Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Easter Egg-stravaganza!


Matthew 7:7
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

Ever since our oldest granddaughter, Virginia Rose, could walk, we've hosted an Easter egg hunt at our home.  It's become a family tradition.





Last year, second granddaughter, Savannah Jane, does the indoor seeking and finding, while big sister has the yard all to herself.





This year, both Virginia and Savannah hunt for eggs in the backyard.  I divide their territories in two lest Virginia grab all the treasures before little sister even gets started.  Virginia is off and running as soon as she's given the signal.







Savannah, coaxed by her dad, moves much more slowly and hesitantly, unsure if those brightly-colored plastic eggs are what she is supposed to be gathering.  She often has to be reminded to put them in her basket, not simply Easter parade around with them in her hands.







Each girl is supposed to collect ten eggs a piece.  But poor Virginia!  One of her eggs has been pried apart, and the candy is gone!  Another egg has vanished into thin air!  I know immediately who the culprits are.  I think, okay, Racer, did you egg them on?  But I say to Virginia, "Squirrels took them, honey.  I put the eggs out too early, and the squirrels found them.  Those rascals!"

"It's okay, Gammie," she assures me.  "Maybe Savannah will let me help her find some of her eggs."

"That's a great ides," I say.  "I think she could use it."



Once we are all back inside, Virginia takes it upon herself to open her eggs on the table to reveal the sweet surprises inside.  Savannah does the same.



But before we can catch her, she manages to open the candy wrapper and stuff the entire confection into her mouth.  And I thought the squirrels were rascals!

Throughout the excitement of the day, youngest grand-girl, Alexandra Nancy, looks on in wonder at it all.




Don't worry, little one.  Next year, you'll have an Easter egg hunt indoors, and will be just for you!

~

Do you have a favorite Easter tradition?

Prayer:  Father, thank You for the glorious resurrection of Your Son, Christ Jesus, that we might all share in eternal life with You.  Until that time, let us ask, knowing You will give; seek, knowing we will find You, and knock, knowing You will open the door to welcome us.  It is in Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

Friday, March 25, 2016

What's So Good About Good Friday?


Mark 15:33-39
At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.  And at three in the afternoon, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?" (which means "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
When some of those standing near heard this, they said, "Listen, he's calling Elijah."
Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink.  "Now leave him alone.  Let's see if Elijah comes to take him down," he said.
With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.
The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.  And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, "Surely this man was the Son of God!"

What's so good about Good Friday?  This is a question I have pondered in my heart over the years.  After all, this is the day Jesus, our Lord and Savior, suffered an excruciatingly painful and ignominious death on a cross.  Shouldn't we be calling Good Friday the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Friday?

Fr. Justin Holcomb offers some insight as to why this holy day is called "good:"

Still, why call the day of Jesus' death "Good Friday" instead of "Bad Friday" or something similar?  Some Christian traditions do take this approach:  in German, for example, the day is called Karfreitag, or "Sorrowful Friday."  In English, in fact, the origin of the term "Good" is debated; some believe it developed from an older name, "God's Friday."  Regardless of the origin, the name Good Friday is entirely appropriate because the suffering and death of Jesus, as terrible as it was, marked the dramatic culmination of God's plan to save his people from their sins.

Good for us.  No, wait!  Grand and glorious for us!

Because of Jesus' willingness to follow His Father's plan, we are forgiven our sins, once and for all.  And we can look forward to the impending Easter celebration with hope and joy, and the promise of a renewed relationship with our Father in heaven.

But for today, let us all sit at the foot of the cross.  Let us become Mary and the disciple whom Jesus loved, who witnessed His immeasurable suffering.

Let us be present for our Lord as He gives His all for us.

Let us weep and mourn and pray.

And let us give thanks.

Amen.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Party Crasher!


Mark 7:24-29
Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre.  He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret.  In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet.  The woman was Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia.  She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.
"First let the children eat all they want," he told her, "for it is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to the dogs."
"Lord," she replied, "even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs."
Then he told her, "For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter."

For years now, my husband, Danny, and I have fed our backyard birds.  It gives us great pleasure to watch how the feeders attract such a variety of feathered friends depending on the season.

