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 discernible, at first, but grows ever brighter. The sun rises slowly, its 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 wondrous 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

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:

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:

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)