Tuesday, July 31, 2012

"Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign . . ."

Matthew 16:2-3
He replied, "When evening comes, you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,' and in the morning, 'Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.'  You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times."

This past week has the perfect weather for hanging clothes on the line.  Hot, breezy, and dry.  Very dry!

Wednesday, I wash two loads of clothes.  Thursday, I opt for sheets and towels.  Friday, I scan what I can of the sky through our canopy of leaves.  Blue sky.  A puff of white here and there.  Looks good!  And, knowing I won't have time on Saturday for wash, I go for a single load and hang it on the line.

I head out just after lunch to run an errand.  As my car emerges from the shade into the blinding sunlight at the top of our driveway, I see the clouds, mostly white above, but thicker on the horizon.  Unmistakable tinges of gray appear like threatening shadows on the distant cloud mountains.

No doubt about it.  Those hit-or-miss, summer pop-up showers are in the offing.

Rats!  What about the clothes?  Should I turn around now, or take a chance they'll be okay?

I decide to keep going and complete my errand as quickly as possible so I can get back home and guard the drying laundry.

When more of the horizon appear, I begin to regret my decision.  But, now I'm halfway to my destination and don't want to waste gas.  Above me hovers a particularly ominous cloud.

But, no rain.  Yet . . .

I reach the store, make my purchases hastily, and am back on the road to home in no time flat.  That's when the bottom drops out.  On come the headlights.  The wiper blades whirr furiously.  And, I'm praying this shower is only local and my clothes are still safe.

Whew!  Within minutes, my car outruns the shower, and things are beginning to look up.  I am so relieved when at last I turn into our neighborhood, and all is dry as a bone.

But, I hear thunder in the distance.  I must be prepared.  Watch for signs in the sky.

I leave the laundry hanging, hoping we're a miss, not a . . . Oh, no!!!  Here it comes!  It's a race against the raindrops!  I'm in such a frenzy to rescue the almost-dry clothes, I don't even take the time to put away the clothespins.  That can wait!


The damp laundry is resigned to a spin in the dryer.  Weather: 1, Me: 0.

And, I think to myself, I need to get better at heeding the signs . . .
Have there been signs in your life that you heeded (or didn't) which have made all the difference in where you are today?

Will you join me in prayer?
Keep us awake and aware, Father, of the many signs You give us.  Let us heed Your call to us in faith and trust, knowing that You will keep us on the right paths for Your Name's sake.  Amen.

Friday, July 27, 2012

"Let it Shine, Let it Shine, Let it Shine!"

Psalm 67:6
The land yields its harvest; God, our God, blesses us.

Every Tuesday, from May through October, my hometown of Kennesaw, Georgia, sponsors a farmers' market in the parking lot of a city park.  It's always worth braving the intense summer heat to get that truck-patch watermelon, those homegrown tomatoes, and the sweet, delectable peaches from which Georgia earns its nickname, "The Peach State".

 As someone who grew up with a father who was an avid gardener, and who inspired me to be one, too, before my days of living in a forest, I truly appreciate the efforts these green-thumbed folks make each year to share their yield, their harvest, with the community.  Working long, hot hours in the garden.  Standing long, hot hours with the minimum of shade to sell their produce.

"You need some tomatoes?"  a friendly vendor calls to me as I pass his booth.

"Truthfully," I say as I stop to chat with him, "we still have a few from last week's visit, so we are set for now.  But, would you mind if I take a photo of yours here?"

"Go right ahead," he says.  "These are not the best, but I done sold all my good-lookin' ones, and I'm about to pack it in.  Lord, this heat!  They'll be better ones next week when you stop by."

"I sure will," I assure him.

"Oh, and here," he says with an engaging grin as he hands me a perfect, though small, tomato.  "Take this one.  It's on me."

"Really?  You are too kind.  Thank you!"

I accept the tomato graciously and place it in my shopping bag.  Below is the photo I take of it when I get home.

See?  It's perfect, isn't it?  And, wow!  Did it ever taste amazing!

While most people come to the farmers' market for fresh fruits and vegetables, there are other delights offered there, too.

All these are alluring, but I'm here today with only two purposes in mind:  photos and peaches.  My husband, Danny, and I can't get enough of that delicious fruit.  And, the season for them is not that long, so we must enjoy them while we can.

As I approach the tent where the peaches are sold, they aren't the first things to grab my attention . . .

The man with the guitar is performing "This Little Light of Mine", and the three young ladies (quite the Georgia Peaches in their own right) are singing and clapping right along.  I can't help myself.  I have to join in!

This joyful, spirited song about letting our lives shine with God's light brings back so many treasured memories of singing with my children.  My heart soars!  And, my thoughts fly to the man selling the tomatoes.  How his light shone through the simple, generous gesture of giving me that tomato!
How bright is your little light?  Will you let it shine, let it shine, let it shine?

