Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Bleak Midwinter

Psalm 74:17
It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth';
you made both summer and winter.

When I gaze upon bleak midwinter
It's easy to assume the negative
To dismiss the call to forgive
And forget salvation's healing way
Under winter's grip, we slog and toil
Mired in bricks and straw, whips to back
Yet back to back, we stand, yearn and lean
Into the One; the everlasting promise
Declares that summer, stalwart, comes again

Amen!

Friday, February 15, 2019

Build the Wall



Nehemiah 2:17
Then I said to them, "You see the trouble we are in:  Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire.  Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace."

Recently, my husband, Danny, decides that the rotting logs supporting our retaining wall below our front deck are simply not dependable.  He's determined to take action before more heavy rains, by which we've been plagued this winter, elect to make another inconvenient appearance.  We can't afford to have an invasion of top soil pouring onto our driveway, and into the woods and creek beyond.  And if you look closely at the photo above, you can see those defective and decaying logs, which once valiantly tried to create a border, piled above the wall's prep site.

Danny "hires" his youngest son, Nicco, to execute the task.  Together, they take measurements, head to Home Depot, and return with the materials necessary to complete the project.  It requires planning, dedication and sweat, but the result?  Take a look and be amazed!





Yes, our wall is firm, set in concrete, and will work to keep the valuable top soil above it to remain contained and preserved on our property.  As Christians, Danny and I feel strongly about being good stewards of God's creation.  This wall, in its own humble way, serves to protect our local environs.  And that's a good thing!

~

When Nehemiah beholds the disgraceful state of his beloved Jerusalem, besieged and beleaguered, he is heartbroken.  His longing and determination to rebuild the walls is to safeguard God's holy city.  In my reading of this book in the Old Testament, it wasn't that outsiders would never be welcomed, but its goal centered on protection for those who worshiped the one true God.  That needed to be Israel's first and foremost priority.

Because, you see, Nehemiah understood that walls, erected with the right intentions, were necessary to defend the integrity and well-being of a people.  God's people.

And I think, in this day and time, most Americans understand this concept, too.

Amen!




Tuesday, February 12, 2019

On the Right Track


2 Corinthians 4:6
For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God's glory displayed in the face of Christ.

Unexpected, but so welcomed, I receive a handwritten thank you note from a dear friend who takes me up on my recent offer to provide church libraries with copies of my novels.  The words she pens confirm the prodding I felt from God to do so.

Dear Martha,
Thank you so much for your books!  I appreciate your kindness so very much!
May God keep using you to His glory and to bless others as you often bless me.

My breath is taken away . . .

That I bless others?  Oh, yes, Lord, that's what I long to do, and that someone, this delightful and selfless friend in Christ, takes the time to acknowledge my purpose?  There are no words to express my thanks for that!

As Christian bloggers and readers, we truly do strive to make a difference in this world for the sake of Christ Jesus.  It is my motivation, my calling, my drive.  I'm sure it's yours, too, whether you blog or not, never allowing a day to go by without thanking God for all His blessings too infinite to number.

But grateful and humble, we must be, every time God graces what we say and do with the light of His glory.

And amazingly, within a week of receiving the first handwritten thank you, another arrives from a devoted blogger, Pastor Bill (You can connect with him here and here), thanking me for my contribution to his upcoming cycling marathon to benefit MS research.

Martha,
Words fail me (Surprise, surprise!).  Thanks again for supporting my MS ride with your donation.  I hope it, and all the others, will go toward finding a cure.
I appreciate your heart.

My heart is appreciated?  Again, I am blown away, and so very grateful for these words of affirmation.

And when heartfelt thanks and encouragement come from treasured friends, it assures me that I'm on the right track.

God's track.

Amen!

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

God is Speaking


Job 16:18-21 (MSG)
"O Earth, don't cover up the wrong done to me!
Don't muffle my cry!
There must be Someone in heaven who knows the truth about me,
in highest heaven, some Attorney who can clear my name - 
My Champion, my Friend,
while I'm weeping my eyes out before God.
I appeal to the One who represents mortals before God
as a neighbor stands up for a neighbor."

My daily Bible reading on Thursday of last week is from the Book of Job.  As I read, the verses above jump out to me as never before.  How could I have not seen them for what they are in all the previous years I've read the Bible all the way through?

How could I have missed out on this most powerful prophecy?  This most convicting and enlightening promise of the Lord's entering into the world by way of Christ Jesus, the only One who represents mortals before God?

I've heard it said that we can encounter the same scripture, time after time, and yet, depending on where we are on our spiritual journey, those words will speak to our hearts with a fresh, new meaning.  Presenting us with revelations and realizations we neither anticipate nor imagine.

I think, in this incident, God is sending me a wake-up call.

