Friday, February 16, 2018

Moments and Musings

Galatians 5:4
You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.

I'm uncertain as to whether or not my regular readers here at Meditations of My heart are aware that I have a second blog, Moments and Musings.  I begin this space years ago as a way to feature Danny's photos and share random ruminations that didn't quite fit the format of Meditations.  But more recently, Moments and Musings has been a venue for poetry.

Now I'll be the first to tell you, poetry does not come easily for me, and I have no illusions that I'm in any way good at it.  But there are times when the words well up, and I know I have to answer the call.

So what I offer here today is something much more conducive to Moments and Musings, but in light of all the challenges my husband, Danny, and I are facing on the home front, this is the blog I was able to pull together.

Our world is hurting.  The Bible has so much to say about our sinfulness.  We have been given the greatest gift possible in Christ Jesus, yet so many choose to alienate themselves from the way, the truth and the life promised us in the Savior.  If you are like me, there are times I think the world at large has lost its collective mind.  This poem attempts to capture the lessons and the loss, when every opportunity is given, yet people remain fixated upon their own vision of right and wrong.

A Bitten Apple

A bitten apple
A snake bite
Strike discord
From the One
whose heart loves
A parted sea
A people saved
Grumbling chorus
Inept idols
Still He loves
Wilderness voices
Calling, coaxing
Cautioning, cajoling
Criticizing cries
Yet He loves
Gentle teaching
Healing words
Miracles witnessed
Then the cross
Because He loves
Rotten apples
Viper's venom
People lost
And still, He loves
And still, He loves


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

A Blessed Lent

Matthew 6:16-17
When you fast, don't make yourselves look sad like the hypocrites.  They put a look of suffering on their faces so that people will see they are fasting.  The truth is, that's all the reward they will get.  So when you fast, wash your face and make yourself look nice.

The Lenten season is upon us!  Tomorrow, Ash Wednesday, heralds the inception of forty days during which many Christians choose to fast from some habit or activity that they feel interferes with developing a closer connection to God.  Their goal is to create a deeper relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as hearts and minds prepare for the glorious arrival of Easter.

For me, however, Lent is not just about giving up something, but taking on a new discipline or practice which will align me more intimately with God.  In light of this, I will once again be reading 40 Voices by my author friend, Jean Wise, who blogs at Healthy Spirituality.  I find Jean's thoughtful reflections so uplifting and inspiring, I highly recommend this book to add to your Lenten regimen.

Another practice upon which I will embark is to seek intentional times of solitude and silence with the Lord each day.  To aid me in doing this, I will be reading Whispers of Rest - 40 Days of God's Love to Revitalize Your Soul by Bonnie Gray.  Ironically, I order this book months ago, but never take the time to delve into it.  Lent, the 40 day season, is the perfect time to start on this new adventure of learning to, as Bonnie states, "Refresh an intimacy with God in your (my) prayer life," and "Revitalize your (my) soul with His words of love and peace for you (me) each day.

Oh, might both these endeavors produce much fruit!

Okay, so that's the taking on part of my Lenten journey.  So what, you may be wondering, am I giving up?  If you were following me last year, you know I take a plunge, a deep one, and give up Facebook.  Gulp and gulp again!  Fasting from social media, as much trepidation as I have at the time, turns out to be a good and healing thing for me to do.  To this day, I've maintained a healthy limit on how much time I allow myself to engage in that realm of distraction.

But sometimes, when one bad habit falls by the wayside, another rises up to take its place.  Such is the mission of the Deceiver.  For me, that's listening to talk radio, a certain program in particular.  While this is fun, challenging and informative, it swallows up valuable time that I could be spending with God through prayer, study, reflection, and writing.  So starting tomorrow, let the fast begin!  (Please, Lord, let me be cheerful about it!  Is my face clean?)

And as you enter into this Lenten season, my friends, do remember that each Sunday during this time is a "mini-Easter," a day you have permission to indulge in whatever you have denied yourself in the preceding week.  After all, if God rested on the seventh day after all His work, shouldn't we?

As Lent progresses, I will keep you apprised of the things I'm discovering and learning, and how I sense God's presence in this time of spiritual growth.  I'd love to know, too, what disciplines you have decided to take on, and what you've deemed necessary to give up as you journey toward Easter.  Please share your thoughts freely and honestly in the comments below.

Who knows how your words will inspire and comfort the heart of others?

A Blessed Lent to you all!


Friday, February 9, 2018

Day by Day

1 Corinthians 2:9
But as Scripture says:  "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined the things that God has prepared for those who love him."