Will you pray with me?
If we all practiced shining the light of Christ, Father, what a bright and beautiful world this would be!  Let us shine Your glorious light with joy and love and grace toward others.  Amen.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

"Jesus Loves the Little Children . . ."

Luke 18:16
But Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these."

Last Saturday, we celebrate our granddaughter, Virginia Rose's, second birthday.  Danny and I can't wait to see her reaction to the gifts we have chosen for her.  Personally, I think the balloon will delight her the most.

She loves all the Seseme Street characters, especially Elmo.
The minute her daddy, John, carries her into the house, Virginia spots the balloon and points to it.  We give it to her, and she hangs on tightly, tugging merrily on the ribbon to make it bounce up and down.  Then, she spies the gifts wrapped in star-spangled paper.
"Stahhs," she says, wriggling in John's arms, wanting to get down and check out the packages.
"Yes, those are your birthday presents, Virginia, her mom, Sarah, tells her.  "Let's take them to the living room where you can open them."
John grabs the large box while Virginia helps Sarah bring the smaller packages.  She loves to do "big girl" things!  Oh, and the balloon, which has yet to leave her hand, follows her to our gift-opening destination.
As I watch Virginia, I marvel at how quickly she has grown and changed in two short years.  And, I can't help but wonder what God has in store for her in the days to come.
What special gifts He has for her to unwrap.
 What wondrous surprises He has in store.

 Those which give her moments of delight and discovery.

And, the courage and willingness to try new things.

Teaching her to ever stand in awe of His magnificent creation.
And, grow in His word.
Showing her how to be still and know He is God.

Comforting her in times of sorrow . . .

Assuring her that she is His child, and she is infinitely loved.

Promising that He will celebrate with her all the many, many birthdays to come!
When have you seen the kingdom of God through the eyes of a child?
Will you join me in prayer?
Let us receive Your Kingdom, Father, as little children, full of wonder, innocence, and trust.  Bless these little ones who teach us what it means to have complete faith in You.  Amen.


Friday, July 20, 2012

All 'Stressed' Up and Nowhere to Go

Matthew 11:38
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."

In a recent sermon entitled "Life is a Stress Test", Pastor Wallace explains that stress occurs in every facet of day to day living.  It's not a matter of if, but when.  And, ignoring the effects it has on us endangers our mental, emotional, and physical health.

When we think high stress levels, the big causes come immediately to mind.  Death of a loved one.  Divorce.  Job loss.  Moving.  But, these, happily for most of us, are few and far between, giving us time to acknowledge our stress, cope with it, and move on.

However, and more insidiously, it is the little stresses, the ones we allow to build up over time, which can be equally damaging if left untreated.

The alarm fails to go off.  You're late!  You jump out of bed, holler to the kids to get up and get moving, while you frantically scramble to get ready for work.

Kids to the bus.  You in the car.  Speeding recklessly to make up for lost time.  Uh-oh!  Blue lights flashing a warning behind you.  Yep!  It's ticket time.

And, yet another delay.  Now, you are really late.  As if being stopped by the police isn't heart-pounding enough, the boss hurls a tirade of criticism at you the moment you enter the office.  Belittling you in front of you co-workers.  Jangling your last nerve.

It's only 10:00 a.m., and you are ready to throw in the towel.  But, the worst is yet to come . . .

The phone calls.  Disgruntled clients.  Your child's teacher reporting an "F" on today's math test.  Your spouse to say he's working late.

The interruptions.  Co-workers needing this.  Needing that.  And, the papers on your desk are piling up . . .

No time for a proper lunch.  Wolfing down a stale sandwich from the vending machine, you stay glued to your desk.  Your phone.  Your computer.  Working ceaselessly, desperately.  Watching the clock.  Wishing this day would end.

Frazzled.  Frustrated.  Burned out.

All 'stressed' up and nowhere to go but home.  Where you will more than likely dump all your stress and anger onto your unsuspecting family.


Pastor Wallace reminds you there is someone waiting for you.  Inviting you to come and lay your burdens at His feet.  One who will ease your troubled mind and wounded heart.

And, give you rest.

Come to me . . .

Can you hear Jesus calling?  Will you accept His invitation?

Are you ready to 'stress' down?
Let us go to the Lord in prayer:  In times of stress, Father, help us to remember Jesus' invitation to come to Him and find rest for our weary souls.  Let us enter into Your peace which passes all understanding and find comfort in the blessing of Your presence.  Amen.  


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

"All Night, All Day, Angels Watching Over Me, My Lord . . ."

Psalm 91:11-12
For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

For the longest time, we think our grandchild, Virginia Rose, is ready to walk.  After all, for months she is pulling herself up in the playpen and on furniture, and shuffling her tiny feet this way and that.  But, it isn't until her 18th month that she finally strikes out with those first tentative steps.

And, within two weeks of walking, she is running!  Everywhere!  Even for her parents, with as much energy as they have, it's a challenge to keep up with her.  So, you can just imagine how hard it is for Gammie and Papa!

Virginia's love of running, however, presents a more serious concern than simply chasing after her.  The faster she moves her sturdy, little legs, the greater the risk she could trip and fall.  Just the idea of any harm coming to her is unbearable.  Unthinkable.

Inevitable . . .

Virginia is only a few, fleeting steps ahead of her daddy, John, when it happens.  Her sandal catches a crack in the pavement.  She's going down!  And, to his absolute terror, John realizes that her trajectory means a cracked head on the curb.

As if his life flashes before him, John sees the blood, hears her screams, is racing for the hospital, all in the split second it takes to reach her.  Frantically, he scoops Virginia up from her fall.

He can't believe his eyes.

Where there should have been a gory gash on her forehead, there is only a faint, pinkish mark.  Virginia doesn't even shed a tear.  She quickly recovers from her mishap and is ready to go again in seconds.

"All I could think of, Martha, was this," John tells me.  "Virginia's guardian angel was what kept her head from smashing against the curb.  It had to be.  There's no other explanation for something I just knew was going to happen; should have happened, but didn't.  What a miracle!"

"Yes," I agree, "this was a miracle, indeed."

Thanks be to God!
Have you ever experienced something in your life which was so extraordinary, you knew immediately it was nothing short of a miracle?

Will you pray with me?
Thank You, Father, for all Your miracles, large and small, which grace our lives.  We give thanks, too, for Your angels who protect us in times of need or danger.  May we learn to trust in You more and more each day.  Amen.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Family Feud

Matthew 5:43-45
"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.  He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous."

When Danny and I get married, we know there will be issues with the kids adjusting to a blended family.  It's to be expected.  And, although we have our fair share of bumps in the road, Sarah, my daughter, and Danny's two boys, Giovanni and Nicco, roll with the changes and learn to get along.

What we don't anticipate, however, is the reaction of our pets.  I am bringing my dog, Maggie, and cat, Jordan, into a household which already has Allie, a sweet, good-natured cat who, when she's not roaming the outdoors, stays in the garage.  How will they respond to one another?

Maggie is used to cats, so having one more around doesn't faze her.  While Allie is cautious around the dog when they are in the yard together, she doesn't run or act skittish.  She lies down quietly and tries to simply blend in with the scenery.  Maggie takes this as acceptance.

But, when Jordan and Allie meet for the first time on our deck, it is loathe at first sight.  Oh, the hissing!  The posturing!  The caterwauling!

Jordan strikes!  Allie counters!  Danny and I separate them immediately.

"What are we going to do?"  I lament.

"Well, we can make sure they're not outside at the same time," Danny suggests, "or, we can just let them work things out and hope for the best."

Fast forward seven years.  The cats still feud like Hatfields and McCoys.  While the physical attacks have abated, Allie continues to tell Jordan off with a threatening meow.  Keeping her at bay.  Letting her know who rules the roost.

No peace.  No harmony.

Until . . .

It is a sultry July afternoon.  Both cats like nothing better than sleeping on the deck in the summer heat.  Not knowing Jordan is already outside, snoozing away, Danny lets Allie out of the garage.

What unfolds next takes us both by surprise.

Curled up in separate corners of the deck, Allie and Jordan are too lulled by the sun's warmth to care one whisker about intimidating each other.  They lounge for hours, soaking up the rays.

Looking like amicable friends, not sworn enemies.

There is peace.  Harmony . . .

And, maybe, just maybe, a wee bit of love is kindled in their kitty hearts.


Can you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you?

Will you pray with me?
As the cats found peace basking in the warmth of the sun, Father, may we find our peace in the warm embrace of Your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.  May His love for us help us to love our enemies and pray for them always.  Amen.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

" . . . My Insides Shake Like a Leaf on a Tree . . ."

Psalm 77:2
When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands, and I would not be comforted.

"Storm's coming," Dad announces.

The sun is shining.  Only random clouds float through the sky.

"How do you know?"  I ask.

"Look at the dog."

Sure enough.  Dutchess, our beloved mutt, is sitting at Dad's feet and trembling all over.  With her keen hearing, she detects ominous rumbles in the distance.  As they edge ever closer and we, too, can now hear them, we dread seeing Dutchess' mounting distress.

All over the house, she goes.  Scratching in corners.  Ducking under sofas.  Crawling behind chairs.  Burying herself in closets.  Leaping onto the beds.

