Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Trunks, Treats and Thank Yous!


1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

As you can tell from the photo above, our oldest granddaughter, Virginia Rose, is all set for the Trunk or Treat held this past Sunday at our church.  She has worn her kitty cat mask off and on all weekend that she has spent with us, but now, with her costume donned, replete with tail, she is raring to go.  We are looking forward to meeting up with her little sisters, Savannah Jane and Alexandra Nancy, and her mom and dad at the event.

We are blessed with a bright, sunny, balmy October afternoon.  The Trunk or Treat is not just about getting candy, but also participating in lots of games and activities.  Alexandra falls in love with the inflated slide.  After Virginia helps her climb to the top several times,



she has it down pat.  Can you glimpse her at the top of this photo?



Here is the happy firefighter at the bottom!



Yes, both Savannah and Alexandra wanted identical costumes for Halloween.  Fireman Savannah and her daddy show off the book she wins in a Book Walk (think cake walk).



Here is Alexandra hoping to win a book for herself, but it was not to be.  Doesn't dampen her spirits, though!





Now it's time to visit the smartly decorated car trunks for more fun games and, of course, the ultimate prize:  candy!




















Bean bag toss with the one and only Spiderman!





As the girls make their rounds, and fill their trick-or-treat bags with coveted sweets, my daughter, Sarah, and I repeatedly voice identical admonitions when each little hand grabs a goody:  "What do you say?"

"Thank you," the girls say politely.

And I recall, as though it were yesterday, the countless times I had to remind Sarah, and her brother, Daniel, to say thank you when offered any gift, no matter how small or insignificant.  I have to admit, I always wondered when an automatic show of gratitude would permanently kick in.

But in observing Sarah with her girls, she clearly values that lesson learned long ago, and is committed to instilling the same gratitude attitude in her children.

And this begs the question:  How many times a day do we say, "Thank you" to God, for all His continual blessings in the past, and in the here and now?  Even in the lowest of circumstances, can we still utter those two simple words of gratitude, knowing that our Lord has everything in His loving hands?  I'm not saying this is easy, but it's necessary.  Choosing to be thankful, even in the tough moments, can work to amazingly restore our hope, our faith and our trust in the One who deserves all our thanks and praise, all the time.

I don't know if you, who are reading this post right now, have children or grandchildren who are still learning this lesson, but when my kids were young, I made up this jingle to the tune, "Love and Marriage."

Please and thank you
Please and thank you
Three little magic words are
Please and thank you
Any time or weather
Please and thank you go together

"Please"when we are praying to God.  "Thank you" because we know He hears our prayers.

Three magic words can, and do, work wonders!

Amen!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Friday, October 26, 2018

We Are One in the Spirit, We Are One in the Lord


John 17:20-23
My prayer is not for them alone.  I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.  May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one - I in them and you in me - so that they may be brought to complete unity.  Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

Laity Sunday was last week, and our lay leader, Jerry N., delivered a most inspirational message based on the Scripture above.  This post reflects my takeaways from the powerful words he shared with us.  Thank you, Jerry, for serving us so well, and especially for your unflagging service to the Lord!

No doubt about it, our country is going through one of the most divisive times in its history.  Heated rhetoric and incivility toward others of differing opinions has reached an unprecedented high, due largely, I believe, to the rapid rise of social media.  Anonymity allows for insults to be hurled and ideas to be unjustly shredded just because a person does not hold our particular beliefs.

What alarms me most, as the mid-terms are fast approaching, is the ratcheting up of volatility.  More and more masks are coming off.  The relative safety of the internet has been tossed aside as mob behavior is unabashedly encouraged by some, and conveniently ignored by others.  Dialogue is reduced to seeing who can out shout the other.

It's an us versus them mentality.

We've lost our middle ground, if there ever was any to begin with.  I'm beginning to wonder . . .