But the birds aren't the only ones who benefit from our charity.  We also spread a generous helping of sunflower seeds on the ground for the squirrels, the occasional chipmunks, and ground-feeding birds to enjoy.









One morning as I exit the back door of our garage, a seed-filled pitcher in my hand, I notice three deer lying quietly in the far corner of our yard.  They raise their heads and watch me, but they neither flinch nor bat an eyeball at my presence.  In this neck of the woods, the deer are used to being in close proximity with humans, though I'm sure if I were to get too close, they'd vacate the premises pronto.

I move slowly and deliberately as I refill our feeders, sprinkle the ground with the remaining seed, and retreat as fast as I dare to the house to fetch my camera.  I simply can't resist this photo-op!

When I return to the garage door, camera in hand, I fully expect to find the deer resting just where I left them.  Wrong!  This is the scene that greets me instead.



One of the deer, either out of inquisitiveness or a foreknowledge of the tastiness of sunflower seeds, is browsing away, happily lapping up every seed intended for the squirrels.

Party crasher!  How dare you gobble up food not meant for you!

And at the moment I entertain this uncharitable thought, God replaces it with the remembrance of the Greek woman, a Gentile, who begged Jesus to heal her daughter.  Just like the deer, this woman is a party crasher, barging uninvited into a closed circle where the Lord is ministering to a Jewish audience, the ones who could fully understand the significance of the Messiah.

The woman knows she is out of place, a lowly dog nosing for scraps, but she is desperate.  And her faith is so strong in Jesus' ability to heal her child, that even a crumb of His power would be more than enough to do the job.

I wonder, too, if this incident became a turning point in Jesus' outlook on His ministry.  With fully human eyes, had He only thought His Father sent Him exclusively to the Chosen People?  In this very instance, was the balance tipped with the glorious prospect that no, He had not come for one group, but for all?

All of us?

The deer raises her head and regards me with her deep-brown, lustrous eyes as if she's saying, "Thank you."

"You're welcome," I whisper.  "Come and join the feast."

~

Jesus is inviting you to join the feast.  Will you come?

Prayer:  Father, thank You for sending Your beloved Son, Christ Jesus, to bring salvation and hope to each and every one of us.  Because of His sacrifice on the cross, we are washed in His blood, forgiven our sins, and invited to partake of the Heavenly Feast spread lovingly before us.  It is in Jesus' precious name, we pray.  Amen.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Miracle of Miracles!


Romans 8:28
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Last Friday, our granddaughter, Virginia Rose, spends the night with us.  She is quieter than usual when I pick her up and seems ready for a nap.  And yes indeed, she actually falls asleep on the drive from her home to ours.

"It's a growth spurt," my daughter, Sarah, assures me.  "Virginia has been coming home from school every day this week saying she's tired."

So we spend the afternoon and evening engaged in calm activities with Virginia, and put her to bed right on time.  I send myself off to bed at an earlier than usual time, sensing that I'm going to be needed bright and early in the morning.

Bingo!

As soon as I open my bedroom door and close it softly again so that Danny, aka Papa, can sleep in, I see that Virginia is wide awake in our guest room she affectionately calls hers.  "Hi, Gammie!"  Her cheerful greeting resounds in the hallway.

"Shh," I say with a smile.  "Papa is still sleeping.  We need to speak softly, okay?"

"Okay," she whispers.  I grab her clean clothes as we head for the bathroom for the morning routine.  Dressed and chipper after a good night's rest, Virginia is her customary chatterbox self.

We retreat to the dining area where I, in my coffee-deprived state, fix her a bowl of corn flakes and hasten to brew the only liquid I know that will catapult me onto the same speed plain upon which Virginia is racing.  Almost before her cereal is finished and I've taken my first sip of coffee, she wants to go out on our deck to see the birds and squirrels.

To her surprise and delight, Virginia spies two deer frolicking in our neighbor's yard.  "Let's go see the deer, Gammie!"

"I'll take you outside in a few minutes, Virginia," I tell her.  "Let me have some more coffee, and then we'll go feed the birds and squirrels."  I'm thinking that getting her outdoors will lessen the odds of our conversations disturbing Danny's much-needed rest.

