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.





Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Give Thanks Every Day!


Give thanks to the LORD, 
for He is good;
For His lovingkindness 
is everlasting.
~Psalm 118:1, NASB


Thursday, November 3, 2016

Look for the Beauty and the Blessings


With camera in hand, I walked through the gate to my neighbor's garden. "I doubt you’ll find anything to photograph here,” she said apologetically. 

I smiled, having already spotted several things that I wanted to photograph.

She enjoys her garden most when it’s at its peak--when it’s filled with soft pastels on her hydrangeas and vibrant colors on her geraniums and roses. Indeed, it is a delight at that time; but…I also love her garden in the fall when the blooms and leaves are aging and turning beautiful shades of brown before drifting down to the ground.










Just as I can find unique beauty in the garden every season, I also find beauty in whatever season of life I’m in. Even in late fall and mid-winter, there’s beauty to be found in the garden and in life.  Although I sometimes have to look more closely to find it, it’s there!
Dear Reader, will you take a close look at your life in order to see the beauty that surrounds you? If you don’t see much that delights you in your current season or situation, will you ask God to open your eyes so you can see the blessings that surround you? The beauty and the blessings are there! Look for them! Thank Him for every one you find.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Seemingly Small

I enjoy reading about how God uses seemingly small acts of obedience to accomplish far more than we ever dreamed would happen. The “back story” to the hymn, I’m a Child of the King, proves that.

Harriet Buell wrote the words one Sunday while she was walking home from church. She submitted the song for publication. It was printed in the February 1, 1877, issue of the Northern Christian Advocate.

Six years later, when Peter Bilhorn was doing evangelistic work among the cowboys in the West, he and his traveling companions were traveling up the Missouri River on their way to Bismarck. When they stopped at Blunt one Sunday morning to unload freight, a crowd of men and boys came down to the wharf. Mr. Bilhorn took his little organ and went on the wharf-boat to sing a few songs, including I’m a Child of the King.  

He thought nothing more of it, but that was not the end of the story, as Mr. Bilhorn discovered the day he sang that same song in Rev. Moody’s church in Chicago. Afterward, a man in the back of the house stood up and talked about having heard that same song in Blunt, Dakota, two years ago. Although he was then an unsaved man, the song set him to thinking. He decided to accept Christ and was studying for the ministry.

As I reflected on that back story, I felt amazed at the wonderful ways God had used each person’s obedience. The woman, whose heart was filled with gratitude over being a “child of the King,” felt compelled to express her thoughts and to submit them to an editor who chose to publish them. Mr. Bilhorn somehow discovered the song and chose to sing it to the crowd of men and boys. At least one of them chose to believe the Good News that was shared in the simple, yet profound, words penned by Ms. Buell, words  that had finally reached him after having been passed along from person to person.


Dear Reader, since we never know how God will use us to help spread the Good News to those who do not yet know there is a God who loves them and wants to forgive them of their sins and to bring them into His family, may we eagerly do everything, even the seemingly small things, that the Holy Spirit of God prompts us to do. God will take our little and make it much!


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

JOY

After reading the text of the online obituary for a 66-year-old woman I'd never met, I watched the video tribute created from photos provided by her family. I noticed how her face radiated joy in each of the photos, even in those I assumed were taken during her two-and-a-half-year battle with cancer. Whether at the beach or other vacation spot or at home or attending the birth of a grandchild or interacting with her six grandchildren…, she seemed to radiate joy and love for others and for life itself. That made me wish I had had the pleasure of knowing her.

Along about the time I read her obituary, my daily Bible readings brought me to several passages about joy. For example, Galatians 5:22 says that joy is produced by the Holy Spirit within those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ. Joy, along with eight other “fruit” (love, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, fidelity (faithfulness), tolerance, and self-control), will be as evident in the life of a believer as apples on a tree.

Reflecting on that prompted me to ask myself these questions, which you, Dear Reader, may want to ask yourself:
  • As others look at my life, what “fruit” (evidence, proof) is there that the Holy Spirit of Christ lives within me?
  • Is His “fruit” so evident that even those who don’t know me personally can see it and sense His presence?
  • Can they/Do they see there is a distinct (and desirable!) difference in my life than in unbelievers whose lives are controlled by their “lower nature,” which leads them to “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these” (Galatians 5: 20-21)?


I had fun coloring this card a friend gave me.






Monday, September 12, 2016

God's Inexorable Love

As always when I read books by Elisabeth Elliot, I learn so much about what it means to be a Christian and how to live like one. Currently, I'm reading her book, God's Guidance: A Slow and Certain Light, published by Revel in 1997.
While writing about the importance of obeying God, she summarizes how God's chosen people (the Israelites) failed to trust Him and how they disobeyed Him time and time again. Even so, "In countless ways he bore with them, corrected them, punished them, goaded them, and brought them to the promised land. His love for them was inexorable" (p.45).
Note: I had to look up the pronunciation and definition of the word “inexorable,” whereupon I discovered that in’ eks(uh)r(uh)b(uh)l is an adjective that means “impossible to stop or prevent.” Synonyms are: relentless, unstoppable, inescapable, inevitable, unavoidable, irrevocable, unalterable...
That brought tears to my eyes, since I know His love for me (and for you, Dear Reader) is inexorable. As I reflected on that mind-boggling truth, I recalled the passage of Scripture our minister read and explained the Sunday morning many years ago when I re-committed my life to Christ.
In that passage, the Apostle Paul is praying that the Christians at Ephesus (and you and I) would know (experience; be fully convinced of) the great love God through Christ has for us. In a portion of that powerful prayer, we find these words: "may [you] have the strength to comprehend...what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God" (Ephesians 3:18-19, ESV).
Believing He loves us far more than we can imagine (or hope!) and responding gladly to that love makes ALL the difference. Because He loves us completely and constantly, we want to serve Him, to obey Him, to please Him... That's a far cry from keeping His commandments because we have to!



Monday, August 8, 2016

Our Life Reflects Our Heart

As water reflects the face,
so one's life reflects the heart.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Wonderful Peace



Several days ago, I suddenly recalled these familiar words and began to sing them while alone in my home:

Peace! Peace! Wonderful peace,
Coming down from the Father above;
Sweep over my spirit forever, I pray
In fathomless billows of love.

I sang or hummed them over and over as I went about my daily tasks, although I had no idea why they had come to mind. I tried my hardest to recall others words in that old hymn, but couldn’t. But for days thereafter, the words I did know continued to minister to me.

One evening, I did a Google search and found the rest of the words, as well as several sites on YouTube that contained videos of various folks singing that song.  As they sang, I felt an even greater peace sweep over me! Thus, Dear Reader, I want to share these words with you, which I can legally do since the words are in public domain—and can be freely used.

I pray these words, written by Warren D. Cornell (1858-1930’s) will minister to you, too. More importantly, I pray that you will experience the peace that God can and will give—in every circumstance—if we are willing to receive it.

Far away in the depths of my spirit tonight
Rolls a melody sweeter than psalm;
In celestial-like strains it unceasingly falls
O’er my soul like an infinite calm.

Refrain:
Peace! Peace! Wonderful peace,
Coming down from the Father above;
Sweep over my spirit forever, I pray
In fathomless billows of love.