The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one's 'own', or 'real' life.  The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one's real life - the life God is sending one day by day. ~C. S. Lewis

The life God is sending day by day by day by day.

This is the real, in real time.

This is up-side-the-head-smack reality.  Conceived and prepared by a far-seeing and Holy God.

And our self-centered, myopic vision never sees it coming.

But it arrives . . .

How we deal with the uncomfortable present moments, how we navigate the seemingly insurmountable obstacles, how we play our hand of unfortunate cards, speaks volumes about the health of our spiritual journey.

Am I playing these inconvenient cards well, as the Lord would have me do?

Or am I floundering about in an overwhelming sea of doubt, unwilling to submit my will to His?

Through the interruptions, the upset of the apple cart, the intrusion of needs unforeseen, the tough hand dealt, God shines with His unfailing presence.  He grants the grace, the strength, the love, the courage, the perseverance to put our best foot forward as we cling to His Word and His promises.

Until my predictable world is upended, I could not see how God has been readying this path for me.

Accepting adversity.  Accepting life as it unfolds.  Accepting His will for me.


And becoming, in such unexpected ways, the me He intends me to be.

So, dear friends, when your life is interrupted, and the direction you had in mind is denied, remember that God has a purpose for you.  Only for you.

Your real life is His life in you.

Play the hand you're given confidently, day by day, knowing the Lord has your back.


Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Lord Bless and Keep You

Dear Friends,

Due to an unexpected family situation, I will be absent from my blog for an indeterminate amount of time.  My family and I would so appreciate your prayers as we traverse this new journey.

And I leave you all with the above prayer of blessing while I'm away, as I care deeply about each and every one of you.

Until later, Love and Blessings!

Friday, January 19, 2018

We Can Work Wonders

Isaiah 9:2
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen; not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.  ~C. S. Lewis

Our home, which I affectionately call "Little House in the Big Woods," tends to be rather dark.  This is especially true in summer when the trees are fully leafed, shading us from the heat and light of the sun.  That being said, it's rare for my husband, Danny, and I not to have lights on during the day, especially in the area where our computers are.

Even when the lights are on, however, seeing into our cupboards, especially on gloomy days, becomes downright frustrating.  I cannot begin to tell you how many times I've had to fetch a flashlight to find the object I'm seeking in a cabinet or under the sink.

Finally, as fed up as I, Danny decides to do something about it.  He searches online for small, rechargeable, LED lights with motion sensors that he can install in some of the darker recesses in our kitchen and bathroom.  Aren't these cute little guys?

And what an incredible difference they make!

Best of all, because they are motion sensitive, the lights stay on only while you are rummaging around, turning themselves off when activity ceases.  As Danny loves to save on energy costs, this works perfectly for us.

These lights may be small, but they work wonders.

We, too, may be small, but when we welcome Jesus, the Light of the World, into our lives, we can shine His bright and marvelous light into this dark and fallen world.  A world in desperate need of God's forgiveness, love, redemption, and grace.

We can, with God's help, work wonders.


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

I Love You, Too!

Luke 10:27
He answered, "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all you mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"

We have our oldest granddaughter, Virginia Rose, staying with us over the weekend.  It is always an indescribable joy to have her, and my husband, Danny, and I cherish every moment spent with her.

What thrills and surprises our hearts is how many times in the course of a day we hear Virginia declare, "I love you, Papa!  I love you, Gammie!"  She may pipe up when she's working on a drawing, waiting for her peanut butter and jelly sandwich, brushing her teeth, or playing games with us.  No, she's not looking for favors.  Virginia is merely expressing the generous feelings rising up from the depths of her soul.  She is so grateful for her time with us.

"I love you, Gammie!  I love you, Papa!"

"I love you, too!"  we assure her as hugs are shared all around.

Can anything make us feel better than that unaffected and genuine expression of emotion?  No, not a thing!

And often, Virginia will conclude her affirmation of love for us with appreciation for her family.  "I have the best family ever!"

Wow . . . just wow!

And in Virginia's readily shared proclamations of love, I am given pause to reflect:  How many times a day do I stop what I'm doing and say to my Father, my Jesus, my Holy Spirit, "I love you!"  If you are like me, not nearly enough!

And how many times do I regard my neighbors, my fellow human beings, as "the best family ever!"?  Loving them as myself just as Jesus commanded?  Once again, epic fail!

But with God's help, I can turn this all around.  Because no longer do I simply want to take Luke 10:27 to heart, I need to act on it.

Live by it.

Looking with the love of Jesus at all people as God's children - the best family there is.

Telling the Lord, often and with thanksgiving, "I love you!"

And I have no doubt I'll hear Him answer, "I love you, too!"


Friday, January 12, 2018

Dance, Dance, Wherever You May Be . . .

Psalm 149:3
Let them praise God's name with dance; let them sing God's praise with the drum and lyre!

There are few novels I've read in my adult life that begged a second go round.  These are Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, C. S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia, and Glynn Young's first two books in his Dancing Priest SeriesDancing Priest and A Light Shining.  So imagine my excitement and sheer delight when I learn Young has written a third book in this series, Dancing King.

It is everything I could have hoped for, and then some!

The novel continues the story of Michael and Sarah Kent-Hughes, with their families and friends, as they embark upon the most challenging journey of their lives:  Being crowned King and Queen of Great Britain.  While Young provides ample background information, allowing Dancing King to stand on its own merit, I cannot stress enough to my readers the value of engaging in the preceding novels first.  They will provide a rich and complex tapestry of understanding that allows one to deeply appreciate Dancing King for the outstanding novel it is.

So instead of simply reviewing Young's latest and greatest, the "crowning glory," if you will, I wish to share with you the reasons I'm head-over-heels enchanted by his writing in the first place.

Young is a masterful storyteller.  He creates three-dimensional characters, who are believable in every way, and who face many life-changing choices and decisions.  I fell in love with chief protagonist, Michael Kent, the moment he appeared on the page, and later with the beautiful Sarah, with whom Michael is smitten.  Then there are literally hosts of other richly crafted players, who add depth and drama to the story, some good, some downright evil, but all well-developed and unique.

And the plots?  Young keeps you guessing as he leads you brilliantly from one scenario to the next.  The reader is treated to love and laughter, mystery and intrigue, tears and fears, and all-too-real dangers that loom in all three novels.

But the overriding theme I find in all of Young's masterpieces is the unabashed testament to Christian faith and the power of prayer.  Again and again, we witness Michael, an Anglican priest, showing others the love of Jesus through his acts of kindness, forgiveness and forbearance.  He embodies perfectly what it means to be a Christian in the world, but not of it.

If you are a believer, these novels are guaranteed to jump start your faith walk, and breathe new life into your prayer practice.  And if you are not a believer?  Father, and now King Michael, might speak directly to your heart and soul in ways you never imagined possible.

And you just might find yourself dancing along with Michael, in praise to the Father.


You can purchase all three of Glynn Young's novels at his blog, Faith, Fiction, Friends.  And for further accolades for his books, and to order them, visit his dedicated website:  Dancing Priest.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Amazing Chef

Proverbs 22:6
Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

About two years ago, while visiting with us, our granddaughter, Virginia Rose, watches an episode of Master Chef Junior with my husband, Danny.  She is enthralled seeing children as young as nine creating dishes most adults can only dream of making.  When the show ends, Virginia asks wistfully, "Papa, can you make me a Master Chef?"

Danny chuckles.  "Wait until you are a little bit older, Virginia, and yes, then I'll be happy to teach you how to cook."

Now that Virginia is seven, we both feel she's ready to embark on her journey to becoming a future chef.  This is one of the gifts she receives for Christmas.

This kit may look childish on the outside, but it's definitely not.  All the tools, utensils and measuring cups/spoons are just what you'd expect to find in an adult kitchen.  Virginia is so excited to begin her first real cooking lesson with her Papa.  The recipe they choose?  Lemon cookies!

Danny shows Virginia how to grease the cookie sheet.

Checking her new apron pockets for her tools of the trade.

Holding her bright red cup measure while Papa pours the sugar.

The mixer, which she turned on, is whirring away,

While Virginia looks on thoughtfully.

Cracking an egg like an expert!

Adding the egg to the sugar mixture

Here comes the vanilla!

Watching closely what Papa is doing

Squeeze that lemon!

Now for the flour mixture

More measuring, and trying out her brand new whisk

Virginia defers to Danny to actually get the cookies onto the sheet, but she's all in the game when it comes to making icing.  Yum!

And the final product?  See for yourself!

Virginia is so proud of herself, and so she should be.  Each time she visits, Danny plans to engage her in some baking/cooking activity.  Who knows?  With this kind of start in the right direction, perhaps Virginia will one day be an amazing chef.

Just like her Papa!


Friday, January 5, 2018

Breathe on Me, Breath of God

Genesis 2:7
Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

The breath of life . . .

How many of us pay attention to our breathing?  It is something that transpires within us automatically.  It is a function of living.  We don't need to think about it.