But as tragic as the division and discord is in society at large, it is especially heartbreaking when the church falls prey to secular vagaries, forgetting in the heat of the moment that their fellow worshipers are children of God.  We are overcome by the desire to be right instead of righteous.  Instead of actively listening to the opinions of others, we shut them up and shut them down over disagreements that are, in the eternal perspective, truly insignificant.

Let me share an incident that took place recently at our church.  For years, there was discussion about moving the contemporary service from the sanctuary to the CAC - Community Activities Center, which is basically a gym with a stage.  Was there an outcry of horror by some?  Of course!  Were there others who had a vision of what it could look like, who favored the move?  Of course, again!  Serious dialogue on this issue was initiated by the clergy and staff, and all opinions were respectfully listened to and considered.  When the decision was finally made to move the service, some folks were so outraged, they actually left the church.

You heard me right.

They left the church because they didn't get their way.  That is sadder than sad in my book.

As the Body of Christ, we are bound to have different outlooks and ideas for how things should be, but we also have a higher calling that is not of this world.  Jesus prays for our unity in worshiping God, that the Father may be one with us as He and the Father are one.  If we are to embrace Christianity fully, shouldn't we make this unity our greatest priority?  After all, God loves us all equally, no matter our race, social status or political affiliation.

Satan is reveling in the chaos which is now wreaking havoc on our country.  Let us not invite him into our houses of worship by refusing to love one another as Christ commanded.  May we, instead, be a beckoning light to this hurting, discordant world, demonstrating the powerful, restorative love of God to transform lives and heal divisions that threaten to keep us in denial of the love of the One who can, and will, always unite.

Let us strive, then, to be one in the Spirit and one in the Lord.  Ever praying that all unity will one day be restored.

And they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love.

They will know we are Christians by our love . . .

Amen!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

No Excuses!


Romans 1:20
For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

Some of my favorite moments each day are spent sitting on our deck, quietly and contemplatively, simply observing and appreciating God's wondrous creation that surrounds me.  This admiration is not reserved for the big components, like the towering trees and the occasional glimpses they allow of the endless sky.  It also is stirred by the smaller beauties that call to me, tugging at my heart to notice them, and to give thanks.

I've loved all the plants which have flourished in their respective pots this summer, but the pink impatiens, I must admit, appeals to me more than any other.  For starters, I'm a sucker for the underdog, and this plant, unlike its white and burgundy cousins, is the runt of the litter.  It neither grows nor blooms as aggressively as the others, and it's the first to wilt when its roots are dry, begging for my love and attention.

And here, at season's end, all the ministrations I've lavished on this plant has paid off in a delightful and unexpected way.


Three sturdy, perfectly formed blossoms.  And miracle of miracles, they appear simultaneously, and linger not for a few days or a week, but are now entering week three of their beautiful display.

What a gift for my eyes!  And for my heart.  Because as I gaze upon them, I can't help but think of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three in one and one in three.  Do you see it, too?

Just like St. Patrick is reputed to have used a three-leaf clover, a shamrock, to explain the mystery of the Trinity, so this pink impatiens has become that symbol for me.  God's invisible qualities are here seen clearly as I glean a fresh understanding from what has been lovingly made by His hands.

Yes, God's glory is revealed to us each and every day in myriad ways.  We simply have to stop and take notice, gazing with eyes filled with wonder and faith.

We have no excuse.

Amen.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Standing Up to the Test


James 1:12
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
James 4:5-6;10
Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us?  But he gives us more grace.  That is why Scripture says, "God opposes the proud, but shows favor to the humble.  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

Down here in the South, we're crazy about our college football.  Georgia is no exception, and though there are faithful fans of Georgia Tech, my husband, Danny's, alma mater, overwhelmingly, our population roots for the University of Georgia Bulldogs.  They affectionately refer to themselves as the "Dawg Nation."  And with this season's first six football games being won by huge margins, fans are, well, fanatic about winning!  Visions of a championship for Georgia are most definitely dancing in their heads in light of this powerhouse team.

