Saturday, December 29, 2012

Laughter


I love these photos of laughter and the joy of the moment.  My grandson, Storm when he was two years old, shone with such an innocent, joyful spirit and countenance that his aunts, my daughters Holly and Sara, were filled with sheer delight.  I can't help but smile in return when I view these pictures.

I'm reminded of the happy Proverb: "A merry heart does good like medicine." 17:22.  It has been scientifically proven that laughing is a healthy activity with positive benefits.  Besides making the face a lot more attractive than a frown, smiles and laughter lower blood pressure and increase good endorphins in the body.  The infectious nature of laughter and smiles is also an encouragement to onlookers as well.   "A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance.." 15:33.

So, the next time you're feeling a bit blue or it's raining outside and gloomy, or you're just plain ole tired, force yourself to enjoy a belly laugh and paint a smile across your face -- according to our Lord's own Holy Scripture, it will do you good.  In fact, you might find yourself laughing at your own self before you're finished (:

Friday, December 21, 2012

Awareness


The picture I snapped from a distance is a bit blurry, but you can still see him: a red cardinal sits on a limb at the back of my yard -- a tiny pop of red in a vast sea of green. How striking and beautiful. It causes me to smile.

He flits away, but I know he's still around, I just can't see him. How like our awareness of God's presence.  Once in a while, we become acutely aware that He is here with us and that awareness is such a delight -- like a bright pop of red against a sea of green. Then it's gone. Our awareness of His presence has flitted away. His presence isn't really gone, we just can't see or feel it. There's a huge difference in those two statements.

"Lo I am with you always..." (Matthew 28:20) is a promise from Almighty God. Indeed, when a person becomes a Christian, the Holy Spirit actually takes up permanent residence within our body and soul. "Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" 1 Corinthians 3:16. It's a mystery, but nonetheless true.

Here's a couple more encouraging verses to assure you that He's always right there with you: "For He Himself has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you'" Hebrews 13:5; and one of my favorites, "For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" Romans 8:38-39.

Why don't we live with more awareness of God's presence in and around us? It's called "Life" and it tends to get in the way of that blessed awareness. We don't need to beat ourselves up over it, but we do need to seek out that awareness on a more frequent basis. Don't let the cares of this life insulate you from the feeling of God's presence.

A group called Big Daddy Weave sings a song I love - this is the chorus: "Every time I breathe You seem a little bit closer / I never want to leave / I want to stay in Your warm embrace / Oh basking in the glory shining from Your face / And every time I get another glimpse of Your heart / I realize it’s true / That You are so marvelous God / And I am so in love with You."

The closer we draw to our blessed Savior and walk in an awareness of His presence, the more joy we'll have in our lives and the more "pops of red against a sea of green" we'll delight in.

Young Again!


This photo was taken around 1944 and shows a young, happy Eleanor and George -- Mama and Daddy to we three children they lovingly raised. This is how I picture them now up in Heaven. They are not only together again, but back to being young, healthy and happy.  No more aged hands as in the previous picture below.  I smile just looking at them!

What a marvelous gift God gives us as Christians -- that we do not have to grieve as those who have no hope. As the passage about Christ's coming reminds us in 1 Thessalonians 4, we can "comfort one another with these words."

One of my favorite "words" from God about this subject is in 2 Corinthians 5:8: "We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord." Indeed, My first thought and words when she took her last breath was, “Mama! What are you seeing now?! I’m so happy for you!” Yes, there are and will continue to be tears, but what a blessing that we sorrow not as those who have no hope, but rather in full hope of what lies in store for each of us who love the Lord.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

My Mother



My mother stepped into the presence of the Lord on December 6 and was welcomed into Glory by her Savior and by my dear father (her husband of 54 years who'd preceded her into heaven by nearly 18 years).  She was 93 years old and no doubt looked a mere 30 as she took that eternal first step into her new home.  Three years earlier, I took this picture of her work-worn hands resting atop her mother's Bible. 

My impression of Mother's hands is of love and labor and long life.  She had the softest touch, always gentle, always caring.  Her hands also had the amazing talent of arranging beautiful flower designs, cooking delicious foods, soothing sick family members, and growing a grand garden.  I always marveled at how she could break a twig from a tree or bush, push the end down into her special soil, and in only a week or so roots had developed at the end of the twig and it had become a plant in its own right. 

Mother truly reflected the verses in Proverbs 31:  "Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates...Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her."

In spite of the difficulties she'd endured during the last 2-1/2 years (after breaking her hip), God was faithful.  His precious love and tenderness is beautifully shown in the verse in Isaiah 46 where He says our bodies have been, "upheld by Me from birth...even to your old age.  I am He, and even to gray hairs I will carry you!"  On more than one occasion I remembered that verse and was encouraged that He still had her best interests in His heart.

I am so thankful that Mother committed her life into God's hands as a child and she is even now basking in the light of His dear presence.  My mother's hands were swollen and full of wrinkles in the photo, but I've always thought they were beautiful -- and I believe God was pleased with His daughter to the very end of her days upon the earth.  We miss you, Mother, but time will be but as a vapor before we see you again.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Foreshadowing


I made this photo large because I really like it!  During our trip to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado in September, we rode through this tunnel of glorious golden Aspen trees and at the end, the view opened up to a beautiful valley of colorful trees, a red barn and soaring mountains all around.  It was breathtaking!
As we travel through the highways and byways and various paths of life, we're never quite sure what lies beyond the bend or over the hill ahead of us.  It could be something good, or it could be something quite the opposite.  I'm so thankful that God knows it all and He's in control of every breath I take.

Here's a thought I had one day:   God has already written the book of the world – past, present and future.  Along the way He has blessed people with clues and promises and pictures and foreshadowing of what is yet to come for them, but has already been completed by Him.  The script for our future was written by God in His past.  How exciting and extraordinary!

Over and over in the Old Testament and New Testament as well, God prophesies about things to come -- many of them things that have already passed in our lifetime.  One example are the promises God made to Abraham.  I like what Galatians 3:8 says about those promises:  "The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, 'In you all the nations shall be blessed.'"

Rather than find such a truth in any way daunting, I find it comforting.  As Job said, "He knows the way that I take....) 23:10.  All I have to do is acknowledge Him in all my ways and He has promised to direct my paths (from Proverbs 3:6).

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Scorpion


Even though I'm mostly pretending to be afraid of this bronze scorpion (by Nick Bakker) on Main Street in the little town of Marble Falls, Texas, the life-like sculpture gave me chills. First of all, scorpions are horrifying creatures to my way of thinking. And secondly, it reminds me of the deadly, giant insects in the most recent King Kong movie -- something I can still have nightmares about.

As soon as I saw this scorpion sculpture, I considered the spiritual message wrapped around it's heartless destructive instinct and poisonous tail. It reminds of Satan and his heartless destructiveness and poisonous ways.

