Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Battle Rages On


Today's blog is one I originally posted in November of 2013.  And no, the leaves here have not yet started to turn, but I know some of you live in areas of the country where they are not only changing, they're already falling.  So in the spirit of autumn, my favorite season of the year, let's celebrate the leaves!

2 Chronicles 20:15
He said, "Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem!  This is what the Lord says to you:  'Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army.  For the battle is not yours, but God's.'"

Our house sits in the middle of a forest populated mainly by deciduous hardwoods.  We are smack dab in the middle of fall, and you know what that means.  Leaves!  Tons of them!  Raining from the sky.  Covering our decks.  Smothering our yard.

Fall isn't called 'fall' for nothing!

And when it comes to keeping the decks cleared and the yard clean, we have our work cut out for us.  I whisk away with the broom while my husband, Danny, wields the leaf blower.  Together, we tackle the onslaught.  Battle back the blitz of leaf troops which seem to gain ground daily.  Here is a pile I'm in the midst of sweeping up the other day after heavy winds and rain ushered in reinforcements.


And here is what the deck looked like just a day later.



The battle rages on . . .

And many days, I feel like the leaves are winning.  Even when I know that, eventually, all of them will have given up the ghost.  That I will, at some point, banish the last soldier off the deck and Danny will blow the last warrior from the yard.  The losing battle turned into a war won.

Wouldn't it be splendid if we could know that every battle we face on life's journey has a guaranteed winning outcome?  Unfortunately, when we fail to recognize God's goodness, even in the hard times, that's not the case.  We lose a loved one, lose a job, lose our health.  And it hurts.  Deeply.  We can be left feeling despondent and hopeless.

But it doesn't have to be that way.  All that can change when we stop clinging to our own methods for waging war against the enemy, and hand the battle over to God.  Waving our white flags.  Surrendering to His will.  Trusting in His ways.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. ~Romans 8:28

God cares.  He is with us.  He is able, ready and willing to aid us in every battle we face.

God makes is a win-win.  Every time!

Amen!

~

There will be no new post this coming Friday, but I'll be back with you all a week from today.  God bless!

Friday, October 13, 2017

He's Waiting for You


Luke 5:16
But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

This week has been a hectic one for me.  I babysit the grands three different days, meet with the young man whom I'm mentoring for his senior project at school, cart my son to work numerous times, and entertain separate visits from Danny's boys, Giovanni and Nicco.  And while none of these activities is unpleasant by any measure, my quiet time has really taken a hit.

You see, it's not enough for me to just have quiet time in the mornings, sipping my coffee and talking to God before anyone else is awake.  While the practice always gets my day off on the right foot, I need multiple intervals of silence throughout the day to keep me focused on and in tune with what the Lord might speak to my heart.

And if I don't get enough of that time?  Watch out!  My usually easy-going, calm self gives way to feelings of agitation, irritability and frustration.  In other words, I'm no fun to be around.

My alone time truly is for everyone's safety.

Jesus modeled this behavior perfectly for us.  Luke says in the verse above that our Lord often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.  Not occasionally, not intermittently, but OFTEN.  And we know how busy Jesus was, day in and day out, healing the sick, preaching the good news of God's kingdom, teaching His disciples and enjoying their company.

Still . . .

Jesus needed His quiet time.  Time to spend in solitude with His Father.  Time to commune, one-on-one, gathering strength and resolve, gleaning wisdom and guidance.

We all need that kind of quiet time.

So I ask you, in the sometimes frenetic pace of your own days, are you seeking out time to slow down and simply be with the Lord?  Allowing Him to nourish and replenish you?  Feeling His love and grace and mercy surround you like a healing balm?

My prayer for you today, my friends, is that you will intentionally withdraw from the world's chaos and demands, and joyfully bask in the presence of God.

He's waiting for you.

Amen!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

You Will Know the Truth


John 8:32
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

Today, I've chosen to share an excerpt from my second novel in the Adventures in The Glade series, Redemption.  The scene between eight-year-old Anna, Davy's sister, her mother, Kate, and stepdad, Jim, unfolds shortly after Pastor Mike Russell meets Racer, True Squirrel of the Old Ones, for the first time.  As you read, I hope you will meditate upon what God's truth means for your life.

"It certainly was wonderful having Pastor Mike visit with us," Kate remarked as she placed the remaining cookies into a Ziploc.  "But I do hope he won't tell others about Racer."

Jim chuckled at this.  "Kate, I don't think that young man will breathe a word about a talking squirrel who sings hymns with a heavenly voice.  Who would believe him if he were to tell?"

"I suppose you're right, honey," Kate admitted.  "He wouldn't want the congregation to think he'd gone daft."

Anna, who was sitting at the table, coloring her latest picture, piped up.  "Mom, what does 'daft' mean?"

"It means 'crazy' or 'nutty,' sweetie," she responded casually, and headed over to the sink where the dishes were soaking.

