Sunday, December 31, 2017

Entanglements

Mama used to “wind off” yarn before she started any crocheting project. She’d fold a piece of paper into a small square and then pull out the end of the yarn from inside the skein and begin wrapping the yarn around the square, turning the square every few seconds. The rotation slowly transformed the square into a ball. By the time all the yarn from the skein had been pulled and twirled in that manner, Mama ended up with a ball about the size of large grapefruit or a small cantaloupe. 

She wound off the yarn in order to avoid having to deal with the inevitable tangles that she’d encounter during the project as the yarn dwindled inside the skein. Untangling the yarn was much easier to do when moving the ball (rather than an  afghan) through the various sizes of loops that were jumbled together. Once all the yarn was on the ball, Mama could crochet efficiently and calmly since the yarn rarely formed anything other than an occasional simple loop that could easily be untangled.

I thought of Mama and her balls of yarn again the morning I re-read the Entanglements chapter in Amy Carmichael’s wonderful devotional book, I Come Quietly to Meet You: An Intimate Journey In God’s Presence. In that chapter, Amy urges Christians to avoid any entanglements that would keep them from being free to serve God. She points out how easy it is to get ensnared by social responsibilities, expectations of others, duties at work and at home, and so forth. The greater our involvements, the less time we have to spend quality time before the Lord—seeking His will, studying His Word, listening to His voice, and learning His ways. Such quiet time spent alone with Him is essential, for that is when we “receive an in-flooding of the Lord’s life…,” she says on page 44.

Thus, you and I must find ways to avoid entanglements that keep us from spending time with Him. And if we’re already ensnared, we’ll do well to find ways out of them, even though that’s awfully hard to do. But we must do it because, as Amy says on p. 46, “We cannot allow ourselves to be entangled and, at the same time, believe that we will have spiritual power."

The beginning of a new year is a wonderful time to decide what we will or will not write in all those beautiful blank spaces on our calendars. We can choose to fill each one to the max, or we can choose to let go of the entanglements that clutter up our calendars and our lives and, thereby, keep us from spending our God-given moments and days on the truly important things: the things that please Him, the things that He commands us to do, the things that will minister to others....

No one serving as a soldier
gets entangled in civilian affairs,
but rather tries to please his commanding officer.
~the apostle Paul, 2 Timothy 2:4, NIV


Thursday, December 28, 2017

Enter On a New Year


I enter on a new year, 
not knowing 
what it will bring forth, 
but surely 
with a thousand reasons 
for thanksgiving, 
for joy, 
and for hope.
~Stepping Heavenward, 
by Elizabeth Prentiss

Friday, December 22, 2017

Follow!

Photo taken Nov. 2017 at Bellingrath Gardens in Alabama.
One recent morning, I woke up with the song, Rise Up, Shepherd, and Follow, playing in my mind, like a musical CD set on repeat. As I listened to those words, I thought about the practical aspects of what "rise up and follow" meant for me:
  • Get up out of my warm, comfortable bed (even though I felt reluctant to do so) and begin the tasks I didn’t particularly want to do or feel competent to do.
  • Learn more about Jesus and try to follow His example and keep His commandments. I do the “learning” part reasonably well. For example, I listen to Max MacLean read from the New International Version Bible (via the YouVersion app on my phone). I read and study God’s Word. I read books and commentaries written by other Christians. I discuss insights with other Christians, etc. But I find the “following His example and keeping His commandments” far more difficult to do, despite the subject/skill.
  • Become a mentee, eager to learn from my Mentor, my Teacher, Who says in Matthew 11:28-30, NKJV:

Come to Me, 
all you who labor 
and are heavy laden, 
and I will give you rest.
Take My yoke upon you 
and learn from Me,
 for I am gentle 
and lowly in heart, 
and you will find rest 
for your souls.
For My yoke is easy 
and My burden is light.

That invitation is so wonderful that I can hardly believe it’s meant for me--and for you, too! But He does invite us, imperfect and inept though we are, to follow Him: to go wherever He goes, to listen and learn from all He does and says, to converse with Him as easily as with a dear friend, to consult with Him about matters both great and small….

In order to follow Him, you and I may have to eliminate some current activities and/or greatly reduce time spent on them. Although that will be difficult to do, it will be exhilarating to stay in close contact with Him at all times and to simply be and do whatever He says.


To listen to two different arrangements of that song, click here and here.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Pass It On!

A good friend gave me a "Giving Plate" for Christmas. I'd never seen one before, but I like it. 

Apparently, I'm supposed to place a delicious cake or cookies or other treats on it and pass it on to someone else, along with instructions to enjoy the goodies and then refill the plate before passing it along to someone else.

According to the words on the plate, "With each new sharing with its
gift, the love and blessings grow." Hence, the instructions to "...fill it up and pass it on."

That "Giving Plate"  reminds me of an experience I had years ago. Each time my friend brought home-cooked dinners to my family and me during the weeks I was on strict bedrest in order to keep from going into early labor, I thanked her.

One evening, I said, "I can never repay you for your kindness!"

She smiled and said, "You don't have to repay me. Just pass it on."

Her words have lingered with me these past 40 years, and I have tried to do as she said. 

As I reflect on that, I realize that I can (and should!) pass on much more than sweet treats and homecooked meals. Nothing is more important to pass on to others than the Gospel, the Good News that "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16, NKJV). 

It is the birth of God's Son that we celebrate, especially during the Christmas season. Those of us who have received God's gracious gift surely ought to tell others how they, too, can receive it. That's the BEST gift to pass on.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Pockets of Peace

NOTE: The story below is a fiction one I wrote in 2006. I hope you enjoy it and that you will let me know what you think of it.

A smile begins to form as I sit at the kitchen table and watch the softly-falling snow as it slowly hides the brown earth underneath a blanket of white. A soothing calm settles over me as I gaze at the beauty outside my window.

I linger over my morning coffee, reluctant to focus on the bitter realities of the day. My health is failing fast, as fast as early morning frost disappears under the rays of a rising sun. My daughter Dianne and her family no longer live nearby. Though they had to move across the country to find work, I miss them terribly. And I need them more than ever, now that the man who has been the love of my life for 55 years is slipping away from me, too. Alzheimer’s, the doctor says. Some days, he knows who I am. Other days, he looks at me as if I’m someone he’s supposed to know but doesn’t.

Here lately, my spirit feels as cold as my body did during the harsh winters my parents and I lived in a ramshackle farmhouse heated by a drafty fireplace in the living room and a wood-burning stove in the kitchen.

But, I say to myself as I sip the last of my coffee, we survived those bone-chilling days. By the grace of God, I’ll get through these difficult days, too. I may not be “at ease” every day, but I know I’ll have the strength and resources I need to get through this tough time.

I become even more convinced of that as I recall what happened yesterday. The doorbell rang around 8 a.m. When I peeped through the mini-blinds on the kitchen door, I saw Nancy, one of Dianne’s dearest friends. “My goodness!” I gasped, holding the door wide open. “What on earth do you have?”

“Just a little bit of Christmas cheer,” she said, juggling her festive load as she stepped inside.

Within minutes, she’d placed a miniature Christmas tree on the breakfast table and had unwrapped plates of food that looked more delicious than any I’d seen in magazines.

“Now, for the gifts,” she said cheerily, handing two packages to me. “Let’s get Tom so he can enjoy this, too.”
       
We found him sitting in his recliner facing the picture window, gazing out at the falling snow, his eyes as blank as an unpainted canvas.
       
“Honey,” I said, “come and see what Nancy brought us.”
       
He followed me, his steps (and mine) unsteady and slow. As we seated ourselves at the table, Nancy warmed our food in the microwave oven. “I thought you two would be up and around,” she said. “So, I rushed over to start Christmas day off just right for you.”
       
Other friends dropped by later, bringing gifts and offers of help for Tom and me. One neighbor promised to cut our grass next summer. Another said, “I’ll take you to the doctor whenever you need to go.” The young mother who lives four doors down said, “I’ll deliver your groceries.”

       
So, as I sit here today, I’m greatly comforted by their expressions of love and offers of help. I realize such kindnesses can’t remove my difficulties. But, like the snowflakes drifting down one by one and covering the bleakness of the winter landscape, accumulated kindnesses will mask my hardships—for brief periods, providing me with welcomed pockets of peace like this one.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

No Inkling

Note: The following column originally appeared in the Oct. 2017 issue of Chapel Hill News and Views magazine, for which I've written a monthly column since Feb. 2008. 

Wonderful gifts have been given to me in recent days, gifts I’ve had no inkling were being prepared.

First, an encouraging e-mail arrived from a woman who had read one of my columns in a magazine. (And I’d thought no one was reading them!!!)

Second, an email arrived from another stranger. She said that my story (The Cry of a Woman’s Heart) that had been published in 2002 in Chicken Soup for the Volunteer’s Soul was one of the 101 stories chosen for publication in Chicken Soup for the Soul: A Book of Christmas Miracles. (And I had no inkling that anyone was re-reading that story!)

The third gift (a copy of Hannah Whitall Smith’s devotional book, God Is Enougharrived in my mailbox. When I opened the padded envelope, I learned that a dear friend who knows how much I am strengthened by the writings of HWS had ordered it and had it shipped directly to me.

In each of these situations, I’d had no inkling that a special blessing was headed my way. No inkling the impact of each of those special gifts would have on my life. No inkling that these gifts would become the inspiration for this column. But God knew my needs and chose to use those dear people to encourage and uplift me at a time when I was feeling really “down” due to ongoing struggles with vertigo and extreme physical weakness. (The worse I felt, the more I doubted my ability to write the messages God sent from His heart to my heart to the hearts of others.)

As I reflected on that experience, I saw the similarity between it and the Chicken Soup story in which I told about how God used people to meet the cries of a woman’s heart.
     
She had no inkling that help was on the way. No inkling it would arrive the very day her need was most desperate. No inkling that I, a total stranger, would show up at her door with donated resources that were an answer to her cries for help.
      
That experience had God’s name written all over it! I was merely the delivery person He chose to use. Likewise, the special gifts I received recently also have God’s name written all over them. Two came from total strangers; one came from a friend. To none of them had I expressed any desire for what they provided. Yet, my loving heavenly Father knew my needs, for I’d cried out to Him about them. Thus, He motivated the people to send the gifts directly to me –and at the time when I needed them most! How awesome is that??? How awesome and wonderfully kind God is!!!
      
It thrills my very soul to know that God can do such miracles and that I don’t have to know what good things He’s preparing for me in order to love Him and trust Him. I just have to believe that He IS working all things together for His glory and for my good, as Romans 8:28 says.
      
Even if He, in His infinite wisdom, should choose to send “bad news” into my life, I pray I will have the faith to look upon those things as gifts from His loving hand, gifts He chooses to use to bless me, gifts that will give me opportunities to learn to trust Him in ALL situations.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A Gift of Light

I received a Christmas card from a 90-year-old lady I’ve known over 30 years. She’s a tiny little woman with a lot of spunk. For example, even after battling cancer and undergoing the hard-to-endure treatments for it, she didn't let that and the permanent damage they created stop her from doing the things she loved. After the death of her beloved husband, she continued to live in the home they'd shared and to stay as independent as possible.

Her annual Christmas letter this year began with these words: "As we approach Christmas, let us remember how God has blessed us." Then she wrote about happy times and special people who had ministered to her. She also briefly mentioned several situations that surely had caused her much sadness and frustration, yet she did not whine about any of them, not even the malfunction of her computer and the loss of four years of data or her disappointment over having to miss an event she loved to attend. She spoke highly of the assisted living place where she now resides and expressed gratitude for the good care she receives there.

She concluded her one-page letter with these words: "I hope you have had a wonderful year and this Christmas is one of your happiest. Thank you for your prayers, love, and friendship. I continue to need your prayers."

I didn't immediately re-fold the letter and replace it inside the beautiful card she'd sent. Instead, I re-read it several times, allowing her words and her example to inspire and instruct me. I realized she was living proof that:
  • faith in God can remain and will strengthen us even in the most difficult circumstances
  • it's possible to remain thankful to God and others even (and especially!) when we're coping with great losses
  • prayers--our own and those of others--help sustain us
  • our light can (and should!) shine brightly for others even when we may think it's not.

I'm grateful to have received the gift of another letter from her, a gift that provided light for my journey through life.

...let your light shine before people,
so that they can see your good deeds and
give honor to your Father in heaven.
~Jesus (Matthew 5:16, NET)


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Thanksgiving—Then and Now




When I read the Thanksgiving Proclamation written in 1863 by then President Abraham Lincoln, I was struck by how timely his message is for us today (Thanksgiving 2017). Please join me in reading and re-reading it thoughtfully and prayerfully.

Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation
It is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God; to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord.

We know that by His divine law, nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisement in this world. May we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war which now desolates the land may be a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people?

We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown.

But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.1

It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father Who dwelleth in the heavens.2


1Abraham Lincoln. A Proclamation Appointing a National Fast Day. March 30, 1863.

2Abraham Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation. October 3, 1863.

Friday, November 3, 2017

A prayer found in Psalm 119, verse 35, NIV:

Direct me in the path of  your commands, for there I find delight.

(Photo taken by Johnnie Ann Gaskill on Sanibel Island, Florida, June 2016.)

Monday, October 2, 2017

A New Life


...anyone who belongs to Christ
has become a new person.
The old life is gone;
a new life has begun!
--2 Corinthians 5:17, New Living Translation





Friday, September 29, 2017

Take It In; Live It Out

As I journal, read the Bible, read devotional and self-help books, listen to podcasts by various Christians and self-help experts, watch TED Talks, etc. I receive an abundance of insights about how to live life better. However, I'm overwhelmed by all that I should think, feel, say, and do differently.


Having too much to focus on, I generally end up applying few, if any, of the principles that were presented to me. I'm like the person described in James 1:22-25, the person who looks into a mirror, sees the truth about what needs readjusting, but chooses to walk away from the mirror without dealing with problem areas. How smart is that???? 

Although I take in far more insights than I live out, I could experience BIG changes in my life if only I'd choose at least one "flaw" and apply the truth from God's Word to it. Even though I may not have the time or wisdom to do everything I'm shown every day, I'll certainly benefit from choosing to do at least ONE thing differently--and consistently.

How about you, Dear Reader? Do you need to learn to incorporate more of God's truths into your life? Will you choose at least one truth and start living by it? Will you begin to do it today? Will you continue to do it tomorrow and the next day, and...?


Father, thank You for revealing
truth upon truth, precept upon precept.
I humble ask You to help me "live it out."
Amen.



Thursday, September 21, 2017

World Day of Gratitude

Had I not received an e-mail this morning informing me that today (Sept. 21) is World Gratitude Day, I wouldn't have known! Based on what I discovered later on the Internet, I've failed--for years--to celebrate this day, which started in 1965 in Hawaii when folks from many nations gathered together and decided it would be a good idea to have one day per year to formally express gratitude. On every Sept. 21st since then, folks all around the world have reflected on the good people and things in their lives. 

The founders of Gratitude Day believe taking time one day a year to reflect on the amazing things we have will increase our well-being and make us happier, more contented people. Since they're definitely right about the positive effects of feeling grateful, why, I wonder, shouldn't every day be Gratitude Day? Why limit expressing gratitude to only one day of the year (in addition, of course, to celebrating Thanksgiving Day with family and friends)?

Couldn't we change attitudes (ours and those of others!) by pausing many times every day to thank God for the many  blessings He showers upon us and to find creative ways to express gratitude to the people who enrich our lives in untold ways? The apostle Paul chose to write a letter to his friends to remind them of the love and gratitude he felt for them. Here's a bit of what he said:

He realized, as do we, that when people know they are loved and appreciated, that "makes their day" and inspires them, in turn, to express their gratitude to people who mean so much to them. 

Let's begin the gratitude chain today and continue it every day so that we can help spread gratitude throughout the world!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Stand By Us!

With Hurricane Irma so much in the news, my heart is heavy for those whose lives have been so disrupted and those who will lose so much during the violent storm.

The Holy Spirit brought to mind the words of a song I’ve known and loved since childhood. “Stand By Me” was written by the Rev. Charles Albert Tindley in the early 1900’s, but his words continue to be timely ones.

As the hurricane rages, let’s offer these words from that hymn as a prayer to God:  “Thou who rulest wind and water, stand by me [by us].” That’s also a wonderful prayer when we’re buffeted by all sorts of storms, such as those Rev. Tindley mentions in the other verses.


To listen to a portion of his wonderful song, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gTHaOEZjBpc


Friday, September 8, 2017

Pray for the Children!

Several years ago, while listening to Elisabeth Elliot's radio program, Gateway to Joy, I heard her quote one of Amy Carmichael's poems. I loved the poem, found it on the Internet, and learned that it was included in the book, Toward Jerusalem, which is a collection of poems by Amy. But the poem Elisabeth quoted is one of my favorites.


The poem is actually a prayer Amy was praying for the children under her care at the Dohnavur Fellowship (a refuge for underprivileged children) in South India when Amy was a Protestant missionary there from 1895 until her death in 1951. It's one of the sweetest prayers I've heard for children. 

Copyright restrictions prevent me from sharing the entire poem, but I can share a summary of her thoughts. She asked God to protect them from the powers of evil, which can pull them down--like whirlpools and/or quicksand do. She asked God to guide children through life's troubled waters and to cheer them in the midst of life's battles. 

There's more, much more, and Amy expressed the deep desire of her heart far better than I can summarize. I encourage you to buy the book and/or click here to read the poem (it's the third one) and then offer her words as your prayer on behalf of all children.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Thou Knowest

During a phone call with a dear friend I hadn't talked with in several months, we updated each other on the careers and locations of our children and grandchildren. I could scarcely believe the diversity represented in their lives. Hers lived in different states and had a wide range of careers. My grandchildren, who are younger than hers, are still in school, yet also have a wide array of abilities and interests. As always, I was amazed by all that because I still picture her children and my daughters the way they were 20 plus years ago--still in school and/or just entering the work force. Those children are now parents of children who are as the parents were in what seems such a short time ago.

As I reflected on that, I recalled a prayer I'd heard recently.  (See text on photo.)

Those ancient words express far better than I ever could the prayer of my own heart regarding myself. And if I paraphrase it slightly, I can also pray it on behalf others, including my children and grandchildren, as well as those of my long-time friend: "Jesus Christ, Lord Almighty, Who didst create them and redeem them and hast brought them now to that which they are, Thou knowest what Thou wilt have them to be. Deal with them according to Thy lovingkindness and show them Thy mercy, Lord. Amen."

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

A Beautiful Soul

At my request, a friend e-mailed me a photo she'd taken of the garden stone someone had given her after her husband passed away.

Since then, I've given much thought to what makes a beautiful soul. I've concluded that a beautiful soul is a Christ-like soul. Loving. Giving. Forgiving. Tender. Kind. Humble. Unselfish. Loyal. Honest. Wise. Warm. Welcoming. Authentic. Faithful...

People with such beautiful souls do leave a trail of  beautiful memories. Consequently, we grieve deeply and for a long time when they pass away. We yearn to be near them again, to be loved by them again, to be nurtured by them again...

To be sure their legacy continues, we can follow their example and become beautiful souls who also make beautiful memories and leave a trail of them for our loved ones to cherish--and follow.


Saturday, August 26, 2017

Even Though...

When the goings-on of life break our hearts, we can avoid going down the dark road to depression if only we'll follow the example of Habakkuk. (His struggle to hold onto his faith is described in the Old Testament book of the Bible that bears his name.)

He, like we often are, was deeply troubled over what was going on. He wondered why God allowed certain things to happen. He feared the future. He wondered if life would ever be good again.

In the third and final chapter of his book, Habakkuk experienced a renewal of his faith in God when he began to pray. "I am filled with awe by the amazing thing you have done. In this time of our deep need, begin again to help us, as you did in years gone by (v. 2).

As he waited quietly yet confidently for God's help in the current crisis, Habakkuk made a bold statement of faith: "Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vine, even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation. The Sovereign LORD is my strength (Habakkuk 3:17-19, NLT).

Knowing full well that God would strengthen him to survive the current crisis, Habakkuk began the arduous climb out of the valley of fear and despair.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

He Will Come!


Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD;
his going out is sure as the dawn; 
he will come to us as the showers,
as the spring rains that water the earth.
~Hosea 6:3, ESV






Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Yielded and Still, Seeking His Will


Often, I know what to do, but not how to do it. (Is that true of you, too?)

Thus, I benefit greatly from the personal experience stories shared by others. For example, while reading A Lifetime of Positive Thinking by Ruth Stafford Peale, I eagerly read about how she and her husband, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, sought guidance from God. In one of the many “life stories” she shares in the book, she tells about how they prayed. 

The two of them would meet in his office or in a room in their home, and Dr. Peale would often say something like this, “Lord, we have this problem. You know what it is without our telling. Please guide us in the right direction. Make us receptive to Your will.” Having clearly and simply stated their request for God’s guidance, Dr. Peale would conclude the short prayer by saying, “We thank You for this help that You are now giving us.”


As they waited quietly and expectantly for God to answer, they didn’t babble on and on about the specific matter for which they were seeking God’s guidance. Neither did they discuss possible solutions. Instead, they read and/or reflected on relevant verses from the Bible, verses such as: “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10) and “In quietness and confidence shall be your strength” (Isaiah 30:15).

After a while, either Dr. or Mrs. Peale would say, “It seems to me this is the way to deal with this” or “I believe we’ve been on the wrong track with this one. Perhaps we should handle it this way.” More likely than not, the other felt the same; and, thus, “a clear line of action would open up where things [had been] obscure before” (p. 20).

After reading about how they prayed, I decided to try it. As I prepared to write this article, I didn’t know what God wanted me to write about. I had lots and lots of ideas, but I didn’t know which one to choose. So, I followed the Peales’ example. I sat quietly “before the Lord” and waited for Him to instruct me. I closed my eyes and suddenly the chorus of the old song, Speak to My Heart popped into my mind. I made those words, written by B.B. McKinney in 1927, the prayer of my heart.

My sweet Mama,
who was often yielded and still
in the presence of her God.
As I hummed them, I suddenly recalled the above story from Ruth Peale’s book and sensed that God wanted me to share it with you so that we would be reminded of the importance of sitting quietly before Him as we seek His will and His ways. If we will be “yielded and still” before Him, He will speak to us. He will show us not only what to do but also how and when to do it.



Monday, August 14, 2017

My Vow

Vows. Promises. Commitments. Most of us take them lightly, don't we? I confess that I do, though I am struggling each day to keep the promises I make and, thus, prove dependable and trustworthy.

One commitment I made over 30 years ago was to write for God. For periods of time, I'd write regularly. But sometimes I'd lapse and write every now and then--mainly when a deadline was looming. But in recent days, God has been reminding me of His call upon my life, and I've resolved to get going again with that. To do so, I'll need to stay focused on my renewed commitment because it's so easy to get distracted, so easy to let other things take up the time I could have used to write--and should have.

To help me stay focused, I've written one Bible verse (see photo) on several "sticky notes" and placed them around the house. God directed my attention to this verse today during my early morning Bible reading time, but that was made by Ethan the Ezrahite centuries ago. Since it's still a good one, I'm also vowing to use every opportunity to make known God's faithfulness, to use every opportunity to remind myself, as well as others, of not only the faithfulness of God but also of His great love and mercy, of His complete forgiveness, of His unlimited power, of His....

Will you make that same vow? Will you vow to speak often with your Lord and to speak often about Him? Will you use your mouth, your voice--your speaking voice or your writing voice or your singing voice-- to make Him known to others?

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Final Words

My husband and I made our funeral arrangements months ago. Choosing my own coffin was easier than I thought it would be, but I’m still agonizing over which songs I’d like played and/or sung during my service. Why, you ask, is that so difficult? I want the words in the songs to serve as my final words to my loved ones. Thus, it's had to choose only a few out of all the many songs I love.

One day when I was struggling to decide, I read the last few chapters in the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy, which contain Moses’ parting words to the children of God whom he had led for more than 40 years. With the people assembled near the border of the land God had promised to give them, Moses reminded them of what God had commanded them to do when they entered it.       


Then Moses said, “Take to heart all the words by which I am warning you today, that you may command them to your children, that they may be careful to do all the words of this law. For it is no empty word for you, but your very life, and by this word you shall live long in the land…” (Deuteronomy 32:46-47, ESV, emphasis added).


Like Moses, I want my final words to urge others to know God better, to love Him even more, and to faithfully obey Him. I trust that the Scripture-based songs I select will do just that. 



Monday, July 31, 2017

Unlimited Power

Shoshone Falls (212 feet high) near Twin Falls, Idaho
While reading the July 19, 2017, issue of Our Daily Bread, I found this quote, which really spoke to me:
Never measure 
God's unlimited power
by 
your limited expectations.

As I reflected on those words, I recalled Ephesians 3:20, one of my favorite Bible verses, which I'd memorized many years ago. 
Now to Him 
who is able to do 
far more abundantly 
beyond all that we ask or think, 
according to the power 
that works within us
(NASB)

As I reflected on those familiar words, I decided to look up that verse in the new Bible (The VOICE) a dear friend had given me for my birthday a few weeks prior.
(20) Now to the God 
who can do so many awe-inspiring things, 
immeasurable things, 
things greater than 
we ever could ask or imagine 
through the power at work in us, 
(21) to Him be all glory in the church 
and in Jesus the Anointed 
from this generation to the next, 
forever and ever. 
Amen.

Any way you say it, our God is mighty! Praise Him!



Sunday, July 30, 2017

Not Dead--Again!

A column in our local newspaper was entitled “I woke up not dead again in [name of town].” Intrigued by that title, I read what else the columnist had to say. 

He said he had awakened at 6 a.m. (without his alarm having sounded) and checked his big toe to see if it had a tag attached to it. It didn’t.

Having concluded he wasn't dead, he proceeded to enjoy a day filled with blessings, such as: a delicious cup of coffee, a favorite breakfast, a free concert by backyard birds, a morning walk, a beautiful sunrise, a humorous e-mail from a dear friend, e-mails from his children, an inspirational sermon at church, a delicious brunch at a local restaurant, and a round of golf in the afternoon.

“Even though I know that none of us will get out of here alive,” he said, “…I rejoice whenever I wake up not dead.”


Dear Reader, let's join him in being grateful for every morning we wake up not dead again. Let's also join him in thanking our Father for all the other blessings He lavishes upon us.


Morning by morning, 
God wakes me up 
and
opens my understanding to His will
Isaiah 50:4




Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Sheltered



Since I enjoy knowing why and how certain songs and books were written, I was thrilled when I discovered an online site that features Dottie Rambo telling the backstory of how she wrote the words to Sheltered in the Arms of God.

As she walked on the beach, brokenhearted over being betrayed by a friend and struggling to write the first verse to the song, she watched various kinds of junk washing ashore. She thought, That’s kinda like life. Stuff surfaces. Sometimes we focus on it rather than on the good.

As she continued to walk and grieve, she slowly shifted her focus from her brokenness to the realization that God was walking with her and was taking care of her. Suddenly—and for the first time ever—she felt the gentle touch of a hand on her shoulder, though she saw no one around. Then the words to the song came to her!

I’m so thankful God gave her the words for they touch my heart every time I hear them. What a blessing it is to be reminded that God sees all that happens to us—the good and the bad—and that He does stay near us and care for us. As we sense His loving presence, we receive the strength to “carry on” even in heart-wrenching situations.

If you’d like to hear Dottie tell this touching backstory 
and sing the beautiful song, 
please click here: