Monday, April 15, 2019

His Prayer, My Prayer

Prayer is a conversation with God. He speaks to us. We speak to Him. When I read (or listen to) the prayers of others, I often think, "Yes, Father, that's what I want to say to You, too."


For example, after reading and studying what the prophet said to God in Isaiah 25:1-4, I paraphrased a portion of Isaiah's words to make this my prayer:
"O LORD, You are my God. I will honor You. I will praise Your name, because You have done wonderful things, things You planned long ago and are faithfully accomplishing, one by one.

"You have been and continue to be a strong tower of refuge for the poor, for the needy, and for people in any kind of distress. 

"You are a refuge from the storms of life and a shelter from its heat. I run to You, deeply thankful to have such a much-needed refuge. I can't 'do life' without You!"

Thursday, April 11, 2019

God Be In Me

Note: I found this beautiful prayer in Derek Prime's book, A Good Old Age. Isn't it a good one to pray daily?

Monday, April 8, 2019

Be Content!

I've long struggled to understand these words the apostle Paul wrote centuries ago in his letter to the Christians in Philippi:
I know how to make do with little, and I know how to make do with a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content--whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need (Philippians 4:11, CSB, emphasis mine).
How did he learn to be content in EVERY situation? How do you and I learn to do that? 

My longing to know prompted me to read Matthew Henry's commentary (originally published in 1706). Here's my "takeaway" on what he said:

Paul consistently chose to accept his situation and to adjust himself to it, whether or not it was one he liked. He did not rant and rave. He simply did the best he could where he was and with what he had. He trusted God to give him the strength he needed to cope with every circumstance. 

Even when suffering, Paul didn't lose his comfort in God. He didn't doubt God's love for him nor God's ability and willingness to take care of him. Thus, He waited quietly for God (not others!) to act on his behalf. 

When Paul enjoyed relative prosperity, he didn't boast or feel entitled to the good things God had provided for him. He humbly thanked his God for them.


How do we learn to be content in any situation? The same way Paul did! 

Friday, April 5, 2019

Need Wisdom? Ask God for It.

Since I’m often unsure which option to choose, I turn to this verse again and again:
One recent morning, I reread that verse and then wrote these words  in my journal: 
If I need wisdom--and I do!--I can ASK God for it. Just come right out and ask Him. He's always generous; and, as the Bible says in other passages,* He  gives good gifts to His children. In fact, I think we honor Him when we seek His counsel. Seeking His thoughts on a matter indicates that we believe He will help us by giving us counsel that is "spot on."
If we turn quickly and often to Him, we won't worry nearly as much. We can go confidently through life, facing each challenge that confronts us because we believe He will gladly and generously give us the wisdom we need. We simply ask in faith and then wait--all senses open--to receive His counsel and then set about doing what He tells us to do.

*Matthew 7:11; Luke 11:13; James 1:17

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Mess of a Self

I began my March 1, 2019, journal entry with these words:
Off schedule. Frazzled. Ideas popping--way more than I have time to handle. Inspired to write, but too many other tasks, projects, and commitments screaming for attention. Feeling led to write a series of blog posts about some ways to "unpack" the Word. Struggling to find THE BEST way to do that (and just about everything else). Because I'm searching for THE BEST way, I'm delaying doing anything...

I followed those words with these:
O Father, I present my "mess of a self" to You this morning, knowing that You know me fully--far better than I know myself--and yet You love me and are ABLE and WILLING--yes, even EAGER--to transform me.


As I thought about that, the words to the song Something Beautiful popped into my mind. I recognized it as God's way of assuring me that He can and will make something beautiful out of the "mess of a self" that I'm offering Him. He will do the same for you, Dear Reader. Just offer yourself to Him and see what He does!





Wednesday, April 3, 2019

He Leads Us Along

I wish all of life's paths were pleasant ones like the one in this picture, don't you? I long to be able to stroll leisurely through life, feeling comfortable and at ease, enjoying the fellowship of sweet people around me, delighting in the beauty of God's creation... 

But at times life can be unbelievably hard, can't it? So NOT like what we wish it were. Perhaps that's why I love the old song God Leads Us Along. Although published in 1903, it is still so true for today.

For your blessing, I've typed all of the words below. If you click here, you can listen to a young woman sing the song so sweetly. 

May the truth of the words comfort you and encourage you to keep on trusting God to lovingly lead you along paths He knows is best. 


God Leads Us Along
In shady, green pastures, so rich and so sweet,
God leads His dear children along;
Where the water's cool flow bathes the weary one's feet,
God leads His dear children along.


Refrain
Some through the waters, some through the flood,
Some through the fire, but all through the blood;
Some through great sorrow, but God gives a song,
In the night season and all the day long.


Sometimes on the mount where the sun shines so bright,
God leads His dear children along;
Sometimes in the valley, in darkest of night,
God leads His dear children along.

Though sorrows befall us and Satan oppose,
God leads His dear children along;
Through grace we can conquer, defeat all our foes,
God leads His dear children along.

Away from the mire, and away from the clay,
God leads His dear children along;
Away up in glory, eternity's day,
God leads His dear children along.

--George A. Young, 1903, public domain




Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Pray-sing!

Many of the old hymns seem like prayers, and I use them as such. For example, as I've gone about my daily tasks this morning, I've been singing (and praying) all the verses to "Speak to My Heart," which was written by B. B. McKinney and published in 1927.

I, too, am asking the Lord to speak to my heart, to help me hear His voice, to calm all my doubts and fears, to cleanse me from all sin, to help me say or do something to point to the Savior those who do not yet know Him. I'm also offering my heart--in fact, all of me--to the Lord so that He can use me as He wishes.

Now that I've humbly asked Him to speak directly to me, I'm listening eagerly--and carefully--to hear what He will say. And I do believe He will speak to me. Many verses in the Bible promise that He will.


He Will Be There!

Sometimes something comes along that seems more than we can bear. At such times, I find comfort, as I pray you do, in this promise God made to His children centuries ago:
1Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. 2When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. 3For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior...you are precious to me. You are honored, and I love you. 5Do not be afraid for I am with you (Isaiah 43:1-5, NLT).

As I read those precious promises again and again, especially when circumstances seem so overwhelming, I thank God that He is with me and that He will bring me through the difficulty. 

As I continue to reflect on God's presence and power, this quote my sweet mama shared with me so many times pops into my mind and comforts me, too: 



Note: You may also like this similar post I wrote in 2015: https://johnniegaskill.blogspot.com/2015/02/this-is-my-doing.html

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Be Still and Know...

I love this song! I feel led to share it in its entirety, trusting that it will minister to you, as it does to me. Read the words slowly, letting them sink deeply into your heart and mind. If you have a few extra minutes, listen to it here:


BE STILL, MY SOUL
Author: Kathrina von Schlegel
Translator: Jane Borthwick (1855)
Tune: FINLANDIA
Public Domain

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on your side;
bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
leave to your God to order and provide;
in ev’ry change he faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: your best, your heav’nly Friend
through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: your God will undertake
to guide the future as he has the past.
Your hope, your confidence let nothing shake;
all now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know
his voice who ruled them while he dwelt below.

Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
and all is darkened in the vale of tears,
then shall you better know his love, his heart,
who comes to soothe your sorrow and your fears.
Be still, my soul; your Jesus can repay
from his own fullness all he takes away.

Be still, my soul: the hour is hast’ning on
when we shall be forever with the Lord,
when disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past,
all safe and blessed we shall meet at last.



Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Come!

While looking out the window one day this week, I saw a hummingbird, the first one I'd seen this season. The little bird was perched on the feeder and was sipping the sweet nectar my husband had prepared. I'm sure the little fella was thirsty and exhausted after having traveled from Central America or Mexico to where we live in central Georgia.

According to Internet sources, hummingbirds can fly 23 miles a day during the annual migration. Their tiny hearts beat up to 1, 260 times a minute; their wings flap 15 to 80 times per second! Because their bodies require far more fuel during migration than when they are merely zipping around from flower to flower in a garden, the hummingbirds prepare for the arduous trip by gaining 25-40 percent of their body weight in order to have a sufficient supply of stored energy. 

We don't have to beg the hummingbirds to come to the feeder. Their thirst compels them to come and drink. 

