Friday, September 28, 2018

Turn, Turn, Turn

Ecclesiastes 3:1
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens.

Fall officially arrives last week, but with temperatures in the upper 80s here in Georgia, it sure doesn't feel like it.  Yet, the signs of the season are surprisingly here.

Leaves, especially those from the oak trees, are intent upon littering our deck.  My husband, Danny, and I are scratching our heads because we have no recollection of this ever happening in September.  And the acorn "bombs" that shower down and explode on that same surface?  Makes me think Racer is up there with the local squirrels, helping them secure their annual harvest, while playing practical jokes on us at the same time.  If you've ever had one of these errant nuts hit your head, you won't soon forget the impact.  One big ouch!

Thus begins the autumnal chore of daily deck sweeping . . .

Remember the flowers we plant in the spring?

For the most part, they thrive during the summer months, with the exception of the poor Toe Tickler.

Either too much or too little water led to its untimely demise.

The begonias?

Think be-gone-ias.  They start off strong, but as September rolls around, they become anemic and spindly.  Danny dumps them before I can photograph them in their waning state, but believe me, it was a sad sight to see.

The Chocolate Chip plant meets the same fate.

Danny makes the mistake of feeding it Miracle-Gro, thinking the purple blooms might regenerate, only to discourage any and all further growth.

But the double impatiens and the Polka Dot plant, purchased to replace the Toe Tickler, are still flourishing.

As the temperatures drop over the next few weeks and fall, at long last, turns to winter, these, too, will be laid to rest.  Their season passed; their duty done.

As King Solomon so aptly expresses in Ecclesiastes, there is a time and a place for every activity under the heavens.  Seasons come and go.  They will continue to come and go.  And we must turn, turn, turn into each one.

Only God remains unchanging and unchangeable.

For all eternity.

Let us give Him the praise and the glory in every season of our lives.


Tuesday, September 25, 2018

I Can See Clearly Now

Mark 8:23-25
He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village.  When he had spit on the man's eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, "Do you see anything?"
He looked up and said, "I see people; they look like trees walking around."
Once more Jesus put his hands on the man's eyes.  Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.

It is a common experience for those who have cataract removal/lens implant to encounter intrusive floaters and an indefinitely long recovery from the effects of dilation and the surgery itself.  I'm feeling extremely fortunate that my bounce back to stellar vision happens fairly quickly.

But in those first days?  I can so relate to the Biblical passage shared above!  When I visit Dr. H., my regular eye doctor, for a post-op, he tells me my pupil is still somewhat dilated, my floaters are "normal," and my vision, believe it or not, is 20/25.  Really???  It doesn't seem that way, at least in those moments.  My eye still feels beaten up, and Tylenol and eye-drops are my constant companions, but I do trust Dr. H.'s expertise, until I hear, "Who knows?  When you come back here in a week, your eyesight could be even better than that."

He must be kidding.  I mean, 20/25 is fantastic, isn't it?  I couldn't ask or hope for anything better.

But as always, God has other plans.

On my return visit, Dr. H. performs his routine check (Can I say I've had my fill of bright lights in my eyes at this point?).  Once complete, he grins from ear to ear.  "What did I tell you about your vision last week?"

"That it might improve?"

"Exactly!  Congratulations!  You're now seeing 20/15!"

20/15???  20/15!!!

Once I recover from the shock of this incredulous news, I can't stop smiling.  I am on the proverbial Cloud 9, and don't plan to descend from it any time soon.  What a miraculous gift this is!

It just took time . . .


So often when we pray to God, we want His answer to be quick, and we want it our way.  But as I've written here before, we control neither God's answers nor His timing.  He does.  When I go into surgery, I must admit, my prayer, aside from the ones about lasting through the fasting, is to come out with improved eyesight.  That's all.  Nothing more, nothing less.

But in those first hours after the operation, feeling like this blind man for whom people looked like trees walking around, I wonder, "How long, oh Lord, how long?  When will I truly see clearly?"

I can just picture Him shaking His head, and fixing me in His loving and ever-patient gaze.  "When I say so, my child.  Now, come!  Let me put My hands on your eyes."

In His time.  By His touch.  I see.



Friday, September 21, 2018

Dining With Jesus

Matthew 26:26-28
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat; this is my body."
Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you.  This is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins."

When Danny and I get engaged in 2004, he is leading the praise and worship band at his United Methodist church's contemporary service in which I will later participate.  It requires a bit of getting used to for me, as I am coming from the Episcopal church, where the word "contemporary" is a huge no-no in light of the staid liturgical tradition.  Honestly, it doesn't take me too long to embrace, wholeheartedly, this energetic and uplifting way to worship God.  But there is one ritual I have a great deal of difficulty leaving behind:  the weekly observance of the Lord's Supper.

