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My sweet big brother has been way off in Cleveland this week having a heart procedure. He suffers with A-Fib which causes an irregular and run away heart beat. At other times his pulse is so slow, he is almost faint. I suffer from lack of knowledge that my heart is even beating most of the time. Unless the merciless trainer has me lifting heavy weights--especially over my head, I normally am not even aware I have a heart. (NO COMMENTS ABOUT ME BEING HEARTLESS)
Big Brother has suffered with this for a number of years, but lately the medication has failed to get him back into rhythm. The huge danger of A-Fib is stroke. The irregular heart rhythm can cause you to form a clot which might travel to your brain. This is nothing to fool around with, so he had a procedure done in an effort to get him back in rhythm and in good health.
The procedure is call cardiac ablation--here is what Mayo Clinic said about it~ Cardiac ablation is a procedure to scar or destroy tissue in your heart that's allowing incorrect electrical signals to cause an abnormal heart rhythm. Diagnostic catheters are threaded through blood vessels to your heart where they are used to map your heart's electrical signals The procedure took 6 1/2 hours. A long wait for all of us from afar to hear how he was doing. The good news is so far-so good. It will take weeks to know if the procedure has corrected the problem, but we are all hopeful and praying this is the fix. I need my brother around to keep me on my toes and humble. As i waited for updates from my sister in law, I began to think over exactly how this procedure works. The doctor basically burns healthy tissue which is sending incorrect electrical signals to fix the problem. The doctor said Big Brother's heart tissue was so resilient (a good thing) that it took a lot of burning to create the desired scarring. The scarring of the heart was necessary to destroy the tissue which was sending the wrong signals to ensure the heart performs as it should.
Exactly like our lives. We are studying the Holy Spirit in small group. Last night we discussed how God uses fire to purify us from sin at times. The suffering and pain we endure in life can also cause scarring. God allows us to suffer the consequences of our actions and many times this is very painful. At times we must suffer the pain of the Refiner's fire to destroy that which comes between us and our Holy God. But when the fire has cooled, and the wound is healed, all that remains is the scar to remind us of God's work to destroy the chaff in our lives. What a beautiful picture of God's work of sanctification to those who He has called according to His purpose.
For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried.
You brought us into the net; you laid a crushing burden on our backs;
you let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water;
yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.
The High Reverend gave an example using his children and their territory disputes this past Sunday I would dare say MOST of us with multiple children have been eye witnesses to these skirmishes. It was so bad in the family I grew up in that my parents drew lines marking the boundaries we were not to cross. We quickly claimed foul over the slightest infringement. If you even dared to breath on my territory, the yard boss was called. Momma always came up with a solution, which usually meant everyone was in trouble. She had zero tolerance for bickering and bickering was a constant!
We adults may be a little more civilized about our territory disputes (in most cases), but we are still out to claim what we feel is "Mine". I would dare to say-let me have it if I am wrong- the thing we are most territorial over is our time. Perhaps it is a control thing, but we all want to spend our time doing what we like to do and heaven help you if you interfere with our plans. I recently had a fresh reminder of this while recruiting volunteers to read once a week for 30 minutes to kindergarten students. NOW-before you shoot me, I understand we all have different talents and applaud you using the talents you were given in service that fits them. I am not bemoaning you not volunteering to read--I have a great group of readers. I am gently (or perhaps overtly) asking~ do you have areas where you are serving?
During Sunday's message, we were reminded all we have it NOT ours. EVERYTHING is a gift--a blessing--from God Himself. Our pastor told us he reminded his children, when territory disputes arose, that everything they had came from someone else and was truly NOT theirs but a gift. We seem to forget that as adults and lay claim to our time, talents, and possessions as something we earned. Even when we "earn" the money by working to buy our possessions or fill our bank accounts, we conveniently forget WHO gave us the intelligence, talents, and capacity to earn that money.
This brings us back to our time. It is a gift and the number of minutes has been pre-ordained from the foundation of the earth. God knows exactly how many minutes we each have and He has a perfect plan for how we are to spend that gift. We can hold tight to our minute bank or willingly give those minutes in service. As with all resources there is a rule of accountability---a graph of how we spent those resources. How does your pie chart look? Where is the majority of your time spent? Are you tithing your time? Where are your priorities?
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise
Lately I have a re-occurring theme in my thought process--working on my heart. My heart can definitely use some work.
All students of physical fitness know the key to being physically fit begins with our cardio health. We need to stretch the limits of our heart to improve the muscle which pushes life giving blood throughout our body. This requires periods of cardio training where we increase the beating of our hearts to the maximum point of peak performance for intervals of time. There is NO magic bullet to cardio health, it comes with plenty of work and planned exercise. There is a direct correlation between our effort and the health of our hearts.
I must confess though I walk and work out consistently, I do not do a good job of aerobic conditioning. I prefer to stay in my comfort zone than to push the limits. So while I am doing something, I am not doing enough to maintain maximum conditioning. There is a direct correlation between our physical heart health and our spiritual heart health. By exercising daily in God through a disciplined life of seeking Him, we are increasing our spiritual heart health. Spiritual disciplines or habits are the key to developing a healthy spiritual heart~ Prayer, silence and solitude Listening to God-journaling Worship Bible reading & study Obedience Loving God & our neighbors Trusting God's guidance Fasting (not just from food but other earthly habits) Serving Others Fellowship with other believers (Credit Christian Post.Com) All of these practices are heart changing and heart growing. They serve to increase the health of our spiritual hearts. Recently when discussing tensions between friends, I reminded a friend the only thing we can change about the situation is our heart. We have no control over another's actions or reactions, but do have control over our heart. Our heart can be healthy, vibrant, and strong, but it cannot obtain this condition without practicing the spiritual disciplines and habits as seen in The Word. When faced with the trials and tribulations of the world, how we handle them will be directly influenced by the time we spend spiritually conditioning our hearts. Here's to healthy hearts and changed lives!
26My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
I read a post this morning from a mother of a 10 year old who was addicted to his cell phone and all the wonders it entails. OF COURSE, this set off a boiling and churning of the gray matter! NOW, before I launch into my missive, I am NOT a social scientist, I have NO credentials, and there has not even been a poll done (scientific or not). These are ALL my thoughts, my opinions, and my take away's. Hit the delete button or read on---I will never know which you chose and to be perfectly honest, I had rather not know. Rejection is TOUGH!
Before you start slamming me, I admit to my addiction. I have this blog, I have a facebook account, twitter and instangram accounts (although I seldom use them) and even have a Linkedin account~which of course are all on my phone and computer. We have morphed into a digital world. As all this rolled around, I wondered why we have chosen to communicate via cell, text, and emails instead of face to face. Although there is certainly a huge convenience factor in these methods, there is sadly a lack of human contact and interaction. I have often stated, you have no idea the inflection, tone, or volume of a voice on the written page. The only time I am able to really judge (and truthfully not sure it's a fair call) is when someone sends all CAPS in a message. I always interpret that as yelling.
What would cause us to text our friends~even in conversation? It has helped to have a group text or email when I am trying to convey the same message to a number of people. This CAN blow up in your face when the comments start flying back and forth which have nothing to do with you. One friend is very adamant about not being included in these text streams. Strangely she is also the friend who gets the most texts from varied senders.
ANYWAY, I did come up with a conclusion, AND before you jump on me--I AM GUILTY AS CHARGED! We may have lost faith in our fellow man. Face to face conversation is NOT always easy. We all have dealt with verbal bullies, you can't get a word in edgewise and they continue to get louder until you feel like you are being yelled at. NO THANK YOU! Survived enough of that in my life to know I do NOT want to go there. Although we all have a deep need for relationships and interaction, it is not always an easy row to hoe. It is easier to text someone where you feel in control, than to sit and discuss a matter. We CAN walk away from a text by merely turning the phone off. Face to face discussions are not so easy. One huge downside of social media is the loss of civility toward one another. We can no longer calmly disagree and take it as a personal affront when someone happens to be on the opposite side of an issue. Violent disagreement is encouraged and often applauded when we have the wall of the WWW between us. It begs to wonder~has this contributed to the upswing in violence in our world?
SO, we have slowly morphed into a digital society. Walk in any room and tell me what percentage of the people are on their phones. Why even when traveling, instead of looking at beautiful scenery, we are staring at our screens. While on our last trip, we had a few days in the wilderness with NO cell service. I must admit, I enjoyed being unplugged. The down side of cells is you are always accessible--any place, any time--24/7. Am I the only one who turns their phone off at night? I have enough problems sleeping without the phone dinging all hours! SO have we all become addicted to our cell phones? I have decided to begin taking one day a week free from looking at social media. If I want human contact, I will have to seek someone out. NOW, I will take calls -NOT FROM TELEMARKETERS and make calls--how else can I invite you over? BUT Facebook, Instagram, Tweeter, and Linked in are off limits. I will not even look at my email. SURELY it can all wait one day! AND---I plan to spend that time seeking more face to face time and deepening relationships, enjoying the beauty of God's creation, and who knows maybe even inviting you over for dinner. Are you up to the challenge--can you unplug one day a week? Think it over!!
Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.
It never ceases to amaze me how I can read one sentence, one word, see one sight, or hear one thought and my mind is off racing. I am reading another historical fiction --based upon real events. The author embellishes fact with a free hand of dialogue and interpretations. Without revealing what I am reading, here is the quote that began the wheels turning~
"If transparency is a sign of true love"
There was more to the sentence, but this one phrase caught my eye and challenged my ideas.
One must begin the process by deciding exactly what is transparency. We need to go back to the root word- transparent and explore. Mr. Webster tells us this~
Definition of transparent
1a(1): having the property of transmitting light without appreciable scattering so that bodies lying beyond are seen clearly : PELLUCID
(2): allowing the passage of a specified form of radiation (such as X-rays or ultraviolet light)
b: fine or sheer enough to be seen through : DIAPHANOUS
d: characterized by visibility or accessibility of information especially concerning business practices
As you would expect I am writing today on the second definition. I have certainly been very forth coming on this blog, but there is a part of me that I have not revealed. For many reasons, there are deeply hidden secrets, I have not revealed to anyone. I would dare to say most of us have secrets we are not ready to share. Why? Why would there be anything about ourselves that we would not share with anyone? Fear drives us from sharing these deep secrets.
We fear we will not be liked, we might shock someone, the world will turn away and reject us, and on and on. We have talked before about the power of secrets in our lives. There is no denying the hold they can have over us. The question becomes, if we love someone deeply enough--completely enough--are we transparent? Do we reveal all? Is there anyone who knows it all about you? I can only answer for myself, but for me--No--there has never been anyone who has known it all. My insecurities drive my lack of trust in revealing it all. It has not gone well, in the past, when I have opened up Pandora's Box of secrets and revealed parts of the inner most me. Past experience drives today's tightly held truths from being brought out in the open. Man and his feet of clay create a deep distrust of our fellow man. We don't trust him to keep our secrets, to not judge us when we reveal our secrets, and to not turn from us when he knows the truth about us. Fear of being ostracized is a powerful force and can shape who we are and how we act, without us even realizing it. We need relationships.
BUT GOD, we forget or ignore the fact that God knows it all. NOTHING is hidden from Him. AND YET, He still loves us, He is faithful to us, He not only does not reject us, but embraces us. But God--we are transparent in His sight and He really understands us, and there is no deceit or pretense with Him---AND HE STILL LOVES US! So thankful!
God would surely have known it, for he knows the secrets of every heart.
One of my favorite things to do while hiking is hike all the way to the top of a ridge or pass and sit down to have lunch while enjoying the beautiful view. Almost every place we have ever hiked, these little nuisances on my friend's foot show up for lunch as soon as we take the food out of the back pack. NOW--before all you animal lovers get up in arms---bear with me while I tell my tale.
OH, YES, He's cute, but they do not know the meaning of scram and you cannot eat your own lunch for them begging for food. It is a BIG NO NO to feed the wild animals, but they sit there on their haunches and make these squeaky little sounds and before you know it someone has fallen for their act and given them a morsel of food. "GAME ON", says Mr. Chipmunk. If the picture had been taken with a real camera instead of a cell phone, you could see that his cheeks are stuffed to the brim. He quickly takes a bite, stuffs it in the side of his cheek, and is back begging for more. They are professional beggars. It is NEVER enough--for you see at some point he scampers off to put the banquet in his den. He is using you to supply his winter provision stash. The little beggar is not going to work, he has learned to just wait for a hand out. There are usually plenty of hikers on the trail and he has come to rely upon handouts instead of scrounging for his own self.
And then there he stands in the middle of the group, waiting for anyone to supply his needs. He will not go away (well unless you threaten him with a hiking pole like I am prone to do) until you pack up and walk away. He might even try to follow you down the trail, unless he sees another unsuspecting hiker headed his way. Here is something we all need to keep in mind---HE IS A RODENT! That would be part of the rat family! If a rat came up to you and begged, he would be pummeled with rocks, but this little fellow has the advantage of being cute. He is still a rat and a beggar. He has come to rely upon handouts from the Big Hiker coming up the trail. He has lost the incentive to work, and might even lose the ability to provide for himself if enough is handed to him. We all enjoy the chippies on the trail, but the chippies are not helped by our handouts. Instead they become dependent upon man, who will soon disappear with the change in the season to winter. We enjoyed his antics, but he also bit the hand that was handing him the food. OH--NOT TO FEAR---skin was not broken, but they can carry disease and it is not a good idea to have one bite you. Serious consequences can come from a bite riddled with germs and possible disease. I was reminded of God's own chosen people wandering in the desert waiting everyday for God to give them a handout. AND THEY COMPLAINED about what He was providing. Same thing day in and day out--only manna, God! So God then provides them with meat. The only stipulation is only gather enough for the day and two days when it is the Sabbath. But were they happy, satisfied, content? OH NO! Gripe-Gripe-Gripe. 40 years of griping! WHEW! God is definitely a patient God--who could stand 40 years of day in day out griping ? ONLY GOD! Here we are all these years later and are we content with where we are, what we have, with an abundant life? I'll let you answer that question. Are we content and joyful in all circumstances or are we like the little beggar and always coming back to the table for more. Is it ever enough? Food for thought---pun intended.
11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.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.13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
I have been off on another adventure in the beautiful mountains of Oregon. The change of season is beginning to appear high up in the mountains. With low temperatures in the 40's and high 30's, there is definitely a sign of fall in the air. Winter will quickly show its face-especially high up on the mountain. Snow fell one of the nights we were there on the top of Mount Hood. A few of the trees had begun to show their vivid fall colors, but the slopes were still green as you can see in the picture above. The last of the wildflowers gave a beautiful contrast to the verdant green of the grass carpeting the mountainside in the tree line. We become so accustomed to a long summer and a fall in the deep South that we only experience a couple of months of moderate winter. We experience season change, but nothing like our friends in the upper latitudes and higher altitudes do. Winter is surely coming, for all of us, but winter can look very different depending upon where you are.
These beautiful wildflowers will continue to show their color until the first deep frost of the season. When winter finally comes, the color will disappear, but until then the hardiest flowers continue to bloom and paint the mountainside with glorious color for all to enjoy. Winter is coming, but summer and fall fight to hold their grip until winter finally wins the battle for dominance until Spring. The Mountain Ash berries will make a beautiful backdrop when those first snowflakes begin to fall, but they too will soon disappear as winter comes to stay.
As I hiked those mountain trails, I thought how similar to our lives this changing of seasons is. Winter will come for all of us at some point, but we cling to fall as long as we possibly can. Fall and winter are not always completely devoid of fruit and flower in our lives. Many are able to continue to bloom and show their colors even in the midst of the winter of their lives. Even in the deepest and most barren of winters, there is often great beauty to be found. Often we see brightly colored berries from holly bushes in the deepest winter and birds of all colors can grace the most barren of scenery. Winter is coming, but winter does not always mean complete dormancy. Often winter can be the most beautiful of all the seasons. It is all in how you look at what surrounds you and how you meet the day. Come on winter---we are ready!
16Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
Good manners are only second to the Ten Commandments by a hair here in the South. My mother and my great Aunt Lora were on a mission to be certain I understood The ABC's of Emily Post from my earliest memory.
One of the rules was never arrive as an invited guest with empty hands. Any invite always comes with the question, "What can I bring?" Now this can backfire on you, since some are on a mission to have everything surround a theme. In that case, a simple gift is a nice gesture.
Recently I walked into a volunteer meeting with my hands full. It occurred to me what a beautiful gesture it is to arrive with hands filled. I simply handed over the offering with a request to pass it on. With the transaction over my hands are now empty, but my heart is full.
As I thought all of this over, I remembered at times in worship, I find my hands palms up. Empty hands. What does this signify? I looked up what the WWW had to say about palms up and found this
A gesture made with the opened palm raised to an appealing, imploring, or "begging" position. Usage: Uplifted palms suggest a vulnerable or nonaggressive pose that appeals to listeners as allies rather than as rivals or foes. Throughout the world,palm-up cues reflect moods of congeniality, humility, and uncertainty.
What a beautiful reflection of what this simple act of worship signifies. I am admitting to God I am vulnerable, coming to Him in humility and appealing to Him to see my acknowledgement of Who He is.
I love to walk in any door with my hands full, but even more beautiful is my hands empty and my heart filled as only God can do. We can NEVER out give God!
The volunteers have begun their sessions with their sweet kindergarten students this week. I had my first session on the futon in the classroom with my two students. One is quite precocious and the other extremely shy. BOTH love having books read to them! This is going to be a great year reading to the littles--I have never worked with this young of an age. It is going to be so much fun!
Everyday this first week, I am checking how the first day went for each volunteer. Here is a story that brought me to tears and is exactly why I am investing time with these precious children.
Me- "How was your time with your student today? Volunteer- "One was super easy and the other is learning English so it will be slower going but she's precious. Having grands who are in school in a foreign country where they are learning in another language gives me such a heart for this one to help her anyway I can." BE STILL MY HEART! NOW--you need to understand the process of assigning children to volunteers. The teachers give me a list of children and a time we can come read in their room. The volunteers sign up based upon the time slot which is best for them. I take these two lists and randomly put children with a volunteer based upon matching times--nothing else. Was it the luck of the draw that these two were paired?
You have this child who does not know English and you have a volunteer whose grands are in a school where they are taught in another language. She "happens" to get this child. NO---this is no co-incidence--this is another example of a beautiful God-incidence. I see God all up in the middle of this. What a wonderful -marvelous- assurance that God sees, God knows, and God is using us---WHAT A BLESSING!
Social media affords some really great things (we will not discuss all that is negative about it.) I have watched the videos this week of all the colleges beginning their school year. I distinctly remember those exciting times.
I went to college, got busy, and somehow God got put on the back burner. I see college students today who do a great job of staying focused on God, but without excuse, I can truthfully say, I did not. Oh, I never denied Him, always knew He was there, but I also took it for granted and forgot to seek Him.
This began to be a pattern in my life. I was really busy~family, career, home, extended family ~~~there was more to do than there were hours in the day. I rose early and fell in the bed exhausted late. Always sleep deprived and busier than a hive of bees making honey, I carved out a couple of hours a week while in church to pause and remember. As soon as I walked out that door and got in the car, I was off to the races once again. THAT is a sad story, My Friends!
How much easier would my life have been had I kept God first always? I lost my sense of priorities and fell into the "busy" trap today's world affords. It took a lot of heartbreak and a sharp jerk back to reality for me to realize how messed up my priories were. God never turned from me, but I got busy and put Him on hold. Life consumed my time and energy and I didn't realize how much more difficult I was making my trek by forgetting or postponing time with Him.
Today, I still fight my "busy" addiction. Never have I been one to sit around, so I tend to overload, over commit, and under communicate with the One who created me if I am not careful. Many of you begin your day with your quiet time. My days start very early and I tend to have quiet time mid morning many days or in the afternoon. When I am sitting writing, I am also spending time with The Father. Seeking His wisdom as I write these blogs, studying my small group lesson, and searching The Word for answers. My thoughts now tend to be a conversation with The Father. He is the One I bounce ideas off of, share my struggles, recount blessings, and confess my needs off of. I look to Him and seek His advice and counsel. I have finally learned and now practice Seeking The Presence of God is more important than any other thing in my life. He is faithfully by my side and constantly present--He is never too busy for me---and I should never be too busy to seek His face.
Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.