Likewise, our spiritual thirst compels us to accept our Lord's gracious invitation that's found in John 7:37, NKJV: "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink." He also says, "Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28, NKJV). 

Jesus invites us to come to Him and find all that we need: salvation, forgiveness, strength, eternal life.... He provides everything in abundance; but it's up to us to humbly come to Him to receive the blessings He has prepared for us. No matter how needy we are, He will never turn us away! (See John 6:37.)







Monday, March 25, 2019

Let Me!

The words God spoke in the Old Testament book of Hosea 11 warm my heart—and break it. 

In that passage, God says, in essence:

As I read that story and many others (for example, Jeremiah 31:3) that tell how Father God continues to love His wayward children, I wonder, How could God’s people be so blind—and stupid? How could they continue to reject the One who loved them so much?

As I fume over that, I hear Him say to me, “Johnnie, dear Johnnie, you do the same thing! You ignore Me much of the time. You go your own way. You listen to the teachings of those who don’t know Me or love Me. You seem to forget that I am the source of all truth and of all wisdom. You often forget that I am the One who gives you the very air you breathe and all the blessings you enjoy.

“O, precious child, return to Me! I love you with an everlasting love. I want to be a Father to you. I want to teach you and guide you. Let Me!” 

Friday, March 22, 2019

Newly-Prioritized List

When I looked at today’s TO DO list, I thought, I’ll NEVER be able to get all this done! Not in one day. Not in two. Not in three.

Immediately, I felt the all-too-familiar feelings of frustration and despair. I cried out, “Please, Father, show me what to do!” And He did, just as Proverbs 3:5-6 says He will!


He said, in essence, “Your top two priorities each and every day are to honor Me and to meet the needs of others. Do those things first, and then do other tasks as you have time.”

Image by Deedster from Pixabay.com
I immediately looked at my list and prioritized the tasks according to what He had said. Now that’s He’s made it clear to me what to do first and second and ..., I no longer feel defeated and stressed. As soon as I finish writing this (which is one of the tasks I do to honor Him and to minister to others), I’ll get up and begin the next thing on my newly-prioritized list. Throughout the day, I’ll continue to work calmly and confidently.

Wisdom from the Word
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on [DO NOT RELY ON, DO NOT TRUST IN] your own understanding [INSIGHT]; [BUT] in all your ways acknowledge Him [SEEK HIS WILL, SUBMIT TO HIM, KNOW HIM] and He shall direct your paths [SHOW YOU / MAKE PLAIN WHICH PATHS TO TAKE] .
Proverbs 3:5-6, NKJV

Note: When I’m trying to better understand what a verse means, I type it from one translation and then use www.blueletterbible.com to see how other versions translate it. I add those additional insights (typed in ALL CAPS) to the translation I used initially. This takes time and looks a bit messy, but it helps me better understand the verse(s). Perhaps you’d like to try that????





Thursday, March 21, 2019

God's Beautiful World


He [God] has made everything beautiful in its time. 
Ecclesiastes 3:11, NKJV

Especially in springtime, I readily acknowledge the truth of those words that are in the Bible. 

As I look around at the beautiful world God created, I also think about how He continues to keep everything running on schedule—the seasons, the tides, the sun, the moon….

I conclude that God likes orderliness and harmony—not only in the natural world He created but in every situation.  

Therefore, I say to Him, “O Father, help me to love beauty and orderliness and harmony—like You do. Help me to do all I can to create them wherever I am."

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Beautiful Springtime!

Azaleas blooming beside my front porch (2006).
Today is the first official day of spring! Oh, and I do love springtime! Don’t you?

For several weeks now, the flowers have been slowly appearing, bringing such beautiful colors to the landscape. A few hummingbirds have returned to summer in our neighborhood. Soon a dozen or more of them will be zipping around our yard, pausing for a few seconds to sip nectar from one of the three feeders on the deck, and delighting us with their antics and high energy. The temperatures have warmed, compelling us to come out and enjoy the sunshine.


Everything seems to have come alive—filling hearts with hope of better and brighter days. 

In springtime, I delight in seeing what God does with a drab and dirty world and am filled with heightened awareness that He can also create amazing transformations within me—and within you, too!

