Friday, July 13, 2018

Friday the 13th...

Friday the 13th—a day considered by many as a “bad luck day.” I prefer to think, as the psalmist did in Psalm 118:24, that this day, like all other days, is “a day that the LORD has made.” Therefore, I choose to rejoice and be glad in it even though I know not what will happen in the hours that remain in it. 

Although I can’t control much of what happens, I do get to choose my responses, as do you.

I choose, in advance, to thank God for the gift of this day.

I choose to thank Him for the gift of His presence with me—and He is with me (and with you!) at ALL times (Joshua 1:9), including Friday the 13th. 

I choose to thank Him for causing all things to work out for His glory and the good of His children (Romans 8:28). 

Is that what you choose, too?

A Time IS Coming...

"...for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice, and come out--those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned."
(John 5:28-29, NIV)

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

A Tale of Two Farmers

Note: A short fiction story inspired by a Bible verse I read recently. Enjoy. Please comment if you'd like to.

The sun was just coming up as two farmers (dearest friends and closest neighbors) were enjoying their daily early-morning phone call.

JOHN: Looks like a pretty day.

SAM: Yep. What are you gonna do today?

JOHN: I think I’ll clean out the gutters. Been a long time since I’ve done that. I also need to trim the shrubbery. Gotta keep the wife happy you know. And she has been after me for weeks to get some of this stuff done.

SAM: Changed your mind about planting your sugarcane today?

JOHN: Yeah. I just can’t convince myself to do it today. I’m gonna do some little jobs around here instead. Get them off my mind. Free me up to focus on the planting when I get around to it, probably tomorrow.

SAM: Better do it today; it’s supposed to rain for the next several days.

JOHN: Oh, I doubt it’ll rain. That weatherman is wrong about as often as he’s right.

He who works his land
will have abundant food,
but the one who chases fantasies
will have his fill of poverty.
~Proverbs 28:19, NIV

Sunday, July 8, 2018

The Encounter

I wrote the poem below after reading the Bible passage (John 4) that tells about what happened centuries ago when Jesus came to a certain town. I urge you to read it for yourself and to believe, as the woman and the other villagers did.

I took this photo during a musical presentation at a local church.

Jesus came to my town one ordinary day
And really surprised me with what He had to say.
He told me who He was and all I’d ever done,
So I believed Him when He said He was God’s Son.

I told all my neighbors, “You need to meet Him, too!”
And we invited Him to stay a day or two.
As He spoke, we realized all He said was true.
Many believed in Him—way more than just a few.

The encounter with Jesus changed many a life,
Though the plain truth He spoke often cut like a knife.
I’m glad He spoke with me one ordinary day
And completely changed me with what He had to say.

Everyone can tell I’m truly a “happy girl”
Now that I know and love the Savior of the world.
To know Him is to love Him, and I surely do!
And there's more good news: He loves ME—and also YOU!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Happy Birthday, America!

Blessed is the nation 
whose God 
is the LORD; 
and the people 
whom he hath chosen 
for his own inheritance.
Psalm 33:12, KJV

Friday, June 29, 2018

Go In!

NOTE: The FICTION story below is a change from the kind of writing you normally find here. For an explanation...see the previous post (“Going in Circles,” posted on June 25, 2018).

I wrote the piece below while learning more about how to write “fast fiction.” As instructed, I typed the rough draft of that "short short" story in only 5 minutes and then edited it extensively before posting it here. I based the story on a photo I’d taken recently while running errands in town. (I added the word WELCOME to the photo.)

Enjoy! Please leave a comment to let me know if you like the change.

I am a black wrought iron bench with lovely designs. Day after day, I sit in front of a white marble wall and to the left of the entrance to what folks around here call Opportunity House.

Not everyone notices me. But I notice them. Some people stride confidently to the door and hurry in. Others approach Opportunity House slowly, or, I should say, timidly. Others sit on me for a few minutes to catch their breath and do some deep breathing. But they finally do go in.

Some folks linger but then leave. As I watch them walk away, their shoulders stooped, their faces dejected, and their heads bowed with shame, I feel sorry for them. I want to cry out, “Come back! Come back! Go in! If you leave now, you’ll never know what you could have been and what you could have done.”
" strong and courageous. 
Do not be terrified; 
do not be discouraged, 
for the LORD your God 
will be with you 
wherever you go."
Joshua 1:9, NIV

Monday, June 25, 2018

Going in Circles?

I feel as if I've been going in the same circles again and again, especially in regard to writing. Since 1984 I've followed the same general format for the inspirational columns I've written for newspapers, magazines, and my blog. If you've read my writings through the years, you've noticed I usually begin each piece with an experience or with an idea I picked up somewhere. As I reflect on that, I recall a verse of Scripture that speaks to that topic. Sometimes, the reverse process happens. I read something in the Bible that rivets my attention. As I reflect on that, I recall an experience or a quote, etc. that goes along with it. So, I write those "reflections."

In order to become a better writer, I've honed my writing skills and experimented with word count and so forth. Even with those slight variations, I'm feeling the urge to do something a bit different--at least for a while. Because of that "stirring," I am trying my hand at writing short short stories. I also love writing poems, though I know next to nothing about the "rules" for writing poetry. Occasionally, I may post one of my straight-from-the-heart poems. may see changes on this blog. 

You can be a HUGE help to me if you'll take time to leave a comment (or send me an email) to let me know how you feel about the changes. As always, if you like what you read/see, please share the link with your family and friends. Thank you!

However, the biggest help you can give is to pray that I will be open to whatever direction God wants me to take. After all, He's the One who called me to write. He's the One who equips me. Thus, I write in obedience to Him. As always, the promise I return to again and again as I seek His will is found in Proverbs 3:5-6, NIV:
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

Learn a Lesson from the Ruins

Like a city [or a building] 
whose walls are broken down 
is a [person] who lacks self-control.
Proverbs 25:28

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Behold! Believe!

The heavens declare the glory of God; 
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
~Psalm 19:1, NIV

When my husband and I take a walk in the neighborhood, I'm awed by the beauty of the skies. On the evenings we stay home, we miss seeing grandeur like that in this photo. Yet, God faithfully creates awesome skies whether or not anyone notices them. But, oh, what a blessing it is to behold them and to worship the One who created them.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

A Parent’s Delight

To wish her son a Happy Father’s Day, my friend Betty posted (on Facebook) a picture of him and his daughter. After describing Jeff as “the best father a child could have,” Betty concluded the message by saying, “We love you,” something she and her husband had surely said many times to Jeff.

I commented immediately, saying, “What a thrill to see Jeff and his daughter!!! I’m so happy he’s such a wonderful dad—but I am not the least bit surprised that he is. I wouldn’t have expected him to be otherwise. Please tell him hello for me and that I am so proud of him.”

I haven’t seen Jeff since he became an adult, but I remember how he delighted me when he was one of my third grade students. He never gave me one minute’s trouble. He was diligent, well-behaved, always prepared, polite, kind…Thus, I was not at all surprised to hear he was a wonderful dad. 

As I thought about Jeff and his proud parents, I recalled what the Bible says about a son (or daughter!) who turns out well.

The father of a righteous man has great joy; 
he who has a wise son delights in him. 
May your father and mother be glad; 
may she who gave you birth rejoice.
~Proverbs 23:24-25, NIV.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

I Love That Flag!

While riding in a car with my husband, I often say, “Oh! Oh! Oh! Slow down if you can. I love that flag!”

As he checks the rearview mirror to make sure we won’t get hit if he slows down or pulls over, he says, “How many flag pictures do you need?”

“I never get tired of taking photos of flags. They are so beautiful, especially when they are being unfurled by a gentle breeze.”

Indeed, I have no idea how many flag photos "live" on my various hard drives. Flags lining the streets of small towns in America. Flags proudly displayed on front porches. Flags in vast grazing lands in the foothills of snow-capped mountains. Flags draped across coffins of American soldiers. Small flags flanking tombstones. Oversize flags looming large against a beautiful sky filled with cotton-candy-like clouds. Flags flapping wildly in strong winds generated by an approaching storm. Flags carried by people in a parade....

Perhaps I love the flag because of all it represents. I love it because it reminds me how blessed I am to claim America as my “home.” 

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Do Not Give In To Them!

Doctors have never said, “You have attention deficit disorder,” but I think I do since I’m easily distracted. For example, one morning after I finished writing in my journal, I took a “stand up break” before beginning to write a blog post.

As I re-settled myself, I thought, I loved the Gordon McDonald poem Elisabeth Elliot read last night. I’ll search for it on the internet before I forget about it. Although I didn’t find it, I did discover videos that featured him. I watched one for a few minutes before I reluctantly hit pause (in order to write).

Then I thought, I need to get “caught up” on reading one chapter a day in the Book of Proverbs. While I read and jotted down insights, the minutes designated for writing slipped away as silently but as surely as sand in an hourglass. 

When I glanced at the clock, I thought. Oh, no! My writing time is gone. I’ve gotta get up and get busy.

Suddenly, the “Do not give in to them!” warnings I’d read in Proverbs 1:10-16 took on an expanded meaning. Although they warned me against giving in to enticements to do evil, I realized I must also resist giving in to distractions—even “good” ones—if they keep me from doing the work (writing) God asked me to do. Clearly, I must break my lifelong habit of letting GOOD things keep me from the BEST ones.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Little Glories

...transform me, Father,
by the
little glories
of this day.

~David Hazard, p.139 in
I Come Quietly to Meet You 

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Daily Nourishment

After finishing my daily “quiet time” one very rainy morning, I looked out the window and watched the little hummingbirds coming and going at the feeder as frequently as they would have on a beautiful day. I thought, They know they HAVE to receive daily nourishment in order to stay alive. No waiting for ideal feeding conditions. No sleeping in. 

Indeed, even one day of being deprived of food can mean death for these tiny creatures who often eat up to three times their body weight every day. They absolutely MUST find nourishment if they are to survive. No excuses. No procrastination.

Likewise, if you and I, dear reader, are to stay spiritually strong, we, too, must do whatever we have to do to find spiritual food and to take it in. Fortunately, we have many “food sources,” among them:
  • The Bible
  • Sermons
  • Hymns
  • Books
  • Podcasts
  • Radio programs
  • Audiobooks
  • Tapes
  • Bible studies
  • Prayer
  • Magazines
  • Devotionals
Let’s feast on one or more of these every day! And throughout the day. No excuses!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Friday, May 25, 2018

We Lived, But Now We Lie...

Several years ago, a friend stopped by a day or so before Memorial Day. During his visit, we talked about many things, including the poems our teachers required us to learn when we were in elementary school (more than 50 years ago). 

"Did you have to learn 'In Flanders Field'?"I asked him.

Rather than give me a "yes" or "no" answer, he began to quote the poem: "In Flanders Field the poppies grow between the crosses row on row."

I tried to join him in reciting the poem. However, I dropped out of the recitation after I'd said the words above. He did, too, although he probably could have recited the entire poem word for word, since he has an incredible memory.

The following day, I searched the Internet for a copy of that poem. I found it, as well as information about who wrote what has become the world's most famous memorial poem. I learned that it was written by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae on March 3, 1915, the day after his friend (and former student) Alexis Helmer had been killed in the second battle of Ypres, Belgium. He composed it at the battlefront.

All the words evoked strong emotion, but the ones that stood out to me were these:
...short days ago 
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow
Loved and were loved, and now we lie in Flanders Field.

Yes, all too soon (from the human perspective), their lives had ended, as will yours and mine. Hopefully, they were prepared to meet their God. Hopefully, they honored Him and served Him and their fellow man during the days they lived. May that be true of us, as well.

One of the many sections of the Georgia National Cemetery in Canton, GA

To hear someone read the entire poem aloud, please click here:

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

One Future Day!

After talking about what a struggle it is to live a life that pleases and honors God rather than “self,” Amy Carmichael says, “There will come a day when He will say, ‘It is finished’... the I [the part of us that demands its own way] will be slain, never to come to life again; the soul will bloom as perfect as a flower” (p.122 in I Come Quietly to Meet You).

