They are discussing that famous editorial when a very young Virginia O'Hanlon pens a letter to The Sun, at her father's advice, asking if Santa Claus is real.  Our Virginia is transfixed from the moment she hears her name!

Ironically, Virginia has recently posed questions to the adults in her life regarding the existence of Santa.  It probably starts when I don't take extra precautions to hide whatever Easter chocolates are left over from the holiday.  I not only stash these carelessly in our candy drawer for prying little eyes to see, but I also leave a basket of plastic eggshells I preserve from year to year in the downstairs toy closet.  Not good, Gammie!  Hey, once you figure out the Easter Bunny isn't the one hiding those eggs, it's a natural next step to count Santa out of the whole Christmas equation.

As adults, we know the real reasons for both seasons, yet we perpetuate the commercially generated lore so attractive to the young ones.  Our own inner child longs to keep the magic and mystery alive for them, but are we doing them a disservice in the long run?  Or in the spirit of Santa's generosity toward and love for all children, are we helping our kids more fully understand God's all-encompassing love for each and every one of us?

Below is the original Virginia inquiry, and an abbreviated version of the editor's (Francis Church - an atheist, according to Wikipedia) answer.

Dear Editor:
I am 8 years old.  Some of my friends say there is no Santa Claus.  Papa says, "If you see it in The Sun, it's so."  Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?
Virginia O'Hanlon

Virginia, your little friends are wrong.
They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age.  They do not believe except they see.  They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds.  All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.  He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.
Alas!  How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus.
It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias.
There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.

It confounds me that this atheist editor, Church, (and yes, there is classic irony there, too!) wrote such inspirational advice to young Virginia so many long years ago.  My inclination is to believe that this man spent his formative years immersed in the faith, yet the world and its temptations prevailed upon him.  Still, what he learned in childhood somehow remained in his heart.

  • Skepticism?  We walk by faith, not by sight.
  • Love, generosity, devotion?  Love the Lord your God with all you heart, mind, soul, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.
  • No Santa Claus?  No Virginias?  We are made in God's image.  Who are we that God should be mindful of us, yet He, the Sovereign Ruler of the Universe, deems we are worthy.
  • Childlike faith?  Jesus declared that the little children come to Him to receive His blessing and comfort.
  • Poetry and romance?  Oh, the Bible is rife with it!  God is the master story-teller and weaver of words.
So after reading this, what do you think about Santa Claus?  Do you believe?  Can you help a young person transition from this dimension that mirrors Christ's love to embrace the real deal?

Honestly, I'm leaving the Santa Claus story up to Virginia's parents to tell when they are ready.  It's really not my place to do so.

But I'm praying that the spirit of giving and love at Christmas will ever be alive in Virginia's heart, and that it will continue to live in yours!

Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good night!


Friday, December 21, 2018

They Will Not Turn From It

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

I make no apologies for being a doting Gammie when it comes to Virginia Rose, our first-born granddaughter.  Savannah Jane and Alexandra Nancy, now ages four and three, are no less loved by their Papa and me, but circumstances with MIL, and their young ages, have prevented us from having them over for a spend-the-night adventure.  Only 15 months apart, these two are peas in a pod, practically joined at the hip.  You can't have one without the other; they even dress alike on Halloween!

But Virginia inherits eldest grandchild status.  Being four years older than Savannah, she's had innumerable overnight experiences with us.  She truly looks forward to the peace and quiet in the times we have together, and is always sure to tell us that she is grateful for being "spoiled" when she is here.  Yes, Papa, aka Danny, loves to surprise Virginia with an unexpected delicacy from the candy department, and she is always so appreciative.  And when "mean old Gammie" calls her to brush her teeth after consuming the chocolate, she is immediately compliant.

How could one not love this child?

True to form, on her latest visit, Virginia shows us how she is always thinking of others.  She knows how much her Papa treasures the lush moss that grows in our yard, and has observed him walking around the property, carefully tamping down bits and pieces of moss upended by errant squirrels (sorry, Racer) in search of buried acorns.  She decides this day to take matters into her own hands.

There is a cache of soft dirt at the base of one of our many trees.  So Virginia gets right to work digging, and distributes soil to the unseated moss she views as most in need of restoration.

Mission accomplished, she gently tamps the moss back in place, just as she's seen her Papa do in the past.

"The extra dirt will help the moss grow, won't it, Gammie?"

"It certainly can't hurt, honey.  Moss is pretty tough.  It can even grow on rocks and tree trunks, when given enough time.  But you've definitely made it easier for these patches that you've cared for to grow and flourish.  I know Papa really appreciates all your effort and thoughtfulness."

Virginia can't help but be pleased!


God reminds us, as parents and grandparents, that it is our responsibility to raise children up in the way they should go, modeling behaviors that will help them grow into dependable, trustworthy and caring adults.  And one of the most precious and priceless legacies we can impart to these little ones is to love the Lord their God with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love their neighbors as themselves.

Teach them to pray.  Teach them to worship.  Instill in them the desire to glorify their Father in Heaven with everything they think, say or do.

Practice those things, and when our children are old, they will not turn from it.


Martha or Mary?

Luke 10:38-42 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.  She...