Here are some interesting facts about scorpions, according to Wikipedia: they are nocturnal, preferring darkness to hunt and feed; they are opportunistic predators; they either crush their prey or inject it with venom. In some cultures the scorpion is perceived as an embodiment of evil.

Satan IS the embodiment of evil. His wickedness and intent to destroy mankind is without a shred of mercy. At least in the case of the scorpion, his destructive nature is totally instinctive -- no thought  involved. Not so with Satan. Every move he makes is calculated to kill and maim and cause unutterable pain, with the ultimate intent of usurping God's power.

Like the scorpion, Satan prefers to hunt and feed in darkness. The darker side of human nature creates easy pickings for he and his henchman to crush his prey and inject them with the venom of hatred, lust, murder, and a long list of sinful pursuits.

Satan and his demons are opportunistic as well. As soon as we take our eyes off God in a situation, they are ready to pounce, pinchers ready to snatch away our peace and joy and trust in the great Almighty.

We can be thankful that there are no giant scorpions on the loose out there, but beware of the greater danger. Satan and his host of demons are invisible scorpions eager to inflict eternal harm. I'm so thankful that God is always greater. Jesus told His disciples, "Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you" Luke 10:19.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Corn Maze


Just before Halloween, my daughter, two grandchildren and I went out into the countryside for some outdoor fun at the Dairy Farm.  We rode in a wagon, bouncing over ruts in the field as a tractor pulled us to a vast cornfield containing an intricate maze.

We let four-year old Marisa and two-year old Declan walk ahead of us so we could observe their reaction to their first time in a cornfield.

At times, Marisa ran ahead - unafraid, reveling in the adventure and confident she could blaze a trail. We had to run to keep up (not easy on uneven ground of a cornfield) and call to her to wait and let us catch up.  If she rounded a corner before we could get to her, I was fearful she might get lost.

Although he was leery of losing sight of his Mother, little Declan tried to keep up with his bigger cousin, falling more than once in his efforts.  We managed to get through the maze after a number of wrong turns and dead ends -- and had fun in the process.

As I watched these two little ones roaming the uneven path together, it made me think of how they are just starting out on the journey of life.  They'll be walking, stumbling, sometimes running along muddy or smooth or rutted paths all through their childhood, adolescents, into adulthood and eventually old age.  The convoluted maze of life stretches before them and they have no idea what lies around the bend. 

If it were not for the Lord watching over each step they take, it would be a fearful thing.  I am so thankful that God loves these precious little ones and He says in Exodus 23:20:  "See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared."

We do our part in leading them in the right direction by teaching them as Proverbs says, "Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil" (4:26-27).

As Marisa and Declan walk hand in hand down the corn path, I pray that they and each of my precious grandchildren, will walk hand in hand with our Lord and Savior along this path we call Life.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Moccasins



These beautifully beaded moccasins from the Lakota Indian tribe are part of a display at the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Medora, North Dakota. They remind me of an important life lesson.

In the last couple decades of my life, I have discovered a great truth -- one that is well-known by many, but is taken to heart by only a few. It's this: until you've gone through "a thing" yourself, you never really know how it feels, or to quote an old Indian saying, "To understand a man, you've got to walk a mile in his moccasins."

The Biblical directive to put this truth into action is "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you" Matthew 7:1-2.

The thing is, we tend to look at another person's behavior and think, "That's not the way she should act about that difficulty," or "He is way out of line with his behavior in this situation." Granted, there are times when people do not behave appropriately and they are way out of line, but too often what we consider to be poor behavior might be the best way that person knows how to cope with the situation. James said, "...But you - who are you to judge your neighbor?" (3:12).

Sometimes we're able to handle things better than we think we would when a situation arises, and other times, we fall apart and are later surprised at our own reaction to the event. The great thing is that God understands all of our reactions and motives and feelings -- and He loves us no matter how we react. I love another verse in James that is, I believe, not only how God looks at us, but how we should look at one another, "...Mercy triumphs over judgment!" (2:13).  Praise God for Mercy!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Beauty


As we were driving through a small town in Montana, I spotted this magnificent tree standing above a junk vehicle. The majestic tree with its brilliant color and wide-spreading branches creates a startling contrast on one hand and, with a dash of irony -- a pleasing picture on the other. God is the amazing Author of both.

God offers the most startling contrast between Himself and man by way of how infinitely above us He is in every way. As we all know, the heavens are so vast that even planets are light years away from our earth -- and, we've never even mapped the entire universe (and I don't believe we ever will). He is so much more than we can ever be that we cannot even comprehend the vast gulf between our ways and His ways. When God spoke to Isaiah in 55:9, He pointed out: "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts."

A pleasing picture is seen in the way the vibrant beauty of the tree overshadows the ugliness of the poor vehicle. This reminds me of how God is able to make something beautiful out of even the most ugly. I love the verses in Isaiah 61 where He promises "To give them beauty for ashes," and further also "the garment of praise." And going along with our beautiful tree theme, He says, "That they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified."

In every aspect, these things are to produce glory to God -- and that is indeed our greatest purpose. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Dust to Dust


I was intrigued by this jar of ashes in the Spanish Mission Espada in San Antonio, Texas.  There was a corresponding jar in another window with the English translation, "Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return" [from a verse in Genesis 3:19] 

Without being morbid, we nevertheless need to remain aware that we are indeed mortal and will not live forever.  That being said, we must ask ourselves - "Where will I be when I cease to be on this earth?"  This is the most important question each person must answer.  If your answer is one of uncertainty, then please, make your answer sure before another day passes in your life - because, we never know when we'll be returning to that "dust" state.

Here's how you can be sure that when your life here is ended and you step from this earth, that your next step will be into heaven -- and not the to-be-avoided-at-all-cost other destination of hell (and yes, I'm afraid that it is very real):

Three things we need to know:  we have all sinned; we cannot save ourselves from the punishment of this sin; and "God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life" John 3:16.

If you believe these three statements to be true (and they're true whether you believe them or not), then your next step is to confess your sin to God and accept His free gift of salvation through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.  Jesus said, "I am he way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father except through me" John 14:6.

In is also important to know that we can never ever work our way to heaven by our own goodness or good works - "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast" Ephesians 2:8-9.

I love what happens when you accept Christ as your Savior, as it says in 2 Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new!"

Someday, when I become dust (and it will happen), I'll be stepping into that glorious land with my Savior and it will be amazing and wonderful!  I sure hope you'll join me there someday.

 “Lord, make me to know my end, and what is the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am. Indeed, you have made my days as handbreadths, and my age is as nothing before you; certainly every man at his best state is but vapor. Surely every man walks about like a shadow…My hope is in you” Psalm 39:4-7.




Thursday, November 1, 2012

Variety of God's Creation


This photo of Mama Elephant and her baby from Reid Park Zoo in Tucson, Arizona, is an example of God's amazing span of creative diversity.