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Pray Earnestly!

Today is the National Day of Prayer, which has been observed annually since 1952. Even those of us who could not attend one of the many public observances throughout our country can still join with our fellow citizens in asking God to do a mighty work in America. 

Prayer is definitely a privilege, as well as a powerful way to positively impact the future of America. For example, the Bible says, "The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much [i.e., produces wonderful results] (James 5:16, NLT).

The writer of Psalm 33 points out, "Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance" (v. 12, NKJV).

The Bible also assures us time and again that God does hear and answer prayers whether they're offered by individuals or by groups of people. One of my favorite assurances is found in 2 Chronicles 7:14, NKJV, where God says, "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."

Let's pray earnestly and fervently--today and every day--for America to become the kind of nation God will choose to bless. Let's implore God to help us--individually and as a nation--to honor Him as our God and to seek to do whatever pleases Him.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

A Song of Praise

I made this collage while learning how to use new (FREE!) software I downloaded. As I worked, I thought about the words in Folliott S. Pierpoint's song For the Beauty of the Earth, which was published in 1864. 

For the beauty of the earth, 
For the glory of the skies,
For the love which from our birth, 
Over and around us lies:
Christ our God to thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise.

Since those ancient words express the thoughts of MY heart whenever I see beauty all around me, I often personalize them in this way and use them as a prayer:

For the beauty of the earth, 
For the glory of the skies,
For the love which from my birth, 
Over and around me lies:
Christ my God to thee I raise
This my hymn of grateful praise. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Elevator People and Ball Carriers

Dr. John Maxwell says we need to find elevator people and ball carriers and then keep them near us as we strive to reach our goals.

Elevator people help us go higher than we could ever go by ourselves. I’ve been blessed with several of them through the years, as I hope you have. For example, a dear friend (Nancy) contacted a publisher in her town and said, “I think you need to run Johnnie Gaskill’s column in your magazine.”

He replied, “Ask her to email me some samples.”

I did. He liked them. Consequently, I’ve written monthly columns for him since 2008. Had it not been for my sweet elevator friend who believed in my work and promoted it, my writing would not be available to 40,000+ readers each month!

Ball carriers help us avoid “dropping the ball” in the first place; but when we do, they help us pick it up and resume running toward the finish line with it. Another dear friend (Linda) has been one of my ball carriers for over 50 years. She has helped me do many things I thought I could not do. She’s also been my go-to person for “all things grammar.”

I thank God for Nancy and Linda and for every elevator person and ball carrier God has brought into my life. I’m trusting Him to keep me well-supplied with them. I’m also looking to see who needs me to be an elevator person or a ball carrier for them.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Little Changes

Need to make some changes? I certainly do—lots of them. SIGH. Thus, I often feel overwhelmed to the point of giving up--or never starting at all.

Thankfully, I found encouragement today while reading a couple of emails from Nick Stephenson in which he says that even a 1% change each day will yield a 100% improvement in only 72 days (thanks to compound growth).

I’m no math genius, but I do know that one percent of anything isn’t much! For example, if I’m currently averaging 1000 steps a day, taking only 10 additional steps today, and just a few more than that the next day, and so forth, will eventually enable me to reach my step goal.
Another example: Years ago, a friend said, "Every night I remove all the coins from my pockets and place the money in a jar. By Christmastime, I've saved over $700."

Marla Cilley (aka FlyLady) also recommends taking “baby steps.” She says, "If your house is a mess and/or your life is in chaos, shine your sink every night before going to bed. Even that one small action step will motivate you to make other little changes." As we work toward reaching our goals, let's keep this FlyLady quote in mind: "We seek progress, not perfection."

All the folks mentioned above have learned that little changes, done consistently, do make a difference. We don’t need to “do the math” for every change. All we have to do is take a few more action steps toward various goals each day. We can do that! So...let’s get going!
And though you started with little,
you will end up with much.
~Job 8:7, NLT

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Lessons from a Vine

Because I’m intrigued by a vine that grows prolifically at the beach, I wanted to know more about it. I learned that it’s called the “Railroad Vine” because its vines spread out hither and yon along the ground, much like train tracks meander around anything in their paths. Amazingly, the vine can grow up to 12 inches a day, and its runners may extend horizontally for more than 30 feet. Its taproots can penetrate downward more than three feet into the sand, stabilizing the ever-shifting dunes. In addition, the “Railroad Vine” often produces beautiful pink blooms that open in the morning and close by mid-afternoon, giving it another nickname: “Beach Morning Glory.”

As I look at the vine, I think about how the “paths” of my life often seem random. Yet, even if I go first one way and then another, my life, like the vine, still has purpose and beauty. Yesterday, for example, I didn't think I was doing much that was meaningful. However, when I journaled this morning about what I’d done, I realized I’d done several kind things for others, which, I believe, delighted my Father--even though I hadn't checked off many items on my to-do list.
He has shown you...what is good. 
And what does the LORD require of you? 
To act justly 
and to love mercy 
and to walk humbly with your God.
~Micah 6:8, NIV

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Fully Formed

Buds intrigue me—for several reasons. 

They provide few clues as to their future beauty. In fact, some buds are “a little on the ugly side,” aren’t they?

I’m amazed at how a showy bloom can be encased in such a small bud. For example, everything that makes a rose a rose is encased in a tiny bud--just like those in this photo. One day, they'll open and be as large and as lovely as the pink rose that’s flourishing alongside them.

I’m amazed at how the maturation process remains shrouded in mystery. Knowing that imperceptible changes are occurring constantly inside the bud, I wait eagerly for it to open and reveal its beauty.

Buds remind me that their Creator is my Creator, too, and that He continues to mature me day by day. He knows my potential. In fact, He placed it within me. I don’t see much of it. Neither do other people see it. IS there, just as yours is within you. 

In light of that, may these words I found in a book written by Vinita Hampton Wright greatly encourage us in our struggle to do our best work for God. 

[Even if] you are weary of yourself and loathe your attempts at giftedness, God sees you already fully formed and your work accomplished in all its beauty and glory (p. 158, The Art of Spiritual Writing: How to Craft Prose That Engages and Inspires Your Readers).

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Wait for the Light!

When troubles come, we worry about how things might turn out. We feel uncertain about what we should do. If it seems that the outcome may not be the one we want, the one for which we pray, we feel hopeless and disappointed.

Having felt this way in times past, I love to watch the sunrises, particularly those over the ocean for they are so striking. Out of the blackness of the night, the first signs of dawn appear above the eastern horizon. The light is barely discernable, at first, but grows ever brighter. The sun rises slowly, it's movement imperceptible to the human eye as the bright orange ball rises higher and higher, bringing welcomed light and warmth to a dark and chilly world. 

Sometimes clouds obscure this wonderous sight, as it did the morning when I took the picture posted here. But I waited patiently for the sun to rise above the cloud cover and to shine its glorious light on the earth.

In like manner, may you and I learn to wait patiently on the Lord to provide light for the dark paths on which we sometimes walk. As we wait, may we follow the advice David shares in Psalm 27:14, NIV:
Wait for the LORD;
be strong, 
and let your heart take courage;
wait for the LORD!

As we wait for Him to act, may we be encouraged by what our God says in Isaiah 41:10, NIV:
“ not fear, 
for I am with you; 
do not be dismayed, 
for I am your God. 
I will strengthen you and help you; 
I will uphold you 
with my righteous right hand.” 

Monday, April 9, 2018

If We Could See and Know...

I’m often overwhelmed by the sad news that reaches me daily, aren’t you?  One day when I felt particularly sad, the words to an old song I hadn’t thought about in a long time suddenly popped into my mind. 

Since I could recall only bits and pieces of it, I looked online and found a beautiful recording of it, which I enjoyed so much, as I hope you will:

Since I wanted to be able to print all the words to the song so I could memorize them, I searched further and found them here:

Although you and I can’t know why things happen or what the future holds, we can stay close to the One who knows and sees all things. He will comfort us and give us the strength we need to face each day.

For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord,
    my confidence since my youth.
From birth I have relied on you...

Psalm 71:5, 6, NIV