Tuesday, May 21, 2019

In All Their Splendor


Matthew 6:28-29
"And why do you worry about clothes?  See how the flowers of the field grow.  They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these."

Yes, I know I'm late to the party this year.  Usually, my husband, Danny, and I select flowers for our deck in April, and here it is, May, and we finally, finally get around to purchasing and planting them.


Those of you who have followed this blog for some time already know that our house is tucked away in the forest, so our deck receives more shade than sun.  That limits plant choices somewhat, but I think the blooms we choose this year are already stunning.

The tried and true Double Impatiens are, of course, included in the mix.



Pretty in pink, don't you think?

Despite our begonias turning into "begone-ias" last year, we take another chance on them.  They aren't an overly dramatic plant, but beautiful still the same.



We decide to take a risk on two new, to us, shade-tolerant plants.  This one is called the Summer Wave Bouquet.



Isn't it elegant?  The blossoms' shape reminds me of Morning Glories.

This delicate plant is called Aretes Upright.  Odd name, for sure, but a delight for the eyes, nonetheless.



All of these beauties promise to bloom until autumn, which doesn't arrive here in Georgia until late October/early November.  I'm so looking forward to the months ahead where, every day, when I sit on our deck, these flowers, in all their splendor, will remind me of how wondrous God's creation truly is.

Amen!

Friday, May 17, 2019

Virginiaisms


Matthew 5:44-46
"You have heard it said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.  He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous."

I'll go down to hell, smack the devil with love, and knock him out with kindness. ~Virginia Rose (July 2018)

I'm perusing some journal notes I take last year when I come across this quote from granddaughter, Virginia.  Surely I had plans at the time to create a blog post featuring her precocious words, but other distractions and demands, obviously, place it on the back burner.  I am delighted beyond words to rediscover her unique and brilliant insight of godly wisdom at the ripe old age of eight!

And there are so many more "Virginiaisms" which I document and now share with you here.

I love my life!  Virginia declares this often, and with complete conviction, ever since she turns seven.  Her Papa (Danny) and I are always thrilled when she emotes this affirmation of joy and positivity.  Shouldn't more of us be saying that, and thanking God for this one life He has made possible?

My life can get complicated.  Oh, yes, it can!  To grasp that concept takes some mature understanding, doesn't it?  Virginia opens herself up to a fabulous teachable moment:  When life gets tough, the tough turn to God.

In response to my question posed last year, "Virginia, do you understand what sarcasm is?," she replies, Yeah, right!  I think she gets it, hands down!

Last summer, when the lightning bugs are swarming, we give Virginia a jar with holes punched in the lid so she can capture the fleeting beauties to her heart's content.  After a few minutes, she returns the jar to me.  I don't need to capture them in this.  I just want to feel them on my hands and set them free.  Ahh . . .

If the devil wasn't in the world, there would be no scary movies.  Amen to that, girlfriend!

When Virginia discovers that our new end tables have USB ports where she can charge her beloved tablet, she exclaims,  Hallelujah!  God has awoken!  Admit it!  Don't we all feel that way about technology at times?

Two weekends ago, when Virginia is with us, she looks up at me wistfully.  It's a shame how time flies.  Oh, yes, precious one, it flies excruciatingly quickly.  In your child's bubble of innocence, how do you know?  Yet, you do.

We attend church that Sunday, and remark about how well-behaved and attentive she is throughout the service.  Virginia tells us honestly, I'm really just here for the music.  But what better way to worship God than through praise-filled songs?  King David knew that!

And circling back to the first quote from Virginia, she confides, in all seriousness, her reaction to being seated next to a grandmotherly chaperone on a recent field trip with her class.  I know she's someone's grandma, but the nicest grown-ups have the darkest souls.

Let that sink in . . .

I know, the minute those words escape Virginia's lips, the immutable truth she has uttered:  For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)  Too many times, Satan takes up residence in the most innocuous of persons.  Virginia seems to have that second sense that I pray will protect her as she grows in the knowledge and love of God.

