Thursday, December 21, 2023

Merry Christmas!

 


From our house to yours,

Have a very, Merry Christmas and a Blessed and Happy New Year!


Dear Friends, it's time for me to take a blogging break.  I will be back posting in the New Year.  I will still be reading and commenting on your blogs.

Love and blessings!

Thursday, December 14, 2023

Advent

 


Holy candles

Lit in hope

Peace and joy

Laced in love

Everlasting

Flames ablaze

Light profound

Darkness flees

When God surrounds

The soul and self.

Amen

Sunday, December 10, 2023

Let Every Heart Prepare

 


For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.  He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.  The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. ~Isaiah 9:6-7


By this time in December, I expect you have at least some, if not all, of your decorations up and ready for the coming of Christmas Day.  It has been several years since Danny and I put up a tree; without family coming to visit, it didn't seem as meaningful to do so.  But this year, we buy a 7' artificial tree to replace our monstrous one that Danny has had for over 32 years!  Fewer decorations, yes, but tasteful and manageable all at the same time.





The stockings are hung by the chimney with care, framed by our mantlepiece garland.




And what home would be complete without an Advent calendar?



Hung in anticipation of Christmas cards on the way.


I'm still preparing mine for mailing.


I'm wondering, in this economy, we will even receive many cards this year.  I can always hope, and time will tell.

Last, but never least, our Nativity scene adorns the hearth of our fireplace.



May each and every one of you enjoy the peace and rest that the Advent season invites you to enter, and prepare your hearts for the joyful arrival of our Lord and Savior, Christ the King.

Amen!

Sunday, December 3, 2023

Christmas Comes Early

 


May the God of all hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. ~Romans 15:13


Hope is the word heard and used on the First Sunday of Advent as we light the first candle of this treasured season.  When Danny and I prepare to attend the service, where we've been asked to play two songs, hope is not at all the feeling I'm entertaining in my heart.

Our church, now known as Shiloh Community Church, recently votes to disaffiliate from the United Methodists.  November brings the hard truths of having to remove any and all insignias of the UMC denomination, including our hymnals, from the church premises.  Finding replacements is a costly endeavor, so we will be dependent upon someone typing the lyrics for a power point presentation each service going forward.

Disaffiliation is anything but an easy process; we are grateful for all the purchases and donations during our annual Pumpkin Patch sales, as we pray to have enough funds to completely free ourselves from the debt in which we find ourselves.  Unless we can pay it off, the UMC could possibly revoke our choice to leave that denomination.  I'm certain that God will help us find a way.

By far, the most difficult aspect of the whole ordeal is the thought of losing our beloved pastor, Jared.  Even though he has another full-time job, we fear he will leave us by the end of November.  Imagine my delight when I enter the sanctuary this past Sunday and find him there!  Ever curious, I intercept him to ask about it; I'm surprised by his answer that clergy is given a one-month reprieve from having to leave their flock.  "Oh," I think to myself.  "With Christmas coming, maybe those Grinches had a change of heart."  As we prepare for worship that morning, I sense the first glimmer of hope rising within me.

And with the church announcements, that hope fully blossoms.  Jared has chosen to disaffiliate along with us, a small congregation, determined to stick by us and help us navigate the inevitable changes that will continue to come.

What an unexpected surprise!  What a blessing!  It's truly nothing short of miraculous!

Christmas comes early for Shiloh Community Church as hope is rekindled, shining as brightly and clearly as that first candle lit in Advent.

One more of the many reasons to rejoice during this precious season, and to look forward to the coming of Christ in the manger and into our hearts this Christmas.

Amen!

For those of you keeping score, I know my comment about the Grinch is not very charitable.  I hope you will forgive me as the Lord has forgiven me and you.

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Give God Thanks and Praise

 


Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. ~Psalm 100:4


How was your Thanksgiving, friends?  I know from reading your blogs that most of you had a marvelous time feasting and spending treasured time with family and friends.  That's the way it's been for us for so many years, but not this time around.

Originally, Danny and I had planned to travel to Florida to see our son, Giovanni, and his wife, Hope, near the Hurlburt Air Force Base where he is stationed.


This, sadly, did not come about.  Hope's beloved mother, who lived in the Atlanta area, passed away after a long battle with cancer; her funeral was held on the Thursday before Thanksgiving.  So, yes, we got to see Gio and Hope, but not in a joyful way.