Anna slowly put down her crayon.  Her face donned a pensive expression and her mouth curled into a pout.  As he was sitting close to her, Jim witnessed her unexpected transformation from carefree little girl to one whose shoulders bore the weight of the world.  He allowed for a few minutes to pass before he spoke.  "Penny for your thoughts, Anna," he said kindly, patting her arm soothingly.  When she finally looked up at him, tears were standing in her eyes.

"Do you think Pastor Mike thought I was daft when I told him all about Racer?"  she asked.  Her voice trembled and one tear trickled down her freckled cheeks.

"Not at all," Jim said.  "He saw you as a young lady with an extremely active imagination, and he was right about that."

"But you know I didn't make it up," Anna protested.  "I told him the truth about Racer and the Old Ones.  And he saw Racer for himself!  Why would others not believe him if he told the truth?  Why would they think he was crazy?"

When she heard Anna's worried voice, Kate stopped washing dishes and returned to the table.  Now she tried her best to answer her daughter's questions by asking one.  "Honey, let's face it.  Aside from being here at this farm, this most magical and mystical of places, how many times has an animal spoken to you?"

"Never," Anna admitted ruefully.

"So if Davy had told you he could hear and see the Old Ones, yet none ever appeared to you or talked to you, would you believe him, or would you think he was making it all up?"

Anna hesitated a moment as she mulled over the question before her.  Ever since she could remember, Mom had stressed always telling the truth, even if it hurt because, she insisted, "the truth will set you free."  She recalled the one time when Davy told a whopper about acing a math test he had actually flunked.  When Mom found out about it from the teacher, she was so livid that she grounded Davy for an entire month and took away his television.  Anna was certain Davy had learned his lesson about telling the truth then and there.  She knew how to answer her mother.

"I would believe him," she said firmly.

"You would?"  Jim and Mom asked concurrently.

"Yes," she declared, "because I know Davy doesn't lie.  And I don't think Pastor Mike is a liar, either, do you?"

"Of course not, Anna," Mom said, "but if he were to share his experience with Racer, people might easily conclude that the poor man is a liar.  Surely, sweetie, you understand why ordinary folks would have a hard time believing in such extraordinary creatures.  You do understand, right?"

Anna heaved a sigh.  "No, I don't," she confessed, "not when you know the person telling you is known for telling the truth."

"Miss Priss," Jim began, "it's a sad fact, indeed, but there are some people who wouldn't know the truth if it sat there, big as life, and stared them in the face.  And then, there are those who do see the truth, but choose to turn away from it."

"But if it's the truth, why would they turn away from it?" Anna asked, more confused than ever.

Kate put her arms around her daughter.  "Because," she said, "they imagine the way of truth to be too difficult.  They want to live life on their own terms, not God's.  And that, honey, is a treacherous, dangerous row to hoe."

Amen, Kate!  Amen!

Friday, October 6, 2017

Having a Doggone Good Time!


Psalm 104:24
How many are your works, Lord!
In wisdom you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.

Ephesians 4:32
Instead, be kind to each other, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

When our oldest granddaughter, Virginia Rose, spends the weekend with us, we are fortunate to have sunny, but cool and breezy, weather.  It's just perfect for spending time outdoors!

"Virginia," I say, "how about riding over to Swift-Cantrell Park so you can play on the playground?"

She regards me quizzically.  "Do you mean the dog park, Gammie?"

I know there is an expansive fenced-in area for dogs to run free and interact with one another, but I'm a bit surprised, after Virginia's way-too-close encounter with an aggressive dog not long ago, that being near a dog would even appeal to her.

"You mean you actually want to go into the dog park?"  I ask.

"Yes, I love the dogs!"  Virginia declares, again to my wonderment, now sprinkled with delight, as I realize she has overcome her fear, and has decided canines are not such bad guys after all.

Virginia has forgiven the trespass. 

That sounds like a plan," I tell her.  "I love dogs, too."




























As I consider the amazing variety of dogs with whom we interact, I can't help but think how God, in His vast and sometimes whimsical wisdom, made them all.  Are there any scuffles among them while we are there?  One or two, but for the most part, as different as these dogs are, they all get along.  They are quick to forgive infractions, more interested in interacting positively with their peers, and grateful for the love the humans lavish upon them.

We would all do well to heed the lessons these pups so endearingly teach us.  And to learn from Virginia Rose's unconditional forgiveness, too.

Amen!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Only God


Isaiah 40:31
Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

I am reeling . . .

The news of the horrific shooting in Las Vegas hits me with a breath-knocked-out-of-me wallop Monday morning.  I am stunned.  In shock.

And so deeply grieving for the victims, their families, their friends, there are no words.

I'm penning this post Monday afternoon.  Reports at this time tell me the death toll is at 58 and over 500 people are suffering from injuries inflicted during the attack.

I cannot wrap my mind around it.  I cannot stop my heart from hurting.

But in the midst of pain and sadness, I hear the words of a caller to one of my favorite talk show hosts.  He opens by saying he is by no means comparing tragedies in his life to the magnitude of this latest one, but wishes to share an inspirational phrase that got him through the tough times:  Only God can turn a mess into a message.