And speaking of Satan, none of us like or appreciate that devil one iota.  We want to smack the living daylights out of him and his horrid influence on our world.  But let's do so as Virginia recommends:  Smack (him) with love, and knock him out with kindness.

It's a win-win!

One I think God would be proud of in the end.

Amen!


Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Because of You


Psalm 34:4
Surely God is my help;
the Lord is the One who sustains me.

Lord, I have noticed
Your presence, here with me
Something undeserved
But will forever be
Because Your promise holds,
Your Word convicts, is true
When all else crumbles, fails,
I'm here because of You.
Amen.

My friends, I will be taking another break from the blog for the time being.  I'm going to visit with my mother for Mother's Day, and since I can never count on her dinosaur of a computer to respond how I hope, I'll not be publishing a new post until a week from this coming Friday (May 17th).  God's blessings upon you all, and especially for all the moms out there who sacrifice so much in the name of love for your children and your family!  And always remember the Lord who sustains us all!

Friday, May 3, 2019

Happy Birthday, Savannah Jane!


Luke 18:15-17
People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them.  When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them.  But Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."

Last Saturday, we celebrate granddaughter, Savannah Jane's, fifth birthday.  Oh, what a joyous occasion!  She is, at this stage in her life, well aware that the day's festivities revolve around her.



On this special day, I see a very different Savannah than the one who instigates raids on older sister, Virginia's, room.  She is patient and undemanding, seeming to revel in the ambiance of the moment instead of insisting that gifts be opened and cake be served immediately.



But when those moments do arrive, she is completely enthralled and captivated by the wonder of it all.





And oh, the unfettered joy and delight upon receiving a gift she requested - Everest from Paw Pals!



"Baby" Alexandra has to hone in on her older "Sissy's" big day.







But that's okay with Savannah.  Being 15 months apart, it's like they're joined at the hip.  Praying already that Alexandra will survive the transition when Savannah goes to kindergarten this August.

Virginia Rose, however, shows the grace of which she is made, and never once hogs the spotlight.




And what better time to let loose than at a birthday celebration?  Savannah and Alexandra harbor no reservations in letting it all hang out!






I can't help but hear Jesus' words as I watch the grand-girls cutting up:  "The kingdom of God belongs to such as these."

Open, honest, loving, trusting, celebrating with abandon.

How far are we, as adults, removed from those emotions that we, ourselves, once cherished?  The joy in the moment?  The trust in the people who surround us with love?  The belief that we are cherished fully and unconditionally?

And more importantly yet, how many of us are surrendering to the inner child that longs to be held in the arms of Jesus, and to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that in Him, all is well?  Are we unsuccessfully trying to make it in the world on our own, or are we willing to surrender to the Lord, climb up on His welcoming lap, and simply lean into and upon Him for comfort and peace?

Children, as Jesus so wisely pointed out, should never be discounted.  Their natural insights and innocence remind us of things we should ever remember as we seek the kingdom of heaven.

For in as much as it belongs to us, it belongs to them first.

Amen!

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Whew! Close Call!


Psalm 5:11
But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy.  Spread your protection over them that those who love your name may rejoice in you.

Most of Friday and Saturday, Easter weekend, is spent by my husband, Danny, and his son, Nicco, in a tireless effort to upgrade Danny's computer, a need that is long overdue.  No, I don't take any photos of the process, as granddaughter, Virginia Rose, is visiting, but trust me when I say that the kitchen table remains in a state of organized chaos.

We get up extra early on Easter Sunday to allow us plenty of time to prepare to attend the contemporary service.  Danny is disheartened to discover that the drive on the computer that was left running so as to fully install overnight, freezes at 75%.  His computer, under these circumstances, is unusable.

Talk about frustration!

"Honey, why don't you retrieve your laptop out of the closet?"  I suggest.  "That way, you can have a viable computer for now, and not be confined to your phone."