When it's time to go, I throw a jacket over my pajama top and head for the stairs.  Suddenly, I hear, "Gammie, are you going outside in your pajamas?  What if the deer see you dressed like that?  Had I just taken a swallow of coffee, it would have been spewed out, guaranteed!

"It will be fine, Virginia," I say, a grin glued to my face.  "The deer will forgive me, I promise."

Comforted by my words, Virginia is all in, and our expedition forges ahead.  We feed the birds and squirrels, explore the yard for air-soft BBs, and then wander into the front yard to admire the daffodils and the one jonquil who's braved its bloom.

"I want that one, Gammie," Virginia asserts, claiming the stem before I can utter a protest.

My heart breaks as I watch her break the flower stem, recalling my father's words, "Martha Jane, don't pluck the wildflowers.  Let them live in their time where they are.  Their beauty is best admired from afar."

The flower comes inside with us.  Virginia lays it on the table.  I am so busy tending to her and preparing to take her back home, I let the unfortunate jonquil to sojourn there.

Right before it's time to go home, Virginia gingerly picks up the flower and hands it to me.  "Gammie, I made a mistake to pick this," she confesses, a repentant look on her face.  "It had a bud getting ready to bloom.  Now it won't."

I take the proffered flower and give her a reassuring smile.  "I think if I place this in water, we might just see that bud bloom after all.



And miracle of miracles, it does!



~

What miracles are you seeing in your life today?

Prayer:  Father, there are so many miracles that surround us daily when we open the eyes of our hearts to see them.  Let us ever be faithful, hopeful, and trusting that You can breathe new life into us through our acts of repentance and our willingness to be guided by You.  Let us always trust that You are working all for good.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Lord, Teach Me to Pray


Luke 11:1
One day Jesus was praying in a certain place.  When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples."

I pray because I can't help myself.  I pray because I'm helpless.  I pray because the need flows out of me all the time - waking and sleeping.  It doesn't change God - it changes me. ~C. S. Lewis

Do you pray?

If you are a practicing Christian, I can see you scratching your head and wondering why I even pose this query.  What a silly question, Martha.  Of course, I do!

As I traverse my Lenten journey, I find myself reflecting upon the state of my own prayer life.  Frankly, I'm disappointed in myself.  And I can't help but think God is disappointed in me, too.

I pray, yes.  But do I converse, really converse with my Abba?  Place a big, fat check mark in the Needs Improvement box.

Am I praying about and for the needs of others?  Thumbs-up!  However, I could certainly do this with more consistency and regularity, having learned from past experience the amazing power of intercessory prayer.

Do I thank God often enough?  Praise Him enough for all He has done?

Am I praying before and after I read His Word each day in Bible study?

Am I fully present to the words of others prayed aloud at church or at home?

Am I sitting still with Him, content simply to be before Him, knowing He is God?

And it seems that during Lent, the season of reflection for our souls, that scrutinizing my prayer life is something God is willing me to do.

Calling me to do.

I'm obeying; I want my life of prayer to be my life with every breath I take.  I want to do it because, as C. S. Lewis discovered, I can't help myself . . . I'm helpless without the Lord . . .

I desire for my prayers to be a never-ending flow in the currents of the Living Waters.

I long to pray without ceasing.

Lord, teach me to pray.

And change me . . .

~

Have you ever felt the need to re-evaluate your prayer life?

Prayer:  Father, help us to focus daily on praying to You from the moment we wake until the moment we fall asleep.  Take our eyes off ourselves and lift them, instead, to You, the One who loves us perfectly and immeasurably, and is always waiting patiently to hear from us, Your children.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Trust and Believe


Psalm 30:5
For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.

March is the time when I find myself reevaluating the state of my soul.  God takes my birthday at the first of the month and glorifies it with celebration.  How ecstatic and grand!

But from then on, it's the skids.

My beloved father, Bill, passes on March 19th, 2014; my former, and dearly treasured husband, John, dies unexpectedly on March 23rd, 1997.

I resign my teaching position mid-March, 2010, due to an escalating and virulent crescendo of bullying, lies and deceit.

So many brokenhearted moments.

April is not the cruelest month.

It is March.

I am in a funk where I don't want to be, a starless, moonless night where my soul does not belong.  I'm praying to be released, yet wonder, will I be?  I'm praying for understanding of the tears poised to fall at the least provocation, but do I glean, in these overwhelmingly emotional moments, where God is leading me in all this?

Am I truly opening my heart to His?

My soul to Him?

I do not know nor understand why the Lord has chosen this one month to heap upon me many scorching and flaming coals of sorrow and regret.  He has His reasons, and it's not for me to doubt.

It is for me to trust and believe.

Even when I consume an entire box of Kleenex in my effort to comprehend and to accept the heart-wrenching scenarios reeling before my eyes like a grainy, flickering black and white movie.

It is for me to trust and believe.

And to know, that at times, the wisest, most soothing thing I can do is crawl up into my Father's lap and cry.  Let the floodgates loose, knowing He can and will wipe away every tear I shed.

Trusting and believing He will bring me out of the dark night of the soul into the bright dawn of a glorious and joyful day.

~

Are you trusting in God?  Believing in His promises?

Prayer:  Father, let us always trust in You and believe in Your promises even when the world around us is falling apart, and our very souls are aching.  In times of grief, let us run to You for comfort and peace, assured that You will work everything for good for those who trust and believe in You.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.




Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Reach. Seek. Find.


Acts 17:27
God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.

My husband, Danny, and I share a lot in common, one thing being we like to keep the house neat and orderly.  A place for everything and everything in its place could be our motto.

But there is one exception.

It's the kitchen dishtowel.  Every time I finish using it, I hang it over the handle of our oven door, so it's easy to reach when the next bout of pots and pans hits the sink.



Makes sense, doesn't it?  At least, I think so.

Not to Danny.  Let him loose in the kitchen when he's cooking and wiping his hands, and there is no telling where the dishtowel will end up.




Sometimes, he actually folds it!





But it's never, ever over the oven handle.

When I go to clean up after we eat, I inevitably pull a rinsed pot from the sink before checking to see if the dishtowel is where it's supposed to be.  When it isn't, I feel like a kid looking all around at Christmas for the elf on the shelf.  It's never far away, but always, always out of convenient reach.

You'd think I'd have learned by now to search it out before I tackle what's in the sink.  But I haven't.  And even though I could choose to let this quirk of Danny's get under my skin, I don't.  Actually, I find it more amusing than annoying.  Good thing for him, right?

And I recall Acts 17:27 quoted above.  God, unlike my same-place-draped dishtowel, is neither static nor predictable in the places and times where He meets us; where we meet Him.  He wants us to seek Him out, reach for Him daily, and expect to find Him in the unexpected and unusual, in the ordinary and mundane.

Reach.  Seek.  Find.

And know.

God is never far away from any one of us.

Are you reaching and seeking to find God?

Prayer:  Father, too often we think we can only find You in a singular place, such as church, the Bible, or in our prayer time.  Remind us that You are everywhere and in everything, and we can always find You if the eyes of our hearts are open.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Crazy Socks!


Psalm 143:10
Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; your Spirit is good.  Lead me in the land of uprightness.

It is the morning of my birthday.  My husband, Danny, is sleeping in today because he is working at home.  He gets up so insanely early on those days he has to go into the office, I try to be quieter than the proverbial mouse in order to grant him that luxury.

About nine o' clock, I hear the shower running, so I know Danny's up.  I hasten to make fresh coffee, turn on his computer, and am looking forward to my own leisurely clean up routine.

That's when my phone rings.  It's not a number I recognize, but the town, I do.  It's where my daughter and son-in-law live.  Intuitively, I think it must be Virginia Rose's school calling.  I'm spot on.

"Hello, this is Martha."

"Hi, this is the school nurse, Susan.  Are you Virginia's Gammie?"

"Yes, I am.  What's wrong?"

"I can't get in touch with her mother or father.  Virginia is running a fever of 101 degrees.  You need to come get her as fast as you can."

So much for leisurely anything!  I'm over thirty minutes away from her school, so I fly into action.  Showered, dressed and out the door in record time, I'm anxious to pick up my ailing granddaughter and get her home.

As I drive along, the urge to speed is overwhelming.  But that could have dire and unwelcome consequences.  I choose to pray instead.  Lord, don't let Virginia's fever spike.  Let me arrive in time without doing anything foolish and without anything worse happening to her.

It works.  I heave a deep sigh, keep my eyes on the road, and trust God will get me there safely and in His time.

When I arrive at the school, Virginia is in the clinic, lying on a cot, and looking wan and pale.  Yet still she has a big smile and a hug for me.  I'm so relieved to find she is able to walk on her own to the car, which I miraculously managed to park quite close to the school building as the lot was packed by people arriving to vote.  Thank you, Lord, again!

I fasten my listless little grand-girl into her car seat, and we embark on the brief ride to her home.  I can tell she isn't feeling well because she isn't talking much at all, a sure sign that all is not well with the usually gregarious and bubbly Virginia.  But I feel compelled to ask her a question.

"Virginia, when did you start to feel sick today?"

"When I woke up this morning."  I'm shocked by her response.

"Why didn't you tell Mommy you didn't feel well?"

"Because," she explains, "I wanted to go to school.  It's Crazy Socks Day."

Crazy Socks Day???  I have to remember I'm dealing with the rationalization skills of a five-year-old.

But then, it hits me.  How many times do we, as adults, fling ourselves headlong into an activity we want to do or an event we are bent on attending without a second thought as to whether this is something God would have us do?  I know, if I'm honest with myself, I stand guilty as charged.

It behooves us to remember this verse from Psalm 143 before we make decision of any kind.  We must seek out God's will, for His Spirit is good, and He will never lead us down the road to temptation.

Even when we're wearing crazy socks!

~

Are you asking God to teach you His will?

Prayer:  Father, so many times, we are tempted to go astray, neglecting to first seek Your will for our lives, and putting our selfish interests first.  Help us to stop and pray for Your guidance in all that we do, so You may lead us in the land of uprightness.  In Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

It's My Birthday!


John 3:6-7
"Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.  You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.'"

Today is my birthday!  I'm sixty-one-years-young, and so thankful for this amazing life with which the Lord has blessed me.

From the moment I find out that my children and grandchildren will be able to attend an early celebration on Sunday, I decide to go all out with festive decorations.







I even splurge for these candles.



I justify this move because I can reuse these for Virginia's and Alexandra's upcoming birthday in July when the former will turn six and the latter, one.  And all the other finery?  Purchased for a song at our local Dollar Tree (Yes, I'm a Dave Ramsey/Clark Howard aficionado!).

But the main reasons I resolve to showcase all these party frills are 1) I know Virginia Rose and Savannah Jane will love them, especially the party horns and balloons, and 2) everyone's life, a gift from God, is worthy of an all-out revelry.

Oh, what fun we have!

















Yet as important as it is to commemorate our physical arrival into this world, there is a birth much more crucial, and one held before us as an open invitation by Christ Jesus.

And that is to be born again.  A concept that eluded the wise and seeking Nicodemus, who visited Jesus in the dark of night in order to glean wisdom from the Word.  Yet he was confounded by the answer given.

It is a concept that mystified me, too, for many years until I heard, felt and finally understood the call of Jesus.  Heard Him knocking at the door of my heart.  Willing me to unlock and open.

I, at long last, obeyed.  And my life was changed.  It is still changing.

Because the Lord is not about the status quo; He is about the status quested.

And I'm trusting in Him to guide me and hold me, born again and grateful, through all the years before me.

Sixty-two?  Sixty-three?  Beyond?  Yes, by God's grace!

I say, "It's my birthday!"

Thanks be to God!

~

Have you been born again?

Prayer:  Father, let us celebrate and give thanks for every life You have allowed to come into this uncertain and fragile world loved by You.  We pray that all will be born again into Your life and Your Spirit, for that is the life everlasting.  It is in Jesus' name, we pray.  Amen.

Angels We Have Heard . . . Right Here!

Psalm 91:11-12 For He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you in all your ways. In their hands they shall bear you up, L...