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Follow David's Example

These words David used to describe his world centuries ago could be used to describe our world today:
Help, O LORD, for the godly are fast disappearing!
The faithful have vanished from the earth!
Neighbors lie to each other, speaking with flattering lips and insincere hearts....They say, " We will lie to our hearts' content. Our lips are our own--who can stop us?

--Psalm 12: 1-4, NLT

What did David do? He cried out to the Lord for help, and the Lord answered him. 

How did David respond? He said, "LORD, we know you will protect the oppressed, preserving them forever from this lying generation, even though the wicked strut about, and evil is praised throughout the land" (Psalm 12:7-8, NLT).

How should we respond? Follow David's example. Cry out to the Lord our God. Tell Him what's on our heart. Tell Him (and truly mean it!) that we trust Him to set things right, no matter how impossible the situation seems to us.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Gifts Galore!

After reading Ann Voskamp's wonderful book, One Thousand Gifts Devotional, I decided to start my own list of 1,000 gifts. I purchased several inexpensive 6" x 9" notebooks at the local Dollar General store and began my list on August 2, 2014. Currently, I’ve listed over 5,000.

As I’m winding down each evening, I
mentally review the day, write down gift after gift (at least a page or two), and thank God for each one I list.


Ann Voskamp makes her entries throughout the day in a journal she keeps on her kitchen counter.


Another writer (Jim Stovall) maintains what he calls "The Golden List." Every morning he adds to it ten things for which he's thankful. 

How we maintain such a list is not the important thing. Becoming aware of and thankful for all the amazing things we already have transforms our attitude. We feel happier and more grateful. 

As we list our gifts day after day, we see how truly rich  we are, no matter our income level or the size of our house. Whining and envy and pessimism gradually disappear. Contentment and optimism increase as we train ourselves to focus on the good things in our life.


Although keeping a gratitude journal does require a few extra minutes of time each day, the time is well spent! 


Saturday, March 9, 2019

In His Hands


O Father, I want to be as pliable as a lump of clay in Your hands and as silent. By that I mean I don’t want to question Your design of me. I acknowledge that You have every right to make me--and to use me--however You wish.


Yet, as You know, Father, I tend to look at other “vessels” You have made and to want to be like them. And, as You also know, I tend to think my many flaws make me of little use to You. Forgive me for demeaning your design of me. You knew exactly what You were doing when You created me. Forgive me for being unwilling to believe You want to use me.


Father, I acknowledge that I am the work of Your hands and that You can and will use me for Your purposes—whether in common or uncommon ways, whether in special service or lowly service. The choice is Yours. I'm content with whatever You choose. I'm excited to see what You will do in me and with me and through me.

Behold as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are you in Mine (Jeremiah 18:6).



Thursday, March 7, 2019

Never Give Up!

Dr. Jane Goodall, now 84, recalls the wise counsel her mother gave her many years ago when going to Africa and living with the animals and writing books about them was only a dream in young Jane's heart.

"If you really want to do this thing, you will have to work really hard, take advantage of all opportunities -- but never give up." (p.18, Renew magazine, Spring 2019)

Jane took her mother's advice and, consequently, has done far more than she ever imagined.

You and I will benefit from following Jane's mother's advice and that of the apostle Paul. 






Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Don't Muddle the Message!

When a magazine editor complimented me on a column I'd submitted, I thanked him for encouraging me. Then I said: 
 This week, while listening to an interview with Joanna Weaver, I heard her say: "Writing is one of the hardest things I do."
I agree! I love to write, and I do write hundreds (sometimes thousands) of words a day, most of which I never share. 
But when it's time to write something for publication or posting, I really struggle and pray hard before, during, and after!
If I were writing fiction or poetry, etc., I wouldn't be nearly as concerned with "getting it right." But since I'm trying to share as best I can what I feel GOD wants to say through me, I take that assignment VERY SERIOUSLY.
I never want to muddle the message or mislead anyone, although I'm sure I've done both. I think that's the reason I put off writing for the magazine and my blog until I absolutely have to.

In light of that, I humbly ask you, dear reader, to pray that I will write daily and well and that my writing will honor God and bless those who read. 










