Friday, July 19, 2019
Then he told them, "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet."
They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, "Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now."
For years, my husband, Danny, and I feed our backyard birds (and squirrels - we can't forget the squirrels!) a diet of high-quality sunflower seeds. None of that mixed seed stuff for them! We serve only the best here at the Orlando Cafe, even to our feathered and furry friends.
Imagine my disappointment, then, when Danny returns from Home Depot with a measly 10 lbs. bag of sunflower seeds and another 10 lbs. of the mixed variety. "They were totally out of the large sunflower bags," he explains. "Why don't you try blending the two, and see what happens."
I'm skeptical, of course, but the feeders are empty, and I'm left with no choice but to experiment. I use an extra bag to combine the seeds as best I can, and head out for the bird feeders. Once these are filled, I proceed to scatter the remaining seeds all of the ground so the squirrels, and the occasional chipmunk, can eat their fill.
That is, if they'll ever go near it, I think to myself, gloomily, as I trudge back into the house.
About thirty minutes later, I decide to look out our kitchen window to see how things are progressing. I can't believe my eyes! Birds are swarming the feeders, and more squirrels than we've ever seen at one time are gorging themselves blissfully. Wow!
I realize that what I thought was cheap fare for our critters is actually an appealing delicacy, one I would never have imagined if circumstances hadn't forced my hand to try out this new recipe.
Do the animals wonder why I've withheld the best from them all these years? Probably not.
But one thing we can all be sure of - when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we never need fear He will withhold His very best from us. He will shower us with His love and grace, fill us with Living Water until our cup overflows with abundance.
Jesus' best comes first, never last.
Tuesday, July 16, 2019
But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.
We sign up our oldest granddaughter, Virginia Rose, for Performing Arts Camp at our church this summer. She is dubious and reluctant at first, but when she is reassured by Christine, the church's music minister, that she doesn't have to be responsible for a speaking part, Virginia agrees to give it a whirl.
To settle her nerves the night before camp begins, I tell Virginia this true story about her own mother's experience with choir musicals. "Your Mom was very shy and dreaded getting up in front of anyone to speak, act, sing, you name it." But once I got her involved in children's choir, and she was surrounded by other kids doing the same thing, she quickly got over her fears. You will, too!"
"Are you sure, Gammie?" Virginia asks.
"Positive," I respond.
After the first nine to one session on Monday, Virginia's enthusiasm is boundless. She is eager to listen to the take-home CD and practice all the songs. She tells me how she's helping to paint props, and has indelible stains on her shirt to prove it. By day two, Virginia is feeling so much at home, she accepts a non-speaking role as a circus clown. She's all in!
I'm thrilled for her, and falling in love with the story of the Prodigal Clown myself. Of course, we all know the Bible story by heart, so no need to rehash it here, but for many of these children, learning that God's love for us never wavers, even when we go astray, is a first-time, powerful and, hopefully, lasting.
But what amazes me the most is this: In four and a half days, the kids, along with teen and adult volunteers, put together a professional musical, which they perform on Friday for parents, grandparents and the community. And without the unflagging efforts of April, our music education assistant at church, who directs the musical and coaches the children flawlessly, this magnificent production would not be possible.
Here are some photos my husband, Danny, takes of the singing and dancing under the Big Top! Can you spot our special clown?
After the stellar performance, as I'm driving Virginia home, I hear her declare, "Gammie, Performing Arts Camp was so much fun, I can't wait 'til next year!"
What do you want to bet she'll be asking for a speaking role next time around?
Friday, July 12, 2019
Intersection at Cherokee and Main Streets, Kennesaw, Georgia
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.
I have a pet peeve that many of you might share with me: People who are compulsively late to everything. Now before you think me judgmental, I hold myself to the same standard. I strive to be on time for any and all appointments, usually arriving earlier than required. And if I think, for any reason, that I could be tardy, anxiety, necessary or not, is guaranteed to kick in.
For example, I have a dental appointment this past Monday scheduled for 10:10. I leave the house with ample time to spare, or so I think. Whoops! The quickest route to the dentist is closed! Oddly, this road is recently reworked, so I'm stymied by the unexpected shut down.
Shifting gears, as the angst bubbles in the pit of my stomach, I take the detour. Yes, it's much, much longer, and I fear I'll not pull up to the office on time. But to my immense relief, I roll the car into a parking space two minutes early.
Whew! Close one!
That same afternoon, I'm slated to pick up granddaughter, Virginia Rose, from Performing Arts Camp, held at our church, at one o'clock. Blithely, I set out on the same path we take that morning, only to discover that the road crossing the railroad tracks is closed for repair. What??? No trains??? Daily commerce is certainly at a standstill.
Thankfully, I'm well acquainted with the detour I have to take after years of being caught off guard by a passing train, when I'm headed for church, but again, I'm bound to be late.
And I am . . .
The paths I'm forced to travel on Monday are anything but straight. I do make it to both destinations only because I am already familiar with the alternate routes.
But what if I hadn't been aware of my options? What then?
Our day to day lives are often filled with detours; it's so easy to get off track. Yet, when we lean (my word for the year) on our Lord, trusting not in our own solutions but on His, He will, and He does, make our paths straight.
And one day, in God's time, we will arrive at our eternal destination.
Tuesday, July 9, 2019
Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.
Our younger granddaughters, Savannah Jane and Alexandra Nancy, are a handful, to say the least. Full of energy and verve, they manage to keep this Gammie on her toes whenever I come to babysit.
For the past two years, these girls have shared a passion for anything and everything "Paw Patrol." Not familiar with this popular children's program? You can check it out here. Long story short, Sissy (Savannah) and Baby (Alexandra) play with their pups incessantly, making up adventures for them as they go.
When I suggest that I take some photos of their favorite pals, the girls are all in!
I can't manage to take two pictures at the most before Savannah and Alexandra fly to me, begging, "Let me see! Let me see!" Of course, I comply with their requests and am rewarded by their beaming smiles and shining eyes.
Such impulsive and impatient behavior is understandable, endearing even, in four and five-year-olds like Alexandra and Savannah. But if it persists as they grow older, it threatens to become a disagreeable and irritating trait that feeds the yawning mouth of instant gratification. No one needs to be subjected to the "I want it now!" syndrome!
As Paul lists the virtues God's people should possess in the verse above, is it any wonder that patience is included? I do not think this is a natural trait for most of us, but one that must be learned, practiced and honed.
Thinking back, there are too many instances in my life when patience went flying out the door as some provocation made its ugly entrance. I'm not proud of any of those episodes, but I know that each one has taught me the infinite importance of being patient with others, and myself, even when my last nerve is frayed.
And all these positive traits - compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience - must be taught to and modeled for our children and grandchildren for them to grow up to become God's holy people.
Yes, maybe that feels like an overwhelming task, but with the Lord's help, we can live out the motto of the Paw Patrol: No job is too big, no pup is too small!
Friday, July 5, 2019
1 Peter 1:22
Now that by your obedience to the truth you have purified yourselves and have come to a sincere love for other believers, love one another earnestly with all your heart.
My son, Daniel, is an avid baseball fan and a staunch supporter of our home town Atlanta Braves. He alerts me to a unique celebration that the Braves are holding to honor an amazing gentleman, Walter Banks, who has served as an usher at the home stadium for 55 years, and counting! It's an 80th birthday bash held Monday of this week, and you can read the full article here.
In the story, penned by Atlanta Journal-Constitution sports writer, Steve Hummer, he states that Banks has worked a great many jobs - at the Georgia Dome and Mercedes-Benz Stadium, at Bobby Dodd Stadium, and 50 years at Macy's. But he is most lastingly identified with the Braves. In reality, this impossibly pleasant human being quit being an usher a long time ago, earning a full ambassadorship. No one has had more interaction with this city's baseball public than Banks. And he holds the unbreakable record of consecutive days without uttering a mean-spirited word at a ballpark, dating to Atlanta Braves Day 1.
Quite the impressive legacy, isn't it? Here is how Banks himself describes the way he meets and greets every person at a game with whom he comes into contact:
Give them attention and let them know where they are and show them appreciation and mean it. If you don't mean it, they'll know it . . . You want the person to look you in the eye, shake your hand and tell you how much they enjoyed themselves.
Now, if that's not a stellar example of loving one's neighbor sincerely, I don't know what is! Who knows how many hundreds of thousands of Braves fans have been blessed by Banks' warm greetings and attentiveness to their needs? That number will never be determined, but one thing is for sure: Walter Banks gives us all a model of kindness and goodness that we should engage in with others on our Christian journey.
And in honor, too, of his longevity with the Braves' organization, this Friday, July 5th, is declared Walter Banks Bobble Head Night. The first 15,000 lucky fans will be given one as they enter the stadium.
Just another reason for Mr. Banks to flash his genial smile!
Tuesday, July 2, 2019
Glory to God who is able to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine by His power at work within us!
Another exhilarating and inspirational week of Vacation Bible School is in the books! Our granddaughter, Virginia Rose, and I savor every moment of our out-of-this-world trip to Mars and beyond. Through missions, Bible lessons, music, and creative activities, the children learn how to go beyond with faith, boldness, kindness, thankfulness, and hope, all guided daily by Ephesians 3:20. I pray these are virtues that all of them will carry in their hearts from here on out.
Our day begins by gathering as a group in the Christian Activities Center (CAC) for songs, dancing and stories.
Each class at VBS is on a rotation system. For rising fourth graders, our first stop is Missions. The focus this year is to help our local Must Ministries raise monetary funds/food donations to supplement their summer lunch program for children in need.
Next stop is Bible Lesson. The children hear stories of Daniel in the lions' den, Queen Esther's bravery, The Good Samaritan, curing the ten lepers, and what happened on the walk to Emmaus. They especially love acting out the stories they hear.
Outdoor fun is next on the agenda. Boy, is it ever hot out on the church lawn! But thankfully, Friday gets wet and wild.
We return to the CAC for snacks and more music/dancing. What fun these kids are having!
Next up, science and crafts at the Discovery Zone. This is a perennial favorite for Virginia, and most of her friends would agree!
And although I enjoy every moment of this eventful week, it is demanding and tiring, too. I am so genuinely grateful that God is able to do far beyond all that I could ask for or imagine by His power at work within me during this amazing adventure with Virginia and all the children in our class.
To God be the glory!
Friday, June 28, 2019
I lift up my eyes to the mountains -
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
Thursday morning dawns bright and clear, and all three of us are pumped for the day's adventures ahead. After a hasty breakfast, it's back to the car to head for Bryson City, and the "back" entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains Park at Deep Creek. Danny and I, of course, have been to this locale multiple times, but witnessing granddaughter, Virginia Rose's, joyful reaction to it all is like seeing it for the very first time.
Tom Branch Falls - Beautiful!
Virginia and a new-found friend enjoying the falls.
Nothing more fun than hurling rocks into the stream!
Next, we head back to Bryson City to grab lunch at the Everett Street Diner, a down-home restaurant with great food and friendly service. Even the owner pays a visit to each and every table. No photos other than this one of Virginia indulging in a Pepsi -
but since I've mentioned this diner in Adventures in The Glade, I engage in conversation with the owner, and gift him with some bookmarks to pass out to his restaurant staff. He is delighted!
Fueled and fired up, we are ready for the fairly long trek to Clingman's Dome, the third highest mountain east of the Mississippi. Standing at 6,643' above sea level, the ride up to the top is a never-ending ascent of exciting and scenic twists and turns, not to mention another bout with ear popping for all of us. Just look at those views!
There is a side trail that few people take when visiting Clingman's Dome, but Danny eagerly leads Virginia on a part of it; it's too long, and too cold, to even think about walking the entire length. Here are some photos they shoot in front of an ancient rock that reminds us of the Easter Island statues.
Back up in the parking lot, Virginia can't resist climbing, and posing, on more rocks!
What a ham she is!
With winds whipping and an unheard-of June temperature of 48, we soon decide it's high time to return to the car, and head back to the cabin. We enjoy again every vista we pass along the way accompanied by a continuous chorus of "wows" from Virginia at the breathtaking views.
Just when we think we've seen it all, cars slow down, and we behold this majestic creature.
Yes, it's an elk, high up on the ridge of Clingman's Dome! Truly, it's the last place we would expect to find one, as they usually congregate in the valleys, so we are thrilled and thankful for this unexpected treat.
And if that sighting isn't enough, spotting these on our way out of the park is icing on the cake!
Mid-afternoon, and we are back in our cabin, lifting our eyes to the mountains once again, and praising God for all He has blessed us with this day.
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