Friday, August 30, 2013

Disconnect to Reconnect


Genesis 20:8
Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.

Last Friday, my blog post describes my decision to make every Sunday internet-free.  Judging by the comments, it turns out I'm hardly alone when it comes to thinking a break is a wise idea.  I find the success stories of others both comforting and encouraging as I face the uncertainties of a day without social media.  They assure me that it can, indeed, be done and is well worth the effort.

So, as one inquiring mind wished to know, how did my Sabbath rest go?  Far better than I could have ever envisioned!

Now, I won't say I didn't have the urge to get on the internet.  It's such a reflexive habit!  I had to keep reminding myself of the commitment I made.  Yet, as the day progressed, I thought less and less about it and truly enjoyed the activities which took its place.

And, what were those activities, you ask?  I took extra time to read my Bible, ran some errands, got lots of needed housework done, organized my prayer list, tweaked some photos, and spent quiet, reflective, prayerful time outdoors as Sunday was a gorgeous day.  But, best of all, my husband, Danny, and I noticed something:  We were spending more time talking to one another!

Don't get me wrong.  Danny and I talk to each other.  A lot!  But, on this day, we engage in deeper, more meaningful conversations.  There is nothing to distract me from giving him my full attention.  And, because I'm not on the internet, Danny doesn't visit it as often as he usually does.

The day reminds us both of how we spend our time together on our cabin getaways.  We disconnect from the world to reconnect with God and each other.  It's such a blessing to know we can enjoy these mini-retreats on a weekly basis right here at home!

After this experience, Danny, too, is seriously contemplating taking a Sabbath rest from the internet every Sunday.  Wow!  That's how positive and uplifting this day was for us.

Was there a downside to this new experience?  Only the extra load of e-mail and blog comments to contend with on Monday.  But, that is far outweighed by the rest, peace, and contentment I feel from giving myself permission to rest.

~

If you are one on those persons who takes regular breaks from the internet, what are some of the activities you engage in during your time of rest?

Will you pray with me?
Heavenly Father, help us to disconnect from distractions in order to reconnect with You and those we love in meaningful ways.  In all things, may we seek first Your kingdom and righteousness, trusting that all else will fall into place according to Your will.  Amen.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Lord God Made Them All


Genesis 1:24
And God said, "Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds:  the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind."

My granddaughter, Virginia Rose, is fascinated by each and every animal she encounters.  She is crazy about dogs and cats (her favorite stuffed toy is a worn-torn kitty she drags everywhere) and loves to pat them.  Whenever she sees birds or squirrels, she pursues them but, of course, to no avail.  And, she is awed by the occasional deer which visits our yard.

But, Virginia's latest animal obsession is snakes.  Ever since we saw the copperhead down by the creek, she wants me to show her photos of snakes on Google Images every time she visits.  And, she constantly chatters about snakes to her mom and dad.

On a recent visit, Virginia is especially enamored by cartoons of snakes.  This gives her dad, John, an idea.  He searches for coloring pages featuring snakes, finding them with no problem.  Virginia is delighted!

Here are four, finished and unfinished.


It's obvious that Virginia enjoys us helping her color.  "Gammie twy!"  she says, handing me a crayon.  How can I resist that plea?  I do help, but she does some on her own.






It's time to clean the table off and set it for dinner.  Virginia would rather keep on coloring.

"Let's go walk on the trail in Gammie's and Papa's woods," John suggests.

"No," she says with a pout.

"We might see a snake.  Don't you want to look for snakes?"

John's ploy works!  Down from the chair Virginia scrambles and rushes for the back door.

"Snake!"  she shouts excitedly.

John and Virginia aren't gone five minutes before they are back at the door.

"Snake, Gammie!  Snake!  Snake!"

John is visibly shaken.  "I didn't think there was a chance in the world we would actually see a snake, but we did!  It was a copperhead, all right, coiled up under a rotting log.  Believe me, I got Virginia out of there as fast as I could!"

"That's it!"  Danny declares.  "No one is going on that trail until after the first freeze."

He gets no arguments from us.

But, Virginia wants back on the computer for more photos of her beloved snakes.  Maybe, it's time for a trip to the zoo.

Or, to the toy store . . .








~

Do you have a favorite animal?  Please share in the comments section.

Will you join me in prayer?
We thank You, Father, for all the marvelous animals which inhabit Your creation.  May we ever be grateful for and respectful of them, knowing that You, Lord God, made them all.  Amen.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Saying "Yes" to Rest


Genesis 2:3
Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

In the past several months, I have encountered multiple blog posts where the authors speak of the need to take a break from the internet.  From e-mail.  Facebook.  Google.  Pinterest.  Twitter . . .

Anything and everything in the webby world!

As an emerging author and bi-weekly blogger, my first reaction to the suggestion of a sabbatical from all things internet is it's not possible!  How can I just drop out of the scene?  Even for one day?  Won't I miss out on something?

But, as I give the matter more prayerful thought, stronger becomes the urge to say "yes" to rest.  After all, if a Sabbath Day is good enough for God, isn't it good enough for me?  For all of us?

And, truly, what will I be missing that I can't catch up with later?  Those friends on Facebook and Twitter and Google and e-mail will be there when I return.  And, those of you who follow this blog and leave comments, I know you will understand if there is, one day of the week, a delay in my response to you.

Which day have I selected to detach myself from all things internet?  Sunday!  What will I do to fill the hours typically spent in electronic communication?  Oh, the choices are endless!  I can:

  • Read books, not blogs.
  • Study the Bible more intently and intensely.
  • Spend extra time in prayer.
  • Watch a movie with my hubby.
  • Work on my photography skills.
  • Write a real letter to a friend instead of sending an e-mail.
  • Select from various house projects which call for my attention.
  • Enjoy the outdoors.
And, the list could continue, but you get the picture.

So, my friends, don't look for me on Sundays from here on out.  I am ready to reclaim my Sabbath!  To take a day of rest from the hubbub of social media.

To.  Simply.  Rest.

~

What about you?  Do you need to say "yes" to rest?

Will you pray with me?
Father, we thank You for the gift of rest you gave us when You created the Sabbath Day.  Let us ever honor it and keep it holy for Your name's sake.  May we, by doing so, be renewed and refreshed in mind, body, and spirit.  Amen.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Savoring Our Faith


Luke 13:29
People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.

Welcome to the Orlando Cafe!  Chef Danny (aka, my hubby) is whipping up another savory, unique, and always-to-die-for meal in our humble kitchen.  Yes, I took this photo of him in a chef's jacket, but Danny put the collage together.  Doesn't it look like a promo for the next Food Network star?

Truth be told, although Danny and I watch many cooking shows, he has absolutely no desire to be on one.  Creating healthy, tasty recipes for our family is enough for him.  Cooking is something Danny has always enjoyed.  He finds it to be a relaxing activity and a great way to express his creativity.

And, I am a most fortunate wife!  I've never really been enamored with cooking.  I've always viewed it as a means to an end.  Full bellies, happy folks!  I'll take the job of chief bottle washer (and pots and pans and knives and stove top . . .) anytime!

Does that mean I never cook?  Hardly.  But, what I like best to do are meals in the crock pot.  Pile it in and let 'er rip!  Thankfully, I've found several amazing recipes which Danny enjoys, and I always feel good when I can give him a break, especially when he's had a hectic work week.

Not long ago, Danny and I are watching Savoring Our Faith, a cooking show hosted by Catholic priest, Father Leo Patalinghug.  We love how Fr. Leo mixes scriptural lessons with his wonderful recipes!  In this episode, he is cooking a meal for a married couple.  Something Fr. Leo says to them hits home with a wallop - marriage partners should, whenever possible, prepare meals together!

And, suddenly, the thought of cooking, because I could do so with Danny, sounds so appealing.  Why hadn't we ever thought of doing this before?  It's a terrific idea that should, to paraphrase the title of Fr. Leo's recent book, spice up married life!