What a treasure I have in this wonderful peace,
Buried deep in the heart of my soul;
So secure that no power can mine it away,
While the years of eternity roll. [Refrain]

I am resting tonight in this wonderful peace,
Resting sweetly in Jesus’ control:
For I’m kept from all danger by night and by day,
And His glory is flooding my soul. [Refrain]

And I know when I rise to that city of peace,
Where the Author of peace I shall see,
That one strain of the anthem the ransomed will sing,
In that heavenly kingdom shall be: [Refrain]

O soul, are you here without comfort or rest,
Walking down the rough pathway of time?
Make Jesus your friend ere the shadows grow dark;
O accept this sweet peace so sublime. [Refrain]


Monday, July 25, 2016

Wonderfully Made


Butterflies can't see their wings. 
They can't see how beautiful they are, 
but everyone else can. 
People are like that.
~Unknown


You [my God] created my inmost being; 
you knit me together in my mother's womb. 
I praise you because 
I am fearfully and wonderfully made; 
your works are wonderful, 
I know that full well.
~ David, Psalm 139:13-14, NIV















Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Road Ahead

Rapid City, South Dakota

As we journey through life, we may feel confident the road ahead seems straight and reasonably easy to travel, as in the photo above. We have a good idea where we're headed and have plans for getting there. But even the best-made plans can and often do go awry, don't they? One moment all is well. In the next, we're dealing with an unexpected "upset" that has left us shocked and shaken and unsure of what to do next.

Sometimes we have a warning, as in the photo below, that there will be hard-to-handle twists and turns on the road ahead. We brace ourselves; we travel more thoughtfully and slowly on the road of life, paying close attention not only to ourselves but also to fellow travelers on life's journey. We try to avoid "colliding" with them or making any errors in judgment that will end in sorrow and/or suffering.

Whether our path seems straight or full of twists and turns, may we agree with David who said, in essence, "No matter where the road of life takes me, I will not fear because You, My God, are with me. Even if my journey takes me through a deep, dark valley or if I have to travel roads that make me feel scared and uncertain, You are always with me, always guiding me, always providing everything I need to make it through life." (See Psalm 23, below.)


South Dakota
The LORD is my shepherd;
   I have everything I need. 
He lets me rest in green meadows;
   he leads me beside peaceful streams.
   He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
   bringing honor to his name.

Even when I walk
   through the dark valley of death,
I will not be afraid,
   for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
   protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me
   in the presence of my enemies.
You welcome me as a guest,
   anointing my head with oil. 
   My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
   all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
   forever.
~David, Psalm 23:16, New Living Translation

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Carry On!

After I’d e-mailed some friends a link to the site where I’d posted the photos I’d taken recently at Callaway Gardens, one who had also photographed there that day, replied, saying, “Very nice pictures. I was disappointed that some of my butterflies had ragged wings. I see that happened to you, too.”




Although I’m awed by perfection, I was not disappointed at the sight of the ragged wings. Rather, I was inspired by the butterflies that were living life as fully as possible despite whatever trauma(s) they had endured; and I saw such incredible beauty in the parts that remained. Thus, I am delighted to display the photos I took of such courageous winged creatures and will continue to be grateful for the reminder to “carry on,” no matter what.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Happy Independence Day!

Devil's Tower in Wyoming
Quote by Oliver Wendell Holmes, 1809-1894, American physician, poet, professor, lecturer, author

Monday, June 20, 2016

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Extract the Valuable

Take away the dross from the silver, 
and the smith has material for a vessel…
(Proverbs 25:4, ESV).

As I read verses 4 and 5 of the 25th chapter of Proverbs, I recalled fun times when James and I panned for gems while on vacation in various states. After purchasing a 5-gallon bucket of “seeded” dirt from the owner of the gem mining tourist attraction, we'd sit on a bench beside a wooden trough filled with running water, into which each of us dipped a wooden box with a mesh bottom. Using that open-top box like a sifter, we’d dump a big scoop of dirt and gems into it. Carefully, we'd let the water rinse away the dirt that clung to the precious stones so that we could see if anything of value remained in the mesh container. We, along with other tourists seated on the long bench, exclaimed with delight when we'd see a tiny sliver or a small chunk (none were larger than half of a pecan) of emerald or garnet or quartz or ….

After we'd emptied our bucket, we'd head toward the office/gift shop, each of us carrying a small plastic container that held our collection of gems and minerals. There we'd learn the names of our stones and the value of our collection.