Our God is a God of great variety and, I'm pretty sure, a sense of humor. I mean, why else create an anteater, a fish, an elephant, and a giraffe -- and don't forget the monkey and his antics. The famed scientist Louis Pasteur once said, "The more I study nature, the more amazed I am at the Creator."

When I look out my back window at all the various trees, bushes and flowers, I notice the many different colors of green God has created in that one small view of nature.  I also notice texture and shape differences. Why, God could just as easily (or probably, more easily) have created a world that was black and white, with an occasional touch of gray. Instead, He enriches His world with beauty and wonder and variety and color and so much depth of meaning that we will never comprehend it all. "I have made the earth, and created man on it.  I - My hands - stretched out the heavens, and all their host I have commanded" Isaiah 45:12.

Ah, how true and how amazing! I say with the Psalmist: "I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well" (139:14). Indeed, He has created marvelous works in not only nature, but our bodies and minds and hearts as well. And, I might add: "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it" Psalm 139:6.

Therefore, I will glorify this great God, my gracious Father, by echoing David's words: "I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonders. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High" Psalm 9:1-2.



Sunday, October 21, 2012

Being Doers


This grand bronze statue of a Shakespearean character called, "The Actor" by Dee Clements, stands in Benson Park in Loveland, Colorado. The statue reminds me of a verse in the Epistle of James about a person who looks in a mirror. Here's how it goes:

"But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does" James 1:22-25.

Practically speaking, here's at least part of what this means: We can actually deceive our own selves in matters of faith. We can listen to a preacher/teacher or study the Word ourselves, we can even agree with everything we've learned about how God wants us to live and what He wants us to do. Then, we can walk away from that encounter totally unchanged, doing nothing about what we just learned. We may have gotten a bit more head knowledge, but our hearts remain untouched.

Here's how Beth Moore put it in her study of James: "We can work a study until the desert turns to ice and still be stuck in the same bondage. The doing causes the changing - not the hearing. Why don't we get that? Because we deceive ourselves. The self-deception slithers in when we mistake appreciation for application or being touched with being changed....the Word was meant to work."

It reminds me of the song, Through the Motions, by Matthew West. He sings, "I don't wanna go through the motions / I don't wanna go one more day / without Your all consuming passion inside of me / I don't wanna spend my whole life asking, / "'What if I had given everything, / instead of going through the motions?'"

As we're convicted by the first part of the verse, don't neglect the positive promise of the last part: if we will be faithful doers of the word and, I might add, refuse to just go through the motions, we will be blessed in what we do.  What a joy to be passionate about God!


Monday, October 8, 2012

Suitcases

This photo was taken in Tampa, Florida, as we prepared to take a Caribbean cruise. I looked over the side of the ship and saw tons of suitcases being loaded.  When we think of Suitcases, we usually thing of traveling somewhere -- of going on a journey.

Actually, our entire lives are one long journey. On the day of our birth, we all embark on our Life Journey. God has created a map for each of our lives with a path for each of us to follow.

The Psalmist wrote (139:16) "All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." Each person has a different journey experience -- and each person carries some number of suitcases along the way.

So, what are these Suitcases I'm talking about. Well, here's a list of some things in our lives that can be termed burdens - i.e. Suitcases: fear, anger/temper, addictions of various kinds, insecurity, low self-esteem, worry, sorrow, -- what are some other things you can think of?
        The question is: What suitcases are you carrying around with you on a daily basis?

God does not want us to be burdened by carrying internal loads that actually result in weighing us down physically as well as spiritually and emotionally. He wants us to trust Him enough to carry the load for us and to work out the needs involved with each load as He deems best.

Here's what Jesus says, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" Matthew 11:28. That means, with His help, He wants you to lay aside the burdens -- which could be termed Suitcases -- and rest in Him.

The weights we carry around in our hearts and minds -- and yes, even in our body through stress and tension -- end up damaging our peace and joy.  Peace and Joy -- the two things we want more than anything else in life. It's not money people want more than anything, although it's nice to have some. No, peace and joy are the two most desired things in a human heart -- plus, peace and joy is what God wants for His children and offers in abundance.

I'll end with some of the lyrics from a song aptly called, "Suitcases," sung by Dara Maclean:
How can you move when they're weighing you down / What can you do when you're tied to the ground / You carry your burdens, heavy like gravity / Just let them go now, there's freedom in release You can't run when you're holding suitcases / It's a new day throw away your mistakes and open up your heart / Lay down your guard, you don't have to be afraid --
Just breathe, your load can be lifted / There's a better way when you know you're forgiven / Open up your heart, lay down your guard / You don't have to be afraid.
Can you imagine what it's like to be free / Well, send those bags packing, they're not what you need /
Abandon your troubles by the side of the street / Just let them go now, believe me.....

Jesus says, "My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." John 14:27.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Mount Rushmore

I haven't posted any new pieces lately because we have been on a journey out west.  We flew into Denver, Colorado, rented a car and then drove through five more states before returning to Denver 15 days later.  We drove through 2,645 miles of beautiful and interesting scenery.  You probably recognize the location of the picture above -- the famous four carved into the granite side of Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.  The less famous two in the foreground are, of course, my husband Larry and myself.

We enjoyed spending several hours exploring and learning about this amazing work.  A sculptor named Gutzon Borglum had the vision and know-how to accomplish this great feat (with the help of 400 workmen) and build a masterpiece for the ages.  The carving process began in October 1927 and was not officially completed until October 1941.  The heads of the presidents are about 60 feet tall.  Even the eyes are huge at 11 feet wide -- and can you imagine a nose that's 21 feet high?!

They say that a total of 450,000 tons of granite was removed from the mountain to create these faces -- mostly by strategic use of dynamite.  I cannot even fathom that amount of rock, but each handful of stone had to be removed carefully and from just the right spots to cause each detail to turn out so beautifully.

God is our Creator and Builder.  He made each and every one of us for a special purpose.  Here are some verses that speak of God's building projects -- us:

"For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God" Hebrews 3:4

"Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed, and in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them" Psalm 139:16

"Your hands have made me and fashioned me; give me understanding, that I may learn Your commandments" Psalm 119:73

Then there is the idea of removing what is unneeded and superfluous in order to create a desired outcome that reminds me of what God does in the lives of His children.  John 15:1-8 shows how God "prunes" us and removes things from our lives so that we will become better versions of ourselves and bear more fruit to His glory.  Growth often comes through difficulty (and we just hope it doesn't require the use of dynamite).  There is a song sung by Laura Story that says, "What if your blessings come through raindrops; what if your healing comes through tears; what if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near?  What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise."

As we see God working and building and pruning to make us His great masterpieces for eternity, we can give God the glory and say with the Psalmist:  "I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well" (139:14).

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Power


This photo was taken in Oregon near the Columbia River.  It's a power plant with a whole lot of voltage.  I chose this picture because it represents a vast amount of power that must be tapped into in order to reap the benefits that it offers.  In other words, sometimes you just gotta flip the switch.  This offers us a picture of what Christ does in the life of a Christian.  Here's how it goes:

There are two spiritual impossibilities:  It is impossible to make it to Heaven on your own (you must accept the sacrifice of Christ's death as payment for your sins to be saved) and secondly, it is impossible to go out in your own strength and live the Christian life.  The end of Colossians 1:27 tells it like this, "...Christ in you, the hope of glory."  That's what makes the difference -- Christ living in and through you.  You might ask, "Well, what does that look like in real life?  What does it look like to live a day walking with God?"

Here's what Paul said about that in Colossians 2:6:  "So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught and overflowing with thankfulness."  So, Paul is saying we can live in Christ and He in us in the same way that we received Him.

How did we receive Christ as Savior?  "For by grace you have been saved, through faith..." Ephesians 2:8.  So, living in Christ daily is accomplished by grace through faith.  This is a powerful truth (remember the power available from a power plant?  This is even greater) that can make all the difference between you as a Christian spending a lifetime "going through the motions: of trying to live a good Christian life -- or -- of serving Christ fully and reaping the joy and peace of an empowered Christian life lived in His strength.

You have two choices:  leave the switch to the "off" position following the verse in John 15, "Without Me, you can do nothing," Jesus says, and go through life lacking power.  Or, you can flip the switch to the "on" position and reap the benefits of power by claiming the promise in Philippians 4:  "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."  There's no in between.  The switch is either on or off.  You either let Christ empower you or you don't.  It's your choice.

Once again, you might ask, "What does that look like in real life?"  It looks like what David said in Psalm 37:4:  "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart."  And also a statement made by well-known pastor, A.W. Tozer:  "As God is exalted to the right place in our lives, a thousand problems are solved all at once."

Here's what those two truths put together mean:  If we will delight ourselves in the Lord God -- then, He will be exalted to the right place in our lives and -- as scripture tells us, then, He will give you the desires of your heart, because they will have become the desires of His heart -- and then, a thousand problems are solved all at once.  It all fits together like a beautiful puzzle that produces peace and joy when it's completed.

This doesn't meant that our lives are suppose to be perfect or without sin and struggle.  Hey, we're still living on old planet earth where sin abounds, but remember, "where sin abounds, grace much more abounds" Romans 5:20.

Here's a simple way to start living in the power of Christ (who already lives in you if you are a Christian).  Just take it one day at a time -- each morning -- asking God to live through you, empowering you to live the Christian life He wants for you and to help you delight in Him.  Believe me, you'll have more joy and peace in your life -- and you'll also find the answer to what it looks like to live a day walking with God.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Communication


This photo was taken in the country of Belize when we were on a Caribbean cruise a couple years ago.  As you can see, the mailbox is in a sad state of disrepair.  I'm not even sure if this mailbox was still in use or not.  I have to say, the whole downtown area of Belize City that we walked around was in a sad state of disrepair.  This old mailbox still shows signs of British rule with the Queen Elizabeth crown just above the broken base.  In spite of the damage, I still saw remnants of dignity in it.

I chose this photo to use to represent the idea of communication.  God communicates with His children in a number of ways.  Although He doesn't use a mailbox, He did use letters sent by Paul as one way of getting His message to us.  The entire Holy Bible is basically a love letter written by God (through His choice servants) to His dear children.  How amazing to think that the Creator of the whole universe sent us such a detailed and expansive communication.  Together -- the Holy Spirit and the Bible are the most precious and vital links between man and God.

Even so, there are other ways that God speaks to us.  He speaks through preachers and teachers as they proclaim the Word of God in ways that help us understand.  God sometimes speaks directly to the heart of a believer as well, and such times are incredibly precious and amazing.

Then, there are the messages God offers us through the earth and all His creation.  In Psalm 19:1-4, it is written:  "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.  Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge.  There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.  Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world."  Look around -- and listen to hear God speaking to you through His great creation.

Now, as we think about communication, I'd like to ask you -- my readers -- to please communicate with me.  I'd love to meet you and hear what you have to say about God -- or anything else.  And any questions you might have that you'd like to ask.  Is anyone out there?  Send me a "comment," I'd love to hear from you.  Thanks!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Poem: Broken...and Mended Again



We all grieve when we lose someone in death, but we need to have faith that God will heal and that life will be good again.  These were the thoughts I wanted to encourage my Mother with after Daddy's death when God gave me this poem.  And, sure enough, she healed and life had many good years and good times for her again.  The photo I've included is from New Bern, NC -- butterflies on a flower in the garden of the Governor's Palace.  The butterflies signify a changed and beautiful life.

      BROKEN...

Our beautiful life together was shattered.
Broken pieces lay around me like silent
reminders of what had been.
Slivers of love and security lay in
one corner, while bits of companionship
and mirth had fallen to the side.
So much of value was irretrievably lost.
I stared at the mess, daunted by
the dreadful destruction of my life.
Dare I pick up the pieces? Dare I try
to put them back together again?
Broken fragments glittered in the sunlight,
as if mocking my loss.
Could the glue of perseverance and hope
hold the fragile pieces together?
Was it possible for life to continue as it had before?

                   ...AND MENDED AGAIN

Hope glimmered at the edge of my mind.
Maybe, just maybe, some of the broken fragments
could be pieced together again.
They might form some semblance of a whole.
Not as they had been before. No.
But still, something good and useful.
I measured the damage, checked out the ruin,
and pulled out my glue gun.
A dash of faith here, a dollop of good-cheer there,
a bit of fortitude spread all around, and voila!
A new existence had been created.
Endurance triumphs over emptiness, and
a whole blossoms from broken pieces.
Cracks still remain, and sometimes the
glue pulls apart at the edges. Nonetheless,
victory has been won and, once again, life is good.



Saturday, September 1, 2012

Who Am I?

Here are two poems with one theme - the feeling of loss when a spouse or someone dear to you leaves or passes away.  I wrote these two poems after my father died in 1995, when God helped me empathize with my mother and her great loss.  These poems were from her point-of-view and helped me understand some of what she felt.  I thought perhaps someone might need them today.

    Without Him
He and she, she and he.
Always together, never apart.
Year after year,
The tie that binds
Wound tighter and tighter.
When he laughed, she laughed;
When he was sad, she was sadder.
His habits were ingrained in
Her daily routine, and she
Lived for the light of his smile.
His smile was taken away, and
Her world suddenly darkened
How to survive in the half-light
Of each new day. A day without him.
                                                 

   Who Am I?
She was a part of him;
Her identity entwined with his,
Melding together into one.
When their union was torn asunder
She asked, "Who am I now?"
Her movements were unsure;
Her thoughts full of questions.
The whole had been split into half.
How does half a person carry on?