The Holy Eucharist, or Mass, as my Catholic brothers and sisters call it, is the focal point of the Episcopal/Anglican Sunday service.  The sermon takes a serious back seat; I once heard an Episcopal priest say, "If the minister preaches over seven minutes, he doesn't understand his congregation's 'fanny time.'"  Not so in the modern United Methodist church!  With Communion happening only once a month, the pastor is not only free to be long-winded, but is encouraged to be so.  Needless to say, my fanny needs significant tweaking in those first weeks of attending Kennesaw United Methodist!

After I get over the initial shock of the once-a-month celebration of the Lord's Supper, I realize, to my chagrin, how much I have taken this commemoration of Jesus' new covenant for granted.  Now, with only being able to partake in the bread and the cup every four weeks, I anticipate this sacrament with renewed joy and thankfulness.

So, when Pastor Graham asks me to assist him in serving Communion recently, I am beside myself with enthusiasm!  What could be better than sharing with and serving others the body and blood of Christ Jesus on such a personal level?

But I'm not prepared, in any way, shape or form, for the impact this this service has upon my very being.

As the individual members of the congregation approach to receive the bread from Pastor Graham and the cup from me, I meet their gazes and say to each one, "The blood of Christ, shed for you."  Their eyes give me an unprecedented glimpse into their souls.  Therein, I see the gamut of emotions:  unbridled joy, uncertainty of worthiness, worries concealed beneath lids closed, tears flowing with gratefulness.

I witness it all.  My own eyes threaten to spill over with the empathetic love and connection I experience with my fellow Christians, those seeking to follow Jesus just as I do.  Those whose experiences, conditions and challenges I can only guess at in that brief, yet unforgettable, moment of relationship.

A relationship that miraculously transcends time and place.  We are at the table of Jesus.  In His presence.  Dining with Him.

We are one in the Spirit, and one in the Lord.

As our nation goes through perhaps the most divisive time we have ever endured since the Civil War, may we all remember that we are God's children, and loved by Him beyond measure.  May we love each other as Jesus commanded, forgetting our differences and focusing on our similarities.

Jesus has set the table for all.  Will you accept His invitation to dine?


Tuesday, September 18, 2018

On the Fast Track

Matthew 21:22
If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.

I cannot begin to thank all my dear friends here at the blog and on Facebook for your kind and generous prayers for the success of my recent cataract surgery.  Yes, the outcome is everything I could have hoped for and more!  Had I been in the "dark" so long that I'd forgotten how brilliant and vibrant the colors of God's creation are?  All I can say is, every time I gaze upon anything, even the television, I am awed and humbled, so thankful that God has seen fit to restore my sight through the capable and talented hands of those who minister to me last Wednesday.

While most of you are praying for a safe operation, as the day approaches, I find myself asking the Lord for something else, something that to most folks might seem frivolous and inconsequential.  You see, I'm not one of those people who can go without food for any significant length of time.  If I'm forced to, I feel drained, irritable and downright grouchy.  Just ask my husband, Danny!  Nor am I a happy camper without my morning coffee.  But on the day of the surgery, I am allowed only a sip of water when I get up.

I have to fast.

And that's precisely what I pray to my Father about.  Because I know, it's only through His strength and grace that I can make it through this ordeal without physically and mentally collapsing.  Only God can place me on the "fast" track.

Does God hear my plea?  You better believe it!  And He answers in a bigger way than I could have ever envisioned, reminding me of just how large and in charge He is.

My fast begins at 5:30 a.m. and lasts until noon.  Not once do I miss coffee.  Not once does my fickle stomach feel anything but full - no growling, no rumbling, no nothing!  And when I'm finally free to eat and drink, I'm neither ravenous nor thirsty in the least.  I sip on orange juice and nibble at a ham sandwich that Danny has brought along, but am unable to finish either.

I am already filled.

Filled by the Holy Spirit.

And my heart overflows with gratitude to the One who received my prayer, and so graciously answered it.


Tuesday, September 11, 2018

This Is The Game That Never Ends . . .

Daniel 4:3
How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders!  His kingdom is an eternal kingdom; his dominion endures from generation to generation.

When our oldest granddaughter, Virginia Rose, turns eight in July, my husband, Danny, and I give her the one, the only, granddaddy and grand-master of all board games:  Monopoly!

Invented in 1903 by Lizzy Magie, and dubbed "The Landlord's Game," Monopoly has seen many transformations throughout the ensuing years, but has managed, even in this age of technology, to remain a family-friendly classic.

Once she learns the rules, Virginia takes to the game like a born entrepreneur.  She can't get enough of it!

We spend hours on the living room floor rolling dice, purchasing real estate, railroads and utilities, and trying our best to buy blocks of property on which houses or hotels can be erected.

So much depends on the rolls of the dice, the dollars in our personal funds, and the dictates of the Chance and Community Chest cards as to whether or not we succeed in outdoing the other.

Monopoly is the definition of risk, luck and savvy decisions, not to mention the inevitable crushing of one's opponent.  The latter is hardly the recipe for God's kingdom, yet I believe that the lessons learned in playing this game show us how to live in the world, yet not be of it.