Or do we?

On Thanksgiving morning of last year, I awake at my mother's home with searing pain in the right side of my neck and shoulder.  Agony is too kind a word to describe the sensation.  It is all I can do to maneuver the 11 pound turkey into the roasting pan and place it in the oven in preparation for the rest of the family arriving at noon.  My granddaughter, Virginia Rose, witnessing the frequent grimaces on my face, is so worried about me.  I reassure her that I'll be fine, but I'm popping Tylenol more liberally than I care to admit.

And I question in prayer, "Lord, where did this come from?  Why the sudden onslaught of excruciating discomfort?  Is this my thorn in the side?  Why now, when Mom needs my help so badly?  Please, it it's Your will, let this pain depart."

It abates.  Slightly.  But it seems, as I drive home after the Thanksgiving holiday, it is determined to persist.

As this condition continues, my husband, Danny, who has been faithfully visiting a chiropractor, Dr. Cris, for treatment of his right shoulder, which seemed to practically lock up in reaction to his many recent surgeries in that area of his body, advises me to try the same.  "Martha, it can't hurt to try.  I have so much more movement in my shoulder since I began this treatment.  I'm sure Dr. Cris can help.  Trust me."

I trust.

And I am not disappointed.

By the second visit, Dr. Cris has figured out the source of my distress.  She explains:  "Martha, this is not so much an issue of spinal alignment as it is your body trying to readjust to being normal and in sync with its former rhythms.  With all Danny and you endured this past year, you have been in 'fight or flight' mode for months.  Now that things have calmed down, your muscles simply don't know what to do as they try to relax and adjust.  This is where the treatments will help, but you need to do something else that will accelerate healing."

"What's that?"  I ask, desperate to know.

"It's as simple as breathing," says Dr. Cris.  "We naturally breathe using our diaphragms until we reach the age of ten, or so.  Somehow, at this time, we forget how we are meant to breathe, and begin to send all our efforts to the lungs.  It's time to reeducate yourself, train yourself to breathe correctly.  I promise, this will not only calm you on the inside, but will heal you in the long run."

Dr. Cris then gives me a simple exercise to begin monitoring my breathing and become more aware of the process.  Am I skeptical?  Yes.  But I'm willing, in my current condition, to try anything.

And guess what?

It works!!!

Yes, I am still practicing, thinking, being conscious of my breathing, but lo and behold, my pain has lessened substantially, and I now catch myself diaphragm-breathing even when I'm not purposely attempting it!

So is it any wonder that my word for 2018, the one which chose me, is Breathe?  And as I work through the year to master this peaceful and fulfilling method of breathing, I will also cherish the knowledge that God first breathed life into me that I might fulfill His purposes for me on earth.

So stop right where you are, my friends.

Take several deep breaths from the bottom of your "tummy."

And tell me how you feel.

May the breath of God breathe blessings upon you all in the New Year and beyond!


Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Wise Men Still Seek Him

Matthew 2:9-12
After they heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.  When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.  On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.  Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

Epiphany, or Three Kings' Day, occurs twelve days after Christmas Day according to liturgical church calendars.  It is the time when we recall the Magi's visit to Jesus with their precious gifts, worshiping and paying homage to Him as King of the Jews (Matthew 2:2).

While in many cultures throughout the world, Epiphany is regarded as a holiday to be celebrated unto itself, in American tradition, the Wise Men are, more often than not, reduced to being cameos in a nativity scene.  Their arrival in Bethlehem, instead of occurring months or possibly years after Jesus' birth as some scholars contend, becomes simultaneous with the appearance of the Son of God into the world.

And after Christmas Day is past, most families hustle and bustle to dismantle all the decorations, storing them safely away before the New Year rolls around.  Stashing the three Wise Men along with the rest, though their official day of recognition and remembrance has yet to come.

Not me.

Not this year.

Not in any future year.

No more putting-up-the-tree and frantically decorating the day after Thanksgiving.

Because Christmas Day doesn't end the season of Christmas, it begins it.  Twelve days.  Twelve glee-filled, glorious, lights-twinkling, deck-the-halls days to celebrate the coming of the Light of the World.

I think it's high time to revive this tried and true tradition.

So although I will take down the decorations the day before Epiphany, my handsome trio of Wise Men will remain on display until the sun goes down on their special day.

After all, being the first ones to recognize Jesus as the one and only King, they deserve their moment in the spotlight.

And thanks be to God, like the Magi of old, wise men and women still seek Him.


Moments and Musings

Galatians 5:4 You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. I'm ...