Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Ha! I Trick You!

1 Thessalonians 2:3
For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you.

Last month, my granddaughter, Virginia Rose, masters a whole new game.  We call it "Trick You!"  She simply enjoys playing it.

"Gammie, I have a present for you," Virginia tells me with a winsome smile, her hands behind her back.

"You do?  What is it?"

"A kitty cat."

"Really?  For me?"

Virginia brings forth her empty hands and laughs.  "Ha!  I trick you!"

And, it doesn't stop there.

"Gammie, I hurt my foot."

"You did?  Let me kiss it and make it better."

"Trick you!"

"My tummy hurts, Gammie."

"Oh, Virginia, I'm so sorry."

"Trick you!"

But, one of the "trick yous" which gets me the most, the one I fall for hook, line and sinker, is the very first one she ever pulls on me.  We have just dropped off her mother at work and riding home.  Out of the blue, Virginia says, "Gammie, my milk dropped.  On the floor."

Panic!!!  "Is it leaking???"  Oh, yes, I know what they say about crying over spilled milk, but if I have to clean it off the car's upholstery and get rid of the residual odor . . .

"Ha!  I trick you, Gammie!"

Dear Lord, what a relief!  Virginia really had me going with that one.  And, while her "Trick You" game is executed in all innocence, revealing her cognitive growth and understanding (she will be four in July), it makes me think about just how gullible we can be when those in authority attempt to trick us into thinking something is true when it is not.

That's when the true authority, that of Scripture, needs to kick in.  As Christians, we cannot be fooled by the world's trickery if we are grounded in our faith and our relationship with God through Christ Jesus.  He won't let us fall prey to the Father of Lies.

As St. Paul reassures the Christians in Thessalonica, his motives are pure.  He speaks the truth about the Messiah, the Savior.  There is no trickery involved.  Only truth.

The Only Truth.


When has the world tricked you with its false promises?

Prayer:  Dear Father, let us not succumb to the trickery of the world, but stay faithful to You in heart and mind, word and deed.  May we ever remember that Your precious Son, Jesus, is the way, the truth, and the life, and none can come to You except through Him.  Amen.

Friday, April 25, 2014

No Excuses!

Romans 1:20
For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

Ever since my husband, Danny, gave me his "old" camera, the Cannon "Rebel XTi," I've been trying my hand at getting better with photography.  I'm slowly improving, but have a long way to go in order to understand all the nuances of capturing the perfect shot.  Thank goodness for Photoshop when I'm processing my photos!  Many times, this astounding program can transform a mediocre picture into an outstanding one.  But, only if the shot is in focus first.

Focus, focus, focus!

And, thank goodness for Danny's assistance!  He is an experienced photographer, as you can tell by the photo above, and an extremely patient teacher.  Recently, he has the perfect opportunity for a photography tutorial on our vacation to the mountains where we visited, among other attractions, Tom Branch Falls in the Smoky Mountains.

We have been to this place previously, but it is so enchanting, Danny can't resist a return trip to see if he can get even better shots of the falls.  While he's fussing with his tripod and waiting for the sun to go behind the clouds so the falling water, white and bright, won't be blown out, I decide to do a bit of roaming to observe our immediate environs.  What amazing photo opportunities I find!

Noticing the smallest, seemingly insignificant living and inanimate things around me reminds me that God is in it all.  Photography encourages me, calls me, to hone in on objects I might have otherwise missed.  Overlooked.  Neglected.

To realize that all things are significant in the eyes of our Creator.

Whether I think so, or not, doesn't matter.

It is all important to God.

The One who created it all . . .

The only One to whom thanks and praise belong.

And, we are without excuse when the plenitude and diversity of God's creation is spread out before our eyes each and every day.  Even, and especially, in the smallest of things.

Because, think about it.  Who are we in light of the universal creation?  Aren't we but microscopic blips on God's infinite screen?  Aren't we the smallest of things?

Yet, Jesus assures us that God loves and cares for us beyond any measure we can fathom.  In His infinite love and grace, we become His children.

More important than the sparrows.

Longer lasting than the lilies of the field.

God's eternal power saves us all when we choose to believe.  

To focus, focus, focus on faith.

No excuses!

Prayer:  May we see Your mighty hand, Father, in all Your wonderful works, large and small, which You generously display before us.  Let them ever remind us in humility that we, too, are small, and be grateful that You love us anyway.  Remind us to treat Your creation and one another with the love You have shown to us.  Amen.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

What Do You Really Want?

Matthew 6:19-20
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal."

Our granddaughter, Virginia Rose, is beginning to notice commercials on television.  Only last month, she would ruefully ask me to return to a program she was watching when one of these tempting, alluring advertisements interrupted her show.  Not now!  Suddenly, in a spurt of cognitive growth, she sees them just as the purveyors intend:  An enticement to own and play with the latest and greatest in the world of toys.

How I wish she could stay forever in the arms of innocence . . .

"Gammie, I want dat one," she says when an enthralling ad for "Crazy Sand" pops up.  Actually, this one is akin to play-do, and has all the earmarks of a plausible purchase which would provide ample hours of kinesthetic entertainment for both of us.  But, I am called to remind her.

"Virginia, your baby sister is due any day now.  Gammie promises that when she is born, Papa and I will take you to the toy store to choose a gift for you and for her.  So, in the meantime, think carefully about what you really want."

Think carefully about what you really want . . .


What do we really want from this life God has granted us?  Are we living as Christ's example in the world, or are we grasping for every new gadget which glides into our field of vision?  Are we content with what we have?  Can we give thanks when all is collapsing in around us?  Are we remembering daily the ultimate sacrifice our Lord made for us on the cross?

In the wake of past Sunday's Easter celebration, I invite you to contemplate where your treasure lies.

Prayer:  Dear Father, let us ever recall where our true treasure lies.  Help us to daily acknowledge the sacrifice Your precious Son, Jesus, made for us, and celebrate Easter each and every day of our lives.  Amen.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Road to Nowhere

Psalm 145:13
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations.  The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does.

In our most recent trip to the North Carolina Nantahalas and Smoky Mountains, my husband, Danny, and I decide to explore what the locals call "The Road to Nowhere."  How did it get its name?  You can read all about its history in detail here, but I'll give you a brief synopsis:

In 1943, in the middle of WW11, the federal government wanted to build a hydroelectric dam (Fontana) in this area of North Carolina.  This required displacing 1,300 families from the valleys which would be flooded.  In order to convince these people to leave, the government promised them two things: 1) that Swain County, their county of residence, would be compensated monetarily for the loss of Hwy. 288 which ran through the valley, and 2) a road would be built so that displaced families could continue to visit and tend to their ancestral graveyards high in the hills.  Neither promise was kept.

The Road to Nowhere is a breathtaking, winding six-mile ride ending in a 1/4 mile long, and daunting, tunnel.  We enjoy every minute of the scenery as we drive up there.  We even dare to enter the tunnel and walk through to the other side.  It sure gives a whole new meaning to the adage "seeing the light at the end of the tunnel!"

But, our adventure is bittersweet.  We can't help but think of the poor families who were not only forced from their land (with no financial assistance, I might add), but also could never again visit their family cemeteries.  All because two promises, which should have been easy to keep, were callously broken.  

While men and women break their promises, we can take comfort in knowing that "the Lord is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does."  We can count on God to do what He says He will do.  We can depend on His word.  We can rejoice in the promise of salvation through His Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

And, when we follow Jesus, we can rest assured that He is leading us down The Road to Somewhere.


What is the worst broken promise you ever experienced?  Did you ever make a promise you couldn't or wouldn't keep?

Prayer:  We are so grateful, Father, that we can always count on You to keep Your promises to us, Your children.  Help us to follow through on the promises we make to others, and not make ones we cannot keep.  In Jesus' name, amen.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

New Life

Romans 6:4
We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

Allie was our beloved cat whom my husband, Danny, adopted when his sons, Giovanni and Nicco, were small boys.  They grew up with her as a constant companion, and both had a strong bond of love with this special kitty.

Sadly, we have to put the aging Allie down last year.  Both boys are understandably grieved by this loss.  Giovanni insists that Danny bring her body home from the vet.  The thought of not giving her a decent burial is intolerable for him.

Giovanni calls Nicco, who lives with their mother, and they make plans to get together that evening to build a proper casket for Allie.  They even bring its lid to us so we can write a special farewell and God bless to her before fastening it down for good.

It is pitch dark outside when the boys finish the casket.  Taking the brightest flashlights they can find, they head to the yard to start digging her grave.  The spot they choose is near the place where they had a sandbox when they were little.  The sand is mostly gone, but the ground is soft and easy to work.

As Danny and I join them outside to say good-bye, I realize that the hole Giovanni and Nicco have dug is close to, if not spot on, the area where I planted a few tulips years ago.  It doesn't matter.  They never did well here.  Sprouted, but never bloomed.

The casket is placed into the grave.  The dirt is shoveled on top of it and lovingly patted down.

"I've got to mark it," says Giovanni.  "I know what I'm going to make tonight."

Imagine our surprise and delight when Danny and I look out the window the next morning to find a simple wooden cross commemorating Allie's resting place.  Whether appropriate in the strictest sense of Christian faith, this is what Giovanni's heart told him to do.

A beautiful heart which so adored this beautiful cat . . .


Several weeks ago, my granddaughter, Virginia Rose, and I are playing "soccer" out in our back yard.  She is kicking her "Toy Story" ball in every direction imaginable, squealing and laughing when it rolls off the moss and into the leaf mounds which border it.  Of course, I have to retrieve the ball from any number of precarious landings it chooses to take.

Virginia suddenly kicks the ball in the direction of Allie's cross.  Down, down it rolls and tumbles until it bumps up against it.

"Great kick, Virginia!"  I call as I run to get the ball once again.  That's when I see them . . .

Tulips!  Tulips growing on top of Allie's grave!  When the boys dug it, the shovels must have freed the bulbs temporarily, but returned them to the ground when the dirt was put back in place.

New life springing where there was thought to be none.

And, maybe.  Just maybe.  The tulips will bloom this year . . .


How has God, through Christ Jesus, made your life new?

Prayer:  Thank You, Father, for the new life springing up everywhere this time of year, reminding us that we, too, are new creatures in Jesus, our Lord.  As we prepare to celebrate Easter, let us ponder the miracle of the resurrection and be comforted knowing that we will one day be raised to eternal life in heaven with You.  Amen.

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Only Jesus

Matthew 25:40
"The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'"

Pastor Wallace tells us the story of two death-row prisoners.  One is a black man jailed for killing a white man.  He despises all whites with a passion.  The other is a white man imprisoned for killing a black man.  He harbors a vehement hatred toward black people.

During his trial, the white man miraculously comes into a relationship with Jesus Christ.  He is transformed.  Changed forever.  When he is placed back in prison, he finds that his cell is now right beside that black man who hates whites.

Every evening, a courtesy cart is wheeled through the prison.  Inmates are allowed to choose one item from the cart.  The first evening the white man is there, he selects an apple and hands it promptly to the black man.  The latter accepts it, takes a huge bite, chews it up, and throws the pulp into the white man's cell.

The next night, the white man offers the black man a pack of chewing gum.  The black man puts a piece into his mouth, chews it noisily, then spits it into the white man's cell.

This routine goes on day after day after day.  Until, of course, the morning dawns upon the white man's scheduled execution.  No family comes forward to claim the body.  He is placed in a cheap pine box and buried on the prison grounds.

The only people in attendance at his funeral are the chaplain, two prison trustees, and the black man to whom he had shown kindness.

When the short, yet solemn, service concludes, the chaplain turns to go.  The black inmate taps his shoulder.  When the chaplain turns around, he sees tears streaming down the black man's cheeks as he points to the grave site.

"That was the only Jesus I ever knew."


We run into people from all walks of life as we commute to our jobs, shop for groceries, go to the gym, or engage in any number of public activities.  Any one of these strangers may never have read the Bible not set foot in church.  For us as Christians, each encounter with another person is an opportunity to witness to our faith.  Are we being polite?  Courteous?  Kind?  Are we lending a helping hand in time of need?  Are we radiating the light of Christ?  Shining His infinite generosity and goodness toward others?

Think about it . . .

You might be the only Jesus someone ever knows.

Prayer:  We pray, Father, that we can shine the light of Jesus into this dark world through what we say and do, and in the kindness we show to others.  Remind us as we go through our days that we might be the on Jesus someone will ever know.  Amen.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Bless the Lord, O My Soul

Four generations celebrating the love.

Psalm 104:1-2
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
O Lord my God, you are very great.
You are clothed with honor and majesty,
Wrapped in light as in a garment.

While my father is still somewhat aware and can recognize us by looks and names despite his Alzheimer's, my husband, Danny, and I decide to bring the guitar and music selections to entertain him during our visit.  Dad used to play guitar and always loved music, from classical to hymns, from country to folk, all his life.  How could this not cheer him up?  At the very least, stimulate his brain synapses so frail and in decline?  We have every hope . . .

We perform several Christian praise songs for him and are gratified to witness the joy in his eyes and the smile on his face.  Then, we turn to one most recently learned, 10,000 Reasons, by Matt Redmon:

Bless the Lord, O my soul, O my soul.  Worship your holy name.  Sing like never before, O my soul.  Worship His holy name . . .

By the time we reach the second chorus of "Bless the Lord," my father's countenance radically transforms.  Without warning and with breathing labored, tears stream uncontrollably down his cheeks.  We are, understandably, taken aback and cease our song.  Mom comes in to comfort him as we, too, hold his hands and reassure him that this might be enough for him at the moment.  

All we want is to provide joy and comfort to my Dad.  Nothing less.  Yet, we could not control this unexpected outcome.

When my father realized he was developing Alzheimer's and knew how this hideous ailment had already affected his mother, sister, and brother, he chose, in love and leadership, to write his own obituary and the order of service for his memorial.  His intention was not to leave the ones he loved scrambling and guessing as to what his final wishes would be.  What an incredible gift that was to wife, Nancy, and to us all as the end drew near.  We could, without undue anxiety, submit an appropriate obituary to the paper, and the requested ministers and hymn leader could organize a service without undue stress or perplexity.

The date and time is set for the memorial.  The Old Church adjacent to the Oxford College campus, where Dad served 12 years as dean, is filled to capacity.  Old friends, neighbors, co-workers, and former students are lovingly greeted.  Seats are taken as the service is due to begin.

The first scripture read is Psalm 104.  As the minister begins, my husband, Danny, whispers to me, "That's why!  That's why your Dad was so moved by that song.  He remembered!"


That psalm was so engraved in my father's heart and soul, that no matter in what context he heard it, he knew.  And, miraculously, it brought back memories of the times when he could think and reason with the incredible gifts God gave to him.

Dad remembered . . .

And, we will always remember him.


Have you lost a loved one to Alzheimer's? 

Prayer:  Dear Heavenly Father, you gave me on earth a model of the father you are.  I miss him so much, but I know he is in Your loving arms, resting in the comfort of Your presence.  I pray for all those who have suffered the loss of a parent, and I pray they find Your peace which passes all understanding.  Amen.

Friday, April 4, 2014


Acts 14:17
Yet he has not left himself without testimony:  He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their season; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.

Spring officially arrived two weeks ago.  Those of us living in the South enjoyed warmer weather for several weeks prior to the change of seasons.  It's a much deserved and welcome break after the frigid pounding we endure this past winter.

Don't get me wrong.  I love winter with its invigorating chill and gorgeous, if intermittent, snow falls.  But, this winter sees record lows, tons of rain, and two paralyzing snow storms which I'm glad to put behind me.  I'm so ready for temps in the 70s!

However brutal the winter, though, it has a most wondrous effect upon our daffodils.  I plant these in our woods several years ago.  They emerge and bloom plentifully the following spring, bringing such color and joy to the brown, drab forest floor.  But, every spring after that?  Only a few brave souls bud and blossom.  The rest send up green, supple shoots and leave it at that.

What a disappointment!  I think, perhaps, I should fertilize them?  Dig them up and plant them elsewhere?  But, no.  I decide to be passive and allow nature to take its course.  What's meant to be, I reason, is meant to be.

So, honestly, as this spring encroaches and the daffodils sprout, I don't hold out much hope for a bumper crop.  I'm resigned to whatever it is these plants will do.  And, I decide to savor any blooms with which we are graced.

One afternoon in late February, my husband, Danny, and I are sitting on our deck basking in the sunshine we've seen so little of this winter.  Something catches Danny's eye and he stands on the lower seat of our double bench to scan the yard below.

"Martha, look!  You've got to see this!"

Immediately, I'm right beside him.

"Down there," he points.  "I've never seen so many daffodils!"

I can't believe my eyes.  The plants are absolutely bursting with buds!  Not only these in the back yard, but also the army I planted in our front yard forest is swelling with promise!

"It has to be because of the unusually cold and wet winter we had," Danny surmises.

It must be.  Our previous winters have been milder and drier.  Too mild and too dry for the bulbs to be adequately nourished.

And, isn't it like that at times in our lives?  We go through the storms and the torrents of suffering, loss, and hardships and are left wondering, Where is God in all this?  Why am I going through such troubling times?  Lord, I don't understand . . .

But, it is precisely in these times of trial when God is honing us for something better.  Helping us to see how we must depend on Him, lean on Him, with every fiber of our being.  For sometimes, it's when our souls are damp and shivering with fear or worry or hopelessness, that the Lord's light shines the brightest.

He leads us out of winter's shadow into the gloriously shining spring.

Fills our hearts with unspeakable joy.

And, in His love, we bloom!

Do you have a favorite flower you look forward to seeing every spring?

Prayer:  Thank You, Father, for sending us the rain, the flowers, and the crops in their season.  Help us to remember that no matter what storms may come, You are always there with us.  Let us ever depend upon and lean on You for everything in our lives.  Amen.

Sing a New Song

  Danny and I in his new music studio Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. ~Psalm 96:1 A new song shall I sing unto...