Sunday, February 16, 2020

Love—Every Day

Valentine’s Day 2020 is over. Millions of dollars have been spent on cards, chocolates, flowers, gifts, and dinners in fancy restaurants. But what if each of us determined to express genuine love every day? Wouldn’t the world be a wonderful place to live? But we tend to forget to do that once the day is over, just like we forget about Jesus once we’ve celebrated Christmas and Easter. Likewise, by the time we’ve eaten the last of the Thanksgiving turkey, we’ve forgotten all about giving thanks for our blessings.

But I watched a video recently about a young adult who expressed love as he went about his regular day. For example, when he noticed a potted plant that was dying due to lack of water, he poured life-giving liquid on the droopy plant that very day (and in the days ahead). The plant began to thrive. When he observed an older person struggling to push a heavily-loaded cart over the curb and onto the sidewalk, he hurried to help out. When he noticed a young mother and her school-age child sitting on the sidewalk and begging for money needed to sustain their lives, he gave them some.

A friend mentioned that this Valentine’s Day she continued an 11-year-old tradition of writing one compliment on each of several paper hearts and making a trail of them from her son’s bedroom door to the kitchen. I pictured his smiling face as he picked up the hearts and read the compliments as he made his way to the breakfast table.

Perhaps you and I could also come up with creative ways to express love? Every day!

Saturday, February 1, 2020

From Sympathy to Empathy

“Pain has taught me empathy,” a friend said.

“It will definitely do that,” I replied.

That brief exchange brought to mind this old saying:  “Never criticize a man until you’ve walked a mile in his moccasins.” After reflecting on it, I paraphrased it this way: "Never dismiss or make light of another person's pain until you've suffered as he has."

We can never be in another person’s situation, of course, but once we’ve been in a similar one we understand far better what they’re going through and why they feel and act the way they do. 

For example, my friend, who is suffering from back pain, had no prior personal experience with excruciating and unrelenting pain. Being a caring and compassionate person, he'd felt sympathy for those who suffered from back pain. But now that he’s experiencing not only excruciating pain but also the desperation to find relief from it, he feels empathy for anyone who's suffering.

The more empathy we have for others, the greater will be our desire to help them. If we’ve been in a similar situation, we know how much receiving comfort meant to us. And since we want fellow sufferers to be comforted, too, we gladly tell them about who or what helped us in our time of need.


Saturday, January 25, 2020

Pray!


If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
--God
(2 Chronicles 7:14, NKJV)

Sunday, January 19, 2020

One by One


I'd hoped to feel less overwhelmed after Christmas. But when the New Year arrived, I shifted my focus from "all things Christmas" to improvements I need to make. Lose at least ten pounds. Exercise daily. Stay in closer touch with friends. Declutter drawers and closets and THE BASEMENT. Publish a second book....

The more I considered what I needed to do, the more overwhelmed I felt. (Does that happen to you, too?) But while reading an email on New Year's Day, I saw a simple solution for decreasing overwhelm. Starting today, do ONE thing! For example: meet one exercise goal for today. Call one friend. Declutter one drawer. Write one paragraph for the new book.

By doing one small task today and another one tomorrow and the next day and the next day..., I'll achieve my goals. (You can, too!) Even the ones that seem unreachable.







Saturday, January 4, 2020

Live!


Image by Daniel Byram from Pixabay 
Used by permission.
When I saw this image on the Internet, I zoomed in to read what some folks had written on the chalkboard in a bar. Despite the heavy accumulation of chalk dust on the board, I managed to read some of the dreams written in the blanks. "Ride the gondolas in Venice with my husband." "Be happily in love." "Marry Ryan."

But one answer intrigued me far more than any of the others. "Live." I reflected on those four large, red letters. What exactly did he mean? To feel fully alive rather than dead inside? To thrive rather than shrivel up? To feel excited rather than bored? To experience adventures rather than stay in the same old rut? To feel eager rather than dutiful? To dare rather than to hesitate?

Did he realize the disconnect between the life he had and the life he was created to have? The life he could have--and should have? That's what happens when we settle for being anything less than what God created us to be. And we recognize it, as did the person who wrote, "Before I die, I want to live." 

But here's the Good News: We can have an abundant life! How? Believe Him. Receive Him. Experience the life He wants us to enjoy here and throughout eternity.






Saturday, December 28, 2019

Create An Environment for Success

“Create an environment for success," our weight loss coach says. "Look around and ask, 'What should I change in my home? My car? My school or workplace? What could I add? Or remove?’”

During each weekly meeting, we talk about how even small changes help us lose weight. One member of the group said, “I keep all my snacks in one cabinet. That way, I don’t see the chips and cookies stored in the cabinet my family uses."

Another person said, “I used to store apples in the fruit drawer of the fridge. But then, I'd forget about them. Now, I put them in a pretty bowl on one of the shelves—right in the front. My family and I see them first whenever we open the door.”

Someone else said, “I keep healthy snacks in my purse. Then I don't resort to snacking on cookies and chips when I‘m out and about.”

   Another said, “I keep a pair of comfortable shoes in my car. Anytime I have an opportunity to walk, my shoes are right there.”

Suggestions such as these inspired me to make changes in my environment and to notice others I can make. For example, I bought a red bowl and placed assorted measuring cups and spoons in it. It sits on the counter, right beside the food scales. Now, I measure my food rather than estimate how much I ate.


I'm changing not only my stuff but also my habits. Before I sit down to write a column or to edit a batch of photos, I set the timer on the microwave. Since I don’t like hearing the beep-beep-beep of the timer, I’ll walk to the kitchen to silence it. While I’m up every hour, I’ll do a household task or two before returning to my computer. Taking mini-breaks is essential since I have a history of blood clots. But until I started using the timer, I’d work for hours without moving around.

