Thursday, July 30, 2020

What's Your Excuse?




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.

Can you guess what's in the box pictured above?  No?  Don't feel badly if you don't have a clue.  I would be scratching my head, too, if that was all someone gave me.

Does this next photo help?

Hmm . . . Probably not.

How about this one?


Yep!  It's our brand, new treadmill!!!

Ever since the Covid struck, my husband, Danny, and I have been taking walks outdoors, but with the summer heat in full swing, that's mighty uncomfortable.  So, back in June, Danny orders this treadmill and some hand weights; it takes until late July for them to arrive!  Our take is that lots of folks are quitting going to the gym, as we have, and are purchasing exercise equipment for home use.  That would certainly explain the delay.

But Danny, with the help of my son, Daniel, don't delay in putting this cumbersome piece of equipment together.


At last, the treadmill is ready to go, and our new television screen is mounted!


My first workout is this past Tuesday, and I've yet to miss a day since then, nor do I plan to.  It's so convenient, being right here at the house, that I have no excuse NOT to use it.

And as Christians, we have no excuse not to recognize the glory of God in all His creation, and to spread the Good News of Christ Jesus to everyone we meet.  While bodily exercise strengthens us physically, our practice of prayer, Bible reading and witnessing to others strengthens us spiritually.

Both "workout" routines are necessary for a healthy, happy and balanced life.

So, what's your excuse?

Amen!

Monday, July 27, 2020

Our Daily Bread



Matthew 6:11
Give us today our daily bread.

A few weeks ago, I published a post about the perfect bread that my husband, Danny, stumbled upon when following a recipe for pizza dough.  Many of you expressed interest in this recipe, but I wanted to wait and see if Danny was able to successfully recreate what might have been a fluke.  Now that he's done that several times, I'll share it with you, along with some photos to illustrate the process.

Here are the ingredients you will need to make what we now call the Perfect Bread:
  • 3 1/4 - 4 cups bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 envelope dry active yeast
  • 2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt (if using fine salt, 1 teaspoon)
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (105 - 110 degrees)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil + extra bit to oil a bowl and plastic wrap
Danny starts by placing 3 cups of bread flour in our Kitchen Aid mixer.


He creates a mound at the top.  This is for the salt and a pinch of the sugar.


The yeast, as you can see above, and the remainder of the sugar go at the bottom.  The reason for the separation?  Yeast does better when NOT in direct contact with the salt.  Next, Danny pours warm water into the yeast side of the bowl.



Now, it's time to mix!  Danny adds the olive oil to the other ingredients.





Danny starts slow, #2 speed, adding a 1/4 cup of flour as seems appropriate.  But don't be afraid to put the mixer on Speed 4 once the ingredients have come together.  This is the actual kneading process for the bread.


The dough is ready when none sticks to the bottom of the bowl.


On a floured surface, Danny prepares to stretch the dough.






He stretches the dough on all sides, doing so at least 8 times before forming it into a ball.  This little guy is placed in a lightly oiled bowl and covered with plastic wrap that is also oiled so it won't stick to the bread as it rises.



Danny lets it rise for about two hours, or until doubled in size.


He turns the risen dough back on the floured surface, divides it into two loaves and does some more stretching until the bread begins to fight elasticity.




The two loaves are placed on a cookie sheet, covered again with oiled plastic wrap, and allowed to rise for another 2 hours.


Look how well these babies did!


Now is the time to preheat your oven to 375, placing a pan of water on the lowest rack to steam and form a crispier crust on the bread.  In the photo above, Danny is placing a dusting of flour on each of the loaves.

It's baking time!  Make sure to set your kitchen timer for 30 minutes.


And at the end of the baking cycle, look what we have!  Two golden brown loaves of melt-in-your-mouth bread.


I hope many of you will try making this tasty bread for yourself, your family or friends, remembering that our daily bread is something for which we should thank the Lord each and very day.

Amen!

Thursday, July 23, 2020

At a Loss for Words




Luke 1:18-20
Zechariah asked the angel, "How can I be sure of this?  I am an old man and my wife is well along in years."
The angel said to him, "I am Gabriel.  I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and tell you this good news.  And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time."

We are living in the hot and humid dog days of July here in Georgia.  In this heat and dampness, it is not unusual for us to experience thunderstorm pop-ups in the late afternoons.  We are always grateful for the rain, but not so much for the tumultuous lightning with its notorious companion, thunder, that can wreak havoc on our power grid.

And this past Tuesday, it does just that!

Our computers and internet are knocked out of commission, but thankfully, for only five minutes.  What a relief!  But when my husband, Danny's, computer comes back to life, he makes a startling discovery.  His keyboard is on the fritz!

He tries everything he knows to resuscitate it - changing USB outlets, rebooting the computer, trouble-shooting on line.  Nada, zilch, zero.  Danny is NOT a happy camper.

Until, that is, I remind him that he can use our Chrome Book for typing messages on email or Facebook.  That is a helpful, temporary solution, but of course, Danny wastes no time in ordering a new keyboard for his computer.

 
But what if we hadn't had the Chrome Book as a backup?  Danny would most certainly be at a loss for words.  How frustrating that scenario would be, as dependent as we all are on our technological devices!

As maddening as this inconvenience seems, it doesn't hold a candle to the plight of Zechariah, when Gabriel informs him that he will be unable to speak until the birth of his son, John.  How did Zechariah communicate?  Did he sign what he wished to say?  Were ink and parchment readily available?  Did he scrawl messages in the dusty ground?

What did his wife, Elizabeth, make of this odd and unexpected turn of events?  And if Zechariah managed to somehow tell her about what had transpired, did she believe him?

Just as God chose Mary and Joseph to be Jesus' earthly parents, He chose Elizabeth and Zechariah to be John's.  The Lord knew that all four would love their sons, training them up in the way they should go.  But maybe, God knew that Zechariah required a bit more work in the humility department.  Being a priest of high standing at the synagogue might have produced a bit more pride and, dare I say, arrogance in Zechariah than was good for him.  Or, could it be he simply liked hearing himself talk?

All I know is that when we are silent, we are more likely to hear God's still, small voice.  Perhaps, God thought that Zechariah needed to listen more closely to Him, and not to his own words in order to grow in his faith and trust.

In that case, being at a loss for words is a good thing.

Amen!

Monday, July 20, 2020

Ding Dong! Jesus Calling!



Revelations 3:20
Here I am!  I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

I can feel the tendrils of depression wrapping around the essence of my heart.  My mind.  My soul.  What is wrong with me?

I'm reading inspirational blogs of fellow Christians, who encourage me.  I'm keeping up with my daily Bible study.  I'm praying for others.  Where are you, Jesus?

I'm at my wit's end.  At this blog, I purport to be an inspiration to others, yet I'm feeling lost.  Frustrated.  Floundering in the faith.  I'm weary, tired, doubting.  How, Lord, can I go on?

Seeking respite from the negative noise and chatter in my head, I retreat to our deck, hoping that the greenery and calm of the forest surrounding me will grant me peace.  Let me know that God is present, even when my feelings overwhelmingly strive to convince me otherwise.

And then, I hear it.

The unmistakable chime of an Avon bell.  Seriously!  I'm floored and flabbergasted.  In my heart, I know Jesus stands at its door, waiting for me to welcome Him in where only He can deliver the solace I need.

I hastily reenter the house and ask my husband, "Danny, did you just hear a doorbell?"

"No," he replies, regarding my statement with genuine surprise.  "Why would you think that?"

"I heard one," I insist.  "I promise you, I did!"

This prompts Danny to recall that evening when we were still caring for his mother, and a week before she passes, we both hear the ring of a bell.  Something we cannot explain in rational terms, but an event we can most definitely corroborate.  We take it, at the time, as a sign from the Lord that Mimi is nearing the end.

And years before this, when Danny gallantly offers to take my beloved dog, Maggie, to the vet for one last time, I'm in such grief that I escape yet again to our deck.  There isn't a breath of wind, but the wind chimes hanging above me strike one gentle note.  I'm sure it's God telling me that Maggie has passed on to the Rainbow Bridge.