His Word is perpetually alive, vibrant and life-changing.  But how am I paying attention to the message?  Am I fully engaged in the daily readings, or haphazardly going through the motions of checking Bible study off my to-do list?  The former is, hands down, preferable to the latter!

And this time, as I'm perusing the Book of Job, I am aware that I am fully present.  Taking my time as I read and reread, savoring the words and their meanings for my life.  I'm in no hurry.  There is no agenda outside of what God wills.

I want to hear God speaking.

And He does, loud and clear!

How can I be anything but thankful for that?

I can't.

So my prayer today, for all of us, is to never read the Bible casually, but with intensity, open to any revelation God might share through His Word.  It is our expectancy, our longing, our hope, and our faith that, when combined with humility, allows God's truth to speak to our hearts and our souls.

I know I want to hear from Him.

Again and again.

How about you?

Amen!

Dear Friends,
Once again, I'm taking a short break from blogging, i.e., there won't be a post this coming Friday, but I will be back here on the following Tuesday.  I will be paying my mother a long overdue visit, and as most of you know, she lives in the land of No Computers.  So have a wonderful week, and I'll see y'all soon!
And always, love and blessings!

Friday, February 1, 2019

Conception


My husband, Danny, and I have traveled the same route multiple times, for 14 years, to spend vacation time at different mountain cabins in North Carolina.  And for all those years, the sign featured here has caught our attention.  I've often wanted to pull over and snap a photo, but sadly, there is no convenient way to do so as it is on private property.  So to the person who posted this on Google Images, I am indebted, and I hope you don't mind my borrowing it.

For you created my innermost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
~Psalm 139:13

Conception
Sacred moment
Not a mass
Of tissue
Unfeeling
Dull, void
Of being
But real
And vibrant
Living
Feeding
Wanting
Birth, love
Unending
Will you
Acknowledge?
Give life
To me?

Amen

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Awe and Wonder


Psalm 136:9
He made the moon and stars to rule the night.
His faithful love will last forever.

Our granddaughter, Virginia Rose, is fascinated by astronomy.  Over the Christmas break, I take her to the Tellus Science Museum in nearby Cartersville, where they offer, among other alluring exhibits, hourly planetarium shows.  Right away, when I pay for our tickets, I also include the price for two back-to-back viewings of the heavens; different shows and unique perspectives.  Needless to say, Virginia pays rapt attention, and revels in every moment.  I must say, "Santa" spent his money well!

While we are at the museum, we see advertisements for the upcoming lunar eclipse, guaranteed, as long as skies are clear, to be a momentous occasion for those of us living on the eastern seaboard.  Virginia is thrilled when she reads the announcement.  "Look, Gammie, a lunar eclipse is coming!  What's a lunar eclipse?"

"It's when the moon passes through the earth's shadow," I answer.

"Can I look at it without going blind?"  Virginia is recalling the alarming warnings surrounding the recent solar eclipse we experience.

"Yes, it's completely safe to look at," I reassure her.  "However, if it's going to happen very late at night, you might not be able to see it."

"But I want to see it!  Please, Gammie, tell Mommy and Daddy to let me stay up!"

"I'll do my best," I say with a smile.

Little do I know at the time, that the very weekend of the eclipse, we would have Virginia staying with us.  She is as adamant as ever about viewing this unique "blood moon" occurrence.  But here's the rub:  the event doesn't begin until 11:44 Sunday night.  Way past her bedtime, and mine!  Conveniently, she doesn't have school on Monday, thanks to the Martin Luther King, Jr. national holiday, so we decide to indulge in what could be a once in a lifetime experience.

Virginia dozes fitfully from bedtime until "moon call."  Her sheer excitement will not allow sleep to overcome her completely.  And when that wake-up call comes, she jumps up, ready and raring to go!

Guess who can't rouse up?  Me!  I choose to snooze and lose.  But Papa, who has stayed up until the very hour, and Virginia's Uncle Daniel, save the day.  They bundle her up as the temps are in the frigid 20s, and out they tromp to our deck where Danny manages to get these amazing photos despite having to point the camera with its weighty lens straight up to get the shots.





Breathtaking!

And Virginia is full of awe and wonder.  The lunar eclipse only bolsters her obsession with the heavens that God has so masterfully created.  She is beside herself, bringing up the subject of her midnight adventure repeatedly throughout the next day, with a smile in her eyes as bright as the sun itself.

My prayer is that Virginia will always be passionate about the night skies, longing to learn more and more about God's infinite creation.  To be amazed by the miracles both in heaven and on earth.

To ultimately know, deep within her heart, that as small as she might feel in light of God's limitless universe, her Father knows her intimately in every aspect of her being and becoming.

And to rest assured that His steadfast love for her will last forever.

Amen!

Friday, January 25, 2019

Surrounded


Matthew 5:39
But I tell you, do not resist an evil person.
If anyone slaps you on the right cheek,
turn to them the other check also.