Tuesday, March 5, 2019

In God's Care

When Mama chose the inscription for Daddy's tombstone, which she would share when it was her turn to be buried beside him in the cemetery of the little country church where they were members, she selected three simple words: In God's Care. 

Those three words summarize what she and Daddy always believed: They were always in God's care--always had been, always would be. That profound truth comforted and strengthened them--and me, too.

They would agree, as I do, with these words spoken by the Apostle Paul: "I am persuaded that neither life nor death nor anything or anyone else can ever separate us from the love of God found in and expressed by Christ Jesus." See Romans 8.

What a comfort! How it strengthens us to face whatever happens to us.

Push Past the Fear

When an entrepreneur planned a team building activity, she didn't realize the rope course would be so high. As she stared at the tall ladder she'd have to climb in order to reach the horizontal telephone pole she'd then have to walk across before dropping to the ground, terror gripped her. But since she was the leader, she forced herself to climb the ladder, totally terrified all the while even though she knew the cables fastened to her body would prevent any serious injury. 

When she reached the top and stepped onto the pole that was waaaay above the ground, she froze. With her right hand, she gripped a suspension cable. With her left she held on to an upright pole. Only when a teammate called out, "You gotta let go to move forward," did she summon the courage to inch forward.

She almost made it to the far end of the pole before losing her balance and free falling (safely!) to the ground, screaming all the while. Even though she fell, she celebrated having done the very thing she'd feared.

pixabay.com
Smiling broadly, she said, "Every time you do something that scares you, it builds up your confidence so that can do it one more time--and begin to do things a little scarier and harder. Before you know it, you're doing things you never even dreamed possible."

Spiritual lesson: 
If God calls us to do something that seems impossible, let's step out in faith even if we are scared. If He requires it of us, He will surely enable us to do it. Let's trust Him!


Monday, March 4, 2019

The Joy of Giving

While reading Debora M. Coty's wonderful book, Too Loved to Be Lost, I came across an insight that caused me to look with fresh eyes on the matter of giving. For a long time I've believed this truth expressed in Acts 20:35: "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (NKJV). I've also learned, as she points out, that givers are richer for having given.

What I had not really thought about was this: Whenever we give, we are acting as God's representatives--His helpers--in meeting the needs of others. Wow! No wonder we feel such joy. And that joy is there even when we think we've given or done very little. It's there because we've expressed God's lovingkindness to another person. And that joy of having been enabled and entrusted to bless another person lingers long after the giving has taken place.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Our Eyes Are on You

Feeling overwhelmed? Thinking there's no way you're going to make it through all the things that are coming toward you? Have no idea what you're going to do?

Such struggles aren't new. In fact, just this week while reading chapter 20 in the Old Testament book of 2 Chronicles, I learned that Jehoshaphat (the king of Judah) felt that way. He'd been told that a huge army was marching toward Jerusalem (where he lived). He knew that, apart from divine intervention, there was no way he and his people would survive the attack.

So the king and all the people turned to God for help. King Jehoshaphat's entire prayer is so beautiful. (I encourage you to read all of it.) But I'm going to memorize the words in verse 12 so that I can repeat them to God the next time I feel overwhelmed by the things that are coming at me. Perhaps you'd like to do the same.


Friday, March 1, 2019

Lord, Keep Us Easie!

The children of a woman who had been treated cruelly and unjustly said their mother endured such treatment with amazing courage--never flinching, never murmuring. How was she able to do that? According to the children, "The Lord kept her easie."

Wow! What a testimony! That makes me ashamed to mention my struggles, which often seem so challenging, but, by comparison, are actually small. However, as Amy Carmichael points out on p. 189 in her wonderful book, Thou Givest...They Gather, our Lord "knows that we need His grace for them, little though they be; and He can do for us what He did for [her.] He can 'keep us easie.'"

The apostle Paul knew that to be true. Thus, he made this request, as can we: 










When I Am Afraid...


Wednesday, February 27, 2019

The LORD is...

Aren't we thankful He is all this--and so much more????

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

A Message for Me

Note: I hope you enjoy the following edited version of a FICTION story I wrote in response to this writing prompt: You're at the beach and find a message in a bottle. What does it say?

