Friday, May 24, 2013

Stress & Rest

Here is my beautiful granddaughter Kendall with her hair standing on end.  Static electricity from the sliding board somehow can cause hair to take off and fly.  She looks so cute!

Do you ever feel somedays that your hair is standing on end?  You're so stressed you feel like your whole body is going to fly off in different directions?  I think we probably all have days like that -- I sure do!  When I come to my senses, I realize it doesn't have to be this way.  Stress should be a reminder of how very much we need to turn things over to God.  Easier said than done in this DIY generation we live in.

Even in ancient times, stress was a factor.  Job said, "The churning inside me never stops; days of sufferng confront me" 30:27.  Of course, he had more to churn up about than most of us will ever have to endure -- thank the Lord!  Even so, we all have stress, but how we handle it is the question.  If we make turning to God our last resort, we're going to have a lot of "hair standing on end" kind of days.

Let's make our first response a visit to the throne of God, lay our stress and need at His feet, and walk away with that "peace that passes understanding."  In John 14:27, Jesus promises, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."

When Kendall stepped away from the sliding board, the static disappeared and her hair rested against her head.  If we will just step away from our stress and turn our eyes toward Jesus, as the old hymn says, "the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace."  We too can know Rest.

Monday, May 20, 2013


A dear friend recently sent me a birthday gift -- a glass teapot that came with a selection of blooming herbal tea pods.  This lovely flower started as a tight little green ball.  When I placed it in the glass teapot and poured boiling water over it, the pod began opening up and bloomed into this lovely and very fragrant flower.  The tea has a light, subtle green tea flavor.  Thank you, Laurrine, for such a wonderful gift!

As I watched this tight green ball expand and grow into something beautiful, it reminded me of how we as Christians should grow in our relationship with God.  God wants us to blossom for His glory.  Paul says, "For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved" 2 Corinthians 2:15.  Just as this flower is fragrant, we are to give off the very fragrance of the Lord in the way we live our lives.

When we are born onto this earth, we don't come out a baby and immediately sprout up into a full-grown adult.  It takes 20, 30 and for some, even 40 years to become an adult.  The same is true of Christians.  When we are born again by the Spirit, we don't immediately go from a babe in Christ to a mature Christian.  It takes years and decades, and -- the truth is, we will never become fully mature in Christ until we step into Heaven.  Writer T.W. Hunt calls stepping into heaven - our graduation day.  We graduate from what we might term "the school of hard knocks" here on earth, and step into our reward and the completion of our struggle for maturity.  That doesn't mean we won't still be learning new things in heaven.  It just means we won't have to struggle.  We'll be able to learn new things with a perfect brain, perfect memory, and perfect understanding of what we're studying.  Neither will there be any stress or distraction to dull our abilities.  Learning new things will become a great joy.

I want to grow in Christ until the day I die.  I want to be like that bloom for His glory -- even when I'm swimming in hot water like our little green tea pod.  I delight to think that my life might waft the sweet fragrance of Christ toward someone who needs a breath of fresh, Godly air in this world that too often stinks of sin.

Thank you, Lord, for this glorious promise:  "...we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord"  2 Corinthians 3:18


Thursday, May 16, 2013


Newport, Rhode Island has the stuff dreams are made of -- or so it would seem when you walk down Bellevue Avenue and peer through iron fences at what has been described as a street of "opulent stone palaces."  I snapped this photo of Marble House through the ornate fence.  Built in 1888 as a "summer cottage retreat" and a 39th birthday gift for Alva Vanderbilt, it contains 500,000 cubic feet of marble, and is a picture of excess.  We toured the house and it is beautiful!

It's interesting to note that the people who lived in Marble House did not appear to be happy people.  All their extreme wealth certainly brought fleeting pleasures, but true joy was just not there.  As we all know, "money doesn't buy happiness."

