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Monday, March 25, 2019

RECONCILING GOD'S GOODNESS

I have a dear - sweet - precious and any other wonderful superlative you can think of -friend with whom I have spent many an hour discussing God's goodness and blessings.  Can I tell you how insensitive it can be when you are constantly bombarded by others sharing how greatly God has blessed them?  I have talked until I was blue in the face, but it does not lessen the sting of her wondering why her life does not look like the fairy tale that some present as their reality.

No matter how many times I tell her only a part of the facts are being shared, she struggles with each and every pronouncement of how greatly God is blessing others.  "I am so blessed, _____________(fill in the blank)."  Of course the blank is always filled with the good times, never the hard times.  We both agree God has blessed us, but there are some who would lead you to believe God blesses them all the time with GREAT things.  I believe that is called a partial truth.

There is a sweet young family here in Ruston who have recently adopted a teen from China.  It has been quite a story since their quiver was pretty much full, but they felt God calling them to make this step.  The mother has shared the tale on social media.  What I especially admire about her sharing is the honesty of the reporting.  It has not all been easy and she is up front about this detail.  She is not only reporting the sweet and good, but is also admitting the hard and trying. 

One of the problems with social media is the ability to report only what we care to share.  There are those who will tell you no one wants to hear the negative, but I dare to disagree.  What I want to hear is the good and the bad and God's presence in it all.  Then I will applaud your willingness to share how God has blessed you--even when the world seemed dismal.

My greatest influence has been my willingness to share how God has blessed me with His faithful presence and sustaining comfort on the darkest of days.  Certainly you enjoy seeing my precious grands and hearing about my crazy adventures, but what will you take to the bank and save for your rainy days?  My story of God's incredible goodness and blessings in the midst of what most would consider the darkest of days.  When bad things happen, and they will, you will remember there are others who have pointed you to the way to live with the really-really hard.
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Yes, God is good ---God never changes---and one of His attributes is His goodness.  That does not mean He is a fairy godfather.  It does mean He will be there in the good---but especially in the bad.  God has blessed me--He has blessed me with the assurance of His character.  He is Who He says He is, and that is more than enough.

"You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees
Psalm 119:68

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

NOT PART OF THE PLAN

These people came for a visit during the last part of their Spring Break.  It was eventful to say the least.  THIS is the only picture I have of the days they were with me.  Telling you I was too busy is an understatement!

The normal four hour trip took five and half--they drove through the big front we had come through last week.  Cell phones are wonderful, but I hesitated calling when I began to worry in case I was a distraction during horrible driving conditions.  They swept in with all the force of a level five tornado, but they were here!


Within 20 minutes of arriving, the little one was moaning over her stomach hurting.  This was the precursor of the EVIL stomach bug going through all four of them!  If someone can please explain to me WHY the throwing up all happens in the middle of the night, I am waiting with bated breath.  Between cleaning up the mess, washing dirty linens, and trying to find something which might help, we were up to our eyeballs in alligators.  This particular strain of the virus came with excruciating  stomach cramps.  I went through my list of home remedies on a quest for ANYTHING to help.  Finally it seemed ice bags on the stomach gave a little relief.  My dear neighbors probably thought we were committing child abuse with the constant yelling in pain.  It would have unnerved the staunchest stoic.  

During the brief periods of time when there was no retching or writhing in pain, they would be outside creating wonderful mayhem.  I walked out one time to find them with a car seat in the wagon going down the steep neighbor's drive. That ended in disaster, but thankfully no broken bones.  


When they left, we thought they were all better, but NO.  One of the grands lost his cookies again once they arrived at home.  POOR MOM!  Dad is working at the ER--she has four kids and one is throwing up.  Chaos!  SHE is a TROOPER and does not get here feathers ruffled easily.


NOW THAT DID NOT WORK OUT AS I FORESAW!  I had plans in place and fun things to do all lined up.  That plan quickly faded when the first victim fell.  No park, no trampoline park, no feeding mini horses~in fact the only thing we did was go for a brief visit to the military museum.  We also watched a movie--or two or three--but not on the big screen.  We rolled with the punches.

You might think the time together was all a disaster, but I don't.  I count it all as joy.  The kids were here--I put my eyes on them--we read, played board games, watched television, and ate crackers and drank Gatorade while together.  I heard about school, friends, and what is happening in their lives.  
It is always a good day--no matter the circumstance when I am with the grands.

We are told to count all as joy in The Word.  Sometimes we have to really look for the joy, but in most cases there is always something to be thankful for.  In the midst of the worst day, there is always some blessing.  In this case, I am thankful for seeing the grands~even in the midst of spoiled plans.  This is definitely a trip we will not forget and it is all about making memories~some good and some not so good~but always a memory.

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way,
 consider it an opportunity for great joy.
James 1:2


Tuesday, March 19, 2019

HOW DOES YOUR GARDEN GROW?

Do you remember the movie, "Catch Me If You Can"?  