PHOTO: I took the picture in Loveland, Colorado. The statue is entitled "Flora," by Joe Hess. She looks sad, as if she too might have lost someone she loves.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Jonah


Earlier in the summer, we went to the Millennium Theater in Lancaster, PA, and saw their production, "Jonah." The Theater is well-known for quality performances and usually plays to sold-out audiences.

We had good seats and enjoyed the colorful, musical play showing the story of the famous prophet who was swallowed by a great fish. The most impressive and touching aspect of the story, however, was when Jonah preached a message of repentance to the people of Nineveh -- and they repented. Seeing their repentance actually portrayed by actors on the stage made the whole thing come alive in a way I'd never quite imagined.

Sometimes I read verses on the pages of scripture and fail to imagine the deeper impact of what really happened. When I saw that deeper impact fleshed out on stage, I began to weep. I'd never before actually imagined all those hundred thousand plus people as individuals who so quickly repented of their sins and turned to God. This huge number of people turned to God within a period of less than forty days. To think of that many people who were known for evil hearing the gospel, repenting and turning to God is a miracle of vast proportions.

When I saw individuals on the stage -- men and women from all walks of life -- turning to God in record numbers and in record time, I was overwhelmed. Because, this was not a fairy tale and this was not an exaggeration -- this was what really happened to a vast city of people and those people are in heaven today because of one man who preached the gospel to them. That one man, Jonah, was a reluctant witness, but in the end, he obeyed God and God used him to bring glory to His Holy Name.

Besides the fact that when God touches people's hearts, great revival can occur, it also shows me that God can use anyone to fulfill His will. We don't have to be perfect Christians -- we just have to be obedient Christians to be used to accomplish great things for Christ.

God says, "Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice..." 1 Samuel 15:22

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Floods

                 
"When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him" Isaiah 59:19

I snapped this photo in North Carolina a week after heavy rains from a hurricane flooded the banks of the adjacent river and inundated the park with several feet of swirling water. This park would host no picnics, ballgames or outdoor weddings for many weeks -- or even months.

We can all expect to encounter floods on the journey of life, but how in the world can you expect to find indwelling joy and peace a Christian is suppose to have in the midst of that flood??

Do you often feel like your life is being flooded with problems? Sometimes it seems like life hands out one blow after another. One problem doesn't get resolved before another problem is nipping at its heels. Sometimes we just feel like we're drowning.

My 93-year-old mother fell two years ago while working in her yard and broke a hip. Her life is not now nor will it ever be the same again. She feels as if a flood has crushed life as she knew it.  Each day is a struggle for her and she is not a happy camper. How can she be expected to have joy in the final stages of her journey when she can barely navigate her walker and her failing memory is a constant worry to her?

Flood waters can be devastating. They can ruin homes and vehicles and cause loss of life. Flood waters can also be beneficial -- as in the annual flooding of the Nile River and its spread of rich soil into nearby fields and the flooding of deserts resulting in miles of lush green and colorful flowers.

Even though my own life has been only mildly dampened by recent problems, difficulties flooding the lives of family and friends (and don't forget the swirl of pandemonium flooding the entire world) have splashed over me to such an extent I'm sometimes gasping for breath and looking around for a boat to lift me from the rising tide as well. How can I cultivate an attitude of peace and joy when I'm surrounded by waves of suffering?

In her book, "Jesus Calling," Sarah Young writes as if God is speaking to us, saying: "Though many things feel random and wrong, remember that I am sovereign over everything. I can fit everything into a pattern for good, but only to the extent that you trust Me. Every problem can teach you something, transforming you little by little into the masterpiece I created you to be."

Numerous scriptures remind us that God is the ultimate Life Guard and His purpose for allowing flood waters in our lives is not to stand back and watch us drown. Nor does He want us to flail about in the rising depths, sputtering and gasping for breath in defeat. He longs for us to rest in Him -- trusting Him to keep us afloat and bring us to the safety of dry land. "...He drew me out of many waters...the Lord was my support. He also brought me out into a broad place; He delivered me because He delighted in me" Psalm 18:16, 19

I'll be the first to admit I don't have all the answers to cultivating peace and joy when our journey takes us through the flood. But, the sovereign God who created you and me and every inch of floodwater has a plan for every soggy minute we must endure before we're back on dry land. I won't pretend it's easy -- in fact, you can be sure it is often unbelievably hard, but God does have a plan and, believe it or not, getting wet now and then is the best way to grow fruit for His glory.  Let Him splash joy and peace into your life in His way and His time. 

"Shout with joy to God, all the earth! Sing the glory of His name; make His praise glorious! Say to God, 'How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power...' He turned the sea into dry land, they passed through the waters on foot...For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver...we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance...God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer. Praise be to God" from Psalm 66.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Reflected Reality

"And the world is passing away, and the lust of it;
but he who does the will of God abides forever" 1 John 2:17

Here's the view from a window at our timeshare in New Bern, North Carolina, where we stayed a couple years ago. As I gaze across the lake's surface, it's still smoothness is much like a mirror, reflecting every tree, building and blade of grass. Slight movements of wind cause the reflected scene to pulse with life. It has a surreal appearance -- sort of like a second reality that mirrors the first. You almost wonder -- what is real and what is the reflection?

In some ways, the impermanence of the world we live in is like the reflected scene captured in the water's surface. It looks so real yet, it's not substantial or lasting, it's easily marred and not something to be counted on to last. The real scene above the reflection is solid, lasting, something to be counted on -- like heaven.

This then is a "picture" of heaven and earth. While we are living in this world and consider it to be so solid and real, it's merely a reflection of the greater reality which awaits us in heaven. While the world as we know it is easily marred and not something to be counted on to last, Heaven is solid and real and eternal.

One of the really strange things with the picture I've described is that the world-system would have us believe the very opposite of the reality I've just stated. The world-system, i.e. Satan and his cohorts, would have us believe that Heaven is the ethereal, non-substantial place and that the world is the solid, earth under your feet reality to be counted upon.

You may be sure that Satan wants you to live in the Reflection. He wants your hopes and dreams and all your work to be poured into something that is as impermanent as a reflection on the water's surface.

"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him" 1 John 2:15

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Falling Short


Can the good you do ever outweigh the bad? There's a verse in God's Word that answers that question: "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" Romans 3:23.

When I saw this set of scales hanging on a wall in a museum in Ephesus, Turkey, it reminded me of the fact that no matter how much good we try to do in our lives, that good can never outweigh the sin that is our birthright. Think of the nicest, most giving and loving person you know. Now, imagine stacking all the goodness in that person on the upper pan of that scale, while the sin in which we were all born sits on the lower pan of the scale. Whoa, the scale didn't budge. The sin still outweighs all that good. Sadly, we all fall short of that level of perfection. Even that dear person you know is not good enough in themselves. Romans 3:10 goes on to say, "There is none righteous, no not one."

Believe it or not, this is actually a good thing. You see, since none of us is good enough in herself and none of us has the ability to work good enough works to outweigh our sin, we are all equally needy of the salvation Jesus Christ offers through His sacrifice on the cross. This offer Jesus makes to each of us is like no other offer on this earth -- it's free - it's amazing and fantastic and just downright unbelievable. But, believe it you must -- if you want to get that scale working in your favor.

Jesus Christ's offer is one you simply must not refuse. He offers to tip the scale in your favor by taking those good works of yours and replacing them with His perfect work of salvation wrought on the cross. It's a win-win situation and all you have to do is accept His offer of salvation.  It's the only way that scale will ever balance out. 

There's a verse in Psalm 62:9 that's interesting, --"Surely men of low degree are a vapor, men of high degree are a lie; if they are weighed on the scales, they are altogether lighter than vapor." Whether a person appears to be a loser or appears to be wealthy and brilliant -- it doesn't matter, as far as the value of their good works, they are lighter than vapor on the scale of eternity's values. As you can see, eternity's view of a woman/man's life is far different than the world's view. Which view and which set of scales do you think will be used on each of us before the Judgment Seat of Christ?



Friday, July 27, 2012

Happy Birthday, Nathan


This is a Happy Birthday tribute to my dear son, Nathan Andrew.  No, he's not still that little baby I'm holding, but that is my favorite baby photo of him.  I was so happy to be holding my own little boy in my arms.  It's hard to believe how quickly they grow up, but Nathan is a grown man -- in fact, he's right around 6 ft. 4 inches tall -- a far cry from that sweet, little blue bundle.

I'm proud of my boy and the fine man, husband, father and electrician he has become.  May God bless his birthday today and may this new year in his life be filled with good things.  "In all your ways acknowledge Him (God), and He will direct your path" -- that is my birthday prayer for you, my son.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Is it Real or Painted?


Here's the question -- can you tell if this picture is of real flowers or a painting of flowers?

On our journey through life, many people will cross our paths of whom we might ask the question, "Is this person's behavior and words real and true, or are they "painted on," or in other words -- not real and true.  The opposite of real is delusive, fake, imitative, pseudo, untrue and so on.

The picture above is of real pink petunias spilling over the edge of a pot on my deck.  The slight blur to the photo gives it an affect that resembles that of a painting, which I think is kind of cool.  As far as painting a picture of something real -- sure, that is imitative, but everyone who sees it knows that's what it is and accepts it for a painting and enjoys its beauty.  Truth is another story.

The message I find in the whole concept is that sometimes it's really hard to tell the difference between what is real and true, and what is fake and untrue.  The lines are sometimes blurred, just as my picture, just enough to make you question what to believe.  Sometimes, it might not matter so much -- as in this photo, but sometimes it can mean the difference between something good and something bad in your life, or even the difference between your eternal destination.

What happens when you can't tell the difference between true and untrue when it comes to investing your money with a friend and finding out too late he blurred the lines of truth?  How about the car salesman who tells you that used car has been thoroughly checked out and nothing is wrong with it.  You buy the car and it breaks down ten miles down the road.  How about the boyfriend or husband who assures you he is sorry and will never hit you again.  Knowing the truth can often be vital to your well-being. In  John 8:31-32, Jesus said, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.  And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

Would you agree that a wolf in sheep's clothing is a dangerous example of someone or something pretending to be good and true and safe when the exact opposite is the real truth. The worst of these offenders would have to be those who teach/preach a false, even slightly blurred, doctrine.  Most of us can spot an entirely false message -- it's the blurred messages with bits of truth mixed with well-presented lies that are harder to spot.  There are plenty of deceivers pretending to teach truth and many who believe their blurred theology.  Jesus warned, "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves."  But, how can we recognize them?  He went on to say, "You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?...A bad tree bears bad fruit." 

How can people be so deceived?  Jesus speaks of Satan, saying, "When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.  But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me."  John 8:44-45.  As Jesus pointed out, Satan is good at his job -- which consists of lying -- and he has fooled people every day since the day he lied to Eve and she bit into that piece of fruit.  Yet, Jesus, who spoke only truth, was often mocked and disbelieved.  It doesn't make sense, but it is true.

Nicole Nordeman sings a song that addresses the question of what is truth versus what is not truth when it comes to belief in Jesus Christ as Savior (that "eternal destination" situation).  Her song speaks to a non-believer about Jesus, asking, "What if you're right? And he was just another nice guy? What if it's true? They say the cross will only make a fool of you."  Then, she turns the argument around, saying, "But what if you're wrong? What if He's more than enough? What if it's love?" [from song "What if you're Wrong"].

Paul said it plainly in Colossians 3:9, "Do not lie to one another...."  Proverbs 12:22 goes on to say, "Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who deal truthfully are His delight."  I like the last part that talks about people who are truthful delighting God.  I want to delight God, don't you?  My picture of pink petunias might be slightly blurred, but let's make sure all our dealings in life are in sharply focused truth.  Then, we can be assured that we will have the joy of being a delight to our Father God.

 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Distractions


I enjoy looking out the window into my backyard with its peaceful view of green trees, bushes and a sprinkling of flowers. One morning when I looked out there was a leaf stuck to the outside of the glass.

</ The leaf, although a nice enough leaf, did not belong on the window and each time I looked out my eyes were invariably drawn toward it. For one reason or another I didn't go outside and knock the leaf off the window for a couple of days. It just stayed there, stuck to the glass, distracting my eyes from the lovely view outside.

I realized that here again is a message from God's creation -- this one about distraction -- defined as:
---To distract: to draw away or divert, as the mind or attention; to divide the mind, attention, etc. between objects.
---Distraction: that which divides the attention or prevents concentration.

What distracts you from spending time with God? What are the things or activities or duties in your life that cause you to continually say, "I'll study God's Word and spend time with Him after I do this...."? We all have something, perhaps several somethings that too often draw our attention from our beautiful, peaceful, powerful time with God.

Here again is a tool Satan and his henchmen know how to use well. They've been around a long time and they know just which distraction to use with each one of us. What distracts you may not distract me, and vice-versa.

Here's what God says about distraction in Proverbs 4:25-27: "Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you. Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or the left; remove your foot from evil."

Distractions, although innocent in themselves, can do a lot of harm to our spiritual lives. They can keep us from seeing the bigger, better picture God wants us to see by catching our attention and causing us to concentrate on smaller, less significant objects. Distractions can keep us from building a deeper relationship with our heavenly Father. Christopher Columbus once said, "By prevailing over all obstacles and distractions, one may unfailingly arrive at his chosen goal or destination."

What is your spiritual goal? Is it to know God more and better? As our old friend Chris points out, prevail over the distraction and you will arrive at that goal. The prophet Jeremiah echoes that sentiment in 29:13-14: "And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the Lord..."

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Fifty Years - and Counting


 Last weekend we enjoyed a wonderful "50th Wedding Anniversary" celebration for Larry's cousin Louise and her husband Ross.  Their children, Jenny and Mike, put together a lovely reception with many friends and family there to offer their congratulations and good wishes.  We were so pleased to be a part of that beautiful occasion.  Ross and Louise are two of God's choice servants and we are so proud and thanful to call them "family."  May God bless you with many more wonderful years together, Louise and Ross!  We love you all!



The Dragonfly


My favorite place to meet with God is at breakfast, sitting at the kitchen table reading His Word and gazing out the window at His beautiful creation.  While I'm always blessed by His written Word, now and then, God gives me a message directly from the works of His Hands - nature.  When that happens, I feel doubly blessed.

Here's the lesson of the Dragonfly that He gave me this morning.  This little guy (being brown, he just looks kind of masculine) latched on to this bare twig sticking from a pot of flowers on my deck and stayed there for about five minutes.  I wondered, why is he just sitting there?  And, what is the life purpose of a dragonfly anyway?  I have no idea, but one thing I do know, God created the dragonfly for a specific purpose and I'm sure that dragonfly fulfills his purpose on a daily basis.

With that in mind, I realized several things:  first, I have no right to judge the dragonfly's inactivity (or what appears to me to be inactivity).  God's purpose for that dragonfly is special to that dragonfly and it is to God alone he answers.  I believe our little friend, D, was just taking a much-needed break.

Secondly, and more importantly since it offers a bigger message to we humans, everyone needs a bit of R & R from time to time (that's "rest & relaxation" - remember those words?).  Included in that R&R is the need for a quiet time to "Be still and know that I am God."

If we don't take occasional and regular times for stillness as little D took, we'll find ourselves becoming frazzled, dissatisfied and with the niggling feeling that something is just not right.  I know, I've been there and it's not a pretty sight.  This Dragonfly has a God-given instinct to stop and be still.  I believe we also have that instinct and need too, but it's been so pushed down by busy lifestyles that it manifests itself as dissatisfaction, etc.  We too often stifle the instinct to "Be still...." and say we're just too busy.

I wonder what would happen to little D if he ignored his instinct and kept flitting from place to place without stopping?  He might just spin totally out of control and drop to the ground.  Do you ever feel like that's what's happening to you?  God has made it very plain - by His very own Words - that we are to "Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him" Psalm 37:7 NIV.

Even a few moments alone in stillness with God, worshipping Him and acknowledging Him, will refresh your path more than you can imagine.  Try it today -- even it means going into the bathroom, closing the door, and standing for several minutes in silence and stillness, eyes shut and praising God.  It will help you -- and please God as well.

We all need these times with God to recharge our spiritual and emotional batteries.  Remember the words of Psalm 23:1-3:  "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul..."

These times of stillness with God -- even if brief -- are vital to our well-being.  Thanks for the lesson, little D.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

"Do Not Be Afraid"


I got a kick out of my granddaughter, Kendall, mugging it up for the camera by pretending she was being attacked by an alligator. We were at the N.C. Acquarium in Manteo.  She did a pretty good job of looking afraid. Thankfully, she was never in actual danger and knows to run the other way in the presence of a real alligator.

When we belong to God and trust Him for our safety, He says that we do not need to be afraid. The Psalmist quotes God as saying, “You shall not be afraid…A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; but it shall not come near you” 91:5 & 7. That's an amazing promise that encourages both peace and trust in Almighty God.

While He promises to keep us safe, that doesn't mean we should put ourselves in harm's way just because we can. In real life, putting your hand inside the mouth of a live alligator would be foolish and not the type of behavior pleasing to God. In such cases, guarantees of safety are off the table.

Even Jesus Himself, when challenged by Satan did not fall for such a ploy (in Matthew 4). Satan said to Jesus, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: 'He shall give His angels charge over you, and, in their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.'"

It's true that God made that statement (as written in Psalm 91:11-12) offering safety, but it was not given with the idea of testing how far you could go with it. Jesus, of course, knew this, and answered Satan, "It is written again, 'You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'"

Rather than test God by seeing how far into danger we can go (like driving too close to the car in front of you), we should live (and drive) responsibly, trusting God to take care of the unknown and uncontrollable aspects of our lives.

I love the verse in Psalm 4:8: “I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” God alone is in control and knows every aspect of our lives. I'm so thankful His love can cover every fear -- and take care of our every need.

Friday, July 6, 2012

One in Christ


I recently attended the wedding of Lori and Jon which took place on a sandy beach along the Chesapeake Bay at Fort Monroe. It was a lovely occasion. At the end of the ceremony, the couple took part in a Unity Sand Ceremony. The picture I took above shows the larger container of sand after the couple had poured their individual jars of sand into it, representing the joining of their lives together as one.

It was the first time I'd seen this ceremony and I thought it was impressive. To me, it is a picture of not only the relationship of a married couple, but also the relationship of the believer with Christ. When we accept Christ as Savior, His Holy Spirit comes to live within us. Christ lives in us even as we live in Christ. Just as the grains of sand in the large container can never be separated and poured again into the individual containers, so we will always be a part of Christ and He a part of us.

"There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all" Ephesians 4:4-6.

Being a part of Christ is a beautiful thing. It also means that we are one in the body of Christ with other believers, and the Holy Spirit that dwells within each of us also dwells in all of us. We are united for eternity. I always thought how wonderful it was that when my daughter Holly lived 3,000 miles away in Los Angeles, I could pray for her and the same Holy Spirit who lives in both she and I would immediately minister to Holly's needs. Jesus said, "Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are" John 17:11.

Being an integral part of something far bigger than yourself is exciting and also offers a great feeling of belonging. Not only that, being one with the Creator of all things is more amazing than we can even comprehend. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" Galatians 3:28.

I see myself as one of those little grains of sand, all tucked away in the midst of God and all the other believers of all time, and I am blown away with the wonder of it all. Anyone up for building a sand castle?







Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Trio of Sunsets



                  A TRIO OF SUNSETS

I think sunsets are one of God's most beautiful visual gifts.  Every sunset is different and the colors God paints across the sky each and every evening are incredible.  Sometimes the sunset is subtle, while other times it blazes with awe-inspiring magnificence, but each is unique and original.

I've chosen three different sunsets from my travels in the last two months to give you a quiz.  Which sunset is taking place in which location?  One is in the Outer Banks, one in Arizona, and another over Rhode Island.  I don't think it'll be too hard to figure out which is which (in fact, the top one is a definite "gimme") -- the answers are listed below.

I Googled, "where does the sunset get its color" and was given a scientific explanation mentioning such things as air molecules, wavelengths and scatterings.  I prefer to describe a sunset as I see it -- a wonder to behold in sparkling, clear gold or soft pink with hints of lavendar and purple, or silver and white with backgrounds of rich navy, or blazing with orange.  There are as many descriptions as there are sunsets.  And always, I am reminded of God whose love, creativity and joy in beauty made a world that includes a glorious sunset each and every day.  I can't help but grin from ear to ear as I consider such an amazing gift -- and it's just one of millions of gifts He offers to us during our lifetimes.

Ready for the answers to the quiz?

1.  The first silvery sunset is, of course, in Tucson, Arizona with three armless suguaro cactus standing in silhouette along the ridge.  I enjoyed a lovely four-day visit there in May. 

2.  The sun dips toward the Currituck Sound, darkening the clouds to navy with smudges of pink along their edges -- and a lovely gazebo painted black by the dimming light.  Our extended family enjoyed a week's stay in Duck, NC, in June.

3.  The gold sky created by the setting sun over Newport, Rhode Island, makes me think of the gold streets of heaven.  The color looks so pure and clear painted across the sky.  Larry and I enjoyed a port call in Newport in May for part of one day. 

Each time the sun sets, it signals the end of another day, which brings us one day closer to walking on those streets of gold.  But before that day comes, I'm going to enjoy every sunset I can feast my eyes on -- and I'm going to praise and thank God for every one of them!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

My Birthday

My birthday was in May while I was visiting in Tucson, Arizona. I decided to get up and watch the sunrise and start celebrating the day I was born bright and early. This is very unusual for me, so you know I treasure my birthday. I actually got up at 4:30 am (the sun didn't rise until 5:55 am).

It was chilly out on the terrace of the lovely, large home in which I was staying. The desert and its distant mountains were a bit dark, but could still be seen. I heard birds calling and singing, and just enjoyed the solitude of time alone with the Lord who created me. I become introspective on my birthday and I also think of my mother and father and how happy they were to welcome a little, dark-haired baby into their family. They'd waited a long time and I was an answer to prayer. It makes me feel so loved and special to know that I was an answer to their prayer (:

As I began my journey on Route 66, I wrote a poem that morning, here's how it goes:

The pale light of morning rims the ragged edges of the gray mountain.
Birds tune their voices and raise their varied songs in praise to the God who brings another day.
Plaintive cooing of a distant dove is like the tolling of a bell, announcing the coming event -- a new day is born!
Cactus dot the hillside -- their arms raised awaiting the arrival of the sun and praising their maker with every ounce of their being.
The sky grows lighter, like a pale blue bowl edged in white.
A bird perches atop a cactus and warbles a shrill tune as I look for the first hint of color.
Still, light teases the mountaintop, pacing itelf for its minute by minute journey across the sky.
It seems in no hurry to make its quiet entrance into the day.
The chill of the morning surrounds me as I eagerly await the warmth of the sun.
Silver light of the moon fades to gold as we bid its waning presence "adieu" and turn our eyes to the eastern sky.

"I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help -
My help cometh from the Lord -- maker of heaven and earth" -- and every sunrise known to man.
My life is in your hands -- every breath -- every fiber of my being belongs to You, O Lord.
I thank you for yet another sunrise that glorifies your name and who You are.
I join the sun in praise to Your Almighty Power and loving heart.
Within my heart I celebrate the day of my birth upon this earth --
The beginning of an amazing journey that has brought me to this spot on this day -- sitting at the feet of the One who created me.
Sixty-six years God has held me in His loving arms and -- with the Psalmist, I say, "I trust in you, O Lord; my times are in your hands." Thank you for this day!

To the poem, I add a birthday prayer: "I don't want to miss the wonder of the moment -- of every moment. Oh, God, I don't want to go through the motions of life. I want my life to count for You. Praise the Lord, oh, my soul, and bless His Holy Name."

Friday, March 16, 2012

It's A Small, Small World

It really is a small, small world after all -- just as the catchy Disney song in the Magic Kingdom ride of the same name suggests. After floating in your boat through the many scenes of adorable animated "children" in countries from all parts of the world and hearing that song play over and over, it has a way of sticking in your head -- never to be forgotten.

The song is not only catchy, it's also true. Over and over again, I've seen how very small is this world we live in. Just this week, I was once again reminded of that fact and found that little tune weaving its way through my thoughts again. Here's how it went:

I posted several items on Craigslist this week. A few hours later, I received an email asking about a chair I advertised for sale. I called the phone number she'd listed and had a nice chat with Gwen, who wanted to buy the chair. I told her where I lived. She told me she and her husband had just moved here and lived on the other side of town from us (about 25 miles). Keep in mind, the area we live in has over a million people. She said her husband's mother lived near us, so she knew where my area was. It was only then that I noticed the name on the email address line. I said, is your husband's mother's name so and so? She said, Yes! I then said, are his sisters, So and So? She said, Yes! I said, I knew your husband all through his childhood and know his family. His Mom goes to my church. What are the chances of such a connection occurring? Might we say "one in a million" -- as in God is in control of every atom that swirls around in this big, ole world.

I'd not actually seen her husband for several years because they'd been living in another state. I didn't even realize they'd moved back. Her husband also works with my brother and is one of his good friends. It certainly made our transaction with the chair easier since I now fully trusted giving them my information.

I'm reminded over and over again that when we live in a world this small, we need to always be on our best behavior. We need to remember whose child we are (we who are Christians) and make our Father proud when He sees how we treat strangers. Gwen and I were both nice to each other over the phone, even before we knew of a connection. When I discovered that Gwen too is a Christian, I was happy to know that both she and I had pleased our Father with our kind conversation with each other.

And on top of all that -- my chair is leaving one Christian home and going to another Christian home! I'm so thankful our Father's world is full of such wonders!

"The earth is the LORD'S...The world and those who dwell therein." Psalm 24:1

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Delight Yourself in the Lord

A couple mornings ago, I was lying in bed praying that God would help me to walk with Him during that day and to be actively aware of His presence. I've been struggling with letting go of burdens, leaving them with God and abiding in peace. Too often I walk around with a figurative cloud over my head because of all the many needs I see in the people around me. Since I know how important it is to trust God in all things, I was praying for peace in the midst of all these needs.

As I prayed, a portion of a verse in Psalms came to mind, "...And He shall give you the desires of your heart." I love this verse and know it well, but for the life of me, I couldn't remember the first part of it, nor could I remember the reference.

As I ate breakfast and read in Sarah Young's devotional Jesus Calling, that very verse was the one she quoted as one of the day's verses: "Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart" Psalm 37:4. Well, I laughed aloud, lifted my eyes to the sky and praised God for the wonderful gift of His presence and for directing me to that verse -- and for being in control of everything. I truly felt a great delight in Him -- and still do.

If we will actively seek the Lord, He has promised that we will find Him.