As I wandered along a remote section of beach, I saw a bottle bobbing in the surf. I waded into waist-deep water to retrieve it. After carrying it to shore and drying it and my hands as best I could, I removed the cork, eager to pull out the paper someone had rolled tightly before inserting it into the quarter-size opening.

Something stirred deep within my soul as I read these words:
           
Created by Johnnie Ann Gaskill, 2019

I wondered, Did she reach her desired destination? If not, what happened to her? Had she sailed alone? What prompted her to leave all that was familiar and embark upon such an uncertain journey?


I didn’t know the answer to any of those questions, but I applauded her courage and tenacity. Sensing that God intended me to find that message and to follow her example, I decided I’d set sail, not upon an ocean, but in the direction of the dream God gave me over three decades ago, a dream I’d been too scared to pursue. 






Monday, February 25, 2019

My Stubborn Will

If merely longing for change could make it happen, wouldn't that be wonderful? Yet, work is required to bring about the desired change. Work plus time plus resources plus self-discipline. And, most essential of all, God's guidance and help. 

As I reflect on the changes I'd like to experience, I realize that God does His part. He tells me in His Word what He wants me to be and do and how to accomplish that. Yet, even with such clear guidance, I'm still pretty much the "same ol' me" as I've been for years! I'm still struggling with the same unproductive habits: procrastination, excesses (weight, possessions, etc.), poor use of time, and so forth. I'm still longing for something to sweep over me and instantly transform me into what I should be--and want to be. I've been waiting for years for such a miracle.

But I'm beginning to understand that the changes I long for will not happen until I make myself DO what I know I should. That, Dear Reader, is called self-discipline. It's something I lack, as perhaps you do. Yet, it's essential if we are to follow God's guidance. He shows us what to do, but we are the ones who must do what He says. Otherwise, we'll never become all that He wants us to be, all that He will help us be.

As I said, God is faithfully doing His part. He's at work in me, causing me to will and to do His good pleasure. But I am unfaithful in doing my part. All too often, I refuse to make myself do what He says even though what He says to do is both right and beneficial. Like a pampered child, I sit back and wait for Him (or someone else!) to do my work for me. But that is not the way personal change will take place, is it?

O Father, help me to subdue my stubborn will that refuses to obey You. Help me to be able to say sincerely:

To listen to the song, click here.








Sunday, February 24, 2019

Sing and Speak

Dense fog lingered until mid-morning before slowly dissipating. When it began to lift, I raised one of the sunroom windows (from which my husband had removed the screen) and began to photograph the little songbirds feeding beside the deck. 

Despite the dreariness of the day, the birds chirped cheerily, or so it seemed to me, and continued to do so that afternoon even as rain moved closer and closer to our area.

As I listened to them, I thought, I wish I could be truly cheerful ALL the time, especially when conditions are less than ideal and/or when all signs indicate unpleasant change ahead.


Later that evening, when I read Psalm 89:1, I realized I'd been shown how to do that: Sing (or speak) about God's faithfulness and His mercies! 


Thursday, February 21, 2019

An Eternal Word


Don't Look Back--or Around!

"No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."
--Jesus (Luke 9:62, NKJV)

Amy Carmichael* points out that Jesus says looking back, not turning back. (There is a huge difference, isn't there?) When we look back, we can't plow a straight furrow. In other words, we "mess up." 

The devil knows that. Thus, he continually tempts us to look back at our past sins, at our worthlessness, at our failures, at the things we want but do not have, at the things we once had but no longer have, at the "good life" others seem to be living.... 

We must NOT let our thoughts linger on those kinds of things. Instead, we must read God's Word daily and keep our minds focused on the truths it contains (rather than on the devil's lies) as we continue to move forward, fully committed to doing His will.

*author of Thou Givest...They Gather





Saturday, February 16, 2019

Tough Love


Reflecting on the years she had children to care for, the guest on a radio program said, “I grew tired of struggling to get the children up, fed, dressed, and out the door on time for school. So, one Christmas my husband and I bought alarm clocks for each of them and said, ‘It’s your responsibility to get yourself up and to come to breakfast cheerily.’”

She didn’t say how that worked, but I’m assuming it did. If so, I’m sure everyone in that household felt less frustrated without the constant naggings that used to go on and without the frenzied rushes to get out the door. 