Since it has been out since 2002 (seems like yesterday), let me remind you of the plot-

The film is based on the life of Frank Abagnale, who, before his 19th birthday, successfully performed cons worth millions of dollars by posing as a Pan American World Airways pilot, a Georgia doctor, and a Louisiana parish prosecutor. His primary crime was check fraud; he became so experienced that the FBI eventually turned to him for help in catching other check forgers.

A fascinating story of a con artist extraordinary!  This guy not only dressed the part, but was able to convince those around him he was the part.  It might be SLIGHTLY alarming to know someone could convince others he could fly a jet plane with no experience, BUT pulling off surgery with no medical school may be the coup of the century.


I walk around in work out clothes a LOT--as in most of the time.  Does this convince you I am an athlete?   Yes, I do exercise, but athlete is a BIG stretch for what I do. I can even talk a good game, when it comes to exercise, but an hour or so a day of exercise does NOT make me an athlete! 



 The world is filled with women walking around in yoga pants.  We all know those various yoga poses we have heard so much about--warrior, downward dog, and the dreaded Chaturanga.  Knowing the names of the poses and doing them is entirely different.  We wear the pants NOT because we practice yoga,   but because the pants are comfortable.  It is a side benefit if others think we are wearing the uniform because we are a yogi. 


I own work boots, shovels, hoes, rakes, and clippers--among other gardening tools.  I also have have big sun hat and old work clothes.  I love to talk gardening with friends, but I am NO Master Gardener.  Looking at beautiful gardens is about as close as I get to being a real gardener.  I am collecting small cans for a Master Gardener friend to start her seeds in, but this does NOT make me a gardener.  The proof of being a gardener is in my garden and sadly, my garden needs LOTS of work.

We all can be "con men" when we don the uniform and even talk the talk of something we are not.  Reading books about various subjects, does not make us experts.  We become experts when we actually practice what we have learned.  The evidence of our TITLE is evidenced in our actions.

So it is with being a Believer.  We can know the book backward and forward.  We can attend all the meetings without fail.  We can faithfully write the check.  We can mark all the boxes complete on our list of necessities of Believing, but to know we are firmly planted--we must exhibit fruit.

"Either make the tree good and its fruit good, 
or make the tree bad and its fruit bad;
for the tree is known by its fruit.
Matthew 12:33

Sunday, March 17, 2019

SURELY


WHAT MORE

COULD I SAY

THAN GOD'S TIMELESS WORDS




BLESSED SABBATH,

DEAR FRIENDS

Friday, March 15, 2019

FEAR NOT

We all understand the emotion of fear.  I have friends that are terrified of snakes.  They will not walk in our beautiful park once the weather warms up for fear of coming across a snake.  No matter what reassurance we give of the snake not being out looking to attack you, their fear will not be quenched.  They are taking no chance on seeing the cause of their fear.  


Another good friend had a tornado strike her home when she was a child.  She is terrified of storms and has spent many an hour in her interior bathroom.  No matter what we say, she takes no chances and slips into the safety of this small interior room when warnings are issued.  Her horrible experience many decades ago has created a great fear of storms.  It does not help that she lives in the midst of huge trees.


Some are fearful of home break ins or invasion.  They take great precautions including alarm systems and cameras to protect themselves and their property.  Those who have experienced their homes being broken into speak of the feeling of loss of boundaries once someone has gone through their property.  They live with the knowledge that someone has been in their home uninvited and the walls of protection are now vulnerable.  The locked door which once made you feel so safe has now become no better than a closed door.


Our fears can control our lives if we are not careful.  I have fears--more of the security type.  Will I have a long time illness requiring extensive care?  What if I live to be 100 (HEAVEN HELP THE WORLD!), will my income be sufficient for that long?  What if the economy fails?  These fears are based on past experience and go all the way back to my childhood.  If I am not careful, I can become obsessive about thinking of all the what if's.  My fears then can keep me from constructive behavior and instead become destructive to my walk.



As I study ahead for our Small Group study, I am now covering the shield of faith.  The author states until we have conquered our fears, we will not be able to lift our shield of faith.   I began to consider the fears I have in my life.  Our enemy knows our vulnerabilities and attacks us in our weakest places.  Those are the places that produce fear.  "The enemy sends flaming arrows into your life specifically when you are being called to walk in faith.  Those arrows are deliberately intended to disable you from doing the only thing that has the power to extinguish them: walking in faith!" Priscilla Shirer  That is where faith comes in~"Faith doesn't just deflect the enemy's flaming accusations; it extinguishes them."  Do I trust God?  I can choose to live in faith with an unwavering confidence in God and His promises.  Faith is powerful stuff--fear not-trust God!

In addition to all, taking up the shield of faith
with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
Ephesians 6:16  

Thursday, March 14, 2019

BE PREPARED

I have been busy as a bee in the midst of Spring blooming season.  These sweet people are here for a few days.


GOSH!  does this capture some personalities!  I am certain we are rocking and rolling as they sweep in for a brief visit during their Spring Break.  Since they will be here for a short time, I began preparing over a week ago.  



