Tuesday, July 30, 2013

"Coppa-head!"


Genesis 3:15
" . . . And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel."

There is a small park at the entrance of our neighborhood.  It has swings and slides and is mostly shaded.  A creek runs through it, too, and a sturdy, wooden bridge allows visitors to cross from the parking lot to the park itself.












I decide it's a perfect place to take my granddaughter, Virginia Rose, one afternoon when she is staying with us.  She's all excited about the swings and slides, but what holds her interest the most is the creek.  It dawns on me that she has never seen one!







So, after a cursory run-through on the playground equipment, back to the bridge we go where Virginia proceeds to gather small pieces of gravel from the parking lot to toss into the water.  She is fascinated with the variety of plops and splashes they make, depending upon how large the rocks are and where they happen to land in the stream.

The water is somewhat shallow at this part of the creek as you can tell in the photos above.  So, I take Virginia by the hand to view a deeper part where our stones can have a better impact.  She is happily tossing the rocks when I notice it.




A brown snake is coiled motionless on a tree branch suspended over the water, sunning itself.  Not even the splish-splash of our falling stones disturbs its rest.  I begin to think it might be dead.

It takes some doing to convince Virginia that it's time to go home.  She so wants to see that snake move!  But, it's hot, the bugs are feasting (on me), and she finally relents when I promise we'll make another visit to the creek soon.

Gammie keeps that promise.  A few days later, we're back at the park.  Forget the playground!  All Virginia wants to do is return to the place we saw the brown snake.

"I don't think he'll be there, Virginia," I tell her, "but let Gammie check anyway."

I peer over the edge of the bank.  There's the branch, but it's empty just as I thought.



I lean out just a bit further, and my heart leaps to my throat.  Curled on a sun-warmed boulder below is a copperhead!!!


One of the most venomous snakes in our region, and definitely not one with which to have a close encounter!

"Virginia, we can't throw rocks in this part of the creek today.  Let me pick you up and I'll show you why."  I carry her to a spot where she has a good, and safe, view of this dangerous reptile.  Her eyes widen.  "See?  That's a copperhead.  It would hurt you something awful.  We don't want to do anything to stir him up.  We'll just have to be satisfied with throwing rocks from the bridge today."

And, as we do so, my eyes are continually darting everywhere, on the lookout for a slithering snake, with stomach in knots the entire time.  I decide this will be our last visit to the park until cold weather sets in.

When we get home, Virginia runs up to my husband, Danny, all excited.  "Papa!  Papa!  Snake!  S-s-s-s-s-s!  Coppa-head!  Coppa-head!"

"Would you like to see some pictures of copperheads on the computer?"  I ask her.  I really want to make sure Virginia knows exactly what this snake looks like should she ever see one in the future.

"Yep, Gammie."

I think we see every available photo of a copperhead that Google Images has to offer.  But, I'm convinced Virginia now knows how to recognize one, and will definitely keep her distance.

~

Our world is fraught with dangers.  As parents and grandparents, we do all in our power to protect our children and grandchildren.  But, it is also important, as they grow, to equip them with knowledge which helps them avoid perils and pitfalls.

That's what God, our Heavenly Parent, has done for us through His Word.  The Bible is our road map, our guide, our beacon in navigating the treacherous waters of this life.  To avoid Satan's poisonous bite.

To live a life filled with grace and hope, knowing we are loved by the Lord of the Universe, feeling His protective arms surrounding us.

~

Have you ever had a too-close encounter with a dangerous creature?  Please share in the comment section.

Will you pray with me?
Father, we are so grateful for the gift of Your Word to guide us through this life and help us to live in ways that are pleasing in Your sight.  May we daily seek Your presence through prayer and Scripture.  Amen.

Friday, July 26, 2013

"Celebrate! Celebrate! Dance to the Music!"


Luke 15:23
Bring the fattened calf and kill it.  Let's have a feast and celebrate.

Birthdays are a special time of celebration and rejoicing in the life of a loved one.  Last Sunday, we gather to honor our beautiful granddaughter, Virginia Rose's, third birthday.  What fun we have!

We weren't planning to have anything at the party but dinner, presents, and a cake.  Then, when searching for the cake plate in a high-up cupboard, my husband, Danny, finds items tucked away in a plastic bag.  How festive!


Even my mascot, Mr. Squirrel, wants in on the action!




I've wrapped Virginia's gifts the day before and place them on the hearth where she's sure to notice them the moment she walks through the door.  We figure she'll go for the balloon first, and she does!


Next?  Well, Virginia really gets into the birthday hats and party horns.  These keep her happy and occupied while the adults eat dinner.











Then, it's time for presents!!!























Last, but certainly not least, we present Virginia with her birthday cake.  I know, I know!  Very pink!  But, that's the icing she asks for, and this Gammie aims to please.  She's enjoying every mouthful!













Virginia Rose's third birthday is a resounding success!

~

Do you have a favorite birthday party memory?

Will you pray with me?
We thank You, Father, for those special times in our lives which call for feasting and celebration.  May the joys of those days point to the heavenly feast and celebration we will one day share with You in Heaven.  Amen.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

One in Christ Jesus


Galatians 3:28
There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Our pastors, Wallace and Emily, are currently preaching a series of congregational-choice sermons, tackling topics which church members want to see addressed.  Whether by chance or design, Pastor Emily gets one of the toughest, touchiest issues out there:  Creation versus Evolution.  Ouch!  I think if you took a "pastor poll," the majority of ministers would opt to preach on the Book of Revelation rather than open this can of worms!

Nonetheless, Emily approaches the matter, boldly and bravely, beginning with a story from her youth.  She is in sixth grade and is attending a confirmation retreat.  Finding it difficult to sleep, she tunes into a conversation two adults are having in the hallway.

"Can you believe she said she believes in evolution?  How can she call herself a Christian?"

"I have no idea.  Satan's been messing with her head, that's for sure."

Emily is shocked.  Beside herself.  Can't a Christian love the Lord and still believe in the possibility, the probability, of evolution?  I love dinosaurs!  Does this mean I'm not fit to be a Christian?

Full of worry and questions when she arrives home, Emily tells her mother what she overheard at the retreat.  Her mother listens patiently, and gives one of the best answers I've ever heard concerning this subject.

"Emily, Jesus taught us through stories we call parables, didn't He?"

"Yes, He did."

"What if, in the Old Testament, God is telling us about Creation through a story?  One we can all understand and relate to as human beings?"

Emily is more than satisfied with her mother's take on the situation.  It makes perfect sense!

Continuing with her sermon, Pastor Emily steers us from here to the importance of accepting each other as Christians, even when we don't see eye-to-eye on societal, scientific or political issues.

"Relationships suffer when someone becomes obsessed with the need to be 'right' about everything.  Being 'right' means somebody else is 'wrong.'  That attitude fosters division in families and congregations.  I know a family where the siblings no longer speak to each other because of opposing political views.  They profess to be Christians, but are they acting like it?

"To paraphrase Paul's statement in Galatians 3:28 using modern examples, I say there is neither Republican nor Democrat, neither black nor white, neither rich nor poor, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  And, you are all loved equally by an awesome, forgiving, Creator God who made you to be in relationship with Him."

Amen, Pastor Emily, amen!


~

Was it ever so important to you to be "right" that you lost relationships over it?

Will you pray with me?
Heavenly Father, Creator God, You sent Your Son, Christ Jesus, that we all may be one with You.  Help us to look past the opinions and perceptions of others, to see them with Your eyes and love them with Your heart.  May we soon see the day when unity is restored in Your church.  Amen.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Reunion


Psalm 30:5
For his anger lasts only a moment,
but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may stay for the night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning.

I'm so excited!  My 40th high school reunion is just around the corner!  I can't wait to see so many friends from days gone by, to reconnect in a personal way which Facebook simply can't duplicate.  To relive memories and celebrate the people we are in the now.

To rejoice in renewed friendships.  To cherish each moment of sharing we are given at this gathering.  To remember, with love, those classmates no longer with us . . .

We are all busy exchanging information and chatting with one another on our Facebook invite page, everyone pitching in to find "lost" classmates and staying up-to-date with who is planning to attend.  In the midst of this, I receive a private, precious message from my dear friend, Mimi:  "So excited to see you in just a short time.  I remember how sad you were at the 30th.  God has certainly repaid what the locusts have eaten and granted you great joy."

Wow . . . I had actually forgotten how sad I was in years gone by!  And, had been for several years after my husband, John, passed away unexpectedly in 1997.  My joy had already returned when I attended that 30th reunion, but when asked about the past?  Well, I guess everything came tumbling out . . .

And, yes, those first years after losing John are anything but easy.  I miss him so much.  Life seems surreal and empty.  I struggle with my faith.  I wrestle with God.

Sure, I muddle through each day.  Moving forward, step by baby step. Comforted and encouraged by the of my children, my friends, and my family.

But, something is missing.  I can't put my finger on it.  I still trust in the Lord. I believe, as my father once told me, that God makes no mistakes.  (Though, I must confess, I railed against Him more than once for deciding it was John's time to go home.)

Still, I remain in the night of weeping.

Until . . .

One evening at children's choir rehearsal, our pianist, Cathy, rewards the kids' hard work with a rollicking song.

I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart . . .

The children are dancing, leaping, clapping, and singing at the top of their lungs.  And, in an instant, my soul is flooded with the radiant light of joy!  God's joy!

What was lost within me now is found!

The weeping ceases.  Instead, I celebrate the gift God gave me in John.

For I know that one bright morning when this life is over, there will be a reunion of our souls in Christ Jesus.

~

Have you ever attended a high school reunion?  Share your experiences in the comments below.

Will you pray with me?
We thank You, Father, for the beautiful souls You have placed in our lives at different times and seasons.  May we rest assured that we will one day be reunited with those we love and who loved us.  Grant to all who have passed before us lives of perfect service in Your heavenly kingdom.  Amen.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

"I Sowwy, Gammie!"


2 Corinthians 7:9
. . . yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance.  For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us.

Our granddaughter, Virginia Rose, will be three-years-old in less than a week, and she's growing by leaps and bounds in every measurable way.  One area in which she has shown monumental progress over the last year is talking.  It's hard to believe that, at one point, we were all concerned about this as Virginia demonstrated she understood what we said to her, but wasn't responding verbally.

We can kiss that worry good-bye!  From the minute she enters our house until the moment she leaves, Virginia is a delightful chatterbox.  And, her vocabulary use and pronunciation improves daily.

One phrase she's mastered is, "I sowwy," when she realizes she's done something she shouldn't.  When Virginia visits us recently, she says this every time she lets a BB roll off the table and expects this Gammie to fetch them.

"Virginia," my husband, Danny, says rather sternly, "When you say, 'I'm sorry,' it also means that you won't do this again."

"I sowwy, Papa."

But, this lesson is far from sticking.

On her next visit, Virginia is at the table, messing around with her Play-Doh and BBs, when I get up to make some coffee.  The minute my back is turned, I hear them.  The rattling, tip-tip-tap of renegade BBs hitting the wood floor.

"Virginia!"  I lament, though not unkindly.

"I sowwy, Gammie."

I have to chuckle.  "Virginia, you're getting really good at saying, 'I'm sorry,' but not doing anything about it."

Without missing a beat, she responds, "I know!"

~

How many times have we apologized to someone for a wrongdoing, but didn't change our ways?  Maybe, we said, "I'm sorry," simply to placate another or smooth over a situation for the time being.  Our words came easy, but our hearts and minds harbored insincerity.

St.  Paul makes it crystal clear in 2 Corinthians 7:9 - Being sorry means nothing unless we repent.  Unless we realize the deeds committed must cease.  Unless we seek true forgiveness with contrite and humble hearts.

And, realize that apologies are only as good as our follow through.

~

Have you ever told someone, "I'm sorry," and not meant it?

Please join me in prayer:
Help us, Father, to be sincere when we apologize to others.  Let our words come from hearts which understand that true forgiveness comes from true repentance.  May we always bear in mind Your great gift through Your Son, Christ Jesus, of forgiveness for our sins.  Amen.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Drowning!


John 14:27
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

To say we've had a lot of rain in Georgia this summer is definitely an understatement.  We've been inundated.  Soaked. Flooded.  Swamped.  Lest any of you think I'm complaining at this point, I'm not.  After three scorching and bone-dry summers of drought, the rain is a welcome relief to our region.

During one of our downpours, I look out on our deck and discover that one of our potted impatiens isn't draining properly.  In fact, it's drowning!  The water is literally lapping at the lip of the pot.

As soon as the rain lets up, I go outside, pour the excess water off the beleaguered plant, and set it under the eaves where it won't get any direct rainfall.  This seems to do the trick as new buds are forming on it, promising beautiful lavender blooms within the week.

Have you had times in your life when troubles rained down so hard and fast, you felt like the poor impatiens, standing up to your neck in the murky waters?  Full of fear, or worry, or anxiety?  Thinking that, at any moment now, you will drown?

Been there.  Done that.

And, it happens when we cling to our tribulations instead of running to God at the first onset of rain.  Asking Him to drain us of all our fears.  To put us in a safe and sheltered place where we can recover.  Where we can rest in Him.

Jesus says, "Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."  I don't think He meant this as a suggestion.  This is a direct instruction.  Because, as believers, we know that nothing, nothing can separate us from the love of God.  Though the world may shower troubles and worries and woes upon us, we will never endure them alone.

God is there.  He is with us.  He wants to shoulder our burdens, to rescue us from the muddy waters.

The Lord gives us the courage to continue on, living in His light.  In His promise.

In His love . . .

~

Are you drowning in a sea of troubles?  Will you turn to God for help?

Please join me in prayer:
When troubles rain down on us, Father, may we always turn to You to calm our fears and soothe our hearts.  Let us ever know Your peace which passes all understanding.  Amen.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Standing in the Gap


Matthew 6:8
Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

The people directly involved with our contemporary praise service, "The Way," are all key in making our time of worship run smoothly.  There are four of us in the band:  David on drums; Rob on bass; Danny on guitar and lead vocals, and myself on guitar/percussion and harmony.  Then, there's Dave, our sound tech, who makes sure each service is correctly recorded and the sound levels balanced.  His wife, Angie, runs our slide show which Danny creates each week. This is absolutely essential as the words to the songs are on the screen so the congregation can join in.  Their two sons, Bradford and Preston, are our faithful "roadies" who help us set up/break down our equipment so we can make way for the 11:00 service.

Needless to say, when any one person in this modest entourage is absent, it leaves a gap.  A huge gap!  Everyone has a job to do.  Everyone is essential.

One Sunday recently, David tells Danny that he will be out of town the following weekend.  No drummer!  In light of this, Danny selects songs which he feels we can carry in David's absence, although none of us is looking forward to leading worship without him.

Two days later, Angie lets Danny know that their family won't be available that same Sunday as they are going on vacation.  Yikes!  Panic mode!

Danny contacts Chris, our marvelous music minister, informing him of our plight.  Chris doesn't skip a beat.  He secures Scott, a relatively new member of our church, to man the sound system, and recruits Scott's wife, Ann, to run the slide show.  Whew!  At least that end is covered!  We'll still have to set up/break down by ourselves and deal with no drummer.  But, we are immeasurably grateful for the help.

When we are about ten minutes away from beginning the service, Danny sets up his laptop for the slide show and briefs Ann on how to run it.  He smiles and gives a thumbs-up to Scott who is behind her in the sound booth.

"So glad you can help us out today," Danny tells him.  "The only thing missing today is the drummer."

Scott's face beams.  "I play drums."

Danny is floored.  "You're kidding?  Really?  And, you'd be willing to try this without practice?"

"Sure," Scott assures him.  "If Chris has some extra drumsticks around here, we can go back to the music equipment room and run through the selections."

"I'm game if you are," an elated Danny responds.  "We'll just leave the soundboard on automatic and hope for the best.  Let's go!"

There's no time to lose!  Chris, thankfully, rounds up the drumsticks, and Scott and Danny beat a hasty retreat to the music room where they can hurriedly, and I mean hurriedly, review the songs.  They have less than five minutes!!!

With 30 seconds to go before launching service, I scoot to the room to let them know they are out of time.  And, I say a prayer.

More than one . . .

Wow!  Scott is fantastic!  Sure, we miss some song endings, but without practice, what could anyone expect?  He follows Danny's lead beautifully and keeps the perfect beat during our songs.  And, the congregation?  Loved every minute of it!

Once again, our precious Lord, who knows our needs before we ask, stands in the gap.  Thanks be to God!

~

When has God met your needs before you asked?

Will you pray with me?
We thank you, Father, for knowing our needs before we ask, and for providing us with every good thing.  May we ever seek first Your kingdom, secure in the knowledge that You love us and will shower us with blessings we could never have expected nor imagined.  Amen.

Friday, July 5, 2013

In This Moment . . .


Matthew 11:25
At that time, Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children."

When you were a child, did you enjoy playing with Play-Doh?  I have such fond memories of forming shapes and creatures with this malleable, resilient medium.  As my granddaughter, Virginia Rose is almost three, I decide it's high time to introduce her to the wonder and creativity Play-Doh offers.

"Gammie bought you some Play-Doh," I tell Virginia on her most recent visit.  "You can make all kinds of things with it.  Would you like to try it?"

Her eyes grow big with expectation and curiosity.  "Yep, Gammie," she replies, always ready for something new.

As I peel the cardboard holder back from the separate containers, Virginia names the first color revealed.  "Yewoah," she says.  I duly open up the yellow and dump to soft lump on the parchment paper I've spread on the table.  I pinch off a piece and hand it to her, then pinch off one for me.  I show her how to roll it around between her palms to make a ball.  She is fascinated!

We run through all five colors, making little balls with each one.  Next, I show Virginia how to flatten a piece of Play-Doh and use the little animal imprints on the lids to make an impression.  Of course, since she loves cats, she wants to use the kitty mold first.  Her initial attempt is anything but stellar.

"You see, Virginia, you have to push down hard, like this," I tell her, and show her how by placing her hand on top of mine, letting her feel the force I'm using.

"Baby try," she says.

And, this time, success!


Virginia is so enthralled with making impressions and experimenting with different colors and shapes, I decide this is an excellent time to grab my camera while she doesn't need Gammie to entertain her.  Here are some of her Play-Doh moments.











And, as I click away, capturing her rapt expressions, I am overwhelmed by how completely Virginia lives in the moment.  There is no yesterday.  There is no tomorrow.

There is only today.  The here and now.

And, in her simply being a child, Virginia reveals to me the secret of living life to the fullest - being present, aware, awake, and alive in every precious moment God gives to us.

~

What have you learned through watching a child at play?

Will you pray with me?
We praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for revealing Your truths through Your precious little ones.  Like them, let us savor and give thanks in each moment You give us, not worrying about tomorrow or wallowing in our past, but trusting that You are in control and will lead us in Your light.  Amen.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

It's a Bird! It's a Plane! It's Super Squirrel!


Psalm 104:27-28
All creatures look to you
to give them their food at the proper time.
When you give it to them,
they gather it up;
when you open your hand,
they are satisfied with good things.

Last September, my husband, Danny, and I decide to move our bird feeder from the front yard to the back.  You can read all the reasons why here.  This set up seems more attractive to the birds and, of course, the squirrels who feast on the seed which the birds continually scatter on the ground.

But, there is a problem.  One we never would have imagined could happen.

And extremely bright and agile squirrel, whom I dub "Super Squirrel," figures out that he can leap from the trunk of the supporting tree to the feeder.  As ours is a "squirrel-buster," we don't think the little rascal can actually score the food.

Then, one morning, an astonished Danny hustles in from the deck.  "Martha!  You've got to see this!  You won't believe it!"

I hurry outside.  Danny points to the feeder.

"Look at him!  He's hanging upside down and gobbling the seed!"

At first, I can't believe what I'm seeing.  This stunt is absolutely over the top!  This cunning, crafty critter has figured out how to bust the squirrel-buster!  Genius!  I think even Grey would be impressed!

But, if we don't do something to move the feeder farther from that tree, Super Squirrel will continue to hog the birdseed and scare the birds away.  Being the engineer that he is, Danny begins formulating a plan.  I can see those wheels turning . . .

So, last Father's Day, Danny and son, Giovanni, acquire the necessary tools and equipment to get the job done.  I watch with interest, eager to see what they come up with.






























































Mission accomplished!

The good news?  No more Super Squirrel leaping upon the feeder!  The plastic-coated metal lines make excellent perches for the birds before they fly and flutter to claim their food.  And, we are now seeing more birds that ever before!

And, the squirrels?  Oh, you all know the soft spot I have in my heart for them!  I make sure there is always that extra, fresh seed on the ground for them, too.  After all, don't they deserve to be satisfied with good things, too?


~
Are you are a birdwatcher?  What is the most amazing bird you have ever seen?

Will you pray with me?
All Your creatures, Father, look to You to give them the food they need to survive and to thrive.  You satisfy them with good things.  May we, Your children, have faith and trust that You will always provide for us, knowing Your gracious hand is opened to us.  Amen.

My Prayer Corner

Acts 2:42 They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Do you have...