"Good idea," Danny agrees, and hastens to get the Mac up and going.

As I'm focused upon readying Virginia and myself for church, Danny notices a disturbing anomaly with the laptop.  The track pad is bulging, betraying an ominous swelling of the computer's lithium battery.  If left unchecked, it could catch fire, emit toxic gasses, or worse yet, it could explode!  Help!  What are we to do?

Danny decides to risk carrying the ticking time bomb outside, and lays it down on a barren dirt section of the yard, praying the entire time that the battery won't fail until after he reaches his destination.  This move ensures that if there is an explosion or fire, no tinder would be close enough to ignite.

When we return from Easter services, the computer is, thankfully, still inert.  Yes!  But we are still faced with the conundrum of how to fix the problem safely and forever.

Enter Nicco!  He's come over to complete the PC update, but when told a more pressing issue is at hand, he handles it like a pro.  Unafraid and undaunted, he takes the laptop out to the driveway, removes the battery delicately, and proceeds to attack it mercilessly with a mallet and screwdriver.  Now the battery is ripe for a long soak in heavily salted water, guaranteed to neutralize it for good.

Whew!  Close call averted!  Boy, how blessed and relieved we feel.

What begins as an irritating nuisance forces us to discover where the true threat is lurking.  Right there in Danny's closet.  An evil poised to pounce and destroy without warning.

Danny and I have no doubt that the events of the day are orchestrated by our Lord.  It is a wake-up call, a saving grace.  The signs are seen, and the signs are heeded without question.

God's protection is spread over us this day, fully and completely.

We are glad, singing with joy, and cherishing His infinite love and mercy.

And oh, how thankful we are!

Amen!


Are there detours you were forced to take in your life, when you thought it was an inconvenience, but it turned out to be a blessing?

Friday, April 26, 2019

The Treasure Box


Matthew 6:19-20
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.

When I take our granddaughter, Virginia Rose, home after spending the weekend with us earlier this month, she is crushed to discover that her little sisters, Savannah Jane and Alexandra Nancy, have rifled through her special possessions during her absence.  Virginia is so distraught, she actually cries, something this always-smiling child rarely does.

It breaks my heart . . .

When I tell my husband, Danny, about it, he is naturally grieved, as any loving Papa would be.  But he has a brilliant solution to the problem.  A small chest, which belonged to his mother, is still sitting at her house.  Danny decides to bring it here, add a clasp and simple dial lock, and present this treasure box to Virginia on her next visit.

And that's exactly what he does!




Just look at the joy on Virginia's face!  Now it's time to teach her how to unlock and lock her box.




Success!!!  And Papa's surprise gift of powdered donuts found inside is the icing on the cake.

It's difficult to imagine from these Easter photos that Savannah and Alexandra could ever be anything but angelic.




But don't let those innocent expressions fool you!  I am praying these two will outgrow their impish ways when it comes to how they treat their big sister.

But for now, Virginia is all set.  Not only does she have something special to remember her Nonna by, but she can also rest assured that her treasures will be kept safe from marauding hands.

~

We know, as Christians, we are not to put our confidence or trust in our worldly treasures; instead, we are to store up treasures in heaven, the place we will one day call home.  Yet, how many of us leave our house or go to bed without locking our doors?  Do we set an alarm system to ward off would-be thieves?  Are our extra-valuable items stored in a safe for added protection?

Common sense dictates, in this day and age, that taking such precautions is natural and necessary.  However, when our possessions threaten to possess us, therein is the rub.

So yes, protect your earthly belongings, but set your hearts and minds on the reward in God's Treasure Box:  Eternal life!

Amen!

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Hope Prevails


Matthew 13:5-6
Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil.  It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow.  But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.

Errant sprout
Inspired by
God's grace
Springs up
With promise
And hope
Word heard
Shallow soil
Dooms growth
To nothing
Yet it lives
In Son's mercy
Hope prevails
Even in death

Amen

Friday, April 19, 2019

What's so Good about Good Friday?