They surround us
Hurling brutal taunts
Words wild, profane
We, there for life
Our lives dismissed
Because our rhythm
Pleads a different beat
Demanding drummer pounds
Encroaches, face to face
Confused when confronted
I choose to stand my ground
I smile, meet his eyes
And offer up to him
My cheek to bruise

Amen

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

I Will Wait


Isaiah 40:31

But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.


I will wait
At the stop light
In the store line
For the phone call
I will wait
For the prognosis
The doctor's take
A needed answer
I will wait
For wayward child's
Return home
To loving arms
I will wait
For floral spring
Pregnant summer
Delivering fall
I will wait
In winter's grip
All is stalled
Frozen, still
I will wait
Upon the Lord
Upon His promise
I will wait

Amen

Friday, January 18, 2019

Martha or Mary?


Luke 10:38-42
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.  She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said.  But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.  She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?  Tell her to help me!"
"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed - or indeed only one.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."

If someone asked you to define who you are, how would you respond?  Would you even have a ready answer?

In her latest book, True YouMichelle DeRusha shares her own "dark night of the soul" quest to uncover the person God created her to be.  A self-described triple type A personality, Michelle confesses to being caught of in a perpetual whirlwind of activity, busyness and the drive to achieve.  There was ever the next rung on the ladder of success to climb.  Her life's mantra, inspired by her father's words as she was growing up, was "make it happen!"

And let's face it.  Our culture has always celebrated the doers, the go-getters.  Those folks who can boast of a trophy room full of awards and accolades.  Given her penchant for attaining one goal after another, it's not surprising that Michelle fell into that trap, defining herself by what she did, not by who she really was in the eyes of God.  She explains it so succinctly in this sentence:  "Part of our need to be busy and productive comes from our desire to be valued and known.  If we are busy, we must be needed, and if we're needed, we must be important."  (Pg. 33)

But something dramatic and life-changing shifted in Michelle the day she decided out of the blue (or was it a God nudge?) to sit for five minutes in silence on a park bench while out for a walk with the family dog.  No checking her phone.  No listening to podcasts.  

Silence, stillness.  For.  Just.  Five.  Minutes.  Turns out, this proved a great deal more difficult than Michelle had imagined.  But as she continued this routine faithfully, she found herself opening up more and more to God's gentle voice, beckoning her to join Him in the "far side of the wilderness," to rest in His presence.

Thus began a long, sometimes wrenching and painful journey toward revealing the woman God intended her to be.  As you read True You, you share intimately in all Michelle's struggles to open her heart and her soul fully to God.  And it is in her honest disclosure of her own vulnerabilities that we begin to see our own.

Michelle's flowing and descriptive prose is in and of itself reason enough to read True You.  But I know when you read the book, the real-life lessons she candidly offers will infuse you with inspiration and encouragement in your spiritual journey.

Because when all is said and done, who do you want to be?  A "Martha?"  Always busy, busy, busy?  Or a "Mary?"  Content to sit at the feet of Jesus, and simply be His beloved child.

I know which one I would choose . . . Thank you, Michelle!

Amen! 

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

I Love to Laugh!


Job 8:20-21
God does not support evil people;
and he does not abandon the innocent.
So perhaps you might laugh again.
Maybe shouts of joy will come from your lips.

Remember me with smiles and laughter, for that is how I will remember you all.  If you can only remember me with tears, then don't remember me at all. ~Laura Ingalls Wilder

Hearty laughter is a good way to jog internally without having to go outdoors. ~Norman Cousins

I can't tell you when I first see this portrait entitled "Jesus Laughing," but I do recall falling in love with it on the spot.  I must have it!  And as you can see from the photo above, I do just that.  Whenever I gaze at Jesus' joyous expression, I am compelled to smile, chuckle even, blessedly assured that the Son of God experienced all the emotions we encounter in our day-to-day lives, while dwelling among us.

Laughter, it is said, is the best medicine.  And I would venture, in the trying, divisive and angry atmosphere of our current culture, that laughter is the best antidote to this pervasive malaise.

Lately, my husband, Danny, has been exploring "Dry Bar Comedy" on YouTube.  This venue features profanity-free, up and coming comics, who are looking for their big break into the mainstream.  Some of these rising stars are great, and some just so-so, but nonetheless, we reap great benefits when the jokes evoke a chorus of belly laughs from us.  As Norman Cousins says above, we are jogging internally without having to brave the outdoors.  What a great way to "exercise!"

If you haven't made any New Year resolutions, perhaps this should be one of them:  To purposefully seek out something every day that tickles your funny bone.  It could be as easy as looking in the mirror!

Because when we are in the throes of hearty laughter, we are re-energizing our minds, our bodies, and yes, our very souls.  Those grand belly busters that release all the calming endorphins, which God, in His infinite wisdom, has placed into our beings, knowing how life-saving, life-transforming they are, are of invaluable importance to our health and well-being.