It's no wonder, then, that last Saturday, hopes are running high as the Dawgs take on LSU at Tiger Stadium.  Surely, Georgia will stomp the Tigers just as easily as they've conquered their previous opponents.

But the Tigers are having none of it.  Putting the Dawgs to the test, the team comes out roaring and clawing, and when the smoke finally clears, it is anything but good news for Georgia.  David has whooped Goliath 36-16.

Mega-ouch!!!

I'm sure the Georgia players are still wondering what hit them.  And humble pie has probably been on the menu this entire week as they pick themselves up, brush themselves off, and prepare to meet their arch rival, the Florida Gators, in tomorrow's game at Jacksonville.

Losing never feels good nor right.  Yet, perhaps, the Dawgs had become a bit puffed up with pride at their record wins.  Maybe having been taken down a notch will turn out to be a good thing in the long run for them.  If they persevere through this trial, taking a long, hard look at their attitudes and abilities, changing in ways that help the entire team work better together, it can only bring blessings upon them.

And as much as I hate to admit it, it's been in times of adversity and loss, when I have humbled myself before the Lord, and asked for the help only He can give, that I've learned the most about who I am as His child.  I'm sure you, too, can cite many examples in your own lives that reflect this very same experience.

Standing up to the test . . .

Is it pleasant?  No.  Is it easy?  No.

But it is necessary.  Because it is in the hard and difficult moments that God's grace can brim to overflowing, filling our hearts and minds with conviction that we can overcome, and be made better versions of the persons He created us to be.

So we will see tomorrow if the Dawgs have humbled themselves before the Lord, so that He might lift them up.

Amen, and Go, Dawgs!

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Inviting You to "Uninvited"


Ephesians 6:12
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Back in March of this year, I have the honor and privilege of reading and reviewing Beckie Lindsey's first book, Secrets, in her Beauties from Ashes series.  You can read that post here.  So when Beckie announces the release of Book Two, Uninvited, in this amazing series, I can't wait to get my hands and my eyeballs on it!  My original intention is to read it slowly and simply savor each meaningful and thoughtfully crafted word Beckie writes as I reacquaint myself with her endearing and enduring characters.

Epic fail!

I can't put it down!!!  I'm instantly drawn back into the tumultuous and struggling lives of the four female protagonists, Mackenzie, Krystal, Tammi, and Sadie, as they attempt to face and overcome their individual demons of suicide, bulimia, and sexual abuse.  No, certainly not topics for dinner conversations, but definitely ills of our society, ills that leave victims feeling confused, unsure and unworthy of love.  God's love.

I, for one, am glad that Beckie has the fortitude to breach these issues, to bring them to light in such an empathetic and personal way through her characters, and to champion the power of Jesus to change hearts and transform lives.  Yes, some of the girls continue to wrestle with the concept of God's unconditional love, but don't we all at some point on our Christian journey?

And then there is the added dimension of the spiritual forces of evil wrangling for the hearts, minds and souls of these girls, determined to win them away from the only One who can save them.  As each girl strives to understand and to rely on the promises of God, the demons work even harder to squash their new-found freedoms and self-awareness.  Uninvited guests, to be sure.  Yet, the angels of light continue to counteract Satan's efforts, knowing their charges embody the potential to strengthen and promote God's kingdom in this world.

With Christmas right around the corner, now would be a most excellent time to order both Secrets and Uninvited for both yourself and that special young adult in your life.  You will love these novels as much as I do, and you will be inspired, guaranteed!

~
Meet Beckie Lindsey

Beckie is a wife and mother of three adult children and two adorable cats.  She is thoroughly content with a piece of dark chocolate, a cup of coffee, and a great book.  She loves to encourage others to not only know the truths of the Bible, but to experience them personally and practically in everyday life.  In addition to being an author and blogger, Beckie is the editor for SoCal Christian Voice.  You can connect with Beckie at her websiteTwitterInstagram, and Facebook

Friday, October 12, 2018

We're Off to See the Lizard!


Genesis 1:25
God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds.  And God saw that it was good.

It's October here in Georgia, but you wouldn't know it from the Indian Summer temperatures.  Although it's predicted that we will finally see a break in these by the end of this week, this past weekend when granddaughter, Virginia Rose, and I spend time with my Mom down in Oxford, Georgia, it is nothing but oppressive, sweltering heat.

We may not enjoy the sultry atmosphere, but there is one creature that thrives in it:  The Green Anole lizard.



These particular inhabitants often slip through cracks in the floor of Mom's screened in porch to scurry and explore the human environs for a change of pace, never imagining that small, inquisitive hands could or would become intent upon catching them.

"A lizard, Gammie!"  Virginia squeals excitedly.  "There's a lizard out here!  Oh, wait, I see another one!"

Virginia is off and running, but so are the lizards.  Ironically, when I stay with Mom for ten days in August, I never spot a one.  Now they appear with frequency, bordering, in my mind, on the miraculous; a delightful gift for my granddaughter.  Virginia is transfixed by the lizards and determined to capture one.  While I have absolutely no inclination to place my hands on these wiggly, flighty reptiles, Virginia does, following in the footsteps of her mother, Sarah, who used to engage in this very same pursuit many years ago.

No, she's not using the end of the broom stick to hurt the lizard, but to flush it out of hiding.  




There are some lingering spider webs on Mom's porch, something Virginia is loathe to touch, and I can't blame her.  I am leery, too!

Sometimes, the lizards run high up on the screen and out of reach.  Other times, they dart down through the openings in the porch floors, or hide behind the cross beams.  Still, Virginia doesn't give up hope that she can grab one at last.



Sadly, when she does finally seize one, I'm inside the house without my phone camera at the ready.  But I'm so glad Virginia realizes her dream, lets the lizard go free, and is pumped up for the next pursuit.

The next challenge to surmount.

The next achievement.

The lessons I learn from Virginia's hope, faith and perseverance in her desire to come into personal contact with God's "least of these" are profound.  I need not fear a challenge, I should welcome it.  If I'm striving, in God's will, to achieve, I know my attempts will be blessed, and that He will provide the strength and fortitude to see it through.  And my dreams?  God honors every one when my will is submitted to His.

Powerful lessons that all of us would be wise to take to heart.


Amen!

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

They Put the "Happy" in Happy Meal


Proverbs 12:25
Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.

2 Corinthians 9:8
And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

Honestly, I can't imagine the fortitude and dedication it takes to maintain a job as a fast food employee.  In most cases, they are overworked, underpaid, and most defeating of all, underappreciated.  I have always been so thankful for these folks, as I spent many years working in the restaurant business, and sympathize with the stress that accompanies this service industry.

What happens to and for me a week ago Monday is reason to celebrate these dedicated people.  I pull up to the McDonald's closest to my granddaughter, Virginia Rose's, school at 10:45.  Her scheduled lunch time is 11:02, and I have promised a Happy Meal as a special treat for her.  As I'm aware that Wendy's starts serving lunch at 10:30, I assume that McDonald's must do the same.

I assume wrongly.

I start to place my order when the young man behind the intercom says, "Ma'am, we don't start serving Happy Meals until 11 o' clock.  Would it be possible for you to wait until then?"

My heart sinks.  I envision Virginia's despondent face if I show up empty handed.  I resolve to plead my case.

"I'm afraid that won't work.  I'm on my way to my granddaughter's school to have lunch with her, and she is expecting me to bring her a Happy Meal.  Her lunchtime starts around 11, so I can't wait until then."

The next thing I know, the voice answers brightly, "My manager just said we can make one for you.  May I take your order?"

"Yes, yes!"  I exclaim.  "And please tell your manager, 'God bless you!'"

