Friday, February 28, 2014

Smart Enough for a Smart Phone?


Proverbs 2:10
For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.

I'm not a tech-savvy person.  Sure, I learned some computer skills when I was still teaching, enough to be competent and confident when surfing the web or creating a power-point lesson.  But, if I didn't live in a household of techno-geeks, a.k.a, husband, Danny, and stepson, Giovanni, I'd be a complete disaster on the computer.  I can't begin to tell you how many times they've come to my rescue.

The same can be said for me when it comes to cell phones.  For three and a half years, I am perfectly content with my cute, practical Samsung which allows me to make calls and send texts.



Really and truly, this is about all I'm interested in using a phone for.  I could care less that everyone around me has a "smart" phone; I like my "dumb" one just fine, thank you very much!

Until a couple of months ago, Danny had the same Samsung as I have.  But, because he works at home two days a week, he was getting frustrated by all the signal drops on the older model phone.  Plus, he really needs the gadgets and gizmos the Smart phone offers to stay on top of  business.

Danny loves his Smart phone from the moment he purchases it.  "We have to get you one, Martha.  It's fantastic!"

"Maybe, someday down the road," I say skeptically.  "I'm comfortable with my old phone for now."

Then, two weeks ago, opportunity strikes.  Our phone provider is offering a huge reduction to the cost of our family plan if one person buys a Smart phone.  You guessed it!  Ready or not, I find myself in possession of a hot pink one!



The trouble is, Danny purchases it when I'm at the height of my struggle with this most recent illness.  Although I'm excited to have the phone, I worry that I show more anxiety about using it than I should.  I fear I'm not smart enough to use a Smart phone.

"Don't worry about all the features right now," Danny assures me.  "Let me show you the basics:  calling; answering; texting, and how to put your contact list into the memory."

Good!  Because, as fuzzy as my head feels at the time, the basics are about all I can handle.

Although I'm still at the beginner's stage with my new phone, I'm looking forward to learning more from both Danny and Giovanni.  With a bit more knowledge and wisdom gained from practice and experience, I'm sure I'll feel just as comfortable as I did with my faithful Samsung.

And, that's saying a lot!

~

Are you a tech-savvy person?  Are you smarter than a Smart phone?

Prayer:  Create in us, Father, the desire to continue to learn new things as we live out each new day.  Fill our hearts with Your wisdom and discernment.  Let the knowledge we gain bring glory to You and pleasure to our souls.  Amen.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Very Different Friday


Psalm 62:1
Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him.

As I don't work outside the home, I usually take Fridays in stride.  No big deal.  Just another day in a long string of days and weeks and months.

Not so this past Friday.  It is very different, indeed.  Still battling the after effects of being so ill, I manage to babysit my granddaughter, Virginia Rose, all afternoon.  We have fun in spite of my coughing spells and continual need to drink my hot tea soothingly flavored with lemon and honey.  I am so glad to see 4:30 roll around so I can pack Virginia into the car and go pick up her mother, Sarah, from work.

I know Virginia is due for a nap when we head out, but there's nothing to be done for it.  I hope she'll simply doze off in her car seat as she has so many times before. That hope is squelched by the time we exit the neighborhood.

Virginia begins to whimper like a wounded puppy.  She keeps this up for a bit, getting louder and louder by the moment.  I try to comfort her.  Humor her.  She'll have none of it!  Now, she's wracked it up to full throttle, crying at the top of her lungs.

All.  The.  Way.  To.  The.  Mall.

When we arrive, there is no sign of Sarah, and Virginia's meltdown continues unabated.  My nerves are so shot by this point, I'm practically in tears myself.  I so want to do something to make Virginia calm down, to stop crying her little eyes out, but everything I try falls on deaf ears.  The tirade continues!

Sarah calls me to explain why she's late.  Her boss is on a conference call and she is the only other employee in the store.  She has to work the floor.

Great!  Just, great!  Virginia's wails rise and fall like waves on the shore.  Passing shoppers stare in our direction too often for my comfort.  They must think I'm the most cruel and heartless Gammie on the planet!

Just when I think I can't tolerate another moment, Virginia motions wildly to me to hand her the sippy cup full of milk.  It's right there in her cup holder!  Why doesn't she get it herself?  But, of course, I quickly place it in her hands.  The second she puts the cup to her lips, I can tell that the storm has passed.  Her breathing calms.  Her face, red and blotchy from her crying fit, relaxes.

She drinks.  She rests.

I heave a deep sigh, and offer God a prayer of thanksgiving.  Sarah is not yet here, my body feels like it's had intimate contact with a Mack truck, and all I can think about is rest.  Real rest.  The one in which God promises to be.

Then and there, just like all those folks who work all week long, I feel the crushing weight of Friday.  It's at that moment I know how I must spend my free Saturday.  Resting.  Doing as little as possible.  Camping out in fresh jammies to remind me not to exert, to stress, or to strain.

To let both body and soul be renewed and restored.  Knowing God's salvation, His healing, is right there if I pause long enough, sincerely enough, to feel Him working in and through me.

Saturday will be a good day . . .

~

Have you ever experienced a time when you knew you had to put on the brakes and take a respite from your busy schedule?

Prayer:  We pray, Father, that when we face times of weariness and frustration, that we turn to You to give us peace and rest.  Thank You for loving us so much and for healing our infirmities in Your time.  Let us remember that Your grace is always sufficient in all things.  Amen.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Feed 'Em, Don't Fight 'Em!


Luke 12:15
Then he said to them, "Watch out!  Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions."

I've always had a soft spot in my heart for squirrels.  I can't get enough of their amusing antics as they scurry through the yard, chase each other in the trees, and converge under the bird feeders to nab wayward seeds.  Is it any wonder, then, that a main character in my books, The Glade Series, is Grey, True Squirrel of the Old Ones?  Even if you are in that camp which views squirrels as bird seed hogs, attic squatters, and garden robbers, I urge you to let Grey change your point of view.  Or, at the least, temper your outlook.

But, I digress . . . 

Because of my affection for squirrels, I always spread extra bird seed on the ground to invite them to the banquet.  Why should they be excluded?  My motto?  Feed 'em, don't fight 'em!

One day, when my husband, Danny, returns from a trip to our local big box store, he brings a surprise.  "Look what I found for our squirrels," he beams.



"Wow!  These look great!  I bet they'll love them," I say.

"I'll put the screw hook right on that pine near the feeders so we can easily watch from the deck or windows," Danny says.

I'm excited about this new addition to my squirrel friends' diets.  As Danny is installing the Sweet Corn Squirrellog, I wonder how long it will take the furry-tailed critters to discover it.

The squirrels are curious, yet cautious, wary even, of this odd-looking object near their feeding grounds.  At long last, one adventurous squirrels edges close enough to take a nibble.  When he does, he stays and stays and stays!  That is until another bold and hungry squirrel aggressively shoos him away so he can have his fill.

The swap and trade, confront and chase, continues until not one morsel is left.  All the while, however, the cob remains firmly in place because it's so securely affixed to the cork screw.  And, it seems, every squirrel who wishes to take a bite gets a chance.

"Well, they've eaten both corn cobs," I tell Danny.  "Since we don't have any more of these, is there something else squirrels like to eat that we could put out there to tide them over until we get to the store?"

Danny makes a quick internet search.  "Apples!  It says here that squirrels like them.  We have some, don't we?"

"Sure do!"

I waste no time fetching and washing an apple, and carrying it out to the corkscrew.  The fruit's pliable pulpiness offers no resistance as I push it onto the hook.  All set to go!



Do the squirrels like the apple?  Can we say - LOVE?  If we thought their sharing of the corn cob was competitive, we hadn't seen anything yet!  Every squirrel wants in on the action, but the one in immediate possession has no inclination to share.  Taking turns with the corn cob was one thing, but the apple ups the ante.

Before we know it, the squirrel-who-says-MINE-ALL-MINE yanks the remaining piece of apple off the corkscrew and heads for the trees.  Another squirrel, just as covetous, spies him, and the chase is on!



We look on as the drama unfolds in the branches above.  "I wonder how long it will be before that squirrel drops the apple?  With that mad dashing about, he can't possibly hold onto it forever, can he?"

THUD!  The relished remains of the juicy apple land on the forest floor.  Because of their immense and intense greed, both squirrels were denied the dining pleasure they could have experienced had they only been willing to share.

~

Are you missing out on opportunities to share with others?

Prayer:  Like the squirrels, Father, we too often take on that "mine-all-mine" mindset and miss out on the opportunities to share our good gifts with others.  May we remember Jesus' words that life doesn't consist in an abundance of possessions, but in the abundance of Your love.  Amen.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

In All Circumstances


1 Thessalonians 5:17-18
Pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

In last Tuesday's post, I recount, among other things, my husband, Danny's, recent illness and his much needed treatment at our local Urgent Care.  He goes on Saturday.  By Monday, it's my turn.

Coughing, sneezing, feverish, and, oh, so tired!  But, I pull myself together and head out to the doctor while Danny, even though he's not feeling anywhere near tip-top, goes to pick up my daughter, Sarah, and take her to work.  Then, he heads off to meet son-in-law, John, at the doctor's office where Virginia has a scheduled appointment; he brings out granddaughter back to the house as her mother and she will be spending the night with us due to the impending snow storm.

Of course, as lousy as I feel, my greatest concern is that we will pass this nasty bug onto Sarah and Virginia.  We take all possible precautions while they are with us and keep prayers lifted.  By Tuesday night, John is able to leave the hospital safely, and comes to collect them.  Until they finally leave, I don't realize how exhausted I am.

For the next two days, I consciously avoid any activities which even hint at strenuous.  I lay down when I need to.  I drink plenty of hot tea and dutifully take my prescribed medicines.

When Friday rolls around and I need to, once again, take Sarah to work and keep Virginia for several hours, I think I'm up for it.

NOT!

By the time I return home around 5:00 that evening, all I can do is collapse on the couch.  Every ounce of energy has been wrung out of me.  Coughing, aching, and miserable, all I want to do is close my eyes and wish all this strength-sapping sickness away.

Then, the verse from 1 Thessalonians pops into my head.  What?  Give thanks?  In all circumstances?  Lord, this is a tough one, especially now . . .

But, I reason, if God laid this verse upon my heart, who am I to not give it a shot?  After all, don't acts of gratefulness lay the groundwork for a positive attitude?  What could be better for healing than that?

As I lay inert, except for coughing bouts, on the couch, these are the things for which I was so grateful at this time:

  • Hot tea with honey and lemon
  • A comfy couch where I can prop up with pillows and snuggle under a cozy blanket
  • Snow scenes outside our windows
  • Time to watch a movie with the family
  • Cough medicine and antibiotics
  • Danny, who continues to fix meals for us, though he is anything but up to par (How does he do this?)
  • Prayers and wishes for recovery from Facebook friends
  • My foggy head clearing just long enough to write last Friday's post and this one which you are reading today
  • Sarah, Virginia, and, stepson, Giovanni, escaping the bug's bite
  • God's strength in my weakness which gave me the ability to accomplish that which absolutely had to get done
  • Rest
Did mulling over all these things and giving thanks for each one help?  You bet!  I stop looking at the glass half-empty and see a glass half-full.  The positive outlook takes the reins, lifts my spirits, gives me hope.

Suddenly, the challenge from St. Paul which moments ago appeared insurmountable, is transformed into the approachable.  The doable.  The necessary.

A practice in which I must engage when future troubles, both large and small, beset me.

~

How about you?  Are you able to give thanks to God now matter what your circumstances are?

Prayer:  Father, we know it's Your will for us through Your Son, Christ Jesus, that we pray continually and give thanks in all circumstances.  Help us to remember that, no matter what trial we are going through, be they large or small, are all in Your hands.  You have promised to work everything for good, and we are trusting in that promise, now and always.  Amen.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Peanut Junkie!


Isaiah 40:4
Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.

Okay.  I admit it.   When it comes to freshly roasted peanuts, I'm a junkie!  I love them almost as much as I love bacon, and that says a mouthful.

Every Christmas, a sweet couple at our church gives the staff, which includes my husband, Danny, who leads the contemporary service, the delectable presents of Georgia-grown pecans and . . . wait for it . . . wait for it . . . raw, shelled peanuts!  Besides myself with delight, I waste no time in researching how to roast these treasures in my oven.

Recipe secured, I go for it.  The results?  Hey, Planters, take a hike!  These are the most delicious peanuts to ever grace my palate.  Raw to roast makes all other peanuts toast!

When I recently roast some peanuts given us this past Christmas, I share some with my daughter, Sarah, and her husband, John.  When our granddaughter, Virginia Rose visits, she spies our Tupperware container full of them.  "Daddy and Mommy wove dese," she says.

That gives me an idea.  We have lots of babysitting hours coming up in the next week.  Why not let one of Virginia's activities be learning how to prepare peanuts for roasting?  Just the tactile experience will be a blast for her.  I, however, could not begin to imagine what sort of creativity she would bring to the mix.


"Do you want to help Gammie roast some peanuts, Virginia?"


"Yes, Gammie."

"Let's wash our hands first.  You always wash your hands before you prepare food."

All set and ready to go, I grab the thin-lipped, flat pan and pour the raw peanuts onto it.  Virginia's eyes glow with anticipation.

"Virginia, we need to spread the peanuts out so that they are absolutely flat on the pan.  Help me push them around so they fit they pan evenly.  No nut can rest on top of another."

"'Kay, Gammie," Virginia says, and dutifully helps me flatten the peanuts into the pan.

But, the temptation to mess them up again is too much for her.  As I'm preheating the oven, it's no problem.  I simply allow her to play with the peanuts as she pleases.







She makes mountains.  She makes hills.  She creates a stadium with an audience of peanuts.  Then, picking up a peanut in each hand, Virginia announces,  "Wadies and gentmen!  Wet da fight begin!"

Battling peanuts???  I'm amazed by the extent of her imagination and, at the same time, reminded how the simplest of things can be turned into our lives' most entertaining and enlightening moments.

"Gammie, fwatten out again."

I do so.  Virginia resumes her play.  Creating more mountains and hills.  More boxing matches.

"Okay, Virginia, when the oven beeps, I have to flatten out the peanuts for good so we can cook them.  Don't we want to give some more to Mommy and Daddy?"

"Yes, Gammie."

When the buzzer goes off, Virginia willingly allows me to make the roughed up peanuts level, transformed once again into a perfect cooking plain.  No argument.  No protest.  She understands the rules of this game and is more than happy to concede to reason.

Are we as accepting when we know God promises to take us from rough ground to level and smooth?  Turn our rugged places into a plain?  Like Virginia, we explore and examine with our imaginations and ingenuity.  In doing so, perhaps we forget from time to time that He is the One who has blessed us with curiosity and creativity.  Thinking, erroneously, that we are the ones who can make things better, or right, on our own without involving God in the process.

Virginia listened and obeyed.  She understood what the final outcome entailed. 

~

Are you trusting in God's final outcome in your life?

Prayer:  We thank You, Father, for the lessons you teach us in the ordinary times of our lives.  We trust that when we come upon the mountains of adversity and the hills of trials, that You will lead us to Your plains of peace and keep us secure in Your unending love and grace.  Amen.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

You're Cutting! No Fair!


James 1:22-24
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says.  Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.

In the ten years I've known my husband, Danny, he's been sick only twice.  The second time happens this past weekend.  Feeling woozy on Friday, Danny wakes Saturday morning to a fever of 101.  He decides right then and there to see a doctor, so off to Urgent Care he goes.  (Yes, I do offer to drive him, but Danny assures me he's clear-headed enough to take himself there.)

Danny arrives at Urgent Care at 8:30, thirty minutes before the doors are scheduled to open.  He is the first patient there.  Not long after, a pickup truck carrying a husband and wife cruises in and parks next to him.  What Danny doesn't see is the third vehicle pulling up on the other side of the truck which blocks his view.

Ah!  At long last!  Danny sees the receptionist approaching the glass doors.  She's unlocking them!  Relief is in sight!

As Danny and the couple in the truck open their doors, they can't believe their eyes.  A woman, the occupant of the third car, is making a mad dash for the entrance.  She wants to be first!  Danny and the couple exchange looks of surprise and disgruntled comments as they follow in her wake.

When they get inside the office, the receptionist waves to Danny to step up to her window and sign in.  Softly, she says, "You were here first, so the doctor will see you first."

Danny leans forward, gives an almost imperceptible nod in the direction of Miss Third Car, and asks discreetly, "Does this sort of thing happen a lot around here?  People cutting in line?"

"You wouldn't believe how often it happens," the receptionist confides, and, with a sly smile, adds, "little do these folks know I'm always watching for the order in which patients arrive.  It's what I do.  Cutting in line is simply not fair."

Danny sees the doctor, is given two prescriptions, and heads out the door with a friendly and grateful wave to the observant receptionist.  Walking toward his car, something on the woman-who-would-be-first's car catches his eye.  Curious, he strolls over to see what it could be.

"It was one of those car magnets," Danny tells me when he gets home.  "And, you won't believe what it pictured."

"What?  Tell me!"

Danny sighs.  His face reflects his sorrow.

"It was a manger scene."

~

We can attend church.  We can listen to the Word.  We can read the Word.  But, if we fail to do what it says, can we even begin to call ourselves Christians?  What if that couple in the pickup truck were not practicing Christians?  Do you think that if they, too, saw the manger scene on the woman's car, and recalled her selfish behavior, that they would move one step closer to salvation?

This woman's actions spoke louder than any words spoken, or any magnet she could place on her car.  Maybe, she cut in line because she was feeling so badly that morning.  Maybe, that's not typical of her behavior when all is well in her world.

We can only hope.

And, pray . . .

Prayer:  Help us to remember, Father, to not only listen to Your Word, but to do what it says, for faith without works is dead.  May we, by our example, be a shining light for Jesus in this hurting world, and may we ever place the needs of others before our own no matter what pain we might be enduring at the time.  Amen.


Friday, February 7, 2014

Sabbath Rest


Mark 2:27
Then he said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath."

Back in August of last year, I decide to change things up a bit with my internet usage.  (You can read about that decision here.)  I feel I am spending an inordinate amount of time browsing through e-mails, news articles, other blogs, and, of course, Facebook postings.  I choose to take Sundays as a Sabbath rest from the webby world.

Several weeks into this discipline, I find myself rethinking my purpose in taking this break.  What am I doing with my internet-less time?  Am I doing enough writing and reading?  Praying and reflecting?  And, why, of all things, am I feeling stressed instead of blessed?

It turns out that, although I am absent from the internet for one entire day, my e-mails multiply like rabbits.  My Facebook notifications grow exponentially.  It take so long to go trough them all on Monday morning, I feel defeated and frustrated before I've even taken my second sip of coffee.

That's not Sabbath rest . . .

It's hit-the-road-running-full-tilt-Monday-morning blues.

So, I change tactics.  I decide to give myself permission to use the internet to check my mail, blog comments, and news feeds on Sundays.  The only venue which I keep out of the mix is Facebook.  I have been practicing this habit for quite some time and it's really working great.

Because, of all the enticements the internet has to offer, Facebook, for me, is the most distracting.  If anything keeps me from reading my Bible as I should, or reading other books for edification, it's that, for sure!  I find this arrangement both worthwhile and productive.  

Why?

Well, for starters, I've completed two blog posts two Sundays in a row.  In fact, what you're reading right now is my second one today.  Gotta love it!

Jesus reminds the Pharisees, and us, that Sabbath rest is supposed to be a time for renewing our spirits, not dampening them.  While we should pray, read our Bibles, and reflect upon God's goodness every day, the Sabbath means spending more time in the presence of our Lord.

It's all about growing and going in His ways.

Letting His love and peace wash over us, cleansing us for the week ahead.

How wonderful it is to know that God cared so much for us, He made the Sabbath.

Just.  For.  Us.

~

Besides going to church on Sunday, how do you spend the rest of that day?

Prayer:  We are so grateful, Father, for the Sabbath rest You created just for us.  May we spend our time on Sunday as You would have us do, and prepare our hearts, souls, and minds for the week ahead.  Amen.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Keep Watch!



Matthew 25:13
"Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour."

The cartoon featured above may be somewhat exaggerated when it comes to Southerners' reactions to snow storms, but not by much.  When those infrequent winter storms are predicted, people high-tail it to get bread and milk; schools close, along with government offices, and even many private businesses shut down operations.  People scramble to be prepared to ride it out as they know the possibility of being trapped at home for days on end, without adequate supplies, is no laughing matter.

So, if that's the usual case scenario, how could the storm which hit a week ago today catch so many people off their guards?  Cause traffic gridlock the likes of which have never been seen as hundreds of thousands left work at the same time?  Leave children and teachers stranded at their schools overnight and well into the next day?

Was the storm predicted?  Yes, it was.  But, there were serious issues for our local meteorologists to consider.  First of all, this was not the typical snow storm we see in the south.  Most storms arrive behind a front.  This one formed in the upper atmosphere making it almost impossible to say where and when the snow would fall and how much would actually accumulate.  And, initially, it was thought the storm would be the most brutal far south of the line between Birmingham, Alabama, and the Atlanta metro area.

Surprise!

My guess is that people had listened to the wildly fluctuating weather forecasts for so many days, they assumed it would end up being a non-event.  Why not get up, get the kids to school, and ride off to work like you would on any normal, if unseasonably cold, winter day?  Many probably didn't even tune into the weather that fateful morning of January 28th.

They ceased to keep watch . . .

Yet, there were many people who remained vigilant regarding the impending storm.  Preferring to err on the side of caution, they worked from home and kept their kids out of school for the day.

Just.  In.  Case.

For the countless folks who were stranded for endless hours in their cars and trucks because of the snow, it is a lesson to be remembered for a lifetime.  I do believe that when the next snow storm is forecast, even if there's a shred of doubt as to when, where, and who will be affected, these people won't budge from the comfort and safety of their homes.

And, they'll have lots of bread and milk on hand . . .

~

Were you stranded during SnowJam 2014, or caught in any unusual storm situation?  Please share your stories in the comment section.

Prayer:  Today, Father, remind us all to keep watch and stay alert to situations unfolding around us.  Keep us ever mindful that no storm in our lives is too big to survive when You are by our side.  May we always be aware of the blessings You give us every day.  Amen.

I leave you today with some photos I took of the snow at our house.  Enjoy!













When the snow finally stopped, this is what it looked like here.













Blessings, everyone!

Big Plans for Big Play

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to gi...