God, after all, is the Master Humorist!  How do I know?  For starters, He created us, didn't He?

Amen!



 




Friday, January 11, 2019

An Offer You Can't Refuse


Luke 6:38
Give, and you will receive.  Your gift will return to you in full - pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap.  The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.

As I lean more and more into God and His will for my life this year, I have a recurring idea, on which I happily share with you here.  My six novels in The Glade Series and Adventures in The Glade have sold relatively well over the years, but with the current situation here at home, it's been impossible for me to physically reach out to churches in my community to peddle my wares, so to speak.

But I'm not peddling here . . . I'm offering.

You see, when I first publish my novels, my husband, Danny, generously lays out some hefty bucks for us to see my dreams become a reality.  I'm so grateful for this, and so desirous to repay his gift, that I can't see past charging money for my books.  And truth be told, I become too intent upon the allure of fame and fortune, taking on the glory for my achievements, when it is God alone who should be given every ounce of the glory I so sinfully call my own.

It is the Lord who gives me the gift of writing.  It is God, and only God, who deserves all the gratitude and praise.

So, my friends, here is the offer you can't refuse.  If your church has a lending library, I would like to donate two autographed sets of my novels for other Christians to read and enjoy.  I mean, seriously, who among us has met Racer, Davy, and the entire gang at The Glade, and not fallen madly in love with them?  I want to share that love!

Here's how it works:

  • On the right side of this blog page, click on Author's Website.
  • Click on "contact" to send me a private email with your name and home address.
  • Books will be mailed to you with no shipping charge.
  • Hurry!  This offer ends on February 1st!
Giving, in the name of the Lord, for His glory, feels right and good and freeing beyond words.  I know I've already received.  And if you do take me up on my offer, I know the gifts I give have returned to me in full.

Amen!

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Lean on Me


Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

First God calls us to Himself, to follow and know Him, and also to a particular life purpose, a reason for being.  Included in this life purpose will not only be our giftedness, but also our weaknesses and day-to-day decisions.
If you prayed the Lord's will, it doesn't matter what it looks like on the outside.  You are placed there to make a difference.  God's anointing rests on those that walk in Divine purpose.  Often your passion is linked with your purpose. ~Valerie Carraotta

Honestly, my friends, I struggle in the last weeks of 2018 with my word for the coming year.  When my husband, Danny, and I retreat gratefully to a mountain cabin in the first week of December, I am literally pummeled by possible selections, which I dutifully record in my journal.

What's wrong?  Even though I dart here and there, as a word displays its allure, nothing seems to stick beyond a fleeting moment.  I do take time to reflect upon a word or two that seems to speak to the present, writing down its application and implementation for the year ahead, yet when I wake the next morning and reread what I wrote, my soul comes up empty.

There's got to be something more . . .

I can't put my finger on God's intended word for me, so I surrender, and simply let it be.  For the last four years, God has faithfully granted to me the word that fits exactly who and where I am on my spiritual journey with Him.  I know I must be patient, and wait for His timing, but restlessness sets in.  Why can't I, as Valerie so aptly states above, receive the word God has, linking my passion with His purpose for me?

As most of you know, 2018 is a particularly trying and challenging year for our family.  I continue to pray, to stay in the Word, to compose my blog posts, but I discover, to my chagrin, that I am beginning to experience unhealthy bouts of anxiety and irritation, much more than I care to admit.  These feelings lead me to ask forgiveness from God more and more, as the last thing I want is to allow the negativity brewing within to erupt, and end up hurting those I love.

But in all of this turmoil, I am drawing closer to the Lord in my weakness; much more than I realize.  God is calling me to Himself in a deeper, more intimate way through the trials.  Then suddenly, just days before the advent of 2019, "the word" arrives, the one God's been inviting me to discover all along.

LEAN!

And immediately, these lyrics appear in my head and in my heart, as I envision the Lord singing over me:


Lean on me
When you're not strong
And I'll be your friend;
I'll help you carry on.

Yes!  That's exactly what He has been trying to tell me all these long, turbulent months.

Lean!  On Him, not my own understanding.


  • L - Listen - to God's still, small voice, beckoning me to be with Him in quiet and solitude.
  • E - Embrace - the calling God is giving me.
  • A - Adore - worship Him in humility and gratefulness for all His blessings and promises.
  • N - Nourish - feed my soul with His Word, that I might, in turn, nourish others.

So this year, when the going gets tough, and I'm not tough enough to get going, I will lean on the Lord, my God, to see me through.  To be my strength.  My rock.  My shield.

My friend.

Knowing He is ever present to help me carry on.

Amen!

Bleak Midwinter

Psalm 74:17 It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth'; you made both summer and winter. When I gaze upon bleak midw...