I initially publish this post in March of 2016.  Since I've gained new followers in the past three years, I thought it appropriate to share this reflection with you on this blessed Good Friday.

Mark 15:33-39
At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.  And at three in the afternoon, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?" (which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?")
When some of those standing near heard this, they said, "Listen, he's calling Elijah."  Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink.
"Now leave him alone.  Let's see if Elijah comes to take him down," he said.
With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.  The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.  And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, "Surely this man was the Son of God!"

What's so good about Good Friday?  This is a question I have pondered in my heart over the years.  After all, this is the day Jesus, our Lord and Savior, suffered an excruciatingly painful and ignominious death on a cross.  Shouldn't we be calling Good Friday the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Friday?

Fr. Justin Holcomb shares some insight as to why this holy day is called "good:"

Still, why call the day of Jesus' death "Good Friday" instead of "Bad Friday" or something similar?  Some Christian traditions do take this approach:  In Germany, for example, the day is called Karfreitag, or "Sorrowful Friday."  In English, in fact, the origin of the term "good" is debated; some believe it developed from an older name, "God's Friday."  Regardless of the origin, the name Good Friday is entirely appropriate because the suffering and death of Jesus, as terrible as it was, marked the dramatic culmination of God's plan to save his people from their sins.

Good for us.  No, wait!  Grand and glorious for us!

Because of Jesus' willingness to follow His Father's plan, we are forgiven our sins, once and for all.  And we can look forward to the impending Easter celebration with hope and joy, and the promise of a renewed relationship with our Father in heaven.

But for today, let us all sit at the foot of the cross.  Let us become Mary and the disciple, whom Jesus loved, who witnessed His immeasurable suffering.

Let us be present for our Lord as He gives His all for us.

Let us weep and mourn and pray.

And let us give thanks.

Amen.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Bend Me, Shape Me


Isaiah 64:8
Yet you, Lord, are our Father.  We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.

Our granddaughter, Virginia Rose, has never met a challenge she didn't like.  Whether it's learning a new game or skill, concocting dance moves, or creating works of art, she definitely thinks outside the proverbial box.  And her fertile imagination leads her recently to re-purpose objects, destined for our recycling bin, into useful ones in decorating her reclaimed room here at the house.

A shoe box becomes a treasure chest for her cut-out drawings.



Virginia loves all things space, so I print out this photo she requests as an embellishment.


And who would ever think to transform a discarded Cheerio's box into a trash can?


Or an empty Pringles can into a container for candy?


All these objects sit on top of Virginia's bedroom "table," a large cardboard box; she covers four of the sides with paper, and on each one are written the words:  Love, Faith, Hope, Believe.  Wow!  No, she had no coaching whatsoever from this Gammie!


But Virginia doesn't stop here.  Another cereal box becomes an eagle, complete with outspread wings.  And a paper towel tube turns into a blushing worm.


Not in my wildest dreams would I ever have converted a Stouffer's Mac and Cheese container into a picture frame, yet here it is!


As I watch Virginia's creations take on new life and usefulness, I'm reminded of how God continually fashions us into the vision He has for each of His beloved children.  We are the clay in His capable hands.  And in times of trial and trouble, when we may feel like a discarded piece of trash, He can breathe new life into us, and re-purpose us for His glory.

The question then becomes:  Do we trust God enough to allow Him to do all the shaping and molding that a full life lived in Him requires?  Will we remain faithful and pliant during the process?

The lyrics from a "back in the day" song by The American Breed come to mind; definitely an unconventional prayer, but fitting nonetheless.

Bend me, shape me
Any way you want me,
Long as you love me,
It's alright.
Bend me, shape me
Any way you want me.
You got the power
To turn on the light.


Amen!

Friday, April 12, 2019

The Courageous Word


Mark 15:42-47
And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.  Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died.  And summoning a centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead.  And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph.  And Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock.  And he rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb.  Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of Joses, saw where he was laid.