When I have been beside myself with worries and sorrows, Jesus stood, and still stands, at the door of my heart, knocking or ringing the doorbell, asking me to let Him in once again.  He longs to assure me that He is ever present, and will never let me down.

Nor will He let you down, dear friends, no matter what depths of despair or hopelessness you may be feeling in the moment.

Listen for that knock on your door, that bell to ring.

And answer.

Amen!

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Dancing Prince



Psalm 45:16
Your sons will take the place of your fathers; you will make them princes throughout the land.

I await the arrival of Glynn Young's fifth and final novel in his Dancing Priest series like a child excitedly and hopefully counting down the days until Christmas.  My reading experience with the first four books have been nothing short of extraordinary, the stories washing over me with the love and grace of God, the characters becoming more like beloved family with each read and reread.

Yes, you heard me right.  Glynn is one of the few authors I've relished, whose plots and characters bid me to revisit them again and again.  And never have I regretted those times of reunion; I've only been gifted once again by his stories and God-inspired insight into the human condition.

In this review of Dancing Prince, I really don't want to give too much away as to the plot and the eventual outcome.  What I want my readers to understand is that no one comes away from reading Glynn's works without feeling the Lord has blessed them.

Prince Thomas is the youngest son of King Michael and Queen Sarah Kent-Hughes.  His mother sees, in a visionary way, great promise for Thomas' future, and to secure that premonition, she paints a masterful portrait of her son that points to his life's mission.  Michael and Thomas are a father and son at odds, especially after Sarah passes away from leukemia.  (Have tissues at the ready.)  Their journey, together and apart, provides the road map for Dancing Prince.  And one wonders through this, as page after page is turned with eagerness, will they ever make amends?

I'm leaving you at that, my friends, but I do urge you to order the first four Dancing Priest books if you haven't yet read them.  You can order them through Glynn's marvelous blog, Faith, Fiction, Friends, or simply type his name in on Amazon.

Thank you, Glynn, for sharing the gift of writing God has given you with all of us!  Our lives are richer for it.

Amen!


About the Author

Glynn Young is an award-winning speechwriter and public relations professional, and a contributing editor at Tweetspeak Poetry.  In addition to the novels Dancing Priest, A Light Shining, Dancing King, Dancing Prophet, and Dancing Prince, he is the author of the non-fiction book Poetry at Work, which is one I have read and would also highly recommend.  He and his wife, Janet, live in suburban St. Louis.





Monday, July 13, 2020

Beyond



Genesis 31:55
Early the next morning, Laban kissed his grandchildren and his daughters and blessed them.  Then he left, and returned home.

When daughter, Sarah, and her husband, John, depart for South Carolina with the three beloved granddaughters on March 1st, Danny and I have every hope of seeing them again during their April spring break.  "It's not that far away," I reassure Virginia.  "We can make it!"

But weeks turn into months, and the months seem like years in the wake of this persistent virus.  Because of preexisting conditions regarding his heart, Danny cannot safely travel.  We are stuck at home, not even getting out to the store, but having our groceries delivered.  Yes, we can take walks in the neighborhood, and the occasional drive to rev up the cars and for a change of scenery, but this is, for now, our story.

I want to lose hope, but then I remember Laban.  When he kissed his daughters and grandchildren good-bye, he certainly understood that he would never see them again.  I can't even begin to imagine the pain and sorrow he endured at their parting.  Until the end of his days, Laban most likely conjured up images in his mind as to how his daughters and grandchildren were growing, playing, loving, and laughing.  Living lives in which he would never again take part.

Thankfully, Danny and I aren't confined to such a fate, and thus, this poem is born.


Beyond

When I see your face
Hear your voice
I long to reach beyond
Tech connection
Beyond Face Time
Touch, hug
Scent of perfect love
Remembered
Recalled, desired
Beyond measure
Beyond, you are
But not forever

Amen

Thursday, July 9, 2020

A Well-Placed Stamp



2 Thessalonians 3:17
I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand, which is the distinguishing mark in all my letters.  This is how I write.

