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Tuesday, March 26, 2019

TRUE BLESSINGS

There was a good deal of conversation about yesterday's blog on "Blessings".  One of these comments from a very wise friend reminded me of who the blessed are~

Blessed are the poor in spirit:
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they that mourn:
for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek:
for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they which hunger and thirst after righteousness:
for they shall be filled.

Blessed are the merciful:
for they shall obtain mercy.

.Blessed are the pure in heart:
for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers:
for they shall be called the children of God.

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake:
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, 
and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely,
for my sake.

Matthew 5:3-11

I was reminded this does not indicate the blessings of God are of abundance, power, popularity and success.  Yes, we all receive various gifts from God, but these gifts are not necessarily blessings.  The blessings described by Jesus in the Beatitudes are all of eternal consequence.  "His blessings which endures despite circumstances. In Jesus's upside-down kingdom, these people know an enduring joy and blessing that doesn't dwindle as their situation changes." Christine Gordon.  It has nothing to do with the temporal and everything to do with the eternal.  These blessings are never here today and gone tomorrow~instead true blessings are here to stay.

So be not dismayed by those who seem highly favored when they announce how blessed they are by God when speaking of temporary and fleeting gifts.  Instead take comfort and KNOW--KNOW that God is closest to us when we suffer.  Never are we more aware of our need for Him--than when we are in pain.  "Our place at the table will inevitably come with suffering of many kinds (Romans 8:17), but it will also  come with a greater blessing than we can imagine."Christine Gordon

We are blessed.

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.
.
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

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

TOP OF THE HEAP

We live in a world of comparison.  It all begins at an early age, before we are even aware there is a need for being compared.  Little Johnny walked at 7 months.  Has you slow to achieve baby crawled yet?  Susie knew her alphabet at 1.  Has your slow learner begun saying anything?  Why we even compare potty training records.  NOW THERE'S ONE for the record books,  Little TT went potty first in nursery school.  We seem to be fascinated with comparing our babies and love to bring up our perceived records of achievements.  The babies--they don't compare themselves--they are just being babies.  It's the parents who start all this mess!


This MIGHT be starting triathlons a tad early

And then we are off to school and the Comparison Game takes on NEW meaning!  Sports, scholastics, age at graduation, college admission, scholarships, awards ~ on and on we play the game of "Who can be best?"  Once again the parents get involved and push, pull, or threaten to get the desired results of winning.  I have seen high school seniors with resumes which would serve most of us well at the end of life.  In 18 short years, they have done more, seen more, achieved more, and excelled at more than many of us ever attempt.  All for the sake of being at the top of the comparison heap.


Comparison Heap

It does not go away with adulthood.  Why else would there be a need for huge houses, multiple degrees, expensive cars, impressive friends~~~~  We all all out there trying to one up and out do each other.  How many miles did you walk today?  How fast was your pace?  How many other activities did you accomplish today?  How is your garden growing?  How many courses was the meal your prepared?  How are your children~~grandchildren~~family doing?  We get stuck in the comparison trap and there is no way to win.  Someone else is always out there who is better, faster, bigger, richer, more influential, prettier~~~.  You can never win when you start comparing.



There is another type of comparison we have been discussing in small group~Comparative righteousness.  Righteousness is the term for being ethically upright~obedient in The Word.  We try to win the I Am Righteous game by comparing ourselves to others.  NOW--I must admit I do not compare myself to Mother Theresa or even the sweet saints who have mentored me during my lifetime.  I compare myself to the sinner down the street--you know she is one hot mess.  She doesn't go to church, never prays, scoffs at The Word, and beats her children after a long night of debauchery.  I am MUCH more righteous than she is.  The thing about the heap--there is always someone under us--but guess what--there are always others above us.  We attempt to declare our righteousness by comparing ourselves to those we deem less righteous.  GUESS WHAT!  NONE of us are righteous--we are never going to be on the top of the heap--we cannot begin to measure up to the only One who is truly righteous.  JESUS!  The GOOD NEWS--we can stand under the cloak of His righteous and be declared righteous.  By HIS IMPUTED RIGHTEOUS---we are righteous--white as snow--Mary's Little Lamb never looked whiter.  He does not compare us--He stands in for us. GRACE!

But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
Galations 6:14

Monday, March 11, 2019

TRUSTWORTHY

Of the many benefits to moving back to my home of 50 years, is "Knowing People."   While living in the big city, I was a face in the crowd, another name on the roll, and for the most part unknown and not knowing.  One of the biggest challenges was finding companies I could trust.  At best, I had to rely upon the word of those I had met who had lived longer than I had in Fort Worth.  The converse was because they did not know me OR my people, I had not established a reputation of being prompt in payment and true to my word.  There was a mutual lack of trust due to no shared experience.



Now that I am back in familiar territory, I have "People" or "Know People that Know People".  It is reassuring to call upon companies and individuals I have experiences with in the past.  I know their reputation and have experienced the fulfillment of their word.  My house is aging, and maintenance is being required, I know the people to call.  I have faith in their integrity because of past experience. They are reputable companies who perform first class work.  I can explain the work I need done and walk away~trusting they will perform, based upon previous experience.  They are as good as their word.




When it comes to friends and family, we build bonds of trust based upon shared experiences.  We learn who is true to their word, who can be depended upon, who can be counted on to speak truth in our lives, and on and on.  We all have a core of those we can call at any hour --night or day and they will come to our aid.  We can trust them with our very lives.

Trust is the cornerstone of all true relationships.  Without trust, we merely are acquaintances passing each other on the road of life.  Trust comes with commitment to follow through on our word.  Trust comes with shared experiences.  How committed we are to each other is quickly revealed in tough times.  



Who shows up when we are up to our eyeballs in alligators is a good indicator of who we can trust.

There is one Who is always trustworthy. He has proven Himself worthy of trust since the beginning of time.  He is Big Enough to stay by our side and uphold us in the worst of times.  There is One that always does what He has promised.  He is truth.  He never fails to uphold us when cry for His help.  He is of Great Integrity and Above Approach.  He can be trusted with our very life.  If we seek Him, we can trust He will never forsake us.


Those who know your name trust in you,
for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.
Psalm 9:10

Sunday, March 10, 2019

FAR TOO WONDERFUL


YOU

ARE WITH ME 

ALL THE WAY

TO EVERLASTING

YOU ARE WORTHY



BLESSED SABBATH,

DEAR FRIENDS

Saturday, March 9, 2019

MEANWHILE HERE IN THE HOOD

SERIOUSLY

ENOUGH

ALREADY!








I am beginning to get really grumpy--time for the rain to GO AWAY!

Friday, March 8, 2019

VARMINTS ON THE LOOSE

We have a varmint on the loose in the hood.  A week ago he was spotted up the small tree at the end of my drive as small group dismissed.  He is OBVIOUSLY not very smart since it also was pouring rain. (It has been pouring rain a LOT here in Louisiana)  What the critter does not know is my prowess at "varmint hunting".  Go HERE for proof of my hunting skills and a REALLY good laugh on me!  This guy does not know I am not very patient with varmints invading my territory.  UNFORTUNATELY, they frown upon you shooting a gun in the city limits, so my hunting will have to become trapping.



I posted on The Hood Facebook page to warn the neighbors we had a problem.  I had some interesting comments, including "A 22 rifle does not make much noise".  Many of my neighbors are "Good Old Country Boys" and would not bat an eye at me "going hunting" in their back yard.  Since I have been known to shoot the house (quite by mistake) during my hunting days, I will refrain from shooting in the tight quarters of living "in town".  



There are those who think these critters are "cute".  LOOK at that picture--is there ONE THING cute about that snarling devil?  As for my "Dillo Hunting" days, I must admit I miss the fun of conquering those ugly armored muddle
cuffs.  I live in the very middle of The Hood and they don't come my way--thankfully.

There are varmints all around us, we are surrounded by woods.  I have learned to live peacefully with those who do no harm and go after those which pose a threat.  The trick is in recognizing which is which.  Wolves are beautiful animals, but it would not be very smart to try and pet one.  Our bear encounters on our hiking trips have always left us amazed at the enormous size of those beasts.  We do not stick around for selfies, (except for one who laughs in the face of danger) when we spot one of the dangerous animals.  Oh and then there was the time we saw the moose and her calf.  Such a cute calf, but mama becomes a lethal weapon if you dare approach.

There are also some two legged varmints on the loose, and they are all around also.  Some are intent on evil and place little value on life.  Others sneak up and attack us when we are least expecting it.  Having learned to trust them, we are caught unaware and reeling when they attack.  Their weapon of choice is words.  Cutting, hurting, painful, attacking words meant to take us out without ever throwing a punch, but just as effective at taking us out of the game.  I seem to remember The Word speaking of staying away from those intent upon evil.  Evil is not always physical harm, but harm by tongue.  Evil abounds in this world, but good always overcomes.  Until the day of the final victory, be careful of the company you keep.


1 Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers
Psalm 1:1

Thursday, March 7, 2019

MY NEIGHBOR'S GARDEN


My neighbor has such a lovely garden.  A quite proper English garden with plants blooming year round, lovely benches upon which to sit and reflect, shady trees, and even a running water feature.  I spend a great deal of time gazing over the fence at my neighbor's garden.  Often I found my self daydreaming ~ if only I had my neighbor's garden, I would be so content.  My live would be complete and truly I would have everything I want--if only I had my neighbor's garden.



There is a garden at my home, but my garden is not as beautiful as my neighbor's.  I suppose it must need a little work, some cutting back, and planting anew.  There is a bench upon which to sit, but the vines have grown so thick it is quite a mess.  There is a garden in my back and perhaps it could be lovely too with a little work.  OH, if ONLY I had my neighbor's garden.




There is another neighbor, on the other side, but I really don't know much about them, except their garden is not so lovely.  There is a wheel chair ramp leading to the house, and no one ever seems to visit the couple who live in the house.  The lady often gazes out her window, but she never does anything about her barren garden.  It is quite a desolate sight, when I occasionally peer over the fence.  Why it makes me wonder how anyone could allow their garden to become such an eyesore.  Who would want to gaze upon this sight?

One day it occurred to me, perhaps my garden was not so bad after all.  With a little work, and thinning out of plants, my garden could also be lovely.  Perhaps not quite as lovely as my neighbor's garden, but a lovely sight after a long day working to get it back into shape.  The plants I thinned, I took to my neighbor  and planted in the barren garden.  She was so delighted and thankful that I took the time to lend her a hand.  Now she sits outside in her garden and seems to enjoy the birds singing and the flowers blooming.  Such a little thing to share the bounty from my own yard, and yet it brought joy and happiness to my dear neighbor.

When I finally quit peering over the fence at my neighbor's garden and began to work instead upon my on garden, I found a new peace and contentment with my own lovely garden.  From that sense of peace came a great gratitude which spilled over into an act of  kindness for my other neighbor.  We can all enjoy our lovely gardens~one exquisite, one sparse but green and blooming and then there is my garden--which is really quite lovely and more than enough. What a shame that would have been to have missed the beauty in my own back yard while peering over the fence.


12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
Philippians 4:12

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

JOY AMIDST THE ASHES

Recently I reposted a John Piper quote on my Facebook page which resonates truth with me~




I was amazed how many comments I had on a repeat post from three years ago.  One thing remains true--there are many hurting and in pain all around us.  As I thought this over, one thing immediately popped into my head.  "Joy amidst the ashes."  Joy can spring up in the most unexpected places, even in the midst of the ashes of broken dreams and lost expectations.

While hiking in the mountains, we have come across large areas which have been completely burned over by wildfires.



It truly is a devastating sight.  Ashes, fallen trees, blackened logs, and void of seemingly any living thing, the landscape has turned from the beauty of the forest to the devastation of the fire.  On the edge of the burn over, you see untouched forest, still growing, still vibrant, a beautiful lush forest-untouched by the tragedy. 



Upon closer examination, you will notice there is new growth among the ashes.  New life has sprung from the ashes of destruction.  The beauty of God's creation continues once the forest has burned.  The light is now able to reach the tiny seedlings and new growth begins.  The once dense cover had prevented the small plants and trees from sprouting and growth since limited light filtered through to nourish the growth.  New growth and new plants quickly begin to appear once the devastation is over and the forest of tomorrow begins the process of redeeming the loss of today.

Such a similarity with our lives.  We can be in the midst of a burn--burned hopes, dreams, and plans--with nothing seeming to be touched anywhere around us.  And then the "Light" shines upon us and the joy and hope of tomorrow begin to grow.  Slowly the tender sprouts of a future take hold and the forest begins to grow once again.  The forest will not be the same forest, but it can be a thing of great beauty--just as yesterday's forest.  There is always the hope of joy among the ashes with God by our side.  All we have to do is allow His Light to shine upon us --"Wash Our face, Trust God, And Embrace the Life We Have."


“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”
Titus 2:13

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

I AM NOT FINE

Politeness and good manners are the cornerstone of the South.  When asked how we are from a very young age, we respond, "Fine, how are you?" without a thought. We could be a computer on automatic response.   We are taught to say we are fine before we learn to walk.  After all who wants to hear you aren't fine.  We ALL run from anyone who dares to give their long laundry list of complaints--real or imagined--if they dare to respond from the expected norm.  Why I dare say even the "Pray for me," response would have the best well wisher heading for the exit.  UNLESS, there might be a tad of news to relay from the conversation. 


     

If we all stopped to share how we "REALLY" are, and waited for the "REAL" response, when we asked in return how they were, we wouldn't get anything done EVER!  My poor trainer makes the mistake of asking each session how I am.  He does not get the standard expected reply, instead he gets to hear about what's currently hurting.  (Side note--getting old is not for sissies!)  It would seem after training me for a few months he would realize something always is hurting.  So the question is not if I am hurting, but how bad does it hurt?  Some days he just asks, "How's the hip?".  He has learned he will not get the entire laundry list if he asks specifically about the problem I come for.     

WHO is really fine in today's world?  The world is not an easy place.  If you aren't bruised, hurting, in pain, sick, in distress, worried, angry, jealous, defeated, depressed, lonely, or at least concerned, you must have your blinders on, or just wait, your time is coming.  I consider it a great privilege to pray for others, but sometimes I am overwhelmed by all the needs.



We become so desensitized to not being fine, that we begin to accept it as normal.  Or we decide to stick our head in the sand and ignore the obvious of what is going on all around us.  How could anyone be fine in today's world of anger, hate, turmoil, chaos, tragedy, starvation, human trafficking, suicide, addictions ~~~?  The enemy is wandering around wrecking lives and stealing joy and all is not fine!

BUT GOD!  ONLY with God's help are we fine.  We are more than fine, we are blessed to be called a Child of the King---His Beloved.  Without my quiet still time with Him, the world begins to look bleak and lost.  But God reminds me of Who He is and What He has done for me.  I am not fine, but I am at peace--knowing Who is God Almighty.  I have read the end of the book and I know how all this ends.  For that reason, and that reason only---I am fine.


If then you have been raised with Christ,
 seek the things that are above, where Christ is,
 seated at the right hand of God.
 Set your minds on things that are above,
 not on things that are on earth.
 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
 When Christ who is your life appears, 
then you also will appear with him in glory.
                                            Colossians 3:1-4                                                          

Monday, March 4, 2019

NOT MY STORY

Did you ever play the "Whisper" game?  I still remember the first time I played; I believe I was a young teenager sitting in church youth group fellowship time.  The game involves sitting in a circle.  The leader whispers something in the ear of the first person and then the message is passed on--one by one around the circle.  It was amazing how the message was changed as it was repeated.  It started as "Brownies are for dessert" and ended as "Desert to town."  We all have a tendency to listen with different ears.  



A sweet friend has challenged me to think about telling stories that are not my own.  When does news become gossip?  We talked this over one night in small group.  One of the members asked me, "What are we going to talk about then?"  We all laughed, but then we discussed when does passing on information that is not about us become harmful?  

I have had stories that I had been involved in make a circle and come back to me.  ALWAYS--the true story has been changed in some way and the intent is sometimes lost in the repeating.  We decided when talking this over that when you are passing on information that might help the one you are discussing, it is not gossip.  "Sue (who is our mutual friend) had major surgery yesterday and will be incapacitated for a month."  We both have a relationship with Sue, I have merely repeated the facts, and this gives us an opportunity to help Sue.  No harm is meant, there is no salaciousness in the talk, and both parties have a vested interest in Sue.  It does begin to take on the character of gossip when we are repeating a story for the sake of the story.  As we talked this over, we admitted we all like to be "In the know".  For some strange reason, we think knowing all the latest and greatest talk makes us more important.  My cardinal rule has become--is there any benefit to be derived from repeating this information?  NONE of us like being the object of gossip--and when we begin repeating stories--the truth will get lost in the repeat.  We are opening the door for hurtful mischaracterizations of the truth.  My new answer has become, "It's not my story to tell."  I came across this quote this past week and it resonates with what I am attempting to say, "People will believe any story if it is told well."   Remember that old saying, "What goes around comes around."?  Be careful of repeating stories lest you be the subject of the stories.  OUCH, my toes are hurting!


3 Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips
Psalm 141:3