Friday, January 12, 2018

Dance, Dance, Wherever You May Be . . .


Psalm 149:3
Let them praise God's name with dance; let them sing God's praise with the drum and lyre!

There are few novels I've read in my adult life that begged a second go round.  These are Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, C. S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia, and Glynn Young's first two books in his Dancing Priest SeriesDancing Priest and A Light Shining.  So imagine my excitement and sheer delight when I learn Young has written a third book in this series, Dancing King.

It is everything I could have hoped for, and then some!

The novel continues the story of Michael and Sarah Kent-Hughes, with their families and friends, as they embark upon the most challenging journey of their lives:  Being crowned King and Queen of Great Britain.  While Young provides ample background information, allowing Dancing King to stand on its own merit, I cannot stress enough to my readers the value of engaging in the preceding novels first.  They will provide a rich and complex tapestry of understanding that allows one to deeply appreciate Dancing King for the outstanding novel it is.

So instead of simply reviewing Young's latest and greatest, the "crowning glory," if you will, I wish to share with you the reasons I'm head-over-heels enchanted by his writing in the first place.

Young is a masterful storyteller.  He creates three-dimensional characters, who are believable in every way, and who face many life-changing choices and decisions.  I fell in love with chief protagonist, Michael Kent, the moment he appeared on the page, and later with the beautiful Sarah, with whom Michael is smitten.  Then there are literally hosts of other richly crafted players, who add depth and drama to the story, some good, some downright evil, but all well-developed and unique.

And the plots?  Young keeps you guessing as he leads you brilliantly from one scenario to the next.  The reader is treated to love and laughter, mystery and intrigue, tears and fears, and all-too-real dangers that loom in all three novels.

But the overriding theme I find in all of Young's masterpieces is the unabashed testament to Christian faith and the power of prayer.  Again and again, we witness Michael, an Anglican priest, showing others the love of Jesus through his acts of kindness, forgiveness and forbearance.  He embodies perfectly what it means to be a Christian in the world, but not of it.

If you are a believer, these novels are guaranteed to jump start your faith walk, and breathe new life into your prayer practice.  And if you are not a believer?  Father, and now King Michael, might speak directly to your heart and soul in ways you never imagined possible.

And you just might find yourself dancing along with Michael, in praise to the Father.

Amen!

You can purchase all three of Glynn Young's novels at his blog, Faith, Fiction, Friends.  And for further accolades for his books, and to order them, visit his dedicated website:  Dancing Priest.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Amazing Chef


Proverbs 22:6
Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

About two years ago, while visiting with us, our granddaughter, Virginia Rose, watches an episode of Master Chef Junior with my husband, Danny.  She is enthralled seeing children as young as nine creating dishes most adults can only dream of making.  When the show ends, Virginia asks wistfully, "Papa, can you make me a Master Chef?"

Danny chuckles.  "Wait until you are a little bit older, Virginia, and yes, then I'll be happy to teach you how to cook."

Now that Virginia is seven, we both feel she's ready to embark on her journey to becoming a future chef.  This is one of the gifts she receives for Christmas.


This kit may look childish on the outside, but it's definitely not.  All the tools, utensils and measuring cups/spoons are just what you'd expect to find in an adult kitchen.  Virginia is so excited to begin her first real cooking lesson with her Papa.  The recipe they choose?  Lemon cookies!

Danny shows Virginia how to grease the cookie sheet.



Checking her new apron pockets for her tools of the trade.


Holding her bright red cup measure while Papa pours the sugar.


The mixer, which she turned on, is whirring away,


While Virginia looks on thoughtfully.


Cracking an egg like an expert!


Adding the egg to the sugar mixture


Here comes the vanilla!


Watching closely what Papa is doing


Squeeze that lemon!


Now for the flour mixture


More measuring, and trying out her brand new whisk




Virginia defers to Danny to actually get the cookies onto the sheet, but she's all in the game when it comes to making icing.  Yum!


And the final product?  See for yourself!


Virginia is so proud of herself, and so she should be.  Each time she visits, Danny plans to engage her in some baking/cooking activity.  Who knows?  With this kind of start in the right direction, perhaps Virginia will one day be an amazing chef.

Just like her Papa!


Amen!


Friday, January 5, 2018

Breathe on Me, Breath of God


Genesis 2:7
Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

The breath of life . . .

How many of us pay attention to our breathing?  It is something that transpires within us automatically.  It is a function of living.  We don't need to think about it.

Or do we?

On Thanksgiving morning of last year, I awake at my mother's home with searing pain in the right side of my neck and shoulder.  Agony is too kind a word to describe the sensation.  It is all I can do to maneuver the 11 pound turkey into the roasting pan and place it in the oven in preparation for the rest of the family arriving at noon.  My granddaughter, Virginia Rose, witnessing the frequent grimaces on my face, is so worried about me.  I reassure her that I'll be fine, but I'm popping Tylenol more liberally than I care to admit.

And I question in prayer, "Lord, where did this come from?  Why the sudden onslaught of excruciating discomfort?  Is this my thorn in the side?  Why now, when Mom needs my help so badly?  Please, it it's Your will, let this pain depart."

It abates.  Slightly.  But it seems, as I drive home after the Thanksgiving holiday, it is determined to persist.

As this condition continues, my husband, Danny, who has been faithfully visiting a chiropractor, Dr. Cris, for treatment of his right shoulder, which seemed to practically lock up in reaction to his many recent surgeries in that area of his body, advises me to try the same.  "Martha, it can't hurt to try.  I have so much more movement in my shoulder since I began this treatment.  I'm sure Dr. Cris can help.  Trust me."

I trust.

And I am not disappointed.

By the second visit, Dr. Cris has figured out the source of my distress.  She explains:  "Martha, this is not so much an issue of spinal alignment as it is your body trying to readjust to being normal and in sync with its former rhythms.  With all Danny and you endured this past year, you have been in 'fight or flight' mode for months.  Now that things have calmed down, your muscles simply don't know what to do as they try to relax and adjust.  This is where the treatments will help, but you need to do something else that will accelerate healing."

"What's that?"  I ask, desperate to know.

"It's as simple as breathing," says Dr. Cris.  "We naturally breathe using our diaphragms until we reach the age of ten, or so.  Somehow, at this time, we forget how we are meant to breathe, and begin to send all our efforts to the lungs.  It's time to reeducate yourself, train yourself to breathe correctly.  I promise, this will not only calm you on the inside, but will heal you in the long run."

Dr. Cris then gives me a simple exercise to begin monitoring my breathing and become more aware of the process.  Am I skeptical?  Yes.  But I'm willing, in my current condition, to try anything.

And guess what?

It works!!!

Yes, I am still practicing, thinking, being conscious of my breathing, but lo and behold, my pain has lessened substantially, and I now catch myself diaphragm-breathing even when I'm not purposely attempting it!

So is it any wonder that my word for 2018, the one which chose me, is Breathe?  And as I work through the year to master this peaceful and fulfilling method of breathing, I will also cherish the knowledge that God first breathed life into me that I might fulfill His purposes for me on earth.

So stop right where you are, my friends.

Take several deep breaths from the bottom of your "tummy."

And tell me how you feel.

May the breath of God breathe blessings upon you all in the New Year and beyond!

Amen!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Wise Men Still Seek Him


Matthew 2:9-12
After they heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.  When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.  On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.  Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

Epiphany, or Three Kings' Day, occurs twelve days after Christmas Day according to liturgical church calendars.  It is the time when we recall the Magi's visit to Jesus with their precious gifts, worshiping and paying homage to Him as King of the Jews (Matthew 2:2).

While in many cultures throughout the world, Epiphany is regarded as a holiday to be celebrated unto itself, in American tradition, the Wise Men are, more often than not, reduced to being cameos in a nativity scene.  Their arrival in Bethlehem, instead of occurring months or possibly years after Jesus' birth as some scholars contend, becomes simultaneous with the appearance of the Son of God into the world.

And after Christmas Day is past, most families hustle and bustle to dismantle all the decorations, storing them safely away before the New Year rolls around.  Stashing the three Wise Men along with the rest, though their official day of recognition and remembrance has yet to come.

Not me.

Not this year.

Not in any future year.

No more putting-up-the-tree and frantically decorating the day after Thanksgiving.

Because Christmas Day doesn't end the season of Christmas, it begins it.  Twelve days.  Twelve glee-filled, glorious, lights-twinkling, deck-the-halls days to celebrate the coming of the Light of the World.

I think it's high time to revive this tried and true tradition.

So although I will take down the decorations the day before Epiphany, my handsome trio of Wise Men will remain on display until the sun goes down on their special day.

After all, being the first ones to recognize Jesus as the one and only King, they deserve their moment in the spotlight.







And thanks be to God, like the Magi of old, wise men and women still seek Him.

Amen!

Friday, December 15, 2017

Joyful! Joyful!


Savannah Jane and Alexandra Nancy embracing the first snow flakes.

Psalm 68:3
But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful.

Christmas is right around the corner!  But for our three granddaughters, Christmas comes early with the huge (my word for this soon to be defunct year) snowstorm we have last weekend.  For Virginia Rose, snow isn't an unfamiliar experience, but you'd never know it by the excitement she exudes.



'
For her little sisters, this is an entirely fresh and unique adventure.  Their happy, joyful expressions say it all.








The light in their eyes and the glow on their faces remind me of children seeing presents under the tree on Christmas morning.  Such excitement!  Such glee and gladness!

Such unbridled wonder at God's amazing winter gift!

My prayer for all of you, dear friends, is that this Christmas will kindle anew in you all the glee and gladness, wonder and joy of a child as we celebrate once again God's greatest gift to us all.

The gift of Jesus.

Our Savior.

Our Lord.

May you all have a Merry and Blessed Christmas!  I will see you again in the New Year!

Amen!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Was I Dreaming of a White Christmas?


1 Thessalonians 5:1-3
There is no need to write you, friends, about the times and occasions when these things will happen.  For you yourselves know very well that the Day of the Lord will come as a thief comes at night.  When people say, "Everything is quiet and safe," then suddenly destruction will hit them!  It will come as suddenly as the pains that come upon a woman in labor, and people will not escape.

As a thief comes at night . . .

It could be said, and then some, about the thief of a snow storm that recently hits our region of Georgia.  Our trusted weather gurus, with all their state-of-the-art computer model predictors at their disposal, completely miss the mark.

Completely!

With forecasts ranging between a dusting and a possible 1 -2 inch accumulation, we here in Kennesaw end up with eight whole inches!


And that's just the snow that collected on elevated surfaces.  The consensus is that at least eleven inches fell in totality.  Everything "quiet and safe?"  Hardly!

Oh, yes, it starts out harmlessly enough.




But as the day goes on, it's snow, snow and more snow!




We know we are indefinitely stuck in our Little House in the Big Woods, with its Driveway of Death and Cul-de-sac of Doom!


Yet, we feel so blessed.  We have power, while many of our neighbors, unfortunately in these freezing temperatures, go without.  We have the obligatory bread and milk on hand, and thankfully, many other provisions.  And we are hemmed in on all sides by breathtaking scenery.








As I reflect upon the pristine beauty of freshly fallen snow, the unexpected and early white Christmas I always dream about, I'm reminded once again that the season of Advent is not just about Jesus coming into the world as a helpless baby.  It is about His coming again in glory, to rule once and for all as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Coming when we least expect it . . .

So let us be watching.  Waiting.  Aware.  Awake.

For the Day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.  May it not, like the snowstorm, catch us off guard.

Amen.

Dance, Dance, Wherever You May Be . . .

Psalm 149:3 Let them praise God's name with dance; let them sing God's praise with the drum and lyre! There are few novels I&#...