I'm not preaching against having nice things, but rather trying to help us (me included) see what is important and meaningful in life.  It's a matter of priorities, as well as where does true satisfaction in life derive?  As in all things, God knows what makes us happy and gives us true joy -- and it's not through an abundance of stuff.

We all have so much stuff.  Granted, we need a certain amount of food, clothing, shelter and other things to live in this world, but do we really need so much?  I know there are many, many people who are scraping by with the minimum of needs being met and my heart goes out to them.  In this case, I'm talking about those of us who have all we need and far more -- and we are still accumulating and wanting more stuff.

 Here's what I wrote in my book "Joy in the Journey" (not yet published) about being loaded with too much material stuff:  "...we must spend time purchasing, paying for, making room for, displaying, cleaning, insuring, and eventually storing before finding a way to get rid of them." 

To add the weight of authority from God's Word, here is what Paul wrote to the Corinthians (5:10):  For we must all appear and be revealed as we are before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive [his pay] according to what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. (3:11-15) For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it , because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

I guess all of this has been brought home to my heart since I've had some work done in our house this last week.  We had both 28 year old bathroom countertops replaced with stone, along with a few other updates and repairs.  I asked our contractor if he'd ever heard of Murphy's Law, he said, "That's my middle name."  For a simple job, it did seem like a lot went wrong, which caused a lot of stress all the way around.  And after it was all finished, I think to myself, even this quartz and granite will not make it through the fire.  The only thing that will abide in the end is our heart for Christ and what we have accomplished through His strength and for the glory of His holy name.

Yes, we do need a certain amount of stuff in this world, but let's weigh the value of each piece of stuff we bring into our lives.  Remember the quote from missionary C. T. Studd, "Only one life, 'twill soon be past; only what's done for Christ will last."

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Little Green Frog

What a surprise to see this little green guy in my front flower bed.  I don't remember ever seeing such an exotic looking green frog in our yard before, so I was excited to have him as a welcome visitor.  It was so sweet the way he sat nestled in the center of an Iris flower.  He looked comfy and protected.  It reminds me of how we as Christians feel when we remember that we are nestled in the loving hands of our Heavenly Father.

There are many wonderful verses in the Bible that speak of God holding us in His hands:

"I trust in you, O Lord; I say, 'You are my God.'
My times are in your hands..." Psalm 31:14-15
"If the Lord delights in a man's way, he makes his steps firm;
though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds
him with his hand" Psalm 37:23-24
"If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on
the far side of the sea; even there your hand will guide
me, your right hand will hold me fast" Psalm 139:9-10
"I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish;
no one can snatch them out of my hand" John 10:28
We can learn so much about God's great love for us from nature that is around us.  I like what the late, great Spanish architect Antonio Gaudi said, "The great book, always open and which we should make an effort to read, is that of nature."  Indeed, God created all of nature for a purpose -- and one of those purposes is to bring honor and glory to His matchless name.  Let's join nature in singing His praises today -- and be thankful that we are held so lovingly in His capable hands.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Sister Friends

When I saw these two iguanas in a zoo in Tucson, Arizona, I immediately thought about the old song, "He ain't heavy, he's my brother."  Of course, I have to change that to "She ain't heavy, she's my sister."

   There's no doubt we all look a whole lot prettier than these two rugged looking individuals, but we can learn a lot from their postures.   I think it's so sweet that the top iguana has a protective arm and hand around her friend and she seems to be vigilently protecting her in what might be a weak moment.  I think the lower iguana looks a bit peaked, as my Mother used to say (which translates, weak-eyed and unwell).  The iguana on top has a very determined look on her face and I sure wouldn't want to cross her!

 I'm reminded of the verse in Proverbs:  "A friend loves at all times, and a brother/sister  is born for adversity" Proverbs 17:17.  
I also like the verse about how a friend can help a friend be the best she can be.  In Proverbs it says, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man/woman sharpens another" Proverbs 27:18.   As we pray for one another and for our sisters in Christ, we are able to uphold, encourage, and even vigilently protect our sister friend in what might be a weak moment.   We can help keep each other sharp and encouraged in the power of the Holy Spirit.

 Friends are a blessing from God.  Let's remember the posture of our little iguana friend and seek to uphold our sisters in prayer and encouragement. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Happy Birthday to Me!

Here is a picture of baby Sandra Sue at age 6-1/2 months.  Since today is my birthday, I thought it would be neat to share some of what I was like as I began this journey of life God has given me.
Here I am at just under two years old.  My mother made all
my clothes and she also loved to curl my hair
(those are not natural curls).
I'm not sure of my age in this picture, but I'd say around four
or five.  Once again, I probably slept in curlers
the night before - or more likely, I'd had one of those
Tonie Perms that were so popular at the time.

This picture was taken in Las Vegas two years ago. 
I haven't changed much, in fact you can still frequently
see me with a cupcake in my hand.
I love cupcakes!!
Seriously, I am so thankful for the life God has given me. 
I am blessed beyond all imagination -
with the Psalmist I can say, "The lines have fallen to me in
pleasant places, surely I have a goodly inheritance" (16:6).
Thank you, God, for every year you have blessed me with. 
 I truly praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Birds of a Feather

Here's a photo I took on the beach in Florida in January.  I saw hundreds of birds in a couple locations just standing in the sand together.  I immediately thought of that old saying, "Birds of a Feather Flock Together."

 Notice these birds are all facing in the same direction and they are all the same kind of bird.   When I looked up the phrase “birds of a feather flock together” on Google, one of the sites wrote:   The phrase is used to refer to the many ways that humans who share interests, demographics, or other characteristics will naturally group themselves together in a given situation. This phrase is an example of a “metaphor of personification,” where the literal meaning, related to birds, is figuratively used to relate to humans.
             Here's another picture that reminds me of the same truth.  I saw these Amish girls at Longwood Gardens in PA and I thought this made a compelling picture.  As you look at these Amish girls, they are all turned in the same direction and they all are dressed alike.  I imagine they also have the same beliefs and similar interests.

             This reminds me of my fellow sisters in Christ --  which certainly puts us in the category of Birds of a Feather.  We are turned in the same direction - toward our Lord and Saviour, and you could say we look alike as well - we all wear the fragrance of Christ upon our person and the joy of Jesus radiates from our faces.  We share the same beliefs -- and even similar interests.  "I am a friend to all who fear you, to all who follow your precepts" Psalm 119:64

            As Birds of a Feather, someday we'll all fly up to heaven where we'll live together and truly be friends forever.

Friday, May 3, 2013

A Cross & A Rainbow

We were passing through the small, artsy town of Madrid, New Mexico on one of our western trips and we spent a couple hours wandering through galleries and enjoying the history and quaintness of the town.  They were having some sort of "Art Day" and a grizzled-looking guy was setting out cans of paint on a table in front of an old Volkswagen bus that had a canvas draped across its side.  As we passed, he asked if we'd like to be the first to paint a picture on the canvas.  Larry wasn't interested in testing his creativity, but I'm always up for a safe adventure, so I said, "Sure, why not!"

With a blank canvas staring back at me, I wondered, what should I paint?  Since I'm not really a painter my subject needed to be easy to draw and at the same time, I wanted to make an impact with my "art."  I settled upon the simplicity of the beloved cross of Christ coupled with the promise of hope He offers with His brilliant rainbow.  The brush was too fat for any attempt at fine detail (who am I kidding -- fine detail?) so I used broad strokes and though pretty simple, I was actually happy with my primitive artwork.

  Interestingly, embracing the work of the cross in faith is actually a pretty simple act as well.  God says that all a sinner has to do is confess his sinfulness and inability to save himself, accept the free gift offered by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on that rugged cross, and the sinner will be born again into the new life of a Christian.  The hope and promise of the beautiful rainbow will be a part of the legacy of that new life.

Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life" John 5:24.

I guess you can tell from my expression in the photo above I had fun slinging paint on that blank canvas and I really felt good about leaving even a small, simple testimony of Christ hanging on the side of the road in that little town in New Mexico.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Badlands

I selected this photo of Larry standing beside a sign indicating "Badlands National Park" to represent the Badlands we sometimes must cross in our journey of life.  Although the park is full of amazing formations and color, nobody wants to spend time in the Badlands of Life.

Earlier this week, a good friend of ours from church was in a serious traffic accident in the middle of the afternoon.  He was trying to do a good deed to help a motorist who'd gone off the road, but his good intentions backfired.  As a result, Chip lost his leg just above the knee and for a while he was in critical condition.  I'm sure he started his day just like usual and had plans with his family for the evening. Then, in a heartbeat, his whole life changed and he cross over into the Badlands.  While the rest of us were going about our normal activities (and whispering frequent prayers for his recovery), he was in surgery fighting for his life.  It's all such a jarring dip in the road of life.

We are thankful that Chip is recovering well and, knowing his indomitable spirit and faith in God, he will be back on "his feet" in record time.  As we ponder these sudden tragedies, however, it seems like bad things are happening all around us more and more frequently.  It often leaves us wondering, when will the ax fall on me or my loved ones?  That's the kind of thinking that can lead to fear and insecurity -- and failure to trust God.

In Matthew 6:34, Jesus is telling His listeners, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Rather than focus on all the negatives going on around us and fearing the worst for ourselves, we need to trust our Creator and Sustainer who promises that He does indeed hold the whole world in His capable hands.  I know, sometimes that's easier said than done -- I fail in this area far too often, but the more we can grow in the truth of God's love and grace, the greater will be our peace. 

 As Sarah Young writes in Jesus Calling, "Let Scripture saturate your mind and heart, and you will walk steadily along the path of Life -- even though you don't know what will happen tomorrow....  Do not be afraid, for I am with you.  Hear Me saying Peace, be still to your restless heart.  No matter what happens, I will never leave you or forsake you."



Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Sleeping Beauty's Castle

Although I took this particular picture of Sleeping Beauty's castle in the Magic Kingdom a couple years ago, I was standing in that very spot just a few months ago in January when I found myself sobbing.  I was too upset to take pictures that night as the show about wishing and dreaming was going on in the night sky around the castle. 

I was crying because of the news I'd just gotten on my cell phone an hour earlier -- a friend from church had just unexpectedly dropped dead that morning.  Our friend Bazel was chairman of the Deacons and an adult Sunday School teacher.  He had grown up in the church and I'd known him all his life.  His death was a shock as well as a blow.

As the song was playing, "A dream is a wish your heart makes...." I was looking up at a dark sky filled with stars.  I was thinking of Bazel who was now up above those stars living the dream of every Christian -- in the place where he'd given Jesus his heart long ago when he was a child.  When the fireworks started, filling the sky with brilliant color and joyful beauty, I just felt like the angels were rejoicing that one of the Lord's children had come home.  I wept not only with the sorrow of his loss, but also the joy of his homegoing and how happy he must be at that very moment.

That night, even though I was surrounded by mobs of people, as I looked past the beautiful castle, into the heavens, I felt like I was standing alone in the presence of eternity.  My thoughts were upon Jesus Christ and the warm welcome He'd just given to Bazel, and the wonderful reunion that Bazel was even then enjoying with his brother, mother, father, and other relatives and friends that had gone before him.  My tears of sorrow were mixed with tears of wonder and joy at the truth of what was going on at that very moment.  "O, death where is thy sting; grave, where is thy victory?"

Sleeping Beauty's castle could represent falling asleep on this earth and immediately waking up to the beauty and wonder of heaven. Jesus has also promised that He's preparing a mansion, which could be called a castle, for each of His children. So -- in reality, each of us who die in Christ is a sleeping beauty who has a castle in God's kingdom.  "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints."