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.
Amen.

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. 
Amen.

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. But...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:
“...do 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:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=3_KExHA6DU4

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: http://abigailmiller.com/content/62-if-we-could-see-beyond-today.

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

Thursday, April 5, 2018

With or Without Wrinkles!

I was dumbfounded when I read about a woman who—for 40 years—refused to laugh—or even smile! I was even more flabbergasted when I read why. (Brace yourself, Dear Reader.) She wanted to avoid getting wrinkles around her eyes and lips!

Oh, I thought, the lengths some people go to in order to hide the effects of aging! But aging is inevitable. Take a look at the rich and famous—who have access to all sorts of anti-aging potions and procedures. Even so, “old age” impacts them, too. Their skin wrinkles, their voices quaver, their spines curve, their muscles atrophy….as ours do.

We certainly should take proper care of our bodies and try to look our best. But if we hyperfocus on the externals, it’s all too easy to lose sight of the things that are eternal and, therefore, fail to pay much, if any, attention to them.

Dear Reader, may you and I make choices based on God’s Word, which repeatedly reminds us that what’s going on on the inside of us is far more important than what’s going on on the outside


For example: 1 Peter 3:2, NLT, says, “Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty that depends on fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should be known for the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.”

A person with such a spirit is beautiful--with or without wrinkles--and a joy to be around! 

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Give What You Can

When a friend suddenly faced a situation that deprived her of much of her regular income, I wanted to do something to ease her financial worries. When I handed her a check, her eyes filled with tears. "I can't let you do this!"

I replied, "Yes, you can! God prompted me to give it to you. He knows your need. He wants you to have it, and so do I."


Now I can't go around handing checks to everyone with a significant financial need, but I do what I can for those God strongly impresses me to assist. Help doesn't always involve money. Sometimes it's the gift of time that some folks need. Sometimes it's help with a household task. Sometimes it's a phone call. Sometimes it's a listening ear. Sometimes it's food or a ride to the store. Sometimes it's the lending of a book. Sometimes it's a note of encouragement.


May you and I have an open hand when it comes to sharing with others the blessings we have received from our loving Heavenly Father. May we yield every part of our lives to Him. 



An example of that is found in the old hymn, Take My Life, and Let It Be. In it, Frances R. Havergal beautifully expresses her heartfelt commitment of all of her life to God, including her feet, her voice, her hands, her will, her heart, and even her money.


Take my silver and my gold,
Not a mite would I withhold;
Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in ceaseless praise. 

To listen to the entire song she wrote in 1841, please click here: https://youtu.be/0FBvoRwNyB0

Sunday, April 1, 2018

The Father’s Love


While attending a Good Friday service, I joined the congregation in the singing of How Deep the Father’s Love for Us (copyrighted by Stuart Townend in 1995). Although the words were unfamiliar to me, they resonated with me. Upon returning home, I checked YouTube and found several videos that featured it, including this one: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=SKDujmtyAVk

I've listened to it again and again, as I hope you will. May the words increase your deep gratitude and joy, as they have mine. May the words prompt us to continue to celebrate His death and resurrection long after Easter has passed.



 Continue your love to those who know you, your righteousness to the upright in heart.
~David (in Psalm 36:10)

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

A Crown of Thorns



The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns 
and
put it on his head.
They clothed him in a purple robe...
~John 19:2, NIV

To listen to Daniele Rose sing "Crown of Thorns" click here:

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Last Days

Today I read the Biblical accounts (found in the Gospels) of how Jesus spent His last days on this earth. As I compiled a lengthy list, I noticed that, basically, He simply continued to do what He had been doing. He served others by healing them, by teaching them spiritual truths to live by, by answering questions put to Him by His disciples (and by those who didn’t believe He was who He said He was), by preparing them for His departure, and by comforting them with the assurance of His future return and with the promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit who would be their indwelling teacher and comforter.


Since He had always done whatever pleased the Father, Jesus needed to make no major changes in His daily practices. However, by the end of the week, He would face His greatest challenge and, thereby, teach the greatest lesson of all: how to obey the Father and to serve Him and others with great love, even though He would suffer--and die--in the process.


As I reflected on His example, I thought:
  • Is my life so aligned with the Father’s will that I wouldn’t need to dramatically alter what I’m doing if I knew I would die within a week? 
  • Can I say, as Jesus did, “I always do the will of the Father,” that I obey my Father at all times--no matter the high cost of obedience? 
  • Can I truthfully say to God, what Jesus said in John 17:4, “I have brought You glory on earth by completing the work You gave me to do”? 
If not, I must begin TODAY to fully align my will with His and to let my daily attitudes and actions be in accordance with His wishes.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Stages


When I photographed these tiny azalea blooms in my yard, I thought, Each stage has its own beauty. Such is true of the stages of human life.

May we learn to look for and to appreciate the beauty that's there!

May we praise the Creator who put it there.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Spring!







Spring shows what God can do 
with a drab and dirty world.
~Rev. Virgil A. Kraft (1910-1988)



Sunday, March 18, 2018

Spring Is Sure to Follow

There's an old proverb that says, "No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow." That's so true, isn't it? However, when we're in the cold clutches of winter, we tend to think spring will never come. Likewise, we often think that we're stuck forever in a harsh season of life. But, rest assured, a gentler, more beautiful, more hopeful season will surely follow since God designed the seasons--and our lives--to stay on schedule. 

While reflecting on the cyclical seasons of life, I like to recall the words to Great Is Thy Faithfulness, a favorite hymn of mine, written by Thomas O. Chisholm in the early 1900s.

The chorus of the song praises God for His great faithfulness toward us and mentions that daily we see how gracious God is to us and how He so faithfully provides all we need. 

The verses mention specific ways God demonstrates His faithfulness. For example, even the seasons and the solar system attest to His great faithfulness. 

God didn't just create the world and all the living creatures that inhabit it and then walk away. No! He faithfully keeps everything (even our lives!) "on schedule"--day after day, year after year.


Thus, we learn that we can trust Him to faithfully care for us and to make sure that "No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow." Trust Him. Thank Him. Praise Him.


The faithful love of the LORD never ends! 
His mercies never cease. 
Great is his faithfulness; 
his mercies begin afresh each morning.
Lamentations 3:22, 23, New Living Translation


To sing along with the song, Great Is Thy Faithfulness, please click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cACqcURyvJA 

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Blessings

I enjoy reading Irish blessings and proverbs, don't you? Below are two I read recently.

May the strength of God pilot us,
May the wisdom of God instruct us,
May the hand of God protect us,
May the word of God direct us.

May your thoughts be as glad as the shamrocks.
May your heart be as light as a song.
May each day bring you bright happy hours,
That stay with you all year long.

However, my favorite blessings are those found in the Bible, as this one is:
The LORD bless thee, and keep thee:
The LORD make his face shine upon thee,
and be gracious to thee:
The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee,
and give thee peace.
Numbers 6:23-26, KJV

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Differences


Withered hydrangea blooms;
new hydrangea leaves and daffodils sprouting in the Spring.





When man sees but withered leaves, 
God sees sweet flowers growing.
~Albert Laughton









“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” saith the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
~Isaiah 55:8, 9, KJV







Sunday, March 11, 2018

It's Time for the Dimness to Go!

If I love the lyrics found in a song but don't know how to sing it, I read the words as if they were a poem. Currently, I'm memorizing all the verses in Spirit of God, Descend Upon My Heart, which was written by George Croly in 1854. 

The lyrics read like a prayer. All of the requests are ones I, too, need to make. I reflect on them every morning as I practice saying aloud all four verses. The requests also pop into my mind throughout the day, even when I'm not specifically trying to recall them. 


For example, when I sit on the screened-in porch and look through the clear plastic wrap which my husband puts up each Fall and takes down each Spring (to keep the cold air out), I notice how much even those thin sheets of plastic prevent me from clearly seeing all that is in our backyard. The view isn't nearly as pretty as it is when I step out on the deck to enjoy an unobstructed view. 

Whenever I look through the plastic and notice how "foggy" everything looks, I think about this request found in the song: "...take away the dimness of my soul." And I become even more convinced of the importance of asking God to do that.

Open my eyes, that I may see
Wondrous things from Your law.
~Psalm 119:18, NKJV




Thursday, March 8, 2018

Sudden Storms


"Storms" can pop up so quickly in our lives, can't they? One moment, we're sailing along the sea of life and enjoying the journey; the next moment, we're buffeted by savage winds of adversity and practically drowned by a torrent of troubles, sometimes to the point that we wonder if we'll survive the sudden "storm" we never dreamed would come our way. What do we do?

The answer is found in a Bible passage (the 8th chapter of Luke, verses 22-25) that contains the story of a strong storm that battered the disciples as they sailed across a lake. When they realized they could go under at any moment, terror gripped them. But they knew what to do. They woke Jesus, who was sleeping peacefully in the boat even while the storm raged. He got up immediately and responded to their cries for help.

He spoke to the winds and the water; they calmed down. Observing how quickly He had stilled the storm, the disciples asked one another, in fear and amazement, "Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey Him." In other words, "Who is this man in the boat with us?" They knew He was no ordinary man for He possessed powers that no mortal has. Thankfully, He was in the boat with them. He was right there, ready and willing to still the storm and, thereby, save their lives.

Dear Reader, that same Jesus is always in the "boat" with us when sudden "storms" come unbidden and unexpected into our lives. If we do what the disciples did and cry out to Him for help, He surely will intervene. Even if He doesn't still the storm immediately, we'll be comforted by knowing He is right there with us and can command calm whenever He chooses to do so. Until then, He stays nearby. And what a comfort His presence is!