I then proceed to place my order:  six-piece chicken nuggets, apple juice, a Go-gurt, and three ketchup packages.  When the cost is confirmed, I drive around to the first window to pay.  The young man who takes my cash is the same one who takes my order.  "Ma'am, just so you know, if my manager hadn't spoken up right away, I would have made sure your granddaughter got her meal."

I beam at him.  "Then God bless you, too!"

When I arrive at the second window, the manager greets me, all smiles, as she hands me the apple juice box drink.  "Thank you for asking God's blessing on me," she says.  "You have absolutely made my day."

"And you've made mine," I assure her, "and my granddaughter's.  I can't thank you enough.  You've put the 'happy' in the Happy Meal, for sure!"

In a few minutes, I'm handed the Happy Meal with the freshly cooked, piping how chicken nuggets, and make it to Virginia's school just in time to have lunch with her.  What a joy!

That evening, I decide to do something I've rarely done:  write to McDonald's corporate headquarters to acknowledge the incredible customer service I'd experienced that morning.  I not only get an instant confirmation that my email was received, but the next day, here comes a personal note from Sarah in customer service!  It reads as follows:

Hello, Martha:
Thank you for taking the time to share your compliment about the staff.  We always enjoy hearing when our customers have a great visit to one of our restaurants.
Every McDonald's restaurant employee is trained to provide our customers with the best-possible restaurant experience.  This includes providing fast, accurate and friendly service, and serving outstanding food quality in a clean and pleasant restaurant environment.
I have shared your compliment with the franchise owner and restaurant team of the location in Canton, GA.  I know they'll appreciate the time you took to share your comments with us.
Again, we know you have many choices when making your dining-out decisions, and we truly appreciate your choosing McDonald's.  We look forward to serving you again soon.
Sarah
McDonald's Customer Contact Center

Wow!  I'm so delighted that these two stellar and caring employees will be recognized by the franchise owner.  And may God continue to bless them both!

Amen!

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Just Breathe!


Job 33:4
The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life.

Many of you who follow this blog may already know that my word for 2018 is "Breathe."  When my chiropractor, Dr. Cris, tells me last year that I need to breathe from my diaphragm, I know immediately that God has communicated to me through her.  "Belly breathing" is soothing, steadying, nourishing, enlightening.  If you're not already practicing this type of breathing, I encourage you to give it a go.

I don't think, I know, this process has brought me closer to the Lord.  It even makes me wonder if, when Jesus withdrew from His disciples and the crowds to pray, He engaged in this type of breathing.  It's life changing, life claiming.  Life calming.

And if there's ever been a week when I've needed to implement belly breathing, it's been this past one.  No, I'm not going to replay any of the wrenching events here; we've all seen and heard enough, have we not?  Suffice it to say, my stress level goes through the roof.  The painful ache in my shoulder, initially caused by emotional upset, and was all but gone, returns with a vengeance.  Thank goodness for my visit to Dr. Cris!

Thank goodness for deep, cleansing breathing . . .

It's difficult for me, a news junkie, to refrain from perusing headlines, but this week, I've resolved to let it all go.  Sure, someone can, and probably will, inform me second hand, but I want out of the circus.  I feel so, so sorry for those who find themselves smack dab in the middle of this disgraceful, chaotic mess.  I'm free to retreat.  They are not.

Maybe you, too, find this whole matter disturbing, destructive and downright nasty.  Here's what I suggest:  If you're not already praying about it, start now.  If you are praying, double down.

God sees.  God hears.  God knows.

Most importantly, God is the ultimate judge.

And while you're praying, remember this:  "Just breathe!"

Amen!

I have the opportunity to take my granddaughter, Virginia Rose, down to Oxford this coming weekend, so will not have a blog this coming Friday.  Looking forward to seeing you all back here a week from today.  God bless!

Sunset Falls - Part Two

Psalm 111:2-4 Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them. Glorious and majestic are his deeds, and...