The food preparation is all done ahead and frozen so we are ready to eat when hungry.  Here is Lulu's Psketti slowly simmering and cooking down those tomatoes.  Always cooking their favorites, but not wanting to spend the day in the kitchen while they are here, it is all prepared ahead.  I have the pantry and frig stocked with all their favorites after a big trip to the grocery.  AND the important thing, we have activities planned galore!  I have ordered new games and puzzles to keep us all busy in case we get rained out (HIGHLY LIKELY).  It pays to prepare ahead to enjoy their visit to the fullest.  The house will be filled to overflowing, and that is the way I like it.



Greatly enjoying my hiking trips, they always involve a great deal of strenuous activity.  We spend months preparing for each trip, including plenty of hiking locally.  If we have not prepared our bodies for the long days of hiking, the trip will not be pleasant.  In fact, I promise you, we all will be miserable.  Preparation is key for the maximum enjoyment. 




You have heard much about the study we are doing in Small Group.  The blog becomes my sounding board as I reflect upon what I have learned.  I spend about and hour a day preparing to teach each week.  Facilitating the discussion requires knowing the material.  Without adequate preparation, our evening will involve having to read from the book and dream up questions on the fly.  This is such a great study and we will grow from it only if we spend time preparing each week.




I have also written about my Sunday School class and the worship services I attend.  Preparing my heart for worship with prayer and song always reaps the benefit of a deeper worship experience.  If I hurriedly rush around trying to do last minute chores, throw my clothes on, and run out the door, my heart is not open and ready to experience a meaningful morning.  My thoughts are all over the place and not centered on the reason for this pause in the week. 
Anything worth doing is worth doing well.  This always requires preparation. Half hearted preparation usually results in a half hearted experience.   I love spontaneity, but spontaneity comes with risk.  My quiet time always requires turning my thoughts from the world to God.  Seeking God while planning the week's menus results in a grocery list, but not the face of God.  With thought stilling preparation comes heart changing time with The Father.  Preparation is always the key.  


13 “Go, consecrate the people. Tell them, ‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow; 


Joshua 7:13



Wednesday, March 13, 2019

JOURNEYS OF PROOF

Recently I saw a trailer for a new movie on the life of J.R.R. Tolkien~the famous fantasy writer who has drawn hordes of followers after reading Lord of the Rings, among other books.  I must confess I have a slightly skewed view of Tolkien--for one thing I am not a fantasy lover and for another, he is mentioned in the book I recently finished Becoming Mrs. Lewis.  A part of the crew of "The Inklings"~ a writing group he and C.S. Lewis were members of, he was not placed in a highly favorable light in the book.  Grumpy, arrogant, and disapproving come to mind when I remember his portrayal.  It is no secret I was no fan of Joy Lewis, but I did feel sorry for her when Tolkien treated her extremely shabbily.  In fairness, perhaps I have not been kind toward her either.  Color me convicted.



He looks like a sweet old man here~
looks can be deceiving.

The point of this post has nothing to do with Tolkien, but instead something in the movie trailer which piqued my interest.  



"It's about journeys---the journeys we take to prove ourselves."

I began to think of the journeys we take in life in an effort to prove ourselves--to others and most importantly to ourselves.  The trailer shows a scene from WW I ~ certainly men throughout the ages have stepped up and fought in wars for various causes.  Courage and bravery were necessary to take this journey--which could well result in an early end to your life.  In today's world, men and women step into the role of warrior and go to battle.  There is no longer mandatory service requirements for the armed forces, so if you wear a uniform~it is your choice.  A choice to test your bravery and grow your courage to defend a cause you believe in.



For women, motherhood is a journey of proof.  Little girls begin playing house and mommy from their very early days.  For some it seems they have the genetic disposition to be mothers.  That maternal need is great--so great thousands of dollars can be spent to produce the desired offspring.  We highly value motherhood and strongly desire to be the best mother possible.  Our ability to raise a child and launch them into the world is proof of our successful journey.



Typical Family?

There are all types and sorts of journeys of proof.  The first one well may be our launch into adulthood and the last one the final goodbye, with a proverbial shower of journeys in between.  High school diploma, college diploma, marriage, children, career, grandchildren, and retirement are all journeys we traverse in life, with many varieties interspersed.  Our lives are a succession of seasons in which we traverse numerous journeys.  Journeys meant to prove our success and give us value.  Value in the eyes of the world.

There is another journey--a spiritual journey--that is a life long journey.  We can choose to grow, stand still, or traverse by default as we grow by association and not effort.  The most important journey of our lives and yet we often give it so little time and effort.  A journey of learning who God is and drawing closer to Him through the process of sanctification.  Surely a journey of proof of how important God is to us is worthy of our best efforts?  It will not change how God feels about us, but it could change how we feel about ourselves and certainly draw us closer to Him.  What we pursue is what we value.  Where do you place your value?


11 Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.
I Chronicles 16:11