In this day and age of the email and instant messaging, the art of writing a letter, penned thoughtfully by hand, seems to slip into the bygone era with each passing day.  But is it an age that has drawn its last breath?  By the looks or our old mailbox pictured above, one would be tempted to think so.  Defaced by mossy growth and thoughtless offerings of birds, it is worn and tired now, yet it has witnessed countless seasons of greeting cards, pleas for charitable contributions, and welcomed notes from loved ones.

My husband, Danny, eager for projects to accomplish safely while we're in the throws of this virus, decides that a new mailbox is a positive move.  I have no argument with that!  The forced distance this illness has demanded from those we love has opened new opportunities for communication; our oldest granddaughter, Virginia Rose, is cultivating the art of the handwritten note, much to our delight and gratification.



We so look forward to her missives!  And now, they will have a brand-new mailbox in which they can arrive.

And don't you know, once I receive a note from Virginia, I promptly write back.  This enforces the importance of the written word, the impact it imparts, and the lasting meaning even the simplest of thoughts can convey.  We have a new generation to teach, an opportunity to encourage caring and thoughtfulness in them as they take the time to write to us.  We can't afford to blow this one!

I think St. Paul felt the same way.  His epistles make up a ponderous portion of the New Testament.  Whenever I read them, I wonder how much weaker our faith would be without his inspiration and conviction that Jesus is Lord.

And surely, God put His well-placed stamp of approval on Paul's writings.  How else would they have been so carefully preserved and passed down,  generation after generation, for our edification and strengthening in the Christian faith?

Let us continue, then, to preserve our past in order to bless the future.

The only cost just might be a well-placed stamp.

Amen!

Monday, July 6, 2020

Imperfect Men, Perfect God



Joshua 4:5b-7
Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you.  In the future, when your children ask you, "What do these stones mean?" tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord.  When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off.  These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.

Our forefathers were imperfect men who recognized a perfect God. ~Jenna Ellis, Constitutional law attorney, Fox News contributor.

We celebrate our Independence Day this past weekend in a vastly different way than in years gone by.  With the shadow of Covid-19 stalking our land, many communal events commemorating our nation's birth are sadly cancelled.

Add to that, the minuscule, yet vocal and violent, anarchists terrorizing cities, and tearing down or defacing historical statues and monuments, and have a poisonous pill prescribed for Americans who still see our history as a country worth preserving.

Our forefathers, and the many presidents and statesmen, pioneers and abolitionists, who followed in their footsteps, left their indelible marks on society.  Some are so honored as to have statues erected in cities and towns so their accomplishments are remembered for generations.  It is grossly unfair to judge them as nonessential in the present times, when the only responsible, reasonable way to view them is from the perspective of the times in which they lived.

And what about all the memorials to our brave soldiers, who fought and died to protect the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution?  Should any acknowledgement of their valor and sacrifice be buried away with their bodies?  Whether we agree with the wars in which they fought, be it the Civil War or Vietnam, for instance, these men and women believed they were fighting for our nation in the context of their experience at than point in history.

Let's think of it this way:  What if we, as Christians, decided that the Old Testament is irrelevant to the eventual message of Christ Jesus?  I mean, all that nonsense about clean and unclean, God's Big Ten, and His seemingly vengeful tendencies.  Who needs that?

WE DO!  Because if we don't understand the history of the Jewish people, we can't begin to comprehend our overwhelming need as human beings for a Messiah.

The Bible is full of flawed, imperfect people, just like us, who recognized their need for a perfect God.

We glean empowering wisdom from their stories, and we can claim the same by honoring the history of our own nation.  May the stones we carve and erect serve to remind of this unique American journey upon which we are all embarked.

Together.

Amen!

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Old Glory




Psalm 119:45
I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.


Old Glory bravely waves
A valiant testament
To freedom and values
Held in the hearts
Of these who understand
The sacrifice of those
Who paid the ultimate price
To preserve her presence
Beacon of hope to hopeless
Opportunity proffered
World without end
Until the world does
May this flag endure
All to God's glory


Amen!

Wishing each and everyone of you a memorable Fourth of July!

Hope

  So, the poor have hope, and injustice shuts its mouth. ~Job 5:16 We are silent For now The threats Too incredible To bear But at polls Our...