Of course, this turn of events had me missing Sarah, John, and the girls more than ever.  They, too, celebrated Thanksgiving just as an immediate family.  John's brother and his wife were visiting his parents who also live in North Carolina, and there simply was no room at the inn, so to speak.

When Sarah sends us these photos of their Thanksgiving Day festivities, I'm beside myself with joy at seeing everyone's happy faces.  It is almost as good as having them here with us.  Allow me to share their holiday with you.

The photo at the top of this post is the dining table prepared for the ensuing feast.

Here are John and Sarah with puppy, Finn.


Virginia and her mom.



Alexandra with mom.


Virginia looking so grown-up wearing a festive dress for the occasion.


Savannah holding court with her favorite stuffed animal, Rosie, that we gave her one year for Christmas.  It sings "Jesus Loves Me," and it still works!


And here's the comical Alexandra wearing her mashed potatoes!


It's readily apparent that a good time was had by all.  And I'm so proud of my daughter for lovingly preparing this meal for her family.  If I say so myself, this girl was brought up right!

So, friends, treasure your memories of this Thanksgiving, and always and everywhere, give thanks and prayers to the Lord.

Amen!

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Every Good and Perfect Gift


 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. ~James 1:17

Pictured here is our oldest granddaughter, Virginia Rose, holding a special certificate, one all of us are celebrating.  She earns all A's in her first term of 8th grade!!!  If we all reflect upon our middle school years, we know that is no small feat.

Virginia decides to work extra hard in school this year, and the results of her labors pay off with great dividends.  The morning her dad snaps this photo, she has just finished attending a special breakfast at school, followed by an awards ceremony for her and others in her class who have achieved the same milestone.

I'm so grateful that God has blessed Virginia with intellectual gifts that have enabled her to reach this coveted goal.  She sees for herself how much hard work and perseverance can help her climb the mountains in her life, no matter what obstacles might come.  Yes, she is so proud of this recent achievement, and so are we, but I've told her all along that, as a goal she has set for herself, failing to meet that goal, as long as you've tried your hardest, is no reason not to try, try again.

I'm also thankful to know that the school she is attending still rewards high-achieving students.  There are no trophies, or certificates, for 10th place.  And that's how it should be.

Children intuitively know when they are being coddled or rewarded for something they haven't legitimately earned.  One can hardly feel pride or a sense of accomplishment in getting a "prize" for mediocrity.  Virginia lets us know that already, some of her friends are determined to earn all A's the next time around because of her inspiration.  Isn't that the best?

My hope and prayer?  That Virginia will continue to recognize and use the marvelous gifts God has given her, not just for her own gratification, but as an inspiration to others to nurture and develop their unique gifts, too.  Seems to me that this "Little Big Girl" is well on her way to doing just that!

God sure loves you, sweet Virginia!  Always use your gifts and talents, His good and perfect gifts, for His praise and glory as you thank Him every day.

Amen!

Monday, November 13, 2023

Ours in Abundance

 


Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance. ~Jude 1:2


Nestled here in the forest, the trees surrounding us are wearing their autumn best before falling to the ground in abundance.  Isn't this sugar maple gorgeous?

I'm thankful to be able to watch the turning colors, so bright and cheerful, in the afternoon sunlight.

'Tis the time for leaf blowing, even though in this season, it can seem like an exercise in futility.  Here is our driveway just one hour after Danny clears it of all leaves and debris.




Still, it has to be done before it gets totally out of control.  There's nothing worse than not being able to correctly navigate our very steep drive because the pavement is wearing camouflage.  

The constant fall clean-up just comes with the territory of woodland living.  It's a much-preferred activity as opposed to having to mow grass in the heat of the summer.  Our "lawn" is made up of moss, and Danny is always repairing the patches created by squirrel paws and robin claws; for him, it's a labor of love!

Yes, we certainly have abundant leaves at our house, and when they descend to the ground, we can feel overwhelmed at times.

But what if we view this seasonal reality in an optimistic and grateful way?  For each leaf we witness floating to the ground, let's recount a blessing that God has so graciously given to us?  After all, this is the traditional season for giving thanks, though many of us do so all year-round.

When we give thanks each time a leaf falls, I know that mercy, peace and love will be ours in abundance.  God just works that way!

Amen!