  • Stewardship - We are called by God to be good stewards of the gifts He's given us.  If we've been given monetary resources in abundance, we need to make responsible decisions about how to use/share those funds for the good of our family, our church family, and others in our community who are in need.
  • Life isn't fair - Jesus never guaranteed us a stress-free, no-hassle life, but He did promise to be with us through it all, no matter what afflictions or troubles come our way.  He has vowed to carry our burdens when we lay them at His feet.
  • Risk taking is a part of life - Jesus sent His disciples out, two by two, to spread the Good News.  There was no guarantee that the Word would be met with acceptance, but off they went in faith, willing to risk it all for Jesus and His Message of repentance and salvation.
  • God's love is infinite, eternal, never-ending - Oh, yes!  And so is the game of Monopoly - never-ending, that is.  Virginia and I play for hours, taking breaks here and there, especially to check out if this Gammie has any moving joints left after sitting on the floor for way too long.  No, we never have a definitive winner, as the pendulum of money and property seems to swing back and forth when least expected, leaving us in perpetual game time suspense.
The Monopoly board remains in place overnight, ready and waiting for the challenge we will take up once again in the morning.  How this brings back priceless memories of the marathon games I play with neighborhood friends as a child, and again, with my own children during the hot and steamy doldrums of summer.

From generation to generation, the game endures.

From generation to generation, God's kingdom, overflowing with love and grace, endures.

And when we allow our Father to have a monopoly on our hearts, we can proclaim in glorious triumph, "We win!"


Friday, September 7, 2018

Caterpillar What???

Ephesians 1:7
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace.

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 times seven."

This August, an army of Orange Striped Oakworms (pictured above) take up residence in the towering oak tree whose branches arch high above our deck.  In this part of their life-cycle, eating is a constant activity, and the oak tree, it seems, provides a bountiful spread.

But as we all know, eating results in the eventual process of elimination.  That's right - caterpillar poop!

Now, these tiny pellets may look innocuous enough, even reminding us of small peppercorns.  But don't let their innocent facade fool you.  When the rain falls, and we've had a ton of precipitation this summer, these itsy-bitsy particles swell to three times their original size!  And to add insult to injury, when we go to sweep the bulbous scat off the deck, they smear, leaving behind an ugly discoloration on the wood surface.  No photo here; I'm leaving to your imagination your favorite illustration of "gross!."

It doesn't take another of these incidences for my husband, Danny, and I to sweep off the deck every chance we get.  Better to be proactive than caught off guard.

And aren't our sins rather like those dry, inert pellets?  If we don't acknowledge them promptly, running to Jesus for forgiveness, asking Him to sweep them from the decks of our hearts, they are sure to swell, fester and leave a poisonous stain on our souls.

Just as Jesus is sure to forgive us when we repent of our sins, we must be just as quick to forgive others.  If we fail to do so, as many times as the circumstances might require, we only punish ourselves.

Simple concepts.  Not easy to follow at times, but follow, we must.

And follow, we can, when we are following Jesus.


Tuesday, September 4, 2018

I Was Blind, But Now I See

Mark 10:50-52
Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped up and came to Jesus.
"What do you want me to do for you?"  Jesus asked him.
The blind man said, "Rabbi, I want to see."
"Go," said Jesus, "your faith has healed you."  Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

Recently, I go to my eye doctor for my annual exam.  The evidence is now incontrovertible.  The cataract in my left eye has become so intrusive, it must be removed, and the sooner the better.

Now, I must confess.  My doctor advises me last summer to have the procedure done, but I develop a severe case of "chicken," and decide, because the new contact prescription helps so much, to postpone the surgery.  After all, with everything my husband, Danny, goes through concerning a new pacemaker in 2017, I'm simply not up for any more medical drama.

But this time around, I bite the bullet, scheduling my appointment for cataract removal the moment I get home from the doctor's.  It's set for September 12.  I'm actually relieved to be going forward, knowing how much my eyesight will improve once the offending player is removed, and a permanent (hopefully perfect) lens is implanted.

There is one problem though.  When my contacts are upgraded, I neglect to do the same for my glasses, which I'm required to wear for an entire week before the surgery.  Yikes!  How will that affect my ability to read?  To write?  What about driving?  Will headaches come calling on a daily basis?  Or will my eyes adjust smoothly to this transition?

Instead of worrying about all this, I am praying about it, knowing God will help me get through whatever distress or discomfort I might endure those seven days.  And friends, I would so appreciate your prayers, too, as the wearing of the glasses begins tomorrow.

I have to focus (pun intended) on the ultimate goal:  to see clearly without the aid of contacts or glasses.  Although the blind man in Mark's verses above makes his request to Jesus in person, I'm asking the Lord to work through the hands of the technicians, nurses and doctors to restore my sight, and heal me completely.

I have faith the Lord will do this.

He's the only One who can.


Sing a New Song

  Danny and I in his new music studio Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. ~Psalm 96:1 A new song shall I sing unto...