Friday, September 29, 2017

How Can I Be of Service?

John 13:14-15
And since I, the Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other's feet.  I have given you an example to follow; do as I have done to you.

Clark Howard is a nationally-syndicated talk show personality and consumer advocate.  His mission is to help people "save more, spend less, and avoid ripoffs."  What sets Clark apart from other radio hosts is the way he greets his callers.  After welcoming them by name to The Clark Howard Show, he says, "How can I be of service to you today?"

Not "How can I help you?" or "What's on your mind?" or "What can I do for you?"

"How can I be of service to you today?"

In a recent sermon, Pastor Graham, our new associate minister, points out that serving one another is the hallmark of living out our Christian calling.  He highlights the act of Jesus, on His last earthly evening with His disciples, washing the feet of His friends.  In Jesus' time, the washing of a person's feet is a job reserved for the lowest of the low in society.

But as He has done so many times throughout His ministry, Jesus turns everything on its head.  Perhaps, Graham suggests, with this startling and unexpected gesture, Jesus hammers home, in graphic physicality, what it means to truly follow Him.  Jesus' hope is that the lesson will stick with His disciples long after He is no longer with them.

Young Davy, the protagonist in my novels, The Glade Series and Adventures in The Glade, learns what it means to serve from a wise and savvy Mrs. Racer, True Squirrel of the Old Ones.  They are at a banquet in Davy's honor when the boy stops her.

"Mrs. Racer," he asked, placing his hand tentatively on her shoulders.  She stopped immediately and turned toward him.
"Yes, Davy?"
"How will you get to eat and drink if you're so busy serving?"
"Don't you worry your head over that, dear," she assured him.  "There is always plenty to go around, and the time will come for dining when all else is tended to."
"But it's such hard work," he insisted.  "How can serving be considered an honor when you get left out of all the fun?"
A mist rose in her eyes and she blinked, her lashes longer than Racer's, and a peaceful expression was on her face.
"When we serve, we imitate our Lord," she said simply.  "That is why I am honored today.  It is a day I will remember fondly and forever."

Yes, Mrs. Racer, that's it exactly!

And as Pastor Graham so aptly sums it up:  "The impulse to serve is at the very heart of God."

May each of us cultivate, with God's help, a heart that longs to serve.


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Working at Living

John 10:10
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.

What are you going to do when you retire?

That's a question commonly asked by friends and coworkers when they hear you're planning to exit the workforce for good.  My husband, Danny, who officially retired from EPA on August 31st, after 26 years of service, fields this one repeatedly.  His response?  "I'll figure it out.  I've got plenty of things to do."

Folks, in this, my year of HUGE, Danny's answer just might be the most gargantuan understatement of the year!

Being an engineer, Danny has always had a knack for organization.  He's already tackled our cupboards, our pantry and our linen/medicine closet.  Here he is decluttering the latter:

Boy, am I ever grateful for Danny's ability and willingness to arrange our home for the better!  But what elicits the most thankfulness in me is his unbridled burst of creativity at the Orlando Cafe.  The chief chef has transformed into Master Chef!  Pictured below are some exquisite dishes Danny has never prepared before retiring, and each one is as scrumptious and savory as it appears.

Although Danny's made mac and cheese, collards and turnips many times before, the miso flavor in the turnips offers a unique twist on an otherwise rather bland veggie.

And no Italian kitchen would be complete without homemade pasta!

But here's the real kicker, y'all!  Danny, who rarely makes desserts, and who never, ever has tried his hand at homemade bread, does both!!!

Should we change "Orlando Cafe" to "Orlando Cafe and Bakery?  Maybe so!

Yes, it looks like Danny is well on his way to working at a living.

And isn't that precisely what Jesus wants all of us to do?

I came that they may have life, and have it to the full . . .

Not half-hearted, half-baked, lukewarm living.  But all-out, headlong, go for the gusto living.

That's what Jesus promises us.  That's what we get when we trust He will deliver on that promise.

Retired or not, may we all recognize, celebrate and give thanks for the abundant life our Lord offers to us each and every day.

Let's live it out!


Friday, September 22, 2017

The Best Laid Plans

Isaiah 48:17
This is what the Lord says - your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, "I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go."

The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft a-gley. ~Robert Burns, To a Mouse 

Welcome back, my friends!