Wow . . .

Yes, there is sadness and sorrow.  But we know, one day, God will wipe away every tear.

Yes, it appears as though evil has won the day, but we must remember that the Lord already has the victory.

And as despicable and heinous this murder spree is, we see a community, a city, a state, and a nation coming together in prayer for all those impacted by this violent, senseless act.

Prayer.

It is our most powerful weapon against Satan's wiles.

So let us continue to pray and pray and pray for those mourning the loss of their loved ones.

Pray that they may move forward, not in fear, but in hope.  Hope in the Lord who will be faithful to renew their strength.

Trusting that God will one day transform their heartbroken mess into a healed-heart message.

He is the only One who can.

Amen.

Friday, September 29, 2017

How Can I Be of Service?


John 13:14-15
And since I, the Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other's feet.  I have given you an example to follow; do as I have done to you.

Clark Howard is a nationally-syndicated talk show personality and consumer advocate.  His mission is to help people "save more, spend less, and avoid ripoffs."  What sets Clark apart from other radio hosts is the way he greets his callers.  After welcoming them by name to The Clark Howard Show, he says, "How can I be of service to you today?"

Not "How can I help you?" or "What's on your mind?" or "What can I do for you?"

"How can I be of service to you today?"

In a recent sermon, Pastor Graham, our new associate minister, points out that serving one another is the hallmark of living out our Christian calling.  He highlights the act of Jesus, on His last earthly evening with His disciples, washing the feet of His friends.  In Jesus' time, the washing of a person's feet is a job reserved for the lowest of the low in society.

But as He has done so many times throughout His ministry, Jesus turns everything on its head.  Perhaps, Graham suggests, with this startling and unexpected gesture, Jesus hammers home, in graphic physicality, what it means to truly follow Him.  Jesus' hope is that the lesson will stick with His disciples long after He is no longer with them.

Young Davy, the protagonist in my novels, The Glade Series and Adventures in The Glade, learns what it means to serve from a wise and savvy Mrs. Racer, True Squirrel of the Old Ones.  They are at a banquet in Davy's honor when the boy stops her.

"Mrs. Racer," he asked, placing his hand tentatively on her shoulders.  She stopped immediately and turned toward him.
"Yes, Davy?"
"How will you get to eat and drink if you're so busy serving?"
"Don't you worry your head over that, dear," she assured him.  "There is always plenty to go around, and the time will come for dining when all else is tended to."
"But it's such hard work," he insisted.  "How can serving be considered an honor when you get left out of all the fun?"
A mist rose in her eyes and she blinked, her lashes longer than Racer's, and a peaceful expression was on her face.
"When we serve, we imitate our Lord," she said simply.  "That is why I am honored today.  It is a day I will remember fondly and forever."

Yes, Mrs. Racer, that's it exactly!

And as Pastor Graham so aptly sums it up:  "The impulse to serve is at the very heart of God."

May each of us cultivate, with God's help, a heart that longs to serve.

Amen!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Working at Living

John 10:10
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.

What are you going to do when you retire?

That's a question commonly asked by friends and coworkers when they hear you're planning to exit the workforce for good.  My husband, Danny, who officially retired from EPA on August 31st, after 26 years of service, fields this one repeatedly.  His response?  "I'll figure it out.  I've got plenty of things to do."

Folks, in this, my year of HUGE, Danny's answer just might be the most gargantuan understatement of the year!

Being an engineer, Danny has always had a knack for organization.  He's already tackled our cupboards, our pantry and our linen/medicine closet.  Here he is decluttering the latter:


Boy, am I ever grateful for Danny's ability and willingness to arrange our home for the better!  But what elicits the most thankfulness in me is his unbridled burst of creativity at the Orlando Cafe.  The chief chef has transformed into Master Chef!  Pictured below are some exquisite dishes Danny has never prepared before retiring, and each one is as scrumptious and savory as it appears.













Although Danny's made mac and cheese, collards and turnips many times before, the miso flavor in the turnips offers a unique twist on an otherwise rather bland veggie.

And no Italian kitchen would be complete without homemade pasta!








But here's the real kicker, y'all!  Danny, who rarely makes desserts, and who never, ever has tried his hand at homemade bread, does both!!!





Should we change "Orlando Cafe" to "Orlando Cafe and Bakery?  Maybe so!

Yes, it looks like Danny is well on his way to working at a living.

And isn't that precisely what Jesus wants all of us to do?

I came that they may have life, and have it to the full . . .

Not half-hearted, half-baked, lukewarm living.  But all-out, headlong, go for the gusto living.

That's what Jesus promises us.  That's what we get when we trust He will deliver on that promise.

Retired or not, may we all recognize, celebrate and give thanks for the abundant life our Lord offers to us each and every day.

Let's live it out!

Amen!

The Battle Rages On

Today's blog is one I originally posted in November of 2013.  And no, the leaves here have not yet started to turn, but I know some o...