Looking for a safe place, and escape from the roaring thunder which torments her sensitive ears.  Frazzles her every nerve.

The very moment when Dutchess thinks she finds a perfect hiding place - BOOM!!!  Another violent crash sends her dashing madly for another sanctuary.

Panting . . . Whining . . . Shaking, in the immortal words of Elvis, "like a leaf on a tree".

And, no matter how we try to follow her and offer solace with soothing words and gentle strokes to her fur, she will not be comforted.

Aren't all of us guilty of acting like Dutchess at some point in our lives?  When troubles hit like a raging storm, we run hither and thither, pillar to post, trying duck and dodge the pain.  The anguish.  The sorrow . . .

Even if we, like the Psalmist, "stretch out untiring hands" to the Lord and attempt to turn our burdens over to Him, how many times have we snatched those worries, that grief, our problems right back out of His hands?

Not trusting in His soothing Word.  His gentle touch . . .

Refusing to be comforted by the only One who can calm the storms of life.
Are you experience stress or distress at this time in your life?

Will you pray with me?
We know, Father, that You are the Great Comforter.  When life's burdens become too overwhelming for us to handle on our own, may we always turn to You for help.  Let us ever trust in Your Word, Your touch, and Your saving grace.  Amen.

Friday, July 6, 2012

" . . . Let Freedom Ring!"

2 Corinthians 3:17
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

It is our family's tradition to gather at my parents' home in the small, rural town of Oxford, Georgia, to celebrate the Fourth of July.  As my son, Daniel's, birthday is July 5th, we honor both his birth and the birth of our nation.

This year, in the wake of the recent passing of beloved actor and American icon, Andy Griffith, is dawns on me that the real town of Oxford is just like the make-believe Mayberry made famous by "The Andy Griffith Show".  It's a place steeped in southern tradition and enduring values.  Where people are never too busy to wave and smile, stop and chat, and lend a helping hand.

It is a community which upholds faith and family, flag and freedom on a day in, day out basis.  But, on July 4th, they proudly parade those beliefs for all to see.  Literally!

If you live in a large metropolitan area, the photos below may seem quaint, old-fashioned, or even out of touch with the times.

Think Mayberry.

Think of the hundreds upon thousands of small towns peppered throughout this great land which, more than likely, celebrate our Independence Day in the same way as Oxford does.  Places where each and every person is happy to show their patriotism  for and their pride in the grandest country on earth.

Will the generations to come enjoy the freedoms we hold so dear today?

Will you pray with me?
Our Founding Fathers knew, Lord, that true freedom begins with You.  They believed that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were Your gifts to all humanity.  We thank You for guiding them in creating a Constitution which guarantees these freedoms.  We pray these will ever be honored and upheld in Jesus' name.  Amen.   

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

" . . . Love Until It Hurts . . ."

My Nana
John 15:12
My command to you is this:  Love each other as I have loved you.

I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love. ~Mother Teresa

During their teen and early adult years, my mother and her sister have many friends who love to hang out at their house.  And, it's not for the sake of their company alone.  It's to spend time with their mother, Gladys, my Nana, for hours on end.

Crowded at her kitchen table lit by one cozy lamp, the girls chatter or giggle or cry with abandon.  Nana listens to it all with interest and empathy.  Never in judgment.  Accepting each girl for who she is and where she is in the moment.  Loving each one unconditionally.

Loving until it hurts . . .

And, especially for the girls who have a difficult time talking to their own mothers, Nana is a God-send.  No matter what news they bring to her or questions they need answered, they know that Nana will genuinely listen and answer truthfully, knowledgeably, and with kindness.

Mom often recounts one of her favorite stories of a gathering at Nana's table.  Her friends are all in their twenties, and many are married with children or have babies on the way.  They are sharing stories and laughter and coffee when Barbara, one of Mom's best friends, takes a turn toward the serious.

"Tell us, Gladys," she says, "you raised three children.  What advice would you give to us about raising our own?"

The kitchen is silent.  All eyes are on Nana.  All ears yearn for her words of wisdom.

Nana looks at each of them, smiles, and states matter-of-factly, "Teach them right from wrong, and love them to death."

"I remember thinking at the time," my mother tells me, "why couldn't she come up with a better answer than that?  It seemed way too simple.  Not advice at all, really.  Then, I had you, and I realized this was the wisest advice my mother ever gave to anyone."
Will you love today until it hurts?

Will you join me in prayer?
We ask, Father, that You help us love one another as Christ loved us.  Let us love until it hurts, until only love prevails.  Even when it hurts so much, may we, like Gladys, always show love to others freely and unconditionally.  Amen.  

Remember God's Covenant

  I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind.  Never again will the waters become a flood to dest...