In his sermon entitled The Courageous Word, Pastor Graham features the story of Joseph of Arimathea as an example of what it means to be a Christ follower.

Joseph is the creme de la creme in Jewish society.  As a member of the Sanhedrin, he is highly honored and well thought of by his peers.  His knowledge of the Law and the Prophets, we can assume, is impeccable.  Joseph undoubtedly believes that God will one day send a Messiah to save His people.

Enter Jesus of Nazareth, an itinerant preacher, healer, miracle worker.  Along with the Pharisees and Sadducees, Joseph witnesses Jesus' authoritative teaching in the temple first hand.  But unlike his cohorts, who feel threatened by this upstart, Joseph is intrigued.  Could this man actually be the promised Messiah?  The Son of the living God?

Joseph, for obvious reasons, keeps his thoughts to himself.  Yet, we can imagine that he spends countless hours deliberating Jesus' identity, praying to know the truth.  Has God's kingdom arrived at last?

The scriptures do not tell us when or how Joseph of Arimathea became a believer, a disciple of Christ, but his actions on the day of Jesus' crucifixion speak volumes.  At the peril of being shunned and denounced by his contemporaries, and perhaps, stripped of his rank, Joseph boldly approaches Pilate and asks for Jesus' body so it can be honorably buried in a proper tomb.

At long last, Joseph is willing to sacrifice his earthly accolades and his standing with the elites to do the right thing in God's eyes.  If that means losing his place on the fast track of success, so be it.

So Pastor Graham challenges us, as Christians, to speak up and act with courage on the Lord's behalf in our daily lives.  Christians, he states, should be willing to risk the loss of worldly acclaim to stand firm in the faith.

This certainly give me pause for some serious thought and reflection.  Do I love the Lord with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength?  Am I willing to proclaim the Word of God with courage, even if it means losing my status in the world's eye?

Maybe, my friends, there are questions we should all ponder deeply during this Lenten season, as we prepare for the celebration of Christ's resurrection on Easter Day.

And I wonder . . .

What was Joseph of Arimathea's reaction when he got word of the empty tomb?

I can only imagine that it was one of overwhelming joy!

Amen!

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Bow Down in Worship


Psalm 95:4-7a
In his hands are the depths of the earth,
and the mountain peaks belong to him.
The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.
Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;
For he is our God.

It is a week we will ever remember.

My husband, Danny, and I take the long trek down to the Golden Isles of Georgia to lay beloved Mimi's remains to rest on St. Simon's Island.  It is a promise fulfilled, a duty done, a grueling journey all because of the love we have for her.




As our fourteenth wedding anniversary is close at hand, we decide to stay on Jekyll Island for several days to celebrate that event.  It is unseasonably cold and windy, so there is little to no opportunity to leisurely walk the pristine beaches, although we make several ventures there.  We are so impressed by the efforts made at Jekyll in recent years to restore the sand dunes.



Our visit to driftwood beach pays off in amazing photos, although the high winds threaten to topple me over more than once.  I have to literally hang onto the hat I'm wearing!






To escape the brutal winds, we retreat to Horton's Pond for a respite in Jekyll's inland environment.  We walk the 0.7 mile loop trail, and are amazed by the flora that greets us.



And it never ceases to amaze me how everything in God's splendid creation has its own special niche.




When we emerge from this delightful trail, we visit the pond platform where we find some indigenous species peacefully sunning themselves.



And isn't this a gorgeous shot?


Horton's Pond is named after the historic Horton House which you can read about Here.  


Although Danny and I prefer spending time in the mountains as opposed to the seashore, we are grateful for the opportunity to see God's glory and majesty reflected in all facets of His overwhelmingly stunning creation.  It is, indeed, a call to kneel before the Lord our Maker, and bow down in worship to Him with thanksgiving and praise.

Amen!

In All Their Splendor

Matthew 6:28-29 "And why do you worry about clothes?  See how the flowers of the field grow.  They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tel...