Friday, September 18, 2020

The LORD is My Shepherd

I'm scheduled to have surgery on my right hip tomorrow. Instead of thinking about things that could go terribly wrong, I'm choosing to reassure myself, as David did centuries ago, by reminding myself that the LORD is my shepherd. He is the one who guards me, cares for me, provides for me.... I will trust Him to be with me and to provide all I need during the surgery and during the months of recovery. 

Since He has faithfully tended me all my life, why would I doubt Him now? 

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Out of the Maze

 At the beginning of Psalm 77, the writer (Asaph) seems to be as confused and scared as someone who’s trying to find his way out of a maze on a foggy night. Perhaps we identify with him when he says,  

I cried out to God with my voice…

And He [listened] to me.

…I sought the LORD;

My hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing;

My soul refused to be comforted (Psalm 77:1-2, NKJV).

 

Even remembering God troubled Asaph. Why? He doesn’t say, but I wonder, Was it because he thought God wasn’t acting like the kind of God he’d known and trusted? That could explain why he complained and felt overwhelmed.

Following the first three verses is the word Selah, which one Bible version translates “Pause in his presence.”

Asaph does that. He remembers the “good old days.” He searches for answers to hard questions: Will the Lord cast off forever? Will He ever be favorable toward me/my nation again? Has His mercy ceased forever? Has His promise failed forever? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has God become so angry that He has shut up His tender mercies?

 But…beginning in verse 10, Asaph’s thinking shifts dramatically. He says, both to himself and to God:


In the remainder of the psalm, Asaph does those three things—and finds the way out of the spiritual maze.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Experiencing Life with Him

 While sorting through all my books and trying to decide which ones to keep and which ones to donate, I thumbed through one I'd enjoyed many years ago. As I fanned the pages of Holy Sweat: The Remarkable Things Ordinary People Can Do When They Let God Use Them by Tim Hansel, I came to a piece of writing entitled The Road of Life. Since it spoke to me, I want to share it with you. 

Please note: I've also found it on multiple sites on the Internet, each presenting it with differences in titles (such as A Tandem Bike Ride with God), layouts (paragraph, poem), and even wording. No one seems to know who wrote the words, but I'm so thankful he or she did! I pray they encourage and inspire you to let Christ be in control of your life. 



Saturday, July 25, 2020

God’s Masterpieces

Our Christ in the Manger cactus put on quite a show for my husband and me one night in early July. During the 30 plus years we’ve nurtured it, it generally opens one or two, sometimes three, blooms on any given night. But this year there were four, each having an exquisitely beautiful interior that resembles a baby in a manger, complete with a large star. Each bloom releases a heavenly fragrance, too. 
The large pods open around 10 p.m. and reveal their inner beauty for only a few hours. By morning each one has closed and is hanging limply, giving no hint of what was revealed in the darkness. That plant, which is rather plain (some would say UGH-LEE) during the year, astonishes me when it blooms. As I shine a light on each one to better see its incredible interior, I praise the Creator who designed it. I realize He loves beauty and detail and uniqueness and symbolism and perfection...As I do, I reflect on two of my favorite Bible verses:

 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; 
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
—Psalm 139:14, NKJV

~~~~~~~~~~~~

For we are His workmanship, 
created in Christ Jesus for good works, 
which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
--Ephesians  2:10, NKJV

Indeed, God creates masterpieces! Or, as one person said, “God doesn’t make junk!” Aren’t we glad He doesn’t?

Friday, July 3, 2020

Glorious Freedom

Photo courtesy of artist Kathy Barlow and
photographer James Magnus
When I first saw this photo, the thought "Symbols of Freedom" popped into my mind. Indeed, they are. 

That thought reminded me of a deeper understanding I'd received several weeks ago while reading the 8th chapter of the Gospel of John. When I came to verse 32, I noticed that the translators of that particular version had capitalized the word Truth, something I'd not seen in other versions. 

So, I read the verse again (and the one preceding it), in which Jesus said, "If you abide in My word [hold fast to My teachings and live in accordance with them], you are truly My disciples. And you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free" (Amplified Bible, Classic Edition). 

Indeed, the more we know the truth (what is right), which He taught, the more we know Him (who is the personification of all truth). After all, He clearly said, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except by (through) Me" (John 14:6, AMPC). 

He is the One, the only One, who can set us free from the tyranny and guilt of our sins and give us a new and abundant life--now and throughout all eternity.


Monday, June 15, 2020

A Chance Encounter?

Note: Another FICTION story using these words provided by one of my grandsons:

Noun-duck

Adjective-slimy

Adverb-quickly

Verb-jump

Career-seminary professor

Abstract-hope

Color-indigo

Evan eased his lanky frame onto a park bench to watch the ducks glide serenely and seemingly effortlessly across the pond. Sometimes they disappeared into the murky water and reappeared, holding a slimy “something” in their beaks. He enjoyed watching them, as well as feeling the gentle breeze rearranging his wavy hair. Being so chillaxed, he startled when someone sat down beside him. 


When he and the young woman occasionally caught each other stealing a glimpse of the other, both blushed before she looked away. But one time, she held her gaze, her blue eyes looking even bluer because of the indigo jogging suit she wore.


Smiling, she said, “Do you come here often?”


“Sure,” he said. “I work near here.”


“Where?”


“At Union Theological School.”


“ What do you do there?”


“I’m a seminary professor.”


“You can’t be," she spluttered. "You’re too young!”


He grinned. “Well, I’ve known since I was twelve that God wanted me to know His Word and teach it to others, so I just jumped right into that. After I graduated college, I enrolled at Union and did so well there that the administration asked me to serve on the faculty.”


She lowered her eyes. “I wish my path had been made that clear. I’m still struggling.”


“Have you asked God to reveal His will for your life?”


“Many times. But I’ve given up hope that He will.”


“No. No. What God said a long time ago is still true—and true for you, too.”


Sensing her eagerness to know more, Evan seized the opportunity to quote Jeremiah 29:11 to her. “For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Then Evan added, “You can be sure of that.”


“Thank you for encouraging me. Maybe even this chance meeting is part of God's good plan?”


Evan nodded. “Nothing happens by accident. God uses all our experiences for His glory and our good.”


“I have to go now,” she said, “but could we meet again to talk more about this?”


“I’m available after 3 most days—and my time is God’s time.”


“Well, how about we meet right here tomorrow at five?”


“Certainly. If you’d like, we can walk around the pond as we talk.”


Evan watched her until she disappeared from sight, confident that she, like the ducks, would reappear--which would definitely delight him.



Thursday, June 11, 2020

A Tough Assignment

Notes: 
  • As per my request, my 19-year-old granddaughter provided a word/phrase for each of the seven categories I sent to her. I challenged myself to use all seven in a FICTION story.
Noun: Japan 
Verb: refine
Adjective: lustrous
Adverb: safely 
Color: cherry blossom pink
Career: writer
Abstract word: justice 
  • The photo is one I took years ago on a street near my house.
  • The word count is much higher than in my usual posts, but I hope that won’t be a problem.
  • I’d love to know what you think of the story. Please post a comment or send an email.



Valerie gasped as she did every spring when she turned onto Sunset Avenue. This IS a sight to behold. Yoshino cherry trees in full bloom stood in single file in the middle of a 20-ft.-wide grassy median that stretched as far as her eyes could see up the sloping street.  

After she parked her car—half on the street and half on the grass—she grabbed her camera and began to photograph the graceful sweep of the trees. Once she’d gotten what photographers call “environmental shots,” she stepped toward the nearest tree to photograph closeups of the blooms where buzzing bumblebees sipped sweet nectar.

The sights and sounds and a slight almond fragrance so captivated her senses that she “plumb forgot,” as her granny would say, why she had come. But when an old truck rumbled past, spoiling her sense of wonder, she returned to her car and opened her iPad to write the article assigned to her.

Unsure how to write the controversial piece, she bowed her head and whispered the words she prayed before beginning any writing assignment: “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to You, Lord.”

Taking a deep breath, Valerie started typing whatever thoughts popped into her mind, knowing she’d probably have to delete most of the words and then refine—and rearrange—whatever remained. But, as a writer, she understood the value of warming up, of just beginning somewhere, of clearing a mental path for the right words needed to explain sensitive and significant matters. 

While she appreciated having a loyal following of local readers, many of whom said, “I trust you to tell the truth about what’s going on in our town,” she always felt the weight of that trust since she knew words either doused or fanned the flames of controversy. That was certainly true in this situation. 

Although everyone agreed the cherry trees were beautiful, especially during mid-March to mid-April when they bloomed profusely, the property owners on Sunset Avenue were enraged over what happened in their neighborhood during that time. Practically every resident of the city and county, as well as out-of-towners who’d heard about the trees, drove slowly up and down Sunset Avenue to take lingering looks at the beauty. Occasionally, they parked and wandered around to photograph the trees, as Valerie had done. Some parked on the edges of the lawns that bordered the avenue, which incensed the property owners. “We work hard to keep our yards pretty. We don’t want people parking on our grass—or making it hard for us to get out of our own driveways. Something has to be done!”

To deal with the complaints, the chairman of the City Council scheduled a special “open” meeting to discuss the matter. The Council expected a large crowd: angry residents eager to ban the traffic; other citizens insisting they had every right to see the annual sight. A week before the meeting, the mayor said to the newspaper editor, “Send your best writer out there to snap some pictures of the trees, to interview property owners, and to write an article that will clarify the situation.”

“Will do! Valerie is my best writer. I’ll send her.”

Valerie began with these words: “For fifty years the Yoshino cherry trees on Sunset Avenue have delighted onlookers and provided food and shade for bees, birds—like Cardinals, Cedar Wax Wings, Robins— and small mammals, just as they do in their native Japan and elsewhere. Surely, we can work together to create a win-win solution for all concerned.” 

After quoting people on both sides of the issue, she concluded the article by saying, “Why not invite onlookers to park in the city-owned strip between Town Creek and Sunset Avenue? They can easily— and safely—stroll up and down the median to enjoy the trees without being in the street or on private property. Perhaps a benefactor or one of the garden clubs could consider placing metal benches, painted cherry-blossom-pink, near the trees at the entrance to Sunset Avenue and at the top of the hill so that those who’d like to linger or rest a bit could do so.”

Pleased with her work, she pushed her lustrous black hair away from her face before heading back to the newspaper office.

“See what you think,” she said to the editor as she sat across from him. “You may have to refine it a bit, but I think it’s pretty good. I presented both sides of the issue, and I tried really hard to get some great pictures of the trees….though I’m afraid none of them do justice to the beauty of those trees.”

After reading the article, he grinned at her. “This is brilliant!”

She returned his smile. “Well, I did have a lot of help!”

“You did?”

“Yep! My Source came through once again.”

Monday, June 8, 2020

Amazing Care! Amazing Creator!

Because I'm enthralled by the exquisite beauty in flowers, even wildflowers and weeds, I can hardly bear to pass one by without taking its picture. As you can imagine, I have thousands of flower photos stored on various hard drives. For years, I made little effort to learn their names; but recently I've felt a need to identify them and to learn more about their uniqueness. 

For example, when I edited this "portrait" of one of the dozens of pink evening primroses growing in a drainage ditch near my mailbox, I decided to add a touch of elegance to it. I think the black background really showcases the loveliness of the common flower. Do you agree?

While reading a bit about it, I learned that it blooms from March through July, usually during the predawn hours, but protects itself by closing its petals during the heat of the day. Several insects visit it, especially the moths that are active at night.

These wildflowers spring up and flourish for a season, just as we do. Yet, God endowed them with great beauty, equipped them with systems that shelter them from the oppressive heat, and allows these delicate blooms to delight and serve other living things He created. I think that's amazing! Don't you?

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Troublesome Times

The coronavirus pandemic. Isolation. Shifting of roles. Loss of routines. Suffering of all sorts. Dying—in its various forms. Rioting. Earthquakes and other disasters. Wars. Heartbreak. Desperation....

As I reflected on such things, I recalled these words contained in an old song: “Troublesome times are here, causing men’s hearts to fear.” R. E. Winsett was right when he wrote them in the 1940s. They remain true today.

Troublesome times ARE here—and have been for centuries. Oh, how sin has marred everything. If my heart is grieved, and it surely is, then God’s heart is grieved even more as He sees what is happening to the people and to the world He created.

Even though people have fallen so far from what God wants them to be, He still loves them. He is still forgiving and gracious toward even the most evil one among us. He still yearns for each of us to repent—to turn from our sins and turn to Him, as did the prodigal son who came to his senses and chose to return to the father who loved him. (See Luke 15.)

Troublesome times can and should lead us to turn to our God, to confess our sins and our shortcomings, to ask Him to forgive us and to restore what sin has stolen from us. Once we’re in right relationship with our God, then let’s ask Him to show us what we—each of us—can do to help ourselves and others recover from the troublesome times.