Although we weren’t removing dross from silver, as mentioned in Proverbs 25:4, we had been removing dirt and debris to reveal the gems and minerals. Likewise, in all of life, we must extract the precious from the worthless. Though the extraction process can be difficult and sometimes painful, we must be willing to let go of everything that isn’t good for us--and everything that doesn’t honor God.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Advice for Graduates


This is the time of year when words of wisdom are being shared with graduates during one-on-one conversations or in ceremonies or on cards sent to the graduates. Out of all the excellent advice that can be gathered from printed and online sources, as well as from life experiences of others, here’s one of the best pieces for the graduates--and everyone else:

My son, fear the LORD and the King, 
and do not join with those who do otherwise. 
Proverbs 24:21, ESV

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Remember the Fallen

A reminder of the great sacrifices men and women (and their families) made to defend our way of life.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Diligent Discipline

My frustration level soared this morning when I stepped on the scales and learned that I was one-fourth of a pound--a mere four ounces--over the weight loss goal I’d been trying for months to reach. AAAARGH!

Prior to stepping on the scales, I’d said to my husband, who knew how disappointed I’d been every morning for the past week when the scales showed I was less than one pound over the goal, “Surely, I’ll make goal this morning. If I don’t, I’m going to quit!!!”

But before he had a chance to respond, I said, “No, I won’t! I’d be foolish to give up when I’m sooo close to the goal.”

I renewed my commitment to try one more day and one more day...to get to the goal. And whenever I finally get there, I’ll say, “Wah-hoo!” and then set a new goal, one that’s five pounds lower than the current one. (Am I a glutton for punishment?)

Knowing I have a life-long tendency to abandon projects, even when finishing them is very doable, makes me even more determined to forge ahead with the disciplines required to reach my weight loss goal. I will remain diligent in regard to staying within calorie limits and getting adequate rest and exercise. As I continue to do what’s required to reach this goal, the stick-with-it mindset I’m forming will enable me to complete other projects, too.
           
A Bible verse I read this morning assures me there’s reward associated with stick-to-it-ive-ness. “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance…” (Proverbs 21:5, ESV). Since diligent discipline does pay off, I’ll wait—in hope—for success.
Note: The following morning I was actually one-fourth of a pound below my goal. I felt elated over that, of course, but the real gladness came from knowing I could discipline myself--and had--and, in the process, had been kind to my body by giving it the the food, rest, and exercise it needs to stay healthy.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Gift of "Daily Bread"

Elisabeth Elliot begins her book,  God’s Guidance: A Slow and Certain Light, with a phrase-by-phrase discussion of the words included in what is called The Lord’s Prayer or The Model Prayer, which is found in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4.

Our Father, who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done on earth
as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil,
For thine is the kingdom,
And the power, and the glory forever.
Amen.

In the section dealing with Give us this day our daily bread, Elisabeth points out that God not only created us to need what He gives, but He also wants us to recognize our need for His provisions by asking for them.  She says “bread” includes not only food to sustain our bodies but also, in a broader sense, all the things we need Him to supply, guidance being one of them.

Throughout the chapter dealing with the Lord’s Prayer, which He gave to His disciples as a model for them (and us!) to use, Elisabeth uses word pictures to clarify the principles in the prayer and help us to remember them. For example, in the Give us this day our daily bread section, she says she likes to picture, at the beginning of each new day,  the Lord presenting her with a platter containing all the things He knows is best for her for that day.


Since He always answers our  prayer for “daily bread,” we should gladly and gratefully receive whatever He provides. (See p. 25.) 

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Memories

Three residents of the local nursing home had circled up in the lobby and were laughing as Reba talked about some of her experiences during childhood. I paused to listen to the lively account she was giving about a wreck she’d had when she’d taken a wild ride on a bicycle down a steep hill in her neighborhood. Then she told about the fun she and her siblings and friends had had decorating a tree house with all sorts of items, including a “borrowed” set of her mama’s best sheets.

Despite being wheelchair-bound, her voice was animated and happy; her eyes sparkled with long-remembered memories of good times. And we who were privileged to hear her wonderful stories laughed along with her, vicariously enjoying her experiences while recalling similar ones we’d had.

As I drove home, I wondered if the person who said, “God gives us memories that we might have roses in December” was referring to memories that flourish like summer roses in the gardens of our minds even as the winter season of our lives afflicts and weakens our bodies. 

Oh, Dear Reader, how blessed we are to be able to recall pleasant memories that provide a welcomed respite from wheelchairs and worries. 

In fact, the Bible reminds us to treasure memories of people and experiences and to thank God for them. It urges us to remember God and His love for us and His tender care of us through the years. (See Philippians 1:3, Deuteronomy 4:9, Luke 1:66, Jeremiah 2:2, etc.)

Remember the good times. Thank God for them. Tell others about them--and Him! 


Monday, May 2, 2016

Thank the Lord!

As another woman and I waited for the elevator, I smiled at her and said, “I hope your morning is off to a great start!”

Her pleasant expression became even more so. Her entire countenance radiated joy and gladness as she said, “The Good Lawd woke me up this morning!”

“And,” I replied, “aren’t we thankful He did?”

“Honey,” she said, “as soon as I open my eyes, I begin to thank Him for letting me live through the night and for letting me see another day!”

“We don’t always recognize how blessed we are, do we?”

“I know that’s right,” she said, nodding vigorously.

That’s all the time we had to talk, since we only rode the elevator down one floor. But in that brief time, we praised our Lord for His goodness to us, and I was reminded that praise doesn’t have to be complicated or lengthy. Even a few seconds of sincere praise and thanksgiving honors our Lord and encourages others along life’s journey.


Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And all that is within me, bless His holy name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And forget none of His benefits.

~David, Psalm 103:1-2, New American Standard Bible

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Loving and Telling the Old, Old Story


The Sunday our congregation sang the hymn I Love to Tell the Story, I thought, Well, I surely do!

For example, when I’m writing (columns, articles, blog posts, greeting card messages) or when I'm conversing with friends, I often mention the same Bible verses again and again. I used to fret a bit about such repetition until I realized that although I am reiterating the old, old story of Jesus and His love, I’m telling about new circumstances in which I’ve experienced the reality of His love and am now, hopefully, enlightening and/or encouraging others by telling them about it.

As Katherine Hankey, writer of that beloved hymn, said,
I love to tell the story;
‘Tis pleasant to repeat
What seems each time I tell it,
More wonderfully sweet:

And, Dear Reader, it’s crucial that you and I tell others about Jesus and His love, since, as the hymn says,
For some have never heard
The message of salvation
From God’s own holy Word.

One of many Bible verses displayed in
Guido Gardens in Metter, Georgia
Thus, I am not ashamed of repeating scriptural truths. I pray that God will continue to allow me to sincerely tell the old, old story again and again--in fresh ways—so that others may also know it, believe it, love it, and tell it.







For I am not ashamed of the gospel, 
for it is the power of God for salvation 
to everyone who believes…

~The Apostle Paul 
(Romans 1:16, English Standard Version)

Monday, April 25, 2016

Crazy Busy!



I laughed when I saw this sign and couldn't resist taking a picture of it. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized it is a sad commentary on those of us who are crazy busy. 

Dear Reader, do you fall into the "crazy busy" group, as I do? If so, it's time, past time, for us to slow down, for we are not keeping the pace and, thereby, not experiencing the blessings God wants to give us--blessings we so desperately need: salvation, strength, and rest, to name a few.

######

For thus the LORD GOD, the Holy One of Israel, has said, "In repentance and rest you will be saved. In quietness and trust is your strength." But you were not willing.
Isaiah 30:15, New American Standard Bible







Saturday, April 23, 2016

In All Things

While praying for a dear friend’s four-year-old grandson who was in the Intensive Care Unit in a children’s hospital, I asked God to make Jax well and strong again. Then, I added, “If that’s Your will.”

As soon as I’d whispered those last four words, I wondered if I truly meant them or if I’d said them merely because I knew I should.

Immediately, I recalled these words from the hymn All the Way My Savior Leads Me: “For I know whate’er befall me, Jesus doeth all things well.”

Thankfully, I’ve known those words (written by Fanny J. Crosby in 1875) for many years and have often received comfort from them. For example, once when I was lying on a cold, hard table awaiting a frightening medical procedure that could lead to an even scarier diagnosis, those words, which I’d often sung in church, popped into my brain; and then I knew that whatever happened—good or bad (from the human perspective)—would be God’s will for me. I truly accepted that. Not a smidge of doubt. Only absolute certainty. 

Thankfully, all things turned out well. But if they hadn’t, I would have still believed that God’s way was best, that He knew what He was doing and why He was allowing certain things to happen.

I can accept God’s will for me, but find it harder to let God be God in the lives of those I love. Thus, when I prayed for the little boy, I so didn’t want to give God any leeway with the outcome. I truly yearned for Jax to be fully—and quickly—restored to health and had reluctantly added, “If that’s Your will.”
"O Father,” I prayed. “You have shown me again and again that You do ALL things well, even those that don’t turn out the way I hoped they would. Forgive me for doubting You in any way. Forgive me for failing to remember that You love this precious child, who is much loved and cherished and cared for by his family and friends, infinitely more than they do. Help my unbelief. Help me to fully trust You, even in this.”

And we know 
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, New Living Translation

Click here to listen to the Haven of Rest Quartet sing the song mentioned above:

Sunday, April 17, 2016

A Closer Look

A photographer whose newsletter I enjoy, recently sent one entitled The Intimate Landscape. The title intrigued me, since landscape photos usually show large vistas such as a mountain lake in the foreground and snow-capped mountains in the background. Such scenes are beautiful and much admired; I'm thankful to have photographed many and varied grand vistas. However, the photographer who sent the newsletter encouraged her readers to take a closer look and see the "intimate landscape," that is, to see beauty in the details that comprise the larger landscape.

As I thought about that, I remembered some poppies I'd photographed recently at the Mobile Botanical Gardens (in  Alabama). The poppies were part of a much larger, postcard-pretty scene, and when I looked more closely at them, I was awed by their beauty and spent more time photographing them than I did the larger landscape. 

Even though not all landscapes are pretty, I can usually find something that is beautiful--if I take a closer look. For example, when we recently had a new roof put on the house where my husband had grown up, a "roll-off" dumpster was brought in so that the roofers could toss all the old shingles, nails, and other debris into it. It was old and discolored and rusty and had several holes. I photographed it from a distance and then walked over for a closer look at its surface. The beautiful colors and the varied textures and patterns I found on that badly mistreated, badly scarred dumpster amazed me! Had I not taken a closer look, I'd have continued to think the dumpster was quite ugly.

That experience set me to thinking about how the larger view we have of some people and/or circumstances leads us to think they, too, are very ugly.  We do not see anything appealing about them. But if we take the time and make the effort to move in a bit closer, chances are good that we'll find something to admire about them.

Although we tend to form opinions about others based on outward appearance, God looks beyond the exterior and sees what each of us is like on the inside. Obviously, He's far more interested in our "intimate landscape" than in the larger landscape of our lives.
*****
God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.
1 Samuel 16:7





Saturday, March 26, 2016

He is Risen!

"The Empty Tomb" at Guido Gardens in Metter, GA
Jesus Is Buried
It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus' body. Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where he was laid.
Mark 15: 42-47, New Living Translation

Jesus Is Risen
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus' body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, "Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?"

But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

"Don't be alarmed," he said. You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, 'He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.'"
Mark 16:1-7, New Living Translation