I'd love to be able to say that my hiatus from regular blogging for the reasons stated here have moved me closer to realizing more sequels to my two novel series, The Glade Series and Adventures in The Glade.  As I write this, I've only begun rereading the last book in Adventures, Revelation.  But you know what?  That's absolutely okay, because the amazing events which have transpired these past weeks have truly required my undivided attention.

It all starts when my mother receives an invitation to the 60th wedding anniversary celebration for two of her oldest and dearest friends.  My brother, Bill, and I have such fond memories of growing up with these folks and their children; so when Mom mentions how much she'd love to attend, but doesn't feel capable of driving herself, Bill and I decide to spend the weekend with her so we can take her.  What a marvelous and joyful reunion it is for all of us!

Next up, it's my husband, Danny's, retirement party!  Hooray!!!  His co-workers plan a 70s theme celebration for him, no doubt inspired by this photo:


It is quite dim in the room where we gathered, so snapping usable photos is a challenge for me.

Here is a great, campy one taken in proper lighting:

I love it!  But what I love even more is having Danny home every day.  And no, before you ask, retirement is anything but boring for him, but that's a blog for another time.

And now that we have converted Giovanni's old room into a guest room, we can have our oldest granddaughter, Virginia Rose, over to spend the night.

However, this is what it transforms into when we're anticipating her arrival:

Virginia spends two weekends with us during September.  What fantastic fun we have!

Of course, we get together with Virginia's parents and her sisters, Savannah Jane and Alexandra Nancy, too.  Here are cute photos from their recent lunch visit with us.

So although I intended this break in blogging for a totally different reason, God most definitely had other plans.  Yes, I will finish the rereading soon.  No, there is not yet a clear path as to how another novel will play out.

But I'm not worried.

While the best laid plans of mice and men may go awry, God's never do.


Sunday, September 10, 2017

I Will Lift My Eyes

Luke 21:25
There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars.  On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea.

We have witnessed the turmoil and suffering from Hurricane Harvey.  The flood damage in Houston and other parts of Texas, as well as Louisiana, will not be easily or readily resolved.  As a nation, to help our fellow Americans recover fully, we are in it for the long haul.

And we pray.

Out west, wild fires rage, destroying acres upon acres of land.  Forests, wildlife and homes up in smoke.  The recovery will be slow, tedious, arduous.

And we pray.

Mexico experiences the largest earthquake the country has witnessed in over a century.  Destruction, loss of life, a monumental crisis for all those living there.

And we pray.

Now Hurricane Irma churns toward Florida, promising storm surges the likes of which haven't been seen in ages.  A monster of a maelstrom, which has demolished islands in the Caribbean, and has caused most of Florida's population to evacuate ahead of its wrath.  Already, federal funds are earmarked to help in what is expected to be another long-range ascension to normalcy.

So much loss.  So much sorrow.  So much tragedy.

And we pray.

And some ask:  Are these the signs of end times?

"But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." (Matthew 24:36)

We cannot know.  But we can watch.

And pray.

And we can turn our full attention to God, not allowing the afflictions of the day distract us from the focus which should be first and foremost in our lives.  These timely words from Max Lucado touched my heart and held it this weekend, and I simply had to share them with you all:

Turn your attention away from the crisis and, for a few minutes, celebrate God.  It does you no good to obsess yourself with your trouble.  The more you stare at it, the bigger it grows.  Yet, the more you look to God, the quicker the problem is reduced to its proper size.  This was the strategy of the psalmist:
I will lift my eyes to the hills -
from whence comes my help?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.  (Psalm 121:1)
Do you see the intentionality in those words?  I will lift up my eyes.
Do not meditate on the mess.  You gain nothing by setting your eyes on the calamities.  You gain everything by setting your eyes on the Lord.

In these troubled times, let us all lift up our eyes unto the Lord, our God, from whom the true help will always come.  May we, suffering and struggling in the temporal, never lose sight of the eternal promise.

God's grace and blessings be with you all!

No, I'm not officially back to my regular blogging schedule as yet, but I was so moved to share these thoughts with you, I couldn't say "no" to God.  If you would like to leave prayer requests for friends and family affected by these recent natural disasters, please do so in the comments.

Our Grand Grands

  Children's children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children. ~Proverbs 17:6 Every year that our family vi...