I wonder how that would have worked if Mama had given my sister and me the responsibility for getting ourselves up and to the breakfast table cheerily. I wonder how that would have worked if I had tried it with my own children. (One took responsibility for her wake-up schedule without being told; the other was more like me and required lots of trips to her bedroom door and lots of loud commands to “Get up NOW or you’re going to be late!”

The earlier the children learn to take responsibility for their actions, the easier and quicker they learn that actions/decisions have consequences as well as rewards. The earlier they learn to face those consequences, the quicker they learn to collect what they need before heading out the door. For example: Forgot your lunch??? Too bad!

I never felt I could be that tough with my children--or grandchildren. No matter what they did (or didn’t do), I felt compelled to come to their aid. I thought that’s what loving parents did. But child-rearing experts recommend “tough love,” which requires parents to say, “I love you too much to allow you to continue behaving that way.” Now I see that nipping bad habits in the bud early on is much easier than trying to instill good habits in older children.

Tough love is painful for children and parents. Yet, it brings great rewards.  Even the Bible says so. Take Hebrews 12:11, for example, which says: Now no chastening [discipline] seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it" (emphasis added).

Note: We can also apply the "tough love" principle to ourselves!

So Brief!

When talking with my twenty-one-year-old grandson, I mentioned several goals I've set for myself this year, including walking 7500 steps (3 miles) most days so that by year's end I will have walked at least 500 miles.

I went on to say, "I don't like to sit around. You've noticed, haven't you, how whenever I do sit down to talk or watch a few minutes of educational TV that I reach for the bag that holds my yarn and crochet hook? That's because I like to make every minute count--for life passes by so fast."

Later that same day, I read words written by Moses centuries ago and marveled at how true they still are. After he'd commented on how brief this life is, even if we're privileged to live 70 or 80 years, Moses said to God, "Teach us to number our days [to realize the brevity of life], so that we may gain a heart of wisdom [grow in wisdom, especially in regard to how God wants us to live this life He has given us]" (Psalm 90: 10, 12, NKJV). 

Indeed, our days are passing by so quickly. May we use each one for God's glory and the good of others. 

Thursday, February 14, 2019

A Little Dab of Light

Normally, photographers love to have plenty of light when they're photographing. But professional photographer Joe Baraban, who also teaches on-line photography courses, recommends finding "a little dab" of sunlight in a dark scene. "When you find the light," he says, "you'll find the shot." 

To prove his point, he shares a photograph of an outdoor seating area. Most photographers would have thought the scene too dark and looked elsewhere for "the shot." But Joe saw a little dab of sunlight spilling through a small hole in the red umbrella/awning fabric and falling onto a white chair. That chair* became "the shot" because it contrasted beautifully with its dark surroundings.

As I reflected on that, I thought about how the apostle Paul urged those who of us who are children of God to talk and act in such a way that we will shine as lights in a society darkened by sin. (See Philippians 2:15). We may be quite ordinary, but even a little dab of light will make us stand out, in a beautiful way, like the chair Joe photographed or this rose that I photographed. 


*Note: To read Joe's article and see his photo visit: https://bpsop.com/category/blog/ 





Lessons from a 5K: #5--Do YOUR Best!


Note: This is the fifth in a series of posts. Click here to read the previous one.

As I mentioned in other posts in this series, I finished last in the 5K. On one hand, I'm embarrassed by that. On the other hand, I'm extremely proud of myself--for several reasons:

  • I finished the course even though my body begged me to give up.
  • I did something few, if any, people my age even attempted that cold February morning. 
  • I bettered my practice times by 30 minutes, so I was really giving it all I had--and on a course that had more hills than the one I'd trained on.
Lesson 5: Our opinions of ourselves change, depending on the standard of comparison we're using. There will always be people who perform far better than we do. Compared to them, we're a failure. There will always be people who don't perform as well as we do. Compared to them, we're doing great. Since we can never gain a true evaluation of ourselves by comparing ourselves to others, we do ourselves a great disservice if we do. We'll benefit far more if we always try to better our best--and celebrate that!

However, when it comes to evaluating our character, there is a standard of comparison that gives us a true picture of how we're doing. To remind me of that, I wrote this note many years ago in the front of my Bible: