Friday, June 27, 2014

Alpha and Omega


Revelation 1:8
"I am the Alpha and Omega," says the Lord God, "who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty."

My husband, Danny, loves photography and, in my opinion, is amazingly talented.  He certainly demonstrates his ability when it comes to angle, composition, and artistic doctoring, when necessary, in Photoshop.  We both believe that when Danny uses his camera, he is utilizing one of the wonderful gifts God gave him.  That being said, Danny is always looking for ways to improve the quality of his photos, especially those of wildlife, but just can't bring himself to spend the big bucks demanded by a telephoto lens.  So, imagine his delight when he discovers he can download an EOS remote app to his Iphone!

"This is just so awesome!"  he says.  "I can program my camera to sync with the device on my phone, set my camera on the tripod, and watch from our deck for that perfect shot.  It's 'click,' and I've got that bird or squirrel.  No need for a blind or a humongous lens now!"

I'm at once stunned and humbled.  Being from the generation which recalls having only three channels on the television, dial-up phones, and record players, I stand in awe of today's technologies.  And, I can't believe how fast they develop and change, sometimes in a matter of months.  If I didn't live in a household with two techno-geeks, I know I couldn't manage to keep my computer running as efficiently and effectively as it does.  The times when Danny and stepson, Giovanni, have saved the day (and the files) are too numerous to count.  I am so thankful for their help in navigating the ever evolving programs and apps which would stump and frustrate me otherwise.

And, I'm so thrilled with the outcome of Danny's first attempt at long-distance photography, I simply have to share!













"Remember," Danny tells me, "this is the first try.  I'm hoping for better photos in the future.  I'll keep working on it."

Well, I think those featured here are fine as they are, but I love Danny for wanting to improve his talents.  For, when we discover those unique gifts God has given us, we can't help but strive to do His will and use the skills and intellect He has given us to bring more joy to the world in His name.

And, as much as technology exponentially grows, promising to improve our lives and ease our day-to-day situations, I find myself taking an increasing comfort in the sameness of our God.  The One who is and who was and who is to come.

I need His consistency.  I need to know that, no matter what changes I deal with here on earth, He is the same today as He ever was and ever will be.

Eternal.  All powerful.  Faithful.

In the beginning.  In the now.  In the end.

God is . . .

The Almighty.

~

Are you comfortable with new technology, or do you balk when faced with the challenges it brings?

Prayer:  Father God, no matter what changes we encounter on this earthly journey, let us never forget that You are our constant compass, guiding us on paths for Your righteousness' sake.  May we remember it is more important to be up-to-date with You than it is to fun after the latest fad or gadget.  For only You are the constant  One, the Alpha and Omega.  In Jesus' name we pray, amen.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

If You Just Smile . . .


Job 29:24
When I smiled at them, they scarcely believed it; the light of my face was precious to them.

Last week, our second granddaughter, Savannah Jane begins her eighth week of life.  As many of you are aware, Savannah has to stay in the hospital almost the entire month of May due to a detected reaction she has to an approved medication her mom, my daughter, Sarah, takes while pregnant.  I'm still dumbfounded by the whole debacle on the part of her treating doctors, but I remind myself:  This is water under the bridge.  It doesn't matter.  We have a healthy, happy grandchild, and that's all that counts.

We have a family history of babies smiling earlier than later after they are born.  This website states that most babies smile between six and eight weeks, and explains how you can tell if your baby's smile is a communicative reaction to your immediate attentions.  

My son, Daniel, was almost three weeks late in his delivery, and smiled when he was 19 days old, so that puts him around the six-week mark.  My daughter, Sarah, born on her due date, was smiling at six-weeks, too.  First granddaughter, Virginia Rose smiled at an astonishing five weeks!


My mother tells me I smiled at four weeks.  She even grabbed a doubting neighbor as a witness, and that astounded mother of two agreed wholeheartedly.  I was smiling!  And, have you guessed it?  I still wear a smile, often and readily, these many years later.

On Father's Day, the beginning of her eighth week, little Savannah final smiles for real!  All those endless days of being held and fed by loving nurses and volunteers at the hospital when Mom and Dad can't be there, I believe, delay her hereditary smiling trait.  But, oh, what better Father's Day gift could her daddy, John, receive?



The light of her face was so precious to Sarah and John that, when she smiled at long last, they could scarcely believe it.  Especially from this one whose expression is habitually serious and seems to beg the question, "Why am I here?"



I'm sure Job's friends felt the same way when they witnessed him, in the aftermath of his pain and suffering, still able to smile with a joy so overwhelming they couldn't help but know God's hand was in it all.  Job's friends expected a Grumpy Cat.



What they got was entirely different . . .



It is so easy to smile and be cheerful when all is going well, but to do so when we are facing trials and tribulations?  That's when faith must burst the floodgates.  That's when we must rely upon the Lord to see us through.  Those are the times when we learn we can smile sunshine into the rain  and see God's rainbow of hope.

We smile with the faith of a child . . .



~

Are you wearing a smile and ready to share it with others today?

Prayer:  Father God, we thank You for the smiles You have taught us to share and for the love and kindness they so quickly convey.  May we smile more and grump less, recalling Your promise of salvation through Your Son, Christ Jesus, who, through His sacrifice for our sins, brought us ultimate joy.  It in the precious name of Jesus, we pray.  Amen.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Sister Act!



1 John 3:16
This is how we know what love is:  Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.  And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.

When my daughter, Sarah, first tells us they are expecting a baby girl at the end of April this year, we are elated!  What could be better than having another grandchild to love on?  Honestly, I can't think of anything grander than that!

But, I have concerns about first child and first grandchild, Virginia Rose.  She is the undisputed princess in the Orlando and Kennedy family courts.  Love is lavished upon her freely, and undivided attention toward her rules the day.  Recalling how jealous my son, Daniel, was when I brought his sister home, I worry that Virginia could experience those same sentiments.  Not a pretty picture . . .

So, we begin working on her early.  I order a book which explains all about mama bringing a baby brother or sister into the world, and what the older sibling can expect.  Virginia is, thankfully, enthralled by the whole process, and me and her mom to read the book repeatedly.  We reinforce, too, Virginia's role as the "Big Sister," someone who can aptly assist her mom and dad in caring for the new baby.  She loves to help around the house already, so this is something which really appeals to her.

I'm still skeptical, though.  It is one thing to talk about all these amazing changes about to unfold when little sister is growing in mommy's tummy, but it could be a totally different story when baby actually arrives.  How will Virginia react, I wonder?  Will she be just as excited and joyful in having a sister for real as she is in the anticipation of her birth?  Or, will she be resentful of the attention which was once fully hers, but is now being deflected upon this new and needy, eating, crying, burping, but blessed, mess?

I recall Jesus' admonition to us not to worry (Matthew 6:25), and I hold fast to His promise.  That trust and faith reaps incomparable rewards.















Virginia Rose loves her sister, Savannah Jane, more than I could ever have hoped for or imagined.  She is adamantly protective, actively engaged in entertaining her, and demonstrates toward her sister such unconditional love.

Watching Virginia interact with Savannah brings and entirely new meaning to the scripture at this post's beginning.  I see a child willing to lay down her life, all her interests and needs and wants, in order to serve her sister.  I witness a heart brimming with love and selflessness.

I witness a life filled with the Spirit of the Lord.

It is my prayer that I should live my life so selflessly . . .


~

How have the actions of a child brought you closer to the Kingdom of Heaven?

Prayer:  Thank You, Father, for sending Your Son, Jesus, who laid down His life for us to pay the price for our sins.  Let us, in turn, know what true love is:  Being willing to lay down our own lives for the sake of our brothers and sisters.  No, Lord, it isn't easy, but it is right.  Help us to always do what is pleasing in Your sight.  In the name of Jesus, we pray.  Amen.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

What's in a Name?


Revelation 2:17
Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.  To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna.  I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, know only to the one who receives it.