Whether trying to lose weight or reach some other goal, you and I can get to where we want to go sooner and with less effort if we’ll create an environment for success.                   

We'll also make progress in reaching our spiritual goals if we follow the advice provided in Hebrews 12:1, New Living Translation. “Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us.”

Removing hindrances, even little ones, helps us reach our goals sooner than we ever dreamed.                                                                          
 © 2013 by Johnnie Ann Burgess Gaskill

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Wonderful Names


“If I’d known what my children would be like once they were grown, I could’ve chosen more appropriate names for them,” she said.

Although that’s true, none of us have that kind of foreknowledge, do we? Thus, we simply choose a name we like or one that’s been in the family for generations or one that’s the same as someone we admire. Sometimes we create a new one.

However, some parents mentioned in the Bible were told. For example, an angel appeared to aged Zacharias to tell him he and his wife Elizabeth would have a baby and that they were to name him John. (That name means “Jehovah [God] has been gracious, has shown favor.”)

An angel also appeared to Mary, a young virgin, and said to her, “…you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS.” (A name derived from the Hebrew name Yeshua, which means “to deliver, to rescue.”)

Jesus’ life matched the meaning of His name. He did deliver us from our sins and rescue us from being cast into Hell, forever separated from the One who loves us more than we can conceive.

He also lived up to another name given to Him centuries before His birth: Immanuel. That name, which means “God with us,” refers to not only His deity (God) but also His identification with and His nearness to mankind.

As Henry Barraclough’s beautiful hymn (1915) says:
Out of the ivory palaces
Into a world of woe
Only His great eternal love
Made my Savior go.

He came down to us in order to provide the way for us to go up to live with Him throughout all eternity. In the meantime, we who know Him can come to Him with our praises, with our gratitude, with our confessions of sins, with our pleas for help, with our brokenness, with our….

Because God the Father knew exactly what His Son would be and do, every name He chose for Him is appropriate, each one describing who He was and is and forever will be. 

Oh, blessed be every name given to our wonderful Savior and Lord!  


Note: A longer version of this was published in the Chapel Hill News and Views magazine in December 2019. 

Saturday, December 7, 2019

What to Give?

Since 2012, the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday has been called Giving Tuesday and kicks off the official giving season. 

On this global day of giving (and several days prior), I receive several emails urging me to donate to various organizations and charitable causes. Those appeals make it seem as if the only way to participate in Giving Tuesday is to contribute financially. However, donating money is only one way to give.

My niece wrote this message in the sand. Thank you, Janna!
For example, the Bible repeatedly tells us to give thanks. First and foremost, we are to thank God for all the ways He blesses us day by day and year by year. We can (and should) thank others, too. The person who taught us to read. The friend who calls to see how we're feeling. The person who gives us an unexpected opportunity. The one who helps us catch up on our tasks. The child who picks a flower for us. The shopper with an overflowing cart who notices that ours contains only a few items and says, "You go first." 

They have given to us. One way we can give back to them is by thanking them.  

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
--1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, NKJV






Saturday, November 23, 2019

Angels Among Us

“What’s inside?” I wondered as I eagerly opened a package Shelly (the daughter of a friend who had undergone chemo) had mailed to me. I opened the card before opening the two beautifully wrapped gifts.

The printed verse on the card spoke to my heart for it stated that miracles happen every day because of the angels who are all around us—angels (whether friends or strangers) who say a kind word or call us at just the right time, etc. 

As I read Shelly's handwritten note, I knew that it was the real treasure, no matter what else was in the box. “Johnnie, here’s a little something to put on your Thanksgiving table to remind you how thankful we are for you. And another little something to wear to remind you that you have been an ‘angel’ to our family. Thank you so much for all your help.”

After brushing away my tears, I opened the gifts: a set of small, wise-old-owl salt and pepper shakers and a beautiful bracelet made of small multi-faceted glass beads, delicate filigree silver separators, and four small, evenly-spaced, silver “angel” charms. 

I called Shelly right away. “You didn’t need to send anything. I gladly did whatever I could to help your mother.”

Helping others is my custom, because, through the years, I’ve received help from countless “angels” who came to my rescue in so many ways. Some were family members or friends. Some were total strangers—prior to our encounter. Some “angels” I’ve never met; yet, their words--found in books, blogs, cards, music, etc.--have counseled and comforted me. Some "angels" have ministered encouragement to me by letting me know a particular “Reflections” column blessed them in some way.

Since “angels” have so often and willingly ministered to me, I gladly extend help and kindness to others. Freely I have received; freely I give. (See Matthew 10:8.)

As I thanked God for the card and gifts Shelly sent in early October and then reflected on others who have ministered to me, the Thanksgiving season started even earlier that year. I also thanked God for the abundant grace and mercy He always provides. Undeserved, yes, but always supplied.

Does God appear at my side with whatever I need? No. He sends an “angel” to deliver it. The “angel” is an ordinary person who, often unknowingly, is sent on a divine mission to deliver whatever unique gift God wants His child to have.

Since I know that God is continually gracious and faithful, I wholeheartedly agree with the words to the old hymn, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” penned in 1923 by Thomas O. Chisholm. In fact, I often hum the words, especially those in the chorus: “All I have needed thy hand hath provided; / Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.” 

(To read the lyrics and listen to the piano accompaniment, visit http://www.hymnal.net/hymn.php/h/19).


©2013 by Johnnie Ann Gaskill