Monday, May 27, 2024

Meaningful Memorials

In celebration of Memorial Day, American flags line streets in towns large and small. Flags wave proudly on the grounds of public buildings. Flags flap on residential lawns in response to gentle breezes. Small flags border a huge, raised bed near the front entrance to a nursing home near my house. 



Special ceremonies have been scheduled throughout the USA. Some desserts served at picnics or other gatherings will feature the red, white, and blue colors found on the American flag. Some towns host Memorial Day parades to commemorate soldiers who lost their lives while serving in the armed forces. Graves of the fallen have been decorated with flags or wreaths.

Because we live such hectic lives, we need special days, foods, and activities to remind us to remember someone or something too important to forget. That’s been true throughout the centuries. Even in Old Testament times, people were instructed to observe certain days and/or to construct a memorial of some sort to help them recall a person or an event that impacted their lives.

For example, the seventh chapter of the book of 1 Samuel mentions a memorial the prophet Samuel made from a large stone and placed between two towns. Its purpose? To remind all who saw it of how faithfully God had helped them and, by implication, would continue to do so.

Do you take time out of your busy life to observe Memorial Day and other special days, like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day? Do you have objects that trigger memories of important people and events? Do you pause to give thanks for them?


Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, 

and called its name Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.” 

1 Samuel 7:12-13, NKJV

Friday, April 26, 2024

Grief and Gratitude

As I write these words, today is day 116 since my husband passed away. I’ve felt particularly sad and lonely today, which happens when I stay home all day and don’t keep busy, busy, busy. Obviously, activities and conversations mask the grief. But, oh my, I feel the full force of it when I’m alone and not focusing on projects and other tasks on my to-do list. But sometimes I have no choice but to let my tired body rest.


To escape the grief, I went to visit a friend in a nearby nursing home. She was delighted to see me, for she deals with griefs of her own. I was happy to be with her. We talked of many things as we sat outside while relaxing in the sunshine and listening to the birds chirping as they flew among the branches of the trees and boxwoods.


When I returned home, I noticed the first rose of the season on the bush my husband had planted years ago. My heart filled with happiness when I saw it, thankful that the work he had done long ago was lifting my spirits. I looked around the yard and saw not one, but two, pink and white amaryllis blooms--bigger than my palm--with other buds in the background. Once again, I felt grateful for his planting them.

As with most things these days, even a happy thought of days gone by can lead to tears as I realize those days are gone. He will plant no more flowers. But I can enjoy the ones he planted, even as I brush away the tears


Every day, I see other gifts he left behind, each a reminder of his love. And I whisper a heartfelt thank you to him and to God who gave us many years together as husband and wife, years when we made wonderful, now bittersweet, memories.

Sunday, December 17, 2023

The Gift


Throughout the year, I listen carefully while talking with family and friends. When they say, “I’d love to have…”, I take note of that. Doing so, along with listing those ideas in places I’m sure to see them, helps me choose gifts loved ones will enjoy receiving on a special occasion.

As I reflect on gift-giving, several Scripture passages come to mind. One of my favorites is found in the third chapter of the New Testament book of Acts. As the story opens, Peter and John are on their way to worship at the temple. When they hear a lame man begging for money, they stop. Peter says to him, “I don’t have what you’re asking for, but I do have what you need.”

Then, in the name of Jesus and with His power, Peter commands the man to rise up and walk. Although the man had been lame since birth, he stands up and begins leaping and praising God for the gift given to him, a gift far greater than the money he had been asking for.

Likewise, our Heavenly Father knows what we truly need and will supply it in His time and in His way. For example, because God knew the people of all time needed a Savior, He sent His Son at the time God had planned. (See Galatians 4.) And, oh, the gifts He brought. Not only forgiveness of sins and the right to become children of God and to enjoy Him now and throughout all eternity but also love, peace, joy, and so much more.  

We may think we want whatever is inside beautifully packaged gifts, but we need a Savior far more. And God has given us one.

Let’s praise Him for that awesome Gift—and for His other wonderful gifts too numerous to count.

Sunday, June 18, 2023

Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day 

to all the dads 

who provide a good and godly example

for their children. 



Saturday, May 27, 2023

Honoring the Fallen



Memorial Day…a day to pay tribute to and mourn those who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. As one person pointed out, it is not a celebration but rather a day of solemn contemplation as we consider the vast numbers of men and women who bravely went off to war and never came home. We thank God for their willingness to serve our country. We, along with their families, mourn their passing.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Sing On!

When I colored the 4" x 6" card that's pictured here, the words Oh, sing to the Lord reminded me of my sweet Mama. From childhood on, I remember that many times throughout the day Mama either sang softly or hummed her favorite Gospel songs as she did household chores, crocheted, or quilted. 

Even as Alzheimer's eroded her memory, she still hummed many of her favorite hymns. Their words encouraged her. They enabled her to worship and praise God. They reminded her of eternal truths, of God's precious promises, of the assurance of His love, of His presence with her...

Mama did what Priscilla J. Owens (born in 1829) says to do:

Sing it softly through the gloom,

When the heart for mercy craves;

Sing in triumph o'er the tomb;

Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

I want to do likewise. Do you?


Saturday, April 8, 2023

Jesus, the Ever-Living One

 Jesus, the Ever-Living One

Before He made the heavens and the earth,
Before angelic hosts announced His birth,
Before His public ministry began,
Jesus was central to the Father's plan.

He came. He loved and served. And then He died.
His shed blood did our forgiveness provide.
Victorious, He arose to life anew,
To give life to sinners like me and you.

Because our Savior lives eternally, 
So shall we if in Him we do believe.
Thus God's Gift will continue on and on
Throughout the ages 'round the heav'nly throne.

All the redeemed will lift up holy hands,
And sing right along with the heav'nly band.
Saints will gladly praise Him for all He's done,
And thank God for the gift of His dear Son.
Jesus Christ, the Ever-Living One.

(c) April 2023 by Johnnie Ann Burgess Gaskill





Sunday, March 26, 2023

Bluebirds

Several weeks ago, a friend gave my husband and me a bluebird house made of cedar. He fastened it to a post in our backyard. 

One recent afternoon when I paused to look in that direction, I saw a bluebird fluttering around the opening and then alighting on the top of the post. 

I hurried to tell my husband what I'd seen. He grinned. "I guess that means you want me to remove a window screen?"

I nodded, eager to start photographing the goings on at the nest. As I stood near the open window and photographed with my mirrorless camera that has a zoom lens, I thought about Mr. Al Larson. He has loved bluebirds for many years. (And, thankfully, God has given him many years to enjoy them--101 years, as of March 26.)  Through the years, Mr. Larson has built and placed hundreds of nesting boxes for the bluebirds. (For more details about this dear man, affectionately called, "The Birdman of Idaho," read this post I wrote in March 2021).

Since I've never had the pleasure of speaking with Mr. Larson, I'm not sure how he came to love them, but he definitely does. I assume the sight of a bluebird enthralls him, as it does others (including me). 

I'm awed by their beauty and by how focused they are on nest building. (See the photo of one of my new neighbors with a bit of nesting material in her mouth.) In the next few weeks, I hope to photograph the faithful parents going in and out of the nest to deliver bugs and worms to their little ones.

As I observe my new neighbors and learn life lessons from them, I'm sure I'll think again and again about an ancient hymn* that says, in part: 

All creatures of our God and King, 

Lift up your voice and with us sing, 

Alleluia! Alleluia!

Indeed, our awesome Creator and Sustainer is worthy of our praise.

*written by St. Francis of Assisi (1225) and translated by William H. Draper 


Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Blessings

 

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.

—-James 1:17, NKJV