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SUMMER SESSION #22-DON'T TAKE THE BAIT

 As I am writing this, it is shark week on television.  NO, I do not watch shark week, BUT I HAVE STORIES!  I recently thought of one  I wanted to share before it becomes lost again in the gray matter.  On one of those 30 + years of beach vacations, we stayed at a beach where you could actually fish.  Most of the beach trips have shore lines which are very shallow until you wade out quite a bit.   This particular year we spent the week casting in the waves and I LOVED it!



Early one morning, I rose LONG before the others and headed out to fish.  I waded out until the water was mid chest high and stood by a channel marker.  In the early morning hours, the ocean is calm- smooth as glass.  The waves are more of a gentle rocking this particular morning.  I casted WAY out with the shrimp dangling from my line.  As I slowly reeled the line back, I began to see a shadow following the bait.  As it drew closer I noticed it was a large shadow.  In case you are unaware, running in water that deep is virtually impossible.  I had lured a shark in with my bait and he was coming closer and closer.  I became one with the channel marker, not moving a muscle.  As the clearly visible shark came within the length of my rod, it was about 5 feet long and definitely a shark.  We later determined it was either a lemon shark or a sand shark, but that is not relative.  IT WAS A SHARK!  Somehow, I had the presence of mind to lift the bait out of the water.  The shark turned  and swam away while I stirred up the water with all my shaking.  I could have been shark bait and there was not a soul on the beach to rescue me, much less even hear my screams if he attacked.  LESSON LEARNED!  I do not go out alone now--and carefully watch for what is following the bait.

Where in the world could I take this?  I am looking at it from the shark's perspective.  Be careful what bait you allow to lure you into the danger zone.  Someone or something may be trying to make you its latest victim.  Is the small nibble of a tempting appetizer worth becoming the main course?  We can be hauled in and our goose cooked by following the temptation of the bait before you can blink an eye.  When in deep water, always be careful to not be lured into the dangerous shallows where you enemy is waiting.

"Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation.

The spirit indeed is willing,

but the flesh is weak."

Matthew 26:41


SUMMER SESSION #21-LIFE GIVING WATER

 It has been a DRY summer here in Louisiana.  I must admit our droughts are nothing to compare to what is happening in the Western portion of our great nation.  I see the news and am so alarmed by the extreme drought they are and have been enduring.  There have even been cities which have banned grass lawns.  There is NOT enough water to sustain vegetation and in some cases the water needed to sustain our very lives is being threatened.




Lake Mead is a prime example.  At the lowest historic point EVER, there is reason for concern it could become a dead pool.  The communities which rely upon it for their water needs would be scrambling for another source of life giving water.



We cannot survive without water.   I saw a movie once about aliens invading our world because they needed our resources.  Will we someday be fighting over the sacred resource of water?  I definitely remember movies from my childhood about ranch owners damming water sources to keep it for themselves and not sharing with their neighbors.

The problem always begins when we are unwilling to share--whatever we may consider precious.  Water is certainly a valuable resource.  We cannot sustain life without water.  I am praying we begin now to work on ways for all of us to have water.  I watched a documentary recently about ships converting sea water for human use.  Since the ice caps are melting, perhaps this is a way to use the water which we expect to raise sea levels world wide.  I foresee water becoming an expensive necessity in the future.

The Word often refers to water. In fact water is mentioned over 700 times in scripture.   Living Water is such a poignant phrase which captures the necessity of having water to live.  We do not want to use dead pools for our water supply, but instead sources which are living and vibrant.  The descriptive term living water exactly describes the need for us to consume water which is not dead and stagnant, but life giving --life sustaining water.  The water from God's deep well of living water.

"But whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst.

Indeed, the water I give them will become in them

a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

John 4:14

SUMMER SESSION #20- IGNORING THE WEEDS

 It has been ONE MORE HOT summer here in the deep South.  My poor yard and plants have suffered from the extreme heat and lack of rainfall.  I have a sprinkler system, but nothing waters your yard like a shower from Heaven.  We come to expect this every year, but this year has been particularly punishing.  No rain--heat warnings day after day---it's been a corker!


While the plants I bought $$ are struggling to survive, the weeds are producing a great crop.  It requires almost daily pulling to keep them at bay.  They come up first every year, grow most prolific without much water and in spite of the sun and cling tightly to their place when yanked upon.  The first things I see when I look at my flower beds are those pesky weeds.  My eyes drift right over the beautiful blooms and plants and zoom in on the unwanted weeds.  Interesting!

What is it about us that we look past the grandeur, beauty, and blessings all around us and instead focus on the mistakes, unwanted, ugly, invasive undesired?  We intently gaze upon that which we do not consider desirable and forget to gaze upon all the wonder before our eyes.  

As I reflected upon this, I wondered if I do the same thing when looking back over the garden of my life.  Do I focus on the weedy and ugly or do I instead remember the plants that have bloomed and created great beauty?  Take a moment and reflect, Friends.  When you are remembering--what memories come to the surface?

"Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything,

in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Ephesians 5:20

SUMMER SESSION #19-WAIT FOR DARK

 Summer time is the nocturnal lovers favorite season.  SO MANY things have to wait for the cool of the night after long days of sun baked misery.  We all know others who love the deep dark of the night.  They get a burst of energy about the time I go to bed.  How many times have I received a text or email written post midnight?  My nighttime communication, if there is any, will be sent out on the airwaves in the very early pre daylight hours.  If you think about this, we are all made different so someone can always be on prayer watch.



There were things we can do after the deep dark of nighttime has finally fallen upon us.  We have already talked about chasing lightning bugs, but I have a distinct memory of a couple of others activities enjoyed in the prime of my youth.  We occasionally went "frog gigging".  For those who are not from the deep South, this would be hunting for those BIG frogs which are known for their frog legs.



We will deep fat fry ANYTHING  here in the South.  It's the classic--it tastes like chicken-dish.  NOW---in my defense, we caught many a frog, but I never removed their legs to fry.  It was more of a summer time tradition.  The one thing about this activity is snakes also like to be slithering around at night in the same places you hunt for the frogs.  

Another vivid memory of summer nights is going fox hunting with Granddaddy.  Unlike the fox hunts you see in England, these fox were hunted at night and expressly for the pleasure of listening to the hounds.  Granddaddy could tell you when they were following a varmint that wasn't a fox, which hound was in front, approximately where they were, when they had treed the fox---on and on.  He was an proverbial fountain of fox hounds and hunting information.  Many a long hot summer night we sat and listened for the hounds to begin the chase.  It was an innocent time--a time of enjoying each other's company--and to be singled out to go along with the adults and stay up late was the crowning achievement.


And then there was the drive in movie.  OH, FRIENDS!  What a memory.  There are still a few around and if you have never had the pleasure---PLEASE give it a try.  I have loads of stories about the drive in theater---what a fun night that was.  AND it could not be enjoyed until the last glimmer of daylight fell victim to the night sky.  

What a gift and blessing our memories can be.  As I have revisited many of my sweet memories from the past, may I also be mindful and remember God's faithful presence, provision, and patience with me.  Our memories are a remembrance of who we are, where we have been, and how we got were we are.  May we call to mind the memories of all God has done for us as we pause and reflect.  

"Remember your history,
your long and rich history."
Isaiah 46:9 MSG




SUMMER SESSION #18-TIME FLIES

 HOW did it get to be August?  Thinking it over--there should be a scientific principle concerning the fact time seems to fly faster the older you are.  I often tell friends if you want time to stand still take a stint of sitting with a sick loved one in a hospital.  I PROMISE--IT CRAWLS!  Here we are in the beginning of August-ready or not.  This has been ONE HOT SUMMER!



I have found myself rising earlier and earlier.  The Wonder Dog looks at me as if I have lost my mind (have I ever had one?) , when I am coaxing him out of the bed for his first thing in the morning walk.  Trying to get my walk done before the sun comes over the tree tops in the east is my every day quest.  I still walk in with sweat pouring off of me.  Most mornings I am finished outside and in the house by mid-morning.  SO THANKFUL for air conditioning.  I remember those days pre-central air.  That made for LONG HOT tossing and turning nights.  Even the blessing of a fan only pushed around the muggy air.  NOT where I was going---I can ramble on--SORRY!

Although the meteorologist declare June 1 as the beginning of hurricane season, August brings the beginning of the really  BIG STORMS.  With today's warmer climate, the storms can last into October.  Two years ago we actually had local damage from a hurricane.  Usually we get some wind and lots of rain from the remnants of these killer storms, but this fast moving hurricane caused lots of local damage--here 300 miles from the Gulf.  

You have not lived until you get caught near the Gulf with one of these unpredictable storms headed toward you.  One vacation we found ourselves fleeing off the island in bumper to bumper crawling traffic all headed to safety.  We finally found shelter around 4:00 AM.  Think the Bates Motel---we were desperate for rest.  All because we were not listening for the warnings.


We live in an information age where ample warnings are given far in advance.  The mistake comes when we are tuned out and not taking heed of the danger announcements.  With today's technology, if you have an I Phone--you are going to be alerted.  This particular storm came before the advent of I phones and we did not turn the television on during the week.  NOT SMART--when on the Gulf Beach in the height of hurricane season.  It was a stark reminder of how we can stick our head in the sand and deny the presence of danger.  

There seem to be warning signs all around us of more than the weather.  Our society, nation, and world appear to be headed down the slippery slope.  It makes one wonder what it will take to wake us up to the road we are headed down.  Big Storms---KILLER storms are on the horizon.  Praying for us to look up and take heed.  It is never too late to change our course.

1 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God- 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power.

II Timothy 3:1-5

SUMMER SESSION #17-SORT OF LIKE WINTER BUT DIFFERENT

 I am sitting inside my air-conditioned cool house avoiding the heat of the Louisiana summer.  Inside it is the perfect 72 degrees.  As I thought it over, I remembered sitting inside my warm house in January and February avoiding the harsh-wet cold of Louisiana winters.  It was a perfect 68 degrees.  Through man-made advances--my life is relatively comfortable year round--no matter the temperature outside. (As long as there is no electrical interruption)

We are in the closing days of July.  One thing is for certain, it has been a HOT ONE!  We tend to think every summer has been the hottest, but Hero gives new meaning to the dog days of summer.  He is at least half chihuahua and does not like the cold.  He ALSO does not tolerate the extreme heat well in his old age.  Perhaps my dog and I are as one with the universe.  I do not tolerate the extreme heat well either NOR am I a big fan of cold extremes.  I can put on enough clothes in the winter to survive the weather.  Taking off enough clothes in the summer is not an option.  I become nauseated thinking about it.  Hero goes from the heated concrete in the courtyard to the cool ceramic tile of the airconditioned house multiple times everyday.  It is similar to the Polar plunge after a session in the sauna.



Though we do not have to endure but a few weeks of bitter cold here in Louisiana,  the sweltering heat of summer stays with us for months.  It will finally begin to cool down at the end of October with briefer and briefer returns to tropical weather spells.  I have to remind myself when #1 daughter lived in Pennsylvania, she endured winter like temperatures until our summer had begun here in Louisiana.  They did not plant their gardens until after Memorial Day for fear of a freeze.  SO, had I rather endure long months of winter with all that goes along with it or long months of summer like temperatures?  I remind myself on these sweltering days HOW I love living in the warmth of the South.  The option seems to be one extreme or the other.

We humans are certainly prone to be complainers.  Never satisfied with what ever our plight in life is.  Why?  Because the grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence.



We are not unlike this cow--sticking our necks under the barbed wire trying to sample what we think is the better life.  Why are we so prone to discontent?  Malcontent breeds nothing more than frustration as we look around us at what we think is the better life.  The truth of the matter is---there is good in almost all circumstances.  If we train ourselves to look for the good, we will find it.  AND that leads to the peace of contentment with where God has planted us.  Words for thinking when you feel this summer will never end--

"I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances."

Philippians 4:11

SUMMER SESSION #16- NOT A DRY THREAD

 I have been battling an episode of the blues.  Who KNOWS where this comes from--something in my inner workings has gone haywire.  I know you remember, I come from a long line of depressed people.  Those of us who are blessed with the down gene battle it in a number of ways.  My personal solution has always been increased exercise.



It is a proven fact that if you get busy and exercise the endorphins you produce will lift your mood.  I call that getting the joy juices flowing.  Depression left untreated does not normally cure itself.  You have to push the reset button to get that new lease on life.

With my increased exercise, I have also cleaned out my sweat glands.  For you see, there is never a dry thread on me when I exercise in the summer.  One thing my body does and does well is sweat.  The James's have a predominate sweat gene.   No matter what time I get up or how late I stay up---exercise in the summer is conducive to sweat.  That old saying, 



(I am not certain I agree with the last phrase, but we will leave that for another day) does not apply to perspiring during exercise.   You cannot even walk out the door without breaking a sweat here in the deep South in the middle of summer.   It is not just hot--it is stifling.  YET--life goes on and we must continue with our daily routines.  We learn to grin and bear it  or smile and sweat through it.  Sweating is God's gift to help cool our bodies.  As long as we are sweating, we are okay.  It is when something goes wrong and we quit sweating during the hot-humid Louisiana summers that we are in trouble.  A heat stroke is just around the bend.

So circle back--my remedy for being down is more exercise.  Exercise produces sweat.  The Great Physician not only gives me a remedy for being down--He also provides the cooling agent to keep me from overheating while pursuing a cure.  What a magnificent God---our Creator---our Great Physician---our provider.  He is AMAZING!

"I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Wonderful are your works;

my soul knows it very well."

Psalm 139:14