So, things will be different at the Orlando Cafe from here on out.  I'm looking forward to my kitchen apprenticeship under Danny.  And, maybe, just maybe, some of his culinary creativity will rub off on me.

~

Do you enjoy cooking?  Do you have a special recipe you'd like to share?  Please feel free to do so in the comments section.

Will you join me in prayer?
We thank You, Father, for delicious meals which nourish and sustain our bodies.  As we savor these, may we also savor our faith and find food for our souls in Your Word.  May every meal remind us of that heavenly feast which awaits us all one day.  Amen.

Friday, August 16, 2013

And, Surely, He is With Us


Matthew 28:19-20
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And, surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Are you going through a dark night of the soul?  Wondering with all your heart and mind where God is in the midst of the mess that is your life?  Asking why, why, why when you strive to do the right thing, but nothing goes right?

Have you ever raised your fist toward heaven and shouted to God, "It isn't fair!"?

I don't think there is a one of us out there who hasn't experienced such feelings at some point in our lives.  It's one of the pitfalls of being, well, human!  And, in our human frailty, forgetting, momentarily, Jesus' promise to be with us through thick and thin, to the very end of the age is par for the course.

In my third novel of The Glade Series, The Moment of Truth, ten-year-old Davy asks Reverend, the Great Horned owl formerly known as Wise One, why life isn't fair.  The boy's anger stems from what the owl has told him about the carelessness and callousness of people when it comes to understanding the sacred nature of this world God created and called "good."  As Davy's sensitivities are being awakened to God's presence, he longs to know the reason why bad things happen to good people.  Here is their exchange:

"It's not fair," the boy said indignantly.

"Life is not fair, lad, never has been and never will be."

"Why doesn't God just step in and fix the wrongs?  Isn't He big and powerful enough?"

Reverend was momentarily taken aback.  He took Davy by the shoulders with his wings and gazed with utmost seriousness into the boy's eyes.

"Don't ever doubt for one moment, my dear boy, that God can accomplish any thing and everything at any time and in any place.  He so loved mankind that He granted them free wills; to do anything else would have made them only puppets to be manipulated at a whimsy.  God longs for relationship and that must be sought out by men for it to be real and true and meaningful.  Anything less would mean tyranny and slavery, neither of which have anything to do with our Creator.  The evils of this world are not God's doing.  He came to let us know that He would be by our side no matter where we are or what may be happening to us.  In good times and in bad, even amidst the chaos of evil we may find ourselves in, He is there to love, to comfort, and encourage us to stay focused on the unconditional love only He can provide."

~

What is your take on Reverend's explanation?  I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.

Will you pray with me?
Thank You, Father, for creating us in Your image, for giving us free will, and the ability to be in relationship with You.  When life seems unfair, help us to remember that You are right there with us, working all things for good to those who believe in You.  Amen.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Briarcliff to Brier Patch


Proverbs 24:30-32
I went past the field of a sluggard,
past the vineyard of someone who has no sense;
thorns had come up everywhere,
the ground was covered with weeds,
and the stone wall was in ruins.
I applied my heart to what I observed
and learned a lesson from what I saw . . .

Briarcliff High School, my alma mater, has a unique history.  Built in 1958 to relieve overcrowding at a neighboring high school, Briarcliff's doors welcomed timid sub-freshmen and, in five years, transformed them into young adults prepared to face the world.  Oh, what great memories I have of this beloved place!

Sadly, as the population in this community aged, and with few young families moving in, Briarcliff's numbers began to dwindle.  The school board decides to end its existence as a high school in 1987.  And, with good reason.  The projected number of eighth graders who would enroll the following year is only 40; compare that to the mid-sixties when the average graduating class numbered 500!

The building doesn't go to waste, though.  For years, the old Briarcliff is used as an open campus/alternative school.  The gym is transformed into a teachers' resource center.  And, Briarcliff grads nostalgically visiting the school could expect the courtyards and classrooms to look pretty much as they remembered.

Here's a photo from Google Images which reflects my memory of our senior courtyard.




The following photos, taken by my friend, Jennie, and her husband, Michael, show the state of two courtyards in 2008.









All in all, pretty well maintained, don't you think?

Then, in 2009, the school board moves the alternative school elsewhere.  The teachers' center closes.  A developer bids to buy Briarcliff and the school's surrounding acreage to build a multi-use/retail/residential complex.

Local residents protest.  Loudly!  The economy tanks.  The deal falls through.

And, Briarcliff High is abandoned . . .

When the class of '73 takes a tour of the school this August, here is what has happened to those courtyards.














All this . . . in five short years . . .

. . . Thorns had come up everywhere, the ground was covered with weeds . . .

Briarcliff is now a brier patch.

And, it is precisely what happens to us when we fail to allow the Master Gardener to prune us with discipline, weed out our temptations, and tend to us in love.  For sin grows wild and rampant in this world like an unkempt garden.  Satan longs to choke out our hope.  Strangle our faith.

Throw us into the brier patch.

But, Jesus promises us fresh growth in our lives when we have faith in Him and His saving grace.  Only He can turn our weed and thorn-filled gardens into the Garden of Eden.


~

Will you let the Master Gardener trim up your life so you can blossom and grow for His sake?

Will you pray with me?
We are so grateful, Father, that You tend to us so lovingly.  Without You, we are but overgrown gardens, choked by the weeds of our sins.  Thank You for sending Your beloved Son, Jesus, to die for our sins and to forever forgive us our transgressions.  Amen.




Sending a shout-out of thanks to Jennie and Michael for generously sharing their photos with me and inspiring today's blog post!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Mirror Ball


Matthew 5:14
"You are the light of the world.  A town built on a hill cannot be hidden."

In his book, Mirror Ball, worship leader/songwriter Matt Redman recounts the experience which led to the choosing of this particular title.

It is the last night of the Passion worship for college students.  Founder of Passion, Louie Giglio, is determined to send these young folks home on a spectacular and inspirational note.  He tells the musicians that he's hanging a mirror ball which will be lowered into the arena on the last song of the evening.  Matt thinks this is a marvelous idea.  He and the band members plan an exhilarating song for the finale; something to suit the amazing light sure to be reflected from Louie's mirror ball.

When he emerges on stage, Matt purposefully looks for the mirror ball in the rafters.  He has a difficult time finding it.  When he finally spots it, his heart sinks.  It's so tiny!  How can anything that small make any impression on anyone?  Has Louie lost his mind?

Matt prays this won't be the flop he fears it will be.  Hopes beyond hope that Louie's idea will be successful after all.  Here is Matt in his own words:

And then the moment arrived.  Mirror ball time.  Down from the ceiling came the world's smallest disco ball.  I didn't know whether to laugh, cry . . . or get my binoculars out to actually see the thing.

However, in one bright, shining moment, all my fears died.  Powerful beams of light hit the face of the ball, and suddenly, in every corner of that massive arena, radiance shown all around.  Light filled the room.  It seemed to glow on every face and shine on every inch of floor, wall, and ceiling.  A huge arena filled with light - by way of a tiny mirror ball.  And people partied.  In that moment, focusing on the glory of the Savior and celebrating His victories, we shouted for joy and danced with abandon.

Wow!  What a testimony this is to how God's light can radiate through each and every one of us!  We may perceive ourselves as small and insignificant, unable to make a difference in this dark and hurting world.  But, Jesus says we are the light of the world.  He means it!

And, when we choose to let the light of the Lord shine through us, how can we not reflect His glory?  How can we not glow with His love and grace?

How can we, dancing in His light, not fill this world with joy and celebration?

~

Will you be a mirror ball, shining God's infinite light onto others?

Will you pray with me?
We pray, dear Father, that we can be the light of the world and live up to Jesus' expectations of us as His followers.  May we radiate Your light and love to all we meet, that they may know we are a "city on a hill, shining brightly."  Amen.



You can order Matt's book here, and connect with him at his website

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

"Praying God's Word for Your Life"


Philippians 4:6
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Do you have a quiet time reserved each day for prayer?  Or, do you pray throughout the day as people and situations come to mind?

Do your prayers sound formal?  Or, are they more like relaxed, loving conversations with God?

For whom do you pray?  For family?  Friends?  Co-workers?  Your pastor?

Do you take time to pray for yourself?  Yes!  You heard me right.

Do you take time to pray for yourself?

In her inspirational book, Praying God's Word for Your Life, Kathi Lipp tells of her own struggles with learning to pray for her own needs, concerns, and worries.  She testifies to the power of prayer and to the grace of God who longs to have a relationship with us.  A God who wants us to turn to Him first, in good times and in bad.

A God who answers prayers.

Each chapter of this book contains anecdotes from Kathi's life or a friend's experience, describing situations which called for prayer.  These are followed by scripture readings, prayers to offer, and practical steps that will help the newbie Christian or the seasoned prayer warrior breathe new life into the practice of prayer.  Every category is specific.  While I won't list them all here, these are some which especially spoke to my heart:  When Your Overwhelmed; When You're Worried; Your Relationships with Others; Your Relationship with God, Your Hope in Christ.

As many of you know, our family is experiencing much pain and sorrow as my father's health is fast deteriorating.  Yes, I am overwhelmed!  Following Kathi's suggestion to feel free to turn to any section which applies to our current circumstances, I head right on over to that particular chapter.

Oh, what incredible peace I feel after reading the scriptures and prayers!  Prayers whose words slipped from eye to heart to God as if they are my own.  They become my own.  And, I find myself standing in the very presence of our loving, gracious, understanding Lord.

Praying God's Word for Your Life is a book I cannot recommend highly enough.  Just like the Bible is never a one-time read, Kathi's book will speak to you again and again, no matter where you find yourself on life's journey.  I hope you will do yourself a huge favor and order it here.

And, until it arrives, my friends, pray for others, but don't forget to pray for yourself!


~

How would you describe your prayer life?

Will you pray with me?
Father, we thank You for Christian witnesses like Kathi Lipp who lead us into a closer relationship with You.  Bless her and all Your servants who faithfully pray and who wish to pray faithfully.  May they all know how much they are loved by You.  Amen.




Connect with Kathi at KathiLipp.com 

Friday, August 2, 2013

God's Perfect Timing

It is my pleasure and privilege to introduce David Guthrie as my guest writer today.  David is not only a great friend and brother in Christ, he is also the fantastic drummer in our church's praise band, Crossroads; you can listen here.

When David shared this remarkable story with us last Sunday, the first words out of my mouth were, "I want this for my devotions!"  Thinking I would be rewriting the events with some suggestions from David, I was absolutely delighted when he took the time to write down his experiences so eloquently and forward them to me.  Wow!  I am blown away by his testimony, and know you will be, too.

So, enjoy David's amazing witness to the glory and perfect timing of our awesome God.  I hope, too, that you will give David some positive feedback in the comments section below.

Love and blessings!  Martha


Isaiah 26:3
Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee because he trusteth in thee.

I have always been a great believer in God's perfect timing.  It is always the will of our Heavenly Father that we be still and listen.  As I turn the page on another birthday, I have received the blessing of seeing the Divine Providence of God in my life.

On May 1st of this year, I was laid-off from my job.  A well-paying, high-responsibility, and extremely stressful job that, quite frankly, I hated!  After the initial shock of being terminated for the first time in my life, I made the unpleasant call to my wife to deliver the news that we had just lost our primary income.

Then, I waited.  I waited for the sick feelings of fear and dread to set in.

I waited . . .

But, those feelings never came.  I waited days and weeks for the reality to dawn and distress overwhelm me, but all I experienced was peace.  I acknowledged from the beginning that it had to be the peace of the Lord.  Long has my favorite verse been:  Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee because he trusteth in thee.  I didn't cling to the verse this time; it clung to me.

~

May 18th was Decoration Day at the Kennesaw City Cemetery.  At the suggestion of my wife, I encouraged members of my motorcycle club to come out and participate in the event - show a bit of community spirit.

Upon arriving, I soon came upon a Confederate grave stone.  I told my six-year-old son that we would give this stone some attention later.  After the initial memorial ceremonies, the participants were encouraged to help clean some of the markers with soapy water and brushes.  My son and I did as we had planned and made our way to the Confederate headstone.

While cleaning the marker, we were approached by a gentleman, obviously moved by our gesture of scrubbing the gravestone.  As he handed my son a ten dollar bill, he informed us that we were cleaning the headstone of his great-grandfather's grave.  Mr. B. took a few pictures and talked on for a while, telling us of his ancestor's service in the Confederate home-guard.  Before we parted, he removed the hat he was wearing and gave it to my son.  I was proud of my boy that day; he was a gracious and respectful recipient of the man's gratitude.

~

After some initial conversations with people I have known and worked with over the years, I just knew I wasn't feeling any motivation to get another 'j-o-b', at least not in the traditional sense.  I felt a strong desire to open a business.  I immediately set myself to learning the ins and outs of becoming an entrepreneur.  

Through a bit of trial and error, and with the very valuable guidance of some business acquaintances I have made in the past several years, I forged ahead on a path to becoming a business owner.  One of the first things I did was pick out a lease property I wanted to be in.  I knew then and there that I was putting the cart before the horse, but I had a lot of carts and horses to sort out and just didn't know my way through the process.

I put a letter of intent on the property, filled out a lot of application forms, and negotiated some lease conditions I wished to have.  Weeks went by with little word back.  Several more setbacks had me questioning what I was doing wrong, and wondering how this would ever get sorted out and come together.

After many weeks, it became clear that I would not be occupying the property I had hoped to.  Family matters with the owner had intervened, and I would not be getting the lease.  But, even through all this, I never wanted for peace.  It remained my constant companion.

I decided to go back to the city zoning office and see if they could help me locate something else.  I was encouraged to look at a nearby property, yet hesitated because I felt it was too small.  But, at the woman's insistence, I promised to consider it further.  

So, I drove by and looked at the place from the car, and took down the number to call and ask about price.  Rather than answer that question, the man on the other end of the line asked, "When would you like to see it?"  I told him I could meet with him after lunch the next day, and he agreed.

Just to look the property over before I meet with the owner, I show up early.  To my surprise, the man was already there, sitting on the front porch.

I rolled down my window and asked, "Are you waiting for me?"

It was then I recognized him - it was Mr. B.!  The gentleman whose great-grandfather's grave marker we had cleaned up on Decoration Day!  He remembered me as well, and invited me to park and come on in.

We looked around the place.  I liked it a lot!  But, we didn't talk much business that day.  In true Southern style, we just visited.  We exchanged phone numbers and I promised I would be in touch.

Less than an hour later, I run into a friend who is on the Kennesaw City Council.

"Did you find your place yet?"  she inquires.

"As a matter of fact, I was just talking with Mr. B. about one of his properties."

"Mr. B. is the best, David.  You can't go wrong with this one!"

Just then, up walks Mr. B.  Turns out he was meeting someone for lunch.  We visited more and enjoyed lunch together.

Before we left, he asked if I would be willing to volunteer at our local history museum the coming Saturday for a special event they were having.  I was thrilled to be asked and more than happy to help.  I even recruited some extra help.  Mr. B. was very pleased.  

On that Saturday, we visited some more.  As he was leaving, Mr. B. asked, "David, are you still interested in renting my property?"

"I sure am, but my financing is still two to three weeks out.  I can't ask you to wait that long for me."

Mr. B. just grinned at me.  "It's yours."

A few days later, I get a call from him. 

"David, I've been thinking.  I want you to get that business of yours up and running.  I've decided to give you the keys to the place if you want to meet me over there."

"But, the money . . ."  I protest.

"I won't be wanting any rent until September 1st."

~

Be still.  Be patient.  And, may the Lord keep you also in His perfect peace.





My Prayer Corner

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