My friend and fellow blogger/author, Glynn Young, posted this poem, The White Stone, several days ago on his blog, Faith, Fiction, Friends.  I was so moved by the succinct and expressive beauty of his words that I turned right around and composed a poem which I subsequently posted in Glynn's comments section.  Please take a few moments to read his poem before continuing on with today's post.  I guarantee you will be inspired!  Oh, and while you're visiting Glynn, do yourself a huge favor and order his books, Dancing Priest, A Light Shining, and Poetry at Work.  I have read all three and cannot recommend them highly enough.

What's in a name?

My parents named me "Martha" for my mother's sister, and "Jane" for my father's sister, Mary Jane.  And, uncharacteristically for Yankees, they called me by both!  Sometimes, I can't help but think God's incomparable sense of humor gave them, though my name, the premonition that they would, in four short years, be living in Georgia where double first names were, and in many places still are, all the rage.

Honestly?  I didn't like my name when I was growing up.  I wasn't a Susan or a Kathy or a Karen, common monikers during the '50s and '60s.  No.  I was old-fashioned, Biblical Martha.  I don't even recall meeting another Martha from my first day of elementary school through my last year of college.  Seriously!

Upon reaching the prepubescent age of eleven, I decide I no longer want to be called Martha Jane, but Marty instead.  To my young, inexperienced mind, that sounds so much cooler!  My friends are quick to accommodate me.  My parents?  Uh-uh!  Martha Jane it was, and Martha Jane it would remain!

Gradually, as I matured, I learned to embrace the name I am given, though I leave off the Jane part.  (Ironically, I reinstated it when I published my books.)  Again, the fear that the two-name first name carried a social stigma forced my hand in that decision.  Though I lived in the south, I had yet to claim it as my home.  The northern influence from my parents was just that strong.  And, as a young adult who hadn't come into a true relationship with Jesus, I am more concerned about what others think of me than about what God thinks of me.

Not good!

But, here is the question:  Does your name define who you become in life?  How you live it out?  Once I became a committed Christian and began reading the Bible in earnest, I am fascinated by the stories about the sisters, Martha and Mary, in the New Testament.  Too readily, I identify with Martha, always hustling and bustling, working, raising two children, involving myself in a plethora of church commitments.  But, in my heart of hearts, I wish to be more like Mary, content, at peace, and at ease at the feet of the Lord.  I know that it's this very dichotomy which made the writing of this poem I share below possible.

And, once again, I'm amazed how God can use all our collective experiences, good and not-so-good, to propel us forward into the persons He means for us to be.  

I am named "Martha,"
And, I live up to it.
Serving without ceasing,
Doing before thinking.
Assuming deeds will save
My soul which only longs
To be like Mary.  Is that
My white stone's name?
Still and rapt, kneeling
Before the Lord, my God?
I'd like to think so.
I pray to know so.

So, what's in a name?

Everything!  When you allow God to choose it.

And, you accept the white stone He offers you.

~

Do you like your name?  Why or why not?


Prayer:  Dear Father, you have called us by name to be Your beloved children.  No matter what our earthly parents chose to name us, let us journey into the name by which you know us, the one written upon the white stone.  Let us live fully into the riches of Your grace and glory.  In Jesus' name, amen.

Friday, June 13, 2014

(The Not So) Happy Father's Day



Mark 14:36
"Abba, Father," he said, "everything is possible for you.  Take this cup from me.  Yet not what I will, but what you will."

Father's Day is upon us.  This is my first not knowing what it's like to send a card, make that phone call, and buy a special gift for my Dad.  I can't begin to describe the emptiness, the hollow place I feel within.  That place that only my Dad, who loved me unconditionally and of whom I could always be proud, filled and satisfied.

How I wish I didn't have to drink from this cup . . .

I am fully cognizant that I'm not the only one of us out here for whom Father's Day is a time of sadness and precious, poignant memories.  So many in my age bracket have lost one or both parents in recent years.  Even when prolonged illness foreshadows the inevitable, the loss is never easy.  The passage of time may ease the grief we feel, but nothing can erase the love we remember and the joys shared with our dads and moms.

So, if you, like me, are finding this coming Father's Day difficult and painful to bear, I hope you will, with me, remember that we have our eternal Daddy, our Abba, in heaven.  He is there to comfort us when we mourn, to count and wipe away every tear shed, and to gather us to Himself as His precious children.

God is everlasting, ever present.  And, in Him, all things are possible.

And, I take immeasurable comfort knowing that my Daddy is in His loving embrace.

Prayer:  On this Father's Day, dear Abba, bless all the dads and step-dads whose love and presence are especially celebrated at this time.  Give comfort to all who have lost a parent and for whom this day is one of sorrow.  May we always know, dearest Daddy, that we can run to you and climb up in Your lap when we are missing a parent's embrace.  In the precious name of Jesus, we pray.  Amen

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Birds of the Air



Matthew 6:26
Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?

If you've followed  Meditations of My Heart for a while, you know that my husband, Danny, and I love to feed and watch the birds in our wooded backyard.  We keep the feeders well stocked, and even scatter sunflower seeds on the ground for the squirrels and chipmunks to enjoy.

Admittedly, unless it's migration time, we don't see a huge variety of birds.  Cardinals, nuthatches, mourning doves, and chickadees are our most frequent visitors.  We also have several species of woodpeckers, including the Downy and the Red-bellied, living in the surrounding forest.  We only glimpse them occasionally, but never at the feeder with the exception of the flicker.



Without a doubt, the most majestic birds are a resident pair of Red-tailed hawks.  Danny hit the jack pot last year and captured this shot of one magnificent raptor.



The most elusive bird in our forest, however, is the Pileated woodpecker.  Notorious for its primeval, raucous call and the deep, echoing drumming its beak  makes on dead trees, we more often than not hear the pileated, but rarely catch that coveted glimpse.





So, the other day (with no camera handy, I might add) when Danny and I are sitting on our deck, he leans forward, pointing urgently.

"The pileated!  He's on the ground near the feeder!"

We both stand slowly to get a better look.  Sure enough!  There he is, big as life, and lingering in one place longer than either us have ever witnessed.  Then, the pileated makes a most unexpected move.  He flaps his wings and settles on an arm of the wooden cross which marks our cat, Allie's, grave!!!  Now, we really wish we had our cameras!

But, the moment, like so many before it, is short-lived.  Within seconds, this giant spreads his wings and disappears back into the deep woods.  His haunting, cackling cry taunts us from afar.

And, we are left to wonder when we will see him again.

Thinking, too, that maybe we should always have our cameras with us when we sit out on our deck . . .

~

Have you ever had a "wish I had a camera" moment?  Please share!

Prayer:  Father, we thank You for all Your creatures, great and small.  May seeing them in their natural habitat remind us of the wonder that is our island, Earth.  All this we pray in Jesus' name.  Amen.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Try Again!


Luke 8:21
He replied, "My mother and brothers are those who hear God's word and put it into practice."

Our granddaughter, Virginia Rose, never ceases to amaze and amuse us.  She loves to try new things and manages to manipulate objects in the most unique and unexpected of ways.  Whether it's collecting leaves from our deck and tossing them over the edge to see how they float to the ground, observing ants cruise along the railings, or yanking on the clothesline to make it dance frenetically, Virginia makes a game out of everything.

And, like any other three-year-old, Virginia is full of questions which she asks with regularity.  If I answer her in a way that tickles her funny bone, she will laugh and say, "Try again!"  Of course, I say the same silly words I just spoke, and hear another "try again" until Virginia has her fill of entertainment from that particular episode.

Do I tire of repeating myself?  Honestly, yes, I do.  But, the delight on Virginia's face more than makes up for any boredom on my part.

And, this exercise reminds me of what it means to practice, continually, anything and everything we wish to become better at doing.  It may feel like drudgery - practicing scales when we want to play chords - but, when we try again, try again, try again, one day we find we have reached that goal.  And, our music flows freely and flawlessly.

It is the same with our Christian walk.  Jesus tells us that it's not enough to simply hear the Word of God, we must put it into practice.  And, it's not a just-on-Sunday-show-up-at-church kind of deal.  This means engaging with God daily through the Bible, in prayer, and in how we treat our family and friends, neighbors and strangers.

Because, if we don't practice our faith regularly, we will never get past the scales in our lives in order to joyfully play our song all the way through to the end.

Will we have failures and setbacks along the way?  No doubt about it.  But, we have the reassurance of Jesus' grace and forgiveness.  He understands those times when we don't get things right.  When we fail to trust Him.  And, forget to put our faith into practice.

When we fall, He is right there.  Picking us up.  Brushing us off.

And, saying, "Try again!"

~

When have you heard the Lord telling you to try again?

Prayer:  Today, Father, we are thankful for the spontaneity and curiosity of children whose words and actions ever help us to see that Your kingdom is at hand.  When the weight of the world is upon us and we feel like we are failing You, let us hear Your comforting voice telling us to "try again."  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Forgive and Forget



Matthew 18:21-22
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me?  Up to seven times?"
Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times."

In the recent passing of writer, speaker, and advocate for human rights, Maya Angelou, our nation mourns.  We have lost a voice which spoke with wisdom, compassion, and honesty.  A voice which dared to utter the words of Jesus and not, for one moment, apologize for her belief.  A writer who transcended race and cultural issues to speak to and inspire us all.

Facebook, on the day Ms. Angelou dies, is teeming with quotes, photos, and memories of this beloved woman.  It is through one of these that I find the picture used above.  It prompts me to write about a subject I haven't mentioned nearly enough here:  The grave importance of and the absolute necessity for forgiveness.

If you attend a traditional church service, chances are the Lord's Prayer is a staple in your worship experience.  "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."  How many of us recite those words, following familiar ritual, but never take them to heart?  My guess?  Too many of us!

What can we do to up the ante?  To learn to forgive as Jesus forgave us when we were yet sinners? (Romans 5:8)

From my own life experience, I share my take on the stages of forgiveness:


  • Forgive?  Heck, no!  You hurt me in a way I didn't deserve!  How dare you?  Suffer the same suffering you place on me!
  • Forget?  Oh, I'll never forget your stab in the back and your false accusations against me.  You hurt me beyond belief.  I truly want to hurt you back!
  • Forgive?  Maybe, I need to understand where you're coming from.  I need to understand why I'm reacting this way . . .
  • Forget?  No, I'll remember for a lifetime, but not with the same urgency and presence.  It will all become a memory.  Not a good one, but a memory nonetheless.
  • Forgive?  The Lord tells me I should forgive you.  It's so hard!  The pain lingers . . . I'm weary, frustrated, and confused . . .
  • Forget?  I wish I could take those memories and trash them, never to relive them again.  You hurt me.  You judged me unfairly.  I know this in my heart.  Do you know it in yours?
  • Forgive?  Jesus tells me to forgive others, including you, as He has forgiven me.  It's so difficult.  But, finally I pray that forgiveness of you will manifest in my heart.
  • Forget?  The memories are fading!  Thanks be to God!
  • Forgive?  As it offers healing to others, it offers, in its gracious turn, healing for me.
To live an unforgiving life is to live outside the presence of Christ Jesus.  He knows what we need to bring closure and peace to our troubled lives.  He lived as one of us to experience all the roller coaster rides we encounter in this unpredictable, in-need-of-forgiveness journey we share.

He longs for us to live in His Spirit.

He wants us to forgive and forget . . .

~

Are you somewhere caught up in the stages of forgiveness and forgetting?  May our Lord, Jesus, guide you every step of the way!

Prayer:  Father God, You sent in all generosity and humility Your only Son, Christ Jesus, to die upon a cross for the forgiveness of our sins.  Can we not find it in our hearts, souls, and minds to forgive others?  When we are feeling hurt, filled with pride and self-righteousness, quell our impulses to be hateful.  Substitute them with Your love.  Help us to know that only through forgiveness will we find Your perfect peace.  In Jesus' name, amen.



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...