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

God's Grace is All I Need

 


Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. ~Hebrews 13:8


Our time change happens this past weekend.  How many of you looked forward to that?  No matter if it's fall back or spring forward, our biological clocks are thrown for a loop.  Our body's Circadian rhythms do not readily adjust, or willingly, subject themselves to this unnatural manipulation of the clock.

The older I get, the more my body depends upon a schedule, something that no arbitrary alteration can change.  Instead of my inner alarm urging me to rise around the old time of seven, it now transforms to the six o'clock window.  I know that many of my readers are consistently early risers, but for me, this is way too early to embark upon the day.  Can I get back to sleep?  That's problematic.  Tossing and turning in frustration is the scenario I experience in the time change aftermath.

Will I eventually adjust?  I do believe I will.  But the older I get, the longer it takes for this acceptance to sink in.  One thing my body seems to need each and every day is a nap.  I'm not proud of that, but it is what it is.  Older, my friends, is not always better, is it?  In reaction to the time change, those naps are happening earlier than they used to.  This certainly interferes with the progress and productivity of my post-lunch afternoon.  Translation:  Limits I don't want to entertain when it comes to my writing/reading time, not to mention my daily exercise.

Am I complaining?  It sure sounds like it here!  But I want to assure you that I'm grateful for each and every day with which God blesses me.  Instead of feeling frustrated about the time change, what I'm most grateful for is that our Lord never wavers in the love, grace and faithfulness He shows to all of us, no matter what inconveniences we might be going through.

The world is a mess, our country is in tumult, but if His people focus on His words and His promises, we have a secure and never-failing compass to guide us in the way He wants us to go.  Even when we feel weak, tired and hapless, God gives us the strength and hope to carry on in His name.

We can trust that He will be the same, yesterday, today and forever.

I choose to take Him at His word.

I choose to live in His eternal promise.

His grace is all I need to live my life to the fullest.

Amen!

Thursday, November 2, 2023

Hair Raising!

 


"His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant!  You have been faithful with a few things.  I will put you in charge of many things.  Come and share in your Master's happiness!'" ~Matthew 25:23

Nothing says "fun" to a child more than dressing up and trick-or-treating on Halloween night.  Above is a shot of the grands (Savannah is partially hidden by her witch sister, Virginia) nearing a welcoming, well-lit home in a nearby neighborhood, known for its generous residents and cautious drivers.  Sarah and John find the perfect area to take their girls!

I know I sound a lot like Scrooge, but because our driveway is enormously steep, with lots of bumps created by thriving tree roots, Danny and I close our blinds and dim our lights so no errant goblin will venture our way on Halloween.  Fortunately for us, this works beautifully.  I do miss the little ones with their eager, made-up faces and oversized bags begging to be filled, but that's just the way it is.

I don't go in for horror flicks, and I'm no fan of the creepy and spooky, but I see something on my computer that shocks the living daylights out of me.  Maybe, you've seen this, too?

A group comprised of both children and adults (yes, adults!) approach a doorstep.  The home owners have left out a bowl chockful of candy.  The unwritten, but universally understood law of Halloween, is to take one treat and leave the rest for others yet to come.  I observe with disgust how the entire hoard empties the bowl into all their sacks - deliberately and with glee!

What message are these parents sending to their children by being complicit in the act of stealing?  Rudely taking what they instinctively know isn't for them alone?

If you, like me, are wondering what this world is coming to, look no further than how children act even when their parents are around.  Crass and brazen barely begins to describe them as they mimic their parents' despicable behavior.

I don't think there's room for a please or a thank you in such an uncivilized atmosphere.

Jesus tells us clearly in the parable above that God expects us to be found trustworthy with the riches He has given us in this life.  We are not to cheat, lie, steal, or defraud our neighbors.  Instead, if we love them as we love ourselves, and invest in their futures, our riches will return to us ten fold with blessings beyond compare.

To witness this polar-opposite behavior is downright hair-raising.  (Did they forget about Ring doorbells???)  Let us pray daily that this errant nation sees the light of God's love and turns, returns, to Him.

And Him alone.

Amen!

Sunday, October 29, 2023

In the Letting Go

 


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

Verdant leaf, once was I

One of many countless friends

Who waved and shouted glory

In the presence of the sun

Vibrant, filled with vigor

Waxing, no thought of waning

In the season yet to come

Season here, my color fades

Shining green steeped in brown

There's not strength to carry on

But in the letting go, I live

Because the promise of the One

Knows I have played my part

Amen

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Sing to the Lord!

 


Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. ~Psalm 96:1


Most of you who have been following my blog know that Danny and I have been invited by our church, now known as Shiloh Community Church since we will soon be leaving the UMC, to sing on the first Sunday of each month.  Once a month?  Who can't handle that?  It's a perfect schedule for us as we are easing back into getting reacquainted with the worship songs we knew by heart so many years ago when Danny still led our praise band at our previous church.

Out of the blue, earlier this month, our intrepid lay leader, Sandy, asks us if we could perform the special music for the following Sunday.  We readily agree, knowing that we have a whole luxurious week to practice and prepare for another selection.  Everything goes according to plan, which is the way we both like it.  After all, we are singing not not just for the congregation, but also to the glory of God.

As we are getting ourselves ready for church this past Sunday, we receive an urgent and unexpected text from Sandy:  Can y'all fill in again this week?  I need two songs if at all possible.  I'm just worn out with everything I've had to do in the pumpkin patch this week, the pastor's not here, and I really need your help!

Two songs?  TWO???

Talk about flying by the seat our pants!  Fortunately, Danny has earmarked several possible songs for future Sundays that he's also practiced  But have I practiced?  The answer is a resounding, "NO!"

Miraculously, Danny and I are left with enough time that morning to rehearse each song once.  For me, that's not enough, but it will have to do or we will be late for church.  That's when I begin praying in earnest:  Please, Lord, let us both get through this today; our singing needs to be to Your honor and glory, not ours.  May we represent You well to our congregation today!

Don't let anyone tell you that God doesn't hear your prayers.  He does!  And sometimes, His answer is immediate as it was for me on Sunday.  Both songs rolled easily from our lips and our harmonies could not have been better, even if we had practiced all week.  Wow!

This undergirds one of my basic beliefs:  If you dedicate the gifts God has given you to His service, all will be well with your soul.

Sing to the Lord a new song of praise today!

Amen!

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

A Plentiful Harvest

 


He told them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field."  ~Luke 10:2


The biggest fund raiser our church holds is the annual pumpkin patch in October.  Since Shiloh is located on a busy street in our town of Kennesaw, the presence of the pumpkins is readily noticed by all who pass by.  Thank goodness our church laborers were many when the tractor trailer arrives with box upon box of pumpkins!  Unloading and displaying them on the adjacent grounds is no small task.  Danny and I help as much as we can on Sunday after service, but my continuing issues with balance on uneven ground keeps me from being handy with reaching for and lifting pumpkins from the massive boxes, although I was able to cart the empty boxes away and learn how our purchasing procedures work with the customers who will be parading by in the weeks before Halloween.  Needless to say, I will be doing plenty of volunteer work in the weeks to come.

Danny stops by the pumpkin patch this past Monday to snap some photos.  Enjoy!












Hopefully, those who visit us to buy their Halloween pumpkins and decorations won't leave empty-handed.  We don't want to have any leftovers!

And may we always strive to be God's tireless workers to the honor and glory of His name that others may reap the joy of His love and grace.

Amen!

Monday, October 9, 2023

Jerusalem's Peace

 


Pray for Jerusalem's peace!  Prosperity to all you Jerusalem-lovers!  Friendly insiders, get along!  Hostile outsiders, keep your distance! ~Psalm 122:6-9 (MSG)

We awaken this past Saturday to an unexpected and unprecedented shock.  The country of Israel has suffered an attack on their soil by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.  As the news shouts from the television screen, the images are so exceedingly disturbing and heartrending.  I feel like I'm viewing scenes from a horror movie.  But this is no fictional tale.

As the day progresses, questions swirl in my mind.  Where was the Iron Dome?  Why didn't it work?  How did Hamas breech the physical border between Israel and Gaza?  What was the state of intelligence gathering before this heinous event?  Why can't the hostile outsiders learn to keep their distance?

I'm sure all those questions and more will be addressed and answered in the coming weeks.  But for now, I can only watch, listen and grieve for the families who lost loved ones who were either killed or taken as hostages by Hamas.  Just the latter fact will make it all the more difficult to storm Gaza with a barrage of firepower.

War is ugly.  Horrifying.  And in this case, unprovoked.

It is beyond my comprehension that there are people here in America who insist on blaming Israel for this conflict.  When did the Jewish state fire the first shot?  Kill the first Arab?  Declare war against their neighbor?

They didn't.

And now, the United States is not only called upon to engage in some way with this middle-east conflict, but we are also under the obligation to aid our Ukrainian brothers and sisters in their continuing struggle against Russia's power and aggression.

I can't help but conclude that all this chaos is a product of a weak and feckless administration.  No matter what your think, or thought about, President Donald Trump, he governed with the policy of peace through strength, just as President Reagan did in the 1980s.

And it was working.  The middle-east peace treaty enacted through the Abraham accords.  Islamic terrorist leaders taken out, stopped in their steps before creating more havoc and unrest in the region.  And the hope for more peaceful alliances created in that crucial corner of the world in the future.  Think the recent negotiations between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

How does God feel when He sees His chosen people under siege?  I'm sure His heart is breaking with the slaughter of innocents.  His heavenly tears falling as He witnesses, once again, man's inhumanity to man on full display.

May we continue to pray for our Jewish brothers and sisters stranded in their war-torn country as they strive to defend their homeland - the Holy Land.  And may God Almighty bless them with triumph and victory over this evil, that Jerusalem may once again know peace.

The peace that passes all understanding.

Amen!

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Hanging by a Thread

 


He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil's trap. ~1 Timothy 3:7


Surprised, suspended between heaven and earth

Tossed about by errant breezes wild

Caught in stray strand of spider's web

Held fast by sticky, stubborn thread of silk

Bane of insects, now the trap for leaf

Where to go?  What to do?  Expecting

Help to arrive with God's grace

Save me from the snares of sin, free me

For the mission You have ordained

That my journey here on earth persists

Until I hear Your call:  Come Home!

Amen



Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Our World in Words

 


You are my friends if you do what I command. ~John 15:14


I am so humbled and honored today to have four of my poems featured by my dear friend, and brother in Christ, J. D. Wininger, who posts weekly at his wonderful blog, Around the Cross-Dubya.  I do hope you all will check it out and subscribe to J. D.'s words of wisdom as an integral part of your Christian walk.

Love and blessings, my friends!

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Loaves and Fishes

 


Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, spoke up.  "Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?" ~John 6:8-9


One thing I truly like about our new church is that we hold a potluck after service once a month.  It's such a casual and pleasant to get to know the members better so that new friendships can be nurtured and grown.  Being a small congregation, that is delightfully easy to do.

Danny and I take a tuna/pasta salad for our last potluck.  This Sunday, we decide on bringing his homemade pimento cheese sliders.  If you live for any length of time in the South, you quickly discover that pimento cheese is a year-round favorite!  And Danny's take on it is truly out of this world.

When Danny goes to the store to secure ingredients, he is thrilled to find that this imported, non-GMO sharp Irish cheddar is on sale.  He buys two, and grates both 7 oz. packages into a large bowl.





Once grated, Danny adds two 4 oz. jars of pimentos, drained.


Next, he adds mayonnaise.  We use the brand "Chosen," as it is made with 100% avocado oil.



For extra creaminess, Danny adds a generous dollop of whipped cream cheese.  What a difference it makes in the texture!


He mixes all these ingredients together with dashes of pepper and garlic powder.  Now, for the taste test.


Yum!  It's perfect!

The cheese mixture is refrigerated overnight; we prepare the actual sliders, using King's Hawaiian bread rolls, on Sunday morning so the bread won't get soggy.




The toothpicks add a festive touch.



Here is a partial view of the dishes brought by other church members for our monthly feast.  There is something for everyone, and no one leaves the table hungry.



Potlucks always bring to mind the story of the little boy with his loaves and fishes.  What he had was probably portioned just for him.  I wonder how he felt when Andrew asked if he would give his lunch to Jesus?  Did he already believe that Jesus could work miracles?  That He could multiply the meager loaves and fishes to satisfy the appetites of all the hungry people gathered on the hillside?  Or was it a loving look from the Lord that convinced him he was doing the right thing?

When we unselfishly share whatever portions we have, and everyone contributes, there is always more than enough to go around, and then some.  It is our act of sharing with others that abundance is found.  After all, Jesus came that we might have life, and have it more abundantly.

Let's live that lesson out in our daily lives.

Amen!

Investments

  Do not be wise in your own eyes;  fear the Lord and shun evil.  This will bring health to your body and nourishment for your bones. ~Prove...