Thursday, March 16, 2017

One of St. Patrick's Prayers



May the strength of God pilot us.
May the wisdom of God instruct us.
May the hand of God protect us.
May the Word of God direct us.

~Saint Patrick















Thursday, February 16, 2017

Unless the LORD...


Unless the LORD builds the house, 
those who build it labor 
in vain. 

Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake
 in vain.
                                                         Psalm 127:1, ESV



I have long known that verse but, sad to say, I have often ignored its wisdom. Thus, God has brought that verse to my mind again and again through the years and especially in the past few weeks. I sense He wants me to share this message with you, Dear Reader, in case you are also struggling with plans and projects that simply won't "come together."

As we go about our work, as we plan our work and work our plan, let's remind ourselves often of the truth in Psalm 127:1 and in these words (excerpted from Matthew Henry's Commentary on that verse):
"Let us always look to God's providence...
If God be not acknowledged, 
we have no reason to expect his blessings; 
and the best-laid plans fail, 
unless he crowns them with success..."

Father, forgive us for failing to acknowledge our need of You, for planning our work without first having sought Your will and Your ways. Help us learn to ask You what You want us to do, and then help us to do exactly what You say and to do it well.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Remembering Mama

My sweet mama died six years ago today (January 9th), and I still miss her so much. Hardly a day passes that I don’t remember something she said or did. I think she’d be happy to know that her life still matters, that her influence and her example live on in my sister and me and in other family members and friends who were blessed to spend time with her.

She wasn’t famous in the eyes of the world. She was never president of any organization and was never in the spotlight. Yet, she was a bright light to those who were going through “dark times” as she, an LPN, ministered lovingly to patients and their families at the local hospital, as she stayed several consecutive days and nights with friends whose mother was dying, as she took care of her parents “to the end”….

She kept the home fires burning brightly all the years my daddy was gone all week (day and night) while he worked in another town, leaving her to take care of my sister and me and the cow and the pigs and the chickens and the mules. At that time we had no telephone, no running water, no central heat or air, no vehicle (except the one Daddy drove to work). But Mama managed and did not complain.

I could go on and on about her, but time won’t permit me to put so many sweet memories in print. However, I just couldn’t let this day pass without acknowledging how much I miss her and how truly thankful I am to have such a wonderful mother, the kind of excellent wife and mother portrayed in Proverbs 31, which includes descriptions such as these:
  • Strength and dignity are her clothing… (v. 25
  • She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue (v.26)
  • She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness (v.27).
  • Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her (v.28).

I want to be like Mama--a woman who is “far more precious than jewels” (Proverbs 31:1) and a woman “who fears [reverences] the LORD” (v.30). If I am, then I, too, will be deeply loved and, therefore, greatly missed when I’m gone.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Acknowledge God!

When we’re reading, it’s easy to skim right over familiar words rather than stop to reflect on their meaning, as I discovered one recent morning when I came to these familiar words in Proverbs 3:5-6, ESV:
5Trust in the LORD with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
6In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.

Thankfully, something “stopped me” before I could speed right past them. I wondered, What does it mean to acknowledge God? I jotted down a few words that immediately came to mind: recognize, consult with, defer to….

Next, I read those same two verses in various versions of the Bible and noticed that acknowledge has been translated submit, think about, know...

Then I consulted a Merriam-Webster Dictionary and discovered even more words that are closely associated in meaning with acknowledge: admit, own, avow [boldly declare], confess. One of the longer definitions given in that dictionary says, “to regard or describe (someone or something) as having or deserving a particular status.” Another definition says, “to say that you accept or do not deny the truth or existence of (something).”

Finally, I checked Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible and found a long list of closely related words, including these: be aware of, comprehend, consider, declare, discern, discover, perceive, regard, respect, understand

As I reflected on my findings, I wrote this summary:
To acknowledge GOD means:
  • to believe that He is the true and the living God
  • to be respectfully aware of who He is and of His power
  • to think about Him throughout each day—i.e., to live in constant awareness of His presence
  • to consult with Him (through Bible reading and prayer) to discover His will, His preferences
  • to humbly and gladly seek to please Him in matters both great and small
  • to tell others about Him


Bottom line: Dear Reader, if you and I will trust Him fully,  depend on His infinite wisdom rather than on our limited understanding of things, and constantly confer with Him about decisions to be made and actions to be taken, then He will make our paths (our "road ahead") straight rather than like a maze.
   
Therefore, doesn’t it make sense to acknowledge God by giving Him full control of our lives, including our calendars, our agendas, our to-do lists, our checkbooks…? To ask Him to show us what to add and what to leave out?

Monday, January 2, 2017

Dawnings

When I’m at the beach, I almost always go outside to watch the sunrises and sunsets even if no family member goes with me. I just grab my camera and go alone to the beach.  I love seeing the rays of light punch holes in the dark sky. I love the beautiful colors that begin to spread across the sky. I love the first glimpse of the sun when it seems to rise out of the murky waters. I love the gentle sea breezes and the shrieking of the shorebirds as they search for and find their first food of the day. I even like the noises made by boats as they head out to deeper waters. There’s just something extra special about the dawning of a new day—and/or a new year! Each one is full of promise, full of unknowns.


Frances Ridley Havergal (1836-1879) apparently appreciated the dawns, just as I do.  In one of her songs, Another Day Is Dawning, she mentions specific opportunities she anticipates in the new day, among them: making progress, praising God, serving others, witnessing to God’s love…Several times, she mentions her longing to spend another day with Him. If by that she means she wants to be aware of God’s presence with her and to enjoy Him, to feel His great love, to talk with Him throughout the day… then I feel a kinship with her because THAT is what I want, too! 

Light is sweet; how pleasant to see a new day dawning.
Ecclesiastes 11:7, New Living Translation

Friday, December 16, 2016

Christmas Cards

Note: I wrote the following article in 1999, but it continues to express how I feel. Perhaps you, too, Dear Reader, can relate.
     
I always delay getting started on the annual project of mailing Christmas cards for I know it will take considerable time during the season of the year when extra time is hard to come by.

For me, the first and most difficult step is updating the names and addresses stored in my computer. Every year, I release a deep sigh as I realize how many changes need to be made in the Christmas card list. Some of our friends have moved; others have merely switched from a street to a post office box address or vice versa. In some families, marriages of adult children require me to change the names of the recipients from “Mr. & Mrs….and daughters” to “Mr. & Mrs.…and family” in order to include the new son-in-law. Sometimes I need to add the name of a new baby, but not so this year.

As I make the changes, I rejoice with those who have an address change due to the finding of a new job that required them to relocate; with those who moved closer “home;” and with those who, following retirement, moved into their much-dreamed-about house on the beach or in the mountains.
     
However, I find myself blinking back tears as I delete the names of those who have passed away since last Christmas. In several situations, a “Mr. and Mrs.” becomes either a “Mr.” or a “Ms.” I update those changes easily by pointing and clicking my mouse and then making a few key strokes. As I do so, I become acutely aware that the surviving spouse and family members find changes infinitely more difficult to make.

As I remove the names of the deceased, I pause to reflect on each one.  I recall some of the experiences we shared. I think about the special things they did or said. I think about the things they liked. I think about where they lived. I think about the circumstances surrounding their death. And I know that I miss them this Christmas. 

In the midst of missing them, I give thanks for the impact each one had on my life. Thus, preparing Christmas cards is a bittersweet experience. Mourning the passing of loved ones.  Celebrating the gift of life others continue to receive. Weeping with those who are undergoing difficulties. Rejoicing with those whose dreams have been fulfilled. Acknowledging that certain relationships have come to an end. Welcoming new people into our circle of family and friends.  

Despite feeling such a range of emotions, I am able to look at every name on the list and say, as did the Apostle Paul, “Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God” (Philippians 1:3, New Living Translation). And, again using the words of the Apostle Paul, I can confidently say to each family, regardless of their situation, that “God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them” (Romans 8:28, NLT), and “that nothing can ever separate us from His love” (Romans 8:38, NLT).

When I begin to give thanks to God for each person on the list, I see that all the steps involved in sending Christmas cards become a gateway to joy, and I wonder why I delay beginning the journey.